I John 5:18-21 Truth And Falsehood.
It is not the overall bent of the Christian’s life to serve sin, but none are yet perfected (v. 18 Cf. 1:8-2:2). Those born of God guard themselves from the devil, as John stated earlier, because “the word of God abides” in them (2:14 Cf. Lk. 24:45). There is an opposite bent to those who are children of the devil-namely ‘the world” (v. 19). There are two opposing seeds, and two opposing worldviews (Cf. I Pet. 1:23). Believers have this understanding from God, we have a saving knowledge of the Son of God (v. 20 Cf. Gal. 1:4). The world, on the other hand, worships dumb idols, the very things we must keep ourselves from (v. 21 Cf. 4:2-3; Js. 1:27).
I John 5:14-17 Petitioning According To The Word.
John laid down the first principle of true biblical petitioning in prayer-asking only for that which is according to God’s will, and we know from the word that God’s will is found in his word (v. 14). It is nothing short of sacrilege to try and name anything contrary to the word as God’s will, when it only stems from our own desires. It is the same as saying one loves or knows God, when at the same time one does not live according to his commandments. “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments” (2:3). “And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight” (3:21). It is only our commitment to the word in prayer, that we can say that we know God hears us (v. 15). Obviously, to anyone who knows the word, there is a biblical mandate to confront people because of their sin, and when there is repentance and faith, given by God, there is forgiveness (v. 16 Cf. Job 42:8).
Here we find another statement from John which strikes many as being cryptic. What is the sin leading to death, that we are not to pray about? The editors of the ‘New Geneva Study Bible’ give what they believe are two separate options. “Some connect this sin with the unforgivable sin mentioned in Matt. 12:31, 32; Mark 3:28-30; Luke 12:8-10. More likely, John is referring to a stubborn refusal to accept the message of the gospel (1:10 note; John 8:24)” (p.1993). With respect to their comment on 1:10 they state the following. “Perhaps the “sin leading to death” mentioned in 5:16 is a stubborn refusal to accept God’s diagnosis of our need and His offer of forgiveness” (p.1987). John tells us what this unforgivable sin is not at verse 17. “All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death” (5:17). John also clearly defined sin and unrighteousness when he stated that, “sin is lawlessness” (3:4).
Again, with respect to the “sin leading to death,” it is not clear to this writer that it can’t refer to both of the options given by the NGBS editors. Jesus made clear that every sin could be forgiven, except for one-“blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven” (Mt. 12:31). Mark expands on what it means to blaspheme against the Spirit when he stated that one is guilty of blasphemy against the Spirit, if one says that Jesus “has an unclean spirit” (3:30). According the scriptural testimony, God cannot contradict himself. If John were referring to something other than the one sin Jesus refers to, it would make one of them a liar. It may be that the editor(s) of I John, in an overemphasis on discovering the “theology of John,” may have lost their mooring to a more primary principle-that the word speaks with one voice. However, even John himself quotes Jesus as stating that “the Scripture cannot be broken” (Jn. 10:35). And we need to care enough to confront sin.
I John 5:6-13 The Certainty Of God’s Witness.
It has always puzzled people as to what is meant by “water and blood.” A basic principle of interpretation, especially of difficult phrases like this, is to keep the context in mind-the immediate context of the passage in which a phrase like this is contained, but also the larger context of all the human author’s writings. One thing that stands out in the present context is that, the Spirit and the Father bear witness to “the water and blood” (Cf. 6b, 10b). So logically we should go to other passages that address the Father and the Spirit testifying to Jesus coming by water and blood. It is also true that the water, blood, and the Spirit are three separate witnesses, just as there are three who bear witness in heaven (vv. 7-8). John himself records Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus where Jesus tells him that, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:5). So we see that physical birth is spoken of as being “born of water,” and it is certainly true that the Father and the Spirit bore witness to Jesus’ birth (Cf. Mt. 1:22-23; Lk. 1:35).
However, the Father and the Spirit also bore witness at Jesus water baptism just prior to his entering his public ministry (Mk. 1:10-11). We might also say that both the Father and the Spirit testified to the necessity of His death, and the shedding of his blood, as a witness to that blood sacrifice. “Others suggest that “water and blood” refers to the two sacraments, baptism and the Lord’s Supper” (NGSB pp. 1992-3). However, one must ask if this fits with the idea of Jesus coming by water and blood. Most of the explanations for “water and blood” don’t seem to take seriously the verb in this verse-namely that this is how Jesus came. However, we could also say in English that Jesus, “having come through water and blood” (v. 6). Put this way we could say that it could include everything through to the end of the gospel narratives. The other question is what does John mean by ‘through’, and it would seem logical to see this in light of the main activity of bearing witness. Though this is still not clear, verse 7 certainly is-the Trinity in heaven bears witness.
