1 John 5:8
And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
1 John 5:8. And there are three that bear witness on earth — To the same important doctrine concerning Christ, the Son of God, and salvation through him; the Spirit, the water, and the blood — The Spirit here, distinguished from the Holy Ghost in the preceding verse, seems to mean, 1st, That influence of the Spirit, which, in a peculiar manner, attended the preaching of the gospel by the apostles and first ministers of the Word, in that early age of Christianity: together with the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, which remained with the church for a considerable time. 2d, The inspired writers of the apostles and the evangelists, bearing witness to the doctrine of Christ, when they were deceased; including the predictions uttered by holy men of old, as they were moved by the Holy Spirit, concerning the coming and character of the Messiah, which had been punctually fulfilled in him; and including also the predictions uttered by Christ concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, and the calamities coming on the Jewish nation, with divers other predictions, particularly those concerning the coming of false Christs and false prophets, which were already in part accomplished when St. John wrote this epistle and the rest, he knew, soon would be accomplished. Certainly, the inspired Scriptures, including the predictions of the prophets, and of Christ and his apostles, sealed by their accomplishment, are one grand proof on earth of the truth of Christianity, and of the doctrine of salvation contained therein. And the water — Of baptism, emblematical of the washing of regeneration, and of that purity of life consequent thereon, to which we are obliged, and which we in effect promise when we devote ourselves to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost in that ordinance: and which, when evidenced in our conduct, is a convincing proof of the truth of Christianity, and of our title to that eternal life which is revealed in it. And the blood — The Lord’s supper, appointed as a memorial of, and testimony to, the sacrifice of the death of Christ, till his second coming; and which exhibits the atoning blood of Christ, from age to age, as the procuring cause of the pardon of sin, and all the spiritual blessings consequent thereon, bestowed on true believers. It may be proper to observe here, that there is also another respect in which these two ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s supper may be considered as evidences of the truth of Christianity. It is certain that such ordinances are in use among Christians: now, how came this to be the case? When, and how were they introduced? What was their origin? The gospels inform us. If we admit the account they give, we must of necessity admit the truth of Christianity, with which that account is closely connected. If any do not admit that account, let them give another: but this they cannot do. That account therefore is just; and, of consequence, Christianity is not a forgery, but a divine institution. As the blood here implies the testimony which Christ bore to the truth of the gospel, especially of that most essential article of it, his being the Song of Solomon of God, so it may also represent that testimony which is borne to the truth by the sufferings of those who, in different ages and nations, have sealed it with their blood; which is a strong proof of the conviction they had of its truth and importance, and of the virtue and excellence of that religion which enabled them so to do. And these three agree in one — In bearing one and the same testimony, namely, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Messiah, the only Saviour of sinners; in and through whom alone the guilty, depraved, weak, and miserable children of men can obtain spiritual and eternal life; the testimony specified 1 John 5:11-12.

Bengelius thinks there has been a transposition of these two verses, and that this latter, concerning the three that bear witness on earth, was placed by St. John before that which respects the witnesses in heaven; and that it must appear to every reasonable man how absolutely necessary the contested verse is. “St. John,” says he, “could not think of the testimony of the Spirit, and water, and blood, and subjoin, the testimony of God is greater, without thinking also of the testimony of the Son and Holy Ghost; yea, and mentioning it in so solemn an enumeration. Nor can any possible reason be devised why, without three testifying in heaven, he should enumerate three, and no more, who testify on earth. The testimony of all is given on earth, and not in heaven; but they who testify are part on earth, part in heaven. The witnesses who are on earth, testify chiefly concerning his abode on earth, though not excluding his state of exaltation. the witnesses who are in heaven testify chiefly concerning his glory at God’s right hand, though not excluding his state of humiliation. The former, therefore, concerning the witnesses on earth, with the 6th verse, contains a recapitulation of the whole economy of Christ, from his baptism to pentecost: that concerning the witnesses in heaven, contains the sum of the divine economy, from the time of his exaltation. Hence it further appears, that the position of the two verses, which places those who testify on earth before those who testify in heaven, is abundantly preferable to the other, and affords a gradation admirably suited to the subject.”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.And there are three that bear witness in earth - This is a part of the text, which, if the reasoning above is correct, is to be omitted. The genuine passage reads, 1 John 5:7, "For there are three that bear record (or witness, μαρτυροῦντες marturountes) - the Spirit, and the water, and the blood." There is no reference to the fact that it is done "in earth." The phrase was introduced to correspond with what was said in the interpolated passage, that there are three that bear record "in heaven."

