By Dr. Robert R. Seyda


CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson XC) 03/16/23

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 youthful enthusiasm for preaching, Greville Priestly Lewis (1891-1976) also points out that the Apostle John ends his letter in verse thirteen, except for an added postscript. Thinking back from verse twelve through the letter to his opening paragraph (concerning the word of life), he says that his purpose in writing has been to make it possible to identify eternal life. Compare this with the verse John originally meant to end his Gospel.[1] He wrote the Gospel so that people might believe in the Anointed One and possess eternal life; he wrote the Epistle so they might know that they possess it.   [2]

Bible translator extraordinaire Kenneth S. Wuest (1893-1961) says that the assurance we have toward God that the Apostle John speaks about in verse thirteen is maintained if we continue asking Him for things according to His will. He will hear us. And if we know with an absolute knowledge that He hears us, whatever we are asking for ourselves, we know with absolute certainty that we have the things we have asked Him.[3]

As a bold Bible interpreter openly opposed to liberal Christianity, Martin Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) conveys that verse thirteen is significant, perhaps the most important in the epistle. When John finished his letter, he looked back to summarize what he said and remind the people of his goal when he began to write. He implied that he was eager that they might have fellowship with him and other Apostles because their connection was with the Father and His Son, Jesus the Anointed One. John was particularly concerned that these people to whom he had been writing should be informed of the central purpose of his letter. That is necessary because our danger is missing the forest because of all the trees.[4] It is essential to be clear about everything, but we must also bear in mind the purpose of it all; and the Apostle reminds us of his ultimate object, which is that those who are Christians, those who believe in the name [Yeshua, meaning “Savior”] of God’s Son, might know that they have eternal life.[5]

Taiwanese preacher and hymn writer Witness Lee (1905-1997) feels strongly that the written Word of God assures those who believe in the name [Yeshua, meaning “Savior”] of God’s Son that they have eternal life. Our belief in receiving eternal life is a fact; the words of the Holy Writings are the assurance concerning this fact. They are the title deed of our eternal salvation. We are assured and have the pledge by them that we have eternal life because we believe in the name [Yeshua, meaning “Savior”] of God’s Son. This is why the Bible is called a covenant or testament. We not only have the fact of eternal life; we also have the pledge, the guarantee, the title, and the deed to prove that we have it![6]

With his finely tuned spiritual mind, Ronald Ralph Williams (1906-1970) points out that the first sentence of this section gives a reason for writing and sending the letter. It might have been intended as the concluding sentence of the letter. Its similarity to the last verse of the Fourth Gospel in what we think was its original form is most striking.[7] It is one of the most explicit indications of joint authorship. Notice the close similarities – that are shown here in a literal translation from Greek:

John’s Gospel (20:31)John’s Epistle (5:13)
These things are written so thatThese things I have written to you so that
You may believe that Jesus is the Anointed OneYou may know that you have eternal life
The Son of God, and so that believing you may have life in His nameYou who believe in the name [Yeshua, meaning “Savior”] of God’s Son.[8]

As a very down-to-earth Bible commentator and writer, William Neal (1909-1979) notes that the Apostle John says he was writing this letter to those who have committed themselves to the Anointed One and may be sure that this abundant life is theirs. So, we can say our prayers knowing they will be granted, including our prayers for our fellow believers, although a person guilty of outright apostasy may be past praying for. However, we can be sure that no one who has fully pledged himself to God can continue in a life of sin, for even though we live amid temptation, we have the Anointed One at our side. We know we have found ultimate reality and truth through Him, and this knowledge and fellowship is something that death cannot destroy. Anything less is caricature and illusion.[9]

