NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
By Dr. Robert R. Seyda
FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN
CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson CXLII) 05/22/23
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.
Then there is the minor permiss, in the assertion, particular and personal; “we know” that we individually “are of God” and, therefore, separated from “a godless society that lieth wholly in the wicked one.” The strict logical conclusion would be, thus, “we know” that we do not sin. John, however, puts it somewhat differently to place our not sinning on a surer footing, more humbling to us, more glorifying to God – “We know that God’s Son has come.” And yet this is a fair enough inference and fits well enough into the argument when viewed in its full spiritual importance. Nor is it inconsistent with the other. For if those born of God do not sin, and if we consequently, being of God, sin not, it is all in virtue of “God’s Son being come;” come, in the first place, to “give us a knowledge of the True One;” come, secondly, to secure in that way our “being in the True One.”
In line with Apostle John’s conclusion, Henry Alford (1810-1871) mentions that in verse twenty, there is yet another “to know.” That generally sums up the certainty that God’s Son had come and given us a better understanding of God. Our being in Him solidifies one crucial fact – knowledge of God now and in the everlasting hereafter. God’s Son, who bestows this knowledge, is prominent here at the end of the Epistle. He is eternal life, and those who have Him have the Father. This understanding is the divinely empowered inner sense by which we judge divine truths. It is not wisdom or judgment but the ability to attain it. The early Church Fathers against the Arian error and most orthodox expositors since then have regarded this passage as a treasured testimony for the Godhead of the Son.
As a faithful and zealous scholar, William Graham (1810-1883) says that verse twenty is the substance of the Anointed One’s deity. We have seen that the “and” after “we know” connects verse nineteen with verse twenty in a conflictive correlated way. Thus, “We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies in the wicked one.” However, we also know that to neutralize the power of the wicked one, God’s Son is come and given us understanding. The first great truth taught in verse twenty, therefore, is the coming of God’s Son, which, more than any other, reveals to us the joined love of the Father and the Son, the Sender and the Sent One, as well as the love of the Holy Spirit, by whom the divine and the human natures were united, and the Mediator of the new covenant qualified for His earthly and heavenly work.
John’s epistle begins and ends with this glorious theme; throughout the entire epistle, it occupies a very conspicuous place. When we consider the weighty consequences to mankind and the creation which depends on the incarnation of God’s Son, we will be inclined to think that John mentions it too often. But it is connected, in the closest way, with the whole plan of redemption and the office and constitution of the Mediator and forms the radiating center from which the operations of Yahweh, in His love and power, in providence and redemption, proceed to the edge of His boundless kingdom.
Indeed, two facts in the Bible can be appropriately called the poles in the mighty purpose of the redeeming God, around which all the various parts, prophecy and history, faith and hope, the workings of providence, and the proclamations of grace, perpetually revolve, they are the coming in the flesh and the coming in glory – the cross and the crown – by which the faith and the life of the Church have been sustained from the beginning, through all ages and dispensations, before, during, and after the fulness of the times united in the glorious person of the Redeemer.
If you consider deeply, there is no fact in the history of humanity which, for the wonderfulness of its nature, for the breathtaking grandeur of the conception which it develops, and for the priceless results which spring from it, may for a moment be compared with the coming of God’s Son. Its author is God; the incarnated person is the eternal Son; the mode of union and manifestation is the Holy Spirit; the natures united are the divine and the human, and the result is God’s glory and the salvation of every human being that wishes to be saved.
With the zeal of a scriptural text examiner, William E. Jelf (1811-1875) states the difference in the moral nature of Christians regarding the sphere in which they live and the Prince to which they belong; there is a difference in their intellect. They have a power of intellectual apprehension given them whereby they know the true God and know Him to be the true God, and as a result, the mission of His Son. On the contrary, the heathens had neither any adequate conception of the true God nor any knowledge whether or not the God they believed in was true God. The Christian, as a consequence of the revelation of the Anointed One, has both these privileges. To know the true God would be imperfect was not to it; the knowledge added that He whom we worship is the true God.
By saying that the Anointed One has come or is now in a godless society, He is accepted as Head of the Church and proclaimed by His apostles and evangelists. By calling Him “the true one,” He is distinct from all others, not regarding His attribute of truth, but His being the true God. Thereby Christians have an indwelling communion with the true God by their abiding fellowship with His Son. The next question is to whom “this” refers, whether to the Anointed One or to Him in whom we are. Of course, it is interpreted according to the doctrinal views of the interpreters; and at first sight it seems as if it were scarcely possible to define it more accurately. But, when we analyze it, it would seem enough to weigh the balance in favor of making the Anointed One the substantive to which “this” refers.
