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1st John (2011)


1 John 

Lesson audio

Know Eternal Life

1 John 5:13-15 NASB  These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.  (14)  This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.  (15)  And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.


A few lessons prior in this series, we discussed how it is the Christian may know that he is saved. It is useful at this point to review them:

·         We know because we love each other. This is the test of Christ's disciples.

·         We know because the world hates us — without cause.

·         We know because we keep his commandments.

·         We know because our prayers are answered.

That last item is important to this passage. Let's take a look at how one gets one's prayers answered.


We are told that we are to approach the throne of grace boldly. There are two ways that the word "boldly" can be taken. The first is to adopt an air of braggadocio. You know the sort; the kind of person's always willing to pray for you. You, on the other hand, are afraid of the results. Is it possible that a person could be so confident of God as to brag about it? In my experience, the answer is no. Those who have the confidence necessary to bring about have the humility to shut up about it.

Here's the secret: confidence is not based on your attitude but upon the facts. If you have confidence, it's because God answers your prayers. It's something that is very much a part of the universe; God listens to his children. It's a little tougher us to believe that, so let me give you an example from a different field.

College physics students will be familiar with this demonstration. A hapless lab assistant is placed on the board at the top of the lecture room. Just below his chin is a bowling ball with a rope attached to form a pendulum. Letting go of the ball amuses the students; watching come back and come within an inch of the lab assistant's chin usually produces a gasp. The physics major knows that the bowling ball will not rise any higher than it started. The demonstration’s one of conservation of energy, to use the technical term. The lab assistant is probably the only person in the room with no worries; he's done this before. There are the two elements of confident prayer: knowledge of God and prayer success.

Heard and Obeyed

If you want your prayers to be heard, you need to be in obedience to God. There is no sense in approaching Almighty God to ask him for a favor when you are hiding sin in your life. John tells us here that we can get anything we ask for, provided it is "according to his will." In fact, if you'll notice verse 15, you will see that John uses a present tense, "we have the requests" not "we will have the requests." The nature of God is unchanging. If we rely upon his unchanging nature, living in his will, we are confident of success in our prayers.

Sin to Death

1 John 5:16-17 NASB  If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this.  (17)  All unrighteousness is sin, and there is a sin not leading to death.

Unforgivable Sin

When you first read through this passage, there seems to be an insurmountable difficult. John distinguishes a sin which does not lead to death from a sin which does. The problem is, he forgot to tell us just what sin that is. There have been three primary suggestions:

·         The Roman Catholic Church has long held that there are seven such deadly sins: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride, the worst of all. Since John does not specify a number for these sins, we can only take this list as being traditional.

·         Saint Augustine held that this was the sin of leaving the church brotherhood; in effect, rejecting the body of Christ.

·         Others hold that this is the unforgivable sin against the Holy Spirit which Jesus described.

That last deserves a bit of description. Many people have been told that they have committed the unforgivable sin and are doomed to hell. One of the things that are almost certain is that someone telling you that you have committed the unforgivable sin means that you haven't. Here's how that works: first, the function of the Holy Spirit is to convict the world of sin and judgment. If that conviction succeeds, the next step is repentance. But suppose it doesn't. Then you have sinned against the Holy Spirit by rejecting the idea that you are a sinner – and therefore are in need of a Savior. I must you allow yourself to be convicted of sin, you will not repent. And if you will not repent, you will not be forgiven. If not forgive, not saved.


The practical question for most of us is not how to avoid the unforgivable sin. It's how do we pray for our brother or sister's. A casual reading this passage might suggest that if a Christian is suffering from a sin that is not unto death, we should pray for his forgiveness. I submit this leaves out step. In fact, our prayers for someone else's sin could well be made in three steps, one:

·         First, we should pray for that person's repentance. Forgiveness will not happen unless there is repentance.

·         When repentance occurs, we should give thanks. Isn't it amazing how many of us forget to do that? But surely, we can take the time to say thank you to God for bringing one of our brothers or sisters back into the fold.

·         Then we can pray for forgiveness. Sometimes we think it's automatic; there is nothing automatic about the creator. At the very least this teaches us just how serious sin is.

