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Sunday, July 12, 1998

10 - The Seven Witnesses

John 1:15 by Robert Dean
Series:John (1998)
Duration:39 mins 25 secs

 The Seven Witnesses
John 1:15
John Lesson #010
July 19, 1998

"And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth."

We have seen that this emphasis on glory that John has in his Gospel is not the glory of the Mount of Transfiguration, the flashing forth of Jesus Christ is all of His brilliance of Shekinah glory, but this is the glory of everyday events, that Jesus demonstrated in the way He met the needs of people. Now we come to verse 15.

John 1:15 NASB "John testified about Him and cried out, saying, "This was He of whom I said, 'He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.'" So we return to the scene of a testimony, a witness. We need to think of the Gospel of John as a courtroom case. John writes in chapter 20 that, "these [signs] have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name." Belief for the writer of the Gospel is not some subjective experience. It is not just faith in faith which is so common today: Just believe! Believe what? The biblical, concept of faith is something that is based on data, on evidence. It is something that is consistent with clear, rational, cognitive thought. It is not emotion, it is something that is based on events that occurred in space-time history, that at the time they occurred they were witnessed by many different people, and so there is clear, objective, verifiable evidence to substantiate these claims. John marshals throughout his Gospel a number of different witnesses.

The Greek verb for witnessing here is martureo [marturew] and it means to give evidence, to witness, to be a witness. It is a legal concept that would be found in the courtroom. It was brought into the English language as "martyr," because a martyr was someone who was brought up on charges for worshipping a god other than Caesar. And they gave a clear testimony as to who Jesus Christ was and they witnessed, and because of their testimony that Jesus Christ was the Son of God and that eternal life was by faith alone in Christ alone they were then sentenced to death. They were executed because of their faith. That is why  we call them martyrs. But John the Baptist is the first martyr of the book in that sense of a legal witness.

Before we get into this in detail we have to understand that throughout the course of this Gospel there are going to be seven witnesses. So we need to examine the doctrine of the seven witnesses.

1)  God the Father. This takes place at the river Jordan when Jesus Christ comes down to be baptized by John the Baptist. Evidence of this is given in John 5:37 NASB "And the Father who sent Me, He has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time nor seen His form." How did the Father bear witness of Jesus Christ? When he was baptized by John the Baptist (the significance of baptism is identification). The baptism of Jesus Christ was a unique baptism because the water did not indicate sin as it did in John's normal baptism but it indicated identification with the plan of God. Jesus went into the water, which was identification with the plan of God, comes out of the water and God the Father announces publicly so all those around could hear: "This is my Son with whom I am well pleased." The folks who heard this were not the religious crowd around Jerusalem, they were the ones who were positive to doctrine and who had come down to the Jordan river in the wilderness to listen to John's teaching. So this is a crowd who are believers and who are positive to the Lord and it is among that crowd that this initial evidence is given. 

2)  The Son Himself. Jesus witnessed of Himself through His actions. They were consistent with His character and with His message. He gave objective evidence through His miracles that gave credibility to His message. John 8:14 NASB "Jesus answered and said to them [the Pharisees], 'Even if I testify about Myself, My testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going; but you do not know where I come from or where I am going'." The point here is that Jesus has made certain prophecies and He has made certain statements which relate to His omniscience and demonstrate His deity, and because of these credentials he gives objective evidence related to who he was.

3)  The witness of the Holy Spirit. So the first three witnesses have to do with evidence given by the Trinity. This also occurred at the time of the baptism of Jesus at the Jordan river. When God the Father said, "This is my Son in whom I am well pleased" the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove—which in the Old Testament was one of the sacrifices in the Levitical offerings representing the Holy Spirit—He descended upon Jesus, which indicates that Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit. So there is an authentication of who he is not only by the Father's voice but by the descent of the dove as a representation of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, in John 15:26 and John 16:13 Jesus says that the Spirit bears witness of Him. John 15:26 NASB "When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, {that is} the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me." John 16:13 NASB "But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come." This is not a verse for divine guidance. Always understand as a matter of interpretation what the context is of every verse. Jesus is the speaker. He is speaking directly to the disciples in the upper room the night before He was to go to the cross to be crucified. So he is giving them specific information related to the role of the Holy Spirit in their apostolic ministry that is coming up. The use here is restricted to the disciples.

4)  The miracles of Jesus Christ. It is these miracles that attest to who he is and what He is going to do. So the miracles are His calling card, the validation of His claims. When He says that he alone can give life to those who have been dead and that He is the light of the world, what does He do? He takes a man who has been blind from birth and He gives him light. If he can do this in the physical realm then he can do this in the spiritual realm.

5)  The Old Testament Scriptures. They contain hundreds of prophecies about the coming Messiah. Genesis 3:15 NASB "And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel." This focus narrows a little bit in Genesis 12:1-3 with the Abrahamic covenant where all nations would be blessed. That, of course, is through his seed. Galatians tells us that that is a reference to the Lord Jesus Christ. A further narrowing of the prophecy is in Genesis 49:10 where He would be from the tribe of Judah. In Micah 5:2 tells us He will be born in Bethlehem. NASB "But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, {Too} little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity." Isaiah 7:14 tells us that He will be born of a virgin. In Daniel 9 the prophecy related to Daniel seventy weeks tells us precisely in terms of human history when that would come, that it would come 483 years after the Jews were sent back to the land by Artaxerxes. Psalm 22 gives us a prophecy about the crucifixion and what would be said on the cross by the dying Savior. These are just a few of the many prophecies contained in the Old Testament Scriptures that are fulfilled literally in the person and the work of the Lord Jesus Christ when He was on the earth. John 5:39 NASB "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me."

