By Dr. Robert R. Seyda


CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson LXV) 02/10/23

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.

As a spiritual mentor, Ronald A. Ward (1920-1986) feels that whoever commits themselves to trust in God’s Son as the true Anointed One will find that the objective (based on what we know things are) amd subjective (being told what things are) testimonies confirm what is in their hearts. They have the eivdence that is already inside and coming from the outside. This confirmation is especially valid of a person abiding in union with Go and God dwelling in them.[1]

With academic precision, Stephen S. Smalley (1931-2018) states that the Apostle John spoke earlier of the character of the divine witness to Jesus, the Son of God and Anointed One; now, he moves to a discussion of the results of that witness. First, John claims that keeping faith in God’s Son includes accepting the Father’s testimony and that witness is both the cause and effect of Christian faith. Namely, “the one who believes has that witness within himself.” Furthermore, we find in verse ten; several phrases are echoed from earlier verses and repeated for emphasis. For instance, for verse 10a, see verses 5b and 9a; for verse 10b, see 9b. Sometimes a phrase is used positively, “believe,” and negatively, “believe not.” It is all intended to focus on faith and trust in Jesus as God’s Son.[2]

As a seasoned essayist on the Apostle John’s writings, John Painter (1935) notes that this is the third of four uses of the Greek verb pisteuō (“believe”) by the Apostle John in this epistle.[3] This construction is used thirty-six times in John and only ten times in the rest of the Final Covenant. While pisteuō often means to believe what is said and draws attention to the content of belief, it often portrays a personal commitment, though it need not be complete and firm.[4] We should not treat these distinctions as hard-and-fast rules, as the second and third parallels show in this tenth verse. There is also a question of not believing what was said. When the witness is to the Son, achieving the testimony means believing in the Son. The explanation is little more than a repetition of God’s word from verse nine that he (the one not believing God) “has made Him a liar.”[5]

Ministry & Missions Overseer Muncia Walls (1937) says that the witness is in the believer in the form of the Holy Spirit; as the Apostle Paul wrote, the Anointed One in you, the hope of glory.[6] Jesus had promised His disciples that although He would leave them, another Comforter would come to them, and that Comforter would be the Anointed One. Note His words, “1 will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.”[7] The Spirit which indwells the believer is the Spirit of Jesus the Anointed One – the Holy Spirit. We know we are children of God because the witness dwells within!

John’s argument against the Gnostics here is that you can’t claim to know God and at the same time ignore the Incarnation. You can’t have one without the other. And those who refuse to believe in the deity of Jesus the Anointed One deny God’s witness and make God out a liar. To reject Jesus, the Anointed One who was God manifest in the flesh is to deny what God has openly declared to be fact, and to do God is a liar. [8]

Expositor and systematic theologist Michael Eaton (1942-2017) hears the Apostle John saying that a Christian will be a person of assurance and conviction. That’s because the believer possesses the indwelling Spirit and thus has certainty that the testimony to the Gospel, they heard is the truth. The one who believes in the Son of God has the witness in themselves. This explains the difference between human testimony and the testimony of the Spirit. Human testimony is external. It consists of historical witnesses and evidence of one kind or another. Human testimony may be forgotten, becoming lost in antiquity. But the testimony of the Spirit is a testimony within. When a person becomes a Christian, the Spirit is given to dwell within them. From that point on, they “have the testimony in themselves.” It is something that he or she is conscious of.

What would be the value of a witness that we did not know about? It gives us joy. We find delight in our salvation springing up within us. It provides assurance and boldness. It gives us love for God because the witness of the Spirit makes us realize how much God loves us. It has the effect of stirring up our love for God. We can endure almost anything, and make any sacrifice, if the witness of the Spirit is strong and powerful in our lives. The witness of the Spirit makes God real to us. When the Spirit is witnessing that we are children of God, it is like being in heaven already.

