1 John 5:9
If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he has testified of his Son.
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1 John 5:9. If we receive the testimony of men — As we do continually, and must do, in a thousand instances, if we would not give over all business, and even refuse taking necessary nourishment. The testimony of two or three credible witnesses, according to the law of Moses, was deemed sufficient to prove any matter of fact; and indeed human affairs in general, even the most important, are conducted and determined by depending on the testimony of men. Nay, and we not only receive the testimony of men, when they bear their testimony in a solemn manner, upon oath, before magistrates, but we rely on one another’s word from time to time, and sometimes concerning things of great moment: the testimony of God is greater — More valid, of higher authority, and much more worthy to be received than the witness of men, be they ever so numerous, or ever so respectable for their understanding and their integrity; so that we may rely on it with the greatest assurance. For this is the testimony of God — Namely, this six-fold testimony, and especially that of the last three mentioned witnesses, of the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: which he hath testified of his Son — As the true Messiah, the Saviour of the world, able to save, even to the uttermost, all that come unto God by him; and actually saving all that believe in him with their heart unto righteousness.5:9-12 Nothing can be more absurd than the conduct of those who doubt as to the truth of Christianity, while in the common affairs of life they do not hesitate to proceed on human testimony, and would deem any one out of his senses who declined to do so. The real Christian has seen his guilt and misery, and his need of such a Saviour. He has seen the suitableness of such a Saviour to all his spiritual wants and circumstances. He has found and felt the power of the word and doctrine of Christ, humbling, healing, quickening, and comforting his soul. He has a new disposition, and new delights, and is not the man that he formerly was. Yet he finds still a conflict with himself, with sin, with the flesh, the world, and wicked powers. But he finds such strength from faith in Christ, that he can overcome the world, and travel on towards a better. Such assurance has the gospel believer: he has a witness in himself, which puts the matter out of doubt with him, except in hours of darkness or conflict; but he cannot be argued out of his belief in the leading truths of the gospel. Here is what makes the unbeliever's sin so awful; the sin of unbelief. He gives God the lie; because he believes not the record that God gave of his Son. It is in vain for a man to plead that he believes the testimony of God in other things, while he rejects it in this. He that refuses to trust and honour Christ as the Son of God, who disdains to submit to his teaching as Prophet, to rely on his atonement and intercession as High Priest, or to obey him as King, is dead in sin, under condemnation; nor will any outward morality, learning, forms, notions, or confidences avail him.If we receive the witness of men - As we are accustomed to do, and as we must do in courts of justice, and in the ordinary daily transactions of life. We are constantly acting on the belief that what others say is true; that what the members of our families, and our neighbors say, is true; that what is reported by travelers is true; that what we read in books, and what is sworn to in courts of justice, is true. We could not get along a single day if we did not act on this belief; nor are we accustomed to call it in question, unless we have reason to suspect that it is false. The mind is so made that it must credit the testimony borne by others; and if this should cease even for a single day, the affairs of the world would come to a pause.

The witness of God is greater - Is more worthy of belief; as God is more true, and wise, and good than people. People may be deceived, and may undesignedly bear witness to that which is not true - God never can be; men may, for sinister and base purposes, intend to deceive - God never can; people may act from partial observation, from rumors unworthy of credence - God never can; people may desire to excite admiration by the marvelous - God never can; people have deceived - God never has; and though, from these causes, there are many instances where we are not certain that the testimony borne by people is true, yet we are always certain that that which is borne by God is not false. The only question on which the mind ever hesitates is, whether we actually have his testimony, or certainly know what he bears witness to; when that is ascertained, the human mind is so made that it cannot believe that God would deliberately deceive a world. See the notes at Hebrews 6:18. Compare Titus 1:2.

For this is the witness of God ... - The testimony above referred to - that borne by the Spirit, and the water, and the blood. Who that saw his baptism, and heard the voice from heaven, Matthew 3:16-17, could doubt that he was the Son of God? Who that saw his death on the cross, and that witnessed the amazing scenes which occurred there, could fail to join with the Roman centurion in saying that this was the Son of God? Who that has felt the influences of the Eternal Spirit on his heart, ever doubted that Jesus was the Son of God? Compare the notes at 1 Corinthians 12:3. Any one of these is sufficient to convince the soul of this; all combined bear on the same point, and confirm it from age to age.

9. If, &c.—We do accept (and rightly so) the witness of veracious men, fallible though they be; much more ought we to accept the infallible witness of God (the Father). "The testimony of the Father is, as it were, the basis of the testimony of the Word and of the Holy Spirit; just as the testimony of the Spirit is, as it were, the basis of the testimony of the water and the blood" [Bengel].

for—This principle applies in the present case, FOR, &c.

which—in the oldest manuscripts, "because He hath given testimony concerning His Son." What that testimony is we find above in 1Jo 5:1, 5, "Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God"; and below in 1Jo 5:10, 11.

