The Book of 1 John

Know for Certain

1 John 5:18-21 SCC 9/25/11



            One of the attacks in this world against certain knowledge of God is idolatry. However, we have a list of assurances that we can hold onto with certainty and conviction. We can know we have a new perfect nature; that we are in the power of God; that we have an understanding of the truth, and that idols are concepts that falsify all of our certainty.



Each of the next three verses begins with ‘we know’. The ‘we’ here refers to the apostolic team but are assertions we who follow the apostolic witness must also identify with and accept as well.


            1. Even though it is possible for a believer to sin as in v 13-17 (either a sin not unto death or one that is) we have been given a nature that is essentially sinless. So sin cannot be blamed on a deficient new nature we have in Christ. This is a nature that we have been ‘born again’ with; one that has been given to us at the new birth. John is affirming that anyone born of God is a person who has in inherently sinless nature and if you act consistent with that nature you will not sin. So it is possible to overcome any sin we may have done making our prayers for one another’s sin effective. When you align yourself with the desires of your new nature it is possible to overcome sin and/ or even reckon the alluring nature of sin to be dead to you.


            2. God is also able to keep such a person so that the ‘evil one’ does not touch him or her. In other words, we are not merely victims of the deceptive and powerful skill of Satan. We are not sitting ducks. We excuse when a believer sins with comments like ‘we are only human’ or ‘life is hard’. Since we have a powerful and perfect new nature we can do what God is expecting of us—that is, to not sin! God will never excuse it and so we cannot. We cannot blame it on Satan either. The point is that Satan must operate within God’s sovereign control. Satan cannot touch us in any way that is not controlled by God. Satan may persecute us, tempt us, but God protects believers and limits Satan’s power. So whatever comes upon us is:  (1) Always by the hand of God; (2) never from the wrath of God; and (3) always an act of the love of God. Suffering from Satan allowed by God always results in a better good, which defeats Satan. The purpose of suffering allowed by God is to give us a better hope, one that does not disappoint. In another sense we can also ‘keep ourselves’ when we choose to live consistent with our new nature, Satan flees from us.




Here the author affirms that the whole world is still under the controlling influence of the evil one. However, believers do not belong to the world any longer. So we cannot be dominated by the spirit of the age. We can counter this influence because we are new creations of God.


            1. The preposition here indicates both source and possession: Christians are “from” God in the sense that he fathers them, and they belong to him. So we have the assurance that we are of God because it is founded upon God’s own testimony of v 13-17. We are members of a new family living with in the realm of a new kingdom.


            2. This reality is accompanied by the realization that the entire world is under the control of the evil one. We know we are of God and the rest of the world lies in the power of Satan. The same phrase, “the whole world” is used in 1 John 2:2. While it is true that God’s purpose in sending the Son into the world extended to the entire world (1 John 2:2; cf. John 3:16-17), it is also true that the world, comprised of unbelievers, lies in Satan’s power. It seems that the point here is to reinforce our consciousness that we are distinct from the satanically controlled world system and basically free form its power. If we cave into any of it, it is because we chose not to live within the realm of our new nature, which cannot sin, nor can it be tempted to sin.


            We do not have to listen to any advances by false teachers or antichrists in this world. Their values and ideas are only horizontal in scope. That will motivate people to vest interest in the interests of this world—things like world peace; environmentalism; aids eradication; poverty and hunger; political agendas; gender issues; sexual preferences; quality of life issues. Instead of holiness pursuit; discipleship ministry; eternal worldview; management of sin, confession and repentance; glory of God in life; conformity to Christ; knowledge of fear of God. We must not succumb to the world’s philosophies, priorities, agendas, or patterns. Think about this—whenever the church has challenged honest at face value traditional biblical conclusions, they usually are attempts to move the church toward a more cultural understanding—in other words a more world system thinking—about abortion, homosexuality, divorce/remarriage, and reality of hell, salvation only in Christ, the authority and sufficiency of the Word of God. This means we must rethink a common sense biblical hermeneutic so we can accommodate the ‘spirit of the age’. Every time we do this we march in step with the power and persuasion of the ‘evil one’.




The author sums up the major assertions of the letter. (1) The readers know that the Son of God has come; (2) the Son has given the readers insight to know him (God) who is true; (3) believers are “in” God who is true; (4) believers are also “in” his Son Jesus Christ; (5) finally, the author asserts that This one (Jesus Christ) is the true God and eternal life.


            1. The coming of Jesus Christ granted to believers an understanding, which makes possible knowledge of God. Christ came to give deep understanding of Himself and the truth (John 17:3. Paul uses the same word in Eph 1:18 when he prays for the deep understanding of new believers. It is about knowing God. When we get diverted into knowing something else or someone else we lose focus and track in differing directions away from the knowledge of our God.


            2. And who is He? The One ‘who is true’ and also ‘in His Son Jesus Christ’ and ‘is the true God and eternal life’. To know God is to understand Him in His Son Jesus Christ. If you replace Christ with another or if you marginalize Christ so He is not who the Bible testifies then you cannot know God. You create God of your own making and attach value to that. Then you become foolish and ignorant—enter cults and world religions—demonically driven falsifications. This one [= Jesus Christ] is the true God and eternal life.”




            In other words, do not let your mind become perverted by dwelling upon understanding of spiritual matters apart from Christ. Idols are not just something you desire such a loving your car, or even family. Idolatry is when you put spiritual significance into the object. It is better illustrated with astrology or tarot cards. Israel gave spiritual significance to the idols they worshipped by believing they possessed a spiritual force to give them what they wanted. We must guard ourselves from doing that with circumstances, opportunities, objects, possessions, nature, dreams, yoga, or experiences. If we perceive there is spiritual value from any of these then that replaces God and His clear directive Word to us. In this world there will ever be temptation to attach spiritual value to anything in addition to the Bible or apart from it, as long as you avoid knowledge of the true God.