This is the One who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ--not by water alone, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies to this, because the Spirit is the truth.
I. THE TESTIMONY OF HIS BAPTISM. "This is he that came by water,... even Jesus Christ." The coming here meant is not that of his incarnation, his entrance into this world; but his coming forth from the retirement of Nazareth to enter upon his great redemptive mission. His coming "by water" we regard as referring to his baptism by John. That baptism was:
1. The inauguration of his great mission. When Jesus went to John for baptism he had finally left his private life, and was just about to enter upon his public ministry, and his baptism was a fitting introduction to that ministry.
2. An inauguration characterized by supernatural and Divine attestation. Probably it is for this reason that St. John here refers to our Lord's baptism: "Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway from the water: and lo, the heavens were opened unto him," etc. (Matthew 3:16, 17). And John the Baptist testified, "This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a Man which is become before me: for he was before me. And I knew him not; but that he should be made manifest to Israel," etc. (John 1:30-34).
II. THE TESTIMONY OF HIS CRUCIFIXION. "This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not with the water only, but with the water and with the blood." The reference is to the blood which he shed upon the cross for the redemption of mankind. But how did his death witness to the truth that he was the Son of God?
1. By the extraordinary phenomena associated with his death. "Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour.... And Jesus yielded up the ghost. And behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom," etc. (Matthew 27:45, 50-54; Luke 23:47, 48).
2. By the transcendent moral grandeur expressed in his death. He voluntarily submitted himself to death for the salvation of the lost world. Our Lord said, "Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life that I may take it again. No one taketh it away from me," etc. (John 10:17, 18); "He gave himself for our sins," etc. (Galatians 1:4); "He gave himself a Ransom for us," etc. (1 Timothy 2:6); "He gave himself for us," etc. (Titus 2:14); "Christ also suffered for sins once, the Righteous for the unrighteous," etc. (1 Peter 3:18). He freely surrendered himself to the most painful and shameful death, not for himself, or for his friends, but for sinners and rebels against him and his Father, and in order that they might have eternal life. Such self-sacrifice was more than human, more than angelic, - it was strictly and properly Divine.
"This was compassion like a God,
III. THE TESTIMONY OF HIS SPIRIT. "And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is the truth, For there are three who bear witness, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and the three agree in one." Notice:
1. The nature of the testimony of the Holy Spirit. At our Lord's baptism the Spirit bore witness that he was the Son of God (Matthew 3:16, 17). Our Lord said, "The Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall bear witness of me" (John 15:26). Again he said, "The Spirit of truth... he shall glorify me; for he shall take of mine, and shall declare it unto you." He bore witness to the Messiahship of Jesus by coming down, according to his promise, upon the apostles, and by making the gospel of Christ which they preached a saving power to thousands of souls (Acts 2; Acts 4:31). And he bears witness for Christ in the hearts of Christians (chapter 3:24; 1 Corinthians 12:3).
2. The value of the testimony of the Holy Spirit. "The Spirit, is the truth;" "The Spirit of truth" (John 14:17; John 15:26); "When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he shall guide you into all the truth." His testimony is of the utmost value and importance, because it is perfectly free from error or fraud; proceeding from the Spirit of truth, the Spirit who is the truth, it is light without any darkness, truth without any error. And his testimony is that Jesus is the Messiah and the Son of God.
IV. THE TESTIMONY OF HIS BELIEVING PEOPLE. "He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in him.... And the witness is this, that God gave unto us eternal life, and this life is in his Son." "The object of the Divine testimony being," says Alford, "to produce faith in Christ, the apostle takes him in whom it has wrought this its effect, one who habitually believes in the Son of God, and says of such a one that he possesses the testimony in himself." All genuine believers in Jesus Christ have the witness of their own consciousness "that God gave unto us eternal life, and this life is in his Son." They are conscious that the life of love - love to God and. to man - is theirs. "We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren." And we know that this life was quickened within us through the exercise of faith in Christ. To us individually this is the most convincing of all witnesses. "One thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see."
