By Dr. Robert R Seyda


CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson I) 09/26/22

5:1 People who believe that Jesus is the Messiah are God’s children. Anyone who loves the Father also loves the Father’s children.


Thomas Pyle (1674-1756) paraphrased verse one this way: “I observed to you before that the truth of Christ’s Messiahship was the rule whereby you are to judge men’s pretenses in religious matters. Keep then to that rule and be assured that denying Jesus to be the real Christ, the Son of God, and Savior of humankind is to deny God the Father, that sent Him into the world for that purpose. And, on the contrary, sincerely to embrace the one is to embrace the other.” [1] But that was over 200 years ago. So, a more up-to-date paraphrase renders it: If you believe that Jesus is the Christ – that He is God’s Son and your Savior – then you are God’s child. And all who love the Father love His children too.” [2]

The Apostle John begins this chapter by presenting his “test for belief.” You cannot pass this test by simply saying you believe, nor will you meet the requirements needed to complete this test by outlining your declaration or creed of faith. Instead, you must prove that you “practice yourself what you preach” [3] because “saying is one thing and doing is another.” [4]

In today’s world, what John says in verse one is a ridiculous claim. Some people would accuse them of being exclusionary or hostile because they leave no door open for Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, or any Nonchristian getting into the Kingdom of Heaven by their beliefs, misbeliefs, or unbeliefs. In the opening of his Gospel, John announces that God sent two men into the world. One called the WORD, and in Him was a revelation called the “Light” to enlighten the world as to the truth about God; the other was the forerunner of this human Messiah and received the authority to verify who the Light was. As a result, the WORD became better known as Jesus of Nazareth, while the other was known as John the Baptizer.

So, in the Apostle John’s Gospel, we find this clarification, “The true Light was coming into the world. He is the true Light that gives Light to all people. The word was already in the world. The world was made through Him, but the world did not recognize Him. Then, finally, He came to a world that belonged to Him. Some of His people did not accept Him, but some did. They believed in Him, giving them the right to become born of God. They became God’s children, but not in the way babies are usually born. It was not because of any human desire or plan – they were born of God.” [5]

The Light and Word came to all humanity so that whoever believed Him to be the Messiah could be given the right to call themselves children of God. So, it doesn’t matter your nationality, ethnicity, culture, race, or religion. If you believe that Jesus the Anointed One is the Son of God and that He came to show you the way to salvation and you follow that way, He will claim you as one of His. But you cannot make this decision yourself. First, the Father in heaven must choose you for that privilege, and then the Holy Spirit will arrive to guide you to the Anointed One, after which your confession of faith in Him will lead to Him accepting you.

When Jesus told His followers that if they doubted He was God’s Anointed One sent from heaven to be the Light of the world, they were free to go and find another path to God. But Peter was quick to point out, “We believe in You. We know that You are the Holy One from God.” [6] Thus, John’s theme in his first letter concerns the believer’s love, not just Belief, for God and how they express it by loving others.

To John, this was one of the most important things that would prove a person’s claim of being God’s child. Nowhere does John say we must love the sinner to prove we are God’s children. We can certainly show them mercy and kindness, but we are not required to love them as fellow believers in God’s family. God already loves them, and we cannot do it better than He does. Jesus loves them and proved that on the cross. Can we exceed that?

Nevertheless, we certainly are charged with loving our brothers and sisters in the Anointed One. But unfortunately, one of the most significant roadblocks to the growth of Christianity over the centuries has not been the world’s persecution and hatred but the lack of unity in the Christian community. Thus, John defines his statement concerning brotherly and sisterly love.

The Apostle John readers are not the first to be questioned about who Jesus is. It is one of our Lord’s most earnest discussions with His disciples near the Mount of Transfiguration. Why was this so important? John tells us that God gave the people who believed in Him and accepted Him as the Messiah the right to become God’s children. Many turned away from Jesus because of His challenging teaching; however, He was encouraged to hear Peter’s assurance about who His disciples believed Him to be.

So, when the Apostle Philip witnessed to the Ethiopian Eunuch who asked the Apostle to baptize him, Philip said, “Yes, I will, but only if you believe with all your heart.” And the Eunuch replied, “I believe that Jesus the Anointed One is the Son of God.” [7] And when the Apostle Paul wrote the Jewish members of the Church in Rome and told them about his heartfelt desire that they too would listen to his message of faith and “openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” [8]

Jesus put even more pressure on the subject of true believers loving God and His children when He told them that “The one who hates Me hates My Father also.” [9] So you can’t say you love the Father and then hate His Son or His children. But nevertheless, the Apostle James says, “it was a happy day for God when He gave us our new lives through the truth of His Word, and we became, as it were, the first children in His new family.” [10]

