Summary: It is out of our personal relationship with God that we come to know with assurance certain things in the Christian life. These closing assurances are intended to be great encouragements to us.
1 JOHN 5: 18-21 [LIFE, LIGHT & LOVE SERIES]
THE KEEPING POWER OF GOD
John here reaches the end of what he wants to write. He has clearly shown the differences between the true believer and the false, and now he concludes by reiterating his purpose, which is to assure his readers who believe in Jesus as the Son of God that they have -possess eternal life (5:13). [Marshall, Howard. The Epistles of John. The New International Commentary on the N. T. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1978, p. 242]
Such people can reassure themselves that they are God’s as they become aware of Him answering their prayers. Prayer is the natural breath of a genuine relationship with God. It is out of our personal relationship with God that we come to know with assurance certain things in the Christian life (CIT). These closing assurances are intended to be great encouragements to us. These realities are God’s keeping power, the Divine Son, and our personal relationship with God. If we grasp not these realities we will be deceived into false worship.
I. THE KEEPING POWER OF GOD, 18-19.
II. THE DIVINE SON, 20a.
III. OUR PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD, 20b.
The principle assurance in verse 18 is that Christians will not keep on practicing sin. “We know that no one who is born of God sins; but He [Jesus] who was born of God keeps him and the evil one does not touch him.
An evidence that we are born again is that we do not practice sin. You ask how can you keep from sinning in this world? The answer is Jesus Christ. He keeps-guards the believer so that the enemy cannot get his hands on him. Here is another blessed assurance that the Christian has victory over sin.
God has freed believers from their slavery to Satan, and He keeps them safe from Satan's continued attacks. The rest of the world does not have the Christian's freedom to obey God. Unless they come to Christ in faith, they have no choice but to obey Satan. There is no middle ground; people either belong to God and obey Him, or they live under Satan's control.
John does not say that one born of God does not sin at all. He would have used the past tense--has sinned--Christians commit sins. The verb is in the present tense and indicates linear or repeated action. The believer does not keep on sinning or fall into the habit of sinning.
Here we encounter the word we know (oida) again (3:2,5,14,15, 2:20,21, 3:5, 5:13, etc.) John will conclude the epistle using this word. Again it indicates that we know with perception or with conviction of soul (have been convinced). It is an implanted knowledge of God that allows no room for doubt.
How do you know you are born of God? You know not because you keep yourself from the evil one. You know because as you abide in Christ, He keeps you from evil. God keeps those born of Him from the evil one. God stands guard over the Christian life a sentry walking his post to protect us against the wilds of the enemy.
Whenever Satan attacks us, we can be sure that God gave him permission. And if God gave him permission He will also give us power to overcome, because God will never permit us to be tested above our strength (1 Cor. 10:13).
We do not need to fear the evil one, because God keeps us and the evil one cannot “touch” us. This word for a strong touch [haptetai] is in the present tense meaning cannot keep on touching, cannot continuously lay hold of, or cling to. The same word is used in John 20:17 where “Jesus said to Mary, ‘Do not hold Me.’” The word means to lay hold of or hold on to. The evil one cannot cling to us. He has no hold on us. To do so Satan would have to defeat Christ and we know that Christ has already defeated Satan.
Many people hesitate to trust Jesus out of fear that they cannot hold on, that they will fall into sin again. The blessed truth is that we are not holding on to God, but He is holding on to us. That sublime truth is our assurance of victory over sin, the world and the devil.
The world is contested territory and the evil one exercises power over it, but not over Christians. He or she is the Lord’s. Verse 19, “We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.”
The second great fact we know for sure is that we are of God or out of God. We know by the criteria of our obedience, love, and perseverance that we are God’s. The implication is a birth, a proceeding out, a change of state which the world knows nothing about because it lies in the power of the evil one. The figure is as if the unsaved world has climbed up into Satan's lap and gone to sleep--the sleep of eternal death. The world or society has a false sense of security, yet all the while it seethes with mass discontent as the dream masters spin their God demeaning dreams. Those who are dominated by the world’s standards are enslaved by its ruler and cannot share in the victory which has overcome Satan.