1 John 2:7-17

This study was led by Larry Reynolds in the Spring of 2008.

Denton, TX

THE LAW OF LOVE (1 John 2:7-17)


            In 1 John 2:4 John writes, “The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him…”  We saw in the previous session that fellowship with God is predicated on obedience to God.  It is not that a Christian can never fall into disobedience or that a Christian will never sin.  For we also saw last week that 1 John 1:10 says, “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.”  But the habit of our lives should be toward obeying rather than disobeying, toward keeping God’s commandments rather than breaking God’s commandments.

            In the portion of 1 John at which we looked last week, John did not elaborate on the word commandment.  He used it in a general sense.  However, in the section on which we are focusing in this section, John focuses on one particular commandment—the commandment to love one another.  This commandment is given special emphasis in the New Testament. (cf. Matthew 22:34-40; Romans 13:8-10).  John gives special emphasis to this commandment because Jesus gave special emphasis to it.  In the five chapters of 1 John, six times there is a direct reference to the command that we love one another.  There is a beautiful legend about John.  The legend says when he was a very old man, the younger men would carry him into the assembly of Christians in Ephesus.  They would prop him up before the people and he would preach a three word sermon—“Love on another … love one another…”  That three word sermon is a summary of the section of 1 John on which we are going to focus in this session.

            The emphasis on the law of love 1 John 2:7-17 divides very naturally into two broad sections.  1 John 2:7-11 focuses on whom we should love--our fellow believers.  1 John 2:12-17 focuses on what we should not love--the world.


WHOM WE SHOULD LOVE--OUR FELLOW BELIEVERS (1 John 2:7-11) – This entire section is built on the command that Jesus gave to his followers on the night before He was crucified:  “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you…”  (John 15:12)  Notice the section begins with the word “beloved.”  This is one of John’s favorite words.  It is used a total of six times in the book of 1 John alone.  The word literally means “much loved ones.”  And by the use of this word at the beginning of this section and by the repeated use of this word throughout 1 John, John was signaling his readers that he practiced in his own life what he was preaching to them.  Four specific things are said in verses 7-11 about the command to love.

  1. It is an old command (1 John 2:7 – “Beloved, I am not writing a new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word which you have heard.”)

“…not writing a new commandment…” – New means carries the idea of something unfamiliar or novel.  This is a command with which John’s readers should have been familiar because it was such an integral part of the teaching of Jesus.

“...from the beginning…” - Could mean from the beginning of the Christian era or from the beginning of the reader’s instruction in the gospel

“…the word which you have heard…” – This commandment is an essential part of the gospel, not something that was later added.

  1. It is a new command (1 John 2:8a – “On the other hand, I am writing a new commandment to you, which is true in Him and in you…”) – At first seems like a contradiction with the previous verse.  But John is saying while the command to love is not new (actually, it has its roots in the Old Testament), there is a new way of looking at it.  “On the other hand…” means in another sense or from another point of view.  There are at least three ways in which the command to love is a new command.  (cf. John 13:34)
    1. It is new is its authority – Though the essence of the command is found in the Old Testament, Jesus gave it new life and meaning and depth.
    2. It is new in its standard -  Jesus demonstrated how to carry out the command to love by what He did.  Ultimately, He gave His life out of love. (cf. John 3:16; John 15:12-13)
    3. It is new in its practice – W.T. Conner wrote, “It is as old as the Gospel and as new as each soul’s experience of the love of God in Christ Jesus.”

The phrase “…which is true in Him and in you…” indicates the newness of the command to love is seen both in Christ and those who follow Christ.

  1. It is an appropriate command for the new era (1 John 2:8b – “…because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining.”)

“…darkness…” – Sin, ignorance, error, absence of God

“...true light…” – Cf. 1 John 1:5 … God’s self-revelation, now fully embodied in Christ…”true”  means real as opposed to fake or counterfeit … this is one of John’s favorite words, used twenty-three (23) times in his writings, four (4) times in 1 John, and only five (5) times in the remainder of the New Testament…

The verbs are in the present tense indicating an on-going process that is not complete.

  1. It is a command that reveals one’s true character (1 John 2:9-11 – “The one who says he is in the light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now.  The one who loves his brother abides in the light and there is no cause for stumbling in him.  But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.”) – How a person responds to the command to love reveals that person’s essential character.  The verbs “hate” and “love” are in the present tense indicating a fixed, settled principle of life.  The one who habitually and continually breaks the command to love belongs to the darkness and the one who habitually and continually keeps the command to love belongs to the light.
    1. Three things are said about a person controlled by hate, which is just the opposite of love:

                                                              i.      “…is in the darkness until now…” (9b, 11a) – Darkness is the moral and spiritual atmosphere of such a person’s life, in spite of the fact that such a person may claim an allegiance to Christ.  Such a person has not yet experienced in his/her life the light of Christ.

