The Epistle of First John

Lesson Number 10


5:13These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God. 14Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him. 16If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that. 17All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death. 18We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him. 19We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one. 20And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. 21Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen. (1 John 5:13-21, NKJV)


The great heart of God is revealed throughout Scripture. Remembering that the Holy Spirit is really the Author of Scripture, it becomes apparent that God has an intense interest in our spiritual well being. Take, for example, this wonderful book of First John. It was written in order that we might have fellowship with the Father and the Son (1:3). It also was written in order that our joy might be brought to a full measure (1:4). Again, its stated objective is that we do not sin (2:1). And finally, it is written in order that we might know we have eternal life. While John the beloved himself intended that these objectives be met, his intentions were brought into being by the greater intention of Almighty God. These things are, in fact, what the Lord desires for us. More than that, they are what He is intent on us realizing. He therefore speaks of them, and assures our hearts they are all within our reach. They are no mere dream. Does that not testify to a great God, a loving God, and one of great compassion and interest?

Throughout this brief, but powerful, volume, the importance of spiritual knowledge is emphasized. The knowledge of reference is not heady, or merely intellectual. Rather, it is an inner knowledge that is related to confidence, assurance, boldness, and persuasion.

 The Prevalence of Knowing

  Using the King James Version as a base, the word "know" is mentioned twenty-seven times in this book (2:3,4,5,18,20,21,29; 3:2,514,15,19,24; 4:2,6,13; 5:2,13,15,17,19,20). "Knoweth" is used six times (2:11; 3:1,20; 4:6,7,8). "Known" is used five times (2:13,14; 3:6; 4:16). The NIV uses "know" thirty-three times, "known" five times, and "knows" three times.

  This is not second-hand knowledge, derived by mental disciplines and research. Such knowledge is, indeed, lawful, but it cannot produce confidence, assurance, or boldness in the presence of the Lord. One may very well know all there is to know about narcotics: how they are made, and what dreadful results they yield in those taking them. Yet, that knowledge cannot impart moral power to the individual. It cannot so strengthen the will, and fortify the resolve. In this sense of knowledge, there are precious few people who have fallen into sin who did not have a good degree of theoretical or speculative knowledge concerning their vice. It could not keep them from sin.

 There Are Higher Examples

  But there is no need for us to go to such paradigms to show the inferiority of philosophical language. We have the Old Covenant as a God-ordained example of the need for something more than information and human reasoning. In the Law, precise instruction was given. The details were remarkable, providing examples, explanation and other factors required for human reasoning. The outcome of obeying these ordinances was given, together with the penalties for violating them-and there was no ambiguity in either. Summarizing the emphasis of the Law, which comprised the words of the covenant, the Spirit declares, "for by the law is the knowledge of sin" (Rom 3:20).

 No Saving Power

  This "knowledge," however, possessed no saving qualities. That is why this particular expression is preceded by the words, "Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight," It is not the type of knowledge delineated in the book of First John. Nor, indeed, is it the kind chronicled in the New Covenant, i.e., "they shall all know Me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them" (Jer 31:34).

 The Scribes and Pharisees

  This valid, yet lower, form of knowledge can be mastered by men in the flesh-at least that appears to be the case. Just as king Agrippa was an "expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews" (Acts 26:3), so the Scribes and Pharisees were expert in the text and ordinances of the Law. For this reason, and this reason alone, Jesus said they sat "in Moses' seat" (Matt 23:2). Their expertise in the Law was so minute, that Jesus said, "All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do" (23:3). Yet, that knowledge was not sufficient to extricate the soul from sin. Thus, He continued, "but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers" (23:3-4). I have no doubt but that the Scribes and Pharisees would blend very well with the theological institutions of our day. They did not, however, have any real utility in the matter of salvation, nor were they suitable examples to be followed.

 Faith Reasons Differently

  Without belaboring the point, there is a higher form of knowledge. Its foundation is not reason, but faith-which is a higher form of rationale. Faith simply does not think after the manner of the flesh. It sees no inhibition in a man whose body is "as good as dead" and a woman whose womb is "barren," bringing a son into the world. It does not view a giant seasoned warrior as a formidable opponent, or great and high walls around a city as a serious obstacle. When confronting a great Sea, faith reasons you can pass through it on dry ground. It can trust in a God that can be neither seen nor touched with the senses. It finds no difficulty in believing an atonement has been accomplished that cannot be confirmed by a single piece of tangible evidence. Yet, faith reasons in such a manner as to propel the individual into the ways of the Lord, and that with great joy.

 Knowledge Based Upon Faith

  Our text speaks of this kind of knowledge-knowledge that is based upon believing God. Throughout this Epistle, the Spirit has affirmed the reality of both God and Christ. He has buttressed our faith by confirming Christ came into the world for a reason, and that the reason was accomplished. With great power, He has declared there are people who are born of God. They are the children of God, have access to God, and have been made superior to Satan and all of His devices. The only proof we have of these things is the testimony of God! But, that is all the confirmation faith requires-a word from God! Upon the basis of such a word, faith reasons, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (Phil 4:13).

  For this reason, knowledge is something to be added to faith (2 Pet 1:5). It does not cause faith to come, but rather is produced in the energy of faith. Men do not believe because they know the truth. Rather, they know the truth because they have believed. This arrangement demands that Divine affirmation be believed before the knowledge in question can be acquired. Jesus declared this when He said, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free"NKJV (John 8:31-32). "Abiding" is another view of believing or trusting, showing the impact of faith upon the individual possessing it.

 A Reaffirmation

  I must again affirm that this kind of knowledge-the knowledge that is founded upon faith-is the subject of this study. It is not academic, or impractical, knowledge. It is not the imagined knowledge of the philosopher, which is speculative-like a man groping in a dark and unfamiliar place. You can come to God on the basis of true knowledge. You can resist the devil in its power, and please the Lord in your life.

  If the realities the Spirit has affirmed are really believed, the benefits promised can be really known! The believer can have confidence they are possessed, and be assured of their reality and effectiveness. But the concentration must be placed on believing, not on knowing. When you believe "the record God has given of His Son," your heart is thereby prepared for the knowledge. That knowledge is then personalized to you.


  "13These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life."  The tender regard the Lord has for us is apparent in this expression. Here is a book that has been written to persuade those in Christ that they have eternal life. This is, then, something the Father desires for us. It also is something inherent in salvation-something Christ's atonement brings with it. We may also conclude the knowledge of eternal life is required for us to live triumphantly in this present evil world. It is axiomatic that God makes no provisions that are not practical and essential.

 Believing on the Name of the Son

  The language is strange to the legalist, for it is higher than he can reach. Believing on the name of the Son of God is being convinced in the heart that He is precisely the One declared by God. The Gospel, in its essence, is "the record God has given of His Son." The "name" of the Son of God is the Person declared in that "record," or testimony. In this instance, the word "name" does not denote an appellation or designation. It rather speaks of personage, celebrity, and reputation. It is WHO Jesus is and WHAT He has accomplished according to the will of God and in the behalf of the people. The individual believing on the name of the Son adheres to Him in that capacity, trusting wholly in Him for salvation in all of its varied aspects. The believer leans totally upon the Son for deliverance, guidance, tutelage, intercession, and strength.

 The Gospel of John

  In his Gospel, John had a similar objective. "But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name"  (John 20:31). It is thought by many John's Gospel was written to those who are not in Christ. There is, however, no Scriptural evidence to support this. It is more likely that it was written to fortify the faith of believers against the barrage of false teaching that was being leveled at them. That marvelous Gospel lifts high the Divinity and glory of Christ as a shining beacon in the midst of erroneous views of the Savior being perpetrated by men.

  I can tell you from experience that it requires considerable effort to extricate ones self from the restrictive notion that Christ's main attention is devoted to the lost. It is true that Jesus presented Himself as the Good Shepherd that left the ninety and nine sheep to seek and save the lost one (Luke 15:3-7). However, His primary residence was the sheepfold. And, when He found the lost sheep, that is where He returned. The shepherd did not live in the mountains. His primary identity is with the sheep.

