As the Apostle John is bringing his epistle to a close he is bringing to a conclusion various streams of arguments that he has made concerning how you may know that you have eternal life. The purpose of this epistle is found in vs 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 that statement, John is saying this is how you may know how to be saved, and this is how you may be assured that you are saved, and this is how you may know that others are saved. All three of those elements are expressed in that statement, and have been argued previously in the epistle. Now John is bringing that argument to it’s conclusion.
The means by which John says you may know you have eternal life is believing in Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God. He said in the previous section, in vs 1, that “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” And in vs11 he said, “Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” To be an overcomer is another aspect of being born of God. They essentially both speak of the same thing, which John also refers to as eternal life. But the means of eternal life is believing.
So what John makes clear, which we have talked about extensively, is that believing in Jesus Christ is not simply believing that a man named Jesus really lived 2000 years ago and He said some great things, He taught about God. But as the titles Messiah and Son of God indicate, it’s believing in who Jesus is, that He is God in the flesh, and as the Messiah He was sent to the world to be our Savior, which He accomplished by taking our place in death as the punishment for our sins, so that we might be given eternal life.
It’s also important to understand what is meant by eternal life. Eternal life does not mean simply a long, long, long life. It’s not even talking necessarily about going to heaven when you die. But it’s speaking of spiritual life from God, which is given to those who have faith in Jesus Christ and what He accomplished, so that they now have the life from God, spiritual life, which is eternal, which is righteous and holy. It’s eternal life, but notice that in vs 12 John just refers to it as “the life”. He says, “He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.” Jesus is the source of the life, which is the life from God. It’s spiritual life, it’s everlasting life, it’s the life of God in us. So we must have the Son of God in order to have the life. We must have received Him, believed in Him, trusted in Him as our Savior. He is the way to life, the only way to life. John wants to make that crystal clear.
So to support the statement that he made which is that we have to believe in Jesus Christ the Son of God, he is going to give us some further evidence that will help us to know all that is involved in believing. And so what he gives us here i this passage is three strains of testimony about who Jesus is. Just like in a court case, when you want to present evidence of something, there is no more powerful evidence than to bring forth testimony from eyewitnesses, or some credible witness who can provide testimony as to the truth of the claim, so John gives three testimonies that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who fulfilled His Messianic ministry on earth, so that we might know that we have eternal life.
John says in vs 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. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.”
Now the statement at first glance may seem a little obscure. But John didn’t deliberately try to be obscure. He wrote it, I’m sure, to be descriptive. To illustrate three ways in which God testifies of Jesus. And by the way, I don’t want to spend too much time on this particular point this morning, but those of you following along in a KJV or NKJV may have noticed that your version adds more to vs 8 than what I read. What the best scholars seem to be in agreement about is that while the extra text in vs 8 is not untrue, at the same time it does not seem to be original to the text. The shortest answer I can give you is that the earliest those words were found in a Greek text was about the 15th century. It seems as though before that it was found in the margin notes of a Latin text, and later was eventually added to the Textus Receptus, which is the manuscript that the KJV was translated from. But the earlier manuscripts do not contain that text. It doesn’t change anything theologically one way or the other, but it’s probably best not to recognize it as inspired. So we won’t read it that way.
But the main point is this; that there are three who testify of Jesus. And we need to understand what John is referring to. So it is believed that when John says that the three testimonies are the water, the blood and the Spirit, he is talking about Christ’s baptism, death, and Pentecost; all of which testify to who Jesus is, and what He accomplished.
If you will recall, the Mosaic law stated that in order to confirm something as true, it was to be on the basis of two or three witnesses.That goes back to Deuteronomy 19:15, that testimony had to be confirmed in the mouth of two or three witnesses. Jesus also emphasized that in Matthew 18 in regards to church discipline, that any charge brought against someone needed to have the affirmation of two or three witnesses. And also in 1 Timothy 5:19 it says that no one should bring an accusation against an elder or pastor in the church unless it’s confirmed by the mouth of two or three witnesses. We see this principle again and again in scripture. And so here God does the same thing in John’s closing argument. Verse 6, “This is the one who came by water and blood and not just water and blood, but” – and then in verse 7 – “it is the Spirit who bears witness.” God Himself has chosen the maximum of three testimonies – from water, blood and Spirit – in this summary to affirm His witness concerning Jesus Christ so that we might be assured of what we believe.
