By Dr. Robert R. Seyda


CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson XCVIII) 03/28/23

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.

As a tried and tested biblical scholar who believes in building up the Christian’s spiritual life, Robert Cameron (1839-1904) says that holy living is communion with God; it includes fellowship with others and becomes our possession by receiving the Anointed One. Life, as a fountain, is in the Father; it flows to us through His Son, and we know it is ours upon the authority of God’s Word. This knowledge gives us “boldness toward God.” It is the very phrase used to express the nearness and intimacy of Jesus as “the Word with God” in the beginning. Back then, mankind forfeited God’s presence in their life. But because they could not return to where God was, Jesus came to where they were. And now they are brought back to the bosom of the Father, where Jesus was from the beginning. So, Jesus went out and came back, bringing “many siblings” with Him.[1]

Manifestly and distinctly, Erich Haupt (1841-1910) utters that the blessed assurance, of which we are partakers, is a true and divine life that produces boldness when speaking to God. It is the feeling of unity with Him, perfect freedom, and the unrestrained and unreserved utterance of our thoughts. But the Apostle John does not view this insurance in verse fourteen like he envisioned assurance on Judgment Day. Instead, he points to the fruit that this boldness revealed through experience, confirming possession of eternal life. It takes the form of confidence in prayer, founded upon the certainty of being heard. But in verse fourteen, prayer comes into consideration only in its intercessory character, as verse sixteen shows.

It is not an isolated thought made prominent at this point for practical reasons. We will see that it corresponds with the general tone of the Epistle when we reflect on the fact that it regards the whole life of prayer, finding deep expression in prayer for others. We have seen that John includes our entire religious life under the one commandment of brotherly love and that he regards our total moral obligation as implemented in this precept. Hence, it is plain that there was to him no other prayer imaginable than that which in its issue should be bound up with our fellow believers.[2]

With his Spirit-directed calculating mind, Alfred Plummer (1841-1926) points out that for the fourth and last time in his Epistle, the Apostle John touches on the Christian’s “boldness.” Twice he speaks of it in connection with the Day of Judgment[3] and twice when approaching God in prayer.[4] Finally, verse fourteen says it concerns intercessory prayer. Thus, two more leading ideas of the Epistle meet in this restatement, boldness towards God and brotherly love. It is love for fellow believers which induces us to pray for them according to His will. This is the only limitation, and it is a very gracious restraint. His will is always for His children’s good, and, therefore, only when people ignorantly ask for what is not for their benefit are their prayers denied.[5] [6]

With regal etiquette, Ernest von Dryander (1843-1922), proposes that the Apostle John is implying the confidence that we have in God to hear and answer our prayers is the sign of living faith. At first sight, the addition “according to His will” would appear to be self-explanatory. How can Almighty God be compelled to grant petitions that are not according to His will? Can we conceive of our eternal holy God as the unjust judge who is compelled against his will to do a righteous deed to get rid of the poor woman and her persistent petitioning?[7] Is God’s solid and unchanging will like mankind’s weak and shifting wishes, which change at every turn, dependent often upon his frame of mind, and scarcely ever to be trusted?

Of this one thing, there can be no question: faith permits no doubt that God will not answer prayers inconsistent with His will. God cannot be false to Himself. But, since all this is from our heavenly Father’s point of view, those little words, “according to His will,” are serious when we regard them as the test of the reality of our prayers. We can sometimes pray not according to the will of God. Let us examine our prayers in the light of the Apostle’s words.[8]

Prolific writer on the Epistles, George G. Findlay (1849-1919) states that the zest and energy of the Christian life, and its power to influence others, depend on the certainty with which personal salvation is realized. It also involves the confidence with which His servants follow the heavenly Master, like people walking in the sunshine of God’s favor and having the joy of their Lord filling them. Such “light is shown for those living right, and gladness for those doing right.”[9] The purpose of John’s Epistle is the perfecting in them of the assurance of life eternal.

The Epistle ends here in verse thirteen, for the writer’s thought has come around full circle to its starting point. Thus, the Church should be conscious and satisfied with its possession through faith in the eternal life revealed in Jesus the Anointed One. The Apostle John’s labors and prayers have been through a long-drawn-out ministry.

