SERMON: “Witnesses to the Truth in Christ”「キリストにある真理を証するもの」
TEXT: 1 John 5:5-13
I. INTRODUCTION: Christianity’s Amazing Claim: “You shall know the truth!”
One of the effects of the rise of so-called “postmodern thought” in western societies during the past 40 years has been a loss of confidence in “truth.” Proponents of postmodernism have argued that the concept of truth is simply a means of subjugating and controlling people. They say there is no truth that applies to everyone and at all times. Therefore, we cannot be “certain” about anything. Every claim of “truth” must be discarded. The liberal world’s love of “diversity” is one by-product of this worldview. It has led to the repeal of many good laws that reflected long-held moral standards. Thankfully, postmodernism seems to be diminishing in popularity, but its effects are not easily erased. It has influenced the way many people think today. People remain suspicious of any system of thought that claims to be “true.”
Against this uncertain and distrustful background of postmodernism, the claims of Christianity sound especially dangerous. Jesus Christ famously told His disciples, “If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine, and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32). According to Jesus, knowing the truth does not enslave people; it does the opposite: it sets them free! In fact, man’s freedom and happiness depend on knowing the truth that God has revealed to us. Obviously, Jesus’ words challenge the underlying assumptions of postmodernism. Jesus said that ignorance—that is denying the truth–is what robs man of his freedom. The first pages of the Bible warn us about this. The first test of man’s moral character recorded in Genesis began with a question about truth: “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden?’” What did God really say? Eve was tempted–and seduced–by doubt concerning what God had actually said! As soon as she began to question the truth of God’s word, she began to imagine alternative “possibilities.” She substituted her own ideas for God’s truth. And the human race has been suffering the consequences ever since. The first, simple lesson of that fall into sin is this: God’s word to us is true! We reject God’s word at our own peril.
But man no longer lives in the garden of Eden. Life is much more complex today. If Adam and Eve, who had direct, personal communication with God Himself, were not fully confident of what God said, can we have any more confidence than they had? How can we really be sure of “the truth?” This is the theme that John takes up as he nears the conclusion of his letter. In v. 4 he says, “this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.” But it is not just “any” faith that will overcome the world. The one who overcomes the world is “he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” John declares here that the only faith that can help you is faith that is focused on Jesus, because He really IS the Son of God. The Bible never suggests that “faith” itself has any value at all, apart from the true God, who must be the object of one’s faith. It is not just faith in “a god,” but faith in “Jesus, the Son of God” that will give you victory over the world. John carefully explains who Jesus is in v. 6: “This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not with the water only, but with the water and with the blood.” John speaks with confidence and conviction. But how does he know that what he says is true? Why should we believe him? John’s answer is: We know that this is true because of witnesses. In verses 6-11 John uses the Greek noun or verb meaning “witness” ten times! The witnesses give us confidence concerning truth.
II. HOW CAN WE KNOW THE GOSPEL IS TRUE? (vs. 7-11)
Christians are never asked to believe anything that is not true. Nor are we asked to believe as true anything that is not supported by evidence. John tells his readers that God Himself has provided evidence to lead us to faith. God has given us witnesses that Jesus is the Son of God. In vs. 7-8 John says, “There are three that bear witness: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and the three are in agreement.” John used evidence in a similar way to support the truth of his Gospel account. In John’s Gospel he recorded seven different “signs” that pointed to the truth that “Jesus is the Christ.” The first sign was Jesus’ act of changing water into wine at the wedding in Cana, which John records in John 2:1-10. John explains in 2:11, “What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which He revealed His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.” After recording all seven signs in his Gospel, John summarizes his conclusions in 20:30-31. “Many other signs therefore Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” There were no security cameras to record the signs that Jesus performed. But there were many witnesses—eyewitnesses—who could testify that the signs Jesus performed were genuine. John invites his readers to ask the witnesses, to verify his account. Of course, we all depend on witnesses who persuade us that certain things are true. We learn many things about science by reading books, not by performing the scientific experiments for ourselves. We believe what we read in books because we trust the authors; they are “witnesses” that what they have written about is true. Without witnesses to historical events and characters, we could not know about any events that happened before we were born, or that occurred in faraway places. In the same way, the Bible is our book of witnesses to the truth of the gospel and the person and work of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Why should we believe that Jesus is the Son of God? We should believe because God has given us witnesses.
III. GOD’S WITNESSES: SPIRIT, WATER, BLOOD
The first witness John mentions is God’s Holy Spirit (v. 6). Possibly John is saying that God’s Spirit gives conviction of faith concerning Jesus and His saving work. Paul refers to this inner conviction given by the Holy Spirit in his letter to the Romans (8:16). He wrote, “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” Maybe John also means this kind of direct work of God’s Spirit to persuade and to instill faith within a person’s soul. John also recorded Jesus’ words in his Gospel (15:26): “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness of Me.”
