1 John


God is light, 1:1-2:29

iii] Love the brethren


John has argued that a person who abides in the light, who abides in the love of God, in-dwelt with the light / love of God, is a person who exhibits faith and its fruit love, ie.,"keeps his [God's] commandments / word", v3, 5. Unlike the secessionists / opponents whose faith evidences a "new command" / teaching (they are "innovators", Schnackenburg), John's focus is on an "old one" from Christ himself, a command / word which is both "old" and "new", namely, brotherly love, v7-8. A person who claims to abide in the light / love of God, but is indifferent to the needs of a brother or sister ("hates", v9), is self-deceived ("a liar", v4). Such a person lives in "darkness", not light. The child of the light, on the other hand, "loves their brother and sister", they are compassionate , v9-11. John, aware of the importance of this truth, drives it home to his readers in a parallel address to children, fathers and young men, v12-14.


i] Context: See 1:6-10..


ii] Background: See 1:1-5.


iii] Structure: Love the brethren:

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

Argument #3, v7-14:

God expects his children to walk in the light of brotherly love

The old new law, v7-8;

The implications of ignoring the old new law, v9-11;

Ethical appeal, v12-14.


iv] Interpretation:

The claims of the secessionists / opponents can be tested by their willingness to apply themselves to God's commands / word, v2-6. This "word" is God's revealed will which may be summarised as love God, love neighbour, or as John puts it "this is his command, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another", 3:23. Abiding in God's love prompts neighbourly love, or put more succinctly, the product of faith is love. In the passage before us, John makes this case with reference to brotherly love - practical compassion within the Christian fellowship. Where brotherly love is absent, abiding is absent / genuine faith is absent. John's words in v7-11, as regards brotherly love, are more a polemic than ethical teaching. See 3:18-24 where John gives ethical instruction toward brotherly love for personal assurance and the building up of fellowship within the Christian community.


The command / instruction / word implies orientation, not perfection. As already noted, when it comes to obeying God's commands, it is very likely that John has in mind orientation in the Christian life, rather than perfection. A believer, "walking in the light", subject to the command / word of God, will only ever imperfectly obey, and so for this reason, will need to look to Jesus for the cleansing of sin, 1:6-10. A believer who depreciates the word of God and devises a "new commandment" / ethic / teaching, will tend to walk in darkness and end up drifting from the God who is light.


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

Text - 2:7

Arguments in support of the proposition #3 - God expects his children to walk in the light of brotherly love, v7-14: i] The new / old law - love one another, v7-8. John leads into his subject of the fruit of genuine faith by telling his readers that he is not giving them a new command, but an old one. The troublemakers in the congregation are into innovative theology, but not John. The congregation had this command from the time when they first heard the gospel. The command is, of course, Jesus' command to love our brothers and sisters, our fellow believers.

agaphtoi voc. adj. "dear friends" - beloved, loved ones. Vocative. A term used six times in this letter. It is most likely a general intimate address to the readers.

uJmin dat. pro. "[not writing] you" - [i write not a new commandment] to you. Dative of indirect object.

kainhn adj. "new" - The secessionists / opponents are into an innovative theology which goes beyond the teachings of Jesus, not so John.

entolhn (h) "command" - Accusative direct object of the verb "to write." What "command" has John in mind? It is possible that the "command" is the command to love and the logoV, "word / message" is the gospel; the command to love "has always been implicit in the message you have heard", Peterson. Yet, it seems more likely that both entolh, "command", and logoV, "word", refer to the same thing. Some argue that this command / word is the gospel, such that v7-8 is not referring to love, so Kruse. Others argue that the command / word is belief in Jesus and love for one another, so Lieu. Given the context, there is much to support the view that at this point John has one command in mind (note his switch to the singular from the plural in v4), namely, love of the brotherhood, the fruit of faith; "the commandment I am referring to ......... has always been a foundational truth in the teachings of Jesus."

all (alla) "but" - Strong adversative standing in a counterpoint construction; "not ...., but ....".

palaian adj. "old [one]" - [an] old [command]. The command is "old" since it comes ap archV, "from the beginning" of Jesus' ministry, or the beginning of the gospel tradition, or even, "the time when the readers first heard the gospel", Kruse. Some take the sense to mean from the beginning of God's revelation to Israel, so Yarbrough, but surely from the time of Jesus' ministry.

ap (apo) + gen. "since [the beginning]" - [which you were having] from [beginning, first]. Here temporal, as NIV. The beginning of the Christian era, so Brown.

hkousate (akouw) aor. "you have heard" - [the old command is the word which] you heard. The word which "they have had" they "heard" - "have had", durative imperfect, and "heard", punctiliar aorist.


