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Bible Commentaries
1 John 5

Trapp's Complete CommentaryTrapp's Commentary

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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.

Whosoever believeth — viz. Firmly and fiducially, with assent of mind and consent of will. See Trapp on " 1 Corinthians 12:3 " See Trapp on " John 1:12 "

Loveth him also that is begotten — His love, as Aaron’s ointment, floweth down from the head to the meanest member. God’s image, wheresoever it appeareth, is very lovely.

Verse 2

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

That we love the children of God — Really, aright, and not for self or sinister respects. Godliness begins in the right knowledge of ourselves, and ends in the right knowledge of God. A Christian begins with loving God for himself, but he ends in loving himself and others in and for Christ.

Verse 3

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

For this is, …See Trapp on " John 14:15 "

His commandments are notSee Trapp on " Matthew 11:30 "

Verse 4

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

Even our faith — Which shows a man a better project, puts his head into heaven beforehand, gives him to taste of the hidden manna. Now his mouth will not water after homely provisions, that hath lately tasted of delicate sustenance. Are we afraid of men? saith one. Faith sets hell before us. Are we allured by the world? Faith sets heaven before us. It was by the force of his faith that Luther brake out into those words, Contemptus est a me Romanus et favor et furor, I care neither for Rome’s fawnings nor frownings.

Verse 5

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

But he that believeth — A believer walketh about the world as a conqueror. He saith of these things here below, as Socrates did when he came into a fair, and saw there sundry commodities to be sold, Quam multis ego non egeo? Nec habeo, nec careo, nec curo, as another said, I neither have these things, nor need them, nor care for them. He hath his feet where other men’s heads are, Proverbs 15:24 ; Revelation 12:1 . He sets not his desire upon the asses, since he is assured of the kingdom. He looks upon the world as Hiram did on the cities Solomon had given him, which he called Cabul, that is, the land of dirt. His eye is upon Uranople, the new Jerusalem, the crowns and palms of that golden country. Children admire gawds One of the larger and more ornamental beads placed between the decades of ‘aves’ in a rosary. ŒD and gewgaws; A gaudy trifle, plaything, or ornament, a pretty thing of little value, a toy or bauble. ŒD but let a nobleman (that hath been used to the pomp and bravery of the court) pass by a whole stall of such toys and trifles, he never casts his eye towards them.

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.

That came by water and blood — So to fulfil and answer the legal washings and sacrifices; so to signify that he justifieth none by his merit but whom he sanctifieth by his Spirit; and so to set forth the two sacraments of the New Testament. See Trapp on " John 19:34 "

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 that bear record — viz. That Jesus Christ is the Son of God. These three heavenly witnesses have given testimony hereof in earth. See Trapp on " John 5:32 " See Trapp on " John 8:18 "

These three are one — In essence and will. As if three lamps were lighted in one chamber, albeit the lamps be different, yet the lights cannot be severed; so in the Godhead, as there is a distinction of persons, so a simplicity of nature.

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.

The Spirit and the water — The Spirit of sanctification testified by saving graces and new divine gifts, the water of repentance, and the blood of Christ applied by faith. These be the three witnesses of a man’s happiness here. When the waters of sanctification are troubled and muddy, let us run to the witness of blood.

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 receive, … — If two or three witnesses establish a truth with men, shall we deny that honour to God’s testimony?

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 in himself — Carries in his heart the counterpane of all the promises.

Hath made him a liar — As one may deny God in deed as well as in word, so he may give him the lie too in like manner, sc. by going away, and not heeding all the grace that he offereth by Christ; for such a one saith in effect, Tush, there is no such thing as Christ; or at least no such benefit to be reaped by his passion as they would persuade us, …

Verse 11

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

That God hath given to us, … — How plain is the Holy Scripture in things needful to salvation! These God hath written for us, as it were, with the beam of the sun, that none may plead difficulty. But we are, most of us, of the Athenian strain, of whom Cicero says the proverb went, Athenienses scire quae recta sunt, sed facere nolle, that they knew what was right, but had no mind to make use of it. (Cic. de Senect.)

Verse 12

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

Hath life — For he is the prince and principle of life; and all out of him are dead while they live. Non ille diu vixit, sed diu fuit, saith Seneca of one; non multum navigavit, sed multum iactatus est, of another at sea; he was long, but lived little; he was much tossed, but not much furthered; he moved much, but removed not at all, as a horse in a mill, as a dog in a wheel, … See Trapp on " John 1:4 "

And he that hath not the Son hath not lifeNegatio contrarii auget vim affirmationis. 1 Kings 20:1 ; Deuteronomy 33:6 ; Proverbs 30:11 ; 1 Samuel 1:11 . See Trapp on " John 1:20 "

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.

That ye may know that ye have eternal lifesc. In the pledges and firstfruits of it, in the true graces of the Spirit, whereof there are many marks and evidences laid down in this Epistle, that we might be at a certainty; not a certainty of hope only (as Papists foolishly distinguish), but of faith too; even a full assurance.

That ye may believe — That ye may be confirmed, continued, and increased in it.

Verse 14

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

According unto his will — One said he could have what he would of God; and, Fiat voluntas mea, saith Luther in a certain prayer, but then he finely falls off with mea voluntas, Domine, quia tua; let my will be done, Lord, but so far forth as it is thy will. This was the time when he prayed for the life of Miconius (who was fallen into a deep consumption) and prevailed with God for it.

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.

