John is exhorting his readers to bear witness to the real Jesus. He now adds another aspect to the testimony of Christians when he says that the Holy Spirit also testifies. We should not be surprised at the inclusion of the witness of the Spirit because Jesus told his disciples that when the Spirit came permanently at Pentecost he would bear witness to Jesus: ‘But 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. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning’ (John 15:26-27). In what ways does the Spirit do this? No doubt, several answers could be given to that question. Here are two ways in which we see the witness of the Spirit.
First, the Spirit bears witness to Jesus in the Bible. The Word of God has come to us by the work of the Spirit, guiding those who wrote the various books of the Bible. We are aware that the Bible speaks about many issues, yet its predominant and uniting theme is Jesus Christ. Every book in the Bible has something to say about him; once we realise that he is the Key that opens the treasures of every book. And he is the uniting theme of the Bible because he is connected to all of its contents. The genealogies of the Bible ultimately lead to him, the commandments are given so that people can live for him, and explanations are given of his life and work so that readers can understand who he was and what he did.
Second, the Spirit bears witness to Jesus by illuminating sinners within their minds and hearts regarding their personal need of Jesus and of his suitability to be their Saviour. The Spirit instructs them about the beauty, glory and fitness of Jesus as the Saviour. Millions have experienced this testimony of the Spirit and rejoice in what he has told them.
It is important to retain the emphasis John has here – he says that the Spirit testifies to the One who came by water and blood, to be the crucified Christ. The Spirit lovingly and gently unfolds before the minds of sinners the significance of Jesus and creates within their hearts a warm love for Jesus, a whole-hearted dependence on Jesus, and a focussed devotion to Jesus that affects every aspect of life.
What a marvellous blessing it is to have the outward witness (the Bible) and the inward witness (conversion and communion) of the Spirit! How thankful we should be if we have received them!
But what about those who do not believe in Jesus? What has John to say about such? He says that they regard God as a liar. Perhaps some will be appalled to read John’s description. Yet when we think about it, we will realise that any person who does not immediately believe the gospel is saying this about God. The Lord, in the Bible, tells us that Jesus is the only Saviour of sinners and that they will be lost for ever unless they repent of their sins and trust in Jesus. The proof that they take God’s testimony seriously is that they will immediately respond in repentance and faith.