NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
By Dr. Robert R. Seyda
FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN
CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson CXXVI) 05/03/23
5:19 We know that we belong to God, but the Evil One controls the whole world.
Jesus responded to the question by Jewish Rabbi and Sanhedrin member Nicodemus about entering the Kingdom of God and told him Jesus said, “You’re absolutely right. Take it from me: Unless a person is born from above, it’s impossible to see what I’m pointing to is God’s kingdom.” When Nicodemus did not seem to understand, Jesus said, “You’re not listening. Let me repeat it. Unless a person submits to this original creation – the ‘wind-hovering-over-the-water’ creation, the invisible moving the visible, a baptism into a new life – it’s not possible to enter God’s kingdom.”
The Apostle James noted that God chose to birth us by giving us His Word in the flesh. And we, out of all creation, became His prized possession. And the Apostle Peter told his readers that they had a new life. It was not passed on to you from your parents, for the life they gave you will fade away. However, this new one will last forever, for it comes from the Anointed One, God’s ever-living Message to humanity.
Here John remembers what Jesus said, “If you belonged to a godless society, a godless society would love you as it loves its own. But I have chosen you to be different from those in a godless society. So, you don’t belong to a godless society, which is why a godless society hates you.” We must never forget that it’s not just a matter of us protecting ourselves; Jesus is also busy watching us. Only heaven will reveal the many times that the Anointed One through the Holy Spirit changed our departure times, missing a turn on the highway, not picking up the phone, not meeting someone we were scheduled to see, stopping somewhere we weren’t planning on, etc., in order to protect us. We need all the help we can get because of what John points out here.
That’s why Jesus was adamant that His followers understand, “When the Helper comes, He will show the people of a godless society how wrong they are about sin, about being right with God, and about judgment. He will prove that they are guilty of sin because they don’t believe in me. He will show them how wrong they are about how to be right with God. The Helper will do this because I am going to the Father. You will not see me then. And He will show them how wrong their judgment is, because their leader has already been condemned.”
Considering this, let’s look at what happened to Stephen and James. The evil one certainly caused them physical harm, but it was to the glory of God. John is talking about any spiritual damage the devil may cause, the kind that would jeopardize our standing with God and our gift of eternal life. The difference, says John, is that the unconverted sinner is under the control and influence of the devil, while the converted believer is under the power and influence of the Anointed One. As a result, even if the child of God errs or makes a mistake, God’s Son watches over them, and the devil cannot get near them to do what he did to Adam and Eve.
Again, let us remind ourselves that sinning disobeys God’s Word and will. If an unconverted sinner is found doing things God is against and does not approve of, the motivation for such deeds comes from the devil’s influence. They are already under condemnation, and death will be their destiny. However, when converted believer disobeys God’s Word and will for their lives since they belong to Him, He is more interested in saving them than losing them because of the high price He paid for them.
Verses four and five clearly state, “Every child of God has power over the sins of a godless society. The way we have power over the sins of a godless society is by our faith. Who could have no power over a godless society except by believing that Jesus is God’s Son.” But not just the Father; John says that God’s Son also watches over them so that Satan cannot enter their hearts and minds and take over control of their lives. Just as the only one who can open the door of their hearts to let Jesus in is the person, the same applies to opening the entryway to the devil and letting him back in. If Jesus is in charge, He will open the door, and Satan has no interest in coming in where Jesus is Lord.
We should also note that this is the third and last “we know” of this section. We know two truths in this verse: 1) we know that God is our Father and 2) that a godless society system is under the dominion of Satan. One is positive and the other negative. We are either a child of God or part of the devil’s brood. We enjoy the certainty of our relationship to the Father. In verse nineteen, the Apostle John shows the distinction between those who find their origin in God and those who find their descent in Satan. The divine capacity/nature is inherently sinless, while the sin nature lies under the sway of Satan. Therefore, the kind of life we have corresponds to its source.
When Christians sin, they step out of their spiritual character. The partition between the believer’s kingdom and a godless society’s system is as great as the separation between God and Satan. The essential division from the satanic system occurred at the point of salvation, so Christians have an entirely new way of living. Previously they walked according to the norms and standards of this world. Apart from God, there is no satisfaction. Christians are fully aware that they act out of character when they sin because the cross is an offense to this world’s system.
