the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary
New American Standard Version
Bible Study Resources
Nave's Topical Bible - Holy Spirit; Jesus, the Christ; Trinity; Word; Thompson Chain Reference - Father; Fatherhood of God; God; Heavenly; One God; Universal; Word the, Christ as; The Topic Concordance - God; Holy Spirit; Jesus Christ; Witness; Torrey's Topical Textbook - Unity of God; Witness of the Holy Spirit;
Verse 7. There are three that bear record — The FATHER, who bears testimony to his Son; the WORD or λογος, Logos, who bears testimony to the Father; and the HOLY GHOST, which bears testimony to the Father and the Son. And these three are one in essence, and agree in the one testimony, that Jesus came to die for, and give life to, the world.
But it is likely this verse is not genuine. It is wanting in every MS. of this epistle written before the invention of printing, one excepted, the Codex Montfortii, in Trinity College, Dublin: the others which omit this verse amount to one hundred and twelve.
It is wanting in both the Syriac, all the Arabic, AEthiopic, the Coptic, Sahidic, Armenian, Slavonian, c., in a word, in all the ancient versions but the Vulgate and even of this version many of the most ancient and correct MSS. have it not. It is wanting also in all the ancient Greek fathers; and in most even of the Latin.
The words, as they exist in all the Greek MSS. with the exception of the Codex Montfortii, are the following:-
"1 John 5:6. This is he that came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness because the Spirit is truth.
1 John 5:7. For there are three that bear witness, the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree in one.
1 John 5:9. If we receive the witness of man, the witness of God is greater, c."
The words that are omitted by all the MSS., the above excepted, and all the versions, the Vulgate excepted, are these:-
[ln heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one, and there are three which bear witness in earth.]
To make the whole more clear, that every reader may see what has been added, I shall set down these verses, with the inserted words in brackets.
"1 John 5:6. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth.
1 John 5:7. For there are three that bear record [in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one. 1 John 5:8. And there are three that bear witness in earth,] the Spirit, and the water, and the blood, and these three agree in one.
1 John 5:9. If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater, c."
Any man may see, on examining the words, that if those included in brackets, which are wanting in the MSS. and versions, be omitted, there is no want of connection and as to the sense, it is complete and perfect without them and, indeed much more so than with them. I shall conclude this part of the note by observing, with Dr. Dodd, "that there are some internal and accidental marks which may render the passage suspected; for the sense is complete, and indeed more clear and better preserved, without it. Besides, the Spirit is mentioned, both as a witness in heaven and on earth; so that the six witnesses are thereby reduced to five, and the equality of number, or antithesis between the witnesses in heaven and on earth, is quite taken away. Besides, what need of witnesses in heaven? No one there doubts that Jesus is the Messiah; and if it be said that Father, Son, and Spirit are witnesses on earth, then there are five witnesses on earth, and none in heaven; not to say that there is a little difficulty in interpreting how the Word or the Son can be a witness to himself."
It may be necessary to inquire how this verse stood in our earliest English Bibles. In COVERDALE'S Bible, printed about 1535, for it bears no date, the seventh verse is put in brackets thus:-
And it is the Sprete that beareth wytnes; for the Sprete is the truth. (For there are thre which beare recorde in heaven: the Father, the Woorde, and the Holy Ghost, and these thre are one.) And there are thre which beare record in earth: the Sprete, water, and bloude and these thre are one. If we receyve, c.
TINDAL was as critical as he was conscientious and though he admitted the words into the text of the first edition of his New Testament printed in 1526, yet he distinguished them by a different letter, and put them in brackets, as Coverdale has done; and also the words in earth, which stand in 1 John 5:8, without proper authority, and which being excluded make the text the same as in the MSS., c.
Two editions of this version are now before me one printed in English and Latin, quarto, with the following title:-
The New Testament, both in Englyshe and Laten, of Master Erasmus translation-and imprinted by William Powell-the yere of out Lorde M.CCCCC.XLVII. And the fyrste yere of the kynges (Edw. VI.) moste gratious reygne.
In this edition the text stands thus:-
And it is the Spirite that beareth wytnes, because the Spirite is truth (for there are thre whiche beare recorde in heaven, the Father, the Worde, and the Holy Ghost, and these thre are one.) For there are thre which beare recorde, (in earth,) the Spirite, water, and blode, and these thre are one. If we receyve, c.
The other printed in London "by William Tylle, 4to without the Latin of Erasmus in M.CCCCC.XLIX. the thyrde yere of the reigne of our moost dreade Soverayne Lorde Kynge Edwarde the Syxte," has, with a small variety of spelling, the text in the same order, and the same words included in brackets as above.
The English Bible, with the book of Common Prayer, printed by Richard Cardmarden, at Rouen in Normandy, fol. 1566, exhibits the text faithfully, but in the following singular manner:-
And it is the Spyryte that beareth witnesse, because the Spyryte is truthe. (for there are three which beare recorde in heaven, the Father, the Woorde, and the Holy Ghost; and these Three are One) And three which beare recorde* (in earth) the Spirite, and water, and bloode; and these three are one.
The first English Bible which I have seen, where these distinctions were omitted, is that called The Bishops' Bible, printed by Jugge, fol. 1568. Since that time, all such distinctions have been generally disregarded.
Though a conscientious believer in the doctrine of the ever blessed, holy, and undivided Trinity, and in the proper and essential Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, which doctrines I have defended by many, and even new, arguments in the course of this work, I cannot help doubting the authenticity of the text in question; and, for farther particulars, refer to the observations at the end of this chapter.
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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on 1 John 5:7". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​acc/1-john-5.html. 1832.
5:6-21 ASSURANCE OF ETERNAL LIFE
The basis of assurance (5:6-12)
Those who taught Gnostic-type theories did not believe that the person who died on the cross was Jesus Christ the Son of God. They claimed that ‘the Christ’ (i.e. God) descended on Jesus (the man) in the form of a dove after his baptism and empowered him to do miracles, but departed before his crucifixion. According to them, the Jesus who suffered and died was merely a man. He was not ‘the Christ’. In other words, ‘the Christ’ came through water (his baptism) but not through blood (his death).
John emphatically denies this by saying that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God, through both experiences. John quotes three witnesses as evidence to support this. The first is the water, for Jesus was already both God and man when he was baptized (cf. John 1:29-34). The second is the blood, for the person who died on the cross was both God and man (cf. John 20:26-31; Acts 2:22-24). The third is the Spirit, for Christ’s indwelling Spirit is the one who confirms this truth to the Christian (cf. 1 John 2:20; 1 John 3:24; 1 John 4:13). When the testimonies of three witnesses are in agreement, they must be accepted as evidence that cannot be disputed (6-8; cf. Deuteronomy 19:15).
If people accept the testimony of their fellow human beings, how much more should they accept the testimony of God. And God says that the one who died for the sins of the world was his Son. To deny the union of the divine and the human in Jesus is to call God a liar (9-10). God’s Son is the source of eternal life, and those who accept God’s testimony and believe in his Son have eternal life also (11-12).
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on 1 John 5:7". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​bbc/1-john-5.html. 2005.
And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is the truth.
It is not possible to tell exactly what the apostle had in mind here. He could have been referring to the witness of the Holy Spirit descending in the form of a dove and alighting and remaining upon him at the time of Jesus’ baptism, thus witnessing to the divinity and Godhead of Jesus; or, he might have reference to his own inspired testimony. It should be remembered that he was one of the Twelve to whom Jesus promised that the Spirit would guide them into all truth (John 16:13). As Orr noted, "The present tense might be significant here";<footnote>R. W. Orr, A New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1969), p. 619. </footnote> and that would seem to make the second alternative the preferable view.
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 1 John 5:7". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​bcc/1-john-5.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
For there are three that bear record in heaven ... - There are three that “witness,” or that “bear witness” - the same Greek word which, in 1 John 5:8, is rendered “bear witness” - μαρτυροῦντες marturountes. There is no passage of the New Testament which has given rise to so much discussion in regard to its genuineness as this. The supposed importance of the verse in its bearing on the doctrine of the Trinity has contributed to this, and has given to the discussion a degree of consequence which has pertained to the examination of the genuineness of no other passage of the New Testament. On the one hand, the clear testimony which it seems to bear to the doctrine of the Trinity, has made that portion of the Christian church which holds the doctrine reluctant in the highest degree to abandon it; and on the other hand, the same clearness of the testimony to that doctrine, has made those who deny it not less reluctant to admit the genuineness of the passage.
It is not consistent with the design of these notes to go into a full investigation of a question of this sort. And all that can be done is to state, in a brief way, the “results” which have been reached, in an examination of the question. Those who are disposed to pursue the investigation further, can find all that is to be said in the works referred to at the bottom of the page. The portion of the passage, in 1 John 5:7-8, whose genuineness is disputed, is included in brackets in the following quotation, as it stands in the common editions of the New Testament: “For there are three that bear record (in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness on earth,) the Spirit, and the water, and the blood; and these three agree in one.” If the disputed passage, therefore, be omitted as spurious, the whole passage will read, “For there are three that bear record, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood; and these three agree in one.” The reasons which seem to me to prove that the passage included in brackets is spurious, and should not be regarded as a part of the inspired writings, are briefly the following:
I. It is missing in all the earlier Greek manuscripts, for it is found in no Greek manuscript written before the 16th century. Indeed, it is found in only two Greek manuscripts of any age - one the Codex Montfortianus, or Britannicus, written in the beginning of the sixteenth century, and the other the Codex Ravianus, which is a mere transcript of the text, taken partly from the third edition of Stephen’s New Testament, and partly from the Complutensian Polyglott. But it is incredible that a genuine passage of the New Testament should be missing in all the early Greek manuscripts.
II. It is missing in the earliest versions, and, indeed, in a large part of the versions of the New Testament which have been made in all former times. It is wanting in both the Syriac versions - one of which was made probably in the first century; in the Coptic, Armenian, Slavonic, Ethiopic, and Arabic.
III. It is never quoted by the Greek fathers in their controversies on the doctrine of the Trinity - a passage which would be so much in point, and which could not have failed to be quoted if it were genuine; and it is not referred to by the Latin fathers until the time of Vigilius, at the end of the 5th century. If the passage were believed to be genuine - nay, if it were known at all to be in existence, and to have any probability in its favor - it is incredible that in all the controversies which occurred in regard to the divine nature, and in all the efforts to define the doctrine of the Trinity, this passage should never have been referred to. But it never was; for it must be plain to anyone who examines the subject with an unbiassed mind, that the passages which are relied on to prove that it was quoted by Athanasius, Cyprian, Augustin, etc., (Wetstein, II., p. 725) are not taken from this place, and are not such as they would have made if they had been acquainted with this passage, and had designed to quote it. IV. The argument against the passage from the external proof is confirmed by internal evidence, which makes it morally certain that it cannot be genuine.
(a) The connection does not demand it. It does not contribute to advance what the apostle is saying, but breaks the thread of his argument entirely. He is speaking of certain things which bear “witness” to the fact that Jesus is the Messiah; certain things which were well known to those to whom he was writing - the Spirit, and the water, and the blood. How does it contribute to strengthen the force of this to say that in heaven there are “three that bear witness” - three not before referred to, and having no connection with the matter under consideration?
(b) The “language” is not such as John would use. He does, indeed, elsewhere use the term “Logos,” or “Word” - ὁ Λόγος ho Logos, John 1:1, John 1:14; 1 John 1:1, but it is never in this form, “The Father, and the Word;” that is, the terms “Father” and “Word” are never used by him, or by any of the other sacred writers, as correlative. The word “Son” - ὁ Υἱός ho Huios - is the term which is correlative to the “Father” in every other place as used by John, as well as by the other sacred writers. See 1 John 1:3; 1Jo 2:22-24; 1 John 4:14; 2Jo 1:3, 2 John 1:9; and the Gospel of John, “passim.” Besides, the correlative of the term “Logos,” or “Word,” with John, is not “Father,” but “God.” See John 1:1. Compare Revelation 19:13.
(c) Without this passage, the sense of the argument is clear and appropriate. There are three, says John, which bear witness that Jesus is the Messiah. These are referred to in 1 John 5:6; and in immediate connection with this, in the argument, 1 John 5:8, it is affirmed that their testimony goes to one point, and is harmonious. To say that there are other witnesses elsewhere, to say that they are one, contributes nothing to illustrate the nature of the testimony of these three - the water, and the blood, and the Spirit; and the internal sense of the passage, therefore, furnishes as little evidence of its genuineness as the external proof. V. It is easy to imagine how the passage found a place in the New Testament. It was at first written, perhaps, in the margin of some Latin manuscript, as expressing the belief of the writer of what was true in heaven, as well as on earth, and with no more intention to deceive than we have when we make a marginal note in a book. Some transcriber copied it into the body of the text, perhaps with a sincere belief that it was a genuine passage, omitted by accident; and then it became too important a passage in the argument for the Trinity, ever to be displaced but by the most clear critical evidence. It was rendered into Greek, and inserted in one Greek manuscript of the 16th century, while it was missing in all the earlier manuscripts.
VI. The passage is now omitted in the best editions of the Greek Testament, and regarded as spurious by the ablest critics. See Griesbach and Hahn. On the whole, therefore, the evidence seems to me to be clear that this passage is not a genuine portion of the inspired writings, and should not be appealed to in proof of the doctrine of the Trinity. One or two remarks may be made, in addition, in regard to its use.
(1) Even on the supposition that it is genuine, as Bengel believed it was, and as he believed that some Greek manuscript would still be found which would contain it , yet it is not wise to adduce it as a proof-text. It would be much easier to prove the doctrine of the Trinity from other texts, than to demonstrate the genuineness of this.
(2) It is not necessary as a proof-text. The doctrine which it contains can be abundantly established from other parts of the New Testament, by passages about which there can be no doubt.
(3) The removal of this text does nothing to weaken the evidence for the doctrine of the Trinity, or to modify that doctrine. As it was never used to shape the early belief of the Christian world on the subject, so its rejection, and its removal from the New Testament, will do nothing to modify that doctrine. The doctrine was embraced, and held, and successfully defended without it, and it can and will be so still.
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 1 John 5:7". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​bnb/1-john-5.html. 1870.
