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Bible Commentaries
1 John 5

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

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Verses 1-12

1 John 5:1-12

1Whosoever42 believeth that Jesus is the Christ43 is born of God: and every one that 2loveth him that begat loveth him also44 that is begotten of him. By this45 we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.46 3For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments 4are not grievous. For47 whatsoever48 is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh49 the world, even our50 faith. 5Who is he51 that overcometh the world, but52 he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? 6This is he that came by water and blood,53 even Jesus Christ54; not by water only, but55 by water and blood.56 And it is the Spirit57 that beareth witness, because the Spirit58 is truth. 7For there are three that bear record59 in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. 8And there are three that bear witness in earth, the spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.60 9If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for61 this is the witness of God which62 he hath testified of his Song of Solomon 1:0; Song of Solomon 1:00He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness63 in himself: he that believeth not God64 hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son.65 11And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this66 life is in his Son.67 12He that hath the Son68 hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.69


After ὅτι τρεῖς εἰσὶν οἱ μαρτυροῦντες in 1 John 5:7, follows: ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ, ὁ πατήρ, ὁ λόγος καὶ τὸ ἅγιον πνεῦμα. καὶ οὖτοι οἱ τρεῖς ἕν εἰσιν 1 John 5:8, καὶ τρεῖς εἰσὶν οἱ μαρτυροῦντες ἐν τῇ γῇ.—Thus Cod. 173, not however in the original Cod. of the 11th century, but only in a copy of it made in the 16th century; Codd. 34 and 162, belonging to the same period, viz. the 15th and 16th centuries, omit the words καὶ οἱ τρεῖς τὸ ἕν εἰσιν, and the Articles before πατὴρ, λόγος and ἅγιον πνεῦμα, which shows the mechanical translation from the Vulgate. Said words are wanting in all the Greek Codices, also in the Codex Sinaiticus, in almost all the ancient versions, including the Latin, as late as the 8th century, and since that time they are found in three variations. Notwithstanding the trinitarian controversies, they are not referred to by a single Greek Father, or by any of the older Latin Church Fathers. For the allusions of Tertullian (adv. Prax. 25. connexus Patris in filio et filii in Paracleto, tres efficit cohærentes alterum ex altero; qui tres unum sunt), and of Cyprian (ep. ad Jubaianum: cum tres unum sunt) are to John 10:30; John 16:5; and if the latter says in De Unitate Ecclesiæ p. 79. “Dicit Dominus: ego et Pater unum sumus; et iterum de Patre et Filio et Spiritu Sancto Scriptum est: et hi tres unum sunt, the reference in iterum is clearly to this place, but to 1 John 5:8, to wit, according to the symbolical interpretation [of the words τὸ πνεῦμα, τὸ ὕδωρ and τὸ αἶμα of the Trinity, as given in the Schol. by Matthæi: οἱ τρεῖς δὲ εἶπεν�, ὅτι σύμβολα ταῦτα τῆς τριάδος, and in the Schol.: τουτέστι τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον καὶ ὁ πατὴρ καὶ αὐτὸς ἑαυτοῦ, and on ἕν εἰσιν: τουτέστι μία θεότης, εἶς θεός], as Facundus of Hermiane in the 6th century understood Cyprian, in Pro defens. trium capitum 1, 3 [tres sunt qui testimonium dant (in terra?). Spiritus, aqua et sanguis, hi tres unum sunt. … quod Joannis apostoli testimonium Cyprianus. … de Patre, Filio et Spiritu Sancto intelligit.—M.], who was not unacquainted with and free from mystical interpretations (the seamless coat, a type of Church unity, etc.). The aforecited Greek scholia contain unmistakable traces of the allegorical interpretation. The reading may gradually have originated in them and the passages from Cyprian, whose interpretation of the Persons of the Trinity was placed in juxtaposition with the text on which it was based. These words were mentioned first in a work which is to be ascribed to Vigilius of Thapsus, at the close of the 5th century; they occur more frequently afterwards and are found in most Latin translations [also in several German translations made from the Vulgate—M.]. After a Greek translation of the transactions of the Lateran Council of 1215 they were first inserted in Greek in the Complutensian edition (of 1502 to 1514). Erasmus, who did not insert them in his editions of the Greek New Testament of 1516 and 1518, received them in the version of 1521, and the third edition of 1522, yielding to the pressure of the Church (pium est, nostrum sensum semper ecclesiæ judicio submittere), and with reference to the Codex Britannicus (=codex 34), in order to justify himself before the learned. [Erasmus had committed himself to their insertion if they were found in any Greek Manuscript. Learning that they were found in said Codex Britannicus, he inserted them in the 3rd edition of 1522 and added the note: “Ex hoc igitur Codice Britannico reposuimus, quod in nostris dicebatur deesse: ne cui sit ansa calumniandi. Tametsi suspicor codicem illum ad nostros esse correctum.”—M.]. Then Robert Stephanus received them 1546–1569, Beza 1565–1576 and the Text. Recept. sanctioned the citizenship of this reading. Luther never translated these words, but commented upon them in his second commentary on this Epistle, although he had pronounced them spurious in his first commentary. They are omitted in all German Wittenberg Bibles from 1522–1545; they are first inserted in Lehmann’s Quarto Wittenberg edition of 1596, although they are still wanting in later editions and in the Quarto edition of 1620. They appear first in the Zürich edition of 1529; the next edition of 1531 has this passage in smaller type, the later editions insert it in brackets, which were not abandoned until 1597. The Basle edition of 1552 gives it already without brackets. Of the Frankfort editions, the Quarto of 1582 was the first in which this passage is inserted, although it is omitted in the Octavo edition of the same year. It was of no avail that Luther considered these words as a clumsy addition directed against the Arians which was wanting in the Greek Bibles, and that Bugenhagen, on the appearance in 1549, of a lectionary, containing these words, at Wittenberg, gave this warning: “Obsecro chalcographos et eruditos viros, ut illam additionem omittant et restituant græca suæ priori integritati et puritati propter veritatem.”—The genuineness of this passage was still attempted to be defended in the 17th century. Lastly Bengel still upheld it [but with the arbitrary assumption, that the text read originally thus: “ὅτι τρεῖς εἰσιν οἱ μαρτυροῦντες ἐν τῇ γῇ. Τὸ πνεῦμα κ. τ. λ. εἰς τὸ ἕν εἰσιν. 1 John 5:8. Καὶ τρεῖς εἰσιν οἱ μαρτυροῦντες ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ, ὁ πατὴρ, ὁ λόγος καὶ τὸ ἅγιον πνεῦμα καὶ οὖτοι οἱ τρεῖς ἕν εἰσιν. Apparat. Crit.—M.], who was followed by v. Meyer, Sander, Besser and Mayer.—Compare Griesbach’s diatribe ad h. l. in ed. a. 1806; Rickli on this passage; Tischendorf editio major 1859, tom. 2. p. 225–228.—This critical, external evidence is fully sustained by internal evidence, viz. the exegetical reasons against these words. The idea of a witness ἐν τῷ οὺρανῷ cannot be carried out. Hence certain commentators, e.g. a Lapide, change the testari in cœlo into a testari de cœlo, or find in it a description of the nature of the testimony (S. Schmidt, Spener), or of the witnesses (Bengel). Moreover the collocation of the words ὁ πατήρ and ὁ λόγος is altogether contrary to John’s diction, which gives only ὁ θεὸς and ὁ λόγος or ὁ πατήρ and ὁ υἱός in juxtaposition (John 1:1 sqq.; John 5:21 sqq.; John 14:9 sqq.) Again τὸ ἕν can only be interpreted of unity of essence and the context affords no ground for such an interpretation. The advocates of the passage have also recourse to arbitrary expedients, e.g. Bengel who places 1 John 5:8 before 1 John 5:7 [see above—M.]. Lastly we cannot consider them to have been inserted by orthodox Christians against the Arians (as Luther thinks), the reference being to a testimony on earth. The fact is that they cannot be used without arbitrariness grammatically, dialectically or logically. Cf. Huther 2d edition, p. 228 sq.—[Huther: Luther remarks on this passage: “It seems that this verse was inserted by the orthodox with reference to the Arians, which insertion however was not congruous, because he does not discourse of the witnesses in heaven, but of the witnesses on earth, here and there.” This is the opinion of most modern expositors, excepting Besser and Sander. If we look at the contents of the whole Epistle, it is indeed not difficult to harmonize the thought of the three witnesses in heaven with scattered sayings in this Epistle; but it does not follow from this that it is appropriate or even necessary at the place where it occurs. On the contrary this is manifestly not the case, since neither the verses immediately following or preceding, with which 1 John 5:7 is intimately connected by ὅτι, contain any reference whatsoever to such a trinitarian testimony in heaven. The specification of the three witnesses: πνεῦμα, ὕδωρ, αἶμα, is clearly and plainly substantiated by what precedes, but this is not the case with respect to that of the three witnesses: ὁ πατήρ, ὁ λόγος, τὸ πνεῦμα ἅγιον; this trinity is introduced abruptly, without any preparation; but the sequel also militates against it, especially since it is altogether uncertain which testimony is meant by the μαρτυρία του θεοῦ, 1 John 5:9, that of the three in heaven, or that of the three on earth.—To this must be added that these two different testimonies are placed in juxtaposition without being connected together; it is said, indeed, that the two three witnesses agree together, but nothing is said of the relation of the two threes to one another.—The thought per se, moreover, lacks clearness; for what are we to understand by a testimony in heaven? Bengel (with whom Sander agrees) says indeed: “Non fertur testimonium in cælo, sed in terra: qui autem testantur, sunt in terra, sunt in cælo; i.e. illi sunt naturæ terrestris et humanæ, hi autem naturæ divinæ et gloriosæ.” But the untenableness of this proposition is evident, on the one hand, from the circumstance that ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ does not belong to εἰσιν, but to μαρτυροῦντες, that consequently the text absolutely says nothing of a being in heaven, but asserts a testifying in heaven, and on the other, from the consideration that the πνεῦμα which is afterwards connected with ὕδωρ and αἶμα is to be conceived as something earthly and human.—Add to this the non-johannean character of the diction, for though in John we meet the collocations ὁ θεός and ὁ λόγος, and ὁ πατήρ and ὁ υἱός, we never encounter that of ὁ πατήρ and ὁ λόγος; Sander, to be sure, has recourse to the rather easy expedient of assuming here an ἅπαξ λεγόμενον, but that assumption cannot be admitted here, because those words are of constant occurrence in John—and the collocation is not accidental, but founded on the nature of the case. The interpolator evidently wrote λόγος because he thought that term to be purely Johannean, not reflecting however that its connection with πατήρ was un-johannean. Lastly, καὶ οὖτοι οἱ τρεῖς ἕν εἰσι, is also surprising. Bengel explains: Unum sunt essentia, notitia, voluntate, atque adeo consensu testimonii; and properly begins with the unity of essence, for that is indicated by said words—but this unity of essence is irrelevant here, where the reference is rather to the unity of the testimony.—I subjoin here also Sir Isaac Newton’s Paraphrastic Exposition: “Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God, that Son spoken of in the Psalms, where He saith, ‘Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.’ This is He that, after the Jews had long expected Him, came, first in a mortal body, by baptism of water, and then in an immortal one by shedding His blood upon the cross, and rising again from the dead; not by water only, but by water and blood, being the Son of God, as well as by His supernatural birth of the Virgin (Luke 1:35). And it is the Spirit also, that together with the water and the blood, beareth witness of the truth of His coming; because the Spirit is truth, and so a fit and unexceptionable witness. For there are three that bear record of His coming; the Spirit, which He promised to send, and which was since sent forth upon us in the form of cloven tongues, and of various gifts; the baptism of water, wherein God testified, ‘this is my beloved Son;’ and the shedding of His blood, accompanied with the resurrection, whereby He became the most faithful martyr or witness of the truth. And these three, the Spirit, the baptism, and passion of Christ, agree in witnessing one and the same thing (namely, that the Son of God is come); and therefore their evidence is strong: for the Law requires but two consenting witnesses, and here we have three, and if we receive the witness of men, the threefold witness of God, which He bare of His Son, by declaring at His baptism ‘This is my beloved Son,’ by raising Him from the dead, and by pouring out His Spirit upon us, is greater; and therefore ought to be more readily received.“—“This,” Sir Isaac Newton observes, “is the sense plain and natural, and the argument full and strong; but if you insert the testimony of the three in heaven, you interrupt and spoil it; for the whole design of the Apostle being here to prove to men by witness the truth of Christ’s coming, I would ask how the testimony of the ‘three in heaven’ makes to this purpose? If their testimony be not given to men, how does it prove to them the truth of Christ’s coming? If it be (given), how is the testimony in heaven distinguished from that on earth? It is the same Spirit which witnesses in heaven and in earth. If in both cases it witnesses to us men, wherein lies the difference between its witnessing in heaven and its witnessing in earth? If in the first case it does not witness to them to whom does it witness? And to what purpose? And how does its witnessing make to the design of St. John’s discourse? Let them make good sense of it who are able. For my part, I can make none. If it be said, that we are not to determine what is Scripture, and what not, by our private judgments, I confess it in places not controverted, but in disputable places, I love to take what I can best understand.”—M.].


Connection. That which in the preceding verses had been repeatedly noticed as a proof of the love of God, the appearing of Jesus Christ (1 John 5:9-10; 1 John 5:14; 1 John 5:19), and as the immediate consequence of it, had been indicated as the exhibition of our life-fellowship with God,—faith, knowledge and confession—(1 John 5:15-16), the Apostle places with emphatic prominence at the end of this section with a primary reference to brotherly love (1 John 5:1), then with respect to the love of God and obedience to His commandment (1 John 5:2-3), with reference to the victory over the world (1 John 5:4), viz. faith in Jesus the Christ (v. la), the Son of God (1 John 5:5), who is confirmed as such by God Himself (1 John 5:6-9), and in His work or gift, eternal life (1 John 5:10-12). Bengel: “Concinne Apostolus in hac tractationis parte mentionem amoris ita collocat ut fides tanquam prora et puppis totius tractationis, in extremo spectetur.”

Efficacy of faith in Christ. 1 John 5:1-5.

1 John 5:1. Every one that believeth that Jesus is Christ, is born of God.—The only limitation of the universality (πᾶς) is believing (πιστεύων) and the object of faith (ὅτι Ἰησοῦς ἐστιν ὁ χριστὸς); the faith may be weak and imperfect, provided that it be sincere (subjective) and right (objective), and consequently true. This believing involves knowledge, inclination, yielding and trust and genders susceptibility for receiving. It is clear from 1 John 5:5 that ὁ χριστὸς refers to the inward nature of Him that has been manifested,=ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ, although these ideas are not identical and may occur in juxtaposition (1 John 3:23): the Divine Sonship makes the Man Jesus the Christ=Saviour. Cf. 1 John 4:15; 1 John 2:22. The tenses, the Present πιστεύων and the Perfect γεγέννηται denote the regeneration, the birth out of God as the ground, and faith, which is a Divine work (Ephesians 2:8), as the consequence; only a child of God believes in Jesus the Son of God.

And every one that loveth Him that begot him, loveth also him that is begotten of Him.—Πᾶς ὁ� is a parallel of πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων, and gives prominence to what was given along with and received in faith. Hence there is no need of an ellipsis to be filled up, like that specified by Huther: “he that is born of God loveth God.” The object (γεννήσαντα) is evidently God, and hence ἐξ αὐτοῦ=θεοῦ, and τὸν γεγεννημένον ἐξ αὐτοῦ denotes the believer (1 John 5:2 : τἀ τέκνα τοῦ θεοῦ). Argumentum ex communi naturæ ordine sumtum (Calvin), or a propensione naturali, quæ cernitur in hominibus (Estius). Cf. Ephesians 5:28-30. The reference therefore is not to Christ as maintained by Augustine, Hilary and others. The Present ἀγαπᾷ by the side of ὁ� denotes the interconnection of brotherly love and the love of God [i.e. our love of our brother and of God—M.], the simultaneousness and duration of the relation of both. The Apostle lays it down as a fact, not as something which he requires; he shall love.

1 John 5:2. In this we know, that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments.—It is clear that the reference here is to something which every one may and must know from his own experience and not from that of others. Again it is clear that this something is brotherly love, even the love to our brethren, who are τέκνα θεοῦ. Lastly it is clear that the token and sign of it is our love to God and our keeping His commandments. For ὅταν followed by the Indicative ἀγαπῶμεν (Winer, p. 325), is a conditional particle, although it is qualified by the idea of time, =whensoever; there may be fluctuations, disturbances, pauses, or ebbs in our love to God; but when it is in us, brotherly love surely is also in us. Hence John annexes to ἀγαπῶμεν τὸν θεόν, τὰς ἐντολὰς αὐτοῦ τηρῶμεν in order to designate the living love to God by an obedience rooted in the love of God, so that brotherly love should be considered as one of the commandments of God, and, at the same time, as the necessary consequence of our love to God, as of the necessary ground. [Huther: He that loves God, has in this his love a testimony that he also loves his brethren, even as τέκνα τοῦ θεοῦ—because brotherly love is the necessary consequence of the love of God; but the converse is also true, that he who loves the brethren, has in this his love a testimony that he also loves God, because his love to God is the necessary ground of his love to the brethren. Alford: And indeed so inseparable are the two, that as before 1 John 4:20, our love to our brethren was made a sign and necessary condition of our love to God, so conversely, our love to God, ascertained by our keeping His commandments, is itself the measure of our love to the children of God. Either of the two being found to be present, the presence of the other follows.—M.]. While John elsewhere (1 John 2:3; 1 John 4:20-21) makes the knowledge of God and love to God to be ascertained from our keeping His commandments and loving our brethren, i.e. the ground from the consequence, so he conversely makes us ascertain the consequence from the ground, which, considering the unity of the Divine life, is the less surprising, since the former references point to the truth and purity of our disposition, while here the concluding reference is to the consolation which we need in the discharge of an important and difficult duty. Hence it is wrong and unnecessary, to assume here, with Grotius following Oecumenius, a trajection, or to construe, with de Wette, the sentence τὸν θεὸν� as simply accompanying the sentence immediately following, so that obedience is to be considered only as emanating from the love to God, or still worse, to alter the text, as some of the ancient versions (the Ethiopic and Arabic), and several unimportant expositors, have dared to do. [Calvin also gives a wrong turn to the thought in the remark: “Nunc docet, recte et ordine amari homines, quum Deus priores obtinet; vult sic mutuam coli inter nos caritatem, ut Deus, praeferatur.”—M.].

