And here we get to John’s conclusion in 1 John 5:13-20. He’s been summarizing for some time as when a chef bakes something, stirring the ingredients for a while and while stirring, pours a new ingredient in, stirs it in, and then pours in another. So, whatever that is called in the kitchen, John has been doing that for two chapters now.

And then the concluding remarks:

1. The whole point was so that people who desire to follow God through Jesus Christ might know with assurance that they are on the right path. They believe Christ has died for him. They believe he was the Son of God. They believe so much it changes their lives into obedience, not perfectly yet, but perfectly once we finally see Christ! What a glorious message John has been giving us through this epistle!

2. God promises to hear our prayers and assure us through his answering of them. Wow! This doesn’t mean that we can expect to command God or change his will, but we do see that our worshipful prayers are heard and that hearing and answering is intentional assurance.

3. We should pray for sinning brothers and sisters in Christ. Sometimes, God has decided that certain sins lead to death. At other times, God has decided that he will hear prayers on their behalf (and we pray them motivated by God’s Spirit as we read passages like this). (Not even John knew which was which, so we should avoid those who say they know.)

4. John reiterates that Christians will sin. Repentance, not license, is the Godward attitude. We’ll know the difference. The person whose life’s trajectory is sinful does not have assurance. The runner who intends to finish the marathon does not need to despair when he stumbles. Such a runner is protected by God’s Son from the clutching grasp of the devil.

5. We know that stumbling will occur. The world is against this message of Jesus Christ. We will hear so many messages that are intended to cause us to doubt. See #1 above.

6. Even so, Satan’s power is not so extensive that it can prevent God from reaching his children and rescuing them, giving them understanding to see the difference between the pleasures of sin and the peace of God, he who is truth and eternal life!

7. Resisting the distracting or frightening idols of this world is such a powerful aid to our assurance that John closes with it. (Note: self-righteous pride is an idol too.)

Application: We can know that we know God. We can know that we know Jesus Christ. We can know that the devil does not know how to hold on to us through his scare and shame tactics. We can know that we are bound for eternal life, peace now and perfect peace for all eternity. We can know! So, if you are hung up on doubt, read this again and talk to someone. If this has killed your doubt, then move past the devil’s distraction and get to serving God!

Overcomers (!) in verse 5 stand on the vital testimony of 1 John 5:6-12. That testimony refers to Jesus’ life and death.

Jesus’ baptism (coming by water, says John) was performed so that he might “fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). This was the story of his life: perfect righteousness. He achieved what we never can, perfect righteousness in every action, thought, attitude, value, and belief, perfect keeping of the Ten Commandments. This qualified him to stand in our place as a man–not just as God the Son, but as a man with us. (See also John 1:1-18.)

As for his death, this too was crucial. Jesus Christ died in our place. He atoned for our sins and shame by assuming the position of death that we all deserve. Being sinless, he could not be destroyed by death, so he rose to life on the third day!

This is the testimony all “overcomers” (verse 5) must have. It is confirmed to us by the Holy Spirit, demonstrating that God, not just apostles, has stamped this testimony with approval. (For more on the Holy Spirit’s testimony, see John 3:6-8.)

Therefore, says John, eternal life only comes by holding this testimony to be true. Notice how John leaves no room for other religions. Without this testimony about the perfect life of Jesus and the atoning, substitionary death of Jesus, and the Holy Spirit’s confirmation in our lives, there is no eternal life. Further, any other testimony not in agreement with this calls God a liar, says John.

Application: It is time to evaluate all the testimonies you and I allow to influence our decisions. If you have not already, will you do more research into the life and death of Jesus Christ by reading John’s gospel?

John explains very carefully in 1 John 5:1-5 what a Christian is as he begins to wrap up the letter. Look at how many definitions there are in this passage.

1. Define born of God (v1): You could say that John is answering the question that is most offensive to today’s ears: Who is in and who is out?

