WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson XLVI) 12/19/22

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.

Could the Spirit be the Father’s vehicle in talking to His Son? If so, it could then be argued that the Spirit did confirm the significance of the baptism of Jesus. Not only so, but the Spirit must undoubtedly be regarded as inspiring the First Covenant writers who prophesied the coming of Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God. In some or all these ways, it may be claimed that the Spirit already bore witness to Jesus during and even before his earthly life. Hence John may be thinking here of the activity of the Spirit who witnessed in the past Jesus as the Son of God and who still bears his testimony, confirming to the believer what he has already said.[1]

With a Jewish convert’s enthusiasm for the Christian Messiah, Messianic writer David H. Stern (1935) said, Yeshua is the one who came through water and blood, Yeshua the Messiah. Contrary to Gnostic teachings, Jesus did not “receive the heavenly Anointed One” upon emerging from the Jordan; instead, Yeshua, already the Messiah’s immersion in water, symbolized His death and resurrection.[2] Likewise, He did not imitate being human but died an actual death on the execution stake; otherwise, He would not have atoned for our sin – the blood, which is shorthand for Yeshua’s death,[3] witnesses that He is God’s Son.[4] [5]

As a seasoned essayist on the Apostle John’s writings, John Painter (1935) says “who is He” refers to Jesus in verse five. The fact that the opponents denied this seems obvious. Here Jesus is identified as “Jesus the Anointed One.” The double name implies that Jesus is the Son of God, “the one who came through water and blood.” Reference to “the one who came” draws attention to a specific event. The authentic confession “Jesus the Anointed One has come in the flesh” is called to mind here. The use of the double name affirms the identity of the human Jesus, and the divine Anointed One is one person. In all the confessions of faith concerning the identity of Jesus, the name Jesus is used alone: Jesus is the Anointed One,[6] and Jesus is the Son of God.[7] But He is referred to as “Jesus the Anointed righteous One,” and God’s command is to believe in the name of His Son Jesus the Anointed One.[8] Further, the name “Jesus the Anointed One” is used when His coming is spoken of by those who confess “Jesus the Anointed One has come in the flesh,”[9] and “Jesus the Anointed One came by water and blood.”[10] [11]

A man who is not hesitant to aim for the heart of the subject, Muncia R. Walls (1937), Ministry and Missions Overseer of Medora, Indiana Pentecostal Church, acknowledges that there are a lot of different opinions as to just what John has in mind here in this verse when referring to water and blood. Some feel that water refers to the baptism of Jesus, and blood denotes His death on the cross. Still, others think that it has reference to the Communion service. The Cerinthian heresy taught that the Anointed One came upon Jesus at the time of His baptism and departed when He hung on Calvary. They argued that His humanity never limited the Anointed One. Therefore, the Anointed One was never a young child, nor did the Anointed One die on the cross. But John argues that Jesus the Anointed One came by water and blood. With this, he connects Jesus and the Anointed One as one individual who experienced birth, life, and death: as one person. John states, “And it is the Spirit that bears witness because the Spirit is truth.” Only those born of the Spirit can truly understand this wonderful truth concerning Jesus the Anointed One. Those who have not been born again keep arguing about His deity, about the role, He played in human affairs. Like the Corinthians, people choose to explain away the divinity of Jesus the Anointed One or relegate Him to sharing a second-person status with two other members in their so-called Trinity Godhead. [12]

In verse six, expositor and systematic theologist Michael Eaton (1942-2017) emphasizes that Jesus comes to us in three ways. First, the word “came” apparently means not just “came into this world,” but “came into the position of being a Savior, came to us through certain historical events which enable Him to give us eternal life.” There were circumstances and events “through” which Jesus “came” to reach us as a Redeemer. He came through water. He was the Son of God before His baptism. But His ministry to us involved “coming” to us through water. At His baptism, the Holy Spirit empowered Him for ministry. He came through blood. That is to say, He had to die, and His death was confirmed. John has already said that it is the blood of Jesus that turned away the Father’s anger against sin.[13] It is the blood of Jesus that cleanses the conscience of the Christian who “walks in the Light.[14] The historical fact that Jesus, the Son of God, died upon the cross for us is indispensable to His “coming” to us. [15]

After scrutinizing the Apostle John’s subject theme, William Loader (1944) says that the Apostle John doubtless made the dispute about Jesus quite clear to the readers. Without their first-hand knowledge, we must reconstruct what John might have meant. Clearly, in John’s mind, the opponents taught that Jesus the Anointed One came with or by (the) water only, and not with or by (the) blood. What is the difference? Water and blood might refer to aspects of the human body. Those saying he came only by water would be suggesting that His body was not a natural human body. This would amount to saying the same thing another way: He did not come embodied in the flesh. This would assume the opponents had a belief that understood Jesus’ body as substantially consisting of water and not of water and blood. The chief difficulty with this view is that we cannot be sure that any such notion of a water body ever existed at the time.

