23 And this is His commandment, That we should believe upon the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, as He gave us commandment. 24 And he that keeps His commandments dwells in Him, and He in him. Now hereby we know that He dwells in us, by the Spirit which He has given us.1 John 3:23-24
As this line of argument comes to a close, John puts a nail in timidity’s coffin. Here is the command we are to keep. A command which is uncomfortably simple to both the self-righteous and the self-pitying. But this command is a deep comfort to the feeblest of saints: believe in Jesus, and love one another (v23); and then trust that you rest in Him as He abides in you.
John’s argument (in vv20-21) is a decision making flowchart of sorts. Does your heart condemn you? If, yes? God is greater than your heart. Now, in light of that, does your heart condemn you no more? Good, then say your prayers (v22).
To come to God in prayer is to come to Him by the Son, by the Intercessor. Only a fool would try to come before God in order to pull off a heist; as if he could dupe God by coming in any other way than by the Son. When God’s greatness is displayed in Jesus Christ manifested in the flesh, prayer becomes like the no-doubt 3-pointer. We pray “Thy Kingdom come”, and we are certain that near and far, in our heart and in our homes, from shore to shore Christ is King and shall be exalted in all the earth. Who could pray such a bold prayer unless that had certainty that the Father would hear & answer such prayers?
This might feel like a curious point that is being made. The text asserts (in v22) a certainty of receiving our requests, and it grounds this certainty in the fact that “we keep His commands, and do those things which are pleasing in His sight.” At first this sets us Protestants ill-at-ease. Sounds like works-righteousness. But this is to miss the simple point John is making. He answers this objection immediately in verses 23-24. God’s commandment is to believe in Jesus, and love the brethren. Once again it is made abundantly clear for even the feeblest saint, our confidence towards God is on the basis of faith in Christ alone. ”Faith alone” should be the key signature of our prayers.
Faith looks to Jesus. Assurance of grace flows from looking, it is not the prerequisite of the looking. Looking comes first, the seeing comes after. The effectual call of the Spirit begets the faith described in verse 23, giving us grace to respond to the Gospel call in true faith. This then leads to the assurance that we dwell in Christ, and therefore that the Spirit of Christ dwells in us.
In all of this, it should be kept in mind that the way to find assurance of grace is not to hunt after the assurance itself. As if it was left in some box down in the cellar. Rather, it is found by looking to Christ in faith. Believe on the name of God’s Son Jesus, and then love one another as He commanded. If you trust in Christ alone, and are eager to love those whom God has commanded you to love (both your brother and your enemy) this is, in part, the means which God has given of growing the grace of assurance in the heart.
- 1 John 5:20-21 | We Know
- 1 John 5:16-19 | The Sin Unto Death
- 1 John 5:13-15 | Big Prayers
- 1 John 5:9-12 | God on the Stand
- 1 John 5:6-8 | The Threefold Witness
- 1 John 5:1-5 | Swept Up Into Victory
- 1 John 4:17-21 | Bold Sons & Fearful Slaves
- 1 John 4:11-16 | The Offensive Love of God
- 1 John 4:7-10 | God is Love
- 1 John 4:4-6 | Overcoming Swarms of Devils