WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson XXXVII) 12/06/22

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

So, John summarizes all that he has just written about how Jesus is rightfully declared to be the Son of man, the Son of God, the Messiah, and the Lamb of God and the testimonies that it is true.  He begins with the Holy Spirit.  Perhaps John recalls God’s dynamic message to Isaiah: “Come closer and listen. I have always told you plainly what would happen so that you could clearly understand. And now the Lord God and His Spirit have sent me (with this message): The Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, says: ‘I am the Lord your God, who punishes you for your benefit and leads you along the paths that you should follow.’”[1]

In other words, these teachings, instructions, guidelines, and mandates are not for our harm or obstruction, but just like traffic signs, they are to protect us and keep us safe.  That’s why Jesus could stand up in the synagogue in Nazareth and open the scroll to Isaiah 61:1 and read, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the suffering and afflicted. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted, to announce liberty to captives, and to open the eyes of the blind.

Jesus made this abundantly clear at His last supper with the disciples: “He took a cup of wine, thanked God for it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘Each one of you drink some of it. This wine is my blood, which will be poured out to forgive the sins of many and begin the new agreement from God with His people.’[2] So, Jewish law only requires two witnesses.[3] And of course, there is the great commission Jesus gave to all His followers to go and make disciples in all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.[4]

The Apostle Paul points out that God’s various gifts are handed out everywhere, but they all function by the power of God’s Spirit. God’s various expressions of strength and authority are in action here, but God is behind it all. God gives each person something to do that demonstrates who they are.[5] Paul also emphasizes that God’s Holy Spirit speaks deep in our hearts and tells us that we are God’s children.[6] And in case someone wanders away from the truth found articulated by the Holy Spirit in the Gospels, the writer of Hebrews says once people have seen the Light in the Gospel, tasted of heaven, and been part of the work of the Holy Spirit, once they’ve personally experienced the sheer goodness of God’s Word and felt the yearning for what awaits them in heaven, if they turn their backs on it, washing their hands of the whole thing, they can’t start over as if nothing happened.

That’s impossible; they’ve re-crucified Jesus! They’ve repudiated Him in public![7] That’s why we must remain faithful to Him, His Son, His Spirit, and His Word. He doesn’t expect us to be perfect; we will make mistakes. But we must keep this in mind; He put his brand upon us – His mark of ownership – by giving us His Spirit to abide in our hearts to guarantee that we belong to Him. However, this is just the first installment that He will provide us with later.[8]

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 apostolic overtones, Œcumenius of Trikka (500-600 AD) asks, “Why did Jesus come?” He came to give us a new birth and make us God’s children. “How are we born again?” Through water and blood. The same Jesus who came and gave us a new birth by water and blood. The water represented His baptism when He was revealed as God’s Son. The blood, of course, stands for His crucifixion when He prayed that the Father would glorify Him and a voice answered from heaven: “I have glorified, and I will glorify.”[9] [10]

With his prophetic-inspired mind, Andreas of Caesarea (563-614) comments that what flowed from Jesus’ side on the cross was the blood that cleanses us from sin and sanctifies the people of God. It was not a mere man who appeared at the Jordan but the incarnate Word of God, to whom the Father also bore witness: “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”[11] Similarly, when Jesus was hanging on the cross, what sounded like thunder was the voice of God speaking at the moment His blood splattered on the ground.[12]

With a studious monk’s spiritual insight, Bede the Venerable (673-735), points out that God’s Son did not just come to be baptized in water in order to show us how to be cleansed from our sins, but also with the blood of His passion by which He consecrates the sacrament of baptism, giving His blood for us, redeeming us by His suffering and nourishing us with His teachings so that He might save us from sin.[13]

After a stealthy investigation of the Apostle John’s letter, Isho’dad of Merv (800-900 AD) feels that the Apostle John calls the Anointed One’s baptism “water” and His passion “blood.” Therefore, he fulfilled all the dispensations for our sake by means of His baptism, His passion, and by the Holy Spirit.[14]

Reformation writer Matthew Poole (1624-1679) says that we must proceed by degrees to explain this obscure narrative. (1) We cannot literally take the Apostle John’s reference to water and blood. (2) Therefore, they must be intended to signify somewhat or other by symbolical representation or have some mystical meaning. (3) They ought to have such a meaning assigned to them, as both will be agreeable to the expressions and the Apostle John’s present scope and design. (4) It will be very agreeable to the expressions, understand by water the purity of our blessed Lord, and blood His sufferings. (5) The Spirit’s manifest scope and design show the credibility of the witness and testimony to assure us that Jesus is the Anointed One, the Messiah. Furthermore, to persuade us to believe this of him, with effectual and transforming faith to prove our being born of God. This faith will make us victorious over the world. Therefore, we must constantly cling to Jesus with trust and obedience against all the allurements and opposition of the world.[15]

As a young theological sage, Hugh Binning (1627-1653) asks if anyone thinks they can hide their sins if they mourn and pray. They may ease their consciences by reflecting on this, but their iniquity still marks them as sinners. Isaiah said, “We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our self-righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags.”[16] Seeing stretched-out hands and many prayers will not do it; what can a person do? The Lord showed you what to do; do nothing about removing those sinful stains. In other words, do not try to wash away the tiniest spot with all your remorse. The means for cleansing is new to you, even the blood of Jesus, the Anointed One that cleanses from all sin. Wash in this blood, and you will be clean. And what is it to wash in this blood?

