1 John 5. 6-13: Our Faith
July 17, 2011 Series: Letters of John
Topic: New Testament Passage: 1 John 5:13–5:13
John wrote his gospel of Jesus so that you may “believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31).
In this final chapter of his first epistle, which essentially serves to close out his first epistle, John offers us testimony to strengthen the assurance of our salvation. He reminds us that our faith is in a real God, who came to earth as a real man, as the Son of God, and that he brought eternal life to us and that if believe in him as our savior, we possess this priceless gift.
Verse six of our passage is a particularly difficult verse to understand exactly what John is referring to when he says, “ 6This 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. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.” John’s intention in writing this passage was to give us testimony concerning the Son of God. Each of these; the Spirit, the water and the blood, testify that Christ is the Son of God. It’s John’s way of saying, “Look at all the ways in which God has testified to us that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.” We are used to thinking of the ways that we serve Christ as his witnesses, but now John is showing us how God the father is witnessing or testifying to the world concerning his Son.
As is described in the study guide for this sermon series, there are several explanations that have been offered by various commentators on what exactly John means by water and blood.
- Some believe that they refer to the blood and water that flowed from Jesus’ side at his crucifixion.
- Some believe the blood may refer to communion and water may refer to baptism.
- Some believe the water refers to his baptism and the blood refers to his death.
- Some believe the water refers to Jesus’ physical birth and the blood refers to Jesus’ death.
I believe that the original recipients of this epistle had a clearer understanding of what John was talking about because they had a personal awareness of the different heresies the church was battling against at the time. So if we look at what John is saying in light of one of the prevalent false teachers of his time, Cerinthus, we might better understand what he means by the water and the blood.
Cerinthus and his followers differentiated Jesus from Christ. They taught that Jesus, born of Joseph and Mary was just an ordinary man but he became the Christ at his baptism when the Spirit of God descended upon him as a dove. As Christ he ministered for the next three years. Before his crucifixion, the Christ departed from the man Jesus and returned to glory and it was only the man Jesus who was nailed to the cross. For me it makes perfect sense then for John to talk about how Jesus Christ came not only through water (his baptism) but also through the blood (his death). The heretics agreed with the first, that Christ came through his baptism, but they soundly rejected that he was revealed to be the Christ through his death of the cross. That is why John says he came not by the water only, but by the water and the blood. In other words, Jesus was revealed to be the Christ even in death. As he suffered and died he remained the Christ. When he rose from the grave on the first Easter Sunday, he rose as Christ Jesus, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, victor over death and hell, Savior of mankind. To refute these false teachers John makes it clear that Jesus was the Christ before and after his baptism, and before and after his death.
By the Water
Let’s take a quick look back at how Jesus was revealed to be the Christ at his baptism. Matthew, Mark and Luke all record the baptism of Jesus. Let’s read from Matt. 3: 13-17: 13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" 15But Jesus answered him, "Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." Then he consented. 16And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17and behold, a voice from heaven said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased."
Even though John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance, Jesus chose to be baptized not because he was a sinner, but because he wanted to identify with sinners; not because he needed to repent for anything, but because he desired to identify with his people who did, and so that he would “fulfill all righteousness.”
It was through his public baptism by John that Jesus was recognized as the Son of God. Even John the Baptist declared this:32And John bore witness: "I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, 'He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.' 34And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God." (John 1: 32-34).
By the Blood
Most importantly, John is making the point that Jesus was revealed to be the Son of God by the blood, that is, by his death. By denying that Jesus the Christ died on the cross, the false teachers were denying the most important element of Christianity; the sacrificial, substitutionary death of Christ, whereby he endured the wrath of God, in our place satisfied the just requirement of God that sin be paid for, thus atoning for our sins of by the shedding his own blood. By sacrificing himself on the cross, Jesus proved that he was the Son of God by putting an end once and for all the sacrificial system of atonement that had been practiced for thousands of years, thereby bringing peace and reconciliation between a fallen people and their God.
