1 John 2:3-11 – How do you know that you know God?

1 JOHN 2v3-11.



THEME. Assurance is not through feelings but through knowing God (obeying and loving him) and loving fellow believers – (extending to all the world)




How do you KNOW that you KNOW God? How can you be sure that you are actually a Christian in the first place? Sometimes I don’t feel like a Christian! Sometimes I feel decidedly unchristian.


ILLUS.:When I was a Teenager I used to really struggle with this? How can I be sure that I am really a Christian. I would hear testimonies of people who had come out of a life of crime or drugs or alcoholism and how God had wonferfully saved them. I didn’t have such a dramatic testimony so was I really a Christian?


Over the years I have discovered that I am not alone – many Christians struggle with assurance – maybe you are one of them!

How can I really know that I know God?


Confidence before God is not essentially feeling good about ourselves. Nor is it necessarily having a particular kind of experience – was the experience a religious one or can it be explained in natural terms.

John here assures his readers that they can have confidence before God BUT this confidence is not subjective feeling or emotion.


So then “How can we KNOW that we KNOW God?

Throughout John’s letter he is laying down some tests for the believers so that they can know whether or not they belong to God. Throughout the letter there are essentially three broad tests – RIGHTEOUSNESS, BELIEF, LOVE.

These three occur in different ways throughout the epistle.


In the passage before us two of the three tests are prominent viz. (Righteousness) or as here obedience and love.



1. OBEYING: [v3-6]


READ v.3.


Knowing God was a favourite theme of the ancient religions – and as we saw in the introductory section it was particularly true of the gnostics – [gnosis – knowledge] – while the gnostics only became prominent in the 2nd century the roots of it were there in John’s day. Their emphasis on knowledge was a kind of esoteric knowledge with little or no emphasis on moral behaviour – and tended not to think of sin as a barrier to fellowship with God.


There are three things that John emhasises in these first 4 verses with reference to obeying God.

– 1) Obedience is characterised by following Christ’s commands.

– 2) Obedience is characterised by following Christ’s word.

– 3) Obedience is characterised by following Christ’s example.


1.1 Obedience is characterised by following Christ’s commands.


READ v.4.


“The man who says ….”  This phrase occurs 3 times in this passage  [v4, v6, v9]

Similar in style to the 3 “If we claim .. ” verses in ch.1.

It seems that John is quoting from the group who have left the church claiming to “know God” with the insinuation that those left behind did not know God. Those who left considered themselves to be superior and to have a higher spiritual knowledge.

Now it is understandable that those left behind may have been questioning whether they actually knew God. Are we right or are they right? So John’s letter is not simply an criticism of heresy but an affirmation and an encouragement to the believers that they do know God,


I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God,

so that you may know that you have eternal life [5v13]

John is quite clear that Christian don’t have to live in doubt as to whetether or not they are really saved. We can know!!


One of the ways we know is by obeying his commands. Now it would be wrong to interpret these commands as a set of legalistic rules and regulations. As if these rules and regulations  were a condition or prerequisite to knowing God. Obedience is not a precondition to knowing God but rather evidence that we do know God.


It is so easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the Christian life is following a set of rules. We have a check list –

I go to church

I pray

I don’t watch movies except Walt Disney and nature programmes.

I don’t swear [at least not so anyone can hears me]

I do …. I don’t


We use this same list to judge other people too. And if people don’t fit neatly into our box of what we think a Christian should be then they can’t possibly be Christian. Legalism is a curse that has plagued the church from its early days – and it is something we must constantly fight against.


But when our Christian faith is not vital and living it easily degenerates into leagalism.

ILLUS.: Like the student who can to his teacher one day and asked, “Do you want us to just memorise this or do we need to understand it?”


Jesus doesn’t want us to follow him in a mechanical way by sterile compliance to a list of commands. We need to respond to God as Jesus did when he said. “I always do those things that please him” [John 8v29] Jesus certainly did not do this to gain salvation. Keeping God’s commands is a spiritual response to the new life we have received.

It was part of Christ’s nature to be obedient to God – We too are to reflect the nature of God because we have become partakers of the divine nature.


