By Dr. Robert R. Seyda


CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson LXIV) 02/09/23

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.

Every prayer, happiness, every joyful obedience to the will of God, the hour of peace, and new experience and conviction of forgiven sin testify to the living power of the Anointed One within us, in His Holy Spirit. The more earnestly a person clings to their Savior in faith. The more natural and visible eternal life becomes to them, the more genuine their sanctification is, and the more all earth’s fading pleasures lose their charm. With the blessed hope of eternal life before them, they lose all delight in those childish, foolish fancies that are the best the world offers. This personal experience is accomplished in believers through those witnesses of God. So John speaks of them in the verses we have been considering. Those who have received this power will be able to declare with the prophet: “You are stronger than I am, and you overpowered me.”[1] [2]

As the author of a distinguished history of the Oxford Movement[3] written from an unsympathetic viewpoint, English bishop of Manchester Edmund Arbuthnott Knox (1847-1937) emphasizes that the foundation stone laid by God is Jesus the Anointed One. Our faith rests on Him, and the text warns us how to build on this foundation. Jesus the Anointed One is not a dead but a living Rock whose witness is within us. Therefore, we rest upon a live person, not on a thread of facts or a string of events. As a matter of fact and history, we believe that our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One, lived upon the earth, died, rose again from the dead, and ascended into heaven. But a person might consider all this the same way we think that Pontius Pilate or King Herod once lived and died.

Yet, a person might complain, “It is all true, I have no doubt, every word of it, but it is no use to me. It does not help me to know that the four Gospels are all true when tempted to do wrong. What is the use of events that happened long ago to stem the flood of my sins? You might as well try to keep back the Atlantic Ocean with a few decayed beams of wrecked vessels as to dismiss my sins with Bible stories. The power of sin is within me. To resist it, I must have a more potent force within me.

The words of our text meet this need. God the Father, God the Son dwelling in us through God the Holy Spirit, is a sufficient witness. God in us – this is the power, the only force strong enough to stem the flood, to stay the corruption within. This is just what the world cannot understand. The prophecies of our Lord’s coming were fulfilled when He revealed Himself to His disciples, but not the world. The person who does not love Jesus the Anointed One hears the same Gospel and reads the same Bible as the true believer but sees no value in it. They bring their body, eyes, ears, quick intellect, and reasoning powers to church, but not their heart. They do not know what it is to love the Anointed One.

Perhaps we might understand more clearly the witness within if we go back to the saints of old, and think of their faith. Enoch walked with God before a line of the Bible was written; Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all knew, loved, and feared God before Moses wrote the first chapter of Genesis. The Apostle Paul believed in Jesus the Anointed One before Matthew penned his Gospel. For more than two hundred years, Christians in different places probably knew only parts of the Final Covenant. But why go so far back? How many devout and humble Christians, full of love for Jesus the Anointed One, sat in church and lifted prayer and praise from the very depths of their hearts, though they could not read a page of their Bibles and only knew portions here and there?

What was the reason? They had the witness in themselves, Jesus the Anointed One dwelling in them by His Holy Spirit. This is the only foundation. No other foundation can anyone build than that already laid, which is Jesus the Anointed One. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. God can dwell in us by His Spirit as He pleases. But He sent us His confirmation through His written Word, the testimony of apostles and prophets.[4]

As a prolific writer on the New Testament Epistles, George G. Findlay (1849-1919) urges us to get behind the Apostle John’s words in this passage, asking from them two things: First, what was the specific object of the world-conquering faith, as John held it and witnessed its early triumphs? Second, what were its characteristic marks and the methods of its working? The answer to our first inquiry lies close at hand, “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Anointed One is born of God. Furthermore, whatever is born of God, overcomes the world.” Again, “Who is it that overcomes the world, but those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God?” In verses nine and ten, we read: “This is the witness of God, namely, that He has borne witness about His Son.… Those who do not believe God make Him out to be a liar, in that they have not believed in the testimony God gave concerning His Son.”

