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THE FIRST EPISTLE GENERAL OF JOHN - Chapter 5 - Verse 6

Verse 6. This is he. This Son of God referred to in the previous verse. The object of the apostle in this verse, in connexion with 1 Jo 5:8, is to state the nature of the evidence that Jesus is the Son of God. He refers to three well-known things on which he probably had insisted much in his preaching—the water, and the blood, and the Spirit. These, he says, furnished evidence on the very point which he was illustrating, by showing that that Jesus on whom they believed was the Son of God. "This," says he, "is the same one, the very person, to whom the well-known, and important testimony is borne; to him, and him alone, this undisputed things appertain, and not to any other who should claim to be the Messiah; and they all agree on the same one point," 1 Jo 5:8.

That came. o elywn. This does not mean that when he came into the world he was accompanied in some way by water and blood; but the idea is, that the water and the blood were clearly manifest during his appearing on earth, or that they were remarkable testimonials in some way to his character and work. An ambassador might be said to come with credentials; a warrior might be said to come with the spoils of victory; a prince might be said to come with the insignia of royalty; a prophet comes with signs and wonders; and the Lord Jesus might also be said to have come with power to raise the dead, and to heal disease, and to cast out devils; but John here fixes the attention on a fact so impressive and remarkable in his view as to be worthy of special remark, that he came by water and blood.

By water. There have been many opinions in regard to the meaning of this phrase. See Pool's Synopsis. Compare also Lucke, in loc. A mere reference to some of these opinions may aid in ascertaining the true interpretation.

(1.) Clement of Alexandria supposes that by water regeneration and faith were denoted, and by blood the public acknowledgment of that.

(2.) Some, and among them Wetstein, have held that the words are used to denote the fact that the Lord Jesus was truly a man, in contradistinction from the doctrine of the Docetae; and that the apostle means to say that he had all the properties of a human being—a spirit or soul, blood, and the watery humours of the body.

(3.) Grotius supposes that by his coming "by water," there is reference to his pure life, as water is the emblem of purity; and he refers to Eze 36:25; Isa 1:16; Jer 4:14.

As a sign of that purity, he says that John baptized him, Joh 1:28. A sufficient objection to this view is, that as in the corresponding word blood there is undoubted reference to blood literally, it cannot be supposed that the word water in the same connexion would be used figuratively. Moreover, as Lucke (p. 287) has remarked, water, though a symbol of purity, is never used to denote purity itself, and therefore cannot here refer to the pure life of Jesus.

(4.) Many expositors suppose that the reference is to the baptism of Jesus, and that by his "coming by water and blood," as by the latter there is undoubted reference to his death, so by the former there is reference to his baptism, or to his entrance on his public work. Of this opinion were Tertullian, Ecumenius, Theophylact, among the fathers, and Capellus, lieumann, Stroth, Lange, Ziegler, A. Clarke, Bengel, Rosenmuller, Macknight, and others, among the moderns. A leading argument for this opinion, as alleged, has been that it was then that the Spirit bare witness to him, (Mt 3:16,) and that this is what John here refers to when he says, "It is the Spirit that beareth witness," etc. To this view, Lucke urges substantially the following objections:

(a.) That if it refers to baptism, the phrase would much more appropriately express the fact that Jesus came baptizing others, if that were so, than that he was baptized himself. The phrase would be strictly applicable to John the Baptist, who came baptizing, and whose ministry was distinguished for that, (Mt 3:1;) and if Jesus had baptized in the same manner, or if this had been a prominent characteristic of his ministry, it would be applicable to him. Comp. Joh 4:2. But if it means that he was baptized, and that he came in that way "by water," it was equally true of all the apostles who were baptized, and of all others, and there was nothing so remarkable in the fact that he was baptized as to justify the prominence given to the phrase in this place.

(b.) If reference be had here, as is supposed in this view of the passage, to the "witness" that was borne to the Lord Jesus on the occasion of his baptism, then the reference should have been not to the "water" as the witness, but to the "voice that came from heaven," (Mt 3:17,) for it was that which was the witness in the case. Though this occurred at the time of the baptism, yet it was quite an independent thing, and was important enough to have been referred to. See Lucke, Com. in loc. These objections, however, are not insuperable. Though Jesus did not come baptizing others himself, (Joh 4:2,) and though the phrase would have expressed that if he had, yet, as Christian baptism began with him; as this was the first act in his entrance on public life; as it was by this that he was set apart to his work; and as he designed that this should be always the initiatory rite of his religion, there was no impropriety in saying that his "coming," or his advent in this world, was at the beginning characterized by water, and at the close by blood. Moreover, though the "witness" at his baptism was really borne by a voice from heaven, yet his baptism was the prominent thing; and if we take the baptism to denote all that in fact occurred when he was baptized, all the objections made by Lucke here vanish.

