1 John 2:3-6 — How Can I Be Sure I Really Know God Personally?

Reverend Anthony R. Locke

John 2:3-6 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. [1] 

There is nothing more important to John the Apostle than leading the whole world into a personal relationship with God Almighty. When we look outside the walls of the church, our number one passion should be to discuss with the unchurched God’s desire to be in a relationship with them.

The God of this Creation wills to be in fellowship with people He created, even though we are not holy. The Divine personage ordained it possible for sinners to become saints and live in fellowship with Deity. It’s an amazing story!

First, we have to acknowledge that God is light. God is truth. God is absolute holiness. The only doors for entrance into His presence are by the shed blood of His Son who takes away the sins of the world.

If you can’t profess Jesus as Lord and Savior, as Righteous and the Advocate for sinners, then you are completely cut off from fellowship with the Father. Seriously. Any authentic relationship between us and God mandates a real faith in Jesus.

Second, if we want to claim a relationship with the Father, then we have to commit to love the light and hate the darkness. If we say we have fellowship with God while living at peace with sin then we are in fact still living in darkness.

These are changes to our hearts. Do you know God? Then rightly worship and glorify Jesus. Do you know God? Then Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. (Romans 12:9) You can’t do this by yourself. It takes a miracle.

John explains our assurance of our salvation using funny language. There is a way to know that we know God.  And by this we know that we have come to know him if we keep his commandments.

John Calvin points out the strange sentence structure. We know that we know God by living like people who know God.

It almost sounds like a catch twenty-two. Which comes first? Does knowing God help me live right? Or, does living right help me know God?

Calvin explains it this way. First, God radically changes our hearts to want to know Him. We see the beauty of Jesus as He is offered in the gift of the Gospel. We embrace Jesus in repentance and faith. That event brings us into fellowship with the light of God. We are exposed to His holiness which works a steady transformation of our character. If we abide in Christ then this transformation continues over our lifetime. Every day that we live for Jesus is a day that we know that we know God. The assurance of our salvation grows as we grow in godliness.

A profession of faith is not objective proof that you are saved. Lots of people profess faith in God and have no relationship with the Father.

That should remind us of Luke 7:21-23 Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?” And then will I declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”

Having a profession of faith is subjective evidence that we know God. Jesus says that a good number of those people are self deceived. Jesus will identify them as having a false faith by pointing out that they never keep His commandments. They were workers of lawlessness.

Let’s look again at what John said, And by this the antecedent of this is the end of the phrase, by keeping the commandments we know that we have come to know him.

This is a conditional sentence. My assurance of salvation depends on a life lived for Christ. If I don’t live holy like Jesus, then I can’t claim to know God.

I might be in a relationship with God, but I can’t know that I know God if I don’t keep His commandments. The promises of salvation are to those who profess faith in Jesus Christ and love the light rather than darkness. Those sorts of people are given the promises that they have eternal life, forgiveness of sin and fellowship with the Father.

My personal assurance that I am saved depends on my obedience to the commands of God. I am not saved by my obedience. I know that I know God by my obedience. We can’t claim Jesus and then live without love to our neighbor. We can’t claim to be in a relationship with Jesus and then live for the pleasures of this world.

Our life speaks louder and more convincing than our words.

Now this doesn’t work as a tool for judging the faith of others. I can’t look at your life and determine with any certitude if your faith is genuine. I don’t judge the double life lived by politicians who claim to be in the church. I don’t tell myself, “well, their faith isn’t real!”

John isn’t asking us to judge anyone. He is only asking us to judge ourselves. By this we know that we are in a real relationship with God, if we keep His commandments.

And one more thing I need to point out before moving into verse four, John isn’t using this as a stick to beat us up and make us feel guilty and less like the family that we are.

John isn’t looking to shame us. He said in the previous chapter that the children of God need to constantly remind themselves that the blood of Jesus will cleanses us from all sin. We need to memorize 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Saved people sin. The saved fail to keep the commandments perfectly. Only Jesus the Righteous kept all of the Father’s will. Only Jesus can claim to have earned fellowship with the Father through His obedience.

