March 21, 2000

1 John 5

Vv. 1-5

V. 1, John uses different words to say the same thing, "Love for God is always shown by our love for one another." Again, let us be reminded of love's definition – It is much more than an emotion, for emotions change. Though we might not have a good emotion toward our neighbor, we must still help him in his time of need.

V. 2, John defines love – it is keeping God's commandments toward himself and towards others. As previously mentioned, John develops our Lord's words:

37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Mat. 22. See Mk. 12:30ff, Lk. 10:27, where the Lord goes on to illustrate love with the Good Samaritan.)

And our Lord did not offer anything new:

Deuteronomy 6:5 And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. 10:12 And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul,
Leviticus 19:18 Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD. 19:34 But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.

Though God's commandments to love himself and others was clearly presented in the Old Testament law and prophets, equally as clear was the fact that this proper love is impossible without a work of God's Spirit:

Deuteronomy 30:6 And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.

As John says (5:2, 3), "We know we are his because he has placed his love for himself and for others in our hearts, and it is not grievous to do what he requires of us." Paul said it thusly:

1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: 4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. 8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. (Rom. 8.)

The natural man, carnal mind, is not interested in God nor in others. It is only interested in pleasing self. That natural inclination can only be changed by the Spirit of God – that is, Conversion through faith in Christ. Only the Spirit of God can preform that required supernatural work:

And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. (Rom. 5:5, 2 Thess. 3:5.)

The carnal mind finds God's commandments – as found in the Ten Commandments, 3:4 – to love God and to love others, grievous – heavy, burdensome, severe, oppressive, stern, cruel and unsparing.


not grievous--as so many think them. It is "the way of the transgressor" that "is hard." What makes them to the regenerate "not grievous, " is faith which "overcometh the world" (#1Jo 5:4): in proportion as faith is strong, the grievousness of God's commandments to the rebellious flesh is overcome. The reason why believers feel any degree of irksomeness in God's commandments is, they do not realize fully by faith the privileges of their spiritual life. (JFB)

Grievous or "Not heavy," (Mat. 23:24.) Love for God lightens his commands. (RWP)

Example: March 21, 2000, I have had to change my schedule dramatically as well as my duties because of my wife's cancer. Under normal circumstances, such changes would be "heavy," but because of love, I find a joy in doing those things; the "burden" is not heavy, so to speak.

V. 3, this is the love of God...

With authority, John defines love for God, that we keep his commandments. Though a person may profess with his mouth his unending love for God, if that love does not enjoy doing those things that are pleasing in his sight, i.e., his commandments, the "god" he loves is the wrong god. John has been and continues to be dogmatic – love for God WILL seek to keep the whole of the Ten Commandments.

(3) The reason: to love God, is to keep his commandments, which being so, and seeing that both the loves are commanded by the same lawmaker, (as he taught before) it follows also, that we do not love our neighbours, when we break God's commandments. (Geneva)

On the other hand, those who find the Commandments grievous, or oppressive, are not the children of God, for one of the marks of being his is not only a willingness to submit to his commandments, but a joy in submitting to them.

The conclusion we must reach is that those who despise his commandments with "we are under grace not law" are not the children of God – they are not under grace because they hate the law, his commandments. Grace changes the carnal, fallen heart; grace places in the carnal fallen heart a love for his commandments, and that love finds joy in doing those things pleasing in his sight; grace makes his commandments no more grievous. (Lev. 20:7, 1 Pet. 11:15, 16.)

V. 4, one of the major marks of being born of God is overcoming the world. Overcometh :

1) to conquer
1a) to carry off the victory, come off victorious
1a1) of Christ, victorious over all His foes
1a2) of Christians, that hold fast their faith even unto death against the power of their foes, and temptations and persecutions
1a3) when one is arraigned or goes to law, to win the case, maintain one's cause

Overcome the tribulations of this world (Jn. 16:33); overcome evil with good (Rom. 12:21); overcome temptation with the Spirit (1 Jn. 2:13, &c.); overcome the many false prophets that are in the world (1 Jn. 4:1-4); he overcomes the lures and temptations of the world, which work to convince him to abandon his faith. Though an overcomer may fall victim to his enemy, i.e., the world, the flesh and the devil (Ja. 3:15), he will not remain a victim:

For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief. (Pro. 24:16.)

