In finishing my series on 1 John I didn’t preach on the last paragraph in 1 John 5. Here are thoughts on 1 John 5:13-21.
1. John desires to conclude with some practical thoughts on being assured of our salvation and what his audience should do about it. Remember his audience has experienced a group of so-called “Christians” leaving the church (or the particular churches – basically starting their own groups) and denying that Jesus was God and that he had come in the flesh. John has been writing to assure them of eternal life so that they can stay in fellowship with fellow Christians and John and so that they can avoid sin and not mistakenly follow these false teachers out of the church. So what should they do?
2. They need to be praying. This is the second time John connects assurance and answered prayer (See 1 John 3:21-22). John must see an inevitable link between being confident of God’s love and acceptance and prayer. Makes sense to me, too, when I think about it. True children of God are constantly going in prayer to their Father because everything comes from him. John also assures his readers that they will be answered when they pray in the Father’s will. This isn’t a mysterious thing but simply a revealed truth. God will do what is best for us all the time. We can know what His will is by learning more about His character and His desire in His Word. The amazing thing is that we can be assured that He answers us – where without Christ we would never have that assurance.
3. They need to be praying for sinful Christians. Much discussion has been made through the years about what is the “sin unto death.” In context, this sin seems best explained by what the false teachers were guilty of: actively promoting another Gospel. John says we need to pray for other Christians esp. as we see them stumbling in sin (even being influenced by false teaching) that God will restore them. We aren’t supposed to pray the same for false teachers necessarily. For other examples of being instructed not to pray or not praying for someone, see Jer. 7:16-8, Jer. 11:14, Jer. 14:11, John 17:9. The reverse is true: we have an obligation to pray for Christians stumbling in sin. God may not always answer by restoring them in this life. Some he takes home to be with him prematurely. So you can’t judge this by how they respond (not that you’re supposed to be judging anyway!). But you can be assured that he will hear and answer your prayer, giving you what you desire – their restoration to Himself.
4. They need to remember certain truths:
a. True believers don’t remain in sin but are protected by Jesus Christ from the devil.
b. True believers are children of God and the whole world is under the control of the devil and will be opposed to them (yet they are protected).
c. True believers know that Christ has revealed the Father to us and made us one with Him because Jesus is God and eternal life.
5. We need to remember these truths and stay away from anything that teaches otherwise and seduces otherwise (keep yourselves from idols). Teaching otherwise is pretty straightforward most of the time. Anything that teaches that there is some other way to God except through Jesus Christ is to be avoided.
But John is also concerned about the seduction of the world (1 John 2:15-16). We should be concerned with anything that seeks us to love it for itself alone and not for how it increases our joy in and love for God. True believers actively seek in all areas of their lives to promote love for God and submission to His will so that they can love others. Anything that seduces away from this is to be spurned. Common areas of temptation in today’s world include video games, friends, education, partying, relaxing, careers, children, and on the list goes. All of these can exist in our lives for their own pleasure rather than for our desire to love God. We must live for God because we are His.
So there you have it: Be in prayer with confidence always and keep seeking to avoid the world’s influence by keeping Jesus Christ as the one you love and serve in all things. These are marks of true Christians. May you know that you have eternal life because you are trusting in Christ and God is working these truths into your character on a daily basis.