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Question for you:  Why do you believe what you believe?  I mean, of all the different belief systems out there, what makes you think yours is the right one?  Of all the different gods being worshipped by people around the globe, what makes you think that your God, the God of the Bible, is the True God?  What makes you think your beliefs are correct?  You realize, that’s not an unusual question. Because faith, by its very definition rests on things we cannot see, and often times cannot prove, it’s not unusual for us to have some doubts about whether we’ve got it right.  It’s like we all have this voice in our head, or voiced by the people around us saying, “Are you sure about what you believe?”

And realize, that’s not just a modern day phenomenon.  Down through the centuries, people have been calling into question the most fundamental tenets of the Christian faith.  How do you know that there’s a heaven and hell?  How do you know that God really is three persons in one God?  Or the question which our text for today addresses,

How do you know that Jesus is the Son of God?

Today we want to take a little closer look at that question.  But to answer it, we’ll have to do a number of things.  We’ll have to:

  1. Define the term
  2. Consider the Testimony

So that we can then…III. Be Confident in the Gospel

First we need to define the term.  What do I mean by that?  I mean that we need to define what we mean by the statement, “Jesus is the Son of God.”  You see, when John wrote this epistle, there was a group of people who were saying that Jesus wasn’t really God.  They said that Jesus was born as an ordinary human being, and for a time the “heavenly Christ” came to dwell in Jesus, so he could perform miracles, but in the end, the Christ left Jesus, so that he could once again die as an ordinary man.  In other words, there were people saying that Jesus was not God for the entire duration of his life here on earth.

A more modern version of that is espoused by the Mormon Church.  The Mormons confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but only in the sense that we’re all “sons of God.”  In fact, maybe you’ve wondered about that yourself.  I mean, doesn’t the Bible say in Galatians 3:26, You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus?  Is that what we mean when we say that Jesus is the “Son of God”—that he’s one of God’s children, just like we are God’s children?

No, that’s not what we mean (and it’s not what the Bible means) when we say that Jesus is the Son of God.  While it’s true that God adopts human beings into his family through faith in Jesus, it doesn’t meant that when we come to faith, we become little gods.    We are not—and never will be—gods.  Although God treats us like members of his family, we’re never equal to God.  Jesus, on the other hand, is equal to God.  Jesus, as the very Son of God, is God.  Or to put it another way, Jesus was not adopted into God’s family.  He is God’s family.

You might say that it’s a bit like the difference between your dog and your son.  You might consider your dog to be a member of your family.  But your dog is not on the same level as your son.  Your son is human.  Your dog is not.  So it is with Jesus.  When Jesus called himself the Son of God he was saying that he was on the same level as God.  And don’t think the Jews in Jesus day missed that fact.  After Jesus said that he was doing the work of “his Father,” even if it meant doing a miracle on the Sabbath day, how did the Jews react?  The Bible says, the Jews tried all the harder to kill [Jesus]; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. (John 5:18)

So, so just to be clear on our terms, when the question is asked, “Is Jesus the Son of God?” we really mean, “Is Jesus equal to God?  Is Jesus really both true man and true God?  Was Jesus, even at the time of his conception, also the creator of the universe?  Was Jesus, even at the time of his crucifixion, still the immortal, almighty God?  Is that what you believe?  And if so, why do you believe it?  Or to put it another way, how do you know that Jesus is the Son of God?  Now that we’ve defined the term, let’s:

  1. Consider the Testimony.

What does that mean?  Well, in the Old Testament, God required that in a court of law, the truth be established on the basis of the testimony of two or three witnesses.  A man couldn’t testify about himself.  2 or 3 outside witnesses were needed.  Well, here in our text, John points to three outside witnesses to establish the truth that Jesus is in fact, the Son of God.  John puts it this way.  There are three that testify:  the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.

The question is, what is John talking about?  The Spirit, the water and the blood all testify about Jesus.  I have to admit, this is not an easy portion of Scripture to understand.  Maybe we better read this whole section in context.  John writes, 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. {7} For there are three that testify: {8} the Spirit, the water and the blood.  Actually, there are a number of ways that these words could be interpreted.  Some see these words as a reference to Jesus’ death, when the spear to his side brought a flow of blood and water.  John was there at that moment and recorded the event with these words in his gospel, The man who saw this has given testimony, and his testimony is true.  He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. (John 19:35). 

There are others who see in the water and blood and the Spirit a reference to the means of grace, namely, the water of holy baptism, the body and blood of the Lord’s Supper and the Spirit-inspired Word of God.  These too are means or instruments through which God testifies about Jesus true identity as the Son of God.

