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The IVP New Testament Commentary Series – The Coming of the Son of God (5:20-21)
The Coming of the Son of God (5:20-21)

Appropriate to the epistle is its concluding statement about the role of the Son of God in bringing salvation and life. The Son of God brings understanding of God and mediates fellowship with him. Jesus has given to us understanding, which includes the ability to discern the spirits (4:1-6) and to understand what the Spirit teaches us (2:20-21, 26-27). We are given understanding of truth, which is not so much the power to understand things as it is the power to know a person, him who is true. We see here once again the claim that only through the Son of God can one come to know the God who is true, as opposed to any and every false conception of God that people construct in their own minds. Jesus has come in order that we might come to the knowledge of God who is true. Knowledge of such a God can be mediated only by one who is also characterized by truth (compare Jn 14:6).

In fact the Elder speaks of Jesus not only as truth but as the true God. John does not mean that all the being or essence of deity is limited to the person of Jesus. But here we do move beyond the assertion that to know the Father is to know the Son; here, to know the Son is to know the Father. This is a bold statement, and virtually a redefinition of the traditional understanding of God (Jn 1:1, 18). Having spelled out in the letter the various false confessions, the Elder caps off the epistle with the highest statement: Jesus Christ is the true God. But if Jesus Christ me diates true knowledge of God and is so intimately related to God that he himself can be called true God, then any doctrine or worship that dilutes those affirmations is tantamount to idolatry. The warning little children, keep yourselves from idols points to the danger of worshiping any God other than the one revealed through Jesus Christ. The idols here are not pagan deities or images of stone or wood. An idol is a false picture of God that causes one to stumble and fall away from a relation ship with the true God. The Elder's readers are to keep themselves from every kind of false belief, for loyalty to a false god leads to death, but allegiance to the true God brings eternal life.

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