A testimony above exception, being wholly Divine, as he himself argued, John 5:36,37 8:13,14,17,18. If we receive the witness of men,.... The witness of a sufficient number of credible men, of men of good character and report, is always admitted in any case, and in any court of judicature; it was allowed of in the law of Moses; everything was proved and established hereby; upon this men were justified or condemned, cognizance was taken of men's sins, and punishment inflicted, yea, death itself, Deuteronomy 17:6; and even in this case concerning the Son of God, his coming into the world, and the dignity of his person, the testimony of men is credited; as that of the wise men, who declared that the King of the Jews was born, and his star had been seen in the east, which Herod himself gave credit to, and upon it summoned the chief priests, and inquired of them where he should be born; and also of the shepherds, who testified to the appearance of angels, who told them that there was then born a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord, and who also related that they themselves saw the infant at Bethlehem; and especially of John the Baptist, whose testimony was true, and could not be objected to by the Jews themselves, who sent to him, before whom he bore a plain and faithful witness. Now if an human testimony may be, and is received,

the testimony of God is greater; more valuable, surer, and to be more firmly depended on, since it must be infallible; for God can neither deceive, nor be deceived:

for this is the witness of God, which he hath testified of his Son; even the witness of the Spirit, the water, and the blood, is the testimony, not of men, but of God; the Gospel, attended with the Spirit of God, is the testimony of God; and so the ordinances of baptism and the Lord's supper, which bear witness of Christ, are not of men, but of God; and especially the witness of the Father, the Word, and the Spirit, must be the testimony of God, since, though three persons, they are one God; particularly the witness which God the Father testified of his Son Jesus Christ at his baptism and transfiguration, must be allowed to be the testimony of God, and far greater than any human testimony, and therefore to be received.

{10} If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for {k} this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son.

(10) He shows by an argument of comparison, of what great weight the heavenly testimony is, that the Father has given of the Son, to whom agrees both the Son himself and the Holy Spirit.

(k) I conclude correctly: for the testimony which I said is given in heaven, comes from God, who sets forth his Son.

1 John 5:9 brings out the greatness of the witness of God, and our obligation to accept it. The two clauses which are here connected with one another do not perfectly correspond in form; for in the antecedent clause the idea that corresponds to the μείζων of the consequent clause is not expressed, nor in the consequent clause the idea that corresponds to the λαμβάνομεν of the antecedent. The sentence, if completed, would run: If we receive the witness of men because it is of some value, much more must we receive the witness of God, as it has a much greater value (comp. A. Buttm. p. 338). The sentence contains a conclusion ex minore ad majus. The conjunction εἰ, as frequently, is not dubitative.

Brückner justly says, in opposition to Baur: “The witness of men is only alluded to on the side of its judicial value; there is not assumed to be in it an import which would be equal to that of the witness of God by water and blood and spirit.”[315]

Ἡ ΜΑΡΤΥΡΊΑ ΤΟῦ ΘΕΟῦ is here used quite generally; the more particular definition is only given by the sequel (so also Düsterdieck).

ὍΤΙ ΑὝΤΗ ἘΣΤῚΝ Ἡ ΜΑΡΤΥΡΊΑ ΤΟῦ ΘΕΟῦ] With ὍΤΙ it seems necessary to supply a thought to which it refers; Lücke supplies the thought: “if we accept the witness of God, we must believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God;” Düsterdieck, with whom Braune agrees: “a witness of God now really exists, namely this …;” but such a supplement is not necessary if we suppose that the clause beginning with ὍΤΙ is intended to give the reason of the contrast of the human and of the divine witness which here appears, in this sense: “I say, ἡ μαρτυρία τοῦ θεοῦ, for …”

In the reading: ὍΤΙ (instead of ἭΝ) ΜΕΜΑΡΤΎΡΗΚΕ ΠΕΡῚ ΤΟῦ ΥἹΟῦ ΑὐΤΟῦ, which is attested by the best manuscripts, this second ὍΤΙ may be taken as causal particle, in which case ΑὝΤΗ would be referred to the witness spoken of in 1 John 5:6-7, in this sense: “for this is the witness of God, since He has testified (it) of His Son;” but the want of an ΑὐΤΌς before ΜΕΜΑΡΤΎΡΗΚΕ is an obstacle to this view; it is therefore better to interpret ὍΤΙ by “that,” and to refer αὕτη to this sentence which begins with ὍΤΙ (Lücke, Erdmann, Düsterdieck, Myrberg, Ebrard, Ewald, Brückner, Braune), so that the sense is: for this is (therein consists) the witness of God, that He has testified of His Son. By this witness we are to understand no other than that which was spoken of in the preceding, namely, the objective witness of the Spirit, not the internal witness, of which the apostle does not speak until afterwards (contrary to Düsterdieck), but still less, as Ebrard interprets, the witness in John 1:33.

With the reading ἭΝ, ΑὝΤΗ must be referred back to the preceding; the sense then is: “for that (1 John 5:6-7) is the witness of God which He has testified of His Son.”[316]

The perfect ΜΕΜΑΡΤΎΡΗΚΕ is here to be taken in the same way as John frequently uses the perfect, namely, in this way, that the witness which God has given is to be regarded as permanently remaining.

