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The next element of Owen’s treatise may astound some Christians. To get the strangeness of his position, consider:


3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: 6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. 1 John 2:3–6 (ESV)


The conclusion which seems embedded in the text is that one keep the commandments of Christ and thus one will please him, know him, have fellowship with him – walk in the light. This sounds like “do this and live.”


But remember that this is comes from the same John who included John 3:16 which places salvation on the ground of faith. Indeed consider the entire section:


16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” John 3:16–21 (ESV)


Note that eternal life derives from belief: 16 & 18. Note also in v. 18 that condemnation is based upon unbelief: “whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”

John does not deny good works or keeping the command. Rather, John places keeping the command as the outflow of faith – of resting solely upon Christ.