Always Display Love and Faith
1, 2. What qualities are particularly emphasized at 1 John 4:7–5:21?
JEHOVAH is the personification of love, and those desiring to please him must display this godly quality. The apostle John makes this clear in the latter part of his first inspired letter.
2 True Christians must also display faith. Only in this way can they overcome the world and remain secure in Jehovah’s favor. As we study the final portion of John’s letter, then, let us prayerfully consider the importance of displaying love and faith.
‘Let Us Love One Another’
3, 4. What relation does displaying love have to our knowing God?
3 John emphasizes the importance of love. (Read 1 John 4:7, 8.) Christian “beloved ones” are urged to “continue loving one another, because love is from God,” Jehovah being its Source. “Everyone who loves has been born from God [as a spirit-begotten individual] and gains the knowledge of God,” being acquainted with Jehovah’s qualities and purposes, and how he expresses love. Today this “knowledge of God” has also been acquired by the “great crowd” of Christ’s “other sheep.”
4 Knowing God means truly appreciating his qualities, loving him completely, and sticking to him as our Sovereign. But “he that does not love has not come to know God.” Those who do not display Christian love have not “come to know God, because God is love.” Yes, love is Jehovah’s dominant quality, evident in his spiritual and material provisions for mankind.
5. What is the greatest evidence that “God is love”?
5 Cited next is the greatest evidence that “God is love.” (Read 1 John 4:9, 10.) John says: “By this the love of God was made manifest in our case [as sinners worthy of death], because God sent forth his only-begotten Son into the world that we might gain life through him.” Jesus is Jehovah’s “only-begotten Son” in that he was God’s sole direct creation. (John 1:1-3, 14; Colossians 1:13-16) And Jesus ‘was sent forth into the world’ by becoming a human, publicly carrying out his ministry, and then dying a sacrificial death. (John 11:27; 12:46) ‘Gaining life eternal through him,’ whether in heaven or on earth, calls for faith in the merit of his ransom sacrifice.
6. While we were yet sinners who did not love God, what did he do?
6 We were yet sinners who did not love God when “he loved us and sent forth his Son as a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins.” Christ’s sacrifice made it possible for us to attain a restoration to right relations with God. (Romans 3:24, 25; Hebrews 2:17) Do you appreciate this greatest manifestation of unmerited love on the part of our heavenly Father?
7. (a) Since we cannot say that we love Jehovah because of having seen him, how can we show that we do love him? (b) Our display of brotherly love proves what?
7 God’s love for us should affect our attitude toward others. (Read 1 John 4:11-13.) Since he loved us while we were yet sinners, “we are ourselves under obligation to love one another.” Among humans, “at no time has anyone beheld God.” So we cannot say that we love Jehovah because of having seen him. (Exodus 33:20; John 1:18; 4:24) By displaying love, however, we show that we love the Source of this quality. Our brotherly love proves that “God remains in us and his love is made perfect,” or reaches full expression, in us. And we know that “we are remaining in union with” Jehovah “because he has imparted his spirit to us.” Our display of brotherly love proves that Jehovah’s spirit operates within us, for love is one of its fruits. (Galatians 5:22, 23) This shows that we know God and have his approval.
8. What additional evidence is there that we are “in union with God”?
8 There is additional evidence that we are “in union with God.” (Read 1 John 4:14-16a.) Having “beheld” what Jesus did on earth and how he suffered in behalf of mankind, John could ‘bear witness that the Father has sent forth His Son as Savior of the world’ of sinful mankind. (John 4:42; 12:47) Moreover, ‘God remains in union with us and we with him’ if we make heartfelt confession that Jesus Christ is his Son. This calls for exercising faith and giving public testimony that Jesus is the Son of God. (John 3:36; Romans 10:10) Our confidence in “the love that God has in our case” provides further evidence that whether we are of the anointed remnant or of the “other sheep,” we are in union with Jehovah.
9. (a) In what sense can love for God be “made perfect,” and how will this affect our relationship with others? (b) “Perfect” love promotes what?
