By Dr. Robert R. Seyda


CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson CXLI) 05/20/23

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.

A dynamic speaker, and British Christadelphian critic,[1] H. P. Mansfield (1933-1987) states that anyone can look in vain in the Final Covenant where those people that bowed down to God’s Son and revered Him looked upon Him as God. Thomas said, “my Lord and my God.[2] The Apostle John speaks of Jesus the Anointed One as God.[3]In Hebrews, the Father says of His Son, “Your throne, O God, will last forever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.”[4]and in John’s Revelation, we read  about the rider on the white horse “treading the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty.”[5] So, Mr. Mansfield says the critic, please do not misrepresent God’s kingdom over which Jesus the Anointed One reigns. He reigns and will reign after He comes again.[6]

As a capable scripture analyst, Ian Howard Marshall (1934-2015) suggests that if humanity is divided into these two camps, how can a person find their way from one to the other? How could the church ever come into existence in a world that lies under the control of Satan? John’s third great declaration answers. God’s Son – none other than Jesus – has come into a godless society. He brought us an understanding of the truth, so we may know God’s true identity. Jesus’ mission was to bring knowledge of salvation. However, Jesus was misunderstood in terms of Gnosticism, the ancient religion which claimed that salvation comes through knowledge of the truths conveyed by the Revealer.

But the knowledge of which John speaks is different from that offered by Gnosticism. Throughout this Epistle, John has insisted on the incarnation of God’s Son, whereas the Gnostics would only allow that God’s Son was mystically united with Jesus. Moreover, John insisted on the death of Jesus to make an atoning sacrifice for our sins, whereas the Gnostics understood people’s need in terms of ignorance rather than of sin and hence saw no need for atonement. Finally, John insists on the need for belief in Jesus, whereas faith was replaced by knowledge in Gnostic types of religion.[7]

As a seasoned essayist on the Apostle John’s writings, John Painter (1935) points to the third “we know” in verse twenty and how it moves from statements about God’s children to address what we know about God’s Son. We know that he is coming. The verb “has come” is in the present tense. It implies a coming from the past with a continuing presence. Elsewhere the Apostle John uses the aorist passive “was revealed” to speak of His coming.[8] He was said to have come with a purpose: to take away sin and destroy the devil’s works.

Here the achievement of His appearance is viewed retrospectively. First, he has given us dianoia,understanding,” a word used only here in the Johannine writings and twelve times in the Final Covenant, where it sometimes translates as “heart.[9] It says that God “has scattered the proud in the imagination of their heart,[10] making “understanding” an aspect or function of the heart. That God has given us understanding suggests that it is a new understanding, a new heart, or a renewed mind,[11] a mind to know the True One.

The final sentence of verse twenty resonates with John’s Gospel[12] and continues to pose problems. To whom does “this” refer? The last person mentioned before this sentence is Jesus, the Anointed One. John does not hold back from referring to Jesus as God,[13] so reference to Jesus cannot be ruled out. However, the one implied appears to be God as “the one who is true.” When Jesus the Anointed One is referenced in the previous sentence, it is as “His Son Jesus the Anointed One,” so God is still the subject. The objection that the final reference to God as “this is the true God” is somewhat tautological is not without force. At the same time, John has a fair share of statements that approach repetition. Here, however, there is a point to the clear message because “this is the true God” is about to witness against idols in verse twenty-one. [14]

We see that John has been writing to refute the false dogma of the Gnostics who taught that Jesus was not the Anointed One, nor Divine. Then by what better way to conclude his remarks than to emphasize with such a positive statement that Jesus the Anointed One is indeed the true God, and He has eternal life? The Son, Jesus the Anointed One, has manifested as the very God of heaven. God covered Himself in the fleshly tabernacle of Jesus the Anointed One. As a human, our Savior walked among His creation. As God’s Son, our Redeemer died on the cross so blood could be shed to bring about humanity’s redemption, but God raised Him from the dead and highly exalted Him, taking Him to heaven as the disciples watched Him ascend. Jesus is the One who is coming back for His church shortly.[15]

