1 John Chapter 5

1 John Chapter 5

MY PERSONAL COMMENTARY

ON

THE BOOK OF FIRST JOHN

By David L. Hannah

CHAPTER FIVE:

1 John 5:1

Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.

* Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: *

The Amplified Bible renders it this way,

“EVERYONE WHO believes (adheres to, trusts, and relies on the fact) that Jesus is the Christ (the Messiah) is a born-again child of God; —.”

UBS makes this comment,

“The clause resembles v. 1 John 4:7, but there the proof of a person’s being born of God is brotherly love, here it is faith.”

Zondervan points out,

“In John, faith requires not only that something is held true, but that someone has entered into one’s life. A commitment has been made and a relationship established that one can then only ‘confess’ (cf. 1 John 3:23; 4:2, 4, 15).”

The Apostle Paul wrote, “that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost” (1 Cor 12:3).

Concerning “no man can say that Jesus is the Lord,” Robertson comments,

“Lighthearted men today can say ‘Lord Jesus’ in a flippant or even in an irreverent way, but no Jew or Gentile then said it who did not mean it.”

The idea is the same in both cases.  “FOR BY GRACE ARE YE SAVED THROUGH FAITH” (Eph 2:8)!  John was teaching that it’s faith in God that brings about the new birth, and Paul taught that this new birth is a work of the Holy Spirit.  As Zondervan points out, John wasn’t referring to a mere acceptance of facts.  He was referring to the believing of something so deeply that it impacts your very life, the who you are, and consequently, it changes how you live.  As the Amplified Bible points out, the believing that the Apostle is referring to causes the one who believes to adhere to, trust in, and rely upon the One Who is believed in.

When we believe that Jesus is Who He said He is, the only begotten Son of God (John 3:16), that He is “the way, the truth, and the life,” and that “no man cometh unto the Father, but by” Him (John 14:6), and we receive Him into our lives, we then become the children of God (John 1:12).

John’s reminding us, in the midst of his stressing the utter importance of our loving one another, that our love for one another isn’t what saves us.  Rather, it’s a fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22) Who now lives in us as a result of our receiving Christ by faith (Rom 8:9, 11; 1 Cor 3:16; 6:19; Eph 2:22).  Faith is the evidence of our salvation (Heb 11:1), and Love is the evidence of the genuineness of that faith (1 John 3:14).

* and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. *

Regarding “loveth him also that is begotten of him,” Robertson tells us,

“Perfect passive articular participle of gennao, 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.”

John Gill points out,

“not only Jesus Christ, who by nature is the only begotten of the Father; for those who know God to be their Father by adoption and regeneration, will love Christ, who is the Son of God by nature; see John 8:42; but also every regenerate person, all that are born of God; —.”

The three words, “born,” “begat,” and “begotten,” are various tenses of the same word in the Greek.  When you place your faith in Christ you are then “born” into the family of God.  When you Love the One Who “begat” you, or gave birth to you, then it stands to reason that you’ll also Love the others He has “begotten,” or given birth to.

John continues to hammer home the truth that Christians are to Love one another.  Anything short of obedience to this command is unacceptable.  He’s told us that the reason we Love Him is because He first Loved us (1 John 4:19), but if we say that we Love Him while we hate our brother we’re lying (1 John 4:20), because Jesus Himself gave us the commandment to Love one another (1 John 4:21).  Now, in our current verse, he’s telling us that it makes sense to Love one another because we all have the same Father, and are therefore spiritual siblings.

(Verse One of Chapter Five in my own words.)

And anyone who believes that Jesus is the promised Christ (and places their faith in Him) has been born into the family of God.  Now, anyone who genuinely loves the Father Who has given him life will also love everyone else who has been born into His family.

1 John 5:2

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

* By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God,*

Zondervan points out,

“This statement troubles commentators because it reverses what is expected. One anticipates a conclusion like this: ‘And this is how we know that we love God: by loving his children and obeying his commands.’ Instead the author concludes: ‘This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands.’ Even as one cannot love God without loving his children, so also it is impossible to truly love the children of God without loving God also.”

UBS draws this conclusion,

“‘By this’ is probably best taken as pointing back towards the general rule given in v. 1 b; then the phrase introduces the conclusion to be drawn from that rule.”

When we understood our miserable state; that we were hopelessly lost and “powerless” to help ourselves (Rom 5:6) [NIV], that we were “condemned already (John 3:18), and that “the wrath of God” was abiding on us (John 3:36); then understood that “Christ died for” us (Rom 5:6), forever proving His Loves for us (Rom 5:8), and that He did this while we were His “enemies” (Rom 5:10); and then understood that as a consequence of His Love for us we have been “justified by his blood,” saved “from wrath through him” (Rom 5:9), and “reconciled to God” (Rom 5:10); we fell hopelessly in Love with Him.  Our Suitor, the Lover of our souls, came calling; and we fell head over heals in Love with Him!

Here then, is the order of things: God first Loved us (1 John 3:16; 4:9-10, 16, 19).  As a consequence of His Love for us, and its subsequential actions (1 John 3:16; 4:9), we fell in Love with Him (1 John 4:19).  Our Love for Him causes us to desire to walk “even as he walked” (1 John 2:6), to enter into the Light that is God (1 John 1:5), where we have fellowship “with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3), and with one another (1 John 3:7).  In that Light mutual Love exists (1 John 2:10).  Love for one another is the natural progression of our Love for God, which is the natural progression of His Love for us.

Our ability to Love is a by-product of His Love for us.  See my earlier notes (1 John 4:19).  There is no God-kind of Love [agape] for one another until we Love God, which can only happen when “we have known and believed the love that God hath to us” (1 John 4:16).  When we Love God we know that we Love His children!

Peter told us that the “exceeding great and precious promises” of God were given to us so that we “might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Pet 1:4).  The primary purpose for the promises of God is to enable us to experience growth in the area of the eternal purpose of God for our lives, which is our conforming “to the image of his Son” (Rom 8:29) in “ever-increasing glory” (2 Cor 3:18) [NIV].  Let’s see this verse as a promise of God to us: when we Love God we Love His children!  When the enemy attacks, and tells us that we don’t Love one of God’s children, let’s stand on this verse and boldly say, “I Love God; therefore, I Love this child of His!”

* and keep his commandments. *

UBS comments,

“lit. ‘do his commandments.’ Other possible renderings are, ‘act according to his commandments,’ ‘do as he commands,’ ‘do what he commands us (to do).’”

Regarding “and keep,” Robertson says,

“kai (NT:2532) poioomen (NT:4160) ‘and whenever we keep on doing (present active subjunctive of poieoo (NT:4160)) his commandments.’”

The progression of John’s thinking is as follows: 1) we Love God because He first Loved us (1 John 4:19); 2) but if we say we Love God while we hate our brother we’re lying (1 John 4:20); 3) Jesus taught us that anyone who Loves God is to Love his brother also (1 John 4:21); 4) we’re born into God’s family when we place our faith in the Lord Jesus, so we should Love all others that God has begotten (1 John 5:1); 5) so, when we Love God and follow the teachings of His Son, we then know that we Love all the children of God (current verse).

Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).  We express our Love to God, our Father (current verse), and God, our Lord Jesus Christ (the above-mentioned verse), by doing the things they’ve told us to do.  What are the commandments we’re to obey?  John sees the commandments of God, given to us through the agency of His Son, as faith in God and Love for one another (1 John 3:23).  When we Love God the natural result is that we Love one another, and when we obey His teachings, when we do what He told us to do, we Love one another.

Why would the “commandments” of the New Testament Church be reduced from the hundreds of “commandments” found in the Mosaic Law to these simple two?  I’ll answer that question in my notes on the following verse (1 John 5:3).

(Verse Two of Chapter Five in my own words.)

As a matter of fact, we know that we love God’s children as a result of living in the sphere of loving God (a sphere where only love exists), and doing those things that He taught us to do.

1 John 5:3

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

* For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: *

Concerning “this is the love of God,” UBS tells us,

“The love of God takes up ‘we love God’ in v. 2. Accordingly, God is to be taken as the goal; hence, ‘the love for God’ (TEV), or such a restructuring of the clause as, ‘this shows that we love God.’

Zondervan gives these thoughts on this phrase,

“The connection between love for God and obedience is meant to protect us against thinking of love for God as ‘emotional feelings’ about God. Agape love requires action. In respect to humankind, it means willingness to lay down one’s life. In respect to God, it means a life of willing obedience, a filial relationship with God, and service on behalf of God. It requires laying down one’s life as being one’s own possession and taking up a new life in response to a Lord and Master.”

Robertson says,

“‘This’ hautee (NT:3778) … ‘that’ hina (NT:2443). Explanatory use of hina (NT:2443) with hautee (NT:3778), as in John 17:3, to show what ‘the love of God’ (1 John 4:9,12) 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.”

As Zondervan tells us, “Agape love requires action.”  God’s Love for us was proven by its actions when God, the Son, “laid down his life for us” (1 John 3:16), and when God, the Father, “sent his only begotten Son into the world” (1 John 4:9).  We’re then told, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another” (1 John 4:11), and that “we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16), which goes beyond our loving only “in word,” or, “in tongue;” but is an expression of our loving “in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18).  Love isn’t Love if it isn’t producing corresponding action.  Faith “without works is dead (James 2:20, 26); Love without works is a lie (1 John 3:17; 4:20).

Again, the context in which John tells us that a genuine Love for God is seen in our keeping His commandments is found a few verses earlier when he wrote, “And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also” (1 John 4:21).  Let’s follow his reasoning: 1) the one who has trusted Christ as his Savior Loves God’s children (1 John 5:1); 2) because Loving His children is the subsequential result of Loving Him, which is expressed in doing the things He taught us to do (1 John 5:2); and doing those things He taught us to do is what results from a genuine Love for Him (current verse).

John sees Loving God and Loving His children as inseparable.  In his mind it’s absolutely impossible to Love God and not Love His children.  Here’s what Love is, it’s God Loving us and consequently, taking a course of action that was entirely for our benefit (1 John 4:10).  We’re then told that’s the way we’re to Love one another (1 John 4:11).  Our Love for each other is only genuine when it involves a laying down of our lives for each other (1 John 3:16), which means putting one another first (Rom 12:10; Phil 2:3).  If my Love for you doesn’t prompt actions that are entirely for your benefit then it isn’t genuine Love (1 John 3:17), it’s simply talk (1 John 3:18), and it’s a lie (1 John 4:20).

* and his commandments are not grievous. *

Regarding “grievous,” Thayer defines it,

“1) heavy in weight; 2) metaph.; 2a) burdensome; 2b) severe, stern; 2c) weighty; 2c1) of great moment; 2d) violent, cruel, unsparing.”

UBS says,

“Are not burdensome, or ‘are not hard,’ ‘are not difficult to keep/follow/obey’; or ‘are easy,’ ‘are do-able’ (as one language expresses the concept of being easy).”

