By This We Know

1 John 2:3-6

High school students, particularly at Christian school have interesting minds. Fun and often easy to play with, especially when they trust the teacher. Regularly take them down line of reasoning either had a flaw or led to wrong conclusion, then see how they’d get back to the truth. Occasionally would point them down a rabbit trail instead of back to main road. Would at times be topics in Bible class, intended to give practice for future times with professors who couldn’t be trusted. More than once, when faced with plausible-sounding but conflicting arguments, response would be, “Mr. Marshall, I’m so confused!” Immediately move on to next subject! No, wonderful teacher would patiently point out fallacies in reasoning, build a sound argument on a sound foundation, then move on.

Might seem like John has done similar in his epistle. Walking in darkness, walking in the light, fellowship with Him, fellowship with one another, say we have no sin, confess our sins, I write so you may not sin, if you sin… I’m so confused! I don’t know if I’m a Christian or not, I don’t know if I can know if I’m a Christian. I don’t know if I can be one or stay one or… I don’t know what I know and what I don’t know anymore.

Perhaps John sensed potential for readers’ frustration and confusion. Begins next section with new phrase: “by this we know” 8x (1 John 2:3, 5; 3:16, 19, 24; 4:6, 13; 5:2), twice in our text, balance in 2nd half of epistle. Here John declares two things we can know: that we know Christ, that we are in Christ. Doesn’t leave it as some theoretical possibility reserved for a few insiders, John describes objective ways a claim to knowledge can be measured and verified: we keep his commandments, keep his word, walk as Jesus walked.

A. we know

we have come to know him (3a)

you tell me you’re a Christian, I ask how you know that, could you give satisfactory response – one that satisfies biblical conditions?

go to church Sunday morning, read Bible at least once a week, put something in the plate, don’t cuss; all good, but is that best evidence you can give?

how about – made a decision, prayed a prayer, walked the aisle 27 years ago; again, all good, but is that biblical standard / evidence?

all that says is what you did or perhaps do, not who you know

btw, tests here in 1 John work for evaluating spiritual condition of others, primarily given for personal use – determining own standing with God; enough to think about most of the time!

come to know someone through fellowship with them

shared reality, things held in common, togetherness; Jesus described fellowship this way:

John 17:20-23“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.

comes from spending time with Christ in his Word and with his family

learning how he thought, acted

understanding his priorities, expectations

being able to finish his sentences

know what will make him smile, cry, sing, get angry, commend, rebuke

can’t acquire that sort of knowledge on Facebook, through casual acquaintance on Christmas and Easter, or even 1 or 2 hours a week

showcase flower gardens don’t just happen, neither does knowing God

we are in him (5)

John equates “hav[ing] come to know God” with being “in him”

Christ in us, we sort of get that – by his Spirit indwelling (Rom. 8:9; 1 Cor. 3:16)), by his Word taking root and bearing fruit (John 15:7), by us looking more like family each day (Rom. 8:29)

what about us being “in him” – what does he mean by that

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus Rom. 8:1

we are one body in Christ Rom. 12:5

in Christ all shall be made alive 1 Cor. 15:22

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

God sees us as redeemed in Christ, no longer lost in sin; Christ is the head, we the body

We see Christ as absolutely essential for life – our Savior, to whom we look for wisdom and strength

us in him, him in us –> together = union with Christ

walking together through Christian life, side-by-side, yoked together with him

B. we keep

his commandments (3b)

first evidence John gives – objective outward measure of inward reality

don’t miss what John is saying: obedience is evidence of something, not means to acquire it

saying: here’s how you can know for certain God has already changed you, brought you into fellowship

not saying: here’s how you can earn his approval, work your way into good graces, by following this rule

is saying: genuine Christian, one with true faith will have this mark; faith and obedience, knowing God and obeying God go hand-in-hand

strengthened by declaring the negative (4)

one who does not obey does not know God

some parallels:

to know God is to have fellowship with God

to walk in the light is to obey his commands

to not have fellowship with God is to not know God

to not obey his commands is to walk in darkness

what are they John 13:34; 14:15, 21; 15:12, 17; Matt. 22:37-40

1st one is a given (love God), wouldn’t be talking if it weren’t already true; 2nd one (love neighbor) is evidence of the 1st

then Jesus adds dimension to second

love for God, love for neighbor already covered; now he adds “one another”, those who have true fellowship

relationship with, how we treat Christian brothers and sisters must look different from other relationships

and Jesus sets the standard for the new dimension

“just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” John 13:34ESV

context of foot-washing, last Passover

intentional, willing, humble, self-sacrifice for the good of another

think of how Christ exemplified each of those for our good

now think: how would our church be different if we took that kind of love seriously

how about our community, our world – love like that would change the world

his word (5)

doesn’t leave us guessing about what his commandments are

don’t need to wait to hear God tell us in our ears what they are

“The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith and obedience” LBCF I.1

what we are to know, believe, and practice – dependent on God’s Word as ultimate source

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16)

C. we walk

as we abide (6a)

“abide” a word Jesus used repeatedly his last night with disciples: 10x in John 15:4-10

gave the Eleven picture of vine and branches – he the vine, they the branches; abiding describes relationship between two

branch dependent on vine for nourishment, life, support, stability, fruitfulness and usefulness

apart from Christ, even the Eleven could accomplish nothing (v.5)

it’s free flow of nutrients from vine to branch that make it worth more than just kindling

as he walked (6b)

exact imitation in view here – just as Jesus lived, so should one who abides in him

not imitating neighbor, parent, church friend, pastor – imitating Christ

encouraged by example of others, yes; it’s Jesus who sets the standard, though

that level of faithful imitation meant Paul could write: “Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.” Phil. 3:17

total dependence on God and submission to his will as revealed in Scripture

So,… as you look at your life and heart do you see great lack of obedience to God’s Word and no great desire to do so? You don’t need time, you don’t need some extra work, you need God’s saving grace. Repent of your sins, turn to Christ in faith believing he is who he claimed to be – son of God and savior of the world, confess your sin and seek his forgiveness.

Or… do you see some level of obedience accompanied by a love for God and desire to please him because you love him? Do you love God’s Word, gladly embracing it as the rule of life? Be assured that if you love God, if you treasure his Word, if you desire to obey him, it is because you are his child. Thank him for what he has done already in your life, pray for his strengthening and sustaining grace to enable you love what Jesus loved, live how Jesus lived, to more closely walk as Jesus walked.


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