SUMMARY.--How We Show that We Love God.
Overcoming the World.
The Three Witnesses.
The Witness in Ourselves.
Praying for a Brother Who Sins Not unto Death.
1-5. Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ. This belief,
accepted in the heart, confessed with the mouth, and perfected by the
obedience of faith
(Rom. 1:5; James 2:22)
makes one a child of God.
2. By this we know, etc. But all born of God must love God's
children. The proof that we have this love is that we so love God as to
obey his commandments, one of which is to love our neighbor as
3. This is the love of God. Its outward manifestation is in
We may test our love thus.
4. Whatsoever is born of God. All who are born again, and have
the new life,
overcome the world, in the sense that they do not love it and
obey its dictates.
This is the victory. The source of victorious power. As faith
gains in strength the world loses its power.
5. Who is he that overcometh? Only the men of faith; those who
believe upon Jesus Christ.
6-10. This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus
Christ. The subject of faith in Christ calls out a statement
concerning some of the constantly testifying witnesses of Christ. The
water and the blood refer primarily to the baptism that revealed him at
the beginning of his earthly ministry and the blood which he shed at
its close. John came baptizing in order that Christ should be made
It was while in the waters of the Jordan that Christ was manifested and
anointed. On the cross flowed the water and the blood
Two rites, both monumental institutions, hence both of them witnesses,
testify of him. We are baptized into his death
the Lord's Supper points to his shed blood.
Not by water only, but by water and blood. The revelation of
Christ in water at the baptism does not stand alone; Calvary came also
with its shedding of blood.
It is the Spirit that beareth witness. Witness is usually borne
in words. The Spirit which descended on the apostles on Pentecost bore
witness with mighty power that the crucified Jesus was Lord and Christ
(Acts 2:4; 4:31; 5:32).
7. There are 
three that bear record in heaven. This verse is not found in the
Revision or in any ancient MS. It is no doubt an interpolation.
8. There are three that bear witness. In notes on
I have shown how these three bear witness.
These three agree in one. They bear testimony to the same
9. If we receive the witness of men. We do receive human
testimony. We have human testimony of many and unimpeachable witnesses
to the facts of the life of Christ, but we have also the greater
witness of God. We have the Father's testimony on record, and we have
it constantly repeated in his transforming grace. Every one born again
to a new life is a new demonstration.
10. He that believeth on the Son. He hath the witness in his
changed heart and life.
He that believeth not God. He makes God a liar by rejecting the
witness God gives to the Son.
11-13. This is the witness (Revision). God gives us eternal life
through this Son. We know that we have it because we know that we have
a new life.
12. He that hath the Son hath life. We lay hold of the Son by
faith in him and thus come to life.
13. These things have I written. He writes that they may
understand how they may know that they have eternal life. Tests have
been given. For example, see
5:1, 2; 4:13,
That ye may believe. Put the fullest trust in the name of
14-17. And this is the confidence. We may be assured our prayers
will be granted, if we ask
according to his will. There is this condition.
15. If we know that he hear us. Hear us with open ears. Then we
may know that we have what we ask. It will be granted.
16. If a man see his brother sin. Then a brother can be
overtaken by sin.
Not unto death. There is a sin not unto death, and one unto
death. The sin described in
is evidently unto death; that described in
is one not unto death. In the latter case the sinners can be restored,
and we may pray for them with the assurance that they will be. This
implies both work and prayer.
17. All unrighteousness. All wrong doing is sin, but the
condition of soul that sets it against righteousness and against Christ
as steel is a sin unto death. Such a soul repels Christ the life.
18-21. Whosoever is born of God sinneth not. Does not live a
life of sin. He will not sin unto death, though he may be overtaken in
a fault. See
at end of chapter.
That wicked one toucheth him not. Cannot lay hands on him so as
to hold him.
19. We know that we are of God. The church is God's temple in
which he dwells, and around it the world of wickedness.
20. And we know that the Son of God is come. Not only by
testimony from men but by God's witness. We have life in Christ, and
Christ dwells in us.
This is the true God and eternal life. In Christ the true God is
revealed to us and in him we have eternal life.
21. Keep yourselves from idols. Flee from idolatry, the
besetting sin of that age. So too we need to flee from the idols of our
age. Whatever takes our worship from God is an idol.
NOTE.--SIN IN THE
A comparison of passages will show that an extreme and false doctrine
might be reached by pressing one class to the exclusion of another
class. I give a list:
I. If we say that we have no sin we deceive ourselves,
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive our
If we say we have not sinned we make him a liar,
If any man sin (man is not in the Greek), we have an Advocate with
I write these things that you may sin not,
If any man see his brother sinning a sin not unto death,
There is a sin not unto death,
These passages all refer to Christians; they teach their liability
to sin; show how they may obtain pardon, and show how also they should
labor to save an erring brother. One the other hand there is another
class which teaches that the Christian is freed from sin.
II. The blood of Jesus his Son cleanses from all sin,
Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not,
He cannot sin because he is begotten of God,
Whosoever is begotten of God sinneth not,
If this second class of passages was alone considered they would teach
apparently the absolute holiness of the saint. The two classes are to
be interpreted in the light of each other. They teach that the germ of
sin, dormant, perhaps, remains in us as long as we are in the flesh.
"The flesh lusteth against the Spirit."
We "may be overtaken in a fault," the dormant germ waken, and we be
betrayed into sin for the moment.
The sin is due to the temporary revival of the old nature. The new
nature, the spiritual being born of the new birth, is not disposed to
sin, and will be destroyed if the sin is wilful and continued. One born
of God cannot engage in willful sin. Nor can he who abides in Christ.
He who becomes a wilful sinner does not abide in Christ, nor remain a
child of God.