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Bible Commentaries

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

1 John 5



Other Authors
Verse 1

That Jesus is the Christ (οτι Ιησους εστιν ο Χριστοςhoti Iēsous estin ho Christos). The Cerinthian antichrist denies the identity of Jesus and Christ (1 John 2:22). Hence John insists on this form of faith (πιστευωνpisteuōn here in the full sense, stronger than in 1 John 3:23; 1 John 4:16, seen also in πιστιςpistis in 1 John 5:4, where English and Latin fall down in having to use another word for the verb) as he does in 1 John 5:5 and in accord with the purpose of John‘s Gospel (John 20:31). Nothing less will satisfy John, not merely intellectual conviction, but full surrender to Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. “The Divine Begetting is the antecedent, not the consequent of the believing” (Law). For “is begotten of God” (εκ του τεου γεγεννηταιek tou theou gegennētai) see 1 John 2:29; 1 John 3:9; 1 John 4:7; 1 John 5:4, 1 John 5:18. John appeals here to family relationship and family love.

Him that begat (τον γεννησανταton gennēsanta). First aorist active articular participle of γενναωgennaō to beget, the Father (our heavenly Father).

Him also that is begotten of him (τον γεγεννημενον εχ αυτουton gegennēmenon ex autou). Perfect passive articular participle of γενναωgennaō the brother or sister by the same father. So then we prove our love for the common Father by our conduct towards our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Verse 2

Hereby (εν τουτωιen toutōi). John‘s usual phrase for the test of the sincerity of our love. “The love of God and the love of the brethren do in fact include each the other” (Westcott). Each is a test of the other. So put 1 John 3:14 with 1 John 5:2.

When (οτανhotan). “Whenever” indefinite temporal clause with οτανhotan and the present active subjunctive (the same form αγαπωμενagapōmen as the indicative with οτιhoti (that) just before, “whenever we keep on loving God.”

And do (και ποιωμενkai poiōmen) “and whenever we keep on doing (present active subjunctive of ποιεωpoieō) his commandments.” See 1 John 1:6 for “doing the truth.”

Verse 3

This (αυτηhautē) - that (ιναhina). Explanatory use of ιναhina with αυτηhautē as in John 17:3, to show what “the love of God” (1 John 4:9, 1 John 4:12) in the objective sense is, not mere declamatory boasting (1 John 4:20), but obedience to God‘s commands, “that we keep on keeping (present active subjunctive as in 1 John 2:3) his commandments.” This is the supreme test.

Are not grievous (βαρειαι ουκ εισινbareiai ouk eisin). “Not heavy,” the adjective in Matthew 23:4 with πορτιαphortia (burdens), with λυποιlupoi (wolves) in Acts 20:29, of Paul‘s letters in 2 Corinthians 10:10, of the charges against Paul in Acts 25:7. Love for God lightens his commands.

Verse 4

For (οτιhoti). The reason why God‘s commandments are not heavy is the power that comes with the new birth from God.

Whatsoever is begotten of God (παν το γεγεννημενον εκ του τεουpān to gegennēmenon ek tou theou). Neuter singular perfect passive participle of γενναωgennaō rather than the masculine singular (1 John 5:1) to express sharply the universality of the principle (Rothe) as in John 3:6, John 3:8; John 6:37, John 6:39.

Overcometh the world (νικαι τον κοσμονnikāi ton kosmon). Present active indicative of νικαωnikaō a continuous victory because a continuous struggle, “keeps on conquering the world” (“the sum of all the forces antagonistic to the spiritual life,” D. Smith).

This is the victory (αυτη εστιν η νικηhautē estin hē nikē). For this form of expression see 1 John 1:5; John 1:19. ΝικηNikē (victory, cf. νικαωnikaō), old word, here alone in N.T., but the later form νικοςnikos in Matthew 12:20; 1 Corinthians 15:54-55, 1 Corinthians 15:57.

That overcometh (η νικησασαhē nikēsasa). First aorist active articular participle of νικαωnikaō The English cannot reproduce the play on the word here. The aorist tense singles out an individual experience when one believed or when one met temptation with victory. Jesus won the victory over the world (John 16:33) and God in us (1 John 4:4) gives us the victory.

