“And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.” (I John 3:23)
I John 3:23 shows us the relationship between justification and sanctification. Justification and sanctification may be distinguished but they must not be separated.
Justification is the act by which God the Father declares elect sinners righteous before Him on the basis of the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ. This right standing before the Father is on the basis of grace alone, through God given faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Justification occurs in a moment when the Holy Spirit, through the preaching of the Gospel, monergistically regenerates the sinner thereby giving them the ability to place their faith in Christ. The sinner is born again in order to believe and be justified. This differs from the common perspective by many Christians that one believes in order to be born again and be justified.
Sanctification is the process by which the believer grows in holiness and becomes more like Jesus Christ in thought, word and behavior. Sanctification, unlike justification, does not happen in a singular moment but rather throughout the believer’s lifetime. Sanctification ultimately concludes when the believer physically dies and goes to be with the Lord in heaven.
I John 3:23 shares that God commands us to believe in the name of Jesus Christ. To believe in Christ means to trust, commit, depend and worship Christ alone as Savior and Lord. This is synonymous with justification.
Today’s text also shares that God commands that following our conversion, we are to obey the Lord by loving one another. This love for fellow Christians is one example, of many, of how our conversion in Christ is to influence our commitment to live for Christ.
I John 3:23 provides us with not only a doctrinal test regarding the validity of our faith but also a moral test. Both are important but notice the order. One’s belief in Christ is the reason one is to love one another. In other words, we do not love another person in order to become a Christian. Rather, we believe in Christ which therefore is the impetus to love a fellow believer.
Dr. John MacArthur helpfully adds that, “These verses again repeat the three features of this epistle—believing, loving, and obeying—which are the major evidences of true salvation.”
Pastor John Piper concludes that, “The one embracing commandment of this letter is that we believe and that we love. These are the foundations of our assurance because these are the evidence of God’s work; they are the testimony of His Spirit.”
Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord? Do you evidence this belief by loving other believers?
May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.
Soli deo Gloria!