 The Centrality of Believing

  The necessity of a strong faith, and of the knowledge we have eternal life, are central in spiritual life. The burden of the Apostolic writings is focused on producing these results. The awareness of this revolutionizes our approach to Scripture.

 A Few Examples

  As believers, we are told God's own righteousness will be imputed to us "If we believe  on Him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead" (Rom 4:24).

  Those in Christ are not addressed as though they were already in heaven. Rather, we are told we will be saved "If thou shalt . . . believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him (Christ) from the dead" (Rom 10:9-10).

  The matter of being joined together with those who have gone on to be with the Lord is also tied to believing. We are told God will bring those departed saints with Jesus, to be joined to us "if we believe that Jesus died and rose again" (1 Thess 4:14).

  In this very Epistle, not taking our faith for granted, the Spirit reminds us that God's commandment is "That we should believe on the name of the Son of God" (1 John 3:23).

  How is it that believing on the name of the Son of God is so rarely the subject of contemporary preaching, teaching, and writing? Why does it seem to be taken for granted that those who wear the name of Christ have reached the pinnacle of believing, and thus need to believe no more? Why have some demeaned believing by viewing it as a mere "step" in a series of responses culminating in initial salvation? Is it not true that every sensitive soul feels the need for stronger faith? Who is the trusting soul that sees no need for a more firm persuasion of the truth of Christ Jesus as declared in the Gospel?

  The Western church has, indeed, fallen upon hard times. In a massive departure from the faith, little effort is being devoted to maturing and stabilizing the faith of the saints of God. Churches are filled with spiritually immature people, and most everyone knows it. Strong confidence, rejoicing in hope, and stability of soul are admittedly scarce. Rarely will you hear a word addressed to those who "believe on the name of the Son of God," in order that they might "know" what they possess in Him. But this is the mind and manner of the Spirit, as made abundantly clear in the text before us.

 We Are Being Changed

  Those who "believe in the name of the Son of God" are in the process of being prepared for glory. They are being "conformed to the image" of God's Son (Rom 8:29), and being changed "from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of our God" (2 Cor 3:18). Jesus has finished His earthly work, but they have not finished their's. He has been glorified, but they have not. He is in heaven, but they remain in the world. It ought to be apparent that there is no room for indifference in them. That is why great volumes of teaching are directed to the saints-those who believe on the name of the Son of God. There remains in the best of us remnants of unbelief that must be expelled.

 Receiving A Greater Witness

  To "believe in the name of the Son of God" is to trust in Christ Jesus as He has been declared in the Gospel. It is to receive the greater "witness of God," and to shape our lives around Christ's Person and work. For some, this is not sufficient. They imagine that verbal commitment to Jesus is the highest and most notable achievement by men. But this is not the case, for commitment to Christ and labor for Him are dependent upon something else. They are the fruit, and not the tree. They both spring from faith, and the persuasion that we have eternal life!

 Paul's Testimony

  In explaining something of his own involvements with the Lord, Paul spoke of his own persuasion. "I know  whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day"NKJV  (1 Tim 1:15). Where such a conviction is lacking, living for Christ will become a burden, and salvation will be easily neglected. This accounts for the instability and vacillation of many professed believers.

  Knowing we "have eternal life" is more a necessity than a luxury. The Spirit did not move John to write in order that we might enjoy a sort of spiritual hors d'oeuvre. The nature of life in this world demands that we be certain about having eternal life. As is evident from our text, it is possible to have eternal life and not know, or realize, it. But this is not at all a favorable condition. Too, because of the warfare of faith, it is possible for such wonderful knowledge to diminish, and even disappear from our conscience. Therefore we must be brought to this knowledge, then have our comprehension of it fortified by Divine affirmation.

 Knowing That We Know Him

  Knowing that we have eternal life is knowing that we know Him. As it is written, "And hereby we do know that we know Him if we keep His commandments"  (1 John 2:3). He does not say "obey," but "keep," which is an inward matter-something accomplished in the heart. This can only be achieved by faith.

 Intuitive Knowledge

  This is what might be called a settled intuitive, or instinctive, knowledge. By intuitive, I mean a direct knowledge that is not based upon rational thought and inference. This does not mean there is no place for rational thought and inference. It rather emphasizes that they are confirming, not foundational, of what we instinctively have been brought to know. Such knowledge is more related to believing, resulting in confidence and assurance.

  Rationality, or the ability to reason, is involved, but at a much higher level. In spiritual life, faith is the fountain of saving knowledge, not natural reasoning.

  To put it another way, knowing we have eternal life is actually believing it more firmly, for faith is the root of true spiritual knowledge. Knowing we have eternal life is being persuaded, or convinced, that we possess it. There really is only one reason for believing, or knowing, we have eternal life-God has said so! Again, these clear affirmations are in order. "He who believes in the Son has everlasting life"  (John 3:36). "He who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life"   (John 5:24). " Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life" (John 6:47).  "Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life" (John 6:54).  "And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son" (1 John 5:11).

 Living In Persuasion

  Knowing we have eternal life involves living in a full persuasion of that reality. Such wonderful knowledge brings with it confidence and hope. It enables the soul to stand in trial, and wax strong in spiritual battle. It dissolves the power of delusion, and empowers us to run the race, casting off every weight and the sin that so easily besets us. How marvelous is this knowledge!

 It Cannot Be Proved In the Flesh

  What sort of external or fleshly evidence could any person assume to present to confirm they have eternal life? What form of human rationality can be brought forward that can bring us to such a conclusion? Such wonderful knowledge is acquired by believing what the Lord has declared-such as is provided in this Epistle.

  Religious sophists boast of the effects apologetics, archaeological finds, and tangible evidences have had upon their faith. But which of them will say that the dead sea scrolls have confirmed to them they have eternal life? Let the person step forward who has been convinced he has eternal life through an apologetic argument. Which archaeological discovery has persuaded men they have everlasting life, or are in fellowship with the Living God through Christ and by the Holy Spirit? The very notion is so utterly absurd there is no further need to deal with it. Even those ascribing inordinate value to such things will not say that they made them sure they possess eternal life.

 The Means of Knowing

  There are two means employed in this Epistle for the accomplishment of the intended knowledge-i.e., knowing we have eternal life.

 The Role and Power of Jesus

  First, the indispensable role of Jesus is powerfully declared. He is absolutely central in our salvation. Consequently, there is no point in spiritual life where He recedes into the background, is given second place, or is to be taken for granted.

 1 Jesus is "that eternal life" (1:2)

 2 He is "the Son of God" (1:3,7)

 3 He is "the Christ" (2:22; 5:1)

  4 The blood of Jesus Christ "cleanses us from all sin" (1:7).

  5 He is our "Advocate" with the Father (2:1).

 6 He is "the Righteous" (2:1)

  7 He is the "Propitiation for our sins" (2:2).

  8 We shall be "like Him" (3:2).

 9 He is "pure" (3:3).

  10 He was manifested "to take away our sins"(3:5).

  11 We "live through Him" (4:9).

  12 He is the "Savior of the world" (4:14).

 Evidence of Affiliation

  Secondly, the Spirit holds before us the evidence of our affiliation with Christ. This confirmation is essential.

 1 Keep His word (2:5)

  2 Loving the brethren (2:10).

 3 Doing the will of God (2:17).

  4 Acknowledging the Son.

  5 Doing righteousness (3:7).

 6 Keeping His commandments (2:23; 3:24).

 7 Loving in deed and in truth (3:18-19)

 8 When we discerningly hear the Word of the Apostles (4:6)

  9 Dwelling in love (4:16).

 10 Overcoming the world (5:4-5).

  11 Believing on the Son of God (5:10).

  You will notice that all of these are spiritual in nature. They are things that cannot be substantiated in the flesh. They can only be confirmed by faith. That condition does not diminish the power of the knowledge affirmed. Rather, it proves the knowledge to be superior.

  All of these are matters that can become clearer to us-and the more apparent they become, the more we will be convinced we "have eternal life."

 The Appointed Objective

  By saying we can know we have eternal life, the Spirit has revealed God's objective for us. From the standpoint of our activity, our focus is to "believe on the name of the son of God"-to embrace Him more fully, see Him more clearly, and hear Him more precisely. The result of that is knowing we have eternal life. While the objective of this Epistle involves knowing we "have eternal life," the Spirit does not simply restate this over and over. Rather, He makes strong appeals to our faith, grounding it in solid Divine statements.

