By Dr. Robert R. Seyda


CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson CXXXIX) 05/18/23

5:20 And we know that God’s Son has come and given us understanding. So now we can fellowship with the true One and live in union with that true God. We are in His Son, Jesus the Anointed One. He is the true God, and He is eternal life.

What object is gained by saying this? (4) the Anointed One is not only the immediate antecedent; whatever may be said to the contrary, he is the principal subject of the preceding part of the verse. To be convinced of this, one must read it carefully. (5) Life eternal Is the predicate, not of the Father, but the Son, especially in John’s writing.[1] The Scriptural thought is that the Father has life, but the Son is life. To call the Anointed One life eternal is to unite the closing of the Epistle with its beginning. (6) To call the Anointed One, the Son, the true God harmonizes with statements in the Gospel and Revelation of John.[2]

With the ability of a linguist’s concentration on nuances, Greek word scholar Marvin R. Vincent (1834-1921) says we should compare this verse with scriptures in the Apostle John’s Book of Revelations.[3] Also, on “true,” look at what John says in his Gospel.[4] Vincent then suggests reading what Evangelist Henry Drummond (1851-1897 wrote. Here is what we found:

Just as naturally as the flower and the mineral and the Man, each in their way, tell me about themselves, He tells me about Himself. He strangely condescends in making things plain to me, assuming for a time the Form of a Man that I may better see Him at my poor level. It is my opportunity to know Him. This incarnation is God making Himself accessible to human thought – God opening to man the possibility of correspondence through Jesus, the Anointed One. And this correspondence and this Environment are those I seek. He assures me, ‘This is Life Eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus the Anointed One whom You sent.’ Do I not now discern the more profound meaning in ‘Jesus the Anointed One whom You sent?’ Do I not better understand with what vision and rapture the deepest of the disciples exclaims, ‘The Son of God is come, and has given us an understanding that we might know Him that is True?’”[5] [6]

Noting the Apostle John’s doctrinal implications, John James Lias (1834-1923) examines the Apostle John’s three concluding thoughts in verses eighteen, nineteen, and twenty. First is the knowledge that a Divine power protects us from sin. (I) This promise rests on the fact that we have been born of God; for example, our confidence is in God, not in ourselves, in the new life, not the old one. We have not yet attained the condition of which the Apostle speaks. But (a) we are tending there, and (b) the practical value of knowledge is that whenever we realize this one source of strength, we have it. The feebleness of our hold on the truth is the cause of our many falls. We never fall, but when we forget on whom we are to rely.

(II) It also rests on God’s Son’s protection. Since our faith is too feeble to conceive of God (a) He has taken man’s shape and thus brought Himself within reach of our capacities. And (b) He is one of ourselves. If we have been born of God, it is through the agency of one the One. The allusion here may be (1) to the eternal Son by the Father or (2) to His assumption of human flesh. But whichever it be, “He was not ashamed to call us brethren.[7] (3) The evil one has no power over those over whom Jesus watches. It is not that he cannot tempt them, for he tempted Him.

It is not that we have not sinned, for “in many things, we offend all.” But it is that He Who conquered sin in our mortal flesh, in our fallen nature, can defeat it in us. And hence, however many the assaults of the evil one may be, we have only to believe that we are in the Anointed One to overcome them all.[8]

With his systematic spiritual mindset, Augustus Hopkins Strong (1836-1921) proclaims that being in God has its basis in the Anointed One, His Son, and this also makes it more natural that “this” should refer to “the Son.” But ought not “is true” then to be without the article as in John’s Gospel? [9] No, for John’s purpose here in verse twenty is not to say what the Anointed One is but who He is. In declaring what one is, the predicate must have no article; in declaring who one is, the predicate must have the article. So John says that this Son, on whom our being in the true God rests, is this faithful God.[10]

A tried and tested biblical scholar who believes in the up-building of the Christian life, Robert Cameron (1839-1904) concludes that the Apostle John has a third truth he wants his readers to know. What we learn in this case is only imparted to us, however, that we may understand something else – the highest and the most divine thing that may come to the understanding of man. We realize that God’s Son has come and given us understanding. A better rendering would be insight, or to be still more exact, a through and through knowledge. We have the power to penetrate things, to understand them as they are. In the spiritual realm, we have given what the X-ray is in the sphere of matter. We can trace life’s complex facts and mysteries and arrive at correct conclusions.

This gift is doubtless through the illuminating power of the Holy Spirit, who guides us into all truth. He has entered our hearts, giving us this penetrating insight that we may come to know, by a continuous and progressive apprehension, “Him that is true.” “That I may know Him,”[11] said Paul, long after he had become a believer. Thus, outwardly to our senses, we have a person revealed; inwardly to our consciousness, we have a personal revelation.

