NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
By Dr. Robert R. Seyda
FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN
CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson LIII) 12/28/22
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: that Jesus the Messiah is God’s Son.
The water in the baptismal rite signifies the Messiah’s rising from the grave and, as a pledge of our resurrection to eternal life. In the Lord’s Supper, the blood commemorates the Messiah shedding His blood for the remission of sin. Wherefore, the gift of eternal life follows the forgiveness of sin; the blood is a continual witness on earth that God has given us everlasting life through His Son.
After skillfully scrutinizing the Apostle John’s theme, John Brown of Haddington (1722-1787) says, of these three, the first we have the One whose glory is in heaven, who sent and still bears testimony to the incarnate Savior as the true Messiah – the Father. Then we have by repeated declarations from heaven and being raised from the dead – the Son. Finally, by repeated confirmations of His divine and mediatorial character, and by authoritative instructions and unnumbered miracles wrought by His power, visibly descending on Him at His baptism, and by being sent at His request, after His ascension, to spread His name, kingdom, and glory in the world there is the Holy Spirit.
These three, with distinct personalities, in a manner that infinitely transcends our most enlarged conceptions, are not only equal in power and glory, but essentially one being, and substance: one God, in distinction from and opposition to the many pretended deities of the heathens and others. Meanwhile, on earth, the miraculous gifts and saving graces of the Holy Spirit; the spotless purity of the Messiah’s human nature, His holy doctrine, and ordinance of Christian baptism; Jesus’ blood is represented in His supper and applied to the consciences of believers – harmoniously approved Him as the divine, complete, and only Savior of sinners.
The one they called “self-promoting intellectual theologian,” Nathanael Emmons (1745-1840), Pastor of a church in Franklin, Massachusetts, declares that the Scriptural doctrine of the Trinity is not offensive to sound reason. Brown then attempts to show what conceptions the Scriptures offer to direct us to form a concept of divine existence.
1) The Scripture leads us to conceive of God, the first and supreme Being, as existing in three distinct persons. The one living and true God exists in such a manner that there is a proper foundation in His nature to speak of Himself in the first, second, and third person, and say I, Thou, and He, meaning only Himself. There is something in the Divine nature that lays a proper foundation for such a personal distinction. But what that something is can neither be described nor conceived. Here lies the whole mystery of the Trinity.
2) The Scripture represents the three persons in the sacred Trinity as equal in every Divine perfection. We find the same names, the same attributes, and the same works ascribed to each person. 3) The Scripture represents the three equally Divine persons in the Trinity acting in a particular order in the work of redemption. Though they are equal, the first person is superior to the second in office, and the second is superior to the third. The Son is subordinate to the Father, and the Spirit is subservient to the Son and Father. 4) The Scripture teaches us that each Divine person takes His peculiar name from the particular office He sustains in the economy of redemption. The first person assumes the name of Father because He is, by the office, the Creator or Author of all things, especially of the human nature of the Messiah. The second person assumes the name of Son, Word, and Light by His incarnation and mediatorial conduct. The third person is called the Holy Spirit because of His specific office as Sanctifier. 5) The Scripture represents these three Divine persons as one God. These express the text’s plain language. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three in respect to their personality and one in respect to their nature and essence.
This Scriptural account of the mysterious doctrine of the sacred Trinity is not offensive to the dictates of sound reason. 1) The doctrine of the Trinity, as represented in Scripture, implies no contradiction. For all we know, there may be an incomprehensible something in the one self-existent Being that lays a proper foundation for existing as a Trinity in Unity. 2) If it implies no contradiction that the one living and true God should exist in three persons, then this mysterious mode of the Divine existence is agreeable to the dictates of sound reason. We cannot suppose that the uncreated Being should exist in the same manner we and other created beings live. And if He exists differently from created beings, then His mode of existence must be mysterious. And whoever now objects against the Scripture account of the sacred Trinity would have equally opposed against any other account which God could have given of His peculiar mode of existence. 3) The doctrine of the Trinity, as represented in Scripture, is no more distasteful to the dictates of sound reason than many other doctrines which all Christians believe concerning God.
It is generally believed, explains Emmons, that God is a self-existent Being or that there is no cause or ground for His existence. But who can explain this mode of reality or even form any clear conception of it? Again, Christians believe in an omnipresent God. But can we frame any clear ideas of this universal presence of the Deity? Furthermore, believers do not doubt that God is the Creator, who has made all things out of nothing. But of that power which can create or produce something out of nothing, we can form no manner of conception. Therefore, this divine attribute is as mysterious and incomprehensible in its operation as that of a three-in-one Trinity.
