Meditations in 1 John : 61 : God’s Testimony
1 John 5:9,10 We accept man’s testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son.
Perhaps we take the word ‘testimony’ for granted. It appears mostly in respect of Court cases and witnesses share their testimony. They share what they have seen and heard. That is why the beginning of John’s letter is so powerful, because it is a testimony to what John and the other apostles had seen and heard. It is also why the previously blind man’s testimony in John 9 is so powerful because he simply tells what has happened – “I was blind but now I can see.”
When John says “We accept man’s testimony,” he is not seeking to define something but is making a generalisation. Generally we accept what someone says when they were a witness. It’s worth noting in passing that often a defence counsel may try to discredit a witness and that’s what crusading atheists do with Christians, just like the Pharisees did with that man in John 9 we referred to who had been blind from birth. It’s not possible, was basically what they said, such things don’t happen. It’s what the crusading atheists say about miracles – they can’t happen! Well they can because there IS a God.
Now the point John is making in these verses is that we can believe about Jesus because of what God Himself has said. Human testimony is good, is what he implies, but God’s testimony is better – because He is God and a) He knows and b) He only conveys truth. God knows everything and He knows all about Jesus and so if He says, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” (Mk 1:11) He means it – this IS my Son.
Then John says something very significant: “Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart.” God has testified that Jesus is His Son, and anyone who has come to that belief, believes what God has testified, because that’s where this belief comes from, from God, which is why he goes on to declare, “Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. If you say that Jesus isn’t God’s Son then you deny what God has said. Of course skeptics then say, “Well, I don’t believe God spoke” at which point they are denying the testimony of those who heard His voice and so the skeptic then says, “I believe their testimony is wrong” and has to then go on finding reasons to discredit those witnesses, but ultimately in such cases, such people are denying because of their starting place: it is inconvenient for me to believe.
I have come across that in many forms over the years: “I like my lifestyle and so it is inconvenient to believe in a God who might challenge that,” or “I like being the sole ruler of my life and it is inconvenient to have a God who knows better than me and may point out my failings.” Of course they never say the second part, the part about being inconvenienced but that is the truth of the matter. So, for many, it is in their interests to discredit the testimony, the testimony of believers, the testimony of the Gospel writers, the testimony of the apostles, the testimony of Jesus Himself and, of course, the testimony of God. It is, for many, a case of not believing, not because it fails intellectually, but simply because it is inconvenient to believe, so they deny from the outset.
But John’s testimony and John’s argument does not let such people get away with it. His letter starts with that amazing testimony – we saw, we felt, we heard – and then continues on with this strong argument. I’ve seen, I’ve heard and so I know about God, is what he is saying. I know that God knows everything and I know that God only speaks truth and so I know that when God says that Jesus is His Son, we can accept that! If you don’t, you’ve got a problem and you need to look inside yourself to see what it is.
Listen to the crusading atheists and so often you will find there was a silly person or a person who simply failed in some aspect of life, that they knew when they were a child, and on the basis of that person’s silly words, or that person’s failing to live up to expectations, that child was hurt and has grown up into an adult who doesn’t judge on intellectual grounds but on the emotional bias they never got to grips with when they were younger.
Yes, it is a question of the veracity of the witnesses. So there were people with feet of clay when you were small who said silly things about faith, or who lived lives that were inconsistent with the Bible, but recognize them for what they were – poor witnesses. Put aside the emotions of those days of childhood and grow up and give fair assessment of the Gospel writers, of the apostles, of Jesus and of God, and maybe, just maybe, you will come to see that they are witnesses who can be replied upon and their testimony is true. But beware and be honest, you may prefer to avoid the truth because you know it will mean life change, an acknowledgement that you got it wrong before, or other changes, and you may not like that! But be honest about it at least and don’t come up with any silly excuses about this not carrying intellectual integrity – it does!