WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson LX) 01/06/23

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.

The doctrine of the Trinity does not need any questionable proof text or Scriptures that ascribe Divine titles, attributes, and works to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, it is in their names we baptize every Christian. This Trinity of witnesses, the Spirit, the water, and the blood, furnish one testimony in establishing that the Messiah is part of the Godhead.[1]

With unwavering trust in the Apostle John’s teaching, William Lincoln (1825-1888) states that plenty of Scriptures prove the Trinity, but that term is not in God’s Word. It contradicts other scriptures. It says, “There are three that bear record in heaven,” and one of the three is the Holy Spirit. Now the Holy Spirit does not bear witness in heaven; the place where the Holy Spirit bears witness is on the earth. The Holy Spirit, who came down from heaven in a personal, unique, and peculiar manner, is now here in a greater dimension than before the day of Pentecost. Therefore, the expression referred to cannot be correct. It clashes with other scriptures and therefore cannot be God’s Word, for God never contradicts Himself.[2]

Then the Apostle John brings them all together in verse eight. We see the word “witness” again and it’s meaning. These three witnesses are for you and me – “the Spirit, the water, and the blood.” These provide a three-fold testimony. Furthermore, they all agree as one witness, record, or testimony, namely, that our old nature has not improved; our Adamic tendencies are still the same. Instead, it is a new life, a new nature, grafted into a new stock that flows into you continually.  

These three testimonies or witnesses agree that mending our sinful nature is too difficult. God never patches that which is irreparable, never preserves that which is hopeless, but begins a new work, a new thing; He allows us to have spiritual union with a living Messiah. Thus, the three witnesses agree on one. It is a singular fact that under the First Covenant, God’s priests were anointed with blood, water, and oil, as we see in the consecration of

Aaron and his sons.[3] Aaron is the forerunner of the Messiah and Aaron’s sons of the Church. To see your proper position in the First Covenant, you must look at the consecration of Aaron’s sons with blood, water, and oil. That sentiment is like that conveyed in this fourth chapter: three bear records. When they were anointed, which part of Aaron’s son’s bodies was first – the ear, the hand, or the foot? It was their ear. That is how to drink in God’s love, have a hearing ear, and be a holy child – to do what God says. Three things – blood, water, and oil ‒ were used to ordain them.[4]

A man dedicated to reaching the goal of his God-given ministry, Andrew H. K. Boyd (1825-1899), a Scottish preacher’s son who gained high distinction in philosophy and theology, illustrates this point of being an overcomer of the world. He cites the history of an Emperor in days gone by who fancied that he had accomplished the difficult task of “overcoming the world.” We read how he carried his victorious armies over every region of the then-known earth – how he subjugated king after king, brought nation after nation beneath his control, and then fancied that he had “conquered the world.” We read how he felt sad to think that his heroic venture had finished and how he wept that there were no more worlds to conquer. Oh, how mistaken he was! There was one world to defeat yet, to which this “Conqueror was a slave – a world to overcome for which the armies of Alexander the Great were of no value.” This is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith.”[5]

After sufficient examination of the Greek text, Brooke F. Westcott (1825-1901) states that the three witnesses here in verse seven are considered mainly as the living witness of the Church and not as the historical witness of the Gospels. Through believers, these three, “the Spirit and the Water and the Blood,” perform a work not for believers only but the world.[6] He goes on to say that the Spirit, with the Water and Blood, completes the witness to the Incarnation as a Fact no less than as an open-source of blessing. For the witness of the Spirit, see Acts 5:32. When speaking of the three are for the one, it is repeated emphatically to mark the unity of the object. These three personal witnesses are focused on one absolute ending to establish the one Truth, which is everywhere present through the Epistle. The idea is not that of simple unanimity in the witnesses, but that of their convergence on the one Gospel of “The Messiah is come in the flesh,” to have eternal life.

Thus, the Apostle John goes on from considering the witness of the Messiah’s character to considering its effectiveness. (1) It is a divine witness: (2) it is a human, internal witness: (3) it is a witness realized in our present life in fellowship with the Son. If we accept the witness of men, the witness of God is more significant because this is God’s word that He has concerning His Son. Those who believe in God’s Son have the witness in themselves. Anyone who refuses to believe God has made God out to be a liar because they have not accepted the witness which God gave concerning His Son. And this is the witness that God gave us: “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life.”[7] This life is in His Son, eternal life.”[8]

Like a spiritual farmer planting the seed of God’s Word, Henry A. Sawtelle (1832-1913) comments that the Apostle John named the Spirit as a witness with the “water” and “blood.” They are witnesses on earth and are all viewed as personal witnesses, taking that character from the leading, interpreting witness, the Holy Spirit. And they are three; the rule for testimony did not require more.[9] The repeated connectives and articles make them as distinct as possible. The Spirit here leads; His testimony is more direct and immediate and backs up the other two. And these three agree as one witness.

