1 John 5 – Summary Exposition

  1. 1 John 5.1-3. These verses summarize John’s argument about faith and the new birth, about love, and about obedience to God in the Christian life. It answers who is a Christian, who we love and why? If we love God the Father we will also love God’s children. And God’s children are those who believe that Jesus is the Christ.
    1. First John 5.1a explains who has eternal life—whoever believes that Jesus is the Messiah. Everyone believing (present active participle, used as the subject) that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah, God and Man, King, Savior) is born (it has already happened, perfect passive indicative) of God. That one is a Christian. See John 20.31 for John’s clear statement. This is the minimum gospel which is about the person and work of Jesus Christ (life, death, resurrection) and his offer of everlasting life gained by faith in him.
    2. 1 John 5.1b. He goes on to say that the believer who loves the parent (God the Father) also loves the child (the one born). This is the normal expectation. Love for the Father—the Greek text has “the one who gave birth”—and love for God’s children go hand in hand. We cannot say that we love the Father when we do not love other believers
    3. 1 John 5.2. The test: how do I know if I love God’s children? The answer, when I love God and do his commands. One of his commands is that I love other believers (1 John 3.23). So, when I love God and obey his word, I will also love believers, God’s children. Disobedience of God’s word is incompatible with love for God. The text: “everyone loving the one who gave birth (refers to God the Father) loves the one born from him,” a believer. Love for God and doing God’s word produces love for God’s children. Love for God will bring with it love for believers.
    4. 1 John 5.3 clearly says that our love for God is defined by keeping God’s commandments; and his commandments are not burdensome (βαρος heavy, weighty, severe, burdensome). They are doable. His basic commands are to believe Jesus Christ and to love other believers. And, Every believer has the ability through the new nature and the Holy Spirit to love God, to love believers, and to keep God’s commands. See 1 John 3.23, 2 Corinthians 5.17, 1 John 3, Romans 6-8, and Galatians 5.
  2. 1 John 5.4-5. Faith and victory. Verse 1a presented faith at the point of eternal salvation (justification) Verses 4 and 5 start with this and say we continue to live by faith (sanctification).
    1. In 1 John 5.4. “Whatever is born” refers to the principle of the new kind of person—a believer—and he overcomes the world in the past and present. Faith in Jesus as the Christ qualified us as victors over the world. Furthermore, verses 1-2 tell us that believing that Jesus is the Christ is the basis for loving the Father, loving believers, and keeping God’s commands. Since verse 3 says his commandments are not a burden, we know that John now includes Christian living in verse 4. Every believer overcomes in principle-position the world by his relationship to God (born of God), and every believer also overcomes the world in practice by each use of faith. “Which overcomes the world” indicates each point of victory. Our faith is the victory or that which gives victory. It is interesting to note that John says “our faith,” not “his faith.” “Our faith” goes back to “everyone having been born of God” at the beginning of 1 John 5.4. We start with faith. Then we continue with faith. This is a principle for every believer which is personalized in verse 5.
    2. First John 5.5 Who can overcome the world? The one overcoming the world is the one believing that Jesus is the Son of God. The one who experiences victory now is the one who has been born of God through faith and regularly trusts Jesus, the Son of God a savior and leader. See Galatians 2.20, Hebrews 12.1-2, and 1 John 3.23.
  3. 1 John 5.6-9. The threefold testimony to Jesus Christ is water, blood, and the Holy Spirit. The testimony is conclusive. It was historical fact, and was given by revelation to prophets, apostles, and witnesses (as Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians, and Luke in Luke and Acts).
    1. 1 John 5.6. Jesus came and was testified to by water (his baptism by John), by blood (his death on the cross), and by the identification by the Holy Spirit through the dove (Matthew 3.13-17; Mark 1.8-12; Luke 3.21-22). This is especially significant in view of the claim by the anit-christs (e.g. Cerinthis) who claimed that Jesus was not the Christ, not the son of God, and so his death was meaningless (1 John 2.22). The Holy Spirit is God and here stated to be true in what he does and says.
    2. 1 John 5.7-8. There are three witnesses. They agree “For the one” means they agree. See Deuteronomy 19.15 for the requirement for three witnesses.
