1 John


Argument Proper

ii] Christ our advocate


John now sets out to argue that there is a relationship between a believer's moral behaviour and their standing in Christ. Against the heresy of perfectionism, John argues that the genuine believer is one who struggles with obedience.


i] Context: See 1:1-5.


ii] Background: See 1:6-10.


iii] Structure: Christ is our advocate:

God is life-giving light, let us walk in the light of his love

Argument #2, v1-6:

Given God's character of light / love:

Sin should be faced, v1a;

When faced, Christ is both intercessor and expiator, v1b-2;

The basis of assurance, v3-5;

Ethical response - be what you are, v6.


Given the repeated phrase "the one who says", v4, 6 and 9, some suggest that v3-11 be treated as a unified whole, eg. Lieu and Kruse. Kruse titles the passage, "claims to know God tested by obedience."


iv] Interpretation:

Against the sectarians, who seem to have little regard for sin, John has made the point that sin is a constant in the Christian life, and that forgiveness is God's constant in Christ, 1:6-10. He now restates the theological basis for forgiveness, namely the atoning work of Christ, v1-2. John then goes on to outline the test of obedience, 2:3-6. John makes the point that obedience is a constant in the Christian life and that it assures us of our fellowship with Christ.


What does John mean by "obedience"? Yarbrough argues that since John is promoting the issue of Christian assurance to his readers, the test of obedience has, as its primary intention, Christian assurance. So, the "obedience" John speaks of is not the obedience of perfect behaviour, but the inward desire for, and the imperfect application of, a Christ-like life. Put in a negative way, a believer is very aware of their sin and strives to overcome it. The test of obedience evidences this tendency and serves to assure a believer of their standing in Christ.


The homiletic task: It is important to note that this passage has the potential to be read as if John is demanding of us nothing short of perfect obedience, such that our standing in Christ is left open to question and thus, our assurance undermined. The fact remains that our obedience will always be compromised, but the compromise can never be regarded lightly. For John, it is a believer's concern for personal righteousness that evidences their standing in Christ, not their perfect obedience. It is important that this fact is made clear when crafting a sermon on the passage.


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 2:1a

Arguments in support of the proposition, #2 - Christ is our advocate, v1-6: i] John restates the purpose of his letter, v1a.

mou gen. pro. "my" - [little children] of me. The genitive is adjectival, relational.

teknia (on) voc. "dear children" - little children. An affectionate note.

tauta "this" - these things. Accusative direct object of the verb "to write." John's observations regarding our state of sin, namely, Christ's sacrifice on our behalf and the place of confession in forgiveness, 1:5-10, or possible the whole letter.

uJmin dat. pro. "to you" - [i write] to you. Dative of indirect object.

iJna + subj. "so that" - that [you do not sin]. Introducing a final clause expressing purpose. It is always possible to argue that the way of forgiveness is cheep grace, but John's purpose in outlining this way is not to promote sin, but "to keep you from committing any sin", Barclay.


ii] The grace of forgiveness comes through the atoning work of Christ, 1b-2. John has just written about God's free forgiveness in Christ, but of course, in writing about free forgiveness, he is not encouraging free sin. We all sin, and thankfully God's mercy extends to us in Jesus Christ. Jesus bore our punishment and personally intercedes on our behalf. Therefore, through Jesus we have fellowship with God.

kai "but" - and. Coordinative; "now if anyone does sin", Culy.

ean + subj. "if ..." - Introducing a conditional clause, 3rd. class, where the condition has the possibility of coming true; "if, as the case may be, ..... then ......". "If you do sin, Jesus Christ always does the right thing, and he will speak to the Father for us", CEV.

aJmarthte (aJmartanw) aor. subj. "does sin" - [anyone] sins. Aorist tense indicating an act of sinning, not the state of sin.

ecomen 1st. pl. "we have" - Note the inclusive move from "you" to "we".

paraklhton (oV) "an advocate" - an advocate (a legal sense) / sponsor, intercessor (a more general "speaks for"). Accusative direct object of the verb "to have." The word is used of the Holy Spirit in John's gospel, but here obviously referring to Jesus. "We have one to plead our cause to the Father", Barclay, REB; "intercessor", Cassirer.

proV + acc. "to / with - toward [the father]. Possibly relational, as TNIV, or spacial, of an advocate who speaks to the Father.

dikaion adj. "the Righteous One" - [jesus christ] the righteous, just. righteous, just. The adjective is used as a substantive; "the one who acts righteously", standing in apposition to "Jesus Christ." Jesus will do the right thing for us as he advocates / intercedes on our behalf, and/or only one who does the right thing can properly advocate / intercede on our behalf; "we have in Jesus Christ one who is acceptable to God and will plead our cause with the Father", REB. Possibly with the sense that we can always depend on; "Jesus Christ the just", Moffatt.


