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Sunday, December 13, 1998

32 - Salvation, Faith, Eternal Life

John 3:1-36 by Robert Dean
Series:John (1998)
Duration:44 mins 12 secs

Salvation, Faith, Eternal Life
John 3:1-36
John Lesson #32
December 13, 1998

The doctrine of the witnesses in the Scripture

There are seven different witnesses who are set up by John the apostle in his explanation of the Gospel.

1)  The first by way of importance, not in order of appearance in the text, was the witness of God the Father. John 5:37 NASB "And the Father who sent Me, He has testified of Me." Remember that at the baptism by John the Baptist, God the Father spoke with an audible voice and could clearly be heard and understood by everyone present: "This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased."

2)  The second witness that John marshals for us in terms of significance is Jesus Christ Himself. John 8:14 NASB "Jesus answered and said to them, "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." He has made the claim to deity; He has all the attributes of deity. He is veracity as part of the attributes of God, absolute truth; so if he is absolute truth and he is immutable and cannot lie, then His witness is absolute truth. This word martureo [marturew] translated "witness" is a legal term. It has to do with presenting a testimony in a court of law. One of the problems we have relates to trying to understand a passage in Philippians chapter two: 2:5 NASB "Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, [6] who, although He existed in the form [morphe, i.e. inner essence] of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, [7] but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, {and} being made in the likeness of men." The word "emptied" is from the verb kenoo [kenow]. The noun form is kenosis. It doesn't mean that Jesus gave up anything. He didn't give up or leave any attributes of deity in heaven when He came to earth. What it means is that Jesus Christ voluntarily restricted the independent use of His divine attributes. That means he was still undiminished deity and true humanity. He didn't flaunt His deity but willingly restricted it for a while during the first advent, the period of the incarnation. So He was complete veracity, everything He said was true so that His testimony about Himself was absolutely true.

3)  The third witness in order of significance is God the Holy Spirit. This took place first of all at the river Jordan; He descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove. 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." Cf. John 16:23.

4)  The miracles of Jesus. It is not just His words but also His works. John 5:36 NASB "But the testimony which I have is greater than {the testimony of} John; for the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish—the very works that I do—testify about Me, that the Father has sent Me." If we go through and evaluate all the healing passages in Scripture, in many cases the people who are healed are not believers, there is no evidence or indication that they are seeking healing to begin with, and there is no evidence that they became believers after wards or had any level of faith whatsoever. It was just accomplished. For example, when Peter and John are going to the temple in Acts 4 the lame man there did not go to them to seek to be healed. They just heal him, a powerful testimony which provides credentials for the ministry, that a person is who he clams to be. And the healings involved constitutional defects, deep problems. If someone today were to have the gift of healing legitimately we would not find them isolating their ministry to some local church where the environment is controlled, but you would find them walking up and down the aisles of the cancer wards of the hospitals, healing those who had cancer, restoring the use of limbs to those who were crippled and paralysed. That is how that gift functioned in the New Testament. These miracles were phenomenal and the people who witnessed them knew that these people had these constitutional defects all of their lives.

5)  The Old Testament Scriptures, the prophecies that were fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus Christ. In John chapter five Jesus told the Pharisees: "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.

7)  The witness of those who have met Jesus and believed on Him; other believers who have seen what he did. John 4, after Jesus witnessed to the woman at the well she ran into town excited about what she had heard and what she had learned and she told everybody about what Jesus had done and said. John 4:41 NASB "Many more believed because of His word; [42] 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'." 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.}"

So John says that there were seven objective witnesses that give their testimony that Jesus Christ is who he claimed to be, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the one who came from heaven to earth and that by believing we might have life in His name. So if you reject that claims of Christ then you are calling all of these witnesses into question. Under the Mosaic Law all that was required to substantiate a point was that there be two witnesses. Yet John goes above and beyond that and gives us seven distinct witnesses to establish the principle that it is beyond question. So that if you reject the claims of Christ as Saviour it is not because it is for a lack of evidence but for a much deeper reason, and that is the reason given by Paul in Romans 1:18, 19, that you have rejected God, antagonistic to God and are suppressing the truth in unrighteousness. It is not because you cannot understand it or that it is not accurately presented, or given evidence, it is because you reject that evidence and that there is no amount of evidence that will ever convince you; and it has nothing to do with reason, rationalism or empiricism.

John 3:31-36 is a fitting conclusion to Jesus' ministry in Jerusalem and Judea. After John the Baptist has recognised that his ministry will be necessarily on the decline because of God's plan and purposes for his life and that Jesus' ministry will increase—because after all, He is the Messiah, the Son of God—John the apostle comments.

John 3:31 NASB "He who comes from above is above all, he who is of the earth is from the earth and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all." That is, the Lord Jesus Christ, His origin is from above; He is above all. All of mankind is even John the Baptist. Jesus is superior, that is why He increases. This should remind us of what Jesus said in verses 11-13 in His conversation with Nicodemus: "Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen, and you do not accept our testimony. If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man." What is His point? The point Jesus is making is in regard to empiricism. Empiricism is the collection of observable data in order to substantiate a conclusion. Mankind is limited to being "inside the box." Jesus is saying: "I come from outside the box; I come from heaven. I don't come from the finite experience of earthly-bound human beings who are limited in their knowledge and experience." He is the only one who can speak authoritatively about what is in heaven. 

