By Dr. Robert R. Seyda


CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson XCVI) 03/24/23

5:14 We can come to God with no doubts. This means that when we ask God for things that agree with what He wants for us. God cares about what we tell Him.

Considering everything the Apostle John has said so far, Adam Clarke (1774-1849) mentions that the “confidence “(Greek noun, parrēsia) we have is the liberty of access and speech so that if we ask anything according to His will that is, which He has promised in His word, reveals His will in things concerning mankind’s salvation. All that God promised we are justified in expecting we should pray for. Prayer is the language of God’s children. They call God Abba, Father, in the true spirit of prayer. Prayer expresses dependence on God; there is neither life, love, nor faith where the soul is numb. Faith and prayer are not boldly to advance claims upon God; we must remember that what we ask and believe for is agreeable to God’s revealed will. Such promises are what we should pray for.[1]

After spiritually analyzing John’s conclusions, Gottfried C. F. Lücke (1791-1855) notes that Christian joy,[2] cheerfulness, and confidence in God are grounded in faith, and consciousness of the possession of eternal life is inseparable from our belief. This confidence and cheerfulness primarily manifest themselves in prayer. But, perhaps too, the Apostle John’s readers’ understanding was defective. Possibly, because they were discouraged by the oppression of the times and the world’s persecution, their prayer lacked complete confidence[3] and partly the genuine Christian spirit. Concerning both, John says (in the Greek text): “And this is the freedom of speech which we have toward Him,” (namely, to God as the chief grammatical subject after verse nine). However, we should never take “we ask anything” as a blank check.[4] [5]

Without using complicated language, Albert Barnes (1798-1870) notes that the confidence referred to relates to God’s answer to prayer. The Apostle John does not say that this is the only thing concerning our trust in God, but it is worthy of special consideration. One of the effects of believing in the Lord Jesus[6] is that we have the assurance that our prayers will be answered if we ask anything according to His will. This is the proper and necessary limitation in all prayer. God has not promised to grant anything contrary to His will, and it could not be right that He should do it. We should not wish to receive anything contrary to what He judges best. No one could hope for good who esteems their wishes to be a better guide than God’s will, and it is one of the most desirable arrangements that promises of any blessing obtained by prayer should be according to God’s will, not ours.[7]

The limitation here, “according to His will,” probably implies the following things: (1) In accordance with what God has declared He is willing to grant. (2) The expression “according to His will” must limit the answer to prayer to what God sees to be best for us. (3) The expression must limit the petition to what it will be consistent for God to bestow upon us. (4) The expression “according to His will” must limit the promise to what will be best for the whole matter. For example, in a family, it is conceivable that a child might ask for some favor that would interfere with the rights of others or be inconsistent with the whole family’s good. In such a case, a father would withhold it. With these necessary limitations, the range of promises through prayer is sufficient.[8]

With impressive theological vision, Richard Rothe (1799-1867) writes that in verse fourteen and the following verses, John shows his readers how firm his conviction remains with what he said in verse thirteen that they who believe in Jesus as God’s Son possess eternal life. Those who do this display the confidence they (with every true believer) have in their Redeemer. As John describes it, this confidence is fantastic; it is the confidence of possessing life and perfect satisfaction in the Anointed One.

So, John’s thoughts are connected as follows. We have written these things to awaken the vivid consciousness that you possess eternal life through your faith in Jesus as God’s Son. And our boldness towards Him is so great that we are confident of receiving the fulfillment of all our desires in accordance with His will. Thereby, we maintain life and perfect satisfaction,[9] namely, eternal life, by virtue of our faith in Him, [10]

Consistent with the Apostle John’s advice, Heinrich A. W. Meyer (1800-1882) adds the conjunction “and” at the beginning of verse fourteen, which results from the knowledge mentioned in verse thirteen, opens a unique line of communication to God. That “line” involves that which our petitions use to go towards Him; thus, because of that open line, we find support, joy, and peace in our life. In this line or sphere, the knowledge produces confidence towards God. This confidence is explained or defined in the following words: “If we ask anything according to His will, He hears us; and if we know that He hears us, we know that we have the petitions we asked of Him.”

