This morning we are continuing our study of 1 John. We only have a few more studies. First John chapter 5, verses 13 through 21, constitutes the conclusion of the epistle.
The closing context of this letter (5:13-20) lists seven things that believers know. In six of those six of those seven things the word is eido which is a reference to absolute knowledge. It is not something learned by experience but comes by divine revelation. In Scripture, the number "seven" is symbolic of fullness, perfection, and completion. Believers have full complete knowledge.
Last week we looked just at verse 13:
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. 1 John 5:13 ESV
Here John is telling us that all "who believe in the name" of the Son of God have eternal life. To believe "in the name" means the same as believing "in the person" who bears the name. To believe in "the name of the Son of God" means to accept the revelation given by God in Scripture of who Yeshua is. It involves believing that Yeshua, fully man and fully God, came to redeem the world. You cannot deny the deity of Yeshua and believe in His name. Look with me at a verse in Isaiah that tells us about the deity of Yeshua:
"Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation." Isaiah 12:2 ESV
In the Hebrew this reads, "El is my Yeshua, I will trust and not be afraid; for Yah Yahweh is my strength and song, and He has become my Yeshua." So, Yahweh is our Yeshua, and our Yeshua is Yahweh.
When we believe in the "name of the Son of God" we are told that we can know that we have eternal life. Believers, our salvation is secure. Just as I did nothing to get my salvation, I can do nothing to keep it. I am eternally secure in His love. If any part of my eternal salvation depends upon my power and ability and commitment and righteousness, I'm damned! Because if I could lose my salvation, I would. And so would you. So, I rejoice in the fact that I cannot lose it. Look at what Paul said:
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Yeshua. Romans 8:1 ESV
"Therefore"—this always links us to what has already gone before us. I think this carries us back to the Adam/Christ contrast of 5:12-21 because the condemnation that was imposed there is done away with here.
"Now no condemnation"—reading this in the original text the emphasis rests upon the word "no." It is the emphatic word in the Greek text.
The Greek word, krima, is the normal word for condemnation. Here Paul uses katakrima which is used three times in Scripture—all of them in Romans by Paul. Hel uses the term twice in Romans 5.
Katakrima is defined by Suttor in his Lexicon as the punishment following the sentence. It is in a passive formation in the Greek and it is not likely to refer to the sentence as an edict from the judge, but rather to the punishment. Adam's sin is imputed to all, this is condemnation, which is spiritual death, separation from God.
There will never be, in the life of any believer katakrima (i.e. spiritual death, separation from God, punishment for sin). There will be chastening and discipline in this life, but there will never be any separation from God. We are secure in His love.
If you have trusted Christ, you are in Christ, so that what happened to Him, happened to you. He died and was resurrected, so therefore, you died and were resurrected. Union with Adam, the first man, led to our condemnation/death. Union with Yeshua the Christ, the Second Adam, secured our righteousness/life. We know that we have eternal life. This is security. You don’t know you have eternal life because of some experience; you know it because of what has been written.
Paul now begins to teach that nothing will energize your prayers more than assurance. Equally, nothing will short-circuit prayer more than your doubts. You cannot be effective in prayer if you do not have assurance of your salvation.
Prayer is another expression of the believer's trust in Yeshua and "confidence" before God.
And this is the confidence that we have toward 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 that we have asked of him. 1 John 5:14-15 ESV
These verses are linked with 5:13 by the conjunction kai (and). Paul’s use of the conjunction kai connects the believer’s assurance of eternal life, based upon his relationship with God, with his confidence in prayer.
And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 1 John 5:14 ESV
Unfortunately, this translation doesn’t do justice to what this verse is saying. We know that God hears our prayers because we know that he is omniscient. "Omni" means "all" and "science," in its original sense, means "knowing." So, omniscience means "all-knowing." In classical theology, the doctrine of God's omniscience means that God knows all things, past, present and future, both real and potential, and that He knows them all at the same time. He not only knows what was and what is, he also knows what will be. More than that, he knows everything that could be but is not.
We know God "hears" all of our prayers because He is omniscient; He knows everything. However, in this context, "to hear" (akouō) carries the sense of "giving heed to" what is asked, that is, responding positively to the request. This is confirmed in 5:15: "And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him." The promise that God hears us is the assurance that God listens to us favorably and grants us our requests, whatever we ask.
"This is the confidence we have toward him"—John has already brought up this idea of having confidence in prayer and of a promise of answered prayer if we are obedient to God (3:21-22). He repeats it here for emphasis.
The word "confidence" is from the Greek word, parrhēsia, which means "all out spokenness, confidence, assurance or boldness." "The word was used in ancient Greece for the most valued right of a citizen of a free state—the right to "speak his mind" unhampered by fear or shame. This speaks of open and free access to God's presence.
