The following is a condensed version of a message I gave on Nov 22 at the New Jersey/Pennsylvania GES Regional Conference.
The longer you live in fellowship with someone, the better you get to know that person.
A couple might have been married for 50 years and yet not know each other very well at all because there was no fellowship during that time.
The same is true with knowing God. A person may have been a born-again Christian for decades, yet not know God well. To know God means more than to be one of His children. It means to know Him in our experience.
Verses 3-11 basically cover these points:
2:3-4. Only the godly know God in their experience.
2:4-6. Abiding in Christ manifested in godliness.
2:7-8. Command to love is consistent with the coming age.
2:9-11. Loving one’s brother = walking in the light.
Hating one’s brother = walking in the darkness.
Now for the nine principles which emerge from this great passage:
1.Eternal life gives a person the opportunity to know God (1 John 2:3, note the “if” and compare John 17:3, “that they may know You”). Knowing God refers to more than intellectual knowledge and more than the new birth.
Raymond Brown, commenting on 1 John 2:3 says, “To know God means to share His life, as can be seen from the parallelism between ‘know Him’ in 2:4a and ‘abide in Him’ in 2:6a. Sharing God’s life means living according to His will, and so by keeping His commandments one comes to know Him intimately” (The Epistles of John, p. 279).
2. Knowing God is more than being in fellowship with Him (compare 1 John 1:5-10 and 2:3-11). In 1 John 1:5-10, which deals with fellowship, the issue is confession and walking in the light, not obeying His commands. But here, knowing God is specifically linked to our keeping God’s commandments, and particularly our loving other believers. Note that this is more than 1:5-2:2. The condition of knowing God is greater than the condition for being in fellowship with God. Knowing God is more than simply being in fellowship. It is spiritual maturity. Compare 1 John 4:7-8 and note that born of God occurs only in the first half. One who is not loving doesn’t know God, even if he is born of God.
A brand new Christian can be in fellowship with God, but cannot yet “know God.” To know God, he must grow first. John’s idea of knowing God seems to be parallel to Paul’s idea of being a spiritual Christian (see 1 Cor 2:14-3:3).
3. Love is the key to knowing God (1 John 2:5, 10; plus 24 references in 1 John). Since God is love, love is the fulfillment of all of God’s commands. Fellowship with God over time moves us to love one another. The longer we are in fellowship, the greater our love for another will be, and hence the greater our knowledge of God. But we never arrive (compare Phil 3:11 and 1 John 3:2).
4. Assurance of everlasting life and knowing God are separate (compare 2:3 with 2:25 and with 5:9-13). We must take great care to realize that the issue is not assurance of salvation. NB: Our assurance of salvation is not at all dependent on our obeying His commandments. If that were in view, then no one could be sure where he would go when he died, for none of us could be sure that we will continue to keep His commandments. Additionally, since keeping His commandments is a matter of degrees, who could know he was keeping them enough to prove he was born again? Of course, if the issue is our experiential knowledge of God, then we realize the issue is subject to degrees, for one can grow in his knowledge of God as he becomes more loving.
5. Evangelism and knowing God are separate (compare 1 John 2:3-11 with 5:9-13). We must also take great care here for this can distort our evangelism. IF we view 1 John 2:3-11 as assurance verses, we may well end up and tell unbelievers that they must commit their lives to Christ, turn from sins, and make Jesus their Lord, and the way they will know if they have done that is by seeing how well they are keeping God’s commands. That is a form of justification by faith plus works
6. To abide in Christ (1 John 2:6, 10; plus 14 other references in 1 John) is to remain with Him, to stay in fellowship with Him. Dr. Tony Evans calls this “hanging out with Him.” He illustrates it with a tea bag in water. Leave it in the hot water and the water keeps on being influenced by the tea. The more we abide with Jesus, the more He influences us. Abiding is not obeying per se. It is walking in the light over time. Above Dr. Raymond Brown referred to it as “sharing His life.”
7. We need to realize the very real danger that we can hate our spiritual brothers and sisters (vv 9, 11). Cain did physically what many believers do spiritually (see 1 John 3:12-15). Note that “brethren” (or “beloved”) are being addressed (v 7). This is supported in verses 9-11 where three times we see “his brother,” a clear reference to one’s spiritual brother or sister in Christ.
Hating one’s brother is a cause of stumbling. Loving one’s brother gives no cause of stumbling (v 10). We see this in marriage, parenting, business, the church, driving (for sure), and all aspects of life. Love helps others. Hate hinders others. Therefore, help others by being loving toward them.
8. While we should help all people (Galatians 6:10), we should place an emphasis on those in our church family (vv 9-11). Note the repetition of the words his brother in verses 9, 10, and 11. We are to love our brothers and sisters in Christ. This starts with our immediate family and includes all in our church. We err if we are helping strangers with charitable giving and yet letting needy and deserving people in our own churches go without. We can do both. And our priority should be our brothers and sisters in our local church (Jas 2:15-16).
9. We need to focus daily on Jesus’ soon return (v 8). This is vital to knowing Him. In a sense, the light of the new day of Jesus’ kingdom is already here (v 8). The day of the new age is dawning, and that full day will soon be here. In addition, “the darkness is passing away.” Satan’s rule over this planet is in its final moments. There are very few grains of sands in the hourglass for his dominion over this planet. Thus, when we walk in the light and live according to the light, we are living in a manner consisting with what is soon to be forever.
Note well that John is not talking about legalistic obedience here. That really isn’t obedience. He is talking about loving obedience. That is obedience that grows out of love for Jesus. This obedience grows from our love for Him, not from our obsessive focus on the commands.
See Romans 7.
Believer, how well do you know God?