A Side Note
The reader who is following these lessons in the King James
Bible will notice a substantial disagreement in the text. In particular,
between verses seven and eight there seems to be a lot more material in the
King James. The reason for it is this: when Erasmus, the scholar who put
together the first comprehensive Greek text for the New Testament, was doing
his work he came across this passage as being disputed. Only two manuscripts
supported the inclusion of the extra words; one of those was highly suspected
as a fraud. Erasmus, trying to err on the side of caution, included the text
for the simple reason that it seemed to him to provide a better argument for
the existence of the Trinity. Scholars since that time have been almost
unanimous in labeling this a late insertion, largely motivated by the fact that
the Vulgate has a similar insertion. This insertion, or its lack, does not
really affect the doctrine of the Trinity. It does affect the meaning of the
passage, however; it is also a great example of how textual modifications can
be identified and corrected.
1 John 5:6-9 NASB
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. (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.
The Nature of Testimony
If you've ever had to serve on the jury, the nature of
testimony is probably very clear to you. Someone comes up, purporting to know
something about the matter, takes the oath that he will tell the truth, the
whole truth and nothing but the truth — and proceeds to tell you his story. The
key to this is that word, "someone." Testimony is something which is
delivered from a person. That testimony — outside the courtroom — might be
entirely symbolic. That's particularly true when the one doing the testifying
is God. Most of us don't get the "open up the sky and deep bass voice
tells you" kind of testimony. But that doesn't mean God has left you
without such things.
Testimony is distinguished from evidence by the fact that
evidence is something which does not come from a person. The fact that Joe's
fingerprint is on the jar is evidence; testimony is when I tell you that I saw
him run out of the house with a smoking gun. The distinction is important
because most people, quite logically, accept evidence as being fact. How Joe's
fingerprint on the jar might be a matter for testimony; the fingerprint is
evidence. Evidence pretty much forces itself upon you. Testimony you must
decide on: accept it or reject it.
Ark of the Testimony
One of the places where God gives his testimony is in the
Ark of the Covenant, which is also known as the Ark of the Testimony. Take a
look at this diagram:
It's basically a box, and the box has a lid. The angels are
sitting on top of the lid, the cover is down between them. Inside that box is
the testimony of God against the Israelites:
Aaron's rod — the testimony that God selects the leaders of
Israel, not men. He reminds them of their rebellion by including this.
Manna — he reminds them of their lack of faith, and his
The 10 Commandments — the reminder that God makes the rules.
Inside the ark are items which God uses to testify against
Israelites. But please notice: they are covered up by the lid on the box. That
lid is called the Atonement Cover. You have to look at this from God's point of
view; which is to say from above. As he looks down on the ark he sees the
atonement cover, but not the testimony below it. So it is a pitcher of God's
mercy that he does not see their sins but recognizes their atonement.
Coherence of Truth
So for those on the jury the question quickly arises: how do
we evaluate testimony? A number of methods arise for this, but they all base
themselves on one central assumption: truth has only one value. In the court,
the idea that something is "true for you but not for me" is
considered absurd. So we evaluate witnesses on the basis of their coherence
with the truth. For example, do they agree with the other witnesses? Does their
testimony correspond well with the physical evidence? I submit to you there are
three relatively simple tests we can apply to the testimony in any case:
Truth is unitary; it has only one value. This is why the ancients
wanted to hear three witnesses for any event. If all three told the same story,
the chances were good that they were telling the truth. It isn't 100% certain, but it's a
Truth is objective. It doesn't depend on someone's feelings; it's
a matter of fact which exists beyond the witness.
Truth is somewhat discernible. By that I mean that very often we
can find the truth, but sometimes we have to admit we don't know what the truth
is. In those instances we are left evaluate the testimony based on the one doing
John, in this passage, brings forward three witnesses to
Christ. In doing this he is following along with both Roman law and Jewish law.
It's not like he's trying to legally prove this in a court of law, but he is
trying to prove it in the court of your mind.
