1 John 5:9-15 – 2023 Sep 14

I’ve heard it said that there are three key rules for the interpretation of Scripture.  Those are context, context, and context.  This is one of those times where it is important to know the overall context of the passage we are studying now.  In many ways, the first letter of John is about the gospel.  I mean what the gospel is, to whom it should be applied and how, as well as tests for self-examination regarding whether we are continuing in it according to the Scriptures.  As we spoke about last week, the contents of John’s writings in general are at the same profoundly simple and simply profound.  This makes them imminently worth reading.

The context here overall comes from the book as a whole, but specifically from our last study where we considered that to love God (and remember that is always agape) means that we are willingly obeying Him.  Do these things, and you will know you are in Christ, and that you are living by the gospel of Christ kind of thing.  John here begins to solidify that meaning in our text in this study.

I broke the text into thought units as follows:

KV13:  That you may KNOW you have eternal life

13:  These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.

9-10:  Who has believed our report?

11-12:  What is the report itself? [ the gospel]

13:  The effects of the report

14-15:  Confidence before God is the result

And now, let’s begin to study in what in my opinion is the best way possible: one verse at a time.

KV13:  That you may KNOW you have eternal life

13:  These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.

My key verse this evening is verse 13, and it says a real mouthful.  It should make any real believer leap (at least in their heart, we don’t do pew-jumping here for safety reasons) for the charis, or joy it places in their hearts immediately.  I will say more about it when we get to that thought unit, but the short version is that you can be assured of your salvation.  This becomes important because we are quickly forgetful, we can lose our joy in an instant, and especially today do not have a good grasp of Scripture.  Combine that with the fact that we all still live in these bodies of rotting flesh, and you have a recipe for a quick and deep moping depression that can entrench itself in your soul and be very difficult to overcome. In fact with men, it is impossible.  Thank God that for Him all things are possible.

That said, let’s get into the text.

9-10:  Who has believed our report?

That line is intentionally reminiscent of Isaiah 53:1, which takes its context from Isaiah 52:13-15.  Those verses are clearly Messianic, and read, “Behold, My servant will prosper, He will be high and lifted up and greatly exalted. Just as many were astonished at you, My people, So His appearance was marred more than any man And His form more than the sons of men.  Thus He will sprinkle many nations, Kings will shut their mouths on account of Him; For what had not been told them they will see, And what they had not heard they will understand.”  Then 53:a1 reads, “Who has believed our message?”  Isaiah understood that those who heard the good news of the Messiah would be misunderstood, ridiculed, persecuted, and even killed for this message.  He understood that people, frankly, had other priorities.  That’s what the first verse of the text in this study reminds me of.

9:  If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater; for the testimony of God is this, that He has testified concerning His Son.

  • It is our penchant to believe the men who tell us things over and above God.  Remember last week, we talked about the three that testify or give evidence about the Son of God, the Holy Spirit, the water, and the blood.  The Holy Spirit still witnesses about Christ today, but think about the other two for a moment.  The water represents the baptism of Christ, where God the Father spoke aloud to the world and identified His beloved Son to those who stood by at the very beginning of His earthly ministry.  If you had heard a voice coming from the sky, would you have believed the report?  How about the blood?  This speaks of His crucifixion, the very end of His earthly ministry.  Those who were at the cross saw the sun refuse to shine at the death of the One who created it.  The text there records a palpable darkness of the very wrath of God being poured out on Him for our sakes, and at His death, the veil of the temple was torn by some invisible force from top to bottom.  Did that heavy, untearable-by-man curtain just tear itself?  I think not.  God also testified there.  I spoke of the Holy Spirit still witnessing of Christ today, and that’s actually God Himself!  God tells of His Son in all respects, and we would be right to think that God is over all in terms of whose witness has the most weight and authority.  And yet, we are all so quick to believe the first individual who has a different story, especially about Christ in His life and death on our behalf.  We could go on for hours if we talked about just the named heresy that has been spread about this, never mind all the new nonsense that’s coming up.  No, Beloved, God’s Word is greater than man’s here.  Believe God.

