Vol. 2 - No. 4
These Three Say Jesus Is God's Son!
by R. L. "Bob" Craig
"Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and everyone that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. For whosoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth. (For there are three that bear record in heaven; the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one.) (Note: Older manuscripts omit this verse therefore we are not concerning ourselves with it in this essay. RLC) And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one. If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son." I John 5:1-9).
Belief, or faith, is essential in approaching the throne of grace, hence having bestowed upon us the great gifts of the beneficent Father -- remission of sins and the hope of life eternal. Faith, trust, confidence in Jesus as the divine Son is an absolute in serving God, inasmuch as we could not or would not serve one in whom we have no confidence. We would reject, mock, ridicule, or at the very best, ignore the advice or warning of one in whom there was no reason to believe. But, if a person has established his credibility by the testimony of competent witnesses, we have every reason to listen and to heed whatever words of wisdom he may expound.
So it is with he who urges us to "come" unto him, in order to relief from the terrible burden we bear and from which we cannot escape unless we have divine help -- weight of the guilt of our sins. Who is this person who so promises? Why should we believe what he has to say? Why? Because he calls witnesses to testify in his behalf. We hear their testimony, weigh it carefully, either believe the witnesses or reject their testimony.
So, the apostle parades before us the three great witnesses to which he, or we, can appeal --the water, the blood and the Spirit. Some believe that our passage is a direct reference to the time of our Lord's crucifixion, evidently because this same apostle is the only one who records the incident of his death as the soldier pierces his side: "and forthwith came there out blood and water" (John 19:34). Also, most Bibles, in their chain of references, point their readers to this text in first John which we have under consideration.
But, think with me for a moment: how would this blood and water which came from his side at that time bear testimony that he was God's Son? Would anyone, either being present at that miserable event, or reading about it in the Book, reach the essential conclusion that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, just because he saw blood and water coming forth from the side of a dead man? After all, that would have happened had the soldier pierced the side of one of the thieves after their death. "This was a natural effect, and would follow in any other case." (Albert Barnes in Barnes on the New Testament, Vol. 2, pg. 374.)
So, how did the water, the blood, and the Spirit bring forth irrefutable proof that this Jesus of Nazareth was actually God's Son?
I have diligently searched the New Testament scriptures in regard to water. The only water of any significance at all, in the story of Jesus, is the water of Jordan in which he was baptized or the time when he changed the water into wine at the wedding feast of Cana. I would eliminate the wedding feast on the basis that this was just one of many miraculous incidents that would overall testify to his Sonship, but there is nothing in that particular event above the other incidents that would in some way declare him to be God's Son. Therefore I believe that the baptismal water is the water John alludes to as witnessing to the fact that Jesus is that divine being. Of course, just the water itself cannot testify, just as the blood itself could not testify. The statement has to do with the events centered around the water and the blood. So, at the baptism of Jesus, as he came up out of the water, the Spirit of God descended upon him like unto a dove, and abode upon him.
Some might say that this is the incident of the Spirit bearing witness, but from all indications, John the baptizer was the only one who was enabled to see the Spirit. John testifies: "And I saw and bear record that this is the Son of God" (John 1:34). God gave John this specific sign so that he might know this fact and testify to others that this "is the lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world." But this is John's testimony, not that of the Spirit.
But when all the incidents pertaining to the baptism of Jesus were completed, then the voice from heavenly regions said, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17). Thus, the water, indicative of the baptism and the events surrounding it, brings forth the divine proclamation. So, in his baptism, he was declared to be the very one of whom John writes, saying, "This is he that came by water…" (1 John 5:6).
Now, I think it is fairly well established that the literal blood that flowed from the pierced side of Jesus would not, in any way, testify to the people anything that the literal blood of the thief would not testify to. Remember, John is discussing why people should believe that Jesus was actually God's Son. He would come, or be made known, in some way, by the blood. So, I am suggesting, that blood, as is used in our text, stands for death. In many places, throughout the Bible, blood and death are used synonymously. "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed" (Genesis 9:6). This statement is not saying that one must bring forth literal blood in killing a person, but the writer is alluding to death -- any kind of death in the act of murder -- whether it be running a man through with a sword, thus bringing forth literal blood, or choking him to death or hitting him over the head with a stick, thus bringing death. Whoever murdered, in any way, must pay the price. The price was that his blood must be shed. Once again, did they have to pierce him so as to bring forth blood, or could they just stone him to death -- or crucify him? I think the answer is obvious. Whoever murdered, in any way, must be put to death in some way. He has forfeited his life and must die (death, shed blood) just as he has taken from another his life (caused death, shed blood).
So, when John says that he (Jesus) came or was made known as God's Son by the blood, he was talking about the incidents surrounding his death -- the veil rent asunder, the earth that quaked, darkness at midday, the tombs being opened -- all these things caused even the heathen soldier to exclaim, "Truly this was the Son of God" (Matthew 27:54). Since this Gentile was convinced, surely there must have been many others who were in like manner convinced.
All those things that happened at the water and at the death, are inscribed by the Spirit of God, for our benefit. We have the testimony of the Spirit. The only way the Spirit has ever testified to man is through the Word. This word, of course, was in the inspired ambassadors of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20). Luke records the words of Peter in Acts 5:32: "And we are witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him." I believe that the "them" of that verse refers to the apostles because it was only through them that the Spirit would bear witness or testify concerning the Sonship of Christ. This is in harmony with John 15:26: "But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you (apostles) from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me." In spite of what many think and teach, the Spirit DOES NOT bear witness to me or anyone else, in a direct manner. He only bears witness through the apostles and they wrote it down for the benefit of mankind.
People must believe, John says, that Jesus is the Son of God. There are at least three witnesses that testify in earth to that fact; "the Spirit, the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one."
"So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."