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One John Five

by Dr. Henry M. Morris

(taken from the Defender's Study Bible)

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xTerm 5:1 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.

loveth him also. The test of true love for God is, therefore, whether we love the children of God—that is, our Christian brethren.

xTerm 5:2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.

keep his commandments. The test of true love for the children of God, in turn, is whether or not we love God and His commandments.

xTerm 5:3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.

xTerm 5:4 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.

whatsoever. The neuter form of “whatsoever” seems to imply that the whole body of believers is in view here. That is, despite the opposition of Satan and his hosts, the true church, consisting of all true Christians, will triumph over the very gates of hell, just as Christ promised when He first spoke of building His church (Matthew 16:18). Furthermore, the faith on which that church would be built—the confession that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16)—is the same faith that overcomes the world, the faith that Jesus is, indeed, the Son of God (xTerm 5:5).

xTerm 5:5 Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?

xTerm 5:6 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.

water and blood. The coming of Christ by water refers to His baptism, when He testified through His immersion unto death and emergence unto life about His coming death and resurrection. At this introductory act of His public ministry, the Spirit came on Him, as a dove, and the Father audibly acknowledged Him from heaven (Matthew 3:16-17). Then He came with the same testimony on the cross, no longer in figure but in reality, shedding His blood in sacrificial death, only to rise in triumph on the third day. Thus, both the water and the blood testify of death—His death for our sins. Note also that when the spear pierced His dead body, it was stressed that “forthwith came there out blood and water” (John 19:34).

Spirit that beareth witness. There is also the witness of the Holy Spirit, who likewise bears testimony of the sacrificial love of Christ to the world (see John 15:26, where He also—as here—is called “the Spirit of truth”). Thus the baptismal water, the shed blood and the Spirit of truth all give a united testimony concerning the saving work of Christ.

xTerm 5:7 For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.

these three are one. This verse is the famous “Johannine Comma,” as it has been called, and it obviously carries the clearest and most explicit statement of the doctrine of the Trinity to be found in the Bible. However, it only is found in manuscripts of the Latin Bible, and in four Greek manuscripts, so is believed by many Biblical scholars to have been a pious addition or marginal annotation by some unknown ancient copyist. The doctrine of the Trinity does not depend on this verse, of course, as it is implied in many other Scriptures (e.g., Matthew 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:14). On the other hand, since it does fit perfectly in the context, it also seems that this verse could well have been in John's original autograph, and then been expunged from most of the accessible manuscripts at the height of the Arian controversy in the fourth century. To eliminate this verse would leave xTerm 5:8 as a largely redundant repetition of xTerm 5:6, whereas the continuity and sense are beautifully structured and sequenced if it is included. It would seem much more likely for Origen or Arius, both of whom rejected the doctrines of the Trinity and Biblical inerrancy, or one of their followers in the third or fourth centuries, to boldly excise the offending verse, than for some godly copyist to insert it. One who believed in the Trinity would surely have held the Scriptures in too much esteem to presume to amend them on his own initiative. Despite the weight of scholarly opinion to the contrary, the internal evidence, as well as the testimony of the Latin manuscripts and such later authorities as Erasmus and the Reformers, as well as many great commentators since, such as John Wesley and Matthew Henry, strongly argues that the Johannine Comma was actually written by John in his epistle and should still be regarded as part of the true text.

xTerm 5:8 And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.

witness in earth. The reference to three witnesses “in earth” strengthens the case for the validity of the reference in xTerm 5:7 to the three witnesses “in heaven,” especially since the manuscript evidence for “in earth” is strong. Note that “Spirit” in xTerm 5:6, 8, is from the same Greek word as “Ghost” in xTerm 5:7. John seems clearly to be drawing an analogy between the three who bear witness in heaven to the three that bear witness on earth. In his gospel, he had noted the concerted teaching ministry of Christ, His Father, and the Holy Ghost whom He would send (John 14:26; 15:26), as promised by Christ (now identified as “the Word”) Himself. Now, on earth, a supporting testimony is provided by that same Holy Ghost, as well as the baptismal waters and the sacrificial blood. The Three in heaven are One; the three on earth agree on that one and His great eternal purpose.