  It is no wonder that such powerful affirmations are made by the spirit regarding the possession of eternal life. Although these have already been mentioned, they are worthy of reiteration. "He who believes in the Son has  everlasting life . . . he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has  everlasting life . . . Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has  everlasting life . . . Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life"NKJV (John 3:36; 5:24; 6:47,54).

 Death Cannot Terminate It

  Further, this life will not be broken by death, which knowledge causes confidence to spring up in the heart. "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die" (John 11:25-26). Eternal life is not interrupted by death. Knowing God and Christ through vital union and fellowship is not suspended in death. That is why it is written, "We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord" (2 Cor 5:8). But it is not enough to simply hear these words, they must be believed, else we will not know we have eternal life.

 The Reason for Defeat

  Many a soul has been conquered by the devil because they did not know they possessed eternal life. Some have been subjected to such distorted and confused preaching and teaching that such knowledge is nearly impossible. However, if we do not know we have eternal life, and if we do not realize we are being fitted for glory and the possession of an "eternal inheritance," there really is no reason for life. Religion thus becomes an encumbrance, and satisfaction is sought elsewhere. That is why people embrace religiuous folly.

 There Is Satisfaction to be Realized

  However, if we choose to come to Jesus, and receive what He has been appointed to give us, we will realize a joy and satisfaction the world can neither conceive nor give. That is precisely why Jesus said, "whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life" (John 4:14). Make it your aim to know you have eternal life-to be persuaded in your heart that you possess it! God has moved holy men to write so you can know this. It will produce joyous fruitage within you. Knowing you have eternal life is a matter of Kingdom priority. Much depends upon your possession of this knowledge. The extent of your fellowship with God, your joy, and your confidence depend upon this vital life-giving knowledge.


  "14And this is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him."

  It may appear as though John has suddenly changed the subject-but he has not. He will now show us the impact of knowing we have eternal life. This is nothing less than the fruit of faith, and it is precious. First and foremost, it produces confidence "before Him." Here is something that precious few have ever experienced-to stand before the Living God with assurance. Isaiah did not feel this way when he saw the Lord "high and lifted up"-at least not at first (Isa 6:5). Yet, this is the heritage of the people of God, to stand confidently before the Lord of glory.

  Those acquainted with the Lord know that He is able to keep us from falling, and present us joyfully confident before Him. As it is written, "Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, And to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy"NKJV (Jude 24). Yet, such marvelous confidence can begin now, while we remain in the body! Many, untaught in the ways of the Lord, are not aware of this wonderful benefit.


  When it comes to the matter of prayer, there are not many places where we are encouraged to believe "anything" we ask can be received. God once asked Solomon, "Ask! What shall I give you?"NKJV (1 Kgs 3:5). There was one whom Jesus asked, "What do you want Me to do for you?" (Matt 20:32). While yet among them, and in anticipation of His return to heaven, Jesus told His Apostles, "If you ask anything in My name, I will do it" (John 14:14).  Before Christ's enthronement at the right hand of God, such Divine commitments were rare, indeed. Our text, however, shows they have become common to those who live by faith.

  But our text puts the promise within our reach: "If we ask any thing according to His will, He heareth us: and if we know that He hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him."NKJV  It is imperative that we avoid taking a view of this wonderful text that dulls its meaning, or puts it far from our thinking. Once again, we are dealing with Divine affirmations-utterances that cannot be shaken, and upon which faith can rest.

 There Are Conditions

  There are two conditions attached to these statements. First, "If we ask any thing according to His will." Second, "if we know that He hear us." You must be convinced in your heart of the truth of these assertions. If the conditions are met, the promises will be realized! No person of sound spiritual mind can deny this.

 According to His Will

  God Himself operates in strict accordance with His will. As it is written, "He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth" (Dan 4:35). Further, that "will" is pleasing to God, being the expression of His own Person and purpose. Thus, the appointments associated with salvation are said to be "according to the good pleasure of His will" (Eph 1:5).

  That "will," while a "mystery" before Christ (Eph 1:9), can now be known by the saints of God. As it is written, "that ye might be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding" (Col 1:9). When, therefore, we consider asking according to the will of God, we are not referring to a sort of stabbing in the dark. Asking "according to His will" is a form of fellowship with God. It is, from one perspective, seeing what He is doing, and asking to be involved in the process.

 The Supreme Example

  Jesus is the supreme Example of asking according to the will of God. The Divine will was the environment in which Jesus operated. In fact, He confined Himself to that area. As He said, "I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things" (John 8:28). And again, "I speak that which I have seen with my Father" (John 8:38). And again, "The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise" (John 5:19). And again, "for I do always those things that please Him" (John 8:29).

  Knowing the will of God is more than intellectual acquaintance with that will. It encompasses being personally involved in that will, as was our blessed Lord: i.e., DOING the will of God (Matt 7:21; 12:50). Our Savior clearly declared this is what dominated everything He said and did. "My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work . . . I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me . . . For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me" (John 4:34; 5:30; 6:38).

 Asking Anything According to His Will

  Asking something according to the will of God, therefore, is the result of abiding in the will, doing it, and shaping our lives around it. It assumes a preoccupation with that will, and a hearty submission to it. A promise of the magnitude of the one we are considering, cannot be based upon some mere intellectual and casual acquaintance with the text of Scripture.

  And how is it that a mortal can ask "anything according to His will?" A large part of it is knowing we have eternal life-which is the point of this text. Such knowledge brings with it an acquaintance with the Lord-a understanding of His "ways" (Psa 103:7; Isa 2:3; Micah 4:2). Our familiarity with God, or lack thereof, shapes both the content and tone of our prayers. Our desires are also determined by the degree of our knowledge of God's ways. Remember, God's will is within the perimeter of His ways.

  Asking something according to God's will is desiring something He is pleased to give. It is seeking for things He has determined we are to have. It is reflecting His purpose in our prayer. It is no wonder we are taught to think within the framework of the will of God. "For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that" (James 4:15; 2 Sam 15:25,26; Acts 18:21; Rom 1:10; 15:32; 1 Cor 4:19).

  Our text says if that condition is met, "He hears us."NKJV This does not refer to a mere knowledge that we have said something. Hearing, in this instance, means focused hearing-that God pays special attention to what is being said. For example, when Israel murmured, "the Lord heard it," and "His anger was kindled" (Num 11:1). Too, when Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because "he had married an Ethiopian woman," "the Lord heard it" (Num 12:1-2). On the other hand, the Lord "heard" the cries of a believing poor man, and "saved him out of all his troubles" (Psa 34:6). The Lord, indeed, "heareth the poor, and despiseth not His prisoners" (Psa 69:33). In this sense, God "hears the prayer of the righteous" (Prov 15:29), because His ear is attentive to them (Psa 34:15; 1 Pet 3:12).

  Therefore, by saying "He heareth us," we are to understand our prayer is acknowledged by the Lord. He listens attentively to such prayers, devoting His attention to them. Such prayers are not uttered in vain, praise the Lord.

 Knowing He Hears Us

  But the matter does not end there. It is not enough that our prayers are heard, they will be granted! That is the promise of our text. "And if we know that He hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him." The Spirit is very precise in the statement of this reality. He does not say if the Lord hears us He will answer us. Rather, He focuses on our knowledge, or persuasion, that He has heard us: i.e., "If we know that He hear us." He will not allow us to drift into philosophical thought on this matter, but draws us back to the knowledge that springs from faith.

  Again, the example set before us is the Lord Jesus Himself. Hear Him as He speaks to the Father. "Father, I thank Thee that Thou hast heard Me. And I KNEW that Thou hearest Me always" (John 11:41-42).

 Confident Asking

  In Christ both Jews and Gentiles "have access by one Spirit unto the Father"  (Eph 2:18). Again, it is written, "By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand"  (Rom 5:2). The great dispensary of grace-"the throne of grace"- is open to all who are in Christ Jesus. What is more, the Savior who is seated upon that throne is able to be "touched with the feeling of our infirmities" (Heb 4:15). In view of this wonderful circumstance, we are urged to "come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need" (Heb 4:16).

