By Dr. Robert R. Seyda


CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson XCII) 03/20/23

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.

Now John comes to his last paragraph. He implements, one more time, some of his favorite words and expressions. He picks them up, puts them down, and passes them on. He is reminded that this world is wicked but will soon be done with it. Others will have to battle it out. How corrupt is it? Cruel enough to kill God’s Son and persecute those who believe in Him.

Ministry & Missions Overseer Muncia Walls (1937) notes that the Apostle John carries on the thought of verse thirteen as he transitions his central argument into his conclusion. Like the other Epistles, John’s was written to believers in a Church. John writes, “I have written to you that believe,” the church against which the enemy brings attacks of doubt and false teachings to side-track God’s children ‒ the purpose of the Epistle from John to the saints. They had been exposed to the erroneous teaching of the Gnostics, who would relegate the Lord Jesus to a position contrary to who He was.

Thus, John writes to refute their false dogma. He also states, “that you may know you have eternal life” To God’s children, there need not be any uncertainty concerning their salvation. Again, through the false teachers, the enemy would seek to instill doubts in their minds. John’s words were written to uplift them in the Spirit, encouraging them and reassuring them of their position in the Anointed One. [1]

As an articulate spokesman for the Reformed Faith movement, James Montgomery Boice (1938-2000) points out that toward the end of John’s Gospel, he gave his purpose in writing by saying he had written these things “that you may believe that Jesus the Anointed One, God’s Son and that by believing you may have life in his name.[2] That is, written primarily to those who were not yet Christians to lead them to become Christians. Similarly, John now gives his purpose for writing the first epistle, saying, “I write these things to you who believe in the name [Yeshua, meaning “Savior”] of God’s Son so that you may know that you have eternal life.”[3] Here, those to whom John is writing are Christians; as he notes, the purpose is to lead them to full assurance regarding their salvation. This has now been done, at least to the best of John’s ability. Consequently, the body of the letter properly ends here. What follows is a postscript.  [4]

Expositor and systematic theologist Michael Eaton (1942-2017) senses that the Apostle John wants his readers to have a refreshed assurance of eternal life. It is worth noting how much John wants these people to regain consciousness of everlasting life. He wants them to know that their gnostic enemies know little about salvation. It is terrible when doubts about the person of Jesus rob Christians of the energetic flow of the Holy Spirit within them. It is awful to be uncertain when there is no need. John knows these people. He knows they have believed in the Gospel of Jesus, so he feels confident about giving them his assurance.

Eaton says that Zane Clark Hodges (1932-2008) is right to point out that “these things” do not refer to the whole letter but to the things John has just said (just as similar phrases in chapter two, verses one and twenty-six, refer to what immediately precedes. John’s point is that if they rest directly on the testimony of God about Jesus, they will experience the flowing of eternal life within them. Assurance will bring joy and vibrancy to their lives. Their blessed assurance is confirmed by the simple things he has presented to them.[5] [6] [7]

After scrutinizing the Apostle John’s subject theme, William Loader (1944) notes that when the Revised English Bible (1989) begins its translation of this verse with the words, “You have given your allegiance to God’s Son,” it obscures the formal break with what precedes and the fact that this verse introduces a separate section. Following the Greek sentence structure, verse thirteen begins: “I have written these things to you.” It echoes similar words in this epistle[8] as it looks over all that has been written and identifies the author’s purpose in writing.

These things” could be construed to refer only to what immediately precedes, but the other is more likely. The beginning of the closing of the epistle matches chapter one, verse fourteen, at the conclusion of the opening words of the epistle: “We are writing this so that our joy may be complete.” John’s joy will be complete the minute readers are convinced they have eternal life because they pledged their allegiance to Jesus the Anointed One. The preceding section ended with the observation that this life in the believers constituted God’s evidence that what the community believed about Jesus, the Anointed One’s coming in the flesh, was true. They had given their allegiance in this way to God’s Son.[9]

