The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on 1 John 5:5-13

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 3, 2016

Text in purple indicates Fr. MacEvilly’s paraphrasing of the scripture he is commenting on.

1 Jn5:5 Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?

And what faith is it that overcomes the world, but Christian faith, of which the belief in the Divinity of Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, is the foundation?

“Who is he that overcometh the world,” &c.—In other words, no one can have the faith whereby the world is overcome except he who believes “that Jesus is the Son of God.” The Apostle shows, in this verse, what the faith is, to which he refers, it is the faith of which the belief in Christ’s Divinity is the foundation. Of course, he supposes this Christian, victorious faith, to be an operative faith, a faith enlivened by charity, and he refers to the article regarding the Divinity of Christ in a special manner, both here and in other parts of this Epistle, in consequence of the leading errors of the day being specially levelled against this—the foundation of the Christian religion.

1 Jn 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 which testifieth that Christ is the truth.

This is he, who has come into the world, Jesus Christ, God and man, to save us according to the prediction of the Prophets, by the water of baptism and the blood of his passion, and not by water only, as came the Baptist, whose baptism had only the effect of preparing men for penance, but by water and blood. And we have also the testimony of the Holy Ghost, bearing witness to the truth of Christ’s Divinity and Humanity.

The Apostle here proves, that Christ is the long expected Messiah, the Son of God. “Jesus Christ,” God and man, the Saviour of the world, who, as the prophets predicted, was about to redeem mankind by his blood, and expiate their sins in the waters of Baptism (Ezechiel, 36:25, &c., 47; Zach. 12:13). “This is he that came” (or, as the Greek, ὅ ἐλθων implies, this is the man long expected to come), “by water and blood,” to redeem the world, and spiritually regenerate mankind “by water” of baptism “and blood” of his passion, of which the baptism in water, and purifications by the shedding of blood, among the Jews, were so many significant types and figures. “Not by water only,” in which allusion is evidently made to the Baptist, of whom it is everywhere pointedly asserted by the Evangelist—and the same is repeatedly asserted by himself—that he came to baptize in water only, and that he was sent by God for this purpose, and his baptism did not of itself remit sin, as it most probably, was a mere preparation for penance, and for the true baptism instituted by Christ. “But by water and blood.” He came “by water,” because he instituted baptism of water, whereof that which issued from his side while hanging on the cross was a sign; and “by blood,” poured forth on the cross, from which baptism, and all the other channels of divine grace, derive their efficacy. “And it is the Spirit that testifieth, that Christ is the truth”; to the testimony of the water and blood, the Apostle adds that of the Holy Ghost, who testified to the Divinity of Christ, during his sacred life, working wonders in proof thereof; and after his death and resurrection, when descending on the Apostles, in the form of fiery tongues, he filled them with his graces, he also bore testimony to the same, in the many gifts which he bestowed on the faithful. In the Greek reading the words run thus: καὶ τὸ πνεῦμα ἐστιν τὸ μαρτυροῦν, ὅτι τὸ πνεῦμα εστιν, η ἀληθεια “and it is the Spirit that testifieth, because the Spirit is truth,” according to which the meaning is: the Holy Ghost also bears testimony, that Christ is the expected Messiah and Saviour of the world, and this testimony is of the greatest weight, because the Holy Ghost is essential truth. The Vulgate reading is, however, preferable, since the question regards the truth of Christ’s Divinity and Humanity; both of which are necessary to constitute him the true Saviour of the world.

1 Jn 5:7 And there are Three who give testimony in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost. And these three are one.

For, there are three divine and uncreated witnesses, who, in heaven and from heaven, bear testimony both to angels and men, that Christ is true God and true man, and the Saviour of the world, viz.; the Father, the Word (or Son), and the Holy Ghost, and these, although three in Person, are one in Nature.

The Apostle now adduces the most incontrovertible evidence of the truth of his assertion made in the foregoing verse, viz., that Jesus Christ was the long-expected Messiah, true God and true man, who was to come and redeem mankind. The witnesses here adduced are divine witnesses. (Such is the meaning of “in heaven,” as contradistinguished from “on earth,” next verse), viz., the three Adorable Persons of the Trinity, “the Father,” who bore testimony to Christ (Matthew, 1:21; 3:17; 17:5; John, 12:28);—“the Word,” that is, the Son. He bore testimony that he was himself the Messiah promised by the Father, and proved it by repeated miracles (John. chap. 5, verses 17, 36; 8:14, 25; 10:25);—and finally, he testified that he was the Son of God in presence of the High Priest, during his sacred Passion. “And the Holy Ghost.” The Holy Ghost testified, that Christ was the only begotten Son of God, and in his assumed nature, the Saviour of the world, viz., at his baptism by John, on the day of Pentecost; and in the abundant effusion of his heavenly gifts, on many occasions.

