1 JOHN – SERIES : NR 14
Scripture : 1 John 5 : 1 – 12
Theme : Faith in the Son of God
Snow White is a committed member of a growth group in a certain church. But she struggles with faith assurance – the assurance that she truly is a saved child of God. However she prays about it and talks to others about it, she just cannot believe that she is a saved person. She observes how other people have assurance, and becomes even more desperate to also have that.
What Biblical advice can one give someone like Snow White? Because there are many Snow Whites in all the churches.
Let us use the example of the binoculars again.
You look at Table mountain through binoculars and in the foreground, there is a tree or a high building. Both are in your vision. If you set the binoculars to focus on the mountain, the tree is out of focus. Set the binoculars to get the tree in focus, then the mountain is out of focus.
When it is about assurance of salvation, there are always 2 issues in your sight:
Sight No 1 > That which Christ did in your place on the cross. With His death, He wiped out your sin-debt before God. His death on the cross is your salvation and deliverance.
Sight no 2 > That which you do in yourself and later notice. It is always inadequate. The more serious you are, the more inadequate it becomes.
If you focus on sight no 1, then sight no 2 is out of focus – then assurance pours into your heart because Jesus’ merit in your place is 100% perfect.
If you focus on sight no 2, then sight no 1 is out of focus – then you doubt all over again because look how imperfect your life still is.
The Snow Whites of all the churches doubt because their focus is set wrong. The focus is not on Jesus’s death on the cross, but on their own heart, their own activities. While activities are actually the FRUIT that flows out of the assurance and is not the BASIS of the assurance.
If we focus on the FRUIT, we shall have doubt. If we focus on the BASIS, we shall have assurance.
But is the FRUIT then not important? Yes, it is, the Apostle clearly shows it here in verses 1-12. And James 2 says that there SHALL be the fruit of life when a person truly builds upon Jesus. BUT: One does not build your assurance upon the fruit.
So then, WHAT do you build upon?
Answer: You place your heart confidence upon God’s promises in the Scriptures. The promises where He said that what the Lord Jesus Christ is and what He had done, is 100% sufficient for your salvation.
People whom God brought to life, receive the heart-confidence which builds upon God’s words of promise concerning Jesus’s work of atonement. The heart-confidence (faith) is the offshoot of the new life/rebirth. And the offshoot of the heart-confidence is love for other people who have the same heart-confidence. And another offshoot is the desire to obey God in everything. It is no longer an obligation, it is a desire.
And of course – people whom God does not bring to life – with them none of these qualities come into being. They remain dead in sin.
The sequence is therefore: 1 > God make you alive 2 > You build your heart-confidence upon Jesus Christ alone for your salvation 3 > Your heart starts to love other people with whom the same took place 4 > You have a desire to obey the Lord.
In a nutshell, THAT is what the Apostle John is spelling out in this comprehensive paragraph 5: 1-12. He summarises everything he had said up to now in this passage. The rest of chapter 5 is a couple of important closing remarks.
Let us now go through this paragraph one verse at a time to discover all the wonderful life-giving truths – and keep in mind the summary given above…
READ VERSES 1-2 AGAIN
Look how marvelously the three results of rebirth come to the fore here: faith/heart-confidence, love and, obedience.
In Greek it does not say “is a child of God”, but “is born of God”. Born-again. And the tense of the verb says that the birth was first. It is not: I believe and now I am born-again. It is: I am born-again and therefore I believe.
Now think again about Snow White who is struggling with assurance of her salvation:
“Snow White, look what is written here in verse 1: EVERYONE who believes that Jesus is the Christ, is a child of God (born of God). BELIEVE does not mean only brain-knowledge such as to say: “I believe that Jan Van Riebeeck landed at the Cape on 6th April 1652”. You can believe that with your brain without it having any impact on your life. No, BELIEVE means heart confidence. Heart-confidence in God’s words of promise. And that has an impact in your life – every fragment of it!”
