(1 John 2:3-6)
3 We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. 4 Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. 5 But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: 6 Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.
During my University days, I once heard a pastor who used a series of questions to get Sunday School kids to start thinking about the “make up” or substance of Christians. The dialogue proceeded as following:
Pastor: If you squeeze an Orange, what do you get?
Kids: Orange Juice
Pastor: If you squeeze an Apple, what do you get?
Kids: Apple Juice
Pastor: If you squeeze a Christian, what do you get?
Some playful kids will scream out “Blood” or other things to poke fun at the question but that pastor’s illustration was quite exquisite. What is the substance of a faithful Christian? What is the building block that makes up the identity of follower of Christ? As apple juice is squeezed out of an apple, what must be beneath the appearance of a Christian that constitutes a Christian Christian?
Surprisingly both the non-believing AND believing groups struggle with the answer. It is all the more surprising considering that without an answer to the question “What constitutes a Christian Christian”, there is no way of determining the life style of a Christian known as way of discipleship.
“4 Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person.”
1 John 2:4 testifies to this “Him” as an object to one’s knowing. This verse 4 is a condensed Gospel and assumes readers to be acquainted with the full version. Apostle John, the author of the epistle, claims that basic building block of a Christian starts with knowing “Him” (that is Christ.) The rest of the verse is a testimony to the life style of a believer. “Don’t tell me that you know Christ when you ignore his teaching!” is the claims of the apostle. With this, the apostle silently and sternly insists that “knowing” Christ entails “obeying” his teaching, which will require knowing Christ’s teaching in the first place – knowledge of which I think many believers of today lack.
5 But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him:
Verse 5 describes completion of our love for God in our obedience. The order is crucial in this case. The apostle’s claim is not that “Love God and obey him”, his claim is “Obey him and your love for Him will be complete”. This is a VERY practical command for struggling Christians or non-believers alike. With whatever love you might have for God, obey him. With that obedience God will complete your love for him. Stating the claim in different way is this: the more you obey the more you will love God.
6 Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.
Verse 6 contains assertive claim that exhibits the apostle’s desire to be done away with philosophic abstract ideas of discipleship (OR any other description of good doer’s life style). Believers do not pursue a life style that is so abstract and idealistic that no one can actually live out its teaching. Believers have hope — someone lived that life style of obedience which completed HIS love for God. This man was and is and will always be one and only true human covenant partner to God – Jesus of Nazareth. A Believer’s discipleship (or Christian life style) is thus following the example of the one who already lived such life style.
So we come back to the question “What is the make up of a Christian?”: According to Apostle John, a Christian starts his/her life with Christ, continues to obey the commands and teachings of the one who gave them new life and in turn is filled with love for God which will encourage his/her further obedience to the word. In few words, the answer is “Christ, Obedience and Love”