If we substitute another word for “this,” that other interpreters make a pronoun, it reads, “the true God is the true God.” He had already spoken of “the true one,” with Whom our communion places us in fellowship with the Anointed One, and therefore, to say again that “This is the true God, and eternal life,” has a sufficient difficulty to make us prefer the Anointed One as “this.” On the other hand, it may be said that “this” refers to the Anointed One implied in “the Son of Him,” or, more properly speaking, to the person signified by “him,” of whom the Anointed One was the Son; but “him” itself only refers to “true,” so that the difficulty is not gotten rid of by this suggestion. Moreover, the Anointed One is called “life,” though the same might be equally predicated of the Trinity, personally or collectively.
Welsh preacher David Thomas (1813-1894) says three extraordinary things in verse twenty. (I) The greatest FACT IN HUMAN HISTORY. There are many incredible facts in the history of the human race. But of all the points, the advent of the Anointed One to our world twenty-two centuries ago is the greatest. This fact is the most — 1. Undeniable. 2. Influential. 3. Vital to the interests of everyone. (II) The extraordinary CAPABILITY OF THE HUMAN MIND. What is that? “An understanding that we may know Him that is true.” Humans have many distinguishing faculties – imagination, memory, and intellect. But the capacity to know Him who is true is, for many reasons, more significant than all. 1. It is a rare faculty. The mighty millions do not have this power. 2. It is an Anointed One-imparted faculty – “He has given us.” What is it? It is love. “Those that do not love don’t know God.” The Anointed One generates this love. Love alone can interpret love, “God is love.” (III) The incredible PRIVILEGE IN HUMAN LIFE. “We are in Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus the Anointed One.” This means that Jesus is the one true God.
A staunch conservative who upheld the doctrine of eternal torment for sinners, Joseph Angus (1816-1902) noticed that in addition to the moral themes in the Scriptures, evidence suggested by the morality of the Final Covenant, the character of our Lord, the open and honest sincerity and self-denial of the first Christians, and the ethical beauty of Christian principles, as illustrated in the lives of consistent believers, suggest a spiritual component. The intellect partly appreciates this evidence but still more by the heart and conscience. (1) So far as it treats unregenerate as the Gospel finds them, it applies equally to all. (2) As far as it treats the regenerate as the gospel forms them, it appeals only to the believer. Angus also notes that the Greek adjective alēthinos (“true”) in the sense of real, genuine, contrasted with fictitious, pretended, is found nine times in the Gospel, six times in the Epistles, and nine times in the Revelation. 
After observing the Apostle John’s attention to detail, John Stock (1817-1884) feels that the Apostle John’s words are comparable to the many beautiful rays of a setting sun, which adorn the sky and forecast another coming day of splendor. So much is in them, and in inspired condensation, they exhaust every effort to unfold them. Though the Jews as a nation did not receive the Lord, a remnant according to the election of grace did receive Him, believed in Him, and know, with believing Gentiles, that He has come and no longer look for another. Therefore, they need not say with the Church before His first advent, “Hurry, my love! Be like a gazelle or a young deer on the spice mountains.” Nor do they, like Abraham, look by faith and rejoice in anticipation of the great incarnation, and see the Anointed One’s day, and be glad; for they know that God’s Son has come, that He, the Sun of Righteousness, has risen with healing on His wings; and that He is near to all them that call on Him; yes all such as call upon Him in truth.
Dr. Stock then goes on to defend his view of the majestic message John has in verse twenty:
“We see days that kings and prophets desired to see, but did not. We sit not in the twilight of Christianity but enjoy the glory of the Lord risen upon us; for our light is come, even He who is both our Light and Life. By faith, we now see Him who is invisible and rejoice with unspeakable joy and full of Glory. The Church now looks for the reappearing of the Lord Jesus, who will appear for a second time. But unlike His first coming, where He who had no sin was made sin for us, but coming to bestow on all them that trust in Him, salvation with eternal glory; salvation which He, as the Son of Man, now thoroughly enjoys, as the forerunner of His people.
The blessed Lord gave Him an understanding that no human intuition can supply. He made God’s wisdom to His people; He gives them the Spirit of Truth, who searches all things, even the deep things of God so that they know the things freely given to them by God. Therefore, they know Him that is true and are in union with Him that is true, even in God’s dear Son Jesus the Anointed One.
