Faithlife
Faithlife

Whoever has the Son has Life

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“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God....” How many of us open our Bibles hoping to read these exact words? It’s an encouraging statement. “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God....”
This is the tiniest seed of the Gospel. But what does it mean? Is it that Jesus is the Way for me? That I identify with Jesus? Partly. But this phrase from John’s First Letter is not only meant to encourage people to think, “I am a Christian.” It doesn’t say that everyone who says “I am a Christian has been born of God.” It says, "Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God.” It’s a more profound statement than “Christians are saved.” It means that people who trust in Jesus as being the same person as the Christ, the anointed one who fulfills the Davidic promises about the Kingdom of God—that person has a new existence, a new reality as a gift from God. If Jesus was the Christ, then Christ was crucified. This means that the Christ is crucifiable. To believe this, for a first century Jew, would mean really expanding your categories. And the only reason to do that is because Christ rose from the dead. So, this is a lot more than someone saying, “Here give me the piece of paper that says Jesus has a last name called Christ. I’ll sign it. You let me into heaven.” But after you know what the Christ was according to Jewish tradition, and after you know what happened to Jesus, you can earnestly say “I believe that Jesus was the Christ,” then you have been born of God. God has given you a new birth, a new life in his presence and a place in his kingdom.
Sometimes we just want to open up our Bibles and read and nothing more? It’s important. It’s sometimes all we have to hold on to.
“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God....” This is the tiniest seed of the Gospel. But what does it mean? Is it that Jesus is the Way for me? Does it mean simply that I am on Team Christ? Partly. But this phrase from John’s First Letter is not the same as saying, “I am a Christian.” It doesn’t say that everyone who says “I am a Christian has been born of God.” It says, "Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God.” It means that Jesus is the same person as the Christ, the anointed one, associated with David and his offspring. In the context of 1 John, this statement counters a heresy. There is large scholarly agreement that there were some false teachers who said that the Son of God was different from the human Jesus, that the Son of God only came to inhabit Jesus’ body at baptism, which is heresy enough, but then ALSO that the Son of God left Jesus’ body right before he was crucified. This and other heresies related to the particulars of how Jesus is the Son of God were addressed powerfully during church councils in the 4th and 5th centuries, but John goes ahead and addresses this heresy here, in the first century. The Son of God is the same person as Jesus. Jesus is the same person as the Christ. Jesus is the fulfillment of all messianic expectation in the whole Old Testament. He is the one anointed by God to fulfill all hopes of God being the King, against all comers. He declares and establishes God’s kingdom on earth. He heals the sick and proclaims good news to the poor. Jesus is the Christ and everyone who believes this has been born of God. This is the seed of the Gospel.
Now there were some things happening when this letter was written that makes this statement particularly important for that time and place. There is large agreement among Biblical scholars that this letter is countering some false teachers. And these false teachers were saying that the Son of God was different from the human Jesus, that the Son of God only came to inhabit Jesus’ body at baptism, which is heresy enough, it messes with the incarnation. But there were some others that ALSO said that the Son of God left Jesus’ body right before he was crucified. These and other heresies related to the particulars of how Jesus is the Son of God were addressed powerfully during church councils in the 4th and 5th centuries, but John sees their roots and addresses them here, in the first century. The Son of God is the same person as Jesus. Jesus is the same person as the Christ. Jesus is the fulfillment of all messianic expectation in the whole Old Testament. He is the one anointed by God to fulfill all hopes of God being the King, against all comers. He declares and establishes God’s kingdom on earth. He heals the sick and proclaims good news to the poor. Jesus is the Christ and everyone who believes this has been born of God. This is the seed of the Gospel.
This is the tiniest seed of the Gospel. But what does it mean? Is it that Jesus is the Way for me? Does it mean simply that I am on Team Christ? Partly. But this phrase from John’s First Letter is not the same as saying, “I am a Christian.” It doesn’t say that everyone who says “I am a Christian has been born of God.” It says, "Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God.” It means that Jesus is the same person as the Christ, the anointed one, associated with David and his offspring. In the context of 1 John, this statement counters a heresy. There is large scholarly agreement that there were some false teachers who said that the Son of God was different from the human Jesus, that the Son of God only came to inhabit Jesus’ body at baptism, which is heresy enough, but then ALSO that the Son of God left Jesus’ body right before he was crucified. This and other heresies related to the particulars of how Jesus is the Son of God were addressed powerfully during church councils in the 4th and 5th centuries, but John goes ahead and addresses this heresy here, in the first century. The Son of God is the same person as Jesus. Jesus is the same person as the Christ. Jesus is the fulfillment of all messianic expectation in the whole Old Testament. He is the one anointed by God to fulfill all hopes of God being the King, against all comers. He declares and establishes God’s kingdom on earth. He heals the sick and proclaims good news to the poor. Jesus is the Christ and everyone who believes this has been born of God. This is the seed of the Gospel.