Even our faith (η πιστις ημωνhē pistis hēmōn). The only instance of πιστιςpistis in the Johannine Epistles (not in John‘s Gospel, though in the Apocalypse). It is our faith in Jesus Christ as shown by our confession (1 John 5:1) and by our life (1 John 5:2).

Verse 5

And who is he that overcometh? (τις εστιν δε ο νικωνtis estin de ho nikōṅ). Not a mere rhetorical question (1 John 2:22), but an appeal to experience and fact. Note the present active articular participle (νικωνnikōn) like νικαιnikāi (present active indicative in 1 John 5:4), “the one who keeps on conquering the world.” See 1 Corinthians 15:57 for the same note of victory (νικοςnikos) through Christ. See 1 John 5:1 for ο πιστευωνho pisteuōn (the one who believes) as here.

Jesus is the Son of God (Ιησους εστιν ο υιος του τεουIēsous estin ho huios tou theou). As in 1 John 5:1 save that here ο υιος του τεουho huios tou theou in place of ΧριστοςChristos and see both in 1 John 2:22. Here there is sharp antithesis between “Jesus” (humanity) and “the Son of God” (deity) united in the one personality.

Verse 6

This (ουτοςhoutos). Jesus the Son of God (1 John 5:5).

He that came (ο ελτωνho elthōn). Second aorist active articular participle of ερχομαιerchomai referring to the Incarnation as a definite historic event, the preexistent Son of God “sent from heaven to do God‘s will” (Brooke).

By water and blood (δι υδατος και αιματοςdi' hudatos kai haimatos). Accompanied by (διαdia used with the genitive both as instrument and accompaniment, as in Galatians 5:13) water (as at the baptism) and blood (as on the Cross). These two incidents in the Incarnation are singled out because at the baptism Jesus was formally set apart to his Messianic work by the coming of the Holy Spirit upon him and by the Father‘s audible witness, and because at the Cross his work reached its culmination (“It is finished,” Jesus said). There are other theories that do not accord with the language and the facts. It is true that at the Cross both water and blood came out of the side of Jesus when pierced by the soldier, as John bore witness (John 19:34), a complete refutation of the Docetic denial of an actual human body for Jesus and of the Cerinthian distinction between Jesus and Christ. There is thus a threefold witness to the fact of the Incarnation, but he repeats the twofold witness before giving the third. The repetition of both preposition (ενen this time rather than διαdia) and the article (τωιtōi locative case) argues for two separate events with particular emphasis on the blood (“not only” ουκ μονονouk monon “but” αλλall') which the Gnostics made light of or even denied.

It is the Spirit that beareth witness (το πνευμα εστιν το μαρτυρουνto pneuma estin to marturoun). Present active articular participle of μαρτυρεωmartureō with article with both subject and predicate, and so interchangeable as in 1 John 3:4. The Holy Spirit is the third and the chief witness at the baptism of Jesus and all through his ministry.

Because (οτιhoti). Or declarative “that.” Either makes sense. In John 15:26 Jesus spoke of “the Spirit of truth” (whose characteristic is truth). Here John identifies the Spirit with truth as Jesus said of himself (John 14:6) without denying personality for the Holy Spirit.

Verse 7

For there are three who bear witness (οτι τρεις εισιν οι μαρτυρουντεςhoti treis eisin hoi marturountes). 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: εν τωι ουρανωι ο πατηρ ο λογος και το αγιον πνευμα και ουτοι οι τρεις εν εισιν και τρεις εισιν οι μαρτυρουντες εν τηι γηιen tōi ouranōi ho patērho logos kai to hagion pneuma kai houtoi hoi treis hen eisin kai treis eisin hoi marturountes en tēi gēi (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 1 John 5:8. 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.

Verse 8

The Spirit and the water and the blood (το πνευμα και το υδωρ και το αιμαto pneuma kai to hudōr kai to haima). The same three witnesses of 1 John 5:6, 1 John 5:7 repeated with the Spirit first.

The three (οι τρειςhoi treis). The resumptive article.

