22and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. 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 Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.
I wanted to point out one particular word in this section: entole or commandment. This word is a key word in this apostle, being highlighted in three section: 2:3-8, 3:22-24, and 4:21-5:3. Let us reconsider what John says in chapter two:
1 John 2:3-8 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: 6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. 7 Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. 8 At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.
In this section John points to a commandment: one which is old but which is also new. As Ron pointed out, this commandment is the embodiment of Jesus and all of Jesus’ teachings. However, it is also important to recognize that John doesn’t really point to a particular commandment in the section. He merely identifies it as the word, or the word which you have heard. Therefore we see it as Jesus, and as the gospel: the center message of Christian faith.
But here in chapter 3, John actually says it in the form of a commandment. I would argue that we should also read the commandment that John offers here back into chapter 2. So what was the commandment: that we should believe in the name of Jesus Christ and love each other. In chapter 2, this is identified as the mark of the Christian and is the source of assurance. We know that we are believers because we believe in the name of Christ and love each other. In chapter 3, where John finally explicitly states the command, he is still making the same point.
Look, we are not supposed to have assurance based on some unknowable decree. That is not what Scripture says. Our assurance cannot be grounded on some high theological notion like that. We have assurance because we see the fruit of the Spirit and the fruit of Christ in our lives. The fruit is that we hear the word of Christ and we follow it, and that word is to believe in Christ and love one another.
If you are not believing in Christ and loving your fellow Christians, then you have no assurance, according to Scripture, no matter what your theology. But if you do truly believe in Christ, and you actively (for love is active in John) love your brothers and sisters in the Lord, you can know that the Spirit of God is in you, and that you are in Christ.
So be encouraged friends! You can know your salvation! You can be confident of that which Christ has done in you! So stand strong and sure knowing the great work of our Lord and God which you see manifest in your life through your devotion to Him, and your care for those around you. Be of good cheer, and good faith. And have a good weekend.