Let me reiterate here what I said in chapter two in explaining the Trinity to a seminary student. I started by describing the smallest unit of matter in our universe – the “atom.” The atom is composed of protons, neutrons, and electrons. Thus, the protons and the neutrons constitute the center of the atom, called the nucleus. These particles rotate around the core in a small cloud. The electrons carry a negative charge, and the protons emit a positive force. In a typical (neutral) atom, the number of protons and electrons is equal. If you separate any one of these particles, it ceases to be an atom. If you make one more massive than the others, it will not be a stable atom. And yet, all three together are called an “atom.” They never leave each other; they work together in perfect harmony; by touching the atom, you contact them all. So, no matter where the Father is, the Son and the Spirit are also present. And wherever the Son is, the Father and Spirit are present. And, wherever the Spirit is, the Father and Son are present. How does all this work? You can ask God someday.
For example, a man with a heartfelt friendship with hymn writer John Newton (1726-1807), Thomas Scott (1747-1821) contends that the authenticity of the humanity of the Messiah in the disputed verses seven and eight have driven its most able opposers to absurdities. Such people have principally labored to invalidate those texts that seem most explicit on this subject. However, we could prove our doctrine concerning the Incarnation, even if we set aside this evidence. For this reason, it would be easy to offer one testimony, which is decisive, if genuine, because its authenticity has been so much disputed. However, a short specimen may show with what success they have labored, who deny the Deity of the Messiah as a human. The psalmist said, speaking of the Messiah: “Your throne, God, will last forever and ever; you rule your kingdom with a scepter of equity. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of joy in preference to your companions.”
To evade the obvious inference from this text, it has been said that the words could be rendered, “God is Your throne forever and ever.” We read that heaven is God’s throne, and the earth is His footstool; but whoever thought of God being a throne, on which a creature was to reign into eternity? Instead of “God was manifest in the flesh,” some might render it, “You were manifested in the flesh,” in which case God must be the forerunner, as the context shows, and the sense remains precisely the same. Still, others suggest it read “which (mystery) was manifest in the flesh.” Naturally, then, this mystery must dominate all the subsequent clauses in this verse. But whatever may be thought of the other proposition “which mystery was received back into glory” will rarely accept this as the language of inspiration by any who do not prefer orthodoxy over nonsense.
In another essay, Scott states that it may be easy to say that three-in-one cannot be possible; and then to show that the absurd tenet they would attempt to persuade people to hold is self-contradictory. But suppose we choose not to quote the much-contested text of verses seven and eight as an authority. In that case, we may indeed use it as expressing our sentiments: “There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit, and these Three are one.” Now let anyone in logical form prove if they can, that these words involve a fundamental contradiction: but till this is done, let no man mistake confident assertion for demonstration.
Scott also comments that it is doubtful whether these two verses connect with so much respectability that it would change the Apostle John’s message if the contested words were omitted. The Spirit bears witness because the Spirit is truth: for there are three “that bear record, the Spirit, the water, and the blood.” There seems to be a remarkable repetition and a want of the apostle’s usual energy in the passage: and it does not appear evident for whatever reason. However, the two great ordinances of the Final Covenant are outward signs of sanctification (water) and justification (blood). Yet, nothing should be hinted, concerning the testimony of the Father from heaven the Messiah, as His beloved Son.
 Macknight, James: Apostolic Epistles with Commentary, Vol. VI, pp. 111-113
 Brown of Haddington, John: Self-Interpreting Bible, N. T., Vol., IV, p. 506
 Emmons, Nathanael: The Biblical Illustrator, Vol. 22, First Epistle of John, op. cit., pp.423-424
 Newton, John: Composer of “Amazing Grace,”
 Psalm 45:6-7 – (45:7-8) Complete Jewish Bible; Cf. Hebrews 1:8-9
 Isaiah 66:1
 See 1 Timothy 3:15-16
 Scott, Thomas: Theological Works, op. cit., Essays on the Most Important Subjects in Religion, Essay XIII, On the Personality and Deity of the Holy Spirit, with some Thoughts on the Doctrine of the Sacred Trinity, p. 253