Lesson Number 9
EVIDENCE OF IDENTITY
5:1Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him. 2By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. 3For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. 4For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world; our faith. 5Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 6This 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. 7For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one. 8And there are three that bear witness on earth: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one. 9If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God which He has testified of His Son. 10He 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. 11And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5:1-12, NKJV)
These two matters are so integrally related they are referred to as a single "commandment" (3:23). Our eternal destiny hinges on the fulfillment of these responsibilities, with no allowance whatsoever for failure in them. Neither of these expressions can be institutionalized or exploited to the advantage of the flesh. Both of them require a vital association with Deity, and can only be effectively sustained in disassociation from this present evil world, and anticipation of the world to come. The love of the world erodes them both, and the flesh can fulfill neither one. The Holy Spirit will not allow either of them to become insignificant, but consistently holds them before us for due consideration, retention, and heart-filled obedience.
Those who are acquainted with institutionalized, or lifeless, religion will recognize a glaring absence of these requirements in the professed church. A strong faith in Christ and a fervent love for the brethren are not at all common these days.
Throughout history, the devil has worked aggressively to destroy these expressions by diverting the attention of professed believers to the "fashion of this world," which is passing away (1 Cor 7:31). This is done in a variety of ways, but they all narrow down to a religion that has a "form of godliness that denies the power thereof" (2 Tim 3:5). The Lord Jesus Christ is not essential for such an approach to religion, and the Holy Spirit is not required. The individual can thus sustain affinity with the cursed world, all the while imagining he is acceptable with God. Such a conclusion is only a vain imagination, designed to subvert the soul.
I want to again bring to your attention the tone of these words. There is no vagueness about them or room for varied interpretations. The strength of the affirmations is borne out by the conclusions to which they lead. Ponder a few of these conclusions, or spiritual deductions.
There is a certainty in these affirmations that fortifies the heart. They have a strong appeal to faith, but produce confusion to the one who does not believe. This is the manner in which the Spirit speaks when He is seeking to produce assurance in us. If believers are to know they have eternal life, they must hear words like this. Law in any form cannot produce such marvelous results.
Our text will show us strong evidence of affiliation with God and Christ. It will affirm there is triumph over the world through faith, and a powerful inner witness that attests we are the sons of God.
BORN OF GOD
These words are not to be reduced by attempting to fit them into theological patterns created by men. The phrase "whoever believes," or "whosoever believeth"KJV, are common in Scripture, and are always associated with blessing and Divine benefit. There is never a question about the status of such a person. The promises made to the individual believing in Christ are staggering. (1) All things are possible to the one believing. (2) Should not perish, but have everlasting life. (3) Will never thirst. (4) Has everlasting life. (5) Out of his belly will flow rivers of living water. (6) Will never die. (7) Will not abide in darkness. (8) Will do greater works. (9) Will receive remission of sins. (10) Is justified from all things. (11) To such the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation. (12) Will not be ashamed or disappointed. (13) To such, Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness. (14) Will not be confounded. (Mk 9:23; John 3:15,16; 6:35,47; 7:38; 11:25; 12:46; 14:12; Acts 10:43; 13:39; Rom 1:16; 9:33; 10:4,11; 1 Pet 2:6).
The Nature of Faith is Thus Seen
Divine commitments of this magnitude tell us something about faith. It cannot be the result of mere human activity, although our exertion is surely involved. Believing is associated with the grace of God, else such commitments could not be made. It is written that we have "believed through grace" (Acts 18:27). The grace of God is abundant with "faith and love" (1 Tim 1:14), and can only be grasped by faith (Eph 2:8). The presence of faith, therefore, or believing that Jesus is the Son of God, is itself evidence of Divine favor. It was so with Peter (Matt 16:16-17), and it is so with you.
Faith and Love United
In this text, the Spirit unites faith and brotherly love, showing that they cannot be separated. One of Satan's effective ploys is to convince men they can be have faith in God without having a love for His people. But this is not possible in the Spirit.
Flesh and Spirit
In Christ, we become "partakers of the Divine nature" and "of Christ" (2 Pet 1:4; Heb 3:14). Experientially, we are removed from Satan's grasp, "delivered from the power of darkness" and "translated into the kingdom of His dear Son" (Col 1:13). All of this is realized by faith, through which we become the children of God (Gal 3:26). At this point the believer becomes a walking dichotomy. Within the child of God, "the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would" (Gal 5:17).
Believing that Jesus is the Christ is on the Spirit side. Not believing that, however minuscule it may appear, is on the flesh side. Loving the one born of God is on the Spirit side. Not loving such an one is on the flesh side. It is to be acknowledged by everyone professing faith in God, that the flesh, together with all that comes from it, is unacceptable to God. "The flesh profits nothing" (John 6:63). It cannot be trusted, and brings no advantage to the believer.
To make a profession, therefore, to believe in Christ, yet have no love for those who are born of God, is to attempt to join the flesh and the Spirit together. This cannot be done, and those who make such a foolish attempt have actually returned to the flesh-if, indeed, they ever left it.
Born of God
"Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God . . . " Here is a statement that demands our most serious consideration. It is a precise statement, conceived by God and revealed unto men through the Holy Spirit. It is not a general utterance to be blended with other Divine affirmations, although it is in perfect harmony with everything God has said and done.
At once it is evident that believing "Jesus is the Christ" is not the product of human reasoning. Such a declaration could not be made of something issuing from natural resources alone. Rather, it is the result of revelation (Matt 16:17). Prior to this, the Spirit spoke of confessing that "Jesus is the Son of God" (4:15). Later in this chapter, He will affirm that believing Jesus is the Son of God is the cause for overcoming the world (5:5). Additional declarations are made concerning believing Jesus is "the Son of God" (5:10, 12, 13, 20). They are always pivotal, and always commended by God.
This text, however, states that the one believing "Jesus is the Christ is born of God." This is a concise statement, and is a precious gem of truth from every side. From the standpoint of WHO He is, Jesus is "the SON of God." Regarding WHY He came into the world, He is the "CHRIST of God" (Lk 9:20). It is said of the demons, "they knew that He was THE CHRIST" (Lk 4:41). Both Paul and Apollos powerfully confuted the Jews, proving that "Jesus is THE CHRIST" (Acts 18:5, 28). Peter preached that "THE CHRIST" had been raised up to sit on David's throne, and was appointed to suffer at the hands of men (Acts 2:31; 3:18). This was the thrust of New Testament preaching. What is the significance of "the Christ"?
The word "Christ" comes from Cristo.j, and means "Anointed," or "Messiah." However, everyone anointed is by no means Messiah! That is why Jesus is called "THE Christ," i.e., THE anointed one. The New Testament refers to Jesus as "Christ" no more than 520 times. He is the solitary Individual upon Whom God has suspended the hope of the world. He bore ALL of the sins of the world, and made the ONLY acceptable atonement for sin. He ALONE is bringing many sons to glory, and there is no access to God apart from Him. He administers the New Covenant by Himself, and He ALONE sanctifies the people. In the matter of our salvation, Jesus is "THE Man."
