The great similitude, or rather sameness, both of spirit and expression, which runs through St. John's Gospel and all his epistles, is a clear evidence of their being written by the same person. In this epistle he speaks not to any particular church, but to all the Christians of that age; and in them to the whole Christian church in all succeeding ages. Some have apprehended that it is not easy to discern the scope and method of this epistle. But if we examine it with simplicity, these may readily be discovered. St. John in this letter, or rather tract, (for he was present with part of those to whom he wrote,) has this apparent aim, to confirm the happy and holy communion of the faithful with God and Christ, by describing the marks of that blessed state.
The parts of it are three:
I. The preface,.................................... C. i. 1-4
II. The tract itself,............................ 5-C. v. -12
III. The conclusion,................................... 13-21
In the preface he shows the authority of his own preaching
and writing, and expressly points out, verse 3, the design
of his present writing. To the preface exactly answers
the conclusion, more largely explaining the same design,
and recapitulating those marks, by we know thrice repeated,
The tract itself has two parts, treating,
1. Of communion with the Father,............... C. i. 5-10
2. Of communion with the Son,................. C. ii. 1-12
With a distinct application to fathers,
young men, and little children,................. 13-27
Whereto is annexed an exhortation to
abide in him,......................... 28-C. iii. i-24
That the fruit of his manifestation
in the flesh may extend to his
manifestation in glory.
3. Of the confirmation and fruit of this
abiding through the Spirit,............... C. iv. 1-21
Of the testimony of the Father, and Son,
and Spirit: on which faith in Christ, the
being born of God, love to God and his
children, the keeping his commandments
and victory over the world, are founded,...... C. v. 1-12
The parts frequently begin and end alike. Sometimes there
is an allusion in a preceding part, and a recapitulation in
the subsequent. Each part treats of a benefit from God, and
the duty of the faithful derived therefrom by the most
That which was - Here means, He which was the Word himself; afterwards it means, that which they had heard from him. Which was - Namely, with the Father, ver.<cite>2</cite>, before he was manifested. From the beginning - This phrase is sometimes used in a limited sense; but here it properly means from eternity, being equivalent with, "in the beginning," <cite>John 1:1</cite>. That which we - The apostles. Have not only heard, but seen with our eyes, which we have beheld - Attentively considered on various occasions. Of the Word of life - He is termed
For the life - The living Word. Was manifested - In the flesh, to our very senses. And we testify and declare - We testify by declaring, by preaching, and writing, <cite>1Jo 1:3</cite>,4. Preaching lays the foundation, <cite>1Jo 1:5 </cite>- 10: writing builds there on. To you - Who have not seen. The eternal life - Which always was, and afterward appeared to us. This is mentioned in the beginning of the epistle. In the end of it is mentioned the same eternal life, which we shall always enjoy.
That which we have seen and heard - Of him and from him. Declare we to you - For this end. That ye also may have fellowship with us - May enjoy the same fellowship which we enjoy. And truly our fellowship - Whereby he is in us and we in him. Is with the Father and with the son - Of the Holy Ghost he speaks afterwards.
That your joy may be full - So our Lord also, <cite>John 15:11</cite>; <cite>16:22</cite>. There is a joy of hope, a joy of faith, and a joy of love. Here the joy of faith is directly intended. It is a concise expression. Your joy - That is, your faith and the joy arising from it: but it likewise implies the joy of hope and love.
And this is the sum of the message which we have heard of him - The Son of God. That God is light - The light of wisdom, love, holiness, glory. What light is to the natural eye, that God is to the spiritual eye. And in him is no darkness at all - No contrary principle. He is pure, unmixed light.
If we say - Either with our tongue, or in our heart, if we endeavour to persuade either ourselves or others. We have fellowship with him, while we walk, either inwardly or outwardly, in darkness - In sin of any kind. We do not the truth - Our actions prove, that the truth is not in us.
But if we walk in the light - In all holiness. As God is (a deeper word than walk, and more worthy of God) in the light, then we may truly say, we have fellowship one with another - We who have seen, and you who have not seen, do alike enjoy that fellowship with God. The imitation of God being the only sure proof of our having fellowship with him. And the blood of Jesus Christ his Son - With the grace purchased thereby. Cleanseth us from all sin - Both original and actual, taking away all the guilt and all the power.
