Christ on Trial

Christ on Trial

Text: 1 John 5:1-12 — Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world— our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 6 This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. 7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. 9 If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. 10 Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. 11 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

Introduction: There are a lot of different opinions about who Jesus was. Christians know Him to be the Son of God who left His glory in heaven and took on a human body some two thousand years ago to become our Redeemer. Others regard Jesus as the greatest teacher of all time, but merely a man. Still others see Him as a prophet who spoke on behalf of God. And sadly, some see Him as a deluded Jewish rabbi who believed He was more than He actually was. Jeremy Bowen, the presenter of a BBC documentary on Jesus had this to say about our Lord: “The important thing is not what he was or what he wasn’t—the important things is what people believe him to have been. A massive world-wide religion, numbering more than two billion people follows his memory—that’s pretty remarkable, 2,000 years on.” Does that sound good to you? Is it true that it doesn’t really matter who Jesus was? It just matters who people believe Him to have been. So, whether He was the Son of God, a great teacher, a prophet or a very confused Jewish rabbi is not important. The primary thing is that today He has two billion followers! I hope you see the flaw in that kind of thinking. If Jesus wasn’t who He claimed to be (the Son of God), then Christians are left worshipping and serving a Savior who is not a Savior at all! And though He claimed to bring those who believe in Him eternal life, the truth is that no human being has now or ever found life in His name.

As we look at the first five verses of the final chapter of 1 John, in what happens to be the next to the last message in our series called Vital Signs, the Apostle John continues to state his case that there are certain tests to be applied to everyone who claims to have been “born of God”. These include (1) “the love test” (everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of Him) – Christians love God and the children of God and we do not the love the world – in fact, we’ve overcome it by faith – verse four; (2) “the obedience test” (By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey His commandments) – followers of Christ demonstrate love for our brothers and sisters in the faith when we love God and obey His commands – Don’t miss the flow here – Loving God means keeping His commands which are not burdensome. Keeping His commands means that we strive to do everything in accordance with His good, perfect and acceptable will – Certainly this was true of Jesus who always pleased His Father and no one loved people more than Him; (3) “the belief test” – we assert that Jesus is the Christ and the One who satisfied the Father’s wrath poured out on us because of our disobedience by dying in our place so that we could be forgiven and reconciled to God. That’s a pretty good summary of those verses.

Now I invite you to join me as we look at three witnesses that John mentions to refute the claims of the false teachers who were doing their best to lead believers in Asia Minor away from Christ. To make it a little easier to follow, I’ve packaged this message in the form of a courtroom drama with the charge, the witnesses and the verdict.

The Charge: Hopefully you remember that the teachers of an early form of Gnosticism that espoused the belief that Jesus was not the Christ of God at all. He was just a man, perhaps a very good one, who was blessed at His baptism to have the Christ come upon Him. That, they argue, is what Scripture was saying in John 1:32-33 — Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ The Christ then remained with Jesus empowering Him to do the works and wonders of God until the man Jesus was nailed to the cross. That’s when God left Him causing Jesus to cry out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me” – Matthew 27:46. The fact that Jesus died on the cross, in the minds of these false teachers, had absolutely no bearing on our salvation. He did not, nor could He atone for our sin by dying in our place. Jesus was just a man suffering and dying because of a series of unfortunate circumstances. What saves people is a secret knowledge known only to a privileged few. APPLICATION: Now before we dismiss the teachings of these gnostics as just an ancient worldview that has no bearing on today, let me give you a word of caution. The denial that Jesus is the Son of God continues to pulse throughout our culture. Sure, it’s been repackaged and marketed under other labels, but it’s alive and well nonetheless. Islam, the world’s second largest religion and fastest growing teaches that Jesus was only a man, a prophet of God. In fact, He wasn’t even the most important man to ever live, that would be Muhammed, the latest and greatest of Allah’s spokesmen. Another religion called Secular Humanism teaches that man is the highest being and that God does not exist. If man is ever to be saved from death it will be through human reasoning and science (i.e. knowledge – sound familiar?). Hinduism does not believe there is one way to God (through Jesus Christ). Its followers believe in thousands of gods and that salvation is found when an “enlightened human being is freed from the cycle of life and death (reincarnation).” Bhuddism teaches a person must save himself by becoming “enlightened,” a process that takes eons of lifetimes for most of us. I think you get the picture. Only Christianity teaches that the way to salvation is through Christ’s atoning sacrifice for our sin which we receive by grace through faith in Him.

The Witnesses: There are three that John points out to testify to Jesus’ true identity as the Son of God in human flesh. These are the water, the blood and the Spirit (1 John 5:6-9 — This is he who came by (dia –denoting the channel by which an action occurs — through) water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by (en – denoting position in time and place) the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. 7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. 9 If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son). Let’s look at each more closely.