    3. 1 John 3.9. If introduces a first class condition. We receive man’s testimony, we ought to receive God’s testimony because it is more accurate (greater). God has testified (μαρτυρεω martureo) about his son. We have heard what Jesus’ water baptism signified. We have learned what the Holy Spirit signified by the dove descending. We have learned what Jesus death meant.
  4. 1 John 5.10-13. Faith in God’s son brings eternal life and the factual inner witness of Scripture that one has eternal life. God wants everyone who believes in his Son to know that he possesses eternal life. When someone does not believe the testimony about God’s Son, that person says God is a liar. The witness (μαρτυρια, witness, testimony) is the objective truth revealed about God’s son by the water, the blood, and the Holy Spirit that God gave eternal life and it is in his son (1 John 5.11-12) The objective witness leads to the subjective assurance which comes by believing God’s statements about his Son (1 John 5.13).
    1. 1 John 5.10. The phrases “the one who believes” and “the one who does not believe” are articular present active participles used as subjects; they are descriptive presents. The object is the Son of God and God’s testimony about his Son. The person who believes in the Son has (present active indicative) has the testimony in himself. God’s testimony is clear—the water, the blood, the Holy Spirit, and God’s statement. This person believes God’s testimony and so he has it for himself. God’s testimony has become his belief, and our own belief—that Jesus is God’s son and savior.
    2. 1 John 5.11-12. What is the testimony? The testimony is about God’s Son. These verses expand on what the testimony is. God gave eternal life; this life is in God’s Son; whoever has the Son has eternal life. It is a gift. The life is in God’s Son—in no one else or in no other place. First, God gave us eternal life which is found only in his son, and second, whoever Has the son has this life See acts 4.12.
  5. In 1 John 5.13-15, John writes so that his readers will know they have eternal life, and this knowledge give confidence about identity in Christ, confidence about heaven, and confidence in prayer.
    1. 1 John 5.13. “These things I wrote to you so that you may know that you have eternal life.” Then he qualifies the people to whom he wrote, “to those who believe in the name of the Son of God.” What things did he write? 1 John 5.6-12: 1. the witnesses to Jesus Christ; 2. that God gave eternal life to us; 3. eternal life is in his son; 4. the one who has the son has eternal life. No question or uncertainty. If one believes in the name of God’s Son, that person possesses eternal life. The name identifies the person. John continues to emphasize the God-Man, Jesus the Christ, the Son of God. This teaches assurance of salvation for every believer.
    2. 1 John 5.14-15. This knowledge of eternal life gives confidence in prayer. John, in this section, links a correct prayer life to one’s assurance of eternal salvation. When we are confident about our own eternal salvation we will also pray with greater confidence. If according to his will he hears us. If he hears us, we have the request.
      1. Prayer should be according to God’s will. Prayer is one of the basic techniques for Christian living (Colossians 4:2 and 1 Thessalonians 5.17). We all pray, yet often wonder about answers to our prayer. The prayer requests that we bring to our heavenly Father need to be according to his will—that is, prayer for what our heavenly Father wants us to pray. We find his will in the Scripture. So, our prayer life should be based in the Bible’s clear statements, implications, and applications. Our heavenly Father listens to these prayers and answers them in his best way. When we are in doubt about a request we explicitly or implicitly follow Jesus’ example found in Luke 22.42, “yet not my will, but yours be done.” The same author, John, wrote in John 15.6 that our abiding in Christ (fellowship and walking in the light) and God’s word abiding in us are necessary for a good prayer life. This ties in with 1 John 5.15-16—we know God’s will through God’s word and fellowship with him.
