1 John 5

1 John 5:1

Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him.

(a) Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ. John has already spoken about believing in Jesus (1 John 3:23), but now, as he nears the end of his letter, he encourages his readers to believe again and again (1 John 5:5, 10, 13). John is preaching for a verdict: he wants you to believe!

(b) Believers are born of God or born again (1 Pet. 1:23) in the sense that they have been united with Christ in his death and resurrection. You are not merely a good person or a forgiven person, but a brand new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). One with the Lord, you are a partaker of his divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4) and his Spirit dwells in you (1 Cor. 3:16).

(c) The Father; see entry for 1 John 3:1.

(d) Whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him. You cannot have a relationship with God apart from Jesus (1 John 2:23).

This was the problem demonstrated by the religious Jews. They had faith in God, but their faith was dead and useless (Jas. 2:17, 20) because it was unaccompanied by the work of believing in the One sent by God (see entry for Jas. 2:14).

1 John 5:2

By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments.

(a) By this we know; see entry for 1 John 2:3.

(b) We love the children of God. It is inconceivable that someone could love God and not love his family or his Son (1 John 5:1).

(c) The children of God. Although God is the Father of all (Mal. 2:10, Acts 17:29, 1 Cor. 8:6, Eph. 3:15), the phrase “children of God” usually refers to those who know their heavenly Father (1 John 2:13) and carry his spiritual DNA or seed (1 John 3:9). Believers, in other words (John 1:12, Rom. 8:16-17, 21, Eph. 5:1, Php. 2:15, 1 John 2:12, 13, 18, 28, 3:1–2, 7, 9–10, 18, 4:4, 5:2, 18–19, 21, 2 John 1:1, 4, 13, 3 John 1:4). See entry for Children of God.

(d) Observe His commandments; see next verse.

1 John 5:3

For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.

(a) This is the love of God. This is how we know God’s love has done its perfect work in us. John does not say, “This is how we love God, we keep his commandments.” It is God’s love for us that empowers us to trust and obey him.

(b) That we keep His commandments to believe Jesus and love one another (1 John 3:23). These are the Lord’s commandments—“his commandments”—as opposed to the 613 laws and regulations of the old covenant. Paul refers to these as the commandments of God (1 Cor. 7:19), and so does John (Rev. 12:17, 14:12).

(c) His commandments are not burdensome. The yoke of Moses is heavy (Act 15:10), but Jesus’ yoke is light (Matt. 11:30).

When you know how good God is and how deeply he loves you, it is easy to trust and obey him. When your Father asks you to do something, you happily obey because you know he only has good things in store for you. Under the old covenant, obedience was a duty and a drudge. But in the new covenant, obedience is a stepping stone to abundant life.

1 John 5:4

For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.

(a) Born of God, believers; see entry for 1 John 5:1.

(b) Overcomes the world; see entry for 1 John 5:5.

(c) This is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Faith is like a servant we send to God for help in our time of need. It’s not our faith that manufactures the victory, but faith is the means by which that victory comes. Faith is the conduit down which grace flows. To quote Charles Spurgeon, “Grace is the powerful engine, and faith is the chain by which the carriage of the soul is attached to the great motive power.”

Spiritual warfare for the Christian is less about shouting at the devil and more about believing that Jesus is Lord over whatever situation we face. Unbelief says we must engage the enemy and fight for the victory, but faith declares that Jesus has already won. Unbelief cowers before the name of the adversary, whether it’s disease, debt, or depression. But faith exalts the Name that is above every name.

1 John 5:5

Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

(a) The believer is the one who overcomes the world. You are not an overcomer because of what you do but because Christ the Overcomer lives in you (John 16:33).

(b) Overcomes the world. By the grace of God you can win your battles.

Life may crush you under the weight of debt and circumstance, but you are far from helpless (Heb. 13:6). You can speak to storms and sickness and appropriate by faith the victory that Christ has won. In Christ you are more than an overcomer and more than a conqueror (Rom. 8:37).

(c) Jesus is the Son of God. John and the other apostles recognized that Christ’s identity was defined by his relationship to God the Father. “Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father” (2 John 1:3). In contrast, the unbelieving Jews doubted Christ’s sonship (Matt. 27:40, John 19:7), and the devil tried to get Jesus to question it. “If you are the Son of God” (Matt. 4:3).

John refers to the Son of God more than 20 times in his epistles (1 John 1:3, 7, 2:22–24, 3:8, 23, 4:9–10, 14–15, 5:5, 9–13, 20, 2 John 1:3, 9). He does this so that we might come to believe in the name of the Son of God (1 John 3:23).

