By Dr. Robert R. Seyda


CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson LXI) 02/06/23

5:10 All who believe this know in their hearts that it is correct. If anyone doesn’t believe this, they say God is lying because they refuse to believe what He said about His Son.

After spiritually analyzing John’s conclusions, Gottfried C. F. Lücke (1791-1855) says that we have the first antithesis in verse ten: “Whoever does not believe God’s testimony concerning His Son, make Him a liar.” The perfect tense “believed not”  is here to be taken not entirely in a present sense since it denotes the isolated act of not believing or not having believed in times past. According to John, one who does not believe rejects God’s testimony when heard and remains an unbeliever.[1]

With systematic theological intellect, Charles Hodge (1797-1878) explains that saving faith does not rest on the testimony of the Church nor the outward evidence of miracles and prophecy. Instead, they base it on their inward testimony of the Spirit with and by the truth in our hearts. Those who have this inward testimony need no other. They do not need to be told by others what truth is; this same anointing convinces them what truth is and that truth contains no lies.

So, Christians were not to believe every spirit. They were to try the spirits whether they were of God. And the test or criterion or trial was the external, authenticated revelation of God, as spiritually discerned and demonstrated by the inward operations of the Spirit. So now, when atheists tell people there is no God, no sin, no retribution, no need of a Savior, or expiation, or faith, that Jesus of Nazareth is not God’s Son manifest in the flesh, they need not listen. Faithful Christians do not need to be told that these are what the Apostle calls lies. They have an inward witness to the truth of God’s record of His Son.[2]

Any claim to infallibility on the part of the Apostles was duly authenticated, not only by the nature of the truths they communicated but also by the power which those truths exerted over the minds and hearts of people and by the inward witness of the Spirit. Miraculous gifts also confirmed it. As soon as the Apostles were endowed with power from on high, they spake in “other tongues;” they healed the sick and restored the lame and the blind. “God also,” as the Apostle says, “bearing them witness, both with signs, and wonders, and with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His will.”[3] The Apostle Paul tells the Corinthians that the signs of an Apostle had been carried out among them “in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.”[4] The mere working of miracles was not evidence of a divine commission as a teacher.[5]

Without using complicated language, Albert Barnes (1798-1870) states that the witness the Apostle John shares here cannot refer to any distinct and immediate revelation that Jesus is the Anointed One. To an individual’s soul, it is not independent of the external evidence of that truth or superseding the necessity of that evidence. The “witness” here referred to is the fruit of all the evidence, external and internal, on the heart, producing this result; that is, a profound conviction of the truth that Jesus is the Son of God. There is also evidence derived from the fact that the soul has found peace by believing in Him. It comes from the fact that the troubles and anxieties of the mind on account of sin have been removed by faith in the Anointed One. It spawned new views of God and heaven which results from faith in the Lord Jesus. The effect of this is disarming death of its terrors, plus the whole influence of the Gospel on the intellect and the affections of the believer’s heart and the life.

These things constitute a mass of evidence for the truth of the Christian religion, whose motivation the believer cannot resist making them ready to sacrifice anything rather than their faith. They are prepared to go to the stake rather than renounce their Savior.[6] They have no interest in making God a liar.[7] The idea is that in various ways – through His baptism, death, and miracles – God became a witness that He sent the Lord Jesus as a Savior. To doubt or deny this exhibits the same character as doubting or denying any other testimony. It was practically charging those who claimed to be witnesses with spreading falsehood.[8] [9]

With impressive theological vision, Richard Rothe (1799-1867) notes that the first clause of verse nine should have been included here to make it clear that God’s witness is an actual testimony and not merely something inferred from a series of reflections. The Apostle John expressly adds that those who believe what God said should realize that God spoke of Himself. John offers it as a reality of which he has experimental knowledge. Therefore, John cannot doubt. But, of course, the unbeliever cannot have such an experience as this witness. John implies that the Spirit he received from God is essential to God’s testimony. It concerns the Anointed One and authenticates the evidence by water and blood. By the Spirit with the believer’s spirit, the witness of God is the object of an experimental certainty.[10]

