xii] Begotten of GodArgument
John now looks at the nature of belief and how it evidences itself in the Christian life. He starts out looking at belief in Christ and its fruit of love. He then considers how love applies to our relationship with God - we seek to do his will. He then returns to the apostolic nature of faith as the instrument by which the rule of God (the kingdom of God) asserts itself in our age.
i] Context: See 4:7-12.
ii] Background: See 1:1-5.
iii] Structure: A commendation of faith:
God is life-giving light, let us walk in the light of his love
Argument #11, v5-4a:
Faith and love:
Belief accesses the love of God, v1-3;
Belief overcomes the world, v4a.
"The latter half of 1 John 4 stresses the agapic and ethical dimension of relationship with God in Christ: love and obedience are rhetorically paramount", Yarbrough. Now, in chapter 5, there is a shift from love to faith, not so much what faith affirms, but faith as a subjective act of believing, a personal faith in Christ. This act of believing in Jesus is the means by which we access the love of God and bear the fruit of right living, as against "the world's downward pull", Loader
v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.
Text - 5:1
Arguments in support of the proposition, #11 - Faith and love, v1-4a: i] Belief accesses the love of God, v1-3. John again repeats a point he has made a number of times. The person who "is born of God", who is a child of God, who is saved, is someone who "believes that Jesus is the Christ". Christianity is constantly invaded by secular shibboleths, and so the deity we worship may not be the God of the Bible. Salvation is dependent on a faith which rests on a right understanding of the person and work of Jesus. That is, it is a creedal faith, an apostolic faith. John goes on to link believing with "love". He has already done this several times. A genuine faith in Christ issues in a life of love - love is the fruit of faith.
oJ pisteuwn (pisteuw) pres. part. "[everyone] who believes" - [all] the ones believing. Usually expressed by an articular participle serving as a substantive, but John commonly adds paV, "all", cf. v4 (3:3, 3:4, ...). If we treat paV, "all", as an adjective, then the participle serves as a substantive, but if we treat paV as a substantive, "everyone", then the participle serves as an attributive adjective limiting "everyone". The "believing" here is present tense and the "born" of God, or more literally "has already been begotten" of God, is perfect. This raises the issue of the ordo salutis - the stages of salvation. The syntax may imply that regeneration precedes and therefore enables faith. This leans toward a Calvinist view of salvation, namely, that faith is preceded by a regenerative work which enables faith and thus, the completion of God's sovereign work of regeneration. Yet, the syntax can also imply that regeneration is a present and continuing reality for a person who believes. In this case, faith is the instrument of regeneration. The debate over the relationship between faith and regeneration hinges on what is meant by faith. Some see faith as a spiritual gift from God, others as a human trust facilitating reliance on the faithfulness of Christ. Clearly, regeneration is a sovereign work of God's grace and is not a gift dependent on the quality of a person's faith, but on the quality of Christ's sacrifice. So, faith is not a good work rewarded with regeneration. None-the-less, it is reasonable to argue that faith is a reliance on the faithfulness of Christ, which, on the human side, is a weak and feeble response as small as a mustard seed, and yet a response that taps into God's sovereign grace.
oJti "that" - that. Introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing the content of the faith.
oJ cristoV (oV) "the Christ" - [jesus is] the christ. Predicate nominative. Faith is focused on the truth that Jesus is the Messiah who facilitates the realisation of the promised blessings of the Abrahamic covenant.
gegennhtai (gennaw) perf. ind. "is born" - has been born, begotten, regenerated, born anew. See above on the issue of the tense.
ek + gen. "of [God]" - from [god]. Expressing source / origin - as of the one who produces the offspring, Culy.
paV oJ agapwn (agapaw) pres. part. "everyone who loves" - [and] all the one loving. The construction as for paV oJ pistewn above. Loving the Father is not a condition of salvation, nor does faith and love together save us. Such a view is theologically known as semi-pelagianism. The New Testament constantly affirms that our salvation is totally a work of God's grace facilitated by the faithfulness of Christ, which grace we appropriate through faith. Love is but a fruit of faith - genuine faith issues in love, Eph.1:15-16, Col.1:3-4, 1Thes.1:3, 1Pet.1:8.
ton gennhsanta (ginomai) aor. part. "the father" - the one having given birth. The participle serves as a substantive.
ex (ek) + gen. "-" - [loves and = also the one having been born] from [him]. Expressing source / origin.
