Water And Blood

Life is filled with important choices,

  • Who are you going to vote for?
  • Where are you going to stand on the moral issues of the day?
  • Where will you invest your hard earned money?
  • Should you make a major purchase?
  • With whom are you going to choose to spend the rest of your life?
  • What career are you going to pursue?
  • Where will you put your hope for eternity?
  • Who is Jesus to you?

I would argue that the last two questions are the most important questions. The repercussions of those answers will affect your eternal destiny and the way you live the rest of your life. These are the very questions the apostle John addresses in 1 John 5:6-12. John makes his case for putting our trust and confidence in Jesus.

6 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. 7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. 9 We accept man’s testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. 10 Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. 11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.

Before we can really get into the text there is a question that needs to be addressed. Suppose you were making a major purchase (a house, a business, a bunch of land). Or suppose you were signing a major contract for something. You agree with the other party on what the terms of agreement are going to be, and a draft of the document is drawn up. Several days later the contract is brought to you to sign and you read through it and notice that a few sentences have been changed. Would you sign the document? Probably not. The contract is not what was agreed to.

Something similar to this is going on in our text. In verse 7 there are a bunch of words in the King James Version that aren’t in newer versions. Some Bibles have a test note at the beginning of verse 8 that sends you to the bottom of the page where you can read the words taken out. Truthfully, these words don’t change the meaning of the text at all. Why have they been taken out?

The discrepancy comes in because the King James Version was written in 1611. Since that time ancient manuscripts of the Bible have been discovered through archaeology and scholars have discovered that part of this verse was not in those texts. The extra words found in an older version like the King James are actually words that were added long after the Bible was actually written. Like a person reading a contract, those who study these manuscripts are concerned that the Bible be as faithful as possible to what was originally written. Accuracy matters when you are talking about the Word of God.

Don’t confuse this approach to the Bible with what is going on in many circles today. There are scholars who study the Bible not to determine its accuracy but to make decisions on the validity or acceptableness of the teaching in some texts. These scholars examine the Bible to see if it fits their presuppositions. They determine that some things are valid and some things are not (the Jesus Seminar is a prime example of this). Some of these people declare that Jesus was not really God, or didn’t do miracles, or didn’t really die on the cross or rise from the grave because their presupposition is that there is no such thing as the supernatural. They have decided that God would not enter our world before they ever come to the text. Consequently, they dismiss anything that does not fit with their presupposition. These people are creating God in their own image!

The first group of scholars are like a person making sure that a contract is accurate. The second group is like those who, after signing a contract, conclude that certain parts of the contract are no longer valid and binding. They toss out the parts of the contract they no longer find acceptable. We must be careful what teaching we submit to! Our desire is to submit to God’s Word. I contend that it is not our job to sit above the Word and render judgment on it . . . our job is to let God’s Word render judgment on us!


In this text John argues that there is good evidence to put our trust in Christ as Savior and Redeemer. There is good evidence that He is the One that was foretold through the Prophets. John calls witnesses to give testimony to the nature and character of Jesus.   John was aware of the legal requirement that there be two or three witnesses to establish the truthfulness of a matter (Deut. 17). John calls three witnesses. His first two witnesses are: the water and the blood. This leaves us initially confused.

Let me give you three of the popular interpretations of these words. Some people feel that these words refer to baptism and the Lord’s Supper. We can see why they would say this but the term “blood” is never used as a symbol of the Lord’s Supper. The communion celebration is usually referred to as “the bread” or “the bread and the wine”.

Second, Water sometimes is an image to depict the cleansing power of the Word of God (Ps. 119:9, Eph 5:26, John 15:3). If water refers to the Word of God, the Blood to Jesus’ death, and later when John adds the Holy Spirit, we would have a picture of the Trinity (the Word of the Father, the death of the Son, the empowerment of the Spirit). It’s a nice idea but I don’t think that’s what John was driving at either.

The most likely meaning for water and blood is probably the baptism and death of Jesus. John was confronting a popular and pervasive heresy called Gnosticism. The Gnostics believed that God “borrowed” the body of Jesus. They said God took control of Jesus at His baptism and departed from him before he died. They reject the notion of a God who would suffer. I believe John is refuting that heresy by emphasizing that God was present in Christ not only at His baptism but also at His death.

