Broadcasting now. Watch Live.

The Nature of Saving Faith - Part 4

Tom Pennington 1 John 5:1-13


Well, I know it's not a secret because it's been everywhere in the news the last few weeks, and so I'm confident you have heard of the tragedy that has occurred in the North Atlantic. Recently, the death of five passengers on Ocean Gate’s Titan Submersible reminded us all of the really disastrous results of putting your faith in the wrong object. Tragically, it seems this disaster that has just occurred follows the same basic pattern and cause as the one that doomed the very ship they were looking to see. The hubris and arrogance that said, “We are indestructible, what we have created is indestructible,” and to do so over the warnings of others.

The Titanic sank in the North Atlantic, after striking an iceberg during its maiden voyage in the year 1912, killing over 1500 people. I'm sure you've heard Philip Franklin, who was the vice president of the White Star Line, the line responsible for the Titanic, shortly after he learned that the ship had struck an iceberg and was taking on water, spoke these infamous words: “There is no danger that Titanic will sink. The boat is unsinkable, and nothing but inconvenience will be suffered by the passengers.” Those tragic disasters, both of them, the old and the new, remind us that even at a human level, the object of your faith matters.

But when the issue is where you will spend eternity, in the joys of heaven or in the endless punishment of hell, the object of your faith matters infinitely more. That's the issue that John wants us to consider in the passage we come to in our text this morning.

We're studying 1 John 5:1 to 13. The theme of this paragraph is that “The one who believes God's testimony about the biblical Jesus and the biblical gospel has been born of God and has eternal life.” In these verses, John explains four key elements of saving faith. So far, we've discovered two of them. First of all, in the beginning of verse 1, we learned “The Cause of Saving Faith,” and the cause is the new birth. From the middle of verse 1, down through verse 5, last time we finished considering “The Results of Saving Faith.” Wherever there is true saving faith, there will be these guaranteed results that always happens, and we looked at them things like “Love for God,” “Love for His People,” “Obedience to His Word,” and “Victory over the World.” Those things will always be true where a person has true saving faith.

Today, we come to verses 6 through 12, where John explains to us “The Object of Saving Faith,” the object of saving faith. The only object of saving faith, of true saving redeeming faith is Jesus Christ, His human divine person, and His saving work on the cross. That's the message of our text, but let's read it together. 1 John, chapter 5, verses 6 through 12, you follow along in your copy of God's Word; this is God's infallible Word. This is the product of the breath of God, the authors of Scripture tell us, in the same way that my words now are the product of my breath. So, let's listen to God's Word to us. Verse 6:

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. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. 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 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. And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.

The key to understanding these verses is the verb “testify,” and the noun “testimony.” Together, those words occur ten times in the verses I just read to you. So, the kind of faith that saves believes certain testimony. And he's going to lay out that testimony in this text. We'll discover it, part of it today, and the second part of it we'll discover the next time we study 1 John together.

Today, we discover that saving faith believes “God's Testimony that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, the Son of God.” Let me say that again, “Saving faith always believes God's testimony that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, the Son of God.” That's the message of verses 6 through 9 in the text we just read together. These verses are about Jesus’ identity, and they begin with “The Statement of His Identity” in verse 6. Notice how John begins, “This is the One who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ.” You see the Jesus who saves from sin is not a Jesus of your own making. He's not the popular Jesus. He's not the culturally acceptable Jesus. He's the Jesus of the New Testament, that Jesus, the biblical Jesus is identified here. And first of all, you'll notice he's identified as the Son of God. Verse 6 begins with the demonstrative pronoun ‘this.’ That refers back to the end of verse 5, look back at verse 5, “Who is the One who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” “This is the One I'm talking about,” John says.

You see, the Christian faith is not merely faith in God. There are a lot of people who claim to be Christians, and all that ever comes out of their mouth is generic talk about God. That's not the Christian faith. The Orthodox Jews believe in God, the Muslims believe in God. The Christian faith is distinctly Christian and the faith of real Christians is a faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. If you find yourself always talking about your faith in generic terms, and you're ashamed to talk about, and you find yourself never talking about Jesus, you don't have saving faith because the only real faith is found in the person of Jesus Christ. It's the only name as we read an Acts 4.

And the biblical Jesus, we’re told at the end of verse 5, and it's reiterated the beginning of verse 6, is the Son of God. He is the eternal, one of a kind, Son of God, of one substance with and co-equal with the Father. At the same time, we're told He's the One who came. So, we're talking about the One who is at the same time human, who took upon Himself complete human nature, body and soul, yet without sin. He's one person with two distinct natures, fully God, fully man. He is, as theologians put it, the God-Man, God hyphen Man, fully God at the same time, fully and completely man. He is the Son of God, incarnate.

