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1 John 5

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Verses 1-12

1Jn 5:1-12

TESTS OF FAITH AND LOVE

(1 John 5:1-12)

It is fatal to correct exegesis to ignore, as is so often done, the context here, and the theme under consideration by the apostle in this section of the Epistle. Unfortunately, many in total disregard of the context, lift the first clause of 1 John 5:1 from its setting, and cite it in support of views which were never in the writer’s mind. It should be remembered that the chapter and verse divisions were no part of the original composition of the Apostle and are, therefore, to be disregarded in the study of the Epistle.

At the close of chapter 4, John was enjoining the duty of brotherly love. One who loves God must, as a necessary consequence, love his brother. Who is one’s brother? Answer: "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is begotten of God: and whosoever loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. Hereby we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep his commandments." (1 John 5:1-2.) The thought, developed here, is this: He who believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten of God; one begotten of God is a son of God those who love him who begets--God--must necessarily love him who is begotten--one’s brother. How do we know that we love those who have been thus begotten? Answer: (1) because we love God; and (2) because we do God’s commandments.

1 Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is begotten of God:--"Whosoever believeth," is, literally, "Whosoever continues to believe," (pas ho pisteuon), i.e., whose faith is firmly fixed and abiding in the proposition that Jesus is the Christ. It is, obviously, not a speculative belief; it is not simply or solely intellectual assent to the truthfulness of the proposition; it is such persuasion of the truth of the matter that the one exercising it is influenced to, and actually does act upon, the principle involved, and becomes obedient to him who is the object of the faith exercised. It is faith which includes obedience, since such is the only kind of faith that avails: "But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith apart from works is barren? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, in that he offered up Isaac his son upon the altar? Thou seest that faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect: and the scripture was fulfilled which saith, And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness; and he was called the friend of God. Ye see that by works a man is justified, and not only by faith . . .For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, even so faith apart from works is dead." (James 2:20-26.) Inasmuch as faith, apart from works, is barren; and since the faith under contemplation here is such that results in sonship, it must follow that it includes obedience to the commandments on the basis of which one becomes a child of God. (Galatians 3:26-27.) No other faith avails.

It was not the design of the apostle here to announce a condition of salvation, nor were the words of this verse addressed to alien sinners. It was his purpose instead to supply the test by which one might determine whether one is a child of God. One claims to be a son of God. Is he, really? The test is: Does he believe (with all such belief involves) that Jesus is the Christ? Only those who thus do, measure to the divine standard of what is required to be a child of God. The proposition, "Jesus is the Christ," was such as effectively sifted out the heretics with reference to whom John was writing. See the comments on 1 John 4:15. Some denied that Jesus was Christ, thus repudiating his deity; others, said that Christ was not Jesus, hence denying his humanity. Still others maintained that his fleshly body was merely an apparition, thus denying his reality. To confess that Jesus is the Christ is to acknowledge his deity, his humanity and his reality. It was therefore just such a test as would reveal the true believers and expose the heretics which then plagued the church with their false teaching. Those who truly believed this proposition were begotten of God. (For an explanation of the phrase, "begotten of God," see the comments on 1 John 3:9.)

And whosoever loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.--"Whosoever loveth," of this clause is exactly parallel with the "Whosoever believeth," of the first clause of the verse, and embraces the same individuals. It is the same idea as that already advanced by the apostle in 1 John 4:20, where see the comments. The reasoning of the apostle here is in the logical form of a sorites, an abridged series of syllogisms in a group of propositions arranged in such fashion that the predicate of the first becomes the subject of the second, the conclusion uniting the subject of the first proposition with the predicate of the last. The order follows

  • To believe that Jesus is the Christ is evidence that one is begotten of God.

  • To be begotten of God necessitates loving God.

  • To love God requires one to love God’s children.

  • Those who love God’s children have been begotten of God.

  • Therefore, to believe that Jesus is the Christ requires one to love God’s children, and evidences the fact that one is begotten of God.

But how are we to know that we truly love God’s children?

2 Hereby we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and do his commandments.--"Hereby," i.e., in this, the test to be supplied, we are able to know that we love the children of God. What is the test? When, (1) we love God and (2) keep his commandments! Here is additional and corroborative evidence of the correctness of the interpretation above. There, it was pointed out that the faith by which one accepts the proposition that. Jesus is the Christ, the evidence of sonship, must include obedience. There, faith is declared to be the test of sonship; here, love of God and obedience. It follows, therefore, that the love and obedience of this verse are embraced in the faith of that. So intimately associated is love for God and man that as 1 John 4:20 teaches that love for brethren is a token and necessary condition of our love for God, so here the relationship is reversed and this passage teaches that our love for God, exhibited in the keeping of his commandments, is proof of our love for his children. We thus learn that love of God and love of the brethren are inseparable duties, and each becomes the test of the other. But why is such a test offered or needed? Is not one capable of knowing whether he loves his brother or not? In what way does the fact that one loves God and keeps his commandments supply evidence that one loves his brother? One may entertain affection for others from many considerations not related to religion, such as kinship, friendship, business relations, etc.; but such do not afford the motives for the love under contemplation here. This love is such an emotion which springs from a heart filled with good wishes for others, genuine regard based on a common parentage, common interests, common responsibilities and a common reward. How may we know that we possess such? When (1) we love God, and (2) do his commandments, one of which is to love one another! "A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; even as I have loved you." (John 13:34.)

3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.--In what way is it possible for us to exhibit and demonstrate our love for God? By keeping his commandments. The verb "keep" in the text is present active subjunctive; it is the love of God that we keep on keeping his commandments! Here is the acid test of love for him. Do we persist in keeping his commandments and in doing his will to the extent of our ability? If such be characteristic of us, we have the evidence of our love for him. If such be lacking, whatever may be our pretensions thereto, they are weighed in the balance and found wanting.

These commandments from a kind and benevolent Father are not grievous, (bareiai), heavy, burdensome, distressing. Love lightens them, makes them easily borne. A nine year old lad, struggling to carry his crippled five year old brother smiled and said, "He’s not heavy; he’s my brother!" Love truly lightens the load, makes us anxious to assist those of our brethren who struggle under heavy burdens. "Bear ye one another’s burdens and so fulfil the law of Christ." (Galatians 6:2.)

4 For whatsoever is begotten of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that hath overcome the world, even our faith.--To indicate to us why the commandments of God are not grievous, (weighty, galling, burdensome), these words were penned. The argument of the apostle follows this pattern The commandments of God are not burdensome for, despite the difficulties, the hardships, the privations necessarily suffered as Christians, all such will eventually result in victory; those who triumph over all such, conquer the world; and hence, none need fear failure or contemplate defeat. For the meaning of the phrase, "begotten of God," see the comments under 1 John 3:9. For an explanation of the word "world," as here used, see under 1 John 2:15.

We have here, as often elsewhere in the scriptures, evidence of the conquering power of faith. It is faith which enables men to resist temptation, to avoid the entanglements of the world, to reject false teachers and the doctrines of men. It was faith which guarded the ancient worthies, enabled them to triumph over the seductions of Satan, and filled them with determination to serve the great Jehovah whatever the difficulties, obstacles, impediments in their way. Chapter 11, of the Book of Hebrews, is Inspiration’s Hall of Fame. Enshrined in that memorial are the records of grand old men out of an ancient past, worthy patriarchs, prophets, priests and kings who, through faithfulness and courage, earned for themselves imperishable honor, and serve for all succeeding ages as examples of undying faith and tremendous courage. They overcame the world. They overcame the world by their faith. They thus serve as worthy examples for our emulation.

The verb "overcometh," is in the present tense, (nikai ton kosmon), and thus denotes a continuous struggle. There is constant victory only because there is continuous struggle. The faithful one continues to overcome because "his seed" (the Word of God, Luke 8:11), continues to abide in him. (1 John 3:9.)

5 And who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the son of God?--It may be asked, What is involved in the proposition which one must believe in order to overcome the world? The answer is: "Jesus is the Son of God." Here, again, attention is fixed on both the humanity (Jesus) and the deity (the Son of God) of the Lord. The two natures, the human and the divine, were united in one personality. Those who accept this proposition (with all that it implies), overcome the world, by escaping its guilt, its pollution, its power, and in large measure, its presence.

6 This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not with water only, but with the water and with the blood.--This verse, and the ones immediately following, have been rightly regarded as the most difficult of the Epistle; and they have given rise to a vast number of interpretations through the years since the apostle John penned these words. Their importance deserves and demands the most careful consideration. An analysis reveals that (a) one came; (b) the one who came was Jesus Christ; (c) Jesus Christ came by water and blood; (d) he did not come by water only, but with the water and with the blood. Essential to the understanding of this passage are the answers to the following questions: (1) What coming of the Lord is referred to here? (2) What is meant by his coming "with the water," and "with the blood"? There appears to be little doubt that the "coming" under consideration here was his advent into the world. In coming into the world, he came with the water and with the blood. Why did the writer cite his coming in this fashion? From verse 8, we learn that it was for the purpose of establishing witnesses to the fact of his coming, the witnesses being water and blood.