“And these three are one.” These three witnesses, who “in heaven,” and from heaven, give a testimony certain beyond all doubt, regarding Christ’s Divinity and Humanity, His Mediatorial and Redemptory qualities, as man-God, although distinct in Person, are one and indivisible in the same divine nature and essence. The word “one” is taken in the same sense in which it is taken in chap. 10 of John, where our Redeemer says, “I and the Father are One,” that is, we possess the same power and the same divine essence. Hence, the evidence which St. John here adduces is that of the Godhead, three in Person and one in nature.

1 Jn 5:8 And there are three that give testimony on earth: the spirit and the water and the blood. And these three are one.

And there are three earthly and created witnesses that bear testimony on earth to the reality of the same Divinity and Humanity in Jesus Christ, viz., the water, and blood, that issued from his side on the cross, and his soul which he breathed forth, when expiring; and these three witnesses concur in one and the same testimony.

And there are three earthly and created witnesses (such is the meaning of “on earth,” as contrasted with “in heaven,” in the preceding verse), viz., “the Spirit,” that is, the created soul of Christ, which he breathed forth with a loud cry upon the cross; from the mode in which this happened, the Centurion cried out, “truly this man was the Son of God,” (Mark, 15:39), “and the water and the blood.” The “water”—the first and chiefest of material elements—which flowed from his side extended on the cross, and the “blood”—the first of the four humours whereby animated creatures live—which likewise flowed there from, and which he abundantly shed during his entire Passion, proved him to have a true body. He had, then, a true body and a soul (“spirit.”) These three witnesses, therefore, prove him to be a real man. They also prove him to be truly God also; since the very mode in which he expired convinced the Centurion at the foot of the cross of this; and his laying down his life freely, and reuniting, by an astonishing effort of his own power, his soul and body in his Resurrection, the circumstances, and mode; and time of which he predicted beforehand, also proves the same. “And these three are one,” that is (as is more clearly expressed in the Greek, εἰς τὸ ἔν εἰσιν, unto one); they conspire together and concur in one and the same testimony, viz., that Jesus Christ is both God and man.

The authenticity of this passage, from the words of verse 7, “in heaven,” to the words of verse 8, “on earth,” inclusively, has been disputed, and has given rise to several learned critical dissertations, for and against.

1 Jn 5:9 If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater. For this is the testimony of God, which is greater, because he hath testified of his Son.

But, if we admit the testimony of two or three men, as conclusive on any subject, how much more weight should we not attach to the undoubted testimony of God the Father. Now, the testimony of God has been pledged in favour of the divinity of his Son (Matthew, 3:17; 17:25, &c.)

By an argument, a minori ad magus, he sets forth, in a still clearer light the weight of the Divine testimony, which he adduces in verse 7. If the testimony of two or three witnesses, taken from among men, be regarded as final and decisive on any subject, “in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall stand,” (Deut. 19:15), how much more authoritative must not the testimony of God the Father be, when joined to the concordant testimony of the two other Persons of the Adorable Trinity. Now, “this is the testimony of God, which is greater,” viz., that which “he has borne concerning his Son,” (which is greater, is not in the Greek). The ordinary Greek copies, in place of, “because he hath testified,” have, ην μεμαρτυρηκε, which he hath testified, as if he said the testimony of the Father, to which I refer, is that which regards the Son. When it was, that the Father had borne this testimony, has been already shown (verse 7). The Alexandrian and Vatican MSS. support the Vulgate, and have ὅτι μεμαρτυρηκεν.

1 Jn 5:10 He that believeth in the Son of God hath the testimony of God in himself. He that believeth not the Son maketh him a liar: because he believeth not in the testimony which God hath testified of his Son.

He that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God and the Word Incarnate, has within himself, and firmly assents to, the testimony of God the Father regarding him, and thus honours the Father; whereas, he that does not believe him to be the Son of God, insults and outrages the veracity of God, by making him a liar, since he does not believe the testimony which he has borne regarding his son, but rather rejects it, as if it were false.

