Right from the start John makes clear that Jesus Christ himself is eternal life and life is only found in him. This was no theological theory with John. This fact was as real as anything could possibly be.
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us” (1 John 1:1,2)
John and the others were eye witnesses to the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. Christianity is not knowing facts about Christ, or doing the right things, but rather Christianity is centered in the person, Jesus Christ. John starts the book with Jesus, and to put the icing on the cake, he says in the last chapter these words.
“And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. 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”. (1 John 5:11-13)
These are absolute, clear, and unmistakable statements of truth. They are not easily misunderstood if one only reads the text. Sandwiched between the first and fifth chapters is a series of markers, or characteristics that we may use to see if we indeed have Jesus Christ, who is himself eternal life. Many have mistakenly used much of this book to teach salvation by works, which is unfortunate because the clarity of the book is so obvious. Those who have Christ will look like him. A watching world will see one who has the aroma of Christ when they see one who has truly been born from above.
Now what does that person look like, how does he live in a world controlled by the evil one?
1. He walks in the light. (1 John 1:7) Jesus said those who come to the light have nothing to hide but those who do not come to the light do not because their deeds are evil. A person who is in fact one of God’s own will live in the full light of day. That is he will not hide his sin but will rather confess it and receive God’s cleansing. If you either say you have no sin, or try to hide it by living away from God’s light you are not a child of God. (1 John 1:5-10 )
2. He keeps His commandments. (1 John 2:3) Those who are genuine children of God have a built in desire to obey what Christ taught. Those who do not obey are not saved. This is easy stuff to understand. The person who says “I know Him”, or “I am a Christian” and shows by his life no desire to please God is a liar and there is no truth in him. (1 John 2:4)
3. He loves his brother. (1 John 2:10) There is a song that says simply, “If you don’t love your brother you don’t love God”, how very true. Love is not an emotion, love is action, it is only love when it is demonstrated in loving acts. A person who does not act in loving ways toward his brother “still walks in darkness”, still lost. (1 John 2:11)
4. He does not love the world. ( 1 John 2:15,16 ) A person whose life is marked by a pattern of satisfying the desires of his flesh (sexual immorality, drunkenness, gluttony, etc.) and polishing his ego (bigger houses, more expensive cars, more, more, more) by an unhealthy desire for what the world has to offer is not a child of God.
5. His life will be marked by generosity. ( 1 John 3:16-18 ) One who has been born again by the Spirit of God will not withhold necessities from those in need. One who does so “closes his heart against him”. An uncaring, stingy person, and at the same time has the love of God in him? Hardly! Christ’s disciples are called to not only talk the talk but also to walk the walk. (1 John 3:18 )
6. He listens to the word of God. (1 John 4:5,6 ) One way to know who is of “The Truth” and who is not is how they respond to biblical teaching. Those who refuse to hear it (and abide by it) are “not from God”. It is unthinkable that a person would love God and have the love of God in him and not love God’s word.
7. He has overcome the world. (1 John 5:4,5 ) “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”
In the final analysis it is the obedience of faith that distinguishes a child of God from an unbeliever. (Romans 1:17, 4:22, 5:1, 10:14-17) We can know for sure that Christ is in us and that we are in him if these markers in 1st John are evidences seen in our lives.
The truth sets men free.