The Three Witnesses
Text: 1 John 5: 6-12
Proposition: The testimony of God is that the father has sent the Son that the world may know God and that mankind might have the eternal life He has.
Introduction: A German soldier captured during the Second World War was sent to an internment camp in Scotland. It was sometime in 1945 that pictures of Hitler’s concentration camps were put up in the entrance area of the barracks and for the first time they saw the horrors of Bergen-Belsen and Auschwitz. Guilt and shame haunted that German soldier until years later he experienced the love of Dutch Christians, the wonder of the Gospel and the power of the cross of Christ. Juergen Moltmann was that soldier and he would go on to become one of the greatest theologians of the twentieth century. He once wrote about the transformation of faith that had lifted him out of the guilt and shame that had imprisoned him. “The ultimate reason for our hope is not to be found at all in what we want, wish for and wait for; the ultimate reason is that we are wanted and wished for and waited for… We are waited for as the prodigal son in the parable is waited for by his father… God is our last hope because we are God’s first love.” This morning I’d like to talk with you about the truth of Who Jesus Christ is and the witnesses who saw all that He ever did or will do or said or will say. Have a look at 1 John 5:6-12 with me as we see the record of the three witnesses.
I. The Infallible Witness Testifies to the Incredible Truth.
The verse we are about to consider has been called one of the most difficult in this entire letter. Listen what John writes in verse 6, “This is He who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not only by water, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is truth.” Don’t forget that one of the main reasons for why John wrote this letter was to establish the humanity of Christ that is inseparably united to the deity of Christ. The problem comes when we try to clarify what John meant by ‘water and blood’. Some would say that it refers to the water of baptism where we proclaim our testimony, our witness of Who Jesus is. They’d say that the blood is a reference to communion where the body and blood of Jesus are remembered and proclaimed. That would certainly testify to the humanity of Jesus but the problem is in the word choice John used. In his grammar. He uses the past tense, ‘He who came’, referring to an action in the past where water and blood were involved. Because of this many have come to believe it is a reference to the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan and then to the cross of Jesus at Calvary. The physical body of Jesus experienced baptism. In John 3:5 Jesus in a conversation with Nicodemus emphasized the importance of baptism, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” This is a profound if not difficult saying, yet Jesus was saying something to the Pharisee Nicodemus that needed no clarification, it was something that a Pharisee would know. Likely it is a reference to a passage in Ezekiel 36: 25-28. “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people, and I will be your God.” To be born of water then is a reference to the way God cleans our hearts and makes alive our spirit. Water baptism is a picture of this and make no mistake it is a commanded act. Jesus was physically baptized as a way of identifying Himself with us, if He would be baptized then so must I. It proclaims what has already occurred in you through faith in Christ.
The blood is a reference to the cross in a similar way, Jesus identifies with us to such a degree that He takes our sin upon Himself. It is in His humanity that He is willing to suffer death on our behalf. The significance of blood is that it was directly connected to what gives life. Literally the blood is life. Listen to how Leviticus 17:11 puts it, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.” What this infers is several things. In order for atonement of sin to be effective there must be a pouring out of that which contains life, literally blood. For blood to be there must first be a body that has that blood. For the absolute atonement of sin, for eternal forgiveness and thus eternal life, that body and blood must be of the highest perfection, without sin. This becomes an argument for the humanity of Jesus Christ, His blood is the life that atones for our sin.
The infallible witness to this is the Holy Spirit, there at the baptism of Jesus and most certainly there when the curtain of His flesh was torn, opening the way into the presence of God for all who would believe in Him. The infallible witness of the Holy Spirit testifies to the incredible truth that Jesus is the Son of God. So John writes in verses 7,8, “For there are three that bear witness… the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one.”
II. The Greater Witness Testifies About Things Unseen, What God Sees.
Look at what John writes in verse 9, “If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater…”. The point is to contrast what can be seen, the testimony of the water and the blood, with what can’t be seen, the outcome of faith. The objection to this is obvious, ‘If we can’t see it how do we know it’s really true?’ John’s response is direct, “He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son.” The testimony of God is that if you believe in Jesus you will gain eternal life. The proof that God’s testimony is true is that you will have that witness within in you. This is a reference to a faith that is as tangible as oxygen, you know when you have a lung full of air just as you know when you don’t. Even though you can’t see the air its presence is evidence in itself. It manifests and causes life in you. To reject that testimony, to resist that evidence is the same as calling God a liar. The tangible evidence of the reality of Jesus Christ is evident in history and in creation. But the greater evidence of the testimony of God is only fully known when you believe, when by faith you embrace the Lord Jesus Christ, when you agree with Him about your sin, when you see and accept the cross of Christ as the means to life eternal. So John writes these closing words, “And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” It’s a very exclusive statement, God has given us what is needed for eternal life. That does not come from any other source. If you have the Son, if you possess Christ’s righteousness and by faith are justified before God, then you have (present tense) eternal life. If you do not have the Son then all that you might call life are the days remaining to you in this life and you most certainly will die. The loss that then is experienced is the loss of a life that is incomparable to what you have known in these 80 plus years here. It is a loss that is so extreme it is eternal in scope and absent from what we would call ‘life’. It is hell that that has no joy nor hope nor laughter. It is hell that knows a presence of judgement that is marked by anguish and torment and unutterable grief. In short it is the absence of everything that we would call life and yet still be alive. This is the testimony of God, it is what the phrase ‘does not have the Son’ means. It is the greater testimony for He sees what our eye can’t see, He sees it as a witness to what actually is.
There are two conclusions to this: 1. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved. There is no other one or other way. It is not about being good enough. You aren’t, He is. Receive Christ.
2.The witness of God is now in you who have received Him. Hear the testimony of Isaiah 43:10-12: “You are My witnesses,” says the LORD, “And My servant whom I have chosen, That you may know and believe Me, and understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, nor shall there be after Me. I, even I, am the LORD, and besides Me there is no savior. I have declared and saved, I have proclaimed, and there was no foreign god among you; Therefore you are My witnesses,” says the LORD, “that I am God.”
Scottish evangelist John Harper was a passenger on the Titanic. When the Titanic struck the iceberg and began to sink Harper his daughter put Nina into a lifeboat and then ran throughout the ship yelling “Women, children, and unsaved into the lifeboats!”
When the ship finally went down he had already given his lifejacket to another passenger. Survivors report that to the very end Harper was witnessing to anyone who would listen. One survivor recalls clinging to one of the ships spars when Harper floated near him. “Man, are you saved?” cried Harper. “No I’m not” replied the man. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved” pleaded Harper. Shortly afterward Harper slipped beneath the icy water. In a public meeting four years later, that man testified to this, “There, alone in the night, and with two miles of water under me, I believed. I am John Harper’s last convert.”
You are His witnesses, the witness of the Holy Spirit is in you, the witness of His Word is in front of you, the witness of His Son Jesus Christ is here and in your heart. This is the greater witness of God the Father.