7.There are three than bear record in heaven The whole of this verse has been by some omitted. Jerome thinks that this has happened through design rather than through mistake, and that indeed only on the part of the Latins. But as even the Greek copies do not agree, I dare not assert any thing on the subject. Since, however, the passage flows better when this clause is added, and as I see that it is found in the best and most approved copies, I am inclined to receive it as the true reading. (94) And the meaning would be, that God, in order to confirm most abundantly our faith in Christ, testifies in three ways that we ought to acquiesce in him. For as our faith acknowledges three persons in the one divine essence, so it is called in so really ways to Christ that it may rest on him.
When he says, These three are one, he refers not to essence, but on the contrary to consent; as though he had said that the Father and his eternal Word and Spirit harmoniously testify the same thing respecting Christ. Hence some copies have
But as the Spirit, who is one witness, is mentioned twice, it seems to be an unnecessary repetition. To this I reply, that since he testifies of Christ in various ways, a twofold testimony is fitly ascribed to him. For the Father, together with his eternal Wisdom and Spirit, declares Jesus to be the Christ as it were authoritatively, then, in this ease, the sole majesty of the deity is to be considered by us. But as the Spirit, dwelling in our hearts, is an earnest, a pledge, and a seal, to confirm that decree, so he thus again speaks on earth by his grace.
But inasmuch as all do not receive this reading, I will therefore so expound what follows, as though the Apostle referred to the witnesses only on the earth.
(94) Calvin probably refers to printed copies in his day, and not to Greek MSS. As far as the authority of MSS. and versions and quotations goes, the passage is spurious, for it is not found in any of the Greek MSS prior to the 16th century, nor in any of the early versions, except the Latin, nor in some of the copies of that version; nor is it quoted by any of the early Greek fathers, nor by early Latin fathers, except a very few, and even their quotations have been disputed. These are facts which no refined conjectures can upset; and it is to be regretted that learned men, such as the late Bishop Burgess, should have labored and toiled in an attempt so hopeless as to establish the genuineness of this verse, or rather of a part of this verse, and of the beginning of the following. The whole passage is as follows, the spurious part being put within crotchets, —
7. “For there are three who bear witness [in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one:
8. And there are three who bear witness in earth,] the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree in one.”
As to the construction of the passage, as far as grammar and sense are concerned, it may do with or without the interpolation equally the same. What has been said to the contrary on this point, seems to be nothing of a decisive character, in no way sufficient to shew that the words are not spurious. Indeed, the passage reads better without the interpolated words; and as to the sense, that is, the sense in which they are commonly taken by the advocates of their genuineness, it has no connection whatever with the general drift of the passage. — Ed.
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Calvin, John. "Commentary on 1 John 5:7". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​cal/1-john-5.html. 1840-57.
Whosoever believes that Jesus is the Messiah is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him ( 1 John 5:1 ).
So I say, "I love Jesus. He is the Messiah. Yes, I'm born again. Oh, and how I love Him." Well, if I love Him who has begotten me into this new life, then I will also love those who have been begotten--the family of God, my brothers and sisters in Jesus.
And by this we know [another proof of how we know what we know, by this we know] that we love the children of God, when we love God, and we keep his commandments ( 1 John 5:2 ).
Jesus said, "A new commandment give I unto you, that ye love one another even as I have loved you" ( John 13:34 ). Now, when John seeks to bring down the commandments of Jesus, Jesus gave us the Old Testament commandments in a concise form. "Love God supremely, love your neighbor as yourself, in this is all the law and the prophets." And it's all wrapped up right here, very concise. Now John also capsulizes, gives us the essence of the commandments of Jesus. He does that over there in chapter 3, and this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment ( John 3:23 ). This is the commandment, and he gives us a condensed, concise form. Just believe on Jesus and love each other. That's what it's all about. That's what Christianity is all about. That's the heart of Christianity. That's the essence of Christianity. That we believe on Jesus Christ and that we love one another. There it is, you've got the whole thing right there.
Now, hereby I know that I love God. I can say that I love God, but I might just be mouthing empty phrases. By this I know, when I love the children of God, I keep His commandments.
For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous ( 1 John 5:3 ).
They're not that hard. Now tell me, what's . . . well, I take it back. Well, the first one is not so bad, believing on His Son, Jesus Christ. Now, the second is more difficult, loving each other as we love ourselves. That is more difficult, and that does take a work of God's Spirit within my heart. I can't just say, "Well, I'm gonna love him." You know, I've done that. I've tried to mesmerize myself, self-hypnosis. "Well, he's not such a bad guy. He's got some good traits, and I really shouldn't feel that way about him. He's loud and he's brash, and he says stupid things, but yet, he's not that bad. And I shouldn't really feel this animosity towards him. Although, I like him, I guess. He's not too bad. I can tolerate him." I try to talk myself into, you know . . . well, like we used to say when we were kids, "Well, I love you only enough to get to heaven." And you've got yourself all psyched into, "Hey, you know, he's not so bad." And then he shows up at a party. And as he comes in, loud mouthed, crude, says some stupid thing, and you think, "Oh, you jerk. Why didn't you just stay home?" And all of the mesmerizing out the window, all of these hours of building myself up for this next time that I meet him. You know, "He's not too bad. I sort of like him." And then, poof. All the effort of bringing my mind into a loving state is gone.
Yes, it's true; there are people with whom you are incompatible. They're too much like you. It's amazing how horrible our sins look when some one else is committing them. You know, if I'm committing them, they're not too bad. But if you start committing my sins, well, they are ugly and horrible. I can't stand you.
This kind of love takes a special work of God's Spirit within my heart. I can't do it. I can't manufacture agape love. I can't psyche myself into agape love. And that's why it's a proof to me that it is God. As God has given to me love for people that I could not stand in the natural. And to experience God's love working in my heart, and changing my heart and my attitude towards these people, I know it's God's love being perfected in me. And there many times that I've had to pray, "Now, Lord, I know that You require that I love them, but that's impossible for me. I can't do it. But, Lord, I want You to work in me and give me Your love for them. I know that I don't love them, but I know that You do. So give me Your love for them."
You know, in these kind of things I think that it is extremely important that we be totally frank and honest with God, because it's, you know, if anything else, you're only fooling yourself. You don't fool God. And so many times we are trying to snow God with our prayers, "Oh, God, thank You for this great love that You have given to me. Oh Lord, I love everybody. Now there's one fellow, Lord, and I'm having difficulty loving him with the intensity and degree that I should be loving him. So, Lord, increase that intensity of love in my heart." You're not being honest with God. God can't do anything for you. Now you need to be straightforward and honest with God. You say, "God, I hate him. I can't stand his looks or anything else. And so, God, if there is gonna be any love coming from me in his direction, You're gonna have to do it. But I'm willing, Lord, for You to do it. Please work within my heart. Take away the hatred and give me Your love." And if you're honest, then God can deal with it, and God will deal with it and work. As long as you try to snow God, you're not gonna get anywhere, because He knows the truth of your heart. And, you know, we try to paint a pretty nice picture of ourselves when we come before God, and all the while God knows the whole ugly truth.
"His commandments are not grievous."
For whatsoever is born of God overcomes the world: and this is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith ( 1 John 5:4 ).
Now, we read in the book of Revelation that when Satan is cast out of heaven that, "They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and the word of their testimony, loving not their lives unto death" ( Revelation 12:11 ). Here our victory is our faith in Jesus Christ. We overcome the world and the things of the world through our faith in Him. And how is that faith developed? By knowing Him. And how can I know Him? By studying the revelation of Himself, the Bible.
It is awfully hard to trust somebody you don't know. If a total stranger walks up to you on the street and asks to borrow fifty dollars, "I'll meet you here tomorrow and pay you back." If any of you are prone to give it to him, let me know. I'd be anxious to meet you. I need fifty dollars. No, but I mean, boy, anybody can... You'd say, "I don't know you. How can I trust you to be here to pay me back? I don't know you." Hard to believe or trust someone you don't know, because we know that there are a lot of shams and a lot of, you know, frauds and everything else. A lot of scams going on. But when you know someone, know them well, know that they have a tremendous reputation for honesty, uprightness, character, then you don't have any trouble trusting them.
Your problem in trusting God is that you just don't know Him. Your problem in trusting Jesus Christ is the lack of knowledge. That's why Jesus said, "Learn of Me. Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of Me" ( Matthew 11:28-29 ). Why does He want you to learn of Him? Because there is where your faith is increased. The more you know Him, the easier it is to trust Him. And so we overcome by this faith.
And who is he that overcomes the world, but he that believes that Jesus is the Son of God? ( 1 John 5:5 )
My faith in Jesus Christ brings me victory over the world. Now,
This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth ( 1 John 5:6 ).
What does it mean, "He came by water and He came by blood, not by water only but water and blood"? There are two general opinions of the commentators. The first opinion is that it is referring to His baptism. He was baptized in water and then later baptized in blood. When John and James came to Him and said, "Lord, you know, we would like a favor. When You establish Your kingdom, let him sit on your right side and let me sit on Your left side." And Jesus said, "You don't know what you ask." He said, "Are you able to be baptized with the baptism wherein I'm going to be baptized?" "Oh yes, Lord, we are." Jesus said, "You don't know what you are saying." But He was referring to the cross as a baptism. So when he refers here, "He came not only by water, but by blood," it was a reference to His water baptism and then His crucifixion.
The other field of thought of the commentators is that it is a reference to the crucifixion itself, when the soldier pierced His side and there came forth blood and water. And it is a reference to that cleansing flow from Jesus by which our sins are cleansed, the poring forth of the water and the blood.
And so I leave the theologians to argue it. I say that you can take either opinion and you're not gonna be too far from wrong. Just exactly what John means by this I am not sure. But, "This is He that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ. Not by the water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that bears witness because the Spirit is truth." And so the Spirit bears witness of the truth to our hearts.
Now, verse 1 John 5:7 did not appear in any of the early manuscripts. It did not appear the manuscripts until about the tenth century. And so this verse probably was not original in John's writing, because of the fact that it doesn't exist in any early manuscripts that exist before the tenth century. So verse 1 John 5:7 probably should not be here in the scriptures. This is the only verse of which I would declare that in the New Testament. But evidence of it existing in the early manuscripts is non-existent. There is an early church father who quoted from an ancient manuscript, no doubt, in which he quoted this particular passage. Now, what manuscripts he had, we don't know. But there is only one church father that made reference to it, early church father, and so it is generally conceded that this does not belong as a part of the original text. But you should go from verse 1 John 5:6 to verse 1 John 5:8 .
The Spirit bears witness, because the Spirit is truth. Of what does the Spirit bear witness?
And there are three that bears witness in the earth, the spirit, the water, and the blood: and these three all agree ( 1 John 5:8 ).
So the Spirit bearing witness of Jesus Christ, and of that salvation that we have through Jesus. Either the baptism in water and the baptism of crucifixion, or the blood and the water that poured forth from His side, John said, "We bear record of it. We saw it. It is true, and we bear record of it that you might believe." In testifying in the nineteenth chapter of the spear, when the soldier pierced Him with the spear there came forth blood and water.
There is an interesting aspect to that from a physiological standpoint. The doctors say that the fact . . . you know, Jesus was dead when the soldier came, and they were gonna break His legs. But when they came to Jesus they found He was already dead. They were sort of surprised that He was already dead, but He had dismissed His Spirit. He said, "No man takes My life from Me." Who killed Jesus? Nobody. Jesus said, "No man takes My life from Me. I give My life. I have the power to lay it down and I have the power to take it up again."
Now Jesus had divine powers and He had the power to just dismiss His Spirit. Now, we don't. I can't say to my spirit, "Awe, you had it. You might as well leave." Jesus had the power of dismissing His Spirit, of laying down His life and of taking it up again. So while He was there on the cross, it says, "And He dismissed His Spirit." He said, "Okay, you can go now. It's finished. All right, you can go." And He dismissed His Spirit. So that when they came, they were surprised that He was already dead. So they didn't break His legs, in order that the scriptures might be fulfilled, "Not a bone of Him shall be broken," but instead, the soldier took his spear and pierced His side in order that the scriptures might be fulfilled, which said, "And they pierced Him."
Now, there came forth blood and water. From a scientific standpoint, the fact that when they pierced His heart, and of course, that's where he put the spear through His heart, the fact that blood and water came forth would indicate that His death, from a physical cause, was that of a ruptured heart, broken heart. His heart actually ruptured. When your heart ruptures, there is a sack around the heart that fills with a water-like substance. So when they pierced the heart, the blood and water coming forth indicated death by a ruptured heart, or by a broken heart, from a physiological standpoint. From a spiritual standpoint, He just dismissed His Spirit.
The Spirit bears witness that the blood of Jesus Christ that was shed cleanses us from all sin. Three that bear record, the record of God that there is forgiveness provided for you and for your sins from God through Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross for you.
Now, if we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater. What is our whole jurisprudence system based upon? The witnesses of men. You have been charged with a crime, you are arrested for robbing the Security Pacific Bank. You plead innocent. You get a good attorney. The prosecuting attorney introduces the first witness, your name, your occupation. You're a teller at Security Pacific Bank. "On March the fifteenth, at two o'clock in the afternoon, what happened?" "Well, a man came up to my window and he handed me a paper bag and a note, and it said, 'I have a gun and I'm going to shoot you unless you fill the bag with money and hand it to me.'" "Do you see this man in the courtroom?" "Yes, he's sitting right over there." "Are you sure that's the man?" "Oh yes, I'm sure." "What makes you so sure?" "Well, I noticed this scar down the side of his face, and I'm sure it's him." He calls his next witness, "Where were you on the afternoon at two o'clock?" "Well, I happened to be standing in line in the bank and I noticed this man go up to the window and . . . " you know, they tell their story. "And do you see the man in the courtroom?" "Oh, yeah, he's sitting right over there." "Are you sure that's the man?" "Oh, yes, yes. I couldn't be mistaken. I'm sure it's him." And they get three or four people and they say, "Oh yes, I saw him. I saw him running out. I was standing at the door and he almost knocked me over as he went running by. And I turned to yell at him, but he was already gone and . . . but, oh man, I faced him and I saw a gun in his hand and all. Yeah, he's right over there." "Guilty."
The witness of men, we accept it. Our jurisprudence system is based upon the witness of man. You've got two or three people that give you an identical story and they put the finger on the same fellow, and you say, "Yeah, it's got to be the fellow." He's guilty. They've built up the case. They show all the evidence to show your guilt, and you are judged guilty because of the witness of men.