But notice, John also says here as he unloads his identity, unpacks it for us, He's also the Messiah. He hints at this at the beginning of verse 6, “This is the One who came,” that's a clear allusion to a common title for the Messiah, “The Coming One.” That expression is used often in John's gospel, “The One Coming.” Here, it's the One who came; that looks back on His coming as a historical event that's already occurred. And as we'll see in a moment, John, probably, when he's uses the word “came,” is not talking so much about coming in the womb of Mary or coming in the crib there in Bethlehem. Instead, he's probably referring to the public appearance of Jesus as Messiah as He begins His ministry, and that will become clear in a moment.

But notice the identity of the Son of God who came. Verse 6 says, “This is the One who came…Jesus Christ.” “Jesus,” that, of course, is His human name. It's the name given to Him by the angel. And both Mary and Joseph were told, “Name your child, the one in Mary's womb, name that child, that human child, Jesus of Nazareth.” John underscores by sharing this that he's talking about a human person, a real human person, just like you, who lived in time and space, but who was at the same time the Son of God incarnate. And notice this person is Jesus Christ. If you've been around our church anytime at all, you've heard me say, “Don't think of Christ as Jesus’ last name. Jesus is His name, Christ is His title.” The Greek word is ‘Chritos,’ it's, in Hebrew, ‘Hamashiach,’ or in both cases, “The Messiah” or literally translated “The Anointed One.” Jesus is the divine Messiah promised in the Hebrew Scripture, as the One anointed and appointed by God who would permanently deal with man's sin problem. He's “The Appointed One,” He's “The Anointed One,” He is “The Messiah.”

Now, look again at verse 6, “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.” Now when you read that, your first response, may be, “What in the world is John talking about? Where does this come from?” Well, let me first of all tell you the main point, and then we'll unpack it. The main point that he's making in verse 6, is that this identity he's just described, that is the true biblical Jesus, this is Jesus’ consistent unchanging identity. But he says it this way, “Jesus Christ came by water and by blood.” This is one of the most difficult statements in this letter. In fact, Lloyd-Jones calls this passage, “The most difficult in the New Testament.” But it becomes a little clearer if we drill down a little bit, so let's do that.

There are really only three primary interpretations of what John means by “the water and the blood.” First of all, some say it refers to the water and blood that flowed from Jesus’ side after He was pierced with the spear at the crucifixion. This was the view taught by Augustine. But this is very unlikely because in this passage, the whole point is that some of the people who left the churches in Asia Minor John was ministering to, some who followed the false teachers out of those churches, denied that Jesus came by the blood and said he only came by the water. It would make no sense to say only water came out of Jesus’ side when He was pierced with a spear. So it doesn't fit. Also, how did Jesus come “by the water and blood that flowed out of his side?” That makes no sense.

A second possible meaning is that it refers to the two ordinances of the church, water to baptism and blood to the Lord's Table. This was the view of a number of the reformers, including Luther and Calvin. This also, however, is very unlikely, because John's talking about past events in Jesus’ life; he's not talking about these things as symbols. And the term “blood” never refers to the “Lord's Table.” Obviously, the fruit of the vine in “The Cup” represents the blood of Christ poured out. But whenever that element is referred to, it's always referred to as “The Cup,” never as the blood.

The third and oldest possible meaning of this expression is that it refers to two key events in Jesus’ earthly ministry, His baptism, and His death. This was the view taught by Tertullian. I think this is almost certainly what John means here. First of all, it makes sense of the verb “came.” Once you understand that we're talking about His baptism and His death, you can say that He came in the sense of the fulfillment of His ministry in these ways. Also, it's perfectly normal for the word “blood” in the New Testament to refer to Jesus’ death. And water then naturally refers to His baptism. So, in our text, water then refers to Jesus’ baptism and blood refers to His death.

But the question is, “Why does John single out those two events?” Let me give you two reason I think that John chose these two events. First of all, because these two events mark the beginning and end of Jesus’ ministry. Why did Jesus come? He came to accomplish the redemption of His people, and He inaugurated that mission (When?) at His baptism when He began His ministry. And He completed that mission at His death when He laid down His life for His own and then subsequently was raised from the dead. So, it marks the beginning and end of Jesus’ ministry of redemption.

But there's another reason I think John chose these events. And that's because the two events he chooses here are specifically chosen to refute the false teachers in first century Asian Minor; the false teachers that had led people out of these churches and had created havoc in these churches. They had taught something about these two events that John intends to correct.

