Confident Faith - 1 John 5:13-17

            Doubt is to have no confidence in someone or in something. When someone is consistently late, but they give you assurance that they will be on time it would be natural to doubt or have no confidence that they would arrive on time.  We can be conditioned to doubt by our environment or by our previous experience.  I regularly meet people who have little to no confidence in the church because of their previous experiences at church.  It is hard for people to continue to have confidence in others when they have been let down.  Doubt leads to cynicism.  
            As someone who has worked within impoverished communities, I have developed a good dose of cynicism. I have heard a lot of lies and seen a lot of people fail to change.  So now, when someone comes to me wanting help I have to fight off my doubts. I have to fight my own heart which lacks confidence in people’s ability to change.  I have been conditioned by my own experiences to lack confidence in people’s words.  My previous experiences shape how I am currently viewing the world.  And if I am not careful, my doubts will start to cloud not only my confidence in people, but in God. God does not want us to doubt Him, but to have confident assurance that we have eternal life. 

1 John 5:12, “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.”

Confident Assurance

Can we ever be sure that we have the Son?  Can we ever be confident that we have eternal life?  According to the Apostle John that is the point of this entire epistle. 
1 John 5:13, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.” 
Some scholars believe that the “these things” only refer to the beginning of chapter 5, but it is more accurate to see “these things” as a reference to the entire letter. 
John mentions “eternal life” six different times in this letter (1:2, 2:25, 3:15, 5:11, 5:13, 5:20)
He mentions “Son of God” eight different times (3:8, 4:15, 5:5, 5:6, 5:10, 5:12, 5:13, 5:20).
He mentions “believe” five different times (3:23, 4:1, 4:16, 5:10, 5:13).
And he mentions “know” twenty-nine different times throughout this letter. So out of the one hundred and five total verses in this epistle twenty-nine of them contain a form of the verb “know.” Twenty-eight percent of this epistle teaches us things we can know. 
It is clear that “these things” refer to the entire letter.  This letter was written so we can believe that Jesus is the Son of God and to know that we have eternal life in Him. 
Repetition is the mother of learning so by the mere repetition John wants us to know that we have eternal life.  The question is “Who are the ‘we’ that has eternal life?”  The “we” are those who believe in the name of the Son of God and love one another in the fellowship. John was writing against the heretics that left the fellowship who were teaching that people needed special knowledge from within to be saved.  The letter was written to encourage those who remained in the fellowship that they had eternal life.  John would give no confident assurance to those who were outside of the fellowship. 
I find it extremely interesting that many people who are extremely confident that they are in the faith have no connection to a local church.  What are they basing their confidence on?  I presume that most are basing their confidence that they have eternal life on a decision that they made once in their life to accept Jesus into their heart.  Unfortunately, that is a false confidence.  True confidence is built (biblically) on your connection to a church body where you are living out your faith in fellowship with other believers.  Church membership does not save you, but it is one of the ways the Lord gives us to be assured that we are in the faith.  

Confident Appeal

            John reminds the people that they are the true believers who have remained faithful to their confession and to each other and therefore, likewise they are not like those who claimed to have true faith only to walk away from the body.  He then reminds them of the great confidence we have in prayer. 

1 John 5:14, “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.”

This is a great verse for the believer.  God hears our prayers.  But does God hear all our prayers? If we read this casually, we could believe that God promises to give us whatever we ask.  Listen to verse 15, “And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.”  Based on this verse would it be accurate for me to say that if I pray to win the lottery God promises to give me that request?  What about if I pray that God would heal me of my sickness?  Can I “claim” healing based on this verse? 
Context is king in interpreting the Scripture.  What is the condition of the Lord hearing our prayers? 1 John 5:14, “And this is the confidence we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us” (emphasis added).  God does not answer our prayers just because we trust that He will answer them.  John Stott says,

Prayer is not a convenient device for imposing our will upon God, or for bending his will to ours, but the prescribed way of subordinating our will to his. It is by prayer that we seek God’s will, embrace it and align ourselves with it. Every true prayer is a variation of the theme “your will be done.”[1]

God gives us prayer to conform our wills to His will; our desires to His desires.  There are many experiences I have had where I struggled before I went to the Lord in prayer, but upon praying my burdens were lifted and my heart was changed. Prayer reminds me that God is good and that He loves me and wants what is best for me.  His will for me is what I want my will for me to be.  And this happens in prayer. 
So how do we pray according to God’s will? First, we learn what God’s will is from the Scripture.  We can pray the Scripture. After preaching I often pray that God would apply the message of the Bible to our hearts.  For example, after studying this text, I will ask God to give us a confident assurance that we have eternal life and that we trust we can make confident appeals according to God’s will.  I am praying the message of the Bible for me and for us all.  In your own quiet times as you finish take a few moments to confidently appeal to God to apply the promises of the Word to your life. 

