If you’ve been dwelling in the writings of Paul for awhile (such as reading my blog studies of Colossians), adjusting to John may take a bit of time. Remember, the Lord chose to write his word through the minds, the personalities, and the particularities of a wide variety of people over many centuries. We cannot read the various books of the Bible as if they were all the same flavor of vanilla.
[While I’m at it, let me comment, too, that studying whole books at a time, rather than a passage here or there, is of immense value. Again, it was the Lord’s choice to have the Bible written as a series of books. If that is God’s choice, it must be our choice to study book-by-book. To fail to do so is like saying to the Lord, “You didn’t do a very good job of designing and inspiring the Bible, so we’ll ust read it in the way that suits us.” Personally, I’m a bit afraid of telling the Lord he didn’t do well at something.]
So, in contrast to Paul, John rambles a great deal. We cannot know where the next verse is coming from or where it is headed. Yet he is very sharp – ideas we think he forgot to finish suddenly pop up again and, if we’ve been paying attention, we realize he has known all along just what he is doing.
John has just said that Jesus is the “atoning sacrifice,” the “propitiation” for our sins. Here he tells us how to be sure we know him. Is there any connection between those two thoughts? Yes, a very strong one. The implication is clear: Jesus is the Savior of those who know him. That is, in fact, just one part of a much larger idea: The promises of God are for the people of God. Somehow during the 20th century the church let the world slip into the idea that anyone can pray and expect God to deliver. I’ve met far too many non-believers who were angry at God (the very one they claimed not to believe exists) for not having answered some prayer in the past. They have thought that the relationship was supposed to be one-way, us asking and God giving. No, the promises of God are for the people of God.
Therefore, it is of extreme importance that we know that we know him, that we are each indeed numbered among the people of God. So, how do we know? The decisive evidence is simple: If we know him we obey him. John is not subtle here. Those who claim to know God but do not hold themselves to God’s standards (and, in my opinion, that includes a very large number of so-called evangelicals in our politicized day) are simply liars. The truth is simply not in such a person.
In those who do seek to live up to God’s expectations, who give themselves over to the Lord, become the very personification of God’s love.
The love of God has been or is being perfected in such a person. The word translated perfection is one of my favorites NT words. Unfortunately, I know of no English translation which takes it with the seriousness it deserves. The root form of the word is teleos, which means “in fulfillment of purpose or intention.” We are perfect when we live the way our Creator has intended. “You must be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
Sometimes translators choose the word “mature.” “ It is he whom we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone in all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ (Colossians 1:28).
The love of God reaches the fulfillment of God’s intentions when we are in harmony with all that he is asking of us. We are to “walk just as he [Jesus] walked.” That is, we are what God in his great love has intended when we walk in step with our Lord Jesus Christ.
It’s that simple. Right?