True Fellowship with God
The True Fellowship with God that Leads to Confident Assurance of Eternal Life – 1 John 5
We have seen from this God inspired letter from John that it is possible to know God and have truly real fellowship with God. Such fellowship leads to fullness of joy in life (1 John 1). We’ve seen that true fellowship with God leads to freedom from sin. This is because the closer we come to God in Christ the more clearly we see our sin but also, the closer we come to God in Christ the less we want to sin and the more power we have over sin (1 John 2). True fellowship with God leads to true love; we understand what love really is and we learn to live in love as we know Jesus better (1 John 3-4). Now we come to the final chapter of this great God inspired epistle. In this final chapter we will see how all that precedes leads to a confident assurance of our standing with God in Christ, of our eternal life in Christ.
1 John 5 (NKJV)
5 Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. 4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
First, confident assurance of eternal life begins with a clear understanding of who is born of God. John says very clearly, “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” “The Christ” (Greek ho Christos) refers to the promised Messiah of God, the Deliverer who would deliver people from sin. We have to believe that Jesus is the One and only Savior of the world. The definite article “the” used to introduce the word “Christ” along with other scriptural references (e.g. John 14:6; Acts 4:12) tells us Jesus is the one and only Savior or Christ of God. This is the beginning of being born of God.
John indicates the evidence that one has actually been “born of God” through belief in Jesus as the Christ is love. He states, “and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him.” In other words, when we are born of God we will love “Him” or God and we will love those who are “begotten of Him” or other believers. I like to say the evidence of spiritual birth and true living eternal life is that we will love God supremely and love others sacrificially. Love is a sign of spiritual life.
John clarifies further saying, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments.” Love is the fulfillment of the Law (Romans 13:10) because when we love we do by the Spirit what God said we should do according to His Commandments (Exodus 20). The Law lays out some particulars of what love looks like. When we try to keep the laws separate from love it degenerates into a laborious works righteousness way of religion. But when we love in the Spirit we find that almost effortlessly we are fulfilling the Law of God. And this is exactly what John goes on to say, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.” We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). And the love with which we love is the fruit of the Spirit’s indwelling us (cf. Romans 5:5; Galatians 5:22-24).
“Burdensome” (Greek adjective bareiai of barus) means heavy, weighty, burdensome, grievous, stern, harsh, difficult. When we try to keep God’s commandments without love doing so becomes a chore and leads to sternness, harshness, a heavy weight like lugging around a ball and chain. But when we love the weight is lifted, the spirit or attitude of our heart is lighter and joyous. Love is the great lubricant that oils the machinery to do God’s work.
Another way of stating this is that love enables and empowers us to be overcomers in life. John states, “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world.” “Overcomes” (Greek verb nika of nikao: Present/Active/Indicative) means an ongoing state of victory, prevail, conquer, overcome, win. This victory is over the world. John says an evidence of being “born of God” is to be an overcomer. Those who are genuinely born of God will persevere in life.
John continues by stating, “And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.” We overcome by “faith” (Greek noun pistis) which means faith, trust, belief, trustworthiness, reliability, conviction, confidence, assurance. In other words, trusting by faith is the root of our confident assurance in this life. We enter true fellowship with God by faith in Jesus and we live out our true fellowship with God by faith. Faith has been implied throughout this epistle of John. Faith is integral to our existence. In John’s inspired gospel he speaks of faith from the beginning (e.g. John 1:7, 12; 3:12, and 18). And in our epistle John urges his readers to believe in Jesus (1 John 3:23). Paul noted its’ impossible to please God apart from faith (Heb. 11:6). Faith is the key to living victoriously in life.
Everyone exerts faith and does so many times throughout each day. We rise out of bed in the morning trusting that when we put our feet on the floor a floor will be there. We step out of our homes trusting that the sky or something else won’t fall on us. We put our key in the ignition of our car or press the ignition button trusting that is will start up. We drive using road signs and traffic lights trusting others will abide by them and if they don’t chaos ensues. Every time we sit in a chair we trust it will hold us. Every time we press a key on a keypad we trust it is going to press out the letter or number we pressed. We trust that our data will be saved on hard drives or some other storage unit. Every time we get in a car or a plane or a boat we trust it will get us safely where we are going. Every time we consume something we trust it will not poison us. Faith helps us maintain our sanity. It is the mentally ill who question all things and trust nothing to lesser or greater degrees. The paranoid person can’t trust others. The claustrophobic can’t trust that spaces will not close in on them. The depressed has no faith in the future. When you begin to analyze life faith or trust is an indispensable ingredient to sanity and simply living.
