Edited with annotations, by E. E. Whitfield.
(The reference figures, relate to the notes respectively so numbered in the Appendix.)
John 13 - 17.
JOHN — THE THIRTEENTH CHAPTER*
* [Cf. "Introductory Lectures," pp. 507-511.]
We enter now on a new section of our Gospel: the last communications of the Lord to His disciples, closing with His heart opened out to the Father about them. The entire drift is in all points and ways to lead His own into a true spiritual understanding of their new place before God the Father, in consequent contrast with that of Israel in the world. It is not as the Church, but most fully and distinctively the Christian position in virtue of Christ, Who sets aside Israel in all respects. He was going to His Father on high, and here reveals what He in that glory would do for them while here below. His love must take a fresh shape; but it is faithful, unchanging, and perfect.
"Now, before the feast of the Passover,247 Jesus, knowing that His hour was come that He should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved His own that (were) in the world, loved them unto (the) end" (verse 1). He was the only man whom nothing took by surprise. All was read and known and felt in the presence of God His Father. Not only was He aware throughout that He was to die, and of its form, character, and object in God's purpose, as well as in man's and Satan's malice, but we see here that its immediate proximity was before His mind with its immense consequences. Yet in John it is not man's or God's forsaking Him in that bitter crisis; but the hour came for His departure out of this world to His Father, instead of staying here as Jews expected according to the Old Testament for their Messiah. As the other Gospels bring out the evidence of His rejection by the people, our evangelist sees Him from the first rejected, and at the end preparing the disciples for the unlooked-for change at hand, when the Christ be in heaven, and the Holy Spirit sent down to be in and with His own on earth, the Father, too, being the relation of God, not to Him only, but in due time and way to them also.
Further, He would show His love in fresh and suited forms. "Having loved His own that were in the world," He loved not merely till the end, as a question of time, however true this may be, but taking up each need, and incurring all labour for them, whatever the draught on it, unremittingly and without wavering. Such is the love of Jesus to His own in the world, where it is constantly wanted. We know what love He expressed to them at that last Passover (Luke 22:15), and how infinitely it was proved in His blood and death for them as a lamb without blemish and without spot, foreordained before the foundation of the world, but manifested at the end of the times for their sakes who believed. But now He would show them a love as active for them day by day, when He should depart to His Father, as when He fulfilled the Passover in dying for them.
"And, supper being come,* the devil having already put (it) into the heart of Judas, Simon's (son), Iscariot, that he should deliver Him up, (Jesus, or)† He, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He came out from God and goeth unto God, riseth from supper and layeth aside His garments, and, having taken a towel, girded Himself" (verses 2-4).
* γινομένου, BLX, Aeth. [and Origen, Tisch., Treg., W. and H., Weiss]; γενομένου ADgrEΓΔΛΠ, etc., the cursives, Chrys. Cyr., Ital. and Vulg. [Lachmann and Blass, as above]; reads γειν, and gives γεν, as correction.248
† BDLX, and a few cursives, etc., omit, though most insert.
The Authorised Version regards the phrase δ. γ. as implying the end of the repast; but I agree with those who take it to mean the arrival of the time for supper, which is confirmed by the wondrous action we are about to hear of. It cannot be doubted that it was usual to have the feet washed before, not after, supper.
But if Jesus had ways of infinite love before His heart, the devil had already planted in that of Judas Iscariot the awful treachery to his Divine Master, which no rolling ages can erase. So it was with Jesus: the enemy's hate came out most, as the love of God manifested itself in and by Him; but how withering to human pretension it was that the devil wrought by a man and a disciple, the close personal honoured follower of the Lord Jesus! "It was thou, a man mine equal, my guide, and mine acquaintance." (Ps. 55:13.) In that holy companionship he had trifled with sin, with his besetting covetousness; and now the devil prompted the gratification of it by betraying the Son of God. The Lord, as we shall later see, deeply felt it, but here He pursues the design of love with the consciousness of the Father's purposes and plans, with the consciousness, too, that He was going back to God with the same absolute purity in which He had come out from Him. It was no merely Messianic sphere, not even that of Son of man. The Father had given all things into the hands of His Son, and He was going back a man with not a shade over that intrinsic holiness which marked His coming out from God to become a man. He abode ever the Holy One of God, yet rises from supper, lays aside His garments, takes a towel and girds Himself.
Jesus occupies Himself with a new service, which their nearness to God as His children called for, the removal of the defilements of His own in their walk as saints through the world. This is the meaning of what follows. "Then He poureth water into the basin, and began to wash the feet of the disciples, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded" (verse 5).249 Be it carefully observed that it is a question here of water, not of blood. The reader of John's Gospel will not have overlooked that He makes much of "water" as well as "blood." So did the Lord in presenting the truth to His own, and no one shows this more than John. His first epistle also characterises the Lord as "He that came by (δἰ) water and blood; not in (ἐν) water only, but in water and blood." (1 John 5:6.) He purifies as well as atones. He employs the word to cleanse those who are washed from their sins in His blood. The Apostles Paul, Peter, and James, insist on this effect of the word, as John does. It is disastrous and dangerous in the highest degree to overlook purification by the washing of water by the word. If "the blood" is Godward, though for us "the water" is saintward to remove impurity in practice,250 as well as to give a new nature which judges evil according to God and His Word, of which it is the sign, adding to it the death of Christ, which gives its measure and force. Out of His pierced side came blood and water (chapter 19).
As to this grave and blessed truth Christendom remains, one fears, as dark as Peter, when he declined the gracious action of the Lord. Nor did Peter enter into the truth conveyed by His most significant dealing till afterwards-that is, when the Holy Spirit came to show them the things of Christ. On the occasion itself he was wrong throughout. And so are men apt to be now, even though light Divine has been fully afforded. They still perversely limit its extent to teaching humility. This only Peter saw, and hence his mistake; for he thought it stooping down excessively, that the Lord should wash his feet; and, when alarmed by the Lord's warning, he fell into an opposite error. We are only safe when subject to His Word in distrust of ourselves.
The fact is that, since Apostolic times, the truth (save as to the foundation, perhaps) has been either misapprehended, or perverted often to lifeless ordinances. Evangelicals, as the rule, ignore it, or merge it in the blood of Christ. Catholics (Greek, Oriental, Roman, or Anglican) misapply it to baptism. Hence not only do they miss the Lord's special lesson of washing in water, but they enfeeble propitiation. Consequently, non-imputation of sin is all but unknown from the earliest fathers till our own day. The Reformers wrought no deliverance in this respect; and the Puritans increased the confusion and darkness by pressing, not ordinances, but the law as the rule of life, instead of recalling by the Spirit of the Lord to Christ as the object according to which the Christian is being transformed here below. The Lord suffered once for sins, just for unjust. The efficacy is as perfect for the believer as is His Person; and the unity of His sacrifice is, therefore, the great argument of Hebrews 9, 10, as contrasted with the repetition of Jewish ones. By His one offering we are not only sanctified, but perfected in perpetuity. Is there no failure in the saint afterwards? Too often there may be. What, then, is the provision for such? It is the washing of water by the word which the Spirit applies in answer to the Son's advocacy with the Father. Of this Christ was here giving the sign.
The Lord proceeds to the work in hand. "He cometh then unto Simon Peter. He saith to Him, Lord, dost Thou wash my feet? Jesus answered and said to him, What I am doing thou knowest not just now, but shalt know [understand] afterwards. Peter saith to Him, In no wise shalt Thou wash my feet for ever. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with Me. Simon Peter saith to Him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. Jesus saith to him, He that is washed (bathed) hath no need to wash (other) than his feet,* but is wholly clean; and ye are clean, but not all. For He knew him that was delivering Him up: on this account He said, Ye are not all clean" (verses 6-11).
* , though the only MS. that omits ἢ (or εἰ) μὴ τοὺς πόδας, is followed by Tisch., ed. 8. The words are bracketed by W. and H. [Retained by Weiss, after Lachm. and Treg., but omitted by Blass, after Origen.]
In Divine things the wisdom of the believer is subjection to Christ and confidence in Him. What He does we are called to accept with thankfulness of heart, and as Mary said to the servants at the marriage feast, "whatsoever He saith unto you, do it." This Simon Peter did not. For when the Lord approached him "in the form of a servant," or bondman, he demurred. Was there not faith, working by love in Peter's heart? Both, undoubtedly, yet not then in action, but buried under superabundant feeling of a human sort: else he had not allowed his mind to question what the Lord saw fit to do. He had rather bowed to Christ's love and sought to learn, as He might teach, what deep need must be in him and his fellows to draw forth such a lowly yet requisite service from his Master. Ah! he knew not yet that Jesus must go lower down far than stooping to wash the disciples' feet, even to the death of the cross, if God were to be glorified and sinful man to be justified and delivered with an indisputable title. But the grace which was undertaking that infinite work of propitiation (the groundwork for meeting every exigency of the Divine nature and majesty and righteousness in view of our guilt, and unto the glory of God) would provide for every step of the way where defilement abounds. Thus might we enjoy communion, spite of Satan's power and wiles and our own weakness-yea, spite of failure be restored to communion with Him in the light and glory of God to which He was going back, and into which we shall in due time follow Him.
