1 John 3:21-22, “Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.”
Today we see the Apostle John addressing a believer’s assurance of faith. As a Pastor, I see and speak with folks who are wrestling with their assurance of faith pretty regularly. In this passage, John seems to be ministering to a congregation in a similar condition and his counsel is helpful to us as we look to grow in our assurance of faith.
John focuses on the heart in this passage. The heart (kardia) in Scripture usually means the seat or center of being for a person. It includes their thinking, feelings, and emotions. Therefore, it often includes the mind and soul. John is calling believers to be totally reflective. He is calling them to seriously examine themselves in light of God, the gospel, and the Scripture. As a person prayerfully meditates, the Lord is faithful to convict them about the poor state of their soul or increase their assurance of faith.
If we are believers, John says our heart (kardia) won’t condemn us and that we will have confidence before God. This confidence isn’t prideful or arrogant. This is a confidence in the sufficiency of Christ’s salvific work.
Now, in order to be reflective and encouraged by our heart posture before the Lord and in order to be confident in Christ’s sufficient salvific work in us, we must be humble and God-centered.
And John knows that if we have arrived at this point, our position (by God’s grace) is pleasing to the Lord. Therefore, John can move on with the audacious claim, “whatever we ask we receive from him…” What does this mean? It means that our will is being conformed to God’s will (as we grow in our knowledge of God’s will) and that the things we ask of God are pleasing to him.
From there John teaches us that we express our gratitude to God through obedience to the Law of God.
So, in summary, what are some bottom line takeaways from this section in 1 John?
- Honestly assess your faith in light of God’s Word.
- If you find you are a believer, praise God because this is a gift from him through Jesus applied by the Holy Spirit.
- Grow in your knowledge of God’s will by reading His Scripture. His will isn’t a mystery (for example, 1 Thessalonians 4:3 says a part of God’s will is our sanctification). As you grow in your knowledge of God’s will, pray for God’s will to be accomplished.
- Obedience to God’s commands increases our assurance of faith. That is not to say we earn our salvation. Rather, in response to what God has done for us in the gospel, we desire to please him.
Joey Tomlinson (DMin, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is a husband, father, and pastor at a local church in Newport News, Virginia. He blogs regularly on broadoakpiety.org and hosts a weekly podcast called The Broad Oak Piety Podcast with another local pastor in the community.