1 John Lesson Ten: 1 John 5:1-5 – Proving Our Love Through Obedient Faith

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Messiah has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father also loves the one born of Him. This is how we know that we love God’s children when we love God and obey His commands. For this is what love for God is: to keep His commands. Now His commands are not a burden, because whatever has been born of God conquers the world. This is the victory that has conquered the world: our faith. And who is the one who conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (HCSB)

John continues his discourse on the connection between love, faith, and obedience. A good summary statement for this passage is – The true Christian overcomes the world by their faith and demonstrates their salvation by obeying God’s commands, and those commands are not a burden.

When we consider what John is saying in verse one, let’s take a moment to consider how Christianity differs from every other main world religion. All of the other religions involve humanity vainly trying to work their way to God. It may involve legalistic practices or earning merit through various activities. In contrast, Christianity involves God coming to humanity and humanity responding to the invitation. The difference often creates a stumbling block. We try to rationalize why an all-powerful God would pursue His creation. The one overarching reason is that God loves His creation and doesn’t want anyone to spend eternity separated from Him. 

Now, let’s take a closer look at this passage.

  • A Christian is a person who has been born again.
    • They believe and have placed their faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ.
    • The new birth transforms them from children of disobedience into children of God.
  • John uses the term “born of God” seven times in this first epistle, using it to describe the characteristics of a believer.
    • They practice righteousness – 1 John 2:29.
    • They don’t practice sin – 1 John 3:9.
    • They love other believers – 1 John 4:7.
    • They overcome the temptations of the world – 1 John 5:4.
    • They guard themselves against Satan – 1 John 5:18.
  • John emphasizes the trilogy of love, obedience, and truth as tests for inclusion in God’s spiritual family.
    • If we love God as our Father, we will also love our fellow believers.
    • Our love for fellow believers will lead to obedience.
    • When we love others, it creates a willingness to serve others.
  • The Christian who believes that obedience to God’s Word is a burden doesn’t understand biblical love.
    • Christians are not to love the world, belong to it, or yield to it.
    • They have overcome the temptations of the world and the devil and false teachers.
    • They overcome it by faith in God, not through individual power or wisdom.
  • When we look at the context and historical setting of this letter, it appears John was addressing a situation in Ephesus, where the antichrists were acting in a hateful manner towards believers.
    • We don’t have to love perfectly to demonstrate a regenerate heart.
    • If we demonstrate hate towards other believers, as the antichrists did, we can’t have confidence we have been born again.
  • John addresses the question of whether or not following God’s commands is a burden or not.
    • How many times have you or someone you know struggled with being obedient to God’s commands?
    • How often do you think that God’s commands are restricting your life?
    • John makes a convicting statement when he says, “His commands are not a burden.”
    • The world would disagree with this statement. How often have we heard, from unbelievers, that Christians don’t have any fun?
    • It’s true that disobeying God is easier than following Him. But then the consequences are easier to experience, too.
    • For one example, let’s consider the sin of sex outside of marriage. Let’s consider some of the consequences.
      • Those who engage in this practice treat one another as objects to fulfill our desires. They don’t treat each other as a valued human being.
      • Those who have multiple partners run a serious risk of catching a sexual disease. Some of the diseases can have lifelong consequences or even result in death.
      • With multiple partners, there is always the risk of jealousy, resulting in violence.
      • If one of the individuals is married, they are violating the marriage covenant, resulting in various consequences.
        • A broken marriage.
        • Children who are torn from their parents or develop negative feelings towards the offending party.
        • The financial burden of a broken marriage.
    • When two people engage in a marriage covenant and don’t violate it, they will not experience any of the consequences listed above.
    • When we consider this example, we see that sin has a consequence. When those consequences are “paid,” we clearly see that God’s commands, in this case, “don’t commit adultery,” is not a burden when we compare the cost in consequences.
    • This sheds understanding when Jesus said in Matthew 11:30 – For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.
  • John ends this passage of Scripture with two verses that can challenge and bring doubt to the minds of believers. This centers around the phrase, “has been born of God conquers the world.”
    • First off, until we get to heaven, every believer will struggle with sin and make mistakes, some more than others.
    • Because of the “sin struggle,” some believers may feel that they have not conquered the world and are, therefore, not a true Christian. However, this is a false understanding of what John is trying to say here.
    • First, we need to come to grips with what John means by “the world.”
      • John may be referring to the false teachings that say Jesus is not the Son of God and didn’t come in the flesh.
      • John may be referring to the temptations of the world; the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.
      • John may be referring to the threat of open hatred the world brings against followers of Christ.
    • Regardless of which one John was referring to, all are possible, and all are included in the final victory that has already been won.
      • We won it in a past tense understanding when we submitted to Jesus.
      • We win it in the present tense when we refuse to deny Him.
    • All who have been born again have overcome the world and can claim the victory.
    • In John 16:33, Jesus declares, “Be courageous! I have conquered the world.
    • Jesus’ victory has overcome evil and set us free from the power of Satan.
    • Our victory is based on faith.
      • When we place our faith in Jesus, nothing can separate us from the love of God.
        • Romans 8:37-39 – No, in all these things we are more than victorious through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that not even death or life, angels or rulers, things present or things to come, hostile powers, 39 height or depth, or any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!
        • 1 Corinthians 15:57 – But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!
      • The believer is victorious over the world because of their faith in Jesus.
    • When we understand what John is saying in these two verses, we should feel fear or discouragement when we struggle with sin. Instead, we should be encouraged because even though we do struggle with sin, Jesus has already won the victory for us.

Applications

  • Do an evaluation on yourself, or have a trusted family member or close friend who is a believer regarding the characteristics of a Christian.
    • Do you practice righteousness?
    • Do you avoid sin?
    • Do you extend love to your spiritual family?
    • Do you overcome the temptations of the world?
    • Do you guard yourself against Satan?
    • We will never be perfect in these areas, but we should be victorious more than we stumble.
  • Do you consider God’s commands a burden or an easy path? If you consider them a burden, reevaluate that area and consider the consequences of not following God’s instructions. On the surface, being obedient may seem like a burden, but when you consider the consequences being obedient is a much easier path.
  • Don’t become discouraged when you do stumble. Every believer will stumble at some point. There are several issues to consider when we sin.
    • Are you like the Gnostics and believe that sinning is ok since you’ve professed faith in Jesus? If you are in this camp, your understanding of saving faith is skewed, and you may not be a genuine follower of Jesus.
    • Does it become a habit where you become numb to your sin? This is dangerous and may lead you into falling away from the faith.
    • The opposite, excessively beating yourself up when you sin, is also dangerous. You may begin to believe that you aren’t really a Christian and fall away from the faith.
    • The healthy response is to confess your sin and move past it in victory immediately.

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