1 John 5:13-21
13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.
14 And this is the boldness we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have obtained the requests made of him. 16If you see your brother or sister* committing what is not a mortal sin, you will ask, and God* will give life to such a one—to those whose sin is not mortal. There is sin that is mortal; I do not say that you should pray about that. 17All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not mortal.
18 We know that those who are born of God do not sin, but the one who was born of God protects them, and the evil one does not touch them. 19We know that we are God’s children, and that the whole world lies under the power of the evil one. 20And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding so that we may know him who is true;* and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.
21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols.*
This is the “epilogue” of the letter. In a book or novel, the epilogue tells us what happened to the characters after the book ended. In a way that is what the author is doing – he tells us why he writes, to give assurance to those to whom he writes that what happens with them is and will be eternal life. He assures them that if they pray, and ask God anything that is in accord with his will, he hears, and the requests are obtained. He says that they can even ask forgiveness for a brother or sister whom they have seen committing a sin – now, here he gets into an interesting distraction – he starts talking about sins that are mortal and sins that are not. This is one of those passages that has caused confusion ever since the author wrote it. Some say that “mortal” sin, that leading to death, may be denial of Christ, but we really have no idea what he means here – that is as good a guess as any.
The author says that we know those who are reborn in God do not sin – that the Spirit, and Christ, protect them and prevent the evil one from reaching them. Remember, however, that he started out with such a statement, in chapter 1, but then added, “but if you do sin”, so when he says that they do not sin, he is saying that they do have help in keeping them from sin – the presence of the Spirit.
We know, he says, that the whole world belongs to the evil one, but that we are children of God. And we know that Jesus came and gave us understanding – to separate truth from lies – He is the true God and eternal life. One can see how the Gnostics could twist these words into their belief in secret knowledge given to a few – but that is not what this author is really saying. He is saying that the truth in Christ is available to all who believe.
And finally, he closes the letter with an admonishment to his readers to stay away from idols. We must remember today that we too tend to worship idols – our idols are different but no less idols, and we too should keep away from them! Thus ends 1 John.