“If You Keep You Keep My Commandments” – 1 John 2:3, We Will See Today This is About LOVE, not LAWS
In 1 John chapter 2 we read about keeping commandments, but what exactly are those commands? Religion tells us they are about being obedient to the law, but that contradicts other verses such as you are free from the law (Gal 5:1), no longer under the law (Rom 6:14), redeemed from the law (Gal 3:13), and Christ is the end of the law for all who believe (Rom 10:4)
Let’s check out John’s letter a little closer and discover what these commands from Jesus are really about.
[1 John 2:3-6] 3 By this we know that we have come to know Him if we keep His commandments. 4 The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; 5 but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: 6 the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.
Let me be very pointed here….Every Christian on planet earth sins. We all fail to keep the law. So if we are going to take the legalist view of these verses then we when you sin (and you will) according to this verse, you are a liar, and the truth is not in you. Scripture is very clear that the truth is in the believer, so this poor view of 1 John 2:2-6 would imply that if you sin you are not saved. Hell bound. Which would mean every human that ever lived.
Do me a favor and also keep in mind that this verse also says “by this we know we are IN HIM”. You’ll see why this is important in a few minutes.
So what if I told you that the commandments referred to by Jesus were all about love and faith? And “walking in the same manner” was about walking in love. God is love. Hang tight and you will see that’s what’s really going on in these verses.
We are going to get the full answer after we read further into the author’s letter, but first, let’s rewind and look at verses 1 and 2 and get the context of this passage. We’re going to see that while the author does not condone sin, and in fact encourages us to avoid sin, we still have a powerful advocate in case we do, and that advocate is full propitiation for our sins. Propitiation means to satisfy a deity.
[1 John 2:1-2] My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.
So the chapter begins by essentially saying don’t sin, but if you do Jesus is the full payment. In other words, you’re not, and you can’t do anything to fix it. Jesus is your righteousness. He is the propitiation.
So in verse 3 when he says “by this we know we have come to know Him” the author is referring to what he just wrote in the first two verses. This is not about law keeping, but about knowing who is the actual propitiation for our sins. Still not convinced? We get a much clearer picture as we continue reading the letter. Same author, same letter, we are clearly told what these commandments are, and news flash, these commandments don’t contradict verses about being free from law.
[1 John 3:22-24] 22 and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight.
23 This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us. 24 The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.
So the commandments, as laid out very plainly here are to believe in Jesus and to love one another. Do you see it? This is not about behavior improvement programs. That’s religion. What God cares about is our faith and when His Spirit lives in us then love for one another exudes from us.
Do you remember at the beginning I asked you to remember that 1 John 2:5 said “by this we know we are IN HIM”? Did you notice that 1 John 3:24 made clear we are on the same subject when it said “The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him”. To “abide in” simply means to live in. Christ lives in you. Christ is love. Love is in you.
Here are your commandments. Believe in Jesus and love your brothers and sisters in Christ. Religion’s core presentation wants you to work and focus on how well you perform, and ultimately that becomes our measuring stick for how close we are to God. What God wants is your heart. He wants you to believe Him. Jesus was the only payment for our sins. He made us clean and He paid it all. Rest in Him. Jesus. Without Religion.
It’s All About Love!
Having a commandment to believe in Jesus and love one another in no way implies that we should just go break world records for sin. We are free in Christ, and the real question we need to be asking is what we really want to do with that freedom. The truth is believers are born again, have new hearts, and new desires, and because of this we don’t need the law to guide us. The love of God has been poured out into our hearts (Rom 5:5) and love is IN US, and it’s enough.
The grace message will always require us to defend the Gospel. This is why we used clear verses from the same letter and the same author to explain what he was referring to when he spoke about keeping commandments.
1 John 2:7 reads “Beloved, I am not writing a new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word which you have heard.”
The old commandment is to love God with all your heart.
1 John 2:7 reads “On the other hand, I am writing a new commandment to you”
By “new” He is saying the one you have not heard this one before. In other words, He is saying I’m not getting this commandment from the law! This one is new.
Here’s a mistake we make too often. We see the word “commandments” and we jump to the conclusion that it means “law”. However, the word law is not even used in this chapter. There’s not a single reference to lying, adultery, murder, coveting, etc.
1 John 2:12 “I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name’s sake.”
So if we interpret “commandment” as meaning “the law” we’d be saying (as seen in vs 12) we are forgiven of sins unless we sin (break a command). What kind of logic is in that? That’s a works-based salvation and it’s not the gospel.
And lastly, by faith in Christ, we either have or have not “overcome the evil one”. We either do or do not “know God”. You’re not in and out based on when you are stumbling, as some might teach. Vs 13-14 states believers have OVERCOME the evil one and on three occurrences it says “you KNOW God”. How can anyone know someone and then unknow them? The answer is simple. They can’t.
Author: Mike Cynar
Mike Cynar was raised in a church setting where he frequently noticed that many attendees would eventually drift away. The church labeled these individuals as ‘back sliders’ or ‘fake Christians’ just looking for ‘fire insurance’. However, Mike realized the issue was rarely with these individuals but instead with the church’s message itself. The teachings heavily emphasized behavior improvement and one’s flaws, with only a fleeting mention of one’s identity in Christ. It felt as though every sermon was tailored to the church of Corinth, who as we know or committing sins that even unbelievers don’t partake in. This trend was noticeable not just in one denomination, but across Baptist, Catholic, Pentecostal, and many other churches. Upon understanding the true essence of the gospel – that our righteousness comes from Jesus’ actions, not our own – Mike was inspired to liberate believers from lifeless sermons and reconnect them with the genuine teachings of Jesus. He believes that one can nurture a vibrant and growing bond with Jesus, unhindered by rigid religious practices. And thus, “Jesus Without Religion” was born.
It turns out that it is grace that leads to repentance. And if our heart is to get others to walk in the Spirit and live a godly life, then the best approach is not a beat down sermon, but rather to remind other that it is only when we understand our true identity in Christ that we will live it out. Yes, it’s true, if you’re convinced that God thinks you’re a dirty sinner, you will ultimately continue a lifestyle that mirrors that view, but if you truly believe that even on your worst day, you are called holy, sanctified, justified, and will be presented blameless in the end, well, it turns out this is the secret to living out on the outside what has been worked in to the inside.