How can we know that we belong to God? Can we have any assurance in our salvation? Or do we just have to hope that we are OK? This is the question that John appears to be answering in 1 John 3:19-24.
This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us. (1 John 3:19-24 NIV)
Assurance of Salvation
He starts off with, “this is how we know that we belong to the truth.” And then goes on to explain the ‘how’. What does our heart tell us? That by itself is not a good guide since our hearts by nature are deceitful (Jer. 17:9) and not a reliable guide. But John drills down even further.
Keeping God’s commands and pleasing him seem to be somewhat synonymous with what our heart tells us. If we are keeping his commands and seeking to please God, then our hearts will not condemn us, and we can have confidence before him.
And what is his command? It is two-fold. To believe in the name of Jesus, God’s Son. And to love one another as he commanded us. We like to add many other ‘commands’ to this list. But John says there are only two that are necessary. And they are similar to the two that Jesus identified as the greatest commands (Matt. 22:36-40).
And if we do that, we will live in God, and he will live in us. And that brings John to the ultimate assurance of salvation. Does the Holy Spirit live within us? If he does, then we can know that we are in God. That we have eternal life. We don’t have to hope. We can know!