                                                            ii.      “…walks in the darkness…” (11b) – This is a stronger statement than “…in the darkness…”  The idea is that the actions and conduct of such a person are the result of being in the darkness.  One writer says, “His conduct matches his character; he cannot act otherwise than he is, or walk in any region other than that where his habitation lies.” (Findlay, quoted by Vaughan)

                                                          iii.      “…does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes…” (11c)– Such a person has no direction, goal, or purpose in life.  It is not possible for such a person to make continuous progress toward a satisfying goal.  The darkness has caused him/her to lose all spiritual insight.  The person is blind to the virtues of others and the faults of himself/herself.

    1. Two things are said about the person who is controlled by love:

                                                              i.      “…abides in the light…” (10a) – Such  a person lives in the light of divine revelation.

                                                            ii.      “…there is no cause for stumbling in him…” (10b) – Could mean that nothing in him/her causes himself/herself to stumble.  Could mean that he/she does not become a stumbling block to others by having an unloving spirit.  The lack of love, grace, and forgiveness among God’s people is on of the greatest hindrances to the spread of the gospel.


WHAT WE SHOULD NOT LOVE--THE WORLD  (1 John 2:12-17) – The first part of this section tells us whom we should love.  The second part tells us what we should not love.  These verses contain a strong appeal for Christians not to be overly in love with or overly tied to this world.  There is a basis for the appeal (2:12-14), the appeal itself (2:15a), and the reason for the appeal (15b-16).

1.   The basis for the appeal – (1 John 2:12-14 – “I am writing to you, little children, because you sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake.  I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning.  I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one.  I have written to you, children, because you know the Father.  I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning.  I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.”) – While there are six parts to those two verses, the all point to one over-arching truth:  John wrote not from doubt about their Christian experience but from confidence in their experience.

·         Notice the repetition of the phrases “I am writing” (present tense) and “I have written” (aroist tense).  Some say “I am writing” refers to 1 John and “I have written” refers to the Gospel of John.  Others say the verbs are just a stylistic device to give emphasis to what he is saying.

·         Notice the titles “…little children…fathers…young men…”  It is tempting to see those as referring to three age groups, but the order is awkward for that.  “Little children…” probably refers to all his readers, “fathers” to older believers, and “young men” to younger believers.  The thrust would be, “My children in Christ, young and old.”

·         Notice the word of encourage offered to each group.

o   “children” – Their sins are forgiven (perfect tense meaning forgiven in the past and remain forgiven) and they have come to know the Father.

o   “fathers” – Distinguished by their intimate knowledge of Christ.  “…know Him who has been from the beginning…” speaks of a long, intimate relationship with Christ.

o   “young men” – Have overcome the evil one.  May refer to the heretical teachers in general,  a specific heretical teacher, or Satan who is the force behind the teachers.  The younger believers were most susceptible for being led astray and John praises them for their strength.

2.      The substance of the appeal – (1 John 1:15a – “Do not love the world, nor the things in the world…”) – The word “world” is used by John more than all the other New Testament writers combined.  It occurs seventy-nine (79)  times in the Gospel of John and twenty-three (23) times in 1 John.  John uses the word in three distinct ways:

·         The world of nature (cf. John 1:10; 1 John 4:17)

·         The human race (cf. John 3:16; 1 John 2:2)

·         Unbelieving, pagan society that is hostile to God (cf. 1 John 5:19; John 15:18-19)

The phrase “…things in the world…” refers to the values or dominating principles of this world.  Curtis Vaughan explains this phrase this way:  “What does it mean to love the world? … To love the world of men, as God loves it, is to demonstrate benevolent, sacrificial good will toward men lost in sin.  This is the duty of every Christian.  But to love the world as a moral order hostile to God is an altogether different thing.  It is to court the world’s favor, follow its customs, adopt its ideals, covet its prizes, and seek its fellowship.  Loving the world in this sense means setting one’s affection on evil and is tantamount to deserting God.  This the Christian must not do.”

3.      The reason for the appeal – (1 John 2:15b-17 – “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.  And the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever.”)  These verses give us two reasons for not loving the world:

·        Love for the world and love for God are mutually exclusive.  They represent two distinct ways of approaching life.  “…all that is in the world…” means all that the world has to offer.  It is summed up in three phrases:

a.       “…the lust of the flesh…” – Sensuality

b.      “…the lust of the eyes…” ­– Materialism

c.       “…the pride of life…” – Arrogant self-sufficiency

These things are “…not from the Father…”  That is, sensuality, materialism, and arrogant self-sufficiency do not originate with God, show no likeness to His character, and are contrary to the life which He desires for His people.

·        The world is temporary and will not last.

“…is passing away…” – The process has already begun.

“…its lusts…” – The desire for the things of the world mentioned in the previous verse.

To build one’s life around the world is not only sinful, it is foolish.  It is to stake one’s entire future on an order that is decaying, dying, and passing away. (cf. Matthew 6:19-34)