First John: 1 John 2:3-Knowing the Lord Experientially is Based Upon Obedience to His Commands Lesson # 50
By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. (NASB95)
The conjunction kai (καί) is not translated but should be since it is functioning here as a marker of transition meaning that it is marking a transition from to .
“By this” is composed of the following: (1) preposition en (ἐν), “by” (2) dative neuter singular form of the demonstrative pronoun houtos (οὗτος), “this.”
The demonstrative pronoun houtos means “this” and is kataphoric meaning it is pointing to the protasis of a fifth class conditional statement which speaks of the believer observing conscientiously the Lord’s commands.
It is the object of the preposition en which indicates the means by which the believer can confirm that they know the Lord Jesus experientially or in other words that they are experiencing fellowship with Him which is observing conscientiously the Lord’s commands
“We know” is the first person plural present active indicative form of the verb ginōskō (γινώσκω), which means, “to confirm” since John is attempting to inform his readers as to how they can be assured that they are experiencing fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
The first person plural form refers to John and the recipients of this epistle and ultimately it refers to every believer throughout the world since he is presenting a spiritual principle which applies to every Christian including the apostles like himself.
It is also used in a distributive sense emphasizing no exceptions meaning that this principle is applicable to every Christian including the apostle John.
The present tense of ginōskō is a gnomic present used to describe something that is true any time and thus expresses the idea that the believer can “at any time” confirm they know the Lord experientially, if they observe conscientiously the Lord Jesus Christ’s commandments.
“We have come to know Him” is composed of the following: (1) first person plural perfect active indicative form of the verb ginōskō (γινώσκω), “we have come to know” (2) accusative third person masculine singular form of the intensive personal pronoun autos (αὐτός), “Him.”
The verb ginōskō in this instance means, “to know (the Lord Jesus) experientially” and the perfect tense of the verb ginōskō is an intensive perfect, which is used to emphasize the results or present state produced by a past action.
The present state in our context are those Christians who know the Lord experientially and the past action is that of these Christians obeying the Lord Jesus Christ’s Spirit inspired commands.
The intensive personal pronoun autos means “Him” referring to the Lord Jesus Christ and not the Father or the Spirit because He is mentioned in as being the believer’s advocate with the Father because He is the propitiation for the believer’s sins.
“If we keep His commandments” is composed of the following: (1) conditional particle ean (ἐάν), “if” (2) articular accusative feminine plural form of the noun entolē (ἐντολή), “commandments” (3) genitive third person masculine singular form of the intensive personal pronoun autos (αὐτός), “His” (4) first person plural present active subjunctive form of the verb tēreō (τηρέω), “keep.”
The conditional particle ean introduces the protasis of a fifth class condition which is expressing an eternal spiritual principle or spiritual axiom with regards to fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ and thus the Father and the Spirit.
The verb tēreō means “to conscientiously obey” and indicates that if the believer “conscientiously obeys” the Lord’s commands, then they can, as an eternal spiritual truth confirm that they know Him experientially or in other words, they are experiencing fellowship with Him.
The present tense of this verb tēreō is also a gnomic present used to describe something that is true any time and is expressing the idea that if any believer “at any time does” observe conscientiously the Lord Jesus Christ’s commandments, then they can confirm that they are experiencing fellowship with Him.
The noun entolē refers to the commands of the Lord Jesus Christ which are communicated to the apostles by the Spirit and can be summarized as loving one another as He loved the believer and which command is recorded in .
Now, by means of this, any of us can, at any time confirm that we are existing in the state of knowing Him experientially, if any of us does at any time exist in the state of observing conscientiously His commands. (My translation)
contains a fifth class conditional statement which presents to the recipients of this epistle another eternal spiritual principle or spiritual axiom, which they can employ to confirm that they are in fact experiencing fellowship with the triune God.
Therefore, teaches a spiritual axiom or an eternal spiritual truth regarding fellowship with the triune God, which John describes here as knowing the Lord experientially.
This axiom teaches that fellowship with God is based upon obedience to the Lord’s commands.
The believer’s volitional decisions will determine if they will experience fellowship with God or not.
The obvious inference is that they will not experience fellowship with the Lord if they disobey His commands.
Thus, the importance of the believer learning the Lord’s commands in order to experience fellowship with Him.
The implication is that if they don’t learn His commands, they won’t experience fellowship with the Lord and the other two members of the Trinity since fellowship with God is based upon the believer’s obedience to the commands and prohibitions of Scripture.
Here in , the apostle John seeks to reassure the Christian community in the Roman province of Asia that they are in fact experiencing fellowship with Jesus Christ and thus with the Father and the Spirit.
He reminds them of the means by which they can confirm that they do in fact know Jesus Christ experientially, namely if they observe conscientiously His commands.
These “commands” refers to the commands of the Lord Jesus Christ which were communicated to the apostles by the Spirit.
They can be summarized as loving one another as He loved the believer and which command is recorded in and thus, they refer to the commands of the Lord Jesus Christ in their totality, which comprises the Christian doctrine.
They are the revelation of the Father’s will for the church age believer which the Lord communicated to the apostles through the Spirit and which teaching now resides in the Greek New Testament.
They are designed to govern the conduct or behavior of the believer and they reflect the holy standards of the triune God and how they function in relation to each other.
John is teaching the recipients of this epistle in that if they are conscientiously obedient to the Lord Jesus’ commandments, which He imparted to His disciples, they can have definite assurance that they know the Lord Jesus experientially.
In other words, they are experiencing fellowship with Him and by doing so, they would be experiencing fellowship with the Father as well.
If they have been obedient to the Lord Jesus’ commandments, then they can establish the truth, the validity or genuineness of, corroborate and verify as to whether or not they have been experiencing fellowship with Him.
John is teaching that if the believer “conscientiously” obeys the Lord’s commands in the sense that they are careful, thoughtful, heedful, attentive, meticulous in conforming their thoughts and actions in compliance with His commands, then they can confirm that they know Him experientially.
When John speaks of knowing experientially the Lord, he is referring to personally encountering the Lord Jesus Christ through the process of experiential sanctification (i.e. fellowship) as He is revealed in the pages of Scripture and in prayer by God the Holy Spirit.
It also involves being affected by this encounter with the Lord resulting in the gaining of practical spiritual wisdom and more of the character of Christ.
So as we noted, knowing the Lord Jesus Christ experientially in is a reference to fellowship with Him or in other words, it is a synonym for fellowship.
Therefore, to know Jesus Christ experientially is to experience fellowship with Him.
Fellowship with Him and thus knowing Him experientially is based upon observing conscientiously, or in other words, obeying His commandments, which were imparted by Him to His disciples, of which John was one.
We must keep in mind that John is writing to those who were already saved as a result of being declared justified by the Father through faith in His Son Jesus Christ.
Therefore, he is not saying in that you are saved or declared justified by being obedient to the Word of God but rather, he is assuring them as to how they can confirm that they are experiencing fellowship with Him, which he describes as knowing Him experientially.
Therefore, John is teaching his readers how they can confirm that they are in fact experiencing fellowship with God and not how they can confirm if they are saved.
John’s overriding concern in this epistle is to ensure that the recipients of this letter who were believers continued to regularly experience fellowship with God and not to give them assurance of their eternal salvation and relationship with God.
This he makes clear in the prologue of the epistle and specifically in .