Great question, one that may seem confusing at first. However, following the text and allowing it to help us solves the problem.
The term “witness” is the theme of I John starting in Chapter one, verses 1- 3 and continues to our current text, I John 5:6-12. This passage deals with the witness or testimony of God Himself and the Spirit [the Holy Spirit, who is God] to the world concerning the wonderful truth of the deity of Jesus Christ, God’s Son.
Let’s build on the context. In the previous passage, I John 5:1-5, we find the overcomers described as those who have believed in Jesus as Lord and Savior. In the gospel of John he gives us God’s own personal testimony to confirm that Jesus is the Christ (John 5:31-37; 8:13-18). Now, in our text of I John 5:6, 8, John gives two kinds of testimony; external (vv. 6-9) and internal (vv. 10-12).
KEY QUESTION: Is Jesus Christ, the true Messiah, the one promised in the Old Testament?
Follow the logic of Scripture:
*Is Jesus Christ really the Savior of men?
*Is Jesus Christ the one sent by God to earth to save men and give them eternal life?
*Is Jesus Christ really, beyond any question the Son of God?
*There are strong witnesses that emphatically declare, “YES!”
*If a person believes these witnesses, then he believes in God.
*If he does not accept the witnesses to Jesus Christ, then he does not believe in God, not in the true and living God.
*If he does not believe in the God of the Bible then he will fill the void with a god he creates which is not the God of the Bible. It is a god that allows him to live freely in his sin.
*Whatever god the person believes in, that god is a god of his own imagination, if he has not believed the Bible’s testimony. The Bible testifies that the Lord Jesus Christ is God who came and delivered the possibility of God’s free gift of eternal life.
*Why do Christians believe that Jesus is the Savior? Because God, the true and living God, loves man so much that He sent His Son into the world to save man.
*God has provided wonderful demonstrations of His love and many witnesses that His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, did come into the world to save man. All men are, therefore, without excuse if they reject the witnesses to Jesus Christ.
*The responsibility of man therefore is to believe the testimony about God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
- the mission of Jesus Christ (v.6),
- the witness of the Holy Spirit (v. 6),
- the witnesses of heaven (v. 7), and
- the witnesses of earth (v.8).
(I John 5:6) The mission of Jesus Christ. John clearly declares that the mission of Christ is real:
“This is He that came by water and blood– Jesus Christ; not only by water, but by water and blood.”
At first glance this may seem like a strange way to state the mission of Christ, to say that Jesus came by “water [His baptism] and blood [His death].” But remember what has just been said in verse 5: 1-5– a person must “believe that Jesus is the Son of God.”
Here in verse 6 John is declaring that beyond any question Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He was declared to be the Son of God:
*by His baptism, by water and
*by His death, by the blood.
Both the water (His baptism) and the blood (His death) declare Him to be the Son of God [provide witnesses]. Both are extremely important witnesses.
The baptism of Jesus Christ is an important witness as to who He is.
Why? It launched His mission upon earth. Two extremely unusual things happened at his baptism:
1. The Spirit of God came upon Christ in the form of a dove.
John the Baptist was to be the forerunner of the Messiah. Remember, in order to point to the Messiah, John had to know who the Messiah was and to know beyond any question. Therefore, God told John that He would give him a sign, the sign of a dove. God would cause the Spirit of God to come down upon His Son in the form of a dove.
By this sign John would know the Messiah.
“And John bore witness, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:32-34, NKJV)
Notice how emphatic that is. He states forcefully “I saw, and bare for the record that this IS the Son of God.” The water, the baptism of Jesus Christ, declares emphatically that Jesus is the Son of God.
2. The voice of God proclaimed Jesus Christ to be the Son of God.
+Matthew testifies that God’s voice called Jesus Christ His Son.
“And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17, KJV)
+Mark testifies that God’s voice called Jesus Christ His Son.
“And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:11, KJV)
“And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:22, KJV)
2a. The blood of Jesus Christ, His death and cross, declares Him to be the Son of God.