V. THE TESTIMONY OF ALL THE BEFORE-MENTIONED COMBINED. All the foregoing witnesses are united and concurrent in their evidence. "The three agree in one." We may say that the four agree in one. Their testimony is unanimous. There is no contradiction, no discrepancy in their evidence. With one voice they declare, "Rabbi, thou art the Son of God, thou art the King of Israel." "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." Notice two points in conclusion:
1. The claim which this testimony has upon, our acceptance. "if we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater," etc. We receive human testimony, notwithstanding that
(1) The witness may unintentionally be untrue. Human observations and impressions and recollections are not always accurate; hence the witness of men is sometimes undesignedly incorrect. But in the manifold and Divine testimony to the truth that Jesus is the Son of God there cannot be any inaccuracy or imperfection.
(2) The human witness may intentionally be untrue. Man may endeavour to deceive; he may willfully bear false witness. But "the witness of God is greater." The Spirit of truth cannot lie. Therefore this testimony has the most commanding claims upon our acceptance.
2. The issue involved in type non-acceptance of this testimony. "He that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he hath not believed in the witness that God hath borne concerning his Son." Is any one prepared to discredit God? Will any one implicitly charge him with falsehood? Be it ours to receive his testimony with larger, fuller confidence, and to rest in his Son with deeper, more loving, and more reverent trust. - W.J.
This is He that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ1. There was living then at Ephesus a conspicuous and enterprising teacher, whom not a few were likely to regard as more profound and philosophical than St. John, who himself, very probably, looked down with superb indulgence on the aged Galilean as pious enough in his simple way, but quite uncultured, without any speculative ability, — with crude and unspiritual views of God and the universe, and wholly unfit to interpret Hebraic ideas to men who had breathed the air of Gnostic wisdom. "One confusion," he would say, "which John makes, must be most carefully avoided: you must draw a sharp distinction between 'Jesus' and 'Christ.' 'Jesus' was simply a man eminent for wisdom and goodness, but not supernaturally born, — on whom, at His baptism, a heavenly power called 'Christ' descended, to use Him as an instrument for revealing truth and working miracles, but to depart from Him before He suffered and died." Now St. John contradicts this absolutely. He insists that Jesus is Christ, that Jesus, who is Christ, is also the Son of God. "You must," he says in effect, "be quite clear in your minds on this point; Cerinthus has tried to break up one Person into two; you must keep no terms with that theory of separation; you must hold to the truth of the oneness. This one Jesus Christ came by water and blood; that is, His Baptism and His Passion were means to the end for which He came. The selfsame Person who stooped to the waters of Jordan gave up His blood to be shed for us on Golgotha. This is He, the one indivisible Christ, in whom to believe is to overcome the world."
2. But then comes in, we may be sure, a reference to underlying spiritual realities. Water and blood, in connection with Christ, could not but be invested in St. John's mind with the ideas of cleansing and of propitiation, as when he saw the gush of blood and water from the side of the sacred body he was apparently struck with a combination which seemed to present in a kind of symbolical unity the purifying and the atoning aspect of Christ's work. Many will accept Christ as a peerless model of conduct, and will honestly desire to guide their lives by the rule of His ethical teaching, who yet recoil from the mystery of what the apostles call "propitiation," and explain away the emphasis with which apostles attribute virtue to His "blood." And yet the theory which reduces the Atonement to a signal display of sympathy, whereby One who was Himself sinless identified Himself with the shame and misery of sinners in order to reclaim them, will be found to impair the belief in our Saviour's personal Divinity, and fails to account for, or to justify, the mass of varied language by which Scripture conveys to us the significance of His death. No, believe it, both sides of truth are indispensable; our Lord was given "to be a sacrifice"; and also to be "an example"; and the dependence of purification on the Atonement may at least be illustrated by the order of those words, "forthwith out of His side came blood and water."