The child of God cannot keep himself, but is kept by the power of God. (1Pet. 1:5.)

Vv. 4, 5, the only means of genuine victory over the word is our faith in Jesus Christ.

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. (Jn. 16:33.)

Moreover, the term believeth that Jesus is the Son of God is more than an agreement with a historical fact of Christ. It is total trust in him and what he did for the sinner. (Eph. 1:12-14.)

Vv. 6-9

John is writing to a "Jewish" audience, proving to them that Jesus is indeed the promised Messiah. He is confronting them with witnesses to Christ's Messiahship, witnesses that they are both familiar with and that they cannot deny. At least two witnesses were required under the law for a matter to be true, and John is here identifying the witnesses to the truth of Christ. (Deut. 17:6, 19:5.)

The water and blood could refer to several things:

1) what John saw as Jesus hung on the cross:

34 But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water. 35 And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe. (Jn. 19.)

It was the water and blood that John referred to to prove that Jesus was who and what he claimed to be.

That he there lays so great a weight on it, imports that he apprehended some great mystery, if not intended, yet very apt to be signified by it. And, secondly: That he was a Jew, and (as is probable) wrote this Epistle to Jews, among whom the so frequent ablutions with water, as well as the shedding the blood of sacrifices, were most known things, and intended to typify (what they ought to have understood, and he now intimates) these very things, the purity and dying of the Messiah. Not to insist upon what he had long ere now occasion to observe in the Christian church, baptism, and the supper of our Lord, representing in effect severally the same things. Neither was this way of teaching unusual, nor these expressions less intelligible, than our Lord's calling himself (as this evangelist also records) a shepherd, a door, a vine, &c. (Matthew Pool)

In other words, because we have not the "Jewish" background, John's words here do not carry to us the import they did to him and to those who read his letters in the first church.

2) Christ's baptism when the Spirit descended upon him, and his shed blood for the remission of sins, according to the prophecies that went on before him.

3) Christ's comparison with Moses (who took the people through the water, 1 Cor. 10:1, 2) and Aaron (who sacrificed the blood for the sins of the people). Both were types of Christ.

We should also point out that a proof of Christ is one's conversion is his change concerning love and his attitude toward his commandments, v. 2, 3.

Spirit that beareth witness is also a restatement concerning the indwelling Spirit, 4:13, &c. The Spirit of Truth sent by the Father to his children bears record of Christ in our hearts. (Jn. 15:26, 27.)

V. 7, the Apostle then calls on three witnesses in heaven, and these three are one.

Few verses have excited as much controversy as this verse. Robertson sums up the controversy thusly:

{For there are three who bear witness} (oti treiv eisin oi marturountev). At this point the Latin Vulgate gives the words in the Textus Receptus, found in no Greek MS. save two late cursives (162 in the Vatican Library of the fifteenth century, 34 of the sixteenth century in Trinity College, Dublin). Jerome did not have it. Cyprian applies the language of the Trinity and Priscillian has it. Erasmus did not have it in his first edition, but rashly offered to insert it if a single Greek MS. had it and 34 was produced with the insertion, as if made to order. The spurious addition is: en tw ouranw o pathr, o logov kai to agion pneuma kai outoi oi treiv en eisin kai treiv eisin oi marturountev en th gh (in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth). The last clause belongs to verse #8. The fact and the doctrine of the Trinity do not depend on this spurious addition. Some Latin scribe caught up Cyprian's exegesis and wrote it on the margin of his text, and so it got into the Vulgate and finally into the Textus Receptus by the stupidity of Erasmus. (RWP)


"6. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth. 7. For there are three that bear record ([in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one. 8. And there are. three that bear witness in earth,]) the Spirit, and the water, and the blood, and these three agree in one. 9. If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater, etc."

Both Cloverdale (c. 1535) and Tindale (c. 1526) included the questioned text in their Bibles, but the text was bracketed. Probably the first English Bible that treated the text without brackets was The Bishops' Bible, c. 1568. Since then, the distinction have been generally disregarded. (See Adam Clarke for the documentation. Also, all the other commentators say the same thing, except the Geneva notes, which treats it as genuine.)

