1 John 5:5-12
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen. In the name of our Triune God- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, dear friends in Christ, Parents are very familiar with how this goes. It’s a regular occurrence in my house. Something will happen, something will break and the parent has to exercise some fact finding. “Which of you children broke this?” Now, the child really has 3 options: a. tell the truth and face the consequences, b. plead ignorance or lie, or c. blame it on your 2 year old brother who can’t defend himself. Humans are good at lying, we learned how to do it when we were very young. Our world understands this. You walk into a courtroom and what do you hear? “Do you solemnly swear that you will tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?” People who are called to testify in court are typically required to take some sort of oath in order to validate their testimony. Why? Because our world understands that people don’t always tell the truth, people lie.
But why is this so important? Because it’s often the court’s job to establish what is true and factual and what is not. Normally, in court you have two parties both claiming opposing things and yet both claiming to be telling the truth. So judges and juries are often called upon to examine the testimony of evidence and witnesses in order to determine what true and what is not.
Well there’s something in life that is absolutely vital for us to know is true and real and that’s God. We need to know who our God is and what our God has done for us. But what God tells us isn’t easy for us to believe- it’s actually impossible for us to believe on our own. Every Sunday it comes up in some way, our God is a Triune God. That means He is three but one. There is only one God. Yet, this one God has revealed Himself to us in 3 distinct persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. How can God be 3 in 1? It goes far beyond our minds and is something that we can’t fully comprehend or understand. So God has provided us with testimony not that we might fully understand Him, but that we might fully understand the truth of where we stand with Him and be confident knowing it.
We live in a world full of lies and deceptions, don’t we? And the last thing any of us wants is to be wrong. Where did all these lies come from? From the very beginning. God the Father created a beautiful, wonderful and perfect world out of His goodness and power. He spoke and it came to be. Then in amazing love He fashioned and He formed specially and uniquely the prize of His creation: humans, Adam and Eve. He gave them the whole creation to use and rule and He gave them one command by which they could show their love to Him: “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” (Genesis2:16-17). Then came the first liar and father of lies. He told them, “You will not surely die! God knows that when you eat it you will be like him. He’s holding something from you, you’re missing out, he really doesn’t love you.” And so now you have a question: Who are you going to believe? God who created you or this serpent? One is telling the truth, one is lying. Unfortunately, they believed the lie and became ashamed and afraid of God.
That’s where it all started. Those are our first parents. Ever since then our world has been both full of lies and full of shame and fear of God. And you’ve felt it. Your conscience has felt it. We’re faced with lies all the time, aren’t we? “You’ll feel better if you just get angry, get even, talk about him behind his back.” “It’s about time you served yourself, do what you want for a change” “It’s your body, do with it whatever you want.” “Just try this drink or take this illegal drug that will help you.” Our world is full of lies to get us to turn from God and disobey Him. And at times we’ve listened to those lies and have felt the shame, the fear, and the guilt.
But the biggest lie and the goal of all lies that the father of lies, the devil, will try to get you and me to believe is this: that God is not true, that God doesn’t love you, and that God hasn’t saved you. How will he do this? He’ll try to get you to think that God doesn’t exist or that the Bible isn’t true or the Bible is just a nice collection of stories that aren’t necessarily factual or that Jesus really isn’t God, that He was just a nice guy or a great prophet or whatever. Well this is the lie that the devil was using at the Apostle John’s time.
A false teacher by the name of Cerinthus was teaching that Jesus was actually not fully God. Rather, he claimed that Jesus was born of earthly parents and then at his baptism he became the Messiah, but then just before he suffered and died he stopped being the Messiah. So, the believers that John wrote his letter to were faced with a tough question: is Jesus God or was Jesus just a man who took on God qualities for a little while? Which is true? Which is a lie?
He begins with the truth: The one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God has overcome the world. If Jesus is the Son of God, the second person of the Triune God, the Savior of the world, the payment for all sins, then they know that no matter what happens, their salvation is accomplished and sure. But if Jesus was not true God, then we are still in our sins and there is no hope we are lost.
Then God calls three witnesses to the stand: “This is the one who came by water and blood- Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.” What is he talking about with this “water” and “blood”? Obviously John is using picture language that was familiar with those who first read his letter, but not so familiar to us. What is most likely is that “water” here refers to Jesus’ baptism. Think about what had happened: Jesus went to John the Baptist to be baptized, John pointed to Jesus and said, “Look the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” Then at his baptism God the Father spoke from heaven saying, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22). Then the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove. Clear testimony that Jesus is God. But unlike what Cerinthus said, Jesus remained God even at His death where He shed His precious blood that purifies us from all sin. And recall the events: the temple curtain torn in two, earthquakes, rocks splitting, darkness, the soldier exclaiming, “Surely he was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:54) Again, clear testimony that Jesus is the Son of God.
The third witness is third person of the Triune God, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the truth. The Holy Spirit doesn’t need any help; He is His own convincer of the truth. God’s Word is the Spirit’s tool to work on people’s hearts. As the Holy Spirit does His work through the Gospel he turns hearts to believe the truth. This last week we had Chris Driesbach here for a concert. Chris also told his story. He spent the first 42 years of his life as an unbeliever, as an atheist. Then he met a Lutheran pastor. He thought, “This is going to be fun, I’ll be able to prove him wrong and argue with him.” Well, every question Chris had, the pastor always directed him back to God’s Word and soon Chris found himself thinking, “You know, this stuff in the Bible and about Jesus is true!” How did he come to know that? The Holy Spirit. How do you know about Jesus? The Holy Spirit. The fact that you believe is personal testimony to the work of the Holy Spirit in your heart! Otherwise you’d never believe this!
Then John goes on, “We accept man’s testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son.”
We receive people’s testimony all the time. This past week, no doubt, you all heard about the tornadoes that devastated parts of Oklahoma and Texas. How did you come to know that information? Well, likely one or more news agencies testified to you that tornadoes really did cause all kinds of devastation and death. Perhaps you saw photos and videos. We also all know that photos and videos can be edited, people can lie, and yet I doubt any of us here would insist that the tornadoes didn’t take place. When there is a testimony of something you either believe it or you don’t believe it there’s no middle ground. The fact that you believe tornadoes caused devastation in Oklahoma is because you believe the testimony of people who were there and who saw it- even though none of us traveled to OK to witness the devastation first hand. Well, if we take people’s testimony of events that take place in this world all the time, how much more so ought we to take God’s testimony of the most important thing in all of life and death, namely, that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God. Add to that, if you don’t believe someone’s testimony regarding something you are calling that person a liar. If someone doesn’t believe God’s testimony that He has provided, that person is calling God a liar.
God has laid out His evidence, provided ample testimony to the truth, it is a fact. God the Father created all things and continues to sustain all things by His infinite power. Then in His extraordinary love He sent God the Son, Jesus, to take on human flesh, to live on this earth perfectly, and to die on the cross to pay for the world’s sins. Then He sent the Holy Spirit to work through the Word and Sacraments to convince you that it’s all true and applies to you and me! And the result? Eternal life. Everyone who believes in Jesus has eternal life, everyone who doesn’t believe, doesn’t have life. It’s that simple.
In a world full of lies and deceptions you can move forward confidently knowing the truth. Why? Because God Himself has testified to you! Your Triune God has done everything to rescue you and make you His through Jesus, and God, who cannot lie, says because of that you have life- eternal life. That’s the truth, believe it!