We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did. (1 John 2:3-6 NIV)
How can I know that I am in Christ; that I am truly saved? In this letter, John gives us a number of tests to help us to validate our salvation. And one of those tests, the one given here, concerns obedience. Do we do what he told us to; do we keep his commands? John says that if we claim to know Christ, to be saved, but do not obey him, then we are liars; we are not really saved. That might seem harsh, but is it really?
A New Command
What is it that Jesus has commanded us to do? You might identify a number of things, including the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20. But I believe John is looking back to John 13:34-35 where Jesus says, “A new command I give you: Love one another.” Loving one another was to be the distinguishing mark of Jesus’ disciples. That this is John’s focus in this letter becomes clear as you read down the next few verses, as well as the rest of the letter. The one who loves his brother is in the light. The one who hates his brother is still in darkness.
To be clear, John is not saying that I have to love my fellow believers in order to be saved. What he is saying is that if I am saved, I will love the other believers God has brought into my life. Love is not a requirement for salvation. It is the result of salvation. Some believers are easy for me to love. While others are challenging. If I keep his command to love, even the challenging, I can be confident in my relationship with Christ. But if I find a lack of love, it should serve as a warning to me.