  But we are not speaking of a mere formality. While relatively unknown among believers, it is possible to pray confidently-within the will of God, and with a sense of expectancy. Thus, it is written, "we have boldness and access with confidence  through faith in Him"NKJV (Eph 3:12).  If, therefore, we are not able to come boldly, or we lack confidence, it is NOT because there is no provision in Christ for such things.

  Behind this wonderful promise is the assumption that believing on the name of the Son of God moves us into the heart of God's will. It will not allow us to seek our own selfish will, but joyfully involves us in the purpose of God. Faith will never take us outside of the will of God. Only unbelief can do that. Further, faith will always push us toward the center of God's good will and eternal purpose, never placing us at variance with the good and acceptable, and perfect will of God. While this ought to be apparent to all of us, contemporary religion has made it exceedingly difficult to maintain this awareness. Such vain religion tends to lull men into "the sleep of death" (Psa 13:3), so they become insensitive to the Word of God. Thus enslavement to sin becomes inevitable.

The Spirit will now provide us a concrete example of this truth-namely, that God hears and grants the petitions that are pleasing in His sight. As you might expect, the example will prove challenging to us. He will not set some simplistic matter before us, but will speak of things that are lofty and require a strong and unwavering faith. Rest assured, what is said is within your reach, else the Spirit would not have moved John to affirm it.


  "16If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that. 17All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death."

A Remarkable Text!

  That this is an remarkable text cannot be denied. It is so remarkable, that many believers have never heard a single word said concerning it. Others are not even aware it is in the Word of God. The text is powerful in every version of Scripture. Allow me to give you a few of them. "If any one sees his brother committing what is not a mortal sin, he will ask, and God will give him life for those whose sin is not mortal."RSV "If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death."NASB "If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life."NIV "If a man sees his brother doing a sin which is not bad enough for death, let him make a prayer to God, and God will give life to him whose sin was not bad enough for death."Basic Bible English "If you see a Christian brother or sister sinning in a way that does not lead to death, you should pray, and God will give that person life."New Living Translation "If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that is not a deadly sin, he has only to pray, and God will give life to this brother."New Jerusalem Bible

Here, then, is an example of receiving what is asked-and a notable example it is. Further, it represents something of great concern to all believers. In it we also see the believer working together with God. Additionally, the importance of being retrieved from sin is seen, and the essentiality of spiritual life.

  The immediate reaction of some to this text is to identify what it does NOT mean. Thus some, supposing to add strength to the text, emphasize that this does not negate the human will, i.e., the will of the transgressor. Whatever truth there may be in that observation, it is not the focus of this text. Nor, indeed, is there the slightest hint that it should be a dominating consideration in our embrace of the text.

 Seeing A Brother Sin

  First, the text confirms a mutual interest of the brethren in one another: "If anyone sees his brother sinning." This is not a look-for-a-fault gaze, but one that has a mind to the safe arrival of brethren in glory. Seeing a brother sin is something that saddens the heart, and awakens profound spiritual concern. In this case, the one beholding the sin does not run to the offender and point out the error of his way.

  Among those with whom I have walked, I have rarely heard this text emphasized. Because there is a marked tendency toward legalism, the emphasis has largely been placed on confrontation and possible expulsion from the assembly. Indeed, those responses are addressed in the Scriptures, and are not to be despised (Matt 18:15-18; 1 Cor 5:4-5; Gal 6:1). However, remember the Spirit has been emphasizing the love of the brethren in this text. He therefore sets before us a primary means through which this love is expressed.

 Sinning Unto Death

  "16If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death . . . There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it."  Immediately the Spirit informs us that all sin is not alike. There is a sin that is "unto death," or leads to death. Such a transgression mandates the death of the one committing it, and no prayer can avert that decease. As affirmed later in this verse, "There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that." At once we see the seriousness of isn, and the necessity of a distance between ourselves and iniquity. There is a sin that renders prayer for the individual pointless, for a line has been crossed, and death is the sure result.

  The Spirit does not precisely define this sin so that it may be catalogued, and thus avoided by mere routine. Nor, does He guarantee that such a sin will be apparent to us. He merely states that we should not expect our prayers to be guaranteed of effectiveness in all cases. There are some cases that cannot be helped.

 Some Examples of Sinning Unto Death

  THE FLOOD. We do have some examples in Scripture of sins that led to death. They are sobering when considered, and should instill within us a certain fear of living in a haphazard manner. A large example of such sin can be found in the days of Noah. In that case, sin was so gross, and of such magnitude, that the demise of the entire world came to pass. It was the sin of the people that lead to their death, which was the consequence of their transgression (Gen Gen 6:5-7). Once the decree of death was issued, there was no possibility that it could be reversed.

  ER AND ONAN. Er was Judah's firstborn son. The Scripture tells us "he was wicked in the sight of the Lord." The exact nature of his wickedness is not specified, but the result of it is. It was sin leading to death, for it is written, "and the Lord slew him" (Gen 38:7). According to the Law, Judah told Onan to go in to his brother's wife, in order that she might have seed. When he refused to do consumate this deed it is written, "the thing which he did displeased the LORD; therefore He killed him also" (Gen 38:9-10). His sin led to his death.

  JUDAS. The dreadful sin of Judas necessarily led to his own death. Of him it is written, "from which (the Apostleship) Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place" (Acts 1:25). The very phraseology of the text strikes fear into lethargic hearts. There is a place reserved for those committing such transgressions-and it is not in heaven. Further, their sin leads to their death of both body and soul.

  ANANIAS AND SAPPHIRA. On the surface, the sin of Ananias and Sapphira may not appear to be worthy of death-but that is only according to appearance. No exhortation was given to them to repent. They chose to lie to the Holy Spirit and to God, and that led to their death (Acts 5:5-11). No prayer was made for them, and no attempt made to recover them.

  SOME AT CORINTH. The church at Corinth came behind in no "gift," but they were dreadfully behind in the matter of spiritual maturity (1 Cor 1:7; 3:1-4). Of particular note is their conduct at the Lord's table. They were so dishonoring of the Lord, that some of them died because of it. It is written, "For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves. For this reason many of you are weak and ill, and some have died"NRSV (1 Cor 11:29-30).

  THE ULTIMATE SIN. There is also the matter of a sin that leads to ultimate condemnation-a sin from which recovery is not possible. In this case, spiritual life cannot be conferred upon the transgressing one under any circumstances. The identity of this sin is general. "But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin"NIV (Mk 3:29). Again, Jesus said, "Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come" (Matt 12:32). This sin cannot be the rejection of Christ, as some suppose, for that can be forgiven upon repentance and faith. At precisely what point this sin occurs, we do not know. But once it occurs, prayer is of no avail for the person. The sin has led to ultimate death.

  Thus the Spirit informs us our prayers are not omnipotent. There are people who cannot be helped by them. That is, however, an exception, and not the rule. He will now tell us what the confident prayer of a righteous man can do.

 Beyond the Point of Prayer

  There are some whose sin has carried them beyond the point of prayer. Such are in a place where intercession by the most holy individual is of no avail. The Lord does not speak often of such people, nor with lengthy discourses. He does, however, say enough so we can be aware of where sin can lead a person or a people.

  On one occasion, God said to Jeremiah, "Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up cry nor prayer for them, neither make intercession to me: for I will not hear thee"  (Jer 7:16). Again He said, "Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up a cry or prayer for them: for I will not hear them in the time that they cry unto me for their trouble" (11:14).  And again, "Then said the LORD unto me, Pray not for this people for their good" (14:11).  Emphasizing the dreadful condition in which Israel had descended, the Lord added, "Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind could not be toward this people: cast them out of my sight, and let them go forth" (Jer 15:1). To Ezekiel, the Lord said of wayward Israel, "Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord GOD" (Ezek 14:14). Again, "Though Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, as I live, saith the Lord GOD, they shall deliver neither son nor daughter; they shall but deliver their own souls by their righteousness" (Ezek 14:20).

