1 John 5:1-5
1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
Belief is easy, right? Isn’t this one of the objections that used to be raised against Christianity’s claim of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone? But stop and think about what belief entails. Think about what happens in a lost world when one truly believes. I think you will see that belief is not easy. Salvation is free, but it is never cheap.
As John wraps up his epistle, he ties together multiple themes of the letter: faith in Christ, obedience to God’s commands, and love of the church. All through this letter we have seen a call to believe, a call to obey, a call to love. We have seen that the one who believes is saved. We have seen that one who is saved will love the brothers. WE have seen that the one who is saved will obey the commands of God and turn from sin.
In verse 1, John says, “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God.” There is salvation by grace alone through faith alone. The one who is born of God is not defined by having earned that birth. Faith in Christ, faith alone, saves. There is no hint here that anything is added to faith to cause salvation.
Also in verse 1, John tells us, “and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.” The saved love. Particularly, the saved love others who are born of God.
In verses 2 and 3, John points out to us that we know that we are born of God and love if we keep God’s commandments. In a beautiful addition, John reminds us, “And his commandments are not burdensome” (v. 3).
Then, in verses 4 and 5, John points out that our overcoming the world is made clear in our faith. Believing in Jesus overcomes the world. Faith, true faith, conquers.
Take away a couple of notes here. First, know that the saved are the ones who have true faith in Jesus. Are you saved? Do you believe? Have you believed in who Jesus claims to be and what Jesus has done? Have you rested the weight of your soul’s eternity on his finished work alone? Have you entrusted your soul to Jesus for salvation?
If you assume yourself to be saved, ask yourself some probing questions in the other two categories. Do you love other Christians? If your life has no connection to the local church and no love for other brothers and sisters in Christ, you should be concerned. Examine yourself in light of God’s commands. Is your life marked by obedience to the word of God? I am not saying that it must be marked by flawless obedience, but it is not hard to measure whether or not the word of God is your standard as opposed to the lusts of the flesh and the ways of the world. And if your life is not marked by love for Christians and obedience to Scripture, you should be concerned that perhaps your faith is not true.
Salvation is a free gift, but never cheap. Faith is simple, but never easy. This is why John can tell us that our faith overcomes the world. The world hates our faith. The world hates the idea that we would trust in Christ alone and allow for no other way for people to determine their own sort of salvation. The world hates that we would think that the body of believers is somehow different than the rest of the globe. The world demands that we applaud their disobedience to the commands of God and even join them in their evil practices. So, no, faith is not easy. But, faith, true faith and faith alone in Christ alone, saves.