Knowing God in not just ommitting to do what is evil  – I don’t lie, steal, cheat…..- BUT it is positively doing what is good. This negative test doesn’t prove that you are alive towards God – Dead people don’t lie, steal or cheat either!!


You can be negative without being positive BUT you can never be positive without reflecting the negative When you are keeping God’s commands you will not lie, steal or cheat.


ILLUS.: In order for and electric motor to rum you need both positive and negative it is only because of the attraction and repulsion of positive and negetive currents that motion occurs.


Positive obedience to God means negative abstinance from evil. As we turn to God we turn away from evil and sin.

So to claim “knowledge of God” yet at the same time to be disobedient to his commands renders such a person a liar.


1.2. Obedience is characterised by following Christ’s word.


READ v5.


Verses 4 & 5 are saying a very similar thing but with a slightly different emphasis. It would be easy, as we have already seen, to fall into the trap of legalistic adherence to a list of commands.


Jesus does not want us to be like computers that simply respond to to a series of commands so that if a certain button is pressed we will mechanically respond.


ILLUS.: When we raise our children we are constantly giving commands. “Pick your socks up,  brush your teeth, don’t waste food … etc ”  We want them to obey but we also want them to eventually do these things because they recognise the value of them. It is wasteful and messy to drop your jelly on the floor. BUT we hope that when they are 20 they will have internalised these things and they will have become a way of life.


Knowledge of God is not a vague, abstract, esoteric experience RATHER knowledge of God expresses itself in concrete ways.

For example, love and service for others, worship, prayer, hospitality etc… {ASK!}


Knowledge of God and obedience to God are very closely related to each other.

NOT knowing God does not imply intellectual inadequacy but rather it points to a moral failure and a lack of faithfulness and obedience to God.

The emphasis in knowing God is on a relationship with him not on intellect. There are many brilliant intellectuals in the world who know nothing of God YET a simple illiterate peasant can know God intimately.


We can’t claim to know God and then not walk in obedience to him.

What does it mean when John says “…. God’s love is made complete/ perfected in him [the believer]…”

Is it possible for a Christian to be perfect – to exhibit perfect love – The idea of sinless perfection would contradict what John has already said. [John has already criticised those who claimed this  – see 1v8 & 10] It is because we do sin that we need an “advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one” [2v1].

It is not that we become morally perfect BUT rather that as we obey his word and his commands we are living out our lives as an expression of God’s love.


God’s love is of the giving kind – it is a love that seeks the benefit of others – it is the kind of love that God showed in giving his son to be the saviour of the world.


When we are living in this way we know that we are IN HIM. We have a relationship with him – this kind of relationship is not possible unless you are obeying his word – and if you are obeying his word then you can be confident that you know God.


So to have assurance that we do know God we don’t analyse our feelings but we obey his word.


Now to make the point clear John gives the third part of the test.


1.3.  Obedience is characterised by following Christ’s example.


READ v6.


The perfect expression of love for God is found in Jesus Christ. The danger is that we look at Jesus and say “We can’t do that so we won’t even try!” BUT I don’t think that John is asking us to do exactly what Jesus did. We can’t be sinless nor can our death save anyone.


Our lives are to reflect the life of Jesus. “…. He went around doing good ..”[Acts 10v38]. When Jesus washed the disciples feet he said “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” [John 13v15]


We need to reflect on what we say and do – how we think, pray, spend time and money, how we treat our spouses, co-workers, children , neighbours …..


To walk as Jesus walked — his primary allegiance was to God — Is ours???

2. LOVING: [v7-11]


The thing about being a christian is that it is very practical – or at least it should be! Our response to God is personal  Jesus loves me, he died for me, he saved me BUT the Christian life is not just Jesus and me!! The Christian life is Jesus and me and the community of the saints.


We all have an obligation of love which we owe to each other in obedience to the command of Jesus. I can’t live in isolation and do my own thing! nor can you!! Whether we like it or not we belong to each other and to the wider community of God’s people.


John reminds the people to whom he is writing that this command to walk as Jesus walked is not new – They would have been familiar with John’s teaching.


2.1. The ever-new old command.


READ v7-8.


Before Jesus came the religious people judged spirituality by the keeping of the Law but Jesus introduced a new test – LOVE.


