NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
By Dr. Robert R. Seyda
FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN
CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson LXVII) 02/14/23
5:11 This is what God told us: He has given us eternal life, which is in His Son.
We can also conclude that verses eleven and twelve are the climax to the Apostle John’s First Epistle. The Son of God is the “Word of Life.” Therefore, possession of the Son of God is the possession of eternal life and vice versa. John now gives the content of God’s testimony in this verse. We cannot separate eternal life from the person of the Anointed One. False teachers tried to split the two. It is not the truth of eternal life at issue here; only those who know God’s Son possess it. Therefore, false teachers do not enjoy eternal life.
The result of God’s witness about Jesus the Anointed One is that God gives the believer in Jesus eternal life. The words “eternal life” are for emphasis. The testimony is that God gave eternal life when He gave His Son. Eternal life is the final testimony to God’s Son. Eternal life is more than a quantity of life that lasts forever; it is a quality of life, the highest spiritual life irrespective of time. This life is the very life of God Himself. It establishes that eternal life is as much a qualitative as quantitative life.
How do we apply this? Eternal life is qualitative life because God is free from corruption. He is pure holiness. God is peace, so the eternal life He passes to us has symmetry. Eternal life contains unconditional love, so we have the capacity for unconditional love. God embodies eternal life in the person of the Son of God. The person who embraces Jesus the Anointed One as their Savior begins a new kind of life. They will experience that life forever.
Therefore, the Son is the means to eternal life. We can find eternal life nowhere else than in God’s beloved Son. There is no compromise here. This is because God’s Son is life. Eternal life testifies to the Son’s life with the Father, a qualitative and eternal life. The possession of eternal life is a testimony to God’s Son. This witness is because eternal life fundamentally rests in the life of Jesus the Anointed One. Note the sequence of John’s argument. The Father possesses eternal life and gave it to the Anointed One as a human. So Jesus can say, “I live because of the Father.” Jesus gives believers eternal life. It provides evidence that Jesus is the Son of God. Hence, eternal life comes exclusively through Jesus the Anointed One. The life of God’s Son brings us into God’s presence in the eternal state and is a present possession. Jesus is the only way into God’s life and divine presence.
COMMENTARY AND HOMILETICS
This verse has comments, interpretations, and insights of the Early Church Fathers, Medieval Thinkers, Reformation Theologians, Revivalist Teachers, Reformed Scholars, and Modern Commentators.
With a studious monk’s spiritual insight, Bede the Venerable (672-735) points out that the Apostle John says that God has given us eternal life, and remember that he was saying this when he was still in the flesh and subject to physical death. But God gave us eternal life precisely the same way he gave us the power to become his children. So right now, we live on earth in the hope of his promise, which we shall receive in its fullness after we die and go to be with Him.” This evidence gave John the boldness to declare to everyone who read this letter:
In “The Shepherd of Hermas,” a book written in the late part of the second century (circa 275 AD), concerning the building of the Church, we find this testimony: “I saw six men come, tall, and distinguished, and similar in appearance, and they summoned a multitude of men. And they who came were also tall men, handsome, and powerful; the six men commanded them to build a tower349 for a man called the Rock. And the virgins who kept the tower ran forward and kissed Him and began to walk near Him around the tower. And that man examined the building carefully, feeling every stone separately, and holding a rod in His hand, He struck every stone in the building three times. But the other stones, which had not yet been cut for the tower, and received the seal, were put back onto the pile because they are still uneven.” What a comparison for pastors to the Rock of our Salvation and Shepherd of our souls, Jesus the Anointed One.
The Shepherd then says, “I am a messenger of repentance to those innocent as children because your part is good and honorable before God. Moreover, I say to you all, who have received the seal of the Son of God, be clothed with easiness, not focused on any offenses, nor continue sinning. He will rejoice over you and be joyful when he finds you are spiritually sound, so none of you will perish. But if He finds any one of these sheep strayed away, woe to the shepherds! – Pastors. And if the shepherds themselves have strayed, what answer will they give Him for their flocks? Will they perhaps say that their flocks harassed them? They will not be believed, for such a thing is too incredible for a flock to say about a shepherd. Instead, the shepherd will receive punishment based on his lying. And I am a shepherd, and I am under a most stringent necessity of rendering an account of you.”
As a firm spiritual disciplinarian, John Owen (1616-1683) The Gospel is the revelation or declaration of that way of justification and salvation for sinners by Jesus Christ, which God, in infinite wisdom, love, and grace, has prepared. And upon a supposition of the reception thereof, it is accompanied by precepts of obedience and promises of rewards. “Therein is the righteousness of God,” that which he requires, accepts, and approves unto salvation — “revealed from faith unto faith,” Romans. This is God’s record, “That He has given unto us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.” “The words of this life,” “All the counsel of God.”
Wherefore, in the dispensation or preaching of the Gospel, the way of salvation is offered to sinners as the significant effect of divine intervention and grace. Unbelief is the rejection, neglect, non-admission, or disapprobation of it, on the terms whereon, and for the ends, it was proposed. So in John, the Baptizer’s preparatory preaching, the Pharisees’ unbelief is called the “rejecting of the counsel of God against themselves” to their ruin. “They would have none of my counsel” is an expression of the same purpose; so is the “neglecting this great salvation,” Not giving it that admission that excellence requires. A disallowing of the Anointed One, the Stone “the builders disapproved of,” as not meet for that place and work whereunto it was designed, this is unbelief; to disapprove of the Anointed One, and His way of salvation as not answering divine wisdom, nor suited for its scheduled end. So is it described by the refusing or not receiving Him; all go to one purpose.