It seems clear, therefore, that the reference to the water is an allusion to his baptism; and that of the blood to his death. He came with water at his baptism (Matthew 3:15).; with blood, in his death on the cross (John 19:34). To these facts, the Spirit bears witness. (Verses 7, 8.) The Spirit was manifested at the Lord’s baptism; the Spirit recorded and thus bore witness to both his baptism and his death. Some have seen in the "water" and the "blood," of this passage, a reference to the blood and water which flowed from the "riven side" of the Saviour on the cross. (John 19:34.) There, however, the order is (1) blood (2) water; but here, (1) water; (2) blood. Moreover, it was the design of the writer to point out historical facts in the life of the Lord established by the testimony of the Spirit and designed to serve as evidence of his coming. It seems unaccountable that as proof of his coming the evidence would be limited to events occurring almost at the moment of death. We conclude, therefore, that the water here refers to his baptism; the blood to that shed in his death--the first witness being at the beginning of his public ministry, the other at its close. These two instances in the life of our Lord were doubtless cited, because in the first, his baptism, he publicly received acknowledgement from heaven as the Son of God; and there entered formally upon his public ministry; and on the cross his work was terminated, and the announcement made, "It is finished." (John 19:30.) If it be asked, Why the repetition, "not by water only, but with the water and with the blood," the answer must be found in the desire of the writer to emphasize both witnesses, and perhaps to distinguish him clearly from John the Baptist, who baptized in water only. (John 1:26.)

7 And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is the truth.--The Spirit here referred to is the Holy Spirit; the function which he is said to perform is that he bears witness, because the Spirit is the truth. 8 For there are three who bear witness, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and the three agree in witness; that to which he witnesses is the deity of Jesus; his testimony is reliable because the Spirit is the truth (i.e., of the essence of truth); and that to which he bears testimony were the matters primarily under consideration in the verse preceding this--the water and the blood. As indicated both here and in the verses which follow, the Spirit becomes the third witness to the identity of the Lord, the first and second being the water and the blood. The Spirit bore witness to Jesus at his baptism by descending in the form of a dove and lighting upon him. (Matthew 3:15.) John the Baptist accepted this as a token of the Spirit’s witness to Christ, when he said, "I have beheld the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven; and it abode upon him. And I knew him not but he that sent me to baptize in water, he said unto me, Upon whomsoever thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and abiding upon him, the same is he that baptizeth in the Holy Spirit. And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God." (John 1:32; John 1:34.) See additional note at the end of the chapter.

8 For there are three who bear witness, the Spirit, and the water and the blood: and the three agree in one.--The Spirit (the Holy Spirit, the third person in the Godhead), the water (of baptism) and the blood (which flowed from the Lord’s side on the cross), are here declared to bear witness, i.e., to testify. That to which they bear witness is the deity of Jesus, the lordship of him who was baptized in Jordan and from whose side the blood flowed. These three--the Spirit, the water and the blood--agree in one, i.e.. their testimony harmonizes, and points to the same end. The Spirit is mentioned first, because he is the only living witness, and the testimony of the water and the blood depend on the revelation of the Spirit. As there are three divine persons in one God, so there are three witnesses on earth testifying. The testimony which these witnesses give is constant; the Spirit’s revelation in the scriptures speaks to all generations; the act of baptism, for nearly twenty centuries, has been picturing the central fact of redemption--the burial and resurrection of Christ--and the blood is that which makes redemption possible. (Hebrews 10:1-4.) Compare 1 John 5:10; Romans 6:1-6; 1 Corinthians 11:23-29. Wherever the people of God assemble on the Lord’s day, there is, in the Lord’s supper which they observe, a memorial of the blood which was shed. (For additional notes and an explanation of the variation in the text here and that which is characteristic of the King James’ Version, see the "Additional Note" at the end of the chapter.)

9 If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for the witness of God is this, that he hath borne witness concerning his Son.--This is an argument a fortiori, styled in logic a minori ad majus, reasoning from the less to the greater, a conclusion which, when compared with some other, is even more necessary. We do accept the testimony of men ; thus we should the more readily accept the testimony of God which is greater. That to which particular reference is made is the witness which God has borne concerning his Son. The mean-ing is, We ordinarily believe the testimony of men; inasmuch as God is infinitely greater and better than the best of men, we are logically bound to accept his testimony; and since he has testified that Jesus is the Son of God, this we ought to believe.

10 He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in him:--Literally, "He that keeps on believing in the Son," (ho pisteuon eis ton huion), "continues to have (echei) the wit-ness in him, i.e., in himself. We have earlier seen that one of the witnesses to the reality of the Christian religion is the Holy Spirit. (Verse 8.) This Spirit, whose abiding presence is in all be-lievers (Acts 5:32; Romans 8:9; Galatians 4:6), is thus an ever-present witness to the facts on which faith rests. The word, the instru-ment of the Spirit, is the basis of our faith; this faith supplies us with confidence that the witness is true; and this confidence is ever with us. We thus have a continual witness to the reality of that to which we have committed our lives.

He that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he hath not believed in the witness that God hath borne concerning his Son.--To reject the deity of Jesus--the Sonship of the Lord--is to make God a liar; for, to this fact he has testi-fied in his word. He who does not believe this testimony implies, in the rejection of it, that all God has said of his Son is false. Thus, to deny the deity of Jesus is not only unbelief it is a studied insult to the veracity of God! Inasmuch as the Christian religion is founded on the truth of the proposition that Jesus is the Christ, to reject this is to repudiate all that God has said. Such a one has rejected prophecy, miracle, the character and life of the Lord, the resurrection, the marvelous spread of Christianity, and every other proof that may be adduced in support of the cause for which Jesus died.

11 And the witness is this, that God gave unto us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.--God gave us testimony; the testimony which he gave is with reference to eternal life; this eternal life to which he testified is in his Son. This testimony is abundant: John 10:10; John 14:6; John 17:3. To this end Paul also testified: "For ye died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall be manifested, then shall ye also with him be manifested in glory." (Colossians 3:3-4.) The man-ner in which this life is possessed is indicated in the verse which follows

12 He that hath the Son hath the life; he that hath not the Son of God hath not the life.--Only those who have the Son have the life; and since having the Son is conditioned on faithful-ness and devotion to him, it follows that the life here contemplated is conditional. It is in this sense only that one has eternal life here. Eternal life is not a present possession of the Christian: it is a promise: "There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or mother, or father, or children, or lands, for my sake, and for the gospel’s sake, but he shall receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions: and in the world to come eternal life." (Mark 10:29-30.) "In hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised before times eternal." (Titus 1:2.). One does not hope for that which he already has. (Romans 8:24.) "And this is the promise which he promised us, even the life eternal." (1 John 2:25.) Those passages which apparently as-sert the possession of eternal life here, e.g., John 5:24; John 6:47; John 17:3, etc., areandtobeunderstood as referring prospect, to it in not in reality. The believer has eternal life in prospect and promise, but not in realization. He possesses life, as he possesses the Christ, who is the life, i.e., the source, the origin, the pre-server of life. The believer however, may cease to believe; he may forsake him who has the life. "Having damnation because they have cast off their first faith." (1 Timothy 5:12 AV.) "But shun profane babblings: for they will proceed further in ungodli-ness. And their word will eat as Both a gangrene: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus men who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already, and over-throw the faith of some." (2 Timothy 2:16-17.)

"He that hath not the Son hath not the life." He may have money, fame and fortune; intelligence, education and talent; in-fluence, reputation and honor; but, if he has not the Son, he has not the life! He who would have life, must have the Son; there is no substitute.

Commentary on 1 John 5:1-12 by E.M. Zerr

1 John 5:1. In the New Testament there is only one original word for either born or begotten which is gennao, hence the connection has to be depended upon in each case to determine which is the proper translation. Since the act of begetting is that of the father, it should be the proper translation in passages where the connection shows that lie is the parent being spoken of. On that ground the word born in this verse should have been translated "begotten" just as it is in the others. The seed of reproduction is the word of God and it tells us that Jesus is the Christ. Whenever a man believes that truth, he is begotten of the Father. Therefore it says that everyone who loves him who begat (who is the Father) loveth him also who is begotten (and that is the child). All this is logical, for if we love a man we should love his children.

1 John 5:2. In 1 John 3:14 it is stated that we know we have passed from death unto life because we love the brethren. But that passage does not deal with the question of how to know that we actually do love the brethren, while the present. verse does tell us how, namely, that we love God and keep his commandments. And so a man’s mere assertion that lie loves the brethren is not to be accepted. He cannot truthfully make the claim unless he has obeyed the commandments, including repentance, baptism and the others which God has given in the New Testament.

1 John 5:3. Our love for God is proved only by keeping His commandments. Grievous means heavy or burdensome and it certainly should not seem burdensome to obey the commands of the One whom we love.

1 John 5:4. The world means the evil practices of mankind. (See the comments on 1 John 2:15.) If a man truly loves God of whom he was begotten, the love he has for his Father will induce him to overcome the evil practices of the world. That is because his love is directed by his faith that was produced by the word of God.

1 John 5:5. This is the same as the preceding verse except it states how and when one is born (begotten) of God. That is when he believes in Jesus as the Son of God as was stated in verse 1.

1 John 5:6. The pronouns this and he refer to Jesus as the Son of God. The verse deals with three items that testified to that claim. He came means his introduction to the world especially into the public ministry. The water refers to his baptism because it was then John the Baptist said he learned that Jesus was the one who was to come after him. The Spirit also is mentioned because lie appeared in the form of a dove in connection with the voice of God that acknowledged the Son. The blood was in evidence when Jesus shed it on the cross, thus concluding the long blood line that began with Adam and ran down through the ages. (Read Luke chapter 3.)

1 John 5:7. Most translations omit this verse on the ground that it is not in the oldest Greek manuscripts. I will make remarks similar to what were said at chapter 2:23. The passage does not add anything that is different from the other passages on the same subject, nor will anything be lost if it is left out. With these comments I shall proceed with the next verse.

