1 John 2:1-14

These small group studies of 1 John contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

1 John 2:1-14 Inductive Bible Study

Outline:

I. The purpose of the book is to keep us from sinning (1-2)
II. Practice what you preach (3-6)
III. If we have the true light, we will love our brethren (7-11)
IV. Our state in Christ (12-14)

I. The purpose of the book is to keep us from sinning (1-2)

Discussion Questions

Why does John call his readers “my little children?”

What is John’s purpose in writing the book?

What does the word “Advocate” mean? In what way is Jesus our advocate?

What does the word “propitiation” mean?

So what did our Advocate do for us?

Cross-references

John 20:30-31 – John mentions the purpose for writing the Gospel of John
Romans 6:12-14, 8:12-13, 1 Peter 1:13-16 – As believers, we should be dead to sin. Our life should be changed.
John 16:7 – Uses the same word as advocate here, but there is translated “Helper.” It means “one who comes alongside.”
Zechariah 3:1, Job 1:3 – Satan is the accuser, while Christ is the Advocate.
Hebrews 4:14-16 – Christ is our High Priest who sympathizes for us.
Romans 8:34 – Jesus is at the right hand of God praying for us.

Teaching Points

1. My little children – This is a term of affection. It shows a close relationship like a father/son. A father loves his children, but also seeks to teach them the truth. A father’s greatest joy is to see his child doing well. 3 John 1:4. The best kind of pastor/teacher/leader is one who deeply cares for his flock. Throughout the book of 1 John we can see this love and concern seep into the words as John writes them. This phrase also shows us that John is the authority. As an eyewitness disciple of Christ, he was chosen as one of the key leaders of the early church. This means that his authority was given to him by God. His readers should listen to what he says like a child should listen to his father. This phrase also shows that his audience should be humble. They should realize that they are still “little”. They have a lot of ways they still need to grow. We should always remember not to consider ourselves big. We should be little in our own sight.

2. John has a very clear purpose for writing this letter. What was it? His goal was to keep his audience from sinning. Some people think that verse 9 is a license to sin. Just keep sinning and keep confessing and God will forgive you. But actually from this verse, we see that John is writing this things to encourage us NOT to sin. Some cults throughout history (including the Gnostics), have taught that sin is unimportant. But for believers, we must hate it. We must remember how costly it was for Christ to die just because of our sins. We must remember that practicing sin shows our lives have not changed and we do not belong to God. As believers, our lives are to be different. We are to be new creatures. We are not to follow the old ways of life or the lusts of the flesh anymore. I hope that all of us will take sin seriously. Do not take for granted God’s forgiveness because it is a precious gift.

3. What happens if we do sin though? Although we should always try our absolute best NOT to sin, statistically it is likely that we will. But we still have hope. We have an advocate! An advocate is someone like a lawyer. He is a representative who will argue your case to a higher power to seek justice and/or mercy for you. In China, this means “guanxi”. Guanxi is having relationship with a higher up person who can help you. It could be a doctor, a politician, or a police officer. If you know this person, he will use his influence to help you. As believers, we have somebody much higher up than these people. We have the best guanxi possible, Christ Himself. Jesus is the Son of God. Imagine that during the golden years of the Han Dynasty you were extremely close with the Emperors’ son. That is pretty good guanxi. Well, we are brothers of Christ. He will use His influence to plead for us in prayer as He stands at the right hand of God. And what is more, when there is no way for God to have mercy (because He justice demands punishment of sins), He threw Himself in between us and God to sacrifice Himself for us. Did you ever hear of a lawyer who took the punishment for his client? That is what Christ did for us when he offered himself as our propitiation. This word means “appeasement.” He satisfied God’s wrath, God’s need for justice.

II. Practice what you preach (3-6)

Discussion Questions

How can you tell if your relationship with God is real or fake? Does this mean if we ever sin it is not real? What do you see here about the relationship between the words that we say and our actions?

What does it mean to be “in Him”? What does it mean to abide in Him? Are there any other Scriptures you know about abiding in Christ?