Peter did believe, but he did not yet believe "all that the prophets spoke" (Luke 24:25). He feebly entered into what he himself afterwards called the sufferings as to Christ, and the glories that should follow them. He continued to regard the Lord too exclusively as Messiah, little estimating till afterwards the depths involved in the Son of the living God, though his own lips had thus confessed His glory before. Nature was too little judged in Peter, so that he did not yet appreciate its meaning and application and results as subsequently under Divine teaching when the cross manifested its worth, or rather worthlessness, before God and man. Too self-confident and, indeed, ignorant not only of himself and the defiling scene around, but of the depths and constancy of Christ's love, Peter says to Him, "Lord, dost Thou wash my feet?" We grant that he could not know what was not yet revealed; but was it comely in him, was it reverent, to question what the Lord was doing? He may have thought it humility in himself, and honour to the Lord, to decline a service so menial at His hands. But Peter should never have forgotten that as Jesus never said a word, so He never did an act, save worthy of God and demonstrative of the Father; and now more than ever were His words and ways an exhibition of Divine grace, when human evil set on by Satan, not only in those outside, but within the innermost circle of His own, called for increased distinctness and intensity in view of His departure.
The truth is that we need to learn from God how to honour Him, and learn to love according to His mind. And if any man thinks that he knoweth anything, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know. This, too, was Peter's mistake. He should have suspected his thoughts, and waited in all submissiveness on Him Who, as many confessed that knew far less than Peter, "hath done all things well," and was absolutely what He was speaking, truth and love in the same blessed Person. The thoughts of man are never as ours; and saints slip into those of man, unless they are taught of God by faith, in detail too as well as in the main; for we cannot, ought not, to trust ourselves in anything. God the Father will have the Son honoured; and He is honoured most when believed and followed in His humiliation. Peter, therefore, was equally astray when he once ventured to rebuke the Lord for speaking of His suffering and death, as now when he asks, "Dost Thou wash my feet?"
But the meek Lord answered in fulness of grace, and said to him, "What I am doing thou knowest (οἰδας) not just now, but shalt know (γνώσῃ)251 afterwards." Was not this a grave but compassionate intimation to Peter, had he been in the mood to learn? He ought to have gathered from the Lord's words, if he did not at once bow to His act, that there was a meaning worthy of Him Who deemed it due to the Father in truest, lowliest love to the children to wash their feet; he ought to have gathered more than this, that what he did not know of himself then, he was to learn afterwards: I presume, after the things now in progress, His rejection and death, resurrection and ascension, when the Holy Spirit should be given guiding them into all the truth.
But Peter was not yet of those who are guided with the Lord's eye; he did not feel the need of being instructed and taught the way in which he should go. There was too much of the horse or of the mule in him, too much need of being held with bit and bridle; (Ps. 32:9.) and failing to receive of the Lord that he should submit now and learn later, he plunges farther and more boldly into error with himself. "In no wise shalt Thou wash my feet for ever": the strongest repudiation of it, and this not merely in this life, but for that to come-for ever.
It was feeling, it was ignorance, no doubt; but should he have trusted himself to utter words so strong of the gracious way and act of His Master? How blessed that he had, that we have, to do with One Who does not hold His peace so as to bind the soul with a bond, Who knows when and how to disallow the foolish and even God-dishonouring word; so that it shall not stand and the soul be forgiven! (See Num. 30) The Lord made Peter's words utterly void the moment He heard them, as we shall see, in the grace which corrects every fault, and bore all our iniquity.
"Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with Me." Solemn assurance, not for Peter only, but for all who slight the same gracious provision on His part, who forget or have never apprehended their own need of it. It is a question not so much of life as of fellowship, of a part with Christ rather than in Him, though not really separable. Christ was going on high to God, Peter and the rest still on earth, and surrounded by defilements in the way. Christ would neither abate His love to His own, nor would He make light of their failures. Hence the need of washing the disciples' feet, apt to be soiled in walking through the world. And this is carried on by the word applied to the conscience by the Spirit. The believer bows, judges himself, and is practically cleansed. His communion is restored, and he can enjoy the things of Christ. He has part with Him.
Alarmed by the Lord's warning, His servant instantly flies to the opposite extreme: " Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head." Now Peter cannot have too much. He seeks to be bathed all over, as if all the value of his previous washing could evaporate, and he needed it afresh no less than if it had never been. But it is never so. To see and enter the kingdom of God one must be born afresh, born of water and of the Spirit. But this is never repeated. The new birth admits of no such repetition. It was wrong to suppose that, born of God, one needs nothing else, that defilements either cannot befall a believer, or that, if they do, they are of no consequence.
What Simon thus thought and said in his ignorance, a certain school of divinity has formulated in its presumption. But this is not true knowledge of God. If law punishes transgression, grace condemns sin still more deeply. Impossible that any system of religious dogma could be of God which slurs over or ignores evil. But Simon Peter, convicted of danger on this side, falls into another on that side, and, roused to own the needful washing to have part with Christ, claims it all even for the believer as for the natural man. And here, too, an opposite school presents its corresponding dogma, denies the standing of the believer if unhappily he may get defiled, and insists that he must begin over again, perhaps many times in his life. Thus life eternal as a present possession in Christ is done away, and the constant responsibility which cows from the constant relationship of a child of God. One might be thus often lost, often saved spiritually!
The Lord corrects by anticipation both schools in correcting Peter. "He that is washed (λελουμένος) hath no need to wash (νίψασθαι) (other) than his feet, but is wholly clean; and ye are clean, but not all. For He knew him that was delivering Him up: on this account He said, Ye are not all clean." Thus simply, but perfectly, does He put each truth in its place and in relation to all the rest. Grace is maintained, but so is righteousness. Not a sin is passed over lightly. Not a believer has reason for discouragement; his every failure is an object of fresh concern to the Lord, a fresh proof of love that will not let him go but bless him, spite of the carelessness which let the Lord go. But He will not go; He washes the feet of him that is already washed all over, that he may be wholly clean. Thus the new birth holds and is never renewed, because it abides true and good; while the failure of him who is born again comes under Christ's active love and advocacy, and the soul is brought to judge himself in order to restored communion. Again, the case of Judas is not one of losing life, but of manifesting that he never had been born of God, as, indeed, no Scripture ever affirms it. It was not a sheep of Christ becoming unclean, but a dog returning to his vomit-yea, far worse, because of such proximity to Him Whose intimacy he abused for lucre to betray Him to His enemies.
It is of capital moment to hold fast along with atonement the washing of water by the word. Else the blood of Christ is diverted from its true aim and effect before God, and practically used as the resource in case of failure.
Let us hear Calvin as an influential witness of the error it involves, where he teaches from the word of reconciliation in 2 Cor. 5:20 ("Be reconciled to God"), that Paul is here addressing himself to believers, instead of illustrating the message of grace to the world. "He declares to them every day this embassy. Christ therefore did not suffer, merely that He might once expiate our sins, nor was the Gospel appointed merely with a view to the pardon of those sins which we committed previously to baptism, but that, as we daily sin, so we might also by a daily remission be received by God into His favour. For this is a continued embassy, which must be assiduously sounded forth in the church till the end of the world; and the Gospel cannot be preached unless remission of sins is promised. We have here an express and suitable declaration for refuting the impious trust of Papists, which calls upon us to seek the remission of sins after baptism from some other source than from the expiation that was effected through the death of Christ. Now this doctrine is commonly held in all the schools of Popery-that, after baptism, we merit the remission of sins by penitence through the aid of the keys (Matt. 16:19)-as if baptism itself could confer this upon us without penitence. By the term penitence, however, they mean satisfaction. But what does Paul say here? He calls us to go, not less after baptism than before it, to the one expiation made by Christ, that we may know that we always obtain it gratuitously. Further, all their prating as to the administration of the keys is to no purpose, inasmuch as they conceive of keys apart from the Gospel, while they are nothing else than that testimony of a gratuitous reconciliation, which is made to us in the Gospel" ("Comm. Epp. to the Corinthians," Calvin Soc., ii. 240, 241).
Clearly this teaching is erroneous, not only founded on a misapplication to saints of the Gospel ministry to sinners, but consequently unsettling their reconciliation as a great finished fact. It is not true that the Apostle declares this embassy to believers every day.252 He declares, on the contrary, that the work is done, and the worshippers once purged so as to have no longer any conscience of sins. (Heb. 10:2.) There is no question of imputing sins or errors, nor of God's judgment of them by and by. The error undermines or excludes the constant relationship of the Christian on the ground of peace made by the blood of Christ's cross, and present and permanent fitness for sharing the inheritance of the saints in light (Col. 1:12).
The one offering of Christ does not merely once expiate our sins, but has perfected in perpetuity the sanctified" (Ibid. 5:14.) The Romanist meets the need created by failure after baptism by penitence aided by the keys; the Protestant by fresh approach to the sacrifice of Christ, the one being as ignorant as the other of the washing of the defiled feet by the word in answer to the advocacy of Christ with the Father. The continued embassy is by the Lord's servants in proclaiming the Gospel to the world. There is no such thing as God's receiving the believer by a daily remission into His favour. There may be the necessity of removing the uncleanness of flesh or spirit which hinders communion; but this supposes the groundwork of propitiation undisturbed and of the favour in which we stand. That the Christian requires to be reconciled afresh, that the call "Be reconciled to God" goes out to failing believers, proves that Calvin, able as he was and a saint himself, was ignorant even of the elementary and distinctive truth of the Gospel. This opened the door to the opposed error of Arminianism, which takes its stand more consistently on the same mistake, as if eternal life had no meaning, and the blood of Christ lacked everlasting efficacy. Both systems are faulty.
