1 John 5:12 Commentary

1 John 5:12 He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life:

Greek - o echon (PAP) ton huion echei (3SPAI) ten zoen o me echon (PAP) ton huion tou theou ten zoen ouk echei (3SPAI):

Amplified - He who possesses the Son has that life; he who does not possess the Son of God does not have that life.

Wuest - he one who has the Son, has the life. The one who does not have the Son of God, the life he does not have.

  • that has the: 1Jn 2:23,24 Joh 1:12 3:36 5:24 1Co 1:30 Ga 2:20 Heb 3:14 2Jn 1:9
  • and he: Mk 16:16 John 3:36)
  • 1 John 5 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries


John goes on to explain that if eternal life is in His Son (1Jn 5:11) the one who has the Son has the life present in the Son.

David Smith - The argument is that God would not have granted us this priceless gift if he were not in intimate relation with us and had not a steadfast purpose of grace toward us. (Expositor's Greek)

He who has the Son - That is the one who possesses (so to speak) the Son, i.e., who has Him present in his life (cp Col 1:27b). Who is the one who possesses the Son? It is "he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God." (1Jn 5:5) Having the Son is the result or effect (or gift) resulting from accepting, receiving or believing the testimony of God concerning His Son.

Akin - This verse consists of a further explication of the last phrase of the previous verse. In parallel clauses John states the relation between having the Son and having life. To possess the Son is to possess life in all its fullness. Holding to the biblical faith means possessing Christ himself, as well as the life the Father grants to those who trust his Son as Lord and Savior. Ultimately, what matters is our relationship to the Son. This life is not something only to be received in the future but is a present possession (“has,” echei = present tense). It should be noted that eternal life is not earned or merited, but rather it is a gift that is given by God to those who have the Son. (NAC)

MacArthur - Here again the exclusivity of the gospel is evident. Only those who believe the Father’s witness to the Son and acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Savior have eternal life… the sobering warning to those who reject it is, “How will [you] escape if [you] neglect so great a salvation?” (Heb. 2:3-note). (1-3 John- MacArthur New Testament Commentary)

Spurgeon on has the Son - we understand possessing the Lord Jesus Christ. There is the finished work of Jesus, and faith appropriates it. We trust in Christ, and Christ becomes ours. As the result of grace in our souls, we chose the Lord Jesus as the ground of our dependence, and then we accept him as the Lord of our hearts, the guide of our actions, and supreme delight of our souls. He that hath the Son, then, is a man who is trusting alone in Jesus, in whom Jesus Christ rules and reigns; and such a man is most surely the possessor of spiritual and eternal life at the present moment. It is not said "he shall have life "—he has it, he enjoys it now, he is at this hour quickened spirit; God has breathed into him a new life, by which he is made a partaker of the divine nature, and is one of the seed according to promise, and this life he has by virtue of his having received the Son of God to be his all. (Alive or Dead)

Other refuge have I none,
Hangs my helpless soul on Thee.

Steven Cole - Jesus Christ is everything. If you have Him, you have eternal life. If you don’t have Him, you do not have the life. As someone has said, “Christianity is Christ!” All of God’s promises are yes in Him (2Cor. 1:20). All that God offers us, He offers in Jesus Christ. He is the only sure, solid foundation for your faith. The most important question in the world is the one Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” (Mt. 16:15). Peter’s answer, inspired by God, is the only correct one (Mt. 16:16), “You are the Christ (Messiah), the Son of the living God.” Do you believe this testimony that God has given about His Son? If so, you have eternal life. If not, you do not have the life and you will perish if you do not repent and believe! (1 John 5:5-13 Is Christianity Merely Psychological?)

NET Note on He who has the Son - From the parallel statement in 1Jn 5:10a it is clear that believing in the Son and thus having God’s testimony in one’s self is the same as “having” the Son here in 1Jn 5:12a. This is essentially identical to John 3:16: “that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” In contrast, the negative statement in 1Jn 5:12b reflects the author’s evaluation of the opponents: “the one who does not have the Son does not have (eternal) life.” The opponents, in spite of their claims to know God, do not possess (nor have they at any time possessed, cf. 1Jn 2:19) eternal life. (NET Note)

For ever here my rest shall be,
Close to thy wounded side;
This all my trust and all my plea,
For me the Saviour died.