If we say - Any child of man, before his blood has cleansed us. We have no sin - To be cleansed from, instead of confessing our sins, <cite>1Jo 1:9</cite>, the truth is not in us - Neither in our mouth nor in our heart.
But if with a penitent and believing heart, we confess our sins, he is faithful - Because he had promised this blessing, by the unanimous voice of all his prophets. Just - Surely then he will punish: no; for this very reason he will pardon. This may seem strange; but upon the evangelical principle of atonement and redemption, it is undoubtedly true; because, when the debt is paid, or the purchase made, it is the part of equity to cancel the bond, and consign over the purchased possession. Both to forgive us our sins - To take away all the guilt of them. And to cleanse us from all unrighteousness - To purify our souls from every kind and every degree of it.
Yet still we are to retain, even to our lives' end, a deep sense of our past sins. Still if we say, we have not sinned, we make him a liar - Who saith, all have sinned. And his word is not in us - We do not receive it; we give it no place in our hearts.
My beloved children - So the apostle frequently addresses the whole body of Christians. It is a term of tenderness and endearment, used by our Lord himself to his disciples, <cite>John 13:33</cite>. And perhaps many to whom St. John now wrote were converted by his ministry. It is a different word from that which is translated "little children," in several parts of the epistle, to distinguish it from which, it is here rendered beloved children. I write these things to you, that ye may not sin - Thus he guards them beforehand against abusing the doctrine of reconciliation. All the words, institutions, and judgments of God are levelled against sin, either that it may not be committed, or that it may be abolished. But if any one sin - Let him not lie in sin, despairing of help. We have an advocate - We have for our advocate, not a mean person, but him of whom it was said, "This is my beloved son." Not a guilty person, who stands in need of pardon for himself; but Jesus Christ the righteous; not a mere petitioner, who relies purely upon liberality, but one that has merited, fully merited, whatever he asks.
And he is the propitiation - The atoning sacrifice by which the wrath of God is appeased. For our sins - Who believe. And not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world - Just as wide as sin extends, the propitiation extends also .
And hereby we know that we truly and savingly know him - As he is the advocate, the righteous, the propitiation. If we keep his commandments - Particularly those of faith and love.
But whoso keepeth his word - His commandments. Verily in him the love of God - Reconciled to us through Christ. Is perfected - Is perfectly known. Hereby - By our keeping his word. We know that we are in him - So is the tree known by its fruits. To "know him," to be "in him," to "abide in him," are nearly synonymous terms; only with a gradation, - knowledge, communion, constancy.
He that saith he abideth in him - which implies a durable state; a constant, lasting knowledge of, and communion with, him. Ought himself - Otherwise they are vain words. So to walk, even as he walked - In the world. As he, are words that frequently occur in this epistle. Believers having their hearts full of him, easily supply his name.
When I speak of keeping his word, I write not a new commandment - I do not speak of any new one. But the old commandment, which ye had - Even from your forefathers.
Again, I do write a new commandment to you - Namely, with regard to loving one another. A commandment which, though it also was given long ago, yet is truly new in him and in you. It was exemplified in him, and is now fulfilled by you, in such a manner as it never was before. For there is no comparison between the state of the Old Testament believers, and that which ye now enjoy: the darkness of that dispensation is passed away; and Christ the true light now shineth in your hearts.
He that saith he is in the light - In Christ, united to him. And hateth his brother - The very name shows the love due to him. Is in darkness until now - Void of Christ, and of all true light.
He that loveth his brother - For Christ's sake. Abideth in the light - Of God. And there is no occasion of stumbling in him - Whereas he that hates his brother is an occasion of stumbling to himself. He stumbles against himself, and against all things within and without; while he that loves his brother, has a free, disencumbered journey.
He that hateth his brother - And he must hate, if he does not love him: there is no medium. Is in darkness - In sin, perplexity, entanglement. He walketh in darkness, and knoweth not that he is in the high road to hell.
I have written to you, beloved children - Thus St. John bespeaks all to whom he writes. But from the thirteenth to <cite>1John 2:13 </cite>- 27 the twentyseventh verse, he divides them particularly into "fathers," "young men," and "little children." Because your sins are forgiven you - As if he had said, This is the sum of what I have now written. He then proceeds to other things, which are built upon this foundation.
