By Dr. Robert R Seyda


CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson VIII) 10/05/22

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.

Ben Witherington III (1951) sees the Apostle John returning a basic definition of the Christian doctrine that Jesus is the Anointed One. Having this faith is evidence that a person is born of God. Notice once more that “Christus” is used here as a Jewish title, not a name, and as such, it reflects one of the earliest confessions made about Jesus when the Church only existed in the Holy Land.[1] We suppose this demonstrates the controversy between the two groups John has in mind. In that case, it points to the fact that some denied Jesus’ testimony about Himself that He shared during His ministry.[2] It put them on the same path as the Jews who rejected Jesus and His mission. It offers us more supporting evidence here that Jews who left the community were rebels in this case.

Witherington then summarizes their denials (1) Jesus is the Messiah; (2) Jesus is God’s Son incarnated; (3) Jesus’ death was actual, all-important, and atoning. If this is correct, then those who split from the Church denied the preexistence and divinity of God’s Son and the Messianic aspects of His humanity. They were not Christians on either score. Nevertheless, John does believe that there is any intellectual content in his demand for faith. It is something one must understand Jesus correctly to have a saving relationship with Him.[3]

Judith Lieu (1951) points out that the inseparable bond between love for God and siblings relies on fundamental truths. The Apostle John described believers as being born from God, not by their effort but by God’s birthing power.[4] The opening words (“every one who. . . “) either come from the same source or are used as a model. Although the birthing image points to the individual and their relationship with God, it carries a sense of accompaniment. Such a figure of speech focuses on those who also owe their spiritual life to God’s birthing power more than the language of indwelling or possessing, which can restrict any focus on the individual.

The argument might appear that anyone who loves God loves the God who births born-again offspring. Consequently, it supports an undeniable truth that the love of others, like oneself, is birthed by God. Not realizing this reality would be failing to love the God who brought about one’s spiritual birth. The Apostle John does not see believers as merely a family, ordered to love one another. Nor does he use the language of “brothers” alongside birthing because he knows that brotherly relationships are not necessarily loving any believers.[5] God mediated the horizontal brother-to-brother, sister-to-sister, and brother-to-sister relationship. It is as “children of God” believers love those also born of God, not as newly discovered spiritual brothers or sisters. [6]

Gary M. Burge (1952) believes it is critical to include the first four verses of chapter five as a part of any discussion on his first epistle. John does not change the subject but gives it a different distinction. In verse one, we learn that making a meaningful confession of faith is evidence of rebirth. In other places, instead of “confession,” the evidence is “love.”[7] Then elsewhere, it is “obedience.”[8] Verse one also adds a general principle, which, unfortunately, we often miss that loving the One who gave us new life means loving all those He birthed. The Apostle John may have something specific in mind. If you love your parents, surely you will love their other children. Or, again, if you love God (as a parent), you will love all His children (including Jesus). Therefore, using a family metaphor, John is broadening the ethical challenge. God has many children. To love Him – or to love Jesus – demands that we also love God’s other children.[9]

Bruce B. Barton (1954) advises that to discern whether a person is a genuine Christian, one needs to look at what that person truly believes about Jesus the Anointed One. The true believer openly accepts that Jesus is the Anointed One. To “believe” means to put one’s trust and confidence in, to be convinced of, the truth. To believe in Jesus as “the Anointed One” means to trust Him as God’s Messiah and have faith in Him. It means being convinced that Jesus of Nazareth was God’s only Son and that God’s Spirit-anointed Him to preach the Gospel, heal the sick, raise the dead, die on the cross for sin, and rise from the dead to become the Savior.[10] The Greek verb tenses, notes Barton, indicate that belief is the result, not the cause, of the new birth. The continuing activity of believing proves that a person is God-born. By believing this, they become true Christians. Likewise, having faith that Jesus is God’s Anointed One must produce love for God and fellow Christians. As a result, we must not separate these two key elements. The new birth nurtures the transformation in believers.

Therefore, all who accept Jesus as the Anointed One are spiritual brothers and sisters in Him. So, no matter where these people live, what their race is, the different languages they speak, or their thoughts about other biblical issues (such as the Rapture, the millennial kingdom, speaking in tongues, baptism, eternal punishment, and so on), they are genuine children of God. Believers should love all those who share the same faith in Jesus as the Anointed One. They have the same Father, and everyone who loves the Father loves His children. Christians are a part of God’s family, with fellow believers as spiritual brothers and sisters. God determines who the other family members are. Believers are simply called to accept and love them because they love God.[11]

Daniel L. Akin (1957) reemphasizes that the regenerated new birth brings us into a special relationship with God as Father. He’s the One who loved us first so we could understand love to Him and others with the same kind of Love.[12] This gift of Love is what He did for us to bring us into union with the Anointed One.[13] However, we not only love the Father, but we also love the family the Father is building. We will treasure our spiritual brothers and sisters who are born of Him.[14] But John then makes an interesting statement in verse two that seems out of order at first. He says we can “know that we love God’s children when we love God and obey His commands.” But is this backward? Shouldn’t the Apostle John say that we know we love God because we love His children?

I don’t think so, says Akin. John’s point is grounded in Jesus’ teaching on two great commandments.[15] To begin with, my love for others is the natural complement and companion to my “first love” for God. So, when I love God, I keep His commands. And following His teachings involves loving others, His daughters and sons in particular. Furthermore, verse three informs us that obeying the command to love one another will not be burdensome. On the contrary, it will be a joy and a delight because the new birth makes it the natural thing to do. And our love for the Father inspires and motivates us to love those He loves and to love them as He loves us.[16]

Bruce G. Schuchard (1958) implies that verse one is the first of three strategically situated references to “Jesus,” together with two similar references to Him as the “Anointed One.” It also highlights the passage’s goal of upholding the importance of faith in the man Jesus as the Anointed One, God’s Son. The first of these references to those born of God asserts that to believe that Jesus is the Anointed One is to be born of God. Thus, born “not of blood, nor the will of the flesh, nor the human will, but of God,”[17] means you accept Jesus as God’s Anointed One whom He raised from the dead.[18] Therefore, it is not possible apart from the Son nor from “the originator and source from above, who gives birth[19] that we might believe. And everyone who loves the one who has given birth loves the one who is born of him.

Again, Schuhard notes, faith and love go hand in hand. John refers to God as “the One who gives birth.” John also assumes that those born of God will naturally love the One to whom they owe their existence. The second of these three references[20] is to the one born of God.[21] It further amplifies the meaning of faith and love. To believe, then, means one is born of God. To be born of God is to love Him and those who owe their existence to Him who birthed us all. To love in such a way is to be in the family of God.[22]

David Guzik (1961) sees that the Apostle John’s great emphasis has been on love, but he never wants anyone to believe they earn salvation by loving others. We are born of God when we trust Jesus and in His saving work in our lives. We also understand that John was not talking about mere intellectual assent to Jesus being the Messiah (as even the demons might have).[23] Instead, he means trusting and relying on Jesus as the Messiah. Additionally, John makes it plain we must believe Jesus is the Anointed One. Many with new-age thinking believe Jesus had the “Anointed One’s spirit” – as they also claim, Confucius, Mohammed, Buddha, and certain moderns did too. But we would never say Jesus “has” the Anointed One – Jesus is the Anointed One.

This is the Christians’ common ground, says Guzik, not race, class, culture, language, or anything except for an exceptional birth through Jesus the Anointed One and the joint Lordship of Jesus. Thus, to love all others in God’s family means that you do not limit your love to your church or group, your social or financial status, your race, your political perspective, or your exact theological persuasion. If any of these things mean more to you than your shared salvation and Lordship of Jesus the Anointed One, then something needs fixing. Parents become frustrated and even disgusted when their children fight and hate one another. How must God feel when He sees His children fight among themselves?[24]

Marianne Meye Thompson (1964) hears the Apostle John tell us that God commands us to love. Whether speaking of our love for God or others, love exemplifies His divine will for humanity since God is love. Therefore, all who are God’s children, who confess Jesus as the Anointed One, are to love each other as He did them. There are two parallel statements in verse one that begin with “every one who.” One points to the importance of faith in Jesus, the other to the significance of loving each other. These are not two separate commands that a believer must keep to become a child of God; instead, they are two expressions of what the child of God does. Faith and love are each an expression of God’s work in a person’s life. Each centers on the person of Jesus the Anointed One. It’s because our faith is in Jesus as God’s Messiah, who provides the fundamental manifestation of God’s love for us.

[1] See Acts of the Apostles 11:26

[2] Cf. John 5:18

[3] Witherington, Ben III, Letters and Homilies for Hellenized Christians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on Titus, 1-2 Timothy and 1-3 John, op. cit., loc. cit., Kindle Edition

[4] John 1:13; see Leviticus 19:34

[5] 1 John 3:12

[6] Lieu, Judith: The New Testament Library, I II & III John, op. cit., pp. 199-200

[7] 1 John 4:7

[8] Ibid. 2:29; 3:9

[9] Burge, Gary M., The Letters of John (The NIV Application Commentary), op. cit., pp. 191-192

[10] Cf. Matthew 10:7-8

[11] Barton, Bruce B., 1, 2, & 3 John (Life Application Bible Commentary), op. cit., pp. 105-106

[12] 1 John 4:19

[13] Ibid. 4:10

[14] Ibid. 5:1

[15] Matthew 22:36-40

[16] Akin, Dr. Daniel L., Exalting Jesus in 1,2,3 John (Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary), op. cit., loc. cit., Kindle Edition

[17] John 1:13

[18] Ibid. 1:10-12

[19] John 3:3

[20] 1 John 5:14

[21] See also ibid. 5:1, 4

[22] Schuchard, Bruce G., Concordia Commentary, 1-3 John, op. cit., p. 522

[23] James 2:19

[24] Guzik, David: Enduring Word, 1,2 & 3 John & Jude, op. cit., pp. 86-87 

About drbob76

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