Has the life - That is has the life that is in the Son. There is no true life outside of the Son. All humanity is either living now in the condition of spiritual life (in Christ) or spiritual death (in Adam). There is no middle ground and no plan B.

Kistemaker - The word has stands for fellowship with Christ. It means that in faith the believer has accepted Jesus Christ as the Son of God, who said, “I am … the life” (John 14:6). Therefore, because of faith, God’s Son and the believer are inseparable. (Baker NT Commentary)

Osborne - Those who have the Son of God living in them have eternal life now—not life someday, not life later on, not conditional life, but life, eternal life, now. (Cornerstone Commentary)

Has (2192)(echo) basically means to have but has a wide range of meanings determined by the context. In the present context the sense is possess (as in Amplified translation above) Earlier John used echo with this same sense writing "Whoever denies the Son does not have (possess) the Father; the one who confesses the Son has (possesses) the Father also.

Echo in 1John - 1John 1:3, 6-8; 1Jn 2:1, 7, 20, 23, 27-28; 1Jn 3:3, 15, 17, 21; 1Jn 4:16-18, 21; 1Jn 5:10, 12-14

Wuest on the life - The definite article (Gk = ten; Eng = the) appears before the word “life,” pointing out a particular life, that life which God is and which He gives sinners who place their faith in the Son. (Word Studies from the Greek New Testament)

Life (2222)(zoe) in the present context describes the absolute fullness of life, both essential and ethical, which alone belongs to God the Giver of life. Truly meaningful life, life on the "highest plane", life that really is worthwhile is found only in "the promise of life in Christ Jesus". (2Ti 1:1-note) Who came so that we might have life and might have it abundantly (Jn 10:10). It is a life that is capable of enjoying the things of God down here, but especially the only life that will be suitable to enter and enjoy the grace of God in heaven.

Spurgeon on life - Of course, by "life" here is meant not mere existence, or natural life; for we all have that whether we have the Son of God or no—in the image of the first Adam we are all created living souls, and continue in life until the Lord recalls the breath from our nostrils—but the life here intended is spiritual life, the life received at the new birth, by which we perceive and enter into the heavenly kingdom, come under new and spiritual laws, are moved by new motives, and exist in a new world. The life here meant is the life of God in the soul, which is given us when we are new created in the image of the second Adam, who was made a quickening spirit; a celestial form of life inwardly perceptible to the person who possesses it, and outwardly discernible to spiritual observers by its holy effects and heavenly fruits. This spiritual life is the sure mark of deliverance from the penal death which the sentence of the law pronounced. Man under the law is condemned, sentence of death is recorded against him; but man under grace is free from the law, and is not adjudged to death, but lives by virtue of a legal justification, which absolves him from guilt, and consequently liberates him from death. These two kinds of life, the life which is given by the judge to the offender when he is pardoned, and the life which is imparted from the divine Father, the heir of heaven is begotten again unto a lively hope—these two lives blend together and ensure for us the life eternal, such as they possess who stand upon the "sea of glass," and tune their tongues to the music of celestial hosts. Eternal life is spiritual life made perfect. If we live by virtue of our pardon and justification, and if, moreover, we live because we are quickened by the Holy Spirit, we shall also live in the glory of the eternal Father, being made in the likeness of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the true God and eternal life. This is the life here intended—life spiritual, life eternal. (Alive or Dead)

William MacDonald - The teaching is unmistakable. Eternal life is not found in education or philosophy or science or good works or religion or the church. To have life, one must have the Son of God. On the other hand, he who does not have the Son of God does not have life, that is, true life. Eternal life is inseparable from Jesus Christ.

John Stott - In this paragraph (1Jn 5:6–12) John has been elaborating that he has stated briefly in one verse of the Gospel: ‘But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name’ (John 20:31). The Gospel, recording the words and works of Jesus, was John’s testimony to him as ‘the Christ, the Son of God’. The purpose of this testimony was ‘that you may believe’, and the result of faith is ‘that by believing you may have life in his name’. The way to life is faith, and the way to faith is testimony. The sequence of thought is the same here. God has borne witness to his Son, in order that we may believe in him and so ‘have’ him, and having him may have life.

