Friday, 5 June 2020
If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God which He has testified of His Son. 1 John 5:9
John has noted that there are three that bear witness in heaven, and there are three that bear witness on the earth. These witnesses testify to the truth of Jesus Christ, and their Source is from God. Because of this, John puts forth a proposition to consider. He says, “If we receive the witness of men.” The verb is in the indicative mood. Thus, it assumes that the proposition is a fact. It is something we do constantly.
We receive the witness of men in news, we do so in our courts of law, we do so in things we are not specialists in – trusting that someone else has the information that will keep us safe, financially secure, and so on. We also receive the witness of family members. Very little would get done in this world if we did not receive the witness of other men. If we go to a stockbroker with our life savings, we are entrusting that to the witness of a man. “This is my very life, please look after it.” As this is so, John puts forth the second half of his proposition, “the witness of God is greater.”
Understanding the nature of God, we can know – even apart from the words of Scripture – that God cannot lie. God cannot err. God is perfect in all His ways. These things can be known through a process of simple logic being thought through to its inevitable conclusion. However, we cannot know this about men. Man may be lying – be it in a court of law, be it about the safety of the bridge we want to cross, or be it even about our life savings. And yet, we still receive the witness of men.
As this is so, and it is undeniable that it is the case, then we should all the more willingly receive the testimony of God. God’s testimony is not only surer than that of men, it is infinitely more so. The author of Hebrews states this truth to us –
“Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, 18 that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.” Hebrews 6:17, 18
As God cannot lie, the only consideration that we must take into account is, “Are we dealing with the true God?” There are various religions in the world, all of which claim to be rooted in the truth of God. But they cannot all be so. Their paths to pursuing God, meaning whatever supposed source of inspiration is used, contradict one another. But there is no contradiction in God. Therefore, if God has actually revealed Himself in some way, we should be able to discern it.
There is no doubt that God has revealed Himself in Scripture. It displays wisdom, it accurately reflects the state of man and the state of the world, it prophetically confirms itself again and again, it reveals God in the way that logic can deduce He must be revealed, and so on. With this sure witness, and because that witness is of God, it is “far greater” than that coming from men.
Because of this, John then says, “for this is the witness of God.” This is referring to the three-fold witness in heaven and of the three-fold witness on earth. These combine to become the “witness of God.” Both of these combine into one thought – that God has united with human flesh in the Person of Jesus Christ. This is evidenced by the spirit, the water, and the blood. It is in this form whereby “He has testified of His Son.”
The Man came, He lived among men, He gave His life up for them, and He rose again on the third day. And these facts are testified to by men –
“For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. 7 After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. 8 Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.” 1 Corinthians 15:1-8
The apostles (which include John) witnessed and testified to this truth. Five hundred also saw and testified to it. And the word, which comes from God (is inspired by the Spirit of God), has recorded this truth, also testifying to it. If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater. There is no reason at all to disbelieve. Heaven and earth bear witness, man has borne witness, and God – who cannot lie – has born witness. The God/Man – Jesus Christ – has come.
Life application: In this verse, John presents an a fortiori argument – from the lesser to the greater. The law mandates that there be two or three witnesses in order to establish a true testimony. If we are willing to receive human witnesses in such circumstances, how much more God! Humans are fallible and often make faulty judgments. They also are prone to telling lies, even in testimony which is under oath. This is the reason for obtaining more than one witness. However, even this method of validation is subject to abuse.
In 1 Kings 21, we read the account of a man named Naboth who owned a choice piece of land which the King of Israel – Ahab – wanted for himself. Naboth refused to sell it, so false witnesses were obtained in order to convict him of something he didn’t do. The result is recorded for our learning –
“And two men, scoundrels, came in and sat before him; and the scoundrels witnessed against him, against Naboth, in the presence of the people, saying, ‘Naboth has blasphemed God and the king!’ Then they took him outside the city and stoned him with stones, so that he died.” 1 Kings 21:13
Here we are, accepting fallible and even falsified human testimony to establish matters of importance. How much more should we then accept the witness of God! The Father verbally acknowledged His Son at His baptism and on the mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 3:17 & 17:5); the Word testifies in the Son through human activity (John 5:39); and the Holy Spirit continues to testify to the work of Jesus even now (John 15:26).
Let us trust the word of God, stand firm on its precepts, and search for Jesus Christ in its pages – knowing that God has given it to us for our understanding, doctrine, and even for our very life.
Surely we have the infallible proof and witness of the work of Jesus Christ – all accomplished on our behalf! And all You ask us to do, O God, is to receive it… receive it by faith. And so, we acknowledge in faith that Jesus is Lord. We will forever continue to acknowledge His strong and guiding hand in our lives. Hallelujah and Amen – we receive Jesus. Amen.