The address to spiritual fathers, young men, and little children is first proposed in this verse, wherein he says, I write to you, fathers: I write to you, young men: I write to you, little children: and then enlarged upon; in doing which he says, "I have written to you, fathers," <cite>1Jo 2:14</cite>. "I have written to you, young men," <cite>1Jo 2:14 </cite>- 17. "I have written to you, little children," <cite>1Jo 2:18 </cite>- 27. Having finished his address to each, he returns to all together, whom he again terms, (as <cite>1Jo 2:12</cite>,) "beloved children." Fathers, ye have known him that is from the beginning - We have known the eternal God, in a manner wherein no other, even true believers, know him. Young men, ye have overcome the wicked one - In many battles, by the power of faith. Little children, ye have known the Father - As your Father, though ye have not yet overcome, by the Spirit witnessing with your Spirit, that ye are the children of God."
I have written to you, fathers - As if he had said, Observe well what I but now wrote. He speaks very briefly and modestly to these, who needed not much to be said to them, as having that deep acquaintance with God which comprises all necessary knowledge. Young men, ye are strong - In faith. And the word of God abideth in you - Deeply rooted in your hearts, whereby ye have often foiled your great adversary.
To you all, whether fathers, young men, or little children, I say, Love not the world - Pursue your victory by overcoming the world. If any man love the world - Seek happiness in visible things, he does not love God.
The desire of the flesh - Of the pleasure of the outward senses, whether of the taste, smell, or touch. The desire of the eye - Of the pleasures of imagination, to which the eye chiefly is subservient; of that internal sense whereby we relish whatever is grand, new, or beautiful. The pride of life - All that pomp in clothes, houses, furniture, equipage, manner of living, which generally procure honour from the bulk of mankind, and so gratify pride and vanity. It therefore directly includes the desire of praise, and, remotely, covetousness. All these desires are not from God, but from the prince of this world.
The world passeth away, and the desire thereof - That is, all that can gratify those desires passeth away with it. But he that doeth the will of God - That loves God, not the world. Abideth - In the enjoyment of what he loves, for ever.
My little children, it is the last time - The last dispensation of grace, that which is to continue to the end of time, is begun. Ye have heard that antichrist cometh - Under the term antichrist, or the spirit of antichrist, he includes all false teachers and enemies to the truth; yea, whatever doctrines or men are contrary to Christ. It seems to have been long after this that the name of antichrist was appropriated to that grand adversary of Christ, "the man of sin," <cite>2Thess 2:3 </cite>Antichrist, in St. John's sense, that is, antichristianism, has been spreading from his time till now; and will do so, till that great adversary arises, and is destroyed by Christ's coming.
They were not of us - When they went; their hearts were before departed from God, otherwise, they would have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest - That is, this was made manifest by their going out.
But ye have an anointing - A chrism; perhaps so termed in opposition to the name of antichrist; an inward teaching from the Holy Ghost, whereby ye know all things - Necessary for your preservation from these seducers, and for your eternal salvation. St. John here but just touches upon the Holy Ghost, of whom he speaks more largely, <cite>1Jo 3:24</cite>; <cite>4:13</cite>; <cite>5:6</cite>.
I have written - Namely, <cite>1Jo 2:13</cite>. To you because ye know the truth - That is, to confirm you in the knowledge ye have already. Ye know that no lie is of the truth - That all the doctrines of these antichrists are irreconcilable to it.
Who is that liar - Who is guilty of that lying, but he who denies that truth which is the sum of all Christianity? That Jesus is the Christ; that he is the Son of God; that he came in the flesh, is one undivided truth. and he that denies any part of this, in effect denies the whole. He is antichrist - And the spirit of antichrist, who in denying the Son denies the Father also.
Whosoever denieth the eternal Son of God, he hath not communion with the Father; but he that truly and believingly acknowledgeth the Son, hath communion with the Father also.
If that truth concerning the Father and the Son, which ye have heard from the beginning, abide fixed and rooted in you, ye also shall abide in that happy communion with the Son and the Father.
He - The Son. Hath promised us - If we abide in him.
These things - From <cite>1Jo 2:21</cite>. I have written to you - St. John, according to his custom, begins and ends with the same form, and having finished a kind of parenthesis, <cite>1Jo 2:20 </cite>- 26, continues, <cite>2:27</cite>, what he said in the twentieth verse, concerning them that would seduce you.