The Apostle Peter was even more expressive; he wrote, “All honor to God the Father of our Lord Jesus the Anointed One; for it is His boundless mercy that has given us the privilege of being born again so that we are now members of God’s family. Now we live in the hope of eternal life because the Anointed One rose again from the dead.” Then Peter goes on to tell us why this was so important. He writes, “Now you can have a real love for everyone because your souls have been cleansed from selfishness and hatred when you trusted the Anointed One to save you; so, see to it that you do love each other warmly, with all your hearts, for you have a new life. It was not passed on to you from your parents, for the life they gave you will fade away. This new one will last forever, for it comes from the Anointed One, God’s ever-living message to humanity.” [11]

The Apostle John now examines the nature of faith and agápē. They are not separate but joined in word and deed. The Anointed One and other believers are the objects of this divine love. It also involves the witness that we share concerning Him in our lives. Such a witness is necessary to honor Him. It also gives us confidence in our prayers being heard and concerning whom we offer them. Furthermore, faith in the Anointed One is evidence of regeneration that affects the happiness of regenerated Christians and their duty to keep themselves from worshipping idols. It is expressed by those known to be born of God and keep His commandments. And obeying God’s directives is not burdensome. It is simply further proof that we love God.

The first twelve verses of chapter five affirm God’s love, supported by God’s clear testimony about His Son. John shows how the nature of one’s faith gives significance to love. The message of this chapter grows out of the end of chapter four. Spiritual birth rests on the Belief in Jesus as the Messiah. Faith is the only condition for salvation. John refers to Belief three times in this section.[12] He follows this with three pronouncements: Belief’s victory (5:4), Belief’s validity (5:9), and Belief’s vitality (5:11).

The connection between faith and love brings John’s argument to the forefront in this Epistle. It involves love in the family of God. The Greek word Christos (“Christ”) means Messiah, the Anointed One. This title emphasizes His work, especially shedding His blood for our sins and suffering the death penalty.[13] Gnostic heretics had a problem identifying Jesus with “Christos,” the Messiah. Jesus is not only genuinely human, but He is God Almighty. 

The tense of “is born” means the child of God received spiritual birth at some point in the past. The result was meant to continue permanently. Thank God there are no spiritual abortions. The only condition for salvation is believing in the person and work of the Anointed One for the forgiveness of sins. Many of us add things to salvation according to the church denomination to which we belong. Some say that a person must repent, be baptized, or join a church to receive spiritual birth. It adds conditions to salvation that God does not. God’s only condition for salvation is trust or Belief in Jesus and His work.

John uses Belief and love as partners in a close relationship. Divine life inevitably manifests itself in love for God’s family. Genuine love for God stimulates specific responses to His commandments. If a person loves God, they will love His children.[14]  The faithful believer loves the Lord and His family because the Lord provides regeneration. Everyone who has faith in God’s Son’s Incarnation is His child, and everyone who loves God loves all of His children. If God loves those who worship Him, they should love each other because they are spiritual brothers and sisters. You cannot love one without the other. Loving other Christians is evidence of the new birth. Every child of God is entitled to each other’s love because they are birthed into the same heavenly household. They are God’s visible representatives on earth. Like-minded Christians are attracted to each other. Therefore, love starts in the visible Church. If we tell a mother that we do not like her children, we will have a problem. Love for the mother and love for her kids are a package deal. We cannot separate faith and love. One is the source of the other.

In addition, if we wish to show love for our unseen God, we should demonstrate it to God’s visible agents, His children, and members of His family. A fellow Christian is worthy of our love because they possess distinguishing features of God’s children. They feature what non-Christians do not have. Love for God shows itself in active love for His children, not just emotional attachment. We love other Christians best when we respond to God’s command to love. Love for God and His children are essentially obedient to God’s instructions. It is not how we feel about God and other believers but how we choose to relate to them.

This first verse is an argument with several premises but one conclusion. First, it goes without saying that believing in the Incarnation involves having been birthed by God’s Spirit. To be born of God includes loving God, and love for God contains loving His children. So, to believe in the Incarnated One requires loving His children. The KJV translation, “that is begotten of Him,” [15] is not to be misunderstood as related to Anointed One alone but should be read, “born of Him.”

[1] Pyle, Thomas: A Paraphrase on Epistles of the New Testament, op. cit., Vol. II, p. 399

[2] The Living Bible

[3] Quote from Roman playwright Titus Maccius Plautus (254-182 BC), Asinaria, Act 3, Scene 3

[4] Quote from French writer Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) 

[5] John 1:9-13

[6] Ibid. 6:69

[7] Acts of the Apostles 8:36-37

[8] Romans 10:8-9

[9] John 15:23

[10] James 1:18

[11] 1 Peter 1:3, 22-23

[12] 1 John 5:1, 5, 10

[13] Cf. Isaiah 53:5-6

[14] 1 John 4:20-21

[15] Ibid. 5:1b

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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