By Dr. Robert R. Seyda


CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson XCI) 03/17/23

5:13 I write this letter to you who believe in God’s Son. I write so that you will know that you have eternal life now.

John’s desire for them is not that they may have faith in and receive but that having accepted; they may know that they have obtained and therefore continue to maintain eternal life in the present. That you may know means, both in word and tense, not that they may gradually grow in assurance but that they may possess here and now a certainty of the life they have received in the Anointed One. They had been unsettled by the false teachers and became unsure of their spiritual state. Throughout the letter, John gives them criteria (doctrinal, moral, social) to test themselves and others. His purpose is to establish their assurance. “This letter assures you that you already have eternal life.”[1]

Historical-critical method researcher, Catholic priest, and prominent Bible scholar Raymond Edward Brown (1928-1995) responds to the Apostle John’s words, “We are writing this,” with a question: “What is the reference for ‘this,’ literally ‘these things?’” Many scholars choose verses one to twelve here in chapter five or the last verse of that unit. The chief argument is that verse five spoke about “the person who believes that Jesus is God’s Son,” and verse twelve states, “The person who possesses the Son possesses life.” Those verses could explain why John would say, “1 have written these things to you so that you may know that you possess this eternal life – you who believe in the name [Yeshua, meaning “Savior”] of God’s Son.” Such an interpretation makes verse thirteen a transition to what follows.

However, others think that the apostle refers to everything written up to this point in verse thirteen. The parallel with the conclusion of John’s Gospel supports this[2] since he refers to the whole Gospel. Also,  “We are writing this[3] includes verse thirteen, which looks ahead to all that follows because John adds, “so that you may know that you possess this eternal life.” In the Greek word text, the adjective “eternal” comes at the end, separated by the verb from the noun it modifies. The emphatic position means that John refers to the “eternal life” mentioned in the preceding verse as the object of the same verb “to have, possess.” So, John is effectively saying, “I have written this to you who believe in the name [Yeshua, meaning “Savior”] of God’s Son so that you may know that you possess this eternal life.”[4]

A competent dissector of Holy Scripture, Rudolph Alan Culpepper (1930-2019), remarks that since the Apostle John addresses his letter to believers, the emphasis is on knowing the life they already have. If the faithful recognize that they already have eternal life, they will not be swayed by the appeals made by their opponents. The elderly apostle’s faithful adherents can also have confidence in prayer. When believers are so responsive to the guidance of the Spirit of truth that their prayers are in accord with God’s will, God hears them and grants their requests. This general assurance regarding confidence in prayer leads to the troublesome question of prayer for one who is sinning. So, Culpepper asks, “Who gives life, the one who prays or God?” Ultimately, of course, only God can give life.[5]

Brilliant New Testament Bible professor Simon J. Kistemaker (1930-2017) notes that the Apostle John sums up what he has said so far, beginning in verse thirteen. The words “these things” refer to the entire letter but note that John writes the letter to Christians “who believe in the name [Yeshua, meaning “Savior”] of God’s Son” for people who maintain constant faith in God’s Son. In an earlier chapter, he informed them of one of God’s commands: “to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus the Anointed One.[6] John repeats the term name to indicate the complete revelation of God’s Son. Anyone who believes in (the name [Yeshua, meaning “Savior”] of God’s Son receives forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

In this chapter, John explains his theme: “believe in the name [Yeshua, meaning “Savior”] of God’s Son.” John combines the verbs to believe and to know in verse thirteen. By contrast, he concludes his Gospel with the words, “These [things] are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Anointed One, Son of God.[7] However, in verse thirteen, John adds the concept to know, namely, to know with certainty. When he writes, “so that you may know,” he does not mean “to come to know” but “to have assurance.” Believers have the assurance of eternal life and the right to be children of God.[8] [9]

As a convincing preacher and teacher, Wendall C. Hawley (1930) indicates that the Apostle John provides his reason for writing the epistle in verse thirteen. Remarkably, the wording is nearly identical to that found in his Gospel.[10] But there is a difference. Whereas the Gospel encourages the continuance of faith in God’s Son as the means to enjoying the divine life, the verse in the epistle affirms the possession of divine life for all who believe in God’s Son. In both cases, John wanted his readers to be sure that they knew they had eternal life. And this security is the basis for the other aim of John’s letter: that they would be full of joy.[11] [12]

With academic precision, Stephen S. Smalley (1931-2018) finds that having pointed out the clear difference between the authentic and false believer; John reiterates and applies the teaching of this section. In so doing, he states one of the purposes behind his epistle. All this has been written so his readers may be sure they “possess eternal life.” John aims to strengthen the faith of believers who belong to his community, even if, along the way, he has also been concerned (to refute those among and beyond his church members) that Christology was unorthodox. Therefore, John speaks in the present tense about faith in Jesus (supported by witnesses)[13] and the consequent gift of eternal life through Him.

It is also essential to know that verse thirteen is transitional in that it looks back to the subject matter in verses five to twelve and provides a summary. Several commentaries and versions make a break after verse twelve. However, the contents of verse thirteen, with its reference to the now-familiar topics of believing in God’s Son and possessing eternal life, suggest that this verse belongs to the preceding passage rather than the one which follows, where verse fourteen introduces the new topic of prayer. The inclusion confirms this suggestion in verses five and thirteen at the opening and closing of the present section, where there is a repeated allusion to faith in God’s Son.[14]

An insistent believer in Grace, Zane Clark Hodges (1932-2008), mentions that “these things” are often wrongly taken to refer to the whole epistle. But similar expressions in chapter two, verses one and twenty-six, to the immediately preceding material are valid here. John just wrote about God’s testimony to assure his readers that believers possess eternal life despite anything the antichrists have said. It may be pointed out that the assurance of one’s salvation always rests fundamentally and sufficiently on God’s direct promises to the believer.

In other words, one’s security rests on the testimony of God. After the comments “that you have eternal life,” most Greek manuscripts add, “and that you may believe in the name [Yeshua, meaning “Savior”] of God’s Son.” Perhaps this statement seemed redundant to some early scribe or editor and was eliminated from his manuscript. But it prepares the ground for the discussion about prayer, which follows by inviting continued faith in God’s Son on the part of those who already have received eternal life through Him. Prayer is also an expression of trust in the name [Yeshua, meaning “Savior”] of God’s Son.[15]

Inspired by Jesus’ words, “go into all the world,” Edward J. Malatesta (1932-1998) notes that the conclusion of this section and the entire body of the letter and its purpose in terms of eternal life and faith is expressed in verse thirteen. The Apostle John concludes his message by addressing his readers as those who believe in the name [Yeshua, meaning “Savior”] of God’s Son. Therefore, just as the tone of the exposition was positive in the previous section,[16] with only four brief mentions of negative realities towards the beginning and the end,[17] the explanation is predominantly positive in the present passage.[18]

As a capable scriptural analyst, Ian Howard Marshall (1934-2015) states that we are fortunate that John shared his purpose for writing his Gospel with us.[19] In the same way, he summarizes his goal in the composition of this Epistle. He was writing to a church where conflicting teaching about the nature of Christian belief had arisen. Such a situation was calculated to make the members wonder whether they possessed eternal life; some who professed faith in Jesus as God’s Son must still have wondered whether they were right in their belief and whether their experience of eternal life was not a delusion.

Having demonstrated to the readers that eternal life is found only in Jesus the Anointed One,[20] John now sums it up by saying that what he has written should assure believers that they possess eternal life. John was writing not to persuade unbelievers of the truth of the Christian faith but rather to strengthen Christian believers who might be tempted to doubt the reality of their Christian experience and give up their faith in Jesus. Those who believe in the name of Jesus can be sure of their possession of eternal life.[21]

As a seasoned essayist on the Apostle John’s writings, John Painter (1935) notes that if his mission statement in verse thirteen did not fit the rest of his epistle, we might think that the reference to “these things” was mentioned only in verses eleven and twelve. But coming, as it does, in the concluding section and fitting the epistle’s purpose so well, we can scarcely doubt that the entire letter was in view. Moreover, John expresses his intention in terms reminiscent of his Gospel and supports this conclusion when the appended nature of chapter twenty-one in John’s Gospel is recognized. Nevertheless, verse thirteen here and in John 20:31 is followed by introducing new material before the book ends.

While verse thirteen uses many of the same words in similar phrases, the purpose is different. It is written to those who already believe in  God’s Son. There is no doubt that the content of faith is crucial. The significance and scope of that belief are gathered in the Johannine doctrine of “belief in the name,”[22] but the purpose is to ensure that those who believe may know they have eternal life. Here, the knowledge content is introduced by the Greek conjunction hoti (“that”). John confirms that those who believe rightly know they have eternal life.

This purpose is consistent with how his epistle is written, from beginning to end. John is determined to establish tests confirming believers’ status as God’s children whose lives manifest the character of the divine life that displays their source as God and is evidence of eternal life. The Christological test is also related because eternal life was revealed in Jesus the Anointed One, having come in the flesh.[23] So, to believe in the Son, to have the Son, is to have eternal life.[24] Indeed, there is life in His name for those who believe in His name.[25]

With a Jewish convert’s enthusiasm for the Christian Anointed One, Messianic writer David H. Stern (1935) believes that verse thirteen demonstrates that you have eternal life. You have it already, here and now, you who keep trusting in the person and power literally, “in the name” of God’s Son.[26] [27]

A warrior against boring preaching, John Phillips (1937-2010) states that the Apostle John knew the power in the name of the Lord. He uses the title Son of God, giving the Lord Jesus, the Anointed One, His highest title ‒ woe to those who dare to downgrade the person of God’s beloved Son. By denying the incarnation, the heretics proved themselves to be unbelievers. John knew Jesus to be God’s Son; the Apostle Peter, the spokesman for the others, also confessed Him as the living God’s Son.[28]

Only an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent One could provide and administer salvation of eternal dimensions to be offered to all humanity throughout time. Only such a person could overcome all obstacles, hold in perfect balance and poise all the facts of each case, satisfy all the claims and demands of God’s throne, provide sufficient payment for all the enormous indebtedness of the race, and carry out God’s purposes in grace throughout all the unborn ages of eternities yet to be. That is why John wrote, “that you may know that you have eternal life and that you may believe on the name [Yeshua, meaning “Savior”] of God’s Son.”

[1] Stott, John. The Letters of John (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries), op. cit., pp. 183-184

[2] John 20:31

[3] 1 John 1:4

[4] Brown, Raymond E., The Anchor Bible, The Epistles of John, op. cit., pp. 607-608

[5] Culpepper, Rudolph Alan: Harper’s Bible Commentary, op. cit., pp. 1294-1295

[6] See 1 John 3:23 also John 1:12

[7] John 20:31

[8] Ibid. 1:12

[9] Kistemaker, Simon J., New Testament Commentary, James and I-III John op. cit., pp. 359-360

[10] John 20:31

[11] 1 John 1:4

[12] Hawley, Wendall C., Tyndale Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, 1-3 John, op cit., p.373

[13] 1 John 5:9-11

[14] Stephen S., Word Biblical Commentary, Vol. 51, 1,2,3 John, op. cit., pp. 189-290

[15] Hodges, Zane C. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, Dallas Theological Seminary, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, op. cit., vol. 2, p.902

[16] 1 John 5:4-14

[17] Ibid. 5:4, 8a, 18, 20

[18] Malatesta, Edward J., Interiority and Covenant, op. cit., p. 311

[19] John 20:31

[20] See 1 John 5:11ff

[21] Marshall, Ian Howard: The Epistles of John (The New International Commentary on the New Testament), op. cit., p. 243

[22] See John 1:12; 2:23; 3:18; 20:31 and 1 John 3:23

[23] 1 John 1:2; 4:2-3

[24] Ibid. 2:22-23; 5:11-12

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

[26] Cf. John 11:25-26

[27] Stern, David H., Jewish New Testament Commentary, op. cit., Kindle Edition

[28] Matthew 16:15-17

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By Dr. Robert R. Seyda


CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson XC) 03/16/23

5:13 I write this letter to you who believe in God’s Son. I write so that you will know that you have eternal life now.

With youthful enthusiasm for preaching, Greville Priestly Lewis (1891-1976) also points out that the Apostle John ends his letter in verse thirteen, except for an added postscript. Thinking back from verse twelve through the letter to his opening paragraph (concerning the word of life), he says that his purpose in writing has been to make it possible to identify eternal life. Compare this with the verse John originally meant to end his Gospel.[1] He wrote the Gospel so that people might believe in the Anointed One and possess eternal life; he wrote the Epistle so they might know that they possess it.   [2]

Bible translator extraordinaire Kenneth S. Wuest (1893-1961) says that the assurance we have toward God that the Apostle John speaks about in verse thirteen is maintained if we continue asking Him for things according to His will. He will hear us. And if we know with an absolute knowledge that He hears us, whatever we are asking for ourselves, we know with absolute certainty that we have the things we have asked Him.[3]

As a bold Bible interpreter openly opposed to liberal Christianity, Martin Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) conveys that verse thirteen is significant, perhaps the most important in the epistle. When John finished his letter, he looked back to summarize what he said and remind the people of his goal when he began to write. He implied that he was eager that they might have fellowship with him and other Apostles because their connection was with the Father and His Son, Jesus the Anointed One. John was particularly concerned that these people to whom he had been writing should be informed of the central purpose of his letter. That is necessary because our danger is missing the forest because of all the trees.[4] It is essential to be clear about everything, but we must also bear in mind the purpose of it all; and the Apostle reminds us of his ultimate object, which is that those who are Christians, those who believe in the name [Yeshua, meaning “Savior”] of God’s Son, might know that they have eternal life.[5]

Taiwanese preacher and hymn writer Witness Lee (1905-1997) feels strongly that the written Word of God assures those who believe in the name [Yeshua, meaning “Savior”] of God’s Son that they have eternal life. Our belief in receiving eternal life is a fact; the words of the Holy Writings are the assurance concerning this fact. They are the title deed of our eternal salvation. We are assured and have the pledge by them that we have eternal life because we believe in the name [Yeshua, meaning “Savior”] of God’s Son. This is why the Bible is called a covenant or testament. We not only have the fact of eternal life; we also have the pledge, the guarantee, the title, and the deed to prove that we have it![6]

With his finely tuned spiritual mind, Ronald Ralph Williams (1906-1970) points out that the first sentence of this section gives a reason for writing and sending the letter. It might have been intended as the concluding sentence of the letter. Its similarity to the last verse of the Fourth Gospel in what we think was its original form is most striking.[7] It is one of the most explicit indications of joint authorship. Notice the close similarities – that are shown here in a literal translation from Greek:

