The preacher has very interesting content with which to work this week and the contents pivot on divine self-testimony, a self-testimony manifest in the life of the baptized.
Bruce G. Schuchard sees today’s pericope in terms of three consecutive references to testimonies, beginning in 1 Jn. 5:9, to emphasize, “...both the foundational significance and the necessity of the faithful to abide by ‘the testimony of God that he has testified concerning his Son.’”
First, John says, “If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater” (9). Human testimony has a general, generic nature, but the succeeding clause establishes the juxtaposition: The former is lesser, the latter is greater. Why? Because God cannot lie. Because the Word is the Truth. So, if we humans willingly operate by the testimony of men in all sorts of matters, then how much more should we readily embrace the testimony of God concerning the death, resurrection, ascension, and rule of His Son? The witness of the “Spirit and the water and the blood” (8) truly is the most credible witness imaginable. For it is God witnessing to Himself.
The witness of the “Spirit and the water and the blood” truly is the most credible witness imaginable. For it is God witnessing to Himself.
It is a clever argument, be it never so obvious. We operate, even to this day in the court of law, by the principles of witness and testimony in matters of jurisprudence. Indeed, we allow life and death decisions to be made upon the witness of human beings. Now, take the strength of that system built upon frail, impressionable, and limited people and intensify it to the perfections of God. Surely His witness is rock solid. It is the kind of basis which alters life and sets the trajectory of one’s life.
Again, the content of divine self-attestation is certain: “This is the testimony of God that He has testified concerning His Son.” When God the Spirit speaks, He speaks all things in relation to the Son. When the waters of Holy Baptism “speak,” they testify to the death and resurrection of Christ and, by extension, those united to Christ. When the blood of God “speaks” it testifies to Christ’s self-giving which is in and through the Cross and now manifest in Holy Communion. Thus, 1 John 5:10 naturally follows: “The one who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself.” The one who believes has the Spirit and the water and the blood literally within himself to bearing witness to the individual that Jesus is the risen and ruling savior of the world.
It is important to note how the self-attestation of God is not subjective but objective. This is to say that the believer does not look within himself to discern the divine witness, but externally to the monuments of God—Baptism and Communion—but especially it is the Spirit who illumines the truth about Christ, the truth who is Christ, through the Scriptures which themselves are the divine self-attestation of the great work of redemption accomplished by the blessed Trinity in real human history.
What follows is another of John’s famous contrasts. This time it is between loves to testify to the truth about the Son of God and liars who make God out to be a liar, even if it is done unintentionally or only by way of implication.
What, then, is the testimony about which believers, truth-tellers, witness? John says in verse 11, it is the fact that we now participate in the resurrection Jesus effected by participating in His resurrection life (12). To be sure, Jesus is the Resurrection and the eternal life (i.e., “the life to come”).
The results of such objective divine self-attestation are entirely assuring for the believer, that is, for the baptized:
“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. And this is the confidence that we have toward Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of Him” (13-15).
Such assurance impacts the way we ought to think about prayer, about living before the face of God, and particularly how we interact with others, especially the brethren. The preacher, then, would do well to home in on the words “that you may know” and “confidence that we have” and “He hears us.” All these things are the results of the facticity of the Gospel.
Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in 1 John 5:9-15.
Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach 1 John 5:19-15.