By Dr. Robert R. Seyda


CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson LXXXIV) 03/09/23

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.

After considering everything the Apostle John has said so far, Adam Clarke (1774-1849) notes that in verse thirteen, the Apostle is sharing with us the privileges that lead into the holy of holies of believing in God’s Son and the glorious effects it produces. It is not a blind reliance for, but an actual enjoyment of, salvation; the Anointed One living, working and reigning in our hearts. We must continue to believe the Anointed One dwells in the heart only by FAITH, and faith lives only by LOVE, and love continues only by OBEDIENCE for those who BELIEVE, LOVE, and OBEY love those who love to believe. They believe in the witness of the Anointed One in their heart, the hope of glory, and are people of prayer.[1]

With unwavering trust in the Apostle John’s teaching, William Lincoln (1788-1844) notices that having spoken of where this life is, the Apostle John closes the statement by saying, “Whoever has [God’s] Son has [eternal] life, but whoever does not have God’s Son does not have [eternal] life.[2] After the KJV was written, many older manuscripts have been discovered, so now, many of the Final Covenant passages are better understood than fifty years ago. John wrote these words: “I have written this to you who believe in the Son of God so that you may know you have eternal life.”[3] [4]

In his captivating teaching style, Jewish convert Augustus Neander (1789-1850) finds that the Apostle John repeats fundamental truths to reawaken the reader’s interest and solidify them in their conscience.  It is the object of his epistle. In it is included all which is necessary for the inner person; since this true divine life comprehends itself, all which requires certainty of eternity. It is an exhaustless source of satisfaction to the believer’s spirit. It is formed and constituted to be filled with nothing less than God.

Thus, you can find spiritual life and joy only in fellowship with Him bestowed on us through His Son. Of course, there is much in this, as well as in all the epistles, profitable to the unconverted. But for the present, see it as a message to believers, and the hallmark of what use this epistle is intended to be to them. This then was the Apostle’s object, that believers might know how much has been bestowed upon them in their faith.

True, they must, as believers, have known this from the beginning, but then, in human life, all things slide so easily into the mechanical form of habit! Moreover, the current of life sweeps Christians along; and though one may indeed abide in the faith, others may lose the vivid consciousness of the treasure imparted to them. Hence, they must continue drawing from the divine fountain of life opened through faith. The consciousness they received must be continually revived and invigorated; from their trust must the knowledge of that, first acquired in faith, constantly refresh itself anew.

There can be no halting here. Unless the fountain of faith drys up, a progressive development must proceed from it. Hence, John writes to those who have already believed, as if they were now just learning that by believing in Jesus as God’s Son, they became partakers of eternal life. Their joy in that divine possession was to be continually renewed and increased repeatedly and reminded that no power of earth could bestow upon them anything higher, anything more. So John warns them against the treacherous arts of false teachers, who seek to unsettle their faith, commending to them something else as the truth or as a higher truth; to be thereby established in this faith, under all temptations and conflicts.[5]

After spiritually analyzing John’s conclusions, Gottfried C. F. Lücke (1791-1855) points out that what the Apostle John says in verse thirteen is sufficiently supported by necessary authorities, such as Spirit, water, and blood. The shared reading has arisen from an endeavor to make the proposition clearer and more acceptable. As believing Christians, John did not find it necessary to instruct them concerning the ground of their faith. Yet, as it might seem, John does not intend to teach his readers, as to provoke and revive in them the feeling of their faith’s high value and character. This is what he meant when he writes in verse thirteen, “That you may thoroughly comprehend, [Greek verb eidō – “to perceive”] that you have eternal life.”[6]

As a servant of God whose preaching was doctrinal, imaginative, quaint, and earnest, Robert Finlayson (1793-1861) feels that the Apostle John’s aim in this Epistle is connected with assurance ‒ “These things have I written to you, that you may know that you have eternal life, to you that believe on the Name of God’s Son.” At the beginning of the Epistle, John aimed at Divine fellowship and complete joy. Looking back, John feels that he has kept the ending of his Epistle in view. In restating his aim, he goes the length of completed delight. Beyond the reawakening of their spiritual life, he aims at their having the pleasure of knowing that they had eternal life begun in them. He has given them certain marks (usually introduced by “herein”) to clarify their Divine birth or possession of the Divine life as believers. We have comfort when we have the correct elements and diagnose correctly.[7]