John’s Gospel (20:31)John’s Epistle (5:13)
These things are written so thatThese things I have written to you so that
You may believe that Jesus is the Anointed OneYou may know that you have eternal life
The Son of God, and so that believing you may have life in His nameYou who believe in the name [Yeshua, meaning “Savior”] of God’s Son.[8]

As a very down-to-earth Bible commentator and writer, William Neal (1909-1979) notes that the Apostle John says he was writing this letter to those who have committed themselves to the Anointed One and may be sure that this abundant life is theirs. So, we can say our prayers knowing they will be granted, including our prayers for our fellow believers, although a person guilty of outright apostasy may be past praying for. However, we can be sure that no one who has fully pledged himself to God can continue in a life of sin, for even though we live amid temptation, we have the Anointed One at our side. We know we have found ultimate reality and truth through Him, and this knowledge and fellowship is something that death cannot destroy. Anything less is caricature and illusion.[9]

Like a spiritual guiding light, Scottish biblical scholar F. F. Bruce (1910-1990) sees the Apostle John in his Gospel telling his readers that the “signs” recorded “are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Anointed Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.[10] Later, when he wrote his first epistle, he told those who “believe in the name [Yeshua, meaning “Savior”] of God’s Son” to be assured that they possess eternal life in virtue of this belief. As said above, where eternal life was found had probably been the subject of much debate, with the rebellious claiming that it was to be found in their higher academic teaching. But John affirms that by not honestly believing in Jesus’ incarnation, they had no claim to eternal life in Him alone. While this contemporary situation may have been uppermost in John’s mind, his affirmation has a broader reference. Because of its abiding validity, this verse has remained an influential text conveying the assurance of eternal life in all generations to those who believe in the name [Yeshua, meaning “Savior”] of God’s Son.[11]

Paul Waitman Hoon (1910-2000) identifies verses thirteen to twenty-one as this epistle’s final section. It significantly opens and closes with the center of the epistle (continuing the thought of verses eleven and twelve. Despite the many and varied ideas John has dealt with and the occasional excursions into which he has been led, his primary purpose in conceiving and writing this letter has been steadily kept in mind – to communicate eternal life. And the effect of reading and studying his words is strangely that of experiencing deepened life in the soul. To Christian people all through the centuries, this epistle has brought life.  It has nourished souls, kindled faith, and inspired love.[12]

As a significant scriptural expositor, Rudolf Schnackenburg (1914-2002) sees the Apostle John is now coming to the end of his letter. This can be seen not only from verses thirteen, which is very similar to what he said in his Gospel[13] but from the general drift of this last section. He aims to strengthen the healthy self-assurance of the believers, giving them joy over their possession of salvation and renewing their hope for its completion. Note how the phrase “we know’’ occurs no fewer than six times. Here is a positive reflection on their good fortune. They possess the gift of fellowship with God. They have the divine strength which they derive from that fellowship.

All this serves as the most vigorous defense against all destructive influences from without.[14] It is the surest support for Christian endeavors in this world.[15] No attempt is made to minimize the seriousness of the situation. On the contrary, sin is an actual breaking of God’s laws.[16] The power of the evil one, the personal enemy of God,[17] is unmasked in all its gravity. After the renewed confirmation of the Christian faith,[18] the superior counterpart of Satan, the only true Son of God, Jesus the Anointed One, appears with His full significance for the existential struggle of Christians in this world,[19] providing them with the consciousness of superiority and, the assurance of victory, all of which are constantly featured throughout the epistle[20] reach their climax here, with a realism free of illusion. [21]

As a conscientious objector and prisoner of war acquainted with grief, Bible scholar Daniel C. Snaddon (1915-2009) agrees that the Apostle John clearly states the purpose for which he wrote the letter in verse thirteen. The objective is that those who believe in the name [Yeshua, meaning “Savior”] of God’s Son may know they have eternal life. Another precious truth here is that assurance of salvation through the word of God. Our salvation does not depend on our hoping, guessing, or feeling. Therefore, John states that those who have truly believed in the Lord Jesus have eternal life in the clearest possible manners.[22]

Dedicated researcher on the Apostle Paul’s journeys and Bible expositor, Donald W. Burdick (1917-1996), suggests that although verse thirteen is rooted in the immediately preceding context, the expression “these things” must not be limited only to the matters discussed there. What John wrote in those verses involves the rest of the epistle. Thus, as the Apostle John begins this concluding section, he looks back on the entire letter and explains his aim in writing. At the same time, the purpose of John’s Gospel was that unbelievers might believe and thus receive life;[23] the purpose of the first epistle is that those who “believe on the name [Yeshua, meaning “Savior”] of God’s Son” may know that they “have eternal life.”

John also wrote that believers confronted with false teaching such as Gnosticism might have assurance and not be made unsure by these false teachers’ doctrinal errors. For example, someone finds they are walking in the light,[24] confessing their sins,[25] obeying the Anointed One’s commands,[26] loving fellow believers,[27] believing in Jesus as God’s incarnate Son,[28] and practicing righteousness.[29] Can they be assured by “these things” they have eternal life? Yes. And because they possess this assurance, they will not be shaken by any disturbing assertions of the expositors of error.[30]

As a spiritual mentor, Ronald A. Ward (1920-1986) believes that the Apostle John wants to make explicit what is implicit, to bring out into the open what’s lodged in the hearts of his believing readers. John makes this clear in his opening statement in verse thirteen, “I write this letter to you who believe in God’s Son that you will know that you have eternal life now.” Thus, we have three orders of truth: I believe that the Anointed One died for sinners; I trust the One who came to be the world’s Savior is my Savior, and I’m confident that I have Eternal Life. It combines belief and faith with the relationship of confidence and knowledge.[31]

In a spirited confrontational way, Peter S. Ruckman Sr. (1921-2010) says, believe it or not, here in verse thirteen are the most significant, most straightforward statements on the contents of the Gospel that were ever committed to print. These verses are so clear that no one with any amount of education could misunderstand them. So-called “Education,” of course,[32] was the chief instrument by which all Final Covenant truths were rejected.[33] [34] As a previous doubter but now a defender of personal salvation,

John R. W. Stott (1921-2011) finds that many 20th-century English Translations of the Final Covenant begin a new paragraph with verse thirteen which undoubtedly belongs to the previous section. It forms a fitting conclusion to what the Apostle John has written about the three witnesses and about having eternal life in God’s Son. Here he tells his readers the apparent purpose of his letter, now drawing to a close. “This letter was written so you may know you have eternal life.” John’s Gospel was written for unbelievers to read the testimony of God to His Son, believe in Him to whom the testimony pointed, and thus receive life through faith. His letter, on the other hand, was written for believers.

[1] John 20:31

[2] Lewis, Greville Priestly: Epworth Preacher’s Commentaries, The Johannine Epistles, op. cit., pp. 119

[3] Wuest, Kenneth S., The New Testament: An Expanded Translation, op cit., 1 John 5:13-15

[4] You can’t see the entirety as you are preoccupied with the details and overlook the bigger picture or the end goal. 

[5] Lloyd-Jones, Martyn: Life in the Anointed One, Studies in 1 John, op. cit., pp. 637, 644

[6] Lee, Witness: Life-Study of 1, 2, 3, John, Jude, op. cit., Ch. 36

[7] John 20:31

[8] Williams, R. R., The Letters of John and James, op. cit., p.59

[9] Neil, William: Harper’s Bible Commentary, op. cit., p. 530

[10] John 20:31

[11] Bruce, Frederick Fyvie, The Epistles of John: A Verse-by-Verse Exposition, op. cit., pp. 122-123

[12] Hoon, Paul W., The Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. XII, op cit., pp.297-298

[13] John 20:21

[14] 1 John 2:21, 27

[15] Cf. 2:12-17

[16] Ibid. 5:16

[17] Ibid. 5:18ff

[18] Ibid. 5:5-12

[19] Ibid. 5:20

[20] Ibid. 2:12-14; 3:20; 4:4-6; 5:4

[21] Schnackenburg, Rudolf: The Johannine Epistles, op. cit., p. 246

[22] Snaddon, Daniel C., Plymouth Brethren Writings, 1 John, loc. cit.

[23] John 20:30-31

[24] 1 John 1:7

[25] Ibid. 1:9

[26] Ibid. 2:3-5

[27] Ibid. 3:14-17

[28] Ibid. 2:22-23; 4:1-6; 5:1, 5

[29] Ibid. 2:29; 3:6-10α

[30] Burdick, Donald W., Everyman’s Bible Commentary, the Epistles of John, op. cit., pp. 91-92

[31] Ward, Ronald A., The Epistles on John and Jude, op. cit., p. 57

[32] 1 Corinthians 1:21

[33] See Isaiah 29:10-15

[34] Ruckman, Dr. Peter S. General Epistles Vol. 2 (1 – 2 – 3 John, Jude Commentary) (The Bible Believer’s Commentary Series), Kindle Edition

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By Dr. Robert R. Seyda


CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson LXXXIX) 03/15/23

5:13 I write this letter to you who believe in God’s Son. I write so that you will know that you have eternal life now.

With his elegant speaking style, William M. Sinclair (1850-1917) states that the expression here in verse thirteen is more positive than in the Gospel: there, “that you might believe, and that believing you might have [everlasting life];”[1] here, “that you may know that you have.”[2] It is because he wishes to produce in them faithful hope. At the beginning of the Epistle, the specific object was the communication of joy through fellowship with the Apostles; the knowledge of possessing eternal life and the continuance of their faith would be precisely that joy.[3]

As an influential reconciler, Charles Gore (1853-1932) urges us to notice that the Apostle John defined his choice purpose for writing his Gospel: “These things have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Anointed One, God’s Son; and that believing you may have life in His name.”[4] So now he says of this Epistle that he has written: “They who believe in the name [Yeshua, meaning “Savior”] of God’s Son will know that they are entitled to the actual enjoyment of eternal life” ‒ the life which no earthly circumstances can shake or damage. And this eternal life is a life of fellowship with God and carries with it such freedom of speech and approach towards God that whatever we ask according to His will, He hears us. And this is the boldness we have toward Him. And if we know that He hears whatsoever we ask, we’ll receive answers to whatever we ask of Him.[5]

Reuben Archer Torrey (1856-1928) believes that the Apostle John wants his readers “to think correctly about the eternal life we have” in the Anointed One. We have the blessedness of the person whose “delight is in the Law of the Lord and meditates on His law day and night.”[6]In other words, says Torrey, my archway of salvation rests upon two pillars. The first pillar is what the Anointed One did for me. The second pillar was the assurance of salvation through my feelings.

When I felt well and happy, the pillars were of the right height and seemed very solid. But when depressed feelings came, the columns seemed lower, weaker, and threatened the archway. However, one day, I read in verse thirteen of First John chapter five that I was expected to trust the Scriptures and not my feelings for assurance. Since that day, both pillars of assurance have been sufficient, for God’s Word never changes. Feelings may come and go, but “I keep on believing” the promise of eternal life, not because I feel so and so, but because God says so. The pillar of the Anointed One’s merit and the pillar of His promises are the same lengths, and the archway of salvation is no longer threatened by changing feelings.[7]

Beyond any doubt, remarks Alonzo R. Cocke (1858-1901), the Apostle John would have his readers listen to the witnesses, consider the sacred record, observe the divine life-fountain until faith should strengthen into assurance, and say, “I know.” Their eyes should feast on the pearly gates standing open and the stream of life flowing from the throne of God. The goal of faith is knowledge of the life we now possess in the Anointed One. It is not a coming possession or a promised gift but actual ownership. They should settle it in their hearts that no power on earth nor Satan’s regions can take away that gift.

Christians should look beyond their struggles, for they pose no threat to God’s treasure ‒ “Your real life is hidden with the Anointed One in God.”[8] How secure, “with the Anointed One” in the infinite God. So, it is in the Anointed One who is in God. God must die before the stream of life from Him to us can cease flowing. Therefore, we may strengthen our hearts amid all our battles, for “when the Anointed One, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all His glory.”[9] How deep lies the reason for our safety! The Anointed One is our eternal life, for He is not influenced by changing times.[10]

Esteemed ministry veteran James B. Morgan (1859-1942) agrees that verse thirteen may contain the narrative for the whole Epistle. The Apostle John’s design is not merely to expound and recommend the way of salvation but to enable those he addresses to evaluate their interest in it. He assumes some have “neither part nor whole” in the salvation of the Gospel, while others have found it to be “the power of God, and the wisdom of God unto salvation.”[11]To the one, we are a stench that brings death; to the other, a perfume that brings life. No one else is equal to such a task?”[12]

Surely, among all questions, the most important to be determined by anyone is their relationship to this great subject. Have they participated in the benefits of the Gospel or not? Have they been pardoned, purified, and qualified for glory, or are they under sin’s condemnation and incapacitated for the enjoyment of heaven? Have they or have they not been saved? John’s purpose is to enable them to determine this vital question. So, who are these people? (1) The persons whom he addresses are “those that believe.” (2) He states the objective he has in addressing them, “that they may know they have eternal life.” (3) He tells them how they may know it, by referring them to “the things which he had written,” and (4) He states one great goal that would be reached by their knowing their gracious state, “that you may believe in the name [Yeshua, meaning “Savior”] of God’s Son.” At the outset, it is essential to understand that such persons are distinctly contemplated. And the slightest reflection will show the grounds for such an assumption.[13]

A man who appreciates Jesus’ embodiment of the divine transforming emotion on how we live in this world, Robert Law (1860-1919) says we now turn to the second branch of the subject, Assurance in Prayer. It does not emerge in the first cycle of the Epistle but in the second and third and is dealt with in closely parallel and mutually explanatory passages.[14] In both places, assurance of our family relationship with God has as its immediate result confidence toward Him in prayer. This assurance finds expression in two contexts: “we are the truth[15] and “we have eternal life.”[16] They rely on Loving others “in deed and truth[17] and belief “in the name [Yeshua, meaning “Savior”] of God’s Son.”[18] However, they both produce the same effect – love for God.[19]

As a dispensationalist, Arno C. Gaebelein (1861-1945) feels verses nine to thirteen need no detailed annotations. They are so plain and simple that only one willfully blind can misunderstand them. God’s witness concerns His Son. Believers in God’s Son have the witness in themselves, that is, by His indwelling Spirit and by the salvation, the new nature, and the eternal life they possess. Anyone who does not believe God’s witness concerning His Son labels Him a liar. Think of it, creatures of the dust make God, who cannot lie, a liar! It is a scandalous sin of world religions. Our record is that God has given us eternal life, that this life is in His Son, and that we have eternal life by having His Son in us. If we don’t have the Son, we have no life. Verse thirteen concludes the argument and teaching of the Epistle concerning eternal life.[20]

