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4:20-5:17 - Conclusion - God's Commands

to command/Asiatic believers/to keep God's commands, especially to love one another, because such love shows they love God, because the commands are reasonable as demonstrated by how they trusted in Jesus without difficulty, and because God will then hear their prayers

1. Love (4:20-5:3a): to exhort/Asiatic believers/to keep God's commandments, especially to love one another as children of God, because their love for God is demonstrated through such love

2. Trust (5:3b-15): to teach/Asiatic believers/that it is not difficult to keep God's commandments (5:3b) because they have already overcome the world once by their trust in God's witness that Jesus is the Son of God (5:4-5) and that He came in the flesh and died on the cross (5:6-8) which resulted in eternal life (5:9-12), in the assurance of eternal life (5:13), and in God hearing their prayers when positive answers are in accordance with His will (5:14-15)

  • Burdensome (5:3b): The commands of God are not burdensome because (verses 4-5) it is the world that works to keep us from being saved and then works to from keep us from carrying out His commands. Since we overcame the world by being saved, we certainly have the power to overcome the world and keep the commandments.
  • Born of God (5:4): See 1 John 2:29; 5:1, 18. The one who is born of God is regenerated.
  • World (5:4): This would be the world system that is opposed to God. See 1 John 2:15; 3:1; 3:13.
  • Overcomer (5:4-5): The system at odds with God is overcome by those who trust in Christ. The implication is that the world system has as a goal the thwarting of trust in Christ. Other passages teach that the Devil is over the world and is active in preventing people from becoming believers (Luke 8:12; Acts 26:17-18; 2 Corinthians 4:4-5; 1 John 5:19). Revelation 2:11,17, 26 and 3:5, 12, 21 use the word, "overcomers," in a different sense. There it speaks of believers who have overcome the temptations to sin. So the one in 5:4-5 has overcome the first attack of the world with respect to belief. As he lives his life, there will be other temptations from the world system that he should overcome. However, since this initial victory has been won, the work required to be victorious in future temptations to ignore Christ's commands will not be burdensome.
  • Greek Text (5:7-8): The Textus Receptus (the basis of the King James Version) adds unsupported text. It is not found in the Majority Text or in the Critical Text. It was added by Erasmus around AD 1522.57 The Majority Text is based on the better texts.

Verse 7 in the KJV is totally bogus. "In earth" has been inserted in verse 8 of the KJV.

The numbering of the NASV verses has been modified. The NIV verse indicators follow the KJV.

  • Water and Blood (5:6, 8): ". . . the Gnostics believed that Christ (the Spirit, see next item) came upon Jesus at His baptism and left Him before His passion, namely in the Garden of Gethsemane. In other words, they would say, 'The Christ did not die on the cross, but Jesus the man died.' This, of course, robs His work of any atoning value for the sins of others. We suggest that John is using water as an emblem of Jesus' baptism and blood as a symbol of His atoning death. These were the two terminals of His public ministry. John is saying that Jesus was just as much the Christ when He died on the cross as when He was baptized in the Jordan."58 The false teachers may have held Gnostic like doctrines.
  • Four Witnesses (5:7-11): First, three witnesses are given: the water and the blood (above) and the Holy Spirit (verses 7-8). Perhaps the Holy Spirit is especially seen in His role of appearing during the Lord's baptism, the water (5:7-9).

The false teachers, who believed Christ did not come in the flesh (4:2), may have also believed the defective doctrine that the Spirit was Christ who entered the human's, Jesus', body at the baptism and left prior to the crucifixion. These verses show that the Spirit is a separate Person from Christ (the Spirit is a witness to Christ, verse 7) and that the Holy Spirit is also a witness that Christ was present at the baptism and at the crucifixion (i.e., in verse 8b, all three witnesses agree). If these heresies were true, there would be no effective atonement.59

Another Witness is God, the Father (just called God), Who is the greatest of the witnesses, Who testifies concerning the Son. The Father's witness is that eternal life is available to a person through His Son (5:9, 11-12). God the Father as the greatest Witness resides in the one who trust in His Son (5:10a) and witnesses to the believer that he has eternal life (5:11). The one who does not trust in the Son has considered the Father's witness a lie (5:10b). The one who does not trust in the Son does not have eternal life (5:12).

  • Assurance (5:13): Assurance of one's salvation, ". . . that you may know that you have eternal life (5:13)," is based on trust in the Son, 1 John 5:10-12. The once for all trust in the Gospel message is all the assurance they need. This is the witness of the Father. Assurance is based on the promise given by the Father. It is not based on experience or works.

In all the "I have written" verses in 1 John, the reference is always in the immediate context:


"I Have Written" Passage

Reference Passage

Reference Topics -- Purposes for Writing


1:1-3, 5-7

encouragement for believers to have an intimate relationship with God






the commandment for believers to love one another



recipients' sins have been forgiven



recipients know God



recipients have overcome the evil one



recipients know the Father



recipients know God



recipients (1) are strong, (2) have the Word abiding, & (3) have overcome the evil one



recipients understand true Christology


2:22-25, 27

false teachers seek to influence recipients with a heretical Christology



recipients to receive assurance of their salvation based on trust in the Son

That the "I have written" passage at 1 John 5:13 is not the sole purpose for writing the Epistle is supported by the fact that there are eleven other such statements which provide different purposes. Furthermore, the "I have written" passages always refer to the immediate context, not to the whole Epistle. And in the case of the passage in verse 13, verses 10-12 supply a sufficient reference. The "I have written" passage at 1 John 5:13 cannot record the purpose of the entire Epistle.60

The "I have written" passage at 1 John 5:13 is different than the "these are written" passage in John 20:30-31 because the former refers to the immediate context (1 John 5:10-12) whereas the latter refers to the whole book (". . . Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.").

This is important because some of those who believe in Lordship Salvation call 1 John 5:13 the comprehensive purpose of the entire book.61 So they teach that this book gives us conditions for salvation. However, they are wrong and the book provides conditions for intimate fellowship with God.

  • Prayer (5:14-15): The "this" refers to the preceding verses. Since we have trusted in Christ, we have confidence that the Son will hear our petitions when the granting of them is in His will.
3. Example (5:16-17): to command/Asiatic believers/to pray for believers who commit sins certainly known to not lead to death, that they would live because God will honor that request

These verses are really very simple to understand though commentators often beat them to death. Based on the information in verses 14-15, that the Son will grant the petitions of believers that are in His will, He will grant the petition not to put to death a believer who sins a sin that does not lead to death. Verses 16-17 provide an example, an application, of verses 14-15.

Commentators often stumble over how we can identify a sin that does not lead to death. No solution is given. Thus the petitioner is often uncertain how the Lord will answer his prayer. But we pray in faith, that He will honor those petitions in His will, even when we do not know His will.