Bible Commentary

1 John 5

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

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(Read all of 1 John 5)

Verse 1

[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.

The scope and sum of this whole paragraph appears from the conclusion of it, 1 John 5:13: "These things have I written to you who believe, that ye may know that ye who believe have eternal life." So faith is the first and last point with St. John also.

Every one who loveth — God that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him - Hath a natural affection to all his brethren.

Verse 2

[2] By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.

Hereby we know — This is a plain proof.

That we love the children of God — As his children.

Verse 3

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

For this is the love of God — The only sure proof of it.

That we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous — To any that are born of God.

Verse 4

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

For whatsoever — This expression implies the most unlimited universality.

Is born of God overcometh the world — Conquers whatever it can lay in the way, either to allure or fright the children of God from keeping his commandments.

And this is the victory — The grand means of overcoming.

Even our faith — Seeing all things are possible to him that believeth.

Verse 5

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

Who is he that overcometh the world — That is superior to all worldly care, desire, fear? Every believer, and none else. The seventh verse 1 John 5:7 (usually so reckoned) is a brief recapitulation of all which has been before advanced concerning the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. It is cited, in conjunction with the sixth and eighth, 1 John 5:6,8 by Tertullian, Cyprian, and an uninterrupted train of Fathers. And, indeed, what the sun is in the world, what the heart is in a man, what the needle is in the mariner's compass, this verse is in the epistle. By this the sixth, eighth, and ninth verses 1 John 5:6,8,9 are indissolubly connected; as will be evident, beyond all contradiction, when they are accurately considered.

Verse 6

[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.

This is he — St. John here shows the immovable foundation of that faith that Jesus is the Son of God; not only the testimony of man, but the firm, indubitable testimony of God.

Who came — Jesus is he of whom it was promised that he should come; and who accordingly, is come. And this the Spirit, and the water, and the blood testify.

Even Jesus — Who, coming by water and blood, is by this very thing demonstrated to be the Christ.

Not by the water only — Wherein he was baptized.

But by the water and the blood — Which he shed when he had finished the work his Father had given him to do. He not only undertook at his baptism "to fulfil all righteousness," but on the cross accomplished what he had undertaken; in token whereof, when all was finished, blood and water came out of his side. And it is the Spirit who likewise testifieth - Of Jesus Christ, namely, by Moses and all the prophets, by John the Baptist, by all the apostles, and in all the writings of the New Testament. And against his testimony there can be no exception, because the Spirit is truth - The very God of truth.

Verse 7

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

What Bengelius has advanced, both concerning the transposition of these two verses, and the authority of the controverted verse, partly in his "Gnomon," and partly in his "Apparatus Criticus," will abundantly satisfy any impartial person.

For there are three that testify — Literally, testifying, or bearing witness. The participle is put for the noun witnesses, to intimate that the act of testifying, and the effect of it, are continually present. Properly, persons only can testify; and that three are described testifying on earth, as if they were persons, is elegantly subservient to the three persons testifying in heaven.

The Spirit — In the word, confirmed by miracles.

The water — Of baptism, wherein we are dedicated to the Son, (with the Father and Spirit,) typifying his spotless purity, and the inward purifying of our nature.

And the blood — Represented in the Lord's supper, and applied to the consciences of believer. And these three harmoniously agree in one - In bearing the same testimony,-that Jesus Christ is the divine, the complete, the only Saviour of the world.

Verse 8

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

And there are three that testify in heaven — The testimony of the Spirit, the water, and the blood, is by an eminent gradation corroborated by three, who give a still greater testimony.

The Father — Who clearly testified of the Son, both at his baptism and at his transfiguration.

The Word — Who testified of himself on many occasions, while he was on earth; and again, with still greater solemnity, after his ascension into heaven, Revelation 1:5; Revelation 19:13.

And the Spirit — Whose testimony was added chiefly after his glorification, 1 John 2:27; John 15:26; Acts 5:32; Romans 8:16.

