The Witness of the Spirit, Water and Blood
He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. – I John 5:10
The only basis for saving faith is the testimony of God Himself concerning His Son Jesus Christ! “And this is the testimony that God has given to us eternal life and this life is in His Son.” Note that the words which follow our text assure us very solemnly that the rejection of this basis, namely, God’s own testimony, involves the utmost possible guilt. “He that believes not God, has made Him a liar, because He believes not the record which God gave of His Son.” Now, it is quite clear that this does not refer to any inward witness, because the man who does not believe Christ has no inward witness and cannot have any! He cannot be guilty of rejecting what he never had—but God has given an outward witness to all mankind—a witness contained in Holy Scripture, clear and express and therein He declares that Jesus Christ is His Son and the appointed Savior of men! And He bids men trust in Him, promising that they shall thus be saved.
It is the rejection of the Revelation of God which involves the unbeliever in transcendent guilt, because his unbelief is tantamount to saying that God speaks lies—that He has deliberately given us a Bible which is a fiction; that He has set before us hopes which will end in disappointment; that He has threatened us with a doom which is a mere bugbear—that He has sent us a Savior who cannot save, who has presented a Sacrifice in which there is no real efficacy! The rejection of Christ as our Savior is the most pointed way of calling the Lord a liar! Surely we ought to start hack from such guilt as this, for it stabs at God’s honor and, inasmuch as it impugns His truthfulness, it robs Him of one of the brightest jewels of His crown!
O beloved Hearers, be not guilty of this, I pray you, but believe your God! What if all men contradict Him—be it yours to believe Him—“Let God be true and every man a liar.” Believe God, though every feeling of your nature should seem to controvert His testimony, for feelings deceive and consciousness may be a dream—but God cannot lie—His Word is Truth itself! This, then, is the basis of faith, and the basis of faith which cannot be rejected without the utmost sin. Let me put it another way. I hear and I read that God has sent His Son Jesus Christ to save sinners—and thus I learn that I must trust Christ and I shall then obtain the benefit of His salvation. I believe this. I trust Christ and I am saved. This salvation gives me peace and rest and I become confirmed in my belief.
Now there are many who want this peace and rest before they will believe. They expect harvest before sowing and will not sow unless their preposterous desire can be granted! My dear Friend, you cannot expect to have the natural order reversed in this fashion! Why should you need it? Has not God spoken the Truth and if it is the Truth of God, why do you not believe it? The essence of faith lies in believing that God speaks the Truth and in acting upon His Word because it is the Truth! Is this more than God has a right to expect of you? Why should there be any refusal to render what is so manifestly His due? Why should we ask for further evidence whether it is in ourselves or in others?Should we not at once say, “God has said it. It is true. I will act upon it. And since He says Christ died for sinners and saves all that trust in Him, I will trust Him and I shall be saved”? Now, this basis of faith is abundantly sufficient. I feel half ashamed to have to insist upon this most evident Truth of God, for, if we were not desperately set on mischief and alienated from God, we should feel this at once! Has God said it? Then to ask any confirmation of it is a direct insult to Him—a gratuitous impertinence against the Majesty of Heaven! Has God said it? Then we are more bound to believe than if all the scientific men in the world for centuries had witnessed to it! Has God said it? We are more sure of it than if all the traditions of all nations had handed it down to us! Has God said it? Then we are surer of it than if our reason proved it by mathematical demonstration! Has God said it? Then we are more certain of it than if we saw it with our eyes—for they might be deceived—or than if we heard it with our ears, for they might be imposed upon. Our senses are deceivable, but God is not deceivable! He must be true and we may wisely cast the weight of our souls upon His faithfulness. And when we do, we may take all the consequences, fully assured that what the Lord has promised He is able to perform.
“Oh,” you say, “but if I felt such-and-such, I would believe.” Suppose you did? Then your confidence would be in your feelings and not in God—and what would that be but presumption seeing that there cannot be anything in your feelings which can make God true! God is true, feel whatever you may! Believe Him, then, for it is to that faith in His Son that He gives salvation and not to faith in your feelings!
Now, though this basis is sufficient, the Lord, knowing our unbelief, has been pleased not to add to it, but to set it before us in a graciously amplified manner. He says, “There are three which bear witness on earth, the Spirit, the water, and the blood, and these three agree in one.” That Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He can and does save sinners and that He will save all who believe in Him is proven, first, by the giving of the Holy Spirit. He descended first at Pentecost, visibly and perceptibly, in rushing wind and cloven tongues of fire and He manifested His power by the marvelous gift of speaking in languages which the disciples had never learned. The Holy Spirit was mightily with the Apostles, bearing witness that Jesus was the Son of God and that the Gospel which they preached was Divine.
The Holy Spirit has not returned to Heaven and though His miraculous power is no longer seen among us in the physical world, He is still working spiritual miracles in the Church. He still regenerates; He still enlightens; He still consoles; He is still the help of our infirmity in prayer. He is still our Comforter and Guide. In many blessed and useful ways, for which He is to be adored, the Holy Spirit is still in the midst of the Church to witness to the truth of the Gospel. Instead of miracles we have the Presence of the Holy Spirit—men quickened from death in sin, hearts renewed, eyes enlightened, souls regenerated—these are the standing witnesses of God in the Church to the Truth of the Gospel.
