1 John 5

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  • 1 John 5:1.
  • Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is generated from God, and everyone who loves the one who generated also loves the one who is generated from him.

    The proponents of error denied that Jesus is the Christ, advancing teachings that identified Christ as another entity. (See the introduction to 1 John.) These false teachers arrogantly looked down on those who did not share their views, had no love for God’s children, and were no part of the spiritual family. Those who believed that Jesus is the Christ, on the other hand, were God’s children. The believer is born of or generated from God, enjoying a newness of life by reason of his faith in Jesus Christ. As God is the one who brought about this newness of life, anyone who loved him would also love the one who had been born of him. Accordingly, because the teachers of error did not love the children, their claim about loving God was false.

    Note: Fourth-century Codex Vaticanus and a number of later manuscripts do not include the second kaí (here translated “also”).


  • 1 John 5:2.
  • By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and carry out his commands.

    Love for God cannot be separated from love for his children. Therefore, “by this” (our response to the Father), we know that we love his children. All who love God’s children love him and demonstrate that love through loyal submission to his commands.

    Note: Manuscripts read either poiómen (we carry out; we do) or terómen (we keep; we observe; we heed). This difference, however, does not affect the meaning.


  • 1 John 5:3.
  • For this is the love of God, that we heed his commands, and his commands are not burdensome.

    These words make it explicit that love for God is shown by obedience to his commands. For believers, this means maintaining virtuous conduct and imitating the Father and his Son in showing love for others. Unbelievers would find this burdensome, as it conflicts with their desires and goals. For those who are God’s children, on the other hand, it is a joy to live a life of godliness and love. The reason this is no burden is presented in the next verse.

    Note: In view of the emphasis on the believer’s responsibility, the expression “love of God” evidently means “love for God.” There is, however, a possibility that it could mean “godly love,” the kind of love that God has.


  • 1 John 5:4.
  • Because everyone who is generated from God conquers the world, and this is the [means of] conquest that conquers the world: our faith.

    God’s commands are no burden for the believer because of being in possession of a newness of life. He has God as his Father and earnestly wants to be a loving and obedient child. Instead of yielding to the world alienated from God and its sensual and selfish desires, the believer conquers the world. Because the pressures the world exerts fail, the children of God are victorious. The means for attaining the victory is faith, a childlike trust in and full reliance on God’s Son (and, therefore, also the Father).

    Notes: The Greek word pan is neuter gender and has been rendered “whatever.” As the application is to persons, however, the rendering “everyone” is appropriate.

    The reading “our faith” has the best manuscript support. A number of manuscripts read “your faith,” but this does not really affect the meaning.


  • 1 John 5:5.
  • Who is the one who conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

    This question focuses on the nature of the “faith” mentioned in the previous verse. It is faith in a person, faith in Jesus as the Son of God. Apart from the Son of God, no one can conquer the world. Through his sacrificial death, he made it possible for sinful humans to become children of God, and only those who are such children can attain the victory over the world by remaining unconquerable. This triumph would include their not yielding to the plausible arguments of those who would cause them to doubt their standing as God’s beloved children.

    Note: Not all manuscripts include (but) after “who” (tís). This omission, however, does not affect the meaning of the verse.


  • 1 John 5:6.
  • This is the one who came through water and blood, Jesus Christ, not in the water only but in the water and in the blood, and the spirit is the one testifying, for the spirit is the truth.

    The false teachers denied that Christ was truly human and that his blood was shed. (See comments in the introduction to 1 John.) While they were willing to link the Christ to the water of baptism, they did not accept that Jesus Christ’s blood was poured out. Apparently for this reason, John emphasized that Jesus Christ came not through water only. Both elements were involved.