1 John 5:3. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments.—The connection of our love to God with our keeping His commandments doubtless occasioned this saying, in order to take in its unity that which had been treated as simply coördinate [viz. the ideas expressed in the two preceding clauses.—M.]. Huther.—Αὕτη—ἵνα, as in 1Jn 1:9; 1 John 4:17, denotes the requirement and tendency of love; ἐστιν describes its nature, not=it implies, it includes the effort (de Wette). The context (1 John 5:2) shows that the love of God here is our love to God.

And His commandments are not grievous; this clause is added by John “encouragingly in the full and joyous consciousness of his Divine sonship,” (Düsterdieck). Cf. Matthew 11:30 : φορτίον ἐλαφρόν; Luke 11:46; φορτία δυσβάστακτα. The connection requires us to apply this only to regenerate Christians, to whom is given the ability to keep the commandments of God. So most Commentators. Cf. Doctrinal and Ethical on this section below. [Oxford Catena: εἴ τις προσελθὼν αὐταῖς μὴ ὃν δεῖ τρόπον λέγει αὐτὰς βαρείας, τὴν ἑαυτοῦ�. Φίλον γὰρ τοῖς ἄγαν�.—Spener: “The reference is to the difficulty of a burden so oppressive as to be insupportable and painful.”—Calov: “Dicit ea non esse gravia, quia non aggravant, aut instar molis onerosæ premunt renatum.”—Huther: “The commandments of God as the requirements of man created after His Image, cannot be difficult to man; but if they are, the reason is, that man has left his original relation to God; they are not difficult to the believer, because, as the child of God, he has returned to the original relation of love to God.”—Alford: “This declaration, that His commandments are not grievous, has, as did 1 John 3:9, furnished some of the Roman Catholic Commentators with an opportunity of characterizing very severely the Protestant position that none can keep God’s commandments. But here as there the reply is obvious and easy. The course of the Apostle’s argument here, as introduced in the next verse by ὅτι, substantiates this βαρεῖαι οὐκ εἰσίν by showing that all who are born of God are standing in and upon the victory which their faith has obtained over the world. In this victorious state, and in as far as they have advanced into it, in other words in proportion as the Divine life is developed and dominant in them, do they find those commandments not grievous. If this state, in its ideality, were realized in them, there would be no difficulty for them in God’s commandments; it is because, and in so far as sin is still reigning in their mortal bodies and their wills are unsubdued to God’s will, that any βάρος remains in keeping those commandments.” The reader is also reminded of Augustine’s saying, “Da quod jubes et jube quod vis” (Confess. 10, 29), and referred to Ausonius (ad. Theodos. 13), “Juvat-qui Jubet,” and Bp. Sanderson, Serm 3. p. 316.—M.].

1 John 5:4. Because all that is born of God overcometh the world.—Now follows (ὅτι) the reason why the commandments of God are not grievous. Hence πᾶν τὸ γεγεννημένον as in John 3:6; John 17:2 (πᾶν—αὐτοῖς, like here πᾶν—ἡμῶν), denotes universality. See notes on 1 John 1:1, Winer, p. 191, 5=πάντες οἱ γεγεννημένοι. The reference is to persons, not to disposition, virtutes and charismata (Oecumenius, Paulus), or to the dignity of the Divine sonship (Baumgarten-Crusius).—Κόσμος is here taken collectively, as the opposite of the kingdom of God, as whatever opposes its progress, estranged from and hostile to God and the Divine, within and without men (Calvin [quicquid adversum est Dei spiritui. Ita naturæ nostræ pravitas pars mundi est, omnes concupiscentiæ, omnes Satanæ actus, quicquid denique nos a Deo abstrahit.—M.], Beza, Spener, Lücke, Düsterdieck, Huther, and al.); hence not merely inwardly the love of the world and of self (de Wette), or outwardly homines virtute et pietate adversantes, their machinationes, even to the persecutiones (Grotius), nor merely ecclesia judaica et judaismus (Schöttgen). [Alford: “The argument then is this: The commandments of God are not grievous: for, although in keeping them there is ever a conflict, yet that conflict issues in universal victory: the whole mass of the born of God conquer the world: therefore none of us need contemplate failure, or faint under his struggle as a hard one.”—M.].—The Present νικᾷ denotes the constant victory in the conflict to be endured; “the children of God fight with the world only as conquerors” (Düsterdieck), cf. 1 John 2:13-14; 1 John 4:4. But νικᾷν must not be diluted into “keeping oneself, unseduced” (Baumgarten-Crusius).

And this is the victory which hath overcome the world: our faith.—Αὕτη νίκη refers to πίστις, ἡμῶν is not explained here but in the next verse. Νίκη, being further qualified by νικήσασα, does not denote the action which conquers the world (Ebrard), but victoria parta, the fact of the victory, the faith, not the cause of, but the participation in the victory and the reception of the power of continuing, maintaining and consummating the victory. Lorinus: “Victoria proprie non vincit, sed comparatur vincendo, sed energiam continet ea formula, denotans in quo sita sit vincendi ratio, unde victoria parta.” Huther: “Faith is here intended to be extolled not as the result of a conflict, but as the combatant who has gained the victory.” Hence faith itself is not yet the victory (Baumgarten-Crusius, Neander), nor must the Aorist be explained to former, departed Christians (Socinus). Cf. 1 John 2:13-14; 1Jn 2:23; 1 John 4:4; 1 John 5:12.

1 John 5:5. But who is it that overcometh the world, if not he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God.—While 1 John 5:4 brought in ἡμῶν πίστις, this verse gives emphatic prominence to the contents of the faith qualified by ἡμῶν in a triumphant question well suited to this section of the victory over the world. Bengel: Credens omnis et solus vincit. Episcopius: Lustrate universum mundum et ostendite mihi vel unum, de quo vere affirmari possit, quod mundum vincat, qui christianus et fide hac præditus non sit. The Apostle, in this question, appeals to the experience of his Church. The Present ὁ νικῶν, which, with respect to the fact: ἡ νίκη νικήσασα (1 John 5:4), denotes the person conquering in the conflict, indicates the existing and present attitude and relation of the believer. But by the variation: ὅτι—ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ instead of ὁ χριστός 1 John 5:1, the Apostle refers to the essential glory of Jesus, and also to the fact that believers, as partakers of His glory and. as the children of God, of course conquer with. Him and participate in His victory. The believer, who is Christ’s and whose is Christ the Son of God, is a conqueror in his character of being a child of God. If only faith is true, and, the believer born again, born of God, which may be ascertained from love to the brethren and love to God and a hearty obedience to the commandments of God,—the victory over the world also is indubitable. And with this the Apostle is here particularly concerned.

Jesus is really confirmed as the Son of God. 1 John 5:6-9.

1 John 5:6. This is He that came by water and blood, Jesus Christ.—Οὖτος refers to the Person Jesus, whose dignity is proved and confirmed. Ὁ ἐλθών must be taken substantively as at 1 John 1:5; John 1:15; John 1:33; John 3:13; John 3:31; the Article requires this and forbids the connection of the Participle with the preceding ἐστιν, as if it were=this one came; for we read not ἐστιν ἐλθὼν, but ἐστιν ὁ ἐλθών. But we must here hold fast the usual form of the Partic. Aoristi, which simply narrates that which has happened, and does not denote present events or past events continuing in the present; this would require ἐρχόμενος or ἐληλυθώς (1 John 4:2). How He came is stated in the words δι’ ὕδατος καὶ αἵματος, viz. by means of, by water and blood; διὰ denotes the medium; immediately afterwards we have ἐν ὕδατι, which indicates surrounding or accompaniment. There must therefore be facts, and facts at once historical and external, by which He came, and which are important and efficacious to demonstrate Him, who He is. Moreover the connection of the two requires us to understand acts equal in kind and relation. Hence we must explain δι’ ὕδατος καὶ αἵματος of the baptism, which He received of John in Jordan and which by its immersion pointed to death, while the voice of the Father uttered over Him pointed out His filial dignity, and of His death upon the cross with its atoning sacrificial virtue; in both facts He proved His obedience to the will of the Father, while His obedience proved Him to be the Son of God, the Holy and Innocent One.—Now the apposition Ἰησοῦς=οὗτος, χριστὸς=ὁ ελθών δι’ ὕδατος καὶ αἵματος, comprises what is here said into one whole as the result. A similar turn may be seen in Romans 1:3-4. Consequently we must not, contrary to the grammar and the dialectics of the text, refer οὗτος to the Predicate ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ 1 John 5:5 (with Knapp, Huther 1st ed.), but to the Subject (Lücke), or to the Subject qualified by the Predicate (Huther 2d ed.); we must and cannot explain contrary to grammatical usage (Matthew 11:3; Luke 7:19 sq.; John 11:27), ὁ ἐλθών of the Messiah, like ὁ ἐρχόμενος, and connect ἐστιν with δι’ ὕδατος καὶ αἵματος (Hofmann, Schriftbeweis ii. 1, p. 469), or take ἐστιν ἐλθὼν as a circumlocution of the verbum finitum the Article notwithstanding, and thus overlooking the force of the Aorist, explain it as a Present: He comes (Luther and al.), or as a Perfect: He has come and comes (de Wette, Sander and al.). There is no reference here to the water and blood which flowed from His side pierced on the cross (John 19:34, Augustine and al.), because the passage in John has αἶμα before ὕδωρ, and because that does not constitute a phase of His life, but is something which, after death had set in, took place in His body, so that concerning it we cannot predicate ὁ ἐλθὼν διά. The symbolical reference of this passage to the two Sacraments, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, is inadmissible (Luther I, S. Schmid, Bengel, Sander, Besser and al.), since the term ἐληλυθὼς is not used here, and αἰμα is not used to describe the Lord’s Supper; but since the two ideas are parallel, ὕδωρ cannot be referred to the Sacrament of Baptism (ὕδωρ moreover cannot be made to designate Baptism John 1:26; John 1:33), as instituted by Christ, nor αἶμα to the death He suffered (de Wette, Rickli, Düsterdieck, Ebrard and al.), nor both together to Baptism only (Luther I), since Baptism was administered into the death of Christ; the double reference is, by all means, to be held fast. It is either historically or grammatically unwarranted to explain ὕδωρ of vita purissima (Grotius), doctrina pura (Socinus), regeneratio et fides (Clemens Alex.), of tears, and αἷμα of the blood shed at the circumcision, expiatio (Cameron), redemptio (Bullinger), cognitio (Clemens Alex.). Compare particularly Huther on this passage. [Huther, who has changed his view expressed in the first ed. of his commentary, says in the 2d ed. p. 221. “There are two points in the life of Jesus which answer to the terms ὕδωρ and αἷμα, to wit, His Baptism at the beginning of His Messianic career, and His bloody death at the end of the same; by Baptism Jesus entered upon His office, which is the office of reconciliation; it constitutes the initiatio (Erdmann, Myrberg) of it; this initiation, however, did not take place only by that which occurred during His Baptism, but by the act of the Baptism itself, since thereby Christ consecrated Himself to death, which was symbolized by the act of immersion; by His death He effected reconciliation in cancelling with His Blood the debt of the world of sinners, for χωρὶς αἱματεκχυσίας οὐ γίνεται ἄφεσις (Hebrews 9:22). The Apostle therefore rightly designates Christ as the Reconciler, as Him that came δι’ ὕδατος καὶ αἷματος. The view that ὕδωρ and αἷμα are to be explained of the Sacraments instituted by Christ is confuted not only by the circumstance that they are only the means of appropriating the reconciliation effected by Him, whereas we are here concerned with the accomplishment of the reconciliation itself, but also by the use of the Aorist ἐλθών, instead of which in the former case we ought to have the Present, and by the fact that the term αἷμα, used alone, is in the New Testament not once applied to the Lord’s Supper; in 1 Corinthians 12:13 also ἐποτίσθησαν does not allude to the Lord’s Supper, but to the communication of the Spirit in Baptism.—The opinion that though αἷμα denotes the death which Christ suffered, ὕδωρ does not signify the Baptism He received is opposed by the following considerations: 1. The close connection of the two words (διά not being repeated before αἶματος) is only fitting if the ideas correspond the one to the other, which they do not if δι’ ὕδατος is referred to an institution of Christ, and αἵματος to the blood shed by Christ. 2. The simple term ὕδωρ is ill-suited to designate Christian baptism (for Christian Baptism is distinguished from John’s Baptism in that the former is essentially not ὕδωρ like the latter; even as John the Baptist distinguishing himself from Christ said: ἐγὼ βαπτίζω ἐν ὕδατι John 1:26, while Jesus had been indicated to him as ὁ βαπτίζων ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ, John 1:33. John 1:3. Since the institution of Baptism took place after the death of Christ and necessarily presupposed that death, John, had he understood by ὕδωρ Christian Baptism, would surely have put ὕδατος not before but after αἵματος. Hilgenfeld and Neander have justly maintained that if ἔρχεσθαι δι’ αἵματος denotes something relating to the Messiah personally, ἔρχεσθαι δι’ ὕδατος must do so likewise. The relation must be the same in both terms. If αἷμα signifies the death to which Christ submitted, ὕδωρ also can only signify the Baptism to which He in like manner submitted.”—Passing to that class of commentators who substantially admit the views expressed by Huther, but superadd a secondary or implied sacramental reference, we give the language of Alford who says that “ὕδωρ represents the Baptism of water which the Lord Himself underwent and instituted for His followers, αἷμα, the Baptism of blood which He Himself underwent and instituted for His followers. It is equally impossible to sever.… from these words the historical accompaniments and associations which arise on their mention. The Lord’s Baptism, of itself, was indeed rather a result than a proof of His Messiahship: but in it, taking St. John’s account only, a testimony to His Divine Sonship is given, by which the Baptist knew Him to be the Son of God: ἐγὼ ἐώρακα κ. μεμαρτύρηκα ὅτι οὗτος ἐστιν ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ, are his words, John 1:34; and when that blood was poured from His “riven side,” he that saw it again uses the same formula ὁ ἑωρακὼς μεμαρτύρηκε. It cannot be that the word μαρτυρία being thus referred to two definite points of our Lord’s life, should not apply to these two, connected as they are with ὕδωρ and αἷμα here mentioned, and associated by St. John Himself with the remarkable preterite μεμαρτύρηκεν, of an abiding μαρτυρία in both cases. But these past facts in the Lord’s life are this abiding testimony to us, by virtue of the permanent application to us of their cleansing and atoning power.”—Wordsworth, as usual, adopts the Patristic and symbolical interpretation, and as the views of other classes of commentators have been given at considerable length, we add as a curiosum his exposition of this passage in a condensed form. “Jesus Christ”, came, as the Messiah and Son of God, in various ways.

1. ‘He came in all the purifications that were made by water and blood under the Old Law, which was dedicated with blood and water. Hebrews 9:22; because all those purifications were typical of, and preparatory to, His sacrifice on the Cross, and derived all their efficacy from it.……

2. ‘He came by water in His Baptism; and by blood in His circumcision, and especially in His agony and bloody sweat in Gethsemane, and by the blood shed in His scourging before His passion, and in the crown of thorns, and the piercing of His hands at the crucifixion.….

3. ‘He came both by water and blood at once, in a special manner, on Calvary after His death. …

‘Thus St. John in his Gospel prepares us to understand the words of this Epistle; and in his Epistle also he elucidates what had been recorded in his Gospel. His words therefore may be thus paraphrased: ‘This is He who came—that is, proved Himself to be what He was pre-announced to be by the types and prophecies of the Old Testament, and what He proclaimed Himself to be in the New—the “Coming One,” “The Comer” (ὁ ἐρχόμενος), the Messiah, the true Paschal Lamb, and Very Man, a true Sacrifice for Sin; and yet Very God, the Everlasting Jehovah, of whom the prophet Zechariah spoke (Zechariah 12:10), when he prophesied of His being pierced at His death.

‘He came by blood and water. He proved thereby the reality of His humanity and of His death; and thus He has given a practical refutation—which St. John saw with his own eyes—to the heretical notions of those in the Apostolical age, such as Simon Magus and the Docetae, who alleged that Christ had not a real human body, but was merely a spectral phantasm, crucified in show; and therefore Irenæus in the next age after St. John, infers this fact of the piercing of the side and the flowing out of the blood and water, recorded by St. John, as conclusive against their heresy. …

‘In the words, “not by water only,” there seems also to be a reference to another heresy of the Apostolic age, that of Cerinthus, who said that Christ came in the water of baptism, and descended into the Man Jesus; and afterwards departed from Him, when He shed His blood on the cross. In opposition to this notion St. John says, “This is He who came by water and blood; not by water only, but by water and blood.”