A Single Person Promised
He is the "Man" foretold by Isaiah. "And a man shall be as an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land" (Isa 32:2). Jeremiah pointed to a single Person who would be called "The Branch of righteousness" (Jer 33:15). He is the "Sun of Righteousness" of whom Malachi spoke (Mal 4:2), and the "Prophet" of whom Moses prophesied (Deut 18:15). Haggai referred to Him as "The Desire of all nations" (2:7). Paul called Him the "Seed" promised to Abraham (Gal 3:16). He is the "Nail" of which Isaiah prophesied, who would bear the burden of man's sin and the judgment of God against it (Isa 22:23-25).
At the pinnacle of His ministry, Isaiah declared the effectiveness of a single Person (Isa 53). He alone bore our griefs and sorrows, and was smitten of God and afflicted (v 4). "But HE was wounded for our transgressions, HE was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon HIM; and with HIS stripes we are healed" (v 5). The Lord laid the iniquity of us all upon "HIM" (v 6). The Lord bruised "HIM," putting "HIM" to grief, and it was "HIS soul" that was made an offering for sin (v10). Because "HE" bore the iniquities of many, "HE" will justify the many (v 11). "HE" alone divides the spoils of His victory with the strong, and "HE" is the appointed intercessor for the transgressors (v 12).
God has nothing to give that does not come through Christ. That is the resounding testimony of Scripture! Whether we are able to see it or not, the Scriptures unanimously "testify" of Christ (John 6:39).
Not Just the Answer to Man's Perceived Problems
The person believing that "Jesus is the Christ" has seen the uniqueness of Jesus. That uniqueness is directly related to the Father's appointment of Him. It goes far beyond the "Jesus is the answer" mentality that has pervaded the evangelical world. That is a view that starts with the problems as men see them, and then holds Jesus out as the means to their correction.
But that is not at all the point of Jesus being called "the Christ." The Father has appointed Jesus to bring His "eternal purpose" to fruition (Eph 3:11). From the standpoint of atonement, that was taking away the sins of the world (John 1:29). From the standpoint of the our enemy, it was bruising the head of the serpent, or destroying the devil (Gen 3:15; Heb 2:14). From another view, it is bringing many sons to glory (Heb 2:10). From yet another, it distributing the spoils of His triumph to the strong (Isa 53:12). From yet another, it is to gather together into one all things in heaven and earth (Eph 1:10).
There is no valid religion apart from Christ Jesus. It is not possible to receive the blessing of the Lord independently of Him. There are no required resources that are not received from Him. He is "the Christ." The person believing this has been blessed by God, just as surely was Peter. As with Peter, they have believed what God has revealed unto them (Matt 16:17).
Not Merely Academic
It should be abundantly apparent that this is not an academic faith-a mere intellectual acquiescence with the statement of Scripture. The person believing this has ceased to look elsewhere for what is required. Such a one refuses to follow the world with its purveyors of methods and techniques.
If you believe that Jesus is the Christ, you are born of God. That is the express statement of the Spirit. It has been written to convince believers that they have eternal life. It is the evidence of God's own work, and thus this statement can be made: "Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God." No attempt to reduce the significance or power of this word can be justified. Rather, the hungry heart will seek to lay hold of its truth, seeing it with a clarity that only faith can bring. No person has any cause to doubt the absolute truth of this statement.
Loving the Child Born of God
" . . . and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him." It is taken for granted that the person believing Jesus is the Christ also loves God. It is not possible to trust in Jesus without loving God! Faith, which comes from God, produces in the believer a love for God, who has begotten the believing one. True faith and love cannot be separated. Where it appears this has taken place-i.e., the person professes to love God, yet does not love others begotten of God-the profession is negated. For such a condition to be possible, God would be made a liar, for He has said "everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him."
This love, however, is also expressed toward others who are born of God. There are no exceptions to this rule. "Everyone who loves him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him." This is an expression of the new creation: it is how the "new man" reacts. If a professed believer does not love the person begotten of God, it is not because he does not know the person is begotten of God, but because he is walking in the flesh, and not by faith.
Some, unable to receive the truth of this text, have affirmed "him who is begotten of Him" is the Lord Jesus Himself. Thus, to them, it reads, "He who loves the Father also loves the Son." Even noble Augustine, held to this meaning. This view, however, contradicts the reasoning of this passage. The next verse proceeds upon the basis of this one, speaking of loving "the children of God." In fact, this is the entire thrust of this Epistle-that a relationship to God necessarily involves one to His people.
Also, we are not to conclude from this text that ONLY those begotten of God are to be loved by the one born of God. Elsewhere we are told "love your enemies" (Matt 5:44), "bless" our persecutors (Rom 12;14), and to go beyond simply loving those who love us (Matt 5:46). This text, however, emphasizes that our love is to begin with, and be especially devoted to, the children of God. As it is written elsewhere, "Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith" (Gal 6:10).
Thus the Spirit has given us a means whereby we can measure our own progress in the faith. It is our duty to lay our lives next to this text, and draw a conclusion. Suffice it to say, a fervent love among the people of God will dissolve many difficulties that would otherwise remain among them. As itr is written, "love will cover a multitude of sins"NKJV (1 Pet 4:8).
Fervent love for the brethren should not be considered unreasonable. The uniqueness of the people of God is strictly owing to the work of God, not their personal achievement. In loving them, we are, from one point of view, simply acknowledging the work of God in them. We do not love them primarily for what they do, but for whom they are: "
HERE IS HOW WE KNOW
Notice the simplicity, yet unusual power, of the Divine affirmation. "This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands."NIV The flesh would reason that knowing we love the children of God flows from how we treat them, or how we respond to them-but that is not the reasoning of the Holy Spirit. The root of the matter is our identity with God. Everything flows from that. Life flows from the Vine to the branches (John 15:5). Being begotten of God involves participating in the Divine nature (2 Pet 1:4). If we want our hearts to be assured that we love the brethren, we must first be assured that we love God and keep His commands. That takes the priority.
Our primary focus is God Himself. The "first and greatest commandment" of the Law was to love and serve the Lord. The second-and never the first-commandment was to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matt 22:37-39). The Law did not, however, tell men that love for one another was a necessary consequence of loving the Lord. It remained for that to be made known in Christ Jesus. The reason: no one was "born of God" in the regenerative sense until God had exalted Jesus to His own right hand.
From an earthly point of view, we may be attracted to our brethren for spiritually inferior reasons. That may include their status in this world, their unique gifts and abilities, or their kindness toward us. They may be amiable and attractive, and even belong to the same assembly as ourselves. But that is not the "love of the brethren" of which the Spirit speaks. None of those, however acceptable they may be in the flesh, are acceptable in the Spirit. Our love for them cannot be confirmed on that level. It is also important to remember if we do NOT love them we are "not of God," (3:10), abide "in death" (3:14), and "know not God" (4:8). We are not, therefore, speaking of some trite or sentimental human expression.
Our love for the people of God will be confirmed to our hearts in the persuasion that we love God and do what He says. Simply stated, that argues strongly that God will, if we love Him and keep His commandments, teach us to love His people, just as affirmed in First Thessalonians 4:9. If we will devote ourselves to Him, He will devote Himself to effectively teaching us in the matter of loving His people. You cannot love God and retain His commandments without this happening! That is the reason such a strong statement can be made. Believe it!
