1 John 5:6
This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that bears witness, because the Spirit is truth.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
1 John 5:6. This is he that came by water and blood — Here the apostle evidently alludes to the testimony borne by him in his gospel, that when the soldier pierced Christ’s side, forthwith there came out blood and water; a fact which the apostle represents as of great importance; adding, He that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe. It was important, not only, 1st, As being a full proof, in opposition to the doctrine of the Docetæ, that Christ came in the flesh, and really died; of which see on John 19:34 : but, 2d, Because it was emblematical of the offices which he sustained, and of the salvation he hath procured for his people. For the water was a symbol of the purity of his doctrine, instructing men in the purest morals, and of his own pure and holy example; and, what is of still greater importance, of the purifying grace of which he is the fountain, sanctifying and cleansing such as believe in him, from all filthiness of flesh and spirit: while the blood which issued from him was an emblem both of the sufferings which awaited his followers, who were to seal the truth with their blood, and of his own sufferings, whereby he hath made atonement for the sins of the world, and procured for his followers a free and full justification. Thus, as an eminent divine observes, he also manifested himself to be the Son of God, the promised Messiah, by fulfilling those types and ceremonies of the law which were performed by water and blood: the former whereof, denoting purification from sin, he fulfilled by cleansing us by his Spirit, (signified by water, John 7:38-39,) from the corruption of nature, and the power and pollution of sin, and so restoring the image of God in us, Ezekiel 36:25; Ezekiel 36:27; Ephesians 5:25-26; Titus 2:14; Titus 3:5. The latter, which prefigured the expiation of our sin, he fulfilled by shedding his blood to atone for our sins, and to procure for us deliverance from the guilt and punishment of them, (Romans 5:9; Galatians 3:13; Ephesians 1:7,) and to restore us to the favour of God again. Not by water only — Not only was his doctrine pure, and his life holy, and not only may purifying grace be derived from him, but he came by blood, shed for the expiation of our guilt, for these things must go together; because it will not avail us to be enabled to avoid sin, and to live in a holy manner for the time to come, except the sins of the time past be expiated. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness — To these things, namely, in the writings of the ancient prophets, who have spoken largely concerning both, and in the discourses and writings of the apostles, who have borne a still more clear and full testimony to them; and also in the hearts of all the faithful, who, as they are fully convinced of their need of both pardon and holiness, so through the merits and Spirit of Christ they receive both.5:6-8 We are inwardly and outwardly defiled; inwardly, by the power and pollution of sin in our nature. For our cleansing there is in and by Christ Jesus, the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost. Some think that the two sacraments are here meant: baptism with water, as the outward sign of regeneration, and purifying from the pollution of sin by the Holy Spirit; and the Lord's supper, as the outward sign of the shedding Christ's blood, and the receiving him by faith for pardon and justification. Both these ways of cleansing were represented in the old ceremonial sacrifices and cleansings. This water and blood include all that is necessary to our salvation. By the water, our souls are washed and purified for heaven and the habitation of saints in light. By the blood, we are justified, reconciled, and presented righteous to God. By the blood, the curse of the law being satisfied, the purifying Spirit is obtained for the internal cleansing of our natures. The water, as well as the blood, came out of the side of the sacrificed Redeemer. He loved the church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word; that he might present it to himself a glorious church, Eph 5:25-27. This was done in and by the Spirit of God, according to the Saviour's declaration. He is the Spirit of God, and cannot lie. Three had borne witness to these doctrines concerning the person and the salvation of Christ. The Father, repeatedly, by a voice from heaven declared that Jesus was his beloved Son. The Word declared that He and the Father were One, and that whoever had seen him had seen the Father. And the Holy Ghost, who descended from heaven and rested on Christ at his baptism; who had borne witness to Him by all the prophets; and gave testimony to his resurrection and mediatorial office, by the gift of miraculous powers to the apostles. But whether this passage be cited or not, the doctrine of the Trinity in Unity stands equally firm and certain. To the doctrine taught by the apostles, respecting the person and salvation of Christ, there were three testimonies. 1. The Holy Spirit. We come into the world with a corrupt, carnal disposition, which is enmity to God. This being done away by the regeneration and new-creating of souls by the Holy Spirit, is a testimony to the Saviour. 2. The water: this sets forth the Saviour's purity and purifying power. The actual and active purity and holiness of his disciples are represented by baptism. 3. The blood which he shed: and this was our ransom, this testifies for Jesus Christ; it sealed up and finished the sacrifices of the Old Testament. The benefits procured by his blood, prove that he is the Saviour of the world. No wonder if he that rejects this evidence is judged a blasphemer of the Spirit of God. These three witnesses are for one and the same purpose; they agree in one and the same thing.This is he - This Son of God referred to in the previous verse. The object of the apostle in this verse, in connection with 1 John 5:8, is to state the nature of the evidence that Jesus is the Son of God. He refers to three well-known things on which he probably had insisted much in his preaching - the water, and the blood, and the Spirit. These, he says, furnished evidence on the very point which he was illustrating, by showing that that Jesus on whom they believed was the Son of God. "This," says he, "is the same one, the very person, to whom the well-known and important testimony is borne; to him, and him alone, these undisputed things appertain, and not to any other who should claim to be the Messiah and they all agree on the same one point," 1 John 5:8.

That came - ὁ εἰδὼν ho eidōn. This does not mean that when he came into the world he was accompanied in some way by water and blood; but the idea is, that the water and the blood were clearly manifest during his appearing on earth, or that they were remarkable testimonials in some way to his character and work. An ambassador might be said to come with credentials; a warrior might be said to come with the spoils of victory; a prince might be said to "come" with the insignia of royalty; a prophet comes with signs and wonders; and the Lord Jesus might also be said to have come with power to raise the dead, and to heal disease, and to cast out devils; but John here fixes the attention on a fact so impressive and remarkable in his view as to be worthy of special remark, that he "came" by water and blood.

By water - There have been many opinions in regard to the meaning of this phrase. See Pool's Synopsis. Compare also Lucke, "in loc." A mere reference to some of these opinions may aid in ascertaining the true interpretation.

(1) Clement of Alexandria supposes that by "water" regeneration and faith were denoted, and by "blood" the public acknowledgment of that.

(2) some, and among them Wetstein, have held that the words are used to denote the fact that the Lord Jesus was truly a man, in contradistinction from the doctrine of the "Docetae;" and that the apostle means to say that he had all the properties of a human being - a spirit or soul, blood, and the watery humors of the body.

(3) Grotius supposes that by his coming "by water," there is reference to his pure life, as water is the emblem of purity; and he refers to Ezekiel 36:25; Isaiah 1:16; Jeremiah 4:14. As a sign of that purity, he says that John baptized him, John 1:28. A sufficient objection to this view is, that as in the corresponding word "blood" there is undoubted reference to blood literally, it cannot be supposed that the word "water" in the same connection would be used figuratively. Moreover, as Lucke (p. 287) has remarked, water, though a "symbol" of purity, is never used to denote "purity itself," and therefore cannot here refer to the pure life of Jesus.

