This is the last lesson in our series of studies on the first epistle of John. Not only is this the last bible study of this series, but this will also be the last bible study of our fourth season of studies. Now, just because this is the last study of this season, that doesn’t mean that I am done sharing bible studies with you until the next season. I intend on doing a few character studies throughout the summer until our next season of studies starts in the fall. So, I want to take a moment to thank all of you for joining me in this season of studies and I hope that you will come back for more studies in the future.
Quick note for before you start this study: Studies are written out to be longer than my sermons and the Sunday School lesson commentaries. I skip a couple of weeks with posting bible studies because not everybody can complete a study in one sitting. Take your time and do not rush through my studies! Take it one day at a time if you need to do so. I will recommend a stopping point below for taking a break. Enjoy this study and share it with others!
Now, as we start into this chapter, let us remember John’s purpose for writing this epistle. In our study of the first chapter, you may recall that I referenced scripture from the final chapter so that we could understand John’s purpose in writing this letter. John wrote that the purpose for writing this letter was so that “you (the genuine believer) may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God (v.13).”
John was very clear in his purpose and intent for writing this letter. He wanted those who would read this letter to understand that they have life eternal. Now, we who are of genuine faith, already understand that life eternal comes through faith in the only begotten Son of God. Yet, we are going to see John dive further into this thought on faith in the final chapter of this epistle.
Overcoming the World Through Faith
This chapter opens with John declaring, “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 (v.1).” Now, that verse might confuse you for a moment but this, again, is a topic that John has been focusing on since the very first chapter.
Believing Jesus is Christ
John plainly states that whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God – a child of God. I want to point out that “whoever” is an all-inclusive term. Let us remember that Christ was given to the world (John 3:16). Christ commissioned the apostles and all of His followers to make disciples (followers) of all nations (Matt. 28:19). God is a God of all and not just one nation of people. John is speaking to all nations of people in this epistle.
Again, let’s be very clear about what it means to believe that Jesus is the Christ (or Messiah). In believing that Jesus is the Christ, you are believing in the virgin’s birth. Therefore, you are believing that Jesus truly is the only begotten Son of God, and that He is/was God in the flesh. Again, the birth of Jesus is a very big stumbling block for many people in our world. To believe that Jesus is the Christ, you also have accepted His death and His resurrection. For many people, this is also a great stumbling block but mostly because they don’t believe Christ existed.
John then reiterates that if you are a child of God, then you should “love him who is begotten of Him.” Notice the ‘him’ and ‘Him’ as it is used in the scripture here. The “‘him’ who is begotten of Him” in this scripture is speaking to all of God’s children. We are the begotten (children) of ‘Him’ (God) through our genuine faith in the only begotten Son. In other words, we are born of the Lord as born again believers.
Let us note that this is a point that John has repeated throughout this epistle in varying ways. John is saying that if we really are the children of God, then we should not only love the Lord, but we should love His children (our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ) as well. If we are unable to love our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, I imagine it would be very difficult for us to love anybody else. Remember, we are called to love everybody as we love our own self. As we saw in the first chapter, when we love others we know that our fellowship with the Lord is true (1 John 1:7).
Obedient to His commandments
John was closing out his letter now and he is concluding points that he had made earlier in his letter – we could think of this as a summary. Typically, we preachers will close out our sermons by summing up – reiterating points – that we had made earlier in our sermon. We see that is what John is doing here in his opening
He says, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments (v.2).” So, in other words, how do we know that we love the children of God? Well, we know that we love the children of God by keeping His commandments! Sounds fairly simple, right? John even says that the Lord’s commandments are not burdensome (v.3).
Now, this may sound fairly simple to some of us, but there are many who may be a bit confused as to what commandments John is speaking of here. Some may believe the commandments being referenced here are the Ten Commandments. I certainly would not fault anybody for believing that the Ten Commandments are being spoken of here, but I want you to know that John did not have those commandments in mind when he wrote that verse.
Let us remember, the Mosaic Law and Ten Commandments were given directly to the children of Israel; they were not given to the church (the genuine believers after Christ) (Ex. 19:1-8). So, what commandments is John talking about?
Christ gave commandments to all of those that would believe in Him and strive to live in His way. Christ commanded that we love the Lord with our whole heart and that we love our neighbors as we love ourselves (Luke 10:25-37). This, again, has been a teaching point of Christ that John clearly understood and has reiterated repeatedly throughout this chapter.
The command to love God and our neighbors is one that I focus on a great deal as well. The reason being is because when we love the Lord and others, we know that we are living in the way that will lead us to the kingdom of heaven. Let us remember, again, that John’s purpose for writing this letter was about eternal life in the heavenly kingdom.