Like a spiritual guiding light, Scottish biblical scholar F. F. Bruce (1910-1990) sees the Apostle John in his Gospel telling his readers that the “signs” recorded “are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Anointed Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.[10] Later, when he wrote his first epistle, he told those who “believe in the name [Yeshua, meaning “Savior”] of God’s Son” to be assured that they possess eternal life in virtue of this belief. As said above, where eternal life was found had probably been the subject of much debate, with the rebellious claiming that it was to be found in their higher academic teaching. But John affirms that by not honestly believing in Jesus’ incarnation, they had no claim to eternal life in Him alone. While this contemporary situation may have been uppermost in John’s mind, his affirmation has a broader reference. Because of its abiding validity, this verse has remained an influential text conveying the assurance of eternal life in all generations to those who believe in the name [Yeshua, meaning “Savior”] of God’s Son.[11]

Paul Waitman Hoon (1910-2000) identifies verses thirteen to twenty-one as this epistle’s final section. It significantly opens and closes with the center of the epistle (continuing the thought of verses eleven and twelve. Despite the many and varied ideas John has dealt with and the occasional excursions into which he has been led, his primary purpose in conceiving and writing this letter has been steadily kept in mind – to communicate eternal life. And the effect of reading and studying his words is strangely that of experiencing deepened life in the soul. To Christian people all through the centuries, this epistle has brought life.  It has nourished souls, kindled faith, and inspired love.[12]

As a significant scriptural expositor, Rudolf Schnackenburg (1914-2002) sees the Apostle John is now coming to the end of his letter. This can be seen not only from verses thirteen, which is very similar to what he said in his Gospel[13] but from the general drift of this last section. He aims to strengthen the healthy self-assurance of the believers, giving them joy over their possession of salvation and renewing their hope for its completion. Note how the phrase “we know’’ occurs no fewer than six times. Here is a positive reflection on their good fortune. They possess the gift of fellowship with God. They have the divine strength which they derive from that fellowship.

All this serves as the most vigorous defense against all destructive influences from without.[14] It is the surest support for Christian endeavors in this world.[15] No attempt is made to minimize the seriousness of the situation. On the contrary, sin is an actual breaking of God’s laws.[16] The power of the evil one, the personal enemy of God,[17] is unmasked in all its gravity. After the renewed confirmation of the Christian faith,[18] the superior counterpart of Satan, the only true Son of God, Jesus the Anointed One, appears with His full significance for the existential struggle of Christians in this world,[19] providing them with the consciousness of superiority and, the assurance of victory, all of which are constantly featured throughout the epistle[20] reach their climax here, with a realism free of illusion. [21]

As a conscientious objector and prisoner of war acquainted with grief, Bible scholar Daniel C. Snaddon (1915-2009) agrees that the Apostle John clearly states the purpose for which he wrote the letter in verse thirteen. The objective is that those who believe in the name [Yeshua, meaning “Savior”] of God’s Son may know they have eternal life. Another precious truth here is that assurance of salvation through the word of God. Our salvation does not depend on our hoping, guessing, or feeling. Therefore, John states that those who have truly believed in the Lord Jesus have eternal life in the clearest possible manners.[22]

Dedicated researcher on the Apostle Paul’s journeys and Bible expositor, Donald W. Burdick (1917-1996), suggests that although verse thirteen is rooted in the immediately preceding context, the expression “these things” must not be limited only to the matters discussed there. What John wrote in those verses involves the rest of the epistle. Thus, as the Apostle John begins this concluding section, he looks back on the entire letter and explains his aim in writing. At the same time, the purpose of John’s Gospel was that unbelievers might believe and thus receive life;[23] the purpose of the first epistle is that those who “believe on the name [Yeshua, meaning “Savior”] of God’s Son” may know that they “have eternal life.”

