“1 Wisdom has built her house, she has hewn out her seven pillars; 2 She has slaughtered her meat, she has mixed her wine, she has also furnished her table… 13 A foolish woman is clamorous; she is simple, and knows nothing… 16 she says, …‘17 Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.’” Proverbs 9:1-2, 13, 16-17
Proverbs 9 contrasts two feasts and their fates or destinies. The first feast is offered by God’s wisdom which is personified as a dignified and responsible woman of character and wealth who has prepared an incredible banquet in “her house” with “seven pillars” (9:1). The “seven pillars” suggests wisdom’s industriousness and her house’s spaciousness and stability. Some suggest that the “seven pillars” refer to the seven days of creation alluded to in the previous chapter (8:22-31)  or to the fullness of the Holy Spirit (Isa. 11:2; Rev. 1:4; 3:1; 4:5; 5:6).  The number “seven” indicates perfection and fullness in the Bible, so its use here could indicate wisdom’s sufficiency.
Lady Wisdom has butchered (“slaughtered”) animals and cooked their “meat” and diluted (“mixed”) “her wine,” having “furnished her table” with the finest utensils and decorations (9:2). Lady Wisdom then “sent out her maidens” to invite people to her banquet and she herself “cries out from the highest places of the city” where the invitation could be heard by many (9:3). Anyone (“whoever”) who is naïve or gullible (“simple”) and “lacks understanding” is invited to “turn in” to her house and “eat… and drink” what she has prepared for them (9:4-5). She beckons her listeners to “forsake foolishness and live, and go in the way of understanding” (9:6).
Lady Wisdom’s rival, Folly, is personified as a harlot (prostitute) inviting the naïve or gullible (“simple”) and “him who lacks understanding” to a sensual feast of “stolen water” (illicit sex – cf. 5:15-16) and “bread eaten in secret,” which only offer immediate pleasure (9:13-17) in contrast to wisdom’s long-term satisfaction (9:6-9). Though Folly’s invitation seems appealing and attractive, the end result is death – “hell” (Sheol) refers to the grave (9:18). This suggests that sexual immorality is the height of folly.
All of us desperately need God’s wisdom so we need to RSVP immediately to Lady Wisdom’s invitation and partake of her mind-blowing banquet She has prepared for us. Accepting Lady Wisdom’s invitation will keep us from dying an untimely death that Folly’s invitation would lead to. 
Satan has prepared his banquet to distract or draw us away from God’s. Satan’s party is hosted by Folly who is rowdy (“clamorous”), naïve or gullible (“simple”), and “knows nothing” (9:13). She is easily accessible (“she sits at the door of her house, on a seat by the heights of the city”) and heard (“to call to those who pass by”) (9:14-15). Although Folly’s feast appears “sweet” and “pleasant,” it will kill us if we respond positively to its invitation (9:7-18). Her guests are in the grave and will not come home from this party. 
In this Proverb, Solomon pictures a young man (“who is simple… and… lacks understanding”) being invited to two different parties. This young man is strutting his stuff down the street with testosterone spewing out both ears. He is an easy sexual target. Lady Folly could represent anything that is sexually enticing such as a porn site, hookup/dating site, strip club, massage parlor or even a neighbor’s wife that is irresistible to him. And Lady Folly knows it. This guy is an easy victim. As Solomon watches he knows what is about to happen. 
The young man fails to connect the choice to eat at folly’s appealing banquet table with the deadly consequences (9:17-18). Such is the case with many men today who are addicted to porn and sex. Satan is destroying their lives and relationships with those closest to them. But there is hope.
God has given us this Proverb to alert us to the many life-giving blessings of His wisdom and the death-dealing blight of folly. Accepting Lady Wisdom’s invitation to sit at Her banquet table will overwhelm us with God’s goodness and grace (9:1-11). It is there that we will enjoy “the fruit of the Spirit” which is “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23) and experience the abundant life the Spirit gives (cf. Rom. 8:5, 6b). Accepting Lady Folly’s invitation instead of Wisdom’s may feel good at first (as porn and illicit sex usually do), but the consequences are deadly (9:13-18).
May each of us guard our hearts from Satan’s deceptions and embrace God’s invitation to sit at His life-giving banquet table where we can enjoy close fellowship with Him and the life and peace He gives. Like a godly woman who has gone to great lengths to provide a delicious meal for those she dearly loves, so God has gone to great lengths to provide a smorgasbord of life-giving blessings for His dearly beloved children (cf. Ephes. 1:3-14).
If you are struggling with shame because of recent failures, please know that to eat at God’s banquet table, you do not have to have a perfect track record. None of us do (Rom. 3:23). That is why God has given His only perfect Son to be our Substitute Who died on a cross in our place for all our sins and rose from the dead so “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16; I Cor. 15:1-6). If you have trusted Christ alone for His gift of everlasting life, your seat at God’s banquet table is ready for you to take your place so you can feast upon the life-giving blessings God has prepared for you.
Bob George shares a great story to illustrate how unnatural it would be to attend Lady Folly’s banquet when we can enjoy a grace-filled banquetwith the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ:
Imagine that you owned a fine cafeteria. One day, you hear this tremendous commotion out in the alley where the garbage dumpsters are. You open the back door to see what’s going on, and you see the most pitiful-looking human being you have ever seen in your life – me – fighting with several stray cats over food scraps in the dumpster. I am a virtual living skeleton. It’s obvious that I am living on the edge of starvation, and probably have been for a long time. There is nothing about me to provoke liking or affection in you, but you are moved to pity.
“Hey, hey!” you yell. “Get out of the garbage. Don’t eat that stuff! Come over here.” I trudge over to you, half-seeing you through hopeless eyes.
“Listen,” you say, “I can’t stand to see you eating garbage like that. Come into my cafeteria and eat.”
“But I don’t have any money,” I reply.
“It doesn’t matter,” you say. “My chain of restaurants has done very well, and I can afford it. I want you to eat here every day from now on, absolutely free of charge!”
You take my arm and lead me inside the restaurant. I cannot believe my eyes. I have never seen a cafeteria line before. With huge, unbelieving eyes I stare at the spread: vegetables… salads… fruits… beef… fish… chicken… cakes… pies…In my wildest dreams, I have never imagined that such things could be.
I look at you intently. “Are you saying I can eat anything I want?”
“Really, anything I want?” I ask again.
“Yes, I said anything you want,” you answer.
Then slowly, with a gleam in my eye, I ask, “Can I eat some garbage?”
What would you think of me? You would think I was insane, wouldn’t you? In the faceof all that delicious food, all I can think of to ask is whether I can eat garbage. But that is exactly how I feel when people ask if they can sin because they are under grace!
…The Christian world is obsessed with sin. It’s all we talk about. Most of our preaching and teaching is directed toward getting people to quit sinning. Are you ready for a really shocking statement? The goal of the Christian life is not to stop sinning! To use the analogy of the starving man, most Christian teaching is like a person following a starving man around saying, “You stay out of the garbage! Do you hear me? Don’t eat the garbage! You stay out of there!”
Look, when you’re truly hungry, you’ll eat anything – even garbage. What should you do? I promise you: If you will get that man into the cafeteria line, and he begins experiencing what real, good food is like, he won’t be nostalgically dreaming about the garbage out back.
…Why should I ever wallow in the garbage when the Lord has laid a banquet table for me? 
Lady Folly constantly invites us to feast upon her garbage every day in our sexualized society. Her garbage is disguised to look very appealing and attractive. But in the end, it leads to death. Lady Wisdom’s banquet is filled with life-giving blessings that God has prepared for His children to enjoy daily. Will you join me as I renew my commitment to sit at the Lord’s banquet table daily to feast upon His manifold grace?
The choice seems obvious, doesn’t it? But our enemies – our sinful flesh, Satan, and this fallen world – constantly seek to draw us away from God’s best to a feast that offers temporary pleasure that always leads to miserable consequences. Will we choose garbage or grace? Together, let’s choose God’s grace and sit at Lady Wisdom’s banquet table.
Prayer: All-wise Father in heaven, thank You for preparing a mind-blowing feast for us to enjoy at Your banquet table in contrast to Satan’s counterfeit feast that leads to death. Thank You for making us aware of the life-giving benefits of Your feast and the deadly consequences of Satan’s sensual feast. Unfortunately, we do not always apply Your wisdom to our lives. We have let our hormones influence our decisions instead of You and Your Word. Please forgive us for ignoring Your wisdom and yielding to our fleshly desires. Thank You for Your amazing grace that forgives and cleanses us for our past foolish choices so we may take our place at Your grace-filled banquet table. We need Your grace to enable us to feed our hearts and minds with the Holy Spirit’s teaching from Your Word so we can enjoy the many blessings You have already given to us in Christ. In the matchless name of our Savior and Lord, the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.
 Tom Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on Proverbs, 2023 Edition, pg. 65.
 Ibid., pg. 66 cites Franz Delitzsch, Biblical Commentary on the Proverbs of Solomon Vol. 1 Translated by M. G. Eason. Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament Reprint ed. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., n.d.), pp. 197-198.
 Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1295.
“When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, ‘Do you want to be made well?’” John 5:6
In this chapter, we are going to address a deadly, dreaded disease. It is important that you listen closely because you could have this disease and not even know it. This disease can spread rapidly and render an entire church body spiritually bedridden. It is called spiritual paralysis or the loss of the ability to walk with God. Those stricken with this disease find themselves spiritually paralyzed…unable to do what God wants them to do. They are unable to make disciples – to lead others to Christ and train them to do the same. They may be unable to overcome a past hurt, habit, or hang up.
As Christians, it is essential that we know Jesus Christ is our greatest Advocate when it comes to recovery from past hurts, habits, or hang ups. When Jesus arrived in Nazareth, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath day and read from the prophet Isaiah a description of the Messiah’s ministry, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” (Luke 4:18). The verses Jesus read (4:18-19) were taken from Isaiah 61:1-2 which describe the promised Messiah’s ministry on earth.
There is a progression in Isaiah’s description of the Messiah’s gospel preaching ministry that is relevant to those of us struggling with things outside of God that are controlling us. We have learned to medicate our pain and shame with unhealthy coping behaviors. But Jesus came to “heal the brokenhearted,” resulting in “liberty” from that which we could not break free. Shame imprisons us, but the Savior liberates us. His gospel grants spiritual “sight” to us so we can begin to see ourselves through His eyes and no longer be “oppressed” by shame-based lies.
The biblical text does not tell us if Jesus read verse 3 of Isaiah 61, but this verse is a continuation of the Messiah’s ministry on earth. His healing grace will “console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” Our brokenness brought great sadness (“ashes… mourning”)to us, but Christ’s grace will “console” us, changing our sadness and “heaviness” of shame into “joy” and “praise.” This inward transformation will make us a blessing to others, like oak “trees” flourishing in “righteousness” because of the outrageous grace of God.
Jesus was and still is, all about setting people free from brokenness, chains, blindness, and oppression. He is committed to liberating people from the things in their lives outside of God that are controlling them.
And we all have something in our lives outside of God that is controlling us. It may be alcohol, busyness, a cell phone, drugs, fear, gambling, intellectualism, jealousy, materialism, peoples’ approval, pornography, sex, social media, sports, tobacco, unforgiveness, work, or worry to name a few. I believe the third miracle of Jesus recorded in John’s gospel teaches us important truths for overcoming spiritual paralysis which is often manifested in the form of addictions.
If you feel helpless to overcome things outside of God that are controlling your life, then you are invited to go with the Doctor on a poolside call to see how this dreaded disease of spiritual paralysis can be cured. Just how can we overcome spiritual paralysis?
RESOLVE to Get Well (5:1-6). You must want to get well. 5:1-2a: At the start of His second year of ministry, Jesus went to the Passover “feast” (cf. 6:4) in “Jerusalem,” where He would heal a certain invalid. This miracle took place to the north of the temple area at the “pool” of “Bethesda” near the “Sheep Gate” on the northeastern wall of the city of Jerusalem (diagram 1), which was built by the high priest, Eliashib, with his brethren (cf. Neh. 3:1, 32; 12:39).
Bethesda” means “house of outpouring” or “house of mercy.”  This pool was near the “Sheep Gate” so that sheep coming to be sacrificed in the temple could be brought through this gate after being washed in this pool.
Today, Jesus Christ is our High Priest, and because of His all-sufficient sacrifice on the cross as the Lamb of God (John 1:29), we can be washed clean of all our sins by His blood which enables us to approach God with confidence in His heavenly throne room to worship Him (cf. Heb. 10:1-25; 13:10-16).
Excavations of this part of the temple area have shown there were two pools with a covered colonnade or porch on all four sides of the complex and a fifth colonnade that separated the two pools, confirming the description John gives concerning the “five porches” (John 5:2b) which would shelter the disabled and sick.  Five is the number of grace. Why were all these needy people gathered here?
5:3b-4: Some scholars reject these verses stating that they are not found in older Greek manuscripts and are not consistent with John’s writings.  But there are convincing arguments to include these verses in the original text of the gospel of John. 
All known Greek manuscripts of John’s gospel include these verses except for less than a dozen.
Christian apologist Tertullian confirms the authenticity of the passage in the third century.
The reading was widely distributed in both the East and West as evidenced in the versions and writings of the church Fathers.
The stylistic pattern of this passage is consistent with the unique content and probable connection with the traditions of Bethesda.
The absence of these verses in older manuscripts can be explained by a falsely perceived “pagan tinge.”
The statement about the multitude of sick assembled under the five porches in verse 3 and the response of the lame man in verse 7 demand the presence of verses 3b-4.
We must not forget that the Bible records many miraculous interventions of angels in the lives of ordinary people (cf. Gen. 19:1-11, 21-24; 2 Kings 6:16-18; Dan. 6:22; 10:8-13; Matt. 28:2-4; Acts 5:17-21; 12:5-10; et al.). God in the outpouring of His mercy granted miraculous healings at the Pool of Bethesda to heal some of the sick (diagram 2).
5:5:But there was“a certain man” at this pool who had not received this mercy or grace for “thirty-eight years” (John 5:5). This lame man lay forlornly in a place where God’s mercy and grace seemed to always touch others but never himself. There had been no mercy at the house of mercy for this needy man. Imagine how he must have felt to witness so many people being miraculously healed, but not once did he experience such healing. It would have been easy for him to conclude that God must not love him because if He did, he would be healed by now. For thirty-eight years he had been confined by paralysis to a bed, leaving him weak and hopeless.
Like the lame man who had lost hope, addicts can become so lost in their addiction for so long of a time that they give up on any type of recovery. They hear the testimonies of other addicts which speak of finding freedom from what once held them in bondage. But that freedom of which others testify had escaped them. The hopeless addict can easily conclude that their addiction or the pain that drives it must be too great to overcome. Hence, such an addict has no hope of lasting change because their chains have not been broken.
5:6: Of all the sick and disabled people at the pool that day, Christ chooses the one (diagram 3) who had probably been seeking healing the longest.  All the previous healings at the pool went to the least needy among the invalids (5:4-5, 7).  Now it was time for healing to come to the one who needed it the most. Christ chose this man because He knew “he already had been in that condition a long time” and had lost any hope of being healed.
We may think it strange that Jesus asked this man, “Do you want to be made well?” Surely anyone who has been chronically ill wants to be healed, right? Not necessarily.
“The reality is, most of us – especially addicts – are more comfortable with a familiar sickness than an unfamiliar solution. Jesus was really asking the man, ‘Are you desperate? Are you willing to do whatever I’m about to ask? Are you willing to do whatever it takes? If you are the only one to get well today, are you still all in? Do you really want it?’”
“Do you want to be made well?” That’s a question we may need to answer, as well. The first step to overcoming spiritual paralysis or an addiction is to resolve to get well. Do you want Jesus to heal the parts of your life where you have been deeply wounded or is it easier to hold on to the hurt? Do you want Christ to overcome your fears or are you more comfortable playing it safe and not taking any risks because you are ruled by the fear of what could happen? All too often we hold on tightly to the things that keep us stuck.
To the one crippled by past hurts, Jesus asks, “Do you want to be healed?” To the one chained by secret sin Jesus asks, “Do you want to be set free?” To the one battling addiction Jesus asks, “Do you want to overcome?” To the one who is paralyzed by fear, Jesus asks, “Do you want to admit you are not in control and learn to trust Me?” To the one who has not yet believed in Christ alone to get them to heaven Jesus asks, “Do you want to be saved?” To all of us who need His healing touch in any part of our lives, He asks, “Do you want to be made well?”
The lame man responded to Jesus’ question. 5:7: He seems to be complaining, “Every time the water bubbles up, no one is here to help me into the pool. It’s always the stronger ones who reach the water first. It’s a shame those of us who need it the most get the least amount of help. It’s been that way for thirty-eight years.”
We do the same thing today. How often do we hear people say things like, “I’d stop drinking if my wife would quit nagging me!”“I’d work harder, but no one appreciates my effort.” “I’d stop doing drugs if my friends would stop pressuring me.” “I’d make better grades, but my teacher doesn’t like me.” “I’d come to church, but there are too many hypocrites there.” “I’d give up porn and sex if it wasn’t so accessible and appealing.” “I would forgive him if he would change.” We have such a difficult time saying, “I am responsible for my choices.” We blame heredity, environment, circumstances, the past – everything except ourselves.
