20 And we know that the Son of God is come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and life eternal. 21 Little children, guard yourself from idols. Amen.1 John 5:20-21
Don’t let it escape your notice how this whole epistle wraps up with a steady drumbeat of: “we know, we know, we know.” This isn’t like a teenager rolling his eyes at their parents. Rather, this is the certainty of a child who jumps into the waiting arms of her father, confident he will catch her. This is the divine knowledge which God has brought to us, and which we must hold with the unswerving faith of a child. If you have heard the record of the Apostles––that Jesus Christ is the Son of God manifested in the flesh, who died to cleanse you from your sins, and be your Advocate before the Father––you know everything you need to know for salvation. There is no hidden knowledge left to find. You aren’t missing a piece.
These final words are the capstone on this epistle of assurance. The Son of God is come. Not came and left. Not the Cerinthian proposal that Christ came upon Jesus and then left Him. No, Jesus Christ, the Son of God has come and has given us, in His incarnation, the certainty that we are in God the Father by Him. To be in God, is to be in His Son Jesus Christ, and vice versa. This brings the whole letter full circle to the divine fellowship described in the opening remarks of this letter.
Your fellowship with God through His Incarnate Son means that you know that which is True (Cf. Jn. 14:6). The insecurity of the human search for truth is meant to bring you to the security of dwelling in Him that is True, by knowing Him that is true. Truth is not a logical problem on the chalkboard, it is a Person. Truth is relational. You can’t arrive at the truth through blind unbelief. You can only come to the truth by coming to God. To rebel against God, to search out for hidden mysteries outside of His revelation through Jesus Christ is to seek a shelter of lies. You either dwell in the truth, or you dwell in lies. No middle ground here. Falsehood–at any level–is an attempt to live in a world other than the one made by God the Father & redeemed by His Incarnate Son.
This paternal letter wraps up with an ever needful exhortation to God’s children. Keep yourself from idols. This is anything but a last minute addition to the text, as if the scribe was about to seal the scroll, and John said, “Wait a minute, tell them not to worship idols.” No, the temptation which Cerinthus’ doctrine introduces is a temptation to erect a false Christ. A Christ which cannot save you. A Christ which is not a man like you. A Christ which cannot bring you assurance of your fellowship with God. The rival Christ of Cerinthus invites the worship of all variety of idols. Idols of fertility, wealth, dark power, carnal indulgence, and strength to crush the skull of your despised brother.
Jesus, God’s Life in the flesh, overthrows all the idols. You can no longer perpetuate the scandal of endless bitter rivalries. You must love your brother. You must love God’s people. You must love even your enemy. The idols of pagan darkness have been overthrown. Christ is Lord.
The Begotten of God guards you (v18), now by His indwelling Spirit, you must guard yourself from idols. The idol of a Christ who isn’t fully man. The idol of a man who isn’t fully God. The idol of making Jesus into merely a moral teacher. The idol of making Jesus into a marketing ploy to line your pockets. The idol of turning the love of God in Christ into a hall pass for indulging sin.
This whole letter concludes with an admonition to worship rightly. Serving idols is living in the lies. Serving the Father, through Christ, by His Spirit is how your joy is made complete (1 Jn. 1:4). Worship of the True God is the only path to True Joy.
- 1 John 5:20-21 | We Know
- 1 John 5:16-19 | The Sin Unto Death
- 1 John 5:13-15 | Big Prayers
- 1 John 5:9-12 | God on the Stand
- 1 John 5:6-8 | The Threefold Witness
- 1 John 5:1-5 | Swept Up Into Victory
- 1 John 4:17-21 | Bold Sons & Fearful Slaves
- 1 John 4:11-16 | The Offensive Love of God
- 1 John 4:7-10 | God is Love
- 1 John 4:4-6 | Overcoming Swarms of Devils
- 1 John 4:1-3 | Stranger Danger
- 1 John 3:23-24 | The Nail in Timidity’s Coffin
- 1 John 3:19-22 | God is Greater than Our Hearts
- 1 John 3:13-18 | The World Hates You
- 1 John 3:10-12 | Children of God, Children of the Devil
- 1 John 3:7-9 | To Destroy the Works of the Devil
- 1 John 3:4-6 | Sin is Lawlessness
- 1 John 3:1-3 | What Unearthly Love
- 1 John 2:28-29 | A Trumpet Blast for Feeble Saints
- 1 John 2:24-27 | The Pastoral Prerogative for Run-on Sentences
- 1 John 2:20-23 | Knowing All Things
- 1 John 2:18-19 | Rival Christs
- 1 John 2:15-17 | The Imperative to Not Love
- 1 John 2:12-14 | Pastoral Poetry
- 1 John 2:9-11 | The Gospel Scandal
- 1 John 2:7-8 | Nothing New, But All is New
- 1 John 2:3-6 | Knowing that You Know
- 1 John 2:1-2 – Christ Our Advocate
- 1 John 1:9-10 – Forgiven & Not Guilty
- 1 John 1:8 – Deluded or Delivered
- 1 John 1:7 – Fellowship in the Light
- 1 John 1:6 â€“ Do the Truth
- 1 John 1:5 â€“ God is Light
- 1 John 1:4 – Silos Full of Joy
- 1 John 1:3 – Invitation to Fellowship
- 1 John 1:2 – Life Manifested
- 1 John 1:1 – A Cosmic Epistle