*It is by His death and the cross that our sins are forgiven.
*He bore our sins upon the cross, took our judgment and suffered the punishment for us.
*This is what He was doing upon the cross. And this is the glorious gospel.
*Since Jesus Christ took our sins and died for them, sin is removed from us. Christ has taken them off of us.
*We are free of sin; therefore, we become acceptable to God.
*Through the death of Jesus Christ, we are able to stand righteous and perfect before God.
*We are able to stand before God being free of sin, free because Jesus Christ took our sins and bore the judgment for them.
2b. Only the Son of God could do this; only the Son of God could die for man’s sins. Why?
*Because God is perfect; He can accept only perfection.
*He can accept only the Ideal and Perfect Man.
*This is the reason God’s Son had to come to earth and live as a Man.
*He had to come and live a sinless life; He had to secure the perfect and ideal righteousness; He had to become the
Ideal and Perfect man.
*By becoming such, He could then offer Himself as the perfect sacrifice for man’s sins.
*God would accept His sacrifice because it was the sacrifice of the Perfect and Ideal Man.
*It was the ideal that could cover and stand for every man.
KEY: This is the point: the blood of Jesus Christ, His cross and death, declare Him to be the Son of God who takes away the sins of the world. This is exactly what witness after witness in the Bible declares. “For this is MY BLOOD of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” (Matthew 26:28, emphasis added, NKJV)
Speaking to the overseers, the pastors, the under shepherds of God’s flock he said:
“Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with HIS OWN BLOOD.” (Acts 20:28, emphasis added, NKJV)
“Much more then, having now been JUSTIFIED BY HIS BLOOD, we shall be saved from WRATH THROUGH HIM.” (Romans 5:9, emphasis added, NKJV)
Saved, you will never experience God’s wrath that will be poured out on mankind during the tribulation period. Why? Because you will not be there. You, as a saved person, will have been raptured and will be safely abiding in God’s glorious presence (see I Thessalonians 4:13-18).
“how much more shall the BLOOD OF CHRIST, who through the ETERNAL SPIRIT offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience FROM DEAD WORKS TO SERVE the living God?” (Hebrews 9:14, emphasis added, NKJV)
“Knowing that you WERE NOT redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from our fathers, but with the PRECIOUS BLOOD OF CHRIST, as of a lamb without BLEMISH and without SPOT.” (I Peter 1:18-19, emphasis added, NKJV)
The ransom price for the believer, the ones who accept Christ as personal Savior, has been paid. By Jesus’ resurrection, God the Father showed His satisfaction with Jesus’ work for our salvation.
Note: The following three verses show clearly that it is “only” the blood of Christ that cleanses us from all sin….not the waters of baptism that so many teach today. Water baptism is a first step for the new disciple who has been saved by God’s wonderful Grace (see Ephesians 2:8-9).
“But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the BLOOD OF JESUS CHRIST His Son cleanses us from ALL sin.” (I John 1:7; emphasis added, NKJV)
“and from JESUS CHRIST, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who LOVED us and WASHED us from our sins in HIS OWN BLOOD,” (Revelation 1:5, emphasis added, NKJV)
“…These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and WASHED their robes and made them white IN THE BLOOD OF THE LAMB.” (Revelation 7:14, emphasis added, NKJV).
“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God [condition of each person born since Adam’s sin], being justified [declared righteous by God] freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, [condition of every person who accepts Jesus as Savior]. Whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood [God is satisfied with Jesus’ sacrifice for us], through FAITH, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed,” (Romans 3:23-25, emphasis added, NKJV)
Fact: Righteousness is needed by everyone. There is no difference and no distinction between men. There are two reasons:
1. All [every person born] are sinners. What does this mean?
*all men inherited the nature of their sinful fathers and mothers,
*all men have sinned and are sinners, and
*all who are born into this life cannot keep from sinning and will sin.
