“But maybe I’m not saved.”
3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. (1 John 2:3–ESV)
Worry does not die easy, and John continues to infuse this section with help. Let us head back to the words of Jesus as recorded in Matthew 7.
21 “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. 22 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?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’(Matthew 7:21-23–ESV)
Salvation and knowing Jesus are synonymous, and that is how John uses them in 1 John 2. None want to hear the declaration of Matthew 7:23, and we are right to be concerned that we know Jesus. John says confidence comes from obedience. Sterile adherence to rules like the Pharisees laid down is not what is being taught here. Recall to mind the commandments that Jesus said summing up the law and the prophets. Commandment 1: love God. Commandment 2: love others.
In 1 John 2:3 John says that living and acting out the commandments of Jesus breathes something important into our lives. Confidence in life and salvation is the result of living in godliness.
“But what about him? What about her?”
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. (1 John 2:4-5a–ESV)
As we have discussed in our weekly meetings comparison is a trap and one from which a worrier is not immune. Working through one problem at a time John picks up the tendency to compare and uses it as a tool to mold confidence. There would certainly be those around the fearful who are not burdened by guilt one whit. They claim to be in the family and go on about their lives without a shred of concern. “How can they be so happy? They are not even really following the commandments. They seem to be one of us, but don’t worry about anything! I want to be free like them.”
To this observation, John collides hard. The lack of a guilty conscience is not the hallmark of salvation. From the beginning of this chapter, John has indicated that sin does matter. Bad behavior is not ok. When a person who claims to be a Christian does not keep the commandments of God, they are not Christians. They are liars, says John. They lack the truth.
It is better to be godly and feel guilty than to be guilty and feel godly.
God’s ways come hard to some, but they do come. Getting to the point of confidence comes from keeping God’s word. The recipients of this letter believe this, but like everything else must struggle very hard to achieve certainty in it.