Formations 09.29.2019: Living in God’s Son

1 John 5:5-21

I began attending church as a baby, so I was encouraged from a very young age to invite Jesus into my heart. Well-meaning Sunday school teachers and preachers told me that if I did this, Jesus would become my Savior, living inside of me, and I would be a Christian from that point forward. Like many kids, I found the idea confusing. I even remember my little brother asking my parents if Jesus gets food all over him when we eat.

The idea of Jesus living in me began to make more sense as I entered my teenage years and eventually became an adult. Now, if I spend time thinking about Jesus—through praying, reading Scripture, and serving others—I’m able to sense his presence within me. And it’s much more than Jesus enjoying the tacos I eat! It’s striving for the mindset of Christ, seeing others with his perspective, being kind and compassionate, finding ways to bring justice to the marginalized, trying my best to love as Jesus loved.

I haven’t thought as much about the idea of me living in Jesus. But several Bible verses mention it, including these:

• “Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.” (Jesus’ words in Jn 15:4; also see verses 5-7)

• As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. (Col 2:6-7)

• “…we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.” (1 Jn 5:20b)

• By this we may be sure that we are in him: whoever says, “I abide in him,” ought to walk just as he walked. (1 Jn 2:5b-6)

• All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us. (1 Jn 3:24)

It seems that Jesus living in me and me living in Jesus are two sides of the same coin. We have a relationship. He actively pursues me and I actively pursue him. The Son of God lives in me, and I in turn must strive to live in the Son of God. That is true Christianity.

Discussion

• How would you describe the way you decided to follow Christ? Did you “invite Jesus into your heart,” or were other phrases and terms used for the choice you made?

• What does it mean to you to be a Christian—a Christ follower? How would you explain this to someone else?

• Do you believe that Christ lives in you? If so, how do you sense his presence within you?

• What does it mean to you to live in Christ? How would you describe this kind of life in practical terms?

• Why do you think it matters that Jesus Christ lives in you and you live in Jesus Christ? How is this way of living visible to other people?

Reference Shelf

In the Epistle [of 1 John], the emphasis falls upon the human response answering as it were to the testimony of God (v. 10). The person believing finds affirmation and interpretation of her or his faith in the inner self or heart. The language of the positive thesis includes the typical Johannine construction “believing into” the Son (cf. 5:13; 36 times in John) with the likely connotation of personal commitment as well as credence. The ones not believing, the antithesis in that much reiterated rhetorical style, make God a liar by rejecting the divine witness itself. While the phrase “the one not believing in God” is not what one initially expects, and alternative textual traditions exist, it makes perfectly good sense since the testimony of God is at stake. Here the polemical thrust balances the pastoral, the opponents being criticized. His opponents have been accosted regularly with the hot accusation of lying (2:4, 22; 4:20).

At v. 11 the author makes a second assertion about the witness, typically calling upon his construction originating with “this” as an identifying clause as in v. 9. With an expository follow-up (v. 11b, exegetical), he discloses that God has given the gift of eternal life, the good news of the Johannine gospel. At John 3:16 the immediate gift is the unique Son, eternal life being the intended purpose. (The further gift of understanding can be found at 1 John 5:20.) Not only has God made available such an extraordinary gift, but eternal life is wrapped up inseparably in the Son (as 1:1-3). The Life resides in the Son. Indeed the two are inseparable (v. 12; see Matt 11:27; Luke 10:21-22; 24:16). Though grace as a word does not make an appearance in the Epistle (but see 2 John 3), the idea is all bound up in the gift of eternal life. If revelation is featured at v. 11 (as 1:2a), response is accentuated at v. 12.

The great either/or of the Epistle appears cryptically in thesis and antithesis (see John 12:44-48; 15:1-6), presuming an unambiguous accountability. The Son of God has been quite the decisive Christological category throughout the Epistle, appearing at 1:1-3 and 5:13, with beginnings and closings being inherently important. Indeed it finds its place in the text 22 times, 10 times in chapter 5 alone, 4 times in chapter 4, 8 times in chapters 1–3. The Elder spells out the mission of the Son variously (1:7 and 4:10; 3:8; 4:14; 5:20). Not surprisingly, the author utilizes the language of “having,” here in terms both of having the Son and thereby having eternal life. Both eternal life and having will be addressed again at 5:13.

At vv. 11-12, an implicit evangelism lurks. One may choose to believe or not. The importance of receiving shows up at John 1:12 and 3:32. It is in coming to Jesus that one may have life (John 5:40). The gravity of the choice emerges in John 3 as well (vv. 18, 36). Throughout the final movement (4:7–5:12 or 13), John 3, as concentrated in 3:16, parallels whatever the literary sequence may have been….

[1 John] 5:13-21 meets several of the Aristotelian ingredients for a good epilogue. Throughout the letter the Elder has sought to prove his tradition’s credibility and the lack thereof of his opponents, as Aristotle and Cicero recommended. Here in these latter verses, the author not only scores a central conclusion (5:13) and chastises his opponents indirectly (5:16-19) but excites the emotions of his readers and recapitulates some of his main points as Aristotle requires (Rhetoric 3.19.1). Many of the trunk line themes of the Epistle show up in the epilogue, summing up (see Cicero, On Invention 1.53.99). A kind of celebration of certitude characterizes this conclusion. On this model, the explicit absence of the love command admittedly is notable.

Peter Rhea Jones, 1, 2, & 3 John, Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary (Macon GA: Smyth & Helwys Publishing, 2009) excerpts from 216–17, 223.

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor of Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. She is also the office administrator for Jay’s HOPE, a nonprofit serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her daughters, Samantha (14) and Natalie (12), and her husband John. Occasionally, she appears onstage in community theater productions and can sometimes be found playing board games with a group of rowdy friends. She loves Marvel movies and Doctor Who, and she’s still trying to write a young adult novel that her girls will enjoy.

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