(4) many expositors suppose that the reference is to the baptism of Jesus, and that by his "coming by water and blood," as by the latter there is undoubted reference to his death, so by the former there is reference to his baptism, or to his entrance on his public work. Of this opinion were Tertullian, OEcumenius, Theophylact, among the fathers, and Capellus, Heumann, Stroth, Lange, Ziegler, A. Clarke, Bengel, Rosenmuller, Macknight, and others, among the moderns. A leading argument for this opinion, as alleged, has been that it was then that the Spirit bare witness to him, Matthew 3:16, and that this is what John here refers to when he says, "It is the Spirit that beareth witness," etc. To this view, Locke urges substantially the following objections:

(a) That if it refers to baptism, the phrase would much more appropriately express the fact that Jesus came baptizing others, if that were so, than that he was baptized himself. The phrase would be strictly applicable to John the Baptist, who came baptizing, and whose ministry was distinguished for that, Matthew 3:1; and if Jesus had baptized in the same manner, or if this had been a prominent characteristic of his ministry, it would be applicable to him. Compare John 4:2. But if it means that he was baptized, and that he came in that way "by water," it was equally true of all the apostles who were baptized, and of all others, and there was nothing so remarkable in the fact that he was baptized as to justify the prominence given to the phrase in this place.

(b) If reference be had here, as is supposed in this view of the passage, to the witness that was borne to the Lord Jesus on the occasion of his baptism, then the reference should have been not to the "water" as the witness, but to the "voice that came from heaven," Matthew 3:17, for it was that which was the witness in the case. Though this occurred at the time of the baptism, yet it was quite an independent thing, and was important enough to have been referred to. See Lucke, "Com. in loc." These objections, however, are not insuperable. Though Jesus did not come baptizing others himself John 4:2, and though the phrase would have expressed that if he had, yet, as Christian baptism began with him; as this was the first act in his entrance on public life; as it was by this that he was set apart to his work; and as he designed that this should be always the initiatory rite of his religion, there was no impropriety in saying that his "coming," or his advent in this world, was at the beginning characterized by water, and at the close by blood. Moreover, though the "witness" at his baptism was really borne by a voice from heaven, yet his baptism was the prominent thing; and if we take the baptism to denote all that in fact occurred when he was baptized, all the objections made by Lucke here vanish.

(5) some, by the "water" here, have understood the ordinance of baptism as it is appointed by the Saviour to be administered to his people, meaning that the ordinance was instituted by him. So Beza, Calvin, Piscator, Calovius, Wolf, Beausobre, Knapp, Lucke, and others understand it. According to this the meaning would be, that he appointed baptism by water as a symbol of the cleansing of the heart, and shed his blood to effect the ransom of man, and that thus it might be said that he "came by water and blood;" to wit, by these two things as effecting the salvation of people. But it seems improbable that the apostle should have grouped these things together in this way. For.

(a) the "blood" is that which he shed; which pertained to him personally; which he poured out for the redemption of man; and it is clear that, whatever is meant by the phrase "he came," his coming by "water" is to be understood in some sense similar to his coming by "blood;" and it seems incredible that the apostle should have joined a mere "ordinance" of religion in this way with the shedding of his blood, and placed them in this manner on an equality.

(b) It cannot be supposed that John meant to attach so much importance to baptism as would be implied by this. The shedding of his blood was essential to the redemption of people; can it be supposed that the apostle meant to teach that baptism by water is equally necessary?

(c) If this be understood of baptism, there is no natural connection between that and the "blood" referred to; nothing by which the one would suggest the other; no reason why they should be united. If he had said that he came by the appointment of two ordinances for the edification of the church, "baptism and the supper," however singular such a statement might be in some respects, yet there would be a connection, a reason why they should be suggested together. But why should baptism and the blood shed by the Saviour on the cross be grouped together as designating the principal things which characterized his coming into the world?

(6) there remains, then, but one other interpretation; to wit, that he refers to the "water and the blood" which flowed from the side of the Saviour when he was pierced by the spear of the Roman soldier. John had himself laid great stress on this occurrence, and on the fact that he had himself witnessed it, (see the notes at John 19:34-35); and as, in these Epistles, he is accustomed to allude to more full statements made in his Gospel, it would seem most natural to refer the phrase to that event as furnishing a clear and undoubted proof of the death of the Saviour. This would be the obvious interpretation, and would be entirely clear, if John did not immediately speak of the "water" and the "blood" as "separate" witnesses, each as bearing witness to an important point, "as" separate as the "Spirit" and the "water," or the "Spirit" and the "blood;" whereas, if he refers to the mingled water and blood flowing from his side, they both witness only the same fact, to wit, his death.

continued...

6. This—the Person mentioned in 1Jo 5:5. This Jesus.

he that came by water and blood—"by water," when His ministry was inaugurated by baptism in the Jordan, and He received the Father's testimony to His Messiahship and divine Sonship. Compare 1Jo 5:5, "believeth that Jesus is the Son of God," with Joh 1:33, 34, "The Spirit … remaining on Him … I saw and bare record that this is the Son of God"; and 1Jo 5:8, below, "there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood." Corresponding to this is the baptism of water and the Spirit which He has instituted as a standing seal and mean of initiatory incorporation with Him.

and blood—He came by "the blood of His cross" (so "by" is used, Heb 9:12: "by," that is, with, "His own blood He entered in once into the holy place"): a fact seen and so solemnly witnessed to by John. "These two past facts in the Lord's life are this abiding testimony to us, by virtue of the permanent application to us of their cleansing and atoning power."

Jesus Christ—not a mere appellation, but a solemn assertion of the Lord's Person and Messiahship.

not by, &c.—Greek, "not IN the water only, but IN the water and IN (so oldest manuscripts add) the blood." As "by" implies the mean through, or with, which He came: so "in," the element in which He came. "The" implies that the water and the blood were sacred and well-known symbols. John Baptist came only baptizing with water, and therefore was not the Messiah. Jesus came first to undergo Himself the double baptism of water and blood, and then to baptize us with the Spirit-cleansing, of which water is the sacramental seal, and with His atoning blood, the efficacy of which, once for all shed, is perpetual in the Church; and therefore is the Messiah. It was His shed blood which first gave water baptism its spiritual significancy. We are baptized into His death: the grand point of union between us and Him, and, through Him, between us and God.

it is the Spirit, &c.—The Holy Spirit is an additional witness (compare 1Jo 5:7), besides the water and the blood, to Jesus' Sonship and Messiahship. The Spirit attested these truths at Jesus' baptism by descending on Him, and throughout His ministry by enabling Him to speak and do what man never before or since has spoken or, done; and "it is the Spirit that beareth witness" of Christ, now permanently in the Church: both in the inspired New Testament Scriptures, and in the hearts of believers, and in the spiritual reception of baptism and the Lord's Supper.

because the Spirit is truth—It is His essential truth which gives His witness such infallible authority.

For the explaining of this obscure place we must proceed by degrees.

1. It is evident, that water and blood cannot be here meant literally.

2. It is therefore consequent, that they must be intended to signify somewhat or other by way of symbolical representation, or that they must have some mystical meaning.

3. They ought to have such a meaning assigned them, as will both be agreeable to the expressions themselves, and to the apostle’s present scope and design.

4. It will be very agreeable to the expressions, to understand by water the purity of our blessed Lord, and by blood his sufferings.

5. His manifest scope and design is, to show the abundantly sufficient credibility of the witnesses and testimony we have, to assure us that Jesus was the Christ, or the Messiah, and to induce us to believe this of him, with so efficacious and transforming a faith, as should evidence our being born of God, and make us so victorious over the world, as constantly to adhere to this Jesus by trust and obedience, against all the allurements and terrors of it.

