Daily Reading: (1 John 2:3):
“We know that we have come to know Him if we keep His commands.”
1 John 2:3 has brought some to a place of fear instead of receiving God’s love. “If we keep his commands”, but what if I don’t? Reading this in this way will draw a person into law-based dos and don’ts living in fear life.
“We have come to know Him”, the fruit reveals the tree, and those who know Him are the ones who are enabled to follow His Word.
Genuine obedience “keeping His commands” follows trust, which is always based on love. If you trust Jesus but are still worried about your obedience to His commands found in 1 John 2:3 then don’t stop with this single verse, simply keep reading more. In the preceding verses, John will lay a sure and secure foundation of God’s love for you. It is wonderful when we look at the context of 1 John 2:3 because it will not leave you in fear but will bring such peace to your heart.
In the New Covenant, obedience follows trust, and we trust Him because we know Him, or another way to say this is we have experienced and received His love for us through Christ. However, someone with an Old Covenant mindset reverses the order: “If you wish to know him, you must keep his commandments.” Perversely, this mindset will have the very opposite effect as it will cause you to trust in yourself while alienating you from Christ (Galatians 5:4).
As we move to the next verse, we can struggle even a little more.
“The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what He commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:4).
The insecure believer will read this verse as a threat. An incorrect Old Covenant view will think, “I better do what Jesus commands or else I am not really a Christian. The Gospel truth is that Christianity is not about impersonating Jesus. Christianity is Christ in us (Galatians 2:20). What John is telling us in verse 4 is that if you don’t have Christ, you can’t reveal Christ.
Your salvation is not based on what you do or don’t do for God. It’s based on whether He knows you. To better understand this truth, take a minute to read the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:21-23. God wants you not your works.
“But whoever obeys His word, truly in this person the love of God has been perfected. By this we know that we are in him. The one who says he resides in God ought Himself to walk just as Jesus walked (1 John 2:5-6 NET).
What we learn from John in verses five and six is that obedience is a fruit not a root. It’s a natural by-product of being connected to Jesus the Vine and allowing Him to live his life through you. Since Jesus is the Word of God (1 John 2:14), to keep His Word is to keep trusting Jesus (Revelation 3:8).
Let’s look even closer at 1 John 2:5 to focus on two verbs:
1. Our word-keeping (also known as obedience)
2. God’s love perfecting
Which comes first? Is it our word-keeping that brings God’s love perfecting us or is it the other way around that God’s perfect love perfects us to obedience?
“This is how we know God’s love has done its perfect work in us – we keep His word.” God’s love always comes first. John will say it again in 1 John 4:19: “We love, and walk, and keep His commands, and do everything, because he first loved us.”
The question to ask is, “Who abides in Jesus?” The answer is everyone who confesses Jesus as the Son of God abides in Him (1 John 4:15). You have a union life with Jesus and nothing can change that. If you remain unsure of your position in Christ, you will be anxious and unsettled. You’ll be tempted to pursue dead works in a futile attempt to improve your situation. What John’s desire for us is that we know that Jesus holds us securely in His hand (John 10:28). When we know this, we’ll be able to relax and “live deeply in Christ” (1 John 2:24). Receiving and abiding in God’s love is the foundation for everything in our Christian walk.
Let’s progress to our next verses in 1 John 2:7-8:
“Beloved, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining” (1 John 2:7-8).
Your primary identity is not “lover of God” but that you are “beloved of God” You cannot be a lover of God unless you know you beloved by God.
The new commandment John writes is sometimes referred to as the law of Christ by Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:21, Galatians 6:2.
What is the law of Christ? 5 words break it down for us, “as I have loved you.”
John heard the message from Jesus. He called it “His commandment” (1 John 3:23) or a “new commandment” (1 John 2:8). We don’t love one another to become the children of God; we love because we are the children of the God-who-is-love (1 John 4:8). As we receive our Father’s unqualified love, we are able to love as Jesus has loved us.
What is the law of Christ? The law of Christ is the power of God that brings healing and restoration to all who receive His love. It is the grace to be loved and to love others in return.
The switch comes in the audience John is addressing in verse nine through eleven.
“Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them” (1 John 2:9-11).
John is not talking about Christians at all. He is describing sinners apart from Christ whose minds have been darkened with hatred (1 John 2:9).
When we place what we have read and learned together this is the summary of John’s writing to this point: “When we allow the love of God to take root in our hearts, we find it easy to trust and obey Jesus (verses 3 and 5). As we allow Jesus to express His life through us, we begin to walk and talk like Jesus (verse 6) and we overflow with love for our brothers and sisters (verse 10).