By Dr. Robert R. Seyda


CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson XCVII) 03/27/23

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.

Anti-evolutionary creationist Gospel preacher, Robert N. Dabney (1820-1898), announces that the whole tone of Scripture in verse fourteen sets some practical limitations on God’s general promises. All our prayers will be answered in God’s time and His way, and if they are faith-filled, virtuous prayers for things according to God’s will, He will answer them with absolute accuracy. There are only two ways to find out what items meet these criteria: by special revelation, as in the case of faith in miracles and petitions for them; the other is by the Bible. If Christians pray with the right motives and an assured belief that it will be given to them.[1] [2]

After contemplating the Apostle John’s train of thought, William Kelly (1822-1888) urges every believer to dwell in love, stay in union with God, and let God live in them. Through His grace, hindrances, tremendous or petty, are expelled and provide us boldness through the unchanging love of an unchanging God amid all the changes. God is pleased with this confidence in counting on His care for us during our trials, weakness, needs, in the sorrow that sickness brings, in painful circumstances, and in all the ways in which we are put to the test from day-to-day.

How then should we feel? Do we have bold faith in our present communication with God and count on Him through the grace that delivered us from death and sins, that gave us life and the Holy Spirit, or are we trembling and doubtful because of minor difficulties in life? Is not this unworthy and an inconsistency? By faith, we become bold in asking for the best blessings, so let us have no less self-assurance about the smaller things day after day.

We should never doubt that He who loves us is involved in all that is allowed or sent to prove that we are faithful. We see this in the Apostle John’s words in verse fourteen. Indeed, we should be hesitant to ask anything against His will. His Word lets us know what His will is. So, let us never doubt Him in these comparatively small trials after proving His infinite love in our deepest wants. Chapter four tells us that nothing is too difficult for faithful believers in the Anointed One, and in chapter five, nothing is too small for God’s love. How easily we forget to act when it might be for His answer. Then requests come in we are unable to respond to! Prayer is due to our God and a rich blessing to us and others. But it is not as it should be without the confidence which honors God’s love for us.[3]

With precise spiritual discernment, William Alexander (1824-1911) believes that verses fourteen and fifteen should be considered one verse: “We can come to God with no doubts. This signifies that God cares about what we say when we ask God for things (and those things agree with what God wants for us).  He listens to us every time we ask Him. So, we know that He gives us whatever we ask from Him.” In this case, meansit must first agree with God’s will,” justifies the end, “He gives us whatever we ask.”[4]

As an expert in holiness doctrine, Daniel Steele (1824-1914) notes that the Apostle John speaks of the Christian’s boldness three other times in this epistle.[5] Verse fourteen is about intercessory prayer, prompted by love for fellow believers. The conscious possession of eternal life enables the believer to come directly before God and express every thought with absolute freedom. This boldness is more than simple belief; it is a sure inward experience. “According to His will” is the only limit to acceptable prayer and is equivalent to “in my name,”[6] It comprises all spiritual perfection and all temporary things that contribute to this perfection.[7]

After sufficient examination of the Greek text, Brooke F. Westcott (1825-1901) says that the words in verse fourteen imply that the knowledge Christians gain is not for passive possession for themselves alone. On the contrary, it finds possibilities in the corresponding expression: “The Christian life bears the fruit[8] of the boldness of speech, which we have due to our possession of spiritual life.[9] The gift of eternal life also “enables believers to come directly before God and speak every thought without reserve.”[10] Thus they have the strength to do in life’s present trials[11] with unrestricted trust “at the presence of the Anointed One[12] and “on the day of judgment.”[13]

This confidence is directed towards God; He is the main subject of the passage. The fact He hears, not the conviction of (“knowing that He hears,”) is identified with feeling. Our boldness is not simply a belief, but a certainty, an experience, if we ask for anything according to His will.[14] It finds expression in the soul[15] and is the continuous manifestation of the divine nature through the Anointed One.

