7-1-2018 A Tale of Two Testimonies
Have you heard of Thalidomide sold under the brand name Immunoprin?
Thalidomide was first marketed in 1957 in West Germany under the trade-name Contergan. A German drug company developed and sold the drug. Primarily prescribed as a sedative or hypnotic, thalidomide also claimed to cure "anxiety, insomnia, gastritis, and tension". Afterwards, it was used against nausea and to alleviate morning sickness in pregnant women. Thalidomide became an over-the-counter popular drug in West Germany in October of 1957. However, shortly after the drug was sold in West Germany, despite the testimonies of the drug company that Thalidomide was completely safe, between 5,000 and 7,000 infants were born with a severe malformation of their limbs. Only about 40% of these children survived.
Throughout the rest of the world, about 10,000 cases were reported of infants affected by thalidomide; only 50% of the 10,000 survived. Those subjected to thalidomide while in the womb experienced limb deficiencies in a way that the long limbs either were not developed or presented themselves as stumps. Other effects included deformed eyes and hearts, deformed alimentary and urinary tracts, blindness and deafness. Some of those affected might have been spared if it were not for the testimonies of that German drug company. To make matters worse, in the U.K., a court trial began to determine if the marketing of Thalidomide to treat pregnant women was legal, and according to British law, no one could publish anything negative about the drug or the company until after the trial came to a conclusion. This meant that during the long months of the trial, it was illegal to give any public testimony about the harm that the drug might have caused you or your child.
Obviously the testimony of men or women can be used for great good or great harm. That drug stayed in circulation longer based on the testimonies of a corrupt drug company, but was taken off the market based on the testimony of real people whom had suffered.
The Apostle John has something to say about peoples’ testimonies:
6 This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. 7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. 9 If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. 10 Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. 11 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
As I read these verses I was reminded of the difficulties of John’s ministry. John lived during the first days of the early church, while the church was fragile and in its infancy. The Gospel was being shared around the known world and many were saved, but false doctrine and heresy abounded as well. Many denied the finished work of Jesus, refusing to embrace Him as the Messiah. Others rejected any mention of the true and living God. The known world was still under Roman dominance, influenced by the philosophies and doctrines of those many gods they worshiped.
John knew the truth; he was settled on the Gospel message, and yet he realized others were still skeptical—ready to leave the faith as things heated up. He boldly and confidently presents Jesus as the Messiah to come. He emphasizes irrefutable evidence to validate his message. The world looked for truth and assurance and John sought to provide that for them.
We live in a society today that shares many of these similarities. The Gospel is embraced by some, and even accepted as “a” (possible) truth by others even if they aren’t yet born again. However, many other faiths, philosophies, and doctrines are being venerated, promoted, and taught today even in some churches. Some question the Gospel truth and wonder how it is possible to know for sure—or with complete certainty. As believers here this morning, we are settled in our faith (hopefully), but we must realize not all are as sound and rested in the faith as we are. Many have more questions than answers.
This passage this morning helps us provide at least a couple evidences that solidifies our confidence. First:
I. Christ’s Glorious Dual Nature (vv.6-8)
I. Christ’s Glorious Dual Nature (vv.6-8)
Let’s consider the assertions John makes as we continue: The Witness of Christ
This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.
In this verse, “water” and “blood” are mentioned again along with “the Spirit.” The terms “water” and “blood” are mentioned twice and The “Spirit” twice may refer to Jesus’ baptism because of the dove descending. There is some disagreement about the exact historical allusion that each of these three represents. They relate to the false teachers’ rejection of Jesus’ true humanity.
“This is He who who came” This emphasizes the Incarnation (Jesus as both man and God) and His sacrificial death, both of which the false teachers denied.
“by water and blood” What in the world does “by water and blood” mean?!? Some scholars think that the water refers to Jesus’ baptism, but thanks to Νικοδημος and Jesus written about by our author John in the Gospel of John 3 we know that “water” likely refers to Jesus’ physical birth (cf. John 3:1–9) but Jesus mentions being born by water and by Spirit for salvation. So then, what about the “blood?” While there is room for debate, most scholars agree that “blood” refers to His physical death. This makes sense given the context of the gnostic false teachers’ rejection of Jesus’ true humanity. These two experiences, then, birth and death both prove and reveal His humanity.
