Hello, everyone, welcome back to our 10th and final post on 1 John! Today we’ll be reading through the fifth and final chapter of 1 John. Today’s passage will be quite fun to look through: on one hand, we’ll see a lot of revisits, reviews, and final reminders for the things that John had already previously made note of in his letter. On the other hand, this passage also contains plenty of new and interesting verses to look at!
First I’ll be noting and going through some of the topics of interest. Then to finish off this post and the series, we’ll be looking through all those repeated lessons that John refers back to in these last couple of verses! As always, be sure to read through the passage beforehand or read along as we go.
1 John 5:1-21
1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. 2 This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. 3 In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, 4 for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.
6 This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. 7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. 9 We accept human testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son.
10 Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. 11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.
16 If you see any brother or sister commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray and God will give them life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that you should pray about that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death.
18 We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them. 19 We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. 20 We know also 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 by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.
21 Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.
First off, there are three rather interesting things that I kind of want to take a look at. The first is in v. 3 where John says that “his commands are not burdensome.” The second is in vv.7-8, where we’re told that there are “three that testify.” And the last is v. 21, the final line of the book, where we’re told “Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.”
Are God’s commands easy to follow?
If you’re familiar with Deuteronomy, reading v. 3 might draw you back to Deuteronomy 30:11, where Moses tells his congregation something quite similar:
Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. (Deuteronomy 30:11-14)
I think something that sometimes happens when we look at all the rules and commands we’re given is that we start to feel overwhelmed. How is it possible to do all these things? How could any human being be expected to fulfill all of these? If God wants me to love my brothers and sisters so badly, why’d he have to make that person at my church so annoying? (Good question, I wonder that myself sometimes! That is sort of a joke by the way. Please, if someone from my church reads this––ignore it). What’s interesting is that Moses sort of addresses it—and John kind of draws on it. If you’re familiar with Romans, Paul actually borrows this exact line from Deuteronomy in Romans 10 as well:
Moses writes this about the righteousness that is by the law: “The person who does these things will live by them.” But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim. If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:5-9)
And what we are told is that no, these commands are not too difficult for us to follow. They are not too burdensome for us to do. Why? Because “the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it” (Deuteronomy 30:14). Paul connects this with declaring with our mouths that “Jesus is Lord,” and believing in our hearts that “God raised him from the dead” (Romans 10:9). It’s not a matter of ability but, rather, of trusting God. Yes, these commands seem difficult to follow in a vacuum—because they are. But we have to remember that it is not us doing it alone, but it is through our faith and through the grace of God that we obey. God will empower us so that we can do it. Not by our strength, but by his.
What are the three things?
The second thing that kind of stuck out to me as I read through this chapter was “the three things that testify” that show up in verses 6-8:
This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. (1 John 5:6-8)
Although I’ve looked it up a bit, I can’t say I’m 100% confident on this subject, as there seems to be quite a few differing opinions. But one thing that I can say for sure is that the number of witnesses is significant. Why do we need three witnesses? If we recall Deuteronomical law, we recognize that in the Jewish court of law, a matter can only be established under the testimony of two or three witnesses (Deuteronomy 19:15). And that is the same case here! For Jesus’ testimony to be “valid”, we must have two, or in this case, three witnesses.
From what I have looked up, though, what seems to be a reasonable explanation for the water, blood, and spirit is his baptism, death, and, well, the Holy Spirit. Most people seem to agree with his death as one of the witnesses: his death and resurrection proclaimed him to be the Christ. Although I don’t have time to fully expand, I do want to emphasize that I mean death and resurrection as individual elements, not just together. Because, although his resurrection does testify that he is the Son of God, if we dive a bit deeper into the death accounts themselves, we’ll also see a claim to Godship. (If you are interested in this topic: you could make a quick comparison between some of the events that happen in Matthew 27:51-54 and Ezekiel 37:1-14).
Most people seem to agree with the “spirit” mentioned being the Holy Spirit; if we recall some of the gospel stories, we’ll see that many, many times, the Spirit of God will testify to Jesus being the Son. Two that come to mind are at his baptism (Matthew 3:17) and the transfiguration (Matthew 17:5). So this happens quite literally and figuratively throughout the gospels.