Now, if we will accept the witness men, then ought we not to accept the witness of God and of God's Spirit?
If we accept the witness of men, the witness of God is greater ( 1 John 5:9 ):
And it is interesting that there are men who will believe men but won't believe God. They'll accept the word of men who are often untrustworthy, "But he told such a convincing story, you know. I was sure his grandmother was dying. You know, he cried." And we believe the word of men. Well, if we believe the word of men, the witness of God is greater, we ought to believe God.
and this is the witness which he has testified of his Son. He that believeth on the Son of God then has this witness in himself ( 1 John 5:9-10 ):
The Spirit bears witness, the Spirit within me, and so there is that internal witness within me testifying to the truth of Jesus Christ to my heart. That's why there are no doubts. I know because of the witness of the Spirit within my heart. There is that oetis of the Greek. This intuitive, internal knowledge that I have by the witness that is within me, the witness of God's Spirit.
he that believeth not God has made God a liar ( 1 John 5:10 );
If you don't believe the witness of God, you are, in essence, saying that God is lying. And that's a pretty horrible charge to make against God. But that's the charge you make when you refuse to believe God's witness to your heart, and that's what basically the sin against the Holy Spirit is. It's not believing the witness of the Holy Spirit that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world. Your only hope of eternal life is in Jesus Christ, and if you don't believe that, that's unpardonable. God's made no other provision for your salvation apart from Jesus Christ. And so that's the sin against the Holy Spirit. You're calling Him a liar when He bears witness to you of your need for Jesus and surrendering your life to Him. So this is the record, you've called God a liar.
because you did not believe the record that God gave of his Son ( 1 John 5:10 ).
What is the record that God gave of His Son? What is the witness that God has made of His Son? Just this,
This is the record, that God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. And he who has the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life ( 1 John 5:11-12 ).
That's God's witness to you. God has given to us eternal life, but the life is in His Son. You cannot have eternal life apart from the Son. And as we pointed out this morning, eternal life is much more than quantity or duration of time. It is a quality of life.
You know, I can think of nothing more horrible than living forever in this decrepit body that I have that is getting more decrepit year by year. Looking forward to 1985, to see what is going to go wrong. Though the outward man perishes, the inward man is renewed day by day. Thank God for His work of His Spirit within my heart, or else I'd really be discouraged. The inward man being renewed, you see. The outward man is wearing out, decaying, going to pieces, but the inward man is getting stronger every day. Now, as the body continues to deteriorate, if I should live to be a hundred and fifty, that would be horrible, because I'm sure by then I wouldn't be able to see at all. I wouldn't be able to get out of bed at all. I'd probably lose all my senses, wouldn't be able to taste chocolate anymore. And to go on forever in a body that isn't functioning.
You see, the Bible teaches that the real me isn't this body. The real me is spirit. The body is just the instrument through which my spirit can express itself. And when, through age, the body can no longer fulfill the purposes for which God designed it, when it can't really express me anymore, then God, in His love, is going to release my spirit from this body. I don't want to rot away in some old folk's home, senile and walking around just . . . . I want God to take me long before that. I don't want to rust out. That's why I keep going, I want to wear out. And if the Lord should take me some day suddenly by some means, an accident, heart attack or whatever, just rejoice with me. Because you can be sure I'll be rejoicing that I have been delivered from a body of weakness.
Hey, I don't mean that I'm decrepit yet, but I'm getting there. And I'm not trying to say that I'm on the verge of toppling, you know or whatever. I feel strong and healthy and great, and God is good. And I'm not speaking disparagingly of God's gift to me, this body. I thank God for the strength and all that He has given to me. I thank God for the energy that I have. I thank God for the strength that I have, and I rejoice in that. But I am also practical enough to realize that I don't have as much strength as I used to have. I don't have as much physical abilities that I used to have. I have more pains than I used to have. I can't see as well as I used to see. I can't hear as well as I used to hear. I mean, things are going and I can recognize that. But that age-abiding life that I have is not just a quantity of life, but it's a quality. It's a quality of life that is rich and full, it is a life that is marked by joy.
The kingdom of God is not meat or drink, but it's righteousness, peace, and joy, and that's the quality of life that we have in God's kingdom. It's a life of righteousness, a life of peace, and a life of joy. So this is the record that God has given to us, this age-abiding life, this life of joy, this life of righteousness, this life of peace. And this life is in the Son. So it immediately gives us the contrast.
You remember in the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon, an old man, sort of embittered, tried everything. He had gone the full ten yards. I mean, there wasn't anything he didn't try. In fact, he said, "All that my eyes or my heart desired I did not withhold anything from them" ( Ecclesiastes 2:10 ). "Hey, I did everything. I didn't hold back anything that my heart desired." So he had reached the epitome of wealth, the epitome of education, sciences, the whole thing. He had gone the full distance. Anything that could be done under the sun, he did. And what does he say, "Hey, emptiness, emptiness. Everything is empty and frustrating under the sun." Life under the sun he found to be intolerable. He had tried it all and it was all empty, life under the sun.
But life in the Son, a whole different story. That's an age-abiding, eternal life, a quality of life that is rich and full and glorious. Too bad Solomon didn't know the life in the Son. Maybe you're living a life under the sun, and it can be pretty miserable, pretty frustrating, pretty empty. You need to try life in the Son. "This is the record, God has given to us eternal life and this life is in the Son. And he who has the Son has life, but he who has not the Son of God hath not life." Jesus said this in John 3:36 . He said, "He that believeth in the Son of God hath everlasting life, and he that believeth not the Son of God shall not see life." But then He added, "but the wrath of God abides on him."
Now John said,
These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God ( 1 John 5:13 );
Why did John write this epistle? Chapter 1, he wrote it that we might have fellowship with God and the fullness of joy that comes from that fellowship. "That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that you also may have fellowship with us. Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full" ( 1 John 1:3-4 ). Chapter 2, verse 1 John 5:1 , "These things write we unto you, that ye sin not." Now, "These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God." Why did he write?
that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you might believe on the name of the Son of God ( 1 John 5:13 ).
So the purpose of the epistle: to bring you assurance of that eternal life. This is the record God has given: that God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in the Son, and I write these things to you that you might have this eternal life and that you might believe on the name of the Son of God.
And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he hears us: And if we know that he hears us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him ( 1 John 5:14-15 ).
Notice though, the conditions there is that if we ask anything according to His will. You just can't ask God for anything and get it. James said, "You have not because you ask not, and then you ask and receive not because you ask amiss, that you might consume it on your own lust" ( James 4:2-3 ). Now we have this confidence in prayer, if we ask anything according to His will He hears us. You see, the purpose of prayer is not to get your will done, and that's a common mistake that people make about prayer. They think that it's some genie in a bottle that's going to pop out and grant you your three wishes. Not so. The purpose of prayer is to get God's will done. So I have this confidence in prayer, if I ask anything according to His will He hears me, and if He hears me, then I've received the petitions that I've desired of Him. If I ask not according to His will, then He's going to be good enough and gracious enough to not listen and not answer.
I am just as thankful for the unanswered prayers that I have as I am for the answered prayers. God knew so much better than I did. And had He answered all my prayers, we would all be in a mess. And so I have this confidence in prayer, that if I ask anything that is according to His will, because that's the purpose of prayer is to get God's will done. Always the thrust of prayer is God's will, to get it accomplished here upon the earth.
If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death ( 1 John 5:16 ).
There are sins that are not unto death. There are sins that we commit. The word sins means "missing the mark." And a lot of people miss the mark. In fact, we have all missed the mark. We are told that in the first chapter. And if we say that we haven't missed the mark, then you are only deceiving yourself and the truth isn't in you. We've all missed the mark, and if you see a brother missing the mark, he is sinning, but it's not unto death. What is the deadly sin? The rejection of Jesus Christ, that's the sin unto death. When a man turns his back deliberately and willfully upon Jesus Christ, that's the sin unto death. And John said,
I don't say for you to pray for that ( 1 John 5:16 ).
You see, that's a line that God won't cross. God won't cross your free will. He has given you the power of choice and then He honors it. He won't cross your free will and He won't save you against your will. You don't have to worry. God's not going to force you to be saved; God's not going to force you to be with Him in heaven. If you don't want to be with God, then He doesn't want to make you miserable. "You don't have to be with Me." But you have chosen your own misery; God didn't make you miserable, you made yourself miserable.
So when a brother is sinning, we should pray for them. Now, quite often they cannot see their own error, Satan is very deceptive and he comes as a angel of light to deceive. He brings a strong delusion that man might believe a lie rather than the truth. And I could write his script, I've heard it enough times. "Well, my wife never understood me, and I never really did love her. I know I married her, but I never did love her. But this woman, she understands me. We have a communication. Ours is special, you know. And she's so spiritual, and we feel so close to God when we are with each other." I could write this stupid script. Satan's lies. And so you see a brother taken in a sin, a fault, a sin not unto death, pray for him, because Satan has blinded his eyes; he can't see what he is doing himself. He is deceived, pray for him. Pray that God will open his eyes and cause him to see the deception that Satan has pulled over his eyes. Pray that God will set him free from the blinding power of the enemy that has distorted his true sense of values. That God might give him life, and cause him to see and deliver him.
But if a person deliberately and willfully turns his back and rejects Jesus Christ, then pray also for him, but not, "God, save him." Because God won't save him against his will. Pray that God will bind Satan's power and work, and God will open his heart to the truth. You can't really say, "God, save him," because that's something God won't do against a person's will. So,
There is a sin unto death: I do not say that you should pray for it. All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death ( 1 John 5:16-17 ).
A lot of things we do that are wrong, but they're not going to damn your soul eternally. And I disagree with that kind of preaching that gets on these little issues and hangs you over the pit and tells you that you are going to hell. And, "You'll wish you had listened to me when you are kicking coals in hell," and this kind of stuff. I don't believe in that. I believe in the grace of God, and I think that there is only one sin that can damn your soul, and that's the rejection of God's love in Jesus Christ. That's the sin unto death. And God is so gracious and merciful, and there is a sin that's not unto death.
We know that whosoever is born of God doesn't practice sin ( 1 John 5:18 );
Because I have a new nature.
Paul said, "How can we who are dead to sin live any longer therein?" That old nature is dead, so I cannot practice sin. I know that whosoever that is really born of God, born again, can't practice sin. Now, we may sin, but you know what? You're going to find out something very interesting. Once you're born again you can't get away with your sin. You may have been very good at getting away with sin in the past. You know, before you were born again, you may have cheated and gotten by with it, but once you are born again, God won't let you get by with it. He will nail you every time. That's because He loves you, and He knows it wouldn't be good for you to get by with it. So God will see that it is exposed. Hey, if you're getting by with it, better look out, could be you're not born again. You know, "Whom the Lord loveth, He chasteneth, and scourges every son He receives" ( Hebrews 12:6 ). That means He doesn't let you get by with it. So "We know that whosoever is born of God does not practice sin,"
but he that is begotten of God ( 1 John 5:18 )
Who is it that was begotten of God? Jesus Christ. And so, you should correct the capitalization here: "He that is begotten of God," He should be capitalized.
He that is begotten of God keepeth him, and the wicked one toucheth him not ( 1 John 5:18 ).
I am kept by the power of Jesus Christ. He, Jesus, who is begotten of God, keeps me, and the wicked one touches me not.
And we know that we are of God, and the whole world is lying in wickedness. And we know that the Son of God is come, and has given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true; and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. And this is the true God, and eternal life ( 1 John 5:19-20 ).
So he now closes out with, "We know, we know, we know, we know that whoever is born of God does not practice sin. We know that we are of God, and the whole world is in wickedness. We know that the Son of God has come and given us the understanding that we may know the truth."
The word know is the word ginosko, and that is, we know by experience the truth. We have experienced now that which is true. That we are in Him who is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.
And then the final exhortation,
Little children, keep yourself from idols ( 1 John 5:21 ).
But what an important exhortation, because it is so easy for us to get hung up with idols. Oh, I don't believe that any of you have a little statue in your room with a candle in front of it and you sit and chant in front of it in the evening hours. We are too sophisticated for that. Your idol probably has one eye and is in your living room or family room. And you stare at it for hours on end. Sometimes bursting out in laughter, sometimes yelling and screaming, but very devoted to your idol. You give it more time than anything else, more time than your wife or anyone else, especially this time of the year. Your idol could be that car that you drive by and look at every day. You've gone up and sat in it, and one of these days it's going to be yours. And all you can think about is that car, and how great it's going to be to sit behind the wheel and drive that thing. It's yours. I don't know what your idol may be, but there are many idols. Anything that takes the place of God in the devotion of my life, anything that comes between God and me, anything that begins to occupy my mind and my heart and displace God in my life is an idol that I must keep myself from. I cannot allow anything to come between my relationship with God. It can be a person, it can be an object, "But little children, keep yourself from idols." Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
Shall we pray.
Father, we thank You again for the opportunity of studying Your Word tonight, and just basking in the richness of Thy truth. Thank You, Lord, for the Holy Spirit and His anointing upon the Word and upon our hearts that we might hear and receive Thy truth. And now, Lord, help us to believe and trust in Thee more. Increase our faith, Lord. And Father, perfect in our lives Your love. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.
The last Sunday night of 1984, and you are doing the very best thing a person can do the last Sunday night of 1984, learning more about God. Glorious. May the Lord be with you and the Lord guide as you begin 1985. May His hand be upon your life and the anointing of the Spirit. And may you increase in your knowledge and your understanding of God's love and of God's grace, and may you walk in the Spirit. And may the evidence of the Spirit of God upon your life just flow forth in that love, love for God, and love for each other. May God give us one of the most beautiful loving years as we share His love with a needy world, than we have ever known before. May this be the greatest year yet in the work of God within our midst in making of us a witness to the world that God is love. In Jesus' name. "
Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on 1 John 5:7". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​csc/1-john-5.html. 2014.
For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.
I have always been reluctant to accept the claims of the critics when they deny that portions of the Bible are genuine; however, in this case, the evidence seems to be overwhelming that this verse was added by an overly ambitious scribe in copying the New Testament. It was added hundreds of years after the original was written. Jim Crouch makes a very scholarly presentation of reasons for disallowing most of verse 7 and a portion of verse 8. Crouch writes:
The Textus Receptus, upon which the King James Version (A.D. 1611) is based, contains a passage that has received much attention by textual critics. It appears that part of the passage has been interpolated, there being no rational, textual basis for its inclusion in the letter. The passage reads as follows, with the interpolated portion in italics: "For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one" (5:7-8).
