1 John 5:1-12
Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loves him that begat loves him also that is begotten of him…
1. A common faith with a common life is the foundation of brotherly love. "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is begotten of God: and whosoever loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him." A general aspect is given to the truth. Given a person who (according to what John has formerly taught) believes that Jesus is the Christ, it can be said of him that he is begetter, of God, i.e., is the subject of a Divine life. It is implied, but not expressed, that a child of God loves the Author of his life. This love is extended to him that shares with him the same Divine life. There is thus created a brotherhood, with a common source of life and a common stream of life. And shall not all who have a common origin and common movements love one another?
2. The reality of brotherly love is proved by the activity of obedience. "Hereby we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and do his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments." There is here personal application of the truth. When can we say that we love the children of God? The answer given is (the converse being also true), when we love God. Have we some real love to God? then inseparable from that is love to his children. For along with love to God goes the doing of his commandments, under which is included love to the children of God. This is the love of God in its working, that we are careful about doing the commandments of God. If a child has a sincere love to his parents, and knows that they wish him to be kind to his brothers and sisters, he will not oppose that wish. So if we have love to God, and know that it is his will that we should extend our love to his children, we shall make an endeavour in that direction. Transitional thought. "And his commandments are not grievous." If a parent loves his children, he will not give them all that they are inclined for; but he will lay commandments on them, i.e., he will lay down certain rules for their conduct, lines in which they are to act, which will be for their benefit, and, he hopes, their ultimate emancipation. There is nothing grievous in these commandments; they are the expression, not only of righteousness, but of kindness. So with the Divine commandment. If God had not loved us, he might have left us without directions for our life; but because he loved us, and could not bear to see us straying in devious paths to our destruction, therefore he has commanded and warned us well. There is "line upon line, precept upon precept." So far from these commandments being grievous in their nature, they are beneficial, emancipating. They are the direct roads to our happiness. They are not arbitrarily laid on us, but are thoroughly reasonable and suited to our nature. Is there anything unreasonable or unnatural in our loving the God of our life, and with our whole soul? And, loving the Father, may we not be asked to love also those who share with us the life of God?
3. The difficulties of obedience which are presented by what the world is are conquered by faith. "For whatsoever is begotten of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that hath overcome the world, even our faith." The apostle's thought is not of the world in its normal state, but as it has been made by sin. The world is that of which the pervading spirit is forgetfulness of God. "The wicked... and all the nations that forget God" (Psalm 9:17). Men may not be all wicked in the highest degree - deliberate and daring in sin; they may be divided against each other; but it is natural to all alike to wish to banish God out of their minds as an unwelcome, disagreeable subject. The world is that of which the pervading spirit is selfishness - the opposite of what is here inculcated. Men may not be all malevolent in the highest degree - devilish, according to the common conception - but it is natural to all alike to hurry on to their own satisfaction, without regard to the claims of others. The world is, further, that in social condition which is formed by following ungodly, selfish tendencies. Take such a social condition as is presented among the Jews. Long ago they took up a wrong position with regard to the Messiah. "His blood be on us, and on our children!" And in their generations, with few exceptions, they have stood to their position. Scattered among the nations, they have not conformed to the creeds of the nations. A common sentiment has pervaded them in many lands. Centuries of neglect and persecution have only served to burn into their minds the conviction that their forefathers were in the right. And now it would seem like a cutting off a right arm to acknowledge the Messiah. Take, again, such a social condition as is presented in the Church of Rome. It is well organized, is restlessly active, has a wonderful power of reaching minds, and yet it is identified with a system which is, to a great extent, in the name of Christ, a flattery of the human heart. Take a quasi-Christian condition of society. Without flagrant irreligiousness and vice, there is a worldly tone prevalent in families, in communities, in trades, in professions, even in Churches. There are views of life and practices that tend to lessen the sense of responsibility, and to divide men. When the world has on its side the influences of early training, of numbers, of dignitaries, of daily example, it is a formidable power to which to be opposed. And, if we look to ourselves, we are entirely at its mercy. But we are not hopeless, for a Divine power can be communicated to us, and all within us that is quickened by the Divine touch overcometh the world. What God does is to impart life; what we have to do is to exercise faith. We lay hold on what is outside of us, and thus we conquer. We lay hold on the infinite satisfaction there is in Christ, and thus we are not clogged, in our battle with the world, with the feeling of guilt. We lay hold on the conquest Christ obtained over the world. There is presented to our faith a God whom we are powerfully impelled to love. Thus situated, the commandments of God are not grievous. We may be said to conquer the world when no longer worldly ideas are influential with us. And when we have taken up the position of faith, the world becomes only the means of our discipline. The world will only be conquered in the fullest sense when the customs of society and influences which permeate it are such as to afford the greatest help to remembering God and living for the good of others. Appeal to experience. "And who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?" "Survey the whole world, and show me even one of whom it can be affirmed with truth that he overcomes the world, who is not a Christian, and endowed with this faith." In the apostle's day there were many who seemed hopelessly involved in heathen customs and traditions; but even out of their heathenism they reached forth the hand of faith to the incarnate Son of God, and conquered, in giving up their heathen life, and living according to Christian rule. It is only condescending love, apprehended by faith, that can break the spell of the world.