The Spirit - Evidently the Holy Spirit. The assertion here is, that that Spirit bears witness to the fact that Jesus is the Son of God, 1 John 5:5. The testimony of the Holy Spirit to this fact is contained in the following things:

(1) He did it at the baptism of Jesus. Notes, Matthew 3:16-17.

(2) Christ was eminently endowed with the influences of the Holy Spirit; as it was predicted that the Messiah would be, and as it was appropriate he should be, Isaiah 11:2; Isaiah 61:1. Compare Luke 4:18; Notes, John 3:34.

(3) the Holy Spirit bore witness to his Messiahship, after his ascension, by descending, according to his promise, on his apostles, and by accompanying the message which they delivered with saving power to thousands in Jerusalem, Acts 2.

(4) he still bears the same testimony on every revival of religion, and in the conversion of every individual who becomes a Christian, convincing them that Jesus is the Son of God. Compare John 16:14-15.

(5) he does it in the hearts of all true Christians, for "no man can say that Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Ghost," 1 Corinthians 12:3. See the notes at that passage.

The Spirit of God has thus always borne witness to the fact that Jesus is the Christ, and he will continue to do it to the end of time, convincing yet countless millions that he was sent from God to redeem and save lost people.

And the water - See the notes at 1 John 5:6. That is, the baptism of Jesus, and the scenes which occurred when he was baptized, furnished evidence that he was the Messiah. This was done in these ways:

(1) It was proper that the Messiah should be baptized when he entered on his work, and perhaps it was expected; and the fact that he was baptized showed that he had "in fact" entered on his work as Redeemer. See the notes at Matthew 3:15.

(2) an undoubted attestation was then furnished to the fact that he was "the Son of God," by the descent of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove, and by the voice that addressed him from heaven, Matthew 3:16-17.

(3) his baptism with water was an emblem of the purity of his own character, and of the nature of his religion.

(4) perhaps it may be implied here, also, that water used in baptism now bears witness to the same thing,

(a) as it is the ordinance appointed by the Saviour;

continued...

8. agree in one—"tend unto one result"; their agreeing testimony to Jesus' Sonship and Messiahship they give by the sacramental grace in the water of baptism, received by the penitent believer, by the atoning efficacy of His blood, and by the internal witness of His Spirit (1Jo 5:10): answering to the testimony given to Jesus' Sonship and Messiahship by His baptism, His crucifixion, and the Spirit's manifestations in Him (see on [2651]1Jo 5:6). It was by His coming by water (that is, His baptism in Jordan) that Jesus was solemnly inaugurated in office, and revealed Himself as Messiah; this must have been peculiarly important in John's estimation, who was first led to Christ by the testimony of the Baptist. By the baptism then received by Christ, and by His redeeming blood-shedding, and by that which the Spirit of God, whose witness is infallible, has effected, and still effects, by Him, the Spirit, the water, and the blood, unite, as the threefold witness, to verify His divine Messiahship [Neander]. And for the three that are said to bear witness on earth; there is, first,