The other option related to the gnostic false teachers is that “water” refers to Jesus’ baptism. They asserted that the “Christ spirit” came upon the man Jesus at His baptism (water) and left before the man Jesus’ death on the cross (blood), but that cannot be right either considering John chapter 3. When John commented about water and blood, he was also refuting claims that Jesus was “the Christ” only between his baptism and his death—that is, he was merely human until he was baptized, at which time “the Christ” then descended upon him but later left him before his death on the cross. But if Jesus died only as a man, he could not have risen from the dead, and Christianity would be an empty religion.
“And the Spirit is the one who testifies” One of the roles of the Holy Spirit is to reveal and expose Jesus. The Holy Spirit is the part of the Trinity who convicts of sin, leads to Christ, baptizes into Christ, and forms Christ in the believer (cf. John 16:7–15).
“the Spirit is the truth” (cf. John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13; 1 John 4:6). Whether at his birth, his baptism, or at his death, Jesus’ identity as God’s Son was clearly revealed. The Holy Spirit gives us the testimony that this is true. God’s Spirit, alive in their spirit, witnesses to the fact that everything Jesus said and did was true.
For there are three that testify:
You would expect the three that testify to be the persons of the Trinity—especially if you have the King James Version!
There is some confusion in the English translations as to where vv. 6, 7, and 8 begin and end. The portion of v. 7 that is found in the KJV which says “in heaven, the Father, the Word and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one,” is not found in any of the three “Great UNCIAL Greek manuscripts” of the NT: Alexandrinus, Vaticanus, or Sinaiticus, nor in the Byzantine manuscripts.
However The biblical doctrine of one God (monotheism), but with three personal manifestations (Father, Son, and Spirit) is not affected by the rejection of this KJV verse addition. Although it is true that the Bible never uses the word “trinity,” many biblical passages speak of all three persons of the Godhead acting together:
at Jesus’ baptism (Matt. 3:16–17)
the great commission (Matt. 28:19)
the “Helper” Holy Spirit being sent (John 14:26)
Peter’s Pentecost sermon (Acts 2:33–34)
Paul’s discussion of flesh and spirit (Rom. 8:7–10)
Paul’s discussion of spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:4–6)
Paul’s travel plans (2 Cor. 1:21–22)
Paul’s benediction (2 Cor. 13:14)
Paul’s discussion of the fullness of time (Gal. 4:4–6)
Paul’s prayer of praise to the Father (Eph. 1:3–14)
Paul’s discussion of the Gentiles’ former alienation (Eph. 2:18)
Paul’s discussion of the oneness of God (Eph. 4:4–6)
Paul’s discussion of the kindness of God (Titus 3:4–6)
Peter’s introduction (1 Pet. 1:2)
All these mention the Trinity!
BUT our ESV tells it like it is in the next verse:
the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.
In the OT two or three witnesses were needed to confirm a matter (Deut. 17:6; 19:15). Here, the historical events of Jesus’ life are given as a witness to His full humanity and deity.
According to the Jewish law, the testimony of one person is not a valid witness. Truth or validity has to be established by two or three witnesses. Since people believe human testimony when validated by two or three witnesses, John explained that surely they could believe the testimony that comes from God. The Gospels twice record God’s clear declaration that Jesus is God’s Son—at Jesus’ baptism (Matthew 3:16–17) and at his transfiguration (Matthew 17:5). John said that if they believe testimony from people, then they can surely rely on the threefold witness of God (5:8). The three witnesses, described in 5:8, agree because God himself is behind them. All three form a single “testimony from God” that Jesus is the Christ.
Verse 7 had to do with the three critical phases in Jesus’ life where he was manifested as God incarnate, the Son of God in human form by birth. This was made evident at his baptism, his death (the blood), and his resurrection. At his baptism, Jesus was declared to be God’s beloved Son (Matthew 3:16–17). At his bloody crucifixion, Jesus was recognized by others as God’s Son (Mark 15:39). In his resurrection, Jesus was designated the Son of God in power (Romans 1:3–4). These three witnesses agree in one aspect: each event demonstrated that the man Jesus was the divine Son of God.
I like how John ends this verse:
“and these three agree” it is as if he understands that when you get Baptists in the same room together, the chances of agreement drop dramatically after two.
So there is John’s proof of the duel nature of Christ — the Spirit’s testimony of the God-Man, Christ Jesus! But the strength of the evidence gets better!
II. Christ’s Genuine Clarity (vv.9-11)
II. Christ’s Genuine Clarity (vv.9-11)
John wants to make crystal clear that we understand genuine testimony from the genuine source
If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son.
By now it should be becoming obvious the importance John is placing on testimony.
