Since our greatest need is to believe in Christ, what a blessing it is that God has sent us witnesses to Him. Such was John the Baptist: “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light” (John 1:6-7a).
The prologue to John is loaded with key terms that introduce the themes of this Gospel. John 1:4-5 reveals three of them: life, light, and darkness. Another of these theme words appears in John 1:7: witness. This word appears fourteen times in the Gospel of John. John’s purpose in writing is to prove that Jesus is the Savior and the Son of God, and to do this he marshals an impressive array of witnesses. Through them, he seeks to multiply witnesses to Jesus—those who come to believe.
Witnesses are essential in establishing any claim to fact. When a news station wants to report an amazing event, it interviews eyewitnesses. We accept the reports of credible witnesses, especially when there are a number of them who agree. The same principle guides our legal system. When credible witnesses testify to an event, we are morally bound to accept what they say as true. In like manner, John’s Gospel presents us with such witnesses to Christ. Leon Morris writes, “[John] is insistent that there is good evidence for the things he sets down. Witness establishes truth.” This emphasis on the validity of witnesses ought to inform our own presentation of the gospel.
What witnesses does John present? Let me list eight of them:
- First, there is the witness of God the Father. In John 8:18b, Jesus said, “The Father who sent me bears witness about me.
- Jesus, God the Son, also bore witness to Himself. He said, “If I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going” (John 8:14).
- Third is the witness of God the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus promised to send when He returned to heaven: “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me” (John 15:26).
- Jesus also pointed to His works: “The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me” (John 10:25b). This is an important emphasis in this Gospel; John records marvelous works Jesus performed to demonstrate His deity.
- Fifth is the witness of Scripture. The most important purpose of the Old Testament was to give prophecies that would be fulfilled in Jesus; to teach God’s will in a way that would be completed by Jesus; and by various means to symbolize and anticipate Jesus’ coming and the salvation He would bring. Jesus said, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me” (John 5:39).
- One of the Old Testament’s prophecies concerned a forerunner to the Messiah, whose ministry would resemble that of the prophet Elijah. This is John the Baptist, the sixth of John’s witnesses.
- John’s seventh witness is Jesus’ disciples, including John himself. Jesus told them, “You also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning” (John 15:27).
- The eighth witness is the men and women who personally encountered Jesus. One was the Samaritan woman whom Jesus met by the well. After Jesus had revealed Himself to her, she went throughout her town presenting her witness: “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” (John 4:29). Another was the man who was born blind, to whom Jesus miraculously gave sight. When the religious leaders tried to silence Him, He gave this witness: “One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see” (John 9:25).
This is a most impressive array of witnesses to Jesus as the Son of God and Messiah. Anyone who desires to refute His claims should consider these witnesses and give careful attention to their testimony.
This excerpt is from Richard D. Phillips’ Jesus the Evangelist.