1 John 5:6–13
This is he who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the witness, because the Spirit is the truth. There are three witnesses, the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree. If we receive the testimony men, the testimony of God is greater; for this is the testimony of God that he has borne witness to his Son. He who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. He who does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne to his Son. And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who has not the Son of God has not life.
I write this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.
I wanted to be with John Melin when he died. I went to see him about 5:00 PM on Friday. He couldn't live more than a few more hours, I thought. So I went back about 7:15.
Augustana Home was quiet on the fourth floor. John's roommate was evidently sleeping. I sat down beside John's bed and took his ninety-year-old hand. His glazed eyes were half open and his breaths seemed like mechanical responses to an electric respiratory pacemaker that someone forgot to turn off when everything else had shut down.
But you never know. Had he already been freed from the body to be at home with the Lord? Perhaps. But even if he had, I think the Lord let him in on what I said.
I wanted to be with him when he died. So I prayed. "Lord, take him now. Lift him right out of my hands. Let me hand him over to you—like a faithful private carrying one of his slain sergeants back to the commander." But he kept on breathing.
Being with Saints When They Die
I love to be with the saints when they die. It's as though I get to walk up to a door that for most people is very far away, and for some very frightening. I have two motives. I want to keep vigil against the devil who loves to terrorize the saints at the hour of death. I want to stand by the wounded and fight for them with the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. I want to see them safely through the door.
But I have another motive for wanting to be with the saints as they die. I have the hope that someday I may get a glimpse through the door. I think that if I stand guard often enough, I might see something of what Paul saw when he said, "To depart and be with Christ is far better." I can't help but think that when a soul departs from the life of a saint, Christ himself draws very near.
You sit there waiting for each breath to be the last. And your mind turns to the sermon you must preach on Sunday. You recall that it ends with the verse, "I write this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life."
And you pray, "O Lord, what can I say to the people on Sunday that will make them feel the immensity of the value of eternal life?" If only I could bring every one of them with me to this moment. If only they could all stand here and listen and watch while I recite the glorious gospel into the wrinkled ear of John Melin:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and to an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Without having seen him you love him; though you do not now see him you believe in him and rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy. As the outcome of your faith you obtain the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:3–10)
None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. (Romans 14:7–9)
And then to get close to his ear and sing—and pray that he might be singing along whether dying here or living in heaven:
When we've been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We've no less days to sing God's praise
Than when we'd first begun.
John Melin died yesterday at 8:00 AM.
Nothing Is More Important Than Having Eternal Life
Dear people, I pray that God helps you feel this morning that nothing is more important than having eternal life. Summertime is filled with subtle deceptions. We begin to think more about our bodies, for example, because in the summertime people see more of them. So we think about whether we have a tan. We think about whether we look pudgy. We can actually begin to think these things matter!
When you look in the mirror today to see how your tan is doing and whether your skin is sleek, remember John Melin. It didn't make any difference to him yesterday morning that he had no tan. It didn't make any difference to him that his flesh hung on his bones like wet paper. One thing mattered: He had eternal life, because he had the Son. And he who has the Son has life!
How Can I Have Eternal Life?
The text for this morning has many puzzling things in it. Perhaps in the future we can come back to them. But it seemed to me that one message on this text should focus on the one utterly crucial thing that is very clear, namely, the question: How can I have eternal life? According to John, God himself has testified in answer to this question.
Verses 11–12 tell us the content of God's testimony. We don't often think of God witnessing to us. We think of ourselves as witnessing for him. But verses 11–12 describe the content of God's witness. If there ever was any testimony in the courtroom of life that we ought to listen to, it would be God's testimony. And according to John the testimony of God is this:
And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who has not the Son of God has not life.
So according to God's testimony, the way to have life is to have the Son. Verse 12: "He who has the Son has life." And the reason we know it is eternal life is that verse 11 says, "God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son." So the way to have eternal life is to have the Son of God, Jesus Christ.
What Does It Mean to Have the Son of God?
So what does it mean to HAVE the Son of God? The word "have" can communicate a lot of different nuances. For example, it doesn't mean quite the same thing each time when you say, "I have a dollar," or, "I have a cold," or, "I have a lawyer."
But there is something common to all those meanings: when you HAVE something, it does its thing for you. If you have a dollar, it buys a dollar's worth for you. If you have a cold, it makes your nose run. If you have a lawyer, he stands in for you. Having something means that it does its thing for you.
Having All That Jesus Came to Do
Now the testimony of God (in verse 12) says, "He who HAS the Son has life." And now we can say that having the Son means: if you have the Son, then the Son does his thing for you. If you want to spend one of the most encouraging hours of your life, take an hour and make a list under the heading: What is Jesus' thing? What can Jesus do? What did he come to do? What does he promise to do? It will be a very long list. And then just go down the list and beside every one write: He does his thing for ME! What he can do he does for me. What he promises to do he will do for me. That is what it means to HAVE the Son.
Having Eternal Life
And John sums it all up in the word LIFE. He who has the Son has life! Eternal life is not just the extension of all the frustrations and half-joys of this life. When Jesus finishes doing his thing, every frustration will be gone and every half-joy will be full. As he said in John 10:10, "I came that they might have life and have it abundantly."
