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Bible Commentaries
1 John 5

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

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Verse 1

Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.

Why our "brother" (1 John 4:21) is entitled to such love, namely, because he is 'begotten of God:' so, if we want to show love to God, we must show it to God's representative.

Whosoever, [ Pas (G3956) ho (G3588)] - 'Everyone that.' He could not be our "Jesus" (God-Saviour) unless He were "the Christ;" for He could not reveal the way of salvation except He were a prophet: He could not work it out except He were a priest: He could not confer it upon us except He were a king. He could not be prophet, priest, and king, except He were the Christ (Pearson 'On the Creed').

Born - "begotten," as in end of the verse. Christ is the "only-begotten Son" by generation: we become begotten sons of God by regeneration and adoption. Parallel to John 3:3; John 3:5.

Everyone that loveth him that begat - sincerely; not in mere profession (1 John 4:20).

Loveth him also that is begotten - `his brethren' (1 John 4:21).

Verse 2

By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.

By - `IN this.' As love to the brethren is the test of our love to God, so love to God (tested by 'keeping His commandments') is, conversely, the only basis of real love to our brother.

We know. John means not the outward criteria of genuine brotherly love, but the inward criteria, consciousness of love to God, manifested in heartily keeping His commandments. When we have this inwardly-and-outwardly-confirmed love to God, we know that we truly love the children of God. 'Love to one's brother is prior in the order of nature (note, 1 John 4:20); love to God is so in the order of grace (1 John 5:2). At one time the former is more known, at another the latter, according as the mind is more occupied with human relations, or with what concerns the divine honour' (Estius). True love is referred to God as its first object. Previously John urged the effect; now he urges the cause. For he wishes us so to cultivate mutual love, as that God should always be placed first (Calvin).

Verse 3

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.

This is - the love of God consists in this.

Not grievous - as many think them. It is 'the way of the transgressor' that "is hard" (Proverbs 13:15). What makes them to the regenerate "not grievous" is faith (1 John 5:4). In proportion as faith is strong, the grievousness of God's commandments to the rebellious flesh is 'overcome.' The reason why believers feel any irksomeness in God's commandments is, they do not realize fully by faith their spiritual privileges.

Verse 4

For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.

For - (note, 1 John 5:3.) Reason why "His commandments are not grievous." Though there is a conflict in keeping them, the issue for all and each of the regenerate is victory over every opposing influence: meanwhile present joy in keeping them makes them "not grievous" (Psalms 119:77; Psalms 119:92; Psalms 119:111; Psalms 119:174). Whatsoever, [ pan (G3956) to (G3588)] - 'all that is begotten of God.' The neuter expresses the universal whole, or aggregate of the regenerate, regarded as one body (John 3:6; John 6:37; John 6:39). Bengal remarks, that in Jesus discourses, what the Father has given Him is called, in the singular neuter, all whatsoever; those who come to the Son are described in the masculine plural, they all, or singular, everyone. The Father has gives the whole mass to the Son, that all may be one whole: that universal whole the Son singly evolves, in execution of the divine plan.

Overcometh - habitually.

The world - all that is opposed to keeping God's commandments, or draws us off from God, in this world, including our flesh, on which the world's blandishments or threats act; also including Satan, the prince of this world.

This is the victory that overcometh, [aorist, nikeesasa (G3528)] - 'that overcomes (has once for all overcome) the world:' the victory (where faith is) is already obtained (1 John 2:13; 1 John 4:4).

Verse 5

Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?

Who - else, "but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God:" "the Christ" (1 John 5:1)? Confirming, by a question defying contradiction, 1 John 5:4, that the victory which overcomes the world is faith (Romans 8:33-35). For it is by believing that we are made one with Jesus the Son of God, partaking of His victory over the world, and having in us One greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4). 'Survey the world, and show me even one of whom it can be affirmed that he overcomes the world, who is not a Christian' (Episcopius in Alford).

Verse 6

This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth.

This - the Person mentioned, 1 John 5:5: Jesus.

He that came by water and blood - "by water," when His ministry was inaugurated by baptism in Jordan, and He received the Father's testimony to His Messiahship and divine Sonship. Compare 1 John 5:5, with John 1:33-34, and 1 John 5:8, below. Corresponding is the baptism of water and the Spirit, which He instituted as a standing seal of initiatory incorporation with Him (John 3:5). "And blood" He came by "the blood of His cross" (so "by," Hebrews 9:12; Hebrews 9:1:e., with) - a fact seen and solemnly witnessed to by John. 'These two past facts in the Lord's life are this abiding testimony to us, by the permanent application to us of their cleansing and atoning power' (Alford).