  In my judgment, the average professing Christian needs more discernment in these two areas: the seriousness of sin, and the power of prayer. Our text expands the horizon of both subjects. Let none imagine they can trifle with sin! Nor, indeed, let any sensitive soul delay praying for those who are sinning!

 Asking for the Sinning Brother

  "16If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death."  Here is a marvelous promise! A brother in retrogressive motion, falling backward, as it were, by personal sin, can be rescued from that fall by the prayer of a kindred believer. At once we see that sin begins to remove spiritual life from us, so that it must be restored. Further, the sinning brother may be so dull of heart and conscience that he is completely insensitive to his need. He also may not readily hear exhortation or rebuke. But that is not the end of the matter! God will give the brother life for our sake! Hallelujah!

  I have declared this to be a virtually untapped resource of spiritual power. Rarely is such a recourse found among professed believers. But that is not a necessary condition, and can be remedied by faith. The Lord was merciful to Job's condemning friends when Job prayed for them (Job 42:8-10). God, you will remember, spared Israel because of Moses' prayer (Ex 32:9-14). The curse brought upon Miriam because of her disdain for her brother Moses, was reversed by his prayer (Num 12:1-14). Israel was also spared because of the effectual prayers of Samuel (1 Sam 12:19-23).

  In my judgment, the contemporary church has so diverted the attention of the people from Divine fellowship, that the thought expressed in this text can scarcely enter their minds. An institutional mind set does not think after this manner. Faith, however, will bring you to the point where you can not only "see" a brother sin, but "ask" in his behalf.

 He Shall Give Him Life

  " . . . he (the one seeing the brother sin) shall ask and God will for him (because of the one doing the asking) give life to those who commit sin not leading to death."NASB I have already mentioned people who were blessed because of the faith and prayer of another. Now our text makes the matter personal. Because of the individual praying, the one needing recovery will be given life!

  Remember, this is the Spirit's exposition of verses 14-15. "If we ask any thing according to His will, He heareth us: And if we know that He hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him."

 Life Is Needed

  Among other things, we see from this text that sin directly impacts upon spiritual life. Whatever the doctrines of men may conclude about believers, or brethren, sinning, we must pay strict heed to this text. It tells us such people need "life"-life from God! The gravity of the situation is confirmed by the total absence in Scripture of any hope for those who are dead toward God. Sin, like a gigantic grave, causes men to be swallowed by death. As soon as a person in Christ begins to sin, they begin to die. The life of God cannot be sustained while the individual is sinning.

 The Impotence of the Sinner

  There also comes a point where the sinning "brother" is impotent to pray for himself. If he is going to be helped, it will be by the prayers of the godly. Sin dulls the conscience, weakens the soul, and causes the person to think only of himself and this world. I do not believe this is generally known, for sin is altogether too rampant in the professed church. It has absorbed too many of the world's manners.

 He WILL ask

  The phraseology of the passage is salient. He does not say the person seeing his brother sin OUGHT to ask, but that he "WILL ask." Further, the issue is not WHAT he will ask, he "will ask" for LIFE, which will be given. The prayer will also be focused, and not like an aimless cloud floating about in the heavens-it is for a specific sinning brother. It is as though he were prompted to do so by the Spirit-moved along in the heavenly places to work together with God. The prayer is more instinctive, or intuitive, than intentional. By that, I mean the pray is a result of walking with God, dwelling in heavenly places, and living by faith. It is a product of New Covenant life.

  Who can estimate the joy produced by such an answered prayer-by life being given to a sinning brother! In such a prayer the two cardinal points of First John are lived out. (1) Believing on the name of the Lord Jesus, and (2) Loving the brethren.

  JAMES' EXAMPLE. James provides us with an example of this kind of prayer. He refers to it as "the prayer of faith." It is my understanding that this is the kind of prayer being addressed by our text. It is one prayed in confidence, and within the will of God. It cannot be prayed mechanically, or without the involvement of the heart. Further, it is prompted by faith. Of this type of prayer, James writes, "and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him"NASB (James 5:16) There life is given because of the prayer of another. The ailing believer was raised from his sickness, and his sins were forgiven. That is life. It would be well for those in Christ Jesus to ponder this text often.

  Later in this same passage, James says much the same thing as is stated in our text. "Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins"NKJV (James 5:19-20). As in our First John text, the effective return of an erring one is traced to a single individual, not to group prayers: i.e.,"any man . . . someone." How appropriate and challenging are the words preceding the James' text cited above. The whole passage is a fitting commentary on the text we are considering. "The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit. Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins"NKJV (James 5:15b-20). What a marvelous stimulus to faith! May you explore the possibilities here declared.

 All Unrighteousness Is Sin

  "17All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death."  The recovery from sin thus described is not intended to diminish the heinousness of sin to us. Sin is to be hated, and its consequences to be feared. Although there is some sin that can be resolved, and other sin which cannot, still all sin has the same essential character. It is "unrighteousness." This word- "unrighteousness"-means wrongfulness. It is wrong because it does not square with the Law of God or the character of God, which is reflected in the Law. "Unrighteousness" is conduct that is unlike that of God Himself. Let it be clear in your mind: anything that is unlike God, or that conflicts with His holy Law, is sin.

  Lest all hope be dashed to the ground, and yet compelling us to take a most serious view of sin, the Spirit adds, "and there is a sin not  unto death."  here is a sin from which recovery is possible. There is a sin for which the prayers of the faithful avail. Which sin is it? We do well to hope and pray it is the one we have committed!

  Notice, the Holy Spirit carefully guards against us developing a casual attitude about sin. He does not say "MOST sin is not unto death," but "there is A sin that is not unto death." Neither, indeed, does He say "ALL sin is not unto death," but "there is A sin that is not unto death." No person believing this word can feel comfortable in sin of any measure-not if their heart is sensitive. Too, there is a ray of hope held out for the person walking in the light, that his prayer may be the means of recovery. How blessed ponder this truth.

  Adding to the sobriety of this text is the affirmation that attends the announcement of the effectiveness of the Gospel of Christ. "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness"NKJV (Rom 1:18).The worst possible view of the character of sin must be embraced by the believer-"unrighteousness." Here is something that is done that, by its very nature, incurred the wrath of God. "But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile" (Rom 2:8-9).

  Thus, the Spirit has sensitized our hearts to the absolute seriousness of sin, and to the relevance of prayers for those whose sin does not lead to inevitable death. He has so directed our thinking as to discourage minimizing the enormity of sin or exaggerating the effectiveness of prayer. A sinning brother is always serious, and must never be viewed as ordinary or acceptable in any way. On the other hand, our prayers, while infinitely more effective than men are prone to think, are always subject to the will of God. There are some matters that cannot be resolved by prayer. However, bless God, there are cases that can be effectively changed by the prayers of righteous people. Such prayers require discernment (see a brother sin), and asking according to the will of God. Both of these are the result of a strong faith. They are part of the heritage belonging to those who believe on Christ, and are to be pursued with zeal.


  "18We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him."  This is a restatement of a most marvelous truth, and an enhancement of it as well. Earlier we read, "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God" (3:9). The "new man" is the matter in reference, not the total human personality (which is comprised of both the "old" and "new" men (Eph 4:22-24; Col 3:9-10). There is a "another law" in our members that wars against the law of our mind (Rom 7:23). But it is not part of, nor does it reside in, the "new man," or what is "born of God." It is true that "evil is present" with us (Rom 7:21). But it is not resident in the "Divine nature," of which we are made partakers (2 Pet 1:4). The part of you that is "in Christ" has no evil in it, and thus "cannot sin."

Those who insist on translating these verses (3:9; 4:18) "go on sinningNIV," or "sin habitually," or "does not have the habit of sin"Robertson, have done us no favor. They argue from the strength of the language tense (Linear present active indicative). But their argument is weak. The word for "commit" (3:9) is  poiei/ (poi-e-i),  and is used thirty-two times in Scriptures. It does mean continual, or "from now on." The notion of "habit" is not, however, resident in the word as used by the Spirit. The idea is that of the introduction of a new life, that makes no allowance for sin-not even a single sin.