Overcoming the world
John then declares, “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world— our faith (v.4).” So, we overcome the world through our faith! Whatever is born of God overcomes the world is what John declares. Think about this: how could something of God not overcome the world? That would be very contradictory right?
God is the one who made all things we know and also made all things that we do not know. Yet, God has full understanding of His creation. The Lord is sovereign and He is almighty. The Lord said to Job, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding (Job 38:4).” He then said to Job, “Can you bring out Mazzaroth in its season? Or can you guide the Great Bear with its cubs (Job 38:32)?” These things the Lord said to Job to illustrate His authority over the heavenly bodies – things well beyond our world.
God is all powerful. He would not be God if He struggled with overcoming anything. We would be wasting our prayers praying to Him if that was the case. (It would be like praying to wooden idols, imagery, or to man). We are weak, God is not. God is far beyond us and those idols as He is real and He is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent.
John also makes it clear that the only way we overcome is through our faith in the one that is Almighty. John says, “Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God (v.5)?” There is no other way that you and I can overcome the world but through Christ. There are many people who live among us that believe they are overcoming the world because of what they have in their bank, their pocket, or in their possessions.
Being successful according to the world does not mean one has overcome the world. Being successful according to your materials does not mean anything spiritually. When Jesus spoke of overcoming the world, let us remember that He was talking about spiritually overcoming the world (sin) and having peace in Him.
Wealth cannot save anybody from their sins. Having the riches of this world will not get anybody into heaven as well. The only way to life eternal is through faith in Jesus. Jesus said to Thomas, “I am the way [to heaven], the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me (John 14:6).”
Life eternal through Christ
When speaking with the disciples Jesus proclaimed, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world (John 16:33).” Notice that the peace Jesus spoke of was not of the world (this physical reality/realm)! The peace He spoke is true peace and it can only be obtained through Him.
Overcoming the world is not about possessions or whatever sort of false imitation of peace you believe you can find in this world. True peace is with Christ. For us to overcome this world so that we can have part in such peace with Christ, we must have faith in Him. Our faith in Him leads to a eternal life of peace with Him.
Stopping point: you have made it through the first part of this study. Take a break if needed and return back to this point to continue. This is the bookmark point of this study. If you do not feel like pausing, let’s dive deeper into this study!
Trusting This Witness
Again, John’s goal in writing this letter was for readers to understand that they have life eternal in overcoming the world through faith in Christ. Christ, as I said earlier, is a stumbling block for many people. Ministering Christ leads to many people questioning the witness of the gospel. John certainly knew that questions would arise about his witness of the gospel of Christ.
John’s eye witness report
One thing we believers should make clear is that our witness is based on eyewitness reports and also the witness of God. Peter wrote in his second letter, “For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty (2 Pet. 1:16).” The apostles were eye witnesses to all that Jesus taught and did. We are going to see John share with us his eye witness report in the next few verses.
He first says, “This is He who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ (v.6).” This reminds me of what Jesus said to Nicodemus when he came to Jesus at night. Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit (John 3:5-6).”
So, let’s take a look at what John meant by saying, “He who came by water blood.” We know that the “He” that he was talking about was Jesus because he clearly states Jesus’ name in that verse. However, what does He mean when He says that Jesus came by water and blood?
In recent weeks I have been preaching about the living water of God. Spiritually, water is representative of the living Word of God which is applied by the Spirit of God that abides with all who genuinely believe in the Lord. Water (or the living Word of God) spiritually provides us with the proper nutrients to help us in both growing and in enduring.
The blood is representative of Jesus’ shed blood that He shed on the cross for the remission of all sins. John was at Jesus’ crucifixion; the gospels indicate to us that he was the only apostle of Christ that showed up to the crucifixion with some of the women. In his writing of the gospel, John testified that the Romans broke the legs of the two thieves that Jesus hung between (John 19:32). The Romans did this to speed up the dying process because the bodies could not remain on the cross on that Sabbath. (It could actually take a few days for people to die on the cross.)
Jesus, on the other hand, died pretty quick on the cross. John tells us that the Romans did not have to break His legs because He was already dead. They pierced Jesus in the side and when they pierced Jesus in the side, John says He saw blood and water come out (John 19:33-34). John then said, “ And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe (John 19:35).” So, he was letting readers know that he was an eyewitness to this report and that his report is not something that was made up, but something that was true.
