1 John 5:6-13 (That You May Know)
Dear Church Family,
One of the questions that most every believer struggles with at one point or another in their Christian life is the question of assurance. Inevitably, doubt sets in, and you ask yourself – “Am I really
a Christian?” As a pastor, I can tell you that doubting one’s salvation is one of the primary struggles for many Christians. You may have thought that you were alone, but you’re not!
That’s where the passage that we come to today (1 John 5:6-13) is very helpful. In these verses, the Apostle John wants to provide those who believe in the name of the Son of God with assurance of salvation. And, he does so by presenting three witnesses that testify in two places, but giving one testimony of the same truth: three witnesses, two places of witness, one testimony.
Right from the start, it’s important to understand that God’s Word is not here trying to convince us of the truth, but to give assurance to those who already believe the truth. In this way, John first epistle is very different from the Gospel that he wrote. You see, the Gospel According to John was written “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31); however, this first epistle by John was written “to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13).
So, if you have ever doubted your faith in the past, if you are doubting your faith right now, or if you will ever doubt your faith in the future…this letter, and especially these verses, are for you. And, hopefully we’ll see that assurance of salvation, while sometimes difficult to come by, in the end, is not all that complicated.
We begin with three witnesses.
Three Witnesses (1 John 5:6-8)
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. It is the Spirit 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 the three are in agreement.
Did you catch what are the three witnesses? I’ll give you a hint: one is Person; the other two are pieces of evidence. There are three that testify: the Spirit, the water, and the blood. The Spirit is the Holy Spirit – the third Person of the Trinity. God Himself testifies. We’ll see in a few moments where these witnesses testify, and what they testify to – what is the actual content of the testimony.
But, we first need to understand what is meant by “the water and the blood.” There are several different interpretations that have been offered about what “the water and the blood” refers to – some of them seem like mere conjecture. But, one of the things that we have to realize when approaching this passage is that John is using some theological short-hand. Kind of like how a court room recorder will use stenography when taking testimony. If you don’t know anything about stenography or how to read it, then you’re going to be lost. In the same way, the Apostle John is using theological shorthand.
“Water and blood” refers to two separate events in Jesus’ life – two events that are the bookends for Jesus’ earthly ministry – his baptism (water) and his death (blood).
Water, as one might expect, refers to Jesus’ baptism. After Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, ‘You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased’” (Luke 3:22).
The blood, then, refers to the crucifixion of Jesus. God’s Word tells us that “the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, will purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Hebrews 9:14).
The Holy Spirit – God Himself – testified in history from Jesus’ baptism to the climactic act of his death on the cross – the Holy Spirit testified that Jesus Christ is the Son of God – a pleasing and perfect sacrifice. When you consider these three witnesses, then – the Spirit, the water, and the blood – you see that one is a person, and the other two are actual events in the earthly life of Jesus. First, there is a Person – the Holy Spirit – God, the author of our salvation. Second, there’s the evidence of the beginning of that plan: the waters of Jesus’ baptism and empowerment. Third, there’s the evidence that the plan worked: Jesus’ blood which was spilled on Calvary for you and for me.
Having seen the three witnesses, let’s now consider the two places where these witnesses bear testimony.
Two Places of Witness (1 John 5:9-10)
9 If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater; for the testimony of God is this, that He has testified concerning His Son.
10 The one who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself; the one who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has given concerning His Son.
In the second half of verse 9, it says that “the testimony of God is this, that He has testified concerning His Son.” And now, consider this question: If God has testified concerning His Son, where has He given that testimony? I mean, I don’t ever recall hearing the audible voice of God. And, I certainly wasn’t present during Jesus’ life when others heard the audible voice of God from heaven.
Remember, also, what’s true for us was also true for John’s initial readers. Most likely, none of the believers who first read this letter about fifty years after Jesus’ crucifixion had any personal interaction with Jesus while He was on earth, or had heard the audible voice of God, as John had.
You see, when John says, “God has testified concerning His Son” – he is pointing them to the record of Jesus’ life in the Holy Scripture. In essence, John is pointing them back to his Gospel – the place where the Holy Spirit testifies and where we read of the water (Jesus’ baptism) and the blood (Jesus’ death). God has testified in His Holy Word concerning the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. From beginning to end – from water to blood – God has inspired men to write down His words so that we might read the testimony of God, Himself.
The primacy and supreme importance of God’s written Word is also evidenced by what John says at the beginning of verse 9, “If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater.” Now, remember, this letter is being written by one of the inner circle of Jesus’ Disciples; there was Peter, James, and John. And, John – a person who was probably an eye-witness to more of Jesus’ earthly ministry than any other person on earth – this John says, “Don’t just take my word for it – don’t just believe my testimony – the testimony of God is greater.”
That tells us something about how highly we ought to esteem the importance of the written word of God – for evangelism and for encouragement for assurance. Of course, it’s important to tell our story, and how Christ has changed our lives – that’s good corroborating evidence. But, God promises that His Word will not return empty without accomplishing what He desires, not our word.
In addition to God’s Word as a place of testimony, the second place where the Spirit, the water, and the blood bear testimony is in the believer. Verse 10 says, “The one who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself…”
The Apostle Paul speaks of this internal witness of the Holy Spirit as being a result of our adoption, “Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Galatians 4:6). God, who establishes us in Christ and anointed us is also the One who sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge (2 Corinthians 1:21-22).
That’s what John is talking about here in 1 John 5:10, when he says, “The one who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself.” Commenting on this verse, F.F. Bruce says, “Whoever, by accepting ‘the witness of God’, believes in the Son of God, has the witness in himself: the record is no longer simply something that he has heard from others, or reads in a book; it comes to life in his own experience, because the witness-bearing Spirit now resides within him.”
