1 John 5:18
We know that whoever is born of God sins not; but he that is begotten of God keeps himself, and that wicked one touches him not.
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(a)God’s sons do not sin (1John 5:18).

St. John refers back to “that ye may know” in 1John 5:13, and sums up three points from former portions of the Epistle, describing the true consciousness of the Christian. Each begins with “We know.”

(18) Sinneth not.—There is no reason to supply “unto death.” (Comp. the Note on 1John 3:9.) St. John means strongly to insist, in this the solemn close of his Letter, that the true ideal Christian frame is the absence of wilful sin. Stumbles there may be, even such as need the prayers of friends, but intentional lawlessness there cannot be.

But he that is begotten of God keepeth himself.—Rather, he that is begotten of God keepeth him: that is, the Son of God preserves him. (Comp. John 6:39; John 10:28; John 17:12; John 17:15.)

And that wicked one toucheth him not.—The last mention of the devil was in 1John 3:10. The devil and his angels attack, but cannot influence so long as the Christian abides in Christ. (Comp. 1Peter 5:8; Ephesians 6:11; Revelation 3:10.)

(3 b.) Personal assurance that we are God’s sons (1John 5:19).

Next after the cardinal point that righteousness is the characteristic of the new birth comes the necessity that the Christian should make up his mind that he has been, or is being, born again, and is really different from the world. The proofs would be seen in 1John 1:6; 1John 2:3; 1John 2:5; 1John 2:29; 1John 3:9; 1John 3:14; 1John 3:19; 1John 3:24; 1John 4:7; 1John 4:13; 1John 4:15; 1John 5:1; 1John 5:10.

(19) The whole world lieth in wickedness.—Rather, the wicked one. There is a constant danger lest Christians should forget this. (Comp. Galatians 1:4.)

(3 c.) Personal assurance of the Incarnation, of the gift of the spiritual sense, and of abiding in the God of Truth through His Son (1John 5:20).

The series ends with a climax: the Son is indeed come; He gave us the faculty of seeing the true God; and in that Almighty Being we actually are. through the Son. The greatest fact of all to St. John’s mind is that his Friend and Master of sixty years ago was the very Word made flesh. (Comp. 1John 1:1-2; 1John 2:13; 1John 2:22-23; 1John 3:5; 1John 3:8; 1John 3:16; 1John 3:23; 1John 4:2; 1John 4:9-10; 1John 5:1; 1John 5:5; 1John 5:9; 1John 5:11.)

(20) And hath given us an understanding.—Comp. Acts 26:18; 1Corinthians 2:12-15; Ephesians 1:18. This spiritual faculty of discernment was one of the gifts of that Spirit which Christ was to send. (Comp. 1John 2:20; 1John 2:27; John 14:26; John 16:13.)

Him that is true.—The personality of God. Amid all the deceptions and fluctuations of the world, St. John felt, with the most absolute and penetrating and thankful conviction, that the followers of Christ were rooted and grounded in perfect, unshakable, unassailable truth. This could not be unless they were resting on the living Son and holding fast to Him.

This is the true God, and eternal life.—A most solemn and emphatic crown to the whole Epistle. “This God, as seen in His Son, is the true God.” If the Word had not been God, God could not have been seen in Him. “And God, seen in His Son, is eternal life.” This is only another way of putting John 17:3. (Comp. 1John 5:11-13.) To make “this is the true God” refer only to the Son is equally admissible by grammar, but hardly suits the argument so well.

(4) LAST WARNING (1John 5:21).

(21) Little children, keep yourselves from idols.—This parting word is suggested by the thought of “the true God.” Every scheme of thought, every object of affection, which is not of Him, is a rival of His empire, a false god, a delusive appearance only, without solidity or truth. We cannot conclude better than in the words of Ebrard: “This idea is a general and very comprehensive one: it embraces all things and everything which may be opposed to the God revealed in Christ and to His worship in spirit and in truth. Pre-eminently, therefore, it embraces the delusive and vain idols of the Corinthian Gnosticism, whether ancient or modern; but it includes also the idols and false mediators of superstition, to whom the confidence is transferred which is due only to God in Christ—be their name Madonna, or saints, or Pope, or priesthood, or good works, or pictures, or office, or church, or sacraments. The One Being in whom we have ‘the life eternal’ is Christ. . . . And this Christ we possess through the Spirit of God, whose marks and tokens are not priestly vestments, but faith and love. In this meaning, the Apostle’s cry sounds forth through all the ages, in the ears of all Christians, ‘LITTLE CHILDREN, KEEP YOURSELVES FROM IDOLS!’ The holiest things may become a snare if their letter is regarded and not their spirit. Every Christian Church has a tendency to worship its own brazen serpents. Happy are they who have a Hezekiah to call them Nehushtan!”