John's first witness is "water." Remember, he is
trying to convince people who are already Christians that their salvation is
secure. So he is bringing to mind the experiences that they have so that they
might properly evaluate their security. Let's look at water:
The first thing that comes to mind is baptism. One of the aspects
of this is cleansing. In effect, John is asking the Christian to look back to
his own baptism and ask himself whether or not by that baptism he was cleansed
of his sins. The question, then, did you get a new start?
Baptism is also the experience by which we are "born
again." He's asking you this: after your new start, did you continue to
grow in this new personhood of yours?
One test of that comes from another expression used of water,
"living water." He's asking you the question, does your life now
overflow with the fruits of the Spirit? In the world see that you are a source
of living water, one who knows the way to the master.
It always strikes the modern Christian as being rather
strange that blood plays the part of does in the symbolic nature of worship. We
think of blood is something which gets the floor dirty; if you work in a
medical office it can be downright dangerous as a carrier of HIV. But the view
in the first century was quite different:
The first use of blood is in purification. The blood from the
sacrifice was used to purify any number of things in the Old Testament —
Temple, Ark, tabernacle. So the question John might be asking here is, don't
you know that his blood has made you holy?
The second use is in atonement. There is no remission of sin
without the shedding of blood, the Scripture assures us. So John here reminds
the Christian that Christ's blood was shed on the cross to provide atonement
for the sins of the church.
The third use might be somewhat strange to you: it comes from the
fact that the high priest never entered the sanctuary without blood. Blood is a
way of access to the Father. John might be asking is here do you have access to
God the Father? Are your prayers heard?
The effects of water and blood are fairly visible in the
Christian life. But when you mention the Spirit you must (obviously) be dealing
with something which is internal to you. So this witness may not be too helpful
in dealing with others — but it should be quite convincing do you. Let's take a
The Spirit is first and foremost counselor, pointing us to the
truth. So we might ask you, are you having difficulty finding the truth? Or do
you have the Spirit within to guide you into truth?
The Spirit "testifies with our spirit" that we are
children of God. If you are confident that you are a child of God, this is the
work of the Spirit – testimony if you will.
Finally, the presence of the Spirit is a deposit guaranteeing
your resurrection. If you know you have the Spirit, you know you have Christ.
1 John 5:10-12 NASB
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. (11)
And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is
in His Son. (12) He who has the Son has the
life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.
If you go back to the beginning of the lesson, you'll see
that evidence leaves you no option about what you believe. Testimony, on the
other hand, leaves you with a choice: believe it, or reject it. It's fairly
obvious that if you believe the testimony and accept it, then you have the
evidence necessary for Christian faith. That much is pretty obvious.
If you don't accept the testimony, however, it's not just
like accepting someone's opinion about who's going to win the football game
this afternoon. Not accepting the testimony has consequences. In particular,
you are calling God a liar. That is a most serious step. Most of those who do
this would like to tell you that they just didn't believe the Christian. I
submit to you that this is not really the case. John is not talking the
unbeliever here; he is talking to the one who believes — but has doubts. What
he's telling you here is this: if you have doubts, and therefore refused to
commit yourself to the Christian life, you are telling God he lied to you.
What makes us really dangerous is the usual reason for not
accepting this testimony is that some human being told you something to the
contrary. So you not only calling God a liar you are telling him that his word
is worth as much is that human being over there. Think this one through folks;
this just might be what Ray Stevens called "a great example of a bad
What Is the Testimony?
So that we may be clear on this, let's review just what this
test he is about: eternal life. Please remember that eternal life is an
attribute of God, for God is eternal. What were saying by this is that God has
given us a chance to partake of that same eternal existence.
This testimony is given also to convince us that the life in
question is given through his Son, Jesus Christ. So we now have an attribute,
we have a method. And that leads us to a result: eternal life. I now point out
to you that this is a binary result: you either have eternal life for you
don't. The fence on which you wish to sit is razor-sharp. For those of us who
have eternal life, it is the best possible news.
What may strike you as strange is that John, the apostle of
love, is pointing this out. You might expect that Peter, the fiery member of
the disciples, would bring the subject up. The impression is that John is just
too nice to do that. But let me ask you a question: is it loving to ignore
heaven and hell? If you know the right answer, shouldn't you share it with
those in danger of hell? That's the punch line. John is convincing you of the
security of your salvation so that you may spread it to others.