With characteristic fundamental thinking, Alan England Brooke (1863-1939) finds the Apostle John hoping that their belief in Jesus as God’s Son and the witness of the Spirit will give them the possession of eternal life. We realize such confidence in prayer, in knowing by experience that He hears our prayer whenever we ask anything of God according to His will. And if we are thus conscious that God has heard, we already possess, in anticipation, the thing we asked for. Therefore, the Almighty Sovereign has said, “Let it be so,”[21] there is no further doubt about the matter, even though actual possession is delayed for long years.[22]

With an eye for detail, David Smith (1866-1932) firmly believes that the purpose for which the Apostle John wrote his Gospel was that we might believe in the Incarnation and so have Eternal Life;[23] the purpose of the Epistle is not merely that we may have Eternal Life by believing but that we may know that we have it. The Gospel exhibits God’s Son; the Epistle commends Him. It is a supplement to the Gospel, a personal application and appeal, “I wrote,” looking back on the accomplished risk. So, he uses the word “know,” not “get to know.” The Epistle is finished, and the Apostle now speaks his closing words in verse thirteen. Everyone born of God does not keep sinning but continues to obey Him, so the Evil One cannot rip them out of His hand. And we know that God’s Son has come and given us understanding, we may get to know the True One, and we are in union with His Son, Jesus the Anointed One. He is the True God, and Life Eternal. Therefore, little children, guard yourselves from idolatry.”[24]

Charles S. Macfarland (1866-1956) has an interesting take on eternity. He says that at Calvary, Jesus’ earthly race ended. And so, with us. We enter this life, discover in ourselves a striving soul of goodness, fight out our warfare, bear our many sorrows, and often when the deepest joys of life have just begun, the dark clouds gather, the shades of evening fall, the sun goes down, our eyes become so dim we cannot see the forms we love, nor can any longer hear the tender voices of affection. The long night comes for us all too soon. What seems the beginning is the end, the sunrise, and the twilight, but one brief day and life goes out into an unseen and unknown world.[25] With our lifespan on earth being so short, how can we comprehend eternity with no end? So, as the Apostle Peter reminds us, “We must not forget this one thing: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years are like a day.”[26]

As a broadminded biblical theorist, Paul F. Kretzmann (1883-1965) is under the impression that the Apostle John’s letter is finished and now speaks his closing words, summarizing the principal points that he made in the body of the epistle: John tells them that he wrote these things for them to know they have eternal life since they believed in the name [Yeshua, meaning “Savior”] of God’s Son. The apostle is referring to everything that he wrote in this letter. His entire discussion aimed to confirm the readers who have centered their faith in Jesus the Anointed One, God’s Son, as their Savior, knowing that they were the possessors of eternal life.

Faith has nothing in common with doubt and uncertainty; it is not a matter of personal opinion and feeling. On the contrary, secured knowledge based upon the Word of the Gospel is glorious. We know we have eternal life through faith because the Scripture tells us so.[27]

Known best for promoting “realized eschatology,”[28] Charles H Dodd (1884-1973) agrees that the epistle is concluded at this point, and John appears to have intended to end with a brief summary of his purpose, recalling as it does the words with which John’s Gospel was apparently at first intended to close.[29] As a literary whole, the epistle must be considered completed here. The rest is John’s postscript.[30]

Rudolph Bultmann (1884-1976) takes what the Apostle John says in verse thirteen as a reference back to the Epistle’s beginning, and, as in chapter one, verse four, and elsewhere, it employs the Greek conjunction hina (“that”). The verb’s subject (“I write”) is an authoritative representative of John’s apostolic position.[31] His readers would undoubtedly know, based on “You have received the Holy Spirit, and He lives within you, so you don’t need anyone to teach you what is true. The Spirit teaches you everything you need to know, and what He teaches is true – it is not a lie. So just as He has taught you, remain in fellowship with the Anointed One.”[32] The object of faith is in the name [Yeshua, meaning “Savior”] of God’s Son[33] and heeding John’s warning against heretical doctrines that he attacks throughout the epistle.[34]

[1] John 20:31

[2] 1 John 5:13

[3] Sinclair, William M., New Testament Commentary for English Readers, Charles J. Ellicott (Ed.), op. cit., Vol. 3, p. 493

[4] John 20:31

[5] Gore, Charles: The Epistles of St. John, op. cit., pp. 201-203

[6] Psalm 1:2

[7] Torrey, R. A., The Fundamentals – A testimony to the Truth, Vol. 4, op. cit., p. 230

[8] Colossians 3:3

[9] Ibid. 3:4

[10] Cocke, Alonzo R: Studies in the Epistles of John; or, The Manifested Life, op. cit., pp. 130-132

[11] Romans 1:16; 2 Timothy 3:15; cf. 1 Corinthians 1:30

[12] 2 Corinthians 2:16

[13] Morgan, James B., An Exposition of the First Epistle of John, op. cit., Lecture XLVIII, pp. 467-468

[14] See 1 John 3:21-22, 5:14-15

[15] Ibid. 3:19

[16] Ibid. 5:13

[17] Ibid. 3:18

[18] Ibid. 5:13

[19] Law, Robert: The Tests of Life: A Study of the First Epistle of St. John, op. cit., p. 298

[20] Gaebelein, Arno C., The Annotated Bible, op. cit., p. 159

[21] Matthew 3:15

[22] Brooke, Alan E., Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Johannine Epistles, op. cit., pp. 141-143

[23] John 20:31

[24] Smith, David: The Expositor’s Greek Testament, 1 John, op. cit., p. 197

[25] Macfarland, Charles S: The Spirit Christlike, James Clarke & Co., London, 1904, pp. 141-142

[26] 2 Peter 3:8

[27] Kretzmann, Paul F., Popular Commentary on 1,2,3 John, op. cit., p. 587

[28]Realized Eschatology” holds that the eschatological passages in the New Testament do not refer to the future, but instead refer to the ministry of Jesus and His legacy.

[29] John 20:31

[30] Dodd, Charles H., The Moffatt New Testament Commentary, The Johannine Epistles, op. cit., p. 133

[31] See 1 John 2:14, 21

[32] Ibid. 2:27

[33] Ibid. 3:23

[34] Bultmann, Rudolph: Hermeneia, The Johannine Epistles, op. cit. pp. 83-84

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By Dr. Robert R. Seyda



5:13 I write this letter to you who believe in God’s Son. I write so that you will know that you have eternal life now.

In one of his sermons, Spurgeon said it is worthwhile to note that all the epistles are not letters to everybody but to those called to be saints. It should strike some of us with awe when we open the Bible and think how much is not said directly to us. You may read it, and “God’s Holy Spirit may graciously bless you,”[1] but to us, it remains unspoken. You are reading another man’s letter: thank God you are permitted to read it[2] and long to be numbered with those for whom it was written.

Thank God much more if the Holy Spirit should use any part of His Word to lead us to salvation. The fact that the Holy Spirit speaks to the churches and believers in the Anointed One should make us bow and cry to God to put us among His children, that this book may become our Book from beginning to end, that we may read its precious promises made to us. If this solemn thought has not yet impacted some of you, at least let it impress you.[3]

Noting the Apostle John’s doctrinal implications, John James Lias (1834-1923 says the words in verse thirteen should conclude the present section, not commence that which follows. They refer to the whole of what John wrote earlier, explaining the goal of his Epistle. That object was that the fact of the possession of eternal life by believers in the Anointed One should be thoroughly understood and grasped by those to whom he was writing.

Thus, verse thirteen appears to be a parenthetical statement between verses twelve and fourteen. Nevertheless, the sense of the passage is the same, whichever reading is preferred, as follows: “I have written these things to you who believe in the Name [Yeshua, meaning “Savior”] of God’s Son, so that you may fully understand the full value of what you receive in Him. You receive the gift of imperishable life.” “Eternal” is emphatic. Thus, the truth that the Apostle John wishes to emphasize is that belief in the Anointed One introduces and places them in contact with the Divine Nature in its immovability and unchangeableness.

So, we see that John writes to those who believe in God’s Son. But since believing is only one part of something not fully understood, there is no irrationality in endeavoring to lead those who have already accepted their bond with the Anointed One to a higher degree of comprehension of what is involved in the Christian faith although it may be a flawed concept of the true nature of the Anointed One’s work. We must not leave this passage without comparing it with what John said in his Gospel.[4] The Epistle marks a more advanced stage of spiritual knowledge.

It is clear, therefore, that the Apostle John intended the account of Jesus’ human life and sayings to lead people to believe and live in union with Him. He wrote this epistle to those who have already believed but want to learn what their belief involves. They need to know that they have eternal life in the Anointed One, lest their belief should be an open acknowledgment of specific facts or agreement with certain doctrines instead of a virtual inward union with the source of spiritual life. Comparing these two passages sheds light on the mutual relations between the Gospel and Epistle. It would seem to demonstrate the priority of the Gospel.[5]

Therefore, John wrote his Gospel so people may believe and have eternal life. So, likewise, his Epistle was composed so people may know they have it. Thus, John’s letter applies the principles contained in the Gospel. Without faith in the Anointed One, we cannot possess His life. Without knowing that we have that life, we cannot live it. The spiritual life, therefore, has its outward and its inward side.[6]

With the ability of a linguist’s concentration on nuances, Greek word scholar Marvin Richardson Vincent (1834-1921) notes that the Apostle John speaks as looking back over his Epistle and recalling his aim when he wrote it.[7] He wants them to know, not perceive, that they have eternal life with settled and absolute knowledge. Vincent points out that the Greek reads: “you may know that [the] life you have [is] eternal.” The adjective “eternal” is added as an afterthought. Another Greek scholar, Brooke Foss Westcott (1825-1901), translates it: “that you have life ‒ yes, eternal life.”[8] [9]

Famous evangelist and publisher Dwight L. Moody (1837-1899) begins by saying that the Apostle John explains to us in his Gospel what the Anointed One did for us on earth as our Savior. His Epistle tells us what He is doing for us in heaven as our Advocate. There are only two chapters where the word “believe” does not occur in his Gospel.[10] With these two exceptions, every chapter in John is “Believe! BELIEVE!! BELIEVE!!!” There are only five short chapters in this first Epistle, and the word “know” occurs over forty times. It is “Know! KNOW!! KNOW!!!” The Key to it is KNOW! Throughout this Epistle, the refrain rings “that we might know we have eternal life.”

Moody recalls going twelve hundred miles down the Mississippi River during springtime. Every evening, just as the sun went down, you could see men, and sometimes women, riding on mules, horses, or by foot up to the banks of the river on either side to light the Government’s lower lights. All down that mighty river, these flickering lanterns guided the pilots in their dangerous navigation through the darkness. So now, God has given us lower lights to tell us that we need to look and follow since we are His children.[11] Like the beautiful old hymn goes:

Brightly beams our Father’s mercy,

From His lighthouse evermore,

But to us He gives the keeping

Of the lights along the shore.


Let the lower lights be burning!

Send a gleam across the waves

Some poor struggling, fainting seaman

You may rescue, you may save.[12]

As a secular and sacred Law enforcer, Sir Robert Anderson (1841-1918) finds the Apostle John following a theme where he spoke only of faith and the Spirit’s work. So, Anderson asks, What about repentance? Are faith and the Spirit’s work enough? Or is repentance not necessary if souls are to be saved? We must boldly denounce such a question at once. Not so much on ignorance as on a deep-seated and systematic error. It is like the interfering guide who forces himself upon travelers only to mislead them. Faith and repentance are not successive stages on the road to everlasting life; they are not independent guides to direct the pilgrim’s path; they are not separate acts to be accomplished by the sinner as a condition of their salvation. But, in different phases, they represent the same Godward attitude of the soul, which the truth of God, believed, produces. Therefore, there can be no salvation without repentance, any more than without faith. Gospel repentance is in Jesus’ discourse with Nicodemus[13] and the gracious testimony to the woman at the well.[14] Any repentance that limits those sacred words is wholly against the truth.[15]

With his Spirit-directed calculating mind, Alfred Plummer (1841-1926) says that the Apostle John’s use of “these things” will cover the whole Epistle. Such is probably the meaning in chapter one, verse four, where he states the purpose of his Epistle in words explained by what John says here in verse thirteen. There is nothing there or here to limit “these things” to what immediately precedes.[16] At the opening of the Epistle, John said, “These things we write that our joy may be fulfilled.[17] The context there shows what constitutes this joy. It is the consciousness of fellowship with God, His Son, and His saints. In other words, it is the conscious possession of eternal life.[18]

Thus, the introduction and conclusion of John’s Epistle mutually explain each another. This verse should also be compared with its parallel in John’s Gospel,[19] a passage that has probably influenced some of the various readings here. We see John’s Gospel and Epistle’s similar, yet not for similar purposes. He writes in his Gospel, “that you may have [eternal] life,[20] and in his Epistle, he pens, “that you may know that you have [eternal] life.”[21] The one leads to obtaining the benefit; the other to know that the blessing has been received. One is to produce faith; the other is to clarify faith’s fruits.[22]

With regal etiquette, Ernest von Dryander (1843-1922) declares that verse thirteen is the concluding section of John’s epistle. “These things” – all that precedes – “I have written to you that believe in the name [Yeshua, meaning “Savior”] of God’s Son.” Thus John commences, to sum up in three great thoughts the whole object of his writing: Firstly, that by faith in God’s Son, they may be confident of the gift of eternal life and joyful in the knowledge of answered prayers; Secondly, that they should continue in brotherly love, and by their intercessions restoring their erring brother or sister; and thirdly, that they should guard themselves against the seductive power of worldly living and its idols. Finally, the Apostle sees proof of the certainty of eternal life given to us in the Anointed One, Jesus, our blessed confidence that God will hear our prayers if we ask anything “according to His will.”[23]

Frederick Brotherton Meyer (1847-1929) says that a rope is in our hand, pulling us onward, but its destiny lays hidden from the past and the future. We also know that God hears us when we comply with the conditions of true prayer. We know, moreover, that we can become the medium through which the life of God passes to others. Thus, the humblest child may have power with God and mankind. Finally, the Only Begotten keeps His begotten brothers and sisters. Evil can no more touch them than disease could reach the bush in the wilderness bathed in the celestial fire. Who would go back to the world? Enumerate and press to heart these four items of positive knowledge but beware lest what is legitimate and natural may become an idol. Love, Knowledge, Abiding, and Conquering are the keynotes of this inspiring letter.[24]

A prolific writer on the Epistles, George Gillanders Findlay (1849-1919), says that verse thirteen appears to be dictating John’s last words in this epistle. He glances throughout the letter and states its purpose in the past tense at the end, as stated in the present tense at the beginning.[25] The retrospective “I have written” occurred three times before,[26] where the Apostle reflected on the preceding context. Now his survey covers the whole writing. He set out to deliver the message of “the eternal life that was manifested” in Jesus the Anointed One unfolds the nature of that life, as it brings those receiving it into fellowship with God, molds the spirit and character of people, and meets the reaction against it of worldliness within the heart and the Church. John knows that he speaks to his spiritual children’s experiences. He’s convinced they recognize in what he wrote the things they heard from the beginning; he is telling no new story, indoctrinating no new principles, but making more apparent to them what they already believe and arming them to repel the errors that perplex their understanding and tend to pervert their conscience and cloud the serenity of their faith.

Thus, this letter is written to those “who believe in the name [Yeshua, meaning “Savior”] of God’s Son to know that eternal lifeis theirs” so that their faith, by its full capture of the truth concerning the Anointed One, brings them perfect assurance, a settled consciousness of their glorious possession in Him. The object of this Epistle concurs with that of the Gospel of John, expressed at the end of the twentieth chapter, where it concluded in the original draft: “These things are written, that you may believe that Jesus is the Anointed One, God’s Son, and that, believing, you may have [eternal] life in His name.” However, the aim of the Gospel is more comprehensive, designed both to convince unbelievers and to confirm and enrich the faith of believers.[27]

[1] Cf. Numbers 6:24

[2] Cf. Revelation 1:3

[3] Spurgeon, Charles H., The Spurgeon Sermon Collection, The Blessing of Full Assurance, Sermon No. 2023, delivered on Sunday, May 13, 1888, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington, p. 703

[4] John 20:31

[5] Lias, John James: The First Epistle of St. John with Exposition, op. cit., pp. 394-397

[6] Ibid. The First Epistle of St. John with Homiletical Treatment, op. cit., pp. 394-397

[7] See 1 John 2:13

[8] See John 2:23; 1:12

[9] Vincent, Marvin R: Word Studies in the New Testament, op. cit. p. 369

[10] John 2, 18

[11] Moody, Dwight L., Way to God, op. cit., Ch. 8, Assurance of Salvation, p. 82

[12] Let the Lower Lights Be Burning by Philip P. Bliss, published, 1871

[13] Ibid. 3:1-21

[14] Ibid. 4:4-26

[15] Anderson, Sir Robert: The Gospel and its Ministry, op. cit., p. 39

[16] See 1 John 2:21, 26

[17] Ibid. 1:4

[18] John 17:3

[19] Ibid. 20:31

[20] Ibid. 3:15

[21] 1 John 5:13

[22] Plummer, Alfred: The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges, First Epistle of St. John, op. cit., p. 155

[23] Dryander, Ernst von: A Commentary on the First Epistle of St. John in the Form of Addresses, op. cit., p. 211

[24] Meyer, Frederick B., Through the Bible Day by Day Devotional Commentary, Vol. VII, op. cit., pp. 160-161

[25] 1 John 1:4

[26] Ibid. 2:14; 26; 5:13

[27] Findlay, George G., Fellowship in the Life Eternal: An Exposition of the Epistles of St. John, op. cit., p. 394

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By Dr. Robert R. Seyda


CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson LXXXVII) 03/13/23

5:13 I write this letter to you who believe in God’s Son. I write so that you will know that you have eternal life now.

King Solomon said, “God gratifies the desires of the diligent,” and “The fearful heart will know and understand, and the stammering tongue will be fluent and clear.”[1] So the Apostle Paul and others preached, “For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus the Anointed One, not to pour out His anger on us. The Anointed One died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when He returns, we can live with Him forever.” Therefore, those taught by God’s Word have great peace and, like the Ethiopian Eunuch,[2] go on their way rejoicing like the Philippian jailer,[3] as do all those who look for the blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus the Anointed One.[4] Therefore, do not fear bad news[5] while eagerly awaiting by faith the righteousness for which we hope.[6]

Such perseverance fulfills John’s desire, so he cries, “Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly,”[7] for they know that until then, they are in enemy territory, subject to temptation, hardships, and persecution. Still, even at their future departure, they will see Him. Nevertheless, you love Him even though you have never seen Him. Although you do not see Him now, you trust Him, rejoicing with excited, inexpressible joy.[8] [9]

In a letter written to a man named George Ticknor dated Tuesday, November 25, 1817,[10] Thomas Jefferson writes concerning the establishment of a general system of education in his native state and hopes that “if the system should be adopted at all by our legislature who meet within a week from this time, my hopes, however, are kept in check by the ordinary character of our state legislatures, the members of which do not generally possess information enough to percieve [sic] the important truths, that knolege [sic][11] is power, that knolege [sic] is safety, and that knoledge [sic] is happiness.” Some might dismiss Jefferson’s conclusion. Still, ample evidence exists to examine it further. The Apostle John certainly thought knowledge was essential. He was extremely concerned that his “little children” get to know several things to be true because they now believe in Jesus as the Anointed One, God’s Son.

With an inquiring spiritual mind, Johannes H. A. Ebrard (1819-1893) reports that some scholars maintain that this verse is against the argument that there is no formal beginning of a final section of the Apostle John’s epistle but that the chain of thought goes on continuously. This, however, does not follow from the fact that in verse thirteen, the idea of “eternal life” is resumed. On the contrary, this idea is so profound, complete, and comprehensive as to justify us in thinking that the John, in verses four through twenty-four, had been gradually introducing it in all its fulness, to declare in his final section that this was the end of all his writing, to show them that we have eternal life through faith in God’s Son. This verse represents the end John lays down as the final and consummate goal of his Gospel.[12]

For Ebrard, nothing speaks more forcefully against the assumption that verse thirteen is the commencement of a final section in the ordinary sense is that the fundamental idea of “the world-overcoming power of faith” continues to stamp its emphasis upon the whole strain of the thought. On the other hand, however, there is a sense in which verses thirteen to twenty-one form a concluding section. Not that the development of the idea ends in verse twelve, but the growth of thought has now attained its all-comprehending crown or climax. It is the last strain of the previous section while at the same time concluding John’s whole message.[13]

After contemplating John’s train of thought, William Kelly (1822-1888) says, let us now consider the Apostle’s concluding remarks. “The things I just wrote to you were designed so that you may be certain of your eternal life by believing in the name [Yeshua, meaning “Savior”] of God’s Son.” This belief was only possible because grace found us drowning in sin and gave us the best God could bestow by faith in the Lord Jesus, His Son. And what is more fitting than eternal life, a divine nature that loves God all that is good and holy; that hates sin and loves righteousness according to the perfect law of liberty, obeying God, not as a Jew under restraint but as our Lord did by making us part of His family? And how careless are those who abandon their old convictions for novel and wild ideas who say not only that you cannot know that you have eternal life but that it cannot be now! Life eternal is the excellent ground indispensable for what the Apostle Paul calls “doing good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”[14]

So, far from leaving the doubters or disbelievers any excuse, John says that all should remain established in the Anointed One against any who might mislead them. In the beginning, he showed the supreme excellence and usefulness of that life in the Anointed One as the object of faith and love for souls; now, in the last chapter, he insists on the believer’s conscious possession. Is not this as it should be? It is due to God’s Son; it is the delight of the Father, and it enhances the benefit even more to the believer. How immense the loss, how costly the mistake of all who drink the poison of misguided teachers and who make light of the true Gospel to try to excuse their leaving the straight and narrow way![15] [16]

Familiar with John’s writing style, William B. Pope (1822-1903) sees the Apostle John returning to his grand design, fulfilling the joy of those who believe. That’s why he said, “These things I have written to you that you may know you have eternal life because you believed in the name [Yeshua, meaning “Savior”] of God’s Son.” His purpose was not to try and establish their assurance and challenge their faith to reach higher; assurance is the final point and all the blessedness that assurance brings. “That you may know:” this is one of the watchwords introduced in such a way as to show that, while it is the gift of God’s Spirit, it is the duty and privilege of every Christian to live and rejoice in it.[17]

Holiness doctrine expertise Daniel Steele (1824-1914) points out that John wrote his Gospel “that you may have life,[18] but this Epistle was written “that you may know that you have eternal life.” The one leads to obtaining the benefits of a reborn spiritual life. The other is to the joy of knowing that it is not only acquired but also eternal. Thus, from the Gospel to the Epistle, there is progress. True faith always leads to knowledge.[19] [20]

After sufficient examination of the Greek text, Brooke Wescott (1825-1901) points out that in reviewing the Apostle John’s epistle, John indicates the fulfillment of his purpose.[21] The consciousness of eternal life brings divine fellowship and complete joy.[22] The Apostle looks back upon his work and records his aim, “that you may know with a knowledge final and certain.” Eternal life may be present and yet not realized in its inherent power. Furthermore, the source of the spiritual fruit may not yet be identified or delayed. But there is a knowledge of life independent of external signs, and this John seeks to quicken. The phrase “life eternal” is not found elsewhere in this epistle:[23] the label comes as an afterthought: “that you have life[24] – yes, eternal life” to you who believe.[25]

Prolific commentary writer, Benjamin Charles Caffin (1826-1894), notes that the Apostle John writes about believers knowing they have eternal life, who has eternal life and who doesn’t. Such assertions may exist for everyone to see and read repeatedly yet be ignored by those who read them. It is not enough to know about eternal life and the imprint of its existence. It is all-important for the individual to possess “the life” and indicate it by its appropriate signs. And it is also important ‒ though it cannot be said to be equally so ‒ that if a person has this life, they should know that they have it. Hence, the apostle declares that the object of his writing is that those who believe in the Name [Yeshua, meaning “Savior”] of God’s Son should clearly and decisively know that they have life and that their life is eternal.[26]

As a commentator and translator of many German religious works, Jacob Isidor Mombert (1829-1913) also notices that verse thirteen is quite similar to the closing verse of the Apostle John’s Gospel.[27] The purpose of the writing “that you might know you have eternal life” corresponds with  “Joy” at the beginning of the Epistle,[28] which was to be filled by the testimony of the eye and ear-witnesses of the “reason of life;” hence the phrase “these things I wrote” here in verse thirteen answers to “these we write” in chapter one, verse four, the certainty of the possession of eternal life being the ground and strength of the joy, which John has, and to which he alludes “to you that believe on the name [Yeshua, meaning “Savior”] of God’s Son.” Primarily they refer back to chapter three, verse twenty-three, but find their last resting place having fellowship with the Father and His Son, Jesus the Anointed One.[29] [30]

Like a spiritual farmer planting the seed of God’s Word, Henry A. Sawtelle (1832-1913) mentions that “these things” are in the preceding section, relating to the illuminating life and divine Sonship of the Anointed One, which are wonderfully adapted to deepen the faith and increase the confidence of Christians. Imagine it as a pause, or interruption, between the preceding section and the present one. To his Christian circle, John wrote “these things” to those who believe in the name [Yeshua, meaning “Savior”] of God’s Son, to know (the certainty of the fact) that they have (as a present abiding possession) eternal life. The things the Apostle John wrote concerning this life, and its testimony through the water, the blood, and the Spirit, were calculated to deepen and certify this knowledge because Christians are privileged to “know” that they have eternal life – converted and saved.

For many, their consciousness is as assured as the actual physical possession of eternal life. This epistle attaches much importance to such knowledge. Verse twelve indicates a way to this full assurance. We gain spiritual life by believing in the Anointed One, but we know that we are in this life by enlarging our view of the Anointed One as the great and only fountain of our spiritual life. To the faithful Christian, the fuller picture of the doctrine of life is a means of knowing that they have “the life.” By defining “to you” in the early part of the verse, John shows that believers are the persons whose privilege he describes. As awkward as this delay in the defining clause may seem, the critical text compels its approval.[31] [32]

Called the “Prince of Preachers,” Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892) is sure that while years are short for the happy and healthy, thirty-eight years of disease must have dragged a feeble, helpless man through agony.[33] He knew that healing was coming when Jesus healed him by a word while he lay at Jerusalem’s Bethesda pool. In like manner, a sinner who has for weeks and months been paralyzed with despair, and sighed for salvation, is very conscious of the change when the Lord Jesus speaks the Word of Power and gives joy and peace in believing. The evil removed is too great to be removed without our discerning it; the life instilled is too remarkable to be possessed and remain inoperative, and the change wrought is too marvelous not to be perceived. Yet the poor man was ignorant of the author of his cure; he didn’t know the sacredness of His person, the offices He sustained ‒ the errand which brought Him among mankind. So much ignorance of Jesus may remain in hearts that feel His blood’s redeeming power; nevertheless, they are born again.

Therefore, we must not quickly condemn people for lack of knowledge but believe that salvation is near when we see soul-saving faith at work. The Holy Spirit makes people repentant long before He makes them holy, and those who believe what they know will soon understand more clearly what they think. Ignorance is an evil, for the Pharisees tantalized this poor man who could not cope with them. It is good to be able to answer deniers, but we cannot do so if we don’t fully know the Lord Jesus with understanding. However, the cure of his ignorance soon followed the treatment of his infirmity, for the Lord visited him in the temple. After that gracious manifestation, people spotted him testifying that “Jesus made him whole.”[34][35]

[1] Proverbs 13:4b; Isaiah 32:4 (NIV)

[2] Acts of the Apostles 8:39b

[3] Ibid. 16:34

[4] Titus 2:13

[5] Psalm 112:7

[6] Galatians 5:5

[7] Revelation 22:20

[8] 1 Peter 1:8

[9] Stock, John: An Exposition of the First Epistle General of St. John, op. cit., pp. 442, 443-444

[10] From Poplar Forest near Lynchburg, Virginia, Tuesday, November 25, 1817

[11] The Latin adverb “sic” (meaning “so, thus, in this manner”) is used in brackets after a copied or quoted word that appears odd or erroneous to show that the word is quoted exactly as it stands in the original, 

[12] John 20:31

[13] Ebrard, Johannes H. A., Biblical Commentary on the Epistles of St. John, op. cit., pp. 334-335

[14] Ephesians 2:10

[15] Matthew 7:14

[16] Kelly, William: An Exposition of the Epistles of John the Apostle, op. cit., p. 383

[17] Pope, William B., The International Illustrated Commentary on the N.T., Vol. IV, op. cit., p. 319

[18] John 20:31

[19] Ephesians 4:13

[20] Steele, Daniel: Half-Hours with St. John’s Epistles, op. cit., p. 141

[21] See 1 John 1:3-4

[22] Cf. John 20:30

[23] Cf. Matthew 25:46; John 4:36; 12:25; 17:3

[24] John 10:10

[25] Westcott, Brooke F., The Epistles of St. John: Greek Text with Notes, op. cit., pp. 188-189

[26] Caffin, Benjamin Charles, The Pulpit Commentary, op. cit., 1 John 5:13, p. 150

[27] John 20:31

[28] 1 John 1:4

[29] Ibid. 1:3

[30] Mombert, Jacob Isidor: Lange’s Commentary on the New Testament, op. cit., Vol. IX, pp. 169-170

[31] John 20:31

[32] Sawtelle, Henry A., Commentary on the Epistles of John, op. cit., p. 59

[33] John 5:1-15

[34] Cf. Micah 6:8

[35] Spurgeon, Charles H., Morning and Evening Daily Readings, May 8:00 AM, p. 259

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By Dr. Robert R. Seyda


CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson LXXXV) 03/10/23

5:13 I write this letter to you who believe in the Son of God. I write so that you will know that you have eternal life now.

