Sunday 7 June 2020
And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 1 John 5:11
John now uses the word translated as, marturia, for the sixth and final time in his epistle. All have been in verses 5:9-11. It is variously translated as “witness,” “testimony,” etc., but it is referring to the same thing, even if translators translate it differently in these verses. Simply translating all six uses as “testimony” would give the right sense to the reader. Concerning this, John begins this verse with, “And this is the testimony:”
It is the testimony which is greater than that of the testimony of man. (5:9)
It is the testimony which God has testified of His Son. (5:9)
It is the testimony one has in himself when he believes in the Son. (5:10)
It is the testimony of God which proves one a liar when he does not accept it. (5:10)
It is the testimony that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. (5:11)
As stated in the last statement, John defines this testimony as concerning the fact “that God Has given us eternal life.” It is an aorist verb, meaning He gave it one time for all time. However, two views are considered. The first is that this is speaking of eternal life being offered to the world, once for all, in the giving of His Son. It is a true statement, but is that the full intent of John’s words? The second is that God gave each person who believes in His Son eternal life, once for all-time.
What seems more probable is that it is the latter of the two. This is because the word “us” is the object – God gave to us. It is a historical fact that God gave Jesus once for all time. It is offered to all, but it only applies to believers and not to non-believers. That would be supported by John 3:16 –
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
The same phrase, zōēn aiōnion, or “eternal life” (without any article), is used in both. It is true that God gave His Son in His love for the world, but it is also true that only “whoever believes” in the Son will be given eternal life. That is because, as John next says, “and this life is in His Son.”
It cannot be argued that God has given His Son to nonbelievers resulting in eternal life. It can only be argued that He has given His Son for this purpose – whether it is ever realized in them or not. It is in Christ that the life is found. Without coming to Christ, one cannot say that, “The Bible says God has given me eternal life because of Jesus,” except in an anticipatory way. Until a person believes in the offer, it remains unappropriated by the person.
As Matthew Poole says, “His testimony, that this is his Son and the Christ, imports so much, that eternal life is in him, as the source and fountain of it; so that he gives it to us in no other way than in and by him.”
Once it is found in Him by a person (through faith), the eternal life has been given. It is done – once for all time. The same thought is generally found in 1 John 3:1 –
“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!”
The love of the Father is a fact that is based on being children of God. Eternal life is a fact because we have received the Son.
Life application: “And this is the testimony” is speaking of the internal witness of the previous verse – “He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself.” As noted, the same word is used in the Greek in both instances which ensures us that “the testimony” is understood in this context. In other words, “He who believes in the Son of God has witness in himself…that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.” This construct of this verse is another witness to the doctrine of eternal salvation.
The tense of the word “given” when united with the term “eternal life” indicates something that has been granted to us right now. In other words, we don’t need to anticipate an existence which goes on forever. Instead, it is already in our grasp and it has been given by God who cannot lie. The eternal life, which is in His Son, Jesus, is ours to enjoy from the moment we have the witness of Christ in ourselves.
As we walk through our day, failing in our Christian walk, we should be astounded at our eternal state and ever grateful that it was a gift given even when God knew we would continue to err. But, because of Jesus, God is pleased to grant that which is beyond us. This also should help us to reflect on those around us who are lost. As God has given life in His Son, then it must be true that there is no life without His Son. God doesn’t simply grant life to anyone for any reason. Rather, as sons of Adam, we are already separated from Him, and He is under no obligation to redeem us.
However, when He sent Jesus, He opened up an avenue by which restoration is offered, granted, and sealed. This path maintains His holiness and yet satisfies His righteousness. In other words, it is the surest deal in the universe. When the offer is accepted, complete and free access to eternal life is guaranteed.
O God, our God! Thank You for the sure witness we have because of Jesus Your Son. Even when we fall short and fail You, we have no fear that the pardon we received will ever be revoked. With all confidence, we can stand up, brush ourselves off, and continue in Your good grace – all because of the work of Jesus our Lord! Amen.