But this faith that overcomes is not faith in faith but faith focused on Jesus. Trusting or putting our faith in the wrong thing can lead to disaster. If I trust that I can flap my arms fast enough to help me fly to the ground from the roof of my house I will crash and break myself. If I believe that I can drive safely against traffic I will endanger myself and others. The Democratic Party in the 2016 Presidential election trusted they’re email correspondences were safe from prying eyes. But their trust was misplaced and WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange exposed their hypocrisy for the world to see. The Republican Party on the other suffered no significant leaks of their correspondences. This was a major and historically significant lesson in misplaced trust and reliability.
The object of our faith is critical to determining whether or not we will be victorious or defeated. John states, “5 Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” The faith that overcomes and leads to confident assurance in life is faith in Jesus!
To summarize the basis and beginning of confidence is a clear understanding of who indeed is born of God. Being born of God is evidenced by four things:
- A right belief in Jesus as the Christ or Savior – 5:1a
- A love for God and other Believers – 5:1b
- A love that lifts the burden of keeping God’s commandments – 5:2-3
- A faith that overcomes – 5:4-5
When we see these four things in our life confidence and assurance of our eternal destiny is increased.
6 This is He who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not only by water, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is truth. 7 For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one. 8 And there are three that bear witness on earth: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one.
Second, confident assurance of eternal life is bolstered by the witness of the Triune God. John speaks very specifically about Who He means when he speaks of Jesus. John wants to make sure that his readers have a rightly defined “Jesus.” He wants to make sure that the Object or Person in Whom his readers place their faith is the right Person. The Bible speaks of “another Jesus” who really isn’t Jesus at all (cf. 2 Cor. 11:3-4). John doesn’t want his readers thinking of or believing in a counterfeit Jesus. He speaks here to dispel any foggy views of the Jesus He has in mind and that God has revealed Himself to be.
John says, “This is He who came by water and blood – Jesus Christ; not only by water, but by water and blood.” “Water” could refer to the physical birth of Jesus (i.e. embryotic fluid) or His water baptism when His ministry began and the Father voiced His approval and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him (Matthew 3:13-17; John 1:29-34). “Blood” is likely a reference to the atoning death of Jesus on the cross.
An early Gnostic named Cerinthus taught that “the divine Christ” came upon the Man Jesus at His baptism but left Him prior to His crucifixion. He in effect denied Jesus came “by water and blood” and John here completely denies such heresy. A parallel view would be New Age teaching that Jesus was one of many avatars who visited humanity in history. No, Jesus was actually physical born and actually did die on the cross and actually did rise form the dead. This is the true real Jesus in Whom a person must trust as Savior if they want eternal life.
It is the Holy Spirit that communicates and reveals such actual truth about Jesus. John writes, “And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is truth.” The Holy Spirit within us is the One who bears witness or testifies to our heart assuring us that this is true (compare 1 John 4:4).
But John then continues that God, Who is by nature Triune, in His fullness, bears an assuring witness to us from within. “For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one. 8 And there are three that bear witness on earth: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one.” John points out that God in His fullness is working here. The Father, “The Word” Jesus, and the Holy Spirit and “these three are one” is a clear reference to the Triune Nature of God. And just as God is Three Person who eternally exist as One God, He provides a threefold witness to us “on earth” The Spirit, the water, and the blood.” The Holy Spirit is the One who reveals through God’s word “the water” or birth of Jesus and the anointing of Jesus at His baptism, as well as the shed blood of Jesus on the cross to atone for sin. This is the “Jesus” in Whom we must trust and if we do will provide us with confidence for life.
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. 13 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.
Third, confident assurance of eternal life is based on God’s greater witness; God’s knowable provision for eternal life in Jesus. John speaks of the “witness of men” who perhaps had been infiltrating the church body and promoting all kinds of aberrant ideas (e.g. Gnosticism etc.). Perhaps some of these false teachings had shaken the faith of some believers. John was here to tell them that “the witness of God is greater.” “Greater” (Greek adjective meizon) means greater, even more, of greater degree, louder, higher rank, greater intensity. Whatever the witness of people is the witness of God is always greater and that is especially the case when it comes to the nature of Jesus. God’s word speaks louder and more clearly about Jesus than any false teaching.
