Sure of a relationship
1 John 2:3–11, 15–17
Walk in obedience to God’s commands. (3–6)
At first, it may seem like this passage teaches that our relationship with God depends on what we do, on how well we obey God’s commands. But John is not saying our obedience to God’s commands is the cause of a relationship with God. It is the evidence.
John’s first century readers were dealing with false teachers. He encouraged believers to watch how well they followed the commands of Jesus; if they didn’t, they probably didn’t have a relationship with Him.
“Remain” (sometimes translated “abide”) is to be “with” or “in Jesus.” One’s life should be inseparably bound with the life of Jesus. “Walk” is a metaphor for having a lifestyle that goes in the same “direction” with Him.
John tells his readers they can be sure of someone’s relationship with Jesus if they are living according to God’s commands. This does not mean they won’t ever sin, but the direction of their life will show obedience to the lordship of Jesus.
Walk in the light so you don’t go blind. (7–11)
John continues to show believers ways to know false teachers. In these verses, it is through their love for others. John starts with the assurance that he is not providing a “new command” as the false teachers did. It is common for those with skewed doctrine to put forth some “new” or “rediscovered” commandment that sets them apart from the rest of Christianity. It happens with cults even today. Apparently, some of these false teachers were attacking those who opposed them, and John directed them back to the teachings of Jesus (John 13:34–35; 15:12).
This principle applies not only to false teachers, but to anyone who says they have a relationship with Jesus. If you say you love Him, but you don’t love His followers, you are walking (living) in darkness and don’t realize it because your eyes are blinded to God’s commands.
The solution isn’t simply to start loving brothers and sisters in the church, but to walk in the light. That is, live a lifestyle consistent with God’s commandments. If you know Jesus, be like Him.
Walk in the will of God, not the ways of the world. (15–17)
“World” normally describes the created cosmos, but here John uses it as the concepts, principles and ideas opposed to God’s plan. Setting up a dichotomy of the world against God, John provides three examples of “worldly” loves that pull one away from love for God. These are not comprehensive, but they probably are the most common and damaging ways we can pull away.
John uses “flesh” in the sense of physical desires that can cause sin. Anything providing physical pleasure (sex, food, music, drugs, entertainment) can become a love that pulls us away from love for God. We can see this in all aspects of today’s culture.
The lust of the eyes deals with desire — for things, people, money, power. “I see it and I want it” is the cause of all kinds of sin like adultery, theft and murder.
The pride of life could apply to arrogant pride that leads to boasting and self-centeredness, or to pride in possessions. For an example of how both come into play, see Daniel 4 and the humbling of King Nebuchadnezzar.
Those who truly belong to Jesus will show their love for God by doing His will.