John tells us that the Spirit, the water and the blood all testify and are in agreement. We’ve talked about how the water and the blood testify about Jesus, so how about the Spirit? The bible tells us that the Spirit of God takes up residence in each Christian at the point of salvation and remains there until said Christian goes to be with the Lord.6And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" 7So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God (Gal. 4:6). 15For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!" 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Rom. 8:15-16). And also 13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit (1 John 4:13). For those of us who are Christians, we are no longer living this life alone because the Spirit of God has come to live with us and this is the way in which God testifies to each one of us individually of his Son. This is the way in which we came to believe at all in Jesus; without his presence in us, we would never have committed our lives to him.
Comment on 5:7 (KJV)
Now there may be a few of you here today who are using the King James Authorized Version of 1611. And you are wondering why you have before you a verse 7 that doesn’t appear in the English Standard version or and of the newer translations of the bible. In the KJV verse 7 reads: “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one.” The reason these words are not in the ESV is because they are not found in any Greek manuscripts before the 14th century and therefore it has been concluded that they were added to the text probably in the 4th century by some tidy minded scribe who impressed by the three fold witness in verse 8 thought of the trinity and so suggested that there is a threefold witness in heaven as well. If this verse was part of the original epistle, certainly it would have been quoted during the times in the early church when the trinity was being so heavily debated.
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.
What John is speaking about here is a reference to an OT law which declared that in order for a man to be accused of a crime there had to be two or three witnesses. Two or three human witnesses in agreement establish a fact. We receive it as being true. It’s used all the time in our courts today. Eye witness testimony, especially when it’s corroborated by one or two others is damning evidence against a defendant. So as reasonable people, we will believe the testimony of human beings. How much more so should we believe the testimony of God? He has given us significant proof concerning his Son, he’s given us the bible, and yet there are many who refuse to believe because they say there is insufficient evidence to support the claims of Christianity.
My own experience with those who claim that Christianity lacks proof is that they can usually never be satisfied no matter how much evidence is presented to them. It invariably boils down to a single issue; sinful sinners love to sin and they don’t want to change the way that they are living their lives. The fact is that all of us, without the intervention of the Holy Spirit in our lives, would respond in exactly the same way.
I like the way John speaks about the testimony that God has given us. It’s about the Son. It’s about Jesus. There are so many ways that a good apologist can approach the art and science of making a good case for the claims of Christ. But should it not begin and end with the person and work of Jesus himself? When you hear a knock at your door and you find a family of JW’s ready to tell you about their version of the gospel, do you engage them on subjects such as why they don’t celebrate holidays and birthdays, or what their problem is with blood transfusions or do you go directly to who they believe Jesus is? You can spend a lot of time debating stuff that even if you won them over on all of it, they would be no better off because they worship a different Jesus. I like the way Jesus himself made it all about the answer to one question when talking to his disciples, 13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" 14And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." 15He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" 16Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." 17And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven (Matt. 16: 13-17).
10Whoever 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.
John gives us no wiggle room whatsoever to deny the testimony that God has given us. By rejecting Jesus as the Son of God, we make God a liar. We cannot say that we didn’t have the evidence or the proof. Again, it’s not for lack of evidence that people don’t believe. Additional evidence will not bring more people into faith. All that is needed for us to believe has been given to us in the bible. That is where the best evidence for God can be found, for it is his special revelation to us. And it is through his word that the Holy Spirit of God changes hearts that are in rebellion to him to hearts that love him and want to follow him.
I’m reminded of the parable that Jesus taught about the rich man and Lazarus.
19"There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, 23and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24And he called out, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.' 25But Abraham said, 'Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.' 27And he said, 'Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— 28for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.' 29But Abraham said, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.' 30And he said, 'No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' 31He said to him, 'If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.'" (Luke 16: 19-31.)
So we see from this parable that when people reject what the scriptures already testify about God and his salvation plan, great miracles won’t bring people to believe in God. The greatest proof we have of this is the resurrection of Christ himself.