In this verse is contained a tacit exhortation to embrace and retain the faith regarding Jesus Christ, which the Apostle has been proposing throughout this chapter, in refutation of the errors of the day, viz., that he is true God and true man, the Saviour and Mediator given by God to mankind—“he that believeth in the Son of God,” in the sense now explained, “hath the testimony of God in himself,” that is, firmly assents to what God testified, and thereby honours him by doing homage to his veracity. The words “of God,” are omitted in the Greek, they are, however, found in the Alexandrian MS. On the other hand, “he that believeth not the Son,” (in Greek, “he that believeth not God,” ὁ μὴ πιστευων τῳ Θεῷ the Alexandrian MS. favours the Vulgate); he that refuses to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, “maketh him a liar,” proclaims by this unbelief that God is a liar, having borne testimony to what is false, “because he believeth not in the testimony which God had testified.” He believes not what God has testified “of his Son,” viz., that Jesus is his Son, and the Saviour of the world; but rejects it as false, as if God were a liar.

1 Jn 5:11 And this is the testimony that God hath given to us eternal life. And this life is in his Son.

And a portion of the testimony of the Father regarding Jesus, is this, that he has given us, who believe in him, and obey his law, the life of grace here, which is a certain pledge of glory, and he will surely give us eternal life hereafter, and this life of grace and of glory is attributable to the saving merits of his Son.

“And this is the testimony,” that is, the following is a part of the testimony which the Father “hath testified of his Son,” (verse 10), or the result of our faith in this testimony is, “that God had given to us eternal life,” in its certain seed, viz., sanctifying grace, in hope here, and in the actual possession of it hereafter. “And this life is in his Son,” that is, his Son is the meritorious cause of the graces which God imparts to us here, and of our glory hereafter. The practical advantage, resulting to us from God’s testimony, concerning his Son, and from our faith in it, is life eternal, which is to be obtained through his merits; he, therefore, is justly entitled to be termed our Saviour.

1 Jn 5:12 He that hath the Son hath life. He that hath not the Son hath not life.

He that has the Son residing in him, owing to his lively operative faith, has within himself the fountain of all grace, and the source of eternal life. On the other hand, he that has not this lively operative faith in the Son of God, has no claim or title to eternal life.

The Apostle, here, again exhorts them to have faith in Jesus Christ, on the grounds both of its great utility, “hath life,” and of its necessity, “he that hath not,” &c., “hath not life.”

“He that hath the Son,” means, he that believes in the Son of God, and, of course, it is understood, obeys his law, thus having a faith that worketh by charity, hath life, has within himself the source, and a sure pledge of eternal life. Whereas, “he that hath not the Son of God,” either by not believing in him, or who, although he believes, still, obeys not his law, whose faith, therefore, is dead and inoperative, such a man “hath not life.” There is no other name under heaven, given to men, wherein they may be saved (Acts, 4:12), “no one comes to the Father but by me,” (John, 14). The Apostle thus particularly insists on the necessity of faith in Christ, owing to the errors of the time, which were specially directed against this fundamental point of belief.

1 Jn 5:13 These things I write to you that you may know that you have eternal life: you who believe in the name of the Son of God.

These things I have written to you, regarding the utility and necessity of faith in Christ, in order that you who believe in the Son of God, may know that you have here a sure claim to eternal life, and may thus be stimulated to perseverance in the same faith.

“These things,” which have been mentioned in the preceding verse, “I write to you,” (in Greek, ἔγραψα, I have written to you), “that you may know, that you have eternal life,” that is, a claim to eternal life, and a sure earnest here, which, however, is not inamissible; “you who believe in the name of his Son,” or, in his Son himself. Name, is used for the person named. In some Greek copies, these words, and that you may believe in the name of the Son of God, are added, and must mean, unless we fall into a useless tautology, that you may persevere in the same belief, which you hold at present. The same is, however, sufficiently implied in our version, since it was to encourage them to persevere in the faith, notwithstanding the allurements of pleasure and the pressure of persecution, that he writes these things. The words are wanting in the Alexandrian and Vatican MSS., which support the Vulgate reading. Similar are the words of the gospel: “These things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in his name.”—(John. 20:31).

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