Pastor David B. Curtis


Media #1022 MP3 Audio File Video File

Three Witnesses

(1 John 5:5-8)

Delivered 07/26/20

This morning we are continuing our study of 1 John. We ended our last study of 1 John with verse 4 of chapter 5:

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 1 John 5:4 ESV

Who is it that overcomes the world? "Everyone who has been born of God." All believers, we are overcomers. Twice in verse 4 and once in verse 5 believers are identified as those who have overcome the world. We are overcomers. This is a descriptive term.

When John says "our faith is the conquering power that has conquered the world" he is referring to believers’ faith in Yeshua, who during his earthly life and ministry conquered the world:

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." John 16:33 ESV

Here our Lord uses nikao of Himself. He uses the verb form when He says "I have overcome the world." Yeshua conquered the world by his sacrificial death on the cross, resurrection, and return to the Father. This is why we are conquerors. It is because we are in union with Christ. In our union with Christ, all He is and has we are and have.

Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Yeshua is the Son of God? 1 John 5:5 ESV

This is phrased as a question, a rhetorical question. John affirms that it is the person who believes that Yeshua is the Son of God who has conquered the world.

John has used the verb nikao translated "overcome" to describe the believer’s victory over the secessionist opponents (described as "false prophets" and "antichrists") in 4:4.

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 1 John 4:4 ESV

John seems to have in mind here a victory over the opponents, who now belong to the world and speak its language (cf. 4:5). In the midst of the opponents’ attempts through their false teaching to confuse the readers, they are overcomers.

"Yeshua is the Son of God"—this clearly defines the content of our faith, which is mentioned in v. 4. Our victory is our confession of trust in Yeshua, who is both fully man and fully God (cf. 4:1-6).

Let me say here that this initial victory, which places us in Christ eternally, does not guarantee subsequent victory in Christian living. I see John’s point as being that the victory achieved by the new birth makes obedience to God’s commands an achievable goal. They are not burdensome. But continuing to overcome in Christian living is not automatic for the Christian. Not all Christians continue to overcome the world:

For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. 2 Timothy 4:10 ESV

Only those who continue to live by faith overcome in life. But no one can overcome the world unless he or she "believes that Yeshua is the Son of God." It is in this sense that John refers to "overcomers" here; every Christian overcomes essentially because he or she believes in Yeshua the Christ. To continue to overcome we must live by faith:

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20 ESV

Just as the Christian live begins at the moment of saving faith in Christ, so also that life is lived by faith in Him. Paul said:

for we walk by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7 ESV

Verses 6-8 of 1 John 5 deal with the christological content of the faith that enables believers to conquer the world.

This is he who came by water and blood—Yeshua the Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. 1 John 5:6-8 ESV

In these verses John comes back to this objective witness with which he opened this letter in 1:1-3. He wants us to have a sure foundation for our faith. Authentic Christian faith rests on God’s testimony to the person of Yeshua the Christ.

Speaking of verses 6-8, Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, "Now there can be no question at all but that these three verses are not only the most difficult verses in this epis­tle, but I think … that they are the three most difficult verses, in a sense, in the entire Bible!" [Life in God (Crossway)], p. 68]

This is he who came by water and blood—Yeshua the Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. 1 John 5:6 ESV

"This is he who came"—what does the pronoun "this" refer to? Well, he has just stated, "Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Yeshua is the Son of God?" So, this pronoun "this" refers to the Son of God, Yeshua who is the Son of God. "Came" is an aorist active participle which emphasizes the Incarnation, God becoming man.

"This is he who came by water and blood—Yeshua the Christ"this poses an interpretive problem, what does John mean by his reference to the "water and the blood?" There have been multiply interpretations on this, we’ll mention just four of them.

(1) Some understand the water and the blood as a symbolic reference to the sacraments of baptism and communion. This was Luther’s view. This view doesn’t make much sense to me.

(2) Another approach is that of John Calvin. Calvin viewed the terms as referring to the Old Testament rites of purification and blood sacrifice, which Jesus Christ fulfilled in His earthly ministry [Calvin’s Commentaries (Baker), pp. 256-257]. C. H. Spurgeon seems to have followed Calvin here.  Spurgeon explains, "By the terms ‘water’ and ‘blood’ we understand the purifying and the pardoning effects of Christ’s work for his people" [Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, sermon 3252, "By Water and by Blood"]. That’s better than the first view but still doesn’t satisfy.

