This article was written and published Dec. ’14.
Faith must be founded on the testimony of God. If it is not, then it is not God who you believe. Add to this simple statement this qualification: Faith must be founded on God’s testimony alone. I must believe because God Himself has spoken it, otherwise I am not believing God. The testimony of God is paramount – what has God actually said or testified to? So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Rom. 10:17).
God gives a testimony, and man is obligated to believe it. If he does not believe it he is guilty – he is guilty of despising the testimony of God. God has given testimony concerning many things. He has given a testimony of Himself. He has given testimony concerning man, as to what man has become under the power and influence of Satan. He has testified as to His ways and dealings with Israel in their history under the law. He has testified as to His Son being sent by Him into the world. God’s testimony now is particularly of His work in glorifying the Son of Man to the right hand of His power, and in result sending down the Holy Spirit. Now here comes a critical understanding for all believers: God has given a testimony concerning Christendom. He has testified of what her history would be from beginning to end. And we are obligated to believe this testimony as well.
If we do not believe the testimony of God, and that testimony alone, we do not believe God.
The testimony of God is revealed in two main ways – by what God has spoken and by what God has done. God testifies by His word and by His works. So then it is of importance we clearly see, ‘what is His word’ and ‘what are His works.’ These are the two areas of confusion for man, the source of all his arguments, the realms of all his unbelief. This is true for every unbeliever; sadly it is also true for so many saints.
If the scriptures are accepted as having the authority of God’s word, as inspired by Him, then they become the testimony of God forming what we believe. Our doctrine is maintained by the word of God. But man loves to argue about the Scriptures, casting his doubts on it all. Yet if God exists, why would we doubt whether He had the power, the ability, the knowledge and wisdom, to communicate to His creation, and do so in a believably perfect manner? So man turns to doubting whether there is a God. Yet all the doubts, all the arguments, are to ease and placate his conscience, and to keep himself as far as possible from the presence of God. However, the day of judgment will show it wasn’t God who failed to give a testimony, so as to bind the conscience and oblige to faith. No. That day will simply show man’s wicked and sinful heart has deceived him.
God has given testimony of Himself by His works. Look at creation:
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them , for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools.”
Creation is the first testimony God has given of Himself. By it there is a certain knowledge of God imparted to every man. He is guilty if he doesn’t see God in it. There may be still many things he cannot explain, but God’s testimony is sufficient to condemn those who do not believe in God the Creator. And what does man do? While thinking and believing he is being very smart with all his reasoning and arguments, he actually becomes a fool. What he does is exchange the truth of God’s testimony for his own lie (Rom. 1:25). Anything to quiet his conscience.
At many different times, by His own work, God has testified of Himself. Look at Elijah on Mt. Carmel and the work of God done there. What was the issue, what was the question? All Israel was gathered and Elijah asked this: “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, then follow him.” But the people answered him not a word.” Then comes the challange where God, through His own work, would testify of Himself. So Elijah says, “Then you call on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of Jehovah; and the God who answers by fire, He is God.” And again, “Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel…” (I Kings 18:21, 24, 36)
God has testified concerning His Son that He sent into this world. This is brought out quite clearly in this passage from John:
“If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true. There is another who bears witness of Me, and I know that the witness which He witnesses of Me is true. You have sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. Yet I do not receive testimony from man, but I say these things that you may be saved. He was the burning and shining lamp, and you were willing for a time to rejoice in his light. But I have a greater witness than John’s; for the works which the Father has given Me to finish – the very works that I do – bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me. And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form. But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe. You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.”
John the Baptist testified to the truth of God concerning the One who would come after him (John 1:26-27, Matt. 3:9-12). John was just a man, and God doesn’t need man to testify of Him or for Him. This is the impression you get when Jesus says, ‘I do not bear witness of Myself’ and again, ‘I do not recieve testimony from man.’ But He allows John’s witness of the truth because his ministry is found in Scripture – God had sent John to prepare the way of Jehovah, according to prophecies found in His word. In this way John’s testimony becomes part of God’s testimony of His Son (John 1:19-23, Matt. 3:1-3, Is. 40:3).
But there is a greater witness than John (John 5:36). There is always a greater testimony than what man can bring. It is God’s testimony. And here we see that concerning Christ, God testifies by both His works and His words. Jesus says, “…the works the Father has given Me to finish — the very works that I do — bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me. Then Jesus refers to the audible voice of God testifying at His baptism (John 5:37, Luke 3:22). Then He references the testimony of God’s written word (John 5:38-39).