THIS IS THE LOVE OF GOD
The "love of God," of which He speaks, is OUR love for God, not His love for us-even though our love for Him flows from His love for us (1 John 4:19). The observable evidence of our love for God is this: "we keep His commandments." That is, we retain, or remember, them. They are preferred utterances to us, and are the subject of our meditation and contemplation. We obey them because we do not let them leave our memory. As it is written, "If thou shalt keep all these commandments to do them" (Deut 19:9). This involves hiding them in our heart, that we might not sin against the Lord (Psa 119:11). The joyful involvements of keeping His commandments are reflected in the confession of Jeremiah. "Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts" (Jer 15:16). Before the Law, Job possessed this same spirit. He said, "I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food" (Job 23:12). David also acknowledged, "Therefore I love thy commandments above gold; yea, above fine gold" (Psa 119:127). All of this, and more, is involved in keeping God's commandments.
Even under the Law, the Lord required the love of Himself and walking according to His commands. "And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, to keep the commandments of the LORD, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good?" (Deut 10:12-13). However, they did not have a heart to do such things, proving that more than human effort is necessary to fulfill the requirement.
In Christ, praise God, we are not confined to human effort. Being "born of God," we are endued with the ability to keep the commandments of God, and to do so with consistency. Otherwise our text would have no real power, for it would speak of an impossible condition.
Loving God is not a mere emotion, although our emotion is brought into it. It is based upon faith, or spiritual perception. "We love Him BECAUSE He first loved us." It is the result of comprehending His love for us. Such love pervades our "heart," "soul," "mind," and "strength" (Mark 12:30).
Loving the Lord with ALL our heart involves the basic, or central, part of our persons. Such love is not on the surface, but comes from deep within.
Loving God with ALL our soul means with all of our expressive abilities. Such love flows out from us in expressions of praise, thanksgiving, obedience, and service.
Loving God with ALL our mind embraces our thoughts. It diffuses itself into our contemplations, purposes, and preferences.
Loving God with ALL our strength signifies all of our ability or aptitude. Everything about us that is capable of loving and preferring God is thus dominated by our attraction to, and preference of, the God of our salvation.
It is not possible for such love to ignore the commandments of God. Remember, in this Epistle, the Spirit has summarized those commandments under two great charges. "And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment" (3:23). No person failing on these points loves God! Where these are lacking, the profession of faith is empty, and is nothing more than a lie. The individual who is repulsed by the commandments of God has no love for Him! It is not possible to love God and despise or ignore what He has commanded. We MUST not allow ourselves to entertain the notion that loving God exists where His demands upon us are disdained.
His Commands Are Not Grievous
Here the New Covenant towers above the Old one, showing the glorious benefits that have resulted from Christ's vicarious atonement. Here is a condition that exists in all who are "born of God." This is not something that SHOULD exist, but a circumstance that DOES exist in the child of God. "His commandments are not burdensome" (grievousKJV). The word "burdensome" or "grievous" means heavy, difficult to bear, and contrary to the nature of the one to whom they are addressed. It is the condition that compels the offended party to ignore the commands of God. Such people refuse to retain God's commands, think upon them, and obey them.
But this is NOT the case with the one "born of God." The word of Christ is confirmed in the heart of the children of God: "For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matt 11:30). Regardless of the extent of the commandment, it does not chaff against the person who is born again. It is not contrary to his nature, nor offensive to his soul. Rather, it is a source of delight.
This was not the case with Israel at Mount Sinai. They were the best people in the world, and the only people within the favor of God. What is more, they received the best moral Law, or code, ever given-in fact, the ONLY one God ever gave. They were privy to a unique word from the Living God. What was their response? They said to Moses, "You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die" NKJV(Ex 20:19). The commandments of God were grievous to them. They conflicted sharply with their basic nature, and were contrary to their basic propensities. The Divine nature was abrasive to their human nature.
Responses of Faith
How different it is in Christ Jesus. When the Gospel was believed, people became eager to know the commandments of God. Who can forget the responses recorded for our learning. "What shall we do?" "See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?" "What wilt Thou have me to do?" "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" (Acts 2:37; 8:36; 9:6; 16:30). Why did they respond in such a manner? This was certainly not the response of the Israelites!
These were responses of believing hearts. Every person who is "created in Christ Jesus" (Eph 2:10) begins this way. No person begins in Christ with a heart offended by the commandments of God. Every heart begins tender and obedient.
If We Love God
The condition that produces this reaction is the "love of God." It simply is not possible to love God and, at the same time, be burdened by His commandments. Therefore, we can derive great comfort from our attitude toward His commandments. If they are not grievous to Him, it is because we love Him. And if we love Him, it is because we have been born of Him. And if we are born of Him, we do love those who also have been begotten by Him.
The burden of the saints of God is not the commandments of God, but their own failings and weakness. Their cry is not "Oh, how wretched are His commandments," but "wretched man that I am" (Rom 7:24). When we mourn, it is never because of the witness of God. Thus, if you want confirmation that you really love the people of God, do not look to your own achievements. Rather, consider the effect of God's commandments upon your heart. If you are tender to them and long for them, you love God.
FAITH OVERCOMES THE WORLD
There is no possibility that these things are not true, else our confidence could not be based upon them. The burden of this emphasis is to establish to our hearts that we are, in fact, "born of God." If we can be brought to that conclusion, confidence and joy will fill, our hearts, and we will overcome the world. How sorely we need this word.
Overcomes the World
The world MUST be overcome! When we are "born of God," we are by no means locked into the state of triumph. True, God "causeth us to triumph in Christ" (2 Cor 2:14), but not independently of our involvement. God "gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ"NKJV (1 Cor 15:57). Like everything God gives "through our Lord Jesus Christ," that victory is to be received by faith.
Whatever is "born of God" does, in fact, overcome the world-but we must walk in the energy of that begotten life. Our new birth thrusts us into irreversible conflict with the world. Faith cannot avoid the conflict, or cause it to come to an end while we are "in the body" (2 Cor 5:6; Heb 13:3). The Lord summarily rejects the "wisdom of the world" and "all that is in the world" (1 Cor 1:20; 3:19; 1 John 2:1 John 2:16). Salvation, from this perspective, is deliverance from "this present evil world" (Gal 1:4). The world, together with its lusts, is "passing away," while the saints are being "renewed day by day" (1 John 2:17; 2 Cor 4:16). No wonder we are in conflict with it! Satan is its god, and the Lord of hosts is our God (2 Cor 4:2-4). The "fashion" of this world is passing away, but "the world to come" has powers of which we currently are tasting (1 Cor 7:31; Heb 2:5; 6:5). These two worlds-the present evil one, and the one to come-are locked in mortal combat. Faith joins us to the battle.
What Does It Mean?
What does it mean to "overcome the world?" Simple stated, it means the world does not draw us into its vortex. We do not become conformed to it (Rom 12:2), nor are we enamored of its manners and promises. The person who overcomes the world successfully avoids loving it, preferring it, and shaping their lives around it. When faith is confronted with the contradicting influences of this world, it chooses the Lord, and "looks for a city which hath foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God" (Heb 11:10). Faith refuses to be shaped by the world. It will not allow what is seen to dominate ones vision. It does not consider the applause and approbation of this world of any value, and is willing to count everything the world offers but "dung," which it most assuredly is.
The person who is overcome by the world, being caught up in its values and manners, has, to that degree, ceased to "walk in the Spirit" and "put on the new man." When we hear of a professing believer that has fallen into sin, we need not ask why such a tragedy has occurred. There is no need for a psychological analysis of the behavior of the fallen one. If whatever is born of God "overcomes the world," then the one overcome by the world is either not born of God, or has reverted back to the flesh from whence grace delivered him.
