Thursday, December 13, 2012

1 John 2: Faith without works is a lie

Listen to the podcast below (or right click this link for the mp3 file) 

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Christ Our Advocate (v. 1-6)

I am writing this so that you won't sin, but even if you do Jesus is a great advocate for you if you know him. If you say you know him but do not keep his commandments you are a liar. But if you do know him and keep the commandments then the love of God is working in you.

This actually seems to settle the faith versus works discussion we had before. Some versus seem to say that faith is all that matter, others say that works are important. This one ties them together saying that if you truly have faith then you would do the works, and if someone doesn't do works it is evidence to us that they don't really have faith. This is essentially the argument I have heard come from various religious people, but this is the first time I recall seeing it actually in the bible.

The New Commandment (v. 7-14)

I'm not writing you a new commandment, but and old commandment that you already had from the beginning. Also, I am writing a new commandment. The darkness is passing away and the light is shining.

What? I guess the idea is that it is the same old ideas but a new twist on it?

Guzik says that the sense that is is old is that it has been preached to these people during their whole lives. That seems like a pretty crappy explanation to me. Gill seems to say it has been written on people's hearts all along (even Adam) and therefore isn't new. This makes a little more sense, but I still don't think it's great. Seems like they are just trying to have it both ways.

Do Not Love the World (v. 15-17)

 Do not love the world or the things in the world, because God isn't in that stuff. Do not love the desires of the flesh or take pride in possessions, they will pass away with the world. But whoever loves God will abide forever.

Same old message, bad things come from the world. Again, the problem here is that God created the world, so ultimately God is responsible for the evil things as well. The other thing that is interesting here, is that it says not to love the world or the things in the world. On the surface this would seem to be saying that we should only love God and not love anything in the world, although I suppose we could also love "godly" things in the world, such as the church. At any rate, it seems quite open to interpretation, and I think it is poorly written at best.

Guzik spends quite a bit of time talking about this, but basically it comes down to "the world" being bad things. Specifically, he says "it is the community of sinful humanity that is united in rebellion against God." Is this a reasonable interpretation of "the world"? I suppose if you must carve things up as "things for God" and "things against God" then one might call the things against God "the world", except that plenty of things that are for God are in the world, so it seems somewhat silly to me.

Oh, and one last thing, it is talking about things that are bad, so of course one of two examples given is sexuality "desires of the flesh". 

Warning Concerning Antichrists (v. 18-27)

There are many antichrists, anyone who denies the father and the son is an antichrist. We know it is the last hour because so many antichrists have come.

They seem to be equating antichrist with nonbeliever, or perhaps apostate, but at any rate, they have said that many antichrists have come, and therefore we know the end is near.

The fact that the Christians seem to have no good answer to this is telling. Guzik says that "we should regard ourselves as being in the last few minutes", which is absolutely absurd thousands of years later. Gill at least tries a little harder. He first discusses what is doesn't mean (the last hour of the Jewish state, the last hour of the gospel dispensation, or the last hour of the actual world itself). But if it isn't the last hour of those thing, what is it the last hour of? Clearly it is "the last hour of the apostolic age. All the apostles were now dead, John was the last of them". At least this is an answer, unlike what Guzik had to offer, but seriously? Is the compelling to anyone? I think it is much more likely that they thought the end of the world was near.

If you deny the son, you also deny the father.

This is a direct challenge to Jews if I am reading it correctly. It seems to be saying that not accepting Jesus means you are rejecting God as well.

This last bit I didn't notice until I recorded the podcast, but verse 27 is pretty anti-intellectual.

v27 " have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie..."

Basically the message here seems to be that you get everything you need from the bible, and you have no need to learn anything from anyone else. I can't help but think of evolution.

Guzik tries to whitewash this by saying that the holy spirit has given us what we need to learn the truth. But he goes on to say "This is not to say that teachers are unnecessary, because one of the resources for knowing the truth is the reminder given by teachers like John." If teachers are still good, then why does the bible say "no need that anyone should teach you" and "his anointing teaches you about everything"?

Children of God (v. 28-29)

You should follow Jesus, so that when he returns you can be confident in your righteousness and not shrink away.

This message sure does seem to lose some punch a few thousand years later.

For the overview post (If you think I should add or remove stuff from this list please let me know, I think it would make good conversation)


1 John 2:4 If you really have faith you will do works

"Whoever says "I know him" but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him"


1 John 2:16 the world is evil, sex is bad

"For all that is in the world--the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions--is not from the Father but is from the world."

1 John 2:18 It is the last hour

"Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour."

1 John 2:23 You can't worship God without Jesus

"No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also."

1 John 2:27 You don't need teachers, you get everything you need to know from Jesus

"But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie--just as it has taught you, abide in him."


  1. What is the bit about "writing so we won't sin"? I thought we were all hopeless sinners no matter what happens?

    The stuff on the anti-Christ always fascinates me. For how many centuries has the "end been near" and when will people start to see through this nonsense. The utter failure of Jesus and the authors of the NT to get this correct, is really quite is a central point of the whole Christian religion!

    1. The 'writing so we won't sin' part, you make a really good point! I had taken it as him saying he figured he could stop some of your sinning, some of the time if he wrote this. Like he was saying he could reduce the amount of sinning going on by writing this. But you are right, it does seem that he is claiming it is a possibility for someone to not sin at all.

      And yeah, the apocalypse stuff is completely ridiculous. It is so obvious that the people of the time thought the end was right around the corner. They mention it so many times and so clearly that trying to interpret it any other way just looks silly to me.

    2. I am not sure on the what the correct interpretation of the sin passage would be. My idea was just a thought...


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