I John: Reciprocity!

Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.” (I John 3:24)

Reciprocity. What does this word mean?

Reciprocity means a mutuality, and exchange, a tradeoff or an interchange. Therefore, reciprocity can pertain to politics, finances, and even agreements between members of one’s family.

For example, reciprocity may refer to an agreement a father makes with his son: “You mow the lawn and take out the garbage and do your chores without anyone reminding you to do so and you may borrow my car Saturday night.” In this agreement, both sides keep their side of the agreement. The son does his chores and the father allows his son to borrow the car on Saturday night.

In the case of our relationship with God by grace alone, through faith alone through the person and work of Jesus Christ alone, reciprocity takes the form of a familiar and ongoing theme with the Epistle of I John.

God abides in the believer. This abiding began by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit in the soul of the dead sinner through the preaching of the gospel. The Holy Spirit not only generates new life within the sinner but also faith (Ephesians 2:1-9). The sinner is born again in order to believe (John 3:1-3). In other words, regeneration precedes faith. The result of regeneration is conversion.

When conversion occurs, which not only involves faith in Christ but also repentance from one’s sin, the sinner begins the journey of growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). This journey and growth is evidenced by an increasing obedience to the Word of God. This obedience is not born by a desire to become a child of God but rather as an indication that the individual in question is a child of God.

John says “Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God.” This is a simple truth with significant implications. This is John’s keynote theme. The reciprocity is that not only does the believer abide in God but also God abides in the believer. Additionally, we also know and understand that God abides in us by the Holy Spirit who the Father has given to us.

Dr. John Walvoord writes, “Two themes appear in this verse. The first theme is the epistle’s first reference to God, or Christ, abiding in each obedient believer. Those who obey His commands (cf. 2:3; 3:23; 5:2–3) live (menei, “abide”) in Him, and He in them. That the abiding life involves this mutuality (reciprocity) is made plain in the Parable of the Vine and the Branches (John 15:4–5, 7). The second idea is the epistle’s first of six explicit references to the Holy Spirit (cf. 1 John 4:2, 6, 13; 5:6, 8; cf. “the Holy One” in 2:20). The way a believer can verify that God lives (menei, “abides”) in him is by the operation of God’s Spirit in his life. John then showed that God’s Spirit is the Spirit of both faith (4:1–6) and love (4:7–16)—the two aspects of the two-part “command” given in 3:23.”

What evidence is there that the Holy Spirit is working in your life? Are you obeying God’s commandments? Are you displaying the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)? Are you mortifying your sin (Romans 8:13)? If these are true in your life, rejoice that you are a child of God. If not, repent of your sins and receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.

May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.

Soli deo Gloria!



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