Whatever the water and blood are referring to, we at the very least know that they agree with the Trinity (v. 7), and all three agree together on earth (v. 8)-so there is two groups of three that all agree as one, and they agree in their testimony concerning Jesus, which John has again put forward here in this letter. When it comes to witness bearing, which had particular reference to capital crimes, according to the law there had to be 2 or three witnesses, and John seems to be saying that in the Trinity we have three witness who are each far superior to the witness of men (v. 9 Cf. Dt. 17:6; 19:15; Mt. 3:16-17; Jn. 5:31-34, 37; 8:14-18). He who does not believe this witness concerning the Son, does not have the Father or the Spirit either-because they are calling God a liar (v. 10). As John stated in his gospel, “He who has received His testimony has certified that God is true” (3:33). This testimony includes that we have eternal life in the Son (vv. 11-12). Assurance of these truths is why John wrote this epistle (vv. 13 Cf. Jn. 3:15-16; 6:47; 17:2-3; 20:31).
I John 4:20-5:5 Love Overcomes.
John could not be clearer, that whoever says they are a Christian and yet hates his brother is a liar (v. 20). “And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also” (v. 21). Again he repeats, that one must also confess that Jesus is the Christ (5:1 Cf. 2:22; 4:2, 15). He also reiterates the truth that our love to God and others is seen in our keeping his commandments (5:2-3 Cf. 2:3; 3:24; Jn. 14:15, 21-23; 15:10). In this reaffirmation John also makes an important point with regard to God’s commandments, that they “are not burdensome” (v. 3). This can only really be said of those who have been born again, because as John goes on to say, “whatever is born of God overcomes the world” (v. 4a). Jesus said, “My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Mt. 11:30). “And this is the victory that has overcome the world-our faith” (v. 4b Cf. 2:13; 4:4; Jn. 16:33). Our faith is simply this-“Jesus is the Son of God” (v. 5). We overcome in him. “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 15:57).
I John 4:17-19 We Love Because He First Loved Us.
If God’s love is perfected in us, it means that we more and more walk as Jesus walked (2:6). In this perfection we can have “boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so we are in this world” (v. 17 Cf. 2:28). We have this boldness because, “perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment” (v. 18a). This is also how we know that his love is being increasingly perfected in us, that fears are cast out, and assurance takes its place (v. 18b). “We love Him because He first loved us” (v. 19 Cf. 4:10). This is the key point. We do not earn this love, and we do not love others to earn it. Rather, we love God and others, because he first loved us.
I John 4:12-16 True Love.
At the beginning of His gospel record, John made the point that, “No one has seen God at any time” (v. 18a). God made this point to Moses when he said, “no man shall see Me, and live” (Ex. 33:20b). However, “the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him” (1:18b). Jesus did this in his person, words, and deeds. John states this truth after the declaration that begins his gospel, namely that, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (1:1). Indeed, he reiterates this at the beginning of this letter (1:1-4). In the Son incarnate, as Paul put it, we have “the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15a Cf. II Cor. 4:4).
Likewise, it is only as our lives image Christ’s, in character, word, and deed, that we can have the assurance that God abides in us, and that his love is being perfected in us (v. 12). This is also a proof that the Spirit is at work in us (v. 13). What John and the other apostles and N.T. writers saw and testified to, was “that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world” (v. 14). To this end, abiding in him, and he in us, is not only not divorced from one’s actions, but it is also not divorced from what one believes. “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God” (v. 15). So love for God, and his love for us, shows itself in word and deed (v. 16).
I John 4:7-11 Those Who Know God Love As They Loved Us.
Again John addresses his audience as ‘Beloved’, those enveloped in agape love, and again he reiterates the need and command to love one another (v. 7a Cf. I Th. 4:9). This is what must characterize those who claim to be born of God. This finds expression in the keeping of his commandments, this is one of the grounds of our assurance (v. 7b Cf. 3:10-11, 23). Without this love no one can claim that they know God (v. 8). Again, the prime example of agape is the Father sending his Son to die as the “propitiation for our sins” (vv. 9-10 Cf. See blog on I Jn. 2:1-2; Jn. 3:16; Rom. 5:8). This agape love is also seen in Jesus freely giving himself to this end of satisfying God’s wrath and justice for us (3:16). It is on the basis of both the Father’s and the Son’s sacrificial love, that we are called to love one another (v. 11 Mt. 18:33).
I John 4:1-6 The Spirit Of Truth And The Spirit Of Error.
