1 John 4:16 [W]e know and rely on the love God has for us.
A brilliant young man, with a promising career in physics, left his job to become a missionary. The work was hard, but he was determined to win God’s approval no matter what. Sadly, within a few years, he had a nervous breakdown that left him unable to teach, preach, or even read his Bible.
After he recovered, he explained that he was trying to earn God’s love, and forgot to rely on God’s love. The distinction may seem subtle, but it’s very important. The more we rely on God’s love, the more stable our relationship with him will be. We must settle the matter once and for all: we are deeply loved by God in Christ.
1 John 5:1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.
John drew on a conversation that Jesus had with Nicodemus, about sixty years earlier. Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again (John 3:3), said Jesus. When people come to faith in Jesus Christ, the change is so real they become new people. The old has gone, the new is here (2 Corinthians 5:17), wrote Paul.
But many of John’s readers had been raised in the Christian faith. Their parents were Christians, their grandparents were Christians, and Christianity was all they had ever known. Must they be born again too?
The answer, of course, is yes. But those who are raised within the faith often have a less dramatic conversion than those who are raised outside the faith. Since many cannot remember a time they did not believe in Jesus, they cannot remember the time they first believed in Jesus. The crucial thing is not being able to identify the time you first believed, however, but that you presently believe. Because Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.
1 John 5:3 [T]his is love for God: to keep his commands.
A schoolboy was taunted by his friends when he refused to participate in their bad behavior. One of them said, He’s just afraid that if he does it, his Father will hurt him. The boy replied, No, I’m just afraid that if I do it, I will hurt my Father. Love for God would rather die a thousand deaths than disappoint the one who loved us unto death. [T]his is love for God: to keep his commands.
1 John 5:10 Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son.
This is like a courtroom in which a father is giving sworn testimony that another person in the courtroom is his son. You either believe the father’s testimony or you do not. Whenever the gospel is preached, God takes the witness stand in the hearts of all who hear. Those who believe the gospel do so because they believe God. Those who do not believe the gospel reject the testimony of God, and make him out to be a liar.
Most Christians come to faith, not because they have weighed the evidence, but because God has persuaded them. They do not need further proof because God has given testimony in the courtroom of their hearts. Even if the whole world disagrees they will say with Paul, Let God be true, and every human being a liar (Romans 3:4).
1 John 5:13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.
God does not want his children to be in doubt about their salvation. No one else can guarantee that you are going to heaven, but God has provided means of assurance so that you can be certain where you will spend eternity.
Ask yourself the following five questions: First, and foremost, do you believe in Jesus Christ? Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life (John 6:47), said Jesus.
Second, do you have the Holy Spirit? The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children (Romans 8:16), wrote Paul.
Third, do you love other believers? We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other (1 John 3:14), wrote John.
Fourth, are you trying to live for Christ? Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did (1 John 2:6), wrote John also.
And, fifth, are you determined to follow Christ the rest of your life? [T]he one who stands firm to the end will be saved (Matthew 10:22), said Jesus.
Our faith and obedience are never what they ought to be. But if we can answer yes to the above questions, we can be assured of our salvation.
1 John 5:20 [T]he Son of God has come and has given us understanding.
The more we can live without understanding, the more we have in common with beasts. Cows do not start universities, and sheep do not read theology. But inquiring minds want to know the nature of the universe, and all that it contains.
The world is big, however, and we are small. How can we find the answers to our most important questions? Making sense of the world is like trying to understand a novel from a single word in the middle. Who is the author? What is the plot? Who are the characters? How does it end?
The only person who can fully understand the world is the one who made it. Origin, destiny, sin, salvation, meaning and purpose are just a few of the things Jesus explained to us. Mystery still abounds, and we will never know everything, but the most important questions have been answered. [T]he Son of God has come and has given us understanding. Apart from him is only darkness.
Reflection and Review
Why is it important to rely on God’s love?
Why is rejecting the gospel like calling God a liar?
How can we be sure that we are going to heaven?