1 John 5:6-12

We read in 1 John 5:4 that it is our faith that overcomes "the world" (the prevailing beliefs and opinions in the world amongst those opposed to the kingdom of heaven). What is John talking about? In simple terms, we all use faith every day in ordinary activities. For example:

  • When we put our plastic card in the "hole-in-the-wall", we have faith that it will spit out money for us;
  • If we walk across a bridge, we have faith that it will hold us up;
  • If we go to the doctor for a problem, we have faith that the diagnosis and prescription will sort the problem and put us right again.

I am sure that we can all think of loads of examples when we use faith in our everyday circumstances. As Christians, John wants us to go a step further and look seriously at the One in whom we put our faith and what it is that we really believe. When he wrote this letter, there were people who believed that Jesus became the "Messiah" (Saviour or Deliverer) at His baptism, but stopped being God just before He died. John was at pains to put people straight on this. He had lived with Jesus and followed Him closely for three years and he wanted people to be clear in their understanding that, if Jesus had not died as the Son of God, we would have been left without any eternal destiny. Only the Son of God - the pure, perfect "Lamb of God" - could take all the sins of the world and pay the complete price for them. John was a witness to the fact that Jesus of Nazareth had been born, lived a normal human existence as flesh and blood, but was also the "Messiah": the One foretold in God's word (Isaiah, chapter 53) and recognised by the crowds on Palm Sunday as the One who had come in the name of God. (Matthew 21:9) John recognised Jesus as the "Word", through whom the universe had been created. (Genesis 1:1; John 1:1-14 and 1 John 1:1-4)

What is truth?

Today we live in a generation which believes that "truth" is whatever feels good to us and does not think too much about the consequences of its actions. When we ask people their opinion, we never know if we are getting a genuine answer or just the answer that makes them feel good. We cannot rely on evidence given in court, even though the witness may have sworn on the Bible. We cannot rely on things said at work because there is so little integrity, especially when people feel that they may get promotion if they lie. God will have nothing to do with this sort of behaviour and will only accept truth. We cannot tell Him on Judgement Day that we were not sure of what was truth because Jesus says in John 8:31-32: "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free." Jesus also said: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)

How do we know we have the truth?

Again we look to what Jesus says in John 16:13: "But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on His own. He will speak only what He hears and He will tell you what is yet to come." So, if we are God’s children, we have the Spirit of truth living in us and His word guarantees that He will guide us. We know that we have the truth when we keep His peace in our hearts. We may try to add our opinions or someone else’s ideas (like the people in John's time did) but, if we seek peace and pursue it (1 Peter 3:11), God will definitely reveal truth to us.

Earlier, John said: "All of you know the truth." (1 John 2:20) We have it deep down inside us - in our hearts. God has given us intelligence and we can use our minds to gain knowledge and exercise reason, but they have their limits. "'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways', declares the LORD. 'As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:8-9) In the "Garden of Eden", the snake lied to Eve and she was taken in by him. Eve repeated what she had been told to Adam and he was also taken in by it. We shall never be able fully to comprehend God’s way of doing things and this is why His Kingdom operates totally on trust. We have to trust Him. We have to trust in His love for us, in His mercy when we do wrong and His grace when He invites us to serve Him. We have to trust that what He says in His word is true. So often it seems that we are prepared to believe what we read in a newspaper or see on a television programme, but have an attack of doubts when we find something in the Bible that we struggle to believe. John says that it's fine to accept human authority, but we also need to recognise that God's divine authority is much more trustworthy. (1 John 5:9)

Who do we trust?

This passage seems complicated but, looked at in the context of the culture of his day, we can see why John was simply trying to confirm the truth that Jesus was both human and divine. God Himself affirms that there is salvation only through His Son. God the Father has acted in human history by sending Jesus, His Son, to be born as a human being. In this way, Jesus entered the world "by water". Later, His position (as God's Son) was confirmed at His baptism (also in water). (Matthew 3:17) God has consistently revealed Himself to human beings by doing something, then providing an explanation of what He has done and why. Jesus spent about three years explaining why He had come and why He was doing the things that He did. His final action was to give Himself as a perfect sacrifice to provide forgiveness and cleansing for human sin and eternal life for the future. His sacrifice meant shedding His blood through crucifixion. John talks about the "water" and the "blood" as being witnesses: giving us important information about our relationship with God.

