1 John 3: 11-24 – The World of the Text, Part Two

This week in our Rooted in Christ readings, we will be looking at 1 John 3: 11-24, but today we’ll specifically be looking at verses 18-24:

18 Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. 19 And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him 20 whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21 Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; 22 and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24 All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us.

rootedchristThis text draws and early and interesting parallel words. We are told that we are not to love not with words or speech, but love with truth and action.  What is interesting to me, when you look at the Greek of this passage see a linkage between word/speech and truth/action. Words in this context produce speech, but truth produces action.  So, if one is lead by truth, that truth will produce action in one’s life. What is that action we are speaking about?  The love that we see within this text.  Love is the action that is produced by truth.  What is truth?  As John’s Gospel tells us, truth is not a concept, but it is a person, Jesus Christ.  He is the way, the truth, and the life.  If our lives are grounded in truth (Jesus) that truth will produce action (love).

John speaks in this passage about “conscience” a fair amount.   The conscience is considered to be the center of being, the center of the emotion and the will.  There really isn’t a great English translation of this word or concept, but it is understood in many ways as “who you are.”  So we here that when “who we are” condemns us, God is greater than that.  The word condemn in this context has legal or forensic connotations, and in this context refers to the believer’s self-condemnation resulting from a guilty conscience concerning sin.  We are being told that God’s grace and mercy is greater than our self-condemnation.

We told that we obey His commandment and we are told specifically what that commandment is – we believe in Jesus and love as he commanded us.  The word belief here is not merely the concept of intellectual belief it is a sense of trust with one’s whole being.  To believe in Jesus not to just “believe” that is He is who he says He is, it is to trust Him with all that you are.  Belief in this context is not intellect, it is one’s life.

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