1 John 5:13-21
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. This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 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. 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. All unrighteousness is sin, and there is a sin not leading to death. 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. We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. 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. Little children, guard yourselves from idols.
John finishes his letter by first stating the main purpose for his writing: so that those who are Christians can have confidence in Jesus that they have eternal life. He also makes a remarkable reference to a situation in his gospel–what scholars call the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus in John 17. John recalls this pray of Jesus, in which Jesus prayed for His disciples (the twelve guys He had invested Himself in for the better part of three years) and for the church. In referring to this prayer, John makes it abundantly clear who the readers of the letter should listen to–the apostles (including himself) and not the false teachers.
What it means…
John states the main purpose for his writing–so that Christians may have confidence in Jesus and assurance that they have eternal life, in spite of the efforts of Satan through the false teachers (his gospel contains a very similar statement, which shows that it was written for non-Christians, so that they would believe in Jesus and have life in His name).
After stating his purpose, John says that we can have confidence in anything we ask of God. Taken out of context, this would seem to be that God is a genie of sorts, ready to dish out anything a Christian wants. But the context tells us what kind of requests we have confidence in–prayers for other Christians who still love Jesus, but are caught up in sin. We can have confidence when we pray on behalf of other Christians who commit sin “not leading to death.”
This is some of the murkiest language that John uses outside of the book of Revelation. What is sin not leading to death? What is sin leading to death? Scholars have debated it for years. Yet, when we look back at all that John has said in this letter and “connect the dots”, we see that this “sin that leads to death” refers to the false teachers.
When we look back through 1 John, we see that John exposes the false teachers in four ways:
Their warped view of sin…
Their lack of love for others…
Their love for the world…
Their warped view of Jesus.
John wrote that the one who doesn’t love abides in death. He writes that the one who hates his brother is a murderer, and no murderer has life abiding in him. He writes that those that deny God’s testimony about Jesus do not have life. When you look at the false teachers and connect the dots, we see that this sin that leads to death is this: the rejection of the work and person of Jesus. It’s a rejection of the purpose of Jesus’ death and resurrection; it’s a rejection of a Jesus’ humanity; it’s a rejection of Jesus’ deity. When one rejects the biblical view of Jesus, their view of sin changes; how they live changes; how they treat others changes. A rejection of Jesus as revealed in the Bible leads to a spiritual state of abiding in death.
John says we can have confidence in anything we ask of God, specifically when we ask on behalf of Christians who sin, but not in the manner of the false teachers. John also says that he doesn’t recommend that we make request on behalf of those who sin in the manner of the false teachers. John now refers to this High Priestly Prayer of Jesus. In that prayer, Jesus prays in John 17:9, “I ask on their [the disciples’] behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours…” John had classified the false teachers as being “of the world” earlier in his letter. He doesn’t recommend that we pray for people who utterly reject the person and work of Jesus because we wouldn’t be praying like Jesus! Look at what the author of Hebrews 6:4-6 writes,
For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God, and put Him to open shame.
The Jesus of history and Scripture was dead to the false teachers. Therefore, their fate was sealed.
John concludes his letter with more references to the prayer of Jesus. He parallels this prayer by stating what we–the apostles–know. All of these things are found in Jesus’ prayer in John 17:
- No one who is born of God sins (habitually).
- God keeps them–protects them–from Satan.
- Jesus has come.
- God has given them understanding to know that Jesus is true.
John closes the letter like He opens it–by stating his authority as an apostle, based on what he saw and experienced with Jesus. He then makes one of the clearest references to the deity of Jesus in the Bible: this is the true God and eternal life.
John’s final statement is both command and warning to his readers to protect themselves from idols–and not just obvious false gods (for the Ephesians, the most obvious false god was Diana, to whom there was a temple and mass cult following), but mainly false representations of Jesus like the false teachers were peddling. If they did that, and thus stayed true to Jesus and gospel, they could have confidence that their faith was sabotage proof.
How we can apply it…
Plain and simple: stay true to the Jesus of Scripture–the Son of God who put skin on, who lived the life we could not live (a life without sin) so that He could die the death we should have died (on the cross, taking God’s punishment in our place and off of us, for our sins), and was raised again from death, sealing the ultimate victory over Satan, sin, and death. When someone rejects the Jesus of Scripture, they start to have a warped view of sin, they start to treat others differently, they start to live selfishly.
We need to be discerning about the things we hear, read, and see about Jesus. Not all of them are true. Many of them distort who Jesus really is. That means getting to know Jesus through the Bible, and being a discerning reader/watcher/listener.
If we’ll do these things, we’ll develop confidence in Jesus and assurance of eternal life. If we’ll guard our faith, we’ll have a guaranteed future.
Video link: Sabotage–Confidence in Jesus: Sabotage Proof