How do you know that you actually know someone? Is it by knowing many things about them? By knowing what someone does for work, when their birthday is, who their favorite sports teams are, or maybe what they order at Starbucks? What about when it comes to knowing God? Is knowing God simply knowing things about Him?
The churches that John was writing to in 1 John were facing all sorts of deception from those who had broken off from the church and who were denying Jesus was the Messiah. The believers in these churches had heard and believed the gospel message, but they were wondering if they truly knew God. 1 John was written to reaffirm and remind these believers in the truths that they already knew, and to encourage them to remain steadfast in their faith.
What’s interesting is that the majority of what we read today in 1 John 2 doesn’t actually come from John himself. Instead, most of the message of 1 John 2 comes from the words of Jesus Himself, written in the Gospel of John, specifically in John 13-17.
John addresses this question of, “How do I know that I know God?” in 1 John 2, verses 4-5. John writes, “If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth. But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love Him.” So the answer is if that person is obedient to God’s commandments. But what commandments is John referring to? Are they new commandments? Is there more that we have to do as believers? These might have been questions or thoughts that the early church was having to navigate. John’s response in verse 7 says: “I am not writing a new commandment for you; rather it is an old one you have had from the very beginning”
God’s hope for us is that His love is made complete in us so that we are able to share that love with others. This “new” commandment was given to us by Jesus Himself in John 13:34, “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.” We cannot be imitations of someone we do not know. 1 John 2:6 says, “Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.” Like with much of our study in the New Testament, it all comes back to love. So by us loving others as Jesus loves them, our relationship with Jesus is proven true.
But why does this matter? Why is it important that we are confident in our knowledge of God and our relationship with Him? Two reasons. The first, as John warns, is because we are in a battle against worldliness, which means we are fighting against loving the things of this world.
As John explains in verse 17, our world has an expiration date on it. We don’t know what that date is, but we do know that all things will come to an end on this earth. If we are too preoccupied with worldly things, we are going to miss out on the things that the Father has for us. We will miss out on the most critical part of the gospel message: the love of the Father. Verse 15 makes it clear that when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you.
The second reason is that we will have to face those who will try to deceive us. There will be people who try to tell us that what we know can’t be true and that love alone can’t be the answer. John encourages us in verse 20, “the Holy One has given you his Spirit, and all of you know the truth” and in verses 24-25, “If you remain faithful, you will remain in fellowship with the Son and with the Father. And in this fellowship, we enjoy the eternal life he promised us.”
Today, we can ask ourselves, are we holding steadfast to the truth that we first believed, the truth of the gospel? Are we leaving any room for doubt to set in? The enemy desires for us to doubt what God has promised, because that pulls us away from embracing true relationship with God. We can ask ourselves, are we overcomplicating what God has asked us to do? Are we adding stipulations and contingencies, or are our actions and motives centered around loving God and obeying His commandments to love others? Today, let us think of ways to love one another well, making that love of God perfect in and through us. And the beautiful part of the gospel message is that it’s okay when we mess up in this pursuit. That as we remain steadfast in our goal to love one another as Christ loved us, we have an advocate in Jesus whenever we mess up. That our sins are forgiven, and we can draw closer to Him, that we can know Him more and can become better reflections of Him each and every day.