1 John 5:8. This verse differs from verse 6 as to date only; each has to do with the threefold testimony for the divinity of Christ. However. verse 6 pertains to the time of His stay on the earth, while this one is continuous and applies to what has been going on since Christ left the earth. The testimony of the Spirit is that which is recorded in the New Testament and written by the inspired men. The water is in evidence every time a person is baptized, because there is no way to account for the continuation of this plain ordinance other than the fact that it originated in the time of Christ. The blood testifies every time the Lord’s supper is observed in which is the fruit of the vine, for Paul says (1 Corinthians 11:26), "As often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup. ye do show the Lord’s death till he come." Three agree in one means they all bear testimony to one fact, namely, Jesus is the divine Son of God.

1 John 5:9. If we receive the witness of men means that we do receive such witness. It is as if he said "since we receive such witness," etc. It is true treat human testimony when confirmed is an established rule of mankind in dealing with each other. The apostle is making the point that we should receive the testimony of God, for it is much greater than mere human testimony. That which God gives establishes the fact that Jesus is His Son.

1 John 5:10. Hath the witness in himself. Not that he produced it by his own mind, but it is testimony that can be received by the mind and hence can be retained there. (See Hebrews S:10.) Made him a liar. When a man rejects a statement made by another he thereby makes that man out a liar. Otherwise if the other person is not regarded as a liar, there would be no pretext for the first one to disbelieve him. All of this pertains to the declaration of God that Christ is his Son.

1 John 5:11. Record is from the same word as "evidence." John means that in giving to us the evidence of the Son-ship of Christ, we are thereby given assurance that we may have eternal life through Him.

1 John 5:12. The foregoing important truths are summed up in the conclusion that to have life one must have the Son by sincere belief in Him as the source of that life.

Commentary on 1 John 5:1-12 by N.T. Caton

1 John 5:1—Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ.

The history of apostolic preaching given by the sacred penmen shows that the burden of their message was to induce belief in God’s Son. The belief that Jesus is the Christ, accepted whole-heartedly, confessed with the mouth, followed by obedience to the command to be immersed, as the same Jesus enjoined, makes one a child of God—is born of God. If we love the father by whom we are begotten and have thus become his children, we love also all those like­wise begotten.

1 John 5:2—By this we know that we love.

To test the question whether we love our brethren or not, and to know the truth of the same, we can ask this question of ourselves—do we love God and keep his com­mandments, one of which is that we love the brethren? If we are assured that we do love God and keep his command­ments, then we may feel assured that we love the children of God.

1 John 5:3—For this is the love of God.

The natural expression of our love of God—that is to say, its outward expression—is in obedience. We obey the commands; this shows our love. By this standard we can measure our love of God. This is the sure test.

1 John 5:3 --Not grievous.

His commandments are not burdensome; that is as much as to say they are not difficult for God’s children to observe, generally speaking, and the difficulty only appears to our human nature when we are called upon to suffer for his name’s sake; and, even in this case, the early disciples rejoiced when they were required to so suffer for the cause of Christ.

1 John 5:4—For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world.

The Syriac has: "Because whoever is born of God," in the place of "For whatsoever is born of God." The allusion is to persons, so no mistake need be made. Persons born of God overcome the world in the sense that they do not obey the dictates of the world—work iniquity. We are here represented as in a conflict—the children of God against the world. A victory is achieved by the former; they have over­come and discomfited the world, and that victory is attrib­uted to their faith. Faith was the cause of victory. It was faith that enabled the children of God to become victors in that great struggle.

1 John 5:5—Who is he that overcometh the world.

Here a question is asked and the answer given. The victor was a man of faith—faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son.

1 John 5:6—This is he that came by water and blood.

He, through whom the victory over the world was achieved, the Son of God—he came by water. He was first announced by the Father as his Son, at his baptism. As he came up out of the water, then it was that the heavens were opened, and God spake from his throne: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17).

1 John 5:6—Blood.

On Calvary’s mount he shed his blood. Without his death there could be no resurrection. By that resurrection he was "declared to be the Son of God, with power" (Romans 1:4). But it was while on this cross both water and blood flowed from him. "But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water" (John 19:34). Hence, we have two rites, both of which are commemorative and monumental, and so long as time shall be, both give their testimony to the Lord Jesus. We are baptized into his death, and we partake of the Lord’s Supper. "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?" (Romans 6:3.) "For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus, the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread: and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat; this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying: This cup is the New Testament in my blood; this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come" (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). Both these institutions are monumental and bear testimony —not one, but both. Besides these, the Spirit also testified. He came on Pentecost, and spoke through the apostles, and his testimony we have now of record for our study and guidance.

1 John 5:7—For there are three that bear record in heaven.

This verse is omitted in the Revised Version, by Rotherham, and by the Syriac. Dr. Macknight contends for its authenticity, and after a long citation of proofs, he decided to retain it, as being contained in St. John’s autograph let­ter. At all events, he retains it. The Father, Word, or Son, and the Spirit are represented in John’s time in heaven, and while there, bearing record, or as giving testimony. The best I can gather, is this: That the Father testified that Jesus was his Son; that the Son likewise so testified, as also the Spirit; and that their testimony was one, or agreed—was alike, so far as the question of the Messiahship of Jesus was concerned.

1 John 5:8—And there are three that bear witness in earth.

That the Spirit, and the water, and the blood testify here on earth, we endeavored to show in our exposition of verse 6. They all bear testimony that Jesus of Nazareth is God’s beloved Son. Their testimony fully agreeing, being just alike, they are one therein.

1 John 5:9 -if we receive the witness of men.

As reasonable creatures we receive, trust and fully rely upon our fellowmen. This, for a distinction, we call human testimony. Now, if this kind of testimony is accepted, is there not less ground for questioning divine testimony? Divine testimony is the greater. God testified concerning his Son; we have it on record, and it is being constantly borne and repeated in his transforming grace. Every new convert to the cause of Christ is a new and further demon­stration of God’s testimony. The apostle then proceeds to tell us what God testified concerning his Son.

1 John 5:10—He that believeth on the Son of God.

Every man who is brought to believe on the Son of God has the witness in himself. In this he knows that a change occasioned by that belief has taken place in his own heart, life and conduct. One who disbelieves what God has declared concerning his Son, thereby rejects his testimony and regards God as a liar, or attempts to make God a liar by his rejection of his testimony.

1 John 5:11—And this is the record, that God hath given.

The important part of God’s testimony, the most impor­tant to man, is that God bestowed upon us eternal life through his Son. We know that we possess this, because we know that we possess a new life; one entirely dissimilar to the one possessed before believing in the Son of God and taking him for our Savior and guide.

1 John 5:12—He that hath the Son hath life.

Life is bestowed when we believe on and accept the Son. It is then begun in us, and it is made sure to us by the practice of those virtues which he enjoins. One not accept­ing the Son, has no reason to expect eternal life.

Commentary on 1Jn 5:1-12 by Burton Coffman

Throughout this epistle, John repeatedly emphasized the three tests: faith, obedience and love. All three were stressed in 1 John 2, and most of 1 John 3 was devoted to obedience and love. 1 John 4 emphasized faith and love. The three go together, however, as is evident throughout this letter. In the opening paragraph of this chapter (1 John 5:1-5), "faith" (or belief) occurs in 1 John 5:1; 1 John 5:4-5; "love" occurs in 1 John 5:1-3; and "obey" (keep his commandments) occurs in 1 John 5:2-3. Faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, however, is established upon testimony, the testimony of three witnesses, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood; and the second paragraph (1 John 5:6-12) lays strong emphasis upon these. Another paragraph is related to boldness in prayer (except in cases where "sin unto death" is present) (1 John 5:13-17); and the letter is concluded by a brief summary and exhortation (1 John 5:18-21).

1 John 5:1 --Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is begotten of God: and whosoever loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. (1 John 5:1)

Whosoever believeth ... also implies obedience or fidelity, there being no intimation whatever in a statement like this that mere faith, or faith only, is equivalent to the new birth. "Believeth" in this place, as frequently in the New Testament, is a synecdoche for a number of closely related actions involved in conversion.

That Jesus is the Christ ... Christianity is grounded in the absolute proposition that Jesus of Nazareth was (is) the Dayspring from on High, God incarnate in human flesh, the promised Messiah of the Hebrews, the "seed of the woman" (Genesis 3:15) who would crush the head of the serpent, whose "goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting" (Micah 5:2). That incarnate deity identified in the New Testament as "Jesus Christ" is man’s unique Saviour, and only those who manifest an obedient faith in him can receive the inestimable privilege of the new birth.

Is begotten of God ... has the meaning of "is born of God," that is, has received the new birth, being raised "to walk in newness of life" (Romans 6:3-5).

Whosoever loveth him that begat loveth also him that is begotten ... In other words, whosoever loves God, being himself a child of God, loves not God alone but all of God’s other children also. John’s argument here is a type of compound syllogism called "sorites," but with some of the steps omitted. The entire argument would be something like this:

Everyone with obedient faith in Christ is a child of God.

Every child of God loves the Father.

Therefore, everyone with obedient faith loves God.

Everyone that loves God loves God’s children.

Therefore, everyone with obedient faith loves the children of God.

1 John 5:2 --Hereby we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and do his commandments.

John echoed here the teachings of the Master who declared that, "If ye love me, ye will keep my commandments" (John 14:15). Love of God, therefore, is the type of regard for the Father that issues in keeping his word and obeying the commandments that he gave. The same is true of love for the brethren. "It is practical and active, and expresses itself in deed and in truth, in sacrificial service."[1] "True Christian love, therefore, is that which proceeds from love to God, and leads us to obey all his commandments."[2] Both with regard to love, as here, and with regard to faith, John’s usage of either term always carried inherently the concept of obedience.

[1] John R. W. Stott, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, Vol. 19 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1964), p. 173.

[2] James Macknight, Macknight on the Epistles, Vol. VI (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, reprint, 1969), p. 103.

