1 John 5:6-12 Feb. 26, 2017
Sermon Series on I John Sermon # 20
Today’s Sermon: “The Three-Fold Witness”
Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
6 “This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. 7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. 9 We accept man’s testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. 10 Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. 11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”
For those of you who are a born-again believers, raise your hand if God used a person to testify to Jesus Christ, and that’s how you heard the gospel? (Almost all of you.) We might call this the human testimony that God uses to bring us to faith in Jesus. But let’s think about the divine testimony that brought you to believe in the Savior. Ultimately it’s because God set His love upon you and called you to Himself, that you responded in faith. God is the One who gave you new birth and a new heart, so that you could believe and have life.
The Apostle John tells us here that our faith in Jesus depends on the divine testimony given about Jesus. Let’s take a look at this very important idea of witness or testimony:
First, the three-fold nature of the testimony to Christ (vv. 6-9) Second, the results of this testimony to Christ (vv. 10-12)
I. The three-fold nature of the testimony to Christ: (vv. 6-9)
v. 6a “This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood.” What does this mean?
Luther and Calvin thought it referred to the two sacraments of baptism (water) and the Lord’s Supper (blood). But blood is an unnatural way to refer to the Lord’s Supper, and furthermore, in what sense did Jesus come through the sacraments?
Augustine and others linked this passage with the gospel record of a soldier’s spear thrust into Jesus’ side, with water and blood coming out (John 19:34-35). But how did Jesus come by this water and blood, if they came out of Him?
Tertullian took the water to refer to Jesus’ baptism, at which He was declared as Son of God and commissioned for His ministry. Then he understood the blood to refer to Jesus’ death on the cross, in which His work was finished. This third interpretation seems to be the soundest one, especially since some of the false teachers of John’s day were teaching that Jesus only became divine at his baptism and that Jesus was only human again at His death. John is refuting that error, as he describes Him as the one who came both through water and blood, that is, His work of salvation came to us through the testimony of His baptism and His sacrificial death.
At the same time, if we accept Jesus’ baptism and crucifixion as the primary meaning of “water and blood”, it’s possible that there is a secondary, symbolic meaning as well. For “water and blood” could also be symbols of purification and atonement, which point us to the two sacraments of baptism (purification- moral cleansing) and the Lord’s Supper (atonement- release from guilt).
This is what the hymn writer Augustus Toplady meant in His famous song, Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me: “Let the water and the blood, from thy riven side which flowed, be of sin the double cure, cleanse me from its guilt and power.” In the water of baptism we are made freed from the power of sin, and in the blood of Christ, symbolized by the Lord’s Supper, we are cleansed from the guilt and shame of sin. Hallelujah! This is the One who came to cleanse us and free us! This is God’s testimony to the One we believe in.
vv. 6b-8 “And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. 7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.”
The Spirit is of course the Holy Spirit, who is always testifying to the Son of God as the Christ, as Lord, etc.
But how does the Spirit testify? John is referring to His inward witness, as He opens our hearts and minds and eyes so that we can believe the truth of the gospel. The Holy Spirit’s convicting and illuminating power lead us to put our trust in Jesus. (See Romans 8:16: the Spirit testifies to our spirit…)
John tells us that the Spirit, the water and the blood testify together, and that all three are in agreement in their witness. [Scripture tells us that if two or three witnesses confirmed a story, it was to be accepted as true in court (Deut. 19:15).]
Therefore, when we put these three witnesses together, we have on the one hand (1) an objective and historical witness to the gospel in Jesus’ baptism and crucifixion (water and blood), and on the other hand, (2) a subjective, experiential witness to our Lord in the promptings of the Holy Spirit. And all three witnesses are in agreement that Jesus is Lord, Jesus is Savior, and that Jesus is the Son of God! This is the divine witness or testimony to Jesus, which God uses to bring us to Him and to convince us of the truth of the gospel.
Now in verse 7 of the King James Version, we read of the three who bear witness, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one… While this looks like a great proof text for the Trinity, the reality is that these words were likely added into the Greek manuscript in the 13th century, but they were not part of the original manuscripts. So forget about it! Don’t use it!
v. 9 “We accept man’s testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son.”
The reason why all three witnesses in v. 8 agree is that God Himself is behind them. Now many of us have given testimony in a courtroom, where we swear to tell the whole trust, and if we do not, we could be charged with perjury. So we tend to believe such a testimony when it is given on the witness stand. If we accept such a human testimony, how much more should we accept and believe the divine testimony! After all, the gospel witness is not something that men made up long after Jesus lived. No. When you read the Bible and see the testimony given by the prophets and the apostles, you know that this witness is coming from God Himself. As John Stott puts it: “It is God who testifies to His Son in history, in the water and the blood, and it is God who testifies to Him today through His Spirit in our hearts.” And it is because this is a three-fold divine witness, not merely a human witness, that we ought to receive it and believe it. And this divine, three-fold witness to Jesus should encourage us in our witnessing for Jesus.
II. The results of this testimony to Christ (vv. 10-12)
The purpose of this divine, three-fold testimony is that we would believe in Jesus Christ and receive eternal life. (John 1:7, 20:31). For to accept God’s testimony is to trust in the One to whom the testimony is given, namely Jesus Christ, as Savior and Lord.
v. 10 “Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son.”
You can see that the results of belief and of unbelief are starkly contrasted. To those who believe in the Son of God, God gives them a further inward assurance, a “testimony in his heart.”
But for those who do not believe, no further testimony can be received, because they have rejected God’s foundational witness about His own Son, and therefore they have made God out to be a liar!
Analogy: Imagine our son and His wife are dropping off their children to spend the weekend with us, and a neighbor happens to be visiting with us at the time. We introduce our son and his family to the neighbor, but the neighbor refuses to believe that he is our son! So I pull out his birth certificate and I show him the pictures on the wall of him growing up… yet he still refuses to accept all this testimony! In fact, he calls me a liar!
That is what happens when a person refuses to believe God the Father’s testimony about His own Son, Jesus Christ. That person is calling God a liar! (Perhaps we need to say that to people… with a smile on our face and love in our heart for them.)
Again, to quote John Stott: “Unbelief is not a misfortune to be pitied; it is a sin to be deplored. Its sinfulness lies in the fact that it contradicts the word of the one true God and thus attributes falsehood to Him.”
Where are you on this? Do you accept God’s testimony, or will you call God a liar?
vv. 11-12 “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”
John now focuses on the blessing given to the believer. He who believes God’s three-fold testimony to the Son of God now possesses God’s gift of everlasting life in the Son.
For eternal life with God in heaven is found in God’s Son, and is found nowhere else (John 14:6). Why is that true? Because the Son IS the life. Jesus is the only way. If there were another path to eternal life with God, then Jesus would not have come to suffer our punishment.
Consider this Eternal Life: It is an undeserved gift, not something we earn; it is found only in Christ; and it is a present possession to be enjoyed here and now, as well as for eternity future.
In this whole paragraph (vv. 6-12), John has been elaborating what he wrote in his gospel in 20:31 “These things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”
The way to eternal life is by faith in Christ, and the way to that faith is by hearing and believing the divine and the human testimony God provides. God has borne witness to His Son, in order that we may believe in Him, and by trusting Him, possess God’s gift of everlasting life.
Implication for receiving this witness, in order to know God and trust in Him, through Christ. (See Romans 10:13)
Implication for proclaiming this witness, that others may know Jesus as Savior and Lord! (see Romans 1:16)