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1 John 2:12-29: Stay the Course

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father[a] is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh,the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.

1 John 2:15-17

Watch Week Two Day Four

Ask any mom in a busy, chaotic place what she reminds her kids before they start moving about and she will tell you, “Stay with me! Do not wander off!” Stay. Remain. Abide with me. Safety comes when you stay close to the One who can protect and save you. John reminds his audience of this truth repeatedly in this section of Scripture.

Pastoral Reminders

Earlier in the week we saw how John provided a moral and social litmus test. Now he will bring his doctrinal criterion to bear on his audience. But before he gets to the creedal truths, the pastoral author lets his readers catch their breaths by reminding them of their standing in Christ. Using terms that typically signify age, John reminds new believers (little children), growing believers (young men), and maturing believers (fathers) that they have forgiveness, truth, and victory already. In the Greek, perfect-tense verbs signify a past action with present results and ramifications. Employing perfect verbs, the shepherd John reminds the Ephesians that despite the false teachers and hostility they endure now, they already have and will continue to enjoy the fruit of their faith.

In the Christian faith, the indicative (statements of fact) precedes the imperative (commands). Since “this” is true, do “this” accordingly. In other words, who you are comes before what you do. Establishing the indicative (“You have overcome the evil one”), John can now exhort the imperative (“do not love this world”). World can mean many things in Scripture, but in this context, John refers to the “evil system, organized under the dominion of Satan and not of God.”⁴ Since you have conquered this world, set your eyes on the things that will remain.

Doctrinal Litmus Test

Now that the readers know their place in the world, John returns to his final litmus test and his urgent request that they remain in the faith. As you would expect, John ratchets up his use of contrasts: Christ/antichrist, truth/ lie, continue with us/go out, confess/deny. John leaves no wiggle room; true Christianity must proclaim the godman Jesus was in fact the Christ, the Savior. If you reject Christ, distort Christ, dismiss Christ, or diminish Christ, you will fail the litmus test. While Christians throughout history and the world have varying views on baptism, gifts of the Spirit, and roles of women in the church, we are crystal clear and united on this:

We believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
begotten from the Father before all ages,
God from God,
Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made;
of the same essence as the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven;
he became incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary,
and was made human.
He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered and was buried.
The third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures.
He ascended to heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again with glory
to judge the living and the dead.
His kingdom will never end.

If you can affirm these words, then your doctrinal litmus test will show positive for the historical Christian faith. False teachers tried to deny these truths about Jesus. So John, like a good mom in a dangerous space, reminds us, “Abide. Stay. Remain in these truths. Cling to the truths you received.” The verb μενω (meno)—to remain, abide, stay—occurs nine times in this short section. Though opposition comes, stay close to the One who can save and protect you.

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