Christ and His Commandments. 1My children,* I am writing this to you so that you may not commit sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one.a 2He is expiation for our sins, and not for our sins only but for those of the whole world.b 3The way we may be sure* that we know him is to keep his commandments.c 4Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him.d 5But whoever keeps his word, the love of God is truly perfected in him. This is the way we may know that we are in union with him:e 6whoever claims to abide in him ought to live [just] as he lived.
The New Commandment.* 7Beloved, I am writing no new commandment to you but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard.f 8And yet I do write a new commandment to you, which holds true in him and among you,* for the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining.g 9Whoever says he is in the light, yet hates his brother, is still in the darkness.h 10Whoever loves his brother remains in the light, and there is nothing in him to cause a fall.i 11Whoever hates his brother is in darkness; he walks in darkness and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
Members of the Community.* 12I am writing to you, children, because your sins have been forgivenj for his name’s sake.*
13I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young men, because you have conquered the evil one.k
14I write to you, children, because you know the Father.
I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men, because you are strong and the word of God remains in you, and you have conquered the evil one.
15Do not love the world or the things of the world.* If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.l 16For all that is in the world, sensual lust,* enticement for the eyes, and a pretentious life, is not from the Father but is from the world. 17Yet the world and its enticement are passing away. But whoever does the will of God remains forever.m
Antichrists. 18Children, it is the last hour;* and just as you heard that the antichrist was coming, so now many antichrists have appeared. Thus we know this is the last hour.n 19They went out from us, but they were not really of our number;* if they had been, they would have remained with us. Their desertion shows that none of them was of our number. 20But you have the anointing that comes from the holy one,* and you all have knowledge.o 21I write to you not because you do not know the truth but because you do, and because every lie is alien to the truth.p 22* Who is the liar? Whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Whoever denies the Father and the Son, this is the antichrist.q 23No one who denies the Son has the Father, but whoever confesses the Son has the Father as well.r
Life from God’s Anointing. 24s Let what you heard from the beginning remain in you. If what you heard from the beginning remains in you, then you will remain in the Son and in the Father.* 25And this is the promise that he made us: eternal life.t 26I write you these things about those who would deceive you. 27As for you, the anointing that you received from him remains in you, so that you do not need anyone to teach you. But his anointing teaches you about everything and is true and not false; just as it taught you, remain in him.
Children of God. 28* And now, children, remain in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not be put to shame by him at his coming. 29If you consider that he is righteous, you also know that everyone who acts in righteousness is begotten by him.
* [2:1] Children: like the term “beloved,” this is an expression of pastoral love (cf. Jn 13:33; 21:5; 1 Cor 4:14). Advocate: for the use of the term, see Jn 14:16. Forgiveness of sin is assured through Christ’s intercession and expiation or “offering”; the death of Christ effected the removal of sin.
* [2:3–6] The way we may be sure: to those who claim, “I have known Christ and therefore I know him,” our author insists on not mere intellectual knowledge but obedience to God’s commandments in a life conformed to the example of Christ; this confirms our knowledge of him and is the love of God…perfected. Disparity between moral life and the commandments proves improper belief.
* [2:7–11] The author expresses the continuity and freshness of mutual charity in Christian experience. Through Christ the commandment of love has become the light defeating the darkness of evil in a new age. All hatred as darkness is incompatible with the light and Christian life. Note also the characteristic Johannine polemic in which a positive assertion is emphasized by the negative statement of its opposite.
* [2:8] Which holds true in him and among you: literally, “a thing that holds true in him and in you.”
* [2:12–17] The Christian community that has experienced the grace of God through forgiveness of sin and knowledge of Christ is armed against the evil one.
* [2:12] For his name’s sake: because of Christ our sins are forgiven.
* [2:15] The world: all that is hostile toward God and alienated from him. Love of the world and love of God are thus mutually exclusive; cf. Jas 4:4.
* [2:16] Sensual lust: literally, “the lust of the flesh,” inordinate desire for physical gratification. Enticement for the eyes: literally, “the lust of the eyes,” avarice or covetousness; the eyes are regarded as the windows of the soul. Pretentious life: literally, “pride of life,” arrogance or ostentation in one’s earthly style of life that reflects a willful independence from God and others.
* [2:18] It is the last hour: literally, “a last hour,” the period between the death and resurrection of Christ and his second coming. The antichrist: opponent or adversary of Christ; the term appears only in 1 John–2 John, but “pseudochrists” (translated “false messiahs”) in Mt 24:24 and Mk 13:22, and Paul’s “lawless one” in 2 Thes 2:3, are similar figures. Many antichrists: Matthew, Mark, and Revelation seem to indicate a collectivity of persons, here related to the false teachers.
* [2:19] Not really of our number: the apostate teachers only proved their lack of faith by leaving the community.
* [2:20] The anointing that comes from the holy one: this anointing is in the Old Testament sense of receiving the Spirit of God. The holy one probably refers to Christ. True knowledge is the gift of the Spirit (cf. Is 11:2), and the function of the Spirit is to lead Christians to the truth (Jn 14:17, 26; 16:13).
* [2:22–23] Certain gnostics denied that the earthly Jesus was the Christ; to deny knowledge of the Son is to deny the Father, since only through the Son has God been fully revealed (Jn 1:18; 14:8–9).
* [2:24] Continuity with the apostolic witness as proclaimed in the prologue is the safeguard of right belief.
* [2:28–29] Our confidence at his judgment is based on the daily assurance of salvation. Our actions reflect our true relation to him.
f. [2:7] 3:11; Dt 6:5; Mt 22:37–40.
g. [2:8] Jn 13:34 / Jn 1:5; Rom 13:12.
i. [2:10] Eccl 2:14; Jn 11:10.
j. [2:12] 1 Cor 6:11.
l. [2:15] Rom 8:7–8; Jas 4:4; 2 Pt 1:4.
m. [2:17] Is 40:8; Mt 7:21; 1 Cor 7:31; 1 Pt 4:2.
q. [2:22] 2 Thes 2:4.