1 John 5:13-21: Keep Yourself from Idols
November 20, 2023
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
John is coming towards the end of his letter, and as he does so, he returns to some of his main themes but takes some fresh angles and perspectives. And then he concludes in a way that has surprised many people, but is full of impact and insight!
First, verses 13-15, he wants his readers to be sure of their relationship with God. This has been the reason for his writing. He wants this assurance for his readers so that they can have confidence before God, and know that whatever they ask in God’s will that God will hear. Are you sure of your relationship with God? Look back through the letter of 1 John and ask the Lord to give you the assurance that comes from resting on his promises.
Second, verses 16-17, he wants his readers to take sin seriously. In fact, so serious a matter is holiness that there is even, John says, a “sin that leads to death.” What is this sin? Ultimately, this is the sin of not asking God for forgiveness of your sins. The only unforgivable sin is the sin of refusing to accept God’s forgiveness. And, John says, he does not want us to pray about that, meaning he does not want us to ask that there would be another way of being forgiven other than through the forgiveness won by Jesus Christ at the cross. Do you take sin seriously? Do you flee from sin and pursue holiness? Have you put your trust in Christ for the forgiveness of your sins?
Third, verses 18-20, he wants his readers to know who they are in Jesus Christ. A real Christian does not continue in sin: they do not live in sin in such a way that they refuse to repent of sin. Someone who has been born of God is protected by God, and the evil one cannot ultimately harm them. We have this knowing. Know this, child of God; know who you are in Christ. Do you know who you are in Christ? Do you know that you are a child of God?
And then finally, fourth, in verse 21, John concludes with what many have taken as a rather enigmatic way of finishing. He wants his readers to keep themselves from idols. Why does he conclude this way, introducing this (apparently) new topic of idols? Because it is not a new topic at all. It is a summary of everything he has been saying. In essence, their problem – the false teaching that was rampant at the time – was simply a new form of idolatry. And therefore, John concludes, their great task was to keep from idols (new as well as old).
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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