John talks a lot about love! I was speaking at a youth camp years ago. The young people (about 1200 of them) in camp represented a number of churches from their state. Many of my messages were about love, loving God, loving others, including their unsaved friends. In a meeting of the pastor’s it was suggested that they ask me to come back again next year. One of the pastors spoke up saying, “No way, we’ve heard enough about love to last us for a lifetime.”
Through the first four chapters John has remained true to his purpose. In seeking to expose those who merely profess but do not possess eternal life, and with a view to confirming and assuring the true believer, he has made frequent application of the tests of authentic Christianity.
Now he brings together in one paragraph the three tests of authentic Christianity: authentic doctrine, authentic living, and authentic love. And they all depend on the new birth as their foundation. If a person has truly been born again, he is a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17) and these vital signs will be evident. While they grow stronger over time, if there is no evidence of these signs, a person needs to examine whether or not he truly has been born again.
“Pollster George Barna classifies the ‘born-again’ as all who say ‘they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today,’ and who also indicate that they ‘believe that when they die they will go to heaven because they have confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior’ (The Barna Update [3/5/2001], cited by Ron Sider, The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience [Baker], p. 18). By those criteria, anywhere from 35 to 43 percent of the U.S. population claims to be born again.” –Steven J. Cole, bible.org
Verse 1a: “Whoever…”
John 3:16 was probably the first Bible verse I memorized. It seemed that this landmark verse was quoted every time the church came together. Along with many of you, even though you use other Bible translations, you still quote this verse from the King James version: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Who are the “whoevers?” Brilliant Theologians of great intellect have wrestled with the question of “whoever,” and God’s election for centuries without resolving it, at least to the satisfaction of those of a different persuasion.
Universalists believe that everyone, without exception will be saved. Years ago I was preaching in Allentown, Pennsylvania, when a man (I found out later he was the richest man in town) stood and said, I have thousands of descendants who will all be in heaven because Christ died for everybody. We heard him shouting this as he walked down the street”
Calvinists believe “whoever” applies only to the elect, and that Christ only died for the elect…“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out” (John 6:37); “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:44). “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father” (John 6:65). The Calvinist sees these verses as teaching that anyone who comes to Jesus was first given to Jesus by the Father. They also were drawn by the Father and further they were enabled to come by the Father.
You would have to deny the Bible to deny the doctrine of election. God chooses those with whom He wants to spend eternity. 2 Thessalonians 2:13, “But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.”
The bible certainly refers to believers as “the elect,” “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father…” (1 Peter 1:2). “Therefore, as the elect of God …” (Colossians 3:12). “To the elect lady…” (2 John 1). “Elect together with you…” (1 Peter 5:13). "For false Christ’s and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24).
So who are the “whoevers?” The English Standard Version translates 1 John 5:1, “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God.” Anyone who will come to Jesus by faith for salvation. “He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world” (1 John 2:2 NLT). So Jesus death is sufficient for everyone but efficient only for those call on Him in faith.
I think it was D.L. Moody who said, “There’s a door in heaven, looking at it from the earth side it says, ‘Whosoever will may come,” and as you enter heaven and look back at the door, it reads, ‘He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.’”
Acts 2:21, “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved…”
Romans 10:12,13, “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Revelation 22:17, “And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.”
Verse 1b: “believes…”
This one word "believe" represents all a sinner can do and all a sinner must do to be saved. It is believing God’s testimony that He has given us His Son. “And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” (1 John 5:11 ESV).
The Greek word for “believes” is pisteuo, from pistis, pistos, (faith, trust, commit) and it means to consider something to be true and therefore worthy of one’s trust. It means to entrust oneself in complete confidence. To believe with the implication of total commitment to the one who is trusted. Christ is the object of this type of faith that relies on His power and to save to the “uttermost those who come to God through Him” ( Hebrews 7:25).
Vine defines Pisteuo as: “(1) a firm conviction, producing a full acknowledgement of God's revelation or truth, e.g., 2 Thessalonians 2:11,12; (2) a personal surrender to Him, John 1:12; (3) a conduct inspired by such surrender, 2 Corinthians 5:7.” –W.E. Vine
Pisteuo was used by Paul “I know whom I have believed, (pisteuo) and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day” (2 Timothy 1:12) Using the perfect tense Paul said “I first trusted Jesus on the Damascus Road and I still trust Him with my eternal present and eternal future.”
When Paul met Jesus on the Damascus Road, he permanently put his trust and confidence in Christ Jesus and still trusted Him even as the shadow of death loomed over him. This speaks of Paul's faith (pistis) as permanent and abiding.
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life…” (John 6:47). “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). This belief is faith that intellectually accepts and actively commits itself to the fact “that Jesus is the Christ.” The name "Jesus" involves acknowledgment of His true humanity, a fact denied by Gnosticism, while “the Christ” refers to Him as “the anointed One,” the Messiah whose coming was announced in the Old Testament.
