To what source of authority ought today's Christians turn in trying to settle disputed matters of the faith? To the guidance of the Holy Spirit? The confessions of the church? Events of history? The personal testimony of believers? The Scriptures? Some Christians would be tempted, perhaps, to say immediately "to Scripture"—and only to Scripture. Others would choose another of the options above, or perhaps some combination of them, always granting Scripture pride of place. In this regard 1 John is especially instructive, for in settling the christological debate in its community it never appeals to the Old Testament, and it cannot appeal to the New Testament, which did not yet exist as a collection of documents. But the present passage, in trying to underscore the importance of confession of Jesus, does appeal to the guidance of the Spirit, to a christological formula preserved by the community, to the word of reliable individuals and to the events of history. Here, then, we learn how the author sees a historical event, the inspiration of the Spirit and the teaching of the church all joining together in bearing a common witness to the truth.
The topic of discussion in 5:6-12 is appropriate confession about Jesus (compare 4:2). Here the desired confession is that Jesus Christ is the one who came by water and blood. But exactly what it means to say that Jesus came by water and blood remains as much a matter of debate today as it probably was in John's own time!
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
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