John 3:32 NASB "What He has seen and heard, of that He testifies; and no one receives His testimony." This is a figure of speech here because it implies that Jesus came to learn things. But Jesus is omniscient. Omniscience means that God knows all the knowable. There never was a time when God did not know everything He knows today. That means that God doesn't learn anything; He knows everything.

Just as an aside, that means that there is an infinite amount of things to learn. People get the idea that when we get to heaven we are not going to have a whole lot to do. We have an infinite amount of things to learn and we have an eternity in which to learn it. That is what is going to happen in heaven. We are going to take with us to heaven that which we have learned in our life today, the spiritual capacity that we have. That is what we start off with when we arrive in heaven, our capacity that we develop right here and now. There are certain things that can only be learned in the matrix of suffering and endurance, which means those who do not pass the tests and learn the doctrines that are supposed to be learned in the midst of those tests will never have the opportunity and never be able to learn those things once they are absent from the body and face to face with the Lord. So there will always be a certain lack in some believers throughout all eternity because of their failures here on earth. That does not mean that there is not eternal bliss in heaven, or regret because all that will pass away and God will wipe away every tear and all of these things will be forgotten. But when we think about the omniscience of God we are going to be learning from God throughout all eternity. For those of us who like to learn nothing could be more exciting. 

John 3:33 NASB "He who has received His testimony has set his seal to {this,} that God is true." Who is the one who has received His witness? The one who has received His witness is comparable to what is said in verse 21: "But he who practices the truth comes to the Light." The Light is the revelation of God, the witness of God. What does it mean, "has set his seal to this"? That is a Greek idiom which means to attest something as true, to claim that something is true, to accept it as true, to put the stamp of approval on it, that this is a true statement. So John says that it is the person who accepts Jesus' witness, that He is the Son of God, that He has come to do on the cross as our substitute. This is a reverence again to the essence of God: that God is veracity, absolute truth.

John 3:34 NASB "For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for He gives the Spirit without measure." This refers to Jesus Christ again as having been sent by God and that He communicates absolute divine revelation. There is an ellipsis here—leaving words out because it is obviously understood by everything else that is in the sentence—and what is left our here is the phrase "to Him." Only to Jesus Christ was the Holy Spirit given without measure. Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would have the seven-fold Spirit of God, seven being the number of completion. Jesus Christ's spiritual life was empowered by the Holy Spirit. God the Holy Spirit is the power not only of the spiritual life of the Lord Jesus Christ but of the believer in the church age. Jesus Christ in the period of the incarnation was filled constantly by the Holy Spirit and He was pioneering the spiritual life that would become the norm for the church age believer. So that the precedent for spirituality in the church age is not based back in the Mosaic Law, it is the spiritual life that was manifested and demonstrated by Jesus Christ during the incarnation. He was filled by means of God the Holy Spirit and His life was our example.

John 3:35 NASB "The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand." This is the delegation of authority from the Father to the Son. Backing up a little, the thrust of what John is saying in all of this is that our starting point for understanding anything about life is the revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ; the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. By saying it that way, does that exclude the Old Testament? Not at all. Jesus Christ affirmed everything in the Old Testament, In fact, he is the one who revealed the Old Testament and, according to 1 Corinthians 2:20, all of the Bible is the mind of Christ. This is the starting point. There is nothing wrong inherently with the use of reason or experience, the question is, is that your starting point? Rationalism says you start with human reason and use logic to go to absolute truth on the basis of reason alone. Empiricism says you start with human experience as your final criteria for truth and you develop everything logically from that. What the Scripture says is the starting point is the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the one who came from heaven and tells us what absolute truth is. So even though we can understand certain things to a certain level to be true, such as 2 + 2 = 4, when it comes to understanding it as an absolute, if our starting point is human reason or experience, which always leads to some form of relativism and the rejection of absolutes, how can you have scientific absolutes if you reject absolutes and think the ultimate reality in the universe is chance, according to the theory of evolution? The starting point has to be what the Scripture says and then you build upon that.

John 3:36 NASB "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." The conclusion to the whole chapter. Notice it doesn't say, he who believes and is baptised, he who believes and joins the church, he who believes and is circumcised, he who believes and follows the Mosaic Law, he who believes and commits himself. Incidentally, one of the big problems today is that faith is defined by many people as commitment. That is absurd. Faith is not commitment; faith is to trust, to believe, to accept something as true. Commitment has to do with things in the spiritual life, it has nothing to do with salvation.

Notice the shift in words: "but he who does not obey." This is a very important shift. The one who believes has eternal life but the one who is disobedient, the one who does not obey. Notice is doesn't say "the one who does not believe." Why is that? Because it is a command. What is the command? "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved." If you obey the command and believe you will have eternal life. The issue here is not obedience to the Law, obedience to every mandate in Scripture, the issue is one particular mandate, Acts 16:31 NASB "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved..."