“Nothing is certain but death and taxes.” Benjamin Franklin wrote those words in 1789. Of course, a wise man like Franklin knew many other things are also certain. The Christian knows there are many certainties. Of spiritual truth, Christians are not afraid to say, “We know!” In fact, the word know occurs thirty-nine times in John’s brief letter, eight times in this closing chapter.
Man has a deep desire for certainty and he will even dabble in the occult in his effort to find out something for sure. A businessman having dinner with his pastor said to him, “Do you see those offices across the street? In them sit some of the most influential business leaders in this town. Many of them used to come over here regularly to consult a fortune-teller. She isn’t here anymore, but a few years ago you could count up the millions of dollars in this room as men waited to consult her.”
The life that is real is built on the divine certainties that are found in Jesus Christ. The world may accuse the Christian of being proud and dogmatic, but this does not keep him from saying, “I know!” In these closing verses of John’s letter, we find five Christian certainties on which we can build our lives with confidence.
JESUS IS GOD (1 John 5:6–10)
In 1 John 5:1–5, emphasis is placed on trusting Jesus Christ. A person who trusts Christ is born of God and is able to overcome the world. To believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God is basic to Christian experience.
But how do we know Jesus is God? Some of His contemporaries called Him a liar and a deceiver (Matt. 27:63). Others have suggested He was a religious fanatic, a madman, or perhaps a Jewish patriot who was sincere, but sadly mistaken. The people to whom John was writing were exposed to a popular false teaching that Jesus was merely a man on whom “the Christ” had come when Jesus was baptized. On the cross, “the Christ” left Jesus and so He died like any other human being. John refutes this false teaching and tells us Jesus is God.
People often say, “I wish I could have faith!” But everybody lives by faith! All day long, people trust one another. They trust the doctor and the pharmacist; they trust the cook in the restaurant; they even trust the person driving in the other lane on the highway. If we can trust men, why can we not trust God? To not trust God is to make Him a liar!
Jesus is God: this is the first Christian certainty and it is foundational to everything else.
BELIEVERS HAVE ETERNAL LIFE (1 John 5:11–13)
“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life” (1 Jn. 5:13).
Eternal life is a gift; it is not something we earn (Jn. 10:27–29; Eph. 2:8–9). This gift is a Person—Jesus Christ. We receive eternal life not only from Christ, but in Christ. “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 Jn. 5:12).
This gift is received by faith. God has gone on record in His Word as offering eternal life to those who will believe on Jesus Christ. Millions of Christians have proved that God’s record is true. To not believe it is to make God a liar and if God is a liar, nothing is certain.
God wants His children to know they belong to Him. John was inspired by the Spirit to write his Gospel to assure us that “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (Jn. 20:31). He wrote this epistle so we may be sure we are the children of God (1 Jn. 5:13).
It would be helpful at this point to review the characteristics of God’s children:
- “Everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him” (1 Jn. 2:29).
- “No one who is born of God practices sin” (1 Jn. 3:9).
- “We know we have passed from death to life because we love the brethren” (1 Jn. 3:14).
- “Let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” (1 Jn. 4:7).
- “Everyone born of God overcomes the world” (1 Jn. 5:4).
If you bear these “birthmarks,” you can say with confidence you are a child of God.
GOD ANSWERS PRAYER (1 John 5:14–15)
It is one thing to know Jesus is God and that we are God’s children, but what about the needs and problems of daily life? Jesus helped people when He was here on earth; does He still help them? Earthly fathers take care of their children; does the heavenly Father respond when His children call on Him?
Christians have confidence in prayer, just as they have confidence as they await the judgment (1 Jn. 2:28; 4:17). As we have seen the word confidence means “freedom of speech.” We can come to the Father freely and tell Him our needs.