John also wrote that believers confronted with false teaching such as Gnosticism might have assurance and not be made unsure by these false teachers’ doctrinal errors. For example, someone finds they are walking in the light,[24] confessing their sins,[25] obeying the Anointed One’s commands,[26] loving fellow believers,[27] believing in Jesus as God’s incarnate Son,[28] and practicing righteousness.[29] Can they be assured by “these things” they have eternal life? Yes. And because they possess this assurance, they will not be shaken by any disturbing assertions of the expositors of error.[30]

As a spiritual mentor, Ronald A. Ward (1920-1986) believes that the Apostle John wants to make explicit what is implicit, to bring out into the open what’s lodged in the hearts of his believing readers. John makes this clear in his opening statement in verse thirteen, “I write this letter to you who believe in God’s Son that you will know that you have eternal life now.” Thus, we have three orders of truth: I believe that the Anointed One died for sinners; I trust the One who came to be the world’s Savior is my Savior, and I’m confident that I have Eternal Life. It combines belief and faith with the relationship of confidence and knowledge.[31]

In a spirited confrontational way, Peter S. Ruckman Sr. (1921-2010) says, believe it or not, here in verse thirteen are the most significant, most straightforward statements on the contents of the Gospel that were ever committed to print. These verses are so clear that no one with any amount of education could misunderstand them. So-called “Education,” of course,[32] was the chief instrument by which all Final Covenant truths were rejected.[33] [34] As a previous doubter but now a defender of personal salvation,

John R. W. Stott (1921-2011) finds that many 20th-century English Translations of the Final Covenant begin a new paragraph with verse thirteen which undoubtedly belongs to the previous section. It forms a fitting conclusion to what the Apostle John has written about the three witnesses and about having eternal life in God’s Son. Here he tells his readers the apparent purpose of his letter, now drawing to a close. “This letter was written so you may know you have eternal life.” John’s Gospel was written for unbelievers to read the testimony of God to His Son, believe in Him to whom the testimony pointed, and thus receive life through faith. His letter, on the other hand, was written for believers.

[1] John 20:31

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

[3] Wuest, Kenneth S., The New Testament: An Expanded Translation, op cit., 1 John 5:13-15

[4] You can’t see the entirety as you are preoccupied with the details and overlook the bigger picture or the end goal. 

[5] Lloyd-Jones, Martyn: Life in the Anointed One, Studies in 1 John, op. cit., pp. 637, 644

[6] Lee, Witness: Life-Study of 1, 2, 3, John, Jude, op. cit., Ch. 36

[7] John 20:31

[8] Williams, R. R., The Letters of John and James, op. cit., p.59

[9] Neil, William: Harper’s Bible Commentary, op. cit., p. 530

[10] John 20:31

[11] Bruce, Frederick Fyvie, The Epistles of John: A Verse-by-Verse Exposition, op. cit., pp. 122-123

[12] Hoon, Paul W., The Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. XII, op cit., pp.297-298

[13] John 20:21

[14] 1 John 2:21, 27

[15] Cf. 2:12-17

[16] Ibid. 5:16

[17] Ibid. 5:18ff

[18] Ibid. 5:5-12

[19] Ibid. 5:20

[20] Ibid. 2:12-14; 3:20; 4:4-6; 5:4

[21] Schnackenburg, Rudolf: The Johannine Epistles, op. cit., p. 246

[22] Snaddon, Daniel C., Plymouth Brethren Writings, 1 John, loc. cit.

[23] John 20:30-31

[24] 1 John 1:7

[25] Ibid. 1:9

[26] Ibid. 2:3-5

[27] Ibid. 3:14-17

[28] Ibid. 2:22-23; 4:1-6; 5:1, 5

[29] Ibid. 2:29; 3:6-10α

[30] Burdick, Donald W., Everyman’s Bible Commentary, the Epistles of John, op. cit., pp. 91-92

[31] Ward, Ronald A., The Epistles on John and Jude, op. cit., p. 57

[32] 1 Corinthians 1:21

[33] See Isaiah 29:10-15

[34] Ruckman, Dr. Peter S. General Epistles Vol. 2 (1 – 2 – 3 John, Jude Commentary) (The Bible Believer’s Commentary Series), Kindle Edition

About drbob76

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