The truth puts everything in its place. The blood of Christ abides in its unchangeable value before God sacrificially and judicially; but the failing believer is inexcusable, and needs to wash his feet. The word must deal with him morally, producing self-judgment and confession; and the Lord looks to it in His ever-watchful grace by taking up His cause in living love with the Father. The Spirit, too, has His own suited function in producing, not the joy of fellowship with Christ in the things of Christ, but here grief and shame, pain and humiliation, in recalling the man's own ways-haste, levity, pride, vanity, and perhaps corruption or violence; for of what is the flesh unjudged not capable? By that word of truth he was begotten of God, awakened to self-judgment in His sight; by the same word is each defilement judged day by day, making it so much the more painful because the Spirit reminds the soul what Christ suffered for the sins which the flesh feels so lightly.
But far from dissolving the relationship, the sense of inconsistency with it, and with the grace which at so much cost and sovereign love withal conferred it on us, is that which most of all tries and humbles the erring one. Flesh would like exceedingly to have its way and indulge its pleasures, and the soul begin again; but God holds the believer to a relationship, which, if real, is everlasting, and makes every delinquency, therefore, to be so much the deeper sin, because it is against not conscience and righteousness only, but the richest grace God could show in Christ. We were reconciled to God through the death of His Son. There is no repetition of reconciliation any more than of the new birth. There is complete remission of sins through His blood, and hence no longer an offering for sin. The one and only offering which could avail is made and accepted. But there is, whenever needful, a fresh application of "water by the word." And this ever deals with the soul. The word detects whilst it removes the defilement, applying the death of Christ thus to man, as the blood dealt with the sins before God. Thus is the work carried on holily without weakening the sole foundation for a sinful man's peace as well as for Divine glory.
"When then He washed their feet and took His garments and reclined again, He said to them, Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call Me the Teacher and the Lord, and ye say well, for I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another's feet; for I have given you an example, that even as I did to you, ye should also do. Verily, verily I say to you, A bondman is not greater than his lord, nor yet an apostle greater than He that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do (or, practise) them."
Undoubtedly the humility of the Lord was beyond question in His washing the disciples' feet, and that He would have them cultivate it He had solemnly urged on them in the plainest terms, as we see in all the Synoptic Gospels. But then there is another and deeper instruction. It is the renewal of their defilements in walking through the world which is before His mind, now that He is about to leave them; and about this He would exercise their hearts by the question, "Know ye what I have done to you?" It is His way indeed to teach us afterwards the good He has already done us; and as we grow up to Him in the truth, we appreciate better what we understood253 but slightly at first. Grace instructs us, as well as acts on our behalf; and it is humbling to find out how little we have understood while its activity has never staid. But how good and strengthening it is to learn its ways and lessons!
The Lord next enforces what He had done by appealing to the titles they habitually gave Him. "Ye call Me the Teacher and the Lord; and ye say well, for I am:"254 One to obey as well as to instruct, as could not but be where His personal glory is known. If He then stooped in love to wash their feet, what did they not owe one another? It is not only that we should serve the Lord in the Gospel. "By this shall all men know," He says later on in this very chapter, "that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another." Here, however, it is a definite call, where we are apt most to fail, to share His grace in seeking the restoration of each other where failure has come in. On the one hand, it needs faith and self-denial and Divine affections. Indifference about it detects our own failure. But, on the other hand, the righteousness that censures another is as far as possible from washing the feet, resembling rather the scourge than the service of the towel and basin. And assuredly, if grace be needed to bear the washing, a far larger measure must be in action to wash the feet. Hence says the apostle, "Brethren, even if a man be overtaken in any fault, ye that are spiritual restore such an one in a spirit of meekness." (Gal. 6:1.) Where flesh was judged, love could act more powerfully, and with deeper sense that all is of grace. Self is the greatest hindrance in dealing with another's trespass.
The service of love in every form is the mind which was in Christ. Hence He calls them here to weigh what they had first seen. "For I have given you an example that ye also should do even as I did to you. Verily, verily, I say to you, A bondman is not greater than his lord, nor an apostle greater than He that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them."255 The Lord knew the end from the beginning, and how soon His ministry would degenerate into a worldly institution, and become a title of pride, instead of being a work of faith and labour of love. Hence the need for His solemn formula, as a standing witness to all His own so prone in a world of vain show and selfishness to forget His word and wander from His way. But there His warning abides; to decline His service in washing the feet of His own is to set oneself above the Lord, and to claim a greater place than His Who sends even an Apostle. Oh, for the blessedness of doing as well as knowing these things! It is the fellowship of His love in one of its most intimate forms; and "love is of God, and every one that loveth hath been begotten of God and knoweth God." (1 John 4:7.)
The hint which closed verse 10 is now expanded into the growingly solemn intimations in word and deed that follow. It is no longer Christ's love caring for His own, either once for all in atoning self-sacrifice to God for them, everlasting in its efficacy; or in unintermittent cleansing by the word, as for whom He died on earth, living for them in heaven, that they might be practically in unison with the relationship of grace into which they had been brought, spite of the defilements of the way. Here it is the faithless indifference of nature, with a conscience increasingly seared by indulgence in a besetting sin, which Satan was about to lure and blind to high treason against Christ, availing itself of the closest intimacy to sell the Master and Lord, the Son of God, for the paltriest price of a slave-to sell Him into the hands of enemies thirsting for His blood. It may not be the hatred of these; it is utter lovelessness, betraying Him Who was at this time more than ever showing and proving His love, not only up to and in death, but in life beyond it evermore. Now the unbelief which, having eyes and heart, sees not nor feels such love, precipitates above all into Satan's deceit and power. This we sorrowfully behold in Judas; and no one felt the sorrow as the Lord.
Cf. Matt. 26:21ff. Mark 14:18ff.; Luke 22:21ff.
"I speak not of you all: I know whom* I chose out, but that the Scripture may be fulfilled, 'He that eateth bread with Me hath† lifted up his heel against Me.' Henceforth (or, From this present time) I tell you before it come to pass, that, when it hath come to pass, ye may believe that I am (He).256 Verily, verily, I say to you, He that receiveth whomsoever I shall send receiveth Me; and he that receiveth Me receiveth Him that sent Me. Having said these things Jesus was troubled in His spirit and testified and said, Verily, verily, I say to you, One of you shall give Me up. The disciples (then)‡ looked one on another, doubting of whom He spoke (lit. speaketh)" (verses 18-22).
* τίνας, BCLM, etc. [Edd.]; οὕς, AD, and eleven more uncials, etc.
† ἐπῆρκεν, AUH,etc. [Tisch.], the mass followed by Text. Rec. ἐπῆρεν [most Edd.].
‡ οὖν pm, and most uncials, cursives, and versions, and so Text. Rec. [Weiss]; but corr.BC, etc., omit [as Blass, after Tisch.].
The Lord then did, and does, look for activity of love among His own. If they were objects of a love which could never fail, He would have them instruments or channels of it one toward another, and this in respect of evil to remove it, whereas legality could only condemn. Himself the Son yet the servant in love, He would exercise them in the service of dove, where defilement otherwise would repel. But as He came to suffer for our sins, so also He was going away to form us while on earth into His own mind and affections, through the truth, and in doing so to cleanse from every way which might grieve the Holy Spirit, whereby we are sealed till the day of redemption. For it is not a question of removing the guilt of a sinner only, but of restoring the communion of a saint, whenever interrupted by allowed evil. And in this last dealing of love, He would have His own caring one for another. But He did not speak of all the disciples then present: sad presage of what was to be far more common in after-days! He knew whom He chose out: Judas was not among such, though called to be an Apostle. He had never known the Lord, knew nothing truly of His grace or of His mind, and was not born of God. Why then had he been selected for that place of honour, the apostolate, in immediate and constant attendance on the Lord here below?
It was not that the Lord was unconscious of his character, conduct, or coming catastrophe, but that the Scripture might be fulfilled, He that eateth bread hath lifted up his heel against Me. (Ps. 41:9.) "Jeshurun grew fat and kicked" of old; "he gave up God Who made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation." (Deut. 32:15.) Judas went incomparably farther in his guilty indifference to the Son of God come down in love and humiliation, and in his eagerness to serve himself at all cost, betraying his gracious Master for the merest trifle. Never was such love, never such slight and abuse of it, and this in one of those specially responsible to be faithful. Doubtless it would be through Satan's power; but to this flesh exposes, and so much the more because of nearness outwardly to the Lord Who is not believed on to salvation. Thereby comes out, most palpably and fatally, the hard baseness of the unrenewed heart, and this against the grace of the Lord above all. Thus, if the disciples were in danger of being stumbled by such a one's defection, the evident fulfilment of Scripture was meant to strengthen their faith in every written word of God. By this man lives Godward: bread, money, anything here below, may be the occasion of his ruin. How wondrous the patience which, knowing all from the beginning, bore all to the end, without a frown or sign of shrinking from the traitor! But so much the more withering must be the sentence of judgment when it comes from His lips, the Lord of glory, the hated and despised of man.