Ye need not that any should teach you, save as that anointing teacheth you - Which is always the same, always consistent with itself. But this does not exclude our need of being taught by them who partake of the same anointing. Of all things - Which it is necessary for you to know. And is no lie - Like that which antichrist teaches. Ye shall abide in him - This is added both by way of comfort and of exhortation. The whole discourse, from verse 18 to this, <cite>1Jo 2:18 </cite>- 27 is peculiarly adapted to little children.
And now, beloved children - Having finished his address to each, he now returns to all in general. Abide in him, that we - A modest expression. May not be ashamed before him at his coming - O how will ye, Jews, Socinians, nominal Christians, be ashamed in that day!
Every one - And none else. Who practiseth righteousness - From a believing, loving heart. Is born of him - For all his children are like himself.
That we should be called - That is, should be, the children of God. Therefore the world knoweth us not - They know not what to make of us. We are a mystery to them.
It doth not yet appear - Even to ourselves. What we shall be - It is something ineffable, which will raise the children of God to be, in a manner, as God himself. But we know, in general, that when he, the Son of God, shall appear, we shall be like him - The glory of God penetrating our inmost substance. For we shall see him as he is - Manifestly, without a veil. And that sight will transform us into the same likeness.
And every one that hath this hope in him - In God.
Whosoever committeth sin - Thereby transgresseth the holy, just, and good law of God, and so sets his authority at nought; for this is implied in the very nature of sin.
And ye know that he - Christ. Was manifested - That he came into the world for this very purpose. To take away our sins - To destroy them all, root and branch, and leave none remaining. And in him is no sin - So that he could not suffer on his own account, but to make us as himself.
Whosoever abideth in communion with him, by loving faith, sinneth not - While he so abideth. Whosoever sinneth certainly seeth him not - The loving eye of his soul is not then fixed upon God; neither doth he then experimentally know him - Whatever he did in time past.
Let no one deceive you - Let none persuade you that any man is righteous but he that uniformly practises righteousness; he alone is righteous, after the example of his Lord.
He that committeth sin is a child of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning - That is, was the first sinner in the universe, and has continued to sin ever since. The Son of God was manifested to destroy the works of the devil - All sin. And will he not perform this in all that trust in him?
Whosoever is born of God - By living faith, whereby God is continually breathing spiritual life into his soul, and his soul is continually breathing out love and prayer to God, doth not commit sin. For the divine seed of loving faith abideth in him; and, so long as it doth, he cannot sin, because he is born of God - Is inwardly and universally changed.
Neither he that loveth not his brother - Here is the transition from the general proposition to one particular.
Who was of the wicked one - Who showed he was a child of the devil by killing his brother. And wherefore slew he him - For any fault? No, but just the reverse; for his goodness.
Marvel not if the world hate you - For the same cause.
We know - As if he had said, We ourselves could not love our brethren, unless we were passed from spiritual death to life, that is, born of God. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death - That is, is not born of God. And he that is not born of God, cannot love his brother.
He, I say, abideth in spiritual death, is void of the life of God. For whosoever hateth his brother, and there is no medium between loving and hating him, is, in God's account, a murderer: every degree of hatred being a degree of the same temper which moved Cain to murder his brother. And no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him - But every loving believer hath. For love is the beginning of eternal life. It is the same, in substance, with glory.
The word God is not in the original. It was omitted by the apostle just as the particular name is omitted by Mary, when she says to the gardener, "Sir, if thou hast borne him hence;" and by the church, when she says, "Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth," <cite>So 1:2</cite>; in both which places there is a language, a very emphatical language, even in silence. It declares how totally the thoughts were possessed by the blessed and glorious subject. It expresses also the superlative dignity and amiableness of the person meant, as though He, and He alone, was, or deserved to be, both known and admired by all. Because he laid down his life - Not merely for sinners, but for us in particular. From this truth believed, from this blessing enjoyed, the love of our brethren takes its rise, which may very justly be admitted as an evidence that our faith is no delusion.
But whoso hath this world's good - Worldly substance, far less valuable than life. And seeth his brother have need - The very sight of want knocks at the door of the spectator's heart. And shutteth up - Whether asked or not. His bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him - Certainly not at all, however he may talk, <cite>1Jo 3:18</cite>, of loving God.
Not in word - Only. But in deed - In action: not in tongue by empty professions, but in truth.
And hereby we know - We have a farther proof by this real, operative love. That we are of the truth - That we have true faith, that we are true children of God. And shall assure our hearts before him - Shall enjoy the assurance of his favour, and the "testimony of a good conscience toward God." The heart, in St. John's language, is the conscience. The word conscience is not found in his writings.