Jesus Christ - not a mere appellation, but a solemn assertion of the Lord's Person and Messiahship.

Not by. [Greek, 'not IN the water only, but IN the water and IN (B; but 'Aleph (') omits) the blood.'] As "by" [ dia (G1223)] implies the mean through, or with, which He came, so 'in,' the element in which He came. 'The' implies their being the well-known symbols. John Baptist came only baptizing with water; therefore was not the Messiah. Jesus came first to undergo Himself the double baptism of water and blood, then to baptize us with the Spirit-cleansing, of which water is the sacramental seal, and with His atoning blood, the efficacy of which, once-for-all shed, is perpetual; and therefore is the Messiah. It was His shed blood which gave water-baptism its spiritual significancy. We are baptized into His death: the grand point of union between us and Him, and, through Him, between us and God.

It is the Spirit ... The Holy Spirit is an additional witness (1 John 5:7), besides the water and the blood, to Jesus' Sonship and Messiahship. The Spirit attested these at Jesus' baptism, by descending on Him, and throughout His ministry, by enabling Him to speak and do what man never could have spoken or done. It is the abiding Spirit that beareth witness of Christ-in the inspired New Testament, and in the hearts of believers, and in the spiritual reception of baptism and the Lord's Supper.

Because the Spirit is truth. It is His essential truth which gives His witness such infallible authority.

Verse 7

For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.

Three. Two or three witnesses were required by law to constitute adequate testimony. The only Greek manuscripts, in any form, which support the words, "in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one: and there are three that bear witness in earth," are the Montfortianus of Dublin, copied from the modern Latin Vulgate; the Revianus, copied from the Complutensian Polyglot; a manuscript at Naples, with the words added in the margin by a recent hand; Ottobonianus, 298, of the fifteenth century, the Greek of which is a translation of the accompanying Latin. All the old versions omit the words. The oldest manuscripts of the Vulgate omit them, the earliest Vulgate manuscript which has them being Wizanburgensis, 99. of the eighth century. A Scholium quoted in Matthaei shows that the words did not arise from fraud; for all Greek manuscripts ("there are three that bear record"), the Scholiast notices, have "three," masculine, because the three things (the Spirit, the water, and the blood) are SYMBOLS OF THE TRINITY. To this Cyprian, 196, refers: 'Of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, it is written, "And these three are one" ' (a unity).

There must be some mystical truth implied in "three" [ hoi (G3588) treis (G5140)] twice in the masculine, though the antecedents, 'Spirit, water, and blood,' are neuter. That THE TRINITY was meant is a natural inference: the triad specified pointing to a still higher Trinity; as is plain also from 1 John 5:9, "the witness of God," referring to the Trinity, alluded to in 'the Spirit, water, and blood.' It was therefore first written as a marginal comment to complete the sense; then, as early, at least, as the eighth century, was introduced into the text of the Latin Vulgate. The testimony, however, could only be borne on earth to men, not in heaven. The marginal comment that inserted "in heaven" was inappropriate. It is on earth that the context requires the witness of the three-the Spirit, the water, and the blood-to be borne: mystically setting forth the divine triune witnesses-the Father, the Spirit, and the Son. Luecke notices as internal evidence against the words, John never uses "the Father" and "the Word" as correlates, but, like other New Testament writers, associated 'the Son' with "the Father," and always refers "the Word" to 'God' as its correlate, not "the Father." Vigilius, at the end of the fifth century, first quotes the disputed words as in the text. The term 'Trinity' occurs first in the third century in Tertullian, 'adversus Praxean,' 3.

Verse 8

And there are three that bear witness in earth, the spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.

Agree in one, [ eis (G1519) to (G3588) hen (G1520) eisin (G1526)] - 'tend unto one result:' their agreeing testimony to Jesus' Sonship and Messiahship they give by the sacramental grace in water-baptism, received by the penitent believer through His atoning blood, and through His inwardly witnessing Spirit (1 John 5:10); answering to the testimony given to Jesus' Sonship and Messiahship by His baptism, His crucifixion, and the Spirit's manifestations in Him (note, 1 John 5:6). It was by coming by water (i:e., His baptism in Jordan) that Jesus was solemnly inaugurated in office, and revealed as Messiah. This must have been peculiarly important in John's estimation, since he was first led to Christ by John the Baptist's testimony. By Christ's baptism then, by His redeeming blood-shedding, and by what the Spirit of God, whose witness is infallible, effected, and still effects, by Him, the Spirit the water, and the blood unite, as the threefold witness, to verify His divine Messiahship (Neander).