1 John


1 John 5:18John closes his letter with a series of triumphant certainties, which he considers as certified to every Christian by his own experience. ‘We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not . . . we know that we are of God . . . and we know that the Son of God is come.’ Now, that knowledge which he thus follows out on these three lines is not merely an intellectual conviction, but it is the outcome of life, and the broad seal of experimental possession is stamped upon it. Yet the average Christian reads this text, and shrugs his shoulders and says, ‘Well! perhaps I do not understand it, but, so far as I do, it seems to me to say a thing which is contradicted by the whole experience of life.’ ‘We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not’; and some of us are driven by such words, and parallel ones which occur in other places, to a presumptuous over-confidence, and some of us to an equally unscriptural despondency; and a great many of us to laying John’s triumphant certainty up upon the shelf where the unintelligible things are getting covered over with dust.

So I wish, in this sermon, to try, if I can, to come to the understanding, that in some measure I may help you to come to the joyful possession, of the truth which lies here, and which the Apostle conceives to belong to the very elements of the Christian character.

I. First, then, I ask the question-of whom is the Apostle speaking here?

‘We know that whosoever is born of God’-or, as the Revised Version reads it, ‘begotten of God’- ‘sinneth not.’ Now we must go back a little-and sometimes to go a long way from a subject is the best way to get at it. Let me recall to you the Master’s words with which He all but began His public ministry, when He said to Nicodemus, ‘Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ There is the root of all that this epistle is so full of, the conception of a regeneration, a being born again, which makes men, by a new birth, sons of God, in a fashion and in a sphere of their nature in which they were not the sons of the Heavenly Father before that experience. Jesus Christ laid down, as the very first principle which He would insist upon, to a man who was groping in the midst of mere legal conceptions of righteousness as the work of his own hands, this principle,-there must be a radical change, and there must be the entrance into every human nature of a new life-principle before there is any vision, any possession of, or any entrance into, that region in which the will of God is supreme, and where He reigns and rules as King. John is only echoing his Master when he here, and in other places of this letter, lays all the stress, in regard to practical righteousness and to noble character, upon being born again, subjected to that change which is fairly paralleled with the physical fact of birth, and has, as its result, the possession by the man who passes through it of a new nature, sphered in and destined to dominate and cleanse his old self.

Then there is a further step to be taken, and that is that this sonship of God, which is the result of being born again, is mediated and received by us through our faith. Remember the prologue of John’s Gospel, where, as a great musician will hint all his subsequent themes in his overture, he gathers up in one all the main threads and points of his teaching. There he says, ‘To as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God.’ Long years afterwards, when an old man in Ephesus, he writes down in this last chapter of his first epistle the same truth which he there set blazing in the forefront of his Gospel when he says, in the first verse of this chapter, ‘Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.’ On condition, then, of a man’s faith in Jesus Christ, there is communicated to him a new life direct from God, kindred with the Divine, and which dwells in him, and works in him precisely in the measure of his personal faith. That is the first point that I desire to establish.

You will remember, I suppose, that this same conception of the deepest result of the Christian faith being no mere external forgiveness of sins, nor alteration of a man’s position in reference to the Divine judgments, but the communication of a new life-power and principle to him, is not the property of the mystic John only, but it is the property likewise of the legal James, who says,’ Of His own will begat He us by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first-fruits of His creatures’; and it is set forth with great emphasis and abundance in all the writings of the Apostle Paul, who insists that we are sons through the Son, who insists that the gift of God is a new nature, formed in righteousness ‘ after the image of Him that created Him,’ and who is ever dwelling upon the necessity that this new nature should be cultivated and increased by the faith and effort of its recipient.

Keeping these things in mind, I take the second step, and that is that this new birth, and the new Divine life which is its result, co-exist along with the old nature in which it is planted, and which it has to coerce and subdue, sometimes to crucify, and always to govern. For I need not remind you that if the analogy of birth is to be followed, we have to recognize that that Divine life, too, like the physical life, which is also God’s gift, has to pass through stages; and that just as the perfect man, God manifest in the flesh, ‘increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man,’ so the Divine life in a soul comes to it in germ, and has its period of infancy and growth up into youth and manhood. This Apostle puts great emphasis upon that idea of advancement in the Divine life. For you remember the long passage in which he twice reiterates the notion of the stages of children and young men and fathers. So the new life has to grow, grow in its own strength, grow in its sphere of influence, grow in the power with which it purges and hallows the old nature in the midst of which it is implanted. But growth is not the only word for its development. That new nature has to fight for its life. There must be effort, in order that it may rule; there must be strenuous and continuous diligence, directed not only to strengthen it, but to weaken its antagonist, in order that it may spread and permeate the whole nature. Thus we have the necessary foundation laid for that which characterizes the Christian life, from the beginning to the end, that it is a working out of that which is implanted, a working out, with ever widening area of influence, and a working in with ever deeper and more thorough power of transforming the character. There may be indefinite approximation to the entire suppression and sanctification of the old man; and whatsoever is born of God manifests its Divine kindred in this, that sooner or later it overcomes the world.