The “confidence toward God” described as a consequence and a needful expression of faith “in the name [Yeshua, meaning “Savior”] of God’s Son” is the faith that makes a person a Christian. The confidence that inspires prevailing prayer[10] springs from the assurance of faith that the Apostle John has labored to infuse into his readers; it presupposes the consciousness of eternal life in the soul. Those who pray to win “life” for an erring brother must have life in themselves; they must possess such a knowledge of God and certainty of His goodwill to mankind in the Anointed One to warrant the boldest intercession on a backslidden believer’s behalf.[11]This knowledge of the Father is eternal life.[12] The postscript is closely attached to the letter and needs no time interval to account for its addition.

Now, verses fourteen and fifteen convey the second lesson of the paragraph, namely, that Christian assurance takes effect in the life of a prevailing prayer warrior: So, says John, the confidence of steadfast and instructed Christians is “that He [God] hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases Him.” There is something deeply characteristic in the transition from verse thirteen to verse fourteen and of the most significant practical importance. It is natural and easy to rest in the quiet assurance of salvation, to enjoy the comfort of settled faith and a clear sense of the Divine grace through the Anointed One. But the Apostle John will not allow this. The Christian believer’s confidence must be used and yoked with service and faith applied to intercession.[13] 

With his stately speaking style,  William M. Sinclair (1850-1917) points out that assurance in verse fourteen implies confidence, and confidence means the conviction that God is not deaf. But these must not be contrary to His will. The Lord’s Prayer reminds us that the Person referred to here is the Father.[14]

One of the most influential Anglican reconcilers, Charles Gore (1853-1932), states that the Apostle John also taught His disciples another lesson. It involves the effectiveness of prayer depending on its being followed by what we know to be God’s desire for us. As the Apostle John says, “according to His will.” And it was God’s will which our Lord Jesus came to make mankind understand. We learn that prayer is not to persuade God to do something different from what He intends to do but to free His hand to do His will in our lives – which can only come to pass when He releases it with our cooperation.

This recognition of God’s unchanging will, expressed in the laws of nature and the whole spiritual world, is not meant to enslave us but to free us. We learned that character could only control by obedience. So long as we approach nature in the light of our instincts and ideas, we can get nothing from her. She remains stubborn and irresponsive. But, when we reverently and submissively study her laws and correspond with them, we can use them for our benefit.

So it is in the spiritual world. We learn this lesson in the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer and the order of those petitions. The beginning of effectual prayer is to abandon our selfish and short-sighted schemes and desires and concentrate our will and desire on God’s kingdom and the fulfillment of the Father’s will. Thus, there is given to faith so great a certainty of ultimate satisfaction that it can be said we already have what we ask for by faith. But that crowning mercy, nevertheless, is that the answer can only be received when we continually pray with sincerity and urgency.[15]

A man who appreciates Jesus’ embodiment of the divine transforming emotion on how we live in this world, Robert Law (1860-1919) says that the qualification, “according to God’s preference,” is explicit. The extraordinary and supernatural power in prayer consists of not bringing God’s will down to us but lifting our will to His. Thus, the words “according to God’s preference” do not limit the exercise of true prayer. Instead, they display the breadth and pinnacle of its scope and the certainty of its fulfillment. God’s will is the final and perfect redemption of mankind[16] and the providential appointment and control of events that contribute to this.[17] And God’s will has necessarily become the will of everyone who is “born of God” and has Eternal Life abiding in them. Regarding particular events, a person may have no specific knowledge of what that will is, but at the end of all their actions, the future and sum of all their prayers are, “Thy will be done.”[18]

With his characteristic fundamental thinking, Alan England Brooke (1863-1939) notes that the previous section’s object was to assure the readers that they were in possession of the new life. This assurance is now described as boldness or confidence, with perhaps a particular reference to the word’s original Greek meaning, “absolute freedom of speech.” It is said to consist in the fact that God hears them whenever they ask anything according to His will; it is realized in honest prayer, which always brings conscious faith that it is being listened to. So we have here the fourth mention of the Christian’s confidence; we have it twice relative to Judgment Day and twice concerning prayer, which we have and enjoy in fellowship with God.

