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1 John 5:4b-12: Believe the Testimony Print E-mail
1, 2, 3 John
Sunday, 03 January 2010

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In order to have eternal life, belief in God is not enough.  That sounds like a crazy statement, but John has made it clear throughout his letter that a person cannot just make claims about believing in God (as so many do in our day) and have eternal life.  John wants his readers to know that what they believe about Jesus is critical.  If we believe wrongly about Jesus then any other belief will simply be irrelevant.  It is absolutely necessary that we believe what is true concerning Jesus the Christ.

We have already noted that John is writing to correct some erroneous views of his opponents in this letter.  They did not believe that Jesus was the Christ come in the flesh and they trying to lead others in the Church astray as well.  John has written to challenge these errors and to encourage his readers in the truth concerning Jesus.  He gives them tests to see whether or not what they believe about Jesus is correct.  We have referred to this category as the doctrinal tests of this letter.  In our passage this morning, he gives us further insight into the errors of the opponents and what is true concerning Christ.  He speaks of three witnesses that testify to the truth about Jesus.  I want to begin by looking at these.  We will then look at two results from believing this testimony that John identifies.

What is the Testimony concerning the Son (v. 6-9)?

First, John tells us of the testimony of the water and the blood.  We will come back to verses 4b-5 in a moment, but look at verse 6a.  John tells us that Jesus came by water and blood.  Apparently his opponents agreed that Jesus came by water but they did not agree that He came by blood since John emphasizes that Jesus came by both: not by the water only but by the water and the blood.  While agreeing that Jesus came by water, the opponents were denying that He came by blood.  Yet, what does John by water and blood in this verse?  Although several interpretations have been put forward, it seems that the simplest and most faithful is that John is referring to Jesus’ baptism (water) and death (blood).  It is hard to know what the opponents believed about Jesus’ baptism, but they did not seem to deny it.  As we read from Matthew 3 earlier, we know that when Jesus was baptized a voice from heaven proclaimed: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”  Whether or not the opponents believed all of this we do not know, but John teaches us here that Jesus’ baptism was a testimony of who He was (see also John the Baptist’s comments in John 1:32-34), namely the Christ, the Son of God.

Yet, regardless of what the opponents believed about the baptism, John makes it clear that they did not believe in the death of Christ.  Some have speculated that they simply could not believe that the Christ could die.  Thus, they thought that maybe the Spirit of the Christ came on Jesus at His baptism but left Him before He died on the cross.  Although this is speculation, such belief or something similar seems to be what John is correcting in this passage.  It is not enough to believe in the testimony of the water.  No, a person must also believe in the testimony of the blood.  They must believe that Jesus was not just the Christ at His baptism, but He was also the Christ crucified for sinners at Calvary.  He either took on flesh as the Christ, was baptized as the Christ, died as the Christ and was raised as the Christ or we do not have eternal life.  If we deny any of these truths concerning Jesus then we have not believed the true testimony.

Second, John tells of the testimony of the Spirit.  It is not just the water and the blood that testify concerning Jesus, but the Spirit also testifies.  Look at the rest of verse 6.  The Spirit testifies the truth about Jesus.  We pointed out when we did our study on the doctrine of the Spirit that He is always pointing us to the person and work of Jesus.  He opens our eyes so that we can see and know the truth about Jesus of Nazareth.  The Spirit does this in at least a couple of ways.  First, He has inspired the biblical writers to write the truth of Jesus.  This is the objective witness of the Spirit, which we find recorded in the pages of the Old and New Testaments.  Second, the Spirit witnesses to our spirit so that we might know what is true.  This is more subjective but it is important as well.  The Spirit bears witness to what is true about Jesus.

John goes on to comment on these three witnesses in verses 7-9.  Look at those with me.  John notes that these three witnesses (the water, the blood, and the Spirit) all agree.  Why is that significant?  Under the Old Covenant, two to three witnesses were required to prove someone’s innocence or guilt (see for example Deuteronomy 19:15).  Thus, John is pointing out that there are three witnesses that agree to the truth about Jesus.  They all agree that He is the Christ come in the flesh who suffered and died for our sins.  John then concludes by adding that if we believe the testimony of men, then we should believe the testimony of God that He has given us concerning His Son.  Since the Spirit of God has given us testimony about Jesus (which is in agreement with the other two witnesses), then we should believe it to be true.  We should not doubt the truth of Jesus but believe it.  And there are some important results of such belief…

What results from believing in this testimony (v. 4b-5, 10-12)?