10:  The one who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself; the one who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has given concerning His Son.

  • Now given what John said in verse 9 about verse 8, this makes sense. The one who believes in the Son of God is justified, saved, redeemed, or regenerated, or whatever word or phrase you prefer to talk about the soteriology of this.  That one who is redeemed has the testimony in himself.  What testimony?  That Jesus is the Son of God!  THAT testimony, from the context!  Those who are saved know who has saved them, and what they have been saved from, the wrath of a holy and just God.  Beloved, that wrath is coming for every human that has ever lived.  All will stand before God for judgment.  Woe to you if you have to face that on your own merit.
  • What it says about those who do not believe God’s testimony about God the Son and His redeeming work on our behalf, the gospel, is that they are calling Him a liar.  I don’t necessarily know what that meant to you while you were growing up, but there were three things that could draw me to drop my gloves and raise my fists.  In ascending order, those were being called a wimp, being called a girly-boy or worse, but by far the worst of those was to be called a liar.  It generally didn’t happen often, I had a reputation for being a good kid who was honest.  I wasn’t really, but I had that appearance of being a truth-teller.  I address this next comment to those who do not believe what God says about His Son.  Friends, God cannot lie.  It is foreign to His nature.  Reconsider your position, I beg you.  You do know Who you are provoking, right?  Don’t.  Again, I beg you.

This is often presented as a contradiction for Calvinists.  Clearly, those who do not believe CHOOSE not to believe.  Without getting into the details of this, I will quote Chapter 3, Paragraph 1 for you from the 1689 Second London Baptist Confession of Faith & Catechism: 

  • God hath Decreed in himself from all Eternity, by the most wise and holy Councel of his own will, freely and unchangeably, all things whatsoever comes to passe; yet so as thereby is God neither the author of sin, nor hath fellowship with any therein, nor is violence offered to the will of the Creature, nor yet is the liberty, or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established, in which appears his wisdom in disposing all things, and power, and faithfulness in accomplishing his Decree.” 

Despite what Grammarly tells me is a mitt full of spelling errors (they only are today, they weren’t then). This tells me that no violence is ever done to the will of the created being.  Why is that important?  Because you DO have a choice, and it is completely your choice.  You will find that choice to be irresistible at the time of your salvation if God has regenerated you!  I know the meaning of “the Father draws him” means literally kicking and screaming, but that really doesn’t happen, Beloved.  We won’t get into it here, but no real Calvinist denies this truth, and I must say a word here about it.

This is also a non-issue because we are talking about regenerated versus non-regenerated, not Calvinist versus Arminian Remonstrant, also known as Pelagian or semi-Pelagian.  We looked at that a couple of weeks back if you’ll recall.  The guys who wrote the 1689 confession were ALL Calvinists.  But before we go down a rabbit hole, we will move on.

11-12:  What is the report itself? [ the gospel]

John takes the time to define this for us, and as such we will look at it.  We go right to the text.

11:  And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.

  • For the last several verses, John has been going on and on about this testimony, and necessarily so have we.  Although John isn’t NOT being plain, some people, and I used to be in this number, have difficulty understanding it because of the seeming repetitiveness of his favourite words and phrases for explaining things.  All of us are like this to be fair, I know I am.  I’ve heard people mock me when they do impressions, and I have to admit it is kind of funny.  Anyone who has spoken with me at length knows I overuse the word actually, and I don’t even realize I do it.  I am working on that one, but that isn’t the only one.  John here cuts straight to the heart of the matter.  God has given us, His chosen people, eternal life in His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.  What is that?  It is the gospel!  The good news!  The euaggelion!  Christ became a man, lived a perfect life before God under His law, and then at the right time laid down that perfect life as the perfect atoning sacrifice for us, all to perfectly satisfy the perfect wrath of God.

12:  He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.