Though v. 7 is the clearest statement in Scripture concerning the doctrine of the Trinity, that doctrine does not depend on v. 7. It is taught clearly throughout Scripture, e.g., Genesis 1:26, Let us make man in our image... and Matthew 3:16, 17, where, at the baptism of Jesus, the three persons of the Triune Godhead appear at the same time – the Father spoke from heaven and the Sprit descended as a dove on the Son here on earth.

V. 8 repeats v. 6, only in different order. See the quote above.

V. 9, if receive the witness of men many times with no questions asked, how much more should we receive the witness of God concerning the things of God?

Again, John is writing to a primarily Jewish audience who claimed to believe in the God of their fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And he is trying to prove to them that their fathers' God is the one who established Christ as the promised Messiah, and he calls on the several things mentioned here as his witnesses.

Vv. 10-13

Vv. 10, 11, the witness would be the indwelling Spirit for those who believeth on the Son. God is true, and the record, witnessed by the above, says that God gave his Son to provide eternal life. All who fail to believe the record make God a liar.

The record says that Christ is the Son of God, the promised Messiah of the Old Testament, and the witnesses prove that fact; all who refuse to believe that record make God a liar.

V. 12 sums up the gospel – all who have the Son have life, and all who do not have the Son do not have life.

V. 13, the purpose of John's writing is to assure the Jewish believers that they have life. I would assume from the sound of this verse that the false teachers, many antichrists, were telling the new Jewish converts that life was not found in and through only the Son. From the history of the other New Testament books, one can assume the false teachers were adding the many Jewish traditions and Temple laws to faith in Christ. John seems to be assuring these new converts that their faith is must be in Christ, and that their faith is not in vain.

Vv. 14-17

With authority, John defines some things in this chapter: v. 3, this is the love of God ; v. 6, this is he that came ; v. 11, this is the record, and

V. 14, this is the confidence. John now describes prayer.

We have in him. The previous section assured of eternal life, v. 12; this section assures of answered prayer for those who love him.

His hearing and answering our prayer is conditioned upon asking according to his will. James uses Elias (Elijah) as an example of prayer, James 5:17, 18. But notice that Elias' prayer was not "willy-nilly," but according to the word and will of God, 1 Kings 17:1, which was also according to the commandments of God – the warning was that if God's people served other gods, there would be no rain, Deuteronomy 11:16, 17, 28:23.

Thus v. 14 must be understood in the context of vv. 2 & 17, as well as all the rest of 1 John, for he has mentioned several times the necessity of love for God being exemplified by righteous living according to the commandments.

Those praying in v. 14 will be praying according to the will of God, e.g., "nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done." (Lk. 22:42.)

V. 15, if we know that he hear us..., we know we have what we desired of him. We desired of him that his will be done, so whatever the outcome of our prayers, we know it was his outcome, though it may not be our outcome.

V. 16, our prayers must not be restricted to "give us this day or daily bread," i.e., self, as is our nature, but must include others. Those who are having a problem with sin are particularly in need of our prayers.

Sin not unto death... sin unto death. This is a difficult statement, which may have been unique to the early church, made up primarily of Jews. I do, however, see a possibility...

Though broken hearted over his people's sins, Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, was forbidden to pray for his people. The Lord's purpose was to destroy them for their sins. (Jer. 7:16, 11:14, 14:11, Lam. 3:22.) Moreover, John could be referring to the fact that Christ did not pray for the world, but he did pray for his own people. (Jn. 17:9.)

However, V. 16 does refer to his brother, implying that the sinner is a brother in Christ. So we must not allow emotional attachment to supercede the word of God, for there are times that we cannot pray for our brother.

V. 17, twice John tells us that there is a sin not unto death. What is the difference between sin unto death and sin not unto death?

I do not know the answer for this question — Romans 1 speaks of the degeneration to sodomy, but facts tell us that the sodomite can be converted unto life from his path to death. So there is no sin that is beyond reach of the grace of God.


National, civil evil: a nation can degenerate so badly that only judgment (death) awaits, so it is useless to pray for that nation, e.g., Jeremiah and Israel.

Individual, civil evil: a person commits a capital crime, e.g., murder. The just civil penalty is death, so we should not pray that he be spared from that death sentence, though we can certainly pray that the person be converted.