The Holy Spirit is the third witness to God’s actions for our salvation. One important part of the Spirit's rôle is to testify to the truth. The testimony of the Holy Spirit is always true, so we can have complete confidence in all He tells us. It is through the Holy Spirit that people follow Christ and that the kingdom of heaven is established and grows. It is through the Holy Spirit that believers are empowered to overcome the temptations of "the world". In all His work, He points people to Jesus Christ, whom He testifies is the "Son of God". In Jewish tradition, three witnesses were required to confirm a legal judgement, so John is saying that Jesus has these three witnesses: the water the blood and the Holy Spirit. Each, in a different way, shows that Jesus is the true "Messiah" sent by God for the salvation of the world.

More witnesses

It is important that we allow the Holy Spirit to use our testimony as well. For example, we can say that, "He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves". (Colossians 1:13) Our testimony is vitally important, just like that of the disciples, who talked and preached about all that Jesus had done in their lives. Just as the early churches grew in number as people heard the good news about Jesus, so today we cannot afford to keep silent for the sake of the name of Jesus Christ. Through the Holy Spirit, Christ lives in us as Lord. "If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit, who lives in you." (Romans 8:11) So... we need to speak out!

Living faith

Our faith is not just a matter of hope or a "stab in the dark" without any basis. It is hope, based on the evidence of God’s actions and the testimony of witnesses: the water, the blood and the inner witness of the Holy Spirit. Without faith in Christ, there can be no eternal life but, through faith, we have the Son and eternal life.

"Think of yourself with sober judgment - with the measure of faith God has given you." (Romans 12:3) We see that God has given us the gift of faith. This is how we became Christians in the first place. (Galatians 3:26) God’s plan is for our faith to grow as we hear His word and learn to trust it. Our trust develops as we begin to share His word and the good news about Jesus with others. (Romans 10:17) When we have a baby, it is born perfect with all its muscles in place. However, as parents, we would be very disappointed if these muscles, even though perfectly formed, did not develop. This is how our Father feels if we are very passive in the use of our faith. He longs for us to develop our "faith muscles" so that we can grow in stature as His children.

Faith in action

In Genesis, chapter one, God saw that, "the earth was formless and empty; darkness was over the surface of the deep." He did not say, "what a mess!" Instead, He spoke to call forth light. He had a picture in His mind of what He was going to create, then He expressed it in words which gave effect to His vision. It is similar for us with faith. The vision we have through faith can be expressed in words and will create situations in our lives for good or bad. When we have a picture in our heart of something we think God is telling us to do, we can see the impossible become possible as we obey His word and take the next step. Usually, we do not know all the steps to reach our desired goal, but the Holy Spirit will always give us the next step. We just have to obey, one step at a time. Fear will try to stop us doing that and will cause us to freeze in our comfort zone, so that we do not obey or grow in our faith. The enemy will try and get us to focus on problems rather than the promises of God’s word. He will tempt us to focus on our own weakness and inability. We have to resist him (James 4:7), keeping God’s word before our eyes, in our ears and in our heart. Let's determine to obey what He says, each step of the way. Then we can look at the impossibilities before us and say: "with God all things are possible... and I believe God!" God will consistently, faithfully and supernaturally do through us (and for us) things that are totally impossible by normal means.

The enemy wants to keep us focused on difficult circumstances in the physical realm. Remember Peter in Matthew 14:22-33. He and the other disciples had a real "adrenalin rush" as Jesus was walking towards them on the water in the early hours of the morning. Jesus reassured them and then said to Peter the single word: "Come!" Based on faith in Jesus’ word, Peter stepped out of the security of the boat and he, too, walked on the water. He began to step across the lake without a problem, looking at Jesus and trusting Him. To begin with, Peter was totally focused on Jesus and the word of approval and encouragement that he'd received. Then he noticed the wind and the waves. He started thinking about the impossible thing that he was doing and his mind told him that he was going to sink and, possibly, even drown. His faith wavered and he slipped back into natural mode; at that point, he did indeed start to sink and Jesus had to reach out and catch him. With faith, we can truly achieve the impossible, just so long as we keep our hearts and minds focused on Jesus, until the vision of the completed task on the inside is more real than anything that is going on outwardly. Then our "faith muscles" will begin to grow strong!

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