Now, if all that which I have been saying is true- and to me it is undeniably so-I come to a very plain answer to the first question that I raised: Who is it that John is speaking about? ‘Whosoever is born of God’ is the Christian man, in so far as the Divine life which he has from God by fellowship with His Son, through His own personal faith, has attained the supremacy in Him. The Divine nature that is in a man is that which is born of God. And that the Apostle does not mean the man in whom that nature is implanted, whether he is true to the nature or no, is obvious from the fact that, in another part of this same chapter, he substitutes ‘whatsoever’ for ‘whosoever,’ as if he would have us mark that the thing which he declares to be victorious and sinless is not so much the person as the power that is lodged in the person. That is ray answer to the first question.

II. What is asserted about this Divine life?

‘Whosoever is born of God sinneth not.’ That is by no means a unique expression in this letter. For, to say nothing about the general drift of it, we have a precisely similar statement in a previous chapter, twice uttered. ‘Whosoever abideth in Him sinneth not’; ‘whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin, for His seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.’ Nothing can be stronger than that. Yes, and nothing can be more obvious. I think, then, that the Apostle does not thereby mean to declare that, unless a man is absolutely sinless in regard of his individual acts, he has not that Divine life in him. For look at what precedes our text. Just before he has said, and it is the saying which leads him to my text, ‘If any man seeth his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life.’ So, then, he contemplated that within the circle of sons of God, who were each other’s brethren because they were all possessors of that Divine birth, there would exist ‘sin not unto death,’ which demanded a brother’s brotherly intercession and help. And do you suppose that any man, in the very same breath in which he thus declared that brotherhood was to be manifested by the way in which we help a brother to get rid of his sins, would have stultified himself by a blank, staring contradiction such as has been extracted from the words of my text? I say nothing about inspiration; I only say common-sense forbids it. The fact of the matter is that John, in his simple, childlike way, does not wait to concatenate his ideas, or to show how the one limits and explains the other, but he lays them down before us, and the fact of their juxtaposition limits, and he does not expect that his readers are quite fools. So he says in the one breath, ‘If any man see his brother sin a sin,’ and in the next breath, ‘Whosoever is born of God sinneth not.’ Surely there is a way to bring these two sayings into harmony. And it seems to me to be the way that I have been suggesting to you-viz., to take the text to mean-not that a Christian is, or must be, in order to vindicate his right to be called a Christian, sinless, but that there is a power in him, a life-principle in him which is sinless, and whatsoever in him is born of God overcometh the world and’ sinneth not.’

Now, then, that seems to me to be the extent of the Apostle’s affirmation here; and I desire to draw two plain, practical conclusions. One is, that this notion of a Divine life-power, lodged in, and growing through, and fighting with the old nature, makes the hideousness and the criminality of a Christian man’s transgressions more hideous and more criminal. The teaching of my text has sometimes been used in the very opposite direction. I do not need to say anything about that. There have been people that have said ‘It is no more I, but sin, that dwelleth in me; I am not responsible.’ There have been types of so-called Christianity which have used this loftiest and purest thought of my text as a minister of sin. I do not suppose that there are any representatives of that caricature and travesty here, so I need not say a word about it. The opposite inference is what I urge now. In addition to all the other foulnesses which attach to any man’s lust, or lechery, or drunkenness, or ambition, or covetousness, this super-eminent brand and stigma is burned in upon yours and mine, Christian men and women, that it is dead against, absolutely inconsistent with, the principle of life that is bedded within us. And whilst all men, by every transgression, flout God and degrade themselves, the Christian man who comes down to the level of living for flesh and sense and time and self, has laid the additional and heaviest of all weights of guilt upon his hack in that he has done despite to the Spirit of grace, and grieved and contradicted and thwarted the life of God that is within him. The deepest guilt and the darkest condemnation attach to the sins of the man who, with a Divine life in his spirit, obeys the flesh. ‘To whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required.’

Another consideration may fairly be urged as drawn from this text and that is that the one task of Christians ought to be to deepen and to strengthen the life of God, which is in their souls, by faith. There is no limit, except one of my own making, to the extent to which my whole being may be penetrated through and through and ruled absolutely by that new life which God has given.