For if we have not this testimony, if in anything our heart, our own conscience, condemn us, much more does God, who is greater than our heart - An infinitely holier and a more impartial Judge. And knoweth all things - So that there is no hope of hiding it from him.
If our heart condemn us not - If our conscience, duly enlightened by the word and Spirit of God, and comparing all our thoughts, words, and works with that word, pronounce that they agree therewith. Then have we confidence toward God - Not only our consciousness of his favour continues and increases, but we have a full persuasion, that whatsoever we ask we shall receive of him.
And this is his commandment - All his commandments in one word. That we should believe and love - in the manner and degree which he hath taught. This is the greatest and most important command that ever issued from the throne of glory. If this be neglected, no other can be kept: if this be observed, all others are easy.
And he that keepeth his commandments - That thus believes and loves. Abideth in him, and God in him: and hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us - Which witnesses with our spirits that we are his children, and brings forth his fruits of peace, love, holiness. This is the transition to the treating of the Holy Spirit which immediately follows.
Believe not every spirit - Whereby any teacher is actuated. But try the spirits - By the rule which follows. We are to try all spirits by the written word: "To the law and to the testimony!" If any man speak not according to these, the spirit which actuates him is not of God.
Every spirit - Or teacher. Which confesseth - Both with heart and voice. Jesus Christ, who is come in the flesh, is of God - This his coming presupposes, contains, and draws after it, the whole doctrine of Christ.
Ye have heard - From our Lord and us, that it cometh.
Ye have overcome these seducers, because greater is the Spirit of Christ that is in you than the spirit of antichrist that is in the world.
They - Those false prophets. Are of the world - Of the number of those that know not God. Therefore speak they of the world - From the same principle, wisdom, spirit; and, of consequence, the world heareth them - With approbation.
We - Apostles. Are of God - Immediately taught, and sent by him. Hereby we know - From what is said, <cite>1Jo 4:2 </cite>- 6.
Let us love one another - From the doctrine he has just been defending he draws this exhortation. It is by the Spirit that the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts. Every one that truly loveth God and his neighbour is born of God.
God is love - This little sentence brought St. John more sweetness, even in the time he was writing it, than the whole world can bring. God is often styled holy, righteous, wise; but not holiness, righteousness, or wisdom in the abstract, as he is said to be love; intimating that this is his darling, his reigning attribute, the attribute that sheds an amiable glory on all his other perfections.
If we love one another, God abideth in us - This is treated of, <cite>1John 4:13 </cite>- 16. And his love is perfected - Has its full effect. In us - This is treated of, <cite>1John 4:17 </cite>- 19.
And in consequence of this we have seen and testify that the Father sent the Son - These are the foundation and the criteria of our abiding in God and God in us, the communion of the Spirit, and the confession of the Son.
Whosoever shall, from a principle of loving faith, openly confess in the face of all opposition and danger, that Jesus is the Son of God, God abideth in him.
And we know and believe - By the same Spirit, the love that God hath to us.
Hereby - That is, by this communion with God. Is our love made perfect; that we may - That is, so that we shall have boldness in the day of judgment - When all the stout - hearted shall tremble. Because as he - Christ. Is - All love. So are we - Who are fathers in Christ, even in this world.
There is no fear in love - No slavish fear can be where love reigns. But perfect, adult love casteth out slavish fear: because such fear hath torment - And so is inconsistent with the happiness of love. A natural man has neither fear nor love; one that is awakened, fear without love; a babe in Christ, love and fear; a father in Christ, love without fear.
We love him, because he first loved us - This is the sum of all religion, the genuine model of Christianity. None can say more: why should any one say less, or less intelligibly?
Whom he hath seen - Who is daily presented to his senses, to raise his esteem, and move his kindness or compassion toward him.
And this commandment have we from him - Both God and Christ. That he who loveth God love his brother - Every one, whatever his opinions or mode of worship be, purely because he is the child, and bears the image, of God. Bigotry is properly the want of this pure and universal love. A bigot only loves those who embrace his opinions, and receive his way of worship; and he loves them for that, and not for Christ's sake.
The scope and sum of this whole paragraph appears from the conclusion of it, <cite>1Jo 5:13: </cite>"These things have I written to you who believe, that ye may know that ye who believe have eternal life." So faith is the first and last point with St. John also. Every one who loveth - God that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him - Hath a natural affection to all his brethren.
