1 John 5:1

(8.)FAITH THE TEST OF LOVE (1John 5:1-12).

(a)Its power (1John 5:1-5).

(b)The evidence on which it rests (1John 5:6-10).

(c)What it contains (1John 5:11-12).

(8 a.) St. John has been setting love in the supreme place which it held in our Lord's teaching and in St. Paul's. But there is another faculty which has to regulate, purify, direct, and stir up our weak and imperfect loving powers, and that is, faith. Without faith we cannot be certain about the quality of our love. He begins very simply with a position already laid down: genuine faith in Christ is the genuine birth from God. From that faith, through that birth, will come the proper love, as in a family: the love of our spiritual brothers and sisters. (This is specially sympathy with real Christians; but it does not exclude the more general love before inculcated.) If we are doubtful about the quality of our love, or are not sure whether any earthly elements may be mingled with it, we have only to ask ourselves whether we are loving God and keeping His commandments: the true work of faith. The love of God does, indeed, actually consist in keeping His commandments (and none can complain that they are tyrannical, vexatious, or capricious). The very object of the divine birth is the conquest of all that is opposed to God and to His commandments, and the instrument of the conquest is faith. There can be no victory over these elements that are opposed to God, and, consequently, no pure, true, God-like love, except through faith.

(8 b.) Having left the discussion about the effect of faith on love with the same thought which began it--belief in Jesus Christ--he is led to state the grounds on which that faith rests. These are here stated to be three: water, or Christ's baptism, symbolising the complete fulfilment of the Law in His own perfect purity, and thus appealing to the Old Testament; blood, or His meritorious cross and passion, symbolising His own special work of atonement and reconciliation; and the Spirit, embracing all those demonstrable proofs of His kingdom which were from day to day forcing themselves on the attention of believers. If we accept human testimony on proper grounds, far more should we receive this divine testimony of God to His Son--the witness of the Old Testament, of the work of Christ, and of the Spirit. This witness is not far to seek, for it is actually within the true believer.

(8 c.) The contents of the record which God has thus given us are at once most simple and most comprehensive: the gift of eternal life in His Son. The presence of the Word of God in the heart is the sole condition of life.

(8 a.) (1) Whosoever believeth . . .--What may be the works of God among those who have not heard of His Son we do not here inquire. Enough that those who have this privilege are sons if they accept the message.

Begotten.--Of those who have the new birth, in a general sense: quite distinct from "only-begotten."

(2) By this we know . . .--Love and obedience to God will assure us of the truth of our love to others. In 1John 2:3; 1John 4:20-21, obedience to God and love to our fellows were the signs of knowledge of God and love to Him. The two are really inseparable. If love of God is absent, then our love of our fellows is not genuine--is earthly, is a mockery. If love of our fellows is absent, then we have no love for God. All friendship must be tested by loyalty to God; all love to Him must be tested by charity.

(3) For this is . . .--These words are introduced to show that what were treated as two separate qualities in the last verse are in reality the same thing.

And his commandments are not grievous.--A transitional thought, introduced for encouragement, and forming a bridge to the next statement. (Comp. Matthew 11:30.) God has commanded us nothing for His own sake, but everything for our own highest profit and happiness. Were we perfect, we should not find them commands at all, for they would be our natural impulses. The more sincerely we serve God, the more enjoyment we shall derive from them. Only to those whose inclinations are distorted, perverted, and corrupted by sin can God's laws seem irksome.

(4) The difficulty experienced by some in keeping God's commands arises from the influence of all that is opposed to Him in our surroundings. But he who is born of God--the true child of God--fights with this only as a conqueror, because, as far as he is born again, God is in him. God overcame the world in Christ, and is still ever conquering through Him in His sons: so that to such the commands are congenial. (Comp. 1John 3:9; 1John 4:4; John 16:33.)

