By Dr. Robert R. Seyda


CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson LXII) 02/07/23

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.

On the other hand, those who reject God’s external and internal evidence insist that God is a liar. We must observe that John is not speaking of an absolute infidel who rejects Christianity altogether as a myth, but one who, accepting Christianity as a Divine revelation, refuses to receive the Anointed One as God’s Son. Now, as the miraculous facts of our Savior’s life, which they must accept if they receive anything, bear witness to the Divine nature of the Anointed One, they, by disbelieving that doctrine, make out that God, Who sent these signs and wonders, did so to deceive humanity, thereby labeling as truth that which is not valid. The witness God gave to the Divine nature of His Son is evident on the face of the Gospel, and, if it is not believed, it implies that God has given false testimony.[1]

After checking the text closely, Richard H. Tuck (1817-1868) states that this witness in oneself is in two ways – having the permanently abiding Spirit and in a personal experience. Thus, failure to trust a person is really to declare them untrustworthy and, therefore, a liar.[2]

After observing the Apostle John’s attention to detail, John Stock (1817-1884) responds to what the Apostle John says here: God’s Word has not returned to Him void[3] but prospered among those who received it. The human heart generates it – which the Lord opens – as in Lydia’s case.[4] Then a person’s pride is brought low; they take the subservient position and confessors of their sin and the blessed Savior. Finally, the atonement is received, and he rejoices in God4: peace and love, thanksgiving and the voice of Good News, something strange in the lonely heart – once like a dark and fruitless wilderness.[5]

God is adored, and believers are blessed5. Satan, the enchanter, darkener, usurper, liar, and murderer, is cast out; and they are awed by their escape and the grace of God in the Anointed One, Jesus. Our blessed Lord promised the Holy Spirit to them that came to Him, which should be in them as a well of water springing up unto eternal life.[6] The ever-blessed Spirit then becomes the inmate of the human soul and one with it in an inexplicable way. Those who joined to the Lord are of one spirit.[7] The Spirit of God who leads[8] dwells in each believer,[9] and bears witness with their spirit that they are God’s child;[10] and an heir of God, and a joint-heir with the Anointed One.[11]

John reiterates that the Anointed One and His Church are united, and His Holy Spirit actuates every member of His body into eternity. The Holy Spirit is not inactive in the human heart: hence the new creatureship, the delight in devotion, the understanding of the things of the Spirit – which are foolishness to the natural man – the power over indwelling sin and outward temptation, and the perseverance in well-doing. Hence, unspeakable comforts and God’s consolations are not small to them that reverence Him and walk in the comforting presence of the Holy Spirit. In all this, the internal witness to the existence and deity of the Anointed One is operating. It springs out of a vital faith in Him ‒ by which the simplest is made more potent than the shrewd opponent of our most holy faith, and has an internal perception that the Lord exists, is everywhere present, is gracious and mighty to save. So they can say with the youth, “I was once blind, but now I can see,”[12] and needs no one to convince them of the existence of the Son (Sun) of Righteousness – whose rays gladden their heart and forever heals their soul5.[13]

With an inquiring spiritual mind, Johannes H. A. Ebrard (1819-1893) points out that this testimony, as given in the past, does not altogether end the matter. Those who believe in God’s Son have God’s testimony, externally in the evangelical narrative or something belonging to the past and internally as an active and influential power. The like and selfsame testimony once uttered by God, “This is My beloved Son,” approves itself as established in believers. At the same time, it mightily demonstrates its power within us, as we see in verse eleven. On the other hand, those who do not believe the historical and sure testimony God offered to His Son are not excused but remain guilty. Those who reject God’s witness are treating Him like a liar.[14] Those who do not distinguish the Perfect tense in verse nine from the Present tense in verses seven and eight are not in a position to interpret the Apostle John’s thoughts in verse ten.[15]

After contemplating John’s train of thought, William Kelly (1822-1888) declares that whatever the state of Christendom is, God’s Word remains forever faithful and applicable to the Christian, “He that believes … has the witness in himself.” Were the believer in a land where he could enjoy no fellowship with saints, where he had no opportunity to hear a Christian teacher, where he knew of not a single brother in the Lord, the Son of God on whom he believes remains just the same; and he has the witness in himself as assuredly as if surrounded with every Christian privilege possible on earth. He is not dependent on anyone under the sun; he has the Son.

