By Dr. Robert R. Seyda


CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson LXXVIII) 03/01/23

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

A man who appreciates Jesus’ embodiment of the divine transforming emotion on how we live in this world, Robert Law (1860-1919) addresses the issue of Christian Belief. Verse eleven tells us that the core of God’s witness to Jesus the Anointed One being His Son is fundamentally this: He is the source of Eternal Life to mankind. In verse twelve, this Life is the present possession of all who spiritually possess Him; to be without Him is to be destitute of it. The end of the paragraph thus answers sublimely to its beginning. That which has eternal life in it must conquer and prevail over worldly living confined to transitory aims and objects.[1]

Thinking like a dispensationalist, Arno Clemens Gaebelein (1861-1941) declares the Apostle John’s words need no further detailed annotations. They are so plain and simple that only one willfully blind can misunderstand them. God’s witness concerns His Son. Believers in God’s Son have the witness in themselves, that is, by the indwelling Spirit by the salvation they possess, a new nature, and eternal life. Anyone who does not believe God’s witness concerning His Son has declared Him a liar. Think of it, the creature of the dust makes God, who cannot lie, a liar! This act is the most scandalous sin of all the world’s religions. Nevertheless, our record is that God has given us eternal life through His Son. Therefore, if we have the Son, we have eternal life; if we don’t have the Son, we don’t have eternal life.[2]

In reviewing what the Apostle John says in this verse, Archibald Thomas Robertson (1863-1934) concludes that the life God gave in verse eleven is our position in Jesus.[3] [4]

With characteristic fundamental thinking, Alan England Brooke (1861-1939) clarifies that this verse thoroughly explains the last clause of the preceding verse. It is probably of the nature of an appeal to the reader’s experience. Those who lived with the Anointed One on earth found that they gained from Him a new power that transformed their lives into a new and higher level of living. And the later generations had a similar experience to judge, though they had not accompanied Him during His life on earth. In this negative statement, two slight changes are significant: (1) The addition of “of God” to “the Son.” God is the source of life. The Son of God alone can give it to the person who cannot gain it from a source they cannot find. (2) The position of “having” placed before “has” thus becomes more emphatic. Whatever else people may have in the way of higher endowments; spiritual life is not within their grasp. In the positive statement, the emphasis is on the actual possession of “having.”  We have here another close parallel in John’s Gospel.[5] [6]

With an eye for detail, David Smith (1866-1932) points out that having the conjunction “not” with the participle “having” in verse twelve does not necessarily make the case hypothetical.[7] It was necessary because the Apostle John had too many instances of doctrinal controversy in those days.[8]

Without using complicated language, Albert Barnes (1798-1870) notes that the Apostle John plans to refer to the passage in verse twelve and state a principle laid down by the Savior. This quote by John is the sense of all the essential testimony that God ever provided on the subject of salvation: “He who believes in the Lord Jesus already has the elements of eternal life in their soul and will certainly obtain salvation.” On the other hand, those who do not have God’s Son will never see eternal life with God.[9] [10]

As a spiritually motivated methodical teacher, Louis Berkhof (1873-1957) affirms there are direct statements of Scripture that point to the universal sinfulness of mankind.[11] Several passages of Scripture teach that sin is the heritage of mankind from the time of birth and is therefore present in human nature so early that it cannot possibly be by imitation.[12] For example, the Apostle Paul says, “All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful tendencies. By nature, we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.”[13] The term “by nature” points to something inborn and original, in which all people participate, as distinguished from what is subsequently acquired, making them guilty before God.

Moreover, according to Scripture, death due to Adam’s original sin even visits those who have never exercised a personal and conscious choice to believe the Gospel.[14] This passage implies that sinful tendencies exist in infants before moral consciousness. Finally, Scripture also teaches that all under condemnation due to sin’s death penalty need redemption through the Anointed One Jesus. We do not find that children are made an exception to this rule in the preceding passages.[15] This is not contradicted by those passages which ascribe a certain righteousness to mankind,[16] for this may be either civil righteousness, ceremonial or covenant righteousness, the righteousness of the Law, or the righteousness, which is in the Anointed One, Jesus.[17]

A servant of God whose preaching was doctrinal, imaginative, quaint, and earnest, Robert Finlayson (1793-1861) writes that it is a life that, once begun, is eternal. It is life not promised but given. It is life intended for our appropriation by faith. It is life to be found in the Anointed One, by whom, though free to us, it has been meritoriously acquired and exhibited in the born again. We who have appropriated the Divine gift in the Holder and Dispenser can testify to His being more than man, even God incarnate. Practical inference. “They that have the Son have spiritual life; those who don’t have God’s Son are spiritually lifeless.”

