WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson LXIX) 01/19/23

5:9 We believe people who witness in our courts, and so unquestionably, we can believe whatever God declares. And God says that Jesus is His Son.

The Psalmist David recognized that friendship builds on fellowship. He says that God reserves friendship for those who reverence Him. With them alone, Yahweh shares the secrets of His promises.[1] David passed on this idea to his son, Solomon, who wrote: “Don’t walk around spoiling for a needless fight. Don’t try to be like those who keep pushing people around on their way through life. Don’t be a copycat. The LORD detests such low-minded people but gladly offers His friendship to the godly.”[2]

The Apostle John presents three witnesses to the truth in verse eight. 1) the Holy Spirit, 2) the water baptism of the Anointed One, and 3) the substitutionary death of the Anointed One by His shed blood. These three testimonies to the Anointed One are here on earth. The “Spirit’s” ministry of the Holy Spirit is through His revelation in the First and Final Covenants convicting individual sinners. As such, the Spirit personalizes truth to our experience. “Water” refers to the baptism of the Anointed One. “Blood” refers to the sacrificial death of the Anointed One for our sins. Jesus fully and finally paid for our sins. Therefore, no further suffering for them is necessary. 

Now, these three witnesses agree on the truth of Jesus being the Son of God, the Anointed One. Two witnesses to the Anointed One are historical and personal. All three witnesses present the Anointed One in one harmonious context. Consequently, the consensus of these concurring witnesses converges on the centrality of the person and work of the Anointed One. God’s Son came to destroy the devil’s empire and save the world from sin’s punishment.[3] The Spirit proves this point in verses nine to twelve. The principle here is that the Holy Spirit moves us toward making Jesus the Anointed One an integral part of our life. The Holy Spirit applies to our hearts the reality of the Anointed One and His ministry to us. Jesus’ blood frees us from the penalty of sin. He wants us to be more than religious spectators.

COMMENTARY AND HOMILETICS

This verse has comments, interpretations, and insights of the Early Church Fathers, Medieval Thinkers, Reformation Theologians, Revivalist Teachers, Reformed Scholars, and Modern Commentators.

With a studious monk’s spiritual insight, Bede the Venerable (673-735 AD) states that if Jesus were not the truth, the Spirit would not have descended on Him at His baptism. The water and the blood bore witness that Jesus is the truth when they flowed from His side at His crucifixion. That would not have been possible if He had not had a genuine human nature. All three are independent witnesses from each other, but their testimony is the same. It’s because the Anointed One’s divinity is not to be believed apart from His humanity, nor is His humanity to be accepted apart from His divinity. All three witnesses are present in us, not in their natural form but by the spiritual union of our souls with Him. The Spirit makes us children of God by adoption, the water of the sacred font cleanses us, and the blood of the Lord redeems us. They are invisible in themselves, but they are made visible for our benefit in the sacraments.[4]  

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) addresses whether God created angels in grace. Some conclude that God did not create angels with grace. For example, Augustine says that the angelic nature was first made without form and was called “heaven:” but afterward, it received its form and was then called “light.”[5] But such formation comes from grace. Therefore, they were not created by grace.

Furthermore, grace turns the rational creature towards God. Therefore, angels created in grace would never turn away from God.  In addition, grace comes midway between nature and glory. As such, any beatification of angels did not occur in their creation. Therefore, such elevation was not the fruit of grace but part of nature but of grace.  “On the contrary, who wrought the goodwill of the angels? Who, save Him Who created them with His will, that is, with the pure love wherewith they cling to Him, at the same time building up their nature and bestowing grace on them?”[6]

With a model teacher’s precision, Aquinas says there are conflicting opinions on this point, some holding that the angels were created only in a natural state. In contrast, others maintain that God created them by grace. Yet, it seems more probable, and more in keeping with the sayings of holy men, that God created angels in sanctifying grace. We see things being created by the work of Divine Providence, in the process of time, were produced by the operation of God, making embryos in seedlike forms, such as trees, animals, and the rest. Hence, it is evident that sanctifying grace bears the same relation to blessedness as the seedlike form in nature does to the natural effect; thus, kindness is called the “seed” of God. Then, it is contended that the seedlike forms of all biological products were implanted in the creature when corporeally created, so straightway from the beginning, the angels were created in grace.[7]

As a firm spiritual disciplinarian, John Owen (1616-1683) states that faith, love, obedience, etc., are peculiarly and distinctly yielded by the saints to Him for our heavenly Father. He is peculiarly manifested in those ways as acting peculiarly towards them: which should draw them and stir them up to obedience and love. In verse nine, God gives testimony to His Son and bears witness to Him. When He provides testimony (which He does as the Father to His Son), His word is to be received by faith. And this is affirmed in verse ten.