It follows then that to resist the claims of the Lord Jesus; the Anointed One is in effect to call God a liar. Unbelief is a sin against God’s testimony. The one who does not believe God has made Him a liar because they have not considered God’s testimony concerning His Son. God asks us to accept the revelation He has already given. He has no plans to add anything further to convince us. He wants us to be convinced by His Word, coining to us in the testimony of the apostles.[9]

Great Commission practitioner David Jackman (1945) says that we must be careful to preserve the Apostle John’s strong emphasis on believing, intensified by the negative correlative in the second part of verse ten. For it is not our subjective experience of the Anointed One that saves us, but our belief in Him confirmed and deepened by the inner witness of the Spirit. It echoes Apostle Paul’s teaching, “The Spirit testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children,”[10] and “Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out ‘Abba, Father.’”[11] A significant theme of biblical theology is that God wants His people to be assured of their relationship with Him as reconciled, forgiven sinners. The only alternative is to make God out to be a liar.

That is how the Bible draws the line between faith in Jesus and unbelief. This is not surprising when considering how strong the evidence for belief is presented. In human nature, there is a natural element of unwillingness to believe. We see it in the rejection of God’s witness and is still giving through His Spirit concerning His Son; there is ample evidence for faith. But mankind’s problem is not ignorance so much as rebellion; not that we cannot believe but we refuse to believe.[12]

After analyzing the Apostle John’s teaching in verses six to ten, Earl S. Johnson Jr (1947-2020) is persuaded that the Apostle John wants to finalize his argument about the truth that is found in Jesus the Anointed One God’s Son. In these verses he uses words that come from the same Greek verb meaning to witness nine different times in only seven verses. This is the same root word from which we derive our English word martyr. Johnson is sure that the three witnesses mention by the Apostle John are to be interpreted as “water” – His baptism; “blood” – His crucifixion; and the “Spirit” who was present at His baptism and guided Him into the wilderness to overcome Satan’s temptation and anointed Him for His ministry. The final witness is His heavenly Father.[13] [14]

After studying the context surrounding this verse, John W. (Jack) Carter (1947) notes that another witness that the Apostle John brings to the stand is the Holy Spirit, who speaks to the heart of every believer. These words are more for the fellowship of believers than it is for the heretics. Every believer has a relationship with the Holy Spirit, who teaches the truth of Jesus’ nature through the deep recesses of their heart. True believers have accepted the Lordship of Jesus the Anointed One and the reality of His nature and purpose by faith. However, once that decision is made, as they grow in faith, they come to understand the truths of the Gospel as the Holy Spirit illuminates it as they become immersed in the Word of God.

Consequently, John calls upon every believer as a testimony to the true nature and purpose of Jesus the Anointed One, a population who all agree to a truth taught to them by one source: the Holy Spirit. Those who have not placed their faith and trust in God do not have this resource. They do not hear the voice of the Holy Spirit in their hearts. Consequently, it is easy for them to reject the Gospel and proclaim that what God says, what the Holy Spirit says, or what Jesus says is all a lie.[15]

A man who loves sharing God’s Word, Robert W. Yarbrough (1948) notes that the first half of verse ten is a commendation of the faith made possible and constituted by God’s self-testimony. Believing “God” is shorthand for the fullness of God’s self-disclosure in Jesus the Anointed One, a significant theme of the whole epistle, namely, those who believe receive the testimony and enjoy its beneficial transformative working within. The second portion of verse ten joins the two halves of the sentence, highlighting the opposite effect of the contrasting assertions.

In John’s continuing pastoral orientation, we should note that his rhetoric is not a condemnation but essentially an appeal. Starkly parallel to the one who believes is the “unbelieving” one. While saving belief in the Son implies personal commitment, the negative counterpart reflects not believing in God. It probably means (not) to give Him credence.[16] This person not only fails to trust God personally; they do not even grant God the respect for a careful hearing. It is consistent with Jesus’s statement in John that those who belong to God hear his voice.[17] Those who listen to God and learn from Him are drawn to the Anointed One.[18] The person here in verse then has not listened or learned and does not respond to His call.[19] [20]

Skilled in Dead Sea Scroll interpretation and New Testament writings, Colin G. Kruse (1950) states that in verse ten, the Apostle John explains that the divine testimony is appropriated internally by those who believe in the Anointed One: Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in their heart. The witness referred to here is God’s testimony to His Son made known through the testimony of the eyewitnesses.

