Letters From an Old Man, Part 10

Spirit, Water, and Blood

1 John 5:6—12

Last time, we discovered that believers have certain victory over the world—

[F]or everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.  (1 John 5:4, 5)

Now, John will go on to show the grounds on which that belief is based.  Our victory over the world is based on:

  • Historic facts; Jesus was a real man who was the Son of God;
  • Divine testimony; God Himself testifies to us about His Son;
  • Christian experience; the Holy Spirit convinces us.

1.  Historical fact, verse 6a

This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood.

Notice carefully what John says.  He writes in the past tense saying Jesus Christ “came.”  The coming of Jesus into the world is an accomplished historic fact.  He says, “Jesus Christ” and not merely “Jesus” for a purpose.  First, Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.  The false teachers had taught that a man called Jesus was born and that this man became the Son of God at his baptism.  John chose his words carefully:  Jesus Christ came.   It was the Son the God who came into the world, not a man who became the Son of God temporarily.

It was the Son of God, not some kind of supernatural man, who intruded into our world, who was baptized in and filled with the Spirit. It was the Son who was approved of by God the Father, who suffered and bore our sins on the cross in order to redeem humanity.

Of this Son of God, John writes that he “came by water and blood.”  What exactly did John mean by that enigmatic statement?  Augustine thought it was in reference to the piercing of Jesus’ side on the cross—

Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.  (John 19:34)

John Calvin and Martin Luther see the sacraments, water baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  Still other scholars think John was referring back the Old Testament sacrificial system.   John’s meaning is a lot simpler than that.  Jesus began his ministry on the Earth after He was baptized in water and He accomplished His mission by shedding His blood.  The salvation of mankind was accomplished after the water and after the blood.  The reference of blood was important.  The Gnostic false teachers, whom John was combating, claimed that Jesus never really died.  John says, in fact, He did die when He shed His blood.

2.  Divine testimony, 6b—9

And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. We accept man’s testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son.

The very first phrase of this paragraph is jam-packed with meaning.  “And it is the Spirit who testifies” is written in the present tense, as though the Spirit continually testifies to the truth.  He never stops testifying to the greatness of the work accomplished by Jesus Christ on our behalf.    If we skim over the New Testament, we see the Spirit testifying to Christ’s conception and birth (Matthew 1:20; Luke 1:35), His baptism (Matthew 3:16), His teaching (John 6:63), and His ministry (Luke 4:1, 18).   What John wrote here is just a confirmation of something Jesus said earlier—

When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me.  (John 15:26)

How does the Holy Spirit do accomplish this?   Simply by confirming the Word of God to our hearts.

Why does the Spirit have to do this?  The answer is in the second phrase, “because the Spirit is the truth.”   In John’s day, with all the false teachers and false teaching flooding the Church, the people had to know how they could know the truth.  It isn’t much different to day; there is much bad teaching and preaching spewing over the pulpits of the country.  How can a believer, whose ears are itching for the truth, know the truth?  Who can they trust?

For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.  (Romans 8:15—16)

So the Holy Spirit, then, is the agent of our adoption—He makes us children of God—and as we read and meditate on and hear the Word of God preached, He takes that Word and makes it live in our hearts; He convinces us of the reality of our position in Christ as we are exposed to the living Word.  So many Christians are unsure of their salvation or they are riddled with doubt because they don’t allow the Spirit to testify to them about Christ because they ignore His Word!   If you want the victory over the world John wrote about, you have to put forth the effort to obtain it!

Verse 8 is difficult for us to understand.  We can understand how the Spirit can speak to us, supernaturally through the Word, but how can inanimate things like water and blood do that?  What is John getting at?   In the Jewish mind, impersonal objects testify all the time.  For example, we read in Genesis 31:48—

Laban said, “This heap is a witness between you and me today.” That is why it was called Galeed.

Laban and Jacob made a deal and piled up a heap of stones that would testify to their agreement.  We see things like that all over the Old Testament.  But why water and blood?  It is because of this verse in the Mosaic law—

One witness is not enough to convict a man accused of any crime or offense he may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.  (Deuteronomy 19:15)

John is not leaving anything to chance:  not one, not two, but three witnesses bear witness to the truth about Jesus Christ.  This is vital because man on his own cannot grasp the deep truths of God.  The Spirit Himself provides what man is unable to acquire himself:  a knowledge of Jesus Christ; the witness of the Holy Spirit accompanies every sermon, every Bible study and every time you open your Bibles at home, you are not alone!

3.  Christian experience, verses 10—12

Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.

Just how important is belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God?  Here John spells it out in no uncertain terms.   Anybody who believes in the testimony of the Spirit, the water, and the blood, receives yet another inner witness:  the Father!  Stott comments—

He is given a deeper assurance by the inward witness of the Spirit that he was right to trust in Christ.

What John is getting at is simply this:  When we believe, we are given faith by God.  Faith is God’s gift to the believer to lay hold of the truths of God’s Word.  But it starts with believing in Christ.  Believing becomes receiving.

The overwhelming gravity of the witness of the Spirit is shown by the corollary:

Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar.

In other words, a person who refuses to believe the witness of God concerning His Son Jesus Christ has made God out to be a liar.  There are not too many offenses more serious than declaring God is a liar by your actions.  By rejecting God’s Word, you not only reject it, but you reject God and you impugn His character by saying that He is a liar.

John, of course, had the false teachers in sight as he penned those words, but they are applicable anybody who rejects God’s testimony.  John Stott wrote—

Unbelief is not a misfortune to be pitied; it is a sin to be deplored.

The unbeliever’s sin lies in his deliberate refusal to accept and believe God’s testimony about His Son and in his arrogant denial that God and the Son are one.  No man can claim to believe in God on the one hand and on the other hand reject God’s testimony about His Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Do you know what means?  It means that when somebody says to you, “Of course I believe in God,” that statement means nothing.  According to the demons, they believe in God, too, and that belief doesn’t do them any good.  No, it is the gift of faith given us by God that enables us to have faith in Jesus Christ that saves us.  But it is not faith in an idea or a system of faith or faith in our salvation that saves us.  It is faith in a Person and what that Person did on our behalf.  That Person is Jesus Christ.  That Person is to live in us, His love is dwell in us and be manifested through us, and we are to live in Him.  And to live in Him is eternal life.

(c)  2009 WitzEnd
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