1 John 5

Culmination and Conclusion
1 John 5
1 John 5. In this final chapter of the first epistle, John gives the characteristics of God’s children, beginning with love for other who are begotten of God, and concluding with the believer’s victory over the world (vv.1-5). Then, he speaks of the witnesses to the truth that God has given us eternal life (vv.6-12). Finally, he concludes with that which is common knowledge to the children of God, and the assurance that we have concerning our portion (vv.13-21).

Characteristics of God’s Children: Love, Obedience, Faith, Victory (5:1-5)

Love for Brethren: the Who and the How (5:1-3)

1 Every one that believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten of God; and every one that loves him that has begotten loves also him that is begotten of him. v.1 Love for God and Love for Brethren. Who are the children of God? “Every one that believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten of God”. Faith in Jesus as the Christ is evidence that someone is born again. This does not mean that new birth is the result of faith. In fact, John 1:12-13 shows that those who believed on the name of the Son of God were already born of God. It is by new birth that man receives a new nature with the capacity for faith. If we love God, it naturally follows that we love those who are God’s children. They have a shared nature and connection that causes us to love them, because of who they belong to! This love, if it is really rooted in love for God, will be for all the children of God. Love for our brethren has to be universal or it isn’t true love.
2 Hereby know we that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep his commandments. v.2 Love for Brethren and Love for God. As v.1 showed, true love for our brethren is love that is based on our love for God, who has begotten them. As the counter-proof of this, John states that we know we truly love the children of God “when we love God and keep his commandments”. Obedience to God, which proves our love for God, must accompany our love for the children of God. If we express love to a fellow child of God while walking in disobedience to the commandments of God, it is not really divine love. We learn in 2 Pet. 1:7 that brotherly love is always governed by divine love. Divine love always has God as its object.
3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments; and his commandments are not grievous. v.3 Love for God and Keeping His Commandments. The exercise of love in practical obedience to God’s will shows us it is real. God has made obedience to be the higher proof of our love to Him (John 14:15). The commandments are not grievous, because they are in keeping with the desires and capacities of the new nature. Hence, the Lord delighted to do the Father’s will (1 John 2:6). The commandments here are not the law of Moses. They are the instructions for us as Christians that carry the authority of God.

Overcoming the World: Our Faith (5:4-5) 

4 For all that has been begotten of God gets the victory over the world; and this is the victory which has gotten the victory over the world, our faith. v.4 Overcoming the World. Every child of God, everyone with eternal life, overcomes the world-system. How? By faith which has an object higher than this world: the Son of God (Gal. 2:20). Some in practice do not overcome, but the victory is theirs for the taking.
5 Who is he that gets the victory over the world, but he that believes that Jesus is the Son of God? v.5 A New Object for Faith The world is really one great obstacle in the Christian’s path which prevents him from obeying the commandments of God (1 John 2:16). But faith, like a grain of mustard seed, can remove such a great mountain and cast it into the sea. How does this work? Our faith has an object which has overcome the world. The Christian believes that Jesus – whom the world has crucified – is the Son of God. In this way our faith has a practical victory over this world.1

Three Witnesses in One that God Has Given Us Eternal Life (5:6-12)

6 This is he that came by water and blood, Jesus the Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that bears witness, for the Spirit is the truth. v.6 Blood, Water & the Spirit’s Witness. We had the new object for faith in v.5, Jesus, the Son of God, and now we have the work that that Person accomplished. When it speaks of Christ “coming” it doesn’t refer to the incarnation, but to the great purpose for which Jesus came; to deal with the issue of sin. Some incorrectly assume it refers to incarnation and that that the water and blood are the water and blood of childbirth. Instead, it is a witness to the water and blood that flowed from the pierced side of a dead Christ.

When the spear pierced the side of a dead Christ, both blood and water flowed out. Blood speaks of the judicial cleansing from the guilt of sin. Water speaks of the moral cleansing from the defilement of sin. Not only has the work of Christ justified us (blood) but it has also cleansed us (water) in God’s sight, in the sight of others, and in my own sight. e.g. this is how Peter could say in his Pentecostal sermon, "whom ye (Israel) have denied". Peter was clean in his own sight as well as others. It says that Christ came "by water and by blood", that is for the purpose of effecting moral and judicial cleansing (sanctification and justification).2 The Spirit of God bears witness to that. John emphasizes "not by water only". It was not the Lord's purpose in coming only to cleanse His people from moral defilement, but also to give God a righteous basis to declare us judicially "just" in His sight (Rom. 3:26). One who is only morally cleansed is not a finished product. There are many religions in the world that profess to be able to wash with water; that is, to produce a holy life. These religions are unable to wash with water, but one thing they cannot even attempt to do is wash with blood. They cannot even grasp how the guilt of sin can be put away, and how a sinner can be justified in God’s sight. Christ came, not by water only, but by water and blood. It is a distinctive characteristic of Christianity. In 1 John 5 the water is mentioned before the blood because that is the order in which they are applied to a believer. We must be born again first, then we believe on the only-begotten Son for eternal life. Even in Old Testament typology, the sons of Aaron were washed with water first, then sprinkled with blood (Lev. 8). But in John 19:34 the blood is mentioned before water because that was the order they came out in historically, and the order which has God's interests first, before man's need. The Spirit bears witness (1 John 5:6) and makes both things good to the believing soul, so that all three agree in one!