Yet, John wants to add that the commandment is also "new". Jesus actually called it a "new commandment." What this commandment signifies is that darkness is passing away and the light of God's divine presence is shinning ever more brightly.

palin "yet" - again. Possibly temporal, "at the same time", AV, or used "to restate an important point", Culy. Probably correlative; on one hand the command is old, on the other hand it is new, so BDAG. "In another sense", Wahlde.

uJmin dat. pro. "[I am writing] you" - [a new command i write] to you. Dative of indirect object.

kainhn (h) "new" - As noted above "the new command" is "new" in that Jesus called the command to love new, but it is "old" for John and his readers in that it is established rather than innovative.

o{ neut. rel. pro. "-" - which thing. Given that "new command" is feminine and the pronoun is neuter, John is probably not referring to "the new command", ie., the pronoun is not anaphoric. Kruse disagrees, taking "which thing" to refer to the new commandment. A neuter used to refer to the fact of John's writing the new command is not unreasonable; "I am writing a new commandment to you, which fact (namely that I am writing a new command) is true." So Moule, "the whole idea." Lieu suggests that the pronoun is not referring directly to "the new command", but rather "its newness and authority." Still, it is more likely cataphoric / referring forward; "which is true .... namely that the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining", cf., Yarbrough.

alhqeV adj. "truth [is seen]" - is [true]. Predicate adjective. "True" is used here in the sense of "genuine / real."

en "in" - in [him and] in [you]. Local, expressing space / sphere.

autw/ dat. pro. "him" - Usually read as masculine, but possibly neuter, given that in the original text it is not possible to distinguish between the two; "it is true in and of itself and with respect to you", Culy.

oJti "because" - for / that. The NIV, as with most commentators, takes the conjunction here as causal; explaining why "this is realised ...... because the darkness is fading", Smelly. Brown opts for reason; "inasmuch as the darkness is passing", Berkeley. It may well be epexegetic / appositional, specifying / explaining something of the truth John is revealing, "namely that ..."; "And what it signifies is this, that darkness is passing away and that the light which is truly light already shines", Cassirer.

paragetai (paragw) pres. mid./pas. "is passing" - [the darkness] is passing away. Here referring to "the realm in which sinful behaviour predominates", Kruse.

h[dh adv. "already" - [and the true light is] already. Temporal adverb. "The newness of the command is eschatological; it is part of the realisation of God's promises in the last times", Brown - and this is happening now / already.

fainei (fainw) pres. "shining" - shining. The present tense is durative, expressing an ongoing reality. "Light belongs to God's future, and darkness is ultimately certain to be overcome", Lieu.


ii] The implications of a loveless life, v9-11. John now deals with the issue of mutual love within the brotherhood, a quality not evident in the lives of the secessionists / opponents, even though they claim "to be in the light" / to abide in Christ. Love is the lived-out fruit of a person who has faith in Christ - faith showing itself in love. John's point is simple, a person who claims to be a believer, who claims to have accepted the gospel, who claims to walk in the light, and yet is devoid of compassion toward their brother and sister in Christ, that person "is still in the darkness."

oJ legwn (legw) pres. part. "anyone who claims" - the one saying = claiming. The participle serves as a substantive; a "false claim to participating in the light", Lieu.

enai (eimi) pres. inf. "to be" - The infinitive introduces a dependent statement of indirect speech expressing the claim "that they are in the light."

en + dat. "in" - in [the light]. Local, expressing space, metaphorical. Probably "to be in the light" means much the same as abiding in God, being in him, "dwelling in him", but possibly "inside the community of believers", Culy. Yarbrough suggests "being in fellowship with both God and other believers."

kai "but" - and. Probably coordinative, but an adversative / contrastive sense is possible, as NIV.

