The Expository Files

“We Can KNOW That We Are Saved”

1 John

The Hebrew writer tells us (Heb. 3:12-14) “Take care, brethren, lest there should be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart, in falling away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called "Today," lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end;...”

This article is to get those in the Lord’s church (Christians) to examine themselves and to then have confidence in their salvation. Too many in the Lord’s church, however, feel that it would be almost blasphemous to say, “I am saved....If I die right now I KNOW THAT I WILL GO TO HEAVEN.” But didn’t God tell us through the Hebrew writer that we should “hold fast” to our “assurance?” Didn’t Paul admonish us to, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you -- unless indeed you fail the test?” (2 Cor. 13:5)

Our “test” is really a test of “fellowship.” If we are in fellowship with God then we are saved. Our test is not one to see how perfectly we are following the rules. If that were the case we would indeed be saved by “law keeping.” We need to know if we are in fellowship with God, not the brethren. Though they go hand in hand, too many Christians are more worried about their fellowship with the church than with Christ.

The book of 1 John is about just that......”fellowship.” 1 John 1:1-7 “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we beheld and our hands handled, concerning the Word of Life -- and the life was manifested, and we have seen and bear witness and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us-- what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, that you also may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write, so that our joy may be made complete. And this is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” This passage tells us that if we have FELLOWSHIP Christ, we have FELLOWSHIP with each other. Those that enjoy that FELLOWSHIP also are “cleansed by the blood of Christ.”

The rest of chapter 1 tells us that keeping that FELLOWSHIP is based upon our “walk.” (The way we live.) This is where people “shrink back” and wonder, “but how do I know if I am GOOD ENOUGH?” That is exactly what the book of 1 John is about! YOU CAN KNOW!! No less than 18 times John says, “we know.” The book is about “fellowship” and John tells us “we can KNOW” about that fellowship. It is placed as one of the last books in God’s holy writ because we are to have confidence in this wonderful “fellowship” that God allows us mortals to have with Him.

If we strive to keep His commands!

In 2:3-6 John tells us, “And by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.” Did you catch that John is talking about our fellowship with God is based upon KEEPING HIS COMMANDMENTS. Jesus tells us the same thing about this fellowship in John 14:15 & 15:10.In 2:29 John continues, “If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him.

In 3:4-8 he tells us again that we know that in Him there is no sin and that, “no one who abides in Him sins.” We are not being told, discouragingly, that since we are not without sin we cannot have fellowship with Him. But we are being told that the manner of living of those who have fellowship with Him is to strive to live apart from sin. The rest of this passage (v7-8) expresses that it is our “practice” that determines whether we are “righteous” or not.

In 3:24 John also says, “And the one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And we know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.”

If we strive to know the truth!

It is not enough to just “Strive to keep His commands” as stated above. We must also strive to know what the will of the Lord is. In 2 Thess. 2:7-10 Paul said that the wrath of God was going to be poured out on those who were deceived because they did not “love the truth.” Many of our friends in the denominational world “love Jesus,” but they do not “love the truth so as to be saved.”

In 1 John 2:18-24 John said, “Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have arisen; from this we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, in order that it might be shown that they all are not of us. But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know. I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth. Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also. As for you, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father.” John said that he is writing to these Christians because they (we) know the truth. It appears from this context more than a casual acquaintance with the truth. They embraced it. There were liars who left “the apostles teaching.” But those who loved the truth were still “hanging in there.”In 4:6 John says, “We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” If you have fellowship with God, you listen to Him through the apostles teaching.

If we embrace our hope!

But even if we “Strive to keep His commands,” and “Strive to know the truth,” as stated above, there is still more.In 3:1-3 John also tells us, “See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.

Concerning this “hope” the Hebrew writer tells us, “In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, in order that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we may have strong encouragement, we who have fled for refuge in laying hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” (Heb 6-17-20) John said....And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.

If we love the brethren!

It is not enough to “Strive to keep His commands” and “Strive to know the truth” and to “Embrace our hope.” Because John also said, “Do not marvel, brethren, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”We can do everything else, but if we do not love the brethren we have given up our right to the fellowship we have with Him. How can we say we are in fellowship with Him but not with His “offspring?” When we sever our relationship with a brother or sister in Christ we sever our relationship with Him as well.

In 3:18-19 John, again, assures us: “ Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. We shall know by this that we are of the truth, and shall assure our heart before Him....” And in 4:13-16 we are told how loving our brethren affects our fellowship with Him. “By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. And we have beheld and bear witness that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. And we have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” And in vv19-21, We love, because He first loved us. If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.” We might think, “he/she doesn’t deserve my love”...or ...”If you only knew what he/she did to me,” ...or...”It is up to them to come to me; It was all their fault.” And all that may even be true. But, We love, because He first loved us. We didn’t deserve it; if people only knew what all we had done; it was all our fault.

Our fellowship is broken with Christ if we don’t strive to keep His commands. Our fellowship with Christ is broken if we don’t strive to know the truth. Our fellowship is broken with Christ when we give up on that hope that is such a part of our salvation, And our fellowship with Christ is broken if we choose to not love our brethren. But John is not writing to discourage us. At the very beginning he tells us, “And these things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.” He isn’t just speaking of the apostles... but believers.It is joyful to KNOW that if you are striving to do His will, and you are striving to know the truth, and you have not lost sight of your hope, and you love the brethren... you can KNOW that your fellowship is with God, His Son, and all others who are in fellowship with them.

By David Beck
From Expository Files 6.4; April 1999