Dear Brother G.
“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). To what does the water and blood refer? Some have suggested that the reference is to the water and blood that came from the spear-wound in His side, but why would the text say, “Not by water only?” Others link the expression with the Lord’s baptism in the waters of Jordan, and the shedding of His blood at Calvary. A third suggestion is that it goes back to the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16), and the water of purification (Num. 19). Through The Forum of Food for the Flock could we have a discussion of this verse in order to weigh the arguments for these explanations and judge accordingly?
Sincerely in Christ,
Dear Brother E. S.
Thank you for your letter. We are always pleased to receive questions which force us to our knees in God’s presence and to His Holy Word for careful study. It is impossible to settle many of the conflicting opinions in Biblical exposition, but I am willing to give convictions as one who has obtained mercy, with the request that others do likewise.
You have heard three explanations of this profound statement of John; namely, that it relates to the literal precious blood and water that flowed from our Lord’s side when pierced; the literal water of His baptism at Jordan and of His blood at Calvary; and, third, the typical blood of atonement and the typical water of purification in the Old Testament. With no thought of adding further confusion to the subject, but in order that our examination be somewhat extensive, there is the obligation to state that it also has been taught that the water is the symbolic water of baptism, and that the blood is the symbolic cup of communion, and that Christ comes to us in a special manner in the two Christian ordinances.
We do not have sufficient space in this issue to examine all four of these suggestions, but would like to draw attention to the fact that there is much difference at times between interpretation and application. Application frequently is fanciful and speculative, whereas interpretation is basic and realistic. It is difficult for some to ascertain first of all the interpretation of a passage before making any application whatsoever; nevertheless, that is definitely the only safe way to study the Holy Bible for a clear understanding of the will of God.
We must, therefore, discover first in our examination what is merely an application and what is clearly an attempt at interpretation.
In doing this we must accept the rule that interpretation is a literal understanding of God’s Word, and that application is more or less speculative and allegorical. In looking over the four suggested meanings of this statement of John, it would appear to me that the first two are literal, and that the last two are an allegorizing of the word of the Apostle. No matter what pleasure one may derive from the last two applications, we must search the first two for the direct meaning of the text. With reliance upon the Holy Spirit, we shall seek to do this in our next issue.
Sincerely in Christ,