Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Test Of Obedience

And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

We now come to the next test of genuine faith in 1 John - the test of obedience. John tells us here that the one who knows God keeps His commandments, and conversely the one who does not keep His commandments does not know Him, and is a liar if they say that they do. John also tells us two times in these three verses that this is how we can know that we really know Him and that we are abiding in Jesus, so let's go through this passage in a little more detail and see what we can learn.

John starts by saying, in verse 3, "by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep his commandments." What does it mean to know God? Have you ever thought about that question? I think about that question a lot. I am the kind of person who likes to do research and likes to study so it is a real danger for me to study and know all kinds of things about God and not really know Him. This may be a danger for you as well, so be on guard.

The Greek word used here is the word ginó̄skō, which means to know by experience. The word used here is aa active verb in the perfect tense, which in Greek indicates that this is an action that is being accomplished by the subject of the verb (in this case we) and that is is an action or process that has taken place at a point in the past, but the results of which have continued on to the present. In other words what John is saying is that we can say that we know God, but if we are not keeping His commandments then the knowledge that we have of Him is just that - knowledge - we have not known Him experientially, we have only known about Him.

This then leads us then to another question, which commandments is John referring to here? Is he talking about the 613 ceremonial laws in the Old Testament? Is he referring to the 10 Commandments? Or is he talking about something else entirely? This is an important question to answer, because according to this passage, if we get this one wrong we are lying when we say that we know Him. I think John gives us a clue as to what he is referring in verse 5 where he writes, "whoever keeps his word..." The his in this verse refers back to the subject of verses 1 and 2, which is Jesus Christ. So what John is saying is that it is the keeping of the word of Jesus (His commandments) that proves the genuineness of our salvation.

This then leads us to our next question, what are the commandments of Jesus; what is His word that we are to keep? To answer this question we need to go back to the Gospels and see what it was that Jesus told us we are to do; when asked directly which commandment is the most important of all Jesus replied:
The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.

And in the Gospel of John, Jesus said:
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.

So according to John, we can know that our faith is genuine if we keep the words of Jesus. And the words that Jesus gave us to obey are these: love God above everything else, love our neighbor as ourselves, and love our brothers and sisters in Christ. Ironically, if we obey these words of Jesus we will also have obeyed the 10 commandments as well. On the other hand, John also tells us that if we do not do these things we are showing that our faith is not genuine and that we have reason to question our salvation.

John then tells us that whoever does these things, in them the love of God is perfected. What does this mean? I believe what John is teaching us here is that as we obey God we will grow more and more to love Him and we will find that we are no longer doing these things because we were commanded to do so, but because of our love for Him.

John concludes these verses by stating again the importance of obedience; in verse 6 he says, "By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked."

We are to walk as Jesus walked. In the Bible to word walk is often used to depict action or lifestyle. In other words, what John is saying here is that as a professing believer in Jesus Christ we are to live our life in the same way that He lived His life here on earth; we are to do what Jesus did. This goes back again to what Jesus told us we are to do: love God, and love each other. These are the things that Jesus did, and these are the things that He told us to do as well.

Take some time today to examine yourself in light of 1 John 2:3-6. If you pass the test rejoice and praise God for the salvation that He has given you. And if you find that you fall short, confess your sin, repent and rejoice that you have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous (1 John 2:1). Then obey what He commanded you to do.
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