  "Whoever is born of God" is the "new creation" (2 Cor 5:17). It is the part of us that is "one spirit" with the Lord (1 Cor 6:17). It is the "new man" that is to be "put on" (Eph 4:24), and the "Divine nature" of which we are made partakers (2 Pet 1:4). That part of us "does not sin"NKJV, else it would differ nothing from the flesh. What value is there in the new nature, if it also sins? If "Christ in you" can sin-even a single time-what have we gained by being in Christ and He in us?

 Jesus Explains

  The doctrine is best explained by the words of our Lord. "Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree CANNOT bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit"  (Matt 7:17-18). Will theological sophists read this to mean a good tree can occasionally produce bad fruit? Or that the good tree produces mostly good fruit? It may interest you to know that precisely the same original words are used in the Matthew text as in First John 3:9 (i.e., "cannot bring forth"). The nature of the "good tree" forbids the production of bad fruit. So the nature of "whoever is born of God" forbids the expression of sin.

 Walking in the Spirit

  This same truth is taught elsewhere-namely that what is born of God does NOT commit sin. "I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you SHALL NOT fulfill the lust of the flesh"NKJV (Gal 5:17). Fulfilling the lust of the flesh is but another view of sinning. Are there any who care to affirm this means we will generally not fulfill the lust of the flesh, but occasionally may commit sin? Who will say that one can, in fact, "walk in the Spirit," and yet commit sin? Sin is always the result of walking in the flesh, and never occurs when we walk in the Spirit. You simply cannot walk in the Spirit and sin.

  This is powerfully confirmed by James. "But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death" (James 1:14-15). And, who is the fool who will affirm that the new nature desires to sin, or has lusts that lead to death? If such were the case, the "new creation" would not be new at all, but only a replication of the condemned old nature.

  The believer is actually cast upon the horns of a dilemma. Within him are two competing natures, with two differing sets of desires and capabilities. They are the "flesh" and the "Spirit," the "new man" and the "old man," the "law of the spirit of life" and the "law of sin and death." There are unalterable laws associated with these two natures- things that cannot be controverted. "For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live"NKJV (Rom 8:13).

  Our text is confirming to our hearts the absolute surety and safety of walking in the Spirit and putting on the new man. While none of us can boast of being perfect in this area, all of us can truthfully say any transgression found in us is traced back to the "old man," and never to the "new man."

 The Reason for the Circumstance

 He Keeps Himself

  The Spirit fortifies the statement with strong reasoning. The reason whoever is born of God sins not is traced to the nature of the new life: "he who has been born of God keeps himself. The new creation is intrinsically alert and sensitive. We should not be surprised at this, for it is written, "And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace" (John 1:18). In Christ Jesus, there is a very real participation in the Divine nature.

  Being born of God, and possessing the nature of God, the "new man" has no attraction to sin or the things of the world. It is suited for glory and not for this this world. The one who "keeps himself," will NOT follow a stranger (John 10:5).

  One might wonder why such a statement is made after we have been told to pray for a brother we see sinning. Are these not contradictory thoughts? i.e., a brother sinning, and whatever is born of God NOT sinning, but "keeping himself?"Not at all, for we have before seen that there is more to us than what is "born of God." The remnants of sin remain in us, and must be subdued in the power of the Spirit. If we choose to live in the Spirit, we will be successful in subduing the flesh, or mortifying our members upon the earth (Col 3:5). That success, however, will be strictly determined by the degree to which we "walk in the Spirit."

  For clarity, our text is NOT saying the Christian cannot sin because he keeps himself. It is not the believer who cannot sin, but rather keeps himself. Carefully the Spirit declares it is "whoever is born of God" that does not sin because he keeps himself. That is the "newness of life" in which you have been raised to walk (Rom 6:4). It is what is transferrable to glory.

 The Wicked One Does Not Touch Him

  " . . . and the wicked one does not touch him." There is a part of you to which the devil has no access-a part he cannot take hold of. If this were not the case, it would not be possible to "not make room for the devil"NRSV (Eph 4:27).

  This text does not mean Satan does not stir up trouble for the saints, or that he cannot affect our earthly nature. Paul spoke of firm resolves he had made that were aborted because "Satan hindered" him (1 Thess 2:18). He testified of a grievous thorn he bore that was a "messenger of Satan" (1 Cor 12:7). But these do not violate our text, for they were all experiences in the body, not in the spirit.

  The word "touch" does not mean a mere superficial or outward touch-although our text is true even in that sense. It means to take hold of or harm. In other words, Satan cannot have his way with "whoever is born" of God, because he has no access to him. There is nothing in the new creation that Satan can take hold of, or to which he can make an appeal. That new nature is suited for heaven, and has no affinity whatsoever with "this present evil world." Thus the devil cannot bring the new creation-"whoever is born of God"-into his power.

  Jesus also referred to this glorious condition. "If anyone walks in the day, he DOES NOT stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if one walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him" (John 11:9-10). Our Lord does not mean that such a person only stumbles occasionally, or that stumbling is not habitual. He means precisely what He says. There is nothing about the light that is conducive to stumbling! In our text, there is nothing about "whoever is born of God" that is inclined to, or can, sin. Nor, indeed, is there anything about the "new man" that is vulnerable to the enemy of our souls.

 The Reason for the Statement

  Our text brings great consolation to the believer. It confirms to the heart the superiority of Divine life, and the guarantee of its influence if we will walk in its power. You will never instill confidence in the people of God by telling them they will only sin occasionally, or that the "newness of life" they have received does not sin habitually. All of that nonsense may have an show of wisdom in the area of linguistics, but it is impotent in the matter of living unto God. The people of God do not need studies in language, but Divine affirmations their faith can grasp.

  You have been given a new nature that is throughly acceptable to God. It is a nature with which the Holy Spirit can dwell, and to which He can witness. It is a nature that is not prone to sin, and to which Satan has no access. That is something you can believe! Launch out upon the truth of this and see if it is not true. We all know very well what the flesh, or "old man," is capable of doing. It is time for us to learn more of the marvelous nature and capacity of the "new man." There is an area to be explored with expectation.


  "19We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one. This is New Covenant language: "We know." In Christ we have been brought into the realm of surety. Here, where the truth is known, we have been "made free." No longer are we characterized by the ignorance that dominated us when we were "dead in trespasses and sins." The faith has brought us out of the philosophical and speculative pits, bringing us to a realm of clarity and assurance. At least twenty four times the Holy Spirit, speaking for the children of God, says "WE KNOW."  Not "We think," or "We have this opinion," but "WE KNOW." This is the language of the redeemed! These are things we know.

When, therefore, our text says  "We know we are of God," it speaks in perfect harmony with the very nature of spiritual life. This is not a new aspect of the Kingdom of God. Let us have done with a vacillating form of religion that leaves the people uncertain of everything, groping in the dark for answers, and never in possession of confidence! There are some matters in which opinion is not only worthless, but is like a robber that plunders the soul. In an academic world, men are anxious to hear the opinions of another on matters. But in Christ, we have received "the love of the truth," and attach no value whatsoever to human opinion.

We Are of God

  To be "of God" equates to being "born of God." Some more contemporary versions render the text, "We know that we are God's children"NRSV, and "We know that we are children of God"NIV. This is a wonderful bit of knowledge to possess, and appears to be as rare as it is wondrous.

  Confidence that we are the sons of God is not a spiritual luxury. Our Lord's first recorded temptation involved challenging that He was the Son of God Matt 4:3,6). And, when He was upon the cross that point was once again challenged (Matt 27:40). Since "the servant is not greater than his Lord" (John 13:16; 15:20), we should expect Satan to make every effort to convince us we are not the children of God. Even though the professed church does not appear to know it, our adversary knows that when we are not confident of our relation to God, we are more vulnerable to his devices.

  Earlier in this Epistle, the Spirit spoke of knowing we are of God in different language. "My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him" (3:19-20). That assurance, or spiritual knowledge that we are "of God," has an incalculable effect on the way we live. It changes the way we read the Scriptures. It impacts upon what we pray for, and how we pray for it. Hope thrives in the midst of such knowledge, enabling the believer to triumph over the most difficult circumstances.

  Do you know you are "of God?" Do you know that you are "born of God?" The salvation of God provides for such knowledge. It is not a luxury, but is the norm of the Kingdom. This is involved in "they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them" (Jer 31:34; Heb 8:11). In this knowledge, you can face the most fierce assaults of the devil, and gain the victory.