Hence, the second way to overcome spiritual paralysis (our addictions) is to REFUSE TO BLAME OTHERS AND TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR OUR OWN CHOICES (5:7). When Jesus asks, “do you want to be made well?” what is our response? When Jesus asks, “do you want to be healed from your past hurts?” Do we reply, “you don’t know how badly they hurt me”? When Jesus asks, “Do you want to be freed from the chains of your secret sin?” do we counter, “I just can’t control myself”? When Christ says, “Do you want to be saved?” will you excuse yourself, “I’m not nearly as bad as other people I know.” When Jesus asks, “Do you want to become more effective in reaching the lost?” do we say, “I’m happy with the way things are?” When Jesus asks, “Will you try new ways to minister to the lost?” do we say, “I’m afraid of what could happen?” Jesus said to the cripple “Do you want to be made well?” And he replied, “I don’t have anyone to put me in.”
To receive the healing Jesus has for our lives, we must refuse to blame others and take responsibility for ourselves. Christ is eager to help us, but we must be willing to let Him. Living in denial only makes our addictions worse. We must break out of denial and stop blaming someone else for the choices we have made. It is time to face the pain in our lives so we will recognize our need for Jesus. Denial can stop today! Healing can begin today!
Jesus ignored the excuse of the lame man and out of love He gave him some strong medicine. 5:8: Christ does not preach to this man. He did not correct his theology. He did not expound upon God’s love and grace. He didn’t tell him to be more thankful. Nor did He recite the promises of God to him. People who have lost hope do not need knowledge. They need compassion and direction. 
First, Christ asks an impossible thing; secondly, He removes all possibility of a relapse; and thirdly, He expects continued success. All these are involved in the words: “Rise, take up your bed and walk.”
From these words, we discover the third way to overcome spiritual paralysis (our addictions): RELY ON CHRIST ALONE FOR HEALING (5:8). Notice that the first thing Jesus says to do is what the man could not do for thirty-eight years – “Rise.” On what basis does Jesus say these words to him? It is important to see this. Perhaps the lame man was thinking, “If this Man tells me to rise (and I cannot rise), it must mean that He intends to do something to make it possible.” Thus, his faith is transferred from his own efforts to Jesus: “He must do it. I can’t.” The man must also have reasoned somewhat along these lines, “If this Man is going to help me then I have got to decide to do what He tells me to do.”
Jesus does not say, “Try to build up faith in your mind. Pray for months first. Form a committee. Go to rehab and then you will be able to walk.” Overcoming addictions is not based on a Twelve-Step program or trying harder. Instead, Christ tells him (and us) to do something: “Rise! Stand up!” Obviously, it was Jesus’ will that this man should do what He told him to do, and the moment the man’s will agreed with the Lord’s will, the power was there. I don’t know whether he felt anything or not. All I know is that strength came into his bones and into his muscles and he could stand. He knew he could stand, and he did. By faith in Jesus this man stood up.
Twelve Step recovery programs begin with admitting one’s powerlessness to overcome their addictions. Every addict promises never to go back to their addictive behaviors after a relapse. But that does not happen until they come to grips with the fact that they are powerless to stop their unwanted behaviors. Jesus is asking this lame man to do something he has been unable to do the last 38 years. To do this, he must admit he is powerless, and Jesus is powerful. He must shift his focus from himself or other people around him to the only One Who has the power to do what is humanly impossible.
The apostle Paul said something similar when he writes, “10 And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” (Rom. 8:10-11). Do we realize that every Christian inhabits a spiritually dead body? We often forget this because we are physically alive. We are not naturally inclined to regard our physical body as dead. But from God’s point of view that is exactly what it is.
We might have expected Paul to say, “If Christ is not in you the body is dead because of sin.” But he does not. He says, “If Christ is in you…” (Rom. 8:10). When we are born again by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ for His gift of eternal life (John 3:15-16, 36; 6:40, 47), our inward nature changes (I John 3:9), but our physical body remains the same (Rom. 7:13-28; I John 1:8, 10; 3:2-3). It is still infected by the deadly virus of sin, and as a result is completely unresponsive to the new life the Christian now possesses. The Christian is inwardly alive, but his physical “house” is dead, that is, totally unresponsive to the new life within.
The good news is “the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in” every Christian though their physical body is dead or unresponsive to the eternal life within them (Rom. 8:11a). The same Spirit “who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies” (Rom. 8:11b). It is God’s Spirit, not our own determination or willpower, which can grant the power to “resurrect” our spiritually dead physical bodies on earth. Thus, the key to overcoming addictions is not through our own determination and strength, but through the power of God’s Spirit indwelling us. 
Perhaps this is why the average secular recovery program only has a 3-10 percent success rate for addicts whereas a Christian-based approach to overcoming addictions has a 70 percent success rate.  Secular approaches tend to focus on the addiction or symptoms rather than the root cause or pain that drives the addictions and the power of God’s indwelling Spirit to heal that pain. Our dependency must be on God’s Spirit within us, not our own determinations, strength, or willpower.
Jesus may ask us to do things as a Christian that we have never attempted before. It may not make sense to us. It may seem impossible to us. But instead of trying to figure everything out, we just need to do it! Overanalysis leads to paralysis.
What does the Lord say next? The Lord did not merely say, “Rise,” He said, “take up your bed.” Why did He say that? I like the way G. Campbell Morgan has put it, “In order to make no provision for a relapse.” The man might have said to himself, “I’m healed, but I had better leave my bed here; I may need it tomorrow.” If he had said that he would have been back in it the next day. But he did not. Jesus said, “Take up your bed. Get rid of it; don’t leave it there. Don’t stay stuck.”
“Wherever your bed is, that’s where your home is. Thus, this man would no longer be sleeping in a place of despair. His home was changing.”
Christ is saying something very important to people and churches who need to be healed: do not make any provision to go back on what you have done. If you do go back, the consequences will be worse than the first time. That’s why Jesus says to the man, “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.” (John 5:14). This man’s paralysis was due to personal sin. This is not always the case with physical ailments, but sometimes it is. And when Jesus enables us to overcome that sin, He says not to make provision for a relapse. Many people fail right here.
If Christ has enabled you to stop drinking, go home and pour out the alcohol! If you are off drugs, go home and get rid of the drugs! If you have stopped looking at porn, stay offline or at the very least, get an internet filter such as covenant eyes or canopy. Burn your bridges behind you. Say “No” to the friends you used to drink with or do drugs with or had sex with. You will probably find that some of them will come with you. Burn your bridges. Cut off any possibility of going back.
Let somebody know the new stand you have taken so that he or she will help hold you to it. Join an accountability group. Get involved with discipleship. You were wounded in the context of relationships and now you can heal in the context of healthy relationships. You cannot overcome your addictions in isolation. Satan will try to isolate you from Christians who can help you in this recovery process. He uses fear and shame to do this. Ask God to help you push through the fear and shame so you can ask safe believers for the help you need. Remember, “9 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up.” (Eccles. 4:9-10).
Burn your bridges, is what Jesus is saying. If you have forgiven someone, don’t rehearse the hurtful things they did to you. Let go and move on – burn your bridges. If you have been paralyzed by fear, cling to the promises of God and don’t rehearse those fearful “what ifs.” This is so important. Our Lord knows what He is talking about – “take up your bed.” Remove all possibility of a relapse.
The third thing Jesus said to the lame man is, “walk.” Don’t expect to be carried – walk. Many people want to be carried after they are healed. They expect everybody to gather around them and keep them going – a common area of failure. But if Jesus gives you the power to rise, Jesus is the One who can give you the power to walk every day, to keep going. That is an important thing to see – you and the Lord. Your eyes are not on your friends, your pastor, your recovery group, your counselor, or on yourself; your eyes are to be on Christ now. “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:2). That is how this man kept going. It is how you as a believer can keep going in your Christian life.
It is important to see God’s part and our part in the healing process. Who healed the man at the pool? Jesus. Who had to walk? The man. Who saves us from our sins? Jesus. Who must believe in Him? We must. Who makes us more like Christ and gives us the power to to overcome our sinful addictions? Jesus. Who must decide day by day to follow Him and live life on His terms? We must.
The fourth way to overcome our addictions is to REDIRECT OUR FOCUS AWAY FROM LEGALISM TO CHRIST’S HEALING AND EMPOWERING GRACE (5:9-13). 5:9: The Bible tells usthat “immediately” this invalid’s body responded to the power of Jesus Christ, and he was “made well, took up his bed, and walked.” John’s description of the man’s healing is probably a deliberate understatement. After being unable to walk nearly forty years, no doubt his limbs had atrophied, and his hope had withered. When Christ’s power made him well, this man must have jumped up off the ground, skipping and dancing, and doing cartwheels all around that pool of despair.  The outpouring of God’s mercy and grace had finally come to him.
But the apostle John reminds us in his reference to that day of healing being on “the Sabbath” (5:9b), that there were killjoys at this pool of mercy. 5:10: “The Jews” or religious leaders scolded this ecstatic man who had just been healed (Diagram 4), saying, “It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed.”
“According to the prevailing Jewish interpretation of the law, it was not legitimate to carry anything from one place to another on the Sabbath (cf. Neh. 13:15; Jer. 17:21-27). Doing so constituted a capital offense that could result in stoning. The rabbis allowed for exceptional cases, such as moving a lame person, for compassionate reasons.” 
“The Lord instituted the Sabbath as a gift. He ordered a day of rest to rejuvenate the bodies and minds of His people. More importantly, it was given in order to break the day-in, day-out cycle of routine so that people would not forget that God is the ultimate source of their sustenance; their labors are but a means of His provision. The Sabbath gave people permission to stop work so they would not neglect a vital need: worship. We are created for worship; therefore, worship is good for us. But the Pharisees turned this wonderful gift of God into a burden, an occasion for severe criticism, an excuse to exercise power, and yet another opportunity to remind themselves and everyone else of their superior moral worth.” 
Tragically, the religious leaders were more concerned about the infringement on their Sabbath rules than about Christ’s healing grace in this man’s life. Sadly, this is true of many churches today or Christian recovery groups. They are more concerned about their man-made rules than they are about sinners encountering the healing grace of Jesus Christ. Their focus is more on the behavior of an addict rather than the addict’s heart and way of thinking. That is the spirit of legalism. Legalism will render an addict spiritually paralyzed and defeated. The constant emphasis on behavior will reinforce the addict’s cycle of shame. The lame man did not know Christ. Jesus healed him regardless because of His GRACE. Grace is not restricted by rules and regulations or how much one knows. Grace expands in the context of loving relationships.
Jesus was more concerned about this man’s need to be healed than He was about breaking the Sabbath rules of the religious leaders. Grace puts relationships ahead of rules. Legalism puts rules ahead of relationships. God’s grace teaches us that an addict cannot change his behavior until He looks to Jesus to change his heart (cf. Mark 7:14-23).
5:11-13: The former lame man’s response to the religious leaders shows that he preferred to listen to this unknown Man with supernatural power, not these leaders who were practicing religion. These men had known he laid there as an invalid for thirty-eight years, but they never offered him any assistance. So, when an unknown Healer restores his legs and commands him to carry his mat, there was no question in his mind about whom he would listen to.
If you have been in a recovery program or church that lack the healing grace of Jesus Christ from within because of their focus on external appearances, will you stay there or take up your mat and go home to a place off healing and hope? It is not an easy choice to make if legalism is all you have ever known.
Here is the dilemma. When Jesus wanted to do something new, the religious leaders were still caught up in the old. They were in a rut. Someone once said the difference between a rut and a grave is depth and length. And that is the dilemma for many of us today. We try to fit God into our safe set of rules. And like the legalists, we think that everyone else should also conform to our safe and comfortable box. But God is not contained in a box. The moment you think He is, He will do something new to burst that box you tried to contain Him in. God is looking to do something new in our lives and churches (cf. Isaiah 43:19).
I wonder what may be in our lives and church that simply cannot co-exist with the new thing that God wants to do? God is looking for someone who will step out in faith and say, “I don’t know what’s going to happen – but I want to join God in the new thing He is doing.”
We then discover the fifth way to overcome our spiritual paralysis (our addictions) which is to REMEMBER THERE ARE STILL CONSEQUENCES FOR OUR CHOICES (5:14). 5:14: The word “found” suggests that Jesus was looking for the former lame man (Diagram 5), He did not just happen to see him. Christ continues to pursue us after He heals us. Jesus came back to reveal Himself to this man. He wanted him to have more than just a healthy body. He wanted the former lame man to be healthy spiritually as well. He not only healed him of his physical affliction, but He also now wants to save this man from a “worse thing” which is possibly a reference to eternal suffering in the lake of fire. 
For this lame man to avoid returning to his sin, he needed Jesus in His life. John tells us in his gospel, “37 On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ 39 But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” (John 7:37-39). Believing in Christ for eternal life not only saves us from eternal suffering in the lake of fire, but it also results in God’s Spirit living inside us to give us the power to resist temptation and progressively experience victory over our sinful addictions. Christ shares His identity with this man now so he can know the Giver of eternal life and ask Him for it (cf. John 4:10).
It is also possible that Jesus is thinking of the consequences of going back to the sin that led to this man’s physical disability. I am not suggesting that all disabilities are because of personal sin. But in this man’s case it was.
How does this relate to overcoming addictions? It is possible to become sober for a long time and still be spiritually and emotionally unhealthy. Especially if you do not replace the addiction with Christ and His Word. When speaking of the spiritual condition of the wicked generation of Israelites in His day, Jesus said, “43 When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. 44 Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. 45 Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation.” (Matthew 12:43-45). We can sweep our house clean by becoming sober. Like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, we can look good on the outside talking about the length of our sobriety. But inwardly we can lack love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness. If we do not fill the void in our lives with Christ and His Spirit, we are opening ourselves up to something far “worse than the first” addictions we had. We will experience greater demonic influences in our lives.
The final way to overcome our spiritual paralysis or addictions is to RENDER ALL THE GLORY TO CHRIST (5:15). 5:15: This man gave all the credit to Jesus for his healing (Diagram 6). Some interpreters think the man was giving his allegiance to the religious leaders instead of to Christ. But I understand this verse to confirm that the former lame man was giving Jesus the glory for his miraculous healing.
I am reminded of a story about a woodpecker that was pecking away at a huge tree. Suddenly a bolt of lightning struck the tree and split it from top to bottom. The woodpecker flew off in a flash. Minutes later he returned with several other woodpeckers. Pointing to the tree, he said, “There it is. Look at what I did!”
Are we quick to take credit for what God is doing in our lives and in our church? Or when God works in another believer’s life, are we quick to give the glory to that Christian instead of giving all the glory to God? When we humbly submit to Christ’s authority and give Him all the glory for the work He is doing in our lives, He gives us special power to continue to walk with Him.
Do you as an individual want to be made well today? Perhaps you are a Christian and you have been unable to live the way God wants you to live. You may be crippled by past hurts or a present habit or hang up or something else. Do you want to be made well and walk with the Lord Who has the power to set you free from your addictions? If so, you can say this prayer to God…
Prayer: “Lord God, I want to get well. I am tired of living in fear and shame all my life. I admit I do not have what it takes to overcome my addictions without You. Please make me willing to do whatever You ask of me. Please forgive me for blaming others, including You. Right now, I take responsibility for my own actions, and I trust You alone to heal me. Please give me the power to overcome the sin in my life that has crippled me. Help me burn the bridges that lead back to that sin so I can keep my eyes on You, walking with You the rest of my life. Please provide a group of loving Christians who can help me on this journey of healing and recovery for I cannot do this alone. Replace my fear with a radical faith that trusts You to do the impossible. In Jesus’s name. Amen.”
 Tom Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on John, 2023 Edition, pg. 149 cites John Wilkinson, Jerusalem as Jesus knew it: Archaeology as Evidence (London: Thames and Hudson, 1978), pp. 95-104; Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 174.
 Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 582.
 Gordon D. Fee, “On the Authenticity of John 5:3b-4,” Evangelical Quarterly 54 (October-December 1982): 207-218; Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (London: United Bible Societies), pg. 209; Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John, NICNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971), pg. 203.
 Zane C. Hodges, “The Angel of Bethesda – John 5:4,” Bibliotheca Sacra 136 (January-March 1979): 39.
 Robert Wilkin, “The Gospel According to John,” The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society. 2019 Kindle Edition), pg. 190.
 Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on John, Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 4 (Tyndale House Publishers, 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 112.
 Mark Denison’s July 29, 2021, article entitled “Jesus on Recovery: 3 Keys to Overcome Addiction” at covenanteyes.com.
“We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him.” I John 5:18
As the apostle John concludes his letter, he reviews and reinforces truths he has shared throughout his epistle. John just focused on praying for Christian brothers and sisters who had wandered far away from God and His people on the path of sin (5:16-17). Some of these sinning believers may be close to departing from this world through a premature death (cf. Acts 5:5-10; I Cor. 3:16-17; 5:5; 11:30). 1
John’s readers (including you and me) may have wondered, “Is there any hope that these sinning believers can be restored to fellowship with God and us? Is it still possible for them to resume walking in the light of fellowship with the Lord and His people after wandering so far into darkness?”
Or maybe some of his readers were asking, “Is there any hope that I can be restored to fellowship with God after wandering aimlessly for so long in the depths of darkness? Does God still love me and want to be close to me?”
