St. John wants you to know something. He wants those who believe in the name of the Son of God to know and remember that you have eternal life, and he wants you to continue to believe in the name of the Son of God (verse 13.) This is the same John who wrote in his Gospel, “but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31.)
John is so concerned that you not only believe on the Son of God but continue to believe in Him that he gives many different ways of knowing that we abide in God.
In the first place, John reminds us that the entire Trinity bears witness to itself: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. While John’s clearest statement of the Trinity, verse 7 of Chapter 5, is disputed and is not in the earliest manuscripts, the fact that there are three in heaven who bear witness to the Truth – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit – is still true. We seem, however, sometimes to focus on the work of the Son, apart from that of the Father of Spirit. But John is clear that all three work together to bring us eternal life and all three bear witness to the Truth. John speaks about the Father who is light (1:5) and love (4:8). He teaches that we have fellowship with the Father through the Son (1:3), and that the Father has love for those He makes His children (3:1.) It is the Father who sent the Son to be the propitiation for our sins (4:10), and believers abide not only in the Son or Spirit but also in God, which in this case must refer to the Father (4:15.)
The Spirit gives witness by helping us to know that God abides in us (3:24), and from other passages we know that the Spirit does this by dwelling in us. The gift of the Spirit in us is itself one of the ways we know that we abide in Him (4:13.) Here in Chapter 5, verse 6 we read that it is the Spirit who bears witness because the Spirit is truth. The Spirit bears witness not only in heaven but also on earth (5:8.)
But John reminds us that there are even more things that testify to God in us and to the eternal life we have in the Son. On earth, we have the testimony of the Spirit, the water, and the blood (verse 9.) The Spirit we have already talked about, but what about the water and the blood? God has testified to us about Himself and His work in our lives by the baptism of Christ (the water), by which the Christ was anointed and by which He began His public ministry. God has testified as well by the blood of Christ that was shed on the Cross (the blood.)
The entire life of Jesus Christ, therefore, is a testimony to you. But since these things are past, how can they still testify to us? John himself, an eyewitness of the Son, has written to us that we might know the truth, that we might have fellowship with God, and that our joy may be complete (1:1-4.) Through the Gospel of St. John, in which we read of the life of Jesus Christ, we have a perpetual testimony of the work of the Trinity in our lives. For this reason, we should read the Bible every day because it is one of God’s appointed means of abiding in us and we in Him. In the Scriptures, we still hear God’s testimony about His Son, just as we heard from the beginning. How, then, can we ever give up reading and living by the Scriptures?
But God testifies to us by the water and the blood in another powerful way: through the Sacraments. Through the water of baptism we are given the privilege of being brought into covenant with God and made heirs of salvation. By baptism, we are brought into the life of Jesus Christ. By the Lord’s Supper, we continue to participate in that new life that God has given to us, and we feed off of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. What powerful, continuing witnesses!
To these witnesses we must add the witness of the Church itself, which is the Body of Christ on earth, and through which all of these other witnesses are mediated.
But of all the witnesses that John records, by which we may know that we have eternal life in the Son, John spends the most time teaching us about love. We should not forget that love is a testimony of the presence of God in our lives. John’s constant message is that if we love God we will keep His commandments, for only those who love God will keep His commandments without sin. If we love God, we will love the brethren as He first loved us. By this love, we ourselves and the world will know that God abides in us and we in Him.
On this 12th Day, on this last day of the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, remember the witnesses that God has given you of His abiding in you. Whenever you are weak or forgetful, remember the ways God comes to you to remind you of His presence and actually bring Himself to you. It’s easy to get distracted in life, and it’s easy lose courage in our spiritual life.
But rejoice! for God has called you His child. He has given you eternal life, He has sent His Son to be the propitiation for your sins, and He has promised to abide with you if you abide with Him.
Thank God for St. John, that he wrote 1 John so that he might bear witness to us of the Word of life and of our fellowship with God and that our joy may be complete.
May we, who are the children of God as John was, who have the testimony of God as John did, who have eternal life as John did, bear witness to Son in the world. May we be the light of the world as Jesus was the light of the world. And may we do this by loving one another as He first loved us.
Resolution: I resolve to spend some time remembering today the fellowship I have with God and the means by which He comes to me.
Prayer: Father, thank You for sending Your Son to be the propitiation for the sins of the world; Jesus, thank You for cleansing me from sin by Your blood and for giving Your life for me; thank You Spirit for abiding in me and testifying to the Truth. Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, may I bear witness to you in love as St. John did before me, that I and others may have fellowship with. Amen.
Point for Meditation:
Make a list of the ways in which God has testified about Himself to you (see those listed in today’s meditation). Look over this list throughout the week and especially before you go to church this Sunday. Consult it during the week at times when you are weak or forgetful.
© 2015 Fr. Charles Erlandson