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Testimony concerning the Son of God

6 This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one that testifies, for the Spirit is the truth. 7There are three that testify: 8the Spirit and the water and the blood, and these three agree.

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6. This—the Person mentioned in 1Jo 5:5. This Jesus.

he that came by water and blood—"by water," when His ministry was inaugurated by baptism in the Jordan, and He received the Father's testimony to His Messiahship and divine Sonship. Compare 1Jo 5:5, "believeth that Jesus is the Son of God," with Joh 1:33, 34, "The Spirit … remaining on Him … I saw and bare record that this is the Son of God"; and 1Jo 5:8, below, "there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood." Corresponding to this is the baptism of water and the Spirit which He has instituted as a standing seal and mean of initiatory incorporation with Him.

and blood—He came by "the blood of His cross" (so "by" is used, Heb 9:12: "by," that is, with, "His own blood He entered in once into the holy place"): a fact seen and so solemnly witnessed to by John. "These two past facts in the Lord's life are this abiding testimony to us, by virtue of the permanent application to us of their cleansing and atoning power."

Jesus Christ—not a mere appellation, but a solemn assertion of the Lord's Person and Messiahship.

not by, &c.—Greek, "not IN the water only, but IN the water and IN (so oldest manuscripts add) the blood." As "by" implies the mean through, or with, which He came: so "in," the element in which He came. "The" implies that the water and the blood were sacred and well-known symbols. John Baptist came only baptizing with water, and therefore was not the Messiah. Jesus came first to undergo Himself the double baptism of water and blood, and then to baptize us with the Spirit-cleansing, of which water is the sacramental seal, and with His atoning blood, the efficacy of which, once for all shed, is perpetual in the Church; and therefore is the Messiah. It was His shed blood which first gave water baptism its spiritual significancy. We are baptized into His death: the grand point of union between us and Him, and, through Him, between us and God.

it is the Spirit, &c.—The Holy Spirit is an additional witness (compare 1Jo 5:7), besides the water and the blood, to Jesus' Sonship and Messiahship. The Spirit attested these truths at Jesus' baptism by descending on Him, and throughout His ministry by enabling Him to speak and do what man never before or since has spoken or, done; and "it is the Spirit that beareth witness" of Christ, now permanently in the Church: both in the inspired New Testament Scriptures, and in the hearts of believers, and in the spiritual reception of baptism and the Lord's Supper.

because the Spirit is truth—It is His essential truth which gives His witness such infallible authority.

7. three—Two or three witnesses were required by law to constitute adequate testimony. The only Greek manuscripts in any form which support the words, "in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one; and there are three that bear witness in earth," are the Montfortianus of Dublin, copied evidently from the modern Latin Vulgate; the Ravianus, copied from the Complutensian Polyglot; a manuscript at Naples, with the words added in the Margin by a recent hand; Ottobonianus, 298, of the fifteenth century, the Greek of which is a mere translation of the accompanying Latin. All the old versions omit the words. The oldest manuscripts of the Vulgate omit them: the earliest Vulgate manuscript which has them being Wizanburgensis, 99, of the eighth century. A scholium quoted in Matthæi, shows that the words did not arise from fraud; for in the words, in all Greek manuscripts "there are three that bear record," as the Scholiast notices, the word "three" is masculine, because the three things (the Spirit, the water, and the blood) are SYMBOLS OF THE Trinity. To this Cyprian, 196, also refers, "Of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, it is written, 'And these three are one' (a unity)." There must be some mystical truth implied in using "three" (Greek) in the masculine, though the antecedents, "Spirit, water, and blood," are neuter. That THE Trinity was the truth meant is a natural inference: the triad specified pointing to a still Higher Trinity; as is plain also from 1Jo 5:9, "the witness of God," referring to the Trinity alluded to in the Spirit, water, and blood. It was therefore first written as a marginal comment to complete the sense of the text, and then, as early at least as the eighth century, was introduced into the text of the Latin Vulgate. The testimony, however, could only be borne on earth to men, not in heaven. The marginal comment, therefore, that inserted "in heaven," was inappropriate. It is on earth that the context evidently requires the witness of the three, the Spirit, the water, and the blood, to be borne: mystically setting forth the divine triune witnesses, the Father, the Spirit, and the Son. Luecke notices as internal evidence against the words, John never uses "the Father" and "the Word" as correlates, but, like other New Testament writers, associates "the Son" with "the Father," and always refers "the Word" to "God" as its correlate, not "the Father." Vigilius, at the end of the fifth century, is the first who quotes the disputed words as in the text; but no Greek manuscript earlier than the fifteenth is extant with them. The term "Trinity" occurs first in the third century in Tertullian [Against Praxeas, 3].

8. agree in one—"tend unto one result"; their agreeing testimony to Jesus' Sonship and Messiahship they give by the sacramental grace in the water of baptism, received by the penitent believer, by the atoning efficacy of His blood, and by the internal witness of His Spirit (1Jo 5:10): answering to the testimony given to Jesus' Sonship and Messiahship by His baptism, His crucifixion, and the Spirit's manifestations in Him (see on 1Jo 5:6). It was by His coming by water (that is, His baptism in Jordan) that Jesus was solemnly inaugurated in office, and revealed Himself as Messiah; this must have been peculiarly important in John's estimation, who was first led to Christ by the testimony of the Baptist. By the baptism then received by Christ, and by His redeeming blood-shedding, and by that which the Spirit of God, whose witness is infallible, has effected, and still effects, by Him, the Spirit, the water, and the blood, unite, as the threefold witness, to verify His divine Messiahship [Neander].