As an articulate spokesman for the Reformed Faith movement, James Montgomery Boice (1938-2000) points out that verse twenty leads the Apostle John’s third “we know,” which is, as Stott notes, “the most fundamental of the three.” It strikes at the very root of the heretical Gnostic theology, for it is the affirmation that God’s Son, Jesus, has come into this world to give us knowledge of God and salvation. In other words, it is the assurance that He and nothing else is at the heart of Christianity; He and only He provides what all sinners desperately need. The need is not for philosophical enlightenment, as valuable as that may be in some areas.

The requirement is, first, to know God, and second, for a Savior. Knowledge of God, The first gift Jesus has brought us is the capacity to know God. It suggests that Jesus is God and that we see God in him, as he said to Philip,[16] and that we are incapable of spiritual sight until he gives it to us. Indeed, we are like the blind man in John’s Gospel,[17] who could not see the Anointed One and did not even seek Him until Jesus sought him and healed him. After that, we grow in knowledge as the blind man grew.[18]

The second gift of Jesus is salvation, which John suggests by one of his favorite terms: “eternal life.” Elsewhere he has indicated that the basis on which we enjoy such life is the atoning death of Jesus the Anointed One, to turn away God’s wrath against sin, and a new relationship established between God and the sinner. He has also indicated that the channel through which this life flows is faith, that is, believing in what God has said concerning the work of his Son and committing oneself to Him as Savior. Finally, however, John dwells on the idea of “eternal life,” indicating that the knowledge of God and union with him is life in complete salvation. [19]

Expositor and systematic theologist Michael Eaton (1942-2017) points out that the third thing we know is that God’s Son is come and given us understanding so that we may know the True One, and we are in the One who is true, in His Son Jesus the Anointed One. This is the true God and eternal life. John is utterly confident that he and his disciples are the authentic heirs of the message of Jesus. His words summarize the gospel over and against the teaching of the heretics. Jesus has come as God’s Son. The Son of God is also the man, Jesus, and the divine Savior, the Anointed One.[20]

Great Commission practitioner David Jackman (1945) finds that verse twenty brings a new awareness of God. This last great conviction is the ground and substance of the two preceding mentions of “we know.” Our victorious faith is grounded in what God has done in history, in the Anointed One. Christians know that Jesus the Anointed One has come in the flesh[21] and that He came by water and blood.[22] Understanding this seems to be a spiritual and intellectual capacity to receive the truth. God’s truth is addressed to the mind and penetrates the heart to activate the will, but it is not primarily understood intellectually.

There is always a further moral and spiritual aspect involved. Understanding Christian truth is not a matter of mastering doctrinal formulations, vital though they are or grasping abstract philosophical ideas like those the Gnostics spread, of meeting, knowing, and submitting to the person who is Truth. This kind of knowledge becomes fellowship. For Jesus, God’s Son, came to bring us into a personal relationship with God. The faithful Christian can be sure, therefore, that his mind has been illuminated and his will motivated by the Holy Spirit of truth, who has revealed Jesus as the true Son of God and through whom we come to know the true God, who is eternal life. [23]

After studying the context surrounding this verse, John W. (Jack) Carter (1947) imagines that the early church, much like the church today, was attacked by opponents both outside of the fellowships and within.  The culture tended to draw Christians away from the truth, pressuring them to accept their pagan beliefs and practices.  In addition, there were those within the body attempting to influence others using anything from erroneous doctrine to outright lies and deception.  The Apostle John wrote this letter as a resource to return an embattled and scattering fellowship to the truth of the Gospel, the validity of the nature and purpose of Jesus, and the truth concerning the surety of their salvation. [24]