John now develops the principle that a person who loves the parent loves the child. John has made the point a number of times that a believer who loves God will love their brothers and sisters in the Lord. Such confirms their relationship with God. A person who loves God is a person who does what God commands. His command, his all encompassing command, is that we believe in Jesus Christ, and bear the fruit of this faith, namely, the fruit of love, brotherly love.
en + dat. "-" - in, on, by. Possibly instrumental, expressing means, "by this", but local is also possible, "on", "on the basis of the truth stated in v1"; "from this principle we know", Schnackenburg.
toutw/ pro. "this" - this [we know]. Forward referencing close demonstrative pronoun; the "this" being the following temporal clause.
oJti "that" - Introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what we know.
tou qeou (oV) gen. "[children] of God" - [we love the children] of god. The genitive is adjectival, relational.
oJtan + subj. "by" - whenever. This construction introduces an indefinite temporal clause specifying "this". Note how it is also conditional; "whenever, as may be the case, we love God [and] we do his commands, then we love the children of God." Brotherly love is a natural consequence which flows from our relationship with God in Christ and indirectly strengthens assurance. "From this principle we know that when we love God we obey him, and consequently we will love his children as well."
poiwmen (poiew) pres. subj. "carrying out" - [we may love god and] we may make, do. A number of texts have the variant "keep / obey" as in v3, rather than "do". The phrase "do the commandments" is rare.
entolaV (h) "commands" - the commands [of him]. As already detailed in these notes on John's first letter, God's command / s are defined by John as faith and love. A person in a relationship with God in Christ, is a person who puts their trust in Jesus, and expresses that reality in the fruit of brotherly love.
In the clearest of terms, John defines how God's love, evident in our life, is expressed. Love is expressed in the keeping of God's commandments. John adds that the keeping of God's commands is not "burdensome"; God's commands are not there to spoil our fun. It is only natural to imagine that John has in mind something like the ten commandments, but he has already defined the substance of God's commands, "that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another", 3:23.
gar "- / in fact" - for. More explanatory than causal, serving to introduce an explanation of the essential nature of "love of God." Best left untranslated, as NIV.
tou qeou " for God" - [this is the love] of god. Most commentators treat this as a verbal genitive, objective, where God is the object of the love, so NIV, "this entails our love for God, namely, that we obey his commands." The following hina clause supports this classification. Yet, a subjective genitive seems a better choice, in the sense that God's love toward us prompts obedience, "whoever keeps his word - truly in this person the love of God has reached perfection", 2:5, cf., Brown. In the end, of course, the genitive is functioning adjectively, limiting "love", so identifying a God type of love, a love which inevitably must be divine in character and so sourced from him, even belonging to him, ie,. a possessive genitive. "The love of God [the divine kind of love] consists in this."
iJna + subj. "to" - that. Introducing an epexegetic / appositional clause, specifying / explaining auth, "this". The love of / for God is expressed / realised / exegeted in "this", namely, the obedience of his commands. This doing entails faith in Christ / abiding in Christ, which abiding produces the fruit of brotherly love.
autou gen. pro. "his" - [we keep, observe, obey the commands] of him. The genitive may be treated as: adjectival, possessive or verbal, subjective or ablative, source / origin.
bareiai ouk adj. "not burdensome" - [and the commands of him] are not heavy, weighty, burdensome. Predicate adjective. The faith-love command is not a heavy load to bear.
ii] Victory over the world, v4a. "Every child of God has victory over the godless world (eternal damnation?)", NEB.
oJti "for" - because. Introducing a causal clause explaining why God's commands are not burdensome.
pan adj. "everyone" - all. This adjective is neuter and therefore is best translated "everything." Most commentators translate it as masculine on the assumption that it is influenced by the neuter noun "children", but some, Stott, Plummer, ... translate it as neuter with an abstract sense, "whatsoever." The point being that it is not so much the person who is victorious, but the power of God expedited through faith. "For whatever is born of God conquers the world", Moffatt.
to gegennmenon (genaw) perf. pas. part. "born" - that has been born. For the articular participle following the adjective "all", see paV oJ pisteuwn, "everyone who believes", v1 above. If it is "whatsoever is born", then presumably what is born is faith. Faith is our "heredity", Phillips.
ek + gen. "of" - from [god]. Expressing source / origin, but, as already noted, if pan is "everyone" the sense may be "everyone who belongs to God."
nika/ (nikaw) pres. "has overcome" - has conquered, overcome [the world]. "Overcomes" is better than "has overcome", in that the tense is present continuous. In what sense is the world conquered? The world John is referring to is the organised system of this age which is opposed to God and promotes sin and death. This system is under the control of the evil one, 5:19. The children of faith are released from this system and its plague of death, 2:17, and are transferred to the kingdom of light and life eternal, 3:14. Christ, of course, does the conquering, in that he overcomes the curse of sin and death, so releasing the child of God (the one having faith) from this curse. The victory over sin is best understood as a victory over the curse of sin and death rather than the power of sin, although, by being no longer subject to the Mosaic law, a believer does indirectly overcome the power of sin. Sin's power to tempt remains, but without the law, its' power is subdued. We may well succumb to the temptation to sin, but it no longer has the authority to condemn those in Christ.