27 December 2012

1 John 2:3-11

"By this we may be sure that we are in him: whoever says, 'I abide in him', ought to walk just as he walked." (vv. 5b-6)


The first letter of John is usually agreed to be written by the same John who wrote the Gospel, who is generally known as one of the closest disciples to Jesus. The writing style and themes in the letter (light and darkness, love and hate) are very similar to those found in the Gospel.

In this passage John is determined to express how vital obedience is as a sign of belonging to Christ. He also communicates that obedience, although a sign of discipleship, is to be motivated by love rather than obligation. It is easy to misunderstand this and believe that it is the obedience that matters most, whereas faith in Christ requires relationship at its core. As John wrote this, he probably thought of the words of Christ he had recorded in his Gospel, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments" (John 14:15) and "Abide in me as I abide in you" (John 15:4). John holds this key theme - of the importance of 'abiding' in Christ - making our home in him, and allowing him to establish residence in us. Christ must become our lodging place, our foundation, our journey and as vital as our breathing. As we understand this we begin to see that obedience is not only the evidence of us belonging to Christ; it is the motive and the empowering force in all we are to do in his name.

The implications are very real for John, and he hopes to make them so for his readers. It is simply not possible, he argues, for a believer to be full of hate for a fellow Christian and to claim that they are in a relationship with Christ. There is an incompatibility of lifestyle which cannot coexist.

The passage ends with another one of John's images - that of darkness and light (verses 8-11). He points out that living in love with those around us causes us to walk in the light, whereas to hate is to stumble in the darkness.

To Ponder

  • Do you walk as Christ walked? In what ways?
  • Is love or obligation your motive for obeying Christ?
  • What will it mean this week for you to abide in Christ?