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)
Typically, when we talk about the message of salvation, we ask, “What is the Gospel?” This question is perfectly legitimate, as the Bible speaks often of the Gospel as a “word” or a “message”, and the Greek word for Gospel literally means “good news.”
But one of the drawbacks of speaking about the Gospel exclusively as a piece of information is that we can easily lose sight of the actual power of the Gospel, which is that the good news of the Gospel is promised to us by a Person, Jesus Christ. Rather than always asking “What is the Gospel?”, we ought also to ask “Who is the Gospel?”
This particular question helpfully frames the Apostle John’s emphasis in the closing chapter of his Letter in 1 John 5. By asking “Who is the Gospel?”, we do not ignore the news about Jesus any more than knowing facts about my wife (her likes, dislikes, hopes, fears, etc.) detracts me from knowing my wife; indeed, it is impossible to know any person without knowing information about that person.
But by asking “Who is the Gospel?”, we keep our purposes and priorities in check: we are not seeking information for its own sake, but we seek information as a means of better knowing our Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus is the Gospel
In 1 John 5:1-5, the Apostle explains that our faith in Christ is a miracle that has overcome the world:
1Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. 2By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 4For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world–our faith. 5Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:1-5)
As he has done at several points in this letter, John connects our faith in Christ with our love for fellow believers (see especially 1 John 3:11-24). But here John makes the connection between our love and our faith explicit: we believe and we love because of the reality of our new birth.
If we believe in Jesus Christ, John writes, it is because we have been born of God. And if we have been born of God, we will also love whoever has been born of God along with us. This radical transformation of the new birth is a stunning victory over the world that had previously held us captive under its power.
The world no longer holds our minds captive, because we believe in Christ. Furthermore, the world no longer holds our hearts captive, because we love those who have been born of God with us.
We Come to Believe that Jesus is the Gospel By God’s Testimony
So how do we come to believe in Jesus Christ and grow in love for fellow believers? John explains that we do so by the powerful testimony of God:
6This is he who cam by water and blood–Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. 7For there are three that testify: 8the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. 9If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. 10Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. 11And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5:6-12)
Although there are many explanations for what John might mean by the testimony of the “water and the blood”, I think the best explanation has to do with the unique testimony that Jesus is the Son of God that was given publicly at his baptism and at his crucifixion. Against Gnostics who believed that God only descended upon Jesus at his baptism, but then abandoned him before his crucifixion, John insists that Jesus was the Son of God throughout his ministry.
Mark makes Jesus’ Sonship especially clear in his Gospel, where the pronouncement that Jesus is the Son of God functions as bookends of the whole book, with the Father declaring that Jesus was his beloved Son at his baptism (Mark 1:11) and the Roman centurion (after witnessing Jesus give up his life) declaring, “Truly this man was the Son of God” at Jesus’ death (Mark 15:39). In this way, both the Father and the Son testify that Jesus is the Son of God.
But John says the testimony that God gives us is even more than these public declarations. In fact, John writes, God has given us the Holy Spirit so that God’s testimony may actually dwell in us (v. 10). The testimony of the Holy Spirit is life in Christ, and when the Holy Spirit brings that life into our hearts and causing us to be born of God, we cannot help but believe in Jesus and love our fellow believers.
The Holy Spirit does not simply present to us the raw data and wait for us to make up our minds. The Holy Spirit actually gives us the life that is in Christ so that we cannot imagine desiring anything more than Jesus.
And so, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit all give testimony to the Person of Jesus Christ–that in Christ, there is life.
Whoever has the Son (and not merely facts about the Son) has life, and apart from the Son of God (even if we know all the information about the Son of God), we do not have life.