Tuesday, 17 March 2020
Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. 1 John 2:3
1 John 2:3 is a boilerplate verse for those who hold to the Hebrew Roots movement to say that Christians are obligated to obey the Law of Moses. This is not only incorrect, but it is a heretical doctrine. To first understand this, the issue of the law being ended must first be addressed. Speaking of the Law of Moses, the author of Hebrews says –
“For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness, 19 for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.” Hebrews 7:18, 19
“In that He says, ‘A new covenant,’ He has made the first obsolete.” Hebrews 8:13
“He takes away the first that He may establish the second.” Hebrews 10:9
Likewise, Paul says of the Law –
“having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” Colossians 2:14
These are a mere smattering of the teachings which clearly show that the Law of Moses is done and over. Thus, John cannot be speaking of it in this verse. Further, Paul’s words of 1 Corinthians 7:19 clearly show this –
“Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters.”
Paul says that circumcision is nothing. Rather, he says that believers in Christ are to keep “the commandments of God.” However, circumcision is a commandment of the Law of Moses (see Leviticus 12:3). Therefore, Paul and John cannot be speaking of the Law of Moses. In theology, 1+1 will always equal 2.
Understanding this, John begins this verse with, “Now by this we know that we know Him.” It is an anticipatory statement. John is saying, “We can know that we know God in this way.” The word “Him” is speaking of God (and Jesus is God, so the thought is inclusive of Him), as is evidenced in speaking of the Father in verse 2:2 and then later of “God” in verse 2:5. And the way that we can know we know God is “if we keep His commandments.”
If not the Law of Moses (which is clearly shown to be done away with), then what are the commandments of God? First and foremost, the answer is found in John 6:29 –
“Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.’”
Everything involved in the “commandments” of God falls under that overarching statement. Thus, the commandments given to us by Christ Jesus (who is God) are inclusive of everything that is given in this current dispensation to lead us to holiness and righteousness in Christ – faith, love, obedience towards the apostolic writings which reveal God’s intentions for us in Christ, and so forth. Like Paul, John never uses the Law of Moses to convey rules of Christian conduct or obedience.
This is the same thought as is spoken of by Paul in 1 Timothy 6:14 –
“that you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing.”
Paul had just told Timothy to flee evil and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. Summing that up, he then said for Timothy to “fight the good fight of faith.” This is the commandment of God that was expected of him, and it is the commandment that is expected of us.
Likewise, we read this from John’s gospel, and it was surely on his mind as he penned this epistle –
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34, 35
Life application: Not only is it taught in Hebrews and in Paul’s writings that the law is over, but the main discussion of the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 specifically dealt with Gentiles observing or not observing the Law of Moses – the decision was that they do not have to observe it. And again, the entire book of Galatians deals with this subject.
Of the Ten Commandments, those which we are obligated to observe are those repeated in the apostolic writings. Nine of the Ten Commandments are repeated, but observing the Sabbath Day isn’t. There is no requirement to observe the Feasts of the Lord, dietary restrictions, or any other tenet in the Law of Moses. The only requirements for believers are those found in the epistles which explain the New Covenant.
If you are confronted by someone who says you are obligated to observe the Law of Moses, tell them, “Hit the highway, heretic.”
Lord, give us wisdom and insight into the treasure of the New Testament which reveals the New Covenant that came at such a high cost. May we never fall from the grace found in Your work by going back to works of the law in an attempt to satisfy You. Rather, may we live in Your rest and trust in Your accomplishments alone for our justification. Amen.