The Three Witnesses In Earth
November 27th, 1960 @ 10:50 AM
1 John 5:6-12
THE THREE WITNESSES IN EARTH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 John 5:5-12
11-27-60 10:50 a.m.
On the radio you are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the eleven o’clock morning message entitled The Three Witnesses in Earth. In our preaching through the Bible, we have come to the last chapter of 1 John; 1 John chapter 5, almost at the end of your Bible. And the reading of the Scripture is from verse 5 through verse 12. First John chapter 5, verse 5 through verse 12:
Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?
This is He that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth.
This is an interpolation:
For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.
This is what John wrote:
And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.
If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which He hath testified of His Son.
He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made Him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of His Son.
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 5:5-12]
The text within this context is 1 John 5:8, "There are three, there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one" [1 John 5:8].
The Christian faith, Christianity, makes great and sublime claims for itself. Christianity claims to be the only true religion, the one and only true faith [Acts 4:12]. Christianity claims that its teachings are divine and therefore infallible [1 Corinthians 2:4-5; 2 Timothy 3:16]. Christianity claims for its great leader and founder deity, and as such demands for Him worship and obedience on the part of all men [Acts 17:30]. The mandates of the Christian faith are addressed to every creature. It is confident that someday its truth will be universally observed and obeyed; that there shall come a day when "every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess, that Christ is Lord, to the glory of God" [Philippians 2:10-11], that there will be a day when He shall take unto Himself His great power and reign [Revelation 5:13].
Any religion that would make such claims must substantiate them by competent and acceptable witnesses. And we speak of those witnesses this morning hour. We shall not speak of the external witness to the truth of the Christian faith, although there has never been a spade turned in Palestine by archaeologist but has corroborated and confirmed the truth of the Holy Scriptures. All creation, whether in nation, whether in nature, in the sky above or in the earth beneath, all external witnesses corroborate and verify the truth of the Christian faith [Romans 1:19-20]. Nor shall we speak of those internal witnesses by which the Christian faith bears witness within itself to its own truth [Romans 8:16].
A faith so pure and so holy and so undefiled could not have been invented by the genius of fallen men; it was the gift of God in heaven [Ephesians 2:8]. But the three witnesses that we speak of today to the truth of the infallibility of the Christian faith, of the deity of the Son of God, is to be found in the three that are mentioned in the text by the apostle John: "There are three that bear record in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood" [1 John 5:8].
We shall speak of these three witnesses to Christ: the Spirit, the water, and the blood. We shall speak of these three as they testify in the church today: the Spirit, and the water, and the blood. We shall speak of these three witnesses as they bear record in our hearts: the Spirit, and the water, and the blood. And we shall speak of these three as they bear record to the immutable, eternal, and ultimate victory of the kingdom of our Savior: the Spirit, and the water, and the blood.
First, the testimony, the witness of these three to the Son of God: the Spirit, the water, and the blood [1 John 5:6-8]. In the twenty-ninth chapter of the Book of Exodus, in the eighth chapter of the Book of Leviticus, God has given us there how a priest is to be sanctified into the service and ministry of the Lord God. A priest is a type of our Savior, the great Mediator between God and man [1 Timothy 2:5], who intercedes today in heaven [Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25]. And in the twenty-[ninth] chapter of the Book of Exodus [Exodus 29:19-21], and in the eighth chapter of the Book of Leviticus, it is recorded that the priest was ordained, he was set aside, by the anointing oil, the unction of the Holy Spirit of God; by the washing in water [Exodus 29:4; Leviticus 8:6]; and by the offering of the blood of a sacrifice that was placed on his right ear, on his right thumb, and on his right toe, signifying the dedication of his whole life and will to God [Exodus 29:19-21; Leviticus 8:22-24]. That is the priest came by the Spirit, and by the water, and by the blood. And if the great antitype is the true mediator and priest of God [Hebrews 8:1-2], He also must have these three tokens: the Spirit, the water, and the blood.
In the fifty-first Psalm is recorded the forgiveness of God to a sinner man. And there are three things by which God forgives human sin. "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean," the blood, dipped in the blood. Second, "Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow," the water of cleansing. Third, "Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation, and uphold me with Thy Holy Spirit," the Spirit of God [Psalm 51:7, 12]. And He who forgives sins must come with these three things: the Spirit, and the water, and the blood. And these are the three testimonies and the three witnesses that we find in the ministry of Christ: the Spirit, the water, and the blood [1 John 5:6, 8].