II. THE DIVINE TESTIMONY TO THE OBJECT OF FAITH.
1. Its nature. "This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not with the water only, but with the water and with the blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three who bear witness, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and the three agree in one." The Bible is not so plain in every part that he that runneth can read. Peter found in Paul's writings some things hard to be understood. John uses simple words, but it is not always easy to catch his meaning. The present passage has been very perplexing. The historical basis is obvious. There was water at the commencement of our Lord's ministry; there was blood at its close. He came by water as baptized, he came by blood as crucified. Water signifies life in its purity; blood signifies life in all its purity sacrificed, and so made available for us. He came not with the water only; for his pure life by itself could not be available for us. But he came with the water and with the blood; for it was as sacrificed that his pure life was available for us. The fact that he had a pure life in the midst of sinful humanity testified to his being the Son of God. And so at his baptism there was the voice from heaven, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." The fact that by his death a fountain of life was open for men (significantly there gushed from his pierced side blood and water - first blood, and then water) also testified to his being the Son of God. And so there was the Divine attestation following in his resurrection. That is historical testimony belonging to a distant century. But the Spirit is the ever-present Witness, being the Truth. There are thus three present witnesses. There is the Spirit, placed first; because he witnesses through the water and the blood. There is the water, witnessing in the power of a new life in us. There is the blood, witnessing in redemptive virtue going into us to give us the power of a new life. And the three agree in one; their testimony converges to one point, viz. to the new life in us being the grand proof that Jesus is the Son of God.
2. Its sufficiency.
(1) It is Divine. "If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for the witness of God is this, that he hath borne witness concerning his Son." It is implied that we receive the witness of men. If three human witnesses of ordinary intelligence and probity agree, we proceed upon their testimony even in matters affecting life and death. There is an important sense in which the condition of three witnesses is fulfilled with regard to the Divine testimony. Apart from that there is to be taken into account the infinite superiority of God to man. He is not a man, that he should be deceived; he is not a man, that he should lie; and, therefore, when he gives his testimony concerning his Son, he should be believed.
(2) It is in consciousness. "He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in him: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he hath not believed in the witness that God hath borne concerning his Son." The object of the Divine testimony is that we should believe on the Son of God. He that, accepting the Divine testimony, believes on the Son of God is made independent of it as external. He hath the (Divine) testimony in himself, so that he does not need to go beyond his own consciousness for testimony to the place of Jesus. In the case of him who believes not God who hath testified, this testimony in consciousness is forbidden by the very nature of his unbelief, which is making God a liar - believing what men say in ordinary matters, but not believing what God says about his Son.
(3) It is in the possession of life in Christ. "And the witness is this, that God gave unto us eternal life, and this life is in his Son." We have here a better disclosure of the purport of the testimony, showing it to be fraught with the greatest blessing. It is testimony regarding God's own gift of life. One element in life is the enjoyment of the Divine favour; another element is the quickening of our powers. It is life that, even in what is begun of it here, is eternal in its nature. It is life not promised, but actually given. It is life intended for our appropriation by faith. It is life to be found in Christ, by whom, though free in reference to us, it has been meritoriously procured, in whom also its nature is exhibited. We who have appropriated the Divine gift in the Holder and Dispenser of it can testify to his being more than man, even God incarnate. Practical inference. "He that hath the Son hath the life; he that hath not the Son of God hath not the life." The boon, which is of unspeakable value, comes with the possession of the Son; therefore the all-important thing is to possess the Son. He that hath the Son hath the life gifted, enjoys the favour of God, has his spiritual powers quickened. He that hath not the Son of God hath not the life gifted, lies under the Divine disfavour, has his spiritual powers with the torpor of death on them. And the two states are the poles asunder. Let us believe on the Son of God, and we are at the pole of eternal sunshine. 'Let us refuse the Divine testimony, and we are at the opposite pole of eternal cold. - R.F.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.