Hereby we know - This is a plain proof. That we love the children of God - As his children.
For this is the love of God - The only sure proof of it. That we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous - To any that are born of God.
For whatsoever - This expression implies the most unlimited universality. Is born of God overcometh the world - Conquers whatever it can lay in the way, either to allure or fright the children of God from keeping his commandments. And this is the victory - The grand means of overcoming. Even our faith - Seeing all things are possible to him that believeth.
Who is he that overcometh the world - That is superior to all worldly care, desire, fear? Every believer, and none else. The seventh verse <cite>1Jo 5:7 </cite>(usually so reckoned) is a brief recapitulation of all which has been before advanced concerning the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. It is cited, in conjunction with the sixth and eighth, <cite>1Jo 5:6</cite>,8 by Tertullian, Cyprian, and an uninterrupted train of Fathers. And, indeed, what the sun is in the world, what the heart is in a man, what the needle is in the mariner's compass, this verse is in the epistle. By this the sixth, eighth, and ninth verses <cite>1Jo 5:6</cite>,8,9 are indissolubly connected; as will be evident, beyond all contradiction, when they are accurately considered.
This is he - St. John here shows the immovable foundation of that faith that Jesus is the Son of God; not only the testimony of man, but the firm, indubitable testimony of God. Who came - Jesus is he of whom it was promised that he should come; and who accordingly, is come. And this the Spirit, and the water, and the blood testify. Even Jesus - Who, coming by water and blood, is by this very thing demonstrated to be the Christ. Not by the water only - Wherein he was baptized. But by the water and the blood - Which he shed when he had finished the work his Father had given him to do. He not only undertook at his baptism "to fulfil all righteousness," but on the cross accomplished what he had undertaken; in token whereof, when all was finished, blood and water came out of his side. And it is the Spirit who likewise testifieth - Of Jesus Christ, namely, by Moses and all the prophets, by John the Baptist, by all the apostles, and in all the writings of the New Testament. And against his testimony there can be no exception, because the Spirit is truth - The very God of truth.
What Bengelius has advanced, both concerning the transposition of these two verses, and the authority of the controverted verse, partly in his "Gnomon," and partly in his "Apparatus Criticus," will abundantly satisfy any impartial person. For there are three that testify - Literally, testifying, or bearing witness. The participle is put for the noun witnesses, to intimate that the act of testifying, and the effect of it, are continually present. Properly, persons only can testify; and that three are described testifying on earth, as if they were persons, is elegantly subservient to the three persons testifying in heaven. The Spirit - In the word, confirmed by miracles. The water - Of baptism, wherein we are dedicated to the Son, (with the Father and Spirit,) typifying his spotless purity, and the inward purifying of our nature. And the blood - Represented in the Lord's supper, and applied to the consciences of believer. And these three harmoniously agree in one - In bearing the same testimony, - that Jesus Christ is the divine, the complete, the only Saviour of the world.
And there are three that testify in heaven - The testimony of the Spirit, the water, and the blood, is by an eminent gradation corroborated by three, who give a still greater testimony. The Father - Who clearly testified of the Son, both at his baptism and at his transfiguration. The Word - Who testified of himself on many occasions, while he was on earth; and again, with still greater solemnity, after his ascension into heaven, <cite>Rev 1:5</cite>; <cite>Rev 19:13</cite>. And the Spirit - Whose testimony was added chiefly after his glorification, <cite>1Jo 2:27</cite>;<cite>Joh 15:26</cite>;<cite>Ac 5:32</cite>;<cite>Ro 8:16</cite>. And these three are one - Even as those two, the Father and the Son, are one, <cite>John 10:30</cite>. Nothing can separate the Spirit from the Father and the Son. If he were not one with the Father and the Son, the apostle ought to have said, The Father and the Word, who are one, and the Spirit, are two. But this is contrary to the whole tenor of revelation. It remains that these three are one. They are one in essence, in knowledge, in will, and in their testimony.