According to Robert Jamieson (1802-1880), Andrew Fausset (1821-1910), and David Brown’s (1803-1897) way of thinking, the Apostle John’s acclamation that everyone who believes that Jesus is God’s Son and accepts it as accurate is safe. But those fools who refuse to believe that Jesus is God’s Son make God out to be a liar by rejecting what God said about His Son. This is the highest form of faith; because the object has the highest credibility.[11]

With noticeable spiritual comprehension, Henry Cowles (1802-1881) says there is a form of testimony unknown to the ungodly, peculiar to what the Christian has in themselves for every believing soul. They know there is joy and peace in believing, which no delusion could ever give; they know that through Jesus, they have communion with God; they know that for Jesus’ sake, God hears their prayers. They are deeply conscious of the Holy Spirit’s power in connection with certain truths of God’s Word. In this self-conscious, witnessing testimony, they are strangers to God’s intermediation. It lies wholly outside their conscious experience. They will know what it is only when they honestly believe in God’s Son. The last clause of verse ten looks toward external testimonies only. Those who do not believe make God a liar. God’s record as to His Son is clear, explicit, and unmistakable significance. Therefore, those who will not believe this record accuse the witness of speaking falsehoods.[12]

With his lifework well-illustrating, the biblical and reformation ideal of a pastor-theologian Robert S. Candlish (1807-1873) says that all of what the Apostle John says in verse ten is still a question about the faith that overcomes the world.[13] That is a particular function ascribed to trust: the light in which believers regard their beliefs. Doubtless, Gospel faith is the same; no matter what light and process they contemplate, it always has the same object. But the manner of its exercise may not be the same. And therefore, it is to be noted that it is not justifying faith, nor as generally working by love, but faith that arrests worldly living. This faith rests on testimony, as all faith must do.

And the testimony on which it rests is sufficient to sustain it, for it is divine.[14] Human testimony is a trustworthy ground of faith; we rely on it daily and act accordingly, assumed to be confirmed as admitted. But we have what is far better and more convincing than human testimony; we have “the testimony of God.” Humans are fallible and frail; the Psalmist “said in his haste, ‘All men are liars.’”[15] Still, we receive their testimony, and we cannot help it; we must come to a standstill if we do not. How much more confidently may we receive God’s testimony who can neither deceive nor be deceived; who knows all things for He is truth itself. To reject His testimony and refuse to proceed on its faith while we receive and act upon the testimony of mankind is inconsistent and utter folly.

So, will you still refuse to give God credit? Will you still dare to question His sincerity, His being in earnest, when He pleads with you? Will you not believe that He means what He says when He tells you that He is waiting to be gracious in His Son coming by water and blood? You do Him a great injustice by treating Him in a way you would not venture to treat an honorable person. You receive the testimony of others. Is not the testimony of God more remarkable? Is He not entitled to be believed in His simple word, much more in His solemn oath? Is He not one you can trust without constantly testing His faithfulness?

Let there be an end to doubt, hesitancy, halting, and delay. It is insulting to God, making Him a liar. Do not commit so great a sin; do not shut your eyes to its greatness. Consider well how it is not with mere facts of history or the dead letter of books of evidence that you are dealing with the true and living God. Alleged facts you might question, books of evidence you might criticize, without offense to the recorders of the facts or the writers of the books. But here is God, the God of truth, commending to you His Son from heaven and summoning you to believe in His Son on the assurance of His truth. Your refusal to do so is a personal affront; it cannot but be construed as “making Him a liar.”[16]

With an inquiring mind, Daniel D. Whedon (1808-1885) states that since the Spirit gives force and life to the water and blood, by which they become witnesses, He becomes indwelling with three-fold testifying power in the believer’s soul. And as that Spirit is God and truth, we have an inward surety of demonstration far above what other witnesses, or narratives, can impart. The testimony, witness, and record are within us as a divine intuition, possessing the highest possible certainty. The Apostle John gives the unbeliever no chance of saying it is not God who testifies. It is not only a sure testimony, but it is just as sure that the testifier is God. Therefore, if we deny the truth of the testimony, the divine authenticity is impeached. It is a personal issue between God and us. The record and witness are the same Greek noun martyria signifying testimony in all these versesand should have been translated uniformly.[17]

