7554 - By Water and Blood

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May God open our eyes to the wonders of His Word, as we study together today.

Let’s seek to understand the meaning of 1 John 5; verse 6. It says, “This is the one who came by water and blood –– Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.”

This is one of the highly debated verses from the Bible. The scholar Dr. Plummer calls this first phrase the ‘most perplexing’ in the letter.

The difficulty is to understand what is meant by the terms water and blood.

To illustrate the difficulty we will quickly mention some interpretations and seek to settle on the one which is most authentic by the principle of consistency of Scripture –– which one fits the usage throughout Scripture?

Some of the early fathers, including Luther and Calvin, have seen in these words reference to the two sacraments of the gospel –– baptism and the Lord’s supper. These are rejected by most as not being consistent. This interpretation looks upon these words as being symbolic, and the verb form here is such that they refer to actual events in the life of Christ.

Others link this passage to the scene of the crucifixion in John 19:34, which tells that when the soldiers pierced the side of Jesus with the spear, there came forth a flow of blood and water. Attention is called to the fact that the order of the words is reversed in these two verses; thus, pointing to inconsistency.

The most satisfactory explanation which holds to the truth of verb tense in requiring historical experience through which Jesus passed and which witness in some sense to his divine-human task here on earth. Many scholars agree that the water in this phrase points to the water baptism of Jesus Christ by John the Baptist in the Jordan River.

The culmination of this historical event was punctuated by heaven opening and the Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus, along with the voice of God declaring Jesus to be His Son, the promised Messiah/Christ. John the Baptist readily shared that this was the sign promised to him by God at the beginning of John’s ministry, as the authenticating revelation of the Messiah. This baptism of Jesus is looked upon as the initiation of the active ministry of Jesus at age 30.

In contrast the bloody Crucifixion on the cross is the historical act through which his ministry was proven with certainty to be covered by righteousness and godliness. And through his death, his blood paid the penalty for the sins of the people of the world.

The last portion of this verse lays out the truth that the Holy Spirit continues to testify to this truth.

Thus we see the water baptism of Jesus marks the beginning of the ministry of Jesus, while his crucifixion marks the end of his earthly ministry.

This dual testimony of the water and blood has another significance not so obvious to people today. In the early centuries, false teachers sought to distinguish between Jesus and Christ. They held that Jesus was a mere man, born of Joseph and Mary in a natural birth. They taught that this human Jesus was united with Christ at the baptism, but that the Christ was separated from Jesus before the experience on the cross.

The Apostle John was writing at the end of the first century to refute this fundamental error; thus, John uses the compound expression Jesus Christ, to emphasize that he was both man and God, and came by water and blood, not by water only. “No!” He is saying, “Jesus Christ was the same at the beginning and likewise at the end of his ministry; and the Holy Spirit gives this testimony.

Oh friend, this truth is important to people today. We must believe, embrace and live by Biblical Truth.