Therefore, asking “according to God’s will” is equivalent to asking “in Jesus’ name.[16] Knowing and doing God’s will shows the spiritual maturity of the believer[17] and all external things only so far as they contribute to this discovery.[18]  This sense of God’s hearing is peculiar to John. The “hearing” by God, like the “knowledge” of God, carries with it every proper consequence. The force of this unusual construction appears to be to throw the uncertainty on the fact and not upon knowing. The sense required is not “and should we know” but “and should it be that we know.” whatsoever we ask. Westcott also notes that the believer should not compose a prayer that is not according to God’s will. And since they made God’s will their will, they seek an immediate and present possession,[19] although the visible fulfillment may be delayed.[20] [21]

Like a spiritual farmer planting the seed of God’s Word, Henry A. Sawtelle (1832-1913) sees the confidence (or boldness) the Apostle John speaks of springs from the sense of union with the Anointed One and the sure knowledge that we have eternal life. This boldness, or “confidence,” is the same as the boldness John spoke of earlier [22] that we have in (towards) Him. “Towards God[23] is holy boldness before God, and effectual praying is connected.[24] As seen in verse thirteen, there is no feeling of shame or condemnation in the full consciousness of spiritual life, and hence the abundant freedom in God’s presence. And having that freedom prepares us for the asking. Besides, God and His will are much in the soul in this complete spiritual life, so our will in what we ask for is likely to be His will. According to His will, God hears us if we ask anything (temporal or spiritual, for ourselves or others).

But what is the relation of this conditional sentence to boldness before God? The following paraphrase may answer: “And this is the kind of boldness, the degree of boldness, which, in the full realization of eternal life, we have before God for whatever we ask of Him.” It is that kind of boldness that is accompanied by effectual praying and is proven by it. It is not a guarantee that we will be heard, but unrestrained courage of such a kind that meets God’s acceptance and makes this reception a thing to be expected.[25] When one is full of spiritual life and familial bravery, the believer’s praying is likely according to God’s will, so their praying is as welcome as their person.

When one prays in complete union with the Anointed One, it is also the Anointed One praying; it is praying in His name, and the prayer is accepted. It is the will of God. So, when the Spirit prays in us, it is the will of God. A faithful spiritual life is at the foundation of effective prayer. The Apostle James espoused the same principle.[26] [27]

Adonriam J. Gordon (1836-1895), who taught that the duty and privilege of believers to receive the Holy Spirit by an actual conscious act of faith, made a point. To repeat a holy name may be easy, but attaining His divine indwelling for perfect unity with our True Vine takes active faith. For instance, to ask a fig tree branch to sprout the buds and flower of a thorn is like asking the True Vine to produce the works of the flesh rather than the fruit of the spirit for ideal discipleship.”[28]

With his systematic spiritual mindset, Augustus Hopkins Strong (1836-1921) points out that a conscious union with the Anointed One gives assurance of salvation. It is an excellent stimulus for believing prayers and patient labor. It is a duty to “Know the hope to which God called us, the riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people, 19 and His incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength.[29] The Anointed One’s command, “Abide in me, and I in you,”[30] implies that we are both to realize and confirm this union by actively exerting our will. We are to abide in Him by complete consecration and let Him dwell in us by appropriating faith. We are to give ourselves to the Anointed One and accept Him in return. In other words, we must believe the Anointed One’s promises and act on them.

All sin consists of separating a person’s spiritual life from God. Thus, all religious systems based on falsehoods attempt to save people without merging their life with God. The only religion that can save mankind is the one that fills the whole heart and life with God, aiming to permeate universal humanity with that same living Anointed One who has already made Himself one with the believer. This conscious union with the Anointed One gives “boldness” toward others and God. The Greek noun parrēsia belongs to the Greek democracies. Freemen are bold.