[315] It is quite erroneous for Storr to understand by the witness of men specially the witness of John the Baptist.

[316] Lücke erroneously thinks that with the reading ἥν there results only an imperfect sense, when he says: “the witness of God, which He has testified, consists—in what?” This appearance of incompleteness disappears, however, as soon as αὕτη is referred to the preceding.1 John 5:9-12. Our attitude to the Threefold Testimony. “If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, because this is the testimony of God—what He hath testified concerning His Son. He that believeth in the Son of God hath the testimony in himself. He that believeth not God hath made Him a liar, because he hath not believed in the testimony which God hath testified concerning His Son. And this is the testimony, that God gave us life eternal; and this life is in His Son. He that hath the Son hath the life; he that hath not the Son of God the life hath not.”9. If we receive the witness of men] And it is notorious that we do so: comp. ‘if God so loved us’ (1 John 4:11), and see on 2 John 1:10. The argument reads like an echo of that of Christ to the Pharisees, ‘In your law it is written that the witness of two men is true’ (John 8:17); how much more therefore the witness of the Father and the Son? For ‘receive’ in the sense of ‘accept as valid’ comp. John 3:11; John 3:32-33.

for] Or, because. Something is evidently to be understood; e.g. ‘I say, the witness of God, because …’, or ‘I use this argument, because …’.

this is the witness of God] Better, as R.V., the witness of God is this: ‘this’ is the predicate and refers to what follows (see on 1 John 1:5). His witness consists in His having borne witness about His Son.

which he hath testified] According to the better reading and rendering, that He hath borne witness. ‘I appeal to the witness of God, because the witness of God is this, even the fact that He hath borne witness concerning His Son’. The perfect tense indicates the permanence of the testimony. Comp. ‘He that hath seen hath borne witness’ (John 19:35).

9–11. S. John’s characteristic repetition of the word ‘witness’ is greatly weakened in A. V. by the substitution of ‘testify’ in 1 John 5:9 and ‘record’ in 1 John 5:10-11 : see on 1 John 1:2, 1 John 2:15; 1 John 2:24, 1 John 4:5.1 John 5:9. Εἰ, if) From that which is undeniable, and yet of smaller consequence, he draws an inference to that which is greater.—τῶν ἀνθρώπων, of men) in the case of any business whatever, John 8:17; and in administering the very testimony of the spirit, and the water, and the blood. For although they do that by the Divine institution and command, yet they themselves continue men John 5:34; John 3:31.—ἡ μαρτυρία τοῦ Θεοῦ, the witness of God) the Father: whose Son is Jesus. See the end of this ver. But, together with the testimony of the Father, that of the Son and of the Spirit is pointed out as divine and heavenly, because it is opposed to the testimony of men, in the plural. The testimony of the Father is, as it were, the basis of the testimony of the Word and the Holy Spirit, just as the testimony of the Spirit is, as it were, the basis of the testimony of the water and the blood.—μείζων ἐστὶν, is greater) [and therefore much more worthy of acceptation.—V. g.] John 5:36.

The sum of the things which we have spoken is this: The Greek copies which contain the Epistles, including those of St John, are neither of such number, nor of such antiquity, that they ought to prevent the reception of the verse respecting the Three which bear witness in heaven, since it stands altogether upon a peculiar footing. This verse rests upon the authority of the Latin translator, and that almost alone; but he is an authority of the greatest antiquity and genuineness: and he is followed from the first by many fathers, through a continued series of ages, in Africa, Spain, Gaul, and Italy, accompanied with an appeal to the reading of the Arians, which concurs with it. In fine, the context itself confirms this verse as the centre and sum of the whole Epistle.—αὓτη ἐστὶν, this is) Is altogether engaged in [altogether turns upon] this.Verse 9. - An argument a fortiori. If we receive expresses no doubt, but states an admitted fact gently (see 1 John 4:11; and comp. John 7:23; John 10:35; John 13:14). "If we accept human witness [and, of course, we do], we must accept Divine witness [and, therefore, must believe that the Son of God is Jesus Christ]; for the witness of God consists in this, that he has borne witness concerning his Son." Note the pertinacious repetition of the word "witness," thoroughly in St John's style. The perfect μεμαρτύρηκε indicates that the witness still continues. If we receive (εἰ λαμβάνομεν)

The indicative mood, assuming such reception as a fact. If we receive, as we do. On the verb receive, see on John 3:32.

The witness of God is greater

Supply mentally, and therefore we should receive that.

For (ὅτι)

Not explaining why it is greater, but why the principle of the superior greatness of divine testimony should apply and be appealed to in this case. Supply mentally, and this applies in the case before us, for, etc.

This is the witness of God which (ἣν)

The best texts read ὅτι that or because. Render that. This is the witness of God, even the fact that, etc.

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