Regarding the Anointed One’s priestly office and its ministry, in and by human nature, He offered Himself a sacrifice for us, and the Spirit prepared to give Him a body for this purpose. But it was not the work of any human, by one offering, and that of Himself, to compensate for the sins of the whole church, and forever to perfect them that are sanctified, which He did. Jesus was to purchase His church “with His blood.” Suppose we have no consideration for the offices of the Anointed One. In that case, we can not receive any benefit through them nor perform any act of duty concerning them unless faith in His divine person is the foundation.
In his fiery manner, John Flavel (1627-1691) states that this new life with which the regenerate come alive is also an everlasting life. This principle of life is the seed of God, and that remains in the soul forever. It is no transient, vanishing thing but a fixed, permanent principle that abides in the soul forever. A person may lose their gifts, but grace abides; the soul may and must be separated from the body, but grace cannot be separated from the soul: when all forsake us, this will not leave us. Therefore, this principle implanted by the Spirit is vastly different, both from the extraordinary gifts of prophecy wherein the Spirit was sometimes said to come upon men under the First Covenant and from the common vanishing effects He sometimes produces in the Final Covenant. It is one thing for the Spirit to visit an individual in the way of present influence and assistance and another thing to dwell in them as His temple.
As a non-conformist to the Church of England orthodoxy, John Bunyan (1628-1688), English writer and Puritan preacher, shared these poetic words of inspiration:
“How the brave sun doth peep up from beneath,
Shows us his golden face, doth on us breath;
Yea, he doth compass us around with glories,
Whilst he ascends to his highest stories,
Where his banner over us displays
And gives us light to see our works and ways.
Nor are we now, as at the peep of light.
To question is it day or is it night;
The night is gone, the shadows fled away,
And now we are most certain that ’tis day.
And that it is when Jesus shows His face,
And doth assure us of His love and grace.”
From his strategic viewpoint as a biblical expositor and educational pioneer, William Burkitt (1650-1703) says it is as though the Apostle John said, “The sum of God’s testimony recorded in the Gospel concerning His Son Jesus the Anointed One is that God for His sake made pardon and salvation a gift to the world.” He did so to assure them of grace here and eternal life hereafter, upon the condition of their believing acceptance, that is, of faith and obedience; accordingly, they have the Anointed One. They accept the merit of His blood and submit to the authority of His law. Thus they have eternal life, that is, have an undoubted right and assurance of it being theirs. Yes, they have it already, and its first fruits. But they that, either by unbelief or disobedience, refuse the Anointed One, shall never see life, but God’s wrath on them. Hence we learn 1) Eternal life is a gift from God. 2) This gift is available for us in His Son. 3) Our having or not having union with and interest in the Son depends on whether we have eternal life.
With all the Apostle John’s themes in mind, John Wesley (1703-1791) asks, “What is the witness of the Spirit?” The Greek word martyria may be rendered either the witness or, less ambiguously, the testimony or the record. The Spirit of God gives the testimony now under consideration to and with our spirit: He is the person testifying. He testifies to us is “we are the children of God.” The immediate result of this testimony is “the fruit of the Spirit,” namely, “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness.” And without these, the testimony itself cannot continue. It is inevitably destroyed, not only by the commission of any outward sign or the omission of known duty but by giving way to any inward sin; in a word, by whatever grieves the Holy Spirit of God.
 See 1 John 2:25-26
 John 17:2-3; 3:15-16; 5:24-26; 6:40,47, 68; 10:10, 28; 11:25-26
 Ibid. 1:25-26
 1 John 1:2; John 11:25; 14:6
 John 5:26
 Ibid. 5:27
 Ibid. 3:36; 5:24; 20:31
 Ibid. 1:4; 5:26-27; 6:57; Acts of the Apostles 3:14-15
 Ibid. 14:6
 Bede the Venerable, Ancient Christian Commentary, Bray, G. (Ed.), James, op. cit., Vol. XI, p. 225
 Matthew 18:3; 19:14
 1 John 5:11
 Jeremiah 13:20; Zechariah 11:15-17
 Shepherd of Hermas, The great mysteries in the building of the Militant and Triumphant Church. Vision iii, 1-2, Similitude 9, Ch. XVI, pp. 49; Ch. XXI, p. 54
 Romans 1:17
 John 5:11; 3:14-17
 Acts of the Apostles 5:20
 Ibid. 20:27
 Luke 7:30
 Proverbs 1:30
 Hebrews 2:3
 1 Peter 2:7
 Acts of the Apostles 4:11
 Owen, John: The Doctrine of Justification, op. cit., pp. 150-151
 Hebrews 8:3
 Ibid. 10:5
 Ibid. 10:4
 Acts of the Apostles 20:28
 Owen, John: Christologia, op. cit., pp. 132-133
 1 John 5:11
 Ibid. 3:9
 1 Samuel 10:6, 10
 Hebrews 2:4; John 5:35
 Flavel, John: The Method of Grace: How the Spirit Works, Ch. 5, op. cit., pp. 92-93
 Bunyan, John: On the Rising of the Sun, written in 1628 and published in 1688
 Burkitt, William: Expository Notes, op. cit., Vol. II, p. 737
 Wesley, John, The Works of: First Series of Sermons, vol. 5, Sermon, 11, p. 188