“And by this we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: by this we know that we are in him. He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.” 1 John 2:3-6
Many claim to be Christians and followers of Jesus Christ — to “walk in the light, as he is in the light” (1 John 1:7) — but not all who make such claims really know and trust in Jesus. Some are hypocrites, and some deceive themselves into thinking they are Christians when, in fact, they are impenitent and do not really look in faith to Jesus and His blood, shed on the cross, for cleansing and everlasting life.
God’s Word teaches us that we can see whether we truly know and trust in Christ Jesus as our Savior from sin by our attitude toward Jesus’ Word and commandments.
John writes in 1 John 2:3-5: “And by this we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: by this we know that we are in him.”
The one who knows and trusts in Jesus for the forgiveness of his sins and life everlasting will, as a fruit of genuine Spirit-wrought repentance and faith in Christ, gladly and willingly obey His commandments. This desire to obey God’s Word is evidence of the indwelling Holy Spirit and of the new nature created in believers, a nature that loves God and desires to serve Him.
Of course, as John wrote in the first chapter (1 John 1:5-10), believers are not without sin in this world and cannot claim to be sinless and holy of themselves, for they still have their old sinful nature inherited from Adam, which balks at and resists living in accord with the Word of God.
Nevertheless, believers can see evidence of their regeneration in their new-found love for God and their fellow believers and in their desire to keep the words and commandments of Jesus. Those who come to know the great love of God in sending His Son to suffer and die for our sins and the sins of the world are moved to love Him in return for providing salvation for us lost sinners. Cf. 1 John 4:9-10; James 2:14ff.
If we continue to trust in Jesus as our Savior — if we acknowledge our sinfulness and look to Jesus’ shed blood for pardon and life everlasting (1 John 1:8 — 2:2) — we will, as a fruit of that faith, seek to conform our lives to His. We will seek to live and conduct ourselves as Jesus did in this world — in obedience to God the Father, with the utmost respect for God’s Word, and with genuine love toward lost sinners.
Our catechism teaches this same truth in regard to examining one’s self before partaking of the Lord’s Supper: “How should he who would eat this bread and drink this cup examine himself? He should examine: 1. whether he truly repent of his sins; 2. whether he believe in Jesus Christ; 3. whether he have the good and earnest purpose with the aid of God the Holy Ghost henceforth to mend his sinful life” (A Short Exposition of Dr. Martin Luther’s Small Catechism, CPH, 1912, Q. 348).
St. John writes in 1 John 2:6: “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.” Cf. Rom. 8:29; Eph. 2:8-10; 2 Cor. 5:15.
So, walking “in the light, as he is in the light” is not to pretend to be without sin or to try and merit God’s grace and favor by our own life and works. Rather, it is to acknowledge and confess our sins (agreeing with God about our sinfulness and the judgment we justly deserve) and to look in faith to Christ and His atoning sacrifice on the cross for the sins of all that we might receive God’s pardon and forgiveness and be counted righteous and holy in His sight. And, where there is genuine repentance and faith in Christ Jesus, there will follow the sincere purpose and desire to conform all our thoughts, desires, words, and actions to His Word and His commandments.
God, grant to us such repentance and true faith in Christ Jesus — that we “walk in the light, as he is in the light”!
Jesus, our Savior, You have redeemed me and all mankind from sin by Your atoning sacrifice on the cross, and You have graciously brought me to know Your great love and mercy toward me through the preaching of the Gospel. Grant that I grow ever deeper in the knowledge of You and of Your love for me and all believers, and so move me to love You in return and gladly obey Your commandments. Amen.
[Scripture is quoted from the Revised Webster Version, an update of Webster’s 1833 revision of the King James Version of the Bible.]