Now the Spirit continues to speak with great pungency. He precisely defines the victory, lest we be tempted to imagine it is accomplished in the energy of the flesh. The victory is "faith." "And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith.NRSV" Notice, the text does not simply say faith, but "OUR faith." It is not ours by origination, but by the grace of God, for that grace is "exceeding abundant with faith," which is in Christ Jesus alone (1 Tim 1:14).
It is not simply possible for faith to overcome the world, it DOES overcome the world. If, therefore, a person is overcome by the world, they have ceased to walk by faith. It makes no difference what they profess. The faith must be "kept" to be effectual (2 Tim 4:7). If it is "kept," the one keeping it will triumph over the world, for the world is inferior to faith, and is impotent against it.
If victory over the world depends upon "our faith," then attention must be paid to it. We must "continue in the faith" (Acts 14:22), be "established in the faith" (Acts 16:5), and "stand fast in the faith" (1 Cor 16:13). It is necessary to build ourselves up on our most holy faith (Jude 20), be "strong in faith" (Rom 4:19), and "abound" in faith (2 Cor 8;7). If we cannot believe God and trust in the Lord Jesus, the world will triumph over us.
Do you see why such a great emphasis is placed on faith by Jesus and the Apostles? And do you not, by the same token, marvel that the contemporary church puts so little emphasis on faith. In fact, some religious sophists are aggressive to diminish the significance of faith. Those acting so foolishly are actually setting their hearers up to be conquered by the world.
The One Who Overcomes
There is even more precision declared, and that because of the centrality of the truth with which we are dealing. The individual who overcomes the world is precisely defined: "he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?" Does that seem too simplistic? It is not! This is the language of the Spirit. It is not to be adjusted to our perceptions. Rather, our perceptions are to be adjusted to the Word of the Lord!
At once you see that believing "Jesus is the Son of God" is not an elementary thing. Not only is believing Jesus is the Son of God associated with our entrance into Him (Acts 8:37), it relates to the triumphant life. By this we are to understand that our belief will be challenged by the devil, and assaulted by the powers of darkness.
Not A Creedal Faith
The believing of reference is active and dominating. It is not a creedal faith, if there be such a thing-i.e., simply affirming we believe that Jesus is the Son of God. This is something embraced with the heart-a faith that governs the whole man. If this were not the case, such a statement could not be made. Make no mistake about this, it is proper and necessary that we acknowledge the truth of Christ's Sonship. The power of that reality, however, is unleashed when we depend upon it, casting the weight of our whole being upon Him.
We must learn to reason with these thoughts, making them the chief building blocks of our thinking. If the one who overcomes the world is the person believing Jesus Christ is the Son of God, then the person overcome by the world is the one NOT believing that Jesus is the Son of God. Flesh will argue with this conclusion, but it is wrong, and the Spirit is right. At the precise point an individual is overcome by the world-at that point he does not believe Jesus is the Son of God. If this were not the case, he would have overcome the world, rather than it overcoming him.
This is an elaboration of the promise given by the Prophets and confirmed by the Apostles. "Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded" (1 Pet 2:6; Isa 28:16). No shame will come to the one bold enough to trust in Jesus (Rom 9:33; 10:11). Such will triumph over all of their foes, and the world itself will be overcome by them! The only real jeopardy for the Christian is unbelief. From that root all danger spring. No blessing is ever given to unbelief.
THE WATER AND THE BLOOD
The Spirit has already emphasized Christ coming into the world. He "is come in the flesh" (4:3). The Father "sent His only begotten Son into the world that we might live through Him" (4:9). He also "sent" Him to be "the Savior of the world" (4:14). These affirmations are intended, among other things, to confirm the relevancy of Jesus to our situation. Our interest in Him is not novel, like that of the Athenians who "spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell or to hear some new thing" (Acts 17:21). When the Spirit speaks about Jesus, He is addressing our life, our immediate association with God, and our eternal destiny. For that reason, we must extend ourselves to comprehend what He is saying.
This Is the One
Here the Spirit forbids any speculation concerning the Savior of the world. The One who was "in the beginning," and is "that Eternal Life" (1:1-2) is the same Person who walked among men. It was "the Word" who "became flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:14). His Person was concealed by His body, so much so that mere men saw in Him "no form nor comeliness; and when" they saw Him, they concluded "there is no beauty that we should desire Him" (Isa 53:2).
The point of this text is to confirm to our hearts that the One in Whom we are trusting is the fulfillment of all the types, shadows, and prophecies of a coming Deliverer. The Spirit is giving us evidence that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. He will not argue the point in accordance with worldly wisdom, but will produce spiritual arguments that can only be perceived by faith. He will soar high above the flesh.
It is vital that our hearts be lifted from a merely intellectual view of the Lord Jesus. To put it another way, we are not to consider Him from a fleshly point of view. As it is written, "Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer"NKJV (2 Cor 5:16). The lower our view of Jesus, the less we receive from Him.
"By Water and By Blood"
Here is a most arresting consideration, and thoroughly unlike any earthly reasoning. One has well said, "An ambassador might be said to come with credentials; a warrior might be said to come with the spoils of victory; a prince might be said to 'come' with the insignia of royalty; a prophet comes with signs and wonders; and the Lord Jesus might also be said to have come with power to raise the dead, and to heal disease, and to cast out devils; but John here fixes the attention on a fact so impressive and remarkable in his view as to be worthy of special remark, that He 'came' by water and blood."BARNES
This text has long challenged the most distinguished thinkers in the Christian community-not because it is shrouded in mystery, but because it is so lofty. Remember, the Spirit is providing us with evidence that justifies fully trusting in the Lord Jesus, and not questioning His promises to us.
"Water and Blood Foreshadowed"
A principle of spiritual understanding is that great declarations of the Person, accomplishments, and ministry of Jesus were invariably foreshadowed in the Law. This circumstance illustrates the word of God to Amos. "Surely the Lord GOD does nothing, Unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets"NKJV (Amos 3:7). It is also confirmed by the words of Jesus concerning the Scriptures: "these are they which testify of Me"NKJV (John 5:39). This is also corroborated by Peter. "Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow" (1 Pet 10:11). Paul also spoke of Jesus "both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets" (Acts 28:23).
Therefore, I will first look at the God-ordained ceremonies of the Law for some understanding of this declaration.Under the Law, water and blood were of special significance in confirming the healing of a leper. The procedure is found in the fourteenth chapter of Leviticus. It involved two "clean" birds. One was to be "killed in an earthen vessel over running water." The living bird was then dipped in the blood of the bird killed over running water, and the blood sprinkled seven times on the healed leper. After this, the living bird was released in an open field (v 5-8, 48-53). Thus an association was made between "water" and "blood" and cleansing.
Under the Law, both "water" and "blood" were integral to the Divine service. The brazen laver was filled with water. Both Aaron and his sons were to wash themselves at that laver. The criticality of this washing is seen in the following words. "When they go into the tabernacle of the congregation, they shall wash with water, that they die not; or when they come near to the altar to minister, to burn offering made by fire unto the LORD: So they shall wash their hands and their feet, that they die not: and it shall be a statute for ever to them, even to him and to his seed throughout their generations" (Ex 30:10-21). Here, "water" is associated with sanctification, which made the priests suitable to minister in the sanctuary and at the altar.
