Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ,
The verse before our passage tells us that the person who overcomes the world is the person who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. And the last verse of our passage, v13, tells us that those who believe in the name of the Son of God may know that they have eternal life. So believing in Jesus is the very core of Christianity.
And today three young men have publicly professed faith in Jesus. And we are very glad about this; we rejoice with them and their families, and as a congregation.
What becomes clear though, as you read these verses, is that it is possible to have the wrong idea about Who Jesus is and What He came to do. And the implication of everything John says here is plain: It is only those who believe the right thing about Who Jesus is and What He came to do who overcome the world and who can be certain that they have eternal life.
So it is very fitting that on we come today to this passage that summarizes the truth about Who Jesus is and What He came to do. I am sure that _____ want to be sure that they have overcome the world and that they have eternal life. But I am trust that each one of us want this same certainty. Right?
Do you want to know beyond any doubt that you are in Christ?
Do you want to be confident that you have overcome the world?
Do you want the reassurance that eternal life is yours?
Well, your God wants you to have this certainty also. And He provides it with the words of our text.
What becomes clear from this passage is that there was disagreement and controversy about Who Jesus is and What He come to do in the congregation that John originally wrote this letter to. We have learned that some people had left this congregation. And the most likely explanation is that the people who left had embraced a false theology called Gnosticism.
And a key part of Gnostic belief was that Jesus was an ordinary man who received an anointing by the Holy Spirit when he was baptized, but that the Spirit left him before he died on the cross. So they did not believe that Jesus was divine; that He was God. And according to them, what happened on the cross was not an important part of what it meant to be a Christian. You just had to follow the teachings of Jesus.
What John wanted his original readers and all those who read his epistle to understand, however, is that God provided the Apostles with the truth about Who Jesus is and What He came to do, and they wrote it down, in black and white, in the pages of the NT. So the Bible gives us THE TESTIMONY OF GOD about Jesus. That is what this passage is all about. The message of Christianity is not my opinion or the opinion of those who wrote the books of the Bible; it is the testimony of God. And as we consider the significance of God’s testimony about Jesus, we are going to see that the truth about Who Jesus is and What He came to do provides believers with wonderful certainty.
So today we consider God’s testimony about Jesus. And we do so under three headings: The THREE WITNESSES of God’s Testimony about Jesus, the TRUSTWORTHINESS of God’s Testimony about Jesus, and the TWO-WHOEVERS in relation to God’s Testimony about Jesus.
I. So first of all, the THREE WITNESSES of God’s Testimony about Jesus, from vv6-8.
A. Eight times in vv6-12 we read about ‘TESTIFYING’ or ‘testimony.’ Other English versions use the words ‘witnessing’ or ‘witness.’ And of course, we recognize those words from the courtroom; they have to do with evidence. In a court case, both the defence and the prosecution will use witnesses to try and prove a person’s innocence or guilt. And so, this is why we read from Deut. 19 earlier in the service. For there the Lord God gave the rule that there had to be two or three witnesses to prove a charge in court. When three witnesses all say the same thing, we can be pretty sure that we are hearing the truth. Well, God has provided us with three witnesses about the truth of Who Jesus is and What He came to do. And the three witnesses are, as we see in vv7-8, “THE SPIRIT AND THE WATER AND THE BLOOD; AND THESE THREE AGREE.” They all testify or bear witness to the same truth: The human being, Jesus, was also the eternal Son of God. He is the Promised Messiah. And He died on the cross for the forgiveness of sins and He rose again from the dead. Let’s see how they do this.
1. John starts, in v6, with WATER AND BLOOD. And there is a GREAT DEAL OF DISCUSSION IN COMMENTARIES about what he is referring to with these two terms. Some suggest they refer to the human and divine natures of the Lord Jesus, some to the water and blood that flowed when the spear pierced His side on the cross, and some to the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. And there are elements in each suggestion that have merit. But taking into account the context and the fact that John doesn’t give a detailed explanation of these terms because his original readers will know exactly what he was referring to, the plainest and simplest interpretation is that water refers to the baptism of Jesus and blood to His work on the cross.
a. So let’s start with water and the baptism of the Lord Jesus.
i. THE GNOSTICS believed that the baptism of Jesus was very important because that is when, according to them, Jesus, the ordinary human being, received the power of the Holy Spirit. But they did not attach any significance to what Jesus did on the cross. In fact, they believed that the Spirit left Jesus before He died on the cross. So that is probably the view that John takes aim at here in v6, when he says, “Not by water only but by water and the blood.” To properly understand Who Jesus is and What He came to do, you need to take into account His baptism and His work on the cross.
ii. But while the Gnostics were right to identify the baptism of Jesus as important, they didn’t really even understand THE SIGNIFICANCE OF HIS BAPTISM. Do you boys and girls remember the account of Jesus’ baptism? We read that when He came up from the water, the heavens opened and the Spirit of God descended like a dove and came to rest on Him. And then a voice from heaven said, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” In NUMBERS 8:6-7, we read that the Levites had to be sprinkled with the water of purification as a sign of their ordination into the priesthood. Well, the baptism of Jesus was the moment when He was ordained as our eternal High Priest. It was there that He was publicly revealed as the Son of God and the Anointed One of God – the Christ. And from that moment on He began to teach and perform miracles that continually demonstrated that He was God and Man, the Promised Messiah, the Anointed Christ.
