NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
By Dr. Robert R. Seyda
FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN
CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson LXXV) 02/24/23
5:12 Whoever has the Son has life, but whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
According to Robert Jamieson (1802-1880), Andrew Fausset (1821-1910), and David Brown’s (1803-1897) way of thinking, they find the Apostle John’s remarks here to reinforce it as a conclusion. They note that in verse twelve, there is no addition of “God” after “Son” in the first instance. John was undoubtedly aware that his readers knew the “Son” was God’s Son. Adding it to the second occurrence made unbelievers understand what a serious thing it is not to have Him. In the former clause, “has” implies denotes possession. The second reading indicates that “have” is not yet theirs. To have the Son is to say as the bride, “I am my Beloved’s, and my Beloved is mine.”
Faith is the means whereby the regenerate have the Anointed One as cohabitant. Having eternal life by faith gives the believer life in its seed form and the promise of its bloom and blossom in the hereafter. Eternal life here is: (1) initial, and is an earnest of that which is to follow; in the intermediate state (2) partial, belonging but to a part of a man, though that is his nobler part, the soul separated from the body; at and after the resurrection (3) perfectional. This natural life consists of the union of the soul and the body (as that of the reprobate in eternal pain, which ought to be termed death eternal, not life) but also spiritual, the union of the soul to God, and supremely blessed forever (for life is another term for happiness).
A German Protestant theologian and contributor to Johann P. Lange’s Commentary, Karl G. Braune (1810-1877), says that if we reflect on the holiness of God and His hatred of sin and iniquity and begin to fear, there can never be reconciliation between God and sinners, let us take courage; the work is difficult, but the Son of God has accomplished it; and no matter how great the distance between God and us is, yet through the Son we have access to Him. If we still fear for ourselves, all may be lost through our weakness and inability to do good again. Fear not; even here, help is at hand; the Spirit of God is our support; He is the pledge and earnest of our redemption.
These being the necessary means of salvation, it was essential to reveal to the world the doctrines concerning the Son and the Holy Spirit: and the belief in these doctrines is necessary for every Christian, as far as the proper use of the means depends on good faith and confidence of the principles. “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” And again, “No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.” Since we can only come to the Father through the Son, to deny the Son is to cut off all communication between the Father and us. The same may be said of the blessed Spirit, through whom we are in the Anointed One. “And,” says the Apostle Paul, “if anyone does not have the Spirit of the Anointed One, they do not belong to the Anointed One.” Our blessed Lord has told us that “This is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus the Anointed One, whom You sent.” 
With his lifework well-illustrating his biblical and reformation ideal, pastor-theologian Robert Smith Candlish (1805-1872) notes that with a sense of sin upon the conscience and hatred in the heart, it is impossible to have anything like that free and independent spiritual life God intends for us to have as His gift. Therefore, to give us that life, He must first deliver us from sure death – from our guilty conscience and liability to judgment – and the consequent dread, discomfort, and dislike that life is wholly incompatible. However, if I have the Son, I have life, in the sense and to the effect of complete and final deliverance from eternal death to everlasting life.
The new life we enter is more than undoing our scheduled demise or reversing the sentence and destruction that brings death. It is a new endowment; it is imparting new power, privilege, or capacity to us; it is the accession or addition of a unique ability of life, over and above any we ever possessed or ever could have gotten for ourselves, even though the blight of sin’s guilt and the curse would never come upon us for we have God’s Son. We have Him, not merely as presented to us in His relation to sinners, by being made sin for us and holy in His righteousness. We must indeed first have Him in that character and capacity.
But we also have Him as a Brother in His family relationship to the Father, as the Son to whom the Father has granted to have life in Himself. I do not speak of His relationship to the Father before the universe was created and came into this world: it is not the life the Son had that the Father gave me. I speak of Him as such since His incarnation and will continue to be all through eternity. When I have Him, I have Him as He is and always will be. I have the Son, and in Him, I have the very life the Father has given Him.
