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That the World May Know

November 23, 2009, More from this speaker 更多关于此讲员: Pastor Wilson Tan (1 John 5:13-21) For more of this sermon series 更多关于此讲道系列: 1,2,3 John
Preached at a Bilingual (Mandarin-English, Sunday) service

Tags: 1 John, 约翰一书

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About Pastor Wilson Tan: Pastor Tan served as a youth executive at the Presbyterian Synod, and as a pastor in Jubilee Church. He continues to serve as a cell leader in zone ministry and a teacher in children ministry.
Bible passage (ESV) of the sermon can be found at the bottom of the page.

Sermon on 1 John 5:13-21


Introduction (v. 13)

1. Our confidence when we pray (vv. 14-15)
2. The sin which does not lead to death and the sin which leads to death (vv. 16-17)
3. Jesus Christ is the True God and Eternal Life (vv. 18-21)


Introduction (v. 13)

Today, we look at the concluding remarks in 1 John. The purpose in John’s letter was to encourage the Christians in his community to remain strong in their faith, for many among them had left the church swayed by dubious theology (mainly Gnosticism and Doceticism). They were the heretics in those days known also as the secessionists. John calls them the antichrists, or those who “oppose Christ”. The secessionists were formerly from the same community as John. After they had left, they continued to call themselves Christians but what they believed was not Christian at all. They did not believe that Jesus came in the flesh and his death was not necessary for salvation.

John was strongly aggressive towards these secessionists for they were corrupting and distorting the truth about Jesus Christ. They were persuading those who are still in the church to leave for greener pastures. John was not fighting to keep the attendance in his church up, but he was fighting for what is truth. He was fighting against the heretical teachings in those days to help the remaining Christians in his community to stay true to the Gospel, which was preached to them from the beginning. With this background in mind, we begin with v. 13 in 1 John 5.

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.

For a moment, we thought that John was going to talk about the assurance of salvation in the rest of the verses but he did not. This verse seems a little misplaced. What is the function of v. 13? Is it an introduction to the rest of the verses or a summary? If we were to read its preceding verses (vv. 5-12), it clearly shows that v. 13 fits wells as a summary of its preceding verses rather than as an opening introduction to the verses following. In fact this summary could even well be a summary of the entire message of 1 John, like a postscript or a concluding remark. John is fond of giving mini summary statements at every major section throughout his letter. They act like a reminder (like post-it® notes) for his readers to be certain of their faith and own salvation because they belong to God. The theme of “assured eternal life” appears clearly in the following verses:

[PPT only]

1 John 1:2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.

1 John 3:1 How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!

1 John 4:13-15 13 We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God.

1 John 5:11-12 11 And this is the testimony: 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. (read)

In short, John is telling his community of believers that they should stay vigilant in their faith because they are children of God and they already possessed eternal life because they have God in them. Those who have left the community are not of God because they do not speak the truth about the true identity of Jesus Christ as the Messiah. They do not belong to God, and God does not live in them. They are against God even though they may call themselves as believers. In fact, they are the antichrists! And because we are God’s children, therefore, we have confidence in prayer. This moves us to the following two verses.

1. Our confidence when we pray (vv. 14-15)

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.

Because we are certain of our identity as God’s children, whatever we ask in accordance to his will, God will hear our prayer. The key is to know and ask anything according to God’s will. Prayer is not using God to meet our demands, but allowing our will be shaped by God’s will. Prayer is not asking God to do our bidding, but for us to do God’s bidding. Our paradigm of prayer must change. This is not to say that we become fearful in bringing to God our requests and petitions. “Should I pray for my grandfather who is suffering from cancer? Is this in accordance with God’s will?” Praying for the sick and needy is definitely in accordance with God’s will. But whether a sick person recovers from their terminal illness rests solely on God’s sovereignty.

I have heard many stories about the lack of faith as being the cause of unsuccessful prayer requests. There are cases where this may be true. But who is to judge when a person lacks faith in prayer? Is faith the only determining factor of our prayer? If we look at the rationale in 1 John, our confidence in prayer rests not on our faith alone but in our identity as God children. God hears our prayers. But the result of our prayers rest solely on the will of God. Because we know we are God’s children, we can ask anything, and, note – anything according to his will – he will hear our prayers.

Perhaps, Jesus is our model in prayer. Jesus’ will and desire is always to do the will and desire of God the Father. In John 4:34, Jesus said, “34 “My food… is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” When Jesus was at the Garden of Gethsemane, the night of his arrest, what did he pray? 36 “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36). Let’s also be reminded of the prayer our Lord taught us in Matt 6:9-10, ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

As God’s children, when we pray accordingly to his will, God will hear and give us everything we ask for. Are you still asking what God’s will is? Isn’t God’s will already clearly revealed in the Bible? God wants us to be participating with him in establishing God’s kingdom here on earth. To establish God’s kingdom on earth is to acknowledge God as the ruler and king of this kingdom. It is to acknowledge that our God reigns! As children of God, we also are “destined to reign” (2 Tim. 2:11-12), “11Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; 12if we endure, we will also reign with him.”It is God’s will for us to reign with Him. Christ will come again, all will be restored in his name, and everything and every person will bow in submission to Jesus as Lord. This reign has “already” began, “but not yet” fully consummated.”

