These small group studies of 1 John contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications. Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.
1 John 5:1-10 Inductive Bible Study
I. The test of belief (1)
II. Loving God is obeying and will result in loving others (2-3)
III. Believers are conquerors (4-5)
IV. The Spirit, water and the blood (6-8)
V. God testifies about His Son.
I. The test of belief (1)
Who is born of God? What does the word “born” mean?
In a Jewish mind, what/who was the Messiah? What were His characteristics and what would he do?
What does verse 1 tell us about the relationship between loving God and loving others?
1. Here we see another test of genuine salvation. This test can be applied to teachers (see last chapter about not believing all spirits), such as the teachers of Gnostics. It can be applied to religious leaders. This means don’t believe everyone just because they are standing behind a pulpit or have a P.H.D. Last week we learned not to believe people blindly. We should test them to see if what they say is true. That could mean asking them point blank questions such as “Where does the Scripture say that?” or “Who do you believe Jesus Christ was?” If someone answers this questions with “a good teacher,” a “revolutionary,” a “kind leader,” a “good person” or the like we can know that he doesn’t truly understand Christ is the Son of God, the Messiah, and is therefore not saved.
2. This test, like all the others in the book of 1 John, is not just to be applied to others, but to ourselves as well. When you have doubts or questions about God (I say when because most people will have them at some point) then ask yourself do you really believe that Christ was the Messiah, the Son of God. If the answer is “yes,” then let that calm your doubt and reassure your faith so that you can move forward in confidence.
3. The Messiah – This was a very loaded term in that culture, although many people today don’t really understand its significance. At that time, all the Israelites were looking forward to the coming of the Messiah. This figure was prophesied about extensively in the Old Testament. Basically He would save His people. The Old Testament teaches clearly about people’s lost state and need for a Savior. The nation of Israel itself encountered trial after trial. For most the previous 500 years prior to the coming of Christ they were either exiled, in war, in poverty, or subject to other nations. There was only a brief period of freedom during the reign of the Macabees. The people took the most favorable interpretation of these Old Testament passages and expected that the Messiah would be like a folk hero would immediately solve all of their problems, free them from Rome, set up a great earthly kingdom, and make Israel the most powerful nation on earth. Most of these things are true. However, the Old Testament has two types of prophesies about the Messiah. Firstly, are prophesies of suffering, death, and salvation from sin, and secondly are prophecies of prosperity and physical deliverance. Jesus’ coming was split into two parts, the first coming to suffer and die and the second still future coming for physical deliverance for Israel. For an Israelite, believing that Jesus was the Messiah would be agreeing that He was the Savior of the nation and of them individually. It was a powerful confession and one that was somewhat rare at that time (because most Jews were looking for physical, not spiritual, deliverance.
4. Next John (who is big on logic) makes a logical connection that the one who loves the parent will love the child. If you truly love someone, of course you will love and want the best for that person’s offspring. This is natural. You wouldn’t love someone and curse their child. This means that if you profess to love God, then you must therefore also love His children, other believers. If you don’t love His children, then you are a hypocrite and insincere and don’t truly love God.
John 8:31,32, 14:15,21, 15:10 – Loving God and obeying His commands.
II. Loving God is obeying and will result in loving others (2-3)
How to tell if you are loving others? The verse mentions obeying His commands. What are some of His commands which apply to loving others? Go around the table and list them one by one.
Why does John equate love with obedience? What is the relationship between these two principles? What marks would you give yourself if you were to do a self-exam on this?
Do you feel that God’s commands are a burden? Why or why not? Why would someone feel that they are a burden? Have you ever heard anyone express this sentiment?
1. Love could be an ambiguous term. John has gone to great lengths in this book to clear away that ambiguity and show believers what real love is (such as to love in deed and in truth, not just in words). If you love God and obey Him, you will naturally love others. Why? God’s commands tell us how to love others! If you don’t know how to love others, just read Scripture. You might say, “I want to love my wife, but I don’t really know how?” Well, not to worry. God commands husbands how to love their wives (and love in general) throughout the Word. Husbands are commanded to learn about our wives. Husbands are commanded to love their wives as Christ loved the church and as we love our own bodies. We are commanded to be quick to listen and slow to speak. We are commanded to forgive seventy times seven times. We are commanded to look out for other’s needs above our own. We are commanded to speak the truth in love. We are commanded to bear other’s burdens. We are commanded to be humble. There are a plethora more ways to love your wives and others. Loving others is simple. Just obey what God has told us to do in Scripture.
2. Once again we see that loving God equals obeying His commands. Love is not just a feeling of affection. It is action. The absolute best (and perhaps the only) way to show action in our relationship with God is to obey Him. That shows that we respect Him. It shows that we value His principles. It shows that we trust Him to know what is best for us. Love is doing what you can to please another person and not yourself. Obeying God pleases Him. Therefore it is loving to obey God.
