Three Witnesses of Christ

I John 5:6-10

How do you know that you are in Christ?  As John wrote to these believers, they had been tested by false teachers and were confused as to what it means to be a Christian. 

  • God has provided three witnesses on our behalf, all of which are visible. 
  • The Christian life is not lived between our ears.  It is lived in the open, before others. 
  • It isn’t about professing a set of propositional truths, like election, justification by faith, or something like that. 
  • It means living a particular kind of life (v. 2-3), and the God of this life has given testimony of His Son.  Not only that, but we receive these witnesses physically as God’s testimony to us. 

We testify of Christ to others in the same way He came to us, by water and blood. 

  • What does this mean?  When Jesus came, two important events in His life were His baptism and crucifixion. 
  • In baptism, Jesus came by water.  Matthew 3:13-17.  In this event, Jesus was displayed as the Messiah, the promised one from God. 
  • The Spirit descended upon Him and the Father proclaimed Him as His Son. 
  • This was declaration of Him before men and a high point in His earthly ministry.  But that was not the only way He came. 
  • He came by water and blood.  When He was crucified, He poured His blood for us.
  • It was necessary for Him to come by both water and blood.  He experienced not only the high point, but the low point as well. 
  • This is an apt description of the Christian life.  We have glorious experiences as believers, but we also face trials. 
  • Just because Jesus came didn’t mean His life was all glory.  He was crucified, and we must go through times of pain, but He is our advocate, because He has already faced it. 
  • These two witnesses, water and blood, testified that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah of God.  This was the display that He is the promised one.
  • But there is also the third: the Holy Spirit resurrected Jesus (Romans 8:11), which was the vindication that he is who he said he is.  His ministers proclaim this gospel message as the oracles of God, which is another testimony of the Spirit. 

The Witness of Water

  • The idea of a witness from water would be quite familiar to early believers.  It picture should bring to mind all the moments of God delivering His people through water. 
  • I Peter 3:20-22 – the flood.  We pass through these waters also. 
  • Just like Noah and his family, we are saved through the waters of baptism, not that the outward act merits us anything, but in baptism we are united outwardly with the body of Christ and gain a good conscience toward God. 
  • Baptism displayed Jesus as the anointed one of God; and it does the same for us. 
  • It covenantally unites us with God’s people in the Church.  That’s how Peter can say it saves us.
  • I Corinthians 10:1-5 – the exodus.    Just like the people of Israel, our passage through the waters of baptism is the sign is the display of our exodus from bondage into liberty. 
  • We go from being members of the city of man to being members of the city of God. 
  • They had to pass through the water to exit Egypt; we pass through the water as we exit our bondage to the flesh. 
  • The waters of baptism are a physical witness of God’s Spirit that we belong to Him.    
  • Baptism is the portrayal of the gospel, that we are crucified, buried, and raised with Him. 
  • It is the Holy Spirit inspired witness that we belong to Christ; it is Him saying, “He is MINE!”  When we come through water, the Holy Spirit is testifying of Christ through us. 
  • The focus of baptism should not be the person, but Christ.  Baptism was given to testify of Him.  We make the person the focus, but John says Christ should be the focus.

I’d like to quote Peter Leithart, in his commentary on I John, as he refers to this passage, “The water and blood that flowed from Jesus’ side are witnesses to the identity of Jesus.  He is the new Adam, birthing the church—the new Eve—from His side.  He is the new Eden, which flowed with four rivers to the four points of the compass.  He is the new rock in the wilderness, which gave water when struck to save the lives of Israel in the wilderness.  He is the glorified temple of Ezekiel, from which flowed water that renewed the ground.  He is all this because he died on the cross, and from his side flowed blood and water.  The life of Jesus is not confined to himself; it flows out to us.”

The Witness of Blood

  • But Jesus not only came by water, but also by blood, that is, by crucifixion. 
  • When we look at the Old covenant, blood was necessary for remission of sin (Heb. 9:19-22), it was necessary for life (Lev. 17:11). 
  • Jesus had to come by blood as well as water.  In his blood, we have remission of sin. 
  • Because He came through blood, we’ve come through blood also. 
  • Christian, you have another witness: the blood of Christ.  But not just looking back at that blood, you partake of that blood still through communion (John 6:53-56).
  •  Just as baptism is the sign and seal of the covenant, partaking of communion is the renewal of the covenant. 
  • This too is the proclamation of the gospel.  When we partake, we are proclaiming the gospel, but even more importantly, the Spirit of God is testifying of Christ. 
  • This is a continual act.  Every time we commune, the Spirit witnesses of Christ to one another and to the world. 
  • This is not our work; it is his.  That’s one reason it should be practiced on a weekly basis, because it is a testimony to the person of Christ and our being in him. 

The Spirit’s Witness in Gospel Proclamation

  • The Spirit raised Jesus up, vindicating him as the Messiah.  This message is to be proclaimed, particularly by God’s ministers. 
  • He has given His ministers to proclaim forgiveness of sin to His people (speaking from the Spirit of God [John 20:22-23]).
  • This is the first thing Jesus said to them after he said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”  They don’t have power to forgive sins, but proclaim Christ’s forgiveness as the Word of Christ.  I Peter 4:10-11.
  • When you hear that your sins are forgiven, it is nothing more than the minister of God fulfilling His responsibility toward God’s people.

So there are witnesses to Christ and our place in Him: the Spirit, the water, and the blood. 

  • We shouldn’t get hung up on the fact that two of those can be seen. 
  • We have a strong Gnostic tendency (just like these people were dealing with) to discredit those things we can see, because they seem too earthly.  “God wouldn’t use something visible.” 
  • We would rather the threefold witness be individual assurance, assurance, and more assurance. 
  • But God doesn’t work that way.  He has chosen to work supernaturally through physical means.
  • The Spirit of God proclaims forgiveness of sin through his ministers, he has given baptism, and he has given communion. 
  • You may say, “But I need more than that.”  God says if we take the word of three physical witnesses, how can we ignore the testimony of three divine witnesses: the Spirit, the water, and the blood? 
  • The Spirit testifies of Christ when we hear the gospel preached, when we are baptized, and when we partake of communion. 
  • This is the testimony of God before us; in taking part of it, we are saying we believe it as well. 
  • John says God’s witness is greater than any witness man can give you.  In other words, if you believe men, why not believe the witnesses God has given? 
  • If you believe God’s testimony of Jesus as Christ, you have his witness within. 
  • If you don’t believe God’s witness of Jesus as Christ, you are calling Him a liar. 
  • So what do you do?  Believe Christ. 
  • Not just once, but throughout life. 
  • Jesus is the Savior; receive the witnesses of Christ: the waters of baptism, the blood of Christ in communion, and the assurance of pardon from God’s ministers. 
  • Don’t allow unbelief to rob you of God’s witness.  Receive His the witness of God’s Spirit in faith.

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