1 John


Argument Proper

xiii] True faith confirmed


Faith overcomes the world, a faith which is focused on the person and work of Jesus Christ, "the one who came by water and blood." God the Father testifies to the Son in "the water and the blood" / the person and work of Christ, which testimony is confirmed by the Spirit. "All who accept the testimony of the [Father] concerning his Son have eternal life, while those who do not accept it do not have eternal life", Kruse.


i] Context: See 4:7-12.


ii] Background: See 1:1-5.


iii] Structure: True faith confirmed:

God is life-giving light, let us walk in the light of his love

Argument #12, v4b-12:

Faith in the Father's testimony to his Son is the source of eternal life

Faith overcomes the world, sin and death, v4b-5;

God's threefold testimony to the Son, v6-9;

Acceptance of God's testimony to Christ, v10-12


iv] Interpretation:

A survey of the main commentaries indicates that John's argument at this point in his letter is "dense and allusive", Lieu:


*Wahlde suggests that John's argument at this point focuses on "the witness of the Spirit to Jesus", v6-8, and "the witness of God to Jesus", 9-12;

*Yarbrough suggests "God's testimony to Jesus, the object of saving faith", v6-9, and "human reception of God's testimony, v10-12;

*Kruse, on the other hand, suggests that the argument, beginning with v4b, shifts from love to faith, a faith which overcomes the world (particularly the false teaching propagated by the opponents / secessionists), a faith that leads to life;

*Lieu (he suggests that the argument runs from v4 to v13) sees faith / right belief as the focus of the passage, having left behind the issue of love, a love of God that evidences itself in a love of neighbour, 4:15-5:1. Lieu argues that right belief is not merely faith in God, but faith in God's Son, Jesus Christ. Only this core belief produces life;

*Smalley, who confines the argument to v5-13, suggests that this is the final requirement for discipleship, namely that we keep the faith; first, renounce sin, 3:4-9, second, be obedient, 3:10-24, third, reject worldliness, 4:1-6, fourth, be loving, 4:7-5:4, and now keep the faith. Believing and continuing in belief / faith in Christ, is justified by the authoritative witness of the Father through the Spirit and of the water and the blood, v6-9. Smalley proposes a step-by-step presentation of the argument by John. Verse 5 sets the subject, namely faith, then the witness to its validity, v6-9, and finally the results, v10-12. Verse 13 serves as a conclusion where the author states the purpose of writing;

*Schnackenburg, who is somewhat critical of John's literary prowess, confines the argument to v5-12. The subject is faith, a victorious faith, v5, a faith that rests on a true confession of Christ, unlike the confession / beliefs of the secessionists, v6. This faith rests firmly on the testimony of sound witnesses, v7-8, even of the Father himself, v9. The acceptance of this testimony entails believing or rejecting the Son, and thus salvation, the possession of life, or exclusion from divine grace.

*Brown thinks the argument covers v4b-12 and like most commentators opts for faith as the dominant theme, "the conquering power that has conquered the world", a faith that "involves content as well as commitment." Brown argues strongly that the letter of John can only be understood with an eye to the gospel of John. So, in the first sub-unit, v4b-8, Brown argues that John sets out the Christological content of faith in terms of the witness / testimony of Christ's life, death and resurrection, ie., water, blood and Spirit. The second sub-unit, v9-12, outlines the witness / testimony to the Son of God by the Father himself.


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 5:4b

Arguments in support of the proposition, #12 - Faith in the Father's testimony to his Son is the source of eternal life; "God gave us eternal life and this life is in his Son", v4b-12. i] A personal faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the means by which a believer overcomes the world of sin and death, v4b -5. Moving on from the subject of love, John now tackles the subject of faith. Saving faith entails a firm reliance in the truth that Jesus is the messiah, the divine man sent to save the world from sin and death. John tells us that such a faith, such a firm belief, overcomes the world. The world of sin and death is conquered by faith in Jesus Christ.

αυτη "this [is]" - [and] this [is]. The close demonstrative pronoun is forward referencing, "this" = "this faith".

ἡ νικη [η] "the victory" - the conquest, victory. Nominative subject of the verb to-be.

η νικησασα [νικαω] aor. act. part. "that has overcome / overcomes" - having overcome [the world]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "victory", "the victory which conquers the world". The NIV "has overcome", expressing the aorist as a completed act - a true aorist. A comprehensive aorist is possible, expressing a present act, NEB, Moffatt, even in a perfect sense, a past act with ongoing consequences. Brown opts for a true aorist, "conquered the world." It is not clear in what sense faith has conquered the world. Bruce, Schnackenburg, ... take the view that Christ conquered the world of sin and death and that a believer shares in that victory through faith. This seems the likely sense, but a more specific sense may be intended, namely, the expulsion of the secessionists, so Stott.