So first of all, let’s talk about the testimony of water. God gave testimony of Jesus Christ at His baptism. And as I said earlier, the testimony is that Jesus is the Christ, that is the Messiah, and that He is the Son of God. Now we find the record of Jesus’s baptism in Matthew 3:13, “Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan, coming to John to be baptized by him.” And then it says in vs16 “After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove [and] lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”
This event was the beginning of the ministry of Jesus Christ. The scripture says that following His baptism He went about in Galilee in the power of the Holy Spirit. But very clearly here we see that God Himself gives testimony of who Jesus is. And we also see the testimony of the Holy Spirit, coming down out of heaven to rest upon Jesus.
You know, it’s interesting to think about that. We often see pictures that show a dove above Christ’s head or landing upon Him. But it doesn’t say that a dove rested upon Him. But it says that John the Baptist saw the Spirit of God descending upon Him like a dove. In other words, the Spirit of God descended in the manner of a dove. It does not say the Spirit of God was a dove. Notice John doesn’t see a dove, He sees the Spirit of God.
In the gospel of John, I always think it’s an interesting note, chapter 1 verse 32, “And John bore witness saying, ‘I beheld the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven and He remained on Him.’”
“And I didn’t 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.’” John had said, “There’s one coming. He’ll baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” So the water has a tremendous testimony of Jesus, that He is the Christ, and the Son of God.
So at the baptism of Jesus, at the beginning of His ministry, we see the testimony of water, with both God speaking and descending in Spirit upon Jesus. And God says clearly that “this is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
But John says there is more. He says, not the water only, but the water and the blood. And as I said previously, the blood speaks of the crucifixion of Christ. We can turn to Matthew 27 for an account of the crucifixion. If you look at the scene of the cross, in verse 44, the robbers have been crucified with Him. They are insulting Him. Then it says, “Now from the sixth hour” –that means twelve o’clock noon. “From the sixth hour, darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour.” For three hours, in the middle of the day there is supernatural darkness. This is a divine miracle. This is God’s testimony concerning the atonement for sin which Jesus was accomplishing. And Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?,” which means ‘My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?’” Jesus understood the symbolism of the darkness was an indication of the wrath of God against sin. God was giving testimony to Jesus Christ His Son as the sin-bearing sacrifice in providing for our atonement.
And there is another testimony given by God in verse 51, “Behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” While Jesus is dying there on the cross, God rips the veil of the temple from top to bottom, which opens up the Holy of Holies, showing that Jesus through His supreme sacrifice has provided access to God, abolishing the system of priests and sacrifices. Can you imagine the shock to the priests and officers and scribes and so forth in the temple seeing this miracle of God just when Jesus is being put to death?
And then it says in verse 51, “And the earth shook” – God sent an earthquake – “and the rocks were split, and the tombs were opened and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. And coming out of the tombs, after His resurrection, they entered the holy city and appeared to many.” The temple curtain is rent from top to bottom, darkness is over all the land, and an earthquake all at the time of Christ’s crucifixion and the dead were coming out of the tombs. What a tremendous testimony God makes that Jesus Christ was the Son of God that they were crucifying.
So vs 54 says, “Now the centurion and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, became frightened and said truly this was the Son of God.” Not only did the centurion say it, but those who were with him said it. That’s the logical conclusion for anyone that wasn’t biased against Jesus. But from what we know the priests do not say that. They hold onto their rejection of Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God, despite the supernatural testimony of God.
I think it’s also possible to include in the testimony of the blood, the fulfillment of the scriptures which explicitly prophesied of the crucifixion. For example, in Psalm 22 it says, “All My bones are out of joint. My heart … is melted within Me … My tongue cleaves to My jaws … Dogs have surrounded Me. A band of evil doers has encompassed Me. They pierced My hands and my feet. I can count all My bones. They look, they stare at Me. They divide My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.”
We also see the fulfillment of Isaiah 53, which says, “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, our sorrows He carried. Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted.”“He was pierced through for our transgressions.” “By His scourging we are healed.” “The Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.
In vs 9 it even gives the details of His burial. “His grave was assigned with wicked men, Yet He was with a rich man in His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was there any deceit in His mouth. And then it speaks of His atonement, the propitiation for our sins. “But the LORD was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,
He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand.” “As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied;
By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities.”
All of those prophecies and many more in the Old Testament were fulfilled at the death of Jesus Christ. There is no other conclusion than this is the testimony of the Father, fulfilled prophecy, physical phenomena that’s so convincing that a Roman centurion says, “Truly this was the Son of God.”
Then the third testimony of our text in 1 John 5, is the testimony given by the Holy Spirit. John says in verse 6, “It is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.” Jesus referred to the Spirit in HIs prayer in the Upper Room before His crucifixion as the Spirit of Truth. The ministry of the Spirit is to reveal the truth about Christ.