Everyone who has heart-confidence in the fact that the Lord Jesus is the Christ, the promised Saviour – the One sent by God to save me from my sin and blame – EVERYONE who has heart-confidence in this Christ, is born of God/brought to life by God.
Snow White, believe this word in verse 1… and what will you have? You will have assurance! And you shall love the Father and you shall also love other people who have the same heart-confidence as you. And you will find that your love for God is not merely some or other emotion/feeling, but that it is a desire to obey/follow Him. And that desire to obey Him is the proof that your love for other Christians is true.
Do you see how these three issues are intertwined? The one confirms the other. They cannot be disjointed from one another.
If God does not bring a lost sinner to life in a mighty miraculous way, nothing will happen and that person will remain dead in sin for eternity.
If God however brings a specific person to life, then things start to happen and four things take root and start to develop:
1 Heart-confidence which starts to hope in the true Biblical Jesus Christ
2 Assurance of salvation
3 Love for God which is visible in obedience to Him
4 Love for all other people who experience the same heart-confidence/love/obedience
Look at how perfectly verses 3-5 put it.
READ VERSES 3-5 AGAIN
A person who has not been made alive can also try to be obedient. But it is tough and not pleasant. To be honest – you can not succeed.
But where God brought new life and heart-confidence and love has kicked in, there comes an inner desire to obey. Suddenly it is no longer a difficult obligation. You purposefully expose yourself to the Word of God to see how you can be more Christ-like because there is an inner thirst and driving force. Something an unsaved person does not know or experience.
And then comes the result > victory over the anti-christian world system who is opposed to the Lord Jesus Christ. Unsaved people find pleasure in the world system entertainment and friendships, but to the person who is born again, the world system is a pain and an abomination. Most of the problems a born-again person experience is directly connected to the influence of the world system.
And now the Apostle makes this surprising statement that the born-again person who has heart-confidence in Jesus and assurance and love and obedience and love for other born-again people – that person – has in principle overcome the world system! EVERYONE who is made alive, is living in victory. Whoever believes that Jesus is the Son of God, overcomes the world system (verse 5).
Is that not a formidable statement? Because the born-again people suffer in practice so many defeats and bloody noses and struggles and tears – as a result of the world system! They experience that the world system has victory over THEM!
Well, the Apostle certainly does NOT say that born-again people shall have it easy in the world system. The struggle there shall be. And yet – victory! What does he mean by that?
He has said it already in chapters 2: 15-17. The world system with its focus on ownership and the pride of life and desires of the flesh and everything the eyes see – does not come from the Father and will pass away. But, whoever does the will of God, will live forever. Whoever does the will of God, triumphs over the world system and shakes off the love for the world system.
The born-again person – who has heart-confidence in Christ and whose love is fixed on the church of Christ and who is desirous to obey God – such a person will not only live for ever but also stand much stronger than the influence of the world system. Indeed, in 4:4 John already said: “HE WHO IS IN YOU is greater than him who is in the world”.
The person who has been made alive has therefore the inherent ability to overcome the pernicious influence of the world system. Conquer/overcome. And the key to success is the heart-confidence which is connected to Jesus Christ – the greater One. There it is in so many words in verse 5. Connected by heart-confidence in the supernatural eternal glorious majestic Person of the risen Lord Jesus Christ, the Christian-believer overcomes the attraction of the world system. It is JESUS who makes the difference from A-Z. It is JESUS who has the power. It is JESUS who has already overcome the world system (read John 16:33).
And now, in the second half of the paragraph – verses 6-12 – the Apostle comes with the answer to the question: HOW DOES IT HAPPEN THAT SOMEONE COME TO SUCH A HEART-CONFIDENCE IN JESUS CHRIST? WHAT IS THE FIRM BASIS UPON WHICH THAT HEART CONFIDENCE IS BUILT?
And the answer which verses 6-12 gives, is: The firm basis is the word of testimony that God gave about the true identity of the Lord Jesus. God has spoken. God has promised. God spoke. God said. And the supernaturally born-again person places their heart-confidence upon THAT! Upon what? Upon the testimony that God gave about Jesus. Because His testimony is absolutely 100% reliable and true. It is truly something one CAN place your heart confidence upon!
