And this is that testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.
I. THE TESTIMONY OF HIS BAPTISM. "This is he that came by water,... even Jesus Christ." The coming here meant is not that of his incarnation, his entrance into this world; but his coming forth from the retirement of Nazareth to enter upon his great redemptive mission. His coming "by water" we regard as referring to his baptism by John. That baptism was:
1. The inauguration of his great mission. When Jesus went to John for baptism he had finally left his private life, and was just about to enter upon his public ministry, and his baptism was a fitting introduction to that ministry.
2. An inauguration characterized by supernatural and Divine attestation. Probably it is for this reason that St. John here refers to our Lord's baptism: "Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway from the water: and lo, the heavens were opened unto him," etc. (Matthew 3:16, 17). And John the Baptist testified, "This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a Man which is become before me: for he was before me. And I knew him not; but that he should be made manifest to Israel," etc. (John 1:30-34).
II. THE TESTIMONY OF HIS CRUCIFIXION. "This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not with the water only, but with the water and with the blood." The reference is to the blood which he shed upon the cross for the redemption of mankind. But how did his death witness to the truth that he was the Son of God?
1. By the extraordinary phenomena associated with his death. "Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour.... And Jesus yielded up the ghost. And behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom," etc. (Matthew 27:45, 50-54; Luke 23:47, 48).
2. By the transcendent moral grandeur expressed in his death. He voluntarily submitted himself to death for the salvation of the lost world. Our Lord said, "Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life that I may take it again. No one taketh it away from me," etc. (John 10:17, 18); "He gave himself for our sins," etc. (Galatians 1:4); "He gave himself a Ransom for us," etc. (1 Timothy 2:6); "He gave himself for us," etc. (Titus 2:14); "Christ also suffered for sins once, the Righteous for the unrighteous," etc. (1 Peter 3:18). He freely surrendered himself to the most painful and shameful death, not for himself, or for his friends, but for sinners and rebels against him and his Father, and in order that they might have eternal life. Such self-sacrifice was more than human, more than angelic, - it was strictly and properly Divine.
"This was compassion like a God,
III. THE TESTIMONY OF HIS SPIRIT. "And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is the truth, For there are three who bear witness, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and the three agree in one." Notice:
1. The nature of the testimony of the Holy Spirit. At our Lord's baptism the Spirit bore witness that he was the Son of God (Matthew 3:16, 17). Our Lord said, "The Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall bear witness of me" (John 15:26). Again he said, "The Spirit of truth... he shall glorify me; for he shall take of mine, and shall declare it unto you." He bore witness to the Messiahship of Jesus by coming down, according to his promise, upon the apostles, and by making the gospel of Christ which they preached a saving power to thousands of souls (Acts 2; Acts 4:31). And he bears witness for Christ in the hearts of Christians (chapter 3:24; 1 Corinthians 12:3).
2. The value of the testimony of the Holy Spirit. "The Spirit, is the truth;" "The Spirit of truth" (John 14:17; John 15:26); "When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he shall guide you into all the truth." His testimony is of the utmost value and importance, because it is perfectly free from error or fraud; proceeding from the Spirit of truth, the Spirit who is the truth, it is light without any darkness, truth without any error. And his testimony is that Jesus is the Messiah and the Son of God.
IV. THE TESTIMONY OF HIS BELIEVING PEOPLE. "He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in him.... And the witness is this, that God gave unto us eternal life, and this life is in his Son." "The object of the Divine testimony being," says Alford, "to produce faith in Christ, the apostle takes him in whom it has wrought this its effect, one who habitually believes in the Son of God, and says of such a one that he possesses the testimony in himself." All genuine believers in Jesus Christ have the witness of their own consciousness "that God gave unto us eternal life, and this life is in his Son." They are conscious that the life of love - love to God and. to man - is theirs. "We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren." And we know that this life was quickened within us through the exercise of faith in Christ. To us individually this is the most convincing of all witnesses. "One thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see."
V. THE TESTIMONY OF ALL THE BEFORE-MENTIONED COMBINED. All the foregoing witnesses are united and concurrent in their evidence. "The three agree in one." We may say that the four agree in one. Their testimony is unanimous. There is no contradiction, no discrepancy in their evidence. With one voice they declare, "Rabbi, thou art the Son of God, thou art the King of Israel." "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." Notice two points in conclusion:
1. The claim which this testimony has upon, our acceptance. "if we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater," etc. We receive human testimony, notwithstanding that
(1) The witness may unintentionally be untrue. Human observations and impressions and recollections are not always accurate; hence the witness of men is sometimes undesignedly incorrect. But in the manifold and Divine testimony to the truth that Jesus is the Son of God there cannot be any inaccuracy or imperfection.
(2) The human witness may intentionally be untrue. Man may endeavour to deceive; he may willfully bear false witness. But "the witness of God is greater." The Spirit of truth cannot lie. Therefore this testimony has the most commanding claims upon our acceptance.