The blessing, which is of unspeakable value, comes with the possession of the Son; therefore, the all-important thing is to possess the Son. Those who have the Son have the gift of spiritual life, enjoy God’s favor, and have their spiritual powers quickened. Those who do not have God’s Son have no spiritual life and seek to hide from God’s disfavor with the numbness of death on them. In today’s language, they are “Dead men walking.” And the two states are poles apart. Let us believe in God’s Son, and we are at the salvation pole of eternal sunshine. Refuse the Divine testimony, and we are at the condemnation pole of endless cold.[18]

As a broadminded biblical theorist, Paul F. Kretzmann (1883-1965) notes that we Christians, having received the message of salvation imparted to us through the Word and the Sacraments, place our trust in Jesus, the Son of God, the Savior of the world, our Redeemer. By this token, we have eternal life as an actual possession. Its real enjoyment, the bliss of seeing God face to face, is still a matter of the future, but there can be no question about our being the possessors of the gift of eternal life. The testimony of the Gospel is too sure and definite to admit any doubt. Those who foolishly reject God’s Son, their Savior, forfeit eternal life and deliberately choose everlasting death and damnation. Unbelievers only have themselves to blame if they end up being part of that crowd.[19]

Charles H Dodd (1884-1973), known best for promoting “realized eschatology,”[20] says that finally, the actual content of the divine testimony can be stated very simply: “God gave us life eternal, and this life is in His Son.” And with these words, John brings us back to the thesis from which he started.[21] Of course, over time, the twisting of that central concept occurred. Still, now we are brought back to it with a more precise and fuller sense of its meaning and reminded of the stark alternatives: with the Anointed One, we have life; without Him, we are spiritually dead.[22]

Commensurate with his spiritually activated analytical thinking, Rudolph Bultmann (1884-1976) states that either/or appears in this epistle which stand in antithetical parallelism. The Apostle John expresses this demand for the decision of faith this way: (A) 1 John 2:23 ‒ “Anyone who denies the Son doesn’t have the Father, either. But anyone who acknowledges the Son has the Father also.” (B) 1 John 5:12 ‒Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life.”

That the two are materially identical is obvious, and one can cite 2 John 1:9 as confirmation. There, “has” describes the relation to both Father and Son. With this call to decision the whole Epistle, which encompasses 1:1-2:27 and the following sections, is effectively concluded. There follows in verse thirteen a postscript which states the purpose of the Epistle. Finally, the ecclesiastical reviser added an appendix in verses fourteen to twenty-one.[23]

With youthful enthusiasm for preaching, Greville Priestly Lewis (1891-1976) stresses that this inner witness of the Spirit to the person of Jesus the Anointed One also assures us that God sent His Son to give us eternal life. If we live in union with the Anointed One, this eternal life is ours, here and now. It is as simple as that. With the Anointed One, we have real life; without Him, we are spiritually dead. It’s as simple as that.[24] [25]

Bible translator extraordinaire Kenneth S. Wuest (1893-1961) notes that since an honest person’s testimony is valid, God’s testimony is still superior. In this case, God stood by His word on record in His written word that Jesus the Anointed One is His only begotten Son. Therefore, the one who believes that Jesus is God’s Son has the Spirit’s testimony in themselves. However, the ones who do not believe God’s Word is calling are calling Him a liar. Thus, they have fallen into the quicksand of unbelief. And this is the testimony: God gave us eternal life by giving us His Son. Therefore, the one who has God’s Son has spiritual and eternal life. On the other hand, those who do not have our heavenly Father’s Son are forever spiritually dead.[26]

