By Dr. Robert R. Seyda


CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson LXX) 02/17/23

5:11 This is what God told us: He has given us eternal life in His Son.

Noting the Apostle John’s doctrinal implications, John James Lias (1834-1923) feels we are permitted to grasp the truth in its fulness of God’s Word. “The Life was manifested” that it might become ours. Eternal, unchangeable life is within our reach. And this life can only be obtained in and through the Son of God, as John repeatedly tells us,[1] that we might have life. The “He gave” here refers no doubt to the first coming of the Anointed One into the world as the one-act which gave eternal life to the world. The aorist tense asks us to contemplate that this gift reached us in the Person of the Son. We should not fail to observe how the Apostle Paul comes to the same conclusion after a long argument, in almost the exact words. “The gift of God is eternal life in Jesus the Anointed One our Lord.”[2] [3]

A tried and tested biblical scholar who believes in the up-building of the Christian life, Robert Cameron (1839-1904) notes that the Apostle John adds to what has been said so far, “God has given to us eternal life and this life is in His Son,” and we obtain this life believing in His name. About forty times in John’s Gospel, spiritual and eternal life is said to be received by having faith in the Anointed One, but only once here in this Epistle. It is assumed that the persons to whom John writes have already believed. Then he adds in verse twelve, “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” If God has given us spiritual life in the Anointed One, then we also have what God has put in Him – eternal life. If we do not accept the Anointed One, we do not have spiritual life. So, Christianity is perpetual faith in a person and not the acceptance of a creed.

The Father, the words and the works of the Anointed One, the Scriptures, John the Baptizer, and the disciples all bear their testimony that Jesus is the Son of God, notes Cameron. But God has appointed the Spirit, the water, and the blood to bear witness as well. 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 upon His ministry by water and His exit by blood, are still visible. To reject these witnesses is to make God a liar and discard His Son. Here ends the doctrinal part of the First Epistle of John.[4]

As a secular and sacred Law enforcer, Sir Robert Anderson (1841-1918) denotes that faith in its simplest character is not trust, nor even faith in a person, but the belief of a record. “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Anointed One, is born of God.”[5]Who is he that overcomes the world, but he that believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”[6] So, reading this fifth chapter, we find that God’s testimony is in question between sinners and themselves. “There are three who bear witness, the Spirit, the water, and the blood, and the three agree in one. If we receive the witness of others, the witness of God is greater. They that believe in the Son of God have the witness in themselves.[7] In the whole chapter, beginning with verse six, the terms “water” and “blood” are to be interpreted by the typology of Scripture. The Anointed One came as the fulfillment not merely of “the water of purification[8] but of “the blood of atonement.”[9] And so also if we turn to the Gospel of John. It was written that we might believe “that Jesus is the Anointed One, the Son of God; and that, believing, we might have life through His name.”[10] [11]

Manifestly and distinctly, Erich Haupt (1841-1910) calculates that any explanation of the water and the blood must consider the twofold relation they assume here. First, they are witnesses or a source of testimony. Therefore, the water and the blood must represent some divine act, some heavenly institution, in virtue of which God appears on behalf of the Anointed One. Secondly, we observe that the Anointed One is said to have “come.” The Apostle John uses the word “come” concerning the Anointed One as a solemn voice that refers to Jesus’ coming as the Anointed One, not to His being born, but His manifestation as Savior of the world. The proposition before us needs to signify that Jesus attained His Messianic position through water and blood. Therefore, these two are not only the pledge of His divine Sonship but the powers through which He was established as the world’s Savior. Accordingly, the water and the blood must be pointed to as constitutive factors in the life of the Redeemer.[12]

With his Spirit-directed calculating mind, Alfred Plummer (1841-1926) says what the Apostle John says in verse eleven is the external witness of God when the believer internally appropriates it, namely, the Divine gift of eternal life. Plummer explains that “He has given” eternal life is better translated as “He gave.” but perhaps this is a case in which the English perfect may represent the Greek aorist. But at any rate, “gave” must not be weakened into “offered,” still less into “promised.” The believer already possesses eternal life. This life is in God’s Son. Therefore, eternal life has its seat and source in the Son, the “Prince” or “Author” of life.[13] [14]

With regal etiquette, Ernest von Dryander (1843-1922) asks, “Who guides the arrow of the word of God so that it penetrates the conscience of man?” It is the Holy Spirit. “Who arouses death-stricken souls to yearn for peace and salvation?” It is the Holy Spirit. “Who makes the Anointed One’s presence in the preaching of His Word?” It is the Spirit of truth. So there are three testify on earth – the Spirit, the water, and the blood. Only in the power of the Spirit do the other witnesses become living and convincing. But “these three agree in one” on one shared object: declaring Jesus the Anointed One as God’s Son and Redeemer of the world.