The external textual evidence against the authenticity of this passage is overwhelming. These words do not appear in any Greek uncial manuscripts (considered the most valuable and reliable text sources), nor do they appear in any Greek cursive manuscripts prior to the fourteenth century. In all, only two Greek cursive manuscripts contain the words at all: Cursive 629 of the fourteenth century, and Cursive 61 of the sixteenth century. Cursive 635 of the eleventh century contains the wording in the margin, though it was placed there by a seventeenth century hand; and Cursive 88 also has it in the margin, but by a modern hand. No ancient version of any language prior to the fifth century contains the words, and none of the early writers ever quoted from this passage.
Evidence shows that the words began as a gloss on the text of First John, and later, mistakenly found their way into some later century Latin texts. In Greek texts, the words were first printed in the Complutensian Polygot of 1514. Erasmus did not find them in any previous Greek manuscripts, and therefore refused to print them in his first two copies of the Greek New Testament. However, when questioned regarding this decision, he rashly promised that he would include them if they could be found in any Greek manuscript (not believing that any such manuscript could be found). He was soon after confronted with Codex Montfort (Cursive 61 of the sixteenth century) that did contain the wording (one of only two extant). He suspected that these words had been added to the manuscript to comply with a Latin text, yet he inserted the words in order to avoid being accused of being a liar. From here, it made its way into the King James Version.
We conclude therefore that this portion of 1 John 5:7-8 was not a portion of John’s original writing. This is borne out by the tremendous amount of external evidence that is now extant. Accordingly, modern translations of the New Testament have deleted this phrase, or set it apart from the text to show the lack of authenticity for its inclusion in the text. The context even suggests that the words do not belong. A much better flow of thought occurs without these words: "This is He that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth. For there are three that bear record, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one (5:6-8)" (Crouch - Notes).
Contending for the Faith reproduced by permission of Contending for the Faith Publications, 4216 Abigale Drive, Yukon, OK 73099. All other rights reserved.
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on 1 John 5:7". "Contending for the Faith". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​ctf/1-john-5.html. 1993-2022.
B. The Empowerment of Brotherly Love 5:3b-15
If love for our brethren really boils down to keeping God’s commandments, how can we do that? It sounds difficult, even impossible. John proceeded to respond to this concern.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 John 5:7". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​dcc/1-john-5.html. 2012.
The Holy Spirit testified to the identity of Jesus as God’s Son at His baptism (Matthew 3:17). Cerinthus taught that the Spirit was the divine Christ, God’s anointing, which descended on Jesus then. [Note: See Hodges, The Epistles . . ., p. 219, footnote 10.] John corrected this error by pointing out that the Spirit was a witness to Jesus’ identity, not the Christ. John further stressed the reliability of the Spirit’s witness by reminding his readers that the Spirit is truth. The Spirit’s testimony about Jesus’ identity at His baptism was true because the Spirit Himself is truth, even God Himself (cf. John 14:6).
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 John 5:7". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​dcc/1-john-5.html. 2012.
LOVE WITHIN THE DIVINE FAMILY ( 1 John 5:1-2 )
5:1-2 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has experienced the birth which comes from God; and everyone who loves the father loves the child. This is how we know that we must be loving the children of God, whenever we love God and keep his commandments.
As John wrote this passage, there were two things in the background of his mind.
(i) There was the great fact which was the basis of all his thinking, the fact that love of God and love of man are inseparable parts of the same experience. In answer to the questioning scribe Jesus had said that there were two great commandments. The first laid it down that we must love God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength; and the second laid it down that we must love our neighbour as ourselves. Than these commandments there are none greater ( Mark 12:28-31). John had in mind this word of his Lord.
(ii) But he also had in mind a natural law of human life. Family love is a part of nature. The child naturally loves his parents; and he just as naturally loves his brothers and sisters. The second part of 1 John 5:1 literally runs: "Everyone who loves him who begat, loves him who was begotten of him." Put much more simply that is: "If we love a father, we also love his child." John is thinking of the love which naturally binds a man to the father who begat him and to the other children whom the father has begotten.
John transfers this to the realm of Christian thought and experience. The Christian undergoes the experience of being reborn; the father is God; and the Christian is bound to love God for all that he has done for his soul. But birth is always into a family; and the Christian is reborn into the family of God. As it was for Jesus, so it is for him--those who do the will of God, as he himself does, become his mother, his sisters and his brothers ( Mark 3:35). If, then, the Christian loves God the Father who begat him, he must also love the other children whom God has begotten. His love of God and his love of his Christian brothers and sisters must be parts of the same love, so closely interlocked that they can never be separated.
It has been put: "Man is not only born to love, he is also born to be loved." A. E. Brooke put it: "Everyone who has been born of God must love those who have been similarly ennobled."
Long before this the Psalmist had said that, "God gives the desolate a home to dwell in" ( Psalms 68:6). The Christian by virtue of his rebirth is set within the family of God and as he loves the Father, so must he also love the children who are of the same family as he is.
THE NECESSARY OBEDIENCE ( 1 John 5:3-4 a)
5:3-4a For this is the love of God, that we should keep his commandments; and his commandments are not heavy, because everything that is born of God conquers the world.
John reverts to an idea which is never far from the surface of his mind. Obedience is the only proof of love. We cannot prove our love to anyone other than by seeking to please him and bring him joy.
Then John quite suddenly says a most surprising thing. God's commandments, he says, are not heavy. We must note two general things here.
He certainly does not mean that obedience to God's commandments is easy to achieve. Christian love is no easy matter. It is never an easy thing to love people whom we do not like or people who hurt our feelings or injure us. It is never an easy thing to solve the problem of living together; and when it becomes the problem of living together on the Christian standard of life, it is a task of immense difficulty.
Further, there is in this saying an implied contrast. Jesus spoke of the Scribes and Pharisees as "binding heavy burdens and hard to bear, and laying them on men's shoulders" ( Matthew 23:4). The Scribal and Pharisaic mass of rules and regulations could be an intolerable burden on the shoulders of any man. There is no doubt that John is remembering that Jesus said, "My yoke is easy and my burden is light" ( Matthew 11:30).
How then is this to be explained? How can it be said that the tremendous demands of Jesus are not a heavy burden? There are three answers to that question.
(i) It is the way of God never to lay a commandment on any man without also giving him the strength to carry it out. With the vision comes the power; with the need for it comes the strength. God does not give us his commandments and then go away and leave us to ourselves. He is there by our side to enable us to carry out what he has commanded. What is impossible for us becomes possible with God.
(ii) But there is another great truth here. Our response to God must be the response of love; and for love no duty is too hard and no task too great. That which we would never do for a stranger we will willingly attempt for a loved one. What would be an impossible sacrifice, if a stranger demanded it, becomes a willing gift when love needs it.
There is an old story which is a kind of parable of this. Someone once met a lad going to school long before the days when transport was provided. The lad was carrying on his back a smaller boy who was clearly lame and unable to walk. The stranger said to the lad, "Do you carry him to school every day?" "Yes," said the boy. "That's a heavy burden for you to carry," said the stranger. "He's no' a burden," said the boy. "He's my brother."
Love turned the burden into no burden at all. It must be so with us and Christ. His commandments are not a burden but a privilege and an opportunity to show our love.
Difficult the commandments of Christ are, burdensome they are not; for Christ never laid a commandment on a man without giving him the strength to carry it; and every commandment laid upon us provides another chance to show our love.
We must leave the third answer to our next section.
THE CONQUEST OF THE WORLD ( 1 John 5:4 b-5)
5:4b-5 And this is the conquest which has conquered the world, our faith. Who is he who conquers the world but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
(iii) We have seen that the commandments of Jesus Christ are not grievous because with the commandment there comes the power and because we accept them in love. But there is another great truth. There is something in the Christian which makes him able to conquer the world. The kosmos ( G2889) is the world apart from God and in opposition to him. That which enables us to conquer the kosmos ( G2889) is faith.
John defines this conquering faith as the belief that Jesus is the Son of God. It is belief in the Incarnation. Why should that be so victory-giving? If we believe in the incarnation, it means that we believe that in Jesus God entered the world and took our human life upon himself. If he did that, it means that he cared enough for men to take upon himself the limitations of humanity, which is the act of a love that passes human understanding. If God did that, it means that he shares in all the manifold activities of human life and knows the many and varied trials and temptations and sorrows of this world. It means that everything that happens to us is fully understood by God and that he is in this business of living along with us. Faith in the incarnation is the conviction that God shares and God cares. Once we possess that faith certain things follow.
(i) We have a defence to resist the infections of the world. On all sides there is the pressure of worldly standards and motives; on all sides the fascinations of the wrong things. From within and without come the temptations which are part of the human situation in a world and a society not interested in and sometimes hostile to God. But once we are aware of the presence of God in Jesus Christ ever with us, we have a strong prophylactic against the infections of the world. It is a fact of experience that goodness is easier in the company of good people; and if we believe in the incarnation, we have the continual presence of God in Jesus Christ.
(ii) We have a strength to endure the attacks of the world. The human situation is full of things which seek to take our faith away. There are the sorrows and the perplexities of life; there are the disappointments and the frustrations of life; there are for most of us the failures and discouragements of life. But if we believe in the incarnation, we believe in a God who himself went through all this, even to the Cross and who can, therefore, help others who are going through it.
(iii) We have the indestructible hope of final victory. The world did its worst to Jesus. It hounded him and slandered him. It branded him heretic and friend of sinners. It judged him and crucified him and buried him. It did everything humanly possible to eliminate him--and it jailed. After the Cross came the Resurrection; after the shame came the glory. That is the Jesus who is with us, one who saw life at its grimmest, to whom life did its worst, who died, who conquered death, and who offers us a share in that victory which was his. If we believe that Jesus is the Son of God, we have with us always Christ the Victor to make us victorious.
THE WATER AND THE BLOOD ( 1 John 5:6-8 )
5:6-8 This is he who came through water and blood--Jesus Christ. It was not only by water that he came, but by water and by blood. And it is the Spirit which testifies to this, because the Spirit is truth; because there are three who testify, the Spirit and the water and the blood, and the three agree in one.
Plummer, in beginning to comment on this passage says: "This is the most perplexing passage in the Epistle, and one of the most perplexing in the New Testament." No doubt, if we knew the circumstances in which John was writing and had full knowledge of the heresies against which he was defending his people, the meaning would become clear but, as it is, we can only guess. We do, however, know enough of the background to be fairly sure that we can come at the meaning of John's words.
It is clear that the words water and blood in connection with Jesus had for John a special mystical and symbolic meaning. In his story of the Cross there is a curious pair of verses:
One of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once
there came out blood and water. He who saw it has borne
witness--his testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the
truth--that you also may believe ( John 19:34-35).
Clearly John attaches particular importance to that incident and he guarantees it with a very special certificate of evidence. To him the words water and blood in connection with Jesus conveyed an essential part of the meaning of the gospel.
The first verse of the passage is obscurely expressed--"This is he who came through water and blood Jesus Christ." The meaning is that this is he who entered into his Messiahship or was shown to be the Christ through water and blood.
In connection with Jesus water and blood can refer only to two events of his life. The water must refer to his baptism; the blood to his Cross. John is saying that both the baptism and the Cross of Jesus are essential parts of his Messiahship. He goes on to say that it was not by water only that he came, but by water and by blood. It is, then, clear that some were saying that Jesus came by water, but not by blood; in other words that his baptism was an essential part of his Messiahship but his Cross was not. This is what gives us our clue to what lies behind this passage.
We have seen again and again that behind this letter lies the heresy of Gnosticism. And we have also seen that Gnosticism, believing that Spirit was altogether good and matter altogether evil, denied that God came in the flesh. So they had a belief of which Irenaeus tells us connected with the name of Cerinthus, one of their principal representatives and an exact contemporary of John. Cerinthus taught that at the baptism the divine Christ descended into the man Jesus in the form of a dove; Jesus, allied as it were with the Christ who had descended upon him, brought to men the message of the God who had hitherto been unknown and lived in perfect virtue; then the Christ departed from the man Jesus and returned to glory, and it was only the man Jesus who was crucified on Calvary and afterwards resurrected. We might put it more simply by saying that Cerinthus taught that Jesus became divine at the baptism, that divinity left him before the Cross and that he died simply a man.
It is clear that such teaching robs the life and death of Jesus of all value for us. By seeking to protect God from contact with human pain, it removes him from the act of redemption.
What John is saying is that the Cross is an essential part of the meaning of Jesus and that God was in the death of Jesus every bit as much as he was in his life.
THE TRIPLE WITNESS ( 1 John 5:6-8 continued)
John goes on to speak of the triple witness.
There is the witness of the Spirit. In this John is thinking of three things. (i) The New Testament story is clear that at his baptism the Spirit descended upon Jesus in the most special way ( Mark 1:9-11; Matthew 3:16-17; Luke 3:21-22; Acts 10:38; John 1:32-34). (ii) The New Testament is also clear that, while John came to baptize with water, Jesus came to baptize with the Spirit ( Mark 1:8; Matthew 3:11; Luke 3:16; Acts 1:5; Acts 2:33). He came to bring men the Spirit with a plenitude and a power hitherto quite unknown. (iii) The history of the early church is the proof that this was no idle claim. It began at Pentecost ( Acts 2:4), and it repeated itself over and over again in the history and experience of the Church ( Acts 8:17; Acts 10:44). Jesus had the Spirit and he could give the Spirit to men; and the continuing evidence of the Spirit in the Church was--and is--an undeniable witness to the continuing power of Jesus Christ.
There is the witness of the water. At Jesus' own baptism there was the witness of the Spirit descending upon him. It was, in fact, that event which revealed to John the Baptist who Jesus was. It is John's point that in the early church that witness was maintained in Christian baptism. We must remember that thus early in the Church's history baptism was adult baptism, the confession of faith and the reception into the Church of men and women coming direct from heathenism and beginning an absolutely new way of life. In Christian baptism things happened. A man plunged below the water and died with Christ; he emerged and was resurrected with Christ to a new life. Therefore, Christian baptism was a witness to the continuing power of Jesus Christ. It was a witness that he was still alive and that he was indeed divine.
