1 John 5
The Basis for Fellowship 1:5-2:2, cont’d.
We Must Believe in Jesus (5:1-21)
- The Evidence of Our Belief (:1-3)
John now turns the coin over and shows the other side. In the previous verse he had told us that our love for God would be demonstrated by our love for other believers. Now, He says that the way that we love other believers is by keeping the commandments…and expression of our love for God.
- The Result of Our Belief (:4-5)
Belief in Jesus as the Messiah is what qualifies us to have a relationship with the Father. Whoever loves the Father will love His children. This is a commandment of God and when we fulfill it is proof that we belong to Him. It is our faith in Jesus that overcomes the world.
- The Witness of Our Belief (:6-12)
There are three witnesses to the ministry of Jesus: 1-the water (His baptism, Mark 1:9-11); 2-the blood (His death); 3-the Spirit. These are all witnesses from God. The one who agrees with this 3-fold witness has eternal life.
John has some strong words here. The Gnostics tried to persuade people that their witness took precedence over the witness of God. Remember, they claimed that the god of the world was an inferior god…not the ultimate, true God. And as such…their knowledge, having been received directly from God…was superior to the knowledge that was contained in the Scriptures. John’s point is that there is really only one God…and that He has declared that His witness is true and final. Anyone who disagrees with that is calling Him a liar…and that reveals that he is not a true believer (10), and that he will not have eternal life (:12). In the end, the final witness will be that those who have believed in Jesus Christ as their Savior will inherit eternal life (11). There cannot be any better proof that Jesus is Lord, than that.
- The Source of Our Belief (:13)
John wrote these things so that we can know for certain that we have eternal life. The Gnostics tried to wield control over people by always holding out just a little bit of what they claimed to know. There was always just a little bit more to be learned. And it was dispensed at their determination. It was this additional knowledge…not just the basic knowledge…that was a prerequisite for entering into the spiritual realm. John argued against this and said that all that was necessary for a person to have eternal life…is to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. He had written them and told them this so that they could “know that you have eternal life”. The word “know” means to know something with absolute certainty.
- to know
- to know of anything
- to know, i.e. get knowledge of, understand, perceive
- of any fact
- the force and meaning of something which has definite meaning
"to know by perception," is the word in Pilate's remark "make it as sure as ye can" (marg. "sure, as ye know"), Mat 27:65. The phrases "cannot tell," "canst not tell," etc. are in the RV rendered "know not," etc., Mat 21:27; Mar 11:33; Luk 20:7; Jhn 3:8; 8:14; 16:18; 2Cr 12:2, 3.
Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words,
There are cults today, such as Scientology, that claim to have special, unique knowledge that must be received in order to attain their concept of spiritual maturity, or Heaven, or whatever they seek to attain. Often, it takes a rigorous, extended effort (and sometimes a large sum of money) for a person to receive this knowledge. But John says that it is not what you know, but Who you know. You can have immense knowledge…and yet, not know Jesus. However, if you know Jesus…then you have eternal life and He will freely give you whatever knowledge you need.
- The Confidence of Our Belief (:14-15)
When we pray “according to His will” our prayers will be answered. Obviously, it is important that we know what God’s “will” is.
What one wishes or determines shall be done.
Thayer’s Greek Lexicon
θέλημα thélēma, thel'-ay-mah; from the prolonged form of G2309; a determination (properly, the thing), i.e. (actively) choice (specially, purpose, decree; abstractly, volition) or (passively) inclination:—desire, pleasure, will.
- If we ask anything according to His will, He hears us: In this, we see the purpose of prayer and the secret of power in prayer. It is to ask; to ask anything; to ask anything according to His will; and once having so asked, to have the assurance that He hears us.
- First, God would have us ask in prayer. Much prayer fails because it never asks for anything. God is a loving God, and a generous giver - He wants us to ask of Him.
- Second, God would have us ask anything in prayer. Not to imply that anything we ask for will be granted, but anything in the sense that we can and should pray about everything. God cares about our whole life, and nothing is too small or too big to pray about. As Paul wrote in Philippians 4:6: Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.
iii. Next, God would have us ask according to His will. It is easy for us to only be concerned with our will before God, and to have a fatalistic view regarding His will ("He will accomplish His will with or without my prayers anyway, won't He?"). But God wants us to see and discern His will through His word, and to pray His will into action. When John wrote this, John may have had Jesus' own words in mind, which he recorded in John 15:7: If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. When we abide in Jesus - living in Him, day by day - then our will becomes more and more aligned with His will, and we can ask what you desire, and more and more be asking according to His will. Then we see answered prayer.
- If something is God's will, why doesn't He just do it, apart from our prayers? Why would He wait to accomplish His will until we pray? Because God has appointed us to work with Him as 2 Corinthians 6:1 says: as workers together with Him. God wants us to work with Him, and that means bringing our will and agenda into alignment with His. He wants us to care about the things He cares about, and He wants us to care about them enough to pray passionately about them.
- We know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him: When we ask according to God's will; when we pray the promises of God- we have this confidence and so pray with real and definite faith.
- Prayer should be so much more than casting wishes to heaven. It is rooted in understanding God's will and promises according to His Word, and praying those promises into action. For each prayer request, we should mentally or vocally ask, "What possible reason do I have to think that God will answer this prayer?" We should be able to answer that question from His Word.
- The most powerful prayers in the Bible are always prayers which understand the will of God, and ask Him to perform it. We may be annoyed when one of our children says, "Daddy, this is what you promised, now please do it," but God is delighted. It shows our will aligned with His, our dependence on Him, and that we take His word seriously.
iii. It is not necessarily wrong to ask for something that God has not promised; but we then realize that we are not coming to God on the basis of a specific promise, and we don't have the confidence to know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.
