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The Testimony of God

In our reading from 1 John 5 the apostle writes, “If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son.” (v9). What is John talking about here? When did God give a testimony about His Son?
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In our reading from 1 John 5 the apostle writes, “If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son.” (v9). What is John talking about here? When did God give a testimony about His Son?

The context is about the importance of believing that “Jesus is the Christ” (v1) and how they have “been born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well.” John keeps talking about Jesus being God’s son and we are children of God also. Verse 4 talks again about us being “born of God” and verse 5 the importance again that we believe “that Jesus is the Son of God.”

It’s this emphasis on Jesus and us as children of God which helps us understand when God’s testimony happened. There’s a further clue in verses 7-8, which leads into the verse about God’s testimony – “For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.” Why the Spirit, water and blood? How do these testify about Christ being the Son of God?

Let’s take the water and blood first. These describe the terminal points of Christ’s ministry – his baptism in water and the shedding of his blood on the cross. John is countering the antichrist idea that Jesus didn’t come in the flesh, so this fits in with that theme – Jesus was a real man with real flesh and blood, who was baptized and died a real death. So, where does God’s testimony about His Son fit in with his baptism and crucifixion?

One thing that connects both times together is the voice of God coming from heaven, and that’s where we hear God’s testimony about His Son. At his baptism “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Here is God doing exactly what John refers to – testifying that Jesus is His Son. Then, on the eve of His Son’s death, God’s voice was heard again when Jesus prayed to his Father – “’Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven: ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’ (John 12:27-28). Jesus told those listening “This voice has come for your sake, not mine.” (v28) because once again it was God’s testimony to those who listened.

Baptism is a new birth and the time when the seed of the Word of God is planted in us.So, what about the third element in 1 John 5:8 – the Spirit? For that we can look at the third time the voice came from heaven, at the Transfiguration. Echoing the voice at his baptism this time God said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” Those words contain testimony from the three divisions of the Old Testament – the Law, Psalms and Prophets. “This is my beloved Son” from Psalm 2, “with whom I am well pleased” from Isaiah 42 and “listen to him” from Deuteronomy 18. God using the testimony of Scripture to testify about His Son.

When we look at these three occasions of God’s testimony, they help us to understand what it means to be born of God – His children. Baptism is a new birth and the time when the seed of the Word of God is planted in us. The time of the Transfiguration was when Jesus felt the extreme pressure of what was happening in his ministry, so God renewed His testimony to strengthen him. That’s like the seed growing inside us and bearing the fruit of being taught (by the Law, Psalms and Prophets) and disciplined as God’s children. Finally, we come to the Cross when the seed was planted again and bore fruit in the resurrection. We are children of God now, but only in a spiritual sense. The time is coming, as John said earlier in the epistle, when we shall experience the fullness of what it means to be a child of God – “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2).

Richard Morgan,
Simi Hills, CA

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