Of course, there are conditions we must meet. First, we must have a heart that does not condemn us (1 Jn. 3:21–22). Unconfessed sin is a serious obstacle to answered prayer (Ps. 66:18). It is worth noting that differences between a Christian husband and his wife can hinder their prayers (1 Pet. 3:1–7). If there is anything between us and any other Christian, we must settle it (Matt. 5:23–25). Unless a believer is abiding in Christ, in love and obedience, his prayers will not be answered (Jn. 15:7).
Second, we must pray in God’s will. “Your will be done” (Matt. 6:10). Prayer is a mighty instrument, not for getting man’s will done in heaven, but for getting God’s will done on earth. Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance. It is laying hold of God’s willingness.
There are times when we can only pray, “Not my will, but Yours be done” because we simply do not know God’s will in a matter. But most of the time we can determine God’s will by reading the Word, listening to the Spirit (Rom. 8:26–27), and discerning the circumstances around us. Our very faith to ask God for something is often proof that He wants to give it (Heb. 11:1).
There are many promises in the Bible that we can claim in prayer. God has promised to supply our needs (Phil. 4:19)—not our greeds! If we are obeying His will and really need something, He will supply it in His way and in His time.
“But if it is God’s will for me to have a thing, then why should I pray about it?” Because prayer is the way God wants His children to get what they need. God not only ordains the end, but He also ordains the means to the end—prayer. The more you think about it the more wonderful this arrangement becomes. Prayer is really the thermometer of the spiritual life. God has ordained that I maintain a close walk with Him if I expect Him to meet my needs.
John does not write, “We might have the requests,” but, “We know we have the requests” (1 Jn. 5:15). The verb is present tense. We may not see the answer to a prayer immediately, but we have inner confidence that God has answered. This confidence, or faith, is “the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). It is God witnessing to us that He has heard and answered.
What breathing is to a physical man, prayer is to a spiritual man. If we do not pray, we will faint (“give up”) (Lk. 18:1). Prayer is not only the utterance of the lips; it is also the desire of the heart. “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thes. 5:17) does not mean that a Christian is always saying an audible prayer. We are not heard for our many words (Matt. 6:7). No, “Pray without ceasing” suggests the attitude of the heart as well as the words of the lips. A Christian who has his heart fixed on Christ and is trying to glorify Him is praying constantly even when he is not conscious of it.
Charles Spurgeon, the famous preacher, was working hard on a message, but was unable to complete it. It grew late and his wife said, “Why don’t you go to bed. I’ll wake you up early and you can finish your sermon in the morning.”
Spurgeon dozed off and in his sleep began to preach the sermon that was giving him so much trouble! His wife wrote down what he said and the next morning gave her preacher-husband the notes.
“Why, that’s exactly what I wanted to say!” exclaimed the surprised preacher. The message had been in his heart; it had simply needed expression. So it is with prayer: if we are abiding in Christ the very desires of our heart are heard by God whether we voice them or not.
The pages of the Bible and the pages of history are filled with reports of answered prayer. Prayer is not spiritual self-hypnosis; we do not pray because it makes us feel better. We pray because God has commanded us to pray and because prayer is the God-appointed means for a believer to receive what God wants to give him. Prayer keeps a Christian in the will of God and living in the will of God keeps a Christian in the place of blessing and service. We are not beggars; we are children coming to a wealthy Father who loves to give His children what they need.
While He was God in the flesh, Jesus depended on prayer. He lived on earth, as we must, in dependence on the Father. He arose early in the morning to pray (Mk. 1:35), though He had been up late the night before healing the multitudes. He sometimes spent all night in prayer (Lk. 6:12). In the Garden of Gethsemane, He prayed with “fervent cries and tears” (Heb. 5:7). On the cross, He prayed three times. If the sinless Son of God needed to pray, how much more do we?
The most important thing about prayer is the will of God. We must take time to ascertain what God’s will is in a matter, especially searching in the Bible for promises or principles that apply to our situation. Once we know the will of God, we can pray with confidence and then wait for Him to reveal the answer.
To be continued…