The Lord gives precision to ancient oracles, hitherto applied only to others, as here to David suffering from Ahithophel. But the Holy Spirit wrote of Him pre-eminently; and He too, before the event, cites the word about to be verified in the treachery toward Himself. Thus did the Lord prove alike His perfect and Divine knowledge of what lay yet in the future, while He taught the inestimable worth of Scripture, and, not least, of prediction not yet fulfilled, meeting in every form the incredulity of believers as well as of unbelievers. For who knows not the accepted maxims which assume the dark and doubtful character of unfulfilled prophecy, which denies prophecy even to the prophets, still more to the Psalms and to the law? At least men should fear to give the lie to Him Who declares Himself the truth, and spoke as never man did. They have reason to fear, if they turn away from Him to lying vanities which, far from being able to save their votaries in the day of need, shall assuredly be as stubble to burn themselves and all who trust them. Jesus, on the contrary, is never so transparently the Messiah as when beforehand He points to the word of Scripture about to be accomplished in His own rejection and death of the cross, and affords in it a firmer ground of blessing for the poorest of sinners than in all the glories of the kingdom to be fulfilled in their seasons.
Then, with His usual mark of profound solemnity, the Lord binds the reception of His sent ones with Himself and His Father. "Verily, verily, I say to you He that receiveth whomsoever I may send receiveth Me; and he that receiveth Me receiveth Him that sent Me." This was the more important to be added here, for some might question their standing before God because of the awful doom of Judas, when and where known. The Lord comforts such, and turns from occupation with the fallen servant to the Master Who abides for ever the same, as does the Father. Did Judas betray the Lord? This sealed his own doom, but touched not the authority any more than the grace of Christ, as of God Himself. If they received one whom Christ sent, be his end even what it might, they received the Son, and so the Father, instead of sharing in the guilt or danger of the servant's punishment who dishonoured his Master to his perdition.
The Lord then, manifesting the deepest emotion, proceeds to urge the sin home, limiting its worst form to one only of the disciples. "Having said these things, Jesus was troubled in His spirit, and testified and said, Verily, verily, I say to you, One of you shall deliver Me up." It was holiness, it was love, which took thus to heart the impending iniquity of Judas. In every point of view the Lord felt it257 -in itself, in its contrariety to God, in its bearing on others as well as on Himself, and in its awfulness for the wretched guilty one. It is not self, but love, which is associated with the truest sensibility; and the Lord expresses it as a testimony also, "Verily, verily, I say to you, One of you shall give Me up." They were all faulty; but one, and only one, was thus about to become a prey to Satan, and the tool of his malice against the Lord. Their doubts were as honest as his place in their midst was now a lie against the truth. If he joined the rest in looking one on another, it was hypocrisy; for he could not really doubt of whom Jesus was speaking. Yet no blush, no paleness, betrayed Judas. The disciples must have recourse to other means of learning the sad truth.
The announcement of a traitor among the twelve troubled the disciples and led to anxious thought,258 as they looked one on another. What a testimony to His perfect grace Who had known it all along, and had given no sign of distrust or aversion! How solemn for the saints who have to do with the same unchanging Christ day by day! Nothing precipitates into the enemy's hands more than grace abused and sin indulged, while outwardly he is in the presence of the only One Whose life rebukes it absolutely. Let us look a little into the scene.
"(Now)* there was at table259 one of *His disciples in the bosom of Jesus whom Jesus loved.260 Simon Peter then beckoneth to this one and saith to him, †Tell who it is of whom He speaketh. He then‡ having thus‡ fallen back‡ on the breast of Jesus saith to Him, Lord, who is it? Jesus (then)‡ answereth, That one it is to whom I, having dipped the morsel, shall give (it). Having then dipped He (taketh and) giveth the morsel to Judas (son) of Simon, Iscariot. And after the morsel, Satan then entered into him. Jesus therefore saith to him, What thou doest do more quickly. But no one of those at table knew why He said this to him; for some supposed because Judas had the bag that Jesus saith to him, Buy the things that we have need of for the feast, or that he should give something to the poor. He therefore having received the morsel went out immediately; and it was night" (verses 23-30).
* BCpmL, etc., have no copula, but it appears in the other uncials, etc., and Text. Rec., which omits ἐκ, with some of the uncials and most cursives, contrary to the more ancient authorities.
† exhibits both readings which divide the other MSS; πύθεσθαι τίς ἂν εἴη περὶ οὗ ἔλεγεν· καὶ λέγει αὐτῶ· εἶπε τίς ἐστιν περὶ οὗ λέγει. [Blass omits "and . . . speaketh."]
‡ Tischendorf abandons ἀναπεσὼν [so W. and H., Weiss], with some good and old uncials (the usual phrase for the position), for ἐπιπ., with most MSS., and some ancient, which express the change of action [Blass, πεσὼν].261-It is a question of οὖν and δὲ in connection with it. — οὕτως, "thus," [just as he was] seems pretty sure, though omitted by Text. Rec.
Peter and John are often seen together. So here in their perplexity Simon Peter beckons to John as he reclined at table in the bosom of Jesus; for that John and no other was this favoured disciple cannot be doubted from John 19:26; John 20:2; John 21:7, 20, 24. And how truly of the Spirit that one enjoying such favour should describe himself, not as loving Jesus, though indeed he did, but as beloved by Him; and this, too, as the disciple whom Jesus loved, withholding his name as here and elsewhere of small account, though plainly described at the close where needed, and named where men might deny the authorship, as they have done!260 It is intimacy with Jesus that gathers secret, but imparts them for others' good. Falling back just as he was on the breast of Jesus, John asks who it is; and the Lord answers, not in word only, but with a sign strikingly according to Ps. 41:9, though an even more special mark of intimacy.
In Judas' state that token of love only hardened the conscience long seared by secret sin, which shut out from the heart all sense of love. His very familiarity with Christ's passing through the snares and dangers of a hostile world may have suggested that so it would be now with his Master, while he himself might reap the reward of his treachery; and the knowledge of His grace, without heart for it, may have led him to hope for mercy he had never known refused to the most guilty. The moment comes when holy love becomes unbearable to him who never relished it; and the sin he preferred blinded his mind and hardened his heart to that which had otherwise touched the most callous. "After the morsel, Satan then entered into him." The devil had already put it into his heart to deliver the Lord up; now, after receiving without horror or self-judgment the last token of his Master's love, the enemy entered. At being thus designated there may have been irritation, which if retained gives room for the devil even in ordinary cases; much more in his who had trifled with unfailing grace, and thus forgot wholly His glory, as he had ever been insensible to God's nature and his own sin. "Jesus therefore saith to him, What thou art doing do more quickly"-that is, sooner than was indicated by his pretension to share the doubts of the disciples or to join in what was before their hearts.
Never does God thus abandon to Satan poor man, however wretched and sinful, till He rejects his love and holiness and truth, above all shown in the Lord Jesus and in this Gospel. There He may and does judicially harden, and this to irretrievable ruin, but only after the heart has steeled itself to the appeals of His most patient goodness. Still, judicial hardening is a real thing on God's part, whatever may be argued by those who seem unwilling to allow frankly and fully the activity of God on the one hand and of Satan on the other. Not a whit better is the opposite school which seems to banish from conscience the solemn fact of responsibility, whether in a man or in a Christian, or, as here, in one who, though in the unremoved darkness of a man, drew so near the Son of God, the personal expression in man of all God's light and love.
We have heard already how deeply our Lord felt the sin of Judas as the moment approached and the design was allowed in his heart. Now the sentence goes forth, which closed the door of life for the earth on the Saviour-of everlasting wrath on Judas. Yet did the disciples look on and listen without knowing the awfulness of the issues then pending. Not even John penetrated the meaning of words soon to be clear to all. It was not to buy things needful, but to sell their Lord and Master; it was no preparation for the feast,262 but that to which it, not they, had ever looked onward, the fulfilment of God's mind and purpose in it, though it were the Jews crucifying their own Messiah, by the hand of lawless men; it was not that Judas should give to the poor, the last thing which would occupy his mind, but that He should Who "was rich yet for our sakes became poor, that we through His poverty might be made rich." (2 Cor. 8:9.) It was a man's, a disciple's worst sin; it was God's infinite love, both meeting in the death of the Lord on the cross; but where sin abounded, grace exceeded much more.
Judas "therefore having received the morsel immediately went out." What darkness rested thenceforward on that soul! "It was night," says our evangelist.263 And that night deepened in its horrors on the faithless man, given to see his irreparable evil only when done, till it closed on his going to his own place.
The Lord felt the gravity of the moment, and saw the way and end from the beginning. All the wondrous and everlasting consequences of His death were stretched out before Him, and now that Judas is gone, He gives free expression to the truth in divinely perfect words. "When therefore he was gone out, Jesus saith, Now is (lit. was) the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in Him."* (verse 31).264 His own cross is fully in view, and there was laid the basis for all true abiding glory, not for God only (though assuredly for God, for there can be none really unless He be foremost), but for man also in the person of the Lord, the Son of man, Who alone had shown what man should be for God, as He had shown what God is, even the Father, in Himself the Son.
* It is not that the aorist as here, ever means the present or the future but that in the Greek the act is spoken of as complete, summed up from the commencing feet to its completion. See John 15:6 also, and Rev. 10:7.
It is indeed a theme of incomparable depth, the Son of man glorified, and God glorified in Him; and no statement elsewhere, though from the same lips, was meant so to present and fathom it, though each was perfect for its own object, as the one before us.
