1 John 5:6-12 Testifying to the Testimony of God (Rev. Erik Veerman)
1 John 5:6-12
Rev. Erik Veerman
Testifying to the Testimony of God
Please turn to the book of 1 John 5:6-12. In the church Bibles, you can find that on page 1213.
As you are turning there, I want to note that historically, this is considered a very difficult text in 1 John – difficult to understand. The reason is that apostle John uses the phrase “water and blood.” You’ll hear it multiple times. He’s pretty clear that it refers to something related to Jesus. The big question is, what? Over the centuries there have been different proposals. Interestingly, most commentators today believe that “water” is referring to Jesus’ baptism and “blood” is referring to Jesus’ death on the cross. As I read, have that in mind. And once we get into the specifics, I’ll make that case.
Let’s now come to God’s Word.
Reading of 1 John 5:6-12
Moms and dads wear many different hats as parents. One of those is being a judge and a jury. I think moms especially are often called on to arbitrate.
Here’s how it goes: “mom, I was playing with the Legos first. Then Jonny came in and he broke my Lego creation on purpose.”
“that’s not true! When I came into the playroom, no one was playing with the Legos. So I started making the coolest X-Wing fighter.”
“But you took several pieces off my pony’s barn!”
“But I didn’t know you were working on it until you came in. Mom, then Sally stepped on my X-Wing fighter.”
“Not true. That was an accident, but mom, he smashed my barn!”
“No, I didn’t, it fell apart on its own.”
Does that sound familiar? Whether you are a mom, dad, aunt, uncle, grandparent… it’s often hard to discern what really happened.
As someone once said, “there are two sides to every story and then there is the truth.”
And let’s be honest, as we get older, these kinds of disagreements don’t go away. No, rather, our arguments get more sophisticated. We become better at spinning the truth. And the stakes are higher. We have real judges and juries, courts and arbitrators, and senate hearings. People testify and swear to tell the truth.
In fact, God is very very concerned that we tell the truth. Think about the 9th commandment. Often it’s simplified – You shall not lie. But what it actually says is “you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” Yes, lying is related to that, but the primary emphasis is being a truthful witness.
All throughout the Scriptures, we’re told that multiple witnesses are necessary for a charge to be valid. We read earlier from Deuteronomy 19. It speaks about the need for two or three witnesses. Throughout the Scriptures, there are several more references to that.
Why? Why are multiple witnesses necessary? Well, for one, it’s the sin nature of humanity. Even Christians, who are called to be honest, still have sinful motivations. But second, human limitation. Our recollection of events and our words can be clouded by the limitations of our memory and our perception.
So we should all have a healthy skepticism about human testimony. We should be careful and listen well and recognizing that the truth is often unclear.
But here’s the rub. When it comes to matters of faith, how can we have certainty? Or let me put it this way, with the weakness of human testimony, how can we really know if Jesus was truly God’s Son?
That’s what these verses deal with. How can you be sure who Jesus is?
In fact, the word “testify” or “testimony” is used 8 times in these few verses. And each use relates, in in one way or another, to the question of Jesus’ identity.
To give us a little organization this morning, two points:
1. Receive God’s testimony concerning Jesus
2. Believe God’s testimony concerning Jesus
Receive and believe. Receive meaning hearing the testimony and considering it. And believe meaning embracing it. Believing also comes with the benefits of belief as we shall see.
1. Receive God’s testimony concerning Jesus
So first, receive God’s testimony concerning Jesus.
One thing to notice is that the testimony in these verses is from God and not man. God himself testifies that Jesus is God’s Son. For example, verse 6 speaks of the Spirit testifying. Verse 9 speaks of the testimony of God, which is greater, it says, than the testimony of man. Verse 10 is the call to believe the testimony from God.
We would all agree. If you had to choose between a testimony that God gives you, or a testimony from another person… we would all choose to believe God’s testimony.
And what John is doing in these verses is making that case. He is saying that God himself has confirmed that Jesus is divine. Jesus was and is the promised Messiah. When Jesus walked on earth, he was not just another man, he was not just a human prophet, no he was indeed God in the flesh. Remember, this was the big issue in John’s day. Was Jesus, the man, truly God, and his promised Savior? And John is saying, if you don’t believe the human testimony, believe God’s testimony.
And what is God’s testimony? That’s the focus of verses 6-9.
Ok, let’s get in to the phrase “water and blood.” What does that mean? Well, over the centuries, there have been three primary interpretations.
The first interpretation is that the “water and blood” refers to what happened immediately after Jesus died. Jesus was still on the cross and a Roman soldier came by and he pierced Jesus’ side. And what happened? “Water and blood” gushed forth. That confirmed Jesus’ death. That interpretation makes sense to some extent because the same words are used. The problem, though, is that these verses in 1 John 5 say that Jesus “came by” or “came through” water and blood. Well that incident doesn’t really fit that language of coming by. In addition, 1 John 5 separates “water” from “blood.” It says there are three that testify… the Spirit, the water and the blood. The problem is the water and blood from Jesus side was the same incident.