1 John 5:3 --For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.

There is no need here to defend John with the declaration that, "he was not a legalist";[3] or to oppose him by alleging that Paul’s teaching is opposed to this. It is not opposed to it in any manner; although it is quite true that some of the alleged teachings of Paul are denied by this passage. For example, the notion that, "In Paul’s terms Law of Christ means freedom from law,"[4] is nothing but a popular error. Not only John and Paul, but Christ and all of the holy apostles constantly reiterated the fundamental thesis of the New Testament that the people who do the will of God will be saved; and the people who do not do it will be lost. The verse before us is in perfect harmony with the whole New Testament. If people believe that they can bypass this fundamental truth by means of some theological device, they are mistaken.

And his commandments are not grievous ... Wilder suggested that this is contrary to Jesus’ words regarding the strait gate, the narrow way, etc.; and it is possible that many have wondered just how to take the words here. There are at least three ways in which John’s words are profoundly true: (1) As compared with the onerous burdens of the Law of Moses, called by the apostles themselves "a yoke of bondage which neither we nor our fathers were able to bear" (Acts 15:10), the Law of Christ is one of incredible freedom. (2) For that soul who is truly born again, the Lord’s commandments are in complete harmony with the natural impulses of his new life in Christ. As Sinclair said:

Were we perfect, we should not find them commands at all, for they would be our natural impulses. The more sincerely we serve God, the more enjoyment we shall derive from obeying him. Only to those whose inclinations are distorted, perverted and corrupted by sin can God’s laws seem irksome.[5]

(3) Despite the fact of there being genuine obligations in Christian service, called by Jesus himself "my yoke" (Matthew 11:19), it is in the nature of those precious obligations that they make all other burdens lighter. Christ’s service is the "yoke," the carrying device, which enables the wearer to carry unavoidable burdens of life which otherwise would be impossible and would destroy him. See a fuller illustration of this in my Commentary on Matthew, pp. 161,162.

Concerning this whole verse, Barclay said, "John reverts to an idea that is never far from the surface of his mind. Obedience is the only proof of love."[6] We might add that it is likewise the only proof of faith.

[3] Leon Morris, The New Bible Commentary, Revised (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1970), p. 1268.

[4] Amos N. Wilder, The Interpreter’s Bible, Vol XII (New York: Abingdon Press, 1957), p. 291.

[5] W. M. Sinclair, Ellicott’s Bible Commentary, Vol. VIII (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1959), p. 490.

[6] William Barclay, The Letters of John and Jude (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1976), p. 103.

1 John 5:4 --For whatsoever is begotten of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that hath overcome the world, even our faith.

Whatsoever is begotten of God ... We might have expected John to write "whosoever" etc., but he was speaking not so much of individuals here, as of the new birth. "It is not the man but his birth from God which conquers."[7] The new birth gives one entry into the kingdom of God (John 3:5 f). In order to enter, one must be born of water and of the spirit, that is, be baptized into Christ and receive the Holy Spirit. For a more complete discussion of this, see in my Commentary on James, pp. 83-88.

The victory that overcometh the world ... How daringly incredible must such a claim as this have appeared to unbelievers who might have been aware of it! "The world" of that era was the domain of the Caesar’s. To all outward appearances, imperial Rome must have looked like the victor. There was not a force on earth (except that of which John wrote) which could stand against Rome, all the nations of the known world of that day being merely the slaves and vassals of the tyrant on the Tiber. Between that organized oppression and the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ there could be no neutrality; either Christ was Lord and would prove himself so to be, or the self-appointed "Gods" of the imperial purple would win the field. Moreover the conflict was very near to being joined when John wrote these words. The terrible persecutions would soon begin under Nero and would last intermittently for nearly 250 years. Eusebius tells us of the final outrage that occurred in the reign of Galerius Augustus:

Christians were flogged until the flesh hung from their bones ... salt or vinegar was poured in their wounds ... their flesh was cut off bit by bit to feed waiting animals ... they were eaten piecemeal by starved beasts ... their fingers were pierced with sharp reed under their nails ... their eyes were gouged out ... they were suspended by a hand or foot ... some had molten lead poured down their throats ... they were beheaded, beaten to death with clubs or crucified ... some were torn asunder by being tied to bent branches of trees (This quotation is from Eusebius by Will Durant, who complained that this could not be verified by pagan sources). Why should pagans have admitted such deeds? There can be no doubt whatever of the truth of these records[8]

Durant stated that the persecutions mentioned above lasted for eight years, involving the death of at least 1,500 people and the brutal abuse of many thousands more; but:

As the brutalities multiplied, the pagan population was stirred ... good citizens expressed themselves against the most ferocious oppression in Roman history ... the people turned against the government ... many pagans risked death to hide or protect Christians ... (and then it happened!) In Galerius, suffering from a mortal illness, convinced of failure, and implored by his wife to make his peace with the undefeated God of the Christians, promulgated an edict of toleration, recognizing Christianity as a lawful religion, and asked the prayers of the Christians in return for "our most gentle clemency!"[9]

Durant summed up the terrible conflict that lasted nearly a quarter of a millennium with the words, "Caesar and Christ had met in the arena, and Christ had won!"[10] History demonstrated the truth of what the apostle John wrote in this verse.

[7] J. R. Dummelow, Commentary on the Holy Bible (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1937), p. 1057.

[8] Will Durant, Caesar and Christ (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1944), p. 652.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

1 John 5:5 --And who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?

It was the basic, fundamental conviction of Christians regarding who Christ was (and is) that fed the springs of their courage and determination. They did not believe, merely, that Christ was some great and wonderful teacher, but that he Was God come in the flesh, the lawful ruler of heaven and earth, the Holy One who would at the last day raise all the dead who ever lived and appoint every soul his everlasting destiny. The very expression "Son of God" carries with it the idea of equality with God; and so the Jews of Jesus’ day understood it. For example:

Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him ... because he said that God was his Father, making himself equal to God (John 5:18). Christ confessed under oath that he was the Son of God (Mark 14:62), and the Pharisees mad that the crime for which they demanded his crucifixion (John 19:7).

Knowing that he would be put to death for this claim, Jesus carefully avoided making it until he would choose to do so before the Sanhedrin, except in circumstances where his enemies were powerless to use it as the basis of a legal charge of blasphemy. Thus, he spoke freely to the woman at the well of Samaria (John 4) and to the man healed of congenital blindness (John 9), flatly declaring to the latter that he was indeed the Son of God (John 9:35-37). In those two cases, the woman being a Samaritan, and the erstwhile blind man having been thrown out of the synagogue, neither could be recruited by the Sanhedrin as a witness against Christ. By far the favorite designation of himself, on Jesus’ part, was "Son of Man," by which he meant everything that Son of God means; but the occasional use of "Son of Man" in the Old Testament to mean any ordinary person (Psalms 8:4) prohibited the Sanhedrin from making a charge based on the title "Son of Man," despite the fact that Christ and his followers, as well as his enemies, perfectly understood that Jesus used the title in the sense of Daniel 10:16, where the title is suggested for one who is divine. For fuller discussion of these two titles, see in my Commentary on James, pp. 54-56.

1 John 5:6 --This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not with the water only, but with the water and with the blood.

From the times of Tertullian, the more discerning scholars have referred these words to the baptism of Christ in water (as the Greek reads here), and to his crucifixion (aptly described as his coming "in the blood"). Some have seen a reference here to John 19:34; and, as Bruce stated it, "I should not care to deny this."[11] It undoubtedly refers to all of these events; and, even beyond this, it undoubtedly suggested to the apostle the two grand ordinances of the Christian religion: baptism and the Lord’s Supper, as indicated by his specific reference to them two verses later. However, the matter at hand in this verse related to the heresy of the Cerinthians who admitted that Jesus was the Christ after his baptism, but denied that he was the Christ in his crucifixion. Again from Bruce:

From their point of view, Christ came by water, but not by blood. Therefore, John emphasized that he came "not with water only, but with the water and with the blood"; with the clear meaning that Jesus was proclaimed as the Son of God as truly in his death as he was in his baptism.[12]

John’s refutation of that heresy was as precise and devastating as any that could have been given.

[11] F. F. Bruce, Answers to Questions (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1972), p. 133.

[12] Ibid., p. 134.

1 John 5:7 --And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is the truth.

It is not possible to tell exactly what the apostle had in mind here. He could have been referring to the witness of the Holy Spirit descending in the form of a dove and alighting and remaining upon him at the time of Jesus’ baptism, thus witnessing to the divinity and Godhead of Jesus; or, he might have reference to his own inspired testimony. It should be remembered that he was one of the Twelve to whom Jesus promised that the Spirit would guide them into all truth (John 16:13). As Orr noted, "The present tense might be significant here";[13] and that would seem to make the second alternative the preferable view.

ENDNOTE:

[13] R. W. Orr, A New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1969), p. 619.

1 John 5:8 --For there are three that bear witness, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and the three agree in one.

There are three that bear witness ... Note the use of the present tense, contrasting with the past tense of 1 John 5:6, a fact that indicates the three agreeing witnesses as giving their testimony at the time of John’s writing and continuously thereafter.

The Spirit ... There is no doubt regarding the identity of this witness, the same being the inspired testimony of the holy apostles of Jesus Christ as revealed in the New Testament; and apart from that New Testament, there is no other authentic written source of the historical events which are the foundation of Christianity. Of the many claims in our own times regarding people claiming to "have the Spirit," not any one of them, nor all of them put together has ever produced a single line of intelligible teaching regarding the holy religion of Christ. In a lesser sense, of course, the earnest of the Holy Spirit given to all believers in Christ on condition of and subsequent to their repentance and baptism imparts the blessed fruit of love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, etc. (Galatians 5:22).

