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Bible Commentaries
1 John 5

Orchard's Catholic Commentary on Holy ScriptureOrchard's Catholic Commentary

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Verses 1-21

V:1-5 Love rooted in Faith —1. Further proof that faith and love unite us to God and to one another is this: belief in Jesus as the promised Messias must precede baptism. Through this sacrament we are ’born of God’ and become children of God. It also gives us the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of love, and thus begets in us a love of God ’who begot’ together with a love of others who are ’born of him’.

2. Three inseparable dispositions are: to love the children of God, to love God, and to keep his commandments.

4. What is it that gives the Christian the power of overcoming the world hostile to God? The Apostle says it is faith, which not only furnishes the motives, but the help of divine grace.

6-12 Threefold Witness to Christ’s Divinity —6. Jesus Christ ’came by water and blood’. Water and blood are symbols and refer, the one to the baptism of Christ, the other to his death. At his baptism, the Father proclaimed him his beloved Son, Matthew 3:17. At his eath, ’the centurion and they that were with him watching Jesus . . . said: "This was indeed the Son of God"’, Matthew 27:54. ’Not by water alone’ may have been added to refute the error of Cerinthus, who taught that he who died on the cross was not the Son of God, but the man Jesus; for the teaching of Cerinthus, cf. § 955h. Here St John insists that, even amid the humiliations and sufferings of the passion, Jesus Christ was the Son of God. A third witness is added, namely, the Holy Spirit, who speaks through the Apostles and proclaims the divinity of Christ to the whole world.

7. According to the Clementine Vg, the three Persons of the Blessed Trinity are the heavenly witnesses to Christ’s divinity, corresponding to the threefold witness on earth. The Father gave testimony at the baptism, and the transfiguration, Matthew 17:5 and in the temple court, John 12:28; the Word repeatedly gave testimony to his divinity by his words and works during his public ministry; the Holy Spirit likewise testified at the baptism, on the day of Pentecost, and later through the Apostles. ’And these three are one’, have one identical nature. Concerning the authenticity of this text, cf. § 955j.8. The Jewish law required the agreement of two or three witnesses for satisfactory evidence, Deuteronomy 19:15. That is why St John produces the threefold witness, and adds: ’and these three are one’, i.e. they all proclaim the divinity of Jesus Christ.

9. If a threefold human witness is accepted to confirm the truth of a matter, how can any one dare to set aside a threefold divine testimony, and practically make God a liar?

13-21 Conclusion —13. The purpose of the Epistle, like that of the Gospel. is to awaken in its readers a realization that a firm hope of attaining eternal life is theirs, because they believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ. 14. A second result of their sincere faith is the assurance that any petition, that conforms to God’s will, will be granted. 16. This confidence in prayer extends to all the members of the church, and should encourage the faithful to pray for those who have fallen into sin. The Apostle distinguishes a ’sin unto death’, which from the context seems to mean deliberate apostasy from the faith, a denial that Jesus is the Son of God. Since such sinners cut themselves off from their brethren, St John does not ask his readers to pray for them, though he does not expressly forbid such prayers, nor does he say that the fate of the apostate is scaled.

18-21. The main purpose of the Epistle is then summarized by a threefold repetition of ’we know’: God’s children do not commit sin, i.e. they receive abundant grace to avoid deliberate sin, and their love for their heavenly Father prompts them to use this grace. Secondly, we are born of God and are out of reach of the wicked world. Thirdly, we know God through faith in his Son, who became man that we might be incorporated in his Mystical Body. This Son is true God, and is our hope for eternal life. Let them be on their guard against any form of idol worship.

Bibliographical Information
Orchard, Bernard, "Commentary on 1 John 5". Orchard's Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/boc/1-john-5.html. 1951.
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