WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson L) 01/20/23

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.

From his strategic viewpoint as a biblical expositor and educational pioneer, William Burkitt (1650-1703) says that the Apostle John constructs his argument from the less to the greater. Thus, if believing anything is sufficient to have the testimony of two or three credible witnesses, surely the testimony of the faithful and infallible God is much more worthy of belief. God’s testimony concerning the Anointed One that He is His Son is the testimony of a faithful God that cannot lie. Therefore, after all the assurance God gave concerning His Son is the world’s Savior, those who reject and disown Him are accusing God of spreading lies. However, the person that believes in the Anointed One as God’s Son, and trustworthy Anointed One, is safe, having God’s testimony and the testimony of the Holy Spirit within them as the Spirit of holiness, wisdom, and power: Thus, we learn:

  • Every testimony which God gives us is infallible.
  • God has given us the testimony that His Son Jesus the Anointed One is the promised Anointed One and is confirmed far above and beyond other testimonies.
  • Therefore, such as do not believe in our Lord Jesus the Anointed One as the world’s Savior, they disbelieve the most undoubted and infallible testimony of God and try to make Him out to be a liar.

My, Lord! What a bold, presumptuous, and daring sin is unbelief? It supposes that Satan, the father of lies, tells the truth, and the God of truth is telling lies.[1]

With meticulous Greek text examination and confirmation, Johann Bengel (1687-1752) notes that the Apostle John takes a minor point that is undeniable and transitions to that which is eternal[2] [3] in administering the testimonies of the Spirit, the water, and the blood. Although they do that by Divine inspiration and command, they continue as mortals,[4]  the witness of God the Father: whose Son is Jesus. Therefore, the divine testimonies and the mortal witness are the foundation of the Word and the Holy Spirit. Similarly, the testimony of the Spirit is joined with water and blood and proves much more worthy of acceptance.[5] Therefore, Bengel proposes that the heavenly affirmations of Jesus being the Anointed One are a pedestal on which to build the earthly confirmation statue.

The sum of the things presented is this: Greek copies containing the Epistles are neither of such number nor of such antiquity that they ought to prevent the reception of the verse respecting the Three, which bear witness in heaven since it stands altogether upon a peculiar footing. This verse rests upon the authority of the Latin translator, and that almost alone; but he is an authority of the greatest antiquity and genuineness: and he is followed from the first by many fathers, through a continuing series of ages, in Africa, Spain, Gaul, and Italy, accompanied with an appeal to the reading of the Arians, which concurs with it. In fact, the context itself confirms this verse as the center and sum of the whole Epistle.  Is altogether engaged in [completely turns on] this.[6]

With scholarly contemplation, James Macknight (1721-1800) says that the Apostle John alludes to the Anointed One’s words recorded in his Gospel. [7] It is also written in your text that the testimony of two people is valid.[8] Yet, the heavenly witness of God is more significant. In verse seven, His witness joins other witnesses – the Word and the Spirit ‒ but not the water and the blood on earth. Altogether, it is the witness of God because in witnessing, they all act in subordination to Him and agree with Him in detecting the great truth mentioned in verse eleven, namely, that He promised to give us eternal life through His Son. This witness of God is more remarkable, that is, more certain and worthy of credit than the numerous or respectable witnesses of men, no matter how understanding and full of integrity and assurance they may be.[9]

After skillfully scrutinizing the Apostle John’s theme, John Brown of Haddington (1722-1787) wants us to consider this: If we depend on the testimony of two or three credible witnesses for the crucial things in life, how much more should we rely on the testimony of three divine persons that Jesus the Anointed One is God’s only begotten and eternal Son.[10]

At age fifteen, a potential young theologian who was preaching and leading cottage prayer meetings, Joseph Benson (1749-1821) comments on the offices of the Anointed One, exhibited symbolically by water and blood, and of the witnesses in heaven and earth that bear testimony to Him and His salvation. According to the law of Moses, the testimony of two or three credible witnesses was sufficient to prove any fact; indeed, human affairs in general, even the most important, are conducted and determined by depending on the testimony of credible witnesses. Therefore, not only do we accept the testimony of eyewitnesses when they swear to tell the truth before a judge. But we also rely on one another’s word from time to time, sometimes concerning things of great moment.

