"My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand."John 10:29 NKJV
Webster dictionary defines a testimony as:
When we use the word “testimony” in the church today, I think most see testimonies falling under Webster's second definition. We usually frame it as a public profession of faith or as Webster puts it a “religious experience.”
However, when we see the word “testimony” in the scripture it doesn’t hold the same “experiential” emphasis. For example: The Gospel of John ends with the disciple stating:
"This is the disciple who testifies of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his testimony is true."John 21:24
Notice, John states that what he has written regarding the Lord's ministry was by him, and the other disciples affirm that this document is truthful. The disciples were eyewitnesses to the Lord's ministry, death and resurrection. They are all testifying to the authenticity of those events and that the promise of eternal life by the Lord is true for all who believe in Him (John 20:30-31).
Jewish law required that there be at least two witnesses to validate something within the courts. John is therefore validating his gospel document, as one that can withstand the scrutiny of the legal process. This form of testimony falls under the first category of definitions. This is a solemn declaration by the disciples as authentication of those things they know to be fact.
For example, if someone were to say they received eternal life by the experience of getting baptized, I would say that experience doesn’t overturn the facts of scripture: we receive eternal life by believing in Jesus for it. That experiential testimony is invalidated by the factual testimony of the word of God.
John and the other disciples were intimately aware of the facts that were put to paper. In his first epistle, John begins his letter by stating:
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life.1 John 1:1 NKJV
John isn’t waxing poetically about an experience. I imagine him more like a lawyer before a jury giving his final arguments.
He heard the sermon on the mount in real time. He watched the Lord peel back His humanity and reveal His divinity on the mount of transfiguration. He and the other disciples ate with the Lord, slept beside Him, and witnessed countless miracles. Their very hands touched the resurrected body of the Lord including His nail pierced hands and side. This wasn’t an “experience'' in the sense we refer to testimonies today. These are real, hard facts with witnesses to back it up.
I would argue that’s how we should see the following testimony. At the end of his letter, John gives us the testimony of the Father Himself, by stating:
And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life…1 John 5:11-13a NKJV
There are a few things I would like to point out about this passage. First, in vs13 John states that we can know that we have eternal life. Many people within the church believe that this is impossible and that we can never “truly” know if we are saved. They think that we have to continue in good works until we die and that only then can we really know we are saved.
I disagree. John tells us that we can know in this verse. God doesn’t desire His children to live in doubt and fear. He wants us to have complete assurance of our salvation. How do we have this assurance? By His Word!
God has said that if you have believed in His son, you have eternal life. Notice John says in vs11 that God “has'' given us eternal life. This is a present tense fact for those of “us” (John includes himself!) who have believed in the Father’s son (vs13).
The testimony of God is that if you have believed in His son, you have eternal life as a present possession. This life is forever and therefore, can never be lost (John 10:27). It is yours because God has declared it as fact.
God's word is true. It is a fact. You could say it is a binding legal document. His is the testimony to base all other testimonies upon. By it, we can have complete assurance and peace.
Next week we will wrap up this series by addressing how we should format our testimonies in a clear and biblical way. I hope you join us as we finish this series.