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Monday, June 24th, 2024
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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Bible Commentaries
1 John 5

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy BiblePoole's Annotations

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1 John 5:1-3 He that loveth God loveth God’s children, and keeth his commandments.

1 John 5:4,1 John 5:5 A true faith will enable us to overcome the world.

1 John 5:6-10 The witnesses of our faith.

1 John 5:11-13 God hath given to believers eternal life through his Son,

1 John 5:14-17 and will hear and grant their petitions, made according to his will.

1 John 5:18-20 God’s children are distinguished from the world by abstaining from sin, and by a right knowledge.

1 John 5:21 A caution against idolatry.

Verse 1

Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ; this is not meant of a mere professed, or of a slight and superficial, but of a lively, efficacious, unitive, soul-transforming, and obediential faith in Jesus as the Christ, which is elsewhere made the effect of the regenerating power and grace of God, John 1:12,John 1:13. And as nothing can be more connatural to such a heaven-born faith, than the loving of him that hath begotten us to it; so nothing can be more certainly consequent and agreeable, than the loving of them too who are begotten also of the same Father, viz. with a correspondent love to the more excellent characters and image of God upon them, than are upon other men.

Verse 2

It is not otherwise to be known that we truly love the children of God, as such; for if we do, we must love them upon God’s account, in conformity to him, and obedience to his commandments; wherefore our true love to them supposes our love to him, and is to be evinced by it.

Verse 3

For this is the love of God, i.e. this is the most lively, certain expression and effect of our love to God, our keeping his commandments, which are so little grievous, that true love can make no difficulty of doing so, Matthew 11:30; Psalms 19:11.

Verse 4

He explains himself, viz. that to one who is born of God his commandments are not grievous, because such a one, in that divine birth, hath received a life and nature that makes him far superior to this world, exalts him above it, makes him victorious over the worldly spirit, {as 1 John 4:4} over all worldly desires, and fears, and hopes, and joys, which are the great hinderances of our obedience to God.

This is the victory; i.e. the instrument, the weapon, by which they overcome, and which virtually includes in itself this victory over the world, as effects are included in the power of their cause, is their

faith, that principle which in their regeneration (as above) is implanted in them.

Verse 5

For that faith, viz. that Jesus is the Son of God, ( or the Christ, as 1 John 5:1), fills the soul with so great things concerning him, and the design of his coming among us, and what we are to expect thereupon, as easily turn this world into a contemptible shadow, and deprive it of all its former power over us.

Verse 6

For the explaining of this obscure place we must proceed by degrees.

1. It is evident, that water and blood cannot be here meant literally.

2. It is therefore consequent, that they must be intended to signify somewhat or other by way of symbolical representation, or that they must have some mystical meaning.

3. They ought to have such a meaning assigned them, as will both be agreeable to the expressions themselves, and to the apostle’s present scope and design.

4. It will be very agreeable to the expressions, to understand by water the purity of our blessed Lord, and by blood his sufferings.

5. His manifest scope and design is, to show the abundantly sufficient credibility of the witnesses and testimony we have, to assure us that Jesus was the Christ, or the Messiah, and to induce us to believe this of him, with so efficacious and transforming a faith, as should evidence our being born of God, and make us so victorious over the world, as constantly to adhere to this Jesus by trust and obedience, against all the allurements and terrors of it.

6. This being his scope, it supposeth that the mentioned coming of Jesus, as Messiah, was for some known end, unto his accomplishment whereof these two, his purity and his sufferings, were apt and certain means, as that they were to be considered under the notion of means, his being said to have come δια, by them, doth intimate. And in pursuance of this scope, he must be understood to signify, that his coming so remarkably by these two, did carry with it some very convictive proof and evidence of his being the Son of God, and the Messiah, sufficient to recommend him as the most deserving object of such a faith, and render it highly reasonable we should hereupon so trust and obey him, and entirely resign ourselves to his mercy and government. Wherefore also:

