WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson LXVIII) 01/18/23

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

When inserting such a passage, the textual evidence from the manuscripts makes it stick out like a sore thumb. It no doubt assures us. Evangelical Christians may not know much about these passages, but many religious people who don’t believe in the Trinity (such as Jehovah’s Witness) know the textual issues around this passage. Therefore, if you bring up this verse to support your position, they will show you how this passage doesn’t belong in the Bible. It may get some thinking, “Well, maybe the Trinity isn’t true. Maybe Jesus isn’t God. Maybe it’s just the invention of people who would try to change the Bible.” But it can result in actual damage. So, a passage like this warns us that when it comes to such matters, God doesn’t need our help. The Final Covenant is acceptable, just like God inspired it. It doesn’t need our improvements. Teaching these added words is valid; they shouldn’t be here because we should not add to the Bible and claim they are God’s words.[1]

Prophetically speaking, Ken Johnson (1965) describes the Father, the Word (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit as three persons in the one Godhead. This Trinity from heaven testifies to believers the truth of the Gospel. Unbelievers should see the validity of the Gospel by looking at “the water and the blood.” Jesus fulfilled the prophecies of baptism into the priesthood,[2] in (water), and dying on the cross (blood).[3] The Scriptures prophesied the exact day of His death![4] Some commentaries and study Bibles will mention that most ancient Bible manuscripts omit verse seven but not tell you that the most ancient manuscripts, like the Codex Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, are full of spelling errors and missing verses. These date to about AD 350. The ancient church fathers quote this verse in full. In Unity of Church, dated 250 AD, Cyprian quotes this passage. So, verse seven was included in the regular reading more than one hundred years before the most ancient corrupt manuscripts.[5]

In his unorthodox Unitarian way, Duncan Heaster (1967) points out that “the Spirit is truth” is included in some manuscripts. The Spirit joins the water and blood as a witness in verse seven. John began in chapter four writing on how to tell whether a teacher was a genuine the Anointed One’s. Then he discusses our assurance that we are God’s children to whom He sent the Comforter to empower individual believers as witnesses.[6]Once we comprehend that our witness to the Lord is certified and backed up by the action of the Spirit, we know that we are of God and have indeed received the Spirit which abides in us.

God sent the Spirit because of Jesus’ return to heaven.[7] John was an example of this, having based his testimony on his experience: “I saw all this myself and have given an accurate report so that you also can believe.[8] This testimony was a gift from God, and the disciples also testified. Their testimony/witness was the same as the witness of the Spirit.[9] Thus, John linked the water, blood, and the Spirit’s testimonies. “The Spirit is truth” clearly references the Comforter as “the spirit of truth.”[10] In verse six, John spoke of discerning “the spirit of truth” and “the spirit of error.” All true Christians had “the spirit of truth,” and the Judaist infiltrators, with their false claims of Spirit gifts, had “the spirit of the devil.”[11]

Bright seminarian Karen H. Jobes (1968) mentions that the three heavenly witnesses were an invention of that culture,[12] leading to its insertion known as the Johannine Comma. It appears in Latin manuscripts but not in Greek parchments earlier than the fourteenth century. While modern English uses the word “comma” to refer to a punctuation mark, it relates to a phrase in earlier English. The Johannine comma is an additional phrase inserted between 5:7 and 5:8 that still appears in Bibles that use the Greek text from which the King James Version translators used in 1611. It reads (additional phrase in italics): For there are three who testify in heaven: Father, Word, and Holy Spirit; and these three are one; and there are three who testify on earth: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree as one.

While it is inevitable that John did not write this additional phrase, it represents an interpretation that captures the unity of the Godhead concerning salvation reflected in the earthly life of the incarnate Son and the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in human lives.[13]

5:9 We believe people when they say something is true. But what God says is more significant. And this is what God told us: He told us the truth about His Son.

EXPOSITION

Just in case there may be some doubters out there reading this epistle, John offers this insight. First, he recites an accepted custom in his day and that a person’s word was their bond.  It was what Moses told his people about making promises: “If a person makes a special promise to the Lord or makes a promise with an oath, they must not break their promise. Instead, they must do everything they said they would do.”[14] So, John introduces his fifth test, the Test of God’s Son.