xTerm 5:9 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.

xTerm 5:10 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. That internal witness is none other than the indwelling Holy Spirit, who is both “in heaven” (as the third person of the Godhead) and “in earth” (note xTerm 5:7-8), as He indwells each believer. Compare Romans 8:16-17; Galatians 4:6.

made him a liar. Those who recoil at the thought of eternal punishment of the lost need to reckon with the infinite magnitude of their sin—that of calling their own Creator a liar! An infinite sin warrants infinite punishment, especially in light of the infinite sacrifice made for them by their Creator and the free gift of infinite life (xTerm 5:11) offered them by that loving God on the basis of His sacrifice. The punishment is more than merited by the crime.

the record. The same Greek word, in either verb or noun form (martureo, marturia) is translated “record” three times in this epistle, “testify” twice, and “witness” seven times. These words are also very common in John's other writings. The frequent cost of such a “witness” is pointed up by the fact that we derive our word “martyr” from this Greek word.

xTerm 5:11 And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.

xTerm 5:12 He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.

hath life. The same division is stressed in John 3:18, 36; Daniel 12:2; Matthew 7:13-14; 25:46; Revelation 21:6-8; 22:14-15; and others.

xTerm 5:13 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.

that ye may know. The most definitive basis for our assurance of salvation is true faith in “the name of the Son of God,” with whatever that entails. John has also given a number of tests for knowing that our faith in Him is true faith, not just mental assent to a tenet of faith. Such tests are noted in xTerm 2:3; 2:5; 2:6; 2:29; 3:2, 3; 3:14; 3:18, 19; 3:24; 4:13; 5:2. Compare also John 20:31.

xTerm 5:14 And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:

xTerm 5:15 And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.

xTerm 5:16 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.

sin unto death. The “sin unto death” does not refer to the unforgivable sin, which yields eternal spiritual death. That sin is, ultimately, refusal to accept Jesus Christ as Savior (John 3:36). No other sin precludes at least the possibility of repentance, faith and forgiveness. Therefore, the “sin unto death” can only refer to such flagrant sin on the part of a “brother” that God's chastisement finally becomes physical death (1 Corinthians 11:27-33; 5:5).

pray for it. There is thus no warrant in praying for the dead.

xTerm 5:17 All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death.

unrighteousness is sin. Here is a very succinct definition of sin. Note also such other definitions as in John 16:9, James 4:17; xTerm 3:4; Romans 3:23.

xTerm 5:18 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.

sinneth not. See notes on xTerm 3:6-10.

keepeth himself. “Keepeth” is used in the sense of “guardeth.” The born-again Christian will (or at least should) guard himself against the deceptions of Satan by constantly availing himself of “the whole armour of God” (Ephesians 6:10-18), by consciously resisting the devil steadfast in the faith (James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8-9), and by following Christ's example in silencing him with appropriate Scriptures (Matthew 4:1-11). To the extent we thus guard ourselves against the wiles of the devil, that “wicked one” cannot touch us, for “greater is He that is in [us], than he that is in the world” (xTerm 4:4).

xTerm 5:19 And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness.

wickedness. “Wickedness” here is explicitly referring to “that wicked one” of the previous verse. Satan indeed is now “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4), the one “which deceiveth the whole world” (Revelation 12:9). We, however, “are of God” and certainly should not be pandering to the world system, as so many evangelicals today are wont to do.

xTerm 5:20 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.

xTerm 5:21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.

idols. Idols are either physical images or mental constructs with which men try to explain and control the forces and systems of nature without acknowledging the one true God as Creator and Sustainer of all things. Paganism, with its pantheism and polytheism, worshipping the various forces and systems of nature personified as Mother Earth, with all her other personifications as various gods and goddesses, was rife in John's day and, through various forms of evolutionism, has always been arrayed in opposition to the true God of creation and redemption. This is truer today than ever in history, and it is absolutely vital that true Christians should refrain from all forms of idolatry, whether rationalistic humanism, economic materialism, or New Age pantheism—all of which are founded on an evolutionary world view.