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Bible Commentaries
1 John 5

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New TestamentRobertson's Word Pictures

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Verse 1

That Jesus is the Christ (οτ Ιησους εστιν ο Χριστος). The Cerinthian antichrist denies the identity of Jesus and Christ (1 John 2:22). Hence John insists on this form of faith (πιστευων here in the full sense, stronger than in 1 John 3:23; 1 John 4:16, seen also in πιστις in verse 1 John 5:4, where English and Latin fall down in having to use another word for the verb) as he does in verse 1 John 5:5 and in accord with the purpose of John's Gospel (1 John 20:31). Nothing less will satisfy John, not merely intellectual conviction, but full surrender to Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. "The Divine Begetting is the antecedent, not the consequent of the believing" (Law). For "is begotten of God" (εκ του θεου γεγεννητα) see 1 John 2:29; 1 John 3:9; 1 John 4:7; 1 John 5:4; 1 John 5:18. John appeals here to family relationship and family love.

Him that begat (τον γεννησαντα). First aorist active articular participle of γενναω, to beget, the Father (our heavenly Father).

Him also that is begotten of him (τον γεγεννημενον εξ αυτου). Perfect passive articular participle of γενναω, the brother or sister by the same father. So then we prove our love for the common Father by our conduct towards our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Verse 2

Hereby (εν τουτω). John's usual phrase for the test of the sincerity of our love. "The love of God and the love of the brethren do in fact include each the other" (Westcott). Each is a test of the other. So put 1 John 3:14 with 1 John 5:2.

When (οταν). "Whenever" indefinite temporal clause with οταν and the present active subjunctive (the same form αγαπωμεν as the indicative with οτ (that) just before, "whenever we keep on loving God."

And do (κα ποιωμεν) "and whenever we keep on doing (present active subjunctive of ποιεω) his commandments." See 1 John 1:6 for "doing the truth."

Verse 3

This (αυτη)

--that (ινα). Explanatory use of ινα with αυτη, as in John 17:3, to show what "the love of God" (1 John 4:9; 1 John 4:12) in the objective sense is, not mere declamatory boasting (1 John 4:20), but obedience to God's commands, "that we keep on keeping (present active subjunctive as in 1 John 2:3) his commandments." This is the supreme test.

Are not grievous (βαρεια ουκ εισιν). "Not heavy," the adjective in Matthew 23:4 with φορτια (burdens), with λυπο (wolves) in Acts 20:29, of Paul's letters in 2 Corinthians 10:10, of the charges against Paul in Acts 25:7. Love for God lightens his commands.

Verse 4

For (οτ). The reason why God's commandments are not heavy is the power that comes with the new birth from God.

Whatsoever is begotten of God (παν το γεγεννημενον εκ του θεου). Neuter singular perfect passive participle of γενναω rather than the masculine singular (verse 1 John 5:1) to express sharply the universality of the principle (Rothe) as in John 3:6; John 3:8; John 6:37; John 6:39.

Overcometh the world (νικα τον κοσμον). Present active indicative of νικαω, a continuous victory because a continuous struggle, "keeps on conquering the world" ("the sum of all the forces antagonistic to the spiritual life," D. Smith).

This is the victory (αυτη εστιν η νικη). For this form of expression see 1 John 1:5; John 1:19. Νικη (victory, cf. νικαω), old word, here alone in N.T., but the later form νικος in Matthew 12:20; 1 Corinthians 15:54; 1 Corinthians 15:57.

That overcometh (η νικησασα). First aorist active articular participle of νικαω. The English cannot reproduce the play on the word here. The aorist tense singles out an individual experience when one believed or when one met temptation with victory. Jesus won the victory over the world (John 16:33) and God in us (1 John 4:4) gives us the victory.

Even our faith (η πιστις ημων). The only instance of πιστις in the Johannine Epistles (not in John's Gospel, though in the Apocalypse). It is our faith in Jesus Christ as shown by our confession (verse 1 John 5:1) and by our life (verse 1 John 5:2).

Verse 5

And who is he that overcometh? (τις εστιν δε ο νικων?). Not a mere rhetorical question (1 John 2:22), but an appeal to experience and fact. Note the present active articular participle (νικων) like νικα (present active indicative in verse 1 John 5:4), "the one who keeps on conquering the world." See 1 Corinthians 15:57 for the same note of victory (νικος) through Christ. See verse 1 John 5:1 for ο πιστευων (the one who believes) as here.

Jesus is the Son of God (Ιησους εστιν ο υιος του θεου). As in verse 1 John 5:1 save that here ο υιος του θεου in place of Χριστος and see both in 1 John 2:22. Here there is sharp antithesis between "Jesus" (humanity) and "the Son of God" (deity) united in the one personality.