6. This being his scope, it supposeth that the mentioned coming of Jesus, as Messiah, was for some known end, unto his accomplishment whereof these two, his purity and his sufferings, were apt and certain means, as that they were to be considered under the notion of means, his being said to have come dia, by them, doth intimate. And in pursuance of this scope, he must be understood to signify, that his coming so remarkably by these two, did carry with it some very convictive proof and evidence of his being the Son of God, and the Messiah, sufficient to recommend him as the most deserving object of such a faith, and render it highly reasonable we should hereupon so trust and obey him, and entirely resign ourselves to his mercy and government. Wherefore also:

7. This his coming must here be understood in a sense accommodated hereunto, and is therefore in no reason to be taken for the very act or instant, precisely, of his entrance into this world, but to signify his whole course in it, from first to last, a continued motion and agency, correspondent to the intendment of his mission. To the clearing of which notion of his coming, some light may be gained, by considering the account which is given, 2 Thessalonians 2:9,10, of the coming of antichrist, which is said to be after Satan, ( as it were by his impulsion, and in pursuance of his ends and purposes), with all power, and signs, and lying wonders, and all deceivableness of unrighteottsness; where it is manifest, coming must signify a continued course of doing business. So here, our Lord’s coming must signify his continual employment for the despatch of the business about which he was sent.

8. The known business and end for which he was sent, was to reduce and bring back sinners to God.

9. How apt and necessary means these two, his purity and sufferings, were to this end, the whole frame of the gospel shows. His sacrifice of himself, in his sufferings, was necessary to our reconciliation; so he was to come and effect his work by blood: his purity was requisite to the acceptableness of his sacrifice; so it was to be done by water; without which, as was wont to be proverbially said among the Hebrews, there could be no sacrifice.

10. For the evidence his coming so remarkably by these two carried with it, for the inducing of us to believe him to be the Messiah, with such a faith, as whereby we should imitate his purity, and rely upon the value of his sufferings. We may see it in the note upon 1Jo 5:8, where the testimony of these two witnesses, the water and the blood, comes to be given in its own place and order.

11. Nor is it strange the apostle should use these mystical expressions to this purpose, if we consider what might lead him thereto: for we must remember, first: That he was a spectator of our Lord’s crucifixion, and then beheld, upon the piercing of his side, the streaming forth of the water and blood; which, it appears, at that time made a very deep impression upon his mind, as his words about it in his writing his Gospel import: There came out blood and water. And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe, John 19:34,35.

That he there lays so great a weight on it, imports that he apprehended some great mystery, if not intended, yet very apt to be signified by it. And, secondly: That he was a Jew, and (as is probable) wrote this Epistle to Jews, among whom the so frequent ablutions with water, as well as the shedding the blood of sacrifices, were most known things, and intended to typify (what they ought to have understood, and he now intimates) these very things, the purity and dying of the Messiah. Not to insist upon what he had long ere now occasion to observe in the Christian church, baptism, and the supper of our Lord, representing in effect severally the same things. Neither was this way of teaching unusual, nor these expressions less intelligible, than our Lord’s calling himself (as this evangelist also records) a shepherd, a door, a vine, &c.

And it is the Spirit that beareth witness: that the Spirit is said to bear witness, see 1Jo 5:7,8. This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ,.... By "water" is not meant the ablutions or washings of the ceremonial law; Christ came not by these, but to make an end of them; his blood, which cleanseth from all sin, being the antitype, and so the fulfilling end of them: nor the purity of his nature, life, and conversation; though he came into the world that holy thing which is called the Son of God; and was holy in his nature, and harmless in his life, and did no sin, and so was fit to be a sacrifice for the sins of others: nor does it intend the washing and cleansing of his people from their sins; this is what he came to do, and has done, and not what he came by: but the ordinance of water baptism is designed; and though Christ did not come baptizing with water, he having a greater baptism to administer, yet that he might be made manifest, John came baptizing in that way; and Christ, as the Son of God, came, or was made manifest by John as such, at the waters of Jordan, and at his baptism; there he was declared to be the Son of God by his Father's voice from heaven:

not by water only; he did not come by water only, as Moses did, who was drawn out of it, and therefore so called; or as John, who came administering water baptism externally only:

but by water and blood; by "blood" as well as water; by which is meant, not the blood of bulls and goats; Christ came to put an end unto, and lay aside the shedding of that blood; but his own blood is intended, and not reconciliation and atonement for the sins of his people, which was what he came to do, and has done, and not what he came by: but the sense is, that as at baptism, so at his sufferings and death, he was made manifest to be the Son of God; as he was to the centurion and others, that were with him, when they observed the earthquake, and the things that were done; and at his from the dead he was declared to be the Son of God with power: and this might be seen in the cleansing and atoning virtue of his blood, which is owing to his being the Son of God. There may be here an allusion to the water and blood which came out of his side, when pierced on the cross, which this Apostle John was an eyewitness of. Some copies add here, and in the former clause, "and by the Spirit"; as the Alexandrian copy, three of Beza's copies, and the Ethiopic version: but it seems unnecessary, since it follows,

and it is the Spirit that beareth witness; by which may be meant, either the Gospel, which is the Spirit that gives life, and is so called, because by it the Spirit of God, in his gifts and graces, is received, and which is a testimony of the person, as well as of the offices, and grace of Christ; or rather those miraculous works which Christ did by the Spirit, to which he often appeals, as witnesses of his divine sonship, and equality with the Father, as well as of his being the true Messiah; or else the Holy Spirit, who bore testimony to Christ, by his descent on him at his baptism, and upon his apostles at the day of Pentecost, and by attending, succeeding, and confirming the Gospel, which is the testimony of him; and he is elsewhere, as well as here, and in the context, spoken of as a witness of Christ, Acts 5:32;

because the Spirit is truth; he is the Spirit of truth, and truth itself; he is essentially truth; his testimony is most true, and firmly to be believed. The Vulgate Latin version reads, "because Christ is the truth".

{8} This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; {9} not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the {g} Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth.

(8) He proves the excellency of Christ, in whom only all things are given us by six witnesses, three heavenly, and three earthly, who wholly and completely agree together. The heavenly witnesses are, the Father who sent the Son, the Word itself, which became flesh, and the Holy Spirit. The earthly witnesses are water, (that is our sanctification) blood, (that is, our justification) the Spirit, (that is, acknowledging of God the Father in Christ by faith) through the testimony of the Holy Spirit.

(9) He warns us not to separate water from blood (that is sanctification from justification, or righteousness, begun from righteousness imputed) for we do not stand on sanctification, but so far as it is a witness of Christ's righteousness imputed to us: and although this imputation of Christ's righteousness is never separated from sanctification, yet it is the only matter of our salvation.

(g) Our spirit which is the third witness, testifies that the holy Sprit is truth, that is to say, that that is true which he tells us, that is, that we are the sons of God.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1 John 5:6. In order to arrive at an understanding of this verse we must first of all look at the expression: ἔρχεσθαι διʼ ὕδατος καὶ αἵματος. The question, what is to be understood by ὕδωρ and αἷμα, has been answered in very different ways. The explanations worthy of notice are these:—1. That the apostle means thereby the blood and water which flowed from Christ’s side on the cross, John 19:34; this explanation is found in Augustine, Vatablus, and many of the old commentators; but some of them consider that the apostle here mentions this water and blood as the proof of the actual occurrence of the death of Christ, others that he uses them as symbols of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. 2. That by ὕδωρ and αἷμα are to be understood the sacraments appointed by Christ; this is the explanation of Wolf (who, however, understands an allusion to the incident recorded in John 19:34), S. Schmid, Carpzovius, Baur, Sander, Besser, and others.[297] 3. That by ὕδωρ John means the baptism of Christ by John the Baptist, and by ΑἿΜΑ the atoning death which He suffered. This is the explanation of Tertullian, Theophylact, Cappellus, Heumann, Semler, Storr, Lange, Baumgarten-Crusius, Hilgenfeld, Neander, Ewald,[298] Brückner, Lücke (3d ed. Introd. p. 160; comp. Bertheau’s note on this passage, p. 381), Erdmann, Myrberg, Weiss, Braune, etc. Not a few commentators, however, divide the explanation, understanding ὕδωρ of the baptism appointed by Christ, and ΑἿΜΑ of His own death; so Hornejus, Knapp, Lücke (in the comm. on this passage; also in the 3d ed., Introd. p. 110; differently, Introd. p. 160), de Wette, Rickli, Gerlach, Frommann (p. 596), Düsterdieck, etc.[299]

