WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson XXXIX) 12/08/22

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.

Consequently, notes Macknight, it was with great modesty that Jesus began His ministry immediately after receiving this miraculous confirmation. Jesus’ coming was proven by blood; He was authenticated to be the Anointed Son of God through His death, as follows: 1) In His sufferings and death, all the ancient prophecies concerning the sufferings of the Anointed One were fulfilled. 2) During His trial, Jesus expressly called Himself the Anointed Son of the blessed God before the Jewish council and Pontius Pilate. Such renaming calls his witnessing a good confession:[1] He was put to death as a blasphemer for that confession. 3) During His sufferings and death, God bears witness to Him as His Son by the three hours of darkness, the earthquake, the rending of the rocks, and the splitting of the Temple’s veil. 4) Jesus being put to death for calling Himself the Anointed Son of God, His resurrection from the dead was an infallible proof of His being God’s Son. Suppose He had falsely claimed that high title, God would never have raised Him from the dead. On all these accounts, therefore, John had good reason to affirm that Jesus came as the authentic Son of God by blood and water.

It is the Spirit who joined as a witness by the water and the blood. So, the Spirit bears witness to Jesus utilizing water, for the heavens opened after Jesus came out of the water in which He was baptized. The Holy Spirit was seen descending in the bodily shape of a dove and landing upon Him while He prayed. By this miracle, the Spirit pointed Him out to all present as the person of whom the voice from heaven spoke. Accordingly, John the Baptizer told the Jews that Jesus was pointed out to him as the Anointed One by that witness of the Spirit. So likewise, the Spirit witnessed that Jesus is God’s Son through blood. For it was the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead and thereby gave Him that great endorsement as the Son of God. Therefore, the Apostle Peter also testified.[2] The apostle’s meaning is that the Spirit was employed to bear witness to Jesus as God’s Son, by means or on the occasion of the water and the blood, because He is a witness who can neither deceive nor be deceived.[3]

After skillfully scrutinizing the Apostle John’s theme John Brown of Haddington (1722-1787) says that Jesus’s being God’s Anointed Son was well attested at His baptism and in His bloody death. But, after His resurrection, the powerful influences of the Holy Spirit, in applying His saving grace to multitudes and in the miraculous gifts bestowed and cures put into effect for the confirmation of the Gospel, make it an even more potent truth.[4]

For example, a man with a heartfelt friendship with hymn writer[5]John Newton (1726-1807), Thomas Scott (1947-1821) comments that after the Apostle John mentioned Jesus as “God’s Son,” he observed that this was the anointed Savior who “came by water and blood.” Then, as He entered His ministry on earth after being baptized by John the Baptizer, He closed it by shedding His blood on the cross. “Water and blood” flowed from His pierced side immediately upon His death. It became symbolic of the removal of our guilt by His atoning sacrifice and the purifying of our souls by His grace. We are to follow His example according to His commandments.[6] For He came to save sinners, not only by water nor by teaching the way of holiness but enabling the obeying of His commandments not burdensome. It opened the way to sanctification and doing works of faith in love as God’s children.

It came both in the miracles wrought by those who taught this doctrine and lived holy lives. They were patient in suffering and the blessed assurances that came with it.[7] Thus, the Spirit gave testimony to the principle of His atonement, as God’s Son, come in the flesh, to save sinners by His blood, which could not be objected to or rejected. The Spirit is the Truth, even the essential Truth itself, which cannot possibly deceive or be deceived. The two ordinances of baptism with water, the outward sign of regeneration and purifying from the pollution of sin by the Holy Spirit. It appears that the Lord’s Supper, as the outward sign of His body and the shedding of His blood and receiving Him by faith for pardon and justification, also seems to be intended by John.[8] [9]

At age fifteen, a potential young theologian who preached and conducted cottage and prayer meetings, Joseph Benson (1749-1821), speaks about the Anointed One’s offices, exhibited emblematically by water and blood, and of the witnesses in heaven and earth who testify of Him and His salvation.[10]  Here, the Apostle John evidently alludes to his testimony in his Gospel that when the soldier pierced the Anointed One’s side, out came blood and water.[11] This fact John represents as of great importance; adding, (“This report is from an eyewitness giving an accurate account. He speaks the truth so that you also may continue to believe.”)[12]

John then offers full proof, in opposition to the doctrine of the Docetæ, that the Anointed One came in the flesh and died. But, because the offices were emblematical, our Lord sustained salvation; He procured for His people. The water symbolized the purity of His doctrine, instructing people in the purest morals and His pure and holy example. What is of still greater importance is the purifying grace of which He is the fountain, sanctifying and cleansing, those that believe in Him, from all filthiness of unwilling flesh and rebellious spirit.