There are few higher honors than becoming known as a person of their word. But it seems that Jesus had trouble convincing His opponents.  He tells us, “If I tell people about myself, they cannot be sure that what I say is true.[15] The problem was not in Jesus telling the truth but in the refusal of those listening to accept the facts.  So, Jesus tells them, “But if I do what my Father does, you should believe in what I do. You might not believe in me, but you should believe in the things I do.[16] But they were equally unwilling to even consent to that. This failure to believe is the case of people who’ve made up their minds, and nothing will change it, not even one miracle or a dozen.  But if they won’t believe a human messenger, they can see; John points and asks about an unseen God being the messenger.

This is what Jesus said to His detractors. If you’re not going to believe me, “There is someone else who tells people about Me, and I know that what He says about Me is true.[17] Not only that, but Jesus points to another source. “You say that you carefully study the Scriptures, and you think that they give you eternal life. But these same Scriptures are talking about Me![18] So then, as far as Jesus was concerned, their argument was not with Him but with His Father and His Father’s Word.

Even John the Baptizer was irritated by those who wouldn’t accept Jesus after His baptism. So, John the Baptizer scolded them: This man has come from heaven and is more significant than anyone else. I am of the earth, and my understanding is limited to earthly things. The Anointed One tells what He has seen and heard, but how few of you believe what the Anointed One tells you? Those who believe in Him discover that God is a fountain of truth. This one – sent by God – speaks God’s language, for God’s Spirit is upon Him without any limitations.[19]

Later, Jesus validated what John the Baptizer said about Him. He told the skeptics, “I can’t do a solitary thing on My own: I listen, then I decide. You can trust My decision because I’m not out to get My way but only to carry out orders. If I were speaking on My account, it would be an empty, self-serving witness. But an independent witness confirms Me, the most reliable Witness of all.”[20]

Furthermore, you all saw and heard John the Baptizer giving expert and reliable testimony about Me, right? But my purpose is not to get your vote and not to appeal to any human’s testimony. I’m speaking to you because I want you to receive salvation. John the Baptizer was a torch, blazing and bright, and you were glad enough to dance for an hour or so in his bright light. But I have a greater witness than John the Baptizer. I refer to the miracles I do; the Father has assigned these to Me, proving that the Father sent Me.[21]

Then Jesus turns to His detractors and points out that even their laws say that if two people agree on something that has happened, their witness is accepted as fact. I am one witness, and my Father who sent Me is the other.[22] When they didn’t seem to be pleased or open to what Jesus said, He continued: I’m only quoting your inspired Scriptures, where God said, “I tell you – you are gods.” If God called your ancestors ‘gods’ – the Scriptures do not lie – why do you yell, Blasphemer! Blasphemer’ at the unique One the Father consecrated and sent into the world, just because I said, “I am God’s Son?”

If I don’t do the things my heavenly Father does, well and good, don’t believe me. But if I do His work, believe in the evidence of the miracles I’ve performed, even if you don’t believe me. Then you will understand that the Father is in me, and I am in the Father.[23] When all three witnesses are enumerated together, the Spirit naturally comes first. He is a living and Divine witness, independent of the two facts of the baptism and the Passion, which concur with him in testifying that the Son of God is Jesus the Anointed One.


[1] Guzik, David: Enduring Word, 1,2, & 3 John & Jude, op. cit., pp. 92-94

[2] Matthew 3:13-17

[3] Ibid. 28:1-8; 16-20

[4] Daniel 9:24-26

[5] Johnson, Ken. Ancient Epistles of John and Jude, op. cit., pp. 82-83

[6] John 15:26-27

[7] Ibid. 7:39

[8] Ibid. 19:35

[9] Ibid 15:26-27

[10] Ibid. 16:13

[11] Heaster, Duncan. New European Christadelphian Commentary: op. cit., The Letters of John, pp. 70-72

[12] Cf. Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15; Matthew 18:16; 2 Corinthians 13:1

[13] Jobes, Karen H., 1, 2, and 3 John (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on The New Testament Series Book 18), op. cit., p. 222

[14] Numbers 30:2

[15] John 5:32

[16] Ibid. 10:38

[17] Ibid. 5:32

[18] Ibid. 5:39

[19] Ibid. 3:31-33

[20] Ibid. 8:28; 12:49

[21] Ibid. 5:30-36

[22] Ibid. 8:17-19

[23] Ibid. 10:34-38

About drbob76

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