Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.
1 John 3:21-22
- “Dear friends” (2:7, 3:2, 21) is a change from “Dear children” which was used in previous verses (2:1, 12, 14, 18, 28, 3:7, 18)
- “Dear children” is a common expression used by teachers to call disciples “children”
- “Dear friends” seems to be used interchangably with “Dear children”; however, the meaning is different, the word agapētos (ἀγαπητός, meaning beloved, esteemed, dear, favourite, worthy of love) is better translated as “Beloved” (NET), it is a reminder that they are loved, they are not rejected by the author or by God
- “if our hearts do not condemn us” this is the premise that has been established previously – that our hearts have no right to condemn us; since God doesn’t, our hearts can’t
- “we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask”, the effect/benefit of having this confidence before God is that we “receive from him anything we ask” (John 14:13-14; 1 John 5:14); note that “before him” in 1 John 2:28 is spoken in future terms of Christ second coming, but it seems here to be a present thing
- “because we obey his commands and do what pleases him”, because is the causal link to the receiving above
- “obey his commands”, another recurring theme of obeying Him from 1 John 2:1, 3-5 (which is written from a more negative point of view – to not sin by hating your fellow Christian);
- “do what pleases him”, the following theme from 1 John 3:7 (written from a positive point of view – to do the things that please Him by laying down our lives for our fellow Christian)
Building on the instruction “to lay down our lives” for our fellow Christians, the author points out that doing so, we will be sure of our belonging to God and be confident of our standing before God because we don’t condemn ourselves. The benefits of not condemning ourselves and standing confidently before God is that we “receive from him anything we ask”. This is because we seek not to grieve God and seek to please Him – the fight on two levels.
Even though it seems like the author is advocating for faith by works, it clearly is not. The author writes this letter to combat the Gnostic teachings of the time, which was gaining popularity; knowing that this letter sounds harsh, He reminds the reader right at the start that God is ready to forgive our sin (1 John 1:8-2:2) and then in the middle, He reminds the reader again that God lavshly pours love on them as His children (1 John 3:1) and at the end, states that the reason He writes this is that the reader can be confident of having eternal life (1 John 5:13).
The key to understanding the paradox (of faith and works) is in this 1 John 2:8 “Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.” The dichotomy of the Christian life is that the darkness in us is passing and the true light in us is already shining – two seperate things happening in us at the same time. While we are saved, we are not prefect yet, but we are being perfected. It is the process of becoming Christ-like (1 John 2:6) while being plagued by our carnal desires. Part of the process as outlined in 1 John is dying to sin and loving others, what underscores all that is beliving in the incarnate yet divine Christ.
Ask for anything. When I hear that, it seems almost impossible. How could I possibly ask for anything?! Yet that is what it says. Anything literally means anything.
Father, I come before you with a humble and grateful heart because I know that I still do sin and yet you still forgive. Daily I ask that you would forgive me. I come before you with confidence, knowing that my advocate is Christ Jesus. Grant me the boldness to be frank with you. I seek not to be my own Saviour but to obey you and follow your ways because I love you. I seek not to take your grace for granted but to have my faith worked out in my life. I want to be just like Jesus in all that I think, say and do.