Peninsula Community Church
April 29, 2012
1 John 2:1-6: How do You Know?
The question that is often asked is “How do I know that I am a passionate follower of Christ?” It is a question that concerns many in the faith and many who are seeking out Christ. People have a genuine desire to know that they belong, and that they have not been deceived. John was aware of this issue and uses the following verses to clarify the answer.
In 1John 2:1-6, John states: My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
In the first part of this passage, John identifies two actions taken by Christ on behalf of the believer. And, in the last half of the passage, John illuminates our thinking in terms of the believer’s responsibility toward the Word of God and the Commands of God. By understanding these things we are filled with hope that we can know that we are His children and therefore are His followers. To define Christ’s work on our behalf, John uses two terms. When we understand these terms we have a better idea about what Christ has done on our behalf.
The first of these terms is the term “advocate.” This term in the Greek is the word “parakoleo” or “parakletos.” It is defined as “one called in to help,” “one summoned to give assistance” and is used most often as a legal term. In New Testament times the term was used of one that would speak on behalf of the accused before the rulers and/or magistrates. It would be similar to our term “lawyer.”
John also uses this term in the gospel of John to define the work and role of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that will lead us to truth. It is the Holy Spirit that will give us the words to say in the moment that we need them. It is the Holy Spirit that convicts of sin and leads one to repentance. This is the work of the Holy Spirit as the “parakletos”.
What is important here is that God did not leave us defenseless or without assistance. Christ came to assist us in seeing that our walk is in alignment with God’s design. This term “parakletos” is also used of legal advice. Not only does an advocate represent one before the judge and jury but they also give advice as to how to present their case and how to avoid these legal issues at some later date. Christ came to show us and guide us toward truth and righteousness. Have you ever experienced that still small voice within you? You know that voice, that voice that is loud and clear when you are about to do something sinfully or that would cause injury to you.
The second term is the term “hilasmas” which is translated “propitiation.” The idea communicated through this word is “to cover” but in reality the word means so much more. It is not just a matter of covering but setting one’s guilt aside. It carries with the idea of expunging a record so that if anyone attempted to go back to their past there would be not evidence of past crimes or indictments. Because of sin there was a need to have justice on the part of God because He could not allow sin to go unpunished. Christ came on our behalf and took the penalty of our sin upon his shoulder and in essence expunged our record of sin – Romans 3:25-26. At the cross all the fury of sin was directed to Christ – 1 John 4:10.
Do you see what Christ has done? How do we know that we are followers of Christ? We do so by recognizing the work of Christ in our lives. As a result, we do not and cannot allow our past failures to dictate our future. We cannot allow the accusation of wrongs done in the past to cause us to miss the present joy of a life lived in Christ. We cannot allow our mistakes to rule our future. We have an advocate that has gotten the judge to expunge our record and we are free from any past indictments and we are free from any future indictments relating to that particular record of our lives. The problem is that too often we live as if we have been imprisoned by our sin rather than walking in the liberty that comes through confessed sin and righteous living.
I am so glad that my record has been cleared. As a result I am called upon to live a life of obedience to His commands. But we need to realize that the sustenance of my life does not come from observing the commands and rules of God but in the very life of Christ. You see the law and God’s commands only point out the wrong we have done but are powerless to bring life or forgiveness. It is only the work of Christ in us that allows us to be obedient to Him. But when we know Christ we desire to follow Him whole heartedly.
John says: “By this we know that we have come to know him…” How do we know that we know Him? We know that we know Him when we seek to be obedient to what He has called us to do. In this case, it is a matter of keeping His commandments. Secondly, he states that we know that we are in Him when we begin to act like Him and walk as He would walk. Our measure of perfectedness is in keeping His word and following after Him in a pure relationship.
John clearly defines one of the aspects of knowing that we have a relationship with Christ. Because John is dealing with the Gnostic concept of understanding God, John allows his readers know that they can know God personally and that He is not some distant God that is not concerned about them.
This knowledge is about experiencing truth and is not about understanding the facts per se. While experience cannot define our theology, experience does underscore our theology and makes it real for us. The concept of knowing is the idea of perception by experience not just a set of facts. In others words while facts are important these facts are solidified and proven by way of experience. The result is that we are characterized not by any representative trait or quality of His own personality but as a work of divine love which accomplishes its perfect work in us and through us. This intimacy with Christ produces a daily walk that mirrors the pattern of Christ’s life as we abide in Him. We see this is John’s teaching of the vine and the branches in John 15.
So how are you today? Do you know that you know? Are you passionately following Christ?