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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
February 6, 2000
The Four-Fold Witness of Christ
The most important question anyone will every face is, "Who is Jesus Christ?" How you answer that question will determine your place in eternity. Most people will use some reference of honor for Jesus even though they may not believe in Him. Many people will refer to Jesus as one of the great teachers in History or a great ethicist – a teacher of moral values. Others are a bit more spiritual and view Jesus as an "ascended master" who founded a great religion. Yet, whatever title or term of respect is applied to Him must be compared to Jesus’ actual claim for Himself to see what people actually believe.
If Jesus is a good teacher and a great ethicist, then He must also be someone who followed His own ethics and was truthful. Jesus called for people to be truthful. In Matthew 6:37 Jesus warned about making oaths and said that anything beyond a simple "yes" or "no" was of evil. Swearing and making oaths are done in an attempt to convince another person that you are telling the truth. Our simple word should be sufficient for that if we are indeed truthful people. Those who say Jesus was a great teacher of moral values must come recognize Jesus’ claim about Himself.
In our previous sermons from John 5 we have seen that this whole passage revolves around His claim to be equal with God since He is the Son of God. As verse 18 points out, the religious leaders understood what Jesus was claiming and were seeking to kill Him for it. Verses 19-47 are Jesus’ defense and proof that His claim is true. In verses 19-29, which we studied a couple of weeks ago, we saw that Jesus claimed to:
1. Only do what He sees the Father doing (19).
2. That the Father loves the Him and shows all things to Him (20).
3. That He has authority to raise the dead and give life just as the Father can do (21, 25-26).
4. That all judgement has been given to Him by the Father (22, 27-29)
5. That those who believe in Him will receive eternal life (24, 29).
Those who call Jesus a good teacher or a great ethicist must also believe Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God or they themselves are not truthful with themselves. If Jesus claim is true, then He is the greatest teacher and ethicist that has ever been on earth. If Jesus’ claim is false and He knew it was not true, then Jesus is a liar. Liars’ are not good teachers or ethicists. If Jesus’ claim is false but He believed it to be true, then Jesus is a lunatic. People who are delusional in such a manner are not good teachers or ethicists. Those who claim Jesus to be a good teacher, a great teacher of moral values, some sort of ascended master or whatever else, must also recognize the reality of Jesus’ claims about Himself. If they reject those claims, then they must also conclude that Jesus was a liar or a lunatic or they themselves are liars about what they really believe.
This morning we are going to continue in John 5 as we look at the remainder of Jesus’ defense of His claim to be the Son of God. It is not enough to make a claim about yourself. There must also be others who will witness to the truth of the claim. This morning we will look at four different witnesses that verify Jesus’ claim.
THE HUMILITY OF THE SON (30-32)
In verses 30-32 we transition from His previous argument to the presentation of His witnesses. We also find Jesus to be humble and submissive to the Father.
John 5:30 (NASB) "I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 31 "If I [alone] bear witness of Myself, My testimony is not true. 32 "There is another who bears witness of Me, and I know that the testimony which He bears of Me is true.
In the previous verses Jesus had just been talking about the fact that God had given Him to execute judgement because He is the Son of Man (vs. 26) and that judgement included the final judgement at the resurrection. Jesus will be the judge of who did good and who did evil with the corresponding consequences (vs. 29). In verse 30 Jesus claims that this judgement will be a just judgement because it would not be based on His own initiative or will, but on the Father’s.
In the same way, Jesus’ testimony concerning Himself is not based in Himself alone. Such a testimony would not stand up in a court of law. There would have to be collaborating testimony. Jesus would make this same point again in John 8:14-18. Jesus’ claims are true because they do not arise from Himself, but from the Father who also bears witness to the truth of the claim. Jesus’ judgement of others and of Himself is based in His submission to the Father’s will. This argument goes back again to His original claim in verses 17 & 19 that Jesus is only doing the Father’s work.
In the rest of this chapter Jesus presents the testimony of witnesses to His claim.
THE WITNESS OF JOHN (33-35)
The first testimony that Jesus points out to them is the witness of John the Baptist. John 5:33 (NASB) "You have sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. 34 "But the witness which I receive is not from man, but I say these things that you may be saved. 35 "He was the lamp that was burning and was shining and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light.
