By Dr. Robert R. Seyda


CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson LXXIV) 02/23/23

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

In verse twelve, straightforward preacher Charles Simeon (1759-1836) says that nothing less than everlasting happiness or misery depends on this point. Those who desired eternal life; and sought it earnestly through the Anointed One received it from God as an unmerited gift and are looking to the Anointed One for an even “more abundant” life.[1] It is to preserve it in their soul. Thus, those who “live by faith in the Son of God” have spiritual and eternal life in their souls. They can claim everlasting life upon the promise of God’s Word. They can plead the promises of God[2] and be assured that they will not be disappointed.[3] Indeed, eternal life has already begun in their soul.[4]

Like others, they were once spiritually dead but now have “passed from spiritual death to eternal life.”[5] Living by faith in the Son of God demonstrates that they are alive and that the Anointed One lives in them.[6] They may not have a comfortable sense and assurance of their happy state, but they are spiritually alive and will be forever.

On the other hand, those who have not received and lived in union with Lord Jesus the Anointed One in their hearts have no life in their soul. They are still “spiritually dead in trespasses and sins.”[7] They are far from having any title to eternal life and remain under a sentence of everlasting condemnation and “awaiting God’s judgment.”[8]  Whatever they may have, they do not have eternal life. According to the general acceptance of the term, they may have learning, riches, honor, and even morality, but they are not spiritually alive. And if they die in their present state, they will die without God; yes, if they were the foremost king on earth, they would still pass away on the same level as the lowliest of their subjects; they would descend from their pinnacle of honor to the lowest pit of shame and misery.[9]

Considering everything the Apostle John has said so far, Adam Clarke (1774-1849) then points out that since eternal life is given through the Son of God, it follows that it cannot be enjoyed without Him. No one can have it without having the Anointed One; therefore, he that has the Son has life, and he that has not the Son has no life. Consequently, it is in vain to expect eternal glory if the Anointed One is not in our hearts. Therefore, the indwelling of the Anointed One gives both a title and its usefulness. This is God’s record. Let no one deceive themselves. An indwelling Anointed One – GLORY; no indwelling Anointed One – NO GLORY. God’s record will stand.[10]

With his captivating teaching style, Jewish convert Augustus Neander (1789-1850) notes that the testimony accrediting Jesus as God’s Son shows its importance to believers, which attestation that He is God’s Son implies and assures them. “This is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, which is in His Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life.”[11]

Through this witness, whereby Jesus is ascribed as the Son of God, He is made known as the One who alone can impart a true, eternal, divine life of bliss to mankind. God has established the fountain of eternal life by sending to us His Son. Hence this witness also includes the gift of eternal life. In God’s Son, eternal life is grounded; all life, apart from fellowship with Him, is certain death. So, it follows that those who have received the Son have experienced true life. In contrast, through unbelief, those who shut themselves off from the Anointed One and the fountain of Living Water have blocked themselves from the source of everlasting life.[12]

After spiritually analyzing John’s conclusions, Gottfried C. F. Lücke (1791-1855) sees verse twelve as connected with verse five and as a colophon[13] to all that precedes. The moral and ethical point in this verse is this: Is it possible that someone will not believe in Jesus the Anointed One and firmly trust Him since God accredited Him as His Son and since only by faith in Him is there eternal life? Without this faith, eternal life cannot be obtained.[14] [15]

Although chronically ill with lung disease, Francis William Pitt Greenwood (1797-1843), Unitarian minister of King’s Chapel in Boston, proposes that we receive God’s Son in these three modes: ‒ as a Teacher, as an Example, and as a Savior. In each of these, He is spiritual and eternal life to those who have Him. So, let’s look at them.

I. He is our Teacher because His instructions are truth, and truth brings life. In another sense, the Anointed One’s life is by His word. He teaches us how to live and for what ends. Honor, happiness, respect, love, usefulness, those things without which life is only animal, or worse, are most easily and entirely secured by adopting the principles and obeying the precepts of the Gospel. It is life, by eminence, to live temperately, soberly, justly, kindly, peacefully, doing good actions, exercising good affections, and gaining a good reputation.

