NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
By Dr. Robert R. Seyda
FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN
CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson LXIII) 02/08/23
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.
In his negative discussion of the subject, notes Sawtelle, John brings out the impressive fact that the unbeliever not only fails as the inward witness of the truth but positively impeaches God’s integrity. The word “because” (KJV & NIV) introduces a further statement in verse ten, confirming the awful truth about unbelief – boasting rationally in an irrational way! By being the least conscious of a fault or sin, you are the more sinful! You put God with liars and His Gospel with fables.
With Spirit-led certainty, William Baxter Godbey (1833-1920) says that we constantly receive human testimony in all the interests of life, jurisprudence, and litigation, with fewer and less reliable witnesses than these three who fortify the significant problem of salvation, revelatory and experimental. Intellectual faith, exercised by worldly people, has no power to save. Saving faith is not academic but spiritual, inspired by the Holy Spirit and bringing the human spirit in touch with God. Since the Holy Spirit constantly witnesses, His work and faith are the infallible human condition of regeneration and sanctification. Therefore every believer receiving according to their faith is attested by the Holy Spirit. Consequently, the Christian religion is the most luminous and intelligent reality in the universe.
Called the “Prince of Preachers,” Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892) states that practical trust in the living God, easy as it seems to be, is a virtue never practiced by an unregenerate heart. The glorious atonement made by the incarnate Son of God is worthy of everyone’s trust. One would imagine that every sinner would have instantly washed in this cleansing fountain and without hesitation believed in the divine Redeemer: but it is not going to happen. Sinners will not come to the Anointed One that they may have spiritual life. They would rather trust in anything than belief in Jesus’ sacrifice. Until the Holy Spirit works a miracle, they will not confess that God’s great sacrifice removes all guilt. Hence, this simple, common-place matter of faith, yet becomes the distinguishing mark of the chosen of the Lord. No other token is so infallible. Feelings and actions may all serve as evidence, but the master evidence of interest in God’s promise of salvation is faith in Him like Abraham. There were many other good points in the patriarch’s character, but this was the decisive one – he believed God; indeed, this was the root of all else that was commendable in him.
Noting the Apostle John’s doctrinal implications, John James Lias (1834-1923) feels that verse ten is an expansion of verse five. Those who believe in the Son overcome the world by having faith in God’s witness. They are convinced that He in whom they believe is no other than the Only Begotten of the Father, capable of inspiring them with every “good and perfect gift” which comes from that “Father of all light.” The present tense “believing” signifies either the habitual, permanent attitude of the soul or the only condition by which the believer accepts the testimony.
The statement “Those that do not believe makes God a liar,” causes some confusion. Some Greek manuscripts have “God,” some “Son,” some “Son of God,” and so on. But there can be little doubt that “God” is the accurate reading. “Son” undoubtedly comes from a similar passage in John’s Gospel, where belief in the Son is taught, and the desire to make this part of the antithesis correspond more precisely to the one in John’s epistle. The whole point of this part of the passage is belief in God. Those who believe in the Son of God has God’s testimony within. Not to believe this testimony is to disbelieve God, and to disbelieve God is to make Him a liar because it is a fact that God bore witness, and not to believe that witness is neither more nor less than deliberately accuse God of lying.
The Apostle John goes on to ask, what is the secret of that power of faith that enables us to overcome the world? It is this – faith is the appropriation by the individual of the witness God has given. Faith is the acceptance of His testimony, the principle which causes us to act on it. Believe in God’s testimony, and subsequently, the testimony is within. And it will not be long before it manifests its presence by the working of the Divine power that changes the heart.
Then John points out the daring nature of unbelief. God has borne witness concerning His Son. The witness is clear enough to those who will receive it. What it is we have already seen. What is involved in rejecting it, we are now told. It is to accuse God of untruth, to insult Him by denying His testimony. It is not merely blindness, misfortune, or excusable ignorance; it is a downright sin. Nevertheless, God’s witness concerning His Son manifests itself to those who do not willfully shut their eyes. We must, therefore, not shrink from warning people of the danger of refusing to believe God’s word, as well as of the infinite blessing of hearing God’s voice and acknowledging His revelation of His Son.