As I mentioned in my notes on the first portion of this verse, the contextual setting of this statement shows that the “commandments” he refers to here are to be identified as the single commandment to Love our brother (1 John 4:21).  John also spoke of “commandments” in the plural earlier in this Epistle (1 John 3:22), and then identified those “commandments” as a single “commandment” with two parts, faith in God and Love for one another (1 John 3:23).

Why would the Apostle do this?  Why would he speak of “commandments,” in the plural, and then refer to those “commandments” in the singular, as a “commandment”?  This new “commandment” that Jesus gave us is that we are to Love one another the very way He has Loved us (John 13:34-35).  Paul taught us that when we Love one another this way “all the law is fulfilled” (Gal 5:14).

Wuest teaches us,

“The word ‘fulfilled’ is from ‘pleroo’ which means ‘to make full,’ and when used of a task or a course of action, ‘to fully perform,’ here, ‘to fully obey.’  The verb is in the perfect tense, and the translation could read, ‘The whole law stands fully obeyed.’”

Thayer explains “fulfilled” this way,

“to fulfil, i.e. to cause God’s will (as made known in the law) to be obeyed as it should be, —.”

However, JFB tell us,

“as rudimentary teachings are fulfilled by the more perfect doctrine.”

Certainly, in that moment that I’m walking in perfect Love towards God I will “have no other gods before me” (Exo 20:3), I will not make “any graven image” (Exo 20:4), I will “not take the name of the LORD” my “God in vain” (Exo 20:7), and I will remember “the sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exo 20:8).

NOTE: As a believer I esteem “every day alike,” because I’m “fully persuaded in” my “own mind” (Rom 14:5), but that’s a discussion for another time.

In that moment that I’m walking in perfect Love towards others I will honor my mother and father (Exo 20:12), I will “not kill” anyone (Exo 20:13), I will “not commit adultery” (Exo 20:14), I will “not steal” from anyone (Exo 20:15), I will not tell lies about anyone (Exo 20:16), and I will “not covet” the good things my neighbor has been blessed with (Exo 20:17).  Agape Love, in every way, fulfills the Law.  The Love of God, “shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost” (Rom 5:5), is now the constraining force that keeps me from abusing Christian liberty, and using it as an excuse to sin (Gal 5:13).  Consequently, when we “keep” this single “commandment” that tells us to have faith in the Lord Jesus, and to Love one another (1 John 3:23), we are partaking “of the divine nature” (2 Pet 1:4), because “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16), and our conduct is pleasing to God.

NOTE: Here’s the answer to the question I posed at the conclusion of my notes on the previous verse (1 John 5:2): We are new creatures in Christ (2 Cor 5:17) who “do by nature the things contained in the law” (Rom 2:14), because that Law has been written on our hearts (Rom 2:15).  In other words, we have a new nature, one that partake of the Divine nature.  The Law was not made for us (1 Tim 1:9).  We don’t need the hundreds of commandments found in the Mosaic Law to constrain us because His Love constrains us.

(Verse Three of Chapter Five in my own words.)

This is what it means to love God; we joyfully do those things He commanded us to do.  After all, those things He commanded us to do are not, in their nature, a burden.

1 John 5:4

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

* For whatsoever is born of God *

Regarding “For,” UBS says,

It “introduces the reason why God’s commandments are not burdensome.”

Concerning “whatsoever is born of God,” they say that it

“is in the Greek lit. ‘the-thing-that is-begotten out of God,’ compare 1 John 2:29. The neuter form has theoretically a somewhat wider range of reference than the preceding masculine form, lit. ‘the-one-who is-begotten out of him’ (compare ‘the child’ in v. 1). Since however, the reference clearly is to persons, most versions do not bring out the difference, having renderings such as, ‘whoever is born of God,’ ‘every child of God’ (TEV).”

Robertson comments,

“Neuter singular perfect passive participle of gennaoo (NT:1080) rather than the masculine singular (1 John 5:1) to express sharply the universality of the principle (Rothe) as in John 3:6,8; 6:37,39.”

In other words, the Apostle is referring to those who are “born of God” (1 John 5:1), and are consequently, the “children of God” (1 John 5:2).

It has been translated, “everyone born of God” [NIV], “everyone who has been born from God” [GW], “Every God-begotten person” [the Message], “every one who is begotten of God” [YLT], and “every child of God” [NLT; TLB; TEV, CEV; GNB; WNT].

* overcometh the world: *

Robertson explains,

“Present active indicative of nikaoo (NT:3528), a continuous victory because a continuous struggle, ‘keeps on conquering the world.’”

UBS agrees,

“The present tense expresses continuation. The clause serves to say that in the continuing struggle with evil the Christian continually is given strength to overcome it.”

* and this is the victory that overcometh the world, *

Regarding “that overcometh the world,” Robertson points out,

“First aorist active articular participle of nikaoo (NT:3528). 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.”

UBS offers these thoughts,

“The aorist tense may have been used to characterize the sentence as a simple statement of fact, irrespective of the time element; hence, the present tense found in RSV, and corresponding verb forms in several other versions. Taken thus v. 4 b gives a further specification of v. 4 a. Or the aorist may refer to the relative past. ‡  Taken thus v. 4 b serves to indicate that the Christian’s overcoming the world is because the world has been overcome already. Thus interpreted the clause intends to say that our faith gives us a share in a victory that already has been won, namely, the victory of Jesus Christ.”

The NIV renders the first of these two phrases as “overcomes the world,” and the second as “has overcome the world.”

In comparing these two phrases Zondervan comments,

“John speaks of two aspects of victory: (1) the initial victory of turning in faith from the world to God (‘has overcome’); (2) the continuing day-by-day victory of Christian living (‘overcomes’).”

* (and this is the victory) —, even our faith. *

Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) [NIV].  Here’s another translation, “In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you] (John 16:33) [AMP].  In the first part of this verse Jesus told His disciples that He wanted them to have peace, but then, as you can see, He said that they would always have trouble in this world.  How can we have peace when we’ll constantly face trouble?  Jesus said, “be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” [KJV].

The Greek word tharseo is found eight times in the New Testament.  It’s translated “be of good cheer” five of those times, and “be of good comfort” the other three.

In spite of this, Robertson says it’s,

“A word for courage in the face of danger.”

Thayer agrees when he gives this definition,

“to be of good courage, be of good cheer.” 

Following are some examples of how modern translators render this phrase, “but take heart!” (BBE), “but have courage” (EMTV], “But be brave!” (GNB), and “but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]!” (AMP).

Jesus is telling us to be brave when confronting trouble because He has overcome this world.  In our current verse of discussion John is telling us that everyone who has been born into the family of God continually overcomes the troubles they face in this world because of an once-for-all overcoming victory.  Then he tells us that the instrument of that victory is our faith!

The author of the Book of Hebrews wrote, “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb 11:1).  However, that’s not really a definition of “faith,” but rather the accomplishments of faith; or to put it another way, faith brings into reality the things you hope for, and gives you satisfactory evidence for those things you can’t see.  But, what is the definition of this “faith” that overcomes the world?  Paul wrote, “that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness” (Rom 4:9), after he had already written, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (Rom 4:3).  In other words, the simple definition of “faith” is “to believe God.”

Faith believes what God says about something!  I don’t always feel like a new creation, but God said I am (2 Cor 5:17), so I believe it.  I have no physical evidence that I have eternal life, but God says I do (John 3:15-16; 20:31; 1 John 5:13), so I believe it.  Because I know my failures it’s sometimes difficult to believe that a Holy God always Loves me, but He said He does (John 3:16; 1 John 4:19), so I believe Him.  How can we believe these things simply because God said them?  Here’s how, we have a firm conviction that “God is not a man, that he should lie” (Lev 23:19), and that, as a matter of fact, it’s “impossible for God to lie” (Heb 6:18).

Jesus said, “be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33), Paul said that our “life is hid with Christ in God” (Col 3:3), and John said, “because as he is, so are we in this world” (1 John 4:17).  The “Christ in” us, is our “hope of glory” (Col 1:27), our hope of “constantly being transfigured into His very own image in ever increasing splendor and from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor 3:18) [AMP].  We understand that it’s God working in us “both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil 2:13).  After all, the primary reason God has given us His “exceeding great and precious promises” is so that we can partake “of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Pet 1:4).  GOD WANTS US TO BELIEVE WHAT HE HAS SAID ABOUT WHO WE ARE IN CHRIST!

It’s this faith, this trusting in God’s infallible Word, that causes us to experience ongoing victories in our lives in the area of overcoming the world; and these victories are a by-product of our faith in the fact that the victory has once-for-all been won in the person of God’s Son.

(Verse Four of Chapter Five in my own words.)

(Here’s why), everyone who has been born into the family of God lives in the sphere of overcoming this world.  How?  This world has already been overcome (through the death and resurrection of His Son), once-for-all, and the victory is already ours, as a result of our believing what God has said!

1 John 5:5

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

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

Zondervan observes,

“Observe the progression of thought in what John says about how victory over the world is gained. It begins with the new birth (v. 4a). It moves on to the believer’s experience and act of faith (v. 4b). It culminates in the confession that ‘Jesus is the Son of God.’ Victory requires the whole process. It assures us that we too can love God and the children of God and that we too can obey his commands (v. 3). Belief, love, and obedience are all the marks of the new birth. And the life lived in the new birth is not a burden but a life of celebration.”

Concerning “believeth that Jesus is the Son of God,” Robertson says,

“Here there is sharp antithesis between ‘Jesus’ (humanity) and ‘the Son of God’ (deity) united in the one personality.”

The train of thought is: the one who has faith in Christ is “born of God,” and consequently Loves God’s children (1 John 5:1); when we Love God and do what He says it’s proof of the genuineness of our Love for His children (1 John 5:2); after all, Loving God isn’t a mere confession, but is evidenced by doing the things He told us to do, which things aren’t burdensome (1 John 5:3); anyone who is “born of God” is experiencing the ongoing victory of overcoming the world because of his/her faith in Christ, and the once-for-all victory He won at Calvary (1 John 5:4); and it’s only that individual who has this faith in Christ who can experience this ongoing victory of overcoming the world (current verse).

(Verse Five of Chapter Five in my own words.)

Who can live in this sphere of overcoming this world?  Only those individuals whose faith is in Jesus, the Son of God, can experience this victory.

1 John 5:6

This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth.

* This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; *

In regards to “came by water and blood,” Zondervan comments,

“This enigmatic statement has given rise in the church to many interpretations. Augustine linked the reference to John 19:34, where the piercing of Jesus’ side produced water and blood. Calvin and Luther connected it to John 4 and 6 and saw in it a reference to the sacraments. Most commentators today see the ‘water’ as referring to Jesus’ baptism and the ‘blood’ to his death on the cross.”

Who is He that came by water and blood?  It’s Jesus, the Son of God (1 John 5:5), Who is the Christ (1 John 5:1).  In those two verses we are asked to believe in this Jesus.  What does that mean?