iii. So that is what is meant by the reference to water. The water – the baptism of Jesus – testifies that He is the Son of God who came save His people from their sins.
b. And the reference to BLOOD, as we have already noted, speaks of His work on the cross.
i. How would Jesus save His people from their sins? Well, the whole OT prepares us for this by setting before us, again and again and again, VICARIOUS OR SUBSTITUTIONARY SACRIFICE – Something or Someone is sacrificed in place of another. From the Garden of Eden and the death of animals so that Adam and Eve could have skins to cover their nakedness, to the provision of a Ram to take the place of Isaac on the altar, to the lambs that were killed and their blood wiped on the doorposts of the houses of the Israelites so that the angel of death would pass-over their houses, to the two goats of Atonement Day, one killed and the other sent out into the desert after the sins of Israel had been symbolically placed on its head, and to the billions of spotless lambs that were killed at the Tabernacle and the Temple in place of the people of Israel, the OT was explaining that God would provide a sacrifice to take our place or to substitute for us. Jesus came to take our place – to be the sacrifice instead of us.
ii. And because the lambs had to be SPOTLESS, we are being told that THE lamb would have to be perfectly obedient. Jesus lived a perfectly obedient life.
iii. And because so many animals had to die as sacrifices for sin, we are being told that ANIMALS CANNOT TRULY PAY FOR THE SINS OF HUMAN BEINGS – IT WILL HAVE TO BE A HUMAN BEING. Jesus had a human nature just like you and me.
iv. And because the price that must be paid for sin is eternal punishment, we are being told that THE ONE WHO PAYS THE PRICE FOR OUR SINS MUST BE GOD in order to ‘survive’ an eternity of God’s wrath. Jesus had a fully divine nature; He is God. He was able, on the cross, in the three hours of darkness, to endure an eternity of punishment for all our sins. And though He had to die because death too was a part of the punishment of sin, His resurrection is the evidence that He ‘survived’ God’s eternal wrath and death.
v. And so, as we read earlier from Ephesians 1, “In [Jesus] we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our sins.” His blood testifies that our sins are forgiven.
vi. So the water and the blood is the simplest way to describe Who Jesus is and What He came to do – His baptism and His work on the cross bear witness to the truth that the human being, Jesus, was also the eternal Son of God. He is the Promised Messiah. And He died on the cross for the forgiveness of sins and He rose again from the dead.
2. And that brings us to the third testifier – the Spirit – who is the HOLY SPIRIT. Earlier in the service, we read about the promise of Jesus to send the Holy Spirit. And He called the Spirit “the Spirit of truth.” Jesus said, “He will guide you into all truth.” And so, after Jesus died and rose again and ascended into heaven, the Spirit came down upon the disciples on the Day of Pentecost and caused them to preach the truth about Jesus. And do you remember what happened then? 3000 people heard the truth and believed the truth and were added to the church. And ever since that time, millions and billions of people have heard the Holy Spirit speak the truth about Jesus as they read or hear what the Bible reveals about Him, and they have believed.
a. So in the Bible we have the objective, historical facts about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. We have the truth about Who Jesus is and What He came to do. But it is the Holy Spirit who persuades us, within our hearts, that what we hear or read is true, so that we believe it.
b. One of the earliest songs we learn as children is Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so. And that is true. But if we were trying to be a bit more thorough, we would say, Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Holy Spirit has opened my eyes to see the truth about Who Jesus is and What He came to do that is written on the pages of the Bible, and to believe that what He did He did for me.
c. And that is what John is emphasizing here; the Bible proclaims the same facts to everyone but it is the Holy Spirit who causes some to believe that what they read or hear is the truth.
II. So the Spirit and the water and the blood are the three witnesses of the testimony of God about Jesus; they agree about Who Jesus is and What He came to do. But we must take note also, in the second place, about what is said here concerning the TRUSTWORTHINESS of the testimony of God about Jesus. For we read in v9, “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.”
A. And John’s logic is quite obvious here. The fact is that human-beings are fallible – their testimony will not always be accurate.
1. In the passage we read earlier from DEUT. 19, God provided a way of checking a person’s testimony to see if it was true or false. God knew that sometimes people would be tempted to falsely accuse others. And most of us have probably done this at some point in our lives, by blame-shifting or telling a lie or half-truth so that someone else got the blame. Yes?