4. ‘Further it is to be observed that in this passage of his Epistle St. John is speaking of Christ’s generation, and of our regeneration.—Every one who believeth that Jesus is the Christ, hath been born, and is born, of God; i.e., is regenerate; and every one who loveth Him that begat, loveth Him also that is begotten of Him; i.e., whosoever loveth God the Father, loveth Him who by generation is the only-begotten Son of God; and every thing that is born of God (i.e., is regenerate) overcometh the world; and who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus—the Very Man Jesus—is also the Son of God?

‘St. John then proceeds to describe the means by which our regeneration, or New Birth, is communicated to us from God, through His Son Christ Jesus, Very Man and Very God, and how the new life, so communicated, is sustained in us. He does this by saying, This is He who came—came to us—by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood.

‘The natural life which was imparted to Eve—the Mother of all living, the type of the Church, the Spouse of the Second Adam, Jesus Christ—was derived from the first Adam’s side, opened when he was asleep in Paradise. In like manner, the spiritual life is given to the spiritual Eve, the Church, and to all her faithful members, from the side of the second Adam, Jesus Christ, sleeping in death on the cross; and it is communicated through His death by means of the water and blood of the two sacraments, which derive their quickening, cleansing and invigorating virtue from the Divinity, Incarnation and Death of our crucified Lord and Saviour, and by which the benefit of that death is applied to our regeneration and revivification; and which were visibly exhibited in the water and blood flowing from His precious side, pierced on the cross. … [See Augustine, Serm. V.—M.].

‘He came by water, which is our λουτρὸν, and by blood, which is our λύτρον. His Baptism of blood is our λύτρον, or ransom from death; and His Baptism by water is our λουτρὸν, or laver of birth. And the water of the λουτρὸν derives its efficacy from the blood of the λυτρόν, shed on the cross, which works in and by the water of baptism. He has washed us from our sins in His own blood (Revelation 1:15). His blood cleanseth us from all sin (1 John 1:7). In baptism we pass through the Red Sea of His blood, and are delivered from our enemies thereby.”—For further particulars connected with the symbolical interpretation, the reader is referred to Wordsworth himself, and for a good account of all the interpretations, to Huther’s Commentary, 2d edition, pp. 217–219.—M.].

Not in the water only, but in the water and in the blood.—The preposition ἐν should be connected with ἐλθὼν, and, as compared with διὰ, signifying the medium through which, introduces a new shade of thought, viz., the surrounding, accompaniment and sphere [or “element in which”—M.]; a similar change occurs at Hebrews 9:12; Hebrews 9:25 (Delitzsch, pp. 390, 434). Articulus habet vim relativam (Bengel) to what has just been specified, which must be taken in the same sense as before. Μόνον after ὑδατι renders the latter very emphatic, and is not followed by ἀλλὰ καὶ because it is not connected with οὐ. Consequently not only in the Baptism received at the hands of John the Baptist has Jesus been proved to be the Christ, the Son of God, but in both. This refutes the opinion of those heretics who alleged that the Son of God was with Jesus at His Baptism, but not at His death upon the cross, that He left Him before His death (Huther [i.e., the heresy of Cerinthus.—M.]). The distinction of Jesus from the Baptist, who baptized with water only, is out of the question, the reference being not to Jesus’ baptizing, but to His being baptized (against Lücke, Düsterdieck, Ebrard and others).

And it is the Spirit that testifieth.—Καὶ superadds a further and third particular, an additional witness (ἐστιν τὸ μαρτυροῦν cf. ὁ ἐλθὼν). The Article before the Participle compels us to understand τὸ πνεῦμα as the absolute, objective Spirit, as the Holy Spirit, and the Present denotes the continuance of the office of witnessing (John 15:26) wherein He leads into all truth, mediates fellowship with Christ, and secures eternal life. Τὸ πνεῦμα must not be explained of the spirit of believers, of the spiritual life wrought in believers by the Holy Spirit (Episcopius, Sander and others); this is forbidden by the context, and the grammatical usage of the New Testament disallows such a construction without any further qualification Nor is it=ὁ πνευματικός, i.e., the Apostle John himself (Ziegler, Stroth), nor a third sacrament of absolution Augustine), nor the word, the ministry of the word (Luther, Piscator, al.). [In order to complete the catalogue of curious and fantastic views begun in the text, we mention those of Oecumenius and Knapp, who regard τὸ πνευμᾶ=ὁ θεός—διὰ δὲ τοῦ πνεύματος, ὅτε ὡς θεὸς�· θεοῦ γὰρ τοῦτο μόνου λοιπόν, τὸ�ͅν ἑαυτόν. τῇ δὲ τοῦ πνεύματος φωνῇ σημαίνεται ὁ θεος: thus making the threefold witness to the υἱοθεσία of Jesus, τὸ βάπτισμα, ὁ σταυρός, ἡ�; of Socinus, Schlichting, Grotius, Whitby and al. who understand the Divine power by which Christ wrought His miracles: ‘id est,’ says Grotius, ‘per μετωνυμίαν, admiranda ejus opera, a virtute divina manifeste procedentia,’ of Bede, who understands the Spirit which descended on the Lord at His Baptism, and of Wetstein, who considers τὸ πνεῦμα to signify the psychical element which, along with ὕδωρ and αἷμα the physical elements, constituted the human nature of Christ.—The interpretation given by Braune is that of Scholiast I., Estius, Corn. a-Lapide, Tirinus, Calvin, Calov, Lücke, Rickli, de Wette, Huther, Neander, Düsterdieck, Alford and Wordsworth. It is the Holy Spirit, whom Christ in fulfilment of His promise, sent to His Church on the Day of Pentecost, and who is a permanent witness of the Divine Sonship of Jesus.—M.].

Because the Spirit is the truth.—This clause does not contain the substance of the testimony, which is determined by the context (viz., that Jesus, the Son of God, is the Christ), but the reason of the testimony, as being a reliable one; ὅτι is=because, not=that (Luther, Besser, al.). Ἡ� designates the Truth revealed in the word of God, and received in faith, in its perfect fulness, which Truth is the nature of the Spirit who is the Spirit of the Truth into which He leadeth (John 14:17; John 15:26; John 16:13). Christ, who has the Spirit without measure (John 3:34 sq.), and who with the Father sends Him (John 15:26; John 16:7), is of course in the same sense the Truth according to His nature (John 4:6). We must not construe ἡ�=ἀληθές, as Grotius does. [Estius: “Testimonium ejus haudquaquam rejici potest, quoniam Spiritus est veritas, quam sit Deus, ideoque nec falli potest, nec fallere.”—M.].

1 John 5:7-8. For three are the witnesses, Spirit, water and blood.—[Grotius: “Johannes hic causam reddit, cur locutus fuerit non de Spiritu tantum, cujus præcipua in hoc negotio est auctoritas, verum etiam de aqua et sanguine, quia in illis etiam non exigua est testimonii fides, et ternarius numerus in testibus est perfectissimus.”—M.]. This formula is precisely like that of the preceding verse (1 John 5:6). Οἱ μαρτυροῦντες of course must be construed substantively and in the same sense as 1 John 5:6, nor must be supplied another object of the testimony; in like manner to τὸ πνεῦμα καὶ τὸ ὕδωρ καὶ τὸ αἷμα bear exactly the same meaning here as in 1 John 5:6. The historical facts, previously specified merely as evidencing the Divine Sonship of Jesus, are now introduced in the Masculine Gender, in order to designate them as concrete witnesses, like persons (Lücke and al.); but of course so, that they are subordinated to the Spirit, who is the principal, and alone absolute Witness, employing and making use of the facts in the life of Jesus. The verb denotes the activity of the testifying, with reference to the condition of being μάρτυρ, and the Present signifies the permanent character of that activity, wherefore it is not necessary to think here of objects at present existing, e.g., the sacraments, but we have only to hold fast that these facts in the history of the life of Jesus, like that history itself, are fixed in the Gospels, and that these facts, even without such written fixedness, continue to be permanently operative during the years of salvation [i.e., the dispensation of grace.—M.] with world-historical import [i.e., exerting a permanent influence on the world’s history during the dispensation of grace.—M.].—Τρεῖς, with reference to Deuteronomy 17:6; Deuteronomy 19:15; Matthew 18:16; 2 Corinthians 13:1; Hebrews 10:28-29, denotes the assurance of the perfectness of the testimony. This sentence is annexed with ὅτι=for, in order to represent now in a compressed form the testimony, particularized in 1 John 5:6, as a weighty confirmation and substantiation of the truth, that Jesus, the Son of God, is the Christ.

And the three are one.—The Article οἱ τρεῖς denotes here, as also previously, the witnesses already designated and well known, and likewise in εἰς τὸ̣ ἕν the one Truth in question, the object of the testimony (1 John 5:1; 1 John 5:5). Εἰς, like εἰς ἕν in John 11:52; John 17:23, denotes in unum consentire.—Hence we need neither assume with de Wette, ah ellipsis between 1 John 5:6-8, nor take ὅτι in the sense of jam vero (Grotius), consequently, therefore (Baumgarten-Crusius, Meyer), nor understand τρεῖς οἱ μαρτυροῦντες, with Bengel, of three different classes of men (prophetas, baptistas, apostolos), or of symbols of the Trinity. Lastly we must not interpret the being one, with Luther, as a being together, a being joined together. [Alford renders “and the three concur in one” and explains, that they contribute to one and the same result: viz., the truth that Jesus is the Christ, and that we have life in Him. Wordsworth explains the passage of the Trinity and the sacraments and paraphrases: these three (Persons) who are bearing witness are joined into one (ἕν one substance, neuter). He collects, as usual, many Patristic and Anglican notices and gives in his exegesis the following:—‘The Spirit, who begins the work of regeneration by applying all quickening grace to man.—The Water: the symbol and instrument of the new birth derived from God the Father, who is the original Well-spring and Fountain of all life and grace to man. The natural heavens and the earth were formed out of the Water. There was their origin (2 Peter 3:5). So it is with the spiritual life; it is formed from out of water. Water therefore is a proper symbol of the Paternity of God.—The Blood, symbolizing the Incarnation and Passion of God, the Son through whom all grace descends from the Father, by the Holy Spirit. 2 Corinthians 13:13.—These three Persons are joined consubstantially into one Godhead; and their Witness is the witness of God. (Andrews: “Water notes Creation; Blood notes Redemption by Christ; the Spirit notes Unction, to complete all”).—There is an image of the Trinity in the Christian sacraments. There is baptismus fluminis, the baptism of water, the work of Creation by the Father; there is baptismus sanguinis, the baptism of blood, the work of Redemption by the Son; but these are not enough, unless there be also the baptismus Flaminis, the Baptism of the Spirit. Thus the work of the Ever-Blessed Trinity is done in the soul.’ In addition to the notes on the spurious passage given above, the reader is referred to a sketch on this subject in Horne’s Introduction, vol. IV. pp. 355–388.—M].

1 John 5:9. If we receive the testimony of men.—Εἰ denotes an undoubted fact; hence the Indicative, but the fact is put down as the premise of a conclusion. [It is an argumentum a minori ad majus.—M.]. Winer p. 307 sq. [also ibid, p. 642.—M.]. In τὴν μαρτυρίαν τῶν ἅνθρώπων. the Article opposes the human testimony to the Divine, without in any way specifying one qualified by its substance (Brückner). The reference therefore is neither to the prophecy of Christ (Bede), nor to John the Baptist, to eye-and ear-witnesses (Wetstein, Stier), nor to prophets, baptists and Apostles (Bengel). Grotius takes λαμβάνειν=judicio approbare, and Düsterdieck understands any human testimony, provided that it possess the necessary requirements.

The testimony of God is greater.—Here ἡ μαρτυρία τοῦ θεοῦ is not particular, but quite general [The particular is specified in the sequel. Supply in the argument: much more must we receive the testimony of God (Winer).—M.]. As the testimony of God it is greater than that of men and requires so much the more its reception and validity.

Because this is the testimony of God. Now follows the definite testimony of God, which must be received as the testimony of God. Here is evidently an ellipsis, viz.: but a Divine testimony is really extant, namely this …. (Düsterdieck).

That He hath testified of His Son.—The clause beginning with ὅτι depends on οὕτη, and notes the testimony as a historical fact, μεμαρτύρηκε, which has been given, but must be understood to be continuous and permanent in its operation, namely the threefold testimony specified in 1 John 5:7-8. Hence ὅτι cannot be rendered “because,” which would especially designate the author of the testimony, in which case αὐτὸς could hardly be wanting before μεμαρτύρηκε; nor is here any reference to internal testimony (Düsterdieck) introduced afterwards, and still less to the testimony vouchsafed to John the Baptist (John 1:33), as maintained by Ebrard.

The possession of eternal life in the faith on Jesus the Son of God, is the inward confirmation of the Divine testimony 1 John 5:10-12.

1 John 5:10. He that believeth in the Son of God, hath the testimony in himself.—The result as well as the purport of the Divine testimony is faith in Jesus as the Son of God; hence we now have ὁ πιστεύων εἰς τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ θεοῦ. Such an one ἔχει τὴν μαρτυρίαν ἐν ἑαυτῷ. The addition τοῦ θεοῦ is unnecessary; the context precludes any other testimony than that of God; the Article designates that which has been specified and is known. “The outward has become to him something inward” (Huther). [“The object of the Divine testimony being, to produce faith in Christ, the Apostle takes him in whom it has wrought this its effect, one who habitually believes in the Son of God, and says of such an one, that he possesses the testimony in himself. What it is, he does not plainly say till below, 1 John 5:11. But easily enough here we can synthetically put together and conjecture of what testimony it is that he is speaking: the Spirit by whom we are born again to eternal Life, the water of baptism by which the new birth is brought to pass in us by the power of the Holy Ghost (John 3:5; Titus 3:5), the Blood of Jesus, by which we have reconciliation with God, and purification from our sins (1 John 1:7; 1 John 2:2), and eternal life (John 6:53 sqq.),—these three all contribute to and make up our faith in Christ, and so compose that testimony, which the Apostle designates in 1 John 5:11 by the shorter term which comprehends them all.” Alford following Düsterdieck.—M.].—Ἔχειν bears the same sense here as in. 1 John 5:12; 1 John 3:3; 1 John 2:23. Ἐν ἑαυτῷ might be wanting, but John specifies besides the having, the possession of the sphere, the believer’s own inward testimony for it. It is wrong to render, to have with him (Luther), more wrong, recipit in se (Grotius), nor is it=τηρεῖ (Baumgarten-Crusius), nor=he not only receives it, but is also firmly convinced of it (Lücke), nor=he has received it in and with himself (de Wette).—As usual, the Apostle continues in the negative.

He that believeth not God, hath made Him a liar.—The Dative refers not to the object of faith, but to the witness; hence the reading τῷ υἱῷ is not in agreement with the text, as is τῷ θεῷ τῷ μεμαρτυρηκότι (Huther); this is confirmed by αὐτὸν, which must be referred to God, but would have to be connected with υἱῷ, if that were the reading. The Perfect πεποίηκεν indicates the still continuing and operating animus of the disbeliever: he has told and ever tells God to the face: thou liest (Luther). The reason follows:

Because he hath not believed in the testimony, which God hath given concerning His Son.—Οὐ πεπίστευκεν and not μὴ, because John refers to him, whom he had supposed not to believe (ὁ μὴ πιστεύων), as a definite individual, who in point of fact, objectively, has not become believing. John 3:18 : ὁ δὲ μὴ πιστεύων ἤδη κέκριται, ὅτι μὴ παπίστευκεν, because there the reference is to the judgment of the judge, and not simply to a fact per se. See Winer, p. 495 sq. The Perfects denote continuing and permanent facts.

1 John 5:11. And the testimony is this, that God hath given us [better gave us—M.] eternal life.—John now annexes by καὶ what follows, and this is the substance, the testimony consists in this (αὕτη ἐστὶν ἡ μαρτυρία); the reference is not to intentio, finis of the same (Lyra), nor to its use, fruit and blessing (Calov, Spener), nor to its exhibition, test, experience (Lücke, Neander, Huther). The testimony of God is in himself eternal life, which at the Baptism of Jesus, at His death, in the Holy Spirit, makes itself felt and perceptible, and testifies for the Son of God. Hence ὅτι=that, and ἔδωκεν, like μεμαρτύρηκεν points to a giving, with a present continuing of that past giving; it cannot be dare decrevit, promisit (Socinus, Carpzov), any more than ζωὴ αἰώνιος is vita æterna in spe (Bede), to be given only in heaven in re. Ἡμῖν designates the οἱ πεπιστευκότες. To the principal idea, ζωὴ�, placed first, the Apostle now adds

And that is the life in His Son, (or: and this life is in His Son).—This clause is co-ordinate with the one preceding and not dependent on ὅτι. Αὕτη ἡ ζωὴ is ἡ αἰώνιος, and this is in Jesus the Son of God; ἐν is not per (Grotius), or in communion with Him, nor ἐστιν=contingit. The eternal life is οὐσιωδῶς (John 1:4; John 11:25; John 14:6), σωματικῶς (Colossians 2:9), ἐνεργητικῶς (2 Timothy 1:10) in Christ. It became manifest in Him, because it really was in Him, and the believer participates in the eternal life, because he has part in the Son of God. Hence the conclusion.

1 John 5:12. He that hath the Son hath the life; he that hath not the Son of God, hath not the life (or: the life he hath not).