Additionally, the blood issued from Him was an emblem of His and His followers’ sufferings that awaited them. They, too, were expected to seal the truth with their blood, for which He made atonement for the world’s sins. Therefore, He procured for His followers a free and full justification. Thus, He manifested Himself to be the Son of God, the promised Messiah, by fulfilling those types and ceremonies of the law performed by water and blood. The former of which, denoting purification from sin, He fulfilled by cleansing us by His Spirit[13] (signified by water, from the corruption of nature, and the power and pollution of sin) and restoring God’s image in us.[14] This restoration prefigured the compensation of our sins, fulfilled by shedding His blood to atone for our sins and procure for us deliverance from their guilt and punishment.[15]

It restored us again to God’s favor. Not only was His doctrine pure and His life holy, and may purifying grace be derived from Him, but He came by blood, shed for the punishment of our guilt, for these things must go together. It will not avail us to avoid sin and live in a holy manner until the sins of the time past are paid for. The Spirit bears witness to these things in the writings of the ancient prophets, who spoke mainly concerning both, and in the discourses and reports of the apostles, who have a more precise and fuller testimony. So, also, in the hearts of the faithful, who, convinced of their need for pardon and holiness, receive both through the merits and Spirit of the Anointed One.[16]

A straightforward full Gospel preacher Charles Simeon (1759-1876) says we should be alert that we never attempt to separate what God has joined together. Unfortunately, some self-righteous individuals look to sanctification only as the means of recommending them to God. In contrast, others of good works and merit think little of justification through the Redeemer’s blood. But both are involved in the most grievous of errors, and if they do not obtain a clearer view of the Gospel’s truth, they will forever be separated from God by the lake of fire.

On the one hand, notes Simeon, there is no other fountain opened for sin and uncleanness than that which flows from Mount Calvary; nor, can anyone that is unsanctified behold the face of God in peace: for “without holiness, no one will see the Lord.”[17] On the other hand, if any take refuge in the doctrines of predestination and election, let them know that God ordained the means as well as the end; and that “God planned long ago to choose you and to make you His holy people, which is the Spirit’s work. God wanted you to obey Him and to be made clean by the blood sacrifice of Jesus the Anointed One.”[18] Whichever of these truths any person may consider as exclusive importance, we would say to them, as our Lord said to the self-deceiving Pharisees, “What sorrow awaits you, teachers of religious law. You hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law – justice, mercy, and faith. It would be best if you tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.”[19] [20]

Considering everything the Apostle John has said so far, Adam Clarke (1774-1749) makes note that Jesus was attested to be the Son of God and promised Messiah by water, namely, His baptism, when the Spirit of God came down upon Him, and the voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Jesus the Anointed One also came by blood. He shed His blood for the world’s sins, and this was in accordance with all that the Jewish prophets wrote concerning Him. Here the Apostle John says that the Spirit witnesses that Jesus came not by water only – being baptized and baptizing in His name that they might be His followers and disciples. But He also came by blood – by His sacrificial death, without which the world would remain unsaved, and He could have no disciples.

Perhaps John makes a mental comparison between the Anointed One and Moses who came by water – all Israelites were baptized with him in the cloud and the sea, becoming his flock and disciples.[21] (Some scholars think this refers to Moses’ rescue from the Nile River). Aaron came by blood – he entered the holy of holies with the victim’s blood to make atonement for sin. Moses initiated the people into the covenant of God by bringing them under the cloud and through the water. Aaron confirmed that covenant by shedding the blood, sprinkling part of it upon them, and the rest before the Lord in the holy of holies. Moses came only by water, Aaron only by blood, and both came as types.[22]

After spiritually analyzing John’s conclusions, Gottfried C. F. Lücke (1791-1855) says that all agree in this, that the symbolical expressions “water” and “blood” are to be explained from the emblem of the First and Final Covenants in general and more particularly from the symbol of the Apostle John. But what meaning they convey in this verse is very much contested, particularly among modern interpreters.

  • From the total impression and the context of the whole, let us endeavor to gain such exposition as may securely guide our judgment of the several disagreeing interpretations.
  • Since this passage contains no contentious points of view, the entire reasoning, as is quite evident from the context of the preceding passage,[23] as well as the subsequent verse thirteen, has no other object to justify the belief of Christians in God’s Son, and to counter the world’s unbelief. Therefore, it naturally follows that any explanation of the complex expressions in this epistle in any particular or controversial way must be false.

[1] 1 Timothy 6:13

[2] 1 Peter 3:18

[3] Macknight, James: Apostolic Epistles with Commentary, Vol. VI, pp. 105-107

[4] Brown of Haddington, John: Self-Interpreting Bible, New Testament, Vol. IV, p. 506

[5] Newton, John: Composer of “Amazing Grace,”

[6] Note John 19:31, 37; 1 Corinthians 6:9, 11

[7] John 15:26, 27; Acts of the Apostles 5:32; Hebrews 2:14

[8] 1 John 4:18; John 14:4-6; 15-17; 16:12-13

[9] Scott, Thomas: Commentary on the Holy Bible, pp. 406-407

[10] 1 John 5:6-9

[11] John 19:34

[12] Ibid. 19:35

[13] John 7:38-39

[14] Ezekiel 36:25, 27; Ephesians 5:25-26; Titus 2:14; 3:5

[15] Romans 5:9; Galatians 3:13; Ephesians 1:7

[16] Benson, Joseph: Commentary on the Old and New Testament, op. cit, p. 342

[17] Hebrews 12:14

[18] 1 Peter 1:2

[19] Matthew 23:23

[20] Simeon, Charles: Horæ Homileticae, op. cit., Vol. XX, Discourse 2464, pp. 525-531

[21] 1 Corinthians 10:1-2

[22] Clarke, Adam: Wesleyan Heritage Commentary, op. cit., Hebrews-Revelation, pp. 394-396

[23] 1 John 5:1-5

About drbob76

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