People living under this system do not want any authority over them, and especially they do not care for God’s sovereignty over them. They do not like being told that it is not right to undermine their fellow man with lies. They desire the privileges in God’s Word if it is convenient for their plans. They will deceive anyone to accomplish their purposes. All of this occurs because Satan deludes them. He blinds their eyes and minds.
Some people say, “The devil made me do it.” Satan may tempt us, but he cannot make us sin. The devil cannot recapture the true believer and make them his slave. The evil one might intimidate us into doing this, but it is only a hollow threat. He can make us question our salvation, but he cannot take it from us. He can derail our fellowship with the Lord but not our relationship. He cannot make us sin, but he can set the context for inducement to sin.
The truth is, we do not have to keep ourselves saved. Christians can no more keep themselves saved than they can redeem themselves. It is Jesus that safeguards us. He provides and protects. The One who rescued us in the first place keeps us in the second place. A Christian cannot confidently serve the Lord until they believe in their soul’s eternal security. Otherwise, everything they do, they do with the idea of keeping themselves saved. Their priority is to stack up merits with God. It all results in the energy of the flesh.
So, when we look at verse nineteen, this is the second remarkable fact of which Christians have certainty. They, as God’s children, and preserved from the evil one by His Son, have nothing to do with a godless society, which still lies under the power of the evil one. The “the evil one” is not neuter but masculine is evident from the context, as well as from 1 John 2:13. By saying that it lies in the evil one’s hands represents it as being under the dominion of Satan. There is, therefore, no reason why we should hesitate to shun a godless society, which despises God and delivers itself into the bondage of Satan; nor is there any reason why we should fear its hostility, because it is alienated from God.
COMMENTARY AND HOMILETICS
This verse has comments, interpretations, and insights of the Early Church Fathers, Medieval Thinkers, Reformation Theologians, Revivalist Teachers, Reformed Scholars, and Modern Commentators.
Dionysius the Areopagite (circa 15-76 AD), who was converted to Christianity by the Apostle Paul when he visited Athens, is commenting on Luke 22:46, where Jesus comes back from praying and finds His disciples sound asleep. So, He says to them, “Get up and pray so that you will not give in to temptation.” Dionysius says that no one can remain free from experiencing moments of weakness. As the Apostle John says, “We know that we are children of God and that a godless society around us is under the control of the evil one.” Not only that but that most of a person’s days are travail and trouble.” But you might ask, “What difference is there between resisting and falling into temptation?”
Living in a world ruled by the devil, if a person is overcome by evil – they will be overcome unless they struggle against it unless God protects them with His shield. The fact that a person has entered into temptation is like a person led into captivity. But if a person withstands and endures, that individual has not entered temptation or fallen into it. Was not Jesus led by the Spirit into a wasteland but did not enter into the temptations offered by the devil? Thus the wicked one, when he tempts us, draws us into the same tricks he tempted Jesus. For God, it is said, “cannot be tempted of evil.” The devil, therefore, drives us by enticements to destruction; but God leads us by the hand to everlasting life.
With philosophic-theologic intensity, Clement of Alexandria (150-215 AD): “World” does not mean creation as a whole but rather worldly people and those who live according to their lusts. Senseless reasoning. A godless society subjected to Evil. 
With great assurance, early church ecclesiastical teacher Didymus the Blind (313-398 AD) sees the Apostle John calling the “world,” that is, those who love a godless society, as being subjected to evil. This includes everybody because we are all born under sin, which traces its origin to the disobedience of Adam. Many heretics claim that there is a creator god who made a godless society evil to begin with, but this is not so. The word refers to people, not to the material substance of creation. We Are of God.
With a studious monk’s spiritual insight, Bede (672-735 AD): We know that we are of God because we have been born again by grace and baptism through faith, and we know too that we shall persevere in that faith to the very end. But those who love a godless society are subjected to the enemy, and no water of regeneration can deliver them from that subjection, especially if they sin again after baptism. It is not just the lovers of a godless society who are in this state because it also applies to those who are newly born and who have inherited the guilt of original sin, although they cannot yet tell the difference between good and evil. Such people remain in the enemy’s power unless, by the authority of a loving Creator, they are taken out of Satan’s dominion of darkness and placed under the Son’s kingdom of Light and Love.
