Copr. 1997, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All Scripture references are to the NIV unless otherwise noted. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard. INTRODUCTION: I hate to see 1 John come to an end! This week our study is the last 9 verses of 1 John 5. The good news is that we will move on to 2nd and 3rd John in the next two weeks. I. CONFIDENT FUTURE A. Some time ago I read a portion of the Valuegenesis report which asked our young people in the Church if they had confidence they were saved. The number who said they believed they were saved was astonishingly low. 1. Should we teach Church members, young and old, that they can have confidence they are saved? a. Why? What is the purpose of this? B. Have you ever worked on a project where you doubted the ability of those who were in charge and there was a general attitude that this project was not going to come out right? 1. What is the result of such doubt? 2. Isn't doubt good if the project is not going right? C. Let's read 1 John 5:13-14. Does John want us to have confidence? (Yes! One theme of his book is the two paths--the path of light leading to eternal life and the path of darkness leading to eternal death. Throughout his book he has been giving us "reality checks" so we can know which path we are on. Finally he says, "This is true. You can know it, believe it and have confidence in it. You can take this message to the bank (of eternal life, that is)!) D. John says in v.13 he is writing to those "who believe in the name of the son of God." Why should we believe in the name? Why not believe in the Son? (This goes back to 1 John 2:12: "Your sins have been forgiven on account of his name." See also, 1 John 3:23: "And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ...." Jesus' name is the essence of who He is. In John 20:31, John says that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God "and that by believing you may have life in his name!") II. CONFIDENT PRAYERS A. Let me re-read v.14 and add v.15. Does this confidence that we just discussed extend to our prayers? 1. Can we be sure we will get favorable answers to our prayers? a. Or does John just promise us we will get a "hearing" on our prayers? 2. Do you sometimes feel like God does not hear your prayers? 3. I am always inclined to do what my wife asks me to do. Sometimes she "claims" to have asked me to do something which I did not hear. (My children almost always "claim" they did not hear!) Hearing the request is the crucial initial step to answering a request. a. If God hears us, does John say He will give us what we ask? (v.15 Yes!) b. Does John place any conditions on God hearing our requests? (Yes. "If we ask according to his will, he hears us.") B. I find this to be a most interesting statement about prayer. At least on the surface, John does not say that God hears everything and then exercises judgment over what He answers. He says that if God hears your prayer, He grants your request "--whatever [you] ask--." However, God does not hear your request unless you ask "according to his will." 1. Do you understand why this distinction exists? (I do not. Some may argue (validly) that "hearing" really means "hearing favorably," and therefore I am making an artificial distinction. However, if hearing literally means perceiving, if I were in charge, I can certainly see two advantages to this system. First, wouldn't it be nice not to have to spend your time considering requests that you would reject? Wouldn't it be nice just to know that you should answer every request you hear, and not worry about any others? I would like that. Perhaps this is some celestial "screening device" of God that is beyond the imagination of man. Second, a person may get mad at me if I consider, but do not grant, his request. It sure would be a lot easier if I never heard the requests I would deny. The person with the denied request would not take it personally, because I just did not hear.) C. However "God's end" of this prayer question works, our practical concern is with "our end" and John tells us God does not hear our requests unless they are "according to his will." 1. How do we know whether our requests are "according to his will?" 2. How do we make our requests "according to his will?" (The obvious answer is that we have to first know God's will. This gets back to the very first part of this book.In 1 John 1 we are told about the path of light brings us in "fellowship" with God. This fellowship helps us to know God. As a result, in 1 John 2:3 John says that we "have come to know him if we obey his commands." It would seem then, that our prayer requests should be in accord with God's commands.) D. If God is only going to give us things "according to his will," what is the point of asking? (Our lesson has a great question, "What kind of relationship is one that is simply a list of requests?" If we just come dragging in this long, boring list of requests every morning and night, God must be "thrilled" to "hear" this. But if we have the attitude that we are co-workers with Him who are working out a battle-plan in prayer for advancing His will here, now that would be something to hear! Thus, the point of asking is to become co-laborers with God in advancing His kingdom.) III. INTERCESSORY PRAYERS A. Let's find out more about prayer, read vv. 16-18. These texts seem to say that we can (and should) pray for our fellow Christians when they are involved in certain sins but not others. 1. What sins are "OK" to pray for? 2. How do you know which sin "leads to death?" 3. Is there a hierarchy of sin? Is some sin worse than other sin? (Our lesson suggests that all sin can be forgiven except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Mark 3:29), and therefore downplays the distinction made by John. I think the better view is to fit what John says here with what he has been saying all along. He has continually been talking about the two paths: one leads to eternal life and the other to eternal death. Since he says that those on the path of eternal life will sin (1 John 1:8), and in fact indicates that those who deny this are on the path of darkness), why not say that sin that does not lead to death is the sin of those who are on the path to life? Thus, his injunction is to pray for fellow believers who are on the path of life, but are struggling with sin. They struggle as they progress on the path of light. This fits perfectly with v.18 which says those born of God do not continue to sin. There is an end to the path of light. It is eternal life without sin. This simple explanation avoids creating some ornate theology about the various (and doubtful) hierarchies of sin.) B. John connects not "continu[ing] to sin" with being kept safe by Jesus ("the one who was born of God"). How are these two related? (Jesus rescues us from sin. He rescues us from the practice of sin by changing our attitude, and He rescues us from the punishment of sin.) IV. SAFE HARBOR A. Read vv. 19-20. John says the whole world is under the control of the devil. But we are children of God. 1. What do yo call a situation when good children are in the hands and under the control of evil people? (Sounds like a kidnapping! A hostage situation.) a. What reason does John have to tell us we are hostages held in hostile territory? B. Is victory promised to us? (Verse 20 says that despite the current situation, we are on the side of the true God who will give us eternal life! This belief in the "long view" of the path of light is essential. If we did not look at life in the context of eternity, we would bow to the one who is in control of the world here and now.) C. Read v.21. What an awful way to end the book. Can you make any sense out of this? Was the bottom of the letter torn off by accident? Did some very early scribe fall asleep before he copied all of John's letter, and then later forgot he had not finished? (Although this seems very strange at first, John is saying that all of these false teachings on the false path are idols that turn our allegiance away from the true God. He is really saying in closing: stay the course with the true God!) V. NEXT WEEK: "Don't Lose Out!" Study 2 John!