And this is the victory . . .--A new thought, suitable to the tenor of the passage, which lays down that faith is the measure of love. As the conquest that is overcoming the world is wrought by human instruments, its agent may be regarded as our faith, which appropriates Christ's work, and carries it out for Him and through Him. (Comp. 1John 2:13-14; 1John 2:23; 1John 4:4; 1Corinthians 15:55-57.)

(5) Who is he that overcometh?--An appeal to the consciousness of Christians. If there be any besides the disciples of Jesus who have vanquished all that is opposed to God, where are they? God has declared that He will not harshly judge the Pagan world (Romans 2:13; Romans 2:15); but salvation by uncovenanted mercies is a very different thing from the glories of the illuminated and victorious Christian heart. Where are they? Not Socrates, with his want of the sense of sin and his tolerance of evil; not Cicero, with his tormenting vanity; not the Gnostics, with their questionable lives: only those in whom had dawned the bright and morning Star.

(8 b.) (6) This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ.--"Water" and "blood" are referred to as two of the three great witnesses, or sets of evidence, for Christ. They are symbols, and look back to two of the most characteristic and significant acts of His personal history. The one is His baptism, the other His cross. Why His baptism? The baptism of John was the seal of the Law. It was the outward sign by which those who repented at his preaching showed their determination to keep the Law no longer in the letter only, but also in the spirit. Jesus, too, showed this determination. Baptism in water was His outward sign and seal to the Old Testament: that He had not come to destroy but to fulfil the Law; not to supersede the prophecies, but to claim them. It was to show that in Him the righteousness and purification which the Law intended was to be a reality, and through Him to be the law of His kingdom. Thus it pointed to all the evidence which the Old Testament could possibly afford Him; and, through the Old Testament, it pointed to the dispensation of the Father. Thus, when this most symbolic act was complete, the Almighty Giver of the old Law or covenant was heard saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."

"Blood." in the same way, refers to the special work of Christ Himself--the work of reconciliation and atonement by His death and passion, the realisation of all that the sacrifices and types of the former state of religion had meant. That He was the true sacrifice was proved by the perfection of His life, by the signs and wonders with which He had attracted and convinced His followers, by the fulfilment of prophecy, by the marvels of His teaching, by the amazing events which had happened at the different crises of His life, by His resurrection and ascension, and by the confession of all who knew Him well that He was the Word made flesh, full of grace and truth, and with the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father.

Not by water only.--John the Baptist might have been said to come by water only: he came preaching the washing away of the personal results of sin through turning again to the truth and spirit of the Law; Jesus came by blood also, for His sacrifice atoned for sin as rebellion against God.

And it is the Spirit that beareth witness.--The Holy Spirit had descended on Jesus at His baptism, had proved Him to be the Son of God in every word and act of His life, had raised Him up on the third day, and glorified His body till it could no longer be seen on earth. He had made new men of His disciples on the Day of Pentecost, had laid far and wide the foundations of the new kingdom, and was daily demonstrating Himself in the renewed life in all parts of the world. (Comp. Matthew 3:16; John 1:32-33; John 3:34; Romans 1:4; 1Timothy 3:16; 1Peter 3:18.)

Because the Spirit is truth.--Rather, the truth; the sum and substance of God's revelation in all its fulness, regarded as personally proceeding from the divine throne, teaching the prophets their message, accompanying the Son on His human pilgrimage, and bringing all things afterwards to the remembrance of His disciples.

(7) For the reasons why this verse cannot be retained in the text, see the Introduction.

(8) The text of this verse is properly, For there are three that bear witness; the Spirit, and the water, and the blood. It is a repetition of 1John 5:6 for the purpose of emphasis. The fact that the three that bear witness are in the masculine gender bears out the interpretation given of 1John 5:6; that they imply the Holy Spirit, the author of the Law, and the author of Redemption. It also explains how 1John 5:7 crept in as a gloss.