We’ve learned of the three witnesses (the Holy Spirit, the water, and the blood) and the two places that they testify (in Scripture and in the believer). Only one thing remains: the actual content of the testimony.
One Testimony (1 John 5:11-13)
11 And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.
Think about this testimony of God. God says, “I have given you eternal life, and this life is in my Son, Jesus Christ.” There are a couple of key insights that we learn from this testimony. First of all – eternal life is a gift. You and I can’t earn it. You and I can’t steal it. God gives it. If you want eternal life, you must receive it as a gift from God.
Second, notice that while this life is called eternal – meaning, it goes on forever, even after we die. The giving of the gift is in the past: God has given us eternal life. For those who believe, we have this gift now. You don’t have to wait until you die to receive the gift. In fact, if you wait until you die, it’ll be too late.
Third, and finally, notice that this eternal life is “in God’s Son, Jesus Christ.” You see, the thing that determines whether or not you have this eternal life is what you do with Jesus.
There are some who believe that there are many paths to God, that there are many ways to have eternal life. As if there is hope for life – eternal life – in many places. Some people think that it is like a wheel – with salvation and eternal life at the center, but there are many spokes leading to the center. Some follow Buddha to a higher life; some follow Mohamed; some channel their spirit into the great divine being – or, the most attempted spoke to eternal life – “If I just live a good life – do good and harm no one – I will make it.”
But, do you see how that contradicts the testimony of God Himself? “The testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.” No where will you find the Scriptures saying that Jesus is a vehicle to the divine. The testimony is clear – Jesus is divine – Jesus is God.
If that isn’t clear enough, look at how God continues to testify (1 John 5:12):
12 He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.
Eternal life is a zero-sum situation. You may lose everything that you think you need. You may think that all is lost, but if you have the Son of God, you win. You are victorious. You have eternal life. It’s a zero-sum situation. Having Jesus, the Son of God, means having eternal life – not have Jesus, the Son of God, means not having eternal life.
Well, you may ask, “If having the Son of God means having eternal life, then I want to know what it means to have the Son of God?” The answer is found in the last verse of this passage (1 John 5:13):
13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.
In order to have the Son of God all you need to is believe the testimony which God Himself has given. You must believe in the name of the Son of God; you must believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. When you do this, then you will know that you have eternal life.
There are some Christians, and even some churches and denominations, who don’t believe in assurance. They say, “How could anyone be so presumptuous as to think that he actually knows that he has eternal life?” But, don’t you see? It is not presumptuous to believe the testimony of God and to have assurance. The truly presumptuous thing would be to doubt the Word of God – to doubt the testimony of God in His Word and in you. Because when you say, “God, I don’t believe what you have said.” You are calling God a liar, and you are presuming that you are wiser than He.
The Example of David
We began our look at this passage by acknowledging that all believers at one time or another struggle with the assurance of salvation. Even David, God’s chosen man to rule His people, a man after God’s own heart – his faith was tested nearly to the breaking point, but his doubt and despair did not get the best of him. He persevered in the midst of terrible circumstances that would crush the faith of most all of us and drive us to despair.
Think about it. In 1 Samuel, we read of how David had proven himself by slaying Goliath and becoming a mighty warrior in Israel. Yet, King Saul sought to kill him. So, David – along with 600 of his fighting men – go off into the wilderness to hide. As Saul keeps pursuing David, in desperation, David crosses over into the land of the Philistines and actually takes up a place in the Philistine army – the enemy of God’s people. As a reward, the Philistines give David and his men the town of Ziklag where they settle for about year and half and begin to raise their families.
Then, as the Philistine army goes out to fight against Israel, David and his men are taking up the rear of the column. But the majority of the commanders of the Philistines don’t trust David, so they send him back to Ziklag. Upon their return to Ziklag, David and his men discover that the Amalekites have burned down their town and taken all of their women and children as prisoners of war! And, as if that wasn’t bad enough, David’s own men blame him and are make plans to stone him. Now, let me ask you: do you think David has any cause to doubt the veracity of God’s promises to him?
Yet, after all of these terrible experiences, David does something that God’s Word describes beautifully (1 Samuel 30:6): “…but David strengthened himself in the LORD his God.”
The Bible doesn’t tell us specifically what David did as he “strengthened himself in the LORD his God” but you only need to read some of David’s Psalms to get an idea. This statement is pregnant with meaning. Here’s what Matthew Henry says David was doing:
“…David…believed, and considered with application to his present case, the power and providence of God, his justice and goodness, the method he commonly takes of bringing low and then raising up, his care of his people that serve him and trust in him, and the particular promises he had made to him of bringing him safely to the throne; with these considerations he supported himself, not doubting but the present trouble would end well. Note, Those that have taken the Lord for their God may take encouragement from their relation to him in the worst of times. It is the duty and interest of all good people, whatever happens, to encourage themselves in God as their Lord and their God, assuring themselves that he can and will bring light out of darkness, peace out of trouble, and good out of evil, to all that love him and are the called according to his purpose. It was David’s practice, and he had the comfort of it, ‘When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You.’ When he was at his wits’ end he was not at his faith’s end.”
The Holy Spirit, the water, and the blood. These three testify in the Holy Scriptures, the written and inspired Word of God. And, these same three – the Holy Spirit, the water, and the blood – testify in you, when you are united to Christ in His death and resurrection, and actually experience the glory of the new-birth.
In order that you may know that you have eternal life, all three must testify. And, all three testify in God’s Word and in you. All three must testify in God’s Word and in you, or you cannot know that you have eternal life. And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.
The Lord be with you!
- Pastor Peter M. Dietsch
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