In offering the sacrifices upon the altar, the priests were directed to "wash the inwards and the legs with water" before laying is all upon the altar (Lev 1:9,40). All of the tabernacle procedures involving water are referred to as "diverse washings" in Hebrews 9:10, and were related to sanctification.
"Blood" was emphasized to an unusual degree under the law. It was associated with atonement (Ex 30:10; Lev 17:11), cleansing (Lev 14:52; 16:19), sanctification and reconciliation (Lev 8:15,30). The First Covenant was dedicated with blood, which was sprinkled on the altar, the book of the covenant, and the people (Ex 24:6-8).
Thus, from the Law, the significance of Jesus coming by water and by blood is signified. He "came," or fulfilled the types and shadows of old, by inducting the era of true washing and sanctification. He came primarily to atone for sin, and to qualify us to stand before God in a state of acceptance. All of this was typified in the phenomenally detailed ceremonies of the Law. In fulfilling the types and shadows instituted under the Law, Jesus brought a conclusion to them. Once the "Substance" is in place, there is no further need for types and shadows (Col 2:17; Heb 8:5; 10:1).
There Is More
The Spirit indicates to us that even more is to be seen in this text. This is indicated by the elaboration, "not only by water, but by water and blood." In this regard, "came" indicates made known, revealed, or made apparent. This doubtless refers to Christ's baptism and death. His baptism was the point at which His earthly ministry was inaugurated. His death was the point at which it was consummated. What is more, He was made known at both occasions.
When Jesus was baptized in water, it is written, "When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, 'This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased'"NKJV (Matt 3:16-17). Thus, Jesus "came by water," publically owned as the Son of God, in whom He was well pleased.
But Jesus also "came by blood." At His baptism, His earthly occupation concluded and His ministry began. At His death His earthly ministry concluded, and He prepared to enter into His heavenly ministry. Of His death it is written, "And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost. And the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom. 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" (Mk 15:37-39). Matthew provides some additional information. "The earth did quake, and the rocks rent; and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many" (Matt 27:51-52).
Thus Jesus came "not by water only, but by water and blood." By water sin was acknowledged, by blood it was atoned. In both cases, effective ministry was the outcome of His Person being revealed. The first, a ministry in which He "went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him" (Acts 10:38). The second, a ministry in which "He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them" (Heb 7:25).
To put it yet another way, coming by water and blood refers to Christ's life and death. Both of them were required for our justification. In His life He grappled with the same temptations as those He came to save. He also lived out before men the Divine life, bringing the invisible God within range of their senses. He also wrought great signs and wonders, showing the superiority of God to all that is aligned against us. In His death, His weakest point (2 Cor 13:4), He destroyed the devil (Heb 2:14), plundered principalities and powers (Col 2:15), blotted out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us (Col 2:14), and reconciled the world to God (Rom 5:10). He came by "water and blood!"
A Physical Occurrence At Jesus' Death
But there is even more in this text. Because the revelation of the Savior of the world is the point, the words describing that revelation are pregnant with meaning.
It is not by coincidence that John records this of Jesus' death. "Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus, and saw that He was dead already, they brake not His legs: But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side, and forthwith came there out blood and water. And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe" (John 19:32-35).
It is not without significance that this occurred AFTER Jesus was dead. In a prototypic way, it declared that cleansing and atonement would result from His death. In an external way, it confirmed that the Lord was, in fact, dead. That condition proved that the atonement had been accomplished. It also confirmed this was a Man that died, and not the mere appearance of a man as some suppose.
Some have seen this as evidence that "Jesus died of a broken heart so that His pericardium was full of blood and serum." Bible Knowledge Comentary Of this condition, Webster confirms this is a trait of the human anatomy. "The heart is surrounded by a membrane called the pericardium. This membrane contains a serous matter or liquor resembling water, which prevents the surface of the heart from becoming dry by its continual motion."Webster The flowing of water and blood, however, are not here attributed to a broken heart, but to the thrust of the Roman spear. While the view in question is surely a sentimental one, it is not supported by the Word of God. Therefore, it must be held as an opinion.
Some have observed that blood and water coming from the Lord was a natural phenomenon that can be confirmed by science. I have already cited the scientific proof of that condition. In his record of this, however, John places a lot of emphasis upon this fact. "And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe" (John 19:35). Thus John confirms that Jesus DID die.
A Central Doctrine
This is a critical point upon which the great doctrines of Scripture are dependent. If Jesus did not, in fact, die, not only is the human condition unchanged, it CANNOT be changed. It is Christ's death into which we are baptized, and from which we rise to walk in newness of, life (Rom 6:3-4). By His death we are reconciled to God (Rom 5:10). It is His death that is shown forth in partaking of the Lord's Supper (1 Cor 11:24). This was the Father's commission to the Son-to die, or lay down His life-and it was the objective of His obedience (John 10:17-18; Phil 2:8). It is through His death that Jesus will present us "holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight" (Col 1:22). It is "by means" of His "death" that we "receive the promise of eternal inheritance" (Heb 9:15). His death was also required for the initiation of the New Covenant (Heb 9:16).
The attestation of that death, therefore, is critical. By saying Jesus came "by water and by blood," John is confirming that all of the benefits dependent upon Christ's death are now available to men. They can be effectively obtained by faith.
Believers must not take the death of Christ for granted, treating it as though it were a mere tradition. It is to be the subject of preaching, exhortation, and contemplation. An ordinance has been instituted by Jesus Himself to assist us in reflecting upon this most marvelous accomplishment.
As a point of consideration, the proper subject of extended contemplation is not when we came into the Kingdom, but when Christ came "by water and blood." The ministry of Jesus is superior to our own ministry, and thus is to be afforded the highest place in our thoughts. A great deal of harm is done when we focus on ourselves, and that is something that should be clear.
THE WITNESSES ARE IN AGREEMENT
The Holy Spirit Bears Witness
John declares, "And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is truth." The Holy Spirit is the superintending witness of all other valid testimony. The validity of John's testimony is directly owing to the work of the Holy Spirit. He is recalling the reality of Christ's death around sixty years after it occurred. In that recollection, he recounts a detail that might easily be forgotten-"water and blood." His memory of this event, however, has been under the direction of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is the appointed Expositor of truth, and is therefore called "the Spirit of truth" (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13). The Spirit, we are apprized, "searches all things, yes, the deep things of God"NKJV (1 Cor 2:10). The Scriptures state the case with remarkable pungency: "no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God" NKJV(1 Cor 2:11). That is why it is affirmed "the Spirit IS truth." He does not say the Spirit speaks truth, but that He IS truth. The NASB correctly reads, "the Spirit is THE truth" (h` avlh,qeia). Coincidentally, this is the same thing Jesus said of Himself: "I am . . . the truth" (John 14:6). While the Lord Jesus is the Personification of truth, the Spirit is its Custodian, or Distributor. If, therefore, the Spirit does not put His testimony to a matter, it is not to taken as the truth of God.
Three That Bear Witness In Heaven
"For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit . . . " Under the Law, two witnesses sufficed to confirm a matter, and three were even better (Deut 17:6; 19:15). But when it comes to the matter of confirming the validity and ministry of the Lord Jesus, "there are THREE that bear witness in heaven."
