NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
By Dr. Robert R. Seyda
FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN
CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson LXXVII) 02/28/23
5:12 Whoever has the Son has life, but whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
With Spirit-led certainty, William Baxter Godbey (1833-1920) acknowledges that all spiritual life is in the Christhood, as out of the Anointed One God is a “consuming fire.” Unitarianism is worse than heathenism, as the former will be judged by the Bible, revealing their terrible rejection of the Anointed One to be judged according to the laws of nature. So all anti-Holy Spirit religions are more worthy of everlasting punishment than paganism because the Holy Spirit is the Anointed One’s Successor and Revelator. Hence the rejection of the Holy Spirit is identical to the Unitarian heresy of renouncing Jesus the Anointed One as God’s Son.
After noting the Apostle John’s doctrinal implications, John James Lias (1834-1923) emphasizes that to have the Son is to have “the life.” But what is it to “have the Son”? This: to believe in Jesus the Anointed One as God’s Son, and through faith to receive Him into our soul. We are not merely to think of Him and believe in Him as a Deliverer or that His death removes the stain and guilt of our sins but that He purifies and refreshes us with the water that flowed from His side. It was for us to experience His life, to sense His blood streaming through our veins and washing away each impurity as it flows. That way, we can feel ourselves growing daily into closer and more intimate union with Him; to be ever more fully experiencing the truth that His life is our life, and our life His, until at length, we are one with Him.
There are many ways of deceiving ourselves. For example, we may imagine our salvation because we experienced a sense of pardon. Or because we think there is no need of it, or because we assume to have satisfied God’s requirements, or because we have access to God through His ministers and receive daily cleansing, or because we are regular in our use of the means of grace. But there is one only test ‒ Do we have His Son? We can add nothing to this except conforming to His life. It means bringing every thought into obedience to His teachings.
We must abandon all that is contrary to His example and will to set no other purpose before us than He set, to “do the Father’s will, and to finish His work.” It is what tells us that we have the Son. And not to have the Son is to be out of union with God, to be tossed about by every current of temptation, to be carried here and there, the sport of our own and other men’s passions, to have no life beyond the feeble flickering of a lamp in its socket, to be in danger of being banished forever from the true and eternal light, and of being consigned to that eternal darkness “where is wailing and gnashing of teeth.”
With the ability of a linguist’s concentration on nuances, Greek word scholar Marvin Richardson Vincent (1834-1921) notes the Greek phrase, “He has the life.” More strictly, “the life,” namely, the life God gives. Then, “he that has the Son” points to God as the giver of life in His Son. Thus we see that this verse has two clauses: in the former, John does not add God because believers know the Son; in the other it is added that unbelievers may know at length how serious it is not to have Him. Furthermore, note the inversion “Whoever has the Son has life, but whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.”
Manifestly and distinctly, Eric Haupt (1841-1910) points out that the Apostle John not only says that through the Anointed One, the source of life has been brought to mankind but especially to us. Therefore, we accept that in verse twelve, God reveals the historical witness through His Son. In other words, we have received our portion in “the life” brought by the Redeemer. The connection between the Son of God and “the life,” declared in verse eleven, is then in verse twelve, evolved under two aspects: where the Son of God is, there is also “the life” life only found where He is. And thus, John returns to the idea he laid down at the outset that His annunciation concerned the Logos. That God’s Son and God’s life are correlative terms is the conclusion of John’s theological development.
With his Spirit-directed calculating mind, Alfred Plummer (1841-1926) notes that some modern writers consider that verse thirteen constitutes the conclusion of the Epistle, being a postscript or appendix, analogous to John’s Gospel and possibly by another hand. Some go so far as to conjecture that the same person added to John’s Gospel and the last nine verses to the Epistle after the Apostle’s death. However, this is needless hairsplitting. In the preceding verses, John wrote: “This is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.”
Deductive reasoning from these preceding verses shows that those who believe in the name of the Son of God may know they have eternal life. We must compare this to what John said earlier about anyone who denies the Son doesn’t have the Father. But anyone who acknowledges the Son has the Father also. In both cases, “have” signifies possession in a living union through faith. “Having the life,” not merely “the life just mentioned” or “the life which God gave,” but eternal life, which in the complete sense is embodied. The addition of God is neither accidental nor redundant. Those who possess Him know He is God’s Son; those who do not need to be reminded of whose Son they reject. The verse constitutes another close parallel with the Gospel. 
