1 John 5:13-21
That You May Know
As you well know, John wrote this letter and a gospel (and Second and Third John and Revelation). In his gospel, he writes the purpose of his book towards the end: “These things are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (20:31). Here in his first letter, he places the purpose again at the end: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.” So he wrote his gospel that we may believe that Jesus is the Christ; and, having believed that, he wrote his letter that we might know that as believers in Christ we have eternal life. Thus, his gospel and his first letter fit very well together – the former pointing the way to saving faith, the latter indicating faith’s rewards.
Saving faith in this loving, benevolent God grants us great confidence in approaching Him in prayer. Why wouldn’t one feel confident praying to such a wonderful God? Because He has loved us so much as to stoop down to save us, we may know that He hears us when we pray according to His will, and that we shall have the requests we ask of Him. Now the operative phrase here is: “according to His will.” We know that we cannot ask for that which He would obviously oppose and expect to receive it. The way we know His will is through the constant reading and application of Scripture to our lives (Hebrews 5:11-14). Our problem comes when we ask things according to His will and do not receive. We must remember that God calls us to patience in our prayers (Luke 18:1-8), and to submission to His will (Luke 22:42; 1 Peter 4:19). Finally, we should remember that prayer is far more about finding ourselves in God’s will than about forcing Him into ours.
Verses sixteen and seventeen present a difficult passage. What is a sin unto death? Jesus spoke of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, which seems to indicate a willful turning of the self and hardening of the heart towards the gospel message. A sin unto death would seem to fall into that same category – an unrepented, presumptuous sin that one will not let go of, perhaps, in the light of John’s letter, a hatred for one’s brother or sister in Christ that one insists on taking to his grave. It might be impossible to be specific. John reminds us again that “everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning,” for God protects him. The Christian continually works to root out all sin, hating it even as God does, implying that the opposite attitude may indeed be indicative of sinning unto death. But John wrote this letter so that we may know that we who believe have eternal life. Fear not.