By many commentators (as Bede, a Lapide, Russmeyer, Spener, Bengel, etc.) different interpretations are connected together in one or the other of these ways.[300]

[297] To this class belongs also Luther’s interpretation (in the 1st ed. of Walch), which, however, differs in this, that according to it water and blood together constitute the sacrament of baptism; he says: “Most commentators consider both sacraments …; I do not object, indeed, to this explanation, but I understand the phrase of baptism merely.… Christ comes not by water only, but by water which is mixed with blood, that is, by baptism, which is coloured with blood.” So also in the interpretation of the following verse: “If you are baptized with water, the blood of Christ is sprinkled by the Word. If you are baptized in blood, you are at the same time washed by the Holy Spirit through the Word.” In his 2d ed., on the other hand, Luther understands water and blood, with reference to John 19:34, of the two sacraments: “This brief summary has been kept in the Church, that out of the side of Jesus the two sacraments flowed.”

[298] Ewald understands by them, however, not merely the baptism and the death, but by ὕδωρ the baptism “with everything special which besides occurred in His case,” and by αἷμα “the bloody death on the cross with everything still more wonderful that was connected with it.

[299] To this class Ebrard also belongs, but he differs from the other commentators in this respect, that he understands by ὕδωρ Christian baptism indeed, but “not the entire sacrament of baptism (consisting of symbol and thing signified), but only the symbol in the sacrament;” hence only that side of Christian baptism in which it is identical with the baptism of John. Clearly an unjustifiable division of the sacrament! The same view is no doubt that of Hofmann, who says (Schriftbew. II. 1, p. 76): “αἷμα is, in contrast with ὕδωρ, the blood shed by Jesus for the remission of sins, differing from the water of baptism, which John also performed;” then on p. 470 he asserts that ὕδωρ is not the baptism which Jesus received, but that which He introduced—hence it denotes that which Jesus had in common with the Baptist; and in II. 2, p. 221, he describes ὕδωρ precisely as “the baptism with water originated by John.” But how strange it is to say, nevertheless, that the baptism which Jesus introduced is the baptism of water originated by John!

[300] Bengel: Aqua dicit baptismum, quem primum administravit Johannes; ideo in aqua baptizare missus, ut Jesus manifestaretur tanquam Filius Dei. Porro baptismus etiam per discipulos Jesu administratus est. Sanguis est utique sanguis—Jesu Christi, qui effusus in passione, in coena dominica bibitur. Tertullian says: Venerat per aquam et sanguinem, sicut Joh. scripsit, ut aqua tingeretur, sanguine glorificaretur. Proinde ut nos aqua faccret vocatos, sanguine electos, hos duos baptismos de vulnere perfossi lateris emisit.

To these interpretations may be added others, the arbitrariness of which is evident at the first glance. To this class the following belong:—1. That by ὕδωρ and αἷμα John denotes the two elements of the physical life of Jesus; this is the view of Schulthess. Wetstein adds even the following πνεῦμα, and says that the apostle wants to prove that Christ was a verus homo, who was formed ex spiritu, sanguine et aqua sive humore.[301] 2. That by both words, or at least by ὝΔΩΡ, the ethical nature of Christ is indicated; thus Grotius interprets ΔΙʼ ὝΔΑΤΟς = per vitam purissimam, quae per aquam significari solet. Socinus understands by ὝΔΩΡ: ipsa doctrina pura cum vitae puritate conjuncta. 3. That in ὝΔΩΡ and ΑἿΜΑ it is not so much the baptism and death of Christ themselves that are to be thought of, as rather the testimonies that were given in connection with them; in ὝΔΩΡ the testimony of the divine voice in the baptism (Wahl); in ΑἿΜΑ either the testimony of the good centurion (Stroth), or the events that followed the death of Jesus, namely His resurrection and ascension (Wahl, Ziegler, Lange), or even the testimony of God in John 12:28 (Oecumenius).[302] 4. That in these two expressions we are to consider the operations brought into exercise by Christ; in ὕδωρ, regeneratio et fides (Clemens Al.), or purgatio (Cameron); in αἷμα, cognitio (Clemens Al.), or expiatio (Cameron), or redemptio (Bullinger). To this class belongs also Calvin’s explanation: ego existimo Joannem hic fructum et effectum exprimere ejus rei, quam in historia evangelica narrat. Christi latus sanguinis et aquae fons erat, ut scirent fideles, veram munditiem (cujus figurae erant veteres baptismi) in eo sibi constare: ut scirent etiam completum, quod omnes sanguinis aspersiones olim promiserant. 5. That those expressions and πνεῦμα are descriptive of the threefold redemptive office of Christ: that ὓδωρ (= coelestis doctrini; Bullinger) represents Him as prophet, αἷμα as priest, and πνεῦμα as king. Here may be added the strange explanation of ὓδωρ as the tears which Jesus shed on various occasions, and of αἷμα as the blood which He shed at His circumcision. Again, some of the old commentators understood by αἷμα the blood of the martyrs.

[301] Similarly Paulus in reference to αἷμα; ὕδωρ he understands of the baptism of John.

[302] Oecumenius: διὰ τοῦ ὕδατος, τουτέστιν, ἐν τῷ διʼ ὕδατος βαπτίσματι ἑξεφάνθη υἱὸς Θεοῦ ὁ Ἰησοῦς διὰ τῆς τοῦ πατρὸς μαρτυρίας· διὰ δὲ τοῦ αἵματος· ὅτι μέλλων σταυροῦσθαι ἔλεγε, δοξασόν με σὺ πάτερ, καὶ ἠνέχθῃ ἡ φωνή, καὶ ἐδόξασα, καὶ πάλεν δοξάσω· διὰ δὲ τοῦ πνεύματος, ὅτι ὡς Θεὸς ἀνέστη ἐκ νεκρῶν.

It is at all events incorrect to permit ourselves, in the interpretation of ὕδωρ and αἷμα, to be led by the question as to the nature of their testimony (Sander: “It must be maintained as the chief difficulty in the passage before us, what are the three witnesses on earth”), for that is not the subject in this verse, in which the πνεῦμα only is mentioned as bearing witness.[303] By the words: οὗτός ἐστιν κ.τ.λ., the apostle simply states who Jesus the Son of God is.