Romans 12:1-2, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

God can also communicate to us through other means, but we cannot be 100% certain what God’s will is in every situation.  Preachers that claim guarantees to know God’s will outside of Scriptures are lying.  If we fill our minds with the things of God, we are able to discern what the will of God is.  God is free to communicate to us any way He sees fit, but our only 100% guarantee comes from the Word.

Confident Atonement

            John gives us one specific way we can pray God’s will; by praying for our brothers and sisters in Christ. 
1 John 5:16-17, “If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is a sin that does not lead to death.”
The life that God gives always comes through Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ atoned for our sins by giving Himself as our ransom.  He purchased us with His blood so that we could experience life.  Those who are in Christ are covered with the blood of Christ. 

1 John 2:1-2, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”

It is God’s will that we pray for our brothers and sisters struggling with sin. We do not talk about them or malign them, but we pray for them.  We appeal to God on their behalf and the Lord will give them life.  John has spoken often about those who continue in sin not being born of God, so it is vital that those who are identified with the community must fight to put sin to death in their life. 
It is important to remember that victory over sin is a community project.  Our sin affects other people. We must fight to overcome our sin and help others overcome their sin.  So if we see a brother committing sin, we pray for them.  A prayerful approach to our brothers and sisters fights against the judgmental “sin policing” that the church is so often known for.  We should never trivialize sin, but we also do not have to point out everyone’s sin.  We simply can confidently appeal to the Father through Christ that He would convict them of sin and turn them to Christ.  Jesus says in Matthew 18 that if someone sins against us we go to them, but here John is saying that if we see sin in our community we go to God in prayer.  And by praying, our hearts will be turned to treat our brother according to God’s will; forgiving them as God has forgiven us. 
John does not explicitly explain the difference between a “sin not leading to death” and a “sin that leads to death.” We can assume that the original hearers would have known clearly what he was referring to so he did not need to add commentary. We have to do a little digging to understand what he means.  There are three possible options:
1.)    A Specific Deadly Sin – John could be refereeing to “mortal sins” such as murder, injustice, idolatry, apostasy, adultery, and/or fornication. The Old Testament does distinguished between deliberate vs. unintentional sins.
2.)    Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit – Jesus told the Pharisees that the rejection of the Holy Spirit would be unforgiven.  John could be referring not to pray for people who have hardened their heart to a point that they have little hope of ever repenting and turning to Christ.
3.)    Total Rejection of the Gospel – John is probably referring to those who have walked away from the gospel and totally turned away from Jesus Christ and the church.  The sin that leads to death does not mention the person as a brother, implying that they have rejected the gospel. This view makes the most sense in light of the content of the epistle and the context surrounding the reason the epistle was written. [2]
John is not soft on sin, but Christians who commit sin will be forgiven on account of Jesus Christ the Righteous. He is our advocate who stands forever before the Father interceding for His own. He will not lose one of us that has been given to Him by the Father. Those who have totally rejected the gospel and walked away from Jesus have no assurance they will be saved.  John encourages us to focus on those who remain in the church community.   
Beloved, we should have much more confidence in God’s Word because we have seen God successfully keeps his promises again and again and again.

Romans 3:4, “Let God be true though everyone were a liar, as it is written, “That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged.”

God’s Word is true and can be trusted.  Let us have Confident Assurance that we have eternal life; Confident Appeals, for our God hears us as we pray according to His Will; and Confident Atonement, knowing that we have been purchased through the blood of Jesus Christ who lives to intercede for us before the Father forever. 

[1] Akin, Danny. The New American Commentary:1, 2, 3 John. P.206
[2] Adapted from [2] Akin, Danny. The New American Commentary:1, 2, 3 John.