This Lesson is part of John’s Gospel Easy Notes Series.
The word “witness” is one of the great key-words of the gospel of John. In this gospel John presents several witnesses to testify to the supreme place of Jesus, his divinity, and his mission.
The word “witness” first occurs in the very first chapter of this gospel. Apostle John is careful to point out that even though John the Baptist was great he was just a signpost pointing to Jesus Christ. In several passages John is careful to paint this picture of John the Baptist as the light of a candle compared to the brilliance of the Son of God shining out (for example see John 3:27—30).
The First Witness: John the Baptist
“There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light (John 1:6—8).”
Witness is someone who does not shine a light on himself but turns the spotlight on to Jesus so that he is bathed in light for all to see. Witnessing is not about telling others what God has done for you but it is about telling others about who Jesus truly is.
The effectiveness of the witness of John is seen when people said regarding Jesus, “Though John never performed a miraculous sign, all that John said about this man was true (John 10:42).” What was the result? “And in that place many believed in Jesus (John 10:42).”
Life Lesson: To be an effective witness you need not do any miraculous signs. But what is needed is a life lived in humility and sincerity before God and a willingness to point others to Jesus.
→In John Chapter 5:31—47 Jesus talks about four witnesses to him. They are John the Baptist, God the Father, the work that Jesus did, and the Scriptures (especially which Moses wrote).
The Witness of the Father
Jesus always had the realization that he was “sent” by the Father. This thought is expressed many times in John’s gospel (see 5:37, 8:18). This witness in his heart of the strong conviction and assurance that God had sent him was the key to his life and ministry on earth.
“When a man is confronted with Christ there comes an inner conviction that this is none other than the Son of God. Father Tyrrell has said that the world can never get away from that ‘strange man upon the Cross.’ That inner power which always brings our eyes back to Christ even when we wish to forget him, that inner voice which tells us that this Jesus is none other than the Son of God and the Saviour of the world is the witness of God within our souls.” –William Barclay
The Witness of the Work of Jesus
Jesus said: “For the very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me” (John 5:36). See also 10:25, 14:11. Those who saw his miracles and still hated God and did not believe in him are condemned. (15:24)
“We must note one thing–when John spoke of the works of Jesus, he was not speaking only of the miracles of Jesus; he was thinking of Jesus’ whole life. He was thinking not only of the great outstanding moments, but of the life that Jesus lived every minute of the day.
No man could have done the mighty works that Jesus did unless he was closer to God than any other man ever was; but, equally, no man could have lived that life of love and pity, compassion and forgiveness, service and help in the life of the everyday unless he had been in God and God in him.
It is not by working miracles that we can prove that we belong to Christ, but by living a Christ-like life every moment of every day. It is in the ordinary things of life that we show that we belong to him.” –William Barclay
The Witness of the Scriptures
The Old Testament was given to men to point them to the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Jesus, time and again, told his audience that the Scriptures testify to him. John 5:39, 46. See also 1:45.
Did you know that someone can search the Scriptures to prepare a great sermon and still miss Jesus? It is quite possible when your aim is to get knowledge. Jesus said, “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life (John 5:39, 40).”
When you treat the Bible as a kind of magic book to get promises for daily living, you are missing Jesus. That is not the purpose of the Bible. Its great purpose is to witness to Jesus Christ.
So when you read the Bible the first question that you should be asking yourself is not “What is the Bible speaking to my situation today?” No. That is not the best question to ask. The first and foremost question is, “What does the passage I am reading speak about God?”
The Witness of John the Baptist
Jesus mentioned John the Baptist and referred to him as a lamp that burned and gave light. The light John the Baptist had was not his own but it was borrowed light. He was like a lamp that was lit by God to shine the light. His message was not cold; it had the warmth of fire in it. He was convinced about the message he was preaching. Therefore it convicted men as well. Unless a preacher is on fire for God himself he cannot move the heart of others. John the Baptist burned out for God after guiding people to the true light.
John testified after he saw the Holy Spirit come down from heaven and remain on Jesus: “I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God (John 1:34).”
“He makes His ministers a flame of fire. Am I ignitable? God deliver me from the dread asbestos of ‘other things.’ Saturate me with the oil of the Spirit that I may be aflame. But flame is transient, often short lived. Canst thou bear this, my soul – short life? … Make me thy fuel, Flame of God.” – Jim Elliot (Missionary to the Auca Indians who was speared to death at the young age of 28 on 8 January 1965 along with four of his missionary friends as they made a plane landing to reach the unreached savage tribe.)
→In John Chapter 15 Jesus talks about the witness of the Holy Spirit
The Witness of the Holy Spirit
“When the Counsellor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me (John 15:26).”
“To the Jew the Spirit had two functions. The Spirit brought God’s truth to men, and the Spirit enabled men to recognize that truth when they saw it. It is the work of the Spirit within our hearts which enables us to recognize Jesus for what he is and to trust him for what he can do.”—William Barclay