If you believe that Jesus is the Mighty Savior, who overthrew the devil’s war machines (3:8), then you are born of God, and the God-born are swept up into the conquering train of Christ the Victorious. But this victory is obtained by faith. Not by our own striving, for as Luther put it, “our striving would be losing.” Rather, the Right Man is on our side. This is how the saint should approach their individual battle with indwelling sin, and how they should view the end of the world.
1 Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God; and whoever loves Him that begat also loves him that is begotten of Him. 2 In this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep His commandments. 3 For this is the love of God that we keep His commandments and His commandments are not grievous. 4 For whatsoever is born of God overcomes the world, and this is the victory which overcomes the world: our faith. 5 Who is he that overcomes the world? He that believes that Jesus is the son of God. 1 John 5:1-5
One way of thinking about this epistle is that it is a continuation of Jesus’ debate with the Pharisees in John 8. The ultimate question is always, “Who is your father?” The Pharisees insisted that their paternity could be traced by to Abraham. While Jesus rebuked them for rejecting Him as their Messiah, and that this rejection proved that the devil was their father. You might even call this the spiritual paternity test: what do you believe about Jesus? This first section of 1 John 5 goes over this same territory.
Those who believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the promised deliverer of fallen man, are born of God. This salvation, of course, brings forth in us love for the God who first loved us (4:19), and lavished His love upon us (3:1). We are His children, we bear His likeness, and all who bear His likeness will likewise be beloved (5:1). He who believe that Jesus is the Christ, is God-born.
John then answers the question, “Well, how do I love the brethren?” You love God, and keep His commandments (5:2). The New Covenant, as described in Ezekiel’s prophecy, also notes that this new birth, this new life, this new heart will impart to us the ability to keep God’s Law (Eze. 36:25-27). Once more, this isn’t a new commandment (2:7). Rather, this is new life in the old commandment. The husk has broken open, and the tree of life has sprouted in the world.
Loving God means obeying His Word (5:3). And so that we don’t sigh like a teenage boy asked to clean his room, John reminds us that these commands aren’t heavy.