Calvary Road Baptist Church


John 5.31-40 

It seems to be so easy to become a Christian, so easy to have one’s sins forgiven, so easy to receive the gift of eternal life. To hear tell of it, the only thing that needs to happen for a Hell-bound sinner who is dead in trespasses and sins to become a new creature in Christ is to trust Christ.

I am rather leery of some of the terminology that people use on occasion, such as when they indicate that one must accept Jesus as his Lord and Savior to be saved. I don’t like that phrase so much because the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 1.6 writes that “he hath made us accepted in the beloved” rather than us accepting Him. The reversal of who accepts who bothers me a bit.

Neither do I much appreciate the idea of asking Jesus Christ to come into your heart, for three reasons: First, because there are twenty-eight verses that presently place the Lord Jesus Christ enthroned at the Father’s right hand in heaven.[1] Second, because those very few suggestions of the Lord Jesus being in someone’s heart teach in a broader context that the indwelling Spirit of God represents Christ in the believer’s bosom.[2] And third, asking Jesus Christ into your heart can confuse some people to hinder their clear understanding that Jesus Christ’s saving work was done on behalf of the sinner rather than in the sinner, on the cross rather than in the heart.

Why do we insist on making this matter of salvation more complicated than it needs to be? Why can’t we just stick with the simple terminology of the Bible regarding this matter of coming to Christ, receiving Him, trusting Him, believing in Him, believing on Him, and being saved from sins? I very much hope I am mistaken when I remark that this whole issue reminds me of a textbook I read for a course in engineering school.[3] When a relatively unimportant employee in a company occupies a bottleneck position, he will tend to perform his function in a way that magnifies his sense of importance, to himself if to no one else. Let me illustrate. Ever notice how officious some security guards carry themselves in the performance of their duties, making sure you notice that you will not gain entrance unless they permit you, nor will you be allowed to exit unless they raise the barrier?

I have no interest in demeaning anyone in the performance of their job’s duties. After all, the Bible very clearly declares that “In all labour there is profit,” Proverbs 14.23. Every worker doing his job has dignity, and I would never seek to diminish a worker’s self-respect for a job well done. However, it is how that individual feels about his importance and relative obscurity that sometimes results in him or her doing little things to magnify their sense of importance in their own eyes that I seek to point out.

Do Christians sometimes do the same kinds of things in their witnessing efforts? Do we unconsciously erect obstacles to conversion that serve as barriers to a sinner’s salvation so that we can make ourselves seem more important to the process of bringing the lost to Christ? Were it not for the example of the Lord’s apostles doing this very thing it might be difficult to imagine. Read along with me in Mark 10.13-14 and judge for yourself if the apostles are not serving as barriers to hinder the approach to the Savior rather than as conduits to encourage the approach to Him: 

13 And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them.

14 But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. 

I do not doubt that the apostles imagined themselves to have meant well. However, would to God leftists and Democrats also recognize the difference between the best of intentions and the actual outcome. I am sure the apostles wanted the parents and children to stand in line and behave in an orderly fashion, with the proper amount of decorum. But the effect of what they were doing is what matters, not the intent. They rebuked those that brought the young children, and when the Savior saw what they were doing, He was much displeased and publicly corrected them.

What happened? The apostles were functioning as security guards sometimes function, as gatekeepers rather than as funnels. Their purpose was to serve as a channel so that those coming to Christ would be properly directed for easy and direct access, which they misinterpreted as a call to function as gatekeepers in restricting access to the Savior. As believers in Jesus Christ, we need to exercise diligence in making sure that we do not function as gatekeepers. It is not our responsibility to exercise discretion concerning who should and who should not have access to the Savior. That is a matter that is between the sinner and the Savior, and no one else.

If becoming a Christian seems to be such a simple matter, and if we exercise our due diligence to make sure we are functioning as conduits in our ministries and not as gatekeepers, then a question presents itself that cries for an answer. Why is it that more sinners are not becoming Christians, if becoming a Christian is so simple a matter, and if we are doing our best to make sure we are not getting in the way as the apostles on an occasion got in the way? Can we spend a bit more time reviewing this matter?

If you make your way to John 5, we find some interesting bits of evidence that lead us to an unavoidable conclusion. If you have arrived at John 5.31, I invite you to stand and read along with me while I read aloud: 

31 If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true.

32 There is another that beareth witness of me; and I know that the witness which he witnesseth of me is true.

33 Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth.