The false preachers ascribed a false identity to Jesus. They said He is merely a human and at His baptism the Christ-spirit entered Him and left Him again right before His death. Therefore He is not a true God and the true human within One Person since eternity.
But no, the Holy Spirit has indeed confirmed at His water-baptism that He is the Christ and that He is the Son of God. And He still was that at His crucifixion. He was that when He died. That is why God came to give eternal life to sinners IN THIS TRUE CHRIST AND NO ONE ELSE!
Come let us look at how God gave this mighty testimony concerning Jesus – upon which the Christian’s heart-confidence is built.
READ VERSES 6-8 AGAIN
The Holy Spirit speaks the truth. He IS the truth. And His task is to testify about Christ (John 15:26). And HE confirmed it at/by Jesus’s baptism and at/by Jesus’s bloodshed on the cross, that the lost person gains the eternal life only in/through Jesus. He testified at Jesus’s baptism and death on the cross that Jesus is truly the Christ and that He is the Son of God.
In Greek, it only says “water and blood”. The word “baptism” is added in some translations to clarify.
God’s testimony – which is the essence of the entire Bible – is that He gives eternal life – to people – only in/through the baptised, crucified JESUS – the Messiah and Son of God – as a gift – not something which can be earned. It can only be believed/trusted/accepted.
That is the promise of the Gospel message. Everywhere the Gospel message is preached, that promise must be the essence which is told for people to place their heart-confidence upon. You can believe that utterly and completely!
The Holy Spirit says: God gave eternal life through Jesus
Jesus’s baptism says: God gave eternal life through Jesus
Jesus’s blood on the cross says: God gave eternal life through Jesus
These three agree 100%. It is ONE testimony. It is historically confirmed. It is fixed and true. It is solid. It comes from God and not from man. That is who Jesus truly is.
We so easily put our heart-confidence upon testimonies/words/promises which PEOPLE give. We believe them so quickly. Our everyday life will be impossible if we do not trust other people’s testimony/ words/promises. We believe each other. And we do it easily.
If we so easily trust PEOPLE (who are fallible), how much more should we not trust the testimony of GOD (who is infallible)! That solid testimony of what He testifies about Jesus.
READ VERSE 9 AGAIN
Clearer is cannot be said.
Heart-confidence means to embrace God’s testimony. Starting to trust it wholeheartedly.
And His testimony is 100% about Jesus Christ. Who He is, and that the eternal life is given in/through HIM.
What else can one do than to accept that for your salvation? Yes, of course, you can refuse it or remain undecided (which is also refusal). If you do that, you effectively make God a liar, because then you say by implication that God is lying and deceiving. That is the sin for which people are lost forever. Unbelief makes God into a liar and throws His gift back into His face.
But whoever starts to trust God’s testimony, such a person then has that testimony in his/her own heart. In your heart, you know with assurance that you have become a child of God. Romans 8:16 > The Holy Spirit testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children! Gal 4:6 > God sent the Spirit of His Son into the heart of His child and He calls ABBA, FATHER!
READ VERSE 10 AGAIN
On earth, there are only these two groups of people. Those who know and embrace the testimony of God, and those who do not believe His testimony. There is no third group. They are two groups and two final destinations: heaven and hell.
It is so very simple: He who has the Son has eternal life and he who does not have the Son of God does not have eternal life!
It is either one or the other.
To HAVE the Son means to believe and trust the testimony of God.
READ VERSES 11-12 AGAIN
There it is in so many words: The testimony of God (by the Spirit/baptism/blood) is that He gave the eternal life already and that life is in/through Jesus Christ.
PLACE YOUR HEART-CONFIDENCE UPON THAT and you HAVE the Lord Jesus. IF YOU DO NOT PLACE YOUR HEART-CONFIDENCE UPON THAT then you do NOT HAVE the Lord Jesus.
Translated by Marthie Wilson