By Dr. Robert R. Seyda


CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson LXXXI) 03/06/23

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

Conversely, those who reject Jesus as God’s Son have already excluded themselves from being the recipients of the life that would testify to His being who He said He is. The division between those who do and those who do not share God’s eternal life is that this divine life does not lie in the future but is established in the present. When seen from the outside, this relentless self-fulfilling logic might offer little opportunity to those approaching from an agnostic or unbelieving perspective and little incentive to believe witnesses. It is the position from which John argues, but for the most part, because he intends to reinforce the allegiance of those to whom he writes and to make clear the stark consequences of withdrawing.[1]

As an international speaker on Puritan theology, Joel Beeke (1952) comments on God’s testimony about His Son, Jesus the Anointed One. The Apostle John has declared Jesus as God’s Son since chapter three.[2] Would not his testimony and those of other apostles be enough? After all, every courtroom has seating for witnesses to testify to what they saw, heard, and felt. While human testimonies are essential, in Jesus’ case, John wanted something higher and more trustworthy. So in verse eight, he tells of choosing three earthly providers of evidence with impeccable credentials ‒ the Spirit, Water, and Blood. However, some early church scribe felt John’s choices needed some help. So, in verse seven, he added three heavenly observers ‒ the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit.

It is also noteworthy that John did not call God to the witness stand, for He already gave His testimony.[3] The English word witness translates the Greek verb martyreō, used nine times in this epistle.[4] It means someone who remembers or has knowledge of something through personal experience. The Greek verb martyreō and the noun martyria also describe those who give testimony in legal matters.[5] In this context, the legal issue is one of justification and validating something as being legitimate.

Vincent Cheung (1952) argues that the study of theology is an essential human activity. However, because of their laziness and ungodliness, many prefer to consult sources forbidden by God. An involvement with occult practices is an adequate reason for ex-communication; negligence in church discipline only allows these abominations to foster and spread. The sufficiency of the Anointed One implies His exclusivity. This means that Jesus the Anointed One is the only way to redemption, and Christianity is the only true religion to bring salvation.[6]

Emphasizing the Apostle John’s call to Christian fellowship, Gary M. Burge (1952) notes that the testimony of the Father has to do with life, eternal life. Since life comes to us through the death of the Son, to deny “the blood,” to deny an incarnation that embraces the cross, to deny the salvific, substitutionary work of Jesus on Calvary, puts our own salvation in jeopardy. Thus, disbelieving the right testimonies has severe consequences. Claiming a divine enlightenment that neglects the Son is eternally perilous. [7]

A scholar who truly inspires Christian missionaries, Daniel L. Akin (1957) identifies eternal Life as a God-quality, God-like life with a particular character or essence as well as a never-ending duration. Having Jesus, the Son of God, equals having eternal life. This is God’s testimony. This is God’s gift. This life is in His Son and not found in anyone else.[8] In fact, to have the Son is to have eternal life. To not have the Son of God means you do not have spiritual life. Having the Son of God equals life. Not having the Son of God equals spiritual death. To not have the Son means you are a walking, talking mummy. You are a lifeless, spiritual corpse in a physical body.[9]

With a classical thinking approach to understanding the scriptures, Bruce G. Schuchard (1958) notes that this final saying details again a balance of oppositions that characterizes oral transmission, helping with the dual principle at the beginning of this chapter. There are two references to “the one who” and two to “everyone who,” which is the framework for the passage’s message. First, the one who has the Son has life. Again. John expresses his thinking first positively, then negatively.[10] The finality with which John articulates himself is doubly emphatic as he defines the risks and consequences of abiding in or departing from the fellowship of the Anointed One and His church. The one who does not have the Son of God does not have life. The third and final reference to Jesus as “the Son of God[11] affirms the passage’s predominant interest and indicates John’s continuing intention “to reinforce the allegiance of those to whom he writes and to make clear the stark consequences of withdrawing.”[12]

Great expositional teacher David Guzik (1961) identifies the Apostle John’s statement that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son as God’s message to mankind ‒ eternal life is a gift from God, received in Jesus the Anointed One. Therefore, those who have God’s Son have “the Life;” those who don’t have God’s Son do not have “the Life,” which is spiritual and eternal. It is all being in union with Jesus, who is eternal life.[13]

An expert in highlighting the crucial part of a biblical message, Marianne Meye Thompson (1964) summarizes that this passage presents the content of the confession about Jesus the Anointed One that believers have and hold. But it also explicitly and implicitly suggests how we know the truth. In the final analysis, the truth is known by individuals because God’s Spirit guides them into understanding and accepting it.[14] But appeals to inspiration are always dangerous because they are so subjective. If sometimes the Spirit speaks what seems to be a fresh or new word, then the truth of the testimony ought to be measured against the witness guarded by dependable and faithful individuals and assemblies and against the witness of Scripture itself. The Spirit who guided original witnesses of events and inspired their interpretation does not speak a contrary word to the Church today.[15]

As a lover of God’s Word, Peter Pett (1966) makes it plain that this spiritual life is not available to false teachers who deny Jesus’ divine Sonship. They reject God’s full testimony concerning His Son. They make Him a liar. For them, there is no means of conciliation. For them, there is no life, for they are liars who preach lies. They believe the Apostle Paul’s warning about “the lie.”[16] God’s testimony to His Son lies in the fact that He demonstrated His lifegiving power by raising Him from the dead as the Son by the Holy Spirit and enabling Him thereby to give life to those who believed in Him. And those who do believe in Him receive life. This life-giving power is in God’s Son so that those who are in union with the Son have life and those who are not in communion with Him have no life.[17]

