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APOSTOLIC FATHERS Lightfoot

1 John 3:23–24 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24 And the one who keeps his commandments remains in him, and he in him. And by this we know that he resides in us: by the Spirit whom he has given to us.

What commands must we obey if we are to be fruitful in prayer? We must believe in Jesus and love one another. These two ideas stem from the same attitude of the heart, and John sees them as one command. To do one is to do the other. Those who obey God’s commands live in him, or abide in him. Similarly, John 15 links abiding with obeying (15:9–10).

The way we can know that he lives in us is by the Spirit he gave us. There are several views on this passage.

  1. The Charismatic View. This view sees reference here to the charismatic gifts, such as gifts of prophecy, healing, etc. (The NIV Application Commentary, 171). Since the letter is devoid of other clear references, this seems unlikely.
  2. The Inner Witness View. This view says the Holy Spirit gives us an inner conviction, an inner assurance that we are true Christians. This also seems unlikely, since this would play into the hands of the antichrists who taught that secret, inner knowledge was the sign of divine enlightenment.
  3. The Life Witness View. This phrase looks forward to what John is going to say—not back to what he has said. First John gives four tests of true Christianity: (1) moral character, (2) love of the brethren, (3) obedience to God’s commands, and (4) confession that Jesus is God in the flesh. Immediately after John mentioned the Spirit which God gave us, he launched into a serious warning not to trust just any spirit, but to test the spirits. He suggested a threefold test:
  • Doctrine: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God (4:2).
  • Love: Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God (4:7).
  • Obedience: This is love for God: to obey his commands (5:3).

The Holy Spirit produces doctrinal purity, love for the brethren, and a spirit of obedience to God’s commands. When we see these three things, we can be confident that he lives in us. They are the unmistakable signs of the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives.

Those who love God must live as he wants them to live. They must not go on sinning; rather, they must love their brothers in Christ not just in words but also in deeds.

By David Walls and Max Anders

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