"even" - An assumed verb to-be is better than an ascensive και; "The victory which overcomes the world is our faith", Barclay.

ἡμων gen. pro. "our" - [the faith] of us. The genitive may be treated as adjectival, possessive, or verbal, subjective.

ἡ πιστις [ις εως] "faith" - the faith. The use of the noun is very rare for John. As John makes clear in v5, the faith that has overcome the world is expressed in a reliance / dependence / fidelity in/to the person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Conquering faith is not just an act of the will by itself, but has a Christological focus. Brown argues that "belief / faith" for John also includes public profession, but this seems a bit of a stretch.


de "-" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the argument. This variant is likely to be original and is probably slightly inferential; "who then is the person who overcomes the world?"

tivV pro. "who" - who. Masculine. Interrogative pronoun. Here it is the individual believer, in and through Christ, who conquers the world. John is possibly referring to a victory over the temptations of the world, but more likely a victory over death - the curse of a world infested by sin.

ὁ νικων [νικαω] pres. part. "that overcomes [the world]" - [is] the one overcoming [the world]. The participle serves as a substantive.

ει μη "only" - save, except, if not. Introducing an exceptive clause expressing a contrast by designating an exception; "Who can ever conquer the world .... except the man who really believes", Phillips.

ὁ πιστευων [πιστευω] pres. part. "he who believes" - the one believing. The participle serves as a substantive.

οτι "that" - that [jesus is the son of god]. Introducing a dependent statement of indirect speech expressing the content of the faith, namely, a belief that Jesus is the "Son of God." Is this belief messianic or filial (father son relationship)? In v1a the same formula is used with "Son of God" replaced by "Christ" indicating a messianic sense for "Son of God" is intended.


ii] God the Father's threefold testimony to the messianic authority of the Son, namely, the Spirit, the water and the blood, v6-9. John claims "that at the heart of orthodox Christian belief is the confession (which needs to be maintained) that Jesus is not only the Son of God and Messiah, but also one whose advent was entirely historical (ie., "came by water and blood"), Smalley. Along with this objective witness to Christ, there is the subjective witness of the Holy Spirit, confirming to the believer the truth about Christ. The Holy Spirit confirms to our spirit the truth of Jesus' person and work. So, the truth is revealed to us subjectively and objectively. We have the witness of the Spirit in our own hearts, and the signs of Jesus' life, death and resurrection - they all witness to the same truth.

οὑτος "this" - The close demonstrative pronoun references forward to "Jesus Christ"; "Jesus Christ, this is the one who came ..."

ὁ ελθων [ερχομαι] "the one who came" - [is] the one having come. The participle serves as a substantive.

δι [δια] + gen. "by" - through, by means of. Instrumental, expressing means.

ὑδατος [ωρ ατος] gen. "water" - water [and blood, jesus christ]. John's readers probably understood the reference to water and blood, but we are somewhat in the dark. None-the-less, it is likely that the water and blood refers to the totality of Christ's ministry on earth, his incarnation, baptism, death, resurrection and ascension, but specifically his Spirit empowered ministry encapsulate by his baptism in water when he received the Spirit in full measure, and the shedding of his blood on the cross. Christ's ministry reveals the one who is fully man and fully God (Brown thinks the stress is on fully man), the divine man. So, "the true identity of Jesus, the writer appears to be saying, is only to be discovered by looking at the whole of his life, including its end", Smalley. A less likely interpretation going all the way back to Augustine, is that John is referring to the flow of water and blood at Jesus' crucifixion, Jn.19:34. This event evidences the reality of Christ's death and "makes the manifestation of the divine life in the cosmos (the incarnation) into a fruitful effusion for the cosmos", Schnackenburg. John, in his gospel, points to the significance of this event, although as here, the significance is somewhat lost on us (note in the gospel it is "blood and water"). An even less likely interpretation, going all the way back to Tertullian, is that water and blood refers to the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's supper. Another possible interpretation is that Christ's humanity is being stressed by imaging his natural birth - the water and blood associated with birthing. Although John's imagery here remains unclear, it seems best to take the view that he is evoking a familiar illusion for his readers, "emphasising that the one whose story they were familiar with, and whose significance for them was encapsulated by this set of images, is the Son of God", Lieu. It is likely, therefore, that "the water and blood" entails the gospel, that which was fulfilled in Christ's life, death and resurrection for the realisation of the kingdom; a divine message from God which testifies to his Son and is confirmed by the Spirit.