Our Lord came, Peter says, by the Holy Spirit of God. "Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit" [2 Peter 1:21], and these Scriptures in the Old Testament are the witnesses of the Holy Spirit to Him who was to come as the Savior of the earth [1 John 4:14]. And the Lord Jesus Christ fits those great prophecies as a glove would fit a hand or as a key would fit a door.
The Holy Spirit of God fashioned the body of our Lord: "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee," said the Spirit to the virgin Mary, "and the Highest shall overshadow thee" wherefore also that Holy thing that shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God" [Luke 1:35]. The body of our Lord was fashioned by the Holy Spirit of God in a mystery working in the womb of the virgin Mary.
When He was baptized and began His ministry, "The Spirit of God came upon Him in the form of a dove, and the voice of the Father was heard from heaven, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" [Matthew 3:16-17]. And Jesus Christ, in the power of the Spirit, full of the Spirit, led by the Spirit, entered His great and powerful ministry. As Simon Peter said in Acts 10, "Jesus Christ, anointed by the Spirit of God, went about; and His ministry was attested to by marvelous signs and incomparable miracles" [Acts 10:38-39]. The Holy Spirit of God marked Him out from among the dead. As Paul writes in the first chapter of Romans, in the fourth verse, "Declared to be, manifested to be, the Son of God by the Spirit of holiness in the resurrection from the dead" [Romans 1:4]. The Spirit of God among all the men who have ever died, the Spirit of God came upon, in power, the cold lifeless dead body of our Lord and quickened Him to be a living and reigning King: the witness of the Spirit.
He has also the witness of the water: "This is He that came not by blood only, but also by water" [1 John 5:6]. In the first chapter of the Gospel of John, it is most evident what it means when it says that Jesus came by water, and that the water testifies to the deity of the Son of God:
The next day John seeth Jesus coming . . .
This is He of whom I said, After me cometh a Man which is before me: for he was before me.
And I knew Him not: but that He should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water, in order that the Son of God might be manifested to Israel and to the world. Therefore I come baptizing with water.
And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon Him. And I knew Him not: but He that sent me to baptize, He that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, the same is He which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.
And I saw, and I bare record that this is the Son of God,This is He that came by water.
The institution of baptism as it was given to John was for the purpose of manifesting Jesus, the Son of God to the world. "And in that baptism the Spirit of God abode upon Christ, and I saw and bare record that this is the Son of God [John 1:32-34] . . . This is He that came by water" [1 John 5:6].
The Gospel of John, out of which I am now reading, is the finest exposition and text of the epistle of John, what John meant. "This is He that came by water [1 John 5:6],Verily, verily, I say unto thee," in John 3, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" [John 3:5]. Except a man be born by the regenerating Spirit of God and by the cleansing of the Word of the Lord, the gospel redemptive message of Christ, he can never be saved: "Except he be born of water and of the Spirit." I turn the page in the Gospel of John: and Jesus says to the woman at the well, "Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life" [John 4:13-14]. "Give me," said the woman, "that water" [John 4:15]. No man can give that water but the Son of God; and the water testifies to the deity of Christ. He that drinks of the water of this life shall thirst again. But he that shall drink of the water that Christ gives shall never thirst; but the water in his soul given of Christ shall be a spring, a well, abounding unto life everlasting. This is He that came by water. And in the seventh chapter: "In the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me" [John 7:37]. If you’ve drunk of the water of this life and are thirsty, come and drink at the fountain of eternal life in Christ. "This is He that comes by water" [1 John 5:6].
And in the thirteenth chapter of the same Gospel of John, "And He poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith He was girded" [John 13:5], "This is He that came by water" [1 John 5:6] – the servant of God, not to be ministered unto, but to minister in humility and in yielded deference [Matthew 20:28]. And John said,
When they came to Jesus, they saw that He was dead already. They brake not therefore His legs: But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side, and forthwith came there out blood and water. He that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe.
This is the testimony of God to His Son: the Spirit and the water. "This is He that came by water."
