WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson XXVIII) 11/21/22

5:4 because everyone who is a child of God has the power to win against the world.

As stated in his interpretation Daniel L. Akin (1957) notes that the theme of verse four is made clear by the repetition of the Greek verb Nike, often translated as “conquer,” “overcomer,” or “victor.’ Nike is also the name of the Greek goddess of victory, speed, and strength. The Romans called the goddess NikeVictoria.” She surprisingly has wings in paintings and statues. One Modern English Translation says that whoever is born of God “is continually victorious [soaring over] the world.[1] Then John has more to say about “the world,[2] characterized by the trio of “lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” In addition to love, he points to another spiritual weapon that grants us victory over the weapons of the world in our spiritual battles: “our faith.”[3]

Thinking classically Bruce G. Schuchard (1958) notes that here in verse four, the Apostle John makes a causal comment that explains why God’s instruction is in no way burdensome to the one who lives in hope because everything born of God overcomes the world.[4]

Bright seminarian Karen H. Jobes (1968) does not see the Apostle John teaching some enthusiastic triumphalism but points to faith in the true gospel of Jesus the Anointed One that is “ours,” held by the author and those who share like faith. Jesus said that He has “overcome” the world.[5] Therefore, those who have faith in the Anointed One likewise have faith that overcomes all that is of the world.[6] The statement here that everything/everyone born of God overcomes the world supports the interpretation of 2:14-15, where the young men are said to be “overcomers.”[7]

5:5 It is our faith that has won the victory against the world. So, who wins against the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God.

EXPOSITION

Here John reiterates the main theme of his letter concerning what love is, how love works, and how love can be seen and tested for its genuineness.  This trial of determining if God’s love resides in one’s heart is not only meant for God or fellow believers to verify but for the world as well.  The one thing that holds it all together is the common bond of faith in believing that Jesus is God’s Son; the man sent down from heaven by the Father to secure forgiveness for our sins so we will not suffer the punishment, and that we may have life eternal with Him.

When I served in the military, some people became my best friends, and there were those I did not particularly care for because of their attitude and demeanor.  But one thing remained certain.  Should we ever go into combat, they knew I would do everything I could to protect them, and they would do the same for me.  That’s because we were in the same army, fighting for the same enemy and serving the same Commander in Chief, the President of the United States. Christians may have their differences on specific issues, but as far as the world is concerned, when they look at us, they should see a united force ready to hold each other up for the cause of the Anointed One.

It was made clear to the Apostle John in his revelation that everyone who conquers will be clothed in white and will not have their name erased from the Book of Life. The Messiah will announce before the Father and His angels that they are His. As for anyone who is a conqueror, they will be made a pillar in God’s temple; they will be secure and will never have to leave, and God’s Name will be written on them, and they will be a citizen in His holy city of God – the New Jerusalem, coming down from heaven. They will have the Anointed One’s new Name inscribed on them. Therefore, everyone who conquers worldliness will sit beside Him on His throne, just as He took His place with the Father on His throne when He arrived victoriously.[8]

And then the Apostle John heard a loud voice booming across the heavens, “It has happened at last! God’s salvation, power, rule, and authority of His Anointed One are finally here, for the Accuser of our brothers has been thrown down from heaven onto earth – he accused them day and night before our God. But they defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and their testimony; for they were not selfish with their lives but laid them down for Him. Rejoice, O heavens! You citizens of heaven, rejoice! Be glad!”[9] Then the amazed apostle tells us, “I saw it spread out before me like an ocean made of fire and glass, and on it stood all those who were victorious over the Evil Creature and his statue and his mark and number. All were accompanying themselves with harps as they sang the song of Moses, the faithful servant of God, called ‘The Song of the Lamb.’” Their words were:

Mighty are Your acts and marvelous,

O God, the Sovereign-Strong!

Righteous Your ways and true,

King of the nations!

Who can fail to fear You,

We give glory to Your Name?

Because you and you alone are holy,

all nations will come and worship you,

because they see your judgments

are fair and true.[10]

No wonder the Apostle John was so positive about his message of being victorious over the world and its leader, the devil. What other way is there of conquering the world? And how can they who believe fail? There is a victory in the new birth from Jesus the Anointed One. The world system cannot bear God’s operating principles, so God’s Word is burdensome to them. They cannot tolerate such a scale of values.

Therefore, every Christian without exception – spiritual or carnal, mature or immature – has the faith to gain victory. The principle of success is universal for each believer, with all that the new nature in its entirety entails. The emphasis here is not on the believer who overcomes but on the power that God gave them at their spiritual strength to resist. The nature of the new birth inclines the heart of the believer toward God’s Word. The born-again spirit counteracts all the forces of the world system. The Greek tense indicates that whenever a person becomes born again, they are permanently born (perfect tense) with a new capacity to live for God.

Consequently, the idea of “overcomes” is to prevail once the victory is won.[11] Every child of God has the capacity to conquer the worldly system.[12] The Greek indicates that this victory is a continual overcoming. We must understand the “world” in terms of Satan’s value system. Christians need to remain victorious over the devil and his evil empire. There is power in the initial faith exercised in salvation. That power is inherent in those “born of God.”[13] In other words, Jesus makes His victory the triumph of His followers through spiritual birth.

Unfortunately, some Christians allow the world to overcome them because they are of the world. God wants us to be in the world but not of the world.[14] That’s because believers face very powerful forces against their spiritual life today. The values of this world fly in our faces every day through various media. The world pushes its ideals in many ways: immorality as a lifestyle, doing whatever it takes to get ahead, and lying if it suits your purposes. As a result, young adults violate biblical norms like no other generation. Consequently, some Christians do not gain victory over the world. The world conquers them. The “world” is a mindset that opposes God’s will and commandments.[15] Only the victory achieved at the cross overcomes the world.

As a result, we more and more gain victory over the world as our faith grows in the Anointed One’s triumph over sin, death, hell, and the grave. The object of our focus is on who and what gives victory over Satan’s system. Jesus conquered the world during His earthly ministry throughrough His sacrificial death for our sins. The tiniest faith grasps the reality of God’s gigantic eternal order and sees the ultimate failure of satanic tyranny.[16] So the principle behind this is that we overcome the world system by taking God at His Word.

Therefore, faith in an adequate object produces a good outcome. We get victory over the entire satanic system by placing faith in the Lord Jesus and His work on the cross. Victory does not come by putting faith in ourselves. The only adequate object of our faith is God’s promises. Hence, we overcome the world system by faith. By applying faith in the Word of God to specific problems, we commit to more excellent standards and values. We focus faith on Jesus the Anointed One and His provisions which allow us to grow more spiritually mature when we put God’s principles to practice by faith every day.

We can tell we walk by faith if we produce fruit,[17] introduce others to the Anointed One, and gain victory over our sinful tendencies. Faith is trust in God’s operating assets. If that does not tie in with experience, then our perception is wrong. We do not interpret the Bible by human know-how.  If our involvement contradicts the Bible, then there is something wrong with our procedure or perception. We might have been having a religious hallucination and become deluded. Instead, we interpret what we’ve learned from the Bible.  In God’s system of values, victory always comes through the Lord Jesus.[18]

In fact, we get our English word “Nike” from the Greek word meaning “overcomes.” Thus, Nike was the goddess of victory. Christians will escape the world’s influence forever when they enter heaven’s gates, but the issue here is defeating worldliness while we live on earth. No one can beat the world system unless they believe in the deity of the Anointed One. Victory results from faith in Him. It is not simply a rhetorical question but an appeal to fact.[19] Everything depends on who and what we believe. Jesus and His work are the content of our trust. The importance of the cross is who died on it.[20] The principle involved here is that faith in the incarnate Anointed One brings power to every Christian to overcome the world system.


[1] 1 John 5:4 Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)

[2] See 1 John 5:4-5; 1 John 2:16

[3] Akin, Dr. Daniel L., Exalting Jesus in 1,2,3 John (Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary), op. cit., loc. cit., Kindle Edition

[4] Schuchard, Bruce G., Concordia Commentary, 1-3 John, op. cit., pp. 526-527

[5] John 16:33

[6] Cf. 1 John 2:13–14; 4:4; 5:5

[7] Jobes, Karen H., 1, 2, and 3 John (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on The New Testament Series Book 18), op. cit., p. 217

[8] Revelation 3:12, 21

[9] Ibid. 12:10-12a

[10] Ibid. 15:2-3; cf. Amos 3:13; 4:13

[11] 1 John 2:13,14

[12] Ibid. 4:4

[13] See John 16:33

[14] 1 John 2:15-17

[15] See 1 Timothy 4:10

[16] See Romans 8:37; 1 Corinthians 15:57

[17] John 15:8

[18] Galatians 6:14

[19] Galatians 1:4-5

[20] John 20:31

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NUGGETS OF WISDOM

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BELIEVING WHAT YOU CAN’T SEE

David recollected that as a young lad, with long unruly hair and a ruddy complexion, sleeping out in an open pasture under a starry sky after watching his father’s sheep all day long; how he would take his little harp and sing to the God above all gods. Looking up, he saw the sky as a huge tent with the sparkling stars as lights that lit up the night. He may have even tried to count them once or twice. But what really impressed him was that each night every star was in exactly the same place, not one of them was missing. He was so overcome with awe that he penned a hymn to the creator of that starry universe.

O my LORD Eternal and heavenly Master, Your awe-inspiring works mark You as a genius, as You display Your grandeur all over the heavens for all the world to see. For through these small and tiny dots of light You communicate as a way of countering those who don’t take You seriously; yes, You do this to silence the doubter and unbeliever. When I look up into the sky and see the galaxies Your hands created, the stars and the moon You put into orbit I ask, “What role do humans play in this vast universe; why do You care and fuss over them?” Then I realized, You created them a little short of being angels; endowing them with attributes of honor and dignity; making them the smartest and most influential creatures on earth; putting them in charge to being stewards of Your handiwork, even taking care of the animals, both domestic and wild, including the birds that fill the sky and the fish that fill the sea. O LORD Eternal and heavenly Master, Your awe-inspiring works mark You as a genius for all the world to see.” Psalm 8:1-9

Reflection: Back in the days of the hippy movement I sat in a coffee house in Stuttgart, Germany talking with a long-haired flower-child about God. The young man was respectful but adamant about his doubts concerning God’s existence because he couldn’t see Him or talk to Him. At that moment the Holy Spirit gave me an inspiration, so I pointed to a picture hanging on the wall beside our table and asked the young man if he believed that picture came into being due to an accidental collision of paint and paper. He laughed and said, “That’s ridiculous; that picture was painted by an artist.” I responded that I wasn’t convinced because I couldn’t see the artist in the picture; how did I know that maybe one day it just appeared on the wall by accident. The young fellow looked at me for a moment and then admitted that even though I couldn’t see the artist in the painting, I had to accept the fact that an artist painted the picture because it just makes sense. I told him that in the same way, one must exercise faith to believe an unseen talented artist created such a beautiful portrait, we can also believe an unseen God created the beauty of the universe. The magnificence of God’s creation shows His responsibility for man’s existence, and man’s responsibility to acknowledge God’s handiwork. The young man smiled somewhat embarrassingly as he bowed his head and said, “Okay, you got me on that one.” I asked him if we could have prayer for him to have faith, but he wasn’t sure. As he went away I asked the Holy Spirit to go with him and open his eyes to the truth.

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson LVI) 01/30/23

5:9 We believe people who witness in our courts, and so unquestionably, we can believe whatever God declares. And God says that Jesus is His Son.