The plant that grows from it is so important that we should work hard to make the soil of our hearts receptive to it. We wouldn’t want it to fall on hard ground and get snatched away or grow too quickly and get scorched. So how can we encourage this truth to live vigorously and be borne out in our hearts? It’s not by closing our Bible as soon as our eyes run across it. It’s not meant to be ripped from its context and put on our refrigerators. John has more to say about what it means to be born of God. He continues:
1 John 5:1 ESV
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.
1Jn 5:1
If we’ve found the courage to complete the sentence, we begin to learn that everyone who loves the Father loves others who love the Father. “Everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.” Your first instinct might be to ask how can we even know who has been born of him? But clearly, God does not want us to be that cautious with our love. Just as a gardener doesn’t take time to micromanage the garden hose to avoid giving water to the weeds, the person born of God, the person we’re to love, in this passage, is the person who believes that Jesus is the Christ.” There’s no extra detective work involved. We’re to love other Christians, if we say we love God. Now you may need to work out on your own how that democrat over there or that republican over there might possibly believe that Jesus is the Christ, but in the mean time, while you come to terms with that, your job is to love, not tolerate or ignore that person, that is, if you truly love and not tolerate or ignore the Father. If they believe that Jesus is the Christ, you owe them your love.
1 John 5:2 ESV
By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.
1 John 5:2–3 ESV
By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.
Cover your ears and walk away
John doesn’t allow us to define love that cheaply. Our society loves to. If we’re going to love the children of God, we’re going to do it in God’s sight, with God in view. Love is not encouraging someone to do whatever they want to do, as if God isn’t watching, because we’re afraid of the pushback. If a parent loved a child in that way, it would be neglect. In the same way, it’s neglect to love the children of God as if God isn’t watching, as if they aren’t children of God, as if they don’t believe that Jesus is the Christ. That’s not the kind of love we should want to be in. And this goes back to Jesus’ new command that he gives us, to love one another. For God, love and commandment keeping go together.
Love is not leaving
And what does that mean?
John doesn’t allow us to define love cheaply, even when our society is ruled by a cheap definition of love. If we’re going to love the children of God, we’re going to do it in God’s sight, with God in view. Sometimes love is not the same as “being nice.” There’s a book called “You are What You Love,” by Jamie Smith. He describes the fact that in our society we have each become a god of our own world. The posture that is called love is really an ascent to agreeing to let you be god of your world, but don’t tell me how to be the god of my world. Letting people do what they want, even encouraging them because it seems good to them, THAT is seen as love. But John’s First Letter gives us a different picture. Real love is not encouraging someone to do whatever they want to do, as if God isn’t watching. If a parent loved a child in that way, it would be neglect. If my kids ate as much candy as they wanted to eat, I wouldn’t be doing my job as a father. In the same way, it’s neglect to love the children of God as if God isn’t watching, as if they aren’t children of God, as if they don’t believe that Jesus is the Christ. That’s not the kind of love we should want to be in in the church. Real love loves in light of Christ and his commandments. Commandments like Love the Lord, Do not Murder, Do not Covet, and a new commandment, love one another. For God, love and commandment keeping go together.
And his commandments are not burdensome. This is the same word Jesus uses of the Pharisees in where he says that
Matthew 23:4 ESV
They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.
Jesus’ commandments are not burdensome and unnecessary like those of the Pharisees, but the true essence of God’s heart for his people. So the love we show others should be in light of God’s will, his heart, and his presence.
The ability to do this, with the empowering help of the Holy Spirit, is true victory.
