Summary: When a witness has no bias or ulterior motive and is truthful, then he can be considered a 'credible witness'.

Sermon Preached at Grace Community Church (EPC)

Sun City Grand, Surprise, AZ

Sunday, October 13, 2013

by the Reverend Cooper McWhirter

IN CHRIST ALONE: “A Credible Witness” [Part Two]

John 1:19-28

Last August, I received a jury summons and was selected as a potential juror in a first-degree murder case. But for a variety of reasons, I was summarily excused. However, I did sit in on two initial screenings; during which time the accused was present in the courtroom when the judge, and both the defense and the prosecution teams, spoke about the responsibilities of being a competent juror.

The potential jurors were previously asked if they had any foreknowledge about the case, or if they knew any of the witnesses, or members of the court. A rather lengthy questionnaire had been submitted by each prospective juror, which asked a whole range of questions; but in particular with respect to their views on capital punishment and the death penalty.

The presiding judge told us we would be required to take a solemn oath to be fair and impartial. Each juror would then be asked to give thoughtful consideration as to the credibility of the witnesses and the empirical evidence presented.

At one point during these initial proceedings, the defense team argued that witnesses, even eyewitness, are inherently unreliable in giving their testimony. However, Lee Strobel, the former award-winning legal editor for The Chicago Tribune, would likely have taken issue with that comment.

This former atheist-turned-Christian, in his much heralded book, The Case for Christ, writes: “Eyewitness testimony can be compelling and convincing. When a witness has an ample opportunity to observe and when there is no bias or ulterior motives; and when the witness is truthful and fair, that person’s account becomes ‘credible evidence’.”

In these opening verses to the gospel of John, the apostle previously had introduced us to John the Baptist (vss. 6-8, 15). His primary role was that of a witness (testimony) as to the “Light of Christ”. From today’s passage, we discover just how credible a witness he truly was; so that others might also see the “Light of Life”.

From the example of John the Baptist, we come to better understand what constitutes being a credible witness. And, in order to become a credible witness for Christ…WE MUST FIRST ACKNOWLEDGE WHO WE ARE NOT (repeat).

Initially, this may seem a bit odd to you; to acknowledge who we are not! In a sermon entitled, “Examining the First Witness”, by Devin Hudson, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, Madison, IN, he articulates why this is important; just as it was for John the Baptist.

We read that John the Baptist came preaching a message of repentance, where he said: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” [Matthew 3:2]. And for those who did repent, he baptized them with water; and this took place on the other side of the Jordan River in Bethany. He drew such a large following that it came to the attention of the religious leaders in Jerusalem; and so they sent a delegation of priests and Levites to inquire about this man.

Keep in mind, it had been some four hundred years since the last Old Testament prophet, Malachi. During this so-called, “Inter-Testamental” period, there had been no prophetic word spoken; nor had any miracles been performed! Thus, it had been a very long “spiritual drought” for the Jewish people. Therefore, the Jews were longing for a sign, any sign, about the long-awaited Jewish Messiah.

So, it should come as no surprise that these religious leaders were curious about this eccentric, who others called, “the Baptist”! And this delegation wasted no time in asking pertinent questions. In verse 19 they asked: “Who are you?” Notice they did not specifically ask, “Are you the Christ?” Thus, we can assume that John knew by their line of questioning precisely what they were probing for. In verse 20 we read: “And he confessed and did not deny, but confessed, ‘I am not the Christ.’ ”

They then asked, “What then? Are you Elijah?” And why would they have asked that? This was because Old Testament prophecies spoke of one, such as Elijah, who would precede the Messiah… “in that great and dreadful day of the Lord” [Malachi 4:5]. Then, too, “the Baptist” appeared much like that of Elijah; for his garb was peculiar indeed! He wore a garment of camel’s hair, and a leather belt around his waist; his staple diet consisted of eating locusts and wild honey [Matthew 3:4]. But again he said, “I am not.”

These delegates continued their query by asking, “Are you the Prophet?” In Deuteronomy 18:15-19, it speaks of a great prophet, one like Moses, whose words would come from the lips of God; and he would restore Israel. But again John said, “No.”

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