And the water ... At the time John wrote, the baptism of Christ could hardly have been spoken of as "witnessing" anything. It was a past event, by a whole generation; and John here spoke of the water as "witnessing" in the present tense. How could this be true? The grand initiatory rite of the Christian religion is a continual witness in all generations of the essential facts of the gospel; namely, the death, burial, and resurrection of the Son of God. The very form of the ordinance with its burial and resurrection to "walk in newness of life" was designed for that very purpose; and how Satan does hate it! In all ages and communities, a believer’s baptism "into Christ" declares the gospel message. It is a continuing witness of almost cosmic dimensions, taking place thousands of thousands of times in every place and at every time throughout history. As Macknight stated it: "The water is the rite of baptism regularly administered in the Christian church to the end of the world."[14]

And the blood ... "The blood signifies the commemoration of the shedding of the blood of Christ for the remission of sins, in the Lord’s Supper."[15] As the apostle Paul declared, "As often as ye eat this bread, and drink the cup, ye proclaim the Lord’s death until he come" (1 Corinthians 11:26), thus clearly designating this grand ordinance of the religion of Christ as a continuing witness of the holy gospel until the end of time, "until he come." How could there be any doubt that John spoke of the same thing here?

[14] James Macknight, op. cit., p. 112.

[15] Ibid.

1 John 5:9 --If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for the witness of God is this, that he hath borne witness concerning his Son.

Here again, there is a dramatic shift of tense, back to the past perfect, and contrasting the witness of people (presently going on when John wrote) with the witness of God (past perfect) delivered by the Lord Jesus Christ to the apostles, and through them to all mankind. The meaning would appear to be that: dramatic and powerful as are the witnesses of the great Christian ordinances to the validity and authenticity of the Christian religion, the greater witness is that of God himself through the word of Christ and the apostles, the witness which is the heritage of all people in the New Testament. The witness of God (the New Testament) requires that all people accept Jesus as the Son of God, a fact that John would state immediately.

1 John 5:10 --He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in him: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he hath not believed in the witness that God hath borne concerning his Son.

Hath the witness in him ... The earnest of the Spirit in Christian hearts is indicated by this (Ephesians 1:13), that holy influence which issues in love, joy and peace. The practical meaning of this is that the Christian experience corroborates the validity of Christianity in the lives of those who accept it and walk in the light of it.

He that believeth not hath made God a liar ... It is no light matter to refuse to believe the divine testimony of the holy Scriptures. "He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed on the name of the only begotten Son of God" (John 3:18 KJV). Profound deductions flow out of a passage like this: (1) The testimony of God regarding his Son is sufficient. (2) Rejection of it is equivalent to giving God himself the lie. (3) The wrath of God is revealed against unbelief.

1 John 5:11 --And the witness is this, that God gave unto us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.

The sum and circumference of the religion of Christ are encompassed here in a single sentence. All of God’s witness for thousands of years in the Bible, all the messages through the holy prophets, all the typical significance of Judaism, and whatever else God did in his dealings with the human race were all directed to a single purpose: the identification of Jesus Christ as his only begotten Son and that priceless gift of eternal life which he brought to people.

Eternal life ... How utterly beyond all human comprehension is such a thing as eternal life! To live forever in joy in God’s very presence, to know the Creator, to see the Saviour face to face, to know as we are known - such conceptions can be understood only in part. And yet, this is the essential central message of the faith in Christ.

This life is in his Son ... Here is the Johannine equivalent of the apostle Paul’s "in Christ," having exactly the same meaning as a reference to the corporate body of Christians who have believed God’s testimony that Jesus is indeed the Son of God, and who have been united with Christ in baptism, being baptized "into him" (Galatians 3:26-27). Neither Paul nor John, however, developed or invented this doctrine. It began with Christ himself (John 15:1-10). In this series, a liberal amount of space was devoted to the discussion of "in Christ" in Romans 3; and a much fuller treatment of the doctrine is found there. In a word, eternal life for mankind is promised only to those who are "in Christ" and who shall be "found in him" (Philippians 3:9) at the end of probation. See also Revelation 14:13.

1 John 5:12 --He that hath the Son hath the life; he that hath not the Son of God hath not the life.

He that hath the Son ... means "he that is a Christian." "Hath the life ... This means "eternal life," but the present possession of it must not be understood as the totality of it. See discussion of "Eternal Life" under 1:4, above. The eternal life promised the faithful followers of Jesus Christ is a life uninterrupted by death. Certain qualities of the life eternal, however, are experienced by Christians in the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). Plummer has this:

Eternal life is not granted to the whole world, or even to all Christians en masse; it is given to individuals, soul by soul, according as each does or does not accept the Son of God.[16]

ENDNOTE:

[16] A. Plummer, The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 22,1John (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1950), p. 141.

Verses 13-15

1Jn 5:13-15

ADDITIONAL OBJECT IN WRITING

(1 John 5:13-15)

13 These things have I written unto you, that ye may know that ye have eternal life, even unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God.--In a general sense, the entire Epistle was written with the design here indicated, though it ap-pears probable that the reference is, particularly, to that of the immediate context, e.g., 5:1-12. These words are very similar to those occurring in John Z0:31. For the manner in which one possesses eternal life here, see the comments on verse 12. The meaning here is, John wrote; he wrote that men may know that they have eternal life; those who have eternal life in prospect and promise (2:25), or those who believe (literally, keeping on be-lieving (tots pisteuousin eis) in the name of the Son of God. The "name," as here used, sums up the characteristics which make up the personality of Christ.

14 And this is the boldness which we have toward him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, be heareth us:--See 1 John 3:21, and the comments there. The conjunction, and, with which this verse begins, associates the ideas which it contains with the verse preceding, and the meaning is: We have the promise of eternal life; the realization of this assures and gives us con-fidence; this confidence expresses itself, for example, in the as-surance we have that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. His will is set out in the sacred writings; to ask ac-cording to his will, is to ask in harmony with what he has taught regarding prayer. Jesus recognized this condition, and hence prayed: "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass away from me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt." (Matthew 26:39.) The Father wills for us only that which is for our good. If we, through ignorance, greed, avarice or some other evil motive, ask for that which we should not have, the Father, in kindness, with-holds it. "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find ; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for every one that asketh receiveth and he that seeketh findeth and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, who, if his son shall ask him for a loaf, will give him a stone; or if he shall ask for a fish, will give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your chidren, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?" (Matthew 7:11).

15 And if we know that he heareth us whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions which we have asked of him.--The assurance which we have that God does indeed answer the prayers of his faithful children encourages us to ask, and enables us to know that we receive the things for which we ask. If we know that God hears our prayers we know that the peti-tions which we make are granted, though we may not be able to see them supplied in the particular way we had expected. The Father sometimes says, Yes!, by saying No! That is, he answers a prayer for our good by denying the petition made but by sup-plying, in his wisdom, our need otherwise. Three times Paul besought the Lord to remove the thorn from his flesh; and though this was denied him, the prayer was answered in a fashion which Paul was himself later to approve. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10.)

Commentary on 1 John 5:13-15 by E.M. Zerr

1 John 5:13. Written unto you that believe again, sets forth the idea that not all of the apostolic writings are given as new information. The purpose for repeating it is stated that you may know or that they may have their faith for eternal life confirmed.

1 John 5:14. The proviso according to his will is important and shows that we are not at liberty to make just any kind of wild request and expect God to grant it.

1 John 5:15. This verse explains what it means to be heard for our prayers. When we have the petitions (granted) then we know that they were scriptural or God would not have granted them.

Commentary on 1 John 5:13-15 by N.T. Caton

1 John 5:13—These things have I written.

The object the apostle had in writing these things to the believers in Christ is to make them fully understand how they may know of a certainty that they have eternal life. In this letter he gives them many infallible tests and examples by which they can, with certainty and accuracy, determine this matter.

1 John 5:13—That believe on the name of the Son of God.

Not only that they may continue to believe, but that they may, with absolute safety, put the fullest possible trust in the name of Christ.

1 John 5:14—And this is the confidence.

Whether the word should be confidence or boldness, will make but little difference, as I view it, for if we be God’s children and ask for blessings, the petition being according to God’s will, we have the word of the Father, that none should doubt, that he will hear. We may, there­fore, come with boldness, and in all confident assurance, to his throne of grace designed for his children.

1 John 5:15—And if we know that he hear us.

That is, if we know that he hears us as with open ears, then we know that he will grant our petitions; the things that we asked will be by us received.

Commentary on 1 John 5:13-15 by Burton Coffman

1 John 5:13 --These things have I written unto you, that ye may know that ye have eternal life, even unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God.

These things have I written ... This has reference to the epistle. At the beginning of the letter, John explained the purpose of his writing thus, "These things we write, that our joy may be made full" (1 John 1:4); but the meaning is closely related to this. Their joy (both John’s and that of his readers) would be made full in the certain knowledge of the possession of eternal life.

Unto you who believe on the name ... "This is the only place in the whole letter where he speaks of believing on the name, in His full Person, all that the name stands for."[17] This variation, however, conveys no different meaning, really, from that of believing in Christ, or believing on Christ.

With this verse, the final section of 1John begins.

ENDNOTE:

[17] Leon Morris, op. cit., p. 1269.

1 John 5:14 --And this is the boldness which we have toward him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us;

And this is the boldness ... This is the fourth mention of boldness in this epistle: as pertaining to the judgment in 1 John 2:28; 1 John 4:17, and as pertaining to prayer, here, and in 1 John 3:21-22. In a large degree, the Christian is himself responsible for maintaining a confident and winning attitude, an attitude to which he is fully entitled by the glorious endowments and promises of the faith. It is therefore incumbent upon him to speak enthusiastically of his faith and of the joyful service in the Lord, much in the same manner of a good athlete who "talks a good game" with his associates during a contest. The grounds of such confidence which John cited in connection with his admonition is that, after all, our God will answer our prayers! No greater promise could be imagined.