1 John 5:4–5 ESV
For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
Our faith, our trust, our allegiance to God and to the fact that Jesus is his Son is real victory over the world. It’s easy to lose sight of what victory over the world looks like. We might try to replace it with a more worldly victory over the world. We might want the world to understand how badly it has been beaten. The Jews of Jesus’ day had that expectation of the Messiah as well, which is why many of them couldn’t say that Jesus is the Christ. But the real victory is not from throwing off either the Romans or even our least favorite supreme court rulings. Real victory over the world is God’s victory in our hearts, minds, and affections. It’s a knowledge of the truth, capital T. Knowledge that’s unavailable apart from the Holy Spirit. It’s experiential, life-changing, allegiance-altering knowledge that Jesus is the Son of God. That’s where true victory lies.
2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
2 Corinthians 12:9–10 ESV
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
And the prize for that victory is eternal life in Jesus Christ. And God himself has given us a threefold witness to build us up to bring the seed of the Gospel to fruition. Water and blood and the Holy Spirit.
1 John 5:6–8 ESV
This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.
First let’s look at water and blood. This is not Paul writing here and the approach to language about Jesus is different from what we might be used to. There are lots of references to water in the Bible and lots of references to blood. But what virtually all commentators agree on is that the water is Jesus’ baptism and the blood is his death. And bringing these two events home to us as evidence is the Holy Spirit. You’ll remember that at Jesus’ baptism the Spirit descends on Jesus and the Father pronounces his approval over Jesus. And so as Jesus comes through the water of baptism, his work begins. And at the crucifixion, his work is finished, accompanied by the power of darkened skies, earthquakes and the veil of the temple torn in two. What better way to know that Jesus’ work was effective in cleansing you from your sin than a beginning in the waters of baptism and an ending in the blood of the perfect sacrifice himself? We can rest in the knowledge that Jesus’ mission to cleanse the world from sin was accomplished in water and blood.
What do we make of the water and blood here? This is not Paul writing here and the approach to language about Jesus is different from what we might be used to. There are lots of references to water in the Bible and lots of references to blood. But what virtually everybody writing on this passage agrees on is that the water is Jesus’ baptism and the blood is his death. And bringing these two events home to us as evidence is the Holy Spirit. So how do Jesus’ baptism and his death testify that God has given us eternal life in Jesus? You’ll remember that at Jesus’ baptism the Spirit descends on Jesus and the Father pronounces his approval over Jesus. And so as Jesus comes through the water of baptism, his work begins. And at the crucifixion, his work is finished, accompanied by the power of darkened skies, earthquakes and the veil of the temple torn in two. What better way to know that Jesus’ work was effective in cleansing you from your sin than a beginning in the waters of baptism and an ending in the blood of the perfect sacrifice himself? We can rest in the knowledge that Jesus’ mission to cleanse the world from sin was accomplished in water and blood. Jesus didn’t come just to start his work, he came to finish it on the cross. The Son of God didn’t separate from the human Jesus before the crucifixion, the Son of God and the human Jesus were the same person from incarnation to birth, from baptism to death, from resurrection to ascension.
1 John 5
1Jn 5:
1 John 5:6–9 ESV
This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son.
1 John 5:6–10 ESV
This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son.
The Holy Spirit brings God’s testimony of Jesus’ sonship home to live within you.
John 3:36 ESV
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
God’s testimony is found in three parts, the Spirit and the water and the blood,
1 John 5:9–10 ESV
If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son.
1Jn 5:
Jesus’ work from it’s beginning to end is God’s testimony of Jesus’ sonship. There is no separate Son of God from the person of Jesus. To believe God’s testimony about Jesus’ work from baptism to cross is to accept the Holy Spirit’s message, to internalize the truth, to be born of God. But to say differently is to call God a liar and reject the Holy Spirit along with his message.
But combining the testimony of Jesus’ baptism and his death with the Holy Spirit is to make one powerful statement. And that statement is found in verse 11:
1 John 5:11–13 ESV
And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have 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.
1Jn 5:11-
1 John 5:11 ESV
And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
If you look at Jesus’ ministry from baptism to death, and you see Jesus as the Christ, the Holy Spirit has brought you God’s gift of eternal life in Jesus.
1 John 5:12 ESV
Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
Not everybody has this gift from God. We can only know life through Jesus. To be without him is to be without life. But we see in the last verse that John isn’t focusing on condemnation here. He wants you to know that believing in Jesus and his work means something. It’s not just picking a team. It’s overcoming a world that wants to snuff the light of his message out. And it means that God’s gift of eternal life is yours in Christ. So don’t forget it. Don’t forget to cherish and prize God’s gift to you. Instead let it melt into your bones and become who you are to God’s glory and for your joy. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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