May 21 – 1 John 2:12-17


Main focus: Loving Jesus grants us an eternal hope and rightly dethrones our love for fleeting things. 

As we’re continuing to make our way through 1 John together, and we’ve begun to see some patterns crop up in John’s writing. Throughout this letter, John is urging Christians to live a life of abounding love and holiness for and with one another and God, and here we get both a reason for this pattern and a warning in subsequent verses. Verses 12-14 give us a little more insight into this letter’s original audience. John is writing here to Christians who are likely matured and have grown some measure in their faith, so he makes a clear point; no one is beyond the reach of temptation and sin.

John says, “I am writing to you…since your sins have been forgiven…[and] because you have come to know the Father.” John writes this as a reminder that professing Christians are those who have tasted and seen the goodness of God, those who are a part of the living body of Christ (2:3-6). John concludes this stanza with the words, “I have written to you…because you are strong, God’s word remains in you, and you have conquered the evil one” (2:14).

This passage is a little odd at first look. John writes this in the form of a poem, addressing three groups, “little children,” “fathers,” and “young men.” The generally accepted interpretation of this is that “little children” is addressing the entire audience, “fathers” as being those who have seen or experienced something that has no other explanation other than the supernatural. Lastly, John addresses “young men,” telling them that they are strong, having matured in their faith to have “conquered the evil one.” 

Reading this, we can easily scratch our heads and wonder what it means for us to “conquer the evil one,” but Paul’s words to the church in Philippi can help us. He chops that thought off at the knees, reminding the Philippians (and us) that God is the source of our strength, not anything we can muster up on our own (Philippians 4:13). So this conquering of the evil one is by Christ’s finished work, not any labor we can eke out for the Kingdom of God.

Now returning to 1 John, he shifts to a warning, cautioning us about our world. John writes that we are not to love this world or things in the world. In Scripture, we’re frequently presented with a contrast, giving both positive and negative messages in the same passage and thought. Paul utilizes this in many of his letters, including to the church of Rome. He writes, “Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God” (Rom 12:1-2).

In this passage, we see Paul give positive (“present your bodies as a living sacrifice”) and negative (“do not be conformed to this age”) instructions. He does this, allowing one to emphasize another, making them stand out. John does this too, reminding Christians who they are and what they have experienced (v12-14), comparing it to the world and its many indulgences (v15-17). 

In verse 15 he writes, “Do not love the world or the things in the world.” Pretty straight to the point, right? John clearly distinguishes that sin destroys, and those who repeatedly and habitually choose the temporary over the eternal have staked their allegiance with the world rather than the Father. John likely wrote this towards the end of his life, so he was maybe just over the niceties and didn’t want to beat around the bush. Sin destroys, and no one is out of temptation’s reach.

Here, John draws a line in the sand, saying that those who choose “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s possessions” are not of the Father but of the world (2:16). As a quick detour, when we read “the world” in Scripture, particularly in the New Testament epistles, the authors don’t mean the physical earth but the ways of the world that are contradictory to the Lord (Rom 12:2; John 15:18; James 4:4). 

As we enter into discussion, we’ll talk about how God’s unchanging and eternal nature provides us with peace. In this passage, John compares this to how temporary and fleeting the world is with its “lusts” and temptations. Paul teaches this as well, as he tells the Corinthians that we’re to focus on what is unseen rather than what is seen (2 Cor. 4:18). John urges us not to get swept up in the temporal but to keep our eyes on Jesus, whose existence is eternal. Our comfort and peace lie in Christ’s unchanging and never-ending nature. How beautiful is knowing that the rule of the God we serve will never change?

Questions for Discussion

• Could someone read 1 John 2:12-17 for us?

• What stood out to you from the passage?

• What does this passage say about the love of the Father and the love of the world?

• Reread verses 15-17. Why do you think John is writing this warning?

• When you read verse 16, what is convicting about that to you?

• Could someone read Colossians 3:1-4?

• When you read “your life is hidden with Christ in God,” how can that provide hope in the middle of temptation?

• What things tend to distract you from “things that are above”? Practically, this week what would it look like to seek eternal things instead?