1 John 5:18-21
18 We know that any one born of God does not sin, but He who was born of God
keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him. 19 We know that we are of God,
and the whole world is in the power of the evil one. 20 And we know that the
Son of God has come and has given us understanding, to 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. 21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols.
John has three statements here that he begins with "we know". He is
closing up his letter by reminding his readers of the great truths they have
heard and know. He doesn't want them to think he is going into a new subject.
He is saying "these things I am telling you are already true and I want
to remind you of what you already know."
The Christian life is best understood as a process of going deeper into the
truth, deeper into Christ. We begin with an understanding of our new lives
in Christ and instead of leaving this behind to go on to other more important
or profound truths, we delve deeper in our abiding in Christ and so more deeply
appreciate, receive, and enjoy this new life He has given us in Himself. John
has no need to give them new truths as he ends his letter, just to remind them
of what they already know.
First, John reminds them that "any one born of God does not sin, but
He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him." This
sentence may appear a bit confusing because John uses the term "born of
God" to refer both to us and to Jesus. As earlier in the letter, John
is emphasizing the truth that what God has done in Christ for us has changed
in the deepest reality, who we are. We are called those "born of God" just
like Christ who truly is born of God. And, we are called this as John stated
in 3:1 because "so we are." God did not just provide us with a new
title or status, we are truly now born of Him, His children, in our very being.
We are Christ's brothers and sisters, and Christ, "He who was born of
God" keeps us. Since we are born of God we no longer live in sin, we now
live in and are kept by Jesus Himself. We have been rescued from our old relationship
with sin, it is no longer the deepest reality of who we are. It cannot ultimately
determine who we are.
John finishes the sentence with the fact that the evil one no longer can touch
us. In his next statement, John reminds us that while we are of God, "the
whole world is in the power of the evil one." The world is not going in
the same direction that we are going. The world is inundated with the evil
one's power and the temptation to not find our true identity and life in Christ
is present everywhere around us. Yet as overwhelming as it may seem, John assures
us that Jesus is keeping us and that in Christ, we cannot be touched by the
evil one. All we need to resist the temptation to believe that our lives are
incomplete without whatever the world is offering, is to be found in Christ.
We are not defenseless. Although the world constantly puts us under temptation
to add it’s offerings to Christ or to substitute for Christ altogether,
Christ Himself can protect us and rescue us from falling under the power of
John reminds his readers in this last sentence beginning with "We know" that
Jesus, God's Son has come and given us understanding and knowledge of the Triune
God, who is the One who is true. God has broken into history, into our time,
at a particular time and place and changed everything. How can anyone know
God? Are we left to speculation and wishful thinking? No, we know God because
God has spoken so that we can hear, and He did this in Jesus. We can have confidence
that He gives us understanding, that He is a God who desires that we know Him.
The One we know is true, He doesn't just speak truth, He is true. He is light
in whom there is no darkness (1:5). To know Him is to know reality, the "really
real", and to begin to come out of the fog that we have lived in, in this
twisted, broken world.
Not only do we know Him, but we are in Him "who is true, in his Son Jesus
Christ". It is interesting to see that God is not merely concerned with
our knowing Him, but that we are to belong to, live in, have our home in His
heart. God draws us into to the fullness of the giving and receiving of love
that is the Triune life. This is what it means that we, too, are now born of
God. We will not be kept at a distance from the very deepest heart of the universe,
the love of the Father and the Son in the Spirit. John goes on to say "This
is the true God and eternal life."
John has repeated the word "true" three times in this verse. We
hear, as his first readers did, claims all around us of what is true, real.
John wants to assure us that God is the One who is true. And, he says, this
is eternal life. This is eternal life--to know and live in the One who made
us, rescued us, loves us fully. There is no other life, nothing else we were
created for than to enjoy this eternal life in Him.
In John's last sentence, he encourages his readers to "keep yourselves
from idols." An idol is anything we look to besides Christ to give us
our identity and our life. Whenever we say, "I will really be happy, life
will really be good, only when ....." then we have made an idol of that
thing. We can make anything an idol: having our kids turn out right, keeping
our friendships, having enough money, having a meaningful job that the world
recognizes as successful, being well thought of, etc. Anytime we believe our
lives or our identities depend on the fulfillment of something besides God,
we have taken hold of an idol.
I have had some good talks with my children since we have moved here about
all of this. Can we see that God is so good, that He can pour out His life,
His presence upon us way from our friends even here in Illinois? If we think
we can’t receive real life from God here in Illinois under these new
and different circumstances then we have placed an idol in the way of God’s
blessing, in the way of God! It makes sense for John to end here because he
has just reminded them of the character of God, the wonders of the life He
gives us in Himself and His complete trustworthiness to make us more and more
able to receive this life. When we are reminded of this it can help us to loosen
our grip on our many idols, seeing that they cannot be the source of our life
and identity anyway. They are nothing more than false gods, unable to deliver
what only the true God can. For in the end that is the true nature of our daily
spiritual battles and temptations. To whom will we turn for eternal life: the
idols and promises of the world or to God in Christ through the resurrection
power of the Spirit?
The End of the Bible Study of 1 John