1 John 5

1 When a person believes in Jesus, he is "born again," that is, he is given a new nature. The believer is a child of God by both birth and adoption. The believer is also born into the family of the Church. In an earthly family, the members are typically more loyal to their immediate relatives than their more distant kin. This verse is a reminder that all Christians are immediate kin, because each is a direct child of God the Father. Since a Christian loves God, he should also love God's children, who are his brothers and sisters. God lives inside each believer, so a Christian must love his brothers and sisters in Christ because God lives in them, too. As a believer matures, God's nature will be displayed more and more in his life. Thus, it should be even easier to love other believers as they and we grow in Christ. As one believer grows in Christ, he will learn to assist and have patience with those who are newborns.
2 When we look at the Ten Commandments and the other commands that Jesus gave us we find a consistent theme: Love God, and love others. In fact, it is emphasized in some places that the two can not be separated. There are various commands and laws which give examples of what one should or should not do as a person who loves God and others. Keeping these commands demonstrates our love for God and others. Being obedient to God affects our relationships with others, and will improve them.
3 God's love within us compels us to follow His lead and be obedient to Him. Worldly people feel like they might be overwhelmed because the things God commands believers to do are foreign, in fact impossible, to our old, sinful nature. God not only gives Christians a new nature, but He provides strength and guidance through the Holy Spirit. Yes, there will be trials for Christians on earth, but we are told to expect them. Some commands will be difficult to obey, but when we view our lives in an eternal perspective, we find that it is far less burdensome to "suffer" now and attain relief in heaven than to suffer "less" now and live the rest of eternity in hell. Another perspective tells us that the Christian's suffering here is with purpose, whereas a worldly person suffers in purposelessness and hopelessness regardless of his circumstances.

Since our desire is to be obedient, we will not see the commands as a burdensome obligation, but an expression of our love for God. In our earthly relationships, we may gladly do a difficult task to prove our love for another. We can view obedience to God in a similar way. When we love God, His commands are not burdensome, but those who hate God will complain because they do not understand what love is.

4 Despite the money, power, and pressure that the world uses to reinforce its antichrist philosophies, when a person places his faith in Christ, he escapes the clutches of the world. An important thing to remember is that everyone has faith in something, and that faith may be strong or weak. What makes the difference is the object of faith. For instance, placing faith in an idol will not save a person from his current or long-term circumstances because it is not capable of doing anything. Faith in Christ changes the believer in both the short and long term. God may or may not change the external circumstances of the believer, but internally He will strengthen the believer to survive and grow. The biggest obstacle to overcome is death. God has already proven that He can raise the dead. Our faith that He will also do this for us is based on the evidence that God can and will keep His promises. He has promised that those who believe in His Son, Jesus, will also be adopted by the Father, and raised from the dead. The Spirit is given to us in this lifetime to give us victory against the battles the world will wage against us. Christ will wage the final winning battle against the world, and we will share in that victory because we are on His side.
5 Jesus is the only Person in the universe who can save people from the current and ultimate damage of worldly thinking (Acts 4:12). The worldly way of thinking results from its separation from God. Through faith in Jesus, a person's relationship with God is restored through the Holy Spirit. Through faith in Jesus, God graciously forgives the believer's sins by allowing His sacrifice on the cross to be credited to him. Through faith in Jesus, the believer is adopted as a child of God, and has the assurance of eternal life in heaven with the Father.
6 The baptism and crucifixion of Jesus marked the beginning and end of His ministry. His baptism symbolized His agreement with John the Baptist's teaching, and by extension, the words of the prophets in Scripture. His crucifixion fulfilled His purpose, as described in the Scriptures, for coming to earth -- the redemption of people. The Spirit has testified to these things in the writings of the prophets and apostles.
7 Some versions of this verse contain additional text about the Trinity. Many scholars note that the additional text did not appear until sometime in the 14th century. Perhaps it was an attempt by someone to explain "the three" as the Trinity, when the context of the verse makes it clear that the witnesses are the water, blood, and Spirit.
8 Of course, for the testimony to be believable, the witnesses must agree. These witnesses agree in the purpose and process of salvation. Jesus lived as a perfect man, died a real death that imparts forgiveness on those who believe, and rose from the dead to bring the hope of eternal life with God to those who are saved.
9 Many times we must form opinions or take actions based on what people tell us. In a democracy, where the people vote for the person that they want to have leadership over them, the politicians go to great lengths to make themselves look like the obvious choice. This can include lying about their past or making promises they will not or can not keep.