3. Those who don’t have a relationship with God think that His commands are burdensome. If you don’t think so, just start sharing the gospel. One objection you will get (even if people don’t say it out loud) is that people just don’t want to submit to doing God’s will. They want to be free. Their idea of freedom is doing whatever they want whenever they want with no restrictions. They don’t like to have an authority telling them what to do. They want to be their own boss. They want to feel free to go to bars, sleep around, lie and cheat to gain more money, and indulge their lusts. To them, the Bible is a list of dos and don’ts. Is the Bible just a list of dos and don’ts? Not at all. Rather it shows the kind of behavior someone who is a follower of Christ (and that is what Christians are) will WANT to engage in.
For example. If I tell my son to go out and buy himself an ice cream, this command is not a burden. He wants to do it. Those who believe in God will want to follow Him. That doesn’t mean that it will always be easy. It doesn’t mean that our flesh want to do everything God tells us too. But our minds know that the things God tells us to do are for our own good. We know that God has a reason. WE know that our lives will be better off obeying God rather than going our own way. It is like an aspiring young musician. He has a tutor who tells him to spend 4 hours everyday practicing his instrument. It is not easy to spend four hours a day on this. He sometimes has other things he wants to do. But he knows that it is for the best. He knows that if he is to be successful, he must follow the tutor. He also loves playing. So for him it is not a burden. It is a joy. Every time he feels good after practice knowing he accomplished a lot. He feels even better when he can see the fruits of his practice. And he feels even better than that when his tutor praises him for his progress. For the believer, obeying God is not a burden. Hearing “Well done” is the greatest possible reward and worth every difficulty.
Matthew 23:4 – The man-made traditions are burdensome.
Matthew 11:30 – Jesus’ yoke is easy and His burden is light.
Galatians 5:1 – It is for freedom that He has set us free.
III. Believers are conquerors (4-5)
In what way do believers conquer the world? Is this a solicitation to fight a holy war like the Muslims do (no)?
How does a believer conquer the world? How can faith accomplish this?
Considering the fact that the world has never been primarily Christian and that even now it seems to be growing more sinful (see Obama’s endorsement of same-sex marriage), how can this verse be understood?
1. Born. This is a word often used in the Bible to describe our relationship with God after salvation. It conveys a new beginning, a new life, a complete change of direction. It also shows that we have a Father, God. Because we are “born of God” we should also be like God. Like Father, like son, right?
2. Conquers the world – Muslims throughout history have actually tried to conquer the world through war, or what they call a “jihad.” At times they have been successful. For Christians, on the other hand, this is not the way. There are actually more ways than one to conquer. For example, many countries tend to think that America has conquered the world to some extent. They call it American Imperialism. However, it doesn’t mean that the US controls the world with troops. Rather the US has “conquered” the world culturally. Many of the ideas and sciences and habits practiced in America are taking root in countries all around the world. This is not always a good thing.
For example around the world, Hollywood has had a major influence on the young generation. Young people are much more loose morally (can be seen publicly hanging all over each other) than before and it is extremely common to live together prior to marriage (this was taboo only one or two decades ago). Materialism is also firmly entrenched. The US has “conquered” much of the world ideologically. I believe that this is the type of conquering John is referring to.
Not long after his time Christians were persecuted severely by the Roman Empire. But they didn’t give up the faith. They didn’t compromise. Their testimonies shone like stars in a dark land. Their faith won over hundreds of thousands of converts until the Roman Empire endorsed Christianity and formed/started/supported the Roman Catholic church. The faith of Christians conquered what could have never been won through military efforts. But looking at the overall history of the world we can see that it has not turned Christian. In isolated cases nations or regions have been won for Christ. In general the outlook is bleaker and bleaker. So how to explain this verse? Well, it likely refers to the still future event. The world will only be predominantly Christian during the millennial reign of Christ.
3. Yet even now Christians are conquerors. We are fighting a battle against spiritual forces of wickedness and we are on God’s side. He has won the battle. His enemies just don’t realize it yet. We are victorious the instant we choose to believe in Christ. There are several possible applications from this:
a) Live like a conqueror. That doesn’t mean go around and gloat. It means that you should not be afraid of culture. You should not bow to peer pressure. You should not give in to persecution. You should not give in to temptation. Live confidently. Not confident in yourselves, but confident in Christ.
b) Live like a prisoner set free. We have been set free by Christ. We have been accepted onto the winning side. God will not judge us like the rest of the people in the world. We will not have to endure the wrath of God. Therefore we should be grateful. We should thank God every day for giving us the victory.
c) Live like an ambassador. We know that the battle has been won. We know that the enemies of God will be punished. We also know that He offers extremely favorable terms to anyone who will come to Him. He has given us this task to take the good news of a peace treaty the lost. We must passionately embrace the responsibility to share this with anyone and everyone who will listen.
d) Live by faith. Our faith in Christ and example are some of the most powerful weapons that we have. Live your life steadfastly in service of God. Continue sharing your testimony with others. Let them see your Christian life in action. Don’t try to win people to God through argument. Do it from love and an example of faith like Joseph who forgave his brothers because he had faith that God had a reason for allowing him to be sold as a slave.
