By Stan Brown
I John 5:21 Little children, guard yourselves from idols.
We have come to the end of a marvelous book. Perhaps we have a little better idea of why John is known as the apostle of love. He is also the apostle of walking in the light and intimate fellowship with God. He is the apostle of obedience. Now he ends his epistle with the imperative keep yourself from idols. This seems to be an odd way to close the book but John clearly had in mind, throughout the epistle, the messages that false teachers (antichrists) were bringing. We must avoid these teachings and know the truth of God. We must keep ourselves from idols.
In light of what he has just written in the three we know statements John wants us to also know that sin is not yet completely defeated in our lives. He begins this admonition with the phrase little children reminding us of this position in our lives. He loves these folks deeply and has written to them out of the love that he has for them (he has called them beloved six times.) and the love he has experienced with the Father and the Son. God chose this apostle of love to write His own message of love to us that we might be consumed by His love. So out of love John finishes his epistle with a statement of love as he speaks with urgency the words keep yourself from idols. He understands the enticements of the world, the deceptions of the evil one and the trials of life. He has lived and seen his fellow apostles suffer martyrdom and has seen too many believers succumb to the idols of the world. He wants us to walk as he has learned to walk in fellowship with God. (Pause for a moment and consider: Are the idols of this world really worth stepping out of perfect fellowship with the creator of all that is?)
He reminds us that we are still attacked on every hand by Satan and the idols that so easily creep into our lives. He has just emphasized the power that is available to us but would have us know that we still face a formidable foe. It is so easy to think that we have arrived at the pinnacle as we turn to trusting ourselves rather than the One who shed His blood to cleanse our sins.. This is one of the idols that we face (our own smugness and arrogance). John ends his book with a major concern. That concern is that we might ignore everything he has said and let the idols of Satan reign in our lives.
As we end the study of this book, let us together eschew everything that separates us from fellowship with our Savior, indeed the idols against which John warns. Let us rather be the message of love that we are called to be.