We don’t need perfect obedience for this to work for us. We don’t need to be as righteous as Jesus to know that we know God.

The Christian life is a journey down the highway of holiness. Isaiah 35:8 A highway will be there, a roadway, And it will be called the Highway of Holiness.

And our obedience will increase as we draw near to Jesus. Proverbs 4:8 But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, That shines brighter and brighter until the full day.

Now we see through a glass darkly now, but when Jesus appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.

And until that day of our glorification we look at Jesus in the Bible. 2 Corinthians 3:18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

I don’t want to get to far afield from our text, but our transformation as covenant breakers to covenant keepers happens by our gazing at Jesus in the Bible. The Spirit manifests the beauty of Jesus to our soul and we are transformed to keep the next level of our obedience.

All of us have a next step of obedience that we need to take. None of us are perfect. So as we make strides in knowing Jesus through the Word, we also should be making strides on the Highway of Holiness.

Let’s look through the rest of these verses.

4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

Obviously, if I say that I am in fellowship with the Light and live in darkness, then I am not being honest with myself or others.

John gives those people a label. He calls them liars. If a Church is to remain healthy, then we must maintain this standard. Don’t ordain people into leadership if their life doesn’t back up their profession of faith.

In the early church there were people who were smooth talkers. Folks who wanted to lead the Church with powerful words and persuasive speeches. People who looked good on video. Good on T.V. False teachers are often slick and polished performers wanting power to lead the Church and get rich off the membership.

But if they get on Larry King Live and can’t speak the truth about the person and work of Christ, and if they don’t speak against evil to their own hurt, and if they don’t exhort believers to godliness, then they are liars who do not know God.

5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected.

There is an ideal Christian life that we all aspire to live. There is a perfect life of sinless obedience that we hope to maintain. We don’t, but we wish it. Our spirit is willing, but our flesh is weak.

And we can know that God’s connection to us is a connection of love if we are growing in the Christian life.

Back to the basic question of this sermon: How do we know if we know God? By this, if God’s love is working a transformation of our soul to love Him back, than that obedience proves that we are living in God’s love.

How much better a religion than that being peddled by the Gnostic false teachers of John’s day. They would encourage you to grow in knowledge about God. John tells us to grow in our experience of God’s love through obedience to His commands.

Let’s apply these truths.

  • If your faith is lifeless and dry, then you are not living in the love that God has for you.
  • If your profession of faith is not exciting, then you are not taking the time to gaze at the beauty of Jesus that you might be transformed.
  • If your faith experience is lonely, then you are not abiding in fellowship with Christ and enjoying the connection between Jesus and His Church.

It’s time for us to get serious about our faith.

Philippians 2:12-13 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

God is at work in us to keep His commandments. It happens as we abide in Christ. But we must be making the commitment as His disciples to schedule time with God during the week. We have to develop disciplines of godliness. Commitments of faith that keep us connected to Jesus every day.

1 Corinthians 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them–yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.

We too must work hard to stay on the Highway of Holiness, but our steadfast spirit is not something we create. God creates it in us as we abide in Christ.

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.

How did Jesus walk?

Jesus spent time with the Father. On occasions Jesus prayed all night. Jesus worked to grow in wisdom, stature and in favor with God and man.

Jesus worked hard to live in constant fellowship with the Father. And that provided Him the power to overcome sin. That’s where Jesus got the enabling grace will and do all the good pleasure of God.

Jesus kept all the commandments and the same way He asks us to keep the commandments.

Stay connected with the Father. Be in fellowship with Him. Trust in His promises. Love His light and holiness. Decide right now to obey God when tempted. Take your next step toward the bright light of Jesus as you look forward to His appearing.

And as we live by this simple faith, the power of God will be give us the grace to live for Jesus. And by this we will know that we really know God.

Let us pray.

[1] The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Leave a Comment