And these three are one — Even as those two, the Father and the Son, are one, John 10:30. Nothing can separate the Spirit from the Father and the Son. If he were not one with the Father and the Son, the apostle ought to have said, The Father and the Word, who are one, and the Spirit, are two. But this is contrary to the whole tenor of revelation. It remains that these three are one. They are one in essence, in knowledge, in will, and in their testimony. It is observable, the three in the one verse are opposed, not conjointly, but severally, to the three in the other: as if he had said, Not only the Spirit testifies, but also the Father, John 5:37; not only the water, but also the Word, John 3:11; John 10:41; not only the blood, but also the Holy Ghost, John 15:26, etc. It must now appear, to every reasonable man, how absolutely necessary the eighth verse is 1 John 5:8. St. John could not think of the testimony of the Spirit, and water, and blood, and subjoin, "The testimony of God is greater," without thinking also of the testimony of the Son and Holy Ghost; yea, and mentioning it in so solemn an enumeration. Nor can any possible reason be devised, why, without three testifying in heaven, he should enumerate three, and no more, who testify on earth. The testimony of all is given on earth, not in heaven; but they who testify are part on earth, part in heaven. The witnesses who are on earth testify chiefly concerning his abode on earth, though not excluding his state of exaltation: the witnesses who are in heaven testify chiefly concerning his glory at God's right hand, though not excluding his state of humiliation. The seventh verse, therefore, with the sixth, 1 John 5:7,6 contains a recapitulation of the whole economy of Christ, from his baptism to pentecost; the eighth, 1 John 5:8 the sum of the divine economy, from the time of his exaltation. Hence it farther appears, that this position of the seventh 1 John 5:7,8 and eighth verses, which places those who testify on earth before those who testify in heaven, is abundantly preferable to the other, and affords a gradation admirably suited to the subject.

Verse 9

[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.

If we receive the testimony of men — As we do continually, and must do in a thousand instances.

The testimony of God is greater — Of higher authority, and much more worthy to be received; namely, this very testimony which God the Father, together with the Word and the Spirit, hath testified of the Son, as the Saviour of the world.

Verse 10

[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.

He that believeth on the Son of God hath the testimony — The dear evidence of this, in himself: he that believeth not God, in this, hath made him a liar; because he supposes that to be false which God has expressly testified.

Verse 11

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

And this is the sum of that testimony, that God hath given us a title to, and the real beginning of, eternal life; and that this is purchased by, and treasured up in, his Son, who has all the springs and the fulness of it in himself, to communicate to his body, the church, first in grace and then in glory.

Verse 12

[12] He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.

It plainly follows, he that hath the Son - Living and reigning in him by faith. Hath this life; he that hath not the Son of God hath not this life - Hath no part or lot therein. In the former clause, the apostle says simply, the Son; because believers know him: in the latter, the Son of God; that unbelievers may know how great a blessing they fall short of.

Verse 13

[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.

These things have I written — In the introduction, 1 John 1:4, he said, I write: now, in the close, I have written. That ye may know - With a fuller and stronger assurance, that ye have eternal life.

Verse 14

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

And we — Who believe. Have this farther confidence in him, that he heareth - That is, favourably regards, whatever prayer we offer in faith, according to his revealed will.

Verse 15

[15] And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.

We have — Faith anticipates the blessings.

The petitions which we asked of him — Even before the event. And when the event comes, we know it comes in answer to our prayer.

Verse 16

[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.

This extends to things of the greatest importance.

If any one see his brother — That is. any man.

Sin a sin which is not unto death — That is, any sin but total apostasy from both the power and form of godliness.

Let him ask, and God will give him life — Pardon and spiritual life, for that sinner.

There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for that — That is, let him not pray for it. A sin unto death may likewise mean, one which God has determined to punish with death.

Verse 17

[17] All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death.

All deviation from perfect holiness is sin; but all sin is not unpardonable.

Verse 18

[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.

Yet this gives us no encouragement to sin: on the contrary, it is an indisputable truth, he that is born of God - That sees and loves God.

Sinneth not — So long as that loving faith abides in him, he neither speaks nor does anything which God hath forbidden.

He keepeth himself — Watching unto prayer. And, while he does this, the wicked one toucheth him not - So as to hurt him.

Verse 19

[19] And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness.

We know that we are children of God — By the witness and the fruit of his Spirit, 1 John 3:24.

But the whole world — All who have not his Spirit, not only is "touched" by him, but by idolatry, fraud, violence lasciviousness, impiety, all manner of wickedness.

Lieth in the wicked one — Void of life, void of sense. In this short expression the horrible state of the world is painted in the most lively colours; a comment on which we have in the actions, conversations, contracts, quarrels, and friendships of worldly men.

Verse 20

[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.

And we know — By all these infallible proofs.

That the Son of God is come — Into the world. And he hath given us a spiritual understanding, that we may know him, the true one - "The faithful and true witness." And we are in the true one - As branches in the vine, even in Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God. This Jesus is the only living and true God, together with the father and the Spirit, and the original fountain of eternal life. So the beginning and the end of the epistle agree.

Verse 21

[21] Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.

Keep yourselves from idols — From all worship of false gods, from all worship of images or of any creature, and from every inward idol; from loving, desiring, fearing anything more than God. Seek all help and defence from evil, all happiness in the true God alone.

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