And yet, maybe an ever better way to understand John’s statement that Jesus came by water and blood is as a reference to the beginning and end of Jesus’ earthly ministry.  Jesus began his public ministry with what event?  His baptism in the Jordan River.  And when he came up out of the water, what did the Father say?  “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”  In other words, in connection with the water of Jesus’ baptism, God the Father testified to the true identity of his Son.

And at the other end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, what happened?  Jesus shed his blood on the cross.  And in his final hours, what did Jesus say?  He said, “Father, forgive them” and “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”  With those final words, Jesus confessed that God was his Father, and he was God’s Son.  And God the Father, in effect, ratified that claim with all kinds of miraculous signs:  the sun went dark. The graves broke open.  The temple curtain ripped in two.  These were all ways in which God, in effect, was saying, “This is my Son!”  In fact, isn’t that what ultimately led the Roman centurion to make his own confession about Jesus: “Surely this man was the Son of God”? (Mark 15:39).

If you think about it, on this Trinity Sunday, all three persons of the Trinity gave their testimony about the true, divine nature of Jesus.  At the beginning and end of Jesus’ life, God the Father announced with a voice from heaven, “This is my Son.  Jesus himself testified that he was God’s Son.  In fact Jesus even called himself God.  What else could Jesus have meant when he said to the Jews, “Before Abraham was born, I am.” (John 8:58)—which of course caused all the Jews to pick up stones to stone him, because they knew that he was claiming to be God?

And of course the Holy Spirit testified about Jesus.  Through the miracle of divine inspiration, God the Holy Spirit caused the apostles to write down the events in Jesus’ life for us to read and know to this very day—which leads John to make the point he does here in our text, namely, if the truth can be determined on the basis of 2 or 3 human witnesses, how much more on the basis of 2 or3 divine witnesses?  How does John put it?  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. {10} Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart.

My friends, do you realize what that means?  It means that if you believe that Jesus is the Son of God, there’s only one reason you believe it.  It’s that the Holy Spirit has led you to trust that what God has told you in the gospel is in fact, the truth.  You have God’s testimony in your heart.  Which means that you can now do what?  You can now…

III. Be Confident in the Gospel!

You see, when God the Holy Spirit led you to believe that Jesus is your Savior, he worked a miracle in your heart.  It would have never happened without the power of the Holy Spirit.  How did St. Paul put it?  No one can say “Jesus is Lord”, except by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:3).

You realize what that means?  It means that, as a Christian, God the Holy Spirit has done more than led you to believe in God.  No, he’s led you to actually believe God.  He’s led you to believe that God is telling you the truth.  To believe the testimony he has given you about his Son.  In fact, isn’t that what the definition of faith is—to believe what God says?  And likewise, what the definition of what unbelief is, namely, to not believe what God says?  How does John put it here in our text?  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.

If you think about it, there’s the question that is going to divide the whole world into two camps: those going to heaven and those going to hell.  And the question is not, “Do you believe in God?”  No, even the Devil believes there’s a God.  No, the life or death question is not, “do you believe in God?”  It’s “do you believe God?  Do you believe what God says?  Do you believe the testimony of God?”  And exactly what is that testimony?  John lays it all out here in our text.  He writes, And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. {12} He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. 

My friends, you realize what that is, don’t you?  It’s the essence of the Gospel.  It’s what sets Christianity apart from every other religion in the world.  No other religion says that a just and holy God is going to give eternal life to a world of people who have done nothing to deserve it.  No other religion in the world says that your standing with God is dependent not upon how well you lived your life, but rather on how well Jesus lived his life in your place.  No other religion says that for Jesus’ sake, your sins are paid in full.  No other religion says it, but that is what…the Gospel says.  And what more beautiful summary of the gospel could you find than these words of 1 John 5:11-12?   I mean, if John 3:16 is the gospel in a nutshell, you know, “For God so loved the world…” well, then this has to run a close second.  Think about it.  And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. {12} He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.  He who has the Son has life.

Christian, why do you believe what you believe?  Why do you believe that Jesus is really God?  Why do you believe what God tells you in his Word?  Ultimately, you believe it because of the gospel.  When you realize that all you’ve earned from God is hell, and instead God has given you heaven for Jesus’ sake…when God in the gospel says, “even though your heart may still convict you, and your head may be filled with all kinds of questions and doubts, still I’m telling you that I love you, I forgive you, I’ve got everything covered”—really that’s what leads you and me to say, “Okay, God, I guess, I’m just going to trust…you.  I’m going to put my faith in your love, your grace, your Son, in your Word.”  Trust God.  Trust his testimony.  And you will never be put to shame!  God grant it, for Jesus’ sake.  Amen.