The Spirit bears witness to this because the Spirit is truth. In a previous segment, the connection between correct belief and the role of the Spirit strongly appears.[16] It structurally matches the present passage. It has been a consistent feature of John’s reasoning to appeal to the witness of the Spirit. The image of the anointing in First John 2:20-27 enables the readers, struggling with the antichrists, to distinguish truth from error. It assures the believer of mutual indwelling with God.[17] Here, as in 1 John 4:2, the Spirit ensures the correct understanding of Jesus in the Spirit is truth because it bears witness to the facts.[18]

Great Commission practitioner David Jackman (1945) notes that the preposition “by” (Greek dia) is literally “by means of” or “through.” It is probably best to keep in mind that water and blood symbolize “how” Jesus came into the world to accomplish his mission of salvation. From Augustine onwards, a long line of commentators has interpreted this to mean the water and blood which flowed from the side of the Anointed One when pierced by the soldier’s spear as He hung on the cross.[19] In that context, John emphatically underlines his eyewitness testimony to this actual death of a genuine man. The testimony in these verses and the combination of blood and water have been used to support this as primary witnesses. It seems very unlikely that John would build such a significant argument on a comparatively small historical detail, even if he were an eyewitness. Others have drawn attention to the water of baptism and the blood (wine) of the eucharist and have seen here a symbolic foreshadowing of the two great sacraments of the church. These things may well be accurate, but they do not sufficiently account for John’s meaning in its context. [20]

After studying the context surrounding this verse, John W. (Jack) Carter (1947) states that one of the primary purposes of this letter is to counter arguments by the Docetics who hold that Jesus was not human. John often refers to Jesus as the “Word,” equates the Word with the Messiah, the Anointed One, and states that the “Word became flesh and lived among us.”  The Messiah, YAHWEH, LORD, became human and walked among us.  He came to us by water, a physical property, not a mystical one. Some may argue that John is referring to the process of childbirth since the phrase is idiomatic of the birth process.  Some hold that the water refers to the baptism of Jesus, the point when Jesus’ ministry on earth began. The Messiah returned to Glory through the event on the Cross, where He shed His blood. These points still hold to the truth that Jesus was fully human, yet fully YAHWEH. It is easy for this world to reject the true identity and purpose of Jesus the Anointed One, and the vast majority of the people of this world do so. 

These do not bear any witness to the truth, says Carter, and have no interest in doing so.  However, the Holy Spirit of God, who is the power behind all of God’s work and will continue to do, bears witness to the truth of Jesus’ identity and purpose. The Holy Spirit always represents truth. The Holy Spirit never performs any work that serves to deceive or present any form of falsehood. Therefore, when one relies on the witness of the Holy Spirit concerning the nature and purpose of Jesus Christ, one can only come away with the truth.  Jesus is who He says He is.  Jesus is who the Holy Spirit says he is.  Jesus is who the Father says He is.  Jesus is YAHWEH, LORD, the agent of creation, and through the work of the Cross of Calvary, the judge of all people.[21]

A man who loves sharing God’s Word, Robert W. Yarbrough (1948) says that references to Jesus’ arrival imply His heavenly origin. He was the Light “coming into the world.”[22] He has been “with God” uniquely “in the beginning.”[23] He was the one whom John the Baptizer promised was “coming” next,[24] of whom he was not worthy. Jesus was the one “coming” from above, from heaven.[25] In other words, in John’s understanding, Jesus is God incarnate, and he finds the incarnation instead in John’s reference to water. Complete redemptive faith in Jesus the Anointed One recognizes that He, and no other, is the one who came from heaven to be God’s saving agent in the earthly domain.[26]

Skilled in Dead Sea Scroll interpretation, Colin G. Kruse (1950) tells us that following the Apostle John’s description in verse four of those who overcome the world as those who believe that Jesus is God’s Son. Here in verse six, John describes the Jesus he believes in. He is the One who came by water and blood – Jesus, the Anointed One. His belief is different from the secessionists, and John indicates the difference between his view and theirs: He did not come by water only but by water and blood. This text suggests that Jesus came “by water” and was not in dispute. What was being argued was whether He came by “water and blood.” Having made the point that those who truly believe that Jesus is God’s Son also think that He is the One who came by “water and blood.” John indicates that the Spirit testifies to all this truthfully because the Spirit is Truth.


[1] Marshall, Ian Howard: The Epistles of John (The New International Commentary on the New Testament), op. cit., p. 235

[2] Romans 6:3-6

[3] Ibid. 3:25

[4] 1 John 5:5, 9-12

[5] Stern, David H., Jewish New Testament Commentary. op. cit., loc. cit., Kindle Edition

[6] 1 John 2:22; 5:1

[7] Ibid. 4:15; 5:5

[8] Ibid. 3:23

[9] Ibid. 4:2

[10] Ibid. 5:6

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

[12] Walls, Muncia: Epistles of John and Jude, op. cit., pp. 84-85

[13] 1 John 2:2; 4:10

[14] Ibid. 1:7

[15] Eaton, Michael: Focus on the Bible, 1,2,3 John, op. cit., pp. 178-179

[16] 1 John 4:1-3

[17] Ibid. 3:24; 4:13

[18] Loader, William: Epworth Commentary, The First Epistle of John, op. cit., pp. 62-63, 68

[19] See John 19:34-35

[20] Jackman, David: The Message of John’s Letters, op. cit., pp. 147-148

[21] Carter, Dr. John W. (Jack). 1,2,3, John & Jude: (The Disciple’s Bible Commentary Book 48), op. cit., pp. 121-122

[22] 1 John 1:9

[23] John 1:1; cf. 1:18

[24] Ibid. 1:15, 27

[25] Ibid. 3:31

[26] Yarbrough, Robert W. 1-3 John (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament), op. cit., pp. 281-282

About drbob76

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