How did the Lord Jesus come by water and blood as stated in 1 John 5: 6?
1 John 5: 6 is the first verse in a section (see vs 6–12) of the Epistle in which the word witness occurs several times and is clearly the subject. Researching the four Gospels further reveals that John speaks of witness or testimony more than twice as many times as the other three Evangelists put together (the words witness and testimony come from the same root word in Greek). Again, John alone uses the word witness for the Baptist’s ministry (see John 1: 7, 8, 15, 19, 32, 34; 3: 26, 28; 5: 33). Furthermore, while the Synoptics record the Lord speaking of witness and testimony, it is only in John’s Gospel that we read of Him speaking of His witness, especially in chapter five. Again, in the Revelation John speaks four times of “the testimony of Jesus” (Rev. 1: 9; 12: 17; 19: 10; 20: 4). Thus testimony or witness is a significant part of John’s record.
Returning to the relevant section of the Epistle there are three witnesses (the section from “in heaven” (v7; AV) to … “on earth” (v 8; AV) having no real manuscript authority). The testimony of these three witnesses has a singular object (“agree in one”—v8), and the prominent witness underpinning the other two is the Spirit, “for the Spirit is the truth” (v6). The preceding words “This is he that came by water and blood, Jesus [the] Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood” show that the coming of the Christ is marked by two elements: water and blood in that order.
These elements describe how He came. The phrase “not by water only” clearly implies that Jesus the Christ could have come by water alone, but He did not. How did He come? Scripture speaks of the Lord coming from heaven (see John 3: 13; 6: 38, 41, 42, 51, 58), but never to earth. When a destination is in view, it is never to but always into the world (see John 1: 9; 3: 19; 9: 39; 11: 27; 12: 46; 16: 28; 18: 37; Heb. 10: 5)—for the word world in the NT does not describe a physical place but the sphere of public testimony where men live. Hence, the Lord said to Pilate “Thou sayest [it], that I am a king. I have been born for this, and for this I have come into the world, that I might bear witness to the truth” (John 18: 37). So when did the Lord come into the world? When He began His public ministry. This was at His baptism. John the Baptist says “And I knew him not; but that he might be manifested to Israel, therefore have I come baptising with water” (John 1: 31, my emphasis). This, I believe, was the coming by water.
John’s baptism is identified with the Kingdom on earth and his associated preaching “Repent, for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn nigh” (Matt. 3: 2) was for Israel alone. Now while John could rightly be described as coming by water only, for he was known as the Baptist, this could not be said of the Lord since His coming was twofold. With Him, there was the answer to prophecy in coming to Israel by water as the Baptist testified, but there was also the far deeper and wider motive: and that was to deal with sin. Again, the Baptist testified “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1: 29)—again, a testimony peculiar to John’s Gospel. Elsewhere we read “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim. 1: 15, my emphasis) or as John puts it “he has been manifested that he might take away our sins” (1 John 3 5, my emphasis). This required the blood. The difference between the two is denoted by the language of Scripture: the testimony of the Kingdom to Israel was “hidden from [the] world’s foundation” (Matt. 13: 35, my emphasis); the blood was “foreknown indeed before [the] foundation of [the] world” (1 Pet. 1: 20, my emphasis). The Lord’s baptism was at the beginning of His public testimony; His crucifixion, when the blood was shed, terminated that testimony, being the last time the world heard and saw Him. John alone gives the record “when they saw that he was already dead they did not break his legs, but one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and immediately there came out blood and water. And he who saw it bears witness, and his witness is true, and he knows that he says true that ye also may believe” (John 19: 33–35). The Lord was able to say “Thy sins are forgiven” (Luke 7: 48, for example), during his public testimony, because His words always looked on to the shedding of His blood, for “without blood–shedding there is no remission” (Heb. 9: 22).
Summing up then, the coming of Jesus Christ by water was on the line of the ways of God (see Is. 2: 3; Mic. 4: 2; Rom. 11: 33), ways that may change, but His coming by blood, “the blood of his cross” (Col. 1: 20), answered to “the unchangeableness of his purpose” (Heb. 6: 17).