These Jews to whom Jesus was talking with were well aware of John’s ministry and testimony concerning Jesus. They were even willing to accept John’s ministry for a short time. There were large crowds that went out to see and hear John. Matthew 3:5 describes this. Then Jerusalem was going out to him, and all Judea, and all the district around the Jordan. There was some hope in the coming of John. There had not been a prophet for over 400 years. Perhaps John was Elijah, or perhaps the Messiah Himself. There was hope rising that the oppression of Rome could be thrown off and the glory of Israel restored in the near future. But John came preaching repentance of sin and that included the sins of the religious leaders. They soon became antagonistic toward him. The past tense of the verb used here indicates that John was no longer present. Recall that one of the reasons Jesus had returned to Galilee some months earlier was because Herod had arrested John and thrown him in prison. They rejoiced in John’s light only for a short time, for soon they recoiled at the exposure it brought.
Jesus presents to them the witness of John, but John is actually extraneous to Jesus demonstrating His claim, as Jesus points out in verse 34. Jesus does not need or receive the witness of man. Men are not great witnesses because 1. They often lie 2. They can be fairly easily deceived. Most of us are familiar enough with court cases reported in the media in recent years to be aware of that for ourselves. Jesus has pointed out the testimony of John for the benefit of His hearers. He wants them to be saved. This was testimony they themselves had heard and could still heed. John had pointed out that Jesus is "the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world."
THE WITNESS OF WORKS (36)
In verse 36 Jesus brings up His second witness. John 5:36 (NASB) "But the witness which I have is greater than [that of] John; for the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish, the very works that I do, bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me.
The witness of Jesus’ works is greater than John for the reasons I already pointed out about the weaknesses of a man’s testimony and because they were of such a nature that they could only have been done by God. We must remember that what seems miraculous to us is not necessarily from God. Satan is a deceiver and has a lot of ability to do what seems like a miracle to us. Jesus even warned us that "For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect (Matt 24:24).
There is no slight of hand in the miracles of Jesus. There are no potions given or lotions applied. Many times Jesus does not even touch the individual healed. They are done by the power of His word. Jesus turned the water into wine and did not even touch the jug (John 2). The signs Jesus did during the previous Passover convinced Nicodemus to say, "Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him" (John 3:2). Jesus healed the royal official’s son in Capernaum by simply pronouncing it and at the time Jesus was in Cana some 16 miles or so away (John 4:46-54). The man at Bethesda had been sick for 38 years, but Jesus healed him instantly by commanding him to arise. These are miracles which require God’s direct intervention. They bore witness that Jesus had been sent by God the Father.
THE WITNESS OF THE FATHER (37-38)
The third witness was that of God the Father Himself. John 5:37 (NASB) "And the Father who sent Me, He has borne witness of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form. 38 "And you do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He sent.
Jesus, of course, has the Father’s witness to Him constantly present, but the specific event referred to occurred at Jesus’ baptism when the heavens opened and the Spirit of god descended upon Him as a dove and a voice from heaven said, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matt. 3:16,17).
These Jewish religious leaders were putting themselves in the positions of judging Jesus as if they were the only ones that could speak for God, but the reality of the situation was that these men had never heard God’s voice or seen Him. Jesus had and did. They did not have the basis for making such judgements against Jesus. Jesus is even more pointed in stating that they did not have God’s word abiding in them. They were the self-professed keepers and teachers of God’s law, but they rejected the one that God had sent.
What was true for them is still true today. There are those that claim to speak for God and assure us that they are true to His word, yet as you listen to what they say it becomes evident that they have twisted the Scriptures to in order to justify their rejection of Jesus. The Jesus they speak of is a different Jesus than the one of the Bible. For example, the Mormon Jesus is son of Elohim and the brother of Lucifer. He is a glorified resurrected man. You too can become like him and get your own planet. The Jesus of the Jehovah Witnesses is a god, not the God. Their Jesus is a created being instead of being the eternal creator of all things. Other cults are similar in denying certain attributes of Jesus’ deity. Then there are those who make Jesus into a wonderful genie that grants their every wish simply because they have said the magic incantation of "in Jesus name." Their Jesus exists for their pleasure and not they for His.
When a person, or group, will not believe in the Jesus of the Bible, they will not believe in the Bible either. They will distort it to fit what they want to believe. If you do not know the Scriptures yourself, then you are subject to being led astray by such people.
