God's Witness to His SonĀ 

None knew like the son of God as to Himself and His mission, from whence He came, and whither He was bound: but He had not come into the world to speak about Himself, it was not the purpose of His mission, He had come to speak about the Father and to make Him known. This is why He said, "If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true" (John 5:31). He never spoke of His works as His own, or of His words as His own; He attributed all to the Father. To have been putting Himself forward either as the source of His work, or as the subject of His words, would have given an entirely false impression as to the reason for His being in this world. It was this that made Him so different from the great men of this world who were always calling attention to themselves, and seeking to make themselves great in the eyes of men.

When Jesus spoke of Himself as the Light of the world in John 8, the Pharisees were swift to answer, "Thou bearest witness of thyself; thy witness is not true" (John 8:13). His reply was, "Though I bear witness of myself, yet my witness is true: for I know whence I came, and whither I go." Although He did not desire to speak of Himself, the deadly opposition of the Pharisees and of the Jews compelled Him to tell why He had come into the world, and even forced Him to say, "Before Abraham was, I AM" (John 8:58). He did not present Himself as the origin of His mission, but when forced to declare what He was, and who He was, He could not but speak what was the truth.

The Witness of John Baptist

Among the witnesses brought forward by the Lord in John 5, John Baptist comes first. Of him the Lord said, "There is another that beareth witness of me; and I know that the witness which he witnesseth of me is true. Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth" (John 5:32, 33). Of John's witness we read in chapters 1 and 3 of John's Gospel, as also in the Synoptic Gospels.

The Evangelist John presents John Baptist as "A man sent from God . . . the same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light" (John 1:6, 7). The light of life had come in the Person of the Son, shining in the darkness of a world that knew not God, but in spite of the perfection and brightness of the true Light man remained in the darkness. Natural light at once dispels the darkness; but the spiritual darkness of man under the influence of Satan was so dense that it was not removed by the presence of the Light from heaven. John Baptist did not present himself as light, but bore witness to Jesus as the One in whom there was the

In John 1:15, "John bare witness of Him, and cried, saying, This was He of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for He was before me." There was no ambiguity about John's testimony to Jesus; it was both clear and simple, telling that the mission of Jesus would follow his, and that Jesus, because of His personal greatness, would be preferred to him. He was before John as being eternal in His being, and before him because of who He was as the Son of God.

John made no false claims for himself, he was not the Christ, nor Elias, nor yet the prophet of whom Moses had spoken. To the priests and Levites sent by the Jews he made plain that his mission was divine, even the fulfilment of what Isaiah had written, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord" (John 1:19-23). His witness was to the Lord who was coming, and he was content to be but a voice.

When asked concerning his baptizing, John again speaks of the Coming One, saying, "I baptize with water: but there standeth among you One whom ye know not; He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose" (John 1:25-27). In his witness to the truth he witnesses to the greatness of Jesus, and to his own unworthiness when compared with Him. It was a wonderful testimony to the Son of God then present among those whom the Pharisees had sent, and a testimony that left them without excuse. They did not know Jesus, but John's testimony ought to have caused them to seek Him, and to accept Him.

On the following day, John testifies to the Person and work of Jesus, saying, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). These are wonderful words, proclaiming that Jesus was the antitype of the sacrificial lamb seen in so many ways in the Old Testament types. Here was the answer to "Where is the lamb?" by Isaac, to the Passover lamb, to the lamb of the continual burnt offering, and many more of the sacrifices; but He was not only the Burnt Offering, but the One who will remove sin from the world, laying the basis in His death upon the cross. No doubt this looks forward to the removal of sin as an active agent in the world, which the Lord will remove by His return to earth, but based upon His sacrificial work.

Three times John says "He that cometh after me is preferred before me" (John 1:15, 27, 30). Like those to whom he was speaking he had not known Him, had not known Him in the greatness of His Person; but God had told him that the One upon whom the Holy Spirit would descend and rest upon, the same would baptize with the Holy Spirit. This John saw, and faithful witness that he was, he proclaimed Jesus to be the Son of God.

Then John spoke of Jesus in such a way that two of his disciples left him and followed Jesus. It may not have been an utterance for all, but two who were close to John learned of his deep delight in the Person of Jesus as the Lamb of God, and from henceforth they became disciples of Jesus. The public testimonies of John were faithful, and, as the Lord said to the Jews, "Ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light" (v. 35), but this private testimony could not be excelled, and its results were lasting.

