Setting

In the final chapter of his epistle, John turns our focus to the Lord Jesus Christ again. Through faith in the Son of God, about whom God has given testimony, we may receive eternal life. This is the gift and promise for those who are born of God, who love God, who abide in God, and who have fellowship with God.

Key Verse

(5:20)

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Outline

  • Belief in the Lord Jesus Christ
    (5:1-5)
  • Our love for God
    (5:1-3)
  • Victory through faith
    (5:4-5)
  • God’s Witness
    (5:6-12)
  • Assurance of Eternal Life
    (5:13-21)
  • Eternal life through Jesus Christ
    (5:13)
  • Confidence in prayer
    (5:14-16)
  • Keeping ourselves from the evil one
    (5:17-21)

General Analysis

  • 1.

    According to this passage, what are the fruits of believing in Christ?

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    We love God by keeping His commandments and we love His children (1- 3). We overcome the world (4,5). We have God’s witness in us (10). We have eternal life (11-13). We have confidence in prayer (14,15). We have an understanding to know the true God (20).

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Segment Analysis

  • 5:1-5

    1.

    What does the word “Christ” mean? How does your belief that Jesus is the Christ manifest in your daily life?

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    The anointed one.

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  • 2.

    Why do we often think that God’s commandments are burdensome? Why are they, in fact, not burdensome?

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    God gives us the commandments out of His love for us (3). It is for our own good that we keep the commandments (Deut 10:12-13). When we see the purpose and value of these commandments, as well as God’s loving intention behind them, we will gladly obey them.

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  • 3.

    How does our belief in the Lord Jesus enable us to overcome the world? Define “world.”

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    The “world” literally means “an ordered system.” It refers to the desires and wisdom of the wicked one, who is the adversary of God and His children. Overcoming the world means being kept safe from the evil one (5:18) and living a life free from sin (3:8,9). True belief in the Lord is not just mental consent. It involves abiding in Christ, walking as He did, and obeying His commandments. With such belief, God purifies our sins and abides in us through His Spirit. Since He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world (4:4), we can overcome the evil one.

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  • 5:6-12

    4.

    How did Jesus come by water and blood?

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    Although John does not state it specifically, the believers must have understood that “water” referred to baptism (Mt 3:11; cf. Acts 1:5; 1Pet 3:20,21). The baptism that we receive is more than immersion in water or a formality. It is effective for the remission of sins because of Christ’ blood (Jn 19:34,35; Acts 2:38, 22:16).

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  • 5.

    How does the Spirit bear witness?

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    According to the Bible, the witness of the Spirit is twofold, and both may be implied in this passage. First, the Holy Spirit is given to those sent by God and the Holy Spirit imparts authority to forgive sins (Jn 20:21-23). Therefore, the baptist, as an agent sent by God, must have received the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit then becomes a witness from God of the cleansing power in baptism. Second, the Holy Spirit is a seal promised to everyone who believes and is baptized (Acts 2:38,39; 2Cor 1:21,22; 5:5; Eph 1:13,14; cf. Mt 3:16,17). The Holy Spirit acts as a witness in every believer by testifying with our spirit that we are God’s children (Rom 8:15,16; 1Jn 3:24; 4:13).

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  • 6.

    What does it mean that the Spirit, the water, and the blood, agree as one?

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    These three all bear witness to the same truth: God has given us eternal life through the Lord Jesus Christ.

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  • 7a.

    Why is God’s testimony so important?

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    God’s testimony serves as confirmation that Jesus Christ was indeed sent by God. This is why Jesus drew on the Father’s testimony as a witness to His words and ministry (Jn 5:31,32,36-39; 8:17,18). God’s testimony strengthens our faith in the salvation of Christ. Since God testified to Christ’s salvation, we must take the gospel message seriously (cf. Heb 2:1-4).

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  • 7b.

    In what ways do we often value men’s witness more than God’s witness?

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    Sometimes people’s commendation that we are good Christians seem more important to us than an inward conviction that comes from our intimate relationship with God.

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  • 8a.

    How does God’s giving of eternal life serve as a testimony?

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    The gift of eternal life is not just something of the future but is also manifested in our daily lives. A transformed life as a result of our faith in Christ is a testimony that Jesus Christ is indeed the Savior.

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  • 8b.

    How is this testimony related to water, blood, and the Spirit?

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    Having received the cleansing of God through baptism (water and blood), we ought to live a new life in accordance with the Spirit (Rom 6:22; 8:9-13). Our newness of life then testifies that we have received eternal life and that this life is in the Son of God (11).

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  • 5:14-21

    9.

    What does it mean to believe in the name of the Son of God?

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    The term “the name of Jesus Christ” or the like often has to do with the authority of Christ (Phil 2:9-11; cf. Mk 9:39). So believing in the name of the Son of God involves confession of and submission to the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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  • 10a.

    Record the occurrences of the word “know.” According to this passage, what can we be confident about?

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    2, 13, 14, 15, 18-20.

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  • 10b.

    On what basis is this confidence built?

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    Faith in Jesus Christ the Son.

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  • 10c.

    When does such confidence become a false sense of security?

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    Many have the misconception that the moment we confess and believe Christ as Lord, we have eternal life and whatever we do after that moment can never take away the eternal life. We learn in 1 John that confession and belief is more than lip service or a one-time feeling that occurred some time in the past. The fact that the false teachers turned out to be false believers even though they also at one time had confessed Christ shows that their confidence was false. Only if we continue to believe (13) and abide in Christ by keeping His commandments and walking in the likeness of God can we have true confidence in God.

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  • 11a.

    What is “sin leading to death”?

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    John does not spell out specific transgressions as sin that leads to death. But we know for sure that the sin of apostasy (rejecting Christ) will certainly lead to death. If a believer rejects Christ by turning away from the truth and returning to a life of sin, he will have to face the dreadful judgment (Heb 6:4-6; 10:26-31). The teaching here is that we can have assurance that God will restore life to the brother who has sinned if he is willing to repent. It is not the intention of this passage to tolerate certain kinds of transgressions that do not lead to death. The author makes clear that “all unrighteousness is sin” (17). Those who live in sin cannot inherit God’s kingdom and will surely die (1Cor 6:9; Rom 8:6,13).

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  • 11b.

    Do you pray for your brother who has sinned? Why is it important to do so?

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    It is our duty to restore our brothers and we do so through prayer because it is God who can restore them (Gal 6:1; Lk 22:31,32; Jas 5:15).

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  • 12.

    What can we learn from 18-21 about God’s children and the children of the wicked one?

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    God’s children do not live in sin. They are kept from the harm of the wicked one. They know the true God. The children of the wicked one are under his sway. They live in sin and serve idols.

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  • 13a.

    Why does John emphasize that God is true?

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    Against the prevalence of false teachings and the works of the liar, the devil, we must know the only true God and walk in His commands, which is the truth. Only if we remain in the true God can we guard against what is false.

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  • 13b.

    What is the connection between 21 and 20?

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    Whereas God is true, all idols are false.

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  • 13c.

    How does 21 relate to the entire epistle?

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    Idols in general include anything that the wicked one has set up to lead people away from God. The sharp contrasts in 1John, including sin and purity, love and hate, God’s will and lust, light and darkness, are actually a contrast between the true God and false gods. So the exhortation to keep ourselves from idols sums up all the teachings to guard against the wicked one and the workings of his evil spirit.

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