I believe the apostle John would say, “Yes, a thousand times, Yes!!!” In the next three verses John will focus on three certainties. Each of the verses in 5:18-20 begins with “We know that …” (oidamen hoti). In the New Testament the Greek word oida almost always refers to “direct insight into spiritual or divine truth” although it may not be truth that has been experienced yet. 2 “This truth is the result of the teaching and convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit.”3 It is also important to observe that this Greek verb is in the perfect tense (oidamen) which means John and his readers knew these truths in the past and they continue to know them to the present. These are not guesses or mere human opinions, they are absolute unchanging truths from God that the apostle and his readers can be sure of no matter what they or other believers are facing or feeling.
“We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him.” (I John 5:18). We have already learned that the phrase “whoever is born of God” refers to the divine or born-again nature we receive from God when we believe in Jesus as the Christ for everlasting life (cf. 3:9; 5:1, 13). The Greek participle translated “is born” (ho gegennēmenos) is in the perfect tense which means the new birth took place in the past and continues to the present. Since God cannot sin, the divine nature He places inside His child “does not sin” either (5:18b). A sinless Parent cannot beget a sinful child. So, sin is never an act of the born-again nature inside the believer because it is incapable of sinning (cf. 3:9).
“This divine nature is portrayed as a person (a figure of speech known as personification, that is, to treat something which is not a person as though it were, like calling a ship ‘she’). That’s why this nature is called ‘whoever,’ ‘he,’ ‘himself,’ and ‘him.’”4
The apostle Paul spoke of this new nature as the “new man” when he writes, “And that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephes. 4:24; cf. Col. 3:10). This new nature or “inner man” is strengthened by the Spirit of God (Ephes. 3:16) and has the capacity to resist the corruption and sinful lusts of this passing world which is under the control of Satan (I John 2:16-17; 5:18-19; cf. John 12:31; 16:11; 2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 2:2; Col. 1:13a). 5
Hence, John says, “he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him.” The word “keeps” (tēreō) means to “watch over, guard, protect, or keep unharmed.” 6 The recipient of this protection is the born-again person (“himself”).
“In saying that the regenerate inward person (cf. Rom 7:22) ‘keeps himself,’ John is not saying that one’s inner self can somehow prevent all sin in the Christian life (cf. 1:5-10). What John means is that God’s ‘seed remains in’ the regenerate inner self (cf. 3:9) as the controlling element of his born-again nature and is impervious to even the slightest contamination from the wicked one. Believers’ failures are due to the sinful ‘programming’ of their earthly bodies, as Paul himself taught in Rom 7:7-25.” 7
Even though Satan uses the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life to sway believers away from God (2:16; 5:19), John assures us “the wicked one does not touch him,” that is, the born-again self (5:18c). The word “touch” (haptetai) means “to touch with the purpose of harming, to injure.” 8 Satan and the world he controls, cannot harm the born-again self.
This is important for all of us to remember about ourselves or other believers when humbled by sinful failures. The evil one would like to trick us into thinking that a Christian who continually walks in the darkness or repeatedly struggles with the same sin is not really God’s child which can lead them to more sinful failures. The Bible tells us we act in the way we perceive ourselves to be. “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” (Prov. 23:7). If I am convinced I am not really saved because of my repeated failures, then I will be more inclined to live like a nonbeliever.
But if we know and embrace the truth found in I John 5:18, we can avoid the devil’s deception, and rise from our confession of sin to the Lord (I John 1:9), knowing we are the same inwardly holy children of God we were before we sinned. So, whatever we or another Christian have succumbed to in the world, John wants us to know that who we are at the core of our being has not changed. We are still a holy child of God because God’s sinless seed remains in us (3:9).
Zane Hodges says it like this: “At the very moment we are most humbled by our sinful failures, and when we confess them, it is helpful to be confident that those failures have not really changed what we are as children of God. The enemy, try as he might, cannot really touch us. He can only attempt to persuade us that he can or has. But if we know the truth stated in this verse, he will not be able to deceive us. For if we let him, Satan will use our failures to lead us to further failure. So, after every sin, deeply though we may and should regret it, we ought to rise from our confession to God knowing that we are the same inwardly holy persons we were before we failed!” 9
Some of you reading this may have a Christian spouse or child who has pursued the lusts of this passing world (2:16-17). They have been so twisted by the godless values of this world system that they are doing things that violate their Christian beliefs and values. Perhaps they have succumbed to the allurement of alcohol, drugs, gambling, materialism, pornography, or sex. Or maybe they have developed an acute mental condition such as severe depression or a phobia. They are in bondage to such things. Please do not give up or lose hope.
If your spouse or child is a believer in Jesus Christ, he or she is still a child of God at the core of his or her being and cannot be touched or harmed by evil or the evil one (I John 5:18; cf. 3:6-9). The “seed” or divine nature of God within him or her remains unchanged. It cannot be altered or even tempted. It remains a base from which the Holy Spirit can work within this loved one to bring healing to him or her, and to bring them back to fellowship with God and His people. 10 As long as that seed remains (and it will), “it can be watered by your prayers. As long as that seed remains, it can still grow. As long as that seed remains, it can blossom, and eternal fruit can be born. Do not give up.” 11
The restoration of fellowship for wayward Christians is based on walking in the Spirit, relying on Him to express God’s sinless born-again nature in them (I John 3:6-9; 5:18; cf. Gal. 5:16-25). It is not based on willful determination, on keeping New Year’s resolutions, or the power of positive thinking. 12
But it doesn’t stop there. Not only does a child of God have God’s sinless seed that remains in him or her, but he or she is also on God’s side and God is on their side. 13 He has not given up on them. “We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.” (I John 5:19). Again, John begins with “we know that…” (oidamen hoti) to convey the absolute certainty of what he is about to say. This is not mere speculation; it is absolute truth.
The phrase “of God” (ek tou Theou) refers to being on God’s side in I John. 14
“To be ‘of’ something in 1 John is to be on the side of the something. We saw this in 1 John 3:10b, 19 and 4:4. In reference to believers it means to have a dynamic, spiritual link to God, Who is obviously capable of giving us victory over the world. To be ‘of God’ means we are on His side, and He is on our side. The world lies like a limp puppet in the lap of the evil one, ready to be filled with his power. On the other side, we lie in the lap of the Lord, ready to be filled with His power.” 15
The phrase “the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one” (ho kosmos holosen tō ponerō keitai) “suggests that the world passively rests within Satan’s operative sphere. By contrast, the phrase ek Theou (‘of God’) means being ‘from’ God. The Christian should be aware of his own sinless inward man (5:18), and he should also be aware of his utter separateness from the whole world that lives under Satan’s sway. Believers, whom the enemy cannot ‘touch’ (5:18), are not a part of the world, which lies passively in the wicked one. Thus, believers must not ‘love the world or the things in the world’ (2:15-17) and they must resist the ideas that the world promotes (cf. 2:18-19).”16
John wants to “reinforce the readers’ consciousness that they are distinct from the satanically controlled world system and basically free from its power. They need not listen to the worldly ideas advanced by the antichrists (3:7-8). Nor need they succumb to worldly desires (cf. 2:15-17).”17
Since a believer’s regenerate self (3:9; 5:18) and conduct is sourced in God and is free from the power of Satan and his world system (5:19), there is still hope for a Christian who has been in bondage to sin for a prolonged time. Hence, if your Christian spouse or child has been living like the devil, please know that they do not belong to the evil one nor his world system.
What this means is your sinning Christian spouse or child does not belong to Satan’s world, and he or she will always to some degree feel like a foreigner in this world system. Your loved one will never feel completely comfortable in this sin-sick world. This world is not a Christian’s home, we are just passing through; our home is way out there, somewhere beyond the blue. The child of God who wanders about aimlessly in darkness will always have a degree of discomfort. They will always know something is wrong, something just isn’t right. This is not who I am in Christ.
The good news is God can turn discomfort into disgust. When your loved one’s discomfort turns to disgust, he or she will turn towards home (God). Regardless of what this person tells you, if he or she gets sucked into the sewer of this world system, they are acting out of character, and they will never be completely comfortable. Don’t listen to their lies. Keep praying that their discomfort will turn to disgust, and God will restore them back to fellowship with Him. When they finally realize that they are wasting their life eating slop with the pigs in the pig sty, they will turn their eyes toward home (cf. Luke 15:13-17).
Because of God’s seed within your believing spouse or child, he or she is on God’s side whether they consciously sense that or not, and they will feel like a foreigner in this world. God can turn this discomfort into disgust so that they will want to come home to fellowship with Him and His family. Next time, Lord willing, we will discover how to get there. 18
Prayer: Gracious Father in heaven, oh how we needed to hear these encouraging words about Christians who are living in the depths of darkness and appear to have no hope of returning to fellowship with You and Your people. Thank You for reminding us that no matter how much we or our loved ones have embraced the lusts of this passing world, if we or they are a believer in Jesus, Your sinless nature remains inside us and is not touched by evil or the evil one. We are still children of God at the core of our being, and to some degree there will be discomfort with our sinful lifestyle and choices. Please oh Lord, turn this discomfort to disgust so all of us living in the darkness will return home to fellowship with You and Your people. Help us to rely on Your Holy Spirit for the power to live out these unchanging truths in our daily Christian lives. In the mighty name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.
1. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pp. 261-262.
2. Ibid., pg. 124.
4. Ibid., pg. 263.
6. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 1002.
7. Zane C. Hodges; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 604.
8. Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon, pg. 126.
9. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pp. 263-264 cites Zane C. Hodges, The Epistles of John: Walking in the Light of God’s Love (Irving, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 1999), pp. 242-243.
10. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 264.
12. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2953.
13. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 264.
14. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 604.
15. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pp. 264-265.
16. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 604.
17. Zane C. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 4126.
18. The last three paragraphs are adapted from Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 265.
“If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that.” I John 5:16
As the apostle John approached the end of his letter, he resumed talking about prayer that expresses faith in the name of God’s Son (I John 5:13b -15). John spoke of praying for our own needs especially as it relates to God’s will which is revealed in His commandments. God has commanded us to love one another (I John 3:11, 23; 4:7, 11-12; cf. John 13:34-35). When we ask God to help us do this, we can be confident He hears this request favorably because we know this is according to His revealed will (5:14-15).
But John does not want us to stop with praying for our own needs (5:14-15), he also wants us to pray for the needs of others (5:16-17). When other Christians love us, we may not see our need to ask God for help to love them back. But when a Christian sins against us we may recognize our need for God’s help. Jesus taught that praying for someone who has sinned against us is an act of love (cf. Matt. 5:44). 1
Hence, John writes, “If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that.” (I John 5:16). We can pray with confidence for a “brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death” that God will answer our prayer favorably. God will give us “life” to give to our brothers “who commit sin not leading to death” (5:16a). 2
Hence, “the name of the Son of God” (5:13b) becomes “life”“for the sinning believer who gets a longer life plus joy when he repents and for the praying brother when he receives a positive answer for his prayer. We get joy from answered prayer, and the sinning brother gets restored joy when he returns to fellowship (and potentially a longer life).” 3
“John offers a specific example of confident prayer that is according to God’s will and that involves a horizontal expression of love. If you see a brother committing a sin, he needs a believer who is intimate with God to intercede for him (5:16). As a result of his own intimacy intimacy with God, Moses intervened on behalf of Israel (Exod. 32:7-14). When the four men who carried the paralytic took him to Jesus, He forgave and healed when He saw their faith (Mark 2:5). When we reach out in love to a brother or sister who is being defeated, God can allow that believer to piggyback on our faith to receive deliverance. That’s what the family of God is about.”4
However, this promise does not apply to Christians who commit sin leading directly or immediately to a premature physical death. 5 John writes, “There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that.” (5:16b). A Christian brother is not encouraged to pray for another believer who is committing a sin that leads immediately to a swift physical death. Nor is he instructed not to pray for him.
“In other words, if a Christian suspects that a sin leading directly to death is being committed, he is free to pray for the sinning believer, but without any certainty about the outcome of his prayer. Although there is no guarantee, it is always possible that God may ‘relent’ from His judgment.”6
“All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death.” (I John 5:17). All “unrighteousness” (adikia) or wrongdoing in God’s eyes “is sin” but out of this broad spectrum “there is sin not leading to death.” This last phrase sin “not leading to death” (mē pros thanaton/ou pros thanaton) occurs three times in 5:16-17 and should be understood to mean “not punished by death.” 7
The distinction in I John 5:16-17 is between sins for which death is a rapid consequence and sins for which it is not. Obviously, all Christians still sin (I John 1:8, 10). But God makes a distinction between sins that result in premature death and those that do not such as envy, lying, slander, gossip, pride, manipulation, anger, deception, lust, or hypocrisy. 8
This is also not a reference to eternal “death” as some teach. 9 John is speaking here of a believer’s Christian “brother” who has eternal life which can never be lost (5:1, 13; cf. John 6:35-30; 10:28-29).
Examples of sin leading to a premature or swift physical death among Christians is seen in Acts 5:1-11 and I Corinthians 3:16-17; 5:5; 11:30. 10 Ananias and Sapphira “lied … to God” the Holy Spirit about the amount of money they obtained when they sold their property and gave only “part” of the proceeds to the apostles to distribute to other believers (Acts 4:34-5:4). They wanted God and other believers to think they were more generous than they actually were. As a result of not allowing the Holy Spirit to control them, both Ananias and Sapphira “immediately” died (Acts 5:5-10).
The Christians at Corinth also committed sins which could lead to premature death. These included:
Exalting God’s servants instead of God will “destroy” (phtheiro) or “defile” the local church (“you” = plural) which is “the temple of God” in whom “the Spirit of God dwells”(I Cor. 3:16-17). Bringing harm to the local church through illegitimate divisions or false doctrine could result in a premature physical death. 11
Continuing in sexual immorality as a Corinthian believer did with “his father’s wife” (I Cor. 5:1) or the sinning believer’s stepmother. Paul instructed the church to “deliver such a one to Satan” by excommunicating him from the church so God’s protective covering is removed from his life. 12 Then Satan can use the world which he controls (John 12:31; 16:11; 2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 2:12; Col. 1:13; 1 John 5:19) 13 “for the destruction of the flesh” of this wayward believer so “that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (I Cor. 5:5). The word “flesh” is not likely to refer to the man’s sinful desires because Satan is not likely to destroy them. It is better to understand the “flesh” to be his physical life which when destroyed would “save” this Christian from the additional loss of eternal rewards before he faces Jesus at the Judgment Seat (cf. I Cor. 3:8-15). A similar view is that the word “save” (sōzō) is often used in the New Testament to mean being healed or being healthy (cf. Matt. 9:21-22; Mark 5:23, 28, 34; 6:56; 10:52; Luke 7:50; 8:36, 48, 50; 17:19; 18:42; Acts 4:9; 14:9; Jas. 5:15). According to this view, Paul’s desire is that this man’s spirit will be healthy in the day of the Lord Jesus through his repentant response to church discipline. 14 “The day of the Lord Jesus” is a reference to the Judgment Seat of Christ (cf. I Cor. 1:8; 3:13; 2 Cor. 5:10; Phil. 2:16; 2 Thess. 2:2). 15
The misuse of the Lord’s Supper to fulfill fleshly desires left “many” Corinthian believers “weak and sick among you, and many sleep.” (I Cor. 11:30). The word “sleep” refers to physical death (cf. John 11:11-13).
God wants His children to take sin seriously. The Bible tells us that believers who take sin lightly are flirting with death:
Proverbs 10:27: “The fear of the Lord prolongs days, but the years of the wicked will be shortened.”
Proverbs 11:19: “As righteousness leads to life, so he who pursues evil pursues it to his own death.”
Proverbs 13:14: “The law of the wise is a fountain of life, to turn one away from the snares of death.”
Proverbs 19:16: “He who keeps the commandment keeps his soul, but he who is careless of his ways will die.”
All sin if practiced long and hard enough will lead to physical death (James 1:14-15). Believers who understand this will pray for their fellow Christians who are sinning (I John 5:16). James writes, “19 Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.” (James 5:19-20). When Christians (“Brethren”) are aware of another believer (“anyone among you”) who “wanders from the truth” and “turns him back” primarily through prayer (cf. James 5:13-18), the one who prays saves the sinning believer’s “soul from death” (premature physical death) “and covers a multitude of sins.” This last phrase alludes to Proverbs 10:12 which says, “But love covers all sins.” There may have been a vast number of decisions and choices that led a particular believer away from the Lord. But with the sacrificial love of Christ, James says praying Christians can be used of God to provide a covering for past sins and lead an astray brother or sister to restoration. 16
James 5:19-20 is speaking as much to the Christian who prays as he is to the Christian who strays. Evans writes, “Some believers aid the spiritual regression of fellow Christians by assuming it’s none of their business. But if your child darted into the street in front of a car, would you say it’s none of your business? Of course not! Though many believers fail to comprehend their responsibility to the family of faith, your Christianity is real when you see a brother in Christ backsliding and act in love. You cannot be a passive Christian.” 17
I believe the apostle John would agree with this. While God gives us eternal life as a free gift the moment we believe in the name of the Son of God (cf. 5:1, 13), we who are believers can give extended physical “life” to sinning believers, in some cases, when we pray in the name of the Son of God to be merciful to them (5:16-17). 18
However, it is important to remember that if a believer hardens his or her heart and refuses to confess and forsake their sins, he or she cannot expect mercy from God. Proverbs 28:13 says, “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.” It never benefits a Christian to harden his heart and cover up or hide his sins. God’s promises that if a sinning believer “confesses and forsakes” his sins, he “will have mercy.”
