Clearly, faith is the means to salvation and the seven “by this we know” statements John makes in I John are the result of salvation. The non-Christian is incapable of truly living out God’s high standards. I will elaborate on each one later but we see in I John the results of true faith in Christ.
- I John 2:3 the true Christian keeps God’s commandments
- I John 2:5 the true Christian lives in obedience
- I John 2:18 the true Christian is faithful to God and not the world
- I John 3:24 the true Christian’s identity is in Christ
- I John 4:6 the true Christian discerns truth and error
- I John 4:13 the true Christian walks in the Spirit
- I John 5:2 the true Christian loves the brethren
Does this mean that the true Christian will fulfill each one of these characteristics perfectly as a demonstration that he is a true Christian? No. Remember, John said, “I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And, if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” I do believe that the demonstration of true Christianity will be a life that consistently fulfills these characteristics. Keep in mind, these characteristics are not the means to salvation, faith is, they are the result of salvation. A life that consistently rejects these characteristics is a life of a non-Christian that has not placed his faith in Christ and therefore is not in true fellowship with God.
When one accepts the atoning sacrifice of Christ, he enters into a relationship with God. They now have fellowship with God. John said that he wants us to have fellowship with him because he has fellowship with the Father and with Jesus. (I John 1:3). What we see here this is that we not only have fellowship with God through our saving relationship, we have fellowship with all believers. John’s heart was for others to have fellowship with God in the way he has fellowship with God.
Apart from fellowship with God, we cannot walk in the manner He desires us to walk. Through our fellowship with Him, He gives us that ability. Jesus said in John 15:5, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” If we abide in Christ, have fellowship with Him, we will bear much fruit. If we do not abide in Christ, we can do nothing.
I John 1:5-6 says, “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.” In other words, if we say we have fellowship with God yet we are walking in a way that is contrary to Him we are not practicing the truth. This is a demonstration that we do not have true fellowship with God. Then John said in I John 1:7,” 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.” In other words, if we are walking in a way that is consistent with who He is we are demonstrating that we have fellowship with God. We walk in the Light only because God is Light and we are walking with Him. If we are not walking with Him, we cannot walk in the Light, for He is the Light.
As we examine these seven characteristics of a true Christian, we need to keep in mind that we have these characteristics only because of our salvation in Christ. They are a demonstration that we have fellowship with God and are therefore walking in the Light. Apart from our fellowship with God we cannot, and will not have these characteristics. By faith, we are saved and by faith, we walk in the Light. By faith, we know that God is at work in our lives giving to us the ability to walk in Him.