We have all seen the scenes from films depicting a powerful courtroom exchange usually climaxing on the testimony of some eyewitness who has been brought in to testify. But what happens when God gives His testimony? We would expect for miraculous and spectacular things to take place. We would expect for an inerrant witness that is totally free from error, in other words, there would be no flaws in the witness of God.
Scripture testifies that God has never left Himself without a witness (Acts 14.17). 1 John 5.6-9 concentrates on God’s testimony regarding His Son. According to John, God has given a threefold witness to the coming of the Son. “The Spirit and the water and the blood…” v.7. There is significant theological debate regarding the exact meaning of “the water and the blood” although most would accept “blood” to refer to the cross. The best interpretation regarding the significance of “water” seems to point in the direction of Jesus’ baptism. This view would make sense especially in light of the backdrop of incipient forms of Gnosticism which seems to be what John is grappling with the letter of first John.
If we accept this, i.e. the Spirit, the water [Jesus’ baptism], and the blood [Jesus’ crucifixion], we have a threefold witness which John says “are in agreement” v.8. The Spirit who is Biblically the Divine Revelator of God’s truth and word, especially in Johannine theology, is often seen testifying regarding the truth of Christ,
John 14:16–17 16 “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; 17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.”
John 15:26 26 “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me,”
John 16:13 13 “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.”
During Jesus’ baptism God certainly testified to His Son’s identity and ministry.
In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus appears on the scene to be baptized by John (Mt. 3.13); by proclaiming a baptism of repentance, John the Baptist was preparing Israel’s heart for its Messiah (Mt. 3.11; Mk. 1.4; Lk. 3.3; Acts 13.24; 19.4); and it was at John’s baptism that John deferred to Christ, called attention to Christ, handed over His disciples to follow Christ and thus gave Christ preeminence saying “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1.29) and again testified saying, “I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.” (v.34).
In addition to this God Himself spoke powerfully from heaven concerning His Son,
Matthew 3:15–17 15 “But Jesus answering said to him, “Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he permitted Him. 16 After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, 17 and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”
Yet it was at the cross where God gave further testimony regarding His Son’s “blood”. In Matthew’s gospel, Scripture records that during Jesus’ crucifixion “darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour” signifying God having forsaken the Son as sin was imputed to Him (Mt. 27.45). When Jesus shed His sovereign blood for the sin of His people the veil was torn granting all access to God’s presence - who would enter through that blood – then the earth shook, and the tombs of the saints where opened, and those who were raised went through the holy city and were amazingly seen by many (Mt. 27.51-53).
Immediately following these verses Matthew records the words of a Roman centurion,
Matthew 27:54 54 Now the centurion, and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, became very frightened and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”
To this verse John MacArthur adds this commentary,
“So overwhelming was God’s miraculous testimony to Jesus that a battle-hardened Roman centurion who witnessed it cried out in terror, “Truly this was the Son of God!” (Mt. 27.54; cf. Mk. 15.39). (MacArthur; John MacArthur New Testament 1-3 John, p.194).
When God testifies, creation itself is altered, people come to life from among the dead, believers are assured, and the unbeliever is left awestruck and terrified. When the unbeliever sees all the evidence that God has furnished, he has only the option of suppressing the truth of God’s witness in unrighteousness (Rom. 1.18). He is left totally dependent on the Sovereign Spirit of God to illuminate his heart to these truths and embrace them by faith so as to be saved. The believer is left assured and the unbeliever is left without excuse!