So let me give you sort of the background. John is writing to correct Gnosticism or at least pre-Gnosticism and one of its forms in Asia Minor was Cerinthian Gnosticism, that is Gnosticism taught by Cerinthus. Cerinthus was actually a contemporary of the Apostle John; he was in Ephesus at the very time John was in Ephesus ministering to these churches. In fact, I think it’s Irenaeus who tells us of that famous incident where they show up at the same bathhouse at the same time, and John grabs his clothes and bolts out, afraid God's going to destroy the place because this heretic is there. But they were there together.

Cerinthian Gnosticism taught that Jesus was the physical offspring of Mary and Joseph, and that Jesus was only human. Cerinthus went on to say that the Divine Spirit of Messiah descended on the human Jesus at His baptism to equip Him for His ministry. However, the Divine Spirit of Messiah left the human Jesus just before His crucifixion, and the One who died on the cross was merely the human Jesus, just a man who had been specially gifted by the Divine Messiah Spirit who had then left Him. Those are the ideas that John is confronting in this letter. So, John here explicitly teaches that the eternal Son of God took upon Himself full and complete humanity. We've already seen it in this letter.

In the Incarnation, He became the God-Man, one person with two distinct natures. And here's the point he's making here, that was true from the moment of His conception, throughout His earthly life, now and forever. In fact, in verses 6 through 8, John states that Jesus was the divine Messiah, the Christ, at His baptism, which the heretics agreed with. But then John says, Jesus was also the divine Messiah at His death, which the heretics denied. John says, “This is the One, Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah, the Son of God, and He's the One who came both by water and the blood.” In other words, He was the God-Man at His conception, He was the God-Man at His baptism, and He was the God-Man when He bowed His eyes in death on the cross, saying, “It is finished and into your hands I commit My Spirit.” He was the God-Man when He was buried, He was the God-Man when He was raised from the dead, He is now and forever the God-Man! That's the only Jesus that saves, John says “That Jesus must be the object of your faith.”

Now you say, “Tom, what possible application can this have in the 21st century?” There aren’t, you know, Cerinthian Gnostics running around Dallas-Fort Worth. That's true. However, think of the fruit of their theology. Think of what it led them to conclude about Jesus. Essentially, what the Cerinthian Gnostic said is:

You know, Jesus was a great man. He was a wonderful teacher. He was a powerful example of a righteous life. But He was not the eternal Son of God, the second person of the Trinity made flesh.

And that is, sadly, extremely applicable for our day. Because our world is filled with people, in fact, I would say most people in our country believe that about Jesus. They believe that He was just a wonderful man, a good teacher, an example to follow, but they don't believe He was the eternal Son of God, the second person of the Trinity made flesh. Sadly, many who claim to be Christians believe what the Cerinthian Gnostics believed in their conclusions about Jesus. Many in theologically liberal churches, I'm talking about mainline Protestant denominations, old Protestant denominations, peppered churches around our city, if you could find out what those people believe, you would learn that all of the seminaries, and that most of the pastors, and many of the people in those churches deny the deity of Jesus and claim that He was only a man. Many in the charismatic movement, particularly in the “Word of Faith” part of the charismatic movement, teach that either during His entire earthly life, or at least on the cross, Jesus stopped being God and the Jesus on the cross, or the Jesus in His earthly life was just a man.

Listen, if you believe anything less about Jesus, than John proclaims in this passage, you have believed a different Jesus, you've not believed in the biblical Jesus, and it is not the Jesus who can save you from your sins. He's a figment of your imagination, a pretend Jesus, another Jesus. My encouragement to you is if you have, if you have some other Jesus that you put your trust in than the One we just saw John describe in this passage, I urge you to repent of that idolatry and put your faith in the true biblical Jesus, the One of the Scriptures. He's the only way to God. He said, “I am the way!” Not your Jesus, not a pretend Jesus, not the Jesus that isn't God through His entire earthly life and then into eternity, who isn't the God-Man. Jesus said, “The real Me, the real Jesus.” He said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” “There is no other name (given) under heaven by which we must be saved,” Acts 4:12. (Paraphrase.) So, that's “The Statement of His Identity.”

But John goes on to discuss, secondly, “The Evidence for His Identity,” the evidence for His identity. From the end of verse 6 down through verse 9, John presents his evidence for the biblical Jesus, and he does so as if he's in a courtroom, and he's putting several key witnesses on the stand to testify to Jesus’ real identity.

From the end of verse 6 through verse 8, we hear, first of all, the testimony of “The First Three Witnesses,” the first three witnesses. And the first witness he calls to the stand is “The Holy Spirit.” Notice verse 6, “It is the Spirit who testifies.” He says, “The Holy Spirit is testifying about Jesus’ identity.” And that's not surprising, I mean, Jesus Himself said in the upper room discourse in John 16 that “He will testify about Me…He will glorify me.” And He is eminently qualified to give testimony about Jesus’ identity because, notice how verse 6 continues, “because the Spirit is the truth.” Like Jesus in John 14, the Spirit is the truth. He's the embodiment of truth, He's truth in a person; He doesn't need, like most witnesses on the stand, to swear to tell the truth, He is the truth. John says, “The Spirit testified at these events.” If you go back into biblical history, if you go back 2000 years at the events that are being described here, the Spirit testified. But notice, he doesn't use the past tense. He says in verse 6, “…the Spirit is testifying,” present tense.