"But this is He that came by water and blood; not by water only, but by water and blood" [1 John 5:6]. John came by water only [Matthew 3:11]; but the water is not enough. There must be three; and the three must agree in pointing to the same One [1 John 5:6, 8]: the Spirit of God designates, "This is the Son of God" [Romans 1:4]; and the water, He that hast the gift of everlasting life designates Him as the Son of God [John 7:38]; "And this is He that also came by blood" [Acts 20:28]. The Shepherd must be smitten [Isaiah 53:4], the blood of the covenant must be shed [Hebrews 10:29, 13:20], the Lamb must be led to the slaughter [Isaiah 53:7], the life must be poured out an oblation before God [Matthew 26:28]. The blood must flow with the water [John 19:34]. The atonement must be made [Romans 5:11; Hebrews 2:17], along with the pure and yielded and obedient life of our Lord [Philippians 2:6-8]. Had there been no atonement, had there been no sacrifice, the ministry of Jesus would have been just that of another great prophet. But He was designated as the sacrifice of God [1 Peter 1:19-20]: "This is He that comes by blood" [1 John 5:7]. In John 6:27 it is said, "This is He whom the Father hath sealed." By that John was saying, "This is He whom God set apart for expiation, and for sacrifice, and for atonement" [John 3:16; 2 Corinthians 5:21].
The imagery of it lies in the high priest that goes among the lambs for sacrifice, and he culls out these that are blemished, and these that are lame, and these that are halt, and these that are scarred. And he seals to God, he devotes to God, that lamb that is to be offered up as a sacrifice, pure, holy, undefiled, without spot and blemish [1 Peter 1:19]. And John referred to that when he said, in the sixth chapter of his book, in the twenty-seventh verse, "Him God sealed" [John 6:27]. That is, out of all of the sacrifices, no man could offer it for himself, nor could any man offer it for another; but God sealed this One, God chose this One, and this is the Lamb that is sacrificed for the sins of the world. As John the Baptist said, "Behold, behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world" [John 1:29]. He came by blood: the blood of Gethsemane, the blood of the sacrifice, the blood of Calvary, the blood of the flowing wounds of Jesus. "There are three bare record in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood" [1 John 5:8]; these testify to the deity of the Son of God.
They testify in the church today. First: the Spirit. At Pentecost there was an empty church. The tabernacle was finished, but it was not filled until the shekinah glory of God fell upon it [Exodus 40:34]. Solomon’s temple was complete, but it was not filled until the Holy Spirit of God came upon it [2 Chronicles 5:14]. So the church, organized with its two ordinances, with its preachers, with its congregation; but it was empty until the Spirit of God fell upon it. "And with cloven tongues of fire, and with the sound like of the great rushing of a mighty wind, the Holy Spirit of God fell upon the church [Acts 2:1-3]. And the apostles, in the midst of the congregation, stood up and witnessed to the deity of Christ, with great power and with great unction" [Acts 2:4]. The Holy Spirit of God witnesses to Christ in the church today.
I do not say that He witnesses powerfully in a formal church, under the leadership of an infidel and a liberal minister, where he stands up officially to speak and to talk, and where the people come and go mechanically. But wherever in the earth that there is a man of God who stands up in any pulpit, on any street corner, in any vacant building, on a lot anywhere, in any language, in any nation under the sun, wherever there is a man of God who will stand up and faithfully proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, there will the Holy Spirit of God today, tomorrow, yesterday, forever, there will the Spirit of God in unction and in burning fire fall upon him, and there will God convict men, and convert men, and convince men; great mountains of ice and of snow and of frost melting in human hearts, like the icebergs melt in the warm waters of the flowing Gulf Stream. Anywhere, in any language, in any nation, in any pulpit, in the heart of any true minister of Christ under the sun; the Holy Spirit of God bearing witness today to the deity of Christ: "There are three that bare witness in earth [1 John 5:8], the Spirit, the Spirit, the water; this is He that came by water."
And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?
And Philip answered and said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And the eunuch answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
[Acts 8: 36-37]
Wherever a man is baptized, there is a dramatic and a silent but a powerful witness to the deity of the Lord of life and the King of heaven. Wherever water gathers in placid pools and mirrors the stars from the skies, when that water is disturbed by believer’s baptism, there is a witness to the resurrection, to the burial, to the atonement, to the deity of the Son of God. "This is He that came by the Holy Spirit, and this is He that came by water" [1 John 5:6, 8].
"And this is He that comes by blood." Remarkable thing here in the churches of today. "This is He that comes by blood" [1 John 5:6, 8]. A man could announce, "I’m going to be at such and such place at such and such time, and I’m going to lecture on economics," or, "I’m going to lecture on psychiatry," or, "I’m going to lecture on economic considerations," name any subject under the sun, and there might be somebody who listens to him once, and he might come back twice, and perchance he might come a time third. But let any man, however humble, however feeble, and however stammering, let any man anywhere announce, "Today I shall speak of the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" [John 3:16], and the next time, "I’m going to speak on the gift of the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" [John 15:13], and the next time, "I’m going to talk about the flowing wounds of Jesus for our sins" [1 Peter 2:24], and the next time, "I’m going to speak of the Savior of our souls, Jesus, God’s Son" [1 John 5:12], and there’ll be people there to hear him, and they’ll come back to listen again, and they’ll come back a fifth time and a thousandth time and down to old age. After they’ve listened to that same story for forty and fifty and sixty and seventy years, they’ll be saying, "And it is sweeter each time it is told. Tell me the old, old story," for those who hear it most, seem hungering and thirsting to hear it like the rest. "This is He that came by the Spirit, and by the water, and by the blood" [1 John 6:6, 8].