There was the witness of the blood. The blood was the life. In any sacrifice the blood was sacred to God and to God alone. The death of Christ was the perfect sacrifice; in the Cross his blood was poured out to God. It was the experience of men that that sacrifice was availing, that it did redeem them and reconcile them to God and give them peace with God. Continuously in the Church the Lord's Supper, the Eucharist, was and is observed. In it the sacrifice of Christ is full displayed; and in it there is given to men the opportunity not only to give thanks to Christ for his sacrifice made once for all, but also to appropriate its benefits and to avail themselves of its healing power. That happened in John's time. At the Lord's Table men met the Christ and experienced his forgiveness and the peace with God which he brings. Men still have that experience; and, therefore that feast is a continuing witness to the atoning power of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
The Spirit and the water and the blood all combine to demonstrate the perfect Messiahship, the perfect Sonship, the perfect Saviourhood of this man Jesus in whom was God. The continued gift of the Spirit, the continued death and resurrection of baptism, the continued availability of the sacrifice of the Cross at the Lord's Table are still the witnesses to Jesus Christ.
Note on 1 John 5:7:
In the King James Version there is a verse which we have altogether omitted. It reads, "For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one."
The English Revised Version omits this verse, and does not even mention it in the margin, and none of the newer translations includes it. It is quite certain that it does not belong to the original text.
The facts are as follows. First, it does not occur in any Greek manuscript earlier than the 14th century. The great manuscripts belong to the 3rd and 4th centuries, and it occurs in none of them. None of the great early fathers of the Church knew it. Jerome's original version of the Vulgate does not include it. The first person to quote it is a Spanish heretic called Priscillian who died in A.D. 385. Thereafter it crept gradually into the Latin texts of the New Testament although, as we have seen, it did not gain an entry to the Greek manuscripts.
How then did it get into the text? Originally it must have been a scribal gloss or comment in the margin. Since it seemed to offer good scriptural evidence for the doctrine of the Trinity, through time it came to be accepted by theologians as part of the text, especially in those early days of scholarship before the great manuscripts were discovered.
But how did it last, and how did it come to be in the King James Version? The first Greek testament to be published was that of Erasmus in 1516. Erasmus was a great scholar and, knowing that this verse was not in the original text, he did not include it in his first edition. By this time, however, theologians were using the verse. It had, for instance, been printed in the Latin Vulgate of 1514. Erasmus was therefore criticized for omitting it. His answer was that if anyone could show him a Greek manuscript which had the words in it, he would print them in his next edition. Someone did produce a very late and very bad text in which the verse did occur in Greek; and Erasmus, true to his word but very much against his judgment and his will, printed the verse in his 1522 edition.
The next step was that in 1550 Stephanus printed his great edition of the Greek New Testament. This 1550 edition of Stephanus was called--he gave it that name himself--The Received Text, and it was the basis of the King James Version and of the Greek text for centuries to come. That is how this verse got into the King James Version. There is, of course, nothing wrong with it; but modern scholarship has made it quite certain that John did not write it and that it is a much later commentary on, and addition to, his words; and that is why all modern translations omit it.
THE UNDENIABLE WITNESS ( 1 John 5:9-10 )
5:9-10 If we accept the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne testimony about his Son. He who believes in the Son of God has that testimony within himself. He who does not believe God has made God a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony which God bore to his Son.
Behind this passage there are two basic ideas.
There is the Old Testament idea of what constitutes an adequate witness. The law was quite clear: "A single witness shall not prevail against a man for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offence that he has committed; only on the evidence of two witnesses, or of three witnesses, shall a charge be sustained" ( Deuteronomy 19:15; compare Deuteronomy 17:6). A triple human witness is enough to establish any fact. How much more must a triple divine witness, the witness of the Spirit, the water, and the blood, be regarded as convincing.
Second, the idea of witness is an integral part of John's thought. In his gospel we find different witnesses all converging on Jesus Christ. John the Baptist is a witness to Jesus ( John 1:15; John 1:32-34; John 5:33). Jesus' deeds are a witness to, him ( John 5:36). The Scriptures are a witness to him ( John 5:39). The Father who sent him is a witness to him ( John 5:30-32; John 5:37; John 8:18). The Spirit is a witness to him. "When the Counsellor comes...even the Spirit of truth... he will bear witness to me" ( John 15:26).
John goes on to use a phrase which is a favourite of his in his gospel. He speaks of the man who "believes in the Son of God." There is a wide difference between believing a man and believing in him. If we believe a man, we do no more than accept whatever statement he may be making at the moment as true. If we believe in a man, we accept the whole man and all that he stands for in complete trust. We would be prepared not only to trust his spoken word, but also to trust ourselves to him. To believe in Jesus Christ is not simply to accept what he says as true; it is to commit ourselves into his hands, for time and for eternity.
When a man does that, the Holy Spirit within him testifies that he is acting aright. It is the Holy Spirit who gives him the conviction of the ultimate value of Jesus Christ and assures him that he is right to make this act of commitment to him. The man who refuses to do that is refusing the promptings of the Holy Spirit within his heart.
If a man refuses to accept the evidence of men who have experienced what Christ can do, the evidence of the deeds of Christ, the evidence of the Scriptures, the evidence of God's Holy Spirit, the evidence of God himself, in effect he is calling God a liar--and that is the very limit of blasphemy.
THE ESSENCE OF THE FAITH ( 1 John 5:11-13 )
5:11-13 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life and that that life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who has not the Son has not life. I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.
With this paragraph the letter proper comes to an end. What follows is in the nature of a postscript. The end is a statement that the essence of the Christian life is eternal life.
The word for eternal is aionios ( G166) . It means far more than simply lasting for ever. A life which lasted for ever might well be a curse and not a blessing, an intolerable burden and not a shining gift. There is only one person to whom aionios may properly be applied and that is God. In the real sense of the term it is God alone who possesses and inhabits eternity. Eternal life is, therefore, nothing other than the life of God himself. What we are promised is that here and now there can be given us a share in the very life of God.
In God there is peace and, therefore, eternal life means serenity. It means a life liberated from the fears which haunt the human situation. In God there is power and, therefore, eternal life means the defeat of frustration. It means a life filled with the power of God and, therefore, victorious over circumstance. In God there is holiness and, therefore, eternal life means the defeat of sin. It means a life clad with the purity of God and armed against the soiling infections of the world. In God there is love and, therefore, eternal life means the end of bitterness and hatred. It means a life which has the love of God in its heart and the undefeatable love of man in all its feelings and in all its action. In God there is life and, therefore eternal life means the defeat of death. It means a life which is indestructible because it has in it the indestructibility of God himself.
It is John's conviction that such a life comes through Jesus Christ and in no other way. Why should that be? If eternal life is the life of God, it means that we can possess that life only when we know God and are enabled to approach him and rest in him. We can do these two things only in Jesus Christ. The Son alone fully knows the Father and, therefore, only he can fully reveal to us what God is like. As John had it in his gospel: "No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known" ( John 1:18). And Jesus Christ alone can bring us to God. It is in him that there is open to us the new and living way into the presence of God ( Hebrews 10:19-23). We may take a simple analogy. If we wish to meet someone whom we do not know and who moves in a completely different circle from our own, we can achieve that meeting only by finding someone who knows him and is willing to introduce us to him. That is what Jesus does for us in regard to God. Eternal life is the life of God and we can find that life only through Jesus Christ.
THE BASIS AND THE PRINCIPLE OF PRAYER ( 1 John 5:14-15 )
5:14-15 And this is the confidence that we have towards him, that, if we ask anything which is in accordance with his will, he hears us; and, if we know that he hears anything that we ask, we know that we possess the requests that we have made from him.
Here are set down both the basis and the principle of prayer.
(i) The basis of prayer is the simple fact that God listens to our prayers. The word which John uses for confidence is interesting. It is parrhesia ( G3954) . Originally parrhesia meant freedom of speech, that freedom to speak boldly which exists in a true democracy. Later it came to denote any kind of confidence. With God we have freedom of speech. He is always listening, more ready to hear than we are to pray. We never need to force our way into his presence or compel him to pay attention. He is waiting for us to come. We know how we often wait for the knock of the postman or the ring of the telephone bell to bring us a message from someone whom we love. In all reverence we can say that God is like that with us.
(ii) The principle of prayer is that to be answered it must be in accordance with the will of God. Three times in his writings John lays down what might be called the conditions of prayer. (a) He says that obedience is a condition of prayer. We receive whatever we ask because we keep his commandments ( 1 John 3:22). (b) He says that remaining in Christ is a condition of prayer. If we abide in him and his words abide in us, we will ask what we will and it will be done for us ( John 15:7). The closer we live to Christ, the more we shall pray aright; and the more we pray aright, the greater the answer we receive. (c) He says that to pray in his name is a condition of prayer. If we ask anything in his name, he will do it ( John 14:14). The ultimate test of any request is, can we say to Jesus, "Give me this for your sake and in your name"?
Prayer must be in accordance with the will of God. Jesus teaches us to pray: "Thy will be done," not, "Thy will be changed." Jesus himself, in the moment of his greatest agony and crisis, prayed, "Not as I will, but as thou wilt.... Thy will be done" ( Matthew 26:39; Matthew 26:42). Here is the very essence of prayer. C. H. Dodd writes: "Prayer rightly considered is not a device for employing the resources of omnipotence to fulfil our own desires, but a means by which our desires may be redirected according to the mind of God, and made into channels for the forces of his will." A. E. Brooke suggests that John thought of prayer as "Including only requests for knowledge of, and acquiescence in, the will of God." Even the great pagans saw this. Epictetus wrote: "Have courage to look up to God and say, Deal with me as thou wilt from now on. I am as one with thee; I am thine; I flinch from nothing so long as thou dost think that it is good. Lead me where thou wilt; put on me what raiment thou wilt. Wouldst thou have me hold office or eschew it, stay or flee, be rich or poor? For all this I will defend thee before men."
Here is something on which to ponder. We are so apt to think that prayer is asking God for what we want, whereas true prayer is asking God for what he wants. Prayer is not only talking to God, even more it is listening to him.
PRAYING FOR THE BROTHER WHO SINS ( 1 John 5:16-17 )
5:16-17 If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which is not a sin whose end is death, he will ask life for him and he will give it to him, that is, to those whose sin is not a sin whose end is death. There is a sin whose end is death. It is not about that that I mean he should ask. All wrongdoing is sin; but there is a sin whose end is not death.
There is no doubt that this is a most difficult and disturbing passage. Before we approach its problems, let us look at its certainties.
John has just been speaking about the Christian privilege of prayer; and now he goes on to single out for special attention the prayer of intercession for the brother who needs praying for. It is very significant that, when John speaks about one kind of prayer, it is not prayer for ourselves; it is prayer for others. Prayer must never be selfish;, it must never be concentrated entirely upon our own selves and our own problems and our own needs. It must be an outgoing activity. As Westcott put it: "The end of prayer is the perfection of the whole Christian body."
Again and again the New Testament writers stress the need for this prayer of intercession. Paul writes to the Thessalonians: "Brothers, pray for us" ( 1 Thessalonians 5:25). The writer to the Hebrews says: "Pray for us" ( Hebrews 13:18-19). James says that, if a man is sick, he ought to call the elders, and the elders should pray over him ( James 5:14). It is the advice to Timothy that prayer must be made for all men ( 1 Timothy 2:1). The Christian has the tremendous privilege of bearing his brother man to the throne of grace. There are three things to be said about this.
(i) We naturally pray for those who are ill, and we should just as naturally pray for those who are straying away from God. It should be just as natural to pray for the cure of the soul as it is to pray for the cure of the body. It may be that there is nothing greater that we can do for the man who is straying away and who is in peril of making shipwreck of his life than to commit him to the grace of God.
(ii) But it must be remembered that, when we have prayed for such a man, our task is not yet done. In this, as in all other things, our first responsibility is to seek to make our own prayers come true. It will often be our duty to speak to the man himself. We must not only speak to God about him, we must also speak to the man about himself. God needs a channel through which his grace can come and an agent through whom he can act; and it may well be that we are to be his voice in this instance.
(iii) We have previously thought about the basis of prayer and about the principle of prayer; but here we meet the limitation of prayer. It may well be that God wishes to answer our prayer; it may well be that we pray with heartfelt sincerity; but God's aim and our prayer can be frustrated by the man for whom we pray. If we pray for a sick person and he disobeys his doctors and acts foolishly, our prayer will be frustrated. God may urge, God may plead, God may warn, God may offer, but not even God can violate the freedom of choice which he himself has given to us. It is often the folly of man which frustrates our prayers and cancels the grace of God.
SIN WHOSE END IS DEATH ( 1 John 5:16-17 continued)
This passage speaks of the sin whose end is death and the sin whose end is not death. The Revised Standard Version translates "mortal" sin.
There have been many suggestions in regard to this.
The Jews distinguished two kinds of sins. There were the sins which a man committed unwittingly or, at least, not deliberately. These were sins which a man might commit in ignorance, or when he was swept away by some over-mastering impulse, or in some moment of strong emotion when his passions were too strong for the leash of the will to hold. On the other hand, there were the sins of the high hand and the haughty heart, the sins which a man deliberately committed, the sins in which he defiantly took his own way in spite of the known will of God for him. It was for the first kind of sin that sacrifice atoned; but for the sins of the haughty heart and the high hand no sacrifice could atone.
Plummer lists three suggestions. (i) Mortal sins may be sins which are punishable by death. But it is quite clear that more is meant than that. This passage is not thinking of sins which are a breach of man-made laws, however serious. (ii) Mortal sins may be sins which God visits with death. Paul writes to the Corinthians that, because of their unworthy conduct at the table of the Lord, many among them are weak and many are asleep, that is, many have died ( 1 Corinthians 11:30); and the suggestion is that the reference is to sins which are so serious that God sends death. (iii) Mortal sins may be sins punishable with excommunication from the Church. When Paul is writing to the Corinthians about the notorious sinner with whom they have not adequately dealt, he demands that he should be "delivered to Satan." That was the phrase for excommunication. But he goes on to say that, serious as this punishment is and sore as its bodily consequence may be, it is designed to save the man's soul in the Day of the Lord Jesus ( 1 Corinthians 5:5). It is a punishment which does not end in death. None of these explanations will do.
