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Gems in the Letter of 1 John

Part 103 – 1 John 2:6
Walking with Jesus

After those two very striking verses at the start of chapter 2 there are several much less striking ones out of which it is hard to say there is a gem of any sort. But the totality of what is being said is very important so we need to choose one to carry the burden of what is being said. Let that be 2: 6 which, in the NIV, reads, ‘Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.’ However, I much prefer the translation of the NRSV which is “whoever says, ‘I abide in him’ ought to walk just as he walked.”
There are two reasons for that preference and if I explain them we shall see most of the force of what is being said.

First: the word ‘abide’ is much stronger than ‘live in’ although they mean the same thing. A dog can live in a kennel; a cat can live in an outhouse; but we would never say of either a dog or a cat that it abided anywhere. The word abide is reserved for human beings. We can abide, in a house or a tent, or a particular state of being. To abide has a sense of permanence about it. All these things add up to make saying we can ‘abide in him’ a stronger, more powerful, statement about something more lasting than saying we ‘live in him’.

Second: to ‘live as Jesus did’ is not as powerful an expression as is ‘walking as he walked’. You can live in one room and go nowhere, if you want to or are handicapped. ‘Living’ has no necessary suggestion of motion about it. But if you walk you go somewhere. You are moving; you are progressing, and that is what John is talking about here. You cannot become a Christian and stay in one place; you must move as he moved. You must progress as he progressed. You must walk as he walked – and with him. There is an unfortunate line of teaching in some quarters that seems to suggest that if you are ‘born again’ that is it. You can now sit back knowing that your place in heaven is assured. You need do no more – indeed to suggest you need to do anything else is to deny the strength of the great gift the Lord has given you; it is to deny the full efficacy of grace, and that is heresy. In one sense it is. It is not necessary to add anything to the gift of God. Jesus said to the man dying beside him on a cross, ‘today you will be with me in paradise’. That man could clearly add absolutely nothing to the gift he had just been given. But Jesus talked about his disciples keeping his commands and that it was necessary to do so if they wanted to stay in his love. So John 15: 10 says, ‘If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.’

The first and always necessary step is to receive the gift of new life which is God’s gracious gift to those who commit themselves to following him, because only then can the Holy Spirit be given and the first steps taken in the true life of faith. And what a magnificent life that is! Sometimes the steps will be difficult; so difficult perhaps that we slip backwards, and have to take the same step more than once. But they are still hugely worthwhile.

We went walking this morning. We greatly enjoyed the steps we took even through the mud and the occasional light shower of rain. I hope you are enjoying the walk that you are taking hand-in-hand with Jesus. It is there for you and for your enjoyment. Not that there may not be considerably worse ‘mud’ on your way than anything we encountered. He will be with you through it. The previous verses say that love for God is made complete if we keep his commands. We will come across what that means before long and many times in the rest of this epistle. We just note here that surely there can be nothing richer, more satisfying, than that.

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