“But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.” (Galatians 3:22, NKJV)
2. All men “come short of God’s Glory.” The tense is present: it means that all men are coming short, that is, continually coming short of God’s Glory. Men are in a state or condition of being short of God’s glory. Because of this God offers salvation as a free gift through faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. No man other than God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, could give the Father a perfect sacrifice. That is the reason that Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6, NKJV) There are not many ways to heaven, only One, that is through the Lord Jesus Christ and it only comes to the one who wants it. Salvation is only through FAITH in Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. He is “living,” loving, gracious, and a merciful Savior to those who exercise saving “faith.”
“For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:6) Note: no man in his own sinful condition has the strength to save himself.
“For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,” (I Corinthians 15:3-4, NKJV) Paul defined the Gospel, the good news of salvation, by his statement in these verses. (see also 2 Corinthians 5:15; Galatians 3:13; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14; Titus 2:14; Hebrews 9:12-14; Revelation 5:9).
– The witness of the Holy Spirit: “…It is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth.” (I John 5:6, KJV)
The Holy Spirit witnesses that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. That defines the gospel. God had to get men to listen to the Good News, His free gift of salvation. Somehow He must get men to accept that He had sent His Son the Lord Jesus Christ into the world from heaven and that salvation would only come through Him. But the question was how to do that? God solved it by sending the Holy Spirit to declare the truth about His Son and the free gift of salvation that He had purchased in His death, burial and resurrection.
“Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” (John 14:17, KJV)
“But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:” (John 15:26, KJV)
There are numerous ways the Holy Spirit witnesses to the world.
1. The Holy Spirit bears witness by convicting the world of sin, of righteousness and of judgment.
“Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see me no more ; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” (John 16:7-11, NKJV)
2. The Holy Spirit testifies by quickening — giving life to men when they are willing to believe in Christ.
“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.” (John 6:63, NKJV)
“Who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (2 Corinthians 3:6, NKJV)
3. The Holy Spirit bears witness by giving the believer assurance and guaranteeing his salvation.
“Who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” (2 Corinthians 1:22, NKJV)
“In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.” Ephesians 1:13-14, NKJV)
“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” (Ephesians 4:30, NKJV)
“Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.” (I John 3:24, NKJV)
4. The Holy Spirit testifies by bearing witness with the heart of believers, assuring them that they are a child of God.
“The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,” (Romans 8:16, NKJV)
“And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father! ‘ ” (Galatians 4:6, NKJV)
“By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.” (I John 4:13, NKJV)
“This is He who came by water and blood–Jesus Christ; not only by water, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is truth.” (I John 5:6, NKJV)
5. The Holy Spirit bears witness by teaching the believer about Christ.
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” (John 14:26, NKJV)
“These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.” (I Corinthians 2:13, NKJV)
6. The Holy Spirit bears witness by living within the believer and making his body a holy temple of God.
“Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (I Corinthians 3:16, NKJV)
“Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (I Corinthians 6:19-20, NKJV)
“That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.” (2 Timothy 1:14, NKJV)
7. The Holy Spirit bears witness by showing believers things to come.
“However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.” (John 16:13, NKJV)
8. The Holy Spirit bears witness by giving believers the power to witness.
“Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49, NKJV)
“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8, NKJV)
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, ” (2 Timothy 1:7-8, NKJV)
9. The Holy Spirit testifies by proclaiming the things of God through believers.
“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.” (I Corinthians 2:12-13, NKJV)
“For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” (Luke 12:12, NKJV)
“But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.” (I John 2:27, NKJV)
10. The Holy Spirit bears witness by leading and guiding the believer.
“However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.” (John 16:13, NKJV)
“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” (Romans 8:14, NKJV)
“For this is God, our God forever and ever; He will be our guide even to death.” (Psalm 48:14, NKJV)
“You will guide me with Your counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.” (Psalm 73:24, NKJV)
“Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘this is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left.” (Isaiah 30:21, NKJV)
11. The Holy Spirit bears witness by choosing believers for special ministry and gifting them for that ministry.
“You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.” (John 15:16, NKJV)
“As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’” (Acts 13:2, NKJV)
“There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to the one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.” (I Corinthians 12:4-11, NKJV)
12. The Holy Spirit bears witness by quickening [making alive] the mortal bodies of believers at death.
“But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” (Romans 8:11, NKJV)
I John 5:7 – Witnessing – The Word, God: We see from Scripture that there are the witnesses of heaven. There are three Persons in heaven who bear witness that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
1. There is the Father. How does the Father bear witness that Jesus Christ is the Son of God? There are primarily two ways:
- The Father has planned the ages which includes the whole plan of redemption; it is primarily, His plan and work.
