Born again. It’s a phrase used so commonly, research done a few years back indicated that a large percentage of Americans identified as “born again Christians”, but also indicated that most had no concept of what that meant. It’s as though “born again” is a team name, and that’s the team a person chooses and roots for on Sundays.
But being born anew in God has got to mean more than that…doesn’t it?
This Sunday we’ll be reading 1 John 5:1-13 as we come to our final few studies in this epistle. The last fourteen verses of chapter 4 (covered last week) are the centerpiece of everything John had written up to that point, and the remaining verses will all flow from that thought. God is love. Love. It all starts, is sustained and culminates with love. So everything God is doing and planning and developing in this world and in our lives is going to bear that characteristic. Chapter five begins with John expounding on the results of that love, indicating what a God-birthed life looks like.
In v1-3 he talks about how our love for God will be revealed in obedience to God’s purposes. Verse one uses two words to capsulize what obedience looks like. What two words does he use? How do those two words relate to the other areas of our lives?
The word “overcome” – victory, conquering – is used again in v4-5. Given how gnarly the world is and our circumstances can sometimes be, what do you think it is that we conquer and are victorious over in this life? What about the life to come?
v6-9 are just worded weirdly. It really helps to read it in the Message version. We can figure out what the blood is – the water is another deal altogether. Interpretations range from it being symbolic of Jesus’ incarnational birth to it being a reference to the water and blood that flowed from the wound in his side. I think most interpreters tend to view it as symbolic of Christ’s baptism and the inauguration of his earthly ministry – because the Holy Spirit bore witness at that moment (in the form of a dove) and also at his death (in the resurrection). No matter how we interpret it – the point is that our acceptance and belief in this testimony is paramount to our new life. Christ is to be our focal point. Why do you think that is important?
John then tips his hand as to exactly why he’s writing this letter in v10-13…v 13 especially. In contrast to the gnostic teachers who were coaching people to try and find eternal life through some mysterious process of gaining secret knowledge – the Elder says plainly and boldly – in God’s son, we HAVE eternal life if we’ll believe it. Eternal life, remember, isn’t just heaven in the end. It begins now. How do you believe eternal life is manifest in our present lives?
This will be one of those “thinking cap” studies – but I believe it will be well worthwhile. Hope to see you Sunday!