How profoundly wise and gracious is this witness on God’s part! For in such a case, how many might cry out? What audacious presumption! But “he that believes has the witness in himself,” says God. The audacity is in the infidelity which rejects it: “He that does not believe God has called Him a liar because he has not believed God’s witness concerning His Son.” What could be worse than that? It is bad enough to lie about oneself, like a full-blown Brahmin[16] saying that he had not sinned, though it gives the lie to the word. It is worse, not negatively only but positively, to make God a liar, which everyone who rejects God’s witness to His Son, the Anointed One.[17]

Familiar with John’s writing style, William B. Pope (1822-1903) advises that the testimony in verse ten has become subjective: the “three agree in one” within the believer’s consciousness. In other words, the believer has – for we must anticipate – eternal life within them. It came from the Spirit received by the Anointed One for us at His baptism, the release from the condemnation of death through His blood, and the Holy Spirit effecting and assuring both. Faith is followed by full assurance, but the security is here the possession of life itself.

But the person who attempts to make God a liar is not only without the internal testimony but also rejects the external testimony given to everyone who hears the Gospel record. Therefore, they are without excuse. Once before, John spoke of making God a liar. However, the one who denies that they have sinned is a liar and contradicts God’s testimony. Similarly, those who do not believe God’s witness concerning His Son reject the utmost possible evidence that God could give them, knowing mankind’s necessity. They have evidence before them, spoken or written evidence. Further, he deliberately rejects the testimony, knowing it to be Divine.

Nothing is more vital, scarcely anything more substantial, concerning the moral wilfulness of unbelief in all the Scriptures. John says that those who refuse to accept the testimony to the divinity and incarnation of God’s Son forfeit eternal life by blinding their minds in calling Him a liar. What they deny is not this or that miraculous demonstration but the whole strain of proof brought by the Christian revelation that both light and life have come into the world as the heritage of everyone who does not willfully reject both.[18]

With holiness doctrine expertise, Daniel Steele (1824-1914) draws our attention to the phrase “Witness in him” (KJV) here in verse ten. Some Greek scholars prefer “in himself” (Young’s Literal Translation YLT). The external witness accepted as valid becomes internal certitude when the will bows in accordance with the truth believed. Absolute and irreversible self-surrender to Him who is the Truth brings a direct consciousness of His Divine nature and work. The witness of the Spirit, the water, and the blood leads successively to an inner conviction and realization of pardon, newness of life, and sanctified cleansing. Thus, the Apostle John’s doctrine of assurance agrees with the Apostle Paul’s views on the subject.[19]

This blessed effect does not follow a mere speculative assent to a fact, but builds on trust and sole reliance in the person of the Anointed One. This statement supplements the conditions of the new birth partly stated in the first verse of this chapter. Speculative or historical faith is not decisive of salvation, but it is the first step toward a saving trust. “He that does not believe God” is a direct antithesis to “believing in the Son.” It implies the Godhead or supreme Divinity of Jesus the Anointed One. It also means that a person cannot be a true believer in God while refusing to rely on His Son for salvation.

But John has some harsh words for those who deny the Divinity of Jesus. It applies “Has made Him a liar” applies to two classes: First, to those who say that they have no sins[20] which need a Divine Savior; and, secondly, to those who deny that such a Savior is the Son of God, our Lord Jesus. The Gnostics belong to these classes whose teachings impeach God’s testimony that “all have sinned” and that there is salvation in no other name than that of Jesus the Anointed One. The two errors are twins. To lie is a dreadful sin, but to be a liar is much worse. The first, is an immoral act; the second, is an evil character. Hence the atrocity of failing to believe God’s word, to say nothing about an avowed distrust and disobedience. “Has not believed.” The perfect tense indicates a permanent state in the past continuing to the present hour.[21]

After sufficient examination of the Greek text, Brooke F. Westcott (1825-1901) states that the witness is not of external testimony only, but internal also. Absolute self-surrender to the Son of God brings the believer a direct consciousness of His Divine Nature and work. He that believes on the Son of God has the witness in himself. That which for others is external is for the believer internal. The witness of Spirit and water and blood becomes an inner conviction of life and cleansing and redemption. The title of divine dignity (the Son of God) points to the assurance of this effect. Moreover, it is to be noted that here the condition laid down is belief in the Person of the Anointed One.