A man who loves sharing God’s Word, Robert W. Yarbrough (1948) feels that the Apostle John is arguing from a commonsense conviction concerning our acceptance of a human’s testimony which is less convincing than God’s testimony of His Son being the Anointed One. The word “we” probably refers to people in general in verse nine, although John may have John the Baptizer and First Covenant prophets in mind. They were all humans testifying to divine truths and believed their testimony carried God’s authority.

Witness” is an everyday phenomenon. Christians accept the human testimony of prophets; why would they hesitate to heed God’s confirmation? The importance of the Greek martyria (“witness”) becomes very evident in John’s Gospel, where the noun appears over a dozen times and the cognate verb nearly three dozen times.

As John views life, particularly Jesus’ ministry, he now argues from the lesser to the greater. If (lesser) human testimony is generally accepted as significant – and the Greek clause beginning with (if) implies that John is assuming here it is – then God’s (superior) testimony is all the more inescapable. Therefore, rejecting it is a fateful error, and to oppose it is a futile effort.[1]

Skilled in Dead Sea Scroll interpretation and New Testament writings, Colin G. Kruse (1950) notes that the New International Version (NIV) renders the last half of verse nine as follows: “We accept man’s testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which He has given about His Son.” However, the NIV obscures the original text’s meaning, which opens with an incomplete conditional sentence. A literal rendering of the verse would read: “If we accept the testimony of men, then we should accept the testimony of God.”

The first part of the verse is an argument from the lesser to the superior: if we accept human testimony, we should without question accept God’s testimony. What is the human testimony that John alludes to here? It can hardly reference the threefold testimony of Spirit, water, and blood. Is it an allusion to the witness of John the Baptizer?

In John’s Gospel, Jesus refers to the Baptizer’s testimony as “human testimony” and indicates that it is much less important than God’s testimony.[2] Does it refer to the testimony of the eyewitnesses to the Word of life,[3] which, though trustworthy, is not of the same order as God’s testimony? Or is it merely a general statement indicating that God’s testimony is always more important than a human witness? Probably the last is the best alternative, for the first two suggestions create new problems. There are no other allusions to the Baptizer’s ministry in John’s epistle. He would not want to downplay the testimony of the eyewitnesses because he believes that to be an accurate report of the truth of God.[4]

Believing that Christians can fall away from the faith, Ben Witherington III (1951) also points out that the Apostle John uses a “from the lesser to the greater” form of argument to say that if one believes John the Baptizer’s testimony about Jesus[5] or by the Apostle John, how much more remarkable is God’s testimony about His Son?[6] Therefore, the three-fold fold witness of the Spirit, the water, and the blood, is a threefold divine testimony to Jesus.[7]

With her crafted spiritual insight, Judith Lieu (1951) says that the argument that anyone who trusts in human testimony has no reason not to trust in God’s witness is a style of logic that moves from a lesser to a more excellent case. If God is greater and presumably more reliable than humans, so must God’s testimony. In that sense, the reliability of human testimony is a general truth, and “we accept” need not refer specifically to this author and audience. Within this logic, the objection that humankind and the evidence they supply are more tangible and susceptible to testing, are more readily accepted than God, and His testimony would carry little weight.

However, it is more probable that, as elsewhere, John is referring specifically to his audience, who, he knows, do accept human testimony. It would still allow the latter to be a general truth, in which case the “greater testimony” that God gives is to be identified with, or at least includes, the testimony of spirit, water, and blood just mentioned. Alternatively, this threefold testifying may in some sense be “human testimony,” so God’s witnessing is something additional to these. In the former case, “this is the testimony” in the middle of verse nine refers back to the preceding verses; in the latter case, the clause refers forward so that the following two verses elaborate the distinctive form of the testimony that God bears.[8]

Emphasizing the Apostle John’s call to Christian fellowship, Bruce B. Barton (1954) states that since we believe in human testimony, we can trust God’s more worthy testimony. And God has testified about His Son. According to Jewish law, the testimony of one person is not a valid witness. Truth or validity has to be established by two or three witnesses.[9] Since people believe human testimony when validated by two or three witnesses, John explained that they could consider the more remarkable testimony from God. The Gospels twice record God’s explicit declaration that Jesus is His Son – at Jesus’ baptism[10] and His transfiguration.[11] John said that if they believe testimony from people, they can surely rely on the threefold witness of God. The three witnesses described in verse eight are united because God is behind them. All three form a single “testimony from God” that Jesus is the Anointed One.[12]

A scholar who truly inspires Christian missionaries, Daniel L. Akin (1957) notes that the Apostle John continues his parade of witnesses, calling to the stand at this point the most decisive witness of all: God the Father. The Father’s “testimony” repeatedly resounds in verses nine and ten as the apostle employs a “lesser to greater” argument. In everyday life, “we accept people’s testimony.” In the Jewish context, the testimony of two or three witnesses was necessary and sufficient to confirm something as accurate.[13] If so, how much more should we believe God, mainly when He has just supplied His threefold witness of the Spirit, water, and blood in verse eight? The testimony of God is preferred – superior in source, status, and significance – then the testimony of any person. It is more reliable and trustworthy because it comes from God, who cannot lie.[14]

Akin thinks that John is saying that the abiding testimony of Jesus’ baptism, crucifixion, and that of the Holy Spirit is God’s historical witness that Jesus is His Son. Never did God give such a witness concerning anyone else in all of history. The Father’s witness concerning His Son is singular and unique. Therefore, it demands a response from each one of us. Neutrality and indecision are not an option. In fact, to not believe that Jesus is God’s Son is not to believe God and to make Him out to be “a liar,” because [you have] not believed in the testimony God has given about His Son.[15] John says that believing in Jesus as the Son of God is equivalent to accepting God the Father’s testimony about His Son. To reject Jesus as God’s Son is equal to charging God with perjury. It is that simple, and John is that straightforward.[16]

With a classical thinking approach to understanding the scriptures, Bruce G. Schuchard (1958) points out that three consecutive references to testimony continue to emphasize both its foundational significance and the necessity of the faithful to abide by “the testimony of God that He has testified concerning his Son,” if we receive the testimony of men. The passage continues to feature nicely its pointed, concluding interest in the essential place of fitting testimony. Elsewhere in the Epistle, to “receive” is “to acquire or to take” in the sense of accepting it as a valid matter.[17] In verse one, its subject, “us,” has inclusive force here, as does “we” here in verse nine.

To begin, John envisions human testimony compared to God’s Word. John’s thinking moves “from the lesser to the greater.” If, for any reason, ours is the practice of regularly accepting the testimony of our fellowman, how is one to regard the testimony of our God? Is not the testimony of the one whose devotion to us all was so great that he gave into death on the cross His one and only Son – is not this one’s testimony “greater?”[18] Is not this one’s testimony the testimony of the three witnesses, the most credible, reliable, and essential of all? If in any sense, the testimony of men is worthy of our taking it to heart, the testimony of God “surpasses that of all and any other testimonies.”[19]

An expert in highlighting the crucial part of a biblical message, Marianne Meye Thompson (1964) makes note that now the Apostle John’s attention is on the origin of the confession that He came by water and blood. It was not a figment of human imagination; rather, the Spirit testifies. Although in evoking the Spirit’s testimony, John stresses the ultimate source of this confession. He may well be with an eye on the dissidents, whom no doubt claimed their views to be equally inspired,[20] even if they defied the interpretations that John and his community held “from the beginning.”[21]


[1] Yarbrough, Robert W.. 1-3 John (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament), op. cit., p. 285

[2] John 5:33-36

[3] Ibid. 1:1

[4] Kruse, Colin G., The Letters of John (The Pillar New Testament Commentary), op. cit., loc. cit., Kindle Edition

[5] John 5:33-35

[6] Cf. Ibid. 5:36

[7] Witherington, Ben III, Letters and Homilies for Hellenized Christians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on Titus, 1-2 Timothy and 1-3 John, op. cit., loc. cit., Kindle Edition

[8] Lieu, Judith: A New Testament Library, I, II, & III John, op. cit., pp. 216-217

[9] Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15

[10] Matthew 3:16-17

[11] Ibid. 17:5

[12] Burton, Bruce B., 1, 2, & 3 John (Life Application Bible Commentary), op. cit., p. 111

[13] Deut 17:6; 19:15

[14] Hebrews 6:18

[15] 1 John 5:10

[16] Akin, Dr. Daniel L., Exalting Jesus in 1,2,3 John (Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary), op. cit., loc. cit., Kindle Edition

[17] See 1 John 2:27; 3:22; cf. John 3:11, 22, 32, 33; 5:34

[18] See John 5:33-36

[19] Schuchard, Bruce G., Concordia Commentary, 1-3 John, op. cit., op. cit., p. 539

[20] 1 John 4:1-6

[21] Ibid. 1:1-4; 2:20-25

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson LV) 01/27/23

5:9 We believe people who witness in our courts, and so unquestionably, we can believe whatever God declares. And God says that Jesus is His Son.

As a capable scripture analyst, Ian Howard Marshall (1934-2015) asks, what is this testimony given by God? Scholars have suggested three possibilities, and it is not easy to decide between them. First, it is natural to assume that John is referring in another way to the threefold testimony which he has just been describing.[1] However, it is difficult for this view that the tense in verses six through eight is present, whereas here, in verse nine, it is perfect. Nevertheless, this is not an insurmountable obstacle. In verse six, we have seen that the historical acts were a witness to Jesus as the Son of God during His earthly ministry.  Through these, it could be said, God was bearing witness to his Son.[2] There is, however, a further problem. Jesus refers to various testimonies concerning himself:[3] His testimony, His works, John the Baptizer, and the Scriptures. The testimony of God appears to be distinct from these others, although God stands behind the other witnesses.

So, it can be argued a divine witness other than the threefold witness of the Spirit, water, and blood is meant here. Since, however, it is the Spirit who is the essential witness, testifying through the water and the blood, and since the Spirit is God’s instrument of revelation, it seems perfectly possible that John is simply speaking of the Spirit’s testimony in a different way. Commentators who do not accept this point must suggest a second interpretation of God’s testimony. They argue that John has not told us what this testimony is; he is content to record the fact of it.

The best that can be suggested is that it relates to the stories and sayings of Jesus recorded in John’s Gospel.[4] Unfortunately, this is not very helpful. Still less valuable is the suggestion that God’s testimony is nothing but the event of faith itself.[5] A third possibility is that John speaks of the “inner witness” of the Spirit. He dwells in the heart of the believer as a witness to the truth of what is being heard in the proclamation of the Word. But this understanding is exposed to the difficulty that John is here speaking of a past act of God; furthermore, John does not elsewhere use the term “testimony” to refer to an inward witness by the Spirit.[6] It seems best, therefore, to accept the first interpretation.[7]

As a seasoned essayist on the Apostle John’s writings, John Painter (1935) states that a piece of proverbial wisdom now carries the Apostle John’s argument. So pronounced is the conclusion that it is not mentioned. Instead, John simply says: “The witness of God is greater.” We have already learned that God is more significant than our hearts,[8] that the Spirit “who is in you” is greater than the Spirit in the world.[9] That the witness of God is greater than the witness of human beings is reminiscent of where Jesus appeals to the witness of His Father,[10] the witness more excellent than the human witness of John the Baptizer. When John says that God’s witness is greater than the witness of human beings, it is not likely he has in mind the three witnesses here in verses six to eight. The contrast in John’s Gospel[11] makes the witness of the Baptizer a possibility.