II. He is our Example because the life-giving Word is embodied and made incarnate in the Teacher; it is instructive and possesses the merit and charm of historical interest. The Son not only points the way to the Father, but He precedes the disciple and guides him in it and through it. Whoever walks as the Anointed One lives in proportion to the exactness of their imitation of the vigor and health of His life. Thus, to know that we are sharing the energy and motivation of our Master is enough to give us an increase of vital warmth, to cause the pulse of our soul to beat firmer and regularly because it beats in a happy and honored union with the heart of Jesus. If His life was true and eternal, then that borrowed from His is the same. The seeds of corruption are not in it. The process of dissolution cannot commence in it. It is a sound, pure, and heavenly life, for it is the very life of the Son of God.

III. He is our Savior by faith, obedience, and imitation; He is Life. And why? Because the hope and assurance of eternal life are contained and perfected in such trust.[16]

With systematic theological intellect, Charles Hodge (1797-1878) sees this necessity of a knowledge of the Gospel as expressly asserted in the Scriptures. Our Lord not only declares that no one can come to the Father, but by Him; that no one knows the Father, but the Son, and those to whom the Son reveals Himself; but He says expressly, “They that do not believe, are forever lost.”[17] But faith without knowledge is impossible. The Apostle John says, “They that have the Son have spiritual and eternal life; those without God’s Son lack any such life.”[18]

Hence, knowing the Anointed One is not only the condition of life, but it is life, and without that knowledge, the eternal life in question cannot exist. The Apostle Paul said, “I count all things but loss, for the excellency of knowing Jesus as my Lord.”[19] Therefore, Jesus, the Anointed One, is not only the giver but the object of life. Those exercises, which are the manifestations of spiritual life, begin with Him; therefore, there can be no such exercises; without the knowledge of God, there can be no religion.[20]

Without using complicated language, Albert Barnes (1798-1870) notes that the Apostle John states a principle our Savior laid down is this essential testimony God ever issued on salvation: “Those who believe in the Lord Jesus already have the elements of eternal life in their soul and will obtain salvation.”[21] [22]

With impressive theological vision, Richard Rothe (1799-1867) points out that the Apostle John now confirms (drawn from his experience) what he has said concerning the witness of God. Being God’s witness, John says, those (and only those) that have the Son possess this eternal life. God has given us eternal life in a specific and exclusive manner in His Son.[23] Therefore, no one can have fellowship with the Anointed One without having this life.

The apostles were the first to pass through this experience. In attaching themselves to the Anointed One, they experienced a transformation in their innermost life that made them conscious of their previous state of existence and their present state of being spiritually alive, which was authentic and imperishable. This fact repeats itself when we contact the Anointed One; this would compel us to acknowledge that there is such a fountain of eternal life in the Anointed One as can be only in God. Only the end of the world’s history will give a perfectly unambiguous objective decision on the controversy between the Anointed One and the unbelieving world. Whenever a person is in union with the Anointed One, they will be born again to eternal life.

Another thing about the passage is that “Faith is not a mere witness on the man’s part to the Object of his faith; it is a witness which the man receives from that Object.” In its first beginnings faith is, no doubt, mainly the acceptance of testimony from without. Still, the element of trust involved in this acceptance includes the beginning of an inner experience. Such trust arises from the attraction the object of our faith has exercised upon us. It rests on the consciousness of a vital connection between us and that object.

Therefore, our inner predisposition increases according to the measure with which we accept the Divine witness. Thus there is formed in us a certainty of faith which rises unassailably above all skepticism.”[24]

Even unbelievers readily acknowledge the assertion that those who do not have God’s Son don’t have eternal life. Therefore, they cannot deny that they do not have everlasting life and that their moral condition does not satisfy God’s requirements. Indeed, they do not deny this, but they reject that this is because they do not have God’s Son in their hearts; and to convince them of this is impossible by human power alone.

