Title: God on the Witness Stand
Text: I John 5:5-13
FCF: We often struggle doubting that Jesus was the Messiah of God
Prop: Because God’s testimony about Jesus in His person and work authenticates him as the Christ, we must believe in His person and work.
[Slide 1] Turn in your bible to I John chapter 5. Well here we are in earnest. The last wave of teaching in the last chapter of the book of I John. Realistically we have probably 3 or 4 sermons left including a wrap-up sermon at the end. I hope, compared to our Matthew study, this seemed rather quick for you. I know it did for me. We began I John in early November and are on pace to finish it by the end of May. If you recall, I estimated 6-9 months for the Epistles of John series. Since it will be 6 months next week, I can now confidently say that we will not finish it all in 6 months. But perhaps we can still finish it in my 9-month estimate.
So after reviewing his entire book in the last 4 verses of chapter 5, now John sets out to define for us, very clearly I might add, that our faith is in Christ alone and why it must be this way. The Jesus John presents is one that the secessionists had been attacking, dismantling, and abandoning. For those who say doctrine doesn’t matter – just love people, or doctrine doesn’t matter just love God, or doctrine does matter just… fill in the blank. John, I think, would disagree very sharply. Because to John, Doctrine and practice are woven. In every single wave of teaching it has been the same. He expresses doctrine first, and then connects that to practice. This wave is no different. You cannot love people without sound doctrine nor can you have a doctrine that is sound that does not also produce love for others. Faith, love, and obedience. All are woven and if one is missing – it all crumbles.
And so John sets out in this wave to define very clearly on what our faith rests and why. He does this by bringing us into a court room and putting Jesus of Nazareth on trial. To the stand, he calls what appears to be 34 witnesses who agree about this one called Jesus. They report on His life, ministry and His effect afterward. Lastly, he calls one final witness to the stand. God Himself. All report the same thing about this one named Jesus who is called the Christ. Let’s see what they testify.
I am in I John chapter 5 starting in verse 5. I’ll be reading from the Christian Standard Bible today but you can follow along in whatever version you prefer.
Let’s dive right in this morning, shall we?
I.) The life and ministry of Jesus testify to the fact that He is the Son of God, the Messiah, so we must believe in the person and work of Jesus Christ. (5-8)
a. [Slide 2] 5 – Who is the one who conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
i. Between verses 4 and 5 John has said the same thing a few times in a few different ways.
ii. The one fathered by God conquers the world.
iii. How? Our Faith- the thing on which we place all our hopes.
iv. Then verse 5 – who is the one who conquers? Well he has already answered that hasn’t he? The one fathered by God yes? The one who has our faith, yes? Yes… but all that is encapsulated by this…
v. The one believing..
vi. This is a participial phrase, meaning that this is describing the person – that they are a believing one or characterized by their belief. But what are they clinging to? What are they holding fast to for dear life?
vii. The truth of Jesus being the Son of God.
viii. We have to understand this in the context of I John. The secessionists were denying an orthodox and apostle approved Christology. We must understand that Christology is not the only teaching required to make you orthodox – nor must we make belief in the fact of His Sonship the sum total of necessary confession. Again, this is a polemic against a false teaching.
ix. That being said – it is quite a strong statement against the secessionists. Jesus is the Son of Yahweh.
x. But John is not done ironing out the true Christological confession. He is about to prove by trial that Jesus is worthy of exclusive faith.
b. [Slide 3] 6 – Jesus Christ – he is the one who came by water and blood, not by water only, but by water and by blood.
i. At first glance – I’d wager that this verse is fairly perplexing to you.
ii. Indeed, if you were to drop into this verse having simply read the entirety of I John, you would still have a difficult time of it, understanding what John is saying.
iii. [Slide 4A] There are several theories across the many years of the church going back as far as the 2nd century. Let me highlight the major theories.
1. [Slide 4B] Sacraments – Christ came by baptism and by the Lord’s Supper –
a. Luther and Calvin – Christ comes to us in the Sacraments. He brings Himself to us.
b. There are several problems with this view
i. The one who came - is an aorist participle. Not only do participles convey less aspect than verbs – but an aorist participle we could probably conclude contains no aspect. What does that mean? John seems to be saying that this happened. Not continuously, habitually, or once, or even once with continuing effects. Simply that it happened. No aspect at all. It is like taking a picture of an event in the past. You have no way of knowing if what happened in the picture continued or if what happened still has effect on the present, or even if it was repeated. All you know is that it happened. If John is talking about the sacraments – we would expect some kind of continual aspect to be applied to this.
ii. Secondly, although “the water” is used in the New Testament to refer to baptism, never is “the blood” used to refer to the Lord’s Table. The Body and Blood, the Bread and Wine – sure.
iii. Furthermore, why would John state the symbol of the sign in the water and the sign of the symbol in the blood? If it were to be consistent wouldn’t it be – Jesus came by water and by wine? Or Jesus came by baptism and by blood?
iv. Lastly, there has not been one single reference to the sacraments in the entire book of I John up to this point. Certainly, the underpinned sign has been spoken of – but the symbols of those sacraments have not been mentioned at all.
c. Therefore, it is safe that we disagree with these wise Reformers and look for another answer.