‘‘Tis life, whereof our nerves are scant,

Oh life, not death, for which we pant;

More life, and better, that I want’

It is all very well to cultivate specific and sporadic virtues and graces. Get a firmer hold and a fuller possession of the life of Christ in your own souls, and all graces and virtues will come.

III. Now, I have one last question-what is the ground of John’s assertion about him ‘that is born of God’?

My text runs on, ‘but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself.’ If any of you are using the Revised Version, you will see a change there, small in extent, but large in significance. It reads,’ He that is begotten of God keepeth him.’ And although at this stage of my sermon it would be absurd in me to enter upon exegetical considerations, let me just say in a sentence that the original has considerable variation in expression in these two clauses, which variation makes it impossible, I think, to adopt the idea contained in the Authorized Version, that the same person is referred to in both clauses. The difference is this. In the first clause, ‘He that is begotten of God’ is the Christian man; in the second, ‘He that is begotten of God’ is Christ the Saviour.

There is the guarantee that ‘ Whosoever is begotten of God sinneth not,’ because round his weakness is cast the strong defense of the Elder Brother’s hand; and the Son of God keeps all the sons who, through Him, have derived into their natures the life of God. If, then, they are kept by the only begotten Son of the Father, who, that ‘He might bring many sons unto glory,’ has Himself worn the likeness of our flesh apart from sin, then the one thing for us to do, in order to nourish and deepen and strengthen, and bring to sovereign power in our poor natures that previous and enduring principle of life, is to take care that we do not run away from the keeping hand nor wander far from the only safety. When a little child is sent out for a walk by the parent with an elder brother, if it goes staring into shop windows, and gaping at anything that it sees upon the road, and loses hold of the brother’s hand, it is lost, and breaks into tears, and can only be consoled and secured by being brought back. Then the little fingers clasp round the larger hand, and there is a sense of relief and of safety.

Dear brethren, if we stray away from Christ we lose ourselves in muddy ways. If we keep near Him, as merchantmen in time of war keep near the men-of-war convoy, or as pilgrims across a dangerous desert keep close to the heels of the horses of their escort, ‘that wicked one toucheth us not.’ And so we may be sure that ‘ that which is born of God’ will come to the sovereign power within us, and He that was born of the Spirit will cast out him that was born of the flesh.1 John 5:18-19. We know, &c. — As if he had said, Yet this gives no encouragement to sin. On the contrary, it is an indisputable truth, that whosoever is born of God — That is, regenerated and made a new creature; see on 1 John 2:29; sinneth not — Doth not commit any known sin, so long as he lives by faith in the Son of God, and by that faith has union with Christ; but he that is begotten of God — By the word of truth, (James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23,) accompanied by the influence of the Divine Spirit; keepeth himself — By the aid of divine grace watching unto prayer, denying himself and taking up his cross daily; and that wicked one — Namely, the devil; toucheth him not — So as to overcome and lead him into known, wilful sin. And we know — By the testimony of the Holy Spirit and our own consciences; that we — Who believe in Christ, (1 John 5:13,) and are born of God, and made partakers of the divine nature; are of God — Belong to him, as his children and his heirs; and the whole world — All the rest of mankind, that are not such, all who have not his Spirit, are not only touched by him, but very generally are guilty of idolatry, fraud, violence, lasciviousness, impiety, and all manner of vice; lieth in wickedness — Rather, in the wicked one, as εν τω πονηρω signifies. They are under his dominion: just as it is said of believers in the next verse, that they are εν τω αληθινω, in the true one. “The power of Satan in this lower world, and over its inhabitants, is often spoken of in Scripture. Thus Ephesians 2:2, he is called the spirit which now worketh in the children of disobedience: 2 Corinthians 4:4, he is termed the god of this world, and is said to blind the minds of them that believe not: 1 Peter 5:8, he is called our adversary, and is said to be going about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Further, 2 Timothy 2:26, wicked men are said to be held in the snare of the devil, who (Ephesians 6:11) is said to use wiles for the destruction of mankind, and (2 Corinthians 11:3) to have beguiled Eve by his subtlety.”5:18-21 All mankind are divided into two parties or dominions; that which belongs to God, and that which belongs to the wicked one. True believers belong to God: they are of God, and from him, and to him, and for him; while the rest, by far the greater number, are in the power of the wicked one; they do his works, and support his cause. This general declaration includes all unbelievers, whatever their profession, station, or situation, or by whatever name they may be called. The Son leads believers to the Father, and they are in the love and favour of both; in union with both, by the indwelling and working of the Holy Spirit. Happy are those to whom it is given to know that the Son of God is come, and to have a heart to trust in and rely on him that is true! May this be our privilege; we shall thus be kept from all idols and false doctrines, and from the idolatrous love of worldly objects, and be kept by the power of God, through faith, unto eternal salvation. To this living and true God, be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not - Is not habitually and characteristically a sinner; does not ultimately and finally sin and perish; cannot, therefore, commit the unpardonable sin. Though he may fall into sin, and grieve his brethren, yet we are never to cease to pray for a true Christian: we are never to feel that he has committed the sin which has never forgiveness, and that he has thrown himself beyond the reach of our prayers. This passage, in its connection, is a full proof that a true Christian "will" never commit the unpardonable sin, and, therefore, is a proof that he will never fall from grace. Compare the notes at Hebrews 6:4-8; Hebrews 10:26. On the meaning of the assertion here made, that "whosoever is born of God sinneth not," see the notes at 1 John 3:6-9.

