1 John 5:1-21
Key Verse: 5:5
“Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.”
1. Read verse 1. What does it mean to believe that Jesus is the
Christ? What is God's promise? What does it mean to be born of
2. Read verses 2-5. How do we show love for God? How can we love God's
children? (2Co 5:14) Why are God's commands not burdensome? Why
must we be thankful to God? (Ro 1:21-31)
3. Who is it that overcomes the world? (5; Jn 16:33; 2Ti 4:7,8a) How?
(4,5) How does believing that Jesus is the Son of God give us
victory? Why is faith in Jesus the only way to overcome the world?
4. Read verses 6-12. How is Jesus proved to be perfect God and perfect
man? Why is it of eternal importance to believe in the Son of God?
(11,12; 2Co 5:10; Rev 21:8) What does it mean to have life? (Jn
5. Read verses 13-15. Why can we approach God confidently? (13; Ro
5:1,2; Mk 11:24) What does it mean to you that he hears us? What
else can we learn here about prayer?
6. Read verses 16-21. How must we help our brothers? Why must we not
continue to sin? What kind of world do we live in? How can we
escape from the one who is a liar and a murderer? (Jn 8:44) Why
does John warn about idols?
In 1 John 5, St. John teaches us how to overcome the world. Those who
live with a sense of defeatism are most sorrowful, whether they are
noble or ordinary. Surely, in Jesus we must overcome the world. May God
bless us to learn how to overcome the world. In actuality, 1 John 5 is
the conclusion and summary of the Epistle of 1 John. It is good to
review the contents. May God richly bless you and help you remember all
the life-giving words from this chapter.
First, in the name of Jesus, we overcome the world (1).
Look at verse 1. "Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is
born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as
well." This verse says that everyone who believes that Jesus is the
Christ is a child of God or born of God. To believe that Jesus is the
Son of God is to believe that God sent his one and only Son Jesus
Christ to this world and made him humble as a servant. While on earth,
the Son preached the good news of salvation and healed the sick.
Finally, he became the atoning sacrifice for the sin of the world,
shedding his blood on the cross. Because we believe that Jesus is the
Son of God, we love God more than silver or gold. And we love the
children of God dearly, so dearly. God might have chosen someone else
if he could. But all human beings are sin-stained. God could not but
choose his one and only Son, who is sinless, as the atoning sacrifice.
Those who realize this love of God are children of God. Here we learn
that true victory does not belong to man's physical body. True victory
belongs to our souls.
As we studied, "born of God," has deep meaning in it. Those born of
God are children of God. Those who are not born of God are children of
the devil. We need Jesus because of the devil. The devil's main work is
to plant the diseases of doubt in the hearts of ordinary people and
make everybody sick with sin, and suffer. The devils were originally
God's right-hand men. But they became proud and the adversaries of God.
Jude verse 6 says, "And the angels who did not keep their positions of
authority but abandoned their own home--these he has kept in darkness,
bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day." When they
rebelled against God, they became like horrible animals. Revelation
12:3 symbolizes the devil. It says, "Then another sign appeared in
heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven
crowns on his heads." The devil wants to make as many men as possible
brutal animals. Praise and thank God that we are children of God
through our Lord Jesus Christ. He became the atoning sacrifice who shed
his blood to take away our sins and all our iniquities and
transgressions. God is our Father, and we are his beloved children. We
also love God's children.
By believing that Jesus is the Son of God, there are two persons who
said, "I have overcome the world." One is Jesus. In order to become the
atoning sacrifice on the cross, shedding his blood, Jesus had to go
through much suffering and the crucifixion. But Jesus encouraged his
disciples, saying, "I have overcome the world." John 16:33 says, "I
have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this
world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the
world." The other is St. Paul. St. Paul was very old. He poured out his
life as a drink offering. But he did not say, "I am tired and
sorrowful." Paul said in 2 Timothy 4:7-8a, "I have fought the good
fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in
store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous
Judge, will award to me on that day...." Here, Paul's testimony is his
confidence that he has won victory over the world; he is about to pass
away, and at the same time, he is standing to be crowned with the crown
of righteousness. This story sounds very common to us. But it is not
common at all. It may be the unique testimony of victory in Jesus. In
Jesus, Paul was the one who overcame the world.
Second, the secret of overcoming the world (2-5).
