Read 1 JOHN 5:13–21
13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.
16 If you see any brother or sister commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray and God will give them life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that you should pray about that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death.
18 We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them. 19 We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. 20 We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.
21 Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“What is an idol? It is anything that is more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give” (Tim Keller). See verse 21.
This letter is for all of us who “believe in” Jesus Christ, God’s son, the Messiah (13). John doesn’t say “for all of you who call yourselves Christians,” as though Christianity is just one amongst an array of religions from which we make a choice. Believing in Jesus isn’t just a matter of acknowledging that he lived. It’s much more dynamic. To believe in Jesus Christ means to entrust oneself unreservedly, in complete confidence, to him, to a person. The person who believes in Jesus knows his presence, his power to help, his strength and his love. He or she knows that what Jesus said is true. To believe in Jesus is to identify with him. The conclusion of this letter is strikingly similar to John 20:31, where he adds that “by believing you may have life in his name.”
Think of the Christians remaining in the church after the troublemakers had left. What are their pastoral-care needs? What do they need to be reminded and assured of? John’s letter reminded “anyone born of God” (18) that: we have eternal life; God hears us and answers our prayers; we do not continue to sin; we are children of God; the whole world is under the control of the evil one; the Son of God has come and given us understanding; and we know the true God.
I have just had cataract surgery and I cannot believe how brilliant the colors are of all the things I am so used to seeing. I feel the same way after studying this letter. There was nothing here I didn’t already know—Jesus is the Messiah, he died for our sins, we must love one another, we enjoy eternal life—and yet everything is sharper and clearer. May it be the same for you.
As you come to the end of this letter, what can you thank God for from all the great truths of the faith John has reminded you of?