Keepeth himself - It is not said that he does it by his own strength, but he will put forth his best efforts to keep himself from sin, and by divine assistance he will be able to accomplish it. Compare the 1 John 3:3 note; Jde 1:21 note.

And that wicked one toucheth him not - The great enemy of all good is repelled in his assaults, and he is kept from falling into his snares. The word "toucheth" (ἅπτεται haptetai) is used here in the sense of harm or injure.

18. (1Jo 3:9.)

We know—Thrice repeated emphatically, to enforce the three truths which the words preface, as matters of the brethren's joint experimental knowledge. This 1Jo 5:18 warns against abusing 1Jo 5:16, 17, as warranting carnal security.

whosoever—Greek, "every one who." Not only advanced believers, but every one who is born again, "sinneth not."

he that is begotten—Greek aorist, "has been (once for all in past time) begotten of God"; in the beginning of the verse it is perfect. "Is begotten," or "born," as a continuing state.

keepeth himself—The Vulgate translates, "The having been begotten of God keepeth HIM" (so one of the oldest manuscripts reads): so Alford. Literally, "He having been begotten of God (nominative pendent), it (the divine generation implied in the nominative) keepeth him." So 1Jo 3:9, "His seed remaineth in him." Still, in English Version reading, God's working by His Spirit inwardly, and man's working under the power of that Spirit as a responsible agent, is what often occurs elsewhere. That God must keep us, if we are to keep ourselves from evil, is certain. Compare Joh 17:15 especially with this verse.

that wicked one toucheth him not—so as to hurt him. In so far as he realizes his regeneration-life, the prince of this world hath nothing in him to fasten his deadly temptations on, as in Christ's own case. His divine regeneration has severed once for all his connection with the prince of this world.

The great advantage is here signified of the regenerate, who, by the seed remaining in them, {as 1Jo 3:9} are furnished with a self-preserving principle, with the exercise whereof they may expect that co-operation of a gracious Divine influence by which they shall be kept, so as

that wicked one, the great destroyer of souls, shall not mortally touch them, to make them sin unto death. We know that whosoever is born of God,.... Who is regenerated by his Spirit and grace, and quickened by his power; who has Christ formed in him, and is made a partaker of the divine nature, and has every grace implanted in him:

sinneth not; the sin unto death; nor does he live in sin, or is under the power and dominion of it, though he does not live without it; See Gill on 1 John 3:9;

but he that is begotten of God; the Vulgate Latin version reads, "the generation of God keeps or preserves him"; that is, that which is born in him, the new man, the principle of grace, or seed of God in him, keeps him from notorious crimes, particularly from sinning the sin unto death, and from the governing power of all other sins; but all other versions, as well as copies, read as we do, and as follows:

keepeth himself; not that any man can keep himself by his own power and strength; otherwise what mean the petitions of the saints to God that he would keep them, and even of Christ himself to God for them on the same account? God only is the keeper of his people, and they are only kept in safety whom he keeps, and it is by his power they are kept; but the sense is, that a believer defends himself by taking to him the whole armour of God, and especially the shield of faith, against the corruptions of his own heart, the snares of the world, and particularly the temptations of Satan:

and that wicked one toucheth him not; he cannot come at him so as to wound him to the heart, or destroy that principle of life that is in him, or so as to overcome and devour him; he may tempt him, and sift him, and buffet him, and greatly afflict and grieve him, but he can not touch his life, or hurt him with the second death; nay, sometimes the believer is so enabled to wield the shield of faith, or to hold up Christ the shield by faith, and turn it every way in such a manner, that Satan, who is here meant by the wicked one, because he is notoriously so, cannot come near him, nor in with him; cannot work upon him at all with his temptations, nor in the least hurt his peace, joy, and comfort: the saints know their perseverance from the promises of God and declarations of Christ; Psalm 125:1.

{17} 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.

