Notes on 1 John: Part 1, How Do You Know You're a Christian?

Out at the prison we were in the book of 1 John. There are passages in 1 John that I adore--God is love!--but I'd never done a close study of the book. 

What struck me about 1 John is that a major theme of the book, perhaps its main and overriding theme, is the issue of assurance. How do you know you are, in fact, a Christian? 

To start, consider how often the word "know" shows up in 1 John: 32 times in only five chapters. No epistle comes close to this sort of density. By contrast, Romans and 1 Corinthians, the two longest epistles, use the word "know" 31 and 39 times respectively. 

You can trace this theme of assurance--How do you know?--through the whole letter:

"This is how we know that we know him." (2.3)

"This is how we know we are in him." (2.5)

"This is how God’s children and the devil’s children become obvious." (3.10)

"This is how we have come to know love." (3.16)

"This is how we will know that we belong to the truth and will reassure our hearts before him." (3.19)

"The way we know that he remains in us is from the Spirit he has given us." (3.24)

"This is how you know the Spirit of God." (4.2)

"This is how we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of deception." (4.6)

"This is how we know that we remain in him and he in us." (4.13)

"We have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us." (4.16)

"This is how we know that we love God’s children." (5.2)

"This is the confidence we have before him." (5.14)

"We know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding so that we may know the true one." (5.20)
So, what's John's answer to the "How do you know?" question? It's a two-part answer, which I'll turn to in the next post.

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