Summary: 1 John: Chapter Five Three Tests
1 John: Chapter Five
Three Tests: Doctrinal – Do you believe; Social – do you love; Moral – Do you obey (1-5)
John has used the term begotten ten times in the epistle. I think he does so because of the strong stance he takes on the necessity of obedience. He wants to give assurance that salvation is not based upon your present work but the prior work of God (though both are the work of God; ie Phil 2:13). The first half of verse one literally reads, ‘all who presently believing that Jesus is the Christ has been begotten of God.’ Presently believing in Christ (faith producing obedience) is evidence of the past experience of being begotten by God. The consequence or fruit of new birth is faith in Christ, loving God and loving others. Again loving God is prior to loving others. Our love for God is need love; his love for us is overflowing love. So how can we know that we have been born again, the evidence so far John says is: do not practice sin (3:9, 5:18); practice righteousness (2:29); love those born of God (4:7; 5:1); Believe in Christ (5:1); overcome the world (5:4). The present evidence of these qualities points to being born again; the absence points to not being born again.
Then he tells us that it is as impossible to love the children of God without loving God as it is to love God without loving his children. The genuine test of our love for God is our love others and our obeying his commands because the commands of God are not burdensome (3). Again, as we love God (need love) Gods love and grace is poured in us so that what he love and desires, we love and desire. Our new nature that is consistent with our new birth. That is why the commands are not burdensome and what he says in 4a, he who has been born of God has overcome the world, defined as our faith. All who are begotten of God (past) overcomes/conquers (present active) the world (2:15-17). What is the victory or the source of the victory? The commands of God are not burdensome to genuine followers of Christ is because we have been begotten of God, is given a new nature, has a new seed, and has the Holy Spirit to keep the commands. The victory over the world is faith in who he is and what he has done and what he promises for us. So far in this epistle the victory is over sin, the FT, love of the world, over the devil. Verse 5 is restatement of v 1.
Digression Testimony concerning Christ (6-12)
There are three witnesses to Christ: the water, the blood and the Spirit. He came by both water and blood (6). Luther and Calvin thought this pointed to the sacraments. But the NT did not have such a developed sacramentalism. The second option is that the water and blood point to the puncturing of the side of Jesus on the cross. But the blood and water came out not by/through. The third option is that the water and blood point to his baptism and work on the cross. The three form a single testimony to Christ. God is behind all three (7-8). The result of the testimony is that he who believes has both the witness in himself and eternal life. In contrast the unbeliever make God out to be a liar and he does not have life. He is talking about both an objective and subjective witness. All life is bound up in the son; if we have the son we have life; do not have the son; we do not have life. No third option.
Assurance of Salvation and prayer (13-17)
A main purpose of the epistle is to give them assurance that they have been begotten of God. ‘These things’ (13) refer to the whole epistle. Ie this verse as new Christian. This same assurance or confidence in prayer comes if we ask according to Gods will (14-15). What is God’s will? Found in 16 and 17. If we see a brother sinning that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will restore life to him. That is Gods power and grace comes in answer to our prayers. This applies only to those who sin does not lead to death; there is sin that leads to death but we should not pray for that situation. The sin that leads to death is unrepentant sin (3:19); denies Jesus is the Christ (2:22); hate others.
Conclusion: Three affirmations 18-21
The first affirmation is that genuine followers of Christ persevere in righteousness (3:9) and are beyond the touch of devil. Touch is not in an absolute sense but eternal one (1 Peter 5:8; Rev 2:10; Job). Second the world lies in the hand of the evil one (19). We are of God the world lies in the power of the evil one. Everybody is in somebody. Belong to one or the other camp. There is no neutrality. Third, warning against idolatry (20-21). Verse twenty tells us that we know him who is true; that he is the one that is the true God and source of eternal life. Valuing anything more than God is idolatry.