By Dr. Robert R. Seyda


CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson LXXXIX) 03/15/23

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.

With his elegant speaking style, William M. Sinclair (1850-1917) states that the expression here in verse thirteen is more positive than in the Gospel: there, “that you might believe, and that believing you might have [everlasting life];”[1] here, “that you may know that you have.”[2] It is because he wishes to produce in them faithful hope. At the beginning of the Epistle, the specific object was the communication of joy through fellowship with the Apostles; the knowledge of possessing eternal life and the continuance of their faith would be precisely that joy.[3]

As an influential reconciler, Charles Gore (1853-1932) urges us to notice that the Apostle John defined his choice purpose for writing his Gospel: “These things have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Anointed One, God’s Son; and that believing you may have life in His name.”[4] So now he says of this Epistle that he has written: “They who believe in the name [Yeshua, meaning “Savior”] of God’s Son will know that they are entitled to the actual enjoyment of eternal life” ‒ the life which no earthly circumstances can shake or damage. And this eternal life is a life of fellowship with God and carries with it such freedom of speech and approach towards God that whatever we ask according to His will, He hears us. And this is the boldness we have toward Him. And if we know that He hears whatsoever we ask, we’ll receive answers to whatever we ask of Him.[5]

Reuben Archer Torrey (1856-1928) believes that the Apostle John wants his readers “to think correctly about the eternal life we have” in the Anointed One. We have the blessedness of the person whose “delight is in the Law of the Lord and meditates on His law day and night.”[6]In other words, says Torrey, my archway of salvation rests upon two pillars. The first pillar is what the Anointed One did for me. The second pillar was the assurance of salvation through my feelings.

When I felt well and happy, the pillars were of the right height and seemed very solid. But when depressed feelings came, the columns seemed lower, weaker, and threatened the archway. However, one day, I read in verse thirteen of First John chapter five that I was expected to trust the Scriptures and not my feelings for assurance. Since that day, both pillars of assurance have been sufficient, for God’s Word never changes. Feelings may come and go, but “I keep on believing” the promise of eternal life, not because I feel so and so, but because God says so. The pillar of the Anointed One’s merit and the pillar of His promises are the same lengths, and the archway of salvation is no longer threatened by changing feelings.[7]

Beyond any doubt, remarks Alonzo R. Cocke (1858-1901), the Apostle John would have his readers listen to the witnesses, consider the sacred record, observe the divine life-fountain until faith should strengthen into assurance, and say, “I know.” Their eyes should feast on the pearly gates standing open and the stream of life flowing from the throne of God. The goal of faith is knowledge of the life we now possess in the Anointed One. It is not a coming possession or a promised gift but actual ownership. They should settle it in their hearts that no power on earth nor Satan’s regions can take away that gift.

Christians should look beyond their struggles, for they pose no threat to God’s treasure ‒ “Your real life is hidden with the Anointed One in God.”[8] How secure, “with the Anointed One” in the infinite God. So, it is in the Anointed One who is in God. God must die before the stream of life from Him to us can cease flowing. Therefore, we may strengthen our hearts amid all our battles, for “when the Anointed One, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all His glory.”[9] How deep lies the reason for our safety! The Anointed One is our eternal life, for He is not influenced by changing times.[10]

Esteemed ministry veteran James B. Morgan (1859-1942) agrees that verse thirteen may contain the narrative for the whole Epistle. The Apostle John’s design is not merely to expound and recommend the way of salvation but to enable those he addresses to evaluate their interest in it. He assumes some have “neither part nor whole” in the salvation of the Gospel, while others have found it to be “the power of God, and the wisdom of God unto salvation.”[11]To the one, we are a stench that brings death; to the other, a perfume that brings life. No one else is equal to such a task?”[12]