There are two ways of interpreting this statement. First, in the light of verse six, we might say that it refers to the inner witness of the Spirit. And it cannot be denied that the role of the Spirit in this letter and the Fourth Gospel is to testify to Jesus. But this verse does not actually say that believers have ‘the inner testimony of the Spirit in their hearts; it simply states that they have the testimony’ in themselves. So, the second and more likely interpretation is that the testimony believers have in themselves is the true testimony concerning Jesus the Anointed One, which they heard from the eyewitnesses and have accepted and internalized.[21]

Believing that Christians can fall away from the faith, Ben Witherington III (1951) focuses on two ideas here in verse ten: the testimony of God to the Son and the divine and internal testimony that comes through the Spirit when one accepts on faith the external testimony. The one who believes in the Son of God has assurance from the internal testimony of the Spirit that this faith is not held in vain. Here the emphasis is on the individual – the one who believes. Thus, quite logically, the work of confirmation by the Spirit follows belief in the external testimony and the making of the good confession.[22]

With her crafted spiritual insight, Judith Lieu (1951), the damaging alternative is not “the one who does not believe in the Son of God” but “who does not believe God.” Although, given the fluidity of construction of the verb “to believe,” it would be a mistake to overemphasize the simple dative verb used here.[23] The implication appears to be that to refuse to acknowledge and respond to God’s Son, whose status relies on God’s testimony, is nothing less than to refuse to trust God. It is to treat God as a liar – within the dualistic framework; this is to place God firmly alongside all that opposes God’s truth and light.[24]

This is not a misapprehension or an erroneous judgment; it is not a failure to believe a secondary article of faith nor an understandable mistaken difference of opinion. On the contrary, it is a fundamental denial – the perfect “has made” who God is and what God has done and does do. The sonorous tones of the final clause of verse ten reinforce the seriousness. The two perfect verbs, one negative (“has not believed”), the other positive (“has testified”), are set in a sustained opposition to those two fundamental acts of commitment, and they effectively exclude the one who does the former from the benefits of the latter. The verse climaxes by repeating the final words of verse nine; there is no attempt to argue or to persuade, no appeal to specific evidence or support: God’s testimony given concerning His Son, and there is no room for its reversal, for negotiation, or for debate. [25]

[1] Ward, Ronald A., The Epistles on John and Jude, op. cit., pp. 56

[2] Smalley, Stephen S., Word Biblical Commentary, Vol. 51, 1,2,3 John, op. cit., p. 285

[3] See 1 John 5:1, 5, 10. 13

[4] John 8:31-32

[5] Painter, John. Sacra Pagina: 1, 2, and 3 John: Volume 18, op. cit., loc. cit., Kindle Edition

[6] Colossians 1:27

[7] John 14:18

[8] Walls, Muncia: Epistles of John and Jude, op. cit., pp. 68-69

[9] Eaton, Michael: Focus on the Bible, 1,2,3 John, op. cit., pp. 186-187

[10] Romans 8:16

[11] Galatians 4:6

[12] Jackman, David: The Message of John’s Letters, op. cit., p. 153

[13] 1 John 5:9-11

[14] Johnson Jr, Earl S, Basic Bible Commentary, James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, and Jude, op. cit., pp. 121-122

[15] Carter, Dr. John W. (Jack). 1,2,3, John & Jude: (The Disciple’s Bible Commentary Book 48), op. cit., pp. 125-126

[16] Cf. John 4:21; 8:31

[17] Ibid. 8:47

[18] Ibid. 6:45

[19] Matthew 11:28

[20] Yarbrough, Robert W. 1-3 John (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament), op. cit., p. 288

[21] Kruse, Colin G., The Letters of John (The Pillar New Testament Commentary), op. cit., loc. cit., Kindle Edition

[22] Witherington, Ben III, Letters and Homilies for Hellenized Christians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on Titus, 1-2 Timothy and 1-3 John, op. cit., loc. cit., Kindle Edition

[23] The Dative case shows the relationship of an indirect object to a verb

[24] 1 John 1:10; 2:21-22

[25] Lieu, Judith: A New Testament Library, I, II, & III John, op. cit., pp. 218-219

About drbob76

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