THE WITNESS OF THE SCRIPTURES (39-47
The fourth witness Jesus puts for is that of the Scriptures themselves. John 5:39 (NASB) "You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that bear witness of Me;40 and you are unwilling to come to Me, that you may have life.
They had the very word of God in the Scriptures, but their understanding of them had been perverted to such an extent that the really did not know what they were talking about. Much like an earlier generation during the time of Jeremiah had thought no harm could come to them because the Temple of God was located in their midst, so there was a common belief among the religious leaders, and hence among many common people too, that salvation came from having the word of God itself. They had made the Bible a mystical book which would bring life rather than a communication from God on how He would give life.
For example, just a few generations earlier, the famous Rabbi Hillel said in one of his maxims, "More flesh, more worms; More wealth, more care; More maidservants, more lewdness; More menservants, more thieving; More women, more witchcraft; More Torah, more life.
Whoso hath gained a good name, has gained it for himself. Whoso hath gained the words of the Torah, hath gained for himself life in the world to come."
In short, they believed that they gained eternal life by the study of the Scriptures. Don’t misunderstand me, studying the Bible is a wonderful thing, but the Bible itself will not do much for you unless you heed what is written. There are those today who are "Bible Scholars" in that they study the Bible in the original languages and make careful analysis of the words and grammar used, but in all their study they do not know the message of the book! Most universities have a Religion department of some sort and you will find men and women there who write very technical papers about the Bible, but they do not know the God of the Bible or the savior, Jesus Christ. They study the book, but they do not know its message.
Jesus is very direct with them and tells them that the Scriptures bear witness of Himself. The message of the Old Testament is Jesus Christ, but they were lost in the delivery vehicle and forgot about the purpose of it. That would be like going down to the airport to pick up the king’s ambassador, but when he arrives you are so enamored with the plane and examining it that you forget about the ambassador. They were extremely diligent in their study of the Scriptures, but they neglected its message.
Because of this neglect of the message God gave them in the Scriptures, they did not recognize Jesus as the Messiah when he came and were therefore unwilling to come to Him to receive life. Please note that the were unwilling to come. They had the information and the capability, but Jesus did not fit what they wanted to they rejected Him and were therefore unwilling. Jesus goes on in verses 41-44 to point out that despite all their claims to godliness and piety, they actually had no interest in the things of God.
Jesus contrasts Himself with them in verse 41-44. "I do not receive glory from men; 42 but I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves. 43 "I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another shall come in his own name, you will receive him. 44 "How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another, and you do not seek the glory that is from the [one and] only God?
These Jewish religious leaders were concerned about what the others thought about them instead of what God thought about them. Certainly these people put a lot of pressure on everyone else to conform. In John 7 we will find that though there were people that thought well of Jesus no one would "speak openly for Him for fear of the Jews." But regardless of what pressure their might be to conform, the issue is still going to boil down to what we really believe about God. If God is really the most important thing in our life we will stand up for Him and do what He says regardless of how anyone else responds and what they may do to us.
We must remember that Jesus warned us in John 16:33 that "in this world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world." Paul is very blunt about this in 2 Tim. 3:12 – And indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. But recall also that Jesus told us in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:10-12, "Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 "Blessed are you when [men] cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. 12 "Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you."
Fear of what others might think or do should never keep us from living for Christ and speaking up for Him. But these Jews did not reject Jesus and become unwilling to come to Him out of fear, but from desire. Our text says they "receive glory from one another" and did not "seek the glory that is from the one and only God" (vs. 44). They wanted to be praised by everyone else. That is why they would receive others who came in their own name, but not Jesus (vs. 43).
Jesus was not popular with the religious elite. He came in the Father’s name, and like John, called for repentance even from them. He had already exposed their hypocrisy when He had to clear the Temple of the merchants and money changers. The religious elite had allowed God’s house of prayer to become a den of thieves (Luke 19:46). Yet history shows Jesus’ prophecy concerning them has been fulfilled many time over. Theudas and Judas of Galilee are mentioned in Acts 5:36,37. In 132-135 there was a man named Barkochba that arose that Rabbi Akiba even called "The Star of Jacob" in reference to Num. 24:17. There have been many since. Just a few years ago Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson had been claimed to be the Messiah, but he died in New York City.
