1 John | 1 | 2:1-14 | 2:15-29 | 3:1-10 | 3:11-24 | 4 | 5:1-10 | 5:11-21 | PDF |

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 Online Inductive Bible Study Lesson – Fruit of Genuine Salvation


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?


John 20:30-31 – Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Romans 6:12-14 – Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

Romans 8:12-13 – Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

John 16:7 – But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.

Zechariah 3:1 – Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him.

Hebrews 4:14-16 – Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven,[a] Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Romans 8:34 – Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

Verse by Verse Commentary

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 Bible Verse

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.

In addition, 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. And it reminds his audience to be humble. They should realize that they are still “little”. They have a lot of ways they still need to grow.

Application: Are you little in your own sight? As believers we need to always be moving forward and growing rather than thinking we have already arrived.

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 1 John 1:9 is a license to sin. Just keep sinning and keep confessing and God will forgive you. But actually John is writing these 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 ? – Although we should always try our absolute best NOT to sin, we all stumble sometimes. 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, there is an interesting term called “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 at a time when you most need it. For example if you are friends with a doctor he may help you to arrange an earlier date for your surgery or skip a routine line.

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 a person who during golden years of the Han Dynasty was extremely close with the Emperors’ son. That is pretty good guanxi and could really come in handy.

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. Propitiation 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?
  • 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?


James 2:14 – What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?

Ephesians 4:1 – As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.

Verse by Verse Commentary

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.

So what is a real Christian? A real Christian obeys God.

2. In verse 4, John pointedly states that whoever says he knows God, but doesn’t follow Him is a liar. John 10:27-28 says that His sheep hear Him and FOLLOW Him.

John 10:27-30 Bible Verse

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 one hundred eighty 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. They 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.

Application: 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 is in us, this will cast out many sins in our hearts. It will change how we treat other people. It is 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. “Abides” 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.” One reason Christ came was to give us an example of how to live. Many young people wear 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?
  • What is the test mentioned for knowing if you are in the darkness or the light?
  • Who is your brother?
  • What can we see from these verses about the effects of living in the darkness?


John 13:34 – A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

John 15:12 – My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.

Matthew 22:36-40 –“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ‘All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Verses on Light –

1 Thessalonians 5:5 – You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.

John 1:5 – The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John 3:19-21 – This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

Verses on Darkness –

John 12:35 – Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going.

Matthew 6:23 – But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

Ephesians 5:11 – Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.

Verse by Verse Commentary

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. Bible teacher John MacArthur believes it is mentioned in 2 John 5-6 – And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.

This in fact is 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, which is a major focus of the book of 1 John. 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 old, 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 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 elevator, 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.

1 John 2:9 Bible verse

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. When I was growing up this verse convicted me. At times I was angry with one or another of my brothers and I knew God didn’t want me to be. I even told myself “I can love God and not my brother because God is nice to me.” Of course as a child I was wrong.

Why can we not hate our brother and love God. It is simple logic. Loving God requires obeying His commands. 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?


Ephesians 4:14-16 – Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Verse by Verse Commentary

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.

Application: 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.

Each of us can improve. We can improve as employees. We can improve as students. We can improve as fathers and mothers and husbands and wives. In every area of our lives, we should not be complacent, but seek to grow. List one area you know you need to grow in.

1 John Bible Study Guide – If you enjoy this study, download our complete study on 1 John or you can get the paperback version from Amazon.

Study 1 John 2:15-29
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