1 John 5:6

This is the One who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not with the water only, but with the water and with the blood. It is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.

(a) The water and blood possibly alludes to Christ’s baptism (the water) and death (the blood), the two points which mark the beginning and end of his earthly ministry. Both events were marked by supernatural events that testified to the identity of Jesus Christ. At his baptism, a voice spoke from heaven, and at is death the sky darkened, the temple curtain was rent, the earth shook, and the graves of the righteous dead were opened.

(b) Not with the water only. Some of the great prophets of old were associated with water. Moses came by way of the river and caused water to come from the rock. John baptized with water. Yet Jesus excels these great ministries because he came with the water and the blood. No prophet died for the sins of the world like Jesus did (1 John 2:2). It is not the blood of Moses and John that cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7).

(c) It is the Spirit who testifies. When Jesus was baptized, the Spirit descended from heaven and came to rest on him (Matt. 3:16). The Holy Spirit continues to testify about Jesus (John 16:8–9).

(d) The Spirit is the truth. Jesus is the truth (John 1:8) which means the Spirit of Christ is the Spirit of truth. The Spirit of wisdom and revelation seeks to convince you about Jesus. If you know that Jesus is Lord, it was the Holy Spirit who showed you (1 Cor. 12:3).

1 John 5:7–8

For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.

(a) Three that testify … three are in agreement. Under the Law of Moses, the consistent testimony of two witnesses was enough to establish the truth (John 8:17). John takes that standard further by saying there are three agreeing witnesses when it comes to Jesus. The water and blood, which represent the ministry and death of Jesus, are consistent with what the Spirit said and continues to say about Jesus. In the next verse he will raise the standard even higher.

(b) Spirit, water, blood; see entry for 1 John 5:6.

1 John 5:9

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.

(a) Testimony means evidence or report. John’s testimony was reliable because he was with Jesus from the beginning (1 John 1:1). He witnessed Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension.

(b) The testimony of men includes the eye-witness accounts of the 500 or so people who, like John, personally witnessed the Risen Lord (1 Cor. 15:6), along with the many thousands of people who saw Jesus minister and perform miracles. The testimony of men also encompasses those who experienced the power of God after Jesus ascended to heaven, including the millions of Spirit-filled believers alive today (1 John 5:10).

(c) The testimony of God is greater than the testimony of men, because God is the ultimate Authority and the supreme Judge who cannot lie (Heb. 6:18). The Father knows the Son.

(d) He has testified. God spoke from heaven regarding his Son on numerous occasions, in both the Old Testament (principally through the prophets) and the New.

Put it altogether and John is saying something like this: “We have overwhelming and consistent evidence from a variety of sources including God himself that God has given us eternal life in his Son Jesus” (1 John 5:11).

1 John 5:10

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.

(a) The Son of God; see entry for 1 John 3:8.

(b) The one who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Every believer has a Jesus-story to tell, and every believer has the Holy Spirit bearing witness with their spirits that they are children of God (Rom. 8:16).

(c) The one who does not believe God has made Him a liar. To reject the testimony of God is tantamount to calling him a false witness (1 John 1:10). This is what it means to blaspheme or slander the Holy Spirit (Matt. 12:31). This sort of blasphemy is unforgivable because it causes the unbeliever to reject the very truth that might otherwise save him. Further reading: “What is the unforgivable sin?

(d) The testimony … concerning His Son; see entry for 1 John 5:11.

1 John 5:11–12

And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.

(a) The testimony is this. The gospel of Jesus Christ is summarized in this pair of verses.

(b) God has given us eternal life which means there is nothing you can do to earn it. Eternal life is not a reward given to those who perform, but a gift given to those who believe in Jesus.

(c) This life is in His Son. Eternal life is not just more of the same old life; it is life lived in union or fellowship with the Father and the Son (1 John 1:3). In contrast with the lonely existence of Adamic life, it is the adventure of sharing life with your Maker and his very large family. See entry for John 3:15.

(d) He who has the Son has the life. One with the Lord, his life is your life. As you abide in Jesus, his thoughts become your thoughts, his words and deeds become your words and deeds, and when that happens his fruit become your fruit.

John 6:63 says the Spirit gives life while 1 John 5:12 says he who has the Son has the life. There is no difference. If you have the Son you have the Spirit and if you have the Spirit you have the Son. Jesus is the life-giving Spirit (1 Cor. 15:45).

(e) He who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. There is no lasting life outside of Christ. “He who does not love abides in death” (1 John 3:14).