Surely, among all questions, the most important to be determined by anyone is their relationship to this great subject. Have they participated in the benefits of the Gospel or not? Have they been pardoned, purified, and qualified for glory, or are they under sin’s condemnation and incapacitated for the enjoyment of heaven? Have they or have they not been saved? John’s purpose is to enable them to determine this vital question. So, who are these people? (1) The persons whom he addresses are “those that believe.” (2) He states the objective he has in addressing them, “that they may know they have eternal life.” (3) He tells them how they may know it, by referring them to “the things which he had written,” and (4) He states one great goal that would be reached by their knowing their gracious state, “that you may believe in the name [Yeshua, meaning “Savior”] of God’s Son.” At the outset, it is essential to understand that such persons are distinctly contemplated. And the slightest reflection will show the grounds for such an assumption.[13]

A man who appreciates Jesus’ embodiment of the divine transforming emotion on how we live in this world, Robert Law (1860-1919) says we now turn to the second branch of the subject, Assurance in Prayer. It does not emerge in the first cycle of the Epistle but in the second and third and is dealt with in closely parallel and mutually explanatory passages.[14] In both places, assurance of our family relationship with God has as its immediate result confidence toward Him in prayer. This assurance finds expression in two contexts: “we are the truth[15] and “we have eternal life.”[16] They rely on Loving others “in deed and truth[17] and belief “in the name [Yeshua, meaning “Savior”] of God’s Son.”[18] However, they both produce the same effect – love for God.[19]

As a dispensationalist, Arno C. Gaebelein (1861-1945) feels verses nine to thirteen need no 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 His indwelling Spirit and by the salvation, the new nature, and the eternal life they possess. Anyone who does not believe God’s witness concerning His Son labels Him a liar. Think of it, creatures of the dust make God, who cannot lie, a liar! It is a scandalous sin of world religions. Our record is that God has given us eternal life, that this life is in His Son, and that we have eternal life by having His Son in us. If we don’t have the Son, we have no life. Verse thirteen concludes the argument and teaching of the Epistle concerning eternal life.[20]

With characteristic fundamental thinking, Alan England Brooke (1863-1939) finds the Apostle John hoping that their belief in Jesus as God’s Son and the witness of the Spirit will give them the possession of eternal life. We realize such confidence in prayer, in knowing by experience that He hears our prayer whenever we ask anything of God according to His will. And if we are thus conscious that God has heard, we already possess, in anticipation, the thing we asked for. Therefore, the Almighty Sovereign has said, “Let it be so,”[21] there is no further doubt about the matter, even though actual possession is delayed for long years.[22]

With an eye for detail, David Smith (1866-1932) firmly believes that the purpose for which the Apostle John wrote his Gospel was that we might believe in the Incarnation and so have Eternal Life;[23] the purpose of the Epistle is not merely that we may have Eternal Life by believing but that we may know that we have it. The Gospel exhibits God’s Son; the Epistle commends Him. It is a supplement to the Gospel, a personal application and appeal, “I wrote,” looking back on the accomplished risk. So, he uses the word “know,” not “get to know.” The Epistle is finished, and the Apostle now speaks his closing words in verse thirteen. Everyone born of God does not keep sinning but continues to obey Him, so the Evil One cannot rip them out of His hand. And we know that God’s Son has come and given us understanding, we may get to know the True One, and we are in union with His Son, Jesus the Anointed One. He is the True God, and Life Eternal. Therefore, little children, guard yourselves from idolatry.”[24]

Charles S. Macfarland (1866-1956) has an interesting take on eternity. He says that at Calvary, Jesus’ earthly race ended. And so, with us. We enter this life, discover in ourselves a striving soul of goodness, fight out our warfare, bear our many sorrows, and often when the deepest joys of life have just begun, the dark clouds gather, the shades of evening fall, the sun goes down, our eyes become so dim we cannot see the forms we love, nor can any longer hear the tender voices of affection. The long night comes for us all too soon. What seems the beginning is the end, the sunrise, and the twilight, but one brief day and life goes out into an unseen and unknown world.[25] With our lifespan on earth being so short, how can we comprehend eternity with no end? So, as the Apostle Peter reminds us, “We must not forget this one thing: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years are like a day.”[26]

