1 John (10): The Testimony Received (5:6-12)
The Testimony of the Water and the Blood (5:6a) - “This is the One who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not with the water only, but with the water and with the blood.” As we revisit “The Truth” section of the outline, at first glance John gives strange words. What does it mean that Jesus came by “water and blood”? There are three main views: 1) Luther and Calvin thought it referred to sacraments, baptism (water) and communion (blood). 2) Augustine saw the “water and blood” as the crucifixion when from his side came “blood and water” (John 19:34–35). 3) Tertullian probably has it right, though he is usually to be less trusted that Luther, Calvin or Augustine. He and most commentators see the “water and blood” as punctuating Jesus’ earthly ministry which began with His baptism (water) and ended with His crucifixion (blood). This view makes more sense of the false teaching context where Jesus humanity (thus real death) was being denied. It was “not with the water only” (5:6) - not that Jesus was anointed Messiah in his baptism only. Rather Jesus was Messiah in his blood-death (propitiation) as well.
The Testimony of the Spirit (56b-9) - “It is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. 5:7 For there are three that testify: 5:8 the Spirit and the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. . . ” The doctrine of the “internal testimony of the Holy Spirit” is supported throughout the epistle. The Spirit “testifies” with the “water and blood” and this is the testimony of God. These “three” testify of the same truth that the man Jesus of Nazareth is the divine Son of God. The Spirit always testifies according to the Word because He is “the truth” (6b). Note: The King James has additional words in v7, not found in the earliest and best Greek texts, “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one” (5:7). While this would be a great proof text for the Trinity, it is not necessary to John’s Trinitarian theology (which we saw in the last passage) and probably was not part of the original.
The Testimony within the Believer (5:10-12) - “The one who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself . . . 5:12 He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.” The concluding verses in the section make clear the same message that has been repeated throughout the epistle yet with an added component of assurance. Despite the claims of false teachers who claim to abide in the Father, have “life,” the “spirit” and the “anointing,” a believer in Jesus has “the testimony in himself” (5:10). The function of the Spirit bearing witness within a Christian is to assure the believer that he has the Son. Those who have the Son have eternal life and those who do not have Jesus do not have eternal life (5:12).
Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more