Very fine and pointed is Bengel’s note: “Habet versus duo cola; in priore non additur Dei, nam fideles norunt Filium;, in altero additur, ut demum sciant infideles, quanti sit, non habere. Priore hemistichio cum emphasi pronunciandum est habet; in altero vitam.” This is also indicated by the arrangement of the words (Düsterdieck). Ἔχει τὴν ζωὴν is not=habet jus certum ad vitam æternam (Grotius). Cf. 1 John 1:3; 1 John 2:23; John 17:3. [Alford: “The having the Son is the possession of Christ by faith testified, by the Spirit, the water and the blood: and the having the life is the actually possessing it, not indeed in its most glorious development, but in all its reality and vitality.”—M.]. Ὁ μὴ ἔχων points to a supposition: if one has not; which implies that he might have, but only through faith 1 John 5:10-11. [Düsterdieck has remarked that the use of ὁ μὴ ἔχων, not ὁ οὐκ ἔχων (cf. οἱ οὐκ ἡλεημένοι, 1 Peter 2:10) shows that the Apostle is contemplating, at all events primarily, rather a possible contingency than an actual fact: and thus is, primarily again, confirming his saying to those to whom the Divine testimony has come. To them, according as they receive or do not receive it, according as they are οἱ ἕχοντες or οἱ μὴ ἔχοντες τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ θεοῦ, it is a savour of life unto life, or of death unto death.”—M.].


I. Concerning the Person of Christ

1. In Christ, as the Son of God is the life eternal, so that it is as well said: God has given us the eternal life (1 John 5:11), as: He gave His only begotten Son (John 3:16); and he that hath the Son, hath the life, the eternal (1 John 5:11). Beside Him there is no salvation (Acts 4:12).

2. The essential nature of the Son was unmistakably exhibited in His obedience to the will of the Father, both at the commencement of His ministry by the baptism in Jordan, and at the close of it in His death upon the cross (1 John 5:6).

3. The testimony of the Holy Spirit for the Divine Sonship of Christ must not be separated from the historical facts of His life, even as these cannot become witnesses without the Holy Spirit, who has the office of testifying (1 John 5:6-8); the history on earth must not be severed from the Spirit of God. One might almost find here the principle of the Lutheran Church that the finitum may become infiniti capax, in opposition to the [German] Reformed principle: finitum infiniti non capax.

4. The Father hath so definitely appointed all things, that He who does not believe in the Divine Sonship of Jesus, refuses to believe God (1 John 5:10), as in John 14:1.

II. Concerning the acquisition or salvation

1. The origin of faith: Regeneratio præcedit fidem (1 John 5:1).

2. The nature of faith: it is essentially an ethical act laying hold of the merit of Christ, of the love of the Father in the Son, so that it has (ἔχει) that on which it believes (1 John 5:12; 1 John 5:10-11): it includes therefore love, and is not to be joined only to it, as set forth in the Roman Catholic representation of the fides formata. Nor does John allow faith to be described as the second condition, nor even as the first condition by the side of love and morality (1 John 5:1), as de Wette holds and expresses it.

3. The virtues of faith: a. with reference to men—it makes all believers brethren, because it makes them the children of God (1 John 5:2); b. with reference to the commandments of God—it makes us strong and cheerful in obedience (1 John 5:3), so that Bengel rightly observes: in se sunt suavia; sed τὸ non gravia contradicit et occurrit iis, qui gravia esse putant; c. with reference to the world—it imparts courage for the conflict and power for the victory (1 John 5:4-5). This it works with reference to men, at the same time changing them, transforming children of men into children of God, and causing such change to be perceived and received; with reference to the law of God and the world, it only changes believers by first giving to them the powers of the eternal life, and afterwards clear perception and a deeper understanding of the justice and blessing of the law and the transitoriness of the world.

4. The necessity of faith: without it one has neither Christ, nor God the Father, nor the Holy Spirit, nor the eternal life; consequently, without it and beside it there is no justification, no forgiveness of sins, no sanctification, no salvation (1 John 5:12).

5. The liberty of faith: all men are to believe according to the will of God, but coërcion of faith is not ordained; every man has the power of resistance (ὁ μὴ ἔχων τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ θεοῦ=ὁ μὴ πιστεύων, 1 John 5:10; 1 John 5:12).

6. The immorality of unbelief follows from 1 John 5:1, and especially 1 John 5:10 : not to believe God, to consider Him a liar, is like misbelief and despair, a shameful thing, and, as Luther says in the Catechism, a vice.

III. Concerning the Law.

1. It should be considered as a fact of the revelation of love, of paternal discipline.
2. It answers to the originally God-ordained human nature, which sin has corrupted and grace has healed; the burden and grievousness of it to men proves their state of sin, joy in it and obedience to it, their state of grace.
3. Of his own strength man cannot fulfil a single commandment; in this the Evangelical Church is right.


Do not separate faith and love! This is forbidden, 1. by the origin of faith in the regeneration from God who is Love, and 2. by its object, Jesus the Christ, in whom the love of God was manifested, and 3. by its task, to conquer the world through love.—Do not fail to distinguish between faith and love in the work of regeneration which is secured by the former, not by the latter, but do not sever them in the sphere of sanctification, where faith is the root of love, and love the many-branched crown of faith.—You may ascertain whether you have faith and are born again from 1. your love to God the Father, 2. from your love of the brethren, 3. from your obedience to the Divine commandments, 4. from your fight with the world in and around you.—Dr. Christian Friedrich Richter, physician at the Orphan House of Halle, in Franke’s time, was the author of the Christian song: Es kostet viel ein Christ zu sein, etc. ‘It costeth much to be a Christian and to live conformably to the mind of the pure Spirit, for nature finds it very hard, ever to be reconciled to the death of Christ,’ and the companion verse: ‘It is not difficult to be a Christian and to live conformably to the mind of the pure Spirit, for though nature finds it very hard, etc.’ Both are true and good. For the law is only a burden to man enfeebled by sin, but not to the Christian strengthened by grace, the one, indeed, is only enjoined to be good, but the other is enabled to be good.—Obedience to the Divine commandments notes the recovery of the Spirit, disobedience notes its decay. Nothing is more natural, nothing more adapted to human nature created by God after His own Image, than the Will of God, consistent with His Nature and expressed in the lovingly ordained Law for the benefit of His Kingdom, which was given, not against man, but for man, not against man, but against sin.—Learn from John how to contend with error! With all his resoluteness and decision, he is so objective and calm, and reasons so joyfully on the foundation of truth, that we are not even induced to make a personal application of his reasoning to others, but rather influenced to make it the test of our own standing.

Augustine:—Qui habet in memoria et servat in vita, qui habet in sermonibus et servat in moribus, qui habet audiendo et servat faciendo, aut qui habet faciendo, et servat perseverando, ipse est, qui diligit Deum. Opere est demonstranda dilectio ne sit infructuosa nominis appellalio.—You adore the Head, and offend the members. He loves His Body. Just as if somebody would desire to kiss your head, and at the same time trample with nailed shoes on your feet. Would you not decline the proffered demonstration of honour and exclaim: What are you about? You tread on my feet? The head would cry more for the trodden members than make account of being honoured.

Spener:—The meaning is not, that the keeping of the Divine commandments does not require considerable pains, labour and diligence, for that would contradict Luke 13:24; 2 Timothy 4:7.—The difficulty applies to a burden so oppressive and painful as to be unbearable.—Spiritual life is, as to its nature, an eternal life, and consists as well in the grace of God which forgives sin and imparts new Divine strength, as also in the enjoyment of eternal felicity and glory.

Starke:—Christianity is not a sham, but a true and honest thing which has its foundation, its coat of arms and tokens, its works and fruits, its profit and happiness.—If thou hast a sense of shame and honour, thou wilt surely not hurt the saintly children of a saintly father; look, believers are the children of thy heavenly Father; if instead of loving, thou hate them, thou art truly an enemy of God, their Father, and He, in His turn, thy enemy.—If thoughtful preachers stop long at one matter, and perhaps repeat it several times, and with changed phraseology make it more clear, be not impatient of it, but take note of their zeal and of the importance and necessity of the matter treated of.—O, how much pain, burden, difficulty and anxiety attend the children of the world in their sins and iniquities, of which the children of God are free and delivered! Thus many a child of Satan has more trouble to find hell, than a child of God to find heaven.—O man, do not persuade thyself and do not suffer thyself to be persuaded, that the world cannot be overcome. This is the infallible sign of true and false faith: viz., whether thou conquerest the world, or sufferest the world to conquer thee.—The children of God are soldiers and knights. The crown must be fought for; faith is victorious. Wretched man, if conquest and the crowning do not attend thy course! World begone beneath my feet. We will trample under foot lions and vipers. Come hither, sword of the Lord! The blessed state of a righteous man in Christ, his Head! He does not fortify the walls of houses and cities, but the empire of Satan and the walls of Jericho in his heart.—The stronger thy faith, the greater thy victory over sin, the world, death, the devil and hell.—The Bible surpasses, and should be preferred to, all books; all other good books are conducted like rivulets from this river.—Christ is not only the foundation, but also the true centre and chief work of our faith, at which alone the believer under the practice of self-denial, is ever aiming, and into which he does, as it were, ground himself.—As there is nothing more excellent than faith, so is nothing more dishonourable than unbelief. Faith honours God, and is the mother of all virtues; unbelief dishonours God, and is the mother of all vices.—Man must not seek the true life any where except in Christ; nor cherish any hope of life beside Him. As long as he is without Christ, he has no life; whereas the degree to which he is in Christ and partaker of His Being, is also the measure of his life.—A true Christian is a veritable Christophorus, who carries Christ in his heart, and leads his life in Him.—

Besser:—If thou art a conqueror, thou must have thy spoils to show.—The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life are the chief trophies, of which the soldiers of Christ divest the conquered world, and which they suspend from the victorious banner of the cross.—

Heubner:—Without prejudice to the general love of man, a Christian must be especially attracted to those who are of one mind with him; he must value the true children of God infinitely more than the unconverted.—The genuineness and holiness of human love betokened by its religious character.—All love is worthless without religion, a mere natural impulse, or masked selfishness.—True love is allied to strict conscientiousness; love must not render us languid or indulgent in respect of duty.—If the love to God requires obedience, the true love of man also must consist in obedience, fidelity and conscientiousness.—Struggle for this strength (1 John 5:3); to be ever complaining is a bad sign.—1. The light of faith conquers the errors, illusions and delusions of false wisdom, it sees through them, perceives their nothingness and masters them; the word of Christ is the eternal, unchangeable truth; faith the pole-star, that we do not swerve from the truth. 2. Faith conquers the allurings and fascinations of the world which we encounter in its lusts, its riches and honours; it conquers them by the love of Christ, by the heavenly riches and the eternal glory, which it discloses. 3. It conquers the threatenings of the world, the obstacles which it raises, its persecutions; the call of Christ to us is too mighty, and the crown of honour offered to us causes us to despise the contempt of the world.—This (viz. the conquest of the world) is an idea peculiar to Christianity, because it only teaches the contrast of the kingdom of God and the world.—A lofty thought, to face the whole world and to conquer it! This is a greater task than that of the world-conquerors; they are servants of the world.—Unbelief is an offence against the Majesty of God, a denial of the holy miracles in the moral world, which God has wrought.—

1 John 5:1. L. in Gesetz und Zeugniss, 1John 1859:—When does the feast of the Nativity become to us the birth-day of a new life? When its glad tidings excite in us anew 1. the undoubting faith that Jesus is the Christ; but also 2. grateful love to God, and to all those who are our brethren in Christ.

On 1 John 5:4. Spurgeon:—A great victory, a great birth, a great grace.

Danneil:—The Christian’s warfare. 1. The warrior (born of God); 2. The enemy (the world); 3. The victory (faith).

Genthe, on the tercentenary Anniversary, 1860, Baptismal Address. How Melanchthon conquered the world in the strength of faith; 1. The temptation of the world; 2. The opposition of the world; 3. The fear of the world.

5. Schleiermacher:—Our Christmas-joy is closely connected with the fact that the faith, that Jesus is the Son of God, is the victory which conquers the world. 1. The object of the festal joy, that in Jesus is born the Son of God, surpasses all similar events in our family and social life, for through Him we are made well-pleasing to God. 2. The world is destined to be conquered, judged, and destroyed as to its transitory and corruptible side, but to become more and more blessed as to its Divine side, and this has been done in Christ and through Christ in believers, so that it is one and the same thing to say: the the Son of God conquers the world through our faith, and our faith conquers the world through Him.

1 John 5:9-12. F. A. Wolf:—Christ the Author and Giver of a living religion. 1. Explain and prove that this is true of Christ as a Witness, an Ensample, and a Surety. 2. The inferences: a. Christianity has nothing to fear from all-changing time, from false love of novelty, and from true zeal for improvement; b. test the genuineness of your own Christianity by the vitality of the faith that is in you.

1 John 5:1-13. Petri:—The Easter-faith, that Jesus is the Christ. 1. That we become anew conscious of the wholesome virtues of this faith; 2. and edify ourselves on this our most holy faith.

On the Epistle for Dom. Quasimodogeniti [First Sunday after Easter—M.] 1 John 5:4-10.

Heubner:—The great value of faith in Jesus Christ. 1. How it manifests itself: a. in its power: it makes us the children of God and conquers the world (1 John 5:4-5); b. in its certainty: it is supported by the testimony of God (1 John 5:6-8); 2. The duties it enjoins upon us: a. it warns us against contempt of faith (1 John 5:9), and b. it lays us under the obligation to receive the testimony of God (1 John 5:10).

Faith in Christ the good part of younger Christians (Candidates for Confirmation). 1. Proof: this faith makes them the children of God; preserves them from the world. 2. How do they acquire this faith? By diligent consideration of the testimonies for Jesus, and by ready obedience.

Continued provision for grown-up children, 1. In what it consists; 2. What makes it our bounden duty.—

R. Stier:—What John means by conquering the world? Our faith must conquer 1. The unbelief of the world; 2. The sin and seduction of the world; 3. The enmity of the world.—

What sort of faith does conquer the world? 1. Faith in Him, who also was not of the world, but the eternal brightness of the glory of the Father, and the express image of His Person; 2. Faith in Jesus, the Conqueror of the world.—

Kapff:—The Confirmation of regeneration. 1. How the regeneration of mankind is confirmed in Christ; 2. How it is confirmed in individual hearts; 3. What influence in that direction outward confirmation has.

Genzken:—Build yourselves up on faith by the Holy Ghost. 1. This is needful for the regenerate, as feeble newly-born persons (1 John 5:4); 2. But the foundation, which is laid, stands firm like a rock (1 John 5:5); and the Prince of life evermore joins us in the Holy Communion (1 John 5:6); 3. The Holy Spirit bears testimony concerning the truth of His word, and the power of His life (1 John 5:6; 1 John 5:8-11).

F. W. Krummacher:—The threefold testimony for Jesus the Messiah and Saviour of the world 1. in the water; 2. in the blood; 3. in the Holy Spirit.

Beyer (in Gesetz und Zeugniss for 1862):—A test of Faith! 1. Dost thou know the victory, whereby faith verifies itself? 2. The fountain, whence it daily draws fresh nourishment? 3. The testimony which gives it assurance?—

The testimony of God concerning His Song of Solomon , 1. to us; 2. in us; 3. by us.

The victorious power of faith, 1. against the sin of the world, 2. against the lie of the world.

Our faith is the victory which conquers the world. 1. What sort of faith is it? 2. How is it obtained? 3. How does it conquer the world?—

[1 John 5:2. Macknight:—The intention of the Apostle was to show, how we may know when we love the children of God in a right manner. Now this was necessary to be shown, since men may love the children of God because they are their relations, or because they are engaged in the same pursuits with themselves, or because they are mutually united by some common bond of friendship. But love proceeding from these considerations is not the love of the children of God which He requires. By what mark then can we know, that our love to the children of God is of the right sort? “By this,” saith the Apostle, “we may know that we love the children of God” in a right manner, “when we love God and” from that excellent principle, “keep His commandments,” especially His commandment to love His children, because they bear His Image. True Christian love therefore is that which proceeds from love to God, from a regard to His will, and which leadeth us to obey all His commandments.—M. ].

[1 John 5:3. Pusey:—“For nothing is grievous or burdensome to him who loves. They are not grievous, because love makes them light; they are not grievous, because Christ gives strength to bear them. Wings are no weight to the bird, which they lift up in the air until it is lost in the sky above us, and we see it no more, and hear only its note of thanks. God’s commands are no weight to the soul, which, through His Spirit, He upbears to Himself; nay, rather, the soul, through them, the more soars aloft and loses itself in the love of God.”

1 John 5:4. “ ‘They are not grievous, because every thing which is born of God overcometh the world.’ He saith not only whosoever, but ‘every thing which,’ showing the largeness of the gifts. ‘Every thing,’ of every sex or age time or clime, ‘which is born of God, overcometh the world,’ and that not of themselves, but of the gift of God; not they, but the power, through their new birth, in-born in them, faith, love, grace, from God, unto God, and they, as wielding in them a power not their own, overcome the world.—‘The commandments of God are not grievous,’ because we have a power implanted in us mightier than all which would dispute the sway of God’s commandments and God’s love, a power which would lift us above all hindrances, carry us over all temptations, impel our listlessness, sweep with it whatever opposes it, sweep with it even the dulness or sluggishness of our own wills, the Almighty power of the grace of God.”