Called a great and rare spiritual thinker, Frederick Denison Maurice (1807-1873) writes that we’ve reached the conclusion of John’s epistle. The words, “These things have I written,” indicate that the Apostle John is about to explain its general purpose, if not a summary of its contents. Thus, much is evident in the first reading. His object was not to make proselytes of those outside the Christian Church. Instead, he addressed himself as “those who believed on the name of the Son of God,” baptized in that Name, publicly confessed that Name, the Name that opened them to the charge of blasphemy from Jewish rulers and scribes; it was the Name when associated with the person of Jesus the Crucified, which excited the contempt or hostility of the worshippers of the Greek idols. All acts of united worship among the disciples, all their sufferings, recalled this Name.

But if they did not need to be convinced of its worth or power, what good was an Apostolical Epistle? John answers: “That you may know that you have eternal life and believe on the name of the Son of God.” You will wonder at the last clause. It sounds like he proposed converting them to a faith they already possessed. Consider the first clause before determining that it is meaningless. It is not commonplace: “You have eternal life.” Not “you may have it; sometime later, this unspeakable blessing may be bestowed on you, or on such of you as deserve it.” But, “it is yours now. The gift has been sent to you.” Many Christians of John’s era and ours today are startled by the complexity rather than the simplicity of this assertion because it differs so much from their formal faith.[1]

Without overlooking crucial points, Johann Eduard Huther (1807-1880) notes that many commentators conclude this verse as a concluding section, incorrectly referring “these” to the whole Epistle. That this verse belongs to the segment starting at verse twenty-three in chapter three is shown by the idea of “life eternal,” which refers to what immediately precedes, and also by the concept of “believing in the name of the Son,” refers back verse twenty-three in chapter three. Besides, we must observe that verses fourteen and fifteen correspond to the thought with which the preceding section ended.[2]  Accordingly, “these” is not referred to the whole Epistle but to verses six to twelve, which reaches its climax in the thought, “The one who has the Son has life.”[3]

The words “that you may know that you have eternal life” reveal John’s goal in the preceding narrative. The certainty of eternal life is more necessary to the Christian’s mind since, like a hidden treasure, it is sometimes hidden from them as they struggle with Christian living. The possession of this life is conditioned by faith. John brings this out through an additional clause, which runs differently in various ancient manuscripts, but expresses the same thought. According to the probable reading, it connects with “I have written this to you . . . that you may know you have eternal life.”[4]

With an inquiring mind, Daniel D. Whedon (1808-1885) suggested that instead of “that you may know” in verse thirteen, it could read, “To awaken your belief and show you how to believe may solidify into knowing.” After all, eternal life is already deposited within you, to be unfolded and perpetuated in the infinite future. Thus, to believe and know becomes a permanent and realizing belief. Therefore, intuitive assurance is a ground to believe in the reality of the known thing.[5]

In line with Apostle John’s conclusion, Henry Alford (1810-1871) denotes that verse thirteen seems like an anticipatory close of the Epistle:[6] and its terms appear to correspond to those used in chapter one, verse four. This view is far more probable than that it should refer only to what has occurred since verse six.[7] It is still less likely that the concluding portion of the Epistle begins with this verse, as Bengel scholars say. Alford says that the text is found only in specific versions and is considered the “fons lectionum[8] for the argument.[9]

As a faithful and zealous scholar, William Graham (1810-1883) states that the Church is the depository and guardian of the Christian faith, and to her, all the epistles are directed. For her, the Gospels were written to cheer her on her heavenly journey and brighten her path; the promises are suspended over her like stars in the night. Therefore, this epistle is written for believers and addressed to believers. Such is the Apostle Paul’s custom in all his epistles.

The Apostle James writes to the twelve tribes scattered abroad, and the Apostle Peter to “the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.” Thus, Paul, John, Peter, and James agree by writing their epistles for the churches and sending them to the churches. From this, we draw the following conclusions, notes Graham: that it is the duty and privilege of those who receive these Apostle’s letters to read and understand them for the Gospels, the Epistles, and, indeed, the entire Word of God, are the property of the whole redeemed church of God, which no one can deprive her of without offending God.[10]

With the zeal of a scriptural text examiner, William E. Jelf (1811-1875) feels that what the Apostle John is writing in verse thirteen may refer to the contents of the whole Epistle or what immediately precedes. The object is the same, and perhaps, on the whole, occupying the place it does, it is better to take it as being spoken of the whole Epistle. The object of John was to show them the fundamental nature of the Gospel, as giving everlasting life, or, what is better, giving them the grounds of assurance and faith. Either to provide them with the knowledge of, impress upon them that they have eternal life, call to their minds the privileges within their reach, or, more definitely, assure them that the gift is theirs.

If the words “that you may believe on the name of the Son of God” are to be retained in the text, then it would seem as if the object could not be to give them that which they possessed already, and this is more likely to be the accurate interpretation if, instead of “in order to believe.” we are to read “to believe,” since some suppose that this is an interpolation. Why should John try to give them that which they already have?

It would be logical to suggest that John impresses on them the privilege of everlasting life, which is within their reach due to the knowledge of those principles, unless we look at the faith spoken of as the object of the Epistle as a higher degree of confidence following on assurance. But there is nothing in the phrase or the context to make such an interpretation sufficiently necessary to be reasonable. John often referred to the grounds of our understanding that we know God. It would seem as if this would be stated here as one of the particular objects in writing, whether we take it to refer to the whole Epistle or the part immediately preceding it. But, if the other reading is actual, deriving a logical and consistent meaning is complex. John has written to believers that they may have the assurance of life and believe more firmly in the Son of God.[11]

Cyrus Augustus Bartol (1813-1900), a pastor, author, and hymnist, clarifies that eternal life is not limited in the Scriptures to God as an incommunicable attribute or essence, nor to the angels within the walls of heaven as something conveyed and shared with humanity. Instead, eternal life is a life of spiritual nature, feeling and affection, and moral and religious principles. Indeed, in the Final Covenant, many phrases might be translated as either eternal or spiritual life; for example, “no murderer has eternal life,”[12] that is, has no spiritual, holy, religious, or divine life, “abiding in them.” Moreover, eternal life is not simply endless because we never speak of the devil and his angels as having eternal life. However, our theology suggests they have a life that existed contemporaneously with that of Divinity and Angels. Therefore, the destiny of the wicked does not include enjoying eternal life, although they have the same unbounded prospect of existence as the righteous.

Theirs is a state of eternal or spiritual death. Eternal life in God is the life of absolute goodness, purity, righteousness, and truth. Eternal life in man is the life of justice and love, of fidelity in all his relations. It is a right, holy, and becoming life. When we rise above selfish and trifling cares into noble thought and generous feeling, our life, so far from having the character of an existence that endures or is to endure for a long succession of time, seems no longer concerned with time at all, but to have risen above it. Days and weeks are no longer the terms of our existence. Nevertheless, thoughts, emotions, dictates of conscience, impulses of kindness, and aspirations of worship make eternal life what it is. It’s because we feel there is something fixed and unchangeable in them, which neither time can alter, age wrinkle, the revolutions of the world waste, nor the grave bury, but the eternity of God alone embrace and preserve.

In that life, God’s perfect Spirit is involved as the quality of permanence. The pure, loving, righteous, and devoted heart feels its imperishableness. Believers secretly whispered it as great assurance. The Spirit bears witness with it to its incorruptible nature.[13] Even here, rising above the earth, it will vindicate its superiority to all material as it drops the flesh and takes the celestial body. But the heavenly and indissoluble life begins in this world. Jesus the Anointed One had it here. Who thinks of Him as more immortal after His resurrection and ascension than before?

Jesus the Anointed One, the only perfect possessor on earth, is accordingly the great and incomparable communicator of this eternal life. The theme is perhaps too great for the human mind to comprehend, nor is it even by the light of inspiration so cleared up that we can hope for an entire agreement respecting it among equally wise and good believers. By all means, we should, by motives and sanctions, hopes and fears of the Gospel, try to awaken the moral and spiritual nature in our and others’ hearts than that we should exercise the fancy of predicting the fortunes to arise in the coming ages.[14]

After checking the text closely, Richard Tuck (1817-1868) recalls the explanation the Apostle John gives of his purpose in writing his Gospel. “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Anointed One, the Son of God and that by believing you may have life in His name.”[15]Life” is John’s great word, and by it, he means that life as a child of God, in loving and obedient relations with the eternal Father, which is seen in His Anointed Son, and becomes ours as by faith we are linked with that Son to receive His life. When we are made children, we gain possession of three rights or privileges, and we ought to thankfully use them.

  • (I) The right to eternal life – The right to live a higher kind of life than can be attained by other humans ‒ a spiritual life, a human-divine life like that which the Lord Jesus lived is precisely described as eternal life.[16]
  • (II) The right to expect answers to prayer – These prayers relate to the believer’s life, circumstances, and needs.[17]
  • (III) The right to intercede for others – The fact that there is a limit to Christian intercession asserts the right to intervene with those limits.[18] [19]

After observing the Apostle John’s attention to detail, John Stock (1817-1884) reminds us that the Lord said to Moses, “Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.”[20] and “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness[21] so that we, who sat in the shadow of death through sin, might hear the voice of the Son of God and live. It allows us to hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which God has given us, as seen in His Son for His sake only, who lived, and died, and rose again for us, and ever lives and reigns; as all who believe of God in the Anointed One, and so they are one with Him and He with them. Therefore, the more we read the Scriptures, conforming our lives, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to God’s will as expressed therein, and that only to please God and His glory, the more we grow in the assurance of hope.

[1] Maurice, Frederick Denison: The Epistles of St. John: A Series of Lectures on Christian Ethics, op. cit., pp. 284-285

[2] Cf. 1 John 3:21-22

[3] Cf. ibid. 2:21, 26

[4] Huther, Johann Eduard: Critical and Exegetical Handbook to the General Epistles, Epistles of John, op. cit., pp. 471-472

[5] Whedon, Daniel D., Commentary on the New Testament, op. cit., p. 279

[6] See John 20:30ff

[7] Cf. 1 John 2:26 with 5:18

[8] Latin term for “reading source

[9] Alford, Henry: The Greek Testament, op. cit., Vol. IV, p. 508

[10] Graham, William: The Spirit of Love, op. cit., p 336

[11] Jelf, William E., Commentary on the First Epistle of St. John, op. cit., p. 75

[12] 1 John 3:15

[13] Romans 8:16

[14] Barton, C. A, The Biblical Illustrator, Vol. 22, op. cit., 1 John 5:13, pp.135-136

[15] John 20:31

[16] 1 John 5:13

[17] Ibid. 5:14-15

[18] Ibid. 5:16-17

[19] Tuck, Richard: The Preacher’s Complete Homiletical Commentary: (on an original plan), op. cit., pp. 338-339

[20] Exodus 34:27

[21] 2 Timothy 3:16

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By Dr. Robert R. Seyda


CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson LXXXIV) 03/09/23

5:13 I write this letter to you who believe in the Son of God. I write so that you will know that you have eternal life now.

After considering everything the Apostle John has said so far, Adam Clarke (1774-1849) notes that in verse thirteen, the Apostle is sharing with us the privileges that lead into the holy of holies of believing in God’s Son and the glorious effects it produces. It is not a blind reliance for, but an actual enjoyment of, salvation; the Anointed One living, working and reigning in our hearts. We must continue to believe the Anointed One dwells in the heart only by FAITH, and faith lives only by LOVE, and love continues only by OBEDIENCE for those who BELIEVE, LOVE, and OBEY love those who love to believe. They believe in the witness of the Anointed One in their heart, the hope of glory, and are people of prayer.[1]

With unwavering trust in the Apostle John’s teaching, William Lincoln (1788-1844) notices that having spoken of where this life is, the Apostle John closes the statement by saying, “Whoever has [God’s] Son has [eternal] life, but whoever does not have God’s Son does not have [eternal] life.[2] After the KJV was written, many older manuscripts have been discovered, so now, many of the Final Covenant passages are better understood than fifty years ago. John wrote these words: “I have written this to you who believe in the Son of God so that you may know you have eternal life.”[3] [4]

In his captivating teaching style, Jewish convert Augustus Neander (1789-1850) finds that the Apostle John repeats fundamental truths to reawaken the reader’s interest and solidify them in their conscience.  It is the object of his epistle. In it is included all which is necessary for the inner person; since this true divine life comprehends itself, all which requires certainty of eternity. It is an exhaustless source of satisfaction to the believer’s spirit. It is formed and constituted to be filled with nothing less than God.

Thus, you can find spiritual life and joy only in fellowship with Him bestowed on us through His Son. Of course, there is much in this, as well as in all the epistles, profitable to the unconverted. But for the present, see it as a message to believers, and the hallmark of what use this epistle is intended to be to them. This then was the Apostle’s object, that believers might know how much has been bestowed upon them in their faith.

True, they must, as believers, have known this from the beginning, but then, in human life, all things slide so easily into the mechanical form of habit! Moreover, the current of life sweeps Christians along; and though one may indeed abide in the faith, others may lose the vivid consciousness of the treasure imparted to them. Hence, they must continue drawing from the divine fountain of life opened through faith. The consciousness they received must be continually revived and invigorated; from their trust must the knowledge of that, first acquired in faith, constantly refresh itself anew.

