1 John 5:6 states, "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."
This is a very disputed passage. Most commentators point to the water and blood that flowed from Jesus' side when He was speared (John 19:34). Others point to the water of baptism or to water as a type of the word of God. Without claiming absolute certainty, I will attempt to give an answer.
Water is one of the most versatile symbols in the Bible. It is clearly used at various times as a picture of everlasting life (John 4:14-15), the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39), and the word of God (John 15:3 with Ephesians 5:26). Since it is the element of water baptism, many see it as a picture of this. However, I see one more use of water as a type in scripture. I believe that it is a type of physical birth.
Water is an appropriate picture of the physical birth since the infant is preserved in a sack of water in the womb. In John 3:5, Jesus told Nicodemus, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." I believe that the context of this verse shows that Jesus is referring to natural birth when He speaks of being born of water. In John 3:4 Nicodemus asked, "How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?" He is considering the impossibility of a second natural birth. In verse six, Jesus explained, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." He spoke of two kinds of birth: one natural and one spiritual. So, in verse five (the verse in-between the two just mentioned), Jesus stated that there must be two births: one of water and another of the Spirit.
In order to enter the kingdom of God, it is not enough to be born (that is, of water). You must be born a second time of the Spirit. Though this may seem common sense to us today, the Jews thought that they would go to heaven because they were born of Abraham. One of the great teachings of the New Testament is to explain to these who were the people of God by natural birth that this was not enough for them to enter the kingdom of God (John 8:33, 37-39; Romans 3:28-29; 9:7-8; Matthew 8:11-12 w/13:38). They must be born both of water and of the Spirit.
In 1 John 5, John had been dealing with those who denied the coming of Christ in the flesh. 1 John 4:2 stated, "Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God." Some were denying that Christ had come in the flesh. "For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist" (2 John 1:7). 1 John 5:6 declares that though Jesus "came by water," He came "not by water only." He also came by blood. These two items along with the Spirit bear witness to the Son: "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).
The water, then, speaks of the physical birth of Christ. This is how He "came" to earth. However, it also bears witness of His heavenly identity. He was born of a virgin and came as God manifest in the flesh. The water bears clear witness of the deity of the Son.
The Spirit also bears witness of His Sonship. Of Jesus Christ it was said, "God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him" (John 3:34). He did all of His works by the power of the Spirit. The Spirit also bare witness of him at His baptism (John 1:32-33).
Finally, the blood bore witness to the Son. We come to "Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel" (Hebrews 12:24). The blood that He willingly shed bore witness to His deity. "And when the centurion, which stood over against him, saw that he so cried out, and gave up the ghost, he said, Truly this man was the Son of God" (Mark 15:39). The centurion was convinced by the witness of Christ as He shed His blood on the cross.
The water, the Spirit, and the blood still bear witness to the person of Jesus Christ today.