By Dr. Robert R. Seyda


CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson LXXII) 02/21/23

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

The writer of Hebrews stated that if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as we did when we first became Christians, we will share in all that belongs to the Anointed One.[1] And in his second Epistle, the Apostle John warned that if you stray from the Anointed One’s teaching, you will leave God behind. However, if you are loyal to the Anointed One’s Gospel, you will have God within you. Then you will have both the Father and the Son.[2]

John the Baptizer stated that all who trust Him – God’s Son – to save them would have eternal life; those who don’t believe and obey Him will never see heaven, but the coming wrath of God remains upon them.[3] And no doubt John remembered hearing his Lord tell them that He was leaving and going back to the Father, but He wanted them as they traveled through the world to preach the Good News to everyone. So those who believe and are baptized will be saved. But those who refuse will go to their graves unforgiven and condemned.[4]

So, for John, the question became: who do you believe? The sinner who calls God a liar, or, the Holy Spirit who says God is not a man that He can lie.  If God called Jesus His Son, that’s all the proof anyone needs. But it’s more than just believing; it is the result of believing.  Years ago, a TV quiz show hosted by comedian Groucho Marx was called “You Bet Your Life.”  Of course, there was no life-or-death factor; it was simply a play on words. However, it is the same case of betting your life by believing or not believing that Jesus is God’s Son and the only way to salvation and eternal life, it does become a matter of gambling life or death for your soul.

Therefore, the substance of the internal testimony is this – we are conscious of the Divine gift of eternal life, and this we have in God’s Son. John does not use “everlasting life,” although the idea of endlessness may be included in it, but it is not the main one. The distinction between eternity and time is what the human mind feels is authentic and necessary. But we are apt to lose ourselves when we attempt to think of eternity. We admit that it is not time, that it is the very antithesis of time, yet we try to measure it while we declare it immeasurable. We make it simply a very long time. In John’s writings, the main idea of “eternal life” has no direct reference to time. Eternal life is possessed already by believers; it is not a thing of the future.[5] Life in God includes all blessedness that remains unbroken by physical death.[6] Its opposite is permanent exclusion from God and His presence.

One of my highly admired mentors was the late Dr. Charles W. Conn, President of Lee University in Tennessee. At a Pentecostal Servicemen’s Retreat in Berchtesgaden, Germany, he shared the following illustration of eternity. He told us to imagine a bird out in the universe building a new planet for another world. Every day it would fly to the earth, pick up one grain of sand, rock, dirt, or water and deposit it on the new planet. Then, when that bird completely removed all trace of the earth, not one second of eternity would have passed.

While in the military, I once discussed salvation, heaven, and hell with a fellow soldier. He told me very straight forward that he did not believe in heaven or hell. So I put this proposition to him: If there is no heaven or hell, then by living life according to God’s Word and avoiding sinful pleasures, which often can bring more pain and suffering than they do pleasure, I would have nothing to lose. But if there is a heaven and a burning hell and you reject the message of salvation, then, in the end, you will lose everything.  Either way, I can’t lose.  Why risk being wrong? He looked at me and said, “I guess you’re right.” But he decided to take his chances. I can only hope that the Holy Spirit reminded him of our conversation later somewhere down the road, and he reached out to God for salvation.

We can see that verses eleven and twelve are the climax to the Apostle John’s initial part of his letter, namely, that the Son of God is the “Word of Life.” Therefore, possession of God’s Son is the ownership of eternal life and vice versa. We cannot separate eternal life from the person of the Anointed One. False teachers tried to split John’s congregation in two.[7] The truth of eternal life is not at issue here, but only those who know God’s Son possess it. False teachers do not enjoy eternal life.[8] 

The result of God’s witness about Jesus the Anointed One is that God gives the believer eternal life through Him. The phrase “eternal life” is emphatic. 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.[9] This life is the very life of God. Therefore, keep this in mind, eternal life is more qualitative than quantitative.

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 balance. Eternal life contains unconditional love so that we can have unrestricted 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.[10] 

Therefore, the Son of God is the means to eternal life. We can find eternal life nowhere else than in God’s beloved Son. There is no compromise here. God’s Son IS life.[11]  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. Eternal life rests in Jesus the Anointed One.[12]  

Note the sequences in John’s argument. The Father possesses eternal life and gave it to the humanity of the Anointed One.[13]  So Jesus can say, “I live because of the Father.”[14] So then, Jesus offers believers that same eternal life.[15] It proves that Jesus is God’s Son.[16] The principle is that eternal life comes exclusively through Jesus the Anointed One. It applies to believers in that the life of God’s Son brings us into God’s presence as His present possession and in the eternal state of heaven. Thus, Jesus is the only way into God’s life and fellowship.[17]


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) states that the Apostle John does not simply say that there is life in the Son; he says that God’s Son is life itself. The Son, in turn, glorified His Father by saying: “The Father has life in Himself, and He has granted that same life-giving power to His Son.”[18] He shows how this life is common to both Father and Son when he says: “And this is the way to have eternal life – to know You, the only true God, and Jesus the Anointed One, the One you sent to earth.”[19] [20]