One of the greatest ways we can show God’s love to a sinning believer is to pray for him or her that God would bring them to repentance so the joy of fellowship with God and other Christians can be restored. We might not know if God will judge the sinning believer with premature physical death. In such cases we can pray that God will bring His will to pass for them. 19
Prayer: O Father, forgive us for failing to take sin seriously in our own lives and in the lives of fellow believers in Jesus. It can be easy for us to justify our apathy or lack of love for a sinning Christian by telling ourselves it is none of our business. Thank You for reminding us that if we love You, we are also to love a sinning brother or sister in Christ by praying for them in the name of the Son of God so they can be given a longer life and greater joy when they repent and return to fellowship with You and other Christians. Even though we do not know if You will judge a sinning believer with a premature physical death, we can still pray that You will bring Your will to pass in their lives. Right now, we pray for so and so, that You would turn him from the error of his way and restore him to close fellowship with You and Your children. Have mercy on us all heavenly Father. Thank You for hearing our prayers. In the matchless name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.
1. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pg. 253.
2. In the phrase “he will ask [aitēsei], and He will give [dōsei] him [auton] life” —the first “he” (singular)in the text is the antecedent to the “him” (singular)because the second “He” refers to God who answers the prayer, and “life” is given to “him” (singular) to pass on “to those” [toise – plural] who are committing sin that does not lead to death (Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 253).
4. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2952.
5. Zane C. Hodges; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 604; Tom Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on I John, 2022 Edition, pg. 116;
6. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 604.
7. Zane C. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 4095.
8. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 253.
9. Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on I John, pp. 116-117, 119 cites Randall K. J. Tan, “Should We Pray for Straying Brethren? John’s Confidence in 1 John 5:16-17,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 45:4 (December 2002), pp. 599-609; Robert W. Yarbrough, 1—3 John, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament series (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008), pp. 306-313; Rudolf Schnachenburg, The Johannine Epistles, translated from the 7th ed. of Die Johannesbriefe (1984) by Reginald and Ilse Fuller (New York: Crossroad Publishing Co., 1992), pg. 249; and John R. W. Stott, The Epistles of John, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries series (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1964), pp. 186-191.
10. Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on I John, pg. 116; Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, pp. 2952-2953; Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 604; Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 4092 to 4097; Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 253.
11. Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, pg. 2490.
12. Dwight Hunt, Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 357.
13. Ibid. pp. 355, 357.
14. Ibid., pg. 357.
15. Robert Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 469.
16. Evans, Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, pg. 2890.
17. Ibid., pp. 2889-2890.
18. Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on I John, pg. 121.
19. Ibid., pg. 118 cites Robert W. Cook, “Hamartiological Problems in First John,” Bibliotheca Sacra 123; 491 (July-September 1966), pp. 257-59; and Samuel C. Storms, Reaching God’s Ear (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, 1988), pp. 241-53.
“Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” I John 5:14
As John approaches the end of his letter, he wants to focus on a topic he introduced at the beginning of this epistle: “3 that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.” (I John 1:3-4). John wrote about intimacy or fellowship with God and one another so his readers’ “joy may be full” (1:4). When believers in Jesus walk in the light (1:7), confess their sins (1:9), keep God’s commandments (2:3-5; 3:24), abide in Christ (2:6, 24, 27-28), love one another (2:9-11; 3:11-23; 4:7-5:3), hate the world (2:15-17), acknowledge Jesus is God’s Son (2:23; 4:2-3, 4:15), practice righteousness (2:29-3:10), listen to and obey apostolic teaching (2:18-19; 4:6), and avoid idolatry (5:21), they can experience this fullness of joy.
In his epistle, John introduced the truth that answered prayer is based on a twofold commandment: “And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.” (I John 3:23). John connects faith and love in this single commandment.Hence, this commandment is one that only Christians can keep because it includes believing “on the name of His Son Jesus Christ” which gives eternal life to all who believe in Jesus (5:1,13) and views other believers as their Christian brothers and sisters so they can know whom to love.
Since prayer is also an expression of faith in “the name of His Son Jesus Christ” (5:13b), John resumes his focus on prayer in 5:14-17. “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” (I John 5:14). In the context, John began to focus on the truth that God’s commands are not a burden because faith in God’s Son is the secret of spiritual victory over the world (5:3-5). It is natural then to suppose that John was thinking especially, though not exclusively, of a Christian’s right to ask God for help in keeping His commands when John speaks of asking “anything according to His will” (5:14). 1
Anderson writes, “The entire prayer discussion comes out of the ‘life’ discussion in 1 John 5:11-13. There he indicates that our initial experience of faith (‘who believe’ = believers; the Greek construction here does not refer to present, on-going faith, but rather the initial, one-time faith that gave us eternal life) can be followed by subsequent experiences of faith ‘in the name of the Son of God’ (it is this phrase that reminds him of Christ’s prayer promises in the Upper Room).
“Another way of saying it would be this. After our initial faith in the name of Jesus, which gave us our first experience of eternal life, our subsequent expressions of faith in His name (when we pray) will bring new experiences of eternal life (joy). We need to keep before us the understanding that the primary emphasis in ‘eternal life’ is quality, not quantity. Remember, unbelievers exist forever. It’s their quality of existence which differs so from the believer who dwells in the presence of the Lord.” 2
John’s wording in 5:14-15 is reminiscent of the joy Jesus spoke of the night before His crucifixion: “22 Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you. 23 And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” (John 16:22-24). Jesus is speaking of a full joy that is based on prayer in His name. Praying in Jesus’ name is not a magical formula that we add at the end of our prayers. To pray in Jesus’ name means we pray what Jesus would pray to accomplish God’s will and bring Him maximum glory.
This brings us back to I John 5:14 which speaks of praying “anything according to His will” (5:14). “To do something in someone’s name means to act on his authority (cf. John 5:43; 10:25). It has nothing to do with simply tacking onto our prayers a phrase like ‘in Jesus’ name’. Praying in Jesus’ name means to ask… according to His (God’s or Christ’s) will. If this is done, believers can have confidence that…He hears” 3 them favorably “because we are His children asking for help to do His will. He will always grant that kind of request.”4
Contextually, John is thinking of God’s revealed “will” as it pertains to His commandments (5:3-13; cf. 3:23). God’s commandments reveal His will. For example, God commands us to love one another (I John 3:11, 23; 4:7, 11-12; cf. John 13:34-35). When a believer asks God to help him love another Christian, he can have “confidence” God favorably “hears” this request because this is “His will” (5:14). “And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.” (I Joh. 5:15). Furthermore, John says we can also “know that we have the petitions” or requests “that we have asked of Him” for assistance to do His will by loving other Christian brothers or sisters. These requests will be granted because they are according to His revealed will. 5
When we pray according to God’s revealed will in the Bible, we can have the confidence that He hears us favorably. This would include praying…
For abstinence from fleshly lusts that war against the soul (I Pet. 2:11)
For abstinence from sexual immorality of any kind (I Thess. 4:3)
For deliverance from this present evil age (Gal. 1:4)
For the giving of thanks in everything (I Thess. 4:8)
That we silence the ignorance of foolish men by doing good (I Pet. 2:15)
That if we suffer it is for doing good and not for doing evil (I Pet. 3:17)
For the power to share the gospel of Christ starting at your current location and moving out to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8; Mark 16:15)
For clarity, courage, opportunities, and protection to share the gospel of Christ (Acts 4:29, 31; Col. 4:3-4; 2 Thess. 3:2-3)
For the making of disciples of Christ (Matt. 28:19-20)
For personal holiness that progressively reflects God’s holiness (I Pet. 1:15-16)
For living in an understanding way with one’s spouse (I Pet. 3:1-6)
“God wants his Word to be done, so pray for it to be done in your life and in the lives of others. Prayer is a toll-free number; the tab is picked up at the other end.” 6
Anderson gives us an illustrationof praying in Jesus’ name:“During the Civil War two friends found themselves under heavy fire. One of them was wounded. When his friend came to his aid, the wounded soldier pulled a small card out of his pocket and painstakingly wrote a note on the back of it. Then he looked at this friend and said, ‘If I don’t make it out alive, and you ever have a need, please go to my father. He’s a wealthy man, and I’m sure he would be willing to help you.’
“Unfortunately, the wounded soldier did die. His friend survived, and years later lost everything he had. In desperate straits, he remembered the card his friend had given him. He pulled it out of wallet and saw that it was the business card of his dead friend’s father. He looked him up and gave his name to the secretary. She went into the busy man’s office and came out with bad news, ‘I’m afraid Mr. Billings will be tied up in meetings most of the day.’ ‘That’s OK,’ said the desperate man, ‘I’ll just wait here.’ The day wore on. This former soldier was desperate, so he gave the secretary his card again and asked to see her boss for only five minutes. She took the request into her employer but came out with the same bad news. ‘Mr. Billings will be tied up all day. He simply doesn’t have time to see you.’
“Completely defeated and discouraged, the young man got up to leave, and then he remembered the card in his wallet from his friend. He pulled it out and read the back of the card to see what his friend had written. There in faded script was a note to Mr. Billings: ‘Dad, if this card every gets to you, please help the bearer. He’s my best friend and stayed with me until I died. Signed, Your son, Charlie.’ With new hope, he handed the card to the secretary and asked her if she would give this to her boss. Within seconds, Mr. Billings bounced out of his office and said, ‘Why didn’t you send this card in hours ago. I would do anything, for Charlie’s sake.’
“The Father’s infinite love for His Son has been transferred over to us. He is especially touched by those who are His Son’s best friends because they keep His commandments. And He wants to manifest His love for them for the sake of His Son. That’s the spirit of the promise to answer prayer requests in Jesus’ name. Our heavenly Father is willing to do most anything for Jesus’ sake.” 7
Our heavenly Father is eager to answer His children’s prayers when they align with what Jesus would pray. It is a top priority for the Godhead that God’s children love one another as Jesus has loved them. When we pray for God’s help to enable us to love our Christian brothers and sisters, we can be confident that He hears us and will grant us the assistance we need to obey His commandment.
Some Christians are easier to love than others. If a brother or sister in Christ has deeply hurt us, we will probably be more inclined to ask God to help us love that person. We might pray in this way:
Prayer: Father God, I know it is Your revealed will that I love so and so. But the pain they have caused me is too great for me to overcome on my own. I know You live in me, Lord Jesus. And I know it is Your will for me to love this person as You have loved me. Therefore, I pray that You would love them through me. I know You hear this prayer favorably, and I am confident that You will answer. Thank You for how You will work in and through me to show this person Your love. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.
1. Zane C. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 4078 to 4083.
2. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pg. 249.
3. See Zane C. Hodges; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 603.
4. Tom Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on I John, 2022 Edition, pg. 114 cites Thomas L. Constable, “What Prayer Will and Will Not Change,” in Essays in Honor of J. Dwight Pentecost, Edited by Stanley D. Toussaint and Charles H. Dyer (Chicago: Moody Press, 1986), pp. 99-113; and idem, Talking to God: What the Bible Teaches about Prayer (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1995; reprint ed., Eugene, Oreg.: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2005), pg. 170.
5. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 604.
6. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2952.
“And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.” I John 5:11
Assurance of salvation is very dear to the heart of God. He wants His children to be absolutely certain that they have eternal life the moment they believe His testimony about His Son, Jesus Christ.
Imagine a child doubting that he or she was truly their parents’ son or daughter based on their behavior!?! Think of the insecurities and fear that child would have. Instead of drawing near to his or her parents when struggling with sin or shame, he or she would hide their struggles and try harder and harder to overcome them, only to experience more defeat, fear, and shame. This is a terrible cycle of shame that God never intended His children to endure. Yet Christians are being taught this at many different levels within evangelical Christianity today.
Christians are also being told that assurance of salvation keeps believers from living holy lives. In other words, if I can know I have everlasting life which can never be lost, then what is to keep me from living like the Devil the rest of my life? Doesn’t assurance of salvation give me a license to sin? The apostle John would say, “No! A thousand times, No!”
Knowing we have eternal life is based on the testimony of God, not the testimony of men. Yet various human teachers throughout church history have undermined assurance of salvation by saying it is based both on the objective promises of God and on the subjective evidence of the professing believer’s works. 1 In essence they are teaching that believing in the promises of God is not enough. There must be faith plus fruit. One popular Bible commentator seems to base our assurance of salvation on the subjective evidence of holiness or purity:
“Those who cling to the promise of eternal life but care nothing for Christ’s holiness have nothing to be assured of. Such people do not really believe. Either their professed ‘faith’ in Christ is an utter sham, or they are simply deluded. If they did truly have their hope fixed on Christ, they would purify themselves, just as He is pure (3:3).” 2
As mentioned previously, there are two primary areas where the enemies of Christ or antichrists have attacked the body of Christ: God’s Work (I John 5:6-9) and God’s Word (I John 5:10-13). Through Christ’s baptism (“the water”) and His sacrificial death on the cross (“the blood”),God’s “Spirit” bore witness to the identity and work of God’s Son, Jesus Christ (5:6-8). This “witness of God” concerning “His Son” is far “greater” than “the witness of men” (5:9).
Before stating what God’s witness of His Son is, John draws a contrast between believing and not believing the testimony of God concerning His Son: “He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son.” (I John 5:10). The phrase “believes in” (pisteueō eis) is commonly used in John’s gospel (cf. John 1:12, 2:11, 23; 3:15-16, 18, 36) and is identical in meaning to “believes that” (pisteueō hoti) (cf. John 11:27; 20:31; cf. 8:24; 13:19). Both Greek constructions express the means of receiving eternal life (cf. John 20:30-31 with John 3:15-16, 18, etc. and cf. 1 John 5:1). 3
Dr. Charlie Bing states that “after noting every use of pisteuō in the gospel of John (pisteuō eis with accusative – John 1:12; 2:11, 23; 3:15,16, 18a, 18c, 36; 4:39; 6:29, 35, 40, 47; 7:5, 31, 38, 39, 48; 8:30; 9:35, 36; 10:42; 11:25, 26a, 45,48; 12:11, 36, 37, 42,44 [twice], 46; 14:12; 16:9; 17:20), pisteuō with dative – John 2:22; 4:21, 50; 5:24, 38, 46 [twice], 47 [twice]; 6:30; 8:31, 45, 46; 10:37, 38 [twice]; 12:38; 14:11a), pisteuō hoti – John 4:21; 6:69; 8:24; 11:27, 42; 13:19; 14:10; 11a; 16:27, 30; 17:8, 21; 20:31a, pisteuō absolutely – John 1:7, 50; 3:12 [twice], 15, 18b 4:41, 42, 48, 53; 5:44; 6:36,47, 64 [twice]; 9:38; 10:25, 26; 11:15, 40; 12:39; 14:11b, 29; 16:31; 19:35; 20:8, 25, 29 [twice], 31b), pisteuō with neuter accusative (John 11:26b), Schnackenburg concludes, ‘In many texts, pisteuō eis is on the same footing as a hoti-clause…’ and ‘Often the absolute pisteuein means the Johannine faith in the fullest sense…’ Thus one should not so easily delete the soteriological significance of pisteuō plus hoti – in John. This is the construction found in clear salvation verses like John 8:24, ‘believe that I am He,’ and 20:31, ‘believe that Jesus is the Christ’. Likewise, pisteuō plus the dative without a preposition is used in a clear salvation verse, John 5:24, “believes him who sent me” (NIV).’”4
The Biblical evidence shows that to“believe in” and to “believe that” are used interchangeably by the apostle John in his gospel for saving faith. John would not contradict in I John would he had already written in his gospel.
John notes that when a person “believes in the Son of God,” he has “the witness in himself” (I John 5:10a). When an individual believes in Jesus for eternal life, God’s witness about His Son becomes real to him or her. God’s Spirit gives them the assurance that they were right to believe in Christ for eternal life. However, if a person “does not believe … the testimony that God has given of His Son,” he or she is calling God “a liar” (5:10b).
“The writer, then, cannot allow that one can profess belief in God, as did his opponents, and yet reject God’s testimony to His own Son. Such rejection cannot be excused on the basis of ignorance. The evidence is too clear and too weighty. Rather, it is deliberate unbelief, the character of which in the end impugns the very being and character of God. If Jesus is not God’s own Son in the flesh, then God is no longer the truth. He is the liar.”5
For John, there is no middle ground. “There is nothing here about ‘head or heart belief,’ or about a ‘faith that yields to God as over against mere intellectual assent,’ etc. The Bible does not complicate faith like that. Once we have understood the message, the issue is: Is it true or false?Do we believe it, or do we not?” 6
Nowhere in the Bible does God distinguish head belief from heart belief. All belief is belief. A person either “believes in the Son of God” or he “does not believe…” (5:10). If we believe in Christ for eternal life, then we know we have eternal life because Jesus guarantees, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47). To doubt that we “truly believe” is to disbelieve Jesus’ promise. Either I believe Christ’s promise, or I do not. If I do, I have eternal life. If I do not, I stand condemned as one who “has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18). The book of I John and the gospel of John do not condition eternal life on whether one has “heart belief” instead of “head belief.”