The Defiant Sinner

This, of course, raises the question: what do we do about the defining sin, the one who proudly refuses to repent? We are speaking, of course, of one who is in the church. For those who are outside the church, the prayer should always be the same: that they will come to know the Lord Jesus Christ, repent and be baptized. But for the one in the church we have the steps of church discipline:

·         First, the person who first spots this should go to that sinner and attempt to reason with them. If successful, no other interventions necessary.

·         Following that, the matter needs to be brought to two or three witnesses.

·         If that doesn't work, the individual should be brought before the entire congregation.

If you'd like to see just how serious this can get, as Paul talking to the Corinthians about it:

1 Corinthians 5:1-5 NASB  (1)  It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father's wife.  (2)  You have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst.  (3)  For I, on my part, though absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged him who has so committed this, as though I were present.  (4)  In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled, and I with you in spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus,  (5)  I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

Look at that: Paul is willing to turn the man over to Satan, so that he might suffer the consequences of sin in this world and be saved at the Lord's return.

We Know

1 John 5:18-21 NASB  We know that no one who is born of God sins; but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him.  (19)  We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.  (20)  And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.  (21)  Little children, guard yourselves from idols.

There are three repetitions in this passage of the phrase, "we know." We will look at each one separately.

Does Not Continue

There is a bit of a problem with the translation. Unlike English, but like many other languages, Greek has a continuous tense. In the 18th verse here John uses one of those continuous tense verbs. So the question is not somebody who sins occasionally, someone who continually sins. Such a person is that cannot be a child of God.

Why not? Because the one born of God keeps him. That phrasing is given rise to the question; just who is he talking about? The phrasing could mean that the Christian himself keeps himself the continually sinning. It could also mean that Christ keeps him from sinning. It is just possible that John meant both answers at the same time.

Perhaps more important, there is protection from Satan, the evil one. You may think that's a light thing; after all, why would Satan concern himself with me? But if you will look back into the Old Testament to the book of Job you will see that sometimes the righteous are attacked by Satan — and it is no small assault.

We Are the Children of God

To understand that, we need to review a little bit about Satan. Put simply, the average Christian in America today does not believe that Satan exists. He's a fable, a fairytale. We find the Scripture that Satan is very real; interestingly, missionaries to the Third World find that he is quite real as well. His message to the modern world is that he doesn't exist, and therefore God doesn't exist either. His message to the Third World is that the demon is stronger than this God of the Christian missionaries. The father of lies is in his natural habitat.

Satan, if you will recall, was originally a very high-ranking Angel. He became what he is today through pride. He decided that he would be like God – but there is only one God. Somewhere in time, Satan was given power and authority over this planet. Mark Twain said it rather humorously: "Satan is the spiritual head of 4/5 of the human race, and the political head of all of it." This may seem to be rather subtle the, so let me give you an example. We have a friend who is greatly devoted to the cause of countering Islam in America. She has only the facts and justice on her side; she is therefore called "Islamaphobic" frequently. She is viewed very often as a nut case. It is very frustrating to have the facts and be unable to convince the world at large.

So you think that this would be frustration enough. But if you are to examine her life on a daily basis, you would see that she is under assault by Satan. Things just seem to happen to her who is highly frustrating, or even intimidating. She could tell you tales.

The Son of God Has Come

If there was nothing else for us to learn, this would be the most important thing. We know that the son of God has come to earth. One might picture it this way: Jesus is the bridge between man and God. Part of being that bridge concerns our understanding of God. Without having had the opportunity to see God in the flesh, what would we really know about God? Here we are told of the specific part of Christ's ministry was to make sure that we did know. We know these two things:

·         We know God himself. His Holy Spirit is in communion with our spirit. There are things we can know about him because of this that no one else could know.

·         We know God is true; there is no falsehood in him. He is not a capricious God who changes his mind, but he is the eternal God who is the same yesterday, today and forever.

The true God is the one is truth. We have the privilege of bringing our prayers and our communion to the God of the universe, who is truth. More than that, we know his son told us, "I am the way, the truth and the life."

Without the way there is no going.

Without the truth there is no knowing.

Without the life there is no living.

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