(5.) Some, by the "water" here, have understood the ordinance of baptism as it is appointed by the Saviour to be administered to his people, meaning that the ordinance was instituted by him. So Beza, Calvin, Piscator, Calovius, Wolf, Beausobre, Knapp, Lucke, and others understand it. According to this the meaning would be, that he appointed baptism by water as a symbol of the cleansing of the heart, and shed his blood to effect the ransom of man, and that thus it might be said that he "came by water and blood;" to wit, by these two things as effecting the salvation of men. But it seems improbable that the apostle should have grouped these things together in this way. For

(a.) the "blood" is that which he shed; which pertained to him personally; which he poured out for the redemption of man; and it is clear that, whatever is meant by the phrase "he came," his coming by "water" is to be understood in some sense similar to his coming by "blood;" and it seems incredible that the apostle should have joined a mere ordinance of religion in this way with the shedding of his blood, and placed them in this manner on an equality.

(b.) It cannot be supposed that John meant to attach so much importance to baptism as would be implied by this. The shedding of his blood was essential to the redemption of men; can it be supposed that the apostle meant to teach that baptism by water is equally necessary?

(c.) If this be understood of baptism, there is no natural connexion between that and the "blood" referred to; nothing by which the one would suggest the other; no reason why they should be united. If he had said that he "came" by the appointment of two ordinances for the edification of the church, "baptism and the supper," however singular such a statement might be in some respects, yet there would be a connexion, a reason why they should be suggested together. But why should baptism and the blood shed by the Saviour on the cross be grouped together as designating the principal things which characterized his coming into the world?

(6.) There remains, then, but one other interpretation; to wit, that he refers to the "water and the blood" which flowed from the side of the Saviour when he was pierced by the spear of the Roman soldier. John had himself laid great stress on this occurrence, and on the fact that he had himself witnessed it, See Barnes "Joh 19:34, (See Barnes "Joh 19:35";) and as, in these epistles, he is accustomed to allude to more full statements made in his gospel, it would seem most natural to refer the phrase to that event as furnishing a clear and undoubted proof of the death of the Saviour. This would be the obvious interpretation, and would be entirely clear, if John did not immediately speak of the "water" and the "blood" as separate witnesses, each as bearing witness to an important point, as separate as the "Spirit" and the "water," or the "Spirit" and the "blood;" whereas, if he refers to the mingled water and blood flowing from his side, they both witness only the same fact, to wit, his death. There was no special significance in the water, no distinct testifying to anything different from the flowing of the blood; but together they bore witness to the one fact that he actually died. But here he seems to suppose that there is some special significance in each. "Not by water only, but by water and blood." "There are three that bear witness, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood, and these three agree in one." These considerations seem to me to make it probable, on the whole, that the fourth opinion, above referred to, and that which has been commonly held in the Christian church, is correct, and that by the "water" the baptism of the Saviour is intended; his baptism as an emblem of his own purity; as significant of the nature of his religion; as a rite which was to be observed in his church at all times. That furnished an important attestation to the fact that he was the Messiah, (comp. See Barnes "Mt 3:15,) for it was by that that he entered on his public work, and it was then that a remarkable testimony was borne to his being the Son of God. He himself "came" thus by water as an emblem of purity; and the water used in his church in all ages in baptism, together with the "blood" and the "Spirit," bears public testimony to the pure nature of his religion. It is possible that the mention of the "water" in his baptism suggested to John also the water which flowed from the side of the Saviour at his death, intermingled with blood; and that though the primary thought, in his mind was the fact that Jesus was baptized, and that an important attestation was then given to his Messiahship, yet he may have instantly adverted to the fact that water performed so important a part, and was so important a symbol through all his work; water at his introduction to his work as an ordinance in his church, as symbolical of the nature of his religion, and even at his death, as a public attestation, in connexion with flowing blood, to the fact that he truly died, in reality, and not, as the Docetae pretended, in appearance only, thus completing the work of the Messiah, and making an atonement for the sins of the world. Comp. See Barnes "Joh 19:34, See Barnes "Joh 19:35".

 

And blood, referring, doubtless, to the shedding of his blood on the cross. He "came" by that; that is, he was manifested by that to men, or that was one of the forms in which he appeared to men, or by which his coming into the world was characterized. The apostle means to say that the blood shed at his death furnished an important evidence or "witness" of what he was. In what way this was done, See Barnes "1 Jo 5:8".

Not by water only, but by water and blood. John the Baptist came "by water only;" that is, he came to baptize the people, and to prepare them for the coming of the Messiah. Jesus was distinguished from him in the fact that his ministry was characterized by the shedding of blood, or the shedding of his blood constituted one of the peculiarities of his work. And it is this Spirit. Evidently the Holy Spirit. That beareth witness. That is, he is the great witness in the matter, confirming all others. He bears witness to the soul that Jesus came "by water and blood," for that would not be received by us without his agency. In what way he does this, See Barnes "1 Jo 5:8".

 

Because the Spirit is truth. Is so eminently true that he may be called truth itself, as God is so eminently benevolent that he may be called love itself. See Barnes "1 Jo 4:8".

 

{a} "came by" Joh 19:34

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