Great Commission practitioner David Jackman (1945) insist that the issues at stake are not speculative or academic. The question is where eternal life is to be found and experienced. Therefore, we are to read verse thirteen as a concluding statement about the letter’s purpose and the pivotal assertion to which the preceding chapters have been dedicated. “These things” must surely refer to the whole letter rather than the immediately preceding sentences. When John began his letter, he expressed his purpose in writing, “to make our joy complete.”[10]

Now he shows us what the content of that joy is. It comes in seeing his “dear children” continuing in the faith, believing in the name [Yeshua, meaning “Savior”] of God’s Son, and rejoicing in the certainty of eternal life. For the Apostle John, his “children,” and Christians in every generation, joy is found in the conscious experience of fellowship with God the Father, through Jesus the Son, within their Christian family’s community, the Church. [11]

After analyzing the Apostle John’s teaching in verses eleven to twenty-one, Earl S. Johnson Jr (1947-2020) sees that this section has two major parts ‒ (1) The Message Brings Eternal Life (verses eleven to thirteen).[12] Thus, John’s first epistle ends as it began, directly referring to John’s Gospel. We should note that “name” in verse thirteen points to the belief in the ancient world that the name of a god or a divinity, just by itself, was a sign of power and majesty. For instance, policemen command a house door to be opened “in the name of the Law.” The reason is that names indicate essence, definition, and nature. Thus, “Jesus the Anointed One” signified God’s Anointed One, the unique Son of God. Therefore, “In the name of Jesus” spells divine authority and the power to forgive sins as the physical manifestation of God who sent Him. That’s why one day, every knee will bow, and tongue confess that He is Lord because, through Jesus’ name, all opponents and the devil will be defeated. [13]

(2) The Message Keeps Persons from Sin (verses fourteen and fifteen). These verses expand the reference in verse thirteen to the power of Jesus’ name. If Jesus’ name is mighty, then it follows that prayers given in that name, according to God’s will, certainly will be answered. So, John may be thinking of where Jesus promises His disciple that anything they ask for in His name will be answered.[14] [15]

After studying the context surrounding this verse, John W. (Jack) Carter (1947) notes that the word rendered “know” is knosis in Greek, and its meaning is essential to understand the Apostle John’s urging. This form of insight goes far beyond a surface understanding to the deepest level of comprehension possible.  This type of awareness involves an intimate relationship between the one who knows and the object of that expertise. This type of understanding produces children in a marriage.  Knosis is a “confident knowledge” that contains no mixture of doubt.  The text could have been accurately rendered, “know for certain.” The believer has a different relationship to sin than one who is lost.  One lost is condemned to eternal separation from God because their sin remains unforgiven.

Nevertheless, when one comes to the LORD in faith, He is faithful to forgive the believer’s sin, and through that promise, sin has lost the power to condemn. The impact of sin on the believer is also different. Where sin is the nature of an unbeliever, sin brings conflict into the life of a Christian.  The consequences of sin in God’s children serve only to separate them from others and the LORD.  Sin in the life of those born of God can create as much hurt and pain as it does in the life of the lost, and many blessings can be lost due to sinful practices. However, even though sin can still create some strife in the life of a believer, it will not separate them from God at the final judgment.[16]

As a man who loves sharing God’s Word, Robert W. Yarbrough (1948) says that verse thirteen precedes a series of commendations to love God and others. By John’s interpretation, we have often seen that love is intertwined with the ethical integrity of keeping God’s commandments and the confessional integrity of a faith that conforms to the truth of Jesus’s coming, His work, and nature. To “have” Jesus the Anointed One[17] is to completely trust in the witness God has furnished regarding Him,[18] which results in eternal life. It is the assurance of this life of which verse thirteen speaks. “Eternal life” becomes shorthand for the full breadth and depth of benefits available through the message of the Anointed One received broadly and deeply.[19]

After a microscopic examination of the text, Philip W. Comfort (1950) notes that verse thirteen is expanded in the Greek text as follows: “and that you may continue to believe in the name [Yeshua, meaning “Savior”] of God’s Son.” (NKJV; see also KJV). The expansion was to make this verse closer to John 20:31. In its shorter form, it sufficiently concludes the previous section on eternal life and introduces its conclusion.[20] [21]

