Many religions and Christian subgroups do not espouse eternal security. The Bible teaches it, however, and this is one of those passages. Note what John does not say. He does not say, “Poor behavior will get you kicked out of the family.” No language here suggests that misbehavior will make you miss heaven. When a Christian sins he does not need to renew his salvation.
Neither does John give any inkling that the endgame of misbehavior will be okay. No, wrong actions lead to real shame.
To those that teach self-gratification, God will say, “Depart from me for I never knew you.” Christians with false behavior cannot expect a pat on the back, or God to wink at their sin. Instead, their deeds will be there for all to see: sinful, shameful, embarrassing, unpleasant.
Live like Jesus
29 If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him. (1 John 2:29–ESV)
When John says, “If you know that he is righteous,” he is on common ground with the false teachers and his readership. The righteousness of Jesus was not in question. Whether or not people needed to imitate Christ was. The essence of the false teaching was: “Jesus was righteous, but we don’t need to be.”
Living like Christ is a hallmark of a follower of Christ. To live otherwise is to be something else than a Christian. Those who proclaimed that sin did not matter were not Christians. They were on a different path altogether. Any confidence which they had was misplaced.
At this point in his epistle John is not castigating this false belief, but shoring up those wracked with uncertainty. “Am I saved?” “Am I born of him?” These are the unsettling questions his readership faced. To the worried he says, “Don’t worry. Be sure. Surety comes from living like Jesus.” A steadfast spirit comes from the practice of righteousness.
Look how good God is
1 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. (1 John 3:1–ESV)
Here is a great way to combat worry: look upon the goodness of God. On the heels of saying they can be sure he draws their attention to God’s good character. “See,” he says. “Look at the kind of love God gave us. We are called his children, and we are his children.” That is what it means to be born of God.
God is not just friendly to us as a neighbor might be. He is not bringing us a meal when a family member passed away.
God is not just giving health here or there. We pray for that a lot, don’t we?
God is not the king in a castle someplace throwing a party for the peasants. (Such a God is still the king, above, separate, different.)
God is not just a landlord forgiving one month’s debt. (Such a God remains aloof, apart.)
Look carefully at this verse and think about what other types of goodness God could give. Think about the blessings in your life and consider them goodnesses. Then contrast these things with what John is pointing out. God made us into his children. We are adopted. We are the Cinderella brought into the castle except everyone can be a Cinderella, not just the lucky one.