With regard to the expression: ὁ ἐλθὼν διʼ κ.τ.λ., most commentators interpret as if it were: “οὗτος ἔρχεται,” or: “οὗτός ἐστιν ἐρχόμενος.” Others, it is true, have not overlooked the aorist, but they interpret it as if it expressed something present; thus Sander = “has come and comes,” against which Bengel rightly says: non dicit: ὁ ἐρχόμενος in Praesenti, sed ὁ ἐλθών Aoristo tempore, Praeteriti vim habenti. It is true, it is further correct when, in opposition to de Wette, who takes ἐλθών as synonymous with ἐληλυθώς, chap. 1 John 4:2, Brückner objects that by the aorist as a purely historic tense nothing continuous or permanent is expressed; but even then the expression does not obtain complete justice. It is to be observed that John did not write “ἦλθε,” or “ἐστὶν ἐλθών,” but ἐστὶν ὁ ἐλθών. By the participle with the definite article, it is not a verbal, but a nominal, and, if it is not in apposition to a preceding substantive (as in John 1:18; John 1:29; John 3:13; John 6:44, and passim), a substantive idea that is expressed; comp. John 1:15; John 1:33; John 3:31; John 3:36, and many other passages. It therefore does not mean “this came,” or “this is one who came,” but “this is he that came;” by this predicate it is not merely stated what the subject which is here spoken of (namely, οὗτος) has done, but the subject is thereby characterized as the particular person to whom this predicate is suitable as a specific characteristic; according to the analogy of John 1:33 (οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ βαπτίζων ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ), 1 John 3:13 (ὁ ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ καταβάς), and other passages, the expression therefore serves to state something characteristic of the Messianic office of Christ. If this is taken into consideration, the incorrectness of Augustine’s interpretation (see above) follows; for even if the flowing of the blood and water from the side of Jesus was intended by John not so much as a proof of the actual occurrence of Christ’s death (Lücke), but as a wonder proving the Messiahship of Jesus (Meyer on John 19:34), yet this would be only a very subordinate proof, which by no means states a characteristic sign of the Messiah as such.

In the life of Jesus there are two points which correspond with the expressions ὕδωρ and αἷμα, namely, His baptism at the beginning of His Messianic work, and His bloody death at the end of it; by His baptism Jesus entered on His mediatorial work; it formed the initiatio (Erdmann, Myrberg) of it, but this did not take place only by means of what happened at the baptism, but by the act of baptism itself; by His death he effected the atonement itself, inasmuch as by His blood he blotted out the guilt of the sinful world, for χωρὶς αἱματεκχυσίας οὐ γίνεται ἄφεσις (Hebrews 9:22). John may with justice therefore describe Christ as the Mediator by calling Him the one who came διʼ ὕδατος καὶ αἵματος.[304] Against the view that ὕδωρ and αἷμα are to be understood of the sacraments instituted by Christ, is not only the circumstance that these are only the means for the appropriation of the atonement effected by Him, whereas the subject here is the accomplishment of the atonement itself, but also the use of the aorist ἐλθών, instead of which, in that case, the present would have to be used, and also the expression αἷμα, which by itself alone never in the N. T. signifies the Lord’s Supper; even in 1 Corinthians 12:13 ἐποτίσθησαν is not an allusion to the Lord’s Supper, but to the communication of the Spirit in baptism. In opposition to the idea that αἷμα indeed signifies the death which Christ suffered, but that ὕδωρ does not denote the baptism which He received, but the baptism which He instituted, are—(1) that the close connection of the two words (without repetition of διά before αἵματος) is only suitable if the ideas correspond with one another, which is not the case if by διʼ ὕδατος we understand an institution of Christ, but by αἵματος, on the other hand, the blood shed by Christ;[305] (2) that the simple expression ὝΔΩΡ is little suited for a description of Christian baptism;[306] (3) that as the institution of baptism took place after the death of Christ, and necessarily presupposes it, John, if he had understood by ὕδωρ Christian baptism, would certainly have put ὕδατος, not before, but after αἵματος. Hilgenfeld and Neander have rightly shown that if ἔρχεσθαι διʼ αἵματος signifies something pertaining to the Messiah personally, the same must be the case with ἔρχεσθαι διʼ ὕδατος. The connection must be the same in both expressions. If by αἷμα is meant the death which Christ underwent, then by ὕδωρ can therefore only be meant the baptism which He likewise underwent.

[303] This is usually too little noticed by commentators. Even Lücke—who remarks on the following words: καὶ τὸ πνεῦμα κ.τ.λ., that “it was not said of the water and blood that they bear witness,” and then “it is only through the πνεῦμα that both of them, which in themselves give no testimony, likewise become witnesses”—has in his discussion of the meaning of ὕδωρ and αἷμα all along regarded them as “witnesses” for the Messiahship of Jesus. Brückner also, in his interpretation of the ideas ὕδωρ and αἷμα, has all along included the element of testimony, whereby the clearness of his statement is only too much diminished.

[304] That “Jesus in both cases proved His obedience to His Father’s will, and that His obedience proved Him to be the Son of God, the holy and innocent One” (Braune), are ideas which John here in no way suggests.

[305] This inconsistency is only apparently removed by Düsterdieck’s observation that “John regards the blood of the Lord shed at His death as something which has a substantial existence;” for even if this be correct, yet there remains the difference that the water of Christian baptism is something at present existing, but the blood which Christ shed is only regarded as such by John. It is no better with the interpretation of Hofmann, who at one time describes αἷμα as “the blood of Christ shed for remission,” and at another time as “the sprinkling of blood which Christ bestows.”

[306] It is indeed just this very fact that distinguishes Christian baptism from that of John, that the former in its nature is not ὕδωρ as the latter is, as John the Baptist himself, marking his difference from Christ, said: ἐγώ βαπτίζω ἐν ὕδατι (John 1:26), whereas Jesus was described by him as ὁ βαπτιζων ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ (John 1:33).

The objection of Knapp (with whom Lücke and Sander agree), that ἐλθὼν διʼ ὕδατος in this sense is much more appropriately said of John the Baptist than of Christ, is untenable, for that expression may at least just as well be used of him who allowed himself to be baptized as of him who baptized; Erdmann: sane id non alius momenti, ac si quis objiceret, ἔρχεσθαι διʼ αἵματος non posse dici de Christi sanguine et morte, sed potius de iis, qui cruentam mortem ei paraverint. There is just as little in the objection of Lücke, that Christ allowed Himself to be baptized, not in order to purify Himself, but to fulfil all righteousness; since two ideas are here placed in antagonism to one another, which are by no means mutually exclusive, as Jesus underwent the baptism of purification just for the very purpose of fulfilling all righteousness.

With regard to the expression ἐλθὼν διά, διά is not to be separated from ἐλθὼν, so that ὁ ἐλθών in itself would denote “the Saviour who came,” and διʼ κ.τ.λ. would state “in what way Jesus is the Saviour who came” (Hofmann in the Schriftbew. 2d ed. p. 469); for that Christ is called ὁ ἐρχόμενος (Matthew 11:4; Luke 7:19-20) does not confirm, but contradicts this interpretation; besides, John does not here want to bring out how Jesus is the Messiah, but that He is so. The preposition διά has been differently explained; usually it is here taken simply in the sense of accompaniment, which, however, is unjustifiable; in this commentary, with reference to Hebrews 9:12 (where it is indicated by διά that the high priest entered into the holy place by means of the blood which he had with him), the idea of instrumentality is combined with that of accompaniment, inasmuch as Jesus operated as mediator by means of ὕδωρ καὶ αἷμα; similarly Brückner explains διά as a preposition of instrumentality, namely, in the passive sense, as “by which he was proved;διά, however, is here connected neither with an idea of operation nor of verification, but with ἐλθών. Weiss takes the preposition in this way, that ὕδωρ κ. αἷμα are thereby “introduced as historical elements of the life of Christ through which His career passed;” but it might be more suitable to interpret διʼ ὕδ. κ.τ.λ. in this way, that thereby the elements are brought out by which the ἐλθών was specially characterized; just as in 2 Corinthians 5:7 by διὰ πίστεως the feature is mentioned by which our present περιπατεῖν is characterized; comp. also Romans 8:24 : διʼ ὑπομονῆς ἀπεκδεχόμεθα, and Hebrews 12:1; Braune simply abides by the idea of instrumentality, without further explaining himself on the subject. The question, whether οὗτος refers to Ἰησοῦς or to ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ Θεοῦ, is to be answered in this way, that it refers to the whole idea: Ἰησοῦς ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ Θεοῦ; Jesus, the Son of God, is the subject of Christian faith; it is He who came by water and blood. In favour of this reference is the addition Ἰησοῦς ὁ Χριστός, which, as Ἰησοῦς shows, is not an explanatory apposition of the predicate (“He who came by water and blood,” i.e. Christ), but is in apposition to the subject οὗτος, which is more particularly defined by the predicate; the preceding, Ἰησοῦς ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ Θεοῦ is thereby resumed, but in this way, that in consequence of ὁ ἐλθὼν κ.τ.λ. the idea ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ Θεοῦ is changed into ὁ Χριστός.

