Hereby We Do Know that We Know Him

And hereby 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 whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. (1 John 2:3–5)

The Apostle John’s love for the Lord — and his affectionate love for the brethren — shone through the Scripture. First, he addressed this epistle to “My little children.” But second, John identified with the love of Christ so much that, in his Gospel, he referred to himself as “he whom Jesus loved.” So, what emphasis did John — the “apostle of love” — make in his first letter? To find out, let’s explore his use of the word know.

In verse three, not only does John want us to know him (Jesus), but he wants us to know that we know him. Why did he shift the emphasis like that? If you know that you know him, then you are sure of your salvation. You see, all of mankind may be broken down into two categories: the saved and the unsaved… and the saved may be further broken down into those who are sure of their salvation and those who are not.

But let me clarify: salvation is not a function of our knowledge or our confidence in it; it is a function of our belief in Jesus Christ… the biblically revealed Jesus Christ, that is… the one who saves all who come to him in faith. It’s just that some Christians are robbed of the joy of their salvation by insisting that they can lose it.

God gives us eternal life, and anything “eternal” does not stop. That would be temporary life… not eternal life. Furthermore, eternal life is not something that stops and starts up again. That would be intermittent life… not eternal life. So, why am I making such a big deal out of this?

Teaching that we must maintain a certain level of holiness to keep our salvation shames Jesus Christ… and it makes God out to be either incompetent or a liar. This is why John emphasized the word “know.” It reinforces our eternal security while encouraging us to rest in it.

If a person is living a holy life… but with a view towards keeping himself saved… he is not serving God; he is serving himself. His motivation for being “holy” would be to preserve his eternal life. But those who know that they are saved have “proof” that they are serving God with a pure heart… I mean… what other motive for service could they have?

Of those who do not believe in eternal security, it can scarcely be said that they know that they are saved. They may feel that they are saved — that adequate holiness is being maintained at that moment… but they can never “know” — and the punishment fits the crime: such people cannot rest in their salvation (… although, if they “received” a Jesus who needed help with their atonement, they might have no salvation to rest in).

Knowledge is the key to having a soul that can rest in God. Knowing that we know him allows us to rest from any self-serving holiness. Furthermore, it frees us up to serve God purely. The chief benefit to us is that we are free to live our lives with joy. But also, it frees us up to serve God in love — although I’m talking about the real kind of love here… the kind that has no agenda.

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