Agree in one (εις το εν εισινeis to hen eisin). “Are for the one thing,” to bring us to faith in Jesus as the Incarnate Son of God, the very purpose for which John wrote his Gospel (John 20:31).

Verse 9

If we receive (ει λαμβανομενei lambanomen). Condition of first class with ειei and the present active indicative, assumed as true. The conditions for a legally valid witness are laid down in Deuteronomy 19:15 (cf. Matthew 18:16; John 8:17.; John 10:25; 2 Corinthians 13:1).

Greater (μειζωνmeizōn). Comparative of μεγαςmegas because God is always true.

For (οτιhoti). So it applies to this case.

That (οτιhoti). Thus taken in the declarative sense (the fact that) as in John 3:19, though it can be causal (because) or indefinite relative with μεμαρτυρηκενmemarturēken (what he hath testified, perfect active indicative of μαρτυρεωmartureō as in John 1:32; John 4:44, etc.), a harsh construction here because of μαρτυριαmarturia though some MSS. do read ενhen to agree with it (cf. 1 John 5:10). See οτι εανhoti ean in 1 John 3:20 for that idiom. Westcott notes the Trinity in 1 John 5:6-9: the Son comes, the Spirit witnesses, the Father has witnessed.

Verse 10

Believeth on (πιστευων ειςpisteuōn eis). John draws a distinction between “not believing God” (μη πιστευων τωι τεωιmē pisteuōn tōi theōi) in next clause, the testimony of God about his Son, and surrender to and reliance on the Son as here (ειςeis and the accusative). See the same distinction less clearly drawn in John 6:30. See also εις την μαρτυριανeis tēn marturian after πεπιστευκενpepisteuken in this same verse and John 2:23.

In him (εν αυτωιen hautōi). “In himself,” though the evidence is not decisive between αυτωιhautōi and αυτωιautōi made (πεποιηκενpepoiēken). Perfect active indicative of ποιεωpoieō like μεμαρτυρηκενmemarturēken and πεπιστευκενpepisteuken permanent state.

A liar (πσευστηνpseustēn). As in 1 John 1:10, which see.

Because he hath not believed (οτι ου πεπιστευκενhoti ou pepisteuken). Actual negative reason with negative ουou not the subjective reason as in John 3:18, where we have οτι μη πεπιστευκενhoti mē pepisteuken). The subjective negative is regular with ο μη πιστευωνho mē pisteuōn Relative clause here repeats close of 1 John 5:9.

Verse 11

That God gave (οτι εδωκεν ο τεοςhoti edōken ho theos). Declarative οτιhoti in apposition with μαρτυριαmarturia as in 1 John 5:14; John 3:19. Note aorist active indicative εδωκενedōken (from διδωμιdidōmi) as in 1 John 3:23., the great historic fact of the Incarnation (John 3:16), but the perfect δεδωκενdedōken in 1 John 3:1 to emphasize the abiding presence of God‘s love.

Eternal life (ζωην αιωνιονzōēn aiōnion). Anarthrous emphasizing quality, but with the article in 1 John 1:2.

In his Son (εν τωι υιωι αυτουen tōi huiōi autou). This life and the witness also. This is why Jesus who is life (John 14:6) came to give us abundant life (John 10:10).

Verse 12

Hath the life (εχει την ζωηνechei tēn zōēn). The life which God gave (1 John 5:11). This is the position of Jesus himself (John 5:24; John 14:6).

Verse 13

I have written (εγραπσαegrapsa). Not epistolary aorist, but refers to 1 John 5:1-12 of this Epistle as in 1 John 2:26 to the preceding verses.

That ye may know (ινα ειδητεhina eidēte). Purpose clause with ιναhina and the second perfect active subjunctive of οιδαoida to know with settled intuitive knowledge. He wishes them to have eternal life in Christ (John 20:31) and to know that they have it, but not with flippant superficiality (1 John 2:3.).

Unto you that believe on (τοις πιστευουσιν ειςtois pisteuousin eis). Dative of the articular present active participle of πιστευωpisteuō and ειςeis as in 1 John 5:10. For this use of ονομαonoma (name) with πιστευωpisteuō see 1 John 3:23; John 2:23.

