The First Letter from John

Chapter 5

He who loves God loves his children and keeps his commandments, 1, 2; which to the faithful are not grievous, 3-8. Jesus is the Son of God, 9-13; and is able to hear our prayers, 14-21.

1 Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God. And everyone who loves him who begot loves him also who is begotten by him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God: when we love God and keep his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God: that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not grievous. 4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that overcomes the world: our faith.

5 Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 6 This is he who came by water and blood: Jesus Christ—not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who bears testimony, because the Spirit is truth. 7 For there are three who bear testimony in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit—and these three are one. 8 And there are three that bear testimony on earth: the Spirit, the water, and the blood—and these three agree in one. 9 If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God which he has testified of his Son. 10 He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself. He who does not believe God has made him a liar because he has not believed the testimony that God gave of his Son. 11 And this is the testimony: that God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 He who has the Son has life, and he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.

13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life and that you may believe in the name of the Son of God. 14 And this is the confidence that we have in him: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired from him.

16 If any man sees his brother sin a sin which is not to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life for those who do sin not leading to death. There is a sin to death. I do not say that he shall pray for it. 17 All unrighteousness is sin, and there is a sin not to death.

18 We know that whoever is born of God does not sin. But he who is begotten of God keeps himself, and that wicked one does not touch him. 19 And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lies in wickedness. 20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.

21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.


Matthew Henry Commentary - 1st John, Chapter 5


[v.6] - "by water and by blood" - From John Gill's Exposition: "By 'blood' as well as water; by which is meant, not the blood of bulls and goats; Christ came to put an end unto, and lay aside the shedding of that blood; but his own blood is intended, and not reconciliation and atonement for the sins of his people, which was what he came to do, and has done, and not what he came by: but the sense is, that as at baptism, so at his sufferings and death, he was made manifest to be the Son of God; as he was to the centurion and others, that were with him, when they observed the earthquake, and the things that were done; and at his from the dead he was declared to be the Son of God with power: and this might be seen in the cleansing and atoning virtue of his blood, which is owing to his being the Son of God. There may be here an allusion to the water and blood which came out of his side, when pierced on the cross, which this Apostle John was an eyewitness of."

[v.7-8] - This verse has been a controversial one for centuries. Many translations omit the text, "in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit—and these three are one. And there are three that bear testimony on earth," citing a lack of support in a number of Greek manuscripts. I will give comments from four different sources on the issue, two examples of each argument. 1) Arguing for the text, John Calvin said this in his commentary: "The whole of this verse has been by some omitted. Jerome thinks that this has happened through design rather than through mistake, and that indeed only on the part of the Latins. But as even the Greek copies do not agree, I dare not assert anything on the subject. Since, however, the passage flows better when this clause is added, and as I see that it is found in the best and most approved copies, I am inclined to receive it as the true reading. And the meaning would be, that God, in order to confirm most abundantly our faith in Christ, testifies in three ways that we ought to acquiesce in him. For as our faith acknowledges three persons in the one divine essence, so it is called in so many ways to Christ that it may rest on him." 2) John Owen provided criticism on Calvin's comment by saying, "Calvin probably refers to printed copies in his day, and not to Greek [manuscripts]. As far as the authority of [manuscripts] and versions and quotations goes, the passage is spurious, for it is not found in any of the Greek [manuscripts] prior to the 16th century, nor in any of the early versions, except the Latin, nor in some of the copies of that version; nor is it quoted by any of the early Greek fathers, nor by early Latin fathers, except a very few, and even their quotations have been disputed. These are facts which no refined conjectures can upset; and it is to be regretted that learned men, such as the late Bishop Burgess, should have labored and toiled in an attempt so hopeless as to establish the genuineness of this verse, or rather of a part of this verse, and of the beginning of the following. The whole passage is as follows, the spurious part being put within crotchets,— '7. For there are three who bear witness [in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one: 8. And there are three who bear witness in earth,] the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree in one.' As to the construction of the passage, as far as grammar and sense are concerned, it may do with or without the interpolation equally the same. What has been said to the contrary on this point, seems to be nothing of a decisive character, in no way sufficient to show that the words are not spurious. Indeed, the passage reads better without the interpolated words; and as to the sense, that is, the sense in which they are commonly taken by the advocates of their genuineness, it has no connection whatever with the general drift of the passage." 3) The Pulpit Commentary provided a more concise criticism of the text by saying, "It will be assumed here, without discussion, that the remainder of this verse and the first clause of verse 8 are spurious. Words which are not contained in a single Greek uncial manuscript, nor in a single Greek cursive earlier than the fourteenth century (the two which contain the passage being evidently translated from the Vulgate), nor are quoted by a single Greek Father during the whole of the Trinitarian controversy, nor are found in any authority until late in the fifth century, cannot be genuine." 4) Finally, in Matthew Henry's Commentary, before the text is explained, this note is given: "We are stopped in our course by the contest there is about the genuineness of verse 7. It is alleged that many old Greek manuscripts do not have it. We shall not here enter into the controversy. It should seem that the critics are not agreed what manuscripts have it and what do not; nor do they sufficiently inform us of the integrity and value of the manuscripts they peruse. Some may be so faulty, as I have an old printed Greek Testament so full of errata, that one would think no critic would establish a various lection thereupon. But let the judicious collators of copies manage that business. There are some rational surmises that seem to support the present text and reading."

[v.16] - "There is a sin to death" - John Calvin has a lot to say on this statement in his commentary: "I have already said that the sin to which there is no hope of pardon left, is thus called. But it may be asked, what this is; for it must be very atrocious, when God thus so severely punishes it. It may be gathered from the context, that it is not, as they say, a partial fall, or a transgression of a single commandment, but apostasy, by which men wholly alienate themselves from God. For the Apostle afterwards adds, that the children of God do not sin, that is, that they do not forsake God, and wholly surrender themselves to Satan, to be his slaves. Such a defection, it is no wonder that it is mortal; for God never thus deprives his own people of the grace of the Spirit; but they ever retain some spark of true religion. They must then be reprobate and given up to destruction, who thus fall away so as to have no fear of God.

"Were any one to ask, whether the door of salvation is closed against their repentance; the answer is obvious, that as they are given up to a reprobate mind, and are destitute of the Holy Spirit, they cannot do anything else, than with obstinate minds, become worse and worse, and add sins to sins. Moreover, as the sin and blasphemy against the Spirit ever brings with it a defection of this kind, there is no doubt but that it is here pointed out.

"But it may be asked again, by what evidences can we know that a man's fall is fatal; for except the knowledge of this was certain, in vain would the Apostle have made this exception, that they were not to pray for a sin of this kind. It is then right to determine sometimes, whether the fallen is without hope, or whether there is still a place for a remedy. This, indeed, is what I allow, and what is evident beyond dispute from this passage; but as this very seldom happens, and as God sets before us the infinite riches of his grace, and bids us to be merciful according to his own example, we ought not rashly to conclude that any one has brought on himself the judgment of eternal death; on the contrary, love should dispose us to hope well. But if the impiety of some appear to us not otherwise than hopeless, as though the Lord pointed it out by the finger, we ought not to contend with the just judgment of God, or seek to be more merciful than he is."

[v.18a] - "does not sin" - That is, does not continue to sin and remain in that sin.

[v.18b] - "begotten of God" - This is referring to Christ. See John 1:14.

[v.21] - "keep" - To keep is also to guard (see also Proverbs 4:23). So, this verse can also be read as, "guard yourselves from idols." Matthew Henry adds here, "Since you know the true God, and are in Him, let your light and love guard you against all that is advanced in opposition to Him, or competition with Him."