WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson LII) 12/27/22

5:7-8 So we have these three witnesses: the voice of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, the voice from heaven at the Messiah’s baptism, and the voice before He died. And they all say the same thing: Jesus the Messiah is God’s Son.

A man longing for renewal, Jewish poet, theologian, and physician Rabbi Yehudah Ha-Levi (1075-1141), penned the finest Hebrew verse written in the Middle Ages, saying, “Behold the mystery of the One who numbers, the number He gives, and the One’s He numbered. In the bosom of God, it is one; in the bosom of mankind, it is three. He weighs rebuke with His understanding, and speaks with His mouth, and writes with His hand.” It was usual with the ancient Jews to introduce Yahweh saying or doing anything in this manner. It is a rule in my house of judgment, says Rabbi Levi, that wherever it reads, “and Yahweh said,” it is intended for everyone there. Also, Rabbi Rashi frequently uses this phrase to explain texts involving a plurality in the Godhead.[1] He comments on the words spoken by Yahweh: “Let there be a separation in the middle of the waters; let it divide the water from below from the water above.”[2] Although the heavens were created on the first day, they were still moist, and they solidified on the second day at the admonition by the Holy One, blessed be He, when He said, “Let there be separation.”

The Scripture also says, “The pillars of heaven tremble, aghast at His rebuke.”[3] They trembled on the first day and second day: “They were astonished by His censure, like people who stand in astonishment because of the disapporval of the one who frightens them.” In the middle of the water, there is a separation between the upper waters and the waters on the earth. Behold, you have learned that they are suspended by the king’s word.

And we also read that God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, in the likeness of ourselves; and let them rule over the fish in the sea, the birds in the air, the animals, and overall, the earth, and over every crawling creature that crawls on the earth.”[4] It is to be observed, says Rabbi Judah Levi, that a house of judgment, or a Sanhedrim, among the Jews, never consisted of less than three. They also wrote “Yahweh” with three Yods, in the form of a triangle, y y y as representing the three divine Persons: one of their more modern writers has this observation on the blessing of the priest:[5] these three verses begin with a Yod, in reference to the three Yods which we write as the name “Yahweh, for they have respect to the three superior things.” We can see this clearly in the Jewish translation: ‘Y’varekh’kha Adonai v’yishmerekha. [May Adonai take care of you.] 25 Ya’er Adonai panav eleikha vichunekka. [May Adonai make His face shine on you and show you, His favor.] 26 Yissa Adonai panav eleikha v’yasem l’kha shalom. [May Adonai lift His face toward you and give you peace.][6] [7]

Now, all of this may seem somewhat scrambled with all the Hebrew words and Jewish exposition. But to make it more transparent, with the three Yod letters, it gives rise for Christians to say: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Also, on the Kabalic Tree of Life, you will notice that in the first three numbers, the middle one (number two) is a characteristic of the teachings of our Lord Jesus. Not only that, but when Jesus hosted the Last Supper, which is a replica of the Jewish Seder Meal at Passover, He did what any Jewish host would do with the Matzah flatbreads on the table. He followed what the Jewish Haggadah instructed, “The master of the Seder breaks in two the middle of the three wafers of unleavened bread on the platter, wraps up the larger half in a cloth and sets it aside for the afikomen (“That which comes later.”)[8]

Jesus called it His body. So it was that after He died on the cross, they wrapped Him in a linen cloth for burial. But what came later was His resurrection. Furthermore, the Jewish Shema speaks of Adonai making His face shine upon us and showing us His favor. No wonder the Apostle John called Him the Light. So, you see that Christianity was not separate from Judaism; it is the Amplified Version of Judaism. Those stuck in the old version are still waiting for Messiah to come, while those in the Amplified Version believe He was already here and is coming back.

With all the Apostle John’s themes in mind, John Wesley (1703-1791) tells us in his journal that on Sunday, May 1, 1775, he felt led to preach on 1 John 5:7: “There are three that bear record in heaven.” The congregation was exceedingly large but more abundant in the evening. “I never saw the God’s House so crowded before, he exclaimed.” It was much the same the following evening.[9] The sermon Wesley preached talked about words, that there are ten thousand mistakes that may consist of natural religion, which every candid, considerate person will think and let think. But there are some truths more important than others.

It seems there are some which are of profound importance. He said he would not term them fundamental truths; because that is an ambiguous word. Hence there have been so many warm disputes about the number of fundamentals. But indeed, there are some which nearly concerns us to know, as having a close connection with vital religion. And doubtless, we may rank among these in First John 5:7. Wesley did not imply that it is essential to believe this or clarify these words. I know not that any good judging person would attempt to explain them at all.