The import of the preceding lies, as cannot be doubted, simply in the statement which is therein contained; Ebrard, indeed, thinks that the apostle wants thereby to express “that in the loving and merciful act of the devotion of Jesus to death lies the power by which He has overcome the world;” but although in the preceding the victory over the world is ascribed to the belief that Jesus is the Son of God, yet it is not to be inferred from this that it is Christ’s victory over the world that is the subject here, as John does not make the most remote suggestion of that.

By the words: οὐκ ἐν τῷ ὕδατι μόνον ἀλλʼ ἐν τῷ ὕδατι καὶ τῷ αἵματι, the apostle brings out with special emphasis the fact that Jesus did not come by water only, but by both water and blood; as the latter two, in their combination, are contrasted with the former one, the principal emphasis plainly falls on the blood, as that by which the Mediator as such has operated. This emphasis is not intended for the purpose of indicating the difference between Jesus and John the Baptist (Lücke, de Wette, Düsterdieck, Ebrard); for, on the one hand, it is self-evident to Christians that Jesus would not be the mediator if He had not acted differently from John; and, on the other hand, the feature which distinguishes Jesus from John in regard to baptism is this, that the latter baptized with water, but the former baptizes with the Holy Ghost.[307] The addition has a polemic import (not against “disciples of John,” Ewald, but) against the Docetans, who in a certain sense indeed taught that Christ came διʼ ὕδατος, but denied that He came διʼ αἵματος, inasmuch as, according to their heresy, Christ united Himself with Jesus at His baptism, but separated from Him again before His death (Erdmann, Myrberg, Weiss, Braune); indeed, it is only by the reference to these heretics, against whom the apostle frequently directs a polemic in the Epistle, that the whole section from 1 John 5:6 to 1 John 5:12 can be explained.

With regard to grammar, it is to be observed that μόνον is not connected with οὐ, but with ὕδατι, and therefore there can be no καί after ἀλλά, which is not observed by A. Buttmann (p. 317). The preposition ἐν simply expresses the idea of accompaniment without bringing out the accessory notion which lies in διά; comp. Hebrews 9:12; Hebrews 9:25.

The definite article before ὕδατι and αἵματι is explained by the fact that both have been already mentioned. Bengel correctly: Articulus habet vim relativam.

καὶ τὸ πνεῦμά ἐστιν τὸ μαρτυροῦν] Just as in regard to ὕδωρ and αἷμα, so in regard to πνεῦμα the views of commentators vary very much. The following opinions are to be rejected as utterly arbitrary:—(1) that it denotes the psychical element, which, with αἷμα and ὕδωρ as the physical elements, constituted the human nature of Christ (Wetstein); (2) that it is the spirit which Christ at His death committed into His Father’s hands (Augustine, etc.); (3) that it means “the teaching of Jesus” (Carpzovius); (4) that τὸ πνεῦμα is = ὁ πνευματικός, whereby John means himself (Ziegler, Stroth). By τὸ πνεῦμα can only be understood either the Holy Ghost Himself or the spiritual life produced by Him in believers.[308] Against the latter view there are, however, two reasons:—(1) that ΤῸ ΠΝΕῦΜΑ never has this meaning without a more particular definition indicating it; and (2) that the ΤῸ ΜΑΡΤΥΡΟῦΝ, which is added, here defines the ΠΝΕῦΜΑ as something specifically different from the subjective life of man. We must therefore understand by it the objective Spirit of God, yet not, however, inasmuch as He descended on Christ at His baptism, and testified to Him as the Messiah, nor inasmuch as He was in Christ as the divine power which manifested itself in His miracles,[309] but (as most commentators correctly interpret) the Holy Ghost, whom Christ sent to His disciples at Pentecost, and who is the permanent possession of His Church. The predicate ἐστι τὸ μαρτυροῦν is not put for μαρτυρεῖ or for ἐστὶ μαρτυροῦν; here also the article must not be overlooked; τὸ μαρτυροῦν is a nominal idea, and, moreover, not adjectival, but substantive: “the Spirit is the witness” (Lücke). The office of witnessing belongs essentially to the Holy Ghost; comp. John 15:26.[310]

As the apostle continues: ὍΤΙ ΤῸ ΠΝΕῦΜΆ ἘΣΤΙΝ Ἡ ἈΛΉΘΕΙΑ, he seems thereby to state the object of ΜΑΡΤΥΡΕῖΝ;[311] but this view is opposed to the whole context, according to which the apostle does not want to bring out that the Spirit is truth, but: “that Jesus the Son of God is the Christ.” Therefore ὅτι here must, with Gerhard, Calovius, and most modern commentators (de Wette, Lücke, Düsterdieck, Erdmann, Myrberg, Braune), be taken as causal particle, so that the subordinate clause serves to strengthen the preceding thought. It is because the Spirit is the truth that the Spirit is the witness in the fullest sense of the word.

To interpret ἡ ἀλήθεια = ἀληθές (Grotius) is to weaken the thought; by the definite article the idea ἀλήθεια is indicated in its full concrete vividness; comp. John 14:6, where Christ calls Himself ἡ ἀλήθεια. Weiss calls attention to the way in which this designation proves the personality of the Spirit, inasmuch as “the truth is the nature of God Himself made manifest.”

The object which is to be supplied with τὸ μαρτυροῦν can be no other than the thought which John has previously expressed in the first half of the verse.

[307] Erdmann has rightly pointed out that the view, according to which ὕδωρ is understood of the baptism instituted by Christ, is opposed to the idea that the addition refers to John the Baptist; this antagonism can only be removed if we explain the idea ὕδωρ in the principal clause differently from its meaning in this subordinate clause, in the former of a baptism which was not merely a baptism of water, but also of the Spirit, but in the latter of a baptism which is only a baptism of water; but that would be an interpretation which condemns itself.

[308] Sander is very uncertain in his explanation of τὸ πνεῦμα; first he explains it by: “the conversion of man accomplished by the communication of the Holy Ghost,” but then he puts instead of this, without further explanation: “those who are born of the Spirit” (!).1 John 5:6-8. The Threefold Testimony to the Incarnation. “This is He that came through water and blood, Jesus Christ; not in the water only, but in the water and in the blood. And it is the Spirit that testifieth, because the Spirit is the Truth. Because three are they that testify—the Spirit and the water and the blood, and the three are for the one end.”