Concerning “believeth,” Thayer says it is,

“used in the NT of the conviction and trust to which a man is impelled by a certain inner and higher prerogative and law of soul; to trust in Jesus or God as able to aid either in obtaining or in doing something: saving faith.”

The Amplified Bible renders these verses,

“believes (adheres to, trusts, and relies on the fact)” (1 John 5:1).

“believes that Jesus is the Son of God [who adheres to, trusts in, and relies on that fact]?” (1 John 5:5).

We’re to believe in this Jesus in the sense that we adhere to, trust in, and rely on the fact that He’s the Son of God, the very Christ; and we adhere to, trust in, and rely on Him to save us.  It’s not talking about believing in a doctrine, but rather, believing in a Person.  What Person?  We’re to believe in this Jesus Who “came by water and blood.”

* not by water only, but by water and blood. *

In regards to “came by water and blood,” Zondervan comments,

“This enigmatic statement has given rise in the church to many interpretations. Augustine linked the reference to John 19:34, where the piercing of Jesus’ side produced water and blood. Calvin and Luther connected it to John 4 and 6 and saw in it a reference to the sacraments. Most commentators today see the ‘water’ as referring to Jesus’ baptism and the ‘blood’ to his death on the cross.”

I agree with most commentators who, as Zondervan points out, “see the ‘water’ as referring to Jesus’ baptism and the ‘blood’ to his death on the cross.”  I will demonstrate why in my notes on the next section of this verse.

* And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth. *

John has already written often about “the Spirit” throughout this Epistle (1 John 2:20, 27; 3:24; 4:2, 13).  Here’s what we discover from these verses: The Holy Spirit is our Teacher that will continue to teach us “all things” (1 John 2:27) until we come to “know all things” (1 John 2:20); He confirms to our spirit that God lives in us and we live in Him (1 John 3:24; 4:13); and He teaches us the truth about Jesus (1 John 4:2; current verse).

In his Gospel John tells us that the Holy Spirit will “not speak of himself” (John 16:13), but will “testify of” Jesus (John 15:26), and will “glorify” Him (John 16:14).  The Holy Spirit will live in us (John 14:16-17) and teach us “all things,” and bring to our “remembrance” the things Jesus taught us (John 14:26).

The Apostle Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit bears “witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God” (Rom 8:16).

The false teachers whose doctrine John was refuting were teaching lies about Who Jesus was, and what He did.  Some Gnostics taught that Jesus was never here in the flesh, but was only here is some mystical spirit form.  Others taught that He was merely human until God entered Him at His baptism, but then God vacated Him when His sufferings began, leaving only the human to feel pain.  The first group believed it was beneath God to ever become man, and the second group believed it was beneath God to ever suffer and die.  John wrote to his readers that they had the Holy Spirit living in them, teaching them the truth about Jesus, that Jesus, the man, is the Christ (1 John 2:22; 5:1), and He is the Son of God (1 John 2:22-24; 5:5).  They knew this because the Holy Spirit, the very Spirit Who is Truth, was living inside of them bearing witness to these very facts.

This same Holy Spirit bore witness of, or testified concerning, Christ Jesus at His baptism when He descended in the bodily shape of a dove and landed on Him, accompanied by a voice from Heaven (Matt 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22).  This same Holy Spirit also bore witness to the claim that Jesus was the very Son of God when He moved in the power of the Father to raise Christ from the dead (Rom 1:3-4).

JESUS CAME BY WATER, and the Father spoke, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt 3:17) after the Holy Spirit descended on Him (Matt 3:16).  JESUS CAME BY BLOOD when He died at Calvary and the Father spoke through an eerie early afternoon darkness (Matt 27:45) and an earthquake that shook the earth, tore the veil of the temple in two (Matt 27:51), and opened the graves (Matt 27:52), before He called His Son forth from the dead three days later (Eph 1:19-20) through the mighty power of the Holy Spirit (Rom 1:4).

Jesus “came by water and blood” (current verse), and in each instance the Holy Spirit bore witness to the fact that it was Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Who was being baptized, and then, Who was being brutally murdered.  This is the very same Holy Spirit Who bears witness to the truth that we who have trusted in this Jesus are now God’s children (Rom 8:16).

(Verse Six of Chapter Five in my own words.)

This Jesus Christ (Who you’re to believe is the very Son of God) is He Who came by water and by blood, not just by water, but by water and by blood.  The Holy Spirit was there, in each case, to testify to Who Jesus is (by descending on Him in the form of a dove at His baptism, and by raising Him from the dead three days after His bloody crucifixion in a show of awesome power).

1 John 5:7

For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.

* For there are three that bear record in heaven, *

The majority of the Commentators I have access to reject this verse (for example: UBS, Zondervan, Wycliffe, Barnes, Clarke, Peoples, Scofield, Robertson, and Vincent).  They believe it to be absent from the original text.  There are some, however, who do consider it genuine (Gill and Henry, for example).

JFB says,

“There must be some mystical truth implied in using ‘three’ (Greek) in the masculine, though the antecedents, ‘Spirit, water, and blood,’ are neuter. That THE TRINITY was the truth meant is a natural inference: the triad specified pointing to a still Higher Trinity; as is plain also from 1 John 5:9, ‘the witness of GOD,’ referring to the Trinity alluded to in the Spirit, water, and blood. It was therefore first written as a marginal comment to complete the sense of the text, and then, as early at least as the eighth century, was introduced into the text of the Latin Vulgate. The testimony, however, could only be borne on earth to men, not in heaven. The marginal comment, therefore, that inserted ‘in heaven,’ was inappropriate. It is on earth that the context evidently requires the witness of the three, the Spirit, the water, and the blood, to be borne: mystically setting forth the divine triune witnesses, the Father, the Spirit, and the Son.”

Most translations of the New Testament that I have at my disposal reject the inclusion, “in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one,” as well (for example: the Analytical-Literal Translation, the Bible In Basic English, the Contemporary English Version, the English Majority Text Version, the Good News Bible, the God’s Word translation, the Hebrew Names Version, the Message, the World English Bible, the 1912 Weymouth New Testament, the New International Version, the New American Standard Version, the New Living Translation, the Living Bible, Today’s English Version, and the Revised Standard Version).  The only translations that I have that include it, besides the King James Version, and its various updates, are Young’s Literal Translation, Green’s Literal Translation, the 1995 Revived Webster Bible, the Amplified Bible, the 1899 Douay-Rheims Bible, and the 1599 Geneva Bible, and some of then have it in italics or brackets.

* the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. *

I certainly don’t know if John wrote these words in his Epistle, or if they were added later by those who thought, as JFB points out, that they were implied by the use of the masculine noun for “three.”  I simply don’t know if this phrase is a genuine part of this Epistle, and therefore, a genuine part of the Word of God.  I do know, however, that THIS PHRASE IS THE ABSOLUTE TRUTH!  Here’s why: all the translators and commentators agree that the previous verse (1 John 5:6) is a legitimate part of the original text, and that verse says, “it is the Spirit that beareth witness,” and if the Holy Spirit testifies to the truth of a matter then it’s certain that the Father and the Word (the Son) agree with Him.

(Verse Seven of Chapter Five in my own words.)

And there are actually three Who testify [in Heaven.  The three are the Father, the Living Word, and the Holy Spirit.  These three agree (on everything) because They’re one (in a way beyond our ability to understand)].

1 John 5:8

And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.

* And there are three that bear witness in earth, *

Concerning “in earth,” UBS states,

“The first part of this insertion does not fit the context, for the congregation does not need a group of witnesses in heaven. And when this part is to be omitted, the second part becomes superfluous: there is no need then to state expressly that the other group of witnesses is on earth.”

If we disregard the three witnesses in Heaven, as we discussed in the previous verse (1 John 5:7), then there’s no need to include “in earth” in this verse.  Consequently, those translations that omit “that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one” from verse seven tend to omit “in earth” from our current verse.

This then would be the sequence if the King James Version were to follow suit with the others:

6b) And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth.

7) For there are three that bear record,

8) the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.

* the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: *

John is repeating what he said in verse six, that the Holy Spirit bears witness to the truth concerning Jesus (See my earlier notes on 1 John 5:6).  This time he adds that the “water and blood” that He “came by” also testify to the truth about Him.  What is the truth?  Jesus is the Christ (1 John 5:1), and He’s the Son of God (1 John 5:5).  Those who saw Him baptized (coming “by water”) witnessed the Holy Spirit descending on Him like a dove, and many heard “a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt 3:17).  Those who saw Him crucified (coming “by blood”) witnessed the early afternoon darkness and the earthquake, heard about the veil of the Temple being supernaturally torn in two, and many of them later saw the risen Jesus, He Who was raised “with power, according to the spirit of holiness” (Rom 1:4).

The Holy Spirit confirms the genuineness of the claims Jesus made. First, He bears “witness with our spirit” (Rom 8:16), speaking to our hearts with that “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12), that Jesus is the Christ.  Second, He was there at the baptism of Christ.  He was there at His crucifixion.  In each case there were supernatural signs and wonders.  The Holy Spirit mightily bore witness that Jesus was the Christ, the very Son of God.

As a result of those signs and wonders, “the water, and the blood” also “bear witness” to the truth of Who Jesus is, that truth that was being challenged by the false teaching of the Gnostics.

* and these three agree in one. *

In regards to this phrase Vincent says,

“Lit., are for the one. They converge upon the one truth, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, come in the flesh.

All three, the Holy Spirit, the water (His baptism), and the blood (His death) testify of the same truth.

Even though I’ve spoken of the signs and wonders surrounding the baptism and crucifixion of Christ, John more probably has in mind that “still small voice.”  He has told his readers, “ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things” (1 John 2:20); “I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it” (1 John 2:21); “the same anointing teacheth you of all things” (1 John 2:27); that they “know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us” (1 John 3:24); and, “Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit” (1 John 4:13).  The “water and blood” agree with the inward testimony of the Holy Spirit.  The history of His baptism and His death confirm the truth we already know; Jesus is the Christ, the very Son of God.  The Holy Spirit has already convinced us.  We don’t know how we know; we just know!

(Verse Eight of Chapter Five in my own words.)

[And there are three who testify on earth.]  The Holy Spirit, the baptism of Christ, and the blood He shed at Calvary all reveal the same truth, [that Jesus is the Christ, the very Son of God.]

1 John 5:9

If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son.

* If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: *

Regarding “if,” Vincent tells us,

“The indicative mood, assuming such reception as a fact. If we receive, as we do.”

Concerning this phrase JFB says,

“We do accept (and rightly so) the witness of veracious men, fallible though they be; much more ought we to accept the infallible witness of God (the Father).”

If verse seven is genuine then this phrase is tied to that verse.  The “witness of God” here would then be tied to the “Father” bearing “record in heaven” in verse seven.  If, however, verse seven is spurious, then the “witness of God” here would be tied with “the spirit” bearing “witness in earth” in verse eight.  In either case, God’s witness “is greater” than “the witness of men.”

