1 JOHN 5:1-5
There was a wealthy nobleman in Italy who had grown tired of life. He had everything one could wish for except happiness and contentment. He said, “I am weary of life. I will go to the river and there end my life.” As he walked along, he felt a little hand tugging at his trousers. Looking down, he saw a frail, hungry-looking little boy who pleaded, “There are six of us. We are dying for want of food!” The nobleman thought, “Why should I not relieve this wretched family? I have the means.” Following the little boy, he entered a scene of misery, sickness and want. He opened his purse and emptied all its contents, saying, “I will return tomorrow, and I will share with you more of the good things which God has given to me in abundance!”
He left the scene of want and wretchedness, rejoicing, with no thought of ending his life. Such is the power of love.
I. FAITH IN CHRIST RESULTS IN BROTHERLY LOVE V. 1
This verse is the expansion of 4:21. That verse tells you and I of God’s command that we love our brother or sister. Chapter 5:1 explains who our brother or sister is. The gist or essence of the whole verse is, “The children of God are those who believe that Jesus is the Christ, and everyone who loves a father loves also his children.” Faith in Jesus Christ is the result of the new birth. This is what some people are missing in life today. Today you ask a person are you a Christian? And some of the responses go like these: I am a Catholic; I am a Baptist; I am a Pentecostal; I am a Charismatic; I am an Anglican, and so on and so forth. This is a wrong answer. You can be any of these and still be as lost as a sanctuary mouse. Sometimes too, you ask a person, are you a Christian? And the answer is yes, I go to United Christian Fellowship; I go to Potters House; I go to First Baptist Church, etc. Since when did the Bible make church attendance synonymous with salvation?
You are saved and become a Christian only when you place your faith in Jesus Christ. I cannot save you; this church cannot save you. Nobody here can save you; only Jesus Christ can save you. That is what John is teaching you and me from this text. He says, “whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” This is as simple as that. I do not know why some people equate a denomination or church membership with salvation. Listen to this: “we attend church service because we are saved.” You can also be saved when you attend a Christian worship as we are doing today. The stark truth, however, is that you may be a church member and still be lost because you have not believed in Christ. Now, let me deal with the word “believe.” The word “believe” does not only mean mental assent. True, to believe in Christ has to do with mental assent and much more. It has to do also with your heart and will. Mental assent alone is not enough to produce faith in Christ. The reason I am laboring at this is because there are many people who say, “I believe in Christ, but you don’t see any change in their lives.” Faith in Christ produces a transformed life. I am not talking about reformation. Education is good, but at best education results in reformation. On the other hand, transformation comes only from Jesus Christ. Therefore, everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is a child of God. Belief in Christ has to do with commitment. How much are you committed to Christ?
Today, there are some that claim that they are children of God but deny that Jesus is the Christ. The word “Christ” means, “The Anointed One,” “The Messiah.” With a definite article “the” it makes Jesus the exclusive Savior. In other words, apart from Him there is no Savior. He and He alone is the Messiah, the Savior of the world. John is up to something that I do not want you to miss. In the physical realm, when you are born, you are born into a family. It can be a family of three or a family of ten. The same thing happens when you are born of God. When you are born of God, you do not become an island; you are born into the family of God. Therefore, when you become a Christian you become a part of God’s big family with fellow believers as your brothers and sisters. It is God who determines who the other family members are, not you. Therefore, you are bound by the spiritual family ties to love your brothers and sisters in Christ. So, to say that you love God the Father while at the same time you hate some of the Father’s sons and daughters is inconsistent.
There is a story about a boy who was hugging his father and at the same time hitting his sister who was standing behind the father. The mother saw what the son was doing and said, “you cannot hug your father while hitting your sister.” The same thing applies to you and me. We cannot love our heavenly Father and at the same time hate some of His sons and daughters. We are simply called to accept and love them. How do you treat fellow members in the family of God?
II. LOVE REVEALS ITSELF IN OBEDIENCE VV. 2-3
Verse 2 shows that true love of your brothers and sisters in Christ is grounded in love for God and obedience to His commands. It is as impossible to love the children of God without loving God as it is to love God without loving His children. This shows that those who persecute Christians for the sake of their religion do not love God. Has someone said to you, “I love you, but it is your children that I cannot stand.” What the person is saying to you is that I love you, but I dislike or hate your children. How would you take that? I bet you will not take it kindly at all. That is the same way God feels when you hate and malign some of His children. God does not take it kindly at all.
How does genuine love for God express itself? Genuine love for God expresses itself in genuine obedience to His commands. Not only that but also it is an evidence that you truly love the children of God. The highest service that you can render to humanity is to “love God and keep His commandments.” Loving God means obeying His commandments. Therefore, where there is no obedience to God; there is no love for God. The two are inseparable.
For instance, a young person brags to his friends and peers that he loves his parents, but when the father or mother asks him to do some chores in the house he refuses. Meanwhile, he continues to brag to his friends with his lips how much he loves his parents. One day, one or two of his friends follow him to his house. The mother calls him and tells him to go and buy something for her, but this son refuses to go. Can this young person brag to his friends and peers that he loves his parents again? The answer is no. Why? Because you cannot say you love your parents when you are disobedient to them. The same thing happens to your relationship with God when you are disobedient to Him. You show how much you love God when you obey His commandments. You show how much you love your parents when you are obedient to them. And what are the commandments of God? Jesus sums up God’s commandments in one word, “love” (Luke 10:27). The love for God the Father and for your neighbor is the sum of the Ten Commandments. The vertical relationship and the horizontal relationship were evident in Jesus’ life. Jesus said, “I have not come to do My will, but the Father’s will” (John 6:38). The truth of the matter is that Jesus never promised that obeying Him would be easy. However, hard work can be rewarding if you value the results. John says, “And His commandments are not burdensome.” The hard work and self-discipline of serving Christ is no burden to those who love Him. The laws and regulations of the scribes and Pharisees were heavy burdens, hard to bear.” Jesus said, “For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers” (Matt. 23:4; Luke 11:46), but the yoke of Jesus is easy and His burden is light (Matt. 11:30). God’s will for your life is “good, acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2). It is the will of an all wise God, all-loving Father who seeks your highest welfare. If your load or burden starts to feel heavy, you can always trust Christ to help you bear it. Christ will not give you a burden that you cannot bear. He is always with you to help you.
