There is a constant struggle between legalism and grace. So what is John saying here? Are we bound to keep the commands of Christ? Is it a part of our salvation to do so? And the answer is apparently, YES!
But before someone yells, "legalist!" at me, that is not my answer, it is John's. So here are some thoughts about this verse that might clarify things a bit.
- John is not talking about keeping his commandments as a means of salvation. He does not say that if we keep his commandments we are saved.
- He does state that this is evidence of our salvation. That if we want to know if someone knows Jesus, we should look at them and be able to see a difference.
- Verse 6 states, "whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked."
My son is at the age where he is a constant shadow to me. If I am going somewhere, he wants to know where and if he can go along. If I am doing something, he wants to help. Not because I ask him too, but because he wants to. In a sense he is pursuing me, and in some ways he will become like me. He would not become like me by merely doing what he was told. He would not become like me by cleaning his room and mowing the yard. To become like me he must spend time with me. Watch me. Talk with me.
I don't become Christlike by merely attending church, giving, serving. These are good things, but take out the love for God (see 1 Cor 13!) and it all means nothing.
God, help me to love you today. Help me to pursue You, to spend time with You, to see You. What more is needed?