Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
Understanding And Applying the Text
How do we know if we or someone else is a Christian? Here John sets the standard. Anyone who confesses that Jesus is the Christ, that is, the Messiah, gives evidence of having been born of God. That is the standard by which we know if one belongs to God if they confess Jesus is the Christ. The second half of verse 1 then states anyone who loves the Father will love those who are born of God. Love for the church brethren is the outgrowth or evidence of love for God.
In the previous chapter, John said, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” (v 20) In 5:2 John says, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.” To love the Christian brethren, we must God. To love God, we must love the Christian brethren. On the face of it, it sounds like a circular argument. What John is saying is, that loving Christian brethren and loving God is the same thing. Paul says in Colossians 1:24 and 1:18 that the body of Christ is the church. And then again in Ephesians 1:23 -24 Paul refers to the church as Christ’s body. John says to love God is to love the body of Christ and to love the body of Christ, i.e. the Church, is to love God.
Keeping God’s commandments is how we show our love for God. If you love someone you want to do what they want. If you love God you will do what He wants. Not because it is a duty or obligation but rather because you want to do it. The phrase “And his commandments are not burdensome” is a call back to the words of Jesus. In Matthew 11:30 Jesus said, “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light…”
In verse 4 John says, “Everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world” What does it mean to “overcome the world?” Here John, give the assurance of salvation and the peace that a Christian can and should have. That is, there is no need to struggle we have already overcome the world. It is our faith that has overcome the world. And what is the source of our faith? Our faith is a gift from God (Eph 2:8).
If we love God, we love His church. John states anyone who confesses Jesus is the Messiah is born of God. But these are no magic words. The words Jesus is the Messiah do not mean you are born of God. James 2:19 says you believe in God? Great! But even the demons believe that. So if you only believe that Jesus is Christ you are simply qualified to be a demon. The confession that Jesus is the Christ goes beyond the words. It goes beyond an intellectual belief.
Here is an example. I have a tremendous fear of heights. I can think of no rational reason for my fear but it is there. I have walked across the Royal Gorge Bridge in Colorado. Scared the bejeebers (Is that a real word?) out of me. My family walked across and leaned over the railing to look down into the gorge. They were encouraging me to come and look down as well, so I could enjoy what they enjoyed. I knew the railing would hold me. I had seen my family and several others lean on it. I knew I was not going to fall over the rail, no one else had. I knew there was no real danger. The danger was all in my mind. But I kept playing these, “what if,” scenarios in my head. A simple intellectual ascent to facts did not allow me to enjoy the view. I did finally coax myself out to the middle of the bridge and quickly leaned over a little bit. I did not enjoy the view as much as my family because I did not have as much faith I would not fall as they did. But I did get to see a beautiful view. That is the type of belief John is talking about. It is a belief that you trust. It is not only an acknowledgment of facts.
If we have that type of faith, a faith that Jesus is the Christ, there is evidence. The evidence is, that we will love those who are also born of Him. Why? Because, together we are His body.
Remember John’s reason for writing this letter. it was to address the false teaching. They were trying to separate the brethren from the body of Christ, that is the Church. If you have confronted false teachers I am positive you have heard “Where is the love? I am not seeing it!” Loving someone does not mean you let them go down a path you know will end in harm. Letting them continue down a dangerous path is not love. Nor is it hatred. It is indifference. Indifference is the opposite of love.
Second, there is no need to struggle and fight. Christ has already overcome the world. Our faith in him has already overcome the world. We can trust that fact because our faith is not something we generate. It is a gift given to us by God Himself.