The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee.
He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.”
Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.
Philip found Nathanael and sad to him,
“We have found the One of whom Moses in the Law
and also the Prophets wrote,
Jesus of Nazareth!”
What makes you believe?
As I read through John, I am captivated by the deliberate descriptions of how and why different people follow Jesus. Even each original disciple seems to have a different reason for casting faith his way.
John calls these catalysts “witnesses.” In fact, he strings his entire book together by offering a series of witnesses – testifiers to Jesus – as though these are the pegs on which the entire narrative is hung.
For Philip, the witness that convinced him Jesus was the Messiah was the witness of the Scriptures: “We have found him of whom Moses and the prophets wrote!”
For Andrew, it was the testimony of another man (John the Baptizer): “I have seen and I have born witness that this is the Son of God.”
For John the Baptizer it was a stunning move of the supernatural in the natural world: the clear voice of God to his prophetic heart, the dove descending from Heaven, and finally the voice of God thundering in audible form. “I saw the Spirit descend like a dove…he who sent me to baptize said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he…'”
For Nathaniel (next verse), the witness that brings him to faith will be Jesus’ insight into his secret thoughts and heart.
The pattern of witnesses continues. Further on in the book people will come to belief in Jesus through miracles, conversations, displays of power, philosophical tete-a-tete, his respectful defiance of hypocritical societal and religious norms, his compassion for their brokenness, his teaching, his upright adherence to the law, and his good works.
Humans. We are all different. There is no formula for faith, just guiding principles and the One Object toward whom our faith is directed. Some of us have our hearts opened to Jesus through pathways of emotion. Others, through pathways of thought and reason.
Philip’s was reason.
Philip was found by Jesus, and stayed with him overnight. In those 24 hours he was adequately convinced that all the prophecies of the Law and the Prophets were met in this person of Christ. The Scriptures proved to him that this Jesus was the real deal; his reason was satisfied, his heart was opened. He believed.
Witness of the Spirit and Witness of the Truth
John has already taken pains to stress the witness/testimony of the Spirit (at the baptism) and now he is hitting the other side of the coin with the witness/testimony of Scriptures.
“Everything must be confirmed by the testimony of at least two witnesses,” Jesus will later say, and here we see the two most powerful witnesses of all: the Spirit and Truth.
Truth, of course, is of the Spirit – and the Scriptures are the explanations of the very expressions the Spirit utters, and this is the reason why we look to them to aid our understanding.
I am reminded of what Jesus will tell the woman at the well a few chapters down the road:
“The hour is coming, and is now here,
when the true worshipers will worship the Father in
Spirit and Truth,
for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.
God is Spirit,
and those who worship him must worship in
Spirit and Truth.”
Truth without Spirit is like a marriage without love. Spirit without Truth is like love without marriage. (And of course I do not mean that the Spirit of God could ever be void of love. I mean that our practices of what we might interpret to be “Spirit-filled stuff” can often be void of Scriptural truth.) Together, the two both constrain and enliven each other. They keep in check and bring the other to full potential.
To commit the Spirit (or our understanding of how he moves) to the parameters of Scriptures grows us into Spiritual maturity, sets the foundations firmly under our feet, deepens our communion with The Holy, and protects us from the disaster of chasing our own way and calling it the Spirit of God.
To covenant the truth of Scripture with the Ever Present moving and speaking and teaching of the Spirit of the Living God brings those Scriptures to life, pulls us out of our heads and into the world, gives us a sound mind and open heart, and bestows the ability to discern truth in an age of overwhelming lies.
The two cannot be separated, the two together make us a people of love and faith, and the Messiah will have the testimony of each.
So will we.
We are not left to our interpretations of experiences as the only basis for our faith. Nor are we left with the pressure of perfectly hammering out the truth in order to be saved.
Here’s The Baptizer, believing because the “Spirit of God said to me.” And here’s Philip, believing because “the Scriptures say.”
These Double Witnesses – Spirit and Truth – are wedded inseparably and flawlessly within the Person of Jesus Christ. They speak to our Heart and Mind, to our Emotion and Reason. We may respond to one more naturally than the other, but the other completes our faith. Through encountering each together we come to believe, like Philip, that:
“we have found the One.”
“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ,” John wrote. “From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”
This is a Wednesday in the Word post, where bit by bit I am writing through the Gospel of John. I’m so glad you’re here! Want to see previous posts?