By Dr. Robert R. Seyda


CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson LXXXVII) 03/13/23

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

King Solomon said, “God gratifies the desires of the diligent,” and “The fearful heart will know and understand, and the stammering tongue will be fluent and clear.”[1] So the Apostle Paul and others preached, “For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus the Anointed One, not to pour out His anger on us. The Anointed One died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when He returns, we can live with Him forever.” Therefore, those taught by God’s Word have great peace and, like the Ethiopian Eunuch,[2] go on their way rejoicing like the Philippian jailer,[3] as do all those who look for the blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus the Anointed One.[4] Therefore, do not fear bad news[5] while eagerly awaiting by faith the righteousness for which we hope.[6]

Such perseverance fulfills John’s desire, so he cries, “Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly,”[7] for they know that until then, they are in enemy territory, subject to temptation, hardships, and persecution. Still, even at their future departure, they will see Him. Nevertheless, you love Him even though you have never seen Him. Although you do not see Him now, you trust Him, rejoicing with excited, inexpressible joy.[8] [9]

In a letter written to a man named George Ticknor dated Tuesday, November 25, 1817,[10] Thomas Jefferson writes concerning the establishment of a general system of education in his native state and hopes that “if the system should be adopted at all by our legislature who meet within a week from this time, my hopes, however, are kept in check by the ordinary character of our state legislatures, the members of which do not generally possess information enough to percieve [sic] the important truths, that knolege [sic][11] is power, that knolege [sic] is safety, and that knoledge [sic] is happiness.” Some might dismiss Jefferson’s conclusion. Still, ample evidence exists to examine it further. The Apostle John certainly thought knowledge was essential. He was extremely concerned that his “little children” get to know several things to be true because they now believe in Jesus as the Anointed One, God’s Son.

With an inquiring spiritual mind, Johannes H. A. Ebrard (1819-1893) reports that some scholars maintain that this verse is against the argument that there is no formal beginning of a final section of the Apostle John’s epistle but that the chain of thought goes on continuously. This, however, does not follow from the fact that in verse thirteen, the idea of “eternal life” is resumed. On the contrary, this idea is so profound, complete, and comprehensive as to justify us in thinking that the John, in verses four through twenty-four, had been gradually introducing it in all its fulness, to declare in his final section that this was the end of all his writing, to show them that we have eternal life through faith in God’s Son. This verse represents the end John lays down as the final and consummate goal of his Gospel.[12]

For Ebrard, nothing speaks more forcefully against the assumption that verse thirteen is the commencement of a final section in the ordinary sense is that the fundamental idea of “the world-overcoming power of faith” continues to stamp its emphasis upon the whole strain of the thought. On the other hand, however, there is a sense in which verses thirteen to twenty-one form a concluding section. Not that the development of the idea ends in verse twelve, but the growth of thought has now attained its all-comprehending crown or climax. It is the last strain of the previous section while at the same time concluding John’s whole message.[13]

After contemplating John’s train of thought, William Kelly (1822-1888) says, let us now consider the Apostle’s concluding remarks. “The things I just wrote to you were designed so that you may be certain of your eternal life by believing in the name [Yeshua, meaning “Savior”] of God’s Son.” This belief was only possible because grace found us drowning in sin and gave us the best God could bestow by faith in the Lord Jesus, His Son. And what is more fitting than eternal life, a divine nature that loves God all that is good and holy; that hates sin and loves righteousness according to the perfect law of liberty, obeying God, not as a Jew under restraint but as our Lord did by making us part of His family? And how careless are those who abandon their old convictions for novel and wild ideas who say not only that you cannot know that you have eternal life but that it cannot be now! Life eternal is the excellent ground indispensable for what the Apostle Paul calls “doing good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”[14]

So, far from leaving the doubters or disbelievers any excuse, John says that all should remain established in the Anointed One against any who might mislead them. In the beginning, he showed the supreme excellence and usefulness of that life in the Anointed One as the object of faith and love for souls; now, in the last chapter, he insists on the believer’s conscious possession. Is not this as it should be? It is due to God’s Son; it is the delight of the Father, and it enhances the benefit even more to the believer. How immense the loss, how costly the mistake of all who drink the poison of misguided teachers and who make light of the true Gospel to try to excuse their leaving the straight and narrow way![15] [16]

