Assurance of eternal life – 1 John 5.13

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The purpose of John’s letter
Whereas John wrote his Gospel ‘in order that you might believe’, his three letters relate to people who are already believing. His first letter is written with the aim that believers in Jesus might know with assurance that they have eternal life. We may notice immediately that John’s letters follow his Gospel in emphasizing life. The first verses in this first letter already underline the  centrality of “the word of life” and eternal life in John’s proclamation and teaching.
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In John 20.31 John affirms that he has written his Gospel in order that his readers might believe and thus have life en/in Jesus’ name. In his Gospel John  longs for them to have such faith in Jesus that they might live in Christ, in that glorious relationship with Jesus. Here John is thinking of their position in Christ. But we may also observe in John’s first letter (5.13/14) his use of the two significant prepositions eis/into and pros/towards. We noted the importance of these two prepositions of movement in John’s Gospel. In 1 John their position in Christ is already assured because they are already believers; but now he wants them to move increasingly eis/into the name, the personal character of the Son of God. In order to grow more and more like Jesus it is essential that they move ever closer to Jesus. So in 1 John 5.14 their confidence is found pros/towards the Lord. This reminds us of John 1.1 where it states that the Word was ‘pros/towards God’. Just as Jesus, the Word of God, expresses his love in constant movement towards the Father, so we as believers are called so to love Jesus that we are always coming closer and closer to him in an ever more intimate and confident personal relationship with him. And as the people of God, John’s first letter is calling us to demonstrate increasingly the nature and character of Jesus in our life together as his church.

Assurance and Boldness

How counter-cultural! Normally people say “I hope all will be o.k. when I die”, but they may feel assurance of salvation can only indicate spiritual pride. And this confidence cannot be found in any other religion. Other faiths and often even secular culture assume that our eternal future depends on our own good or bad deeds, so our future and God’s judgment are determined by what we are and what we do. With the background of that sort of understanding, assurance of eternal life would seem to be boasting of our worthiness and merit. In the biblical Christian faith, however, the cross of Jesus carries all the penalty of our sin and we are granted eternal life entirely by his grace, his totally undeserved love. Our part is merely to accept this free gift as we come to believe in him and enter into union with him in his cross, resurrection and ascension.
For many people dying and death are unmentionable subjects, for death remains the ultimate calamity. But for Christians with our certainty of belief, death opens the door to the fullness of life in the glorious presence of the Lord we love and who loves us. Heaven indeed! We shall relate to Jesus and our heavenly Father face to face in the perfection of love and worship. The biblical word ‘eternal’ not only means unending time, but it also implies a sense of heavenly glory as we partake of the life of God himself. Wow! How wonderful that we can know that as believers in Jesus we can know that we have eternal life!
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When talking about our assurance of eternal life, I often look back with repentance to an occasion when I preached on this subject in a small village church in Indonesia. Unknown to me, a leading young lady was excited to hear what was for her a totally new teaching. She went  back to her home and read the whole of the Bible without stopping to eat or sleep. She needed to check whether my sermon was indeed true. If she died, could she really be assured of being eternally with her beloved Jesus? Finding the Bible confirmed that for a believer death leads to true glory of life with Jesus, she took poison and committed suicide! She so longed to be with Jesus in glory. The poison took four hours to work and during that time she went round the whole community, telling everyone that she was on her way to heaven. “Three more hours and I shall be with Jesus face to face”; “Two more hours and I shall be in glory”; “One more hour and I shall be in heaven” – and then she died. As a result of her assured witness concerning eternal life, about a thousand people came to believe in Jesus and were baptised.

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When I heard what had happened after my visit to Seberaya, I had to repent – but also praise God for using my failure to bring multitudes to new and eternal life in Jesus. I realised that I had not adapted my European Christian approach to our Indonesian situation. In Europe people are generally not in a hurry to get to heaven and to be with Jesus eternally! So in Britain we can preach about the sure certainty of eternal life for believers without teaching that we all need to be patient and wait for God’s perfect time. In that sermon therefore I had failed to say that assurance of eternal life should not move us to commit suicide.
At the end of a Christian conference someone said to me, “I hope we may meet again. But if we don’t see each other again here on earth, we shall surely do so in heaven”. I replied, “Yes, we shall certainly meet again in glory – hasten the day!” He looked shocked as if he didn’t want the day to come quickly. Let us rejoice in the certainty of being with Jesus eternally in his glory – but without poison and suicide!

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2 thoughts on “Assurance of eternal life – 1 John 5.13

  1. Antonia Leonora van der Meer

    Praise the Lord for this clear teaching about the richness of life in Jesus, and His invitation to come closer to Him, so that His life, truth and light may shine through us

  2. Antonia Leonora van der Meer

    Praise the Lord for this blessed teaching, making the Word come alive to us.

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