If we ask according to his will ... God’s promise of answering prayer, however, is not a blank check, the qualification laid down here being only one of a number of Scriptural limitations on it. Others are: prayers must be offered in faith (Mark 11:24), in the name of Jesus (John 14:14), and by one abiding in Christ (John 15:7). Furthermore, only those who have forgiven (Mark 11:15); and only those whose prayers flow out of an obedient life (1 John 3:22), and who will not use their blessings for the gratification of their lusts and passions (James 4:3), may properly claim in confidence the answer of their prayers.

1 John 5:15 --and if we know that he heareth us whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions which we have asked of him.

The meaning of this is only slightly different from Jesus’ words, "All things whatsoever ye pray and ask for, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them" (Mark 11:24). Perhaps the principal confidence to be derived from this promise is simply that, "We simply know that from all that he has promised that he does not ignore our requests."[18] When it may appear that our prayers have not been answered, we can be positively certain that the reason is harmonious with God’s love of his children, and that it is grounded in what God knows is best for them.

ENDNOTE:

[18] J. W. Roberts, The Letters of John and Jude (Austin, Texas: R. B. Sweet Company, 1968), p. 139.

Verses 16-17

1Jn 5:16-17

THE SIN UNTO DEATH

(1 John 5:16-17)

16 If any man see his brother sinning a sin not unto death, he shall ask, and God will give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: not concerning this do I say that he should make request.--The connection between this statement and the verse which precedes it is close, and should be carefully considered in determining the significance of this passage. We have boldness (confidence) toward the Father. (Verse 14.) This boldness prompts us to make our petitions with the assurance that if we ask according to his will, he hears us. Though we are unable to "see" the answer to our prayers, in some instances, the confidence which we have in him enables us to know that "we have the petitions which we have asked of him." (Verse 15.) As an instance of this, if we see a "brother sin a sin not unto death," we are encouraged to ask in his behalf, assured that God will give us life for "them that sin not unto death." We are not, however, from thence to infer that God will give us life for "them that sin unto death." There is such a sin; and though we are not forbidden to pray in behalf of one thus sinning, we are not commanded to do so, and there is no assurance that God will hear and answer our petition if we do.

This passage is not to be confused, as is often done, with Matthew 12:31-32,--"the sin against the Holy Spirit." Here, reference is to a brother who sins; there, the Pharisees were primarily in the mind of the Saviour, these being the ones particularly addressed. (Matthew 12:14-24.) "Any man," of the first clause is to be understood only of those who are members of the body of Christ and approved of God; it follows, therefore, that the "brother" contemplated as sinning is an erring child of God.

The rendering of the King James’ or so-called Authorized Version of the New Testament reads, "If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death he shall ask . . .," The American Standard Version, however, has it thus: "If any man see his brother sinning a sin not unto death, he shall ask . . ." This appears, at first glance, to mean that if one sees a brother in the actual commission of sin, he may ask and God will forgive such a one while sinning. Such a conclusion is alike repugnant to reason and revelation; opposed both to scripture and to our own sense of the fitness of things, and is obviously false. Jesus said, "Except ye repent, ye shall . . . perish." (Luke 13:3.) There is no offer of amnesty to the rebellious and impenitent. We may be sure that John did not intend that such a conclusion should be drawn from his words here. Why then, the present active participle hamartanonta (sinning) here? The participle agrees grammatically with adelphon (brother), and with the cognate accusative hamartian (sin); it is a sinning brother who stands, as it were, before our very eyes. This is, therefore, not to be construed to mean that the brother is engaged in sin at the moment prayer is made in his behalf.

An analysis of the passage reveals, (1) a child of God can sin; (2)thereisasinnot"untodeath";(3)we are instructed to pray for those thus sinning, with the assurance that our prayers will be heard and answered; (4) there is a sin "unto death"; (5) for those guilty of such it is useless and futile to pray. What is the sin thus contemplated?

(a) It is obvious that no single sin, contemplated as an overt act, was in the apostle’s mind. Correctly rendered, the passage does not designate the sin, or even a sin, but mere sin, sin in essence, sin abstractly considered. (b) The sin was such that a brother could discern it, i.e., identify it: "If any man see . . ." The death referred to was not bodily death, the loss of physical life; but spiritual death, separation from God and all that is good. (d) It was such a sin as only children of God could be guilty of. Any interpretation that is correct must take account of each of these considerations, and embrace them. (1) The sin contemplated here is not such as is usually classified as capital, i.e., such sins as idolatry, murder, adultery, blasphemy, etc. (2) The effects of it were visible and obvious--such as could be seen. (3) It was possible for one who prays to distinguish between the sin unto death, and the sin not unto death. To what type of sin then, did John refer?

There is much about sin and its forgiveness in the first Epistle of John. Its fact, in the lives of all Christians, is affirmed (1 John 1:8-10), its origin indicated (3:8), the means by which it may be avoided revealed (3:9). In the event of sin in one’s life, there is "an Advocate, with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous" (2:1), and the promise that "if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1:8). The apostle’s teaching on the theme is thus abundant, and the significance thereof clear. It is susceptible of being reduced to logical form:

The Lord will forgive every sin, of whatever nature, that a brother confesses. (1 John 1:8.)

There is, however, a sin which the Lord will not forgive. (1 John 5:16.)

Therefore, the sin which the Lord will not forgive, is simply a sin, any sin, all sin that a brother will not confess!

If this conclusion does not follow, it is because either the major or minor premise of the syllogism is defective. The major premise is that the Lord will forgive every sin a brother confesses. This is stated in 1 John 1:8. The minor premise is obviously implied in 5:16. It follows, therefore, that since the Lord will forgive every sin, of whatever nature, that a brother confesses and turns away from; and as there is a sin which the Lord will not forgive, the conclusion is irresistible that the sin which the Lord will not forgive is a sin which a brother will not confess. The context corroborates this view. If my brother sins, and manifests penitence, I not only may, it is my duty to, pray in his behalf: "Confess therefore your sins one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed." (James 5:16.) If, however, my brother exhibits stubborn impenitence and persistent rebellion, following the commission of his sin, it is useless to petition the Father in his behalf. The sin unto death is thus a disposition of heart, a perverseness of attitude and an unwillingness of mind to acknowledge one’s sin and from it turn away. Such a disposition effectively closes the door of heaven in one’s face.

17 All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death.--Here, sin is negatively defined. Sin is unrighteousness. God’s commandments are righteousness. (Psalms 119:172.) A failure, therefore, to keep God’s commandments, is to be guilty of sin in his sight. A positive definition of sin is set out by the apostle in 3:4: "Sin is lawlessness." Sin thus consists of doing (a) that which is wrong; and of (b) neglecting to do that which is right. The former we classify as the sin of commission; the latter, the sin of omission. "Unrighteousness," is that state or condition which is opposed to righteousness. It is a general term indicative of the absence of righteousness for whatever cause.

Commentary on 1 John 5:16-17 by E.M. Zerr

1 John 5:16. Sin unto death. Not that the man has reached the state of eternal death but is healed unto it; his conduct is in that direction. The condition described in Hebrews 6:4-6 is a clear case of this kind of sin; let the reader see the comments at that place. Paul says it is impossible for another person to renew that kind of sinner to repentance. It would therefore be inconsistent to engage in a prayer service with a brother who has gone so far in deliberate sin that he could not be induced to repent by anyone else. John says he would not ask anyone to pray for such a brother. The kind of sin that is not unto death would be like that mentioned in Galatians 6:1 where the brethren are told to work for the restoration of the one overtaken. He shall ask sounds as if John means for the brother discovering sin in another to do the praying for him, when Peter told Simon to pray for himself. That it true but it is also true that brethren can pray together on behalf of the erring one. Then if he repents the Lord will grant him life (forgiveness) for his sins. (See James 5:15-16.) The pronouns may be a little confusing the way they are used. The first he means the man who sees his brother sin, and the second he means the Lord from whom all forgiveness must come. (See Ephesians 4:32 as to the source of forgiveness.)

1 John 5:17. All unrighteousness is sin. (See the comments at 1 John 3:4.) John makes this statement that it might not seem he is underestimating the seriousness of any sin. He wishes only to show that not all sins are as fatal as others; that there is such a sin not unto death.

Commentary on 1 John 5:16-17 by N.T. Caton

1 John 5:16—If any man see his brother sin a sin.

Along this line there has been much speculation. We will give our exposition in numerical order.

1. Brother sin. This shows that a Christian is liable to sin; liable to be overtaken by sin, notwithstanding the idea of some, that no child of God can sin.

2. Not unto death. Then there is a sin that is unto death, and a sin that is not unto death.

3. He shall give him life. That is to say, the brother who has sinned a sin that is not unto death, may be restored. This restoration is to be secured by prayer. "He shall ask, and he Shall give him life." Thus, we have the assurance that a brother can be restored by prayer.

4. I do not say he shall pray for it. That is, pray for the brother who has committed the sin which is unto death. John says: "I do not say, that for this sin you shall pray." Of course, it is understood that in that class of sins for which prayer may be offered, with the hope of the restora­tion of the offender, the offender must first be reached, as in the case of Simon, the sorcerer, mentioned in the eighth chapter of Acts. The prayer must be according to the will of God. The will of God is, that a sinner must repent and turn. If this does not exist, prayer for the restoration of the sinning one would be useless, because not according to the will of God.

5. An example of each of the two classes of sins. While this is not strictly in line with the duty of the expositor of this epistle, being suggested by the verse in hand, it may not be out of place.

