Water has great significance in the Bible so what does it represent according to the Scriptures?
The Washing of the Word
The word of God is often referred to as water in the Bible because the Word acts as a cleansing agent which explains what Paul meant when he wrote concerning Jesus’ cleansing the church “that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Eph 5:26-27). Ezekiel writes about where God says “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you” (Ezk 36:25) while the author of Hebrews writes “let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Heb 10:22).
There has been some mystery behind the meaning where John refers to water in 1st John 5:7-9 “For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son.” We know “the Spirit” refers to God the Holy Spirit and He convicts the sinner and points them to their need of the Savior. We know what the Blood of Christ represents. The blood takes away our sins but then the Word of God may be the “water” that John is referring to as he says that these three testify; the Spirit, the water, and the blood. It is a tri-fold work of God to save us.
Water as Salvation or Eternal Life
Isaiah talks about “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation” (Isaiah 12:3) while Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water” (John 4:10) because “whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14). In this chapter Jesus refers to water as the “living water” and it springs up to eternal life and He is the source of this living water that we can draw “water from the wells of salvation” from. In Revelation 21:6 Jesus says “To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment” and “the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb” (Rev 22:1) giving further indication that Jesus is this source of living water, even in the New Jerusalem.
The Water as the Spirit of God
Jesus uses the word water in yet another figurative way when “On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:37-39) so Jesus was prophesying about the Spirt that would come that “had not been given” as the “living water” and would come on the Day of Pentecost when He would pour out His Spirit upon the church.
The Fountains of Living Water
We have already read that Jesus is the source of living water but this was not a new idea found only in the New testament because it’s also found in the Old Testament where Jeremiah writes “for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jer 2:13) and again this reference is used in Jeremiah 17:3 where the prophet writes “those who turn away from you shall be written in the earth, for they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living water.” The source of this living water is Jesus and since Jesus is God, God refers to Himself at the fountain of (the source of) living waters but sadly, many then, as they do today, forsake “the fountain of living water.”
So water in the Bible represents the cleansing of the sinner by the washing of the water of the Word of God; water is also the source of the living water that springs up into eternal life; Jesus referred to the coming of the “living water” as the Holy Spirit which at the time He spoke had not yet been poured out; and finally, God is this source of this living water in both the Old and the New Testament and those who drink from it will never die and indeed, shall never thirst again (John 4:14).
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Blind Chance or Intelligent Design available on Amazon.