How is the Spirit continuing to testify? He continues now to testify about these events in His Word. The Spirit bears witness through the Scripture. The Baptist and Westminster Confessions of Faith put it this way, “Our full persuasion and assurance of the Infallible truth of the Bible is from the work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.” In other words, the Holy Spirit doesn't testify by whispering something in your ear separate from the Scripture. The Holy Spirit testifies by and through His Word. John's main point here is that the Holy Spirit bore witness in the events and continues to bear witness to Jesus’ identity in both of these key events in Jesus’ life.

So, the question is, how, how did the Spirit in Jesus’ baptism and in His death, during those events, how did the Spirit testify to Jesus’ identity? Let's think about that for a moment. First of all, “The Spirit testified to Jesus’ identity in His baptism by telling John the Baptist how to identify the Messiah.” Go back to John, chapter 1. John, chapter 1, John the Baptist comes on the scene; he's the one chosen, the prophet who will prepare the way for Messiah, and he has this interchange beginning in John, chapter 1, verse 29.

The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and (he) said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (And then he goes on to explain why he's arrived at this conclusion. He says.) “This is He on behalf of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’” (By the way, that's an interesting statement, because you remember, Jesus and John are cousins. And John is actually was born six months before Jesus, and yet he says, “He was before me, He existed before me;” he knew His identity. He goes on in verse 31.) “I did not recognize Him, (He knew Him obviously, as his relative. And he knew He was a holy man, a Godly Man. “But I didn't recognize Him as Messiah.”) but so that He might be manifested to Israel, I came baptizing in water.” John testified saying, “I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him. I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’ (And what conclusion did John come to, verse 34?) I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.”

John said, “The Holy Spirit Who sent me to prophesy to Israel, told me how to recognize the Messiah, and this is He.”

It's exactly what happened. In Matthew, chapter 3, verse 16 we read, “After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him.” And John said, “This has to be the One.” It's exactly what the Spirit told me how to recognize the Messiah that I'm here to prepare the way for, “This is He, this is the Son of God, this is the Lamb of God, this is the Messiah!” So, the Spirit testified at Jesus’ baptism through John the Baptist.

But “The Spirit, secondly, testified to Jesus’ identity in His death,” as well. In His death, the Spirit testified to who Jesus really was. How? Well, there are a number of ways. Let me just give you a few thoughts. First of all, through “Pilate’s Inscription,” what he put on the cross in John 19:19, “Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It was written, ‘JESUS, THE NAZARENE (And here it is.) THE KING OF THE JEWS.’” He's the Messiah; He's the King of the Jews. You remember, the leaders were livid and asked Pilate to remove that, and he said, “What I've written I've written.” It was the Spirit's own testimony to who Jesus really was even in His death.

But you also have the Spirit testifying to Jesus’ identity, and this is remarkable, through “The Testimony of the Jewish Leaders,” because at Jesus’ Roman trials, they couldn't have stated it any clearer. Here's Luke 23:2, “They began to accuse Him, (to Pilate) saying, “We found this man…saying that He Himself is Christ (The Messiah), a (The) King. In John 19:7, the Jews respond to Pilate again and they said, “We have a law, and by that law He ought to die because He made Himself out to be the Son of God.” So even in the testimony of those who hated Him, the Spirit was testifying to His true identity.

The Spirit was testifying through “The Testimony of the Repentant Thief.” In Luke 23:42, the repentant thief said to Jesus, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your (What?) Your kingdom!” “I know who you are, you're the Messiah, my trust and faith is in You.” The Spirit was testifying to Whom Jesus was.

The Spirit was testifying to “The Testimony of the Roman Soldiers.” In Mark, chapter 15, verse 39, when the centurion, and by the way the other Gospel accounts say the other soldiers, probably three other soldiers in the crucifixion detail, when the centurion and the other soldiers who were standing right in front of Him, “…saw the way He breathed His last, he said, ‘Truly, this man was the Son of God.’”

But the Spirit also testified through “Jesus’ Subsequent Resurrection.” Romans 1:4, Jesus “was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord.” The Spirit, in raising Him from the dead, said, “This is Who He is.” That's the testimony of the Spirit.