(a) Sin not unto death. "Brethren, if any man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted" (Galatians 6:1). See also 1 Corinthians 5:1-13, 2 Corinthians 2:7-10, and Revelation 2:4.

(b) Sin unto death. "For it is impossible for those who were once enlight­ened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame" (Hebrews 6:4-6). "Wherefore I say unto you, all manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men, but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men" (Matthew 12:31). Many are the speculations upon what is called the unpardonable sin. What it is, and the danger in this age of committing it, are questions that have engaged the thoughts of many. My own notion is that all such discussions are unprofitable. Striving to know and to do God’s will is more important.

1 John 5:17—All unrighteousness is sin.

All wrongdoing is sin; every coming short of that which is right is sin, and, of course, if persisted in, must result in death. Where one steels his heart against the right, against Christ, who alone can bestow life, such an one can never attain eternal life; and yet, as there is a sin not unto death, such may be restored.

Commentary on 1 John 5:16-17 by Burton Coffman

1 John 5:16 --If any man see his brother sinning a sin not unto death, he shall ask, and God will give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: not concerning this do I say that he should make request.

If any man see his brother sinning a sin not unto death ... Presumably, this would be any kind of sin except apostasy; but what makes this passage difficult is the problem of Christian brothers monitoring each other’s behavior. The ability always to know when a brother is sinning is not in Christians; and that fact limits the admonition here to what is clearly visible to all and unmistakable.

And God will give him life for them ... Before Christians may be forgiven of their sins, they themselves must repent and ask the Father’s mercy and pardon; therefore, God’s giving life for them that sin cannot be solely upon the grounds of another’s asking it. Perhaps that limitation is understood in John’s promise here of such great efficacy in the prayers of Christians for one another.

For them that sin not unto death ... There are a number of New Testament passages that deal with the "sin unto death," namely, the passage here, 1 Corinthians 11:30; 1 Thessalonians 5:19; 1 Timothy 5:6; Hebrews 6:4-6; Hebrews 10:26-27; 2 Peter 2:20-21, and Mark 3:29 with parallel in Matthew. For a complete discussion of this question see in my Commentary on Mark, pp. 65-67, and, in my Commentary on Matthew, pp. 173-175, and, in my Commentary on Hebrews, pp. 125-128. Briefly stated, the sin unto death is that which results in the total apostasy of the sinner, leading to a state which is hopeless, not because of any limitation on God’s part, but because of the will of the sinner not to accept pardon.

I do not say that he should make request ... This carries the meaning of, "Let him not pray for it."[19]

We have already pointed out that in all ordinary circumstances, no Christian could possibly know whether or not one had committed a sin "unto death" or not; and, with that in mind, the interpretation of Bruce on this difficult passage is certainly entitled to be studied.

He wrote:

I suggest that the sin unto death is quite literally a sin with death as its consequence; and the only way in which it may be known that a sin is "unto death" is if death actually ensues. What John is doing, in that case, is to make it plain that he does not advocate praying for the dead.[20]

Bruce’s understanding of this seems to this writer the most reasonable of all the explanations encountered. Bruce admitted the possibility that apostasy could be the thing in view, adding "but this I doubt." The explanation advocated by him would certainly solve the problem of a brother’s "seeing" whether or not sin was "unto death"; and, in the context, this would appear to be determinative.

Plummer, and others who favor the view that apostasy is meant, have written some very helpful words regarding the power of apostates to rebel against God and spurn his love. For example:

The prayer of one human being can never cancel another’s free-will. If God’s will does not override man’s will, neither can a fellow-man’s prayer. When a human will has been firmly and persistently set in opposition to the Divine will, our intercession will be of no avail.[21]

Macknight limited the meaning of this verse to those situations in the early church which were analogous to that mentioned in James 4:14 f, affirming that this verse is directed not to ordinary Christians at all, but to:

Any spiritual man (endowed with the charismatic gift of healing diseases); and that the brother for whom the spiritual man was to ask life, was not every brother who had sinned, but the brother only who had been punished with a mortal disease; but who having repented of his sin, it was not a sin unto death; and that the life to be asked and received on behalf of such a brother was not eternal life at all, but a miraculous recovery from the mortal disease from which he was suffering.[22]

In support of his thesis, which may indeed be correct, Macknight argued that the clause, "And God will give him life for them" could not possibly refer to eternal life, since "Nowhere in Scripture is eternal life promised to be given to any sinner, at the asking of another."[23]

Having given three different interpretations of this difficult Scripture, we shall leave it as one that might reasonably bear any of the three explanations. There are difficult questions connected with any view of it.

Before leaving this verse, it should be pointed out, however, that:

To divide sins, on the authority of this passage, into venial and mortal classifications, is to misunderstand the whole argument of the Epistle and to seduce the conscience. St. John only means that though prayer can do much for an erring brother, there is a willfulness against which it would be powerless: for even prayer is not stronger than free-will.[24]

[19] John Wesley, Explanatory Notes Upon the New Testament (Naperville, Illinois: Alec. R. Allenson, Inc., reprint, 1950), p. 919.

[20] F. F. Bruce, op. cit., p. 134.

[21] A. Plummer, op. cit., p. 142.

[22] James Macknight, op. cit., p. 118.

[23] Ibid., p. 119.

[24] W. M. Sinclair, op. cit., p. 493.

1 John 5:17 --All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death.

After all that John had written in this letter regarding the divine prohibition against Christians’ sinning, it is clear from this that he fully allowed for the fact of sin, even in the most devoted heart. Ryrie is no doubt correct in seeing this verse as a "warning against the lax thinking that some sins are permissible and others (unto death) not."[25] Any sin is unrighteousness, contrary to the will of God; and any sin, however mild it may be thought to be, is potentially capable of causing the death of the soul; and the manner of the two major clauses of this sentence being balanced against each other indicates that John had that very thing in mind here. In connection with this, it will be remembered that "an eternal sin" (Mark 3:28-29) indicates a multiplicity of transgressions that must be considered potentially "eternal sins." In fact, any sin whatever that might be loved more than the Lord, could prove to be "eternal."

ENDNOTE:

[25] Charles C. Ryrie, Wycliffe Bible Commentary, New Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1971), p. 1028.

Verses 18-21

1Jn 5:18-21

DIVINE ASSURANCES

(1 John 5:18-21)

18 We know that whosoever is begotten of God sinneth not; but he that was begotten of God keepeth himself, and the evil one toucheth him not.--Verses 18, 19 and 20, each begins with the verb "we know," (oidamen). Compare also, 3:2, 14; 5:15. It is a term which indicates full persuasion and complete confidence. For the meaning of the phrase, "begotten of God," see the comments on 1 John 3:9. For the meaning of the verb "sinneth not," see the notes on 3:6. For the manner in which one who is begotten of God keeps himself from sin, see on the phrase, "and his seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin." (3:9.) The "evil one," of this passage is the devil. See notes on 3:8.

19 We know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in the evil one.--"Of God," is, literally, "from God" being begotten of him, we are his offspring. (1 John 3:10; 1 John 4:6.) The word "world" here is not the material universe in which we live, but the race of wicked men about us. These, because they have abandoned themselves to a life of sin, are in the "evil one." The evil one--the devil--is the prince of this world, the ruler of its citizens. (Ephesians 2:2; 1 Peter 5:8; Ephesians 6:11; Colossians 1:13.)

20 And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ.--"Is come," of the first clause is in the present tense, but it has the force of the perfect, has come, and such is its significance here. By supplying us with credible testimony, the Father has enabled us to know him, to accept him as true, and thus also to accept his Son Jesus Christ, and to be in him. (Romans 6:3 Galatians 3:27.)

This is the true God and eternal life.--To know--to have an understanding of the true God, and to be in his Son, Jesus Christ,--is to have the assurance of eternal life. (1 John 2:25.) These words are an echo of those in his prayer in the shadows of Gethsemane. "And this is life eternal, that they should know thee the only true God, and him whom thou didst send, even Jesus Christ." (John 17:3.) And thus, at the close of the Epistle, the apostle reemphasizes that with which it began: the eternal life which has been manifested: "That which was from the beginning, that which we have heard, that which we have seen with our eyes, that which we beheld, and our hands handled, concerning the word of life (and the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare unto you the life, the eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us.") (1 John 4:1-3.) This is the paramount theme of both the Gospel and the epistle of John.

21 My little children, guard yourselves from idols.--Idolatry was rampant in the land and age when John wrote, and the danger exceedingly great that some of the saints would succumb to the seductions and allurements of the worship which attended it. They were thus admonished to be evermore vigilant against any effort which would involve them in this awful evil. Though the apostle must have had primarily in mind graven images, those fabricated by men, we must not overlook the fact that anything is an idol which supplants the place of deity in our hearts whether persons, property or pleasure.

Commentary on 1 John 5:18-21 by E.M. Zerr

1 John 5:18. See the comments at 1 John 5:1 for the meaning of born and begotten. For the verse in general see the comments on 1 John 3:9.

1 John 5:19. We means those who have been begotten of God. Whole world lieth in wickedness. World means the inhabitants of the earth as it does in 1 John 2:15. The italicized words mean the same as "all that is in the world" in 1 John 2:16, which explains why the world is said to lie in wickedness.

1 John 5:20. The word know is frequently used by inspired writers to mean a strong assurance, not that it is intended to take the place of faith. It is true that the apostle John could use the word in its technical sense concerning Christ. That is because he was with Him in person during all of his personal ministry. He also knew that Christ had given him the (inspired) understanding which he promised, for just before leaving this world Jesus told his apostles he would send the Spirit upon them which would guide them into all truth (John 16:13). The true God is said in contrast with the false ones that were worshiped by many people. He also is the source of eternal life in that He gave his only begotten Son into the world for that purpose.