34 But I receive not testimony from man: but these things I say, that ye might be saved.

35 He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light.

36 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.

37 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.

38 And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not.

39 Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.

40 And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life. 

Were the apostles of Jesus Christ perfect men? No, they were not perfect men. When they conducted themselves as gatekeepers rather than as conducts, hindering access to the Savior rather than encouraging access to the Savior, our Lord was not pleased, and He corrected their misconduct. We, too, should do our best to avoid that type of misconduct. The worst thing in the world for any believer in Jesus Christ is to be, by word or deed, a hindrance rather than an encouragement to any sinner coming to Christ. That said, it is profoundly important for us to recognize that the Savior never, not one time, ever, assigns blame to one of His own for any sinner’s failure to come to Him for salvation full and free. Notice, in the passage we have just read, to whom the Savior assigns blame for not coming to Him for life.

Throughout the Word of God, from Genesis to Revelation, we find the principle of two or three witnesses resorted to for establishing matters of fact.[4] You will find it interesting, challenging, and sobering to consider our Lord Jesus Christ’s unfolding of witnesses in this passage: 


Verse 31: “If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true.” 

It is important that the reader not ignore the broader context in which this statement is made, so as not to take it in isolation and thereby completely misconstrue what the Savior intends by what He says in this verse. After all, in John 8.14, He points out that “my record is true,” and in John 14.6, He declares that He is the truth. Thus, He is not admitting to lying here.

What He accomplishes with this statement is a setting aside for the sake of argument any requirement that He depends upon anything He says about Himself as being necessary to establish His bona fides. The Lord Jesus Christ, in full agreement with the Biblical principle of matters of fact being established by a multiplicity of legitimate witnesses, at this point says nothing to witness Who or what He is. Thus, He does not here testify on His behalf. 


32 There is another that beareth witness of me; and I know that the witness which he witnesseth of me is true.

33 Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth.

34 But I receive not testimony from man: but these things I say, that ye might be saved.

35 He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light. 

Two observations about John the Baptist here are fascinating:

First, observe with me who would attest to John the Baptist’s truthfulness as a witness of the truth. Quite obviously, the Lord Jesus Christ attests to the truthfulness of John the Baptist as a faithful witness of fact. We see this in verse 32, and it is no surprise to us: 

“There is another that beareth witness of me; and I know that the witness which he witnesseth of me is true.” 

However, notice that in verse 33 the Lord Jesus Christ reminds His adversaries that they attested to John the Baptist’s truthfulness when they went to the Jordan River to hear him preach:[5] 

“Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth.” 

John 1.7 verifies that John the Baptist came to bear witness of the truth: 

“The same came for a witness.” 

Our first observation from John 5.32-35 is that both the Lord Jesus Christ and the adversaries He was then speaking to attested to the truthfulness of John the Baptist as a witness. Our second observation is that John the Baptist served as a witness for the Lord Jesus Christ. How so? Did John the Baptist not on two occasions declare to those gathered about him, in John 1.29 and John 1.36, 

“Behold the Lamb of God”? 

Did he not also say, in John 1.30-31? 

30 This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me.

31 And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water. 

And did not the Apostle John record what the Baptist said in John 1.32-34? 

32 And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him.

33 And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou halt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.

34 And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God. 

The first witness in support of the Lord Jesus Christ, since He did not rely on His own testimony, was the profoundly credible John the Baptist. 


Verse 36:

“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.” 

What works might we resort to as proof that the Lord Jesus Christ was sent by the Father, that He is the Messiah of Israel and the Savior of sinful men’s souls? How about these? 

