For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. – 1 John 5:7-8 ESV
1 John 5:6-12
Jesus is the Son of God. That has been John’s assertion throughout his letter. He was countering the claims of those who had left the congregation there in Ephesus. Those people had cast doubt on the validity of Jesus’ incarnation and divinity. They had denied that He was the Christ, the Son of God, and the Savior of the world. But John would have nothing to do with their false assertions. Over and over again, he wrote that Jesus was the Son of God. He even asked the somewhat rhetorical question, “Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:5 ESV). Then John backed up this bold statement with facts. He provided “witnesses” to the reality of Jesus’ deity and humanity. “And the Spirit is the one who testifies because the Spirit is the truth” (1 John 5:6 ESV). Eight different times, John uses words that have to do with testifying and testimony. He uses the Greek words, martyreō and martyria. The first one is a verb and means, “to be a witness, to bear witness, i.e. to affirm that one has seen or heard.” The second one is a noun and refers to the testimony itself. John wanted his readers to know that the claims of Jesus had been backed up by expert testimony and it was not the testimony of men. First of all, the Spirit testified. But John added that the water and the blood were expert witnesses as well. “For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree” (1 John 5:7 ESV). The very fact that the Spirit of God indwells the people of God is proof that Jesus was who He claimed to be. He had promised the when He left, He would send the Holy Spirit. “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever; even the Spirit of truth” (John 14:16-17 ESV). “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:38-39 ESV). John made it clear that the Spirit’s presence in the life of the believer was proof that Jesus had come as the Son of God, died a substitutionary death on behalf of sinners, and rose again. His resurrection and ascension set the stage for the Spirit’s coming. “By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us his Spirit” (1 John 4:13 ESV).
But what about the water and the blood? What is John referring to with these two seemingly obscure words? It seems that there were some in the early church who believed that Jesus, the man, was the literal Son of God. They taught that when Jesus was born, he was born as a man. But at His baptism in the wilderness by John, the Spirit of the Christ came on Him. He was still just a man, but had the anointing of God on His life. They further taught that when Jesus hung on the cross, the Spirit of the Christ left Him. So when Jesus died, He did so only as a man and not as the Son of God. John rejected this teaching – vehemently and decisively. In fact, he used the occasions of Jesus baptism and death as witnesses for the deity of Christ. “And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased’” (Matthew 3:16-17 ESV). Jesus did not become God’s Son at that point. He had been His Son from before the foundation of the world. But it was at His baptism that God used the beginning of His earthly ministry to confirm His deity and role as the long-awaited Christ. It is interesting to note that Jesus did not NEED the baptism of repentance, because He was sinless. But He was identifying Himself with sinful man. Just as Jesus did not DESERVE to die on a Roman cross, because He was sinless and without guilt. He was identifying Himself with the sins of mankind, and He “bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24 ESV). Jesus began His ministry at the Jordan and completed it on the cross when He claimed, “It is finished!” (John 19:30 ESV). The shedding of His blood culminated and completed His mission. His death was the crowning glory of His saving work for mankind. When we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, it is a remembrance or commemoration of His broken body and shed blood. At the exact moment Jesus died on the cross, we are told, “the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split” (Matthew 27:51 ESV). There were other supernatural events that accompanied His death. But the tearing of the curtain that acted as a barrier into the Holy of Holies of the Temple was a stark visual illustration that Jesus’ death had made access to God available to all. But John would have us remember, that it is belief in Jesus as the Son of God and the Savior of the world that makes access into God’s presence possible. “And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:11-12 ESV). God has done something remarkable and great. He has provided salvation for sinful man through His sinless Son. And the Spirit, the water, and the blood testify to the reality of that incredible truth.