A staunch crusader against immorality, Frederick Brotherton Meyer (1847-1929) points out that the Apostle constantly refers to the “begotten” children of God. The word indicates the relationship of the divine nature in regeneration, of which the first evidence is love. This love is not a weak sentimentality but a robust and vigorous response to the motions of divine love. God’s life in the soul also manifests itself in our faith; it overcomes the fascination and glamour of this brief scene. For your faith to entwine around the risen Lord, and weaned from all else, Jesus must become all-in-all to you, or you will miss the crown. We need the water of repentance and the blood of reconciliation. When we admit these two, the Holy Spirit will bear His secret witness to the soul. So likewise, God bears witness to the Son by the eternal life He gives to and maintains in those who believe. Eternity begins even here for those who have the Son as their indwelling guest.
An eloquent preacher and exemplary writer on theological subjects, including lectures, commentaries, and sermons, Charles James Vaughan (1816-1897) contends that the Apostle John, who has a right to speak, has said that there is a sure thing, the possession of which constitutes “life,” and so establishes it that they who have it “have spiritual life,” and they who do not have it, “have no spiritual life.” The possession of a sure thing, so much worthier than anything else of the name of “life,” that, compared to it, nothing else is “divine life.” Could you, at this moment, say it in a word? Would you immortalize the “life” you are now living? Honest Christians would. To them, the change they wish for is not one of a kind but of degree. They have that which they want to be purified and increased a thousand-fold.
A believer’s “life” is the seed of “the life” for them to live forever and ever. This possession of the Anointed One comprises three things: First, the life the Anointed One lived upon this earth before His Cross was not “the life” He came to communicate to His people. He lived all that “life” so that He might purchase “the life” He would give. Second, the “resurrection life” is “the life” that the Anointed One imparts to believers. It is a “life” springing out of death. Third, it is a “life” without eternal spiritual death. It is a “life” essential to the Godhead of the Anointed One ‒ as “the life” in which that Godhead resides. “Life” is not what we live but how we live it. To live indeed, you must live livingly. If a person is to “live,” their soul must always be, in some way, in union with the Anointed One.
A tried and tested biblical scholar who believes in the up-building of the Christian life, Robert Cameron (1839-1904) has an interesting observation about the spiritual life coming to us from Jesus’ tragic death. The resurrection, coming after the crucifixion, was the witness to this. Moreover, the Apostle John, being a Jew, learned to interpret the language of symbols, which was even more meaningful than words. “Blood and water” came from the pierced side of the Savior. It was not “water and blood,” as in our Lord’s life history, having His entrance by baptism and His exit by the cross. John testified in his Gospel that we might also have faith, for “blood and water” symbolized our Lord’s whole work.
Death is the foundation and life the superstructure; death is the seed, and life is the fruit. Hence, by blood coming first, we can see it as canceling our guilt and water afterward, the promise of life. By the shedding of blood, God sees no sin in us; and in the water, He sets forth the gift of life. God not only forgives sins, but He also births children through the crucified Son. Sin is put away, and life is communicated – life is laid down and then imparted. He took our sin and the death that was connected. He gives His life and the holiness it bears as the fruit of the Spirit. However, the Apostle John did not add this occasion to the testimony of the Spirit, water, and blood in verse six.
As a prolific writer on the New Testament Epistles, Findlay (1849-1919) notices that “Life” appears in the Apostle John’s writings as a gift, not an acquisition. Accordingly, faith is a grace rather than a virtue, yielding to God’s power rather than exerting ours. It is not so much that we lay hold of the Anointed One; He captures us ‒ our souls are laid hold of and possessed by the truth concerning Him. Thus, we are to receive God’s bounty showered upon us in the Anointed One. We need only to consent to the vital purpose of His love, to allow Him to “work in us to will and to work on behalf of His good pleasure.” As this operation proceeds and the truth concerning the Anointed One takes valuable possession of our nature, the conviction that we have eternal life in Him becomes increasingly settled and firm.