Wesley then tells us that one of the best tracts which that great man, Johnathan Swift (1667-1745), ever wrote, was his Sermon upon the Trinity.[10] Herein he shows that all who endeavored to explain it have utterly lost their way; above all, other persons hurt the cause they intended to promote, having only, as Job speaks, “darkened counsel by words without knowledge.” It was in an evil hour that these explainers began their fruitless work. I insist upon no clarification at all; no, not even on the best I ever saw; I mean, that which is given us in the creed commonly ascribed to Athanasius. I am far from saying he who does not ascend to this will, without doubt, perish everlastingly. But, for the sake of that and another clause, I, for some time, scrupled subscribing to that creed; till I considered (1) That these sentences only relate to willful, not involuntary, unbelievers; to those who, having all the means of knowing the truth, nevertheless obstinately reject it: (2) that they relate only to the substance of the doctrine there delivered; not the philosophical illustrations of it.

For Wesley, this is true, especially when we consider that what God was pleased to reveal in his mind is far from being a point of indifference; it is a truth of the most importance. It enters the very heart of Christianity: It lies at the core of all vital religions. Unless these Three are One, how can “all men honor the Son, even as they honor the Father?” “I know not what to do,” says Italian theologian Fausto Socinus (1539-1604) in a letter to his friend, with my unpleasant followers: “They will not worship Jesus the Messiah.” Did not Moses say, “Let all the angels of God worship Him?”[11] The answer is, “However that may be if He is not God, we dare not worship Him. For it is written, ‘Thou shalt worship the Lord your God, and Him only shalt thou serve.’”[12] But I mainly mean this: Entwined with true Christian faith and vital religion is the knowledge of the Three-in-One God.[13]

With scholarly meditation and reflection on the text, James Macknight (1721-1800) notes that the authenticity of this verse has been the subject of much controversy in modern times. However, the arguments on both sides of the question, taken from ancient Greek manuscripts and versions and quotations made by the early church Fathers, have been stated with superb reliability and accuracy.[14]

Macknight then speaks about the role of the Spirit. However, in this verse, the three mentioned in verse six as being witnesses are said to bear witness a second time to Jesus, namely, the Spirit, the water, and the blood; it is no repetition: because the water, the blood, and the Spirit in verse eight are different from the water, the blood, and the Spirit, in verse six. Therefore, the thing witnessed by them is indifferent. And this is perhaps the reason John mentions these witnesses in a different order in the two verses.

As the Spirit inspired the apostles and evangelists with the knowledge of the Gospel, it motivated them to record God’s promise of eternal life through His Son. So now, the Spirit by who inspired their writing, may with great propriety be said by them to bear continual witness on earth to the great truth that God gives us eternal life through His Son. And that is not all. The Spirit may be said to bear witness continually to the same truth by His influence in the minds of believers, those dispositions by which they become the children of God and heirs of eternal life.[15] Hence they are said by John to have the witness in themselves.

When it comes to the witness of the water, the rite of baptism regularly administered in the Christian church to the end of the world, witnesses continually on earth that God has offered us eternal life through His Son. For, baptism being instituted in commemoration of the Messiah’s resurrection, and to be an emblematical representation of our resurrection, the continued administration of it in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is a solemn assurance of our obtaining eternal life through the Son. So the Apostle Paul informs us.[16]


[1] The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi’s Commentary on Genesis Chapter One, Chabad.org

[2] Genesis 1:6-7

[3] Job 26:11

[4] Genesis 1:26

[5] Numbers 6:24-26

[6] Numbers 6:24-26 – Complete Jewish Bible

[7] Gill, John: Exposition of the Entire Bible, op. cit., loc. cit.

[8] The Passover Haddadah With Hebrew and English Translation on Facing Pages, Nahum N. Glazer (Ed.), Schocken Books, New York, 1953, p. 21

[9] Wesley, John, The Works of, Vol. 4, Journals, Monday, September 13, 1773-Sunday, October 24, 1790, p. 48

[10] Swift, Jonathan, Works of, Vol. 10, M. Brown, Printer, St. John’s Square, London, 1801, pp.19-31

[11] Deuteronomy 32:43

[12] Ibid. 6:13

[13] Wesley, John: Sermons on Several Occasions, op. cit., Sermon 55, On the Trinity, pp. 574-569

[14] Macknight, James: Apostolic Epistles with Commentary, Vol. VI, pp.107-111

[15] Romans 8:16

[16] Ibid. 6:4

About drbob76

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