First of all, in order to be the children of God, we must know how
to thank God (Ro 1:21). That's the evidence that we are born of God. In
the world, the most difficult thing is to thank God or to thank one's
wife or parents. Many people want God's blessing. They live according
to God's promises. God blesses them. Then they forget God's grace
completely. They become their own man. But the most important thing is
that we should not forget to thank God in all circumstances. One time,
St. Paul went to Philippi and preached the gospel of salvation. Many
were converted. Among them, a fortune-teller was also converted. The
owner felt he could not make money through the fortune-teller anymore.
He put Paul and Silas in prison. After being beaten much and put in
prison, humanly speaking, Paul and Silas could not thank God. But Acts
16:25 says, "About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing
hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them." This
verse tells us that Paul and Silas were full of thanks, suffering for
the sake of Jesus' name. But since Adam's fall, sin came into mankind.
Sin makes man unthankful. When we study Romans chapter 1, the root
cause of all human problems is people's unthankful mind and not
recognizing God as God. If we do not thank God, we become unthankful
people. Unthankful people become all kinds of evil people (Ro
The love of God overflows in the hearts of the children of God. With
the love of God, we care for the children of God, for the love of
Christ compels us (2Co 5:14), not because we have leisure time, but
because we are compelled by the love of God to take care of God's flock
of sheep. There is a woman who married a very handsome young man, who
is a cellist. She began to study the Bible from her high school days.
She lived a life of giving thanks. Her motto was, "Thank you, thank
you, hee, hee." Out of her thanks for God's saving grace, she began to
study the Bible diligently and regularly. She has also fed many sheep
sacrificially. So she is now fruitful and blessed with two mothers of
prayer and an only son. There is a woman who majored in accounting.
Because of her accounting background, she calculated and measured time
and money. She looked like a typical worldly person. She was so pretty
and she was a cutie-size and her nose was waving in the air. But since
she realized the love of God through Jesus, she became a completely
different person. In the past, she studied only for herself. But after
Jesus came into her heart, she thanked God always (1Th 5:16-18). She
was also mindful of her classmates, especially Missionary Joseph Ahn's
accounting study. Moreover, she married a man of God, so she could
have forgotten about God. But never! She didn't forget the love of
God. She is full of thanks. She cares for her sheep like her children.
There is a high school teacher in Milwaukee. He quit his high school
teacher's job and is living a poor life and dedicates himself, together
with his wife, for Milwaukee campus evangelism. In this insecure
American situation, to give up his high school teacher's job and to
trust in God's help and guidance for the future is remarkable. We can
say that he believes that Jesus is the Son of God.
We are living in a capitalistic structure or an imperialistic
society. Therefore, to love others through one-to-one Bible teaching
seems to be impossible. But St. John says it is not burdensome when we
have the love of God in our hearts. Look at verse 3. "This is love for
God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome...."
These days people are indifferent and selfish and clever in pragmatic
intrigues for selfish benefit. How can we give our time, which is life
itself? We can give our time for others because we are born of God and
we are children of God. And we keep his command because we love God.
Third, losers, to be condemned.
We know that even in the 100 meter track race there is a victor and
a loser. We also know there is an ultimate final victor and loser of
life. It is a solemn fact that God has given each person one life. In
retrospect, history tells us that all the conquerors and worldly heroes
won the battles or wars of the world, but they all died in the deep
realization of their defeats in their lives in the world. When we think
about world famous conquerors, we naturally remember Julius Caesar. He
thought he conquered his part of the world. But he was stabbed in the
back by Brutus. Then Caesar said, "You, too, Brutus!" It meant, "You
defeated me, my most loyal subject." Joseph Stalin, even though he is
named after New Testament Joseph, did not believe that Jesus is the Son
of God. He colonized 16 neighbor countries and made them speak only
Russian. Only five million Jews were forbidden to learn Russian to
isolate them. In spite of his achievements and power, they say that he
suffered from "Hitler phobia," thinking that Hitler was the
contemporary Napoleon Bonaparte. Stalin and lived in an underground
tunnel for 30 years and died soon after World War II. Mark Twain was a
writer so popular that elementary school kids wanted to be writers like
Mark Twain, not president. But he died after saying the most sorrowful
words, "It might have been." It means, "If I live one more time, I
would live a better life." Many tried to find one who said, "I have
overcome the world," or "The crown of righteousness is before me." But
they all died in defeat or defeatism.