1 John 5:21. Little children is explained at 1 John 2:1. Even the best of disciples need to be cautioned against evils that we would not ordinarily expect them to commit. John tells his readers to keep themselves from idols which is one of such warnings. Paul told the brethren in Corinth to "flee from idolatry" (1 Corinthians 10:14).

Commentary on 1 John 5:18-21 by N.T. Caton

1 John 5:18—We know that whosoever is born of God.

One born of God sinneth not; that is, does not sin habitually, does not live a life of sin. He will not sin the sin which is unto death because overtaken in a fault. Being begotten, he guards himself, and the wicked one can not lay hold upon him, so as to enslave him, or make him his subject. Such an one may be restored.

1 John 5:19—And we know that we are of God.

By keeping ourselves from sin, we know that we are of God, that we are God’s children, belong to his family, the church of Christ. While this is true, the world, those who refuse to confess Christ, and accept, obey and follow him, are under the dominion of the wicked one.

1 John 5:20—And we know that the Son of God is come.

That Christ is come in the flesh we know, not only from the testimony of men, but by the testimony God has fur- nished us, by himself, his Son, and the Holy Spirit. Thus we have the witness of ourselves that we have life in Christ, and that Christ dwells in us. We have this understanding. All this we know to be true, because we are in him who is true, and we know from these immovable sources, that in Christ Jesus the only true God is revealed to the children of men, and that in him, and in him alone, is eternal life, and that through him alone God’s children have eternal life bestowed upon them.

1 John 5:21—Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.

Keep yourselves from worshiping idols is the thought. Flee from it! There have been idols in every age of the world’s history; there are idols now; these, the Christian must shun. Whatever leads us away from the true worship of God is an idol to be avoided. John, having so spoken, concludes his letter with a solemn Amen.

Commentary on 1 John 5:18-21 by Burton Coffman

1 John 5:18 --We know that whosoever is begotten of God sinneth not; but he that was begotten of God keepeth himself, and the evil one toucheth him not.

Keepeth himself ... The ASV marginal note on this is: "Some ancient authorities read him instead of himself." This change from the KJV was adopted in RSV, Phillips, New English Bible (1961), Weymouth, and Goodspeed. The New English Bible, although not a translation in the strict sense, nevertheless appears to give the meaning thus:

We know that no child of God is a sinner; it is the Son of God who keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot touch him.

Sinneth not ... This may not, in any absolute sense, be said of any Christian; and yet John affirmed it here. How then is it the truth? Simply because, in the broad outlines of the Christ-centered life it is profoundly true in the relative, if not in the absolute sense. "The heathen is the man who has been defeated by sin and has accepted defeat. The Christian is the man who may sin but never accepts the fact of defeat."[26]

He that was begotten of God ... The importance of this change from "himself" to "him" as noted above is seen here. If "him" is the right reading, then this clause is a reference to the Son of God; but if "himself’ is correct, this clause refers to Christians. The meaning given by the change is far better, because it is only in a very limited way that any man can "keep himself." The concept of Jesus keeping them whom he has received from the Father is fully in harmony with John 17:12.

It is the Son of God who keeps him safe ... This rendition (New English Bible) stresses that the Christian’s safety is not of himself but of the Lord. Jesus promised that he would be with his followers "even unto the end of the world" (Matthew 28:20), and a glimpse of that providence is in this.

And the evil one toucheth him not ... On almost every page of the New Testament, the spiritual foe of Christians is identified, not as a mere principle, but as personal, intelligent, malignant and cunning. Current theology which does not take this into account is hopelessly crippled. In the modern departure from New Testament teaching on this subject lies much of the incompetence which has fallen upon so-called "Christianity" today.

ENDNOTE:

[26] William Barclay, op. cit., p. 121.

1 John 5:19 --We know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in the evil one.

We know ... This is the second of three great certainties stressed by the apostle in 1 John 5:18-20 : (1) We know that we are guarded from the evil one by Jesus Christ our Lord. (2) We know that we belong to God in a hostile, Satan dominated world. (3) We know the great basic of divine revelation, especially the Incarnation of God in Christ.

That we are of God ... To what other source, indeed, could the joyful life in Jesus Christ be attributed? Those who have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come are in no doubt whatever regarding the fountain source of their blessings.

The whole world ... Here the word "world" does not apply to the natural creation at all, but to the evil inhabitants of the world who continue under the dominion of the evil one. Macknight defined these as, "the idolaters, infidels and wicked men, who having made themselves the subjects of the devil ... they lie under the wicked one, and are under his dominion."[27]

Lieth in the evil one ... Calvin’s comment on this was: "By saying that it lieth in the evil one, he represented it as being under the dominion of Satan."[28] Of particular interest is the word "lieth" as used here.

Because Homer used the word (lieth) to denote the bodies of men lying on the ground slain, Doddridge thinks the apostle, by using the word here, represents the wicked men of the world as lying slain by the devil, to give us an affecting idea of the miserable and helpless state of mankind fallen by the stroke of that malicious merciless enemy.[29]

Paul’s references to being dead in trespasses and sins, etc., are also fully in harmony with this conception.

The following New Testament references regarding Satan are examples of the extensive Biblical teaching regarding the devil:

The prince of the power of the air, the spirit which now inwardly worketh in the children of disobedience (Ephesians 2:2).

The god of this world (who) blinds the eyes of unbelievers (2 Corinthians 4:4).

Our adversary going about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8).

(Wicked men) are held in the snare of the devil (2 Timothy 2:26).

We are not ignorant of (the devil’s) wicked devices (Ephesians 6:11).

Through his subtlety (Satan) seduced the mother of all living (Eve) (2 Corinthians 11:3).

Christians are delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of the Son of God’s love (Colossians 1:13).SIZE>

[27] James Macknight, op. cit., p. 124.

[28] John Calvin (quoted by A. Plummer), op. cit., p. 143.

[29] James Macknight, op. cit., p. 125.

1 John 5:20 --And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.

This is the third of the three great certainties with which John concluded his epistle; and it is rather an extensive certainty. Note:

We know that the Son of God is come in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.

He hath given us an understanding (of all things that pertain to life and godliness).

We know Christ who is the true one.

We are "in Christ," having believed in him and having been baptized into the "one body," Christ’s spiritual body.

This is the true God (an unqualified designation of Jesus Christ as God).

As a result of Christ’s redemptive work, we enjoy eternal life (presently, in the joys of Christian service, and ultimately, throughout all eternity).SIZE>

The dispute among scholars as to whether the last sentence of this verse is an affirmation of Christ’s deity or not may be resolved quite easily: (1) Grammatically, there can hardly be any doubt the "true God" is a reference to Christ. (2) Theologically, it is absolutely in keeping with all that John wrote, both here and in the Gospel, to read it as a reference to Christ; and that is exactly the meaning this writer has always understood as being in the verse. Due to the extensive New Testament teaching elsewhere affirming in the most unequivocal manner the deity of the Son of God, we are compelled to agree with Plummer who wrote that, "It is of not much moment whether this particular text contains the doctrine of the Divinity of Christ or not";[30] and, of course, this is surely true in a sense. However, the very prevalence of the doctrine so frequently in view throughout the rest of the New Testament should also enter into one’s willingness to see it here. It is exactly what one should have expected from the apostle John. The very discerning scholar, J. W. Roberts, pointed out the use of "eternal life" in this whole paragraph. Indeed, throughout the epistle, the fact of Jesus himself being "eternal life" is reiterated. "Jesus is eternal life."[31] With that in mind, we may view the affirmation of Christ’s deity here as "the climax of John’s claim for the person and work of Jesus Christ in this epistle, just as Thomas’ exclamation, My Lord and my God (John 20:28) is the climax of the Gospel."[32]

[30] A. Plummer, op. cit., p. 143.

[31] J. W. Roberts, op. cit., p. 147.

[32] Ibid., p. 148.

1 John 5:21 --My little children, guard yourselves from idols.

The simple and obvious meaning of this is, "Keep yourselves from the pollutions of heathen worship."[33] Some of John’s readers probably lived in Ephesus (where John himself labored); and all of the great pagan cities of that period (including Ephesus) were strongholds of paganism. As Plummer said, "Where the literal interpretation makes good sense, the literal interpretation is probably right."[34] And, taking Ephesus as an example of all the great cities of that era, such an exhortation certainly makes good sense.

Ephesus was dominated by the Temple of Diana of the Ephesians, that temple being the center of immorality and licentiousness. The temple institution was a force of incredible power in pagan civilization. The right of sanctuary for criminals of all classes had crowded it with the vilest men on earth. It was the financial center of the pagan culture, occupying about the same status in that ancient culture that the Bank of England enjoyed during the 19th century. "To have anything to do with the Temple of Diana was to be associated with the very dregs of society ... and to be brought into contact with commercialized superstition and the black arts."[35]

Beyond the literal and immediate application of this final apostolic edict, however, the spiritual overtones of such an admonition are universal and timeless. No Christian must ever set up in his heart any idol which usurps the place rightfully belonging to the Lord. The gods of the ancients lie buried under the debris of millenniums; but people still worship sex, gold, wealth, power, fame, "success," youth, humanity, self, pleasure, wine, or even their families, instead of the Lord Jesus Christ. The citadel of the heart belongs to the Son of God who died for us and loosed us from our sins in his blood. The final word of this epistle is directed to the guardianship of that citadel. May the child of God never forget that it belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ.

[33] William Barclay, op. cit., p. 123.

[34] A. Plummer, op. cit., p. 143.

[35] William Barclay, op. cit., p. 125.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on 1 John 5". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/1-john-5.html.
 
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