John then speaks to the witness of God. This reminds me of when the Jews confronted Jesus and was asking about His witness (John 8:13-20). The religious leaders in Jesus’ day were not accepting of Jesus’ teaching. So, they said to Jesus, “You bear witness of Yourself; Your witness is not true (John 8:13).” To this, Jesus responded, “It is also written in your law that the testimony of two men is true. I am One who bears witness of Myself, and the Father who sent Me bears witness of Me (John 8:17-18).”
So, Jesus said that He bore witness of Himself and if His witness was not good enough for the Jews, He said that His Father also bore witness of Him as well. His Father being God the Father who dwells in His heavenly kingdom. John uses this same thought when he speaks of God being a witness to the bearing of His gospel.
Scripture then says, “For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one (v.7).” John speaks about the Godhead here. Notice that the Son is called the Word here! Let us also pay close attention that John says that the Godhead is bearing witness in heaven. God the Father is in His heavenly kingdom and when Jesus ascended after His resurrection, He ascended to the heavenly kingdom as well.
John then writes about three bearing witness of God’s gospel here on earth. He says, “there are three that bear witness on earth: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one (v.8).” We quickly notice that the Holy Spirit is bearing witness both in heaven and on earth. The Spirit, we remember, abides with us and is constantly at work within us.
Let us also remember that the Holy Spirit is more confirmation to the deity of Jesus. Remember, Jesus said He needed to depart (ascend) so that the Holy Spirit could descend (John 16:5-7). The Holy Spirit being poured out on the apostles at Pentecost was, again, confirmation. So, the Holy Spirit is witness to the gospel of God here on earth, and again, the water and the blood.
Receiving this witness
So, why is the eyewitness report of Christ so important? Why is the Godhead being a witness to Christ so important? I believe this answer to be very simple. We, human beings, are very skeptical when it comes to the things we only hear about. If we see with our own eyes, it is very easy for us to believe, however, when we aren’t eyewitnesses and we have to take someone at their word, we can become very skeptical.
John is ministering Christ and let me tell you, people are very skeptical when it comes to Christ. As I have said before in this study, Jesus is a stone of stumbling for many people. So, John is stating he was an eye witness to Christ for those that would be a skeptic. He is essentially saying, I was there to witness all of this so you shouldn’t doubt what I saw.
For those that would doubt, he explains to us why he spoke of the Lord being a witness to Christ in what he says next. He says, “If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater (v.9).” The idea being that there are times when we aren’t skeptical at all to what someone tells us. So, John says, if you are capable of believing the tales that man will tell you, then you should certainly be capable of believing the witness of God. The witness of God is greater because the Lord does not lie! Man will lie and make things up, but God, on the other hand, is never going to lie to you!
If we accept (believe) this witness, John writes, “has the witness in himself.” However, what happens when one does not accept this witness of Christ? John writes that this person has made God out to be a liar (v.10). It literally is impossible for the Lord to tell a lie because He is righteous. Everything the Lord says is righteous (true). This is the case because He is over all things – He makes the rules! When you make God out to be a liar, you are claiming the impossible.
Stopping point: you have made it through the second part of this study. Take a break if needed and return back to this point to continue. This is the bookmark point of this study. If you do not feel like pausing, let’s finish up this study!
Confident Faith in God
We are now getting down to the end of our study. I have already reiterated John’s purpose for writing this letter and we see him conclude this letter by speaking on faith in the Lord. As believers, we should be confident in our faith in the Lord. Our faith in the Lord should be without doubt.
Prayers of faith
John says, “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him (vss.14-15).” As a genuine believer, you should be confident in your supplications to God.
I often reference scripture from James when speaking about being confident in our faith and prayer life. James wrote, “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind (Jas. 1:6).” James and John are both saying the same thing here, right?
If you confess to be a believer in your heart, then you should be fully confident in the Lord and what He can/will do for you. Unfortunately, it becomes extremely easy for the believer to sometimes doubt what God is going to do. Again, in our nature, many of us are skeptical. Honestly, I believe it is completely normal for us to have moments where we are filled with doubt.
Yet, I believe we must remember all that the Lord has done for us before so that such doubt can quickly be removed from our mind. We do not need to become like a wave of the sea that is tossed by the wind! James stated, “For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways (Jas. 1:7).”
Our prayers should be prayers of faith. Jesus stated that faith as the size of a mustard seed could move mountains (Matt. 17:20). However, when doubt enters in, I tell you that those mountains aren’t going to go anywhere! We cannot be double-minded and say that we have faith in God but doubt the Lord at the same time — this is not genuine faith. No, our faith must be clear and confident! We pray because we know and believe that the Lord will provide!
God’s Forgiveness and Mercy
John begins to speak about sin leading to death and sin not leading to death in the next couple of verses. He writes, “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. (v.16).”