2. [Slide 4C] The Spear of Christ’s confirmed death
a. Going farther back than the reformers, this view was presented by Augustine of Hippo
b. When Jesus was dead on the cross the Roman soldiers pierced his side and blood and water ran out.
c. Contextually, this would seem to make more sense than the sacramental view because it is to prove the divine-human nature of Christ’s existence. Something the secessionists were opposing.
d. By blood and water running out it proved that he was human and dead.
e. However, there are some problems with this view.
i. John seems to have water as a given. That he came not only by water but by blood also. So if he is referencing something the secessionists believed, how could they believe something about the water coming out of him on the cross, but not the blood coming out of him?
ii. Secondly, knowing some of the proto-gnostic beliefs, they would not argue that the man who hung on the cross named Jesus did actually die. What they would argue is that he was not still God’s Son, who was dead.
f. It seems that there is something more that John has in mind here.
3. [Slide 4D] The Ministries of Christ
a. Some modern commentators hold to this view.
b. That Christ’s baptizing ministry was held in common between the secessionists and John but His dying ministry, his atoning ministry was not held in common.
c. This I believe is closer to what John is actually saying, but with one major problem. It largely loses what the secessionists actually believed about Jesus.
d. I believe that there is a better interpretation that combines both the ministry of Christ the Son of God, and also the verification of Jesus as the Son of Man.
4. [Slide 4E] The comings of Jesus which confirmed that He was the God-Man, the Messiah of God.
a. This view was held by Tertullian, who lived between late 100s and early 200s AD. Of all the views, his is the earliest.
b. At the baptism of Jesus, God Himself confirmed that Jesus (who was a man) was also His Son in whom He was most pleased.
c. At the death of Jesus, God Himself confirmed that Jesus (who had shed his blood and died) was His Son whose payment He had accepted. This is confirmed by the signs that surrounded the death of Christ (darkness on the land, earthquakes, The resurrection of the dead, first being Jesus Himself)
iv. [Slide 5A] Here is why I think the last view is correct.
1. [Slide 5B] First John says Jesus Christ. Not his last name – but rather his title. His role. Jesus the Messiah. The Savior. The one sent by God. Indicating purpose and identity. The proto-gnostic groups insisted that Jesus and the Christ were two separate people who joined for a time. One Spirit the other human.
2. [Slide 5C] As we noted in our intro to I John, some proto-gnostic persuasions – trying to rid themselves of the mortal body aspect of Jesus being in flesh, had concluded that at His Baptism Jesus the human received the Messiah as it descended upon Him from God. And this human Jesus wore him like a cloak. However, John saying that Jesus Christ came by or through baptism – it indicates that Jesus was the Christ before his baptism occurred.
3. [Slide 5D] Another belief of the proto-gnostics is that the spirit of God was removed from Jesus the human before His death. His mission was accomplished and Jesus the human was killed.
4. By John saying Jesus the Messiah (purpose and identity) came by or through water AND blood, it means most assuredly that he came by missional objective through not only His baptism, but also through His death as well. But John is using this to authenticate that Jesus was always the Christ, the Son of God.
5. Not through water only but He was the Christ through both.
6. The truth of who He is was made manifest by His baptism AND by His death.
v. [Slide 6] And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.
1. Notice the present tense here of the Spirit. Christ came through these things, but the Spirit now continues to testify.
2. After Christ’s resurrection and ascension, The Spirit of God descended and indwelled all those who were His children.
3. That same spirit is alive and at work to testify in each of us of the truth about Christ.
4. Why – because the Spirit of God, and is therefore, truth.
c. [Slide 7A] 7 – For there are three that testify:
i. In Roman and Jewish law, testimony would only be received if it was validated by 2 or 3 witnesses.
ii. John’s language here essentially lays out that Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah of God was authenticated not by His baptism alone, but by His death and the sending of the Spirit of God also.
iii. These three testify to the truth that Jesus is the Messiah the Son of God.
iv. It ought to be mentioned here, although I will not take much time with it, there is an entire portion of this verse and some of the next that is omitted in every single modern version of the bible, yet present in the KJV.
v. [Slide 7B] The phrase omitted is “in heaven: The Father, The Word and the Holy Spirit, and these three are One; and there are three witnesses on the earth”
vi. Many have openly accused the modern translations of corrupting the text – and omitting such a valued gem of trinitarian formula.
