By Irven Lee
It is easy to show by the Bible that life is in the Son of God, but for us to be blessed by this knowledge we must give more than lip service to this truth. We are to wake up to the fact that our hope of glory is in Christ so that we will demonstrate by the things we say and do that we recognize Christ as our prophet, priest, and king. Nominal members of the church may say that Christ is the way, the truth, and the life, and that no man can go to the Father except by Him (John 14:6). Faithful members of the church so live that the world can realize that they understand that life is in the Son. They keep His commandments, they wear His name, they have fellowship in His suffering, and they are not ashamed to contend earnestly for the faith which He taught.
How can we know that we have the proper faith in and love for the Father and the Son? “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments; and his commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:1-3). This faith that brings about the new birth is not too dead to act. It has been perfected by works of obedience. “Wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect.” (Read James 2:17-26).
The first three verses of 1 John 5 mention both faith and love as well as the commandments of God. “This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.” Love that is in deed and in truth is acceptable (1 John 3:18, 19), but that which is only in word is not genuine. It takes obedience to perfect the faith, and it takes obedience to demonstrate the reality of our love. These works do not minimize the faith and love, for without them the obedience would not save. Keeping the commandments that are in the Bible would not save us if there were no living Savior. Without faith it is impossible to please Him (Heb. 11:6). He that believeth not shall be damned (Mk. 16:16). The faith and works would not suffice if we have not love (1 Cor. 13:1-3). If there is the living faith and the genuine love, the works will follow as night the day, and those who do their part in these matters will find life in the Son. God is no respecter of persons, but He is a respecter of character. One of any race or social class or economic standing can, through faith and love and the obedience they motivate, find eternal life as a prize or gift. (See Romans 6:23; Phil. 3:14; 2 Tim. 4:8).
Faith is a powerful force that can overcome or conquer the world. It includes hope as an essential part of it (Heb. 11:1). “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for ‘we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (1 John 3:2, 3). The faith that overcomes does so by providing the hope that will cause a man to purify himself, and this is the desire of the Lord. He “gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Tit. 2:11-14).
Think of the passages to which we have just referred as we read more from 1 John 5. “Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” (vv. 4, 5). Christ takes those who have purified themselves by overcoming the world to be His own peculiar possession, to share with Him the inheritance of the Father. It is the unfeigned faith and the living hope it provides that give man the motive to purify himself. “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever” (1 John 2:15-17).
He that overcomes the world is the one that does the will of God rather than living by lust. If a man is without faith, he is without hope and without God in the world (Eph. 2:12). The unbeliever is left with nothing but the world. There is no power given him to overcome the world. It will be shown at the last day that the population of this generation and all others will be divided into two groups. They will be placed on the right hand and on the left (Matt. 25:31-46). Who is to inherit life? Those who have been good and faithful servants are those who are full of faith. Faith is the victory. God adds to the church, which is His family, such as should be saved (Acts 2:47; 1 Tim. 3:15). They then are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:16, 17). If we are His house, we are His family or His children. To think that in Christ we can have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins, should fill us with love and gratitude (Eph. 1:7). We love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). How could we over emphasize the abiding faith, hope, and love (1 Cor. 13:13)?
“Who then can be saved?” Do you remember who said this, and do you remember the context? Recall this and you will have the level of thinking that is all too common among us. This is a question asked by the disciples of the Lord in connection with some remarks He made after the rich young ruler had come and gone. “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, that a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying; Who then can be saved?” (Matt. 19:23-25). Today the rich man can buy the car or house he wants. He can travel far and wide. What is there that he cannot do? He cannot buy his way into heaven. Many may be “exceedingly. amazed” at that, but life is in the Son of God and not in one’s wealth. In fact, it is very, very hard for the rich man to humble himself enough to avoid trusting his riches rather than God. He, along with the crowd, may be “exceedingly amazed” to know that he is wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked (see Rev. 3:17). He might answer, “Who? Me?” if he were told that he is in special danger (read 1 Tim. 6:17-19; James 2:1-9). The man of wealth is inclined to feel that he is rich and in need of nothing. The rest of us are inclined to give him the good seat, and possibly call him an elder soon if we can ever get him immersed.
Many problems that have come to the church have come through our undue reverence for the unconverted prominent man. He is not likely to realize that God’s ways are as high above our ways as the heavens are above the earth. He may not realize that there is a way that seems right to man but ends in death. His money may be filthy lucre with rust from lack of use because of his selfishness and lack of regard for those who have made him wealthy. It is unfeigned faith which works by love that brings us to Christ where life is. Can we avoid the love of money and the deadly results of this love? Let us remember that life is in His Son so that we will set our affections on things above where Christ is. Treasures in heaven will not be stolen or contaminated by moth or rust. Faith brings the hope that will cause us to purify ourselves and have the patience to wait for the crown of righteousness. The incorruptible prize is reserved in heaven for those who are kept by faith.
Prayers that are made for a pretense, sitting in chief seats, or walking about in conspicuous robes hoping to be addressed with special titles will not bring us to heaven. The man of pride who was thankful that he was not like the publican was not as well off as the publican who humbled himself before God. Life is in the Son and not in prestige and the praise of men. The Lord does not go in for mere outward appearances. The faith that overcomes the world and the love that motivates one to keep the commandments will do what money and the praise of men cannot do. Christ is the door, and those who would seek to enter some other way are as thieves and robbers.
The Christ said “If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins” (John 8:24). God publicly identified Jesus as His Son in whom He was well pleased. The unbeliever is in effect calling God a liar. Such an unbeliever cannot have life regardless of what else he may have. At death, he will leave all that this world has given during his entire stay in the flesh. That is when he will need faith, hope, and love. All unrighteousness is sin, and the true Christian does not continue in sin. Beware because this wicked old world lies in sin, but we have evidence to believe and the power to understand God’s will, so that we can be in Christ and know that we are in Him. Being born of God includes the fact that we have overcome the world.
John 5 tells us plainly that life is a gift from God and that this gift is in the Son. “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the son of God hath not life” (vs. 11, 12). The truth is just that simple. He will listen to His children who keep His commandments and pray in harmony with His will. Such people are rich toward God. They have precious faith now and the hope of eternal life. The true riches are for them through Christ.
- How can Christians show that they believe that life is in Christ?
- Find verses in other books of the New Testament that mention great spiritual blessings that are in Christ.
- Is there some way that we have of knowing that we are redeemed?
- 1 John 5 mentions prayers that are answered. What condition or conditions are listed in this chapter for acceptable prayer?
- Point out statements in this chapter that show that such things as faith, love, keeping His commandments, etc., are related to our being acceptable to God.
- Find one verse that makes it very clear that eternal life is in Christ.
- 1 John 3:4 teaches that “sin is a transgression of the law.” Can you find a similar statement in 1 John 5?
- May one correctly claim that he loves God if he does not keep His commandments?
- Note the teaching in 1 John 5:1 concerning those who believe in Christ and love God. Whom else do they love?
- Does 1 John 5:18 teach that if one is born of God and does not continue in sin, he is kept by God so that the wicked one will not harm him?
Guardian of Truth XXV: 14, pp. 214-215
April 2, 1981