1 John 3: You Know the Truth


John had now presented four proofs of salvation and its permanency. Those who are born anew, from above, live by faith in

  1. Willing cooperation with the Spirit of Christ.
  2. Holding onto the teaching of the apostles.
  3. Consecrating ourselves in God’s love, no longer a part of the world, but now being transformed into the heavenly.
  4. Genuinely loving the brothers and sisters in Christ.

John now paused to once again reassure his readers their hearts, their inward beings, knew this truth, even when they otherwise became unsettled by false prophets and their oh-so-close-to-the-truth-but-still-wrong teaching.


We Are of the Truth

Previously, John had said to them,

You have anointing from the Holy [one] and you all have knowledge; I did not write to you because you did not know the truth, but rather because you do know it, and [perceived] that [no] lie is from the truth.

And you, the anointing that you took hold of from Him remains in you, and you do not need [to] have someone teaching you, but rather as His anointing teaches you concerning [everything], and is true and is not a lie, and just as He taught you, you -are remaining- in Him.

1 John 2:20-21, 27 (my translation)

Those who are in Christ need this encouragement—we are begotten of God, now, we do know the truth, the truth is in us, and the anointing of God’s Holy Spirit remains in us. On these issues we do not need another to teach us, for we have this truth knitted into our very beings, this truth has become so a part of us as to be inextricably interwoven as reticulated splines with the fibers of our minds, hearts, souls, and physical bodies.

We are changed, now.

And nothing can unchange you and me who have put our faith in Jesus.

Still, John interspersed at regular intervals, it seems, this encouragement and exhortation to the beleaguered community of Christians he was seeking to build up in Christ.

In this we will know that we are of the truth, and before Him our hearts will be persuaded—That [is] if the heart would be condemning of us—for God is bigger than our hearts and He knows everything.

1 John 3:19-20 (my translation)

It may seem like circular reasoning, at first. But really, it is not. Here is the more linear statement:

  1. The believer is begotten of God, therefore
  2. Within the believer is the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit.
  3. The Spirit’s anointing remains upon and within every believer, and
  4. The Spirit of God knows what God knows, and
  5. Imparts to every believer the truth of that person’s salvation.
  6. The heart—our inmost being, the core of us, that deep center—may become troubled and perturbed at times, but
  7. When the believer draws close to God in that agitated state, deep will call to deep, Spirit to spirit, God to the begotten one, and
  8. God will still that anxious uncertainty, for
  9. God is bigger than whatever it is that has tipped our hearts off balance.
  10. God knows everything, and what God knows about you and me God will impart to us.

We Observe the Law of God

John tied this essential, foundational state of being back to the first two proofs of salvation and salvation’s permanency:

  1. Willing cooperation with the Spirit of Christ.
  2. Holding onto the teaching of the apostles.

Once God has settled our hearts, and we are no longer distressed with apprehension that God perhaps no longer loves us, or is in some way keeping distant from us because of our own transgressions, or we can no longer call upon God for forgiveness, or favors, or comfort or care . . . then we can settle back into the intimacy God always holds out to us.

Beloved ones, if the heart [no longer] condemns us, we have -confident- intimacy with God, and whatsoever we would ask we receive from Him, for we observe His laws and do [the] things pleasing [to] Him.

1 John 3:21-22 (my translation)

I know, I see it too!

It sounds like John is saying we get back into God’s good graces because we observe His laws and do [the] things pleasing [to] Him.

So hang on, and read with me how John explained what he just wrote.

And it is His law, so that we would believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ and we would love one another, just as He gave [this] law to us.

And [the] one who is observing His law is remaining in Him and He in them, and in this we know that He is remaining in us: from His Spirit [Whom] He gave to us.

1 John 3:23-24 (my translation)

John now tied in the second two proofs of salvation he had so far outlined.

  1. Consecrating ourselves in God’s love, no longer a part of the world, but now being transformed into the heavenly.
  2. Genuinely loving the brothers and sisters in Christ.

It is a different kind of way to think about the word law. Typically, we think of law as a rule of some kind that must be heeded, along with punishments and rewards for how well (or badly) we interact with that law. We think of it as something imposed upon us by some outside entity that we can choose to obey, or not.

For those who are involved with science, there is another kind of law that really is more of an explanation of how things are. The Law of Gravity, for instance, is not a rule imposed by one entity upon another, it is simply an equation that explains (more or less, since the force of gravity is not completely understood) the how and the why of littler things being able to stick to bigger things—such as, say, a human’s ability to stick to the earth as it spins at dizzying speed and hurtles through space, round and round the sun.

And then Jesus gave His own spin to the idea of Law.

I will give you three examples, though I think the first is probably the most important. I did a word search in John’s gospel and saw eighty-four uses of the word believealmost three times the use of that word in all three of the other gospels combined.

First example of Jesus’ approach to Law

Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.”

Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” 

Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

John 6:27-29 (NRSV)

Second example of Jesus’ approach to Law

When Jesus was approached by a man whose life seemed to clearly indicate God’s blessing and anointing, Jesus asked about his relationship to the Law. The rich young synagogue ruler acknowledged he was faultless in his observance of God’s Law. But there was still something the man lacked, Jesus noted. Jesus told him to sell everything he had, give that all to the poor, then follow Jesus.

The man was dismayed and went away sorrowful. We are to understand there was no way he was going to do what Jesus told him. The people who observed this exchange, including Jesus’ students, were also dismayed and a bit horrified. Jesus agreed what he was saying was hard to hear. But, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”

God does not expect us to transform ourselves.

It is impossible.

Transformation, which includes a heart obedience to the Law, is a divine work.

Third example of Jesus’ approach to Law

“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”

He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’

This is the greatest and first commandment.

And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’

On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Matthew 22:36-40 (NRSV)

[A church portal relief in Dortmund referencing Jesus’s use of “camel through the eye of a needle” aphorism. | By Mathias Bigge – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2783562%5D

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s