NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
By Dr. Robert R. Seyda
FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN
CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson CXXVII) 05/04/23
5:19 We know that we belong to God, but the Evil One controls the whole world.
But the evil one is of this world and all things in it, which are placed there like objects imprisoned in the wicked one’s share. Therefore, as the Apostle John said, the whole world lies in the possession of the wicked, not in God. Wherefore we have maintained that there are two localities – one good and another which lies outside of this. For if we say that there is but a monarchy of one nature, God fills all things, and there is no location outside Him, what will be the sustainer of His creation. So, where is Gehenna’s fire? Where is the outer darkness? Where is weeping? It is possible; it lies within Himself? God forbid; else He will also be made to suffer from these. Therefore, entertain no such fancies, if anything, about your salvation.
It is sad that after only three hundred years after our Lord’s ascension, such subjects were the main course of discussions and arguments in the Church. Instead of focusing on the teachings, the cross, His resurrection, ascension, and return, it was on trivial matters. Have we progressed any since then? I can recall the 1960s “God is Dead” theory, controversy over Situation Ethics, the Supreme Court’s unconstitutional abortion guarantee, the legalization of Gay Marriage, the adoption of Lesbian ministers and pastors, the rise of LGBTQ+ Christian churches, and so on. Are they the real reason for such decadence?
Listen to what God told the prophet Hosea: “My people are destroyed because they don’t know Me, and it is all your fault, you priests, for you refuse to know Me; therefore, I refuse to recognize you as my priests. Since you have forgotten my laws, I will ‘forget’ to bless your children.’”
Even unbelieving Jews fell into two groups when it came to the Gospel. “Those in Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica and gladly listened to the message. Moreover, they searched the Scriptures daily to check on Paul and Silas’ statements to see if they were factual.” And the Apostle Paul had this prayer for the Ephesians:
Why does God give us these special abilities to do certain things best? It is that God’s people will be equipped to do better work for him, building up the Church, the body of Christ, to a position of strength and maturity; until finally, we all believe alike about our salvation and our Savior, God’s Son, and all become full-grown in the Lord ‒ yes, to the point of being filled full with Christ. Then we will no longer be like children, forever changing our minds about what we believe because someone has told us something different or has cleverly lied to us and made the lie sound like the truth.”
With a studious monk’s spiritual insight, Bede the Venerable (672-735) says 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. Nor is it just the lovers of a godless society who are in this state because it also applies to those newly born again 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 power of a loving Creator, they are taken out of Satan’s regime of darkness and placed in the Anointed One’s Kingdom of Light.
Respected Reformation writer, Matthew Poole (1624-1679) notes that in verse nineteen, the Apostle John does not exclusively assume this status of being born again. But rather, he expresses his generous confidence in them, to whom he writes that it was his privilege to share this in common with them, to be of God, or born of Him; despite the general population who were under the power of that before-mentioned wicked one, or amid all of sin’s impurity and malignity. And we know that God’s Son has come and given us knowledge that we might know the True One; and that we might be in the True One, in His Son Jesus the Anointed One. He is the true God and the life eternal.
A young independent, thinking theological sage, Hugh Binning (1627-1653), says that if we believe that our descent is from an uncreated Spirit, how powerful might that be to conform you more and more to Him and to transform more and more control of your flesh to the spirit! Nothing will raise the hearts of the Princes of Peace’s subjects more than realizing their royal birth and dignity. How should this consideration make your spirits suitable to your state or fortunes, as we use to say? You would labor to raise them to that height and walk worthy of that high calling.
O that we might learn from what the Apostle Paul gives the Corinthian believers. A soul with the meditation of this royal descent from God could not possibly glory in those disgraceful things humanity glories in and not contain or restrain any boasting. The praise of many is their shame because it is sinful. But suppose that in which they glory is not shameful, as the lawful things of this world, yet certainly it is a great shame for a Christian to glory in them or esteems them as reasonable.
If we remain mindful that we are of God, born of God, what power do you think temptations, or baits to sin, would have over us! As the Apostle John says, “He that is born of God does not sin, he keeps himself, and that wicked one cannot touch him.” Indeed, this consideration imprinted in the heart would elevate us above all these baser persuasions of the flesh. This would make sin loathsome and despicable, as the most significant indignity we could do to our spiritual nature.