Many a hard man has been melted by the vision of the death of Christ for his soul [1 Corinthians 15:3]. The hard rock has been made to weep when it is struck by the wondrous rod of the cross. Many and many a man who never bowed under the thunders of Sinai has melted under the tender notes of the song of Calvary. "This is He that came by the Spirit, and by the water, and by the blood" [1 John 5:6, 8].
Now may I speak of the three witnesses in our hearts? And we must hasten. The three witnesses in our hearts: the Spirit, the Spirit of God: "And the Spirit of God beareth witness with our spirits, that we are the children of God" [Romans 8:16], eye might deceive, and ear might be imposed upon, our senses are deceivable; but the Spirit of God within us, bearing testimony and witness. How do you know you’re a Christian? How do you know you’re saved? How do you know you love God? How do you know you’ve been regenerated? I feel it in my soul. I feel it in my heart. If I were to stand up here and try to deny Him, I couldn’t. If I were forced to blaspheme His name, I’d have to die first. It’s in my soul, it’s in my heart, it’s in my life, the Spirit of God bearing witness with my spirit that I am a child of God [Romans 8:16].
Reckon all of the evidences in the world could make you deny it? No, because it’s a part of me, because it’s in me. Reckon all of the experiences in life could woo you away from it? No, no, because it’s a part of me. You could cut off my head, you could cut out my heart, but it’d still be in me. And when this body is dissolved and decays, and turned back to corruption, that Holy Spirit of God shall still live in my soul, and someday give back again in an incorruptible body this house of clay that falls into the dust of the ground [1 Corinthians 15:42]; the Spirit of God in the soul [Ephesians 4:30].
And if you’ve ever been saved, and if you’ve ever loved God, and if you’ve ever known the Lord, it’s like an incorruptible seed. It abides forever, the witness in the soul, and the witness of the water; the bubbling up of that eternal life, every day more and more and more, hungering, and thirsting, and aspiring, and yielded, and waiting, and willing, as the years go on. The witness of the water, the fountain of life, and the blood: on our knees, pleading access to God in the blood: Lord, not because we’re worthy, but because He is; not because I’m eloquent, but because His tears are eloquent [Luke 19:41; John 11:35; Hebrews 5:7-8]; not because of me, O God, but for Jesus’ sake [Ephesians 4:32]. In His name, in His power, in His love, and patience, and mercy, and goodness, Lord in the name of Jesus, pleading the blood of Christ, and the door is open, and we have access to God [Ephesians 2:18].
And briefly, the three witnesses to that ultimate and final triumph of the kingdom of Jesus: the Spirit, and the water, and the blood [1 John 5:6, 8]; the witness of the Spirit, immutable and eternal, to the ultimate and final redemption of this world, and the enthronement of our Lord Christ Jesus [Matthew 25:31].
In Genesis 1:1-2, the story of this creation in which we now live begins with the Spirit of God brooding over the waste of the deep. That same holy, almighty, infinite, all-powerful Spirit of God broods over this world today. And out of its chaos, out of its warring hatred, out of its darkness, out of its iniquity and sin, out of its despair, that same brooding Holy Spirit of God shall bring a new heaven and a new earth [Revelation 21:1]. His energy is like a refining fire that burns, and burns [Malachi 3:2-3]; and in the great conflagration there shall be a new heaven and a new earth. That Spirit of God saved three thousand at Pentecost [Acts 2:41]; the same Spirit of God can save three million just as well. And in the days of the great and dark tribulation, He shall, the Spirit of God brooding, working, guiding to that great and ultimate destiny, when the kingdoms of the world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ [Revelation 11:15]; the witness of the Spirit of God [1 John 5:8].
And the witness of the water [1 John 5:8]: the regenerated children of Jesus. In the fifth chapter of the Book of Ephesians, "Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word" [Ephesians 5:25-26]. This holy redeemed company of God shall be here until He comes again [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]; and in the new earth, in the rejuvenation, shall be with her Lord [Revelation 21:1-3]. And to oppress the church and to seek to destroy the church is but to scatter her seed, and to scatter her truth abroad [Acts 8:1, 4]: the water, the washing, the cleansing of the family of God, the ransomed host of Jesus.
