vs 14 Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that. generally speaking, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.
vs 15 And if we have perceived that He hears us, whatever we are characteristically asking, we have perceived that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.
John mentioned something similar to this in 1John 3:21,22 saying, "if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him." And I'll reiterate my comment there that promises like Matt 21:22 "If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer." are given under the assumption that we are obeying his commands and doing what pleases him, as you can also see from this verse where the promise of answered prayer is contingent upon us praying in accordance with his will.
But satisfying that contingency we can have confidence that God
hears us and will take action on our requests. What is also
implied is that if you don't pray, God may not take such action.
"characteristically asking" sounds awkward, but is accurate. God
may not answer our specific request, but rather answer that which
we are generally asking about. But getting God's ear is a function
of asking according to His will.
There's a mystery - a paradox - regarding prayers of supplication. For if God knows what is best, then why the need to ask, as if we knew better than God. So if God already knows His will and what is good, why wait on us to ask before He proceeds on that endeavor? One solution to this paradox is the idea that part of God's will is to involve us in implementing His purposes. Thus prayer is His will for us.
vs 16 If anyone, at some point in time, were to perceive his "brother" characteristically committing sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who characteristically are committing sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray at some point in time about that.
vs 17 All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death.
Again, continuing to keep a consistent hermeneutic, invoking the
significance of the present tense in the Greek we note that as "commit a sin" is in the present tense,
as opposed to aorist, John is referring to a sin which is
characteristic of this "brother's" lifestyle. But as John had said
a number of times previously in this letter that "no one who is born of God will continue to sin"
(1John 3:9), and as he does just 2 verses later, "We have perceived that whoever
has been born of God does not characteristically sin;" (1John 5:18), therefore
John is indicating that this "brother" is one in name only, being
merely a nominal Christian.
The interpretation of the phrase "his brother", used commonly throughout 1John, I covered in a previous study. (See http://www.bcbsr.com/books/1jnss_2_7-11.html)
And this makes sense because it speaks of praying for this person
so that God may give him life - indicating that he didn't have
life. And as we just read in this chapter "He
who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God
does not have life." 1John 5:12,
apparently such a "brother" is viewed as not having the Son. This
is a prayer for the salvation of a "nominal Christian".
As the letter of 1John is all about identifying nominal Christians and distinguishing them from those who have been born of God, here John is telling us what to do if we uncover one. Pray for that person that God may give them life.
The sin unto death is a condition in which the "Christian" so strongly resists correction as to attribute the working of the Holy Spirit to the devil. That is, "It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace." Heb 6:4,6 In fact "It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: A dog returns to its vomit, and, A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud." 2Peter 2:21-22
Jesus said, "Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come." Mt 12:32 And why is that? Because compliance to the leading of the Holy Spirit is necessary to coming to saving faith. Rejecting such leading with strong conviction cut's oneself off from the necessary path to salvation. It's impossible to bring such people back to repentance.
Nonetheless John is not forbidding prayers for such people, for as it is it may be difficult to determine whether a person had sinned in this manner, but if a person apostacizes it is not required of the Christian to pray for such people.
vs 18 We have perceived that whoever has been born of God does not characteristically sin; but he who had been born of God at some point characteristically keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him for himself.
vs 19 We have perceived that we are of God, and the whole world lies itself under the sway of the wicked one.
John reiterates the fact that those born of God do not continue to sin, just as he said in 1John 3:9. (So if they do, as the "brother" in vs 16, such people have not been born of God.) Bringing this up here supports the idea that the previous two verses were referring to nominal Christians - those who continue to sin.
And as we also read in 1John 3:9 the reason why those
born of God don't continue to sin has to do with the nature of the
rebirth. "No one who is born of God will
continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he
cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God."
John alludes to this idea here in the phrase "the one who was born of God keeps him safe, and
the evil one cannot harm him.", though there are nuances
For example, "the one who was born of God" could refer to Jesus since "was born" is in the aorist indicating an historic past event as opposed to the perfect tense which John uses earlier in the verse to referring to "anyone born of God". And Jesus said, "While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me." John 17:12 and "My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one." John 17:15, not to mention also the analogy he makes in John 10 of himself being a shepherd taking care of his sheep, and in particular John 10:28 "I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand." (well I guess I mentioned it anyway!) And this is the most likely interpretation based upon the Greek manuscripts upon which many modern translations, like the NASB and NIV are based.In any case, those born of God are safe from Satan, though the rest of the world is under his control, just as John has previously indicated, "everyone born of God overcomes the world." 1John 5:4a The word "harm" is more literally "touched" (to fasten one’s self to, adhere to, cling to). The sense is that while Satan may in fact touch us from time to time, but he has nothing to hold on to. So he can't cling to us as he can to others in the world.
But there is a textual variant in some manuscripts, which is carried over in the KJV where the word "him" in "keeps him" is actually "himself", which means this could be read that those born of God keep (take care of) themselves such that they don't continue to sin.
In fact in it could be argued that both of these are the case, kind of like Paul said, "Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed— not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence— continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose." Php 2:12,13
vs 20 And we have perceived that the Son of God is come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we exist in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.
vs 21 Little children, when the instance arises, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.
Jesus said, "this is eternal life: that
they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you
have sent."John 17:3 Eternal life is all about
knowing God and knowing Jesus Christ the Son of God. And we can
only know God through the Son, as it is written, "No one has ever seen God, but God the One and
Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known." John
1:18 He alone is the true God and eternal life. Therefore
keep yourself from imitations. For this is John's message,
distinguishing false Christs from the genuine article, and false
Christians from those born of God.
The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources