1 John – The Root of All Uncertainty

From the Series: Certainty – Absolute Truths That Bring Joyful Assurance



Let’s imagine that we were interviewing the Apostle John, and he had just finished speaking to us the entire letter of 1 John. If we were to ask John to summarize the entire letter in one sentence, what do you think he might say? It seems outlandish and completely out of place, but 1 John 5:21 is his summary:

Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.

Why speak of the nature of God, the certainty of Jesus in the flesh, the evidences of true Christians, the marks of those who are antichrists, the birthmarks of believers, the love of God, and love for brethren? In John’s estimation, anything that is contrary to the true God and the evidences of true believers is idolatry. This is his final admonition; the root of all uncertainty is idolatry. Why summarize it this way?

Because of What Idolatry Means:

Idolatry is the worship of any other god besides the true God, as He has revealed himself in Jesus Christ. Thus, idolaters are those who worship variations of Jesus that are slightly or drastically different than Jesus as He was revealed (John 20:24-29).

Because of How We Are Created:

You and I were created to worship God—to adore God and find our ultimate sense of self-worth and assurance in Him alone. Satan tempted Eve by telling her that they would be as gods, knowing good and evil. The temptation to replace God entered the human race in the Garden. It became the tendency of every other human. If in doubt, consider the first of the Ten Commandments: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). From this command flows all other commands. Idolatry is at the heart of insecurity or a lack of confidence.

It’s Our Natural Human Tendency:

Our natural response to this lack of assurance is to find lesser beings and things for our sense of meaning. Idolatry is attempting to find ultimate security and confidence in someone or something other than God. It is the enthronement of even good things in replacement of God Himself.

As it relates to the letter of I John, there are two kinds of people we must consider:

  • Those who have false confidence or assurance—individuals who have confidence based in something or someone that is a variation of the true God or Jesus.
  • Those who have failing confidence or assurance—Christians who have believed in the true God and true Jesus but who are struggling for assurance because of the temptation towards false gods.

The root of all false confidence and failing confidence is idolatry.

Know That You Are Not Immune to Idolatry (1 John 5:13)

This particular verse is one of transition as well as a purpose statement for the letter. The fact that John is writing this to people who are believers confirms our suspicions that it is possible to be in relationship with God and lack assurance. But why? Because the distraction of a false god can cause one’s faith to waiver.

Pray Confidently for Those in Idolatry (1 John 5:14-17)

When we are secure in our relationship with Christ, this gives a boost of confidence, but remember that any variation of Who Jesus actually is, is idolatrous. So, how does this confidence manifest itself? Through prayer for God’s will. How should we pray for one another? We should pray for those battling against idols.

Live with Certainty About Sin, Self, and the Son (1 John 5:18-20)

These final verses present three “we know” statements. We know how the person born of God relates to sin. We know who we are. We know the Son of God has come. John is doing here what he has done throughout the letter. He is helping them to see what is the outworking of faith established in absolutely certain truths.

Guard Against Idolatry Intentionally (1 John 5:21)

This verse is both endearing and a call to arms. It is a verse that confirms we should not take for granted how subtle variations of God or Jesus may enter into the lives of Christians.

Consider Christ in John 17:3. Look for heart idols manifested by gossip: approval, control, reputation, success, security, pleasure, knowledge, recognition, respect, etc. (Thune). [1] Be committed in a way that people know how to specifically pray for you (James 5:16).

The root of all false confidence and failing confidence is idolatry. Conversely, the root of absolute assurance and lasting joy is a true heart of worship for the true God and His Son Jesus Christ. This is what Jesus came to give you.

[1] Thune, Robert H.; Walker, Will. The Gospel-Centered Life: Study Guide with Leader’s Notes (pp. 55-56). New Growth Press. Kindle Edition.

Read the full transcript of the sermon here.


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