Just a casual reading of the gospel of John and then the epistles of John will undoubtedly strike the reader with similarities between the gospel and epistles. There is however a marked difference in the purpose of the gospel and this first epistle: the gospel is intended to produce faith in Christ so that one might have eternal life in his name (Jn 20.31) and the epistle is written so that Christians might know (fully) that they have eternal life.
13I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.
I write—lit. “I wrote” or “I have written” (NET), i.e. in the sum of this epistle. This corresponds directly to 1.4 (“I write”): completed joy = full knowledge of having eternal life.
These things—contained in this epistle: walking, obeying, antichrist, love one another…
To you who believe in the name of the Son of God—i.e. Christians, those begotten-ones of God (5.1; Jn 1.12). “In the name” is eis to onoma (Greek). “The name” points to the very character or nature of the person; this is the object of faith. To “believe in” the name is to put your full trust/faith in the nature and character of that person; here it’s Jesus. To those who continue to put their faith and trust in the full character of Jesus, the Son of God John has written…
That—or “so that”; here is the purpose of John’s having written this epistle to these Christians.
You may know that—perfect subjunctive of oida, that full and absolute knowledge. John has developed a tight and detail argument for these Christians and against the anti-christians. It is all for the purpose of convicting and convincing his brethren to true knowledge. Know for certain!
You have eternal life—present indicative. These Christians have (present real possession) eternal life. We right now possess eternal life. This is the real possession of eternal life. You have it and continue to have inasmuch as you continue to trust in the Son of God.
14And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.
And this is the confidence—or “boldness.” This is the freedom to speak. Prayer is speaking to, talking with God. John says we have freedom to speak to Almighty God. This has been a common theme of this epistle (3.21; 4.17) – the confidence of God’s people before God, both on the day of judgment (2.28; 4.17) and in prayer (3.21; 5.14).
That we have toward him—This is nearly identical grammatical arrangement as 3.21. Hence, we have (present indicative) this confidence “before Him” who is God.
That if we ask anything—”that” is explanatory. In other words, this is our confidence. Even as “we ask” whatever it may be, “he hears” (both pres. Tense). There is no timidity and we can present before Him “anything.”
According to his will he hears us—so, if what we ask for isn’t according to His will, He doesn’t hear us? I thought He always hears us. So then wouldn’t this exclude “anything”? We can only ask for those things which are “according to his will” as revealed in His word.
15And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.
And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask—”know” is oida that absolute knowledge. And we do know that he hears us, v.14, no matter what we ask.
We know—oida, full and absolute knowledge.
That we have the requests… – present indicative. “requests” or “petitions” is the noun form of the verb “to ask.” We ask and we have our askings. In other words, He answers.
We have asked of him—perfect tense verb. We have asked and continue to ask, continue to bring it before God (cf. Lk 18.1ff). Don’t lose confidence in prayer or in God’s ability to answer
John will next illustrate this point in v.16 when he seems to treat the greatest thing one could for—a brother in sin. Implies we shouldn’t sweat the small stuff (like gold Cadillacs).
16If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that.
If anyone sees his brother—It seems John is resuming the style common in this epistle for exposing religious error. It is somewhat akin to “If we say..” earlier in the epistle. ”Brother” is fellow Christian, not your brother of the world community. “Sees” is aorist tense—if you happen to see on some particular occasion.
Committing a sin—lit. sinning [a] sin. This is a sin that is becoming a habitual practice. Is this person lost? No, he is still your brother; fellowship exist. But this sin can jeopardize his salvation.
Not leading to death— lit. sin unto/toward (Gk. Pros) death. Pros is a directional preposition; this brother is not “toward death” but is toward life, light. This brother is striving to please God, however there is some sin in his life that could eventually be “unto death.”
He shall ask—”Anyone” shall ask, a Christian who sees his brother sinning will pray (intercessory) for his brother. John picks the greatest thing a Christian can pray for to illustrate v.15: God hears us whatever we ask. This asking is urgent pleading, even demanding.
God will give (to) him life—lit. “he shall ask and he shall give.” First, who is “he”? Seems to me that whoever “he” is both asks and gives life. In other words, once you have finished praying, go to your brother and tell him his sin. If he listens, you have won your brother (Mt 18.15; cf. Lk 13.6ff; James 5.19-20). What should we ask for? Strength, words. To whom is life given? “Anyone” or the “brother”? Seems like John makes it clear that “anyone” is giving life to his brother.
There is sin that leads to death—rather, “there is sin unto death.” Sin that is toward death, facing death. In other words, sin that is committed outside of fellowship with God/brethren.
I do not say that one should pray for that—This person has walked away from God. He has been told repeatedly to repent and has not. Fellowship has been broken on earth for fellowship was broken in heaven (Cf. Mt 18.15ff)
17All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death.
All wrongdoing is sin—or all “unrighteousness” is sin. John does not downgrade the utter terribleness of sin. Sin is terrible. However, there are sins unto death and sins not unto death.
But there is sin not unto death—it depends on which direction you are facing: toward death or toward life; toward light or toward darkness. This is a fellowship thing also. These are sins committed when in fellowship with God/brethren and of which Jesus’ blood cleanses us.