Haves and Have Nots

RT 5-2015 182-LP

This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. We accept human testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

1 John 5:6-12

What an interesting text: Do you remember John’s warning about antichrists in chapters 1 and 4? John was warning the people of his time against the false teachings of the Gnostics, who denied that Jesus came in the flesh, and that He was “from the Father.”  John is taking aim at them again in this text when he speaks of the testimony of three witnesses.  In our time, while this is still a very important point, we tend to get into arguments about the water and blood part, with various interpretations regarding John’s meaning. For our purposes, I’ll give you my idea on this point, but I’ll spare you the lengthy dissertation on it, since I’d prefer to focus on application rather than systematic theology, and you probably would as well.

One of the main points of contention between Christian teaching and that of the Gnostics was whether or not Jesus came in the flesh; in a human body.  The Gnostic approach was that He came more in a spirit form and not in physical form, since everybody knows that the physical body is evil… or so they said.  It is always interesting to me to hear Christians who maintain this, since the notion of the human body being evil or dirty is a Western impulse, not a Biblical teaching… but alas, I digress!  That the Spirit testifies that Jesus is from the Father is obviously a reference to the Holy Spirit who testifies about Jesus.  The water, in my view, is a reference to His baptism.  To be baptized is a physical activity, in which an actual body is needed; a spirit would be rather impossible to immerse in water.  The blood, as I see it, is a reference to what Jesus did on the cross, since it would be a difficult thing to nail a spirit to a cross and have it bleed.  The water as a giver of testimony seems to me to refer to the baptism of a new follower of Jesus, who is immersed as a testimony of dying and raising again a new creation.  The blood is declared when we partake of Communion, where we declare for all time the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

When you put these three things together, you have an ongoing testimony about Jesus from the Holy Spirit, from millions of baptisms, and from our observance of Communion that Jesus came in the flesh from the Father.  You might also note that the Old Testament Law requires the testimony of two or three witnesses, and John is providing three. If your reading of this is different from mine, that’s fine, for the larger point for us is what follows…

Let’s pick up John’s discussion here in verse 9:

We accept human testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.  (5:9-11)

His point that we will readily believe a human testimony, but not God’s is a warning to all of us.  There are all sorts of human teachings about Jesus, many of which are designed to convince us that He never even existed, and the difference between life and death is whether or not we will accept God’s testimony, given not only by His Word, but by the Spirit. Just think about how crucial this is!

Then comes the most important, bottom-line statement of all in verse 12:

Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

Please take a moment for this to sink in… and recall our discussion last time about keeping His commands.

Yes, this is what I think we need to consider.  Some of John’s writings are a little cryptic; he has a way of meandering around in a circle, and his meaning is vague… until he drops the bomb at the end, and this is one of them.  It’s one thing for us to say that life is in Christ, but the other side of the proverbial coin is that outside of Christ there is only doom.

Jesus has commanded that we make disciples, and that begins with leading the lost to Him.  There is a great deal at stake with this process, and John has made that abundantly clear in verse 12, wouldn’t you agree?  Maybe there was a time when you could share the peril and doom with a person who didn’t know Him, but if there was such a time, it is long gone.  I am aware that many Christians have been impressed with this, and out of their misguided love, they have run out and shared the warning… and driven off those whom they had hoped to save.  The world around us, our culture, and our society has picked up on this, and rather than be flattered that someone cared, they became enraged at the affront of it all, causing no end of trouble.

When Jesus Christ is involved, there is always hope!  In this case, there is a simple, if not always easy, answer: Share His love in grace.  In loving relationship, many will respond to His love.  We must be sensitive to the fact that so many have a negative image of Christianity, whether it is fair or not.  Approaching people in love means that we bother to actually care about them, it takes time, and it is a kind of investment in people, without judgments, without threats, without doom.  Even the most hardened hearts can be mended by the love of God… and I think it is especially important to bear in mind that it is God’s love that we must display in sharing with others

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About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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13 Responses to Haves and Have Nots

  1. paulfg says:

    “Approaching people in love means that we bother to actually care about them, it takes time, and it is a kind of investment in people, without judgments, without threats, without doom. Even the most hardened hearts can be mended by the love of God… and I think it is especially important to bear in mind that it is God’s love that we must display in sharing with others.”

    Discipling? Ministering? Loving?

    I was just pondering my “early days” of “disciple head-banging” with you. And how I read your words today and see discipleship/unconditional love as the same thing.

  2. Pingback: Haves and Have Nots — The Life Project | My Life in Scripture

  3. Kitsy says:

    ” Approaching people in love means that we bother to actually care about them, it takes time, and it is a kind of investment in people, without judgments, without threats, without doom. Even the most hardened hearts can be mended by the love of God… and I think it is especially important to bear in mind that it is God’s love that we must display in sharing with others”

    Yes. Yes. Yes. It takes time. Edges first….then work your way in. Set the example and display God’s love. They will be drawn to it and want more.

    For many many years, there was a music, food, and craft street fair in Asheville called Bele Chere. It was always held the next to last weekend in July…around my birthday…and the hottest, stormiest weekend of the year. There were often street corner preachers pounding Bibles and screaming condemnations and fear. The last year or two (the fair is no longer held), the Episcopal church in Asheville set up a booth down the street from the preachers and displayed a banner: “GOD LOVES YOU. NO EXCEPTIONS.” There was a simple shoe box on the table with a stack of scrap paper and pencils beside it. On the shoe box was printed “Prayer requests.” There were prayer ministers manning the table.

    I was not aware of the booth nor did I usually attend the fair because it was always so hot and so crowded. But I was asked to type up the prayer requests from the slips of paper so the list could be distributed to the prayer chain and blessed by the priest before being burned and the ashed distributed in the garden. I was totally blessed by the opportunity to read so many heart-felt requests. I prayed with the writers as I typed them up. I wept over so many. There were short “just pray for me” requests and sometimes just a name, like “Jesse” or “Melissa.” Others had long stories in tiny scribbles over the front and back of the piece of paper…stories of long illnesses or abuse or addiction. I was devastated and needed to cry a lot afterwards.

    But, that’s how it is done.

    “It is God’s love that we must display in sharing with others.”

    You are so right. Thank you, Don. I had forgotten about that fair, that booth, those prayer requests. And now I cry again.

    And thank you, Jesus.

    To God be the Glory.

  4. Wally Fry says:

    Hey Don…and Paul

    I e mailed both of you guys, and you know why. All I can say is…thanks that meant the world.

  5. Yes, God put his words in the body of Jesus, partly so we could see and hear what God would say and do if he were living among us ~ which he did do. BTW, if the material body is evil, why did God make material bodies? Would that mean he made evil?

    Here is another aside: If baptism is water salvation, would that make the cross wood salvation, and Jesus’ body torture blood salvation?

    Good morning, Don.

  6. I join the others here, Don: “Approaching people in love means that we bother to actually care about them, it takes time, and it is a kind of investment in people, without judgments, without threats, without doom. Even the most hardened hearts can be mended by the love of God… and I think it is especially important to bear in mind that it is God’s love that we must display in sharing with others.” SO important.

    I hope the tide is turning and the Body is finally learning this. I pray it is so.

  7. Citizen Tom says:

    I think it is important to remember that this epistle was written to believers. They no longer felt threatened by 1 John 5:12.

    The Gospel is Good News! The Gospel is not a threat. We call the Lost the Lost because they are lost. No one needs to tell the Lost the consequences of being lost. They know. What they do not know is the Good News.

    Once the Lost hear the Good News and believe, they can do what a blind man once did. They can share the joy of their testimony.

    One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see.

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