What does John mean when he speaks of “the witness of men”?  Certainly he has in mind the false witness of the Gnostics.  After all, the purpose of this Epistle is to correct the heresy these Gnostics were teaching.  But he most probably also has in mind the testimony of the eye-witnesses (1 John 1:1-5).  He wrote, “he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us” (1 John 4:6).  However, he also wrote, “ye need not that any man teach you” (1 John 2:27).  The first statement refers to his testimony, and that of his comrades; the second refers to the testimony of the Gnostics.  He’s telling his readers, “Believe us; don’t believe them!”

If you apply “the witness of men” to the Gnostics John is reminding his readers that God’s witness is greater, and therefore they should reject the teachings of those false teachers.  If you apply “the witness of men” to the Apostles he’s reminding his readers that as sound as their witness is, and as much as their witness is to be believed, it pales in comparison to “the witness of God.”

Why shouldn’t we believe those teachers who disagree with John?  Why should we believe John?  Here’s why: John’s witness corresponds with the witness of God.  John is speaking the very Word of God that the Spirit bears witness to.  He tells us that we “have an unction from the Holy One, and” we “know all things” (1 John 2:20); that this “anointing teacheth” us “all things” (1 John 2:27); and that “the Spirit which he hath given us” causes us to “know” that God lives in us (1 John 3:24).  John is convinced the Holy Spirit convinces Christians to believe him.  He’s convinced of this because he knows he’s speaking God’s Word, and because God was “working with them, and confirming the word with signs following” (Mark 16:20).  In other words, John saw his teaching and the witness of the Holy Spirit as absolutely synonymous.

* for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son. *

Concerning “this is the witness of God,” UBS says,

“Just as in vv. 11 and 14 ‘this’ points forward; —.”

What has God testified to in regards to His Son?  Certainly He has testified that Jesus is the Christ (1 John 5:1), and that Jesus is His Son (1 John 5:5); and we’ll also see that God testifies that eternal life is found only in His Son (1 John 5:11).

(Verse Nine of Chapter Five in my own words.)

Since we all receive the testimony of men we should remember that the witness of God is greater, [and should therefore be even more readily received].  The witness of God [that I’m referring to] is the testimony He gives concerning His Son.

1 John 5:10

He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son.

* He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: *

Concerning “hath the witness in himself,” UBS comments,

“that is, accepts and keeps the testimony, pondering it, carrying it about, and holding fast to it. Testimony refers to the things God has declared to be true.”

The Geneva Bible Translation Notes tell us,

“He proves the sureness of the earthly witness by every man’s conscience having that testimony in itself, whose conscience he says cannot be deceived because it agrees with the heavenly testimony which the Father gives of the Son.”

Many Commentators deny that this verse speaks primarily of an inner witness of the Holy Spirit, preferring any inner witness to be subjected to what they see as the external evidence of the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus.  I would say the opposite, for  “we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor 5:7).  After all, “we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen” (2 Cor 4:18), and “blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

Paul prayed that God would give the Ephesian church “the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him” (Eph 1:17).  He prayed this because he wanted the “eyes of” their “understanding” to be “enlightened; that” they would “know what is the hope of his calling” (Eph 1:18).  In other words, Paul wanted God to reveal, by revelation of the Spirit, divine truth.

John spoke of “an unction from the Holy One” that caused men to “know” things (1 John 2:20), because this “unction,” this “anointing,” taught them “all things” (1 John 2:27).  The Holy Spirit Who lives in us causes us to “know” that God abides in us (1 John 3:24; 4:13).  Paul said the Holy Spirit “beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God” (Rom 8:16).

We do have an inner voice, the blessed Holy Spirit, inside of us, and He reveals truth to us.  I’m not suggesting that we indiscriminately believe inner voices.  Any “voice” we think we hear must stand the Scriptural test.  If it fails that test it’s to be disregarded.  Nor am I suggesting that we’re to hear audible voices.  I’m simply saying that the reason we know that Jesus is Lord is because the “witness of God” is inside of us, confirming the truth of that statement to our spirit.

* he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. *

Barnes comments,

“to doubt or deny this partook of the same character as doubting or denying any other testimony; that is, it was practically charging him who bore the testimony with falsehood.”

“God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith” (Rom 12:3)!  He enables us to believe the necessary truth.  In the case of giftings, which is the subject of Romans 12, God enables us to operate in a certain gifting through the measure of faith He’s given us.  In the case of salvation, which is the subject of our current discussion, God enables the hearer to believe the message, by measuring out the appropriate amount of faith necessary for believing it, so that the hearer can be saved.  If the hearer rejects the “witness of God,” it’s paramount to calling the “witness of God” a lie.  Here’s what I’m saying, when the Gospel is heard by the unbeliever, God, through the agency of the Holy Spirit, confirms the message to the heart of the hearer.  If the hearer rejects the message, even though God has given him the measure of faith required to believe it, then the hearer is rejecting the very “witness of God,” and thus rejecting God’s testimony as a lie!

(Verse Ten of Chapter Five in my own words.)

The one whose faith is in the Son of God is the one who has heard, and believed, the inner voice of God testifying about His Son.  On the other hand, the one who hasn’t placed his faith in the Lord Jesus is the one who has rejected God’s testimony, making Him out to be a liar, because he rejects the very testimony God gives concerning His Son.

1 John 5:11

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

* And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, *

Here on earth there are three that have born witness: “the Spirit, and the water, and the blood” (1 John 5:8).  God’s voice from Heaven and the Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus in the form of a dove at the Lord’s baptism in “the water,” the resurrection of Christ after “the blood” was shed at Calvary, and the Holy “Spirit” witnessing internally to our spirit all give witness to the truth of Who Jesus is, the Christ (1 John 5:1), the very Son of God (1 John 5:5).  Together, these three make up the “witness of God” (1 John 5:9).

“Beareth witness” (1 John 5:6) and “bear record” (1 John 5:7), and “bear witness” (1 John 5:8) all come from the same Greek word, and all have the same tense, voice, and mood of that Greek word.  “Witness” (1 John 5:9-10) and “record” (1 John 5:10-11) are also the identical Greek word.

Here’s what God has given testimony to: He “hath given to us eternal life.”  This eternal life is a “gift of God” (Rom 6:23).  As a gift it must be received.

* and this life is in his Son. *

Zondervan tells us,

“It is not an idea or a system of belief or even a fact that is the ultimate object of faith; it is a Person. That Person is Jesus Christ.”

Clarke says,

“it comes by and through him; he is its author and its purchaser; it is only in and through Him. No other scheme of salvation can be effectual; God has provided none other, and in such a case a man’s invention must be vain.”

John tells us that “this life,” this gift of “eternal life,” can only be found in the person of Jesus Christ.  After all, He is “the life” that “was manifested,” He is “that eternal life” (1 John 1:2).  Jesus, Himself, testified to this very truth (John 14:6).

If we reject “the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins” (Heb 10:26).  Jesus, through His death at Calvary, is the only “way” to Heaven (John 14:6); He’s “the door” (John 10:9), and you can’t get into Heaven without going through the door.

If “this life” is to be found in “his Son” then it won’t be found anywhere else, as we’ll see in the following verse.

(Verse Eleven of Chapter Five in my own words.)

And this is the testimony of God, He gave us the gift of eternal life; and the life He’s given us is to be found only in the person of His Son.

1 John 5:12

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

* He that hath the Son hath life; *

God has given to us, as a gift, eternal life.  This life is found in the Person of God’s Son.  How do we receive a gift that’s to be found only in the Lord Jesus?  We must receive the One “who is our life” (John 1:12; Col 3:4).  How do we receive Him?  We must “believe on his name” (John 1:12).  John emphasizes throughout this Epistle the need to believe in Jesus (1 John 2:22-23; 3:23; 4:2-3, 15; 5:1, 5, 10).

When we receive the Lord Jesus into our lives, by placing our faith in Him as our Lord and Savior, we receive Him Who is Life; therefore, we receive life.  Jesus said, “I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish” (John 10:27-28).

* and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. *

UBS comments,

“The wording of this negative clause parallels that of the positive one. But the fuller designation Son of God and the more emphatic position life has in the Greek give more impact to this negative statement.”

If Jesus, the very Son of God, is this “life,” this “eternal life,” then only the one “that hath the Son hath life”!  Consequently, anyone who doesn’t have “the Son of God” in his/her life doesn’t have this “life,” this “eternal life.”

This “life” that John is speaking about cannot be found in Buddha!  It can’t be found in Mohammed!  It can’t be found in Hari Christener!  It can’t be found in a religious sect that teaches that prior to His birth in a stable Jesus was the archangel Michael.  It cannot be found in the myth that there is no good and evil, but just the cosmic whole!  It can only be found in the One Who is Life, the One Who is the Christ, the One Who is the Son of God; it can only be found in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ!

(Verse Twelve of Chapter Five in my own words.)

(Consequently, it’s as simple as this,) he that has the Son (or, he that has received the Lord Jesus into his life,) has this life (that is eternal); he that doesn’t have the Son of God (or, he that hasn’t received the Lord Jesus into his life,) doesn’t have this life (that is eternal).

1 John 5:13

These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

* These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; *

Regarding “have I written unto you,” UBS comments,

“a phrase that is repeatedly used in this Letter to introduce a warning (as in 1 John 2:1, 26), or to emphasize an assurance (as in 1 John 2:12-14, 21).”

John certainly wrote this Epistle to counter the false teaching of the Gnostics, but he points out here that the deeper purpose of this letter is to assure his readers of a certain truth.  The readers that he has in mind are those “that believe on the name of the Son of God.”

* that ye may know that ye have eternal life, *

Zondervan points out,

“It reminds us of John 20:31, where the author said he had written his gospel so that his readers might believe in Jesus and receive eternal life in his name. This first letter of John is addressed to those who have accepted this belief but still need assurance that through this name they have indeed received eternal life.”

Vincent says,

“The Greek order is peculiar, ‘ye may know that life ye have eternal.’  The adjective eternal is added as an after-thought. So Westcott: ‘that ye have life – yes, eternal life.’”

The Apostle wants his readers to know that they have “eternal life.”  God wants you and I to share in this assurance.  This isn’t meant to be a guessing game.  There’s an available avenue by which we can be absolutely certain.  What is it?  John has already told us, “He that hath the Son hath life” (1 John 5:12), because “this life is in his Son” (1 John 5:11).  When we received Christ we received “eternal life.”

I don’t hope I’m saved; I don’t think I’m saved; I know I’m saved!  When I die, or when the rapture occurs, I am going to Heaven.  Why?  Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has saved me.

* and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. *

Concerning “that believe on the name of the Son of God,” and “that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God,” JFB tells us,

“The oldest manuscripts and versions read, ‘These things have I written unto you [omitting ‘that believe on the name of the Son of God’] that ye may know that ye have eternal life (compare 1 John 5:11), THOSE (of you I mean) WHO believe (not as English Version reads, ‘and that ye may believe’) on the name of the Son of God.’”

Most modern translators agree:

[NIV] I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.