(3) This view says that "by water and blood" refers to the death of Yeshua. The only other Johannine passage where "blood" and "water" are mentioned together is:

But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe. John 19:34-35 ESV

This is speaking of the flow of water and blood from Yeshua’s side at his death on the cross. The only other use of "blood" in 1 John (1:7) also refers to the sacrificial death of Yeshua. In John 19:34 the water which flowed from Yeshua’s side symbolically represented the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, consistent with the imagery in John 7:39.

Augustine and some other ancient commentators held this view. Both texts emphasize the water and the blood, and both emphasize the idea of testimony.

R. Brown gives strength to this view by pointing out, "Two comings do not fit 5:6a where the single preposition dia covers two anarthrous nouns, so that ‘came by water and blood’ should mean one composite action." So, he is saying that had separate references to Yeshua’s baptism and his death been intended, it would have been clearer to repeat the preposition before each of the two nouns.

(4) In my understanding the most satisfactory interpretation takes water as a reference to Yeshua’s baptism (at the outset of His earthly ministry) and blood as a reference to His death on the cross. This was Tertullian’s view. It’s strength is that in the context, John is emphasizing the historical foundations of the faith. Both His baptism and the cross are historic experiences that bear witness to Yeshua’s divine-human person. At each of these events, the Father intervened in a miraculous way to bear testimony to His Son.

He came by water in the baptism by John the Baptist at the River Jordan, and by that act, which has the significance of prophecy, Isaiah prophesied that the Holy Spirit would come upon the Messiah. Both the Hebrew and Greek words for Messiah indicate "the Anointed One." Peter describes Yeshua:

how God anointed Yeshua of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. Acts 10:38 ESV

This happened at Christ’s baptism. John tells us:

And John bore witness: "I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. John 1:32 ESV

Matthew tells us:

and behold, a voice from heaven said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased." Matthew 3:17 ESV

The Father’s statement is a coronation formula. "This is my beloved Son," is a reference to the second Psalm, and the statement there is related specifically to the Messianic ministry of the one who would be the Son of God.

I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, "You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. Psalms 2:7-8 ESV

He would ultimately overcome, and all of the authority of the earth would find its way into his hands. The last clause or so of the Father’s statement, "In whom I am well pleased" is derived from Isaiah chapter 42:

Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. Isaiah 42:1 ESV

Here the prophet Isaiah begins a treatment of the work that the suffering Servant of Yahweh would do, speaking of the Messiah’s ministry. So, the statement from heaven, "This is my beloved Son," the Messianic sovereign Lord of the earth, "in whom I am well pleased," speaks of the work of the Messiah would reach it’s climax in Isaiah 53 and his atoning death. This is the Father’s way of saying at the baptism, this is the Son who is the king of the earth, and he will perform the work of the Messianic suffering servant of Yahweh. The Father was saying, this is the Son of God, and he will do the Messianic work. So, it was at His baptism that Yeshua was inaugurated as the Messiah to begin his ministry of atonement and the other things associated with it.

Now, John himself has written concerning this in:

The next day he saw Yeshua coming toward him, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel." And John bore witness: "I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God." John 1:29-34 ESV

John the Baptist said, "My testimony about Yeshua does not come from what I know about Him naturally. It comes from God. God told me what to say about Yeshua." So, Christ was anointed of God at His baptism. He came by water.

Now, John also says he "came by blood." This is speaking of His death on Calvary. John has just stated in chapter 4:

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 1 John 4:10 ESV

He came by water. He came by blood." Let me elaborate just a little bit on that. Yeshua referred to his death on Calvary’s cross as a "baptism in blood." In Luke chapter 12:

"I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! Luke 12:49-50 ESV

So to put together what John has said, "this is he that came by water and blood," it’s plain that what John means is first of all, historically this is the one who came through John’s baptism, and through the baptism in blood on Calvary’s cross. He came as the Messiah. He came inaugurated into his ministry, and then completed the atoning part of it with his death on Calvary’s cross. So that the expression, "He came by water and blood," mark the two great stages of the Messianic ministry of the Lord Yeshua.

