NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
By Dr. Robert R. Seyda
FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN
CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson LVIII) 02/01/23
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.
But the trouble is, as I have told you before, you haven’t accepted this even though you have seen me. But those who do come to me, I will never, never reject. Let me clarify that everything my heavenly Father has entrusted me with will not be lost in the process, not one. I promise to raise those in the grave to have eternal life when this is all over. My Father wants this: anyone who sees the Son and trusts who He is and what He does and is in union with Him will have life forever. My part is to put them on their feet, alive and whole, when the time for salvation on earth is complete.
Amazingly, the Psalmist David recognized this factor of friendship is built on fellowship. He says friendship with God is reserved for those who reverence Him. With them alone, He shares the secrets of His promises. Apparently, David passed on this same 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.”
The Apostle Paul says that God does not leave everything up to our instincts or intuition. That’s why God gave us His Spirit, who speaks to us deep in our hearts and tells us that we are to live like God’s children. Not only that, but because we are His children, God had the Spirit of His Son live in our hearts, so now we can rightly call God our dear Father. Therefore, since we can see and prove that what the prophets said came true, we would do well to pay close attention to everything they have written, for, like lights shining into dark corners, their words help us to understand many things that otherwise would be dark and difficult. But when you consider the wonderful truth of the prophets’ words, then the light will dawn in your souls, and the Anointed One, the Morning Star, will shine in our hearts.
The articulate writer of the Letter to the Hebrews makes this clear: “In the past, God spoke to our people through the prophets. He spoke to them many times and in many different ways. And now, God has spoken to us again in these last days through His Son. He made the whole world through His Son. And He has chosen his Son to have all things. The Son shows the glory of God. He is a perfect copy of God’s nature and holds everything together by His powerful command. First, the Son made people clean of their sins. Then He sat down at the right side of God, the Great One in heaven. The Son was superior to angels and given a divine name more magnificent than their names.”
John was fully aware that there were false prophets and various interpreters of Jesus’ reason for being in the world, so he wanted to say it as often as possible that Jesus was the man sent from God with a message for all the world to hear. Not only that, but Jesus was not the only witness to this truth; the Father in heaven had several occasions spoken of His affirmation that Jesus was the Son of man. So, to accept Jesus as the Anointed One is tantamount to receiving God’s testimony is true about His Son.
While living in Switzerland, I heard this story of a young girl while climbing around on the rocks looking for edelweiss fell into an alpine crevice and could not extract herself. So the men in the village were called to help. But all of them were too big to slide through the small crevice to reach the girl. So they got a small lad who was very good at climbing and wanted to lower him on a rope into the cavern and bring the young girl up. But the boy refused to take the risk unless his father, who was not as big as the other men holding the rope, was called to participate. When they pointed out to the boy that they were much more robust than his father, the boy replied that this didn’t matter; he wanted his father’s hands on the rope. When asked why? The lad replied, “Because I know my father won’t let go.”
A similar concept is valid for every believer. There is a knot of faith at the end of their rope of belief. When all else fails and ridicule has stripped them of all external evidence, this is one thing the world can never take away, that they have put their trust in God’s Son, the Son of God. Critics cannot pollute our minds to reject it; neither can they delete it or exclude it from the faith we have in our hearts. When a believer’s strength to fight has waned, and their grip is weakening, they will find an anchor called faith at the rope’s end. But the miracle is that not only will they hold on to faith, but faith will hold on to them. Their own experience with Jesus the Anointed One is all the proof they need.
Now John has a word of caution for those who have trouble believing God’s anointing on Jesus and claiming that He was God’s Son. It was already a prevalent problem in the apostle Paul’s day and increased in John’s last years here on earth. Many of the Jews already were saying that Jesus was a pretender, that the Anointed One would be much holier than He was. It came from their inability to believe that God could dwell on earth in human form.
This belief continued to grow until it was introduced after John’s death on a large scale by Julius Cassianus and called Docetism. Although the seeds for this movement started earlier, he is considered the founder of this belief system. Docetism teaches that Jesus’ physical body was only an aberration or an illusion. This idea is borrowed from Gnostic philosophy, which teaches that all matter is evil. Therefore, Jesus could not be God incarnate because the physical body is full of sinful tendencies. Docetism taught that a spiritual entity entered into the human body of Jesus at his baptism and left Him after He was crucified. They believed that Jesus’ main objective was to deliver us from the dominion of matter (which is evil). This divine entity could not come Himself in the form of physical matter since this substance was what He came to conquer. This heresy also denies the resurrection because Jesus’ physical body would still count for something.
