Have you ever been a witness in court? Have you served on the jury of a court case? Have you ever been asked to give a report about something that you witnessed – something that you saw or heard? Did you have to answer questions, and were you told to fill out a written report? Every detail is important, isn’t it? Whatever the situation, those involved want enough proof to secure a verdict or to validate a situation or verify a person’s identity. We pay extra postage to get a return receipt, or we pay extra to have a document or package sent by certified or registered mail for our own protection. We may also want the assurance that it has been delivered to the right person and has been personally signed for and received. We may also want the recipient to realize the importance of the document we sent, and the need for an immediate response to it.
What is it that makes a person a good witness? What is required in a court of law? The first requirement is that the witness must give firsthand information. The judge isn’t going to accept hearsay evidence. Secondly, the witness must be willing to testify. Thirdly, the witness must be reliable. His witness must be substantial and consistent enough to be believable. These three requirements are necessary if a person is to be an excellent witness. John’s point in this passage of Scripture is that the Lord Jesus Christ is a perfect witness concerning God. This is one of the major themes in John’s Gospel. Let’s see how this theme unfolds as we examine the witness of Jesus Christ to the world around Him, and to us today.
First, the following words of Warren Wiersbe, in his commentary on John’s Gospel, will help prepare us for the study of verses 31-36. He says,”Bible scholars do not agree as to who is speaking in John 3:31-36, John the apostle or John the Baptist. . . There are no quotation marks in early manuscripts, but since all scripture is inspired, it really makes little difference who said the words”. Personally, I think they are the words of the apostle John as he ties the previous words of John the Baptist into the theme of his Gospel. But what is of importance to us is an understanding of what those words in John 3:31-36 mean, and what the Spirit of God wants us to learn from them and apply to our lives.
I. FIRST-HAND KNOWLEDGE AND INFORMATION (verse 31)
When you go to a “second-hand” store, are you expecting to find brand-new items, fresh from the factory? I hope not. You may find your visit to be frustrating and a waste of your time. It’s called “second-hand” because other hands have already made use of it and that person is passing it on for someone else’s use. We don’t know the whole story about that particular product’s history, nor all the details of its prior use. In a similar vein, John is about to tell us that everything we know about God is “second-hand”, so to speak. We receive it from a secondary source: in this case, the Lord Jesus Christ. We don’t know every thing He knows about the Father. We haven’t seen everything He has seen, heard everything He has heard, nor experienced everything He has experienced in His relationship to the Father.
Verse 31 says, “He who comes from above is above all, he who is of the earth is from the earth and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all.” Notice the repetition of words and phrases in this verse: “from above , . . above all . . . from heaven . . . above all”, as well as the words “of the earth . . . from the earth . . . of the earth”. Heavy emphasis is placed on the fact that the Lord Jesus is from heaven. He is the God-man, and was sent “from heaven” into this world by God the Father. The Greek word, anothen, was often used to show a comparison or contrast. Judaism emphasized the contrast between above and below. Heaven is God’s sphere and the earth is man’s. In the New Testament, the contrast is made between a holy God and sinful man. When John uses those words, “above all” and “from heaven”, he means that only Jesus knows the Father perfectly and intimately because He has existed from all eternity with Him in heaven as a member of the triune God. Therefore He alone can give first-hand evidence of what God is like. John 1:18 says, No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.” No one can explain what God is like better than Jesus because no other human being is God.
By contrast, everyone else is called “earthly” or “from earth”. There is more to these words than meets the eye. John may be making reference to Jesus’ words to Nicodemus in 3:12, where He says, “If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” I think the words “earthly” and “from earth” may also have the connotation “fallen”, suffering the effects of Adam’s sin. We were born with a mind, will, and conscience which are tainted by sin, and this limits our capacity to know about and understand heavenly things. When James refers to human wisdom, he calls it “earthly, natural, demonic” (James 3:15). So our capacity to be a perfect witness of heavenly things is negated by the fact that we are not God, and by the fact that we are earthly and sinful human beings.
II. WILLING TO TESTIFY (verse 32)
In verse 32, John tells us that the Lord Jesus was willing to testify about God. No one had to force Him to testify because that was one of the reasons He came to this earth. It says in verse 32, “What He has seen and heard, of that He bears witness, and no one has received His witness.” The Greek word oudeis, translated “no one” has the connotation of being “very few”. At the end of Jesus’ life He had very few followers who had committed themselves to Him as their Lord. John is reiterating what he said in John 1:11, “He came to His own and His own did not receive Him, but . . . “ (there were exceptions), But that didn’t stop Jesus from being a faithful witness. He was willing to testify in spite of the response. The book of Hebrews begins with these words: “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son.” It was part of God’s plan. The author of Hebrews also gives Jesus’ qualifications as a witness when he says, “And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature.” I’ll say it again, no one is more qualified to testify about God the Father than His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and He is willing and ready to do so, not only by His words but also by His life. He has also chosen to bear witness to us today by allowing His words and a description of His life, death, and resurrection to be written down for us in the Scriptures.