A second interpretation is that the “water and blood” refer to the two sacraments of the church, baptism and the Lord’s Supper. I’ll have to say, this interpretation is appealing. After all both baptism and the Lord’s Supper testify to Christ, his cleansing work and his atoning death. In fact, I read that the great protestant reformers, Martin Luther and John Calvin, both held this interpretation. But there are two issues with it.
•First, no where else in Scripture is the Lord’s Supper referred to by the word “blood.” Rather, the shorthand reference to the Lord’s Supper is “the breaking of bread.”
•Second, if “water” is used to refer to baptism here, you would expect “wine” or “bread” to be the reference for the Lord’s Supper. You see, if the phrase “water and blood” is referencing the sacraments, it would be mixing the sign in baptism, which is water, and what’s signified in the Lord’s Supper, which includes the blood. In other words, the words doesn’t match up. And so this interpretation also has some serious limitation.
That brings us to a third interpretation. I mentioned it earlier, water signifying Jesus’ baptism and blood signifying the cross.
•For one, when Jesus was baptized, we’re told the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus. Then a voice from heaven, God the Father, testified that Jesus was indeed His son – “this is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Jesus’ baptism very much aligns with these verses – it was a testimony that Jesus is the very Son of God.
•And second, blood. As we think of the cross, it is the culmination of Jesus’ ministry. And it very much testified to Jesus as God’s Son. Think of all the prophecies of the Christ including prophecies of his death. Or of the sacrificial system and the need for an unblemished sacrifice. The cross confirmed Jesus identity by fulfilling those prophecies and promises. Even the events surrounding Jesus’ death confirmed his identity. It was midday, yet darkness covered the land. And at the very moment of Jesus’ death, the massive curtain in the temple was torn in two, an earthquake shook the foundations of the city, rocks were split apart, and graves of the dead opened. After witnessing all this, listen to these words of the Roman centurion “Truly this was the Son of God!” He was testifying to all that God had caused to come about when Jesus died.
So, I would submit that that understanding of “water and the blood,” seems to fit our text best.
But wherever you land, I think the point is clear – God the Father has testified that Jesus is indeed His Son.
But you may have noticed, the Father’s testimony is not the only testimony mentioned in these verses. No, we’re also told that the Spirit testifies. That’s right there in the middle of verse 6 “And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.”
The apostle John is referring to the Holy Spirit – God the Spirit. Part of that may be referring to the Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus at his baptism, confirming his identity. But John’s emphasis on the Spirit’s testimony is broad. He says that “the Spirit is the truth.” The Spirit witnesses that Jesus is the eternal God through many ways.
•The Spirit witnesses through Jesus’ own disciples including John himself…
•through the other apostles like the apostle Paul…
•through the testimony of the early church.
•The testimony of the Spirit also includes Jesus’ own testimony that he would send his Spirit who would testify to the truth.
•That testimony is captured in the book of Acts chapter 2. The Holy Spirit was poured out on the believers in Jerusalem. And immediately after, the apostle Peter testified about Jesus. In fact, every time the Holy Spirit is mentioned in the book of Acts, he testifies that Jesus is the promised Messiah and the Savior of sinner. By the way, it’s likely that John’s readers had a copy of the book of Acts.
So, to summarize, the emphasis of these first few verses is that God himself is testifying – God the Father and God the Spirit. They both confirm that Jesus is the Son of God.
In fact, verse 7 makes that very point. It says there are three that testify, the Spirit, the water, and the blood. John is merely alluding to the law about two or three witnesses. It’s a way to emphasize that God’s testimony is legitimate.
And we’re called to “receive” it. That word “receive” is right there in verse 9. “If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony from God is greater.” Receiving happens before believing. That word “believe” is in verse 10 – we’ll get there in a minute.
But first we’re called to receive the testimony. Recognize its validity. Consider its source and witness. And of course, as verse 9 says, the testimony of God is greater than the testimony of man. Why? Because God is truth. He knows all. He is perfectly holy and just. Furthermore, God cannot lie! The Scriptures teach that in Numbers 23, 1 Samuel 15, and Titus 1.
You see with God, it’s not one side and another side and somewhere in the middle is the truth. No, with God, there’s one version of the truth. Truth itself because he is truth himself. And that truth has been revealed to you.
Receive the testimony of Jesus as God’s son. As Colossians 1 says, He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation (we would say, eternally begotten). Through Jesus all things were created in heaven and earth… in him all things hold together. And it says, for in him all the fulness of God was pleased to dwell.
Receive God’s testimony concerning Jesus.
2. Believe God’s testimony concerning Jesus
That brings us to our second point this morning. Believe God’s testimony concerning Jesus.
There’s a difference between receiving a testimony and believing a testimony.
Think about a court of law. Some testimonies are considered valid, they can be received into the pool evidence. But other testimonies are considered inadmissible. If they violate the rules of evidence, they are not allowed in the courtroom. But when the criteria is met, the jury then receives the testimonies. Their job is then to listen to the testimonies and decide which ones to believe.
