The righteous man and the wicked man in 1 John

The Holy Spirit takes the whole book of 1 John to draw a distinction between the righteous man and the wicked man, starting with the distinction that the righteous man confesses his sins. And His purpose in this is not to prove that there is no such thing as a righteous man, but to teach us how to have assurance that we have eternal life (5:13). See the encouragement that those written to were righteous:

I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name’s sake. I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I have written to you, children, because you know the Father. – 1 John 2:12-13


But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know. I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it… – 1 John 2:20-21

Something very basic about a man is that when God makes him alive in Him, he lives! Here are some of the signs of life God teaches us to look for to distinguish righteousness from wickedness in ourselves. (These lists cover 1 John 1-3 for now, I hope to add chapters 4 and 5 in the future.)

1. The righteous man

1.1. What he does

Confesses his sins (1:9)
Confesses the Son (2:23)
Believes in the name of His Son Jesus Christ (3:23)
Keeps His commandments (2:3; 3:22)
Keeps His word (2:5)
Is walking in the Light (1:7)
Abides in the Light (2:10)
Abides in Him (2:27; 3:24)
Walks in the same manner as He walked (2:6)
Does the will of God (2:17)
Does the things that are pleasing in His sight (3:22)
Practices righteousness (2:29,3:7)
Purifies himself (3:3)
Does not sin (3:6)
Does not practice sin (3:9)

Says he abides in Him (2:6)
Lives forever (2:17)
Remains with us (2:19)

Loves his brother (2:10)
Loves the brethren (3:14)
Loves in deed and truth (3:18)
Loves one another (3:23)

Will know that he is of the truth (3:19)
Will assure his heart before Him in whatever his heart condemns him (3:19-20)

1.2. What he is

Is born of Him (2:29)
Is a child of God (3:1,2)
Is righteous (3:7)

1.3. What he has

Has fellowship with us (1:3)
Has fellowship with the Father (1:3)
Has fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ (1:3)
Has an anointing from the Holy One (2:20)
Has the Father (2:23)
Has the promise of eternal life (2:25)
Has no need for anyone to teach him (2:27)
Has this hope fixed on Him (3:3)
Has passed out of death into life (3:14)
Has confidence before God (3:21)
May have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming (2:28)
God has given him His Spirit (3:24)

1.4. What’s true about him

The love of God has truly been perfected in him (2:5)
What he heard from the beginning abides in him (2:24)
The anointing which he received abides in him (2:27)
His anointing teaches him about all things (2:27)
His anointing is true (2:27)
Will abide in the Son and in the Father (2:24)
There is no cause for stumbling in him (2:10)
The blood of Jesus His Son cleanses him from all sin (1:7)
God cleanses him from all unrighteousness (1:9)
God forgives his sins (1:9)
Cannot sin (3:9)
He knows (2:20)
Knows He abides in him (3:24)
Whatever he asks he receives from Him (3:2)
When He appears, he will be like Him (3:1)
When He appears, he will see Him just as He is (3:1)

2. The wicked man

2.1. What he does

Says he has no sin (1:8)
Says that he has not sinned (1:10)
Does not keep His commandments (2:4)
Practices sin (3:4,8)
Practices lawlessness (3:4)
Sins (3:6)
Does not practice righteousness (3:10)
Says “I have come to know Him” (2:4)
Says he is in the Light (2:9)
Denies that Jesus is the Christ (2:22)
Denies the Father and the Son (2:22)
Denies the Son (2:23)
Is deceiving himself (1:8)
Makes Him a liar (1:10)
Abides in death (3:14)
Goes out from us (2:19)
Hates his brother (2:9,11; 3:15)
Does not love his brother (3:10)
Does not love (3:14)
Has the world’s goods, sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him (3:17)
Loves the world (2:15)
Loves with word and tongue (3:18)

2.2. What he is

Is walking in the darkness (1:6)
Is a liar (2:4)
Is in the darkness until now (2:9,11)
Is the antichrist (2:22)
Is of the devil (3:8)
Is not of God (3:10)
Is a murderer (3:15)

2.3. What he does not have

Does not have the Father (2:23)
Does not know the children of God (3:1)
Does not have eternal life abiding in him (3:15)

2.4. What’s true about him

The truth is not in him (1:8; 2:4)
His word is not in him (1:10)
Does not know where he is going (2:11)
The darkness has blinded his eyes (2:11)
The love of the Father is not in him (2:15)
Was not really of us (2:19)
Did not know the Father (3:1)
Has not seen Him (3:6)
Does not know Him (3:6)
The love of God does not abide in him (3:17)

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