What does 1 John 2:4 mean?
ESV: Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him,
NIV: Whoever says, 'I know him,' but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person.
NASB: The one who says, 'I have come to know Him,' and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him;
CSB: The one who says, "I have come to know him," and yet doesn't keep his commands, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
NLT: If someone claims, 'I know God,' but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth.
KJV: He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
NKJV: He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
Verse Commentary:
John continues his emphasis on obedience as evidence of fellowship with Christ. He raises the stakes by stating that those who defy God's commandments while claiming to know Him are liars. John has referred to liars already in this letter (1 John 1:10), and will repeat this theme several times. Only a liar says he has not sinned, or says he knows God while failing to keep His commandments. Only a liar denies Jesus is the Christ (1 John 2:22), or says he loves God but hates his brother (1 John 4:20).

The implications of this have to be taken seriously. In John's Gospel, Jesus called Satan a liar (John 8:44). He referred to hostile, unbelieving religious leaders as liars (John 8:55). In Revelation 21:8, the "second death" of the lake of fire is the destiny of all liars. John says that those who claim to know God but do not obey Him are liars, and do not have the truth in them. Truth is used eight times throughout 1 John (1 John 1:6, 8; 2:4, 21; 3:18, 19; 4:6; 5:6).

As a result, this reference to truth has been interpreted both to include "what is correct," as well as the presence of Christ Himself. First John 5:6 calls the Holy Spirit truth: "the Spirit is the truth." A person who claims to know God, but does not live like it, reveals he is liar and does not have the truth in him. In its immediate context, John is referring to our fellowship relationship to God. In a broader sense, this is often interpreted as an indicator that those who live in defiance of Christ's commandments give evidence that they do not "know" Him—at all.

Given the context of 1 John, and the rest of Scripture, this cannot refer to any and all instance of sin. All believers still sin. Even hatred for one's brother is possible for a Christian (1 John 2:10). Rather, this points towards those who claim to walk with God but really do not. Whether or not such people have come to Christ is between them and God, but their actions show they are clearly not "walking with" God. For that reason, this verse has alternately been interpreted as a reference to fellowship with God, without implications of false conversion. Since Christians still have the ability to choose sin, it is possible for a Christian to choose wrong actions over right actions.
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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