John began his summary starting with how we should love one another, a key error of those who left. Now he moves to their other key error, their rejection of Jesus.
To love God is to Love Jesus (5:1)
1 – Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Messiah has been born from God, and everyone who loves the parent also loves the child.
- John now expands on the other key error of those who left: their denial of Jesus.
- He starts by linking this to the last section on love.
- Here with some comments on obeying.
- The parent here is the Father, and the Child is Jesus.
- To love one is to love the other.
To love God is to keep his commandments (5:2-3)
2 – This is how we know that we love God’s children: we love God and keep his commandments.
This is how we know
- Not completely clear what “this” refers to
- could look back to previous verse (KJV, NAS)
- could look forward to later part of this verse (NIV)
- The later seems to be the best
- Again (see 2:1-11) John equates Loving = Obey for God which = loving God’s children
3a – For this demonstrates our love for God: We keep his commandments,
- In 2:3 John equated knowing God with obeying God.
- Here knowing it replace with loving.
To be born of God is to overcome the world (5:4-5)
3b-4 – and his commandments are not difficult because everyone who is born from God has overcome the world. Our faith is the victory that overcomes the world.
his commandments are not difficult
- John goes on to assure us that this is not a difficult request.
has overcome the world
- It is not difficult because we have overcome the world
- The biggest battle is the battle for salvation
Our faith is the victory that overcomes the world.
- Our faith is key
- If we really believe in God, and in Jesus, and that he died for our sins can we really sin?
- To sin is to deny God, his love, his power.
5 – Who overcomes the world? Is it not the person who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
- John emphasizes this point by repeating this as a question.
- This is a particularly strong rhetorical device as it forces the reader to provide the answer themselves.
- The key of our faith is belief in Jesus.
- Jesus as Son of God, has the power of God which overcomes the power in the World.
- The Testimony about Jesus (5:6-)
a. This Man Jesus (5:6)
6 – This man, Jesus the Messiah, is the one who came by water and blood—not with water only, but with water and with blood. The Spirit is the one who verifies this, because the Spirit is the truth.
This man, Jesus the Messiah
- John expands on this, once again alluding to those who left.
- Again equates Jesus with the Messiah.
is the one who came by water and blood
- Several understandings of water and blood have been suggested
- Baptism and death
- Baptism and Lord Supper
- Water and Blood that flowed from his pierced side (John 19:34)
- Best seem to be first Baptism and Death
not with water only, but with water and with blood
- This probably emphasizes a difference with those who left
- Gnosticism did not believe that the Messiah went to the Cross.
a. That the Messiah left Jesus, or that Simon was mistake for Jesus
b. This is what Cerinthus, and opponent of John believed.
- This is important because it goes to the core of John’s argument
a. God’s love is shown in that he sent his Son to die for our sins
b. Gnostic teach undercuts that because Messiah did not die
c. It also goes to the core of atonement which required God’s Son to die as a payment for sin. No death no payment.
The Spirit is the one who verifies this, because the Spirit is the truth.
- This is not just John saying this.
- The Holy Spirit, also testifies of this
- This is present tense, not past, The spirit testifies to us,
- in our prayers and through God’s word.
- This is the foundation of our faith.
- Some argue that this refers to the spirit coming on Jesus at his baptism.
- It does fit theologically
- Main problem is present tense.
- Present tense does not exclude this,
b. The three witnesses (5:7-8)
7 – For there are three witnesses— 8the Spirit, the water, and the blood—and these three are one.
- Textual issue
- Evidence very clear
- Does not appear in Latin until 4th century and then is written in margins
- Does not appear in Greek until 16th century.
- They are not quoted by any early church father, even when the trinity was being discussed.
- May have been written as a gloss (comment) in Latin mss which was later mistaken for a correction and included in the text such that it became common.
- When Erasmus created the first two versions of his attempt to create a scholarly version Greek text is was not in any mss he had so he did not include. But a mss was then created that did have it, and Erasmus included it. Erasmus’ work eventually became the basis for the KJV.
- While this removes a clear reference to the Trinity, it is important to know that the Trinity does not depend on this verse.
- This textual issue affects how we understand this passage, but has no effect on the overall teaching of the Bible.
- John now combines the three the Spirit the water and the blood into a single testimony.
- i.e., they are in agreement and cannot be separated as the critics try to do.
- Again some scholar claim water and blood refer to sacraments.
- a. But this does not really match body and blood.
c. God’s Testimony (5:9-12)
9 – If we accept human testimony, God’s testimony is greater, because it is the testimony of God and because he has testified about his Son.
- John started this letter with a strong statement of his eyewitness testimony.
- As he comes to the close he emphasizes God’s testimony, which is even greater
a. Both greater trustworthiness and significance
- It is greater trustworthiness: because God, by his very nature cannot lie.
- It is greater significance: because it is about his Son
- What is this testimony – Three possibilities
a. (1) The three just mentioned: Spirit, water and blood
- i. Flows from previous
- ii. Problem with change in tense 6-8 are present here is perfect
- iii. John 5:31-40 lists several testimonies of Jesus (John the Baptist, his works, Scripture and God) which seem distinct.
- iv. None of these are major objections.
b. (2) That God’s testimony is the inner witness of the spirit.
c. (3) That God’s testimony is unspecified by John.
d. I believe the first would be the best.
Questions and Discussion
If you have question or comments about the class, feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and be sure to put “Epistles of John” in the header.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible: International Standard Version®. Copyright © 1996-2008 by The ISV Foundation. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED INTERNATIONALLY. Used by permission. www.isv.org
Note: Some places I have modify the text from the ISV version. Passages that I have modified have been noted with and * by the verse number and the ISV text is included in a footnote.
 5:1 Or Christ
 5:6 Or Christ
 5:7 Other mss. read witnesses in heaven—the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one. 8And there are three witnesses on earth—