The apostle John began his first letter by affirming the certainty of what the apostles knew about Jesus Christ: “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” (1 John 1:1). John wasn’t relaying some inner, subjective vision or philosophy. He was telling about his objective experience with Jesus Christ. You can’t get much more objective than seeing, hearing, and touching!
In chapter 5, John shows that God has given a trustworthy witness to His Son through “the Spirit, and the water, and the blood” (1 John 5:8). John’s point here is that God has borne witness to His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. The Spirit of truth bore witness to Jesus at His baptism, when He identified with sinners (although He Himself did not need to be cleansed). He testified of Jesus throughout His earthly ministry, through His miracles, His teaching, and His obedient life. He bore witness to Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, initially through John the Baptist’s witness (John 1:29), but supremely at the cross where He shed His blood.
The Spirit confirmed that witness through the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead (Romans 1:4). He bore further witness when, in fulfillment of Jesus’ promise, He descended on the church at the Day of Pentecost. He further affirmed the witness to Jesus through the miracles that the apostles performed. We have that witness in the New Testament.
God’s witness to His Son is trustworthy. In a court of law, truth is established when numerous witnesses say the same thing and when those witnesses are shown to have credible character. John shows us that the testimony which declares Jesus to be the Son of God is not just the testimony of men, but of God Himself. Thus John argues, “If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater” (1 John 5:9).
You can read God’s testimony in the New Testament. Be careful, though, to read it prayerfully and with a submissive, searching heart, asking God to open your eyes to His truth. If you come at it with preconceived notions of what the Savior should be like, you are likely to miss Him, because He is not a Jesus who fits your every desire and whim. You can’t make up a Jesus of your own liking. You must accept God’s testimony to the Jesus of the Bible.
The Jews of Jesus’ day, including the disciples, couldn’t conceive of a Messiah who would suffer and die, even though Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22, along with the entire Old Testament sacrificial system, clearly predicted such. The risen Lord Jesus pointed out to the men on the Emmaus Road, “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:25–27). The Scriptures give us God’s clear testimony of His Son.
What should we do with this testimony? Clearly, we must receive it personally. If we do not believe it, we make God a liar, as John shows (1 John 5:10). If we do receive it, we have a sure foundation for our faith: “This is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1 John 5:11-12).
Eternal life is God’s gift, not something we gain through our good works or efforts. Because of our sins, we were spiritually dead, alienated from the life of God. Jesus promised that if we believe in Him, we shall live even if we die (John 11:25–26). All that God offers us, He offers in Jesus Christ. He is the only sure, solid foundation for your faith. The most important question in the world is the one Jesus asked His disciples, “Whom say ye that I am?” Peter’s answer, inspired by God, is the only correct one, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:15–16)
Do you believe this testimony that God has given about His Son? If so, you have eternal life. If not, you do not have the life and you will perish if you do not repent and believe! John has written this letter so that his readers may know that they have eternal life. John doesn’t want us to hope so, but to know so. You can know because God’s testimony about His Son is trustworthy. Your faith must rest in Jesus Christ alone, not in anything or anyone else. If your faith is in Christ, then you have the inner witness of His Spirit, that you are a child of God. You have the evidence in your life that He has changed your heart. You now believe the truth about Jesus. You obey God’s commandments. You love God and others.
If you don’t know whether or not you have eternal life, nothing is more important than to make sure. Go back and read again God’s testimony to His Son in the gospels. See the witness of the Spirit throughout the life, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. God’s testimony to Jesus is the foundation of our faith. Accept His testimony to His Son and receive as a gift the eternal life that only the living God can impart.
—Steven J. Cole, condensed