Tuesday, 2 June 2020
This is He who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not only by water, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is truth. 1 John 5:6
John just spoke of the one who overcomes the world, noting that “he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God” is such a person. He was referring to the fact that Jesus is fully God. But elsewhere, John has said, “By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God” (1 John 4:2).
In that, John was not only referring to Christ’s deity (noting that He has “come in the flesh” and implying that He existed prior to that moment), but that He is also fully human because He took on flesh at the incarnation. The context of John’s words is important because they are needed to rightly discern what he will now refer to.
This verse, 1 John 5:6, is an especially difficult one and has been interpreted in several ways. John begins with, “This is He who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ.” John shows that it is a factual, historical occurrence – Christ “came by water and blood.” This is surely a reference to Christ’s incarnation. As He said in John 3:13 – “No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.”
Jesus spoke there of the incarnation, acknowledging that He is from heaven, and yet, He was obviously a man, physically present at that moment with Nicodemus. And so, the question is, what does John mean by saying that “He came by water and blood?” Four prominent options are –
1) The baptism and death of Jesus Christ;
2) The water and blood which came from His side when He was pierced on the cross;
3) Purification (washing) and redemption (through His sacrifice); and
4) Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
The last two are spiritual/symbolic rather than literal and are unlikely because John says that He “came by water and blood.” To spiritualize that wouldn’t make sense. The second one is also unlikely because it reverses John’s terminology of the “blood and water” at the cross – “But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out” (John 19:34).
But more than merely reversing the terminology, the water and blood which came out from His side came after His earthly work of fulfilling the law. It reverses the thought of coming by water and blood, putting it at the end rather the beginning of His incarnation.
Because of this, the first is the most likely of the traditional views, but even that makes no sense because Christ was “about thirty years of age” (Luke 3:23) when He began His ministry. Further, the death of Christ is, again, an event at the end of His ministry. To say He “came” by water and blood would place these events in an awkward format, indicating that His ministry from thirty years of age, until His crucifixion, was all that the gospels were concerned with. Such is not the case, even if it is the highlight of them.
Rather, a fifth – and much more likely – option would be that –
5) Jesus came by water (the water of the womb in which He came into humanity) and the blood (demonstrating His human life).
This is, in fact, what John has been speaking about – Jesus Christ came in the flesh. But He was not created in the flesh as Adam was. Rather He is the incarnate Son of God, but He is also fully human – having come through the birthing process and bearing the actual blood of humanity which was passed on through the genealogy of His ancestors.
The Old Testament states several times that “the life is in the blood,” and it therefore makes an apt description of proof of humanity, particularly when Jesus’ blood was what proved His death and our atonement. Hence, John says, “not only by water, but by water and blood.” There are articles before both “water” and “blood.” It more correctly reads, “not in the water only, but in the water and in the blood.”
Christ wasn’t created in Mary’s womb. Rather, He was conceived of the Father and Mary. Thus, His blood would bear the Life of the Father, and the humanity of His mother. The spiritually dead state of all other humans was not seen in Him. Rather, the spiritual connection to the Father existed, and it remained unsevered due to His perfect obedience in His life. This is why John next says, “And it is the Spirit who bears witness.”
It is generally assumed that this refers to the Holy Spirit. In the next verse, John will use the term “Holy Spirit,” thus defining it as such. The Spirit of God is the witness to the incarnation, and He is the witness to the perfection of life throughout Christ’s earthly walk. Unlike Adam who sinned, and whose spiritual connection to God was severed, Christ remained united to God due to His perfect obedience.
As is stated at the announcement of His coming – “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).
Therefore, the evidence of his birth into the stream of humanity is treated in the conception and natal period signified by the water. His physical life, human characteristics, and His divine nature (sinlessness) are evidenced by His blood. And, His deity is also as evidenced by the work of the Holy Spirit as proclaimed in the gospel accounts. These things are true, and the Spirit testifies to them, assuring us that it is so “because the Spirit is truth.” Again, there is a missing article. It reads, “because the Spirit is the truth.”
That the Spirit is the truth is testified to by Jesus in John 14:17, 15:26, and 16:13. Nothing false is conveyed by the Spirit, and therefore there is nothing false in Christ Jesus because – as it reads in Luke 1:35, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.”
Though this view is not one of the traditional views of scholars of the past, it is the view which corresponds to what John is speaking of throughout this epistle concerning the human/divine nature of Christ, how to discern the spirit of the Antichrist, and what is required for salvation of one who accepts the premise of what God has done in and through Jesus Christ. It further maintains the context of John’s thought of the previous verses, and of the verses to come.
Life application: The Bible is a book which presents many doctrines, but the main premise of the Bible is that God would send His Son into the world in order to redeem man. It would be a work of God alone, and it would be a work which testifies to the truth that God loves His creatures enough to unite with His own creation in order to accomplish that redemption.
We are to accept – without equivocation – that Jesus Christ is fully man, and yet He is fully God. To deny either of these tenets is to deny God His rightful glory for what He has done. Further, it is an abuse of the very word which tells us of Jesus Christ. No person can be saved who denies the fundamental truth that Jesus Christ is the God/Man because they have denied the very word which speaks out this truth. To deny the word is to deny the truth of God who gave us His word.
Have faith in what God has done through Christ Jesus and be saved once and forever through His precious shed blood.
Heavenly Father, Your glorious word testifies to the Person of Jesus, coming in the flesh. He is both fully God and fully Man. He is the bridge between the infinite and the finite, between the Spirit and the flesh, between Your eternal being and our temporal being. Thank You for Jesus who has bridged the gap and restored us to You! Amen.