His answer is that if you believe Jesus (the man from Nazareth) is actually the Christ, the Savior sent to the world from heaven, who was with God and was God himself (John 1:1), then you have been “born of God.”

2. Define I love God the Father (v1): John says that if you truly love God the Father then you will love those who are “born of him.” Let’s amplify that formula. Being “born of God” means, according to the previous definition, that you hold certain declarations about Jesus to be true. Therefore, if you say you love God, and if you genuinely do, then you love all those who believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior of the world. If you really can’t stand those people, then you don’t really love the One from whom they are born.

3a. Define I love God’s children (v2): John explains that we love other Christians when we obey God’s commandments out of love for God.

3b. Define love of God (v3): Loving God means generally obeying him as the trajectory of our lives. We will find that God’s commandments are an expression of love by God to us, of grace and help, even if hard. Our attitude will be one of acceptance, not of finding him “burdensome.”

3a again (v3): That means, we will know we love other Christians when we love what they do, and we choose to do those same things ourselves! That is not a conventional definition for love. It requires a sort of identifying-with, solidarity.

1 again (v4): We find this promise, that being born of God, by definition, means we have overcome the world. It cannot hold us down or destroy us.

4. Define world-conquering victory (v4): Faith in Jesus Christ conquers the world. Many in this world will not overcome it. They will keep trying to find their own way. They will search and search and boast and claw and struggle, looking for self-protection and self-fulfillment. But those who bow their knees to Jesus Christ, love God’s commandments in the Bible, and love God’s people will find God big enough to take care of their situation. When there seems to be a conflict of choice–between choosing the way of God, which may include sacrifice, or choosing some way that seems more self-protecting or self-fulfilling–we’ll choose God’s way and find that it was the right choice.

5. Define overcomer (v5): Overcomer–what an exciting word! Who is an overcomer, asks John, but those “who believe that Jesus [the man from Nazareth] is [actually] the Son of God?” No one else overcomes. So we have come full circle.

Application: Belief in Jesus changes the way we live life and think. What aspects of your pursuit in this life are different after you have made a commitment to Jesus? What aspects need to change because they still reflect too much self-faith and not enough faith in God?

If you haven’t responded to Jesus, look at those people who seem to be really following God through Jesus with real joy and true love for humanity. How are their pursuits and foundational values different from yours? You know, it is not to late to put your hope in Christ and turn in surrender. This passage tells you how!

1 John 4:13-21 is another recapitulation or summary of the key points of 1 John. Everything here has been touched on in greater detail previously in 1 John. But it’s nice to see it all collected here before hitting the home stretch in chapter 5:

1) “By this we know we abide in him” (13): The emphasis is not on having been introduced to God, but on remaining steadfastly assured in the family of God, safe in God’s care. Many doubt from time to time, but John says we can know we are God’s when we recognize his Spirit producing fruit in our lives. (Don’t know what this means? Then don’t listen to TV preachers. Just look up Spirit in a concordance, and starting with John 14-16, then moving to Romans-1 John, read about the Spirit’s work in Christians.)

2) “We have seen and testify” (14): We know that Jesus is God, sent by the Father because John and many many others actually saw him alive after he was killed on the cross. John saw a sealed tomb with guards one day and an empty tomb on the third day! Then Jesus showed himself bodily to dozens, later hundreds of people (1 Cor 15:1-8). We have a faith that stands up to the questions of reason. It’s not just wishful thinking or a psychological crutch.

3) “Whoever confesses” (15): Why are we listening for spiritual advice to people who do not confess that Jesus is not the Son of God???

4) “God is love” (16): This is a well-known statement. The ramification of it is that whoever loves God and remains with God will know, experience, grow in understanding about two things: a) that God loves them as a father loves a child (think about it!!), and b) that I must love others, for God loves others! The consequence of such growing love based on God through Jesus Christ? Look at the verse 17! Confidence on Judgment Day. Are you ready for Judgment Day?

