We beat the world
- 5:1 Everyone who believes Jesus is the Messiah we’ve been waiting for is a child of God. And everyone who loves their Father loves his Child.1
- 5:2 If we love God and do as he asks, we’ll love his children.
- 5:3 If we love God, we obey the laws he gave us. It’s not hard to do.
- 5:4 All God’s children win their fight with the world, and faith is the power that does it.
- 5:5 Who fights off the world and wins this world war? The person of faith who believes Jesus is the Son of God.
Walk through water and blood
- 5:6 Jesus Christ had to pass through water and blood2 to get to us. Not just the water of baptism, when he started his ministry. There was also the blood at his crucifixion. God’s Spirit reminds us of this because truth is part of the Spirit’s job description.
- 5:7 We know about this because we have three witnesses
- 5:8 Spirit. Water. Blood. All three agree.
- 5:9 If we accept testimony from people, we should accept God’s testimony all the more. His word is greater. He backs up his testimony about his Son.
- 5:10 Anyone who believes Jesus is God’s Son has accepted God’s testimony as true. Anyone who doesn’t believe Jesus is God’s Son has rejected God’s testimony as false. They’re calling God a liar.
- 5:11 God also testifies that he has given us eternal life, courtesy of his Son.
- 5:12 Everyone who welcomes the Son into their life will have life forever. Everyone who doesn’t, won’t.
God is listening
- 5:13 I’m writing this so you’ll know that if you believe in the one called the Son of God, your eternal life has already started.
- 5:14 We know now that whenever we ask God for anything that fits into his plans, he hears us.
- 5:15 He doesn’t just hear us. We know that we’ll get what we ask for.
Pray for Christians who sin
- 5:16 If you see a fellow believer committing the kind of sin3 that even Christians occasionally commit, it doesn’t have to end in spiritual death. Pray for that person. Ask God to give the person eternal life. As for people whose sins show they are spiritually dead, I’m not saying we should pray for them.
- 5:17 All sins are sin. But some are worse than others. Not all end in spiritual death.4
- 5:18 God’s children don’t make a practice of sinning. We know that God’s Son protects them from it and from the harm evil can do.
- 5:19 We’re God’s children. We know that. And we know evil controls this world.
- 5:20 God’s Son came and gave us the insight to discover the True One. We’re now part of him. And we’re part of his Son, Jesus the Messiah. I’m talking about the true God, the source of eternal life.
- 5:21 Children, don’t go anywhere near idols.
Bible scholars interpret this in several different ways. The father and child might refer to an earthly father and his children, which would imply Christians should love their siblings. Or it could refer to God the Father and his children on earth, the people of faith. It might also refer to God the Father and his Son, Jesus.
It’s unclear what “water and blood” meant. Three of the more popular theories: sacraments of baptism and communion (aka Eucharist or Mass); water and blood from the spear thrust into the side of dead Jesus (John 19:34); baptism that launched his ministry when God told him, “You are my Son” (Mark 1:11), followed by the Crucifixion that ended his ministry.
More literally, Christians are to pray for “a brother who commits sin not to death,” and skip praying for “those who sin to death.” It’s not clear what the writer meant, though it may have been clear to his initial readers. Some scholars speculate that sins that don’t end in death refer to occasional slipups and even occasional devastating sins. “Sins that lead to death,” may refer to sin as a person’s default lifestyle—whether they present themselves as Christians or not.
More literally, “there is sin that doesn’t end in death.”
“Everyone who believes Jesus is the Messiah we’ve been waiting for is a child of God” (5:1)? Really? But James, who may have been the brother of Jesus, wrote, “You believe in the one true God, which is good. That said, big deal. Even the demons believe in God. His power terrifies them” (James 2:19). Don’t you have to act like a believer, too?
John sounds like such a preacher sometimes, it might seem—stretching the truth and spinning rugged reality into a perfectly wonderful fairytale. “If we love God, we obey the laws he gave us. It’s not hard to do” (5:3). Well, how hard is it to love a neighbor who won’t try to stop his kid from throwing rocks at your dog?
It’s a mystery what John meant when he said “Jesus Christ had to pass through water and blood” (5:6). Scholars guess that since he didn’t explain it to his readers, he figured they would understand it right away, perhaps from a previous letter he wrote them or a sermon he had preached. Of the theories below about what water and blood mean, which makes most sense to you?
- Worship rituals of baptism and communion
- Water and blood from the crucifixion wound in Jesus’ side
- Jesus’ baptism and crucifixion
It sounds like John is convinced a person who doesn’t embrace Jesus and Christianity will miss out on eternal life. “Everyone who welcomes the Son into their life will have life forever. Everyone who doesn’t, won’t” (5:12). Not all Christians say they think it’s that black and white. They say they see elbow room, especially for people who never heard about Jesus. What do you think about that?
How do you think God “backs up his testimony about his Son” (5:9)?
What do you think John means by what is more literally translated “a sin that leads to death,” or “sin to death” (5:16)?
Why on earth would John tell Christians he’s not asking them to pray for “people whose sins show they are spiritually dead” (5:16). Aren’t those the very people we’re supposed the pray for? Didn’t Jesus say he came to help the spiritually sick: “Healthy people don’t need a doctor. Sick people do” (Luke 5:31).
LIFE APPLICATION. “All God’s children win their fight with the world, and faith is the power that does it” (5:4). Why would John say something like this, which probably sounds to some folks like wishful thinking? Christians leave the faith every day. It happens. How do you think that reality meshes with John’s statement?
LIFE APPLICATION. John says when it comes to God, “We’re now part of him. And we’re part of his Son, Jesus” (5:20). Do you think most Christians actually feel like God the Father and Jesus are part of them and vice-versa? If so, how do you think we could describe it to people outside the faith?