Notes on I John 2:1-11
by Jonathan Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)
1 John 2:1, KJV My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:
John continues his theme from chapter 1, the issue of sin in the believer’s life. Here he explains that he is writing “these things” so that we as believers would not sin as a habit, or way of life, much the same as Paul explained this in Romans 6.
And John also gives comfort to those of us who do sin—we have an Advocate (someone on our behalf) Who is Jesus Christ, the Righteous (One)!
2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for (the sins of) the whole world.
“Propitiation” is only used twice in the New Testament, here and in chapter 4, verse 10. The word could be translated “atonement”, and there are other related words listed on-line (see https://www.dictionary.com/browse/propitiation ).
John also declares that Jesus is not only the propitiation for those who have believed (“not for ours only”) but for all people (“for (those) of the whole world”.)
3 And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.
This is a reminder of what Jesus stated in John 14:15 (“If ye love me, keep my commandments”) and John 15:10 (“If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love”). Jesus specified these commandments—only one, actually—in John 13:34, restated in John 15:12 (“love one another”).
4 He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
Plain language from the Apostle. Judas Iscariot was one who had known Jesus but certainly didn’t keep the Lord’s commandments. John may again be referring to the words of Jesus in John 8:44.
5 But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.
John makes a distinction between those who claim to know The Lord Jesus Christ but do not keep His commandments with those who keep His word. “Perfected” here means “made complete”. Jesus used a similar concept in Matthew 5:43-48, in that love ought to be complete for all people, even as the Father showed love to all people, the just as well as the unjust.
6 He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.
John uses a different word here, stating that someone who “says” he abides
(remains with) Christ ought to walk as Christ walked. Note the progression, from someone who says “I know Christ” (only a small number may have been able to say this by the time John wrote this letter) to someone saying “I am abiding in Christ”. By the date of this letter any number of people could say this. John is simply making an encouragement or exhortation to prove it: walk as Jesus walked. The Gospels and other writings, plus one’s own time spent in the Word and spent with the Lord in prayer would give much guidance.7 Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning.
Now John reminds the readers that he isn’t writing a new commandment but is simply restating something they had already heard, “. . .the word . . . they (had) heard from the beginning”.8 Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth.
John makes mention of a new commandment—no contradiction with the previous verse—because the “darkness is past” and the true light was now shining. He did not reveal what these two things were, but no doubt the readers of this letter understood clearly what he meant.9 He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now.
John continues the contrast between light and darkness, here, and in the next two verses.10 He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. 11 But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.
“Stunbling”, here, may be an allusion to our Lord’s words in John 11:9-10. Aside from literally, physically stumbling over something not seen, there is probably a figurative sense to the idea of stumbling. When Judas went out to betray Jesus, John added “it was night (John 13:30)”.
John may have also had other battles between brothers: Cain and Abel; Amnon and Absalom, sons of David (2 Samuel 13); Ishmael and Isaac; Abimelech and the other sons of Gideon (Judges 9); even Jacob and Esau. In some of these cases, whatever brotherly love existed had turned to bitter hatred; Only Jacob and Esau were ever reconciled, and even then they separated from one another (Genesis 33).
Scripture quotations taken from the King James Version of the Bible (KJV)