[TLB] I have written this to you who believe in the Son of God so that you may know you have eternal life.

[NAS] These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life.

[RSV] I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.

[Amp] I write this to you who believe in (adhere to, trust in, and rely on) the name of the Son of God [in the peculiar services and blessings conferred by Him on men], so that you may know [with settled and absolute knowledge] that you [already] have life, yes, eternal life.

If we accept the KJV, then JFB concludes,

“English Version, in the latter clause, will mean, ‘that ye may continue to believe,’”

Depending, then, on which translation you prefer John is either saying, “I wrote these things so you would know you have eternal life, you who believe on the name of the Son of God,” or, “I wrote these things to you who believe on the name of the Son of God so you would know you have eternal life, and so you would continue to believe on the name of the Son of God.”

Zondervan reminds us,

“It is not any prayer that is answered but the confident prayer of the disciple who is in fellowship with the Father, who asks in Jesus’ name (John 14:13; 15:16), who ‘remains’ in him (John 15:7), and who obeys his commands (1 John 3:22). This is not meant to dampen the expectation we may have in prayer, but the condition for addressing God is to know he will hear and act. Prayer becomes not only a time for petitioning but of yielding one’s life to the will and work of God.”

Wycliffe points out,

“The limitation is gracious because his will is always best for his children.”

I believe this to be a general rule of prayer, encompassing the entire will of God as revealed in Scripture, as well as the unrevealed will of God.  By “unrevealed” I mean the will of God in those situations of our lives where the Scripture hasn’t given us an absolute answer; such as who I should marry; what job I should take; what house I should buy, etc.  Here’s an example: the Scripture tells us to go “into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15), because we are in debt to all men (Rom 1:14) to share this “gospel of Christ” (Rom 1:16) with them; but the Scripture doesn’t tell us when we’re “forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia” (Acts 16:6), and when we’re instructed by “the Lord” to preach in Macedonea instead (Acts 16:9-10).

How, then, should we pray about those things in which the will of God is unknown?  How can we have the “confidence” John speaks of if we don’t know if we’re asking “according to his will”?  To have this “confidence” we must know our prayer is in line with His will.  How can we know that when God’s will is unknown to us in the situation we’re praying about?

Jesus prayed, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matt 26:39).  Was His prayer answered?  Yes!  It’s true that “this cup” didn’t pass from Him, but the will of His Father, not His will, was done; and that’s what He prayed for.

When you don’t know how to pray about something, ask the Father for the very thing you desire; and then submit that request to the will of our Father.  For example, when you’re praying about God providing you with a job, ask God to give you the exact job you want; but then follow the example of Christ and pray, “nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.”  Why?  Because we, as children of God, stand convinced that God knows what’s best for us.

As believers there are certain things that we pray for that we’ll have differing opinions about rather, or not, those requests are in accordance with the revealed Word of God.  Those opinions will be formed by one’s individual understanding of what the Scripture is saying.  For example, many believers are absolutely convinced that it’s always the will of God to heal the sick; others disagree.  Obviously our prayers are impacted by our opinions regarding these issues.  Divine election and prosperity are some other examples of doctrinal issues that impact prayer.

Having said these things, the context of our current passage makes it plain that John is affirming his readers in their stance of faith, assuring them of their salvation, and of the certainty of eternal life.  Consequently, John is using this general rule of prayer, “that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us,” to confirm that when we ask the Lord to forgive us, cleanse us, and live in us, He answers those prayers because those requests are in harmony with the perfect will of God.

(Verse Thirteen of Chapter Five in my own words.)

I’ve written these things to you who have placed your faith in the name [of Jesus], the Son of God, so that you might know, [of a certainty], that you have life that is eternal.

1 John 5:14

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

* And this is the confidence that we have in him, *

Concerning “confidence,” Thayer gives us these definitions,

“1) freedom in speaking, unreservedness in speech; 1a) openly, frankly, i.e without concealment; 1b) without ambiguity or circumlocution; 1c) without the use of figures and comparisons; 2) free and fearless confidence, cheerful courage, boldness, assurance; 3) the deportment by which one becomes conspicuous or secures publicity.”

This Greek word, parrhesia, is used 31 times in the New Testament.  In the KJV it is translated by these following words,

“boldness 8, confidence 6, openly 4, plainly 4, openly + 1722 2, boldly + 1722 1, misc 6; 31.”

Regarding it’s usage in our current verse Vincent says,

“Rev., boldness. See on 1 John 2:28; see on John 7:13. On have boldness, see on John 16:22.”

John uses this Greek word three other times in this Epistle.  He speaks of the “confidence” we can have “toward God” (1 John 3:21); a “confidence” that causes us to “not be ashamed before him at his coming” (1 John 2:28); and he speaks of the “boldness” we can have “in the day of judgment” (1 John 4:17).  In our current verse he speaks of a “confidence,” a boldness, we can “have in him” that impacts our prayer lives.

Looking at Thayer’s definitions above we might conclude that we can pray “openly, frankly, without concealment;” we can pray with “free and fearless confidence, cheerful courage, boldness, assurance.”

* that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: *

Zondervan reminds us,

“It is not any prayer that is answered but the confident prayer of the disciple who is in fellowship with the Father, who asks in Jesus’ name (John 14:13; 15:16), who ‘remains’ in him (John 15:7), and who obeys his commands (1 John 3:22). This is not meant to dampen the expectation we may have in prayer, but the condition for addressing God is to know he will hear and act. Prayer becomes not only a time for petitioning but of yielding one’s life to the will and work of God.”

Wycliffe points out,

“The limitation is gracious because his will is always best for his children.”

I believe this to be a general rule of prayer, encompassing the entire will of God as revealed in Scripture, as well as the unrevealed will of God.  By “unrevealed” I mean the will of God in those situations of our lives where the Scripture hasn’t given us an absolute answer; such as who I should marry; what job I should take; what house I should buy, etc.  Here’s an example: the Scripture tells us to go “into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15), because we are in debt to all men (Rom 1:14) to share this “gospel of Christ” (Rom 1:16) with them; but the Scripture doesn’t tell us when we’re “forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia” (Acts 16:6), and when we’re instructed by “the Lord” to preach in Macedonea instead (Acts 16:9-10).

How, then, should we pray about those things in which the will of God is unknown?  How can we have the “confidence” John speaks of if we don’t know if we’re asking “according to his will”?  To have this “confidence” we must know our prayer is in line with His will.  How can we know that when God’s will is unknown to us in the situation we’re praying about?

Jesus prayed, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matt 26:39).  Was His prayer answered?  Yes!  It’s true that “this cup” didn’t pass from Him, but the will of His Father, not His will, was done; and that’s what He prayed for.

When you don’t know how to pray about something, ask the Father for the very thing you desire; and then submit that request to the will of our Father.  For example, when you’re praying about God providing you with a job, ask God to give you the exact job you want; but then follow the example of Christ and pray, “nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.”  Why?  Because we, as children of God, stand convinced that God knows what’s best for us.

As believers there are certain things that we pray for that we’ll have differing opinions about rather, or not, those requests are in accordance with the revealed Word of God.  Those opinions will be formed by one’s individual understanding of what the Scripture is saying.  For example, many believers are absolutely convinced that it’s always the will of God to heal the sick; others disagree.  Obviously our prayers are impacted by our opinions regarding these issues.  Divine election and prosperity are some other examples of doctrinal issues that impact prayer.

Having said these things, the context of our current passage makes it plain that John is affirming his readers in their stance of faith, assuring them of their salvation, and of the certainty of eternal life.  Consequently, John is using this general rule of prayer, “that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us,” to confirm that when we ask the Lord to forgive us, cleanse us, and live in us, He answers those prayers because those requests are in harmony with the perfect will of God.

(Verse Fourteen of Chapter Five in my own words.)

Here’s the reason we have such a bold confidence in God (regarding our salvation), because whenever we ask God for anything that’s in accordance with His will (for our lives) we know that He hears us.

1 John 5:15

And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.

* And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, *

In regards to “if we know,” Robertson states,

“the perfect active indicative, assumed as true.”

The New Living Translation renders it,

“And if we know he is listening when we make our requests, —.”

John had just said, “if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us” (1 John 5:14).  Now, in our current verse, he assumes that we’re asking for things “according to his will,” and consequently tells us, in essence, that we know that He hears us when we pray.

* we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him. *

The Message renders it,

“we know that what we’ve asked for is as good as ours.”

The Amplified,

“we also know [with settled and absolute knowledge] that we have [granted us as our present possessions] the requests made of Him.”

Here’s John’s point: we have great confidence when we pray because we know that God always listens when we ask for the things that He wants us to have (previous verse); and since we know that He’s listening, we also know that our prayers have been answered (current verse).

Again, as I stated in my notes on the previous verse, I believe this principle to be a general rule of prayer.  It encompasses all our prayers.  Whenever we pray for the very things that God wants us to have we can be certain that He’s listening, and that our prayers are answered.  When we pray for those things where the will of God isn’t certain, then we simply follow the example of the Lord Jesus and add, “nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matt 26:39).  Once again, we can be certain that He’s listening, and that our prayers are answered.  He’ll either provide the thing we’ve asked for, if it’s within His will, or He’ll withhold it, because it isn’t within His will, in which case He answered our prayer by doing His will, just as we asked Him to.

But I believe, in this particular case, that John is utilizing this general rule that applies to all prayer for the specific reason of convincing his readers of the certainty of their salvation.

Following is the progression of his thoughts on this subject:

1) Here’s God’s testimony, He has given us eternal life in His Son (1 John 5:11);

2) When we have His Son we have this life (1 John 5:12);

3) We received this life when we placed our faith in the Lord Jesus (1 John 5:13);

4) We received His Son through the medium of prayer, and we can be confident that God was listening because it’s His will for us to receive His Son into our lives (1 John 5:14);

1) And because He was listening we can be absolutely certain that our prayer was answered, and the Lord Jesus is living inside of us (current verse).

(Verse Fifteen of Chapter Five in my own words.)

And since we know that God heard our prayer (when we asked Jesus to come into our lives), then we are absolutely certain that our prayer was answered (and Jesus did come into our lives, and has given us the gift of eternal life).

1 John 5:16

If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.

* If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, *

Concerning “see his brother sin,” UBS states,

“The verb ‘to see’ with the direct personal object and following participle refers to seeing the person in a certain action or state of being. The clause may have to be restructured, for example, ‘sees his brother who (or while he) is committing … sin.’”

But Vincent says,

“A supposed case.”

John’s exhorting his readers to take action if they see, or know about, sin in the life of a “brother.”  The action he wants believers to take is limited in the sense that the action is only to be taken in the case that the sin is a sin that “is not unto death.”

* he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. *

Regarding “he shall give him life,” Gill says,

“God shall give the sinning brother life; by which may be meant comfort, that which will revive his drooping spirits, and cause him to live cheerfully and comfortably, that so he may not be swallowed up with over much sorrow; —.”

