18 We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them. 19 We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. 20 We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.
21 Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.
(1 John 5:18-21 NIV)
Today we wrap up our journey through the Apostle John’s first letter to the churches in Asia Minor.
As we study the last of John’s concluding remarks, we have seen how John moved from teaching us about our assurance that God hears our prayers (vv. 13-15) to applying that assurance by praying for others (vv. 16-17) to this final passage where John teaches us that God restores us (and other followers of Christ we pray for) to Himself when we do sin (vv. 18-21).
John begins today’s passage with a truth (v. 18) that can also be used to test whether a person follows Jesus Christ (or not). John tells us that anyone who is a follower of Jesus Christ does not continue to sin. John is not saying we will never sin again after we come to Christ. Instead, John is telling us that we will not engage in willful, defiant, premeditated sins (the “sins that lead to death” that we studied in the last passage). In other words, if we are truly followers of Christ and we love Him enough to follow His example and commands, then we will not live in open defiance toward Him.
Also, John says in verse 18 that we are not left on our own to fight off the enticement of sin or an actual besetting sin that we may feel has its power over us. John says that the “One born of God” (Jesus) protects us (keeps us safe) from the evil one (satan and his minions).
John summarizes this epic battle for control in verse 19, where he identifies himself and those who follow Christ as belonging to Christ, and the rest of the world being under the control of the evil one (satan). This is not a battle for our land, but a battle for our hearts and minds.
In verse 20, John reminds us again (in summary) that God is the holder of all truth, and that He reveals that truth to us as His followers. God provided our ability to understand truth through His Son Jesus who came to earth and provided our example of how to live for God. John summarizes his teaching about God being the keeper of truth again to remind us that there are many who claim to have “superior knowledge” (the Gnostics or any other teachers) but deny Jesus as either fully God or fully human. John closes verse 20 by reminding us that the truth is that Jesus is both fully God and fully human at the same time.
John closes his letter by using a familiar term of endearment (“Dear children…”) to draw us to the Lord. And what is John’s last admonition to us? “Keep yourselves from idols”. Simply put, this is John’s way of telling us to keep God first and foremost in our lives, to not let anything or anyone come before our relationship with God through His Son Jesus. John knows that anything or anyone that does not point us back to Jesus ultimately desires to lead us away from Jesus.
May we always remember that Jesus holds truth and life, and invites us to experience that truth and life in Him, with Him, and through Him. Anyone or anything that says otherwise seeks to lead us astray. May we lean on God’s heart and discernment to know the difference, and His power to follow the narrow road that leads to fully experiencing life in Him, both on this side of eternity as well as the other side.