By the Spirit
“Whoever keeps his commandments abides in him, and he in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us” (1 John 3:23–24)
For the past few days we have been discussing the issue of assurance and the confidence we can have before the face of God. Those who reassure their hearts by exercising brotherly love and clinging to the promises of God will find confidence to come before the Lord in prayer (1 John 3:19–21). Moreover, this confidence will move us to pray confidently, expecting to receive whatever we ask because we do what pleases Him (v. 22). Being obedient to God, however, does not force Him to respond, even though God does promise to bless those who do His will (Deut. 28:1–14). Rather, the obedient pray God’s will and thus their requests are granted.
Having told us that those who keep God’s commandments have their requests granted, today’s passage again tells us that these commandments are to love one another and to believe in the name of the Son (1 John 3:23). These two commandments summarize God’s will for us. If we believe in the name of the Son and have love for one another, we will honor God properly, maintain fidelity and chastity, and do everything else commanded in the law of Christ. John’s teaching is perfectly in line with Jesus’ own summary of the Law as the love of God and neighbor (Matt. 22:34–40), for if Jesus is the Son of God, belief in Him is part of loving the triune Creator.
First John 3:24 speaks of assurance again by reminding us that whoever keeps these commandments abides in Jesus just as Jesus abides in him. Obedience to God’s will is again given as a way to measure the authenticity of our salvation. However, verse 24 tells us that in addition to this more quantifiable test of our profession, we also have the internal testimony of the Spirit to assure us. All Christians have received the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit who testifies with our spirit that we are the children of God (Rom. 8:16). This testimony can be distinguished from the outward tests of personal holiness, belief in the incarnation, and love, but it cannot be separated from them. Its inclusion at the end of a passage that alludes to all three shows us that the internal witness of the Spirit will always be confirmed by these outward evidences.
It is very important that we never isolate the work of the Spirit from the other evidences of salvation. Even though we may say the work of the Spirit is foundational to our assurance, oftentimes the way we become convinced we have the Spirit is through a life of genuine love for other believers and a concern for holiness. If you doubt the presence of the Spirit in your life, look for these evidences and ask the Lord to help you understand His indwelling presence today.
Passages for Further Study
Isa. 32:9–20, Ezek. 37:1–14, Eph. 4:30, 1 Thess. 4:7–8