John's bright witness is continued in chapter 3 of John's Gospel, where on being told that Jesus was baptizing, "and all men come to Him," John answered and said, "A man can receive nothing, except it be given Him from heaven." The Baptist not only directs his hearers to the greatness of the Person of Jesus, but to the source of His mission. Jesus had come from heaven, He was "The Son of Man which is in heaven," and He had come to speak of "heavenly things" (John 3:12, 13).

As the friend of the bridegroom, John delighted to hear the voice of the Bridegroom, yea, he rejoiced greatly, and his joy was fulfilled. He was content to decrease while the Son of God increased, speaking of Him as "from above" and "above all." Well did John know that the Son of God could speak of the things of heaven, the things He had both heard and seen, the things He knew so well; but in spite of this His testimony was refused. How very solemn that men should refuse God's witness of His Son, and in His Son; but there were some, called by God's sovereign grace who did receive His heavenly testimony, and such set to their seal "that God is true."

Looking over the witness of John we can understand why the Lord said of him, "He was a burning and a shining light." There was no place for self in his witness; if he spoke of himself it was but to magnify the One to whom he bore witness, and that witness to the glory of the Son of God, the greatness and source of His mission, the place that He filled in the thoughts of God, and to his own joy in making way for Jesus, was given with simplicity, clarity and divine power. Towards the close of His sojourn on earth, the Lord in answering the chief priests and the scribes on the subject of the authority of His cleansing the temple, asked them, "The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men?" These wicked men refused to answer, for they feared the people would stone them if they called in question John's authority. Even if they did not pay much heed to John's testimony, they were at least persuaded that he was a prophet of God.

The Works of the Father

However bright the witness of John was, the Lord had a "greater witness" (v. 36), even the works which the Father gave Him to finish. The Lord had just healed the impotent man at the Pool of Bethesda, but previously He had evidently performed notable miracles near or at Jerusalem, for in John 2:23 it is written, "Now when He was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast, many believed in His Name, when they saw the miracles which He did." These miracles were the evidence to any honest heart as to the source of the power used, and to Him who used it. Nicodemus had freely confessed, "No man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him" (John 3:2). In spite of this powerful, heavenly witness, the Jews had refused to believe in the Lord.

Later, after having opened the eyes of the man who had been born blind, and the Jews asked the Lord, "If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly," His reply was, "I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father's Name, they bear witness of me" (John 10:21-25). The raising of Lazarus from the dead was the final work of His Father to bear witness to Him, and on that occasion the Lord "lifted up His eyes, and said, Father, I thank Thee that Thou hast heard me; and I knew that Thou hearest me always; but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that Thou hast sent me" (John 11:41, 42). After such signs, the witness of the Father to the Son being sent from Him, the Jews were without excuse.

The Father's Voice

Although John does not record the Father speaking from heaven when the Lord was baptized by John, the Lord refers to it as a witness in John 5:37. The voice of the Father had been heard by those who were present after John had baptized Jesus, but the Jews had refused this testimony, just as they had refused the testimony of John Baptist and the testimony that Nicodemus had accepted.

After this the Father's voice was heard again, not only by the three favoured disciples on the glory mount, but also when the Lord in John 12 said, "Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father glorify Thy Name. Then came there a voice from heaven, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again" (John 12:27, 28). Those who heard did not understand the voice, some thought it was thunder, others that "An angel spake to Him," but "Jesus answered and said, This voice came not because of me, but for your sakes." The Father's voice was again speaking to them in witness to His Son.

The Scriptures

The fourth witness adduced by the Lord in John 5 is "The Scriptures." Concerning this witness the Lord said to the Jews, "Ye search the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life" (John 5:39, 40). It was good for them to search the Scriptures, but in refusing the One of whom the Scriptures spoke they were depriving themselves of the promised blessing bound up with the coming of the Son of God. Nathaniel did not wait for the evidence of the miraculous signs before confessing that Jesus was the One of whom David had spoken in Psalm 2. He had searched the Scriptures, and he was waiting for the coming King, and he was not slow to recognize Him when Jesus indicated that He knew all about him.

