Because of Adam’s sin not only was our fellowship with God broken off, but also our fellowship with each other was shattered. Adam blame-shifted (Gen. 3:12). Cain killed Abel (Gen. 4:8). Lamech was a murderous hothead (Gen. 4:23). Things went from bad to worser in Noah’s day (Gen. 6:1-5). Man’s relationship with God was broken; as a result, his relationship with his brother became a cess-pool of selfishness and strife.
1 John 2:9-17 “9 He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. 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. 12 I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake. 13 I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father. 14 I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one. 15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.”
Summary of the Text
The old commandment has been made new in Christ (vs7-8). The command to love the Lord thy God is fulfilled by believing in Jesus Christ: God’s Son (1 Jn. 3:23), our Advocate and the only propitiation for sins (1 Jn. 2:1-2). This naturally leads to “love thy neighbor.” Claiming to walk in the light while hating your brother, indicates you are really continuing in the darkness of your sinful state (v9); your light is dark indeed (Lk. 11:35). God is light (1 Jn. 1:5), and through Christ we abide in God. Thus, abiding in the light of God in Christ, results in loving your brother. When the light is on you don’t stumble around (v10). Hating your brother is a spiritual diagnostic that indicates you continue to dwell in the deep darkness of sin (v11).
The repetition in verses 12-14 should not be taken as “scribal error,” but as a chorus worth repeating; these are theological poetics. John calls attention to our forgiveness, knowledge of the Father and the eternal Word, strength from the abiding Word, and overcoming Satan. Is that not the best sort of content for a gospel hymn?
John warns against loving the world and the world’s things—especially its lusts and pride. These worldly things are not of the Father, and they are fleeting (vs15-16). But, in contrast, those who do God’s will abide forever (v17). The sum is: loving God through Christ leaves no room for treasuring the world’s lusts and pride.
This physical realm of earth was viewed by the pagans as the trash heap of the universe. The quest of the gnostics and mystics to liberate the soul from the body, eventually deteriorated into an inordinate obsession with––ironically––the body. All their seeking for “the divine” only rewarded them with a defiled earth. It is only through the Advocate (1 Jn. 2:1)––the Word incarnate (1 Jn. 1:1-3)––that we can have fellowship with God the Father, know Him (1 Jn. 2:4) and experience His love through Christ (1 Jn. 3:1). Loving God means obeying His command to trust in Jesus, and thus be liberated to enjoy this world rightly. Chesterton put it this way: “He who has seen the whole world hanging on a hair of the mercy of God has seen the truth […] He who has seen the vision of his city upside-down has seen it the right way up.”
Otherwise, we will be obsessed—to the point of perversion—with either hedonistic abuse of this world, or ascetic insult of this world. The Pagans relentlessly worshipped these worldly things (i.e. sun, moon, trees, creatures, etc.); this resulted in abusing their fellow man. Loving the world turns your neighbor into something to satisfy the lust of your flesh, the lust of your eyes, and the pride of life. Your neighbor becomes a means to the end of your own satisfaction.
Love of the world is ruinous to our relationships, especially our closest ones. It isn’t the Swiss yodeler, the Nepalese sherpa, the Uzbek migrant, or the Maasai shepherd who has hurt you or whom you’ve hurt. It’s your spouse, parent, coworker, child, uncle, neighbor, or friend. Worldliness blinds us to the imago dei in our fellow man, and it treats these earthly shadow-glories as if they are preeminent glories. When love for this world rules in our hearts, we degrade earthly blessings and dishonor our fellow man.
If God’s love is not yet reigning in our heart, it would be like “pouring water on a ball; you can gather, no, not a drop, because there is no empty place to retain water.” This world must be given up, and love to God must reign supreme before we can relinquish our grip on this world, and actually rightly love our brother and receive the shadow-glories with thankfulness. These joys pass away and are gone (1 Jn. 2:17). You’re a fool to worship them.
Loving Christ, Hating Sin
John’s overarching goal in writing is that your joy would be full (1 Jn. 1:4). The clear light of the Gospel is that in Christ we have a Mediator to bring us into fellowship with God Almighty (1 Jn. 1:3). It is only through this channel that we can have fellowship with each other (1 Jn. 1:7) and find “peace on earth.” Hatred of our brother has no place in the true believer’s life.
Anti-christs are seducers (1 Jn. 2:26); they won’t acknowledge Jesus was the Christ (1 Jn. 2:22). They are preachers of idolatry. They need minions upon which their own lusts and prides might feed. This is why gnostic cults fell into the self-loathing of asceticism, or insatiable orgies. On the other hand, the Judaizers considered the Gentiles as kindling for hell. For the believing Jews in John’s audience, they should see this link between love the Lord thy God and love thy neighbor. The proper way to understand the law, after all, was not as moral dictums; rather these are the words of a loving King entering into a covenant with His people.
The law was not a list of dos and don’ts. It was a revelation of God’s righteousness and holiness (cf. 1 Jn. 1:5), and man’s unrighteousness and wickedness. Thus, propitiation through our Advocate must be the grounds for our obedience to God’s commandments. Every human attempt to mediate peace and foster love between mankind without first being grounded in reconciliation with God through the Incarnate Christ, is doomed to failure. It assumes that humanity is basically good, divine, and therefore capable of attaining the righteousness of God. It is the anti-christ of adoptionism: Jesus was just a man that God used for an example for us. The other error, Docetism, leaves us without a real human mediator; so regardless of how “reconciled” we are to our fellow man, we both remain under God’s wrath. One other danger is that if we fail to affirm Christ as both fully God and fully man, and lay too much emphasis on the deity of Christ, we may become ambivalent about the need to love, be reconciled and at peace with our brother. We become, in this sense, too heavenly minded that we are no earthly good.
There is no other Savior or Mediator between God and man than Jesus; and our love for our brethren is where our love for Christ is most clearly attested. As we dwell in Christ, we now represent Him in this world. Our love for our neighbor is not what saves us, but it is a vibrant evidence of reconciliation with God, a new birth, and one who is obedient to God’s commandment. Paul hits at this by saying, “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law (Rom. 13:8).”
How can God command in one breath, “love your brother,” and then command “love not the world or the things of the world?” It is only by a new creation. A new heart that knows the God of love and thus hates sin. In trusting Christ you become a channel of God’s love to this world. This world has nothing for you, but it is in this world in which God is making all things new. The very first order of business after being made right with God, is to go and be made right—on the basis of our union with God in Christ and His indwelling Word—with our brother. God’s love has come to reign in us, and His love spills out of us to our neighbor.
For the previous messages in my series on 1 John: