WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson IX) 10/06/22

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.

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 God’s children, who confess that Jesus is the Anointed One, are to love each other. There are two parallel statements in verse one that begins with “Everyone 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 center 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.

To have such faith, says Thompson, is to possess the same trust children have in their parents. And they have such confidence because of their experience of the faithfulness and love of their parents for them. So, the call for faith and the call for love is one. Although John repeatedly emphasizes the importance of Christian love for each other, that obligation is not randomly obligatory. Instead, the call to love comes from God’s very nature, who is love, who loves us and encourages, commands, and empowers us to love. Indeed, God’s saving Word is at heart a work of love, for it brings us into a household of brotherly and sisterly relationships, in which Jesus is the foundation. So, we are called to trust in the God who is Love. For John, God as Love is not some romantic idea or an opportunity to show off: it is the ultimate truth.[1]

Peter Pett (1966) states that those with genuine faith who believe in Jesus the Anointed One who was crucified and resurrected as God’s Son are God-born. Pause for a moment to consider the wonder of that. They have received a new life; they are a new creation.[2] As a result, they received a life of such quality as “eternal life.” And it is understood that we will love Him. But, says John, if we love the One Who birthed us, we will also love those to whom He has given birth. For they are one with us in the Anointed One, they share the same life as we do, they are our spiritual brothers and sisters, and our future is tied together.[3]

Duncan Heaster (1967), a Christadelphian,[4] agrees that whoever believes that Jesus is the Anointed One is born of God, and whoever loves Him that gives birth loves those also to whom He has given the identical birth. Heaster notes that the phrase “born of” implies the initiative was with the birth giver. The conception is through the Holy Spirit, activated by water baptism and accepting Jesus as the Anointed One, the Messiah, God’s Son.[5] So I would read this, says Heaster, to mean that belief in Jesus as the Anointed One precedes the birth through the Spirit. Admittedly, however, the grammar also implies that being birth of God (by the Spirit) results in belief in Jesus as the Anointed One. He is the prime mover in our spiritual birth, and we are the objects of such conception rather than the prime movers. Being God’s born-again children makes us spiritual brothers and sisters with His only begotten Son. We naturally love the Father who birthed us, yet we cannot love God vertically without horizontally loving those others He birthed. For His Spirit has worked in many other lives apart from ours, bringing even the most challenging and uncooperative of our fellow believers likewise to be God’s birthed children. And as explained throughout chapter four, we cannot claim to have any love for God if we don’t love His children.[6]

Karen H. Jobes (1968) states that anyone coming into faith in the Anointed One is born again as a child into the Father’s family.[7] This faith in the Anointed One produces love for God the Father, “the birth-giver.” Thus, a person who loves the Father also loves all His children. This statement builds on the idea that Jesus the Anointed One, the Son of God, is the begotten of the Father.[8] Still, John uses this Christological point to argue that all who have come to faith in the Anointed One are also children of the Father to be likewise loved. It is striking that Christian believers are brought into a relationship with the Father described in the same terms as a child’s relationship with a father. This distinction is clear when John refers to Jesus as God’s Son and all believers as His children. Therefore, anyone who loves God necessarily loves a God who births offspring and gives birth to love others who like oneself.” In fact, not loving one’s fellow believers is evidence that one has not truly been born of God.[9] [10]

5:2 How do we know that we love God’s children? We know because we love God, and we obey His commands.

EXPOSITION

The Apostle John agrees that love is an act of one’s will to obey God’s will. When you turn the opposite ends of a magnet toward each other, they need not decide whether they like each other or even appeal to each other; a power within them automatically draws them together. John says that this same power within believers is love. It was one of Jesus’ last messages to His disciples before being arrested and crucified. With this in mind, John begins his second test – the Test of Love.

Our Lord had the same word of advice after washing the disciple’s feet, “I give you a new command: Love each other. You must love each other just as I loved you. So, all people will know that you are my followers if you love each other.[11] And our Master had every right to give this commandment because He tells them emphatically, “You did not choose me. I chose you. And I gave you this work: to go and produce fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you anything you ask for in my name. So just in case, his readers didn’t get the full impact of what he was saying, John, added: “This is My command: Love each other.[12]  

The Apostle did not say these words as an impromptu comment. Instead, he heard the Savior when He told His disciples that He was giving them a new commandment, that they “love one another” as much as He loved them. Jesus gave them this command because it had a significant purpose. Loving one another with unbreakable love would prove to the world that they were His true disciples. And to show them that this was not a one-time rule, the Master repeated it again and again.[13]

Another mark noted in verse one by which we can test our love towards our fellow believers is that faith in the Incarnation involves His love. Here in verse two, obedience to God is the test. Obeying God proves love for Him, which requires loving His children. Let us note that the first twelve verses of chapter five explain the importance of the witness of God. God bears clear testimony about His Son. John also shows how the nature of one’s faith gives significance to love. In fact, the message of chapter five grows out of the end of chapter four.[14]

Another critical thing John told us is that spiritual birth rests on the trust that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah. Therefore, it makes faith the only condition for salvation. John refers to belief three times in this section:[15]  It gives victory (5:4), It provides validity (5:9), and It brings vitality (5:11)

The connection between belief and love brings John’s argument to a meaningful point in his epistle. It involves love in God’s family. Meanwhile, the Greek word “Christus” means the Messiah, “the Anointed One.” This name emphasizes His ministry, especially His shedding of blood for our sins. He died holding our sins next to His heart. Isaiah speaks of the Messiah in this regard.[16] The Gnostic heretics had a problem identifying the son of man, Jesus, with the Son of God, the Messiah, because Jesus is not only human but also divine.[17]

We also see that the phrase “born of God” occurs seven times in John’s epistle[18] and three times in this verse.[19] All born-again people have the nature of God residing in them. It is spiritual life from God. If we have the life of God in us, we will naturally love God’s family. When the Scripture says, “is born,” it means spiritually made alive at a point in the past, with the results continuing permanently. So, what principle do we find here? The only condition for salvation is faith in the person and work of the Anointed One for our redemption from sin.

How, then, do we apply this to our Christian lives? According to their declaration of faith, many people and churches add additional things to assure salvation. For example, some say that a person must repent at an altar, be baptized in a certain way, and join the church to receive spiritual birth. Such opinions add conditions to the plan of salvation that God never required; God’s only prerequisite for redemption is to trust Jesus and His sacrifice on the Cross and resurrection from the dead.

On another occasion, Jesus talked to the Jewish Rabbi Nicodemus and told him that with all the earnestness He possessed, unless he submitted to being born again, he could never get into the Kingdom of God.  Born again!” exclaimed Nicodemus. “What do you mean? How can an old man return to his mother’s womb and be born again?”  Jesus said, listen to what I’m trying to tell you; unless a person is born of water and the Spirit, they cannot become part of God’s Kingdom. Humankind can only reproduce human life, but the Holy Spirit gives spiritual life from heaven, so don’t be surprised at my statement that you must be born again! Just as you can hear the wind but not see it, the same is true of God’s Spirit. We do not know on whom He will place this blessing from heaven until it arrives.


[1] Thompson, Marianne M., The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, 1-3 John, op. cit., pp. 129, 132

[2] 2 Corinthians 5:17

[3] Pett, Peter: Commentary on the Bible, 1 John, op. cit., loc cit.

[4] Christadelphians regard themselves as Christians but don’t accept some mainstream Christian doctrine. For example, they believe God is not a Trinity but the single being God the Father. They believe that Jesus Christ was (and is) the Son of God but was also a man as he was born of a woman, though this birth was miraculous. They believe that the Holy Spirit is the power of God. They believe that Jesus now lives in Heaven but will return to the earth to set up God’s Kingdom. All those who have believed and been baptized will be raised to be judged by Jesus. Those who are found worthy will live in the Kingdom forever; those who are not, or those who have not been raised, will stay dead forever. They are a millennial church and believe that Jesus will co-exist on earth with his followers for a thousand years (the millennium) before the ultimate battle of Armageddon. Due to their interpretation of prophecies and, in particular, the Olivet Prophecy, they believe that the day of Jesus’ return will be soon. The Olivet Prophecy describes the signs that Christadelphians believe indicate the return of Jesus. The signs of His return are described by Jesus in Matthew 24 and 25, Mark 13, and Luke 21 and include war, famine, “men’s hearts failing them for fear,” and people being more interested in themselves than in God. Christadelphians believe these signs have been fulfilled and that Jesus will soon return.

[5] John 3:3-5

[6] Heaster, Duncan, The New European Christadelphian Commentary: op. cit., The Letters of John, pp. 67-68

[7] Cf. 1 John 2:29; 3:9

[8] Ibid. 5:18

[9] 1 John 2:9–11; 3:9–10, 14–17; 4:20

[10] Jobes, Karen H., 1, 2, and 3 John (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on The New Testament Series Book 18), op. cit., p. 208

[11] John 13:34-35

[12] Ibid. 15:16-17

[13] Ibid. 15:12, 17

[14] 1 John 4:20-21

[15] Ibid. 5:1, 5, 10

[16] Isaiah 53:5-6

[17] John 20:30-31

[18] 1 John 3:9; 4:7

[19] Ibid. 5:1, 4, 18

About drbob76

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