In 1 John 4:14-15, we read, “We have seen that the Father sent his Son to be the world’s Savior, and this is what we tell people now. Anyone who says, ‘I believe that Jesus is the Son of God,’ is a person who lives in God, and God lives in that person.” The assertion of the Divine Sonship of Jesus was the Apostle John’s battle cry. It is not a stereotypical conventional article of a long-accepted creed; instead, as the utterance of a passionate conviction, the condensed record of a profound and vivid life experience shared by John with numerous companions. They practiced fruitful salvation that was real to the consciousness of the earliest believers: that “Jesus is the Son of God,” and “the blood of Jesus, God’s Son, cleanses from sin.” These facts were the life of John’s fellowship with those around him. In these two certainties lay the kernel and essence of the faith contained in the Church’s testimony.[5]

With his stately speaking style, William Macdonald Sinclair (1850-1917) points out that believers who have a three-fold testimony of God no longer see Him as an external object of thought to be contemplated and grasped: it has become part of their nature. The three separate messages produced the appropriate result, and they can no more doubt the testimonies than they can doubt themselves. The water has assured them that they are no longer under the Law but under grace and taught them the necessity of the new birth for living right.[6] The blood has shown them that they cannot face God unless their sins are forgiven, enabling them to feel they have received a pardon. Also, they are being cleansed daily. They also have in themselves the assurance of eternal life[7] And the Spirit, which has had a part in both these, is daily making them grow in grace.[8]

Then the Apostle John presents the negative contrast, as usual, to strengthen the affirmative. He regards the evidence as so certain that those to whom this message is delivered yet reject it seem as if they are boldly asserting that what God had said was false. The skeptical reply that the news did not come from God is not John’s purpose to consider; his object is to warn his friends of the light in which they ought to regard the opponents of the truth. There should be no complacent condoning; from the point of view of the Christians themselves, such unbelievers were throwing the truth back in God’s face.[9]

Beyond any doubt, remarks Alonzo R. Cocke (1858-1901), the one who receives the outward testimony of the Spirit has something conferred even more intimate: they have “the witness in themselves.” The Spirit testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. The testimony becomes a part of our inner life, and now abides with us, a living factor in their spiritual consciousness. How sweet to have such assurance as a live element in our souls. But the one who rejects God’s testimony concerning Jesus incurs terrible guilt. They practically declare those divine facts which testify of God’s Son of God to be false and, in effect, make God a liar. Unbelief stamps God’s testimony as false and rules the all-truthful One, who cannot lie, out of court. It is a fearful position to occupy, throwing God’s words into His face and calling Him a liar.[10]

Esteemed ministry veteran James B. Morgan (1859-1942) implies that nothing could be more satisfactory than the external evidence in favor of the Anointed One, which competent and credible witnesses have proven the facts of His history. Jesus founded His Gospel doctrines on these truths. Our Lord established public ordinances to illustrate and confirm these truths. Water Baptism and the Lord’s Supper seem to be referred to in the context as “water and blood.” But, above all, the Spirit gave witness through the miracles that His apostles performed and the gifts and graces He conferred upon His followers. The evidence thus becomes such as leaves everyone without excuse.

The argument of the apostle, founded on its nature and fulness, is irresistible. “If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son.” However, this external evidence is satisfactory as it is. He “that knew what was in man[11] saw that many of His people would be ill-qualified to examine the credibility of such evidence. He has therefore furnished them with another. Whenever they receive the Gospel, He has caused it to spring up in their minds. So, our text speaks, “He that believes on the Son of God has the witness in himself.”[12]

In reviewing what the Apostle John says in this verse, Archibald T. Robertson (1863-1934) sees the Apostle John distinguishing between “not believing” God’s witness and “surrender to and reliance on” His testimony concerning His Son. See the same distinction less clearly drawn in John’s Gospel.[13] See a similar occasion of “believing” after “witnessing” in John’s Gospel.[14] Furthermore, those who believe God’s testimony have the witness within themselves. By using perfect active indicative tense, it implies a permanent state.[15]