Famous evangelist and publisher Dwight L. Moody (1837-1899) decided to say a word about unbelief at this point in his commentary. Some people told him that it is a hard thing when he says that unbelief is the greatest sin – greater than blasphemy, drunkenness, and the like. You can’t offer anyone a greater insult than to accuse them of telling a willful lie. So many people have had their reputations destroyed because they called someone else a liar. The sin of unbelief is putting a lie in God’s mouth and calling Him a liar.
Distinguished for his outstanding scholarship, especially in connection with the New Testament canon, Theodore Zahn (1838-1933) states that this witness by God is not the Word of Life which the Apostles proclaimed, but the person on which their preaching centers, namely, Jesus. In the preceding clauses, this person who always existed, all the manifestations of whose life and whose physical qualities were sensibly perceived by the Apostles with ears, eyes, and hands, is described impersonally and paraphrased. All that was audible, visible, and tangible that the disciples could perceive in their interaction with Jesus is summed up in “the Word of Life” and, as the change in the construction shows, referred back to its center. But the personal Logos is not called the Word of Life because He gives life, but because He is spiritual and eternal Life. He is described as the one who is the personification of Life. 
A tried and tested biblical scholar who believes in the up-building of the Christian life, Robert Cameron (1839-1904) calls verse ten a startling sentence that should cause all of us to pause before doubting a single utterance from God’s mouth. The Apostle John says, “Those who do not believe God has made Him a liar.” It should take everyone’s breath! In the original, the force of the words implies a refusal to believe. When one refuses God’s testimony concerning His Son and therefore refuses to cast themselves entirely upon Him, they reject God and impeach His character for accuracy. They not only refuse to believe what God says, but this refusal makes God false, a deceiver, a liar. Will God tolerate being made a liar by a sinner whose heart is deceitful? What sort of a place would heaven be to a person who makes God a liar in their heart?
But the Apostle John, who does not want his readers to be intimidated, doesn’t leave it there. He counters with what John the Baptizer had to say about Jesus, “He tells what He has seen and heard, but people don’t accept what he says. Whoever accepts what He says has given proof that God speaks the truth.” Therefore, let us receive the witness of God and set our seal of approval on his unquestioned truthfulness so that we do not become guilty of the awful sin of making God a liar. Remember the words of the Father, the works of the Anointed One, the Scriptures, John the Baptist, and the disciples, all bear their testimony that Jesus is God’s Son.
Furthermore, God has appointed the Spirit, the water, and the blood to testify. They bear official witness to the Anointed One and point out how He is related to us in accomplishing our redemption. The Spirit, the water, and the blood are three complete testimonies. What was performed by the Anointed One, in His entrance, His ministry by water, and His exit by blood, are still valid. To reject these witnesses is to make God a liar. Refusing to believe His Son ends any possibility of spiritual and eternal life. 
With his Spirit-directed calculating mind, Alfred Plummer (1841-1926) notes that for the first time in this Epistle, we have the complete phrase “to believe on,” which the Apostle John uses forty times in his Gospel. Elsewhere in Final Covenant, it occurs only about ten times. It expresses the most assertive confidence and trust; faith moves towards and clings to its object. Whereas “to believe a person” means nothing more than to believe what they say. Thus, “to believe on or in a person” means to have total trust in their character. They [KJV “he has”] have an abiding presence in them. Have does not mean merely “they accept it.” Likewise “in them”’ in this context cannot mean anything but “in themselves.”
From a Pentecostal perspective, Samuel Ashton Keen (1842-1895) points out that the faith which saves the soul is believing what God says, and believing it because He says it. Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness. When God told him He was going to give him a son, Abraham, without any outward proof and against hope, chose to believe God simply because He’s the one who said it, so, according to Abraham’s faith it was granted him. God’s word is His testimony concerning the divine purpose to save the soul that believes in Jesus. If we receive the witness of others (which we do), the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God which He testified of His Son. So, if you say: “I know what is to be believed; that the infallible word of God is the sole ground of faith,” can you agree that you trust the word of the Lord?