miswn (misew) pres. part. "hates" - [the brother of him] hating. The participle serves as a substantive coordinated to oJ legwn by kai. Standing as the opposite of "love" = unloving. "Hate" in English is somewhat confusing; "but shows no compassion toward their brother or sister." Yarbrough suggests "exclusion, insult and rejection because of doctrinal belief."

e{wV arti "[is] still" - until now [is]. Temporal construction underlying the fact that darkness and light are mutually exclusive.

en + dat. "in" - in [the darkness]. Local, expressing space, metaphorical. Again, probably with the sense "outside of God's love." "Such a person's spiritual and practical condition is out of conformity with salvation-historical possibility and indeed divine expectation", Yarbrough.


oJ agapwn (agapaw) pres. part. "anyone who loves" - the one loving [the brother of him]. The participle serves as a substantive. "Love" for John amounts to mutual compassion between believers, an all-embracing "charity". It's importance is outlined throughout the letter; 2:15, 3:10, 11, 14, 18, 23, 4:7, 8, 11, 12, 20, 21, 5:1, 2. Numerous commentators have made the point that love for the brotherhood does not exclude love for humanity at large, so Marshall, Yarbrough, Schnackenburg. Yet, it may come down to priorities: family first; next brothers and sisters in Christ; then humanity at large. An order of priorities for love can stir substantial debate!!!! If "love" is compassion which shows itself in practical care, then Jesus exhibits particular care for Mary, his mother, by giving the beloved disciple the responsibility to provide for her as a widow who is now without her eldest son. Of course, an example may illustrate a point, but not prove it. Christians have long debated whether the God-designed institution of family has priority over the family of believers, the church fellowship.

menei (menw) pres. "lives" - abides. John uses the word "abide / remain" to refer to abiding in God, abiding in his love - of being united to the living God in Christ. God is light, to abide in the light is to abide in God. Wahlde, on the other hand, thinks that union with God is secondary and that being in the light refers primarily to a state of being.

en + dat. "in" - in [the light]. Local, expressing space / sphere.

autw/ dat. pro. "him / them" - [and in] him. The antecedent is unclear: "in it" = in the light; or "in him" = in the person who loves their brother, cf., Brown 274/5.

skandalon (on) "to make him / them stumble" - [is not] a cause for stumbling, offence, sin. The word refers to something that prompts a failure of some kind. Taking en autw/ to mean "in him" = within their being / personality / character - is this person the possible cause for someone else to sin, or are they themselves resistant to sin? The latter seems the case. "In contrast to the person who does not love the brothers, the person who does love the brothers does not walk in darkness and is not blinded. Therefore, this individual will not trip or fall (that is, be affected by the skandalon)", Wahlde. "The person (man) who loves their (his) brother, lives and moves in the light, and has no reason to stumble", Phillips.


So, what damage does the hating one do? John could outline the terrible damage done to the church by a hypocrite. He could outline the damage done to individual believers. Yet, he chooses to detail the self-imposed damage of the hypocrite. The damage done by the hater is self-imposed blindness; the light of God's truth is hidden from them - they continue to walk about in darkness, but do not know it.

de "but" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the argument, here to a concluding point.

oJ ... miswn (misew) pres. part. "anyone who hates" - the one hating [the brother of him]. The articular participle serves as a substantive. The nominal participial construction, "the one hating the brother of him", serves as the subject of the verb to-be estin, "is [in darkness]."

peripatei (peripatew) pres. "walks around" - [is in the darkness, and in the darkness] walks. In the sense of "conducts one's life", so virtually the same as "lives in darkness." Not only are the secessionists / opponents "in" darkness, v9, but now John tells us that they "walk around" in it. The following clause explains what such a walk involves: a pitiful groping after the truth, and an inevitable state of complete blindness. Neander, The first epistle of John, 1852, suggests there is a movement from a situation where a person chooses to live in the dark, to an increasing state of bewilderment, to a state of total spiritual blindness.

pou "where [thy are going]" - [he does not know] where [he is going]. Interrogative particle.

oJti "because" - because. Introducing a causal clause explaining why they do not know where they are going, cf., Jn.12:35.

etuflwsen (tuflow) aor. "has blinded [them]" - [the darkness] blinded [the eyes of him]. They are without "spiritual perception", Culy.


iii] Given his stern warning, John now pens a pastoral appeal, v12-14. The passage is "a trumpet-call, summoning all the faithful to a recognition of their real and true position before God", Candlish, A Commentary on 1 John, 1866. His words of encouragement rest on what his readers possess in Christ; "I remind you , my dear children: Your sins are forgiven in Jesus name", Eugene Peterson.