This verse reads quite differently in the various versions. I have given you the NKJV, which agrees with the KJV. The NRSV and the NIV read, "There are three that testify." The NASB reads, "And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is the truth." The RSV reads, "And the Spirit is the witness, because the Spirit is the truth." Webster's Bible, The Douay-Rheims Bible, and Young's Literal read the same as the KJV.
Men have disagreed about this verse from early times. Jerome (345-419 A.D.) was of the opinion these words are found by Divine design rather than mere human addition. Without belaboring their authenticity, I will share with you the observation of John Calvin, acknowledged by friend and foe as one of the greatest textual scholars of all time. "But as even the Greek copies do not agree, I dare not assert anything on the subject. Since, however, the passage flows better when this clause is added, and as I see that it is found in the best and most approved copies, I am inclined to receive it as the true reading."
Again, I am careful to say this is not intended to influence us to trust in men. I only site these things to confirm we are not being foolish in taking the text as it stands. Nor, indeed, is anyone wise in assuming those who criticize this translation possess some form of superior knowledge. There is nothing in the text itself that contradicts any portion of Scripture. There is no cause for us to involve ourselves in existing controversies over the legitimacy of this text. It does not violate any point of Apostolic doctrine. It does not demean Jesus, reproach the Father, or do despite to the Spirit of grace. There is not a shred of conflict in it with Jesus, salvation, or the nature of spiritual life.
The Witnesses that are first identified are "in heaven." This makes them the "greater" witnesses, as will be confirmed in verse nine. This observation alone should cause us to be hesitant about dismissing these words as though they were foreign to Scripture.
The witness of the Father is imperative. Jesus declared, "All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him"NKJV (Matt 11:27). Make no mistake about this, "Our Father" who is "in heaven" still bears witness to the Son! He witnesses to Him by having delivered all things into His hand. When He gave Him "all power in heaven and earth," He bore witness to the Son (Matt 28:18). When He placed Him at His own right hand, saying "Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool?" (Heb 1:3), He witnessed of the Son. When He exalted His name above every name that is named, He witnessed to the Son (Phil 2:9). When He received us in Christ, He bore glorious witness to the His Son. Let us give heed to His witness. If the Father speaks so consistently of the Son, what ought to be the stance of those who bear His name?
This is a reference to the Lord Jesus Christ (John 1:1,14; 1 John 1:1). He bore witness to the validity of His mission when He said in heaven, "Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God" (Heb 10:7). He bears witness in heaven now by ever living to "make intercession" for the saints of God. (Heb 7:25). He bears witness by mediating the New Covenant (Heb 9:15; 12:24), bringing many sons to glory (Heb 2:10), and being touched with the feeling of our infirmities (Heb 4:15). The Word, Christ Jesus glorified, is bearing witness from heaven. We are admonished, "See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less shall we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven"NASB (Heb 12:25).
This is the leading witness to the Person of Christ Jesus. He is the vicar of Christ, sent to take His place among men. As Jesus said, "Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you"NKJV (John 16:7). In His appointed capacity, the Spirit bears witness of Jesus, as the Lord said He would. "When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me"NIV (John 15:26).
The Gospel itself is evidence of the Holy Spirit from heaven bearing witness. As it is written, "To them (the Prophets) it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven; things which angels desire to look into"NASB (1 Pet 1:12).
Later, I will develop the witness of the Spirit more thoroughly, as it is addressed in verse nine. Suffice it to say at this point, the Holy Spirit is able to convince the believer of the truth concerning Christ Jesus. He brings a certitude and confidence to the heart that cannot otherwise be obtained.
All of these witnesses, the Father, the Word, and the Spirit, are in perfect accord. They are not only one in their Nature, but one in their witness as well. So far as men are concerned, they all speak of the same thing, and with the same emphasis.
Three That Bear Witness On Earth
"And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one." Because salvation involves activity in both heaven and earth, sets of witnesses are found in both realms. Heaven needs a witness, and so does earth.
Why is the Spirit said to be a witness in heaven as well as upon earth? Simply because He is active in both realms. His work in heaven involves making intercession for the saints. As it is written, "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God" (Rom 8:26-27).
But His work is also upon earth, for He works within the saints as well as in their behalf. He also witnesses upon earth by convicting men of sin, righteous, and judgment (John 16:8-11). He witnesses by comforting the saints in Christ Jesus (Acts 9:31), and strengthening them with Divine might in order that Christ may "dwell in their hearts by faith" (Eph 3:16-17). He witnesses by shedding the love abroad in our hearts (Rom 5:5), bringing us joy (Rom 14:17), and causing us to abound in hope (Rom 15:13).
That Jesus is the promised Messiah-"the Christ of God"-is attested to by His baptism. There God spoke from heaven, affirming this was His beloved Son in whom He was well pleased (Matt 3:16-17). It was at that time that the Holy Spirit descended from heaven in the form of a dove, making Himself visible, coming, and remaining, upon Jesus (John 1:32-33).
The Savior-hood of Christ was also confirmed through "the blood of His cross" (Col 1:20). At that time, the prophecies of the rejection and cruelty of men were fulfilled (Isa 53:3). All of the types depicted in the sacrifices made according to the Law were fulfilled. He was the "innocent blood" (Psa 94:21; Matt 27:4). As it is written, "the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin" (1 John 1:9). That reality witnesses to His Person and accomplishments.
" . . . and the three are in agreement (are one, KJV)."NASB While there is some controversy about whether or not these words belong in the text, I will accept them as legitimate. The following versions include the words: KJV, ASV, NKJV, NRSV, NASB, RSV, The Webster Bible, Douay-Rhiems, Darby's, BBE, Young's Literal, New Jerusalem Bible, New Living Translation, NIV(British). Of itself, this observation adds no weight to the text. I only draw attention to this to confirm that the acceptance of the text as it stands is harmonious with the majority of translation expertise.
This statement reflects the tenor of Scripture-that there is a perfect harmony throughout. All of God's witnesses speak, as it were, with one voice. The water, the blood, and the Spirit all point to One Man, "the Man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim 2:5). He is the singular figure in History, and the King of glory as well. His life and death declare what He came. The Spirit gathers it all together and seals it with Divine consent. When we are required to "look," it is to Him!
When it comes to our redemption, God introduces no conflicting evidence or discordant witnesses. If there are contradictory witnesses in the Christian community, it is because of the flesh, not the Spirit. God offers no such witnesses.
Wherever you look in Scripture, the same message will be declared. It can be heard from Moses and the Prophets. It is seen in the testimony of the harbinger John the Baptist. The Lord Jesus bore witness with His life, His words, His deeds, and His death. The Apostles, compelled by the Holy Spirit, bore witness to the same.
The message of the Gospel is a solitary one. It does not adapt itself to men, but brings men into accord with itself. It does not change with the times, but challenges the times to conform to it. It is an "everlasting Gospel" (Rev 14:6), and cannot be changed by either time or eternity.
If men are not convinced of the truth of Christ, they have exposed their minds to the wrong thing. They have not looked at His life. They have not considered His death. They have not heard what the Spirit is saying. The real witnesses all agree! There are three in heaven that agree, and three in agreement upon earth as well. What possible reason can be offered for being ignorant of the Son, or not believing on His name?