Verse 1c: “that Jesus is the Christ…”
This name “Jesus” not exist and would not be spelled with the letter “J” until about 500 years ago. The proper name Jesus used in the English
language originates from the Latin form of the Greek name, Iesous, a rendition of the Hebrew Yeshua, also having the variants Joshua or Jeshua. Jesus means “Yahweh is salvation”. Matthew explains this even more clearly in Matthew 1:21: “You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
The word “Christ” here simply means “anointed one.” It was understood by every Jew to be referring to the promised Messiah. The Old Testament scriptures are full of details describing what the Messiah would be like and what He would do. Therefore, to believe that Jesus is the “Christ” would mean that you believed Jesus to be the person God has been promising would come. It also means that you believe that every description of the Messiah in the Old Testament applies to Jesus.
This word Messiah announces that Yeshua (Jesus) is the anointed of God, that is, the Anointed One from God. And He is the awaited Messiah, whose coming was prophesied by the prophets of the Old Testament. It was known in ancient times that when a king was crowned, or a priest consecrated, he was anointed with oil as a sign of sovereign power or “priesthood.” And it is known that Christ was a prophet, priest and king.
Christ was not anointed by the people, because He is not an earthly king, but He was the anointed of God, because He is a heavenly king who reigns over the hearts of the believers. This is the name given to the promised Deliverer who would some day come to the people of Israel as their great Savior and Redeemer, “anointed” as Prophet, Priest, and King by God Himself.
Verse 1d: “is born of God…”
“We live in a culture which has taken some biblical words and used them in a way that redefines and cheapens them so that they no longer mean what the Bible means. But then they seep back into the vocabulary of Christians with their devalued meaning. Take the term ‘born again.’ The media uses it to describe anyone who makes a comeback or gets a fresh start in life. A baseball team that has been in the cellar and suddenly starts winning is called the ‘born again’ Dodgers. Chrysler under Lee Iacocca was a ‘born again’ corporation. And so it’s not surprising when over 50 percent of Americans say that they’re ‘born again Christians’ they mean that they had some sort of religious or emotional experience that resulted in a fresh start in life. It may have involved praying to Jesus or ‘inviting Him into their hearts.’ But in most cases, they have no idea what the Bible means by being born again.” Edited and adapted–Steven J. Cole
“Having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever” ( 1 Peter 1:23).
A born-again Christian is someone who has repented of their sins and turned to Christ for their salvation, and as a result has become part of God’s family forever. All this takes place as God’s Spirit works in our lives. “Born again” literally means "born from above.
How is a person born-again? In John 3:1-7 Jesus is talking to a man named Nicodemus, a prominent Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin (the ruling class of Israel). Nicodemus had a real need. He needed a change of his heart, a spiritual transformation, a new birth. So Nicodemus came to Jesus at night and said to Him, ‘Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Nicodemus asked. ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?’ Jesus answered, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’”
“Have you been born again? Call it conversion, commitment, repentance, being saved, but has it happened to you? Does Christ live in your heart? Do you know it? Many people have thought a long time about religion and Christianity and yet have never made a commitment. Are you committed to Jesus Christ?
You may go to church, but perhaps you are still searching. There is an empty place in your heart, and something inside tells you that you’re not really right with God. Nicodemus fasted two days a week. He spent two hours every day in prayer. He tithed. Why did Jesus say that Nicodemus must be born again? Because He could read the heart of Nicodemus. Jesus saw that Nicodemus had covered himself with religion but had not yet found fellowship with God.” –Billy Graham
Verse 1d: “and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him.”
“Begot” means to father a child. “Him” refers to God the Father. “Also Loves Him Who is Begotten of Him,” “And everyone who loves the Father loves his children, too” (NLT). This refers first of all to Jesus Christ. Secondly, it refers to all those who are born of God through faith in Jesus Christ.
“The new birth brings people not only into a faith relationship with God, but also into a love relationship with Him and His children. John has emphasized that principle throughout this epistle.” –John MacArthur
“If a personal faith relationship with Jesus is the bedrock of salvation, then what John gives to us next are the birthmarks of salvation. How often have you heard someone say about a baby, ‘He looks just like his father,” or ‘She sure has her mother’s eyes!’ Well, just as human babies exhibit the characteristics of their parents, those who are born again children of God will have certain birthmarks which distinguish them.” -sermonnotebook.org
What are those birthmarks? Just as there is always evidence of a physical birth, so too there is also evidence of a spiritual birth! The first and primary evidence is that of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and also loving God and loving our brothers and sisters in Christ. In other words, you will love what God loves!
Verse 2a: “By this we know that we love the children of God…”
“There can be lots of reasons why we love people. Because they’ve been nice to us, because they’re attractive people, because they’re popular people, because they pay attention to us, because they’ll do something for us if we pay attention to them, or because they’re cool…But God wants us to love people out of our love for Him, and our obedience to Him. The real test is when you come up against someone who isn’t nice, someone who isn’t attractive, someone who isn’t popular, someone who doesn’t pay attention to us, someone who doesn’t know how to pay attention to us, or someone who is extremely ‘uncool’” – calvaryfullerton.org
This love among believers is the Christian’s calling card. John tells us that true love operates in two directions: We love God’s children, when we love God and observe His commandments." “ If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?’ And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also” ( 1 John 4:20,21).
