Verses 5b-6: The Second Test
This is how we know we are in him: 6 Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.
The apostle John loves using repetition to build and clarify his points. So in this way, what we’re calling his second test is really a continuation of the first test in 2:3; whoever says they live in the Word of Life (1:1) must live as Jesus lived.
John’s second test scrutinizes the notion that anyone can live in Christ without living as Christ lived.
“The is how we know”: one of the founding principles of John’s apostolic doctrine is that we can verify the reality of eternal life in us now. We can know whether or not we are in Christ because the effects of God’s love are real and change the course of our life.
Those who abide in eternal life do not live the way those who abide in death do.
“We are in him”: we must not let it escape our attention that the truth we seek to verify is our life in Christ. Do we know Christ and does his life fill ours?
John’s apostolic doctrine is teaching us to verify that the reality described in Ephesians is true in us:
Ephesians 1:3 – we are given every spiritual blessing in Christ.
Ephesians 1:4 – we are chosen in Christ to be holy and blameless before God in love.
Ephesians 1:5 – we are predestined in Christ to be the children of God.
Ephesians 1:7 – we have redemption in Christ from sin and death through his blood and grace.
Ephesians 1:9 – we have received the revelation of the mystery of God’s good will towards us in Christ.
Ephesians 1:10 – we are brought into the unity between all things in heaven and earth in Christ.
Ephesians 1:13 – we are sealed in Christ by the Holy Spirit
These amazing displays of God’s grace – each of which we could meditate on for a lifetime – are the baseline of what it means to be in Christ. These are the realities that exist in those who are in Christ.
“Whoever claims to live in him”: the person who claims to have these realities must live in them.
There are many who place their confidence in external things, but do not have the reality of Christ in them:
Matthew 7:22-23 (CSB) On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, drive out demons in your name, and do many miracles in your name?’ 23 Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you lawbreakers!’
My heart is remarkably grieved as I survey the spiritual landscape of the Church and I see many who profess faith in Christ presenting charismatic displays as the evidence that they are in Christ. But the reality of Christ’s life does not abide in them.
“Must live as Jesus did”: The spiritual heavenly blessings of Christ, our holiness in his love, our election as God’s children, our redemption from sin and death by his blood and grace, the revelation of God’s gospel-mystery, our unity in the Kingdom, and the seal of the Holy Spirit are all verified as true spiritual realities when we walk in the light of God’s love as Christ so walked.
One of the most tragic deceptions to take hold of the Church is the idea that one can have eternal life without walking in it; can the living walk in death? Can the dead walk in life? Those who have been made alive by Christ will walk in the light that Christ walked in, not as a means of making themselves come alive, but because Christ has made them come alive.