"And the blood": the witness of the Spirit, and the water, and the blood [1 John 5:8]. Briefly, listen to me as I finish this sermon I’ve so prepared. In the fifty-third chapter of the Book of Isaiah, describing the suffering of our Lord [Isaiah 53:3-9], after it says at the end, "It pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He hath put Him to grief: when Thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin, God shall see His seed," that’s His children, that’s His people, "God shall prosper His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand" [Isaiah 53:10]. In expatiating upon that great revelation, Paul says, in the second chapter of Philippians, "He became obedient, even unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore, because of His sufferings, because of His wounds, because of His death, God hath also highly exalted Him, and given Him the name which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess" [Philippians 2:8-11], because "He suffered for our sins, because He was bruised for our iniquities, because the chastisement of our peace was upon Him" [Isaiah 53:5].
God cannot mock the wounds of Jesus, nor can God in disdain hide His face from the sobs and tears of the Son of God. Because He has suffered, and because He has offered Himself a sacrifice for our sins, God hath said He shall be King over all the creation, Lord, Master, Savior, enthroned [Revelation 11:15]. "The whole earth ask of Me," He said in Psalm 2, "and I shall give Thee the nations for Thine inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Thy possession" [Psalm 2:8]. "This is He that came by blood" [1 John 5:6], the witness to the ultimate and final triumph of our blessed Lord.
Oh, don’t you wish we had hours to sit here in these services and listen to the Word of God? What an abounding, overflowing abundance, even in a sentence, as the Holy Spirit of God testifies to the deity of His Son: the witness of the Spirit and of the water and of the blood [1 John 5:6, 8].
While we sing our song of appeal, somebody give his heart in faith to Jesus, would you come and stand by me? Somebody put his life in the fellowship of the church, would you come and stand by me? In this balcony round, somebody you, on this lower floor, somebody you; is there a family you this day, "Pastor, this is my wife. Pastor, these are my children. All of us are coming today." Is there a couple you; or one somebody you? I don’t make that appeal. I’m just a voice and an echo. It’s the Spirit of God that speaks to the human heart. It’s the Holy Spirit of God that convicts, that converts, that convinces, that woos, that draws. Listen to the voice of the Spirit this holy hour, and come. "Here I am, pastor, I give you my hand; I give my heart to God." Would you make it now, while we stand and while we sing?
puts forth very lofty claims(Philippians
Such exalted claims demand substantiation, proof
John writes there are three witnesses to the truth of God in Christ Jesus – the
Spirit, the water and the blood
II. The three witnesses to Christ
things used for ordination of a priest(Exodus
29:1-21, Leviticus 8:1-30)
putting away of sin except with these three things (Psalm
one who can forgive our sins must be able to baptize us in the Holy Spirit,
wash us clean and pure, and make atonement for us in blood – Jesus so comes
Fulfills types, prophecies of Old Testament Scriptures (2 Peter 1:21)
Jesus’ humanity shaped and framed by Holy Spirit(Luke
Holy Spirit descended upon Him at baptism(Matthew
Ministry characterized by power of Holy Spirit (Acts
10:38-39, Luke 4:1, 18-21)
He was resurrected by the Spirit (Romans 1:4)
water(1 John 5:6)
Purpose of baptism – Son of God might be manifested(John
Cleansing, purifying power of the words of the Son of God(John 3:5, 4:13-15,7:37-38, 13:5, 15:3, 19:33-35,
Ephesians 5:26, Titus 3:5)
blood – cross of Christ, His blood, cleanses us from all sin(John 1:29, 6:27, 1 John 5:8)
III. The three witnesses in the church
Spirit – poured out at Pentecost(Acts 2:2-4, Revelation
1:4, John 3:34)
water – a witness to the deity of Christ(Acts
blood – preaching the blood, hard hearts crack
IV. The three witnesses in the heart
Spirit – bears testimony to our own spirit (1
John 5:10, Romans 8:16)
water – the outflowing of the Christian life(John
The blood – our access to God, pleading Jesus’ flowing wounds
V. The three witnesses to our ultimate
Spirit – broods over this chaotic earth (Genesis
1:1-2, Revelation 21:1)
blood – because Christ died, God exalted Him and every knee will bow before Him
(Isaiah 53:5, 10, Philippians 2:8-11, Psalm 2,