A bold Bible interpreter openly opposed to liberal Christianity, Martin Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) states that to be a Christian is not merely to hold certain Christian philosophies. It is more than that. You can say, I am a new man or woman. I am not what I was, and God is dwelling in me. And John emphasizes this. Why is it essential that I be clear about Jesus the Anointed One? Why should I be convinced He is the Son of God, the Anointed One, the Anointed One? We have God’s testimony at Jesus’ baptism, “A voice came from the cloud and said, ‘This is my Son.’ He is the one I have chosen. Obey Him.”’[27] God put everything He had into His Son.[28]

Thus, spiritual, and eternal life is exclusively in the Son of God, so if we are not clear about these facts ‒ that Jesus is God’s Son and that Jesus is the Anointed One, then we have no spiritual life. Eternal life is only available if I go to Jesus the Anointed One to receive it so we can say, “Yes, the Word was full of grace and truth, and from Him we all received one blessing after another.”[29] In other words, it is not my belief alone that saves me. I have received the gift of life, and I can face death and judgment with this evidence that I am a child of God, because in Jesus the Anointed One I have received eternal life, the life of God in my soul.[30]Taiwanese preacher and hymn writer Witness Lee (1905-1997) observes that God’s testimony is not only that Jesus is His Son, but also that His Son gives us eternal life which is His goal for us. Because “the life” is in God’s Son,[31] and His Son is “the life,”[32] His Son and “the life” are one, inseparable. Therefore, if we have the Son of God, we have eternal life, because eternal life is in the Son. We may say that God’s Son is a container of eternal life. When we receive the Son by believing in Him, we have eternal life.

[1] Law, Robert: The Tests of Life: A Study of the First Epistle of St. John, op. cit., p. 298

[2] Gaebelein, Arno Clement: The Annotated Bible, First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 159

[3] John 5:23; 14:6

[4] Robertson, Archibald T., Word Pictuares in the New Testament, op. cit., p. 1969

[5] John 3:36

[6] Brooke, Alan E., Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Johannine Epistles, op. cit., p. 141

[7] Cf. 1 John 2:4

[8] Smith, David: The Expositor’s Greek Testament, 1 John, op. cit., pp. 196-197

[9] See John 3:36; See Mark 16:16

[10] Barnes, Albert: New Testament Notes, op. cit., pp. 4885-4886

[11] See 1 Kings 8:46; Psalm 143:2; Proverbs 20:9; Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:1-12,19,20,23; Galatians 3:22; James 3:2; 1 John 1:8,10

[12] See Psalm 51:5; Job 14:4; John 3:6

[13] Ephesians 2:3

[14] Romans 5:12-14

[15] Also see John 3:3, 5; 1 John 5:12

[16] See Matthew 9:12,13; Acts of the Apostles 10:35; Romans 2:14; Philippians 3:6; 1 Corinthians 1:30

[17] Berkhof, Louis: Systematic Theology, op. cit., p. 225

[18] Finlayson, Robert: The Pulpit Commentary, First Epistle of John, Vol. 22, op. cit., Homiletics, pp. 171-172

[19] Kretzmann, Paul F., Popular Commentary on 1.2,3 John, op. cit., p. 577

[20]Realized Eschatology” holds that the eschatological passages in the New Testament do not refer to the future but to the ministry of Jesus and His legacy.

[21] 1 John 1:2

[22] Dodd, Charles H., The Moffatt New Testament Commentary, The Johannine Epistles, op. cit., p. 133

[23] Bultmann, Rudolph: Hermeneia, The Johannine Epistles, op. cit. p. 83

[24] Cf. John 3:36

[25] Lewis, Greville Priestly: Epworth Preacher’s Commentaries, The Johannine Epistles, op. cit., pp. 118-119

[26] Wuest, Kenneth S. The New Testament: An Expanded Translation, op. cit, 1 John 5:9-12

[27] Luke 9:35

[28] Matthew 28:18

[29] John 1:16

[30] Lloyd-Jones, Martyn: Life in Christ, Studies in 1 John, op. cit., p. 636

[31] John 1:4

[32] See John 11:25; 14:6; Colossians 3:4

About drbob76

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