the Spirit, who, though the Holy Ghost were in the former triad, needs not here be taken for another Spirit, but may be the same, considered under another notion, and as testifying in another manner; not transiently and immediately from heaven, as there, but statedly, and as inacting instruments here on earth; extraordinarily, the man Christ Jesus, all his apostles and first disciples, in all the wonderful works which they did for the confirmation of the Christian doctrine; and ordinarily, the whole church of true Christians; for it animates the whole living body of Christ, and makes it, though in an imperfect measure, by a uniform course of actions, tending to God and heaven, an extant visible proof to the world of the truth of that religion which obtains in it, and of his Divine power and nature who is the Head of it. Next,

the water; i.e. the continual untainted, God-like purity of our Lord Jesus, through the whole course of his terrestrial state, manifestly showed him to be the Son of God, an incarnate Deity, inhabiting our world. And lastly,

the blood, his suffering of death, considered in the circumstances, was a most conspicuous, clear testimony and indication who he was; so exactly according to the predictions of the prophets, attended with wonderful amazing concomitants, ending in so glorious a resurrection. And in and with both these

the Spirit, complicating his testimony, did bear witness too, as is intimated (after the former mention of them both) in the latter part of 1Jo 5:6. It testified all along, both in his clear, immaculate life, and in the bloody death in which it assisted him, which it accompanied with so marvellous effects, and out of which at length it fetched him, Romans 1:4. And that part it took, as being the Spirit of truth, 1Jo 5:6, and, as it is there expressed, in the (more emphatical) abstract, truth itself. And there are three that bear witness on earth,.... To the same truth of the sonship of Christ:

the Spirit, and the water, and the blood; by the "Spirit" is not meant the human Spirit or soul of Christ; for however that may be a witness of the truth of his human nature, yet not of his divine sonship: and moreover cannot be said to be a witness in earth; rather the Gospel, called the Spirit, which is a testimony of Christ's person, office, and graces and is preached by men on earth; or else the gifts of the Spirit bestowed on men on earth, both in an extraordinary and ordinary way, by which they have been qualified to bear witness to this truth; or it may be the Holy Spirit itself is intended, as he is in the hearts of his people here on earth, where he not only witnesses to the truth of their sonship, but also of the sonship of Christ, and is that witness a believer has within himself of it, mentioned in 1 John 5:10. By water is designed, not internal sanctification, which though an evidence of regeneration and adoption, yet not of Christ's sonship; but water baptism, as administered on earth in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; and which is a noble and standing testimony to the proper, natural, and eternal sonship of Christ: and by "blood" is intended, not justification by the blood of Christ, but rather the blood of the saints, the martyrs of Jesus, who have shed it on earth, in testimony of their faith in the Son of God, and thereby sealing the truth of it; or rather the ordinance of the Lord's supper, which is the communion of the blood of Christ; and represents that blood which was shed for the remission of sins, and has a continual virtue to cleanse from all sin, which is owing to his being the Son of God. The three witnesses on earth seem therefore to be the Gospel, attended with the Spirit and power of God, and the two ordinances of baptism, and the Lord's supper:

and these agree in one; in their testimony of Christ, the word and ordinances agree together; and the sum and substance of them is Christ; they come from him, and centre in him; they are like the cherubim over the mercy seat, that looked to one another, and to that; and the two ordinances are the church's two breasts, which are equal, and like to one another; there is a great agreement between them, they are like to two young roes that are twins.

And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
8. And there are three that bear witness in earth] These words also are part of the spurious insertion. The true text of 1 John 5:7-8 runs: For those who bear witness are three, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood; and the three agree in one. S. John says ‘those who bear witness’, not simply ‘the witnesses’: they are not merely witnesses who might be called, or who have once been called, but who are perpetually delivering their testimony. The masculine (οἱ μαρτυροῦντες) is evidence of the personality of the Spirit. The Apostle is answering the misgivings of those who fancied that when he, the last of the Apostles, was taken from them, the Church would possess only second-hand evidence, and a tradition ever growing fainter, as to the Person and Mission of the Christ. ‘Nay’, says he, ‘evidence at first-hand is ever present, and each believer has it in himself’ (1 John 5:10). Comp. John 15:26.