5) “There is no fear in love” (18): I touched on this with 4a above. There is no punishing a Christian! If you are God’s child, you may be trained, even disciplined in some way, but you are not punished as though God were angry with you. All of God’s discipline is done in love to improve us, not to punish or get revenge. God’s wrath was poured out on Jesus on the cross. That’s what John has meant by “propitiation” in earlier parts of the letter (2:2, 4:10). When you fail, when you sin, if you are a Christian, you can have confidence in God’s forgiveness! Humbly ask for it and move on with your day! Go serve him out of love! Not to re-earn his love!

6) “We love because he first loved us” (19): Consider that! Any real love you have is derived from knowing his love. Keeps us humble and keeps us on track!

7) “If anyone says” (20): Again, you say you love God but hate a brother or sister in Christ, or even a neighbor (in the Good Samaritan sense of all people), then how do you even know the God who is love? Anger, revenge, bitterness, unforgiving and unreconcilable attitudes are all anti-God. Work on it with God in prayer to renew the relationship. If the person won’t reciprocate, know this: Many people have been offered God’s love who have rejected the beautiful, innocent Jesus Christ. So don’t be surprised when someone won’t make it right with you, a sinner. But don’t be a hater. Haters don’t know God. Go out of your way to make it better.

Application: What above was not application? If you do not know God, start reading 1 John and then the gospel of John. You’ll find a reasonable faith that will surprise you with joy that satisfies. If you are a Christian, meditating on and living this passage will fill you with joy that idols in this world will never provide. Blessings, brothers and sisters!

In 1 John 4:7-12, we read a very plain message, that God is love, that God had wrath, and that those who are not loving are not of God’s people. How does this all work together? God of love and wrath? But people of love, not wrath?

In verse 9, he says, “In this [Here's how] the love of God was made manifest [was demonstrated] among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.” Plainly, if God doesn’t act, we are dead. That’s the Bible’s viewpoint on the situation.

And we know the rest of the story. I’ve blogged about it before (check out the tags). This Son, Jesus Christ, lived among us sinlessly. He did not take part in what everyone else did sinfully. And then wicked people killed him according to the plan of God and the submission of Christ. Why did God plan for this? Because sin really is offensive to him, and God wanted a way to punish it. He poured his wrath out on the sacrifice who stood in our place, Jesus Christ. Notice that in verse 10, Jesus is described as the “propitiation.” That means literally, the wrath-bearing sacrifice.

God is love, but God had wrath. Wrath for those in rebellion. Love for those in rebellion. And love for his Son.

So God is love after all. He punished sin, but he provided a Messiah, one who could bear up under that punishment where we could not! Sin was sin. It was hateful and wrath-inducing. It’s not ok. It’s not cool. A loving God is actually wrathful toward those who despise him in attitude or lifestyle. But God provided, in enormous love, a way to escape the deserved punishment.

Ah Jesus! You are love! Not by being nice, but by putting your life on the line, by dying undeservedly for wretches! After all, you died for people who didn’t love you back. God took the first step and loved the unlovely (10)! And as John puts it, “if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (11). So too, if God hates a sin that put Christ on the cross, and if I love him, I ought to hate that sin, not wallow in it.

Still, we all come from sin. Let us not forget it, for we’ll find it awfully hard to love as Christ loved if we do. If we don’t forget that, we’ll love, and that love will become “perfected” (12) in us.

Application: Have you ever heard someone express an opinion that a certain behavior was wrong, was sinful, and you responded, “I don’t know about you, but I believe in a God of love”? Please recall that “no one has ever seen God” (12). The way to express God, to the best of our ability, is to love one another. That means to help them avoid hell by explaining the danger of loving sin. But, that does not mean despising people for sinning as though we ourselves have never sinned. God teaches us to express loving intervention when needed, as well as love through friendship, meals, thoughtfulness, sacrifice, forgiveness, grace, and God-centeredness. This is the full-orbed character of God’s love. It is reflected in people who know God.