St. John has said that faith in the Incarnation makes the commandments easy, and now the question arises: How can we be assured that the Incarnation is a fact? He adduces a threefold attestation: the Spirit, the water and the blood. His meaning is clear when it is understood that he has the Cerinthian heresy (see Introd. pp. 156 f.) in view and states his doctrine in opposition to it. Cerinthus distinguished between Jesus and the Christ. The divine Christ descended upon the human Jesus at the Baptism, i.e., He “came through water,” and left him at the Crucifixion, i.e., He did not “come through blood”. Thus redemption was excluded; all that was needed was spiritual illumination. In opposition to this St. John declares that the Eternal God was incarnate in Jesus and was manifested in the entire course of His human life, not only at His Baptism, which was His consecration to His ministry of redemption, but at His Death, which was the consummation of His infinite Sacrifice: “through water and blood, not in the water only but in the water and in the blood”.6. This is he that came] Closely connected with what precedes: ‘This Song of Solomon of God is He that came’. The identity of the historic person Jesus with the eternal Son of God is once more insisted upon as the central and indispensable truth of the Christian faith. Faith in this truth is the only faith that can overcome the world and give eternal life. And it is a truth attested by witness of the highest and most extraordinary kind.

by water and blood] Literally, by means of or through water and blood. This is the most perplexing passage in the Epistle and one of the most perplexing in N. T. A very great variety of interpretations have been suggested. It would be simply confusing to discuss them all; but a few of the principal explanations, and the reasons for adopting the one preferred, may be stated with advantage. The water and the blood have been interpreted to mean:—

(1) The Baptism by means of water in the Jordan and the Death by means of blood upon the Cross.

(2) The water and blood which flowed from Christ’s pierced side.

(3) Purification and Redemption.

(4) The Sacraments of Baptism and of the Eucharist.

These are fairly representative interpretations; the first two making the water and blood refer to facts in the earthly career of the Messiah; the last two making them symbolical of mysteries. It will be observed that these explanations are not all exclusive one of another: either of the last two may be combined with either of the first two; and in fact the fourth is not unfrequently combined with the second. The second, which is S. Augustine’s, has recently received the support of the Speaker’s Commentary and of Canon F. W. Farrar in The Early Days of Christianity: but in spite of its attractiveness it appears to be scarcely tenable. The difficult passage in John 19:34 and the difficult passage before us do not really explain one another. That “in these two passages alone, of all Scripture, are blood and water placed together,” would, if true, amount to nothing more than a presumption that one may be connected with the other. And such a presumption would be at once weakened by the change of order: instead of the ‘blood and water’ of the Gospel we have ‘water and blood’ here. But the statement is not true; e.g. ‘He shall cleanse the house with the blood of the bird, and with the running water’ (Leviticus 14:52); ‘He took the blood of the calves and the goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, &c.’ (Hebrews 9:19). And is it credible that S. John would speak of effusions from the dead body of Jesus as the Son of God ‘coming through water and blood’? Moreover, what, on this interpretation, can be the point of the emphatic addition, ‘not in the water only, but in the water and in the blood’? At the piercing of the side it was the water, not the blood, that was so marvellous. So that, to make the reference clear, the whole ought to run somewhat in this manner: ‘This is He that shed forth blood and water, even Jesus Christ; not the blood only, but the blood and the water’.

The first of the four explanations is far more tenable, and is adopted by Bede, but not to the entire exclusion of the second. So also Dr Westcott, who thinks the additional reference to John 19:34 “beyond question”. The Baptism in the water of Jordan and the Death by the shedding of blood sum up the work of redemption. Christ’s Baptism, with the Divine proclamation of Him as the Son of God and the Divine outpouring of the Spirit upon Him, is not merely the opening but the explanation of the whole of His Ministry. The bloody death upon the Cross is not merely the close but the explanation of His Passion. ‘Coming’ when spoken of the Christ includes the notion of His mission (John 1:15; John 1:27; John 1:30; John 3:31; John 6:14; John 7:27; John 7:31; John 7:41, &c., &c.). Therefore, when we are told that the Son of God ‘came by means of water and blood,’ we may reasonably understand this as meaning that He fulfilled His mission by the Baptism with which His public work began and the bloody Death with which He finished it (John 19:30). (1) This interpretation explains the order; ‘water and blood’, not ‘blood and water’. (2) It explains the first preposition; ‘through’ or ‘by means of’ (διά with the genitive: comp. the remarkable parallel Hebrews 9:12). (3) It also explains the second preposition; ‘in’ (ἐν, of the element in which, without the notion of means: comp. the remarkable parallel Hebrews 9:25). Christ’s Baptism and Death were in one sense the means by which, in another sense the spheres in which His work was accomplished. (4) Above all it explains the emphatic addition, ‘not in water only, but in the water and in the blood’. The Gnostic teachers, against whom the Apostle is writing, admitted that the Christ came ‘through’ and ‘in’ water: it was precisely at the Baptism, they said, that the Divine Word united Himself with the man Jesus. But they denied that the Divine Person had any share in what was effected ‘through’ and ‘in’ blood: for according to them the Word departed from Jesus at Gethsemane. S. John emphatically assures us that there was no such separation. It was the Son of God who was baptized; and it was the Son of God who was crucified: and it is faith in this vital truth that produces brotherly love, that overcomes the world, and is eternal life.

It may reasonably be admitted, however, that there is this large amount of connexion between the ‘water and blood’ here and the ‘blood and water’ in the Gospel. Both in a symbolical manner point to the two great sacraments. Thus Tertullian says; “He had come by means of water and blood, just as John had written; that He might be baptized by the water, glorified by the blood; to make us in like manner called by water, chosen by blood. These two baptisms He sent out from the wound in His pierced side, in order that they who believed in His blood might be bathed in the water; they who had been bathed in the water might likewise drink the blood” (De Bapt. XVI.).

not by water only, but by water and blood] Better as R.V., not with the water only, but with the water and the blood. ‘With’ is literally ‘in’, of the element or sphere in which a thing is done. The use of ‘in’ in this connexion both here and Hebrews 9:25 perhaps comes direct from LXX. In Leviticus 16:3 we have ‘He shall come into the holy place in a young bullock’ (ἐν μόσχῳ ἐκ βοῶν), i.e. with one. The Hebrew may mean ‘in’, ‘with’, ‘by’. The article in all three cases simply means ‘the water’ and ‘the blood’ already mentioned.

As applied to us these words will mean, ‘Christ came not merely to purify by His baptism, but to give new life by His blood; ‘for the blood is the life’.’ In short, all that is said in the Gospel, especially in chapters 3 and 4, respecting water and blood may be included here. The Epistle is the companion treatise of the Gospel.

And it is the Spirit that beareth witness] Here again there are great diversities of interpretation. S. Augustine, who makes the water and blood refer to the effusions of Christ’s side, takes ‘the spirit’ to mean the spirit which He committed to His Father at His death (John 19:30; Luke 23:46). But in what sense could Christ’s human spirit be said to be ‘the Truth’? Far more probably it is the Holy Spirit that is meant (1 John 3:24, 1 John 4:13; John 1:32-33; John 7:39; Revelation 2:7; Revelation 2:11; Revelation 2:17; Revelation 2:29, &c.). Bede takes this view and understands the witness of the Spirit at Christ’s baptism to be meant. The form of the sentence is exactly parallel to ‘It is the spirit that giveth life’ (John 6:63). We might render in each case; ‘The spirit is the life-giver’, ‘And the Spirit is the witness-bearer’.

that beareth witness] We have seen already (note on 1 John 1:2) that witness to the truth in order to produce faith is one of S. John’s leading thoughts in Gospel, Epistles, and Revelation. Here it becomes the dominant thought: the word ‘witness’ (verb or substantive) occurs ten times in five verses. In the Gospel we have seven witnesses to Christ; scripture (John 5:39-47), the Baptist (1 John 1:7), the Disciples (John 15:27, John 16:30), Christ’s works (John 5:36, John 10:25; John 10:38), Christ’s words (John 8:14; John 8:18, John 18:37), the Father (John 5:37, John 8:18), the Spirit (John 15:26). Of these seven three are specially mentioned in the Epistle, the Disciples in 1 John 1:2, the Father in 1 John 5:9-10, and the Spirit here; but to these are added two more, the water and the blood.

because the Spirit is truth] It would be possible to translate ‘It is the Spirit that beareth witness that the Spirit is the truth’: but this self-attestation of the Spirit would have no relation to the context. It is the witnesses to Christ, to the identity of Jesus with the Son of God, that S. John is marshalling before us. It is because the Spirit is the Truth that His testimony is irrefragable: He can neither deceive nor be deceived. He is ‘the Spirit of Truth’ (John 14:16; John 15:26), and He glorifies the Christ, taking of His and declaring it unto the Church (John 16:14).