There are some similar variations to this belief. The Gnostic “Gospel of Peter” teaches Docetism. Two of the more popular teachers of this heresy were Cerinthus and Ebionites. People who believe this, says John, are calling God a liar. When Balaam was challenged because his message to the Israelites was not what King Balak wanted to hear, he told him, “God is not a man; He will not lie. God is not a human being; His decisions will not change. If He says He will do something, then He will do it. If He makes a promise, then He will do what He promised.”
John the Baptizer was thoroughly convinced of this when he said this of Jesus, “Whoever accepts what He says has proof that God speaks the truth.” But when asked about John the Baptizer’s statement, Jesus had this to say, “I have proof about Myself that is greater than anything John the Baptizer said. The things I do are My proof. These are what My Father gave Me to do. They show that the Father sent Me. And the Father who sent Me has given proof about me. But you have never heard His voice. You have never seen what He looks like. The Father’s teaching does not live in you because you don’t believe in the one the Father sent.” So these doubters and skeptics need not come right out and verbally call God a liar.
I once heard two people arguing, and one was becoming exasperated because the other one didn’t believe what they were saying. So, the one said, “Are you calling me a liar?” The other one answered, “No, I just don’t believe you.” So, the first one said, “If you don’t believe me, then you’re saying I’m lying.” The other one said, “No, I’m not saying you’re lying; I just don’t believe you.” And on and on it went. I don’t think they ever settled it. British poet William Shenstone (1714-1763) observed: “A liar begins with making falsehood appear like truth, and ends with making truth itself appear like falsehood.” But John is less interested in what men say than what God says. Therefore, we can do no better than our Master. So, the ultimate starting point of testimony about Jesus as the Son of God is from God. The words “has testified” mean that God testified in the past with the result that that testimony stands. God testified about Jesus at His baptism and through His death on the cross. “Of His Son” is literally “concerning His Son.” God’s focus is the person and work of the Anointed One. God puts His focus on the centrality of the Anointed One called “Christocentricity.” Thus, the principle involved is that God verifies that His message centered on His Son is true.
 Ibid. 6:30-40, cf. 6:47; 10:28; 17:2-3
 Psalm 25:14
 Proverbs 3:30-32
 Romans 8:16
 Galatians 4:6
 2 Peter 1:19
 Hebrews 1:1-4
 Cerinthus was probably born a Jew in Egypt. Little is known of his life save that he was a teacher and founded a short-lived sect of Jewish Christians with Gnostic tendencies. He apparently taught that the world was created by angels, from one of whom the Jews received their imperfect Law. The only New Testament writing that Cerinthus accepted was the Gospel of Matthew. Cerinthus taught that Jesus, the offspring of Joseph and Mary, received Anointed One’s Spirit at his baptism as a divine power revealing the unknown Father. This messianic spirit left Jesus before the Passion and the Resurrection. Cerinthus admitted circumcision and the Sabbath.
 The Ebionites (from Hebrew, Ebyonim, “the poor ones”) were an early sect of Jewish followers of Jesus that flourished from the first to the fifth century C.E. in and around the Land of Israel. In contrast to the dominant Christian sects that viewed Jesus as the incarnation of God, the Ebionites saw Jesus as a mortal human being, who by being a holy man, was chosen by God to be the prophet of the “Kingdom of Heaven.” The Ebionites insisted on following Jewish dietary and religious laws and rejected the writings of Paul of Tarsus. Thus, Ebionites were in theological conflict with the emerging dominant streams of Christianity that opened up to the Gentiles.
 Balaam was a wicked prophet in the Bible and is noteworthy because, although he was a wicked prophet, he was not a false prophet. That is, Balaam did hear from God, and God did give him some true prophecies to speak. However, Balaam’s heart was not right with God, and eventually, he showed his true colors by betraying Israel and leading them astray. See Numbers 22-24
 Numbers 23:19
 John 3:33
 Ibid. 5:36-38
 Shenstone was one of the earliest practitioners of landscape gardening through the development of his estate.
 Essays on Men and Manners by William Shenstone, Printed by William W. Morse, Philadelphia, 1804, LXXXII, p. 151