Having drawn a contrast between believing and not believing the testimony God has given about His Son (5:10), John now states the content of God’s testimony: “11 And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (I John 5:11-12). The phrase “And this is the testimony of God” refers to verses 11 and 12 which taken together state “the testimony of God” about “His Son.” Verse 11 states what God has bestowed and verse 12 states the exclusive character of this bestowal. 7
According to this divine testimony, “God has given us eternal life” (5:11a). Eternal life is a gift from God, and it is inseparable from the Person of “His Son.” Salvation is not giving God your life as so many Christians invite non-Christians to do. It is God giving us His “eternal life.”
In John’s gospel Jesus defined eternal life: “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”(John 17:3). The word “know” (ginōskō) refers to an intimate or experiencial knowledge of God, not just an awareness of certain facts. 8 Notice that the primary focus is on one’s relationship with God (“life”),not the duration (“eternal”).This is not just a future promise, it is a present reality for all believers in Jesus. Eternal life is knowing the true God personally in one’s experience forever.
This knowledge of God begins the moment we believe in Jesus for His gift of eternal life. “But that’s only the beginning. You must grow in your knowledge and understanding, as sure as an infant must progress toward childhood. God wants us to grow in our knowledge of Him—He wants us to deepen in our experience of eternal life. To do that, you must have intimacy with His Son, because”9 ”this life is in His Son” (I John 5:11b).
Eternal “life is in His Son” (5:11b), since Jesus is “eternal life” (I John 5:20). Hence, eternal “life” and God’s “Son” are one gift together given from God. 10 Therefore, “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (5:12). There is no one or nothing else where this “life” can be found. It is not found in a church or in a pastor. Neither is it found in a lifestyle or an act of obedience.
The antichrists or false teachers seem to have questioned John’s readers’ belief that they possessed eternal life (cf. 2:25). And since the antichrists also denied that Jesus is the Christ (cf. 2:22), they would have affirmed that there was no eternal life available in Jesus. Thus, in the eyes of these false teachers, John’s readers did not really have eternal life. 11
The apostle John counters this false teaching by asserting that he and his readers do have eternal life because God has given it to them in His Son and that this life is to be found in Him and nowhere else. 12
“Since this eternal life is in His Son, it follows that if a person has the Son, he also has life (eternal life); and if a person does not have the Son, he does not have life.” (5:12). 13 What must a person do to “have the Son” (5:12)?
The only requirement to “have the Son” in I John or the entire New Testament for that matter is to believe. The apostle writes, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.” (I John 5:13). What must a person do to “know” (not guess, hope, or think) he or she “have eternal life”? “Believe in the name of the Son of God.” There is no mention of having fruit, obedience, or a changed life to know one has eternal life. The only condition is to “believe in the name of the Son of God.” This is so simple that many adults miss it.
“Assurance is part of the essence of saving faith. If eternal life can be lost, it can’t be eternal. God wants you to know that you have eternal life—not based on your fluctuating faith—but based on the object of your faith, Jesus.”14
“Every believer knows at the point of saving faith that he has eternal life, because the promises he believes guarantee it (cf. John 11:25-26). But the believer is not immune to doubts after he is saved (cf. John the Baptist; Luke 7:18-19). The antidote to such doubts is always God’s promises. These promises can be referred to repeatedly as a fresh source of assurance. No book of the Bible contains more of these straight-forward guarantees than John’s Gospel itself (John 3:16, 18, 36; 5:24; 6:35-40, 47; etc.). First John 5:11-12 reminds the readers of God’s testimony they have already believed.
“Since the believers he writes to have believed in the name of the Son of God (whose identity is attested by ‘the Spirit, the water, and the blood,’ v. 8), then they should rest securely on the testimony that God has given about and through His Son. This testimony assures believers that they do have eternal life.
“All true assurance of salvation and eternal life must rest on the ‘testimony of God,’ for onlythat testimony has full reliability. Ironically once one’s Christian experience is made the groundsfor assurance, John’s statement in v 13 about knowing becomes a complete impossibility!
“The apostle here seeks to reaffirm the assurance of his readers which was to question the antichrists.” 15
What about the phrase “these thing?” Doesn’t that refer to the entire book of I John? Some will argue that I John 5:13 is the purpose statement for John’s epistle since the apostle’s purpose statement in his gospel was near the end of the gospel of John (John 20:31).They conclude that I John was written to provide tests for professing believers in Jesus so they could know for sure they have eternal life. According to this view, one not only needs to believe in the name of the Son of God to know they have eternal life, but they must also walk in the light (1:7), confess their sins (1:9), keep God’s commandments (2:3-5; 3:24), abide in Christ (2:6, 24, 27-28), love one another (2:9-11; 3:11-23; 4:7-5:3), hate the world (2:15-17), acknowledge Jesus is God’s Son (2:23; 4:2-3, 4:15), practice righteousness (2:29-3:10), listen to and obey apostolic teaching (2:18-19; 4:6), and avoid idolatry (5:21). 16
But this view fails to understand that “there are five purpose statements in I John (1:3, 4; 2:1, 26; 5:13) plus ten imperatives (2:15, 24, 27, 28; 3:1, 7, 13; 4:1 [twice]; 5:21), any of which could possibly provide John’s purpose for writing.” 17 First John 1:3-4 provides the most comprehensive primary and secondary purposes in writing this epistle. 18
Hodges notes that the words, “These things” in I John 5:13 do not refer to the entire book of I John, but to the verses immediately preceding it (5:6-12), observing that this near reference is consistent with John’s style throughout his epistle: 19
The statement “these things we write to you”(1:4) refers to what was just stated in verses 1:1-3.
The words, “these things I write to you, so that you may not sin”(2:1) refer to the teaching on sin in 1:5-10.
The statement, “These things I have written to you concerning those who try todeceive you”(2:26) refers to the preceding discussion about antichrists (2:18-25).
In 1 John 5:13 the “these things” points to “the testimony” or “witness” (martyria, the noun, or martyrēo, the verb) which has been mentioned seven times in 1 John 5:9-12: 20
“9 If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God which He has testified of His Son. 10 He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son. 11 And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (emphasis added)
“What John is arguing for in this passage is the credibility of God’s testimony (witness). It isgreater than that of men. And this witness or testimony is that God has given us eternal life, andthis life is in His Son. We can either accept or reject this testimony.
“Notice that we are not called upon to search our faith to see if it is real. We do not have to have faith in our faith.’ We are called upon to have faith in what God says about His Son. Our assurance is at stake here, yes, but more important than that is the credibility of God. It is His witness that is at stake. We either believe it or reject it. In fact, in 1 John 5:13 we find echoes of John 5:24 where it says, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.’”21
After the words “know that you have eternal life” (5:13a), most Greek manuscripts add the words: “and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God” (5:13b). Perhaps this statement seemed redundant to some early scribe or editor and for that reason was eliminated from his manuscript. But this part of verse 13 actually prepares the ground for the discussion about prayer which follows (5:14-17) by inviting continued faith in God’s Son on the part of those who already have received eternal life through Him. Prayer also is an expression of faith in the name of God’s Son. 22
After we believe in Jesus Christ for eternal life, we may have doubts about our salvation. Some days we may feel saved, and others we may not. Our assurance of salvation is not based upon what we feel and do, or what other people say, which can all change, but is based upon the promises of God, which never change (Luke 21:33; I Pet. 1:24-25).
You may ask, “If I doubt my salvation, does that mean I am not saved?” Possibly. Those who doubt their salvation fall into one of two categories:
1. You may not understand the gospel and are not saved. Perhaps you are believing in Christ plus your works or just your works alone, and therefore you don’t have any certainty of going to heaven because your faith does not rest in the finished work of Christ on the cross (John 3:14-16; 19:30).
2.You have believed in Christ and are saved, but you have confused entering the Christian life (I John 5:13; cr. John 3:16; 5:24) with living it (I John 1:4-10; 2:3-6; 3:6-15; 4:20-21). When a believer takes his or her focus off Christ and His promise of eternal life, he or she may begin to doubt their salvation. Losing your assurance of salvation is not the same as losing your salvation. As we have seen, when you believe in Christ for eternal life, you are eternally secure at the moment of faith because of Christ’s performance and promise, not your performance or feelings.
However, being certain of your salvation can waver if you start looking to someone or something else other that Christ and His promise of eternal life. If you doubt your salvation, ask yourself:
A. Do I understand the simplicity of the gospel? Since Christ paid the full penalty for my sins when He died on the cross and rose from the dead (John 19:30; I Cor. 15:3-6), God can now forgive me based on what He has done for me, not what I do for Him.
B. Have I believed or trusted Christ alone for my salvation? We appropriate Christ’s death on the cross by coming to Him as sinners, recognizing that He made the full payment for sin on our behalf, and “believing.” Jesus promised, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47). Believe means to be convinced Jesus was speaking the truth and is therefore worthy of our trust in Him alone as our only basis for living eternally with God. If you are believing in Christ alone to get you to heaven, you are forever God’s child regardless of when or where that occurred.
C. Am I taking God at His Word? Once you believe in Christ alone, you must trust His Word. That means accepting God’s promise that, having trusted Christ, we are forever His. Jesus assures us: “And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.” (John 10:28). If I were to ask you whose child you are, you would say, “I am the child of …” You have proof that would stand up in a court of law – a birth certificate. A piece of paper assures you that you are your parents’ child. God has given us a piece of paper – the inspired Word of God, the Bible. It assures us that once we’ve believed in Christ, we have everlasting life. We are His forever. If you could lose your salvation, then Jesus lied to us in John. 3:16. Our salvation is based upon a promise that cannot be broken. It comes from a God who cannot lie.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for Your testimony which is far greater than the witness of people. Your testimony clearly states You have given us eternal life, and this life is in Your Son, Jesus Christ; not in our performance, our lifestyle, or our obedience. Thank You for the internal witness of the Holy Spirit Who assures us it was right for us to believe in Your Son for His gift of eternal life. Knowing we have eternal life is based on Your unwavering testimony concerning Your Son, not the testimony of people which can easily change.We can know we have eternal life when we believe in the name of the Son of God because Your Word guarantees it. Please help Your children who doubt their salvation right now to come back to Your promises which guarantee those who believe in the name of the Son of God that they can know for certain they have eternal life. In Jesus’ mighty name, we pray. Amen.
1. Tom Constable, Dr. Constable’s notes on I John, 2022 Edition, pg. 113 cites John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, The Library of Christian Classics series, Volumes 20 and 21, Edited by John T. McNeill, Translated by Ford Lewis Battles (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960), 3:24:4 and John F. MacArthur Jr., Faith Works: The Gospel According to the Apostles (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1993), pp. 162-166.
2. Constable, Dr. Constable’s notes on I John, pg. 113 cites MacArthur, Faith Works, pg. 171.
3. See Zane C. Hodges; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 603.
4. Dr. Charlie Bing, “Lordship Salvation: A Biblical Evaluation and Response,” GraceLife Edition, 1992, pp. 18-19.
5. Constable, Dr. Constable’s notes on I John, pg. 111 cites Glenn W. Barker, “1 John,” in Hebrews-Revelation, Vol. 12 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary 12 vols., edited by Frank E. Gaebelein and J. D. Douglas (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), pg. 352.
6. Ibid., cites Zane C. Hodges, The Epistles of John: Walking in the Light of God’s Love (Irving, Tex.: Grace Evangelical Society, 1999), pg. 224.
7. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 603.
8. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 301; David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pg. 74.
9. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2951.
10. Constable, Constable, Dr. Constable’s notes on I John, pp. 111-112.
11. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 603.
13. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 241.
14. Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, pp. 2951-2952.
15. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 603.
16. Those holding to this view are mentioned in the following commentaries: Anderson in Maximum Joy, pg. 15 cites John MacArthur, Jr., Saved without a Doubt (Colorado Springs: Cook Communications, 1992), pp. 67-91; Constable, Dr. Constable’s notes on I John, pg. 46 cites James Montgomery Boice, The Epistles of John (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1979); Raymond Brown, The Epistles of John, Anchor Bible series(Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1982); F.F. Bruce, The Epistles of John (London: Pickering & Inglis Ltd., 1970; reprint ed., Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1986); John Calvin, The First Epistle of John, Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries series, Translated by T. H. L. Parker. Reprint ed. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1959-61); John F. MacArthur Jr., The Gospel according to Jesus (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1988); John R. W. Stott, Basic Introduction to the New Testament, 1st American ed. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1964); Brooke Foss Westcott, The Epistles of St. John (1883. Reprint ed. England: Marcham Manor Press, 1966); and Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, 2 vols. (Wheaton: Scripture Press Publications, Victor Books, 1989).
17. Constable, Dr. Constable’s notes on I John, pg. 17.
18. Ibid., cites Robert W. Yarbrough, 1-3 John, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament series(Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008), pg. 46; Stephen S. Smalley, 1, 2, 3 John, Word Biblical Commentary series (Waco: Word Books, 1984), pg. 15; Gary W Derickson, “What is the Message of I John?” Bibliotheca Sacra 150:597 (January-March 1993), pp. 89-105.
19. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 603; cf. Robert N. Wilkin, “‘Assurance: That You May Know’ (1 John 5:11-13a),” Grace Evangelical Society News 5:12 (December 1990), pp. 2, 4; Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 241; Zane C. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 4070.
20. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 241.
21. Ibid., pp. 241-242.
22. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 4075 to 4079.
“4:21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also. 5:1a Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” I John 4:21-5:1a
When I was conducting discipleship training seminars in the Philippines, I would sometimes be asked by participants, “What if a person professes faith in Christ but does not go on to grow spiritually or produce fruit in their Christian life, are they truly saved?” This question assumes that a genuine Christian will grow spiritually or produce good works, and if he or she does not, then they are not saved. This kind of thinking is common among those who believe the book of I John was written to provide tests to see if you are genuinely saved and going to heaven when you die. 1 Those who hold this position would say if a professing Christian does not love his Christian brother, then he or she is not truly saved.
When I was asked this kind of question, I would encourage our seminar participants not to judge the professing Christian who doesn’t go on to grow in the Christian life. Instead, I encouraged them to ask the professing Christian three questions to help that person discern their own spiritual condition.2
Does the professing believer believe the simplicity of the gospel?That is, do they believe that Christ paid the full penalty for their sins when He died on the cross and rose from the dead, so that God can now forgive them based on what He has done for them, not what they do for Him? A professing believer may not grow because they have not understood the gospel and believed in Christ alone for salvation and therefore do not have the Holy Spirit inside them to empower them to become more like Christ. If they do not understand the gospel, it is essential that we share the clear gospel of Christ with them so they may believe in Christ alone who died for their sin and rose from the dead to receive His gift of eternal life and the Holy Spirit to help them begin growing in the Christian life (cf. John 3:14-16; 7:37-39; I Cor. 15:3-6).
Have they been trained by a disciple of Christ since professing faith in Jesus?Too often the reason a new believer does not grow is because the church has neglected to come alongside of them to teach them how to live the Christian life. It is much easier to say a struggling new believer is not saved and evangelize him or her than it is to get more involved in their lives and disciple them. Also, it is unrealistic to expect new believers to be where we are at in a few weeks when it has taken us several years to grow to where we are at now.
Has the professing believer believed in Christ and then fallen away from the Lord? The Bible makes it clear that believers can fall away from the Lord and live contrary to His will. Examples include King Saul (I Samuel 28:4-19), King David (2 Samuel 11), King Solomon (I Kings 11:1-13), Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11), the Corinthian believers who were factious, immoral, and prone to drunkenness (I Corinthians 3:1-6:20; 11:29-32), the Galatians who lapsed into the worst form of legalism (Galatians 1:6-9; 2:11-3:4; 4:16-5:4; 6:12-13), the Ephesians who engaged in Satanic arts for up to two years after their conversion (Acts 19:1-20), the readers of James who were arrogant, argumentative, slanderous and temperamental (James 2:1-13; 3:1-18; 5:1-6), and Demas (2 Timothy 4:10; cf. John 15:6; I Corinthians 3:15; Hebrews 6:4-8).
It is important to warn the Christian who has fallen away from God of the painful discipline of God now (cf. John 15:6; Heb. 6:7-8; 10:26-31; 12:5-11, 28-29) and the painful loss of eternal rewards in the future at the Judgment Seat of Christ (Matt. 8:12; 22:11-13; 24:48-51; 25:24-30; Luke 19:20-26; Rom. 14:10-12; I Cor. 3:8-15; 4:5; 9:24-27; 2 Cor. 5:9-11; I John 2:28; 2 John 1:8; et al. ).
Asking these three questions will help you discern what the professing believer needs. Don’t just assume they are unsaved because they are not manifesting enough fruit. Meet them where they are at so you can more effectively impact their lives.
The book of I John informs us that the reason a believer is not growing is because he or she is out of fellowship with God (1:1-4ff). This may include having unconfessed sin (I John 1:7-10), disobedience to God’s commands (I John 2:3-6; 3:24), hatred toward other believers (I John 2:7-11; 3:10-15; 4:7-21), love for the world and the things of the world (I John 2:15-16), deception by false teachers concerning assurance of salvation and the identity of Christ (I John 2:18-27; 4:1-6; 5:6-13), misunderstanding one’s true identity in Christ (I John 3:1-9), not practicing righteousness which includes failure to love other Christians (I John 3:10-18), and not confessing that Jesus is the Son of God (I John 4:14-15).
