The apostle John by the Holy Spirit’s inspiration knew we would need more tangible evidence or more sure fire ways of knowing that we are truly children of God and that we have indeed received eternal life. That’s what “these things” refers to in 5:13. So what are “these things”? Well here’s six things or six ways from his first epistle to help us know if we truly belong to Jesus and have been saved by His grace.
First from I John 1:6,7 true children of God “walk in the light”. That is we are not harboring hidden sins or a living a double life. “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” Coming oft to the Light and accessing regularly His blood cleanses us from sin and enables us to have fellowship both with God and with those who also are practicing this kind of life. People who are born again by the Spirit of God should want to come to the Light and live in the Light.
Second from I John 2:3,4 true children of God “keep His commandments”. Not all of them all of the time perfectly. But increasingly as a lifestyle we seek to obey His every word. “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.”
Third from I John 2:9-11 true children of God “love the brotherhood”. That is we love all of God’s children, not just the ones we have affinity with. Again not perfectly, but increasingly. “The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” Later in his epistle, John – speaking of loving our fellow believers states, “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (4:8).
Fourth from I John 3:6-10 true children of God “practice righteousness” and do not “practice sin”. Practice is the key word here. Obviously we all sin and will not be fully free from sin until we are finally freed from these sinful bodies and this sinful world. But a true child of God will be seeking to overcome all sin in his life, confessing his sins to God as they are committed and when necessary confessing them to others who can help him overcome them. “No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. Little children, make sure no deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”
Fifth from I John 4:6 true children of God “listen to recognized spiritual leaders”. That is we are not rebellious and defiant against spiritual leaders who seek to shepherd us and help us be Jesus’s faithful disciples. “We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” If we are in relationship with God we will gladly listen to and learn from those who God has placed in spiritual authority over us.
Sixth from I John 4:14, 15 true children of God “confess readily that Jesus is the Son of God”. Not a son of God but the one and only Son of God sent from heaven to be the Savior of the world. “We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.” There are many who want to be a part of Christ’s church but who do not want to readily admit that He is God and He alone is Savior and that we desperately need a Savior. If we have been born again by the Spirit of God we will readily admit and confess these things.
So what do you do when someone is breathing their last breath and for all their life they have resisted Christ, and all of a sudden they seem ready to place their trust in Him for their salvation? Obviously there will be no time to look for tangible fruit. Well thankfully we have the example of the thief on the cross who hours or perhaps minutes before he died asked Jesus basically to save Him, and Jesus said He definitely would. “And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:42, 43). In situations like this I’m often comforted by the simplicity of the gospel as seen in passages like, “for “WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.” (Romans 10:13). God’s mercy and grace in situations like this always amazes me. I heard of a similar one recently in a pastors meeting I attended.
What about young children who seem to have responded to Christ, but are still bouncing off the walls when you try to have a theological conversation with them? It might be a significant amount of time before we see visible fruit in their lives like the apostle John talked about in his first epistle. My encouragement is to guard against skepticism with these young ones. They are capable of much more than we tend to give them credit for.
Two Sundays ago we baptized two of my grandchildren in our Easter Sunday morning service. The youngest of the two is not quite six years old. We always require a baptismal class before we baptize someone regardless of age, and so two Sundays ago after the morning service I taught this class to my two grandchildren wanting to be baptized. Their father was also present. They did not sit still the whole time with their hands clasped hanging on my every word. But I know they were listening and processing while bouncing. Well later that day Anne and I, my son, wife and three children, my daughter, husband and her three children, and her husbands’ parents all gathered for Easter dinner. The youngest of our two grandchildren who were baptized that morning in front of everyone after we were all seated with our food stood up and asked if he could pray since he was baptized that morning. His prayer was sincere, not as short as it might have been, and I think we all noted its significance. That’s pretty quick fruit! We should expect much more in the days ahead!
May you never get over the fact that your name is written in the book of life and that the living God of the Universe wants relationship with you! God bless!