John has, right through his letter, positively identified those who believe in Jesus Christ. He says that Christians are people who:

Have fellowship with God (with the Father and with the Son) – 1:3, 6.
Are, walk or live in the light – 1:7; 2:9, 10.
Are purified from sin and unrighteousness – 1:7, 9; 3:5.
Are forgiven – 1:9; 2:12.
Know God – 2:3, 13, 14.
Are, live, remain, continue ‘in him’ (‘in the Son and in the Father’) – 2:5, 24, 28; 3:6.
Have overcome the evil one – 2:13, 14.
Have an anointing from the Holy One – 2:20, 27.
Know the truth – 2:20, 21.
Are promised eternal life – 2:25.
Are taught all things by the ‘anointing’ – 2:27.
Are greatly loved by the Father – 3:1.
Are ‘children of God’ – 3:1, 2, 10.
Are born of God – 3:9.
Have passed from death to life – 3:14.
Belong to the truth – 3:19.

This truth to which we belong, this light in which we live and walk, teaches us not only about ourselves (that we are sinners who sin), but also about Jesus Christ – who he is, what he has done for us. And in knowing him we also know God. This knowledge of God the Father revealed in the person and work of God the Son, means that even though our hearts condemn us, we know that God does not condemn us. The truth, the light, in which we live and walk, relieves us of the condemnation, because God has diverted it all onto his Son.

The truth tells us: The blood of Jesus cleanses us from ‘all unrighteousness’ (1:9). ‘Unrighteousness’ is legal guilt, the opposite of legal innocence. Paul referred to this removal of our legal guilt as being ‘justified by faith’, and as ‘a righteousness from God’. This declaration of legal acquittal stills the anxious thoughts of our self-condemning hearts. When we remember this, even though our hearts may be right in condemning us, the condemnation ceases. We who have come to Christ rest from our burden of guilt and condemnation. Knowing that we are acquitted, justified by faith, we have peace with God, for we know that he has made peace through the blood of his Son (Romans 5:1; Colossians 1:20).

To believe otherwise, to live outside of this truth, to try to live with on-going self-condemnation, would be to walk in the darkness from which the gospel has redeemed us. To believe otherwise would be to deny the Son and the Father.

The New Testament teaches us:

That when we come to Jesus and learn from him we ‘find rest for our souls’ – Matthew 11:28 - 30.

That all accusations and condemnation are outlawed by the work of Jesus God’s Son. No one, not even our own heart, has the legal right to bring any charge against those whom God has justified. No one, not even our own heart, has the legal right to condemn those for whom Christ died, and for whom Christ is the Advocate with God. It is, in fact, the height of arrogance to presume the right to accuse or condemn those who belong to Christ who bore their condemnation – Romans 8:31 – 34.

The Old Testament sacrifices could not cleanse the conscience of those who offered them, but the blood of Jesus cleanses our consciences, setting us free to serve God – Hebrews 9:9 – 14.

It was impossible for the Old Testament offerings of the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins; but through the once-for-all sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ we have been made holy – Hebrews 10:1 – 10.

Because of Christ’s death and advocacy we have confidence to draw near to God, to enter the very presence of God, without inhibition, without prohibition - without the barrier caused by our sin – Hebrews 10:19 – 22.

And so John writes: ‘... if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God’ (3:21). This freedom from self-condemnation, this confidence in God’s presence, does not arise because we are without sin (John has outlawed that possibility in 1:8 – 10). It arises from the truth about Jesus Christ that we have heard and that we have received. It is part of walking in the light; it is part of being, living, continuing ‘in him’.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2022