Indeed, John the Baptizer is portrayed as a witness,[12] and Jesus says He has a witness more worthy than the Baptizer,[13] namely “the works that the Father has given me to completeand the Father who sent me has borne witness concerning me.[14] This would make good sense if the opponents appealed to the witness of John to the Spirit’s descent on Jesus the Messiah His baptism. But the problem is that the reference is to the “witness of human beings.” Thus, it seems that here John is making a more general statement true to the proverbial form.[15]

Ministry & Missions Overseer Muncia Walls (1937) notes that the Jewish law said that the testimony of two or three witnesses would prove a matter to be true or false. People were accustomed to hearing witnesses testify at a trial. John is here saying that if we accept what others have to say about any given subject, how much more should we be willing to take what God has to say about an issue, for His witness is far greater than ours. The witnesses that John has just been speaking about in the preceding verses were witnesses made manifest by God Himself.

Because Jesus the Messiah lived and walked among us, His hands manifested many miracles. By the fact that though He died on the cross, He rose victorious over the grave and death, all these facts should be witness enough that He indeed is the Messiah. During Jesus’ ministry, from His baptism, God audibly declared that Jesus the Messiah was indeed His Son. Jesus, on more than one occasion, declared that He was God manifest in the flesh. These witnesses should be evidence enough for those who were honest and sincere that Jesus is indeed the Messiah.[16]

Expositor and systematic theologist Michael Eaton (1942-2017) says we should notice that the “witness” was to the historical events. The Apostle John says that if we receive human testimony, the testimony of God is more remarkable, for this is the testimony of God which He gave concerned His Son. The Gospel involves human testimony. The apostles insisted on some historical events which they witnessed. A generation of apostles made emphatic claims about the circumstances in which they were involved. Luke wrote his gospel while keeping in touch with “eyewitnesses.”[17] John’s Gospel was written by one who claimed to be “bearing witness to these things.”[18] Paul claimed special authority because he met with Jesus personally: “Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?” he would ask.[19] Peter could insist that he had seen the glory of the Messiah when he went with Jesus at the time of His transfiguration: “We were eyewitnesses of His majesty… we heard His voice… we were with Him.[20] [21]

After scrutinizing the Apostle John’s subject theme, William Loader (1944) hears the Apostle John alluding to the common practice of accepting human evidence. Here is another example of John using a general truth about the human community. John mentions a similar fact about parents’ love for their children to illustrate God’s love for His children.[22] It is preferable to see this as accepting human testimony rather than an allusion to specific human testimony about Jesus than figures of speech. By that, says Loader, the traditions that record Jesus’ birth and death (water and blood) or the testimony of John the Baptizer (water baptism), which has not even received mention thus far. The Gospel of John indeed tells of Jesus describing John the Baptizer’s testimony as human testimony[23] and, in doing so, exhibits a similar play with the imagery of court procedures to what we find here, but the issues are different.[24]

Great Commission practitioner David Jackman (1945) notes that the Apostle John reminds us that if we accept the testimony of others, God’s testimony is indeed preferable. We realize that God is infinitely superior to finite, mortal humans. Because of its content, John wants to convey the greater trustworthiness of God’s testimony and its significant importance and value. It is the testimony of God, which He has given about his Son. Probably the focus of that testimony to which John wants to direct our attention is the baptism of Jesus. There the Father’s voice and the Spirit’s descent unite the Trinity in powerful witness that Jesus is the Son of God. That is the content of the Christian gospel. It is stated and authenticated by God and confirmed by his three witnesses. How can we refuse to accept the divine if we would accept human testimony under such circumstances (and we most certainly would)? [25]

After studying the context surrounding this verse, John W. (Jack) Carter (1947) points out that the term that the Apostle John uses for “witness” refers to those who are called upon to give binding testimony in a court of law. The Mosaic Law requires two or three witnesses,[26] and Jewish tradition prefers three. John has drawn his defense team from two sets of three witnesses, three witnesses from men, and three witnesses from God. By calling upon the importance of God’s witness of the Son, John works to destroy the false doctrines of the heretics who deny the truth of Jesus’ nature and purpose.  His use of the three earthly witnesses certainly holds more authority than the heretics since the former witnesses are giving first-hand testimony.  However, John does not stop there. He also notes that what God revealed to us through the Trinity is also a witness to the true nature and purpose of Jesus, and testimony from God certainly has greater authority than both the heretics and the first-hand human witnesses.[27]


[1] Ignatius, Letter to the Smyrnaeans 6:2

[2] Schnackenburg, 22; cf. Ignatius, Letter to the Magnesians 9f

[3] John 5:31-40

[4] For the same point of view, see Marinus de Jonge (1925-2016), pp. 122–124; Balz, p. 151f. Bruce, 17 and n. 11, notes that we cannot be sure that the views of Cerinthus are exclusively in John’s mind and refers to R. M. Grant’s view that possibly Menander of Antioch is in mind (A Historical Introduction to the New Testament, New York/London, 1963, p. 233). The account of Menander’s teaching in Irenæus, AH 1:23:5, however, shows no clear contact with the heresy opposed by John. Wengst, p. 37, argues that John’s opponents were not Docetists since they did not deny that Jesus was a real man; rather they attached no theological importance to Jesus and laid all the weight on the heavenly being, Christ. This produced the same theological effect as Docetism, but the manner of expression was different.

[5] Weiss, Konrad, “Orthodoxie und Heterodoxie im I. Johannesbrief,” ZNW 58, 1967, 247–255. 36. K. Weiss, “Die ‘Gnosis’ im Hintergrund und im Spiegel der Johannesbriefe,” in K.-W. Tröger (Editor), Gnosis und Neues Testament, Gütersloh, 1973, 341–356.

[6] Weiss, Konrad, “Die ‘Gnosis’ im Hintergrund und im Spiegel der Johannesbriefe,” in K.-W. Tröger (Editor.), Gnosis und Neues Testament, Gütersloh, 1973, 341-356

[7] Marshall, Ian Howard: The Epistles of John (The New International Commentary on the New Testament), op. cit., pp. 239-240, 256

[8] 1 John 3:20

[9] Ibid. 4:4

[10] Ibid. 3:31-33

[11] Ibid. 5:33-38

[12] Ibid. 1:7, 15, 19, 32

[13] Ibid. 5:36

[14] Ibid. 5:37

[15] Painter, John. Sacra Pagina: 1, 2, and 3 John: Volume 18, op. cit., loc. cit., Kindle Edition

[16] Walls, Muncia: Epistles of John and Jude, op. cit., p. 87

[17] Luke 1:2

[18] John 21:24

[19] 1 Corinthians 9:1

[20] 2 Peter 1:18

[21] Eaton, Michael; Focus on the Bible, 1,2,3 John, op. cit., p. 184.

[22] 1 John 5:1

[23] John 5:31-33

[24] Loader, William: Epworth Commentary, The First Epistle of John, op. cit., pp. 69-70

[25] Jackman, David: The Message of John’s Letters, op. cit., pp. 151-152

[26] Deuteronomy 19:15

[27] Carter, Dr. John W. (Jack). 1,2,3, John & Jude: (The Disciple’s Bible Commentary Book 48), op. cit., pp. 124-125

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THIS IS WHAT LOVE IS ALL ABOUT

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson LIV) 01/26/23

5:9 We believe people who witness in our courts, and so unquestionably, we can believe whatever God declares. And God says that Jesus is His Son.

God insists, says Findlay, upon our believing this witness; it is that in which He is supremely concerned, which He asserts and commends to men above all else. Concerning this, God the Father spoke audibly from heaven, saying at the anointing and again at Jesus’ transfiguration.[1] John listened to those mysterious voices, and they taught him the infinite importance of true faith in the Sonship of Jesus. His resurrection was a crowning vindication of Jesus by the Eternal Father, who thus declared by act and deed that despite – no, because of – His death, He was more than ever the Son of God’s good pleasure.[2] And finally, the descent of the Holy Spirit, bestowed at the request of the exalted Jesus,[3] was a glorious and demonstrative witness of God’s mind concerning His Son Jesus, as the Apostle Peter argued on the day of Pentecost.[4] [5]

With his stately speaking style, William Macdonald Sinclair (1850-1917) declares that any human testimony provided is logically required on our understandings to establish common facts or to prove opinions.[6] Any message that comes from God is to be accepted by us with a readiness infinitely more significant than in the case of mere human testimony. The Apostle John considers God’s threefold witness of His Son to convey a certainty which no human evidence could claim. If any doubted whether the carpenter, Jesus of Nazareth, was God in reality, the Apostle John would refer them to the righteousness and predictions of the Law and the prophets fulfilled in the life and death of the Messiah which spoke for themselves and to manifest inauguration of the reign of the Spirit. Under these three heads would come all possible evidence for Christian truth.[7]

Beyond any doubt, remarks Alonzo R. Cocke (1858-1901), all human testimony is liable to err, yet we accept it and act upon it. If we receive anything upon the testimony of mortals, how can we refuse to receive the infallible witness of God? But we are responsible, seeing that God’s witness is greater. Indeed, God’s witness concerns His Son, Jesus the Messiah. God has uttered his testimony. What will men do with it? The Apostle John now points out the blessed results of receiving this testimony and also the dreadful consequences of rejecting it.[8]

Esteemed ministry veteran James B. Morgan (1859-1942) notes that the sentiment of these verses is similar to that in verse six. And it is that the witness of the Spirit is the truth. In both, there is mention of the threefold testimony of the water, the blood, and the Spirit. Morgan feels that the importance of the subject would justify this repetition, but there also seems to be a difference between the two passages. In the first, the testimony given is of the Messiah personally. So, He is proven the Messiah, the promised Savior, by His baptism and its events. So also, by His death and its accordance with ancient prophecy and the great ends to be accomplished by it, and by the Spirit poured out in remarkable gifts and graces on those who received and proclaimed Him.

Here in verse nine, the testimony is not merely to the Messiah personally, but to the truth of which He was the subject and substance. Verse six was fitted to the time and served the present purpose, but verse nine remains to this hour. It is the standing, unchanging testimony to the Gospel of the grace of God, to Jesus the Messiah as “the power and wisdom of God for salvation.” So, understanding it, we consider the threefold testimony in the order of the text – the Spirit, the water, and the blood, designed to enforce the reception of this clear, satisfactory, and divine testimony. God grant that we may both understand it and obey it.[9]

With characteristic fundamental thinking, Alan England Brooke (1863-1939) agrees that if we accept the testimony of men when it satisfies the conditions of evidence required by the law,[10] how much more are we bound to acknowledge the witness which we possess in this case, for it is God’s witness.[11] Neither here nor in 1 John 4:11 does “if” indicate any doubt. It is known to everyone that we do accept such testimony. Consequently, Divine witness is more significant and, therefore, more worthy of our acceptance because it deals with a subject on which God, and God alone, is fully competent to speak. It concerns His Son. God has borne witness concerning His Son. In this case, the Divine witness alone is “truth” in the complete sense of the term, though other kinds of witnessing may be proper.

However, if the reading of the Textus Receptus[12] is adopted, “this[13] in verse nine must refer to the witnesses already described, namely, the Spirit, the water, and the blood. Or, it might mean the witness of Spirit, who interprets the evidence of the historical facts.

