NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
By Dr. Robert R. Seyda
FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN
CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson LXXVI) 02/27/23
5:12 Whoever has the Son has life, but whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
With a traveling evangelist’s heart, Absalom Backus Earle (1812-1895), an American Baptist pastor, evangelist, and author, in a book on Incidents Used In His Meetings, addresses the subject of a sacrificial death to save someone who could not protect themselves, tells us about an eye-catching sight in Brooklyn, New York’s Greenwood Cemetery. It is the monument of a noble fireman, with his cap and trumpet and a baby in his arms. The occasion was that several families were burned out of their apartments in one of those terrible fires in New York. Firefighters assumed that everyone had escaped from the burning building. But that’s when a frantic mother cried at the entrance: “My darling baby is still in the building!” She was about to rush into the flames to rescue her infant when this fireman cried: “You cannot get your child.” But she screamed, “I must save my child.”
The fireman’s heart was moved, and he said: “I will get your child.” So, at the risk of his life, he went up through the fire to the apartment, and sure enough, there was the tiny unharmed baby, unaware of its danger. The fireman took it in his arms to bring it to its mother. He had gone a short distance when he discovered that the floor to the stairs had fallen in. Then he knew there was no way to escape. A quick thought struck him, “I must save this child even if I die. So he went to the nearest window and tossed the child through the fire and smoke down to where the other firefighters were standing. Then he turned and tried to make it back to the stairs but went down among the falling timber and fire and lost his life.
Would anyone blame that child if they went at every opportunity to the cemetery and got down on their knees and kissed, again and again, the cold marble feet of that fireman while looking up at his face with tears in their eyes, saying: “He saved me, but he lost his life in doing it.” So who is there among us who would not go to the bleeding feet of our Savior and kiss them, and looking up in His face, say: “He lost His life in to save me.”
All for Jesus! All for Jesus!
All my beings ransomed pow’rs,
All my thoughts, and words, and doings,
All my days, and all my hours. 
A staunch conservative who upheld the doctrine of eternal torment for sinners, Joseph Angus (1816-1902) urges us to genuinely believe that God gives eternal life, and that life is in His Son, and we become holy and happy; we are forgiven and sanctified. We are left without hope if we reject this truth or any part of it. Then, like the world, we wallow hopelessly in wickedness.
After checking the text closely, Richard Tuck (1817-1868) agrees with the Apostle John that we must feel an abiding presence and influence in our hearts and minds. There are significant things engraved on our minds which come up occasionally, such as “Abide in Me, and I in you, so that you are my disciples.” So, it would be best to remain faithful to what you have learned. If you do, you will remain in fellowship with the Son and Father. This mandate is not a passing breath but the functions of breathing; not a drop of blood that passes through the veins, but the pumping heart which circulates it. Jesus said, “I am in them, and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.”
After observing the Apostle John’s attention to detail, John Stock (1817-1884) notes that to possess the Lord is to have Him in our hearts by faith. It also requires putting our whole trust in Him; calling upon Him; honoring His holy name and His word; to mention His name only before the Father and mankind when we say our hope of eternal life. God gives us His Son, and we have Him as our only refuge when we come to Him as our Lord and Savior, Teacher and Guide, Example and Master. He is the husband of the Church, His bride, the Good Shepherd in whom they are complete by His Holy Spirit.
Some design their conduct after those who do not have God’s Son; neither will they come to Him as their Savior nor submit to Him as their Lord. Those who despise, doubt, and die are destroyed before the people’s eyes. The faithful are rich beyond expression, no matter how poor, and heirs of God’s kingdom; the unbelieving are lacking, although they are increased with goods, and surrounded by adherents and flatterers, whose end is a sorrowful death unless they turn to God. Heaven and hell border on each other in the revelation of God. Here is heaven in possession of the Anointed One; and torture in rejecting Him, which infidelity occasions. It is no small matter to reject the Anointed One as a Savior. It is a sin of the most fearful magnitude, and it persisted in rendering forgiveness impossible in this world or the world to come.