John says, “for this is the witness of God which He has testified of His Son.” What has God stated about His Son Jesus?
- “He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself;” – The one who believes in Jesus as Savior has an internal witness. This internal witness and assurance is a product of the indwelling Holy Spirit (cf. 3:24; 4:2, 13; 5:6, 7, and 8).
- “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.” – A decision has to be made by every person as to who or Whom they will believe. Whose word or witness will they believe, God’s or men’s? If we choose to believe men over God in effect we are calling God a liar.
- 11 And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, - The testimony of God is that He has given us eternal life. That is ultimately what we need to choose to believe or not believe.
- and this life is in His Son. – And this eternal life provided to us by God is centered on “His Son” Jesus. Eternal life is not conceived of or provided in any other source or person, only in Jesus.
- 12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. – There is no eternal life apart from Jesus. There is no separate or different means to have eternal life. There is not a Christ-less gospel for the Jews and a Christ-centered gospel for gentiles. There is only one gospel and that is inextricably connected to Jesus the “Son of God.” No exceptions.
- 13 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, - it is possible to “know that you have eternal life.” The entire purpose of this epistle is to make this truth clear and attainable.
- and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God. – The purpose of knowing and being certain of our eternal life is that we can persevere and continue “in the name of the Son of God.”
14 Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, 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 the petitions that we have asked of Him.
Fourth, confident assurance of eternal life is facilitated by prayer. “Confidence” (Greek noun parrhesia) means outspokenness, frankness, boldness, unreservedness in speech, plainness, courage, assurance, fearlessness. When we are confidently assured of our eternal life in Christ it leads to further confidence in approaching God in prayer. These two verses should open the floodgates of blessing from heaven through prayer.
With our confident assurance of eternal life in Christ we can pray with courage and holy boldness before God knowing:
- that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. – When we pray and ask God for things “according to His will, He hears us.” What is according to His will? That which is rooted in and based on the truth found in His word; that which is specifically stated in His word to be His will. It is God’s will that we live holy lives (1 Thess. 4:3). It is God’s will that we give Him thanks in all things (1 Thess. 5:18). It is God’s will that we silence the ignorance of the foolish men by doing good (1 Peter 2:15). It is not God’s will that any perish but that all come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). This last expression of God’s will must take into account the will of humanity but when we pray for the salvation of souls we can rest assured that God will do everything possible to save that soul.
- 15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him. – When we pray according to His will we know that God hears us and that His answer is on the way. It’s a done deal!
Our confident assurance of our eternal life is greatly enhanced by prayer. As we pray confidently according to the will of God and see His answers and blessing pouring in it assures us that He indeed is Who He reveals Himself to be and that His promises are true and that He is powerful enough to fulfill His promises.
16 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. 17 All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death.
Fifth, confident assurance of eternal life is facilitated by fellowship. Life is messy and that is true even after we are born of God through faith in Jesus. God at times will instantaneously deliver a person from a sinful habit. But other times, a sinful habit will prove to be more of an ongoing lengthy struggle. That is not evidence of any impotence on the part of God. It is evidence of our weakness to appropriate God’s power to deliver us from a besetting sin.
There are times when gaining victory over an area in our life is an ongoing struggle. Some sins are deep rooted and need to be dug out. God is willing and able to weed our life but sometimes we aren’t aware of the weeds or in some way work against such gardening of God. Therefore, the process of gaining victory over habitual sin frequently involves incidental falls into that sin. We are struggling or fighting in the battle toward victory. In reality we fight from a position of victory (cf. Romans 8:37-39). But there are times when we will sin. We are moving in the right direction. The final victory is assured. But there is “a sin which does not lead to death.”
When we see a “brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death” because it is part of the ongoing struggle in their progressive sanctification, then we need to pray for them. John says the of the believer who sees a brother struggling, “he will ask, and He will give life for those who commit sin not leading to death.” We need to pray for those we see caught up and struggling in a battle with a debilitating sin. And the promise is that God will hear our prayers and “give life” or He will counter the death of sin with the life that comes through Jesus and the word of God (e.g. John 10:10; Hebrews 4:12). It is in the context of the fellowship of believers that such help can be received.