7. This his coming must here be understood in a sense accommodated hereunto, and is therefore in no reason to be taken for the very act or instant, precisely, of his entrance into this world, but to signify his whole course in it, from first to last, a continued motion and agency, correspondent to the intendment of his mission. To the clearing of which notion of his coming, some light may be gained, by considering the account which is given, 2 Thessalonians 2:9,2 Thessalonians 2:10, of the coming of antichrist, which is said to be after Satan, ( as it were by his impulsion, and in pursuance of his ends and purposes), with all power, and signs, and lying wonders, and all deceivableness of unrighteottsness; where it is manifest, coming must signify a continued course of doing business. So here, our Lord’s coming must signify his continual employment for the despatch of the business about which he was sent.

8. The known business and end for which he was sent, was to reduce and bring back sinners to God.

9. How apt and necessary means these two, his purity and sufferings, were to this end, the whole frame of the gospel shows. His sacrifice of himself, in his sufferings, was necessary to our reconciliation; so he was to come and effect his work by blood: his purity was requisite to the acceptableness of his sacrifice; so it was to be done by water; without which, as was wont to be proverbially said among the Hebrews, there could be no sacrifice.

10. For the evidence his coming so remarkably by these two carried with it, for the inducing of us to believe him to be the Messiah, with such a faith, as whereby we should imitate his purity, and rely upon the value of his sufferings. We may see it in the note upon 1 John 5:8, where the testimony of these two witnesses, the water and the blood, comes to be given in its own place and order.

11. Nor is it strange the apostle should use these mystical expressions to this purpose, if we consider what might lead him thereto: for we must remember, first: That he was a spectator of our Lord’s crucifixion, and then beheld, upon the piercing of his side, the streaming forth of the water and blood; which, it appears, at that time made a very deep impression upon his mind, as his words about it in his writing his Gospel import: There came out blood and water. And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe, John 19:34,John 19:35.

That he there lays so great a weight on it, imports that he apprehended some great mystery, if not intended, yet very apt to be signified by it. And, secondly: That he was a Jew, and (as is probable) wrote this Epistle to Jews, among whom the so frequent ablutions with water, as well as the shedding the blood of sacrifices, were most known things, and intended to typify (what they ought to have understood, and he now intimates) these very things, the purity and dying of the Messiah. Not to insist upon what he had long ere now occasion to observe in the Christian church, baptism, and the supper of our Lord, representing in effect severally the same things. Neither was this way of teaching unusual, nor these expressions less intelligible, than our Lord’s calling himself (as this evangelist also records) a shepherd, a door, a vine, &c.

And it is the Spirit that beareth witness: that the Spirit is said to bear witness, see 1 John 5:7,1 John 5:8.

Verse 7

Having mentioned the Spirit’s testifying in the close of 1 John 5:6, he returns to give us in order, in these two verses, the whole testimony of the truth of Christianity, which he reduces to two ternaries of witnesses. The matter of their testimony is the same with that of their faith who are born of God, that Jesus is the Son of God, and the Messiah, as may be collected from what was said before, 1 John 5:1,1 John 5:5, and what is said afterwards, 1 John 5:9. What they believe, is no other thing than what these testify. For the first three,

in heaven, that is not said to signify heaven to be the place of their testifying; for though the same thing concerning Jesus be also no doubt testified to the glorious inhabitants of that world, yet that is not the apostle’s present scope, but to show what reason we have, who inhabit this world, to believe Jesus to be Christ, and the Son of God.

In heaven therefore is to be referred to

three, not to bear record, or witness; as if the text were read, which it may as well: There are three in heaven who bear witness; the design being to represent their immediate testifying from thence unto us, or the glorious, heavenly, majestic manner of their testifying. So the Father testified of the man Jesus by immediate voice from heaven, at his baptism and transfiguration: This is my Son, & c. The eternal Word owned its union with him, in that glory with which it so eminently clothed his humanity, and which visibly shone through it in the holy mount, whereof this apostle was a spectator, and whereto he seems to refer in his Gospel, John 1:14; We beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, i.e. such as sufficiently testified him to be so, even the very Son of God. And the Holy Ghost testified, descending as a dove in a visible glorious appearance upon him, at his baptism also.