We are not born immortal (see entry for Rom. 2:6–8) but those who come to Christ receive the gift of eternal life (John 3:15, 5:24).

(f) The life. Two kinds of life are described in the Bible; the psuche- or soul life we inherited from Adam and the zoe– or spirit life that comes from God (John 5:26). It’s the second kind of life that is described here. See entry for New Life.

1 John 5:13

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.

(a) These things I have written refers to the testimony John has just provided about Jesus—who he is (the Son of God), why he came (to save the world), and what it means for you (believe in him).

(b) To you who believe. John wrote for two audiences and he has a different takeaway for each. Those who don’t believe in the name of Jesus need to believe (1 John 3:23), while those who do believe need to know they have eternal life.

(c) Believe in the name of the Son of God; see entry for 1 John 3:23.

(d) So that you may know. John wrote his Gospel account so that you might believe in Jesus (John 20:31), but here he is addressing those who already believe. “You who believe.” His purpose here is to assure you that you have eternal life. If you believe in Jesus, you need have no doubts about your salvation. Your salvation is as secure as God’s promises and as solid as his word.

(e) Eternal life; see entry for 1 John 1:2.

(f) You have eternal life. Eternal life is not a future gift to look forward to, for you have eternal life now and that life is in the Son (1 John 5:11). This is why Jesus came: so that you might live through him (1 John 4:9). Eternal life is not merely being cleansed from your sins (which is forgiveness). Eternal life is knowing or living in union with Christ (John 17:3), and it begins the moment you say yes to Jesus.

1 John 5:14

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

(a) This is the confidence which we have before Him. God’s children are confident of their Father’s goodness and this is reflected in the way they pray.

(b) If we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. We can pray amiss (Jas. 4:3) or we can pray according to his will. What is his will? The Bible tells us. It is not God’s will for you to be lost, or in bondage. It is not his will for you to be sick and fearful. His will is for you to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus (2 Pet. 3:18). His will is for you to know the riches of his glorious inheritance (Eph. 1:18) and the measureless reaches of his love (Eph. 3:18). His will is for you to prosper in all things and be in good health (3 John 1:2).

(c) He hears us. When you discover how much your Father loves you, it changes the way you pray. You will pray for the smallest things, because if it matters to you it matters to him. And you will also ask him for big things, because God has promised you the nations. When you have needs, you won’t hold back like a waiter or stand at a distance like a friend—you’ll come running in to Papa knowing that he delights to give good gifts to his children (Jas. 1:17).

1 John 5:15

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.

(a) If we know that he hears us. When you are confident that your Father hears your prayers, you can expect your prayers to be answered.

Since you cannot be sure and unsure at the same time, uncertainty is a form of unbelief. Sadly, this characterizes the way some people pray. “If I don’t pray right, God won’t hear me.” Some even say things like, “God does not hear sinners” (John 9:31). But if that were true, no sinner could call on the name of the Lord and be saved. The good news God hears our prayers, and he is not judging you according to the quality of your prayers.

(b) Whatever we ask. You can talk to your Father about anything.

(c) We have the requests. We can be confident about two things when we pray. First, our heavenly Father hears us. Second, he delights to give good gifts to his children (1 John 3:22).

1 John 5:16

If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this.

(a) A sin not leading to death; see next verse.

(b) Ask God. Pray for those who are sinning.

(c) Give life. The wages of sin is death, but God gives life to those call on his name.

(d) Sin leading to death. Don’t pray for the dead. John is not talking about different types of sin. He’s telling us when to pray and when to quit praying. When our brothers and sisters are stumbling in sin, we should not condemn them but pray that God would lead them in the way of life. But if the sinning brother or sister makes choices that bring their life to a premature end, there’s no point praying any further. Our responsibility to pray ends at the grave. What happens after that is God’s concern.

Some religions and even some Christian denominations pray for the dead or the “faithful departed” even though there is nothing in scripture to support this. Praying for the dead is a dead work.

Further reading: “What is the sin leading to death?

1 John 5:17

All unrighteousness is sin, and there is a sin not leading to death.

(a) All unrighteousness is sin. If sin is missing the mark, righteousness is hitting the bullseye. It’s being in right standing with God because you have received the free gift of his righteousness. In contrast, unrighteousness is trying to justify yourself apart from grace. It is living in unbelief and without regard for the goodness of God. Earlier John said lawlessness is sin (1 John 3:4). Lawlessness or immorality are the fruit of unbelief.

