1 John 2:1-6 - A Believer Will Walk As Jesus Did
Let’s look at 1 John 2:1-6,
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. 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.
This passage is about the believers assurance of salvation. John believes that those he is writing to are saved and he calls them ‘My little children’. This text is not discussing justification and the need to be saved; but it addresses that we are to know that we are saved. This really is the subject of this entire letter. John says in 1 John 5:15, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.”
Some may doubt that they are saved because they cannot remember the day that they were saved. Otherslack assurance because they do not know if they did it exactly right. Many others begin to doubt when they look at themselves more than they look at Christ and the gospel. Others wonder if they are saved because they have sin in their life. All of these things rob a believer of their assurance.
In this letter ‘knowing God’ is synonymous with having fellowship with God. The false teachers claimed to know that they were saved through some special knowledge that they did not get through the apostles teaching. These false teachers denied the person and work of Jesus Christ; and as a result, these believers were confused and lacked assurance that they had come to know God. John writes to these believers and says, ‘We know that we have fellowship with God when we come to know Jesus Christ, and that realization happens as we obey the Word of God.’
There are two Greek words that are translated as ‘know’ in 1 John. These wordsare used 40 times in this letter. The Greek word used in verse 3, ‘And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments’, is ‘Ginosko’ and it speaks of a knowledge gained indirectly through experience or instruction. A believer will take the Word of God and apply it to their lives and one of the fruits that results is that they grow in assurance and in their fellowship with God.
These two Greek words for ‘know’ are in two different verb forms. The first one is in the ‘present tense’. This speaks of the fact that a believer is continually growing in their knowledge of their relationship with God. A child continually learns about their relationship with their parent and that never stops. This is true in our relationship with God.
The second verb is in the ‘perfect tense’. This means that our fellowship with God demands that we know that this happened sometime in the past, it continues in the present, and it will continue in the future. God wants us to have this assurance. And this assurance is gained through our obedience to keep His commandments. We are to be consistent in hearing and obeying the Word of God. The word ‘keep’ means to ‘watch over, guard, observe, to heed’. We are to continually be protecting and guarding the word of God so that our lives line up with it.
This ought to comfort you that God wants you to have assurance. I once went to a church where every Sunday, people that had professed Christ and who had been baptized, would continue to come forward each week to be saved again. I was grieved by this and asked the pastor why we did not clear up any confusion regarding this and give them the assurance that they desperately needed. The pastor told me that he would never do that. He believed that if you gave someone assurance they would be less fruitful as a Christian and not more productive as John here describes.
John writes to these believers who once knew the truth but false teachers had come in and brought great confusion. They had gotten their eyes off of Christ and they were struggling because of it.
My son, Ian, has always liked frogs, toads, turtles and even snakes. Because of his love for these reptiles he began to watch a show called ‘Turtle Man’. ‘Turtle Man’ was Ernie Brown Jr. and he would catch anything with his bare hands.
It was always fun to watch that show with my son but little did I realize that his love for the show would soon have Ian imitating whatever the ‘Turtle Man’ did. To be clear, I did not care if Ian wanted to catch crayfish, toads, frogs and most turtles by hand, but I did not want to see him catching snapping turtles and snakes. But that is exactly what my son would eventually do.
I am sure that all of us understand what was going on in the story that I just shared with you. God has given my son a love and appreciation for reptiles. And when he began to watch Ernie Brown Jr., he began to imitate him in literally every way. He hunted like the ‘Turtle Man’, he used the ‘Turtle Man’ call, and he displayed the boldness and bravery of the ‘Turtle Man’.
Most of the time these traits in my son were things that made Mindy and I smile, but sometimes it caused us a little stress. For example, I remember one day being out at the park with Ian when he was looking for something to catch.
At one point someone saw a snake and Ian went running over and swooped it up in his net. The problem was, the snake was able to extend up and out of the net like a King Cobra. My heart was panicking. His boldness was bigger then his arm span and I was afraid that the snake would lunge at his face. I told Ian to put the snake down but the crowd gathering around him cheered him on.