(17) A reason why not all, or rather why no sin is mortal to some: that is, because they are born of God, that is to say, made the sons of God in Christ, and being ended with his Spirit, they do not serve sin, nor are they mortally wounded by Satan.

, it is true, is closely connected with the foregoing, but at the same time forms the commencement of the conclusion of the Epistle, which is indicated as such by the successive thrice-repeated οἴδαμεν (Ebrard), and in which the apostle describes the position of believers in brief vigorous strokes

1 John 5:18, it is true, is closely connected with the foregoing, but at the same time forms the commencement of the conclusion of the Epistle, which is indicated as such by the successive thrice-repeated οἴδαμεν (Ebrard), and in which the apostle describes the position of believers in brief vigorous strokes.

As in 1 John 5:16-17 it was admitted that even in Christians ἀδικία, and hence ἁμαρτία, still exist, the apostle finds himself compelled to repeat, confirmingly, what was said in chap. 1 John 3:6-10, as a truth known to Christians (οἴδαμεν, in which there does not lie “an appeal to the fact that he has already said it,” Ebrard), in order that it may be thoroughly impressed on them that all sin is in the sharpest antagonism to their essential principle of life.

οἴδαμεν, ὅτι πᾶς γεγεννημένος ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ, οὐχ ἁμαρτάνει] This appears to be in contradiction with what is previously admitted; John does not solve the contradiction; many commentators seek to do so by supplying πρὸς θάνατον as a more particular definition of οὐχ ἁμαρτάνει, or by interpreting it of remaining in sin; both are, however, arbitrary; the solution lies rather in the fact that the apostle wants simply to emphasize the antagonism between being born of God and sinning. Though sin is still found in the life of the believer, who as such is γεγεννημένος ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ, yet it is nevertheless foreign to him, opposed to his nature, and in the strength of his faith he is ever becoming more and more free from it.[328]

ἈΛΛ ̓ Ὁ ΓΕΝΝΗΘΕῚς ἘΚ ΤΟῦ ΘΕΟῦ ΤΗΡΕῖ ἙΑΥΤΌΝ] This second clause is not dependent on ὍΤΙ, but is to be regarded as an independent sentence (Düsterdieck, Braune). Bengel erroneously states the difference between the form Ὁ ΓΕΝΝΗΘΕΊς and the preceding Ὁ ΓΕΓΕΝΝΗΜΈΝΟς thus: Praeteritum grandius quiddam sonat, quam aoristus: non modo qui magnum in regeneratione gradum assecutus, sed quilibet, qui regenitus est, servat se; it is rather the same distinction that occurs here as that by which these two verbal forms are generally distinguished; Ὁ ΓΕΝΝΗΘΕΊς is: “he who was born,” regarded as a historical fact.

In 1 Timothy 5:22, ἅγνον, and in Jam 1:27, ἌΣΠΙΛΟΝ, are put with ΤΗΡΕῖ ἙΑΥΤΌΝ as more particular definition. It is, however, unnecessary to supply such a predicate (de Wette); ΤΗΡΕῖ ἙΑΥΤΌΝ denotes the self-preservation of the believer in his proper character (so also Braune);[329] the more particular definition results from the following; καὶ ὁ πονηρὸς οὐχ ἅπτεται αὐτοῦ] is the result of the ΤΗΡΕῖ ἙΑΥΤΌΝ; Ebrard incorrectly: “Satan dare not touch him; God does not permit it;” the present simply expresses the fact, but this, according to the context, is the case, because the devil is prevented from ἅπτεσθαι by the ΤΗΡΕῖΝ ἙΑΥΤΌΝ of him who is born of God. With Ὁ ΠΟΝΗΡΌς, comp. chap. 1:13. By ἍΠΤΕΣΘΑΙ we are to understand touching in order to do harm; Psalm 105:15, LXX. (see Raphelii Annot. ex Polybio). Compare Jam 4:7 : φεύξεται ἀφ ̓ ὑμῶν. It is true the believer is still tempted by the devil (comp. 1 Peter 5:8, etc.), just as sinful desires still arise in him; but being in his most inner nature redeemed from the fellowship of sin, he suffers from these temptations no injury to the life that has come to him from God: in the ΠΑΝΟΠΛΊΑ ΤΟῦ ΘΕΟῦ he is protected against all the ΜΕΘΟΔΕῖΑΙ ΤΟῦ ΔΙΑΒΌΛΟΥ (Ephesians 6:11 ff.).[330]

[328] It needs no proof that the thought of the apostle is perverted by the explanation of de Wette: “the apostle expresses his confidence that the occurrence of the sin unto death and of sin in general cannot often (!) take place in the Christian Church.”