III. A CONSISTENT WITNESS (verses 33-35)
The Lord Jesus also fulfilled the third requirement for a perfect witness. His witness was consistent. It was complete, and therefore totally reliable. Verse 33 says, “He who has received His witness has set his seal to this, that God is true.” Various seals were popular in that day. The Bible refers to a “signet ring” and a seal that was worn around the neck. The seal was often pressed into a small amount of wax or clay at the bottom of a document to publicly attest to the truth of it, or to enter into a contract. Verse 33 is saying that when a person understands the testimony that Jesus makes about Himself, and then commits himself to what he has seen and heard by following Jesus, his words and his changed-life bear witness to the fact that Jesus is truly the Son of God. One’s life and words are like a seal for everyone to see. The life of Jesus has made an indelible impression. So each of us who is a genuine follower of Jesus Christ is a witness to the truth of God by our words and our lives.
In verse 34, John gives us another reason why Jesus’ words are true when he says, “For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for He gives the Spirit without measure.” The giver of the Spirit is God the Father; the receiver of the Spirit is the Lord Jesus Christ. So Jesus is not only our Ambassador, sent to us from God the Father, but He has also been given all power and authority to act in that capacity. He comes “fully endorsed”. The Holy Spirit is called “the Spirit of Truth”, and the Lord Jesus has been given a “full measure” of Him by the Father.
Not only that, by verse 35 says, “The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand.” Not only does the Lord Jesus have all the qualifications of a perfect witness for God to the world, but He has been given all the power to prove it by His actions. God the Father guarantees the truth and total reliability of Christ’s words. And all of this was motivated by love – the love of the Father for His Son and their love for us.
IV. THE VERDICT (Verse 36)
The testimony has been given and it has been proven to be absolutely true. Now John gives us the verdict. We are left with two choices, with eternal consequences which are as different as night and day. The first consequence: “He who believes in the Son has eternal life.” The word “believe” refers to a commitment to the authority and rule of Jesus Christ in your life. By believing, Jesus Christ is not only Lord, but he is your Lord. We will begin to taste what heaven is like as He brings joy and peace into our lives. The Holy Spirit will give us a love for God’s Word and will begin to change our lives as we yield to His control, and we will begin to take on a “family resemblance” as children of God. And the best is yet to come. We will spend eternity in heaven enjoying His presence and speaking to God face-to-face, all expenses paid! It will be so amazing that it is beyond our present imagination. The apostle Paul quotes from the prophet Isaiah when he writes: “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.” (I Corinthians 2:9)
Now John puts all of this into stark contrast at the end of verse 36: “but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” People don’t like to hear about the wrath of God. Many believe that God is good, loving and forgiving, They can do what they please and He’ll forgive them and let them into heaven. There are many who believe that all roads lead to heaven, that all religions basically believe the same things. That’s not what this passage of Scripture has been saying, The wrath of God abides on all who will not acknowledge Jesus Christ as their only Lord and Savior. This isn’t “scare tactics”. I call it “reality therapy”. We need to face the facts.
There have been times when a person has spent a lot of time and money to lovingly help another person, only to have the intended recipient become angry, refuse the gift and reject the giver. Sometimes this is referred to as a “slap in the face”. It hurts very deeply because it is rude, uncalled for, and saddens the giver. It deprives both people of the joy they could have experienced, and a deeper bond of friendship that could have developed between them. The intended recipient is also depriving himself of something he really needs and of someone who really cares.
God presents you and I with a gift at the cost of His own Son’s life. He poured out His wrath for sin upon His Son and watched Him suffer and die in order to save us from the consequences of our own willful sins. He broke off His fellowship with His Son until the debt was completely paid. There was no other way to make this gift possible. There has never been a greater gift and there has never been a higher price to pay for it. To ignore or refuse such a gift is a “slap in the face” of God.
Let’s take a closer look at God’s wrath and the reasons for it. Some people believe that wrath is beneath God’s character; that it suggests a lack of self-control or a bad temper on His part. But God’s wrath is based upon His holiness and justice. No one stands under God’s wrath except those who have chosen to do so. God respects people’s freedom of choice, and gives them what they choose with all its implications and consequences. Every person who chooses to be his own god; to worship another god, to ignore or rebel against the true God and testimony of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, is choosing to face the wrath of God rather than the mercy of God. Every person who thinks he can earn his way to heaven by his works and is unwilling to recognize his own sinfulness and hopelessness, and seek the only true remedy for his spiritual condition, is placing himself under God’s wrath (Romans 3:20).
An American Indian who was a Christian was once asked the question, “What did Jesus do for you?” They were outside so he squatted down, gathered some leaves into a pile, and placed a worm that he found under the leaves into the middle of the pile. Then he lit a match and set the outside edges of the pile on fire. As the flames closed in on the worm and were about to engulf if, the man quickly picked up the worm and put it safely on the ground. Then he looked up and said, “that’s what Jesus did for me.”
We either entrust our lives to Jesus Christ and commit ourselves completely to Him as our only Lord and Savior, or we receive the punishment that our sins deserve in the sight of a holy God. It is God’s desire, and my desire, that you not ignore or reject the witness of the Lord Jesus Christ, but instead commit yourself to Him who died for you and wants you to be with Him forever in heaven.
For those of us who know Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, God wants us to be impressed with His hatred of sin, and not regard sin lightly or make excuses for it in our lives. Let’s also be continually praising Him for what He did for us, and for the love that motivated it, and praying for the salvation of those who have not yet chosen to follow Him.
There are many other completed sermons on this website and you are welcome to visit them all. May the testimony of the Lord Jesus give you a sense of inner peace and protection as your trust in Him continues to grow stronger.