Next, John calls his witnesses to the stand to testify to Jesus’ true identity, “Two Events.” He's called the Spirit, and now he calls two events, as it were, to the stand in verses 7 and 8. Before we look at verses 7 and 8, let me just point out something to you. You'll notice in your Bible that verse 7 is very short, and that's because, in a few very late Greek manuscripts and included in the King James Version, there was an additional statement that was part of verse 7. If you have a New American Standard with marginal notes, look at the marginal note in the NASB for verses 7 and 8. It says, “A few late manuscripts add ‘in heaven, the Father, the Word and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one, and there are three that testify on earth.’” So basically, what the NASB is telling us is that in a very few late Greek manuscripts, that verse appears, but it's not put in here. Why?

Let me give you the reasons, just a little background. That passage I just quoted that's in the margin is absent from all but four very late Greek manuscripts. And none of the early Church Fathers quote this passage. You remember they were engaged in the Trinitarian debate. If this passage existed during their day, they would have used it, but none of them quote it. None of the ancient versions contain this verse. And it's quoted for the first time, not in a Bible text, but in a Latin treatise about the Bible, in the fourth century A.D. You say, “Well, how in the world did it make it into the King James Version and into some other versions? Here's how. You’ve got to go back to the early 1500’s. There was a Roman Catholic scholar named Erasmus. Erasmus was a Greek scholar and he put together the first Greek Testament; it was published in 1516. And frankly, that was the spark, not intended by him, but it was the spark of the Reformation because that's how the Bible was translated into the language of the people from that compilation of manuscripts and the New Testament that Erasmus put together.

Now, he excluded this verse from his first two editions of the Greek Testament, but he got major pushback from his financiers at the Roman Catholic Church. But Erasmus was a scholar, and he wouldn't just put it in, but he said this, and he lived to regret this statement. He said, “If you can show me a Greek manuscript that contains this verse, then I'll insert it.” Well guess what? The Roman Catholic Church found such a manuscript. It happened to be written in the year 1520, the same time. So, Erasmus inserted this passage in his third edition published in 1522, but he indicated in a footnote, his strong suspicions that this manuscript had been cooked up just for this purpose. So, this verse, then that's in your margin, is rightly omitted from our Scripture. So, with that said, let's look at what is in our Scripture.

Look at verse 7, “For (Here's the reason for our certainty.) there are three that testify.” This comes, of course, from what the Law demanded. The Law demanded two to three witnesses to confirm the truth. Deuteronomy 19:15 says, “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.” So, John says, “Okay, let me give you three that are continually testifying.”

Burdick writes in his commentary, “Every time the historical record of Christ's baptism and death is read or proclaimed, these three witnesses testify to the truth of the Incarnation of God's Son.” John here argues that there are three witnesses, and that means there are sufficient witnesses to support his assertion about Jesus’ true identity.

Notice those witnesses in Verse 8, “…the Spirit and the water and the blood.” So, we've already considered how the Spirit testified at Jesus’ baptism and testified again at His death. But John goes further in verse 8. Here he argues that Jesus’ baptism and death, the events themselves, also testify to Jesus’ identity. How? How do, separate from the Spirit, how do the events testify to Jesus’ true identity?

Well, let's look at it. First of all, consider the testimony of Jesus’ baptism. Now, to understand this, you’ve got to go back and kind of get a running start from the Old Testament. So let me remind you that the first time we hear about Messiah is in Genesis 3:15 at the fall. God, in the person of the Second Person of the Trinity, tells Adam and Eve that there will be a unique person who will come; and in that passage, the very first passage about the Messiah, he explains that this unique person would come to deal with human sin.

Fast forward to 700 years before Christ, and the most complete Old Testament prophecy about the mission of the Messiah, Isaiah 53, explains how He would deal with sin. He would deal with sin by bearing the sins of His people upon Himself. He would become, in the words of Isaiah 53, “their guilt offering.” He would be the one who receives “the stroke of punishment” that His people deserve; He would stand in their place, absorb the wrath of God on their behalf so that God could be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. That's what the Old Testament teaches.

So, we come to the New Testament. The New Testament narrative begins in Matthew 1 by telling us that Jesus came “to save His people.” Matthew 1:21, the angel says to Joseph, “…name this child that's in Mary's womb, ‘Jesus.’” (Paraphrase.) Why? “For (because) He will save His people from their sins.”

But before the Messiah comes on the public scene, John the Baptist came to prepare the way for the Messiah. Mark, chapter 1, verse 4, “John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” John's baptism was a baptism of repentance. He only baptized those who knew they were sinners and who'd already repented of their sins. They were looking for the Messiah. I don't have time to fully explain it here, you can go back and listen to the sermon on Mark 1, but John's baptism was actually ‘proselyte baptism,’ the kind of baptism a Gentile would have to become a full practicing Jew. But John's baptism was ‘proselyte baptism’ for Jews. He demanded that those Jews who truly repented and wanted to prepare for Messiah’s coming, be baptized in the same way Gentiles had to to become proselytes. He was essentially saying to the Jews, “You are no closer to the kingdom than the Gentiles. If you want to truly be part of true Israel, if you want to belong to Messiah's kingdom, then you need to repent and experience ‘proselyte baptism.’” That's the context of Jesus' own baptism.