The Anointed One frees us from prejudiced, reflective, and self-conscious biased attitudes. In Him, we become free, affectionate, and outspoken. So, we find, in John’s epistles, that boldness in prayer is spoken of as a virtue, and the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews urges us to “draw near with boldness unto the throne of grace.”[31] An engagement to be married is not the same as marriage. The parties may still be distant from each other. Nevertheless, many Christians get near enough to the Anointed One to be spiritually engaged as a “bride to be,” but never marry the groom, Jesus. Our privilege is to have the Anointed One in us to help us do our work for Him. “Since the Anointed One and we are one, Why should we doubt or fear?”[32]

Noting the Apostle John’s doctrinal implications, John James Lias (1834-1923) states that we now encounter the Apostle John’s concluding words of application of the truth by successive steps. The first consideration to which he invites us is the duty of intercessory prayer to spread the life obtainable in the Anointed One. The next is the perfect safety of those who have the life of God and are disposed to live it. Finally, he concludes with a warning to those he speaks about not being carried away by the temptations to return to the life they have forsaken.

Then John speaks of the idea of boldness or confidence he revealed.[33] But he gives a different opinion on the thought in verse fourteen. Earlier, John talks about boldness – not being ashamed to speak about how we feel when in God’s presence.[34] Then, John comments on this boldness resulting from a clear conscience.[35] Finally, our boldness on Judgment Day is due to our likeness to the Anointed One and the spirit of love we received from Him.[36] Here a result of our boldness is spoken of. We feel that we may venture to approach God. And not only so, but we feel sure He hears our petitions.

One requirement remains: We should not ask for what He will not grant.[37] We can do this when we are permeated with the life that comes from God through His Son, especially when we seek no selfish advantage.[38] Here John connects boldness with prayer when we pray according to God’s will. We must never take the liberty to ask for what we need as a license to insist on having everything we want. The “confidence” of the Authorized Version is introduced from the Latin Rheims Douay version. The principal earlier versions have trust here.[39] It includes the idea of granting the petition.[40]

[1] Cf. Matthew 21:22; Mark 11:24

[2] Dabney, Robert L., Systematic Theology, Kindle Edition

[3] Kelly, William: An Exposition of the Epistle of John the Apostle, op. cit., p. 385

[4] Alexander, William: The Holy Bible with an Explanatory and Critical Commentary, Vol. IV, op. cit., p. 344

[5] 1 John 2:28; 3:21, 22; 4:17

[6] John 14:13

[7] Steele, Daniel: Half-Hours with St. John’s Epistles, op. cit., p. 141

[8] Cf. Matthew 18:15, 20

[9] See 1 John 2:28

[10] Hebrews 4:16

[11] 1 John 3:21

[12] Ibid. 2:28

[13] Ibid. 4:17

[14] Cf. 1 Peter 4:19; Galatians 1:4; Ephesians 1:5, 11

[15] John 15:7

[16] Ibid. 14:13

[17] Romans 2:18

[18] Cf. John 9:31; 11:41

[19] Mark 11:24

[20] See Philippians 4:6; Luke 23:24

[21] Westcott, Brooke F., The Epistles of St. John: Greek Text with Notes, op. cit., pp. 189-190

[22] 1 John 2:28; 3:21; 4:17

[23] See 1 John 3:21

[24] Hebrews 4:16

[25] Cf. 1 John 3:21; Hebrews 4:16

[26] James 5:16

[27] Sawtelle, Henry A., Commentary on the Epistles of John, op. cit., pp. 59-60

[28] Gordon, Adonriam J., The Believer’s Union with His Lord, Gould and Lincoln, Boston, 1872, Ch. VII, p. 137

[29] Ephesians 1:18-19

[30] John 15:4

[31] Hebrews 4:16

[32] Strong, Augustus H., Systematic Theology, Vol. 3, op. cit., p. 60

[33] 1 John 2:23; 3:2; 4:17

[34] Ibid. 2:28

[35] Ibid. 3:21

[36] Ibid. 4:17

[37] James 4:3

[38] Cf. 1 John 3:22

[39] Cf. John 9:31

[40] Lias, John James: The First Epistle of St. John with Exposition, op. cit., pp. 398-399

About drbob76

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