Romans 8:37 – We are overwhelming conquerors.
2 Corinthians 2:14 – Christ leads us in triumph.
IV. The Spirit, water and the blood (6-8)
What does it mean that Jesus came by water and blood? How did the Spirit testify about Christ? Why was testimony/evidence important? Isn’t faith enough?
How did the water and blood testify about Christ?
1. What does it mean that Jesus came by water and blood? This is not easy to understand. Many Bible scholars have different opinions as to the meaning. Because we live in a different culture and time, this might just be a passage that we won’t fully understand until we get to heaven. The blood is easier to understand than water. It probably refers to either Jesus’ death on the cross where His blood was shed for us or the fact that He was a real flesh and blood human. Having said that, there are several possible explanations for the water.
a) Water could refer to Jesus’ baptism. Gnostis taught that the Spirit of the Christ descended on Jesus at His baptism and left just before His death. But saying that the water and blood testify about Christ could be a way of saying that Jesus was divine His entire life and ministry beginning to end. This is the view MacArthur holds to.
b) The water could refer to the Spirit. This view doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, however. Why would John say “water” instead of “Spirit” in this case, especially when in verse 7 He says the Spirit and water testify about Christ.
c) Some say the water and blood refer to the two ordinances of the church, baptism and the Lord’s Supper. However, this wouldn’t seem to explain how Jesus came by the water and blood.
d) The water could refer to Jesus’ physical birth. In other words, He is a real person. A variation of this could be that since humans are composed largely of water and blood it means that Jesus was flesh and blood (just an ancient way of saying it). In other words, Jesus is really human. One of these two emphasizing Jesus’ humanity seems the most likely to me (or possibly A) considering that John was writing 1 John largely to combat the false teachings of Gnosticism, which taught that Christ wasn’t really a human, but merely His spirit descended upon a human.
e) Yet another explanation could be the water that poured out of Jesus’ side at His death. Mark 15:15.
2. In any case, we see that there are even more witnesses about Christ’s humanity and deity. In the Old Testament, three were necessary to prove something and here John gives three. Once again we see that God doesn’t generally ask us to have blind faith, but gives reasons to believe in Him.
John 5:31-37 – The different witnesses that testify of Christ.
V. God testifies about His Son (9-10)
What men testified about Christ?
Is their witness reliable? Whose testimony is even more powerful? How did God testify about Christ?
What does it mean that the one who believes in Christ has the testimony in himself?
Can we make any applications from the fact that God used so many ways to testify/prove Christ is the Messiah?
How can you offer testimony to the people you know about this?
1. Many men have testified of God. What are some of them? Should we listen to their testimony? Actually yes. Jesus Himself gave John the Baptist as a witness to the fact that He was the Messiah as well as Moses. These men spoke by the power of God, many times proved by the fact that they prophesied future events. They lived upright and faithful lives. Many of them like the apostles (including John) were eyewitnesses. They could have no motive for lying since they gave their lives for their testimony about Christ. Even today there are countless examples of faithful believers that testify to God’s goodness in their lives, especially in the area of answered prayer. These testimonies of answered prayer are a big faith builder. We have every reason to listen to the testimony of these people, yet we have even a much greater reason to believe Jesus…
2. That is, God’s very own testimony. How has this been shown? The most clear examples are the times when He spoke from heaven about Jesus. Another example is Scripture, which is God’s Word and testifies to Christ both before He was born (prophesy) and after. Another is prophets, because they were speaking the words of God, evidenced by the fact that they prophesied the future. Another is the very Spirit of God. I believe this is alluded to in verse 10 where it says “the one who believes in the Son… has the testimony in himself.” Those who believe in God are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. He convicts of the truth of God’s word, of the prophets, of the testimony of these men, and of even our own life experiences such as answered prayer. He gives us this assured and calm faith in our hearts that allows us to believe so fully. I believe that every person knows deep inside that God is true and created the earth. Most just choose to suppress this truth in order to feel more comfortable while doing wrong or perhaps because it is just too inconvenient for them to spend the time to explore.
Matthew 3:17, Luke 3:22, Mark 1:11, Matthew 17:5 – God’s voice from heaven telling the people Jesus is His Son.