By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, I have come to know Him, and does not keep His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him; the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk even as He walked, (1John 2:3-6).
In Jesus’ Great Commission of Matthew 28:16 – 20 we read: Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe [keep] all that I commanded you...
Biblical conversion and discipleship cannot be separated. The idea that Jesus can be one’s Savior and yet not be Lord has no Biblical basis. John is merciful in saying, “The one who says, I have come to know Him, and does not keep His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him…”; just as John is merciful in 1:6 in writing, “If we say we have fellowship with Him and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth…”
John’s writing is merciful because it is mercy to tell the truth, mercy because the truth of Jesus Christ can set us free if we respond in obedience to Him. In John 8:31 – 32 we read, “So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed in Him, If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Whatever measure of belief in Jesus the people in this passage had, it was an unconsummated belief, consummation could only come by obedience to Jesus Christ, and in obedience to Jesus Christ they would know the truth and through the truth they would know freedom. The response of Jesus’ audience in John Chapter 8 was rejection of Jesus – in fact they tried to kill Jesus; so much for their belief.
In a world of moral and spiritual ambiguity we need unambiguous statements, in a world and church drunk on the wine of moral, ethical, and spiritual promiscuity we need the sober declaration of truth in Jesus Christ. People in our churches need to know that a profession of belief in Jesus Christ that is not consummated through obedience to Him is akin to a couple in a wedding ceremony who never find their way to the marriage bed. In my vocational industry of real estate, common law has long held that simply signing legal documents at a settlement table does not consummate the transfer of real estate, the new owner must “take possession” of the real estate in order to consummate the transfer of title. Yet we encourage people to give what amounts to lip service to Jesus Christ and consider the conversion deal done, and we say, “Now that you are a Christian you need to read your Bible and pray and attend church,” where in the Bible do we find this thinking? Jesus commands us to make disciples and yet we appear to be engaged in signing people up to a magazine subscription. We want them to just say “yes” with their mouths rather than say “yes” with their mouths and their lives. The marriage bed translates the “yes” of the ceremony into action, taking possession of a house translates the signatures of a settlement table into action; how have we come to think that a verbal “yes” to Jesus need not be translated into obedience to His commandments?
In Matthew 28 Jesus says, teaching them to observe [keep] all that I commanded you. Teaching someone to do something is more than telling someone to do something. In John’s first letter he uses the word “walk” repeatedly, we are to walk in the light and not in darkness, we are to walk as Jesus walked; if we are to teach others to keep His commandments then we must walk as Jesus walked so that others can walk with us. This is teaching by walking, a concept familiar to those in ancient times but one that has little place in our Western world that lives in slavery to the tyranny of time. We are called to invest our lives in others and those who desire to keep His commandments must invest themselves in us; this is not ego, this is koinonia. Paul was invested in Titus and Titus was invested in Paul; Jesus was invested in John and John was invested in Jesus; we all know Jesus today because our predecessors in the faith had mutual investment in others.
John’s focus on keeping God’s commandments, and on loving God and others, continues throughout his letter, in the last chapter he writes, “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whosever loves the Father loves the child born of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe [keep] His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.”
Of course we cannot in and of ourselves keep His commandments but in the mystery of our union with Christ we can experience what it is to walk in the light, what it is to love one another, and what it is to keep His commandments - living in koinonia with one another in the Trinity.