EPISTLE | 1 JOHN 2:3-11
3Now by this we may be sure that we know him, if we obey his commandments. 4Whoever says, “I have come to know him,” but does not obey his commandments, is a liar, and in such a person the truth does not exist; 5but whoever obeys his word, truly in this person the love of God has reached perfection. By this we may be sure that we are in him: 6whoever says, “I abide in him,” ought to walk just as he walked.
7Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word that you have heard. 8Yet I am writing you a new commandment that is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. 9Whoever says, “I am in the light,” while hating a brother or sister, is still in the darkness. 10Whoever loves a brother or sister lives in the light, and in such a person there is no cause for stumbling. 11But whoever hates another believer is in the darkness, walks in the darkness, and does not know the way to go, because the darkness has brought on blindness.
“but whoever obeys his word, truly in this person the love of God has reached perfection” (v.5)
We translate the Greek word TELEIOS as “perfect” or “perfection.” But note that the root of this word is TELOS, which we translate as “end” or “goal.” Another way to translate TELEIOS, in light of this root meaning, is “maturity” or “fulfillment.” An image attached to this word is the fruit-bearing adulthood of a tree: bearing fruit is the ultimate end, or purpose, of a fruit tree; in the same way, according to John, the love of God is meant to bring about grateful obedience in us.
I’ve been particularly interested in this word TELEIOS, because it causes such problems for us. I think especially of Jesus’ words: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5:48). I’m Calvinist enough to be suspicious of even Jesus asking me to “be perfect.” But if “perfect” doesn’t mean “flawless” or “immaculate,” but instead means “mature” or “fruit-bearing,” then this is about something else entirely. As a son of the first Adam, I am not able to be sinless. I was born under and was raised into the stain of sin. But as an adopted son of the Second Adam (Jesus Christ), I have been given the love of God in Christ through the Holy Spirit. And as such, I am now meant to live a new life, which is demonstrated by my love for others.
John is an excellent pastor, one who cares deeply for the lives of his people and works to give them direction and courage to boldly and freely live in light of the resurrection. The glory and power of Christ’s resurrected life is ours, and the evidence is first and foremost our life with others.