are three] It is very doubtful whether the Trinity is even remotely symbolized. Perhaps S. John wishes to give the full, complement of evidence recognized by law (Matthew 18:16; 2 Corinthians 13:1; Deuteronomy 19:15; comp. John 8:17).

the water, and the blood] These of course have the same meaning as before; Christ’s Baptism and Death. “The real value of our Lord’s baptism and His death may be estimated by supposing that neither had taken place, and that our Lord had appeared on His mission without openly professing His mission from God in submitting to the baptism of John; or that He had died quietly, as other men die” (Jelf).

agree in one] Literally, are (united) into the one; or, are for the one object of establishing this truth. This may mean either that they are joined so as to become one witness, or that they co-operate in producing one result. “The trinity of witnesses furnish one testimony”. ‘To be one (ἓν εἶναι) occurs John 10:30; John 17:11; John 17:21-22; and (εἶς ἐστε) 1 Corinthians 3:23 : ‘into one’ (εἰς ἔν) occurs John 11:52; John 17:23 : but ‘to be into one’ or ‘to be into the one’ occurs nowhere else in N. T. ‘The one’ here has been made into an argument for the genuineness of 1 John 5:7. It is said that ‘the one’ plainly implies that ‘one’ has preceded. But this lands us in absurdity by making ‘one’ in 1 John 5:8 mean the same as ‘one’ in 1 John 5:7. ‘One’ in 1 John 5:7 means ‘one Substance’, the ‘Unity in Trinity’. But what sense can ‘The spirit, the water, and the blood agree m the Unity in Trinity’ yield?1 John 5:8. Καὶ τρεῖς εἰσιν οἱ μαρτυροῦντες, and there are three that bear witness) The testimony of the spirit, and the water, and the blood, by a remarkable gradation and addition of strength (Epitasis), is corroborated by the additional testimony of three who give greater testimony. Comp. altogether John 3:8; John 3:11.—ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ, in heaven) See below.—ὁ Πατὴρ, the Father) Under this name the name of God is also understood; as under the name of the Word (respecting which, however, see what shortly follows), the Son is understood; according to the nature of the relatives. Comp. 1 Corinthians 15:28.—ὁ Λόγος, the Word) The name, Word, is remarkably adapted to the testimony. The Word testifies respecting Himself, as respecting the Son of God. Revelation 1:5; Revelation 19:13. Some of the Fathers in this place write Filius (the Son), according to the more frequent usage of Scripture. And even the Florentine and Reutlingensian Latin Manuscripts have this reading (Filius).—τὸ Πνεῦμα, the Spirit) In this passage, and everywhere throughout the Epistle, John, when speaking of the Holy Spirit, understands the epithet Holy. Jesus Christ, before His passion, spake openly of His own testimony and that of the Father: there is added, especially after His glorification, the testimony of the Holy Spirit: ch. 1 John 2:27; John 15:26; Acts 5:32; Romans 8:16. Wherefore, as before a pair of witnesses was urged, John 8:17-18, so now there is a Trinity.—καὶ οὗτοι οἱ τρεῖς ἓν εἰσι, and these three are one) The preceding verse has, and these three agree in one: now it is said, these three are one. There is a carefully weighed difference of expression, although in other places εἰς is either inserted or omitted indifferently. These three are one: just as the two, the Father and the Son, are one. The Spirit is inseparable from the Father and the Son: for unless the Spirit together with the Father and the Son were one, it would be right for us to say, that the Father and the Son, who are one, together with the Spirit, are two: but this would be opposed to the entire sum of the Divine revelation. They are one in essence, in knowledge, in will, and moreover in the agreement of their testimony: John 10:30; John 10:38; John 14:9-11. The three are not opposed conjointly to the other three, but separately, each to each, as though it were said, Not only does the Spirit testify, but the Father also, John 5:37 : not only the water, but the Word also, John 3:11; John 10:41 : not only the blood, but the Spirit also, John 15:26-27. Now it becomes evident how necessary is the reading of the 8th verse. It was impossible for John to think respecting the testimony of the spirit, and the water, and the blood, and add the testimony of God as greater, without thinking also of the testimony of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and making mention of it in an