If We Keep His Commandments
IF WE KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS
1 John 2:3-6
At different times I have had people ask me what the difference is doctrinally and practically between the “church of Christ” and all the other churches and religious groups.
- And there are many.
- I suppose the primary one has to do with baptism…and its necessity for salvation.
- Then there is the use of instruments of music in worship.
- And there is the communion…and taking it on the first day of every week.
- And there is “the church” and its design…a plurality of elders…
- There are many differences between the practices and doctrines of the “church of Christ” and other groups.
Why? Why are there so many differences? Why do we individually as well as a congregation of the Lord’s church, do what we do?
Well, the answer to those questions can be found in the passage that was read. Let me explain.
If you remember John writes this letter to Christians who were being influenced by the Gnostics…and in verses 3-6 he is specifically dealing with the influence of the Libertines and the Antinomians.
The Libertines basically said that “what you do in the flesh has no bearing on the spirit…that the flesh and the spirit are two completely different entities…so you can do whatever you want in the flesh and still have fellowship with God…or you can still have salvation. (What you do in this world will have no effect on the world to come.)
- And the influence of the Libertines is very real today…so real that it has penetrated into most of the Christian religions today.
Recently a man was asked why he was a member of a certain religious group here in Brady and he said, “Because they allow me to do whatever I want and still be saved.”
- It is not unusual to go to the cemetery and a headstone will have person’s name and date of birth and death on it…and inscribed on the headstone it will say something like…”in the arms of God”…but then stacked on or around the headstone will be beer bottles left there by “his beer drinking friends.”
- How many country and western singers will put songs about drinking and cheating on their albums…and then the next song will be “Amazing Grace” or “How Great Thou Art?”
- I went to a funeral a few years ago and the preacher talked about the man’s life…and when he started mentioning the man’s surviving relatives he mentioned the man’s wife, children, and his significant other…or the woman he was having an affair with…and yet…in spite of all of his wild living, his gambling and drinking and foul language…the guy was “at rest in heaven.”
- People, even some who claim to be Christians, do not come right out and call themselves “Libertines”…but what they say and do indicates that they are.
- It is a very common ideology today: “I can live an ungodly lifestyle and still be in fellowship with God.”
The Antinomians were a little different but just like the Libertines their ideology and influence is very common today…in fact it is one of the most common ideologies in the realm of Christianity today.
- Antinomianism basically says: Since faith alone is sufficient to attain salvation, adherence to religious commands is not necessary and religious laws themselves are set aside as inessential.
- So, basically they were saying, “I believe in Jesus…therefore I am saved…and there is nothing I can do to lose that salvation…I can live any way I want.
Not long ago I was visiting with a man and I asked him where he attended church. His reply was, “I am a member at (and he named the group) but I don’t go to church.”
- And he said, “I don’t have to go to church. Jesus has saved me…salvation is a gift from Him…I am saved by grace…and Jesus is not an Indian Giver…He is not going to take His gift back…so I don’t have to go to church.”
- And with that kind of thinking he was able to justify a lot of things he did.
Antinomianism is basically the doctrine that says, “Once you are saved you are always saved.”
- It doesn’t matter that that you have lived and immoral life…Jesus saved you at some time in the past and you are still saved no matter what.
- You hear this all the time at funerals.
Well, here in these verses John counters that kind of thinking. Look what he says starting in verse 3:
“And by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.”
- Now, there are two things here.
John wrote this letter to tell Christians that we can have “fellowship” with God, Jesus, the apostles, and others who are faithful; 1:3-4.
- In chapter 1:7 John says “if we walk in the light we have fellowship.
- In chapter 1:8 and 10 he says we have fellowship with God if we agree with what God says about us, that we are sinners, and that we depend on God to forgive us of those sins.
- And then here, in chapter 2:3 John says that we “know God, if we keep His commandments.”
Now, will you be perfect? No! Will you at times violate what He commands? Yes, chapter 1 vs. 8 and 10 tell us that.