The Jews of Yeshua’s day, including the disciples, couldn’t conceive of a Messiah who would suffer and die, even though Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22, along with the entire sacrificial system, clearly predicted such. Earlier we looked at John the baptizers statement, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!"—this is not what the people wanted to hear. They wanted to hear, "Behold your King. Behold the triumphant One. Behold the majestic One. Behold the exalted One. Behold the Ruler. Behold the Anointed One." They wanted one who could kill all their enemies, and John was presenting One who would be killed by their enemies.

So, when John says, "He came by water and blood," he means he has come through his baptism at the River Jordan where he was anointed as the Messiah, and through his baptism in blood at the cross of Calvary, and there he accomplished a propitiatory offering for sinners.

Then John says, "Not by the water only but by the water and the blood"what John is stressing here is that Yeshua did not come by water only, but also by blood. Yeshua, the man was the Christ before and at His baptism, but the Man that died was also the Christ of God, the Son of God. In other words, he's telling us the Yeshua that was born in Bethlehem was the Yeshua that was baptized at the Jordan, and the same Yeshua died at Golgotha and shed His precious blood for us as an atonement for us.

This interpretation fits with the context of the historical setting of letter. Remember that the heresy that John is writing against in this epistle in particular is that of false teachers personified in a man called Cerenthus, and later on the Docetists and the Gnostics.

What were they saying? They were saying that Yeshua was not born as the Son of God, He was not originally from His birth the Christ, but at His baptism in the river Jordan the Christ-spirit that had been on many other men, even in other religions, came upon Yeshua and He became the Christ. Then they believe that before He went to Calvary that Christ-spirit ascended from off Him, and the man that died there on the cross was just a man, He was not the Son of God.

John’s opponents could not acknowledge the significance of his death on the cross, because they denied any salvific significance to Yeshua’s earthly life and ministry. So, John in his polemic against the opponents asserts, "Not by the water only but by the water and the blood."

John, as well as the other writers of Scripture, such as Paul, had to deal with heresy, and he had to deal with apostasy. In chapter 4 in the 3rd verse, we have read,

and every spirit that does not confess Yeshua is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. 1 John 4:3 ESV

He had to deal with apostasy, and as he states in chapter 2, verse 19,

They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. 1 John 2:19 ESV

These false teachers had gone out from among the apostles, not that they were apostles themselves necessarily, claiming that their message was what the apostles endorsed. Having come from this church and from among the apostles these antichrists would have had an aura of authority.

Cerinthius and the Gnostics who followed his particularly approach believed that Yeshua was simply a man, that at his baptism, the divine Christ came upon him. He carried out his ministry in the power of the divine Christ up to the time of the crucifixion, shortly before that crucifixion, the divine Christ departed from him, and consequently he died simply as a man. In fact, some went on to say, he died as a man who was a sinner just like other men. These false teachers could not conceive of how a divine Savior could have died on the cross.

Now, if that is true, then we do not have atonement for he was only a man, and the other doctrines of the Christian faith are largely not true at all. Consequently, what he did has been emptied of value of entirely. Now, those were the views that John had to contend with. In the 21st century, we have our own similar brand of heresy.

There is a group of people that claim to be the witnesses of God. They even call themselves Jehovah’s Witnesses. Let me just add here that the name Jehovah is a word which has no meaning in Hebrew. Jehovah was never heard before A.D.1518. So strike the word Jehovah from your Christian vocabulary, it is not biblical at all. These JW’s claim to be propagating the truth that God wants revealed. They claim to be echoing the witness of God. But the truth that God once revealed, the true witness of Yahweh is that Yeshua is the Christ, the Son of God, God incarnate. And the so-called JW’s are liars, because they deny the very thing to which God gives witness in the New Testament. The JW’s say that Yeshua may be called "a" god, small G, but not the God. They say He is mighty, but not the Almighty. They say He was created by Yahweh. He is not a member of the Trinity. They says there is no Trinity.

They say that the Son during His pre-human state was really an angel by the name of Michael. They further say that the Son did not even possess immortality. He was created and created to die. They teach that when Christ was born of Mary, He ceased being a spirit person and became nothing more than a human being. The Yeshua that walked on earth had only one nature and that was the nature of a man. He was a perfect man, the equivalent of Adam before the Fall. The JW’s also teach that Yeshua became or took on the role of Messiah when He was baptized. It was there that God made this human being His spiritual Son. John writes:

Who is the liar but he who denies that Yeshua is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. 1 John 2:22 ESV

Anybody who denies that Yeshua is the Christ is a liar. "This is the antichrist." So, if somebody comes along, it might be a well-meaning Jew, might be a JW or a morally acting Mormon who denies the deity of Yeshua, denies the Christ of Scripture, that’s antichrist.