7 For they that bear witness are three: 8 the Spirit, and the water, and the blood; and the three agree in one. vv.7-8 Three in One. There are three witnesses that God has give us eternal life. The water and blood from the pierced side of Christ, and the Spirit sent down after He was glorified. The order of the three witnesses is changed from v.6 because this is the order in which we apprehend it. God’s three witnesses to His gift of eternal life: (1) the Spirit enables us to appreciate both, (2) water is moral purification and new birth, and (3) blood is expiation for sin. John takes up these three great witnesses in his ministry. These three witnesses “agree in one” that God has given us eternal life.
9 If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater. For this is the witness of God which he has witnessed concerning his Son. 10 He that believes on the Son of God has the witness in himself; he that does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the witness which God has witnessed concerning his Son. 11 And this is the witness, that God has given to us eternal life; and this life is in his Son. 12 He that has the Son has life: he that has not the Son of God has not life. vv.9-12 The Unified Witness of God. If the witness of men is readily received, how much greater the witness of God (v.9)? Perhaps the “witness of men” here refers to the testimony of the apostles (1 Jn. 1:2; Luke 24:48). God’s witness is three-fold, but the Spirit indwells the believer, such that “He that believes on the Son of God has the witness in himself” (v.10). We have also the witness of the Word in v.13. Those who believe on the Son of God, taking Him as the object of their faith, have the witness of the Spirit in them. Those who do not believe make God a liar by denying the witness concerning His Son (v.11). We have life in association with the Son; “this life is in his Son”. It is a life that cannot be had apart from Christ (hence, “life in His Son”) and it cannot be sustained without feeding on Him. The present possession of eternal life is linked with having the Son as the object of our faith; “He that has the Son has life: he that has not the Son of God has not life”.

Conclusion (5:13-21)

13 These things have I written to you that ye may know that ye have eternal life who believe on the name of the Son of God. v.13 Consciousness of the Possession of Eternal Life. Verse 12 concludes the doctrinal part of the epistle. John now begins to use a different word for “know”. Before this it was the work ‘ginosko’ or objective knowledge. Now he begins to use the word ‘oida’, which is the inward personal knowledge of conviction. He uses this word through v.21 for a total of five times. The first thing he mentions that the believer knows is that he has eternal life. John tells us that this was one of the great reasons why he wrote the first epistle; that the believer might have the conscious inward knowledge that he presently possesses eternal life. The whole of the epistle brings out the characteristics of that life, not to make the believer doubt, but instead to reassure them in the face of false teachers who were seeking to persuade the saints that they needed higher light.3

In scripture there is a difference between "believing", "believing in", and "believing on". If you "believe" someone, you accept what they say as truth. If you "believe in" someone, you have confidence in their character; i.e. it has to do with who they are, although it also includes that they are honest. If you "believe on" someone, they become an object for your faith, and this also includes both confidence in their character and in their words, but goes far higher.