The strength and advantage of sin make us forget what we are and with whom we have a relationship. Are we to drink from a godless society’s puddle, or then with our jealousies and suspicions, forget our birth and state and so be enticed to do anything a godless society does? If you could beat back all the fiery darts of the devil, take the shield of this faith and persuasion; how would it silence temptations? As Nehemiah asked, “Should someone in my position run from danger?” Ask yourself, “Should I, born of the Spirit; who is of God in the Anointed One, humiliate myself to such unworthy and base things? Shall I dishonor our heavenly Father and disgrace myself?”
There is nothing more commendable to a Christian than to look around and view the whole world lying in wickedness, then to look backward to what they once were and compare it with what they are now that God’s grace has set them free. O, what a soul-stirring perspective that is in relation to what the Apostle John says in verse nineteen. How does this increase the value of grace, and how much does it add to a soul’s inward contentment to think about what it used to be and what it would undoubtedly have become if not for God’s grace! People often looked to those as inferior, so they might not envy those superior to them.
So, it might do well when a Christian is grieved and disturbed because they have not attained that desired measure of the image of God, and fellowship with Him, to cast a look about to the miserable and hopeless estate of so many thousands who have the appearance of Satan so visibly engraved on them and have no inward stirring after this blessed image; and reflect on the slimy pit from whence they were rescued, to look upon that primitive estate in which grace found them as described by Ezekiel.
Would such hindsight not make them break out in admiration and be powerful enough to comfort and compose their spirit? Such were some of you. Then consider though the stains of sin were as red as crimson and scarlet, yet they were washed clean by the blood of the Anointed One to enroll you in heaven’s register – what an astonishing thought is it!
In his fiery manner, John Flavel (1627-1691) suggests that we study worldly people’s eternal futility in having any idea of how empty they become when they lose all their worldly affections. It is the false image of a godless society in their fancy that crucifies them with so many cares and solicitudes about it, and it is the true image of a godless society, represented to us in the mirror of God’s Word, which significantly helps us to crucify our worldly affections. “O, if we could only believe three things about a godless society, we would never be so fond of it as we are.”
The best and sweetest enjoyments in a godless society are fading flowers and withering grass. Yes, it is defiling and disappearing because it “lies in wickedness” and spreads universal infection among all humanity. For sure, it destroys and defiles multitudes of souls, drowning in the sea of damnation. Nevertheless, millions of souls will wish they had never known its riches, pleasures, or honors for eternity.
From his scriptural viewpoint, William Burkitt (1650-1703) believes that the far part of a godless society’s residents is under the dominion of the “wicked one,” sunk into idolatry, and worshippers of the devil. Nevertheless, they continue their impure and corrupt living, wholly committed to mischief and wickedness. We see the darkness and horror of an unregenerate and unconverted state under Satan’s dominion. But behold the blessed change Christianity makes, not in the profession but its practice. It delivers from the power of darkness and the power of Satan, the prince of darkness, and translates us into the kingdom of God’s dear Son.
With meticulous Greek text examination and confirmation, Johann Bengel (1687-1752) defines “from” in verse nineteen as an abbreviated expression: We are from God and abide in God, but a godless society is from the wicked one and lies wholly in the wicked one’s grasp. Therefore, a godless society can no more touch the sons of God than the wicked one, under whose power they are prisoners. The wicked one, in verse eighteen, is opposed to Him that is true in verse twenty. Therefore, a godless society [including the educated, the respectable, and all others, except those claiming God as their heavenly Father and the Anointed One as their Savior] are not touched by the “wicked one.”
All others, as we say in German bleibt liegen, (remain lying [down]), by means of idolatry, blindness, deceit, violence, lust, irreverence, and all wickedness, in the evil one, destitute both of life from God and of understanding. The dreadful condition of a godless society is most vividly portrayed in this summary. No other commentary is needed than a godless society itself and worldly people’s actions, discussions, contracts, strifes, and brotherhoods. They esteem themselves happy in their wretchedness and the sons of God as destitute of what is good for their welfare. Furthermore, there is an antithesis in abides, as applied to God and the saints. Those who are regenerate have what they pray for and need according to God’s will. 