After contemplating John’s train of thought, William Kelly (1822-1888) agrees that none can have spiritual life unless they accept God’s Son, who is the way, the truth, and the life. Not only will they have God, but a glorifier of God in the Son of man who was also the Son of God to whom God granted it and no other. The believer honors the Son by believing and receiving eternal life. The unbeliever dishonors Him and rejects the gift of life to his regret but must bow when he is raised for judgment.
Could life have been detached from the Son of God to be in us only and not in the Son to become corrupt and decay? But since it is in the Son, it abides holy and imperishable; and so, it is that we have it, and know that we have it on His word. Every good work, every right affection, all faithful service, and proper worship flow from eternal life in the power of the Spirit. Christians cannot please God, the Father of the Lord Jesus, without the action that brings eternal life. For now, that life has come in the person of God’s Son. Thus, the Father delights in our having this life, for it has joy in knowing, serving, and worshipping the Father and the Son, as led by the Holy Spirit. But let none forget what life would be without Jesus in our hearts.
“Those that do not have God’s Son as their Savior have no spiritual or eternal life.” If you who read these words are an unbeliever, beware. I pray for you. Why refuse everlasting life? Why reject the love of God in giving and sending His Son? Why leave Him who tasted death for you? Yet He never did you anything but good, and what have you ever shown to His name but neglect, dislike, and despite as far as you could? O believe what God tells you of His Son. If you believe in Him, you have Him. It is impossible to have the Son of God and not have eternal life. It is no less true than painfully real. Listen to John’s message to doubters: The Father loves Jesus the Anointed One because He is His Son, and God gave Him everything there is. And all who trust God’s Son to save them have eternal life; those who don’t believe and obey Him will never see heaven. God’s punishing wrath will remain on them throughout eternity. 
A theologian familiar with the Apostle John’s writing style, William Burt Pope (1822-1903), is sure that John knows that not believing in God is not trusting His testimony. John also knows that not accepting the evidence is not having confidence in the witness. Also, not being confident of the internal assurance of the Spirit is not knowing forgiveness or the guarantee of sonship contained in possession of “the Life.” Finally, the believer’s spiritual life is nothing less than what God’s Son possesses. The Son of God is eternal life, the source of redeemed life; He is the believers’ Prince of life. The closing testimony of the Bible ‒ for there is nothing after these words ‒ is that they who have God’s Son have spiritual and eternal life: which is fellowship with God, in union with Jesus.
Known as a distinguished classical Bible scholar at Trinity College, Cambridge, Gordon Calthrop (1823-1894) asks, “How do we attain eternal life?” Calthrop gives these answers:
(a) It is God’s gift. We cannot merit, acquire, or receive compensation for efforts or moral excellence on our part. We need to accept it, stretch out our hand, and thankfully take what the Lord God, of His infinite bounty and goodness, sees fit to offer.
(b) It is bound with the Person of the Lord Jesus the Anointed One. “This life,” says John, “is in God’s Son.” In the Lord Jesus the Anointed One, we have the reservoir containing “The Life.” “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” Again, “As the Father has life in Himself, so has He given to the Son to have life in Himself.”
(c) And again: we must come into contact, so to speak, with this living reservoir or fountainhead so that the stream that issues from it may flow into our being, and make us, too, partakers of its blessings. The idea is that of possession, of mutual living, so that each of us can say of the Anointed One, “He is mine.” And the Anointed One, on His part, will be willing to declare for each of us, “I am theirs.”
Calthrop then asks, “What are the manifestations of eternal life?” There is a correspondence between our physical and our spiritual life. We find three things in a living body: sensation, movement, and growth. Likewise, we find the following in our spiritual life:
(a) Consciousness. ‒ In a living soul, there is what, perhaps, we could not call sensation, but which we may call consciousness, or realization, of God who surrounds every soul, as the atmosphere surrounds us. We exist in God as an element. But it is perfectly possible for us to be utterly insensitive and not have any consciousness of Him. It will be so until we receive the new birth that the Spirit bestows. Then God flashes upon us as if He had just come into being. We behold, we know, and we delight in the moral teaching and grandeur of Him manifested to us in His Son, Jesus the Anointed One.
