Like all believers I have had two birthdays. When I was born the first time (physically) I instantly became part of a family. I had my Dad and Mom, Jerry and Sue, and siblings Jan and Van. Sixteen months later I got a little sister, Ann (yep, it’s Jan, Van, Dan, and Ann). I have been a brother exactly as long as I have been a son. Since the four of us were born to the same loving parents there was a bond of family love and acceptance that was natural and unforced. We share the life and blood of our parents and we recognize and honor that in each other. Those sibling relationships are important; they last longer than any other human relationship.
When I was born the second time (spiritually), I instantly became part of God’s family, complete with a host of spiritual siblings — and more are being born (again) every day! I have been a brother in Christ exactly as long as I have been a follower of Christ. Since I and all my brothers and sisters in Christ were born to the same Father, there is a bond of family love and acceptance that is natural and unforced; since we love the Father, we love His children (v.1). We share the life of our Father and we recognize and honor that in each other. Those spiritual sibling relationships are important; they will last forever! I thank God that the Christian life is not lived in a vacuum, in isolation. It is true that I have a personal relationship with Jesus, but it is equally true that I have an interpersonal relationship with Jesus along with my Christian siblings. We are in this together! We share our lives, our faith, our struggles, and our discipleship together (v.1-5). Thank God for your spiritual siblings today; let them know how much you love them.
The churches John oversaw as an Apostle and a pastor were constantly fending off false teachers. Since one of the favorite targets of these devious heretics was the identity of Jesus, John had to keep reviewing the truth that Jesus Christ is God — 100% God — in the flesh. In verses 6-10 John used an interesting line of reasoning: “there are three that testify, the Spirit and the water and the blood” (v.7-8). He presented as evidence the three-fold testimony of God Himself. He spoke from heaven and affirmed His Son at His baptism (see Matthew 3:17) — that is the testimony of the water. The Holy Spirit identified Jesus as the anointed Messiah, descending on Him like a dove (see Matthew 3:16) — that is the testimony of the Spirit. And He accepted the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross — that is the testimony of the blood.
The God who testified about His Son’s identity has also testified about our identity: if we receive His Son we receive eternal life (v.11-12). Because God has declared that to be so, we can be confident in our salvation; we can know for certain that we are saved (v.13). With that kind of relationship secure and settled, we can pray with confidence, knowing that God listens to His children (v.14-15).
The final section of this book is difficult to understand (v.16-21). Many fine preachers and outstanding scholars have offered differing opinions, and I’ll join them now. I think this “sin that leads to death” (v.16) is the sin John described in the previous chapter, the sin of forsaking Jesus and denying His gospel. John called these people “false prophets” and their attitude “the spirit of the antichrist” (see 4:1-3). By saying that we should not pray for them (v.16), I think John was saying that we should just turn those people over to the judgment of God and move on. Meanwhile, we should affirm our faith in the one true God (v.20) and trust His protection as we live out our faith in this evil world (v.18-19).