THE GREATER WITNESS
Now, if the determination of whether or not a man should live, or whether or not he was guilty of sin, was determined at the mouth of "the witness of men," what shall we say of "the witness of God?" In the world, even the most capricious of persons relies on the "witness of men." In the normal course of acquiring knowledge, "the witness of men" is sought. In academic circles, higher degrees cannot be acquired without acquaintance with "the witness of men" on the facet of knowledge being pursued. Our courts of law depend upon "the witness of men." Our acquaintance with the sciences, history, and other areas of lawful knowledge, relies upon "the witness of men." Indeed, this is a point requiring no further substantiation.
The Witness Must Be Certain
A "greater" witness must be a sure one. It cannot be ambiguous, uncertain, or subject to varied interpretations. Those are characteristics of "the witness of men." I cannot say too much about this matter. Since the convergence of, what is erroneously called, higher criticism, men have introduced doubts concerning the authenticity of Scripture. Presenting what they believe to be flawless arguments, they cast a shadow of doubt upon the text of Scripture itself. If we allow such sophists to corrupt our thinking, we will place a lesser value upon the "greater" testimony of God.
Emphatically we are told, "Every word of God is pure" (Prov 30:5), and man lives "by every word of God" (Lk 4:4). It will not do for that word to be uncertain or doubtful to any generation.
Some affirm that the witness of God is truly "greater," but only in the original language. Somehow, that word can, it is imagined, become diluted as it is passed down through the generations. And, indeed, some rather impressive arguments are produced to buttress the position. But it has no support in Scripture, which dealt extensively with texts that were copied and translated. But there is no hint that Moses' copy of the Law was more accurate than that of Ezra. Or, indeed, that the Greek Septuagint version was less precise than the original scroll of Isaiah.
If we are going to throw people upon a "greater" witness, the credibility of that witness must be apparent. Further, a "greater" witness cannot be corroborated by a lesser witness, which thought is the epitome of absurdity. The "witness of God" is greater because He gave it. It remains greater because He protects it. If God did not let any of Samuel's words "fall to the ground" (1 Sam 3:19), He will surely not allow any of His own to do so.
The Witness Must Be Clear
A "greater" witness must also be a clear and discernible one. If the witness cannot be understood, or, more precisely, if it is not addressed to the understanding, its greatness is of no value to us.
This section of First John will confirm God's witness is personal, and not general. If comprises two kinds of writing: the writing of Scripture, and writing within the heart. Both are witnesses, both are from God, and both agree. It is particularly the latter witness that brings such clarity to the message, confirming its truth to the heart.
God (and I speak as a man) deserves to be believed more than men. His witness is greater, and thus our embrace of it should also be greater. However strongly we embrace the witness of men, the witness of God should be more heartily embraced, with absolute superiority assigned to it.
I do not believe we can make too much of this. We live in a time when scholarship, statistics, and other forms of human knowledge, have been exalted too highly. Often they are actually given the same weight as the Word of God. When it comes to buttressing the faith of God's people, making their hope solid, and clarifying their inheritance, the "greater witness" is given.
THE WITNESS IN THE BELIEVER
This Is The Witness
The Spirit does not leave us in the dark concerning the subject of God's witness-which witness is "greater." He will tell us the core of the Divine witness. Everything God has said relates to this witness. In our pursuit of an understanding of what God has witnessed, we must get to the point stated in this text.
"9 . . . for the witness of God is this, that He has borne witness concerning His Son."10The one who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; the one who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the witness that God has borne concerning His Son."
Now we come to the intensely personal nature of salvation. It is not enough to formulate a sound theological position about our Lord. The word from heaven is, "O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in Him" (Psa 34:8). That is why the Holy spirit moved Peter to write to believers, "As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious" (1 Pet 2:2-3). A good taste of the Lord would resolve many a theological argument, and bring together whole bodies of people who are separated over human opinion.
There is a personal dimension to salvation. In fact, that is what makes it "salvation." An impersonal salvation is no salvation at all. There are some who, because of an over-emphasis of experience and feeling, speak disparagingly of them, as though they were of no value at all. While we must give diligence to avoid an undue exaltation of experience, or relying on feeling, we must not run from them as though they were our enemies. It is possible to say with Laban, "I have learned by experience that the LORD hath blessed me for thy sake" (Gen 30:27).
Salvation is primarily an experience, not a philosophy. Deliverance from sin, justification, fellowship with Christ-they are all experiences, and precious ones at that!
The Primary Testimony
Going straight to the issue of salvation, the Spirit confirms that the primary Divine testimony relates to God's Son. There can be no beneficial relationship with God apart from Jesus Christ. Therefore, the Father testifies of the Son in order that we might come to God, and be received by Him. While God has something to say about us, He has more to say about the Son. Even though He testifies of our obligations, He speaks more of His Son's accomplishments. He has "borne witness concerning His Son." He has spoken of Him through the ceremonies of the Law. He has testified of Him through the Prophets. He has declared Him through John the Baptist, and through the Apostles. Through all of these means, and the Spirit as well, He has also spoken of Him to the human conscience.
Jesus Speaks of the Witness
Jesus spoke of this activity of the Father. He rose into lofty realms when He made this known. We cannot expect to comprehend it if we insist on dwelling in the lowlands of flesh and blood. Jesus traces our faith back to Divine activity-which is a source of great consolation and assurance. "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, 'And they shall all be taught by God.' Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me" (John 5:44-45).
Confirming that Jesus is speaking of faith-of believing in Him-He continues. "Not that anyone has seen the Father, except He who is from God; He has seen the Father. Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life" (John 5:46-47). Later, confirming this is the matter in question, Jesus adds, "But there are some of you who do not believe. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him. And He said, Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father" (vs 64-65). The believing, therefore, was evidence of the drawing of God.
Our First John text elaborates on that drawing, connecting it with God's testimony "concerning the Son." The Son is the heart of His witness, and the focus of His revelation.
The Necessity of the Witness
This Divine witness-"the witness of God"-is not a novelty. Rather, it is a necessity. Jesus made this clear when He said, "no one knows the Son except the Father"NKJV (Luke 10:22). That condition demands Divine activity. While it is true that God uses means, primarily the Scriptures, and especially the Gospel of Christ, God nevertheless is active in the matter of drawing our attention to the Son.
The Inner Witness
"The one who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself." You cannot get more personal than this-having the witness-"the witness of God"-IN yourself. It is not simply A witness, or testimony, that is possessed, but "THE" witness. It is the "witness" that is the subject of Divine exposition: "the witness of God."
Our faith in the Son of God is evidence of Divine tutelage! If God teaches us to love one another (1 Thess 4:9), much more does He teach us to believe in and rely upon His Son! The Prophets foretold this Divine teaching. " . . . He will teach us His ways . . . All your children shall be taught by the LORD . . . I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts" (Isa 2:3; 54:13; Micah 4:2; Jer 33:33). As if this were not enough, Jesus secured this declaration to our minds: "It is written in the prophets, 'And they shall all be taught by God.' Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me" (John 6:45).
This testimony, as evidenced by faith, is so strong it cannot be dislodged by the arguments and oppositions of men. It is in the heart, where wicked men can neither see nor reach. "Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony IN HIS HEART."NIV Make no mistake about this, if the arguments of men alone caused us to believe in Christ, the arguments of wicked men may also uproot that trust. The testimony of God, however, is "greater," thus yielding greater results in the believer.
Men who deal with religious controversy are fond of speaking of an open mind, pleading with their listeners to thoughtfully consider what they say. While there is certainly place for this, there is something else to consider. When we receive "the testimony of God," the case is closed, and no further testimony is required. We have no care whatsoever what others may think of Jesus-not after we have received God's testimony about Him. We receive it as the final word on the matter, looking for no corroborating human witness!
