1 John (11): Eternal Life Assured (5:13-21)
That You May Know: An Exposition of First John
5:13–21— Eternal Life Assured
He Has Written to Assure Us of Eternal Life (5:13-15) - “These things I have written to you . . . so that you may know that you have eternal life.” The Epistle began (1:1-4) with a testimony to the Incarnation. John proclaims that we may have fellowship (koinonia) with the Father and Son. Koinonia is really just “life” in and with other Persons. The recurring theme of assurance is summarized here. He says of the entire Epistle, “I have written to you” in order that “you may know that you have eternal life” (5:13). This assurance is directly connected to our confidence in our petitions before the Lord (5:14). Similar to a previous passage (3:22) “whatever we ask we receive from Him” because it is “according to His will.” Confidence in prayer is an outcome of knowing we have life in Him.
He Has Written to Apply to Us Eternal Life (5:16-19) - “There is a sin leading to death . . . no one who is born of God sins.” The discussion of prayer leads to the efficacy of our prayers for those committing sin. John marks out a category of sin, “a sin leading to death” (hamartia pros thanaton). There are three views of what this could be: a) a specific deadly sin (Num. 15:27, “high-handed” sin); b) blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Matt. 12:32); or c) a rejection of the gospel or complete apostasy (Heb. 6:4–6; 10:26–27). It seems likely given the other emphases in the Epistle that John has in mind apostasy from the gospel. In contrast those who are Fathered by God do not “sin and keep on sinning” (hamartanei, present tense). We believe and keep on believing. Thus, the sin in context is not any sin, but apostasy-sin which ultimately rejects Jesus as the Christ, the divine Son of God and His Church.
He Has Written that We Apprehend Eternal Life (5:20-21) - “And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding . . . guard yourselves from idols.” The final section reminds us that while the power of the evil one has the power to bring deceivers and antichrists, Christ has given us “understanding so that we may know Him who is true” (5:20). If we apprehend the truth then we cannot utterly apostatize because He “keeps us” (5:18) and has given “understanding” from God. A believer has been “fathered by God” and has “an anointing” from the Spirit to cause him to persevere in embracing Jesus. The last imperative is an utter contrast to faith in Jesus: “guard yourselves from idols” (5:21). Many puzzle about the ending, but it is parallel to “What was from the beginning” (1:1) in the (chiastic) outline. Whereas Jesus of Nazareth is The “Word” who “was in nature God” (John 1:1) and is the Son of God, the Christ who has come in the flesh, if any one exalts a false philosophy (gnosticism) or an erroneous fictitious view of the “Christ spirit,” that is simply idolatry.
Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more