A word witness meant to endorse the truth that Jesus is the Messiah. If “this” (KJV) is accepted, it can be understood three ways: (1) Causal. In this case, “this” must refer to what has preceded the witness already described. Such is the witness. Divine and legally valid, for God bore witness to His Son. By laying the stress on the Greek verb, martyreō (“he had witnessed”), it is perhaps possible to make sense of the passage in this way. But such an interpretation is very harsh and does not conform to John’s style. (2) The witness, namely, maintained His testimony concerning His Son. This use of “that” is not unquestionably established in the Johannine writings, though perhaps we should compare what Jesus said in John’s Gospel.[14] In the present context, it would be intolerably harsh. (3) It is far more natural and in harmony with the author’s style[15] as declarative. There can be no more trustworthy witness than what a father bears to his son, so far as competence to speak is concerned. The essence of the witness is that it is the testimony of God to His Son. In the Gospel, “to witness about oneself” ιs very frequent,[16] elsewhere very rare.[17]

With an eye for detail, David Smith (1866-1932) notes that God’s threefold testimony was valid.[18] He testified concerning His Son through His miracles and especially His Resurrection.[19] The variant “which” is a marginal gloss indicating the relative “whatever,” not the conjunction “that.”  The latter is incapable of a satisfactory explanation. The alternatives are:

            (1) “Because the testimony of God is this the fact that He has testified,” which is meaningless and involves an abrupt variation in the use of “that.” 

            (2) “Because this is the testimony of God, because, I say, He has testified,” which is intolerable.

The Apostle John appeals to his readers to be as reasonable with God as with their fellow men. Our attitude to the Threefold Testimony. If we are willing to trust the testimony of ordinary people, the testimony of God is more credible because this is the testimony, He gave testified concerning His Son. Those that believe in the Son of God have a witness in themselves. Those that do not think so make Him out to be a liar. And this is the testimony that God gave us life eternal, and this life is in His Son. Those who have the Son have eternal life; those who do not have the Son of God have no future life.”[20]

As a spiritual mentor, Ronald A. Ward (1920-1986) points out that everyone knows that we accept the testimony of our fellow citizens, especially in courtroom trials.[21] With that being true, how much more should we respect and accept any testimony inspired by God’s Spirit, who is Truth. So, can anyone reject God’s testimony about Jesus being His Son?[22] [23]

With academic precision, Stephen S. Smalley (1931-2018) says that the Apostle John concludes his description of the character of the witness to Jesus, as God’s Son and Messiah, by making clear its ultimate origin. So far from this being an interruption of the writer’s thought and added by a redactor, it caps the teaching of verses six to eight by showing that behind the “divine testimony” of “the Spirit and the water and the blood” lies the sovereign being of God. God’s authority is the imprimatur on the truth of the Christian Gospel. So, if we accept human testimony, divine testimony is superior. It is a fact that the faithful witness of others is accepted. The threefold witness of which John has spoken satisfies the conditions of human testimony. More than implied “the threefold divine witness satisfies all legal criteria.”[24] Inspired by Jesus’ words, “go into all the world,”

Edward J. Malatesta (1932-1998) sees the thought advanced by emphatically joining it to the third mention of Jesus that He is the one who came both by water and blood.  The central part of this sub-division introduces the theme of witness: the Spirit who witnesses and is Truth, and the water and blood witness. The witness is God’s witness concerning His Son. The sub-division thus concludes with a mention of the Son, as did the preceding one. John praises God’s witness concerning His Son as more significant than any human witness.[25]


[1] Matthew 3:17

[2] Acts of the Apostles 13:32-35; Romans 1:4

[3] John 14:16; Luke 24:49

[4] Acts 2:32-36

[5] Findlay, George G: Fellowship in the Life Eternal: An Exposition of the Epistles of St. John, op. cit., p. 388

[6] Cf. Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15; Matthew 18:16; 2 Corinthians 31:1; Hebrews 10:28-29

[7] Sinclair, William M., New Testament Commentary for English Readers, Charles J. Ellicott (Ec.), op. cit., Vol. 3, pp. 491-492

[8] Cocke, Alonzo R: Studies in the Epistles of John; or, The Manifested Life, op. cit., pp 127-128

[9] Morgan, James B., An Exposition of the First Epistle of John, op. cit., Lecture XLIV, pp. 436-437

[10] John 5:36

[11] Ibid. 8:18

[12] Textus Receptus (Latin: “received text”) refers to all printed editions of the Greek New Testament from Erasmus’ Novum Instrumentum omne from (1516) to the 1633 Elzevir edition. It was the most used translation for Protestant Bibles.

[13] New American Standard Bible

[14] John 8:25 (KJV)

[15] Cf. Ibid. 3:19

[16] Ibid. 1:7, 8, 15, 2:25, 5:31, 32

[17] Brooke, Alan E., Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Johannine Epistles, op. cit., pp. 137-138

[18] Deuteronomy 19:15; cf. Matthew 18:16; John 8:17-18; 1 John 3:20

[19] Romans 1:4

[20] Smith, David: Expositor’s Greek Testament, 1 John, op. cit., p. 196

[21] See John 8;17; Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15

[22] John 5:37

[23] Ward, Ronald A., The Epistles on John and Jude, op. cit., pp. 56

[24] Smalley, Stephen S., Word Biblical Commentary, Vol. 51, 1,2,3 John, op. cit., p. 283

[25] Malatesta, Edward J., Interiority and Covenant, op. cit., p. 310

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson LIII) 01/25/23

5:9 We believe people who witness in our courts, and so unquestionably, we can believe whatever God declares. And God says that Jesus is His Son.

After sufficient examination of the Greek text, Brooke F. Westcott (1825-1901) states that since the threefold witness of which the Apostle John has spoken satisfies Torah’s conditions for valid human testimony, how much more than does the triune divine witness of the Spirit, the water, and the blood meet all criteria. Thus, the witness concerning the Messiah is greater than the witness of men regarding its authority.[1] However, John’s form of argument is irregular. Instead of completing the sentence on the same type as he began, “We accept human testimony,” John states that which is the ground of this conclusion, “God’s testimony is greater.”

This triple witness looks backward and forward as a testimony of God concerning His Son: this is the final form of God’s witness. The witness was open and visible to the world about the Messiah’s death and the pouring out of the Spirit: so much was unquestionable. The first conjunction (because) does not give the ground of the divine witness’s superior authority, which is taken for granted, but the foundation for appealing to it. Such a witness is given, and therefore we appeal to it.[2]

Like a spiritual farmer planting the seed of God’s Word, Henry A. Sawtelle (1832-1913) says it is only logical that if we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is more significant. And therefore (argument from a minor to a major point) ought even more ready to be received, for this is God’s witness. More correctly is this rendering, “for the testimony of God is this.[3] In the warmth of writing, John becomes length-wise compressed. “And why,” he says silently, “do I speak of the testimony of God? This is because this harmonious testimony of the water, blood, and Spirit is nothing short of being God’s testimony.” He has (an admitted and well-known fact) testified of (concerning) His Son. That testimony still (perfect tense) exists and calls for the implicit faith of all.[4]

Noting the Apostle John’s doctrinal implications, John James Lias (1834-1923) suggests that the Apostle John’s words here in verse nine about God’s witness greater than man’s witness might, at first glance, be a reference to God’s testimony in heaven in verse seven. But further examination does not sustain such a view. Instead, the witness of the Spirit, the water, and the blood is God’s witness of His Son while He was here on earth. Moreover, we are accustomed to receiving such testimony in earthly matters.[5] How much more then should we rest with confidence on the Divine testimony we find at work within us to specific spiritual facts?

There are three ways of translating the Greek pronoun hoytos (“that”) of the Sinaitic and Alexandrian Manuscripts. We may either (1) take KJV for this is the witness of God which He has testified of His Son, or (2) we may translate for this is the witness of God because He has witnessed concerning His Son, or (3for the witness of God is this, that He has born witness concerning His Son. (1) and (2) would refer to what has gone before, while (3) refers to what follows. The best translators prefer example three. But the sense of the passage is, in the main, the same, whichever of them is taken. What the Apostle would say is this: that if we seek proof of the truth of our faith, it is to be found in the Presence of the Son, through the Spirit, within us. The commentators here have hardly kept in view the whole drift of the passage. John has passed from the idea of love in verse one to that of obedience in verse three.[6]

Famous evangelist and publisher Dwight L. Moody (1837-1899) says that someone might ask: “How am I to get a love-warmed heart?” The answer is simple, “by believing.” You did not receive the power to love and serve God until you believed.[7] Human interaction would grind to a standstill if we did not accept anyone’s word. How could we function in the regular communication of life, and how would commerce operate if we disregarded people’s evidence? Things social and commercial would result in a deadlock within forty-eight hours! This concept is the theme of John’s argument here. God is a witness to His Son Jesus the Messiah, and if we can accept the word of our fellowman who frequently tells untruths and whom we are constantly finding unfaithful, why should we not take God at His word and trust His testimony? Faith is a belief in testimony. It is not a leap in the dark, as some suggest. That would be no faith at all. God does not ask anyone to rely on His word without giving them something to hold on to. You might as well ask a person to see without eyes, to hear without ears, and walk without feet as to bid them to assume without giving them some reason.[8]

A tried and tested biblical scholar who believes in the up-building of the Christian life, Robert Cameron (1839-1904) also addresses God’s threefold witness concerning His Son, which satisfies the conditions for human testimony. We accept human testimony out of the mouth of two or three. But human witnesses may be deceived, and they may mislead us. God can neither deceive nor be deceived, and he speaks through these things to us. Therefore, this witness of God is of greater authority than that of mankind. It was three-fold, was open and visible to the world, and the One whose mission was attested is a living power in the world today. It is God’s final testimony. If we receive the fallible witness of humans, what possible excuse can we give for refusing the infallible word of God?[9]

With his Spirit-directed calculating mind, Alfred Plummer (1841-1926) comments on the witness’s trustworthiness. It depends on two facts: (1) that it is God’s witness, and (2) that it is a witness concerning the Messiah. The consequence is that we should surrender ourselves to it with perfect confidence.

First, it concerns God’s Witness. This is the basis of our faith. We believe in Divine testimony. We even give credence to our fellowmen on points which we believe them to be well-informed. How much more should we believe in Him who cannot lie and be deceived? There can be no doubt, to those who do not willfully shut their eyes to facts, that it is a Divine witness. For not only are there the objective facts (1) of the resurrection of Christ, a fact which no human ingenuity has been able to disprove, and (2) of the marked change which from the date of that fact has come over the world, but there is also (3) the witness within, the consciousness that a Divine life is imparted to the soul, that it does convey a sense of pardon and joyous energy of resistance to the powers of evil, and a manifest fellowship in the Messiah, a fact of which we are hourly conscious when we are united to Him by faith.

Then, it concerns God’s witness for His Son. It is proven by the Divine characteristics displayed in the life of the Messiah – His power, in the realm (a) of nature, (b) of grace, His purity,[10] His authority,[11] and His love. Belief in the Son of God is the secret that overcomes the world.[12] And that rests upon a Divine testimony, outward, conveyed to us, that is, by others, and inward, borne in, that is, upon our own inward being to the Divine essence as visibly present to the world in Christ.

Finally, it concerns our depending on witnesses. This is John’s main object, to lead us to put our whole trust in the revelation of God in Jesus the Messiah. For this reason, he appeals to testimony. He bids us listen to the voice of the Spirit and points out the effects of reconciliation. John rests on the evidence that these things are supported by the Voice of God within us and the Presence of His Son around us. He gives us confidence amid all the doubts and distresses that assail us, all the temptations that beset us. Our trust is in God, and He will save those who put their trust in Him.[13]

But Plummer has more to say. If we receive the witness of mortals, how much more should we receive the testimony of a God who so loved us that He gave His only begotten Son as a sacrifice for our sins?[14]The argument reads like an echo of the Messiah’s words to the Pharisees, in your Law, we read, the testimony of two witnesses is a fact.”[15] So, how much more should we accept the witness of the Father and the Son? Nevertheless, something is evidently to be understood. His testimony consists of His having borne witness about His Son.