After a stealthy investigation of the Apostle John’s letter, Isho’dad of Merv (800-900 AD): A godless society is subjected to the perversion which gives birth to sin, and because of that, it is prone to the cultivation of evil.
Now the followers of Origen (184-253 AD) were discussing this passage, “We know that our body – the human-made physical tent we live in here on earth will be destroyed. But when that happens, God will have a heaven-made home for us to live in. It will be our forever home in heaven.” They sought to disprove the resurrection of the body. They were saying that the “tent” is our temporary covering on earth. In contrast, our “forever home” in heaven is our spiritual clothing.
Then someone presented the writings of Methodius (815-885 AD). He said this earthly house must be understood metaphorically as our short-lived existence here, not this tent. Therefore, if you consider the body as the earthly house which wears out, tell us whose heavenly home is dissolved? For the tent is one thing, and the heavenly home is another. Therefore, if this present body life crumbles like an old house, we still have that which is not made with hands in heaven. The body, the result of human reproduction, also houses the soul, which is the workmanship of God.
So, what, then, is the house made with hands? It is a short-lived existence sustained by human hands. God said, “By the sweat of your brow will you have food to eat until you return to the ground.” After that, we have the body not made with hands. As the Lord showed when He said: “Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. Then, they will welcome you to an eternal home when your possessions are gone.” As then, when the days of our present life end, those good deeds of kindness which you did in this world “under the control of Satan,” souls will rest in peace with God until we receive the new house that will never fail prepared for us.
A Persian prophet named Mani (216-277 AD) and the founder of Manichaeism, a religion of antiquity strongly influenced by Gnosticism, is reported as saying: “I hold that there are two natures, one good and another evil; and that the one which is good dwells in a certain part proper to it, but that the evil one is this world as well as all things in it, which are placed there like objects imprisoned in the portion of the wicked one.” So, we see that Manes worships two unoriginated, self-existent, and eternal deities who were opposed to one another. He one is represented one as good and the other as evil and assigned the name “Light to the former, and Darkness to the latter.” This was in harmony with what the Apostle John says here in verse nineteen, “We know that we are children of God and that all the rest of a godless society around us is under Satan’s power and control.”
Archelaus,Bishop of Caesarea (circa 301-399), is the assumed author of a Christian polemic against the Manicheans in 278 AD. It resulted from a trial of a Heretic Persian prophet named Manes over disputed doctrines. One of the judges asked him if he had any more precise statement to make that would give them some explanation of the nature of his doctrine and the designation of his faith. Manes replied: I hold that there are two natures, one good and another evil and that the good one dwells in a particular portion itself.
 Ibid. 3:3-5
 James 1:18
 1 Peter 1:23
 John 15:18-19
 Ibid. 16:8-11
 2 Peter 1:2-4
 1 John 3:9; 5:1, 4
 Galatians 4:3-4
 John 8:44; 2 Corinthians 4:3-4; Job 1:10; 2:5; Romans 16:20
 Cf. 1 John 2:14; 4:4
 Acts of the Apostles 17:34
 1 John 5:19
 Psalm 90:10
 Matthew 4:1
 James 1:13
 Dionysius, Exegetical Fragments II: the Gospel According to Luke. An Interpretation, Ch. 22:42-48, p. 116, ⁋46
 Didymus the Blind: Ancient Christian Commentary on the Scriptures, Bray, G. (Ed.), op. cit., Vol. XI, p. 228
 Isho’dad of Merv: Ancient Christian Commentary on the Scriptures, Bray, G. (Ed.), op. cit., Vol. XI, p. 228
 2 Corinthians 5:1
 Methodius (815-885 AD) was a Byzantine Christian theologian and missionary evangelizing what is known today as Serbia of former Yugoslavia. On one occasion the disciples of early church scholar Origen
 Genesis 3:19
 Luke 16:9
 1 John 5:19
 Methodius, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. VI, Part 2, From the Discourse on the Resurrection, pp. 709-710
 Augustine of Hippo, The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 4, The Manichaean Controversy, trans. By Richard Stothert and Albert H. Newman, p. 19