  • And John simply presents us with the choice.  It contains within itself the way to do so, even though it isn’t immediately clear, and it is based on this:  You either repent of, that is turn from, change your mind about your sin and believe that Jesus paid the price you’re your personal sins or you do not.  If you make that choice to believe Christ, you have the Son, and God gives you His life.  If you choose to NOT believe, you choose the other option, because it is humanity’s default position.  John 3:18 says:  “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”  John 3:36 adds:  “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”  The same man wrote this letter and that Gospel.  What do you do with that?  As I have stated already, it is up to you.  Just remember that when you choose your position, you are choosing the consequences that go with it.

The report that you must believe is the gospel of Jesus Christ.  It is how He as God put that aside and became human for the purpose of dying in our place.  2 Cor. 5:21 says, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”  Think about it.  Pray about it.  And if God is showing this to you, YIELD to it (and Him).  There simply is no other real alternative.

13:  The effects of the report

13:  These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.

  • I began the study saying that this verse should bring joy to the heart of the real believer because it brings assurance of salvation to the real believer, and I mean that.  The word for “know” is a form of the Greek oida, and that carries the meaning of “to have knowledge of,” whether in an absolute sense as it is used here, or in terms of human knowledge.  Greek can be a tricky thing, be careful just looking up words in lexicons, which can lead to wrong information.  I myself have not mastered it, and it why I have several dictionaries and lexicons to check with.
  • Does anyone here know the name Glen Kaiser? [Wait a moment]  He at least was (I don’t know if they’re still active, I suspect not) the lead singer of The Resurrection Band (aka RezBand).  The female lead was his wife Wendy.  Anyway, if you can find a copy of an album appropriately named “Bootleg,” you can hear him share regarding this verse as a part of the gospel he was preaching.  He points out to those who have turned to Christ in repentance that John says that we may KNOW that we have eternal life, not just hope, guess, pray or wonder, but that we can KNOW it!  The implication John is making here is plain in the verse.  If you have believed in the name of the Son of God, you have eternal life, and you will know it.
  • How do we gain this knowledge?  John says “believe,” the Greek word pisteuo, and that means to hold a position or opinion so strongly that it moves you to action.  That will cause several things.  When you see your sin for what it is, in fact, cosmic treason against your holy Creator God, you will be sorry about it, not because you got caught, but because you realize it was wrong.  You will admit to God and to yourself that you see the wrong, admit it, and make a decision to not do that anymore.  (Sometimes many times over years.)  That’s the very meaning of the Greek word metanoia, which we translate as REPENTANCE in English.  Belief is the ACT of faith, the Greek word pistis, a firm persuasion or opinion firmly held.  It is the noun form of the Greek pisteuo for belief.  They are the same word in Greek!  After your sin is admitted to you and to God, then the sacrifice Jesus Himself made as God the Son applies to YOU!  Believe in His resurrection from the dead, because that is God’s stated proof that all of this is TRUE!  And as amazing a story as a man rising from the dead is, it is the best-established fact of history.  It is the most hotly contended fact, but true nonetheless.  If you want some recommended reading on this, look for a book by I believe Philip Morris titled Wo Moved the Stone?  It is the backbone of what Josh McDowell was convinced and converted by, and which he rehearses in Evidence that Demands a Verdict

The bottom line is that if you have really believed that God the Son has died for your sins and risen from the grave to prove it, you have eternal life.  The evidence?  That confession changed your life.  It has to.  God gives you a brand new nature.  “You have died with Christ and your life is hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:3).”  God has made your dead spirit alive with His Own Holy Spirit, the third person of the Godhead as He came to live inside us when He regenerated us to Himself!  We have a new and eternal life, friends!  We should be, as Paul says, walking in a worthy manner of God’s calling of us.  If we will do this, we will have assurance before God of our salvation, and more, this is the perfect segue into our last paragraph.

14-15:  Confidence before God is the result

Assurance of our salvation has the effect of adding confidence to our walk in a very particular way.  The writer of Hebrews says, “Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb. 4:16)  If we know we are the King’s son and that we are doing what He says, why would we NOT have this confidence?  John is on this very subject in the text we are studying!  Let’s see!