He… has the life - To “have” the Son means to “possess” him in the sense that he is present in the individual’s life. And note that the verb has is in the present tense which signifies this is not a transient, on and off possession but a continual possession of life. John is referring to life he described in 1Jn 5:11 "God has given us eternal life and this life is in His Son."

Vincent has an interesting thought on "has the life" in his comments on "have grief" in John 16:22 - This form of expression (Ed: "to have something") occurs frequently in the NT, to denote the possession or experience of virtues, sensations, desires, emotions, intellectual or spiritual faculties, faults, or defects. It is stronger than the verb which expresses any one of these. For instance, to have faith is stronger than to believe: to have life, than the act of living. It expresses a distinct, personal realization of the virtue or fault or sentiment in question. Hence, to have grief (Jn 16:22) is more than to be sorrowful. In Mt. 17:20, Christ does not say if you believe, but if you have faith; if faith, in ever so small a degree, is possessed by you as a conscious, living principle and motive. Compare have love (Jn 13:35; 1John 4:16); have peace (Jn 16:33); have trust (2Cor. 3:4); have boldness (Heb. 10:19; 1Jn 2:28).

Adam Clarke - It is vain to expect eternal glory, if we have not Christ in our heart. The indwelling Christ gives both a title to it, and a meetness for it. This is God’s record. Let no man deceive himself here. An indwelling Christ and GLORY; no indwelling Christ, NO glory. God’s record must stand.

Harris - The opponents, in spite of their claims to know God, do not possess (nor have they at any time possessed, cf. 2:19) eternal life.

Hiebert - The full title “the Son of God” now spells out the true identity of the one whom the unbeliever is spurning. He is the very embodiment of “the life” that the unbeliever needs. In the preceding statement John places the articular designation “the life” after the verb; now “the life” is placed emphatically before the verb, making prominent the life which is beyond the grasp of the one who does not have the Son. Without Him he is spiritually dead. It is a sober message to realize that this sad assertion brings us to the close of the main body of the epistle. But, as Smalley notes, “a practical call to decision is also implicit. Life-giving faith is possible, and therefore it should be exercised and maintained!”


He who does not have the Son of God - To reject God’s testimony about His Son is to reject the eternal life offered only through the Son and rejecting the Son brings God’s wrath (John 3:36) and eternal death.

Spurgeon says does not have life refers to absence of "spiritual life, sentence of death is recorded against him in the book of God. His natural life is spared him in this 'world, but he is condemned already, and is in the eye of the law dead while he lives. Think of that, some of you, for these words refer to you. The unbeliever has no spiritual life; he neither laments his soul's need, nor rejoices that it may be supplied; he lives without prayer, and he knows nothing of secret fellowship with God, because he has no inward life to produce these priceless things, consequently, he will have no eternal life; he will exist for ever, but his existence will be a protracted death—of life he would not taste; he will have none of the joys of paradise, no sight of God's face; he will not swell the song of eternal happiness, nor drink of the river of ever-flowing bliss. He is a walking corpse, a moving carcass, a body in which death holds the place of life. He hath not the Son of God—that is, he has never trusted in Jesus to save him, and never submitted himself to the guidance and governing of the King in Zion." (Alive or Dead)

Does not have the life - John could not have been more clear regarding the only way to obtain spiritual life.

John 5:24 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has (present tense = continually) eternal life, and does not (absolute negation) come into judgment, but has passed (perfect tense = speaks of the permanence of this "passage") out of death into life.

John 3:36 He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides (present tense = continually) on him.”

The Oldest Living Things - Our Daily Bread

He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. —1 John 5:12
Hikers in California’s Sierra Mountains are surprised to encounter 10-foot-high fences with barbed wire stretched around the top. What do they see inside the fence-surrounded enclosures? Some vital communication equipment like a radio tower? No, they see only a few gnarled trees, maybe just a twisted stump with a few needles.

A sign reads: DO NOT ENTER. BRISTLECONE PINE PROTECTION ZONE. PLEASE PROTECT THESE TREES. They are the oldest living things on earth.

Pamphlets explain that these bristlecone pines were flourishing when Jesus walked on earth, and that the oldest were seedlings at the time of the Exodus from Egypt.

