A few weeks back, we looked at various things we can know, wrestling with the question, “What is knowable?” and the list was uplifting and encouraging. This week, I want to zero in on just one of those knowables: the fact we can know we have eternal life.
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.
– 1 John 5:13, ESV
Not only does John confirm that we can know we have eternal life, but he further states that knowing is the very purpose for which he writes. He writes so that we may know. Given this stated purpose, it seems John is giving us an indication not only that we can know this, but that it is important for us to know this.
The qualifier, however, is the “these things” of which John wrote. It is “these things” that give us the knowledge we have eternal life, therefore it becomes important for us to identify the “things” to which John refers.
The caution each of us must embrace is to not accept 1 John 5:13 as a proof-text for salvation apart from “these things,” things that correlate with “believing on the name of the Son of God.” When we can identify “these things” and see them lived out in our own walk with Christ, we can “know we have eternal life.” Otherwise, we may be walking with false confidence stemming from a superficial faith.
Let’s start at the beginning and work our way through the letter. Time and space do not allow us to look at all of them, but these are the ones that jumped out at me.
If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
– 1 John 1:6-7, ESV
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
– 1 John 1:8, ESV
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
– 1 John 1:9, ESV
If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
– 1 John 1:10, ESV
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.
– 1 John 2:1, ESV
And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.
– 1 John 2:3, ESV
…but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
– 1 John 2:5-6, ESV
Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling.
– 1 John 2:9-10, ESV
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
– 1 John 2:15, ESV
Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that he made to use—eternal life.
– 1 John 2:24-25, ESV
And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.
– 1 John 2:28, ESV
If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.
– 1 John 2:29, ESV
No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.
– 1 John 3:6, ESV
Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous.
– 1 John 3:7, ESV
By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.
– 1 John 3:10, ESV
For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another . . . We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.
– 1 John 3:11, 14, ESV
Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him;
– 1 John 3:18-19, ESV
And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.
– 1 John 3:23, ESV
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.
– 1 John 4:1, ESV
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
– 1 John 4:7-8, ESV
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
– 1 John 4:11-12, ESV
God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.
– 1 John 4:16b-17, ESV
By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.
– 1 John 5:2, ESV
For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.
– 1 John 5:3, ESV
Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
– 1 John 5:12, ESV
And it is at this point that John says, “I write these things that you may know . . .”
I cringe to write this because it sounds judgmental, but I am shocked and dismayed at the gross carnality I see in the body of Christ today. Far too many who wear the name of Christ are at ease in a nominal profession of faith while showing little, if any visible or tangible evidence of that faith. Indeed, they abound in evidence contrary to that faith. Many would do well to examine their faith while considering “these things” about which John wrote.
As the apostle Paul wrote so boldly to the church in Corinth:
Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!
– 2 Corinthians 13:5, ESV