By Dr. Robert R. Seyda


CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson LX) 02/03/23

5:10 All who believe this know in their hearts that it is correct. If anyone doesn’t believe this, they say God is lying because they refuse to believe what He said about His Son.

After skillfully scrutinizing the Apostle John’s theme, John Brown of Haddington (1722-1787) announces with the Apostle John that whoever trusts this divine evidence believes in this incarnate Son of God as their only and all-sufficient Savior. Not only do they receive God’s witness in their heart, but has in their soul an experimental and satisfying testimony of the excellency of the Anointed One; and of His ability, willingness, and authority to deliver them from all sin and misery and bring them all spiritual and eternal happiness. But, whoever rejects the testimony God gave concerning His Son in the Gospel as altogether sufficient for salvation, flatly contradicts and gives the lie to the highest, holiest, and most faithful God. [1]

For example, a man with a heartfelt friendship with hymn writer[2] John Newton (1726-1807), Thomas Scott (1747-1821) makes the point that during the Apostle John’s era, the testimony of two or three credible individuals was, by the law, deemed sufficient to prove any matter of fact. It applied to almost all human affairs, even when people’s lives, or the interests of whole nations, lie at stake, are conducted and determined by “receiving the testimony.” Although it is known that all are liable to be deceived or mistaken and prone to being deceived. Yet, would refuse to act following human testimony, and should require another kind of demonstration, in all the various concerns of life, must soon, not only give up conducting any business by refusing a most needful resource.

If then, “an individual’s testimony” must be received, how absurd is it to reject that of God! It must be “greater,” or more indisputably certain,[3] as He knows all “things,” cannot mistakenly be imposed to deceive His creatures, is essential Truth, and “cannot lie.”[4] Therefore, “God’s testimony” is the highest kind of witness: and we only need to inquire about the evidence that He has spoken.  And as to the meaning of His words, in which the honest, humble, and diligent seeker will not be left mistaken; we obtain the utmost conceivable certainty in things of the highest possible importance.[5] Thus faith appropriates the information in “God’s testimony” in a most compact form, leaving a person “wise to salvation.”

The principal truth, “God has testified” in His holy Word, relates to His Son and the way of salvation through Him. Therefore, those who trust “the witness of God” will believe in His Son and rely on Him for that which He came into the world to procure for sinners by His righteousness and redemption. Consequently, for this faith, the Christian receives another, more satisfactory testimony to the truth of the Gospel, which also seals their interest in the Anointed One’s salvation.

This testimony proves that the scripture is God’s Word. Therefore, it helps to understand its most essential parts and become partakers of the blessing announced by Him.[6] On the other hand, those who do not believe in God or respect His testimony to His Son can never receive “the witness in themselves.” They can only expect God’s heavy displeasure seeing “they make God a liar” by treating His word as a lie, utterly unworthy of credit or confidence. It is the case of everyone who does not believe the testimony “God gave of His Son,” confirmed in all the ways mentioned in earlier verses. As all revelation centers in this fundamental doctrine, it is in vain for any person to claim they believe while they reject God’s testimony.[7]

At age fifteen, a potential young theologian who preached and held cottage and prayer meetings, Joseph Benson (1749-1821), notes that the Apostle John taught that those who believe in God’s Son could use the same faith to receive the Spirit’s testimony in themselves. In other words, they can experience that God’s testimony concerning His Son and salvation is genuine. They know they are saved from the guilt, power, and punishment of sin and transformed into the image of God and a state of communion with Him. They know by experience that Jesus is the Son of God in such a sense as to be an all-sufficient Savior and that He came by cleansing water and atoning blood, receiving justification and sanctification.[8]

Straightforward preacher Charles Simeon (1759-1876) remains convinced that the truth of our holy faith is confirmed by every kind of evidence that the heart can desire. Not only was it established by an appeal to prophecy, but by miracles without number. But there’s more. Moses had different rites appointed to commemorate the main events which marked that dispensation. First, they observed the Passover feast to remember the destruction of the Egyptian firstborn and the preservation of Israel. Then the feast of Pentecost, to celebrate the giving of the law. Also, the feast of Tabernacles memorializes their living in tents in the wilderness. So, likewise, Christianity has been attested by the Holy “Spirit” given to the Apostles, and “the water” of baptism, administered on that day, and “the blood” of the cross commemorated by the cup which is drunk by all in the supper of the Lord. But, convincing as these testimonies are, the true believer has one peculiar thing troubling their heart, arising from their experience. It is the witness of the Anointed One and His salvation, its significance, suitableness, and sufficiency.[9] 

