1 John Lesson Three: The Urgency of Loving One Another – 1 John 2:7-17

Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old command that you have had from the beginning. The old command is the message you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new command, which is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. 

The one who says he is in the light but hates his brother is in the darkness until now. 10 The one who loves his brother remains in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. 11 But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness, walks in the darkness, and doesn’t know where he’s going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. 

12 I am writing to you, little children, 

because your sins have been forgiven 

because of Jesus’ name. 

13 I am writing to you, fathers, 

because you have come to know 

the One who is from the beginning. 

I am writing to you, young men, 

because you have had victory over the evil one. 

14 I have written to you, children, 

because you have come to know the Father. 

I have written to you, fathers, 

because you have come to know 

the One who is from the beginning. 

I have written to you, young men, 

because you are strong, 

God’s word remains in you, 

and you have had victory over the evil one. 

15 Do not love the world or the things that belong to the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. 16 For everything that belongs to the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s lifestyle—is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 And the world with its lust is passing away, but the one who does God’s will remains forever. (HCSB)

As we continue our study of 1 John, I’ll split this lesson into three parts.

  • Light and dark – verses 7-11.
  • Fathers, young men, and little children – verses 12-14.
  • Misplaced love – verses 15-17.

Light and Dark

At first glance, verses seven and eight may appear confusing and contradictory. John first says he isn’t writing a new command but then says he is writing a new command. What does he mean?

  • In its most fundamental understanding, it is both an old and a new command.
  • Understanding it as an old command.
    • It’s found in the Old Testament in Leviticus 19:18 – Do not take revenge or bear a grudge against members of your community, but love your neighbor as yourself; I am Yahweh.
    • The command to love others applied before the incarnation of Jesus.
  • Understanding it as a new command.
    • It’s found in the New Testament.
      • John 13:34 –  I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another.
      • John 15:12 – This is My command: Love one another as I have loved you.
    • The reason it’s also a new command is that there is new evidence and new power to fulfill this command.
      • The evidence is that Jesus died, was buried, and rose from the grave. This gives us a better understanding of what love looks like.
      • The power is the Holy Spirit indwelling believers.
        • The Holy Spirit enables believers to live out the commands of Scripture.
        • The Holy Spirit also enables believers to support each other through love and good deeds in the spiritual community called “the church.”
      • Through our lives, we demonstrate the “light of Christ” to a dark world.
  • John then goes on to contrast the difference between light and darkness.
    • If we hate our brother, we walk in darkness. If we love our brother, we walk in the light.
    • We also need to understand what John is not saying.
      • John is not saying we need to like every fellow believer or have an emotional bond with them.
      • John is using the word agape for love.
        • To have “agape” love for someone is based upon sincere appreciation and high regard.
        • We steadily extend goodwill to others.
        • We are not commanded to “feel” a specific way to others.
        • But we are commanded to “act” a certain way to others.
      • When we understand agape love this way, we see the command is to act properly to fellow believers out of a desire to be obedient to God. In this way, we demonstrate agape love.
  • Some scholars have criticized John for not teaching here the idea of loving our enemies. However, we need to remember the context of this letter. John was addressing a specific challenge the readers were facing, those who professed to be a believer but refused to love fellow Christians.

Fathers, Young Men, and Little Children

These three verses need to be connected in context to what came before and what will follow.

  • In the preceding section, John gave a warning about false teaching and false believers.
  • In this section, John gives reassurance to genuine believers.
    • John contrasts the spiritual status of believers with the self-praising false teachers.
    • The false teachers claimed ordinary believers didn’t know God because they hadn’t received special knowledge of Him through mystical means.
  • John addressed three sets of readers; little children, fathers, and young men.
    • Among scholars, there are three interpretations of these divisions.
      • The first is a chronological division by age.
      • The second is a division by spiritual maturity.
      • The third is that divisions apply equally to all readers as “fathers” appears out of sequence with the other two. There is support for this position as in other sections of the letter; John addresses all the readers as “children.”
        • 1 John 2:1, 28; 3:7, 18; 5:21.
        • Additionally, often in the Bible, the author connects ages as a figure of speech to denote everyone across the spectrum. 
        • Joel, quoted by Luke in Acts 2:28, mentions old men having dreams and young men seeing visions. This is another way of saying that dreams and visions are experienced by young, old, and everyone in between.
        • If we apply this principle to the current passage, then whatever is said for each age category applies to all age categories.
        • As children, each of them experienced the forgiveness of sins.
        • As young men, each had engaged in spiritual warfare and overcame the evil one and had grown strong in the Word.
        • As fathers, each had known Yahweh from the beginning.

Misplaced Love

In John’s summary of this section, he makes it clear the readers were Christians.

  • They were his “little children.” – 2:1
  • They were his “dear friends.” – 4:1.

After having reassured them of their salvation in the previous three verses, John now warns them again about the dangers of false teachers and the seduction of worldly desires.

  • They are not to love the world. The Greek word used here for the world is kosmos. In the context of this passage, it refers to attitudes and values that disregard God or are blatantly against God.
    • It does not refer to God’s natural creation or humanity.
    • It does mean we are to love the people in the world but not their sinful attitudes and the values they support. 
  • There is some debate over the understanding of the phrase, “love for the Father is not in him.” Scholars interpret this in two ways.
    • If we love the world, God doesn’t love us.
    • If we love the world, we don’t love God.
    • From the context of the passage, the second interpretation makes better sense. If we love the things of the world, we are not loving God. We can’t love the world and God at the same time. James 4:4 would support this view, “Adulteresses! Don’t you know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? So whoever wants to be the world’s friend becomes God’s enemy.”
  • John goes on to explain that the world’s values are in opposition to God.
    • The lust of the flesh is the interests and desires that draw us away from God.
    • The lust of the eyes is a sinful desire that corrupts us.
      • The eye is often used in Scripture as a figure of speech referring to sinful passions.
      • Matthew 5:28 – But I tell you, everyone who looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
      • When Eve looked at the forbidden fruit, it was “delightful to look at.”
      • David’s sin with Bathsheba started when he saw her taking a bath – 2 Samuel 11:2.
    • Pride in one’s lifestyle refers to arrogance and pride that can consume us when we try to get ahead of others in material possessions or when we rely on ourselves than on God.
  • Following the values of the world is foolish for two reasons.
    • First, they don’t come from the Father. This means they interfere with our fellowship with God.
    • Second, all of us are going to die, and what we’ve been living for will be worthless.
  • This passage could be paraphrased  in this way: Don’t embrace the ways or goods of the world. When you do, it suffocates your love for God. When you live for yourself, acquire everything you desire, and look good compared to those around you, you aren’t living for God but for the world. This is foolish because it destroys your relationship with God, and in the end, it will all pass away.

Applications

  • Do you extend love to your spiritual brothers and sisters? Let’s be honest; there are probably some that you don’t like. However, Scripture is clear that we are to extend them love. We may not like them for various reasons, but they are still part of our spiritual family. We are called to honor these relationships and, if they are damaged, to mend them.
  • Never forget your relationship with God and the price it cost for Jesus to pay for your sins. We might be at different stages in our walk with God, child/young person/elder, but we are called to stay rooted and to grow spiritually.
  • Where are your priorities? Are they focused on the things of the world which will pass away? Or are you focused on God and the things which are eternal? It’s clear that Scripture calls us to focus on God and our relationship with Him. The ways of the world can be attractive and tempting, but they will never satisfy us or draw us closer to God.

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