This opens the eyes of our understanding so that “we know” the trustworthy Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are here, although John does not mention them by name. The Son makes the revelation; the Spirit he gives furnishes the illumination, and the everlasting God, even the Father, becomes known to our hearts. “This is eternal life that they may know thee, the only true God.” 

What blessed knowledge this is! We know that the one begotten of God does not practice sin; we know that we are of God, while a godless society lies in the evil one; and we know that Jesus has come and has given us a clearness of perception that by this means we may know the real and true God. We are back to God, and we know Him better than knowing anyone – better than we can know ourselves.[12] [13]

As a secular and sacred Law enforcer, Sir Robert Anderson (1841-1918) mentions that calling someone by their first or nickname implies excellent familiarity. So, if there are Christians who have gained such a position with their Lord and Savior, it is not for us to judge them. But when those who claim no such place must not allow ourselves to be betrayed by their example into thoughts or modes of speech which His presence would rebuke and silence. If we desire “to sanctify the Anointed One in our hearts as Lord, we will be careful and eager to own Him as Lord with our lips.” And all influences that hinder the realization of that desire are unwholesome, and we do well to shun them.

However, the message the Apostle Paul had for the Corinthians[14] give us faith and hope in Christianity, and no one who lets go of any part of the truth they express has any right to the name of Christian. To reject the hope of His return is a mark of apostasy as denying the Atonement. And no spiritual Christian will need to be reminded of the significance of the word, the Lord’s death. “The death of Jesus” might mean the end of His earthly life in Judea long ago. It is the prevailing thought in Christendom, with the crucifix symbolizing it.

Faith brings us into the presence of the Lord in His glory, and we rest upon His words, “I am the living one. I died but look – I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave.”[15] Therefore, as John says in verse twenty, “We know that God’s Son came[16] – that is the Christian’s past. However, “But from now on the Son of Man will be seated in the place of power at God’s right hand[17] – that is present. And as for the future, “We eagerly waiting for Him to return as our Savior.”[18] [19]

With his Spirit-directed calculating mind, Alfred Plummer (1841-1926) agrees with other commentators that verse twenty introduces the third remarkable fact of which believers have specific knowledge. The first two Christian certitudes are that the believer, as a child of God, progresses under the Anointed One’s protection towards the sinlessness of God. At the same time, the unbelieving world lies wholly in the power of the evil one.

Therefore, Christians know that both in the moral nature they inherited and in the moral sphere in which they live, there is an ever-widening gulf between them and a godless society. But their knowledge goes beyond this. Even in the intellectual sphere, in which the Gnostic claims to have such advantages, Christians are superior by being joint heirs with the Anointed One.

Also, the Greek δέ (“and”) brings the Epistle to a conclusion:[20] Or it may mark the opposition between a godless society’s evil case and what is stated here; in which case δέ should be rendered “but.” Furthermore, the phrase “is come” includes the notion of “is here,” but it is the arriving at the incarnation rather than the perpetual presence that is prominent in this context. Giving us “an understanding” means the capacity to receive knowledge.

In John’s writings, the Greek noun dianoiaunderstanding” occurs nowhere else. But John isn’t finished yet. This was all done “that we may know” literally, “that we may continue to recognize, as we do now” (the Greek conjunction,  ἵνα, “that”) with the indicative. It is the appropriation of the knowledge John emphasizes; hence “recognize” (Greek verb ginōskō) rather than “know” as used in the opening of verses eighteen, nineteen, and twenty, meaning: the possession of the knowledge.

Finally, “Him that is true” God; another parallel with the Anointed One’s Prayer; “that they should know You the only true God,”[21] where some authorities give the conjunction ἵνα (“that”) with the indicative, as here. “True” does not mean “that cannot lie,”[22] but “genuine,” “real,” “authentic,” as opposed to the false gods in verse twenty-one. What is Gnostic’s claim to superior understanding in comparison with this? We know that we have the Divine gift of intelligence, which means we attain the knowledge of a personal God who embraces and sustains us in His Son. As such, “we are in Him.”