III. FAITH IN GOD RESULTS IN VICTORY VV. 4-5
The commandments of God today, whether found in the OT or the NT, seem intolerable burdensome to the world. People of the world think that God gives us His commandments because He wants to take “fun” out of life. There is nothing that is farther from the truth than such a statement. As a matter of fact, “God wants you to enjoy life more abundantly in Christ. Therefore, to the children of God His commandments are not burdensome, because “whatever is born of God overcomes the world.”
It is neither you nor I who overcomes the world. The emphasis is not placed on the person. Remember that Jesus said, “Without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). The emphasis then is on the victorious power that resides in you and me. It is neither you nor I, but our birth from God, which conquers. If you think that John is wrong, look at the life of Sampson in the OT (Judges 13-16).
The new birth is a supernatural event which takes you out of the sphere of the world, where Satan rules into the family of God. If you have been saved, you have been delivered from the dominion of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of God’s dear Son (Col. 1:13). The spell of the old life has been broken. The fascination of the world has lost its appeal. The word “overcomes” is a present tense, suggesting two things: (1) that the Christian’s conflict with the world is still in progress, and (2) that continuous victory is possible. Do not believe any preacher or Christian who tells you that as soon as you become a Christian all your struggles with the world are over. In fact, the struggle is going to be intensified. The good news is that continuous victory is possible. When you die to the flesh daily and you walk in the Holy Spirit, victory is possible. The word “world” here as nearly always in John’s epistle, stands for all the forces and powers of evil pitted against God and His people. Sometimes there are moral pressures that come against you and me—the outlook, standards and preoccupations of a godless, secular society, “the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (2:16). Sometimes they are intellectual (heresy) and sometimes physical (persecution). Nevertheless, whatever form the world’s pressure upon the Church may take, the victory is ours. The unshakable conviction that the Jesus of history is “the Christ,” the pre-existent Son of God (v. 5), who came to bring us salvation and life, enables us to triumph over the world. Now get this; Error, evil, and the forces of this world cannot prevail against the confidence in the deity of Jesus. In the first century when the Roman Empire was smashing and subduing every nation, the victory did not belong to Rome, rather the victory belongs to Christ and the humble believer in Christ. It is neither through the sword nor the gun that the victory is won, but faith in the resurrected Jesus Christ. He has already won the victory and because we belong to Him, we share in His victory over the world. The Greek word for victory is nike. I do not know whether the manufacturers of the snickers got the name “Nike” from this Greek word. In Greek mythology nike was the goddess of victory. In the case of believers our faith is what produces the victory. Faith is the means by which the victory is won. Wherever there is faith in Jesus Christ there is victory. It is not a saving faith that John is talking about but a living faith by which you and I lay hold on the victory of God. The Christian life is a life of faith, but today some want to make it a life of sight. All the saints of God who achieved great things for the kingdom of God lived and walked by faith. Faith is the spiritual weapon by which temptation is met and overcome. Indeed, faith is the victory.
Verse 5 repeats the vital role which faith plays in the conquest of the world. The verse also defines the faith that conquers. In effect John is saying, if there are any people besides believers who have conquered this evil world where are they? The person to whom victory belongs is in every case the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. The word “believe” is also a present continuous tense. In other words, John is not talking about somebody who says, “I used to believe in Christ, but I am not so sure today.” He is talking about an ongoing faith, progressive faith in Jesus Christ. Do you have a progressive an ongoing faith in Jesus Christ? Do you have a vibrant faith in Jesus Christ? If you say yes, how vibrant, and real is your faith in Him? The substance of conquering faith is that Jesus is the incarnate Son of God. And as incarnate Son of God, Jesus has power over everything. He has your situation under control. He has conquered sin. He has conquered Satan and his demonic forces. He has conquered death on the cross. Death was the last enemy to overcome, but Jesus has prevailed over it. His resurrection is the victory over death. He has destroyed the sting of death. The victory then belongs to those of us who have completely put our faith in Christ Jesus. Do you completely believe in Jesus Christ? Do you believe Him without any reservation that He is who He says He is? Do you believe that no matter how uncertain and ferocious the world can be Jesus has overcome the world? Do you believe that since Christ’s victory is yours, you too have overcome the world?
A man was walking along a narrow path, not paying attention to where he was going. Suddenly he slipped over the edge of a cliff. As he fell, he grabbed a branch growing from the side of the cliff. Realizing that he could not hang on for long, he called for help.
Man: Is anybody up there?
Voice: Yes, I am here!
Man: Who is that?
Voice: The Lord
Man: Lord, help me!
Voice: Do you trust me?
Man: I trust you completely, Lord.
Voice: Good. Let go of the branch.
Voice: I said, “Let go of the branch.”
Man: [After a long pause] is anybody else up there?
Some of you are like this man. You are in trouble, you are holding on to things that would eventually hurt you; you are holding on to things that are transient; you are holding on to things that would eventually destroy your life. The Lord is saying to you, put your complete trust in me and let go, but you are saying to the Lord is there any alternative?