There are three further suggestions as to the identification of this mortal sin.
(a) There is a line of thought in the New Testament which points to the fact that some held that there was no forgiveness for post-baptismal sin. There were those who believed that baptism cleansed from all previous sins but that after baptism there was no forgiveness. There is an echo of that line of thought in Hebrews: "It is impossible to restore again to repentance, those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they then commit apostasy" ( Hebrews 6:4-6). In early Christian terminology to be enlightened was often a technical term for to be baptized. It was indeed that belief which made many postpone baptism until the last possible moment. But the real essence of that statement in Hebrews is that restoration becomes impossible when penitence has become impossible; the connection is not so much with baptism as with penitence.
(b) Later on in the early church there was a strong line of thought which declared that apostasy could never be forgiven. In the days of the great persecutions some said that those who in fear or in torture had denied their faith could never have forgiveness; for had not Jesus said, "Whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven" ( Matthew 10:33; compare Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26). But it must always be remembered that the New Testament tells of the terrible denial of Peter and of his gracious restoration. As so often happens, Jesus was gentler and more sympathetic and understanding than his Church was.
(c) It could be argued from this very letter of John that the most deadly of all sins was to deny that Jesus really came in the flesh, for that sin was nothing less than the mark of Antichrist ( 1 John 4:3). If the mortal sin is to be identified with any one sin that surely must be it. But we think that there is something more to it even than that.
THE ESSENCE OF SIN ( 1 John 5:16-17 continued)
First of all, let us try to fix more closely the meaning of the mortal sin. In the Greek it is the sin pros ( G4314) thanaton ( G2288) . That means the sin which is going towards death, the sin whose end is death, the sin which, if continued in, must finish in death. The terrible thing about it is not so much what it is in itself, as where it will end, if a man persists in it.
It is a fact of experience that there are two kinds of sinners. On the one hand, there is the man who may be said to sin against his will; he sins because he is swept away by passion or desire, which at the moment is too strong for him; his sin is not so much a matter of choice as of a compulsion which he is not able to resist. On the other hand, there is the man who sins deliberately, of set purpose taking his own way, although well aware that it is wrong.
Now these two men began by being the same man. It is the experience of every man that the first time that he does a wrong thing, he does it with shrinking and with fear; and, after he has done it, he feels grief and remorse and regret. But, if he allows himself again and again to flirt with temptation and to fall, on each occasion the sin becomes easier; and, if he thinks he escapes the consequences, on each occasion the self-disgust and the remorse and the regret become less and less; and in the end he reaches a state when he can sin without a tremor. It is precisely that which is the sin which is leading to death. So long as a man in his heart of hearts hates sin and hates himself for sinning, so long as he knows that he is sinning, he is never beyond repentance and, therefore, never beyond forgiveness; but once he begins to revel in sin and to make it the deliberate policy of his life, he is on the way to death, for he is on the way to a state where the idea of repentance will not, and cannot, enter his head.
The mortal sin is the state of the man who has listened to sin and refused to listen to God so often, that he loves his sin and regards it as the most profitable thing in the world.
THE THREEFOLD CERTAINTY ( 1 John 5:18-20 )
5:18-20 We know that he who has received his birth from God does not sin, but he whose birth was from God keeps him, and the Evil One does not touch him.
We know that it is from God that we draw our being, and the whole world lies in the power of the Evil One.
We know that the Son of God has come, and that he has given us discernment to come to know the Real One; and we are in the Real One, even through his Son Jesus Christ. This is the real God and this is eternal life.
John draws to the end of his letter with a statement of the threefold Christian certainty.
(i) The Christian is emancipated from the power of sin. We must be careful to see what this means. It does not mean that the Christian never sins; but it does mean that he is not the helpless slave of sin. As Plummer put it: "A child of God may sin, but his normal condition is resistance to evil." The difference lies in this. The pagan world was conscious of nothing so much as moral defeat. It knew its own evil and felt there was no possible escape. Seneca spoke of "our weakness in necessary things." He said that men "hate their sins but cannot leave them." Persius, the Roman satirist, in a famous picture spoke of "filthy Natta, a man deadened by vice...who has no sense of sin, no knowledge of what he is losing, and is sunk so deep that he sends up no bubble to the surface." The pagan world was utterly defeated by sin.
But the Christian is the man who never can lose the battle. Because he is a man, he will sin; but he never can experience the utter moral defeatedness of the pagan. F. W. H. Myers makes Paul speak of the battle with the flesh:
"Well, let me sin, but not with my consenting,
Well, let me die, but willing to be whole:
Never, O Christ--so stay me from relenting--
Shall there be truce betwixt my flesh and soul."
The reason for the Christian's ultimate undefeatedness is that he who has his birth from God keeps him. That is to say, Jesus keeps him. As Wescott has it: "The Christian has an active enemy, but he has also a watchful guardian." The heathen is the man who has been defeated by sin and has accepted defeat. The Christian is the man who may sin but never accepts the fact of defeat. "A saint," as someone has said, "is not a man who never falls; he is a man who gets up and goes on every time he falls."
(ii) The Christian is on the side of God against the world. The source of our being is God, but the world lies in the power of the Evil One. In the early days the cleavage between the Church and the world was much clearer than it is now. At least in the Western world, we live in a civilization permeated by Christian principles. Even if men do not practise them, they still, on the whole, accept the ideals of chastity, mercy, service, love. But the ancient world knew nothing of chastity, and little of mercy, and of service, and of love. John says that the Christian knows that he is with God, while the world is in the grip of the Evil One. No matter how the situation may have changed, the choice still confronts men whether they will align themselves with God or with the forces which are against God. As Myers makes Paul say:
"Whoso hath felt the Spirit of the Highest,
Cannot confound nor doubt him nor deny:
Yea with one voice, O World, tho' thou deniest,
Stand thou on that side, for on this am l."
(iii) The Christian is conscious that he has entered into that reality which is God. Life is full of illusions and impermanencies; by himself man can but guess and grope; but in Christ he enters into the knowledge of reality. Xenophon tells of a discussion between Socrates and a young man. "How do you know that?" says Socrates. "Do you know it, or are you guessing?" "I am guessing," is the answer. "Very well," says Socrates, "when we are done with guessing and when we know, shall we talk about it then?" Who am I? What is life? What is God? Whence did I come? Whither do I go? What is truth and where is duty? These are the questions to which men can reply only in guesses apart from Jesus Christ. But in Christ we reach the reality, which is God. The time of guessing is gone and the time of knowing has come.
THE CONSTANT PERIL ( 1 John 5:21 )
5:21 My dear children, guard yourselves from idols.
With this sudden, sharp injunction John brings his letter to an end. Short as it is, there is a world of meaning in this phrase.
(i) In Greek the word idol has in it the sense of unreality. Plato used it for the illusions of this world as opposed to the unchangeable realities of eternity. When the prophets spoke of the idols of the heathen, they meant that they were counterfeit gods, as opposed to the one true God. This may well mean, as Westcott has it, "Keep yourselves from all objects of false devotion."
(ii) An idol is anything in this life which men worship instead of God and allow to take the place of God. A man may make an idol of his money, of his career, of his safety, of his pleasure. Again to quote Westcott: "An idol is anything which occupies the place due to God."
(iii) It is likely that John means something more definite than either of these two things. It was in Ephesus that he was writing, and it was of conditions in Ephesus that he was thinking. It is likely that he means simply and directly, "Keep yourselves from the pollutions of heathen worship." No town in the world had so many connections with the stories of the ancient gods; and no town was more proud of them. Tacitus writes of Ephesus: "The Ephesians claimed that Diana and Apollo were not born at Delos, as was commonly supposed; they possessed the Cenchrean stream and the Ortygian grove where Latona, in travail, had reposed against an olive tree, which is still in existence, and had given birth to these deities.... It was there that Apollo himself, after slaying the Cyclops, had escaped the wrath of Jupiter: and again that father Bacchus in his victory had spared the suppliant Amazons who had occupied his shrine."
Further, in Ephesus there stood the great Temple of Diana, one of the wonders of the ancient world. There were at least three things about that Temple which would justify John's stern injunction to have nothing to do with heathen worship.
(a) The Temple was the centre of immoral rites. The priests were called the Megabyzi. They were eunuchs. It was said by some that the goddess was so fastidious that she could not bear a real male near her; it was said by others that the goddess was so lascivious that it was unsafe for any real male to approach her. Heraclitus, the great philosopher, was a native of Ephesus. He was called the weeping philosopher, for he had never been known to smile. He said that the darkness to the approach of the altar of the Temple was the darkness of vileness; that the morals of the Temple were worse than the morals of beasts; that the inhabitants of Ephesus were fit only to be drowned, and that the reason that he could never smile was that he lived in the midst of such terrible uncleanness. For a Christian to have any contact with that was to touch infection.
(b) The Temple had the right of asylum. Any criminal, if he could reach the Temple of Diana, was safe. The result was that the Temple was the haunt of criminals. Tacitus accused Ephesus of protecting the crimes of men and calling it the worship of the gods. To have anything to do with the Temple of Diana was to be associated with the very dregs of society.
(c) The Temple of Diana was the centre of the sale of Ephesian letters. These were charms, worn as amulets, which were supposed to be effective in bringing about the wishes of those who wore them. Ephesus was "preeminently the city of astrology, sorcery, incantations, amulets, exorcisms, and every form of magical imposture." To have anything to do with the Temple at Ephesus was to be brought into contact with commercialized superstition and the black arts.
It is hard for us to imagine how much Ephesus was dominated by the Temple of Diana. It would not be easy for a Christian to keep himself from idols in a city like that. But John demands that it must be done. The Christian must never be lost in the illusions of pagan religion; he must never erect in his heart an idol which will take the place of God; he must keep himself from the infections of all false faiths; and he can do so only when he walks with Christ.
-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)
J. N. S. Alexander, The Epistles of John (Tch; E)
A. E. Brooke, The Johannine Epistles (ICC; G)
C. H. Dodd, The Johannine Epistles (MC; E)
ICC: International Critical Commentary
MC: Moffatt Commentary
Tch: Torch Commentary
E: English Text
G: Greek Text
-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Barclay, William. "Commentary on 1 John 5:7". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​dsb/1-john-5.html. 1956-1959.
See the note from the NET Bible regarding MSS evidences.
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Metzger states the conclusion which one finds expressed in similar words time and again, "That these words are spurious and have no right to stand in the New Testament is certain in light of the following evidences . . ."17
Wescott 18 who shows the lack of support as well as the historical process by which the verse was erroneously inserted by Erasmus in an edition of the Greek Testament and thence improperly came into some English translations.
Brother Guy N. Woods introduced his presentation of the evidence against the inclusion of the verse in these words, ". . . the most conservative scholars have, on weighing the evidence which obtains regarding it, unhesitatingly rejected it."19 Then, after starting the evidence, brother Woods wrote (and this writer agrees),
In view, therefore, of the overwhelming manuscript evidence against the insertion of the verse, it is properly omitted from the American Standard Version, and all New Testament Greek texts today. It would never have found its way into the "Received Text," (basis for the older translations), had not Erasmus promised to insert it if it could be found in any Greek manuscript; and discovering that it was in the late Codex Britannicus, in keeping with his commitment, put it in the Complutensian edition of 1514.* The most conservative scholars have referred to this act of Erasmus as "stupidity," and the effort itself, "mere caprice." There is, therefore, not the slightest ground for assuming that these words were a part of the original composition of the apostle John, or entitled to a place in the sacred text; nor is there any loss whatsoever in yielding them up as spurious, since nothing is taught in them not abundantly taught elsewhere in the New Testament . 20
- William Woodson, pg 44,45, Difficult Texts of the New Testament Explained, edited by Wendell Winkler, (The Fourth Annual "Fort Worth" Lectures, the Brown Trail Church of Christ, Bedfort, TX) 1981.
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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Gann, Windell. "Commentary on 1 John 5:7". Gann's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​gbc/1-john-5.html. 2021.
For there are three that bear record in heaven,.... That is, that Jesus is the Son of God. The genuineness of this text has been called in question by some, because it is wanting in the Syriac version, as it also is in the Arabic and Ethiopic versions; and because the old Latin interpreter has it not; and it is not to be found in many Greek manuscripts; nor cited by many of the ancient fathers, even by such who wrote against the Arians, when it might have been of great service to them: to all which it may be replied, that as to the Syriac version, which is the most ancient, and of the greatest consequence, it is but a version, and a defective one. The history of the adulterous woman in the eighth of John, the second epistle of Peter, the second and third epistles of John, the epistle of Jude, and the book of the Revelations, were formerly wanting in it, till restored from Bishop Usher's copy by De Dieu and Dr. Pocock, and who also, from an eastern copy, has supplied this version with this text. As to the old Latin interpreter, it is certain it is to be seen in many Latin manuscripts of an early date, and stands in the Vulgate Latin edition of the London Polyglot Bible: and the Latin translation, which bears the name of Jerom, has it, and who, in an epistle of his to Eustochium, prefixed to his translation of these canonical epistles, complains of the omission of it by unfaithful interpreters. And as to its being wanting in some Greek manuscripts, as the Alexandrian, and others, it need only be said, that it is to be found in many others; it is in an old British copy, and in the Complutensian edition, the compilers of which made use of various copies; and out of sixteen ancient copies of Robert Stephens's, nine of them had it: and as to its not being cited by some of the ancient fathers, this can be no sufficient proof of the spuriousness of it, since it might be in the original copy, though not in the copies used by them, through the carelessness or unfaithfulness of transcribers; or it might be in their copies, and yet not cited by them, they having Scriptures enough without it, to defend the doctrine of the Trinity, and the divinity of Christ: and yet, after all, certain it is, that it is cited by many of them; by Fulgentius z, in the beginning of the "sixth" century, against the Arians, without any scruple or hesitation; and Jerom, as before observed, has it in his translation made in the latter end of the "fourth" century; and it is cited by Athanasius a about the year 350; and before him by Cyprian b, in the middle, of the "third" century, about the year 250; and is referred to by Tertullian c about, the year 200; and which was within a "hundred" years, or little more, of the writing of the epistle; which may be enough to satisfy anyone of the genuineness of this passage; and besides, there never was any dispute about it till Erasmus left it out in the, first edition of his translation of the New Testament; and yet he himself, upon the credit of the old British copy before mentioned, put it into another edition of his translation. The heavenly witnesses of Christ's sonship are,
the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost. The "Father" is the first Person, so called, not in, reference to the creatures, angels, or men, he is the Creator, and so the Father of; for this is common to the other two Persons; but in reference to his Son Jesus Christ, of whose sonship he bore witness at his baptism and transfiguration upon the mount. The "Word" is the second Person, who said and it was done; who spoke all things out of nothing in the first creation; who was in the beginning with God the Father, and was God, and by whom all things were created; he declared himself to be the Son of God, and proved himself to be so by his works and miracles; see
Mark 14:61, c. and his witness of himself was good and valid see John 8:13; and because it is his sonship that is, here testified of, therefore the phrase, "the Word", and not "the Son", is here used. "The Holy Ghost" is the third Person, who proceeds from the Father, and is also called the Spirit of the Son, who testified of, Christ's sonship also at his baptism, by descending on him as a dove, which was the signal given to John the Baptist, by which he knew him, and bare record of him, that he was the Son of God. Now the number of these witnesses was three, there being so many persons in the Godhead; and such a number being sufficient, according to law, for the establishing of any point: to which may be added, that they were witnesses in heaven, not to the heavenly inhabitants, but to men on earth; they were so called, because they were in heaven, and from thence gave out their testimony; and which shows the firmness and excellency of it, it being not from earth, but from heaven, and not human, but divine; to which may be applied the words of Job, in Job 16:19; it follows,
and these three are one; which is to be understood, not only of their unity and agreement in their testimony, they testifying of the same thing, the sonship of Christ; but of their unity in essence or nature, they being the one God. So that, this passage holds forth and asserts the unity of God, a trinity of persons in the Godhead, the proper deity of each person, and their distinct personality, the unity of essence in that they are one; a trinity of persons in that they are three, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and are neither more nor fewer; the deity of each person, for otherwise their testimony would not be the testimony of God, as in 1 John 5:9; and their distinct personality; for were they not three distinct persons, they could not be three testifiers, or three that bare record. This being a proper place, I shall insert the faith of the ancient Jews concerning the doctrine of the Trinity; and the rather, as it agrees with the apostle's doctrine in words and language, as well as in matter. They call the three Persons in the Godhead three degrees: they say d,
"Jehovah, Elohenu (our God), Jehovah, Deuteronomy 6:4; these are the three degrees with respect to this sublime mystery, in the beginning Elohim, or God, created, Genesis 1:1, c.''