In his unorthodox Unitarian way, Duncan Heaster (1967) feels that the Apostle John takes great pain to stress that the gift of life is the life of God’s Son. Hence the Greek reads literally “the life” – the life of Jesus. There can be no legitimate spiritual life or spirituality outside of Him. And John writes this against the background of the Judaist infiltrators arguing that there was spiritual life to be had from legalistic obedience, even if they deny the Lord’s Divine Sonship. The Lord Jesus and His life are intimately connected; “The Son has life in Himself.”[18] To have Him is to have His life. And to “have” the Son is to “have” the Father.[19] [20]

Bright seminarian Karen H. Jobes (1958) says the Apostle John’s statement in verse twelve summarizes what he has been discussing since chapter four, verse one. He points out that not all “truth” is God’s truth, but only that which is of the Spirit in accord with the significance of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. The expression in verse twelve, “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life.” is similar to John’s earlier statement, “Anyone who denies the Son doesn’t have the Father, either. But anyone who acknowledges the Son has the Father also.”[21] This phrase is another way of saying that Jesus the Anointed One is the only way to God,[22] a thought that was just as upsetting to ancient society as it is to many people today.[23]

As a skilled sermonizer, David Legge (1969) reminds us that in the Apostle John’s epistles, we discovered that the Gospel’s goal was not to present a generalized understanding of Jesus the Anointed One’s incarnation. It was also to have a personal embodiment of the Anointed One’s spiritual and eternal life in every believer.

Therefore, rather than our knowledge of the Scriptures and our study of it enhancing everything in our lives as a witness of Jesus, the Anointed One, it is worth more than a thousand powerful rhetorical practical, godly arguments! A good example is a language, and a view everybody understands, from the youngest innocent child to the oldest and wisest adult. Someone put it like this: “Well done” is always better than “Well-intentioned.” We say a lot of things, don’t we? But precept may lead a person, instruct a person, command a person, order a person ‒ but only example draws a person.[24]

Douglas Sean O’Donnell (1972) believes that the Apostle John feels Jesus is a theological exclusivist ‒ by thinking Jesus is the only way to God.[25] Here and elsewhere,[26] John joins Jesus in his superiority. Based on the Trinity’s testimony, he believes that Jesus is the only way of salvation. Thus, he states quite emphatically that if you do not accept God’s testimony about Jesus, then not only do you make him out to be “a liar.[27] but you also do “not have life ‒ both now and forevermore. Right thinking about Jesus is a matter of life and death. Our faith in faith, or our faith in our homemade personal Jesus, will not save us from our sin and the wrath to come. Only faith in the water and the blood will. We can “grumble that God didn’t provide an assortment of salvation options.” We can construct “a god figure toward whom all religions are striving by their various means ‒ and who regard all religious beliefs as equally valid,” or we can humble ourselves before the true and living God and, in gratitude, accept the one sure way of salvation. We can get a life! We can believe and receive God’s gift. We can know that we are saved.[28]

5:13 I write this letter to you who believe in the Son of God. I write so that you will know that you have eternal life now.


Here the Apostle John repeats what he said in his Gospel, “These are in writing so that you may continue to believe.”[29] Even the Apostle Peter added, “My purpose in writing is to encourage you and assure you that what you are experiencing is truly part of God’s grace for you. So stand firm in this grace.”[30] So when we read, “All Scripture is given by God. And all Scripture is useful for teaching and showing people what is wrong in their lives. It is useful for correcting faults and teaching the right way to live. So, using the Scriptures, those who serve God will be prepared and have everything they need to do every good work,”[31] it should encourage us to read what they wrote, especially if they added their names to it.

[1] Lieu, Judith: A New Testament Library, I, II, & III John, op. cit., pp. 219-220

[2] 1 John 3:8; cf. 4:15; 5:5, 10, 12, 13, 20

[3] Ibid. 5:9

[4] Ibid. 5:6, 7, 8, 9x3, 10x2 (martyria), 11 (martyria)

[5] Beeke Joel, The Epistles of John, Ch. 20, op. cit., pp. 191-201

[6] Cheung, Vincent. Systematic Theology, 1 John 5:12, Kindle Edition

[7] Burge, Gary M., The Letters of John (The NIV Application Commentary), op. cit., p 205

[8] John 14:6

[9] Akin, Dr. Daniel L., Exalting Jesus in 1,2,3 John (the Anointed One-Centered Exposition Commentary), op. cit., loc. cit., Kindle Edition

[10] 1 John 5:12b

[11] Ibid. 5:5, 10a

[12] Schuchard, Bruce G., Concordia Commentary, 1-3 John, op. cit., pp. 543

[13] Guzik, David: Enduring Word, 1,2, & 3 John & Jude, op. cit., pp. 96

[14] Cf. John 14:26; 16:13

[15] Thompson, Marianne Meye, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, 1-3 John, op. cit., p. 138

[16] 2 Thessalonians 2:11

[17] Pett, Peter: Commentary on the Bible, 1 John, op. cit., loc. cit.

[18] John 5:26

[19] 2 John 1:9

[20] Heaster, Duncan. New European Christadelphian Commentary: op. cit., The Letters of John, p. 77

[21] 1 John 2:23

[22] Cf. John 14:6

[23] Jobes, Karen H., 1, 2, and 3 John (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on The New Testament Series Book 18), op. cit., p. 225

[24] Legge, David: Preach the Word, 1 John, Sermon 23

[25] John 5:39-40; 6:40; 14:6

[26] Ibid. 3:36

[27] 1 John 5:10

[28] O’Donnell, Douglas Sean. 1–3 John (Reformed Expository Commentaries), op. cit., op. cit., Kindle Edition

[29] John 20:31; cf. 21:24

[30] 1 Peter 5:12

[31] 2 Timothy 3:16-17

About drbob76

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