I John 5
Faith is the Source of Love (vs. 1-12)
1 “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and
every one that loveth Him that begat loveth Him also that is begotten
of Him.” The verse is a sorites (an argument consisting of propositions so
arranged that the predicate of any one forms the subject of the next and the
conclusion unites the subject of the first proposition with the predicate of
the last) . To believe in the Incarnation involves birth from God. To be born
of God involves loving God. To love God involves loving His children.
Therefore to believe in the Incarnation involves loving God’s children.
Τὸν γεγεννημένον ἐξ αὐτοῦ - Ton gegennaemenon ex autou – the one having
been begotten out of Him - is not to be understood as meaning Christ to the
exclusion of Christians; it means any son of God, as the next verse shows.
2 “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love
God, and keep His commandments.” Another mark by which we can test
our love towards the brethren. In v. 1 faith in the Incarnation is shown to
involve this love. Here obedience to God is the test. To obey God proves
love to Him, and this again involves love of His children.
3 “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments: and
His commandments are not grievous.” Reason for the preceding statement.
“For the love of God consists in this (ch. 4:17), that we keep His commandments:
and these are not grievous.” These are the words, not merely of an inspired
apostle, but of an aged man, with a wide experience of life and its
difficulties. “Difficult” is a relative term, depending upon the relation
between the thing to be done and the powers of the doer of it. The
Christian, whose will is united with the will of God, will not find obedience
to that will a task.
The Reason, and the Evidence of Brotherly Love (vs. 1-3)
“Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God,” etc. Our text
is vitally related to the last two verses of the preceding chapter. To our
mind it presents two important aspects of love amongst Christian brethren.
The duty to love our Christian brethren is here based upon our common
relation to God. The order of the apostle’s thought seems to be this:
Ø The Christian brother is a true believer in Jesus the Christ. “Whosoever
believeth that Jesus is the Christ” is included by John among the
Christian fraternity. The genuine Christian accepts Jesus as the Christ of
God, the Anointed of the Father for the great work of HUMAN
REDEMPTION! He looks to Him as the Being in whom ancient
prophecies are fulfilled, and in whom the noblest expectation and the
purest desire of the human race are realized. And the belief of which
the apostle writes is not the mere intellectual acceptation of the
proposition that Jesus is the Christ, but the hearty acceptation of
Jesus Himself as THE SAVIOUR AS APPOINTED BY GOD! Every
one who thus receives Him is a true member of the Christian brotherhood.
Ø Every true believer in Jesus the Christ is a child of God. “Whosoever
believeth that Jesus is the Christ is begotten of God.” Where there is
genuine faith in our Lord and Saviour there is a new moral disposition.
The Christian believer is born anew of the Spirit of God. “As many as
received Him [i.e., Jesus the Christ], to them gave he the right to become
children of God, even to them that believe on his Name,” etc. (John
1:12-13). “If any man is in Christ he is a new creature,” etc.
(II Corinthians 5:17) — he has new sympathies, new purposes, new
principles, new relationships, a new spirit. He has the filial spirit,
“the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15;
Ø Every child of God should be loved by the children of God. “Whosoever
loveth Him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of Him.”
o It is taken for granted that the child of God loves his Divine
Parent. In whomsoever the new life beats there is love to God.
In the spiritual realm love is life. “Every one that loveth is
begotten of God, and knoweth God.” The highest life is that
of supreme love to God; and, where this is, love to the
brotherhood will not be absent. “If a man say, I love God,
and hateth his brother, he is a liar,” etc. (ch. 4:20-21).
o From the fact that the child of God loves his Divine Parent, John
makes this deduction, that he will love the children of God. It is
natural and right that he who loves the Father should also love his
children, or that the children of the one Father should love each
other. Here, then, is the reason of the obligation to love our
Christian brethren. We believe in one Lord and Saviour; we are
children of the one Divine Father; we are members of
one spiritual family; we are characterized by some measure of
moral resemblance to each other, for each is to some extent like
unto the Father of all; we are animated by the same exalted and
invigorating hope; and we are looking forward to the same bright
and blessed home. That we should love each other is in the highest
degree natural and reasonable.
· THE EVIDENCE OF THE GENUINENESS OF BROTHERLY LOVE.
“Hereby we know that we love the children of God, when we love God,” etc.
(vs. 2-3). Two remarks, we think, will help us to apprehend the meaning of John.
Ø Our love to the brethren is genuine when we love God. “Hereby we
know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and do His
commandments.” We may love our Christian brethren for other and
inferior reasons than that of their relation to the heavenly Father; we may
love them because they are rich in worldly goods, or because they are
gifted and clever, or because they arc amiable and attractive, or because
they hold the same political principles, or believe the same theological
opinions, or belong to the same ecclesiastical party, as we do. But love for
any of these reasons is not necessarily and essentially Christian love. The
genuine Christian affection towards the brethren is to love them because
they believe that Jesus is the Christ, and they are the children of God. In
the consciousness of our love to God we have evidence that we love our
Christian brethren as His children.
Ø Our love to God is genuine when we cheerfully keep His
commandments. “For this is the love of God, that we keep His
commandments; and His commandments are not grievous.”
o The divinely appointed test of love to God is obedience to His
commandments. “If ye love me, ye will keep my commandments
He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that
loveth me,” etc. (John 14:15,21,23); “If ye keep my
commandments, ye shall abide in my love,” etc. (John 15:10);
“This is love, that we should walk after His commandments”
(II John 1:6). Genuine love is not a merely sentimental, but a
o The obedience which springs from love is cheerful. “His
commandments are not grievous” to them that love Him.
Love is not only life, but inspiration, courage, and strength;
therefore, as love to God increases, obedience to His commands
becomes easier and more delightful. To him that hath no love to
God, religion must needs be a burden; and I wonder not to hear
him say, ‘ What a weariness is it to serve the Lord!’ (Malachi
1:13) It is like rowing against the tide. But love oils the wheels;
it makes duty a pleasure. Why are the angels so swift and
winged in God’s service, but because they love Him? Jacob
thought seven years but little for the love he did bear to Rachel.
Love is never weary; he who loves money is not weary of toiling
for it; and he who loves God is not weary of serving Him. Where
love is there is no labor; and if there he labor, that labor is loved.
Will our love to God bear this test of cheerful obedience to His
commands? Then do we love Him truly; and so loving Him, we
shall love all His children.
4 “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is
the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” Reason for the
preceding statement: the opposition which causes the difficulty is already
overcome. Nothing, however, is gained by transferring the full stop from the
end of v. 3 to the middle of v. 4, any more than from the end of v. 2 to the
middle of v. 3. The punctuation of the Authorized Version and the Revised
Version is to be preferred. It is the world that hinders obedience to God’s
commandments and makes them seem grievous. But everywhere God’s children
πᾶν τὸ γεγεννημένον – pan to gegennaemenon – every one having been begotten
as in John 6:37, 39; 17:2) conquer the world, and that by means of faith. The aorist
ἡ νικήσασα – hae nikaesasa – the conquering - marks the victory as already
won and complete: “the victory that hath vanquished the world is this — our faith.”
5 “Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that
Jesus is the Son of God?” What other way is there of conquering the world?
And how can he who believes fail? Belief in Christ unites us to Him, and
gives us a share in His victories; and He has overcome the world (John 16:33).
The Victory of Faith (vs. 1-5)
Connecting link: The preceding chapter closed with a statement of the
two-foldness of love, showing us that love of our brother must follow our
love to God, and is, in fact, the commanded and the only outward
expression thereof. But, so far, at any rate, as our redeemed brethren in
Christ are concerned, they being believers in Christ have been begotten of
God. Consequently they are members of one family with us. And every one
who loves the Father will, as a matter of fact, love those who are begotten
of Him, and so bear His image. With this new birth, and the faith and love
which are its fruits, there comes to be a spring of holy obedience, so that
there is not only an external command telling us we ought to love, but a
spirit within leading us on to love. We do not by any means feel the yoke
of a command to be grievous; for all that would otherwise have made it so
has been overcome by a living faith born from above. Topic — Faith
victorious over the world, and faith alone. It will be noted that in v. 4
the verb “overcome” is twice used. In the first instance it is in the present,
in the second in a past tense. “Overcometh” is overcoming, continuously
— “hath overcome,” rather, “which did overcome” (aorist), referring to
some victory which was gained once for all. The continuous overcoming is
attributed to “whatsoever is begotten of God.” The overcoming, which is
accomplished once for all, is attributed to” our faith.” Hence our lines of
homiletic exposition are at once suggested.
BEEN OVERCOME, It is hardly possible to regard the “faith” here as
other than objective, as in Jude 1:3; Luke 18:8 (Greek). We have,
moreover, the contents thereof clearly stated here, “that Jesus is the Son of
God.” This is the mighty fact by which the world has been conquered.
How? In three senses.
Ø The Lord Jesus as the Son of God has himself overcome the world; i.e.,
He has grappled with and put to open shame the sinful element in the
world — that of self-rule and opposition to God.
o By His obedience unto death.
o By His conflict with and conquest of the evil one.
o By His atoning death the prince of this world was cast out.
o By His intercession He secures a like victory to all His
followers (John 16:33).
Ø By the use of His Name, the powers of the world had been met and
worsted. (II Corinthians 2:14; Acts 19:20; Philippians 1:12;
Ø This glorious objective truth, that Jesus is the Son of God, is that
whereby God, in His wondrous grace, has come to have new-born sons
in whom the world is overcome. All things are through Christ. By His
wondrous work He has come to be the Firstborn among many brethren.
Every one of these is a fresh trophy of grace. The creation and sustenance
of the Church is a conquest of the world, being so much snatched from it!
NEW-BORN SOULS, WHEREBY THEY CONTINUOUSLY
OVERCOME THE WORLD. (v. 4.)
Ø God’s own begotten ones are born to a new life.
o Of faith (v. 1).
o Of love (ch.4:7).
o Of righteousness (ch.2:29).
o Of inability to be sinning (ch.3:9).
Ø This new life of theirs is sustained by the Lord Jesus as the Son of God.
Faith laying hold of him appropriates His power. They are “strong in the
Lord, and in the power of His might.” (Ephesians 6:10) They can do all
things through Him that strengtheneth them. (Philippians 4:13)
Ø Thus strengthened, their faith achieves a continuous victory over the
world. By Christ, the world is crucified to them and they to the world.
And however so many may be the aspects of wrong-thinking and
wrong-doing which are seen in the world, so many will be the ways in
which the children of God will meet and overcome them. They will
overcome its errors, its glare, its enticements, its threats, its unbelief,
its hatred, its opposition, its persecution. They will overcome by powerful
argument, by holy living, by sturdy resistance, by faithful testimony.
“By the Word of truth, by the power of God.” (II Corinthians 6:7)
They will maintain the fight earnestly, fearlessly, joyously,
persistently, even to the end; and they will
“Win the day,
Though death and hell obstruct the way.”
And all — all through the unconquerable might imparted by Him in whom
they believe — Jesus the Son of God! What a glorious series of continuous
victories over the world have our twenty Christian centuries witnessed!
How great a chapter, like to the eleventh in the Epistle to the Hebrews,
might be compiled from the histories of God’s faithful ones, who have
overcome by the blood of the Lamb and by the Word of His testimony; for
they loved not their lives unto the death! (Revelation 12:11)
BELIEVERS IN JESUS CHRIST. (v, 5.) “Who… but.” Those who
are not in Christ are still in the world; hence they cannot even fight against
it, much less overcome it! Apart from Christ’s light, men’s vision is
bounded by things seen and temporal; apart from Christ’s life, their
pursuits are entirely of the earth, earthy; apart from Christ’s love, their
aims are all for self — “They turn every one to his own way.” (Isaiah 53:6)
HENCE THE WORLD IS ALWAYS CONQUERING THEM and will make
Ø first its tools,
Ø then its slaves, and
Ø at last its victims.
Note: Three matters are suggested here for pungent and powerful
1. If these things be so, then whoever casts away the doctrine that Jesus is
the Son of God leaves himself helpless in life’s struggle.
2. It is only by a living faith in Jesus that we receive power to carry on the
struggle. A mental adhesion to the doctrine only will not suffice. A living
cling to the Person is needed.
3. We see the purpose intended to be secured by religion, viz. a victory
over all that is false and wrong.
The Victorious Life. (vs. 4-5)
“For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world,” etc. John here presents the
victorious life in four aspects.
· IN ITS ORIGIN. “Whatsoever is begotten of God overcometh the
world.” The true Christian is “born anew;” he is “born of the Spirit;”
he “is begotten of God.” This relationship involves:
Ø Participation in the life of God, especially the life of love (ch.4:7).
Ø Resemblance to the character of God.
Ø Possession of the filial spirit in relation to God.
Ø The title to a glorious inheritance from God. “We are children of God:
and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ”
(Romans 8:16-17); God “hath begotten us again unto a lively hope, by
the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, unto an inheritance
incorruptible,” etc. (I Peter 1:3-5).
· IN ITS CONFLICT. Our text speaks of overcoming, and overcoming
is suggestive of struggle. “Victory” implies combat. The Divine life in man
and the life of the ungodly world are essentially antagonistic. Satan is
“the prince of this world” — “the god of this world.” John constantly
teaches that the Christian’s work in this state of probation is to conquer
‘the world.’ It is, in other words, to fight successfully against that view
of life which ignores God, against that complex system of attractive
moral and specious intellectual falsehood which is marshaled and
organized by the great enemy of God, and which permeates and inspires
non-Christianized society. The world’s force is seen especially in ‘the lust
of the flesh, in the lust of the eyes, and in the pride of life.’ (ch. 2:16)
These three forms of concupiscence manifest the inner life of the
world, and against them the Christian has to contend. It is the battle of:
Ø truth against error,
Ø light against darkness, and
Ø love against hatred.
· IN ITS CONQUEST. “Whatsoever is begotten of God overcometh
the world; and this is the victory that hath overcome the world, even our
faith.” The Divine life in the children of God is by its nature mightier than
the life and spirit of the unchristian world. There is conflict, but the conflict
issues in the victory of the child of God. He is not overcome of evil, but
overcomes evil with good. (Romans 12:21) He is not led astray by
“the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, or the vain-glory of life,”
but rises superior to them. In proportion as he who “is begotten of God”
participates in the life of God, He vanquishes the world and its temptations,
both its seductions and its tribulations. And all the evil world, of which the
apostle wrote, is destined to be completely conquered by THE LIFE OF
GOD WORKING IN AND THROUGH MEN.
· IN THE SECRET OF ITS POWER. “This is the victory that hath
overcome the world, even our faith. And who is he that overcometh the
world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” Notice:
Ø The nature of this faith. It is not the mere intellectual acceptation of a
theological proposition or propositions; “not that heartless assent which
never touches the practice nor molds the affections.” This faith is quite as
much a moral as an intellectual act; it is of the heart as well as of the
head; and it infuses courage, molds character, and directs conduct.
Ø The Object of this faith. “Who is he that overcometh the world, but he
that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?”
o Faith in Jesus as truly human. John, in thus mentioning Jesus,
evidently took for granted that his readers believed in the reality
of His human life. We must believe in Him as toiling and tired,
tempted and tried, suffering and sorrowful, persecuted and
crucified, risen and ascended. Yet he was never the vanquished,
but ALWAYS THE VICTOR! Even on the cross He conquered.
o Faith in Jesus as essentially Divine. Not that He is a son of God,
but “that Jesus is the Son of God” — “His only begotten Son”
(ch.4:9). If the Christian would overcome the world, “he must
have a strong faith, a faith in a Divine Saviour. This faith, which
introduces the soul to communion with God in light, attained
through communion with His blessed Son, exhibits the world in
its true colors. The soul spurns the world as she clings believingly
to the Divine Son. We have said that Jesus was always victorious.
As we truly believe in Him, we are partakers of His life and
sharers in His victory. This is in accordance with His own word
to His disciples: “In the world ye have tribulation: but be of
good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Our
faith in him is the victory which has already overcome the
world. “The conflict and suffering which we now have is not
the real war, but only the celebration, a part of the glory, of
this victory” (Martin Luther). So Paul, “In all these things we
are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.”
(Romans 8:37) “I can do all things in him that strengtheneth
me.” (Philippians 4:13)
o The exclusiveness of this faith as the means of victory over
the world. “Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that
believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” The complete
victory over the world can be attained only by GENUINE
FAITH IN THE LORD JESUS CHRIST, THE SON OF
(vs. 6-12) The section takes a new turn; the test of the Christian life
furnished by the witness of the life itself. This witness is that of the Spirit
(v.6), identical with that of God (v. 9), and possessed by every believer (v. 10).
Few passages of Scripture have produced such a mass of widely divergent
6 “This is He that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by
water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth
witness, because the Spirit is truth.” This (Son of God) is He who came
by water and blood, Jesus Christ. This may be regarded as one of the main
propositions of the Epistle — that the eternal Son of God is identical with the
historic Person, Jesus. Of the water and the blood widely differing
interpretations have been given. It would be tedious and unprofitable to
enumerate them. Our estimate of John 19:34, “the most perplexing incident
in the Gospel,” will probably influence our interpretation of this “the most
perplexing passage in the Epistle.” Not that we have here any direct reference
to the piercing of Christ’s side, and its results. Yet both passages teach similar
spiritual truths, viz. the ideas which underlie the two sacraments, and teach
them by reference to facts in the life and death of Jesus Christ. But the
facts are not the same in each case. It is difficult to believe that this passage
contains any definite and immediate allusion to John 19:34. Why in that
case the marked change of order, “water and blood” instead of “blood and
water”? And if it be thought that this is explained by saying that the one is
“the ideal, mystical, sacramental, subjective order,” the other “the historical
and objective order,” and that “the first is appropriately adopted in the
Epistle, the second in the Gospel,” we are not at the end of our difficulties.
If John is here referring to the effusions from Christ’s dead body, what
can be the meaning of “not in water only, but in water and blood”? It was
the water, not the blood, that was specially astonishing. And “in” in this
case seems a strange expression to use. We should have expected rather,
“not shedding blood only, but blood and water.” Moreover, how can blood
and water flowing from the Lord’s body be spoken of His “coming through
water and blood”? The simplest interpretation is that which refers ὕδωρ – hudor –
water – to the baptism of water to which He Himself submitted, and which He
enjoined upon His disciples, and αῖμα – haima – blood - to the baptism of blood
to which He Himself submitted, and which raised the baptism of water from a
sign into a sacrament. John came baptizing in water only ἐν ὕδατι βαπτίζων –
en hudati baptizon – in water baptizing - (John 1:31, 33). Jesus came baptizing
in water and blood, i.e., in water which washed away sin through the efficacy
of His blood. This interpretation explains the marked change of preposition.
Jesus effected His work through the baptisms of water and blood; and it is by
baptism in these elements that He comes to His followers. Moreover, this
interpretation harmonizes with the polemical purpose of the Epistle, viz. to
confute the errors of Cerinthus. Cerinthus taught that the Divine Logos or Christ
descended upon Jesus at the baptism, and departed again when Jesus was
arrested; so that a mere man was born of Mary, and a mere man suffered
on the cross. John assures us that there was no such severance. The
Divine Son Jesus Christ came not by water only at His baptism, but by
blood also at His death. Besides these two abiding witnesses, there is yet a
third still more convincing. And there is the Spirit that beareth witness
(to the Divinity of Christ); because the Spirit is the truth. There can be
no higher testimony than that of the truth itself (John 14:17; 15:26;
7 “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the
Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.”
For those who bear witness are three, and thus constitute full legal testimony
(Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15; Matthew 18:16; II Corinthians 13:1). It will be
assumed here, without discussion, that the remainder of this verse and the
first clause of v. 8 are spurious. Words which are not contained in a single
Greek uncial manuscript, nor in a single Greek cursive earlier than the
fourteenth century (the two which contain the passage being evidently
translated from the Vulgate), nor are quoted by a single Greek Father during
the whole of the Trinitarian controversy, nor are found in any authority until
late in the fifth century, cannot be genuine.
8 “And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the
water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.”
When all three witnesses are enumerated together, the Spirit
naturally comes first. He is a living and a Divine witness, independent of
the two facts of the baptism and the Passion, which concur with Him in
testifying that THE SON OF GOD IS JESUS CHRIST!
9 “If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for
this is the witness of God which He hath testified of His Son.”
An argument a fortiori. If we receive expresses no doubt, but states an admitted
fact gently (see ch. 4:11; and compare John 7:23; 10:35; 13:14). “If we accept
human witness [and, of course, we do], we must accept Divine witness [and,
therefore, must believe that the Son of God is Jesus Christ]; for the witness of
God consists in this, that He has borne witness concerning His Son.” Note the
pertinacious repetition of the word “witness,” thoroughly in John’s style. The
perfect μεμαρτύρηκε - memarturaeke – He has testified; He has witnessed –
indicates that THE WITNESS STILL CONTINUES!
The Divine Witness Objectively Given (vs. 6-9)
Connecting link: If the victory over the world can be secured only by those
who believe that Jesus is the Son of God, then it is of vast importance that
the Divine testimony to Him should be unmistakably clear to the upright.
As if this or some such thought had been suggested to his mind while
writing, the apostle proceeds, in one of his most striking passages (one of
the most striking paragraphs, indeed, in the New Testament), to show,
first, that THE TESTIMONY OF GOD CONCERNING HIS SON is
objectively given (vs. 6-9), and then that it is subjectively proven and
confirmed (vs. 9-12).
To each of these topics we must devote our attention. Topic —
God’s three witnesses to His Son. The student is specially requested here to
compare the Authorized Version with the Revised Version. We follow, in
this homily, the Revisers’ Greek text. This passage has an intense charm
for us. It is so manifestly the echo of words which the apostle had heard
from his Master’s lips (John 5:32-39), together with such addition as
the facts consequent on our Lord’s death and resurrection had enabled the
apostle to furnish. As bearing on the Christian evidences the paragraph is
unique. It is of infinite value, and deserves more elaborate exposition than,
so far as we know, it has ever yet received.
TO US THROUGH TESTIMONY. We gain some knowledge through the
senses; other knowledge through mental observation; some through
experience; some through reasoning. Knowledge of necessary truth may be
gained by intuition, or by reasoning. Knowledge of contingent truth, i.e., of
truth that is dependent on the will of another, can be gained only as we
have information concerning that will. Such information is ordinarily
gained, and in some cases exclusively, by testimony. The whole of the
gospel message comes to us in this way, by testimony (compare I Corinthians
2:1). An inquiry into the laws of trustworthy testimony will disclose the
fact that the evidence on which we should feel bound to receive the
testimony of men is far exceeded by the evidence for the testimony of God
(see homily on vs. 9-10 below).
TESTIMONY THAT JESUS IS THE SON OF GOD. “There are three
that bear witness: the Spirit, the water, and the blood.” “This is He that
came by water and blood; not by water only, but by water and blood.”
Ø The water. To what does the apostle refer when he says that Christ came
“by water”? Undoubtedly to the baptism of the Christ by John the Baptist.
When the herald baptized his Lord as the great High Priest, and so set him
apart to his calling by that act, the race of prophets was closed, and the
Messiah was ushered in. It was the first step taken by our Lord in His
official ministry. But why such a step? Why should HE be baptized?
Under the Law of Moses the priests had to be cleansed before entering
on the sacred office. Still, the wonder is that He who knew no sin should
submit to a rite which, whatever else it might or might not signify, implied
impurity of nature in the baptized One from which he required to be
cleansed. We do not wonder at John the Baptist shrinking back from
baptizing the Holy One; it surely could not be fitting that the Sinless One
should do just as the vilest of the vile had done — come and
stream roll over Him as if He had been a sinner along with the rest! Yet,
somehow or other, it was needful that so it should be, in order to “fulfill
all righteousness.” What was that righteousness the Saviour had to
fulfill? First of all, as He came to be the sinner’s Representative by
bearing the liabilities of the race, it was becoming that He should
openly, formally, avowedly, step into the sinner’s place, and take
up the burden of sin, as if it were His own. This He did when he
was “baptized for us.” It was the first act which showed that He
was “numbered with the transgressors.” And mysterious as it was
before to John the Baptist, yet he saw its meaning afterwards, and
forthwith began to announce Him, saying, “Behold the Lamb of God,
that is bearing away the sin of the world” (John 1:29) — bearing it on
Himself, and bearing it off from us. This is He that came “by water.”
Ø The blood. “Jesus bare our sins in His own body upon the tree.”
(I Peter 2:24) In the margin of the Authorized Version read. “to.”
He took our infirmities and bare our sicknesses. He offered Himself
without spot to God. He laid down His life for us. He gave it up of
Himself. He poured out His blood. It was “precious blood,” as of
a lamb without blemish and without spot (compare Matthew 20:28;
26:28; Acts 20:28; Hebrews 13:20; Revelation 1:5). “Not by water
only, but by water and blood.”
Ø The Spirit. Our Lord left a promise, “the promise of the Father,” that
when He had gone from earth the Spirit would supply His place. The
Holy Ghost would be the Gift of a risen Saviour. He it was who
“should baptize with the Holy Ghost.” The narratives in the Acts of
the Apostles are the confirmation of this. The four Gospels take the
work of Christ up to the point when the atonement was “finished;”
the Acts or’ the Apostles continue the record of Christ from the point
when the baptism with the Holy Ghost was bestowed (see Acts 2., et seq.).
This was the crowning seal that Christ was the Son of God. Note: In John
1:29-36 the threefold witness concerning our Lord is summed up. John
had baptized Him with water; had heard the voice from heaven, “This
is my beloved Son;” had pointed out Jesus as the sacrificial Lamb,
and yet as the Baptizer with the Holy Ghost; and on the whole he
remarks, “I saw and bare record, that this is the Son of God.”
which we understand, not merely that they confirm one another as to the
one fact that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, however true that
unquestionably is, but that they all agree in setting forth the glory of His
mission. For the testimony is “that God hath given to us eternal life,” as
well as that “this life is in his Son.” And the Son of God brings about the
life by taking out of the way what would prevent it, in order that He may
grant what would ensure it. Now, “the Spirit, the water,” “the blood,” all
bear, primarily and directly, on man’s great enemy “sin.”
Ø By the water sin is acknowledged;
Ø by the blood sin is atoned;
Ø by the Spirit sin is destroyed.
The voice from heaven owned the first; the Resurrection ratified the
second; the living Church is the standing result of the third.
FORTH THE PERPETUAL TESTIMONY OF GOD TO US
CONCERNING HIS SON. These historic facts — the baptism, the
sacrifice, the gift of the Holy Spirit — are not events that once had a
significance and now are done with; they are not merely incidents unwoven
into the texture of history, which cannot be torn out of it without leaving a
disfiguring rent, but they are continuous voices of God, which are now
speaking to us, and which will continue to speak to men in tones as LOUD
AND CLEAR AS EVER! And the message they give forth is ever this:
“God hath given to us ETERNAL LIFE, and THIS LIFE IS IN HIS SON!
Ø Here is One who, by the dignity of His nature, is the Son of God,
though through the lowliness of His form you see Him only as the
Son of man.
Ø He, the Son of God, the Lord of man, has taken human flesh and blood,
that, coming into the race, He might bear its liabilities on Himself, and,
by bearing their burden on Him, might throw it off for ever.
Ø In stepping into the stream, and numbering Himself with the
transgressors, He publicly assumed the sinner’s place, as if laden
with the sinner’s guilt.
Ø Thus laden with the guilt of the race, through having voluntarily
taken it on Himself, He bore the burden to the cross, there atoned
for sin, cried out, “It is finished!” and the burden was flung off for
Ø The validity of His work was sealed by His resurrection and His
ascension to heaven.
Ø The Gift of the Heir Ghost was His own promised proof of His having
received all power in heaven and on earth; and NOW HE REIGNS
HEAD OVER ALL, having received gifts for men, to bestow on us
the gift of eternal life, having atoned for the sin which forfeited the life,
and having received authority and power to give and to sustain the life.
This is “THE TESTIMONY OF GOD!”
10 “He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he
that believeth not God hath made Him a liar; because he believeth
not the record that God gave of His Son.” Hath the witness in him.
This rendering is to be preferred to either “in Him,” i.e., God, or” in himself.”
The former is obscure in meaning; the latter, though probably correct as an
interpretation, is inaccurate as a translation, for the better reading is αὐτῷ -
auto - Him, not ἑαυτῷ - heauto - Himself. But ἐν αὐτῷ - en auto – in Him –
may be reflexive. The believer in the Incarnation has the Divine ,
testimony in his heart, and it abides with him as an additional source of
evidence, supplementing and confirming the external evidence. In its daily
experience, the soul finds ever fresh proof that the declaration, “This is my
beloved Son,” is true. But even without this internal corroboration, the
external evidence suffices, and he who rejects it makes God a liar; for IT
IS GOD WHO PRESENTS THE EVIDENCE and presents it as sufficient
and true. The second half of the verse is parenthetical, to show that the
unbeliever, though be has no witness in himself, is not therefore excused.
In v. 11 we return to the main proposition at the beginning of v. 10.
Human and Divine Testimony Compared (vs. 9-10)
Connecting link: There is a topic suggested in these verses closely bearing
on the themes of the two preceding homilies. The Lord Jesus Christ, the
Son of God, has come into the world, bearing a message from the eternal
throne. Of the contents and value of the message there are three witnesses:
o the Spirit,
o the water, and
o the blood.
The message is that God has given to us eternal life, and that this life is in his Son.
Where the Son of God has been received by faith, there is the life actually existing;
and this inward life is a distinctive personal seal of the truth of God’s words, whereby
they are verified by every one who shares the life. But, granting that this verification
is lacking (as it is) in those who have not the life, and that in consequence
the only testimony to the truth of God’s words is that which comes to them
from without, how, then, does the case stand as to the sufficiency of that
outer testimony? Thus there are certain well-understood laws which
govern belief in human testimony; there are circumstances under which no
one would think of rejecting such testimony — under which, if he were to
reject it, he would be doing a manifold wrong. Much more is this the case
with regard to the testimony of God concerning Jesus Christ. (Hebrews 10:29)
It is in every respect greater, fuller, clearer, than the testimony of man. “If we
receive,” etc., Faith in God’s testimony concerning His Son is required by the
laws which ordinarily govern human belief.
TESTIMONY OF MAN WOULD BE UNHESITATINGLY
ACCEPTED. “If we receive the testimony of man,” etc. If, not as
expressing a doubt whether we do or no. The “if” is nearly equivalent to
“since” or “inasmuch as.” The fact is taken for granted, as one well known,
that receiving testimony from man is a commonly accepted way of gaining
knowledge. We can but offer in our limited space the very barest outline of
how this matter stands.
Ø Much of every man’s knowledge comes to him from the testimony
of others. Even those who demand “verification” are content
to accept the verification of another in every department save their
own. If it were not so, the progress of man would be slow indeed.
Ø What is required in a witness is:
o competent knowledge.
Let these conditions be fulfilled, and few would gainsay his testimony.
Ø If for a particular fact, call it x, there were not only one, two, or three,
but twelve witnesses.
Ø If the twelve witnesses were all men of unimpeachable character, and
teachers and examples of the loftiest morality the world has ever known.
Ø If they one and all gave up all that the world holds dear, and risked, or
even forfeited, life itself in giving their testimony. (All of the original
twelve, except Judas and John, died a martyr’s death)
Ø If it was well-known that the testimony was directly opposed to the very
strongest prepossessions in which they had been nursed and nurtured;
Ø The effect of their testimony was to impart soundness, joy, life, love,
where only disease, sorrow, death, and selfishness reigned before; — in
such a case, we venture to say, such testimony would be regarded as
warranting, and even demanding, belief. It could not and would not be
rejected. Be it so: then observe:
SUCH HUMAN TESTIMONY WOULD BE. Evidently the apostle’s
meaning is that, if we feel it incumbent on us not to reject human testimony
when clear and adequate, much more ought we to feel it binding on us to
receive the testimony of God. For this (and specially this concerning
Christ) is greater than any human testimony could possibly be. In what
sense? In many.
Ø It is greater in its origin. “God.” It may, and probably would, be urged
by an unbeliever here, “I grant that at once, that God’s testimony is
greater than man’s; but the difficulty with me is, is it God’s testimony?”
That is just the thing to be shown. The following hints may serve.
o It is admitted by the philosopher that at the back of all things
there is an infinite energy. We can take this pagan idea for a
starting-point, and we affirm, if the energy is infinite, it can
let us know something about itself.
o If the infinite energy deigns to tell us something about itself, it
must be through such channels of life, thought, and words as
we can apprehend.
o The fact that the channel of communication may be human is
entirely consistent with the origin of communication being
o When this is the case, then such human communication has to
be interrogated and tested as to its whence and how.
o If it stands this test, i.e., if
§ it claims to be from God, if
§ it justifies that claim, and if
§ there is nothing inconsistent with the claim,
then the proof of the validity of its testimony is complete.
The carrying out of this argument will prove that the Christian
testimony is from God. We have a heavenly treasure, though put
into earthen vessels.
Ø It is greater in its contents. It is a grand proclamation that “the gift of
God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Ø It is greater in the manifoldness and strength of the evidence. Let all the
tests suggested under the first division be applied, e.g., to the testimony
for the resurrection of Christ (Acts 4:33), and it will stand them all, while
the evidence from the perfection of the moral character of the Christ is
absolutely unique and sufficient.
Ø It is greater, consequently, in its binding force. Well we know, alas!
that, inevitable as this conclusion is, it is precisely the one many would
evade and avoid; and, in fact, it may even be that, because they see this to
be the issue of the inquiry, some decline to enter upon it. They do not like
to be bound. Their spirit is, in speaking of the commandments of God,
“Let us breaktheir bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.”
Psalm 2:3. And the clearer the evidence, the greater their wrath. But
John 7:17 (Greek) shows us what the conclusion will be with a man who
is “of God” (John 8:47).
AND SO CLEAR, WHAT THEN?
1. The believer is abundantly justified in his faith; so that he is doubly
happy, for the outer evidence justifies his faith when he believes, and the
inner evidence verifies the faith after he believes.
2. The unbeliever is condemned. The apostle makes a terrible charge
against him — he maketh God a liar. How? Thus: he declares the greatest
work which God has ever done in the world to have its basis in a delusion
and a lie. The noblest life that the world has received has been grounded on
the belief that Jesus is the Son of God. The man denies that. In doing so he
consequently declares that God builds up his noblest lives on an untruth.
What is this but making God a liar?
3. The sinner has abundant warrant for saying —
“Hence and for ever from my heart
I bid my doubts and fears depart,
And to those hands my soul resign
That bear CREDENTIALS SO DIVINE!
11 “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and
this life is in His Son.” “And the substance of the internal testimony is this —
we are conscious of the Divine gift of eternal life, and this we have in the
Son of God.” John’s ζωὴ αἰώνιος – zoae aionios – life eonian - is not
“everlasting life:” the idea of endlessness may be included in it, but it is not
the main one. The distinction between eternity and time is one which the
human mind feels to be real and necessary. But we are apt to lose ourselves
when we try to think of eternity. (I can remember as an adolescent, thinking
about eternity and it would make my head swim! I believe in eternal life
for evermore but accept it and don’t try to understand it here! – CY – 2015)
We admit that it is not time, that it is the very antithesis of time,
and yet we attempt to measure it while we declare it to be immeasurable.
We make it simply a very long time. The main idea of “eternal life” in
John’s writings has no direct reference to time. Eternal life is possessed
already by believers; it is not a thing of the future (John 3:36; 5:24;
6:47, 54; 17:3). It is that life in God which includes all blessedness, and
which is not broken by physical death (John 11:25). Its opposite is
exclusion from God.
The Fourfold Witness to the Divine Sonship of Jesus (vs. 6-11)
“This is He that came by water and blood,” etc. We omit the interpolated
clauses, and take the text as it is given in the Revised Version. John
here states the basis of that faith by means of which the Christian
overcomes the world. We have the most convincing testimony that the
confidence which is reposed in Jesus Christ as the Son of God is well
founded. That testimony is manifold. We have:
· THE TESTIMONY OF HIS BAPTISM. “This is he that came by
water,… even Jesus Christ.” The coming here meant is not that of His
incarnation, His entrance into this world; but His coming forth from the
coming “by water” we regard as referring to His baptism by John. That
Ø The inauguration of His great mission. When Jesus went to John for
baptism He had finally left His private life, and was just about to
enter upon His public ministry, and His baptism was a fitting
introduction to that ministry.
Ø An inauguration characterized by supernatural and Divine attestation.
Probably it is for this reason that John here refers to our Lord’s
baptism: “Jesus, when He was baptized, went up straightway from the
water: and lo, the heavens were opened unto Him,” etc. (Matthew
3:16-17). And John the Baptist testified, “This is he of whom I said,
After me cometh a Man which is preferred before me: for He was
before me. And I knew Him not; but that He should be made
· THE TESTIMONY OF HIS CRUCIFIXION. “This is He that came by
water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not with the water only, but with the
water and with the blood.” The reference is to the blood which He shed
upon the cross for the redemption of mankind. But how did His death
witness to the truth that He was the Son of God?
Ø By the extraordinary phenomena associated with his death.
“Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land
until the ninth hour.… And Jesus yielded up the ghost. And
behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to
the bottom,” etc. (Matthew 27:45,50-54; Luke 23. 47-48).
Ø By the transcendent moral grandeur expressed in His death. He
voluntarily submitted Himself to death for the salvation of the
lost world. Our Lord said, “Therefore doth my Father love me,
because I lay down my life that I may take it again. No one taketh
it away from me,” etc. (John 10:17-18); “He gave Himself for our
sins,” etc. (Galatians 1:4); “He gave Himself a Ransom for us,” etc.
(I Timothy 2:6); “He gave Himself for us,” etc. (Titus 2:14);
“Christ also suffered for sins once, the Righteous for the
unrighteous,” etc. (I Peter 3:18). He freely surrendered Himself
to the most painful and shameful death, not for Himself, or for
His friends, but for sinners and rebels against Him and His
Father, and in order that they might have eternal life. Such
self-sacrifice was more than human, more than angelic, —
IT WAS STRICTLY AND PROPRLY DIVINE!
“This was compassion like a God,
That when the Saviour knew
The price of pardon was His blood,
His pity ne’er withdrew.”
· THE TESTIMONY OF HIS SPIRIT. “And it is the Spirit that beareth
witness, because the Spirit is the truth, For there are three who bear
witness, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and the three agree in
Ø The nature of the testimony of the Holy Spirit. At our Lord’s baptism
the Spirit bore witness that He was the Son of God (Matthew 3:16-17).
Our Lord said, “The Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father,
He shall bear witness of me” (John 15:26). Again He said, “The Spirit
of truth… He shall glorify me; for He shall take of mine, and shall
declare it unto you.” He bore witness to the Messiahship of Jesus by
coming down, according to His promise, upon the apostles, and by
making the gospel of Christ which they preached a saving power to
thousands of souls (Acts 2; 4:31). And He bears witness for Christ
in the hearts of Christians (ch.3:24; I Corinthians 12:3).
Ø The value of the testimony of the Holy Spirit. “The Spirit, is the truth;”
“The Spirit of truth” (John 14:17; 15:26); “When he, the Spirit of truth,
is come, He shall guide you into all the truth.” His testimony is of the
utmost value and importance, because He is perfectly free from error or
fraud; proceeding from the Spirit of truth, the Spirit who is the truth,
He is light without any darkness, truth without any error. And His
testimony is that JESUS IS THE MESSIAH AND THE SON OF
THE LIVING GOD!
· THE TESTIMONY OF HIS BELIEVING PEOPLE. “He that
believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in him.… And the witness is
this, that God gave unto us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.” The
object of the Divine testimony being to produce faith in Christ, the apostle
takes him in whom it has wrought this its effect, one who habitually believes
in the Son of God, and says of such a one that he possesses the testimony in
himself. All genuine believers in Jesus Christ have the witness of their own
consciousness “that God gave unto us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.”
They are conscious that the life of love — love to God and to man — is theirs.
“We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the
brethren.” And we know that this life was quickened within us through
the exercise of faith in Christ. To us individually this is the most convincing
of all witnesses. “One thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.”
· THE TESTIMONY OF ALL THE BEFORE-MENTIONED
COMBINED. All the foregoing witnesses are united and concurrent in
their evidence. “The three agree in one.” We may say that the four agree in
one. THEIR TESTIMONY IS UNANIMOUS! There is no contradiction,
no discrepancy in their evidence. With one voice they declare, “Rabbi, thou
art the Son of
God, thou art the King of
the Son of the living God.”
Notice two points in conclusion:
1. The claim which this testimony has upon, our acceptance. “if we receive
the witness of men, the witness of God is greater,” etc. We receive human
testimony, notwithstanding that
a. The witness may unintentionally be untrue. Human observations and
impressions and recollections are not always accurate; hence the witness
of men is sometimes undesignedly incorrect. But in the manifold and
Divine testimony to the truth that Jesus is the Son of God there cannot
be any inaccuracy or imperfection.
b. The human witness may intentionally be untrue. Man may endeavor to
deceive; he may willfully bear false witness. But “the witness of God is
greater.” THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH CANNOT LIE! Therefore this
testimony has the most commanding claims upon our acceptance.
2. The issue involved in THE NON-ACCEPTANCE OF THIS TESTIMONY.
“He that believeth not God hath made Him a liar; because he hath not
believed in the witness that God hath borne concerning His Son.” Is any one
prepared to discredit God? Will any one implicitly charge Him with falsehood?
Be it ours to receive His testimony with larger, fuller confidence, and to REST
IN HIS SON with deeper, more loving, and more reverent trust.
12 “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God
hath not life.” Eternal life is not granted to the whole world, or even to all
Christians en masse; it is given to individuals, soul by soul, according as
each does or does not accept the Son of God. The order of the Greek is
noteworthy — in the first half of the verse the emphasis is on “hath,” in the
second on “life.” Here, as in John 1:4, the article before ζωὴ (life) should be
translated, “hath the life… hath not the life.” The insertion of τοῦ Θεοῦ -
tou Theou – the God – in the second half of the verse POINTS TO THE
MAGNITUDE OF THE LOSS – the possessor has no need to be told
whose Son he has.
Faith and the Divine Testimony (vs. 1-12)
Ø A common faith with a common life is the foundation of brotherly
love.“Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is begotten of God:
and whosoever loveth Him that begat loveth Him also that is begotten
of Him.” A general aspect is given to the truth. Given a person who
(according to what John has formerly taught) believes that Jesus is
the Christ, it can be said of him that he is begotten, of God, i.e., is
the subject of a Divine life. It is implied, but not expressed, that a
child of God loves the Author of his life. This love is extended to
Him that shares with him the same Divine life. There is thus
created a brotherhood, with a common source of life and a
common stream of life. And shall not all who have a common
origin and common movements love one another?
Ø The reality of brotherly love is proved by the activity of obedience.
“Hereby we know that we love the children of God, when we love God,
and do His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep
His commandments.” There is here personal application of the truth.
When can we say that we love the children of God? The answer given
is (the converse being also true), when we love God. Have we some real
love to God? then inseparable from that is love to His children. For
along with love to God goes the doing of His commandments, under
which is included love to the children of God. This is the love of God
in its working, that we are careful about doing the commandments of
God. If a child has a sincere love to his parents, and knows that they
wish him to be kind to his brothers and sisters, he will not oppose that
wish. So if we have love to God, and know that it is His will that we
should extend our love to His children, we shall make an endeavor in
that direction. Transitional thought. “And His commandments are not
grievous.” If a parent loves his children, he will not give them all that
they are inclined for; but he will lay commandments on them, i.e., he
will lay down certain rules for their conduct, lines in which
they are to act, which will be for their benefit, and, he hopes, their
ultimate emancipation. There is nothing grievous in these commandments;
they are the expression, not only of righteousness, but of kindness. So
with the Divine commandment. If God had not loved us, He might have
left us without directions for our life; but because He loved us, and
could not bear to see us straying in devious paths to our destruction,
therefore He has commanded and warned us well. There is “line upon
line, precept upon precept.” (Isaiah 28:10) So far from these
commandments being grievous in their nature, they are beneficial,
emancipating. They are the direct roads to our happiness. They are
not arbitrarily laid on us, but are thoroughly reasonable
and suited to our nature. Is there anything unreasonable or unnatural
in our loving the God of our life, and with our whole soul? And,
loving the Father, may we not be asked to love also those who share
with us the life of God?
Ø The difficulties of obedience which are presented by what the world is
are conquered by faith. “For whatsoever is begotten of God overcometh
the world: and this is the victory that hath overcome the world, even our
faith.” The apostle’s thought is not of the world in its normal state, but as
it has been made by sin. The world is that of which the pervading spirit is
forgetfulness of God. “The wicked… and all the nations that forget
God” (Psalm 9:17). Men may not be all wicked in the highest degree —
deliberate and daring in sin; they may be divided against each other; but it
is natural to all alike to wish to banish God out of their minds as an
unwelcome, disagreeable subject. The world is that of which the
pervading spirit is selfishness — the opposite of what is here inculcated.
Men may not be all malevolent in the highest degree — devilish,
according to the common conception — but it is natural to all alike
to hurry on to their own satisfaction, without regard to the claims of
others. The world is, further, that in social condition which is formed
by following ungodly, selfish tendencies. Take such a social condition
as is presented among the Jews. Long ago they took up a wrong
position with regard to the Messiah. “His blood be on us, and on our
children!” (Matthew 27:25) And in their generations, with few
exceptions, they have stood to their position. Scattered among the
nations, they have not conformed to the creeds of the nations. A
common sentiment has pervaded them in many lands. Centuries of
neglect and persecution have only served to burn into their minds
the conviction that their forefathers were in the right. And now it
would seem like a cutting off a right arm to acknowledge the Messiah.
Take, again, such a social condition as is presented in the Church of
of reaching minds, and yet it is identified with a system which is, to a
great extent, in the name of Christ, a flattery of the human heart. Take
a quasi-Christian condition of society. Without flagrant irreligiousness
and vice, there is a worldly tone prevalent in families, in communities,
in trades, in professions, even in Churches. There are views of life and
practices that tend to lessen the sense of responsibility, and to divide
men. When the world has on its side the influences of early
training, of numbers, of dignitaries, of daily example, it is a formidable
power to which to be opposed. And, if we look to ourselves, we are
entirely at its mercy. But we are not hopeless, for a Divine power can be
communicated to us, and all within us that is quickened by the Divine
touch overcometh the world. What God does is to impart life; what we
have to do is to exercise faith. We lay hold on what is outside of us, and
thus we conquer. We lay hold on the infinite satisfaction there is in Christ,
and thus we are not clogged, in our battle with the world, with the feeling
of guilt. We lay hold on the conquest Christ obtained over the world.
There is presented to our faith a God whom we are powerfully impelled to
love. Thus situated, the commandments of God are not grievous. We may
be said to conquer the world when no longer worldly ideas are influential
with us. And when we have taken up the position of faith, the world
becomes only the means of our discipline. The world will only be
conquered in the fullest sense when the customs of society and influences
which permeate it are such as to afford the greatest help to remembering
God and living for the good of others. Appeal to experience. “And who
is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the
Son of God?” Survey the whole world, and show me even one of
whom it can be affirmed with truth that he overcomes the world, who
is not a Christian, and endowed with this faith. In the apostle’s day
there were many who seemed hopelessly involved in heathen customs
and traditions; but even out of their heathenism they reached forth the
hand of faith to the incarnate Son of God, and conquered, in giving
up their heathen life, and living according to Christian rule. It is only
condescending love, apprehended by faith, that can break the spell
of the world.
· THE DIVINE TESTIMONY TO THE OBJECT OF FAITH.
Ø Its nature. “This is He that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ,
not with the water only, but with the water and with the blood. And it is
the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is the truth. For there
are three who bear witness, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood:
and the three agree in one.” The Bible is not so plain in every part that
he that runneth can read. Peter found in Paul’s writings some things
hard to be understood. John uses simple words, but it is not always
easy to catch his meaning. The present passage has been very perplexing.
The historical basis is obvious. There was water at the commencement
of our Lord’s ministry; there was blood at its close. He came by water
as baptized, He came by blood as crucified. Water signifies life in its
purity; blood signifies life in all its purity sacrificed, and so made
available for us. He came not with the water only; for His pure life
by itself could not be available for us. But He came with the water
and with the blood; for it was as sacrificed that His pure life was
available for us. The fact that He had a pure life in the
midst of sinful humanity testified to His being the Son of God.
And so at His baptism there was the voice from heaven, “This is
my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17)
The fact that by His death a fountain of life was open for men
(significantly there gushed from His pierced side blood and
water — first blood, and then water) also testified to His being
the Son of God. And so there was the Divine attestation following
in His resurrection. That is historical testimony belonging to a distant
century. But the Spirit is the ever-present Witness, being the Truth.
There are thus three present witnesses.
o There is the Spirit, placed first; because He witnesses through
the water and the blood.
o There is the water, witnessing in the power of a new life in us.
o There is the blood, witnessing in redemptive virtue going
into us to give us the power of a new life.
And the three agree in one; their testimony converges to one point,
viz. to the new life in us being the grand proof that JESUS IS THE
SON OF GOD!
· Its sufficiency.
o It is Divine. “If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is
greater: for the witness of God is this, that He hath borne witness
concerning His Son.” It is implied that we receive the witness of men.
If three human witnesses of ordinary intelligence and probity agree, we
proceed upon their testimony even in matters affecting life and death.
There is an important sense in which the condition of three witnesses is
fulfilled with regard to the Divine testimony. Apart from that there is
to be taken into account the infinite superiority of God to man. He is
not a man, that He should be deceived; He is not a man, that He
should lie; and, therefore, when He gives His testimony concerning
His Son, HE SHOULD BE BELIEVED!
o It is in consciousness. “He that believeth on the Son of God hath the
witness in him: he that believeth not God hath made Him a liar;
because he hath not believed in the witness that God hath borne
concerning His Son.” The object of the Divine testimony is that we
should believe on the Son of God. He that, accepting the Divine
testimony, believes on the Son of God is made independent of it as
external. He hath the (Divine) testimony in himself, so that he does
not need to go beyond his own consciousness for testimony to the place
of Jesus. In the case of him who believes not God who hath testified,
this testimony in consciousness is forbidden by the very nature of his
unbelief, which is making God a liar — believing what men say in
ordinary matters, but not believing what God says about his Son.
o It is in the possession of life in Christ. “And the witness is this, that
God gave unto us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.” We have
here a better disclosure of the purport of the testimony, showing it to
be fraught with the greatest blessing. It is testimony regarding God’s
own gift of life. One element in life is the enjoyment of the Divine
favor; another element is the quickening of our powers. It is life that,
even in what is begun of it here, is eternal in its nature. It is life not
promised, but actually given. It is life intended for our appropriation by
faith. It is life to be found in Christ, by whom, though free in reference
to us, it has been meritoriously procured, in whom also its nature is
exhibited. We who have appropriated the Divine gift in the Holder
and Dispenser of it can testify to His being more than man, even God
Ø Practical inference. “He that hath the Son hath the life; he that hath
not the Son of God hath not the life.” The boon, which is of unspeakable
value, comes with the possession of the Son; therefore the all-important
thing is to possess the Son. He that hath the Son hath the life gifted,
enjoys the favor of God, has his spiritual powers quickened. He that
hath not the Son of God hath not the life gifted, lies under the Divine
disfavor, has his spiritual powers with the torpor of death on them.
And the two states are the poles asunder. Let us believe on
the Son of God, and we are at the pole of eternal sunshine. ‘Let us
refuse the Divine testimony, and we are at the opposite pole of
The Divine Witness Subjectively Verified (vs. 9-12)
Connecting link: The main topic is now the witness of God. In the
preceding sketch we dwelt upon the witness of God objectively given.
Now we have for our topic — The witness of God verified in the
individual experience. The apostle gives us this in two forms — the
positive and the negative.
(1) Negative: “He that hath not the Son of God hath not the life.”
(2) Positive: “He that hath the Son hath the life.” We deal now only with
the positive statement. In so doing, we join with it the corresponding one:
“He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself” (v. 10).
There are two well-known laws concerning testimony.
a. That it is appropriate and even obligatory to receive adequate testimony
b. That it is impossible to question such testimony when it is subjectively
verified. It is the latter of these two laws the operation of which we are
now to consider.
witness in himself.” So far as the expression is concerned, apart front the
context, the apostle’s words might bear either of two meanings:
Ø “He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself that
he believes;” or
Ø “He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself that
God’s testimony concerning His Son is true.” The context decides for
the latter, and it is set by the apostle in form most exactly logical.
o First step: “This is the witness — that God hath given to us
eternal life, and that this life is in His Son.”
o Second step: “He that hath the Son hath the life.”
Conclusion: “He has the witness in himself of the truth of God’s
testimony.” Had we time to elaborate this part of our theme, we
would do so in four distinct stages.
1. God gives man life through Christ, and promises it to all that believe.
2. Man believes unfeignedly in the testimony God has given of His Son.
3. Believing in Jesus, he already enjoys the life which God has promised to
4. Therefore he has within him an actual verification of God’s own faithful
Word. He believed the testimony was true, and now he knows it to be so.
It has a sevenfold value.
Ø It is a distinctively personal verification of the truth of God’s Word
concerning His Son. It is emphatically the believer’s own, which may
be paralleled in the experience of others, but cannot be shared by them.
There is first of all a firm and unwavering certitude that he has a life
above and beyond that of nature. Then there is the knowledge gained
by continuous experience that only by and through Christ has such a
life been initiated, nourished, and sustained.
Ø The evidence attends him everywhere. It is always with him. He
affirms, “The life I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of
God.” (Galatians 2:20) This is what Dr. Chalmers used to call “the
portable evidence of Christianity.” It can be carried about with a man,
go where he will. It takes up no space on the shelves in his library,
but ever fills a snug corner of his heart.
Ø It is an evidence which is independent of what man may say. At one
time, when the only evidence he knew of was that which is external to
the man, he was dependent on what this or that one might say, and
his belief would be stronger or weaker according to the speaker’s
success or failure in argument. But his faith is no longer a traditional
one. It is the result of the Spirit’s work within him; and if no other
advocate for the Saviour should appear, what Christ has done for him
and in him would lead him to say from his own experience, “I know
that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.” (John 4:42)
Ø It is an evidence which brings a joy along with it, with which a stranger
intermeddleth not. Evidence which merely shows a man the glory of
what he ought to believe, and that it is binding on him to believe, may but
irritate, and will, if there, be a dislike to the truth. But when a man has
God’s witness within himself, then he knows whom he has believed, and
the knowledge brings a joy unspeakable and full of glory. His may be —
yea, is — a life of calm resting in the promise, “Where I am there shall
also my servant be.” (John 12:26)
Ø Such an evidence gives him power as a pleader for God. With what zest
can he tell to sinners round what a dear Saviour he has found! He can
speak, not from hearsay, not merely out of a book, but of “what he has
tasted and handled and felt of the Word of life.” (ch. 1:1)
Ø This evidence accumulates in strength with advancing years. The longer
his experience of the power and grace of Christ to sustain in him the
eternal life, the more he has received from the fullness of the Saviour,
and the severer and the more frequent the trials which have thrown him
on his Redeemer for sympathy and for strength, — the stronger will this
inward evidence become. The value of the testimony, “Not one thing
hath failed of all the good things that the Lord hath spoken,” (Joshua
23:14) (This was my testimony at my Mother’s funeral – May 17, 1992 –
CY – 2015) must needs increase with the number of the years that such
Ø This is an evidence of which its possessor cannot be deprived. All
evidences that are without a man — historical, philosophical, moral —
may lose their hold on him, “when mind and memory flee.” And
besides, of any evidence for which he is dependent on man, by man
he can be deprived. An evidence of which man cannot rob us must
be an evidence man cannot give us. And here it is: “The witness in
himself” — the life within, which, when nature sinks, will rise the
higher, and which will enable the believer even in death to shout,
“Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory!
1. When we summon up before our imagination the thousands and millions
of this and of past ages who have known and declared that life in Christ is
their certain experience, we see how great the problem which the
destructive skeptic has to solve ere he can demolish the evidences of and
for Christianity! He might as well try to put out the sun’s light! If it were
possible (which it is not) for an unbeliever to know all the evidence of
Christianity, objective and subjective, he would give up his puny attempts
at disproof thereof.
2. Let those who do not possess this inward witness look at the fact that,
unless they are to disbelieve in, or to regard as fools, the holiest of their
friends who speak of the life in Christ as theirs, this evidence, though
inward to their friends, is outward to themselves, and as such must be
taken into account by them as pertaining to human experience. For it is by
no means allowable to claim experience as a basis of evidence, and at the
same time to decide a priori what that experience ought to be.
3. If a man knows that some have an experimental and living faith which he
himself lacks, if he feels painfully that religion is as yet something entirely
outside him, how great should be his desire to pass from a dead faith which
is dependent on man, to a living one imparted and sustained by God!
4. Let us use the doctrine of the text as the basis of an earnest and loving
appeal; and say, “We know what Christ is, for He is our Saviour; we know
how freely He forgives, for He has forgiven us; we ‘speak that we do know,
and testify that we have seen,’ (John 3:11) we have tried His own words,
and have found them true, “He that believeth on me hath the everlasting life.”
The Supreme Possession (v. 12)
“He that hath the Son hath the life,” etc. In our text the apostle expresses:
· A SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP TO THE LORD JESUS CHRIST. “He
that hath the Son.” What are we to understand by these words? What is
involved in them?
Ø Realizing faith in Him.
o In His existence. Saving faith in Christ is faith, not in His
historic reality only, but in His present existence — that HE IS!
“He ever liveth.”
o (2) In His perfection. It will profit me nothing to believe in Jesus
as an ordinary Man, having the imperfections, weaknesses, and
sins of our/my human nature. Faith in such a being would not
result in any accession of strength. Faith must be exercised in
him as “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and
made higher than the heavens.” (Hebrews 7:26) Thus believing
in Him we are, as it seems to us, necessarily led on to faith
in His proper Divinity — “that Jesus is the Son of God” (v. 5).
o In His interest in us. Faith in His existence and perfection and
Divinity will not benefit us unless we believe in His regard
for us — that He cares for us, desires to bless and save us.
Now, we need what I have called a realizing faith in Him.
The faith of which John and Paul wrote, and which our
Lord required in Himself, is a far greater and deeper thing than
intellectual assent. “With the heart man believeth unto
righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto
salvation.” (Romans 10:10) When the soul in very truth
responds to the message of God, the complete responsive act
of faith is threefold. This act proceeds simultaneously:
§ from the intelligence,
§ from the heart, and
§ from the will of the believer.
His intelligence recognizes the unseen object as a fact.
His heart embraces the object thus present to the understanding;
his heart opens instinctively and unhesitatingly to receive a ray
of heavenly light. And his will, too, resigns itself to the truth
before it; it places the soul at the disposal of the object which
thus rivets its eye and conquers its affections. With a faith like
this, the Christian apprehends Jesus Christ as a grand, living,
spiritual, Divine Person; enshrines Him in the heart’s
innermost and holiest temple; and offers to Him humblest and
deepest reverence. Thus the Christian “hath the Son.”
Ø Acceptance of His teaching. The Christian is intellectually and practically
loyal to the teaching of Jesus Christ. In a very true and important sense
Plato may be said to have had Socrates. He had so studied his utterances,
so mastered his method, so thoroughly acquainted himself with his views
and theories and principles; moreover, he held him in such high esteem,
regarded him with such reverence, that we may, without exaggeration, say
that he possessed Socrates. “We have the mind of Christ.” (I Corinthians
2:16) By means of His teaching we have intellectual communion with
Him. His precious utterances, His glorious revelations, we believe; they
are ours. All that He spake we receive as true; so His mind becomes ours;
and in this sense we have Him.
Ø Supreme sympathy with Him. He gave Himself for us, and in return we
give ourselves to Him. “We love Him, because He first loved us.” By
reciprocal affection we have Him. This is the truest, completest, highest
way in which one person can have another. He by whom I am truly loved,
and whom I truly love, is mine indeed. Thus we have the Son. He dwells
in us by His Spirit. His teaching, His presence, His love, His life, His
Spirit, are ours; Himself is ours, inalienably and for ever. John frequently
represents this relationship to Christ as conditioned simply by faith in him
(v. 13; John 3:14-16, 34). In his vocabulary “faith” is a comprehensive
word. It “is not merely a perception of the understanding; it
is a kindling of the heart, and a resolve of the will; it is, in short, an act
of the whole soul, which, by one simultaneous complex movement, sees,
feels, and obeys the truth presented to it.” He who thus believes on the
Lord Jesus Christ “hath the Son.”
· THEY WHO HOLD THIS RELATIONSHIP ARE POSSESSORS OF
THE HIGHEST LIFE. “He that hath the Son hath the life.” What are we
to understand by - τὴν ζωήν - ton zoaen – the life?
Ø Not mere existence. The most wicked among men have this. Fallen
angels have existed through thousands of years (II Peter 2:4; Jude 1:6).
To argue for either the perpetuity or the non-perpetuity of existence
from the teaching of the apostle concerning “the life” is a gross
perversion of his teaching.
Ø Not mere intellectual life. Voltaire, Byron, et al., possessed this in a
high degree; but who would affirm that they had “the Son” and
Ø Not mere emotional life. There are many whose sympathies are
abundant and active, who sincerely pity the wretched, who have often
been moved to tears as they have contemplated the woes of the Man
of sorrows, who yet have neither “the Son” nor “the life.” The life of
which John writes is “the new life of God in humanity.” This new life
may be viewed as a new reigning affection. By faith in Christ man is
regenerated, his ruling love is changed. His deepest and strongest
affection is no longer earthly, selfish, or sinful, but heavenly, self-
abnegating, holy; he loves God supremely. He is thus brought into
vital and blessed relationship with God. Holy love is life. “The mind
of the Spirit is life” (Romans 8:6). He who has the Son has this life.
HE HAS IT NOW, not in its most glorious development, but really
and increasingly (Galatians 2:20). Under the influence of this supreme
love to God all the faculties of the spiritual nature advance towards
perfection in blessed harmony with His holy will.
· THIS LIFE IS ATTAINABLE ONLY THROUGH CHRIST. “He
that hath not the Son of God hath not the life.” What is essential to this
life? That man’s strongest and deepest love shall be fixed on God. And we
have no revelation of God adequate to inspire this affection save that which
is given unto us in Jesus Christ. On viewing the life as consisting of the
union of the soul of man with God, we affirm that it is only through the
mediation of Jesus Christ that this union can be effected. Man is estranged
from God by sin, “alienated from the life of God” (Ephesians 4:18) and under
condemnation because of sin. “The Son of man has power to forgive sins.”
(Matthew 9:6; Mark 2:10; Luke 5:24) “There is no condemnation to them
that are in Christ Jesus.” By the manifestation of the love of God in His life,
and especially in His death, He destroys the enmity of the sinful heart, and
reconciles man unto God. “When we were enemies, we were reconciled to
God by the death of His Son.” (Romans 5:10) Christ reveals God as
a Being possessing in infinite degree those attributes which are necessary
to command the soul’s supreme love. He manifests THE PERFECT
Ø RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD! The cross of Jesus Christ is the grand
declaration of God’s unappeasable hatred of sin, and His zeal for the
maintenance of rectitude. It is the perfect revelation of religious truth for
man’s intellect and heart. He is “the Truth.” In Him truth was incarnate.
In Him the love of God is most perfectly expressed. Divine love toiling,
sorrowing, suffering, dying, to save the unlovely, the unworthy, the ill
deserving, is manifest in Him. He shows us the ineffable mystery of God
in self-sacrifice for us. He reveals, as fully as is possible to our dim vision,
the transcendent beauty of the Divine character, for our admiration and
reverence. In a word, taking holiness as expressing the summation of the
Divine perfections, He reveals THE INFINITE HOLINESS OF GOD!
Here in Him we have such a revelation of the Supreme Being as is perfectly
Ø to command the homage of conscience,
Ø to quicken and strengthen the intellect,
Ø to expel all enmity,
Ø to beget in the soul the purest, deepest, intensest love, and
Ø to call forth the reverent devotion of our being.
Such a revelation believed in and brought home to our spirit by the Holy Spirit,
is life-giving; and such a revelation we have IN CHRIST ALONE! Only
through Him can we attain the highest life (compare John 3:36; 14:6; Acts 4:12).
Ø This relationship may be attained by EVERY ONE! (John 3:16.)
Ø God seeks to bring all men into this relationship. He invites, exhorts,
Ø If any have not this life, it is because they refuse to comply with the
condition of its bestowment. “Ye will not come unto me, that ye
might have life.” (John 5:40)
CONCLUSION OF EPISTLE (vs. 13-21) without, however, any
marked break between this section and the last On the contrary, the
prominent thought of eternal life through faith in the Son of God is
continued for final development. This topic is the main idea alike of the
Gospel (John 20:31) and of the Epistle, with this difference — in the
Gospel the purpose is that we may have eternal life; in the Epistle, that we
may know that we have eternal life.
13 “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of
the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that
ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” These things I have written
to you sums up the Epistle as a whole. At the outset the apostle said, “These things
we write, that our joy [yours as well as mine] may be fulfilled;” and now, as he draws
to a close, he says the same thing in other words. Their joy is the knowledge that
they have eternal life through belief in the Son of God. There is considerable
variety of reading in this verse, but that of the Textus Receptus, represented by
the Authorized Version, is a manifest simplification. That represented by the
Revised Version is probably right. The awkwardness of the last clause
produced various alterations with a view to greater smoothness. The verse,
both as regards construction and meaning, should be carefully compared
with John 1:12. In both we have the epexegetic addition at the end. In
both we have John’s favourite πιστεύειν εἰς – pisteuein eis – ones believing
in - expressing the very strongest belief; motion to and repose upon the object
of belief. In both we have the remarkable expression, “believe on His Name.”
This is no mere periphrasis for “believe on Him.” Names in Jewish history were
so often significant, being sometimes given by God Himself, that they served not
merely to distinguish one man from another, but to indicate his 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 adhesion to Him
as having the qualities of the Divine Son.
On Believers Knowing that They Have Eternal Life (v. 13)
Connecting link: The statements which have just been made point out very
clearly who have the eternal life and who have it not. But it is quite
possible that such statements may exist, may be before a man’s eye, may
have been read over again and again, and yet they may have been left
unapplied to himself by him who reads them. But it is not enough to know
what the eternal life is, and what are the marks of its existence. It is all-
important for the individual himself to possess the life, and to indicate it by
its appropriate signs. And it is also important — though it cannot be said to
be equally so — that, if a man has this life, he should know that he has it.
Hence the apostle declares that the object of his writing thus has been that
those who believe on the Name of the Son of God should know, clearly
and decisively, that they have life, and that the life they have is an ETERNAL
ONE! Topic — On believers knowing that they have eternal life.
ETERNAL LIFE BELONGS. This is the repeated and clear declaration of
the Word of God (v.12; John 5:24; 6:47; 3:36; Romans 6:23; John 1:12
compared with Romans 8:17, 38-39). (For remarks on the meaning and
contents of eternal life, see homily on ch. 2:25.)
HIS WEALTH. He may have the life eternal and not know it. So, at any
rate, the Apostle John declares, by implication, in this verse. We gather
Ø From such Scriptures as the one before us.
Ø From observation. Have we not known many of the most devout
believers in Christ “go mourning all their days” through the lack
of the full assurance of faith and hope?
Ø From experience. There are times, even with those who usually live in
the sunshine of God’s love, when their joys seem clouded over. It may
be asked — What are the causes of this uncertainty? They are various.
Probably no two cases are exactly alike; but, among others, we suggest
o lack of intelligence;
o mistaken self-probing, which often causes men to miss that
which they are seeking for;
o ill health, when the nervous system is out of order;
o decline in communion with God;
o natural excess of caution. But whatever the cause may be:
Ø It seriously hinders spiritual joy. Who can glory in the hope of heaven
when he cannot tell whether he is an heir of its bliss?
Ø It dishonours God; for it casts reflection on the completeness of His
provision for His children’s peace, when believers seem as if they never
knew whether they were children of God or no.
Ø It cripples their advocacy of the cause of God. How unattractive the
invitation to believe in Christ will seem when it comes from one who is
moaning and groaning, instead of singing the songs of Zion!
Ø It will seriously interfere with their progress.
ADAPTED TO REMOVE THAT IGNORANCE.
Ø There are four things clearly unfolded concerning the life eternal.
o That it is the gift of God.
o That it belongs to those who are Christ’s.
o That the life is a present possession (compare Ephesians 2:6).
o That there are distinctive signs and marks of the life (compare
v. 1; 2:29; 3:14) — even faith, righteousness, love; where these
are, the man is born of God and has the eternal life.
Ø By the careful and candid application to his own case of these four
lines of teaching, a man may come to a distinct and decisive conclusion
as to his possession of eternal life. For, be it ever remembered, this
eternal life is not to be regarded as something which is to commence in
the next state of being, but as something already possessed, to be tested
and verified now, as a blessed possession over which death will have
1. It is no virtue to be the subject of “doubts and fears.”
2. If we are uncertain, or if we remain in uncertainty as to our having this
greatest of all boons, it is time that we
a. restudied the Word of God to see the condition on which eternal life is
granted, and then re-examined ourselves to see if we have fulfilled that
b. that we restudied the Word of God to see what are the invariable marks
of that life, and then re-examined ourselves to see if we bear those marks.
3. Our religious life has not blossomed into its full beauty until we are
perfectly at home in the love of God in Christ, and move as freely and step
as firmly there as children in their Father’s house that the question
“whether we are children,” or “whether we are at home,” never comes up
at all. A loving confidence never to be disturbed — this, oh! this is
“knowing that we have the eternal life.”
14 “And this is the confidence that we have in Him, that, if we ask any
thing according to His will, He heareth us:” And the confidence that we have
towards Him consists in this. The thought of knowing that we have eternal life
(v. 13) leads back to the thought of confidence before God in relation to prayer
(ch. 3:21-22). This idea is now further developed with special reference
to intercession for others; a particular form of prayer which is in close
connection with another main idea in the Epistle — love of the brethren.
15 “And if we know that He hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that
we have the petitions that we desired of Him.” The point is not, that if God hears
our prayers He grants them (as if we could ever pray to Him without His being aware
of it); but that if we know that He hears our prayers (i.e., trust Him without reserve),
we already have what we have asked in accordance with His will. It may be
years before we perceive that our prayers have been answered: perhaps in
this world we may never be able to see this; but we know that God has
answered them. The peculiar construction, ἐάν – ean – if - with the indicative,
is not uncommon in the New Testament as a variant reading. It seems to be
genuine in Luke 19:40 and Acts 8:31 with the future indicative, and
in I Thessalonians 3:8 with the present. Here the reading is undisputed.
Of course, οἴδαμεν – oidamen – we know - is virtually present; but even the
past tenses of the indicative are sometimes found after ἐάν (if).
Connecting link: The knowledge that we have eternal life is, in fact, a
coming to feel perfectly at home in the redeeming love of God in Christ
Jesus. Where this is the case, confidence, freedom of speech, is enjoyed
towards God; and this holy freedom will find expression in PRAYER! The
thought uttered here by the apostle is nearly akin to that in ch.3:22
(see homily on chapter 3:19-22). There are, however, one or two interesting points
of detail peculiar to these verses, which will suggest a very brief homiletic outline.
ETERNAL LIFE IS FREEDOM IN PRAYER. (See closing sentences of
preceding homily.) The word παρρησία – parraesia - is literally “liberty of
speech to speak out all that we think.”, as remarked in homilies on ch.2:24, 28;
3:19-22; 4:17-18, is equivalent to “freedom of speech.” If we know that we
have eternal life, we shall have unreserved openness incommuning with our
God. The relation between the knowledge and that freedom is clear.
Ø Knowing thereby that we are the sons of God, we can speak freely to
Ø Knowing that we are redeemed and saved, we can be at entire liberty in
communing with our Saviour.
Ø Knowing that we are “alive unto God,” we can breathe out that life
towards its Giver and Sustainer.
GOD.” ἐάν τι αἰτώμεθα – ean ti aitometha – if we ask anything. “One form,”
we say, and that advisedly. For the out-breathing of love and desire to God
will be the habit of the soul, and will include vastly more than the asking for
specific objects. So that we must regard the apostle here as not covering the
whole ground of prayer, but as simply indicating one direction that prayer
may take (in the next homily a still further limitation is noted). We may freely
“make our requests known unto God.” Faith, reverence, and love will, however,
regulate this boldness in prayer. “If we ask anything according to His will, He
hears us.” Even so. God’s will is infinitely wiser than ours. And our faith in
Him will lead us to offer all our petitions subject to that will. This is not,
however, a fetter upon our freedom. It is a safeguard to it. Otherwise the
greater the freedom the greater the peril.
two issues of such a prayer.
Ø We know that He hears us. The ἐάν (if) in v. 15 does not indicate any
uncertainty. If we know, as we certainly do, that He hears us, our
petitions are not wasted breath; they go not forth to empty air –
“Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou
shalt glorify me.” (Psalm 50:15). This follows from the truth in
Psalm 103:13 “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord
pitieth them that fear Him.”
Ø We know that we have the petitions we desired of Him. τὰ αἰτήματα –
ta aitaemata – the requests; the petitions - if not τὰ αἰτηθέντα –
ta aitaethenta - the substance of the requests, if not necessarily the
actual things asked for. The mother of Augustine prayed earnestly
he might not go to
to his conversion. As Augustine himself said afterwards, God regarded
the hinge of the petition. So it ever is. God hears the prayer,
but answers it according to His infinite wisdom rather than according
to our limited foresight.
The Christian’s Confidence toward God in Relation to Prayer (vs. 14-15)
“And this is the confidence that we have in Him,” etc. We have in our text:
· AN ASSURANCE THAT GOD HEARS PRAYER. “This is the
boldness that we have toward Him, that, if we ask anything according
to His will, He heareth us.”Prayer is much more than petition. Prayer is
the act by which man, conscious at once of his weakness and of his
immortality, puts himself into real and effective communication with
the Almighty, the Eternal, the self-existent God.…Prayer is not only —
perhaps in some of the holiest souls it is not even chiefly — a petition
for something that we want and do not possess. In the larger sense of
the word, as the spiritual language of the soul, prayer is intercourse with God,
often seeking no end beyond the pleasure of such intercourse. It is praise;
it is congratulation; it is adoration of the Infinite Majesty; it is a colloquy in
which the soul engages with the All-wise and the All-holy; it is a basking
in the sunshine, varied by spontaneity of thankfulness to the Sun of
Righteousness for His light and His warmth Prayer is not, as it has been
scornfully described, ‘only a machine warranted by theologians to make
God do what His clients want;’ it is a great deal more than petition, which
is only one department of it: it is nothing less than the whole spiritual action
of the soul turned towards God as its true and adequate Object.… It is the
action whereby we men, in all our frailty and defilement, associate ourselves
with our Divine Advocate on high, and realize the sublime bond which in
Him, the one Mediator between God and man, unites us in our utter
unworthiness to the strong and all-holy God. Such is prayer in its highest
and largest significance. But in our text prayer is viewed simply as petition.
“If we ask anything;… whatsoever we ask.… the petitions which we have
asked of Him.” Notice:
Ø The offering of prayer. This implies
o consciousness of need. How many are man’s wants!
§ Regular supplies for the requirements of the body,
§ forgiveness of sin,
§ daily guidance and grace,
§ reliable hope as to our future, etc.
We are creatures of constant and countless necessities.
Every moment we are dependent upon THE POWER
AND GRACE OF THE SUPREME! The exercise of
o belief that GOD IS ABLE AND WILLING to supply our needs.
Without this faith man would never address himself in his times
of need to God. Moreover, the “we” of our text refers to
Christians, even unto them “that believe on the Name of the
Son of God” (v. 13). Their belief in the reality of prayer springs
out of their faith in Christ. And the exercise of prayer is an
expression of their spiritual life.
Ø The hearing of prayer. How marvelous is the fact that God hears the
innumerable prayers that are ever being presented unto Him! None but
an Infinite Being could hear them. And a Being of infinite intelligence
cannot fail to observe every longing which is directed towards Him.
No utterance whatever escapes the Divine ear. None but A GRACIOUS
BEING would regard the prayers which are offered by such unworthy
suppliants. Great is the condescension of God in attending to our requests.
That He does graciously hear and attend to them is repeatedly declared
in the sacred Scriptures (see II Samuel 22:7; Psalm 22:4-5,24; 30:2, 8-12;
31:22; 34:4-6; 50:15; Matthew 7:7-11; Luke 18:1-8; John 16:23-24;
James 1:5; 5:16).
· AN IMPORTANT LIMITATION OF THE SCOPE OF ACCEPTABLE
PRAYER. “If we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us.”
Ø This limitation is necessary. God’s will is supreme. The well-being of
the universe is bound up with THE EXECUTION OF HIS WILL!
Therefore He cannot grant the petitions which are not in harmony
therewith. This limitation is necessary also, inasmuch as different
suppliants may be seeking from Him at the same time things which
are thoroughly opposed to each other. Thus in time of war between
two Christian nations, prayer is presented to God for the success of
each of the contending armies. The requests of both cannot be granted.
Ø This limitation is beneficial. The judicious and kind parent does not give
to his child the thing which he asks for, if it will prove hurtful or perilous
to him. In our ignorance we may pray to God for such things as would be
injurious to us, in which case it is well for us to be denied. Thus the request
of Paul was not granted, though his prayer was graciously answered
(II Corinthians 12:7-9). On the other hand, the clamorous cry of the
unbelieving and self-willed Israelites for flesh was acceded to, to their
sore injury (Numbers 11:4-6, 31-34; Psalm 106:15).
Ø This limitation allows a large sphere for the exercise of prayer. There
are many things which we know are “according to His will” (the best
analogy I know that gives me peace and understanding is the Lord told
Adam and Eve, “Of every tree in the Garden they could eat but the one
that was the Tree of Knowledge of Good and of Evil. Percentage wise
there was much they could eat compared to that which was forbidden!
Genesis 2:16-17 - CY – 2015) and these are the most important things;
o supplies for bodily and temporal needs,
o forgiveness of sins,
o grace to enable us to do or to bear His will,
o guidance in our quest of truth and in our way of life,
o the sanctification of our being, and
o possession of an inheritance in heaven.
We may seek the salvation of others, the extension of the Redeemer’s
kingdom, and the final triumph of His cause throughout the world.
These and other things we know accord with His will.
· AN ASSURANCE THAT THE THINGS SOLICITED IN SUCH
PRAYERS WILL BE GRANTED. “And if we know that He heareth us
whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions which we have
asked of Him.” This calls attention to the present,… “we have the
petitions,” with the perfect, “which we have asked of Him.” The perfect
reaches through all our past prayers to this moment. All these ‘we have;’
not one of them is lost: He has heard, He has answered them all: we know
that we have them in the truest sense, in possession. It is important to
bear in mind here the character of those to whom John writes. They are
genuine Christians; possessors of Jesus Christ, and of eternal life in Him.
Their will is that God’s will may be done. In them is fulfilled the inspiring
assurance of the sacred psalmist: “Delight thyself in the Lord; and He shall
give thee the desires of thine heart.” (Psalm 37:4) In whomsoever this
character is realized, the desires are in harmony with the will of God, and
the things solicited in prayer are such as God takes pleasure in bestowing
and man is blessed in receiving. And this assurance which the apostle
expresses is confirmed by the experience of the godly in all ages (compare
Exodus 32:11-14, 31-34; Numbers 11:1-2; I Kings 17:17-24; 18:42-45;
II Kings 4:28-36; Psalm 116:1-8; Isaiah 38:1-8; Daniel 9:20-23; Acts 12:1-17).
Let us seek a character like that indicated by the apostle (vs. 11-13), and
then this inspiring and strengthening “confidence toward God” may be ours also.
Note: Though this at first sight seems a restriction upon prayer, yet it is precisely this
which makes us free to pray. Were it otherwise, we could not open our lips to ask
aught which we deemed a boon, should the gift asked for be granted even though it
would prove a bane. God, in His love, buries our mistakes in prayer, and gives us just
what we should most desire COULD WE SEE AS HE DOES!
16 “If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall
ask, and He shall give him life for them that sin not unto death.
There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.’
How does this position respecting God’s hearing our prayers
affect the question of intercession for the salvation of others, and especially
of an erring brother? If any prayer can be made with confidence of success,
surely it is this. It is an unselfish prayer; a prayer of love. It is also a prayer
in harmony with God’s will; a prayer for the extension of His kingdom.
John points out that this reasonable expectation has limits. The prayer of
one human being can never cancel another’s free-will. If God’s will does
not override man’s will, neither can a fellow-man’s prayer. When a human
will has been firmly and persistently set in opposition to the Divine will, our
intercession will be of no avail. And this seems to be the meaning of “sin
unto death;” willful and obstinate rejection of God’s grace and persistence
in unrepented sin. “Death” corresponds to the life spoken of above; and if
the one is eternal (v. 13), so is the other. Sins punished with loss of life
in this world, whether by human law or by Divine retribution, cannot be
meant. Christians have before now suffered agonies of mind, fearing that
they have committed what they suppose to be the “sin unto death.” Their
fear is evidence that they have not committed any such sin. But if they
despair of pardon, they may come near to it. There are certain statements
made respecting this mysterious passage against which we must be on our
guard. It is laid down as a canon of interpretation that the sin unto death is
one which can be known, which can be recognized as such by the
intercessor. John neither says nor implies this. He implies that some sins
may be known to be not unto death. Again, it is asserted that he forbids us
to pray concerning sin which is unto death. The apostle is much more
reserved. He encourages us to intercede for a sinning brother with full
confidence of success. But there is a limit to this. The sinner may be
sinning unto death; and in that case John cannot encourage us to pray.
Casuistical classifications of sins under the heads of mortal and venial have
been based upon this passage. It lends no authority to such attempts; and
they have worked untold mischief in the Church. The apostle tells us that
the distinction between mortal and venial exists; but he supplies us with no
test by which one man can judge another in this respect. By pointedly
abstaining from making any classification of sins into mortal and venial, he
virtually condemns the making. What neither he nor Paul ventured to
do we may well shrink from doing. The same overt act may be mortal sin in
one case and not in another. It is the attitude of mind with which the sinner
contemplates his act before and after commission that makes all the
difference; and how seldom can this be known to his fellow-men! The
change from αἰτήσει – aitaesei – he shall ask to ἐρωτήση– erotaesae –
he should be asking - is noteworthy. The former is used in
vs. 14-15, and the beginning of v. 16; the latter at the end of v.16.
The latter is the less humble word of the two, being often used of
equals or superiors requesting compliance with their wishes. Perhaps
John uses it here to indicate that a prayer of this kind is not a humble one.
17 “All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death.”
All unrighteousness is sin. “Among the faithful this ought to
be an indubitable truth, that whatever is contrary to God’s Law is sin, and
in its nature, mortal; for where there is a transgression of the Law, there is
sin and death” (Calvin). But this terrifying truth brings with it a word of
encouragement. For if all unrighteousness without exception is sin, it
follows that not every sin is unto death.
(vs. 18-21) With three solemn asseverations and one equally solemn
charge the Epistle is brought to a close. Can we be certain of any
principles in ethics? John declares that we can. He says that he has not
been making probable guesses about the grounds of human actions, the
relations of man to God, the nature of God Himself. These are things that
he knows. Nay, he is not content with claiming this knowledge himself. He
uses the plural pronoun; he declares that his disciples, his little children,
know that which he knows.
Intercessory Prayer: Its Sphere and Its Issues (vs. 15-17)
Connecting Link: We have freedom in prayer. That freedom will show
itself in making intercession for others. At once there is suggested our
topic — Intercessory prayer. There are six matters here requiring notice.
brethren — not only Christian brethren, whether those that are really or
those that are nominally such; but with “brethren” in the world, those of
our own race, of our own flesh and blood, owned as “brethren” by Him
who took human nature on Himself, and certainly not to be disowned as
such by His followers. Such may be seen giving way to sin. Sins are of
two kinds — those “unto death” and “sin not unto death.” Inasmuch as all
sin persisted in and unrepented of is “unto death,” we seem to be shut up
to the inference that there is a state of sinning which is beyond the
boundary-line of hope; while there are also sins which by no means involve
any such sad conclusion. The case they present may be grievous, but it is
by no means hopeless. It is to be hoped that the absolutely hopeless cases
are rare indeed. “All injustice is sin;” it stains the soul, but need not destroy
unto death (for of the hopeless cases we do not just now speak). Such a
case may fall under one of three heads.
Ø It may be the case of a real Christian surprised into a fault (Galatians
Ø It may be that of a nominal Christian who says he has faith, but has not
Ø It may be that of one entirely outside the Christian camp — who is:
o alienated from God;
o sunk in the mire of uncleanness;
o entangled in temptation;
o bewildered with doubt;
o hardened, careless, dead.
In all such instances there is cause for grief, there is urgent need of laying
the case before God; but there is no need for despair.
one with God. The apostle does not lay this down as an injunction; he says
“he will” do it, as if by the instinctive promptings of an earnest spirit. It is
not said for what he will ask; that is understood. He will ask for “life” —
for new life where there has been none, for more life where it is feeble, for
revived life where it is flagging. Note also that it is here supposed that the
intercessory prayer will not lose its point by wandering over general themes
and spheres, but will aim at laying the case of one sinning brother before
God. How much point and power would our prayers gain if they were
more intercessory! How much force would accrue to intercessory prayer if
it were more specific!
unto death ;” and these are those for whom the petitions are offered. There
are four points to be noted.
Ø The gift is life. This suggestive word includes all spiritual good in each
case as it is needed.
Ø The Giver is God; the Divine name is not specified, but we cannot be
in doubt, since:
o NONE BUT GOD can give life, and
o it is to Him the prayer is addressed, therefore from Him the
Ø The gift of life is for those who have sinned, but not unto death. These
are the wanderers whose case was borne upon the pleader’s heart.
Ø This gift of life for the dead and dying ones is God’s gift to the anxious
pleader. Beautiful gift! To see life from God coming to those for whom
we pray is surely the largest gift our hearts can desire. It is the “open
reward” of the prayers offered to the Father in secret. Not thousands
of gold and silver, yea, not the wealth of worlds, can compare with a
blessing like this! What must be the joy of him who can point to a
thousand living souls turned from the error of their ways in answer
to his prayer!
Whether that be so or no, it is not what the apostle says here. He is
speaking rather of the state than of a specific act). Great obscurity rests on
this phrase; for the reason given in division I, we regard it as necessarily
meaning a state of sinning that is beyond the hope-line.
Ø What is this state? The following texts sum up nearly all that we know:
John 15:6; Luke 12:10; Philippians 3:19; Hebrews 6:4-6.
o Severance from Christ;
o the sin against the Holy Ghost;
o final and fixed impenitence.
Either of these is a state of “sin unto death.” There are rocks out at sea
in perpetual mist. Such is this rock of fatal sin. We cannot sketch it, nor
point out its exact locus. God keep us all far away from it! But granting
such a case:
Ø What is to be done? Is no intercessory voice to go up for such a one?
The apostle is alarmingly silent. He does not say. An appalling thought is
here brought into the field of vision. That possibly a man may be so far
gone in sin that not the fondest intercessor could offer up a prayer for him,
if he knew how far the sin had gone. (See Jeremiah 15:1; Ezekiel
14:14, 20) We cannot venture to write on such a theme without fear and
trembling. But we ask the reader to note the words we have italicized,
“If he knew,” etc. We are never in a position to pronounce a case
hopeless; hence there is nothing to bar our pleading for the worst of
sinners. Besides, if a man be a man of prayer, the Spirit of God will
guide him for whom to pray and what to pray for; and wherever a
praying man is borne along by God’s Spirit to pray without ceasing
for the conversion of this one or that one, such inward groaning,
divinely born, is a pledge of a gracious answer. In the life of a medical
missionary (Dr.Henderson) we are told by him that he had ten thousand
cases under his care in the hospital. For some cases he could not open
his lips in prayer. In other cases he was borne along to plead again and
again for their recovery; and when this was so, he never lost a case.
secured as touched on in division IV will still remain, a witness to the
power of prayer, a seal to the reality of communion with God, and a
blessed reward for the “strong crying and tears” of the faithful pleader.
(Hebrews 5:7) Note:
Ø The apostolic teaching recognizes a mysterious dependence of man on
man in the spiritual order, like that which is now being shown to exist
in the physical order. Even so, there are wandering souls whose well
being is bound up with the intercession of the saints.
Ø It is by this intercessory service that the priesthood of believers is to
become a practical reality. We are “kings and priests unto God”
(Revelation 1:6). No priest was ever made such for his own sake.
Priests are for others. Since Christ opened it up (Matthew 27:51),
we are to go into the holy of holies, and there to bear precious souls
upon our heart before God.
Ø What vast possibilities of life are wrapped up in a believer’s prayers!
When the breath of prayer rises up from man to God, the breath of life
will be unbreathed by God to man.
Ø Who would not wish to spend and be spent in prayer, if we may
receive, as God’s great blessing of life for souls! Why are we not
more unselfish in our prayers? Why is so large a portion of them
for ourselves, so small a portion for others? And why are we not
more specific in prayer? Let us call up before us some brother or
brethren for whose return to God we long and yearn; for them
let us plead, and never, never give up. And if by our
pleading many are visited by Heaven’s best gift of life, they may
never know who prayed for them; but our prayers will go up for a
memorial before God, and we shall find it true that “they that sow
in tears shall reap in joy.” (Psalms 126:5)
The Christian’s Prayer for His Brethren (vs. 16-17)
“If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death,” etc. Having
expressed his assurance as to the efficacy of the prayers of Christians generally
(vs. 14-15), the apostle here brings forward a special case in which prayer may be
beneficently exercised, viz. on behalf of an erring brother. Notice:
· THE OCCASION OF PRAYER FOR THE BRETHREN. We do not
mean that John would restrict our prayers to any one occasion, but he
mentions one in which they may be profitably exercised. “If any man see
his brother sinning a sin not unto death, he shall ask,” etc.
Ø The liability of a brother to sin. Whether we limit the term “brother” to
those who are believers in Christ — Christian brethren, or take it in its
broadest signification of our fellow-men, it is true that they are liable
to sin. Genuine Christians are so (compare ch. 1:8, 10). Our liability to
sin is shown:
o the grave fact of temptation to sin,
o the proneness of man to sin,
o the moral weakness in some respects of even good men,
o the history of the godly,
o the teachings of tile Bible, and
o our own experience.
Ø The knowledge of a brother’s sin. “If any man see his brother sinning a
sin.” The sin spoken of is not a secret one. The knowledge of it is not
derived either from irresponsible rumor or from malignant slander. To
these we should pay no heed. We should discredit them, and seek to
extinguish them. But it is immediate, direct, and certain.
Ø Prayer for a brother because of his sin. “If any man see his brother
sinning a sin not unto death, he shall ask,” etc. Without entering at
present upon the inquiry of what is the “sin unto death,” we may say
that taking the statements and directions of the text as to “sin not unto
death” in their simple meaning, the only thing laid down and pre-
supposed is this — that a sin which is not unto death may be surely
known as such. That any particular sin which another may commit, as
also the general state in which he may be found, is not unto death —
that he may still repent and be converted — this may be easily and with
the utmost confidence known. And where this is known with certainty,
where there is no necessity for thinking another to be hardened and past
salvation, there must prayer be offered. We know a great many sins
which men commit for which there is forgiveness with God, and in all
such cases, unhindered by any question as to the “sin unto death,” we
should pray to God for the sinner. But more than this, it may be said
now with truth, that as we can never be certain respecting any one that
he has committed the unpardonable sin, there is no one for whom we
may not with propriety pray”? Let us, then, learn from our text what
our conduct should be towards a sinning brother. We are not to sit in
judgment on him and condemn him, not to spread abroad the fact of
his sin, not to turn away from him as if he were unclean and we holy,
not, on the other hand, to make light of his sin. Such, alas! is the
treatment very often dealt to a brother who has sinned. But so should
not we do. As Christians, our duty is to pray for him. Such prayer is not
optional, but obligatory; it is not a thing which we may do, but which
we ought to do. “He shall ask.” In this spirit Paul exhorted the Galatian
Christians, “Brethren, even if a man be overtaken in any trespass, ye
which are spiritual, restore such a one,” etc. (Galatians 6:1).
· THE ENCOURAGEMENT TO PRAY FOR THE BROTHER WHO
HAS SINNED, “He shall ask, and God will give him life for them that sin
not unto death.” How unspeakably great and precious is the blessing which
by our prayers we may secure for our erring brother! As a result of our
petitions on his behalf, God will grant him forgiveness of his sins and
confer upon him spiritual life. How exalted and glorious a boon is this!
The knowledge that we may obtain such a blessing for him should prove a
powerful stimulus to us to pray for the brother who has sinned. How can
we do other than pray for him when our prayers may have such a glorious
issue? “My brethren, if any among you do err from the truth, and one
convert him; let him know, that he which converteth a sinner from the error
of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall cover a multitude of sins”
· THE LIMITATION TO OUR PRAYERS FOR THE BROTHER
WHO HAS SINNED. “There is a sin unto death: not concerning this do I
say that he should make request.” What are we to understand by the “sin
unto death”? With a view of ascertaining this, let us endeavor to fix upon
the meaning of “death” here. There are three distinct uses of the word in
the sacred Scriptures.
Ø The death of the body.
Ø That death of the spirit which is common to all men apart from the
renewing grace of God. “Dead by reason of trespasses and sins.”
Ø The eternal death, which is the antithesis of the “eternal life” which
God gives through Jesus Christ (vs. 11-13).
Now, “death” in the text cannot mean either
Ø the death of the body, for that is the lot of all men; or
Ø the spiritual death above mentioned, for every sin tends to such death.
If we are right thus far, and in this also that the death must be the
antithesis of the life, we conclude that it must be that death which is the
just retribution of those who have deliberately and resolutely rejected the
Christ. Such a sin involves the abiding loss of the life which is derived
through Him (v. 12). The rejection of the Christ necessarily involves the
renunciation of THE LIFE! If a man deliberately and decidedly rejects
the only Being through whom he can obtain eternal life, what remains for
him but to abide in the dark night of death? For such persons John does
not encourage us to pray. He neither prohibits nor commands us to pray
for them. The negation belongs to the “I say,” not to the “he should
make request.” “Not concerning this do I say that he should make
request.” The encouragement to offer prayer for those whose sin is not
unto death is withheld in respect to prayer for those who have
committed the sin unto death. (Apparently
point because God said that Moses and Samuel couldn’t do anything
for them! Jeremiah 15:1)
· Let the fact that it is possible to commit a sin which is unto death lead us
to watchfulness and prayer against every sin and all sin. Beware of
beginnings in evil.
· Let this gracious assurance as to the result of prayer for those who have
sinned lead us to be often at the throne of grace on behalf of our brethren.
Assurance (vs. 13-17)
· THE AIM OF THE EPISTLE CONNECTED WITH ASSURANCE.
“These things have I written unto you, that ye may know that ye have
eternal life, even unto you that believe on the Name of the Son of God.” At
the beginning of the Epistle, the apostle’s aim was stated to be Divine
fellowship and completed joy. In looking back, he feels that he has kept his
end in view. In the restatement of his aim, he goes the length of completed
joy. Beyond the quickening of their spiritual life, he has aimed at their
having the joy of knowing that they had the life eternal actually begun in
them. He has given them certain marks (usually introduced by “herein”) by
which to make clear to them their Divine birth, or possession of the Divine
life as believers on the Name of the Son of God. When we have the right
elements in our life, and can make a correct diagnosis of them, we have
comfort. We are indebted to the apostle yet for the help he has given us, in
this Epistle, to the right reading of our life.
· ASSURANCE IN RELATION TO PRAYER.
Ø Confidence of being heard. “And this is the boldness which we have
toward Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth
us.” Knowing that we have the Divine life, we are reasonably bold toward
God, as children are bold toward their parents. Our boldness comes out
especially in our asking. We are full of wants, and so we need to be
constantly asking. We ask in the confidence of being heard. If we ask
anything, He heareth us — which has only this limitation, that we ask
according to God’s will (not properly a limitation; for God’s will is our
highest good). If we are to ask according to God’s will, then the meaning
of that is that we are to have our desires in a proper state — to have them
educated up to God’s will. We are to have them chastened by proper
submission to God’s appointments; and we are to have them thoroughly
enlightened, so that we desire with God, and up to the largeness of the
blessing that He holds out to us. As Jesus was praying in a certain place,
after He ceased, the disciples, filled with a sense of their own deficiencies,
said, “Lord, teach us to pray.” (Luke 11:1) It is not the language of our
prayers that we need to have improved, so much as our simple
responsiveness to the Divine will.
Ø Certainty of having our petitions. “And if we know that He heareth us
whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions which we have
asked of Him.” We have actually presented our petitions in confidence of
being heard: how do we stand? We know that we are richer than we were
before. Hannah rose to accord with the Divine will, and, knowing that she
had her petition, it happened to the “woman of a sorrowful spirit” that “her
countenance was no more sad.” (I Samuel 1:9-18) The Master was in
perfect accord with the Divine will; and He had His every petition. “And
I knew that thou hearest me always” (John 11:42). In so far as we resemble
Him, in confidently expressing the Divine will, shall we know ourselves to
be richer for our prayers.
· ASSURANCE IN SPECIAL RELATION TO INTERCESSION.
Ø Promise. “If any man see his brother sinning a sin not unto death, he
shall ask, and God will give him life for them that sin not unto death.” This
is asking suggested by the brotherly love which the apostle has been
inculcating. Have we any ground of confidence to go upon in asking for a
brother? We have here very distinct ground pointed to, even in the case of
a brother who is seen sinning a sin. It is not a sin by which he is wholly
deprived of life, but a sin by which his life is regarded as in part suspended.
He is seen by one who is united to him by the tie of Christian brotherhood,
who does not regard him with unconcern, who is moved by the sight to ask
for him restoration of life. The promise is that the asker will be the
instrument of giving life to those within the brotherhood of whom it can be
said that they sin not unto death.
Ø Limitation of the promise. “There is a sin unto death: not concerning
this do I say that he should make request.” This must be taken in close
connection with the context. The reference is simply to the brotherhood.
Are we warranted in all cases to pray for an erring brother, in the
expectation that we shall be the means, under God, of giving him life? The
promise does not go that length. A (hitherto) recognized member of the
brotherhood may unbrother himself, may cut himself off from fellowship
with God, by denying (let us say) the force of the Incarnation. In such a
case, the apostle does not say that we are to make request (familiarly) for
him as for a brother. The virtue that there is in brotherhood and in
brotherly intercession is there lost; and he is really to be dealt with as one
unbrothered. That is not to say that we are not to pray for him at all; for
we are to pray for all men.
Ø Large scope of the promise. “All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a
sin not unto death.” “Sin” is a wide word; it includes all violation of right.
Every unbrotherly expression that we use is an offence against God. There
is thus abundant room for the exercise of intercession. There is sinning
through many degrees without sinning mortally. Let us, then, realize what
is in our power. A brother, to our knowledge, sins even seriously. He does
not sin, in our judgment, so as to put the Incarnate One decisively away
from him; but he sins so as seriously to interrupt fellowship with God,
which is his life. As belonging to the same privileged circle, we have a part
to perform. We have to intercede with God on his behalf. We have to
intercede confidently; for the promise of our giving him life is clearly
applicable. In answer to our intercession there wilt be a wakening of him
up out of the slumber that has been upon him, so that he enjoys renewed
fellowship with God.
18 “We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is
begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him
not.” We know; οἴδαμεν (we know) , as in ch.3:2, 14, and John
21:24, which should be compared with this passage. These expressions of
Christian certitude explain the undialectical character of John’s Epistles
as compared with those of Paul. What need to argue and prove when
both he and his readers already knew and believed? We must have
“begotten” in both clauses, as in the Revised Version, not “born” in one
and “begotten” in the other, as in the Authorized Version. In the Greek
there is a change of tense ὁ γεγεννημένος – ho gegennaemenos – one
having been begotten and ὁ γεννηθείς, - ho gennaetheis – the one being
begotten - but no change of verb. The whole should run, “We know that
whosoever is begotten of God sinneth not, but the Begotten of God keepeth
him.” For the perfect participle, compare ch.3:9; 5:1, 4; 3:6, 8: it
expresses him who has come to be, and still continues to be, a son of God.
The aorist participle occurs nowhere else in John: it expresses him who,
without relation to time past or present, is the Son of God. The reading
αὐτόν – auton – him - is preferable to ἑαυτόν - heauton – himself. The Vulgate
has conservat eum, not conserver seipsum, which Calvin adopts. The eternal
Son of the Father preserves the frail children of the Father from the common
foe, so that the evil one toucheth them not. The verb for touch ἅπτεσθαι –
haptesthai - is the same as in “Touch me not” (John 20:17). In both cases
“touch” is somewhat too weak a rendering; the meaning is rather, “lay hold of,”
“hold fast.” Mary Magdalene wished, not merely to touch, but to hold the
Lord fast, so as to have His bodily presence continually. And here the meaning
is that, though the evil one may attack the children of God, yet he cannot get
them into his power.
19 “And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in
wickedness.” Omit the “and” before “we know.” There is no καί - kai –
and – in the true text; and the asyndeton is impressive. The whole world lieth in
the evil one. This is the second great fact of which Christians have
certainty. They, as children of God, and preserved from the evil one by God’s
Son, have nothing to do with the world, which still lies in the power of the
evil one. That “the evil” τῷ πονηρῷ - to ponaero – wicked one - is here not
neuter but masculine is evident from the context, as well as from ch.2:13-14; 4:4.
“By saying that it lieth in the evil one (in maligno) he represents it as being
under the dominion of Satan. There is, therefore, no reason why we should
hesitate to shun the world, which contemns God and delivers up itself into
the bondage of Satan; nor is there any reason why we should fear its
enmity, because it is alienated from God” (Calvin).
The Strong Foe and The Stronger Friend (vs. 18-19)
Connecting link: It is not without reason that the apostle had just written
of life from God as the needed gift to those who are sinning, whether their
state be that of sin unto death or no; for the fact is that whosoever is born
of God is not sinning. By the fact of the new birth he has been delivered
out of that state in which the evil one would fain have held him, as that evil
one still holds the world. But now the evil one is powerless, for his power
is neutralized by the watchful care of the only begotten Son of God. Note:
According to the Authorized Version this verse seems to teach that the
believer has and exercises an instinct of self-preservation. The Revised
Version and the Revisers’ Greek text should be studied. Instead of
ἑαυτόν - heauton – himself - we now read αὐτόν – auton – him. And further,
the ὁ γεννηθείς, - ho gennaetheis – the one being begotten -plainly points to another
than ὁ γεγεννημένος – ho gegennaemenos – one having been begotten - even to
Him that was and is the Begotten One of God. He it is who so watches over the
new-born child of God that the evil one has no power to touch him. Topic —
The conquering and the conquered ones.
of the evil one is clearly implied in such passages as these: Matthew 4:1;
13:39; 25:41; John 8:44; 13:2; Ephesians 4:27; I Timothy 3:6; James 4:7;
I Peter 5:8; here ch.3:8; Luke 22:31; Romans 16:20; I Corinthians 5:5;
II Corinthians 4:4.
FRIEND. This Friend is the “Begotten One of God;” “the only begotten
Son.” He beheld this world usurped by the destroyer, and came to set it
free. His work is fourfold.
Ø He came and worsted the evil one in single combat.
Ø He laid down His life for men, and claims the globe as His.
Ø He has assumed the sovereignty over all, and dethroned the evil one
Ø He is now engaged by His Word and Spirit in
o snatching men from the power of darkness, and transferring
them to His own kingdom (Colossians 1:13); and
o in guarding those thus rescued (Luke 22:31-32).
Note: The great mystery of evil has its origin elsewhere than here, and a vaster
field than this globe, although it is only here that we can trace it.
THERE ARE THOSE WHO ESCAPE THE EVIL.
Ø Who are these? Those who are born again (v. 18). All of them.
Ø How do they escape the evil? Through the watchful care of the Lord
Jesus. He guards τηρεῖ - taerei – is keeping - them. The word “expresses
a watchful regard from without, rather than safe custody. This
guardianship is exercised:
o by gracious intercession (Luke 22:31);
o by providential care (Psalm 121.);
o by sustaining the inward life (John 15.);
o by bringing to naught the plans of the evil one (Romans
Ø What is the effect? The wicked one does not touch them with a
contaminating, poisoning hand. He would, but he cannot. This must
be the issue.
o The strong one is outwitted by the Stronger (Luke 11:21-22);
o has been, as matter of history (Revelation 12:10-11);
o is, as matter of observation (ch.4:4);
o we know it as matter of experience (v. 19).
The life which is guarded without and sustained within by the Son of God
is a perpetual proof that there are some whom evil cannot touch. They
move amid the evil, but it harms them not. Let the world get more and
more corrupt, they do but become more and more like their Lord.
LIFE; i.e., of conquest over evil or conquest by it. All depends on whether
we are ἐκ τῷ κόσμῳ - ek to kosmo – out; from; of the world or ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ -
ek tou Theou – out of God - (compare ch. 4:4); i.e., whether
we have a life that is inspired by God or a life upon the lower level of this
world. If our being is still of the earth earthy, we are in that region
which lieth wholly in the wicked one, “in all its parts and elements.” It is in
his domain, in his grasp. He is the “god of this world,” blinding men’s
minds. Its darkness is the realm in which he moves. And if we remain in
this sphere, and are never extricated from it by a mightier power, with
darkness and sin we must “lie down in sorrow.” Who can consent to
remain a prey to evil when the great Redeemer stands ready with a mighty
hand to pluck us out of it, and to guard us so securely that no evil shall
KNOWLEDGE. “We know.”