εν + dat. "[he did not come] by [water alone]" - [not] in = by [water alone]. Usually taken here as instrumental, expressing means, so Bruce, Schnackenburg, ..., although it is strange that John should make a change from δια at this point. The position of δια between two anarthrous nouns indicates it covers the two together, a single package as it were. Here εν is placed before each noun. The different construction implies a different sense. What we may have is an adverbial use of the preposition, expressing manner; "not with water alone, but with water and with blood." The whole package, water + blood, reveals the nature / manner of the God-man's life, Jesus Christ, the focus of genuine faith.

all (alla) "but" - but [in = by water and in = by blood]. Strong adversative standing in a counterpoint construction; "not ...., but ....."

και "-" - and. Probably coordinative, although some argue that it introduces a new sentence which includes v7.

το μαρτυρουν [μαρτυρεω] pres. part. "who testifies" - [the spirit is] the one testifying, witnessing. The participle serves as a substantive; "the one who bears witness." The one who testifies is the Holy Spirit and he testifies now (durative present tense). This testimony may come through the exposition of the scriptures; "The Spirit's testifying role is mainly bearing witness to believers concerning the truth of the message about Jesus that they heard from the beginning", Kruse. Possibly John has in mind an inward confirming of the Spirit. If this is the case, the witness to Christ is both objective, "water and blood", and subjective, inward, so Stott. The inward testimony of the Spirit authenticates the objective testimony of water and blood / Christ's life spent for us.

ὁτι "for" - because. Introducing a causal clause explaining why the Spirit testifies to Christ; "because", as the Spirit of truth he is both fitted and constrained to do so, so Westcott.

εστιν [ειμι] pres. "is" - [the spirit] is [the truth]. He is "the source of and guarantees Truth", Wahlde. "Truth" is often capitalised when the construction is viewed as a poetic identification of the Spirit.


ὁτι "For" - because. Possibly introducing a causal clause explaining why "the Spirit is the truth", although Culy suggests it may stand in apposition to the causal clause in v6b, "because the Spirit is the truth, and because there are three that testify." Smalley suggests it is emphatic, more reason than cause, and serves to expand on the statement that "it is the Spirit who testifies" - "in fact, there are actually three witnesses, not just the Spirit." "Indeed, there are three witnesses ...", Smalley.

οἱ μαρτυρουντες [μαρτυρεω] pres. part. "that testify" - the ones giving testimony [are three]. The participle serves as a substantive, nominative subject of the verb to-be. The use of the masculine is interesting when Spirit, water and blood are all neuter. Wahlde suggests that here the three witnesses allude to the proper number of witnesses, Deut.19:15.


εις το ἑν "are in agreement" - [the spirit and the water and the blood and the three are] to the one. The construction "into the one" is unique to the NT so the sense is unclear. It is likely that the preposition εις takes its usual directional sense "toward, into", leading to convergence, a goal. "The three lead to the same conclusion or 'are in agreement'", Culy. It is suggested that under Aramaic influence the preposition may stand for a predicate nominative, so "are one." Brown opts for a melding of both possibilities with "these three are of one accord."


The source of this testimony, this witness, this revelation, is God the Father; it is he who witness to the Son in "the water and the blood" through "the Spirit." We give weight to the words of predominant Bible teachers, and so if we willingly view their words as significant, then surely the testimony of God should be viewed as even more significant.

ει + ind. "-" - if. Introducing a conditional clause 1st. class where the condition is assumed to be true; "if, as is the case, ....... then God's testimony is greater" John argues from the lesser to the greater. If, as is the case, the testimony of prophets, teachers and the like is viewed as significant, then surely the testimony of God must be viewed as even more significant ("greater").

των ανθρωπων [ος] gen. "man's / human [testimony]" - [we receive the testimony, witness] of men. The genitive is possibly verbal, subjective, so Culy, Yarbrough, ... possibly ablative, source / origin, "from men", but probably just adjectival, attributive, limiting "testimony"; "If we are prepared to accept human testimony", Phillips, as NIV, etc.

του θεου [ος] gen. "God's [testimony]" - [the testimony, witness] of god [is greater]. The genitive as for "testimony of men." Presumably the divine "testimony" that John has in mind is that of the "water and blood" / Christ's ministry of word and sign, along with that of the Spirit.

ὁτι "because" - because [this is the testimony, witness]. Introducing a causal clause explaining why God's testimony is greater / more significant than the testimony of the prophets, teachers, .... The answer lies not in the nature of the divine, of God being God, but in the Christological content of God's testimony itself - because it concerns the Son.

ὁτι "-" - that [he testified]. The second use of this conjunction introduces an epexegetic clause specifying auth, "this"; "this is the testimony of God, that he has borne concerning his Son", ESV. The resulting construction is somewhat awkward; "because this is the testimony of God, namely, he bore witness concerning his Son." Phillips overcomes the awkward nature of the sentence by incorporating the sense of the causal and epexegetic clauses into the conditional clause itself; "if we are prepared to accept human testimony, God's own testimony concerning his own Son is surely infinitely more valuable."