Here are some modern translations: “It is the testimony of God, which He has given about His Son.” (NIV); “The testimony of God is this, that He has testified concerning His Son.” (NASB); “Testimony that comes from God. And God has testified about His Son.” (NLT); “For this is God’s testimony which He gave about His Son;” (NJB). So, according to these various renderings about God’s witness, we should appeal to the testimony of God because He is God even though He testified about His Son. Moreover, the perfect tense of “He has witnessed” indicates the permanence of the testimony.[16]

A prolific writer on the New Testament Epistles, George G. Findlay (1849-1919) believes that the Apostle John told us in verses six through eight that, to his mind, the proofs of the testimony of Jesus – evidence that must, in the end, convince and “overcome worldliness.[17] So far as the general cause of Christianity is concerned, this is enough. But it involves each person to whom this evidence comes to realize for themselves the weight and seriousness of the testimony meeting him. The Apostle John points, with a sincere emphasis in verses nine and ten, to the Author of the threefold manifestation. The Gospel’s declaration brings every man who hears it face to face with God.[18] And of all subjects on which God might speak to people, of all revelations that He has made or might conceivably make, this, St John feels, is the supreme and critical matter ‒ “the testimony of God, that is to say, the fact that He has testified1concerning His Son.” Apostle Paul’s words, the Gospel is “God’s good news about His Son.”[19]


[1] See John 5:36; cf. 3:20; 4:4

[2] Westcott, Brooke F., The Epistles of St. John: Greek Text with Notes, op. cit., pp. 185-186

[3] 1 John 5:9 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

[4] Sawtelle, Henry A., Commentary on the Epistles of John, op. cit., pp. 57-58

[5] See John 5:31-47; 8:17

[6] Lias, John James: The First Epistle of St. John with Exposition, op. cit., pp. 385-388

[7] 1 John 5:9

[8] Moody, Dwight L: Way to God, op. cit., p. 46

[9] Cameron, Robert, The First Epistle of John (1899), op. cit. p. 235

[10] John 8:46; Hebrews 4:15

[11] Mark 1:27

[12] 1 John 5:5

[13] Lias, John James: The First Epistle of St. John with Homiletical Treatment, op. cit., pp. 383-386

[14] See 2 John 1:10

[15] John 8:17

[16] Plummer, Alfred: The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges, N. T., Vol. IV, p. 162

[17] 1 John 5:5

[18] Cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:13

[19] Romans 1:2-3

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson LII) 01/24/23

5:9 We believe people who witness in our courts, and so unquestionably, we can believe whatever God declares. And God says that Jesus is His Son.

With the zeal of an expert scripturla tex examiner William E. Jelf (1811-1875) comments that “the witness of God is greater” may be taken in two ways: It may express merely a general principle that men, who receive human testimony on any subject as a sufficient ground of belief, cannot consistently refuse to accept the testimony of God given by the three witnesses  because the point to which these provide witness objectively and subjectively to itself in every man’s heart. And this is the usual interpretation of the whole passage, but it seems relatively weak. A better explanation is to take the “witness of men” as the objective testimony, from whom the early Christians generally received the facts of our Lord’s baptism and crucifixion and the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost.

John goes on to point out that this is not the only ground for the Christian’s belief, for he has a witness direct from God in his mental power molded as faith. His belief in Jesus the Messiah is evidence of the Messiah being the Son of God. The faithful Christian who is in the full possession of faith does not depend only or chiefly on the testimony of others, though, of course, he both needs and has this also. The more substantial evidence is a result of the lower, but still, something besides and beyond it. First, the grounds of faith are evident in our Lord’s life as the foundation of belief; and, secondly, experimental, in that the existence of this faith is “for this is the witness of God” gives the reason why John introduced the preceding clause about God’s testimony being superior. Therefore, “this” can refer to verse six, where the Messiah is called God’s Son.

John impressed this divine sonship of the Messiah, says Jelf, as a great truth with abundant proof. What some call experimental evidence except for the Messiah’s Divinity. For John’s readers to receive the Apostles’ evidence to the facts that testify that doctrine. It is in harmony with the general principles of psychology and the laws of belief, as with the standard mode of God’s dealings. Teachers used such instruments to influence people’s hearts rather than impressing the doctrine on their intellect. Thus, our Savior worked by miracles, God positioning the hearts of those in whom He agreed to work to receive the truth to which His wonders offered proof.

Meanwhile, those whose souls, owing to their hardness of heart and obstinate refusal of God’s Spirit, are blinded to seeing the force of such miracles. It is not that the Christian believes without any external evidence, for this would be enthusiasm, but the external evidence finds they have a willing and favorable outlook. The objective or external evidence is enough to produce faith unless the hardness of the heart prevented the Jews from receiving the Messiah. But when objective proof in the eye creates trust, internal subjective evidence in the soul confirms, strengthens, and revitalizes it.[1]

After observing the Apostle John’s attention to detail, John Stock (1817-1884) feels it is strange that human testimony is unconditionally accepted while questioning divine testimony. If someone without reason claims with self-revelation to be the Messiah’s representative on earth and sustains things altogether subversive of the truth, and at enmity with it, is subserviently listened to, reverenced, and obeyed: while the ever-blessed God, whose word alone is truth, and counter to which no doctrine is to be received or to be ordained, is not believed or enforced as necessary for salvation.  God was earnest when He said, “All day long, I stood ready to accept those who turned against Me. But they kept doing whatever they wanted, and everything they did was wrong.”[2]

Somehow, mankind favors what God prohibits and chooses it with no preference for God. They choose lies because living without God is their desire. But where a person’s testimony is good and just and is received as it should be, surely the same should apply to the greater witness of God. God is the embodiment of truth. God cannot lie; by excellent counsels, acts, and deeds, God has borne witness to the truth, who says, “Everything I said will happen just as I said it would.”[3] [4]

With an inquiring spiritual mind, Johannes H. A. Ebrard (1819-1893) asks, is it not a known fact that we (before a human tribunal) accept the testimony given by others? The Apostle John’s use of the first person “men” (KJV) plural serves to express the idea of the German word “menschen” (“people”). Granted, we are accustomed to receiving the testimony of people; how much more must we receive the testimony of God? God’s word is more excellent in value, dignity, and certainty. However, John expresses it concisely “God’s testimony is greater.” Therefore, we should prefer to receive and believe it rather than mankind’s word, which is prone to error.[5]

After contemplating John’s train of thought, William Kelly (1822-1888) questions, what is so good, wise, and sure? What is as satisfying as God’s witness? So, if we accept the witness of ordinary people, the witness of God is more precious. After all, He knows all truth and has given His Son both to declare it and make us capable of receiving it in a new life; after redemption, His Spirit is divine power both to enjoy it and make it known to our fellowman. Therefore, one can understand the weight of such words as “the witness of God” is sufficient to handle all difficulties. This triple witness of God- Spirit, water, and blood, is that the guaranteed spiritual and physical death facing all humanity was taken by Him who drank the dregs of the bitter cup, thereby issuing life without sin for us. He did not need it Himself. That eternal life did not require any work on our part. Our state of sin and death needed His death for victory over all evil to God’s glory.

Jesus told the unbelieving Jews through Nicodemus, “You people do not accept our testimony.”[6] A person must be born anew; otherwise, they cannot learn anything about God’s kingdom. Faith in God’s Word alone leads to being taught about God. Like the Lord, the Church should have been a faithful and true witness. But, over time, its state has become such as to make it is untrustworthy. What unfailing comfort then, especially for the believer to have God’s witness “in themselves!” But here, there was an absolute need, whereby grace, we have “the witness of God.” So, how barefaced, and faithless it is for any Church to call on any soul to “hear our church!” The same Word of God, which shows the Church’s calling to be in the world, equally indicates that the Church would fall into all sorts of disorder.

How remarkable it is in the Apostle Paul’s the two Epistles to Timothy these two views are posted. In the first Epistle, the church is in order, “the pillar and pedestal of truth.[7] In the second Epistle, the Church is in a state of sad disorder.[8] But the church is not the truth which the Christian is bound to hear and receive, though the corporate witness to it, like the Christian, is the individual witness. Both the Church and Christians are warned to hear nothing but the authoritative Word of God as the truth. In the second epistle, we learn that the Christian profession has become like a great house full of vessels to honor and dishonor.[9] Therefore, when the leaven was accepted and enforced instead of being eradicated,[10] it became a question of purging oneself out from these radically settled evils to be a vessel unto honor. Yet it is not for isolation, but “with those that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”[11]

Familiar with John’s writing style, William B. Pope (1822-1903) points out that the three witnesses – Spirit, water, and blood – suggest the perfection of human testimony. The Apostle John supposes that we receive the testimony of credible witnesses as a general truth. But he does not set the Divine witness against mortals: the human and the Divine concur, the divine being “greater” as accompanying and rendering infallible the human witness to the Savior’s Messiahship and salvation. For, the entire series of attestations carried in the First Covenant and evangelists and apostles in the Final Covenant is one grand attestation of God, who witnesses one thing only, that all His witness by human agency is concerning His Son. But the Divine testimony is given through the Spirit; ‘we are witnesses of these things, and so is also the Holy Spirit concerning His Son is sublimely central. What the witness is we find afterward: here it is declared that all the objective testimony of revelation has but one object, the establishment of the claim of the Son of God to human faith.[12]

With precise spiritual discernment, William Alexander (1824-1911) notes that the Apostle John says we do accept the testimony of another human, especially an eye-witness unless proven otherwise. But when it comes to God’s assurances, they are more significant because God doesn’t lie. Therefore, sending His Son with His personal message for unbelievers showed that He means what He says. An individual’s evidence is studied with the principle of rational, common sense. But the affirmation of the Gospel not only uses the same mental process but by being God’s child, we have the mind of the Messiah and the help of the Holy Spirit. Too often, something is accepted because it looks right or sounds good. But when it comes to the Bible, these things are secondary after it is proven to have God’s witness supporting it.[13]

With holiness doctrine expertise, Daniel Steele (1824-1914) proclaims that here we have an echo of the Messiah’s words, “the witness of two is true.”[14] How credible, therefore, must the two witnesses be when they are Father and Son? The following clause should be reversed and connected with the pursuing verse thus: The witness of God is this: He that believes in the Son of God has the witness in Himself. To “believe on,” a phrase occurring nearly forty times in John’s Gospel and elsewhere in the Final Covenant only about ten times, expresses the most reliance and trust. We may believe a person’s word without trusting them, but we put our property or lives in their hands when we do.[15]


[1] Jelf, William E., Commentary on the First Epistle of St. John, op. cit., pp. 73-74

[2] Isaiah 65:2; cf. Romans 10:21

[3] Isaiah 46:11

[4] Stock, John: An Exposition of the First Epistle General of St. John, op. cit., p. 424

[5] Ebrard, Johannes H. A., Biblical Commentary on the Epistles of St. John, op. cit., pp. 331-332

[6] John 3:11

[7] 1 Timothy 3:15

[8] 2 Timothy 3:1-9

[9] Ibid. 2:20-21

[10] See 1 Corinthians 5

[11] Kelly, William: An Exposition of the Epistles of John the Apostle, op. cit., p. 373

[12] Pope, William B., The International Illustrated Commentary on the N. T., Vol. IV, op. cit., pp.38-39

[13] Alexander, William: The Holy Bible with an Explanatory and Critical Commentary, Vol. IV, op. cit., p. 342

[14] John 8:17

[15] Steele, Daniel: Half-Hours with St. John’s Epistles, op. cit., p. 137

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson LI) 01/23/23

5:9 We believe people who witness in our courts, and so unquestionably, we can believe whatever God declares. And God says that Jesus is His Son.