Many people try to achieve something, looking for a shortcut for
their success and wealth. Some people try hard to maintain their world
boxing titles. Usually world-class boxing champions get up at 3:00
a.m., jog 10 miles, take a one-hour rest, and then go to a boxing
training camp. There was a boxing champion named Julio Caesar Chavez.
He had 85 knockouts out of 99 victories. But he was knocked out by a
man ten years younger than himself, who had worshiped Julio Chavez as
his own hero. Chavez got a left hook and his eye was cut and heavily
bleeding. His nose was broken. Finally, the referee stopped the fight.
He lost his championship and all his fame as a hero of the Mexicans. I
heard that one senior shepherd cried at his defeat. In this world,
there is no permanent victory. One man, without studying in grade
school, became the number two man in a Korean bank. He was very
arrogant and proud of himself that he was a man of achievement and a
victor in the world. But he retired from the bank at age 52. After
using all the money he earned during one year, he died of a stroke
caused by his anxiety. He thought he defeated the world. But he was
nothing but a loser. It is because he did not believe that Jesus is the
Son of God.
We know Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), who wrote "War and Peace," "Anna
Karenina," and "Resurrection." He is indeed the outstanding genius in
literature. Ordinary men don't even understand their wife's character.
A brilliant young man who is handsome does not know the beauty of a
woman. He evaluated Maria in "The Sound of Music," a woman of charm and
beauty, as a selfish woman. But in his novel, "War and Peace," Tolstoy
described 383 different people's characters so precisely. We can say he
is 383 times more a man of insight than ordinary people. Many a person
does not even know what kind of person he himself is. Tolstoy became a
Christian of his own kind. He wrote many beautiful novels. He had a
sense of God's majesty in his religiosity and enhanced the moral
standard of chaotic Russian people based on the Sermon on the Mount.
But he felt superior. Then he became proud. Finally, he did not
believe that Jesus is the Son of God. As a result, he could not accept
God's gift, Jesus Christ, and eternal life through his Son and the
kingdom of God as his inheritance. So he could not thank God at his
death. Contrary to his writing, he is known as the one who died with
the most tragic hallucination.
Look at verse 5. "Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who
believes that Jesus is the Son of God." A true victor is only he who
believes that Jesus is the Son of God. Why is it so? In history, there
were many people who perceived that there is a spiritual world and God
Almighty. But because they did not know Jesus, they made all kinds of
idols and worshiped them. In history, the number of idols made by men
is in the multi-billions. As we know well, there are two world
currents. One is Hellenism, which is humanism. The other is Hebraism,
which claims theism. Since Hellenistic people do not believe in God,
but are only humanistic and mainly interested in sports or Olympic
Games, they should not have idols. But all the stories of myth
(mythology) and terrible names of idols came from Greece, the origin of
Hellenism. Greek myths are too eerie to read. When Paul went to
Athens, he found the city of Athens was filled with idols, all kinds of
idols. Each had its own kind of name. There were innumerable nameless
idols, too (Ac 17:23). Since the world was made, mankind lived on earth
seeking God the Almighty as if they were looking for a mom to help
True victors are those who overcome the world by believing that
Jesus is the Son of God, not idols. It is because God sent his one and
only Son to this world and made him an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
As a result, he rescued us from the power of darkness and Satan and
brought us into the marvelous light of Jesus who teaches us the way and
the truth and the life (Jn 14:6). Jesus is God. Jesus is the Almighty
Creator God. But he came to this world and humbled himself to the state
of being a servant and served us sinners by becoming the atoning
sacrifice. Jesus is the God whom many ancient people were looking for.
The three Magi from the east are representatives of all those who did
not know the name of Jesus (Mt 2:1,2). Those who believe in Jesus have
true victories in their lives and they are those who overcome the
world. They are those who are prepared to be crowned, because they
believed that Jesus is the Son of God.
Fourth, Jesus gives eternal life (6-12).
Look at verse 6. "This is the one who came by water and blood--Jesus
Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it
is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth." This is
the point St. John argues with Gnostics. As we studied, Gnostics, by
the influence of Plato, claimed that matter is evil and spirit is good.
Plato did not say matter is evil and spirit is good. He said, "Matter
is evil and idea is good." He thought "Idea" is "Logos," which is
unknown Supreme Being. When Plato said "Idea" it did not mean that it
was the idea about a Big Mac. He speculated about Logos or "invincible,
supreme good." Anyway, he realized that the world was composed of the
terrestrial and the celestial. These Gnostics claimed that Jesus could
not be a man, and that Jesus could not be the atoning sacrifice. For if
Jesus took a human form and died on the cross as the atoning sacrifice,
he could not be God; rather, he must be evil, and a phantom figure.
