By Dr. Robert R. Seyda


CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson LXXI) 02/20/23

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

Ministry & Missions Overseer Muncia Walls (1937) notes that the Apostle John again declares that the only means of salvation is through Jesus the Anointed One. To deny Him and who He is, is to reject the privilege of salvation. Eternal life can only be obtained through the Lord Jesus, the Anointed One. Salvation is experienced only through Baptism in His Name and being filled with His Spirit. He IS salvation. Outside of Him, there is no hope for eternal life. [1]

Expositor and systematic theologist Michael Eaton (1942-2017) says that God’s witness activates spiritual life within our hearts. And this is the testimony: “God gave us eternal life,” and “this life is in His Son.” Thus, it speaks of the two sides of the witness of the Spirit. The Spirit also assures us that we have eternal life. Still, such a witness is built upon the foundation of such everlasting life in the historically manifested Son of God. The essence of the Christian Gospel is life. What happens when a person receives Jesus the Anointed One by faith? According to the apostles’ preaching, they come spiritually alive.

Such a person is made alive with spiritual life from God’s Son. It is a life full of sensitivity to God and His Spirit. It is energy, liveliness, and a desire to do things for God. It understands with clarity. When others are unsure and confused about Godly things, the Gospel is self-evident and plain for Christians. They are no longer dead to the workings of God; they are alive to them. “Eternal life” is the clear mind concerning God, appetite for God in their desires, and capacity to obey God within our willpower. And it goes on and on; it grows and develops. Eternal life is a growing life, an ever-increasing life. [2]

After studying the context surrounding this verse, John W. (Jack) Carter (1947) points out that in verses ten and now eleven, the Apostle John uses another legal term: “a record:” a written testimony.  The idea is that something that is written down cannot be changed. Today this is called a “disposition.” Written testimonies cannot be altered. It is a piece of solid, substantial evidence presented to the court. The final proof of salvation that John brings to the stand is the gift of eternal life found only in Jesus, the Anointed One. All religious expression and effort focus on reconciling the gap between God and mankind. John points to the gift of eternal life through Jesus the Anointed One as the only acceptable means to fill that gap. With this, John rests his case with a final summation.[3]

A man who loves sharing God’s Word, Robert W. Yarbrough (1948) draws our attention to the first word in verse eleven, “and,” with an implication in verse ten. Objectively, God’s testimony is that He has made a saving disclosure regarding His Son.[4] But in verse eleven, John specifies what this witness amounts to: “God gave us eternal life.” “Eternal life” is placed in an emphatic position in its clause. That “God gave” it is a reminder “that we are destitute of it” without the Anointed One and “merits cannot acquire it.” Some suggest that “gave” describes the uniqueness of an event in the Anointed One’s past. This concept makes the unbelief of verse ten all the more meaningful because not only has God proclaimed the truth and attested richly to it, but His gracious act also has the gift of eternal life to its recipients as its goal. Some, however, would rather make God a liar than bow to receive God’s blessing.[5]

Skilled in Dead Sea Scroll interpretation and New Testament writings, Colin G. Kruse (1950) sees the Apostle John now amplifying the nature of God’s witness. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. Up to this point, John has emphasized God’s witness concerning the person (who came in the flesh) and work (coming by water and blood) of the historical Jesus. But here, John accentuates God’s testimony concerning the benefit made available to believers through His Son. Here is God’s testimony concerning the eternal life He gives people “in His Son.” In 1 John, eternal life is not an unending extension of life as we know it; instead, it is “having” Jesus the Anointed One. Eternal life is identified with Jesus the Anointed One. He is eternal life,[6] that was with the Father from the beginning.[7] [8]

Believing that Christians can fall away from the faith, Ben Witherington III (1951) tells us that here in verse eleven, we are told that God has given everlasting life to believers and that this life is in His Son. Here the act of giving is in the past tense, referring to the historical events of Jesus’ life, or at least the fact of His life. Faith is the condition of receiving God’s life, but once acquired, that life also confirms faith. John states that whoever has the Son has everlasting life, and the converse is also true. This life is available only through the Son. Without the Son, one is spiritually dead, even if one is intellectually alive and lively. Perhaps John has the heretics in view here. Notice that this is called “the witness/testimony,” by which John means the divine evidence or witness to the truth about Jesus. That believers have everlasting life in His name validates the high Christological claims about Him. It is the internal testimony to the fact about Jesus.[9]