Familiar with John’s writing style, William B. Pope (1822-1903) sees the Apostle John returning to his grand design, fulfilling the joy of those who believe. That’s why he said, “These things I have written to you that you may know you have eternal life because you believed in the name [Yeshua, meaning “Savior”] of God’s Son.” His purpose was not to try and establish their assurance and challenge their faith to reach higher; assurance is the final point and all the blessedness that assurance brings. “That you may know:” this is one of the watchwords introduced in such a way as to show that, while it is the gift of God’s Spirit, it is the duty and privilege of every Christian to live and rejoice in it.[17]

Holiness doctrine expertise Daniel Steele (1824-1914) points out that John wrote his Gospel “that you may have life,[18] but this Epistle was written “that you may know that you have eternal life.” The one leads to obtaining the benefits of a reborn spiritual life. The other is to the joy of knowing that it is not only acquired but also eternal. Thus, from the Gospel to the Epistle, there is progress. True faith always leads to knowledge.[19] [20]

After sufficient examination of the Greek text, Brooke Wescott (1825-1901) points out that in reviewing the Apostle John’s epistle, John indicates the fulfillment of his purpose.[21] The consciousness of eternal life brings divine fellowship and complete joy.[22] The Apostle looks back upon his work and records his aim, “that you may know with a knowledge final and certain.” Eternal life may be present and yet not realized in its inherent power. Furthermore, the source of the spiritual fruit may not yet be identified or delayed. But there is a knowledge of life independent of external signs, and this John seeks to quicken. The phrase “life eternal” is not found elsewhere in this epistle:[23] the label comes as an afterthought: “that you have life[24] – yes, eternal life” to you who believe.[25]

Prolific commentary writer, Benjamin Charles Caffin (1826-1894), notes that the Apostle John writes about believers knowing they have eternal life, who has eternal life and who doesn’t. Such assertions may exist for everyone to see and read repeatedly yet be ignored by those who read them. It is not enough to know about eternal life and the imprint of its existence. It is all-important for the individual to possess “the life” and indicate it by its appropriate signs. And it is also important ‒ though it cannot be said to be equally so ‒ that if a person has this life, they should know that they have it. Hence, the apostle declares that the object of his writing is that those who believe in the Name [Yeshua, meaning “Savior”] of God’s Son should clearly and decisively know that they have life and that their life is eternal.[26]

As a commentator and translator of many German religious works, Jacob Isidor Mombert (1829-1913) also notices that verse thirteen is quite similar to the closing verse of the Apostle John’s Gospel.[27] The purpose of the writing “that you might know you have eternal life” corresponds with  “Joy” at the beginning of the Epistle,[28] which was to be filled by the testimony of the eye and ear-witnesses of the “reason of life;” hence the phrase “these things I wrote” here in verse thirteen answers to “these we write” in chapter one, verse four, the certainty of the possession of eternal life being the ground and strength of the joy, which John has, and to which he alludes “to you that believe on the name [Yeshua, meaning “Savior”] of God’s Son.” Primarily they refer back to chapter three, verse twenty-three, but find their last resting place having fellowship with the Father and His Son, Jesus the Anointed One.[29] [30]

Like a spiritual farmer planting the seed of God’s Word, Henry A. Sawtelle (1832-1913) mentions that “these things” are in the preceding section, relating to the illuminating life and divine Sonship of the Anointed One, which are wonderfully adapted to deepen the faith and increase the confidence of Christians. Imagine it as a pause, or interruption, between the preceding section and the present one. To his Christian circle, John wrote “these things” to those who believe in the name [Yeshua, meaning “Savior”] of God’s Son, to know (the certainty of the fact) that they have (as a present abiding possession) eternal life. The things the Apostle John wrote concerning this life, and its testimony through the water, the blood, and the Spirit, were calculated to deepen and certify this knowledge because Christians are privileged to “know” that they have eternal life – converted and saved.