Since the disobedience of Mankind, first in Adam and then in the rest of humanity, God has been constantly working to win back our obedience. Christ’s death on the cross is the answer to our problem of disobedience. Our confidence in prayer is also in Christ’s obedience to God. Our faith is not just our individual personal faith, but more so in the faith of Jesus Christ. In John 15:7 Jesus says, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” If we are truly Christians, being in Christ, our will becomes in tuned with the will of God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

2. The sin which does not lead to death and the sin which leads to death (vv. 16-17)

In the following verses, John encourages the believers to pray for those who are struggling with sin. But he makes a distinction between sin which does not lead to death and sin which leads to death. What are these two types of sin?

Some believe that the sin which leads to death is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit as recorded in Mark 3:28-29 28I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. 29But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin. 30He [Jesus] said this because they were saying, "He has an evil spirit."" This is an unlikely interpretation because the nature of sin in Mark is when those opposing Jesus falsely attribute his miracles to the work of the evil spirit. And so, in response, Jesus said that this is a blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and such a sin is unforgiveable. There is no hint of this same accusation in 1 John.

Some also believe that the sin which leads to death could refer to terminal illness or mortal sins (i.e. sins which lead to death). They refer to unpardonable sins or heinous offences, like adultery, murder, idolatry, and apostasy. According to OT laws, the punishment for these offences is the death sentence. Num. 18:22 22 From now on the Israelites must not go near the Tent of Meeting, or they will bear the consequences of their sin and will die. One may also remember the case of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1-11, the couple who sold their land for charity but kept a portion of their money in deception and hypocrisy. They died on the spot when their sin of deceit against the Holy Spirit was exposed by the apostle Peter. Again this explanation is unlikely because death here in 1 John does not refer to physical death but eternal death, as revealed in v. 13. It is a contrast between eternal life and eternal death. What brings eternal life and what brings eternal death. This eternal death is also eternal separation from God. What exactly is this sin which leads to an eternal separation from God?

The most appropriate explanation would be “the sin which rejects God”, i.e. the sin of the unbeliever. This explanation fits well in the overall context of this letter. If you reject God, the giver of eternal life, then it makes sense that you are committing a sin which lead to death. Rejecting the God of life would mean rejecting eternal life which God gives you. The opposite of this is also true, accepting God would mean to accept this eternal life in Him. John is not referring to non-Christians who do not know about Jesus, but people who knows about Jesus but has decided to reject him.

On the other hand, the sin which does not lead to death is the sin of the believer. This is because as a believer, we have the ability to genuinely repent and ask God for forgiveness. But for an unbeliever, they do not have this confessing relationship with God through Jesus Christ. In 1 John, it is very likely that John is referring to the sins of apostasy committed by these secessionists, identified as the antichrists by John. They are the ones who have rejected God and the truth about His Son as the Messiah. It is their denial that Jesus came in the flesh and that his death is necessary for salvation. Their sin is one which leads to death because God is not in them and they are not in God.

3. Jesus Christ is the True God and Eternal Life (vv. 18-21)

This brings us to the concluding verses in the passage today. John reminds his readers that anyone who is born of God does not continue to sin because God lives in them. From speaking about the believers who are children of God, John turns our attention to the one who is born of God. God keeps him safe and the evil one cannot harm him. “The one born of God” is best interpreted as Jesus Christ. In the Gospel of John, Jesus is portrayed as the one who keeps his disciples safe and he will protect them from the evil one.

[PPT only]

12While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled. 13"I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. (John 17: 12-15)

John would also want to encourage his readers that Jesus Christ will also keep them from being led astray by the false teaching of the secessionists. With another encouragement, John reminds them that they are children of God while the whole world is under the control of the evil one. The whole world does not refer to the entire human population in existence. Rather, it means those who are unbelievers. Those who do not have the Gospel in them do not have God in them and so they belong to the evil one. From John’s perspective the line is very clear; you are either with God or against God. There is no sitting on the fence. You either belong to God or to the evil one. Believers are no longer under control of the evil one because Jesus Christ keeps them safe.

John in v. 20 further tells his readers that “the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true.” Here, “him who is true” refers to God the Father. It is Jesus Christ who brings us understanding to who God is. In 1 John, God is often referred to as the Father of Jesus Christ. This is made even clearer in the following part of the same verse. “And we are in him who is true—even in his Son Jesus Christ.”

The question comes about when we try to figure out who “He” is in the last part of v. 20, “He is the true God and eternal life.” Does “He” refer to God the Father or Jesus the Son of God? Many scholars believe that John is implicitly reminding his readers that Jesus Christ is also the true God. This fits in well with v. 13, “you who believe in the name of the Son of God…may know that you have eternal life.” Even though no other place in this First Letter of John makes such a striking declaration about Jesus’ divinity, however, this is clearly evident in the opening verse of the Gospel of John: 1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1). Even though we know that the source of all life comes from God the Father, but Jesus Christ also said, that “I am the way

1 John 5:13–21 (Listen)

13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 And this is the confidence that we have toward 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 that we have asked of him.

16 If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death.

18 We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.

19 We know that we are from God, and 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. He is the true God and eternal life. 21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols.