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 autouthe 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 REASON OF THE OBLIGATION OF BROTHERLY LOVE.

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;

Galatians 4:6)

 

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

practical thing.

 

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 gegennaemenonevery one having been begotten

as in John 6:37, 39; 17:2) conquer the world, and that by means of faith. The aorist

νικήσασα hae nikaesasathe 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.

 

  • WE HAVE A GLORIOUS FAITH WHEREBY THE WORLD HAS

            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;

                                                Colossians 1:13.)

 

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!

 

  • THIS FAITH, ACCEPTED, BECOMES A LIVING FORCE IN

            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)

 

  • THIS VICTORY OVER, THE WORLD IS WON ONLY BY

            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

             them:

 

Ø      first its tools,

Ø      then its slaves, and

Ø      at last its victims.

 

            Note: Three matters are suggested here for pungent and powerful

            application.

 

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

GOD!

 

(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

interpretation.

 

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

waterto the baptism of water to which He Himself submitted, and which He

enjoined upon His disciples, and αῖμα haimablood - 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  baptizonin 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;

16:13).

 

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  - memarturaekeHe 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.

 

  • THE KNOWLEDGE THAT JESUS IS THE SON OF GOD COMES

            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).

 

  • THERE ARE THREE HISTORIC INCIDENTS BEARING ON THE

            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 let Jordan’s

                        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.”

 

  • THESE THREE WITNESSES ALL AGREE IN ONE. (v. 8.) By

            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.

 

  • THESE WITNESSES, THUS AGREEING IN ONE, ARE GIVING

            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!   

            They say:

 

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

      ever.

 

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.

 

  • THERE ARE CERTAIN CIRCUMSTANCES UNDER WHICH THE

            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       truthfulness;

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;

                        and if:

 

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:

 

  • THE TESTIMONY OF GOD IS STILL WEIGHTIER THAN EVEN

            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

      Divine.

 

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).

 

  • IF GOD’S TESTIMONY CONCERNING HIS SON BE SO GREAT

            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 aionioslife 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

retirement of Nazareth to enter upon His great redemptive mission. His

coming “by water” we regard as referring to His baptism by John. That

baptism was:

 

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

                        manifest to Israel,” etc. (John 1:30-34).

 

·         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.”

                                                                        (Watts.)

 

·         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

one.” Notice:

 

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.”

(John 9:25)

 

·         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 Israel.” “Thou art the Christ,

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 Theouthe 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)

 

·         FAITH.

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

      Rome. It is well organized, is restlessly active, has a wonderful power

      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

incarnate.

 

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

eternal cold.

 

 

            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

      objectively given.

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.

 

  • LET US INQUIRE WHAT THIS INWARD WITNESS IS. “The

            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

                bestow.

            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.

 

  • WHAT IS THE SPECIAL VALUE OF THIS INWARD EVIDENCE?

            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

                        testimony includes.

 

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!

 

Note:

 

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.”

(John 6:47)

 

 

            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 zoaenthe 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

“the life”?

 

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

fitted:

 

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).

 

·         CONCLUSION.

 

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,

      entreats, etc.

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 εἰςpisteuein eisones 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.

 

  • TO EVERY ONE WHO BELIEVES IN CHRIST THE GIFT OF

            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.)

 

  • IT IS POSSIBLE FOR A TRUE BELIEVER TO BE UNAWARE OF

            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

            this:

 

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:

 

  • SUCH IGNORANCE OF OUR REAL POSITION IS MOST

            UNDESIRABLE.

 

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.

 

  • THE TEACHING OF GOD’S WORD IS INTENDED AND

            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

      no power.

 

  • INFERENCES.

 

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

                 condition; and

            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 eanif - 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 oidamenwe know - is virtually present; but even the

past tenses of the indicative are sometimes found after ἐάν (if).

 

 

                        Liberty and Prevalence in Prayer  (vs. 14-15)

 

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.

Topic — LIBERTY AND SUCCESS IN PRAYER.

 

  • ONE OF THE PRIVILEGES OF KNOWING THAT WE HAVE

            ETERNAL LIFE IS FREEDOM IN PRAYER. (See closing sentences of

            preceding homily.) The word παρρησίαparraesia -  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

                        the Father.

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.

 

  • ONE FORM OF PRAYER WILL BE “MAKING REQUEST UNTO

            GOD.”  ἐάν τι αἰτώμεθαean ti aitomethaif 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.

 

  • SUCH REQUESTS WILL CERTAINLY BE GRANTED, There are

            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 aitaematathe 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

                        that he might not go to Rome, fearing it would be his bane. Her son,

                        however, went to Rome; but his going was one of the steps which led

                        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

                                    prayer implies:

 

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;

e.g.,:

 

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 aitaeseihe shall ask  to ἐρωτήσηerotaesae

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.

 

  • HERE IS AN OUTLOOK PRESENTED. We are surrounded with

            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

            it.

 

  • A CASE SUPPOSED. A believer sees a brother sin a sin which is not

            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

                        6:1).

Ø      It may be that of a nominal Christian who says he has faith, but has not

                        works.

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.

 

  • A COURSE ADOPTED. “He will ask,” i.e., he will plead for such a

            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!

 

  • A BOON SECURED. “He shall give him life for them that sin not

            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

                                    answer comes.

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!

 

  • A QUESTION RESERVED “There is sin unto death” (not “a sin.”

            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       apostasy;

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.

 

  • THE RESULT, when all such reserved cases are allowed for. The blessing

      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”

(James 5:19-20).

 

·         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 Israel had reached this

point because God said that Moses and Samuel couldn’t do anything

for them!  Jeremiah 15:1)

 

·         CONCLUSION.

 

·         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 γεγεννημένοςho gegennaemenosone

having been begotten  and 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 autonhim - 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 ponaerowicked 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 autonhim. And further,

the γεννηθείς, - ho gennaetheis – the one being begotten -plainly points to another

than γεγεννημένοςho gegennaemenosone 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.

 

  • THERE IS A GREAT FOE, OF MAN. “The evil one.” The personality

            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.

 

  • THOUGH MAN HAS A GREAT FOE, HE HAS A GREATER

            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

                        (John 12:31-32).

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.

 

  • THROUGH THIS FRIEND (THE ONLY BEGOTTEN SON OF GOD)

      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  - taereiis 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

                                    16:20).

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.

 

  • WE HAVE HERE THE SECRET OF VICTORY OR DEFEAT IN

            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 Theouout 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

            touch us?

 

  • ALL THIS IS AMONG THE CONTENTS OF THE BELIEVER’S

            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 ἀληθινόνalaethinon 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 houtosThis 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

grammatical construction.

 

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.

 

  • WE HAVE A CERTAIN FACT DIRECTLY AND ABSOLUTELY

            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.

 

  • A BLESSED EXPERIENCE as the outcome of the coming of the Son

            of God. This is declared in the text to be fourfold.

 

Ø      We owe to Jesus Christ the gift of a spiritual understanding

      διάνοιαν dianoianunderstanding; 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

constitutes knowledge.

 

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.”

 

  • IN THIS BLESSED EXPERIENCE IS THE ACHIEVED

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

Christ.

 

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

life.”

 

 

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

with Him.

 

·         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;</