11 January 2017

1 John 2:1-11

“Whoever says ‘I am in the light,’ while hating a brother or sister, is still in the darkness.” (v. 9)

Psalm: Psalm 9:1-10


The 'elder' writes as a father in God to his people, and thus addresses them affectionately as his "little children" (v. 1). He has recognised the reality of life - even believers sin and need to confess. Now he offers his readers hope - Jesus is their heavenly advocate (verse 1). The word comes from the law courts, in which an advocate is a defence counsel. In simple terms, Jesus is seen as acting on our behalf, pleading our cause before God, and this ongoing intercession follows on from his death on the cross. Without expanding into a discussion of the various theories of atonement, it is safe to say that Jesus Christ is the means by which our sins can be forgiven. And this is not just limited to the enlightened ones (the Gnostics) nor just to Christian believers, but is for the whole world.

The letter goes on to talk about integrity in the Christian life, and the relationship between faith and behaviour. This is probably another reference to those who had caused division in the church, and who saw that belief was more important than lifestyle. The letter writer is harsh towards such people, seeing them as liars. They claim to know God, yet they are not obedient to God's word of life.

Verse 7 harks back to the beginning of the letter (1 John 1:1), as it refers to the original gospel teaching that the readers have received. This is what they are to live by, rather than the new divisive teaching they have heard. The "new commandment" (v. 8) is a reference to John 13:34 where Jesus says to his disciples "I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you also should love one another". The writer then returns to the theme of darkness and light which he began to explore earlier (1 John 1:6-7), and in verse 10 applies the new commandment of Jesus, seeing that the love which it expresses is the way of light and stability.

To Ponder

  • How can you get the balance right between belief and lifestyle?
  • What are some ways in which Christians can shine as God's lights in the world? 

Bible notes author

The Revd Richard Bielby

Richard is a supernumerary Methodist presbyter in Stockton on Tees. He is a part-time prison chaplain and also serves as a voluntary chaplain at Durham Cathedral.