11And 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.
So here John defines what the testimony of God is; namely, the gospel message which we preach, that God gives eternal life through his son. If you have the Son you have life; if you don’t have the Son you don’t have life. Probably the most offensive aspect of Christianity to those who are the most hostile to it is the exclusive claim that Jesus makes himself. Listen to what he says in John 14:6: 6Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Eternal life is something that we don’t consider often enough. If you are a follower of Jesus, you have eternal life. Not will have, but have. It is the life you received the moment you first believed. It is a priceless gift, the proportions of which we can only imagine in this life. It’s not only quantitative, in that it lasts forever, but it’s also qualitative, having a quality that we cannot even know fully now.
Whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. John not only gives us the promise of life for those who have the Son, but he gives a warning for those who do not. Every single person does not benefit the same way from the life and death of Christ. It’s clear from this verse and many others like it that not only do those who reject Christ not receive eternal life, but that they will face the judgment of God for their sins. For example, 36 whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him (John 3:36). May I humbly remind you this morning that if you are not a Christian you do not have eternal life? Only the wrath of God awaits you if you continue to reject the free offer of salvation through Jesus Christ. God will hold you responsible for every sin that you have ever committed in this life. It doesn’t matter how much good you think you have done to balance the scales. God doesn’t grade on a curve. His standard is and always has been 100% perfection 100% of the time. Even one sin is enough to disqualify you from ever standing in his presence. That is why you need Jesus this morning; he is the perfect one, who has no sin of his own. By putting your faith in him, believing that he died for you on the cross, you receive complete forgiveness of all of your sins. In addition to that, as though that weren’t enough, you receive credit for the good deeds that Christ lived out during his life here. What an amazing transaction that is. Your sin for his righteousness; and it costs you nothing. Jesus paid it all. His love for you is so great that he gave his life in the most horrible way so that you can have eternal life. Do not reject him any longer but believe and be saved.
13I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.
John expresses in this verse the reason why he has written this epistle. Not just the verses we have studied this morning but what we have spent the last several months studying. If you have received God’s testimony concerning his Son, and have believed in his name, he wants you to know that you have eternal life. Apparently God desires for us to have the assurance of our salvation. He doesn’t want us to have any doubts about how much he loves us. As we’ve studied this epistle there have been many convicting sermons about what it means to be a follower of Christ. I know that my own lack of faithfulness has at various times been exposed for what it is and it has led me to a greater need for the grace of Christ in my own life. But God doesn’t want us to despair over our sinfulness. Rather, he desires that as we realize our own unworthiness, Christ would be magnified in us. The more we see depth of our sinfulness, the greater our need for Christ will be. The more we experience the grace of Christ, the greater our assurance will be. Then, as we began to experience more and more the assurance of our salvation, the more we are able to get our focus on what we are to be in the business of doing in the years we have remaining on this planet. We are a sent people. We have been given a mission. And that mission is to proclaim the gospel of Christ far and wide, beginning with our own cities of Marysville, Everett, Lake Stevens, Arlington, Snohomish, or whatever city, town or neighborhood you find yourself in.
In a moment we are going to sing songs of worship and praise to our Lord and Savior. If you are a follower of Christ you are invited to come forward and partake of Holy Communion. You may also bring forward your tithes and offerings. God has given us this meal as a means of grace so that our faith may be strengthened as we are reminded by the bread and the wine, representing his body and blood, of the great price that Christ paid on the cross for us, so that we might have life in him for eternity. Take a moment to confess your sins to him, and to thank and praise him as the eternal Son of God.
Dear Father, thank you that you have given us your word, wherein you give us your sure testimony concerning your son. I pray that you would soften hard hearts and stir up faith in everyone here today so that not one would leave without putting their hope and trust in the person and work of Jesus the Christ. I pray that the study of your word this morning has led to a greater assurance of salvation for all who believe.
In Jesus name and for your glory,