In John 12, when certain Greeks came to Philip the Apostle, desiring to see Jesus, and Andrew and Philip tell Jesus, He answered them saying, "The hour is come that the Son of man should be glorified;" and forthwith, with His most solemn emphasis, He speaks of His death as the condition of blessing to others. So only should He bear much fruit. Otherwise the grain of wheat abode alone. A living Messiah is the crown of glory to Israel; a rejected One, the Son of man, by death opened the door, for the Gentile even, into heavenly things, and is the pattern thenceforth. So true is it that to love life in this world is to lose it; to hate it here is to keep it to life eternal; and hence following Him Who died is the way to serve Him, secure the Father's honour, and be with the heavenly Master and Lord. It is by death that He takes the place, not of Son of David, according to promise (though this in grace He does also, according to Paul's Gospel), but of Son of man, and thus have all things and all men, Greeks no less than Jews, according to the counsels of God, heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ. There was no other way for guilt to be effaced, for heaven to be opened and enjoyed by those who were once lost sinners. Thus the heavenly glory follows the moral glory; and every hope, for the Gentile most manifestly, turns on Christ's obedience even unto death, wherein Satan's power was utterly broken, and the judgment of God perfectly satisfied. For if the world was therein judged, and its prince to be cast out, Christ lifted up on the cross becomes the attractive centre of grace for all, spite of degradation, darkness, and death.
In John 17 the Son looks to the Father Whom He had glorified, that the Father might glorify Him in heaven. He was Son before time began; He had therefore of course glory with the Father before the world was. But He had taken the place of servant in manhood on earth, and now asks that the Father should glorify Him along with Himself with the glory which He had along with Him eternally. A man to everlasting, He would receive all from the Father, albeit Son from everlasting; and when glorified, it is that He may glorify the Father. Such is perfect love and devotedness.
Here, in John 13, He speaks of the Son of man glorified, and of God glorified in Him. This has its own peculiar force. The first man was an object of shame and judgment through sin; the second Man, Jesus Christ the righteous, was glorified, and God was glorified in Him. He sees it all summed up in the cross, and so speaks to the disciples, now that the traitor's departure left His heart free to communicate all that filled it. It is not the Father, as such, glorified livingly by His Son in an obedience which knew no limit but His Father's will, but a man, the rejected Messiah, the Son of man, devoting Himself at all costs to the glory of God. This was indeed the Son of man's glory, that God should be, as He was, glorified in Him. Blessed Saviour! what a thought, and now a fact and a truth, the truth made known to us, that we might know not merely God come to us, but ourselves brought to God, and this in peace and joy, because man is glorified in the Person of Christ, and God is glorified in Him a Man, the man Christ Jesus.
For in deed and in truth God is glorified in the cross as nowhere else-His love, His truth, His majesty, His righteousness. "Herein was manifested the love of God in our case, that God hath sent His only-begotten Son, that we might live through Him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son as propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4). And His truth, majesty, and righteousness have been maintained, no less than His love; for if God threatened guilty man with death and judgment, Jesus bore all, as man never could, that His word might be vindicated fully. Never did man prove his enmity to God, never did Satan prove his power over man, as in that cross where the Son of man gave Himself up in supreme devotedness and self-sacrificing love to the glory of God. Nowhere was so demonstrated the holiness of God, the impossibility of His tolerating sin; nowhere such love to God, and such love to the sinner. The Son of man was glorified, and God was glorified in Him.
When, where, was Jesus so glorified as in stooping to the uttermost when God "made sin Him Who knew no sin, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him?" (2 Cor. 5:21.) where Jesus, feeling the truth of death and judgment as none else ever could, bowed His head, not merely to man's contemptuous hatred and to Satan's wily malice, but to God's indignation against sin-despised of man, abhorred of the nation, abandoned of the disciples, forsaken of God, when most of all needing comfort, doing and suffering His will perfectly in the only unstormed fortress of the enemy's power-to God's glory and in His grace? No, there is nothing like it, even where, and where alone, all was perfection, in the life of Christ. This was glorifying the Father as to good in a devotedness and dependence with which none can compare; that, a glorifying God as to evil by the endurance of all that the Holy One of God could suffer from all that God could and did inflict in unsparing judgment-both the one and the other in absolute obedience and love and self-renunciation to His glory. And all this, and more than this, blessed be God! we see in Man, the Son of man; that in Him, in that nature which had wrought foul dishonour and rebellion against God from first to last, God might be glorified. "Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in Him."265
In that Person; and by that work, all was reversed. The foundation was laid, the seed was sown, for an entirely new order of things. Previously God forbore, not only with man, but even with the saints, looking unto Him Who should come; and sins were not remitted exactly, but prætermitted (Rom. 3:25), if we would speak with dogmatic propriety. Man was simply and solely a debtor to God's mercy. Nor would we weaken for a moment that man is still a debtor to His mercy, and must ever be. But there is a revelation now in virtue of Christ's death, a new and different and infinite truth, that God is a debtor to the Son of man for glorifying Him as to evil no less than good; not only fulfilling all righteousness, but suffering for all unrighteousness. This is alone in the cross, which constitutes its specific glory, ever fading away from feeble man's eyes unless filled with light from Christ in glory, never forgotten of God the Father, Who, in answer to the cry, "Glorify Thy name," said, "I have both glorified and will glorify it again." And so He does and ever will, whatever appearances may for a little while say to the contrary.
His righteousness, once so dreaded a sound, armed (as it could not be without Christ) against us, is now by His death as distinctly for us, as is its spring, the grace which reigns through it unto eternal life. And we boast in hope of His glory, which, through Christ's death, had been instant and everlasting destruction to us; as surely as we have an access by faith into His favour, in which we stand as a present thing. Oh, what has not the death of Christ done for God and for us?
Hence the Lord adds, "If God is (lit. was) glorified in Him,* God also shall glorify Him in Himself, and shall glorify Him immediately" (verse 32). If we may reverently so speak, it is God now Who has become debtor for the vindication of His glory to the Man Who suffered on the cross. Was He not God from everlasting to everlasting, no less than the Father? yet did He become most truly man, and as man the Son of man-which Adam was not-He brought glory to God, even in the matter of sin. Therefore it is that God, having been glorified in Him, could not but also glorify Him in Himself. This He has done by setting Him (not on David's, but) on His own throne in heaven, the only adequate answer to the cross. There He alone is set down, the Son but a man, on God's throne; and this "immediately." God could not, would not, did not, wait for the kingdom, which will surely come, and Christ in it, when the due time arrives. But the work of Christ was too precious to admit of delay, and God had long hidden counsels to bring out meanwhile. Thus should He glorify Christ immediately; and so it is, as we all know now, however strange to Jewish expectation then.
* The oldest and best MSS. omit this clause, pmBCpmDLXΠ, a dozen cursives, some of the good Latin [Syrsin], etc. Hence, Lachmann and Tregelles bracket the clause, and W. and H. go so far as to omit it altogether. Before them, Scholz remarks on the omission: "Recte, nam inepta videtur iteratio eiusdem dicti." This is bolder than man should say, and simply proves his own spiritual incapacity. It was worthy, if anything was, of repetition, and most impressive. Twelve uncials, besides the correction of the Sinai MS., and the Rescript of Paris, the mass of cursives, much the weightier of the versions, not to speak of the fathers who commented on the passage, cite the passage as unquestionable Scripture. [Weiss, here uninfluenced by B. and Blass retain "if God," etc.]
Not only was His death before the Lord, but His departure from the world-a notion absolutely new to a Jewish mind in connection with the Messiah. The more such a soul believed Him to be the promised One, the less could it be conceived that He should quit the scene which He had come to bless. "We have heard out of the law," answered the people not long before, "that Christ abideth for ever; and how sayest Thou, The Son of man must be lifted up? who is this Son of man?" There too He had intimated to the Jews, not only His death, but what death He should die, and His retirement from their midst. A new creation and heavenly glory were beyond their field of vision. But here the Lord prepares His disciples more fully for what was then coming and is now come: facts simple enough for us who have to do with them every day, but wholly unlooked for in Israel, who expected the kingdom immediately to appear, not the things unseen and eternal, with which our faith is called to be conversant.
"Little children,266 yet a little I am with you. Ye will seek Me; and, even as I said to the Jews, Where I go away [back], ye cannot come, also to you I say now" (verse 33). None had passed this way heretofore. It must be a new and living way, and only His death could make it possible, consistently with God or with man. But to His own there is a title of endearment; and if He was to be but a little with them, they were to seek Him. Heaven, however, was in no way accessible to man like the earth, of whose dust his body was made. Christ came from God, and went to God, as He will come by and by and receive us to Himself, that where He is, there we may be also. But no more is the Christian able to go there than any other man; Christ alone can bring any therein, as He will surely do with His own at His coming.
But He meanwhile lays a characteristic injunction on them here below. "A new commandment I give to you, that ye love one another; even as I loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love among one another" (verses 34, 35).
The nation disappears. It is no question of loving one's neighbour, but of Christ's disciples and of their mutual love according to His love. New relationships would come out with increasing plainness when He rose from the dead, and sent down the Holy Spirit; and this new duty, loving one another, would flow out of the new relationship: a convincing proof to all men Whose they were, for He alone had shown this throughout His life and death, as also alive again-love unfailing. How far were the Jews from such love? The Gentiles had not even the thought of it. And no wonder. Love is of God, not of man, which accounts for the blank till He came Who, though God, manifested love in man and to man, and was thus, through His death and resurrection, to bear much fruit. Their love was to be, if we may so say, of His own material and mould-to abide, if it did not begin, when He went away. For, as is written in 1 John 2:8, the new commandment now "is true in Him and in you; because the darkness passeth and the true light already shineth." While He was here, it was true perfectly, but only in Him; when He gave them redemption in Him through His death and resurrection, it was true in them also. The darkness was passing ("is past" being too strong to say), and the true light already shines. It is not here activity of zeal in quest of sinners, however precious, but the unselfish seeking of the good of saints as such, in lowliness of mind and in Christ's love.*267
* [Cf. "Exposition of the Epistles of John," p. 96.]