Verse 14

Toward him (προς αυτονpros auton). Fellowship with (προςpros face to face) Christ. For boldness see 1 John 2:28.

That (οτιhoti). Declarative again, as in 1 John 5:11.

If we ask anything (εαν τι αιτωμεταean ti aitōmetha). Condition of third class with εανean and present middle (indirect) subjunctive (personal interest as in James 4:3, though the point is not to be pressed too far, for see Matthew 20:20, Matthew 20:22; John 16:24, John 16:26).

According to his will (κατα το τελημα αυτουkata to thelēma autou). This is the secret in all prayer, even in the case of Jesus himself. For the phrase see 1 Peter 4:19; Galatians 1:4; Ephesians 1:5, Ephesians 1:11.

He heareth us (ακουει ημωνakouei hēmōn). Even when God does not give us what we ask, in particular then (Hebrews 5:7.).

Verse 15

And if we know (και εαν οιδαμενkai ean oidamen). Condition of first class with εανean (usually ειei) and the perfect active indicative, assumed as true. See 1 Thessalonians 3:8; Acts 8:31 for the indicative with εανean as in the papyri. “An amplification of the second limitation” (D. Smith).

Whatsoever we ask (ο εαν αιτωμεταho ean aitōmetha). Indefinite relative clause with modal εανean (= ανan) and the present middle (as for ourselves) subjunctive of αιτεωaiteō This clause, like ημωνhēmōn is also the object of ακουειakouei know that we have (οιδαμεν οτι εχομενoidamen hoti echomen). Repetition of οιδαμενoidamen the confidence of possession by anticipation.

The petitions (τα αιτηματαta aitēmata). Old word, from αιτεωaiteō requests, here only in John, elsewhere in N.T. Luke 23:24; Philemon 4:6. We have the answer already as in Mark 11:24.

We have asked (ηιτηκαμενēitēkamen). Perfect active indicative of αιτεωaiteō the asking abiding.

Verse 16

If any man see (εαν τις ιδηιean tis idēi). Third-class condition with εανean and second aorist active subjunctive of ειδονeidon (οραωhoraō).

Sinning a sin (αμαρτανοντα αμαρτιανhamartanonta hamartian). Present active predicate (supplementary) participle agreeing with αδελπονadelphon and with cognate accusative αμαρτιανhamartian unto death (μη προς τανατονmē pros thanaton). Repeated again with αμαρτανουσινhamartanousin and in contrast with αμαρτια προς τανατονhamartia pros thanaton (sin unto death). Most sins are not mortal sins, but clearly John conceives of a sin that is deadly enough to be called “unto death.” This distinction is common in the rabbinic writings and in Numbers 18:22 the lxx has λαβειν αμαρτιαν τανατηπορονlabein hamartian thanatēphoron “to incur a death-bearing sin” as many crimes then and now bear the death penalty. There is a distinction in Hebrews 10:26 between sinning wilfully after full knowledge and sins of ignorance (Hebrews 5:2). Jesus spoke of the unpardonable sin (Mark 3:29; Matthew 12:32; Luke 12:10), which was attributing to the devil the manifest work of the Holy Spirit. It is possible that John has this idea in mind when he applies it to those who reject Jesus Christ as God‘s Son and set themselves up as antichrists.

Concerning this (περι εκεινηςperi ekeinēs). This sin unto death.

That he should make request (ινα ερωτησηιhina erōtēsēi). Sub-final use of ιναhina with the first aorist active subjunctive of ερωταωerōtaō used here as in John 17:15, John 17:20 (and often) for request rather than for question. John does not forbid praying for such cases; he simply does not command prayer for them. He leaves them to God.

Verse 17

All unrighteousness is sin (πασα αδικια αμαρτια εστινpāsa adikia hamartia estin). Unrighteousness is one manifestation of sin as lawlessness (1 John 3:4) is another (Brooke). The world today takes sin too lightly, even jokingly as a mere animal inheritance. Sin is a terrible reality, but there is no cause for despair. Sin not unto death can be overcome in Christ.

Verse 18

We know (οιδαμενoidamen). As in 1 John 3:2, 1 John 3:14; 1 John 5:15, 1 John 5:19, 1 John 5:20. He has “ye know” in 1 John 2:20; 1 John 3:5, 1 John 3:15.

