In the last essay, we studied 1 John 5:1-12. In those verses we saw John insist that being a Christian includes believing that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. In this essay we conclude our study of the letter by looking at 5:13-21. In this concluding passage, John assures us of three important matters of faith. One, we can have knowledge of eternal life (v. 13). Two, we can have confidence in prayer (vv. 14-17). And three, we can have victory over sin (vv. 18-21).
Let’s begin with verse 13. John is starting to bring things together now. Notice the mention of his purpose in writing. Several times throughout the letter John brought up his purpose in writing. For example, way back at the beginning of the letter, in 1:3-4, John indicated that he was writing so that the recipients could have fellowship with God and that their joy might be full.
I suggest you turn there and look at that: chapter one, verses 3-4. Look for the phrase “so that,” because that is John way of expressing purpose: “we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.”
Then at the beginning of chapter 2, John says in regard to his purpose, “I am writing this to you so that you may not sin.” Obviously that means that the recipients’ not sinning was an important part of his overall purpose in writing. Then in verse twelve of chapter two, he announced the good news of forgiveness: “I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven on account of my name.” Thus we saw that we are not supposed to sin, but if we do, genuine repentance always brings forgiveness.
And then finally, as we saw a moment ago in 5:13, John wrote, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” Now whether you realize it or not, John has brought you full circle. He began by stating his purpose to be fellowship with God and complete joy. And he ended his mention of purpose with a promise of eternal life. And, of course if you have eternal life, you are in fellowship with God, and your joy is complete.
John’s first point is clear: we can have knowledge of eternal life. Second, in 5:14-15 John informs us that we can have confidence in prayer. This is good news! John tells us two encouraging facts about prayer. First, he informs us that God hears our prayers (v. 14). And second, he tells us that God answers our prayers (v. 15). And because of this, we can be confident!
However, prayer is not a magical process, as some would have us believe. There are certain conditions for answered prayer. Answered prayer is a consequence of our personal, love relationship with the Lord Jesus, which involves a number of factors. Let’s look at a series of passages that demonstrate this. The first is in the Gospel of John chapter 15, verse seven: “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”
That is an important statement. Clearly one must maintain the mutual abiding relationship that John has taught us about in order for God to answer our prayers. The next reference is John 14:14: “If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.” Here is another important prayer truth. We must pray in Jesus’ name for answered prayers. Now Jesus wasn’t suggesting that his name has magical powers. Rather praying in Jesus’ name means that our trust is in him and in no other.
All right, the next passage is in 1 John 3:22: “and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him.” This is another condition of answered prayer. We must keep God’s commandments and do what pleases him.
Finally, we come to the extremely important verse in the passage we are studying (1 John 4:14): “And this is the boldness [or confidence] we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” Of course Jesus himself illustrated this in the Garden of Gethsemane when he prayed “not my will but thine be done” (Mt. 26:39,42). For answered prayer, we must pray according to God’s will.
The last three of these Conditions all stem from the first. If we aren’t abiding in Christ and letting his Spirit abide in us, we cannot pray in Jesus’ name, keep God’s commandments, or pray according to God’s will. And so if we are not in this mutual abiding relationship with Jesus, it is ridiculous for us to expect God to answer our prayers. True prayer is asking God for what he wants, not for what we want.