Ø Who know it? “We” — we who are born of God. Much is known by
us that is hidden from the world.
Ø How do they know it?
o Partly by testimony
§ of God,
§ of history.
o Partly by observation.
o Partly by experience. (But see next homily, division II.)
20 “And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an
understanding, that we may know Him that is true, and we are in
Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God,
and eternal life.” And we know. The δέ - de - and - is here rightly given —
it sums up the whole with a final asseveration. Whatever the world and its
philosophy chooses to assert, Christians know that THE SON OF GOD
HAS COME IN THE FLESH AND HAS ENDOWED THEM with mental
faculties capable of attaining to a knowledge of the true God. The Christian’s
certainty is not fanaticism or superstition; he is “ready always to give answer to
every man that asketh a reason concerning the hope that is in him” (I Peter 3:15);
by the gift of Christ he is able to obtain an intelligent knowledge of Him
who is indeed God. “Him that is true” does not mean God, who is not, like
the devil, a liar, but “VERY GOD,” as opposed to the idols against which
John goes on to warn them. The Greek is ἀληθινόν – alaethinon – true one –
not ἀληθής - alaethaes - true. Thus the Epistle ends as it began, with a fulfillment
of Christ’s prayer. In chapter 1:3 we had, “That ye also may have fellowship with us,”
which is identical with “That they may be one, even as we are” (John 17:11). And
here we have, “That we know Him that is true,” which coincides with “That they
should know thee the only true God” (John 17:3). This prayer of the
great High Priest is fulfilled. “We are in Him that is true,” says the apostle,
“(by being) in His Son Jesus Christ.” This is the true God, and eternal
life. Does “this” refer to God or to Christ? We must be content to leave the
question open; both interpretations make excellent sense, and none of the
arguments in favor of either are decisive. The question is not important.
“That Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,” who was with the Father from
all eternity, is the very foundation of John’s teaching in Gospel and
Epistles; and it is not of much moment whether this particular text contains
the doctrine of the Divinity of Christ or not. But if, with St. Athanasius, we
interpret “this” of Christ, the conclusion of the letter is brought into
striking harmony with the opening of it, in which (ch.1:2) Christ is
spoken of as “the Eternal Life which was with the Father, and was
manifested to us.” Moreover, we obtain a striking contrast with what
follows. “This Man, Jesus Christ, is the true God: it is no idolatry to
worship Him. Whosoever says that He is not God makes us idolaters. But
idolatry is to us an abomination.”
Life’s Hardest Problems Solved (v. 20)
Connecting link: The connection between this verse and those before it is
indicated by the adversative particle δἐ - de, which is equivalent to “but.” “We
know,” etc., as if John had said, “I am quite aware of the vastness of the
mystery in the conflict between good and evil. Still, I have not spoken at
random. There are before us positive, verifiable data which enable us to see
something of the wonders of the spiritual world. The Son of God has
poured a flood of light upon the invisible realm, and has given us
discerning power, so that we see what he has revealed.” Topic — The Son
of God the Solver of life’s greatest problems. At this point we must
indicate the conclusion to which we have come upon the verse before us.
The student will be well aware of the controversy which has gathered
round its last clause, owing to some obscurity which rests on the questions:
(1) What is the antecedent of οὗτός – houtos – This One - is it “Jesus Christ” or
“Him that is true”?
(2) When the apostle says, “We are in Him that is true, in His Son Jesus
Christ,” does he mean, “We are in Him that is true, [even] in His Son Jesus
Christ,” or “We are in Him that is true, [being] in His Son Jesus Christ”?
As the structure of this homily depends on the answer given
thereto, we must needs indicate the conclusion to which we have come.
1. The answer must be given without doctrinal bias, and simply on
exegetical grounds. For our own part, we have the most unhesitating
conviction of the true and proper Deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we
have never quoted this verse in proof thereof; not because it does not
contain it by implication, but on account of the dispute as to its
2. In reply to the second question above named, we accept the last mentioned
form of the phrase, viz. “We are in Him that is true, [being] in His Son Jesus Christ.”
3. It almost follows therefrom that the antecedent of οὗτός (This One) is
“Him that is true;” and as, according to that expression when used in the preceding
clause of the verse, the apostle evidently means the Father, whom we know
through the Son — “that we know Him that is true” — the antecedent of
οὗτός being “Him that is true,” which is equivalent to “the Father.” The
theological question here at stake, however, is not whether the Son is of
like nature with the Father, nor whether the Son be the very “Image of the
invisible God,” but whether in this particular verse the apostle declares that
we know the true God in the Son or through Him.
4. The full point before “This” cuts off the following sentence too
completely. It may be a complete sentence grammatically; it is not an
independent one either exegetically or doctrinally.
5. The word οὗτός includes much more than the “Being.” It is equivalent
to the “Being” plus the entire revelation which He is and brings: “This is the
true God and eternal life,” the masculine form, οὗτός, being used on
account of the noun first following. In the text, so understood, three lines
of thought open up to us.
KNOWN. “We know that the Son of God is come;” rather, “is here,” i.e.,
has come and remains with us. According to the usage of the apostle, this
would include the Incarnation, or His coming from the heavenly home to
earth (ch. 4:1-4). It also distinctly declares that the Son of God is
on earth still — that He remains with us. Nor can the student of Scripture
be at a loss to understand how that is (Matthew 18:20; 28:20). His
people are His representatives. His Spirit supplies His place. His words are
still among us. So that we may assign a manifold meaning to the
expression. Jesus Christ is here:
Ø In His words.
Ø In the influence and power of His holy life. It abides in the world, the
ideal standard of humanity.
Ø In the people in whom He dwells.
Ø In the living Church which He inspires.
Ø By his Spirit, by whom He, though now bodily in heaven, is
converting the world and educating the Church.
Note: It is quite possible to do our Saviour a great wrong by representing
His Church as mourning an absent Lord. He is much more fully with
believers now than when His feet walked the earth.
of God. This is declared in the text to be fourfold.
Ø We owe to Jesus Christ the gift of a spiritual understanding
διάνοιαν – dianoian – understanding; comprehension -, sensum;
compare I Corinthians 2:14; Ephesians 1:18 (Greek, Textus Receptus);
Matthew 5:8; 13:14-15; 6:22-23). As is the heart, so is the eye. When
Christ by His Spirit renews the one, there is new power of sight in the
other. More is included, however, than a clear perception. The word
also bears the meaning of a power of sound reasoning. Sin vitiates
the reasoning powers by warping the will which directs them
(Ephesians 4:17-18, 23). When men are born again, their powers
of reasoning become rectified and sanctified, being governed by
the Spirit of God.
Ø Having this new understanding, we know, through Christ, Him that is
true, i.e., the Father. Christ being Himself the “Effulgence of” the Father’s
“glory, and the very Image of His substance” (Hebrews 1:3), in knowing
Him we know the Father. As by His incarnation He discloses the Object,
and by imparting a new understanding enables us to see the Object, there
comes to be through Christ the meeting of subject and Object, which
Ø The Lord Jesus has also brought us into a living and abiding union with
Himself. “We are in His Son Jesus Christ.” The knowledge we gain is
not that of One who is far off from us, and from whom we remain far
off. It is attended with a vital union with Him. We are “in Him.” How?
o In Him as our Life; from Him we draw our own.
o In Him as the Sphere of our communion and abiding fellowship.
o In Him as our Mediator; in whom the Father sees us.
o In Him as “the Lord our Righteousness” and Strength.
o In Him as our Refuge from the storm.
o In Him as our eternal Joy.
No less expressive phrase than this, “in Him,” will suffice to tell how
closely Christ and His own are locked in each other’s embrace.
Ø Being brought into this vital union with the Son, we are in living and
loving union with the Father. “We are in Him that is true,” through being
“in his Son Jesus Christ” (compare ch.4:15-16, 12). We are “born of
God,” “begotten of Him.”
SOLUTION OF LIFE’S VASTEST PROBLEMS. “This is the true God,
and Eternal Life.” There are two problems which men have been for ages
attempting to solve — one concerning the Supreme Being; another
concerning the meaning and destiny of human life. The one the greatest
objective, the other the greatest subjective problem. Both find their
solution in Christ, and only in Him. For:
Ø In Christ, or through him (whichever view of the text be taken), we
come to know the true God. The word thrice translated “true” is not the
one which means true in distinction from the false; it means “true” in
distinction from the inferior, partial, defective, and incomplete. “True” as
fulfilling completely the highest ideal, as “in contrast with all imaginary
and imperfect objects of worship,” and as fully satisfying “the idea of
Godhead in the mind of man.” This perfect ideal of the great Supreme,
and this Being who answers to that perfect ideal, we know through
Ø In Christ, eternal life, too, is revealed as existing in Him, as imparted by
Him to those who believe on His Name. Note: Obviously we have here,
and here alone, the absolutely universal religion, not only for all the world,
but for all the worlds. It is so, not simply because it is too exclusive to
tolerate any other, but because in it, and in it alone, are secured all to
which any religion anywhere can aspire — even a knowledge of the
very God, and such a union with Him as ensures a life of eternal and
ever-growing blessedness. What more can any religion show us? The
whole ground of possible yearning is covered. And is there any other in
the world that professes to secure all this, and that verifies its claims by
giving now, in a living experience, the actual foretaste of the life to come?
Verily in and through Christ alone have we “the very God, and the eternal
The Sublimest Knowledge. (vs. 18-20)
“We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not,” etc. There are
certain things of which John writes without even the faintest tone of
hesitation or doubt, with the calmest and firmest assurance, and with the
accent of deep conviction. And the things of which he writes with so much
certainty are of the greatest and most important. So in the paragraph
before us he utters his triple “we know” concerning some of the most vital
and weighty questions. Let us notice each of these in the order in which
they here stand.
· THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE CHARACTER AND CONDITION OF
THE CHILDREN OF GOD. “We know that whosoever is begotten of
God sinneth not; but he that was begotten of God keepeth himself, and the
wicked one toucheth him not.” Here are three points for consideration
concerning true Christians.
· Their origination from God. They are “begotten of God?’ They are
“called children of God,” and are such.
· Their abstention from sin. “Whosoever is begotten of God sinneth not.”
He will not commit the “sin unto death;” and in proportion as he
participates in the Divine life he will shun sin in any form (ch. 3:6-9;
and see our remarks on v.6).
· Their preservation from the evil one. “He that was begotten of God
keepeth himself, and the wicked one toucheth him not.” Danger is clearly
implied here. “Be sober, be vigilant; your adversary the devil, as a roaring
lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist steadfast
in the faith.” (I Peter 5:8-9) “Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may
be able to stand against the wiles of the devil,” etc. (Ephesians 6:11-18).
“Satan transformeth himself into an angel of light.” (II Corinthians
11:14) Hence the danger. But notice:
o The means of preservation. “He that was begotten of God
keepeth himself.” He is sober and watchful and prayerful
in order that he may not be surprised by temptation and
seduced into sin. It has been well said by John Howe, “He
that is begotten of God keepeth himself from those deadly
mortal touches which would endanger his precious life; that is,
he is his own underkeeper. We are every one to be our brother’s
keeper, much more our own; but still in a subordinate sense,
subservient to, and dependent upon, the Supreme One. Indeed,
it were a kind of monstrous thing in the creation, that there
should be so noble a life planted in us, but destitute of the self-
preserving faculty or disposition; whereas every life, how mean
soever, even that of a worm, a gnat, or a fly, hath a disposition
to preserve itself. Christians are “kept by the power of God
through faith unto salvation.” (I Peter 1:5)
o The nature of the preservation. “The wicked one toucheth him
not.” This does not signify exemption from temptation, but
victory over it. The great adversary shall not touch “the
true-born child of God” so as to destroy his spiritual life or
effect his overthrow.
· THE KNOWLEDGE OF PERSONAL FILIAL RELATIONSHIP TO
GOD. “We know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in the
wicked one.” The assurance with which the apostle writes is remarkable.
Not, “we are probably of God;’ not,” we hope we are of God,” etc.; but
“we know that we are of God,” etc. We may know this:
· By our consciousness of our Christian character. The genuine Christian
can say of his spiritual condition, “One thing I know, that, whereas I was
blind, now I see.” (John 9:25) He is conscious of his faith in Christ.
“I know whom I have believed,” etc. (II Timothy 1:12). He feels that the
Saviour is precious unto him (I Peter 2:7). He knows that he loves the
Christian brotherhood; and “we know that we have passed out of death
into life, because we love the brethren.” (ch. 3:14) He is conscious of his
sincere desire and endeavor to follow Christ as his great Exemplar, and to
obey Him as his Divine Lord.
· By our consciousness of our filial disposition toward God. We have
“received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.”
(Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6) Our own hearts assure us that we trust
and love and reverence our heavenly Father. Thus we know that we
are of God?
· By the contrast between ourselves and the unchristian world. “The
whole world lieth in the wicked one.” We have already endeavored to
indicate the character of “the world” of which John writes.
“Concerning the world, he says, not merely that it is of the wicked one, or
has him for a father, and bears his nature, but also that it ‘lies in him,’ that
is, lies in his bosom,… like an infant on the bosom of a mother or a father,
which is absolutely given up to its parent’s power. The true
Christian knows that he is not in such a condition, but in a decidedly
opposite one — that he “abides in the Son, and in the Father” (ch. 2:24).
· THE KNOWLEDGE OF A TRANSCENDENT FACT, AND OF
GREAT PERSONAL BENEFITS DERIVED THROUGH THAT FACT.
“And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an
understanding, that we know Him that is true,” etc. Here are four points
which require our attention.
· That the Son of God came into our world. “We know that the Son of
God is come.” (This great fact has already engaged our attention in our
homily on ch. 4:9-11, and the apostle’s assurance of it in that on ibid. v.14.)
· That the Son of God hath given to us spiritual discernment that we
might know God. “And hath given us an understanding, that we know
Him that is true.” This does not mean that He has given to us any new
faculty, but that He has brought our spiritual faculties into a right condition
for the apprehension of the Divine Being. “As Christ has come (in the sense
of ch.4:9), and through this act of love has kindled love in us (v.10), thus
communicating His nature to us, He has furnished us with the understanding
necessary in order that we may know God. For God is, according to chps. 1:5
and 4:8, Light and Love; and only he who is penetrated by his light, and
kindled by His love, can know Him. God was not the Unknowable to John.
He knew Him through the revelation of Jesus Christ, by the conscious
realization of His presence with His Spirit, and by hallowed communion
· That we are in vital union with God and with His Son Jesus Christ. “We
are in Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ.” (We have already
considered what it is to be in God, in our homily on ch.2:6.) The
true Christian is in God the Father through being in Christ the Son.
He is in the Father through the mediation of the Son.
· That the Son of God is truly and properly Divine. “This is the true God,
and eternal life” (compare vs. 11-13). Let us seek to realize the exalted and
blessed knowledge which we have been considering. And if it be already
ours, let us endeavor to possess it in clearer light and fuller measure.
“Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord.” (Hosea 6:3)
21 “Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.”
Keep yourselves from idols;