Wednesday, September 02, 2009

1 John 5:1-5

V1-5 – 1Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. 2This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out His commands. 3This is love for God: to obey His commands. And His commands are not burdensome, 4for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 5Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

John has reminded us in chapter four that love for one another is the sign of our love for God. He has been uniting the doctrinal test with the relational test of authentic Christianity, and we see that immediately as we enter chapter five. Doctrinally, if you believe that Jesus is the Christ, then you prove to have been reborn, born from above, or born of God (v1a). This is speaking of the Holy Spirit’s work of regeneration (John 1:12-13; 3:1-15; 1 Corinthians 2:12). But John also notes that a love for God, as in your Father, brings about a love for Christ, His child, as well as all of His children, as in your siblings in Christ (v1b). That’s the relational aspect of genuine Christianity.

John has told us how we prove our love for God – by loving one another. Now, in v2, he seems to reverse that idea. John says, “This is how we know that we love” one another – “by loving God.” Is it circular reasoning? Is John saying that to love God is to love one another, and that to love one another is to love God? I think the key to understanding John’s logic is to finish v2. We know that we love one another if we “carry out” God’s commands. See, to love God is to love one another. And by carrying out God’s commands, we will exhibit that love for one another that proves our love for God (Deuteronomy 10:12). It is good for others that we obey God. John ties the doctrinal and relational tests to the moral test of authentic Christianity.

In v3, John brings back the moral test, obedience to God’s commands, as proof of authentic Christianity. It’s a blessing to us, to others, and to God when we discern the truth and believe it, live according to it, and love each other. John even claims that obeying God’s commands are not burdensome, thanks to the indwelling Holy Spirit (“everyone born of God overcomes the world” (v4)). In other words, living the Christian life rightly is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, according to the Scriptures alone, and to the glory of God alone. It’s about being reborn; it’s about believing; it’s about love; it’s about obedience; and it’s about victory – in, by, and through faith.

Do you see what John says in the second half of v4? Our faith is the victory that has overcome the world. We will be bombarded by the world, the flesh, and the devil throughout our Christian lives; but persevering in faith is the way – the only way – to overcome all of that enticement. Calvin says, “Having such a force to contend with, we have an immense war to carry on, and we should have been already conquered before coming to the contest, and we should be conquered a hundred times daily, had not God promised to us the victory. But God encourages us to fight by promising us the victory. But as this promise secures to us perpetually the invincible power of God, so, on the other hand, it annihilates all the strength of men. For the Apostle does not teach us here that God only brings some help to us, so that being aided by Him, we may be sufficiently able to resist; but He makes victory to depend on faith alone; and faith receives from another that by which it overcomes.”

On the last day, we won’t give testimony to our strength in fighting off temptation or our service in helping widows and orphans. Our testimony will be Jesus Christ. He is the source of our strength and service; and those efforts are good, even providing confidence and assurance for us. But those things can be taken away. We can fail to be strong against temptation; we can be removed from service by failing health. But our faith will never fail. Our faith will never fail, not because we won’t let it, but because the Holy Spirit won’t let it. Remember from John 4:4, “Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.” And that’s John point in asking the rhetorical question in v5. The only people who overcome the world and persevere (Philippians 4:13), proving themselves genuine children of God, are those who have faith to the end, those who believe “that Jesus is the Son of God.”

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