John gives us two results from believing the truth about Jesus:

First, those who believe overcome the world.  Look at verses 4b-5.  John concluded his extended section on loving others by saying that those who have been born of God will love others by obeying His commands.  These commands are not burdensome because anyone who has been born of God overcomes the world.  From there John begins to expand on how we overcome the world.  What does he say?  He says that faith in Christ is what overcomes the world.  He then turns to what a person must believe about Christ in verses 6-9.  If a person believes that Jesus is the Christ and that He died on the cross and was raised again, then John says that that person overcomes the world.  What does it mean to overcome the world?  In the present context in which John has been talking about obeying God’s commands, it seems that he is saying that Christians have overcome the sinful rebellion against God through their belief in Christ.  Faith gives them victory over the rebellion in which they once shared.  If we put all of this together, we see that if we believe the truth about Jesus Christ, then we have victory over sin and rebellion and can therefore love others by obeying God’s commands. 

Let me just pause in our exposition and emphasize the hope we should have because of this verse.  As believers in Christ, we live in enemy occupied territory.  The world continues to be in rebellion against God and against the followers of Jesus.  We see evidence of this all around us through continual temptation and persecution.  It is easy to become discouraged.  Yet, John tells us that faith in Christ will overcome.  We need not fear the world for what can man do to us?  We have victory through our Savior.  May this be a source of great strength and boldness as we seek to honor Christ in our lives here on the earth.

Second, those who believe have eternal life.  After John speaks of the testimony of Christ in verses 6-9, he gives us another result of believing this testimony in verses 10-12.  Look at those with me.  John once again draws the line in the sand: you either believe the testimony concerning the Son or you do not believe.  If you do not believe, John says that you have made God a liar.  If God has given us the true testimony concerning Jesus and we reject it, then we are calling God a liar.  Such strong language should show us the folly of unbelief.  If you are here this morning and you have refused to turn from your sins and trust in Christ as your Savior, then your life is making God out to be a liar.  God has told you in His Word that He created you for His glory but that you rebelled against Him and chose a life of sin.  He has told you that there is no way for you to make that right apart from Him.  He has told you, therefore, that He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to take on flesh and die on the cross for your sins.  He has told you that He accepts the sacrifice of His Son for your sins by raising Him from the dead.  He has told you that you must repent of your sins and believe in Christ in order to be reconciled to Him.  Thus, if you remain in your sins and reject the truth of Christ, then you simply make God out to be a liar.  I plead with you to turn from this and follow whole-heartedly after Christ.  What happens if you do?

John tells us those who believe the truth of Christ and have the Son have life.  John equates having the Son with having eternal life.  If we believe the testimony that God has given us about Jesus then we have life eternal.  Our relationship with God has been restored and no matter what this life brings, we will be with Him forever.  Yet again, if we reject this truth, then John makes it plain: whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.  All those in Christ have life and all those not in Christ do not have life.

Thus, the text hits us square between the eyes with this question: do you or do you not believe the testimony concerning Jesus?  For John there is absolutely no weightier question than this.  It is the difference between death and life.  I encourage with everything that I am to consider that question this morning.  After all, when all is stripped away, all the struggles, all the difficulties, all of the good times and all of the bad, you are left with either life or death.  You are either alive in Christ this morning and have every reason to sing His praises and obey His commands and follow hard after Him or you are dead in your sins and have every reason to repent and trust in the Savior.  If you are the former, then pause even now to give thanks to Jesus for the life He has given you and ask Him to grant you grace to live this year for His glory.  If you are the latter, then stop waiting, stop making excuses, stop doing whatever it is that keeps you from Christ, and trust in the Savior.  God has given you the testimony concerning His Son.  Will you believe?  I hope and pray that you will.  Amen.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Thursday, 14 January 2010 )

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