3. But yet once more: when we hear that He "came by water and blood," it is well-nigh impossible not to think of that great ordinance in which water is made the "effectual sign," that is, the organ or instrument, of a new birth; and of that still greater rite which embodies for us, in a concrete form, the new and "better covenant," and in which, as St. says, we "drink that which was paid for us." By the mercifully considerate provision of Him who is God and man for us who have souls and bodies, the sacraments of the gospel, with their outward forms and inward gifts, are the chief means whereby His purifying and propitiating action is applied to those on whose behalf He came. The whole thought, then, unfolds itself symmetrically; the events of Christ's baptism and death call up the idea of His two-fold spiritual activity, which again presents itself in close revealed connection with the "laver" or font of our "regeneration," and with the cup which conveys to us the blood of the Great Sacrifice, and which, from that point of view, may naturally be taken to represent "both kinds" of the Holy Eucharist. And here, too, the warning sentence may be needed. The baptized Churchman who is not a communicant would do well to remember that Christ came not with water only, but with water and blood.
(W. Bright, D. D.)
(Bp. Huntington.)I. THIS IS HE THAT CAME BY WATER. Our Lord came from Galilee to Jordan, a lengthened journey, for the purpose of being baptized. This shows the importance of the ordinance.
II. THIS IS HE THAT CAME BY BLOOD — NOT BY WATER ONLY, BUT BY WATER AND BLOOD. The manner in which this announcement is made, is well fitted to impress us with its importance. The blood is noticed with peculiar emphasis. Important as it was, that "Christ came by water," it was still more so that "He came by blood." By the one He undertook the work, but by the other He executed it.
1. Christ came by blood that the prophecies might be fulfilled.
2. Christ came by blood, and so accomplished the design of the ancient law.
3. When Christ came by blood He secured all the blessings of redemption for His people.
4. When He came by blood He opened up a way of access for the sinner to God and to glory.
III. THE CONFIRMATION OF THE SPIRIT'S TESTIMONY. "And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth." The witness of the Spirit was borne to Christ during the whole period of His ministry. But the witness of which the text speaks points to that which was borne by the Spirit after the death of Christ. It began with His resurrection. He was "quickened by the Spirit" on the third, the appointed day. And oh, what a glorious testimony was borne to Him then (Colossians 2:15; Romans 1:4). This testimony was continued in His ascension. During His sojourn of forty days on earth, subsequent to His resurrection, Jesus spoke much of the Spirit to His disciples. Then, in due time, was the Spirit poured out from on high. On the Day of Pentecost He came in "a rushing mighty wind, and in cloven tongues like as of fire." By the transactions of that day the triumphs of the Saviour were manifested to all. Nor did the Spirit then cease His testimony. He continued and increased it in the ministry of the apostles (Mark 16:20).
(J. Morgan, D. D.)
I. THE FIRST PART OF THIS DESIGN is declared by St. John, in this epistle (1 John 1:7). Cleansing is a term which supposes defilement; and sin is, in Scripture, represented as horribly defiling, rendering the soul impure, odious, and abominable in the sight of God, who is perfectly pure and holy. If we are duly sensible of our sinful defilement, we shall certainly be anxious for cleansing. And how can this be obtained? The tears of repentance will not wash away our sins. Nor is mere reformation and moral improvement sufficient. But, behold the Divine provision! Behold the precious blood issuing from the wounded side of the Son of God! The blood of which we speak, procures the justification of all who believe. We are said to be "justified through faith in His (Christ's) blood"; elsewhere, to be "brought nigh by His blood"; and again, to be "redeemed by His blood"; and to be "washed from our sins in His blood." But it is "through faith" that we are thus justified; Jesus Christ is "the propitiation for our sins": but it is "through faith in His blood"; it must be received by every man, for himself, in particular. The perfect efficacy of this blood is frequently expressed in Scripture in very strong terms: "I have blotted out," saith God, "thy sins, as a thick cloud." "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow." Yea, saith the penitent psalmist, "Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow"; and again, "As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us." "This is He that came by blood."
II. THIS IS HE THAT CAME BY WATER. This signifies a second blessed effect of the death of Christ, the sanctification of believers, in virtue of that death.
1. It is by the mediation of Christ, meritoriously. We owe to Jesus Christ the renovation of our nature in the image of God; for He died to "bring us to God"; to "redeem us to God" (Ephesians 5:25, 27).