Why is the water and blood evidence? At the baptism of Jesus, the Holy Spirit came on Jesus in the form of a dove and God said audibly, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased”. At the cross there was supernatural darkness in the middle of the day, an earthquake, and the rending of the Temple curtain as Jesus died. Even the Roman guard said, “Surely this man was the Son of God.” [Mt. 27:54]

It would be like saying, I believe the man we saw was the President of the United States because he looked like the President, He talked like the President, He was surrounded by Secret Service Agents, and he got into a limousine that had the Presidential seal on the side and was accompanied by a motorcade! The evidence leads to a conclusion.

Like the Gnostics, people still reject the idea that God became man to give His life as a payment for our sin in spite of the testimony. The Believer’s Bible Commentary writes,

It seems that the human heart is perpetually trying to rid itself of the doctrine of the atonement. Men would like to have the Lord Jesus as a perfect Man, the ideal Example, who has given us a marvelous code of morals. But John here insists that the Lord Jesus is not only Perfect Man, but Perfect God also…Men say to Christ, “Come down from the cross and we will believe on You.” If they can just eliminate the cross from their thinking, they will be happy. But John says, “No. You cannot have the Lord Jesus Christ apart from His perfect redemptive work at Calvary.[1] 


John is not finished with his argument. He has one more witness “For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and the three are in agreement” (v.7) I think John is pointing to Pentecost as yet another historical testimony to the person and work of Christ. At this time God’s Spirit came powerfully upon all who put their trust in Christ.

John points to two kinds of evidence. First, there is external evidence that Jesus is truly the Messiah or the One we should “bet our lives on”.

There are people today who say the Holocaust stories of World War II are all false. They claim that such things never happened. They say the various accounts are all made up. However there is external evidence. There are photographs. There are accounts from Allied soldiers. There are survivors of the horrors of the Holocaust. There are the remnants of the death camps.

John points to the external evidence for Jesus as the Son of God even though some choose to deny this evidence. It is as if John was saying, “You should believe in Jesus because when He was baptized God told us Jesus was His Son. When He died God showed that His wrath was being poured on this righteous substitute. On the day of Pentecost we saw that this new life and power now was given to all who put their trust in Him.

Of course, John could have brought additional evidence. He could have pointed to the miracles of Jesus. He could have focused on His resurrection and the empty tomb. He could have pointed to the prophecies that were literally fulfilled. He could have focused on the powerful and life-changing teaching. John put His focus on the baptism and death of Jesus because these were the points of controversy with the Gnostic teachers.

John also says there is internal evidence . Let’s go back to the Holocaust. We have lots of external evidence that the Holocaust actually happened. However there is also an internal witness.   There is the conviction that the people who testify are telling the truth. There is that awareness of the wickedness of the human heart that leads us to believe that such unspeakable things could actually have happened. We not only know there is evidence, we also know deep down inside that it is true.

John says, “Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart.” (v. 10) In other words, when we dare to trust this Jesus, God helps us to know in our own heart that He is who He said He is. We can’t explain this confidence to the world, but it is very real. It is like the words of the Easter song, “You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart.” This confidence comes as a result of faith.


So what is it that we are supposed to learn? Let me suggest four lessons from this text.

First, God doesn’t ask us for “blind faith”. John in his gospel used this word “testimony” 15 times. God is not asking you to assassinate your brains. He is not saying, “Just take a leap into the dark”. He is not even saying, “just follow your heart”. No, he is saying just the opposite. He says, Think it through. Look at the evidence. Consider if this one who claims to be God can back it up with the way He lived His life.

Yes, there are lots of people who dismiss the testimony about Jesus. However, if you look at the basis of their arguments; it is personal opinion, not fact. It is a manipulation of the evidence, it is misdirection. These people are trying to get the evidence thrown out of court because it is damaging to their case. They ask us to embrace their presuppositions rather than God’s truth. God calls us to use our head.