Nevertheless, all Christians must endeavor to do so as far as they can, especially by manifesting in their manner of living that they are continually entering into the fuller possession of such a life. For if faith in the Anointed One characteristically distinguishes them from the world. The more we are surprised that people do not comprehend that the reason for their dissatisfied condition is found in the fact that they do not attach themselves to God’s Son. That’s why we must all the more feel stirred up to let this valid eternal life manifest utilizing our whole being. This manifestation convinces the world more than our criticizing it for its unbelief.[25]

Ranked highly by other theologians on the doctrine of the atonement, John McLeod Campbell (1800-1872), Scottish minister and Reformed theologian, mentions that some have spoken of the difficulty in joining “themselves and glory in one thought.” The greater difficulty is to unite ourselves and eternal life in one thought now, although God has already connected us to the truth of things in the Anointed One. But, as I have said, we are alike slow of heart to receive Anointed One’s revelation of ourselves and to receive His revelation of God ‒ to believe that God has given to us eternal life in His Son and that God is love.[26]

Consistent with the Apostle John’s advice, Heinrich A. W. Meyer (1800-1873) finds that verse twelve immediately states the implication from the preceding thought.  If the Life is initially in the Son, then those who have the Son with them also have the Son.[27] Changing and weakening the sense, Hugo Grotius (1583-1645)[28] puts the Son: Verba ill aquae Pater Filio mandavit; (“words of water the Father gave to the Son), even “have the Life” he erroneously explains by jus certum ad vitam aeternam (“certain right to eternal life).” While the Apostle John in the first clause simply says “the Son,” in the second he adds “of God.” On this, Bengel[29] remarks habet versus duo cola; in priore non-additur Dei, nam Fideles norunt Filium; in altero additur, ut demum sciant Fideles, quanti sit, non habere (“it has two strains; In the former, there is no addition of God, for the faithful, know the Son; in the other, that the faithful may at length know how important it is not to have).”[30]

[1] See John 10:10

[2] Ibid. 6:40

[3] Isaiah 45:17

[4] John 6:47

[5] Ibid. 5:24

[6] Galatians 2:21

[7] Ephesians 2:1

[8] John 3:18, 36

[9] Simeon, Charles, Horæ Homileticæ, Vol. XX, op., cit., Discourse 2468, pp.541-542

[10] Clarke, Adam: Wesleyan Heritage Commentary, op. cit., Hebrews-Revelation, pp. 397-398

[11] 1 John 5:11-12

[12] Neander, Augustus: The First Epistle of John, Practically Explained, op. cit., pp. 295-296

[13] Colophon (1) a publisher’s emblem or imprint, especially one on the title page or spine of a book. (2) a statement at the end of a book, typically with a printer’s emblem, giving information about its authorship and printing.

[14] Acts of the Apostle 4:11

[15] Lücke, Friedrich C. F: A Commentary on the Epistles of St. John, trans. Thorleif Gudmundson Repp, The Biblical Cabinet (Edinburgh: Thomas Clark, 1837, Vol. 15, pp. 274-275.

[16] Greenwood, F. W. P: The Biblical Illustrator, Vol. 22, First Epistle of John, op. cit., pp. 443-444

[17] Mark 16:16; John 3:18

[18] 1 John 5:12

[19] Philippians 3:8

[20] Hodge, Charles. Systematic Theology, Vol. 2, op. cit., The Call of Salvation Through the Word, pp.  647-648

[21] John 3:36; Mark 16:16

[22] Barnes, Albert: New Testament Notes, op. cit., 1 John 5, pp. 4885-4886

[23] 1 John 2:23

[24] Findlay, George G., Fellowship in the Life Eternal; An Exposition of the Epistles of St. John, op. cit., 391-392

[25] Rothe, Richard: Exposition of the First Epistle of St. John, op. cit., The Expository Times, May 1895, pp. 375-376

[26] Campbell, John McLeod: The Nature of the Atonement, MacMillan and Co., Ch. VII, 1856, p. 99

[27] Cf. 1 John 2:23

[28] Grotius, Hugo (1583–1645) [Hugo, Huigh or Hugeianus de Groot] was a towering figure in philosophy, political theory, law, and associated fields during the seventeenth century and for hundreds of years afterward.

[29] Johann Albrecht Bengel, (born June 24, 1687), Winnenden, near Stuttgart, Württemberg [Germany] – died November 2, 1752, Stuttgart), German Lutheran theologian and biblical scholar who was the founder of Swabian Pietism and a pioneer in the critical exegesis of the New Testament.

[30] Critical Exegetical Handbook New Testament by John Edward Huther, Meyer, Heinrich A. W., Commentary on the New Testament, Epistles of James and John, op. cit., p. 471

About drbob76

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