As we have seen at various points through John’s first letter, he is confident that his readers’ faith is genuine. While warning them against the wrong beliefs and practices of the false teachers and false believers, he has also sought to reassure them that he has confidence that they, in contrast to the false teachers and pseudo Christians, do truly believe. He has also given them teaching on the evidence of true faith, not to unsettle them, but to instil confidence.
John now, in bringing his letter to a close, says ‘I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.’
John has used the word ‘know’ quite frequently in his letter, referring to what Christians know:
We know the one ‘who is from the beginning’ – 2:13, 14.
We know that it is ‘the last hour’ because of the presence of many antichrists – 2:18.
We know the truth – 2:20, 21.
We know that Jesus Christ ‘is righteous’ – 2:29.
We know that ‘everyone who does what is right has been born of him’ – 2:29.
We know ‘that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is’ – 3:2.
We know that ‘he appeared so that he might take away our sins’ - 3:5.
We know that ‘in him is no sin’ – 3:5.
We know that we have ‘passed from death to life’ because we love our brothers – 3:14.
We know what love is because we know that Jesus Christ laid down his life for us – 3:16.
We know that we ‘belong to the truth’ – 3:19.
We know that ‘he lives in us’ – 3:24.
We know (same word in the Greek text) ‘the Spirit of God’ – 4:2.
We know God – 4:6.
We know that ‘we live in him and he in us’ – 4:13.
We ‘know and rely on the love that God has for us’ – 4:16.
We know ‘that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands’ – 5:2.
And now in 5:13 he says he has written ‘so that you may know that you have eternal life.’ It is not a groundless wish. Eternal life is a sure and certain reality grounded in the person and work of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, whom we have received, who lives in us, and in whom we live. It is as sure and certain as Christ himself. He is eternal life. If we have him, we have eternal life.
As we saw in the previous meditation, the testimony of God himself is:
‘God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life’ – 1John 5:11,12.
If we have received/acknowledged Jesus Christ – the Lord, the Son of God – then we have also received life.
Because Jesus Christ is the life that he gives. The two cannot be separated. It is not that we receive Jesus Christ and eternal life as something distinct from Jesus Christ. But that if we receive Jesus Christ, we also, in Christ, receive eternal life ... even if no one has told us about that eternal life.
The gospels report the pathos, the tragedy, of people seeking to gain eternal life apart from Christ:
‘A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”’ – Luke 18:18.
‘You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life’ – John 5:39,40.
As Jesus said to the Father:
‘Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent’ – John 17:3.
© Rosemary Bardsley 2022