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Last week we learned that we should pray for a Christian brother that is involved in a sin that doesn’t lead to death. Remember, authentic Christians cannot be engaged in habitual sin. John’s not saying we won’t ever sin, but sin cannot be the pattern of our lives. We should pray for the salvation of that person engaged in habitual sin instead of praying that they’d stop. This week, John provides some clarification of sin.
Take a look at 1 John 5:17-21.
Just in case you missed it earlier. John says, “All unrighteousness is sin.” There is not one sin that is so insignificant that it doesn’t matter. “The wages of sin is death.” Even just one. Just in case you were wondering, John makes it clear. “All sin is unrighteousness.” Earlier in 1 Jo. 3:4 he said, “Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.” Lawlessness gives us the idea of rebellion against God while unrighteousness is contrary to what is right in God’s eyes. But they’re both sin. “All unrighteousness is sin, and there is a sin not leading to death.” Don’t get hung up second phrase. John is not emphasizing the sin, but what we are to do when we see it. He’s not providing a list so that we can live life on the edge. John has been clear that God doesn’t want us to sin. 1 Jo. 2:1 says, “I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.” We are to pray for restoration of that person according to v. 16. John’s closing arguments. John begins a series of statements about what we know. There is nothing new here, but he feels that he needs to review. So what do we know? The first big one is in v. 18. “We know that no one born of God sins.” Our relationship with Christ began at some point in the past, but the results of that relationship affect us every day. This applies to everyone, there are no exceptions. No one born of God – a Christian – can continue sinning after this new born event. We have a God given, supernatural ability that helps us not to fall into a long-term lifestyle of habitual sin. How does this happen? Because, “He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him.” “He who was born of God” must refer to Jesus. This is consistent with other Scripture. In John 17:12 Jesus said, “While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me.” Peter referred to the Christians scattered throughout Europe and Asia and said they, “. . . are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Pet. 1:5) Jude 24 says Jesus is able to keep us from stumbling. It is Jesus Christ that keeps the evil one from even laying a finger on us. We also, “Know that we are of God and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” We can have confidence that we are Christians. No need to wonder or hope. We can know.
The whole world is under control of the evil one. This is a reminder of what John said in 2:15-17, 3:1, and 4:4-5. This should not be a shock to you. The world’s system is in opposition to God. We can see that just in recent events. You can’t pray in Jesus’ name at public events. The idea of gay marriage. The ordination of women. The falling away from Scripture. People leaving the organized church. Abortion. Divorce. Satan is at war with God and with His children. John’s final assertion is that, “. . . 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.” What a concluding verse.
We know the historic Jesus came. He was born of a virgin in the little town of Bethlehem. He lived a sinless life, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, and was buried. Three days later, He arose just as He said He would. He was seen by the multitudes and ascended to heaven where He sits at the right hand of the Father. Jesus has given us understanding. In all the Bible, only John uses this word for understanding. It means the ability to reason which leads to perception. What has He given us understanding in? “So that we may know Him who is true.” John is careful to avoid wording that people may find theoretical rather than physical or concrete evidence. The object of this God given knowledge is us – it’s personal, not limited to a select few. It was the Gnostics that claimed to have this enlightened knowledge. “And we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.” Jesus makes it possible to have fellowship with God. In Jo. 14:6, “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” Jesus Christ is the true God and He is the source of eternal life. This echoes John’s opening verse in Jo.1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
John offers up an interesting closing verse. This seems a pretty strange way to close this letter. Why didn’t he just leave it at v. 20? In John’s gospel, he concluded by saying, I could write more, but the books of the world couldn’t contain all that Jesus did. He offers the warning, “Little children, guard yourselves from idols.” This is a nice contrast from what he said in v. 20b: “This is the true God and eternal life.” We must reject what is false and hold on to what is true. Whatever you place before God is an idol. It was the Thessalonians that, “Turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God.” (1 Thes. 1:9) Be on guard against false teachers that claim Jesus is not the Christ. Be ready to refute those that says Jesus is not the One and only true God. Jesus Christ is the Son of God, who provides eternal life to anyone who comes to him in faith. He is the true revelation of God. Anything else is a counterfeit and a false substitute. It is this truth that we know. It is this truth that we stand on. It is on this truth that everything else hinges on.
John finishes the way he started. He declares the true God is Jesus Christ. What was from the beginning John saw and heard and touched. John knows he has eternal life and the central theme is we can have confidence in the very same thing.