9 John next shows that love can be “made perfect.” (Read 1 John 4:16b, 17.) We are reminded that “God is love.” Because we ‘remain in love,’ displaying this fruit of Jehovah’s spirit, we ‘remain in union with God.’ If love for Jehovah “has been made perfect with us,” having reached full expression toward him, we will love fellow believers. (Compare verse 12 of 1Jo 4.) “Perfect” love also promotes “freeness of speech” toward God in prayer now and “in the day of judgment” that is associated with Christ’s presence. Those displaying such love will then have no reason to fear that God’s judgment will be adverse. If we display love, in that sense “just as that one [Jesus] is, so are we ourselves in this world.” Yes, we are like him in enjoying favor as God’s children in this world of mankind alienated from God.
10. Those within whom love has been made “perfect” do not experience what?
10 Those within whom love has been made “perfect” do not experience fear that inhibits prayer. (Read 1 John 4:18, 19.) “Fear exercises a restraint” that would keep us from approaching Jehovah freely. So if we are experiencing such fear, ‘we have not been made perfect in love.’ But if we have been “made perfect in love,” this quality fills our hearts, impels us to do the divine will, and moves us to stay close to our heavenly Father in prayer. We certainly have reason to love Jehovah and pray to him, for as John says, ‘We love, because God first loved us.’
11. Why is it reasonable that we obey the command: “The one who loves God should be loving his brother also”?
11 Of course, it is not enough merely to say we love God. (Read 1 John 4:20, 21.) Anyone saying, “I love God” while hating his spiritual brother “is a liar.” Since we can see our brother and observe his godly traits, showing love for him should be easier than loving an invisible God. Indeed, “he who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot be loving God, whom he has not seen.” So it is reasonable that we obey this “commandment”: “The one who loves God should be loving his brother also.”
Who Conquers the World?
12. Since we love God, what other love would we be expected to have?
12 John next shows what loving God really means. (Read 1 John 5:1-5.) First, the apostle points out that “everyone believing that Jesus is the Christ” (the Messiah, or Jehovah’s Anointed One) “has been born from God,” or been spirit-begotten by Jehovah. Moreover, everyone who loves the Begetter, Jehovah, loves anyone else “born from that one.” Yes, all of God’s anointed children love him and would be expected to love one another. Such brotherly love also is characteristic of the “great crowd” of “other sheep” having earthly hopes.—John 10:16; Revelation 7:9.
13. (a) Why are God’s commandments not “burdensome” to us? (b) How do we ‘conquer the world’?
13 ‘We know we love God’s children when we love God and keep his commandments.’ In fact, ‘the love of God means that we observe his commandments.’ Since we love God and righteousness, we are happy to keep his commandments. John says that they are not “burdensome” to us “because everything that has been born from God conquers the world.” “Everything” may denote God-given power to ‘conquer the world,’ or triumph over unrighteous human society with its temptations to break Jehovah’s commandments. (John 16:33) “The conquest that has conquered the world” is “our faith” in God, his Word, and his Son. If we have “faith that Jesus is the Son of God,” we ‘conquer the world’ by rejecting its wrong thinking and immoral ways, and by keeping God’s commandments.
14. (a) How did Jesus come “by means of water”? (b) How was Christ shown to be God’s Son “with the blood”? (c) How did the holy spirit ‘bear witness’ about Jesus Christ?
14 Since faith in Jesus is so important to our being ‘world conquerors,’ John cites evidence given about Christ by “three witness bearers.” (Read 1 John 5:6-8.) John first says that Jesus “came by means of water.” When Jesus was baptized in water to symbolize the presenting of himself to God, Jehovah declared: “This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved.” (Matthew 3:17) Christ was also shown to be God’s Son “with the blood” he poured out in his death as a ransom. (1 Timothy 2:5, 6) Moreover, John says, “the [holy] spirit is that which is bearing witness, because the spirit is the truth.” The descending of the spirit upon Jesus at his baptism proved him to be God’s Son. (Matthew 3:16; John 1:29-34) Jehovah’s spirit enabled Jesus to carry out his commission and perform powerful works. (John 10:37, 38; Acts 10:38) By the spirit, God caused unusual darkness, an earthquake, and the rending of the temple curtain when Jesus died, and then by the same spirit God resurrected him.—Matthew 27:45-54.