    At his baptism, Jesus was revealed as the promised Messiah, the Christ, or Anointed One, and God’s beloved Son. (Matthew 3:13-17; Acts 10:36-38) The blood that flowed from his side when it was pierced verified that he was the Son who fulfilled his Father’s will by surrendering his life. (John 19:34, 35; Colossians 1:20) From the time that the spirit descended on Jesus at his baptism, testimony continued to pile up respecting his identity. The miracles proved undeniably that he was the Christ, the Son of God. (Matthew 4:23, 24; 12:28; John 3:2; 10:37, 38, 40-42; 11:45; Acts 10:37, 38) The spirit’s testimony was completely trustworthy and no delusion. Even Jesus enemies could not deny the reality of the miracles. (John 11:47, 48) Fittingly, then, the spirit is called the “truth,” the reliable source for what is true.

    Notes:

    Instead of “through water and blood,” a few later manuscripts read “through water and spirit.” Fourth-century Codex Sinaiticus and numerous later manuscripts add “and spirit.” Other manuscript readings are “spirit and blood” and “blood and holy spirit.”

    Some have linked the water and the blood to what occurred when Jesus’ side was pierced. (John 19:34) The Contemporary English Version even includes this interpretation in the main text. “Water and blood came out from the side of Jesus Christ.” In view of what the false teachers evidently were denying, however, it appears preferable to regard the water as the water of baptism.


  • 1 John 5:7.
  • For [there] are three that testify.

    According to the Mosaic law, two or three witnesses were needed to establish a matter as being true. Evidently the specific mention of three serves to indicate that the truth about Jesus Christ was fully verified. (Deuteronomy 19:15)


  • 1 John 5:8.
  • The spirit and the water and the blood, and the three are one.

    All three witnesses are in agreement, providing unanimous testimony that Jesus is indeed the Christ, the Son of God.

    Note: The overwhelming manuscript evidence indicates that the words about the three testifying in heaven and the three testifying on earth were not part of the original text. They may have crept into the main text from a marginal note. In a Greek manuscript from the eleventh century, the addition appears in the margin and is thought to have been written in the seventeenth century. A twelfth century Greek manuscript has the addition in the margin (also written much later than the manuscript). The words are found in the main text of one Greek manuscript dating from the fifteenth or sixteenth century and another Greek manuscript from the sixteenth century.


  • 1 John 5:9.
  • If we accept the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has testified concerning his Son.

    The testimony of two or three persons was sufficient for verifying a matter. God’s testimony, however, is far greater than that of men and, therefore, deserving of the utmost trust. It logically follows that a willingness to accept the testimony of men would call for an even greater readiness to accept God’s superior testimony concerning his Son. The Father provided this testimony by imparting the spirit to his Son, empowering him to perform miracles. This testimony undeniably established that Jesus is his beloved Son. (John 1:32-34; 5:31-37)


  • 1 John 5:10.
  • The one believing in the Son of God has the testimony in himself; the one not believing God has made him a liar, for he does not believe the testimony which God testified concerning his Son.

    Believing or putting faith in God’s Son is a response that stems from the inner self. The accepted or received testimony of God is like a deposit within the believer. Having received God’s testimony as being directed to him personally, the individual embraces it, putting his trust or faith in the Son of God. The response is a personal one, not one induced by an emotionally charged group environment or any type of humanly devised pressure. The faith in the Son of God is based on the preserved first-century record setting forth the Father’s testimony concerning him.

    The one who does not believe God’s testimony makes God out to be a liar, as the only valid reason for rejecting testimony is because of regarding it as false. Accordingly, if the testimony is treated as unacceptable or not to be trusted, the one testifying is made out to be a liar.

    Notes:

    After “has the testimony” a number of manuscripts add “of God.”

    Instead of the reflexive heautó (himself), many manuscripts, including fourth-century Codex Vaticanus and fifth-century Codex Alexandrinus, read autó (him).

    The reference to believing “God” has the best manuscript support. Other Greek manuscripts say either “the Son” or “the Son of God.”

    Today, the rejection of the testimony is primarily justified on the basis that the preserved first-century record concerning Jesus Christ is untrustworthy or that God does not even exist. Avowed unbelievers, therefore, continue to represent the testimony as unreliable or false.


  • 1 John 5:11.
  • And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.