Skilled in Dead Sea Scroll interpretation and New Testament writings, Colin G. Kruse (1950) notes that for the first time in verse thirteen, the Apostle John explicitly states his purpose for writing the letter. “These things” he refers to are the contents of this letter now brought to its conclusion. Also, “those who believe” are Christians who, along with John, continue in the teaching about Jesus the Anointed One that they heard from the beginning. They believed “in the name[22] means having faith “in the person” who bears that name. The text in John’s Gospel confirms this by placing the idea of believing in His reputation and person in parallel.[23] [24]

Believing that Christians can fall away from the faith, Ben Witherington III (1951) argues that verse thirteen could be said to go with what precedes or follows, but probably it is the latter. John’s reference to writing is like closing a letter, but that is incorrect since it is a purpose statement. Notice that we have already seen this very same formula[25] nowhere close to the end of the discourse, and for that matter, we could compare 1 John 1:4 and other verses.[26] Interestingly, from the beginning of the document until 1 John 2:13, John says, “I write,” whereas from 1 John 2:14 to the end, he says, “I wrote.” However, it is likely that the reference in verse thirteen to “these things” is cumulative and includes all that has come before, and 1 John 2:13 refers to what immediately precedes the statement. Moreover, in verse thirteen, John returns to the first person singular for the first time since 1 John 2:26.[27]

With her crafted spiritual insight, Judith Lieu (1951) feels that under the influence of John 20:31, this verse often reads as the letter’s conclusion. It then becomes something like an appendix, tagged on awkwardly, like we would add P. S. (meaning postscript) to a letter.  Along similar lines, the Greek text, followed by some English versions and commentaries, shows a significant break between verses twelve and thirteen and treats verses thirteen to twenty-one as a single section. However, the words “I have written to you” do not introduce a new section but serve to sum up and drive home the significance of what has preceded, just as it does in 1 John 2:1, 21, 26. Therefore, “these things[28] in verse thirteen refer back specifically to verses four to twelve and not to the letter as a whole.

[1] Walls, Muncia: Epistles of John and Jude, op. cit., pp. 89-90

[2] John 20:31

[3] 1 John 5:13

[4] Boice, John Montgomery: The Epistles of John, An Expository Commentary, op. cit., p. 136

[5] Hodges, Zane Clark: John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, Dallas Theological Seminary, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, vol. 2, op. cit., p. 902.

[6] See 1 John 5:6-12

[7] Eaton, Michael: Focus on the Bible, 1,2,3 John, op. cit., pp. 190-191

[8] Cf. 2:1, 12-14, 26

[9] Loader, William: Epworth Commentary, The First Epistle of John, op. cit., pp. 72-73

[10] 1 John 1:4

[11] Jackman, David: The Message of John’s Letters, op. cit., p. 158

[12] See 1 John 2:24-25; John 20:31

[13] See Mark 11:9; John 1:12; Acts of the Apostles 4:10; 1 Corinthians 1:2

[14] John 15:16; 16:23-26

[15] Johnson Jr, Earl S, Basic Bible Commentary, James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, and Jude, op. cit., pp. 123-124

[16] Carter, Dr. John W. (Jack). 1,2,3, John & Jude: (The Disciple’s Bible Commentary Book 48), op. cit. pp. 129-130

[17] 1 John 5:12

[18] Ibid. 5:10

[19] Yarbrough, Robert W., 1-3 John (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament), op. cit., p. 296

[20] 1 John 5:16, 20

[21] Comfort, Philip W., Tyndale Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, 1-3 John, op. cit., p. 372

[22] Cf. 1 John 3:23

[23] Cf. John 1:12; 8:24; 1 John 5:13

[24] Kruse, Colin G., The Letters of John (The Pillar New Testament Commentary), op. cit., loc. cit., Kindle Edition

[25] 1 John 2:1

[26] Ibid. 2:14, 21, 26

[27] Witherington, Ben III, Letters and Homilies for Hellenized Christians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on Titus, 1-2 Timothy and 1-3 John, op. cit., loc. cit., Kindle Edition

[28] Cf. 1 John 2:26

About drbob76

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