“If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.” ~ 1 John 2:29
Explanation of the Text: John sees things very black and white and that comes out in his writing. For Him, either one belongs to the Lord or to Satan. Furthermore, John indicates it is evidenced by the lifestyle one lives. Thus, those who live righteously belong to our righteous God (cf. 1 John 3:7-8). However, it is important to note that righteous living is not a condition of salvation, but rather it is a consequence of it.
Through this verse, “John shows that righteousness, not knowledge, is the principle mark of the regenerate” (1). Knowledge that is not put into practice is meaningless. Therefore to simply know about God is much different than knowing God and living life in light of that knowledge. In fact, this is the very difference with wisdom. Wisdom is knowledge applied in daily life.
With that said though, it is important to recognize a a great connection here. It is true that John sees righteousness and not knowledge as the hallmark of a regenerate person. However, righteousness begins with knowledge. Righteousness does not occur apart from knowing God. This aspect of knowing God is two-fold:
- There is the need to know about God. If we do not know about who God is, we do not understand the meaning of righteous living, nor do we understand our position before Him.
- Also, there is the need to know God. You cannot know about God without knowing Him personally. Therefore, everything in the Christian life is predicated on having a relationship with Him.
Therefore, we are reasonable in our conclusion that to know God and that He is righteous will result in us being made righteous ourselves by Him as evidenced by righteous living.
Finally, John notes that those who practice righteousness are born of Him. Those born of Him then are called His children, thus we see the connection leading into chapter 3 (see 1 John 3:1). This is important to note that if one is born from God, who is righteous, it stands to reason that the children are expected to and will live in that righteousness.
Examination & Application of the Text: It is noted that one can only act justly and righteously if they are acting in accordance with the holiness that dwells within a person from God (2). As a believer, they are containers within which the Holy Spirit dwells. Therefore, they have the ability to act righteously according to His conviction and prompting.
What is important in this is that it requires the entire being of a person. It is not a matter of having the right knowledge in the mind only. Nor is it a matter of having a right heart attitude only. It is a matter of having both. It requires that the truth of God’s Word be in the mind, while the truth that is God is in the heart in order that they act together. Only in this way can one live a lifestyle devoted to God. Every aspect of a person’s being must be engaged in righteous living.
Questions to Consider:
- Describe your life. Is it more an example of righteous living or unrighteous living? Be honest with yourself.
- What areas are examples of righteous living?
- What areas need to change to bring you more under a righteous lifestyle (i.e. is it your mind or your heart or your body, etc.)?
- Whose work is that? Yours or God’s?
- What is your responsibility in those areas that need to be changed?
(1) John Stott, The Letters of John, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2009), 122.
(2) Raymond E. Brown, The Epistles of John: Translated with Introduction, Notes and Commentary, Anchor Yale Bible (London: Yale University Press, 2008), 384.