Verse 6

This (ουτος). Jesus the Son of God (verse 1 John 5:5).

He that came (ο ελθων). Second aorist active articular participle of ερχομα, referring to the Incarnation as a definite historic event, the preexistent Son of God "sent from heaven to do God's will" (Brooke).

By water and blood (δι' υδατος κα αιματος). Accompanied by (δια used with the genitive both as instrument and accompaniment, as in Galatians 5:13) water (as at the baptism) and blood (as on the Cross). These two incidents in the Incarnation are singled out because at the baptism Jesus was formally set apart to his Messianic work by the coming of the Holy Spirit upon him and by the Father's audible witness, and because at the Cross his work reached its culmination ("It is finished," Jesus said). There are other theories that do not accord with the language and the facts. It is true that at the Cross both water and blood came out of the side of Jesus when pierced by the soldier, as John bore witness (John 19:34), a complete refutation of the Docetic denial of an actual human body for Jesus and of the Cerinthian distinction between Jesus and Christ. There is thus a threefold witness to the fact of the Incarnation, but he repeats the twofold witness before giving the third. The repetition of both preposition (εν this time rather than δια) and the article (τω locative case) argues for two separate events with particular emphasis on the blood ("not only" ουκ μονον, "but" αλλ') which the Gnostics made light of or even denied.

It is the Spirit that beareth witness (το πνευμα εστιν το μαρτυρουν). Present active articular participle of μαρτυρεω with article with both subject and predicate, and so interchangeable as in 1 John 3:4. The Holy Spirit is the third and the chief witness at the baptism of Jesus and all through his ministry.

Because (οτ). Or declarative "that." Either makes sense. In John 15:26 Jesus spoke of "the Spirit of truth" (whose characteristic is truth). Here John identifies the Spirit with truth as Jesus said of himself (John 14:6) without denying personality for the Holy Spirit.

Verse 7

For there are three who bear witness (οτ τρεις εισιν ο μαρτυρουντες). At this point the Latin Vulgate gives the words in the Textus Receptus, found in no Greek MS. save two late cursives (162 in the Vatican Library of the fifteenth century, 34 of the sixteenth century in Trinity College, Dublin). Jerome did not have it. Cyprian applies the language of the Trinity and Priscillian has it. Erasmus did not have it in his first edition, but rashly offered to insert it if a single Greek MS. had it and 34 was produced with the insertion, as if made to order. The spurious addition is: εν τω ουρανω ο πατηρ, ο λογος κα το αγιον πνευμα κα ουτο ο τρεις εν εισιν κα τρεις εισιν ο μαρτυρουντες εν τη γη (in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth). The last clause belongs to verse 1 John 5:8. The fact and the doctrine of the Trinity do not depend on this spurious addition. Some Latin scribe caught up Cyprian's exegesis and wrote it on the margin of his text, and so it got into the Vulgate and finally into the Textus Receptus by the stupidity of Erasmus.

Verse 8

The Spirit and the water and the blood (το πνευμα κα το υδωρ κα το αιμα). The same three witnesses of verses 1 John 5:6; 1 John 5:7 repeated with the Spirit first.

The three (ο τρεις). The resumptive article.

Agree in one (εις το εν εισιν). "Are for the one thing," to bring us to faith in Jesus as the Incarnate Son of God, the very purpose for which John wrote his Gospel (1 John 20:31).

Verse 9

If we receive (ε λαμβανομεν). Condition of first class with ε and the present active indicative, assumed as true. The conditions for a legally valid witness are laid down in Deuteronomy 19:15 (cf. Matthew 18:16; John 8:17; John 10:25; 2 Corinthians 13:1).

Greater (μειζων). Comparative of μεγας, because God is always true.

For (οτ). So it applies to this case.

That (οτ). Thus taken in the declarative sense (the fact that) as in John 3:19, though it can be causal (because) or indefinite relative with μεμαρτυρηκεν (what he hath testified, perfect active indicative of μαρτυρεω, as in John 1:32; John 4:44, etc.), a harsh construction here because of μαρτυρια, though some MSS. do read εν to agree with it (cf. verse 1 John 5:10). See οτ εαν in 1 John 3:20 for that idiom. Westcott notes the Trinity in verses 1 John 5:6-9: the Son comes, the Spirit witnesses, the Father has witnessed.

Verse 10

Believeth on (πιστευων εις). John draws a distinction between "not believing God" (μη πιστευων τω θεω) in next clause, the testimony of God about his Son, and surrender to and reliance on the Son as here (εις and the accusative). See the same distinction less clearly drawn in John 6:30. See also εις την μαρτυριαν after πεπιστευκεν in this same verse and John 2:23.

