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Post Series on 1 John 2:15-27:

  1. John’s Warning Concerning the World (1 John 2:15-17)
  2. John’s Warning Concerning the Church (1 John 2:18-27)
  3. The Anointing of the Holy One (1 John 2:18-27)

The reasons we sin are neither complicated nor new. John summarizes and warns against the three ways temptations appeal to us:

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 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. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17)

*Note: “pride in possessions” translates a notoriously difficult phrase in Greek. Lenski helpfully explains the meaning: “This pretense does not ask regarding the Father’s will but acts as though it had the sovereign direction of its course of life….The translations ‘the pride of life’ (A.V.), ‘the vainglory of life’ (R.V.) convey the wrong idea; John has in mind that hollow arrogance which presumes that it can decide and direct the course of life without God, determine what it will do, gain, achieve, enjoy.” (R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of the Epistles of St. Peter, St. John, and St. Jude [Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1966], 426.)

What John describes as “all that is in the world” echoes the description of the Fall in Genesis 3. Compare “the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions” with the following:

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food [desires of the flesh], and that it was a delight to the eyes [desires of the eyes], and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise [pride in possessions*], she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. (Genesis 3:6)

Essentially, John writes that we face temptations that appeal to the desires of our flesh (that which our instincts and body seem to demand), our sight (that which appears to be so beautiful and desirable that appearance outweighs wisdom), and our arrogant self-direction (that which we, apart from God, deem beneficial, enriching, and enjoyable).

What is the problem with such an approach to life? John names two:

  1. The love of the Father is not in the person who loves the world and the things of the world. (2:15)
  2. The world is passing away along with its desires. (2:17)

On the second point, I love Lenski’s exhortation:

Does the siren voice of the world tickle your ears? Hear the word of truth: “The world is passing away!” The bank is breaking, it was never solvent—will you deposit in it? The foundation is tottering, it was never solid but only sham—will you build on it? The mountain is rumbling, quaking, it was never anything but volcanic, ready to blow off its head at any time—will you build your city there? (R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of the Epistles of St. Peter, St. John, and St. Jude [Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1966], 427.)

But I think it is the first point that John means to impress upon us most. John almost always uses “God” as the one who loves (9 times in 1 John), and very rarely uses “Father” (only twice in 1 John). The only other use of “Father” is in 1 John 3:1: “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” Clearly, John writes of the love of the Father because he has in mind the fact that we are his children.

So, does John have children in mind when he writes of the “love of the Father” in 1 John 2:15? Yes he does–he has in mind only the begotten Son of the Father. It is on the relationship of the Son to the Father that John turns his attention to in 1 John 2:18-27.

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