According to Robert Jamieson (1802-1880), Andrew Fausset (1821-1910), and David Brown’s (1803-1897) way of thinking, the Apostle John wanted everyone to discover and understand that the Anointed One, God’s Son, came to give us eternal life is the summary of Christian privilege. The Anointed One’s office is to provide the inner spiritual understanding to discern the things of God. Some of the oldest Greek Manuscripts read, “(so) that we know” Him who is the authentic God – as opposed to every kind of idol or false god.[25] Jesus, by His oneness with God the Father, is also “He that is true.”[26] Even – “we are in the true” God, by being “in His Son Jesus the Anointed One.”[27]

With his lifework well-illustrating the biblical and reformation ideal of a pastor-theologian, Robert S. Candlish (1807-1873) points out that this is the third and last “we know” in verses eighteen to twenty. John insists that the Gnostics were the heretics of his day but in a better and safer sense. They pretended to be allknowing in the intellectual sphere of abstract speculation about divine nature. In contrast, the Apostle John would have us to be knowing, in the humbler yet really higher and holier experience of honest, direct, personal acquaintance and fellowship with the Divine Being, as coming down to us, poor sinners, in His Son, and taking us up, by His Spirit, to be sons and saints in His holy child Jesus. Those born of God do not sin because they keep themselves so that the wicked one cannot touch them.

Consequently, we are of God in contrast with a godless society, which lies wholly in the wicked; these are the two former examples of “we know.” And now the third “we know” has respect, neither to our standing as being of God, nor to a godless society’s position as lying in the wicked one but to Him who causes or occasions the difference, “God’s Son.” It would almost seem as if there was a regular syllogism[28] here; an argument built up in three propositions; two premises and a conclusion. First, there is the major premiss, in the general assertion, abstract and impersonal; “we know” that being born of God implies not sinning, since “he that is born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one cannot touch him.”

[1] The unitarian Christadelphian organization says there is no central authority to establish and maintain a standardized set of beliefs and it depends upon what statement of faith is adhered to and how liberal the ecclesia is, but there are core doctrines most Christadelphians would accept. In the formal statements of faith, a more complete list is found; for instance, the Birmingham Amended Statement of Faith has 30 doctrines to be accepted and 35 to be rejected.

[2] John 20:28

[3] 1 John 5:20

[4] Hebrews 1:8

[5] Revelation 19:11-15

[6] Mansfield, H. P., The Truth Vindicated, Sixth Debate February 27, 1962, p. 139

[7] Marshall, Ian Howard: The Epistles of John (The New International Commentary on the New Testament), op. cit., pp. 253-254

[8] See 1 John 1:2; 3:5, 8

[9] Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27; and see Deuteronomy 6:5; Luke 1:51

[10] Genesis 6:5

[11] Romans 12:2

[12] John 17:3

[13] John 1:1, 18; 20:28

[14] Painter, John. Sacra Pagina: 1, 2, and 3 John: Volume 18, op. cit., loc. cit., Kindle Edition

[15] Walls, Muncia: Epistles of John and Jude, op. cit., pp. 96-97

[16] John 14:9

[17] Ibid. 9:1-38

[18] Cf. Ibid 9:11, 17, 33, 36, 38

[19] Boice, James Montgomery: The Epistles of John, An Expository Commentary, op. cit., pp. 147-149

[20] Eaton, Michael: Focus on the Bible, 1,2,3 John, op. cit., p. 197

[21] 1 John 4:2

[22] Ibid. 5:6

[23] Jackman, David: The Message of John’s Letters, op. cit., pp. 171-171

[24] Carter, Dr. John W. (Jack). 1,2,3, John & Jude: (The Disciple’s Bible Commentary Book 48), op. cit., p. 137

[25] 1 John 5:21

[26] Revelation 3:7

[27] Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, New Testament Volume, op. cit., p. 731

[28] Syllogism is an instance of a form of reasoning in which a conclusion is drawn from two given or assumed premises, each of which shares a term with the conclusion and shares a common or middle term not present in conclusion (e.g., all dogs are animals; all animals have four legs; therefore all dogs have four legs).

About drbob76

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