The last one, that happens to have a bit more disagreement, is what exactly the ‘water’ that testifies about him stands for. I’m probably a bit biased, but I do think it stands for Jesus’ baptism. A while ago, I did a pretty in-depth post on Jesus’ baptism on my personal blog regarding some of the themes and implications of Jesus’ baptism. And if you look through all the stuff that is mentioned, you’ll realize that there are so many arbitrary details within the baptism account that point to Jesus being the Son of God. It’s not just a coincidence that the baptism takes place in the Jordan river, or that the Spirit descended “like a dove,” They bring real significance to the story at hand and seem to do something similar to what I mentioned in the crucifixion accounts of Jesus; they paint a picture for an audience using Old Testament imagery that affirms Jesus’ place as the Christ.
Let’s keep ourselves from idols
The last thing I wanted to take a look at before reviewing the stuff we’ve covered over these last couple of weeks is the final line that shows up in verse 21. It’s both the conclusion to the chapter and the book and it reads like this:
Dear children, keep yourselves from idols. (1 John 5:21)
And maybe it’s just me, but it seems like a pretty unique place to end. Something you notice is that nowhere prior to this statement does he mention anything about idols. He talks about a myriad of topics, but this is the first time that “idols” shows up. I don’t have anything super insightful to add on to that but it was something that caught my eye. Maybe he’s using idol as a broader term—representing the lifestyle and decisions that go against everything he’s written so far. Maybe he literally just means idols. That’s all I have, just wanted to point it out.
Big themes in 1 John
To finish off, let’s take a look at some of the big lessons that John has (repeatedly!) made a point of emphasizing throughout the writing of his letter:
- Anyone who loves God loves his children as well (v. 1): This was covered in articles 1, 3, 6, 7, and 9.
- Anyone who loves God obeys His commands (v. 2): This was covered in articles 1, 2, 3, 4, and 7.
- Anyone who is from God, testifies of God, and his Son, Jesus Christ (v. 10): This was covered in articles 4, 5, and 8.
- Anyone who knows Christ is filled with life (vv. 11-13): This was covered in articles 1, 4, 5.
- Anyone who has confidence before God, knows that he hears us (v. 14): This was covered in article 7.
- Anyone who knows God, does not continue to live in sin (v. 18): This was covered in articles 2, 3, 6.
And as you can see…none of it is new. It’s a lot of the same stuff we’ve been looking through if you’ve been following with us along this journey. And it’s something I kind of noticed myself as I was writing these posts. At some point I was wondering to myself if I was doing something wrong, considering that the last couple of my posts seemed mostly the same and led to a similar conclusion. But at the end of the day, if that’s what the text says, then that’s what it says. I’m nothing more than a messenger empowered to write through the grace of God. Nothing more and nothing less.
Join me in my reflection
And as I finish off this series that I’ve spent the last couple months writing, I’ve got a lot of reflecting to do. It’s one thing to be able to write out all these lessons that God has been teaching me through the text, but how am I living them out? Do I practise what I preach?
If there are two things I would like anyone to take away from reading this post or any post, it would probably be these:
1. Recognize the grace of God in your life, and really depend on him and his Spirit.
Maybe you were hoping for something that seemed a bit more quotable or a bit more unique. But I’m only here to tell what I’ve been told. Because if you were to tell me that I’d be here writing this a couple months ago, I’d probably not believe you. If you were to tell me that I’m supposed to live out those main six themes from 1 John (without the knowledge that I’m supposed to depend on the grace of God), I wouldn’t believe you. It’s not easy to love our brothers and sisters, and it’s not easy to overcome sin—otherwise John wouldn’t have had to write a letter about it.
2. Ask yourself if you practise what you preach.
This idea has seemed to show up all throughout these ten posts. Knowledge is easy, and it’s easy to read through this book and think that these teachings are supposedly “elementary” or “nothing new.” In fact, John even admits in chapter 2 that he’s not really teaching anything new…but that doesn’t make them any easier to do. We have to go back into that first point and really depend on God and his grace. It’s only until we are willing to do that that we can really live out loving God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind.
Thanks for sticking around. I hope you’ve found this series both informative and challenging!
Read more posts in Jason’s 1 John Series.
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