That’s what verses 10-12 focus on. Moving from receiving to believing. Verse 10 “Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself.” Believing takes what God has testified about Jesus and not just agreeing that it is true, but accepting and trusting in that truth.
And notice that verse 10 goes on. “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.” In other words, since God the Father and the Holy Spirit testified that Jesus is God’s Son, if you don’t believe it, you’re essentially saying that God is lying. You’re saying that God’s testimony is false.
And there are two ways to not believe God’s testimony. First, you can outright disbelieve it – that’s the obvious one. But second, not deciding is also not believing. The problem is, sitting on the fence is merely receiving the testimony, but it’s not believing it. It’s the same as rejecting it. We’re called here to believe.
In the late 1970’s, journalist Lee Strobel decided to disprove Christianity. His wife had become a Christian and he was determined to disprove her belief.
So what did he do? He started researching the ancient manuscripts, interviewing archaeologists, and studying the historical evidence. Strobel was an investigative journalist, so he was familiar with research and finding inconsistencies. His plan was to attack Christianity on two fronts: First the external reliability of the Bible, and second, the internal inconsistency of its witness.
What Strobel found was a massive number of old manuscripts – over 5000. Many of the manuscripts dated back to the second and third centuries and from different regions in the Middle East. What was shocking to him is that a word-for-word comparison proved they were 99.5 percent similar. The differences were mainly spelling and word order. Because of that, Strobel realized scholars could very accurately construct the original writings. Close to 99.9 percent accuracy.
Well, this led Strobel to start reading the accounts in the Scriptures. Reading about Jesus life, his death, and his resurrection.
And something began to happen. Strobel’s whole agenda to disprove Christ and Christianity was turned upside down. He realized the documents were accurate, and the accounts in the Bible were true. He received the testimony, and he began to believe it.
In fact, his whole intellectual effort to reject Christ turned into the channel through which God brought him to Christ. Much of his journey and research is documented in his book The Case for Christ.
Now, to be sure, much of Strobel’s research focuses on the manuscripts and the human eye-witness accounts, but Strobel also includes God’s testimony of Jesus’ divinity. In fact, he highlights Jesus’ baptism and he highlights the cross.
Strobel writes this: “Jesus' baptism was a public affirmation by God himself of Jesus' divine identity. The voice from heaven declaring, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased,' was a clear sign that Jesus was no ordinary person, but was, in fact, the Son of God."
Furthermore, he writes that "Jesus' death on the cross was more than just a historical event. It was the pivotal moment in human history, when God himself took on the burden of sin and made a way for humanity to be reconciled to him.” Strobel then goes on to quote one of his expert witnesses, “The cross is the ultimate evidence of who Jesus was and what he came to do. It's the ultimate evidence of God's love for us, and the ultimate evidence of the reality of the Christian faith."
Strobel had come to believe.
Let me sum it up all this way - to believe in Jesus does not mean that you have to check reason at the door of faith. Reason and faith are not opposites. Believing by faith in Jesus is not some blind leap of faith or unsure hope according to our cultures’ definition of faith and hope. No, believing by faith in Christ is reasonable and sound. It’s receiving the testimony from God, himself. It’s believing that Jesus is who he says he is. It’s believing the testimony of God the Father and the Holy Spirit. And it’s believing in Jesus ministry on the cross.
And when you believe, an amazing thing happens. The testimony out there from God himself becomes the testimony in here. His testimony becomes your testimony. That’s what it says right there! Verse 10. “Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself.” The Spirit’s work in you testifies to the testimony of Christ.
Again, what an amazing thing – God’s testimony has become our testimony. And this is not a new idea in 1 John. Yes, John is using different words, but the concept is similar. All throughout, God has been telling us, through the apostle, that his abiding love in us. For those of you who believe the truth of the Gospel, God abides in you and you in him. This abiding is the testimony of God within you.
And that testimony brings you life. This is where the apostle John ends this section. If you believe, then you have life in him – eternal life. Listen how he concludes in verses 11 and 12. “And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.”
All throughout our study of 1 John, we’ve talked about the line that John has drawn. The line between true faith and false faith. We’re either on one side of the line or we’re on the other. We’ve experienced how John has called out false anti-Christ beliefs, as he’s put it. And finally in these verses, he tells us why it matters to you.
The answer is life. Eternal life, beyond death, forever in the presence of God. When you receive and believe the testimony from God, then you are given life in Christ, forever. If that is you, you have that life.
And if you do not have the Son – verse 12 is very clear - then you do not have that eternal life that he’s promised. No, instead, you need that life. John is saying that this is a matter of life and death. He’s calling you to receive and to believe. Believe that Jesus is God’s Son and your savior.
To wrap things up…
Who is Jesus? As God himself has testified. He is very God of very God – the eternal Son of God. He came into the world to bring life. Don’t believe my testimony. Believe the testimony of this Word, given through God himself, through his Spirit… through which you can receive and believe. And when you do, you will rest in the eternal life that he has given you. Amen?