May 15 – Understanding Our Goal

He who says He abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.

1 John 2:6

The Christian life is simply the process of pursuing Christ’s likeness, theologically described as sanctification. Jesus said, “Follow Me,” and that simple command has not been replaced or improved on. Following Christ involves learning from Him so we can be like Him (Luke 6:40). Romans 8:29 says God saved us so that we can become “conformed to the image of His Son.” Therefore, our one pursuit is to become more and more like Christ.

Now some people may argue that glorifying God or evangelizing the lost are more important priorities. But being like Christ glorifies God, and if we are like Christ we can’t help but reach out to others. After all, He came “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). All that is needed in the Christian life will flow out of a pursuit of Christlikeness.[1]

Conclusion (v. 6)

This conclusion also comes to Christians living in our own time. Do we say we are Christians? Then “whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” The call is to emulate Jesus in our conduct. “Earlier,” as Calvin said, “he had set the light of God before us as an example. Now he calls us also to Christ, to imitate him. Yet he does not simply exhort us to the imitation of Christ, but, from the union we have with him, proves we should be like him.”

To walk as Christ walked is to live, not by rules, but by an example. It is to follow him, to be his disciple. Such a discipleship is personal, active, and costly. It is personal because it cannot be passed off to another. Indeed, we are to find ourselves with Christ, as Peter did following the resurrection. Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?” When Peter replied, “Yes,” he was told, “Feed my sheep.” This was repeated three times, and it began to irritate Peter. So to escape Christ’s careful probing, he turned to John, the beloved disciple, who was apparently standing some distance away, and asked, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus replied, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!” In other words, there was no escaping the call to a personal discipleship for Peter.

To walk as Christ walked is also active because the Lord himself is active. To be inactive is to be left behind.

Finally, it is costly as well, because the path that Jesus walked is the path to crucifixion. It leads to glory, but before that it leads to the cross. Such a path can be walked only by the one who has died to self and who has deliberately taken up the cross of Christ to follow him.

Such a one, whether in John’s day or our own, will always have confidence before God and will be sure that he knows him. Here Dodd concludes most perceptively,

In this passage our author is not only rebutting dangerous tendencies in the Church of his time, but discussing a problem of perennial importance, that of the validity of religious experience. We may have the feeling of awareness of God, of union with him, but how shall we know that such experience corresponds to reality? It is clear that no amount of clearness or strength in the experience itself can guarantee its validity, any more than the extreme vividness of a dream leads us to suppose that it is anything but a dream. If, however, we accept the revelation of God in Christ, then we must believe that any experience of God which is valid has an ethical quality defined by what we know of Christ. It will carry with it a renewed fidelity to his teaching and example. The writer does not mean that only those who perfectly obey Christ and follow his example can be said to have experience of God. That would be to affirm the sinlessness of Christians in a sense which he has repudiated. But unless the experience includes a setting of the affections and will in the direction of the moral principles of the Gospel, it is no true experience of God, in any Christian sense.

There is more to be said, of course, as Dodd also indicates. In fact, more is to be said in the verses following, but thus far the test of one’s experience holds. By the test of righteousness we may know that we know God and may assure our hearts before him.[2]

The Test Exemplified

the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. (2:6)

The only person who can pass the test of obedience and realize full assurance is the one who … abides in Him—because Jesus Christ is the perfect role model for obeying the Father. In John 15:4–5 Jesus commanded,

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (cf. vv. 10–11)

Believers draw spiritual life from the Lord Jesus Christ, even as branches do from a vine. To abide in Christ is to remain in Him—not a temporary, superficial attachment, but a permanent, deep connection (cf. Luke 9:23; John 6:53–65; Phil. 1:6; 2:11–13). Such authentic abiding in the Savior characterizes those who “continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that [they] have heard” (Col. 1:23; cf. 2:7; Eph. 3:17), because they are truly regenerate—new creatures who possess irrevocable eternal life.

John made it perfectly clear that those who claim to abide in Christ must walk in the same manner as He walked. Walk is a metaphor for daily conduct by believers (1:7; John 8:12; 12:35; Rom. 6:4; 8:4; 1 Cor. 7:17; 2 Cor. 5:7; Gal. 5:16; Eph. 2:10; 4:1; 5:2, 8; Col. 1:10; 2:6; 1 Thess. 2:12; 4:1; 2 John 6; cf. Mark 7:5). The Lord Himself perfectly exemplified this principle during His earthly ministry. In every way He obeyed His Father’s will:

“For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” (John 6:38)

“And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.” (John 8:29)

“For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.” (John 10:17–18)

“So that the world may know that I love the Father, I do exactly as the Father commanded Me.” (John 14:31)

Obviously, believers’ obedience will not be perfect, as Jesus’ was. Nonetheless, He established the perfect pattern they are to follow. If anyone claims to know Him and abide in Him, it will be evident in his life. He will walk in the light—in the realm of truth and holiness—and guard (obey) His commandments because of his passionate love for the truth and the Lord of the truth. Therein lies the key to real assurance of salvation.[3]

6 While the language of this verse is grammatically similar to that of v. 4, it seems John is now offering a maxim to validate the two tests in vv. 4–5. While v. 3 focused on the need to obey Jesus’ teaching, v. 6 emphasizes the need to live by his example. The person who claims to remain in Jesus “ought to walk just as he walked” (NIV, “must walk as Jesus did”), meaning that the true believer’s life will be patterned after the example of Jesus.

The maxim in v. 6 describes the person who “claims to live in him.” The Greek word menō (NIV, “live”; GK 3531) is a key term in Johannine thought. Menō literally means “remain,” “stay,” or “abide,” and John sometimes uses the term in this general sense to imply endurance or durability (cf. Rensberger, 62–63). He warns believers, for example, to “see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you” in the face of the threat of the Antichrists (2:24) and tells the “chosen lady” that “the truth which remains in us will be with us forever” (2 Jn 2; NIV, “the truth, which lives in us …”).

Other passages indicate that menō is a codeword for several key points in Johannine theology. It is frequently used in the fourth gospel to describe “the relationship of mutual indwelling of the Father, the Son, and the believer” (W. L. Kynes, “Abiding,” in Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, ed. Joel Green et al. [Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1992], 2). The Father abides in Jesus, empowering his work (Jn 14:10), and will also abide in those who love Jesus and obey his teaching (14:23). The disciples, in turn, must abide in Jesus, apparently meaning that they must live by his word in order to maintain their relationship with him. It is through this process of mutual indwelling that Jesus gives believers life and power to accomplish his work (15:4–9). This special relationship gives an eschatological dimension to Christian experience. Those who remain with Jesus faithfully throughout their lives will “abide [NIV, live] forever” because they have escaped from the world and its desires (1 Jn 2:17). First John 2:6 highlights the ethical obligation that follows from this relationship: if we truly abide in Jesus, this will be evident in the way we live our lives. All those who do not live this way “abide in death” (1 Jn 3:14; NIV, “remain in death”).[4]

[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 152). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

[2] Boice, J. M. (2004). The Epistles of John: an expositional commentary (pp. 49–50). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[3] MacArthur, J. (2007). 1, 2, 3 John (pp. 59–60). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[4] Thatcher, T. (2006). 1 John. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, pp. 437–438). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.


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