WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson XXXV) 12/02/22

5:5 But who could fight and win this battle except by believing that Jesus is indeed God’s Son?

As stated in his interpretation of the Apostle John’s subject matter, Daniel L. Akin (1957) endorses “Son of God” as an essential title for Jesus in the Bible. It informs us that He is more than a man. He is also God. He is the God/man. “Jesus” identifies Him as a man. “Son of God” identifies Him as God. He has both the nature of humanity and the supernature of God. He is the eternal Son who always existed and will forever exist as the Second Person of the Triune God.

The birthmark of God’s children is that they believe Jesus is God’s only begotten Son. This belief, this faith, is both particular and persevering. Jesus alone is the object of this faith’s confession. And this confession is continuous and ongoing. “Believe” is a present tense verb noting nonstop action. It is not a one-time belief but a lifetime commitment! And it is a personal and individual trust. No one can have faith in nor trust God for you. Everyone must believe the Gospel themselves. You must trust Jesus the Anointed One, God’s Son yourself.[1]

With classical thinking, Bruce G. Schuchard (1958) points out this passage’s strong interest in the necessity of belief that Jesus is the Anointed One, God’s Son. So, who is the one that overcomes the world? Rhetorical questions like those introduced here utilize the interrogative “who[2] to function as a statement. Yet, they come with the added advantage of evoking the listener to ponder the implications of what was said. The secessionists who refused to abide and were wooed by the world have instead gone out.[3] But, they will not prevail “because they lack the true faith.” With the last of three references to victory over the world, John asserts again and finally that only the one who abides in God is assured of triumph.[4]

Great expositional teacher, David Guzik (1961) notes that the Apostle John begins with a principle that is simple yet powerful – if we are “born of God, we will overcome the world.” The idea that this world could defeat anything born of God was odd to John. But, since believing in Him is the key to being born of God, the needed element for victory is “faith,” not only an initial, “come-to-the-altar-and-get-saved” faith, but a “consistently abiding faith,” an ongoing reliance, and trust in Jesus the Anointed One. This tells us we are triumphant primarily because of “who we are” in the Anointed One, not because of “what we do.” We subdue the world’s influence because we are born of God, and we are born of God because we “believe that Jesus is God’s Son” – again, not in a mere intellectual sense, but we build our lives on the fact that Jesus is the Son of God for us.[5]

As a lover of God’s Word, Peter Pett (1966) comments that being born of God results in loving those who have also been birthed by Him and enables us to overcome worldliness. Those born of God do not follow the world’s ways, desires, and hopes; instead, they triumph over them. And what causes them to win? Their faith! Yes, their faith in the crucified and resurrected Jesus as God’s only Son. Indeed, this faith has already enabled them to conquer. The conquering power has promised them victory because He, whom they believe in, has completed the conquest. As the Apostle Paul said, “Through Him who loved us, we are more than conquerors.”[6]

We begin from a position of victory because we start in Him. Thus, the faithful Christian is a guaranteed victor. They defeat the Evil One,[7] conquer the antichrist, and defeat worldliness. This conquest is because their faith is anchored in Jesus the Anointed One, God’s Son, who lifts them above the world. It also gives them conquering power and reveals to them the inadequacy of the false teaching about the non-human, mythical Anointed One of the false prophets and the deceitfulness of the Evil One. they enjoy royal protection.[8]

In his unorthodox way, Duncan Heaster (1967) notes that the “faith” spoken of in verse four, the Apostle John now defines as faith that Jesus is the Son of God, the confession of which led to being cast out of the synagogue and active persecution from the Jewish world.[9] This faith provoked the world’s opposition and overcame those opponents. The Lord Jesus was the one who overcame the world;[10] perhaps the implication is that whoever believes that He is God’s Son and thereby identifies with Him will have His overcoming power applied to them. His Spirit becomes theirs, so His disabling sinfulness is also theirs in practice and not issued to them by grace.[11]

Bright seminarian Karen H. Jobes (1968) feels that the Apostle John is pressing the identity of Jesus not simply as a great teacher, prophet, or even the Messiah. Instead, he consistently identifies Jesus with God the Father as His Son who shares the divine nature.[12] Without faith in the Anointed One, no one can face down the evil, the hopelessness, and the self-defeat that this world presses against us day by day. Many self-help gurus may write and speak about how to live a better life, and some of what they say may be helpful and worthwhile. But the world cannot give us victory over worldliness. Without trust in the Anointed One, who came into the world from God, even the most successful life is swallowed up in spiritual death.[13]

A skilled sermonizer, David Legge (1969), comments that there are three interwoven threads throughout this letter of five chapters. These are the tests, the proofs, the evidence of spiritual eternal life. To put it another way, they are the tests of how we can be assured that we indeed are God’s children, or as John often puts it, “are born of God.” So, this is a small epistle chiefly related to the issue of fellowship, how we can know we’re in union with God – namely, how we know that we are born of God, the children of God, and how we can have the assurance of that fact.