And then John says in vs 8, “There are three that bear witness, the Spirit, the water and the blood, and the three are in agreement.” So all three of them are in agreement, testifying to the fact that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.
Now we have already seen that the Spirit was involved in testifying of Christ at His baptism. He became visible and rested upon Jesus, and in the power of the Holy Spirit Jesus began His ministry. But it’s important to look at how the Holy Spirit testifies of Christ in other situations. I happen to believe that the greatest testimony of the Spirit concerning Christ was at Pentecost. If you look at Acts 2, you will see the disciples waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit which Jesus had told them to wait for.
I said a moment ago that Jesus referred to the Spirt as the Spirit of Truth. Jesus said in John 15:26 “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, [that is] the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me.” Notice that Jesus says He will send the Spirit, and He will testify about Me. He says in another place, He (that is the Spirit) will bring to your remembrance the things that I said to you. So the ministry of the Holy Spirit is to testify of Jesus, and to teach the truth about Jesus.
And that’s exactly what happened at Pentecost. The Spirit of God came just as Jesus said He would, Jesus sent Him to testify of Himself. And when He came, He came with supernatural power; there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them.” That’s the baptism of fire that John the Baptist had said Jesus would baptize with.
“And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.” They spoke other languages, which just happened to be the languages of all the people who were from all different regions of the Roman Empire in Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost, who gathered outside the house when they heard the noise of the wind. And so the disciples came out and started speaking of the mighty works of God and everyone who was there heard them speak in their own language. These disciples were eyewitnesses of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ the Son of God. And over three thousand people heard them speaking by the power of the Holy Spirit in their native language so that they might believe in the Lord Jesus and be saved.
Peter, taking his stand before the multitude, filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, preached a message to them boldly declaring that this Jesus whom they had crucified was the Messiah, the Son of God. And he concluded his message in vs 36 saying, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ–this Jesus whom you crucified.” And as a result three thousand people hearing that testimony believed in Jesus Christ and were saved that day.
So then, we have seen that God then gave His testimony in the water, the blood and the Spirit. The question then remains, “Why did He give it?” We find the answer in verse 11 – the purpose for God’s testimony. “The testimony is this, that on the basis of Jesus’s atonement for sin, God has given us eternal life and this life is in His Son.” The reason that God gives this testimony is because God has given us eternal life and this life is in His Son. The only way to have eternal life is through believing in what Jesus Christ accomplished for us.
Notice John says, “This life is in His Son.” There is no salvation in any other. There’s no other name under heaven given among men whereby you might be saved. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father but by Me.” God’s desire for us is that we have life. But the only way to have the life of God is in believing in Jesus Christ. and in His finished work of atonement.
So then, what should be our response to God’s witness? We find the answer in verse 10, and then verse 12. What should be our response? Verse 10, “The one who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself. The one who does not believe God has made Him a liar because he has not believed in the witness that God has borne concerning His Son.”
When we believe in Christ, when we are saved, we receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. So in us is the testimony that Jesus is the Christ. We receive the testimony, we believe it. John 1:12 says “As many as received Him to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.” And I can assure you that when you receive the Lord Jesus as your Savior, then your eyes become opened, your heart becomes opened, and you know in your heart that which is true, that you have new life. You have the testimony in your own heart of the truth and the life.
But on the other hand, verse 10 says, “The one who does not believe God has made Him a liar because he has not believe the testimony that God has borne concerning His Son.” So if you don’t believe God’s testimony, you’ve made Him a liar. You are calling God a liar. How is it that you have made God a liar? “Because he has not believed in the witness that God has borne concerning His Son.”
The testimony of God concerning Jesus is supernatural, powerfully convincing testimony. The Holy Spirit also attests to that testimony in your heart by convicting you of it’s truth. But there are some who will refuse to believe, because like the priests who put Jesus to death, they do not want this man to rule over them. They don’t want to submit to God. They like their sin and don’t want to repent of it. And so they refuse the atonement which Christ died to accomplish.
John then in vs 12, restates the positive conclusion from all that has been said. We have already discussed it in detail. He is just restating it for emphasis. “He who has the Son has the life. He who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.” Salvation is so simple that it sometimes seems like there has to be more. And there is more to our salvation as we grow in the Lord. But to be born of God, it must begin with faith in Jesus Christ. We cannot have the life of God until we believe in the giver of life, Jesus Christ.
Peter in his sermon on the day of Pentecost, concluded his message with this word, and I will conclude my message with it as well; Acts 2:38-39 Peter [said] to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.” You have heard the testimony of God today concerning Christ Jesus. God is calling you to believe in Him that you may receive the life.