In our study of I John, we finished the body of the epistle (2:28-4:19) which ended with the words, “We love Him because He first loved us.” (4:19).3 The way we make our love for God visible is by loving other Christians (I John 4:12-16). Some Christians may read 4:19 and say, “It is easy for me to love God because He does not have any faults or imperfections. But loving my Christian brother or sister is another story because I have seen them up close and they are full of faults.” 4
John responds to this type of thinking when he writes, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” (I John 4:20). John reminds his readers (including us) that a Christian cannot claim to “love God” and at the same time he “hates his brother.” Such a claim is false (“he is a liar”). However, it is understandable for a believer to think it is easier to “love God whom he has not seen” than to “love his” Christian “brother whom he has seen,” especially when he does not like what he sees in a fellow Christian.
“If I can see a physical being and am not willing to meet his physical needs, how can I possibly love a spiritual being whose needs I cannot see? That’s his reasoning. God’s commands draw our love for God and our brothers together. If we don’t keep His commands, we don’t love Him. And He commands us to love other believers. So, if we don’t love other believers, we don’t love God. Thus, to claim to love God when I don’t love my brother/sister makes me a liar.”5
It is important to know that our love for God is not measured by what we say (“I loveGod”), but by what we do 6 (“let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth” – 3:18). Nor is Christian love an emotion.
“The word for love throughout John is agapē, a word found only once in all of secular Greek, that is, Greek outside the Bible. And the amount of non-biblical Greek literature we have must be a thousand times more than the amount of Greek we have in the Bible, but this word agapē occurs in that literature only once. That should be a clue to us that this kind of love is only from God. And the issue here is not whether we feel warm and fuzzy toward God, but cold and callous toward our Christian brother/sister. The issue is action.” 7
John has made it clear that loving God involves obeying His commandments, especially the command to love one another (I John 2:3-11; 3:16-24; 4:7-21; cf. John 14:15, 21, 23-24; 15:10-14). If a believer does not obey God’s commands, He does not love God no matter what he says or feels. Hence, a Christian who says, “I love God,” but does not obey God’s command to love his Christian brother, “is a liar” (4:20).8
In addition, God commands us to love both Himself and our fellow Christian brothers and sisters: “And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.” (I John 4:21). Notice the word “commandment” is singular and includes loving God and one’s Christian “brother” or sister. We cannot claim to love our invisible God if we do not love our fellow believer standing in front of us (4:20). We must not deceive ourselves. God’s commandment has interwoven loving Him and loving His children (4:21). We cannot disconnect them. 9
Imagine someone telling you that he or she loved your head, but they hated your body. How would you feel? It would be hurtful, would it not!?! The Bible tells us that Jesus Christ “is the head of the body, the church…” (Col. 1:18; cf. Col. 1:24; Ephes. 1:22-23; 4:15; 5:23, 30). Christ is our head, and His church is His body. How would Jesus feel if we said we love Him, but we detest His body? This would deeply hurt our Lord. When we are unloving toward other Christians, we are unloving toward our head, the Lord Jesus Christ.
John anticipated his readers (including you and me) asking, “Who then is my Christian brother or sister?” John writes, “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God…” (I John 5:1a). John defines a Christian brother or sister as “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ.” The word “whoever” includes everyone with no exceptions. When the apostle uses the word “whoever,” he is inviting every person to become a Christian regardless of their country, culture, color, good works, lifestyle, or obedience. This includes the worst of people and best of people and everyone in between.
What does John invite every person to do to become a Christian? BELIEVE. In fact, the words God uses most in evangelism in the New Testament are the words “believe” 10and “faith.” 11 Often times, however, Christians substitute other words or clichés to communicate the most important message given to humanity. Instead of using the words God uses most, they tell a non-Christian to accept Christ, be baptized, turn from your sins or be sorry for your sins, confess your sins, pray the sinner’s prayer, give your life or your heart to Jesus, ask Jesus into your heart, confess Jesus is Lord, follow or obey Jesus, commit your life to Christ, submit to Jesus as your Lord and Master, or surrender your life to Christ.
I am not suggesting that no one has been born again when these clichés are included in a gospel presentation. In fact, there have been times in my own life when I have used some of these phrases. I like what evangelist Larry Moyer has said, “God can still use a crooked arrow to hit a target.” God can still use our unclear gospel presentations to help people come to Christ. But why use an unclear phrase or cliché which will do more to confuse a lost person than clarify what he must do to obtain eternal life? Would it not be better to use the clearest presentation possible so that the unsaved person has the best opportunity to respond to the gospel the way God wants him to respond?
The word translated “believes” (pisteuōn) in I John 5:1 means to be persuaded that Jesus is the Christ and is therefore worthy of your trust. 12 To believe “Jesus is the Christ” is to believe that He is the promised Messiah-God (“Christ”) Who guarantees a future resurrection and never-ending life to all who believe in Him (cf. John 11:25-27). The one who believes Jesus is the Christ “is born of God.” The phrase “born of God” refers to new birth.
Some theologians or Bible students will respond, “Oh, yes, there needs to be a confession of faith in Christ, but the person also needs to manifest fruit or good works or his or her profession of faith is false. A good root produces good fruit.“
There is a problem with this response which I will now illustrate. I live in the Midwest where deciduous trees lose their leaves in the fall. Our state’s tree is the oak tree. During the winter, you could not tell if an oak tree was dead or alive simply by looking at its outward appearance. No one could tell if an oak tree is dead or alive in the middle of winter here … except God. Since God knows everything, He can see the root when all we can see is the fruit. Just because there is no fruit for a period of time does not prove there is no root. 13
Since God can see faith alone with no accompanying outward manifestation, he only requires faith alone in Christ alone to be justified before Him (Rom. 4:5; Gal. 2:16) or have eternal life (John 3:15-16; 6:40, 47; et al.). But for people to see another person’s faith, it must be accompanied by works. This is why the Bible distinguishes justification before God (faith alone – Rom. 4:5; Ephes. 2:8-9) from justification before man (faith plus works – James 2:14-26). Justification before God is necessary to get to heaven. Justification before people is necessary to bring heaven down to earth (i.e., discipleship or spiritual growth).
Since Christians are not all-knowing like God, we are to take a person’s confession of faith in Christ as true. This is what Jesus did in John 11. After Jesus claimed to be the resurrection and the life, and He guaranteed a physical resurrection and never-ending life to those who believe in Him (John 11:25-26a), He asks Martha, “Do you believe this?” (John 11:26b). Christ is seeking a confession from her. He is not asking her to change her life or produce good works. Martha replies, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” (John 11:27). Neither she nor Jesus analyzes her faith to distinguish head faith from heart faith. Martha confidently affirms that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” What Martha believes about Jesus is exactly what John says in His purpose statement is all that a person must believe to have everlasting life (John 20:31). She knows she has believed in Christ, the Son of God, and therefore she is certain she has eternal life.
Does Jesus correct Martha’s response? Does He caution her to wait and see if her faith is real (as so many do today) through the manifestation of good works or fruit first before making such a confession? Does He ask her if she believes in her “heart” and not merely in her “head”? He does not because as long as any sinner comes to believe that Jesus is “the resurrection and the life,” that is, “the Christ, the Son of God,” he or she knows they have everlasting life.
John then writes, “And everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him.” (I John 5:1b). The apostle is telling us that our love for God’s children is not based on their lifestyle or performance. It has nothing to do with their worthiness or deservedness. Our love for God’s children is based on our love for the Father of these children.
“If we love the ‘Begetter,’ we should love the ‘begotten.’ If we love the Father, we should love His children. No love for the children? Then, no love for the Father.”14
As I read David Anderson’s commentary recently on I John, I was reminded of people who prayed for our family while all of us were living overseas in the Philippines. Even though some of these prayer partners had never met our children, they still cared enough and loved them enough to ask how they were doing and how they could pray for them. The reason they cared enough to pray for our children and ask about them was because for some unknown reason they loved their father. My children were an extension of me. It did not matter how well my kids behaved or how deserving they were. These prayer warriors simply loved my children because they loved their father. To love the father is to love his children. 15
This is what the apostle John is saying in I John 5:1b. We are to love God’s children because we love the Father Who has begotten them. When we love God the Father, we love those who are born of Him. Whoever believes Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the Begetter also loves all who are His begotten.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we praise You for Your amazing love for us that sent Your only perfect Son, Jesus Christ, to the cross to pay the full penalty for all our sins so we may be born into Your forever family the moment we believe Jesus is the Christ. Although You are unseen, we can make Your love visible by loving one another. Loving You involves obeying Your commands, especially the command to love one another. If we claim to love You Whom we cannot see and disobey Your command to love Your children whom we can see, we are deceiving ourselves. Loving other Christians is not based on their performance or worthiness, but on our love for You, the Father of those You have begotten. Forgive us for thinking more of ourselves than You and Your begotten children. And please help us show Your love to one another as You have shown to us through the Lord Jesus. In His mighty name we pray. Amen.
1. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pg. 15 cites John MacArthur, Jr., Saved without a Doubt (Colorado Springs: Cook Communications, 1992), pp. 67-91.
2. Jeff Ropp, The Greatest Need in Evangelism Today is One Word: BELIEVE (Jeff Ropp, 2014), pp. 35-36 cites Larry Moyer, You Can Tell It! Seminar On Personal Evangelism Instructor Manual (EvanTell, Inc., 2003), pp. 46-47; cf. Larry Moyer, Free and Clear: Understanding & Communicating God’s Offer of Eternal Life, (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1997), pp. 108-113.
3. The majority of Greek manuscripts contain the word “Him” (Auton) in 4:19. See Zane C. Hodges; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 601.
4. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 225.
5. Ibid., pp. 225-226.
6. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2949.
7. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 225.
8. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 601.
9. Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, pg. 2949.
12. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early ChristianLiterature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pp. 816-817.
“19 This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, 20 where the Forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” Hebrews 6:19-20
An anchor was a popular image in the ancient Mediterranean world. Because that economy depended on shipping, the anchor came to symbolize safety and steadiness. The writer of Hebrews used the word to remind believers that God has given us a hope that holds firm in any storm.
Hope is a healthy attitude. In the book of Hebrews, “hope” (elpidos, 3:6; 6:11, 18-19; 7:19; 10:23; 11:1) is the confident expectation of God fulfilling His promises. 1 Anticipating good from God brings comfort to the mind and heart. In contrast, a state of hopelessness is a terrible condition in which to find oneself. It is overwhelming and depressing to think that what you are facing cannot be changed or resolved. For the person who has lost all hope, life looks like a long, dark tunnel going nowhere.
The author of Hebrews was writing to Christians who were facing hardship and persecution because of their Christian faith. Some were tempted to abandon Christ and return to Judaism because they had lost hope. He is urging them to persevere by returning to the hope that they have in Jesus Christ to inherit the promise of ruling with Him.
He uses a metaphor used only here in the Bible (6:19) of an “anchor” (ankyran). But instead of going down into the ocean, this anchor goes up into the heavens, behind the veil, where Jesus has entered as a Forerunner for us. He has become our High Priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek. The main reason a ship needs an anchor is to ride out storms so that it is not blown off course or into the rocks or reefs nearby. Even in a safe harbor, a ship needs an anchor so that it will not drift, hit something, and sink. Whether in the storms of life or in the harbor during the calm times of life, we all need an anchor for our souls so that our lives are not destroyed.
The writer of Hebrews wants his readers to be “diligent” or hard working to the end of their Christian lives (6:11) so they won’t be sluggish (6:12) like he said they were earlier (5:11). Remaining diligent to the end of their lives will enable them to “inherit the promises” of God, especially the reward of ruling with Christ as His companions (Heb. 1:4-5, 8-9, 13-14; 3:1, 14; cf. Psalm 2:7-8; Matthew 19:28-29; Luke 22:28-30; Rom. 8:16-17; 2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 2:25-27; 3:21). How can we remain faithful to Christ so we can inherit the promise of ruling with Him?
First, we must rely on the promises of God which cannot fail (Heb. 6:13-15). This is what Abraham did during the storms in his life. Abraham’s life is the story of God initiating and promising, with Abraham responding in faith. God appeared to Abraham while he was still named Abram, living in Ur of the Chaldees. He commanded Abram to leave his relatives and that city and go to a place that God would show him (Gen. 12:1-3; cf. Acts 7:2-3). Abram’s obedience was not easy. In that day, you didn’t just pack up a moving truck and head out on the highway, keeping in touch with the folks back home through frequent emails and phone calls. To move hundreds of miles away meant permanent separation from family and friends. There were unknown hardships to be encountered. Would the people of the new land be hostile or friendly? Could you provide adequately for your family there? What about learning the new language? There weren’t real estate offices to help you get resettled into a new home. Where would you live?
But Abram obeyed (Gen. 12:4).God had promised to multiply Abram, making him the father of a great nation (Gen. 12:2; cf. 13:15-16; 15:5). His name, Abram, meant, “exalted father,” but his wife Sarah was barren. They were getting up in years but had no children despite God’s promise. Can you imagine the encounters he had as he and Sarah moved into Canaan? This seventy-five-year-old man says, “Hello, my name is Abram [exalted father].” The Canaanite responds, “Nice to meet you. How many children do you have?” “None yet.”
But then God added insult to injury. When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him, reaffirmed His promise to multiply him exceedingly (Gen. 17:2-4), and then changed his name to “Abraham,” meaning “father of a multitude” (Gen. 17:5)! He has been waiting for twenty-four years since God first promised to give him a son. He still has no children, except for Ishmael through Hagar. But now he tells everyone that God has given him a new name, “father of a multitude”! It would be like a bald man named Harry, and God says, “Let’s change your name to Bushy-haired Harry”!
Years after God blessed Abraham with his promised son, Isaac, he was then told by God to sacrifice Isaac. “Then He said, ‘Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.’” (Gen. 22:2). Can you imagine how difficult this must have been for Abraham? He had waited twenty-five years for Isaac to be born. And now God wants him to kill his only son on the altar of sacrifice?!
But Abraham obeyed. Why? The Bible tells us: “17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, 18 of whom it was said, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called,’ 19 concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.” (Heb. 11:17-19). Abraham was still trusting God to fulfill His former promise regarding his descendants by expecting Him to raise Isaac from the dead. Now we are ready for Hebrews 6:13-15.
“13 For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no onegreater, He swore by Himself, 14 saying, ‘Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you.’ 15 And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.” (Heb. 6:13-15). The phrase “God swore by Himself” signifies that He binds His word to His character. The “promise”to which the writer referred here was the one God gave Abraham after he had obeyed God by offering up Isaac.
In 6:14 when the writer of Hebrews quoted from Genesis 22, the Lord is referring to the messianic aspects of God’s promise. “16 By Myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son— 17 blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. 18 In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice” (Gen. 22:16-18). Just as Abraham’s obedience would reap future blessings in the Messiah’s kingdom, so too, Christians who persevere in obedience to Christ would also reap blessings in His coming kingdom – especially the reward of ruling with Jesus (cf. 2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 2:25-27; 3:21).
The writer was calling his readers to do what God called Abraham to do when He instructed him to sacrifice Isaac on Mt. Moriah. They too needed to continue to trust and obey, as they had done in the past, even though circumstances appeared as if their perseverance would result in tragedy. 2 The lesson for us is there has never been anyone who trusted in God’s promises and was finally disappointed. God may delay the visible answers to His promises because He always answers in His time, not in ours. We may not see the answer until we are in heaven. But He is utterly trustworthy to keep His Word. If He has promised eternal rewards to the one who perseveres to the end, you can count on it as absolutely true!
The second way to remain faithful to Christ is to rest in the Person of God Who cannot lie (6:16-18a). The author now focuses on “the oath” that God made to Abraham. “For men indeed swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is for them an end of all dispute.” (Heb. 6:16). When a person wants to end an argument, one way to do so is to appeal to a higher authority with an oath. For example, some people do this by saying, “I am telling the truth so help me God.” Even God used “an oath” to guarantee His promise to bless Abraham greatly (Gen. 22:16).
“God swore on Himself by Himself and ended any further discussion with His legal affirmation. His promises are as true as He is. Those who believe Him and endure will receive the rewards of His faithfulness.”3
“17 Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, 18 that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie.” (Heb. 6:17-18a). This messianic hope was not only certain for Abraham, but also for the Christian “heirs” who remained faithful to the end. So, the promise and the oath are the “two immutable [or unchanging] things” since “it is impossible for God to lie.”If God lied, He would deny His very nature as the God of truth, Whose very word is truth (Isa. 65:16; John 14:6; 17:17). If God has said that we will rule with Christ if we remain faithful to Him (2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 2:25-27), then it is true, and we dare not question Him!
We are all prone to bend the truth when it suits our purposes. But God is not like us. It is impossible for God to lie. He has never lied in all of eternity. When we doubt His promises, and especially His promise of ruling with Christ, we are in effect calling Him a liar! Our hope of reigning with Christ if we remain faithful is certain because God’s Person is incapable of lying. God’s doubly strong promise to Abraham, then, can be a “great (doubly strong) consolation” to us, now, because God has also promised us future blessings. Specifically, He has promised that we will receive the reward of ruling with Christ if we remain faithful to Him until the end of our Christian lives (cf. 2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 2:25-27).
