Four Divine Witnesses
© 2022 C. O. Bishop
Jesus listed four witnesses apart from His own testimony. He said that if His own testimony was the only one, then it would not be true: all the other witnesses, all sent from God, had to agree.
31 If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true. 32 There is another that beareth witness of me; and I know that the witness which he witnesseth of me is true. 33 Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth. 34 But I receive not testimony from man: but these things I say, that ye might be saved. 35 He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light. 36 But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me. 37 And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape. 38 And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not. 39 Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. 40 And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life. 41 I receive not honour from men. 42 But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you. 43 I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. 44 How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only? 45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. 46 For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me. 47 But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?
John the Baptist
There is another that beareth witness of me; and I know that the witness which he witnesseth of me is true. 33 Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth. 34 But I receive not testimony from man: but these things I say, that ye might be saved. 35 He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light.
Jesus listed John first, as they had all listened to John, and had (at least at the beginning) seen him as a messenger from God: a prophet of some sort. Jesus confirmed that John had told the truth about Him, when he identified Jesus as “the Lamb of God” who was to take away the sin of the world, and when he said that the One who came after Him was greater than he himself; that he himself was “not worthy to carry the shoes” of Jesus, nor even to unlace them.
And truly, some had responded to John’s testimony and recognized Jesus as their Messiah. Some of John’s disciples had left John and gone to follow Jesus with John’s encouragement.
But Jesus immediately pointed out that, in spite of John’s status as a prophet, and as a burning, shining light for God, he was still a fallible human being…so Jesus went on to list three other witnesses to His identity and credentials:
36 But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me.
The works that Jesus did in their presence (and continues to perform today) should have been adequate testimony to His authority. Remember that, to some it truly was sufficient. They recognized His authority through relatively small demonstrations of His power.
Nathanael recognized Him as the Son of God when all Jesus had done was to reveal that He had seen Nathanael from an impossible distance, prior to Philip’s having called him to “come and see” Jesus. And Jesus said he would see much greater works.
Nicodemus at least recognized that He was sent from God, because of the miraculous works. Others recognized him by His works as well. Later, in John 14:11, Jesus encouraged His own disciples to believe for the works’ sake if nothing else. This was when Jesus was on His way to Gethsemane, and He knew that the disciples’ faith would soon be tested to the limit. So, He reminded them of the truth that He was in the Father and that the Father was in Him, but then said, in effect, “if you are having trouble with that idea, just believe in Me because of the works you have seen Me do.”
37 And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape. 38 And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not.
We already saw, back in John 1:18, that “No man hath seen God at any time…” We concluded that the few times, throughout history, when God had appeared in human form, it had been God the Son. Jesus is confirming that, here: saying you have not heard His voice nor seen His shape.
But: John the Baptist at least, had heard the Father’s voice, in Matthew 3:17, at the Baptism of Jesus, and the assembled people in John 12:28-30 got to hear it but seemed to hear it differently: some thought they heard thunder, others said an Angel spoke to Him. In Matthew 17:1-8, Peter, James, and John heard the Father on the Mount of Transfiguration, too, so, evidently Jesus was telling this particular group, his antagonists, that they had never heard God’s voice.
He went on to confirm this, observing that because God’s Word was not “abiding” in them, they were rejecting the One whom the Father had sent. (That is an interesting concept: remember, these were still under the Old Testament covenant. Did Old Testament believers have “God’s Word abiding in them?” Evidently, they must have, because Jesus seems to be saying that is what believers had in common. Today we all have the indwelling Holy Spirit, and we are told to continually receive His Word as well.)
39 Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. 40 And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life. 41 I receive not honour from men. 42 But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you. 43 I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. 44 How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only? 45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. 46 For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me. 47 But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?
This is the heaviest accusation: they had the testimony of Moses and the other prophets! They were rejecting God’s Word! Today, we have the testimony of John 1:1-4, 14 that the Word is Jesus, but they did not know that yet. On the basis of the scripture they did have, Jesus made several indictments against them:
- Ye will not come to me that ye might have life.
- I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you.
- I have come in My Father’s Name, and you have not received me.
- If someone else comes in their own name, you will receive him.
- You cannot believe, because you honor one another and seek honor from one another, rather than the honor of God.
- Moses will be your accuser: he wrote of Me, and you did not believe him.
Based on these indictments, Jesus concluded that they were not going to be able to believe His Word. He would receive no honor from men, because all of these indictments against them were true.
