WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson XXXVI) 12/05/22

5:6 And Jesus the Anointed One was revealed as God’s Son by His baptism in water and shedding His blood on the cross – not only by water but by water and blood. And the Spirit, who is truth, confirms it with His testimony.

Interestingly, the Apostle John’s comment is that he is relaying what the Holy Spirit was telling him. He had no reason to doubt because of what Jesus told him and the others, “This Friend I’m asking the Father to send you is the Spirit of Truth.” The godless world can’t recognize Him because it doesn’t have spiritual eyes to see Him and doesn’t know what He looks like. But you already know Him because He resides in you![1]

This, of course, is a reference to when the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, came down upon Jesus and a voice announced from above, “This is My Son.”[2] And it is that same Spirit that will testify to this on earth after Jesus ascends back into heaven.  Jesus told His disciples this very clearly, “I will send you the Helper from the Father. The Helper is the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father. When He comes, He will talk about me. And you will tell people about me too because you have been with me from the beginning.[3]

John wants his readers to know one thing for certain; the Holy Spirit does not lie.  In teaching His disciples about the coming of the Holy Spirit, Jesus explained it to them this way: “When the Spirit of truth comes, He will lead you into all truth. He will not speak His own words. He will only speak what He hears and tell you what will happen. The Spirit of truth will bring glory to me by telling you what He receives from me. All that the Father has is mine. That is why I said that the Spirit will tell you what He receives from me.[4]

No doubt John remembers what Jesus told Nicodemus about the two elements involved in his search for the true meaning of God’s kingdom, the water, and the Spirit.  To every Jew, what happened to sacrifices in the Temple was well known when water and wine [symbol for blood] were poured out on the altar.  These were representations of the water of the Red Sea that was parted so they could escape after the blood of the Passover lamb had set them free from Egyptian bondage.

Proof of Jesus being God’s Son was given at His baptism by John the Baptizer when the voice from heaven and the dove confirmed Him as God’s Son.  That’s where John the Baptizer pointed to Jesus and called Him the Lamb of God that would take away the world’s sins.  So, on the cross, the blood of this Lamb was poured out, and the ransom price was paid.

The Apostle Paul had a similar message for his protégée young Timothy. He acknowledges to his companion in missionary work that it is very accurate that living a godly life is not an easy matter. But the answer lies in the Anointed One, who came to earth in a human body, was proved genuine by the invisible Spirit, and was seen by angels. He was preached to all kinds of people, believed in worldwide, and then taken into heavenly glory for His planned return.[5]

On the other hand, the Apostle John was an eyewitness when he heard the Master tell Thomas, who was afraid that they would be like sheep without a shepherd once the Savior left. His message was, “I am the road that leads to everlasting life; also, I only repeat what is true, and eternal life can only come through Me. No one gets to the Father apart from Me.”[6] So they need not fear, for when this Friend, the Spirit of the Truth, My Father is sending comes, He will take you by the hand and guide you by the light of complete truth. He won’t draw attention to Himself but will make sense out of what is about to happen and, indeed, out of all I have done and spoken. He will honor Me; He will take from Me and deliver it to you.[7]

At the same time, we have the combined testimony of three witnesses to the Anointed One as the Messiah. All three testimonies point to the same end – that Jesus is the Son of God. John has emphasized that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God who stepped foot into humanity as Jesus. John stresses the nature of the testimony about the incarnation in verses six to eight and His deity in verses nine to twelve. The Greek verb martyreō for “witness” occurs five times in verses six to twelve, translated by different English words.[8]  Thus, John employs legal testimony to ratify his argument.

In using the Greek pronoun hoytos (“that”) at the beginning of verse six, John refers to Jesus the Anointed One as God’s Son in the previous verse. The purpose of Jesus’ coming was to save sinners.[9] The “water” here may refer to Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptizer. However, it may refer to the water that flowed from His side on the cross.[10]  Some believe it is best to take “water” as the Anointed One’s baptism because the false teachers of John’s Day thought that the Messiah came upon Jesus at His baptism and not at His birth. The emphasis on His blood indicates that Jesus was the Messiah not only in His life but even in His death.

Then, “blood” refers to the shed blood of the Anointed One on the cross. Despite this evidence, heretic Cerinthus and other false teachers of the first century taught that the Messiah spiritually descended on the human Jesus at His baptism and left Him before His crucifixion. John argues here passionately against this heresy. John’s Gospel is the only additional passage where “water” and “blood” occur together.[11] In that case, the “water” was what flowed from the side of the Anointed One on the cross. John uses “blood” in this book for the sacrificial death of the Anointed One.[12] As a principle, it is undoubtedly possible for Christians because they rest their belief on objective witnesses. Now, faith also leans on testimony. The validity of the testimony about the Anointed One is at the heart of Christian belief.

Renowned inventor Ben Franklin once said, “Nothing is for certain but death and taxes.”[13] The Bible disagrees with this assertion. The Bible proclaims the concept of certainty because it offers categories whereby, we can know something for sure. Unfortunately, the spirit of our age is relativism, which emphasizes that there are no absolutes. People who declare conviction or certainty about something are viewed as odd and rigid by those who say, “We cannot know anything for sure.  Who are you to tell me that I am wrong?” Unfortunately, this spirit has pervaded some churches leaving the congregants with little or no conviction. 