For many, their consciousness is as assured as the actual physical possession of eternal life. This epistle attaches much importance to such knowledge. Verse twelve indicates a way to this full assurance. We gain spiritual life by believing in the Anointed One, but we know that we are in this life by enlarging our view of the Anointed One as the great and only fountain of our spiritual life. To the faithful Christian, the fuller picture of the doctrine of life is a means of knowing that they have “the life.” By defining “to you” in the early part of the verse, John shows that believers are the persons whose privilege he describes. As awkward as this delay in the defining clause may seem, the critical text compels its approval.[31] [32]

Called the “Prince of Preachers,” Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892) is sure that while years are short for the happy and healthy, thirty-eight years of disease must have dragged a feeble, helpless man through agony.[33] He knew that healing was coming when Jesus healed him by a word while he lay at Jerusalem’s Bethesda pool. In like manner, a sinner who has for weeks and months been paralyzed with despair, and sighed for salvation, is very conscious of the change when the Lord Jesus speaks the Word of Power and gives joy and peace in believing. The evil removed is too great to be removed without our discerning it; the life instilled is too remarkable to be possessed and remain inoperative, and the change wrought is too marvelous not to be perceived. Yet the poor man was ignorant of the author of his cure; he didn’t know the sacredness of His person, the offices He sustained ‒ the errand which brought Him among mankind. So much ignorance of Jesus may remain in hearts that feel His blood’s redeeming power; nevertheless, they are born again.

Therefore, we must not quickly condemn people for lack of knowledge but believe that salvation is near when we see soul-saving faith at work. The Holy Spirit makes people repentant long before He makes them holy, and those who believe what they know will soon understand more clearly what they think. Ignorance is an evil, for the Pharisees tantalized this poor man who could not cope with them. It is good to be able to answer deniers, but we cannot do so if we don’t fully know the Lord Jesus with understanding. However, the cure of his ignorance soon followed the treatment of his infirmity, for the Lord visited him in the temple. After that gracious manifestation, people spotted him testifying that “Jesus made him whole.”[34][35]

[1] Proverbs 13:4b; Isaiah 32:4 (NIV)

[2] Acts of the Apostles 8:39b

[3] Ibid. 16:34

[4] Titus 2:13

[5] Psalm 112:7

[6] Galatians 5:5

[7] Revelation 22:20

[8] 1 Peter 1:8

[9] Stock, John: An Exposition of the First Epistle General of St. John, op. cit., pp. 442, 443-444

[10] From Poplar Forest near Lynchburg, Virginia, Tuesday, November 25, 1817

[11] The Latin adverb “sic” (meaning “so, thus, in this manner”) is used in brackets after a copied or quoted word that appears odd or erroneous to show that the word is quoted exactly as it stands in the original, 

[12] John 20:31

[13] Ebrard, Johannes H. A., Biblical Commentary on the Epistles of St. John, op. cit., pp. 334-335

[14] Ephesians 2:10

[15] Matthew 7:14

[16] Kelly, William: An Exposition of the Epistles of John the Apostle, op. cit., p. 383

[17] Pope, William B., The International Illustrated Commentary on the N.T., Vol. IV, op. cit., p. 319

[18] John 20:31

[19] Ephesians 4:13

[20] Steele, Daniel: Half-Hours with St. John’s Epistles, op. cit., p. 141

[21] See 1 John 1:3-4

[22] Cf. John 20:30

[23] Cf. Matthew 25:46; John 4:36; 12:25; 17:3

[24] John 10:10

[25] Westcott, Brooke F., The Epistles of St. John: Greek Text with Notes, op. cit., pp. 188-189

[26] Caffin, Benjamin Charles, The Pulpit Commentary, op. cit., 1 John 5:13, p. 150

[27] John 20:31

[28] 1 John 1:4

[29] Ibid. 1:3

[30] Mombert, Jacob Isidor: Lange’s Commentary on the New Testament, op. cit., Vol. IX, pp. 169-170

[31] John 20:31

[32] Sawtelle, Henry A., Commentary on the Epistles of John, op. cit., p. 59

[33] John 5:1-15

[34] Cf. Micah 6:8

[35] Spurgeon, Charles H., Morning and Evening Daily Readings, May 8:00 AM, p. 259

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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  1. Hello dear Sir Dr. Robert, greetings to you in Jesus mighty name.
    We are eventually getting inspired and strengthened by your messages and the way you form the context to describe the concept of those books certainly, that a person can understand it perfectly. Thank you for your wonderful work for the kingdom of God.
    Sir, I’m very happy to fellowship with you and thank God for that, Sir we remember you in our prayers and our love you and your family. — Joel Sudarshan, India


    • drbob76 says:

      To God be the glory. It’s His Word to us and I’ve asked Him to use me to make it clear and powerful to other believers. Tell all your friends about it, they are welcome to join us.


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