David Guzik :: Study Guide for 1 John 5,
- The Expression of Our Belief (:16-17)
We should pray for our brothers when they sin...as long as it is not sin leading to death (Ryrie)-"Believers can sin to the point where physical death results as the judgment of God (cf. 1 Cor. 11:30). The Greek reads sin, not a sin, in vv. 16 and 17."
- If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin … he will ask: When we see a brother in sin, John tells us the first thing to do is to pray for that person. All too often, prayer is the last thing we do, or the smallest thing we do in regard to our brother having a difficult time.
- And He will give him life: God promised to bless the prayer made on behalf of a brother in sin. Perhaps such prayers have special power before God because they are prayers in fulfillment of the command to love the brethren. Surely, we love each other best when we pray for each other.
- There is sin leading to death: Because he speaks in context of a brother, it is wrong to see him meaning a sin leading to spiritual death; he probably means a sin leading to the physical death of the believer.
- This is a difficult concept, but we have an example of it in 1 Corinthians 11:27-30, where Paul says that among the Christians in Corinth, because of their disgraceful conduct at the Lord's Supper, some had died (many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep). This death came not as a condemning judgment, but as a corrective judgment (But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world, 1 Corinthians 11:32).
- Apparently, a believer can sin to the point where God believes it is just best to bring them home, probably because they have in some way compromised their testimony so significantly that they should just come on home to God.
iii. However, it is certainly presumptuous to think this about every case of an untimely death of a believer, or to use it as an enticement to suicide for the guilt-ridden Christian. Our lives are in God's hands, and if He sees fit to bring one of His children home, that is fine.
- Some believe that brother is used here in a very loose sense, and what John means by the sin leading to death is the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, which is the willful, settled rejection of Jesus Christ. But this would be a curious use of the term brother, especially according to how John has already used brother in his own letter.
- I do not say that he should pray about that: Apparently, when a Christian is being corrected in regard to a sin leading to death, there is no point in praying for his recovery or restoration- the situation is in God's hands alone.
- There is sin not leading to death: John takes pains to recognize that not every sin leads to death in the manner he speaks of, though all unrighteousness is sin.
David Guzik :: Study Guide for 1 John 5,
- The Security of Our Belief (:18-19)
No one who is born of God "sins"…the verb tense means that the person sins continuously. Because of our relationship with Jesus Christ (the Son), we are also in a relationship with God (the Father). Notice that Jesus (“He who was born of God”) “keeps him”. Someone says that they cannot help but sin…that they cannot stop sinning. In that case, they are not a true believer. Here, John tells us that Jesus “keeps him”…meaning to watch over, to guard, to provide security. Jesus Christ is our Keeper. His protection and guard are so strong that “the evil one does not touch him.” He doesn’t even allow Satan so much as a single touch.
Keep, Keeping (Noun):
(a) "to watch over, preserve, keep, watch," e.g., Act 12:5, 6; 16:23; in Act 25:21, RV (1st part), "kept" (AV, "reserved"); the present participle is translated "keepers" in Mat 28:4, lit. "the keeping (ones);" it is used of the "keeping" power of God the Father and Christ, exercised over His people, Jhn 17:11, 12, 15; 1Th 5:23, "preserved;" 1Jo 5:18, where "He that was begotten of God," RV, is said of Christ as the Keeper ("keepeth him," RV, for AV, "keepeth himself"); Jud 1:1, RV, "kept for Jesus Christ" (AV, "preserved in Jesus Christ"); Rev 3:10; of their inheritance, 1Pe 1:4 ("reserved"); of judicial reservation by God in view of future doom, 2Pe 2:4, 9, 17; 3:7; Jud 1:6, 13; of "keeping" the faith, 2Ti 4:7; the unity of the Spirit, Eph 4:3; oneself, 2Cr 11:9; 1Ti 5:22; Jam 1:27; figuratively, one's garments, Rev 16:15;
(b) "to observe, to give heed to," as of keeping commandments, etc., e.g., Mat 19:17; Jhn 14:15; 15:10; 17:6; Jam 2:10; 1Jo 2:3, 4, 5; 3:22, 24; 5:2 (in some mss.), 3; Rev 1:3; 2:26; 3:8, 10; 12:17; 14:12; 22:7, 9.
Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words,
- The Warning for Our Belief (:20-21)
Finally, John concludes with a warning. John tells us that Jesus has given us the “understanding”, the knowledge that we need in order to know God. And, in knowing God we have a relationship with Him and with His Son, Jesus. Here is the warning: “Little children, guard yourselves from idols”. Notice first that he refers to them as, “Little children”. No matter how long, or how far, we travel in this pilgrimage of spiritual growth…we must always be humble like children. It is when we begin to think of ourselves as having arrived, having made it to the top spiritually…that we become susceptible to the attack of Satan. Then, John tells them to “guard yourselves from idols”. An idol is anything that becomes a substitute for God. In the context of this letter and its argument against Gnosticism…it is possible that John is warning them to never allow the attainment of knowledge to become a substitute for a relationship with God. It is not uncommon for a man to begin to grow spiritually and to gain understanding of some of the deeper truths of the Gospel…and to allow those very things to become a source of pride. When that happens…we have failed to acknowledge that everything we are and all that we have is a gift of God’s grace. And at that moment…we have erected a false god before the presence of the true God. Once this takes place, pride becomes a formidable foe to deal with…because we are fighting with ourself. So, John tells them to stop the process…before it begins.
Prayer: Father, please strengthen me to keep me from sin, and to be help for those who do sin.