15. What are the “three witness bearers”?
15 Thus “there are three witness bearers” to the fact that Jesus is the Son of God. These are (1) the holy spirit, (2) the water of Jesus’ baptism and what it stood for (the presenting of himself to Jehovah), and (3) the blood he poured out in death as a ransom. These three “are in agreement” in giving evidence that Jesus is God’s Son, in whom we must have true faith if we are to receive eternal life.—Compare Deuteronomy 19:15.
Witness Borne by God
16. How has Jehovah borne witness concerning Jesus?
16 God himself has borne witness concerning his Son. (Read 1 John 5:9-12.) “If we receive [as truthful] the witness [imperfect] men give [as we customarily do in conversation and in court], the witness God gives is greater.” (John 8:17, 18) Since ‘God cannot lie,’ we can place implicit trust in ‘the witness he has borne concerning his Son.’ And Jehovah has said that Jesus Christ is his Son. (Titus 1:2; Matthew 3:17; 17:5) Moreover, God was behind the “three witness bearers,” that is, His holy spirit, the water of Jesus’ baptism, and Christ’s shed blood.
17. What is the only way that salvation is possible?
17 “The person putting his faith in the Son of God has the witness given in his own case,” or “in himself,” because all the evidence convinces him that Jesus is God’s Son. But “the person not having faith in God” as a reliable witness concerning His Son makes Jehovah appear to be a liar. Of course, the sum of the witness given is “that God gave us everlasting life, and this life is in his Son.” Only through faith in Jesus as God’s Son is salvation to eternal life possible. (John 11:25, 26; 14:6; 17:1-3) So “he that has the Son” by believing in him has the undeserved gift of life eternal. (John 20:31) But “this life” will not be enjoyed by anyone lacking faith in Jesus as God’s Son.
18. Why has John written “these things”?
18 John next gives the underlying purpose of his letter and discusses prayer. (Read 1 John 5:13-15.) He has written “these things” so that it may be known ‘that we have life everlasting.’ This is our conviction as those putting faith in the “name” of God’s Son. (Compare 1 John 3:23.) And apostates, who are not of our sort, cannot destroy that faith.—1 John 2:18, 19.
19. (a) According to 1 John 5:14, 15, we have what “confidence” toward God? (b) What are some things for which we can rightly pray?
19 Toward God we have “confidence,” or “outspokenness,” that no matter what we ask in prayer “according to his will, he hears us.” We rightly pray for such things as the sanctification of Jehovah’s name, his spirit, godly wisdom, and deliverance from the wicked one. (Matthew 6:9, 13; Luke 11:13; James 1:5-8) And “we know we are to have the things asked since we have asked them of him,” the “Hearer of prayer.”—Psalm 65:2.
20, 21. (a) What is “a sin that does not incur death”? (b) Why is it wrong to pray concerning “a sin that does incur death”?
20 John next speaks of prayer and two types of sin. (Read 1 John 5:16, 17.) “A sin that does not incur death” is not willful, and it would not be wrong to pray that the repentant wrongdoer be forgiven. (Acts 2:36-38; 3:19; James 5:13-18) But it would be wrong to pray concerning “a sin that does incur death” because this is willful sin against the holy spirit, for which forgiveness is impossible. (Matthew 12:22-32; Hebrews 6:4-6; 10:26-31) Such sinners go to Gehenna, experiencing eternal destruction in “the second death.” (Revelation 21:8; Matthew 23:15) So while Jehovah is the final Judge, we do not risk displeasing him by praying for a sinner when the evidence indicates that he is guilty of willful “sin that does incur death.”
21 Hence, “if anyone [especially a spirit-anointed elder] catches sight of his brother sinning a sin that does not incur death [“second death”], he will ask, and [God] will give life to [the sinner],” saving him from eternal destruction. Of course, “all unrighteousness is sin,” or a missing of the mark as far as God’s righteous standards are concerned. “Yet there is a sin that does not incur death” because it results from our imperfection, we are repentant, and the sin is covered by Christ’s sacrifice.