To believe in God’s Son is to receive our Lord the Anointed One as His Son given to us, for all the ends of the Father’s love, upon the credit of the Father’s testimony; therefore, faith is immediately acted on by the Father. So, it follows in the next words, “Those who do not believe God” (that is, the Father, who bears witness to His Son) “has made Him out to be a liar.” “Believing in God,” says our Savior,[8] that is, the Father as such, for he adds, “Believe also in Me;” or, “If you believe in God; you must also believe in me.” God founds His authority on Prima Veritas,[9] by which all divine faith is operational. It is not to be considered a “person of the trinity,” as peculiarly expressive of any person but comprehending the whole Godhead, which is the prime object undividedly. But in this particular case, we fix our faith on the testimony and authority of the Father – which, if it were not so, the Son could not add, “Believe in Me.”[10]

Respected Reformation writer, Matthew Poole (1624-1679) says that what the Apostle John says here in verse nine concerning God’s testimony is above exception, being wholly Divine, as John argued in his Gospel.[11] [12]

In his fiery manner, John Flavel (1627-1691) comments that receiving the Anointed One implies the acceptance of truths revealed in the Gospel – His person, nature, offices, incarnation, death, and redemption. Though it is not saving faith, it is its foundation. The soul can’t receive and embrace what the mind does not accept as true and infallible. True faith rests upon the testimony of God as unquestionable. This acknowledgment of faith allows us to receive God’s witness and our seal that God is faithful.[13] Divine reality is the very object of faith: into this, we resolve our faith. “Thus says the Lord” is the firm foundation upon which we build our consent.

Consequently, we see a good reason to believe those profound mysteries of the incarnation of the Anointed One; the union of the two natures in His wonderful person; and the union of the Anointed One and believers, though we cannot understand these things because of our ignorant minds. It satisfies the soul to find these mysteries in the written word; upon that foundation, it firmly builds its consent; without such an affirmation of faith, there can be no embracing of the Anointed One. Without permission, all acts of faith and religion are, but so many arrows shot at random into the open air; they signify nothing for want of a fixed, determinate object.[14]

Influenced by his Arminian view of salvation, Daniel Whitby (1638-1726) says the Apostle John’s words, “If we receive the witness of men,” are assurances to humans, and the three heavenly testimonies are reassurances to God. On the contrary, John intended to signify we had more significant reason to believe the witnesses in heaven than those on earth. The Spirit’s testimony of Jesus as the Anointed One is of equal certainty and validity as John the Baptizer’s witness,[15] and His baptism is from God and not from mankind.[16] The importance of these words is this: If the testimony of two or three people is sufficient to affirm any matter in courts, indeed, the testimony of God, who cannot lie or deceive us,[17] must be of greater force and strength to produce faith in us.[18]


[1] Psalm 25:14

[2] Proverbs 3:30-32

[3] Isaiah 53:4-6

[4] Bede the Venerable, Ancient the Anointed One’s Commentary, Bray, G. (Ed.), op. cit., Vol. XI, p. 224

[5] Augustine: Literal Commentary on Genesis, Vol. I, Paulist Press, 1982, Chap 3:8-9

[6] Augustine: City of God, Book XII, Chap. 9

[7] Aquinas, Thomas: Summa Theologica, op cit., Vol. 1, pp. 734-735

[8] John 14:1

[9] Prima Veritas is a Latin term meaning, “first truth or truth first.”

[10] Owen, John: Of Communion with God, Vol. 3, Chap. 2, op. cit., pp. 16-17

[11] John 5:36,37 8:13,14,17,18

[12] Poole, Matthew. Commentary on the Holy Bible – Book of 1st, 2nd & 3rd John (Annotated), Kindle Edition

[13] John 3:33

[14] Flavel, John: The Method of Grace: How the Spirit Works, op. cit., Ch. 6, p. 105

[15] John 1:6

[16] Matthew 21:25

[17] Numbers 23:19

[18] Whitby, Daniel: Critical Commentary and Paraphrase, op. cit., p. 471

About drbob76

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