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Bible Commentaries
1 John 5

Smith's WritingsSmith's Writings

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Verses 1-21

(v. 1-5). Furthermore, we are left in no doubt as to who is our brother, for the apostle proceeds to give us the marks of one that belongs to the family of God.

Firstly, our brother is one that is proved to be born of God inasmuch as he believes that Jesus is the Christ.

Secondly, being born of God, he is one who loves God and all who are begotten of God, the children of God.

Thirdly, loving God, he keeps the commandments of God, and they are not grievous, for His great commandment is to love our brother.

Fourthly, the one born of God overcomes the world by faith. As born of God, we are no longer of this world, as the Lord could say, “Ye are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” We belong to another world of which Christ is the centre, and in faith we look on to that world and rise above the present evil world.

Fifthly, the faith that overcomes the world is a faith which has Christ for its object - we believe that “Jesus is the Son of God.”


The Witnesses to The Son

( 1Jn_5:6-12 )

Before closing his Epistle, the apostle presents a threefold witness to the Son of God, the One through Whom eternal life has been communicated to believers. There is the witness of the water, the witness of the blood, and the witness of the Spirit.

(V. 6). Jesus, the Son of God, came into the world by incarnation, but, in order to bless sinners and impart to believers eternal life, He had to come by water and blood. In other words He had to die.

His life of infinite perfection exposed our condition and revealed our need, but could not meet that need or impart to us eternal life.

Apart from His death He would for ever have been alone, according to His own words, “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” ( Joh_12:24 ).

The water and the blood that flowed from the wounded side of a dead Christ both witness to His death, and they set forth two great results of His death. The water witnesses to the judgment of death pronounced and executed on the flesh, whereby the believer is cleansed from the old nature. We are crucified with Christ, and, participating in the life of Christ risen, we reckon ourselves dead with Him to the old man that is governed by sin. We are thus purified from the old nature. Further, He comes to us by blood. By His death we are not only purified from the old man, but we are justified from our sins by His blood. Moreover, on the ground of His death and resurrection, the Holy Ghost has been given to bear witness to us of Christ and the efficacy of His death.

(Vv. 7, 8). Passing over verse 7, which is an admitted interpolation, we have the three witnesses again presented, but now in the order of their testimony on earth. In verse 6 we have had the historical order in which the Holy Ghost came after the death of Christ. When it is a question of testimony to us, the Holy Spirit is first mentioned, for it is by the Spirit that we receive the testimony of the death of Christ and appreciate the value of the water and the blood. These three, the Spirit, the water and the blood, unite in one testimony to the Son and the efficacy of His work, and the blessing of eternal life that comes to the believer through that work.

(Vv. 9, 10). In these verses the apostle reminds us that the witness to these great truths is “of God”. If we receive the witness of men, how much more should we receive the witness of God to His Son. The one that believes has, by the Spirit, a witness in himself to the truth of God. As God has thus given an adequate witness concerning His Son, it follows that “he that believeth not God hath made Him a liar.”

(Vv. 11, 12). All these great truths - the death of Christ and the presence of the Spirit in the believer - witness to the fact that God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. It is in us as a gift; it is in Him as a source. Apart from the Son there can be no life before God. To have the Son is to have received the truth and to have the Son before us as the Object of our faith. He that is in ignorance of the Son, or rejects the truth, has not the Son of God and “hath not life.”


Confidence in God

( 1Jn_5:13-21 )

The Epistle closes with an expression of the confidence in God that is the practical outcome of being established in the truth of eternal life. The effort of antichristian teachers and false prophets, against whom the apostle warns believers, is to shake the believer's confidence in God. The great end of the apostle's teaching is to confirm believers in the truth and thus establish their confidence in God, enabling them to resist those who would lead them astray.

It will be noticed in these closing verses that this confidence in God is kept before us by the repeated use of the expressions, “ye know” and “we know” (verses 13, 15, 18, 19 and 20).

(V. 13). Seducers had attempted from the beginning to turn believers from the truth presented in Christ, to link the saints with the world, and weaken the teaching of the apostles by calling in question their authority. The tendency of these false teachers would be to rob the saints of the knowledge and enjoyment of their privileges. To counteract these false influences, the apostle writes his Epistle to those that “believe on the name of the Son of God”, that they may “know” that they have eternal life.

(Vv. 14, 15). This confidence in God finds its expression in prayer in the every-day life - “If we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us.” And if we know that He hears us, we also “know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him.” He, according to His perfect love and wisdom, reserves to Himself to answer our petitions in His own time and way. In the confidence in God that is the outcome of the new life, it is our privilege to make known our petitions to God, but not to dictate to God as to His answer. He may see fit to keep us waiting, but in the meantime we have the consolation of knowing that He listens to everything that we ask that is in accordance with His will.

(Vv. 16, 17). Furthermore, this confidence in God leads us not only to pray for ourselves, but also to intercede for others. Many a sickness that comes upon the people of God is by no means a chastisement for sin, but, as in the case of Lazarus, for the glory of God ( Joh_11:4 ). Nevertheless, there is the governmental dealing of God with His people, and, if we see a brother chastened of God by some sickness because of a particular sin, we can intercede for such an one, provided that the sin is not unto death.

All unrighteousness is sin and carries its governmental consequences, but these consequences may not always be unto death. Whether the sin is unto death or not depends upon the particular circumstances. Many a believer may have been led into telling a lie without coming under the severe chastisement of death; but in the case of Ananias and Sapphira the lie was aggravated by the circumstances and became a sin unto death.

(V. 18). In spite of all that deceivers may say to the contrary, “we know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not.” We know that as born of God we have a new life, and that new life is perfect and cannot be touched by the wicked one. So the Lord can say of His sheep, “I give them life eternal; and they shall never perish, and no one shall seize them out of My hand” ( Joh_10:28 , N.Tn.). Living the life of the new man we shall not sin, nor shall we be troubled by the wicked one.

(V. 19). Further, having a new life, we know that we are of God, and that we can thus distinguish between those who are born of God and the world around that lieth in the wicked one (N.Tn.). Living in the power of the new life, we not only escape the wicked one but are delivered from the world.

(V. 20). The apostle confirms our confidence in God by summing up the great truths of the Epistle. We know that the Son of God is come. With this great truth the Epistle opens. Having come, He has given us a full understanding - as being the full revelation of God - that we may know Him that is true. Thus the Epistle goes on to tell us that the message we have heard of the Son is that God is light and God is love. Moreover, we have learnt that through the gift of eternal life and the Spirit, “we are in Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ.” This blessed Person with Whom we are linked “is the true God, and eternal life.” He is a divine Person in Whom the eternal life has been perfectly expressed.

(V. 21). Finally, we are reminded that everything that would come in between our souls and God to hinder the enjoyment of the life that is the great theme of the Epistle is morally an idol. The whole Epistle would encourage us to live the life we have and thus be preserved from idols.

Bibliographical Information
Smith, Hamilton. "Commentary on 1 John 5". "Smith's Writings". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/hsw/1-john-5.html. 1832.
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