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Faith Full


Keeping in Stride

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christa has become a child of God. And everyone who loves the Father loves his children, too. We know we love God’s children if we love God and obey his commandments. Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome. For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith. And who can win this battle against the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God (1 John 5:1-5, NLT).

I have a birthmark on my right cheek. The people who have noticed it have suspected that it was a birth mark or from some other external force. As time has passed, fewer people notice it because it has faded with age. It has never really bothered me, and I’ve not really bothered to understand why it is there. I’ve simply understood it as something that happened on the day of my birth that has left a permanent mark.

That is the point John tried to convey to his readers as he concluded his epistle. Throughout the first four chapters of 1 John, he has redundantly stated that a life of genuine faith is characterized by three things: the firm belief that Jesus Christ has come from God; the importance of loving our Christian brothers and sisters; and the necessity of obeying God’s commands. These three “birthmarks” are like three legs of a stool. Each has to be in place to support biblical faith. It is insufficient to have any one or even two of the three and claim to have “faith” in God.

And Jesus Christ was revealed as God’s Son by his baptism in water and by shedding his blood on the cross—not by water only, but by water and blood. And the Spirit, who is truth, confirms it with his testimony. So we have these three witnesses— the Spirit, the water, and the blood—and all three agree. Since we believe human testimony, surely we can believe the greater testimony that comes from God. And God has testified about his Son. All who believe in the Son of God know in their hearts that this testimony is true. Those who don’t believe this are actually calling God a liar because they don’t believe what God has testified about his Son (1 John 5:6-10, NLT).

John does not support his claim with facts. Rather, he chose to do so through the testimony of the Spirit, the water, and the blood. We understand the witness of the Spirit. Paul wrote in Romans that “the Spirit of God bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” So what’s this business of water and blood? Augustine and the patristics viewed this as the witness of the death of Christ, citing the closing moments of the crucifixion when the Roman soldier thrust the spear in the side of Christ, producing an outflow of water and blood. Centuries later, reformation fathers Luther and Calvin interpreted these verses sacramentally and believed that the water and blood represented baptism and the eucharist. Modern theologians, however, have provided a more balanced approach, claiming that the water represents the baptism of Christ and the blood represents the death of Christ. In first century thought, the first and the last of anything is inclusive of all that comes between. So we have the testimony of the Spirit alongside the testimony of the ministry of Christ. Since every testimony was to be established by two or three witnesses, John argued that genuine faith is established based on these three elements.

And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life (1 John 5:10-11, NLT).

Based therefore on these three witnesses, we can be assured that we have genuine faith that results in eternal life. John concludes the section by affirming that “life is in the Son.” I illustrated it on Sunday this way. Suppose I take my pen and place it in my Bible. My pen is in the Bible. If I give you my Bible, what have I also given you? That’s right, my pen. In similar fashion, life is in the Son. If we have the Son, we have eternal life. If we have hope of eternal life, its only because we have found it in the Son of God. And like my birthmark, that life will be evident to all.

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