7 Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. 8 Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. 9 Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. (NIV)
Today John gives his readers the reason why they should continue to walk in the truth. He tells them that by walking in the truth they will be able to discern who false teachers are and they will be able to stand firm in their faith. He then goes on to tell them that he doesn’t want them to lose what they have worked for. It may sound like John is talking about a person losing their faith. It is impossible for us to look at a person’s heart to see if they have fully accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. The only evidence we, as humans, see is an outward change. If a person has surrendered their life to Jesus Christ we should see changes in their life. A change that persists through time as a person clings to Jesus through the good times and bad times. If a person walks away from their faith it begs the question, did they ever really surrender to Jesus Christ? This is a tough question that we will not be able to answer.
In this context, I believe John is talking about the future rewards we as believers will receive based on how we live our life. Please note, he is not talking about our salvation. We cannot work to obtain that. He is talking a heavenly reward we will receive based on how we lived our lives on earth (James 1:12; Matt. 16:17; 1 Cor. 3:12-14). Many times, people do not teach on heavenly rewards because it can get confused with earning our salvation. That is not at all the case. It is important that believers know that we will get recognized for living faithfully on earth in heaven. We do things knowing that we will not get earthly praise, but God is watching and the reward we will get in heaven will be great.
Believers in Christ are encouraged to stay steadfast in their faith. We must continue to walk in truth no matter what our life circumstances are. We need to stay rooted in the truth of the Bible and the teachings of Christ. We must not run ahead thinking we know more than God. We must remain in Christ and have humility about not knowing everything but having confidence in the cross.