"We have toward him"—would be better translated "in his presence." John is speaking about the confidence believers have "in the presence of God." The writer of Hebrews put it this way:
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Yeshua, Hebrews 10:19 ESV
"Confidence" here is our word parrhēsia. This idea of having assurance or confidence arises directly out of what has just been said by the writer of Hebrews. It is why he starts this verse with "therefore." Because they were "sanctified, perfected forever," boldness is appropriate and right.
For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. Hebrews 10:14 ESV
It is referring to an objective right that gives us a subjective attitude of boldness. They have boldness to enter the "holy places." This is a reference to God's presence. And this boldness by which we enter is "by the blood of Yeshua." It is not by our own merit.
How do you feel when you go somewhere that you don't have a right to be? Are you not timid, uncomfortable, scared? Do you feel as if you are someplace that is for members only and you are not a member? But if you are a member, you walk in with boldness and confidence.
"This is the confidence we have in his presence"—the idea would be to go into the presence of God and say exactly what’s on your mind. Confidence in this context refers to the Christian’s confidence in the presence of God in prayer.
"If we ask anything according to his will, he hears us"—"if" here is a third class conditional sentence which means potential action. Prayer is not asking for our will but asking for God's will in our lives.
And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him. 1 John 5:15 ESV
The "if" here is a first-class conditional sentence, but with ean and the indicative, which is assumed to be true from the author's perspective or for his literary purposes. This is an unusual conditional sentence. (A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, p. 243). Since we know that he hears us.
"We know"—is a perfect active indicative, translated as a present, which is parallel to verse 14. It is the believer's assurance that the Father hears and responds to His children. "We know" occurs twice in this verse. It indicates the believer’s assurance of answered prayer.
In this verse "He hears us" literally means "He answers us." And "we have the requests that we have asked of him" literally means that "We get what we ask for."
What do you think? Do you find this to be true in your life? Do you receive from God whatever you ask? This promise seems to be very different from the believer's experience in prayer. This verse seems to promise unlimited answered prayer. This is where a comparison of other relevant texts helps bring a theological balance. Earlier John said:
and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. 1 John 3:22 ESV
Here John says that we receive whatever we ask "Because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him." We find here two requirements for answered prayer. And in our text, Paul adds that "If we ask anything according to his will, he hears us." Let’s look at these three conditions:
(1) We keep his commandments.
If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. John 15:10 ESV
The clause, "If you keep my commandments," is a third-class conditional sentence which means "potential action" (maybe you will, and maybe you won't). The word "keep" here is from the Greek word tereo which means "to guard or to observe." It conveys the idea that a believer takes the commands of Christ seriously; they are considered precious. Close attention must be given to them in order for the believer to closely follow what the Lord commands.
Yeshua has stressed this over and over in the Fourth Gospel:
"If you love me, you will keep my commandments. John 14:15 ESV
Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him." John 14:21 ESV
Yeshua inseparably joins love and commandment keeping. Yeshua summed up the whole law by two commandments, both of which were commands to love:
But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets." Matthew 22:34-40 ESV
(2) We do what pleases him. Doing what pleases Him is abiding in Him.
whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. 1 John 2:6 ESV
We abide in Him when we live like he lived—to please the Father.
And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him." John 8:29 ESV
If we are abiding in Him, we should be able to say: "I always do the things that are pleasing to God." It is sobering to look at our lives and see how much we do to please ourselves and how much we do to please the Lord. Maybe that is why our prayers aren’t being answered.
(3) We ask according to His will.
And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 1 John 5:14 ESV
When the Bible talks about God's will, it can be referring to one of two things: God's sovereign will or providence (His predetermined plan for everything that happens in the universe) or His moral will, that which is revealed in the Bible that tells us how to live. Look at "will" in these two texts:
You will say to me then, "Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?" Romans 9:19 ESV
For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; 1 Thessalonians 4:3 ESV
Does the term "will" mean the same in both of these passages? No. Romans 9 uses the term "will" to speak of God's secret will of decree, His sovereign will. First Thessalonians 4 uses the term "will" to speak of God's revealed will of precept, or His moral will. As we know, God's sovereign will is always carried out. His moral will, on the other hand, is not. Do people commit sexual immorality? Yes, but it is God's moral will that they not commit sexual immorality.
The term "will" itself is ambiguous. We must determine its meaning from the context. The ten commandments are God's preceptive or moral will. They command men to do this and to refrain from that. They state what ought to be done, but they neither state nor cause what is done. God's sovereign or decretive will, however, causes every event.
The Scripture commands all men to believe on the Lord Yeshua the Christ, but in His sovereign will, he has chosen some to believe, and He has chosen to harden the rest:
And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. Acts 13:48 ESV
The ones who believed, believed because they were appointed to eternal life.