Called a great and rare spiritual thinker, Frederick Denison Maurice (1807-1873) lamented that in his day, some honored men wanted to get rid of all outward testimonies of God’s love – of the water and the blood – and dwell exclusively on what they call the Spirit’s internal testimony. However, he did not undervalue their doctrine as a counterweight to some Seminary professors’ abrasive, carnal, and earthly language. In fact, God allowed it as a protest against idolatry, yet, did not concede that they were wiser than the Apostle John or that they knew what the witness of the Spirit is. On the contrary, he found them continually rejecting God’s external witness by confusing what He said with what they were thinking internally.
By doing this, it became very exclusive. The victims of casual impressions, of nervous ecstasies or depression, by not being willing to receive God’s testimony to others and themselves. This is the blessing of the Water and the Blood. They speak of the gift of eternal life to everyone, not just those conscious of it, in that Son who died for all and lives for all. The words of the Apostle John contain the only possible limitation of this gift, and they are, in truth, not a limitation but an expansion of it, “Those who have the Son, have eternal life; those who do not have the Son have no future life.” We have no life in ourselves. The Spirit does not witness a miserable, partial, selfish, new life, which is given to us because we are Christians or believers or have certain rare emotions. Instead, He testifies to us of a Universal and Everlasting Life that dwells in the Son of God, which we may enjoy if we do not desire to be separated from the great family in heaven and earth named in Him.
Without overlooking crucial points, Johann Eduard Huther (1807-1880) says that verse eleven is connected in thought with verse twelve. The whole idea on the internal side is brought out with the two verses taken together. In verse eleven, the witness or testimony is that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. The testimony that Jesus is the Son of God becomes, as it passes towards and to the internal sphere, the testimony that God has bestowed upon us, in and through Him, eternal life. Whether the clause and this life are in His Son must be considered independent and coordinated with the first clause. The witness is thereby referred to as part of the testimony. Huther, and most recent commentators who express an opinion on the subject, take the former view.
There is, however, at least one strong reason in favor of the latter view. The testimony John reports in his Gospel, which, we may believe, was brought to his mind by the water, blood, and Spirit, was not simply that God gave us eternal life but also that this life is in His Son. This was the truth John learned from God’s witness, and we may believe that it was also the truth he intended to proclaim to his readers as a Divine testimony. This view of the sentence seems to naturally progress the thought in verses ten to twelve. Those who believe that Jesus is God’s Son and believe in Him have the external testimony transferred, as it were, to the inner sphere within themselves. Thus, this testimony now passes to the mind and becomes internal: that God gave us eternal life and that life is in His Son;Consequently, those who possess the Son as indwelling, accordingly, have eternal life as their possession in their soul.
With an inquiring mind, Daniel Denison Whedon (1808-1885) points out that we now are to have the result through the rest of the chapter with this Divine testimony. It is summed up in the word life; life in the Anointed One and the Anointed One in us. In the background, death and the wicked one, and the world cast a dark shadow of contrast to life. So, we have the great antithesis, the battle-array, in which faith is the sure conqueror, and life, present and future, the promised eternal prize.
In line with Apostle John’s conclusion, Henry Alford (1810-1871) finds the conclusion of the Apostle John’s whole argument from verse six to verse eleven. But he carries it further, identifying the matter as a case of the believer’s possession of the Son of God and eternal life. But first, notice the diction and arrangement in verse twelve.
With meticulous Greek text examination and confirmation, Johann Bengel remarks, “Verse twelve is two verses in one: The first half with emphasis has to be pronounced: in the other, life, the latter furnishes a simple and beautiful example of the laws of emphasis in arrangement: having a life, not having a life.” Next, “to keep those words which the Father has witnessed to the Son,” nor “having the Son,” as Hugo Grotius does “to have a guarantee for eternal life.” The Son possessed the Anointed One by faith and testified by the Spirit, the water, and the blood: and the possession of the life, not in its most glorious development, but all its reality and vitality.