And these three are one, viz. not only agreeing in their testimony, as 1 John 5:8, but in unity of nature: an express testimony of the triune Deity, by whatsoever carelessness or ill design left out of some copies, but sufficiently demonstrated by many most ancient ones, to belong to the sacred text: of which L. Brug. Not. in loc., with the other critics, and at large, Dr. Hammond.

Verse 8

And for the three that are said to bear witness on earth; there is, first,

the Spirit, who, though the Holy Ghost were in the former triad, needs not here be taken for another Spirit, but may be the same, considered under another notion, and as testifying in another manner; not transiently and immediately from heaven, as there, but statedly, and as inacting instruments here on earth; extraordinarily, the man Christ Jesus, all his apostles and first disciples, in all the wonderful works which they did for the confirmation of the Christian doctrine; and ordinarily, the whole church of true Christians; for it animates the whole living body of Christ, and makes it, though in an imperfect measure, by a uniform course of actions, tending to God and heaven, an extant visible proof to the world of the truth of that religion which obtains in it, and of his Divine power and nature who is the Head of it. Next,

the water; i.e. the continual untainted, God-like purity of our Lord Jesus, through the whole course of his terrestrial state, manifestly showed him to be the Son of God, an incarnate Deity, inhabiting our world. And lastly,

the blood, his suffering of death, considered in the circumstances, was a most conspicuous, clear testimony and indication who he was; so exactly according to the predictions of the prophets, attended with wonderful amazing concomitants, ending in so glorious a resurrection. And in and with both these

the Spirit, complicating his testimony, did bear witness too, as is intimated (after the former mention of them both) in the latter part of 1 John 5:6. It testified all along, both in his clear, immaculate life, and in the bloody death in which it assisted him, which it accompanied with so marvellous effects, and out of which at length it fetched him, Romans 1:4. And that part it took, as being the Spirit of truth, 1 John 5:6, and, as it is there expressed, in the (more emphatical) abstract, truth itself.

Verse 9

A testimony above exception, being wholly Divine, as he himself argued, John 5:36,John 5:37; John 8:13,John 8:14,John 8:17,John 8:18.

Verse 10

i.e. If he truly believe, he hath the effectual impress of this testimony on his own soul; if not, he gives God the lie, as we do to any one whose testimony we believe not. See Poole on "John 3:33".

Verse 11

His testimony, that this is his Son and the Christ, imports so much, that eternal life is in him, as the source and fountain of it; so that he gives it to us in no other way than in and by him.

Verse 12

And therefore, that we partake this life, or partake it not, as by faith we are united with him, or not united.

Verse 13

That, discerning their own faith, they might be in no doubt concerning their title to eternal life, and might be thereby encouraged to persevere in the same faith.

Verse 14

Viz. according to his will, not negatively, as it only doth not forbid our praying for, or enjoying, such and such things, but positively, i.e. according to his will signified:

1. By his commands, i.e. when the matter of our prayers is some spiritual good thing, which was before the matter of our duty; as when we pray for grace to enable us to be and to do what he requires us, as far as our present state will admit.

2. By his promises, which are more absolute and particular in reference to things of that nature, Matthew 5:6; Luke 11:13.

In reference to things of an inferior nature, of a conditional tenor; or more general, the things promised coming under the common notion of good things, not in themselves only, but for us, in present circumstances; which, whether they be or no, he reserves to himself the liberty of determining, and doth only promise them, if they be; and so we are only to pray for them; for that is praying, according to what signification he hath given us of his will, in such cases. And so we are always sure to be heard in the former case, in the very particular kind, about which his will is expressly made known beforehand.

