Perhaps you remember learning about litmus tests back in high school chemistry. The main use of litmus paper is to test whether the solution is acidic or alkaline. We’ve adapted the concept and use it as a social indicator to classify someone favorably or unfavorably. Issues such as one’s position on abortion, same sex marriage, defense spending, economy, and others are used to categorize a political candidate as conservative or liberal.
What is the litmus test that determines if a person is truly saved from sin? Is there a test to determine if a person’s faith is real or phony? According to the apostle John, our behavior always reveals our beliefs. In 1 John 2:3-6, John explains that obedience is the litmus test of love for God.
In this passage, the apostle asks two questions that helps determine whether one’s faith is real or phony. Do you walk the talk? Do you walk the walk?
Do you walk the talk? (3-5a). John’s thesis statement is found in verse 3: Knowing God is evidenced by our heartfelt desire to obey him.
Ancient Greeks believed you could know God through your mind. Modern Greeks placed on emphasis on emotions and experience. The Jews believed you could know God through the Law. John said that to know God and to love God is to obey him.
Obedience is not a popular word today. Some may have grown up in a homes or churches where obedience and righteousness were pounded home so often that today they reject the idea. That is what John is combating. Real knowledge of God contains an intellectual, moral, and spiritual component that cannot be separated.
Verse 4 is the converse of verse 3. It explains that the one who claims to know God but is consistently disobedient is a liar. The one who keeps God’s word (5) is indwelt by the truth and the love of God has done its work in their life.
Our conduct should match our testimony. We should obey the great commandment—love God and love people—and the great commission—share your faith and make disciples. Obedience is the litmus test of love for God.
Do you walk the walk? (5b-6). Love is incomplete if it does not produce any deeds of love.
Abiding in Christ is another synonym for having an intimate relationship with him. John’s point is that a person who is abiding in God will obey God just as Jesus obeyed the Father and demonstrated his relationship with him.
We demonstrate our relationship with God by living in the same manner that Christ lived—servant, humble, spoke the truth, kind, patient, compassionate, forgiving, and sacrificial. An intimate relationship with God will be shown in Christlike behavior. Obedience is the litmus test of love for God.
This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on January 22, 2017. It is part of a series on The Letters of John. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.