John began this section of his letter with a familial term of endearment, “my little children”. As an old man who was an Apostle and a pastor, he felt a sense of responsibility for the spiritual well being of the believers under his care. He was interested in every generation living in victory over sin and truly knowing the Lord (v.12-14). In order to do that, they needed to understand the grace of God — that in Christ He has provided forgiveness for our sins (v.1-2). Having completed the work of redemption on the cross, Christ’s work of advocacy continues on our behalf as He defends us from Satan’s accusations, presents His blood as atonement for our sins, and overcomes our shame and regret for past mistakes.
Our response to the grace of God is obedience to His commands (v.3-6). Obedience proves the genuineness of our faith. When we obey to God’s Word and live according to Jesus’s example, we demonstrate that we really are surrendered to Him. A profession of faith without that demonstration of obedience is a false profession, just empty words.
John emphasized genuine Christian love as another proof of salvation (v.7-11). “Love one another” is a command as old as the Law of Moses (see Leviticus 19:18), but Jesus made it new by giving it a radical interpretation: we don’t merely love one another in words (“Love ya, brother!”), but by serving, sacrificing, sharing, and laying down our lives for one another. That kind of love flows from the heart of the person who has been transformed by the love of Jesus. If that love is absent in my life, it stands to reason that Jesus may be absent, too (v.9-11). Conversely, the presence of that love proves that Jesus rules my life.
In this letter, the “world” (v.15) does not refer to the creation on this planet, but rather to the way of living and thinking that is ruled by sin and excludes God. “Worldliness” is what John was warning against — loving and striving for the things the world has to offer while ignoring the will of God. Since “the world is passing away along with its desires”, we should hold loosely to worldly possessions and pleasures and hold tightly to the things that come from God: love, light, life, truth, and grace. The world can’t give us those things, and the world can’t take them away!
The churches under John’s supervision were constantly under the attack of “many antichrists” (v.18), false teachers who infiltrated their congregations in order to confuse and distract them. These were people who had heard the truth and been acquainted with the church, but who were never truly saved (v.19-20). It became evident that they were not believers when they began to teach against the deity and sufficiency of Christ, even denying that He is Lord and Savior (v.22-23). It is impossible to deny Jesus and accept God the Father simultaneously — Jesus is the revelation of God to humanity. To know Jesus is to know God; to deny Jesus is to deny God!
This chapter ends with the instruction to “abide” in Jesus (v.27-28). Abiding means having a personal, vital relationship with Jesus — one that involves daily fellowship in prayer, actively trusting His leadership, and consistently relying on His strength and wisdom. This is the teaching of Jesus that John recorded in his gospel (see John 15:1-11). Our relationship with Jesus is to resemble the close connection of a vine and its branches: the vine gives nourishment and vitality to the branches just as Jesus gives life to His followers. Abide in Him today and let Him do His work through you.