- It is His Son who came to earth to make salvation possible.
- It is His Spirit who is working upon earth convicting and trying to get men to repent and to trust the Son of God for salvation.
The Father is bearing witness to His Son through everything that is happening in the hearts and lives of believers and in the life of the church.
The Father bore dynamic witness to Christ when Christ was upon the earth.
*He proclaimed Christ to be His Son at the baptism of Christ.
“And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17, KJV)
*He proclaimed Christ to be His Son by giving Him the Holy Spirit without measure so that Christ could speak the Word of God.
“For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him.” (John 3:34, KJV)
*He proclaimed Christ to be His Son by enabling Him to do the very works of God.
“If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him,” (John 10:37-38, KJV)
*He proclaimed Christ to be His Son by causing the very glory of God to shine through His person at the transfiguration.
“While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud over-shadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.” (Matthew 17:15, KJV)
*He proclaimed Christ to be His Son by raising Him from the dead.
“…I go to my Father, and ye see me no more [being raised from the dead];” (John 16:10, emphasis added, KJV)
“And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” (Romans 1:4, KJV)
2. There is the witness of the Word, the Lord Jesus Himself.
The Word, of course, refers to Jesus Christ. John declares this in both his Gospel and Epistle.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1, KJV)
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;” (I John 1:1, KJV)
GOOD QUESTION: How does Christ as the Word bear witness?
What does it mean to say that the Word bears witness in heaven? Remember what a word is: the expression of an idea, a thought, an image in the mind of a person. God had an idea, a thought, an image; that is, He had a message, a word that He wanted to say to the world. But He wanted to say it in person. Therefore, He sent His Son into the world to speak the Word of God. As the Son of God, Jesus Christ had the very nature of God. By nature He was perfect even as God the Father is perfect. He was God the Son sent to earth by God the Father. This means that everything Jesus Christ did was perfect. He was the very embodiment of God Himself. He was the very revelation of God. Jesus Christ was everything that God wanted to say to man; He was the very Word of God. This glorious fact means the most wonderful thing: It means that the Word of God has come to earth in the person of Jesus Christ. Everything that Jesus Christ said and did is the very thought and idea of God. Jesus Christ is the very Word that God wanted to say to man. Jesus Christ, the Word of God, bears witness to Himself. We can look at His words and deed and see that He is the Son of God. We can look at the picture of God –the image, the idea, the expression of God— that Jesus painted, and we can tell that He is the Son of God. All that He said, and did was the perfect picture of God. It is the perfect description, the perfect Word of God. The Word, Jesus Christ Himself, bears witness that He is the Son of God.
3. There is the Holy Spirit which we have already examined previously through Scripture.
I John 5:8 – WITNESSING: There are the witnesses upon earth that declare Jesus Christ to be the Son of God. Note that all three of these witnesses agree; they have only one message that they declare — Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Therefore, man must believe that “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (I John 5:5). This is the only way that we can overcome and conquer the sin and death and condemnation of this world. Believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God is the only way that man can ever dwell forever with God.
So we have three witnesses in heaven [see previous discussion pertaining to all three].
- There is the witness of the Spirit.
- There is the witness of the water or baptism of Jesus Christ.
- There is the witness of the blood or cross and death of Jesus Christ.
Adapted from the Preacher’s Outline & Sermon Bible.
“For God so loved the world [you] that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever [you] believes in Him should not perish [you if you trust Christ for salvation] but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16, emphasis added, NKJV)