By Dr. Robert R. Seyda


CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson LVII) 01/31/23

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.

It is impossible, therefore, that a contrary understanding of the significance of the death of Jesus could be the product of the testimony of the Spirit, for the witness of the beloved disciple to the water and blood upon Jesus’ death is confirmed by the Spirit’s ongoing witness to the community. And while John speaks of three witnesses – the Spirit, the water, and the blood – in reality, he envisions one threefold witness to the fact and significance of Jesus’ crucifixion. Together, Spirit, water, and are one testimony, but the Spirit does not testify without or apart from the blood. The statement that the Spirit, the water, and the blood agree to shows that the Spirit’s saving work is not independent of or effective apart from what Jesus accomplished through His death.[1]

As a lover of God’s Word, Peter Pett (1966) states that if we are willing to receive the witness of men, the witness of God is superior, for the witness of God is that He is an eyewitness concerning His Son. Here John establishes what he has been saying about Jesus, God’s Son. Jesus the Anointed One did not just come by water (through His natural birth or, more probably, through His baptism). His baptism was one way He presented Himself, but equally, He offered Himself through His physical death. It was a theory of various false teachers that the Anointed One’s Spirit came on Jesus’ body as divine inspiration at His baptism but left before His death.

No, says John, He was the Anointed One in His death and life. Indeed this is confirmed by the Spirit, for He is the Spirit of truth. He came on Jesus with power at Jesus’ baptism, proclaiming Jesus to be the only Son and the Servant who was pleasing to God, and He came to Him powerfully after His death when He raised Him from the dead.[2] So, all three agree that Jesus is the Anointed One – the Spirit, the water, and the blood. All concur and are united in revealing Him as God’s Son. In both His life and His death, he was the Anointed One. The Spirit bears witness to Him through God’s witnesses, first the Apostles, then those whom the Apostles appointed, and then through the leaders of the true churches.

But God Himself is also the witness to His Son. He bore witness, for it was he who sent the Holy Spirit on Him at His baptism, and made His declaration of who He was as His Son, and how pleasing He was as His Servant, and it was He who powerfully raised Him from the dead through His Holy Spirit at His resurrection. And His witness is superior to any witness of mankind. So if we accept the witness of men, the witness of those who knew Jesus and knew Him in His life and who saw these remarkable events, we must, even more, accept the witness of God who not only gave Him His Holy Spirit, who was both with Him in His baptism and in His death and resurrection but also has from that time given Him the power to give life to whom He will. God’s witness is that He has borne witness to His Son by this.[3]

In his unorthodox Unitarian way, Duncan Heaster (1967) says that the Apostle John’s mention of the outflow of water and blood from the Lord, an account testified by the Spirit, backed up the disciples’ testimony.[4] Although those told of John’s Gospel record received that witness, the greater witness was God, the witness of the Spirit within the believers. God’s testimony concerning His Son was not just in the words of those who had visibly, personally witnessed the Lord’s death and the outflow of water and blood, which symbolized the gift of the Spirit within the believer who also testified within them. It was the essential witness to which God testified of His Son. The Comforter would make that witness, confirming the faith exhibited in the crucifixion record.[5] This experience of an acceptive mutuality between God and man is undoubtedly at the very core of our spirituality; it should be part of an inner spiritual shell that nothing, nothing can shake: not aggression from our brethren, disillusion with other Christians, persecution from the world, or painful personal relationships.[6]

Bright seminarian Karen H. Jobes (1968) observes that the Apostle John is the one “who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.[7] Testimony is a central theme of John’s Gospel, God’s testimony about Jesus. John’s testimony is “what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have perceived, and our hands have touched.[8] Perhaps verse nine is an invitation to read John’s Gospel as a speech on God’s deposition concerning the identity of Jesus.

John assumes that his testimony about the truth stands in unbroken lineage back to God’s testimony about Jesus. He is zealous in protecting it from all other errant claims to truth, such as those offered by him by the antichrists. The witness of the Spirit, the water, and the blood is integral to God’s testimony. Therefore, verse nine is making not just a general claim that God’s testimony is more remarkable than human testimony but specifically that the content of God’s testimony is about Jesus, nothing or anyone else.[9]

Consistent with the Apostle John’s advice, Heinrich A. W. Meyer (1800-1882) believes that the Apostle John’s purpose for writing verse nine is to demonstrate the value of the Divine testimony and, consequently, to insist on the credit given to it. The conditional clause refers to the fact that human testimony is received as satisfactory and sufficient evidence, according to the common custom of society. If this is so, urges John, we ought to obtain with more conviction, and a more immovable belief, the testimony of God; for it is more significant, that is, greater in its authority and value. There can be no doubt that this verse has a specific connection with what immediately precedes; and that thus the force of the evidence mentioned as divinely-given evidence is called to the readers’ attention.

