• The Explore the Bible lesson for July 12 focuses on 1 John 5:1-12.
The concluding verses of 1 John offer a succinct and forthright summation of the entire epistle. John focused on victorious living through obedience to Jesus Christ. While false teachers and other “antichrists” assailed the church, true believers still could walk in the light of Jesus’ way, or live on mission, by following the conviction and encouragement of the Holy Spirit. True believers are those who know Jesus is fully God and fully human and therefore obey his commands. They hear the word and do the word. Therefore, the believer needs not fear death and judgment for God is love.
Consequently, John finally points to the exclusivity of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Only those who place their faith in Jesus possess eternal life. John’s words still may be difficult to hear, especially in our day and time. Even some Christian churches have become highly accustomed to something called “relativism”—the idea all faith claims are true relative to the culture or context out of which that claim arises. In other words, relativism implies there is no such thing as absolute truth. Jesus’ claim to be the only way to salvation (John 14:6) may be viewed in our relativistic culture either as a simplistic and laughably naïve belief or as highly offensive and a downright hateful statement worthy of constant refutation.
In this lesson, we find John spoke directly into the face of relativism by speaking and living out the truth that Jesus Christ is Lord. In fact, John’s words offer three main jumping-off points for discussion: Jesus alone offers victory, Jesus alone is the Son of God, and Jesus alone offers eternal life. We will briefly investigate these three points.
Jesus alone offers victory (1 John 5:1-5)
Consider John’s claim that every person who believes Jesus is the Christ is born of God. Two highly important elements figure into such a statement. One, to believe Jesus is the Christ is fundamental to Christian orthodoxy. One of the earliest confessions of the church is “Jesus is Lord.” To believe Jesus is the Christ, then, is more than intellectual ascent and takes more than verbal agreement in a propositional statement. Belief in Christ’s lordship means one surrenders his or her entire life by faith to the exclusive control and power of the risen Lord. There is no other Lord but Jesus.
Two, to be born of God indicates a person has come into God’s adopted family. An old and highly appropriate Baptist word for this idea is “regeneration.” The regenerate Christian has been and is being made new from the inside out by Christ Jesus. Only Jesus can make us new. When we confess with our mouths Jesus is Lord and believe God raised him from the dead, then we are and forever will be saved (Romans 10:9).
Accordingly, people who are born of God obey his commands and gain victory over the evil one in this world. We specifically obey his commands when we love others with agape, or sacrificial love (See Lesson 5). Remember, however, obedience to Christ does not produce salvation but is the result of salvation. When the Christian experiences regeneration through Christ, he or she is free to demonstrate an active and ongoing faith in Christ through obedience and holiness.
Jesus alone is the Son of God (5:6-10)
These verses may become difficult for some to interpret. For instance, some have linked these verses with the point in the crucifixion narrative when a spear was thrust in Jesus’ side (John 19). Others link the passage to a sacramental understanding of either baptism or the Lord’s Supper. Keep in mind, however, John has discussed in context the heretical teachings of the Gnostics and others who declared Jesus was not fully human and therefore could not have been born of “water and blood.” Specifically, John may have been refuting a sharp claim among some heretics that declared Jesus was only “a Christ” between the time of his baptism and shortly before the crucifixion. One must look at the whole of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection to conclude his messiahship. The Spirit, Jesus’ life and death, and Christian experience all testify to the truth of Jesus being God’s Son. He was fully human and fully divine.
Jesus alone offers eternal life (5:11-12)
The life of which John speaks is not just the kind of life that consists of a physical and therefore mortal existence. For John, true life was and is eternal life, and this kind of life is not earned but received through faith in Jesus Christ alone and in none other. When we have received this life by faith, then we become “more than conquerors,” since we are overcoming the world, which is in opposition to God (Romans 8:37).