John warns, “There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that.” This would be the wanton sin, the intentional sin of an apostate false teacher or someone who purposely chooses to follow misinterpretations or false teaching that condones their indulgences into sinful living. There are people who disregard God’s word preferring to live by what they view as what is “right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). They dismiss God’s word and refuse its correction. They seek to lure others into their sinful ways. They promote sin and seek justification for their sins by preying on weak people to rally to their sinful unholy causes. For such John says don’t even ask for forgiveness for them because they need to repent first. The sin that leads to death is the sin that is rooted in rebellion against God and refuses to repent (e.g. Romans 1; 2 Peter 2).
John states, “All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death.” John reiterates that venturing beyond the parameters of God’s word is sinful, but there is a sin that doesn’t lead to death. When we sin or others sin we can be hopeful that if we or others repent of such sin, God will forgive us through faith in Jesus. That has been the message from the beginning of this epistle (e.g. 1 John 1:9; 2:1ff.).
18 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. 19 We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.
Sixth, confident assurance of eternal life provides protection from “the wicked one.” Those genuinely “born of God” do not indulge in sinful lifestyles. “Sin” (Greek verb hamartanei: Present/Active/Indicative of hamratia) means to miss the mark, err. The Present tense of this verb, as we saw earlier in our study (cf. 3:9) connotes an ongoing lifestyle of sin. Therefore, we can read John as saying, “We know that whoever is born of God does not live a lifestyle of sin.” The gospel is meant to deliver us from sin not provide and excuse to indulge in sin.
John states, “but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him.” Here we see the connection between sin and being touched by the wicked one. “Touch” (Greek verb haptetai: Present/Middle/Indicative of hapto) meaning to touch, to cling to, adhere to, fasten to, light a fire, kindle. “The wicked one” could be a human or demonic instrument of the devil or the devil himself. When we sin we open ourselves to being touched or influenced by the devil. But when we resist sinning we keep ourselves out of the reach of the enemy. Holy living helps us to distance ourselves from devilish influences. But when we indulge in sin we put ourselves within the reach of the devilish influences.
John comments, “We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.” There are basically two camps in this world, those who are of God and those who are under the sway of the wicked one. The world is living under the influence of the devil. It’s a scary thought. One commentator states:
This is in sharp contrast to a second relationship, the tie between the world and Satan. The world (Greek, kosmos) refers to the entire system of society which Satan has built up in opposition to God. The entire civilization lies in "the wicked one," a standard translation of tō ponērō, resting passive and helpless in his control.
“Resting passive and helpless in his control.” That’s a very scary thought; a very scary place to be. Through true fellowship with God in Christ we can stay outside the reach of the devil. We may still be attacked from outside through trials and other schemes in this spiritual battle of life. But we will not be at the mercy of the devil when we are born again of God.
20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, 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, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.
Seventh, confident assurance of eternal life leads to a right world view. “Understanding” (Greek noun dianoian) refers to a mind, understanding, intellect, feelings, disposition, a thought or reflection. In other words, Jesus has given us the capacity to know Him who is true and that we are “in Him who is true” or in a state of true fellowship with Him who is true “in His Son Jesus Christ.” And that true fellowship with God in Christ “is the true God and eternal life.” True fellowship with God in Christ gives us a proper world view; it enables us to have the proper and truthful perspective on life and our existence.
John’s last words are cautionary. He states, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.” “Idols” (Greek noun eidolon) refers to any idol or image. An idol is a manmade image of God or a god. This would include any and all depictions or images of God not based on God’s revelation of Himself. John was probably referring to the “idols” made up by the false teachers of a Jesus other than the One who had been revealed in scripture and the testimony of the Apostles. He’s exhorting the readers (including us!) to stay away from human alternatives or expressions of God that are contrary to God’s revelation of Himself. This would include the machinations and fantasies of the human mind to conjure up images and idols of what they imagine Jesus or God to be. Johns says to stay away from such idols. Why settle for human impressions of God and Jesus when you can experience the joy of true fellowship with God in Christ? That is the question John leaves us with.
