3 We know that we have come to know Him if we keep His commands.4 Whoever says, “I know Him,” but does not do what He commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. 5 But if anyone obeys His word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in Him: 6 Whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did.
(1 John 2:3-6 NIV, pronouns referring to Jesus capitalized)
John began his letter by giving an eyewitness account of Christ, followed by a clear series of statements about sin.
John was addressing a number of heretical teachings that were trying to creep into the Asia Minor churches. There were two main heresies being discussed – 1) that Jesus was not fully human, that He was just a spiritual being (denying His humanity), and 2) that Jesus was not really God (denying His deity). John argued against both points, presenting Jesus as fully man and fully God.
The false teachers sought to divide life into the spiritual and the physical. They taught that anything physical was bad, and anything spiritual was good. By dividing life into the physical and spiritual, the false teachers sought to separate what happened in the physical from what happened in the spiritual, with no consequences or connection between the two.
This false teaching worked itself out by saying that belief and practice are separate. Belief has to do with the spiritual, and practice has to do with the physical. This false teaching takes the authority from God and places it back on mankind.
John has re-established the biblical view of sin and righteousness in 1:5 – 2:2, placing the authority clearly back on God. In today’s reading, John reconnects the physical and the spiritual in one word: Obedience.
Jesus says that obedience is the litmus test to demonstrate whether or not we are a true follower of Christ. We can say that we follow Christ, but if our life does not reflect what Christ commands us to do, then we are liars.
So is John expecting us to live perfectly, without sin? No, that is not his expectation at all. In fact, John has already addressed this expectation of sinlessness in 1:5 – 2:2.
What John is saying is that we must not willfully and consistently disobey Jesus’ teachings in our daily lives. We don’t get to pick and choose from what Jesus commands us and calls us to be and to do. Our spiritual and physical lives are knit tightly together, and thus, must be lived out together. We cannot separate belief and practice, either in Jesus’ teachings or in our daily life walk.
May we heed John’s warning, admonition, and pastoral calling to live as Jesus did. Jesus was and is our example for all matters of faith and life. As followers of Christ, Jesus gives us His Word to instruct us and Himself in the form of His Holy Spirit to walk with us and guide us through each day.