Verse 2b: “when we love God and keep His commandments.” “The reality test on whether or not we love God’s children is this: Do we love God? Do we keep his commands? The proof that we love God comes when we keep his commandments and they are not at all troublesome” (MSG).
“Commandments” from the Greek is, entole: accomplish, charge, command, orders, requirements) refers to some type of demand or requirement. “A law, edict, or statute, authoritative directive, a mandate, an order or injunction given by authority, charge, precept, a divine command.” (Webster)
“Entole refers not to the Mosaic law, but to the precepts and directives of Christ.” –John MacArthur
Jesus said “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34,35). “And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.” (1 John 4:21). “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). adding that “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love” (John 15:10).
“Just as it is impossible to love God without loving His children (v1), so also is it impossible to truly love His children apart from loving Him (v2). Those twin priorities of loving God and other Christians mark all who have been born again....In these five verses (1John 5:1-5), John weaves faith, love, and obedience all together inextricably. They exist mutually in a dynamic relationship, i.e., as the genuine proof of love is obedience, so the genuine proof of faith is love. The word keep conveys the idea of constant obedience.” –John MacArthur
Could John be any clearer? Here he links faith in Jesus with those who keep the commandments of God. Beloved, the only ones who can “keep the commandments of God” are those who possess a supernatural enabling power of the indwelling Holy Spirit!
Verse 3: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.”
“Keep” tereo (a guard or warden) means to keep an eye on, to keep watch over or to attend carefully. The idea is guarding something which is in one’s possession, watching as one would some precious thing. Jesus uses tereo in the job description of a genuine Christ follower.
“Burdensome in Greek is barus meaning weight, something pressing on one physically or emotionally. It literally means heavy but in the New Testament is used figuratively of rules and regulations that are difficult to obey and thus are burdensome or oppressive.
“The word barus speaks of that which is burdensome, severe, stern, violent, cruel, unsparing. Love for God makes the keeping of His commandments a delight rather than a burden.” –Wuest
As true believers there's a desire in our hearts to keep God's law, and His law isn't burdensome to us. It's not a law that threatens. It's not a law that condemns. It's a law that invigorates. It's a law that challenges. It's a law that motivates. God’s commandments had never been too heavy for those in whose hearts they had been written “This is the new covenant I will make with my people on that day, says the LORD: I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds” (Hebrews 10:16 NLT).
“This command I am giving you today is not too difficult for you, and it is not beyond your reach. It is not kept in heaven, so distant that you must ask, ‘Who will go up to heaven and bring it down so we can hear it and obey?’ It is not kept beyond the sea, so far away that you must ask, ‘Who will cross the sea to bring it to us so we can hear it and obey?’ No, the message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart so that you can obey it” (Deuteronomy 30:11-14 NLT).
Obedience is not a duty (heavy weight or burden) as much as it is a delight (blessing)! It is our privilege to obey God, Who gives us the power to do so! Amazing grace indeed!
John MacArthur has an excellent pragmatic summary statement noting that "The obedience that characterizes a true child of God is not external, ritualistic, legalistic compliance. Nor is it unwilling, partial, inconsistent, or grudging. Loving obedience is from the heart.”
It's not burdensome to do the things that Jesus told us to do, to turn the other cheek when someone slaps us, to give up our rights for someone else, to love our enemies, to give to the poor and care for those who are outcast and hurting, to deny desires that are unhealthy and ungodly. None of those things are difficult or burdensome if we believe that Jesus cares for us. He is defending us, He is committed to meeting our needs at the deepest level, He knows the number of hairs on our head, His face is turned to us all the time, and we are never once out of His thoughts. He is the Lord God, commander of the universe, and He is committed to making us who we ought to be, filling us with the life of God. If we believe that's true, then obedience is no burden…Belief leads to relationship, relationship should be filled with love, love issues itself in obedience, and obedience flows from what we believe. The only way to "hit the target" is to have all these elements that comprise our Christian life reinforcing each other.” –Steve Zeisler
“Oswald Chambers wrote: ‘The Lord does not give me rules, but He makes His standard very clear. If my relationship to Him is that of love, I will do what He says…If I hesitate, it is because I love someone I have placed in competition with Him, namely, myself.”
Arthur W. Pink said that love is “a principle of action, and it expresses itself…by deeds which please the object loved.”
To obey God means to relinquish what we want and to choose to do what He asks.
When we are obedient, we show God that we love God and have more faith in Him than we do in ourselves. God requires the obedience of His followers, and Jesus placed great importance on it. He asked, “Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46). And He issued this challenge: “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15).
To say we follow Jesus Christ
Without attempting to obey
Reveals our lack of faith that He
Will lead us right in every way.
–Cindy Hess Kasper, Our Daily Bread, July, 2010
**NOTE: Unless otherwise noted, the New King James Version of the Bible was used. Also The New Living Translation (NLT); The New American Standard Bible (NASB); The Message (MSG); The New Century Version (NCV); The Amplified Bible (AMP); The King James Version (KJV), The New Life Version (NLV); English Standard Version (ESV); J.B. Phillips New Testament; Easy to Read Version (ERV); Common English bible (CEB); NET Bible (NET) and The Living Bible (TLB).**
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