The ending of 1 John 5 is quite strange….
21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.
Normally, at the end of an epistle, you would read words of greeting, farewell or blessings.
Yet, here is John ending with this rather perplexing statement.
“Keep yourselves from idols…”
Now if we were during the Old Testament times, during the period of Judges or the Kings, we could easily understand why John said this. The people of God kept on returning to idol worship despite seeing and experiencing the great power of God.
But now in the New Testament times?
Many of the gentile converts were from idol worshipping backgrounds. Cast your minds back to when Paul was in Athens … remember how he remarked about the wide variety of gods that the Athenians worshiped, even one to an unknown God.
And what about during these modern times?
Are idols still an issue? Is this warning still relevant?
First of all, we must understand under what context John was writing in. He was warning the church about a very clear and present danger in the church.
There were those who were once believers but have departed from the church. These were false believers. Although they once professed that they believed in Jesus, they were now exposed as being someone who never truly believed.
What John was writing about is also frightening relevant today.
When I was in London, I heard that the church in Paris has now 2 places of worship. One were those who remained faithful to the Word and keeping the faith. The other chose to follow teachings that are contrary to the foundations laid down by the prophets and apostles, with Jesus as the Chief Cornerstone.
What was sad was that these people once knew the word of God. They knew the truth. But …
13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.
~ 1 John 5:13
John said, “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.” (my paraphrase)
We ought to have the truth clearly inscribed in our hearts and minds. We should know a whole lot – just like how John saw the believers then.
We already believe in the name of the Son of God because we have faith that comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ (Romans 10).
But knowledge is not enough.
Knowledge alone does not save, but salvation does not come with knowledge.
John says, “these things I have written to you who believe …”
It is not just knowing. It is about believing.
Knowing and believing.
15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.
~ 1 John 5:15
Can you see that this is more than knowing?
With knowing that God hears us, we believe that He will give us the petitions that we have asked of Him.
Knowledge of God must be accompanied by faith and belief in that knowledge.
What else do we know about God?
20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.
~ 1 John 5:20
The Gospel is NOT theory. It is the TRUTH.
Why? Because we know the One who is true.
We do not just know but truly know and believe in Him. Hence we have eternal life, because of who He is and what He has done.
Now when we see the warning, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols”, it becomes more clear to us why John wrote this.
He warns us a belief in a false god. Belief in the wrong god or any other god.
Belief in what is not the truth but human knowledge.
The problem is it’s so easy to come up with some other god.
Those who have left the church suffered from this problem because they had a different knowledge. John wanted to show us that they – having gone after other beliefs – were just like the idolaters who went after another god.
And they departed. They are no longer one of us. That’s why they went out from us. They’re idolaters.
That’s why we need this reminder to keep ourselves from idols.
Some people have remarked that they are sick and tired of hearing the same warnings over and over again in church about the case of the fallen preacher and his deviant teachings. But if we truly know what heresy is about, it is actually biblical idolatry.
If you define God differently than how God defines Himself in His Word – we are an idolater.
If we believe in a god who is not the Lord and Saviour that we know from the Bible, we are an idolater.
So the warning is stark – keep yourselves away from these idolaters.
Lest we become one.