A Trustworthy Witness
4 January 2015
A study in the series on the Gospel of John by John Dugas
Grace Bible Church, Tulsa
Full Audio Message
A Trustworthy Witness
Are you following the right Savior? How confident are you that you are in the right line? If Jesus told us the truth about hell, then the consequences for choosing incorrectly are serious. He described hell as a place of “unquenchable file” and those who are thrown there will find that “their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched” (Mk 9:44-48). If Jesus has firsthand knowledge, we need to face the reality that a lot of people will experience the most unbelievable torment, pain, anguish, terror, horror and grief forever and ever without end.
And yet, most people prefer to take their chances. On the grand scale, they are not so bad. And there are many different religious options out there that can feel so fulfilling. A popular option is to not choose one religion over others and just try to be a mostly decent person. Many are even choosing to stick their head in the sand and pretend that there is no God after all. If you don’t think of Him, maybe He’ll go away. With the stakes so high, you’d think more people would take their choosing of religion more seriously and demand facts to base their choice upon.
Some of you here haven’t really made a choice yet as to whom you will follow. You may belong in a Christian family but you have not made up your mind yet. And maybe you don’t really care. I ask you to keep thinking about the way that Jesus described hell. I’ll tell you in a few minutes why you had better take it seriously.
Now, for those of you here who are following Jesus, let me ask you the same question: how confident are you that you are following the right Savior? Can you give reasons? If you get serious about sharing your faith and an unbeliever were to ask you why should they follow Jesus instead of some other religious leader, could you give them solid reasons? Are you confident?
There are a number of good places in Scripture to take them, but an excellent one is the passage before us this morning. You see, there were those who felt like John the Baptist was the best option. He was a godly man, zealous for God, passionate about his message, sent by God. In fact, when John wrote this Gospel many years after Jesus rose again, there were still people who followed John the Baptist instead of Jesus. The apostle provides his readers with real help here in knowing why Jesus is the only acceptable option. This passage can build our confidence as well.
I believe that the verses before us are the words of the Apostle John rather than him quoting John the Baptist. The words and phrases used fit the apostle better and it is a summary of all of chapter three including Jesus’ teaching. We learned last week how John the Baptist tried to convince his disciples that his ministry prepared the way for Jesus the Messiah. Focus on Jesus.
So John the apostle adds his own commentary on the supremacy of Jesus. He helps his readers see that it is Jesus alone who should command our allegiance. So here, the apostle John shows us that Jesus’ witness is superior and demands the right response. “Witness” here refers to Jesus’ testimony that His message of Good News was true and authentic. Jesus’ witness is superior and demands the right response. John presents four reasons why we should have confidence in Jesus’ witness and he presents one response to that witness that is acceptable.
I. Four reasons for confidence in Jesus’ witness (John 3:31-35).
A. Jesus speaks with higher authority (John 3:31).
John the Baptist was important to God’s program. He prepared men’s hearts to be ready for Messiah. However, there is even greater testimony available regarding Jesus’ supremacy.
While John the Baptist was important, he didn’t come from heaven. Jesus alone is He who comes from above. The source of Jesus’ witness was from above, or from heaven. That makes His witness superior to all others. He is above all. He is preeminent because His message of truth came directly from heaven where He had existed before time began (John 1:1-2).
Contrast that with John the Baptist or of any human teacher. Those human teachers are bound by earthly limitations. They do not have the same knowledge of truth without revelation from God. And so any other teacher and particularly John the Baptist is called He who is of the earth.
This is not derogatory toward John the Baptist but it puts him into proper perspective. For any of John the Baptist’s followers who have not yet moved their allegiance to Jesus, this should help them see the Baptist in light of Jesus who is far superior. John couldn’t be Messiah because he did not originate from heaven. His witness is still significant but it is not on the same level as that of the true Messiah. John’s witness is finite and limited. He cannot speak of heavenly truth from personal experience so he speaks of the earth. He “speaks from earthly experience only”. That leads to…
B. Jesus speaks from personal experience in heaven (John 3:32-33).
Having never been to heaven, John received his message from God but did not have the heavenly perspective. By contrast, Jesus received His message from God while in heaven—before He came to earth. When Jesus speaks, He draws upon what He has seen and heard firsthand when He was in heaven. So, His witness is certain. He teaches what He personally knows to be true.