περι + gen. "concerning" - about, concerning. Reference / respect; "with respect to his Son."

αυτου gen. pro. "his" - [the son] of him. The genitive is adjectival, relational.


iii] The acceptance of God's testimony to Christ, v10-12. A person who is a believer ("believes in the Son of God") is someone who "has" / has appropriated εν ἑαυτῳ, "in himself", God's testimony concerning his Son (ie., the gospel / "water and blood"), which appropriation (through the Spirit) generates life in all its fullness. A person who does not accept this testimony, by implication calls God a liar and inevitably does not possess life eternal. "This passage presents the content of the confession about Jesus Christ that believers are to have and to hold", Thompson.

ὁ πιστευων [πιστευω] pres. part. "whoever believes" - the one believing. The participle serves as a substantive; "the believer." "The person who chooses to put their trust in the Son of God", Junkins.

εν + dat. "in" - Always either belief εν, "in", or εις, "into", expressing a sense of union with, personal engagement with, dependence on.

του θεου [ος] gen. "of God" - [the son] of god. The genitive is adjectival, relational.

εχει [εχω] pres. "accepts" - has, possesses. The verb with the adverbial prepositional phrase εν ἑαυτῳ, "in himself", gives the sense "appropriates", as NIV. It is likely that the reflective pronoun ἑαυτῳ, "himself", is not original; the personal pronoun αυτῳ, "him" is probably original, but koine Gk will often use a personal pronoun reflectively. The sense "in him" = "in the Son of God", is obviously not intended.

μαρτυριαν [α] "this testimony" - the testimony, witness [in himself]. Accusative direct object of the verb "to have." Referring to the "the water and the blood" confirmed by the Spirit = the testimony of God the Father. Referring back, so "this testimony."

ὁ μη πιστευων [πιστευω] pres. part. "whoever does not believe" - the one not believing. The participle serves as a substantive. The negation ου would be expected with a participle, but John doesn't always follow proper form.

τῳ θεῳ [ος] dat. "God" - god [has made]. Dative of direct object after the verb "to believe." Culy notes the possibility that John has not used either εν, "in", or εις, "into", because the belief here is not a personal commitment to God, but a belief / acceptance of his testimony. He notes that such a subtle distinction cannot be pressed, but it possibly applies here; "The person who does not believe (accept, appropriate) the testimony of God makes him out to be a liar." Variants exist with "Son of God" rather than "God." Plummer suggests that originally no object was supplied. No manuscript evidence exists to support his view, but it looks very likely; "The person who does not believe in the Son of God has made God (Gk. αυτον, "him") a liar (makes God out to be a liar), because he has not believed in the testimony which God testifies concerning his Son." This is surely the sense of the clause, even if does not properly reflect the Gk.

yeusthn (hV ou) "[him] out to be a liar" - [him] a liar. Accusative complement of the direct object "him" standing in a double accusative construction and stating something about the direct object "him".

ὁτι "because" - because. Introducing a causal clause explaining why a person who does not "believe God" makes God out to be a liar. Such a person disregards God's witness / testimony, implying that it is not true.

περι + gen. "about [his Son]" - [he has not believed the testimony which god testified] about [the son of him]. Reference; "about, concerning".


και "and" - and [this is the testimony]. Introducing a explanation of "the testimony", v10; "Now this is the testimony."

ὁτι "-" - that. Introducing an epexegetic clause specifying the demonstrative pronoun αὑτη, "this", which is taken as referencing forward. Some commentators think the pronoun references back to v9-10; "God's testimony is that he has made a saving disclosure regarding his Son", Yarbrough. In this case v11-12 explain what this mans / amounts to for those who believe, so Marshall, namely, "eternal life."

ἡμιν dat. pro. "us" - [god gave life eternal] to us. Dative of indirect object / interest, advantage.

εν + dat. "in [his Son]" - [and this life is] in [the son of him]. Local, expressing space / sphere. The saving testimony / witness of God, namely the component elements concerning the person and work of Jesus Christ / "the water and the blood", "all end with his Son", Schnackenburg.


ὁ εχων [εχω] pres. part. "whoever has [the Son]" - the one having [the son has the life, the one not having the son of god does not have the life]. The participle serves as a substantive. The verb "have / possess" again prompts a necessary expansion for the sake of meaning; "This then is the nub of the matter, the person who has a genuine relationship with the Son has life, the person who does not have a genuine relationship with the Son does not have life." To possess the Son of God is to possess life eternal, or as v10 puts it, to believe in the Son of God is to possess life.


1 John Introduction



[Pumpkin Cottage]