[329] It is less suitable to explain τηρεῖν ἑαυτόν here, with Ebrard = τηρεῖσθαι, “to be on guard, to take care;” for, in the first place, it is opposed to the usus loquendi of the N. T. to assign this meaning to the word; and secondly, it is not expressive enough for the context.

[330] Calvin: Utut malignus renatum ad peccatum solicitet, tela tamen illius irrita cadunt, quoniam renatus scuto fidei munitus ea repellit et diabolo per fidem resistit.1 John 5:18-20. The Certainties of Christian Faith. St. John has been speaking of a dark mystery, and now he turns from it: “Do not brood over it. Think rather of the splendid certainties and rejoice in them.”18. We know] This confident expression of the certitude of Christian faith stands at the beginning of each of these three verses and is the link which binds them together. We have had it twice before (1 John 3:2; 1 John 3:14; comp. 1 John 2:20-21, 1 John 3:5; 1 John 3:15): and perhaps in all cases it is meant to mark the contrast between the real knowledge of the believer, which is based upon Divine revelation in Christ, and the spurious knowledge of the Gnostic, which is based upon human intelligence.

The triple ‘we know’ at the close of the Epistle confirms the view that John 21:24 is by the Apostle’s own hand, and not added by the Ephesian elders.

whosoever is born of God] Better, as R.V., whosoever is begotten of God, It is the same verb, though not the same tense, as is used in the next clause: A.V. changes the verb and does not change the tense. The sentence is a return to the statement made in 1 John 3:9, where see notes. Once more the Apostle is not afraid of an apparent contradiction (see on 1 John 2:15). He has just been saying that if a Christian sins his brother will intercede for him; and now he says that the child of God does not sin. The one statement refers to possible but exceptional facts; the other to the habitual state. A child of God may sin; but his normal condition is one of resistance to sin.

but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself] Rather, but the Begotten of God keepeth him. The first change depends upon a question of interpretation, the second on one of reading; and neither can be determined with certainty. The latter is the easier question and it throws light on the former. ‘Him’ (αὐτόν), on the high authority of A1B and the Vulgate, seems to be rightly preferred by most editors to ‘himself’ (ἑαυτόν). This ‘him’ is the child of God spoken of in the first clause: who is it that ‘keepeth him’? Not the child of God himself, as A. V. leads us to suppose and many commentators explain, but the Son of God, the Only-Begotten. On any other interpretation S. John’s marked change of tense appears arbitrary and confusing. Recipients of the Divine birth are always spoken of by S. John both in his Gospel and in his Epistle in the perfect participle (ὁ γεγεννημένος or τὸ γεγεννημένον); 1 John 3:9, 1 John 5:1; 1 John 5:4; John 3:6; John 3:8; also the first clause here. In the present clause he abruptly changes to the aorist participle (ὁ γεννηθείς), which he uses nowhere else (comp. Matthew 1:20; Galatians 4:29). The force of the two tenses here seems to be this: the perfect expresses a permanent relation begun in the past and continued in the present; the aorist expresses a timeless relation, a mere fact: the one signifies the child of God as opposed to those who have not become His children; the other signifies the Son of God as opposed to the evil one. It is some confirmation of this view that in the Constantinopolitan Creed, commonly called the Nicene Creed, ‘begotten of the Father’ (τὸν ἐκ τοῦ Πατρὸς γεννηθέντα) is the same form of expression as that used here for ‘begotten of God’ (ὁ γεννηθεὶς ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ). Moreover this interpretation produces another harmony between Gospel and Epistle. Christ both directly by His power and indirectly by His intercession ‘keepeth’ the children of God: ‘I kept them in Thy Name’ (John 17:12); ‘I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil one’ (John 17:15).

that wicked one toucheth him not] Better, the evil one toucheth him not: see on 1 John 1:2 and 1 John 2:13. Strangely enough the Genevan Version has ‘that wycked man.’ The original is perhaps less strong than the English; ‘layeth not hold on him’ (ἅπτεται); see on John 20:17. The evil one does assault him, but he gets no hold. ‘No one shall snatch them out of My hand’ (John 10:28). ‘The ruler of the world cometh: and he hath nothing in Me’ (John 14:30). Therefore whoever is in Christ is safe.

