“See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what He promised us–even eternal life.” (1 John 2:24-25)
When I was a little boy, there were times when my mama gave me an instruction with her “see to it” voice. Do you know what I’m talking about?
She could use words like “See to it that you obey your teachers today.” But that’s too formal. More often she would say something like, “You betta….” Or, “I bet’ not have to tell you again….” Or even a single word to begin a sentence, like, “Now….” Or even sometimes with just a tone you knew you were in one of those situations where she was not simply encouraging or negotiating or merely suggesting. This was an urgent and necessary statement for your own good.
So it is with the apostle’s words in 1 John 2:24-25. With urgency he calls his readers and us to make sure, see to it, make every effort to guarantee that what they and we have heard from the beginning remains in us. Read it imagining your mama’s “this is not optional” voice.
What John’s readers had “heard” was the gospel, the happy announcement that the Son of God bore our flesh to bear our sin as our substitute and was raised from the dead to bring us life and forgiveness and atonement and God, so that all who repent and believe on Him would have God’s salvation. That’s what they heard “from the beginning,” from the first days of their encounter with God’s messengers. They didn’t hear one message at first and then move on to another message, the gospel. There was no drifting in the message. From day one they heard the good news, and it’s that news they are to remain in.
But how to remain? John’s letter is an extended treatment of this question, and it reveals that remaining in the gospel is more than knowing the gospel, remembering the gospel, or merely believing the gospel. Remaining in the gospel is not less than those things, but it issues forth in more than those things.
Remaining in the gospel means to walk in the light since God is light (1 John 1:5-7).
Remaining in the gospel means to obey His commands (1 John 2:3-6).
Remaining in the gospel means loving our brothers and sisters in the Lord (1 John 2:9-11).
Remaining in the gospel means loving the Father and not the world (1 John 2:15-17).
Remaining in the gospel means remaining with the apostolic teaching and not the Christ-denying errors of anti-Christs (1 John 2:18-23).
John will go on to say more, and to expand these points. But already he has given us a picture of the gospel and being “in” the gospel that explodes out into holiness of life, obedience to the word, loving a new family, rejecting the world and false teaching. And it alerts us to the fact that we may be “out” of the gospel by a number of means, not just by believing the wrong things.
The gospel, then, is a marinade in which we soak. Remaining in that marinade–with its salty, savory, light and sticky consistency–is the daily call upon our lives as Christians. We want to be covered and soaked in the gospel. We want the message to seep into our marrow so that we’re sweeter with the gospel the closer we get to the bone of our souls.
And being soaked in the gospel, remaining in what we have heard, brings great promise both now and eternally. If we remain in the gospel, we “also will remain in the Son and in the Father.” Now, this is beyond all intelligence and capacity to wonder. How is it that soaking in what we hear keeps us in the Son and in the Father? And have you marveled lately that our lives–our ordinary, gritty, imperfect, sometimes misdirected Christian lives–are hidden in Christ and in God? What a marvelous thing it is to hear the news of Christ’s crucifixion, burial and resurrection and trust in Him for our salvation and have our very selves united with, placed in Jesus, the Father, and the Spirit.
And on top of all that, God even promises us eternal life. Oh, beloved, do everything to remain in what you heard from the beginning, the gospel of our dear Savior, God’s only Son, who ransoms us with His blood and cleanses us of all our sins, who gives us His righteousness and reconciles us to the Father, and makes us a special people unto God by grace alone through faith alone. Remain in the gospel. Run the race! You’ll reap if you do not faint!