There can be no halting here. Unless the fountain of faith drys up, a progressive development must proceed from it. Hence, John writes to those who have already believed, as if they were now just learning that by believing in Jesus as God’s Son, they became partakers of eternal life. Their joy in that divine possession was to be continually renewed and increased repeatedly and reminded that no power of earth could bestow upon them anything higher, anything more. So John warns them against the treacherous arts of false teachers, who seek to unsettle their faith, commending to them something else as the truth or as a higher truth; to be thereby established in this faith, under all temptations and conflicts.[5]

After spiritually analyzing John’s conclusions, Gottfried C. F. Lücke (1791-1855) points out that what the Apostle John says in verse thirteen is sufficiently supported by necessary authorities, such as Spirit, water, and blood. The shared reading has arisen from an endeavor to make the proposition clearer and more acceptable. As believing Christians, John did not find it necessary to instruct them concerning the ground of their faith. Yet, as it might seem, John does not intend to teach his readers, as to provoke and revive in them the feeling of their faith’s high value and character. This is what he meant when he writes in verse thirteen, “That you may thoroughly comprehend, [Greek verb eidō – “to perceive”] that you have eternal life.”[6]

As a servant of God whose preaching was doctrinal, imaginative, quaint, and earnest, Robert Finlayson (1793-1861) feels that the Apostle John’s aim in this Epistle is connected with assurance ‒ “These things have I written to you, that you may know that you have eternal life, to you that believe on the Name of God’s Son.” At the beginning of the Epistle, John aimed at Divine fellowship and complete joy. Looking back, John feels that he has kept the ending of his Epistle in view. In restating his aim, he goes the length of completed delight. Beyond the reawakening of their spiritual life, he aims at their having the pleasure of knowing that they had eternal life begun in them. He has given them certain marks (usually introduced by “herein”) to clarify their Divine birth or possession of the Divine life as believers. We have comfort when we have the correct elements and diagnose correctly.[7]

Without using complicated language, Albert Barnes (1798-1870) notes that verse thirteen refers to those things the Apostle John wrote respecting the testimony provided for the Lord Jesus so they might believe in the name of God’s Son. To believe in His name is to believe in Him – the word name is often understood to denote the person’s character and reputation. If John was assured that they did believe in God’s Son, he was desirous of presenting to them a spiritual nature that continues to exercise faith in Him. It is often one of the essential duties of ministers of the Gospel to contribute to genuine Christians, such views of the nature, the claims, the evidence, and the hopes of religious conviction, to secure their perseverance in the faith. Even when converted, the human heart is prone to disbelieve. Religious affections so quickly become cold; there are so many cares about the world to distract the mind.

There are so many allurements of sin to draw the affection away from the Savior. There is a need to be constantly reminded of the nature of religion so that the heart may not become estranged from the Savior. Therefore, no small part of preaching must consist of the re-statement of arguments with a fully convinced mind; of motives whose force has been once felt and acknowledged; and of the grounds of hope, peace, and joy which have already spread comfort through the soul. It is not less important to keep the soul than to convert it; to save it from coldness, deadness, and formality, than it was to impart to it the elements of spiritual life at first. It may be just as important to trim a vine if one would have grapes and keep it from being overrun with weeds as it was to plant it.[8] [9]

With impressive theological vision, Richard Rothe (1799-1867) notes that where the Apostle John says, “these things,” it refers back to verses six to twelve. Rothe sees verse thirteen as John’s way of excusing himself for writing this epistle as harshly as he did. In fact, John did not pretend to show evidence for the Messiahship and Divine Sonship of Jesus, as if he doubted their faith in Jesus as the Anointed One, but only made those who believed in Jesus as the Anointed One God’s Son fully conscious of what they now possess by faith is eternal life.

We can take it for granted that by confirming that Jesus is the Anointed Son of God, we will see more that the new life in fellowship with Him brings through faith in Him. It is nothing less than eternal life, God’s blessed life. Therefore, even in the case of believing Christians, it is not redundant to remind them that through faith in Jesus, they possess eternal life now. For, seeing that as yet they include it primarily by faith, the direct experience they have of the weakness of their spiritual life may deprive them of that assurance. But we must hold it fast. Without it, it is impossible to have joyous faith in the Gospel. And this assurance depends upon Jesus the Anointed One, God’s Son; for the Redeemer cannot give more than He has. He could not provide eternal life if He were a mere human being. Only His life is the eternal, divine life itself, and He can also communicate it to us. [10]

Consistent with the Apostle John’s advice, Heinrich A. W. Meyer (1800-1882) states that in verse thirteen, it is very noticeable that the Apostle John turns to the closing of his Epistle. The reference in “these things” is probably to the entire Epistle. However, certain parts of it, particularly the last section, present the idea of eternal life more distinctly than others. Finally, the purpose of the Gospel is that the readers may believe that Jesus is the Anointed One, the Son of God, and that by faith in His name, they have eternal life.

To produce faith was the object of the Apostle’s record of the life of Jesus. To give the knowledge of their actual and present possession of eternal life to those with faith was his desire and design in writing this letter to Christian readers. Therefore, the Epistle follows the Gospel in the progress of Christian living and the development of thought. We may believe that it followed the preaching of the Gospel at that time. Possessing the knowledge that we have eternal life is the fulfillment of God’s intended joy.[11]

According to Robert Jamieson (1802-1880), Andrew Fausset (1821-1910), and David Brown’s (1803-1897) way of thinking, the Apostle John’s confession of why he wrote this letter[12] to his readers who believe in God’s Son is that they can know they have eternal life now. The oldest Greek manuscripts and versions read, “These things have I written to you [omitting ‘that believe on the name of the Son of God’] that you may know you have eternal life.”[13] The clause “that you may know” should read “continue to believe.[14] John wrote a similar message toward the end of his Gospel.[15] In 1 John 1:4, John states the object of his writing is “that your joy may be full.” To “know that we have eternal life” is the surest way to “rejoice in God.”[16]

With clear spiritual eyesight, we can see, says Neal M. Flanagan (1908-1986), that the Apostle John’s words look very much like a conclusion and resemble the conclusion of John’s Gospel.[17] John adds his final thoughts to this conclusion in verses fourteen to twenty-one.[18]

With noticeable spiritual comprehension, Henry Cowles (1802-1881) identifies the Apostle John as a writer of definite aims; he knows what results he wishes to secure. He stated his object in his gospel history;[19] he does the same in this epistle. But, unfortunately, most translators omit this from the last clause – “and that you may believe in the name of the Son of God.” Without this, the declared object of this epistle (if the statement refers to it in whole) is – “that you may know that you have eternal life.”

Under this knowing are two supposedly distinct points. (a) Knowing that this salvation through the Anointed One means eternal life, provides for it and secures it; and (b) Knowing each for themselves that he has a personal interest in this salvation. We have seen that this epistle brings out these individual proofs or tests of piety with remarkable fullness. No other portion of God’s word makes this point so prominent. “This is how we know that we live in Him and He in us: He has given us of His Spirit.”[20] Also, “This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands.”[21] Then, “We know that we have passed from death to life because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death.”[22] Such is the theme of this epistle.[23]

With his lifework well-illustrating the biblical and reformation ideal of the pastor-theologian, Robert Smith Candlish (1805-1872) agrees with other scholars that verse thirteen is the end of the main epistle. Whether the “these things” which “I have written unto you” are simply things contained in the immediately preceding context or must be held to reach further back is not material. John is evidently summing up; he is pointing his discourse or argument to its close. And he points it out clearly and convincingly. He strongly asserts the final end he has in view. It is that you may “know” certain things.

John repeatedly uses the word “know;” no less than six or seven times in about as many verses. From a spiritual point of view, knowledge is evidently of a high order, not merely speculative and intellectual but experimental and practical. It is not simply faith but connected with confidence, flowing from it while involved. Still, it is something more than faith. If one may say so, faith realized; faith proved inwardly by being acted upon outwardly; the believer ascertaining, by actual trial and experience, the truth and trustworthiness of their belief. It is not whether we think, is persuaded, or hope, but “we know.[24]

[1] Clarke, Adam: Wesleyan Heritage Commentary, op. cit., Hebrews-Revelation, p. 398

[2] 1 John 5:12

[3] Ibid. 5:13

[4] Lincoln, William: Lectures on the Epistles of St. John, op. cit., p. 155

[5] Neander, Augustus: The First Epistle of John, Practically Explained, op. cit., pp. 296-298

[6] Lücke, Gottfried C. F., A Commentary on the Epistles of St. John, op. cit., p. 277

[7] Findlayson, Robert: The Pulpit Commentary, First Epistle of John, Vol. 22, op. cit., Homiletics, p. 172

[8] See John 20:31

[9] Barnes, Albert: New Testament Notes, op. cit., p. 4886

[10] Rothe, Richard: Exposition of the First Epistle of St. John, op. cit., The Expository Times, July 1895, p. 469

[11] Critical Exegetical Handbook New Testament by John Edward Huther, Meyer, Heinrich A. W., Commentary on the New Testament, Epistles of James and John, op. cit., p. 816

[12] The letter begins at 1:1 and ends at 5:1

[13] Cf. 1 John 5:11

[14] Ibid. 5:12

[15] John 20:30-31

[16] Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, New Testament Volume, op. cit., p. 730

[17] John 20:31

[18] Flanagan, Neal M., The Johannine Epistles, Collegeville Bible Commentary, op. cit., p. 1026

[19] John 20:30-31

[20] 1 John 4:13

[21] Ibid. 5:2

[22] Ibid. 3:14

[23] Cowles, Henry: The Gospel and Epistles of John, op. cit., p. 357

[24] Candlish, Robert S., The First Epistle of John: Expounded in a Series of Lectures, op. cit., Lecture XLI, pp. 250-251

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By Dr. Robert R. Seyda


CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson LXXXIII) 03/08/23

5:13 I write this letter to you who believe in the Son of God. I write so that you will know that you have eternal life now.

As a nonconformist to the Church of England’s orthodoxy, John Bunyan (1628-1688) wrote I am made right by the righteousness of another, and because I was made righteous, God accepted me as such. Therefore, he bestowed on me His grace, which, at first, I made poor use of and needed assurance that I was righteous and have eternal life.[1] It was not immediately by faith, but by the written word, which is called the word of faith, which declared to me, to whom grace, and the seed of faith were given, that I did have eternal life. So now, with boldness, I believe in the Son of God with peace and joy.[2] [3]

Isaac Barrow (1630-1677) hears the Apostle John saying that we are in union with the God of truth and His Son  Jesus, the Anointed One. He is the God of eternal life; (no false, no metaphorical God, but the supreme, ever-living God from whom, the Apostle Paul says, is traced the human ancestry of the Anointed One, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.)[4] Hence, the Most High, the sovereign God blessed forever (a unique and characteristic attribute or title for God.)[5]

From his strategic viewpoint as a biblical expositor and educational pioneer, William Burkitt (1650-1703) says John wrote these things so his readers would know that they knew, believed, and assured they were Christians. Some were unsure they believed this to be true because they could not point to a fixed time or produce evidence that they became a believer by faith. Faith and assurance in a saint differ as much as reason and learning in a person; everyone has reasoning, but rationale is not learning, which is the improvement of reason.

Therefore, every reasonable person has faith, but everyone who has faith is not assurance, which is the fruit of faith. Faith was the first design and end of the Apostle John’s writing that they might know they did believe; the second follows that those that did believe did so on the name of God’s Son; the meaning is that they might more firmly believe, be more rooted, grounded, settled, and confirmed in the faith, to remain unshaken by all the storms of persecution that might fall upon them. It appears to be John’s aim when he urges the faithful to believe.The strongest believers may be encouraged to strengthen their faith and persevere in the faith by which they are maintained and established.[6]

With a spiritually contemplative mind, Matthew Henry (1662-1714) says that in light of all this evidence, it is only right that we believe on the name of God’s Son. So, let us thankfully receive the record of Scripture. They are always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that their labor is not in vain. The Lord the Anointed One invites us to come to Him in all circumstances, with our supplications and requests, notwithstanding the sin that besets us. Our prayers must always be offered in submission to the will of God. In some things, they are speedily answered; in others, they are granted in the best manner, though not as requested. We ought to pray for others as well as for ourselves.[7]

An Anglican priest opposing the monarchy of Church and State in favor of a constitutional parliamentary system, Thomas Pyle (1674-1756), paraphrases verses thirteen to fifteen, “And accordingly, my design in this Epistle was to satisfy all such true believers of the safety of their future condition; and to encourage them to a firm perseverance in this principle, upon a full assurance that God will deny them nothing that is truly needful for them; but will, in due time and manner, answer all their Christian prayers.”[8]

As a Lutheran clergyman opposing absolute monarchy and Roman Catholic Emancipation, supporting constitutional imperialism with a parliamentary system, Johann A. Bengel (1687-1752) notes that “these things” mentioned by the Apostle John appear in this Epistle. The verb, I write, is used in the opening verses.[9] In conclusion, it becomes, “I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, (which is the sum of verse five) that you may know that you have eternal life, derived from verse eleven. In other words, as John says in verse twelve, knowing that you have the Son means eternal life. Therefore, “ought” does not become our hope but our faith.[10]

Provider of priceless Christian and Jewish wisdom gems, John Gill (1697-1771) believes that the Apostle John’s claims that the things he had written were contained in the epistle and the context of victory over the world to those who accept that the Anointed One is God’s Son. We find it in God’s record with His witnesses that His Son is eternal life to those that believe in His name.

John’s whole purpose in writing was to assure them that they have eternal life in the Anointed One; they have a right to it and quality for it and will undoubtedly enjoy it. Knowing this is acquired by faith, and the testimony of the Holy Spirit is by grace a gift from God through the Anointed One. It is guaranteed as long as they have the Anointed One, believe in Him, and have that which serves to communicate, cultivate, and increase such knowledge.

John wrote all this so they would be encouraged to continue believing in Him, hold on to their faith in Him, and continue believing in Him to the end. Also, increasing their trust in Him, faith is imperfect and capable of expanding and growing exceedingly by reading and hearing God’s Word explained to them, especially that part which respects the person, office, and grace of the Anointed One.[11]

Philip Doddridge (1702-1751) states that it is apparent that the Apostle John does not try to establish the reader’s faith, produce evidence of Christianity, or argue with them. Nevertheless, the wholesome characteristics, which John’s discourse tends to promote, would undoubtedly have a solid influence to confirm their faith. Such qualities appear to be the ardent zeal of Gospel teachers to establish their confirmation as faithful witnesses to significant facts received upon their credit. Therefore, this solid text proves that Christians are to believe in Jesus the Anointed One.[12]

After skillfully scrutinizing the Apostle John’s central theme, John Brown of Haddington (1722-1787) tells us that these divine testimonies concerning the Anointed One must become a clear and intense light before us who are under struggling in a helpless, guilty, and ruined state. After all, Jesus died so we might heartily receive and rejoice in Him as our Savior. Thus, by God’s Word and His Spirit’s witness, our spirit will have blessed assurance that we anticipate possessing eternal and the Anointed One in our lives. We should be increasingly excited and encouraged to believe in, and depend on, our salvation upon the merits and meditations of God’s only begotten Son.[13]

More concerned with Church than its sacraments, William Jones on Nyland (1726-1800) asks, “What is essential to this life?” The answer is, “A person’s most substantial and deepest love is to be fixed on God.” We have no revelation of God adequate to inspire this affection save that given to us in Jesus the Anointed One. On viewing life as consisting of the union of the soul with God, we affirm that this union can be effected only through the intercession of Jesus the Anointed One. Humanity is estranged from God by sin, “alienated from the life of God,”[14] and under condemnation because of sin. “The Son of man has the authority to forgive sins.”[15]There is no condemnation to them in the Anointed One, Jesus.”[16]

By the manifestation of God’s love in His life, and especially in His death, the Anointed One destroys the hostility of the sinful heart and reconciles it with God. “When we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by His Son’s death.”[17] The Anointed One reveals God as a Supreme Being possessing in infinite degrees those attributes necessary to command the soul’s, supreme love. He manifests the perfect righteousness of God.