14:  This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.

  • The Greek word for confidence here is parrhesia, which Vine tells us is “the absence of fear in speaking boldly; hence, confidence, cheerful courage, boldness, without any connection necessarily with speech” in this usage.  As the writer of Hebrews was saying in the passage that we quoted a moment ago, this is regarding our prayer to God as believers, and that is key to remember.
  • I have heard the complaint for decades now, and even made it myself on occasion, that the Lord doesn’t ever answer my prayers.  Beloved, that just isn’t true.  It is often HOW we ask, and that’s what John is saying.  The way we ask isn’t “Oh Lord, gimmee, gimmee, gimmee!”  James had something to say about that!  “You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. (James 4:2)”  Confidence or boldness in prayer comes from the knowing of v.13, but results of prayer are up to God.  He will do according to His will.  “God hath Decreed in himself from all Eternity, by the most wise and holy Councel of his own will, freely and unchangeably, all things whatsoever comes to passe,” says the 1689 London Baptist Confession.  Sometimes, we ask for things that God does not want for any number of reasons, and the answers to that prayer will be “no.”  It is always said lovingly when he says it, too.  Sometimes the answer is “Yes.”  Those are really neat and sometimes a little scary.  I was in a prayer time once where one of the guys I split the rent with prayed that the Lord would take down Valentino’s a strip club about a block from the house.  One week later, that club burned to the ground without a single casualty.  Something about electrical failure, but it has been over 30 years and I may be remembering that wrong.  That was neat AND scary.  Valentino’s never reopened, and I to this day wonder what that was about.  The hardest answer to deal with is “wait.”  We have limited patience, and we should take that opportunity to practice patience.  It can be even harder to deal with if there is nothing but silence as an answer.  The main thing here is that we MUST ask according to His will.  God hears all requests.  He even answers them all as I have described. Here is some encouragement from Paul in Romans 8:26-27–“In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”  Even if we don’t know what words to say, the Holy Spirit living inside us does, and He always knows the will of God, because He IS God!  And there is more.

15:  And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.

  • We know that God always hears us, which is a point John is reinforcing here with his repetition of the point from the last verse.  He is saying that if that is true, we HAVE the requests that we have asked from Him.  Did you get that?  We have them.  Done deal as far as God is concerned, as long as we pray for His will to be done here as it is always done in heaven.
  • Why?  “…for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came forth from the Father.” (John 16:27)  After that, does it really matter?  I don’t think it does.  We MUST understand, however, that this all hinges upon our answer to the call of God for everyone everywhere to repent and believe the gospel. 

That brings us right back to the beginning, where the one who has the Son has life and the one who does not will not see life.  That need to examine oneself is not just glib speech, it is orthodox doctrine.  If you will not examine yourself and clean up the messes you will make along the way, then are you really walking with Christ?  You aren’t doing what He said in the final analysis.  That in itself doesn’t mean you are not saved, but you aren’t walking in a worthy manner of the high calling of God, and that isn’t good.  If you won’t walk in a manner worthy of His calling of you, then what proof is there even to yourself that you belong to Him?  Where is that change that the faith you claim has taken hold?  It seems empty.

Beloved, please understand that I am not saying these things in anger of some kind, or because I am some self-appointed fruit inspector, I have issues too.   I love you in Christ, and I am concerned for your soul.  It would be very easy to stand aside and stay nothing, but then you would suffer in the judgement, or worse, die in a state of non-salvation, and NOBODY needs that, though sadly, most will choose that.  I say these things to try to wake you up from your spiritual torpor and knock you off your hubris, which will hurt a great deal less than if you die without Christ.

Instead, let us be those who yield to Christ, and continue to yield to Christ right up until He returns for us personally, either at the end of our life, or at that great harpazo event that awaits all living believers at the time He comes to take His bride to be with Him forever.  In our yieldedness, we will walk in the manner that is worthy of His call to us, and we will KNOW that we have eternal life as we continue to please Him.

That’s what I saw in the text. 

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