Individual evil: this evil is defined by God, and might fit into Paul's words of 1 Corinthians 5:5, which is an early death for a believer who is caught in the deceitfulness of sin. However, I do not think this fits together properly with John's words, though John does speak of the brother who is involved in sin unto death, v. 16.

John was writing to deal with unique situations of his time, so we may never really understand the details here. But regardless of the details of v. 17, it does give us some dogmatic points: 1) we must understand that all unrighteousness is sin — horribly evil in God's sight, though not in ours. 2) all unrighteousness is sin, and there are degrees of sin. However, I cannot say that there is a degree today of sin outside of the reach of God's mercy and grace.

Vv. 18-21

In this section, John seems to sum up the three key points of his letter with three We knows. And then he builds several more implications upon the three:

First, We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not — that is, he that has been born again is not controlled by sin. He does not serve sin, nor is he mortally wounded by Satan. (Geneva) Barns says that v. 18 proves one will never fall from grace.

Wicked one toucheth him not. However, there is a problem, for v. 16 tells us that a brother can sin unto death. So v. 16 and v. 18 seem to contradict each other, for Paul in 1 Corinthians 5 said the man held captive by sin was to be turned over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh. See 1 John 3:9. The commentators on this verse overlook v. 16, and I do not understand how toucheth him not fits with the sin unto death for a brother.

Toucheth him not might fit with,

And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. (Rev. 12:10.)


My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: (1 Jn. 2:1.)

Though the wicked one continually accuses the children of God, his accusations are met with the advocacy of Jesus Christ the righteous – the wicked one touches us not.

I should point out that keepeth himself does not fit with 1 Peter 1:5:

Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

And Jude 1:24:

Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,

Though the Lord alone is able to keep you from falling, we are required to live out our profession of Christ:

Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. (Phil. 2:12.)

Second, we know that we are in God, v. 19. This verse is built upon vv. 1-5; however, we know that we are in God is built upon all of John's writings, e.g., for these things have I written unto you... that ye may know that ye have eternal life, v. 13.

30 And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: 31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name. (John 21.)

John's books were written to assure us of who Christ is, and through that assurance, assure us of eternal life.

The whole world lieth in wickedness.

Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air , the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: (Eph. 2:2.)

And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. (Lk. 10:18.)

It was at the time of the resurrection that Satan was defeated and cast out of heaven:

Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. (Jn. 12:31.)

Though the enemy is defeated in Christ, the victory over him must be claimed moment by moment:

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (Eph. 6:12.)

John wrote at the peak of Rome's power, and along with that power came total degradation. Though wickedness prevailed in the whole world, the obedient Child of God was to have no fear of him, for we know that we are of God, vv. 18, 19.

Third, we know that the Son is come... John could be speaking of himself, we know; he wrote from personal experience. This is basically the same way he closed the book of St. John:

This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true. (Jn. 21:24.)

Is closing statement is also strikingly similar to the way he opened this book, 1:1-3.

In this book of 1 John, John continually makes the point that Christ came in the flesh, e.g., 4:2, 14. Several times, he tells us that it is the spirit of antichrist that denies the truth that Christ came from the Father as promised in the Old Testament.

John also has emphasized that the indwelling Spirit gives to God's people understanding — that is, he causes the Elect to know the truth about Christ, e.g., 3:24, 4:13. In other words, though the whole world lieth in wickedness, we know and understand the truth of Christ because of the indwelling Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit.

We should also remember that John writes this book to counter the many false prophets, antichrists, who had gone out into the world. They sought to undermine the truth, which John is attesting to by eye witness account, that Jesus Christ was sent to fulfill the promise; their message was the false message that Christ was only another man, though maybe a good man; their message was one that offered "eternal life" apart from total faith in Christ.

John ends this book with a final charge:

Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.

We have already discussed little children, so we will not again. However, idols bears looking at.

I suppose that the context of John's book requires that idols refer to any thing that hinders the true worship of the one true God, the Lord Jesus Christ. I realize this is a general statement, but it is really the only thing that will fit with John's context.

The whole world was and is given over to wickedness, so John's final word urges God's people to not follow the crowd in their wicked activity. The peril was great to the new Christians, and it was made even greater by the many false teachers who offered their lies under the guise of godliness:

For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; (1 Thes. 1:9.)