“And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 3:23, NKJV).
Often we hear the call to “accept Jesus as Savior” or “make Him Lord of our lives.” These calls reflect a response to the gift of God in Christ and a hallmark of saving faith. Saving faith is more than merely knowing the facts or even admitting the facts are true. It requires a transfer of trust and allegiance to Jesus as the Savior and Lord that He is. It proclaims not only that Jesus is the Savior; He is my Savior. He is not only the Lord; He is my Lord.
Embrace of Christ through faith reflects God’s work of grace in our lives to bring us from spiritual death to spiritual life, what John has called being “born of God” (1 John 3:9; John 3:3). Through a new heart and open eyes, we repent of our rebellion against God, reject our ability to save ourselves, and renounce self-rule over our own lives. Faith rests fully on Jesus to save us through His sacrificial death as a sinless substitute, and submits to Him as ruler over us.
The gospel requires a response. What will we do with Jesus? Either we will bow the knee before Him or we will remain in defiance of Him. John put it this way in his Gospel account: “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.... He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him" (John 3:18, 36). The final “believe” translates the word “obey.”
Now here in his first epistle, John again expresses our response to Christ in terms of obedience. “And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment” (1 John 3:23).
While we can understand the sense of accepting Jesus, the response laid out in Scripture is one of bowing the knee before Him who is King of kings and Lord of lords. Faith is infused with repentance as it denies self and takes up its cross to follow Jesus.
Each of these three verses that close out the third chapter of John’s letter lays emphasis on what God commands. We are to keep God’s commandments and do what is pleasing in His sight (v. 22). We are to believe on Jesus and love one another in response to His commands (v. 23). Abiding in Christ involves keeping His commandments, a testimony to the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives (v. 24).
The gospel is the gospel of the Kingdom (Matt. 4:23). It is more than a ticket to heaven; it is a transfer of alignment from one kingdom to another, involving expression of allegiance to Him who holds all authority.
What role does our obedience play in the Christian life?