What does it mean to walk as He walked? Why is the word “walk” used here? What does it convey?

Cross-references

James 2:14-25 – The connection between faith and deeds.
John 15:6-11 – More on abiding in Christ and keeping His commandments
Ephesians 4:1-6 – Walk in a manner worthy of the calling God has called us to.

Teaching Points

1. In the first chapter we saw two tests of our faith. The first was in verses 1-4 and is about what we believe about Christ. The second was in the rest of the chapter, and was about our understanding and confession of sin. Here we see another test of genuine faith. This test is moral character. If we consistently obey God then that is evidence that our relationship with Him is real. There are many Scriptures on this. Jesus said that you will know a tree by its fruit. James said that faith without deeds is dead. Throughout the Bible, it is consistently taught that sincere faith WILL change how we live.

2. In verse 4, John pointededly states that whoever says he knows God, but doesn’t follow Him is a liar. John 10 says that His sheep hear Him and FOLLOW Him. John wants each churchgoer and professing Christian to evaluate his own faith to make sure that it is genuine and not just lip service. It is so easy to say that we know God. Many evangelists also make it easy. They ask people to merely raise their hands or recite a prayer and then declare that they are now saved. Those things are not necessarily wrong, but we need to be careful that when we share the gospel we make sure people understand they need to repent of their sins. True belief in God will bring about a 180 degree change in the person’s life, not necessarily in everything immediately, but in the general direction. We could use this verse to examine other people’s lives. “Ha, I knew it. Person X, Y, and Z are not real believers. The are not obeying God’s commands.” But I don’t think this is John’s goal in writing this. He wants us to evaluate our own lives. Do not care about X, Y, or Z. Are YOU keeping His Word. Or are you being a hypocrite. Am I being a hypocrite? Every one of us needs to ask ourselves that question. We are not a good Christian because we go to church, or talk the right talk. We must serve God from the inside out.

3. If we do obey God’s Word, His love will be perfected in us. What does that mean? His love will change us. We will in turn love Him because He first loved us. And we will love the people around us. If God’s love in us, this will cast out many sins in our hearts. Examples? If you have Christ’s love you will not be prideful (this is considering yourself better than others), bitter, hate, jealous, greedy, etc. This love will change how we treat other people. It is very hard to impossible to force or fake real love over a long period of time. If God’s love is in you, you will show this out in actions consistently.

4. John often uses this phrase “abides in Him.” It is the same phrase and the same concept as in John 15, where John records Jesus’ teaching on abiding in Him. This talks to the closeness, intimacy, and personal nature of the relationship that we have with Christ. For example, children learn many things from their parents’ example. As they live with them in the home, they will gradually assume many of the parents’ strengths (and weaknesses). If we abide with Christ it is the same way (minus the weaknesses). We will gradually become more and more like Him and “walk in the same manner as He walked.” On reason Christ came was to give us an example of how to live. Many young people in America where bracelets with the phrase WWJD on it. This of course stands for “What Would Jesus Do?” It is a reminder to ask ourselves in every situation how Jesus would respond in this situation. Would he argue about the score in the basketball game? Would he complain about the cooking. Would he throw his laundry on the floor? Would he break a promise? Etc. From the Bible we can learn from Jesus’ example how we should live and how we should respond to temptation.

III. If we have the true light, we will love our brethren (7-11)

Discussion Questions

Why does John call his readers “beloved”? What does this show about how he feels about them?

Does John say what the commandment is that he is referring to? Based on the overall content of 1 John, what do you think it is? Is the commandment new or old (both)? In what way is it old? In what way is it new?

How is the “darkness passing away” considering this was written more than 1900 years ago and the darkness still seems as strong as ever? Who or what is the true Light?

What is the test mentioned for knowing if you are in the darkness or the light? There is an age old question asked to Jesus “who is my neighbor?” I want to know, who is your brother?

What can see from these verses about the effects of living in the darkness?