What has to change?
At some point in time a person hears the message of Jesus and becomes convinced that it is true. Or, at least, they believe some small portion of it, and then they have a choice to make: will they “Change their mind” regarding the rest of the message and admit that it is all true, or reject the portion to which they had begun to respond?
The word usually translated “repent” in scripture, is the Greek word “metanoia.” It simply means “change your mind.” If you believed that Jesus was a great teacher, but not literally God in human form, then Jesus is calling you to change your mind. If you believed that you were “doing your best” and were thereby accepted by God, Jesus is calling you to change your mind, and realize that you truly are a sinner, in need of a Savior.
- They were not willing to Come to Jesus and receive eternal life. This is a common stance, today, too: people are not sure what they do need, but they are convinced that it is not Jesus! That will require a change of mind, before they can believe.
- They did not have the Love of God in them. That could not change until they received Him.
- They did not receive the One who came in the Name of the Father. Their forefathers had also rejected the prophets who came in His name.
- He said that they would receive one who comes in his own name. This will prove to be true in the person of the antichrist, and has proven true down through the ages: Humans look for dynamic leaders, and will follow them right into destruction.
- Because we are so focused on each other and what others think, we are trapped and unable to break free and just believe God. We may say that we want honor from God, but the reality is, we really want honor from other humans.
- Believing the word of Moses is foundational to believing the Word of Jesus. If you don’t believe Moses, you also won’t believe Jesus. I have frequently had people tell me that they liked Jesus just fine, but they rejected the Old Testament God. Sorry… that was Jesus, too!
In our Wednesday night services we are working our way through the books of Moses. (And it is work!) It is difficult for us to keep in mind the context of the Law, and the historical context of Israel’s recent exodus from Egypt and the terribly evil practices of the people in the land they were about to enter. When we keep all those things in mind, it is easier for us to understand the Law. And when we remember that the same Jesus whom we love in the New Testament was the One giving the Law in the Old Testament, then we can more easily accept that fact that the Law was not only “necessary,” but it was Good.
We can see that, even back then, the heart-issue was faith. The people who believed God gained His approval and backing. The people who did not believe God were rejected because they rejected Him!
This idea ties in directly with the warning that Jesus gave in John 3:18 “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
The Key to Faith is the Word
So, then: what is the key to faith? Romans 10:17 says, “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.”
There is a threshold, here, then: is there any portion of God’s Word that we accept as being unquestionably true? Or, which we see as being “From God?” If we can begin there, and recognize that the Author of that one portion is also the Author of all the rest, then perhaps we can begin to change our minds (repent) about the rest of His Word.
If we feed on His Word, as believers, it opens our hearts to believe more and to respond in faith and obedience. The people to whom Jesus was speaking were not believers: but the answer is still the same: they will either respond to the Word in faith or they will not. Did Jesus’s accusation that they did not believe the Word of Moses convict them? Then possibly they later repented and believed. Sometimes it takes that sort of self-realization before we see ourselves as a lost sinner.
I have known people who had been in church for years, happily attending, giving, praying, singing, etc.: but they suddenly came to the realization that they had circumvented the Cross: They had never trusted Jesus’s sacrifice as their own substitute. They had never placed themselves under His blood to escape the judgment of a righteous, Holy God. They were not yet a believer, because they had omitted the first step of faith: confessing that “I am a sinner, in need of a Savior!” 1st John 1:10 points out that if we say that we have not sinned, we make God a liar, and His Word is not in us! And that is where they found themselves.
But, when they saw that, they repented! They did not continue to deny their sin. Romans 3:25 says, speaking of Jesus, “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood.” That is what God requires. So, when they placed their trust in His blood as full payment for their own sin , they were born again, and they began eternal life in Him that very moment.
The woman I am thinking of was 78 years old, and had been in church her whole life, but had never heard that she needed to be born again. Since then, she has gone on to be with her Savior, but she left these lessons for us to learn:
- Going to church cannot save us!
- Earnest service and religious works cannot save us!
- Years of good behavior cannot save us!
- Faith in Jesus’s Word, and His shed blood, alone, is the only response God will accept.
Keep this in mind when you share your faith with others: Jesus is who they need: not the church, not good works, nor becoming a follower of some human teacher. They need Jesus! Give them Jesus!
Lord Jesus, help us to see you clearly, and to follow you faithfully. Give us the heart of love and compassion that will enable us to offer your Love to others and to share your Grace with them.