In John 15v12 Jesus said ” .. love each other as I have love you …”

In Jn 13v34 “.. by this shall all men know that you are my discipes if you show love for one another.”

Jn. 15v13 “..  greater love has no one than this than that a man lay down his life for his friends”


This command was new when Jesus gave it but now it is no longer new they had heard in when they first heard the message of the gospel.


YET this message is always new – its newness is shown in the fact that it is being fulfilled in a way which had not happened previously.

The picture is of a dark world where the light is beginning to shine and to drive back the darkness.

The light comes by the love of God being spread abroad in the world – This is seen in Christ to the extent that it is seen in the Christian and the Christian community – the church.


Jesus said “I am the light of the world”  John said in ch.1 “God is light” There is no other light – and where there is no light there is darkness – and there is no other way to get rid of the darkness than to bring light into it.


And wherever the gospel is preached and God saves people the light dawns and is ever new. If the Church of Jesus Christ really believes that he is the only true light then she should be seeking by all means to spread that light throughout the world. Failing to do that is failing to obey ALL his commands.


Continuing the theme of love while at the same time contrasting it with hate John now makes a very practical point.


2.2 Claim and conduct must be consistent. [v.9-11]


READ vv9-11.


Again we must put these verses in the context of John’s readers  The were those who claimed to be enlightened – these were the same ones who claimed to live in God [v6] and who claimed to know him [v4]. These were the one who had disrupted the fellowship by leaving and their very actions showed that the did not love the body of Christ – therefore they hated it.


Jesus commanded unity and love for one another and by breaking fellowship those who left had acted hatefully toward the body.


By rejecting the light people choose to walk in darkness – and choosing to walk in darkness is a terrible thing:


Listen to Jesus speaking in John 12 v35 ff:

Then Jesus told them “you are going to have the light just a little bit longer

Walk while you have the light. The man who walks in the dark does not know

where he is going. Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you

may become sons of light.


BUT after they had seen Jesus work and heard him speak they still refused to believe so he warns ::

Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence they still would not believe in him. This was to fufill the word of the prophey Isaiah :

“Lord, who has believed our message and

 to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”

For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere:

“He has blinded their eyes and deadened

their hearts, so they can neither see with

their eyes, nor understand with their hearts,

nor turn – and I would heal them.


A person who lives in the dark can’t see where they are going nor do they know where they are going – they are directionless and purposeless.


And when a person claims to be a Christian and yet causes division in the body and hates their fellow believers they are in fact in the darkness – and the tragedy is that often the don’t know it.


We must remember that when we do something to hurt a fellow chiristian we are hurt Christ – the church is his bride and he loved her enough to die for her and we dare not willfully harm that body nor any member of it.


ILLUS.: Is there any thing in your relationships with other Christians that is not right and you know it — What are you doing about it?? are you angry, jealous, resentful, holding a grudge, gossiping about some-one.


RATHER look for ways to show love — It is only as we walk in the light as he is in the light that we have fellowship with one another and if there is anything in our lives hindering that fellowship we can confess it to God and if necessacry put it right with our brother or sister in the confidence that if we confess our sins he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.


It is out of fellowship with each other that we take the light to the world.




How can I know that I know God??

If your assurance about knowing God depends on your feelings then you will never be sure because those feelings come and go. In times of discouragement and crisis you will be plagued by doubt and uncertainity BUT there will be no anchor / foundation because your feelings have moved.


If our  *focus is on God and

*the direction and tenor of our lives is to follow him

*sure in the knowledge of what he has done for us

*and that our obedience is not the means of salvation but a response to it

*when our goal is to love others and to do for others

then we can know that we know God.


Assurance does not come by us sitting around hoping for it but rather as one writer put it “Assurance does not grow like a hot-house plant, pampered in an even temperature and sheltered from every puff of wind! It is an outdoor species, meant to flourish in the ever-changing weather conditions of the world!” [J C P Cockerton]


Thomas Brooks wrote “Though no man merits assuance by his obedience, yet God usually crowns obedience with assurance


Obey his commands

Obey his word

Let your life reflect Christ’s

Love your fellow believers

Then you can KNOW that you KNOW God!!


I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able

to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day


Blessed assurance Jesus is Mine ….


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