“For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.”
This is one of the favorite verses used to support the theory that God is composed of three separate persons. This verse says that “there are three that bear record in heaven.” The question must be asked, “three what?” Trinitarians and Tritheists assume that “there are three [persons, beings, or even three Gods],” but that is not what the verse says. It just says “there are three.”
When we read the next verse we find a very similar statement. It says, “And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one” (1 John 5:8). Again we read of three, but instead of bearing “record in heaven,” they “bear witness in earth.” The words “record” and “witness” come from the same Greek word in the very same form, and should be translated alike.
Verse 8 says, “there are three that bear witness in earth.” Again, we must ask “three what?” Are there three persons? three beings? three Gods? From the context we find that it can be none of these. These three are said to be “the Spirit, and the water, and the blood.” Verse six explains what these are where it says, “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” (1 John 5:6).
From this verse we find that two of the three, the water and the blood, cannot possibly be persons, yet they bear record in the earth. John brought this up in the context of proving that Jesus is the Son of God. The previous verse says, “Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:5). A few verses later John wrote, “He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son” (1 John 5:10).
John informed us that the Spirit, the water, and the blood bear record to help prove his point that Jesus is the Son of God. When John the Baptist saw the Spirit of God descending in the form of a dove at Christ’s baptism, this bore record to him that Jesus is the Son of God. He recounted it this way, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God” (John 1:32-34). Here is one way the Spirit bore record that Jesus is the Son of God. It is also given to guide us into all truth by bearing witness to our spirit. (John 16:13; Romans 8:16).
The water bore the same record, for it was at Christ’s water baptism that He was first publicly declared to be the Son of God. When Christ’s blood was shed at Calvary it also testified that He is the Son of God. The Bible says about Christ’s death, “Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God” (Matthew 27:54).
Here we find that the Spirit, the water, and the blood all testify on earth to the fact that Jesus is truly the Son of God, yet this is done even though they are not three persons. If the three that bear witness on the earth are not separate individual persons, then there is no guarantee that the three that bear witness in heaven are separate persons. Also, verse eight helps us to understand how the three in heaven are one. Verse eight says, “these three agree in one,” or in other words, the record that they bear is in agreement. So it is not the three, the water, the blood, and the Spirit, that are one, but the three records that are one. This is also true about the previous verse: the record of the Father, the Word and the Spirit is the same record. They all bear record that Jesus is the Son of God, and their record is in agreement.
How does the Father bear record in heaven? If a heavenly being wished to have direct access to the Father, who is sitting upon a throne, the Father would personally bear record that Jesus is the Son of God. The Son of God also bears record in the same way, He personally sits on a throne in heaven. And the Holy Spirit bears record in heaven the same way that it bears record in the earth, it bears record with our spirit. In heaven this same Spirit can bear witness to a heavenly being even if he is not physically standing before the throne of God. And these three records are in perfect agreement.
Trinitarians seem to read 1 John 5:7 inserting three words in the text like this: “For there are three Persons that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three Persons are one God.” But that is not what the text says. First John 5:7* [Footnote: * First John 5:7 is in very few translations of the Bible due to its questionable nature. “It is now generally held that this passage, called the Gomma Johanneum, is a gloss that crept into the text of the Old Latin and Vulgate at an early date, but found its way into the Greek text only in the 15th and 16th centuries” (A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1951, page 1186). Clarke says, “Out of one hundred and thirteen manuscripts, the text is wanting in one hundred and twelve. It occurs in no MS. before the tenth century. And the first place the text occurs in Greek, is in the Greek translation of the acts of the Council of Lateran, held A. D. 1215” (Clarke’s Commentary on 1 John 5, and remarks at close of chapter).] does not prove that there are three persons in one God. The only way we can find a trinity in this verse is to add three words to the Bible. If we wish to find evidence from the Bible that God is composed of three persons we must look elsewhere.