The news media typically has limited time and space to report on what is happening in the world. Some agencies, therefore, only disperse that information they feel will persuade their audience to think and believe the way they want. Government controlled media outlets are the most notorious, but even in the free world, the views and opinions will tend to reflect the owner's biases.

Regardless of how many times people find they have been fooled by politicians and the media, we keep following them hoping that "this time" they will have found someone who will live up to the generated expectations. Politicians seem to have such a bad reputation that it is amazing at times that people still rally around them. We accept the testimony of men, even when we know it will likely be proven false.

God always speaks the truth, but most people decide not to follow Him. Some of this is, again, the human factor. Their have been preachers who have been exposed as liars and swindlers (these are the false teachers that John has warned people about). Some people have encountered church members who have not treated them in God's love. It is a shame that people do not try again, as they seem to do so often with politicians. God is unfailing truth. If someone is willing to take God at His word, then God will reveal His truth to him. We can not let the failings of our family, friends, preachers, or anyone else discourage us from finding and living in God's will. The words of man will fail, but the word of God will be true forever (Mat 24:35).

10 When someone becomes a Christian, the Holy Spirit indwells him. The testimony of the Spirit becomes the testimony of the Christian. Through faith, the Christian also testifies in agreement with the Spirit that God's plan of salvation through Jesus (i.e., the Gospel) is true.

Those who do not accept the Gospel implicitly call God a liar. Even when someone feels that "not choosing" is similar to "not rejecting," the unspoken sentiment is "I will not believe that the Gospel is the God-given truth. Even if I were to believe it is from God, I will not accept it because I think I know more about what is truth than He does." The unbeliever's lack of faith is the evidence that he considers the Gospel a lie.

11 This is the core of the Gospel. Some people want to believe that their church membership or observance of religious rituals and holidays makes them a Christian. That is not the case. Salvation comes only through a relationship with Christ. He pays for the sins that would otherwise disqualify us from eternal life with God. Jesus proved His power over death by rising from the dead. He now lives in us through the Holy Spirit, and His promise to us is that we will also attain eternal life in the presence of the Father (John 14:19-21).
12 In God's eyes, it is a clear distinction. Those who know Jesus have eternal life, but those who do not accept Him will not have it. There is no measure of good works, church attendance, or comparisons among people. One either knows Him or they do not.
13 The very reason John wrote this letter was that people might believe in Jesus and be assured of the eternal life God promises. Part of that is in discrediting the false teachers who draw people away from the Gospel. Another part is explaining how Christians should live in obedience to draw people into an understanding of who Jesus is and how He changes lives. When we are obedient to the word of God we prove our faith in Him, and have evidence that He has given us eternal life.
14 One key to successful prayer is to ask for things with right motives. We are to be concerned with aligning ourselves with God's will. Jesus told us to seek "His kingdom and His righteousness" first (Mat 6:33). We have the Holy Spirit inside us, so we should be able to discern godly requests from selfish requests. We should also remember that there are things outside of God's will which we are not to request. When we are living and asking in obedience, we can have complete confidence that God hears us. We are not talking into the air, but to a faithful and loving Father, who is concerned about each one of our lives.
15 When we ask for the things that God wants to give us, He is glad to do so, and we can be assured that it will happen. He will do these things in His own time, though, so we must be patient, attentive, and persistent.
16 Prayer is not simply centered on ourselves. We are to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ. John gives a specific example here concerning when other Christians are caught in sin. Since Christians do not practice sin, these sins tend to be minor. Other Christians are to pray for them. After confrontation and the Holy Spirit working in the heart of the wayward Christian, that person will repent and be brought back into right fellowship with God. If God had punished the person physically, He will often restore Him. The wayward Christian did not lose eternal life, but his life with Christ on earth was diminished when he committed the sin.