However, Barnes tells us,

“That is, God shall give life, and he shall be saved from the eternal death to which he was exposed.”

JFB seems to agree with Barnes when he offers,

“Life was in process of being forfeited by the sinning brother when the believer’s intercession obtained its restoration.”

I realize that when this verse is discussed the “sin unto death” presents certain difficulties, and we will approach that subject in the next section of this verse, but the idea of a “brother” needing God to “give him life” is equally as difficult.

Gill, as one who believes in Divine election, doesn’t see this verse as referring to eternal “life” because he believes that the sinning “brother” already has that.  Consequently, in his above quoted comments, he expresses that the “life” the sinning “brother” stands in need of is more of a restoration to a higher quality of spiritual “life,” a level of quality that was lost as a result of sin, and has nothing to do with eternal “life,” which the “brother” already has.  The difficulty with this point of view is that the “life” being referred to in the contextual setting of this verse isn’t “life” in the sense of the quality on one’s spiritual life, but rather, it’s “eternal life” (1 John 5:11, 13).  Some would suggest that John changed the subject of verses 11-13 in verse 14, and therefore this verse isn’t connected with those verses, and “life” here can mean something different that it does there.  The problem then becomes would John be so careless as to use the same word, “life [Greek word ‘zoe’],” and mean something different here than what he meant when he used it three verses earlier?

Barnes and JFB seem to imply that the “brother” who has this “life” that’s eternal can lose that “life” as a result of sin.

Of course, all commentators, and all we who study God’s Word seriously, will interpret this phrase, “he shall give him life,” in accordance with the ideas we bring to it.  If we believe in Divine election or eternal security then we’ll reach a conclusion that, like John Gill’s does, explains why a true “brother” can’t “sin unto death.”  If, on the other hand, we hold to the teachings of the Arminians, we will reach a conclusion that more closely resembles what Albert Barnes in saying.

I don’t believe that a true “brother” can sin away his salvation.  We’re saved by faith, and if there were a possibility of our forfeiting that salvation it would have to be as a result of our ceasing to believe (Col 1:21-23; Heb 3:12-14), not as a result of our sin, as our current verse seems to suggest.  In other words, we would have to depart from Christ, as a result of unbelief (Heb 3:12), because He will never leave us (Heb 13:5).  Read my notes on Gal 4:11 for a fuller explanation of my viewpoints on this subject.

I’ll comment further on who this “brother” might be in the next section.

* There is a sin unto death: *

In regards to “a sin,” Wycliffe tells us,

“The translation a sin is too definite. There is sin unto death, which implies not a single act but acts which have the character of sin unto death.”

Regarding “sin unto death,” Zondervan suggests,

“In the context of this letter directed against Gnostic teaching, which denied the incarnation and threw off all moral restraints, it is probable that the ‘sin that leads to death’ refers to the Gnostics’ adamant and persistent denial of the truth and to their shameless immorality.”

What is this “sin unto death”?  There are many ideas.  Here’s a few: some suggest that John is referring to the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (Matt 12:31-32; Mark 3:28-30; Luke 12:10); others, that he’s thinking about capital crimes, those punishable by physical death (such as the crime of murder, which is punishable by death in many of the states of our country); others, that he has in mind the depth of sin that would necessitate the church to “deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh” (1 Cor 5:1-5); others, that he refers to a sin that results in physical death, but not eternal damnation, as a judgment from God (1 Cor 11:27-31); and others, such as Zondervan [quoted above], that John sees the sin of heresy as a mortal sin, as did Paul (1 Cor 3:5-17), and that’s what he refers to here.

Others have suggested that John is referring to the sin of not loving one’s brother, because he has already said, “He that loveth not his brother abideth in death” (1 John 3:14).  However, we would certainly pray for the one who doesn’t love his brother so that God would “give him life,” so that can’t be the simple answer to this complex problem.

I’m convinced the answer lies in one of two possibilities: one deals with rather, or not, this “brother” is a believer, and the other deals with rather, or not, this “brother” can actually conmit this “sin unto death.”  Once we decide that we can more readily understand the issue of what this “sin unto death” is.

Concerning “brother,” as used in our first division of this verse, Barnes says,

“The word ‘brother’ may refer either to a member of the church, whether of the particular church to which one was attached or to another, or it may be used in the larger sense which is common as denoting a fellow-man, a member of the great family of mankind. There is nothing in the word which necessarily limits it to one in the church; —.”

Is the “brother” the Apostle refers to here a actual believer?  John uses the word “brother” thirteen times, and its plural, “brethren,” four times in this Epistle.  In every case, except when he refers to Cain’s “brother,” Abel (1 John 3:12), the argument could be made that he’s referring to believers.  One could argue that the final verse of fourth chapter (1 John 4:21) compared to the first verse of this chapter (1 John 5:1) proves that John is referring to Christians.  I believe that, with one modification.

I’m convinced that John is talking about the brotherhood of the Church.  In other words, he’s speaking about those who have the appearance of being believers, and in most cases are.  They are in church!  They pray!  They give in the offerings!  They teach!  They look like Christians!  To us, they are “brothers.”  However, some are not!  Paul referred to them as “false brethren” (Gal 2:4).  Some believe that this is what John has in mind in an earlier part of this letter (1 John 2:19).

I consider everyone in my church to be my “brother,” or my “sister.”  Most are; some aren’t.  I can’t always tell because I see horizontally.  Here’s my point: God knew before Adam sinned who would be in Heaven (Rom 8:29-30; Eph 1:4-5).  How?  He stands outside of time and already sees His children “glorified” (Rom 8:30).  The sheep that Jesus knows (John 10:27) and gives “eternal life” to (John 10:28) are those who He already sees in Heaven.  God has vertical vision!  He stands outside of time, looking down into time, and already knows those who will not be “moved away from the hope of the gospel” (Col 1:23), but will “hold the beginning of” their “confidence stedfast unto the end” (Heb 3:14).  We don’t!  Most of those we count as “brothers” are; a few aren’t.  One who is truly begotten of God (1 John 5:1) can’t commit the “sin unto death” spoken of here because “the One Who was begotten of God carefully watches over and protects him [Christ’s divine presence within him preserves him against the evil]” (1 John 5:18) [AMP].  However, one who is a “brother,” when looked at with horizontal vision, but not a true believer, when looked at by God with vertical vision, can commit a “sin unto death.”

As I’ve stated, I believe “brother” to refer to one I perceive to be a believer.  In most cases they are; in a few, they aren’t.  If I’m wrong, and “brother” refers only to a true believer (again, I don’t know how you and I can determine who that is with our horizontal vision), then I believe that the “brother” John refers to can’t “sin unto death.”  I’ll explain why when I talk about what I believe this “sin unto death” to be [beginning in the next paragraph].  If that’s the case, then this verse suggests that when we see a “brother” sin, it’s not a sin unto death, and we should pray for that “brother.”  There is a “sin unto death,” but it’s not the one we saw our “brother” commit.

What is this “sin unto death”?  When it comes to understanding Scripture I often say, “If you want to know what he’s talking about, then see what he’s talking about.”  What’s John purpose for writing this Epistle?  What’s the context?   What’s his point?

He’s writing to correct the error of the Gnostics’ doctrine, and in doing so, he reveals to his readers certain things about them.  These heretics walked “in darkness” (1 John 1:6); they claimed to “have no sin” (1 John 1:8), and to have “not sinned” (1 John 1:10); they didn’t “keep his commandments” (1 John 2:4); they didn’t walk like Jesus “walked” (1 John 2:6); they hated their brothers (1 John 2:9, 11; 4:20); they loved the world (1 John 2:15); they were “antichrists” (1 John 2:18; 4:3); they were false apostles (1 John 2:19) [see my notes on that verse]; they denied “that Jesus is the Christ” (1 John 2:22), which was paramount to denying both “the Son,” and “the Father” (1 John 2:23); their false doctrines were seducing believers (1 John 2:26); they lived in sin (1 John 3:4, 6, 8); they were the “children of the devil” (1 John 3:10); they did not possess “eternal life” (1 John 3:15) [which is the subject of our current verse]; they were “false prophets” (1 John 4:1); they were “of the world” (1 John 4:5), not “of God” (1 John 4:6); they didn’t even know God (1 John 4:8); and they did not have “the Son of God,” and therefore didn’t have “life” (1 John 5:12).

These men falsely claimed to be apostles and prophets, but were antichrists in nature, and their false doctrines were seductive/deceptive lies.  Their lying doctrines were a denial of Who Jesus says He is, and a rejection of Him and His Father.  They denied that sin and righteousness mattered, and proudly hated those who opposed them.  This, in my mind, is John’s point!  They claimed to be “brothers,” but their sin was unto death.  They were breaking up the foundation that had been laid by the Apostles, that foundation being Jesus, and were building on their new, shaky foundation with wood, hay, and stubble; and they were defiling the temple of God.  Their sin was subjecting them to the destruction of God (1 Cor 3:10-17).  They weren’t among those teachers who would “be saved; yet so as by fire,” though their “work shall be burned” (1 Cor 3:15), but were those who “God” would “destroy” ( 1 Cor 3:17).  Why?  They lived in their sin (1 John 3:4-10) [see my notes on those verses].  It was who they were!  It was a sin unto death.

Again, John will soon tell us that the true “brother,” the one who is genuinely “born of God” (1 John 5:1, 18), cannot “sin unto death.”

* I do not say that he shall pray for it. *

The Apostle tells us that he’s not suggesting that we pray for those whose sin is unto death.  What’s the point?  Why pray if it’s a prayer that God won’t answer because it’s not according to His will (1 John 5:14-15).

POSSIBILITY NUMBER ONE: If we see someone we perceive to be our “brother” in Christ sin, and we know that the sin isn’t “unto death” because it’s an act of sin, and not a chosen lifestyle of sin, we should pray for that “brother.”  If that perceived “brother” isn’t a true believer then our prayers might very well be the means through which God brings him to repentance, resulting in his receiving “life.”  If, on the other hand, our perceived “brother” sins a sin that is unto death, demonstrating that he’s not a true “brother,” then it would be fruitless to pray for him.  The perceived “brothers” who were Gnostic teachers were guilty of this very thing.  They were guilty of defiling “the temple of God,” “which temple ye are” (1 Cor 3:17) with their false doctrines; they were guilty of lawlessness; and they were guilty of a loveless life.  This was the way they chose to live.  Their very lifestyle was “a sin unto death.”

POSSIBILITY NUMBER TWO: If we see someone who is a genuine believer sin then we can be certain it isn’t a sin unto death.  The Lord Jesus keeps His children from that sin (1 John 5:18).  Consequently, we should pray for our “brother”; and our prayer will be according to God’s will, so the Lord will hear us (1 John 5:14) and answer our prayer (1 John 5:15).  The “brother” will be restored to a vibrant quality of spiritual life.  Those who aren’t genuine believers could actually be guilty of committing a sin unto death.  I’m not suggesting that you pray for it.

I personally lean towards Possibility Number One.