Therefore, the testimony of the Spirit, water, and blood is open to the same criteria. So, how could those who saw what happened at His baptism and heard the voice from heaven[1] ever doubt that He was God’s Son? Furthermore, how could those who saw His death on the cross and witnessed the fantastic scenes which occurred there fail to join the Roman centurion in saying that this was “the Son of God?”[2] And those who’ve felt the influences of the Eternal Spirit on their heart, ever doubt that Jesus was God’s Son?[3] Any of these is sufficient to convince the soul, all combined on the same point and confirm it from age to age.[4]

With impressive theological vision, Richard Rothe (1799-1867) notes that having shown how sure our faith foundation in the Messiahship of Jesus rests, the Apostle John now calls attention to the irresponsibility of those who, despite this confirmation, withhold such trust. This accountability is so great because of having God as a witness, who is such a convincing power. Dare we question God as a valid witness? Not to admit the validity of God’s evidence as a witness, under the same conditions we use to determine the authenticity of mankind’s testimony, is an insult to God. The question “Is God the witness?” John does not take time to validate because it’s obvious.

But it might not be evident to the reader how John could speak here of God as a witness, seeing that he has been silent on that point. Accordingly, in the last clause of this verse, John introduces the connecting thought by proving the assertion we have just been considering, an affirmation that would be far from evident. It is the case, John says, that the point in question is accepting God as a witness, for the actual witnesses to the Messiahship of Jesus are the Spirit, the water, and the blood. Indeed this, the general summing up, as it were, of all the testimonies of God to the Messiahship and Divine Sonship of Jesus, is the only witness of God. (Apart from the testimonies of God to Jesus, there are no direct testimonies of Himself in history) [5]

According to Robert Jamieson (1802-1880), Andrew Fausset (1821-1910), and David Brown (1803-1897) way of thinking, we should take note of the Apostle John’s We believe men who witness in our courts, and so unquestionably we can believe whatever God declares. And God proclaims that Jesus is His Son. Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown agree that we allow (and rightly so) the witness of credible individuals, fallible though they are much more ought we to accept the infallible witness of God. The testimony of God the Father is the basis of the Word, and the Holy Spirit’s testimony is the grounds for the evidence of the water and the blood. This principle applies in the present case. We read the oldest Greek manuscripts “because He has given testimony concerning His Son.” What that testimony is we find here in verses one and five. [6]

With noticeable spiritual comprehension, Henry Cowles (1802-1881) notes that following the course of thought in the context of verses six and eight, the “witness of God” must be especially that of the “Spirit” as seen emphatically after the Messiah’s ascension. Thus, God’s testimony through the Spirit concerning His Son should be described as more significant than that of any mortal. That includes all mankind, and its weight should prevent any resistance.[7]

With an inquiring mind, Daniel D. Whedon (1808-1885) says that the certainty of God’s impressive witnessor testimony is far above all human testimony, just as God is above humanity. Scripture tells us that on the testimony of humans’ two or three unimpeachable oaths, we can take the life of a fellowman by the courts.[8] However, the witnesses are from God through the Spirit, water, and blood in this case. Thus, even under the law, they are superior to a dozen human witnesses. Sometimes, people are false witnesses, but God can never be a liaror perjurer.[9]

In line with the Apostle John’s conclusions, Henry Alford (1810-1871) notes that in verse nine, an argument minori ad majus[10] grounded on mankind’s practice shows that we must believe God’s testimony if we receive as we do. It is to be given with approval to accept a person’s testimony in any given case. No extraordinary testimony need be suggested, as touching this present case: in general, “the testimony of God” supplied in the argument is more remarkable.

Therefore, much more weight be given to it. The testimony of God, spoken of here, is not any revelation, as do the prophecies concerning the Messiah, the witness of John the Baptizer, and other eyewitnesses to Him, or the Prophets, the Martyrs, and Apostles. It is general, as is the testimony of humans, with which it is compared.

The particular testimony pointed at by the general proposition is introduced in the last part of verse nine by the word “for.”[11] Here, there is an abbreviation: the testimony of God is this, that He hath borne testimony concerning His Son, namely, the testimony of God to which the argument applies is this, “God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which He has given about His Son.”[12] The correction to the easier “which” in verse ten gives a wrong reference for “this” in verse eleven, referring to that mentioned in verses six through eight. It also throws a wrong shade of meaning over verse nine, making “the testimony of God” instead of general “witnessing” in John’s Gospel.[13] [14]

As a faithful and zealous scholar, William Graham (1810-1883) notes that the “certainty of the Gospel truth” is argued in verse nine on the grounds that the testimony of God is more worthy of credit than the testimony of mortals. That’s because God bears witness to the Messiahship and Sonship of Jesus; therefore, we have every reason to believe it to be true. But how has God given testimony to His Son? In many ways and at different times. God arranged the emergence of the Church during the age of the Messiah. He also spoke through prophets and wise men of different ages to announce the advent of the coming Deliverer. The Jews and the Gentiles were to be united under one head, in one body, forever. Furthermore, He testified to the coming of His Son by a fore-ordained system of types and shadows, ceremonies, and sacrifices. Finally, it allowed the eye of faith and hope to look for the coming King, in whom the longings of the creation were to be satisfied.

When the Messiah came, God supported Him through His testimony and the ministry of angels, who appeared at His conception,[15] birth,[16] temptation,[17] agony in the garden,[18] resurrection,[19] and ascension from Mount Olivet.[20] God testified to His Son’s validity by the signs, wonders, and manifold gifts of the Holy Spirit, which He gave to the apostles and the Church. The Father supplied testimony to Jesus on the holy mount[21] and at His baptism)[22] with His voice from heaven, announcing and accrediting Him as his only-begotten and well-beloved Son, in whom He was well pleased. And, finally, He testified to His Son by raising Him from the dead and elevating Him to the throne of universal dominion. He ascended as God-man and Mediator, so that every creature in heaven and on earth should bow their knees in His name, and every tongue confess that He is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.[23]

This mighty act of Yahweh in glorifying His Son is the public and universal testimony of the Creator to the character and faithfulness of the divine Redeemer. All of these give the soul a sure foundation to build on while looking forward to eternal joy. When we put complete confidence for time and eternity in the Messiah and His finished work, we are not building on the sand of man’s traditions and delusions, but upon the Rock of Ages, the sure foundation the Lord has laid in Zion.[24] There is no room for doubt. The facts of the Gospel history on which the Christian system is built are more firmly established than any other events in the history of mankind.

We have, for example, much more significant evidence that Jesus rose from the dead than that Marcus Junius Brutus assassinated Julius Cæsar in the Roman Senate chambers, the Duke of Wellington defeated Napoleon at Waterloo in Belgium, or William Shakespeare ever existed as a person. If we believe man’s witness, the witness of God is superior, and this exceptional witness given concerning His Son means He cannot err nor deceive. His wisdom, power, goodness, and love are the sure guarantees to believe in His Son without shame.[25][26]


[1] Matthew3:16-17

[2] Mark 15:39

[3] Cf. 1 Corinthians 12:3

[4] Barnes, New Testament Notes, op. cit., 1 John 5, p. 4883

[5] Rothe, Richard: Exposition of the First Epistle of St. John, op. cit., The Expository Times, May 1895, p. 373

[6] Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, New Testament Volume, op. cit., p. 730

[7] Cowles, Henry: The Gospel and Epistles of John: with Notes, op. cit., p. 356

[8] Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15

[9] Whedon, Daniel D, Commentary on the New Testament, op. cit., pp. 278-279

[10] Minori ad Majus is Latin for “minor to major

[11] Cf. 1 John 5:7

[12] Op. cit., 5:11

[13] John 1:32; 13:21; 19:35; see also 1 John 5:6-7

[14] Alford, Henry: The Greek Testament, op. cit., Vol. IV, p. 506

[15] Matthew 1:20

[16] Luke 2:13

[17] Matthew 4:1-11

[18] Luke 22:43

[19] Matthew 28:2

[20] Acts of the Apostles 1:8-12

[21] Matthew 17:5

[22] Ibid. 3:17

[23] Philippians 2:8-18

[24] Cf. Isaiah 28:16

[25] See Romans 10:11

[26] Graham, William: The Spirit of Love, op. cit., pp. 325-326

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson L) 01/20/23

5:9 We believe people who witness in our courts, and so unquestionably, we can believe whatever God declares. And God says that Jesus is His Son.

From his strategic viewpoint as a biblical expositor and educational pioneer, William Burkitt (1650-1703) says that the Apostle John constructs his argument from the less to the greater. Thus, if believing anything is sufficient to have the testimony of two or three credible witnesses, surely the testimony of the faithful and infallible God is much more worthy of belief. God’s testimony concerning the Anointed One that He is His Son is the testimony of a faithful God that cannot lie. Therefore, after all the assurance God gave concerning His Son is the world’s Savior, those who reject and disown Him are accusing God of spreading lies. However, the person that believes in the Anointed One as God’s Son, and trustworthy Anointed One, is safe, having God’s testimony and the testimony of the Holy Spirit within them as the Spirit of holiness, wisdom, and power: Thus, we learn:

  • Every testimony which God gives us is infallible.
  • God has given us the testimony that His Son Jesus the Anointed One is the promised Anointed One and is confirmed far above and beyond other testimonies.
  • Therefore, such as do not believe in our Lord Jesus the Anointed One as the world’s Savior, they disbelieve the most undoubted and infallible testimony of God and try to make Him out to be a liar.

My, Lord! What a bold, presumptuous, and daring sin is unbelief? It supposes that Satan, the father of lies, tells the truth, and the God of truth is telling lies.[1]

With meticulous Greek text examination and confirmation, Johann Bengel (1687-1752) notes that the Apostle John takes a minor point that is undeniable and transitions to that which is eternal[2] [3] in administering the testimonies of the Spirit, the water, and the blood. Although they do that by Divine inspiration and command, they continue as mortals,[4]  the witness of God the Father: whose Son is Jesus. Therefore, the divine testimonies and the mortal witness are the foundation of the Word and the Holy Spirit. Similarly, the testimony of the Spirit is joined with water and blood and proves much more worthy of acceptance.[5] Therefore, Bengel proposes that the heavenly affirmations of Jesus being the Anointed One are a pedestal on which to build the earthly confirmation statue.

