Knowing about Eternal Life
13All of you have faith in the Son of God, and I have written to let you know you have eternal life. 14We are certain God will hear our prayers when we ask for what pleases him. 15And if we know God listens when we pray, we are sure our prayers have already been answered.
16Suppose you see one of our people commit a sin that isn't a deadly sin. You can pray, and this person will be given eternal life. But the sin must not be one that is deadly. 17Everything that is wrong is sin, but not all sins are deadly.
18We are sure God's children do not keep on sinning. God's own Son protects them, and the devil cannot harm them.
19We are certain we come from God and the rest of the world is under the power of the devil.
20We know that Jesus Christ the Son of God has come and has shown us the true God. And because of Jesus, we now belong to the true God who gives eternal life.
21Children, you must stay away from idols.
This letter is for all of us who have faith in Jesus Christ, God’s son, the Messiah. John doesn’t say for all of you who call yourselves Christians, as though Christianity is just one amongst an array of religions from which we make a choice. Believing in Jesus isn’t just a matter of acknowledging that he lived. It’s much more dynamic. To “have faith in” Jesus Christ means to entrust oneself unreservedly, in complete confidence, to him, to a person. The person who has faith in Jesus knows his presence, his power to help, his strength and his love. He or she knows that what Jesus said is true. To have faith in him is to identify with him. The conclusion of this letter is strikingly similar to John 20:31, where he adds that by believing we have life in his name.
Think of the Christians left in this church (at Ephesus?) after the trouble makers had left. What are their pastoral care needs? What do they need to be reminded and assured of? John’s letter reminded them that: we have eternal life, God hears us and answers our prayers, we do not continue to sin, we are children of God, the whole world is under the control of the evil one, the Son of God has come and given us understanding, and we know the true God.
I recently had cataract surgery and I cannot believe the brilliance of the colours of all the things I am so used to seeing. I feel the same way after studying this letter. There was nothing here I didn’t already know – Jesus is the messiah, he died for our sins, we must love one another, we enjoy eternal life – and yet everything is sharper and clearer. May it be the same for you.
Thank you, God, for all the great truths of the faith you have reminded me of. You are the true God and eternal life (v 20). In Jesus’ name, Amen.