My voice was drowned out by the opinions of all these other people who were encouraging my son to continue on with this daring encounter with the snake. I was getting upset at them because they were telling my son to do all things I did not want him to do. I remember thinking to myself, ‘If this was your son would you tell him to do this? If this was your son would you be encouraging him to grab that snake?’
I eventually got my sons attention and he did what I asked.
The apostle John is experiencing something like this as he writes this letter to these believers. The voices of the apostolic teachers have been drowned out by the false teachers. John wrote this letter to get the attention of his ‘little children’ and to keep them safe from harm.
Dr. Peter Barns writes of how vulnerable Christians can be when he writes, ‘It is very easy to entice people into sin. Annoy them for long enough and they become angry; feed them with falsehoods for long enough and they will believe anything; flatter them for long enough and they become proud. We are all morally fragile and vulnerable.’ (p.26)
Throughout this letter John speaks of three different tests that can be used to reveal who is a true believer, and who is not; who is walking in the light, and who is not. The three tests are: the moral test, the love test, and the doctrinal test.
Many claim to be Christians, but not all are. Many claim to have fellowship with God, but not all do. Many claim to have had a religious experience or a feeling, but this does not mean that one is saved. Many claim to know the truth but most do not.
In our text today John gives them the moral test. He tells them that a Christian who enjoys real fellowship with the LORD is one who is growing in the Word of God and is shaping their lives by it.
1 John 2:3-6 - “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.”
In our culture there are many views about morals and there are many opinions about sin. Dr. Robert Yarbrough gives a clear description of the many confusing views that there are concerning sin when he writes,
In popular Christian religion of modern times, the impression is sometimes given that sin is in the end not intrinsic to the person (“God hates the sin but loves the sinner”), or that sin is compulsory by God’s design (“That’s just the way God made me”), or that salvation alters the destiny of the soul someday but not necessarily the behavior of the body today (“Christians are not perfect, just forgiven”), or that tolerance mandated by Scripture forbids ethical distinctions of any kind (“Judge not lest you be judged.”).
Yarbrough goes on to say, “While John would no doubt recognize the element of truth in some of these slogans in appropriate contexts, he would also decry their misuse. He writes to commend a higher road: liberation from the compulsion to believe, behave, and love in ways that fall short of God’s glorious transforming light.”
We often hear these clichés:
God hates the sin but loves the sinner
That’s just the way that God made me
Christians are not perfect, just forgiveness
Judge not lest you be judged
In our text, John is giving believers a clear teaching on sin and our response to it. It sounds so different than what we generally hear from others. To be honest, his words are shocking and comforting at the same time. It is shocking that we are to admit our sin and not hide it. We are not to deny sin and deceive ourselves. However, it is comforting to discover that when we do sin we are to confess them so that we can be forgiven and cleansed.
It appears that John, a tried and tested minister, realizes that his previous words in chapter one could be misunderstood. In 1 John 1:8-10 John had written, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”
People could respond in two different ways to these words. First, some might read, ‘If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves…’, and then argue that since Christian’s sin, and because no one can say that they have not sinned, that sin is to be expected and even excused. When this is done, the temptation is to lower the standard and to set low expectations concerning sin and our sanctification.
Secondly, someone might read 1 John 1:9, ‘If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness’, and they mayconclude that they could enjoy sin now because they can pray for forgiveness later. However, in this case, sin is not forgiven and covered up by God(v.9); but it is hidden behind a religious facade that does not deal with our sin.
I’d like to turn to Isaiah 58 where we will see parallels to our passage today. In Isaiah 58 the prophet Isaiah addressed people who were very religious. Butthey never actually found forgiveness or walked in true righteousness. Though they did religious things they were not walking in truth. Instead they ignored sins and they always pointed the finger in blame at others. (9)
Notice what Isaiah says in Isaiah 58:1-5,
(Isaiah) Cry aloud; do not hold back; lift up your voice like a trumpet; declare to my people their transgression, to the house of Jacob their sins.
