WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson LI) 01/23/23

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.

Therefore, the testimony of the Spirit, water, and blood is open to the same criteria. So, how could those who saw what happened at His baptism and heard the voice from heaven[1] ever doubt that He was God’s Son? Furthermore, how could those who saw His death on the cross and witnessed the fantastic scenes which occurred there fail to join the Roman centurion in saying that this was “the Son of God?”[2] And those who’ve felt the influences of the Eternal Spirit on their heart, ever doubt that Jesus was God’s Son?[3] Any of these is sufficient to convince the soul, all combined on the same point and confirm it from age to age.[4]

With impressive theological vision, Richard Rothe (1799-1867) notes that having shown how sure our faith foundation in the Messiahship of Jesus rests, the Apostle John now calls attention to the irresponsibility of those who, despite this confirmation, withhold such trust. This accountability is so great because of having God as a witness, who is such a convincing power. Dare we question God as a valid witness? Not to admit the validity of God’s evidence as a witness, under the same conditions we use to determine the authenticity of mankind’s testimony, is an insult to God. The question “Is God the witness?” John does not take time to validate because it’s obvious.

But it might not be evident to the reader how John could speak here of God as a witness, seeing that he has been silent on that point. Accordingly, in the last clause of this verse, John introduces the connecting thought by proving the assertion we have just been considering, an affirmation that would be far from evident. It is the case, John says, that the point in question is accepting God as a witness, for the actual witnesses to the Messiahship of Jesus are the Spirit, the water, and the blood. Indeed this, the general summing up, as it were, of all the testimonies of God to the Messiahship and Divine Sonship of Jesus, is the only witness of God. (Apart from the testimonies of God to Jesus, there are no direct testimonies of Himself in history) [5]

According to Robert Jamieson (1802-1880), Andrew Fausset (1821-1910), and David Brown (1803-1897) way of thinking, we should take note of the Apostle John’s We believe men who witness in our courts, and so unquestionably we can believe whatever God declares. And God proclaims that Jesus is His Son. Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown agree that we allow (and rightly so) the witness of credible individuals, fallible though they are much more ought we to accept the infallible witness of God. The testimony of God the Father is the basis of the Word, and the Holy Spirit’s testimony is the grounds for the evidence of the water and the blood. This principle applies in the present case. We read the oldest Greek manuscripts “because He has given testimony concerning His Son.” What that testimony is we find here in verses one and five. [6]

With noticeable spiritual comprehension, Henry Cowles (1802-1881) notes that following the course of thought in the context of verses six and eight, the “witness of God” must be especially that of the “Spirit” as seen emphatically after the Messiah’s ascension. Thus, God’s testimony through the Spirit concerning His Son should be described as more significant than that of any mortal. That includes all mankind, and its weight should prevent any resistance.[7]

With an inquiring mind, Daniel D. Whedon (1808-1885) says that the certainty of God’s impressive witnessor testimony is far above all human testimony, just as God is above humanity. Scripture tells us that on the testimony of humans’ two or three unimpeachable oaths, we can take the life of a fellowman by the courts.[8] However, the witnesses are from God through the Spirit, water, and blood in this case. Thus, even under the law, they are superior to a dozen human witnesses. Sometimes, people are false witnesses, but God can never be a liaror perjurer.[9]

In line with the Apostle John’s conclusions, Henry Alford (1810-1871) notes that in verse nine, an argument minori ad majus[10] grounded on mankind’s practice shows that we must believe God’s testimony if we receive as we do. It is to be given with approval to accept a person’s testimony in any given case. No extraordinary testimony need be suggested, as touching this present case: in general, “the testimony of God” supplied in the argument is more remarkable.

Therefore, much more weight be given to it. The testimony of God, spoken of here, is not any revelation, as do the prophecies concerning the Messiah, the witness of John the Baptizer, and other eyewitnesses to Him, or the Prophets, the Martyrs, and Apostles. It is general, as is the testimony of humans, with which it is compared.