Sinneth not (ουχ αμαρτανειouch hamartanei). Lineal present active indicative, “does not keep on sinning,” as he has already shown in 1 John 3:4-10.

He that was begotten of God (ο γεννητεις εκ του τεουho gennētheis ek tou theou). First aorist passive articular participle referring to Christ, if the reading of A B is correct (τηρει αυτονtērei auton not τηρει εαυτονtērei heauton). It is Christ who keeps the one begotten of God (γεγεννημενος εκ του τεουgegennēmenos ek tou theou as in 1 John 3:9 and so different from ο γεννητειςho gennētheis here). It is a difficult phrase, but this is probably the idea. Jesus (John 18:37) uses γεγεννημαιgegennēmai of himself and uses also τηρεωtēreō of keeping the disciples (John 17:12, John 17:15; Revelation 3:10).

The evil one (ο πονηροςho ponēros). Masculine and personal as in 1 John 2:13, not neuter, and probably Satan as in Matthew 6:13, not just any evil man.

Touchest him not (ουχ απτεται αυτουouch haptetai autou). Present middle indicative of απτωhaptō elsewhere in John only John 20:17. It means to lay hold of or to grasp rather than a mere superficial touch (τιγγανωthigganō both in Colossians 2:21). Here the idea is to touch to harm. The devil cannot snatch such a man from Christ (John 6:38.).

Verse 19

Of God (εκ του τεουek tou theou). See 1 John 3:10; 1 John 4:6 for this idiom.

Lieth in the evil one (εν τωι πονηρωι κειταιen tōi ponērōi keitai). Present middle indicative of the defective verb κειμαιkeimai to lie, as in Luke 2:12. ΠονηρωιPonērōi is masculine, like ο πονηροςho ponēros in 1 John 5:18. This is a terrible picture of the Graeco-Roman world of the first century a.d., which is confirmed by Paul in Romans 1 and 2 and by Horace, Seneca, Juvenal, Tacitus.

Verse 20

Is come (ηκειhēkei). Present active indicative, but the root has a perfect sense, “has come.” See εχηλτον και ηκωexēlthon kai hēkō in John 8:42.

An understanding (διανοιανdianoian). Here alone in John‘s writings, but in Paul (Ephesians 4:18) and Peter (1 Peter 1:13). John does not use γνωσιςgnōsis (knowledge) and νουςnous (mind) only in Revelation 13:18; Revelation 17:9.

That we know (ινα γινωσκομενhina ginōskomen). Result clause with ιναhina and the present active indicative, as is common with ιναhina and the future indicative (John 7:3). It is possible that here οo was pronounced ω as a subjunctive, but many old MSS. have ινα γινωσκουσινhina ginōskousin (plainly indicative) in John 17:3, and in many other places in the N.T. the present indicative with ιναhina occurs as a variant reading as in John 5:20.

Him that is true (τον αλητινονton alēthinon). That is, God. Cf. 1 John 1:8.

In him that is true (εν τωι αλητινωιen tōi alēthinōi). In God in contrast with the world “in the evil one” (1 John 5:19). See John 17:3.

Even in his Son Jesus Christ (εν τωι υιωι αυτου Ιησου Χριστωιen tōi huiōi autou Iēsou Christōi). The αυτουautou refers clearly to εν τωι αλητινωιen tōi alēthinōi (God). Hence this clause is not in apposition with the preceding, but an explanation as to how we are “in the True One” by being “in his Son Jesus Christ.”

This (ουτοςhoutos). Grammatically ουτοςhoutos may refer to Jesus Christ or to “the True One.” It is a bit tautological to refer it to God, but that is probably correct, God in Christ, at any rate. God is eternal life (John 5:26) and he gives it to us through Christ.

Verse 21

Yourselves (εαυταheauta). Neuter plural reflexive because of τεκνιαteknia The active voice πυλασσετεphulassete with the reflexive accents the need of effort on their part. Idolatry was everywhere and the peril was great. See Acts 7:41: 1 Thessalonians 1:9 for this word.


Copyright Statement
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)

Bibliography Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on 1 John 5:4". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

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