As a firm spiritual disciplinarian, John Owen (1616-1683) states that the reason the Apostle John proposed in his Gospel the promise of Justification as the object of our faith to eternal life. Therefore, it is considered an ordinance of God to that end. Hence, God’s love, grace, and wisdom in sending His Son comprised the same objective. Therefore, not only is it an act of God in providing the Anointed One for our justification, but all His actions towards the person of the Anointed One were to deliver Justification to us. So, “God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin.”[21]He did not spare even His Son but gave Him up for us all,”[22] and “the Lord laid on Him the sins of us all.”[23] So He was “Raised to life for our justification.”[24] And our faith is in God, who “raised Him from the dead,”[25]and in His exaltation.[26] It is all verified by “the record God has given of His Son.[27] [28]

When people first learn, by their acquaintance with the Anointed One, to place all their hopes of salvation in a personal union with Him, from whom they received a pardon through grace, righteousness, and redemption, what more could any person as for than what we read in verse twelve: “Those who have the Son have spiritual life, and those who do not have the Son have no life?” And what can having the Son signify but having an interest in Him, being made one with Him? But the phrase “having the Son” disproves that dull and moral interpretation, especially when we remember “being in the Anointed One, is abiding in Him,” which must signify a very close union between the Anointed One and us.[29]

With a spiritually contemplative mind, Matthew Henry (1662-1714) feels that nothing can be more absurd than the conduct of those who doubt the truth of Christianity. In the ordinary affairs of life, they do not hesitate to proceed on human testimony and would consider anyone out of their senses who declined to do so. The honest Christian has seen their guilt, misery, and need for a Savior to provide for such spiritual wants and circumstances. But, on the other hand, they found and felt the power of the Word and doctrine of the Anointed One, humbling, healing, quickening, and comforting their soul. As a result, they have a new disposition and new delights and are not the person they formerly were.

Yet they still have a conflict with themselves, sin, the flesh, the world, and wicked powers. But they find strength from faith in the Anointed One to overcome the world and travel towards a better life. Every Gospel believer has such assurance as a witness in themselves. It removes doubt except in hours of darkness or conflict, but none can persuade them out of their belief in the truths of the Gospel. Here is what makes the unbeliever’s sin so awful, the sin of unbelief. He gives God the lie; because he believes not the record God provided for His Son. While rejecting this record, it is in vain for an individual to plead that they believe God’s testimony in other things. Those who refuse to trust and honor the Anointed One as God’s Son, who object to His teaching as Prophet, rely on His atonement and intercession as High Priest, or obey Him as King, are dead in sin, under condemnation. No outward morality, learning, forms, notions, or confidences avail them.[30]

As an unapologetic Gospel preacher, Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) indicates that in verse twelve, the Apostle John shows respect for the words of the Anointed One in his Gospel, “Anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life. Anyone who doesn’t obey the Son will never experience eternal life.”[31] Where the Scripture speaks of souls coming to the Anointed One, it also speaks of joining with Him as the reason to enjoy His benefits. “Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life.[32] There is a vast difference between finding it suitable that the Anointed One’s redemption and virtues should be theirs who believe. Nor have any interest in the ransom price being a fitting reward of faith. They find no relevant testimony of God’s respect for the agreeability and excellency of such grace. Likewise, they see no advantage in the Anointed One’s sacrifice just because they and the Anointed One are united. Therefore, in the eyes of the heavenly Judge, they may be looked upon and taken as one who does not care about eternal life with God.[33]

[1] Hebrews 3:14

[2] 2 John 1:9

[3] John 3:36

[4] Mark 16:15-16

[5] John 3:36; 5:24; 6:47, 54; 17:3

[6] Ibid. 11:25

[7] 1 John 2:25-26

[8] Ibid. 1:1-2

[9] John 17:2-3; 3:15-16; 5:24-26; 6:40, 47, 68; 10:10, 28; 11:25-26

[10] Ibid. 11:25-26

[11] 1 John 1:2; John 11:25; 14:6

[12] John 1:4

[13] Ibid. 5:26

[14] Ibid. 6:27

[15] Ibid. 3:36; 5:24; 20:31

[16] Ibid. 1:4; 5:26-27; 6:57; Acts of the Apostles 3:14-15

[17] Ibid. 14:6

[18] Ibid. 5:26

[19] Ibid. 17:3

[20] Bede the Venerable: Ancient Christian Commentary, Bray, G. (Ed.), op. cit., Vol. XI, p. 225

[21] Romans 3:25

[22] Ibid. 8:32

[23] Isaiah 53:6

[24] Romans 4:25

[25] Ibid. 10:9

[26] Acts of the Apostles 5:31

[27] 1 John 5:10-12

[28] Owen, John: The Doctrine of Justification, op. cit., pp. 145-146

[29] Owen, John: A Vindication of Some Passages in a Discourse Concerning Communion with God, op. cit., p. 45.

[30] Henry, Matthew: Concise Commentary on the Bible, op. cit., pp. 2059-2060

[31] John 1:12

[32] Ibid. 5:40

[33] Edwards, Jonathan, The Works of: Soul’s Eternal Salvation, Discourse 1, p. 329

About drbob76

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