    All who have put their faith in God’s beloved Son are in possession of a newness of life. Therefore, the testimony is the present enjoyment of God’s gift of eternal life, a life of knowing the Father and his Son or having an approved relationship with them. (John 17:3) This relationship is an eternal one and will be attained in all its fullness in the glorified state as sinless children of God.

    Apart from the Son, this life of an abiding relationship would be impossible. It is “in” the Son, for believers must be at one with him, having accepted the atoning benefits of his sacrifice for them.


  • 1 John 5:12.
  • The one who has the Son has the life, and the one who does not have the Son does not have the life.

    This “life” is the newness of life or the eternal life. For one to have the Son means to have a relationship with him based on unqualified faith or trust in him as the Christ, the Son of God. (Compare John 20:31.) The person who does not have the Son and so is without the benefits of his atoning sacrifice is not in possession of eternal life. Such a person is not in the family of God’s beloved children who are enjoying a newness of life because their sins have been forgiven.


  • 1 John 5:13.
  • These things I have written you that you may know that you have eternal life, [you] who believe in the name of the Son of God.

    John wanted those to whom he directed his letter to have no doubt concerning their being in possession of eternal life, the life of abiding relationship with the Father and his Son. To believe in the “name” of the Son means to have faith in him, acknowledging him as the Christ, God’s Son, and one’s Lord. All who do have this faith are pardoned children of God, having been cleansed of their sins through faith in the atoning value of Christ’s precious blood.


  • 1 John 5:14.
  • And this is the confidence that we have with him, that, whatever we request according to his will, he hears us.

    As God’s children, we can have confidence when approaching him in prayer that he will hear us. Because we love him and he loves us, we can pour out all our cares and concerns, holding nothing back. Inherent in all our requests is that his will be done, and he will never fail to answer any petition made according to his will.

    Note: Regarding “confidence,” see also 2:28, 3:21, and 4:17.


  • 1 John 5:15.
  • And if we know that he hears us [in] whatever we may request, we know that we have the requests that we have requested from him.

    Confidence in God’s hearing all requests leads to the assurance that prayers will be answered. The answer is so certain that, when the child of God asks, the request is transformed into possession. This is because the request has been directed to the Father according to his will.


  • 1 John 5:16.
  • If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin not unto death, he will make request, and he will give him life, to the ones not sinning unto death. [There] is a sin unto death. Concerning that sin I am not saying that he should make request.

    Upon seeing a brother or fellow believer committing a sin of a nature suggesting that it would not lead to death or to the loss of the relationship with the Father and his Son, the concerned believer should pray for the erring fellow believer whom he loves. Because no antecedent distinguishes the one doing the asking and the one giving life to the erring brother, some have concluded that the intercessor is the instrument for bringing about the bestowal of life. It appears more appropriate, however, to regard the Father, to whom the prayer is directed, as answering it, resulting in life for the sinner and not condemnatory judgment. This would agree with the thoughts expressed in the previous two verses about requests directed to the Father.

    A “sin unto death” or a deadly sin, based on the tenor of this letter, evidently would involve rejecting God’s Son and deliberately choosing to pursue a life of sin. John, however, did not forbid praying for a brother who seemingly became guilty of deadly sin. Instead, he did not say or direct that this be done, leaving it up to the individual believer to choose when or when not to pray for the sinner.

    1 John 5:17.

    All unrighteousness is sin, and [there] is sin not unto death.

    Any form of unrighteousness (whatever violates the divine standard of what is right and good) is sin, and sin is the missing of the mark of uprightness in attitude, word, or deed. Not all sin, however, is deadly, leading to the loss of a relationship with God and Christ. That relationship is the essence of eternal life.


  • 1 John 5:18.
  • We know that everyone who has been generated from God does not sin, but the one generated from God guards him, and the evil one does not take hold of him.