- Does that mean you do not “know God”; that your fellowship with God is broken?
- No! Vs. 7 of chapter 1 tells us that “ if you/I are continually making an effort to keep what He commands…if you are continuously striving to obey His will…you can know that you are walking in the light., that fellowship has not been broken; and your striving to keep His commands show that “you know God.”
Now, second, can you save yourself by commandment keeping? No! Romans 3:20 tells us that “no one is justified by law-keeping!”
- John is writing this letter to Christians, people who have already been justified by their faith in the blood of Christ…and because they have already been justified they need to keep His commandments.
The third thing out of this verse is really very plain.
- These Libertines…and the Antinomian Gnostics were saying, “We know God…we have fellowship with God” while at the same time disobeying the commands of God….and John says, “You don’t know Him.”
- “You cannot know God…you cannot have fellowship with God…and ignore or reject what He commands.”
- If you know God it will show up in your commandment keeping.
In fact, look at the next verse: “The one who says”…this is what they say…people say a lot of things that are contrary to what God says…
“The one who says (this is the same guy as the one back in 1:6), “I have come to know Him,” and who does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”
I want you to notice something here in this verse…notice the “I have”…that is present indicative…
- And notice where it says “who does not keep His commandments”…that to is present indicative.
- And there where it says he “is a liar”…that is present indicative also.
- So what John is saying is, “The one who claims to have a present knowledge of God but is not presently keeping His commandments is therefore presently a liar.
Now, how does God feel about a liar?
- That is just another way of saying that there is no fellowship with God.
Now look at verse 5:
…but whoever keeps His word (that is present indicative), in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him.
In these three verses did you pick up on the three things that are connected to “keeping His commandments…or keeping His word?”
- In verse 3 he says “We know Him if we keep His commandments.”
- And here in verse 5 John says “our love for God is perfected” when we keep His commandments…
- And then he says that we “know” we are IN Him if we keep His commandments.
But what if we ignore His commandments…if we reject His commandments?
- But what if I am a nice guy…and I have done some really nice things for people?
- Everyone does some nice things from time to time…these Gnostics did.
- And some of these Gnostics were pretty nice people.
- But still, they denied the word of God and they rejected His commandments…and as a result there was no fellowship with God…the love of God was not perfected in them…and they were not “IN” Him.
Look at verse 6: …the one who says…there again it is not what “they” say that counts…it is what God says that counts…
…the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.
- There where it says “ought”…that word “ought” does not mean that this is a strong recommendation.
- This word actually has more of the meaning of “must”…this is something you should do if you claim to abide in God.
- It is an imperative.
If we claim to abide in Him we should walk in the same manner that He walked.
- How did Jesus walk?
- Did He walk ignoring the commandments of God…ignoring God’s word?
- We cannot walk as perfectly as He did…but we can try!
- God wants us to walk in the light and to help us He has given us His instruction book as well as a living model.
Now let me ask you this: Is the man who does not keep God’s commandments…who does not know God…who does not love God…who does not abide in God…does that man have fellowship with God?
Listen, John doesn’t tell us this so we can have a self-righteous, pious attitude.
- He tells us this so we don’t give in to the influence of the present day Libertines and Antinomians.
- And he also tells us this so we can go out and teach with the hope of helping others to obey His commands.
Now just a little bit ago I mentioned some things that we, as a body of the Lord’s church do that sets us apart from many other groups. (baptism; communion each Sunday; a plurality of elders; no instruments of music in or worship; etc.)
- Why do we do those things?
The answer is, we take commandment keeping serious.
- If God says it…we must strive to do it.
Some of you have heard remarks like: “You church of Christer’s need to lighten up a little…don’t be so serious.”
- “God doesn’t mind if you take a few liberties.”
- “What will it hurt to have a piano…or an organ…or a drum?”
- “What will it hurt to have women elders?”
A firm belief in what John says right here is what makes us different from many others.
- Because of our love for Him…and for the sake of fellowship with Him…we take His commandments seriously.
© Sunset Ridge Church of Christ 2023