Well 1 John chapter 5 is the lesson for us again tonight as we come toward the ending, come in for a landing on 1 John, finally. First John chapter 5 and verses 13 through 21 is essentially the summary, the conclusion, the postscript, if you will, to the whole epistle. And in this section, John focuses on Christian certainties, Christian certainties, things of which we are absolutely sure. And, of course, as true Christians, committed to biblical truth and biblical authority, we base our lives on what Scripture says. We base our lives, time and eternity, on what God has written.
You will remember at the beginning of Luke's gospel, chapter 1 verse 4, Luke records that he wrote both his gospel and the book of Acts so that you might know the exact truth. And that is not only true of Luke in Acts, but that's true of all of Scripture. This is the exact truth. We live on certainties in a world of uncertainty. In some ways we are against the grain. We are an intolerable group in an age of tolerance. They tolerate almost anything but those who live by absolutes. But Christianity is based on absolutes and we sort of set that up last week, so I won't go into it again except to comment, and just that briefly on it.
It was months ago that I gave you a simple paradigm to frame this idea of living on absolutes. There is a way to understand that, just five simple words that showed up in a little book I wrote called Why One Way. First of all, we believe in objectivity. That means we believe the truth is outside of us rather than inside of us. That would be subjectivity. We believe in God's truth which is outside of us. John 17:17, "Thy Word is truth." We have a document, an authoritative document, not from men, committees, councils, uniquely spiritual, insightful men but we have a book written by God, written down through human instruments, but authored by God. It contains the truth outside of us, apart from us. We come to it bringing nothing but a need to know and obey it.
In addition to objectivity is the word "rationality." That objective truth, that book, is intelligible. It is not mystical. It does not have hidden secret meanings. It is not encrypted, or encoded only to be unlocked by the elevated super-minded, irreligious elite. It is objective and it is rational. That is it yields its meaning to the mind that approaches it reasonably.
Thirdly is the word veracity, from objectivity and rationality we get veracity which is truth. Understanding that this is the source outside of us in which the truth lies, we approach it using our rational minds, that is we interpret it in a normal rational fashion, not in some mystical manner, and it yields veracity. "Thy Word is truth." It's called the Word of truth.
A fourth term that describes this paradigm is authority...authority. If indeed, and this is true, this book understood accurately yields the truth from God, then it bears authority. Then it is binding in all that it affirms.
And that leads to the fifth word in the paradigm, incompatibility...incompatibility. That is to say anything that contradicts it is wrong. Herein is the paradigm of living in an absolute environment of truth. The truth is outside of us written in one book. It is understood by normal, rational means. It yields the truth of God which then becomes binding because God is the sovereign and is therefore incompatible with any other view of anything that contradicts it. That is virtually intolerable in our time. To say that this is right and anything that contradicts it is wrong is intolerable. That's how it is. We live in a realm of absolutes and a realm of certainties and all the absolutes and all the certainties come from God's holy Word and nowhere else. Outside of the Word of God, the written Word of God, Genesis to Revelation, you cannot be sure of anything. A lot of people today are trying to listen for the voice of God, or get a prophecy from God, or a word of knowledge, or a word of wisdom, or have the Lord speak to them somehow. There is no way to be certain about any such pursuit or any supposed experience that comes as a result of that pursuit. The only thing we know for absolute certain is that the Bible is true. And what it affirms is certain. The purpose of John in writing this epistle is to create certainty in our minds, the minds of true Christians, certainty about Christ, certainty about salvation and certainty about all that God has promised. That's why, as I promised you last week, the word "know" appears 39 times in this epistle. You know...you know...we know...we know. Seven times in these last verses. This whole epistle is about knowing things for certain. And he sums up his letter with five wonderful certainties and they really are a summation of what he's been saying through the whole epistle.
Now last week we looked at the first one. We know we have eternal life. Look at verse 13, "These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God in order that you may know that you have eternal life." Simply rephrasing that, we know we have eternal life because of what has been written. You don't know you have eternal life because of some experience, you know it because of what has been written. And John adds this epistle to the revealed body of truth that promises to those who believe in Christ that they will live forever in the heaven of God's preparation. This we know, we have eternal life if we believe in the name of the Son of God.
Now tonight we come to the second thing we know. We considered the first one last week. The second thing we know is this, we know God answers our prayers. We know God answers our prayers. We are waiting for eternal life. We are waiting for eternal life to unfold. We are waiting for the entrance into that eternal life. Verse 11 of this same chapter says, "God has given us eternal life and this life is in His Son, he who has the Son has the life, he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life." This is true, we have the life but we have not yet entered into the full experience of that life. We possess the life of God within us but the full expression of it waits the glorious manifestation of the sons of God after we leave this world, after we die and enter in to the eternal presence of God. We know we have that eternal life. Not will have but have. And we await the entrance into its fullness.