Christianity rests upon truth, a truth beyond ourselves about Jesus the Anointed One. A finite man cannot come to the ultimate truth by reasoning. Their opinion is no better than anyone else’s. However, Christians have two dynamics that afford them certainty: 1) the objective Word of God and 2) the internal witness of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is an additional witness to the Messiahship of the Anointed One beyond “water” and “blood.” John uses the word “know” thirty-nine times in 1 John. It is an emphasis on certainty. “Witness” as a verb or noun occurs nine times in this immediate section of 1 John.[14] 

John then steps beyond the apostolic testimony of Final Covenant writers to the testimony of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit cannot give testimony to anything but the “truth.” He is the primary revealer of truth, and He cannot lie. The Holy Spirit is the inspiration for the writing of the Scriptures.[15]  Therefore, He must tell the truth by His very nature. Thus, the mission of the Holy Spirit is to glorify the Anointed One, who is the truth. 

The Holy Spirit bears witness to our human spirit in several ways. To begin with, He bears witness that we belong to God and are God’s children.[16] Any ministry that glorifies the Holy Spirit above the Lord Jesus the Anointed One is off-target. The Holy Spirit always points to Jesus as the Savior of our souls. If we want to please the Holy Spirit, we must point to Jesus as the center of life. We glorify the Anointed One when we emphasize what He did for us, not what we do for Him. Emphasizing what we do for Him is self-centeredness. Emphasizing what He did for us is Christ-centeredness.

As a matter of fact, we may regard verse six as one of the main propositions of this Epistle – that the eternal Son of God is identical to the historical Jesus. The phrase “water and the blood” in verse eight has received widely differing interpretations. It would be tedious and unprofitable to enumerate all of them. However, even when we use John’s Gospel[17] to support this interpretation of John’s statement, it becomes “the most perplexing incident in the Gospel,” which will probably influence our understanding of this “most puzzling passage in John’s Epistle.” In verse eight, we don’t find a reference to the piercing of the Anointed One’s side and its results, as we see in verse six. Yet, both passages teach similar spiritual truths, for example, the ideas that underlie the two sacraments and guide them by referencing facts in the life and death of Jesus the Anointed One. But the facts are not the same in each case. It is difficult to believe that this passage contains any definite and immediate allusion to what John said in his Gospel. Why, in that case, the marked change of order, “water and blood” instead of “blood and water?” And if some scholars think they can explain by saying that the Epistle is “the mystical subjective order” and the Gospel “the historical and objective order” and that we can use whichever one in either place has not put an end to the difficulties.

If the Apostle John is referring to the outpourings from the Anointed One’s dead body, what can be the meaning of “not in water only, but water and blood”? It was the water, not the blood, that was especially astonishing. And “in” in this case seems a strange expression to use. We should have expected instead, “not shedding blood only, but blood and water.” Moreover, how can blood and water flowing from the Lord’s body be spoken of as His “coming through water and blood?” The most straightforward interpretation refers to the baptism of water to which He submitted and passed on to His disciples, raising it from a sign to a sacrament. John the Baptizer came baptizing in water only, [18] but Jesus came baptizing in water and blood, namely, in water which washed away sin through the effectiveness of His blood.

Jesus achieved His work through the baptism of water and shedding of blood; baptism in these elements means He comes to His followers. Moreover, this interpretation harmonizes with the critical purpose of the Epistle, that is, to invalidate the errors of Cerinthus. Cerinthus taught that the Divine Logos or the Anointed One descended upon Jesus at the baptism and departed again when Jesus was arrested. Cerinthus argued that a natural human was born of Mary, and a mere man suffered on the cross. John assures us that there was no such severance. The Divine Son Jesus, the Anointed One, came not only by water at His baptism but also by blood at His death. Besides these two abiding witnesses, a third is still more convincing. And that is the Holy Spirit that bears witness (to the Divinity of the Anointed One); because the Spirit is truth. There can be no higher testimony than that of the truth itself.[19]


[1] John 14:17; cf. 15:26

[2] Matthew 3:17; 17:5

[3] Ibid. 15:26-27

[4] Ibid. 16:13-15

[5] 1 Timothy 3:16

[6] John 14:6

[7] Ibid. 16:13

[8] Witness (v.6); Record (v.7); Testified (v.8); Gave (v. 10) KJV

[9] 1 Timothy 1:15; cf. Hebrews 10:5

[10] John 19:34

[11] Ibid. 19:34

[12] 1 John 1:7; cf. Hebrews 9:12

[13] From a letter, Ben Franklin wrote to French scientist Jean-Baptiste Le Roy in November 1789

[14] Cf. John 5:31-40

[15] 2 Peter 1:21

[16] Romans 8:16; cf. John 14:16; John 15:26; 16:14

[17] John 19:34

[18] Ibid. 1:31, 33

[19] Ibid. 14:17; 15:26; 16:13

About drbob76

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