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5. Faith in the Son of God

1Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is begotten of God: and whosoever loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. 2Hereby we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and do his commandments. 3For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. 4For whatsoever is begotten of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that hath overcome the world, even our faith. 5And who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? 6This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not with the water only, but with the water and with the blood. 7And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is the truth. 8For there are three who bear witness, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and the three agree in one. 9If 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. 10He 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. 11And the witness is this, that God gave unto us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12He that hath the Son hath the life; he that hath not the Son of God hath not the life. 13These 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. 14And this is the boldness which we have toward him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us: 15and if we know that he heareth us whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions which we have asked of him. 16If 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. There is a sin unto death: not concerning this do I say that he should make request. 17All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death. 18We know that whosoever is begotten of God sinneth not; but he that was begotten of God keepeth himself, and the evil one toucheth him not. 19We know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in the evil one. 20And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we 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. 21My little children, guard yourselves from idols.

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6. This—the Person mentioned in 1Jo 5:5. This Jesus.

he that came by water and blood—"by water," when His ministry was inaugurated by baptism in the Jordan, and He received the Father's testimony to His Messiahship and divine Sonship. Compare 1Jo 5:5, "believeth that Jesus is the Son of God," with Joh 1:33, 34, "The Spirit … remaining on Him … I saw and bare record that this is the Son of God"; and 1Jo 5:8, below, "there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood." Corresponding to this is the baptism of water and the Spirit which He has instituted as a standing seal and mean of initiatory incorporation with Him.

and blood—He came by "the blood of His cross" (so "by" is used, Heb 9:12: "by," that is, with, "His own blood He entered in once into the holy place"): a fact seen and so solemnly witnessed to by John. "These two past facts in the Lord's life are this abiding testimony to us, by virtue of the permanent application to us of their cleansing and atoning power."

Jesus Christ—not a mere appellation, but a solemn assertion of the Lord's Person and Messiahship.

not by, &c.—Greek, "not IN the water only, but IN the water and IN (so oldest manuscripts add) the blood." As "by" implies the mean through, or with, which He came: so "in," the element in which He came. "The" implies that the water and the blood were sacred and well-known symbols. John Baptist came only baptizing with water, and therefore was not the Messiah. Jesus came first to undergo Himself the double baptism of water and blood, and then to baptize us with the Spirit-cleansing, of which water is the sacramental seal, and with His atoning blood, the efficacy of which, once for all shed, is perpetual in the Church; and therefore is the Messiah. It was His shed blood which first gave water baptism its spiritual significancy. We are baptized into His death: the grand point of union between us and Him, and, through Him, between us and God.

it is the Spirit, &c.—The Holy Spirit is an additional witness (compare 1Jo 5:7), besides the water and the blood, to Jesus' Sonship and Messiahship. The Spirit attested these truths at Jesus' baptism by descending on Him, and throughout His ministry by enabling Him to speak and do what man never before or since has spoken or, done; and "it is the Spirit that beareth witness" of Christ, now permanently in the Church: both in the inspired New Testament Scriptures, and in the hearts of believers, and in the spiritual reception of baptism and the Lord's Supper.

because the Spirit is truth—It is His essential truth which gives His witness such infallible authority.

7. three—Two or three witnesses were required by law to constitute adequate testimony. The only Greek manuscripts in any form which support the words, "in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one; and there are three that bear witness in earth," are the Montfortianus of Dublin, copied evidently from the modern Latin Vulgate; the Ravianus, copied from the Complutensian Polyglot; a manuscript at Naples, with the words added in the Margin by a recent hand; Ottobonianus, 298, of the fifteenth century, the Greek of which is a mere translation of the accompanying Latin. All the old versions omit the words. The oldest manuscripts of the Vulgate omit them: the earliest Vulgate manuscript which has them being Wizanburgensis, 99, of the eighth century. A scholium quoted in Matthæi, shows that the words did not arise from fraud; for in the words, in all Greek manuscripts "there are three that bear record," as the Scholiast notices, the word "three" is masculine, because the three things (the Spirit, the water, and the blood) are SYMBOLS OF THE Trinity. To this Cyprian, 196, also refers, "Of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, it is written, 'And these three are one' (a unity)." There must be some mystical truth implied in using "three" (Greek) in the masculine, though the antecedents, "Spirit, water, and blood," are neuter. That THE Trinity was the truth meant is a natural inference: the triad specified pointing to a still Higher Trinity; as is plain also from 1Jo 5:9, "the witness of God," referring to the Trinity alluded to in the Spirit, water, and blood. It was therefore first written as a marginal comment to complete the sense of the text, and then, as early at least as the eighth century, was introduced into the text of the Latin Vulgate. The testimony, however, could only be borne on earth to men, not in heaven. The marginal comment, therefore, that inserted "in heaven," was inappropriate. It is on earth that the context evidently requires the witness of the three, the Spirit, the water, and the blood, to be borne: mystically setting forth the divine triune witnesses, the Father, the Spirit, and the Son. Luecke notices as internal evidence against the words, John never uses "the Father" and "the Word" as correlates, but, like other New Testament writers, associates "the Son" with "the Father," and always refers "the Word" to "God" as its correlate, not "the Father." Vigilius, at the end of the fifth century, is the first who quotes the disputed words as in the text; but no Greek manuscript earlier than the fifteenth is extant with them. The term "Trinity" occurs first in the third century in Tertullian [Against Praxeas, 3].

