Hard Questions

Hard Questions / A Sunday School Lesson Outline by Dr. Mike Zachary

1 John 5

  1. The Purpose of John’s Letter

In what John wanted believers to be able to live a joyful Christian life (I John 1:4).

  1. Water and Blood
  • “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” (I John 5:6).
  • There is uncertainty about the meaning of the phrase by water and blood.
  • Some cross reference John 19:34–35:

But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water. And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true…

  • Some look ahead to I John 5:7–8, believing that this is a reference to the three that bear witness on earth.
  • Some believe that the water and the blood are somehow connected to the two ordinances of the church: baptism (in the water) and the Lord’s Supper (which speaks of the blood of Christ).
  • Some believe that this verse directly combats the first-century heresy of Cerinthus. Cerinthus believed (1) that Jesus was a mere man, (2) that, upon the baptism of Jesus in the water, Jesus was empowered by the Holy Spirit, (3) that, since divinity cannot suffer, the Holy Spirit left Jesus before He was crucified, (4) that Jesus died as a mere man and His blood has no saving power. Cerinthus, then, believed that Jesus came “by water,” but not “by blood.”
  1. The Holy Trinity
  • 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 John 5:7–8
  • Since this is one of the clearest proofs of the nature of the Trinity in the Bible, it is not surprising that some scholars try to omit this passage. Disputes about this passage were rampant even in the early 1500s when Erasmus (1466–1536) worked on editions of the Textus Receptus.

Notice how the New International Version strongly waters down this passage:

For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.

  • Of course, even without I John 5:7–8, the Bible still teaches a Trinity. But it is important to remember that Bible versions matter. Though advertising copy usually just mentions things like “this version is so much easier to read,” there are other underlying issues to consider like, “this version decided to leave out certain parts of the Bible.”
  1. The Sin Unto Death
  • “If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death…” I John 5:16
  • Again, this is a hard-to-understand passage.
  • Some believe this is the unpardonable sin, or something like that.
  • Some believe the reference is to a sin which God instantly punishes with death, like Ananias and Sappira in Acts 5:1–11.
  • What is clear is that, while our God is a God of love, He is also a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29). Christians are granted forgiveness so they can serve God joyfully, not so they can tempt God by a stubborn insistence on sin.
  1. No Idols
  • “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3).
  • John was likely to referring to specific, material false gods, because they were common in the culture of that time.

This can also refer to statues and “pocket gods” that are commonly encountered in some religions.

This can also refer to “mental gods,” that is, to ideals which we embrace instead of trusting in God.





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