This is to be affirmed, whatever may be the direct and special reference of it being God’s witness. With regard to this question, the following suggestion is offered as best satisfying the conditions of the passage: namely, that John passes, in the progress of the verses here, from the objective side of the evidence for the Divine Sonship of Jesus to the subjective side. The objective side is presented in verse ten, the Spirit and the water and the blood. The personal side is brought forward in verse eleven, the eternal life given to the soul and possessed by it. But these are, really, not two different things, but two different sides or aspects of the same thing. Jesus the Anointed One, who was seen, heard, handled, is eternal life. The experience of what He is within the soul is the other side – the corresponding internal manifestation of what is testified to by the facts of His earthly career and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost and afterward.[10]

5:10 Whoever believes in the Son of God has accepted the truth that God told us. But people who do not believe what God said, and do not trust what He told us about His Son, are saying God is lying.


John the Baptizer certainly experienced this. After testifying what happened at Jesus’ baptism, admitting that he would not have known the Anointed One from any other man standing around him, God told him what to look for: “When you see the My Spirit descending and resting upon one person – He is the one you are looking for. He is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” And I saw it all happen, says John the Baptizer to this one man. So, based on what I was told and saw with my eyes, I unashamedly testify that He is God’s Son.[11]

Also, one of the soldiers at the crucifixion testified that when Jesus’ side was pierced with a spear, blood and water flowed out. I saw all this myself, said the soldier, and have given an accurate report so that you also can believe. The Apostle John states that when the soldiers did this it was to fulfill the Scripture that says, “Not one of His bones will be broken,”[12]and, “They will look on Him whom they pierced.”[13]

Jesus ran into this kind of doubt about who He was and His mission here on earth; they wanted more evidence. So, our Lord told them no one has ever visited God in heaven except the One who came down from His presence, the Son of Man. Just like when Moses lifted the serpent in the desert on a cross so people could have something to see and then believe, the Son of Man must be raised on a cross – and everyone who looks up at Him with trust and hope will be rewarded with eternal life. That’s why the Apostle John added that all those who trust in Him – God’s Son – to save them would receive eternal life. Any person who avoids and distrusts the Son remains in the dark and never experiences eternal life. All they will experience is God’s ultimate judgment.[14]

On another occasion, after our Lord fed thousands of people, some were not satisfied with that miracle to fully believe in Him as the Anointed One. So, they searched for Him and, after finding Him, told our Master, you must show us more miracles if you want us to believe you are the Anointed One. Moses gave our fathers bread from heaven and granted us complimentary bread every day. Jesus responded that the real significance of the occasion is not that Moses gave them bread from heaven but that my Father is right now offering you bread from heaven, the real bread. Don’t you understand! I am that Bread of Life, and no one who comes to Me will ever be hungry again, and those believing in me will never thirst.

[1] Thompson, Marianne M., The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, 1-3 John, op. cit., pp. 135-136

[2] Romans 1:4

[3] Pett, Peter, Commentary on the Bible, 1 John, op. cit., loc. cit.

[4] Heaster refers to the blood and water that spilled from Jesus’ body when stabbed by the soldier’s spear. However, most Bible scholars find this to be an erroneous reference since the blood came out first, then the water.

[5] Ibid. 15:26-27

[6] Heaster, Duncan. New European Christadelphian Commentary: op. cit., The Letters of John, pp. 72-73

[7] John 21:24

[8] Ibid. 1:1

[9] Jobes, Karen H., 1, 2, and 3 John (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on The New Testament Series Book 18), op. cit., p. 224

[10] Meyer, Heinrich A. W., Critical Exegetical Handbook News Testament, op. cit., Vol. 10, p. 814-815

[11] John 1:33-34

[12] Cf. Psalm 34:21; Exodus 12:46; Numbers 9:12

[13] John 19:34-36

[14] Ibid. 3:13-15, 36

About drbob76

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