The Christian believer has confidence, founded upon possessing the Divine life in the soul, that their future prayers will be answered. They know that as their desire and will are conformed to God’s will, the fundamental petition in every prayer, that God’s will may be done, is answered in their experience and life. All things work together for their benefit as they love God;[11] their joy comes from fellowship with the Father, His Son, and other believers.[12] [13]

According to Robert Jamieson (1802-1880), Andrew Fausset (1821-1910), and David Brown’s (1803-1897) way of thinking, the Apostle John’s encouragement for coming to God which no doubt means that when we ask God for things (and those things agree with what God wants for us), God cares about our praying it with confidence or boldness.[14] It results from knowing that we have eternal life[15] according to God’s will and the believer’s will and is, therefore, no restraint to prayers. However, as God’s will is not our will, we are not abiding by faith, and our prayers are unacceptable.[16]

With an inquiring mind, Daniel D. Whedon (1808-1885) says that this confidence of which the Apostle John speaks is a firm feeling of the heart in free expression. The indwelling life puts forth a confident utterance according to their will. The utterance expresses our will and God’s. Since we are not speechless and God is not deaf, like wood or stone idols[17] or the pantheist’s “unknown supreme force.[18] Our life with God constitutes a method of blessed intercommunication. Our lips are vocal, and His ear is sensitive.[19]

In line with Apostle John’s conclusion, Henry Alford (1810-1871) proposes that the believer’s confidence as shown in prayer. And the faith we have towards Him (which follows as a matter of immediate inference from our spiritual life)[20] is that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us (such confidence is expressed in various ways, including prayer. But Alford also feels the “He” in “He hears us” refers to the Father, not the Son. So, the truth that God hears all our prayers, has been explained in what the Apostle John said earlier, “We receive from Him anything we ask, because we keep His commandments and do what pleases Him.”[21]

The condition attached, that the request be according to God’s will does not limit the Christian’s free speech before God. For God’s will is that to which our glorious Savior submitted Himself, and which rules the whole course of the Christian life for our good and His glory, Anyone who intends to violate God’s will is thereby transgressing the bounds of their life in God.[22] By the continual feeling of submission to His will, combined with a constant increase in knowledge of His will, our prayers will be corrected and redirected to what is right. If we knew His will thoroughly and submitted to it heartily, it would be impossible for us to ask anything, for the spirit or for the body, which He should not hear and perform. And it is this ideal state, as always, which the Apostle John has in view.[23]

As a faithful and zealous scholar, William Graham (1810-1883), every believing soul has confidence (boldness) in God our Father and may come boldly to His throne of grace in time of need.[24] Let us never forget that God’s ways from the beginning, so far as they are related to grace, have been calculated to inspire his children with confidence in Him. His many great and precious promises are intended to remove our guilty suspicions and tranquilize our sin-stricken hearts. He is the living, eternal fountain from which all our blessings for time and eternity flow. He opens His heavenly mansions to the weary, heavily burdened, and all returning prodigals. He unseals His bosom and heart. Did He not give His Son to die for us, and will He not, with Him, also freely give us all things?[25]

Surely all this should give us confidence in Him. He has loved us from eternity, and every step in our life is but a fresh manifestation of his love for our souls. The Bible, providence, prophecy, God’s Son in His atoning love, the Spirit of God in His sanctifying powers are all His gifts, because they are all intended and calculated to restore the interaction between God and us which sin and Satan interrupted.”[26]

With the zeal of a scriptural text examiner, William E. Jelf (811-1875) says that one of the most notable points and privileges of eternal life is the access to and communion with God, the power, and the privilege of conversing with Him without fear. Instead, it points to it as assurance. Free speech (resulting from faith or commitment) consists of this “that we know.” the Apostle John refers to the privilege he spoke of by confidence in prayer.[27] He wishes to reiterate and impress upon their minds the great benefit which arose from a well-grounded assurance that God would hear their prayer. If our heart, looking into all the circumstances, experimental and practical, of our spiritual state, passes a verdict in favor of our being at peace with God, if we know on solid grounds that we have eternal life, then we enjoy that freedom of communication with God, the essence of which is our certainty that He hears us. 