Second, John reminds us we entrust ourselves to others on much less evidence. John says “we accept man’s testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God” (9) People sometimes say, “I don’t think I have enough faith to trust Christ!” We trust the Doctor, the Pharmacist, the mechanic, the person who did the electrical work in our home, and even the cook in the restaurant!   We trust the gossip that a friend whispers in our ear. We trust the reporter who gives us the news. We trust the author of the book we are reading. We trust the person speaking from the platform. We believe these people with far less evidence than God has given to us regarding Christ. We cannot say, “I don’t have faith.”

Third, when we reject the testimony of the Spirit, the water and the blood regarding Jesus, we reject God. The person who rejects Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior is standing in opposition to God. I know we are supposed to say, “Everyone serves God in their own way. The Muslim serves in His way, the Buddhist serves in His way, and so on.” We are supposed to say that “all roads lead to Heaven”. However, that is not what the Bible says.

What more evidence could God have given us? He showed His love in choosing to bless and build a nation through the Jews. He gave us hundreds of prophecies about the One He would send. These prophecies came to fulfillment in Jesus. He came to earth through a supernatural birth. He healed those who were diseased. He brought the dead back to life. He fed the 5000 with five loaves and two fish. He walked on water and had authority over the wind and waves. God even spoke audibly to verify that Jesus was the way of salvation. He gave us the empty tomb and the changed lives of millions of people.

If we turn away from this Jesus we are without excuse. The evidence is there to anyone who will listen to the evidence. To reject the way of Christ, is to reject God. . . .no matter how devoted and religious you fashion yourself to be.

Finally, we must see that on this decision hangs our direction in life and our eternal destiny. John spells it out plainly, “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.(11-12). It’s a strong verse. God says in His Word: if you trust and follow Jesus you have eternal life (that life begins now and carried into eternity). If you reject Jesus as God come in the flesh, you do not have this life.

There are two implications. First: we need to give attention to this issue personally. This is not a peripheral issue: it is a core issue. It is not enough to have warm feelings toward God or toward Jesus. It is not enough to be religious or even knowledgeable about the Christian faith. God calls us to entrust ourselves to Him. This means,

  • We believe in the depth of our being that Jesus was God become man who gave His life for us.
  • We put all our confidence for eternal life not on our goodness but on His mercy and grace which is made possible through His sacrifice on our behalf.
  • We give Him the position of Lord and Master in our lives and work to live more and more by His direction.
  • We rely on His Spirit for: strength in hard times, guidance in our decisions, and power to do what He has called us to do. Trusting Christ must make a practical difference in the way we live our lives.

Does this describe the relationship you have with Jesus Christ? If it does not, you have in essence rejected the testimony that God has given. You have heard the evidence but have chosen to practically reject Him as Savior and Lord. You are really not much different from those jurors at the OJ Simpson trial. They heard the evidence that seemed so clear to us, but voted to declare Him “not guilty”.

When we refuse to truly entrust ourselves to Christ, we are in essence saying, “I see the evidence that Jesus is truly the Savior sent by God, but I reject it.” Does it really seem that far-fetched that those who ignore the plain evidence will be cast away from fellowship with God? C.S. Lewis said it well, “In the final analysis either we will say to God, “Thy will be done” or God will say to us, “Thy will be done”. When God sends people to eternal destruction He is simply giving people what they have chosen.

So, what is your verdict? Will you entrust your life to Him or will you continue to ignore the testimony of the water, the blood, and the Spirit? It’s an important question . . . it is the most important question of your life.

Second, sharing this evidence with others is vital. None of us wants to be offensive to people around us. We don’t want to get into a debate about politics or religious belief because we know that emotions run very high in these areas. However, if we do not share the good news of the gospel: that God came to earth to rescue us from our own rebellious ways by giving His life for our sin; people will continue on the treadmill of meaninglessness and be lost forever.

As you sit here can you think of family members and friends who are not followers of Christ? May I ask a pointed question: Have you even tried to share with them the truth? Have you made an attempt to show them the evidence for Christ? Do you care enough to make an effort to turn them from a destiny in Hell to eternal life in Heaven? Pray for these people. Look for opportunities. Remember what is at stake.

There are a great many important decisions in our lives. There are lots of people we are asked to trust. Who you choose to trust will determine the direction of your life both now and for eternity.

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