The direct antithesis to “believing in the Son” is “not believing God.” This follows that “believing in the Son” comes from “believing God,” welcoming His testimony. The phrase “not believing” (as distinguished from “has believed[22] made God a liar. The word “liar” marks the general character and the falsity of the accused.[23] The form of expression suggests the idea of an inward conflict. A voice has been heard, and it has been deliberately rejected. When the crisis of choice came, they refused the message, thus making God a liar.

Furthermore, not believing God’s testimony resulted in a decision that influenced their feelings for Him.[24] The negative expresses the direct fact – “has not believed on the witness,” not simply “believed the witness,” makes the phrase unique. Belief in the truth of the witness is carried on to personal faith in the witness’ object, that is, the Incarnate Son Himself. It might have seemed more straightforward to say, “the witness of God,” but St John repeats at length what he has shown that the witness involved was a witness concerning His Son.[25]

Like a spiritual farmer planting the seed of God’s Word, Henry A. Sawtelle (1832-1913) paraphrases the opening of verse ten by saying, “He that believes on (literally, into; is the faith reaching into and lodging in a personal object, the Son of God) has the witness in himself.” The testimony of God concerning His Son that He is God’s legitimate Son and the Giver of life. By believing in the Anointed One, this divine testimony becomes a part of oneself, a self-evidencing experience. The believer has a joyful, firm conviction, from which nothing can move them, that the Anointed One is a living reality, the very Fountain of Life. Those who believe have the testimony inside them; others refuse the testimony outside them.

Bible scholars regard verse ten as parallel with Romans 8:16. The two passages are alike in that they speak of an inward witness of the Spirit through experience. But they differ in this, that in the one case, the Spirit testifies and assures our kinship with God,[26] while the other guarantees the Anointed One’s Sonship.[27] Both passages are, at their root, related to Psalm 25:14. It is the experimental knowledge of spiritual facts possessed by the regenerate. Those who do not believe God (His word or testimony) make the great Creator a liar. Those who do not receive God’s testimony by the water, blood, and Spirit treat God as a liar.

[1] Jelf, William E., Commentary on the First Epistle of St. John, op. cit., pp. 74-75

[2] Tuck, Richard H., The Preacher’s Complete Homiletical Commentary, op. cit., 329

[3] Isaian 55:11

[4] Acts of the Apostles 16:14

[5] Romans 5:11

[6] Isa 5:11

[7] 1 Corinthians 6:17

[8] Romans 8:14

[9] Ibid. 8:9

[10] Ibid. 8:16

[11] Stock, John: An Exposition of the First Epistle General of St. John, op. cit., pp. 426-427

[12] John 9:25

[13] Stock, John: An Exposition of the First Epistle General of St. John, op. cit., p. 427

[14] Cf. 1 John 1:10

[15] Ebrard, Johannes H. A., Biblical Commentary on the Epistles of St. John, op. cit., p. 333

[16] The traditional occupation of Brahmins is that of priesthood at Hindu temples or at socio-religious ceremonies, and rite of passage rituals such as solemnizing a wedding with hymns and prayers.

[17] Kelly, William: An Exposition of the Epistles of John the Apostle, op. cit., p. 374

[18] Pope, William B., The International Illustrated Commentary on the N.T., Vol. IV, op. cit., p. 39

[19] See Romans 8:16; Galatians 4:6

[20] 1 John 1:10

[21] Steele, Daniel: Half-Hours with St. John’s Epistles, op. cit., pp. 137-139

[22] See John 5:24; 6:29ff.; 8:30ff; cf. 1 John 3:23; 5:1, 5, 10

[23] Cf. John 8:44; 1 John 2:4, 22; 4:20

[24] Cf. John 3:18; 6:69 (1 John.4:16); 11:27; 16:27; 20:29; 2 Timothy 1:12; Titus 3:8

[25] Westcott, Brooke F., The Epistles of St. John: Greek Text with Notes, op. cit., pp. 186-187

[26] Romans 8:16

[27] 1 John 5:10

About drbob76

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