And these three, they say, though they are distinct, yet are one, as appears by what follows e:
"come see the mystery of the word there are three degrees, and every degree is by itself, yet they are all one, and are bound together in one, and one is not separated from the other.''
Again, it is said f,
"this is the unity of Jehovah the first, Elohenu, Jehovah, lo, all of them are one, and therefore: called one; lo, the three names are as if they were one, and therefore are called one, and they are one; but by the revelation of the Holy Spirit it is made known, and they by the sight of the eye may be known, דתלתא אלין אחד, "that these three are one": and this is the mystery of the voice which is heard; the voice is one, and there are three things, fire, and Spirit, and water, and all of them are one in the mystery of the voice, and they are but one: so here, Jehovah, Elohenu, Jehovah, they are one, the three, גוונין, forms, modes, or things, which are one.''
Once more g,
"there are two, and one is joined unto them, and they are three; and when the three are one, he says to them, these are the two names which Israel heard, Jehovah, Jehovah, and Elohenu is joined unto them, and it is the seal of the ring of truth; and when they are joined as one, they are one in one unity.''
And this they illustrate by the three names of the soul of man h;
"the three powers are all of them one, the soul, spirit, and breath, they are joined as one, and they are one; and all is according to the mode of the sublime mystery,''
meaning the Trinity.
"Says R. Isaac i worthy are the righteous in this world, and in the world to come, for lo, the whole of them is holy, their body is holy, their soul is holy, their Spirit is holy, their breath is holy, holy are these three degrees "according to the form above".--Come see these three degrees cleave together as one, the soul, Spirit, and breath.''
The three first Sephirot, or numbers, in the Cabalistic tree, intend the three divine Persons; the first is called the chief crown, and first glory, which essence no creature can comprehend k, and designs the Father, John 1:18; the second is called wisdom, and the intelligence illuminating, the crown of the creation, the brightness of equal unity, who is exalted above every head; and he is called, by the Cabalists, the second glory l; see 1 Corinthians 1:24 Hebrews 1:3. This is the Son of God: the third is called understanding sanctifying, and is the foundation of ancient wisdom, which is called the worker of faith; and he is the parent of faith, and from his power faith flows m; and this is the Holy Spirit; see 1 Peter 1:2. Now they say n that these three first numbers are intellectual, and are not מדות, "properties", or "attributes", as the other seven are. R. Simeon ben Jochai says o,
"of the three superior numbers it is said, Psalms 62:11, "God hath spoken once, twice have I heard this"; one and two, lo the superior numbers of whom it is said, one, one, one, three ones, and this is the mystery of Psalms 62:11.''
Says R. Judah Levi p,
"behold the mystery of the numberer, the number, and the numbered; in the bosom of God it is one thing, in the bosom of man three; because he weighs with his understanding, and speaks with his mouth, and writes with his hand.''
It was usual with the ancient Jews to introduce Jehovah speaking, or doing anything, in this form, I and my house of judgment; and it is a rule with them, that wherever it is said, "and Jehovah", he and his house or judgment are intended q; and Jarchi frequently makes use of this phrase to explain texts where a plurality in the Godhead is intended, as Genesis 1:26; and it is to be observed, that a house of judgment, or a sanhedrim, among the Jews, never consisted of less than three. They also had used to write the word "Jehovah" with three "Jods", in the form of a triangle,
as representing the three divine Persons: one of their more modern r writers has this observation on the blessing of the priest in Numbers 6:24:
"these three verses begin with a "Jod", in reference to the three "Jods" which we write in the room of the name, (i.e. Jehovah,) for they have respect to the three superior things.''
z Respons. contr. Arian. obj. 10. & de Trinitate, c. 4. a Contr. Arium, p. 109. b De Unitate Eccles. p. 255. & in Ep. 73. ad Jubajan, p. 184. c Contr. Praxeam, c. 25. d Zohar in Gen. fol. 1. 3. e Ib. in Lev. fol. 27. 2. f Ib. in Exod. fol. 18. 3, 4. g lb. in Numb. fol. 67. 3. h lb. in Exod. fol. 73. 4. i lb. in Lev. fol. 29. 2. k Sepher Jetzira, Semit. 1. l Sepher Jetzira, Semit. 2. m Ib. Semit. 3. n R. Menachem apud Rittangel. in Jetzira, p. 193. o Tikkune Zohar apud ib. p. 64. p Apud ib. p. 38. q Zohar in Gen. fol. 48. 4. Jarchi in Gen. xix. 24. Vid. T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 6. 1. & Gloss. in ib. & Sanhedrin, fol. 3. 2. r R. Abraham Seba in Tzeror Hammor, fol. 113. 2.
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Gill, John. "Commentary on 1 John 5:7". "Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​geb/1-john-5.html. 1999.
|The Witnesses in Heaven and on Earth.||A. D. 80.|
6 This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth. 7 For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. 8 And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one. 9 If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son.
The faith of the Christian believer (or the believer in Christ) being thus mighty and victorious, it had need to be well founded, to be furnished with unquestionable celestial evidence concerning the divine mission, authority, and office of the Lord Jesus; and it is so; he brings his credentials along with him, and he brings them in a way by which he came and in the witness that attends him.
I. In the way and manner by which he came; not barely by which he came into the world, but by and with which he came, and appeared, and acted, as a Saviour in the world: This is he that came by water and blood. He came to save us from our sins, to give us eternal life, and bring us to God; and, that he might the more assuredly do this, he came by, or with, water and blood. Even Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ, I say, did so; and none but he. And I say it again, not by or with water only, but by and with water and blood,1 John 5:6; 1 John 5:6. Jesus Christ came with water and blood, as the notes and signatures of the true effectual Saviour of the world; and he came by water and blood as the means by which he would heal and save us. That he must and did thus come in his saving office may appear by our remembering these things:--
1. We are inwardly and outwardly defiled. (1.) Inwardly, by the power and pollution off sin and in our nature. For our cleansing from this we need spiritual water; such as can reach the soul and the powers of it. Accordingly, there is in and by Christ Jesus the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost. And this was intimated to the apostles by our Lord, when he washed their feet, and said to Peter, who refused to be washed, Except I wash thee, thou hast no part in me. (2.) We are defiled outwardly, by the guilt and condemning power of sin upon our persons. By this we are separated from God, and banished from his favourable, gracious, beatific presence for ever. From this we must be purged by atoning blood. It is the law or determination in the court of heaven that without shedding of blood there shall be no remission,Hebrews 9:22. The Saviour from sin therefore must come with blood.
2. Both these ways of cleansing were represented in the old ceremonial institutions of God. Persons and things must be purified by water and blood. There were divers washings and carnal ordinances imposed till the time of reformation,Hebrews 9:10. The ashes of a heifer, mixed with water, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh,Hebrews 9:13; Numbers 19:9. And likewise almost all things are, by the law, purged with blood,Hebrews 9:22. As those show us our double defilement, so they indicate the Saviour's two-fold purgation.
3. At and upon the death of Jesus Christ, his side being pierced with a soldier's spear, out of the wound there immediately issued water and blood. This the beloved apostle saw, and he seems to have been affected with the sight; he alone records it, and seems to reckon himself obliged to record it, and seems to reckon himself obliged to record it, as containing something mysterious in it: And he that saw it bore record, and his record is true. And he knoweth, being an eye-witness, that he saith true, that you might believe, and that you might believe this particularly, that out of his pierced side forthwith there came water and blood,John 19:34; John 19:35. Now this water and blood are comprehensive of all that is necessary and effectual to our salvation. By the water our souls are washed and purified for heaven and the region of saints in light. By the blood God is glorified, his law is honoured, and his vindictive excellences are illustrated and displayed. Whom God hath set forth, or purposed, or proposed, a propitiation through faith in his blood, or a propitiation in or by his blood through faith, to declare his righteousness, that he may be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus,Romans 3:25; Romans 3:26. By the blood we are justified, reconciled, and presented righteous to God. By the blood, the curse of the law being satisfied, and purifying Spirit is obtained for the internal ablution of our natures. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit, the promised Spirit, through faith,Galatians 3:13, c. The water, as well as the blood, issued out of the side of the sacrificed Redeemer. The water and the blood then comprehend all things that can be requisite to our salvation. They will consecrate and sanctify to that purpose all that God shall appoint or make use of in order to that great end. He loved the church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church,Ephesians 5:25-27. He who comes by water and blood is an accurate perfect Saviour. And this is he who comes by water and blood, even Jesus Christ! Thus we see in what way and manner, or, if you please, with what utensils, he comes. But we see his credentials also,
II. In the witness that attends him, and that is, the divine Spirit, that Spirit to whom the perfecting of the works of God is usually attributed: And it is the Spirit that beareth witness,1 John 5:6; 1 John 5:6. It was meet that the commissioned Saviour of the world should have a constant agent to support his work, and testify of him to the world. It was meet that a divine power should attend him, his gospel, and servants; and notify to the world upon what errand and office they came, and by what authority they were sent: this was done in and by the Spirit of God, according to the Saviour's own prediction, "He shall glorify me, even when I shall be rejected and crucified by men, for he shall receive or take of mine. He shall not receive my immediate office; he shall not die and rise again for you; but he shall receive of mine, shall proceed on the foundation I have laid, shall take up my institution, and truth, and cause, and shall further show it unto you, and by you to the world," John 16:14. And then the apostle adds the commendation or the acceptableness of this witness: Because the Spirit is truth,1 John 5:6; 1 John 5:6. He is the Spirit of God, and cannot lie. There is a copy that would afford us a very suitable reading thus: because, or that, Christ is the truth. And so it indicates the matter of the Spirit's testimony, the thing which he attests, and that is, the truth of Christ: And it is the Spirit that beareth witness that Christ is the truth; and consequently that Christianity, or the Christian religion, is the truth of the day, the truth of God. But it is meet that one or two copies should alter the text; and our present reading is very agreeable, and so we retain it. The Spirit is truth. He is indeed the Spirit of truth, John 14:17. And that the Spirit is truth, and a witness worthy of all acceptation, appears in that he is a heavenly witness, or one of the witnesses that in and from heaven bore testimony concerning the truth and authority of Christ. Because (or for) there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one. And so 1 John 5:7; 1 John 5:7 most appositely occurs, as a proof of the authenticity of the Spirit's testimony; he must needs be true, or even truth itself, if he be not only a witness in heaven, but even one (not in testimony only, for so an angel may be, but in being and essence) with the Father and the Word. But here,
1. We are stopped in our course by the contest there is about the genuineness of 1 John 5:7; 1 John 5:7. It is alleged that many old Greek manuscripts have it not. We shall not here enter into the controversy. It should seem that the critics are not agreed what manuscripts have it and what not; nor do they sufficiently inform us of the integrity and value of the manuscripts they peruse. Some may be so faulty, as I have an old printed Greek Testament so full of errata, that one would think no critic would establish a various lection thereupon. But let the judicious collators of copies manage that business. There are some rational surmises that seem to support the present text and reading. As,
(1.) If we admit 1 John 5:8; 1 John 5:8, in the room of 1 John 5:7; 1 John 5:7, it looks too like a tautology and repetition of what was included in 1 John 5:6; 1 John 5:6, This is he that came by water and blood, not by water only, but by water and blood; and it is the Spirit that beareth witness. For there are three that bear witness, the Spirit, the water, and the blood. This does not assign near so noble an introduction of these three witnesses as our present reading does.
(2.) It is observed that many copies read that distinctive clause, upon the earth: There are three that bear record upon the earth. Now this bears a visible opposition to some witness or witnesses elsewhere, and therefore we are told, by the adversaries of the text, that this clause must be supposed to be omitted in most books that want 1 John 5:7; 1 John 5:7. But it should for the same reason be so in all. Take we 1 John 5:6; 1 John 5:6, This is he that came by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth. It would not now naturally and properly be added, For there are three that bear record on earth, unless we should suppose that the apostle would tell us that all the witnesses are such as are on earth, when yet he would assure us that one is infallibly true, or even truth itself.