He turned water into wine in Cana, John 2.6-10

He healed a nobleman’s son, John 4.46-53

He healed a centurion’s servant, Matthew 9.5-13

He caught nets full of fish, Luke 5.4-6; John 21.6

He cast out demons, Matthew 8.28-32; 9.32, 33; 15.22-28; 17.14-18; Mark 1.23-27

He healed Peter’s mother-in-law, Matthew 8.14,15

He cleansed lepers, Matthew 8.3; Luke 17.14

He healed a paralytic, Mark 2.3-12

He restored a withered hand, Matthew 12.10-13

He healed an impotent man, John 5.5-9

He raised dead people back to life, Matthew 9.18; 19.23- 25; Luke 7.12-15; John 11.11-44

He stopped an issue of blood, Matthew 9.20-22

He restored sight to the blind, Matthew 9.27-30; Mark 8.22-25; John 9.1-7

He cured the deaf and mute, Mark 7.32- 35

He twice fed the multitudes, Matthew 14.15-21; 15.32-38

He walked on the sea, Matthew 14.25-27

He enabled Peter to walk on the sea, Matthew 14.29

He stilled the tempest, Matthew 8.23-26; 14.32

He suddenly arrived the ship, John 6.21

He brought a fish with a coin in its mouth, Matthew 17.27

He healed a woman of infirmity, Luke 13.11- 13

He cured dropsy, Luke 14.2-4

He blighted a fig tree, Matthew 21.19

He replaced Malchus’ detached ear, Luke 22.50, 51

He performed miracles before the messengers of John, Luke 7.21, 22

He healed many and divers diseases, Matthew 4.23, 24; 14.14; 15.30; Mark 1.34; Luke 6.17-19

He was transfigured, Matthew 17.1-8

He was raised from the dead, Luke 24.6; John 10.18

He appeared to his disciples, the doors being shut, John 20.19

He ascended to heaven, Acts 1.9 

Are these miracles convincing attestations that Jesus Christ was sent by God the Father? I am persuaded. 


Verse 37:

“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.” 

On how many occasions did God the Father witness that Jesus Christ was His Son?

First, there was the occasion of His baptism by John the Baptist, Matthew 3.16-17: 

16 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:

17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. 

This is the first occasion when God the Father witnessed that Jesus Christ was His Son.

Then, there was the occasion of His transfiguration on the mount, Matthew 17.1-5: 

1  And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart,

2  And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.

3  And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him.

4  Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.

5  While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him. 

The first occasion was witnessed only by John the Baptist. On this occasion, there were three men who witnessed the event.

The Mount of Transfiguration event was so memorable that both the Apostle John and the Apostle Peter later referred to the event, in John 1.14 and Second Peter 1.17-18. 


Verses 38-39:

38 And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not.

39 Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. 

Let me give you an overview of Christ’s credentials as the One sent by God the Father as witnessed by some fulfilled predictions found in the Hebrew Scriptures: First, there are predictions concerning His birth. Twelve different predictions are related to Christ’s birth for which claims of fulfillment are made in the New Testament. Of these, none are factors over which the Lord Jesus Christ had any personal control, such as who His ancestors were, where He was born, or what occurred when He was very young.[6] Second, there are predictions concerning His nature. Of these, there are nine, including His preexistence, and that He is prophet, priest, and king.[7] Third, there are predictions concerning His ministry. It was predicted that He would have a forerunner, that His ministry would begin in Galilee, that it would consist of miracles performed and parables taught, that He would enter Jerusalem on a donkey colt, and that He would be a stumbling block to the Jews and light to Gentiles.[8] Fourth, there are predictions concerning events that took place after His burial, such as His resurrection, His ascension to heaven, and His enthronement at God’s right hand.[9] Finally, there are twenty-nine predictions that were fulfilled on the day of His crucifixion. He was betrayed by a friend, sold for 30 pieces of silver, forsaken by His disciples, accused by false witnesses, silent before His accusers, wounded and bruised, smitten and spat upon, mocked, His hands and feet pierced, He was crucified with thieves, was hated without a cause, suffered thirst, without a bone being broken, His side being pierced, and buried in a rich man’s tomb. Of course, there was more.[10]

Lest you hold the notion that these predictions from the Old Testament being recorded centuries before their fulfillment was coincidental, Professor Peter Stoner performed a mathematical analysis based on the principles of probability to ascertain the likelihood of only eight of these predictions being fulfilled as they were. He calculates the likelihood to be 1 in 1017. Considering forty-eight of these prophecies, the likelihood of fulfillment rises to 1 in 10157. It is likelier that a cannon ball will fall from the sky and land on your head. There aren’t that many electrons in the universe.

Thus, the Word of God witnesses that Jesus Christ is the Messiah of Israel, sent by God to save sinners from their sins. Beloved that is four witnesses! John the Baptist, the Lord Jesus Christ’s miraculous works, God the Father, and the Hebrew Scriptures. All witness to who He is and what He does, His truthfulness, His reliability, and His trustworthiness.

