1 John 5
1Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. 2This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. 3This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, 4for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 5Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.
6This 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. 7For there are three that testify: 8the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. 9We accept man’s testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. 10Anyone 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. (1 John 5:1-10, NIV)
The Daily DAVEotional
There’s a confusing passage of scripture in 1 John 5 that quite frankly, I’ve been in the habit of skimming over for years because I never really understood it and I didn’t have the patience, determination or even knowledge to know how to go about determining its true meaning.
I’m talking about this passage in 1 John 5:7, 8 which states that “there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.”
I couldn’t even begin to explain what that really meant, largely because I didn’t have a firm grasp on the larger context of the letter. But once you understand why John is writing his letter and what the background is, the meaning of this passage becomes more clear.
If you read my previous post regarding 1 John 4:1-6, you’ll know that one of the main reasons John wrote this letter was to address and refute a false teaching about Jesus that was circulating within the church.
This false teaching asserted that Jesus was just a man and “the Christ” was a spiritual entity who entered into the body of Jesus at His baptism and left just before Jesus was crucified. Hence, Jesus and the Christ were separate individuals, not the same person. John opposed this teaching so strongly that he not only labeled the teachers as “false prophets” but he referred to the teaching itself as “deception” and even “antichrist.”
It’s interesting to look at this passage from 1 John 5 and see that right off the bat in verse 1, John says that “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.”
Notice that John affirms that Jesus IS the Christ. They are one and the same person. Humanity and divinity together, at the same time in the same person. John states that belief in this specific doctrine, that Jesus is human and divine at the same time, is essential to being “born of God.” (verse 1)
In verse 5, John once again affirms the divinity of Jesus as he states that the one “who believes Jesus is the Son of God” is the one who overcomes. Referencing Jesus as the “Son of God” is an affirmation of His divine nature.
But then we come upon the sticky passage, the one that’s talking about water and blood and the spirit and testimonies and witnesses, etc.
What’s he talking about here and how does this relate to anything he’s been saying?
As I mentioned before, these false teachers were teaching that “the Christ” descended upon Jesus (the man) at his baptism and left him just before the crucifixion. Hence, they were teaching that the person who was crucified was NOT the Son of God, but just the normal human Jesus.
John’s reference to water, blood and the spirit makes sense when you understand how he’s trying to combat the view of Jesus that was being promoted.
Do you remember what happened at Jesus’ baptism in Matthew 3? I wrote about this in a previous post here.
Jesus was baptized with water by John the Baptist. Immediately after coming up out of the water, the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, descends upon Jesus and God the Father audibly affirms that Jesus is His Son, in whom He is well-pleased.
So the water in this passage of 1 John 5 is a reference to Jesus’ baptism, which happens to be the point the false teachers said “the Christ” overtook the human Jesus’ body.
The blood is a reference to Jesus’ crucifixion, which marked the end of Jesus’ public ministry.
The Spirit is a reference to the Holy Spirit, who affirmed Jesus’ identity at His baptism.
By referencing water, the blood and the Spirit, John is directly refuting the false teachers by establishing that Jesus was the Son of God before His baptism AND at His death.
So John is saying that there are 3 witnesses that are all in agreement concerning the identity of Jesus. There is the water when Jesus was baptized and affirmed to be the Son of God, and there was the blood when Jesus was crucified and also affirmed to be the Son of God.
John continues by arguing that the law typically required 2 or 3 human witnesses to establish a fact. Since God is greater than humans, and He has given us 3 witnesses, or facts that establish the identify of Jesus as “the Christ”, and “the Son of God”, how much more should we believe Him?
John concludes by saying that if you do NOT believe that Jesus is the Son of God, you are making God out to be a liar because He has already provided evidence (testimony) to demonstrate this truth about the nature of Jesus.
Understanding and believing these truths is critically important because if Jesus was just a man when he was crucified, as the false teachers asserted, how could his death atone for the sins of the world? It couldn’t.
Good Friday would not be so good. It would be Bad Friday, or at best, Normal Friday because Jesus’ death would have accomplished nothing and it would have been so insignificant that we would probably not even be aware of it 2000 years later!
NOTE: Have you ever wondered what makes Good Friday good? I wrote about this in a previous post and you can read about it here.
What do you think the term “Son of God” means? What does it communicate about the nature of Jesus?
If Jesus wasn’t God, how would that impact His mission to save the world from sin? How would you explain to someone why it is critically important for Jesus to be God if we are to have any hope of our sin actually being paid for?
Do you agree with the author John who says that in order to be “born of God” you must believe that Jesus is the Christ? Why or why not? What do you think it means that Jesus is the Christ?
What modern day examples come to mind that demonstrate a false teaching or understanding of the nature of Jesus?
Photo by Yannick Pulver on Unsplash