With her crafted spiritual insight, Judith Lieu (1951) says that characteristically, the Apostle John switches from the language of objective reality to that of the subjective appropriation that embodies that reality. The “this is” (the testimony)[10] and commentary anticipate what follows. The “that” clause that follows is not the content of the testimony, namely, (what someone asserts) but constitutes the testimony itself. It also repeats the unfulfilled definition of verse nine (“For this is the testimony of God”): God’s gift of life is God’s testimony giving. On this occasion, “the testimony” is not explicitly defined as “God’s,” perhaps because that is by now self-evident or probably because the preceding verses have excluded any suggestion that this appropriation in “us” exhausts the sum total of God’s testimony. [11]

Emphasizing the Apostle John’s call to Christian fellowship, Bruce B. Barton (1954) notes that this is the testimony that the false teachers refused to believe, but the Christians held on to it as the truth; that God has given us eternal life, and this life is found only in His Son. Divine, eternal life resides in the Anointed One, who makes it available to all who believe in Him. That Jesus is indeed God’s Son was established by God’s testimony.[12] Therefore, believers have eternal life in relationship to and in union with Jesus the Anointed One, who is Himself “life,[13] and they have eternal life because of Him.[14] [15]

With a classical thinking approach to understanding the scriptures, Bruce G. Schuchard (1958) proposes that as a complement to the paired clauses that frame (5:10a, 10b, and 5:12a, 12b) are instances of an equal clause beginning with an attention-grabbing “this is.” And this is the testimony that God has given us the life of the coming age. A statement much like the one with which the body of the Epistle begins to mark its framed end. “This” again (as in 5:3a, 4b, 6a, 9b) looks forward to the clause’s “God’s Son” and concluding references to “testimony” (5:10a, 10c). Then there is “The life of the age to come.” A prominent inaugural theme of both the prologue (see 1:1) and the beginning of the Epistle’s second half (see 3:15) helps with its references in the Epistle’s conclusion. In Jesus, the age that is to come, its kingdom, comes. Therefore, in Jesus, the life of the age to come is “received and enjoyed here and now” by all who trust in Him. [16]

In his unorthodox Unitarian way, Duncan Heaster (1967) understands that this God given testimony concerns His gift of eternal life through His Son. Therefore, our witness is a life lived here, like the life we will live eternally in Heaven’s Kingdom. That life given to us by the Holy Spirit is “the life” of the Lord Jesus. We now live that life in union with the mind of the exalted Jesus. Therefore, the Gospel of the future Kingdom was explained in parables about how life should be lived now; the “eternal life,” as John puts it, the Kingdom Life. But this life is a gift of the Lord’s Spirit, living and thinking as He does; the energy is “in His Son.” It is so true to practical experience; it is not the exposition of doctrinal truths that makes a powerful witness. Instead of the Kingdom Life, the Eternal Life, the life which was and is in the Anointed One, lived in human life before the eyes of our fellow believers.[17]

Bright seminarian Karen H. Jobes (1968) tells us that God’s testimony is firm, rooted in His character, revealed in His Son, and witnessed by the Spirit, the water, and the blood. John now brings his argument back to address the assurance he wants his readers to have. God testifies, and He cannot lie,[18] that He offers to all[19] what He gave “us” (meaning John and the Apostles) who believed His testimony about His Son, namely, the gift of eternal life found in no one other than God’s Son, Jesus the Anointed One. So closely does John’s argument link God’s testimony about Jesus to the witness of the Spirit, the water, and the blood that any claim that excludes the Spirit, the water, or the blood is not God’s testimony but merely human ideas devoid of the power to save and assure.[20]

A skilled sermonizer, David Legge (1969) tells us that the Greek noun martyria and verb martyreō for “testify” or “bear witness” are used no fewer than ten times in verses six to eleven. John depicts it for us in an illustration, a courtroom drama. Now, as you may be aware, if you’re familiar with the Final Covenant, the Apostle Paul uses courtroom imagery in the book of Romans.[21] Of course, specifically in some of those portions of Scripture, he presents God as our Judge, God, who is holy and righteous, weighing our sins against His law. Not only is God the Judge in Paul’s courtroom scene, but we are the accused; we are the condemned before the courtroom bar of God. Then in Paul’s scene, we also find that there’s a third party, the Anointed One, who is our Advocate.

