THREE WITNESSES TESTIFY
Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. This is the one who came by water and blood – Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. We accept human testimony but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God which He has given about His Son (1 John 5: 5-9).
In this letter we again encounter the writing of a Jew who needed to ensure that his readers believe what he had written. It was important to prove authenticity of what he wrote if his readers were to believe his testimony about Jesus.
During a debate with the Pharisees, Jesus also produced witnesses to the claims He made. Without genuine witnesses, He had no case for His expectation that they would believe what He said witness Himself. Their law did not permit a person to charge another of wrongdoing without calling at least two witnesses who saw the accused committing the crime.
One witness is not enough to convict any accused of any crime or offense they may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses (Deut. 19: 15).
Jesus appealed to three witnesses to establish the accuracy of His claim:
If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true. There is another who testifies in my favour, and I know that his testimony about me is true. You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth (John 5: 31-33).
Jesus appealed to John’s testimony about Him because the people revered John and believed that he was a prophet of God.
I have a testimony weightier than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to finish – the very works that I am doing – testify that the Father has sent me (John 5: 36).
Jesus’ miracles testified to His identity as the Son of God.
And the Father who sent me has Himself testified concerning me. You have never heard His voice nor seen His form, nor does His word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one He sent. You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life (John 5: 37-40).
His hearers supposedly believed Scriptures, but they refused to believe that Jesus was the Son of God although God wrote the Scriptures and His word testified to Jesus as their Messiah.
In this letter, John also produced three witnesses to testify about Jesus; the Spirit, the water and the blood. It is difficult to understand this verse because John does not explain what he had in mind. He seems to take for granted that his readers knew what he meant. Was he referring to baptism and the Lord’s Supper as witnesses to Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God?
It is important to remember that the reality of Jesus’ work on the cross depended on His identity as the Son of God. If He was not God’s Son, His death on the cross would mean no more than the death of any other sinner. Saying He was the Son of God was not enough. We need proof if we are to believe what He said and what He did to save us from sin. We have no right to approach God without the forgiveness of our sins.
Why did John appeal to the Holy Spirit as a witness that Jesus is the Son of God? The Holy Spirit applies the blood of Jesus to those who believe in Him. He quickened our spirits and made us alive when we were dead in sin. He witnesses with our spirits that we are children of God (Rom. 8: 15-16). The Holy Spirit produces the fruit of God’s nature in us (Gal. 5: 22-23).
When we participate in the ordinances Jesus commanded us to observe, i.e. baptism and the Lord’s Supper, we testify to our faith in Him and to our identity with Him in His death and resurrection (Rom. 6: 4-5).
Anyone who believes in Jesus does not subscribe to a doctrine but participates in the life of Jesus. He is much more than a historical figure who taught us some important truths. He is the Son of God who lives in us by His Spirit and who transforms us from one degree of glory to another as we continue to contemplate Him (2 Cor. 3:18).
Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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