Verse 15

In the latter, in that, or somewhat equivalent, or better; for if he determine that thing to be best for us, all circumstances considered, we shall have it; if he determine otherwise, (supposing we pray according to his will), we desire it not: for every one intends good to himself, when he prays for any thing, not hurt. And God answers his children according to that general meaning of their prayers, not always according to the particular (which may be often a much mistaken) meaning. According whereto, supposing the thing would be really and in truth hurtful, (and God’s judgment is always according to truth), they constructively pray to be denied it; and the denial is the equivalent, nay, the better thing than what they particularly prayed for; and so they truly have their petitions: see 1 John 3:22. Nor can any be understood to pray according to God’s will as the rule, if it be not to his glory as the end, as the order and connexion of petitions shows in that admirable platform prescribed by our Lord himself. And is it possible to be the sense of any one that hath a sincere heart in prayer, that God would gratify him against himself? Therefore that latitude allowed the apostles, John 14:13,John 14:14; John 15:16; John 16:23, &c., must be understood to respect the service of the Christian interest, and is to be limited thereby, as some of the expressions show.

Verse 16

If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death; viz. that appears not obstinate and incurable;

he shall ask, i.e. with confidence, as 1 John 5:14. But

there is a sin unto death, i.e. which doth not barely deserve death, as all sin doth, nor which argues a person to be probably in a present state of death or unregeneracy, which the sinful ways may do of many that never made profession; but of such as have apostatized from a former specious profession into heresy and debauchery, and continue obstinate therein, against all methods of recovery; that are, as Jude 1:12, even twice dead, & c.

I do not say that he shall pray for it; i.e. I do not give that encouragement to pray for such, with that hope and expectation of success, as for others; though he doth not simply forbid praying for them neither.

Verse 17

He intimates they should be cautious of all sin, especially more deliberate, (which the word αδικια seems to import), but would not have them account that every sin would make their case so hopeless, as such sin, which he called sinning unto death, would do.

Verse 18

The great advantage is here signified of the regenerate, who, by the seed remaining in them, {as 1 John 3:9} are furnished with a self-preserving principle, with the exercise whereof they may expect that co-operation of a gracious Divine influence by which they shall be kept, so as

that wicked one, the great destroyer of souls, shall not mortally touch them, to make them sin unto death.

Verse 19

And this he doth not exclusively assume to himself, but expresses his charitable confidence of them to whom he writes, that it was their privilege, in common with him, to be thus of God, or born of him; notwithstanding the generality of men were under the power of that before-mentioned wicked one, (as that phrase may be read), or in the midst of all impurity and malignity.

Verse 20

It is here signified how satisfying a knowledge and certainty sincere Christians had, that Christ was indeed come, by that blessed effect they found upon themselves, viz. a clear and lively light shining, by his procurement and communication, into their minds, whereby they had other apprehensions, more vivid and powerful than ever before, of

the true God, as John 17:3, so as thereby to be drawn into union with him, and to be in him: or, which in effect is the same thing, (so entire is the oneness between the Father and the Son), we are in his Son Jesus Christ, who also

is the true God, as John 1:1,

and eternal life, as he is called, 1 John 1:2.

Verse 21

i.e. From those idolatrous communions with the Gentiles in their worship and festivals in their temples, which these pseudo-christians had latitude enough for, as appears by the apostle St. Paul’s discourses, 1 Corinthians 8:1-13; 1 Corinthians 10:14 (especially if any danger did urge); wherein, instead of that communion with the Father and the Son, which {1 John 1:3} he was inviting them to, they should have

fellowship with devils, as that other apostle tells his Corinthians, 1 Corinthians 10:20,1 Corinthians 10:21. And he might also have reference to the peculiar idolatries, which this sort of men are noted to have been guilty of towards their great sect master.

Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 1 John 5". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mpc/1-john-5.html. 1685.
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