As a broadminded biblical theorist, Paul F. Kretzmann (1883-1965) is under the impression that the Apostle John’s letter is finished and now speaks his closing words, summarizing the principal points that he made in the body of the epistle: John tells them that he wrote these things for them to know they have eternal life since they believed in the name [Yeshua, meaning “Savior”] of God’s Son. The apostle is referring to everything that he wrote in this letter. His entire discussion aimed to confirm the readers who have centered their faith in Jesus the Anointed One, God’s Son, as their Savior, knowing that they were the possessors of eternal life.

Faith has nothing in common with doubt and uncertainty; it is not a matter of personal opinion and feeling. On the contrary, secured knowledge based upon the Word of the Gospel is glorious. We know we have eternal life through faith because the Scripture tells us so.[27]

Known best for promoting “realized eschatology,”[28] Charles H Dodd (1884-1973) agrees that the epistle is concluded at this point, and John appears to have intended to end with a brief summary of his purpose, recalling as it does the words with which John’s Gospel was apparently at first intended to close.[29] As a literary whole, the epistle must be considered completed here. The rest is John’s postscript.[30]

Rudolph Bultmann (1884-1976) takes what the Apostle John says in verse thirteen as a reference back to the Epistle’s beginning, and, as in chapter one, verse four, and elsewhere, it employs the Greek conjunction hina (“that”). The verb’s subject (“I write”) is an authoritative representative of John’s apostolic position.[31] His readers would undoubtedly know, based on “You have received the Holy Spirit, and He lives within you, so you don’t need anyone to teach you what is true. The Spirit teaches you everything you need to know, and what He teaches is true – it is not a lie. So just as He has taught you, remain in fellowship with the Anointed One.”[32] The object of faith is in the name [Yeshua, meaning “Savior”] of God’s Son[33] and heeding John’s warning against heretical doctrines that he attacks throughout the epistle.[34]

[1] John 20:31

[2] 1 John 5:13

[3] Sinclair, William M., New Testament Commentary for English Readers, Charles J. Ellicott (Ed.), op. cit., Vol. 3, p. 493

[4] John 20:31

[5] Gore, Charles: The Epistles of St. John, op. cit., pp. 201-203

[6] Psalm 1:2

[7] Torrey, R. A., The Fundamentals – A testimony to the Truth, Vol. 4, op. cit., p. 230

[8] Colossians 3:3

[9] Ibid. 3:4

[10] Cocke, Alonzo R: Studies in the Epistles of John; or, The Manifested Life, op. cit., pp. 130-132

[11] Romans 1:16; 2 Timothy 3:15; cf. 1 Corinthians 1:30

[12] 2 Corinthians 2:16

[13] Morgan, James B., An Exposition of the First Epistle of John, op. cit., Lecture XLVIII, pp. 467-468

[14] See 1 John 3:21-22, 5:14-15

[15] Ibid. 3:19

[16] Ibid. 5:13

[17] Ibid. 3:18

[18] Ibid. 5:13

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

[20] Gaebelein, Arno C., The Annotated Bible, op. cit., p. 159

[21] Matthew 3:15

[22] Brooke, Alan E., Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Johannine Epistles, op. cit., pp. 141-143

[23] John 20:31

[24] Smith, David: The Expositor’s Greek Testament, 1 John, op. cit., p. 197

[25] Macfarland, Charles S: The Spirit Christlike, James Clarke & Co., London, 1904, pp. 141-142

[26] 2 Peter 3:8

[27] Kretzmann, Paul F., Popular Commentary on 1,2,3 John, op. cit., p. 587

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

[29] John 20:31

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

[31] See 1 John 2:14, 21

[32] Ibid. 2:27

[33] Ibid. 3:23

[34] Bultmann, Rudolph: Hermeneia, The Johannine Epistles, op. cit. pp. 83-84

About drbob76

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