Have you experienced true fellowship with God? Are you living in true fellowship with God? Are you living in the joy of such fellowship? Are you being freed from sin? Are you living in His true love? Are you confident and assured of your eternal life in Christ? These are questions you should have answered by now in our study. If you haven’t, I suggest you go back and prayerfully seek God’s will for your life right now. God is real. He has provided a way for us to know Him and live in true eternal fellowship with Himself through faith in Jesus Christ. He has provided a way to defeat sin in your life. He has loved us with an incredible love and invites us to live in that same kind of love. He wants us to have a confident assurance of our eternal destiny. Don’t glance over these precious promises of God. Don’t neglect what God has offered to you. Go back if you have to. Pray and pour over God’s word and don’t stop until you experience all the wonder and joy of true fellowship with God. It’s worth your time. And it is the will of God for you.
Truth Statements that Facilitate Confident Assurance of Eternal Life
The Apostle John concluded his letter with addressing the issue of a believer’s confident assurance of eternal life. He would not have devoted the last chapter of his inspired letter unless it was an issue with his readers. With all the false teaching that was infiltrating the church, John wanted to cut through the fog and help believers to a confident assurance that they were right with God and could be certain of their eternal life with God. This is a culminating issue for this God-inspired epistle of John. This issue is what the Holy Spirit put on John’s heart to address as the final words of this letter.
What was true in John’s day is also true at times throughout history and up to the present day; believers are not always confident or assured of their eternal life. The culmination or desired outcome of John, as led by the Holy Spirit in this letter, is that those who read this letter come through it with a confident assurance of their eternal life. Sometimes such assurance is something we need to hear and have affirmed to us. The confident assurance of our eternal life is based on God’s truth. Below are some truth statements from 1 John that, if applied in faith, will help a person to come to a confident assurance of eternal life.
As you read these statements and own them, you might even say them out loud. When we read something and express verbally saying it out loud, it has a way of penetrating our being, our heart more deeply. For these truth statements to have their desired effect you have to believe them ; you have to trust God to fulfill them in your life. You can trust that these statements are true because they are firmly rooted in God’s word. You have to trust that God is able and willing to apply them to your life. These are God’s promises to each of us and when we receive them by faith they become a powerful conduit to confident assurance of our eternal life as well as God’s power in life.
The following are truth statements from 1 John. They need to be taken by faith as a whole. None are true without Jesus. In all of these statements Jesus is the Door that opens us to the truth of them. There are many more truths from 1 John and scripture. I pray these truth statements lead you into a confident assurance of your eternal life, as well as a joyful life of true fellowship with God:
- God is real. He can be known, through faith in Jesus. I believe in Jesus. Therefore I know God and have eternal life – 1 John 1:3.
- These things were written to me so that my joy could be filled. I believe them. My joy is full – 1 John 1:4.
- God is light. There is no sin in Him. I can trust Him to be true to His word – 1 John 1:5.
- I confess my sins to God. I believe He is faithful and just, to forgive my sins, and cleanse me from all unrighteousness, through faith in Jesus. Therefore, I am forgiven and have eternal life - 1 John 1:7 and 9.
- It is possible not to sin. but if I do, Jesus is my Advocate who paid the penalty for my sins. I have eternal life because of Him – 1 John 2:1-2.
- I know I know God because I keep His commandments. I have eternal life – 1 John 2:3
- I love the Lord. I love others. I seek to walk like Jesus. Therefore I know Him and have eternal life – 1 John 2:4-6
- God has promised me eternal life through Jesus. I believe Him. Therefore I have eternal life – 1 John 2:25
- The children of God love. The children of the devil hate. Love is life. Hate is death. I love therefore I am a child of God. I have eternal life – 1 John 3:10-15.
- Children of God overcome, because of the Holy Spirit within them. I overcome. Therefore, I am a child of God with eternal life – 1 John 4:4.
- I know I know God, by the Holy Spirit, who dwells in me – 1 John 4:13.
- I believe Jesus is the Christ. I am born of God. I have eternal life – 1 John 5:1
- God has given us eternal life. This life is in His Son Jesus. He who has the Son has life. I have Jesus. Therefore I have eternal life – 1 John 5:11-12
- God says I can know I have eternal life through faith in Jesus. I continue to believe in Jesus. Therefore I have eternal life – 1 John 5:13
- I am asking according to God’s will. He hears me. I receive what I have asked of Him. I have eternal life through faith in Jesus – 1 John 5:14-15.
 Complete Biblical Library Commentary - The Complete Biblical Library – Hebrews-Jude.