Matt. 26:33-35; Mark 14:29-31; Luke 22:31-34.
An irrepressible disciple, with a curiosity habitual in him, turns from what the Lord was enjoining to the words before: "Simon Peter saith to Him, Lord, where goest Thou? Jesus answered (him),* Where I go, thou canst not follow Me now, but thou shalt follow Me afterwards: Peter saith to Him, Lord, why cannot I follow Thee now? My life [soul] for Thee I will lay down. Jesus answereth† (him),‡ Thy life [soul] for Me wilt thou lay down? Verily, verily, I say to thee, In no wise shall a cock crow till thou shalt have denied Me thrice" (verses 36-38). Peter knew and really loved the Lord, but how little he as yet knew himself! It was right to feel the Lord's absence; but he should have heeded better the mild yet grave admonition, that where Christ was going away he was not able to follow Him now; he should have valued the comforting assurance that he should follow Him later. Alas, how much we lose at once, how much we suffer afterwards, through not laying to heart the deep truth of Christ's words! We soon see the bitter consequences in Peter's history; but we know, from the further words of our Lord in the close of this Gospel, how grace would insure in the end the favour compromised by that self-confidence at the beginning, which he is here warned against.
* Omitted by BCpmL [Edd.], but supported by ACcorr.D, etc.
† The best sustain the present tense.
‡ The oldest omit "him."
But we are apt to think most highly of ourselves, of our love, wisdom, power, moral courage, and every other good quality, when we least know and judge ourselves in God's presence; as here we see in Peter, who, impatient of the hint already given, breaks forth into the self-confident question, "Lord, why cannot I follow Thee now? I will lay down my life for Thy sake." Peter therefore must learn, as we also, by painful experience what he might in faith have understood even better by subjection of heart to the Lord's words. Where He warns, it is rash and wrong for us to question; and rashness of spirit is but the precursor of a fall in fact, whereby we must be taught, if we refuse it otherwise He that slighted the warning when Christ spoke it lied through fear of a servant-maid. True Christian courage is never presumptuous, but well consorts with fear and trembling; for its confidence is not in the resources of self, or in the circumstances of others, but in God, with a due sense of the power of Satan and of our own weakness.
When ignorance slips, as it often does, into presumption, the Lord does not spare rebuke. "Wilt thou lay down thy life for My sake?" Was this Peter's resolve? Soon would that stout heart quail at the shadow of death. Yet what was death itself for any saint to compare with Christ's death, when tasting rejection as none ever did, and bearing our sins in His own body on the tree, as it was His alone to suffer for them from God! It was judgment as well as death, but endured as only He could.
But ignorance works often in another way. They will not believe their own utter weakness, spite of Christ's plain warning, and want light to prove His truth and their folly. Nor is this all. They assume that if a believer fail once, he must immediately repent in dust and ashes. How little they know themselves, or have profited by Scripture! "Verily, verily," said the all-patient Master, "In no wise shall a cock crow till thou shalt have denied Me thrice."268 We recall Peter's repeated denial of his Lord, and with oaths, too, under the most solemn circumstances, not to lower him, but for the profit of our own souls, and to exalt Him Who alone is worthy. How infinite the grace which made the measure of his sin to be the signal and means of his repentance, under the Lord's use of His own word, and in His wonder-working mercy! And what He was to Peter, He is to us, and nothing less.
JOHN — THE FOURTEENTH CHAPTER*
* [Cf. " Introductory Lectures," pp. 511-518.]
The way was now opened to bring out the Christian's hope. Death, in its most solemn and most blessed aspect, had been put before the disciples, however little able as yet to follow their Master in thought, impossible then, indeed, in any way, as the Lord let the too confident hear, though Peter learnt it not till he proved his own utter powerlessness by the basest denial of Him he loved. How much we have to learn by most painful and humbling experience of ourselves, because we fail in sustained subjection to, and dependence on, our Lord! But now, this cleared, the Saviour turns to what is unfailingly bright, because it centres in Himself. It is no coming as Son of man to judge, no appearing in glory to set all that is crooked straight and to govern all righteously. It is His own coming for His beloved ones, that they may be with Him where He is, in the Father's house on high.
"Let not your heart be troubled:269 ye believe270 on God, believe on Me also. In My Father's house are many mansions: if not so, I would have told you, because* I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and† prepare a place for you, I am coming again, and will receive you unto Myself, that where I am ye also may be. And where I‡ go ye know the way" (verses 1-4).
* ὅτι, ABCpm DKLXΠ, twenty cursives, and most ancient versions [as Syrsin], etc.; but Text. Rec. [as Blass] omits, with some ten or eleven uncials, most cursives, the Gothic, Aeth., etc.
† DM, with more than sixty cursives, read ἑτοιμάσαὶ others, like AEGKΓΔ, and forty cursives, with the Gothic and Pesch. Syr., simply ἐτοιμάσω, without καὶ [as Blass], but BCLNSUXΔΠ, and versions [Syrsin], καὶ ἐτ.
‡ Some authorities omit ἐγὼ, and most [as A CcorrD, Syrsin pesch hier], with Text. Rec., add καὶ . . . οἴδατε, "and . . . ye know."
A greater break with Jewish feeling could not be than such a hope, a shock assuredly as wholly changing all they had expected, but only as supplanting an earthly prospect, however blessed, by a heavenly one incomparably more blessed. If His going away by death, not yet understood, either in its depth of suffering or in its efficacy, but as departure from them on earth, might naturally disturb their heart, He begins to explain its all-importance as making way for faith. He was no longer to be, according to prophetic intimation, as the Messiah of Israel on earth, still less displayed there in indisputable glory and resistless power. He is about to go a man yet to heaven, and there to be an object of faith as no longer seen, even as God is. "Ye believe in God, believe also in Me." This was a quite new thought about the Messiah, rejected here, glorified in heaven, believed on in earth: simple enough now, but then a strange sound, and an entirely new order of associations, which set aside for a time all that saints and prophets looked for. Not that these things were more than postponed, but that those, altogether unprecedented and unexpected, were to come in by the Lord's going on high after redemption, with just enough in the Old Testament (as, for instance, in Ps. 110:1) to stop the mouth of a Jew who might pervert the law to deny the Gospel.
This, then, is the central fact for the Christian as for the Church-Christ not reigning over the earth, but glorified on high as the fruit of His rejection here below. But it is far from all, though all else be but consequences in Divine grace or righteousness. The next thing He proceeds to unfold is that there is room above where He is for the saints who follow their rejected Lord. "In My Father's house are many mansions: if not so, I would have told you, because I go to prepare a place for you." He would not have raised a hope incapable of realisation for these saints. If He discloses His own bright abode with the Father, there is ample room for them as for Him; and His love, which was giving Himself for them, would keep back nothing else. His love and the Father's love-for indeed they were one in purposes as in nature-would have them near Himself there. There are many abodes in the Father's house. It is no question of crowns, or cities, or place in the kingdom. There will be reward according to walk, though grace will secure its own sovereign rights. But here differences vanish before the infinite love that will have us with Himself before His Father. Were it too much, or not so, He would have told us, because He goes to prepare a place for us. Love never could, nor does, wittingly disappoint its object.
There is another thing of deep moment contingent on this, but plainly revealed, instead of being left for us to infer. He is coming to fetch His own to heaven.271 And this was meant to be ever acting on the heart, as we see by the subsequent teaching of the Holy Ghost throughout the rest of the New Testament. Our new place and home is where Christ is, and whither He is to translate us, we know not how soon. Times, dates, signs, circumstances, are purposely excluded. The Christian understands them by a sound intelligence of the word which takes cognisance of all things, but knows nothing of them for his own hope. He reads them about the Jew or the Gentile for the earth; but his are heavenly things, where such measures do not govern. He looks above sun, moon, and stars, where Christ sits at God's right hand, and knows that Christ is coming again, as surely as He went, and this to prepare a place for us. And mark, He is not sending angels to gather us above. This were a great thing, but how immeasurably more the love as well as honour, since He, the Son of God, is coming again, and will receive us to Himself, that, where He is, we also may be! He came for us to die for our sins to God's glory; He is coming again, to have us with Himself in the same home of Divine love and nearness to the Father where He is. He could not do more, He would not do less. There is no love like that of our Lord Jesus; nor is the predicted exaltation for Israel, still less for others, to be compared with it, any more than earth is with heaven.
"And where I go ye know the way."372 His own Person, the Son of the Father, in grace and truth, presented to man, and revealing the Father, is the way which could not but lead to heaven He came from God, and was going to God. No earthly blessedness could adequately express His glory: He might, and would, take it, and glorify God in glory as in humiliation; but the saint constantly feels there is, and must be, more and higher. Heaven is His Who could communicate with His Father, and command its resources, though never whilst here abandoning the place of the lowliest of men and servant of all need. Yet, as He was the conscious Son, so the saints knew He must be going to the Father, as He was and is the way there.
The Lord had laid down the inward conscious knowledge of the disciples according to God, and the glory of His own Person Whom they confessed, soon by redemption and the gift of the Spirit to bloom in full intelligence. But in this they were as yet dull to apprehend His meaning; and He who was remarkable among them for his gloomy thoughts expresses this difficulty of his for all.
"Thomas saith to Him, Lord, we know not whither Thou goest; (and)* how know we (or, can we know)* the way? Jesus said to him, I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life: no one cometh unto the Father but by Me. If ye had known† Me, ye would have known† My Father also; and† from henceforth ye know Him, and have seen Him†" (verses 5-7).
