I John 5:1–12. Three Small Puzzles. Five Witnesses.

Key Notes: Loving God is loving His children. External victories first? By water and blood. Someone is lying. When does eternal life begin?

As John brings his book to a conclusion, the information becomes richer, and more difficult. We come upon three puzzles.

5:1–2 Believers are children of God and love other children as they love the Father. In the next sentence, we expect him to say "By this we know that we love God, when we love His children."

The normal process is to test the more difficult and invisible (loving God) by the simpler and visible (loving His children). John flips the test: "We know that we love the children of God when we love God and keep His commandments." Now the simple is tested by the complex. That is a puzzle, our first puzzle.

The history of the Church has been repeatedly marred by church leaders {loving God}who were hostile, even violent, toward God's children, believers with whom they disagreed: Russian Orthodox with Evangelicals, white Evangelicals against blacks, Irish Protestants against Catholics. Persecutions, inquisitions and wars have plagued Christianity long before the Reformation. Can that be loving His children?

The Church should not have split over a diphthong--as the Church divided east and west in the 11th century. [Is The Holy Spirit sent by the Father and the Son (filioque)?] During the Reformation we should not have slaughtered Christians who wanted to be rebaptized as adults. People who have not share our spiritual experiences are not "chaff". We should not exclude Christians from other cultures. The unfortunate truth is that social factors usually over-ride spiritual doctrines.

The culture of authoritarian regimes demanded that everyone should agree with the king or ruler on important matters. Loyalty meant mind-control. If the king was Catholic, everyone must be Catholic. If the next monarch was Protestant, everyone's convictions had to change too. Freedom of conscience was not acceptable. Everyone should follow the leader's traditions and any deviation invited destruction.

We have learned to limit the test of fellowship to critical doctrines. Saving faith depends on correct belief on a few critical truths such as:
     •the authority of Scripture,
     •the Trinity,
     •Christ's incarnation by the Virgin Mary and His sinless life,
     •the substitutionary atonement,
     •and the Resurrection.
Issues like the mode of baptism, or the meaning of the Lord's Supper, different forms of church government, or the different expressions of the Holy Spirit's work are secondary to the core of truth. That does not deny their importance. They may be tests of fellowship in a church, but they should not divide believers as they face the World.

5:3–5 [{Loving God<->keeping the commandments}->victory over the world] = our faith. This set of concepts involves three internal transactions (love, obedience, belief) and one external (victory over the world).

Our second puzzle: in our victory over the world, do our internal transactions of love, obedience and faith, precede our external victories over the World? Some in the class said our external victories come first. That does not make sense.
Can we have victory over the World before we have victory over ourselves?
Does not the root come before the fruit? Jesus said "Make the tree good and the fruit good." (Matt.12:33)
Will the dog come to heel before the boy masters the signals?
Do not the parents become disciplined before the child can learn discipline?

Note the linkage once again between faith, love and obedience, coupled with abiding (3:24). If we think of this as a 3-legged stool with abiding as the unifying seat, which leg is likely to be short? A group like ours is likely to be strong in faith, short on love, weakest in obedience. In part that is because we live in a rebellious, disobedient society.

Bumper sticker: "Question authority."
I am irritated that the street marker for the stop-light is called 'the obedience line.'
The Germans made the mistake of obeying Hitler. We do not obey anyone.
"Nobody tells me what to do."
Church discipline is a practically worthless exercise.

Obeying God requires giving up our wills.
Our internal transactions must precede our external victories.

5;6–8 The third puzzle is "This is He who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood."
The mind goes at once to the water and blood that flowed from Jesus' side. (Jn.19:34). Augustine thought so. But the water and blood came from Him; He did not come by it.
Calvin and Luther interpreted the verse to be the two ordinances or sacraments: our baptism and the Lord's Supper. But then the passage should say "This is He who comes by water and blood"--to us present--in these two rites of passage.
And why would John not mention the bread, so vital a concept in Jesus' teaching? (Jn.6)

The fact that the blood is emphasized ("not the water only but the water and the blood") indicates that it was important to John's message. Stott and others believe that the water and the blood refer to Jesus' baptism  and death. We recall that Cerinthus, a heretical teacher contemporary with John, taught that the divine Christ came upon the human Jesus at His baptism, but left before His death. John may be refuting Cerinthus, who could accept that Jesus Christ came by the water, His baptism, but could not accept that He came by the blood, His death and resurrection.

5:8 There are three that testify, the Spirit, the water and the blood--and two others:
5:9" ...this is the testimony of God...."
5:10 "He who believes... has the testimony in himself."
So there in fact five that testify: the Spirit, the water, the blood, God Himself and the believer.

The Water: How did Jesus' baptism witness to Him? John the Baptist said that Jesus’ baptism identified Jesus to him as the One far above him, "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world". He is "The Son of God" (Jn.1:29–34).

The Blood. How did Jesus' death witness to Him?
Jesus gave his people only one sign --His death and resurrection. He prophesied it to them in the metaphor of the prophet Jonah (Matt.12:39), repeating it (16:4) with a sigh. He gave the sign of the resurrection also in the metaphor of the destroyed temple. Jn.2:19
The Resurrection is also a sign to believers: "Designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of Holiness by His resurrection from the dead" (Rom.1:3–4). The resurrection of Jesus is the sign to us of His unique Deity.

The Spirit. The Holy Spirit witnessed to Christ at His baptism (Matt.3:16), descending upon Him like a dove.
The Spirit witnessed to the Apostles at Pentecost (Acts2:2), empowering them for ministry.
The Holy Spirit witnesses to each of us in turn that we are Children of God. Rom.8:16

The Father (5:9). God the Father witnessed to Christ. Three times the voice of God is heard from Heaven in the ears of the disciples.
*The first was at Jesus' baptism, heard by John the Baptist. Matt.3:17
*The second was at the Transfiguration, heard by Peter, James and John. Matt.17:5
*The third time a delegation of Greeks came seeking Jesus. In response to Jesus' audible prayer,  "Father, glorify Thy Name.", Philip and Andrew and the crowd standing by heard the voice from Heaven "I have glorified it and I will glorify it again." (Jn.12:28)

Self-witness . We have the witness in ourselves. 5:10
In short, as the members of the Trinity witness to Jesus, so do we who believe in Him.

Hindus, Buddhists, and Mormons shrug off Jesus' unique Sonship, marked by the Water (His baptism).
Moslems, and Christian Science practitioners discount Jesus' death, witnessed by the Blood.

5:10 Those who disbelieve John are in effect calling God "Liar". They say God did not say what the Bible says. They say the Bible is full of mistakes. People say we do not have the truth, if there is any such thing.
"Unbelief is not misfortune to be pitied but sin to be deplored".
John says "Whoever knows God listen to us." (IJn.4:6)

"Don't tell me that what I have been believed all my life is wrong."--R.V, a Hindu colleague of mine.

The idea of having eternal life now is said at least five times in John’s writings.

"...that you may know that you have eternal life." (I Jn.5:13)
"He who believes in the Son has eternal life. He who does not obey the Son shall not see life but the wrath of God rests on him." (Jn.3:36)
"He who hears my word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment but has passed from death to life." (Jn.5:24)
"He who believes has eternal life." (Jn.6:47)
"He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him up at the last day." (Jn.6:54)

God gave us eternal life through Christ, our gift. He indwells us now and therefore we have eternal life now. That is why Jesus could say to Martha,
     "...Whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die." (Jn.11:26)

We will never be separated from Christ once our bonding with Him is established, not even by death, or life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers....(Rom.8:38)