God looks down upon His people and he sees sin and transgressions. In our minds eye we might think of them as engaging in some of the grossest lifestyles and the most corrupt of practices. But God is sending Isaiah to a people who actually looked pretty religious. He describes them by saying,
2 Yet they seek me daily and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that did righteousness and did not forsake the judgment of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments; they delight to draw near to God.
Yet, the people were confused because God was not responding to their prayers. They said,
3 ‘Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’
The answer to their questions was that they engaged in sin, they sought their own pleasure, and they thought that their religious responses would please God. Behind all the religious talk and actions there was much sin.
Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers. 4 Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist.
As a result of this the LORD would not hear their prayers.
Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high. 5 Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a reed, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the Lord?
In Isaiah 58:6-14 God tells them what He desiredof them. He says,
“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
God’s people, Israel, consistently failed to do all of these things. Butwhat Israel failed to do, Jesus has done perfectly. Jesus has loosed the bonds of wickedness, he has undone the straps of the yoke and let the oppressed go free. He has broken every yoke. (v6)
He gives to the hungry. He gives the homeless a place to live and clothes the naked. He has not hidden Himself from us but has made Himself known: ‘the life was made manifest and we have seen it’. (7)
Because Jesus has done all of these things verse eight has come to pass in Christ.
8 Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Jesus, the true light, has come into darkness. He manifested Himself to the apostles and they testify to the Eternal Life. God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. And the LORD offers an invitation to walk in fellowship with Him and to share in this life. Jesus Christ the Righteous One advocatesfor all who come to Him before the Father. He has advocated for them through the life that He lived in obedience to the Father, by the death that He died as the propitiation for their sins, and now in his priestly role who stands before the Father as our mediator.
Because of this, those who are in Christ will call to God and their prayer will be answered. Look with me at Isaiah 58:9,
9 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’
Those who call out to the LORD must do so in humility, truthfulness and sincerity. Those who are in Christ, who have been given a new heart, will want to reflect Christ. John says this in 1 John 2:6, “...whoever says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same way in which He walked.”
Just as the apostle John is speaking to us about our sanctification in Christ, Isaiah speaks of these things beginning in verse 9 when he says,
If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, (speak truth in your hearts) 10 if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.
A person, or a church, who knows the LORD, who enjoys an intimate fellowship with the LORD, and who walks as He walked will be blessed of God and assured of the Spirit’s work in their lives. Again, we see this in Isaiah 58:11-14,
11 And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. 12 And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in.
“If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; 14 then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
In 1 John 2:3-6 the apostle John speaks about how a believer will keep Christ’s commands, a believer will keep His Word, and a believer will walk in the same way that Jesus walked. They are Christ centered and Gospel focused.
This type of person is completely opposite of the people Isaiah described in Isaiah 58. The LORD rebuked them for being self-centered. He told them to stop doing their own pleasure, to stop going in their own ways, to stop seeking their own pleasure, and to stop talking idly (about sin, doctrine, and love).
A true believer is so different because of the change that being united with Christ has brought about in their lives.
We learned in our study of Ephesians that the gospel writers always state the indicative first, and then they state the imperative command. The indicative is the facts concerning what God has done for us. The imperative is our response after having received the gospel. We don’t obey to be saved; rather, we obey because we have been saved by God. John speaks this way in our text. Because of what Jesus has done we can now obey.
Jesus the Righteous one has given his life for us, His blood has cleansed us from all sin, and He now advocates for believers before the Father. (7;2:1). Through Christ a believer will have fellowship with the LORD and His church. (This is the indicative)
As a result, we will keep His commands (or the Imperatives of the Gospel). Whoever keeps His word, in Him truly the love of God is perfected. Those who are saved by grace are not only justified, but they are also sanctified by that same grace, and they will walk as Jesus did.
Those who have not received this gift of grace, who do not have eternal life, will not be able to keep his commands. They may appear too be very spiritual like those of Isaiah’s day, but they will not be able to reflect true righteousness that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith (1 Timothy 1:5)
Those who possess these three things (pure heart, good conscience and a sincere faith) steward these things by faith. They will reject any other teaching or doctrine. They will not devote themselves to any myth, genealogies, vain discussions or teachings.