The third way to remain faithful to Christ is to run to our hope which is anchored in the priesthood of Jesus Christ (6:18b-20). The figure that closes verse 18 is an Old Testament one. “…We might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.” (Heb. 6:18b). When we are tempted to give up on God during trials, we can “flee for refuge” to the promises of God. We can “lay hold of” them, just as a fearful person in Israel could flee to the altar of burnt offerings, take hold of its horns, and be safe from his assailants (cf. I Kings 1:49-51; 2:28-39). The cities of refuge also provided safety for the Israelites (Num. 35:9-15; Joshua 20). But we have a much better “refuge” than the Israelites did in Judaism. Our refuge is anchored in the Priesthood of Christ. The “We… who have fled for refuge” implies not every Christian takes refuge in the Lord. We have already seen that this is true (Hebrews 6:1–9). Some Christians produce thorns and thistles for the Lord – they turn their backs on Him with hardened hearts.
In 6:19-20 the writer uses another type of figure to illustrate our hope in Christ. He uses the idea of an anchor which is securely dropped in the harbor. “19 This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, 20 where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” (Heb. 6:19-20). In the first century, sailors would carry their ship’s anchor in a smaller boat called a “forerunner” and deposit it on the shore, so that the ship would not drift away as waves beat against it.
“The Greek word for forerunner was used in the second century A.D. of the smaller boats sent into the harbor by larger ships unable to enter due to the buffeting of the weather. These smaller boats carried the anchor through the breakers inside the harbor and dropped it there, securing the larger ship. Forerunner presupposes that others will follow. Thus, Jesus is not only the believer’s anchor, but He is like a runner boat that has taken our anchor into port and secured it there.
There is thus no doubt as to whether this vessel is going into port. The only question is whether it will go in with the sleekness of a well-trimmed sailing vessel or like a water-laden barge. Believers who have such a hope in the presence of God should come boldly before the throne of grace (see 4:14-16).” 4
But instead of going down into the ocean, God’s anchor goes up into the heavens, behind the veil, where Jesus has entered as a Forerunner for us to firmly plant this anchor of hope in heaven for our storm-tossed souls. It should keep us from drifting away from God (cf. 2:1). Our anchor rests firmly in the Holy of Holies (“behind the veil”), in God’s presence in heaven, with Jesus. The “veil” was that thick curtain that separated the holy of holies from the rest of the Jewish tabernacle or the temple. The veil was what separated the place of worship from the inner room where God dwelt with His people.
“In the context of Hebrews this hope (elpis) is the blood of Christ. In contrast to the Levitical sacrifices, the author declares in 7:19, ‘there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.’ It is Christ’s blood (not animal blood) that has entered the Presence behind the veil, that is, into the heavenly tabernacle and the very presence of God (cf. 9:11-12). The ones entitled to strong consolation are those who continue holding fast to this hope. Indeed, it is an anchor of the soul that only the priest according to the order of Melchizedek can provide. Those who turn away from this and retreat back to some form of Judaism will find no consolation there.”5
What Hebrews 6:19-20 is saying is we have a hope, anchored in the blood of Jesus Christ. And because of Jesus, we as Christians can come before God at any time. We can because of the high priestly ministry of Jesus, which He is doing right now, on our behalf. We can know the high priestly ministry of Jesus right now in our lives. How? He has torn the divider between us and God as our Father. The veil was torn when Jesus died for us (Matt. 27:51; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45). We can now enter the holy of holies; we can unite with the Lord and know His compassion and His care. We can grow in our relationship with Him to the point where we know what makes His heart beat faster with joy or what causes Him to be sad or angry. We can know He is using us to do ministry. In all of this, we can know we are walking side by side with Him as His companions—where we know at our core, we are partnering with Him as His companions. 6
The main reason we need an anchor is to keep us from drifting into things that would destroy us, especially during storms. Abraham had his storms as he waited on God. In two different moments of weakness, he thought that powerful men would take his wife from him, which would have nullified God’s promise of a son through her. And so, he lied that she was his sister. At another moment of despair, he went into Sarah’s maid, Hagar, and conceived Ishmael. But despite these failures, he continued to trust God Who would fulfill His promise.
We can face many different types of storms that threaten to rob us of hope in Christ. There are storms of deceit in which false teachings try to blow us off course (Eph. 4:14-15). These teachings may say all Christians will receive the same rewards by their position in Christ so there is no need to persevere to the end. Or they may deny that there are rewards in heaven. We must resist these lies by holding firmly to the promise of ruling with Christ as His companions (Heb. 1:8-13; 2 Tim. 2:12).
There will be storms of doubt, when we question Christ’s future victory over His enemies and our ruling with Him in His glorious Kingdom on earth. We can weather them by coming back to the truth of His promise to bless obedience (Heb. 10:35).
There will be storms of difficulties, where we wonder why God is allowing them and question whether He loves us. We weather them by remembering that God, Who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, will now freely give us all things we need to live a life of faith for Him (Rom. 8:32)! If God did not spare His only Son when we were His enemies, how much more will He give us now that we are His beloved children so we can reign with Christ in the future?!
There may be storms of defeat, where we fall into sin and dishonor our Lord and Savior. We can weather even these storms if we realize that our High Priest is praying for us, that our faith may not fail, and that by His grace, we can be restored and encourage others to hold fast to Christ (Luke 22:32).
Where is your anchor? Where is your hope and security? For some people, it is in the temporary things of this earth. Such things as your appearance, achievements, approval, or affluence all of which can change. The writer of Hebrews invites us to move our anchor to heaven in the Person of Jesus Christ. You can do that by believing in Jesus Who shed His blood on a cross for all your sins and rose from the dead so you may have everlasting life and a future home in heaven (John 3:14-15; 14:1-3; Rev. 21-22). Then you can go directly into God’s heavenly throne room any time through prayer to receive whatever is needed for you to remain faithful to Christ and inherit His promise of ruling with Him as His companions in the world to come (Heb. 1:2-13; 3:1, 14; 4:14-16).
Prayer: Father God, we praise You for Your unchanging promises to which we can flee for refuge when we face storm-tossed times. Thank You for the everlasting hope we have in the Lord Jesus Christ Who entered the Presence behind the veil in the heavenly tabernacle as our Forerunner to firmly plant this anchor of hope in heaven for our storm-tossed souls. Our eventual arrival in the port of heaven is guaranteed by this anchor which was deposited there. Having such a hope in Your presence, Father, invites us to come boldly to the throne of grace at any time to receive the grace and mercy we need to remain faithful to Jesus until the end of our lives on earth. Then we may inherit Christ’s promise of ruling with Him as His companions in His coming Kingdom on earth. In Jesus’ mighty name we pray. Amen.
1. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2835.
2. Tom Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on Hebrews, 2015 Edition, pg. 70.
3. Rick Oglesby, Among the King’s Companions: Position Yourself Today to Be Among Those Who Rule With Christ (Rick Oglesby, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 72.
4. The NKJV Study Bible formerly titled The Nelson Study Bible New King James Version, Edited by Earl D. Radmacher, Ronald B. Allen, H. Wayne House (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2007), pg. 1955.
5. J. Paul Tanner, Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pp. 520-521.
6. Oglesby, Among the King’s Companions, pp. 81-82.
“But may the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.” I Peter 5:10
When we go through difficult times, we may feel as though our pain and disappointment will never end. We can be a lot like Job who initially blessed God when he lost his livestock, servants, and children (Job 1:13-22). But as his physical sufferings intensified, he became bitter toward God (Job 10:1-3 7; 19:6; 23:3-7). He moved from blessing to bitterness. Instead of walking through his pain with God’s help, his pain was walking all over him. This is the toll that physical suffering can take in our lives. When the end of our pain and suffering seems out of reach, we can easily lose perspective and be overtaken by despair and depression.
The aging apostle Peter understood this when he wrote to Christians who were facing severe persecution and trials in the first century under the Roman Emperor Nero. Peter had denied knowing Jesus in the face of persecution early in his Christian life (John 18:15-18, 25-27). But by the time he wrote this epistle he had come to understand that suffering precedes glory. The cross comes before a crown. Thorns come before a throne. Peter wants his readers to have a broader perspective regarding their sufferings.
In the final chapter of his epistle, Peter instructs his readers to submit to one another and to God (5:1-7). He advises them to stand firm against the devil by recognizing his tactics (5:8), resisting him in faith (5:9a), and realizing their struggles are not unique (5:9b). He reminds them that there were believers all around the world facing difficulties because of their faith in Jesus.
Peter encourages his readers to look to the God of all grace to sustain them through these turbulent times when he writes, “But may the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.” (I Peter 5:10). Notice the word “after.” Peter doesn’t say “If you have suffered…” He says, “after you have suffered.” The apostle wants us to know that suffering is inevitable, unavoidable, and inescapable in the Christian life. Christ warned His followers of persecution when He informed them that the world would hate them just as it hated Him (John 15:18-21).
Suffering not only includes persecution and martyrdom, but anything that causes pain or distress such as an illness, a financial loss, a personality conflict, unjust criticism, mental or emotional frailty, life’s failures, unhealthy family relationships, and the process of aging, etc. 1
Peter also wants us to understand that in comparison to eternity, our sufferings on earth will last only a little “while.” Knowing that our difficulties and disappointments are temporary can give us hope that something better awaits us in the future.
It is significant that Peter describes God as “the God of all grace” here.He does not say God is the God of “some” grace or “a little” grace. He says, God is “the God of all grace.” Grace (charitos) is God’s undeserved or unmerited favor and kindness. When we are suffering, God’s grace may seem partial or limited to us. But Peter reminds us that God’s grace is sufficient for “all” that we face in this broken world. Our difficulties and disappointments will never exceed His grace. His supply of grace will always be enough for any situation we may face (2 Cor. 12:9).
Our gracious God has “called you to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus.” This is not a reference to salvation from hell or the justification of all believers. This is a reference to the imperishable inheritance or “eternal glory” that is earned through suffering (1:4-11; 3:9; 4:11-14; 5:1, 4; cf. Rom. 8:17). Peter is writing to Christians (1:2, 23; 2:7) who are facing persecution (1:4). Their faith would pass the test only if they persevered in their faithfulness to Christ (1:6-7a). In that case they would gain “praise, honor, and glory atthe revelation of Jesus Christ” (1:7b).2
While all “praise, honor, and glory” come from the Lord Jesus Christ, “this in no way suggests He will not share these with others. Indeed, He promised to share these blessings with believers who persevere (compare Matthew 16:27; 2 Timothy 2:12; Hebrews 1:9; 1 Peter 4:13; Revelation 2:26; 3:21). Allowing humans to have some measure of glory, honor, and power in no way diminishes Christ’s glory. If it did, Moses’ face would never have shone. Elijah wouldn’t have been taken up to heaven in a whirlwind and flaming chariot. David would never have been king of Israel. The Lord Jesus would not be called the Son of David. He would not have promised the apostles that they would rule over the twelve tribes of Israel. He wouldn’t have given Adam and Eve and all of mankind dominion over the earth. And so on.”3
“Suffering poses what has probably been in all ages the most serious problem for believers. Suffering is not only the last thing to be considered useful but rather something to be avoided, evaded, and shunned. But according to the Word of God, suffering is not an accident but a gift to be cherished, for when properly received, it works to enhance one’s eternal rank, fame, and honor.” 4
Just as Christ’s glorification and rule were preceded by suffering (I Peter 3:9; 5:11; cf. Phil. 2:5-11; Heb. 1:1-4; 2:6-10), so a believer’s participation in Christ’s future glory and reign must be preceded by suffering (I Peter 1:4-11; 4:11-16; cf. Rom. 8:17-18; Phil. 1:29; 2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 2:25-27; 3:21). Christians who faithfully resist the devil will receive this inheritance salvation. If we rely upon God’s grace to help us endure suffering for a little “while” now, then we can take part in Christ’s glorious reign forever.
After believers have suffered a little “while,” Peter prays for God to “perfect” (katartizō) them. This word means to “mend what is broken, to set right what has gone wrong, to complete and restore.” 5 He is speaking here of being brought to maturity or completion, not sinless perfection. 6 The word translated “establish” (stērizō) means “to make stable and support”7 so we can endure persecution and suffering. Christ gives us stability in an unstable world. Peter also prays God will “strengthen” (sthenoō) or make us strong 8 so we have courage no matter what we face. Instead of giving up when we are in distress, God will empower us to give in to Him to supply what we lack. “Settle” (themelioō) refers to building on a rock, setting upon a secure foundation, 9 and therefore being immovable. Peter is praying God will keep them standing on solid footing so they will not be drawn away from their faith by Satan’s schemes. 10
The apostle understands the benefits of suffering. He does not pray for his readers to escape their trials, but to grow and mature through them. Suffering perfects, establishes, strengthens, and settles the believer who endures. Such benefits prepare the believer to rule with Christ.
To reign with Christ…
A believer must be mature (“perfect”). Through suffering God has developed Christlike character in his life (cf. Rom. 5:3-5; James 1:2-4). Instead of thinking only of oneself, he or she has learned to serve Christ by serving others. Enduring hardships has given him more compassion toward those who face similar difficulties. We have all seen what happens when an immature Christian assumes a position of influence and leadership. It is disastrous. He serves himself instead of Christ. He causes more pain and less peace in the lives of those he attempts to lead.
A believer must be stable (“establish”). He is dependable and consistent in his pursuit of Christ. Difficulties do not distract him from God’s purpose in his life. He remains focused on Christ no matter what challenges are before him.
A believer must be strong (“strengthen”). He has the inner strength to encourage himself and others when tempted to give up under distressing circumstances. Instead of giving up, he gives in to Jesus to supply what he lacks.
A believer must be settled (“settle”). The truth of God’s Word goes deep into his soul, so he is not easily drawn away from Christ by Satan’s tactics. His spiritual foundation is solid because it is rooted in the unchanging truth of God’s Word.
While suffering is unavoidable in this fallen world, God reminds us through the apostle Peter that it is temporary. All who believe in Jesus for eternal life will be in Christ’s eternal kingdom on the new earth, but only those who remain faithful to Christ will share in His glorious reign. This promise of “eternal glory” (reward) is meant to encourage us not to give up as we face hardships now.
“If a child of God could actually see into the future and fully visualize the exalted rank that theschool of suffering is creating for him, it would be easier to” “glory in tribulation” (Rom. 5:4). 11
Wilkins writes, “Imagine if God guaranteed you $100 million here and now if you persevered in faith and good works for twenty years. I think the number desiring to serve the Lord would go up significantly. Well, what if God offered something better than that? A person who received $100 million at age forty would have only a few decades to enjoy it. What if God offered rewards that last forever, not just for a few decades? Wouldn’t that be far superior?
“Ruling with Christ forever is priceless. The hidden manna and the fruits from the tree of life will be wonderful blessings. Treasure that is currently being stored up for us in heaven is something we will enjoy forever.
“Many Christians place more hope on winning the lottery than they do on gaining meaningfuleternal rewards. Either they are completely unaware of what God says, or they are convinced therewards won’t be that special.
“Mary Decker Slaney is arguably the greatest female athlete the U.S. has ever produced, setting twenty-six U.S. and seventeen world records during her amazing career. In 1982 she was the top female runner in the world in all distances from 800 meters to 10,000 meters (one-half mile up to six miles). Due to an injury, she missed the 1976 Olympics. She missed the 1980 Olympics in Russia because of the U.S. boycott of the games. Favored to win the gold in both the 1,500 and 3,000 meters in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, Mary decided to compete only in the 3,000-meter race in order to reduce the risk of injury. In the finals of the 3,000 she was in the lead, running strong, and it appeared she would easily win the race. Then Zola Budd, a barefoot runner from South Africa, with little international experience, accidentally tripped Mary. Down to the track she went. As she was writhing in pain in the infield, the race went on without her.
“Mary competed in the 1988 and 1996 Olympics but failed to win any medals. During her career she underwent twenty leg, foot, and ankle operations in order to keep her running career alive. Imagine all the pain of the surgeries and recoveries. And anyone who has run track knows that the workouts are very painful, even for a healthy runner.
“Mary had a drive within her that was intense. Her motivations were likely numerous: a love for running competitively, a desire for fame and fortune, the lure of the medals and the cheering crowds, and traveling around the world. For over twenty years she experienced these things.
“The apostles were that intense in their service for Christ. And so should we all be. Our motivations are numerous as well: present blessings, avoiding God’s discipline, gratitude, joy of service, a desire to please and glorify God, as well as a desire to gain eternal rewards.” 12
God wants us to understand that no matter how hard, horrible, or heart-breaking life may be now, we can cling to this future reality consisting of eternal rewards. They are the ultimate in delayed gratification. God guarantees it. 13
Prayer: Precious heavenly Father, thank You for the amazing grace You have given to us through Jesus Christ. By grace, You freely saved us from eternal suffering in the lake of fire when we believed in Jesus. And now Your grace can sustain us through pain and suffering on earth so we may partake in the glorious eternal rule of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Just as suffering preceded Christ’s exaltation to the right hand of Your throne, so too we must also endure suffering to rule with Christ in eternity. Please help us respond to suffering properly so we may become more like Jesus. Thank You for using the difficulties and disappointments in our lives to prepare us to reign with Your Son. To Him be all the glory both now and forever. In Jesus’ mighty name we pray. Amen.
1. Paul E. Billheimer, Don’t Waste Your Sorrows (CLC Publications, 2012 Kindle Edition), Kindle Locations 226 to 231, 729 to 734, 1378 to 1383, 1516 to 1872.
2. Robert N. Wilkin, The Road to Reward: A Biblical Theology of Eternal RewardsSecond Edition (Corinth, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 85; Joseph Dillow, Final Destiny: The Future Reign of The Servant Kings:Fourth Revised Edition (Grace Theology Press, 2018 Kindle Edition), pp. 73-74, 212-220.
