WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson LVIII) 01/04/23

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.

But what about the Spirit’s witness within us, which fits with the witness of the water and the blood outside us? Jesus showed Himself to be Messiah “by means of” (dia) the water and the blood. The “one” (ev) marks the sphere, substratum, and element in which the proof was provided. The Apostle John’s emphasis that it was not by water alone is directed against the Cerinthians, who held that Jesus did suffer on the cross, but the Messiah did not. John asserts that the same Jesus to whom the Divine testimony came at baptism received the Divine testimony when His life mission was completed on the cross. He has the testimony of both the water and the blood, and the inward witness of the Spirit seals the double testimony. That’s because the Spirit is truth – Better, the truth; truth in perfection; His inward witness can be trusted,

Tuck then focuses on verse eight and tells us that it is a repetition of verse six for the sake of emphasis. It is the power that overcomes the World. It is usual to limit thought to faith as the power that ensures our victory over our surroundings. Still, if this paragraph is used in connected thinking with Jesus the Messiah, John explains as faith that overcomes the world. The belief in the Sonship of Jesus links us to Him, makes us God’s sons like Him, and brings us the victory of obedience and submission, which He won. It is understood that the second part of verse seven is treated as an insertion by some later hand to support a particular theory – the worldly idea of overcoming the World.[1]

John Stock (1817-1884) points out that the Church receives the translation of Scripture from the original languages with all confidence. They were influenced by eminent scholars with great learning and conscientious care. Our authorized Bible (KJV) was also examined by the labors of a great linguist who collated it with one hundred Hebrew and Samaritan manuscripts of the Bible. They stated that their version was faithful, and although some words might be altered, the sense of those words was faithfully retained. Therefore, the English translation of the Greek is accurate, and various readings leave its testimony unchanged so that the doctrine remains fixed and unchanged.

Now, as to verses seven and eight in chapter five here in John’s epistle, it is admitted that many Greek manuscripts do not have it as translated; yet others did. Also, some of the most learned scholars affirmed that the argument favored the version we have in our Bible. Thus, we gladly and thankfully join the labors of these servants of God and will comment on these verses without any further mention of the controversy. Whether they are rejected or retained, it does not affect the blessed doctrine of the Trinity in Unity to any degree. For throughout the Scriptures, the three-in-one principle is correctly understood and provided for our consolation and edification.

The Apostle John mentions the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit in verse seven of the KJV, as combined to bear witness to establish the truth because of two or three witnesses.[2] The Father bore witness to His Son, which was a greater witness than that of John;[3] and affirmed Him to be His beloved Son, in whom He is well pleased: [4] and it is He, who draws everyone to His Son for salvation; who unless He was God’s Son, could not save us.[5] The Word, even our Lord, bore witness to Himself, as the Messiah,  Son of God; and received, without hesitation, divine honors from those who saw His glory: and works. He also bore witness of Him that the Father had sent Him and was one with Him.[6] And the Spirit, who is God, by His inspired Word, and by His acts, bears witness to the Lord Jesus, whom He glorified; and by whom He was declared to be God’s Son with power by the resurrection from the dead. Now, these three bear record in heaven where our Lord was, even when on earth.[7] The testimony is one and glorifies the Lord Jesus.[8]

John then tells us in verse eight that there are also three that witness – the Spirit, the water, and the blood on earth. The Spirit upholds the preaching of the truth as it is in Jesus,[9] and the testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy,[10] who bears witness to His word by making it efficient to raise the spiritually dead, convert and sanctify the soul. The water in the sacrament of baptism for those who are sacramentally then buried with the Messiah by baptism unto death,[11] the blood sprinkled on the faithful,[12] which testifies to the cleansing virtue of the Messiah’s blood, through which alone comes the remission of our sins: and which cleansing, all indispensably require; to rise with the Messiah to newness of life;[13] whose blood is not only typified in the fountain of regeneration; but in the cup, in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper which blessed Sacrament sets forth all the principles of our faith. He also declares how He gave His life as a ransom for us[14] and testifies of the Father’s love in giving and sending His only begotten Son who knew no sin to be made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.[15] God’s Son taking on our humanity to atone by His death for our numerous offenses, which we receive through repentant faith; the Holy Spirit renews the soul for obedience.