The sum of the things presented is this: Greek copies containing the Epistles are neither of such number nor of such antiquity that they ought to prevent the reception of the verse respecting the Three, which bear witness in heaven since it stands altogether upon a peculiar footing. This verse rests upon the authority of the Latin translator, and that almost alone; but he is an authority of the greatest antiquity and genuineness: and he is followed from the first by many fathers, through a continuing series of ages, in Africa, Spain, Gaul, and Italy, accompanied with an appeal to the reading of the Arians, which concurs with it. In fact, the context itself confirms this verse as the center and sum of the whole Epistle.  Is altogether engaged in [completely turns on] this.[6]

With scholarly contemplation, James Macknight (1721-1800) says that the Apostle John alludes to the Anointed One’s words recorded in his Gospel. [7] It is also written in your text that the testimony of two people is valid.[8] Yet, the heavenly witness of God is more significant. In verse seven, His witness joins other witnesses – the Word and the Spirit ‒ but not the water and the blood on earth. Altogether, it is the witness of God because in witnessing, they all act in subordination to Him and agree with Him in detecting the great truth mentioned in verse eleven, namely, that He promised to give us eternal life through His Son. This witness of God is more remarkable, that is, more certain and worthy of credit than the numerous or respectable witnesses of men, no matter how understanding and full of integrity and assurance they may be.[9]

After skillfully scrutinizing the Apostle John’s theme, John Brown of Haddington (1722-1787) wants us to consider this: If we depend on the testimony of two or three credible witnesses for the crucial things in life, how much more should we rely on the testimony of three divine persons that Jesus the Anointed One is God’s only begotten and eternal Son.[10]

At age fifteen, a potential young theologian who was preaching and leading cottage prayer meetings, Joseph Benson (1749-1821) comments on the offices of the Anointed One, exhibited symbolically by water and blood, and of the witnesses in heaven and earth that bear testimony to Him and His salvation. According to the law of Moses, the testimony of two or three credible witnesses was sufficient to prove any fact; indeed, human affairs in general, even the most important, are conducted and determined by depending on the testimony of credible witnesses. Therefore, not only do we accept the testimony of eyewitnesses when they swear to tell the truth before a judge. But we also rely on one another’s word from time to time, sometimes concerning things of great moment.

That’s why God’s testimony is more significant, valid, of higher authority, and much more worthy to be received than the witness of mere mortals, no matter how many or respectable they are because of their integrity so that we can rely on their word with great assurance. Therefore, the testimony of the Father, the Word, the Spirit, the Spirit, the water, and the blood, is a six-fold divine testimony. First, as the true Anointed One, the Savior of the world, able to save, even to the uttermost, all that come to God by Him; and saving all that believe in Him with upright hearts.[11]

Considering everything the Apostle John has said so far, Adam Clarke (1774-1849) wonders if we accept human witnesses of men as sufficient testimony to supply the facts in numberless cases, the witness of God is greater since He can neither be deceived nor deceive.[12]

In his captivating teaching style, Jewish convert Augustus Neander (1789-1850) notes that the Apostle John shows how much is involved in this divine witness.  In the emphatic words in verse nine: “We accept human testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which He has given about His Son.” That which John calls the witness of the Spirit is here designated God’s divine testimony, contrasted with all human testimony, which is often misleading. If we receive anything as accurate, based on the testimony of mortals, we have reason to believe; we can do no less but follow this infallible witness of God. So, is this continuous divine witness, extending through all times, more reliable than human testimony?

This factual witness of God, everywhere seen in the practical workings of the Gospel, shows us the same image of His Son delineated in the Gospel narrative. Thus, it attests it to be accurate, beyond all reach of doubt. It testifies of the same Anointed One mirrored in the Gospel history. It is, as John says, the Father’s witness of the Son. We see that in the preceding passage, it belonged to the present. Now it is spoken of as something completed, the witness that the Father has already given of the Son. Looking back on these operations of the Spirit, John regards them as a testimony already closed. But as extending into his time, they are a present witness. From the standpoint of our age, we may acknowledge it as something at once past and present.[13]

After spiritually analyzing the Apostle John’s comclusions, Gottfried C. F., Lücke (1791-1855) sees verse nine as a reassembled puzzle. Suppose we are supposed to accept as valid the testimony of mortals[14] (the declaration of two or three witnesses). How much more must we then receive the testimony of God (being tripled) as being more reliable? But if we receive God’s testimony, we must believe that Jesus is the Anointed One, the Son of God. For this, God’s affidavit asserts.[15]

Without using complicated language, Albert Barnes (1798-1870) states the obvious; we receive other people’s witnesses in the courts of justice and the ordinary daily life transactions. We are constantly acting on the belief that what others are saying is accurate; that what the members of our families and neighbors say is accurate; that what is reported by travelers is correct; that what we read in books is authentic. We could not get along a single day if we did not act on this belief, nor are we accustomed to questioning it unless we have reason to suspect it is false. The mind must credit the testimony of others. If this ceased even for a single day, the world’s affairs would come to a grinding halt.

Since God’s witness is rated higher, it is more worthy of belief because God is more trustworthy, wise, and honest than mortals. People may be deceived and may undesignedly bear witness to that when it is not genuine – We can never accuse God of using any intention to deceive. People may act from partial observation, from rumors unworthy of belief – God never can. People may desire to garner attention by doing something marvelous – God never can. People may try to deceive – God never has. There are many instances where we are not confident that the testimony given by others is honest, yet we are always sure that God gives false witness. The only question that may cause the mind to hesitate is whether the witness can prove their testimony or be confident they know what they are talking about. When that is ascertained, the human mind is so made that it cannot believe that God would deliberately deceive a world.[16]


[1] Burkitt, William: Expository Notes, op. cit., Vol. II, p. 737

[2] In Latin this is called Argumentum a fortiori 

[3] John 8:17

[4] Ibid. 5:34; 3:31

[5] Ibid. 5:36

[6] Bengel, Johann: Gnomon of the New Testament, op. cit., Vol. 4, p.

[7] John 8:17

[8] Ibid. 8:18

[9] Macknight, James: Apostolic Epistles with Commentary, Vol. VI, p. 113

[10] Brown of Haddington, John: Self-Interpreting Bible, N.T., Vol. IV, p. 506

[11] Benson, Joseph: Commentary on the Old and New Testaments, op. cit., 1 John 5

[12] Clarke, Adam: Wesleyan Heritage Commentary, op. cit., Hebrews-Revelation, p. 397

[13] Neander, Augustus: The First Epistle of John, Practically Explained, op. cit., pp. 292-293

[14] Cf. John 11:11, 32-33

[15] Lücke, Gottfried C. F., A Commentary on the Epistles of St. John, op. cit., p. 275

[16] Hebrews 6:18; cf Titus 1:2

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson LXIX) 01/19/23

5:9 We believe people who witness in our courts, and so unquestionably, we can believe whatever God declares. And God says that Jesus is His Son.

The Psalmist David recognized that friendship builds on fellowship. He says that God reserves friendship for those who reverence Him. With them alone, Yahweh shares the secrets of His promises.[1] David passed on this idea to his son, Solomon, who wrote: “Don’t walk around spoiling for a needless fight. Don’t try to be like those who keep pushing people around on their way through life. Don’t be a copycat. The LORD detests such low-minded people but gladly offers His friendship to the godly.”[2]

The Apostle John presents three witnesses to the truth in verse eight. 1) the Holy Spirit, 2) the water baptism of the Anointed One, and 3) the substitutionary death of the Anointed One by His shed blood. These three testimonies to the Anointed One are here on earth. The “Spirit’s” ministry of the Holy Spirit is through His revelation in the First and Final Covenants convicting individual sinners. As such, the Spirit personalizes truth to our experience. “Water” refers to the baptism of the Anointed One. “Blood” refers to the sacrificial death of the Anointed One for our sins. Jesus fully and finally paid for our sins. Therefore, no further suffering for them is necessary. 

Now, these three witnesses agree on the truth of Jesus being the Son of God, the Anointed One. Two witnesses to the Anointed One are historical and personal. All three witnesses present the Anointed One in one harmonious context. Consequently, the consensus of these concurring witnesses converges on the centrality of the person and work of the Anointed One. God’s Son came to destroy the devil’s empire and save the world from sin’s punishment.[3] The Spirit proves this point in verses nine to twelve. The principle here is that the Holy Spirit moves us toward making Jesus the Anointed One an integral part of our life. The Holy Spirit applies to our hearts the reality of the Anointed One and His ministry to us. Jesus’ blood frees us from the penalty of sin. He wants us to be more than religious spectators.

COMMENTARY AND HOMILETICS

This verse has comments, interpretations, and insights of the Early Church Fathers, Medieval Thinkers, Reformation Theologians, Revivalist Teachers, Reformed Scholars, and Modern Commentators.

With a studious monk’s spiritual insight, Bede the Venerable (673-735 AD) states that if Jesus were not the truth, the Spirit would not have descended on Him at His baptism. The water and the blood bore witness that Jesus is the truth when they flowed from His side at His crucifixion. That would not have been possible if He had not had a genuine human nature. All three are independent witnesses from each other, but their testimony is the same. It’s because the Anointed One’s divinity is not to be believed apart from His humanity, nor is His humanity to be accepted apart from His divinity. All three witnesses are present in us, not in their natural form but by the spiritual union of our souls with Him. The Spirit makes us children of God by adoption, the water of the sacred font cleanses us, and the blood of the Lord redeems us. They are invisible in themselves, but they are made visible for our benefit in the sacraments.[4]  

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) addresses whether God created angels in grace. Some conclude that God did not create angels with grace. For example, Augustine says that the angelic nature was first made without form and was called “heaven:” but afterward, it received its form and was then called “light.”[5] But such formation comes from grace. Therefore, they were not created by grace.

Furthermore, grace turns the rational creature towards God. Therefore, angels created in grace would never turn away from God.  In addition, grace comes midway between nature and glory. As such, any beatification of angels did not occur in their creation. Therefore, such elevation was not the fruit of grace but part of nature but of grace.  “On the contrary, who wrought the goodwill of the angels? Who, save Him Who created them with His will, that is, with the pure love wherewith they cling to Him, at the same time building up their nature and bestowing grace on them?”[6]

With a model teacher’s precision, Aquinas says there are conflicting opinions on this point, some holding that the angels were created only in a natural state. In contrast, others maintain that God created them by grace. Yet, it seems more probable, and more in keeping with the sayings of holy men, that God created angels in sanctifying grace. We see things being created by the work of Divine Providence, in the process of time, were produced by the operation of God, making embryos in seedlike forms, such as trees, animals, and the rest. Hence, it is evident that sanctifying grace bears the same relation to blessedness as the seedlike form in nature does to the natural effect; thus, kindness is called the “seed” of God. Then, it is contended that the seedlike forms of all biological products were implanted in the creature when corporeally created, so straightway from the beginning, the angels were created in grace.[7]

As a firm spiritual disciplinarian, John Owen (1616-1683) states that faith, love, obedience, etc., are peculiarly and distinctly yielded by the saints to Him for our heavenly Father. He is peculiarly manifested in those ways as acting peculiarly towards them: which should draw them and stir them up to obedience and love. In verse nine, God gives testimony to His Son and bears witness to Him. When He provides testimony (which He does as the Father to His Son), His word is to be received by faith. And this is affirmed in verse ten.

To believe in God’s Son is to receive our Lord the Anointed One as His Son given to us, for all the ends of the Father’s love, upon the credit of the Father’s testimony; therefore, faith is immediately acted on by the Father. So, it follows in the next words, “Those who do not believe God” (that is, the Father, who bears witness to His Son) “has made Him out to be a liar.” “Believing in God,” says our Savior,[8] that is, the Father as such, for he adds, “Believe also in Me;” or, “If you believe in God; you must also believe in me.” God founds His authority on Prima Veritas,[9] by which all divine faith is operational. It is not to be considered a “person of the trinity,” as peculiarly expressive of any person but comprehending the whole Godhead, which is the prime object undividedly. But in this particular case, we fix our faith on the testimony and authority of the Father – which, if it were not so, the Son could not add, “Believe in Me.”[10]

Respected Reformation writer, Matthew Poole (1624-1679) says that what the Apostle John says here in verse nine concerning God’s testimony is above exception, being wholly Divine, as John argued in his Gospel.[11] [12]

In his fiery manner, John Flavel (1627-1691) comments that receiving the Anointed One implies the acceptance of truths revealed in the Gospel – His person, nature, offices, incarnation, death, and redemption. Though it is not saving faith, it is its foundation. The soul can’t receive and embrace what the mind does not accept as true and infallible. True faith rests upon the testimony of God as unquestionable. This acknowledgment of faith allows us to receive God’s witness and our seal that God is faithful.[13] Divine reality is the very object of faith: into this, we resolve our faith. “Thus says the Lord” is the firm foundation upon which we build our consent.