(b) Another manifestation of life is movement. And occupation for God, or man for God’s sake, is one of the characteristics of those who are born again of the Spirit and made new creations in Jesus the Anointed One. “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” is one of the first questions such persons always ask. Absolute stillness ‒ meaning abstinence from all spiritual occupation ‒ is evidence of spiritual death. You must move, employ yourself; you must use some, at least, of your talents in the Divine service if you are “alive unto God.”
(c) Then there is growth; and this is of various kinds: (i) First, the growth that comes from exercise—the exercise of the graces which God has bestowed upon us. (ii) Next, the growth of intelligence in spiritual things. We have many schoolmasters here ‒the Scriptures, our conscience, and not least of all, the discipline of life. And through these the Holy Spirit is showing us daily more about ourselves, and more about the character and will and purposes of God. (iii) Then the growth of advancing assimilation. I mean this ‒ we become like those with whom we associate.
God takes advantage of this peculiarity of our human constitution to produce a resemblance to the Anointed One in us. He sets before us the Lord Jesus as the great object of our contemplation. Looking at the Anointed One, earnestly gazing upon Him, trying to understand Him, sympathizing with Him more and more, we catch something of His spirit; the features of His character are impressed upon us; we become to some extent like Him.
After sufficient examination o f the Greek test, Brooke Foss Westcott (1825-1901) points out that the variations from exact parallelism in the two members of the verse are significant ‒ “Having the Son of God” stands for “has the Son,” and the position of “the life.” is changed. Notice the altering use of “having” and “has” in this verse. In this way, “has life” is validated by “having the Son.” Like a spiritual farmer planting the seed of God’s Word, Henry A. Sawtelle (1832-1913) argues that if we convey eternal life to the world as a deposit in the Anointed One, then the double statement of this verse is the most obvious inference. If the Anointed One and “the life” are inseparable, we cannot have one without the other. The Revised Version correctly translates the article before ‘life’ ‒ “Has not the life.” And yet they have a natural life, proving John means another life. It is when touched by the Anointed One that we come spiritually alive. Our regeneration is in connection with the Anointed One. Being spiritually alive is because of the Anointed One. The Anointed One is our life; we have life more abundantly as we have more of the Anointed One. Those who reject the Anointed One, of necessity, cut themselves off from the true life.
 All For Jesus, by Mary Dagwood Yard James, 1889
 Earle, Absalom Backus: Incidents Used in His Meetings, Kissing His Feet, Publisher: J. H. Earle, Boston, 1888, pp. 94-95
 Angus, Joseph: The Bible Handbook, op. cit., p. 753
 1 John 2:24
 Tuck, Richard: The Preacher’s Complete Homiletical Commentary: (on an original plan), op. cit., pp. 338-339
 Stock, John: An Exposition of the First Epistle General of St. John, op. cit., pp. 435-440
 John 3:35-36
 Kelly, William: An Exposition of the Epistles of John the Apostle, op. cit., pp. 375-376
 Pope, William B., The International Illustrated Commentary on the N.T., Vol. IV, op. cit., p. 319
 John 1:4-9
 Ibid. 5:26
 Acts of the Apostles 9:6
 Romans 6:11
 Calthrop, Gordon: Church Pulpit Commentary, 1 John, op. cit., pp. 322-324
 Westcott, Brooke F., The Epistles of St. John: Greek Text with Notes, op. cit., p. 188
 The Revised Version is an 1881 revision of the 1611 King James Version (ERV)
 Ephesians 2:10
 Galatians 2:20; Philippians 1:21
 Colossians 3:4
 John 10:10
 Sawtelle, Henry A., Commentary on the Epistles of John, (Ed). Alvah Hovey, op. cit., p. 59