(b) A sin not leading to death. Sin is destructive, but not always fatal. Sin can end your marriage, destroy your family, split your church, and bankrupt your business, but no matter how far you fall God’s desire will always be to give you life. Sinning is like sowing death into our lives and families (Rom. 6:23). But the good news is that God gives grace when we sin (Rom. 5:20). God does not punish his wayward children; he woos us back to himself with love. It’s his kindness that draws us back to the place of repentance (Rom. 2:4).

1 John 5:18

We know that no one who is born of God sins; but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him.

(a) Born of God; see entry for 1 John 5:1.

(b) No one who is born of God sins or continues in sin because he carries the sinless nature of Christ. Sinning is abnormal behavior for the child of God. When we sin we feel rotten because we are acting contrary to our true identity See also the entry for 1 John 3:9.

(c) He who was born of God keeps him. It is Jesus who keeps you from stumbling (Jude 1:24). ) and confirms you to the end (1 Cor. 1:8). You are saved by his grace and kept by his grace (see entry for 1 Pet. 5:10).

(d) The evil one does not touch him. Because you belong to Jesus, he who touches you touches the Lord. Satan doesn’t want that sort of heat so he will leave you alone. He won’t harm you. However, he will try to get you to harm yourself and one of the ways he does that is by trying to deceive and distract you and fill you with fear. If he can get you to agree with his lies, a stronghold may form in your mind giving ground to the enemy. This is why you need to resist his fiery darts with the shield of faith (Eph. 6:16). When someone says you are not good enough or you’re going to die, you need to take those lies captive and make them bow to the Name of Jesus.

1 John 5:19

We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.

(a) We are of God. We the little children are of God because we have been born of God (1 John 5:1). As such, we no longer belong to the world. Once we were not a people, but now we are the people of God (1 Pet. 2:10).

(b) The world, meaning the fallen order that remains under the influence of the devil or evil one (see entry for 1 John 2:15).

(c) The power of the evil one. Much of the world remains under the influence of the power of darkness (Eph. 6:12). Although Satan was defeated and disarmed at the cross, his influence persists wherever the light of the gospel does not shine. Darkness reigns in any environment characterized by fear and unbelief.

Many Christians seem unaware of the evil one. When they go through hard times, they think God is behind their suffering. “God gave me cancer to teach me character.” “God ended my marriage because I loved my wife too much.” “God took my retirement savings away because he is sovereign and mysterious.” We don’t need to look for a devil under every rock, but it’s foolish to blame God for the evil in the world. God is good all the way through and in him there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5).

Further reading: “Is God sovereign?

1 John 5:20

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. This is the true God and eternal life.

(a) Son of God. Some did not believe the Messiah had come but John emphatically declared that Jesus the Christ had come in the flesh from God (1 John 4:2, 9). Any preacher or teacher who said otherwise was in error (1 John 2:22, 4:3, 2 John 1:7).

(b) Given us understanding. The Holy Spirit is the spirit of wisdom and revelation who seeks to convince you about Jesus. If you know that Jesus is Lord, it was the Holy Spirit who showed you (1 Cor. 12:3).

(c) So that we may know him. Jesus did not come to lay down the law or smite the wicked, but to draw us to himself so that we might be one with the Father and the Son (1 John 1:3).

(d) Him who is true. Just as the Son is truth (1 John 1:8) and the Spirit is truth (1 John 5:6), so too the Father is truth.

(e) We are in Him. Fellowship is one of the themes of John’s message. He began his epistle by writing to unbelievers who have no fellowship with Jesus (1 John 1:3). Now he finishes his epistle by addressing believers who are in Christ.

(f) Eternal life; see entry for 1 John 1:2.

1 John 5:21

Little children, guard yourselves from idols.

(a) Little children; see entry for 1 John 5:2.

(b) Guard yourselves from idols. Almost as a postscript, John concludes by exhorting his readers to guard themselves from idols. John has not mentioned idols before, but he has spoken much about the world, and the world in which he lived was an idol-worshiping one. Christians in the first-century were daily confronted with considerable pressure to participate in pagan rituals, whether in the name of religion, empire, or trade. We know idols were a big deal because they feature heavily in the letters John wrote to the seven churches of Asia (Rev. 2:14, 20). The other apostles also wrote about the dangers of idol worship (Acts 15:29, 2 Cor. 6:16).

In the modern world we may not worship idols of stone and wood. But when we offer ourselves and our families on the altar of ambition and ministry, we are making unholy sacrifices. We are diminishing the only sacrifice that counts, namely the one made by the Son of God. Then as now, idolatry is a path to bondage and death. John would have agreed with Paul who said, “Beloved, flee from idolatry” (1 Cor. 10:14).

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