There is a remarkable Latin reading, quoniam Christus est veritas, ‘It is the Spirit that beareth witness that the Christ is the Truth’, but it has no authority.1 John 5:6. Οὗτός ἐστιν, this is He) We shall presently see this verse in connection with those that follow.Verses 6-12. - The section takes a new turn; the test of the Christian life furnished by the witness of the life itself. This witness is that of the Spirit (verse 6), identical with that of God (verse 9), and possessed by every believer (verse 10). Few passages of Scripture have produced such a mass of widely divergent interpretation. Verse 6. - This (Son of God) is he who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ. This may be regarded as one of the main propositions of the Epistle - that the eternal Son of God is identical with the historic Person, Jesus. Of the water and the blood widely differing interpretations have been given. It would be tedious and unprofitable to enumerate them. Our estimate of John 19:34, "the most perplexing incident in the Gospel," will probably influence our interpretation of this "the most perplexing passage in the Epistle." Not that we have here any direct reference to the piercing of Christ's side, and its results. Yet both passages teach similar spiritual truths, viz. the ideas which underlie the two sacraments, and teach them by reference to facts in the life and death of Jesus Christ. But the facts are not the same in each case. It is difficult to believe that this passage contains any definite and immediate allusion to John 19:34. Why in that case the marked change of order, "water and blood" instead of "blood and water"? And if it be thought that this is explained by saying that the one is "the ideal, mystical, sacramental, subjective order," the ether "the historical and objective order," and that "the first is appropriately adopted in the Epistle, the second in the Gospel," we are not at the end of our difficulties. If St. John is here referring to the effusions from Christ's dead body, what can be the meaning of "not in water only, but in water and blood"? It was the water, not the blood, that was specially astonishing. And "in" in this case seems a strange expression to use. We should have expected rather, "not shedding blood only, but blood and water." Moreover, how can blood and water flowing from the Lord's body be spoken of his "coming through water and blood"? The simplest interpretation is that which refers ὕδωρ to the baptism of water to which he himself submitted, and which he enjoined upon his disciples, and αῖμα to the baptism of blood to which he himself submitted, and which raised the baptism of water from a sign into a sacrament. John came baptizing in water only ἐν ὕδατι βαπτίζων (John 1:31, 33). Jesus came baptizing in water and blood, i.e., in water which washed away sin through the efficacy of his blood. This interpretation explains the marked change of preposition. Jesus effected his work through the baptisms of water and blood; and it is by baptism in these elements that he comes to his followers. Moreover, this interpretation harmonizes with the polemical purpose of the Epistle, viz. to confute the errors of Cerinthus. Cerinthus taught that the Divine Logos or Christ descended upon Jesus at the baptism, and departed again when Jesus was arrested; so that a mere man was born of Mary, and a mere man suffered on the cross. St. John assures us that there was no such severance. The Divine Son Jesus Christ came not by water only at his baptism, but by blood also at his death. Besides these two abiding witnesses, there is yet a third still more convincing. And there is the Spirit that beareth witness (to the Divinity of Christ); because the Spirit is the truth. There can be no higher testimony than that of the truth itself (John 14:17; John 15:26; John 16:13). It is surprising that any one should propose to translate, "The Spirit is that which is witnessing that the Spirit is the truth." What has this to do with the context? This

Jesus.

He that came (ὁ ἐλθὼν)

Referring to the historic fact. See Matthew 11:3; Luke 7:19; John 1:15, John 1:27. Compare, for the form of expression, John 1:33; John 3:13.

By water and blood (δἰ ὕδατος καὶ αἵματος)

Διά by, must be taken with ὁ ἐλθὼν He that came. It has not mere]y the sense of accompaniment, but also of instrumentality, i.e., by, through, by means of. Water and blood are thus the media through which Jesus the Mediator wrought, and which especially characterized the coming. See especially Hebrews 9:12 : "Christ being come... neither by the blood (δἰ αἵματος) of goats and calves, but by His own blood (διὰ δε τοῦ ἰδίου αἵματος"). Compare "we walk by faith not by sight (διὰ πίστεως οὐ διὰ εἴδους," 2 Corinthians 5:7): we wait with (lit., through) patience (δἰ ὑπομονῆς," Romans 8:25).

Water refers to Christ's baptism at the beginning of His Messianic work, through which He declared His purpose to fulfill all righteousness (Matthew 3:15). Blood refers to His bloody death upon the cross for the sin of the world.

Other explanations are substituted for this or combined with it. Some refer the words water and blood to the incident in John 19:34. To this it is justly objected that these words are evidently chosen to describe something characteristic of Christ's Messianic office, which could not be said of the incident in question. Nevertheless, as Alford justly remarks, "to deny all such allusion seems against probability. The apostle could hardly, both here and in that place, lay such evident stress on the water and the blood together, without having in his mind some link connecting this place and that." The readers of the Epistle must have been familiar with the incident, from oral or from written teaching.

Others refer the words to the Christian sacraments. These, however, as Huther observes, are only the means for the appropriation of Christ's atonement; whereas the subject here is the accomplishment of the atonement itself. Αἷμα blood, standing by itself, never signifies the Lord's Supper in the New Testament.

The true principle of interpretation appears to be laid down in the two canons of Dsterdieck. (1.) Water and blood must point both to some purely historical facts in the life of our Lord on earth, and to some still present witnesses for Christ. (2.) They must not be interpreted symbolically, but understood of something so real and powerful, as that by them God's testimony is given to believers, and eternal life assured to them. Thus the sacramental reference, though secondary, need not be excluded. Canon Westcott finds "an extension of the meaning" of water and blood in the following words: "Not in the water only, but in the water and in the blood," followed by the reference to the present witness of the Spirit. He argues that the change of the prepositions (ἐν in, for διά by), the use of the article (τῷ), and the stress laid on actual experience (it is the Spirit that witnesseth), these, together with the fact that that which was spoken of in its unity (by water and blood) is now spoken of in its separate parts (in the water and in the blood) - "all show that St. John is speaking of a continuation of the first coming under some new but analogous form. The first proof of the Messiahship of Jesus lay in His complete historical fulfillment of Messiah's work once for all, in bringing purification and salvation; that proof is continued in the experience of the Church in its two separate parts." Thus we are led to the ideas underlying the two sacraments.

The subject opened by the word blood is too large for discussion within these limits. The student is referred to Dr. Patrick Fairbairn's "Typology of Scripture; "Andrew Jukes, "The Law of the Offerings;" Professor William Milligan, "The Resurrection of our Lord," note, p. 274 sqq.; Canon Westcott's "Additional Note" on 1 John 1:7, in his "Commentary on John's Epistles;" and Henry Clay Trumbull, "The Blood Covenant."

Not by water only (οὐκ ἐν τῷ ὕδατι μόνον)

Lit., not in the water only Rev., with. The preposition ἐν in, marks the sphere or element in which; διά by, the medium through which. For the interchange of ἐν and διά see 2 Corinthians 6:7. The words are probably directed against the teaching of Cerinthus. See on 1 John 2:22. John asserts that Jesus is the Christ, and that He came by blood as well as by water.

And it is the Spirit that beareth witness (καὶ τὸ πνεῦμά ἐστιν τὸ μαρτυροῦν)

continued...

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