 The World and the Wicked One

  The knowledge we gain in Christ is extensive. Not only do we know we are "of God," we know "the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one"NKJV. In saying "in wickedness," the KJV emphasizes the effects of Satan's influence. The other versions, which are technically more accurate, emphasize the source of the wickedness in the world. "The whole world is under the control of the evil one."NIV "The whole world lies in the power of the evil one."NASB, NRSV

  Those outside of Christ are limited to the world, and are therefore under Satan's control. He is unquestionably "the god of this world" and "the prince of this world" (2 Cor 4:4; John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). You may recall when the devil tempted Jesus, he made reference to his dominion in this world. "Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, "All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish"NKJV (Lk 4:5-6). Our Lord did not object to Satan's boast, knowing that this world had, in fact been given to the old serpent.

  Because the entire world order has been rejected, Satan has been given control over it. As soon as a person becomes a friend of the world, he forges an alliance with Satan, and thus becomes the enemy of God (James 4:4). For this reason it was stated earlier, "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world" (1 John 2:15-16). Those who live according to the flesh are under Satan's control, for they are confined to this world. Further, if one is not "of God," it is utterly impossible to live in any other way.

  One of the great tragedies of our time is the absence of this knowledge in the professed church. The growing prevalence of worldly manners in the church confirms this truth is little known. Make no mistake about this. When professed believers go to the world for wisdom, it will come from the devil who controls the world. Whether it is economics, social relationships, institution building, or how to influence people, those who borrow from the world receive from Satan. For the believer, the only lasting knowledge is found in Christ Jesus. As it is written, "Christ, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Col 2:3). If men want to obtain lasting wisdom and knowledge, it must be appropriated through Jesus Christ. It is all "hidden" in Him, so that it cannot be obtained by the disinterested or the unconverted.

  Whatever is received from the world must be held tenuously and not trusted. Our quest is for "every good gift and every perfect gift" that "is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning" (James 1:17). These gifts equip us to "use this world" and "not abuse it, for the fashion of this world passeth away" (1 Cor 7:31). Our knowledge that "the whole world lies in the power of the evil one" assists us in conducting our lives in harmony with the good and acceptable and perfect will of God (Rom 12:2).

  It is necessary to confirm the truth of this statement to our hearts. Here is a perspective of the whole of humanity outside of Christ. Everyone that is not "born of God," regardless of their culture and seeming goodness, is under the dominion of Satan.

  The Spirit strongly affirms this to be the case. The affirmation is made in strong and impressive words. "Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others" (Eph 2:2-3). Again it written, "But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness" (Rom 6:17-20). And again, "For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another" (Tit 3:3). These by no means exhaust the references to our condition apart from Christ. However, they will suffice to buttress the statement that "the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one."NKJV

  If anyone still questions the reality of the truth declared, ponder the statements of these few texts. These clearly affirm the universality of sin and dominion to Satan, with not a solitary exception, saving the Lord Jesus Christ.

  This is not the way some of us were, as though it represented only a portion of our race. This is the way we ALL were. We were ALL of the world, and consequently we were ALL under the dominion of Satan. How true, therefore it is: "the whole world is under the control of the evil one."NIV Those who know they are of God, also know this to be the case.


  "20And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life."  Here again is something KNOWN by the household of faith. It is an area of general knowledge, and will be known if we believe on the name of the son of God and love the brethren. It should be apparent to all that the coming of Jesus Christ initially, and in the life of faith, is pivotal in Scripture. Here is where our faith can be strengthened, and our hope made more firm. Already we have been reminded Jesus was sent into the world that "we might live through Him" (4:9). He was also sent into the world to be "the propitiation for our sins" (4:10), and to be "the Savior of the world." He was "manifested to take away our sins" (3:5), and to "destroy the works of the devil" (3:8). But there is even more!

Christ Jesus has a present ministry-one that is being executed in our behalf. He is, for example, our "Advocate with the Father" (2:1). Presently, because He is alive for ever more, His blood "cleanses us from all sin" (1:7,9). This verse deals with the present ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is based upon the accomplishments of His atoning death and destruction of the works of the devil-but it is going on right now.

 The Son of God IS Come

  Other versions read "the Son of God has come." The reference is not to Christ's earthly ministry and atoning death, as in previous references to His coming. This is a reference to what He is presently doing. The idea of the words "has come" is HE IS HERE NOW-WITH US. That is why I prefer the words "IS come." In salvation, Christ takes up residency in the believer. It is, after all, "Christ IN you" which is "the hope of glory" (Col 1:27). This indwelling is not a luxury, but is critical to our acceptance by God. In order for His indwelling to be permanent and effective, we are "strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man (in order) that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith" (Eph 3:16-17. The results of Christ dwelling with us confirms its indispensability.

 When our text says  "the Son of God is come," it is referring to this essential indwelling: i.e., He has come to dwell within us. This is the personal aspect of our salvation-the participatory part. The Spirit will now elaborate on why the Son of God IS come, and is resident within us.

He Has Given Us An Understanding

  Jesus has come to make us spiritually intelligent-to make us knowledgeable according to the Spirit. This is a knowledge that yields certainty to the believer, giving him confidence to traffic in heavenly realms. It is a knowledge that can only be given by Jesus. It cannot be attained through human disciple, or with natural resources. It is as high above us as the heavens are above the earth (Isa 55:9).

 The Inadequacy of Natural Knowledge

  This circumstance-Jesus coming to give us an understanding-confirms the inadequacy of natural knowledge. It is not that God gave us His Word, and we figure it all out with our minds. I realize some entertain this view, but it is still wrong. We need a Teacher-a heavenly Teacher! Some one must come and "give us an understanding." If this were not the case, Jesus would not have come to "give us an understanding." It is still true, "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Cor 2:14). This is confirmed by the failure of the world's religious "princes" to recognize the Lord of glory. Even though they were disciplined students of Scripture, when confronted with the incarnate Word, they "crucified the Lord of glory" (1 Cor 2:8).

  Even after we have been "born of God" and possess a new nature, we still must be taught by the Son of God. The "natural man" does not even have the capacity to be taught by Jesus. The new creation MUST be taught by Jesus! It must acquire an understanding from the Son of God.

 Not A Strange Concept

  This is not a strange concept. Elsewhere, the Spirit speaks of the effective teaching of the Son of God. "This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But ye have not so LEARNED CHRIST; if so be that ye have heard him, and have been TAUGHT BY HIM, as the truth is in Jesus" (Eph 4:17-21). Jesus' most effective teaching is now taking place from within the saints of God.

 That We May Know Him that Is True

  The focus of the Son of God's teaching is given. He does not come to merely teach us facts, but to bring us into an experiential association with the Living God: "that we may know Him that is true."

  First, Jesus declared while yet in this world that He alone could effectively enable us to know God. "All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him" (Matt 11:27' Lk 10:22).  Thus it is written, "No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him" (John 1:18). Those objecting to this must affirm that God can be known independently of the tutelage of Jesus. That is a position that can only be embraced by unbelief, for Christ has spoken clearly on the matter, and the Spirit has moved His Apostles to elaborate upon it.

 Integral to the New Covenant

  Knowing God is integral to the New Covenant. It is one of the key points of identity: "for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest" (Heb 8:11). Yet, this knowledge is not automatic, no can it be realized apart from Jesus giving us an understanding. Not one single aspect of our new life excludes the Son of God-including the acquisition of the knowledge of God.

  The believer knows the facts of the Gospel. He has a working knowledge of the Word of God, an area in which he grows and increases. He also has knowledge about his natural and spiritual self, and of the world which, in its entirety, lies under the power of the wicked one.

  But over and above all of this, he knows God. The one who is "born of God" is acquainted with the ways of God as well as the Word of God. This knowledge of God is so effective it enables the believer to come into His presence with boldness. It is no marvel so much is said about "the knowledge of God" and "the knowledge of the Lord" 1 Cor 15:34; 2 Cor 10:5; Col 1:10; Eph 1:17; 2 Pet 1:2,3,8; 2:20; 3:18).