vii. However – the modern translations are right to omit this from the text. Why? Because it is very obviously and quite simply not the original words of John. Not only does this phrase not occur in any Greek manuscript predating 1215AD, but in most Greek manuscripts it appears as a footnote in the margins. No doubt a note of commentary rather than original text.
viii. Furthermore, during the trinitarian disputes in the early church – would this text not have been an often-quoted verse to substantiate the trinity? Yet not one church father ever quotes this verse. And we know that at least Origen believed I John to be authentic.
ix. So since it is not original to John – let’s ignore it and move into verse 8.
d. [Slide 8] 8 – The Spirit and the water and the blood - and these three are in agreement
i. This simple statement is the final nail in the theological coffin of the secessionists.
ii. The Spirit of God, the Death of Christ, and the Baptism of Christ all say the same thing.
iii. Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, who came in flesh, obeyed God, died for the atonement of sin and rose again as the first born of many sons, ascended to the Father where He is seated at the right hand of God currently making intercession on behalf of His children.
iv. This is the authentic Jesus who is the Christ! That is why true faith must cling to Him and Him alone!
v. But why? Why do these three agree?
vi. They all have the same source. God Himself testifies through Christ’s baptism, Atonement, and by sending His Spirit.
vii. And that is where John will go next, but first let’s survey what we’ve learned here.
e. [Slide 9] Passage Truth: John to his readers does identify what it is to truly be a believer in Jesus being the Son of God. He gives a Christological position that authenticates Jesus as the true faith, the true Christ, the one needed for us to overcome the world. Who is this Jesus really? His life tells us who He is. He is The messiah of God, conceived by the holy spirit, baptized and approved by God, lived a life of perfect obedience, died for the sins of His people, raised from the dead as the firstborn of many, ascended to the Father’s throne to make intercession on behalf of His people, and fulfilling His word by sending the Spirit for His children. This is Jesus the Christ. He alone is our faith.
f. Passage Application: But John doesn’t tell his readers this in correction – but rather in comfort. They do believe this. They have received all of this as they have been illuminated by God’s Spirit to believe.
g. [Slide 10] Broader Biblical Truth: If we zoom out from I John – what do we find? The same exact truth. It is this Christology of this authenticated Christ that we must be confessing if we are fathered of God. No other Christ or savior will do but this one.
h. Broader Biblical Application: In application – is this what you believe? Truly? Does your heart cling to this Jesus? If so what will that mean? That you conquer the world and that God’s law is not burdensome. So that you can follow it out of love for God and out of love for Him you can love other Christians. Connected to genuine faith in the genuine Christ is genuine obedience. That is where John is leading us.
[Slide 11(blank)] So these three witnesses from Christ’s life, ministry, and effect of His life have testified to the truth, that Jesus is the Messiah of God, His Son. Come in flesh. Died in flesh. Raised in flesh. Ascended in flesh. The God-Man. But what about God? Will He testify to this truth also? Will He correct the testimony of the water, blood and Spirit or will He add to what they have said? Let’s see.
II.) God’s testimony is that Jesus is the Christ and His Son and the only source for eternal life, so we must believe in the person and work of Jesus Christ (9-13)
a. [Slide 12] 9 – If we accept human testimony, God’s testimony is greater, because it is God’s testimony that he has given about His Son.
i. Going back to the rule of law – again under human testimony when two or three testify and are in agreement to a certain truth – it is recognized to the point that someone could be acquitted or condemned of a crime.
ii. If this is so of human testimony – given the evil of men’s hearts – how much more so is God’s testimony?
iii. Especially when God is testifying about His Son! About Himself!
b. [Slide 13] 10 – The one who believes in the Son of God has this testimony within himself.
i. Again, participial in nature – the believing one the one who clings to the Son of God has what?
ii. This testimony. Which testimony?
iii. The testimony of God about Christ.
iv. Where does he have this testimony?
v. In himself. How is that?
&nbnbsp; vi. We should hold off on answering this until we understand what God’s testimony about Christ is. Because John has not quite said it yet. So let’s save what this testimony in us is until then.
c. [Slide 14] The one who does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony God has given about His Son.
i. But – bad news for the secessionists. God’s testimony about His own son, if not believed, is the same as calling God a liar.
ii. This is not simple rejection in ignorance.
iii. This is willful and purposeful suppression of the truth and doubting of God’s very words.
iv. Like the serpent in the garden they have asked – has God said? And concluded no… he has not.
v. But what is it, specifically, that God has revealed to us about His Son through His Spirit in us?
d. [Slide 15] 11 – And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.
i. This is the testimony God has given about His Son. This is the testimony that we have in ourselves. We have been made alive in Him!
ii. We have been raised to life and life everlasting!