iJlasmoV (oV) "the atoning sacrifice" - [and he is] the propitiation / expiation. The actual meaning of this word has prompted much debate. "Propitiate", in the terms of "turning aside / placating the wrath of God", with respect of our sins, by means of the sacrifice of Christ, is favoured by conservative commentators. "Expiate", in the terms of "making amends for our sin", or "removing the defilement of sin", or "forgiving sin", again by means of Christ's sacrifice, is favoured by most commentators.

peri + gen. "for" - about, concerning. Expressing reference / respect; "with reference to / concerning."

hJmwn gen. pro. "our" - [the sins] of us. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, or possibly subjective, ie., we produce the action of sinning.

de "and" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the argument, here to an expansion of the point already made; "but/and not for ours only ....."

twn hJmeterwn adj. "ours" - [not concerning] the ones of us (our sins) [only]. The adjective serves as a substantive.

alla "but" - but [and = also]. Strong adversative in a counterpoint construction; "not ......, but also ....". "not only the defilement of our sins, but .....", Barclay.

tou kosmou (oV) gen. "of the [whole] world" - [concerning] the [whole] world. As for "our sins", the genitive may be subjective, "the sins committed by the world", or possessive, "the sins which are the world's / the world's sins."

oJlou adj. "whole" - An intensive adjective serves to make the point that the atonement covers the sins of all mankind. Naturally, there is debate as to whether this is a potential covering, or an actual covering of sin. Does Christ's death serve as a sacrifice for all sin, or only for the sin of those who seek the remission of their sins?


iii] A believers assurance is confirmed by the test of obedience, v3-6. John "affirms (v3) and then expands on (v5) the basis for Christian assurance, warns of what will disqualify from that assurance (v4), and lays down the ethical obligation that confession of Christ entails (v6)", Yarbrough. John argues that there is a correlation between a person's relationship with God and their behaviour. To this end, John gives his readers a series of tests to help assure them of their full-standing in Christ against the sectarians; "here is a test by which we can make sure that we know him: do we keep his commands?", NEB.

en + dat. "-" - [and] in. Instrumental; "and by this means" = "and this is how."

toutw/ pro. "-" - this. The demonstrative pronoun is referring forward to the conditional clause, ie., it is by obeying God's commands that we are able to verify to ourselves that we know God.

ginwskomen (ginwskw) "we know" - we can be sure, know, recognise. Here of discerning or recognising truth.

oJti "that" - Here introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what we can be sure of.

egnwkamen (ginwskw) perf. "we have come to know" - we have known [him]. "knowing" is used here of becoming one with a person, as a person becomes one with their wife / husband in "knowing" them. An important word reflecting a relational knowledge which involves the whole person. The idea expressed in the word morphed into the gnostic heresy of salvation / enlightenment through knowledge, quite apart from the need for redemption.

ean + subj. "if" - Introducing a conditional clause 3rd. class where the condition has the possibility of coming true; "if, as may be the case, we have come to know him, then we keep his commandments."

thrwmen (threw) subj. "we obey / keep" - we keep, observe, complete, guard, confirm, agree to, .... As in the interpretive note above, "What does John mean by obedience?", a legalistic understanding of the word is unlikely. "Obey", "keep", are very uncompromising words and often leave the reader confused, given that we never obey. The sense is more like, "do we agree with and try to live out God's instructions?" If John is arguing for perfect obedience, in a legalistic sense, then he would be undermining his attempt to assure his reader of their standing in Christ. As we well know, there has only ever been one perfectly obedient person. A line from the B grade movie The Henderson Monster makes the point well; "even our most noble motivations cannot tolerate close inspection."

autou gen. pro. "his" - [the commands] of him. The genitive is possibly subjective, "the instructions of God", or ablative, source / origin, "the instructions from God", or possessive, "God's instructions."

taV entolaV (h) "commands" - orders, commands. For John, the love-God love-neighbour of Biblical ethics comes down to believing in Jesus Christ, and loving one another. Love is the product / fruit of faith, making the command to believe in Christ the primary command, if not God's singular command. The evidence of love displays the evidence of faith, which faith guarantees sonship.


Those believers who claim an intimate knowledge of the divine, but then ignore his commands, show by their behaviour that they do not really know the truth; their knowledge of God is flawed.

oJ legwn (legw) pres. part. "the man who says / whoever says" - the one saying. The articular participle serves as a substantive.

oJti "-" that [i have known him and the commands of him]. Introducing a dependant statement of direct speech, "I know him." Obviously with the sectarians in mind, so directed to those who claim standing before God in their knowledge of him, irrespective of their behaviour.

mh thrwn (threw) pres. part. "does not keep / do" - not keeping. The present tense emphasising a "continued keeping." At first glance, the participle looks as if it is adverbial, concessive, "although / though not keeping the commandments", but it is linked to legwn and its article oJ by kai and therefore serves as a substantive; "the one saying ... and not keeping. The participial clause, with its two participles, forms the protasis of a conditional clause with accusative force, so Culy; "if someone says ..... then they are a liar, ....."

