Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the Father also loves the one born of Him.
I. THE REASON OF THE OBLIGATION OF BROTHERLY LOVE. The duty to love our Christian brethren is here based upon our common relation to God. The order of the apostle's thought seems to be this:
1. The Christian brother is a true believer in Jesus the Christ. "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ" is included by St. John among the Christian fraternity. The genuine Christian accepts Jesus as the Christ of God, the Anointed of the Father for the great work of human redemption. He looks to him as the Being in whom ancient prophecies are fulfilled, and in whom the noblest expectation and the purest desire of the human race are realized. And the belief of which the apostle writes is not the mere intellectual acceptation of the proposition that Jesus is the Christ, but the hearty acceptation of Jesus himself as the Saviour appointed by God. Every one who thus receives him is a true member of the Christian brotherhood.
2. Every true believer in Jesus the Christ is a child of God. "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is begotten of God." Where there is genuine faith in our Lord and Saviour there is a new moral disposition. The Christian believer is born anew of the Spirit of God. "As many as received him [i.e., Jesus the Christ], to them gave he the right to become children of God, even to them that believe on his Name," etc. (John 1:12, 13). "If any man is in Christ he is a new creature," etc. (2 Corinthians 5:17) - he has new sympathies, new purposes, new principles, new relationships, a new spirit. He has the filial spirit, "the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father."
3. Every child of God should be loved by the children of God. "Whosoever loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him."
(1) It is taken for granted that the child of God loves his Divine Parent. In whomsoever the new life beats there is love to God. In the spiritual realm love is life. "Every one that loveth is begotten of God, and knoweth God." The highest life is that of supreme love to God; and, where this is, love to the brotherhood will not be absent. "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar," etc. (1 John 4:20, 21).
(2) From the fact that the child of God loves his Divine Parent, St. John makes this deduction, that he will love the children of God. It is natural and right that he who loves the Father should also love his children, or that the children of the one Father should love each other. Here, then, is the reason of the obligation to love our Christian brethren. We believe in one Lord and Saviour; we are children of the one Divine Father; we are members of one spiritual family; we are characterized by some measure of moral resemblance to each other, for each is to some extent like unto the Father of all; we are animated by the same exalted and invigorating hope; and we are looking forward to the same bright and blessed home. That we should love each other is in the highest degree natural and reasonable.
II. THE EVIDENCE OF THE: GENUINENESS OF BROTHERLY LOVE. "Hereby we know that we love the children of God, when we love God," etc. (verses 2, 3). Two remarks, we think, will help us to apprehend the meaning of St. John.
1. Our love to the brethren is genuine when we love God. "Hereby we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and do his commandments." We may love our Christian brethren for other and inferior reasons than that of their relation to the heavenly Father; we may love them because they are rich in worldly goods, or because they are gifted and clever, or because they arc amiable and attractive, or because they bold the same political principles, or believe the same theological opinions, or belong to the same ecclesiastical party, as we do. But love for any of these reasons is not necessarily and essentially Christian love. The genuine Christian affection towards the brethren is to love them because they believe that Jesus is the Christ, and they are the children of God. In the consciousness of our love to God we have evidence that we love our Christian brethren as his children.
2. Our love to God is genuine when we cheerfully keep his commandments. "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments; and his commandments are not grievous."
(1) The divinely appointed test of love to God is obedience to his commandments. "If ye love me, ye will keep my commandments He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me," etc. (John 14:15, 21, 23); "If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love," etc. (John 15:10); "This is love, that we should walk after his commandments" (2 John 1:6). Genuine love is not a merely sentimental, but a practical thing.
(2) The obedience which springs from love is cheerful. "His commandments are not grievous" to them that love him. Love is not only life, but inspiration, courage, and strength; therefore, as love to God increases, obedience to his commands becomes easier and more delightful. "I confess," says Watson, "to him that hath no love to God, religion must needs be a burden; and I wonder not to hear him say, ' What a weariness is it to serve the Lord!' It is like rowing against the tide. But love oils the wheels; it makes duty a pleasure. Why are the angels so swift and winged in God's service, but because they love him? Jacob thought seven years but little for the love he did bear to Rachel. Love is never weary; he who loves money is not weary of toiling for it; and he who loves God is not weary of serving him." Says Miss Austin, "Where love is there is no labour; and if there he labour, that labour is loved." Will our love to God bear this test of cheerful obedience to his commands? Then do we love him truly; and so loving him, we shall love all his children. - W.J.
I. WHAT IS THE BELIEVING INTENDED IN THE TEXT?
Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God1 John 4:2, 15). Now in the apostles' days every Christian as such believed that Jesus was the Christ. By this belief and its confession he was distinguished from a Jew on the one side and a heathen on the other; and the same might be said of the confession that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, for this in the apostle's eyes would be the same as that Jesus is the Christ, for if He was the Christ, His assertion of Himself as being the true and only begotten of God, who came down from heaven, must be true, for God would never send into the world one who would so misrepresent His truth as to say that He was His special anointed messenger and representative when He was not; and so with Jesus being the Son of God of 1 John 4:14.