Mark, chapter 1, verse 9, “In those days Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.” That's shocking! Jesus was baptized with the baptism that had to do with sin, repentance, and forgiveness. But it wasn't His sin, it wasn't His repentance. He had no sin to repent of. It wasn't forgiveness for Him; it was ours. Listen carefully, by submitting to John's baptism, Jesus not only obeyed the Father and fulfilled all righteousness, but He identified Himself with sinners. It was His first public identification with the sins of those whom He came to redeem; He came to eventually bear on the cross. Jesus was baptized at the beginning of His ministry, to associate Himself with His people and with their sins that He would eventually bear in His own body on the tree. That's the testimony of Jesus’ baptism. He's the Messiah; He's the One God appointed to deal with the sins of His people, and that becomes obvious in the very first moment of His public ministry, His baptism.

Consider the testimony of Jesus’ blood. I think you understand that in the New Testament, Jesus’ blood is shorthand for His sacrificial death. His literal blood was normal human blood just like yours. He had a real human body and a real human soul. His blood was like your blood. His blood could only purchase forgiveness if it was shed as a sacrifice, if it was shed in violent sacrificial death as the substitute for His people, if He gave His life in place of ours. And Jesus’ blood, His suffering and death on the cross provides clear testimony that He is, in fact, the Messiah, the One who was promised. Why is that?

Well, because the Old Testament prophesied that the divine Messiah would suffer and die and be raised for the sins of His people. I wish I had time to take you to so many places where that's taught, just turn with me to a couple. Look at Luke, chapter 24; Luke, chapter 24, this is after Jesus’ resurrection. He's teaching His disciples, Luke 24:44:

He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms (Those three phrases encompass the Hebrew Scriptures, what we call the Old Testament, same material. He says, ‘what's written there about me.’) must be fulfilled.” (Verse 45.) Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, (Now this is key, verse 46, ‘He said to them.’) “Thus it is written, that the Christ (Messiah) would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.

Jesus said, “Listen, the Old Testament says that what happened to me is exactly what would happen to Messiah;” His blood testifies to His identity.

This is a huge point the Apostles make. Again, it's everywhere in Acts, but just turn with me to Acts 17. Look at Acts 17, in verse 1:

(Paul comes) …to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. (Acts 17:2) And according to Paul's custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbath's reasoned with them from the Scriptures, (Now notice what he reasoned with them from the Scriptures.) explaining and giving evidence that the Christ (Messiah) had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and (then) saying, “This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ (Messiah).”

You see how he connected the two. He said, “Let me show you from your own Scriptures that the Messiah had to suffer and die and be raised from the dead. And now let me tell you about Jesus, the very One in whom that's been accomplished.” In other words, the prophecies about Messiah prove that Jesus is, in fact, Him.

Now, go back to our text in 1 John, chapter 5, and look at verse 8, “…and the three are in agreement.” Literally, “the three are into the one thing.” John says, “All three of these witnesses, the Spirit, His baptism, and His death are all saying the same thing. So, this meets God's standard for evidence. There are three witnesses.” So as John presents the evidence for Jesus’ real identity, we've heard then the testimony of these first three witnesses, the Spirit, His baptism, and His death.

Next, John calls His star witness, in verse 9, “The Ultimate Witness.” “If we receive the testimony of men.” Now, that's just assumed in law courts across our world; it's standard practice to accept human testimony to confirm the facts–that just happens all the time. And he says, “If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater.” If we accept human testimony, certainly the testimony of God Himself is much greater in its trustworthiness. “(For) (Verse 9, here's why.) the testimony of God is this, (Literally, the Greek says, “This is the testimony of God.”) Here are the primary reasons we should accept God's testimony as greater.

First of all, his testimony meets His own standard of three witnesses: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; but we should also accept it, because it's the testimony of God Himself.

And notice, it's the testimony which “He has testified concerning His Son,” it's God's testimony about His own Son. Whose testimony about a person is more reliable than his own father? God, the Father has clearly testified, He is on record that the identity of Jesus of Nazareth is His eternal Son. You say, how? How did the father testify to Jesus real identity? Well, let me give you several times. First of all, “At His Baptism.” Matthew 3:17, “Behold, a voice out of the heavens said, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.’” You remember, the Spirit descends like a dove, lands on Jesus, stays on Jesus, that points Him out as the Messiah, and can you imagine, a voice comes out of heaven, and God, the Father says, “This is my Son, listen to Him.” It's like a giant arrow from heaven; how can you miss it?