In the meantime, we have needs. In the meantime, we have problems, we have struggles, we have concerns, we have issues to deal with. And so in the meantime we know God answers our prayers. What a wonderful transition that is. Verse 14, "And this is the confidence which we have before Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us and if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him." Here again is the word "know." We have a confidence that whatever it is we ask according to His will, He hears. And we know this that if He hears we know He will answer. We know we have eternal life. But before the full expression of that in the life to come, we have all these needs, all these concerns, all these issues, struggles, battles, temptations and at the same time we know God answers our prayers. This is the confidence. The term "confidence" literally means freedom of speech. We feel a freedom to go before the Lord on any issue and freely, boldly ask. We're even instructed in Scripture to come boldly to the throne of God to seek what we need. Our confidence then is not only in the life to come, our confidence is in the here and now that we have access to God. We're not yet in His presence, we're not yet in the heaven of heavens. We haven't yet entered into our eternal inheritance which is laid up for us. But we now have access to all of God's resources through the means of prayer. And that's why John says, "And this is the assurance, this is the confidence." Literally, this is the boldness by which we enter His presence and freely request whatever we need.
I love that little phrase in verse 14 "this is the confidence which we have before Him." It actually means "in His direction, toward Him." Or even better, "In His presence." We are confident enough as believers to go right into the presence of the eternal God and boldly and freely ask for what we need. And if we ask, verse 14, anything, that should be underlined, I think, anything according to His will, He hears us. And hearing here means more than listening and knowing the request, it's...it's positive hearing, it's a hearing that's going to dispatch the right answer. If we ask anything according to His will, we have a blank check, literally. That blank check is His will. Anything on the bank of His will we can request. And verse 15, "If we know He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the request which we've asked from Him."
Hearing is answering for God. No limits, blank check, just one qualifier, "according to His will." What an astounding confidence this is that while we wait for the full redemption of the body, while we wait for the next life, while we wait to receive all that God has prepared for them that love Him, we have the confidence that in the meantime our prayers will be answered.
Go back, for a minute, to chapter 3 verse 21, we'll try to enrich this idea. This is a very similar statement, that's why I said this section at the end is really a summary of things in the earlier parts of the epistle. Verse 21, "Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God." In other words, if our hearts are right, our conscience is clear, we have confidence to go before God, then verse 22, "And whatever we ask we receive from Him." Here's another qualifier. "Because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight. And this is His commandment that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another just as He commanded us." So if you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, if you keep His commandments, love the brothers which follows salvation, you can ask whatever you want and you will receive it. You have confidence or assurance before God that you will receive what you ask.
In John chapter 15, this way back in the gospel of John, same author, a similar statement is made by our Lord Himself. Not by the apostle John, though recorded by John, John 15:7 records the words of Jesus, "If you abide in Me and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish and it shall be done for you." Here's this same blank check, "Ask whatever you wish and it shall be done for you if you abide in Me," that is if you share My life and My truth. Verse 16, "You did not choose Me, I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit shall remain that whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He may give it to you." It's just an amazing assortment of statements. Whatever you ask, if you believe in Christ, if you abide in Christ, if His Word abides in you and that defines a believer, if the truth of your condition spiritually is manifest in obedience toward Christ and love toward others, you ask whatever you wish with the caveat that it is according to His will and, of course, you wouldn't want to ask anything other than that, would you?
In John 14 verse 13 Jesus put it this way. "And whatever you ask in My name, that will I do that the Father may be glorified in the Son." If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it. I mean, the extent of this is staggering. It's absolutely staggering. And it isn't just in one place, as you've already noticed. If you ask Me anything in My name, that little phrase is the equivalent to His will. It's the equivalent. In My name is consistent with who I am. To refer to His name is to refer to all that He is and all that He does. To say that I'm praying in Jesus name doesn't mean at the end of my prayer I say, "In Jesus name, amen," and that sort of makes everything qualify. That isn't it. Praying in Jesus' name is not a little statement you put at the end. If you do put it at the end and it's fine to do that, I often do that, in fact most of the time do that, but for me that's not some kind of little sort of guarantee statement that makes whatever I ask for sort of an obligation. But it's rather a way of saying if this is consistent with who You are, if it is consistent with what You will to do.
In John 16:23 and 24, "And in that day you will ask Me no question, truly, truly I say to you, if you shall ask the Father for anything, He will give it to you in My name...He will give it to you if it's consistent with who I am and what I desire to do." The name of Christ embodies all that He is. Verse 24, "Until now you've asked for nothing in My name, ask and you'll receive that your joy may be made full." Earlier He said that the Father may be glorified in the Son. Now He says that your joy may be full, ask anything in My name according to My will so that the Father can be glorified in the Son. In other words, when God answers the prayer and puts Him on display, puts the Son on display, and they thus receive glory. And here He adds, "When God answers prayers according to His will, it gives you full joy."