2. The issue involved in type non-acceptance of this testimony. "He that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he hath not believed in the witness that God hath borne concerning his Son." Is any one prepared to discredit God? Will any one implicitly charge him with falsehood? Be it ours to receive his testimony with larger, fuller confidence, and to rest in his Son with deeper, more loving, and more reverent trust. - W.J.
And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son
I. THE UNMERITED GRANT OF OUR GOD.
1. The nature of the blessing here said to be granted to us.(1) It is life, life worthy of the name, a life perfectly exempt from every kind and degree of evil, and accompanied by every conceivable and by every inconceivable good.(2) This life is eternal, not like our present life, which is but as a vapour that appeareth for a short time and then vanisheth away.(3) It is a life, too, which includes everything that appertains to it, the pardon of our sins, reconciliation with God, adoption into His family, and all those sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit which constitute the foretaste of this eternal life in the heart of the Christian.
2. The person to whom this grant is here also said to be made. "To us," the sinful children of sinful parents; "to us," miserable sinners, who thus were lying in darkness and in the shadow of death, provided only we will accept the boon in His appointed way; "to us" hath God given eternal life.
3. The gratuitous nature of the grant. For in what way but in that of a free gift could eternal life be made over to those who have both forfeited the blessing and incurred the curse?
II. THE CHANNEL THROUGH WHICH THIS GRANT IS CONVEYED TO US.
1. The obstacles which stood in the way of this grant were of the most formidable description. These were no other than the severer perfections of the Divine nature, and the honour both of God's law and of His universal government.
2. But by the determination that this free gift of life should be in the Son of God, to be sought for through Him alone, all the obstacles to the grant, which presented themselves from the quarters just referred to, were at once removed.
III. THE CHARACTER OF THE INDIVIDUALS WHO WILL OBTAIN THE BENEFIT OF THIS GRANT AND OF THESE WHO WILL FAIL OF IT. "He that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life."
1. It is clear, then, on the one hand, that we are interested in this grant of eternal life if we have the Son.
2. And it is the undisputed testimony of the record that he that thus hath the Son hath life, and that he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.
(John Natt, B. D.)
Homilist.I. THE SUBJECT OF THE "RECORD" — "ETERNAL LIFE." What is it? It is not endless existence. The "record" refers not to this point. The Bible assumes man's immortality. "Eternal life" consists in the soul's well-being — its intrinsic, internal blessedness: "the kingdom of God is within you." This life is "eternal." It is drawn from the Eternal One; His principles of rectitude imbedded in the heart and "springing up into everlasting life."
II. THE DOCTRINE OF THE RECORD, "GOD HATH GIVEN TO US ETERNAL LIFE, AND THIS IS IN HIS SON."
1. It is gift. Not something for which men need to toil, but something to be simply received.
2. It is a gift already given. "God hath given," etc. The believer has its foretaste.
3. It is a gift already given "in His Son." Not in systems, churches; "grace and truth" come by Jesus Christ.
4. This is for "record." It is testified that men may know it on God's authority and live.
I. ETERNAL LIFE IS PROVIDED IN CHRIST. "This life is in His Son." It is of the very last importance to note well the fountain of this eternal life. It is not in man as natural, for as natural he is fallen, and the fall implied the loss of this life of God in the soul of man, the passing away of all conscious affinity with God, and the coming in of a spirit of alienation and hostility. And as it is not in man naturally, neither does man find it in what is called his environment. We think that the power of environment over human life is greatly exaggerated in our day, and is essentially the reversal of a central principle in God's dealings with the world. It is never the new environment that makes the new man, but it is the new man that creates the new environment. Let us, therefore, face the fact that eternal life is provided only in Jesus Christ our Lord. Those in quest of it have, therefore, not to wander over a wilderness of abstract thought, and not to whip the energies of mind and heart to attain this great end; but, as a person deeply convinced that this gift is not now theirs, to come humbly and trustfully to the feet of the living personality of the Lord Jesus Christ, who alone has this gift to give, and who is longing to bestow it.
II. ETERNAL LIFE IS PUBLISHED IN CHRIST. "This is the record that God hath given to us eternal life," and this life is in His Son essentially. The whole Word of God is an apocalypse or unveiling of Christ. The testimony of God Himself, of the Holy Spirit, of inspired historian, poet, prophet, and evangelist, all converges on the Lord Jesus Christ.
III. ETERNAL LIFE IS POSSESSED IN CHRIST. God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son; "he that hath the Son hath life." The gift has not only been provided and published, but it has in a very real sense actually been given. God has given to us eternal life. We stand firm on the ground that Christ's part, both in provision and offer, has already been finished; but salvation by gift implies the part of the receiver as well as the part of the giver, and while the gift has been offered there is no salvation, and there can be no salvation till the gift is accepted. This view of the possession of eternal life delivers man from all perplexity as to the ground of his acceptance with God, and as to his humble assurance of the certainty of his salvation. It causes feelings, for example, to fall into due perspective in spiritual experiences. When a man comes to see that he possesses Christ, and on that possession can call eternal life his own, there will come, and must come, those feelings of peace and rest and certainty and enjoyment, and until he is quite sure that he possesses Christ, and with Him all things, the feelings will be fitful and the whole life will be clouded.