In the New Testament, we find Paul giving the Ephesians general instructions for not living as the world does. He writes:
Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Ephesians 5:17 ESV
What does "will" mean here? We can't understand God's sovereign will; it is secret until it happens. We are to understand the moral will of God which is revealed in the Bible.
How do you think the term "will" is being used in our text?
And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 1 John 5:14 ESV
Are we to pray according to God's sovereign will? No! We don't what God’s sovereign will is until it happens. This must be telling us that we need to pray according to his moral will.
Since God has revealed His moral will to us in the Bible, how can we pray according to His will if we are ignorant of His Word? It is by the Word of God that His will is revealed unto us. It is by the Word, and the Holy Spirit applying, enlightening, and opening the Word that His will is revealed.
It is so important that we read and meditate upon the Word of God. It contains such fullness that we can meditate on it day and night, and there are still depths and a newness revealed unto us of the will of God. How can we come before the Lord praying according to his will if we neglect studying the Bible that has been given to us to reveal His will?
As we read and study the Bible, we learn what God's moral will is; and as we do, we should pray according to what is revealed. We can only be sure of things that are specifically set forth in the word of God. It is vital that you and I know the Word of God so that our prayers may be in harmony with biblical truth.
There is nothing mechanical or magical about prayer. For it to be effective, however, the will of the intercessor needs to be in line with the will of God. Such conformity of wills is brought about only as the believer abides in Christ.
The key to answered prayer is being in such close fellowship with God that we ask for the things that are on His heart. In other words, we take up His agenda with our requests and intercession. The spirit of true prayer is "Thy will be done."
Let me give you a definition of prayer that really helps me to pray as I should. Sometimes we get so caught up in our circumstance that we question the point of prayer. For instance, why even ask if God never answers anyway? Here’s why you should pray. Prayer is a declaration of our dependence. Every time I pray, I am saying, "God, I need you" or "Thank you God for helping me!"
We ask God's forgiveness because we know we are dependent upon Him to forgive. We thank Him in prayer because we know that whatever we are, or have, has come from Him. We petition Him because only He can give us what we need. We know that God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble and that prayer is humility in action. It is saying, "God, I can't do this, so, I come to you acknowledging my need." There is nothing in our Christian experience more than prayer through which we manifest our dependence upon God and by which we glorify God.
We glorify God by prayer. We ask God to do for us through Christ what we can't do for ourselves. Prayer is the open admission that without God we can do nothing. And prayer is the turning away from ourselves to God in the confidence that He will provide the help we need. Prayer humbles us reveals us as needy. It exalts God as wealthy. In short, prayer is a declaration of our dependence. If this is true, and it is, then we must admit that prayerlessness is a declaration of self-sufficiency. To not pray is to say to Yahweh, "I don’t need you!"
Now think about this for a moment. It is God’s will that we, his creatures, ask Him for things. And it is not just His will; it is His delight:
The sacrifice of the wicked is detestable to the LORD, but the prayer of the upright is his delight. Proverbs 15:8 CSB
If prayer is asking God for things and He delights in our prayer, then God loves to be asked for things. Would you agree with that?
Isaiah tells us that God hears the prayers of his people and responds to them:
Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear. Isaiah 65:24 ESV
In fact, He takes special steps to see to it that He is constantly beseeched:
On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have set watchmen; all the day and all the night they shall never be silent. You who put the LORD in remembrance, take no rest, and give him no rest until he establishes Jerusalem and makes it a praise in the earth. Isaiah 62:6-7 ESV
Clearly, God loves being asked for things so much that He appoints people to "give him no rest" but to "remind Yahweh" and "never be silent." Remind Him of what? Remind Him of his promises. Remind Him of his goodness. Remind Him of his mercy. Remind Him of His love for His people. Why do I need to remind God of all of that? Surely, He doesn't need to be reminded by me. No, He doesn't.
But what you're doing is not just reminding the Lord. You're reminding yourself. You're remembering who God is when you pray by recounting His promises. You're reminding yourself of who God is. You're quoting His promises back to Him because it builds your faith in God. It shows you that God wants to do something.
This tells us that God, the Creator of the Universe, who holds our life in his hands and rules the world, is the kind of God who loves to be asked for things. Why does God not only will that we ask Him for things but delights in it and takes steps to see that it happens? What attribute is behind God’s delight in our asking Him for things? Love! What does love do? It gives!
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 ESV
God so loved - that He gave. It is God's nature to be a giver.
"Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?" For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. Romans 11:35-36 ESV
God is self-sufficient. And He is the Source of all things. "For from Him… are all things." That is, they originated from Him. This all-sufficient God, who is the source of all things, delights to give.
nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. Acts 17:25 ESV
God is love and love gives. Therefore, God loves to give. The last phrase of Romans 11:36 gives us the reason why: "To Him be glory forever." God is glorified as the source of all things. He ordains prayer because He wants us to see Him as the gloriously self-sufficient source of all things and ourselves as totally needy.
and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me." Psalms 50:15 ESV
God answers our call for help so that we get the rescue and He gets the glory.
Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. John 14:13 ESV
Ask for things in My name! Why? So that the Father may be glorified.
God wills that you pray. He wills that you ask Him for things. And not just wills it but really delights in it because it comes from the very nature of who God is. He is love; He is a giver. Why is he a Giver? Because He is utterly self-sufficient and delights to overflow and show us His glorious fullness and strength and wisdom, He will give us whatever we need. God loves to show the fullness of His grace in meeting the needs of humble, dependent that people (i.e. praying people) because it magnifies His riches.
Prayer is not some small thing. It is not some marginal thing. It is not some incidental thing in the Christian life. Prayer gives honor and glory to God as the giver of all things.
From Genesis to Revelation, we find believers praying to the Lord. Abraham, Joseph, David, and Daniel offer examples of believers bringing needs and praises before the Lord. They did so consistently, even if it meant personal peril. Prayer was a priority for them. We can surmise that one of the critical reasons for their deep spirituality was that prayer had a place of priority in their lives.
The same is true in the New Testament. We see that our Lord gave priority to prayer. We follow through the book of Acts and see the early believers praying privately and corporately. Paul's epistles are filled with examples of his own prayers, demonstrating that he gave priority to this spiritual discipline.
Prayer is not optional for God’s children. It is absolutely essential because to not pray is to not live by faith in God. If you do not pray, you are trusting in yourself. Throughout the New Testament believers are told to devote themselves to prayer:
Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. Colossians 4:2 ESV
Paul tells the Colossian believers to "Continue steadfastly in prayer."The words "continue steadfastly" are from the Greek word proskartereo. It first meant "to be strong towards, to endure in, persevere in," but it came to mean "adhere to, persist in, to continue to do something with intense effort," with the possible implication of despite difficulty. The present tense of "proskartereo" further emphasizes the idea of persistence of prayer.
Paul's instructions, then, go beyond the simple idea of praying when circumstances are conducive to doing so and point towards a continuance. This Greek word occurs six times in the New Testament in relation to prayer. Luke notes that, following Yeshua’s departure into Heaven, the group of believers:
All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Yeshua, and his brothers. Acts 1:14 ESV
There were about 120 in all, and they prayed together for about ten days. After Peter's sermon at Pentecost and the conversion of 3,000 people, Luke describes their life together like this:
And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Acts 2:42 ESV
But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word." Acts 6:4 ESV
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12 ESV
praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, Ephesians 6:18 ESV
What does this mean? It means you are to pray often and pray regularly. Prayer is not to be infrequent, and prayer is not to be hit and miss. Being "devoted to" prayer means that you are not haphazard, and you are not forgetful. It means you take steps to see that it is part of your regular life, the same way eating and sleeping are.
Prayer is vital to a believer's spiritual health. Prayer is a life priority. It connects me with God and it connects me with God's provision for my life. The great preacher, Robert Murray McCheyne, once wrote, "What a man is on his knees before God, that he is, and nothing more." That is a powerful statement.
Sometime we allow our theological convictions to become excuses for not praying. That is an unfortunate mistake. J.I. Packer explains that there is no conflict between God's sovereign foreordination and the effectiveness of prayer in the believer's life. "God foreordains the means as well as the end, and our prayer is foreordained as the means whereby He brings His sovereign will to pass" [Concise Theology, 189].
Along this same vein, R.L. Dabney has written: "God does not command it because He needs to be informed of our wants, or to be made willing to help. He commands it because He has seen fit to ordain it as the appointed means for reception of His blessing" [Systematic Theology, 717].
How many of you understand how prayer can work when God is sovereign? How many of you pray? We can't change God's purposes. If our prayers could shape God's policy, then the Most High would be subordinate to the will of man. That is a terrifying thought. We know that we are commanded to pray, but because we don't understand how prayer can work when God is sovereign, we disobey His command to pray.
Believer, if you are struggling in your prayer life, I think that the best way to become more fervent in prayer is to understand that prayerlessness is a declaration of self-sufficiency.
Next week we will see that John’s general statements about prayer in verses 14-15 provide the rationale and basis for the particular requests in verses 16-17.
If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death. 1 John 5:16-17 ESV
The prayer for life for another believer who is committing a sin that does not lead to death (v. 16) is not simply one example of the kind of petition God hears; it is precisely the prayer that God hears. In the context of our passage, one specific kind of request is heard and that is the petition on behalf of a member of the community who has sinned.
And we’ll look at this next week.