The Threefold Test of Eternal Life…(I John)

These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. ( I John 5:13)

The apostle John’s ministry is one of restoration. The true knowledge of God had been supplanted in the minds of many believers by mystics and gnostics, whose visions, dreams and exotic spiritual experiences undermined confidence , in their own simple faith in Jesus Christ.

The issue is the knowledge of God; Who truly knows God? Who is truly Anointed? What does it mean to know God? Who is Jesus? Was a believer who obtained secret knowledge which elevated him, or is Jesus God ?  Did he only seem to be “in the flesh”? What does it mean to be spiritual?

The Apostle John takes us back to the very beginning, giving us three simple statements concerning the nature of “the only true God”. God is light and in him is no darkness at all…God is love…and Jesus Christ has come(and remains) in the flesh.  The identity of the only true God is the only thing that matters, for eternal life is “…knowing you, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent”.

From these three simple theological confessions, John draws three corresponding tests of eternal life. Do you say that you have eternal life? Since God is light…Do you walk in the Light? (The Righteousness Test). Since God is Love…Do you Love the brethren? (The Love Tests). Finally, a belief test, for the saving doctrine is that “Jesus Christ has come and remains in the flesh”. What do you believe about Jesus?

God himself is eternal life. As John says, “This is the true God and eternal life”(I John 5:20-21). Knowing God and sharing in His life are synonymous. Therefore those who possess eternal life can know it by the presence of these three qualities, affinity with Righteousness,Love for the brethren, and adherence to truth.

Eternal life is the cause of these three things in a believer’s life, and not the effect. In other words, it is because I have eternal life that I want to be truly righteous, I want to obey God, I hate sin in myself and am at war with it. I am not doing all of those thing to obtain eternal life, rather, eternal life has brought this condition about within me.

Having been born again, I now have a love for the brothers. I can’t hate them, turn my back on the church, hold onto petty grievances, eternal life will not allow it. Because I have eternal life, I must forgive, give, and seek the good of those God has put into my life. Eternal Life is Love, because God is Love.

“We know we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren.”(I john 3;14)

Finally I have to believe the truth about Jesus, eternal life causes me to , and to continually hold to the doctrine of Christ. Many christians have periods where they are led astray by this heretic or that, but eternal life doesn’t allow them to abide in error for long. eternal life fosters within us an affinity with “the Truth”. Jesus told Pilate,”…all who are of the truth will hear my voice”(John 18:37).

This three-fold test of eternal life; Righteousness, Love and doctrinal integrity, shows up over and over again in the Epistle, sometimes individually, and at others with all three in the same passage, as John patiently reiterates just who it is that truly knows God, and who is only fooling himself.

For example;

* Righteousness/Light, because God is Light…  If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth.( I John 1:6)  

*God is Love, and God is Light therefore…He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him.(I John 2:9-10)

*Because God is Love...We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.(I John 3:14)

*Affinity with the Truth, especially concerning the person of Jesus...They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them. We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.(I John 4:6)

* All Three tests are included in this one, Righteousness, Belief and Love as evidences of eternal Life…Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.  By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.  For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.( I john 5:1-3)

These are the things John wrote of “that you may know you have eternal life”, the presence of them are not to be seen as the way to obtain eternal life,(Eternal Life is the gift of God), but as the consequences of it!

The absence of these qualities are indicators also. Those who do not hate sin, or who can with impunity hate the church, or christians, and who are ready at the drop of a hat to follow the latest heresy, have no reason to believe that they know God.

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