The Water – Some people believe this is referring to the water that came out of Jesus’ side when a soldier stuck a spear in Him to make certain our Lord was dead after being crucified for six hours. This was, after all, a relatively short time for someone to die. They would say that it points to Christ’s death as the means of our salvation. But it makes no sense that John would refer to this incident since the false teachers were not concerned at all about the body of the man Jesus that hung on the cross and would readily concede that he died. By itself, the presence of water coming from the body cavity of our Lord does nothing to prove He was the Son of God .. Jesus the Christ. A far better explanation is that this refers to the baptism of Jesus. This was the pivotal moment according to the gnostics when the Christ came upon Jesus. The Apostle John wanted everyone to know that Jesus was the Christ before and during the baptism, not merely after it. Here’s what many believe is a much more accurate translation of 1 John 5:6 that captures what John is saying — This is the One who came through the instrumentality of water and blood, Jesus Christ. Jesus was from His birth to His death and forevermore both the man Jesus and the Christ of God. And it is His baptism that testifies to this!
The Blood – This refers to the death of Jesus on the cross. Again, John is refuting the teaching that the Christ left Jesus sometime before He was crucified. John will have none of this. In 1 John 4:10
He said, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins”. This is the only way we could be saved! God’s Son who came through baptism and through blood (death) has brought us salvation. Only a perfect being could die for imperfect beings for the wages of sin is death. But if Jesus as the Son of God never sinned, then He had the right to offer Himself in payment for our sin. And it was His death that testified to His true identity as much as anything in His life. Listen to what Matthew 27:54 says about the powerful testimony of the events surrounding His death: When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened (from the 6th hour to the 9th hour darkness came over all the land. At the moment of Jesus’ death, the curtain in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom, the tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people came to life), they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”  His death bore witness to His identity.

The Spirit – There is only one Spirit who testifies of Christ. That is, the Holy Spirit. John 15:26 says this about the Spirit — “When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me.” The Holy Spirit doesn’t merely testify about the truth, but Scripture says He is the truth. So, listen, you cannot have truth without the Spirit or the Spirit without the truth because He’s the Spirit of truth. And He bears witness to us that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of living God. That’s what Paul is referring to when He says in Romans 8:16 – The Spirit Himself testifies to our Spirit that we are children of God. ALL THREE WITNESSES ARE IN AGREEMENT WHEN IT COMES TO JESUS!

The Verdict: Have you ever been on a jury. I have twice. The last time I served in the trial of a man who was accused of spending thousands of dollars that was not legally his to spend. I have to say that myself and the other eleven members of the jury were virtually certain that we got the verdict right. Here’s why: The man chose to represent himself in the trial so he wouldn’t have to a pay a lawyer. He began his opening remarks by say, “Let me begin by saying that I did it.” And then he went on to explain that he had a good reason for breaking the law and once we heard it, he was sure we would agree. After a day and a half of testimony, listening to him confess multiple times and all of the evidence the D. A.’s office gave against him, it literally took us less than five minutes to deliver a verdict. Guilty on all charges. I really bad for the guy, but he never had a chance. A few months later, I received a phone call from a fellow who was out of money and had several bills to pay. He asked if he could meet with me so I set something up at the McDonalds in Antioch. I arrived first and waited for him. About ten minutes later he walked in. I recognized him from somewhere, but couldn’t place it. I bought each a coke and then he said to me, “You don’t remember me, do you?” To which I responded, “You look familiar but I can’t place you.” And that’s when he said, “I was the man you convicted during a jury trial this past winter.” I looked at him and after a few minutes of silence said, “I have to tell you something. That’s one verdict we know we got right, because he confessed multiple times to committing the crime.”

When John presents the witness of water (baptism), blood (death) and the Spirit of God, he does so because everyone who reads his letter must make a decision based on all the evidence. They must render a verdict. Is he what he’s saying true or is it false?  He puts it like this: 10 Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. 11. If you’re here today and you believe the testimony that Jesus is the Son of God then it goes on to say that you have life (He who has the Son has life). If you do not believe the testimony God has given for His Son, the you make Him out to be a liar and you do not have life in Jesus’ name. Which is it? Do you accept the witness of Scripture regarding Jesus’ identity as the Son of God who became our redeemer or do you choose to look somewhere else for eternal life? The choice is completely yours.

Conclusion: Buried within a recent Pew study on the American religious landscape was a startling find. Adults who identified with a specific religion were asked whether they see their religion as “the one, true faith leading to eternal life” or if, in their view, “many religions can lead to eternal life.” How you answer such a question will determine whether evangelism is integral or peripheral, a matter of urgency or complacency. In a stunning revelation, two-thirds of Christians believe that many religions can lead to eternal life and 50 percent of all Christians believe some non-Christian religions can lead to life everlasting. Where do you fall on this all-important matter?

Perfect Love