2. But our fallibility as witnesses isn’t just about dishonesty. I have an UNCLE who was a policemen. He was off duty one day and backing out of his driveway. And when he looked to the side, another car was reversing out of the neighbour’s driveway. And my Uncle immediately recognized the driver and he knew that the neighbour had a restraining order against the driver so the driver should not have been where he was. Well, the other driver took off, so my uncle reported what he had seen and eventually it came to a court case with my uncle serving as a witness for the prosecution. The facts were simple: It was a Thursday, about 8am in the morning, and he observed the defendant reversing a white Holden out of his neighbour’s address. Now, my uncle was an intelligent policeman who knew what he had seen, and this was not his first time in court so he knew what to expect. But he told me that by the time that the defence lawyer had finished questioning him, he wasn’t sure anymore if it was Thursday or Friday, or 8am or 9am, or the driveway on the left or the right, or if the car was white or a Holden, or whether it was the accused or someone else. And I am sure you can remember a time when something you were one hundred percent certain of was later called into question, such that you were no longer sure about what you had seen or heard.
3. The point is that we all know that the testimony of men is not always reliable. But we still believe it. When you want to take a BUS into the city, you look at the front of the bus and the sign that says City and you believe it and get on. Why? How do you know that the Bus-driver is not trying to deceive you, or that he has just forgotten to change it to Northlands shopping Mall, which is actually where he is going? We live our lives assuming that we are being told the truth. And we have to, otherwise living would be impossible. But we assume this despite the fact that we know that human beings are not always absolutely trustworthy.
4. God, though, is ABSOLUTELY trustworthy! He has no reason to lie and He cannot lie, because His character is truth. So He has caused around 40 authors over a period of about 1600 years to write down the truth about Who Jesus is and What He came to do. The Holy Spirit guided every word that all those authors wrote down so that we might have not the word of men but the Word of God! On the pages of the Bible you have the testimony of God about Jesus. There is no reason at all to refuse to believe Him!
III. And this leads us on, thirdly and lastly, to the TWO-WHOEVERS in relation to God’s Testimony about Jesus. And we see this in vv10-12.
A. First of all, FROM V10, we see that “whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself.” _____, Believer, you know that what you believe about Jesus is true because the Holy Spirit has convinced you of this, deep within your soul. And He will continue to convince you of this, and in deeper and more profound ways, for the rest of your life.
1. Have you ever experienced a moment when you saw a connection between the OT and the NT that you never noticed before? That was the Holy Spirit at work within you.
2. Or perhaps you remember a time when you were reading a part of the Bible that you knew well and something new struck you that you had not noticed before. That was the Holy Spirit at work within you!
3. Or maybe it was when you were encountering a trial and someone shared a verse of Scripture with you that spoke to your deepest need. That was the Holy Spirit at work within you.
4. Or perhaps you recall those times when Scripture has convicted you of sin so that you have turned to the Lord to confess your sins. That was the Holy Spirit at work within you.
5. Or perhaps you read something about the Lord Jesus Christ and were just gripped with a powerful sense of love for Him or sorrow for what He suffered on your behalf or thankfulness for what He did for you. That was the Holy Spirit at work within you.
6. Do you know the sorts of moments I am describing? ROMANS 8:16 says, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” The Holy Spirit uses the words of Scripture to speak to our souls so that “whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in Himself.” This is the first whoever of this passage.
B. But there is ANOTHER ‘WHOEVER’ IN VV10-12. v10b says, “Whoever does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning His Son.” Read the Bible and you will see that God has told us the truth about the Lord Jesus. If you refuse to believe His testimony, it is not because what is written in this book doesn’t add up or make sense, it is because you know that if you accept the truth of Christ as Saviour then you must accept His lordship, but you will not have God rule your life. Let me say it again in a different way: It is not that the case for Christianity is unconvincing or that the facts about the death and resurrection of Christ don’t stand up to scrutiny; it is that you refuse to believe it because you do not want to yield your life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. You would rather call God a liar than believe His testimony.
C. Well, you need to know THE CONSEQUENCES should you continue to reject His testimony. He spells it out in vv11-12: The testimony is “that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” If you continue in your unbelief and rejection of God’s testimony about Jesus, you will one day stand before God on the Day of Judgment. And as He sends you to the agony and torment and fire and loneliness of an eternity in hell, you will know in your heart of hearts that you have only yourself to blame because you refused to believe what you know is true. So I urge you to put away your pride and rebellion and to humble yourself and choose today to believe in the Son of God.
D. Because the moment you do, you join the other ‘Whoevers’ spoken about here, who have eternal life and who know it for certain, because they have the Son of God!
______-, believer, your God wants you to be certain that eternal life is yours. The world wants you to think that Jesus is a nobody and that there is no after-life. The World Council of Churches, no less, which met in 2000, with officials from churches of 27 countries represented, agreed to remove the cross from the centre of Christianity. In their view, the cross was a form of child abuse that promoted violence. One speaker said, “I don’t think we need a theory of atonement at all. I don’t think we need folks hanging on crosses and blood dripping and weird stuff…. We just need to listen to the god within.” And so, as part of what they called the Second Reformation, they agreed that it wasn’t salvation we needed but Sophia, which is Greek for wisdom. The Gnostics were back in town!
But don’t listen to them. Listen instead to the testimony of God about Jesus. God sent His Son to die on the cross for the forgiveness of your sins. And by the power of the Holy Spirit, John wrote down the words of our text that conclude with v13, “to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.” Amen.