  6. 1 John 5.16-17. Sin in the life of a believer can be disastrous. Sin is an affront to all of God’s expressed will. And certain sins have potential for physical death as divine discipline. Personal confession of sin by each individual believer-priest to God is God’s will for us in order for temporal fellowship to be restored. Confession is easy for us to do, but sin can have very severe consequences for believers. One consequence of sin is physical death brought by God. This is the final discipline. The sin or sins that result in this discipline are not mentioned. We are simply warned in passing. John’s main point here is that we are to pray for other believers whom we see sinning that God will grant continued physical life and blessings to that person. The purpose of this prayer is that this person recover from whatever sin is in view and regain fellowship and Christian service. This kind of prayer fits in with the commands in 1 John to love believers. Recall the three stages of divine discipline: warning (Revelation 3.19-20), more severe discipline like pain, sickness, loss, uneasy conscience (Hebrews 12.4-11; 1 Corinthians 11.27-30), death (1 John 5.16-17; Acts 5.1-11; 1 Corinthians 11.27-30).
  7. 1 John 5.18-21. John’s final verses are themselves hard to understand. He writes comments and challenges about our 1. born of God nature, 2. guarded by God against the evil one, 3. the two spheres of life—God and the world, 4. knowing God and his Son Jesus Christ, 5. a strong statement about the deity of Jesus Christ, 6. and guard oneself against idols.
    1. 1 John 5.18. Everyone born of God does not sin because he is new in Christ, and the new nature—new Christ person—does not sin (1 John 3.9; Ephesians 4.24; Colossians 3.10; 2 Corinthians 5.17). But he keeps him (Egyptian Text) or himself (Majority Text). There are many interpretations. The best seems to be that “no one who is born of God sins,” or literal “everyone born of God does not sin” (NASB) is the believer. The statement “but he who was born of God keeps him” (NASB) emphasizes the believer from his new in Christ nature, the seed of 1 John 3.9. This emphasizes the divine birth at salvation which makes the believer a unique new person and this new nature does not sin, though every believer does sin when operating from his old sinful nature. Of course, the believer may chose to follow Satan’s propaganda. Peter did this (Matthew 16.22-23). Below are the three different interpretations.
      1. The NET Bible favors the one born by God (believer) he (God) guards him. God guards the believer so the evil one, Satan, cannot touch or cling to him. Technically the commenters consider the second clause a nominative pendens in which a nominative is the logical subject, not syntactical subject. It makes good sense. Also see note 49, NET Bible, 1 John 5.18.
      2. Zane Hodges, “In saying that the regenerate inward person (cf. Rom 7:22) keeps himself, John is not saying that one’s inner self can somehow prevent all sin in the Christian life (cf. 1:5–10). What John means is that God’s “seed remains in” the regenerate inner self (cf. 3:9) as the controlling element of his born-again nature and is impervious to even the slightest contamination from the wicked one (The Grace NT Commentary, 1 John 5.18). Hodges accepts the Majority text pronoun himself instead of him. Both texts have good support.
      3. For another slightly different view See Henry Alford, The Greek Testament, 1 John 5.18, “but he that hath been born of God (γεννηθείς, aor. this time. The perf. part. expresses more the enduring abidance of his heavenly birth, and fits better the habitual οὐχ ἁμαρτάνει: the aor. part., calling attention to the historical fact of his having been born of God, fits better the fact that the wicked one toucheth him not, that divine birth.”
    2. 1 John 5.19. The world of mankind lies or exists in the realm of the evil one Satan. Satan as the temporal ruler of the world sets the values, morality, religion, ethics—the world view (John 15.18-19; 17.15; Galatians 1.4). He works through religion, through culture fads, through political organization, through media, and even through demonic activity.
    3. 1 John 5.20. Even though the world is under the influence of the evil one, we know that the Son of God has come and made it possible for us to understand God on a personal level. God is trustworthy, true, and genuine. We are in relationship with God and with his Son Jesus Christ. Both are genuine, the real thing. Jesus Christ is said to be the true God and eternal life. This is a clear statement of his deity. This statement, “this one is the true God and eternal life” pairs with opening of the book in 1 John 1.2 “the eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us.” John ends like he began, with the eternal Son of God, knowable by people.
    4. 1 John 5.21. John’s closing remark warns against becoming entrapped by idolatry. An idol is anything that takes away from or takes the place of God (1 Corinthians 8.4; 1 Thessalonians 1.9; Ephesians 5.5). Idolatry is replacing God with something else. Ephesus was known for the Greek goddess Artemis (Roman, Diana) and the silversmiths who made idols to her (Acts 19.23-40).