What Does 1st John 5:8 Mean?

1st John 5:4-8, “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth. For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.”

I like Pastor Harry A. Ironside's (1876-1951) Bible commentary on 1st John 5:8...
Then verse 8 reads (1 John 5:8), “And there are three that bear witness in earth, the spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.” What does the apostle mean when he speaks of these three that bear witness or testimony? To what do they give testimony? They testify to the effectiveness of the work of our Lord Jesus Christ. The three witnesses are the Spirit, the water, and the blood.

The Spirit, of course, is the Holy Spirit of God who, after the death, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ, came from Heaven to dwell in the church on earth. He came to empower those proclaiming the finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ. There is a vast difference between merely explaining doctrine and preaching the gospel in the Spirit’s power. Anyone can do the former, and everything said might be true, but there is no power in it. Preaching the gospel in the energy of the Holy Ghost is another thing altogether, and therefore we read, “It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (1 Corinthians 1:21). Jesus said, “Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me, both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The Holy Spirit, then, is a witness to the effectiveness of the cleansing power of the blood of Christ. He has come down from Heaven to assure us that Christ’s sacrifice has been accepted for us.

The other witnesses are the water and the blood. In John’s Gospel we are told that they broke the legs of the thieves who hung on either side of the Lord Jesus Christ. When they came to Jesus, they marveled because He was already dead, and so they did not break His legs, for it was written, “A bone of him shall not be broken” (John 19:36). Instead one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and, John writes, “Forthwith came there out blood and water” (John 19:34). That made a great impression on the mind of John as he saw those two elements mingled and flowing from the wounded side of the Savior.

Years later when John wrote this Epistle to the children of God, he said, “This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood” (1 John 5:6). Why does he draw our attention to the water and the blood which flowed from the side of the Son of God? In these two elements we have suggested two characters of cleansing.

As a sinner I learn that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sin. But that cleansing is judicial—that is my cleansing before God. When God looks at me as a believer, He sees me cleansed from every stain by the blood of His Son. But that cleansing alone does not satisfy me. As a Christian, I want to know practical deliverance from the power of sin. I am not content to know that my sins have been put under the blood if I find that I am still living under the power of sin. I want sin to be taken away practically—I want to be set free, to be cleansed from the things that curse my life-and I find practical cleansing through the “washing of water by the word.” We read in
Ephesians 5:25-26, “Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word.” The Word of God applied to my heart and conscience sets me free from sin as a habit. I am delivered from its power. 

A Christian poet wrote:
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy riven side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Save me from its guilt and power.
Augustus M. Toplady
The blood cleanses from sin’s guilt. The water of the Word applied in the power of the Holy Spirit cleanses from the defilement of sin. So then these are the three witnesses: the blood witnesses that the sin question is settled to God’s satisfaction; the Word witnesses that there is power to deliver from sin in a practical way; the Spirit bears witness that this power is for every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. SOURCE
Although I like what Pastor Harry Ironside said on this passage, THE TRUTH is that no one knows for certain what 1st John 5:8 means, because the inspired Holy Bible does not clarify what it means. I love how God authored the Holy Bible, as a puzzle that only men with Holy Spirit enlightenment can understand (1st Corinthians 2:14-16; John 16:13).

As I pondered our passage from 1st John 5:4-8, I noticed the words of 1st John 5:6, “This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth. The words “came by” I think are important to consider. How did Jesus come into the world? He came by a virgin birth, a literal physical human birth. This is a birth by water. A developing fetus is encased in its mother's water bag for nine months during the pregnancy. John 3:5-6, “Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” In John 3:5-6, the physical birth into this world is said to be “by water.” So Jesus came by water, that is, He had a human birth.