Verse 9

If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son.

If ... We do accept (and rightly) the witness of veracious men, fallible though they be; much more ought we to accept the infallible witness of God (the Father). 'The testimony of the Father is the basis of that of the Word and of the Holy Spirit; just as the testimony of the Spirit is the basis of the testimony of the water and the blood' (Bengel).

For. This principle applies in the present case, FOR, etc.

Which. In 'Aleph (') A B, Vulgate, 'Because He hath given testimony concerning His Son.' What that testimony is, we find in 1 John 5:1; 1 John 5:5; 1 John 5:10-11.

Verse 10

He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son.

Hath the witness - of God; which [ Theou (G2316)] A, Vulgate, have; but 'Aleph (') B omit; by His Spirit (1 John 5:8).

In himself - God's Spirit dwelling in him; witnessing that "Jesus is the Lord" (1 Corinthians 12:3), "the Christ," "the Son of God" (1 John 5:1; 1 John 5:5). The Spirit's witness in the believer himself to his Sonship is not expressed, but follows from his believing the witness of God to Jesus' divine Sonship.

Believeth not God, [ pisteuoon (G4100) too (G3588) Theoo (G2316)] - credits not His witness. So B 'Aleph ('); but Lambda, Vulgate [ huioo (G5207)], 'the Son.'

Made him a liar - a consequence which virtual and even avowed unbelievers may well startle back from as fearful blasphemy (1 John 1:10).

Believeth not the record, [ eis (G1519) teen (G3588) marturian (G3141)] - 'IN the witness.' Refusal to credit God's testimony is involved in refusing to believe IN (to rest one's trust in) Jesus Christ (1 John 5:10) [ eis (G1519) ton (G3588) huion (G5207)], the object of it. 'Divine faith is an assent to something as credible upon God's testimony. This is the highest faith; because the object hath the highest credibility, because grounded upon God's testimony, which is infallible' (Pearson 'On Creed').

Gave - `hath testified, and now testifies.'

Of - concerning.

Verse 11

And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.

Hath given - aorist, 'gave,' once for all. Not only 'promised' it.

Life is in his Son - essentially (John 1:4; John 11:25; John 14:6); bodily (Colossians 2:9); operatively (2 Timothy 1:10) (Lange). It is in the second Adam, the Son of God, that this life is secured to us, which, if left to depend on us, we should lose, like the first Adam.

Verse 12

He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.

The Son hath life - `THE life.' Bengel, The verse has two clauses: in the former the Son is mentioned without "of God," for believers know the Son; in the second, the addition "of God" is made, that unbelievers may know what a serious thing it is not to have Him. In the former, "has" bears the emphasis; in the second, life. To have the Son is to be able to say as the bride, "I am my Beloved's, and my Beloved is mine." By faith the regenerate HAVE Christ as a present possession, and in Him have life in its germ now, and shall have life in its fully developed manifestation hereafter. Eternal life here is:

(1) initial; an earnest of that which is to follow; in the intermediate state

(2) partial, belonging but to a part of man, though his nobler part, the soul separated from the body; at the resurrection

(3) perfectional.

This life is not only natural, consisting of union of soul and body (as that of the reprobate in eternal pain, which is rather death eternal, not life), but also spiritual, the union of the soul to God, and supremely blessed forever (for life implies happiness) (Pearson 'On Creed').

Verse 13

These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

These things - this letter. He, in closing his gospel (John 20:30-31), wrote similarly, stating his purpose in having written. In 1 John 1:4, he states the object of this letter "that your joy may be full." To "know that we have eternal life" is the sure way to 'joy in God.' A B 'Aleph ('), Vulgate, read, 'These things have I written unto you (omitting that believe on the name of the Son of God) that ye may know that ye have eternal life (cf. 1 John 5:11), THOSE (of you I mean) WHO believe (not, and that ye may believe) on the name of the Son of God.' [B 'Aleph (') read tois (G3588) pisteuousin (G4100); but A C, Vulgate, hoi (G3588) pisteuontes (G4100).] The English version means, 'that ye may continue to believe,' etc. (cf. 1 John 5:12).