But it is also possible that John is referring here to the Holy Spirit bearing witness to Jesus through human witnesses. Jesus closely connected the witness and power of the Holy Spirit to the activity of human witnesses. For example, in John 15:27, immediately after promising the witness of the Holy Spirit, Jesus tells His disciples, “and you will bear witness also, because you have been with Me from the beginning.” And in Acts 1:8 Jesus explained that men would become His witnesses when the power of the Holy Spirit had been poured out upon His disciples. The Spirit would spiritually equip them for this ministry. The Holy Spirit would give the apostles confidence to testify boldly about Jesus Christ and His redemptive work. “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and [then] you shall be My witnesses,” Jesus had told them. The Holy Spirit is the first witness John names in here in 1 John 5:6, because “the Spirit is the truth.”
The second and third “witnesses” are mentioned in vs. 7-8. These witnesses are represented by the symbols “water” and “blood.” Many older scholars thought these referred to the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Today, most believe that the symbols indicate two specific historical events in Jesus’ life that testified to His identity as God’s incarnate Son. The opponents of the apostle’s teaching who had recently left the church refused to acknowledge that Christ had come “with the blood.” They would only agree that He had come “with the water.” John insists that God had sent His Son into the world and that He bears witness to Him “with the water and with the blood.” But what do these two witnesses mean?
In John’s Gospel the first great public witness to Jesus as the Christ, God’s beloved Son, was the occasion of His baptism. In John 1:31-34 we read the following testimony of John the Baptist concerning Jesus Christ: “‘And I did not recognize Him, but in order that He might be manifested to Israel, I came baptizing in water.’ And John bore witness saying, ‘I have beheld the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven; and He remained upon Him. And I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, “He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the one who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.” And I have seen, and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.’” At the time of His baptism Jesus was declared to be God’s Son who would baptize others with the Holy Spirit, and as the “Lamb of God” would “take away the sin of the world.” The witness of the “water” probably refers to this testimony concerning Jesus’ person and work.
What does John mean by “the blood” that bears witness concerning Jesus Christ? This was the witness that John’s opponents refused to accept. Based on the only other reference to blood in John’s letter, it seems most likely that “the witness of the blood” refers to Jesus’ death on the cross. In 1:7, John writes that the “blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” Jesus shed His blood on the cross as a “ransom price” and a propitiation (2:2; 4:10) for our sins. The Son of God Himself shed His human blood in order to take away the sins of every one who receives Him as Savior and Lord. But this idea of God’s incarnate Son shedding His blood for the sins of His people is the very matter John’s theological opponents would not admit. Without the witness of Christ’s shed blood, the gospel may have a spiritual leader and moral Teacher, but no Savior!
John says in v. 8 that the three witnesses—Spirit, water, and blood—all agree. All three are necessary for a complete picture of who Jesus is. All three testify that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, sent to save us from our sins and from God’s righteous judgment. This should be accepted as true by all men, because it is not the witness of men only; it is the witness of God who cannot lie or deceive (v. 9).
IV. CONSEQUENCES OF BELIEVING THE TRUTH
Notice the consequences of accepting this three-fold witness concerning Jesus Christ. First, John says in v. 10, that everyone who receives this witness becomes a believer in God’s Son. Every new believer is a “witness” to this truth, because he or she is a living witness to the saving power of God’s Son. Whoever rejects this witness denies God’s truth and shuts his eyes to his one hope of life. Second, John says in vs. 11-12 that God offers us eternal life through the gift of His Son. Jesus is the One who gives eternal life to everyone who believes in Him. “He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.” This life is a present possession of every believer that will never be revoked. Third, John tells us in v. 13 that all of this has been written to these Christians for one reason: “that you may know that you have eternal life.” God gives assurance and encouragement to faithful members of Christ’s church. He wants us to live with firm convictions– to know the truth! He has given us enough evidence that we can boldly testify to the saving work of Jesus Christ, His Son.
There may be many religions that claim to offer personal peace and moral guidance. But Christianity offers truth– the only truth that provides real peace with God and the certainty of eternal life. This truth is being proclaimed today, too. Some people will reject the witness of the Spirit, the water, and the blood of Jesus. They will reject and scoff at the testimony of millions of believers over the past two thousand years. But some will believe the witnesses, acknowledge the truth of this “good news” for the world, and experience the true freedom that Jesus Christ promised. What about you? What do you think of the evidence? Will you believe in the name of Jesus, the Son of God, and receive life in His name?