Cross-references

John 13:34, 15:12, 17 – The commandment of love from Christ.
Matthew 22:36-40 – Love God and love your neighbor are the greatest commands.
Verses on Light – 1 Thessalonians 5:5, John 11:11, John 1:5, Luke 1:79, John 3:19-21, Psalms 119:105
Verses on Darkness – John 12:35, Matthew 6:23, Ephesians 5:11

Teaching Points

1. Beloved – Here we see another term of affection that John uses for his readers. It shows how close they are to his heart.

2. An old commandment – In fact the actual commandment is not mentioned here. MacArthur believes it is mentioned in 2 John 5-6. This in fact is the declared to be the summary of the law in the Old Testament. All those laws about caring for your neighbor’s oxen, returning his cloak, leaving the grapes that fell off the vine in the field; all of these are specific ways that you can love your neighbor. This is a major focus of the book of 1 John and really of the Bible as a whole. There is faith, hope, love, and the greatest is love. We are all familiar with the love chapter in 1 Corinthians 13. No matter what we do, if we don’t do it out of love, we are nothing. If our relationship with God is real, His love will be perfected in us, and then we will love others. This is the natural outflow that results from a genuine relationship to God.

3. A new commandment – This is actually an old and a new commandment. Huh? How does that work? The command is new, but Jesus showed a fresh and more complete example of how to actually love others in action. Jesus showed this agape love in a way that no one ever did before. His love was completely selfless and unconditional to the point of giving his life for his followers.

4. The darkness is passing away. This phrase seems a little bit strange considering it was said almost two thousand years ago and in fact the world seems much darker than before. How to explain it? To God a day is as a thousand years and a thousand years is as a day. So to God it is like two days has passed! Jesus death and resurrection was the final nail in Satan’s coffin. It punched the number on the escalator, which Satan is on and bound for hell. His “last chance” try to kill God’s Son failed, when Jesus rose again. Jesus’ resurrection guarantees the final victory. It is so sure that although the night is thick with darkness right now, we know that this night is temporary and day is coming very soon, sooner and sooner.

5. Here we also see another test of genuine faith. This test is if we have love for our brother. Who is our brother? I think the answer is the same as “who is our neighbor?” It could be your real physical brother (or sister), someone you live with like a roommate, your neighbor, other Christians, etc. This verse convicted me some growing up because at times I was angry with one or another of my brothers and I knew God didn’t want me to be. Why can we not hate our brother and love God. It is simple logic. Loving God requires obeying His commands (as we have seen from our cross-references). He commands us to love the people around us, including our enemies. Therefore if we are hating our brother, we are not obeying God, so we do not love God.

IV. Our state in Christ (12-14)

Discussion Questions

What is the spiritual condition of the people John is writing to? How about the little children? How about the young men? How about the father?

How can we overcome the evil one?

How should this knowledge effect how you live?

Cross-references

Ephesians 4:14-16 – We are not to be deceived by the evil one, but are to grow up in maturity and sound doctrine.

Teaching Points

1. John addresses three groups in the church. Who? Little children, young men, and fathers. These three groups would seem to be representative of three stages of growth for believers, namely young believers who are still completely immature, believers who have been saved for a while and have sound doctrine, and the third group who are very experienced, mature, and even leaders.

2. The little children’s sin has been forgiven, showing that they are saved, This is a good step, but it is only a first step, That is why John needs to write to them more so that they will know how they need to grow. The fathers know (have a close relationship with) Jesus who is from the beginning. The young men are strong. They are bold and stand firm on the word of God. Of course each group may have its own weaknesses. Each group needs to grow more. Each group needs more input. No matter where you are in your Christian life, do not be satisfied with it. Do not become complacent and think that you know enough or are good enough already. There are always improvements we can make. Recently I have been reading a Christian book on how to improve my marriage “Kiss me like you mean it.” Before I considered that I have a good marriage (and still do think that of course). Yet from this book, I can see many of my shortcomings as well as many things I need to improve on. The same is true with John’s readers. They can all improve. They must all and we must all learn to live out our position in our daily life. That means we are saved, so we must act like it.

Study 1 John 2:15-29

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