He is the One who stands before God’s throne and pleads our case and proves that we are not guilty of breaking God’s law since evidence proves that our lawless living has been forgiven. In verse ten, John says: “All who believe in the Son of God know in their hearts that this testimony is true. Those who don’t believe this call God a liar because they don’t believe what God testified concerning His Son.” This is indisputable evidence involving the Anointed One to show and prove to all without reasonable doubt that He is who He says He is. It is undeniable evidence, and to reject it is not unreasonable; it is unbelief! As John Stott said: “Unbelief is not a misfortune to be pitied; it is a sin to be deplored.[22] The evidence is staggering, and to reject it, John says, you’re trying to make God a liar! But the evidence is stacked in the Anointed One’s complete favor.

That is the weight of their testimony after the three witnesses have given it. Then thirdly and finally, John presents the verdict on their testimony in the courtroom. “And this is the record: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.” In other words, John tells it like it is. John says: “Here is the evidence, take it or leave it, here are the facts: God testified concerning His Son whom He gave so we could have eternal life, and this life is found only in His Son. It’s on record; this is the testimony; it’s indisputable.” Who could misunderstand language like that?

A Christian’s faith is in the Anointed One, from start to finish. Therefore, those with the Son have eternal life – and those who do not have the Anointed One of the Bible and human history have no eternal life. People need to hear this: you can use evangelical language, you can belong to a denomination that classes itself as evangelical, you can say, “I belong to the church, I’m Baptist, I’m Presbyterian, I’m Brethren, I’m Episcopalian, I’m Pentecostal or something other.” But listen to God’s Word: it’s got nothing to do with all that! He that has the Son has everlasting life![23]

5:12 Whoever has the Son has life, but whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.


This same truth inspired the Apostle Paul to tell us we must keep all this in mind: God made us part of the Anointed One, Jesus. And the Anointed One has become for us wisdom from God. He is why we are right with God and pure enough to be in His presence. The Anointed One is He who set us free from following our sinful tendencies.[24] In another letter, Paul stated he had been crucified with the Anointed One: and his old self no longer lives, but the Anointed One lives in him. And the life he now has within his body is a result of his trusting in the Son of God, who loved him and gave Himself for him.[25]

[1] Walls, Muncia: Epistles of John and Jude, op. cit., p. 89

[2] Eaton, Michael: Focus on the Bible, 1,2,3 John, op. cit., p. 188

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

[4] 1 John 5:9-10

[5] Yarbrough, Robert W., 1-3 John (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament), op. cit., pp. 289-290

[6] 1 John 5:20

[7] Ibid. 1:2

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

[9] 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

[10] Cf. 1 John 1:5

[11] Lieu, Judith: A New Testament Library, I, II, & III John, op. cit., p. 219

[12] 1 John 5:7-9

[13] John 1:4; 14:6

[14] 2 Timothy 1:10

[15] Barton, Bruce B., 1,2, & 3 John (Life Application Bible Commentary), op. cit., p. 112

[16] Schuchard, Bruce G., Concordia Commentary, 1-3 John, op. cit., pp. 542-543

[17] Heaster, Duncan. New European Christadelphian Commentary: op. cit., The Letters of John, p. 76

[18] Numbers 23:19

[19] See 1 John 2:2

[20] Jobes, Karen H., 1, 2, and 3 John (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on The New Testament Series Book 18), op. cit., p. 225

[21] Romans 3:9-28

[22] Stott, John: The Epistles of John, TNT, Eerdmans, 1964, p. 182.

[23] Legge, David: Preach the Word, 1 John, Sermon 15

[24] 1 Corinthians 1:30

[25] Galatians 2:20

About drbob76

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