In addition, it is decreed according to Jewish Law that two or three witnesses must substantiate every truth.[15] Since this holds true in the case of earthly tribunals and even more in the case of the heavenly, should anyone attempt to make God a liar by not believing the testimony He gave of His Son? What hinders them from joining the ranks of true believers? Why stand aloof? Why not revere the Person of Jesus the Anointed One and yet refuse to believe He is the Redeemer? Because they art lacking in one thing; even though there should be numberless witnesses, the living God provided many signs and wonders, why would they remain unconvinced? Why would they refuse to experience the unique and peculiar power these witnesses exercise in giving their testimony? Why wait until forced to confess with Jeremiah, “O Lord, you misled me, and I allowed myself to be misled. You are stronger than I am, and you overpowered me. Now I am mocked every day; everyone laughs at me.”[16] [17]

With his stately speaking style,  William M. Sinclair (1850-1917) says that the Christian creed is reduced here to a small scope: the gift of eternal life and the dependence of that life upon His Son. Eternal life does not mean the mere continuance of life after death, whether for good or evil. Instead, it is the expression used throughout the Apostle John’s writings for life in God without reference to time, which can have no end. As such, it implies heaven and every possible variety of blessedness and consists of believing in God the Father and His Son. Its opposite is not annihilation but the second death: existence in exclusion from God.[18] [19]

For R. A. Torrey (1856-1928), the expression “living,” as applied to the Word of God, noticeably means something more than partaking of the kind of life with which we are acquainted from observation. God speaks of Himself as the “Living God.” The Lord Jesus is the “Prince of Life.”[20] He announced Himself to John in the vision of Patmos as “He that lives.” Eternal life is in Him.[21] It is clear, then, that when we read, “The Word of God is living,” we are to understand that it lives with a spiritual, inexhaustible, and inextinguishable, divine life. If the Word of God is indeed living in this sense, then we have a fact of tremendous significance.[22]

A man who appreciates Jesus’ embodiment of the divine transforming emotion on how we live in this world, Robert Law (1860-1919), asserts that spiritual and eternal Life, God, the Father revealed in the Anointed One, is the sole and absolute source. He is the true God and Eternal Life.[23] Eternal Life is His gift2 to men; potentially, when He “sent His Son into the world that we might live through Him;[24] actually, when we believe in His name.[25] The Anointed One is the sole mediator of spiritual Life. If “the witness is that God gave us Eternal spiritual and eternal Life,” it is because “this spiritual and eternal Life is in His Son.” By the Incarnation of the Only-Begotten Son, the Eternal Life in its Divine fulness became incorporated with humanity and remain a fountain of regenerative power to “as many as receive Him.”[26]

Also, says Law, here John’s doctrine of the Logos (“Word”) enables him to carry thought on this subject in the Final Covenant a step further than the Pauline view of the Anointed One as the Second Adam and the “Man from heaven.”[27] In what sense the Life of God is in the Anointed One and mediated through Him is unfolded in the opening verses of the Epistle, where it is said that the subject of the entire Apostolic announcement is “the Word of Life.” This announcement is possible because “the Life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare unto you the Life, the Eternal Life, which was in relation to the Father and was manifested unto us.”[28] [29]

With characteristic fundamental thinking, Alan England Brooke (1863-1939) says that the witness is finally defined with some of the essential characteristics already described. So far, the Apostle John only taught his readers that it is a Divine witness borne by the Father to His Son and that those who believe in the Son have it as a possession as part of themselves. Now John states what it consists of. God bore witness to His Son when He gave life to mankind – that higher spiritual life they can realize and make their own by uniting themselves to Jesus, the Anointed One, God’s Son.[30]