And these three agree in one.--Literally, make for the one. The old dispensation, of which the Baptist's preaching was the last message, had no other moaning than the preparation for the Messiah; the sacrifice of Calvary was the consummation of the Messiah's mission; the kingdom of the Spirit, starting from that mission, was the seal of it. The three witnesses to Christ have their counterparts in the Christian soul: "baptism, not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God;" "the blood of Christ purging our conscience from dead works to serve the living God;" and "the baptism with the Holy Ghost and with fire."

(9) If we receive the witness of men.--Any human testimony, provided it is logically binding on our understandings, to establish common facts or to prove opinions. (Comp. Deuteronomy 17:6; Deuteronomy 19:15; Matthew 18:16; 2Corinthians 13:1; Hebrews 10:28-29.)

The witness of God is greater.--Any message that clearly comes from God is to be accepted by us with a readiness infinitely greater than in the case of mere human testimony. St. John considers the threefold witness from God to convey a certainty which no human evidence could claim.

For this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son.--Such witness from God there is: for this three-fold testimony is what He has said to us about His Son. If any should doubt whether the carpenter, Jesus of Nazareth, was in reality God, St. John would refer them to the righteousness and predictions of the Law and the prophets all fulfilled, to the life and death of Christ which spoke for themselves, and to manifest inauguration of the reign of the Spirit. Under these three heads would come all possible evidence for Christian truth.

(10) He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself .--To the real believer the three-fold testimony of God no longer remains merely an outward object of thought to be contemplated and grasped: it has become part of his own nature. The three separate messages have each produced their proper result in him, and he can no more doubt them than he can doubt himself. The water has assured him that he is no longer under the Law, but under grace, and has taught him the necessity of the new birth unto righteousness (John 3:5; Titus 3:5). The blood has shown him that he cannot face God unless his sins are forgiven; and it has enabled him to feel that they are forgiven, that he is being daily cleansed, and that he has in himself the beginnings of eternal life (1John 1:7; 1John 2:2; John 6:53). And the Spirit, which has had part in both these, is daily making him grow in grace (Galatians 5:22; Ephesians 5:9).

He that believeth not God hath made him a liar.--The negative contrast, as usual, to strengthen the affirmative. St. John regards the evidence as so certain, that he to whom it is brought and who rejects it seems as if he was boldly asserting that what God had said was false. The sceptical reply that the message did not really come from God at all it is not St. John's purpose to consider; his object is to warn his friends of the real light in which they ought to regard the opponents of the truth. There should be no complacent condoning; from the point of view of the Christians themselves, such unbelievers were throwing the truth back in God's face.

(8 c.) What Faith contains (1John 5:11-12).

(11) This is the record.--This is the substance of the witness of God. The Christian creed is here reduced to a very small compass: the gift of eternal life and the dependence of that life upon His Son. Eternal life does not here mean the mere continuance of life after death, whether for good or evil; it is the expression used throughout St. John's writings for that life in God, thought of without reference to time, which can have no end, which implies heaven and every possible variety of blessedness, and which consists in believing in God the Father and in His Son. Its opposite is not annihilation, but the second death: existence in exclusion from God. (Comp. 1John 2:25; John 17:3; 2Timothy 1:10.)

(12) He that hath the Son hath life.--The emphatic word here is "hath." As this sentence is addressed to the faithful, there is no need to say "the Son of God." "Having the Son" is His dwelling in the heart by faith: a conscious difference to human life which transforms its whole character. "Having life" is the birth of the new man within which can never die.

He that hath not the Son of God hath not life.--As this is contemplating unbelievers, the words "of God" are added, to show them what they have lost.

Verses 1-12. - Faith is the source of love. Verse 1. - The verse is a sorites. 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 is not to be understood as meaning Christ to the exclusion of Christians; it means any son of God, as the next verse shows.