In describing relationships, the Greek preposition pros (“in Him”) generally denotes that which “goes out towards,” a relation realized in active conversation and fellowship.[19] One of the standard constructions used by John to introduce the description of that to which “and this is” (KJV) or some such expression refers to our “boldness” with God based on the fact that He hears whatever we ask according to His will. The necessary circumstance of the hearing is subject to this condition that it does not oppose Divine preference. The word naturally includes the idea of a fair hearing.[20]

As an effective spiritual mentor, Ronald A. Ward (1920-1986) suggests that the logical order for prayer would be like this: saving faith, confessions, and forgiveness of sins; clear conscience; abiding in Him; obedience to His will; boldness in petitions, God’s hearing, and our receiving an answer. It is all done according to God’s will. Many Christians don’t know that many things are waiting for us to ask according to God’s will. His will is not so much a restriction as an invitation.[21]

As a capable scripture analyst, Ian Howard Marshall (1934-2015) raises a possible question by someone reading verse fourteen: “Why pray if prayer is to be made according to God’s will?” Surely, we want His will accomplished, whether or not we pray for it. However, to speak in such terms is to assume that God’s will must be passively understood as if God has made a detailed plan beforehand of all that will happen – including the fact that we will pray in a particular way at a particular time. But while the Bible does speak of God’s plan and purpose for the world, to speak in such predestinated terms is inconsistent with the freedom which the Bible itself assigns to God’s children, and it wreaks havoc upon the biblical idea of the personal relationship which exists between God and His children.

Instead, the believer must seek to submit their will to God by saying, “Your will, not my will, be done.”[22] As we freely yield ourselves to God, He can accomplish His will through us and our prayers. In reality, accomplishing God’s will depends on our prayers. Through prayer, we make ourselves instruments of God’s will, and at the same time, in a manner that lies beyond human comprehension, He can act powerfully to answer our prayers. When we learn to want what God desires, we are happy to receive any response to our petitions.[23]

As a seasoned essayist on the Apostle John’s writings. Kpjm {aomter (1935) notes, “This is the boldness we have before Him,” namely, in God’s presence. The foundation for such confidence is expressed in a conditional sentence: “If we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” This truth is consistent with our faith in God through prayer. However, trust is also conditional “if our heart does not condemn us … because we keep His commandments and do what is pleasing in His sight.”[24][25]

[1] Cameron, Robert: The First Epistle of John, or, God Revealed in Light, Life, and Love, op. cit., p. 241

[2] Haupt, Erich: The First Epistle of St. John: Clark’s Foreign Theological Library, Vol. LXIV, op. cit., pp. 321-322

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

[4] Ibid. 3:21; 5:14

[5] Cf. 1 Corinthians 12:9; John 9:31; 11:41-41. See Proverbs 10:24

[6] Plummer, Alfred: The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges, N. T., Vol. IV, pp. 165-166

[7] Luke 18:2-5

[8] Dryander, Ernst von: A Commentary on the First Epistle of St. John in the Form of Addresses, op. cit., XVI. Prayer According to the Will of God, p. 212

[9] Psalm 97:11 – Complete Jewish Bible

[10] 1 John 5:14-16

[11] Ibid. 5:16

[12] John 17:3

[13] Findlay, George G., Fellowship in the Life Eternal: An Exposition of the Epistles of St. John, op. cit., p. 399

[14] Sinclair, William M., New Testament Commentary for English Readers, Charles J. Ellicott, op. cit., Vol. 3, p. 493

[15] Gore, Charles: The Epistles of St. John, op. cit., p. 206

[16] John 6:39, 40; Ephesians 1:9, 10, 11; Colossians 1:9, etc.

[17] Matthew 26:42; Acts of the Apostles 21:14; Romans 15:32; 1 Peter 4:19, etc.

[18] Law, Robert: The Tests of Life: A Study of the First Epistle of St. John, op. cit., p. 222

[19] Cf. John 1:1-2; Mark 6:3

[20] Brooke, Alan E., A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Johannine Epistles, op. cit., pp. 143-144

[21] Ward, Ronald A., The Epistles on John and Jude, op. cit., p. 57

[22] Matthew 6:10

[23] Marshall, Ian Howard. The Epistles of John (The New International Commentary on the New Testament), op. cit., pp. 244-245

[24] 1 John 3:21-22

[25] Painter, John. Sacra Pagina: 1, 2, and 3 John: Volume 18, op. cit., loc. cit., Kindle Edition

About drbob76

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