(Verse Sixteen of Chapter Five in my own words.)

If any one of you sees your brother (one you perceive to be a Christian) commit an act of sin, which doesn’t result in death, you should pray for him; it might be the very avenue God uses to bring this (perceived) brother into the realm of spiritual life.  After all, the act of sin doesn’t result in death.  There’s a sin (which is the sin of choosing to live contrary to Jesus, and to the things He taught us to do) that results in death.  I’m not suggesting that you pray for the one who’s guilty of this.

1 John 5:17

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

* All unrighteousness is sin: *

Wycliffe tells us,

“All unrighteousness is sin. John warns against the lax thinking that some sins are permissible and others (unto death) not.”

Anything we do that isn’t right, that isn’t in line with sound doctrine, is sin.  John wants the Church to understand that everything that isn’t righteous is sin, and the “greatest of these” is the absence of Love.  The “unrighteousness” that we do is usually motivated by self-love, which is the absence of Love for others.  And, the righteousness that we do, if it isn’t a by-product of our Love for God and our Love for others, is simply “sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal” (1 Cor 13:1), something that is futile in its attempt to make us something (1 Cor 13:2), and is of no profit to us (1 Cor 13:3).

When we Love God, and one another, we tend to live right (Matt 22:34-40; Rom 13:8-10; Gal 5:13-14).  When we don’t, sin occurs!  First, it occurs in our very nature; second, it then spills out into our conduct.

* and there is a sin not unto death. *

The Teacher’s Commentary comments,

“In the Bible, ‘death’ has several meanings. Biological death comes to all the living. Spiritual death, the legacy of sin, grips each of us until its hold is broken by Christ. And there is the realm of death, which is that experience of alienation from God, of captivity to the world’s ways, from which the believer is rescued.”

Almost all sin “is a sin not unto death.”  However, “there is a sin” that is “unto death.”  This is a continuation of the previous verse, and again stresses the idea that there is this ominous thing the Bible calls “a sin unto death.”

Again, I have difficulty with the explanation in the Teacher’s Commentary.  If the “sin unto death” was simply sin that caused our “brother” to fall back into “the realm of death,” as they suggest, wouldn’t we be wholeheartedly encouraged, even commanded, to pray for that “brother”?

See my notes on the previous verse to read the explanation of my personal viewpoint on this subject.

(Verse Seventeen of Chapter Five in my own words.)

Anything, and everything, we do that doesn’t fit the description of righteousness is sin [that is, everything we do that is contrary to the teachings of the rightly divided Word of God is sin].  Yet, [in almost every case] the sin isn’t a sin unto death.

1 John 5:18

We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.

* We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; *

John again speaks of believers being “born of God.” He’s already told us that “every one that doeth righteousness is born of him” (1 John 2:29); that whoever “is born of God doth not commit sin” (1 John 3:9); that “every one that loveth is born of God” (1 John 4:7); that whoever “believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God” (1 John 5:1); and that whoever “is born of God overcometh the world” (1 John 5:4).

We are “born of God” by believing in the Lord Jesus (1 John 5:1); and the results of our being “born of God” are:

1) Sin can no longer dominate our lives (1 John 3:9; current verse).

2) We are now habitually doing what’s right (1 John 2:29).

3) We are now walking in Love towards our brothers (1 John 4:7).

4) And we are now, through faith in Christ, experiencing overcoming victory in this world (1 John 5:4).

Our current verse is a combining of two verses John had written earlier, when he wrote that whoever “abideth in him sinneth not” (1 John 3:6), and that whoever “is born of God doth not commit sin” (1 John 3:9).  Here, he puts those two thoughts together by telling us that the one who “is born of God” (1 John 3:9) “sinneth not” (1 John 3:6).

When we compare “doeth righteousness” (1 John 2:29) and “committeth sin” (1 John 3:4, 8) we discover that the idea is that the believer lives in the sphere of righteousness, while the unbeliever lives in the sphere of sin (read my notes on those verses for a further discussion).  Though sin dwells in me (Rom 7:20), that is, in the members of my body (Rom 7:23), we no longer are controlled by it because we are now, by standing on His promises, partaking of the very nature of God (2 Pet 1:4).  Paul asks, “How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein” (Rom 6:2)?  Faith won’t allow it!  Faith cries out, “I’m ‘a new creature’ ‘in Christ’” (2 Cor 5:17).

John’s point is this: as Christians we sin, but we don’t live in sin.  However, what does that have to do with our current discussion?  The discussion at hand is the “sin unto death” (1 John 5:16).  John is connecting his teaching in Chapter Three with this particular subject.  This “sin unto death” is synonymous with the “sinneth” of our current verse, which is a pointing back to Chapter Three.  In Chapter Three “sinneth” is synonymous with “committeth sin.”  Consequently, this “sin unto death” is tied to the idea of a life that’s lived outside of Christ, and is therefore a life that is lived in the very sphere of sin.  All sin committed by the one who isn’t in Christ is, in its very nature, a “sin unto death.”  John has told us that only those who have the Son have life (1 John 5:12), and that if we aren’t in the One Who is Love, and consequently, we aren’t walking in Love, then we abide in death (1 John 3:14).  If we don’t trust the Savior, and believe that His death was sufficient to pay for our sins, then we’re left to pay their penalty ourselves, which is death.  If you and I don’t abide in the Light, where “the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7), then we’re left to settle our account with God, and pay the “wages of sin” (Rom 6:23), which is death.  In that sense, every sin the unbeliever commits is a “sin unto death.”

In all probability John has a particular “sin unto death” in mind in our earlier verse (see my notes on 1 John 5:16).  However, in our current verse he assures believers that they aren’t capable of that sin.

Barnes comments,

“This passage, in its connection, is a full proof that a true Christian ‘will’ never commit the unpardonable sin, and, therefore, is a proof that he will never fall from grace.”

The Geneva Bible Translation Notes say this,

“A reason why not all, or rather why no sin is mortal to some: that is, because they are born of God, that is to say, made the sons of God in Christ, and being ended with his Spirit, they do not serve sin, nor are they mortally wounded by Satan.”

The People’s New Testament claims,

“Does not live a life of sin. He will not sin unto death, though he may be overtaken in a fault.”

And Gill teaches that the true believer will not fall prey to,

“the sin unto death; nor does he live in sin, or is under the power and dominion of it, though he does not live without it; —.”

* but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, *

Concerning “he that is begotten of God,” UBS says,

“lit. ‘the one who-was-begotten out-of God,’ a passive participle of the aorist. This tense is to show that the reference is to a specific event in the past, namely, Jesus’ birth. In this sense the phrase is used only here in the New Testament. It is to be taken as referring to Christ, and being virtually identical in meaning with ‘the Son of God.’”

Vincent comments,

“This exact phrase does not occur elsewhere. Some refer it to ‘the man’ who is born of God, making it parallel with he that ‘is begotten’ of God. Others to ‘Christ,’ the only-begotten of God. The latter is preferable.”

John Gill tells us,

“the Vulgate Latin version reads, ‘the generation of God keeps or preserves him’; that is, that which is born in him, the new man, the principle of grace, or seed of God in him, keeps him from notorious crimes, particularly from sinning the sin unto death, and from the governing power of all other sins; —.”

Here are some translations of this phrase:

but the Son of God keeps him” [BBE].

“God’s own Son protects them” [CEV].

“for the Son of God keeps them safe” [GNB; TEV].

“Rather, the Son of God protects them” [GW].

“The God-begotten are also the God-protected” [MSG].

“but He who was born of God keeps him” [NAS].

“for God’s Son holds them securely” [NLT].

“for Christ, God’s Son, holds him securely” [TLB].

“but the One Who was begotten of God carefully watches over and protects him [Christ’s divine presence within him preserves him against the evil]” [AMP].

“but the generation of God preserveth him” [DRB].

“but the one having been generated from God keeps himself” [LITV].

Many other translations are similar to the KJV; such as ALT, ASV, Darby, EMTV, HNV, WEB, and YLT.

As you can see by the variety of translations some agree with John Gill’s notes, as quoted above; others agree with the translation of the KJV; and others agree with the above quoted notes of UBS and Vincent.  In other words, there are three prevailing ideas: 1) John is talking about the “seed” that “remaineth in” the believer (1 John 3:9) [John Gill, for example]; 2) he’s talking about the believer, by faith, keeping himself from sin; or, 3) he’s talking about Jesus keeping us from a life of sin.

I’ll leave the argument to the theologians, but I will state my opinion.  I believe John is telling us that Jesus will keep us from this “sin unto death,” as well as from a falling back into a life of sin.  This is certainly in keeping with John’s writings (John 17:12, 15; Rev 3:10).  He also quotes Jesus saying, “no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand” (John 10:29).

Certainly all of the above opinions come together in this truth: our faith is in Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith (Heb 12:2), to finish what he started.  In the first argument it’s the fact that we’ve become new creatures “in Christ” that keeps us from sinning, in the second it’s our confidence that God is faithful to His promises, and in the third it’s our faith that God always finishes what He starts.  In the first we’re “in Christ,” in the second we have faith “in Christ,” and in the third Christ keeps us.  In every case IT IS JESUS THAT DOES THE WORK!!

* and that wicked one toucheth him not. *

Robertson tells us,

“It means to lay hold of or to grasp rather than a mere superficial touch thinganoo (NT:2345), both in Col 2:21). Here the idea is to touch to harm. The devil cannot snatch such a man from Christ (John 6:38 f).”

Vincent says,

“The idea here is ‘layeth not hold of him.’”

We, as believers, are “born of God”; consequently, the devil cannot, as Vincent suggests, lay hold of us.  John is encouraging his readers.  Yes, there is a “sin unto death”; but believers will be kept from it.  God will finish what He’s started.  The devil can’t lay hold of us because we are firmly in God’s hand.

(Verse Eighteen of Chapter Five in my own words.)

Because we are born of God we know that we will not commit a sin unto death.  We know this because the Lord Jesus, the begotten of God, will keep us [safe in His hand].  Consequently, the devil can’t lay hold of us [in order to carry us away to this end].

1 John 5:19

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

* And we know that we are of God, *

In regards to “of God,” Vincent remarks,

“John expresses the relation of believers to God by the following phrases: To be born or begotten of God (1 John 5:1; 2:29; 4:7): denoting the initial communication of the new life. To be of God (John 8:47; 1 John 3:10; 4:6): denoting the essential connection in virtue of the new life. Child of God (John 1:12; 1 John 3:1, 10): denoting the relation established by the new life.”

John wants us to know that we have eternal life (1 John 5:13), because we know our prayers have been answered (1 John 515), because we know that we are “of God” (current verse) as a result of our having been “born of God” (1 John 5:18).

Good news!  We’re the ones that the Lord Jesus keeps!  We’re the ones that are kept from committing a “sin unto death.”  Why?  We’re the ones who have born of God; and consequently, are in the state of being “of God.”  We know it!

