1 John 5:20-21, “20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. 21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols.”
Today, we conclude our study through 1 John. John has been finishing, as we’ve seen his remarks with practical application, and that continues today. In 1 John 5:20-21, John closes this epistle reminding his readers of one critical truth, Christians need to know, along with how it is to guide our behavior as God’s people.
John explains in 1 John 5:20, “The Son of God has come.” By saying this, John gives another reference to the Incarnation of the Lord Jesus. The divine Son came into the world and took on human flesh. This fundamental fact was denied by proto-Gnostic false teachers who John’s audience had to deal with. As John has instructed in this epistle, those with faith and assurance in Christ alone will embrace the Incarnation wholeheartedly.
John continues by explaining that the Son of God not only came in the Incarnation, but Jesus has also “given us understanding “ (1 John 5:20). John’s choice of words here help us to understand the relationship of right knowledge, important to John’s opponents, but also vital to biblical Christianity. John’s point here is that people cannot know God without a revelation from the Son (Matthew 11:27), which is why knowledge is essential for salvation. Unlike John’s opponents who taught false teaching, the knowledge leading to salvation is knowledge of a Person, the Lord Jesus, the Incarnate Christ. Such knowledge is not only a reception of facts but also a personal trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior (James 2:19-20).
John explains this point when he says knowing, “him who is true”- the Father is inseparable from being in union with His true Son, Jesus (1 John 5:20). To know the real God is to have eternal life that is only in the Son. Only those who are real disciples of the Lord Jesus, in other words, have everlasting salvation in Him alone.
John concludes his epistle instructing his readers and Christians today that the true God demands, that His people keep themselves from idols (1 John 5:21). Since there is only one God, we must never set up anything else in His place (Exodus 20:3). Although we may not worship gods of wood or stone, Christians must always be careful; they do not make their careers, money, families reputations, the center of their affections. John Calvin writes about this verse: “the vivifying light of the Gospel ought to scatter and dissipate, not only darkness but also all mists, from the minds of the godly.”
As we conclude 1 John let me ask you a series of questions.
Today, where are you finding meaning, value, and worth in your life, is it in the things of the Lord or something else? Are those things related to you having fame and fortune perhaps? Or, do you pursue work to the point of neglecting your family, and private and public worship of the Lord. Perhaps, you are tempted to pursue an idol of physical beauty and sensuality? These are tough and challenging, but vital questions for us to ask as the people of God.
As we conclude this series today, I encourage you to ask a close and trusted brother (if you are a man) or sister (if you are a woman) or your spouse (if you are married), if they can see anything in your life where you are attaching ultimate identity, value, meaning, and worth to that thing in your life. If they can see that, then please repent yourself, and ask for help from your pastor, from others in your local church, and from trusted friends to walk alongside of you and help you address this area of your life by praying with you and loving you with the love and grace of our Lord Jesus.