Harry Ironside Collection: Ironside, Harry A. - Notes on the Gospel of John: 17-The Five Witnesses -- Joh_5:30-47

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Harry Ironside Collection: Ironside, Harry A. - Notes on the Gospel of John: 17-The Five Witnesses -- Joh_5:30-47



TOPIC: Ironside, Harry A. - Notes on the Gospel of John (Other Topics in this Collection)
SUBJECT: 17-The Five Witnesses -- Joh_5:30-47

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The Five Witnesses -- Joh_5:30-47



I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me. If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true. There is another that beareth witness of me; and I know that the witness which he witnesseth of me is true. Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth. But I receive not testimony from man: but these things I say, that ye might be saved. He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light. But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me. And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape. And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not. Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life. I receive not honour from men. But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you. I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only? Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?



This is a very interesting section, in which we have five distinct witnesses to the fact that our Lord Jesus Christ is the Sent One of the Father, who came into the world that through Him we might have life and have it in abundance, and that He might be the propitiation for our sins. He speaks to us as Man in the days of His humiliation here on earth. In Joh_5:30 He says, “I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.” In this we see the Lord Jesus Christ taking the very opposite place to that which was aspired to by Lucifer of old. People often ask the question, “Why did God create a Devil?” He did not create a Devil. He created Lucifer, an archangel, but his heart was lifted up because of his beauty. Five times he set his will against God, saying, “I will.” “I will be like the most High. I will ascend unto the throne of God.” That was his ruin. Because of asserting his own will, Lucifer, the archangel, became the Devil, or Satan.



Here, in contrast to this, we have One who was in the form of God from all eternity, and yet in grace renounced the glory that He had before the world was. As the lowly Man here on earth, He refused to put forth His own power but undertook to do all His works in the energy of the Holy Spirit. He said, “I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just.” Why? Because His judgment was the judgment of God Himself. He did everything as under the authority of God, His Father. He alone of all men who have lived in this scene could always say, “I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.”



The measure in which you and I as Christians imitate our Lord in this will be the measure in which we too shall glorify God down here. We imagine sometimes that the greatest happiness we can have is to take our own way, but that is a mistake. The happiest man or woman on earth is the one who makes the will of God supreme. Jesus had no will of His own. His one desire was to do His Father’s will, for which He had been sent into the world.



Having given this declaration, He goes on to say, “If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true” (Joh_5:31). What does He mean? He has just declared that the Father had given everything into His hand. He has told us that some day His voice is going to cause the dead to come forth from the graves. He has declared that He is the One sent from the Father and now He says, “If I bear witness of myself [the very thing He has been doing], my witness is not true.” What does He mean by that? He means that if He alone bears witness of Himself, that testimony is not valid. We read elsewhere that “in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established” (Mat_18:16; see also 2Co_13:1). If anyone came bearing witness on his own behalf and speaking for himself and there were no others to accredit him, his witness would be ruled out of court and, therefore, would not be valid. He says, “Now if you have to depend only upon what I say, I recognize that that would not be valid as a testimony.” Then He adds, “But I have other witnesses to corroborate what I have been telling you.” He brings four additional witnesses that give absolutely clear testimonies to the fact that He is indeed the Sent One of the Father, and all these in addition to His own declaration. He is the first witness.



The second is John the Baptist. Now it was a singular thing that the great majority looked upon John the Baptist as a prophet. The leaders in Israel refused to accept his testimony because it condemned them, but the multitude of the people believed him to be sent of God. And so the Lord Jesus says, “If you will not receive My testimony unaccredited by another, then I will summon another witness into court.” So He brings in the testimony of John. “There is another that beareth witness of me; and I know that the witness which he witnesseth of me is true” (Joh_5:32). Here is now a second testimony, and, therefore, two witnesses can be received in court. “I know that the witness which he witnesseth of me is true. Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth” (Joh_5:32-33). To what truth? The same truth that the Lord Himself declared. He presented Jesus and said, “He that is preferred before me…was before me.” And John the Baptist on another occasion pointed Him out and said, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (Joh_1:29). He bore witness to the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ was the appointed sacrifice who was to give Himself for our sin upon that cross of shame. And then again, John declared, “I saw, and bare [witness] that this is the Son of God” (Joh_5:34).