* BCpmL, etc., omit καὶ; whilst BCpmD, Lat. MSS., Aeth., etc., read οἴδαμεν, "know we." Text. Rec., with sixteen uncials, perhaps all the cursives and the versions generally, has δυνάμεθα τ. ὁδ. εἰδέναι, "can we know," etc.
† ἐγνώκατε . . . γνώσεσθε, Dpm, instead of ἐγνώκειτε . . . ἐγν ἂν, as in all the other uncials, save that BCpm, etc., give for the last ἂν ἤδειτε. Some of these uncials, etc., omit καὶ before ἀπ [as Blass], and reads after it γνώσεσθε, not without some support from Latin, BCpm omitting αὐτὸν at the end. [Blass read ἐγνώκατε . . . γνώσεσθε, but with μὴ before the one, οὐ before the other.]
No! the thoughts of Thomas limited the Lord to that earthly horizon which formed the boundary of his own hopes of Israel clustering around their Messiah. He could not conceive, any more than the rest, whither the Lord was retiring, now that He had come to the people and the land which, he knew, He was pledged to bless richly and for ever. How then know the way? His mind was yet earthly. As he had no thought of heaven for the Lord Jesus, so he overlooked the way. But this furnished the opportunity for the Lord to announce in words as simple as profound, "I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life." Much conveyed in them might have been gleaned from testimonies to Him, most from His own previous discourses as given in this very Gospel, but nowhere so much combined with so brief an expression as here. It was worthy of Him, and at that moment above all.
A way is a great boon, especially through a wilderness which characteristically has no way. Neither had Eden, or unfallen creation, a way; but then it needed none. For all things everywhere were good, and as long as man ate not of the forbidden tree, there was no straying. All else it was for him to enjoy, giving thanks to God. But sin came in, and death, the harbinger of judgment; and all was changed into a wilderness, and men wandered in all directions, alas! all of them away from God and irreparably wrong: a wilderness-world truly, a void place, where there is no way. Not that promise did not, less or more, hold out the hope of better things; not that law did not in due time thunder and lighten; but God's way was not known, as His grace alone could show it. Now it is; for Christ is the Way, the only sure Way, for the most erring of sinners, avowedly for the lost, whom He is come to seek and to save; and He is the Way to the Father, not to God displayed in power and glory on the earth, as the Jew should expect for the day that is coming, when the rejected Messiah returns as the glorious Son of man. But He is much more, and above all time or change, the deepest rejection only forcing out what was there always, His own personal glory as Son of God superior to every dispensation. And in the fullest consciousness of it He says to dimly-seeing Thomas, "I am the way."
Why should one wait for the time when the wilderness shall be gladdened by His presence and power? Then doubtless "the mirage shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water"; "and a highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called, The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it, but it shall be for these: the wayfaring men, even fools, shall not err [therein]. (Isa. 35:8.) But He is this and more now to all that believe in Him; and faith delights to own, as God to make known, all He is, when unbelief disowns and slights and casts Him out. He is accordingly the one Divine Way; and as there is none other, so is He all-sufficing for him who has no strength of wisdom or worth in any sort. But Christ is the way now for the steps of such as know Him, the wisdom of God in an evil world-Himself the highest and perfect expression of that wisdom, and thus open to the babe in faith no less than to an Apostle.
Further, He is the Truth, the full expression of every one and of every thing as they are. He tells us in His own Person what God is; He shows us the Father, being Himself the Son. But He, not Adam, shows us man. Adam, no doubt, shows us falling or fallen man; Christ alone is man according to God, both morally, as once here below; and in counsel, as now risen and in heaven. Moreover, as He shows us holiness and righteousness, so also He brings out sin in its true colours; as He says Himself, "If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin, but now they have no cloak for their sin. He that hateth Me hateth My Father also. If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin; but now have they both seen and hated both Me and My Father." Hence He, and He only, brings out His adversary the devil personally, the prince of this world, but the constant enemy of the Son.
Even the law, holy, just, and good as the commandment may be, is not the truth; for it is rather on God's part the demand of what a man should do; but Christ tells out, not merely what he ought to be, but what he is. The law claims his duty; Christ declares that all is over, and he is lost. But Christ also shows us a Saviour in His own Person, and this from God and with God. Not that He is not the Judge, for He will judge living and dead, as surely as He will appear and set up His kingdom; but He is Saviour now and to the uttermost. Indeed, it would be impossible to say what of good and glorious He is not, nor from what evil He does not deliver. He is the truth, the exhibition of the true relation of all things with God, and consequently of the departure of any from God. He, and He only, to the challenge, Who art thou? could answer, "Absolutely that which I am also speaking to you." He is what He also speaks; He is, as no other man was, the Truth; and this, as He intimates in the same chapter 8 of our Gospel, because He is not man alone, but God.
But He is more than the Way and the Truth; he is Life, and this because He is the Son. In communion with the Father, He quickens. It is not so in judgment; for the Father judges none, but has given every kind of judgment to the Son, and this because He is the Son of man; and as men dishonoured Him because He deigned in love to become man, so the Father will have Him honoured, not only as God, but as man in judgment. Believers honour Him in a very different and far more excellent way. They bow to Him now; willingly, gladly, they exalt Him while rejected by the world. They are thus by grace in communion with God, Who has set Him on high at His own right hand, and will by and by compel every creature to bow and own Him Lord to His own glory. But those that believe have now in Him life, which issues by the Spirit's power in the practice of good; and hence they will enjoy life-resurrection at His coming, as those that have done evil must be raised to a resurrection of judgment in its day.
Thus the believer has Christ for all possible need, and all the blessing that our God and Father can bestow. One cannot have Him as the Way and the Truth without having Him as the Life also, for indeed He is the Resurrection and the Life; and this life, which we have in Him the Son, the Holy Spirit strengthens and exercises, as His word nourishes it, revealing Him ever afresh to our souls. The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord; and as the way in Christ is a path of love and liberty and holiness, so the end also is life everlasting.
Nor is there any other means of blessing: "No one cometh unto the Father but by Me," says the Lord. There is the surest guarantee, the amplest and the highest good, but it is absolutely exclusive. By none but the Son can one come to the Father; by Him can come any, the proudest Jew, the most debased Gentile. Through Him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father, as the Apostle says expressly, (Eph. 2:18.) when showing the nature of that Church which now takes the place of the ancient people of God. And be it observed that it is not to God only in sovereign grace above sin, saving the most guilty and wretched, but to the Father as such; in it is that relationship of grace which the Son knew eternally in His own right and title, and none the less, but the more, to His Father's honour, when He glorified Him on earth as the perfectly dependent and obedient man. How wondrous that we should come to the Father, His Father and ours, His God and ours! All glory to Him and His work of redemption, through which alone it could be to us who believe!
Next the Saviour lets them know that the knowledge of the Father is inseparable from that of the Son. "If ye knew Me, ye would know My Father also; and henceforth ye know Him, and have seen Him." He is the image of the invisible God; in the Son is the Father known; and this the disciples are given to learn now objectively.
But there is no capacity in the bright and active-minded disciple to enter into Divine things, any more than in the most reserved or sombre one. "Philip saith to Him, Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us" (verse 8): an excellent wish, it might seem, to many who read his words, for one who had both seen Jesus and helped others in their desires to see Jesus. But it was sad unbelief in Philip, especially after the patient gracious words just uttered to lead them on.
"Jesus saith to him, Am I so long a time with you, and hast thou not known Me, Philip? He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father; (and)* how sayest thou, Show us the Father? Believest thou not† that I (am) in the Father, and the Father is in Me?273 The words which I say‡ to you, I do not speak from Myself; but the Father that abideth in Me, He doeth the works.‡ Believe Me that I (am) in the Father, and the Father in Me; but, if not, believe Me§ for the very works' sake.274 Verily, verily, I say to you, He that believeth on Me, the works which I do shall he do also; and greater things than these shall he do; because I go unto the Father"|| (verses 9-12).275
* Most MSS. read καὶ π., but the copulative is omitted by BQ, etc.
† Bpm strangely reads οὐ πιστεύσεις, "wilt thou not believe?"
‡ λέγω Bcorr (pm om.) LNX, etc., instead of the first λαλῶ, as in most [so Blass], as BL, etc., omit ὁ after the second πατήρ [which Blass retains]. BD read αὐτοῦ ("his works") at the end, instead of αὐτὸς either there or before as ordinarily.
§ DL, etc., omit [as Edd.] final μοι, read by the mass of authorities.
|| The weight of authority (ABDLQXΠ, many cursives, almost all the ancient versions, and the fathers) is against the addition of μου after πατέρα.
The Lord thus poured a flood of light on the perplexity of the disciples. The Messiah Himself was not a mere man, however endowed and honoured of God. He was true man, and the lowliest of men; but who was He that was pleased to be born of the Virgin? He was the Son-He was God, no less than the Father, and in Him the Father was displaying Himself as such. It was God in grace, forming and fashioning His children by the manifestation of His affections and thoughts and ways in Christ the Son, a man on earth. This they had known, and yet had not known. They were familiar with Him, and the facts of His everyday works and words, little feeling as yet that they were words and works for eternity of the Creator displaying Himself in incomparably deeper fashion than in the wonders of His creation or of His government in Israel.
