1 John 5
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome,for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.
1 John 5:1-5
Throughout this letter, John lays out three tests for professing Christians to examine themselves as to whether they live out what they claim to be. In this section, all three come together as John connects faith, love, and obedience with the fundamentals of what it means to be a Christian.
The logic of these verses goes something like this:
1. A Christian is someone who believes that Jesus is the Christ (verse 1)
2. They have been born of God (verse 1)
3. Christians love God (verse 1&2)
4. And they love other Christians too (verse 1&2)
5. We know that Christians love God when they obey Him (verse 3)
6. This isn’t burdensome for them (verse 3)
7. Because they have overcome the world (verse 4)
8. And they have overcome the world through faith—by believing that Jesus is the Son of God (verse 4&5)
Point #8 takes us back to point #1 in an almost circular fashion. I think that’s John’s point; faith, love, and obedience are so intertwined that they naturally lead into each other and foster the growth of each other. That’s why James can say ‘faith without works is dead’ (James 2:26) or why Paul can say ‘if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing’ (1 Corinthians 13:2).
These three things are the marks of a true Christian. So, test yourself…
Do you have faith? Do you believe as we saw yesterday that Jesus Christ has come as a propitiation for our sins? Do you believe that you are a sinner fully deserving of God’s judgment and that there is nothing you can do to rescue yourself—that you are ‘dead in your transgressions and sins’ (Ephesians 2:1)? Or do you, like many in our world today, believe that you’re ‘not too bad’—that if God ‘really were loving’, He wouldn’t send a ‘good person’ like you to Hell?
Do you love? Do you ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind’ and do you ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ (Matthew 22:37–38)? Do you love sacrificially till hurts—like God loves us to the point of sending His Son to die for us? Is your love so obvious that it has become magnetic—drawing people in from outside the Church to see what love this is that could unite such a diverse group of people? Or, has your love for God grown cold (Matthew 24:12)? Have you become a lover of yourself, money, and pleasure, rather than a lover of God (2 Timothy 3:1–4)?
Do you obey? Do you keep God’s commands? Do you ‘impress them on your children, talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up’ (Deuteronomy 6:7)? Do you find them burdensome or is it a joy to please your Heavenly Father by obeying Him (1 John 3:22)? Can you say as the Psalmist has in our readings over the past few days, ‘I have obeyed your laws, for I love them very much’ (Psalm 119:167 NLT)? Or, have you made God’s grace cheap and insulted the work of Jesus by continuing in your sin saying, ‘[I] go on sinning so that grace may increase’ (Romans 6:1) and ‘[I] sin because [I am] not under the law but under grace’ (Romans 6:15)?
Brothers and sisters, let us show that we have overcome the world by our faith, love, and obedience.
Heavenly Father, I am sorry for when my faith fails, when my love grows cold, and when my obedience falls short of Your commands. Help me in my unbelief to confess Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour. Help me to love You wholeheartedly and to love others even when it hurts. Help me to find joy in obeying You and strengthen me by Your Spirit to do Your will. Amen.