“This is the victory, by which the martyrs overcame, by which the weak became strong, and, in Divine strength, mastered the strong; the strength of endurance wearied out the brutal might of affliction; children overcame their oppressor; the ignorant took captive the learning of the world; fishermen and the tent-maker subdued the world; the dying conquered the living; the blood of martyrs became the harvest-seed of the church. By faith, St. Paul says, ‘they subdued kingdoms;’ by faith St. Peter bids us resist the evil one. For faith knits us to Christ; faith obtains for us the power of Christ; faith prevails with Him who is Almighty, and overcomes the world, for it has power with Him who has power over the world.”
“Faith binds us to Him, who is Almighty; but faith, too, opens our own eyes to things invisible. It imparts to us of the power of the All-Powerful, of the wisdom of the All-Wise. It gives us to see the nothingness of all things which are but for a time. It opens our eyes to the majesty and beauty of things eternal. What to us are things which perish in the grasp? What to us are things of time and sense, save as they speak of that which lives when time shall cease to be, or as they shall themselves live on, purified but indestructible? One only is above us, He who made us. All we see is below us. His friends we may be, His we have been made, who is Lord of the world. The world itself, and all which is in the world, is for our use, subject to us, as we to God. All things beautiful to sight, sweet to taste, transporting in sound, pleasant to smell, and thrilling to touch, all things are ours and for us, if used in obedience to their and our Maker. But we are above them. They were made for us, not we for them; they are made to serve us, not we to be slaves to them. Faith shows us Him who is above all things, but in all things; immortal, invisible, incomprehensible, in light unapproachable, yet who willeth to come unto us, and make His abode in us. God made us, because He willed to impart Himself to us. He made us, not that He needed us, but to show us His love. He has made us for Himself, He willed not to make us apart from Himself. He willed to join us to Himself. He who hath and is all things, of which we have the shadow here below, ‘the true riches of wisdom, and spiritual delight, royal glory, eternal peace, a kingdom incorruptible, eternal joy, overflowing peace, true bliss, certain knowledge’ (Laurentius), pleasure for evermore, He willeth to give thee all which is His, and much more, He willeth to give thee Himself. Why shall we not trust Him with the things of time, or with ourselves, who must trust Him with our eternity? Why not trust that, for these few days and years, He will provide for us, whom He has made for His love, if He will not have it, in those countless ages which time measures not?”—M.].
[Secker:—Presumption in our strength is destructive to our virtue; confidence of our own merit is injurious to our Maker; but a deep sense of human unworthiness and of Divine grace will inspire us with that lowliness of heart, which God will accept, and that vigilance of conduct, which He will bless. “This,” therefore, “is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.”—M.].

[1 John 5:6. Pyle:—“Nor are the effects and influences of this great truth more excellent and noble than is the ground and foundation of it strong and certain. The testimonies given Him at His baptism, when God by a voice from heaven declared Him to be His beloved Son, the Saviour of mankind: the miracles at His crucifixion, when at the shedding of His innocent blood, we saw both water and blood come out of His side; the sun was darkened; the earth trembled, and the vail of the temple was rent; the signs and wonders done by Him, and by others in His name; these three, respectively denoted by ‘the water,’ ‘the blood,’ and ‘the Spirit,’ are all testimonies of the authority of His Person and mission, most unexceptionable, as being evidences of that Holy Spirit that cannot deceive us.”—M.].

[1 John 5:12. Sherlock:—“If we reflect upon the holiness of God, and His hatred of sin and iniquity, and begin to fear that He can never be reconciled to sinners; let us take courage; the work is difficult, but the Son of God has undertaken it; and how great soever the distance between God and us is, yet through the Son we have access to Him. If we still fear for ourselves, that all may again be lost through our own weakness and inability to do good; even here help is at hand, the Spirit of God is our support, He is the pledge and earnest of our redemption. These being the necessary means of salvation it was necessary to reveal to the World the doctrines concerning the Son and the Holy Spirit: and the belief of these doctrines is necessary to every Christian, as far as the right use of the means depends on the right faith and belief of the doctrines. ‘He that hath the Son,’ saith St. John, ‘hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life;’ and again: ‘whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father.’ For since we can only come to the Father through the Son, to deny the Son is to cut off all communication between us and the Father. The same may be said of the blessed Spirit, through whom we are in Christ: ‘If any man,’ says St. Paul, ‘have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.’ Our blessed Lord has Himself told us, that ‘this is life eternal, that we may know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom He hath sent.’ ”—M.].

[Sermons, etc.

1 John 5:1. Howe, John, On Regeneration. Works, 8, 484.

1 John 5:3. Tillotson, Abp., The Precepts of Christianity not grievous. Serm. 1:152.

Osterwald, J. F., Qu’il est nécessaire et facile de garder les commandements de Dieu. Sermons, 79.

Wardlaw, R., On the identity of morality and religion. Christian Ethics, 240.

Sherlock, W., Obedience the best evidence of our love to God. Sermons, 2:44.

1 John 5:4. Alleine, R., The world conqueror. 8vo. 1676.

Hare, J C., The victory of faith.

Faith the victory that overcometh the world.—Faith a practical principle.—Office and province of faith.—Power of faith in man’s natural life.—Power of faith among the heathen and among the Jews.

Pyle, P., The Christian’s victory over the world. Sermons, 4:503.

1 John 5:7-8. Among the controversial writers on these verses the following have supported their genuineness: Dr. Mill, T. Smith, Kettner, David Martin, Calamy, Calmet, Sloss, Travis, Hey, Butler, Middleton, Nolan, Hales, Alber, Bp. Burgess, John Jones, Card. Wiseman; the following assert their spuriousness: Simon, Emlyn, Sir Isaac Newton, Benson, Porson, Marsh, Griesbach, A. Clarke, Jowett, Turton, Orme, Scholz, Horne and the authors named above in Exegetical and Critical. Our limits do not allow us to give the titles of the books in this controversy, which is a library in itself.

1 John 5:10. Baxter, W., Christ’s witness within us, the believer’s special advantage against temptations to infidelity. Works, 20:129.

Watts, I., The inward witness to Christianity. 3 Serm. Works, 1 John 1:1.

Melvill, Henry, The witness in oneself. Lecture 58.

1 John 5:11-12. Stedman, Rowland, The mystical union of believers with Christ; or a treatise wherein that great mystery and privilege of the saints’ union with the Son of God is opened. 8vo. London, 1668.—M.].


[42] 1 John 5:1. [German: “Every one that believeth,” and so E. V. in second clause.—M.]

[43] 1 John 5:1. [German: “That Jesus is Christ.”—M.]

[44] 1 John 5:1. Καὶ before γεγεννημένον is the reading of A. Sin. (which has τὸ instead of τὸν) and several minusc.

[German: “loveth also Him that is begotten of Him.”—M.]

[45] 1 John 5:2. [Ἐντούτῳ, in this, hereby.—M.]

[46] 1 John 5:2. τηρῶμεν, cannot be considered to be supported by A. which omits the following words αὑτὴ γάρ ἐστιν ἡ�, ἵνα τὰς ἐντολὰς αὐτοῦ, so that τηρῶμεν there might come from 1 John 5:3, although the omission of said words is more easily accounted for, even if we read τηρῶμεν and not ποιῶμεν (B. and al.) 1 John 5:2; but Sin. G. K. al. abundantly sustain the reading in question.

[47] 1 John 5:4. [German: “because” so Alford.—M.]

[48] 1 John 5:4. [πᾶν τὸ; German: “all that;” so Alford.—M.]

[49] 1 John 5:4. ἡ νίκη ἡ νικήσασα τὸν κόσμον; German: “the victory which hath overcome the world;” Alford: “has conquered.”—M.]

[50] 1 John 5:4. ἡμῶν; so A. B. G. K. Sin.; ὑμῶν, only in unimportant Codd.

[51] 1 John 5:5. Sin. reads δὲ after τίς, B. K. have δὲ after τίςἐστιν; others read γὰρ; e.g. Syriac; others prefix καὶ, while A. and al. [G. Vulg., Lachm., Tischend., Alf.—M.] have no conjunction at all. [German: “But who is it, that etc.”—M.]

[52] 1 John 5:5. [German: “If not he;” Alf. “except he.”—M.]

[53] 1 John 5:6. καὶ πνεύματος after αἵματος, though found in A. Sin., several minuscules and versions, is evidently an interpretation, like the still less authentic καὶ ἐν τῷ πνεύματι after ἐν τῷ αἵματι.

[54] 1 John 5:6. The Article ὁ before χριστός found in B., is omitted by A. G. Sin. al.

[55] 1 John 5:6. [German: “not in the water only” so Alford.—M.]

[56] 1 John 5:6. [German: “but in the water and in the blood.”—M.]

[57] 1 John 5:6. [German: “And the Spirit is it that testifieth.”—M.]

[58] 1 John 5:6. The reading χριστὸς, instead of τὸ πνεῦμα before η� is only very feebly supported. Equally devoid of all firm foundation are several readings in this verse which do not even touch the sense, e.g. μόνῳ, ἀλλὰ καὶ, ἀλήθεια without the Article.

[59] 1 John 5:7. [German: “For they are three that bear witness;” Alford “For those who bear witness are three.” German: “And the three are one.” Alford: “And the three concur in one.”—M.]

[60]For particulars concerning this passage see Critical Note on 1 John 5:7-8.—M.

[61] 1 John 5:9. [German: “because.”—M.]

[62] 1 John 5:9. ὅτι is the reading of A. B. Sin. al. instead of ἥν, Rec. [K. L. al. German: “because that is the testimony of God, that He hath testified of His Son.” Alford: “The testimony of God is this, that He hath borne testimony concerning His Son.”—M.]

[63] 1 John 5:10. The addition of τοῦ θεοῦ after μαρτυρίαν in A, is wanting in B. Sin. al.

[64] 1 John 5:10. τῷ θεῷ in B. G. Sin. is more authentic than τῷ υἱῷ of A. and in better agreement with the context.

[65] 1 John 5:10. [German: “He that believeth in the Son of God, hath the testimony in himself; he that believeth not God, hath made Him a liar, because He hath not believed in the testimony, which God hath given concerning His Son.” The last clause is more correctly rendered thus: “which God hath testified concerning His Son.” The variation “record” in this verse in E. V. should by all means be avoided.—M.]

[66] 1 John 5:11. ἐστιν, generally at the end of the verse; in A. between αὕτη and ἡ ζωὴ.

[67] 1 John 5:11. [German; “And this is the life in His Son.”—M.]

[68] 1 John 5:12. τοῦ θεοῦ after the first τὸν υἱὸν, as Luther reads, is too feebly supported; it is wanting in the best Codd., also in Sin.

[69] 1 John 5:12. [German: “hath not the life.”—M.]

Verses 13-21


1 John 5:13-21

13These things have I written1 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 believe2 on the name of the Son of God. 14And this is the confidence that we have in him3, that, if we ask any thing4 according to his will, he heareth us: 15And if we know that he hear5 us, whatsoever we ask6, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of7 him. 16If any man see his brother sin a sin8 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 it9. 17All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not10 unto death. 18We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten11 19of God keepeth himself, and that12 wicked one toucheth him not. And we know 20that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness13. And14 we know that the Son of God is come and hath given us an understanding15, that we may know16 him that is true17; and we are in him that is true17, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life18. 21Little children, keep yourselves19 from idols. Amen20.


The Conclusion. 1 John 5:13. These things wrote I.—Ταῦτα ἔγραψα, like ταῦτα ἔγραψα 1 John 2:26, might be referred to the verses immediately preceding, if the words annexed permitted such a construction:

That ye may know, that ye have eternal life, ye that believe in the name of the Son of God.—Quite similar to the closing verse of the Gospel, John 20:31. The purpose of the writing ἵνα εἰδῆτε ὅτι ζωὴν ἔχετε αἰώνιον corresponds with the χαρά at the beginning of the Epistle, which χαρά was to be filled by the testimony of the eye and ear-witnesses of the λόγος τῆς ζωῆς; hence ταῦτα ἔγραψα answers to ταῦτα γράφομεν 1 John 1:4 (Bengel), the certainty of the possession of eternal life being the ground and strength of the joy, which John has, and to which he adverts. The words τοῖς πιστεύουσιν εἰς τὸ ὄνομα τοῡ υἱοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ, annexed to ὑμῖν, primarily refer back to 1 John 3:23. but find their last resting-place in the κοινωνία ἡ ἡμετέρα μετὰ τοῦ πατρὸς καὶ μετὰ τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ, 1 John 1:3. Hence ταῦτα must be referred neither to 1 John 5:8-12 (Huther), nor to 1 John 5:1-12 (S. Schmid), but to the whole Epistle (Luther, Bengel, Lücke, Düsterdieck and al.), though the inducement to the choice of this expression lies in verses immediately preceding, and preparing the concluding portion of the Epistle, and there still follow several verses which constitute that concluding portion. Noteworthy is the difference between the closing verse of the Gospel, John 20:31, which adverts to the future believing and obtaining eternal life of the readers, while our passage asserts their present belief and possession of eternal life. [Alford sees here with Düsterdieck something like an anticipatory close of the Epistle. Huther maintains, that this verse still belongs to the second main part of the Epistle beginning with 1 John 3:23, on the ground that ζωὴν αἰώνιον goes back to the verses immediately preceding, and that πιστεύειν εἰς τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ, refers back to 3:28.—M.].

The confidence that prayer is heard. 1 John 5:14-15.

1 John 5:14. And this is the confidence which we have towards Him.—Καὶ connects with what goes before, i.e., it connects παῤῥησία ἣν ἔχομεν with ζωὴν ἔχετε αἰώνιον. This confidence consists in this:—

That if we ask any thing according to His will, He heareth us.—It is consequently the confidence in God, which has the intercourse of prayer with Him; this confidence rests on the ζωὴ αἰώνιος, springs from it, points back to it, and reacts also on it, strengthening and confirming it. Cf. 1 John 3:21-22.—Πρὸς αὐτὸν and to τὸ θέλημα αὐτοῦ must be referred to God the Father, because the idea of possessing the ζωὴ αἰώνιος involves the idea of the Divine Sonship, and the παῤῥησία is connected with both. While ἐὰν τι leaves the object of the prayer quite general and indefinite, κατὰ τὸ θέλημα limits it, so that it is a conditio æquissima, latissime patens (Bengel), as we may see from the fourth and seventh petitions of the Lord’s Prayer, in connection with the others. (Cf. Doctrinal and Ethical No. 1.)—Ἀκούει ἡμῶν denotes an attentive, sympathetic hearing, while ἡμᾶς would signify a mere hearing.—This is an undoubted fact:

1 John 5:15. And if we know that He heareth us whatsoever we may ask.—Hence ἐὰν with the Indicative οἶδαμεν. Winer, p. 310, sq.—Ὅ ἐὰν αἰτώμεθα denotes the general character of the object of prayer. It follows that:

We know that we have the petitions which we have asked from Him.—” Ἔχομεν, emphatic, placed first. By the side of ἀκούει ἡμῶν, we must distinguish ̓́χομεν τἀ αἰτήματα (Lorinus: res petitæ), although the two belong together; God hearing our prayers and our having go hand-in-hand. The additional clause: ἃ ᾐτήκαμεν�’ αὐτοῦ indicates that the having is the consequence of prayer preceding it, so that the having in point of time does not coincide with the prayer, as does the believer’s prayer with God’s hearing; but our having is secured; ἔχομεν is not=λαμβάνομεν (Lachmann and al.), nor must it be construed like a Future (Grotius: statim exaudit, at non statim dat).—Ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ, as in Matthew 20:20, belongs to ᾐτήκαμεν, not to ἔχομεν; παρ’ αὐτοῦ, as in Acts 3:2, (see Appar. Crit., No. 7,), could not, at any rate, denote prayers as deposits made with God, as Ebrard maintains.

Intercession for a brother sinning not unto death. 1 John 5:16-17.

1 John 5:16. If any one see his brother commit a sin, not unto death.—Here is supposed a specific case, in which the confident petition becomes an intercession for the purpose of keeping an erring brother,—after the example of Christ (1 John 2:1; cf. Luke 22:31-32; John 17:9; Hebrews 7:25),—with his Saviour and salvation, in fellowship with the Redeemer and in the participation of eternal life. Additur casus omnium maximus; ut possis orare etiam pro altero in re gravissima (Bengel). Ἐάν τις ἴδῃ supposes an objective possibility; it is not said that some one does see, but it may be, the event will show it; consequently: If any one should see it. Winer, p. 306, sq. The reference is to an event which may be seen, to a fact susceptible of observation, as in 1 John 3:17.—Τὸν�, denotes a member of the Christian Church, and τις requires to be taken in the same sense. The reference is consequently to intimate converse, and to what happens and becomes manifest there. This the Apostle brings out emphatically in the participial form: ἁμαρτάτοντα ἁμαρτίαν: the sinning brother stands, as it were, before our eyes. Here we have μὴ πρὸς θάνατον, not as in 1 John 5:17 : οὐ πρὸς θάνατον, because the reference is to the subjective judgment of the observer, not to an objectively valid principle, not to the establishment of a dogmatically real idea. Winer, p. 496.—Ἀδελφὸς is therefore not=proximus quicunque (Calov); non-christians are excluded (against Ebrard), although the reference may not be exactly to “a regenerate person” (Düsterdieck).

He shall ask and give him life.—The Future αἰτήσει denotes that the intercession may be confidently expected, since καὶ δώσει neither warrants us to construe the Future, in the decisive language of the legislation of the Old and New Testament (Matthew 5:21; Matthew 5:27, etc.,) as an Imperative, nor gives an occasion to assume a purely ethical possibility, as Luke 22:49 : κύριε, εἰ πατάξομεν; Romans 10:14 : πῶς οὖν ἐπικαλέσονται; shall we smite? how shall they, how can they call? See Winer, pp. 294, 295, 331. Hence it is not=licebit petere (S. Schmidt). The subject is the intercession, τις, not the Church (Neander), or the saints (Meyer). The same subject, αἰτῶν, belongs also to δώσει; it is neither=dabitur (variation of the Vulgate, approved by Bede and others), nor to be derived from the idea of prayer, αἰτούμενος, rogatus Deus (Beza, Bengel, Lücke, Winer, p. 553, and al.). [The Æthiopic version brings out the right meaning: rogans vivificabit; i.e. the asker shall be instrumental in bestowing life on the erring brother for whom he intercedes.—M.]. The grammatical requirements of our passage are fully borne out by the cycle of thoughts current in the New Testament (Acts 3:6; James 5:15; James 5:20). John here simply contemplates the result as a fact, without adverting to the instrumentality, its ways and stages within the brother’s heart, which was the object of intercession; repentance and faith, moreover, are not excluded, and the interceding brother is not viewed as the Saviour, or the representative of the Redcemer. Neither may we think of an admonitio et correptio fraterna (Matthew 18:15; S. Schmid), nor of the proper demeanour of the asker towards his erring brother, as the result of his intercessory prayer (Rickli). The final effect of intercession is ζωὴ (αἰώνιος), which is weakened and disturbed by every sin [Alford; This bestowal of life by intercessory prayer, is not to be minutely inquired into, whether it is to be accompanied with “correptio fraterna,”—whether it consists in the giving to the sinner a repentant heart (Grotius, al.), but taken, as put by the Apostle, in all its simplicity and breadth. Life, viz.: the restoration of that Divine life from which by any act of sin he was indeed in peril, and indeed in process of falling, but this sin was not an actual fall.—M.].