yeusthV (hV ou) "a liar" - [is] a liar. "He is a liar" is synonymous with "the truth is not in him", and serves as the apodosis of the conditional clause; "[the one saying ..... and not keeping], then this person is a liar, the truth is not in them." A strong word, particularly to the modern ear, adjusted to the pluralism of our present PC age!

hJ alhqeia (a) "the truth" - [and] the truth. "The word is deliberately chosen by the writer to describe a genuineness which is neither philosophical nor abstract, but rather practical and concrete", Smalley. By treating God's commands lightly, a person indicates that their knowledge of God is not true, but false.

en + dat. "in [him] / in [that person]" - [is not] in [this one]. Local; expressing space / sphere. Either "in him" or "in that."


On the other hand, those believers who give weight to the revealed will of God and seek to apply it in their daily life, imperfect as that application always is, demonstrate that they truly are in a personal relationship with the living God. A practical concern for God's will evidences a person's union with the divine. Such is the test of obedience and it serves to assure us of our standing in Christ.

d (de) "but" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the argument, here to a contrasting point.

oJV .. an + subj. "whoever" - if anyone. Introducing an indefinite relative conditional clause, 3rd. class, where the condition has the possibility of coming true; "whoever, as the case may be, [keeps his word] then (this shows that, Culy) [God's love is truly made complete in him]" John widens the point he is making so as to include everyone.

ton logon (oV) "word" - [keeps] the word [of him]. Not just "orders", but his "word", his "revealed will." "His word" probably means "God's word", but "Christ's word" is not an impossible sense. So, generally "teaching", "doctrine", even "the gospel", but here specifically belief in Jesus and the law of love.

tou qeou (oV) gen. "of God / for God" - [then truly in this one the love] of god. The genitive, "of God", is adjectival, usually treated as a subjective, "God's love for humanity", even sometimes objective, "humanity's love for God", as TNIV. None-the-less, we are often on safer grounds when we treat the genitive attributively, of qualitative, "God's particular kind of love", Schnackenburg.

teteleiwtai (teleiow) perf. pas. "has reached perfection / is truly made complete" - has been perfected, completed, fulfilled. "In practice, the more a person learns to obey God's laws, the more truly and fully do they express their love for him", Phillips.

en toutw/ "this is how" - in/by this [we know]. The preposition en is probably instrumental "by this." The pronoun toutw/ most likely points back to "obeys his word" (anaphoric), although the NIV assumes it is looking forward (cataphoric). A believer's striving to obey serves to confirm their standing in Christ. "This is the proof that we are in God", NJB.

oJti "-" - that. Introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what we know.

en + dat. "in" - [we are] in [him]. Local, space, incorporative union, so "in him" in the sense of united with him = in an intimate relationship with him. "This is how we can be sure that we exist (abide, v6) in him (God or Christ?)", Smalley


iv] Ethical response, v6. John now underlines his main point. A believer who claims "I abide in Christ" will strive to live like Christ. It is just not possible for a person to claim to be a follower of Christ, but then hold the opinion that they don't need to live like Christ.

oJ legwn (legw) part. "whoever claims" - the one saying = claiming. The substantive participle introduces a nominal phrase which stands as the subject of the verb "to be obligated." The sentence, as a whole, sums up the unit, v3-6. John's point is simple, a person who claims to walk with Jesus must walk like Jesus.

menein (menw) pres. inf. "to live" - to remain, abide. Present tense indicating a continued abiding, and the infinitive forming a dependent statement of indirect speech, "the one saying that they abide in him." Possibly alluding to the sectarians who claim that they abide in God, while at the same time feel no obligation to live in a way honouring to God.

en + dat. "in" - in [him]. Local, space, metaphorical / incorporative union. As above, of union with Christ which in practical terms comes down to being in a relationship with Christ - a friend of Jesus (presumably Jesus rather than God).

ofeilei (ofeilw) "must" - is obligated, ought. Main verb; "Is morally obligated."

ou{twV adv. "-" - [and = also] thus [himself]. Variant reading, usually accepted. The construction kaqwV ..... ou{twV, "as" him, "thus" you", is also found in John's gospel. "In like manner" we are to walk as Jesus walked. John is calling for our imitation of Christ, of following Christ, a following in the sense of "a root-and-branch subsuming of one's life under what someone else stands for and is", Yarbrough.

peripatein (peripatew) pres. inf. "live" - to walk. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "to be obligated"; "ought ..... to walk = live."

periepathsen (peripatew) aor. "did" - [as, like that one] walked. "Walk" in the sense of "conduct oneself throughout life." The aorist is gnomic, the action entails the totality of Jesus' life. "That one", ekeinoV, is obviously Jesus, while the comparative conjunction kaqwV, "as", introduces a comparison - a believer should model their behaviour on / be "like" Jesus.


1 John Introduction



[Pumpkin Cottage]