If you HAVE the Son, it means that anything that infinite love and infinite power and infinite wisdom can do for your good will in fact be done for you.
Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus who died, yes, who is at the right hand of God , who indeed intercedes for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? . . . No, in all these things we are more than conquerors. (Romans 8:34ff.)
He who has the Son has One who can take all tribulation and distress and persecution and peril and turn it so that out of it comes not just a wounded soldier—no we are not just conquerors. Those who have the Son are "more than conquerors." Which means that the Son of God takes the tribulations of your life and actually turns them for your good. You don't just escape from your enemy. He serves you.
So if you want to be more than a survivor and, indeed, more than a conqueror in the battles of life, then you must HAVE the Son. For he who has the Son has life—all the life that an omnipotent God can give.
We Have the Son by Believing in His Name
But we still haven't answered the question, "How do we come to have the Son?" This is very important because the last part of verse 12 says that "he who has not the Son of God has not life." In other words not every one has the Son and so not every one has eternal life. It is infinitely important to know how to have the Son.
The answer is not complicated or hard to find. It is implied clearly in verse 13: "I write this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life." Notice that verse 13 says that those who believe in the name of the Son of God have eternal life and that verse 12 says, "He who has the Son has life." The simple implication is that the way to HAVE the Son is to BELIEVE the Son.
Or another way to put it is that the Son of God does his thing for those who trust him. You can have the Son of God if you trust the Son of God.
Passage to India
In the film, Passage to India, there was a young Indian doctor who had been arrested for allegedly assaulting a young English woman in India. The case became an explosive point of tension between the Indian people who longed for independence and the colonial English government. The whole colonialist power structure seemed to make the doctor's case hopeless even though everybody knew his integrity was above question. He was too poor to afford a lawyer.
But the most famous and able lawyer in all India got word of the case. He had a reputation of liking to take on the British and standing up for the Indian underdogs. For me one of the most powerful scenes in the film was when two of the doctor's friends bring him word in the jail that the famous lawyer is willing to defend the doctor—and then, as if it were too good to be true, they say, "And he's not even going to charge a fee!"
Now the doctor has a lawyer. He HAS a lawyer. The lawyer is going to do his thing for the doctor. All his reputation, all his eloquence, all his skill are now going to be used to save the doctor.
How did the doctor come to HAVE this great lawyer? He never had met him before. He had no money to pay him. He was far away from him in a different city. And yet now he could say to all his enemies, "I HAVE a lawyer!" How did he come to have the best lawyer in India?
It starts with the motivation of the lawyer. He has two goals: the liberation of India from the British, and the glorification of his own legal skills. When the camera picks him up in a tumultuous courtroom scene, he is sitting at his table utterly calm, as though in sovereign control of the situation. And to show that what he really loves is the liberation of India and the display of his skills for the helpless patriot, his services are not for sale. He will not be paid. That would call into question what he really loves.
And so how does the doctor come to have this lawyer? The lawyer makes a free offer, and the doctor hears the offer and accepts it. He trusts that the lawyer means it, and he believes he can do it. He HAS the lawyer because he TRUSTS the lawyer.
Two Goals of the Son of God
And so it is with the Son of God. He has two goals: the liberation of his people from sin and death, and the glorification of his own powers. That is the origin of salvation. That is the source of eternal life. And to show that what he loves is the liberation of his people and the magnification of his power, his services are not for sale. He will not be paid.
So how do you come to HAVE the Son of God? He makes you a free offer, and you accept his offer, you trust him. He does his thing for those who trust in him. He who has the Son has life.
Three Ways You Can Reject the Son of God
Of course there are at least three ways that the doctor could have rejected the lawyer and that you can reject the Son of God. You can say, "I can handle this case by myself." Or you can say, "No point in answering the telegram. He'll never come. Why would he come all this way for me? I'm a nobody. And he is world famous." Or you can say, "Sure tell him to come. But he better not tell me to do anything stupid in the courtroom, because I'm not going to do it if he does."
Some of you here this morning need to have the Son of God. Don't reject his offer of life by any of these three responses.
None of us can handle our case by ourselves. We are far worse off than the doctor: we are guilty! If John Melin hadn't had the Son, he wouldn't have had anything yesterday. But he had the Son, and now he has life forever and ever. You can't handle that case by yourself!
And don't say that the Son of God won't come to work for a nobody like you. That's the only kind of people he will work for. The Son of God says, "I'm coming to help you not because you're somebody, but because I'm somebody; and I like to show I'm somebody by saving nobodies." God loves to glorify the fullness of his grace by saving the least likely candidates for eternal life.
And don't say, "Well, yes, I will accept his offer to be my lawyer, but he better not tell me to do anything foolish." That is not trust. You can't keep a lawyer that way. He will do his thing for you if you trust him.
David said it 1,000 years earlier like this: "Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your vindication as the light and your right as the noonday."
Trust in him and he will act for you!
Trust in the Son of God and you will HAVE the Son of God.
And God himself is witness: he who has the Son has life!