1 John: Christianity in Black & White, Part 12 :: By Dr. Donald Whitchard

1 John 5:1-5: “Three Tests of Authentic Christianity”

“Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:1-5).

As we began our study of this letter, it was noted that it had a different objective than in the Gospel account penned by John. He wrote his Gospel to show “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31). This letter was an affirmation that those who had given their lives to Christ were assured that they now had eternal life (5:13). He has mentioned the kinds of traits that are to show evidence that we who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ are truly His, and we now possess authentic fellowship with the Godhead (Trinity) (3:10). We are His, and no one can take that truth away (John 10:28-30; 15:15).

Now we turn our attention to examining these verses and see that they present to us three tests by which we can be certain that the eternal life we claim to have in Christ is truly authentic. We have first, the test of belief, specifically that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, otherwise known as the Anointed Deliverer sent by God to liberate us, not from a foreign conqueror, but of something far more tyrannical, and that was from our sins which, if not atoned for and forgiven, would lead us into eternal hell (Daniel 9:25; Matthew 11:3, 12:23, 16:16, 26:63; Mark 8:29, 14:61; Luke 2:11, 26, 4:41; 7:19, 9:20, 22:67, 24:21; John 1:41, 4:26, 6:14, 69, 7:41, 8:24, 28, 9:37, 11:27, 13:19, 20:31; Acts 2:36, 4:26, 9:20, 22, 17:3, 18:5, 28).

All throughout Scripture, God and His prophets told the people of Israel that they could not atone for their own sins because of their inherent unrighteousness. This is true even today for both Jew and Gentile. We are born into sin (Romans 3:10-18) and our character and motives are corrupt. It is only through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross for our sins which He took upon Himself as the spotless Lamb of God (John 1:29; 3:16), and our confession of faith in Him as Lord and Savior that we are free from the grip that sin held upon us and that would have led us into eternal hell (Matthew 25:41; Mark 9:43-48; Luke 16:19-31; Revelation 20:11-15).

The New Testament authors of the Gospels and the apostolic teachings and letters stressed the fact that Jesus Christ is the Son of God (Matthew 2:15, 3:17, 4:3, 6, 8:29, 11:27, 14:33, 17:5, 26:53, 26:63, 27:43, 54; Mark 1:1, 9:7, 14:62, 15:39; Luke 1:32, 35, 4:3, 9; 8:28; 22:70; John 1:34, 49, 3:18, 5:25, 9:35, 10:36, 11:4, 27, 17:1, 20:31; Acts 9:20; Romans 1:4; Galatians 2:20; Hebrews 10:29; Revelation 2:18).

John has stated in this letter the affirmation through his own testimony that Jesus Christ has also come in the flesh, an open rebuke against the false teachers who were saying that Jesus only appeared to be human, or if He were human, He had been given the “Christ” spirit that left Him when He died on the cross, thus denying His divinity. John had the authority of the Scriptures and eyewitness testimony (1 Corinthians 15:1-8; Matthew 1:1; Galatians 4:4; Philippians 2:8; 1 Timothy 2:5; Isaiah 7:14, 9:6, 11:1, 49:1; Luke 1:31, 2:7; John 1:14; Acts 2:30; Romans 1:3, 8:3; Philippians 2:7; 1 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 2:14; 1 John 4:2; 2 John 7).

Anyone who denied or doubted these proofs was not really one of the brethren and was considered apostate (Matthew 7:21-23; 2 Timothy 4:10; Hebrews 6:4-6; 1 John 2:19).

The outright denial of Christ makes one a liar and an antichrist (1 John 2:22), and any kind of fellowship is impossible (John 15:19, 17:16; 2 Corinthians 6:17; Ephesians 5:11; 1 John 2:22-23; 2 John 7-9). Real salvation is necessary for anyone to be a true “child of God”, and is necessary to overcome the world (1 John 5:1a, 4-5).

The second test of authentic belief according to John is to be loving towards one’s brethren in Christ. We need to look no further than our Lord Jesus Christ as is written in John’s own account (John 13:34-35, 15:12-14, 17). He has stressed this teaching all throughout this letter. Brotherly love is evidence of abiding in the light of Christ (1 John 2:10). It is evidence of being a true child of God (3:10), as well as that of passing from death into life (3:14). It is proof that one truly knows God and is born of Him (4:7-8). Brotherly love is a necessary corollary to loving God (5:1a); and as a result of this characteristic, we are able to keep His commandments (5:2).

The final test presented in these verses is that of obedience. First, it is an essential in having fellowship with God (1 John 1:6-7). It is an essential to knowing Jesus (2:3-4), to loving God (2:5), for abiding in Jesus (2:6), for being a true child of God (3:10) and for having prayers answered (3:22). For the aged apostle, living by these principles had come with a deep desire to be one with Christ and to be under His leadership and counsel. He wanted to be a good and faithful servant as were his fellow apostles, who had gone ahead of him and were now in the presence of Christ (Matthew 25:19-23; Luke 17:8; John 12:26; Romans 1:1, 14:18; 1 Corinthians 7:22; Galatians 1:10; Ephesians 6:6; Philippians 1:1; Colossians 3:24, 4:12; Titus 1:1; James 1:1;  2 Peter 1:1).

John never saw these commandments of the Lord Jesus as burdensome (5:3b). His attitude of the keeping of the LORD’S commandments was like that of King David, called a “man after God’s own heart” (Psalm 19:7-11). John concludes these verses by affirming that these tests in and of themselves are not difficult if we are living our lives according to what He has presented in His Word and are keeping our focus, not on the world and its fluctuations, but upon the Lord Jesus Christ and His assurance that He will return and make all things new.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus. Amen.