Baptism and I John 5:7-8

Baptism and I John 5:7-8

The Spirit, the water, and the blood carry the same message during baptism

There are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood, and these three agree.—I John 5:7-8

The Spirit, the water, and the blood agree because they all point to the same eternal truth: We belong forever, completely, to God.

The Holy Spirit unambiguously testifies to us that we belong to God. Using somewhat different vocabulary, Paul makes the same point in Ephesians 1:13-14, Romans 8:16, and II Corinthians 1:22. In other words, the Holy Spirit is real in my life; I sense his presence in a very tangible way; and that subjective experience lets me know unambiguously that I truly belong to God.

The blood of Jesus unambiguously testifies to God that we belong to him. I could refer to a multitude of New Testament passages, but my favorite statement on this subject is Exodus 12:13, where God gives instructions for the first passover (when all the firstborn in Egypt would die): “When I see the blood, I will pass over you,” he said. All that was required for the people to be safe from death was the blood of the passover lamb. It didn’t matter what they were doing. No special level of morality or religiosity was required. Just the blood. And, of course, Jesus was crucified at Passover. He is in fact “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”—the one toward whom all those previous sacrifices of lambs were pointing. Passover (rather than the Day of Atonement) was the premier metaphor for what God’s action in Jesus was all about. It has to do not only with deliverance from death, but also deliverance from slavery (sin, etc.). So when we accept the blood of Jesus for our atonement, we are by faith placing that blood on the doorposts of our lives, trusting in God’s promise that death will not touch us “when [God] sees the blood,” and that we soon shall be completely delivered from slavery (signified by Egypt)—i.e., from sin, sickness, pain, and the general ways of this fallen world, etc.

The water unambiguously testifies to the world that we belong to God. During many periods of Christian history, even outsiders did not consider people to have truly committed themselves to Jesus (in the case, for example, of Jews who became Christians) until they had been baptized. When we are baptized (the Greek word means to dip or to immerse), we announce to the world that we are dying to this order of things and giving ourselves 100% to Jesus, to the new order, to God’s reign both in our lives and in the world. It’s a public act, one of proclaiming our total allegiance. That’s why I feel that people who are baptized in private lose a lot of the blessings and power of this wonderful gift. (Although if public baptism might lead to imprisonment or death, I am confident that God is quite happy to honor private baptism. He’s not a legalist.)