Everyone who believes (present tense) has been born of God (past perfect tense). John is a proponent of eternal security of the believer. Once saved, always saved.
Being born again is evidenced by loving God, v.1, obeying Him, v.2, and overcoming the world by faith, v.4. This, surprisingly, is the first use of the word “faith” in John’s writings. Our faith in Jesus means we love God and therefore others; we obey Him and we have victory over the world.
John tells us of three things that testify to Jesus and what he has done:
1) Water, referring to Jesus baptism
2) The blood refers to Jesus’ sacrificial death; and
3) The Spirit who filled Jesus
All three apply to the believer – we were washed in waters of baptism, we are cleansed by the blood of Jesus and we are filled with the Spirit. If that’s not your experience yet, sort whichever of the three need addressing – believe, be baptised, and be filled with the Spirit.
Most English translations omit “three heavenly witnesses” and rightly so. They were a late addition. The Latin Vulgate of 800AD added them. Erasmus was then criticised for omitting them in his edition of the Greek New Testament. He said that if someone could find a Greek manuscript with it in, he would add it. Someone gave him one dated 1520, so he kept his word and added it. It then became the “Textus Receptus”, which was used for the King James Version. It was not in earlier manuscripts. The early church fathers would have leapt on a reference to the trinity to defend against heretics.
John moves on. He wants us to be sure we have eternal life – v.13 – and, therefore, confidence in prayer.
Verses 16-17 have caused much consternation and fear:
- Roman Catholics define some sins as mortal and leading to death – this is not in the Bible though!
- Some argue it means physical death, like Ananias & Sapphira’s death in Acts 5 for sin.
- Others talk of it being blaspheming in the Spirit, but John hasn’t mentioned anything like that.
- Arminians think of it as a fall from grace of a brother.
- Some define the sin that leads to death as those who refuse to seek salvation and forgiveness, so don’t pray for them. But that is everyone who is not a believer!
It is likely to mean false believers who were part of the community of faith, but have now left and are putting themselves beyond the reach of believers!
John concludes with exhorting us not to sin, to enjoy the understanding Jesus gives and to keep away from idolatry.