In him (εν αυτω). "In himself," though the evidence is not decisive between αυτω and αυτω.

Hath made (πεποιηκεν). Perfect active indicative of ποιεω like μεμαρτυρηκεν and πεπιστευκεν, permanent state.

A liar (ψευστην). As in 1 John 1:10, which see.

Because he hath not believed (οτ ου πεπιστευκεν). Actual negative reason with negative ου, not the subjective reason as in John 3:18, where we have οτ μη πεπιστευκεν). The subjective negative is regular with ο μη πιστευων. Relative clause here repeats close of verse 1 John 5:9.

Verse 11

That God gave (οτ εδωκεν ο θεος). Declarative οτ in apposition with μαρτυρια as in verse 1 John 5:14; John 3:19. Note aorist active indicative εδωκεν (from διδωμ) as in 1 John 3:23, the great historic fact of the Incarnation (John 3:16), but the perfect δεδωκεν in 1 John 3:1 to emphasize the abiding presence of God's love.

Eternal life (ζωην αιωνιον). Anarthrous emphasizing quality, but with the article in 1 John 1:2.

In his Son (εν τω υιω αυτου). This life and the witness also. This is why Jesus who is life (John 14:6) came to give us abundant life (John 10:10).

Verse 12

Hath the life (εχε την ζωην). The life which God gave (verse 1 John 5:11). This is the position of Jesus himself (John 5:24; John 14:6).

Verse 13

I have written (εγραψα). Not epistolary aorist, but refers to verses 1 John 5:1-12 of this Epistle as in 1 John 2:26 to the preceding verses.

That ye may know (ινα ειδητε). Purpose clause with ινα and the second perfect active subjunctive of οιδα, to know with settled intuitive knowledge. He wishes them to have eternal life in Christ (John 20:31) and to know that they have it, but not with flippant superficiality (1 John 2:3).

Unto you that believe on (τοις πιστευουσιν εις). Dative of the articular present active participle of πιστευω and εις as in verse 1 John 5:10. For this use of ονομα (name) with πιστευω see 1 John 3:23; John 2:23.

Verse 14

Toward him (προς αυτον). Fellowship with (προς, face to face) Christ. For boldness see 1 John 2:28.

That (οτ). Declarative again, as in verse 1 John 5:11.

If we ask anything (εαν τ αιτωμεθα). Condition of third class with εαν and present middle (indirect) subjunctive (personal interest as in James 4:3, though the point is not to be pressed too far, for see Matthew 20:20; Matthew 20:22; John 16:24; John 16:26).

According to his will (κατα το θελημα αυτου). This is the secret in all prayer, even in the case of Jesus himself. For the phrase see 1 Peter 4:19; Galatians 1:4; Ephesians 1:5; Ephesians 1:11.

He heareth us (ακουε ημων). Even when God does not give us what we ask, in particular then (Hebrews 5:7).

Verse 15

And if we know (κα εαν οιδαμεν). Condition of first class with εαν (usually ε) and the perfect active indicative, assumed as true. See 1 Thessalonians 3:8; Acts 8:31 for the indicative with εαν as in the papyri. "An amplification of the second limitation" (D. Smith).

Whatsoever we ask (ο εαν αιτωμεθα). Indefinite relative clause with modal εαν (=αν) and the present middle (as for ourselves) subjunctive of αιτεω. This clause, like ημων, is also the object of ακουε.

We know that we have (οιδαμεν οτ εχομεν). Repetition of οιδαμεν, the confidence of possession by anticipation.

The petitions (τα αιτηματα). Old word, from αιτεω, requests, here only in John, elsewhere in N.T. Luke 23:24; Philippians 4:6. We have the answer already as in Mark 11:24.

We have asked (ηιτηκαμεν). Perfect active indicative of αιτεω, the asking abiding.

Verse 16

If any man see (εαν τις ιδη). Third-class condition with εαν and second aorist active subjunctive of ειδον (οραω).

Sinning a sin (αμαρτανοντα αμαρτιαν). Present active predicate (supplementary) participle agreeing with αδελφον and with cognate accusative αμαρτιαν.

Not unto death (μη προς θανατον). Repeated again with αμαρτανουσιν and in contrast with αμαρτια προς θανατον (sin unto death). Most sins are not mortal sins, but clearly John conceives of a sin that is deadly enough to be called "unto death." This distinction is common in the rabbinic writings and in Numbers 18:22 the LXX has λαβειν αμαρτιαν θανατηφορον "to incur a death-bearing sin" as many crimes then and now bear the death penalty. There is a distinction in Hebrews 10:26 between sinning wilfully after full knowledge and sins of ignorance (Hebrews 5:2). Jesus spoke of the unpardonable sin (Mark 3:29; Matthew 12:32; Luke 12:10), which was attributing to the devil the manifest work of the Holy Spirit. It is possible that John has this idea in mind when he applies it to those who reject Jesus Christ as God's Son and set themselves up as antichrists.

