“For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.”
God is greater than our heart,
It is possible to be too easy or too hard on ourselves. God is the ultimate judge of our hearts. We can overcome feelings of subjective guilt by remembering the nature of God. God’s knowledge is omniscient. He knows our true motives.
Our “heart” is a vice-regent to God’s ultimate regency over our souls, so His judgment surpasses our judgment. His judgment is more accurate and absolute than ours. He knows the true nature of our sin; therefore, we can have assurance that God deals with us in accuracy and compassion.
God is not sympathetic toward us because He sees mitigating circumstances, right motives and conscientious efforts. This verse does not say, “God does not excuse us even if our conscience condemns us because of these things”. No, the issue is either God will confirm the accusation of our heart or He will exonerate us according to the standards of His omniscience. He knows whether genuine love dwells in our heart or not. That is why we must love in “deed and truth.”
In the final analysis, if our conscience condemns us, it does not necessarily mean that we are non-Christians or out of fellowship. Neither does it necessarily mean that we are Christians or Christians in fellowship.
God has the capacity to distinguish between objective and subjective guilt.
If our conscience is correct in judging us, then God will execute discipline on us if we do not confess our sin in due time. If our verdict is incorrect, then He will overrule our verdict in favor of His omniscient justice. Ultimately, we cannot put final trust in our conscience. We cannot trust these things to our feelings. Our primary assurance lies in the written Word of God.
If our heart condemns and criticizes us because we know that we have not loved as we should, it is the Word of God that forms a true conscience in us. This objective and genuine conscience come from the Word. Our conscience then can consist of one of two opposing dimensions: 1) our own norms formed from human values, and 2) God’s values formed from the Word. The believer in fellowship forms his standards from a divine viewpoint, not a human viewpoint.
We may pursue a course of action, but that action is contrary to the Word of God. Our hearts judicially condemn us for this. This is a violation of a norm of God. God will not bless us when we knowingly rebel against one of His standards. God’s standard is greater than our standard. His value is greater than our value.
Once the believer accepts the fact that he violated God’s value and confessed his sin, then God accepts him back into fellowship. Love for other Christians assures us of our fellowship with God. Jesus manifested His love to us. Sometimes we do not love as He loved. There are times when we do not come close to His kind of love, and that may cause doubt about our fellowship with God. We cannot gauge our relationship by subjective experience. If this were the case, we would never know for sure whether we are acceptable to God. Our fellowship with God is determined by faith derived from the Word.
God always bases His judgment on us by looking at our faith. Confidence by faith is the basis for moving forward in the Christian life. If we did not have confidence that God hears our prayers, we would not pray.
God accepts us with all our failures. He will not justify our failures, but He loves us through Jesus Christ. Jesus paid for our sins, so God extends forgiveness to us because of Him. Our authority for continued fellowship rests on Jesus, not on our overt moral behavior. We can approach God without apprehension that He will reject our prayers. We can pray with confidence because we come “in Jesus name.”