He also testified “At His Transfiguration.” Matthew 17:5, “A bright cloud, overshadowed them, (The ones who were gathered there.) and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, ‘This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!’” God spoke from heaven, in the hearing of witnesses and said, “This is My Son!”

On Tuesday of the Passion Week, John 12:28, Jesus was speaking to people around Him, and He said:

Father, (And then He lifts up His voice to heaven and says.) “Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came out of heaven: “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.” (That's the Father's testimony.)

The Father also testified to who Jesus was “In the Miracles at the Cross.” Through a series of miracles, when Jesus died, God said, “This is My Son.” You remember, in Matthew 27, verse 45, there was supernatural darkness, “…from the sixth hour darkness fell upon the whole land until the ninth hour.” You know, imagine if there was some major event, some person who was the focus of a major event here in Dallas today, and at the very apex of that person's experience, whatever that was, the sun went entirely dark from 12 o'clock till 3 o'clock. First of all, it'd be a lot cooler, right? But secondly, you would say, “Wow, this is something dramatic! This is something supernatural!”

At His death, Matthew 27:51 says, “The veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom, (And there was an earthquake.) the earth shook and the rocks were split. (And) tombs were opened. And after Jesus’ resurrection on Sunday, other saints from those tombs were raised and walked around the city.” (Summary paraphrase.) God the Father said, “This is My Son, listen to Him!”

Real saving faith has this as its object, Jesus of Nazareth, from His conception, through His earthly life, from His baptism to His death and His resurrection until today and forever is the divine Messiah, the Son of the living God, that is the heart of true saving faith! A real Christian believes God's testimony about His Son. John Stott writes:

All who deny the Incarnation, deny that He came by water and blood. This is no trivial error. It undermines the foundations of the Christian faith and robs us of the salvation of Christ. If the Son of God did not take to Himself our nature in His birth and our sins in His death, He cannot reconcile us to God.

Let me ask you a question, and I want you to answer this question between your ears right now, “Who is the object of your faith? Who is your confidence in?” If it is anything other than the biblical Jesus that we've seen in this text this morning, that Jesus is not the real Jesus, he cannot save you. You will die in your sins, and you will go to hell where you'll be punished for those sins forever. My call to you today is to repent and believe in the real Jesus, not one of your own making, but the One that's presented to us, that's testified to by the Spirit and by the Father. It's in Him that there’s salvation.

But if you're here this morning, and you say, “Yes, Tom, as I study that passage, my own heart resonates with that. I'm filled with joy and gratitude, because my faith is in that Jesus, the Jesus that John has explained to us in our text this morning;” if that's true of you, then you can have the very assurance that's coming in verse 13, because you have trusted in the real Jesus. Look at verse 13, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” Be encouraged, be comforted. Let your heart be filled with joy and thanksgiving; you know the Jesus who saves. That's “The Object of Our Faith,” He is the object of our faith.

Next time, we'll discover a second crucial object. It's this, God's testimony, that eternal life is a gift of His grace, received by faith in His Son's person and work.

Let's pray together. Father, thank You for the truth of Your Word. Thank You for how clearly it states the reality. Thank You for Your own testimony. Lord, how else could You have proven to us who Jesus is? Lord, I pray that if we receive the testimony of men, that we’ll receive Your testimony which is much greater, more trustworthy.

Father, I pray for all of us here this morning who have already believed in the biblical Jesus, who have repented and believed in Him as Savior and Lord. Lord, encourage our hearts this morning, give us the assurance You intend us to have, that we've trusted in the One who can and will save us from our sins, the One who will come again for us, the One who will establish His Kingdom, the One who will make us His forever. Father, thank You that we can have that assurance, and that it matters to You that we have that assurance.

Father, I also pray for those here this morning who don't know You, who've never trusted in You through the real Jesus. Lord, maybe they have historical faith, that is they believe the facts; but they've never humbled themselves, repented and believed in Jesus in order to follow Him as Savior and Lord. Lord, may this be the day? Maybe they've believed in a pretend Jesus, a cultural Jesus, a Jesus that doesn't save. Lord, help them today to put their faith and confidence in the only One who can, Jesus Christ our Lord? We pray it for His glory. Amen.