18–20. The Sum of the Christian’s Knowledge

18–20. The Epistle now draws rapidly to a close. Having briefly, yet with much new material, retouched some of the leading ideas of the Epistle, eternal life, faith in Christ and boldness in prayer united with brotherly love (13–17), the Apostle now goes on to emphasize once more three great facts about which Christians have sure knowledge, facts respecting themselves, their relations to the evil one and his kingdom, and their relations to the Son of God. Each verse is a condensation of what has been said elsewhere. 1 John 5:18 is a combination of 1 John 3:9 with 1 John 2:13; 1 John 5:19 a combination of the substance of 1 John 1:6, 1 John 2:8; 1 John 2:15 and 1 John 3:10; 1 John 3:13 : 1 John 5:20 condenses the substance of 1 John 4:9-14 and 1 John 5:1-12. “Hence we have in these last verses a final emphasis laid on the fundamental principles on which the Epistle rests; that through the mission of the Lord Jesus Christ we have fellowship with God; that this fellowship protects us from sin; and that it establishes us in a relation of utter opposition to the world” (Haupt). Fellowship with one another is not mentioned again, but is included in the threefold ‘we know’.1 John 5:18. Οἴδαμεν, we know) An instance of the figure Anaphora:[26] see the next verses.—ὅτι πᾶς, that every one) Now he takes care that no one abuse, verses 16, 17, to the purpose of (carnal) security.—γεγεννημένος) Shortly afterwards γεννηθείς. The Perfect has a loftier sound than the Aorist. An old lexicon says, ὠψωνηκότες, μέγα· ὀψωνήσαντες δὲ, μικρόν. Not only does he who has made great advancement in regeneration, but any one who has been born again, keep himself.—τηρεῖ ἑαυτὸν, keepeth himself) he is not wanting to himself from within.—οὐχ ἅπτεται, toucheth him not) The regenerate is not ruined from without. The wicked one approaches, as a fly does to the candle; but he does not injure him, he does not even touch him. The antithesis is lieth, 1 John 5:19.

[26] See Append. on this figure.—E.Verses 18-21. - With three solemn asseverations and one equally solemn charge the Epistle is brought to a close. "Can we be certain of any principles in ethics? St. John declares that we can. He says that he has not been making probable guesses about the grounds of human actions, the relations of man to God, the nature of God himself. These are firings that he knows. Nay, he is not content with claiming this knowledge himself. He uses the plural pronoun; he declares that his disciples, his little children, know that which he knows" (Maurice). Verse 18. - We know; οἴδαμεν, as in 1 John 3:2, 14, and John 21:24, which should be compared with this passage. These expressions of Christian certitude explain the undialectical character of St. John's Epistles as compared with those of St. Paul. What need to argue and prove when both he and his readers already knew and believed? We must have "begotten" in both clauses, as in the Revised Version, not "born" in one and "begotten" in the other, as in the Authorized Version. In the Greek there is a change of tense ὁ γεγεννημένος and ὁ γεννηθείς, but no change of verb. The whole should run, "We know that whosoever is begotten of God sinneth not, but the Begotten of God keepeth him." For the perfect participle, comp. 1 John 3:9; 1 John 5:1, 4; 1 John 3:6, 8: it expresses him who has come to be, and still continues to be, a son of God. The aorist participle occurs nowhere else in St. John: it expresses him who, without relation to time past or present, is the Son of God. The reading αὐτόν is preferable to ἑαυτόν. The Vulgate has conservat eum, not conserver seipsum, which Calvin adopts. The eternal Son of the Father preserves the frail children of the Father from the common foe, so that the evil one toucheth them not. The verb for "touch ἅπτεσθαι is the same as in "Touch me not" (John 20:17). In both cases "touch" is somewhat too weak a rendering; the meaning is rather, "lay hold of," "hold fast." The Magdalene wished, not merely to touch, but to hold the Lord fast, so as to have his bodily presence continually. And here the meaning is that, though the evil one may attack the children of God, yet he cannot get them into his power. We know (οἴδαμεν)

John uses this appeal to knowledge in two forms: we know (1 John 3:2, 1 John 3:14; 1 John 5:18, 1 John 5:19, 1 John 5:20); ye know (1 John 2:20; 1 John 3:5, 1 John 3:15).

He that is begotten of God (ὁ γεννηθεὶς ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ)

Lit., was begotten. This exact phrase does not occur elsewhere. Some refer it to the man who is born of God, making it parallel with ὁ γεγεννημένος ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ, he that is begotten of God. Others to Christ, the only-begotten of God. The later is preferable.

That wicked one (ὁ πονηρὸς)

See on 1 John 2:13. Rev., the evil one.

Toucheth (ἅπτεται)

See on John 20:17, the only other passage in John's writings where the verb occurs. Both this verb and θιγγάνω (Colossians 2:21; Hebrews 11:28; Hebrews 12:20) express a touch which exerts a modifying influence upon the object, though θιγγάνω indicates rather a superficial touch. On ψηλαφάω (Acts 27:27; Hebrews 12:18; 1 John 1:1), see on Luke 24:39. Compare Colossians 2:21. The idea here is layeth not hold of him.

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