Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
1 John 5:1-5
In the last chapter of 1 John 5, John concludes by bringing together all that he has spoken of in regards to love and obedience and emphasizes the core of all these things being faith. John has stressed that Christians are to walk in the light, deny the darkness of the world, being obedient to the life and standards that God has called us to. He highlights that the proof and fruit of obedience and right living is love, especially love of our brothers. We must be born of God, so hidden in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ that we, by consequence, become his children who naturally bear the loving image and character of the Father.
From the beginning of the chapter, John exposes the fact that there are forces opposing our revelation and potential for spiritual growth. False teachings that come from the world and the devil deceive us with subtle lies that say that enlightenment and our ability to live righteously can be produced by ourselves. They encourage to idolize the human heart and strength, drawing us not nearer but farther from truth and power of God. But John gives the true revelation that these things are only found and accomplished in God. Belief in Christ is the evidence of being born in God, which in turn stirs in our hearts for the love of God and our brothers. And what does this love look like? The obedience of God’s commandments, which John says are not burdensome. Without God, his commandments to love and be obedient are an impossibly daunting task. But the key element that he brings into the final closing of this letter is the faith that is required to accomplish the life of love and obedience God calls us to.
6 This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. 7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. 9 If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. 10 Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. 11 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
1 John 5:6-12
Faith in Christ is our only means by which we can overcome the world; our flesh and the temptations of Satan. In his introduction, John used the testimony of the disciples to present the gospel. They proclaimed the Christ that they had witnessed with their own eyes, the eternal life that they now, out of the joy of their own salvation, share with John’s audience. Now, in his conclusion, John points to the greater testimony. It is not by man that faith comes but by the revelation of Jesus by the Spirit. The water- Jesus’ baptism that revealed his righteous standing with the Father, the blood- Jesus’ crucifixion that took on the punishment and wrath that the world deserved, and the Spirit- who works in the hearts of believers to convict of sin and reveal Christ’s saving love. If we are apt to believe the testimony of men- other believers- we should be far more willing to accept the greater testimony of God.
And what is the point of all of this? That we are to look at Jesus and believe in who God is and what he has done and thus live righteous lives, love God for loving us, and love others? This all sounds like great advice for times when I struggle with momentary spiritual growth. But there is a sobering and vital purpose for John’s letter. In his introduction he says that life was made manifest (in Jesus) and now they testify and proclaim it so that others can share in eternal life. Rich and fruitful discipleship and Christian living comes from the understanding of our eternal reality.
13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.
1 John 5:13-15
In his conclusion he emphasizes the purpose of the letter: that they may know that they have eternal life. We have eternal life in Jesus Christ! John is not just saying that we should grow in faith, love, and obedience just for the sake of growth. He is presenting the gospel of Jesus, so that his audience can be freed from the burden of the world and self-righteousness, and the lies the enemy tells. God offers us eternal life not because he wants to bribe us into holy living but because he is a God of love. He loves us and sent his Son for us to live righteously in our place, dying for our sin and rising to grant us every good gift. We can go to God with confidence, knowing that Christ is our advocate and that he wants to give us righteousness as a gift. There is eternal significance in sin. There is eternal significance in spiritual Growth. The gift of Jesus Christ is not a temporal fix but an eternal solution. In our momentary lives, we can be eternally satisfied. And this makes all the difference in the value and hope of how John says God calls us to live. The promise of God is to know him and in knowing him we have eternal life because he is the eternal life.
Let us run to him who has made a way to know the true God of eternal life and leads us to grow in faith, obedience, and love in Jesus Christ. Let us flee from all that causes us to stray from the truth of the gospel.
20 And we know 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, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. 21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols.
1 John 5:20-21