We know that we haveIste vir potuit quod voluit, That man could do what he would with God, said one concerning Luther. See Trapp on " John 15:16 "

We have the petitions that we desired of him — If we can perceive and discern that God listeneth, the thing is done. Now the former we may find, first, by a cast of God’s countenance, by a smile of his face, Psalms 22:24 ; Psalms 34:15 , for a godly man is admitted to see as well as speak; like a good angel, he is ever looking on the face of God; and can gather by that how he shall speed in his suit. The upright shall dwell in his presence, Psalms 140:13 , when the hypocrite shall not come before him, Job 13:16 . Secondly, By the answer of a man’s own conscience, 1 John 3:20 . God answers us by this, as he did the high priest by Urim and Thummim, and as he answered Elijah by fire from heaven that consumed his sacrifice. This faithful petitioners seldom fail of,Psalms 35:13; Psalms 35:13 ; Psalms 6:8-9 Philippians 4:6-7 .

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.

A sin which is not unto death — When John Frith and Andrew Hewer were at the stake, Dr Cook openly admonished all the people that they should in no wise pray for them, no more than they would do for a dog at which words Frith, smiling, desired the Lord to forgive him. (Acts and Mon. fol. 946.) In its own nature all sin is mortal; but in a saint being tempered with faith and repentance, it is as quicksilver tempered with ointment and killed.

There is a sin unto death — That unpardonable sin of doing despite to the Spirit of grace. Rockwood, a chief persecutor at Calais in the days of Henry VIII, to his last breath, staring and raging, cried, He was utterly damned; and being willed to ask God mercy, he brayed and cried out, "All too late! for I have sought maliciously the deaths of a number of the most honest men in the town, whom I knew to be so; all too late, therefore, all too late." Another that had committed this sin to death, wished that his wife and children and all the world might be damned together with him. (Mr Burroughs’ Mos. Choice.)

Verse 17

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

There is a sin not unto death — All sins and blasphemies shall be forgiven unto men, but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, … See Trapp on " Matthew 12:31 " See Trapp on " Matthew 12:32 " Every sin (in the desert considered) hales hell at the heels of it. Flagitium et flagellum ut acus et filum. There is no venial sin in itself. But the unpardonable sin is here distinguished from all other sins; 1. By the nature of it; it is not any one sin against the law, nor yet is it the direct breach of the whole law,Hebrews 10:28; Hebrews 10:28 ; but it is a sin against the gospel, a wilful and malicious refusing of pardon upon such terms as the gospel offereth it, scorning to be beholden to God for any such free favour. 2. By the effect, it is a sin unto death, it is infallibly damning, there is no expiation, but a certain fearful expectation of fiery indignation to devour these adversaries, Hebrews 10:27 . God not suffering himself to be derided, nor his Spirit to be despited, smites them with an incurable blindness and reprobacy of mind; whereupon follows, 1. An impossibility of repentance, Hebrews 6:6 ; Hebrews 2:1-18 . A desperate fury whereby they continue raving and raging both against the physic and the physician, to their own endless ruth and ruin.

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.

Sinneth notsc. That sin to death, 1 John 5:16 , nor other sins, as other men do. See Trapp on " 1 John 3:9 "

And that wicked one toucheth him not — viz. Tactu qualitativo, as Cajetan expoundeth it, with a deadly touch; he thrusts not in his sting so far as to infuse the venom of that sin that is properly his sin,John 8:44; John 8:44 , and with which he toucheth their spirits that become the serpent’s seed. He toucheth them not so as the needle is touched by the loadstone; so as to partake of his devilish spirit, and to be wholly carried after him.

Verse 19

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

Lieth in wickedness — As a lubber in a lake, as a carcase in its slime. In fermento tota iacet uxor, My wife lies down entirely drunk, saith he in Plautus. "This people is wholly set upon wickedness," said Aaron, Exodus 32:22 , is under the power and vassalage of the devil; Nil mundum in mundo. Nihil aliud est totus mundus ante conversionem, nisi aut hara porcorum, aut colluvies rabidorum canum, saith Austin. The whole world, before conversion, is not better than a filthy hog sty, or a kennel of mad dogs.

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.

And we know — This he brings in here for a corollary and conclusion of all.

Verse 21

Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.

Keep yourselves from idols — Negatively at least (as those 7000 in Israel, that had not bowed their knees to Baal), if not positively, by open declaration of your utter dislike, as did Daniel and his associates. Irenaeus reproveth the heretics called Gnostici, for that they carried about the image of Christ in Pilate’s time, after his own proportion; using also for declaration of their affection towards it, to set garlands upon the head of it; so soon crept this cursed sin into the primitive Church. Soon after the Council of Nice, arose a sharp contention between Irene the empress and her son Constantine VI, who destroyed images; for the which she unnaturally put out his eyes. About which time, as Eutropius writeth, the sun was darkened most terribly for 17 days together; God showing by that, how much he disliked those proceedings. Letters were sent by Queen Mary and her council, to examine Mr Flower why he wore about his neck written, Deum time, idolum fuge; Fear God and flee idolatry, to stir up Bishop Bonner to proceed against all that did the like. Arguments and authorities alleged by Bishop Ridley against images in churches may be read, Acts and Mon. fol. 1928, … Martin was much grieved that this sentence of St John was set in our churches, in the place where the rood loft The cross upon which Christ suffered; the cross as the symbol of the Christian faith. Now only arch. ŒD formerly stood.

Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on 1 John 5". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jtc/1-john-5.html. 1865-1868.
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