Apostle John’s Three Letters . . . 1 John 5:13–15
John’s Concluding Observations
We've reached the concluding segment of John's first epistle. In his final nine verses, he'll state the purpose for having written this letter: He needed to remind them of who they believed in and that, because of such belief, they'd received the gift of eternal life. As we've already learned, there were many false teachers (primarily Gnostics) who were teaching things that led to: darkness, disobedience, a worldly focus, lies, sin, hatred, an antichrist spirit, fear, death, and submission to Satan. John reminds true believers that they/we ought not listen to false prophets since they don't have a personal relationship with God. They don't lead people to the Light, they don't obey God's word, they refute the truth, and they confidently refuse to abide in Christ and receive a new spiritual life.
Why John the Elder Wrote This First Letter (1 John 5:13)
According to gotquestions.org, "salvation" is deliverance from danger or suffering. Often, the word concerns an eternal, spiritual deliverance. In the Christian doctrine of salvation, we're saved from “wrath,” that is, God’s judgment of sin, which separates us from God. The consequence of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Only God can remove sin and deliver us from sin’s penalty (2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 3:5).
Put differently, salvation is God's deliverance of the believer, through Jesus Christ, from all of sin's effects. It's God's work in the human heart, which is accompanied by all the benefits that he bestows on us, now and forever. We need to know beyond a shadow of a doubt where we'll spend eternity. And God has made sure through his word that such certainty is available to every one of us. Realize that God wants to save everyone (1 Tim. 2:4); he also enables us to achieve salvation through his Son (John 3:16); we're also told that we must believe in Jesus Christ (Acts 16:31).
Exactly how is salvation received? Our heavenly Father is faithful at keeping every one of his promises! Because his promises are based on his perfect character, we can be certain that he'll do what he says; otherwise he wouldn't be the Almighty God that he is. And Jesus' promises can be trusted because he always spoke the Father's words (John 12:49). So when you choose Jesus to become your Lord, he also becomes your personal Savior. He'll then save you from your sin and welcome you into his family (John 1:12), without regard to your merit or worth. Eternal life will be yours! He offers this valuable gift freely to all who believe in his Son, Jesus, and follow him.
Believers are saved by "faith." First, we must hear and read the gospel — the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection (Ephesians 1:13). We must also believe and fully trust the Lord Jesus (Rom. 1:16), which requires changing our mind and behavior regarding sin and Christ (Acts 3:19) and calling on the name of the Lord (Rom. 10:9–10, 13). Those who choose Jesus to be their Lord get saved, thereby receiving God's gift of eternal life with Jesus. This brings us to John the Elder's concluding affirmations that he's written in his first epistle, starting with his focus on eternal life (v. 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 (5:13).
The term "you who believe" likely means those who've committed themselves to a trustworthy entity (such as Jesus) with total conviction. Having a strong belief prevents a change in heart, behavior, and actions. Genuine belief requires an intellectual agreement and acceptance of mind while also including a decisive action with one's heart and will. The Greek pisteuo, in the present tense, speaks of continual belief. While the strength of our faith may fluctuate on occasion, it never drops to zero, even though it might feel that way at times. God has given us his assurance, in his word, that our faith can be firmly grounded on Biblical truth. As one hymn triumphantly declares, "How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, is laid for your faith in His excellent Word" (presented here in this musical performance by Michael Card).
The blood of Christ makes us safe; the Word of God makes us sure.
John closes v. 13 by assuring his readers that they "know that [they] have eternal life." It's knowing that your spirit is reborn and you'll live forever with God in heaven. Eternal life amounts to a new, everlasting personal relationship with Jesus Christ. God grants eternal life to all believers as a genuine gift. Eternal life concerns the quality or character of our new lifestyle in Christ.
Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift (2 Corinthians 9:15).
In terms of salvation and the assurance of it, all of us fall into one of three groups of people: (1) those who are "secure" but not "sure," being saved but lacking assurance; (2) those who are "sure" but not "secure," saying, Although I live in sin, I'll make it. After all, 'once saved, always saved!'; and (3) those born-again believers who are "secure and sure," enjoying a warm, secure relationship with Christ, every single day. The objective basis of our salvation is the finished work of Father God's Son on the cross. The subjective basis for our assurance is our (a) believing the truth written about Christ Jesus (2:2, 4; 2:15; 5:1), (b) loving our brethren (3:14, 18, 19, 4:7–8), and (c) obeying Christ's commandments (2:3–5).
Our Confidence in Approaching God in Our Prayers (v. 14)
Sometimes our prayers are filled more with doubt than with confidence. We know that for God to answer our requests, our prayers must be in line with his will. However, wondering if we're praying according to his will can trip us up; faced with that uncertainty, we'll occasionally fall silent. Thankfully, John can help us pray confidently.
John continually tells us in this first epistle of his that God's will is for each of us to have a healthy relationship with him through his Son, Jesus Christ. That means knowing the Father with increasing intimacy, progressively becoming more and more like Jesus. By focusing our prayers on having this type of relationship with the Lord, it becomes easier to know how and what to pray. Prayer gains access to the proud spirit, to the hardened heart, to the unbelieving mind; there are no walls too high or thick for him to breach. So pray God's will with confidence, faith, and trust; watch lives change, especially your own.