The believer has believed “on the name of the Son of God”, and on that basis they are saved and possess eternal life. 
14 And this is the boldness which we have towards him, that if we ask him anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions which we have asked of him. vv.14-15 Knowledge of Access in Prayer. The second thing the believer knows is that he has the “boldness” to petition the Lord and the confidence that those prayers are heard and answered, according to His will. This is a privilege of the whole family of God. This doesn’t mean we will get whatever we pray for. We do not always pray according to the Lord’s will. You might ask, what is the point of praying if the Lord only gives what is according to His will? Prayer is less about changing God and more about changing us to align our thoughts with His! Nevertheless, it is the Lord’s gracious manner to link His own actions with the prayers of His people.
16 If any one see his brother sinning a sin not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life, for those that do not sin unto death. There is a sin to death: I do not say of that that he should make a request. 17 Every unrighteousness is sin; and there is a sin not to death. vv.16-17 Intercession for A Sinning Brother. The believer has discernment to know when to intercede and when not to. This is a knowledge that the believer has by communion. If we see our brother sin, we should pray for him. Sometimes, in the government of God, sickness or injury is a result of sin in the lives of believers. This is not always the case. For example, Lazarus was sick and died “for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby” (John 11:4). The blind man in John 9 was born blind, not because he or his parents had sinned, “but that the works of God should be made manifest in him” (John 9:3). It is our privilege to pray for our brethren when they are sick, regardless of why they are sick. But when we see them sin, and then get sick, we are called upon to consider the case. God can give us discernment to know if this is a “sin not unto death”. In that case, we should pray for the brother, and the Lord will “give him life” – i.e. an extension of his natural life, not divine life. But, this is not always the case. “There is a sin to death”. An example would be Ananias and Sapphira. There it was not only a lie, but it was a very serious and brazen lie. In the case where the person has sinned to a point where God has determined to take them home through death, John says “I do not say of that that he should make a request”. He doesn’t prohibit praying in this case, but cannot encourage us to pray against the will of God, when we are clear in our minds as to what it is. When a believer sins a sin unto death, they can still be restored to communion if repentance comes in. There have been cases where a believer has acknowledged that they did sin a sin unto death, and the Lord was honored in the brother or sister’s submission to the Lord’s will. But we are reminded that “every unrighteousness is sin”; and not every sin is a sin to death. See James 5:13-20.
18 We know that every one begotten of God does not sin, but he that has been begotten of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him. v.18 Knowledge of Family Character. The third thing the believer is said to know is what characterizes the children in God’s family; “every one begotten of God does not sin”. Clearly, from v.16 it is possible for a child of God to sin, and sin grievously. But that is not what is characteristic of a child of God. Instead, what marks a true believer is moral preservation; “he that has been begotten of God keeps himself”. We do not have the power to keep ourselves. Deliverance from sin is not through human effort. But the believer can keep himself in communion, in the enjoyment of the love of God (Jude 21), and God can use this in our preservation. We have a new nature that keeps itself occupied with its object. Faith is the secret of being kept: “Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation” (1 Pet. 1:5). We do not need to be afraid of the Wicked One. If we remain in communion with the Lord, the Devil has nothing with which to lure us into his snares. 
19 We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies in the wicked one. v.19 Knowledge of What We Are and What the World Is. The next thing that we know is the distinction between the believer and the world. We might call this knowing the battle lines. We are of God, being His children and the partakers of the divine nature. The world is presided over by Satan; “the whole world lies in the wicked one”. We find also that Satan is the “god” of this world (religiously, 2 Cor. 4:4), and also the “prince” of this world (politically, John 12:31). The present state of the world is that it lies in (or under the sway of) the Wicked One. Satan wants to take the place of God in the hearts of men. However, the Wicked One is not omnipresent. Instead, he uses the world to extend his influence. The world-system that Satan heads up is everywhere; hence he is called the “prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2). The world aims to provide whatever men want and need so as to keep them occupied and satisfied in independence of God. The believer knows this, and is warned of the danger.
20 And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us an understanding that we should know him that is true; and we are in him that is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. v.20 Knowledge of the True God and Our Portion In the Son. The believer knows that the Son of God has come, and had declared the true God – the Father – to us (John 17:3), such that we “know him that is true”. Further, we know that we are “in him that is true, in his Son Jesus Christ”. This refers to the nearness of our relationship to the Son, and that we share His life.  The life we possess is not independent of the Son, just as the kernels of wheat have life, but not independent of the stalk. Finally, the Son is the true God, and eternal life (1 Jn. 1:2). If you have the Son, you have it all. There is nothing beyond that! This is a sum of John’s ministry.
Children, keep yourselves from idols. v.21 Idols. The final exhortation of the epistle is concerning idols. Now, certainly this would cover literal idols; physical images of false gods. However, we know that John is writing to Christians, not pagans. What he is warning the saints about is false representations of Christ, such as the Gnostics were pushing on the believers. In the Old Testament, it was an abomination to make a graven image. Likewise, an idol can be a god of our own creation. Often people project their own ideas on God or Jesus, such as emphasizing one aspect of His Person and denying another. Some claim Jesus is only a good man, others say He is God but not really a man “come in flesh” (1 John 4:3). Some deny the holiness of God, asserting that “the God I know would never send people to hell”. The sad fact is that they worship a different god; one of their own creation These are like the false apostles in Paul’s day who “preached another Jesus, whom we have not preached” (2 Cor. 11:4). An idol is anything that falls short of the revelation of the Father and the Son. As a practical application, we can apply this more broadly to anything (other than God Himself) that becomes an object of worship or occupation for us. It could be something from the religious world, the political world, the academic world, or the entertainment world. Since we have the Son, and through Him know the true God, how important to keep ourselves from idols!
  1. Faith believes that Jesus, whom the world rejected, is the Son of God. The world, therefore, has lost its power over it. Its affections and its trust are fixed on Jesus, who was crucified, owning Him as the Son of God. Thus the believer, detached from the world, has the boldness of obedience, and does the will of God which abides forever. – Darby, J.N. Synopsis of the Books of the Bible.
  2. We are cleansed by the water of death (sanctification), and we are also cleansed by blood (justification). - Darby, J.N. Notes on the First Epistle of John.
  3. The apostle wrote these things in order that they who believed in the Son might know that they had eternal life. He does not give means of examination to make the faithful doubt whether they had eternal life; but — seeing that there were seducers who endeavoured to turn them aside as deficient in something important, and who presented themselves as possessing some superior light — he points out to them the marks of life, in order to re-assure them; developing the excellence of that life, and of their position as enjoying it; and in order that they might understand that God had given it to them, and that they might be in no wise shaken in mind. He then speaks of the practical confidence in God which flows from all this — confidence exercised with a view to all our wants here below, all that our hearts desire to ask of God. – Darby, J.N. Synopsis of the Books of the Bible.