Eventually, though, regardless of how carefully they are protected, those trees will die. They are not destined to live forever. But Christians have the certainty of everlasting life. To be sure, our bodies will die. Yet by God’s grace and power, our souls will never perish. Our bodies will be raised up and, as Paul said, be changed from mortal to immortal (1 Cor. 15:53).

We are awed by the longevity of the bristlecone pines. How much more awesome is eternal life through Christ. We who believe in Him will live forever!

We cry, “O God, how can it be?
How long is vast eternity?”
The answer rings from shore to shore,
“No end, eternal, evermore.” —Anon.

Want to live forever? Let Jesus live in you now.


I think God wants the totality of this book to have its impact on us. It is dominated by the concern to give “tests of life” or effects and evidences of the new birth. He gives at least eleven evidences that we are born again. We could probably boil them all down to faith and love. But for now let’s let them stand the way he says them. Here they are:

1. Those who are born of God keep his commandments.

1 John 2:3-4-note: “By this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”

1 John 3:24-note: “Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him.”


2. Those who are born of God walk as Christ walked.

1 John 2:5-6-note: “By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”

3. Those who are born of God don’t hate others but love them.

1 John 2:9-note: “Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness.”

1 John 3:14-note: “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.”

1 John 4:7-8-note: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

1 John 4:20-note: “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar.”

4. Those who are born of God don’t love the world.

1 John 2:15-note: “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”

5. Those who are born of God confess the Son and receive (have) him.

1 John 2:23-note: “No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.”

1 John 4:15-note: “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.”

1 John 5:12-note: “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.”

6. Those who are born of God practice righteousness.

1 John 2:29-note: “If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.”

7. Those who are born of God don’t make a practice of sinning.

1 John 3:6-note: “No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.”

1 John 3:9-10-note: “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.”

1 John 5:18-note: “We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.”

8. Those who are born of God possess the Spirit of God.

1 John 3:24-note: “By this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.”

1 John 4:13-note: “By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.”

9. Those who are born of God listen submissively to the apostolic Word.

1 John 4:6-note: “We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.”

10. Those who are born of God believe that Jesus is the Christ.

1 John 5:1-note: “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God.”

11. Those who are born of God overcome the world.

1 John 5:4-note: “Everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.”

Two Wrong Conclusions - One of the effects of all those “tests of life” is to overwhelm us with the sense that John may be saying: “If you’re born again, you’re perfect. If you’re born again you don’t sin at all. There is no defeat in the Christian life. There is only victory.”

Another effect that these tests might have in our minds is to make us think we can loose our salvation. That is, we can be born again for a while and then begin to fail in these tests and die and lose the spiritual life that we were given in the new birth.

Two Key Clarifications - John is very aware that his words could be taken in these two wrong ways. So he is explicit as any writer in the New Testament that this is not the case: Christians are not sinless, and born-again people cannot lose their spiritual life and be lost.

He says in 1 John 1:8-10-note, “If we say we have no sin [present tense], we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins [present tense], he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” So John is at pains to say that “walking in the light” (1Jn 1:7-note) does not mean walking flawlessly. It means that, when you stumble, the light of Christ causes you to see it and hate it and confess it and move forward with Christ.

And John is just as jealous to make sure we don’t infer from these “tests of life” that we can be born again and then later lose our life and be lost. 1John 2:19-note is one of the clearest statements in the Bible that there is another way to understand what happens when a person abandons the church. It says, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.”

Notice three things John says to protect us from misunderstanding. 1) Those who seemed to be born again and forsook the faith never were born again—they never were of us. “They went out from us, but they were not of us.” In other words, the explanation is not that they lost their new birth. They never had it. 2) Those who are truly born again (“of us”) will persevere to the end in faith. 1Jn 5:19b-note: “For if they had been of us, they would have continued with us.” Endurance is not the cause of the new birth. The new birth is the cause of endurance, and endurance is the evidence of new birth. 3) God often makes plain who the false Christians are in the church by their eventual rejection of the truth and the people of God. Verse 19c: “But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.” It became plain. And it often becomes plain today. (Everyone Who Has Been Born of God Overcomes the World)

1 John 5:11 Commentary <> 1 John 5:13 Commentary