John Stott writes this about such "confidence": "Christian confidence belongs not just to the future, to the Greek parousia (2:28) and the judgment day (4:17), but to the here and now. It describes both the manner of our approach to God, free and bold (3:21), and our expectation of its outcome, namely that he hears us. In 3:22, the condition of answered prayer depends on whether our behavior accords with God’s commands; here in v. 14, it depends on whether our requests accord with His will."
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us (5:1–14).
Regarding John's term "approaching God," it's obvious that God wants us to approach him to express all our needs, questions, and concerns. Throughout the Scriptures, we're encouraged to pray. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells his disciples to keep asking, seeking, and knocking, while trusting Father God to give what is good to his children (Matthew 7:7–11). And in Philippians 4:6, Apostle Paul urges us to respond to anxiety by praying about everything. Therefore, it's obvious that God wants us to come to him prayerfully with our needs, questions, and concerns.
Further, when John writes, "if we ask anything according to his will," it's important to realize that our praying is never on a surer foundation than when it's grounded in Scripture, for that's where God’s will is revealed. As we pray, we know that God will hear and answer our prayers as he deems appropriate. For prayer ought not to be an attempt to get God to see things our way and to extract from him what we've decided we need or want. Instead, prayer is our requesting, then fully submitting, our will to his. That said, if our prayer has as its object our brother’s real good, not our self-interest, then the condition will have been met and the prayer will be answered in God’s way, according to his schedule.
The less one prays, the more self-willed he or she becomes. Thankfully the corollary is wonderfully true: "Not my will, but yours" (Luke 22:42). That's the essence of assured prayer. Prayer isn't a device that allows us to impose our will upon God; rather, prayer is the bending of our will to his, in the desire that his good will may be done as we ask of him. And his answering of our prayers doesn't depend on our correct diagnosis or analysis of a problem as we pray, but on our childlike submission to Father God, faithfully knowing that he knows what's best and will answer our prayers according to his will. Be comforted in knowing that faith is the key to answered prayer.
The "hears" in "he hears us" is the Greek akouo, which means: to attend to or consider what is or has been said; not just to hear but to listen, give thoughtful attention to. In this context, akouo means not only that God hears our voice but that he even listens with divine attention. It should be an amazing realization that God listens to us. And because the present tense of akouo was used, it demonstrates that God hears us continually, every single prayer we pray to him!
When the Spirit prompts the asking,
When the waiting heart believes,
We know this of every petition,
All who ask receive. — Anon.
God Hears and Answers Our Prayers (v. 15)
And if we know that he hears us — whatever we ask — we know that we have what we asked of him (5:15).
Here's a paraphrasing of v.15 that should help you appreciate John's words of assurance that the requests we make to God will be granted by him: And if we know with an absolute knowledge that he hears us, whatever we are asking for ourselves, we know with an absolute knowledge that we have the things that we we've asked from him.
This epistle is full of certainty! The phrase "whatever we ask" widens the scope of our praying for anything, so long as what we pray for is according to God’s will and is bound to further his cause. When a believer submits his will to God’s will, he or she can feel allowed to make any request, however unusual, knowing it must agree with God’s will and purpose. We're to pray for things that are in keeping with his divine plan and character. He wants us to discern his will, to pray for it to be carried out, and to do whatever our part might be in its fulfillment (Matt. 6:9–10). Fear not! The Holy Spirit will help us know what to pray (Rom. 8:28). And as we consider which petitions to make to him, we should ask ourselves, Is my request based on God's word?
Where you search for the correct answer to that question is essential. Thankfully, John reminded his readers, then and today, of two types of testimonies from which to choose: (1) the less important secondary testimony made by man and (2) the indispensable primary testimony made by God. That's why our hearing, reading, and meditating on what God reveals about his Son is of tremendous importance. We're to believe his words because God testifies using a most-authoritative voice.
The main idea of v. 15 is this: We know that we presently have whatever we've asked, in accord with his will. We may not see it for many years but it’s as good as done. It takes an investment of time to meet God's requirements for prayer. But in response, he'll provide answers beyond anything we could ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20), amen.
If we want to pray effectively, our goal shouldn't be to offer up quick, thoughtless, or self-willed prayers, hoping to receive speedy answers to them. Instead, we must learn to pray wisely, then wait patiently. Along with voicing our concerns and requests to God, we should also offer ourselves up in submission to Father God, as Jesus did in Gethsemane (Matt. 26:39). When we become yielded and obedient to the Lord, his Spirit guides us and provides the wisdom we need to pray according to his will.
God's word is filled with his promises that those who've chosen Jesus to become Lord will spend eternity with him. If you struggle with doubt about God's external and internal testimonies, be sure to meditate on Scripture, asking the Spirit of Jesus to guide you into a biblical understanding of your salvation.
"Dear God: We thank you for your freely given gift of eternal life that you've made available to those of us who have faith in you. We're very thankful that we don't need to make hearty efforts to make our way into heaven where we'll live with you and worship you endlessly. Thank you, and amen."
- Q. 1 How confident are you when you pray?
- Q. 2 On a scale of 1 (low) to 10 (high), how does your “confidence meter” read?
1 John 5:13–15
New International Version (NIV)
[View it in a different version by clicking here; also listen to chapter 5 narrated by Max McLean.]