Consequently, we see a good reason to believe those profound mysteries of the incarnation of the Anointed One; the union of the two natures in His wonderful person; and the union of the Anointed One and believers, though we cannot understand these things because of our ignorant minds. It satisfies the soul to find these mysteries in the written word; upon that foundation, it firmly builds its consent; without such an affirmation of faith, there can be no embracing of the Anointed One. Without permission, all acts of faith and religion are, but so many arrows shot at random into the open air; they signify nothing for want of a fixed, determinate object.[14]

Influenced by his Arminian view of salvation, Daniel Whitby (1638-1726) says the Apostle John’s words, “If we receive the witness of men,” are assurances to humans, and the three heavenly testimonies are reassurances to God. On the contrary, John intended to signify we had more significant reason to believe the witnesses in heaven than those on earth. The Spirit’s testimony of Jesus as the Anointed One is of equal certainty and validity as John the Baptizer’s witness,[15] and His baptism is from God and not from mankind.[16] The importance of these words is this: If the testimony of two or three people is sufficient to affirm any matter in courts, indeed, the testimony of God, who cannot lie or deceive us,[17] must be of greater force and strength to produce faith in us.[18]


[1] Psalm 25:14

[2] Proverbs 3:30-32

[3] Isaiah 53:4-6

[4] Bede the Venerable, Ancient the Anointed One’s Commentary, Bray, G. (Ed.), op. cit., Vol. XI, p. 224

[5] Augustine: Literal Commentary on Genesis, Vol. I, Paulist Press, 1982, Chap 3:8-9

[6] Augustine: City of God, Book XII, Chap. 9

[7] Aquinas, Thomas: Summa Theologica, op cit., Vol. 1, pp. 734-735

[8] John 14:1

[9] Prima Veritas is a Latin term meaning, “first truth or truth first.”

[10] Owen, John: Of Communion with God, Vol. 3, Chap. 2, op. cit., pp. 16-17

[11] John 5:36,37 8:13,14,17,18

[12] Poole, Matthew. Commentary on the Holy Bible – Book of 1st, 2nd & 3rd John (Annotated), Kindle Edition

[13] John 3:33

[14] Flavel, John: The Method of Grace: How the Spirit Works, op. cit., Ch. 6, p. 105

[15] John 1:6

[16] Matthew 21:25

[17] Numbers 23:19

[18] Whitby, Daniel: Critical Commentary and Paraphrase, op. cit., p. 471

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson LXVIII) 01/18/23

5:7-8 So we have these three witnesses: the voice of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, the voice from heaven at the Anointed One’s baptism, and the voice before He died. And they all say the same thing: Jesus the Anointed One is God’s Son.

When inserting such a passage, the textual evidence from the manuscripts makes it stick out like a sore thumb. It no doubt assures us. Evangelical Christians may not know much about these passages, but many religious people who don’t believe in the Trinity (such as Jehovah’s Witness) know the textual issues around this passage. Therefore, if you bring up this verse to support your position, they will show you how this passage doesn’t belong in the Bible. It may get some thinking, “Well, maybe the Trinity isn’t true. Maybe Jesus isn’t God. Maybe it’s just the invention of people who would try to change the Bible.” But it can result in actual damage. So, a passage like this warns us that when it comes to such matters, God doesn’t need our help. The Final Covenant is acceptable, just like God inspired it. It doesn’t need our improvements. Teaching these added words is valid; they shouldn’t be here because we should not add to the Bible and claim they are God’s words.[1]

Prophetically speaking, Ken Johnson (1965) describes the Father, the Word (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit as three persons in the one Godhead. This Trinity from heaven testifies to believers the truth of the Gospel. Unbelievers should see the validity of the Gospel by looking at “the water and the blood.” Jesus fulfilled the prophecies of baptism into the priesthood,[2] in (water), and dying on the cross (blood).[3] The Scriptures prophesied the exact day of His death![4] Some commentaries and study Bibles will mention that most ancient Bible manuscripts omit verse seven but not tell you that the most ancient manuscripts, like the Codex Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, are full of spelling errors and missing verses. These date to about AD 350. The ancient church fathers quote this verse in full. In Unity of Church, dated 250 AD, Cyprian quotes this passage. So, verse seven was included in the regular reading more than one hundred years before the most ancient corrupt manuscripts.[5]

In his unorthodox Unitarian way, Duncan Heaster (1967) points out that “the Spirit is truth” is included in some manuscripts. The Spirit joins the water and blood as a witness in verse seven. John began in chapter four writing on how to tell whether a teacher was a genuine the Anointed One’s. Then he discusses our assurance that we are God’s children to whom He sent the Comforter to empower individual believers as witnesses.[6]Once we comprehend that our witness to the Lord is certified and backed up by the action of the Spirit, we know that we are of God and have indeed received the Spirit which abides in us.

God sent the Spirit because of Jesus’ return to heaven.[7] John was an example of this, having based his testimony on his experience: “I saw all this myself and have given an accurate report so that you also can believe.[8] This testimony was a gift from God, and the disciples also testified. Their testimony/witness was the same as the witness of the Spirit.[9] Thus, John linked the water, blood, and the Spirit’s testimonies. “The Spirit is truth” clearly references the Comforter as “the spirit of truth.”[10] In verse six, John spoke of discerning “the spirit of truth” and “the spirit of error.” All true Christians had “the spirit of truth,” and the Judaist infiltrators, with their false claims of Spirit gifts, had “the spirit of the devil.”[11]

Bright seminarian Karen H. Jobes (1968) mentions that the three heavenly witnesses were an invention of that culture,[12] leading to its insertion known as the Johannine Comma. It appears in Latin manuscripts but not in Greek parchments earlier than the fourteenth century. While modern English uses the word “comma” to refer to a punctuation mark, it relates to a phrase in earlier English. The Johannine comma is an additional phrase inserted between 5:7 and 5:8 that still appears in Bibles that use the Greek text from which the King James Version translators used in 1611. It reads (additional phrase in italics): For there are three who testify in heaven: Father, Word, and Holy Spirit; and these three are one; and there are three who testify on earth: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree as one.

While it is inevitable that John did not write this additional phrase, it represents an interpretation that captures the unity of the Godhead concerning salvation reflected in the earthly life of the incarnate Son and the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in human lives.[13]

5:9 We believe people when they say something is true. But what God says is more significant. And this is what God told us: He told us the truth about His Son.

EXPOSITION

Just in case there may be some doubters out there reading this epistle, John offers this insight. First, he recites an accepted custom in his day and that a person’s word was their bond.  It was what Moses told his people about making promises: “If a person makes a special promise to the Lord or makes a promise with an oath, they must not break their promise. Instead, they must do everything they said they would do.”[14] So, John introduces his fifth test, the Test of God’s Son.

There are few higher honors than becoming known as a person of their word. But it seems that Jesus had trouble convincing His opponents.  He tells us, “If I tell people about myself, they cannot be sure that what I say is true.[15] The problem was not in Jesus telling the truth but in the refusal of those listening to accept the facts.  So, Jesus tells them, “But if I do what my Father does, you should believe in what I do. You might not believe in me, but you should believe in the things I do.[16] But they were equally unwilling to even consent to that. This failure to believe is the case of people who’ve made up their minds, and nothing will change it, not even one miracle or a dozen.  But if they won’t believe a human messenger, they can see; John points and asks about an unseen God being the messenger.

This is what Jesus said to His detractors. If you’re not going to believe me, “There is someone else who tells people about Me, and I know that what He says about Me is true.[17] Not only that, but Jesus points to another source. “You say that you carefully study the Scriptures, and you think that they give you eternal life. But these same Scriptures are talking about Me![18] So then, as far as Jesus was concerned, their argument was not with Him but with His Father and His Father’s Word.

Even John the Baptizer was irritated by those who wouldn’t accept Jesus after His baptism. So, John the Baptizer scolded them: This man has come from heaven and is more significant than anyone else. I am of the earth, and my understanding is limited to earthly things. The Anointed One tells what He has seen and heard, but how few of you believe what the Anointed One tells you? Those who believe in Him discover that God is a fountain of truth. This one – sent by God – speaks God’s language, for God’s Spirit is upon Him without any limitations.[19]

Later, Jesus validated what John the Baptizer said about Him. He told the skeptics, “I can’t do a solitary thing on My own: I listen, then I decide. You can trust My decision because I’m not out to get My way but only to carry out orders. If I were speaking on My account, it would be an empty, self-serving witness. But an independent witness confirms Me, the most reliable Witness of all.”[20]

Furthermore, you all saw and heard John the Baptizer giving expert and reliable testimony about Me, right? But my purpose is not to get your vote and not to appeal to any human’s testimony. I’m speaking to you because I want you to receive salvation. John the Baptizer was a torch, blazing and bright, and you were glad enough to dance for an hour or so in his bright light. But I have a greater witness than John the Baptizer. I refer to the miracles I do; the Father has assigned these to Me, proving that the Father sent Me.[21]

Then Jesus turns to His detractors and points out that even their laws say that if two people agree on something that has happened, their witness is accepted as fact. I am one witness, and my Father who sent Me is the other.[22] When they didn’t seem to be pleased or open to what Jesus said, He continued: I’m only quoting your inspired Scriptures, where God said, “I tell you – you are gods.” If God called your ancestors ‘gods’ – the Scriptures do not lie – why do you yell, Blasphemer! Blasphemer’ at the unique One the Father consecrated and sent into the world, just because I said, “I am God’s Son?”

If I don’t do the things my heavenly Father does, well and good, don’t believe me. But if I do His work, believe in the evidence of the miracles I’ve performed, even if you don’t believe me. Then you will understand that the Father is in me, and I am in the Father.[23] When all three witnesses are enumerated together, the Spirit naturally comes first. He is a living and Divine witness, independent of the two facts of the baptism and the Passion, which concur with him in testifying that the Son of God is Jesus the Anointed One.


[1] Guzik, David: Enduring Word, 1,2, & 3 John & Jude, op. cit., pp. 92-94

[2] Matthew 3:13-17

[3] Ibid. 28:1-8; 16-20

[4] Daniel 9:24-26

[5] Johnson, Ken. Ancient Epistles of John and Jude, op. cit., pp. 82-83

[6] John 15:26-27

[7] Ibid. 7:39

[8] Ibid. 19:35

[9] Ibid 15:26-27

[10] Ibid. 16:13

[11] Heaster, Duncan. New European Christadelphian Commentary: op. cit., The Letters of John, pp. 70-72

[12] Cf. Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15; Matthew 18:16; 2 Corinthians 13:1

[13] Jobes, Karen H., 1, 2, and 3 John (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on The New Testament Series Book 18), op. cit., p. 222

[14] Numbers 30:2

[15] John 5:32

[16] Ibid. 10:38

[17] Ibid. 5:32

[18] Ibid. 5:39

[19] Ibid. 3:31-33

[20] Ibid. 8:28; 12:49

[21] Ibid. 5:30-36

[22] Ibid. 8:17-19

[23] Ibid. 10:34-38

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