The translation of this passage rests on the classification of the repeated conjunction oJti. The majority of translations and many commentators take it as causal, so serving to introduce a series of causal clauses explaining why John writes, so NIV. Yet, Harris, Kruse, Brown, Wahlde and Noack (NTS 6, 236-41) argue that the six usages in this passage are recitative / declarative, introducing a dependent statement expressing what John writes. So, Peterson, in his colloquial paraphrase, translates as follows: "I remind you, my dear children: Your sins are forgiven in Jesus' name. You veterans were in on the ground floor, and know the One who started all this; you newcomers have won a big victory over the Evil One. And a second reminder, dear children: You know the Father from personal experience. You veterans know the One who started it all; and you newcomers - such vitality and strength! God's word is so steady in you. Your fellowship with God enables you to gain a victory over the Evil One."

uJmin dat. pro. "[I am writing] to you" - [i write] to you [little children]. Dative of indirect object.

oJti "because" - that. This conjunction, as with the following examples, is usually taken as introducing a causal clause explaining why John is writing this letter, but it is possibly recitative, introducing a dependent statement expressing what John writes.

uJmin dat. pro. "-" - [the sins have been forgiven] you. Dative of interest, advantage.

dia + acc. "on account of" - Causal; "because of, on account of."

to onoma (a atoV) "[his] name" - the name [of him]. In Semitic usage a reference to "the name" is a reference to their person; "the name" = the person. In the NT this idea often extends to the person's authority, so here, Jesus' authority to forgive sins. Here with dia, "because of", but also in this letter with eiV, and also a dative, possibly "in the name." The three different usages are making much the same point, that forgiveness rests on the authority of Jesus.


John writes to remind mature believers that they have "known him who is from the beginning", ie., from the time when they first responded to the gospel, up until the present, they have been Jesus' friend. He also writes to remind young believers that they have "overcome the evil one." Their victory is through faith in Christ.

patereV (hr roV) voc. "fathers" - fathers, [i write to you]. Vocative. Given the usual division of elders and youth in Jewish tradition, it is likely that John has this classification in mind, so "elders" rather than "fathers", or "parents", CEV. Note Peterson who opts for "established believers" and "new believers."

ton "him who is" - [that from the beginning you have known] the one. This article serves as a nominalizer turning the prepositional phrase ap archV, "from beginning", into a substantive, "the one from the beginning." The antecedent of "the one" is probably Jesus.

ap (apo) + gen. "from" - Expressing source / origin - temporal.

archV (h) "beginning" - What beginning? We have already struck this problem in v7; see palaian.

neaniskoi (oV) voc. "young men" - young men, [i write to you]. Vocative. In relation to "elders", "youth"; "young people", CEV, possibly "young believers."

nenikhkate (nikaw) perf. "you have overcome" - [that] you have conquered, overcome [the evil one]. They have overcome the world and its ruler, the evil one / antichrists, 4:4. "Those born of God have overcome the world by their faith", Kruse.


John again lists qualities that apply to young and old believers: we all know the father, we all know the son, and we have all overcome the evil one.

paidia (on) voc. "children" - young children, [i wrote to you]. Vocative. John has changed the word form teknia, "child", in v12. There is likely no significance in the change.

egnwkate (ginwskw) perf. "you know [the Father]" - [that] you have known [the father. fathers, i wrote to you that you have known the one from beginning]. "Know" here is the spiritual sense of union with God = abiding in God. The word derives from the knowing of a man and a woman in a one-flesh union.

oJti "because" - [young men, i wrote to you] that [you are strong and the word of god abides / remains in you and] that [you have overcome the evil one]the secessionists / opponents. Throughout this passage oJti is likely to be recitative, serving to introduce a dependant statement expressing what John "writes / states." This seems the intended sense, although Kruse takes an interesting line with this sentence. He argues strongly for a causal sense here; John writes to younger members of the congregation that they have overcome the evil one because they are strong, and they are strong because the word abides in them.


1 John Introduction


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