iii. And the life we have has been wed, married, united, and fastened to the eternal nature and life of Christ Himself. We in Him, are His reward and in this are rewarded as well.
iv. We are the bride and he the groom.
v. We are adopted heirs.
vi. We are brothers, friends, and slaves of Christ.
vii. All we have, all we ever hope to be, not just in this wretched blip of a world -but in the eternal Kingdom to come – all we are is found only in Christ.
e. [Slide 16] 12 – The one who has the Son has life. The one who does not have the Son of God does not have life.
i. This is still the testimony of God about His son in us! If we have life – God is giving His testimony t o us, authenticating His Son as the Christ.
ii. Almost no explanation is needed here.
iii. Life is bound to Christ.
iv. And after this great Christological exhortation – John writes some of the most wonderful words of the letter.
f. [Slide 17] 13 – I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.
i. Again we have a purpose for John’s writing.
ii. He has written these things – all these things – everything he has said – to whom?
iii. The believing ones – The trusting ones – the depending ones… on what?
iv. The name of the Son of God. What does this mean?
1. A name is a reputation. A name is a summary of who you are or what you are.
2. A name represents authority and power.
3. So to be a depending on the name of the Son of God is quite literally staking everything you are – your entire existence – on the reputation, person, and work of Jesus Christ.
v. So John identifies his readers. Those who are believing ones in the person and work of Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God.
vi. And the very reason he has written all that he has, in this book, and even in the last 12 verses is why?
vii. So they can know. So they can rest assured that they have, right now, eternal life. Not sometime in the future… but right now they have it.
viii. He just finished saying that God’s testimony about His Son in them is that there is only life in Him. Therefore when they believe in Him and have life… They know that it is eternal life and that Jesus is the Christ, God’s Son!
g. [Slide 18] Passage Truth: So John reveals who is the one testifying to the truth about Christ. That is God Himself. His testimony should be held in far higher esteem than any man’s testimony could. His testimony about His Son is that He alone is the source for life everlasting. Only in Christ is this found. Only those depending on the person and work of Christ alone have such an assurance of eternal life.
h. Passage Application: Again, to his readers this is designed to be a great comfort. They do believe this, and therefore they should be assured.
i. [Slide 19] Broader Biblical Truth: Zooming out from I John, we saw God in Matthew testify to the truth of His Son. In Acts the Spirit doing the same – fulfilling the promises made by the Son and indwelling the people united to the son by true faith.
j. Broader Biblical Application: So for us, of course this means that we must be believers on the name of Jesus Christ. In His person and in His work. That is not possible for you to believe unless you have been fathered of God. And so, for those Fathered of God – continue to believe in greater and greater degrees on the name of Jesus Christ. He is the only path to eternal life. And in what John has written you can know that you have eternal life. That you have this faith, this Jesus. But friends if you have ultimately found that you have failed John’s tests – Faith, Love, and obedience. Then you do not have this hope. Only the assured fear of coming judgment.
[Slide 20(end)] So how then shall we live?
Friends, you would be silly to ignore the teaching of men on this topic. You would be misinformed to cast all of church historical doctrine into the garbage as it testifies to the Sonship, Humanity, Deity, Atonement, person and work of Jesus Christ. You would be ignorant to not listen to the teaching of men on the glory of Jesus of Nazareth. But to ignore the testimony of God Himself about His son… you would be something far worse. You would be a fool.
I don’t mean fool in the sense of a courtroom jester making jokes at the King’s expense. No. I mean the biblical fool. What does being a fool in the bible mean?
A senseless one. An accursed one. Wicked, blind, rebellious, and evil. If you ignore the testimony of God of His own Son – then quite plainly there is no hope for you. You are doomed.
Yet even now, under the sound of my voice, under the words of John, breathed out by God Himself, you may be, for the first time, realizing that Jesus of Nazareth was more than a great teacher. More than a great leader. More than compassionate, more than good or kind or a great example for us all. He was God Himself in flesh. His message was to repent of sin and follow Him. His death was to atone for the sins of His people. And His effect was to bring new life to people who were spiritually dead and change them to be what God wants them to be. Perhaps, even now, you have begun to awaken form your slumber of death? Perhaps even now you feel life course through you.
Heed my voice. If you can hear this message, if you can see this Christ – Cry out to God! Repent of your wickedness. Turn form it. And turn to Him. Give Him your allegiance. Declare Him to be your Lord. Receive this Jesus, the Messiah of God, your atonement for sin. Don’t harden your heart.
And if you are one of those who is a believer. You have been given faith, faith that produces love and obedience. What does this message do for you? It is a message of confirmation. The one in whom you are believing is all that you have believed and more. Continue to believe! Continue to trust! And comfort yourself in knowing that as you continue to trust it is evidence that you have eternal life.
What comfort it is to know that this is true. Indeed, it is the very reason John wrote this book.