1 John 5:13-17 March 5, 2017
Sermon Series on I John Sermon # 21 Today’s Sermon: “Confidence in Christ”
Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him. 16 If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that he should pray about that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death.”
Confidence: do you have it? And if you do, who or what is your confidence in? We tend to dislike the person is so full of his own self-confidence that he’s cocky and arrogant.
On the other hand we don’t want to be the person who has no confidence, so that he is always uncertain and unsure. (But if we are taking a plane ride or getting operated on, we sure do want to have confidence in the pilot or the surgeon, right?) God calls us to put our complete confidence in Him and in His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
Here is 5:13-17 John tells us three things we can be confident about, in Christ:
- Confidence that we have eternal life (13)
- Confidence that God hears us when we pray (14-15)
- Confidence that our sins are forgiven (16-17)
- Confidence in Christ that we have eternal life (13)
1Jn 5:13 “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”
How do you know you have eternal life? Most of us would answer what John writes here; I believe in the name of the Son of God, that’s why. And that’s absolutely true. But John has gone to great lengths in this letter to tell us that’s not the whole story. What do I mean? Well, consistently and repeatedly in these five chapters, the apostle has given us three criteria for measuring our profession of faith in Jesus. I hope by now you know what they are! They are love, trust, and obedience. Love for God and others; reliance upon God for all He has done and promised; and a heart-felt obedience to God’s commands. In other words, if you can see that God is at work in you in these three areas, then you have confirmation that your faith in the Son of God is real and living, and therefore you can have confidence that you do have eternal life.
And of course the opposite is true: if you demonstrate little or no fruit in these three areas, that means that you do not have eternal life, no matter what you verbally profess.
Please note that we are not saved by our faith, our love, or our obedience. No. We are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Yet at the same time, love, trust, and obedience are the three characteristic fruit of the person who has the confidence of eternal life. Is that your confidence?
2. Confidence in Christ that God hears us when we pray (14-15)
14 “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.”
What do you think of that promise? Does it sound like a “Name it and claim it” kind of praying?
Does God really give us anything we ask him to? Let’s be careful not to go off the deep end on either extreme view of interpreting this promise, and at the same time, let’s make sure that we can still rejoice in the beauty of this promise, okay?
Let’s think back to a very similar promise that John wrote back in 3:21-22 “Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.”
Notice some of the guard rails to keep us in bounds:
“If our hearts do not condemn us” (a clear conscience in Christ);
“Because we obey his commands” (submitting to His Word); and
“Because we do what pleases Him.” (Delighting in Him and His will above all.)
Those are some of the conditions or guardrails to help keep us on the straight and narrow when we pray and make requests of God.
Now here in 5:14, we are given a similar guardrail for our prayer requests: “If we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” We need to pray with our wills aligned with God’s will, if we want to get answers. This is what Jesus taught us in the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’ Prayer is not a vending machine operated by the Trinity. Often God wants to bend our wills and teach us more about Himself and His ways, as we wrestle in prayer over long periods of time. Think about Jacob wrestling with God!
But there’s another guardrail in the context of this passage that should focus the kind of requests we make to God. The promise of “anything” or “whatever” we ask God is hemmed in on both sides by two important considerations.
The verse before this, v. 13, focuses on the greatest answer to prayer, namely, the gift of eternal life with God in heaven. That should be one great focus of our prayer requests.
The verses after this, in vv. 16-17, deal with praying for others, not for ourselves, that people would be forgiven of their sins… and therefore come to know Jesus and the life He gives!
Therefore the context of the promise to ask whatever you want, and God will hear you, is strongly flavored by the concerns of eternal life, for ourselves and for others. We can say with confidence that God wants us to pray for the salvation of others. We leave the matters of predestination and election in His hands; and we concentrate on lifting up others in intercessory prayer, that they will come to know Him. And we are confident that He hears us when we pray that way, leaving the results in His gracious and sovereign hands.
3. Confidence in Christ that our sins are forgiven (16-17)
16 “If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that he should pray about that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death.”
Here is an example of God answering our prayers… as well as a limitation on what prayers God will answer.
Notice something else about this kind of praying: who is the object of our requests? It’s not me; it’s another person. God wants us to invest in regularly praying for others, in interceding for other’s needs, and not simply asking God about just our own needs.
Furthermore, note the godly response we should have if we see a brother or sister committing sin: not gossip, not judging, but prayer. Think about your response when you see or hear of another Christian who has fallen, who committed adultery, or got caught cheating or lying or addicted, etc. Did you commit yourself to pray for them, or were you more interested in telling someone else the juicy news that you were privy to? May the Lord help us!
Back in 1 John 3:17-18 we were told that if we see another brother in material need, and we have the resources to help him, we should help him out! Here in 5:16, John tells us that if we see a brother who is struggling with spiritual needs (sin) we should help him by praying for him. God commands us to intercede for one another, especially for those who are struggling and are weak in faith.
Now admittedly vv. 16-17 are not as clear as we would like them to be, and there are many different interpretations of these verses. For example, some think that the sin that leads to death is the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Others think it refers to the hardened false teachers – the “antichrists”- who reject Jesus as the incarnate Son of God, and the ones who went out from the church as a false teachers and heretics. The Roman Catholic uses these verses to teaching a difference between mortal sins and venial sins, and says that if you die with an unconfessed mortal sin, you will go to hell.
It’s hard to know exactly what John meant, but His readers would have, otherwise he would have explained it in deeper detail. But here is what we do know: notice that the focus is on the sin that “does not lead to death.” (Three times); only once do we read of “sin that leads to death.”
What is significant about that? Well, we can say that both groups of people who commit sin are originally dead in their sins (Eph. 2:1). However, one receives life, while the other one remains dead, and John’s focus is on praying for the sinner whose sin does not lead to death (3x). That is the main intent of his teaching here: intercessory prayer for the forgiveness of sins, through the blood of Christ, which leads to repentance and faith, and to eternal life.
Here’s something else we know for sure: all of our sins are an affront to God. All sin is lawlessness (3:4). All sin dishonors God and His glory. All sin is deserving of God’s just and holy wrath. But Christ is our propitiation. Christ is the Lamb of God who takes away our sin. Therefore our sin, covered by Jesus’ blood, does not lead to our death. Instead, we can have the confidence that “…you who believe in the name of the Son of God… may know that you have eternal life.”