To them that sin not unto death.—The Plural τοῖς ἁμαρτάνουσι belongs to αὐτῷ, which generaliter positum est (Erasmus); the Plural takes the supposed case from the sphere of singularity; τις has collective force. See Winer, p. 553. It is forced and ungrammatical to refer αὐτῷ to him that asks, understanding θεὸς as the subject, and taking τοῖς ἁμαρτάνουσι as Dativ. commodi: “God will give him life for the persons sinning,” as Bornemann (Biblische Studien der Sächs. Geistlichen I. p. 71,) does.—Μὴ πρὸς θάνατον qualifies ἀμαρτάνειν ἁμαρτίαν, or ἁμαρτάνειν, and has consequently adverbial force. θάνατος, only, if taken in the sense of spiritual death, corresponds with the context, viz., with the παῤῥησία of prayer being heard on the ground of our possession of the ζωὴ αἰώνιος, for ζωή in the intercession on behalf of the erring brother, and the preposition πρὸς, as denoting the aim towards which something is directed (Winer, p. 423), require us to think of a sinning, which in the conviction of the person interceding, must not terminate in θάνατος, the emptying of all ζωὴ αἰώνιος, and accordingly must not absolutely annul fellowship with Christ, faith in Him. This is brought out more clearly in the next clause.

There is a sin unto death.—Thus the Apostle circumscribes the domain of sinning not unto death: it is not infinite. This is directed against any possible laxity in the judgment of the Church on the sins of believers. Πρὸς θάνατον has the same meaning here, as in the preceding clause. The reference is accordingly to a specific sin, to a simple act perceptible (ἴδῃ) in the brother, within the limits of Christian fellowship (τὸν�), not to a particular, outwardly marked category of sins, but to a sinning, and committing of sin, which renders it clear to the careful observer, that the fellowship of faith with Christ, the fountain of eternal life, has been cut off, that consequently the ethical life-form appears to be inwardly decayed and dying, that the moral status of that brother shows itself to be in a state of hopeless dissolution, so that it is of no avail to pray for such an one, and that therefore intercession is not proper. Hence it is wrong to transfer to this passage the Old Testament idea of חֵטְא לָמוּת, ἁμαρτία θανατηφόρος (Numbers 18:22), and to refer to capital crimes, e.g. idolatry, adultery, murder, incest, which are punishable with death under the secular or Mosaic law (Morus, al.), or to the sins ecclesiastically punishable with excommunication, as if intercession had to conform to the secular code of punishment; nor is the reference to sinning unto the end of man’s earthly existence (Bede and al.), in which connection de Lyra rightly observes: “Qui sit peccator non ad mortem, sciri non potest nisi per divinam revelationem;” πρὸς θάνατον cannot be rendered “usque ad mortem.” Nor is the reference to the physically sick, James 5:14 (Steinhofer); nor to definite, gross crimes, peccatum gravissimum, quod vix remittitur (Ambrose), moechia port baptismum commissa (Tertullian), peccatum invidentiæ (Bede). Nor is here any description of a condition, “Talis animæ status, in quo fides et amor et spes, in summa, vita nova exstincta est; si quis sciens volensque mortem amplectitur, non ex illecebris carnis, sed ex amore peccati, sub ratione peccati; repudium gratiæ proæreticum.” (Bengel). Augustine thought first of invidentiæ faces post agnitionem Dei, and added afterwards: si in hac perversitate finierit vitam, and then: fidem deserere usque ad mortem. Lastly the reference is neither to a purely inward act, like obduracy (Ebrard), apostasy (de Wette, Lücke), nor to sin, perceptible in the walk of men, like the anti-christian denial expressed in words (Düsterdieck), nor to the sin against the Holy Ghost (Calvin, Sander and al.). The reference is simply to sinning, from which it may be perceived either, that no inward absolute severance from the faith and denial of Christ may or can be assumed, or that the latter is either recognizable of highly probable. To the latter case apply the words:

Concerning that I do not say that he shall pray.—The simple negation is, that the the Apostle says (οὐ—λέγω), that prayer should be made for him who sins unto death. He only makes prominent the circumstance that he confines himself to saying that intercession should be made for the person not sinning unto death. Hence those commentators are right, who do not see here a prohibition (Socinus, Grotius, Neander, Lücke, Huther and al.). But it is certainly not said that we ought, or only are permitted, to pray for him (Neander). It is important to note the difference of the words employed by the Apostle, for whereas before he made use of the word αἰτήσει, he now uses ἐρωτήσῃ: ἐρωτᾷν is=rogare, and implies equality on the part of the asker with him from whom the favour is sought; Jesus designates His praying by that term (John 14:16; John 16:26; John 17:9; John 17:15; John 17:20); on the other hand αἰτεῖν is=petere, and implies inferiority (Düsterdieck), while Bengel regards αἰτεῖν as species humilior under the genus ἐρωτᾷν. This word ἐρωτᾷν denotes the confident petition of the child, praying inquiringly and expecting the gift. Hence, due regard being had to the force of the term employed, we may discover here the sanction of intercession for a brother sinning unto death, yet without any assurance of success or that the intercession will prevail. But since the Apostle advocates this very παῤῥησία and Deus non vult, ut pii frustra orent (Bengel), it is probably locutio morata et attica for a prohibition. Deuteronomy 3:26. This is also suggested by va; in the present instance he does not wish to excite and promote the purpose of praying. (Cf. Doctrinal and Ethical No. 4).

1 John 5:17. All unrighteousness is sin.—The subject πᾶσα� reminds us of the predicate ἡ� 1 John 3:4. Ἀνομία is in contradiction with the objectively given law of God, ἀδικία is the contradiction and negation of the δικαιοσύνη and is concerned with the subjective disposition, though it be wrought from above and subject to the law. And this harmonizes with the fact that we are concerned with the moral status of the sinner in this sinning unto death, and sinning not unto death. John manifestly desires to guard against any ἀδικία being too lightly dealt with, being not considered as ἁμαρτία, though it be μὴ πρὸς τὸν θάνατον. The Roman Catholics, therefore, have no warrant for determining from the sin itself, whether it is peccatum mortale or veniale.

And there is a sin not unto death.—Καὶ simply connects the sequel; it is not=et quidem, and the sense: quodlibet nefas est peccatum non ad mortem (Bengel); Bengel’s clause: ‘sed ne quisquam id levius interpretetur, præmittit: est peccatum’ is only a moral reaction against the perversion of the Johannean thought: all unrighteousness is sin. The sequel, because of the intercession recommended, is added by way of emphasis. Οὐ πρὸς θάνατον implies the objectively real fact, the actual occurrence of such sin; it defines ἁμαρτία, not ἔστιν, as Luther supposes.

[There are one or two questions, in connection with this section, which require to be treated somewhat more fully. First, 1 John 5:17, involves a prohibition, or what is equivalent to it. But this has been denied by many commentators. “Ora si velis, sed sub dubio impetrandi” (Corn, a Lapide); Neander supposes that the offering of prayer is permitted, though the obtaining of it will be difficult, and arbitrarily imagines the prayer in question to be the collective prayer of the Church, and that one who sins πρὸς θάνατον should not be included in the common prayer of the Church, lest he might be confirmed in his sin; Huther finds in οὐ λέγω not more than a denial of the Apostle that the case of one sinning unto death came within the purview of his command. Lyra qualifies the prohibition, though “non est orandum pro damnatis,” yet we may pray, “ut minus peccaret, et per consequens minus damnaretur in inferno.”—Calvin recognizes the prohibition, but limits it to extreme cases, adding: “Sed quia rarissime hoc accidit, et Deus, immensas gratiæ suæ divitias commendans, nos suo exemplo misericordes esse jubet: non temere in quemquam ferendum est mortis æternæ judicium, potius nos caritas ad bene sperandum fleetat. Quod si desperata quorundam impietas non secus nobis apparet, ac sic Dominus eam digito monstraret; non est quod certemus cum justo Dei judicio, vel clementiores eo esse appetamus.”—Alford sums up: “Certainly this seems, reserving the question as to the nature of the sin, the right view of the οὐ λέγω. By an express command in the other case, and then as express an exclusion of this case from that command, nothing short of an implied prohibition can be conveyed.”—

Secondly, the question: What is the sin unto death?—The canons of interpretation for its solution, and some of the principal divergences, chiefly from Düsterdieck, collected by Alford, are here produced.

“The First canon of interpretation of the ἁμαρτία πρὸς θάνατον and οὐ πρὸς θάνατον is this: that the θάνατος and ζωή of the passage must correspond. The former cannot be bodily death, while the latter is eternal and spiritual life. This clears away at once all those commentators who understand the sin unto death to be one for which bodily death is the punishment, either by human law generally, as Morus and G. Lange, or by the Mosaic law (Schöttgen),—or by sickness inflicted by God, as Whitby and Benson; or of which there will be no end till the death of the sinner (thought possible by Bede, and adopted by Lyra). This last is evidently absurd, for how is a man to know, whether this will be so or not?

“The Second canon will be, that this sin unto death being thus a sin leading to eternal death, being no further explained to the readers here, must be presumed as meant to be understood by what the Evangelist has elsewhere laid down, concerning the possession of life and death. Now we have from him a definition immediately preceding this, in 1 John 5:12, ὁ ἔχων τὸν υἱὸν ἔχει τὴν ζωήν ὁ μὴ ἔχων τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ θεοῦ τὴν ζωὴν οὐκ ἔχει. And we may safely say that the words πρὸς θάνατον here are to be understood as meaning, “involving the loss of this life which men have only by the union with the Son of God.” And this meaning they must have, not by implication only, which would be the case, if any obstinate and determined sin were meant, which would be a sign of the fact of severance from the life which is in Christ (see 1 John 3:14-15, where the inference is of this kind), but directly and essentially, i.e. in respect of that very sin which is pointed at by them. Now against this canon are all those interpretations, far too numerous to mention, which make any atrocious and obstinate sin to be that intended. It is obvious that our limits are thus confined to abnegation of Christ, not as inferred by its fruits otherwise shown, but as the act of sin itself. And so, with various shades of difference, as to the putting forth in detail, most of the best commentators, both ancient and modern: e.g., Aretius, Luther, Calvin, Beza, Piscator, Corn. a Lapide, Tirinus, Baumgarten-Crusius, Lücke, Huther, Düsterdieck.

“The Third canon will help us to decide, within the above limits, what especial sin is intended. And it is, that by the very analogy of the context, it must be not a state of sin, but an appreciable act of sin, seeing that which is opposed to it in the same kind, as being not unto death, is described by ἐὰν τις ἴδῃ ἁμαρτάνοντα. So that all interpretations which make it to be a state of apostacy, all such as, e.g., Bengel’s (see above), do not reach the matter of detail which is before the Apostle’s mind.

“In enquiring what this is, we must be guided by the analogy of what St. John says elsewhere. Our state being that of life in Jesus Christ, there are those who have gone out from us, not being of us, 1 John 2:19, who are called ἀντίχριστοι, who not only “have not” Christ, but are Christ’s enemies, denying the Father and the Son (1 John 2:22), whom we are not even to receive into our houses nor to greet (2 John 1:10-11). These seem to be the persons pointed at here, and this is the sin: viz. the denial that Jesus is the Christ, the incarnate Son of God. This alone of all sins bears upon it the stamp of severance from Him who is the Life itself. As the confession of Christ, with the mouth and in the heart, is salvation unto life (Romans 10:9), so the denial of Christ, with the mouth and in the heart, is sin unto death. This alone of all the proposed solutions seems to satisfy all the canons above laid down. For in it the life cast away and the death incurred strictly correspond: it strictly corresponds to what St. John has elsewhere said concerning life and death, and derives its explanation from those other passages, especially from the foregoing 1 John 5:12 : and it is an appreciable act of sin, one against which the readers have been before repeatedly cautioned (1 John 2:18 sqq.; 1 John 4:1. sqq.; 1 John 5:5; 1 John 5:11-12). And further, it is in exact accordance with other passages of Scripture which seem to point at a sin similarly distinguished above others: Matthew 12:31 sqq., and so far as the circumstances there dealt with allow common ground, with the more ethical passages, Hebrews 6:4 sqq., Hebrews 10:25 sqq. In the former case, the Scribes and Pharisees were resisting the Holy Ghost (Acts 7:51), who was manifesting God in the flesh in the person and work of Christ. For them the Lord Himself does not pray (Luke 23:34): they knew what they did: they went out from God’s people and were not of them: receiving and repudiating the testimony of the Holy Ghost to the Messiahship of Jesus.”—M.].

Assurance of redemption. 1 John 5:18; 1 John 5:20.

1 John 5:18. We know that every one who is born (out) of God, sinneth not.—Each of these three concluding verses begins with οἴδαμεν; Bengel: anaphora. The Evangelist refers to εἰδῆτε 1 John 5:13, and thus describes the proper consciousness of the Christian in his attitude to sin (1 John 5:18), the world (1 John 5:19), and the Redeemer (1 John 5:20). Πᾶς γεγεννημένος ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ signifies every one who is, and abides, born of God; the power of regeneration, of the life given and received in regeneration, operates from the past into the present; as such οὐχ ἁμαρτάνει, as such sin is foreign to him, Romans 7:20; cf. 1 John 3:9.—It is unnecessary to supply πρὸς θάνατον (Bede, Beza and al.), and arbitrary to understand an abiding in sin, or a falling from grace (Calvin), or the not frequent occurrence of the sin unto death and sin in general (de Wette).

But he that hath been born of God, keepeth himself, and the wicked one doth not touch him.—The opposite (ἀλλὰ), refers not only to the predicate, but, since the subject is particularly specified, to the whole clause, and the two clauses (οἴδαμεν ὅτι—and ὅ γεννηθεὶς κ. τ. λ.) are independently coördinated. The Aorist indicates the historical fact; that hath been born again (in opposition to Sander who discovers this in the Perfect, and Bengel, “præteritum grandius quiddam sonat, quam aoristus; non modo qui magnum in regeneratione gradum assecutus, sed quilibet, qui regenitus est, servat se.”) Τηρεῖ αὑτὸν indicates moral effort and self-exertion; οὐ φύσει εἰς� (Oecumenius); sin occurs, approaches, but he sustains the conflict, guarding himself in his peculiar nature and the Divine gift of eternal life, which hinders, spoils and drives away sin. Thus sin destroys man himself; it is in virtue of his self-guarding that the σπέρμα τοῦ θεοῦ abides in him (1 John 3:9); we must neither supply ἁγνόν (1 Timothy 5:22), nor ἄσπιλον (James 1:27. Carpzov, Lücke, al.), nor take τηρεῖσθαι in the sense of being on one’s guard (Ebrard). Cf. 1 John 3:3. [Alford justly objects to this and similar expositions, and retaining the reading αὑτόν A. B. Vulg. Jer., renders “it keepeth him,” viz. the Divine birth, adding, “it is this, and not the fact of his own watchfulness, which preserves him from the touch of the wicked one, as in 1 John 3:9, where the same is imported by ὅτι τὸ σπέρμα αὐτοῦ ἐν αὐτῷ μένει, καὶ οὐ δύναται ἁμαρτάνειν, ὅτι ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ γεγέννηται. The rationalistic commentators insist on τηρεῖ ἑσυτόν, as showing, as Socinus, “aliquid præstare eum atque efficere, qui per Christum regeneratus fuerit;” and the orthodox commentators have but a lame apology to offer. Düsterdieck compares ἁγνίζει ἑαυτόν, 1 John 3:3. But the reference there is wholly different—viz. to a gradual and earnest striving after an ideal model; whereas here the πηρεῖσθαι must be, by the very nature of the case, so far complete that the wicked one cannot approach: and whose self-guarding can ensure this even for a day? Cf. John 17:15, ἵνα τηρήσῃς αὐτοὺς ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῦ, which is decisive.”—M.]. The clause annexed by καὶ notes the difficult but successful conflict. The enemy, ὁ πονηρὸς, 1 John 3:12, is Satan, οὐχ ἅπτεται αὐτοῦ, though he would fain do it, hostile attacks, Satanic assaults, temptations are not wanting (1 Peter 5:8); but the point of complication between Satan and the regenerate is not reached, the wrestling is wanting; the regenerate keeps Satan at a distance, wards him off; Bengel: malignus appropinquat, ut musca ad lychnum, sed non nocet, ne tangit quidem. “In the πανοπλία he is guarded against all the μεθοδεῖαι τοῦ διαβόλου Ephesians 6:11 sqq.” (Huther). Luther and Calvin also refer to the armour of God, so that, as in John 17:11-12; John 17:15; Revelation 3:10, God is the Preserver [Calvin: “Utut malignus renatum ad peccatum solicitet, tela tamen illius irrita cadunt, quoniam renatus scuto fidei munitus ea repellit et diabolo per fidem resistit.”—M.]. But here the Apostle contemplates only the result, and not the way to it. Additions such as letaliter (Calvin), finaliter (E. Schmid), are unnecessary. But ὁ πονηρὸς οὐχ ἅπτεπαι αὐτοῦ depends of course on the careful τηρεῖν ἑαυτὸν (Düsterdieck, Huther). [Alford: “As the Prince of this world had nothing in our blessed Lord, even so on His faithful ones who live by His life, the Tempter has no point d’ appui, by virtue of that their γέννησις by which they are as He is.”—M.].