Yet, John points out the sad truth that no man receives His witness even though it is superior and reliable. John is here speaking generally, repeating what Jesus said in John 3:11. John’s disciples were discouraged when they thought that “all are coming to” Jesus. Here, the writer points out that it wasn’t as rosy as it looked. With Jesus’ perspective and with history behind him, the apostle is able to point out that large crowds are no guarantee of success. In fact, most people turn away from Jesus even after initially coming to Him because they do not truly believe His witness. But some do believe.
The person who does receive Jesus’ message about Himself and His Gospel does something significant. He has set his seal to this that God is true. One way that a seal was used in ancient times was to guarantee that a document was authentic. When a believer receives Jesus’ message, he is saying that he believes it to be the truth. Luther explained that the believer realizes he can stake everything on Jesus’ testimony. The opposite is also true. John points out in his first letter that the person who doesn’t receive God’s witness about His Son is calling God a liar (1 Jn 5:10). Now third,
C. Jesus speaks God’s words (John 3:34).
Jesus did not speak words given to Him from men. His words were of divine origin. If someone might suppose in any way that Jesus’ humanity limited His recall of what He received while in heaven, the writer points out that there is another divine Person involved. Jesus’ witness can also be relied upon because God has given Jesus the Spirit without measure. He has the full endowment of the Spirit. There is no limit to the Spirit’s resources in the life and ministry of Jesus. It is unrestricted. This was promised in Isaiah’s prophecies in Is 11:2; Is 42:1; Is 61:1. God the Father has sent Jesus with a message. God the Holy Spirit ensures the accurate recall of the message. God the Son faithfully proclaims the message He was given. And now the fourth reason for confidence,
D. Jesus speaks as one who possesses all authority (John 3:35).
God the Father has a deep-seated love for His Son. The essence of godly agape is giving for the benefit of the one who is loved. God loved Jesus so He gave all things into His hand. This means that the Son has been entrusted with all authority to accomplish the Father’s will. Jesus has authority to judge (John 5:22). He also has authority over the spread of the Gospel (Mt 28:18) and over revealing God to men (Mt 11:27; Lk 10:22). In this context, John has in mind specifically the gift of eternal life which He gives to all who believe. That then leads us to our final point,
II. Faith is the one acceptable response to His witness (John 3:36).
What a fitting end to chapter 3! Regarding the witness of Jesus, there are only two options for men: believe in the Son or not obey the Son. Accept Jesus’ Gospel message as truth or reject it. Unbelief is willful disobedience of the clear truth.
Believing is appropriating the work of Christ, trusting in Christ’s work alone to pay for your sins, resting in His work alone. To do that, you must believe that Jesus’ message of Good News is the truth that comes from God in heaven. Paul thanked God for the way that the Thessalonian believers accepted the Gospel. In 1 Thess 2:13 he wrote, we “constantly thank God that when you received from us the word of God’s message, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.” The Gospel saves believers from God’s wrath (Rom 5:9).
However, for the person who does not obey the Son’s message, the wrath of God abides on him. God’s wrath is the required righteous reaction to sin. It is God’s judgment in action (Guthrie). In this case it is His righteous reaction to those who refuse to believe in His Son. While this wrath will be carried out in the future upon unbelievers (Mt 3:7; Lk 3:7), there is a present sense to it (John 3:18 “judged already”). The guilty sentence remains clings to the unbeliever. If they never repent, they will endure everlasting punishment (Mt 25:46).
God’s wrath is not a sudden burst of anger. With a settled, defiant determination, men choose evil. Their rejection of God’s Son is personal. God responds personally with the appropriate punishment. Wrath is God’s settled determination to punish them for their settled rejection. In amazing grace, God sent His Son to die for sinners. He does not take lightly when people reject His precious Son.
Review the four reasons why Jesus’ testimony is superior until your confidence grows. Then share those with an unbeliever. To you who are not yet following Jesus, there is only one response to Jesus’ message that won’t land you in hell. It is to consider these reasons, then put your faith in Him.