But 1st John 5:6 says that Jesus “came by” not only water, but also by blood. That likely refers to the Deity of Jesus, that He literally had God the Father's blood flowing in His veins. Jesus wasn't just another human baby, He came into the world by a miraculous Virgin Birth. Matthew 1:23, “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” Jesus didn't have man's sin-tainted blood flowing in His veins, He had God's sinless blood. Jesus never sinned even one time! Jesus never thought an evil thought. Jesus never succumbed to sinful temptation. Hebrews 4:15, “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”

So Jesus “came by” not only a physical human birth (by water); but moreover, He was the virgin born only begotten Son of God (by blood). And the Holy Spirit bears witness to all this truth through the inspired Word of God. John 5:32, “There is another that beareth witness of me; and I know that the witness which he witnesseth of me is true.” The preceding verse refers to the Holy Spirit. John 8:18, “I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me.” We know from 1st John 5:7 that the three witnesses in Heaven are the Father, the Word (Jesus) and the Holy Ghost. Whatever the “water and blood” are in 1st John 5:6, they are definitely both earthly witnesses to the fact Jesus is the only begotten Son of God.

Some theologians think that Jesus' water baptism is what “water” means in 1st John 5:6, when the Holy Spirit descended upon Him like a dove, and the Father's voice said: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). That is a witness, but in my humble opinion this is not what “water and blood” are referring to in 1st John 5:6. It is my humble opinion that the “water and blood” refer to Jesus' incarnation in the flesh (John 1:1-3, 14; 1st Timothy 3:16), and His virgin birth (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23). The reason I tend to believe this is because of the words “came by” in 1st John 5:6, which speak of the way in which Jesus came into the world. Remember, these are witnesses.

3 Witnesses in Heaven (that Jesus is the Son of God):
  1. Father
  2. Word (Jesus - John 1:1-3, 14; Revelation 19:13)
  3. Holy Ghost
3 Witnesses on earth (that Jesus is the Son of God):
  1. Water (Jesus' came in the flesh, God incarnate)
  2. Blood (Jesus' virgin birth, He had God's blood flowing in His veins)
  3. Holy Spirit (He draws all men to Christ)
John the Baptist was also a witness, but a witness that Jesus is the Christ. John 1:6-7, “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.

Please understand that I humbly do not know for certain what 1st John 5:6 means. And anybody who speaks boldly that they do understand, truly don't, unless they can cite a Scripture passage that makes it plain and clear. Also, I am not saying that Pastor Ironside is wrong. I am simply sharing my thoughts on 1st John 5:6-8.

I find it interesting that the three witnesses in Heaven are all members of the Godhead (i.e., Trinity). So it seems logical that the three witnesses on earth would also be the Trinity. Again, we see the Holy Spirit as a witness on earth. Could the “water” refer to Jesus Christ, that is, His fleshly incarnation (i.e., God came in the flesh)? Could the “blood” refer to God the Father (whose sinless blood and divine DNA were in Christ? We can only speculate, since the Bible is not clear in this matter. It is definitely food for thought.

Another possible interpretation is that the “water” is the Word of God, which cleanses us as we read and apply it to our daily lives. 1st John 5:8 teaches that these three earthly witnesses all “agree in one.” The Holy Spirit never disagrees with the Holy Bible. Any time you hear someone talking about spiritual matters, but they are leaving our the inspired Word of God, run away from them! False prophets talk about spiritual things, but leave off the Word of God. I am think of Oprah Winfrey, one of the biggest promoters and dangerous false prophets of our generation. Oprah is incessantly featuring spiritual psychics, spiritual guides and spiritual gurus on her show, but the Holy Bible is absent. The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit always agrees with the written Word of God.

And the perhaps perhaps refers to the Gospel. Jesus shed His blood on the cross to pay for our sins. Jesus took that precious shed blood and sprinkled it upon the Mercy Seat in Heaven, in the presence of the Father (Hebrews 9:12, 22-24; 12:24). The Gospel (God's simple plan of salvation for mankind), the inspired Holy Bible and the Holy Spirit are all in agreement. Again, this is just a possible interpretation. We simply do not know 100% for certain. If someone does, I haven't found them yet. I am still searching for a conclusive answer on 1st John 5:8.

Like so many other topics in the Bible (e.g., the Pretribulation Rapture, an Old Testament place called Paradise, and an Old Earth Creation), we can only use deductive reasoning based upon what we do know to form further conclusions. Whatever “water and blood” refers to in 1st John 5:6, they must be earthly witnesses to the fact that Jesus is the Son of God. Thank you for reading my blog.

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