“Salvation, Love, and Obedience” 1 John 5:1-5
For the better part of two chapters of his first epistle, the Apostle John wrote about love. Although he focused his attention mainly on our loving fellow believers in Christ, he never lost sight of the love God has for us. He also talked much about “how we know that we know Him.” This theme rings clearly throughout this epistle. We call this “knowing that we know Him,” assurance of our salvation. How can we practically know that we really know we are a child of God?
John showed us as he drew the themes of the first part of his letter together and tied them up in a neat little bow. You see, these themes are all related. Our being born of God allows us to love God, which allows us to love each other, which happens when we obey God, and in this way ultimately we overcome the world. So, John draws the principles of salvation, love, and obedience together in verses 1-3. Then, in verses 4-5, he demonstrated how all of this will bring victory over the world in our lives.
John brought his topics together by first looking at our salvation itself. “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him.” John asserts salvation is a divine miracle. We are talking about God giving spiritual birth to those who believe that Jesus is the Christ.
We must remember salvation is a “two-sided coin.” The Bible underlines both sides and if we are to understand our eternal salvation we must grasp both sides. The side many folks like the best is the side that says we are saved by putting our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior. Verses like “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved,” and “You must be born again,” emphasize this side of the reality of eternal salvation. This facet of salvation we must proclaim to the unsaved.
Like a coin, salvation has a second side. While the Bible tells us we are saved by faith alone in the person and merits of the Lord Jesus Christ alone, it says at the same time, we were chosen in Him before the world existed and He predestinated us to be conformed to the image of His Son. Salvation, the Word tells us, is a miracle of grace. If all we accept is one side or the other of the coin, we do not have the whole reality of salvation. John wrote for three chapters about the human responsibility side of the equation. In our text in 1 John 5, he now turns the coin over to show us that these things which we cannot do of ourselves, we can do because we have God living in us. We are supernaturally born of God.
Some, who major on the human responsibility side of the coin and ignore or severely limit the divine side of the coin, insist salvation by faith is merely the act of assent to the facts of the Gospel. In the Gospel of John, we meet some who assented to the truth only. “Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did. But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men,” (John 2:23–24). Our Lord Jesus did not believe in these who only assented to the facts. Salvation is more than just convincing the mind.
The issue in salvation also is not how much faith we possess, but what kind of faith. Faith anchored in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, and desiring to know Him better and to please Him more is God-given, born of God, faith. God-given faith produces a result. Those who are born of God love God, and love those born of God. Therefore, loving our brothers and sisters in Christ is a direct result of our being born of God.
John turned the coin the rest of the way over for us in verse 2. “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments.” (1 John 5:2).
In this epistle the Apostle John gave us several tests that show whether we really know the Lord Jesus and God the Father. In short, he told us how we can know that we know because we keep His commandments. Then John underlined the commandment that we love our fellow believers in Christ.
In our text here in verse 2, John wrote, we know we love our fellow believers in Christ because we love God Himself, and we obey Him. Do we see John’s point here? All the things John labored to expound before come together in 5:1-2. We can know that we know because, if we really know God the Father, we love God, we love our fellow believers, and we seek to obey Him. These qualities are the outward evidence of the inward work of God.
There is one more item to tie together here. “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3). Our attitude toward obeying God has changed because God saved us.
In chapters 2-4, the Apostle has been working on our human responsibility. God wants us to seek to walk in holiness and fellowship with Him. God wants us to obey Him and love our fellow believers. These are things that God commands us. Now here in 1 John 5, the Apostle turned the coin over and said that these qualities, salvation, love, and obedience are all the product of our being born of God. We can know that God has given birth to us, if we find these things in our lives. Obeying God is not hard for us because we want to obey Him out of love, not out of a desire to earn salvation.
After tying salvation, love, and obedience, John turns to the practical result of this truth in our lives. “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world— our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4-5).
In chapter 2, John warned us about the danger of the world. He wrote: “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. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 2:15–17).
John warned us because we believers are easily seduced by the siren call of the world system. We can fall in love with things that easily can destroy us and lead us to invest our lives in things that do not matter. Therefore, we must be forewarned and forearmed against this possibility. We must choose rightly.
While all this is vitally true, victory over the world is not ultimately in doubt. We can know that we know because those who are born of God overcome the world. Our relationship with the Father and the Son causes us to choose God over the world system. Our faith makes us want to obey God rather than the world.
There is a danger here in this text. Some may say to themselves. “Well, if God ultimately produces all of these things in us, then we really don’t need to work on any of it. God will make sure that I love my fellow believers. He will make sure I overcome the world. I think I’ll just sit here in my rocking chair on the porch of my life and let God do it all.” Beware, if this is your point of view, you have misunderstood John’s whole point. While we need to work on these things, the very fact that obedience, faith and love for God and our fellow believers are important to us, and we take care to do them in our lives, demonstrates to each of us that we really do know Him. In short, we have been born of Him. Salvation is truly ours.
Do you know that you know? You can know.