* and the whole world lieth in wickedness. *

Concerning “lieth,” Vincent comments,

“The word is stronger than esti (NT:2076) ‘is,’ indicating the passive, unprogressive state in the sphere of Satan’s influence.”

Alford, quoted by Vincent, says,

“While we are from God, implying a birth and a proceeding forth, and a change of state, the kosmos (NT:2889) ‘the world,’ all the rest of mankind, remains in the hand of the evil one.”

Regarding “in wickedness,” Vincent tells us,

“The English Revised Version (1885) is better: ‘in the evil one.’”

Excluding the KJV, an overwhelming number of translations render this phrase in agreement to Vincent’s notes, “in the evil one.”

The idea seems to be that you and I, as believers born into the family of God, have been born out of the family of the evil one [the devil].  Once we were “of the devil” (1 John 3:8, 10); now we are “of God” (1 John 3:1-2, 9-10, 4:4, 6-7; 5:1, 4, 18).  We know that we believers are of God, and that the rest of mankind is still lying under the control of the evil one [the devil].

We know that everyone who’s born of God is kept from committing a sin that leads to death (1 John 5:16-18); and we know that we are of God (current verse).  We are among that number that is kept safe in the hand of God.

(Verse Nineteen of Chapter Five in my own words.)

[Church,] we know that we’re of God [because we’ve been born of Him], and we know that the rest of the world [all of mankind who hasn’t been born of God] is still lying in the grasp of the devil.

1 John 5:20

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

* And we know that the Son of God is come, *

After all, John was there!  He heard Him, seen Him with his own eyes, looked upon him, and touched Him with his own hands (1 John 1:1).  He’d been spending his life testifying about those things he’d seen (1 John 1:2-4; 4:14).  This was no mere man that John had spent over three years with; he had come to know Him for Who He is, the very Son of God.

* and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, *

Concerning “understanding,” Vincent says,

“The faculty of understanding.”

Jesus has given us the ability to understand, the ability to know God!  He has “dealt to every man the measure of faith” (Rom 12:3).  All who choose to know Him have been given the “understanding” that’s necessary in order to come to know Him.  The believer has “the witness in himself” (1 John 5:10).  When we receive the historic Jesus, Who is the Son of God, into our lives that “measure of faith” that was necessary for us to believe “in Him” (John 3:16), that faith that is “not of” ourselves: “[it is] the gift of God” (Eph 2:8), then that measure increases to the measure necessary to “know him that is true” in a greater, more intimate way.

Zondervan tells us,

“By his coming, we can know the true God and have fellowship with him. But the false teachers said that this relationship was apart from the Son. Fellowship with God as they taught it came through divine ‘knowledge’ of the subject. From the beginning John denied this teaching. The reality of God can be known only through apprehending the reality that is in the Son. This comes through revelation that is grounded in the facts of history. It requires that we know Jesus Christ as God’s Son and that we live our lives entirely in him.”

Any revelation about God that contradicts the truth that Jesus is the Christ, the very Son of God, is erroneous.  The Gnostic heretics claimed to “know” God as a result of a higher revelation from Him, but John tells his readers that a relationship with Jesus is the only way we can know the true God.

John wants his readers to remember that, as a result of the inner witness of the Holy Spirit, they KNOW all things (1 John 2:20); they KNOW the truth (1 John 2:21); they KNOW that one day they’ll be like Jesus (1 John 3:2); they KNOW that there’s freedom from sin in Christ (1 John 3:5); they KNOW that they’ve passed from death into life (1 John 3:14); they KNOW that they’re of the truth (1 John 3:19); they KNOW that God lives inside of them (1 John 3:24); they KNOW that they live in God (1 John 4:13); they KNOW that they have eternal life (1 John 5:13); they KNOW that God answers their prayers (1 John 5:15); they KNOW that the child of God doesn’t live in the realm of sin (1 John 5:18); they KNOW that they are those children who are “of God” who aren’t living in that realm of sin (1 John 5:19); and they KNOW that Jesus came so that they could KNOW Him (current verse).  John wrote this Epistle so that they could KNOW these things (1 John 5:13)!  He didn’t write this letter to challenge the genuineness of their salvation, but to encourage them in their faith.  He didn’t warn them that they could commit a “sin unto death,” but he writes to encourage them that the Savior they trust in keeps them from doing that very thing (1 John 5:18).  He wants them to KNOW that they have eternal life, and to KNOW that the One Who is that Life, the Lord Jesus, keeps them safely in that life.

* and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. *

Robertson tells us,

“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.’”

Church, you and I are in living “in him that is true”!  We are dwelling in the very Person of Jehovah God, our Father, because we exist in the Person of His Son, Jesus Christ.  This is a direct answer to the prayer of the Lord Jesus, “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, [art] in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (John 17:21).

* This is the true God, and eternal life. *

In regards to “This is the true God,” UBS says,

“The demonstrative pronoun (in the Greek a masculine singular form) refers to Jesus; hence, ‘this one (or he) is the true God,’ or, changing the sentence into relative clause, ‘who is the true God.’”

They go on to say,

“This passage is the only one in John’s Letters that equates Christ and God. In the Gospel, however, that equation is made a few times, compare John 1:1; 20:28; —.”

Zondervan agrees,

“Here at the climax of the letter John ascribes full deity to Jesus. After all, this is the crux of his argument and the basis for his statement that he who is in Jesus is in the Father.”

Barnes, the 1599 Geneva Bible Footnotes, Gill, Henry, JFB, Wesley, and the Family New Testament Notes all agree with the above notes.  Clarke, Robertson, and Vincent all lean towards the “true God” referring to the Father, but quickly add that He gives us eternal life through His Son.

Again, I’m not a scholar.  I don’t know the Greek language that the New Testament was written in, or the contemporary Greek language.  Consequently, I can’t base my arguments on the original language.  However, I agree with the above quoted notes of UBS and Zondervan.  Here’s why: John began this Epistle by saying that the Life that was manifested was eternal life (1 John 1:2); and we know that the Life he referred to was the Lord Jesus.  We absolutely know this because he speaks of personally having heard, having seen, having looked upon, and having handled this Life (1 John 1:1); of having seen this Life, and having witnessed the manifestation of this Life (1 John 1:2); and again of having seen and having heard this Life (1 John 1:3).  There’s no question as to Who he refers to here; it’s the Lord Jesus.  If “that eternal life” is referring to Jesus at the beginning of this Epistle, then it undoubtedly is referring to Him at the conclusion of this Epistle as well; after all, this “eternal life” is in His Son (1 John 5:11), and if we have His Son we have this “life” (1 John 5:12).

Certainly the doctrine of the Divinity of the Lord Jesus doesn’t rest on this verse alone, but I believe this verse teaches that very doctrine.  This doctrine is key to understanding the degree of God’s radical, fanatical, relentless, continuous love for us.  He, in the person of His Son, personally died for us.  If Jesus isn’t truly God then God simply sent an angel (such as Michael, according to the Jehovah’s Witnesses) to die for us.  If that were the case, then the Love Story is damaged.  John wants his readers to understand that God’s Love for us is so great that He sent His only begotten Son (John 3:16; 1 John 4:9), His unique, one-of-a-kind Son.  God has many angels, but only one Son.  “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself” (2 Cor 5:19)!  His great Love for us constrained God, in the Person of the Lord Jesus, the Christ, the very Son of God, to die for us.

(Verse Twenty of Chapter Five in my own words.)

But you and I know that the very Son of God has come, and as a result of the inner witness of God He has given us the awareness that we genuinely know Him that is true.  As a matter of fact, our very life is lived in Him that is true, and in His Son, Jesus Christ.  This Jesus [as well as His Father] is the true God, and He is eternal life.

1 John 5:21

Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.

* Little children, *

In his earlier notes (1 John 2:1) Vincent comments,

“Used as a term of affection, or possibly with reference to the writer’s advanced age.”

JFB suggests,

“The diminutive expresses the tender affection of an aged pastor and spiritual father.”

The Apostle ends his letter by expressing once more that he loves his readers like a father loves his children.  He might also be reminding his readers to listen to the counsel of a true father in the faith.  He’s a man they can trust because he knows what he’s talking about (1 John 4:6), and because he sincerely loves them.

* keep yourselves from idols. Amen. *

UBS says,

“It is to be remembered, however, that in the Old Testament idols, or ‘false gods’ is sometimes used in a metaphorical sense with reference to sin. The term serves then to bring out how horrible sin is. The same usage occurs in some texts in the Dead Sea Scrolls. When idols is taken in this metaphorical sense the verse can be interpreted as a warning to keep away from sin. As such it would be an appropriate conclusion of John’s first Letter, which repeatedly warns against sin.”

Zondervan expresses this thought,

“False teaching is ultimately ‘apostasy from the true faith.’ To follow after it is to become nothing better than an idol worshiper, especially if it is a matter of the truth of one’s conception of God. The author is blunt. The false teachers propose not the worship of the true God, made known in his Son Jesus, but a false god–an idol they have invented.”

Barnes has a different idea,

“The world – “its wealth, and pleasures, and honors – we may love with a degree of attachment such as even an idolater would hardly shew to his idol-gods; and all the time which he would take in performing his devotions in an idol-temple, we may devote with equal fervor to the service of the world.”

JFB understands this warning in the more literal sense,

“Christians were then everywhere surrounded by idolaters, with whom it was impossible to avoid intercourse. Hence the need of being on their guard against any even indirect compromise or act of communion with idolatry.”

Which is it?  Is this a warning against the danger of actual idolatry?  Or, is it a warning against the danger of sin?  Or, is it a warning against the danger of false teaching?  Or, is it a warning against the danger of loving this world?

Although, as JFB suggests, idolatry was certainly rampant at the close of the first century A.D., it doesn’t seem to be the concern that motivated this Apostle to write this Epistle.  Therefore, I personally eliminate JFB’s comments.

But, which of the other three are we to believe?  John has certainly warned us about all three of them.  However, of the three, loving this world is mentioned least often, and I would therefore consider it to be the least likely, of the three, to be on John’s mind at the conclusion of his letter.  Consequently, I personally eliminate Barnes notes.

That leaves us with the possibility of the “idols” referring to the danger of sin, or the danger of false teaching.  He mentions both extensively.  However, in my mind the entire purpose of this Epistle is to correct the errors of the Gnostics’ doctrine.  Consequently, I personally agree with Zondervan’s notes.

If you’re not teaching the God of the Bible then the god you’re teaching is a false god; an idol.  The Gnostics taught about a Jesus that wasn’t the Christ, and that wasn’t the Son of God.  The Gnostics were teaching about a god that didn’t include Jesus.  It was a false god; an idol.  If John’s readers were to worship the god that the Gnostics were presenting, they would be worshiping a false god.  They would be guilty of idol worship.  John exhorts them to stay away from that doctrine.  Amen!

(Verse Twenty-One of Chapter Five in my own words.)

Little children [you who I love like a father loves his children], keep away from [teachings about deity that present] false gods.  Amen.



Walk of Grace Chapel, Council Bluffs Church