By Dr. Robert R Seyda


CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson V) 09/30/22

5:1 If you believe that Jesus is the Anointed One – 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.

William Kelly (1822-1888) mentions another relationship of more profound significance than loving one’s spiritual brother or sister in general but individually. How are they related to God? It is essential to have an answer from God to this question, “Who is my brother?” Many sincere and devoted individuals in the Apostle John’s congregation seem to have difficulty answering this. Undoubtedly, the scattering of God’s children, who once resided in one area like Antioch, adds to the perplexity. Are my fellow believers only those who compose the same congregation? The answer is, “No!” God expects our love to go out into the community, whether right or wrong. Other spiritual communities may have different doctrines or ordinances. But when they share the same beliefs, the present state of disharmony in the church is a reproach on God and makes the path slippery for most. The reason is that it may feel they are the ones who are correct instead of looking to God’s Word and Spirit for guidance. Undoubtedly, the Spirit is grieved[1] by the confusion and disorder in holiness matters. That opens the danger of swerving from His will.[2]

William Burt Pope (1822-1903) states that faith in Jesus as the Anointed One is, in verse one, the only one the Apostle John ever gives. It is that divinely fashioned trust in the work the Holy Spirit produces through the person of Jesus. Though he does not say so here, John will mention that the Spirit certifies this work. The exact link between faith and regeneration is left untouched. The argument is similar in content and meaning elsewhere,[3] but in verse one, John emphasizes loving one another as a requirement.[4]

Daniel Steele (1824-1914) states that what the Apostle John says here is more than a casual assent to the truth of the doctrines and claims in the life of the Anointed One. Such reliance upon His person for salvation causes us to abandon every other hope and plea to enthrone Him as the supreme Lawgiver. True faith embraces permission, consent, and trust. It also requires our intellectual approval, sensibilities, and complete submission of the will.

The perfect tense in the Greek verb gennaō implies the continuous effectiveness of this spiritual change. Thus, faith and love are inseparable. The Apostle James expresses the same sentiment respecting those who profess to have faith without the fruitage of Love.[5] It is natural. The love for God and the children of God do, in fact, include each other, just like sodium and chloride must be joined to make salt. It is equally valid if we reverse the order and say, “they who love the children of God love God.” Either form is suitable as the foundation or conclusion of the argument.

Here’s a little logic for you: Upon conception, children inherit the image of their parents. No one can love their parents and yet hate their photographs. True Christians are more or less perfect representations of God’s moral character. In logic, this verse is called an “irregular sorites.”[6] Here’s how it reads: “Every child of God believes in His Incarnate Son. Every child of God loves their heavenly Father. The heavenly Father loves all His children. Therefore, every believer who believes in God’s Incarnate Son, who loves their heavenly Father who loves His children are a child of God who loves God’s children.”This verse demonstrates that the Father’s agápē is the source of love for His children, not the reverse.[7]

Brooke F. Westcott (1825-1901) finds that the transition from chapter four lies in the thought of brotherhood. Brotherhood emerged because of the sensitivity concerning the revelation of the Anointed One given by God. It is not an arbitrary command that those who love God also love their fellow Christians. They must do so. They consciously share the principle of their new being with every spiritual brother and sister. The Apostle John uses the Greek verb pisteuō (“believe”) here, but in 1 John 3:23, it expresses a belief in the truth of the revelation as to the Anointed One. In 1 John 4:16, pisteuō describes the general position with regard to the Divine purpose. And here, in verse one, pisteuō presents that belief in a direct and personal form. It not only admits an intellectual truth but enters into a direct relationship with the powers of a spiritual order. The assumption is that the child will love the Author of their being spiritually alive. Love follows directly from life. In this spiritual connection, love must be directed to the Character, not the Person, apart from their character. Therefore, it follows that it extends to all those to whom God’s nature is communicated.[8]

The Rev. Jacob Isidor Mombert (1829-1913) was born in Cassel, Germany. A Christian convert from Judaism, he was ordained a deacon in London by the Archbishop of Canterbury and began ministering in Quebec, Canada. As a scholarly man and gifted linguist, the University of Pennsylvania conferred a Doctor of Divinity Degree on him. In examining this verse, Mombert says that the only limitation on “salvation for all” is believing and faith. And although someone’s faith may be weak and immature, as long as it is sincere (subjective), and genuine (objective), it will suffice. This belief involves knowledge, inclination, yielding, and trust to create an opening for receiving. Consequently, only a child of God believes in Jesus as the Son of God.[9]

Henry A. Sawtelle (1832-1913) amplifies that “Whoever believes (from the heart, from the center of being, with a faith that is a part of one’s self) that Jesus is the Anointed One (the one prophesied and anointed of God) is born (or birthed) of God, and “from,” or “out of” God’s nature, by the Holy Spirit, becomes a child in God’s family.”[10] The Apostle John presents the object to be loved in the light of its true nature. For everyone who loves Him that God birthed also loves others, He birthed – that is, God’s children who are of one Spirit with Him. John establishes this fact; if we love God, we also love all in union with Him. Hence, we love our spiritual brothers and sisters who have His nature. It is an argument previously implied [11] but restated here in certain words that we may certainly know who the believers are to be loved and the divine reason for loving them. Does anyone know the full impact of believing in Jesus by tracing out the profound truths and facts involved in that beautiful description applied to Him as the Anointed One of God? Also, note the importance of this verse proving the relationship of regeneration to faith. Shining like the sun; believing is the action of the regenerate heart. So then, you see the activity of belief and know that regeneration is its source.[12]

John James Lias (1834-1923) notes different wording in verse one: “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Messiah has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father also loves the One born of Him.” These words are in close connection with what was said before. Though they lead to the definition of the place of faith in the Christian scheme, this definition, nevertheless, according to the subtle law of development characteristic of the Apostle John’s Epistle and Gospel, flows gradually and indiscernibly from the thought with which the last chapter concludes. Here’s how it unfolds: It is a fundamental principle of the Gospel that each disciple should love their spiritual brothers and sisters. And why? Because each is the possessor of a new life, coming directly from God. We are to love our fellow Christians because every believer shares the gift of the supernatural life.[13]

The next question is regarding the meaning of the Greek verb pisteuō (“believed”). In 1 John 3:23, it’s coupled with love. However, it does not represent in any sense the channel through which love flows. It involves the recognition of Jesus the Anointed One and complete trust and confidence in Him as Savior. But there is no specific definition of its character. So then, in 1 John 4:16, it is even more restricted but fuller in scope. It is not belief in God or the Anointed One, but His love. It is indeed connected immediately with the assertion that love is His essence. But what we are in that passage specially asked to contemplate is the action of God towards us, as witnessed by our experience. However, here in verse one, says Lias, the nature of faith is made clear. It accepts the truth that Jesus is the Anointed One, and this, of course, involves all the doctrinal statements of chapter four. Those who believe that Jesus is the Anointed One believe in Him as the personal manifestation of God in human form.[14]

John James Lias (1834-1923) states that faith is not the cause but the consequence of the new birth. This statement might be viewed as a paradox, so firmly is it believed by many that faith is the necessary condition of the “new birth.” But the paradox is asserted here. No better interpretation fits John’s words than this, “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Anointed One has already been born anew from God.” In other words, faith is not the cause but the effect of the new birth. So, the Apostle Paul thinks it necessary to caution us that “Salvation” is not our work but God’s; faith is not achieved by claiming to be a Christian. Instead, it is a Divine gift and the dynamic that makes salvation work.

Many in our day want to earn salvation and the new birth through a person’s actions, not God’s. So, first, a person believes, and then God operates. The opposite is the case. With the spiritual, as with the natural life, the divinely given seed is the first starting point, which gathers shape and form by God’s holy laws. Wildlife develops according to the law of Nature. If it grows, the spiritual life develops according to a spirit of faith. Faith is undoubtedly a person’s “response to their environment” to use modern scientific language. But even that power is God’s gift. Humans have nothing beyond their free will, which accept or reject what God offers them.[15]

Augustus Hopkins Strong (1836-1921) states that the Church’s doctrine on faith is a necessary outgrowth of the doctrine of regeneration. This fundamental spiritual change is mediated not by external applications but by internal and conscious reception of the Anointed One and His truth. As such, union with the Church logically follows, not precedes, the soul’s spiritual partnership with the Anointed One. We have seen that God’s family is the body of the Anointed One. We now perceive that the Church is made a living body with duties and powers of its own by the impartation to it of the Anointed One’s life. A. J. Gordon emphasizes that the church, a voluntary association of believers united for worship and edification, is most inadequate, if not incorrect.[16] It is no more accurate than that hands and feet are voluntarily united in the human body for movement and work. The Church is formed internally. The Anointed One, present through the Holy Spirit, regenerating people by the sovereign action of the Spirit and organizing them around Himself as the living center, is the only principle that can explain the existence of the Church. Therefore, the Head and the body are One – both in fact and name.[17] [18]

[1] Isaiah 63:10; Philippians 4:30; 1 Thessalonians 5:19

[2] Kelly, William: An Exposition of the Epistles of John the Apostle, op. cit., p. 346

[3] See 1 John 4:20

[4] William Burt Pope: The International Illustrated Commentary on the New Testament, Philip Schaff (Ed.), op. cit., pp. 36-37

[5] James 2:26

[6] An instance of a form of reasoning in which a conclusion is drawn (whether validly or not) from two given or assumed propositions (premises), each of which shares a term with the conclusion and shares a common or middle term not present in the conclusion. For example, all believers are Christians; all Christians are born again; therefore, all believers are born again.

[7] Steele, Daniel: Half-Hours with St. John’s Epistles, op. cit., loc., cit.

[8] Westcott, Brooke F., The Epistles of St. John Greek Text with Notes, op. cit., pp. 176-177

[9] Mombert, Jacob Isidor: John Peter Lange, First Epistle of John, op. cit., Vo. IX, p. 158

[10] The American Amplified Version (1964) reads: Everyone who believes [with a deep, abiding trust in the fact] that Jesus is the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed) is born of God [that is, reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, and set apart for His purpose], and everyone who loves the Father also loves the child born of Him.

[11] 1 John 4:20

[12] Sawtelle, Henry A: Commentary on the Epistles of John, op. cit., p. 54

[13] John 1:12-13

[14] Lias, John James: The First Epistle of St. John with Exposition, op. cit., pp. 352-356

[15] Ibid. With Homiletical Treatment, op. cit., pp. 349-350

[16] Gordon, A. J., The Ministry of the Spirit, American Baptist Publication Society, Philadelphia, 1894, p. 53

[17] 1 Corinthians 12:12

[18] Strong, Augustus H., Systematic Theology, Vol. 3, op. cit., pp. 212-213

About drbob76

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