enumeration so solemn; nor can any reason be imagined why, without the three who bear witness in heaven, he should mention those that bear witness on earth, and those as three. Enumerations of this kind are usually not single, but manifold, as Proverbs 30; how much more so in this place? The 7th verse, of whatever importance it is, has a respective force, and tends to this object, that there should be a progressive advance from the 6th verse to the 8th; and here lies the advantage of the complaint above noticed. Whether the 7th verse, respecting the three that bear witness on earth, be compared with the preceding or with the following verse, the 8th is necessary. For the 6th verse and the 7th have some things the same, and some different. Those which are the same, are only repeated on this account, that they may be adapted to the 8th verse: those which are different, and either vary the expression, or add something more to the sentiment, have a still plainer reference to the 8th verse. For instance, in the absolute expression, the Spirit only is said to be bearing witness: in the respective (relative) expression, the water also and the blood are spoken of. In like manner the 7th and 8th verses have some words in common; in others, when the expression is changed, the sentiment itself introduces something different, as in one, and one. The Trinity of heaven, archetypal, fundamental, unchangeable, plainly supports the triad of witnesses on earth, in an accommodated sense. The apostle might either have fixed the number of those who bear witness on earth as greater; comp. 1 John 5:9; or he might have referred [reduced] them all to [under] one spirit; comp. 1 John 5:6; but he reduces them to a triad, solely with reference to the three who bear witness in heaven. From the circumstance, that the Father, and the Word, and the Spirit, are properly three, and are bearing witness, and are one, the same things also are, by a trope, predicated of the spirit, and the water, and the blood; although, it is evident of itself, that the things thus predicated are of themselves less applicable to the subjects spoken of: and this has been perceived by those who, in the verse respecting the spirit, and the water, and the blood, have changed the masculine (tres) into the neuter (tria).[21] See Apparatus, pp. 750, 755. If there is any relation between those who bear witness on earth and those who bear witness in heaven, the arrangement of the words, the spirit, and the water, and the blood, requires, that the spirit be referred to the Father, the water to the Word, and the blood to the Spirit: but this is confirmed only by the express reading of the Father, and the Word, and the Spirit: in the absence of which reading a variously fluctuating allegory has changed the order of the words. See Appar., pp. 757, 764. The apostle, in asserting that the commandments of God are not grievous, deduces their observance not only from the sacraments, but chiefly also from faith in the Sacred Trinity, as the Lord Himself does, Matthew 28:19-20. This whole paragraph shows, on the part of John, a perception derived from God, and a style worthy of this perception. They who do not admit the 8th verse, can give no suitable explanation of the 7th. They reduce the Metalepsis, which we noticed above, into an open Catachresis:[22] but the 8th verse being admitted, the Metalepsis is altogether softened down, and the order in which the spirit is placed, before the water and the blood, is explained, and an account is given of all the words. In short, there is an intimate connection between both verses, a complete rhythm, an inseparable parody (correspondence between the verses); and the one without the other is as a compound period, or a poetical strophe, where the half is wanting.

[21] Origen 4, 143c says, “The disciple John has described the spirit, the water, and the blood, τὰ τρία (neuter) εἰς ἓν γινόμενα, the three things, as concurring in one.”—E.

[22] See Append.Verse 8. - When all three witnesses are enumerated together, the Spirit naturally comes first. He is a living and a Divine witness, independent of the two facts of the baptism and the Passion, which concur with him in testifying that the Son of God is Jesus Christ. Agree in one (εἰς τὸ ἕν εἰσιν)

Lit., are for the one. They converge upon the one truth, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, come in the flesh.

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