Let’s notice that this verse is actually about lifting up a brother or sister in Christ in prayer. John said, “If anyone sees his brother sinning.” Now, the death that John is talking about in this verse is not the spiritual death which is reserved for sinners – those that choose to reject God. John is speaking of physical death here and is saying that there is sin that can lead to physical death.
In this case, God is calling home His child for some sort of sin that they committed. We have seen this happen in scripture on quite a few occasions. For example, Moses and Aaron was not allowed to enter into the Promised Land when he struck the rock twice. Moses struck the rock twice for water out of anger he had towards the children of Israel. This action was an act of disobedience to what the Lord had commanded of him (Num. 20:7-12).
Personally, I believe Samson was another one that was called home because of his disobedience. Samson married a Philistine, which was against the Law. He also ended up letting his hair get cut which went against the law of Nazarite. Ananias and Sapphira were professed believers, but they lied to the Holy Spirit and immediately died when they were caught in their lie (Acts 5:1-10).
So, scripture definitely shows that God will call home believers for disobedience that He is not fine with. The sin is not specific, though we know it is not the unpardonable sin because these are believers (children of God) that God is calling home. The unpardonable sin is to blaspheme the Holy Spirit, and this sin leads to death spiritually (Matt. 12:31). Those that commit the unpardonable sin would certainly not be considered believers or a child of God.
There is sin that leads to death, but there is also sin that does not lead to death, John says. He says we should pray for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ for the sins that they commit that do not lead to death. Ultimately, we should pray for one another anyway. We have no idea what sins could lead to death for a child of God.
Let us also note that not every believer that dies has committed a sin that led to their death. I say this because it is not up to us to decide whether or not someone died due to their sins. What is up to us is to continue to keep our brothers and sisters in Christ lifted up in prayer. John states that when we pray for the forgiveness and mercy of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, God will show mercy and forgiveness. We should be confident in the Lord’s forgiveness and mercy.
We Are of God
Here is the confidence that John was just speaking about when it comes to the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness. He says, “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 (v.18).” Now, of course all of us still do commit sins when our “old man” tries to come back out. However, though we sin, we have forgiveness through Christ. Compared to those who reject Christ, they continue to live in sin.
Notice that John also mentioned the “wicked one” and the fact that the wicked one does not touch God’s children. The wicked one is the devil who John says the whole world “lies under the sway of (v.19).”
The wicked one (or evil one) being spoken of here is the devil. We know that John is speaking of Satan here by what he says next. “We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.” John stating that the whole world lies under the sway of Satan is a callback to Jesus saying that the devil is the ruler of this world (John 12:31).
What does it mean that the devil is the “ruler of this world?” We should not believe this to mean that the devil has some sort of authority that supersedes the Lord when it comes to this world. The devil was cast out of heaven and into this world because of his great sin (Luke 10:18; Rev. 12:7-9). Satan, since being cast out of heaven, spends his days deceiving the world with his great lie. I want you to understand that the devil has no authority! The biggest misunderstanding (deception) in our world today is that the devil is God’s equal – this is a lie!
Shielded and protected
In the book of Job, you will see that Satan visited the Lord and had to plead with God to try and test the Lord. You see, for all the power that the devil wishes people to believe he has, he could not touch Job, a man who was considered blameless and upright (Job 1:1). Satan complained to the Lord, “Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side (Job 1:10)?”
You see, God had placed a shield of protection around Job because Job was a man of faith. The devil could not penetrate the shield to bring harm to Job. Now, the Lord did lower the shield to Job’s physical and the devil brought all the harm he physically could against Job. However, the shield was never lowered from Job’s soul. So, when John says that the wicked one “does not touch [whoever is born of God]” we should consider the story of Job.
We may find ourselves under the attack of the devil and his demons, but because of God, they can never get to our soul. I don’t believe we can ever be possessed by Satan or his demons. They certainly will try to bring all of the physical, mental, and emotional harm against us but Satan and his demons can never harm your soul.
Full of confidence
John concludes his first epistle by saying, “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. Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen (vss. 20-21).
John ends on a note of encouraging the readers of this epistle to be fully confident in their faith in God. He reminds his readers that Jesus came into this world to give us an understanding of all of these things and that He is true. Because He is the true God, we should have confidence in the Lord in all that He said and in all that He does/will do.
I certainly hope that all of you who have gone through this series of studies have enjoyed reading and studying 1 John. 1 John is my favorite book/epistle in the bible and I truly enjoy any time I get to teach from it or preach from it. I also hope that you enjoyed this season of studies and that you grew in knowledge and grew spiritually as well. If you missed a study from this season, or want to read some of my other bible studies, be sure to click the bible study menu tab!