Verse 14

And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:

The confidence, [ parreesia (G3954)] - "boldness" (1 John 4:17) in prayer, from bowing that we have eternal life (1 John 5:13; 1 John 3:19-22).

According to his will - which is the believer's will, and therefore no restraint to his prayers. In so far as God's will is not ours, we are not abiding in faith, and our prayers are not accepted. Alford, If we knew God's will, and submitted to it heartily, it would be impossible for us to ask anything for the spirit or the body which He should not perform: it is this ideal state which the apostle has in view. It is the Spirit who teaches us inwardly, and Himself in us asks according to the will of God.

Verse 15

And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.

Hear - `that He heareth us.'

We have the petitions that we desired of him - as present possessions, each thing whatsoever we ask from Him. Not one of our past prayers offered in faith, according to His will, is lost. Like Hannah, we can rejoice over them as granted even beforehand; and recognize the event when it comes to pass, as not from chance, but obtained by past prayers (1 Samuel 1:18; 1 Samuel 1:27). Compare Jehoshaphat's confidence in the issue of his prayers, so much so that he appointed singers to praise the Lord beforehand (2 Chronicles 20:21-22).

Verse 16

If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.

If any man see - on any particular occasion [ ide (G2396), aorist].

His brother - a fellow-Christian.

Sin - in the act, and continuing in the sin: present.

Not unto death - provided it is not unto death.

He shall give. The asker shall be the means, by intercessory prayer, of God giving life to the sinning brother. Kindly reproof ought to accompany intercessions. Life was being forfeited by the sinning brother, when the believer's intercession obtained its restoration.

For them ... Resuming the proviso, 'shall give life,' I say, to - i:e., obtain life 'for (in the case of) them that sin not unto death.'

I do not say that he shall pray for it. [ Erooteesee (G2065), "pray," means a REQUEST as of one on an equality, or at least on terms of familiarity, with him from whom the favour is sought.] 'The Christian intercessor shall not assume the authority which would be implied in making request for a sinner who has sinned the sin unto death (1 Samuel 15:35; 1 Samuel 16:1; Mark 3:29), that it might be forgiven him' (Trench, 'Synonyms of the New Testament'). Compare Deuteronomy 3:26. [ Aiteoo (G154), 'ask,' implies the humble petition of an inferior: our Lord never uses it, but always uses erootaoo (G2065), 'request.'] Martha, from ignorance, once uses "ask" in His case (John 11:22). 'Asking,' for a brother sinner not unto death, is a humble petition in consonance with God's will. To 'request' for a sin unto death (intercede authoritatively for it, as though we were more merciful than God) savours of presumption; prescribing to God in what lies out of the bounds of brotherly yearning (because one sinning unto death is thereby demonstrated not to be truly a brother, 1 John 2:19), how He shall inflict and withhold His righteous judgments. Jesus Himself intercedes, not for the world which hardens itself in unbelief, but for those given to Him out of the world (John 17:9).

Verse 17

All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death.

Every "unrighteousness (even that of believers, cf. 1 John 1:9; 1 John 3:4: coming short of right) is sin;" (but) not every sin is that unto death.

There is a sin not unto death - in the case of which believers may intercede. Death and life stand in correlative opposition (1 John 5:11-13). The sin unto death must be one tending 'toward' [ pros (G4314)], so resulting in, death. Alford makes it an appreciable ACT, the denying Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of God (in contrast to confessing it, 1 John 5:1; 1 John 5:5; 1 John 2:19; 1 John 2:22; 1 John 4:2-3; 1 John 5:10). Such willful deniers of Christ are not to be received into one's house, or wished "God speed" (2 John 1:10-11). Still, the state of apostasy accompanying the act is included-a 'state of soul in which faith, love, and hope the new life, is extinguished. The chief commandment is faith and love, which imply life. Therefore, the chief sin is that by which faith and love are destroyed, death. As long as it is not evident ("see," 1 John 5:16) that it is a sin unto death, it in lawful to pray. But when it is a palpable rejection of grace, and the man puts from him life, how can others procure for him life?' Contrast James 5:14-18. Compare Matthew 12:31-32, as to the obstinate rejection of the Holy Spirit's plain testimony to the Divine Messiah. Jesus, on the Cross, pleaded only for those who KNEW NOT what they were doing in crucifying Him; not for those willfully resisting grace (Luke 23:34). If we pray for the impenitent, it must be with humble submission to God's will; not with the intercessory request which we should offer for a brother when erring.

