Sermon Text: 1 John 5:5-15
Date: May 21 & 22, 2016
Trinity Sunday (The First Sunday after Pentecost)
1 John 5:5–12 (EHV)
5 Who is the one who overcomes the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
6 This is the one who came by water and blood: Jesus Christ. He did not come by the water alone but by the water and by the blood. The Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. 7 In fact, there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit, the water, and the blood, and these three are one.
9 If we accept the testimony of people, God’s testimony is even greater, because it is the testimony that God gave about his Son. 10 The one who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in him, but the one who does not believe has made God out to be a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God gave about his Son. 11 This is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 The one who has the Son has life. The one who does not have the Son of God does not have life.
God’s Testimony Means Eternal Life
The importance of an eyewitness is difficult to overstate. When the teacher needs to know just what happened on one end of the playground while she was tending to another situation, a child who was not involved who saw what happened might be valuable. A court case that may decide the fate of the person on trial’s life (or at least a large part of it) will be greatly aided by someone who saw what did or did not happen. Even having sponsors and witnesses for a baptism of a child can be a great comfort for that child when he or she is older to know that, yes, in fact, the child was baptized and can hold on to all the comfort that God gives in that beautiful adoption into God’s family.
We have a problem in that we have not lived for all time. We weren’t there to see creation. We never got to meet Abraham or Moses. We didn’t see Jesus die nor did we see him ascend into heaven. We are not eyewitnesses of these things, things that are so vital to our eternal life.
God knew that would be a weakness of our mortal existence and so he, from the very beginning, testified about what he would do and had done. He does not leave us wondering, guessing, or ignorant about what hope we can have. He’s given clear testimony about what has happened. And God’s testimony to us means eternal life.
If you have an eyewitness for a court case or even a scuffle at school, though, there’s reason to be doubtful. Is the child perhaps trying to protect his or her friend? Does the person that saw it actually remember what happened or are they subconsciously and arbitrarily trying to fill in the blanks? There’s a lot of interesting research out there about the lack of reliability when it comes to eyewitnesses to the point that you might consider that one eyewitness is not enough.
God, too, doesn’t give just one testimony or one eyewitness. John tells us in our lesson for this morning, 7 In fact, there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit, the water, and the blood, and these three are one. You can spend a lot of time reading a lot of different ideas about what those three things mean, the Spirit, the water, and the blood. People throughout history have had a lot of different ideas. It’s beyond the scope of our time here this morning to thoroughly dissect each idea and option, but perhaps we can glean something by taking a brief overview.
We’re told that the blood and water do not just testify, but those are the way that Jesus came into this world. Some see this as the bookends of Jesus’ earthly ministry. He was baptized by John (water) and died on the cross (blood). Likewise, some narrow the focus down to the cross and see in Jesus’ death, and the spear that brought forth the blood of water and blood that only John in his Gospel mentions, as an indication of the high point of what Jesus came to do. And still others see in the blood, water, and Spirit as the ways that God builds us up and maintains our faith: through baptism (water), the Lord’s Supper (blood), and the Holy Spirit’s inerrant Word in the Bible.
In the end, it doesn’t really matter what specifically John is referring to here. They all center around the same central figure: Jesus. Jesus is the one who came to save us. Jesus is the one who rescued us. Jesus is the one died for us. Jesus is the one the Father and Spirit repeatedly testify about to us. But none of that matters if we don’t believe the testimony, does it?
If you are a juror or a teacher receiving some of that supposedly eyewitness testimony and you dismiss it, there’s only one reason to do so: you think it’s unreliable. You think either the one testifying is lying or, at best, misremembering.
John has some startling words for us as we consider God’s testimony to us about his Son. The one who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in him, but the one who does not believe has made God out to be a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God gave about his Son. It would seem obvious that we don’t want to call God a liar, right? It would seem obvious that we wouldn’t want to be like those people who deny God’s Word is true, or follow a false religion, or let their lack of religion be their faith. But John really isn’t talking to those people over there. He’s talking to you and he’s talking to me.
Anytime we dismiss any single part of God’s Word, no matter how “small” it might seem, we are calling God a liar. Anytime that we say this part of what he’s said is unimportant or even untrue, we are saying that none of it is trustworthy. Because if this part here isn’t reliable, how could we ever determine what parts are reliable?
That line of thinking leads us into a whole lot of trouble. If I agree that murder is wrong but think that I should be able to have an active, sexual relationship with someone who is not my spouse, or even live with someone who is not my spouse and imply such a relationship is happening, I’m calling God a liar. If I agree that Jesus loves us but think it’s my right to tear people down behind their backs or to their face, I’m calling God a liar. If we start making claims that this part of his Word is good and this part is wrong, then we are exerting ourselves as judge over God, rather than the other way around, and are saying that our opinions or feelings supersede what God has told us.
So, anytime that we have done what God said is wrong or left undone what God specifically has told us to do, you and I have called God a liar. I have said his testimony is wrong, not because he’s proven himself to be unreliable, but because I didn’t want to listen. And that boils down sin to its essence, doesn’t it? When the child is told not to do something, don’t they just want to run and do that thing? Unfortunately, we never grow out of that. In our sin, we are spiteful little rebels, who adamantly call God a liar if not with our mouths then with our actions and attitudes.
What’s the solution to that sin and rebellion? Shutting our mouths too apt to run and listening to the testimony that God has for us. It was not too many weeks ago that we went with Peter, James, and John, the man who wrote this letter, up on the mountain where Jesus was transfigured. There we heard the direct, verbal testimony of the Father say to them, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him” (Matthew 17:5). What do we hear? What did this man, this Son of God, have to say?
Speaking to Nicodemus, he compared himself the bronze snake in the desert; just as the people then could look to the snake and be saved from venom, so all people would be able to look to Jesus raised on the cross to find eternal life. He told the Samaritan woman at the well that he would give her living water which would quench her eternal thirst. He told his disciples repeatedly that he would be betrayed, crucified, and then rise again. He told Martha that, even at the death of her brother and Jesus’ dear friend Lazarus, that he was the resurrection and the life, that those who die in him never die, but live forever. He assured the thief crucified next to him that he would be in paradise that very day. He assured his disciples that he was really alive. He assured them that because he lives, they (and we with them) would also live. He even promised his disciples the Holy Spirit who would remind them of everything he had said, everything they had forgotten or hadn’t listened to.
Our sin leads us to doubt and distrust God’s testimony, yet God’s testimony is great than our doubt, greater than our feelings, even greater than our sin. This testimony is about the one who destroyed sin and death when he died and rose. This testimony does not change no matter what we’ve done, no matter how we feel, no matter what decisions, both bad and good, we might have made in our lives. The fact remains that we were hopelessly lost in our sins, and in Jesus those sins are eradicated. As John put it: This is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. The one who has the Son has life. The one who does not have the Son of God does not have life.
John began our lesson with a rhetorical question: Who is the one who overcomes the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? We have overcome the world, overcome sin, overcome death, overcome hell. We haven’t overcome on our own, but Jesus has overcome it for us. Hold fast to this testimony that the Father and the Holy Spirit give, this continued witness to the One who died, rose, and will return. He is your life now and will be forever. God’s testimony is absolutely true. God’s testimony means eternal life. Amen.