For an introduction to this series, click here.
January 22, 2008
John wraps up his epistle with a summary of a lot of the things he has already written.
"Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world— our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (5:1-5)
There is no great secret to a victorious Christian life. The two things we must do are to love God and keep His commandments. By these two things we will gain victory over the world and have confidence in the Lord.
"This is he who came by water and blood— Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life." (5:6-12)
John here points out the baptism of Christ: "water" - the physical death of Christ: "blood" - and the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit to prove that Christ came in the flesh and was and is the Son of God. These three never change and speak to all people at all times of the work of Christ. In addition, we as believers have the confirmation of the Spirit in our own lives, and as we tell others, that makes a fourth witness. The reference to the blood is very important, since a spirit cannot shed blood. John was once again seeking to refute the false teaching of gnosticism by proving that the Lord Jesus was 100% fleshly man, yet without sin.
No discussion of this passage is complete without discussing the Johanine Comma. Here is how the King James Version renders verses 7-8: "For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one." Now of course the added statement is true. The doctrine of the Trinity is firmly established in Scripture. The question is, is that what John originally wrote? Now of course I am not an expert in this subject, but the nearly unanimous agreement among all scholars is that John never wrote that. I did a little bit of research on it, and apparently it was first found in copies of the Latin Vulgate, the Latin translation of the Bible that was the standard for the Catholic Church for nearly 1,000 years. The Catholic Church also worked to preserve the Greek text (of course they were not the only organization to do so, but they had the most resources and were the most systematic). The verse started showing up in copies of the Greek New Testament about the year 900, apparently as someone decided to add in Greek what was there in some Latin copies. Again, I don't know how they date them, but there are ways to read a manuscript and tell about what time and what place the manuscript was written. Even though it is a true statement, it is best to look at the evidence and conclude that it is probably not what John originally wrote and discard it. The Comma interrupts John's argument. He is arguing that there are three witnesses that testify about Christ, and then all of a sudden you have that other verse thrown in. I know there are other disjointed arguments in Scripture, but it is a consideration.
"If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life— to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death. We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him. We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols." (5:16-21, ESV)
John concludes his epistle with a strange warning. He says that we should pray for our brothers who sin, but he adds that there is a sin unto death, that we should not pray for. That really seems odd. Clearly, the only sin for which man cannot be forgiven is the sin of rejecting Christ. All other sins can be forgiven and have been forgiven by the Lord. I guess what John is trying to say here - and I could be completely wrong - is that God will work on our behalf in the life of a brother who is sinning when we pray for him. But God cannot help those who are constantly rejecting the Gospel of Christ. At least not in the same way.
John concludes his book by reminding his readers of the simplicity of Scripture. He says that they have been given understanding from the Lord, and they know the truth. The problems come when we are seduced by false teachers and we forget to weigh their teaching against what we already know to be true. All of the error and falsehood that is in Christianity today is directly traceable to that fact: people heard something that sounded good and they did not review it against the Scripture.