2. It is through faith in Christ, instrumentally.
3. But it is efficiently, by the Holy Spirit, that believers are sanctified.
4. The sanctification of believers is promoted by the means of grace, as religious ordinances of Divine appointment are properly called.
5. To these we may add, the various afflictions with which God, in His holy providence, visits His people.Conclusion:
1. Let us reflect, with becoming humility, on our natural defilement.
2. If we are by nature thus defiled, how necessary is it that we should be cleansed?
3. Let believers in Christ, already sanctified in part, still look to Jesus for further supplies of grace.
And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth
I. IN ORDER TO KNOW THAT OUR LORD DID REALLY RISE FROM THE DEAD, WE HAVE TO SATISFY OURSELVES THAT THREE DISTINCT QUESTIONS CAN BE ANSWERED.
1. Whether Jesus Christ did really die upon the Cross. The wonder is not that He died when He did, after hanging for three hours in agony, but that, after all His sufferings at the hands of the soldiers and the populace, before His crucifixion, He should have lived so long. Yet suppose that what looked like death on the Cross was only a fainting fit. Would He have survived the wound in His side, inflicted by the soldier's lance, through which the blood yet remaining in His heart and the water of the pericardium escaped? But suppose, against all this evidence, that when Jesus was taken down from the Cross, He was still living. Then He must have been suffocated by Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus when they embalmed Him. The Jews carefully inspected and sealed His tomb: they had sentinels placed there; and were satisfied that the work was thoroughly done. To do them justice, the Jews have never denied the reality of our Lord's death; it is impossible to do so, without paradox.
2. Whether the disciples did not take our Lord's dead body out of His sepulchre.(1) They would not have wished to do it. Why should they? They either believed that He would rise from the dead, or they did not. If they did believe it, they would have shrunk from disturbing His grave, as from an act not less unnecessary than profane. If they did not believe in it, and instead of abandoning themselves to unreflecting grief, allowed themselves to think steadily, what must have been their estimate of their dead Master? They must now have thought of Him as of one who had deceived them, or who was Himself deceived. On either supposition, why should they rouse the anger of the Jews, and incur the danger of swift and heavy punishment?(2) But had they desired, they surely would not have dared it. Until Pentecost, they were, by their own account, very timid men.(3) And, once more, had they desired and dared to remove our Lord's body from its grave, such a feat was obviously beyond their power. The tomb was guarded by soldiers.
3. The amount of positive testimony which goes to show that Jesus Christ did rise from the dead.(1) The witness of all the apostles. They gave their lives in attestation of this fact. Their conduct after the day of Pentecost is throughout that of men whose trustworthiness and sincerity of purpose are beyond dispute.(2) The testimony of a large number of persons besides the apostles. Take the case of the three thousand converts on the day of Pentecost. They had unrivalled opportunities for satisfying themselves of its being a reality or a fiction. Yet at the risk of comfort, position, nay, life, they publicly professed their belief in its truth. Or consider the case of the two hundred and fifty and more persons still living when St. Paul wrote the First Epistle to the Corinthians, who had seen the risen Jesus on one occasion during the forty days. Five hundred persons could not be simultaneously deluded. Their testimony would be considered decisive as to any ordinary occurrence, where men wished only to ascertain the simple truth.
II. THE FORCE OF THIS BODY OF TESTIMONY IS NOT REALLY WEAKENED BY OBJECTIONS WHICH DO NOT DIRECTLY CHALLENGE IT, AND WHICH TURN ON ACCESSORY OR SUBORDINATE POINTS.
1. For instance, it is said that the evangelical accounts of the resurrection itself, and of our Lord's subsequent appearances, are difficult to reconcile with each other. At first sight they are; but only at first sight. In order to reconcile them two things are necessary: first, patience, and secondly, a determination to exclude everything from the narrative which does not lie in the text of the Gospels. The differences are just what might be expected in four narratives of the same event, composed at different periods, by different authors, who had distinct sources of information at command. Each says what he has to say with blunt and simple directness, without an eye to the statements of the others, or to the possible comment of hostile critics.