Well, that is the very question. Is Jesus the Son of God? Is He the Eternal Son sent into the world to work out the plan of redemption? Jesus answered, as it were, “If I were the only one to say this you would not believe Me, but here is the one whom you thronged to hear and recognized that he was a prophet. Well, he bears witness to the same thing that I am telling you. John the Baptist tells you that I am the Son of God, the Lamb of God come to die for sinners. I am the preexistent Christ.” “But,” Jesus says, “I am not dependent upon John. I do not need his testimony to make these things valid. I am not dependent upon man’s testimony, but I say these things that you might be assured of their truth.” The Lord wanted to cut out from under their feet any ground for unbelief. He desired to make it clear that He was the Savior He professed to be. But He did not need John’s testimony, no matter how good and great he was. The truth is the truth apart from any man’s recognition of it. John was a wonderful man, “a burning and a shining light” (Joh_5:35). That witness had been silent for some time. Herod had slain him, but his testimony remained. Today we may hear the voice of John the Baptist declaring that Jesus is the Son of God, the Lamb of God, the preexistent One.



But now the Savior says, “I have another witness.” What is the third witness? “The works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me” (Joh_5:36). And that is the reason for the miracles of our Lord Jesus Christ. He wrought those mighty acts of power in order that He might prove that He was the Sent One of the Father. But Jesus never wrought a miracle simply to magnify Himself. They were performed to alleviate human suffering and help mankind. All this had been predicted beforehand in the Old Testament. The prophets had declared that the eyes of the blind should be opened, the ears of the deaf should be made to hear, the lame man should leap with joy, sorrow and sickness should flee away, and the prison house of sin should be opened. These things the Lord Jesus Christ fulfilled during those three years. These wonderful works and miracles, these mighty acts of His, all bore testimony to the fact that He was indeed the Sent One of the Father. Look at that poor leper. He comes to Him all covered with sores. He cries out in agony, “Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean” (Mat_8:2). Jesus looks upon him and He, the Holy One, is not afraid of being defiled by his uncleanness, so He puts His hand on him and says, “I will; be thou clean” (Mat_8:3). Do you think that man doubted that Jesus was sent from the Father? Would he raise any question as to the Deity of the Son of God?



Look at the sorrowing father at Capernaum. He comes to Jesus, pleading, “Master, my only child, my little daughter, is sick. Come and heal her.” Jesus went to the home and the people came rushing out, saying, “There is no use; she is dead.” But the Lord said, “Be not afraid, only believe” (Mar_5:36). He enters into that room, takes the hand of that little dead child, and says to her tenderly in Aramaic, “Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, [little maid], I say unto thee, arise” (Mar_5:41), and she opened her eyes and sat up. Do you think Jairus and his wife had any difficulty in believing that He was the Sent One of the Father?



And that poor widow outside of the city of Nain, following the funeral procession of her only son, until Jesus came and stopped it all! Mr. Moody said, “You can’t find any direction as to how to conduct a funeral service in the Bible. Jesus broke up every funeral He ever attended.” So He interfered here, and said to the young man, “I say unto thee, Arise” (Luk_7:14), and Jesus gave him to his mother. Do you think she doubted that He was the Sent One of the Father?



“The same works that I do, bear witness of me.” Go over to Bethany by that grave in the hillside and listen as Jesus cries with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth,” and see him come shuffling out, bound by grave clothes, and the two sisters rush to meet that beloved brother brought back from the dead. Any doubt there that Jesus is the Sent One of the Father? These were the works that bore witness of Him.



And then the most wonderful thing of all, when at last He Himself had died and yielded His spirit to the Father, and His body had been laid away in the tomb, and on the third day He came forth and was declared to be the Son of God with power. Yes, the works of Jesus bear witness to the fact that He is the Son of God.



We have had three witnesses. Now there is another, in Joh_5:37-38, “And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape. And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not.” How did the Father bear witness to the fact that Jesus was His Eternal Son, sent into the world for our salvation? When the Savior offered Himself at the Jordan to become the substitute for our sins and John baptized Him there, when He came up from the watery grave, the heavens were opened and the Spirit of God was seen descending like a dove, and the Father’s voice was heard saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased [or, in whom I have found all my delight]” (Mat_3:17; Mar_1:11; Luk_3:22). This was the Father’s testimony. Not only then, but on the Mount of Transfiguration, once more the Father said, “This is my beloved Son,… hear ye him” (Mat_17:5; Mar_9:7; Luk_9:35). And later on when Jesus on that other occasion lifted up His voice and said, “Father, glorify thy name,” a voice was heard from heaven saying, “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again” (Joh_12:28). Three times the voice of the Father was heard from heaven accrediting the person and the mission of His blessed Son while here on earth, and yet these people who professed to believe in God as their Father did not hear His voice. The disciples heard it, but these hard, critical, legalistic men never heard the voice of the Father.



Have you heard it? Have you heard the Father’s voice speaking in your heart? Have you heard Him saying to you, “This is My beloved Son, I want you to find your delight in Him”? Oh, the Father still delights to accredit the Lord Jesus Christ.



