New Defender's Study Bible Notes
5:1 loveth him also. The test of true love for God is, therefore, whether we love the children of God—that is, our Christian brethren.
5:2 keep his commandments. The test of true love for the children of God, in turn, is whether or not we love God and His commandments.
5:4 whatsoever. The neuter form of “whatsoever” seems to imply that the whole body of believers is in view here. That is, despite the opposition of Satan and his hosts, the true church, consisting of all true Christians, will triumph over the very gates of hell, just as Christ promised when He first spoke of building His church (Matthew 16:18). Furthermore, the faith on which that church would be built—the confession that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16)—is the same faith that overcomes the world, the faith that Jesus is, indeed, the Son of God (I John 5:5).
5:6 water and blood. The coming of Christ by water refers to His baptism, when He testified through His immersion unto death and emergence unto life about His coming death and resurrection. At this introductory act of His public ministry, the Spirit came on Him, as a dove, and the Father audibly acknowledged Him from heaven (Matthew 3:16-17). Then He came with the same testimony on the cross, no longer in figure but in reality, shedding His blood in sacrificial death, only to rise in triumph on the third day. Thus, both the water and the blood testify of death—His death for our sins. Note also that when the spear pierced His dead body, it was stressed that “forthwith came there out blood and water” (John 19:34).
5:6 Spirit that beareth witness. There is also the witness of the Holy Spirit, who likewise bears testimony of the sacrificial love of Christ to the world (see John 15:26, where He also—as here—is called “the Spirit of truth”). Thus the baptismal water, the shed blood and the Spirit of truth all give a united testimony concerning the saving work of Christ.
5:7 these three are one. This verse is the famous “Johannine Comma,” as it has been called, and it obviously carries the clearest and most explicit statement of the doctrine of the Trinity to be found in the Bible. However, it only is found in manuscripts of the Latin Bible, and in four Greek manuscripts, so is believed by many Biblical scholars to have been a pious addition or marginal annotation by some unknown ancient copyist. The doctrine of the Trinity does not depend on this verse, of course, as it is implied in many other Scriptures (e.g., Matthew 28:19; II Corinthians 13:14). On the other hand, since it does fit perfectly in the context, it also seems that this verse could well have been in John’s original autograph, and then been expunged from most of the accessible manuscripts at the height of the Arian controversy in the fourth century. To eliminate this verse would leave I John 5:8 as a largely redundant repetition of I John 5:6, whereas the continuity and sense are beautifully structured and sequenced if it is included. It would seem much more likely for Origen or Arius, both of whom rejected the doctrines of the Trinity and Biblical inerrancy, or one of their followers in the third or fourth centuries, to boldly excise the offending verse, than for some godly copyist to insert it. One who believed in the Trinity would surely have held the Scriptures in too much esteem to presume to amend them on his own initiative. Despite the weight of scholarly opinion to the contrary, the internal evidence, as well as the testimony of the Latin manuscripts and such later authorities as Erasmus and the Reformers, as well as many great commentators since, such as John Wesley and Matthew Henry, strongly argues that the Johannine Comma was actually written by John in his epistle and should still be regarded as part of the true text.
5:8 witness in earth. The reference to three witnesses “in earth” strengthens the case for the validity of the reference in I John 5:7 to the three witnesses “in heaven,” especially since the manuscript evidence for “in earth” is strong. Note that “Spirit” in I John 5:6, 8, is from the same Greek word as “Ghost” in I John 5:7. John seems clearly to be drawing an analogy between the three who bear witness in heaven to the three that bear witness on earth. In his gospel, he had noted the concerted teaching ministry of Christ, His Father, and the Holy Ghost whom He would send (John 14:26; 15:26), as promised by Christ (now identified as “the Word”) Himself. Now, on earth, a supporting testimony is provided by that same Holy Ghost, as well as the baptismal waters and the sacrificial blood. The Three in heaven are One; the three on earth agree on that one and His great eternal purpose.
5:10 hath the witness. That internal witness is none other than the indwelling Holy Spirit, who is both “in heaven” (as the third person of the Godhead) and “in earth” (note I John 5:7-8), as He indwells each believer. Compare Romans 8:16-17; Galatians 4:6.
5:10 made him a liar. Those who recoil at the thought of eternal punishment of the lost need to reckon with the infinite magnitude of their sin—that of calling their own Creator a liar! An infinite sin warrants infinite punishment, especially in light of the infinite sacrifice made for them by their Creator and the free gift of infinite life (I John 5:11) offered them by that loving God on the basis of His sacrifice. The punishment is more than merited by the crime.
5:10 the record. The same Greek word, in either verb or noun form (martureo, marturia) is translated “record” three times in this epistle, “testify” twice, and “witness” seven times. These words are also very common in John’s other writings. The frequent cost of such a “witness” is pointed up by the fact that we derive our word “martyr” from this Greek word.
5:12 hath life. The same division is stressed in John 3:18,36; Daniel 12:2; Matthew 7:13-14; 25:46; Revelation 21:6-8; 22:14-15; and others.
5:13 that ye may know. The most definitive basis for our assurance of salvation is true faith in “the name of the Son of God,” with whatever that entails. John has also given a number of tests for knowing that our faith in Him is true faith, not just mental assent to a tenet of faith. Such tests are noted in I John 2:3; 2:5; 2:6; 2:29; 3:2,3; 3:14; 3:18,19; 3:24; 4:13; 5:2. Compare also John 20:31.
5:16 sin unto death. The “sin unto death” does not refer to the unforgivable sin, which yields eternal spiritual death. That sin is, ultimately, refusal to accept Jesus Christ as Savior (John 3:36). No other sin precludes at least the possibility of repentance, faith and forgiveness. Therefore, the “sin unto death” can only refer to such flagrant sin on the part of a “brother” that God’s chastisement finally becomes physical death (I Corinthians 11:27-33; 5:5).
5:16 pray for it. There is thus no warrant in praying for the dead.
5:17 unrighteousness is sin. Here is a very succinct definition of sin. Note also such other definitions as in John 16:9, James 4:17; I John 3:4; Romans 3:23.
5:18 sinneth not. See notes on I John 3:6-10.
5:18 keepeth himself. “Keepeth” is used in the sense of “guardeth.” The born-again Christian will (or at least should) guard himself against the deceptions of Satan by constantly availing himself of “the whole armour of God” (Ephesians 6:10-18), by consciously resisting the devil steadfast in the faith (James 4:7; I Peter 5:8-9), and by following Christ’s example in silencing him with appropriate Scriptures (Matthew 4:1-11). To the extent we thus guard ourselves against the wiles of the devil, that “wicked one” cannot touch us, for “greater is He that is in [us], than he that is in the world” (I John 4:4).
5:19 wickedness. “Wickedness” here is explicitly referring to “that wicked one” of the previous verse. Satan indeed is now “the god of this world” (II Corinthians 4:4), the one “which deceiveth the whole world” (Revelation 12:9). We, however, “are of God” and certainly should not be pandering to the world system, as so many evangelicals today are wont to do.
5:21 idols. Idols are either physical images or mental constructs with which men try to explain and control the forces and systems of nature without acknowledging the one true God as Creator and Sustainer of all things. Paganism, with its pantheism and polytheism, worshipping the various forces and systems of nature personified as Mother Earth, with all her other personifications as various gods and goddesses, was rife in John’s day and, through various forms of evolutionism, has always been arrayed in opposition to the true God of creation and redemption. This is truer today than ever in history, and it is absolutely vital that true Christians should refrain from all forms of idolatry, whether rationalistic humanism, economic materialism, or New Age pantheism—all of which are founded on an evolutionary world view.