Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


1 John 5:8

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

The Spirit, and the water, and the blood - This verse is supposed to mean "the Spirit - in the word confirmed by miracles; the water - in baptism, wherein we are dedicated to the Son, (with the Father and the Holy Spirit), typifying his spotless purity, and the inward purifying of our nature; and the blood - represented in the Lord's Supper, and applied to the consciences of believers: and all these harmoniously agree in the same testimony, that Jesus Christ is the Divine, the complete, the only Savior of the world." - Mr. Wesley's notes.

By the written word, which proceeded from the Holy Spirit, that Spirit is continually witnessing upon earth, that God hath given unto us eternal life.

By baptism, which points out our regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost, and which is still maintained as an initiatory rite in the Christian Church, we have another witness on earth of the truth, certainty, importance, and efficacy of the Christian religion. The same may be said of the blood, represented by the holy eucharist, which continues to show forth the death and atoning sacrifice of the Son of God till he comes. See the note on 1 John 5:6.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

And there are three that bear witness in earth - This is a part of the text, which, if the reasoning above is correct, is to be omitted. The genuine passage reads, 1 John 5:7, “For there are three that bear record (or witness, μαρτυροῦντες marturountes) - the Spirit, and the water, and the blood.” There is no reference to the fact that it is done “in earth.” The phrase was introduced to correspond with what was said in the interpolated passage, that there are three that bear record “in heaven.”

The Spirit - Evidently the Holy Spirit. The assertion here is, that that Spirit bears witness to the fact that Jesus is the Son of God, 1 John 5:5. The testimony of the Holy Spirit to this fact is contained in the following things:

(1)He did it at the baptism of Jesus. Notes, Matthew 3:16-17.

(2)Christ was eminently endowed with the influences of the Holy Spirit; as it was predicted that the Messiah would be, and as it was appropriate he should be, Isaiah 11:2; Isaiah 61:1. Compare Luke 4:18; Notes, John 3:34.

(3)the Holy Spirit bore witness to his Messiahship, after his ascension, by descending, according to his promise, on his apostles, and by accompanying the message which they delivered with saving power to thousands in Jerusalem, John 16:14-15.

(5)he does it in the hearts of all true Christians, for “no man can say that Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Ghost,” 1 Corinthians 12:3. See the notes at that passage.

The Spirit of God has thus always borne witness to the fact that Jesus is the Christ, and he will continue to do it to the end of time, convincing yet countless millions that he was sent from God to redeem and save lost people.

And the water - See the notes at 1 John 5:6. That is, the baptism of Jesus, and the scenes which occurred when he was baptized, furnished evidence that he was the Messiah. This was done in these ways:

(1)It was proper that the Messiah should be baptized when he entered on his work, and perhaps it was expected; and the fact that he was baptized showed that he had “in fact” entered on his work as Redeemer. See the notes at Matthew 3:15.

(2)an undoubted attestation was then furnished to the fact that he was “the Son of God,” by the descent of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove, and by the voice that addressed him from heaven, Matthew 3:16-17.

(3)his baptism with water was an emblem of the purity of his own character, and of the nature of his religion.

(4)perhaps it may be implied here, also, that water used in baptism now bears witness to the same thing,

(a)as it is the ordinance appointed by the Saviour;

(b)as it keeps up his religion in the world;

(c)as it is a public symbol of the purity of his religion;

(d)and as, in every case where it is administered, it is connected with the public expression of a belief that Jesus is the Son of God.

And the blood - There is undoubted allusion here to the blood shed on the cross; and the meaning is, that that blood bore witness also to the fact that he was the Son of God. This it did in the following respects:

(1)The shedding of the blood showed that he was truly dead - that his work was complete - that he died in “reality,” and not in “appearance” only. See the notes at John 19:34-35.

(2)the remarkable circumstances that attended the shedding of this blood - the darkened sun, the earthquake, the rending of the veil of the temple - showed in a manner that convinced even the Roman centurion that he was the Son of God. See the notes at Matthew 27:54.

(3)the fact that an “atonement” was thus made for sin was an important “witness” for the Saviour, showing that he had done that which the Son of God only could do, by disclosing a way by which the sinner may be pardoned, and the polluted soul be made pure.

(4)perhaps, also, there may be here an allusion to the Lord‘s Supper, as designed to set forth the shedding of this blood; and the apostle may mean to have it implied that the representation of the shedding of the blood in this ordinance is intended to keep up the conviction that Jesus is the Son of God. If so, then the general sense is, that that blood - however set before the eyes and the hearts of people - on the cross, or by the representation of its shedding in the Lord‘s Supper - is a witness in the world to the truth that Jesus is the Son of God, and to the nature of his religion. Compare the notes at 1 Corinthians 11:26.

And these three agree in one - εἰς τὸ ἕν εἰσιν eis to hen eisinThey agree in one thing; they bear on one and the same point, to wit, the fact that Jesus is the Son of God. All are appointed by God as witnesses of this fact; and all harmonize in the testimony which is borne. The apostle does not say that there are no other witnesses to the same thing; nor does he even say that these are the most important or decisive which have been furnished; but he says that these are important witnesses, and are entirely harmonious in their testimony.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
We are inwardly and outwardly defiled; inwardly, by the power and pollution of sin in our nature. For our cleansing there is in and by Christ Jesus, the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost. Some think that the two sacraments are here meant: baptism with water, as the outward sign of regeneration, and purifying from the pollution of sin by the Holy Spirit; and the Lord's supper, as the outward sign of the shedding Christ's blood, and the receiving him by faith for pardon and justification. Both these ways of cleansing were represented in the old ceremonial sacrifices and cleansings. This water and blood include all that is necessary to our salvation. By the water, our souls are washed and purified for heaven and the habitation of saints in light. By the blood, we are justified, reconciled, and presented righteous to God. By the blood, the curse of the law being satisfied, the purifying Spirit is obtained for the internal cleansing of our natures. The water, as well as the blood, came out of the side of the sacrificed Redeemer. He loved the church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word; that he might present it to himself a glorious church, Eph 5:25-27. This was done in and by the Spirit of God, according to the Saviour's declaration. He is the Spirit of God, and cannot lie. Three had borne witness to these doctrines concerning the person and the salvation of Christ. The Father, repeatedly, by a voice from heaven declared that Jesus was his beloved Son. The Word declared that He and the Father were One, and that whoever had seen him had seen the Father. And the Holy Ghost, who descended from heaven and rested on Christ at his baptism; who had borne witness to Him by all the prophets; and gave testimony to his resurrection and mediatorial office, by the gift of miraculous powers to the apostles. But whether this passage be cited or not, the doctrine of the Trinity in Unity stands equally firm and certain. To the doctrine taught by the apostles, respecting the person and salvation of Christ, there were three testimonies. 1. The Holy Spirit. We come into the world with a corrupt, carnal disposition, which is enmity to God. This being done away by the regeneration and new-creating of souls by the Holy Spirit, is a testimony to the Saviour. 2. The water: this sets forth the Saviour's purity and purifying power. The actual and active purity and holiness of his disciples are represented by baptism. 3. The blood which he shed: and this was our ransom, this testifies for Jesus Christ; it sealed up and finished the sacrifices of the Old Testament. The benefits procured by his blood, prove that he is the Saviour of the world. No wonder if he that rejects this evidence is judged a blasphemer of the Spirit of God. These three witnesses are for one and the same purpose; they agree in one and the same thing.