The cross of Jesus the Anointed One is a declaration of God’s unquenchable hatred of sin and His zeal for maintaining holiness. It is the perfect revelation of religious truth for mankind’s intellect and heart. His Son is “Truth.”[18] Truth is incarnate in Him, and God’s love was perfectly expressed. He showed us the indescribable mystery of God in self-sacrifice. He reveals to our dim vision the transcendent beauty of His Divine character for our admiration and reverence. In a word, taking holiness as expressing the summation of Divine perfections, He reveals God’s infinite righteousness. In Him, we have such a revelation of the Supreme Being as is perfectly fitted to command the reverence of conscience, to quicken and strengthen the intellect, to expel all hate, and birth in the soul the purest, most profound, intense love and excite the reverent devotion of our being. Such a revelation is believed in and brought home to our spirit by the Holy Spirit. Only through the Anointed One can we attain the highest life.[19] [20]

Samuel Eyles Pierce (1746-1829) says that knowing they have eternal life in them was to produce faith and continued progression that they might go on, believing in the name of the Son of God. The actual knowledge of the Anointed One, received through the Gospel into the mind, produces assurance of His Salvation, such as having the same evidence that the Anointed One is theirs and that they are His. The Holy Spirit gave them the knowledge, experience, and enjoyment of believing in the name of God’s Son so they can enjoy the same being kept alive in them. There is no other way to do this than by believing.[21]

Thomas Scott (1747-1821), a man with a heartfelt friendship with hymn writer[22] John Newton (1726-1807), notes that the first fruit of the Holy Spirit’s virtues, as indicated by many marks laid down in this Epistle, produce confidence. It is not a certainty of hope but confident of hope by faith that we may believe, confirm, continue, and increase to God’s glory and praise.[23]

Joseph Benson (1749-1821), at age fifteen, a potential young theologian preaching and holding cottage prayer meetings, meditated on these words, “These things have I written to you” concerning the fruit of regenerating faith, the water, and the blood, the witnesses in heaven and on earth, and especially about the things which they have witnessed, mentioned in the two last verses; to you that believe on the name of God’s Son

Hence, with faith grounded in a saving knowledge of Him and productive of the fruit spoken in verses one through four, you may know, based on the testimony of all the evangelists and apostles and the Anointed One, that you have and are heirs to eternal life, despite your past sins and present infirmities, to include, the imperfection of your knowledge and holiness, and the various defects of your love and obedience; and that you may believe. That is, persevere by believing in the name of the Son of God. may continue in the faith grounded and settled, and not be moved away from the hope of the Gospel, knowing that the just man shall live by faith, but if he draws back, God’s soul will have no pleasure in him.[24] [25]

Straightforward preacher Charles Simeon (1759-1836) believes that the Scriptures in the Final Covenant were written for the whole world. Yet perhaps we may say that the Gospels were written more immediately for unbelievers to convince them of the Messiahship of Jesus and that the epistles were written instead for believers to bring them to life, becoming their high and holy calling. This idea seems to be sanctioned by the Apostle John: for, at the end of his Gospel, he says, “I write these things that you might believe that Jesus is the Anointed One, the Son of God; and that, believing, you might have life through His name.”[26]

But, at the end of this epistle, John says, “These things I have written to you that you can believe in the name of the Son of God.” In truth, he had all the different classes of believers‒children, young men, and fathers: “I write unto you, little children because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake. Fathers, I am writing to you because you have known him from the beginning. I write unto you, young men because ye have overcome the wicked one.”[27] [28]

[1] Hebrews 5:13

[2] Romans 15:13; 1 John 5:13

[3] Bunyan, John: Practical Works Vo. 5, pp. 250-251

[4] Romans 9:5

[5] Barrow, Isaac, Theological Works, op. cit., p. 176

[6] Burkitt, William, Expository Notes, with Practical Observations, on the New Testament, op. cit., Vol. II, pp. 737-738

[7] Henry, Matthew: Concise Commentary on the Bible, op. cit., p. 2060

[8] Pyle, Thomas: A Paraphrase on the Acts of the Holy Apostles, upon all the Epistles of the New Testament, and upon the Revelations, (1725) op. cit., p. 402

[9] 1 John 1:4

[10] Bengel, Johann Albert: Gnomon of the New Testament, Vol. IV, op. cit., pp.150-151

[11] Gill, John: Exposition of the Entire Bible, op. cit., (Kindle Location 341753)

[12] Doddridge, Philip: The Family Expositor; or, A Paraphrase and Version of the New Testament, op. cit., p. 888

[13] Brown of Haddington, John: The Self-Interpreting New Testament, op. cit., p.1320

[14] Ephesians 4:18

[15] Matthew 9:6; Mark 2:10

[16] Romans 8:1

[17] Ibid. 5:10

[18] John 14:6

[19] Cf. John 3:36; Acts of the Apostles 4:12

[20] Jones, William, The Pulpit Commentary Vol. 22, The First Epistle of John, p. 164

[21] Pierce, Samuel Eyles: An Exposition of the First Epistle General of John, Comprised in Ninety-Three Sermons, Vol. 2, pp. 277–278

[22] Newton, John: Composer of “Amazing Grace,”

[23] Scott, Thomas: Theological Works, op. cit., p. 733

[24] See John 15:6; Romans 11:22

[25] Benson, Joseph: Commentary of the Old and New Testaments, op. cit., pp. 347-348

[26] John 20:31

[27] 1 John 2:12-14

[28] Simeon, Charles: Horae Homileticae, op. cit., Vol. XX, op pp. 543-544

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By Dr. Robert R. Seyda


CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson LXXXII) 03/07/23

5:13 I write this letter to you who believe in the Son of God. I write so that you will know that you have eternal life now.

John points out the importance of knowing that God gave the right to all who believed and accepted Him to become His children.[1] So, it wasn’t only the Anointed One’s words. Many became convinced He was the Anointed One because of the miracles He performed in Jerusalem at the Passover celebration.[2] And so, we should pay attention to the Anointed One’s messages and miracles because people who believe in God’s Son are not judged guilty. But people who do not believe are already judged because they have not believed in God’s only Son.[3]

The Apostles took this message with them when they went to the world to preach the Gospel. When Peter and John raised a lame man to his feet, Peter told the onlookers that this crippled man’s healing was because he trusted Jesus. It was Jesus’ power that made him well. You can see this man, and you know him. He was made completely well because of faith in Jesus. You all saw it happen![4] Therefore, exclaimed the Apostles, when it comes to healing the soul,Jesus is the only one who can save people. His authority is the only supernatural power in the world that can save anyone. Therefore, we must be born again through Him![5] And the Apostle Paul passed on this same doctrine that this is a true statement to accept without question: “The Anointed One, Jesus, came into the world to save sinners.”[6]

Furthermore, this resurrection life we received from God is not a spirit that enslaves us and causes us to fear. On the contrary, the Spirit that we have makes us God’s chosen children. And with that Spirit, we cry with Jesus,[7]Abba,[8] Patēr.”[9] [10] And the Spirit Himself speaks to our spirits and makes us sure that we are God’s children, we will get God’s blessings for His people. He will give us all that He has shared with the Anointed One.[11] Thus, we must not forget that God called us and chose us to be His. We must do our best to live in a way that shows we are God’s called and chosen people. If we do all this, we will never fall. And we will be given a great welcome into the kingdom of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Anointed One, a kingdom that never ends.[12]

Now we can see that the Apostle John’s word, “These things I have written to you,” sums up the Epistle. At the beginning, John said, “These things we write, that our joy [yours as well as mine] may be fulfilled;” Now, as he draws to a close, he says the same thing in other words. Their joy is knowing that they have eternal life through belief in God’s Son. There is a considerable variety of meanings in this verse, but it is a simple message. The interpretation of the last clause has produced various alterations to provide an easier reading. As regards construction and meaning, the verse should be carefully compared with John 1:12. In both, we have the interpretation at the end.

They also have John’s favorite Greek verb, pisteuō (“believe”), expressing the most assertive confidence in the object of belief. In addition, we have the remarkable expression, “believe in His Name.” This expression is no indirect hint for “believe in Him.” Names in Jewish history were often significant, sometimes given by God that they served to distinguish one person from another and indicate their character. So also with the Divine Name: it suggests the Divine attributes. “To believe on the Name of the Son of God” is to give entire devotion to Him as having the qualities of God’s Divine Son.

In verses thirteen to twenty-one, it is clear that the Apostle John summarizes his overall purpose for writing his epistle. He wants to assure believers of their possession of eternal life.[13]  The principle is that belief is the basis for salvation, not our merit. Eternal life is a quality and quantity of life that we cannot earn, deserve, or buy.  We cannot go to some spiritual supermarket and purchase salvation. If we wanted to buy it, we could never afford it.  We would have to pay the same price Jesus did. The only way we can get eternal life is to have it conferred on us freely.  God gives it free of charge.[14]

Thus, the purpose of 1 John is to motivate us from doubt to certainty. God wants us to “know” that we “have eternal life,” not assume or feel that we have it.  “Know” means to know with God-imparted innate knowledge.  It is a settled knowledge that gives peace to the mind and heart. Eternal life is a lifetime of fellowship with God both on earth and in heaven. Eternal life is the same kind of life that God possesses. Therefore, God is willing to share His eternal life with us.

We should note the present tense of “believe” suggests having a belief. This thinking differs from the non-Christian who does not possess ongoing trust in the Anointed One. Non-believers do not have and hold eternal life. Also, the word “in” involves motion towards and rest upon. We repose on the “name of the Son of God.”  “Name” stands for the person’s reputation. Our security is in a divine person for salvation. We trust in the unique person of the Son of God, Jesus the Anointed One, as God. Therefore, the name “Son of God” refers to the unique divinity of Jesus, the Anointed One, that makes eternal life possible. Confidence comes from trust in God’s Word and promises. 

Assurance of eternal life is not a presumption that doubts God’s promises. God makes it plain that we may know that we have eternal life, not that we might have it someday.  Physical life is not eternal life because we can lose it. But eternal life is unlike physical life because we cannot lose it. Eternal life is forever. Our feelings have nothing to do with whether we are truly born again; it is a matter of accepting God’s Word at face value. It is who says it that counts. It makes a tremendous difference who says what. If we receive a letter from a friend, we accept what they say at face value because it comes from a friend. We have no reason to suspect that they would deceive us.

On the other hand, we may receive a business letter from a company with whom we do business. We may wonder whether their proposal is valid. They may overstate, exaggerate, or downright lie to get our business, the economy being what it is in some cases. However, if we receive a communication from the Prime Minister of Canada, you would accept at face value what he said because of who he is.[15] John closes his Gospel by saying that Jesus did many other things. If they were all written in books, I don’t suppose there would be room enough in the whole world for all the books.”[16]

At this juncture, let’s summarize what we’ve learned so far. First, all who believe that Jesus is the Anointed One (v. 1), the Son of God (v.5), are themselves, children of God, to be loved as is their heavenly Father (v.). In fact, this reciprocal love is the Gather’s unburdensome command (v.3), originating from the Christian faith that has conquered the world (vv. 4-5).

Faith is belief in Jesus the Anointed One, who came in incarnated for His human ministry stretching from baptism to death, and testified to by the Spirit (v. 6). Not only does the Spirit give witness, but so do baptism and communion (v. 8). These church sacraments signify the Anointed One’s presence and the eternal life He brings (vv. 11-12). Spirit, Water, and Blood are part of God’s testimony. To deny them is to reject God’s witness and to affirm that He was lying. (v. 10). And, indeed, the purpose of this whole epistle is to help all to realize that they possess eternal life – if, that is, they believe in God’s Son (v. 13)


This verse has comments, interpretations, and insights of the Early Church Fathers, Medieval Thinkers, Reformation Theologians, Revivalist Teachers, Reformed Scholars, and Modern Commentators.

Oecumenius (500-600 AD) notes that the Apostle John says that he has written to those who are inheritors of eternal life, for such things would never be written to people who are not. After all, it is not right to give holy things to dogs or to scatter pearls before swine.[17]

With a studious monk’s spiritual insight, Bede the Venerable (672-735 AD) believes that the Apostle John wrote these things so that those who believe in the Anointed One will be reassured about their future blessedness. They will not be led astray by the deception of those who say that Jesus was not the Son of God and therefore has nothing to offer to those who have believed in Him.[18]

William Tyndale (1494-1536) believes that to share the faith the Apostles had of the Anointed One is to know they have eternal life. For the Spirit testifies to their spirits that they are the sons of God[19] and received under grace. Some Doctors of Theology say we cannot know whether we are in a state of grace; therefore, we don’t have the Apostles’ faith. And that they know it is not the cause why they object to it.[20]

John Calvin (1509-1564) states that there ought to be daily progress in faith, so he says that he wrote to those who had already believed so that they might trust more firmly and with greater certainty, and thus enjoy fuller confidence as to eternal life. So then, the use of doctrine is not only to initiate the ignorant in the knowledge of the Anointed One but also to confirm those more and more who have been already taught. It, therefore, must be diligent in learning that our faith may increase throughout our lives. For there are still many remnants of unbelief, and so weak is our belief that what we believe is not yet accepted unless there be a fuller confirmation.