The beloved, or those enveloped in agape love, are to “test the spirits, whether they are of God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (v. 1 Cf. Mt. 24:5). This is a specific injunction for those who still had those who exercised revelatory gifts, as the canon of scripture was being completed. However, there is a principle directly related to this that all coming after the completion of the canon need to also exercise, and that is to test anyone claiming to teach and preach biblical truth, that they test that by the Bible itself (vv. 1-2a). In particular, “Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God” (v. 2b-3a Cf. I Cor. 12:3).
Again, “this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world” (v. 3b Cf. 2:18, 22; II Jn. 7). John also reminded them again, that they and we also have the Spirit to teach and guide us in this exercise (v. 4 Cf. 2:20). False prophets and teachers are spokespeople for the ungodly seed-the world set against the people of God (v. 5 Cf. 2:15-17; Jn. 3:31; 15:19; 16:11; 17:14). John, and the other N.T. writers were received on proven grounds, namely that they wrote as the Spirit led them, and what they wrote was consistent with the scriptures already established. So those who “are of God,” heard them and thus received what they wrote and said. This also holds true for those who claim to teach in accord with this word (v. 6).
I John 3:16-24 Love In Deed And Truth.
The main expression of agapev love was Jesus laying “down His life for us” (v. 16a Cf. Jn. 10:11). This is also the example we are to follow-“to lay down our lives for the brethren (v. 16b Cf. Jn. 15:13). However, John gives a more likely example of this love, and that is sharing one’s wealth with those in need (v. 17 Cf. Mt 5:42; Gal. 2:10). This also hearkens back to the law (Dt. 15:7-8; 24:12-14), including lending without interest (Cf. Lev. 25:35-37). Talk is not enough (v. 18a Cf. Ez. 33:30-33). Actually giving aid gives expression to the truth of one’s desire to help, and this also gives us a basis for our assurance that we do indeed abide in Him and He in us (vv. 18b-19). In the bible the heart refers to our core, and in the majority of cases it refers to the core of our thinking. This is why John focuses on the knowledge we and God have of our hearts (v. 20).
As Paul also noted, we do not always know what is in our own hearts, or some do not want to know, but God does know (Cf. I Cor. 4:4-5). Therefore it is important that we examine our hearts in the light of the scriptures, that we might purify our hearts before Him, only then can “we have confidence toward God” (v. 21 Cf. 2:28).Only with this confidence can we be assured that we will receive that which we ask of God in prayer, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight” (v. 22 Cf. 5:14). John then reiterates the two main things he has been emphasizing from the start of this letter-that Jesus is the Christ who has come in the flesh, and we must love one another (v. 23). We know that we abide in Him and He, the Father, and the Spirit in us, if we show our love by keeping His commandments (v. 24 Cf. Jn. 14:19-24; 17:21).
I John 3:11-15 Love Or Hate.
There is an old commandment which became new when the Son of God incarnate entered human history-to love one another. The beginning is really the beginning of history, this is why John hearkens back to the first family’s departure from it (v. 11 Cf. 2:7-8; Jn. 15:12). Cain murdered his brother because he hated him, and he hated him because he “was of the wicked one,” the wicked seed. More particularly, he murdered Abel because Cain’s “works were evil and his brother’s righteous” (v. 12). If we go back to Genesis we see that the great divide was a covenantal one, and in particular the acknowledgment of the reality of sin. Cain thought that his offering of the “fruit of the ground” was equal to Abel’s “firstborn of his flock” (Gen. 4:2-5).
Abel’s offering was a sacrifice of blood-that was necessary for a relationship involving the covenant of grace. This truth was laid down with our first parents when God sacrificed animals to clothe them after the fall (Gen. 3:21). It has always been the case, since Cain and the ungodly seed, that they seek to justify themselves in God’s sight, remaining dead in the original covenant of works, a covenant that we all broke in Adam at the fall. Fallen man continues to think that the offering of his own works is enough. The fact is, in order for Cain to offer an offering consistent with the covenant of grace, would have required of Cain that he go to his brother and ask for an animal of his to offer.
Cain hated his brother because he hated Abel’s God. He hated God because of his judgment on sin, and he hated Abel because Abel had the only sacrifice that was acceptable to God. If he had offered the same sacrifice as Abel, with the same heart, he would have done well and been accepted (Gen. 4:7). This is why John can say “do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you” (v. 13 Cf. Jn. 15:18; 17:14). It began in the first family. However, love for the brethren is evidence that we abide in him and he in us. “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren” (v. 14a). This is a matter of life and death (v. 14b). Hatred is a violation of the 6th commandment-incompatible with those who claim eternal life (v. 15 Cf. Mt. 5:21).