God’s testimony consisted of the fact that He gave life to mankind by sending His Son that they might have life in Him.[31] The sending of the Son on a mission is characterized by the Water of the Baptism and shed Blood on the Cross, the object of which was to implant a new life in believing men and women. It was the witness borne by God to the nature and character of Jesus of Nazareth. The gift was something best described as “spiritual life.” The tense emphasizes the fact, apart from its consequences. The reference is to the historical fact of the mission of Him who came by Water and by Blood. The gift of life is a witness only where it has been accepted, which is part of the “testimony,” not an additional statement about life. The witness is the gift of a life which is in God’s Son.[32]

As a spiritual mentor, Ronald A. Ward (1920-1986) mentions that the Apostle John now analyses the content of the divine testimony. God gave us eternal life. When? It is natural to say, “when we were born again.” But Paul told Timothy that God’s grace was given to us through the Anointed One, Jesus before time began. So, there is no eternal life apart from the Anointed One – and it comes from God.[33] [34] In a spirited confrontational way, Peter S. Ruckman (1921-2016) states that from verse eleven on down, through verse fifteen, is the plainest section found anywhere in John’s first epistle. The Apostle Paul shares this theology ‒ salvation is based on believing something.[35] We need not do something or get something to “abide,” not keeping anybody’s commandments, doing, going, loving the brethren, or anything else, as we have found in the first four chapters. How can anyone not believe that Jesus of Nazareth was God’s Son when God said so?[36] Jesus said He was God’s Son.[37] The disciples said so:[38] Matthew,[39] Mark,[40] Luke,[41] John,[42] Peter,[43] and Thomas.[44] Also, Paul,[45] Martha, [46] the demons,[47] and the Holy Spirit.[48][49] How many more witnesses does anyone need?

[1] John 6:33, 51; 10:10

[2] Romans 6:23

[3] Lias, John James: The First Epistle of St. John with Exposition, op. cit., pp.391-392

[4] Cameron, Robert: The First Epistle of John, or, God Revealed in Light, Life, and Love, op. cit., p. 238

[5] 1 John 5:1

[6] Ibid. 5:5

[7] Ibid. 5:10

[8] Numbers 19

[9] Leviticus 16

[10] John 20:31

[11] Anderson, Sir. Robert: The Gospel and its Ministry, op. cit., p. 30

[12] Haupt, Erich: The First Epistle of St. John: Clark’s Foreign Theological Library, Vol. LXIV, op. cit., pp. 298-299, 318-319

[13] Acts of the Apostles 3:15; See John 1:4; 5:26

[14] Plummer, Alfred: The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges, N. T., Vol. IV, p. 163

[15] Deuteronomy 19:15

[16] Jeremiah 20:7 – New Living Translation

[17] Dryander, Ernst von: A Commentary on the First Epistle of St. John in the Form of Addresses, op. cit., XV, The Invulnerability of Faith, p. 202

[18] Cf.  1 John 2:25; John 17:3; 2 Timothy 1:10

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

[20] Acts of the Apostles 3:15

[21] 1 John 5:11

[22] Torrey, R. A., The Fundamentals – A Testament of Truth, Vol. 2, pp. 126-127

[23] 1 John 5:20

[24] Ibid. 4:9

[25] Ibid. 5:13

[26] John 1:12

[27] 1 Corinthians 15:22, 45-49

[28] 1 John 1:2

[29] Law, Robert: The Tests of Life: A Study of the First Epistle of St. John, op. cit., p. 190-191

[30] Cf. John 3:19

[31] Cf. Ibid. 10:10

[32] Brooke, Alan E., A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Johannine Epistles, op. cit., pp. 140-141

[33] See John 17:3

[34] Ward, Ronald A., The Epistles on John and Jude, op. cit., pp. 56-57

[35] Acts of the Apostles 15:11

[36] Matthew 3:17

[37] John 1:14; 5:17; Hebrews 1:8

[38] Matthew 14:33

[39] Matthew 8:29

[40] Mark 3:11

[41] Luke 1:32; 4:41

[42] John 19:7

[43] Matthew 16:16

[44] John 20:28

[45] Matthew 14:33

[46] John 11:27

[47] Luke 4:40-41

[48] Luke 3:22; John 1:32    

[49] Ruckman, Dr. Peter S., General Epistles Vol. 2 (1-2-3 John, Jude Commentary), op. cit., loc. cit. Kindle Edition

About drbob76

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