5:1-5 True love for the people of God, may be distinguished from natural kindness or party attachments, by its being united with the love of God, and obedience to his commands. The same Holy Spirit that taught the love, will have taught obedience also; and that man cannot truly love the children of God, who, by habit, commits sin or neglects known duty. As God's commands are holy, just, and good rules of liberty and happiness, so those who are born of God and love him, do not count them grievous, but lament that they cannot serve him more perfectly. Self-denial is required, but true Christians have a principle which carries them above all hinderances. Though the conflict often is sharp, and the regenerate may be cast down, yet he will rise up and renew his combat with resolution. But all, except believers in Christ, are enslaved in some respect or other, to the customs, opinions, or interests of the world. Faith is the cause of victory, the means, the instrument, the spiritual armour by which we overcome. In and by faith we cleave to Christ, in contempt of, and in opposition to the world. Faith sanctifies the heart, and purifies it from those sensual lusts by which the world obtains sway and dominion over souls. It has the indwelling Spirit of grace, which is greater than he who dwells in the world. The real Christian overcomes the world by faith; he sees, in and by the life and conduct of the Lord Jesus on earth, that this world is to be renounced and overcome. He cannot be satisfied with this world, but looks beyond it, and is still tending, striving, and pressing toward heaven. We must all, after Christ's example, overcome the world, or it will overcome us to our ruin.Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ,.... Or the Messiah that was prophesied of old, was long promised to the Jews, and whom they expected; there was a person spoken of in the writings of the Old Testament under this character, Psalm 2:2; and the Jews looked for him; and Jesus of Nazareth is he, as appears by all the characteristics of the Messiah in prophecy being found upon him: this the Jews deny, but is the grand article of faith embraced by the apostles and followers of Jesus, and is of very great importance; he that denies it is a liar, and he that does not believe it shall die in his sins: the word signifies "anointed", and includes all the offices of the Son of God, to which he was anointed, as prophet, priest, and King; so that to believe him to be the Christ, is to believe him to be that prophet Moses said should come, and who has declared the whole mind and will of his Father; and that he is that priest that should arise after the order of Melchizedek, and make atonement for sin, and intercession for transgressors; and that he is that King whom God has set over his holy hill of Zion, whose laws are to be obeyed, and his commands observed: but to believe that Jesus is the Christ, or the Messiah, is not barely to give an assent to this truth, or to acknowledge it; so the devils themselves have done, Luke 4:41; and whole nations of men, multitudes of which were never born of God; it is not a mere profession of it before men, or an idle, inoperative faith, which is destitute of love to Christ, and obedience to him; but whereas his work and business, as the Christ of God, was to bring in an everlasting righteousness, to procure the remission of sin, and to make peace and reconciliation for it, and to obtain eternal salvation; true faith in him as the Messiah is a believing with the heart unto righteousness, or a looking to, and trusting in the righteousness of Christ for justification; and a dealing with his blood for pardon and cleansing, under a sense of guilt and filth; and a laying hold on his atoning sacrifice for the expiation of sin, and peace with God; and a reception of him as the only Saviour and Redeemer, or a dependence on him for life and salvation; and which faith shows itself in love to him, and in a professed subjection to his Gospel, and cheerful submission to his ordinances: and every such person

is born of God; is a partaker of the divine nature; has Christ formed, and every grace of the Spirit implanted in him, among which faith in Christ is a considerable one; and such an one in consequence is openly a child and heir of God, wherefore, to be born of God is an instance of great grace, and an high honour and privilege, and of the greatest moment and importance. Regeneration is not owing to the power and will of man, but to the abundant mercy and good will of God, and is an instance of his rich mercy, great love, and free favour, and commands love again:

and everyone that loveth him that begat; that is, God the Father, who has begotten them again to a lively hope, according to his abundant mercy and sovereign will; and as he is their Father that has begotten them, they cannot but love him: and such an one

loveth him also that is begotten of him; not only Jesus Christ, who by nature is the only begotten of the Father; for those who know God to be their Father by adoption and regeneration, will love Christ, who is the Son of God by nature; see John 8:42; but also every regenerate person, all that are born of God; since they are the children of the same Father with them, belong to the same household and family, and bear the image and likeness of their heavenly Father on them.

1 John 4:21
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