Therefore, if the Lord Jesus Christ affixes no blame to His Own for the failure of the unconverted to trust Him for the salvation of their eternal and undying souls, and if He is entirely blameless and trustworthy, then who is at fault for a sinner dying in his sins? That is the question addressed by my last point. 


Verse 40:

“And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.” 

Allow me to quickly restate: On one hand, we never find in the Gospels that the Lord Jesus Christ ever held any of His Own responsible for the refusal of any sinner to trust Him. Neither do we find anywhere else in the New Testament that any apostle holds any child of God responsible for the refusal of any sinner to come to Christ.

Add to that the four witnesses that show the Lord Jesus Christ to be beyond reproach. John the Baptist, God the Father, Christ’s miracles, and the Hebrew Scriptures show that, far from being responsible for any sinner refusing to come to Christ for salvation full and free, He came for the express purpose of offering Himself to all men who would simply come to Him.

Thus, if I am not blamed by the Lord Jesus Christ for your refusal to repent of your sins and trust Him, and if He is shown by four witnesses to be entirely unworthy of blame, then the only possible person responsible in this matter is you, my lost friend. And that is precisely what verse 40 reveals to us. This issue of your salvation is entirely a matter of your will.

A. T. Robertson, the famed Greek scholar of the last century, informs us that the word “and” at the beginning of this verse has the force of meaning “and yet.”[11] John the Baptist witnesses of Christ, His own miracles witness of Christ, God the Father witnesses of Christ, the Hebrew Scriptures witness of Christ, “And yet,” our Lord tells His audience, “ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.” What was true of them is also true of you. It is entirely a matter of your will. 

This is not to say that I or any other Christian should sit back and do nothing. We have a Great Commission command to go forth and make disciples. The Apostle Paul indicated that “knowing therefore the terror of the Lord I persuade men.” So, he was certainly not idle.

Conversions occur from time to time as this person, and that person trusts Christ. It is not complicated, and we need to stay on guard to preserve the simplicity of the Gospel. But when all is said and done, if you die in your sins, it will be solely because you would not come to Christ, that you might have life.

Oh, how I pray that God blesses you by His grace to effectually draw you to His Son, for then you will be saved from your sins. But if you die in your sins, make no mistake of thinking you can blame anyone else or that it could be anyone else’s fault, blame, or responsibility. It will be yours and yours alone.


[1] Psalm 16.11; 110.1; Matthew 26.64; Mark 12.36; 14.62; 16.19; Luke 20.42; 22.69; John 3.13; 13.1; 14.2-4; Acts 1.9-11; 2.33, 34-35; 7.56; Romans 8.34; Ephesians 1.20; 6.9; Colossians 3.1; Second Thessalonians 1.7; Hebrews 1.3, 13; 8.1; 9.24; 10.12-13; 12.2; 1 Peter 3.22; Revelation 19.11

[2] Such as when praying, the Spirit of God in the believer’s bosom initiates prayer as Intercessor, Romans 8.26, while the enthroned Jesus Christ serves as our Advocate in heaven, 1 John 2.1.

[3] William M. Berliner and William J. McLatney, Management Practice and Training: Cases and Principles, (Homewood, Illinois: Richard D. Irwin, Inc., sixth edition, 1974)

[4] Numbers 35.30; Deuteronomy 17.6-7; Joshua 24.22; Ruth 4.9-11; Job 10.17; Isaiah 8.2; 43.9-12; 44.8-9; Jeremiah 32.10, 12, 25, 44; Matthew 18.15-20; Luke 24.46-48; Acts 1.8; 2.32; 3.15; 5.32; 10.39-40; 13.31; 2 Corinthians 13.1; 1 Thessalonians 2.10; 1 Timothy 5.19; 6.12; Hebrews 10.28; 1 John 4.1; 5.7-9; Revelation 1.1; 2.2

[5] Matthew 3.7

[6] Josh D. McDowell, The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1999), page 168-175.

[7] Ibid., pages 175-180.

[8] Ibid., pages 180-182.

[9] Ibid., pages 182-183.

[10] Ibid., pages 183-192.

[11] A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures In The New Testament, Vol V, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1932), page 92.

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