1 John 5:13-21Final Words
Assurance of Eternal Life.
13 I write this 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 which we have in 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 obtained the requests made of him.
It was suggested that verse 13 is the key verse and message. Certainly it follows on from verses 1 to 12 being in an eternal relationship with God through Jesus. It is by confidence in this this relationship that we are able to come to the Lord in prayer. We noted that verse 14 emphasizes that prayer must be “according to his will.” See Matthew 26:39b, where Jesus said, “Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Thus our prayers should focus on how we can serve God, rather than the other way around.
16 If any one sees his brother committing what is not a mortal sin, he will ask, and God will give him life for those whose sin is not mortal. There is sin which is mortal; I do not say that one is to pray for that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin which is not mortal.
We all agreed that this was a difficult message. It reminded us that for some transgressions, God judges with physical death, (1 Cor. 11:30). However, we did find support for the meaning suggested throughout John's letter. John's warnings were about the heretical gnostic claims that there was no incarnation and the Jesus who died on the cross was an ordinary man. The gnostics had been among the Christians but had gone out from them (2:19). Rather like Hebrews 6:4-6, they had tasted all that the Word of God offered but rejected the very means of their salvation, belief in the Christ dying on the cross for the sins. Therefore, committing this sin meant nothing could save them. It was thus a sin unto death eternally.
18 We know that any one born of God does not sin, but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him. 19 We know that we are of God, and the whole world is in the power of the evil one. 20And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, to 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. 21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols.
In regard to verse 18, Dietrich Bonhoeffer said “Only he who believes is obedient; only he who is obedient believes.” It describes the abiding Christian character, but certainly not that the Christian never sins (1:8-10). Yet these verses would give believers confidence to refute gnostics by responding: “We know …. (v.18); We know …. (v.19); We know …. (v.20). The gnostic claims were counterfeit (unreal). Some versions of verse 20 say “real” instead of “true” which may be more the sense of the word.
This would accord with John's warning to keep yourselves from idols. Jews understood the word to mean “nothingness, or “unreality.” We remembered that this was God's warnings so much in the Old Testament.