No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. 1 John 2:23 ESV

The denial of modern men is essentially the same as the Cerinthian Gnostics, so when we read in 1st John of heresy and apostasy, we are not think of this as something in the past. This is something that is with us today.

"And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth"—the Holy Spirit is an additional witness, along with those just mentioned. The Greek word for "testifies" here is from the Greek word martureō, which appears in some form ten times in verses 6 to 11 which makes it a key to this passage.

The word could be used in a legal matter, someone who had to come into a court and take the stand and render witness that had implications on the decision and the adjudication of the judge. But it was also used to refer to anybody recollecting and reporting any kind of truth or information.

A good illustration of its usage in Jewish context can be seen in Isaiah 43.

"You are my witnesses," declares the LORD, "and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. Isaiah 43:10 ESV

Yahweh here speaking as the creator to Jacob, or Israel, says, "You are My witnesses." Israel was to declare the truth about Yahweh. And in our text the Holy Spirit is witnessing to Yeshua’s identity. The Spirit's testimony about Yeshua's identity at His baptism was true because the Spirit Himself "is truth," and is even God Himself the third person of the Trinity (cf. John 14:6; 15:26; 16:14).

Within the functioning of the Trinity, it is the Spirit’s work to reveal. That’s why we read so clearly in Scripture that it is inspired by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter chapter 1:

For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1:21 ESV

Men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. Wherever there is the revelation of the will of God, wherever there is the witness of God in His revelation, it is from the Holy Spirit. Listen to what Peter says,

In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said, "Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Yeshua.  Acts 1:15-16 ESV

The Scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit foretold. Peter understood that all Scripture was revealed by the agency of the Holy Spirit. And many other passages talk about this same great reality, that the Holy Spirit is the source of revelation.

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, "Today, if you hear his voice, Hebrews 3:7 ESV

The writer of Hebrews says, "the Holy Spirit says"—and then you have a list of four verses quoting passages out of the Tanakh, all inspired by, revealed by the Holy Spirit. All over the Bible the Spirit speaks, the Spirit is the revealer.

The Holy Spirit is the third witness. In the tradition of the Jews, how many witnesses did it take to confirm something is true? Two or three.

"A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established. Deuteronomy 19:15 ESV

Yeshua instituted this in a discipline situation in the life of the church in Matthew 18, that anything brought against someone needed to have the affirmation of two or three witnesses. Paul writing to Timothy says,

Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 1 Timothy 5:19 ESV

No one should bring an accusation against an elder or pastor in the church unless it’s confirmed in the mouth of two or three witnesses. Paul tells the Corinthians:

This is the third time I am coming to you. Every charge must be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 2 Corinthians 13:1 ESV

Paul is saying, "I’m going to address your sin, and I’m going to do it with the confirmation of two or three witnesses." This is God’s pattern of affirming testimony in the mouth of more than just one person – two or three witnesses. And here God does the same thing in John’s summary:

For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. 1 John 5:7-8 ESV

There is a textual problem here that we need to address. The Textus Receptus of 1 John 5:7-8 contains additional words which are absent from the earliest and best Greek manuscripts. The textual problem is that the King James Version and the New King James Version reads like this:

For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. 8 And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one. 1 John 5:7-8 KJV

These added words are known as the Comma Johanneum (Latin for "Johannine sentence"). It is certain that the phrase beginning with "in heaven" (5:7) through "in earth" (5:8) are not a part of John’s original letter and should be omitted. It’s not often that you find New Testament scholars agreeing on anything, but all agree, regardless of their viewpoints that the verses 7b and 8a as found in the Authorized Version was not a statement written by John.

This is called Textual Criticism which is the discipline where scholars evaluate both external and internal evidence to try to determine which reading is most likely the original. External evidence refers to weighing the various manuscripts in light of their age, how widespread is their distribution, and what text type they represent. Internal evidence refers to evaluating the probabilities of what a scribe might have done, whether intentionally or unintentionally, to result in the various readings. Both internal and external evidence have to be compared and evaluated.