Without using complicated language, Albert Barnes (1798-1870) notes that verse thirteen refers to those things the Apostle John wrote respecting the testimony provided for the Lord Jesus so they might believe in the name of God’s Son. To believe in His name is to believe in Him – the word name is often understood to denote the person’s character and reputation. If John was assured that they did believe in God’s Son, he was desirous of presenting to them a spiritual nature that continues to exercise faith in Him. It is often one of the essential duties of ministers of the Gospel to contribute to genuine Christians, such views of the nature, the claims, the evidence, and the hopes of religious conviction, to secure their perseverance in the faith. Even when converted, the human heart is prone to disbelieve. Religious affections so quickly become cold; there are so many cares about the world to distract the mind.

There are so many allurements of sin to draw the affection away from the Savior. There is a need to be constantly reminded of the nature of religion so that the heart may not become estranged from the Savior. Therefore, no small part of preaching must consist of the re-statement of arguments with a fully convinced mind; of motives whose force has been once felt and acknowledged; and of the grounds of hope, peace, and joy which have already spread comfort through the soul. It is not less important to keep the soul than to convert it; to save it from coldness, deadness, and formality, than it was to impart to it the elements of spiritual life at first. It may be just as important to trim a vine if one would have grapes and keep it from being overrun with weeds as it was to plant it.[8] [9]

With impressive theological vision, Richard Rothe (1799-1867) notes that where the Apostle John says, “these things,” it refers back to verses six to twelve. Rothe sees verse thirteen as John’s way of excusing himself for writing this epistle as harshly as he did. In fact, John did not pretend to show evidence for the Messiahship and Divine Sonship of Jesus, as if he doubted their faith in Jesus as the Anointed One, but only made those who believed in Jesus as the Anointed One God’s Son fully conscious of what they now possess by faith is eternal life.

We can take it for granted that by confirming that Jesus is the Anointed Son of God, we will see more that the new life in fellowship with Him brings through faith in Him. It is nothing less than eternal life, God’s blessed life. Therefore, even in the case of believing Christians, it is not redundant to remind them that through faith in Jesus, they possess eternal life now. For, seeing that as yet they include it primarily by faith, the direct experience they have of the weakness of their spiritual life may deprive them of that assurance. But we must hold it fast. Without it, it is impossible to have joyous faith in the Gospel. And this assurance depends upon Jesus the Anointed One, God’s Son; for the Redeemer cannot give more than He has. He could not provide eternal life if He were a mere human being. Only His life is the eternal, divine life itself, and He can also communicate it to us. [10]

Consistent with the Apostle John’s advice, Heinrich A. W. Meyer (1800-1882) states that in verse thirteen, it is very noticeable that the Apostle John turns to the closing of his Epistle. The reference in “these things” is probably to the entire Epistle. However, certain parts of it, particularly the last section, present the idea of eternal life more distinctly than others. Finally, the purpose of the Gospel is that the readers may believe that Jesus is the Anointed One, the Son of God, and that by faith in His name, they have eternal life.

To produce faith was the object of the Apostle’s record of the life of Jesus. To give the knowledge of their actual and present possession of eternal life to those with faith was his desire and design in writing this letter to Christian readers. Therefore, the Epistle follows the Gospel in the progress of Christian living and the development of thought. We may believe that it followed the preaching of the Gospel at that time. Possessing the knowledge that we have eternal life is the fulfillment of God’s intended joy.[11]

According to Robert Jamieson (1802-1880), Andrew Fausset (1821-1910), and David Brown’s (1803-1897) way of thinking, the Apostle John’s confession of why he wrote this letter[12] to his readers who believe in God’s Son is that they can know they have eternal life now. The oldest Greek manuscripts and versions read, “These things have I written to you [omitting ‘that believe on the name of the Son of God’] that you may know you have eternal life.”[13] The clause “that you may know” should read “continue to believe.[14] John wrote a similar message toward the end of his Gospel.[15] In 1 John 1:4, John states the object of his writing is “that your joy may be full.” To “know that we have eternal life” is the surest way to “rejoice in God.”[16]