“If we receive the testimony of men”
The Ephesian churches that John was writing to were confused because they apparently had heard the preaching or teaching of these gnostic teachers and some apparently bought into it. You’d like to think that it would never happen to you are someone you know, but it does all the time. People are suckered into false teachings through smooth talk.
There’s at least one story about Hitler, during his early political speeches just before rising to power, being able to talk with such passion, that he could convince just about anyone to hate Jews. after one Jewish man heard about this claim, he decided to join in on one of these speeches. He stayed toward the back of the crowded room so that nobody would be able easily point out his Jewish features and heritage. This Jewish man described Hitler as being one who can captivate attention and motivate action through his powerful use of rhetoric. By the end of the speech, this Jewish man caught himself being outside of himself and outside the moment--chanting with the rest of the crowd there: “Kill the Jews!”
“the testimony of God is greater”
This divine testimony, in context, refers to
the Holy Spirit’s witness and
the Apostolic witness to Jesus’ human life and death while remaining fully God.
“that He has testified concerning His Son” This is a PERFECT ACTIVE INDICATIVE which implies an action in the past that has come to a state of culmination and is abiding. This may refer to God’s vocal affirmations at Jesus’ baptism (cf. Matt. 3:17) or at His transfiguration (cf. Matt. 17:5; John 5:32, 37; 8:18) or the recording of both in Scripture (i.e. the Gospels).
Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son.
“has the testimony in himself” When people believe in the Son of God, they know that everything the apostles taught about him is true. They know without any doubt because the Spirit who regenerated them gives them an inner witness to that reality.
“made Him a liar” Those who don’t believe the testimony that God has given concerning his Son (5:7–9) should realize that by rejecting what God has so plainly said, they are calling God a liar. John was blasting the false teachers who claimed to know God but did not believe what God himself had said concerning his Son. This was logically impossible and amounted to calling God a liar.
“because he has not believed” This is another PERFECT ACTIVE INDICATIVE which emphasizes the settled condition of the unregenerate.
In fact, that is the primary function of the Spirit—to testify and reveal Jesus to every believer (see John 14:26; 15:26; 16:7–13).
And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
This is what God has testified and what the false teachers refused to believe: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. The divine, eternal life resides in Christ, who makes it available to all who believe in him. That Jesus is indeed God’s Son has been established by testimony from God himself (5:7–9). Believers have eternal life in relationship to, and in union with, Jesus Christ, who is himself “life” , and they have eternal life because of him (2 Timothy 1:10).
“that God gave us eternal life” This is a past completed act (cf. John 3:16). Eternal life is defined in some instances to Jesus Himself; in others it is a gift from God which is received through faith in Christ. One cannot be in fellowship with the Father without personal faith in the Son!
So What? (v.12)
So What? (v.12)
Human beings do not have life in themselves no matter what they say; we must receive life from God.
Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
Through faith, believers have Christ within, so whoever has God’s Son has life—eternal life—now. They possess a new nature and enjoy fellowship with God. Believers can be certain that they have eternal life. Because they have received life through the Son, they can be assured of having everlasting life in the future. For those who do not believe, however, the opposite is also true: whoever does not have his Son does not have life.
I am truly thankful for the witness of Christ. I rejoice for the day I was shared the Gospel and offered the opportunity of salvation. I agreed with the evidence God presented and trusted Christ by faith. I saw my desperate need as a young teen, repented of my sin, and received salvation—that is my assurance: the fruit of salvation.
I once heard about a believer so plagued with doubts about his salvation, that he slept each night with one foot one the floor, so if he woke up and thought he was about to die, he might be able to kneel one last time to pray to sinner's prayer.
God doesn't want us to live that way. He wants us to rest assured that we are His; and He has given us His Spirit, who bears witness to the Son to convince us that our salvation is sufficient; He bears witness in the saint to convince us that our salvation is sure; and he bears witness through the Scriptures to convince us that our salvation is supreme.
A soldier lay, bleeding to death from wounds, on the battlefield. Seeing a surgeon, he said faintly, 'Oh, doctor, please!' The doctor got down, dressed his wounds, gave him all possible relief, and ordered him to be conveyed to hospital.
'What's your name, doctor?' asked the wounded man.
'Oh, no matter!' replied the surgeon.
'But, doctor,' he said, 'I want to tell my wife and children who saved my life.'
With even greater fervency, we should be zealous to tell others who exactly saved our life for eternity.
This passage challenges me to bear witness of Christ as well. God does in numerous ways and He desires us to testify of the Savior also. Your personal witness may urge someone to consider the evidence God presents.
You have heard the witness of Christ today. If you are unsaved, will you accept it and believe on Christ by faith?