Chapter 5:13-15 (ESV) - I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.
Question to consider: Is it prideful to say that we know we “have eternal life?” Why or why not?
In today’s passage, we are given John’s motivation for writing this sermon/commentary. He wished to reassure those who remained in the church and put their faith and hope in the one who came from God into flesh that they have eternal life. We also can say with confidence that we have eternal life in Christ. This is not a statement of pride in our own works but in the power of God who is the author and finisher of our faith. John stated this simply and directly at the end of yesterday’s passage, “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.”
Every other religion or human philosophy promotes the idea that man is basically good, and that we can stand before God or build a utopian society if we can only tap into that goodness. It is written in the Proverbs, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” This proverb is written twice (14:12 and 16:25). The first use contrasts human philosophies with Godly wisdom, and the second contrasts the pursuit of worldly wealth with the pursuit of righteousness. If we trust in our own works, the end is death, but if we trust in the Son of God we have eternal life.
Once we realize that we have eternal life in Christ, we can also be confident that He hears our prayers. Here John is basing his bold proclamation on Jesus’ words in John 14:13-14, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” John also provides a caveat that Jesus’ statement assumes we pray according to “His will,” for John was also a witness to Jesus praying to His Father in Gethsemane. Though Jesus asked for the cup of God’s wrath to be taken from Him, He ultimately submitted to God’s will.
It is important that we realize that if God has denied our petition, it is out of His good will and purpose. We cannot see the future to know the impact of our requests, but God does. This is something I never really understood until I became a father. As much as I’d like to say yes to every request, I must weigh it in light of its impact later on character and development. The younger a child is, the more selfish and short-sighted their requests can be. The younger we are in the faith, the more selfish and short-sighted our requests are to God as well. We immediately assume that God is punishing us or not listening to our prayers when we don’t get our desired outcome, but God cares about what will become of us, our descendants, and the church as a whole. In light of this, let us praise God for listening to our prayers and blessing us with the best answer to our requests.
Dear heavenly father, thank You for the assurance that You listen to our prayers as a dear father would. Help us to respond with joy and thanksgiving, knowing that You are bringing about the best possible outcome for all of Your children. For those who do not have the Son, we ask that You will bring about their repentance so that they may receive Your mercy and eternal life. Amen.