Then, there is the witness of the water. By the water, I understand to be meant that Living Water of which, if a man drinks, he shall live forever. And it indicates the spiritual life which abides in the Church—the life and the cleansing which God gives to Believers. Now, there are thousands of us who can bear witness that we possess a life to which we once were strangers—but by believing in Jesus Christ that life has been given to us—as it shall also be given to all who hear me this day, upon their believing in Jesus! That Water of Life abiding in the Church and always flowing out of the very midst of her living members is another form of the witness of God, a part of the one solid basis upon which true faith must rest.
Then there is the blood—a third witness—that blood of Atonement which speaks better things than that of Abel, which brings peace to the guilty conscience and ends the strife within. There is no voice like it to believing ears! This is another and most powerful form of the witness of God. He does pardon sin and give peace to the conscience—the fact is known to thousands and is the abiding witness of God to His dear Son. The abiding power of the Spirit, the water and the blood are God’s continuance of His one testimony that Jesus Christ is the appointed Savior and that whoever trusts in Him shall be saved. Beyond this evidence, the hearer of the Gospel may expect nothing. What more can he need? What more can he desire? If you refuse Christ upon the witness of God, you must refuse Him outright, for no other witness shall ever be given unto those who believe not upon the solemn testimony of God!
And, Beloved, let me say that this basis which has been so graciously amplified in the triple witness of the Spirit, the water and the blood, has this to commend it—it is everlasting and immutable! Did you believe in Jesus Christ 50 years ago? Did you then trust Him because God declared Him to be worthy of your confidence? That witness of God remains in all its potency today! A thousand years ago a poor sinner came to Jesus because God had assured him in the Scriptures that there he should find mercy. And today another sinner may come with just the same confidence, for the guarantee of faith is unaltered! What a blessing this is!
Our feelings change—sometimes the inward witness burns brightly and sometimes it becomes very dim—sometimes we feel tender in heart and at another time we are hard as a millstone! At one moment we are zealous and at another moment indifferent. It would never do to have such a shifting basis of our faith. Such a moving, shivering quicksand as this would never satisfy us very long! But what a rock we have in God’s Word! He has said it and it must be true, “He that has the Son has life.” When I look within I cannot always tell by my feelings whether I have obtained spiritual life or not. But since I know that I believe in Jesus, I know that I have eternal life because God has said so! I, trusting His Son Jesus Christ, know myself to be saved over the head of all my feelings, let them be what they may, for God has said, “He that believes has everlasting life.”
And you, poor Soul, are not invited to come to Christ this morning because there is something in you that is a guarantee for your coming—some inward witness bearing testimony to your fitness! No, you are to come because there is witness enough in this Book! Because there is witness enough in the fact that the Spirit of God is in the Church! Because there is witness enough that the Living Water is still imparted unto men and that the blood of Jesus has not lost its power, but cleanses from all sin! If you will not believe upon this all-sufficient witness, you cannot expect to receive any other, for this is the witness of God upon which men savingly believe in Christ Jesus!
Now, dear Friends, the faith which will not and cannot rest on this basis is evidently no faith in God at all, but a proud resolve to demand other evidence than His Word. “Well,” says one, “but suppose I were to see a vision? I should then believe.” That is to say, you would believe your vision, but that vision would, in all probability, be the result of a fevered brain and you would be deceived! “Uh, but if I could hear a voice, then I could believe.” That is to say, you refuse the sure Word of testimony in the Bible and will only believe God if He will condescend to indulge your whims! Voices which you might think you heard are not to be depended upon—for imagination easily creates them! When daydreaming I have heard many voices, or thought I did, but they may have been echoes, or birds far up in the air, or mere fancies. There is nothing to be depended upon in hearing a voice in the air!
Will you put that in competition with the revealed will of God? “Oh, but if I had a special Revelation.” Such a special Revelation you have no right to look for! I speak most plainly here—no additional Revelation is to be expected because the Book of God is ended—the Revelation of God is finished and he that adds to the sacred Book is cursed! If you, therefore, say that God has made a new Revelation to you, you run a dreadful risk of the curses which are written in this book! God, by His Spirit, brings old Truths of God home to the heart, gives new light to our eyes and causes the Word to exercise new power over us—but He reveals no new facts and He utters no words in any man’s ears concerning his condition and state. We must be content with the old Revelation and with the life and power and force with which the Holy Spirit brings it to the heart.
Neither must any of us seek to have any additional Revelation, for that would imply that the Scriptures are incomplete. What? Has God spoken all this volume that you may believe on His Son and is not that enough for you? Must He go out of His way to make some private communication to you? Is all that which He has already spoken to be treated as a lie unless He, at your dictation, condescends to say something for you, personally? Are you too good or too great to be saved like other sinners? That is what it practically comes to! “Oh,” you say, “but if I felt such-and-such, I would believe.” Suppose you did? Then your confidence would be in your feelings and not in God—and what would that be but presumption seeing that there cannot be anything in your feelings which can make God true! God is true, feel whatever you may! Believe Him, then, for it is to that faith in His Son that He gives salvation and not to faith in your feelings!
– C.H. Spurgeon, excerpted from The True Position of the Witness Within, No. 1428, Delivered Lord’s-day morning, August 11, 1878, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.