But we ought to observe how to confirm faith, even after having the office and power of the Anointed One explained to us. For the Apostle John says that he wrote these things, that is, that eternal life is to be sought nowhere else but in the Anointed One, so that they who were believers already might mature, that is, make progress in believing. Therefore, godly teachers must confirm disciples in the faith, to praise as much as possible the grace of the Anointed One so that being satisfied with that, we may seek nothing else. The Apostle further teaches in this passage that the Anointed One is the main object of our faith, and our faith in His name has annexed the hope of salvation. In this case, believing is that we become God’s children and heirs.[21]

James Arminius (1560-1609) notes that according to the actions required of believers, we distinguish that faith,[22] adds hope, and relates to morals. Hope is offered as an object to be believed in and morals as the work to be performed.[23] [24]

John Cotton (1585-1652) feels that among the help and benefits the Apostle’s writings afforded the Church were (1) Teaching,[25] (2) Putting them in remembrance,[26] (3) Stirring them up to practice what they knew. [27] (4) To the humble the spirits that were puffed up.[28] (5) That they might be strengthened in their faith.[29] (6) That their hearts were filled with joy.[30] (7) These writings have the foundation of faith that all Christians have accessed the subject matter of all the preaching of the ministers, for, by them, the people of God are fully furnished and made perfect to every good work.[31] [32]

As a firm spiritual disciplinarian, John Owen (1616-1683) argues that testimonies confirming that wherever faith towards our Lord Jesus the Anointed One is necessary, it is still believing “in Him,” or “on His name,” according to our faith in God is everywhere expressed. Nothing more is intended than that belief in any doctrines revealed by His Apostles oblige us to believe in them or their reputation. For instance, we are urged to consider the doctrine of the Apostle Paul, the revelations made by him, and the danger of our eternal welfare by not believing in them, yet we are to believe in Paul. It is something Paul utterly detested.[33] The reader may consult, among others, John,[34] Paul,[35] and Peter.[36]

[1] John 1:12

[2] Ibid. 2:23

[3] Ibid. 3:18

[4] Acts of the Apostles 3:16

[5] Ibid. 4:12

[6] 1 Timothy 1:15

[7] Mark 14:36

[8] Abba, Aramaic for “papa

[9] Patēr, Greek for “father

[10] Cf. Romans 8:15,Galatians 4:6

[11] Romans 8:15-17

[12] Daniel 7:14

[13] See John 1:12; 6:35; 6:47; 9:24; 11:25-26

[14] Cf. Romans 6:23; Acts of the Apostles 13:38-39; 16:30-31; Romans 4:5; Galatians 3:22

[15] John 20:30-31

[16] Ibid. 21:25; cf. 2 Timothy 1:12; Titus 1:2; 1 John 1:4

[17] Oecumenius, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Gerald Bray, ed., op cit., Vol. XI, p. 225

[18] Bede the Venerable, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Gerald Bray, ed., op cit., Vol. XI, p. 225

[19] Romans 8:16

[20] Tyndale, William: Expositions of Scripture, 1 John 5, op. cit., p. 211

[21] Calvin, John: Commentary on Catholic Epistles, 1 John, op. cit., loc. cit.

[22] 1 John 5:13

[23] Matthew 9:13; 21:22, 23; Mark 1:15; Luke 24:27

[24] Arminius, James: The Works of James Arminius, Vol. 1, op. cit., p. 374

[25] 2 Thessalonians 2:2

[26] 2 Peter 1:22-23

[27] Ibid. 1:1-4

[28] 2 Corinthians 12:7, 8

[29] 1 John 5:13

[30] Ibid. 1:4

[31] 2 Timothy 4:16-17

[32] Cotton, John: Exposition of First John, op. cit., p. 612

[33] 1 Corinthians 1:13, 15

[34] John 1:12; 3:16, 18, 36; 6:29, 35, 41; 7:38, 39; 1 John 5:10, 13

[35] Acts of the Apostles 14:23; 16:31; 19:4; 24:24; 26”18; Romans 3:26; 9:33; 10:11

[36] 1 Peter 2:6

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By Dr. Robert R. Seyda


CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson LXXXI) 03/06/23

5:12 Whoever has the Son has life, but whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

Conversely, those who reject Jesus as God’s Son have already excluded themselves from being the recipients of the life that would testify to His being who He said He is. The division between those who do and those who do not share God’s eternal life is that this divine life does not lie in the future but is established in the present. When seen from the outside, this relentless self-fulfilling logic might offer little opportunity to those approaching from an agnostic or unbelieving perspective and little incentive to believe witnesses. It is the position from which John argues, but for the most part, because he intends to reinforce the allegiance of those to whom he writes and to make clear the stark consequences of withdrawing.[1]

As an international speaker on Puritan theology, Joel Beeke (1952) comments on God’s testimony about His Son, Jesus the Anointed One. The Apostle John has declared Jesus as God’s Son since chapter three.[2] Would not his testimony and those of other apostles be enough? After all, every courtroom has seating for witnesses to testify to what they saw, heard, and felt. While human testimonies are essential, in Jesus’ case, John wanted something higher and more trustworthy. So in verse eight, he tells of choosing three earthly providers of evidence with impeccable credentials ‒ the Spirit, Water, and Blood. However, some early church scribe felt John’s choices needed some help. So, in verse seven, he added three heavenly observers ‒ the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit.

It is also noteworthy that John did not call God to the witness stand, for He already gave His testimony.[3] The English word witness translates the Greek verb martyreō, used nine times in this epistle.[4] It means someone who remembers or has knowledge of something through personal experience. The Greek verb martyreō and the noun martyria also describe those who give testimony in legal matters.[5] In this context, the legal issue is one of justification and validating something as being legitimate.

Vincent Cheung (1952) argues that the study of theology is an essential human activity. However, because of their laziness and ungodliness, many prefer to consult sources forbidden by God. An involvement with occult practices is an adequate reason for ex-communication; negligence in church discipline only allows these abominations to foster and spread. The sufficiency of the Anointed One implies His exclusivity. This means that Jesus the Anointed One is the only way to redemption, and Christianity is the only true religion to bring salvation.[6]

Emphasizing the Apostle John’s call to Christian fellowship, Gary M. Burge (1952) notes that the testimony of the Father has to do with life, eternal life. Since life comes to us through the death of the Son, to deny “the blood,” to deny an incarnation that embraces the cross, to deny the salvific, substitutionary work of Jesus on Calvary, puts our own salvation in jeopardy. Thus, disbelieving the right testimonies has severe consequences. Claiming a divine enlightenment that neglects the Son is eternally perilous. [7]

A scholar who truly inspires Christian missionaries, Daniel L. Akin (1957) identifies eternal Life as a God-quality, God-like life with a particular character or essence as well as a never-ending duration. Having Jesus, the Son of God, equals having eternal life. This is God’s testimony. This is God’s gift. This life is in His Son and not found in anyone else.[8] In fact, to have the Son is to have eternal life. To not have the Son of God means you do not have spiritual life. Having the Son of God equals life. Not having the Son of God equals spiritual death. To not have the Son means you are a walking, talking mummy. You are a lifeless, spiritual corpse in a physical body.[9]

With a classical thinking approach to understanding the scriptures, Bruce G. Schuchard (1958) notes that this final saying details again a balance of oppositions that characterizes oral transmission, helping with the dual principle at the beginning of this chapter. There are two references to “the one who” and two to “everyone who,” which is the framework for the passage’s message. First, the one who has the Son has life. Again. John expresses his thinking first positively, then negatively.[10] The finality with which John articulates himself is doubly emphatic as he defines the risks and consequences of abiding in or departing from the fellowship of the Anointed One and His church. The one who does not have the Son of God does not have life. The third and final reference to Jesus as “the Son of God[11] affirms the passage’s predominant interest and indicates John’s continuing intention “to reinforce the allegiance of those to whom he writes and to make clear the stark consequences of withdrawing.”[12]

Great expositional teacher David Guzik (1961) identifies the Apostle John’s statement that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son as God’s message to mankind ‒ eternal life is a gift from God, received in Jesus the Anointed One. Therefore, those who have God’s Son have “the Life;” those who don’t have God’s Son do not have “the Life,” which is spiritual and eternal. It is all being in union with Jesus, who is eternal life.[13]

An expert in highlighting the crucial part of a biblical message, Marianne Meye Thompson (1964) summarizes that this passage presents the content of the confession about Jesus the Anointed One that believers have and hold. But it also explicitly and implicitly suggests how we know the truth. In the final analysis, the truth is known by individuals because God’s Spirit guides them into understanding and accepting it.[14] But appeals to inspiration are always dangerous because they are so subjective. If sometimes the Spirit speaks what seems to be a fresh or new word, then the truth of the testimony ought to be measured against the witness guarded by dependable and faithful individuals and assemblies and against the witness of Scripture itself. The Spirit who guided original witnesses of events and inspired their interpretation does not speak a contrary word to the Church today.[15]

As a lover of God’s Word, Peter Pett (1966) makes it plain that this spiritual life is not available to false teachers who deny Jesus’ divine Sonship. They reject God’s full testimony concerning His Son. They make Him a liar. For them, there is no means of conciliation. For them, there is no life, for they are liars who preach lies. They believe the Apostle Paul’s warning about “the lie.”[16] God’s testimony to His Son lies in the fact that He demonstrated His lifegiving power by raising Him from the dead as the Son by the Holy Spirit and enabling Him thereby to give life to those who believed in Him. And those who do believe in Him receive life. This life-giving power is in God’s Son so that those who are in union with the Son have life and those who are not in communion with Him have no life.[17]

In his unorthodox Unitarian way, Duncan Heaster (1967) feels that the Apostle John takes great pain to stress that the gift of life is the life of God’s Son. Hence the Greek reads literally “the life” – the life of Jesus. There can be no legitimate spiritual life or spirituality outside of Him. And John writes this against the background of the Judaist infiltrators arguing that there was spiritual life to be had from legalistic obedience, even if they deny the Lord’s Divine Sonship. The Lord Jesus and His life are intimately connected; “The Son has life in Himself.”[18] To have Him is to have His life. And to “have” the Son is to “have” the Father.[19] [20]

Bright seminarian Karen H. Jobes (1958) says the Apostle John’s statement in verse twelve summarizes what he has been discussing since chapter four, verse one. He points out that not all “truth” is God’s truth, but only that which is of the Spirit in accord with the significance of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. The expression in verse twelve, “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life.” is similar to John’s earlier statement, “Anyone who denies the Son doesn’t have the Father, either. But anyone who acknowledges the Son has the Father also.”[21] This phrase is another way of saying that Jesus the Anointed One is the only way to God,[22] a thought that was just as upsetting to ancient society as it is to many people today.[23]

As a skilled sermonizer, David Legge (1969) reminds us that in the Apostle John’s epistles, we discovered that the Gospel’s goal was not to present a generalized understanding of Jesus the Anointed One’s incarnation. It was also to have a personal embodiment of the Anointed One’s spiritual and eternal life in every believer.

Therefore, rather than our knowledge of the Scriptures and our study of it enhancing everything in our lives as a witness of Jesus, the Anointed One, it is worth more than a thousand powerful rhetorical practical, godly arguments! A good example is a language, and a view everybody understands, from the youngest innocent child to the oldest and wisest adult. Someone put it like this: “Well done” is always better than “Well-intentioned.” We say a lot of things, don’t we? But precept may lead a person, instruct a person, command a person, order a person ‒ but only example draws a person.[24]

Douglas Sean O’Donnell (1972) believes that the Apostle John feels Jesus is a theological exclusivist ‒ by thinking Jesus is the only way to God.[25] Here and elsewhere,[26] John joins Jesus in his superiority. Based on the Trinity’s testimony, he believes that Jesus is the only way of salvation. Thus, he states quite emphatically that if you do not accept God’s testimony about Jesus, then not only do you make him out to be “a liar.[27] but you also do “not have life ‒ both now and forevermore. Right thinking about Jesus is a matter of life and death. Our faith in faith, or our faith in our homemade personal Jesus, will not save us from our sin and the wrath to come. Only faith in the water and the blood will. We can “grumble that God didn’t provide an assortment of salvation options.” We can construct “a god figure toward whom all religions are striving by their various means ‒ and who regard all religious beliefs as equally valid,” or we can humble ourselves before the true and living God and, in gratitude, accept the one sure way of salvation. We can get a life! We can believe and receive God’s gift. We can know that we are saved.[28]

5:13 I write this letter to you who believe in the Son of God. I write so that you will know that you have eternal life now.


Here the Apostle John repeats what he said in his Gospel, “These are in writing so that you may continue to believe.”[29] Even the Apostle Peter added, “My purpose in writing is to encourage you and assure you that what you are experiencing is truly part of God’s grace for you. So stand firm in this grace.”[30] So when we read, “All Scripture is given by God. And all Scripture is useful for teaching and showing people what is wrong in their lives. It is useful for correcting faults and teaching the right way to live. So, using the Scriptures, those who serve God will be prepared and have everything they need to do every good work,”[31] it should encourage us to read what they wrote, especially if they added their names to it.

[1] Lieu, Judith: A New Testament Library, I, II, & III John, op. cit., pp. 219-220

[2] 1 John 3:8; cf. 4:15; 5:5, 10, 12, 13, 20

[3] Ibid. 5:9

[4] Ibid. 5:6, 7, 8, 9x3, 10x2 (martyria), 11 (martyria)

[5] Beeke Joel, The Epistles of John, Ch. 20, op. cit., pp. 191-201

[6] Cheung, Vincent. Systematic Theology, 1 John 5:12, Kindle Edition

[7] Burge, Gary M., The Letters of John (The NIV Application Commentary), op. cit., p 205

[8] John 14:6

[9] Akin, Dr. Daniel L., Exalting Jesus in 1,2,3 John (the Anointed One-Centered Exposition Commentary), op. cit., loc. cit., Kindle Edition

[10] 1 John 5:12b

[11] Ibid. 5:5, 10a

[12] Schuchard, Bruce G., Concordia Commentary, 1-3 John, op. cit., pp. 543

[13] Guzik, David: Enduring Word, 1,2, & 3 John & Jude, op. cit., pp. 96

[14] Cf. John 14:26; 16:13

[15] Thompson, Marianne Meye, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, 1-3 John, op. cit., p. 138

[16] 2 Thessalonians 2:11

[17] Pett, Peter: Commentary on the Bible, 1 John, op. cit., loc. cit.

[18] John 5:26

[19] 2 John 1:9

[20] Heaster, Duncan. New European Christadelphian Commentary: op. cit., The Letters of John, p. 77

[21] 1 John 2:23

[22] Cf. John 14:6

[23] Jobes, Karen H., 1, 2, and 3 John (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on The New Testament Series Book 18), op. cit., p. 225

[24] Legge, David: Preach the Word, 1 John, Sermon 23

[25] John 5:39-40; 6:40; 14:6

[26] Ibid. 3:36

[27] 1 John 5:10

[28] O’Donnell, Douglas Sean. 1–3 John (Reformed Expository Commentaries), op. cit., op. cit., Kindle Edition

[29] John 20:31; cf. 21:24

[30] 1 Peter 5:12

[31] 2 Timothy 3:16-17

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