“Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.” ~ 1 John 3:21-22
Explanation of the Text: The tenderness of John’s words are marked with his opening, ‘beloved.’ As John writes about condemnation of the heart, he is not writing simply to condemn others either. He is writing out of a great care and concern for the souls of people. There is a tremendous desire to see people be restored to fellowship with God the Father.
These two verses build off of John’s thoughts in verses 19-20. Speaking of the condemnation of the heart, not in the sense of conviction about sin, but in the truest understanding of condemnation. Specifically when the heart deceives a person and condemns them to eternity separated from God. And his transition is succinctly stated between all of these verses: have confidence that God knows your heart and therefore you can have confidence before Him.
This naturally leads to the idea that if you have confidence before God, then you can expect prayers to be answered. That confidence comes from the assurance of salvation, John’s continued discussion in the entire epistle, which is evidenced by obedience to God’s commands. Confidence before God leaves no room for doubt and the one who doubts can expect God to not answer his prayer (James 1:6).
It is important to understand that John is not offering the believer a blank check in which you can ask God for anything he or she wants and expect it to be answered. Further on in 1 John 5:14-15, John reminds believers that their requests must be in accordance with the will of God.
Examination & Application of the Text: While the primary aspect of this text is not about sharing the Gospel, John’s attitude towards others is noteworthy. His care, concern, and compassion for people is worthy of emulation in our own lives. A love of God provokes a love of people and that love of people should be concern of their eternal soul. What does this mean for our own lives? Out of an intense love for people comes an intense proclamation of the Gospel.
A love for God is precipitated by a trust in God. To have confidence before God indicates a level of trust in Him. It means trusting one’s soul into the care of God. There is no more fragile or valuable part of the human life (whether physical or spiritual) than one’s soul. Thus to trust the care of it to someone else is one of the most important considerations and decisions you can ever make. As a God who is both of love and is sovereign, there is no greater person to entrust the care of the soul to than God. John’s writing here instills into us the confidence to trust our soul to Him.
Finally, John reminds believers that the confidence of one’s heart before God comes from the evidence in one’s life. Meaning that if you trust in God, your behavior and lifestyle are evidence of that trust, and thus you can be assured in your position before him. Two words note his true meaning here: keep and do. Together these words indicate habitual behavior. That is to say that one’s lifestyle is one of constantly keeping the commands and pleasing God. As the ultimate object of our faith, our confidence is in Him and not man, and thus our obedience is to Him and not man.
Questions to Consider:
- How much do you trust God? How do you know?
- If you have complete trust in God, does your response to trying and difficult times reflect that?
- How much do you love God? Is your love for God indicative by your love for people?
- Are you actively engaged in sharing the Gospel with those you come in contact with?
- Who are you interested in pleasing? Man of God?
- Does your behavior indicate your concern for God?