The Nature of Saving Faith - Part 3

Tom Pennington 1 John 5:1-13

The Nature of Saving Faith - Part 4

Tom Pennington 1 John 5:1-13

The Nature of Saving Faith - Part 5

Tom Pennington 1 John 5:1-13

More from this Series

1 John


An Introduction to 1 John

Tom Pennington 1 John

The Apostles' Proclamation - Part 1

Tom Pennington 1 John 1:1-4

The Apostles' Proclamation - Part 2

Tom Pennington 1 John 1:1-4

The Apostles' Proclamation - Part 3

Tom Pennington 1 John 1:1-4

The Believer's New Relationship to Sin - Part 1

Tom Pennington 1 John 1:5-2:6

The Believer's New Relationship to Sin - Part 2

Tom Pennington 1 John 1:5-2:6

The Believer's New Relationship to Sin - Part 3

Tom Pennington 1 John 1:5-2:6

The Believer's New Relationship to Sin - Part 4

Tom Pennington 1 John 1:5-2:6

The Believer's New Relationship to Sin - Part 5

Tom Pennington 1 John 1:5-2:6

The Believer's New Relationship to Sin - Part 6

Tom Pennington 1 John 1:5-2:6

The Priority of Love

Tom Pennington 1 John 2:7-8

Loving One Another - Part 1

Tom Pennington 1 John 2:9-11

Loving One Another - Part 2

Tom Pennington 1 John 2:9-11

A Child of the Father

Tom Pennington 1 John 2:12-14

Do Not Love the World

Tom Pennington 1 John 2:15-17

It Matters What You Believe - Part 1

Tom Pennington 1 John 2:18-27

It Matters What You Believe - Part 2

Tom Pennington 1 John 2:18-27

It Matters What You Believe - Part 3

Tom Pennington 1 John 2:18-27

It Matters What You Believe - Part 4

Tom Pennington 1 John 2:18-27

It Matters What You Believe - Part 5

Tom Pennington 1 John 2:18-27

It Matters What You Believe - Part 6

Tom Pennington 1 John 2:18-27

The Christian's DNA - Part 1

Tom Pennington 1 John 2:28-3:3

The Christian's DNA - Part 2

Tom Pennington 1 John 2:28-3:3

The Christian's DNA - Part 3

Tom Pennington 1 John 2:28-3:3

The Christian's DNA - Part 4

Tom Pennington 1 John 2:28-3:3

The Christian's DNA - Part 5

Tom Pennington 1 John 2:28-3:3

Oil & Water

Tom Pennington 1 John 3:4-6

Researching Your Spiritual Ancestry - Part 1

Tom Pennington 1 John 3:7-10

Researching Your Spiritual Ancestry - Part 2

Tom Pennington 1 John 3:7-10

Love as a Sign of Life - Part 1

Tom Pennington 1 John 3:11-24

Love as a Sign of Life - Part 2

Tom Pennington 1 John 3:11-24

Love as a Sign of Life - Part 3

Tom Pennington 1 John 3:11-24

Love as a Sign of Life - Part 4

Tom Pennington 1 John 3:11-24

Love as a Sign of Life - Part 5

Tom Pennington 1 John 3:11-24

Love as a Sign of Life - Part 6

Tom Pennington 1 John 3:11-24

Love As a Sign of Life - Part 7

Tom Pennington 1 John 3:11-24

Recognizing False Teachers - Part 1

Tom Pennington 1 John 4:1-6

Recognizing False Teachers - Part 2

Tom Pennington 1 John 4:1-6

Recognizing False Teachers - Part 3

Tom Pennington 1 John 4:1-6

Recognizing False Teachers - Part 4

Tom Pennington 1 John 4:1-6

Recognizing False Teachers - Part 5

Tom Pennington 1 John 4:1-6

Recognizing False Teachers - Part 6

Tom Pennington 1 John 4:1-6

This Is Love - Part 1

Tom Pennington 1 John 4:7-21

This Is Love - Part 2

Tom Pennington 1 John 4:7-21

This Is Love - Part 3

Tom Pennington 1 John 4:7-21

This Is Love - Part 4

Tom Pennington 1 John 4:7-21

This Is Love - Part 5

Tom Pennington 1 John 4:7-21

The Nature of Saving Faith

Tom Pennington 1 John 5:1-13

The Nature of Saving Faith - Part 2

Tom Pennington 1 John 5:1-13

The Nature of Saving Faith - Part 3

Tom Pennington 1 John 5:1-13

The Nature of Saving Faith - Part 4

Tom Pennington 1 John 5:1-13

The Nature of Saving Faith - Part 5

Tom Pennington 1 John 5:1-13

The Nature of Saving Faith - Part 6

Tom Pennington 1 John 5:1-13

The Nature of Saving Faith - Part 7

Tom Pennington 1 John 5:1-15

Real Christians & Deep Fakes - Part 1

Tom Pennington 1 John 5:16-21

Real Christians & Deep Fakes - Part 2

Tom Pennington 1 John 5:16-21

Real Christians & Deep Fakes - Part 3

Tom Pennington 1 John 5:16-21