(3.) It is observed that there is a variety of reading even in the Greek text, as in 1 John 5:7; 1 John 5:7. Some copies read hen eisi--are one; others (at least the Complutensian) eis to hen eisin--are to one, or agree in one; and in 1 John 5:8; 1 John 5:8 (in that part that it is supposed should be admitted), instead of the common en te ge--in earth, the Complutensian reads epi tes ges--upon earth, which seems to show that that edition depended upon some Greek authority, and not merely, as some would have us believe, upon the authority either of the vulgar Latin or of Thomas Aquinas, though his testimony may be added thereto.
(4.) The 1 John 5:7 is very agreeable to the style and the theology of our apostle; as, [1.] He delights in the title the Father, whether he indicates thereby God only, or a divine person distinguished from the Son. I and the Father are one. And Yet I am not alone; because the Father is with me. I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another comforter. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. Grace be with you, and peace from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, 2 John 1:3. Then, [2.] The name the Word is known to be almost (if not quite) peculiar to this apostle. Had the text been devised by another, it had been more easy and obvious, from the form of baptism, and the common language of the church, to have used the name Son instead of that of the Word. As it is observed that Tertullian and Cyprian use that name, even when they refer to this verse; or it is made an objection against their referring to this verse, because they speak of the Son, not the Word; and yet Cyprian's expression seems to be very clear by the citation of Facundus himself. Quod Johannis apostoli testimonium beatus Cyprianus, Carthaginensis antistes et martyr, in epistolâ sive libro, quem de Trinitate scripsit, de Patre, Filio, et Spiritu sancto dictum intelligit; ait enim, Dicit Dominus, Ego et Pater unum sumus; et iterum de Patre, Filio, et Spiritu sancto scriptum est, Et hi tres unum sunt.--Blessed Cyprian, the Carthaginian bishop and martyr, in the epistle or book he wrote concerning the Trinity, considered the testimony of the apostle John as relating to the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit; for he says, the Lord says, I and the Father are one; and again, of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit it is written, And these three are one. Now it is nowhere written that these are one, but in 1 John 5:7; 1 John 5:7. It is probable than that St. Cyprian, either depending on his memory, or rather intending things more than words, persons more than names, or calling persons by their names more usual in the church (both in popular and polemic discourses), called the second by the name of the Son rather than of the Word. If any man can admit Facundus's fancy, that Cyprian meant that the Spirit, the water, and the blood, were indeed the Father, Word, and Spirit, that John said were one, he may enjoy his opinion to himself. For, First, He must suppose that Cyprian not only changed all the names, but the apostle's order too. For the blood (the Son), which Cyprian puts second, the apostle puts last. And, Secondly, He must suppose that Cyprian thought that by the blood which issued out of the side of the Son the apostle intended the Son himself, who might as well have been denoted by the water,--that by the water, which also issued from the side of the Son, the apostle intended the person of the Holy Ghost,--that by the Spirit, which in 1 John 5:6; 1 John 5:6 is said to be truth, and in the gospel is called the Spirit of truth, the apostle meant the person of the Father, though he is nowhere else so called when joined with the Son and the Holy Ghost. We require good proof that the Carthaginian father could so understand the apostle. He who so understands him must believe too that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are said to be three witnesses on earth. Thirdly, Facundus acknowledges that Cyprian says that of his three it is written, Et hi tres unum sunt--and these three are one. Now these are the words, not of 1 John 5:8; 1 John 5:8, but of 1 John 5:7; 1 John 5:7. They are not used concerning the three on earth, the Spirit, the water, and the blood; but the three in heaven, the Father, and the Word, and the Holy Ghost. So we are told that the author of the book De baptismo hæreticorum, allowed to be contemporary with Cyprian, cites John's words, agreeably to the Greek manuscripts and the ancient versions, thus: Ait enim Johannes de Domino nostro in epistolâ nos docens, Hic es qui venit per aquam et sanguinem, Jesus Christus, non in aquâ tantùm, sed in aquâ et sanguine; et Spiritus est qui testimonium perhibet, quia Spiritus est veritas; quia tres testimonium perhibent, Spiritus et aqua et sanguis, et isti tres in unum sunt--For John, in his epistle, says concerning our Lord, This is he, Jesus Christ, who came by water and blood, not in water only, but in water and blood; and it is the Spirit that bears witness, because the Spirit is truth; for there are three that bear witness, the Spirit, the water, and the blood, and these three agree in one. If all the Greek manuscripts and ancient versions say concerning the Spirit, the water, and the blood, that in unum sunt--they agree in one, then it was not of them that Cyprian spoke, whatever variety there might be in the copies in his time, when he said it is written, unum sunt--they are one. And therefore Cyprian's words seem still to be a firm testimony to 1 John 5:7; 1 John 5:7, and an intimation likewise that a forger of the text would have scarcely so exactly hit upon the apostolical name for the second witness in heaven, the Word. Them, [3.] As only this apostle records the history of the water and blood flowing out of the Saviour's side, so it is he only, or he principally, who registers to us the Saviour's promise and prediction of the Holy spirit's coming to glorify him, and to testify of him, and to convince the world of its own unbelief and of his righteousness, as in his gospel, John 14:16; John 14:17; John 14:26; John 15:26; John 16:7-15. It is most suitable then to the diction and to the gospel of this apostle thus to mention the Holy Ghost as a witness for Jesus Christ. Then,
(5.) It was far more easy for a transcriber, by turning away his eye, or by the obscurity of the copy, it being obliterated or defaced on the top or bottom of a page, or worn away in such materials as the ancients had to write upon, to lose and omit the passage, than for an interpolator to devise and insert it. He must be very bold and impudent who could hope to escape detection and shame; and profane too, who durst venture to make an addition to a supposed sacred book. And,
(6.) It can scarcely be supposed that, when the apostle is representing the Christian's faith in overcoming the world, and the foundation it relies upon in adhering to Jesus Christ, and the various testimony that was attended him, especially when we consider that he meant to infer, as he does (1 John 5:9; 1 John 5:9), If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this (which he had rehearsed before) is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son. Now in the three witnesses on earth there is neither all the witness of God, nor indeed any witness who is truly and immediately God. The antitrinitarian opposers of the text will deny that either the Spirit, or the water, or the blood, is God himself; but, upon our present reading, here is a noble enumeration of the several witnesses and testimonies supporting the truth of the Lord Jesus and the divinity of his institution. Here is the most excellent abridgment or breviate of the motives to faith in Christ, of the credentials the Saviour brings with him, and of the evidences of our Christianity, that is to be found, I think, in the book of God, upon which single account, even waiving the doctrine of the divine Trinity, the text is worthy of all acceptation.
2. Having these rational grounds on out side, we proceed. The apostle, having told us that the Spirit that bears witness to Christ is truth, shows us that he is so, by assuring us that he is in heaven, and that there are others also who cannot but be true, or truth itself, concurring in testimony with him: For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one,1 John 5:7; 1 John 5:7.
(1.) Here is a trinity of heavenly witnesses, such as have testified and vouched to the world the veracity and authority of the Lord Jesus in his office and claims, where, [1.] The first that occurs in order is the Father; he set his seal to the commission of the Lord Christ all the while he was here; more especially, First, In proclaiming him at his baptism, Matthew 3:17. Secondly, In confirming his character at the transfiguration, Matthew 17:5. Thirdly, In accompanying him with miraculous power and works: If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not; but if I do, though you believe not me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in me, and I in him,John 10:37; John 10:38. Fourthly, In avouching at his death, Matthew 27:54. Fifthly, In raising him from the dead, and receiving him up to his glory: He shall convince the world-of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and you see me no more,John 16:10; Romans 1:4. [2.] The second witness in the Word, a mysterious name, importing the highest nature that belongs to the Saviour of Jesus Christ, wherein he existed before the world was, whereby he made the world, and whereby he was truly God with the Father. He must bear witness to the human nature, or to the man Christ Jesus, in and by whom he redeemed and saved us; and he bore witness, First, By the mighty works that he wrought. John 5:17, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. Secondly, In conferring a glory upon him at his transfiguration. And we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father,John 1:14. Thirdly, In raising him from the dead. John 2:19, Destroy this temple, and in three days will I raise it up. [3.] The third witness is the Holy Ghost, or the Holy Spirit, and august, venerable name, the possessor, proprietor, and author of holiness. True and faithful must he be to whom the Spirit of holiness sets his seal and solemn testimony. So he did to the Lord Jesus, the head of the Christian world; and that in such instances as these:-- First, In the miraculous production of his immaculate human nature in the virgin's womb. The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee,Luke 1:35, c. Secondly, In the visible descent upon him at his baptism. The Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape,Luke 3:22, &c. Thirdly, In an effectual conquest of the spirits of hell and darkness. If I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come unto you,Matthew 12:28. Fourthly, In the visible potent descent upon the apostles, to furnish them with gifts and powers to preach him and his gospel to the world after he himself had gone to heaven, Acts 1:4; Acts 1:5; Acts 2:2-4, c. Fifthly, In supporting the name, gospel, and interest of Christ, by miraculous gifts and operations by and upon the disciples, and in the churches, for two hundred years (1 Corinthians 12:7), concerning which see Dr. Whitby's excellent discourse in the preface to the second volume of his Commentary on the New Testament. These are witnesses in heaven and they bear record from heaven; and they are one, it should seem, not only in testimony (for that is implied in their being three witnesses to one and the same thing), but upon a higher account, as they are in heaven; they are one in their heavenly being and essence; and, if one with the Father, they must be one God.
(2.) To these there is opposed, though with them joined, a trinity of witnesses on earth, such as continue here below: And there are three that bear witness on earth, the spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree in one,1 John 5:8; 1 John 5:8. [1.] Of these witnesses the first is the spirit. This must be distinguished from the person of the Holy Ghost, who is in heaven. We must say then, with the Saviour (according to what is reported by this apostle), that which is born of the Spirit is spirit,John 3:6. The disciples of the Saviour are, as well as others, born after the flesh. They come into the world endued with a corrupt carnal disposition, which is enmity to God. This disposition must be mortified and abolished. A new nature must be communicated. Old lusts and corruptions must be eradicated, and the true disciple become a new creature. The regeneration or renovation of souls is a testimony to the Saviour. It is his actual though initial salvation. It is a testimony on earth, because it continues with the church here, and is not performed in that conspicuous astonishing manner in which signs from heaven are accomplished. To this Spirit belong not only the regeneration and conversion of the church, but its progressive sanctification, victory over the world, her peace, and love, and joy, and all that grace by which she is made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light. [2.] The second is the water. This was before considered as a means of salvation, now as a testimony to the Saviour himself, and intimates his purity and purifying power. And so it seems to comprehend, First, The purity of his own nature and conduct in the world. He was holy, harmless, and undefiled. Secondly, The testimony of John's baptism, who bore witness of him, prepared a people for him, and referred them to him, Mark 1:4; Mark 1:7; Mark 1:8. Thirdly, The purity of his own doctrine, by which souls are purified and washed. Now you are clean through the word that I have spoken unto you,John 15:3. Fourthly, The actual and active purity and holiness of his disciples. His body is the holy catholic church. Seeing you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit,1 Peter 1:22. And this signed and sealed by, Fifthly, The baptism that he has appointed for the initiation or introduction of his disciples, in which he signally (or by that sign) says, Except I wash thee, thou hast no part in me. Not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience towards God,1 Peter 3:21. [3.] The third witness is the blood; this he shed, and this was our ransom. This testifies for Jesus Christ, First, In that it sealed up and finished the sacrifices of the Old Testament, Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Secondly, In that it confirmed his own predictions, and the truth of all his ministry and doctrine, John 18:37. Thirdly, In that it showed unparalleled love to God, in that he would die a sacrifice to his honour and glory, in making atonement for the sins of the world, John 14:30; John 14:31. Fourthly, In that it demonstrated unspeakable love to us; and none will deceive those whom they entirely love, John 14:13-15. Fifthly, In that it demonstrated the disinterestedness of the Lord Jesus as to any secular interest and advantage. No impostor and deceiver ever proposes to himself contempt and a violent cruel death, John 18:36. Sixthly, In that it lays obligation on his disciple to suffer and die for him. No deceiver would invite proselytes to his side and interest at the rate that the Lord Jesus did. You shall be hated of all men for my sake. They shall put you out of their synagogues; and the time comes that whosoever kills you will think that he doeth God service,John 16:2. He frequently calls his servants to a conformity with him in sufferings: Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach,Hebrews 13:13. This shows that neither he nor his kingdom is of this world. Seventhly, The benefits accruing and procured by his blood (well understood) must immediately demonstrate that he is indeed the Saviour of the world. And then, Eighthly, These are signified and sealed in the institution of his own supper: This is my blood of the New Testament (which ratifies the New Testament), which is shed for many, for the remission of sins,Matthew 26:28. Such are the witnesses on earth. Such is the various testimony given to the author of our religion. No wonder if the rejector of all this evidence he judged as a blasphemer of the Spirit of God, and be left to perish without remedy in his sins. These three witnesses (being more different than the three former) are not so properly said to be one as to be for one, to be for one and the same purpose and cause, or to agree in one, in one and the same thing among themselves, and in the same testimony with those who bear record from heaven.
III. The apostle justly concludes, If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God, that he hath testified of his Son,1 John 5:9; 1 John 5:9. Here we have, 1. A supposition well founded upon the premises. Here is the witness of God, the witness whereby God hath testified of his Son, which surely must intimate some immediate irrefragable testimony, and that of the Father concerning his Son; he has by himself proclaimed and avouched him to the world. 2. The authority and acceptableness of his testimony; and that argued from the less to the greater: If we receive the witness of men (and such testimony is and must be admitted in all judicatories and in all nations), the witness of God is greater. It is truth itself, of highest authority and most unquestionable infallibility. And then there is, 3. The application of the rule to the present case: For this is the witness, and here is the witness of God even of the Father, as well as of the Word and Spirit, which he hath testified of, and wherein he hath attested, his Son. God, that cannot lie, hath given sufficient assurance to the world that Jesus Christ is his Son, the Son of his love, and Son by office, to reconcile and recover the world unto himself; he testified therefore the truth and divine origin of the Christian religion, and that it is the sure appointed way and means of bringing us to God.
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Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on 1 John 5:7". "Henry's Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​mhm/1-john-5.html. 1706.