1 John 5:19. We know that we are (out) of God.—The second οἴδαμεν repeats by way of introduction and in pregnant abbreviation (ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ ἐσμέν), and with application to himself and his church, the believer’s consciousness of his Divine sonship. There is no occasion whatever to understand here the peculiar revelation vouchsafed to the Apostles, or to explain εἶναι ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ=a Deo pendere illique adhærere (Socinus). The principal sentence is the independent clause, annexed like 1 John 5:18; 1 John 5:20, by καὶ, viz.:

And the whole world lieth in the wicked one.—For the world is the territory and domain of Satan, on which account, and because ὁ πονηρὸς occurs in 1 John 5:18, and we have here an antithesis to ὁ θεὸς, τῷ πονηρῷ is masculine, and not neuter (Lyra, Socinus, Grotius, who however allows an allusion to Satan, Spener, Rickli and al.). Ἐν τῷ πονηρῷ κεῖται denotes like ἐν τῇ συγκλήτῳ κεῖται (Polyb. VI. 14, 6), both the competency of Satan and dependence on him as the controlling power; in (ἐν) him lies the world, [it is circumscribed by him and in his power—M.]; κεῖται denotes the passiveness of the state, of the situation; he ἅπτεται τοῦ κόσμου continually in the most powerful and destructive manner The ethical medium of sin is not expressed here, only the result is indicated. Referring here, with Spener and Steinhofer, to Isaiah 46:3, and explaining it in analogy with regeneration, as if the world were lying in the wicked one like a child in its mother’s womb, is false per se and not warranted by that passage wrongly rendered by Luther.—Ὁ κόσμος ὅλος refers to all the unregenerate; God’s children do not belong to the world, though ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ, yet are they not ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου (John 17:11; John 17:16), not ἐκ τοῦ διαβόλου (1 John 3:8). Bengel well observes: “Totus mundus, isque universus, eruditos, honestos, aliosve complectens omnes, exceptis duntaxat, qui Deo se et Christo vindicarunt, non modo non tangitur, sed plane jacet (remains lying), per idololatriam, cæcitatem, fraudem, vim, lasciviam, impietatem, malitiam omnem, in malo, expers et vitæ ex Deo et διανοίας (1 Corinthians 5:10; 1 Corinthians 11:32). Brevi hac summa vividissime denotatur horribilis status mundi. Commentarii loco est ipse mundus et mundanorum hominum actiones, sermones, contractus, lites, sodalitia.” Hence our passage does not contradict 1 John 2:2; 1 John 4:14. God aims at the redemption of the whole world through Christ and He is enough for the whole world; but Satan also, as the antagonist of God, aims at the whole world. The world is to be taken as the territory which embraces all, not as the sum-total produced by the adding together of all individuals. [Alford: “Had not Christ become a propitiation for the sins of the whole world, were He not the Saviour of the whole world, none could ever come out of the world and believe on Him; but as it is, they who believe on Him, come out and are separated from the world; so that our proposition here remains strictly true: the κόσμος is the negation of faith in Him, and as such lies in the wicked one, His adversary.”—M.].

1 John 5:20. But we know, that the Son of God is come.—The third οἴδαμεν whose object: ὄτι ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ ἥκει, i.e., has come; he conditions the εἶναι ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ which continues in εἶναι ἐν τῷ θεῷ; had He not come, we should still lie like ὁ κόσμος ἐν τῷ πονηρῷ. Hence it is=ἐφανερώθη 1 John 3:8 and not adest (Bengel referring to Mark 8:3).—[“δὲ closes off and sums up all: cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:23; 2 Thessalonians 3:16; Hebrews 13:22 al. This not being seen, it has been altered to καί, as there appeared to be no contrast with the preceding.” Alford.—M.].

And hath given us a sense that we know the true One.—The subject of δέδωκεν is ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ, not as Bengel Deus, as the Sender, ordaining the coming of Jesus. For Jesus is also the Mediator of the truth and of knowledge [i.e., He bestows to us the truth and this knowledge—M.], (Düsterdieck). Διάνοια is the faculty or sense of knowing, not insight or knowledge (Lücke, de Wette), nor the activity of thinking out all the points in contrast with a faith void of thought (Paulus), 2 Peter 3:1; Ephesians 4:18; Ephesians 1:18 (ὀφθαλμοὶ τῆς καρδίας or τῆς διανοίας), or mind (Matthew 22:37; Luke 1:51; Ephesians 2:3; Colossians 1:21; 1 Peter 1:13; Hebrews 8:10; Hebrews 10:16), sensus cognoscendi (Lyra), sensus et gustus rerum divinarum (a Lapide), the spiritual sense (1 Corinthians 2:12; 1 Corinthians 2:14), whose aim (ἵνα), but not whose substance is γινώσκειν τὸν�. Cf. 1 John 2:3-4; John 17:3. The object of this cognition is evidently God, qui re vera Deus est, ut eum ab idolis omnibus discernat (Calvin), in contrast with every Deus fictitius. Bengel refers to the Son without any warrant for doing so.

And we are in the true One, in His Son Jesus Christ.—Another independent proposition annexed by καὶ, as in 1 John 5:19. Ἐσμὲν ἐν τῷ�, designates, as before, God, which is also evident from the pronoun in ἐν τῷ υἱῷ αὐτοῦ. This is the extreme antithesis of κεῖται ἐν τῷ πονηρῷ, the climax of εἶναι ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ. The words ἐν τῷ υἱῳ υἱῷ αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦ Χριστῷ fully denotes the Mediator, the ground and stay both of the knowledge and of the position of the believing child of God, and it denotes this by ἐν, not by διά, in, not per, in order to mark the permanent character of this life-fellowship; inserimur in Christum et unum efficimur cum Deo. Cf. 1Jn 2:3-6; 1 John 3:2. It is therefore no opposition, as seems to be assumed by the Vulgate (which connects by et simus with the clause beginning with ἵνα), Lyra, Erasmus and al.

This is the true God and eternal life.—Οὖτος like ἐκεῖνος, does not refer, as it were, in a merely mechanical manner, to the literally or locally nearest or more remote noun, but also to the noun, psychologically nearer or more remote. Winer, p. 175. Thus in 1 John 5:16, ἐκείνη did not refer to the grammatically and locally distant ἁμαρτία μὴ πρὸς θάνατον, but to the immediately preceding ἁμαρτία πρὸς τὸν θάνατον. So here the mediating Son is not in point of sense the nearest, but ὁ�. Under the influence of the christological conflicts it may have been natural, with reference to the Arian heresy which was joined by the more modern antitrinitarians, to refer οὖτος to the Son; but the discipline of grammar and language requires us to refer it to the Father (this has been done by most commentators, also by Hofmann, Schriftbeweis I. 146, down to Sander, Ebrard, Besser, Stier [ad John 17:3. Vol. 5, p. 392] of our time), though the arrangement, the reference taken locally, might induce us to think of Christ, yet this is not the case, if the internal structure of the thought,—in which God the Father is the chief, and the Son simply the Mediator,—is attentively considered. But what does οὖτος refer to? To ἐν τῷ�. That would make: οὖτος (ὁ�)=ὁ�, but that would be weak and shallow. But if we take οὖτος, δεικτικῶς, of Christ, it is a terse and strong conclusion of the Epistle, and a powerful motive for the concluding exhortation.—The words: καὶ ζωὴ αἰώνιος belong to οὖτος. Grammatically it is not singular (Winer, p. 144), still less in point of thought: for God is essentially ζωή, and so is Christ (John 14:6), even ζωὴ αἰώνιος. In like manner He is called φῶς (1 John 1:5), ἀλάπη (1 John 4:8; 1 John 4:16), πνεῦμα (John 4:24). Bengel, on vita æterna, has the subtle note: “initium epistolæ et fines conveniunt.” It is therefore wrong to contend, that οὖτος ἐστιν ὁ� ought to be referred to the Son, as if His Divinity rested on this passage, and at the same time to overlook, that ἐν τῷ� denotes primarily God the Father, nor is it right to overlook here the tautology (this One, the true One, is the true God), and to apprehend an identification of the Father and the Son, which would be un-johannean, if the clause were referred to the Son. Now John distinguishes between the Father and the Son, but not between God and not-God. In the Son from the Father we have the Father, eternal life, and all that which is the Father’s, and only in Him; hence this turn to the Son and the warning against all idols; the Son is the living Image, the Christian is in no point idolatrous! [Alford: “The grounds on which the application to Christ is rested are mainly the following: 1. that οὖτος, most naturally refers to the last mentioned substantive: 2. that ζωὴ αἰώνιος, as a predicate, more naturally belongs to the Son than to the Father: 3. that the sentence, if understood of God the Father, would be aimless, and tautological. But to these it has been well and decisively answered by Lücke and Düsterdieck: 1. that οὖτος more than once in St. John belongs not to the nearest substantive, but to the principal one in the foregoing sentence, e.g., in 1 John 2:22 and in 2 John 1:7 : and that the subject of the whole here has been the Father, who is the ὁ� of the last verse, and the Son is referred back to Him as ὁ υἱὸς αὐ̇τοῦ, thereby keeping Him, as the primary subject, before the mind; 2. that as little can ζωὴ αἰώνιος be an actual predicate of Christ, as of the Father. He is indeed ἡ ζωή 1 John 1:2, but not ἡ ζωὴ αἰώνιος. Such an expression, used predicatively, leads us to look for some expression of our Lord’s, or for some meaning which does not appear on the surface to guide us. And such an expression leading to such a meaning we have in John 17:3, αὔτη δὲ ἐστιν ἡ αἰώνιος ζωή, ἵνα γινώσκωσιν σὲ τὸν μόνον�, καὶ ὃν�. He is eternal life in Himself, as being the fount and origin of it: He is it to us, seeing that to know Him is to possess it. I own I cannot see, after this saying of our Lord with σε τὸν μόνον�, how any one can imagine that the same Apostle can have had in these words any other reference than that which is given in those; 3. this charge is altogether inaccurate. As referred to the Father, there is in it no tautology and no aimlessness. It seems to identify the ὁ� mentioned before, in a solemn manner, and leads on to the concluding warning against false gods. As in another place the Apostle intensifies the non-possession of the Son by including in it the alienation from the Father also, so here at the close of all, the ἀληθινὸς θεός, the fount of ζωὴ αἰώνιος, is put before us as the ultimate aim and end, to be approached ἐν τῷ υἱῷ αὐτοῦ, but Himself the One Father both of Him and of us who live through Him.”—M.].

Final request. 1 John 5:21 : Little children, keep yourselves from idols.—Τεκνία indicates the affectionate warmth and depth of the Apostle. The exhortation φυλάξετε ἑαυτούς reminds them of great danger, against which they must be courageously on the alert; they themselves are exposed to great corruption. Bengel: “Elegantia activi verbi cum pronomine reciproco plus dicit, quam: custodimini. Custodite vos ipsos, me absente,—neque solum ab eorum cultu, sed etiam ab omni eorum communione et communionis specie.” Ἀπο τῶν εἰδώλων denotes, that believers must withdraw from the idols, surrounding and in immediate proximity to them, in order to be guarded against them. The εἴδωλα are figures of imaginary deities, and as contrasted with the true God, who is Eternal Life, denote the manufacture of the creature; the decisive point, or the thing decided here is not whether they are made with hands for the grossest forms of heathenism, or in imagination and thought for its more subtle forms; the real point is that they are self-made, untrue, unliving, and strictly speaking, nothing. 1Th 1:9; 1 Corinthians 10:19; 1 Corinthians 12:2. Düsterdieck, therefore, is wrong in following here an Etymologicum ineditum in Biel, sub voce (τὸ μὲν εἴδωλον οὐδεμίαν ὑπόστασιν ἔχει, τὸ δὲ ὁμοίωμα τινῶν ἐστιν ἔνδαλμα), and making εἴδωλον tritons or centaurs, and ὁμοίωμα, constellations, men and beasts; the Diana of the Ephesians, forsooth, was also an εἴδωλον. Cf. Romans 1:23; Romans 1:25.—We are fully warranted to refer here, with Tertullian, Oecumenius, Düsterdieck and others, to idols proper, but equally warranted to refer also (with Bede, Rickli, Sander and others) to the self-made representations and ideas of the false teachers and their dupes, which, like the truth, they require to be received and submitted to. We may even see, with Ebrard, a reference to images of God or gods or saints in reality, or in imagination, for whom heathenish worship is required. The εἴδωλα are so dangerous because they are the objects of εἰδωλολατρεία. As this applied then to the church-frontier in contact with heathenism, so it applies at this time to the Mariolatry in the Church of Christ, and to the worship of genius, to Schiller-worship, etc., in His Church. [The literal and figurative reference in this closing charge, seems to be required by the context, and, in fact, by the whole tenor of the Epistle; the reference being both to literal idols, and to spiritual idolatry.—M.].


1. The assurance that our prayers will be heard rests upon the life-fellowship with God the Father through faith in Christ, and forbids its being circumscribed, as to the substance of our prayers, within limits narrower than those given by the Lord Himself (Matthew 6:9-13), but neither pursues any other course than that indicated in Matthew 6:33, sq., viz., it expresses in the way of ethical effort what life really stands in need of. So St. Paul in Romans 8:14-17. Absolutely exaudible21 is the prayer for the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts (Luke 11:13), relatively exaudible are our prayers for temporal gifts quantum non est impedimento ad salutem (Matthew 26:39).

2. Intercession is very potent (1 John 5:16); it is a work of love, an act of kindness.

3. Every sin is, properly speaking, unto death, which is the wages of sin; there is no sin, which is not per se unto death, unto condemnation. In this respect, the maxim of the Stoics and Jovianus holds good, that omnia peccata paria, no matter how different they may be; and there is only one way towards the forgiveness and cancelling of sin, viz., Christ and His high-priestly work, and the fellowship of faith with the Sinless One. Consequently it is not the species or greatness of sin, per se, which constitutes it a sin unto death, but rather the effect of sin on the sinner’s relation to the Redeemer, or the nature of the disturbance of this relation, as evidenced by sin. The sin which indicates a permanent falling away from Christ, is sin unto death. The Romish distinction of peccatum mortale and peccatum veniale and the restriction of the former to seven, is wrong; for there is always the danger that the sin assumed to be peccatum veniale, and received in excuse of it, may turn into peccatum mortale, and that that which from a lower standpoint appears as peccatum, veniale, is afterwards in its further progress peccatum mortale.

4. Intercession for those who sin unto death is improper, because such intercession is inexaudible, because such sin cannot be forgiven. Cf. Riehm, Lehrbegriff des Hebräerbriefs, II., pp. 763–775. The words ἀδύνατον—πάλιν�—αν (Hebrews 6:4-6), as well as οὐκ� (Matthew 12:32) distinctly indicate the reason why the Apostle neither requires, nor advises us to make intercession for those sinning unto death. Cf. Hofmann, Schriftbeweis, II., p. 340, sqq. Intercession for suicides must, at all events, be judged from this stand-point.—[Jeremy Taylor: “Every Christian is in some degree in the state of grace, so long as he is invited to repentance, and so long as he is capable of the prayers of the Church. This we learn from those words of St. John: ‘All unrighteousness is sin, and there is a sin not unto death,’ that is, some sorts of sin are so incident to the condition of men, and their state of imperfection, that the man who hath committed them is still within the method of pardon, and hath not forfeited his title to the promises and covenant of repentance; but ‘there is a sin unto death;’ that is, some men proceed beyond the measures and economy of the Gospel, and the usual methods and probabilities of repentance, by obstinacy, and preserving a sin, by a wilful, spiteful resisting, or despising the offers of grace and the means of pardon; for such a man St. John does not encourage us to pray; if he be such a person as St. John described, our prayers will do him no good; but because no man can tell the last minute or period of pardon, nor just when a man is gone beyond the limit, and because the limit itself can be enlarged, and God’s mercies stay for some longer than for others, therefore St. John left us under the indefinite restraint and caution; which was derogatory enough to represent that sad state of things in which the refractory and impenitent have immerged themselves, and yet so indefinite and cautious, that we may not be too forward in applying it to particulars, nor in prescribing measures to the Divine mercy, nor in passing final sentences upon our brother, before we have heard our Judge Himself speak. ‘Sinning a sin not unto death’, is an expression fully signifying that there are some sins which though they be committed and displeased God, and must be repented of, and need many and mighty prayers for their pardon, yet the man is in the state of grace and pardon, that is, he is within the covenant of mercy; he may be admitted, if he will return to his duty: so that being in a state of grace is having a title to God’s loving-kindness, a not being rejected of God, but a being beloved of Him to certain purposes of mercy, and that hath these measures and degrees.”—M.].

5. The regenerate, as such, according to the spirit, does not sin, though the flesh ever and anon causes him to fall.
6. The sins of the regenerate are not unto death, because forgiveness and atonement are sought and found in Christ.
7. None but believing Christians, born of God, are not subject to the world-power of Satan; those who are subject to it, are least sensible of it; the Christian, who has become free, perceives and feels it in its hostility to him and his resistance to it.
8. Vital piety finds rest only in God, from whom it comes.
9. Although the absolute and immoveably fixed assurance (certitudo) of salvation, such as the Methodists and Baptists suppose to possess, is neither possible nor biblically established, yet we may attain unto a sure confidence (fiducia), and maintain it in opposition to the Romish decrees, which not only reject the impossibility of final apostasy, but also deny this confidence of the Christian (Conc. Trid. Sess. 6:9, 15, sq.).

