NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
By Dr. Robert R. Seyda
FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN
CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson LXIX) 02/16/23
5:11 This is what God told us: He has given us eternal life in His Son.
In his Baptist Magazine by a Clergyman in England, Welsh preacher David Thomas (1813-1894) states that Eternal life is a gift for these reasons:
I. THE SUBJECT OF THE “RECORD” – What is it? It is not endless existence. The “record” does not refer to something new. The Bible assumes mankind’s immortality. “Eternal life” consists in the soul’s well-being – its intrinsic, internal blessedness: “the kingdom of God is within you.” This life is “eternal.” Its resource is the Eternal One, His principles of righteousness embedded in the heart and “springing up into everlasting life.”
II. THE DOCTRINE OF THE “RECORD” (1) is a gift ‒ not something for which people need to do good deeds, but something to be received. (2) It is a gift already given. The believer has its foretaste. (3) It is a gift already given “in His Son.” God’s “grace and truth” come through Jesus the Anointed One, not in systems or churches. (4) It is for the “record.” It is a testimony that people may hear as being said by God’s authority for those who accept it to have everlasting life.
After checking the text closely, Richard H. Tuck (1817-1868) states that the Apostle John’s words in verse eleven are a statement or declaration we must believe. The Christian creed is limited in scope – the gift of eternal life and the dependence of that life upon God’s Son. Therefore, eternal life is not merely continuing life, but the new life by spiritual birth is limitless. Eternal life is that which we now understand as spiritual life. That is, in its nature, continuous. This everlasting life is not subject to the “second death.” It depends on our relationship to Jesus the Anointed One. To have the Anointed One by faith is to breathe the first breath of eternal life. That life is in the Anointed One for impartation to us, and the receptivity in us is our faith.
After observing the Apostle John’s attention to detail, John Stock (1817-1884) agrees that God’s testimony surpasses all others. It is higher than heaven, is above the earth, and firmer than the rocks that girt the ocean. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my word will not. It is as unquestionable as it is infinitely gracious. An unexceptionable witness accompanies it, and happy are they who credit God and do not treat His record as false, as did the unhappy Jews as a nation, who so pushed salvation so far from them.
The whole Gospel is compacted in the words of this record, and the gift of eternal life, which we lost in the fall of Adam, which we never could regain, or merit. Now it is ours in God’s dear Son; all who believe in Him come to the Father by Him. Death, the wages of sin, is all our just punishment; and the law of faith excludes boasting. We are so accustomed to sin that it is like one breathing tainted air. We don’t notice it until some wicked deed is committed.
Sin, however, is damnable, whether we perceive it or not. The law of God, which extends to the thoughts and desires of the heart, makes it known and also its sinfulness, and proclaims each transgressor cursed and brings in all the world guilty or subject to punishment4; and so we confess justly that we for our evil deeds do worthily deserve to be punished1. God in love brought us redemption from so fearful a curse by a way for us to escape through His co-equal and beloved Son. He commended His love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, the Anointed One died for us: in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace; wherein He hath abounded towards us, in all wisdom and prudence; saving and calling us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus, before the world began.
God in love brought us redemption from so fearful a curse and so deserved and awful death and made a way of escape for us by and through His co-equal and beloved Son. He commended His love towards us that, while we were yet sinners, the Anointed One died for us. In Him, we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace, wherein He has abounded towards us, in all wisdom and forethought. 
Known as a distinguished classical Bible scholar at Trinity College, Cambridge, Gordon Calthrop (1823-1894) notes that when we hear the words “eternal life,” we turn instinctively to the opening of the great High Priestly prayer recorded in the Apostle John’s Gospel. So it gives rise to three questions.
I. How do we attain this “eternal life?” (a) It is a gift of God. We cannot merit it; we cannot acquire it as compensation or the result of any amount of laborious effort or moral excellence. We have to accept it, stretch out our hand, and thankfully take what the Lord God, of His infinite bounty and goodness, sees fit to offer. (b) It is bound up with the Person of the Lord Jesus the Anointed One. In the Lord Jesus the Anointed One, we have the reservoir which contains life. “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” “As the Father has life in Himself, so has He given to the Son to have life in Himself.” (c) And again: we must come into contact, so to speak, with this living reservoir or fountainhead so that the stream that issues from it may flow into our being and make us partakers of its blessings. “He that has the Son has life.”
II. What can we understand by “Has the Son”? The idea is that of possession, of mutual control, so that each of us shall be able to say of the Anointed One, “He is mine,” and the Anointed One, on His part, will be willing to speak of each of us, “I am His.” But how is this possession brought about? On our part, by the perfect surrender of ourselves to the Lord. As long as there is any holding back of anything from the Anointed One, He is of no benefit to us. He will not—indeed, He cannot—enter our inner being until we open the door and allow Him to come in, and even then, He will join on no other terms than that of absolute surrender.
III. What are the manifestations of “eternal life”? We find three crucial things in a living body – sensation, movement, and growth.
(a) There is a sensation we may call consciousness, or realization, of God in every living soul. God surrounds every soul as the atmosphere surrounds us. God surrounds us on every side. We exist in God as an element through creation. But it is perfectly possible for us to be utterly insensitive and not have any consciousness of Him. Our conscience is numb until we have received the new birth that the Spirit bestows. Then God flashes upon us actually as if He just came into being. We behold, we know, and delight in Him’s moral teaching and grandeur manifested in His Son, Jesus the Anointed One.
(b) Another manifestation of life is movement. And occupation for God, or mankind for God’s sake, is one of the characteristics of those born again of the Spirit and made new creations in Jesus the Anointed One. “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?’ is one of the first questions such persons always ask. Absolute silence is evidence of spiritual death. You must move, employ yourself; you must use some, at least, of your talents in the Divine service if you are “alive unto God.”