6)  John the Baptist and the evidence that he gives at the baptism of Christ in terms of inaugurating His public ministry.

7)  Believers who knew Jesus, had met Him, and believed on Him. Example: the Samaritan woman at the well, John 4:41, 42 NASB "Many more believed because of His word; and they were saying to the woman, "It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world." Initially they believed because of her witness. John 12:17 NASB "So the people, who were with Him when He called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead, continued to testify {about Him.}"

What is the common denominator here? It is that they are giving objective, verifiable information. When we witness and give the gospel to people that is what we are expected to do. Witnessing is not something that is subjective. It is not that Jesus did something for me and now I feel different; that is a very subjective witness, it doesn't really mean or communicate anything. What needs to be clear is, who was Jesus Christ? Was he who He claimed to be? And the Scripture makes it very clear that He was who he claimed to be.

The doctrine of witnessing

1)  Every believer in Jesus Christ is in full time Christian service from the moment of faith in Christ. Some people are in full time professional Christian service, some people are in amateur Christian service, but every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ is in full time Christian service from the moment that they are saved. Some are failures at it, some are successes at it, but every believer is in full time Christian service. The issue is, are you going to learn everything there is to learn about this new responsibility you have been given or are you going to let it slide.

2)  Full time Christian service relates to two important doctrines: our royal priesthood and our royal ambassadorship. At the moment of salvation every believer is made a royal priest. That means he has immediate access to God the Father. A priesthood has to do with your relationship and rapport with God the Father. Ambassadorship has to do with your spiritual life and its ramifications toward mankind as a representative of God the Father.

3)  A priest is a member of the human race who represents the human race or some portion of it before God. 1 Peter 2:5 NASB "you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." Revelation 1:6 NASB "and He has made us {to be} a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—to Him {be} the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen." Three primary areas of Christian service relate to our royal priesthood. First of all, learning doctrine so that our relationship with God will advance on the basis of knowledge and not on the basis of ignorance. Second area, the ministry of prayer. We have immediate access to the throne room of God because we are a priest. Third, giving. This is a responsibility of every single believer. A fourth area is found in 1 Peter 2:9 NASB "But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR {God's} OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." The thrust of that relates to our priesthood. Purpose clause: "that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." So according to this verse one function of the priesthood is the proclamation of the gospel. But the primary role of witnessing comes from our position as a royal ambassadors. We are royal ambassadors from the High Court of the eternal God in heaven. Our citizenship is not here on earth but is in heaven.

Seven points related to our royal ambassadorship

a)  An ambassador is a high-ranking minister of state or a member of royalty sent to another state to represent his sovereign or country. By analogy, as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ we are a member of spiritual aristocracy. Christ as the King has sent us into a foreign country, the world, to represent Him.

b)  At salvation every believer enters the royal family of God through the baptism of the Holy Spirit. At the same time he becomes a representative of the Lord Jesus Christ on earth. Ambassadorship stems from being in union with Christ which is the result of our baptism by means of the Holy Spirit.

c)  Every church age believer as a member of the royal family of God represents the King of kings and Lord of lords while he is on the earth.

d)  Ambassadorship emphasizes our full time Christian service.

e)  Ambassadorship is going to be related to our spiritual gift[s], but it is not limited to our spiritual gift.

f)  Christian service related to our royal ambassadorship includes the following arenas: witnessing or personal evangelism, missionary work, the use of spiritual gifts, as well as administrative work in many Christian organizations and groups.

g)  A nation's ambassador does not support himself. Likewise, we are supported in Satan's domain by God's logistical grace. Furthermore an ambassador has his instructions in written form. We have the completed canon of Scripture. An ambassador does not belong to the country to which he is sent; we are citizens of heaven. An ambassador does not regard insults or rejection as personal, so we must not take rejection of the gospel or insults personally. The recall of an ambassador is a declaration of war, usually in our society. So when we as believers are recalled at the Rapture the most violent spiritual conflict will erupt upon the earth.

Contrast between a priest and an ambassador:

In terms of our priesthood we represent self to God, in terms of ambassadorship we represent God to men. Priesthood is an invisible ministry, people do not see us operating in the role of the priesthood. But they do see us as an ambassador as we witness to people or exercise our spiritual gift. Priesthood deals with our relationship with God; ambassador deals with our relationship with men and to men. Priesthood is private; ambassadorship is public. Priesthood means that we have to learn doctrine; ambassadorship relates to the application of doctrine. In priesthood as we learn doctrine there is spiritual growth; ambassadorship is the result of spiritual growth.

4)  We are royal ambassadors from the High Court of the eternal God in heaven. What are the Scriptures supporting this? 2 Corinthians 5:17-20 NASB "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, {he is} a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all {these} things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God."

5)  The believer has two areas of responsibility with regard to witnessing. One is in terms of his life, how he lives his life. This is non-verbal and won't save anybody. It just backs up what you say. 2 Corinthians 3:3 NASB "being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts." Secondly, the witness of words. This is communicating the exact gospel to people so that they know precisely what they need to in order to be saved.

6)  Always remember that God the Holy Spirit is the sovereign executive of salvation. That means it is His responsibility to make the gospel clear. Even if we muddle it up or get confused it is not ultimately dependent on us, it is dependent upon God the Holy Spirit making it clear. The issue if faithfulness, not numbers. Remember it is God who gives the increase, not us. Our responsibility is to communicate the truth, it is up to God to grant the increase.

7)  Don't get side-tracked by all kinds of false issues.

8)  Avoid subjectivity. Don't make it emotional. Don't focus on "this is what Jesus did for me." The issue is what Christ did on the cross. That is what we learn from the seven witnesses in John. Keep the issue objective, focussing on exactly what happened with Christ on the cross and how the witness of Scripture attests to that.