Then there is a fifth witness. Joh_5:39 says, “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” Most scholars, I think, understand that opening expression as a definite statement rather than a command, and they read it like this, as indicated in the margin, “Ye search the scriptures.” Whether they are right or whether our translators were right, I do not pretend to say. Both might speak to our hearts. Certainly the Spirit of God again and again commands us to search this blessed Word. But if we take it as a statement rather than a command, it is the same in principle. He was talking to these leaders in Israel. They read and studied their Bibles, and He said to them, “Ye search the Scriptures, believing that in them ye have eternal life.” That is, you take it for granted that you are going to have life by becoming familiar with and obeying the Scripture, but unless you trust the One of whom the Scripture speaks, you will not have eternal life. In 2 Timothy 3, when speaking to a man who had been brought up on the Word of God, the apostle said, “From a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2Ti_3:15).



Notice that it is not simply familiarity with the Bible that will give you eternal life. It is becoming acquainted with the blessed Son, who is the theme of the story. So Jesus says, “You have the Bible. Go back into the Old Testament, and as you read the Old Testament you will find that there they are speaking of Me.” He was the theme of the entire Old Testament. All the Levitical types spoke of Him. All the prophets gave witness to Him. He was the One who rebuked the adversary in the days of Zechariah, the prophet. All through the Old Testament we have Jesus preached in type and in prophecy. “They are they which testify of me.” The Scripture tells of Jesus and Christ authenticates the Scriptures. Prophecy after prophecy was fulfilled in Him.



He shows that the entire Old Testament is the Word of the living God. Now He says, “You read your Bible, and yet you will not come to Me that you might have eternal life” (Joh_5:39-40, author’s paraphrase). My dear friend, do you know Christ? You are familiar with the Bible, and I know some of you are depending upon that knowledge for salvation. Have you received the Christ of whom that Book speaks? Have you trusted the Savior of whom the prophets wrote? Have you believed in the One who came in grace to die for sinners? This is the theme of the whole Bible. It is a pitiful thing to pretend to honor the Bible while rejecting the Christ of the Bible.



His words imply that all men may come to Him if they will. There are some people who imagine that some are not welcome, but Jesus would not use language like this if it did not include everybody. “Whosoever will may come.” If you are lost at last, it will be because you would not come: “Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.”



Now the Savior says, “I receive not honour from men” (Joh_5:41). He did not want their patronage, but He desired men to accept the salvation that He had come to provide. “But I know you [and He could say that as no other], that ye have not the love of God in you” (Joh_5:42). He was here to do the will of the Father and yet they would not have Him. He warns them of the coming Antichrist, the false Messiah. He says, “If another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive” (Joh_5:43). Who is this other? It is that willful king of the eleventh of Daniel, that idol shepherd of Zechariah, the false prophet of Revelation, the lawless one of 2 Thessalonians 2, a sinister figure yet to arise in this world. Men who will not have Christ will bow down to him.



It is a very serious thing to reject Christ, to spurn the salvation that God has provided. How many a young man has sat in a gospel meeting, under deep conviction, but has thought of what this one and that one of his friends will think of him if he confesses Christ! How many a young woman has known that she should be saved, but someone whom she esteems very highly keeps her back, for she says, “What will he think of me if I do that?” Unless you put God first, you will never be able to believe. Once come to the place where you say, “I can’t allow myself to be turned aside from that which is right and true because of any other interest, even the opinion of those nearest and dearest to me. I must seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and then, the Lord Jesus says, the other things will be added to me.” Have you been kept from confessing Christ because of the fear of man? Remember that those who would hinder are just poor human beings like yourself and soon will have to give account to God.



“Well,” you say, “then is He going to accuse us?” Oh, no. “Think not that I will accuse you to the Father.” But He adds-and oh, it had point to those Jews-”There is one that accuseth you, even Moses” (Joh_5:45). Moses accuse? How and whom does he accuse? Moses accuses all who reject his testimony, and he predicts dire judgment. And so Jesus adds, “Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me” (Joh_5:46). This is the answer to those who say, “Well, we do not believe that those first five books were written by Moses.” But Jesus says, “Moses wrote of Me,” and thus He puts His seal upon these books, declaring that Moses wrote them-“For he wrote of me.”



Those prophecies written by Moses were written of Christ. Those types represented Christ. When Moses wrote, “The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken” (Deu_18:15), Moses was writing and speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ. And so the Savior says, “If ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?” (Joh_5:47). If men will not receive the testimony of the Old Testament, they will not receive the testimony of Christ. The two are so linked together that they can never be separated.



So we have five witnesses. There is His own testimony, there is the testimony of John the Baptist, there are the miracles He performed, there is the witness of His Father’s voice, and there is the Word of God, the Bible. All agree in this, that Jesus is the Son of God, which should come into the world. Have you received Him?