Furthermore, it must be noted that the question of whether eternal salvation is confined to those who have the Son does not belong here but must be entertained on other grounds. It shows that the Apostle John is contemplating a possible contingency instead of facts: and confining his remarks to those to whom the divine testimony has come. To them, according to if they receive or do not receive God’s witness. It is more than “having the witness;” it is “having the Son of God.” The “having” is a choice of which savior – Life to life or death to death.
As a faithful and zealous scholar, William Graham (1810-1883) points out that transitioning from the eleventh to the twelfth verse is natural since spiritual life is in God’s Son. The way for us to make sure of the divine energy is to receive God’s Son, who contains and dispenses it. Hence the words of the apostle, “Those that have the Son have life.” Martin Luther says bluntly, in his German language, “Those that have the Anointed One have everything, and those who are without the Anointed One, have nothing!” We became God’s children by receiving Him, which means believing in His name. To have the Anointed One – to receive the Anointed One, come to the Anointed One, be in the Anointed One, Jesus, and have Him dwelling in us, are all descriptions of the living faith which appropriates His gifts and rejoices in His manifold fulness. In every form and measure, life is connected with Jesus, the Son of God, and therefore He is preached and proclaimed in the Gospel as the refuge and hope of a perishing world.
To be in Him is to be delivered from condemnation, to receive Him is salvation and eternal life, to imitate Him is our highest aim as Christians, and to be like Him is our highest conception of eternal blessedness. Those who do not have the God’s Son have no life, but, as John elsewhere asserts, the wrath of God casts a shadow over them. They are not in the way of life and peace, for these are to be found in Jesus alone, and whatever their vain hopes and delusions, they have not and cannot have a well-grounded prospect of meeting the issues of eternity with joy. They have no life because they refuse Him, who is the source and fountain of life, and so they will and must remain unquickened and unblessed, a wanderer and an exile through the ages of eternity. Their portion is death, and they will have their portion and dwelling place in the region of death forevermore.
With the zeal of a text examiner, William Edward Jelf (1811-1875) believes that those who cling to and have faith in the Son of God, namely, those who receive the Anointed One as the Son of God have life which God gives in the Christian plan of salvation. But, on the other hand, those who do not by faith possess and hold to the Son of God as the mediator of the New Covenant, but who thinks that it was given by the hands of a mere man called the Anointed One have no share in the gift which the Christian arrangement represents as given to mankind by the hands of the Son of God. The great heresy of during John’s time was not a disbelief in the Gospel as the system of religion but a disbelief in the Divine nature of Jesus ‒ and unbelief that the Gospel was brought upon the earth by the Son of God ‒ and this is also the heresy of modern times.
 Song of Solomon 6:3
 Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, New Testament Volume, op. cit., p. 730
 1 John 5:12
 Ibid. 2:23
 Romans 8:9
 John 17:3
 Braune, Karl G., A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures by John Peter Lange, Epistles General of John, p. 168
 John 5:26
 Candlish, Robert S., The First Epistle of John Expounded in a Series of Lectures, op. cit., Lecture XL, pp. 243-244
 Maurice, Frederick Denison: The Epistles of St. John: A Series of Lectures on Christian Ethics, op. cit., pp. 282-283
 See 1 John 5:5
 Ibid. 5:10
 Ibid. 5:11
 Huther, Johann Eduard: Critical and Exegetical Handbook to the General Epistles, Epistles of John, op. cit., pp. 815-816
 1 John 5:16
 Ibid. 5:18
 Ibid. 5:19
 Ibid. 5:4
 Whedon, Daniel D., Commentary on the New Testament, op. cit., p. 279
 See 1 Peter 3:19 cf. 2:10
 Alford, Henry: The Greek Testament, op. cit., Vol. IV, pp. 507-508
 See John 3:36; 5:24
 Cf. John 1:4; 5:26; 1 John 5:20; Colossians 3:3
 Graham, William: The Spirit of Love; Or, A Practical and Exegetical Commentary on the First Epistle of John, op. cit., pp. 331-332
 William Edward Jelf, A Commentary on the First Epistle of St. John, op. cit.,p. 75