    The person born of or generated from God, enjoying the newness of life as his child, does not live a life of sin. In the manuscript reading that has “him” (autón) as the object of the one doing the guarding, the reference would be to Jesus Christ. God’s Son specifically gave the assurance that no one would snatch his sheep out of his hand. (John 10:27, 28) His being designated as the one generated (or begotten) from God would agree with his being the unique Son whom the Father raised from the dead. God fulfilled the promise made to the ancestors of the Israelites “by raising up Jesus, as it is written in the second psalm, ‘You are my son; this day I have begotten you.’” (Acts 13:32, 33, NAB)

    Because God’s Son would be safeguarding believers, the evil one or the devil is unable to fasten his hold on them, bringing about their eternal ruin. Not many hours before his death, Jesus expressed a similar thought to Peter: “Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail.” (Luke 22:31, 32, NRSV)

    According to fourth-century Codex Sinaiticus and many later manuscripts, the one doing the guarding would not be Jesus Christ. Instead of “him” (autón), these manuscripts read “himself” (heautón), indicating that the believer or the one born of God would be watching himself.


  • 1 John 5:19.
  • We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies [under the control] of the evil one.

    Believers know that they are children of God because of the working of his spirit within them, motivating them to live virtuous lives that reflect love in action. The world at enmity with God, however, is subservient to another master—the evil one or the devil. The evidence that a person is under the control of the evil one is a life that disregards God and is centered on self without thought about the effect on others or the eventual outcome.


  • 1 John 5:20.
  • But we know that the Son of God has come and has given us insight that we may know the true one, and we are in the true one, in his Son Jesus Christ. This one is the true God and eternal life.

    Because of having the testimony within them (5:10), God’s children know for a certainty that his Son has come. Through the Son, by the life he lived and what he taught, they were given the needed insight or understanding to know the “true one” or, according to the reading of numerous other manuscripts, the “true God.” As Jesus Christ said to his apostles, “If you know me, you will also know my Father.” (John 14:7) On an earlier occasion, he made it clear that he alone knew his Father and could reveal him to others. “All things have been given me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, nor does anyone know the Father except the Son and the one to whom the Son may decide to reveal him.” (Matthew 11:27)

    Believers are “in” or at one with the Father. This is because they are “in” or at one with his Son Jesus Christ.

    From a strict grammatical standpoint, the concluding words (“This one is the true God and eternal life”) would apply to Jesus Christ (the immediate antecedent). There are factors, however, that make this unlikely.

    In this letter, it is often not possible to determine whether the pronouns refer to the Father or to the Son. Therefore, context needs to be given greater weight than grammatical construction, and context would include the quoted words of Jesus and the expressions of first-century believers. This context is explicit in identifying the Father as the only true God. “Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3, NAB) “Jesus said, ‘Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” (John 20:17, NIV) “[F]or us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.” (1 Corinthians 8:6, NRSV) The typical expression (with variations in the use of pronouns) found in Paul’s letters is “God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” We also find the words “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 15:6; Ephesians 1:3) To the Colossians (1:3, NRSV), Paul wrote, “In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Against the backdrop of this context, “this one is the true God” may rightly be understood as applying to the Father.

    The use of houtós (this one; he) in other passages indicates that the term is at times used to relate to an earlier-mentioned subject and not what would, in a strict grammatical sense, be regarded as the nearest antecedent. (See Acts 4:10, 11; 7:18, 19; 1 John 2:22; 2 John 7.)

    The subject on which John here focused is the “true one” or the “true God” with whom believers are at one by reason of being at one with his Son. He, the Father, is the true God and the source of eternal life, the life of an abiding relationship made possible by his arrangement for salvation through his Son. (See 5:11 and John 5:26.)

    Note: Manuscripts vary in reading “but we know,” “and we know, or “we know.” These differences, however, do not affect the meaning.


  • 1 John 5:21.
  • Little children, guard yourselves from idols.

    Believers are again addressed affectionately as “little children” or “dear children.” The concluding exhortation is a logical follow-up to the preceding thought that they are “in” the “true one.” The Son revealed his Father, the true God, and “in” the Son believers are at one with the Father. Children of God should remain exclusively devoted to him, shunning every form of idolatry. An idol can be anything that interferes with an exclusive attachment to their Father, making the admonition that they keep themselves from idols timeless.

    Note: Numerous manuscripts conclude with “amen.”