Legge tells us the three tests are: 1) the doctrinal test, 2) the social test, and 3) the moral test. [First], the doctrinal test is “that we believe the Scriptures and history records regarding our Lord Jesus the Anointed One.” [Second], the social testdo you love your spiritual brothers and sisters in the Lord?” And [third], the moral testdo you obey God’s commandments?”[14] Can the world look at us outside the church and see the love we have toward the other inside the church, and witness the new commandment the Apostle John built upon Jesus’ mandate to love one another as He loved us?

EXPOSITION

5:6 Jesus the Anointed One is the one who came. He came with water and with blood. He did not come by water only. No, Jesus came by both water and blood. And the Spirit tells us that these are the facts. The Spirit is the truth.

Now John switches subjects and starts his fourth test, the Divine Unity test. All of what he has said so far is contingent upon Jesus being who He said He was.  John does not want to leave any doubt in the reader’s mind. But for many readers, his language here is difficult to understand without some explanation.  Initially, we must understand that John is talking about how Jesus was proven to be the Redeemer and Savior of the Word.  By putting all three of these together, we get the whole picture.  John the Baptizer told those who would listen, “I would not have known who the Messiah was until the One who sent me to baptize with water told me.”[15] And the Apostle Peter said that water is a symbol of baptism, which now saves you, not by removing dirt from your body, but as a response to God from a clean conscience. It is effective because of the resurrection of Jesus the Anointed One.[16]

Jesus alludes to this same combination when speaking to Nicodemus: “Believe me when I say that everyone must be born from water and the Spirit. Anyone who is not born from water and the Spirit cannot enter God’s kingdom.”[17]  Therefore we can conclude that John speaks about Jesus being verified as the Messiah through what happened at His baptism.  Then John continues, “…and blood.” 

When God explained to Moses how the sacrifices were efficient in covering the sins for which they were being slain, He told him, “This is because the life of the body is in the blood. Therefore, I have told you that you must pour the blood on the altar to purify yourselves. It is the blood that makes a person pure.”[18] This was established for the many sacrifices back then and remained valid for the one final sacrifice on Calvary.

We find a compelling message from God to Israel through the prophet Zechariah concerning the coming King, “I have delivered you from death in a dry hole because of the covenant I made with you, sealed with blood.”[19] Here, of course, John talks about God’s stamp of approval on His new covenant of salvation by the shedding of blood on the cross by His Son, the Messiah, and Savior sent to free the world from sin.

We do not know what Jesus told His disciples about His birth. But the prophet Isaiah made it clear to King Ahaz, who wanted a sign that he would survive any attack from the kings of Syria. So, God told him, ask Me anything to prove that I will protect you. But Ahaz was reluctant to ask. So, then God told Ahaz that the Lord would choose the sign – a child will be born to a virgin. And she will call Him Immanuel (meaning, “God is with us”).[20] So from that earliest time, it was known that a woman would give birth to the Messiah.

However, the Apostle John may have been aware of all the suppositions and propositions of Messiah’s coming. Some scholars think that John no doubt heard they thought Jesus would be another Moses, whom Pharaoh’s daughter rescued out of the Nile River. Others believe that because the High Priest poured out water and wine (representing cleansing and blood) on sacrifices, that would show Him to be like a lamb sacrificed for the sins of Israel. Even some astute Bible scholars feel that verses six through eight are the most difficult to explain in the whole Bible. Then some accept that “water” refers to the Anointed One’s baptism when God spoke and called Him His beloved Son, and “blood” to His death on the cross where He committed His spirit to God.

There is no universally agreed interpretation, so each person must be comfortable with the one that fits best into their theological mindset. However, let’s take that John was speaking in spiritual terms. Then, we can see where “water” is identified with baptism and “blood” with His blood[21] that washes away all sin, in reference to the born-again believer’s victory over the world to enjoy eternal life. Then, hopefully, when we see the Apostle John in heaven, we can ask him for his explanation.[22]


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

[2] 1 John 2:2

[3] Ibid. 2:19

[4] Schuchard, Bruce G., Concordia Commentary, 1-3 John, op. cit., pp. 528-529

[5] Guzik, David: Enduring Word, 1,2 & 3 John & Jude, op. cit., pp. 89-90

[6] Romans 8:37

[7] 1 John 2:14

[8] Pett, Peter: Commentary on the Bible, op. cit., loc. cit.

[9] John 9:22

[10] Ibid. 16:33

[11] Heaster, Duncan. New European Christadelphian Commentary: op. cit., The Letters of John, pp. 69-70

[12] 1 John 1:3, 7; 2:22-24; 3:8, 23; 4:9-10, 14, 15; 5:5, 9-13, 20

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

[14] Legge, David: Preach the Word, op. cit., Sermon 16

[15] John 1:33

[16] 1 Peter 3:21

[17] John 3:5

[18] Leviticus 17:11

[19] Zechariah 9:11

[20] Isaiah 7:14

[21] Cf. Romans 3:25; Ephesians 1:7Hebrews 9:7, 14; 10:29; 12:24; 13:20; 1 Peter 1:2; Revelation 1:5; 5:9; 7:14

[22] See Leviticus 17:11

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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