Not long since, says Keen, a gentleman, a comparative stranger to me but who had reasonable trust in my integrity, said to me: I owe a fellow Christian in your town seventy-five dollars. I want to pay it but cannot leave my home to do so. Will you take the money to him? I said: I will. He handed me the amount. When I took it, I saw an expression of relief come to his face, and he felt an evident satisfaction that showed he thought his debt was now paid. Moreover, he trusted me to cancel the IOU note held by this other gentleman. He believed I would do it.
I could tell the burden was off his mind; he felt that my integrity for faithfulness in meeting his claims was vindicated. His conscious commitment to me of this business brought him the rest, which the witness of faith always insures. He stopped worrying about it hours before I could make the payment because I took the responsibility of paying off his shoulders, which I could not have done if he had not confided in my word of promise to him. So, when the soul commits the concern of its salvation to Him who can save unto the uttermost, it begins to take up the triumphant shout that the witness of faith always inspires.
With regal etiquette, Ernest von Dryander (1843-1922) states that the Anointed One is not merely a great reformer, whose words are echoed by thousands of followers, but the Head of renovated humanity, greater – infinitely greater – than the first Adam. He is the Vine Who nourishes the branches with His never-failing strength. He is the grain of corn that lives in a more beauteous form after death. He is for us not only a significant religious prophet, but He is the Head who guides us, the members of His Body, the Church; with His Word and Sacraments He nourishes and strengthens us, and gives us renewed life; He is among His faithful ones wherever they are gathered together in His name; He lifts them upon the wings of faith; gives strength to the weary, rest to the heavy-laden, power of sanctification to the weak and tempted, courage to the fearful – to all He gives the vigor of life from above. He brings peace, joy, and happiness – all that makes existence holy and rich – into our transient life here.
This is the witness of God, which He testified of His Son through the Spirit, namely of Him, “Who came by water and blood.” There can be no testimony more powerful, and no other is needed. Anyone who stands in the sun’s rays needs no proof that the sun is shining; they have more than proof: they have experienced it. Those who have the spiritual life of the Anointed One need no further evidence of salvation given to them; they live in a world of life as long as they live by faith in the Anointed One. It is the Spirit of God Himself Who daily witnesses to this.
 Sawtelle, Henry A., Commentary on the Epistles of John, op. cit., p. 58
 See Romans 10:10
 Godbey, William Baxter: Commentary on the New Testament, Vol. II, op. cit., pp. 396-397
 Genesis 15:6; cf. Romans 4:3
 Spurgeon, Charles H., According to Promise, Whose Are the Promises? pp. 28-29
 James 1:17
 John 3:18
 Lias, John James: The First Epistle of St. John with Exposition, op. cit., pp. 388-391
 Ibid. The First Epistle of St. John with Homiletical Treatment, op. cit., pp. 386-388
 Moody, Dwight L, The Homework of, Ch. 4, pp. 47-48
 1 John 5:9, 10; John 1:7, 15, 5:31-46; 10:41; 12:41; 15:26; Romans 1:3; 15:21; Acts of the Apostles 8:12
 Ibid. 1:1
 Ibid. 1:4
 Cf. John 11;25; 14:6
 Zahn, Theodor: Introduction to the New Testament, op. cit., p. 329
 John 3:32-33
 1 John 5:12
 Cameron, Robert: The First Epistle of John, or, God Revealed in Light, Life, and Love, op. cit. p. 236
 See 1 John 4:1
 See John 5:38; Hebrews 10:34
 Cf. Romans 8:16; Galatians 4:6
 Plummer Alfred: The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges, N. T., Vol. IV., p. 162-163
 Keen, Ashton: Faith Papers, Paper Third, The Way of Faith: How to Believe, pp. 13, 20
 John 15:4-5
 Ibid. 12:24
 Matthew 18:20