For anyone to believe in Jesus as God’s Anointed One is to comprehend and believe in the all-sufficient virtue of His work on the cross. Furthermore, to trust our souls to it as a sufficient ransom for all our sins. Finally, it is to spread the covering of the Anointed One’s righteousness over all our self-righteousness and unrighteousness, as both alike needs to be hidden from His holy eyes. Jesus the Anointed One came by water and by blood. By water to sanctify, and by blood to justify; by the power and cleansing virtue of the Holy Spirit, to take away sin by virtue of His blood, to take away sin in the guilt and condemnation of it.[17]

But Binning is not finished. He quotes from the First Covenant, “Wash yourselves and be clean! Get your sins out of my sight. Give up your evil ways.”[18] First, sin has two evils: its nature and unfortunate effect; both are filthiness contrary to God’s holiness, a demeaning of the immortal soul, a spot in the face of the Lord of all creatures. But though it is unnatural to us, it now seems natural in our fallen estate, so people agree with it as if it were a part of mankind’s soul. Second, sin’s guilt and deserved punishment. Everyone hates this, but they cannot get away from it. If they eat the fruit Satan offers, they will be eating spiritual death. They earn the wages of sin.[19]

However, the Gospel has a remedy for all lost souls in Jesus the Anointed One; He appears in the Gospel with a twofold blessing, and a twofold virtue: a sanctifying virtue, and a pardoning virtue found in the water and the blood.[20] He came to forgive sin, subdue sin, and eliminate its guilt by doing away with evil. The Anointed One did not come to dissolve the law but to fulfill it. If He had taken away the punishment and left sin in our being, he would have weakened the law and the prophets.[21]

In addition, the heart formerly was a troubled fountain that sent out filthy streams. Corruption was the mud among the affections and thoughts, but a pure heart is like clear running water, clean and bright like crystal. This purity consists of washing, regeneration, and sanctification by the Spirit of holiness. Jesus the Anointed One came by blood to sprinkle and purge the conscience, that it might have no more conscience of sins.[22] Jesus also came by water, the washing and cleansing virtue of the Spirit of grace, to purge and cleanse us from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit. There are two things in sin that Jesus came to destroy, the guilt and offense of sin, whereby the sinner is condemned and lies under the Judge’s curse upon evil, which also the Anointed One came to destroy.[23]

In his fiery manner, John Flavel (1627-1691) follows the same thinking by pointing out a twofold evil in sin, its guilt, and its pollution. Thankfully, justification cures the former, sanctification the latter. That’s because both justification and sanctification flow out of the death and resurrection of the Anointed One. And though it is proper to say the Spirit sanctifies, the blood of the Anointed One did indeed obtain for us the Spirit of sanctification. Had the Anointed One not died, the Spirit would have never come down from heaven for such a purpose. The pouring out of the Anointed One’s blood for us obtained the pouring forth of the spirit of holiness upon us. Therefore, the Spirit is said to come in His name, to take of His, and show it to us. Hence it is said, “He came both by blood and by water;” by blood, washing away the contamination of guilt; by water, purifying from the stain of sin. Now this fruit of the Anointed One’s death, even our sanctification, is incomparable mercy.[24]


[1] Isaiah 48:16-17

[2] Matthew 26:27-28

[3] Deuteronomy 17:6

[4] Matthew 28:19

[5] 1 Corinthians 12:4-6

[6] Romans 8:16

[7] Hebrews 6:4-6

[8] 2 Corinthians 1:22

[9] John 12:28

[10] Oecumenius: Ancient Christian Commentary, Bray, Gerald, ed., op. cit., Vol. IX, p. 223

[11] Matthew 3:17, cf. 17:5

[12] Andreas:  Ancient Christian Commentary, Bray, Gerald, ed.,, op. cit., Vol. IX, p. 223

[13] Bede, The Venerable: Ancient Christian Commentary, Bray, Gerald, ed., op. cit., Vol. XI, p. 223

[14] Isho’dad of Merv: Ancient Christian Commentary, Bray, Gerald, ed., op. cit., Vol. XI, p. 223

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

[16] Isaiah 64:6a

[17] Binning Hugh: Heart-Humiliation, Sermon, X, p. 409

[18] Isaiah 1:16 – New Living Testament (NLT)

[19] Romans 6:23

[20] 1 John 5:6

[21] Binning, Hugh: Heart-Humiliation, Sermon XI, pp. 412, 416

[22] Cf. Hebrews 9:14; 10:2

[23] Binning, Hugh: Practical Sermons, Sermon XIII, p. 614

[24] Flavel, John: The Fountain of Life, Sermon 38, p. 470

About drbob76

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