Look at verses 8-9. "...the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the
three are in agreement. We accept man's testimony, but God's testimony
is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about
his Son." Here St. John claims that Jesus is the Son of God, and that
he is the perfect God and the perfect man. God gave his one and only
Son as the atoning sacrifice for all men's sins. Nobody gives his one
and only Son as the atoning sacrifice. I heard that one senior
shepherd cried when his grandson was going back to his daddy's house.
In short, the fact that God gave his one and only Son as an atoning
sacrifice is not a philosophical argument, it is the love of God. God
himself is the one who testifies that Jesus is the Son of God. Here
"testimony" means words, and it was the word of God which promised,
prophesied and was fulfilled through his Son Jesus Christ when he sent
his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for the sin of the world. Those
Gnostics did not believe God's word, the testimony of God. They were
like Jean Jacques Rousseau, who wrote mile (Education) and became
world famous, but abandoned his five illegitimate children and sent
them to orphanages one by one (10b).
Why is it so important that we believe Jesus is the Son of God? Look
at verses 11-12. "And this is the testimony: 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." It is important to
believe that Jesus is the Son of God, because only through the Son we
have eternal life. Men are like grass and all their glory is like the
flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the
word of the Lord stands forever (1Pe 1:24,25).
Many think that death is the end of everything. So they say, "Let us
eat and drink, for tomorrow we die" (1Cor 15:32b). Some people think
that eternal life is only the matter after death. But this is not true.
Eternal life starts at present. John 5:24 says, "I tell you the truth,
whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and
will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life." This
verse explains that when we received eternal life through his Son Jesus
Christ, we crossed over from death to life and it is the past event. We
have eternal life at the present. Eternal life starts the moment we
accept Jesus as our personal Savior. The Spirit of Jesus gives us new
life every day. The Spirit of Jesus gives us a new day and a new wife,
even though she is the same wife. For those who have eternal life,
everything is new every day. Those who have eternal life can see the
kingdom of God and can enter the kingdom of God. Ordinary people's
agony is what will be the reward of their lifetime work. Those who do
not believe in Jesus have no reward. They must stand at the judgment
seat of God to be condemned. 2 Corinthians 5:10 says, "'For we must all
appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive
what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or
bad." After judgment, they are put into eternal punishment (Rev 21:8).
In this world, the most foolish thing is being unthankful to God in
spite of the fact that God gave his Son as the atoning sacrifice so
that those who believe in him will not perish but have eternal life.
Fifth, we can talk to Jesus about everything in our hearts (13-21).
In the past, we were all like Cain, who was greatly distressed to be
around God, even if he had to bear the sense of punishment and guilt
and wander around the world without any meaning of life. But through
Jesus Christ, the atoning sacrifice, we have access to God (Ro 5:2). We
can freely approach God. We can ask anything in Jesus' name (Mk 11:24).
Then he hears us. And we can have great confidence that he will guide
us and lead us and be with us as long as we are in this world as
pilgrims. Look at verses 14-15. "This is the confidence we have in
approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he
hears us. And if we know that he hears us--whatever we ask--we know
that we have what we asked of him." How wonderful it is that our
Shepherd Jesus is our best friend to whom we can tell everything.
Otherwise, it is impossible for us to tell everything in our hearts and
we would die sorrowfully.
There are two kinds of sins (16). One is unforgivable. The other is
forgivable. All other sins are forgivable, but those who deny that
Jesus is the Son of God are unforgivable, because they are born of the
devil. In other words, those who believe Jesus in their minds only, and
do not practice anything, are all unforgivable sinners. Those who are
born of God do not continue to sin, and they also keep themselves safe
from evil and harm because God gives them understanding (18-20).
Look at verse 21. As his final words, St. John says, "Dear children,
keep yourselves from idols." Here, those who do not believe that Jesus
is the Son of God are all idol-worshipers. There is no "my own man" in
the kingdom of God. They are all precious children of God. Here we
learn that Gnostics are liars, and contemporary intellectual hedonists.
John 8:44 tells us that the devil is a liar from the beginning, and
liars are murderers.
Let's believe that Jesus is the perfect God and perfect man and that
he is the Son of God. In him we have eternal life and the crown of
righteousness. May God bless you to stand before the Son of God to be
crowned gloriously as victors.