on 1-john 5 :6
This is he that came by water and blood - Jesus was attested to be the Son of God and promised Messiah by water, i.e. his baptism, when the Spirit of God came down from heaven upon him, and the voice from heaven said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Jesus Christ came also by blood. He shed his blood for the sins of the world; and this was in accordance with all that the Jewish prophets had written concerning him. Here the apostle says that the Spirit witnesses this; that he came not by water only - being baptized, and baptizing men in his own name that they might be his followers and disciples; but by blood also - by his sacrificial death, without which the world could not be saved, and he could have had no disciples. As, therefore, the Spirit of God witnessed his being the Son of God at his baptism, and as the same Spirit in the prophets had witnessed that he should die a cruel, yet a sacrificial, death; he is said here to bear witness, because he is the Spirit of truth.
Perhaps St. John makes here a mental comparison between Christ, and Moses and Aaron; to both of whom he opposed our Lord, and shows his superior excellence. Moses came by water - all the Israelites were baptized unto him in the cloud and in the sea, and thus became his flock and his disciples; 1 Corinthians 11:1, 1 Corinthians 11:2. Aaron came by blood - he entered into the holy of holies with the blood of the victim, to make atonement for sin. Moses initiated the people into the covenant of God by bringing them under the cloud and through the water. Aaron confirmed that covenant by shedding the blood, sprinkling part of it upon them, and the rest before the Lord in the holy of holies. Moses came only by water, Aaron only by blood; and both came as types. But Christ came both by water and blood, not typically, but really; not by the authority of another, but by his own. Jesus initiates his followers into the Christian covenant by the baptism of water, and confirms and seals to them the blessings of the covenant by an application of the blood of the atonement; thus purging their consciences, and purifying their souls.
Thus, his religion is of infinitely greater efficacy than that in which Moses and Aaron were ministers. See Schoettgen.
It may be said, also, that the Spirit bears witness of Jesus by his testimony in the souls of genuine Christians, and by the spiritual gifts and miraculous powers with which he endowed the apostles and primitive believers. This is agreeable to what St. John says in his gospel, John 15:26, John 15:27 : When the Comforter is come, the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me; and ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning. This place the apostle seems to have in his eye; and this would naturally lead him to speak concerning the three witnesses, the Spirit, the Water, and the Blood, 1 John 5:8.
on 1-john 5 :6
This is he - This Son of God referred to in the previous verse. The object of the apostle in this verse, in connection with 1 John 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, these 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 John 5:8.
That came - ὁ εἰδὼν ho eidōn. 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 humors 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 Ezekiel 36:25; Isaiah 1:16; Jeremiah 4:14. As a sign of that purity, he says that John baptized him, John 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 connection 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, OEcumenius, Theophylact, among the fathers, and Capellus, Heumann, 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, Matthew 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, Locke 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, Matthew 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. Compare John 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," Matthew 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 John 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 people. 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 people; 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 connection 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 connection, 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 the notes at John 19:34-35); 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.
on 1-john 5 :6
5:6 This is he - St. John here shows the immovable foundation of that faith that Jesus is the Son of God; not only the testimony of man, but the firm, indubitable testimony of God. Who came - Jesus is he of whom it was promised that he should come; and who accordingly, is come. And this the Spirit, and the water, and the blood testify. Even Jesus - Who, coming by water and blood, is by this very thing demonstrated to be the Christ. Not by the water only - Wherein he was baptized. But by the water and the blood - Which he shed when he had finished the work his Father had given him to do. He not only undertook at his baptism to fulfil all righteousness, but on the cross accomplished what he had undertaken; in token whereof, when all was finished, blood and water came out of his side. And it is the Spirit who likewise testifieth - Of Jesus Christ, namely, by Moses and all the prophets, by John the Baptist, by all the apostles, and in all the writings of the New Testament. And against his testimony there can be no exception, because the Spirit is truth - The very God of truth.