The particular testimony pointed at by the general proposition is introduced in the last part of verse nine by the word “for.”[11] Here, there is an abbreviation: the testimony of God is this, that He hath borne testimony concerning His Son, namely, the testimony of God to which the argument applies is this, “God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which He has given about His Son.”[12] The correction to the easier “which” in verse ten gives a wrong reference for “this” in verse eleven, referring to that mentioned in verses six through eight. It also throws a wrong shade of meaning over verse nine, making “the testimony of God” instead of general “witnessing” in John’s Gospel.[13] [14]

As a faithful and zealous scholar, William Graham (1810-1883) notes that the “certainty of the Gospel truth” is argued in verse nine on the grounds that the testimony of God is more worthy of credit than the testimony of mortals. That’s because God bears witness to the Messiahship and Sonship of Jesus; therefore, we have every reason to believe it to be true. But how has God given testimony to His Son? In many ways and at different times. God arranged the emergence of the Church during the age of the Messiah. He also spoke through prophets and wise men of different ages to announce the advent of the coming Deliverer. The Jews and the Gentiles were to be united under one head, in one body, forever. Furthermore, He testified to the coming of His Son by a fore-ordained system of types and shadows, ceremonies, and sacrifices. Finally, it allowed the eye of faith and hope to look for the coming King, in whom the longings of the creation were to be satisfied.

When the Messiah came, God supported Him through His testimony and the ministry of angels, who appeared at His conception,[15] birth,[16] temptation,[17] agony in the garden,[18] resurrection,[19] and ascension from Mount Olivet.[20] God testified to His Son’s validity by the signs, wonders, and manifold gifts of the Holy Spirit, which He gave to the apostles and the Church. The Father supplied testimony to Jesus on the holy mount[21] and at His baptism)[22] with His voice from heaven, announcing and accrediting Him as his only-begotten and well-beloved Son, in whom He was well pleased. And, finally, He testified to His Son by raising Him from the dead and elevating Him to the throne of universal dominion. He ascended as God-man and Mediator, so that every creature in heaven and on earth should bow their knees in His name, and every tongue confess that He is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.[23]

This mighty act of Yahweh in glorifying His Son is the public and universal testimony of the Creator to the character and faithfulness of the divine Redeemer. All of these give the soul a sure foundation to build on while looking forward to eternal joy. When we put complete confidence for time and eternity in the Messiah and His finished work, we are not building on the sand of man’s traditions and delusions, but upon the Rock of Ages, the sure foundation the Lord has laid in Zion.[24] There is no room for doubt. The facts of the Gospel history on which the Christian system is built are more firmly established than any other events in the history of mankind.

We have, for example, much more significant evidence that Jesus rose from the dead than that Marcus Junius Brutus assassinated Julius Cæsar in the Roman Senate chambers, the Duke of Wellington defeated Napoleon at Waterloo in Belgium, or William Shakespeare ever existed as a person. If we believe man’s witness, the witness of God is superior, and this exceptional witness given concerning His Son means He cannot err nor deceive. His wisdom, power, goodness, and love are the sure guarantees to believe in His Son without shame.[25][26]


[1] Matthew3:16-17

[2] Mark 15:39

[3] Cf. 1 Corinthians 12:3

[4] Barnes, New Testament Notes, op. cit., 1 John 5, p. 4883

[5] Rothe, Richard: Exposition of the First Epistle of St. John, op. cit., The Expository Times, May 1895, p. 373

[6] Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, New Testament Volume, op. cit., p. 730

[7] Cowles, Henry: The Gospel and Epistles of John: with Notes, op. cit., p. 356

[8] Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15

[9] Whedon, Daniel D, Commentary on the New Testament, op. cit., pp. 278-279

[10] Minori ad Majus is Latin for “minor to major

[11] Cf. 1 John 5:7

[12] Op. cit., 5:11

[13] John 1:32; 13:21; 19:35; see also 1 John 5:6-7

[14] Alford, Henry: The Greek Testament, op. cit., Vol. IV, p. 506

[15] Matthew 1:20

[16] Luke 2:13

[17] Matthew 4:1-11

[18] Luke 22:43

[19] Matthew 28:2

[20] Acts of the Apostles 1:8-12

[21] Matthew 17:5

[22] Ibid. 3:17

[23] Philippians 2:8-18

[24] Cf. Isaiah 28:16

[25] See Romans 10:11

[26] Graham, William: The Spirit of Love, op. cit., pp. 325-326

About drbob76

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