The Apostle Paul calls the faithful the children of the light and the day and says that though they were sometimes darkness, they are now light in the Lord. Therefore, he urges them to walk as children of “the Light.” Paul then prays that they may possess the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of the Anointed One to gain understanding and be enlightened to understand the Scriptures. The closer we walk to God, the clearer and more assured He gives a believer good insight, wisdom, knowledge, and joy.
The blessed Apostle John commended little children as knowing the Father and fathers as knowing Him from the beginning, as all God’s children are taught about Him. Thus they know Jesus, who is faithful, who embodies Truth, in whom the Mosaic ceremonial laws have found true fulfillment and in whom God’s people rest securely by having discovered Him of whom Moses and the Prophets wrote. Therefore, they can repeat the words of the Apostle Thomas with complete confidence, “My Lord and my God!”
Consequently, they are in Him, as the branch of the vine is in the vine from whence it derives its fruit: as the member of the body is in the head of that body, and hence has life; and here life eternal: for Christians are one with the Anointed One, and He one with them, and can say, “My beloved is mine, and I am His.” Therefore, in this knowledge, which is in the heart and head, is life eternal; “For this is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus the Anointed One, whom Thou hast sent,” as the Lord said in His prayer to His Heavenly Father.
Such believers know and have faith in the doctrine of the ever-blessed, undivided Trinity in unity, and unity in Trinity; that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, and yet there are not three Gods, but one God. They know the infinite meritoriousness of the Anointed One’s sacrifice, His power as our Mediator, and the certainty of spiritual and eternal life to all who have Him. And this knowledge will never fail to bless and secure them from deadly errors to rob eternal life God affirms He will not forsake them as they bring the spiritually blind in a way unknown to them and dispels the darkness of ignorance around them by His light of truth.
The Lord Jesus, the Anointed One, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, are one; this is the true God and eternal life. Furthermore, He is its cause, fountain, bestower, and preserver until it will be revealed in the glorified bodies and consecrated spirits of the redeemed. At this time, its fullness is beyond conception until the Lord Jesus will be celebrated with His saints and admired by all who believe, with the glory of eternal life!”
 “Permiss” is a noun used as a rhetorical device in which a thing is predicated on the decision of one’s opponent which is “a permitted choice.”
 Whedon, Daniel D., Commentary on the New Testament, op. cit., pp. 281-282
 Cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:23; 2 Thessalonians 3:16; Hebrews 13:20, 22
 1 John 5:13
 Cf. John 1:12, 18; 17:2ff, 6, 25ff; 2 Corinthians 4:6; Ephesians 1:18; Eph 1:18 )
 Alford, Henry: The Greek Testament, op. cit., Vol. IV, p. 513
 Graham, William: The Spirit of Love, op. cit., pp. 353-355
 1 John 1:2; John 14:6
 Jelf, William E., Commentary on the First Epistle of St. John, op. cit., pp. 81-82
 John 17:25-26
 Thomas, David: Homilist, Baptist Magazine by a Clergyman in England, 1862
 1 Corinthians 14:24-25
 Romans 8:16; 1 John 5:20
 Luke 16:11; John 1:9; 4:23, 37; 6:32; 7:28;15:1; 17:3; 19:35
 1 Thessalonians 1:9; Hebrews 8:2; 9:24; 10:22;1 John 2:8; 5:20
 Revelation 3:7, 14; 6:10; 15:3; 16:7; 19:2, 9, 11; 21:5; 22:6
 Angus, Joseph: The Bible Handbook, op. cit., pp. 110, 769 (4)
 Song of Solomon 8:14, The route the Nabateans took across the Negev with their camel trains was called the Spice Route; it stretched from the Persian Gulf (Arabia) to the ports of Gaza, passing through Petra (their capital) and Avdat. Their constant travel made for a transitory life. They did not live in houses, but they did build elaborate tombs for their dead, especially at Petra and Egra. Self-denial was a way of life, and they would not touch alcohol, which they saw as a sign of settling down.
 John 8:56
 Malachi 4:2
 Psalm 145:18
 Luke 10:24
 John 1:4
 1 Peter 1:8
 Hebrews 9:28
 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 9:26
 Hebrews 6:20
 1 Corinthians 2:12
 1 Thessalonians 5:6
 Ephesians 5:8
 Ephesians 1:17, 18
 Luke 24:45
 Ecclesiastes 2:26
 1 John 2:13, 14
 Isaiah 54:13
 John 1:45
 Ibid. 2:28
 Song of Solomon 2:16
 John 17:3
 John 17:3
 Isaiah 42:16
 2 Thessalonians 1:10
 Stock, John: An Exposition of the First Epistle of General of St., John, op. cit., pp. 462-465