Considering everything the Apostle John has said so far, Adam Clarke (1774-1849) states that God’s truthful witness is the most important and essential to mankind. God testifies that those who believe in his Son will be saved and have everlasting life. Furthermore, they will have the witness in themselves as God’s Spirit bears witness with their spirit that they are a child of God. Therefore, knowing, feeling sins forgiven, and having assurance in the heart from the Holy Spirit is the privilege of every true believer in the Anointed One.[10]

James Harrington Evans (1785-1849) an Anglican priest whose legacy was being a strong nonconformist. He was known for not “conforming” to Church and State governing asks, “witness”of what?” Are we to understand it to be the same as what we read in the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans?[11] I think “the witness” here is to the truth connected with verse nine. The declaration of the text, then, amounts to this: that those that truly believe in God’s Son of God have internal proof that God’s Word is true. They read in the Bible declarations concerning mankind as a guilty, lost, ruined, weak, and helpless creature. Sinners know that they are sinners.[12] But this witness primarily refers to the Lord Jesus as the significant sum and substance of the Gospel. The believer in Him has an internal witness “that Jesus is the Anointed One.”

So, “How is it that a believer has such an internal witness? First, it is a spiritual phenomenon, the work of the Holy Spirit. If you ask by what it is it supplied, the answer is, by faith. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”[13] A person does not know the truth until they believe it; an individual does not really know the Anointed One until they believe in Him. It is faith that gives substance to factual evidence; it is faith that reveals the Anointed One to mankind’s soul. But if you ask, what is it that confirms it? A person sees what effects it produces and observes the consequences. They have been working hard to live right, and they have the Anointed One’s revelation and righteousness to pacify their conscience. And if you ask in what school it is that the Lord the Spirit teaches believers and instructs them, I answer, in the school of experience.

So, “What qualifies this inward witness?” First, it is a Scriptural witness. The Spirit uses God’s Word as the great medium of all reconciliation and sanctification. Not that we limit the Spirit. After all, who knows what direct communication He may have with us? But it must be tested by the Word of God. Bring it to the Word of truth; if it is of God, it will stand the test of truth; for all truth is to be tried, and whatever comes from God must be that which leads to the Anointed One.[14]

In his captivating teaching style, Jewish convert Augustus Neander (1789-1850) observes that the Apostle John shows that it depends on the person themselves to receive or reject God’s witness. It is necessarily converted from an outward to an inward witness when obtained. For those who, through that external witness of the Spirit, were led to believe in God’s Son, it is no longer mere visible testimony. It has become a part of their inner life. What God first testified is from without is now by means of faith testify inwardly to their living consciousness. They bear the divine witness in themselves. It is the Spirit’s testimony in their heart. Consequently, through their inward experience of their spiritual life, it is perpetually established for them that Jesus is God’s Son.

But those who do not believe God’s testimony of His Son are making God a liar. If through the operations of His Spirit God testifies of His Son, yet not received as God’s Son; what is this but saying, that God contradicts Himself, while thus by these divine facts accrediting him as his Son who is not so? Unbelief cannot recognize God in his workings, as him that is true. It stamps the divine as the undivine. It can see in the ways of God nothing but contradiction. From these words of John, we may deduce a truth most important for our age. That Jesus is the Son of God is attested by what God has wrought through the Gospel. Having no susceptibility in themselves for receiving it, do not yield themselves with a humble and receptive heart to the witness of the Spirit, that it may thereby become to them an inward witness. It is the individual character and disposition that must here make the decision. It belongs to one’s personal will to decide whether they will yield themselves to that witness of the Spirit. Otherwise, they are accusing God’s plan of salvation as that of liar.[15]

[1] Brown of Haddington, John: Self-Interpreting Bible, N. T. Vol. IV, p. 506

[2] Newton, John: Composer of “Amazing Grace

[3] 1 John 3:20

[4] Numbers 23:19

[5] See Hebrews 11:1-2; 1 Peter 3:13-16

[6] John 14:15 24; 2 Corinthaisn 1:21, 22; 2 Peter 1:19-21; Revelation 2:17

[7] Scott, Thomas: Commentary on the Holy Bible, pp. 408-409

[8] Benson, Joseph: Commentary on the Old and New Testaments, op. cit., 1 John 5

[9] Simeon, Charles: Horæ Homileticæ, op. cit., Vol. XX, Discourse 2466, p. 537

[10] Clarke, Adam: Wesleyan Heritage Commentary, op. cit., Hebrews-Revelation, p. 397

[11] Romans 8:16

[12] Luke 18:13

[13] Hebrews 11:1

[14] Evans, James H., The Biblical Illustrator, Vol. 22, First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 434

[15] Neander, Augustus: The First Epistle of John, Practically Explained, op. cit., pp. 293-295

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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