With clear spiritual eyesight, we can see, says Neal M. Flanagan (1908-1986), that the Apostle John’s words look very much like a conclusion and resemble the conclusion of John’s Gospel.[17] John adds his final thoughts to this conclusion in verses fourteen to twenty-one.[18]

With noticeable spiritual comprehension, Henry Cowles (1802-1881) identifies the Apostle John as a writer of definite aims; he knows what results he wishes to secure. He stated his object in his gospel history;[19] he does the same in this epistle. But, unfortunately, most translators omit this from the last clause – “and that you may believe in the name of the Son of God.” Without this, the declared object of this epistle (if the statement refers to it in whole) is – “that you may know that you have eternal life.”

Under this knowing are two supposedly distinct points. (a) Knowing that this salvation through the Anointed One means eternal life, provides for it and secures it; and (b) Knowing each for themselves that he has a personal interest in this salvation. We have seen that this epistle brings out these individual proofs or tests of piety with remarkable fullness. No other portion of God’s word makes this point so prominent. “This is how we know that we live in Him and He in us: He has given us of His Spirit.”[20] Also, “This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands.”[21] Then, “We know that we have passed from death to life because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death.”[22] Such is the theme of this epistle.[23]

With his lifework well-illustrating the biblical and reformation ideal of the pastor-theologian, Robert Smith Candlish (1805-1872) agrees with other scholars that verse thirteen is the end of the main epistle. Whether the “these things” which “I have written unto you” are simply things contained in the immediately preceding context or must be held to reach further back is not material. John is evidently summing up; he is pointing his discourse or argument to its close. And he points it out clearly and convincingly. He strongly asserts the final end he has in view. It is that you may “know” certain things.

John repeatedly uses the word “know;” no less than six or seven times in about as many verses. From a spiritual point of view, knowledge is evidently of a high order, not merely speculative and intellectual but experimental and practical. It is not simply faith but connected with confidence, flowing from it while involved. Still, it is something more than faith. If one may say so, faith realized; faith proved inwardly by being acted upon outwardly; the believer ascertaining, by actual trial and experience, the truth and trustworthiness of their belief. It is not whether we think, is persuaded, or hope, but “we know.[24]

[1] Clarke, Adam: Wesleyan Heritage Commentary, op. cit., Hebrews-Revelation, p. 398

[2] 1 John 5:12

[3] Ibid. 5:13

[4] Lincoln, William: Lectures on the Epistles of St. John, op. cit., p. 155

[5] Neander, Augustus: The First Epistle of John, Practically Explained, op. cit., pp. 296-298

[6] Lücke, Gottfried C. F., A Commentary on the Epistles of St. John, op. cit., p. 277

[7] Findlayson, Robert: The Pulpit Commentary, First Epistle of John, Vol. 22, op. cit., Homiletics, p. 172

[8] See John 20:31

[9] Barnes, Albert: New Testament Notes, op. cit., p. 4886

[10] Rothe, Richard: Exposition of the First Epistle of St. John, op. cit., The Expository Times, July 1895, p. 469

[11] Critical Exegetical Handbook New Testament by John Edward Huther, Meyer, Heinrich A. W., Commentary on the New Testament, Epistles of James and John, op. cit., p. 816

[12] The letter begins at 1:1 and ends at 5:1

[13] Cf. 1 John 5:11

[14] Ibid. 5:12

[15] John 20:30-31

[16] Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, New Testament Volume, op. cit., p. 730

[17] John 20:31

[18] Flanagan, Neal M., The Johannine Epistles, Collegeville Bible Commentary, op. cit., p. 1026

[19] John 20:30-31

[20] 1 John 4:13

[21] Ibid. 5:2

[22] Ibid. 3:14

[23] Cowles, Henry: The Gospel and Epistles of John, op. cit., p. 357

[24] Candlish, Robert S., The First Epistle of John: Expounded in a Series of Lectures, op. cit., Lecture XLI, pp. 250-251

About drbob76

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