Also, “Him that is true” again means God. It is arbitrary to change the meaning and make this refer to the Anointed One. Thus, “The Son has given us understanding by which to attain the knowledge of the Father.” Instead of resuming “and we do know the Father,” John advances by saying: “And we are in the Father.” Knowledge has become fellowship.[23] God has appeared as a human; God has spoken person to person; and the Christian faith, which is the one absolute certainty for humanity and means of reuniting them to God, is the result. Yes, “even in His Son Jesus the Anointed One.” Omit “even” in the KJV and Revised Version (RV) to make “in Him that is true” refers to the Anointed One. This last clause explains how we are in the Father by being in the Son.[24] [25]

With regal etiquette, Ernst von Dryander (1843-1922) hears the Apostle John’s urging to resist evil, which we as Christians must make, as was taken and adhered to by the Apostle, yet he did not take it nor carry it out in his strength. “We know,” he says, “that whosoever is born of God does not sin,” but this certainty rests upon a further conviction, “We know that we are of God.” That is the foundation of his Christian life. This blessed conviction gives believers the spirit of peace, which assures their faith is “the victory that survives living in a godless society.” And from where do people get this conviction? None received it by good decisions nor gained it in Bible School or Seminary but learned they were not born of God. The discipline of repentance is needed before anyone can belong to Him.

Instead, it is discovered here in verse twenty: “We know that God’s Son is come, and has given us an understanding that we may know Him that is true, and we are in Him that is true, even in His Son, Jesus the Anointed One.” They received this new Divine life from the Anointed One, and from Him, they also received this blessed conviction of their salvation. In following the Anointed One, a new “understanding” dawned upon them, whereby they perceived the unseen world, learned to know their God as “Him that is true,” and realized that life on earth is but a shadow. Redemption in Jesus the Anointed One is the act of grace that snatches us from the service of the evil world and gives us new life from God, over which sin has no more power. The coming of God’s Son (i.e., His work of Redemption) has given us a new “understanding,” whereby “we may know Him that is true” (i.e., God).[26]

A prominent Baptist minister John Gershom Greenhough (1843-1933), who focused on the key role played by Nonconformity in nurturing the labor movement in late Victorian and Edwardian Britain, opines that this has been called the Epistle of Love, and it well deserves that title; but it might be more appropriately called the Epistle of Certainties. There is a ring of absolute assurance from the opening words to the finish. Nor was the language of this Apostle John at all unfamiliar or hard to understand. As he wrote and spoke, he felt and testified to all those first witnesses of the Anointed One.

First, John testified that the strength and dominant power of the early disciples were in their certainties. It was the age of skepticism, a period of almost universal uncertainty. People were everywhere boastfully declaring or mournfully confessing that nothing was or could be known about the higher powers and a future life. And then these Apostles went forth with triumphant certainty on their lips, holding the clue to all the great mysteries in their hands. No wonder people gathered around to hear them.

Second, the certainties of the Apostolic Church made it a missionary Church. The boldness of that early faith was magnificent. There was no hesitation because there was no doubt. They could neither fear nor hold back nor sit still in their absolute assurance. Every church must stay alive and earnest and aggressive. In this respect, the Gospel never changes. Third, the measure of our certainty is the measure of our power. In all future ministry, the one essential is the absolute assurance we hold proven truths, that our weapons have been forged in God’s furnace, that the Holy Spirit has given us directions, and Divine lips uttered the promises which inspire us. Also, that He in whose Name we go out is the only true God and eternal life. The Church has had enough of the pruning hook and the dissecting knife. She wants to use the sword again in her real warfare. She wants to feel her feet again planted on apostolic certainties.

[1] 1 John 11; 2:5: 1,1,2; 5:11m 12m 1311, 12, 13

[2] Sawtelle, Henry A., Commentary on the Epistles of John, op. cit., pp. 63-64

[3] Revelation 3:7, 14; 6:10

[4] John 1:9

[5] Drummond, Henry: Natural Law in the Spiritual World, Published by Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1898, pp. 240-241

[6] Vincent, Marvin R., Word Studies in the New Testament, op. cit., p. 374

[7] Hebrews 2:11

[8] Lias, John James: The First Epistle of St. John with Homiletical Treatment, op. cit., pp. 411-420

[9] John 1:1

[10] Strong, Augustus H: Systematic Theology, Vol. 1, p. 556

[11] Philippians 3:10

[12] Philippians 3:10

[13] Cameron, Robert: The First Epistle of John, or, God Revealed in Light, Life, and Love, op. cit., p. 248

[14] 1 Corinthians 11:26

[15] Revelation 1:18

[16] 1 John 5:20

[17] Luke 22:69; cf. Romans 8:34

[18] Philippians 3:20

[19] Anderson, Sir Robert: The Lord from Heaven, op. cit., pp. 79-80

[20] Hebrews 13:20, 22

[21] See John 17:3

[22] Titus 1:2

[23] 1 John 1:3; 2:3, 5

[24] Cf. 1 John 2:23; John 1:14, 17, 18, 23

[25] Plummer, Alfred: The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges, N. T., Vol. IV., pp. 171-172

[26] Dryander, Ernst von: A Commentary on the First Epistle of St. John in the Form of Addresses, op. cit., p. 249

About drbob76

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