Concerning this (περ εκεινης). This sin unto death.

That he should make request (ινα ερωτηση). Sub-final use of ινα with the first aorist active subjunctive of ερωταω, used here as in John 17:15; John 17:20 (and often) for request rather than for question. John does not forbid praying for such cases; he simply does not command prayer for them. He leaves them to God.

Verse 17

All unrighteousness is sin (πασα αδικια αμαρτια εστιν). Unrighteousness is one manifestation of sin as lawlessness (1 John 3:4) is another (Brooke). The world today takes sin too lightly, even jokingly as a mere animal inheritance. Sin is a terrible reality, but there is no cause for despair. Sin not unto death can be overcome in Christ.

Verse 18

We know (οιδαμεν). As in 1 John 3:2; 1 John 3:14; 1 John 5:15; 1 John 5:19; 1 John 5:20. He has "ye know" in 1 John 2:20; 1 John 3:5; 1 John 3:15.

Sinneth not (ουχ αμαρτανε). Lineal present active indicative, "does not keep on sinning," as he has already shown in 1 John 3:4-10.

He that was begotten of God (ο γεννηθεις εκ του θεου). First aorist passive articular participle referring to Christ, if the reading of A B is correct (τηρε αυτον, not τηρε εαυτον). It is Christ who keeps the one begotten of God (γεγεννημενος εκ του θεου as in 1 John 3:9 and so different from ο γεννηθεις here). It is a difficult phrase, but this is probably the idea. Jesus (John 18:37) uses γεγεννημα of himself and uses also τηρεω of keeping the disciples (John 17:12; John 17:15; Revelation 3:10).

The evil one (ο πονηρος). Masculine and personal as in 1 John 2:13, not neuter, and probably Satan as in Matthew 6:13, not just any evil man.

Touchest him not (ουχ απτετα αυτου). Present middle indicative of απτω, elsewhere in John only John 20:17. It means to lay hold of or to grasp rather than a mere superficial touch (θιγγανω, both in Colossians 2:21). Here the idea is to touch to harm. The devil cannot snatch such a man from Christ (John 6:38).

Verse 19

Of God (εκ του θεου). See 1 John 3:10; 1 John 4:6 for this idiom.

Lieth in the evil one (εν τω πονηρω κειτα). Present middle indicative of the defective verb κειμα, to lie, as in Luke 2:12. Πονηρω is masculine, like ο πονηρος in verse 1 John 5:18. This is a terrible picture of the Graeco-Roman world of the first century A.D., which is confirmed by Paul in Romans 1 and 2 and by Horace, Seneca, Juvenal, Tacitus.

Verse 20

Is come (ηκε). Present active indicative, but the root has a perfect sense, "has come." See εξηλθον κα ηκω in John 8:42.

An understanding (διανοιαν). Here alone in John's writings, but in Paul (Ephesians 4:18) and Peter (1 Peter 1:13). John does not use γνωσις (knowledge) and νους (mind) only in Revelation 13:18; Revelation 17:9.

That we know (ινα γινωσκομεν). Result clause with ινα and the present active indicative, as is common with ινα and the future indicative (John 7:3). It is possible that here ο was pronounced ω as a subjunctive, but many old MSS. have ινα γινωσκουσιν (plainly indicative) in John 17:3, and in many other places in the N.T. the present indicative with ινα occurs as a variant reading as in John 5:20.

Him that is true (τον αληθινον). That is, God. Cf. 1 John 1:8.

In him that is true (εν τω αληθινω). In God in contrast with the world "in the evil one" (verse 1 John 5:19). See John 17:3.

Even in his Son Jesus Christ (εν τω υιω αυτου Ιησου Χριστω). The αυτου refers clearly to εν τω αληθινω (God). Hence this clause is not in apposition with the preceding, but an explanation as to how we are "in the True One" by being "in his Son Jesus Christ."

This (ουτος). Grammatically ουτος may refer to Jesus Christ or to "the True One." It is a bit tautological to refer it to God, but that is probably correct, God in Christ, at any rate. God is eternal life (John 5:26) and he gives it to us through Christ.

Verse 21

Yourselves (εαυτα). Neuter plural reflexive because of τεκνια. The active voice φυλασσετε with the reflexive accents the need of effort on their part. Idolatry was everywhere and the peril was great. See Acts 7:41 for this word.

Bibliographical Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on 1 John 5". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rwp/1-john-5.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.
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