They all point in one direction and speak to one truth: Jesus is the Source of life and hence the Son of God. That life, life, belongs pre-eminently to Him, is their one voice, their one evidence. If so, He is the one anointed with the Spirit, who is life; and if thus Anointed, He is the Christ, the Son of God. And the water of baptism, the blood of atonement, and, most directly, the Holy Spirit in His renewing work, are now still speaking of Him who is the spiritual and eternal Life and asserting His Divine nature before as. Must we not believe with the highest faith?[10]

Noting the Apostle John’s doctrinal implications, John James Lias (1834-1923) observes that the deceptiveness of verses seven and eight is a fact that can hardly be said to pass inspection in the present stage of textual criticism. A summary of the evidence is all that is needed here.

After sufficient examination of the Greek text, Brooke F. Westcott (1825-1901) found the latest critical evidence: 1) All Greek manuscripts omitted it until the 16th century. 2) Despite its obvious relevance to the issue, it was never cited in the famous Homoöusian controversy,[11] which lasted from about 318 to 381 AD. It is not quoted by most Latin writers, even when the character of their argument demands the citation.

We find this in the case with Ambrose, in his De Spiritu Sancto, a treatise in which he would naturally quote every passage which, in any degree, bears on the subject but which has a minimal effect. And not only this, but he quotes the scriptures in which the questionable words are missing, leaving those words out, a thing perfectly impossible had he ever heard of them as forming part of the sacred text. The same thing occurs in Pope Leo’s letter to Flavian, read publicly at the Fourth Œcumenical Council. And the words are also absent from the immensely numerous works of Augustine.

The arguments for their genuineness are as follows: 1) The passage is found in the authorized edition of the Latin Vulgate, although unknown to Jerome, and originally appearing after verse eight, and then apparently placed in its present position in logical order. The same phenomena present themselves in the more ancient Latin Vulgate version copies. 2) Victor Vitensis (430-484 AD) quoted it.[12] 3) The words, or something like them, appear in Tertullian and Cyprian, but in such a form that it is difficult to ascertain how much of them is a quotation from Scripture. Possibly the words quoted are only the concluding words of verse eight. The rest are the words of Tertullian and are probably quoted as such by Cyprian from his “master.”

How they found their way into the text of the KJV is this; Erasmus made a rash promise to introduce them into his text if discovered in any Greek Manuscript. One manuscript contained them. Accordingly, publishers included them in Erasmus’ third edition. Consequently, they found their way into the texts of Stephens, the Elzevir edition, and our English Bible. The interpolation resulted in the convenient formula that embodies the Trinity as orthodox doctrine. They obtained ready currency in an ageless critique, perhaps less scrupulous than ours. Their introduction into the sacred text is undoubtedly due to citations of the passages in Tertullian and Cyprian, in which the words occur in close juxtaposition with the holy text. By degrees, as these passages became well known, it came to be believed that the additions were part of the Scripture and thus introduced by later Latin copyists into the Epistle.


[1] Steele, Daniel: Half-Hours with St. John’s Epistles, op. cit., p. 136

[2] Lincoln, William: Lectures on the Epistles of St. John, op. cit., Lecture VIII, p. 145

[3] Leviticus 8:30

[4] Lincoln, William: Lectures on the Epistles of St. John, op. cit., pp. 151-153

[5] From a Homily by A. K. H. B., (Andrew Kennedy Hutchinson Boyd); The Preacher’s Complete Homiletical Commentary, op. cit., p. 332

[6] John 17:20ff

[7] 1 John 5:12

[8] Westcott, Brooke F., The Epistles of St. John: Greek Text with Notes, op. cit., pp. 184-185

[9] 1 Corinthians 13:1

[10] Sawtelle, Henry A., Commentary on the Epistles of John, op. cit., p. 57

[11] The Homoöusians was an ecclesiastical party of the fourth century involved in the Arian controversy, believing that God the Father and God the Son are of the same substance.

[12] African bishop Victor Vitensis (born 430 AD)writes the History of the Vandalic Persecution, in which he sets down a Confession of Faith, which Eugenius Bishop of Carthage, and the orthodox bishops of Africa, offered to King Hunnerick, a favorer of the Arians, who called upon those bishops to justify the catholic doctrine of the Trinity. In this Confession, presented in 484AD, among other places of Scripture, they defended the orthodox clause from 1 John 5:7 thereby giving the highest attestation, that they believed it to be genuine. Nor did the Arians, that we can find, object to it. So the contending parties of those days seem to have agreed in declaring that passage as authentic.

About drbob76

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