3. Wilkin, The Road to Reward, pg. 151.
4. Billheimer, Don’t Waste Your Sorrows, Kindle Location 268.
5. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 526.
6. Gary Derickson; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Brad Doskocil; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 576.
7. Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon, pg. 945.
8. Ibid., pg. 922.
9. Ibid., pg. 449.
10. Derickson, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 575.
11. Billheimer, Don’t Waste Your Sorrows, Kindle Location 1441.
“In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.” I John 4:9
In 1966 Dionne Warwick made an album that included a song that would become very famous – “What the world needs now, is love, sweet love, it’s the only thing there is just too little of.” Fifty-seven years later I don’t think anything has changed. In this war-torn world of terrorism and fear, a little love would go a long way. And its not just the world and nations that need love. I believe more than ever that Christians also need love – lots of love.
But what is love? Listen to the answers of some four- to eight-year-olds: 1
1. “When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn’t bend over and paint her toenails anymore… So, my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That’s love.” Rebecca (Age 8)
2. “Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other.” Karl (Age 5)
3. “Love is what makes you smile when you’re tired.” Terri (Age 4)
4. “Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it every day.” Noelle (Age 7)
5. “Love is when Mommy sees Daddy smelly and sweaty and still says he is handsomer than Robert Redford.” Chris (Age 7)
6. “When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you.” Karen (Age 7)
7. “Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day.” Mary Ann (Age 4)
8. “Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well.” Tommy (Age 6)
After talking about how God’s Spirit can enable believers to discern the spirit of truth from the spirit of error in the world today (3:24-4:6), the apostle John will now focus on how God’s Spirit can manifest His love in our relationships with one another (4:7-11).
We cannot give what we do not have. Many people today have grown up in homes where they talked about love, but they did not experience unconditional love. As they have grown up, they find it very difficult to love unconditionally if they have never received this kind of love.
We must receive love before we can give it. How do we do this? Where do we find this kind of love? You don’t find it in humans or angels or animals. It comes from God, and He wants to share it with us, so we can share it with others.
Let’s remember that the apostle John was the youngest and closest of Jesus’ twelve disciples. He discovered that Jesus, the Messiah was magnetic (1:1-2). Christ draws us closer and closer to Himself. This is the experience John had with Jesus. And he wants his readers to enjoy an increasing intimacy with Jesus by practicing righteousness as God is righteous (2:29-3:10a) and by loving one another as God is love (3:10b-3:23; 4:7-21).
Towards the end of his life, love is practically all that John can talk and think about. By the time John writes this letter, he has learned that relationships are really all that matters. The toys, the titles, and trophies we collect don’t really matter; but relationships do.
John writes, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” (I John 4:7). John includes himself when he says, “let us love one another.” Just as confessing that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh demonstrates that one is “of God” (4:2), so does loving one another, “for love is of God” (4:7a). 2 Something has happened to John. He has become obsessed with love because he has experienced God’s love in such a life-changing way.
What does this have to do with you and me? Everything. Most of us long to be loved, but we don’t know how to get it. Many of us long to give love, but we keep sabotaging our own efforts and making things worse. Like the husband who sought marriage counseling with his wife as a last resort to save their marriage. When they arrived at the counselor’s office, the counselor jumped right in and said, “What seems to be the problem?”
For the next fifteen minutes the wife talks 90 MPH about all the problems in their marriage while the husband just sits there with nothing to say. The counselor then goes over to the wife, picks her up by her shoulders, kisses her passionately and sets her back down. The wife sits there speechless. The marriage counselor looks over at the husband, who is staring in disbelief, and says to him, “Your wife needs that at least twice a week!” The husband scratches his head and replies, “I can have her here on Tuesdays and Thursdays.”We cannot give what we do not have.
The apostle John wants his readers to become more Christlike by loving one another as Jesus loves them. How does this happen? If we are to share God’s love with others, we must first receive God’s love for ourselves. The more we know God, the better we will love people.
John writes, “7bAnd everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (4:7b-8). John says, “God is love.” We cannot give what we do not have. God is love. If we have Him, we have love. If we do not have Him, we only think we have love because God not only cornered the market on love, He IS the market on love.
The person who has this kind of love is “born of God and knows God” (4:7b). The phrase “born of God” refers to new birth. The reason he or she must be “born of God” is because this kind of love is sourced in God (“for love is of God” – 4:7a). The non-Christian cannot produce this kind of love. 3 Before we can ever produce this kind of love in our lives, we must first be born of God. How? The Bible says you must simply believe in Jesus Christ: “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” (I John 5:1). To believe “Jesus is the Christ” is to believe that He is the promised Messiah-God (“Christ”) Who guarantees a future resurrection and never-ending life to all who believe in Him (cf. John 11:25-27).
In John 14:6, Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Jesus makes it very clear that there is only one way to God and that is through Him. Our sin, the wrong things we have done, separate us from God (Rom. 3:23; 6:23). This separation from God causes problems in every area of our lives – including our relationships. But Jesus has provided the only way back to God by dying on the cross for our sins and rising from the dead (I Cor. 15:3-6). The Lord Jesus now invites you to believe or trust in Him alone for eternal life. Christ said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47). It doesn’t matter how badly you have messed things up, you can come to Christ just as you are.
How many of you drive to work? Just as you trusted your vehicle to bring you to your workplace, so you must place your trust in Jesus Christ alone to give you eternal life. The good things you have done will not save you. Only Jesus can save you from your sins. The moment you place your trust in Jesus for eternal life, you become God’s child and God comes to live inside of you and love you always (John 1:12; 14:16-17; Romans 5:5). As you get to know Him and trust Him, He pours His love into your life so you can begin to love others.
Some of you are reading this today and you are ready to receive God’s love, aren’t you? Simply believe Jesus’ promise in John 6:47, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” Are you convinced Jesus was speaking the truth here and is therefore worthy of your trust? If so, you now have eternal life and Christ now lives inside you through His Holy Spirit.
If we are going to develop loving relationships, we must also refill ourselves. John said everyone who loves God’s way is “born of God and knows God” (4:7b). Once we have begun a relationship with God through faith in Jesus, it is important to stay close to Him and get to “know” Him. This is more than salvation; it is fellowship or closeness with God (cf. 2:3-5).
“Love stems from a regenerate nature and also from fellowship with God which issues in knowing Him (see 2:3-5).” 4
Notice that John says, “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love”(4:8). He does not say the absence of love means a person is not born of God. It would have been easy for him to say this if that was true. But he does not because the absence of love is evidence he “does not know God, for God is love.” Since “God is love,” those who abide in Him or know Him intimately (2:3-5) will manifest His loving character (4:7-8). Since “God is light” (1:5), those who abide in Him will walk in His light and manifest His holy character (1:7). Since God “is righteous” (2:29a), those who abide in Him practice righteousness (2:29b). 5
In I John 2:3-11, “John used the word ‘know’ in the sense of intimacy with God. Here he comes back to the same thought. A person can be born of God but quenching the Spirit. He could be walking in darkness. If so, he is quenching the Spirit, not walking with the Spirit, and therefore not enjoying the fruit of the Spirit like love and joy. If this is true of him, we can certainly say he is not close/intimate with God. He does not know God in this intimate sense, as we have discussed previously. So, the person who exercises agapē love has a relationship with and fellowship with God. The person who does not exercise agapē love might be a person who has a relationship with God but no fellowship with Him. It’s true that a person who lacks this kind of love might be an unbeliever, since unbelievers cannot produce this kind of love, but just to observe that a person is not exercising this kind of love does not prove he is an unbeliever. He could be a believer out of fellowship.”6
“Fellowship with God is demonstrated and attained when Christians love each other. If love is from God, then there is no option. We must love one another (4:7). This is not rocket science. Since God is love, an absence of love in your life reveals an absence of fellowship with God. It indicates that you don’t know Him like you claim you do (4:8). As sure as the magnetic pull of the earth causes a compass to point north, the magnetic pull of God’s love at work in your heart will always point you to other brothers and sisters who need love.” 7
Staying close to God is not complicated. Picture your life as a bucket. You must have your bucket filled. And God’s love is like a fountain. The more you refill that bucket, the more love you will have to share with others. If you have been a Christian for a while, you can probably tell when your bucket is empty. You are easily irritated or angered. It’s hard to let go of past hurts, to trust him or her again, to expect the best of him or her. Perhaps you can’t stand being in the same room with the person. All of these are indications that you need to be refilled.
You ask, “How do I do it?”Spend time with Jesus. Hang out with Him. Read what He has written in the Bible. Talk to Him about what you are reading and feeling. Treat Him like a close friend, and you’ll become a close friend. And when you get closer to Jesus, you will discover that you are more able to love those who matter to you. Come to church every week so you can hang out with the people who hang out with God. Join a small group where you can hang out more intimately with a few of God’s friends.
Can you see this? Is this making sense? Can you see why you need God’s love to love others? Some of you may be saying to yourselves, “Okay, so God commands us to love oneanother, but what does God’s love look like?” John gives us a beautiful picture of God’s love in the following verses.
“9 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (I John 4:9-10). John tells us several things about God’s love:
1. God’s love is visible. “The love of God was manifested toward us” (4:9a). The Greek word translated “manifested” (phaneroō) means to “become visible, reveal, make known.” 8 God’s love is not invisible. It can be known and seen. Love that is invisible is no love at all. 9
2. God’s love is volitional. “God sent” (4:9b). God the Father chose to send His Son to earth.His love involves an act of the will. It is not a feeling. If the Father waited to feel like sending His Son to suffer and die on our behalf, He would still be waiting. To love like God loves involves a decision to act on another’s behalf; 10 to do what is best for another person.
3. God’s love is selfless. “God has sent His only begotten Son” (4:9c). His love gives without expecting anything in return. Often, we give to get. That is not God’s love. If Jesus had been selfish, He would never have left heaven or if He had come to earth, He would have packed His bags and left at the first sign of rejection. But He didn’t. He endured incredible suffering because He came to give, not to get. If God’s love is controlling our lives, we will be givers, not getters.
4. God’s love is sacrificial. “God has sent His only begotten Son into the world” (4:9c). He not only gives, but He gives sacrificially. God’s love cost Him “His only begotten Son.” The Father did not give us His leftovers; He provided His very best. 11 Why? “That we might live through Him” (4:9d). Christ sacrificed Himself on the cross for our sins so we might “live” eternally with Him in heaven in the future (John 10:10b; 3:16; 14:2-3) and abundantly with Him on earth now (John 10:10c).
Anderson writes, “I remember the story of the little girl who had just memorized John 3:16. She asked her father, ‘If God loved the world so much, why didn’t He offer Himself? Why did He send His Son?’ For a moment the father was stumped. Then it dawned on him. ‘Well, honey, think how much more love it took for God to send His Son than to offer Himself. It would be much easier for me to sacrifice my own life for a good cause than to sacrifice you, my only daughter.’” 12
Jesus “saw our deepest need and gave of Himself. If you profess love without also embracing inconvenience and being willing to give up your rights, you don’t understand God’s love.”13
5. God’s love serves the unlovable. 14 “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us” (4:10a). God’s love was not a response to our love. Before we came to Christ, we were His enemies (Rom. 5:10a). We rebelled against Him (Isaiah 53:6). We chose our own way instead of His. Yet Jesus set His love on us and pursued us to save us (Luke 19:10). He loved us even if we never loved Him back. God loves us when our walk of faith is weak or when it is strong. He sticks with us in the good times and the bad. Nothing about us makes Christ love us. He loves us because it is His nature to love. If God waited for us to love Him first, He would still be waiting. Thank God that He loved you and me first. His love does not require that you love Him back.
God calls us to love people who won’t respond in kind. But they need our love, nonetheless. The Lord wants to love our spouses or children even if they do not love us back. He calls us to love the person at work or the neighbor living next to us who never responds in kind to our love for them. Is this easy? Definitely not! But it is possible through Christ.
6. God’s love addresses sin. “He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (4:10b). The word “propitiation” (hilasmos) means “appeasement” or “expiation.”15 Propitiation refers to the satisfaction God the Father felt when Jesus paid the penalty for all our sins (John 19:30). What should Christ’s death on the cross shout loud and clear? “God is satisfied with His Son’s payment for our sins!”
The story is told of two boys who were swimming in the lake. One of the boys went out too far, got in trouble, and began to sink. The second boy, seeing his friend in trouble, swam out to save him. He was able to keep the first boy afloat until help arrived, but in the process became exhausted and sank beneath the water. He drowned saving his friend.
Later that day, the parents of the boy who was saved came to the parents of the boy who died saving their son and said, “All we have on us right now is a dollar and eighty-three cents. We know it isn’t much, but we hope you’ll accept this as our payment to you for the life of our son.”
Now if you were the parents who had lost their son, how would you feel? I think you would feel terribly offended and insulted. But this is the way we appear to God when we try to offer Him our acts of human goodness as payment for our sins. Nothing we can offer God will ever begin to make up for what it cost Him to save us. Let’s not insult God by offering Him our $1.83 when He has given us His precious Son. The cost of our redemption is infinitely high. 16
We must be satisfied with what satisfied God the Father – His Son’s payment for all our sins. We must believe or trust in Christ alone to give us eternal life.
Earlier in I John we looked at expressing God’s love by meeting the physical needs of a Christian brother or sister (3:17-18). But here John reminds us that God’s love also addresses the spiritual needs of others. Only Christ can save people from the penalty of their sins forever, but that does not mean we are to ignore sin in the body of Christ 17 or in the lives of non-Christians. With humility and love, God’s love calls us to help those caught in sin. If they are nonbelievers, we are to share the gospel with them so they may believe in Christ and be forever saved from the penalty of their sins (Acts 16:31) and then learn to overcome sin by abiding in Christ (I John 2:3-6). If they are believers in Jesus, we are to come alongside of them to help them be restored to fellowship with Christ (Gal. 6:1).
Thirdly, in addition to receiving God’s love and being refilled with His love, we are to reflect His love to others.“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (I John 4:11). In other words, if God loved us with this visible, volitional, selfless, sacrificial, serving, and satisfying love when we were least deserving, then we ought to love each other in the same way. Maybe our love cannot be as perfect as Jesus’ love, but it can grow in that direction. This is to be our goal.
When we experience God’s amazing love, we will naturally want to share that love with the people we love. Forty-fours years ago this month, God’s love changed my life and I have been sharing my story ever since.
We love because He first loved us (I John 4:19). We cannot give what we do not have, but once we have received God’s love, if we stay close to Him, we just get better and better at loving people.
If you are reading this article and you conclude that it is impossible for you to love the way God has loved us, please do not stop reading. Perhaps you have wounded your spouse or friend, and they have closed their heart off toward you. Do you realize that if you receive God’s love today by believing or trusting in Christ alone for His gift of eternal life, you will be able to be a better spouse or friend because God comes to live inside of you to love others through you? You have never been able to be a better spouse or friend than you are today if you receive Christ.
Receiving God’s love requires faith and humility on your part. Faith to believe that God will really love you and give you eternal life, and humility to admit that He is God, and you are not. Jesus said, “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16b). Are you depending on Jesus alone for everlasting life? If yes, then congratulations, because you now have everlasting life and can experience God’s love everyday. You can now tell God through prayer what you have done. Remember that saying a prayer does not take us to heaven. Only believing or trusting in Christ alone does.
Prayer: Dear God, I need Your love in my life. I understand now that You loved me by sending Your Son to take my place and punishment when He died on the cross for my sins and rose from the dead. I am now believing or trusting in Jesus alone (not my good life, prayers, or religion) to give me the gift of everlasting life. Thank You for the everlasting life I just received. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
When you believed in Christ for His gift of eternal life, He came to live inside you through His Holy Spirit so that Christ now lives in and through you (John 1:12; Rom. 5:5; Gal. 2:20). With Christ living in you, you can ask Him to love others through you. Think of the person you have the hardest time loving. It may be your spouse, your child, or someone you work with. It could be someone who has hurt you deeply, but who needs the Lord. After you think of this person, you can offer this prayer in faith to the Lord.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, You know I feel no love for this person. You know that in my flesh, I have already rejected this person. Lord, You know the truth. You know that without Your help, I can’t forgive or love this person. But I know You love my enemy, so right now I give You permission to express Your love and forgiveness for this person through me. I can’t do this myself, but I’m going to trust You to love this person through me. In Your mighty name, I pray Lord Jesus. Amen.
Once you start really living like this, putting faith ahead of feelings, things are going to start happening. You are going to see God do things in your life you didn’t think possible. But let me caution you, it may feel awkward at first if you are not used to living by faith. But that’s okay, because we can get comfortable doing things we felt awkward doing at first (e.g., riding a bicycle, etc.).
1. Adapted from Matt Hogan’s blog entitled, “20 Love Quotes From 4–8-Year-Old Kids (That Will Shock You)” at movemequotes.com.
2. Zane C. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 3956.
3. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pg. 200.
4. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 3961.
5. Tom Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on 1 John, 2022 Edition, pg. 96.
6. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pp. 200-201.
7. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2947.
8. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 1048.
9. Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, pg. 2947.
11. Ibid., pp. 2947-2948.
12. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 203.
13. Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, pg. 2948.
15. Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, pg. 474.
16. R. Larry Moyer, Show Me How To Illustrate Evangelistic Sermons (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2012), pp. 211-212 cites Dr. Tony Evans, Totally Saved.
17. Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, pg. 2948.