This confidence is part of eternal life. Here is the limitation of reasonable expectation of our prayers being heard and answered. Our prayers must square with His will. If we ask for things contrary to His will or in the way He desires, we have no reason to look for what we ask for.[28] In Luke’s Gospel, we have an instance of even our Savior’s praying not being heard.[29] [30]

With an inquiring spiritual mind, Johannes H. A. Ebrard (1819-1893) notes that our confidence that God hears us is the seed of the Apostle John’s thinking. But, to make clear how great and glorious a thing it is to be able to possess such confidence, instead of the simple “freedom of speech” (“confidence” NIV), John uses the emphatic, “and this is the freedom of speech that we have.” Ebrard says that after analyzing John’s conclusions,  Gottfried Lücke (1791-1855) says that John is correct, therefore, in saying that the logical completion of the clause would be thus: “In this consists the confidence,[31] which we have in Him, (that we know), supplied from verse fifteen, or more correctly: that we have that reliance in Him – which is provided from the freedom of speech we have when we ask anything according to His will, namely, anything that pleases Him,[32] He hears us,[33] (not, fulfills our petitions), for this is first mentioned in verse fifteen.”[34]

It confirmed what was observed by John earlier,[35] that, the doctrine concerning the granting of prayer, the petitioner is always assumed to live in the Holy Spirit and possession of a regenerate life; that, consequently, their supplication proceeds from a will which is in harmony with the Divine will, which frames its desires according to the norm of God’s Spirit and will; that, therefore, they never urge presumptuous requests, but prays only for that which the Anointed One taught us to ask for.[36]

[1] Clarke, Adam: Wesleyan Heritage Commentary, op. cit., Hebrews-Revelation, p. 398

[2] 1 John 1:4

[3] Cf. James 1:6-7

[4] 1 John 5:11

[5] Lücke, Gottfried C. F., A Commentary on the Epistles of St. John, op. cit., p. 277

[6] 1 John 5:13

[7] Luke 22:42

[8] Barnes, Albert: New Testament Notes, op. cit., 1 John 5, pp. 4887-4888

[9] John 10:10

[10] Rothe, Richard: Exposition of the First Epistle of St. John, op. cit., The Expository Times, July 1895, p. 469

[11] Romans 8:28

[12] 1 John 1:4; cf. John 15:11

[13] Meyer, Heinrich A. W., Critical Exegetical Handbook New Testament, op. cit., Vol. 10, p. 615

[14] 1 John 4:17

[15] Ibid. 5:13; cf. 3:19, 22

[16] Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, New Testament Volume, op. cit., p. 730

[17] 1 John 5:21

[18] Kuyper, Abraham, Pantheism’s Destruction of Boundaries, Methodist Review, New York, July and September 1893, Article VI, Part I 

[19] Whedon, Daniel D., Commentary on the New Testament, op. cit., pp. 279-280

[20] 1 John 3:19-21

[21] Cf. 1 John 3:21-22

[22] James 4:3

[23] Alford, Henry: The Greek New Testament, Vol. IV, op. cit., pp. 508-509

[24] Hebrews 4:16

[25] Romans 8:32

[26] Graham, William: The Spirit of Love, op. cit., pp. 338-339

[27] 1 John 3:21

[28] Cf. James 4:3

[29] Luke 22:42

[30] Jelf, William E., Commentary on the First Epistle of St. John, op. cit., p. 76-77

[31] Cf. 1 John 3:23; 5:11, John 17:3

[32] Matthew 6:10; 26:39; John 14:13

[33] John 9:31

[34] Lücke, Friedrich: A Commentary on the Epistles of St. John, op. cit., trans. Thorleif Gudmundson Repp, The Biblical Cabinet, Thomas Clark, Edinburgh, 1837, p. 278

[35] 1 John 3:22

[36] Ebrard, Johannes H. A., Biblical Commentary on the Epistles of St. John, op. cit., p. 336

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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