That’s why God’s testimony is more significant, valid, of higher authority, and much more worthy to be received than the witness of mere mortals, no matter how many or respectable they are because of their integrity so that we can rely on their word with great assurance. Therefore, the testimony of the Father, the Word, the Spirit, the Spirit, the water, and the blood, is a six-fold divine testimony. First, as the true Anointed One, the Savior of the world, able to save, even to the uttermost, all that come to God by Him; and saving all that believe in Him with upright hearts.[11]

Considering everything the Apostle John has said so far, Adam Clarke (1774-1849) wonders if we accept human witnesses of men as sufficient testimony to supply the facts in numberless cases, the witness of God is greater since He can neither be deceived nor deceive.[12]

In his captivating teaching style, Jewish convert Augustus Neander (1789-1850) notes that the Apostle John shows how much is involved in this divine witness.  In the emphatic words in verse nine: “We accept human testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which He has given about His Son.” That which John calls the witness of the Spirit is here designated God’s divine testimony, contrasted with all human testimony, which is often misleading. If we receive anything as accurate, based on the testimony of mortals, we have reason to believe; we can do no less but follow this infallible witness of God. So, is this continuous divine witness, extending through all times, more reliable than human testimony?

This factual witness of God, everywhere seen in the practical workings of the Gospel, shows us the same image of His Son delineated in the Gospel narrative. Thus, it attests it to be accurate, beyond all reach of doubt. It testifies of the same Anointed One mirrored in the Gospel history. It is, as John says, the Father’s witness of the Son. We see that in the preceding passage, it belonged to the present. Now it is spoken of as something completed, the witness that the Father has already given of the Son. Looking back on these operations of the Spirit, John regards them as a testimony already closed. But as extending into his time, they are a present witness. From the standpoint of our age, we may acknowledge it as something at once past and present.[13]

After spiritually analyzing the Apostle John’s comclusions, Gottfried C. F., Lücke (1791-1855) sees verse nine as a reassembled puzzle. Suppose we are supposed to accept as valid the testimony of mortals[14] (the declaration of two or three witnesses). How much more must we then receive the testimony of God (being tripled) as being more reliable? But if we receive God’s testimony, we must believe that Jesus is the Anointed One, the Son of God. For this, God’s affidavit asserts.[15]

Without using complicated language, Albert Barnes (1798-1870) states the obvious; we receive other people’s witnesses in the courts of justice and the ordinary daily life transactions. We are constantly acting on the belief that what others are saying is accurate; that what the members of our families and neighbors say is accurate; that what is reported by travelers is correct; that what we read in books is authentic. We could not get along a single day if we did not act on this belief, nor are we accustomed to questioning it unless we have reason to suspect it is false. The mind must credit the testimony of others. If this ceased even for a single day, the world’s affairs would come to a grinding halt.

Since God’s witness is rated higher, it is more worthy of belief because God is more trustworthy, wise, and honest than mortals. People may be deceived and may undesignedly bear witness to that when it is not genuine – We can never accuse God of using any intention to deceive. People may act from partial observation, from rumors unworthy of belief – God never can. People may desire to garner attention by doing something marvelous – God never can. People may try to deceive – God never has. There are many instances where we are not confident that the testimony given by others is honest, yet we are always sure that God gives false witness. The only question that may cause the mind to hesitate is whether the witness can prove their testimony or be confident they know what they are talking about. When that is ascertained, the human mind is so made that it cannot believe that God would deliberately deceive a world.[16]


[1] Burkitt, William: Expository Notes, op. cit., Vol. II, p. 737

[2] In Latin this is called Argumentum a fortiori 

[3] John 8:17

[4] Ibid. 5:34; 3:31

[5] Ibid. 5:36

[6] Bengel, Johann: Gnomon of the New Testament, op. cit., Vol. 4, p.

[7] John 8:17

[8] Ibid. 8:18

[9] Macknight, James: Apostolic Epistles with Commentary, Vol. VI, p. 113

[10] Brown of Haddington, John: Self-Interpreting Bible, N.T., Vol. IV, p. 506

[11] Benson, Joseph: Commentary on the Old and New Testaments, op. cit., 1 John 5

[12] Clarke, Adam: Wesleyan Heritage Commentary, op. cit., Hebrews-Revelation, p. 397

[13] Neander, Augustus: The First Epistle of John, Practically Explained, op. cit., pp. 292-293

[14] Cf. John 11:11, 32-33

[15] Lücke, Gottfried C. F., A Commentary on the Epistles of St. John, op. cit., p. 275

[16] Hebrews 6:18; cf Titus 1:2

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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1 Response to WALKING IN THE LIGHT

  1. Kojo George says:

    Wow, this is really an in-depth analysis and further tool to study, to better equipping the saints of this end time generation and event. I’m blessed after reading through, it’s refreshing and Worth studying.

    Thanks so much Sir.
    God bless you and your family.
    Yours
    Kojo George
    Sierra Leone, West Africa
    +232 76 54 60 45

    Like

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