There are other sins which tend to be high profile, obviously wrong, and damaging to God's reputation. The one who sinned may repent, but God may choose to remove him through death as a consequence of his action. Examples of this in the Bible include Moses (who was not permitted to enter the Promised Land -- Deu 3:26-27), Ananias and Sapphira (who were struck when they refused to acknowledge their lie -- Acts 5:1-10), and the Corinthians who made a mockery of the Lord's Supper (1 Cor 11:29). In modern times, we seem to be less discerning about such matters. One could easily point to the "natural" punishments like a sexual sin resulting in contracting a deadly disease. While these may be legitimate applications, there may be others which are supernatural instances of God removing or limiting someone who has defamed Him. Moses' sin took many years to catch up with him, while Ananias' sin was immediately dealt with. In the case of the Corinthians, it was unclear if the perpetrators were told ahead of time why they were being removed. It is clear, however, that God can give this insight either to those involved or outside observers. Once the verdict is known, we are not to pray that it will be reversed. We are not to ignore the fact that the person sinned. Their removal is to be a powerful warning for the survivors not to engage in sin that diminishes God's glory and work. They will not lose eternal life in heaven, but they will lose the privilege of working with Christ in this age.

17 John does not want us to misunderstand this Sin still hinders our relationship with God, but not all sins call for the removal of the wayward Christian from this life.
18 The new nature does not sin, but desires to be obedient to God. The old nature still desires to sin, but our new nature is stronger than the old because it is helped by the Holy Spirit. No one who is born again will continue in habitual sin. As he grows and matures, the believer sins less often as he becomes increasingly like Jesus. Jesus protects His followers from the devil. This does not mean God may allow a believer to be tested by evil forces, but He will not allow the believer to be demon possessed. A believer can not lose his salvation because God will not allow us to be held in the grasp of evil forces.
19 We are alive in God, but, as McGee translates this verse, the world lies asleep in the arms of the devil. To take it one step further, the world is dead in sin. It is completely separated from God. God awakens some people by direct revelation, but He has chosen His followers to be His co-laborers in this task. We are to look for His leading and then have faith that He will help us follow through on the mission that He has assigned us. He wants people to wake up from their dead slumber and arouse them to see the urgent need to get out of their deathbed and begin living. If a person dies separated from God, he will remain eternally separated from Him. This is a serious matter and Christians must be willing to work with God's solution, which is the only one that will work.
20 The Christian has a personal relationship with Christ. As such, Jesus shares His thoughts and plans, which come from the Father. In Him alone is perfect knowledge and eternal life. He gives us these things, and there is no room for doubt.
21 Since Jesus gives us true knowledge and eternal life, we should stay away from idols. An idol can be anything to which we redirect the attention we should be giving to God. Some people deify carvings, crystals, trees, people (others or themselves), and philosophies. Some people center their lives on money or pleasure. None of these things possesses true knowledge, and none can impart eternal life. Some people worship demons, but they do not realize that what they receive are far from truth, what little power they attain will be taken away, and the devil can not keep his promise that it will be a pleasure to "rule" in hell. Some people worship angels, but angels will not respond positively to such worship, and angels know that only Christ can grant eternal life.

John ends with this verse because he does not want us to dilute the truth of what he has taught with the false teachings generated by idol worshipers. Idol worship is opposed to Christianity, just as much as Gnosticism is, which John addressed directly in this letter. We can not align ourselves with something that opposed the core of who we are as born-again followers of Jesus.