8. agree in one—"tend unto one result"; their agreeing testimony to Jesus' Sonship and Messiahship they give by the sacramental grace in the water of baptism, received by the penitent believer, by the atoning efficacy of His blood, and by the internal witness of His Spirit (1Jo 5:10): answering to the testimony given to Jesus' Sonship and Messiahship by His baptism, His crucifixion, and the Spirit's manifestations in Him (see on 1Jo 5:6). It was by His coming by water (that is, His baptism in Jordan) that Jesus was solemnly inaugurated in office, and revealed Himself as Messiah; this must have been peculiarly important in John's estimation, who was first led to Christ by the testimony of the Baptist. By the baptism then received by Christ, and by His redeeming blood-shedding, and by that which the Spirit of God, whose witness is infallible, has effected, and still effects, by Him, the Spirit, the water, and the blood, unite, as the threefold witness, to verify His divine Messiahship [Neander].

9. If, &c.—We do accept (and rightly so) the witness of veracious men, fallible though they be; much more ought we to accept the infallible witness of God (the Father). "The testimony of the Father is, as it were, the basis of the testimony of the Word and of the Holy Spirit; just as the testimony of the Spirit is, as it were, the basis of the testimony of the water and the blood" [Bengel].

for—This principle applies in the present case, FOR, &c.

which—in the oldest manuscripts, "because He hath given testimony concerning His Son." What that testimony is we find above in 1Jo 5:1, 5, "Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God"; and below in 1Jo 5:10, 11.

10. hath the witness—of God, by His Spirit (1Jo 5:8).

in himself—God's Spirit dwelling in him and witnessing that "Jesus is the Lord," "the Christ," and "the Son of God" (1Jo 5:1, 5). The witness of the Spirit in the believer himself to his own sonship is not here expressed, but follows as a consequence of believing the witness of God to Jesus' divine Sonship.

believeth not God—credits not His witness.

made him a liar—a consequence which many who virtually, or even avowedly, do not believe, may well startle back from as fearful blasphemy and presumption (1Jo 1:10).

believeth not the recordGreek, "believeth not IN the record, or witness." Refusal to credit God's testimony ("believeth not God") is involved in refusal to believe IN (to rest one's trust in) Jesus Christ, the object of God's record or testimony. "Divine "faith" is an assent unto something as credible upon the testimony of God. This is the highest kind of faith; because the object hath the highest credibility, because grounded upon the testimony of God, which is infallible" [Pearson, Exposition of the Creed]. "The authority on which we believe is divine; the doctrine which we follow is divine" [Leo].

gaveGreek, "hath testified, and now testifies."


11. hath givenGreek, aorist: "gave" once for all. Not only "promised" it.

life is in his Son—essentially (Joh 1:4; 11:25; 14:6); bodily (Col 2:9); operatively (2Ti 1:10) [Lange in Alford]. It is in the second Adam, the Son of God, that this life is secured to us, which, if left to depend on us, we should lose, like the first Adam.

12. the Son … lifeGreek, "THE life." Bengel remarks, The verse has two clauses: in the former the Son is mentioned without the addition "of God," for believers know the Son: in the second clause the addition "of God" is made, that unbelievers may know thereby what a serious thing it is not to have Him. In the former clause "has" bears the emphasis; in the second, life. To have the Son is to be able to say as the bride, "I am my Beloved's, and my Beloved is mine" [So 6:3]. Faith is the mean whereby the regenerate HAVE Christ as a present possession, and in having Him have life in its germ and reality now, and shall have life in its fully developed manifestation hereafter. Eternal life here is: (1) initial, and is an earnest of that which is to follow; in the intermediate state (2) partial, belonging but to a part of a man, though that is his nobler part, the soul separated from the body; at and after the resurrection (3) perfectional. This life is not only natural, consisting of the union of the soul and the body (as that of the reprobate in eternal pain, which ought to be termed death eternal, not life), but also spiritual, the union of the soul to God, and supremely blessed for ever (for life is another term for happiness) [Pearson, Exposition of the Creed].