With his stately speaking style, William M. Sinclair (1850-1917) informs us that the emphatic word here is “has.” Since the Apostle John addresses the faithful, there is no need to say “the Son of God.” “Having the Son” is His dwelling in the heart by faith: a conscious difference to human life that transforms its whole character. “Having life” is the birth of the new man within which can never die. Seeing this includes unbelievers, the words “of God” are added, to show them what they have lost.
Beyond any doubt, remarks Alonzo Rice Cocke (1858-1901), “He that has the Son has life; and he that does not have the Son of God has no life.” Hence everyone who has accepted the Son and has him dwelling in the heart has life; in the Son is grounded this eternal life. But, on the other hand, everyone who has not the Son of God in his heart has not the life of God, for all pretense of life apart from fellowship with him is death ‒ unbelief in shutting out the Anointed One, the fountain of everlasting life.
Esteemed ministry veteran James B. Morgan (1859-1942) tells us that the Apostle John not only described the blessedness and the source from which it comes but the same channel through which it is conveyed to us. “This life is in His Son.” The design of this announcement is at once to instruct and encourage us. It seems to contemplate the mind awakened by such blessedness as a desire, inquiring where to find it. To someone like this we would say, “Go unto Jesus.” As to the famine-stricken inhabitants of Egypt, it was ever the direction, “Go unto Joseph,” so to the stricken sinner, the counsel is, “Go unto Jesus.”
Eternal life is in Him for repentant sinners. “God was pleased for all of Himself to be in His Son, and through Him, God was happy to bring all things back in harmony with Himself.” “For in the Anointed One lives all the fullness of God in a human body. So, you also are complete through your union with the Anointed One.” In Him, you will find pardon. “He is so rich in kindness and grace that He purchased our freedom with the blood of His Son and forgave our sins.” In Him, you will find favor with God. “God, see our shield [the king]; look at the face of your anointed.” In Him, you will find purity. “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit.” In Him, you will find eternal life in the highest and sense ‒ “The Anointed One lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing His glory. So, we tell others about the Anointed One, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect[a] in their relationship to the Anointed One.”
Now, with this view of the blessing proposed to mankind, what must we think of their conduct who refuse to accept it? Is it not as foolish as it is sinful? It is alike unreasonable and unscriptural. And it only remains to observe how inexcusable it is, seeing how simple it is effectually secured.
 Hebrews 12:18
 Godbey, William Baxter: Commentary on the New Testament, Vol. II, op. cit., pp. 397-398
 Lias, James J., The First Epistle of St. John with Homiletical Treatment, op. cit., pp. 392-394
 See 1 John 5:11; John 16:22, cf. Colossians 3:4
 Vincent, Marvin R: Word Studies in the New Testament, op. cit. pp. 368-369
 Cf. 1 John 5:10
 John 1:1
 Haupt, Erich: The First Epistle of St. John: Clark’s Foreign Theological Library, Vol. LXIV, op. cit., pp. 319-320
 1 John 5:14-21
 John 20:31
 1 John 5:11-12
 Ibid. 2:23
 Cf. the last words of John the Baptizer in John 3:36
 Plummer, Alfred: Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary for Schools and Colleges, op. cit., p. 120
 Meyer, Frederick B., Through the Bible Day by Day Devotional Commentary, Vol. VII, op. cit., p. 160
 Vaughan, Charles J., The Biblical Illustrator, op. cit., 1 John 5, pp. 127-128
 John 19:34
 Cameron, Robert: The First Epistle of John, op. cit., Ch. XVI, The Three Witnesses, p. 233
 Philippians 2:13
 Sinclair, William M., New Testament Commentary for English Readers, Charles J. Ellicott (Ed.), op. cit., Vol. 3, p. 492
 Cocke, Alonzo R: Studies in the Epistles of John, Or, The Manifested Life, op. cit., p. 130
 Genesis 41:55
 Colossians 1:19-20
 Ibid. 2:9-10
 Ephesians 1:7
 Psalm 84:9 – Complete Jewish Version
 John 15:5
 Colossians 1:27b-28
 Morgan, James: An Exposition of the First Epistle of John, op. cit., pp. 463-464