James understood this principle and approached it from the negative side. He says, "You do not have because you do not...what?...ask." You do not have because you do not ask. Or, he says, "You ask and do not receive because you ask with wrong motives." What is the one motive for what you ask? According to Your will. If this will put the Father on display, if this will glorify the Son, if this is for my spiritual benefit, if this is consistent with who Jesus Christ is and what He's doing, that is the qualifying principle. But you can see this is not something isolated. This is something that is literally replete in the New Testament. It reminds me of Psalm 37:4, "Delight yourself in the Lord and He'll give you the desires of your heart." If you're delighting in the Lord, if your delight is in Him, He'll plant the desires for the things that glorify Him in your heart and those will be the things you pray for and those will be the things He'll answer.
We pray then in His name, fully identified with Him. We pray in His will, seeking only that which would glorify the Father and produce true spiritual joy. Now that is a very generous promise, isn't it? Especially when you remember the Bible says, "Pray without ceasing." So unceasingly we bring our requests to God with thanksgiving, never anxious about anything, prayerful about everything. Prayer then becomes the means by which the believer receives what God wants to give him. Prayer becomes the means by which we align ourselves with His will. There are times when we don't know His will so we say, "Whatever You will, Lord, if it's Your will, if it's Your will, if it's Your will, if it's Your will." We always pray that. So we know this truth, I'm not going to belabor the point. We know that God grants our request for the things that are in His will and you have a blank check to go into His presence.
Now John has a, I suppose a strange way of emphasizing the extent of this certainty. I mean, it's just so wonderful. You know, the world is filled with people who pray to God and most all of them pray to God in crises, but they don't have any guarantee that He's going to hear and answer. And I can tell them that if they don't know God and they don't believe in the Lord Jesus Christ which is the only way to know God, God is under no obligation to answer their prayers. Does God ever answer the prayer of an unregenerate person? He will answer the prayer of confession and faith in Christ, the sinner's prayer for salvation, mercy, forgiveness and grace. Sure. But does God ever answer just the general prayers of non-believers? The answer to that question He may choose to, He's not obligated to. He may choose to, He can do whatever He wants whenever He wants to do it, and it may suit His purpose to hear some petition from an unbeliever, but He's under no obligation to answer. And therefore there is no certainty that can be given to a non-believer that God will hear anything that he ever says, that he ever prays.
That's sad when you think about that, isn't it? All the people in all the false religions of the world, all the people in the false systems of Christianity in the world who endlessly, endlessly, endlessly offer up prayers that God has no obligation to answer whatever.
All the prayers about family, health, children, jobs, crises, all the prayers about needs, all the prayers about life and death matters, all the prayers that go up and go up and go up, all the prayers that go up at events from political events to athletic events, all the prayers that go up day after day in various venues and various times and places and some official and some unofficial by all the unregenerate of the world and God is under no obligation ever to answer any of them. But when a believer prays in the name of Christ, and according to His will, God has obligated Himself to answer. This is a Christian certainty...a Christian certainty.
We have a national day of prayer when we call the nation to prayer. Calling believers to prayer makes sense, calling unbelievers to prayer is futile. I wish I could say that God was under some obligation if enough people prayed to do something, but He's not. You say, "Well, are you sure about that?" The Bible says,"If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me." He's under no obligation.
So the truth is clear and it's expansive. Anything according to His will, He hears us. And we know that hearing is answering. If He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the request which we've asked of Him, not will have but have. Now as I said, John illustrates the extent of this in a very strange way. Look at verse 16, and there are some who look at this passage and wonder how in the world this verse got here. "If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death. I do not say he should make request for this. All unrighteousness is sin, but there is a sin not leading to death."
Doesn't that seem strange? What's all that about? How did that get in here?
I'll tell you how that got in here, he is simply saying He'll answer all your prayers, all your prayers consistent with His name and consistent with His will, except one. And that's if you're praying for somebody who has committed sin leading to death. In other words, the final decision has already been made by God as to the future of that person and there's not going to be a change. But apart from that, now get the context, that's only the exception, that's not the point. The point is you can ask for anything, know He hears...if you know He hears, you know He answers and the exception to that...by the way, is if the final decision has already been made about the future of that person and it's death and therefore all your prayers in regard to that person have no possibility of being heard and answered. As I said, it's such a strange way to approach it.
But at the same time, if you look at it on the positive side, he's saying that this is such a grand certainty and such an expansive privilege that only in the most extreme case where there is already a final determination about the destiny of that person and it is that they're going to die, so what's the point of praying for any circumstances about their life. If that's already been determined, then that prayer isn't going to be answered. At the end of verse 16, "I do not say that you should make request for this." Now what is the sin unto death? "If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask God and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death."
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