3 And by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4 Whoever says “I know Him,” but does not keep His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps His word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in Him: 6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
The biblical evidence of Christianity is obedience to God’s commands. This points to an undeniable truth of the gospel: When we are made new in Christ, we are made NEW. The old way of living, marked by death and rebellion, is gone. A new way of living, marked by life and obedience, has come.
As we read these verses, we are given an opportunity to look at two important truths that are found at the heart of the gospel. Those truths are: Justification and sanctification. It is important that Christians have a firm grasp on each. So let’s look at both of them.
- Justification – God’s declaration that we are forgiven of sins and are righteous. Justification is rooted in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. When a person believes in Jesus, that person is justified. And this justification is instantaneous and unchanging. This is the gift of God’s grace in our lives.
- Sanctification – The progressive work of becoming more like Jesus. This is an ongoing process that occurs in the life of every Christian. That process looks like this: Dying to sin, living to righteousness. Sanctification is no less a gift of God’s grace, as that grace is demonstrated in the changed life Christians live. And this sanctification is ongoing and growing.
A proper understand of justification and sanctification are important because they keep us from two errors. Error #1 is the belief that we are saved by what we do. Justification reminds us that our only hope for salvation is Jesus. Error #2 is the belief that it doesn’t matter how we live, as long as we say we believe in Jesus. Sanctification reminds us that following Jesus means following Jesus.
And so, when John instructs us that the evidence for our claim to know God is obedience to His commands, we can see the truth of justification and sanctification on full display. Our justification (“we have come to know Him”) is the grounds for our sanctification (“we keep His commandments”). Our sanctification (“whoever keeps His word”) is the evidence of our justification (“in him truly the love of God is perfected”).