Thus, the testimony in heaven and on earth concur, and it is inexcusable if we neglect so great salvation or suffer its glad tidings to save us from us, who cannot then escape from the wrath to come. How marvelous is God’s loving-kindness towards us! Visibly and invisibly, He cries, “Hear, My People!”[16] God is sending to us His confirmed Gospel and raises a succession of servants to keep shining its light, both officially and in the ordinary walks of life. God then offers us sacraments to provoke thought, induce questions, conduct us into His fold to confirm and comfort us. Then, by His servant John tells us, “If we receive the witness of men, that of God is greater.” That affirmation comes next to be considered and is fresh evidence of how kindly God considers and seeks to remove our heart’s sinful tendency of unbelief.[17] [18]

With an inquiring spiritual mind, Johannes H. A. Ebrard (1819-1893) raises the question of the genuineness or spuriousness of the fiercely contested words in the last part of verse seven and the first part of verse eight. But most past and present scholars have spoken against their genuineness – however, some venture to defend it. First, if we go to the original Greek text, we find that not one Greek manuscript includes these words from the sixteenth century. Only four Greek manuscripts of the sixteenth century contain the clause. But of these four, one (Codex Bavianus) is a copy of the Complutensian Polyglot; another (Codex Britannicus) seems to have taken the words from the Latin Vulgate, and that is an imperfect translation and assume that they also received the interpolation from the Vulgate. Second, as it respects the older versions (Peschito, Arabic, Coptic, Æthiopic, and Latin, down to 600 AD), they do not contain any more than the ancient codices. Third, among the early church scholars, none of the whole body of the ante-Nicene writers include the clause, except Cyprian. Even more curious is that those same Fathers never address these words as original or inserted into the text.[19]

As a respected ecumenical leader, Philip Schaff (1819-1905) relates that Eucherius, bishop of Lyons (380-450 AD), wrote a short manual of medieval hermeneutics titled, The Book of Spiritual Intelligence in the middle of the fifth century. With a studious monk’s spiritual insight, Bede the Venerable (673-735 AD) often quoted this work, which was sometimes erroneously ascribed to him. Eucherius shows an extensive knowledge of the Bible and the Holy Spirit. He anticipates many favorite interpretations of medieval commentators and mystics. In the last chapter, he treats the symbolical significance of numbers: 1 = Divine Unity; 2 = the two covenants, the two chief commandments; 3 = the trinity in heaven and on earth (he quotes the spurious passage 1 John 5:7-8); 4 = the four Gospels, the four rivers of Paradise; 5 = the five books of Moses, five loaves, five wounds of the Messiah;[20] 6 = the days of creation, the ages of the world; 7 = the day of rest, of perfection; 8 = the day of resurrection; 9 = there are nine spiritual gifts of God, such as Word of Wisdom, Word of Knowledge, Faith, Healing, Miracles, Prophecy, Discernment, Tongues, and Interpretation; 10 = the Commandments; 11 = the Disciples after Judas Iscariot’s death 12 = the original Disciples and the tribes of Israel.[21] So this was the subject of investigation at that time.

Then Schaff jumps to the 15th century, when the free critical spirit, the Revival of Letters, motivated pioneers in the realm of exegesis. Laurentius Valla (c. 1406–1457) was one of the most influential humanists of his time. In his Elegantiae linguae Latinae, an advanced handbook of Latin language and style, he gave the humanist program some of its most cutting and combative forms, bringing the study of Latin to an unprecedented level.  He criticized the Latin versions because they had many faults, including 1 John 5:7-8. Erasmus went further when he left the spurious passage about the three witnesses out of his Greek New Testament,1516, though he restored it in the edition of 1522.[22]


[1] Tuck, Richard H., The Preacher’s Complete Homiletical Commentary, op. cit., p. 329, 331-332

[2] 2 Corinthians 13:1

[3] John 5:36

[4] Matthew 17:5

[5] John 6:44

[6] Ibid. 10:30

[7] John 3:13

[8] Romans 1:4

[9] Psalm 51:12

[10] Revelation 19:10

[11] Colossians 2:12

[12] Exodus 24:8

[13] Romans 6:4

[14] Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45; 1 Timothy 2:6

[15] 2 Corinthians 5:21

[16] Cf. Psalm 78:1; 81:8

[17] Ibid. 3:12

[18] Stock, John: An Exposition of the First Epistle General of St. John, op. cit., pp. 421-423

[19] Ebrard, Johannes H. A., Biblical Commentary on the Epistles of St. John, op. cit., 324-325; 329-331

[20] John 20:25

[21] Schaff, Philip: History of the Christian Church, op. cit., Vol. 4, p. 488

[22] Ibid. p. 667

About drbob76

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