This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus 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. If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
Understanding And Applying the Text
What John meant by Jesus coming by water and blood is uncertain. I have checked with several commentaries. Some say the water refers to Jesus’ baptism. Others say this is not referring to Jesus’ baptism. The reason is John does not refer to it in his gospel. Still other commentators say it refers to the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Others say that is unlikely, John’s gospel does not refer to the institution of the sacraments. Again others say it refers to the water and blood that came out of Jesus’ side when the Roman soldier pierced Him. John is the only gospel writer that refers to the water and blood coming out of Jesus’ side. It may make more sense if we knew more about the context of John’s letter. Understanding the meaning of the water and blood may need to wait until we meet John in heaven. There we can ask him face to face. But it is probability making some reference to both humanity and the deity of Jesus. And the fact that Jesus actually died on the cross. Something the Gnostics disagreed with.
The testimony of the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus is born by the Spirit of God. The testimony of men persuades us. We trust those who say they “saw it with their own eyes.” But the testimony of God is better than the testimony of men. It is God Himself who is testifying that Jesus is the Son of God, if we doubt that we are calling God a liar.
God has given us eternal life. He gave it. It is a gift. We did nothing to earn, merit, or deserve it. We did not get it because we were better than someone else. We did not get it because we were smart enough to ask for it. We did not get it because He knew we would accept it. Why? We don’t know why. We only know that it was according to His purpose. (Eph 1:11) But we have it. Praise be to God!
Verses 9 through 12 give us a basis for good hermeneutics, i.e. how to read and understand the bible. We read the bible and wrestle with the meaning and understanding. After all, it was written a couple thousand years ago. The culture was different and society was different. How we understand and apply the message of the scripture can be challenging. We apply the best reasoning and arguments we can. After all, this is important. And we want to get it right. We listen to those who have studied and supposedly know. This is the testimony of men. They appear rational and reasonable. The questions they raise appear reasonable and valid. Regardless of reasonableness, or emotional appeal, if they violate the clear teaching of scripture, then the conclusion is incorrect.
Here is an example. Some claim the bible teaches that man has free will. Since man has free will. Man must choose Christ and “ask him into their heart.” The Bible is clear. Man has a will. It also teaches God holds man responsible for his choices. Not choosing God and obeying God’s commandments are sins. The wages of sin are death. And God condemns man to hell as punishment for his sin. So it is reasonable to conclude man can choose God. That is God does not select some for redemption and not others.
But the Bible is explicit. God chooses us. We do not choose Him. It is God who decides. It is God who elects. Passages such as Romans 8 and 9 and Ephesians 1 and even the words of our Lord himself John 15:16-19. God chose us. We did not choose him. We cannot choose him unless He has chosen us. (John 6:44) The conclusion is since God decides who will be saved and who will not, our free will has nothing to do with it.
Both sides will shout verses to each other. Why? Because the bible teaches both. We have free will and are responsible for our rejection of Christ. And God sovereignly chooses who will be redeemed. How can both be true? I do not know. But I know both are true. I know that both are true because the bible teaches both. To deny either is to call God a liar.
The principle here is we should use our best reasoning. But if our conclusions contradict the bible’s teaching, then we have erred. Either in our assumptions or our logic is wrong, maybe both. We then accept the testimony of God not of men.