This passage might seem, at first glance, confusing, but the reader needs to remember that John is commenting on testimony. His letter isn’t a theological treatise, as much an argument against the case testimony of proto -Gnosticism and its effect on the Christian community. Christians we’re creating communities that had an anti-Christ spirit dictating a type of classicism amongst believers. As John wrote this, it was important to him to establish the inappropriateness of this belief but also the damage it can do. This final testimony of Spirit, Blood, and Water leans into the anti-gnostic rhetoric by pairing knowledge of God with physical things and physical practices. This combination of spiritual and physical is forbidden in gnostic ideas. For John, the combination of the Spirit of God, the act of a believers baptism (participated in by Christ himself), and the history of Christ’s shed blood isn’t mystical or gnosis, it is testimony that should secure in a believer’s mind that what he speaks is truth. This is a drastic departure from the mere testimony of emotional movement that some call the Spirit. For John, it may indeed be a spirit that testifies, but it is not God’s. God’s Spirit testifies is always multiply attested. This is a fair warning for today’s spiritualists and progressive Christians who have exchanged an intellectually affirmable belief in God for one that simply validates emotions and self-aggrandizing.
This post first appeared at JoshMcGary.com