1 John 5:19-21
And We Know
John closes his first epistle rather abruptly. He closes his other letters with greetings. Paul usually closed with a benediction. But John has been about business from the start of this letter (“That which was from the beginning”) and now ends the same way.
And he ends reminding the readers who they are as opposed to those of the world: “We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” This is not a statement of arrogance; the Apostle knows that their rebirth is from God and has nothing to do with their good works. It is merely a statement of the fact that belief in Jesus Christ is the dividing line between those who are from God and those who aren’t but lie with the rest of the world under the dominion of the devil. John said earlier: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (2:15). And he would no doubt agree with James that “friendship with the world is enmity with God” (4:4). We are not speaking here of hatred for the world; indeed, it is the world that hates believers. John can say in another place that God loved the world so much that He gave His Son for it (John 3:16). That rejection of such love renders one outside the covenant of grace can hardly be blamed on God. To sum: The gospel creates two categories of people, and this shall be the case till Judgment Day.
But God has given those whom He regenerates “understanding so that [they] may know Him who is true.” They know that the Son is the true God and life eternal and that they “are in him.” As we said before, the Son does not simply give us life but is life itself such that we cannot but gain life eternal as we are in him by faith. This is the special knowledge believers have—not some secret knowledge that was revealed to them in some hidden place through mysterious arts (e.g., the ancient world’s mystery cults) but the inward knowledge of the Spirit testifying within them that they are God’s children. Hence, they understand their place in the world and the world’s response to God and them—and they are not surprised.
Yet, even with all this, the Apostle must warn them to guard themselves from the world’s thousand idols. Idols are more subtle than we know, and the world demands that we bow before them. And the enticements of the world call out to our flesh. Like Christian in his Progress, put your fingers in your ears and scream, “Eternal life, eternal life, eternal life!”