What does 1 John 2:3 mean?
ESV: And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.
NIV: We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands.
NASB: By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.
CSB: This is how we know that we know him: if we keep his commands.
NLT: And we can be sure that we know him if we obey his commandments.
KJV: And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.
NKJV: Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.
Verse Commentary:
One way in which we display evidence of saving faith in Jesus is through obedience. However, as believers, we always have a choice whether to obey or disobey. This particular sense of "knowledge" comes at more than one level. First, is that of salvation. Behavior is a reflection of belief. Actions, however, in and of themselves, are not an infallible test of one's salvation. This is especially true in regards to other people; only God knows exactly what happens in another person's heart (1 Samuel 16:7). However, obedience to the commands of Christ is a primary marker, both for others and ourselves, which at least confirms our place in Christ.

The other, more immediate level of this "knowledge" is in fellowship with God. Even in an existing parent-child relationship, the level of fellowship depends on obedience and communication. A lack of communication does not prove that there is no relationship, but it is certainly not the way things "ought" to be (1 John 2:6). A person who has put trusting faith in Christ is expected to obey (1 John 2:5), but whether or not they do is still up to them.

Critical to understanding this passage is the connection between "knowing" and "keeping" as seen in the Old Testament. The Jewish people were called to show their belief in God through obedience to the Mosaic Law. Even during that time, obedience was the result of faith, not the object of faith. Hebrews chapter 11 offers clear evidence of those godly people throughout the Old Testament who lived by faith, obeyed the Lord, and were recognized for it. Faith was, and is, essential to knowing the Lord.

Here, John places the condition at the end of the sentence. He emphasized knowing Christ as exemplified by obedience. This is in contrasts to verses 5–10, where the conditions will come first.
Verse Context:
First John 2:1–6 both encourages and warns Christians about sin. John reassures his readers that when a saved believer sins, Christ will plead our case with God. Jesus is our substitute, taking the punishment for our sins. At the same time, John warns that those who claim to know Christ, yet disobey Him, are lying to themselves and others. Anyone who claims to have fellowship with Christ should live as if that is true.
Chapter Summary:
Chapter 2 explains the fellowship Christians have with God. Christ is our advocate, even when we sin. Christians are not to love things of the world, or to love the world. Instead, we are to live, love, and act like Christ. False teachers, and those who deny Jesus are called ''liars.'' Those who demonstrate a Christ-like behavior are ''born of'' God.
Chapter Context:
Chapter 1 introduced the primary themes of John’s letter. Chapters 2 and 3 lay out a detailed description of how Christian conduct is meant to be marked by obedience to the truth. Christians are called to live like Christ. Therefore, those who do not (live that way) do not have ''the truth'' in them. Later chapters of this letter will fill in how Christian love and conduct give us confidence in our daily lives.
Book Summary:
First John seems to assume that the reader is familiar with the gospel. Rather than re-state these facts, John is concerned with building confidence in Christian believers. At the same time, his words encourage believers to examine their own lives for signs of their relationship with Christ. This letter also challenges false teachers and their incorrect claims about Jesus. Many themes are shared with the Gospel of John.
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