 We Are In Him that Is True

  Here, the position of the those who are "born of God" is compared with those who are not. Of the latter it is said, "the whole world is under the control of the evil one."NIV But those who are born again are "in Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ."NKJV I understand this phrase to mean we are in God through Jesus Christ. Colossians 3:3 says it this way: "For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God." This truth is similarly stated in The first verse of First Thessalonians. "To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." Second Thessalonians 1:1 makes the same affirmation.

 A Familiar Emphasis

  This is a familiar aspect of redemptive truth. Previously in this Epistle, the Spirit has mentioned the children of God being "IN" Him. "Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him" (4:15-16). He has also spoken of "abiding in Him" (2:6,27,28; 3:6,24; 4:13).  Colossians 2:6 admonishes us to "walk in Him." We are also declared to be "complete IN Him" (Col 2:10). The point of our present text is that this reality has been facilitated and made clear to our hearts, by the teaching of Jesus Christ.

  Although I have mentioned this previously, it bears repetition. This is the unity for which Jesus prayed on the eve of His betrayal. "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me . . . I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one" (John 17:20-21,23).

  It is not possible to be "in God" apart from Christ, or independently of the understanding He alone gives.

   This is the True God

  Quickly, the spirit demolishes any notion that this indispensable knowledge can be acquired in any other way. Unless the knowledge, or understanding, has come from Jesus Himself, it is not valid. All other purported knowledge of God is speculative and fallacious. Such fraudulent knowledge cannot enable one to escape the pollution of the world (2 Pet 2:20). Nor, indeed, can it bring to men "all things that pertain to life and godliness" (2 Pet 1:3).

  Our acquaintance with God and position in Him can only be accomplished through the Lord Jesus Christ-the Anointed One. The statement, "This is the true God," is another way of saying what Jesus affirmed in John 14:6. "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me."

  It is ever true, "yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live"NKJV (1 Cor 8:6).  All other gods are nothing more than idols, even if they bear the same names as the real Father and Son. Jesus alone can effectively bring us into fellowship with the Father, or a true knowledge of Him.

  When the text says "this is the true God," the Lord Jesus Himself is also intended. There is no effectual knowledge of, or identity with, the Father apart from Him. He is our only means of acquiring the saving knowledge of God. He is able to give us this understanding because "all fulness" dwells in Him-"the fulness of the Godhead bodily" (Col 1:19; 2:9). Thus we are shut up to the Lord Jesus and His personal instruction for eternal life.

 This Is Eternal Life

  Eternal life is not something merely conferred upon us. Nor, indeed, is it an impersonal condition into which we are locked upon a profession of faith. This text confirms it is the result of Christ giving us an understanding, that we might know God.

 More Than A Relationship

  Some have referred to this as a "relationship," as compared with the adoption of a mere creed, or living under the imposition of law. While there is some truth to this expression, it falls far short of the reality of the case. The term "relationship" does not infer a favorable or enjoyable condition. Israel had a relationship with God through the Law-the First Covenant-but it was neither favorable nor enjoyable for them because their hearts were far from the Lord. Judas had a relationship with Christ as an Apostle and the treasurer of the small band-but it was not a good one, for he was "a devil" from the beginning (John 6:70). Satan himself has a relationship to the Lord, being answerable to Him and strictly governed by Him.

 Acquaintance and Fellowship

  Eternal life is realized within us, through our acquaintance and fellowship with God through Christ Jesus. Jesus defined eternal life in His intercessory prayer. "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent" (John 17:3).

  Knowing the Lord involves intimacy-familiarity that is personal and productive. It is a formal relationship, but not merely formal. That is, there is a certain structure within knowing God. It is bounded by faith and love, and made solid through spiritual knowledge. However, eternal life involves participation in the Divine nature and partaking of Christ Himself (2 Pet 1:4; Heb 3:14). There is a transformation that occurs within those possessing eternal life. Where this does not occur, God is not known. Where God is not known, Jesus has not given an understanding. Where Jesus has not given an understanding, there has been no believing on the name of the son of God.

 Eternal Life Is Measured

  Eternal life is measured. By that I mean it can be possessed in enlarged proportions. From one perspective, both life and death are fixed. That is, you are either alive or dead. From another perspective, however, there can be smaller or larger measures of both life and death. From one perspective, Lazarus was no more dead than Jairus' daughter. From another, view, however, the length of time that he had been dead yielded greater results-mortification had set in, and his stank. Too, from one point of view, Jacob leaning on his staff and readying himself to die was no more alive than the two young sons of Joseph that he blessed. From another perspective, however, the young boys were more alive, with their life before them, while Jacob's life on earth was now behind him.

  So it is with eternal life. There are some who, like John, are closer to the Lord than others. There are also some like Laodicea, who are on the precipice of eternal ruin, even though recovery is possible. The phrase "has everlasting life" (John 3:36; 5:24; 6:47), does not mean all of it is possessed, or that there are no further aspects of it to be enjoyed. If God can be known more fully, eternal life can be experienced more extensively. If the understanding Jesus is giving continues to be received, then eternal life continues to expand and gain dominancy within us.

  Paul once said he continued to aggressively pursue knowing Christ. "Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord . . . I may win Christ . . . that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death" (Phil 3:8-10).

  Thus growth in eternal life is realized just as surely as growth in natural life is experienced. We can be more sensitive to God, more aware of His will, and more conscious our His acceptance of us. Significant advancement can be made in confidence, assurance, and hope.


  "21Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen."  Rarely will you hear such an admonition to believers in our day! But this is a critical word. It is given with the preceding doctrine in mind. We have been told the Lord Jesus is here to give us an understanding. That understanding is a personal and effective knowledge of God. However, the Lord Jesus is not the only one offering understanding. There are also hosts of darkness perpetrating knowledge. In this world, believers occupy an intensely active domain. In it there are a host of false gods and lords. Thus it is written, "For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him. However not all men have this knowledge . . . " (1 Cor 8:5-7).

Jesus spoke of "false Christ's" (Matt 24:24). Paul wrote of some who preached "another Jesus" (2 Cor 11:4). The truth of the matter is that there are gross misrepresentations of both God and Christ in the professed Christian world. They are presented in "another gospel" (Gal 1:6). The God and Christ thus presented are not "the true God," and eternal life cannot be realized through them.

  Satan comes as "an angel of light," and his ministers transform themselves into "ministers of righteousness" (2 Cor 11:14-15). These wolves in sheep's clothing speak of God, Jesus, salvation, and eternal life. They use words like believe, hope, and obedience. But they are not from God, nor do they enable men to know Him. They are propagators of idols.

  Believers are admonished to keep themselves from idols-to not allow their devotion to be turned to those who are "no gods" (Gal 4:8). They must not be distracted by the religion of the day, new fads, and popular doctrines. Jesus, and Jesus alone, is the Divinely appointed Administrator of the Kingdom. He alone can give us an understanding or, or acquaintance with, "the God of salvation" (Psa 68:20). Whoever cannot give that is not the real Jesus.

  "Little children, keep yourselves from idols." Cleave to the Lord with "purpose of heart" (Acts 11:23). Hear Him who is speaking from heaven (Heb 12:25). Hear Jesus and be taught by Him. He will acquaint you with God, thereby bringing eternal life to you. The result will be the joyful confidence of faith. It will cause you to triumph over every foe. It will bring effectiveness to your prayers.


 Thus we have completed our overview of the book of First John. What a marvelous trip it has been! It has taken us to the very heart of life in Christ Jesus. The accent has been placed upon believing on the name of Jesus and loving the brethren of Jesus. The weight of our faith in Christ rests upon what God has declared about Him in the Gospel. We are depending on the effectiveness of both His death and His life. We are banking upon His advocacy before the throne, and His personal tutelage.

I exhort you to be strong in faith, thereby giving glory to God. Put to death the deeds of the body, and joyfully anticipate the return of your Lord. You are in a state of transition, being changed from glory to glory by the Holy Spirit (2 Cor 3:18). That process will continue as long as you maintain your trust in Christ and your love for the brethren. It will be aborted if your attention is diverted to the world, whether it be the religious world or the world of fleshly indulgence.