IV. ETERNAL LIFE IS PERPETUATED IN CHRIST. "These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God." The entrance of eternal life into the soul of man is the entrance of Christ Himself to dwell and reign and unfold the nature that He inhabits and permeates. The whole Christ, and only Christ, is needed to save, and the whole Christ in perpetual indwelling is needed to sanctify. There is no possible life for the Christian apart from his abiding in Christ and Christ abiding in him. Out of this flows all the sweetness of sanctity, all the dignity of lowliness, all the enlarging of love, all the practical power of obedience, and all the finished graces of a complete character.
(W. Gladden, D. D.)1 John 2:25 he uses exactly the same emphatic expression — "This is the promise that He hath promised us, even eternal life," as if not a single star shone in the firmament above except this; as if not one promise had been given except this, standing out distinct, full, alone in hopes and comfort to all. And not only he, but St. Paul, so different in the characteristic order of intellect, uses the same kind of expression — "The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23); "the gift," as if no other boon had been granted — the gift towering out above all, and standing in its holy Alpine grandeur, the noblest blessing God had ever given to His people. Put these three passages together, and then we have brought before us this glorious truth, that He is emphatically the gift, the record to us, the promise of God of life eternal through His Son.
I. THE RELIGION WHICH WE PROFESS, TRUE PRACTICAL CHRISTIANITY, IS LIFE. This truth lies at the foundation of this passage; and what type can be more glorious of good conferred? The most despised creature upon earth clings to life. I need not say that the life here spoken of is not physical life, not a life in common with an ungodly man, not a life in common with the beasts that perish, but spiritual life, life in the soul, life in the thinking elements of our nature, life in that part of our nature which links us with God Himself, and which, if lost, consigns us to everlasting ruin. Such then is the boon; the Christian lives. Religion is no dead thing; it is not formalism, it is not mere professionalism, it is not the assent of the understanding to certain dogmas, it is not the experience in the heart even of certain sentimental emotions. Religion, if it be anything at all, is a living, practical reality. I have the conviction that I have spiritual life, because I think with God, I feel the presence of God, I move in the ways of God. The Christian, then, lives; that life may be mysterious, but it is the distinguishing character of the Christian man that he has this spiritual life in him. I add that it is, moreover, a progressive thing. Here religion harmonises with all the phenomena and rules of life.
II. THIS LIFE IS DIVINE IN ITS ORIGIN — "God hath given to us eternal life." All life is of Divine production. Pierce as far as you may into eternity, the deeper and closer our examination of its realities, the more fully and simply are we thrown on our conviction of the Divine origin. All life is the production of the eternal God. The spiritual life of which I speak is, therefore, certainly of His production. The old Greek fable, myth, to use the fashionable expression of modern times, brings out the truth in a simple shape — "You may take a man and set him up by the pillar of the temple, but unless the god who inhabits it touches him he cannot move a step." Or, according to another Greek fable, you may take clay and form and fashion it into the mould of a man, but unless the celestial fire penetrates the frame and imparts life it has no power of action. "Paul may plant, and Apollos may water, but God gives the increase." All means and appliances are in vain until the power of God Himself shall visit the Church — all in vain until Jesus Christ, who, when His message is proclaimed, shall accompany that message with His own living power and waken up dead spirits into eternal life.
III. THIS LIFE IS IN CHRIST. The source, I say, of that life which is the gift of God, the source of all life, is Christ Himself. Again, for this purpose He is described as having life in Himself. Mark the emphatic expression. It corresponds with that expression of the living God, "I am that I am" — Jehovah. Pray for this gift, but pray for it in union with Christ's sacrifice, for without His death the Spirit never had come down.
IV. THIS LIFE IS NOT ONLY THROUGH THE SON, BUT IS IN THE SON, AND WILL JUST BE IN US AS IT IS IN HIM. In other words, the character of the life of the Son of God is a model character to all the brotherhood of Christ; every Christian is a Christian just in the degree that he is Christ-like.
V. THIS LIFE, THIS DIVINE GIFT, IS ETERNAL. Now the soul is eternal, and as such, therefore, this life must endure forever. That man is a fool who tries to procure something by great labour which will last only till tomorrow. But this eternal life never conies to a close. Moreover it is a life which shall expand. I can set no limits to it.
VI. WHO HAVE THAT LIFE? What man possesses it? Who has a distinct credential that he does possess it? "He became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him." Tell me not of spasmodic enjoyments of spiritual elevation, of occasional paroxysms of spiritual life. I ask, is Christ's life in you? Is His law in your hearts, and is it exemplified in your lives? If so, you have clear proof of the possession of that gift which is everlasting.
(T. Archer, D. D.)
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