The Victory of Our Faith

You can listen to the podcast for this message here.

The last time we were in 1 John we saw the complex simplicity of belief. We saw that repeated in last week’s Easter message. We have overcome – have conquered the world all because of our faith in what God accomplished in His Son on the cross. This morning John continues some thoughts and we can sense his excitement as he talks about the victory of our faith.

Take a look at 1 John 5:5-9.

John provides clarification when he asks the rhetorical question, “Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” In the previous verse, John talked about our faith as being the vehicle for victory. I want to be clear that it is our faith in what Christ accomplished on the cross. Sometimes we have the idea that somehow we’re the one that initiates this victory. God was the initiator – we trust in what He provided by way of the cross. We have victory because we put our complete trust in Jesus who is the Christ. He is the long awaited One. He is the Messiah, He is the Savior. But Jesus is also the Son of God and that is crucial for John and it’s crucial for true faith. The incarnation of God’s Son makes salvation possible.

We are overcomers. We have overcome the world because of the Son of God. Remember when John said, “You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” (1 Jo. 4:4) We have overcome the anti-Christs, those that deny Jesus is the Christ; those that deny Jesus is the Son of God. 1 Cor. 15:57 says, “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” John Stott summarizes this section by saying, “Christian believers are God’s children, born from above. God’s children are loved by all who love God. Those who love God also keep his commands. They keep his commands because they overcome the world, and they overcome the world because they are Christian believers, born from above.”[1]

John provides some testification. Yes that is a new word I made up. Are you wondering why John seems to repeat himself? Although we have looked at this letter in several sections, we need to remember that John is writing a letter that should be read in one sitting. He is refuting those that contradict as Paul told Titus in Titus 1:9. Verse 6 says, 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.” This is a tough verse to understand so let’s break it down. Some would say that the water and the blood refer to baptism and the Lord’s Supper. One of John’s purposes for writing was to refute the false teachers that denied the humanity of Jesus so it doesn’t seem likely he’d throw in some random teaching about baptism and the Lord’s Supper. John refers to Jesus “who came” in the past tense. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are recurring observances of the church, not something that happened only in the past. Others would say the water and the blood refer to what gushed out of the side of Jesus’ body when the Roman soldier thrust the spear thrust in His side when He hung on the cross. It is found in the 19th chapter of John’s gospel where he writes about the blood and the water. In his letter John reverses the order to water and blood. If water and blood refer to the spear thrust, how is it that Jesus came by them?

So what does the verse really mean? Remember the historical context of the letter. John’s teaching is in direct opposition to that of Cerinthus who said that Jesus was just a man. Cerinthus argued that Jesus became divine when the dove descended upon Him. But His divinity left Him at the crucifixion and so it was just Jesus the man that died, not Emmanuel – God with us. It was Jesus who is the Christ that experienced both baptism and crucifixion. If you think about Jesus’ public ministry, the beginning point was at the Jordan River when the dove descended upon Him. The ending point of Jesus ministry was at the cross where He shed His blood. So Jesus is, “The One that came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not with water only, but with the water and with the blood.” The reality of Jesus’ life and death is confirmed by the testimony of the Spirit. It is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.” The Spirit confirms who Jesus is because the Spirit is truth. John 15:26 says, “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.” In a court of law a witness is asked, “Do you promise to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you God?” When the Spirit testifies, He doesn’t need to take that oath. Remember in the first verse of this letter, John said that he had seen with his own eyes, but that pales in comparison with the Spirit of truth. It doesn’t matter that 40% of Americans believe that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. Truth is not defined by majority opinion. He is the ultimate authority. He is God and He is truth.

There is another testimony. Not only does the Holy Spirit and John provide some testification, but there are three that are in agreement. Look at vs. 7-8. There’s the beauty in the truth. When you tell the truth, you never have to remember what you said. Liars have a hard time because they say one thing to one person and something else to another. They can’t keep it straight. When you tell the truth, there is no trying to keep it straight. When the police question witnesses to a crime or accident, the story is normally different. People tell the story from their point of view. Their biases or prejudices are included in that point of view. Good investigators take all this into account to get to the truth. It’s not like that with what John is talking about. “There are three that testify . . . and the three are in agreement.” This is a lawyer’s dream. The three are the Spirit and the water and the blood. They all tell the same story. The more witnesses that testify to the truth, the better. Deut. 19:15, “A single witness shall not rise up against a man on account of any iniquity or any sin which he has committed; on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed.” Matt. 18:16, by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed.” Jo. 8:17, “Even in your law it has been written that the testimony of two men is true.” 2 Cor. 13:1, “This is the third time I am coming to you. Every fact is to be confirmed by the testimony of two or three witnesses.” And finally 1 Tim. 5:19, “Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses.”

So we have consistency in Scripture. If you’re going to make accusations or if you want to verify the truth, you better have two or three witnesses. God holds the same standard for Jesus. The Spirit, the water, and the blood all testify to the truth of who Jesus is and they are in agreement. John closes this thought by saying, “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.” While the testimony of man may be good, the testimony of God is much greater. God is the standard of truth. Jesus is exactly who God says He is. His baptism, His life, His death, and His resurrection testify that He is the Messiah, the anointed One. He is the redeemer. John 5:36, “But the testimony which I have is greater than the testimony of John; for the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish – the very works that I do – testify about Me, that the Father has sent Me.” Everything points to Jesus who is the Christ. The Bible in summary says, “Come to Me.”

We should accept God’s testimony because it God’s testimony about His Son. The testimony of men is great, but it’s not the same as God. Jesus is who God says He is – He is the Savior of all that will believe.

[1] Akin, D. L. (2001). Vol. 38: 1, 2, 3 John (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; The New American Commentary (194). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.


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