These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.
1 John 5:13
This is the last time that John repeats this particular refrain in this letter. Since the pattern made itself evident — the first time I have noticed this pattern in this letter — it seems prudent to stop and consider the last instance of it.
John has written these things to a particular audience: those who believe in the name of the Son of God. Name was more, in the ancient world, than it is today. Today, most people think that a name is little more than an identifier; a way to tell one person apart from the other six billion or so on the planet. When this was written, one’s name was so much more. A person’s entire identity was bound up in their name. A person’s individual reputation as well as their family’s reputation and their entire history was contained within that name. So, when I am said to believe in the name of the Son of God, it is more than just accepting that there was a guy named Jesus Who cruised around Israel about two thousand years ago and was crucified by the Roman government. Those are facts and accepting them is no more an act of faith than believing that I am sitting on a chair (which happens to be a fact, at the time of writing this). To believe in the name is to accept Who He claimed to be as true. Jesus claimed to be God in human flesh; to be the Son of God; to be the One Who would pay the price for my sins; that there is no way to the Father except Him. That is the name that I must believe in. I must trust that what He claims is true. And belief must impact behavior or it is no belief at all.
John has written to this audience — those who trust that Jesus is Who He claims to be and behave based on that — so that they might know that they have eternal life. The word that we translate as eternal is actually more specific than that. The idea, according to the concordance, is that our life will be without end. It could also mean without beginning or without either beginning or end. Since our lives definitely have a beginning, it then follows that the intent is to communicate an endless life.
If I believe in the name of Christ and that belief impacts my behavior, then I will see the things that John has described in this letter manifest in my life. There will be a more loving me and a less sinful me. John speaks of persistent lifestyles. While there are sins that I continue to battle, they are not consistently present and, by the grace of God, actions are taken to minimize their reappearance. One by one, God shows me where the roots are that lead to certain sins sprouting and bearing their nasty fruit. One by one, God works in me to tear out those roots. It takes time, but I can look back and see the growth toward following Jesus’ lead. I am not perfect, but the trek continues.
Father, thank You for putting it into the heart and pen of John to write this letter that I might know whether or not I have eternal life. Thank You for providing a litmus test, of sorts, that I can measure against. And thank You for the progress I can see over the years of walking with You. It is slow progress, but You have a lifetime to make me who You want me to be. Please open my eyes to the areas where sin has roots and soften my heart to be able to not only be pliant to Your work but also to more readily release its hold on those roots of sin.