“By this we know,” used twice in 1 John 4:1-6, is always a helpful phrase. When we see something like this, it’s good to find out two things: 1) what can we clearly know, and 2) by what means can we clearly know it?

So, we can clearly know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. When John says not to believe every spirit, he is pointing out something we overlook. Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44) and when we are dealing with religion, we are always always always dealing with the spiritual, with God and the devil.

When we hear something about God, we need to test it, since none of it is neutral. It is either true and helpful to us, or it is dangerous. If in error, it is not just another idea, but it comes from a lying spirit we cannot see. This makes it sound kind of weird and even a little goofy in our day, but that’s how God presents it in this text.

Therefore, we can know if something is from the Holy Spirit or from a lying spirit of error. Now, how can we know it?

A) Is it claimed that Jesus Christ is from God? B) Is it claimed that Jesus Christ was flesh too? The dual nature of Jesus Christ (the “hypostatic union” of two natures, if you want to sound technical) is here clearly presented. This isn’t everything, but its enough to rule out a lot of pseudospirituality. Someone on TV makes a claim about human nature, what do they say about the nature of Jesus? Someone makes a claim about Jesus’ teaching? What do they say about his nature?

Back in John’s day, they were saying Jesus was God, but he only was faking the human part. Now, a lot of people will say he was human, but was delusional about the God part.

Both are important. It was something expressly taught by Athanasius in the 300′s (in the short classic you really ought to read, De Incarnatione/On the Incarnation). If people are sinners and need to be reconciled to God, then nothing short of God can do it. Since people need to be reconciled, then nothing outside of humanity could do it.

Finally, John adds one extra, “by this we know.” “Whoever knows God listens to us” (6). John was an eyewitness (see John 1:1-4), but is now dead. What we have remaining to “listen” to, is the Bible. After you test what they say about Jesus, test what they say against what the Bible says. Not what they say it “really” means, but how it plainly and obviously reads.

Application: Little children, John says, we are from God, who is greater in you than he who is in the world (4). Don’t believe every little thing you hear. Test it. Christianity is founded on Jesus, and if they get that wrong, you have to reject their truth-claims.

Ps. Heaven and hell, children of God and enemies of God–these are black and white issues. Among God’s children, there is a little bit of difference, as none of us has all the answers. Learn to do a little theological triage for those who speak correctly about Jesus and the Bible.

Everybody wants the answer that 1 John 3:19-24 promises: How do I know if I’m okay with God? “By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our hearts before him.” Wow, pretty straightforward. Here are the five things that assure us: Read the rest of this entry »

1 John 3:16-18 says this: “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”

Here is a straightforward passage of Scripture. Jesus Christ laid down his life. For us, it says.

But why did he die for us? It wasn’t to prove he loved us, because nobody trying to prove love dies for someone. You die to accomplish something, and in that, you demonstrate love. Read the rest of this entry »

Don’t be like Cain, John says in 1 John 3:11-15 . . . seems easy enough, right? Don’t kill your brother when you get angry. Don’t invent murder. Pop quiz: Anyone remember where Cain shows up in high school English? (Highlight the blank space after this sentence for the answer.) Grendel’s great-great . . . grandfather in Beowulf, epitomizing evil.

But what is John really saying? Cain saw Abel’s righteousness and responded by hating him. Notice that this is how the world, that part of society that does not want to follow Jesus Christ, responds to followers of Jesus generally. Read the rest of this entry »

John has just explained (in verse 2) that we are right now children of God if we have placed our hope and faith in Jesus Christ (his death for our sins and resurrection). We are his children, and while it is not evident what we will be (because we still sin) when he comes again we’ll be transformed to be like him, seeing him as he truly is.

Even so, in John 3:4-10, John wants to make something very clear about sin and the supposed Christian. Note how the passage restates a lot of things: Read the rest of this entry »