With characteristic fundamental thinking, Alan England Brooke (1863-1939) proclaims that those who trust the guidance of God’s Son have in their experience the testimony which God gave on His behalf, which became part of themselves. Those who do not accept the witness as accurate dismiss the truth and make God a liar. There is no room here for ignorance or misconception. To reject the witness is to deny the truthfulness of God. He spoke and acted with absolute clearness. His testimony is an open record, not hidden in a dark corner. The witness must, therefore, either be accepted or rejected. It cannot be ignored or explained away. The rejection and its effects are inevitable. With the choice made, its consequences became manifest.

The nearest parallel to this expression is John 2:23. It involved believing in Jesus as Anointed One, which His name implied, and the readiness to follow Him as Anointed One (until they discovered how different His conception of the Messianic office was from theirs). It seems to denote devotion to a person possessed of those qualities that the witness borne to him, or at least to the idea expressed in that witness. Note that the phrases of verse nine are repeated for emphasis, each point examined. The witness has spoken; it cannot be ignored or set aside because it comes from God, in a case where His word alone can be final, as it concerns His Son. In John’s view, there can be no excuse for refusing to accept evidence that is so clear and satisfactory.[16]

With an eye for detail, David Smith (1866-1932) sees the Apostle John’s statement here in verse ten as a subtle and profound analysis of the exercise of the soul. It brings blessed assurance in three stages:

   (1) “Believe God,” accept His testimony concerning His Son, not simply His Baptism[17] but the historical manifestation of God in the Anointed One, the Incarnation. God speaks not by words but by acts, and to set aside His supreme act and all the forces it has put in operation is to “make Him a liar” by treating His historical testimony as unworthy of credit.

   (2) “Believe in the Son of God” makes the believing soul surrender, which is the reasonable and inevitable consequence of contemplating the Incarnation and recognizing its wonder.[18]   

(3) “The Internal Testimony.” The love of Jesus satisfies the deepest need of our nature. When He is welcomed, the soul rises and greets Him as “all its salvation and desire.” The testimony is no longer external in history but an inward experience and, therefore, definite. These three stages are, according to the metaphor in the Apostle John’s Revelation, is (a) hearing the Savior’s voice, (b) opening the door, and (c) communion.[19][20]

[1] Jeremiah 20:7 New Living Translation (NLT)

[2] Dryander, Ernst von: A Commentary on the First Epistle of St. John in the Form of Addresses, op. cit., p. 206

[3] The Oxford Movement consisted of high church members of the Church of England which began in the 1830s and eventually developed into Anglo-Catholicism. 

[4] Knox, Edmund A., The Church Pulpit Commentary, op. cit., Vol., pp. 319-321

[5] Findlay, George G: Fellowship in the Life Eternal: An Exposition of the Epistles of St. John, op. cit., p. 362

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

[7] John 1:7; 1 John 2:2; John 6:53

[8] Galatians 5:22; Ephesians 5:9

[9] Sinclair, William J., New Testament Commentary for English Readers, Charles J. Ellicott (Ed.) Vol. 3, p. 492

[10] Cocke, Alonzo R: Studies in the Epistles of John; or, The Manifested Life, op. cit., pp. 128-130

[11] John 2:25

[12] Morgan, James B., An Exposition of the First Epistle of John, op. cit., Lecture XLV, p. 447

[13] John 6:30ff

[14] Ibid. 2:23

[15] Robertson, Archibald T., Word Pictures in the New Testament, op. cit., p. 1969

[16] Brooke, Alan E., A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Johannine Epistles, op. cit., pp. 138-140

[17] Matthew 3:17

[18] Romans 12:1

[19] Revelation 3:20

[20] Smith, David: Expositor’s Greek Testament, 1 John, op. cit., p. 196

About drbob76

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