10. The Reformed are fully justified in their rejection of altars, images and similar instrumenta superstitionum with respect to the abuses of the Roman Catholics, and even down to the present time with their extreme Mariolatry, but they err in confounding the abuse of the several objects with the objects themselves and in changing the one into the other, in lodging complaints against the natural sphere of art instead of pressing it into the higher service [of religion—.]. The liberty of the Lutheran Church cannot be over-estimated.—Images of God will always remain hazardous, not only in the Zwinglian or Puritan sense.—


Care for thy friends, that they may be and remain assured of the possession of eternal life, despite the temptations and troubles on earth.—Thou hast confidence in the purity of mind of some loved man, how much more shouldest thou confide in the true God?—If distrust is disgraceful and fraught with much unhappiness in our intercourse with men, how much more disgraceful and productive of unhappiness is distrust of the glorious God?—Seeing the light of the world in regeneration is no warrant that this Sun will always smile in His brightest light, unclouded and without stormy days, on the firmament of the soul; but we know, without the gift of prophecy, as the children of God, as Christians, that it is day.—Pray for everything, but be urgent unto intercession for thy erring brother. Prefer to speak of an erring brother to God than to other men.—Dismal is the high-mindedness which fancies that it can never fail with God, but equally dismal is the pusillanimity, which afraid that all is to no purpose, conducts to despair.—As a Christian be not a minor, but volunteer also to act as guardian.—Sin violates not only the Divine command before us, and the Majesty of God above us, but also the Image of God in us!—Every sin may become a sin unto death, as long as it remains unforgiven.—Every sin checks and disturbs the eternal life in thee; the greatest danger, however, is not the commission of, but consenting unto sin, and this is the more dangerous, as your sensibility has become more acute and your will more resolute under the growth of sanctification.—Beware of genius-worship!—

Luther:—Thou must learn to cry and not sit down by thyself, or lie on a bench, with drooping head, or shaking it, and lacerate or consume thyself with thy anxious thoughts, caring and fretting how to get free, and regarding nothing except thy own misery and ill-fortune, and wretchedness. But come, idler that thou art, fall down on thy knees, lift up thy hands and eyes to heaven, sing a psalm or say the Lord’s prayer, and lay thy trouble before God, and with streaming eyes pour forth thy supplications and make known thy wants.—Prayer, the opening of our grief, the lifting up of our hands, are the sacrifices which are most acceptable to God.—He Himself desires thee to acquaint Him with thy distress, instead of burdening and oppressing, of torturing and lacerating thyself with it, and thus multiplying one calamity into ten or a hundred. He wants thee to be too weak to carry and overcome such a load, that thou mayest learn to grow strong in Him, and that He may be glorified in thee through His strength. Behold the opposite course makes people who are called Christians, but nothing else than vain babblers and praters, who see much of faith and the Spirit, but know not what it is, or what they see.

Starke:—Holy Scripture is our Epistle of God to us, in which He reveals to us His gracious will, as it were, in His own handwriting, and His purpose to give us eternal life.—Faith is never too strong, it may and must grow stronger. Where is confidence of faith, there is joyfulness. The more faith gets filled with the riches of God, the more jubilant is its rejoicing in the abundance of its satisfaction: it is heaven on earth!—The prayer of the lip must be joined to the desire of the heart.—Wouldest thou pray so that thy prayers shall be heard, thou must be full of faith, holy, and a child of God, otherwise thou art abominable.—Prayer is not only a Christian duty, but a glorious benefit. Simplicity is not ignorance. The former befits the Christian, but not the latter. Christians must know. Ignorant Christians are unchristian.—Learned but ungodly men are unlearned; the regenerate are truly learned, as those who through the knowledge of Christ have been made apt for the kingdom of heaven and eternal salvation.—Subtle idolatry is not better than gross idolatry.

Bengel:—The lamentable state of the world is most aptly described in the brief summary: “The whole world lieth in the wicked one,” and the world itself, the doings and workings of the children of the world, their sayings, their dealings, their society, etc., are the best exposition of this passage. It is not so much matter of surprise that they are so wicked, as that they are not more wicked.—

Heubner:—A sin is not excusable, because it is not yet a sin unto death. A pardonable sin may become a sin unto death; therefore we should abhor every sin.—The wicked one will not touch him: 1. The power of Satan is not irresistible; 2. The Christian, while he continues in a state of regeneration, is proof against all the assaults of Satan.—Fine threads are often more dangerous than coarse chains.—Faith in the Son of God. I. A holy, blissful, assured faith: a. as to its substance: in the Image of God, in the Saviour of love; b. as to its ground: in the testimony of God; c. as to its effects: eternal life. II. It is a faith possible unto all: a. provided they diligently read and lay to heart what is written, in order to attain unto faith; b. provided they pray God with child-like trust, to give unto them the true faith.—

Besser:—A singular saying! They believe, and he writes that they may believe. What need is there of an exhortation to believe, if we believe already? (Luther). It is not possible to have to-day’s life through yesterday’s faith. Here no stand-still is allowed; he that believes, let him go on believing.—After every prayer of a child of God, the Father hears the expressed or unexpressed petition: Thy will be done.—I have read of a pious Christian who was in the habit of keeping a record of his daily prayers and intercessions that he invariably concluded his daily record with the passage 1 John 5:15.—Sin is to the children of God like a robber, against whom they defend themselves all their life long. As a sentry stands before a king’s palace, so there stands a sentry with shield and sword before the habitation of God in the heart of His children.—The Epistle of St. John itself is such a preservative.

[Ezekiel Hopkins:—God’s will, in bestowing a desired mercy upon us, is best known by the promises that He hath made to us. Which promises are of two kinds: some refer to temporal blessings, and others refer to grace and glory.

1. Grace and glory are promised absolutely. It is that, which we are commanded, all of us, to seek after: and, therefore, here we cannot mistake, while we beg these; for there is no doubt while we pray for grace and glory, but that we do it according to the will of God. Here, we may be earnest and importunate, that God would sanctify and save our souls: and, while we ask this, and make this the matter of our requests, we are under an impossibility of asking amiss; yea, and the more violent we are, and the more resolute to take no denial at the hands of God, the more pleasing is this holy force, since it shows a perfect conformity and concurrence in our wills to His will, who hath told us, It is His will, “even,” our “sanctification:1 Thessalonians 4:3. This was one part of that violence which our Saviour saith the kingdom of heaven suffered in the days of John the Baptist. It is an invasion that is acceptable to God, when we storm heaven by prayers and supplications, with strong cries and tears: when we plant against it unutterable sighs and groans, this is such a battery, that those eternal ramparts cannot hold out long against it.

2. Though we may pray thus absolutely and with a holy boldness, for grace and glory, saying to God as Jacob to the angel that wrestled with him, I will not let thee go, until thou hast blessed me with spiritual blessings, in heavenly things, in Jesus Christ: yet, secondly, for the degrees of grace and for the comforts of the Holy Ghost, we must pray conditionally: if the Lord will. For these things are not absolutely necessary, neither are they absolutely promised to us by God. Neither any degree of grace, nor any consolation of the Spirit is absolutely promised to us. But, however, our prayers ought to be so much the more fervent and importunate for these things, than for outward, temporal things; by how much more these are of far greater concern than the other.

3. To pray for outward and worldly blessings is not contrary to the will of God, for He hath promised to bestow them.—But then, as His promise is conditional, if it is consistent with our good: so, truly, must our prayers be conditional, that God would give them to us, if it is consistent with His will and with our good. Whatsoever we thus ask, we do it according to the will of God; and we are sure of speeding in our request, either by obtaining our desires, or by being blessed with a denial. For, alas, we are blind and ignorant creatures, and cannot look into the designs and drift of Providence, and see how God hath laid in order good and evil in His own purpose: oftentimes, we mistake evil for good, because of the present appearance of good that it hath; yea, so short-sighted are we, that we can look no farther than outward and present appearance. But God, who sees the whole series and connection of his own counsels, knows, many times, that those things, which we account and desire as good, are really evil: and therefore it is our wisdom, to resign all our desires to His disposal, and to say, “Lord, though such temporal enjoyments may seem good and desirable to me at present, yet Thou art infinitely wise, and Thou knowest what the consequence and issue of them will be: I beg them, if they may stand with Thy will; and if Thou seest they will be as really good to me, as I suppose them now to be. If they be not so, I beg the favour of a denial.” This is the right frame, in which a Christian’s heart should be when he comes to beg temporal mercies of God; and, whilst he thus asks any worldly comforts, he cannot ask amiss. It was an excellent saying of the Satirist, “We ask those things of God which please our present humors and desires: but God gives those things which are best and fittest for us: for we are dearer to Him,” saith the heathen, “than we are to ourselves.” “And,” says another, very well, “It is mercy in God, not to hear us, when we ask things that are evil:” and when He refuseth us in such requests, it is that He might not circumvent us in our own prayers; for, indeed, whilst we ask rashly and intemperately, whatever we foolishly set our hearts upon, God need take no other course to plague and punish us, than by hearing and answering us.”—M.].

[Bp. Hall: 1 John 5:16 :—“If any man see his brother fall into and continue in such a sin as may be capable of forgiveness, let him earnestly sue unto God for pardon of that offender: and God, who is great and infinite in mercy, shall graciously incline His ear unto his prayers, and give remission and life to such an one. There is indeed a sin unto death, for which there is no forgiveness with God, because there is no capacity of repentance for it in the committer of it; I mean the Sin against the Holy Ghost; when a man having received the knowledge of the Gospel by the illumination of the Holy Spirit, and professed the belief thereof, shall in a devilish malice wilfully blaspheme and persecute that known truth.”—M,].

[Jortin:—“What makes sin exceedingly sinful and most provoking, is a determined insolence and an obstinate impenitency, a guilt without remorse, and without relenting, without shame and without fear. This is what appears most odious and offensive in the sight of God, as also in the sight of man; and to this incorrigible temper, and abandoned behaviour, indignation and wrath are denounced by Him, who will by no means acquit those that are guilty in this way. “There is a sin unto death,” saith St. John, “and there is a sin not unto death.” The sin unto death, of which the Apostle speaks, was in some manner peculiar to those times. It was an apostasy from Christianity, and these apostates were persons who had seen the miraculous proofs of its truth, and had themselves been partakers of some extraordinary gifts. When such persons renounced Christ, and fell away from the Church, it was plain that nothing more could be done to amend and reclaim them. And even now it is possible, that sinners may offend so long and so heinously as at last to provoke God, either to take them out of the world by a secret judgment, and so it is a sin unto temporal death; or to give them up to their own hard hearts, and so it becomes a sin unto spiritual death. But let an observation be added, which may be necessary to quiet melancholy and desponding minds; and it is this: If any one be afraid that he is in such a condition, this very fear shows that in all probability he is not in such a condition; because it is usual for such sinners to have no consideration, no shame, no remorse, and no fear at all.”—M.].

[Ezekiel Hopkins:—“Beware therefore, then, that you do not entertain any slight thought of sin: nor think, with the Papists, that there are some sorts of sins, that do not deserve death; which they call venial sins, in opposition to other more gross and heinous sins, which they allow to be mortal. Believe it, the least prick at the heart is deadly; and so is the least sin to the soul. And, indeed, it is a contradiction, to call any sin venial in their sense, who hold it is not worthy of damnation, for the wages of sin is death; if it be not, how is it venial?”—M.].

[Rieger: on 1 John 5:21 :—“Those who were called to the light of God, readily knew that an idol is nothing in the world, and that idolatry and idol-worship are abominable. But there were at that time temptations which did not render superfluous this concluding admonition. They might be invited to idol-sacrifices and thus be drawn into a sort of communion with idols, Revelation 2:20; 2 Corinthians 6:16. Sometimes, in order to escape bitter persecution, Christians might venture to go too far. Yes, notwithstanding idols have at this present time sunk into still greater contempt, there yet arises always something which injuriously affects the knowledge of God in Christ Jesus, or the worship of God in spirit and in truth, which tries to find out some other way to God than by Christ, and to seek acceptance with God in another service than in His Son. It becomes therefore every one who is of the truth to sigh, O God, keep me in the mind, which Thou hast given me of Thy Son, and in which thou hast strengthened me by this testimony of St. John! Amen.”—M].

[Sermons and Sermon Themes.

1 John 5:13. If we must aim at assurance, what should they do who are not able to discern their own spiritual condition? Thomas Doolittle. Morn. Exerc. I. 252.

1 John 5:16. Lightfoot, John. A sin unto death. Sermons; Works, 6, 331.

Chalmers, T. The nature of the sin unto death. Sermon: Works, 9, 225.

1 John 5:16-17. Benson, G. Concerning a sin unto death, and a sin not unto death. A Paraphrase, etc. 2, 647.—M.].


1 John 5:13; 1 John 5:13. [German: “These things wrote I.”—M.]

[2] 1 John 5:13.τοῖςπιστεύουσιν B. Cod. Sin.; οἱπιστεύοντες A.; this reading is preferable on account of the witnesses and because it is difficilior.—Text. Rec. inserts after ὑμῖν, “τοῖςπιστεύουσινεἰςτὸὄνοματοῦυἱοῦτοῦθεοῦ” and continues after αἰώνιον, “ἵναπιστεύητεεἰςτὸὄνομα κ. τ. λ;” but this reading is not sufficiently authenticated, and probably not without dependence on John 20:31. [The Codd. A. B. Sin. al. Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic, Aethiopic, Armenian, Cassiod., Bede, al. are all against the reading of Rec.—But the reading οἱπιστεύοντες, though found in A, and many Versions, is not clearly established; it seems to have been the basis of the reading of Text. Rec.—Αἰώνιον before ἔχετε Sin. G. K. al. Theoph., Oecum.; after ἔχετε A. B. al. Vulg. Syr. Rec. Cassiod., Bede.—The most probable reading is: ὑμῖν, ἵνα εἰδῆτε ὅτι ζωὴν ἔχετε αἰώνιον, τοῖς πιστεύουσιν εἰς τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ. Huther, Alford.—M.]

[German: “These things wrote I unto you, that ye may know, that ye have eternal life, ye that believe in the name of the Son of God.”—M.]

1 John 5:14; 1 John 5:14. [German: “towards Him.”—M.]

1 John 5:14; 1 John 5:14. ὅτι ἐὰν τι B. Sin.; ὅτιἄν A. [German: “If we ask something.”—M.]

1 John 5:15; 1 John 5:15. καὶ ἐὰν οἴδαμεν, ὅτι�, omitted in A. and Sin., but added by a later hand. [German: “And if we know, that He heareth us.”—M.]

1 John 5:15; 1 John 5:15. ὃ ἐὰν Sin. B. G. al.; ὅ ἂν A. K. al. The Codd. are undecided here, and in the beginning after καὶ, between ἐὰν and ἄν [German: “whatsoever we may ask.”—M.]

1 John 5:15; 1 John 5:15. ἀπ’αὐτοῦ B. Sin.; παρ’ αὐτοῦ A. G. K. [German: “which we have asked from Him;” Lillie, Alford.—M.]

1 John 5:16; 1 John 5:16. [German: “If any man see his brother commit a sin not unto death;” Alford, Lillie: “sinning a sin.”—M.]

1 John 5:16; 1 John 5:16. [German: “Concerning that I do not say, that he shall pray.” Similarly Alford, Lillie, al.—M.]

[10]Verse l7. οὐπρὸς θάνατον is well authenticated; Vulg. Aeth. omit οὐ; μὴ is too feebly sustained.

[11]Verse l7. [German: “Born of God” as in the beginning of the verse; the variation is unnecessary.—M.]

[12]Verse l7. [German: “And the wicked one.”—M.]

1 John 5:19; 1 John 5:19. [German: “And the whole world lieth in the wicked one.” So Alford, Lillie, following Syriac, Vulg. And many others.—M.]

[14] 1 John 5:20. οἴδαμενδὲ B. K. Sin.—A. al.καὶοἴδαμεν.—G. al. omit δὲ and καὶ, as in the beginning of 1 John 5:18.

[German: “But we know,” so Lillie; Alford “Moreover, etc.”—M.]

1 John 5:20; 1 John 5:20. German: “a sense.”—M.]

1 John 5:20; 1 John 5:20. γινώσκομεν A. B.* G. Sin.;γινώσκωμεν, B.** K. al.

1 John 5:20; 1 John 5:20. After τὸνἀληθινόν A., several minusc., versions, al. insert θεόν; Sin. had originally τὸ, but corrected into τὸν. [German: “The true One,” so Lillie. Alford, following many translators.—M.]

1 John 5:20; 1 John 5:20. ζωὴαἰώνιος, without the Article, is well authenticated; some minusc., add it. John nowhere makes use of ὴζωὴαἰώνιος, but ζωὴαἰώνιος, or ἡαἰώνιοςζωὴ, or ἡζωὴἡαἰώνιος.

1 John 5:21; 1 John 5:21. ἐαυτοὺς is better authenticated than ἑαυτά.

1 John 5:21; 1 John 5:21. ἀμὴν G. K. al.; [it is omitted in A. B. Sin. al.—M.]—The subscription: ΙΩΑΝΝΟΥ A., Sin. and al.

[21][I coin this word, which signifies “that which may be heard or granted,” for want of a better term.—M.].

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on 1 John 5". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/1-john-5.html. 1857-84.
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