Verse 18

We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.

(See 1 John 3:9.)

We know. Thrice repeated (1 John 5:19-20), to enforce the three truths which the words preface, as matters of the brethren's joint experimental knowledge. This 1 John 5:18 warns against abusing 1 John 5:16-17, as warranting carnal security.

Whosoever - `everyone who,' etc. Not only advanced believers, but everyone who is born again, "sinneth not."

He that is begotten, [ genneetheis (G1080), aorist] - was (once for all) "begotten of God;" in the beginning it is perfect, "is begotten" [ gegenneemenos (G1080)], as a continuing state.

Keepeth himself. Vulgate, 'The having been begotten of God [Latin: generatio Dei] keepeth HIM;' so B [ auton (G846)]: 'He having been begotten of God, it (the divine generation implied in the nominative pendent) keepeth him.' So 1 John 3:9, "his seed remaineth in him." But 'Aleph (') A read [ heauton (G1438)] 'himself,' as the English version. God's working by His Spirit, and man's working under that Spirit as a responsible agent, often occurs. That God must keep us, if we are to keep ourselves from evil, is certain. Compare John 17:15; 1 Peter 1:5.

That wicked one toucheth him not - so as to hurt him. In so far as he realizes his regeneration-life, the prince of this world hath nothing in him to fasten his deadly temptations on, as in Christ's case (John 14:30). His divine regeneration severed once for all his connection with the prince of this world.

Verse 19

And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness.

World lieth in wickedness, [ en (G1722) too (G3588) poneeroo (G4190)] - rather, 'lieth in the wicked one,' as 1 John 5:18; 1 John 2:13-14: cf. 1 John 4:4; John 17:14-15; John 1:1-51:e., in the power of, and abiding in, the wicked one, as its lord and resting-place. Compare "abideth in death," 1 John 3:14: contrast 1 John 5:20, "we are in Him that is true." The believer is delivered out of his power; the whole world lieth helpless still in it, including the wise, great, respectable-all who are not by vital union in Christ.

Verse 20

And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.

Summary of our Christian privileges.

Is come, [ heekei (G2240)] - is present, having come. 'HE IS HERE-all is full of Him-His incarnation, work, abiding presence, is to us a living fact' (Alford).

Given us an understanding. Christ's office is to give the spiritual understanding to discern the things of God.

That we way know. 'Aleph (') A read [ ginooskomen (G1097) for ginooskoomen (G1097)], '(So) that we know.'

Him that is true - God, as opposed to every idol (1 John 5:21). Jesus, by his oneness with God, is also 'He that is true' (Revelation 3:7).

Even - `we are in the true' God, by virtue of being "in His Son Jesus Christ."

This is the true God. 'This Jesus Christ (the last-named Person) is the true God' (identifying Him with the Father in being the only true God," John 17:3).

And eternal life - predicated of the Son of God; Alford, wrongly, 'He was the life; but not eternal life.' The Father is eternal life as its source; the Son also is that eternal life manifested, as the very passage (1 John 1:2) which Alford quotes proves against him (cf. 1 John 5:11; 1 John 5:13). It is as Mediator of ETERNAL LIFE to us that Christ is here contemplated. 'The true God and eternal life is this' Jesus Christ; i:e., in believing in Him, we believe in the true God, and have eternal life. This prepares the way for warning against false gods (1 John 5:21). Jesus Christ is the only 'express image of God's person' sanctioned, the only true manifestation of God. All other representations of God are forbidden as idols. Thus the letter closes as it began (1 John 1:1-2).

Verse 21

Affectionate parting caution.

From idols - Christians were everywhere surrounded by idolaters with whom it was impossible to avoid some contact. Hence, the need of being on their guard against an indirect compromise or communion with idolatry. Some at Pergamos, in the region whence John wrote, fell into the snare of eating things sacrificed to idols (Revelation 2:14). The moment we cease to abide "in Him that is true (by abiding) in Jesus Christ," we become part of 'the world that lieth in the wicked one,' given up to spiritual, if not in all places literal, idolatry (Ephesians 5:5; Colossians 3:5).

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 John 5". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/1-john-5.html. 1871-8.
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