Highlights of John’s Letter
22. Who “does not fasten his hold” on a loyal Christian, and for what can such a person pray with confidence?
22 John now summarizes basic points in his letter. (Read 1 John 5:18-21.) Everyone “born from God” as a spirit-anointed Christian “does not practice sin.” Jesus Christ, “the One born from God” by holy spirit, “watches him, and the wicked one [Satan] does not fasten his hold on him.” Such a loyal anointed Christian can pray confidently for deliverance from the wicked one and can, with “the large shield of faith,” escape spiritual harm from Satan’s “burning missiles.”—Matthew 6:13; Ephesians 6:16.
23. How does ‘the whole world lie in the wicked one’s power’?
23 Since anointed ones have evidence that they are spiritual sons of Jehovah, they can say, “We know we originate with God.” The fact that they have faith in Christ and do not practice sin proves that they are God’s children on whom Satan has not been able to “fasten his hold.” “But the whole world [unrighteous human society] is lying in the power of the wicked one,” Satan the Devil. (Ephesians 2:1, 2; Revelation 12:9) The world yields to Satan’s wicked influence and domination, making no effort to break free so as to do the divine will.
24. To what end has Jesus “given us intellectual capacity”?
24 Certain false teachers held that Christ had not come in the flesh. (2 John 7) But evidence cited in this letter enables John to say, “We know that the Son of God has come.” (1 John 1:1-4; 5:5-8) Moreover, Jesus “has given us intellectual capacity,” or “mental perception,” so that “we may gain the knowledge of the true one,” a progressive understanding of God. (Matthew 11:27) So “we are in union with the true one [Jehovah God], by means of his Son Jesus Christ.”—Compare John 17:20, 21.
25. As Christians, how can we apply the counsel at 1 John 5:21?
25 Those in union with the true God, Jehovah, whether of the anointed remnant or of the “other sheep,” wish to please him in every way. But temptations to engage in idolatry existed in the first century, even as they do today. So John fittingly ends his letter with the fatherly counsel: “Little children, guard yourselves from idols.” As Christians, we do not bow before images. (Exodus 20:4-6) We also know that it would be wrong to put ourselves, pleasure, or anything else in place of God. (2 Timothy 3:1, 2, 4) And our dedication to him precludes our worshiping the political “wild beast” and its “image.” (Revelation 13:14-18; 14:9-12) So with a view to pleasing our heavenly Father and receiving his gift of eternal life, let us be resolute in our determination to avoid all idolatry, never allowing it to destroy our precious relationship with Jehovah through Jesus Christ.
Abiding Help for Us
26. What are some noteworthy features of First John?
26 John’s first inspired letter helped early Christians to shun idolatry. It enabled them to counter the lies of apostates, and it serves a similar purpose today. For example, it proves that Jesus Christ lived as a man and died as “a propitiatory sacrifice” for sins. The letter identifies “the antichrist” and distinguishes between the children of God and those of the Devil. It shows how to test “inspired expressions” to see whether they originate with Jehovah. Moreover, John’s words convince us that “God is love,” that true faith conquers the world, and that Jehovah hears the prayers of his loyal witnesses.
27. In what ways can John’s first divinely inspired letter help us?
27 In the face of worldly temptations, how wise it is to keep in mind John’s warning against loving the world! If personal differences should place a strain on our relationship with certain fellow believers, the apostle’s words can remind us that we can prove ourselves lovers of God by displaying brotherly love. With divine help and by applying John’s counsel, we can avoid practicing sin and can maintain faith that conquers the world. So let us show our gratitude for this inspired letter as we keep walking in divine light, go on living as children of God, and always display love and faith to the glory of our heavenly Father, Jehovah.
How Would You Respond?
□ If we love Jehovah, how should this affect our relationship with fellow believers?
□ How can we ‘conquer the world’?
□ What are the “three witness bearers” concerning God’s Son?
□ Regarding prayer, what “confidence” can we have?
□ First John can help us in what ways?
[Blurb on page 22]
Since Jehovah loved us while we were yet sinners, ‘we are under obligation to love one another’
[Blurb on page 23]
Our faith in God, his Word, and his only-begotten Son enables us to ‘conquer the world’
[Picture on page 25]
The holy spirit, the water of Jesus’ baptism, his shed blood, and Jehovah himself bore witness that Jesus Christ is God’s Son