Before we are too hard on these people, we had better look in the mirror and see how easy it still is to act the same way. We look to the "elite" in whatever circles we are in to see what we should accept or reject. This is true even in fundamental circles. I often find pastors that tend to accept or reject whatever their favorite Bible teacher or professor said. In a lot of fundamental churches the people basically tend to repeat whatever the pastor says. One of my constant challenges to all of you here is that you be Bereans who check out what I say with the Scriptures. I can be wrong and you are responsible to correct me if error from what God has said. None of us should be here to receive the praise of men. We all should be seeking the praise of God and that requires that the message of God in the Scriptures rule us.
Jesus did not seek the praise of men for He loved God. That is how we should be. These Jews were the opposite. The sought the praise of men and they did not love God.
The hope of these men was in their study of the Scriptures. They thought that in keeping the Mosaic Law they would gain eternal life, and they had manipulated the Law to the point that they deceived themselves into believing that they were keeping it. Recall the claim of the rich young ruler that came to Jesus in Matthew 19 who even said to Jesus that he had kept the all the law. In verses 45-47 Jesus attacks their false hope.
45 "Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; the one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope. 46 "For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote of Me. 47 "But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?"
The truth of the matter was that despite their claims to be followers of Moses, they did not believe or follow what he had written. Moses pointed to the coming Messiah throughout his books. Jesus is the seed of the woman that would bruise the serpent’s head (Gen. 3:15). He is the seed of Abraham and Isaac by which all the nations of the earth would be blessed (Gen. 12:3; 22:18). He is the "Shiloh", the ruler promised from the line of Judah who would never lose the scepter, the ruler’s staff. Jesus is the star out of Jacob and the Scepter that would rise out of Israel (Num. 24:17). He is the great prophet of Deuteronomy 18 that God would raise up to speak in His name, and whoever would not listen would be judged by God. There is also all the typology such as the Passover lamb and the Levitical sacrifices looking forward to Jesus’ final sacrifice for sin and Moses lifting up the serpent in the wilderness.
They had set their hopes in the writings of Moses, but those very writings would condemn them for their unbelief in both Moses and the Messiah. If they would not believe Moses’ writings, how would they ever believe what Jesus was telling them. The final reality was that they only believed what fit into the religious system that they themselves has created. They only believed what they wanted to believe.
As tragic as this is, there are still so many that respond the same way to Jesus today. Often those people will even profess to be Christians. They have created their own system and reject what does not fit it. They have the Bible, and some are even diligent students of it, but they do not heed its message.
Jesus claim is to be equal with God the Father because He is God the Son. He backs up that claim with the testimony of four witnesses: John the Baptist, His works, God the Father and the Scriptures. You can believe the witness and Jesus’ claim and receive eternal life, or you can reject them and continue as you are under His condemnation. But be careful that any profession of belief you make in Jesus is real. Do not be like these Jews and so many others who, at Titus 1:16 stays, They profess to know God, but by [their] deeds they deny [Him], being detestable and disobedient, and worthless for any good deed. How you live your life will demonstrate what you really believe.
Sermon Study Sheets
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Count how many times the word "witness" or "testimony" 2) Discuss with your parents the four witnesses to Christ and what you believe about them.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.
What is your answer to the question, "Who is Jesus Christ?" What is Jesus’ claim to that question? What evidence does Jesus given in John 5 to back up that claim? What can be said of someone that says Jesus is a good man but does not believe Jesus’ claims? Why did the religious leaders only receive John for a while? How do the works/miracles of Jesus demonstrate that He is divine? What about people who do "miracles" today? What was the witness of God the Father concerning Jesus? Why didn’t these Jews receive and accept it? Is there any parallel to these kind of people in our own time? Why do you need to know the Bible for yourself? Why did the Jews "search the Scriptures"? Why didn’t they gain life from their studies? Why did they receive others who came in their own name, but not Jesus? What did they want more than God’s approval? What did Moses write about? Why didn’t they understand what Moses had written? On what basis will God judge them? On what basis will God judge you? What is the evidence of true belief in Jesus?
Sermon Notes – 2/6/2000 a.m.
The Four-Fold Witness to Christ – John 5:30-47
THE HUMILITY OF THE SON (30-32)
THE WITNESS OF JOHN (33-35)
THE WITNESS OF WORKS (36)
THE WITNESS OF THE FATHER (37-38)
THE WITNESS OF THE SCRIPTURES (39-47)
Rabbinic belief about the Scriptures
What they sought.
Avoiding Fear – John 7
What Moses taught
Gen. 12:3; 22:18
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