(c) Then there is growth, which is of various kinds: (i) Exercise of the graces of God bestowed upon us. (ii) Growth of intelligence in spiritual things. (iii) Maturity through advancing assimilation. Looking at the Anointed One, earnestly gazing upon Him, trying to understand Him, sympathizing with Him more and more, we catch something of His spirit; the features of His character are impressed upon us; we become, to some extent, like Him.
With precise spiritual discernment, William Alexander (1824-1911) takes verses ten and eleven as one verse: “Whoever believes in the Son of God has the truth that God told us. But people who do not believe God make God a liar because they do not believe what God told us about his Son. This is what God told us: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.” In Alexander’s mind, the Son of God is “the living theology of Christians.” So, it makes sense then that as Christians, we “live” our theology, not just talk about it. All of Jesus’ teachings are null and void unless they are put into action daily. That’s what the Apostle John is trying to get across to his readers. If you say you love God, show it by loving each other. It’s the best witness you could have that you are a child of God. The inner witness is of no value unless it has the outer witness to agree and implements it. Any enthusiastic praise and worship is good, but not without the same excited love for our spiritual brothers and sisters in God’s family.
With holiness doctrine expertise, Daniel Steele (1824-1914) sees the phrase “That He [God] gave” as a historical fact in the mission of His Son, “He gave to us” who evangelically appropriate the Anointed One, “eternal life.” He who experimentally knows the truth of the Gospel has life eternal, which is present and future, or rather “eternal life” exists, above all time. Eternal life is a respected term in the Final Covenant, occurring forty-four times. It is found only once in the First Covenant. God manifested it to us, says the Apostle John, through His Son. So, “this life is in His Son.” Its source and seat, its Prince or Author. 
After sufficient examination of the Greek text, Brooke F. Westcott (1825-1901) feels that God partially unfolded His witness by giving us eternal life. The Mission of His Son was the gift of life, of life in His Son. The reference is to the historical facts by which God communicated this life to humanity. That which before the Anointed One’s first coming was great hope, by His coming was realized and given. It simply defines the character of life and does not identify it with the only true life. True life is not separate from God but in God. Believers are united with the Anointed One and God. 
Like a spiritual farmer planting the seed of God’s Word, Henry A. Sawtelle (1832-1913) says that this verse’s contents signify God’s testimony through the water, blood, and Spirit. The water, pointing to the water of life, the blood representing the vital principle, and the Spirit, the very element of life itself. They all testify and continue to say that God gave to us who believe in the right to receive eternal life. This eternal life is not directly the state of future blessedness, described as already given because it is a promise. Still, the spiritual life in the soul commenced on earth is destined to survive the body’s demise. Therefore, true believers enter eternal life while in this world.
Observe that this life is something “given” by God’s grace. We do not earn or deserve it; we only receive it. And this life is (abidingly) in His Son. We must regard this statement as a part of the purpose of the testimony and coordinate with the latter part of the preceding sentence. The water, the blood, and the Spirit declared not only the gift of life but also that He who came that way had it absolutely and entirely in Himself. The Anointed One is the eternal vessel of the living water. It is all in Him. It is not in angels or churches but in God’s Son. Only in and through Him is life communicated to a lost world.  Called the “Prince of Preachers,” Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892) agrees with Sawtelle. Yes, it is all a gift. We are sent to preach this: “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son born of a woman, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” That is why the Apostle John says here in verse eleven, “This recorded, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.” On God’s part, it is all giving; it is all receiving on our part. The promise is already offered, freely made, and fulfilled. God does not begin with giving and then charge a price. No commission is payable upon receipt of His grace. He does not ask or receive a penny; His love is altogether a gift. You may accept His promise as a gift: He will not degrade Himself by listening to other terms.
 Luke 17:21
 John 4:14
 Thomas, David: Homilist Magazine, 1862
 See Revelation 2:10-11; 20:6, 14; 21:8; in the Jewish Targums it is used in Deuteronomy 33:6; Psalm 49:11
 Tuck, Richard H., The Preacher’s Complete Homiletical Commentary, op. cit., p. 329
 Matthew 24:35
 Romans 6:23
 Ibid. 5:8
 Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14
 Stock, John: An Exposition of the First Epistle General of St. John, op. cit., p. 430
 Ibid. 5:8
 Philippians 4:19
 Ephesians 1:7-8
 Stock, John: An Exposition of the First Epistle General of St. John, op. cit., p. 430-431
 John 17:1-26
 Ibid. 1:4
 Ibid. 5:26
 1 John 5:12
 Acts of the Apostles 9:6 (KJV)
 Calthrop, Gordon: The Church Pulpit Commentary, op. cit., Vol. 12, pp. 322-324
 Alexander, William: The Holy Bible with an Explanatory and Critical Commentary, op. cit., Vol IV, p. 343
 Daniel 12:2
 1 John 1:2
 See 1 John 1:4; Acts of the Apostles 3:15
 Steele, Daniel: Half-Hours with St. John’s Epistles, op. cit., p. 139
 John 10:10, 29
 Ibid. 20:31
 Cf. Romans 6:23; 2 Timothy 1:1
 Westcott, Brooke F., The Epistles of St. John: Greek Text with Notes, op. cit., pp. 187-188
 1 John 4:9; John 10:10
 Sawtelle, Henry A., Commentary on the Epistles of John, op. cit., pp. 58-59
 John 3:16
 Spurgeon, Charles H., According to Promise, The Promise a Free Gift, pp. 30-31