2. It is, further, objected that the resurrection was not sufficiently public. Jesus Christ ought to have left His grave, so it is urged, in the sight of a crowd of lookers on; and, when risen, He ought to have hastened to show Himself to the persons least likely to believe in His resurrection — to the Jews at large, to the high priests, to Pilate, to His executioners.(1) Here it is obvious, first of all, that the guards may very well have seen Jesus leave His tomb. Scripture says nothing on the point. But they were terrified, almost to death, at the sight of the angel of the sepulchre. Any number of witnesses who had been present would have been as much frightened as were the guards.(2) Nor is the old objection of Celsus, that Jesus Christ ought to have shown Himself to the Jews and to His judges in order to rebuke their unbelief, more reasonable. Had He appeared to the chief priests, would they have believed in Him? Would they not have denied His identity, or argued that a devil had taken His form before their eyes, just as of old they had ascribed His miracles to Beelzebub? The Jews had ample opportunities of ascertaining that the resurrection was a fact, if they had desired to do so. But as it was, they were not in a mood to be convinced, even by the evidence of their senses.(3) Far deeper than these objections is that which really lies against all miracles whatever, as being at variance with that conception of a rigid uniformity in the processes of nature, which is one of the intellectual fashions of our day. Suffice it to say, that any idea of natural law which is held to make a miracle impossible, is also inconsistent with belief in the existence of God.
III. Here, then, we are coming round to the point from which we started. For it is natural to ask, WHY, IF THE RESURRECTION CAN BE PROVED BY EVIDENCE SO GENERALLY SUFFICIENT, IT WAS AT THE TIME, AND IS STILL, REJECTED BY A GREAT MANY INTELLIGENT MEN? The answer to this natural and legitimate question is of practical importance to all of us. There can, I apprehend, be no sort of doubt that if an ordinary historical occurrence, such as the death of Julius Caesar, were attested as clearly as the resurrection of our Lord — not more clearly, nor less — as having taken place nineteen centuries ago, all the world would believe it as a matter of course. The reason why the resurrection was not always believed upon the evidence of those who witnessed to it is, because to believe it means, for a consistent and thoughtful man, to believe in and to accept a great deal else. To believe the resurrection is to believe implicitly in the Christian faith. It is no mere speculative question whether Jesus Christ did or did not rise from the dead; it is an eminently practical one. The intellect is not more interested in it than the will; perhaps it is even less interested. The real difficulties of belief lie, generally speaking, with the will. And nothing is more certain, I may add, more alarming, than the power of the will to shape, check, promote, control conviction. And such is the power of the will that it can give effect to this decision. It can baulk and thwart the action of the intellect; give it a perverse twist, and even set it scheming how best to discredit or refute the truth which but now it was on the point of accepting. And thus we may understand what it is that the Spirit does to produce faith. He does not set aside or extinguish the operations of the natural reason; reason too is a guide to truth which God has given us. But He does change the temper, or the direction of the will. And thus He sets the reason free to do justice to the evidence before it. It is thus that within us the Spirit beareth witness. The evidence for the resurrection was not stronger on the Day of Pentecost than it was on the day before. But the descent of the Spirit made it morally possible for three thousand converts to do that evidence something like justice. And now we can see why St. Paul makes so much of faith — especially in a risen Christ — in his great Epistles. If the understanding were alone concerned there would be no more reason for our being justified by faith in a crucified and risen Christ than for our being justified by our assent to the conclusion of a problem in Euclid. It is because the will must endorse the verdict of the understanding, and so must mean obedience as well as assent, that "by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God."
(Canon Liddon.)Isaiah 11:1-3).(3) The Spirit bore witness to Christ by the signs and wonders which He enabled the apostles to perform in attestation of their Divine commission.(4) He bears witness to Christ in that Holy Bible which so clearly and impressively unfolds His glory and His grace.(5) He bears witness also by "revealing God's Son in" the soul — by bringing the gospel practically to bear on the understanding, the conscience, and the heart.
(A. S. Patterson, D. D.)
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