Keeping God’s Commandments
Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4 He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. 6 He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked. 1 John 2:3-6
The dark cloud of doubt and guilty despair results when Christians are not sure they are in a proper relationship with God. They are left with a feeling of insecurity in regard to their hope of eternal life and the joy of living the Christian life is replaced with fear. However, John indicates the Christian can joyfully sing “Blessed Assurance” knowing “Jesus is mine”. How can one be truly assured that they really know God? For John, the proof is in the behavior of the saint. Those who know God will keep His commandments. The word “commandment” is used six times in this paragraph and is referred to as “his word” in verse five. John then focuses on a specific commandment (loving one another) as an example. John will revisit this command in 3:11-18 and 4:19-5:4.
John begins with an assurance: “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments” (2:3). In the Greek text of 1 John, “know” is used some twenty times. It denotes the assurance the believer has. It “means to continually perceive something by experience” (MacArthur 55). The best way to get to know God is to obey Him. He is the boss or Lord. By working under His authority, His servants know what He is like and what He wants. By knowing the Father’s expectations and desires for us, we come to know Him. Keep in mind John is not talking about knowing some things about God but knowing him in an intimate relationship. Obedience in the physical realm is a result of knowing God in the spiritual realm.
The phrase “he who says” (2:4a) is used three times in this paragraph. Again, John uses triplets to make his point. The first deception is like the first lie in chapter one in claiming to have fellowship with God while walking in darkness. This time the false claim is from the one who says: “‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments” (2:4b).
The result of making this illogical and deceptive claim is two-fold: 1) he “is a liar” and 2) “the truth is not in him”. He is deceived like the man who looks at himself in a mirror and walks away without doing anything about his appearance (James 1:21-26). Just being aware of God’s will does not change who we are in relationship to God. Doing His will is what makes us His children. To know who God is and have a relationship with Him is to do thing things He would do. The character of God will be reflected in the attitudes and actions of those who truly know him.
“‘Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, Let not the mighty man glory in his might, Nor let the rich man glory in his riches; But let him who glories glory in this, That he understands and knows Me, That I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,’ says the Lord” (Jer. 9:23-24). The truth is God is full of lovingkindness and righteousness. Anyone who does not practice the same is proven to be a liar when he claims to know God. He is neither ignorant nor led astray but is willfully making a false claim about his relationship with God.
The word “keeps” (2:5a) is continuous action. The Christian is to keep obeying God’s Word day after day. The end result is: “truly the love of God is perfected in him” (2:5b). The phrase “love of God” can be interpreted in three ways: 1) God’s love for man; 2) the Godlike characteristic of love; and 3) man’s love for God. The latter fits the context best. “Perfected” is the idea of accomplished or completed. By keeping God’s commandments is truly loving of God accomplished. Love without obedience is incomplete. “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (5:3).
The other blessed assurance is: “by this we know that we are in Him” (2:5c). Knowing God is truly an intimate experience. It is being in or abiding in God. This requires a continuous connection to God through the keeping of His Word. Jesus demonstrated this in His allegory of the Vine and the Branches in John 15. “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).
The self-deceived who claim to know God is now contrasted with the one “who says he abides in Him” while keeping God’s commandments.
“To walk just as He walked” (1:6) is the same as following in the footsteps of Jesus. Husbands will love their wives like Christ loved the church (Eph. 5:23f). Christians will forgive like Christ forgave others (Eph. 4:32). Just saying one knows God does not make it so. The proof is seen in the actions of the believer. Does he conduct his daily walk with God as Christ did? That is, the total subjection of one’s will to God’s will. Talking the talk is not the same as walking the walk. To imitate the walk and talk of another requires one to study and really get to know the other person. This is not a one-time stroll with God on Sunday or through a reading of His Word. “Walk” denotes a continuous action. The Christian is traveling through life matching every footprint of Jesus with his own footstep. This he “ought” or is obligated to do. It begins the moment the new convert arises out of the watery grave of baptism “to walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4).
– Daniel R. Vess