Gems in the Letter of 1 John Part 117 - 1 John 5:11 Testimony
. John says that amongst other things, “this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” I say ‘amongst other things’ because this verse is in the middle of a group of verses centering on ‘testimony’, a word which appears some 8 times in 6 verses. John is picking up again the idea he started his letter with when he talked about the things they – the apostles – had seen and heard and touched. Unfortunately this whole passage is somewhat confused. In particular it is not possible to be quite sure what he meant when he was referring to ‘water’ (the verse omitted from most Bibles is a translation of words that do not appear in any manuscript earlier than the 14th century). Water may refer to the believer’s baptism, to the baptism of Jesus, or the water that came from his side when he was hanging on the cross – the 3 most likely possibilities.
But the detail doesn’t matter. What he is telling us, loud and clear, is that what does matter is that we place our faith firmly and securely on the matter of testimony. Our faith is not founded on ideas but on facts. It all happened a long time ago but it did happen and so these things matter. That is what John is intent on convincing his people. Those who had left his fellowship were probably gnostics – people who placed their faith on gnosis = wisdom. They thought, as all too many people think these days, that you could achieve all you needed to achieve by thinking. You can’t. The Lord of all creation has made himself known to us – isn’t that amazing – and if we ignore that simple fact we end up in a cloud of our own ideas which have no validity beyond our own thought processes.
What we believe is not what someone, in one instance of time or even over a lifetime, thought. It is the result of more than a thousand years in which the peoples of one nation related to the Lord God. They wrestled and struggled with how they were to understand him. They sometimes worked hard to get to know him better. At other times they tried hard to forget about him and go their own way. Then finally they were challenged by his presence in human form and that became the critical point of their experience. It was still many more than one person’s experience of him. We have the four Gospels, a history of the first few years of the church and a collection of writings from those years. Everything they wrote down and that we still have constitute an enormous testimony to the ways of God, his provision for us and the ways we should respond to him. In the end it comes down to a simple statement, “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (5:12).
Once again, as he has done before, John is drawing a very firm line between those who believe in Jesus, who have set out quite determinedly to follow him, and those who haven’t. Those who have have the promise of God of eternal life, the life of the age to come.
The obvious question each of us must ask ourselves is, ‘which side of the line am I on?’