The philosopher Plutarch said, “Boldness is the most potent medicine in friendship.” This boldness is more than bravery or daring; it includes the openness of speech that comes only in a close relationship.
The theme of boldness pervades today’s reading, perhaps because the Christian community suffered from doubts about their relationship with God in light of the secessionists’ claims. John works to reassure the believers by reminding them of the foundation of their relationship with God. First, there is God’s omniscience. Sometimes our hearts waver and doubt creeps in. We wonder about our standing before God. Scripture assures us that even then, “God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything” (v. 20). Our relationship with God is based on His knowledge of us, not on our subjective feelings about Him.
Second, an examination of our life can indicate our relationship with God. If we obey His command—“to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another” (v. 23)—then not only should our hearts not condemn us, but we should have “confidence [or “boldness”] before God” (v. 21). This is the “boldness” of relationship that gives us confidence that God hears us and responds to our prayer requests.
Third, Scripture highlights the internal role of the Spirit in our confidence before God. The Christian life is not just our abiding in Christ, but also His abiding in us through His Spirit. As we are told: “This is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us” (v. 24). This is more than subjective feeling; it is the objective testimony of God’s own Spirit reminding us of our relationship with Him.