Faith will always be the individual’s reception, by divine power and grace, the testimony of God. He is known by His own testimony, or in the case above, both God and the One sent by God can be known. From this point in John’s gospel we may see the progression of this testimony. In chapter eight His words are rejected, in chapter nine His works. God then testifies to Christ’s person as the Son of God by the raising of Lazarus from the dead (John 11:4). Chapter twelve brings in God’s testimony of Him as the Messiah, the King of Israel (John 12:13). When the Gentiles inquire of Him, He is the Son of Man that must die or He remains alone (John 12:23-24). The Son of Man should be glorified, and He asks His Father to glorify His own name (John 12:28). What happens? You again hear the audible voice of God out of heaven. All this testimony leads us to this passage:
“Then Jesus cried out and said, “He who believes in Me, believes not in Me but in Him who sent Me. And he who sees Me sees Him who sent Me. I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness. And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him – the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day. For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak.”
The testimony of God, His words and works, brings one to know Him by believing in Him. It is in order that we believe in the One who sent Jesus Christ. In believing in Christ, we believe in God’s testimony concerning Him. “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3)
Yet it is apparent not many have believed the testimony. Who has believed our report? To whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? Therefore they could not believe… (John 12:37-40) It is only by divine power in grace that the individual may believe God’s testimony (Eph. 2:8-10), otherwise it is said of them, “Therefore they could not believe…” or it is said, “…therefore you do not hear…” and again He says, “…you are not My sheep…” (John 8:47; 10:26)
What is God’s testimony concerning the history and present condition of the church on earth? Our faith must be founded on God’s testimony concerning it; not on what it was in its beginning, but what its state and condition has become – what it is presently. God’s ways and dealings will always be based on the reality of present circumstances; He will not compromise Himself, His own holiness and righteousness. I will give you three notable examples of this principle:
1.) After Adam fell in sin and him and his wife were chased out of the garden, never to return, man would fill the world with sin. Although God would have a few testimonies in Abel and Enoch, the last would be Noah. He bears the testimony of God concerning impending judgment. By his faith, he condemns the world (Heb. 11:7).
2.) Although God had preserved a hidden remnant of seven thousand in the time of Elijah, he basically stood alone with the testimony of God about Israel, the northern kingdom. Four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal opposed his testimony (I Kings 18:16-40). However, God would eventually use the Assyrian in judgment of Israel to drive and scatter the ten tribes of the northern kingdom into the Gentile world. The reason for God’s judgment? Israel’s idolatry and apostasy. God did keep and preserve seven thousand men from bowing their knees to Baal (I Kings 19:10-18), but none of them stood with Elijah in the testimony of God. Elijah was alone.
3.) Jeremiah has the testimony of God of judgment at the door for Judah (Jer. 21:1-14; 22:1-17; 38:1-4; 38:17-23). But he stands alone against king Zedekiah and the false prophets he comforted himself with, they prophesying only good things. As a reward for Jeremiah’s faithfulness to God he gets the stocks and a pit in the prison (Jer. 20:2; 38:6).
If we leave out a sound understanding of our present corporate state, that of the whole professing church of which all of us are a part, we will be utterly devoid of any spiritual intelligence. It will be very similar to Israel’s condition described by the Spirit of God through the prophet Isaiah, “Go, and tell this people: Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive. Make the heart of this people fat…” (Is. 6:9-10) Eight hundred years later these words are completely fulfilled by Jesus and John quoting them concerning that nation (Matt. 13:14-15, John 12:38-39).
In all the above examples God’s testimony stood out in contrast to man’s testimony and thoughts. And in every example the overwhelming majority of people are found on the wrong side, believing the wrong testimony – man’s testimony – and despising the word of God. In the last two you have God’s people, Israel or Judah, being lead astray. Further, did the Jews believe God’s testimony concerning the sending of His Son? “Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But…they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.'” And again it is said, “But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him.” (Matt. 21:37-38, John 12:37)
So then, what about Christendom? Look at the beginning of the church in Acts; there was power, one heart and mind, all things in common, and the places were shook where they met. But look at the professing church now; if we included all of Christendom as we should, if we acknowledge it all, we see all the evil and corruption at once. Is it so hard to believe that today man may have and does have a testimony concerning Christendom that is significantly different from God’s own testimony of it? And is it out of the realm of possibility that the overwhelming majority of God’s people are lead astray by this false testimony? Are we all aware the Scriptures say that judgment first begins at the house of God? (I Pet. 4:17) (this is assuming you have learned from scripture how to distinguish between Christendom and the church, the body of Christ? So when Peter speaks of judgment first coming to God’s house, you know he could only be referring to Christendom, and not to the true church? The body of Christ is what God alone builds; it is His workmanship; God is not a workman that needs to judge His own work.)
What is God’s testimony concerning Christendom? What has God said its history will be? He knows the end from the beginning. Does He not show what the end of the church on earth will be? Does He not predict all its history? This is the importance of the third book — The Corruption and Death of Christendom. God has a testimony, and every believer is obliged to believe it. And further, God will always make known His testimony before judgment comes in.