It is observable, the three in the one verse are opposed, not conjointly, but severally, to the three in the other: as if he had said, Not only the Spirit testifies, but also the Father, <cite>John 5:37</cite>; not only the water, but also the Word, <cite>John 3:11</cite>,<cite>John 10:41</cite>; not only the blood, but also the Holy Ghost, <cite>John 15:26</cite>, &c. It must now appear, to every reasonable man, how absolutely necessary the eighth verse is <cite>1Jo 5:8</cite>. St. John could not think of the testimony of the Spirit, and water, and blood, and subjoin, "The testimony of God is greater," without thinking also of the testimony of the Son and Holy Ghost; yea, and mentioning it in so solemn an enumeration. Nor can any possible reason be devised, why, without three testifying in heaven, he should enumerate three, and no more, who testify on earth. The testimony of all is given on earth, not in heaven; but they who testify are part on earth, part in heaven. The witnesses who are on earth testify chiefly concerning his abode on earth, though not excluding his state of exaltation: the witnesses who are in heaven testify chiefly concerning his glory at God's right hand, though not excluding his state of humiliation.
The seventh verse, therefore, with the sixth, <cite>1Jo 5:7</cite>,6 contains a recapitulation of the whole economy of Christ, from his baptism to pentecost; the eighth, <cite>1Jo 5:8 the sum of the </cite>divine economy, from the time of his exaltation. Hence it farther appears, that this position of the seventh <cite>1Jo 5:7</cite>,8 and eighth verses, which places those who testify on earth before those who testify in heaven, is abundantly preferable to the other, and affords a gradation admirably suited to the subject.
If we receive the testimony of men - As we do continually, and must do in a thousand instances. The testimony of God is greater - Of higher authority, and much more worthy to be received; namely, this very testimony which God the Father, together with the Word and the Spirit, hath testified of the Son, as the Saviour of the world.
He that believeth on the Son of God hath the testimony - The dear evidence of this, in himself: he that believeth not God, in this, hath made him a liar; because he supposes that to be false which God has expressly testified.
And this is the sum of that testimony, that God hath given us a title to, and the real beginning of, eternal life; and that this is purchased by, and treasured up in, his Son, who has all the springs and the fulness of it in himself, to communicate to his body, the church, first in grace and then in glory.
It plainly follows, he that hath the Son - Living and reigning in him by faith. Hath this life; he that hath not the Son of God hath not this life - Hath no part or lot therein. In the former clause, the apostle says simply, the Son; because believers know him: in the latter, the Son of God; that unbelievers may know how great a blessing they fall short of.
These things have I written - In the introduction, <cite>1John 1:4</cite>, he said, I write: now, in the close, I have written. That ye may know - With a fuller and stronger assurance, that ye have eternal life.
And we - Who believe. Have this farther confidence in him, that he heareth - That is, favourably regards, whatever prayer we offer in faith, according to his revealed will.
We have - Faith anticipates the blessings. The petitions which we asked of him - Even before the event. And when the event comes, we know it comes in answer to our prayer.
This extends to things of the greatest importance. If any one see his brother - That is. any man. Sin a sin which is not unto death - That is, any sin but total apostasy from both the power and form of godliness. Let him ask, and God will give him life - Pardon and spiritual life, for that sinner. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for that - That is, let him not pray for it. A sin unto death may likewise mean, one which God has determined to punish with death.
All deviation from perfect holiness is sin; but all sin is not unpardonable.
Yet this gives us no encouragement to sin: on the contrary, it is an indisputable truth, he that is born of God - That sees and loves God. Sinneth not - So long as that loving faith abides in him, he neither speaks nor does anything which God hath forbidden. He keepeth himself - Watching unto prayer. And, while he does this, the wicked one toucheth him not - So as to hurt him.
We know that we are children of God - By the witness and the fruit of his Spirit, <cite>1John 3:24</cite>. But the whole world - All who have not his Spirit, not only is "touched" by him, but by idolatry, fraud, violence lasciviousness, impiety, all manner of wickedness. Lieth in the wicked one - Void of life, void of sense. In this short expression the horrible state of the world is painted in the most lively colours; a comment on which we have in the actions, conversations, contracts, quarrels, and friendships of worldly men.
And we know - By all these infallible proofs. That the Son of God is come - Into the world. And he hath given us a spiritual understanding, that we may know him, the true one - "The faithful and true witness." And we are in the true one - As branches in the vine, even in Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God. This Jesus is the only living and true God, together with the father and the Spirit, and the original fountain of eternal life. So the beginning and the end of the epistle agree.
Keep yourselves from idols - From all worship of false gods, from all worship of images or of any creature, and from every inward idol; from loving, desiring, fearing anything more than God. Seek all help and defence from evil, all happiness in the true God alone.