The One Who Does Not Believe
Keep in mind, John is showing us the source of our faith. He has traced it back to the acceptance of Divine witness. Now he comes to grips with the one who does not believe what God has witnessed concerning His Son. "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."
When one has been exposed to the Gospel, and does not believe, or trust, in the Son, it is not an innocent matter. The presence of doubt cannot be approached as though it were a legitimate form of intellectual honesty. The Spirit does not excuse the unbeliever because he has no inner witness. Rather He soundly judges him, and that with words most stern. Such a one has made God a liar! There is nothing more serious than failing to believe what God has said about His Son! God takes the rejection of His witness personal, refusing to grant a single ounce of integrity to the one rejecting it. Such a one has made God a liar! He has set himself above God, rejecting His witness as though he was superior to God, and God was subject to him.
Just as surely as God honors faith, He condemned unbelief. In fact, faith is always recognized by Him, and a lack of it is always damned by Him. He is ever true, "he that believeth not, shall be damned" (Mark 16:16). We must not view this as though it were stated too strongly. It is a precise representation of the case, stated by Jesus.
THE SUBSTANCE OF THE WITNESS
"11And the witness (recordKJV, testimonyNIV) is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son." The Spirit does not leave us wondering about God's witness. He takes us strait to the heart of it-the witness He has given of His Son. This is the witness that is "IN" the one believing in the Son. Because that witness can be muffled by theological distractions and personal foolishness, the Spirit clearly identifies it. He does so to assist us in centering our attention upon it. To put it another way, this is a Divine invitation to believe, not for the first time, but for the duration of time.
This is the heart of Divine testimony: "God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son!" If our views of God, Christ, the Spirit, salvation, and the Scriptures do not bring us to this conclusion, we are off-center! If this is "the witness," "the record," or "the testimony," we have really heard nothing profitably until we have heard and embraced this! Death is the consequence of sin, and life is the consequence of salvation!
Let us be clear on this matter. The Spirit does not invite us to do some research on this subject, proving it to be true by an analytical approach to "eternal life." Rather, He affirms a truth, leaving us obligated to believe it, embracing it, and depending upon it. "God has given us eternal life." It did not result from our doing, but was "the gift of God" (Rom 6:23), given to us by a gracious God.
Herein is a great and liberating truth. Remember, Jesus said, "And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent" (John 17:3). God has, then, given us to KNOW Him, fulfilling His promise: "they all shall know Me" (Jer 31:34; Heb 8:11). Our acquaintance and familiarity with God is not owing to our own activity, but to the gift of God. If we will not quench the Spirit, this witness will become apparent to us. We will possess it in ourselves. That is another way of saying we will know we have eternal life.
If the witness of God is that He has "given us eternal life," should that not be a matter given much consideration by us? It should be heard in our preaching and teaching, and found throughout our literature. Wherever Jesus is confessed, much should be made of eternal life. Yet, in many circles with which I am familiar, it is scarcely mentioned, and is often even the cause for offense. It seems men have little interest in it.
To be sure, God has spoken on other matters, but always with this in mind: that He has "given us eternal life." That is His witness! He does not say His witness is that we are the church. He does not affirm His testimony is that we have received the Spirit. While these things are true, they are not the heart of the matter. The center post of Divine witness is this: God has "given us eternal life." In all of His dealings with you, it will eventually get down to the matter of eternal life. That is the bottom line.
In the Son
I am continually challenged by the care the Spirit takes when revealing things pertaining to life and godliness. "Eternal life" is not simply something men possess independently of anything else. Some imagine this is the case, and so have concocted doctrines that teach men they are secure even though they entertain little interest in eternal things. "This life is in His Son!" It is as secure as your identity with Jesus. It is as certain as your fellowship with the Son (1 Cor 1:9). If a person is aloof from Christ, the witness of God cannot be heard.
Not only is the acceptance of God dependent upon our faith in the Son, our awareness of that acceptance is also reliant upon our faith. It is not possible to know you have eternal life if you are not believing in and in fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
Inherent in this witness is the fact that believers already possess eternal life. This will be strongly affirmed in the next verse, and is to be acknowledged by us.
THE SOURCE OF LIFE
God is also active in the matter of us having the Son. It is written, "that He (The Father, v 14) would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith" (Eph 3:16-17). Thus we have a twofold witness of our possession of Christ. Our own response to Him, and the working of the Spirit within, strengthening us so Christ may continue to reside within us.
At the root of this affirmation is the fact that we can know we have the Son-else the statement would carry no weight. I am grieved that in many circles it seems as though such knowledge does not even exist, nor is it encouraged. The expression "he that hath the Son" is more an appeal to our conscience than a mere theological statement. It is not intended to prove a point, but to confirm that we have eternal life. It presumes the individual who has the Son knows that to be the case.
Without clouding the text with further attempts to explain it, here is the testimony of a man who had the Son. It will assist us in knowing whether or not we have Him. "I once thought all these things were so very important, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I may have Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own goodness or my ability to obey God's law, but I trust Christ to save me. For God's way of making us right with himself depends on faith. As a result, I can really know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I can learn what it means to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that, somehow, I can experience the resurrection from the dead! I don't mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection! But I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ Jesus saved me for and wants me to be. No, dear brothers and sisters, I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven" New Living Translation (Phil 3:7-14).
If one imagines the above text has no relevance for all believers, the Spirit adds, "All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you"NIV (verse 15). At the point there is measurable progress in this matter, the assurance that Christ is in you will be confirmed.
In order to encourage us to acquire this knowledge, our text speaks firmly, yet puts the truth within our reach. "He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life"NKJV. There is no leniency at all in this affirmation. This assists us to focus our attention on the key matter--having the Son. Here all hope of life is excluded if it is not sought in Christ Jesus. Those, therefore, who appear to be virtuous, yet do not possess the Son, are not what they appear to be. They need the Son, else they are neither alive to, nor accepted by, God.
Eternal life, then, hinges upon the personal possession of the Son of God. Therefore, all acceptable thoughts, words, and works proceed from that reality-having the Son of God. Merit, then, cannot be acquired apart from Christ. Divine acceptance cannot be realized independently of Him. Everything depends on having the Son. Where, then, should our emphasis be placed? What role should Jesus have in our preaching and living? The answer is obvious.
There are certain guarantees associated with believing on the name of Christ-i.e., embracing Him as God has presented Him in the Gospel.
--Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God (5:1). 2-The one who believes Jesus is the Son of God overcomes the world (5:5). 3--The individual believing on the Son of God has the witness in himself (5:10). 4--Believing on Jesus is a commandment (3:23). We do well, therefore, to place a great emphasis on believing in Christ. Whatever makes it difficult for us to believe on Him should be thrust from us. Whatever contributes to our faith in Christ should be heartily embraced.
Something with such declared effects cannot be a mere procedural in appropriating salvation. Yet, that is how some people approach believing on the Son of God-as though it took place in a moment of time, then was left in pursuit of more mature matters. Take care that you view faith, or believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, as God does. Let your view of it be shaped by the Word of God, not the dogma and opinions of men. In so doing you will experience the greater witness of God. It will be yours, and you will have it in yourself. It will stabilize your spirit and rejoice your heart.