Post Series on 1 John 5:1-21:
- Who is the Gospel? (1 John 5:1-12)
- Jesus is the Gospel–But So What? (1 John 5:13-21)
The Apostle John explains in 1 John 5:1-12 that the Gospel is not merely information, but that the Gospel is a Person. In fact, John writes, Jesus is the Gospel, and whoever has Jesus has life–and apart from Jesus, no one has life.
But so what? If we end up coming to the same conclusions, acknowledging the same answers, and saying the same statements about the Gospel by merely knowing the facts, why is it so critical that we relate to the Gospel personally, knowing Jesus as a Person? What difference does it make?
In 1 John 5:13-21, John gives three practical applications for relating to the Gospel personally. Because the Gospel is a Person–because Jesus is the Gospel–therefore we pray, we persevere, and we find hope in his life.
Jesus is the Gospel; Therefore We Pray
In 1 John 5:13-17, John writes:
13I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. 14And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.
16If 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. 17All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death. (1 John 5:13-17)
In the specific example John gives here–that of a fellow believer straying off into sin–John wants us to shake off our passivity by putting to use the confidence we have in our great Savior through prayer.
You see, if the Gospel is merely information, we have every right to be passive. This is the approach of the people who follow their horoscopes. They believe that the stars, whose paths are fixed in the sky, contain information that affects their lives. That information may be good or bad, but there is nothing that anyone can do to alter what the stars are declaring from the heavens. Que sera, sera! If you cannot pray to the stars, passivity is your only option.
But if the Gospel is a Person, John assures us that the good news of Jesus should give us confidence that God will hear us when we pray, and that he will give us the requests that we have asked of him. (Of course, God will not always give us the requests we ask of him in the exact manner in which we ask, but we can have confidence that he certainly will give us our requests.)
And so, when we see even the worst things happening, like a brother stumbling in sin, we have boldness even to wrestle with God like our forefather Jacob in prayer.
Jesus is the Gospel; Therefore, We Persevere
I am always struck at the way John closes his letter. It is never what I expect, which forces me to pay that much closer attention to what he actually writes:
18We 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.
19We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. (1 John 5:18-19)
The biggest difference that it makes for the Gospel to be a Person is the way in which the Person of the Gospel reorients our entire lives toward hope in his life. We depend upon him who was born of God (the eternal Son of God) to protect us from the evil one (v. 18). Even when the rest of the world lies in the power of the evil one, we know that we are from God (v. 19), and the evil one cannot touch us.
But the way that a Person reorients our lives toward hope in his life accomplishes something very important: namely, believing in the Person of Jesus Christ keeps us from presumption. Prayer keeps us from passivity, and hope keeps us from presumption.
You see, if we simply tuck in our back pocket the information that the evil one cannot touch us, carrying on with our lives without any further thought to the real struggle that we face with the evil one in the world, we are doomed to stumble again and again into all kinds of sin. John doesn’t offer us this hope so that we can strut around over-confidently.
Instead, John is writing to remind the people who know deeply their struggle with sin of the hope they have in Jesus Christ. This passage is not to increase the arrogance of the arrogant, or the self-righteousness of the self-righteous. John writes this to people who struggle and wrestle with the sin in their lives.
John writes this to people who are desperate for the grace that we have come to depend upon from Jesus Christ himself. You who are weary of your sin: Because Jesus is the Gospel, trust in him to persevere through your struggles.
Jesus is the Gospel; Therefore, We Hope in His Life
I am always struck at the last sentence in John’s letter. It is never what I expect, which forces me to pay that much closer attention to what he actually writes:
20And 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. 21Little children, keep yourselves from idols. (1 John 5:20-21)
This Jesus, John reminds us, is himself the true God and eternal life. He is our hope. He is our confidence. He is the wellspring of the grace for which we long so desperately. If we do not have Jesus, then we do not have life.
Therefore, the most important word John speaks to us–the final statement of this entire letter–is a warning to keep ourselves from idols. Jesus is the Gospel, John exclaims, so don’t let anything else in the entire world keep you from loving him, serving him, and delighting in him. There is life in Christ, so take care not to look for life anywhere else.
You who feel the weight of your guilt: Hope in Jesus! You who know well your weakness: Hope in Jesus! You who are desperate for grace: Hope in Jesus!
Jesus is the true God and eternal life. Jesus is the Gospel.