1. The believing here intended is that which our Lord and His apostles exhorted men to exercise, and to which the promise of salvation is always appended in the Word of God.
2. The faith here intended is the duty of all men. Jesus Christ is worthy of the confidence of all men; it is therefore the duty of men to confide in Him.
3. At the same time this faith, wherever it exists, is in every case, without exception, the gift of God and the work of the Holy Spirit. He has wrought all our works in us, and our faith too.
4. The faith intended in the text evidently rests upon a person — upon Jesus. "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God." What is meant by "Jesus is the Christ," or Jesus is the Anointed? First, that He is the Prophet; secondly, that He is the Priest; thirdly, that He is the King of the Church, for in all these three senses He is the Anointed.
5. True faith is reliance. Have you confidence as well as credence? A creed will not save you, but reliance upon the anointed Saviour is the way of salvation. Moreover, true faith is not a flattering presumption, by which a man says, "I believe I am saved, for I have such delightful feelings, I have had a marvellous dream, I have felt very wonderful sensations;" for all such confidence may be nothing but sheer assumption. Faith, again, is not the assurance that Jesus died for me. On such a theory every believer in a universal atonement would necessarily be born of God, which is very far from being the case. Neither is it faith for me to be confident that I am saved, for it may be the case that I am not saved, and it can never be faith to believe a lie.
II. We must now pass on to show that WHEREVER IT EXISTS IT IS THE PROOF OF REGENERATION. "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God." "Ah!" I hear thee say, poor soul, "the new birth is a great mystery; I am afraid I am not a partaker in it." You are born again if you are relying upon a crucified Saviour. Mystery or no mystery, the new birth is yours if you are a believer. Electricity is a great mystery, and you cannot see it; but the operator tells you that the electric current is moving along the wire. How does he know? "I know it by the needle." How is that? I could move your needles easily. "Yes; but do not you see the needle has made two motions to the right, one to the left, and two to the right again? I am reading a message." "But," say you, "I can see nothing in it; I could imitate that clicking and moving very easily." Yet he who is taught the art sees before him in those needles, not only electric action, but a deeper mystery still; he perceives that a mind is directing the invisible force, and speaking by means of it. Not to all, but to the initiated is it given to see the mystery hidden within the simplicity. The believer sees in the faith, which is simple as the movements of the needle, an indication that God is operating on the human mind, and the spiritual man discerns that there is an inner secret intimated thereby, which the carnal eye cannot decipher. To believe in Jesus is a better indicator of regeneration than anything else, and in no case did it ever mislead. Now let me reply to certain questions. Must not a man repent as well as believe? Reply: No man ever believed but what he repented at the same time. Faith and repentance go together. They must. If I trust Christ to save me from sin, I am at the same time repenting of sin, and my mind is changed in relation to sin, and everything else that has to do with its state. All the fruits meet for repentance are contained in faith itself.
III. NOW WHAT FLOWS OUT OF THIS? Love is the legitimate issue I We must love if we are begotten of God all those who are also born of God. First, I love God, and therefore I desire to promote God's truth, and to keep God's gospel free from taint. But then I am to love all those whom God has begotten, despite the infirmities and errors I see in them, being also myself compassed about with infirmities. Life is the reason for love, the common life which is indicated by the common faith in the dear Redeemer is to bind us to each other.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. FAITH — "whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ." Jesus is found to be all that the Scripture predictions declared the Messiah should be. They who discover this harmony can say, "we have found the Messiahs, which is, being interpreted, the Christ." Even in this state of mind there are the elements of rich promise, but there is far more in the reception of Jesus as the Christ. He is acknowledged, not merely in general terms, as a Divine Saviour; but He is appreciated in the special offices which He bears for the redemption of men.
II. THE REGENERATION CONNECTED WITH IT — "is born of God." Faith and regeneration are united. This view is brought out still more fully in John 1:12, 13. We ask what must be the moral effect produced by accepting Christ in His gracious offices? It is plain it. must be vital and saving. We see at once how just and reasonable is the representation of the text — that faith and regeneration are united.
III. IN EVERY MIND THUS INFLUENCED THE LOVE OF GOD OBTAINS A PROMINENT PLACE. "Everyone that loveth Him that begat." It must be so, considering the change that has been produced. It is a new birth. God is seen to be the only Master who can claim unreserved obedience. A mind thus enlightened must love God. Especially must it be so when it is considered that He is the Author of this change. In His gracious love He has been pleased to put forth His power, and create the soul anew in righteousness. How calculated is such a contemplation to call forth the warmest exercise of love! Add to this, that when such a change is effected in the soul by God, it brings us into a new relation to Him, and one that eminently calls forth our love. It is that of a child. It is natural to a child to love his parent. Nor let it be overlooked how God is continually increasing His claims on His own children. They are constrained to say (Ephesians 1:3).
IV. THE LOVE OF GOD IS ACCOMPANIED BY THE LOVE OF MAN. "Everyone that loveth Him that begat, loveth Him also that is begotten of Him."
(J. Morgan, D. D.)
(H. W. Beecher.)
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