Saturday, January 30, 2010

Three Tests of True Faith in 1 John 5

“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ [the Messiah] has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”

~1 John 5:1-5 (NRSV).

John wastes no time in his comprehensive and contrastive first letter. In all of life there are convolutions of connections, most of which are truly invisible—but they’re even more real than you and I. The whole of the true faith life is based in these three following principles:


Love is the first test. John already states earlier in the letter (verses 4:8; 4:20) that we cannot truly love God if we don’t love the people around us. If we struggle to forgive, and inevitably choose not to via our unforgiving actions, we cannot actually love God. His love is not in us... yet. We are members of the same human family. We love the parent (God) and we love the child (our fellow human beings—all of them). It doesn’t get any more complicated than that.

This love leads us on, through the notion of obedience—the second test—in explaining the shape of faith—the third test—the lasting finish point that catapults us headlong and resiliently into the world for God’s glory.[1]


In the grips of love, obedience is a golden thrill, an affirmative want in us to do the right thing to positively please our Lord Jesus, our Intercessor to the Father. But, before we get carried away, swept up in ‘warm ‘n’ fuzzy’ visions of this wondrous place, we need to understand obedience is a rubber-hits-the-road thing that is the only basic manifestation of love.

This is the test of love; can the person professing to love truly obey?


How is it that the following can happen?

“Two men looked out through prison bars.

The one saw mud and the other stars.”[2]

Faith is, of course, the difference between the two; joyous faith in the latter—hopelessness of fear and doubt (anti-faith) in the former. Faith is what conquers.

Faith cannot be truly represented without giving due attention to the subject of faithfulness—the outcome and state of faith—and this undying, living and active... to God.

Our “whole outlook upon this world” should be transformed and different, full of light and the truth of hope in God. Though we are already victorious in Christ, we still must fight; faith gives us that ability to fight with the resplendent tools of the Almighty.[3]

What comes first is our relationship with Christ; then necessarily love—for love is action, proof of the holy transformational transaction; then love is proved by our obedience, and this revealing faith.

The New Testament idea of being Christian is summarised very effectively in the one hundred English words in the above five verses at top. We do nothing for our salvation but accept what has already been done. We love each other. We obey his commandments, in joy. In this is faith, and the conquering of the world; all to the glory of God.

Believe in Jesus, truly, and conquer the world that would seek to oppress. In Christ we enjoy an “ennobling dignity... an unshakable and gifted status that is not ours to earn.”[4]

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

[1] Structure taken from: James Montgomery Boice, The Epistles of John – An Expositional Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1979, 2004), p. 125-29.

[2] Cited in: Martin Lloyd-Jones, Life in Christ – Studies in 1 John (Five Volumes) (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 2002), p. 600.

[3] Lloyd-Jones, Ibid, p. 592, 603 (quotation).

[4] C. Clinton Black, The First, Second, and Third Letters of John – Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections (New Interpreter’s Bible – Vol. XII) (Nashville, Tennessee: Abingdon Press, 1998), p. 437.

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