In line with Apostle John’s point, Henry Alford (1810-1871) says that John’s use of the perfect tense “which He has testified” (KJV), “which He has given” (NIV) in verse nine. It shows that God’s witness is not merely historical[18] but is abiding and present. And these verses explain to us what that statement is. “Those who believe in God’s Son have that evidence in them.” The two readings do not differ in meaning. The object of the divine declaration is to produce faith in the Anointed One. John points to those who unceasingly believe in God’s Son is a person who possesses the testimony ‒ which John does not say until verse eleven.

But we can synthetically put together and conjecture what testimony of which John is speaking: the Spirit by whom we are born again to eternal spiritual and eternal Life, the water of baptism by which the new birth brought to pass in us by the power of the Holy Spirit,[19] the blood of Jesus by which we have reconciliation with God, and purification from our sins,[20] and eternal life.[21] These three contribute to and make up our faith in the Anointed One, composing that testimony, which the Apostle designates here in verse eleven.

Not only that, it is the resting trust of faith: this is the mere first step of giving credit to a witness. Thus, it is assumed that one who does not believe in the Son of God gives no credit to God and makes Him a liar. That’s because the state of disrepute implies a definite rejection continuing. Hence, the expression “because he has not believed in[22] is a shameful rejection of God’s word and a refusal to rely on God’s testimony concerning His Son.[23]

As a faithful and zealous scholar, William Graham (1810-1883) asks what the Apostle John means by, “He that believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself?”[24] It may mean, says Graham, “The believer has the witness-bearer in himself.” In this sense, it is parallel with “For the Spirit, itself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.”[25] By the very act of believing, he has the evidence of the presence of the witness-bearer. Nevertheless, it seems to be different from the testimony given by the Fruit of the Spirit and the good deeds of a righteous life, for the Spirit bears witness through our spirit, but with our spirit, that we are the children of God.”[26] With the zeal of a scriptural text examiner, William E. Jelf (1811-1875) claims that believers have an impression of the truth that arises from and adds to their faith besides the external evidence. Faith over and above its foundation is a witness to itself. The interpreters of one of the extreme schools take these words to mean – “those who believe in the Anointed One has in themselves, in their experience, evidence of the Anointed One’s work on and in them.” But there is no mention of this work here, but that to which testimonies of various kinds are directed ‒ the Anointed One’s Divinity.

[1] Lücke, Gottfried C. F., A Commentary on the Epistles of St. John, op. cit., p. 275

[2] Hodge, Charles: Systematic Theology, Vol. 1, op. cit., Mysticism has no Foundation in the Scriptures, p.99

[3] Hebrews 2:4

[4] 2 Corinthians 2:12

[5] Hodge, Charles. Systematic Theology, Vol. 1, op. cit., The Testimony of Paul, pp. 162-163

[6] See 1 Peter 3:15

[7] 1 John 1:10; 5:10

[8] Romans 8:16

[9] Barnes, Albert: New Testament Notes, op. cit., 1 John 5, pp 4884-4885

[10] Rothe, Richard: Exposition of the First Epistle of St. John, op. cit., The Expository Times, May 1895, p. 374

[11] Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, New Testament Volume, op. cit., p. 730

[12] Cowles, Henry: The Gospel and Epistles of John, op. cit., pp. 356-357

[13] 1 John 5:4-5

[14] Ibid. 5:9

[15] Psalm 116:11

[16] Candlish, Robert S., The First Epistle of John Expounded in a Series of Lectures, op. cit., Lecture XXXIX, p. 475-486

[17] Whedon, Daniel D., Commentary on the New Testament, op. cit., p. 279

[18] Matthew 3:17

[19] John 3:5; Titus 3:5

[20] 1 John 1:7; 2:2

[21] John 6:53

[22] See 1 John 1:10

[23] Alford, Henry: The Greek Testament, op. cit., Vol. IV, pp. 506-507

[24] 1 John 5:10

[25] Romans 8:16

[26] Graham, William: The Spirit of Love, op. cit., pp. 326-327

About drbob76

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