Believe, Love, and Obey (1 John 5:1-12)

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three agree. We accept human testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. 

Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. (New International Version)

Faith, love, and obedience are words so tightly woven together, that to pull one of them out, is to unravel the whole bunch. 

To believe, love, and obey are the true marks of a Christian; and they are vital to living the Christian life and overcoming the dark forces of the world.

Let’s talk some grammar – because it will help us better understand the Apostle John’s message….

The main verb is the main thing

One of the dominant main verbs throughout these verses: “is.” And the verb tense is key, grammatically describing a past action of God which people need to receive. In other words, the grammar dictates that God has given us new birth. 

We do not give ourselves spiritual birth any more than we can tell our mothers that it was us who gave birth to ourselves.

The participles describe the main thing

God saves us from sin and grants us forgiveness. The action is from God to us; we are recipients of God’s good grace toward us.

There are three participles connected to the main verb, “is:”

  1. Believe
  2. Love
  3. Obey

A participle is a word which is connected to the verb’s action. 

Our actions are a result of God’s action toward us.

Simply put, a person born from God will believe, love, and obey.

Just as a newborn baby first breathes, then learns to eat, sleeps, grows-up, learns to walk, and over time develops into an adult just like their mother and father, so the Christian who is born again from God exhibits faith, learns to love, and grows up developing the skills of obeying Jesus and following him, learning to walk in his ways, becoming just like him.

Overcoming the world

In the same way a child must grow and mature to have the necessary skills for facing the world in all its trials and temptations, so the Christian must develop the requisite abilities of faith, love, and obedience, to overcome the world.

To “overcome” is to experience the victory the Lord Jesus has achieved on the cross. 

Through being spiritually born again by God, it sets us on a course requiring faith, love, and obedience in overcoming the world. As we learn to apply these three spiritual characteristics to our lives, we experience practical victory over the world.

The term “world” is used by the Apostle John as the patterns, systems, and operations of the world, which are in direct contrast to how God operates. For example:

  • The world engages in revenge and payback when wronged, whereas the Christian learns to believe God will be the Judge, loves the person who has offended them through prayer for their enemy, and obeys God through good works that seeks the welfare of the other. 
  • The world uses other people as either objects of their pleasure or to get ahead in life, whereas the Christian believes God will take care of their needs, will seek to love the other person instead of use them, and would rather obey God by cutting off their right hand off than being selfish. 
  • The world thinks nothing of lying, cheating, and stealing, if they can get away with it, whereas the Christian believes Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, loves being a person of integrity, and obeys God even when it hurts.

This in no way suggests we avoid or belittle the world. In overcoming the world, we must have principled civility. Using faith, love, and obedience, we respect another’s viewpoint through allowing our spirits to grow in faith, expanding our hearts in love, and learning obedience through interaction with others for whom we disagree.

Faith, love, and obedience

We need faith in God:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not rely on your own insight.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6, NRSV)

We need love for God and others:

Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity. (1 John 2:15-17, MSG)

We need obedience to the call of God:

The commandment that God has given us is: “Love God and love each other!” (1 John 4:21, CEV)

When faith, love, and obedience are working together, as intended, we overcome the world and all its crud; and keep ourselves from being polluted and stained by it.

Overcoming the world is a high calling from God. 

Faith means putting aside fear and taking the kind of risk God wants you to take.

Love means putting aside hate and serving others, even when it hurts.

Obedience means putting aside selfishness and choosing to do what is best for another person’s welfare.

Being characterized by these three Christian virtues will have the effect of overcoming the world. It is not a burdensome or heavy way to live. It’s the way of Jesus.

Blessed God – Father, Son, and Spirit – the Lord whom we serve: Sometimes our hearts and minds are flooded with fears. Sometimes we are paralyzed and overwhelmed and feel unable to go on. Yet, we hold onto the victory you have accomplished through the cross of Jesus Christ. You have told us not to fear, for you have overcome the world. In moments of crippling fear, we choose to hold your hand and believe; to love as we have been loved; and, to obey even in the most fearful places because we know that you have risen again.

Holy Spirit, we invite you and all your ministry within us. Holy God of all, we offer you our heart, mind, body, soul, spirit, hopes, plans and dreams. We surrender to you our past, present and future problems, habits, character defects, attitudes, livelihood, resources, finances, medical coverage, occupation and all relationships. We give you our health, physical appearance, disabilities, disorders, family, marriage, children, grandchildren, and friendships.

Loving Lord Jesus, we surrender to you all our hurt, pain, worry, doubt, fear and anxiety, and ask you to wash us clean. We release everything into your compassionate care. Open our ears to hear your voice. Open our hearts to commune with you more deeply. Open the doors that need to be opened and close the doors that need to be closed. Set our feet upon the straight and narrow road that leads to everlasting life. Amen.

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