What many Christians fail to appreciate is that the original manuscripts that were written by the hands of the prophets and the apostles are lost, they are not existent, we do not have them today in any museum, you cannot find them and get even photographs of them in your local Christian bookshop or any library in our world.

Though the original manuscripts are no longer extant, there are many many handwritten copies that have been passed down through the centuries, multiplied over and over again and again. And there's very little difference between most of them. Now through years of multiple duplication by the hand of scribes that duplication could expose those copies to human error. The original scriptures were divinely inspired of God, but just like making a copy of a text by your own hand, error can be introduced - whether that human error is through addition, adding something that wasn't originally there, or subtraction, taking something away. It is quite possible for something to be, perhaps, by a scribe, jotted in a margin just for consideration, and all of a sudden the next scribe that came along to make a copy several centuries later included that scribal insertion in the actual textual document.

If we are concerned about versions that take away from scripture, and we are; we should also be concerned about additions to scripture.

No Greek manuscript contains this statement before the 14th Century. Thus, there is no sure evidence of this reading in any Greek manuscripts until the 1500’s; each such reading was apparently composed after Erasmus’ Greek NT was published in 1516. The story of how the longer reading was omitted from the first two editions of Erasmus’ text (1516, 1519) but came to be included in his later editions is well known.

One of Erasmus’ most vocal critics was Stunica, one of the editors of the Complutensian Polyglot, who charged that Erasmus’ text lacked the trinitarian affirmation of 1 John 5:7-8. Erasmus responded that he had not found any Greek manuscript containing these words, but promised that if he were shown one Greek manuscript containing the words, he would insert them.

A manuscript containing the "missing" words was produced, probably written to order around 1520 by a Franciscan friar who took the words from the Latin Vulgate and translated them back into Greek. Erasmus became aware of this manuscript between May 1520 and September 1521. He kept his promise and inserted the words of the Comma into his third edition (1522), but indicated in a lengthy footnote his suspicions that the Greek manuscript containing the disputed words had been written to order.

The influential German translation of Luther was based on Erasmus’ second edition (1519) and so did not contain the Comma. But the translators of the King James Version, who worked mainly from Theodore Beza’s tenth edition (1598), which was based on the third and later editions of Erasmus (as well as those of Stephanus), included the Comma because they found it in these editions of the Greek text.

Now since Authorised Version of the Bible was written thousands of manuscripts have come to light from as far back as the end of the 2nd and the beginning of the 3rd century AD, and none of those manuscripts have verse 7 — none of them.

Also, historically speaking, in the controversies concerning the person of Christ and the trinity, in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Centuries, this text was never cited by anyone of those who carried on the controversy as proof of the doctrine of the Trinity. None of them used this verse as a proof text to prove the Trinity that they were arguing for, and it would have been an ideal one to use if it was in the text - but they didn't have the verse. It is first found about the 5th century in a Latin manuscript.

The original text is accurately represented in the ESV. Most evangelical conservative Bible scholars agree that verse 7 of this text is a later addition to the word of God. John kind of sums it up in the 7th and 8th verse by saying,

For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. 1 John 5:7-8 ESV

In Jewish thought, a point is confirmed in a court of law by the testimony of two or three witnesses. John here brings forth three witnesses that agree that Yeshua the Christ is the Son of God.

So, the Spirit testifies to the Messianic ministry of the Lord Yeshua, testifies that atonement has been accomplished, because it was the God/Man who died on Calvary. And all who believe that "Yeshua is the Son of God overcome the world."

Christian salvation stands upon the solid rock of the ministry of the Second Person of the Godhead, testified to by the Third Person who is in the Lord’s words and in the apostle’s words is, "the spirit of truth." Yeshua stressed His deity this way:

that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. John 5:23 ESV

In the light of the emphasis in the Tanakh on the exclusive worship due to Yahweh, this verse is extremely powerful in its affirmation of the deity of Christ: Christ is to be given the same honor, the same exclusive worship, the same exclusive obedience, the same exclusive commitment of all the love of all our heart and mind and soul and strength, as God the Father. All this honor that is due to Yahweh is due also to Yeshua.

Such is the equality and unity between the Son, Yeshua, and the Father, that to worship Yeshua is to worship the Father. And to not worship Yeshua is to dishonor the Father.

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