Meditations in 1 John : 43 : The Twofold Command
1 John 3:23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.
Remember our comments about context: they are here again. In the previous verses John wrote, “we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.” (v.21,22). Thus now he writes, “And this is his command” just in case any reader or listener might ask, so what commands is he talking about? Well the answer to that is really for us now, all the commands of the New Testament but for them then, before the New Testament had come into being, John gives us this shorthand answer, and it is in two parts.
The first part is “to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ.” This is THE fundamental heart of Christianity and without it, it is impossible to become and be a Christian. It’s all about Jesus. It is about believing that he came as a little baby, that he grew up as a human being, and yet was God! He showed this by the life he lived and his three year ministry, mostly in the area ofGalilee, but his teaching, by his claims, by his miracles and by his healings.
On the day of Pentecost the apostle Peter preached, “Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him.” (Acts 2:22) and then, “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:36) Jesus summed up his own ministry: “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor,” (Mt 11:5) and later said, “Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, `I am God’s Son’? Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” (Jn 10:36-38) The works of Jesus’ ministry declared to all who had eyes to see, that he was God’s Son.
But then he was arrested, falsely tried and was crucified and died – and then three days later was alive again. That was the crucial message that came again and again in the early preaching in Acts: “This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead.” (Acts 2:23,24) and “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact.” (Acts 2:32) and then later, “You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.” (Acts 3:15) and then to the Gentiles, “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen.” (Acts 10:39,40) These are the foundational facts about what happened to Jesus.
But then there is the meaning behind them: “you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Mt 1:21) and “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn 1:29) and “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” (Acts 2:28) and “God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel.” (Acts 5:31) and “All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” (Acts 10:43) and “I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.” (Acts 13:38) and “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins.” (Eph 1:7) and “he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Col 1:13,14).
The fact that we have been forgiven our sins because of the work of Jesus on the Cross, now means that we can be reconciled to God, restored to a relationship with Him: “For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Rom 5:10,11) and “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor 5:18-21). There it all is: we are reconciled to God because our sins have been forgiven because Christ who had no sin, took all our sin on himself on the Cross.
This is what John means when he says, “And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ”. It is all there in the New Testament, and this is the Gospel we are called upon to believe. Amen?