Blinded by self-will, the Jews refused to come to Jesus for the eternal life that could only be found in Him. They might accept the Scriptures as God's Word, but without faith in His Son the promised blessings could not be theirs. Their very rejection of Messiah was in the Scriptures they searched, as the Lord later pointed out in John 12:37-41. Of the Scriptures the Lord here said, "They are they which testify of me"; and in resurrection, to the two on the way to Emmaus, "Beginning at Moses, and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself" (Luke 24:27). It was blind unbelief on the part of the Jews that refused this powerful witness to Jesus in the Old Testament Scriptures.

The Witness of the Disciples

The twelve had been chosen by the Lord as His disciples, but also as His witnesses, even as He said, "Ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning" (John 15:27). Matthew's Gospel, and John's Gospel were written by men who had been witnesses from the beginning, and Luke's Gospel was "Of those things which are most surely believed among us; even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the Word."

John, in beginning his First Epistle, writes, "For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us." How faithful was the testimony of the Apostles; speaking in all simplicity, yet powerfully, as inspired by the Holy Spirit, the things they well knew as having seen and heard them when Jesus was with them in this world. Simon Peter, though not giving us an account of the life of Jesus, gives us a short and lovely picture of what he saw and heard on the Holy Mount.

It is the witness of the disciples of Jesus that God has used to spread abroad the truth revealed in Jesus. True, the great Apostle of the Gentiles was used in a special way to spread the Glad Tidings, but Peter was first used of the Lord to bring the Gentiles into blessing. The mission of the twelve had more to do with what came out in Christ on earth, and Paul's ministry with Christ glorified at God's right hand; and in relation to this he too was a witness, having seen Jesus "as of one born out of due time" (1 Cor. 15:8).

The Witness of the Holy Spirit

The Old Testament Scriptures are viewed as the witness of the Holy Spirit, as is also the New Testament (Heb. 10:15; Rev. 2:7). But in John 15:26 the Lord, speaking of the Spirit of truth, says, "He shall testify of me." The Holy Spirit was not only the power in the twelve apostles for their witness, but He brought tidings to men of Christ glorified in heaven. This comes out very blessedly in the words of Stephen, when he said, as full of the Holy Spirit, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God" (Acts 7:56). In the murder of Stephen the testimony of the Holy Spirit was rejected by the nation of Israel, and it sealed their doom. But in wondrous grace the Lord took up Saul of Tarsus, at whose feet the murderers laid their clothes, to continue the testimony of the Holy Spirit to an earth rejected and heavenly, glorified Christ.

But, the Apostle John has his own particular presentation of the Spirit's witness, where he writes, "This is He that came by water and blood, Jesus the Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that bears witness, for the Spirit is the truth" (1 John 5:6). It is significant that John, who witnessed the blood and water flowing from the side of Christ upon the cross, is used by the Holy Spirit to speak of the Son of God coming by water and blood, and to tell us that the Spirit is the witness of this. While the Spirit is the witness, John is the instrument used by the Spirit to bring this witness to us.

Coming by water would no doubt embrace the whole ministry of the Lord Jesus on earth, the cleansing effect of the word which He spoke: but water and blood very clearly refer to His work on the cross, the work of moral purification and of atonement. The Spirit of God in the Scriptures of the New Testament specially gives us His witness to what Christ has done: though no doubt there is the witness in the Old Testament Scriptures, for there, in the types, there is much to learn of both aspects of divine cleansing through water and blood.

The Spirit, the Water and the Blood

This threefold witness to the Son of God brings to us the knowledge of Christ's great work, and what it has accomplished. Viewed individually, the Spirit has come from a glorified Christ to bear witness of His glory in the Father's presence, the evidence of God's satisfaction with His work on the cross. The water, which came from the side of Christ dead upon the cross, witnesses to us that the work that the Lord has wrought cleanses us from the foul stains of sin, and the moral pollution of the nature inherited from Adam. The blood, witnessing to an accomplished redemption, which has met all the claims of God, and glorified Him in relation to the whole question of sin, tells us that we are cleansed from all sin.

But the three witnesses unite to tell us of the greatness of Jesus: it is God's witness of His Son, One great enough to do this great work, and having done it to sit on His throne above. Moreover, they unite to tell us that God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. By the Spirit indwelling us we have this witness in ourselves; the Spirit within not only giving His individual witness, but bringing home to our hearts in His own divine power the truth of the witness of the water and the blood.