As an unapologetic Gospel preacher, Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) notes that after Christianity in Europe came into prominence in the Middle Ages, Christians had the upper hand in nations and civil communities while a greater part of humanity remained in their old heathen state of ignorance and wickedness. And besides, as Christians gained influence in secular affairs, true reverence declined, and corruption and wickedness prevailed among them. And as to the state of the Christian world, politics and the implementation of humanities became paramount in the Church’s hierarchy and theology.
In giving an account of how the doctrine of original sin came to prevail among Christians, Dr. Thomas Taylor (1576-1632) observes, “That the Christian religion was very early and grievously corrupted, by dreaming, ignorant, superstitious monks . . . The generality of Christians has embraced this persuasion concerning original sin, and the consequence has been that, in general, Christians have been the most wicked, lewd, bloody, and treacherous of all humanity.”
With all the Apostle John’s themes in mind, John Wesley (1703-1791) shares that one of his followers wrote him with a question, “I have no witness that I am saved from sin. And yet I have no doubts of it.” “Very well,” says Wesley, “as long as you have no doubt, it is enough; you will need that witness when you have doubts.” “But what scripture makes mention of any such thing or gives any reason to expect it?” That scripture is, “And we have received God’s Spirit (not a godless society’s spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us.”
Now, sanctification is one of God’s things freely given to us, and no possible reason can be given why this should not be expected when it is freely given to us. Is it not the same thing implied in that well-known scripture, “For His Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children.” Does the Spirit witness this only to those who are children of God in the lowest sense? No, but to those also who are such in the highest degree. What reason have we to doubt it?
With scholarly meditation, James Macknight (1721-1800) asserts that we know that we are born of God. The Greek text says we know that we are “from God.” But the full circle expression must be completed from verse eighteen by supplying “having been born.” But the whole world lies under the power of the wicked one. In verse nineteen, as in chapter 1 John 2:16, “world” does not signify the earth’s material fabric but its evil inhabitants. It denotes all the idolaters, infidels, and wicked people of a godless society, having made themselves the devil’s subjects. It may be said that they lie under the rule of the wicked one, under his dominion: just as believers in the next verse say, they are in or under the true God by being under His Son. The devil’s power in the lower world is over its inhabitants is often spoken of in scripture. He is called the prince and the power of the air, the spirit which now works inwardly in the children of disobedience. He is also said to be the god of this world and blinds the minds of unbelievers. He is labeled our adversary and is said to be roaming around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may swallow up.
 1 John 5:19
 Gehenna is the place where children were sacrificed to the god Moloch in the “valley of the son of Hinnom,” to the south of Jerusalem (Josh. 15:8, passim; II Kings 23:10; Jeremiah 2:23; 7:31-32; 19:6, 13-14). For this reason, the valley was deemed to be accursed, and “Gehenna” therefore soon became a figurative equivalent for “hell.”
 Archelaus: Acts of the Disputation with the Heresiarch, Manes, Ch. 14, p. 17
 Hosea 4:6
 Acts of the Apostles 17:11
 Ephesians 4:14
 Poole, Matthew. Commentary on the Holy Bible – Book of 1st, 2nd & 3rd John (Annotated), Kindle Edition
 1 Corinthians 1:30-31
 Ephesians 6:16
 Nehemiah 6:11
 Binning, Hugh: The Sinner’s Sanctuary, Sermon XVI, p. 185
 Ezekiel 16
 Isaiah 1:18
 Ibid. Sermon XXIII, p. 215
 Isaiah 40:6; James 1:10-11
 2 Peter 1:4
 1 Timothy 6:9
 Flavel, John: The Method of Grace: How the Spirit Works, op. cit., Ch. 28, p. 400
 See 1 Corinthians 5:11; 11:32
 1 John 2:2
 Bengel, Johann: Gnomon on the New Testament, op. cit., Vol. 4, pp.153-154
 Edwards, Jonathan, Works of, op. cit., Vol. 2, Original Sin Defended, Part, 1, Ch. 1, Sec. 7, p. 497
 1 Corinthians 2:12
 Romans 8:16
 Wesley, John, Works of, op. cit., Vol. 11, A Plain Account of Christian Perfection, Written on Saturday, May 2, 1761, pp. 493-494
 See 1 John 3:12
 1 Thessalonians 1:1
 Ephesians 2:2
 2 Corinthians 4:4
 1 Peter 5:8