"No one hath seen God at any time: the Only-begotten Son, Who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him. "It was for this He came, not only to annul sin by the sacrifice of Himself, but to manifest the eternal life which was with the Father, and this as the Son revealing the Father. How new the order of being, how strange the range of thought, to the disciples! Yet this had Jesus been ever doing here below, occupied with His Father's business long before the beginning of His ministry.
"Believest thou not that I (am) in the Father, and the Father is in Me?" All turned on the glory of His Person; and the very unity of the Godhead, the cardinal truth Israel had to testify, made a difficulty to the reasoning mind of man, unable to rise above its own experience. Not only had law and prophets prepared the way, and John the Baptist's witness, but the words that Jesus said were not as any other man spoke. They were no mere human things, nor independently of His Father. He had been made flesh, but never ceased to be the Word, the Son; and the works He did bore the unmistakable imprint of the same gracious One-the Father. It was He that did the works (or His works). The disciples were therefore called to believe that He was in the Father, and the Father in Him; a state of being only possible in the Divine nature, to which the works themselves gave a witness that left the incredulous without excuse.
And this the Lord follows up with His formula of special solemnity in verse 12, wherein He intimates the testimony that would be rendered to the glory of His Person when, and because, He was going to the Father; the power which should invest the believer, and enable him to do not only what they had seen Jesus do, but things greater still in honour of His name. And this was to the letter fulfilled. For never do we hear of the Lord's shadow healing the sick, nor were napkins taken from His body (save in lying legends) to cure disease, or expel demons, not to speak of the multitudes which were brought in far and wide by apostolic preaching. What greater proof of Divine power than to work as He Himself did, and yet more by His servants! and more, again, when He went on high, than when He sent them out from His presence on earth! But if the power displayed-if the works were to be greater, who could compare himself with the Lord in self-renouncing love, dependence, and obedience? Certainly none that believed on Him, none that through Him wrought so mightily.
Thus had the Lord guaranteed the solemn and withal cheering promise, that His proceeding to the Father was in no way to stem and dry up the mighty stream of gracious power in which He had wrought here below. The believer on Him was to do what He did, and yet greater things. This He now follows up and explains by the place given to that exercise of faith which issues in prayer, henceforth to have its fullest character in His name Who had glorified the Father to the uttermost.
"And whatsoever ye shall ask (or beg, αἰτ.) in My name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask* anything in My name, I will do it" (verses 13, 14). The disciples were thus to count on power that could not fail, if sought in His name; for Jesus was no mere man, whose departure must terminate what He used to do when present. Absent He would prove Himself Divine, and none the less interested in their petitions because He was risen from the dead. Whatever they might ask He would do, that the Father might be glorified in the Son. And not content with a broad assurance in verse 13, no matter what the difficulty, He repeats it in verse 14 as to any particular petition on their part with a yet more emphatic pledge of His personal action.
* [Edd. here adds με ("Me") after a B, etc., 33, etc. Blass omits the whole verse, as Syrcu sin, Nonnus, and Chrysostom.]
But the Lord adds a great deal more, and of the deepest moment. "If ye love Me, keep (or ye will keep)* My commandments276; and I will request† the Father, and He will give you another Paraclete, that He may be with you for ever, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it beholdeth Him not, nor knoweth Him; but ye know Him, because He abideth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you orphans, I am coming unto you. Yet a little, and the world beholdeth Me no more; but ye behold Me: because I live, ye also shall live " (verses 15-19). The way to show their affection and devotedness to their Master would be by obedience; for, whatever His grace, He does not disguise from them His authority. To obey His commandments, then, would prove their love far better than zeal in work or in sorrow for His absence; for His absence, however serious in itself, is turned by God's goodness and wisdom to better blessings and deeper ways for the saints, even as it furnishes the occasion for bringing out the hidden counsels of God to His own infinite glory in Christ. Their place was to obey His commandments, as they loved Him; whilst He would pray the Father, Who would send them another,277a Paraclete or Advocate, as He Himself had been, One who would undertake and carry through their cause, as a Roman patron of old did for his clients or a modern solicitor does now in his little measure. "Comforter"‡ seems too narrow a word, and separates the Spirit unduly from our Lord, Who could hardly be so styled in John 2:1, where Paraclete is applied to His action on high, as here to the Holy Ghost's on earth.
* BL, etc. ( , 33, 69pm, τηρήσητε) τηρήσετε, "ye will keep." So W. and H. [Weiss and Blass] edit. [Syrsin has " keep."]
† It is of interest, and even of importance, to mark the distinctness of ἐρωτάω, as used of Christ with the Father, and αἰτέω of the disciples. Scripture nowhere predicates of Him the last or supplicatory expression, save in Martha's mouth [11:22], whose faith, though real, was low. Christ uses ἐπ. in speaking to the Father, as the disciples use αἰτ. to Him, and both words to Christ. The word ἐπ. is also employed in the sense of "interrogating," or "questioning."277
‡ Philologically it is hard, not to say impossible, to conceive the Greek term meaning "Comforter." Its structure and usage alike point to one "called to aid," as a cognate but different form signifies a comforter. This a Paraclete may well be; but He is far more, and summoned for every difficulty and need. So is the Paraclete, and in an infinite way, as a Divine Person. To comfort is but a small part of His functions. "Advocate" might do, as in 1 John 2:1. [See, further, "Exposition of the Epistles," p. 56 ff.]
Further, this other Paraclete, given by the Father in answer to Christ, was not to be for a brief season, like the Saviour here below. "He will give you another Paraclete, that He may be with you for ever." This is a truth of the deepest consolation, but most solemn for Christendom. Who believes it? Certainly not those who boast of evangelical views, yet proclaim their unconscious unbelief by regular prayers at the beginning of every year that God would pour out afresh His Holy Spirit on His children in their low estate. Is it meant that the self-complacent mass in Christendom (which utters no such special petitions, but assumes that the Holy Ghost acts, necessarily and infallibly, through popes, or patriarchs, or kindred officials) are more really believing? Far from it. They are inflated with pride, as if God sustains and sanctions their position; and utter blindness holds the* eyes, so that they cannot see their state to be one of departure from God's will and truth and grace. But the opposite pole of an error may be also an error; and the assumption that the Holy Spirit directs Babylon, in her confusion of the world and the Church, is not remedied by the practical denial of the abiding presence of the Spirit in the periodical petitions for a fresh outpouring on us.
It were well to ask for a single eye and a spirit of humiliation, that we might cease to do evil, and learn to do well, and this with a truly contrite heart, and a deep sense of whence we have fallen, and of Christ's speedy coming. It were well to judge ourselves by the Word of God, not only in our individual walk, but in our corporate ways and worship, to see to it that we neither grieve nor quench the Spirit, to desire earnestly that we "be strengthened with power by the Spirit in the inner man," if, indeed, we do not also need first to be "enlightened of Him," so that we should " know what is the hope of God's calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe" (Eph. 3:16; Eph. 1:18 f.). These are the true wants, even where peace with God is enjoyed individually; for there is nothing in general so little known to the Christian or the Church, as what the Christian and the Church really are; and how can the functions or duties be discharged where the relationship is ignored or mistaken?
Now, all this turns on the great truths before us in these chapters of our Gospel, the absence of Christ from the world to take His place as the risen Man in heaven on the footing of redemption, and the presence of the Holy Ghost sent down to be with the saints for ever. Faith, then, shows itself, not, surely, in imputing to Him failure in abiding spite of our failure, and praying for a fresh outpouring, as if He had fled in disgust, and needed to be sent down again, but in separating from every evil condemned by the word, and doing the will of God as far as we learn it, counting on the assured presence of the Spirit according to the Saviour's promise. Blessing and power follow obedience, even as the Lord puts it here. Nothing can be conceived more false morally than to abide in what we know to be wrong, waiting for power, and then obeying. Not so; more especially, too, as even this hollow excuse denies the distinctive privilege of the Christian, that he has the Spirit already in being a Christian. And so has the Church of God: if not, it is some other Church, not His; for only by the presence of the Spirit is the Church really such, always and in all things responsible to be guided of Him, even "the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it beholdeth Him not, nor knoweth Him; but ye know Him, because He abideth with you, and shall be in you."
The Lord herein looked onward to the presence of the Holy Ghost with the saints, not only assuring them that it should be perpetual, but explaining why the world could have no portion in Him; whereas men might behold and know the Messiah objectively, though externally and in vain for eternal life. But with the Spirit as now given, what could the world have in common? He could but, by His presence with the saints outside the world, prove sin, righteousness, and judgment. But He is no object of sight or knowledge, and the world has no faith, or it would not be the world; whereas the saints, the Christians henceforth would be characterised by knowing Him, invisible as He is, "because He abideth with you, and shall be in you." Not that one thinks with Euthymius Zigabenus, followed by many a believer from his day to ours, that His abiding in Jesus Who was among them is the meaning; but that when given, He was to abide with them, instead of making a brief sojourn like the Lord's; yea, that He should not only abide, but be in them, which Messiah, as such, could not be, however companying with them. It was to be a new, special, intimate presence of God in and with the saints, in contrast with the world which had rejected Christ. And there is no surer sign of, or preparation for, the final apostasy, in its complete form, than that unbelieving departure from God which binds together the saints and the world: whether in a popish assumption of the Spirit's sanction, or in a Protestant unbelief of His presence. One can understand this last, because of their experience of a name to live with death around and within; which prompts them to cry for the Spirit as if He were gone, instead of quitting all that grieves Him, and hinders the manifestation of His gracious action.
But, said the Lord, "I will not leave you orphans: I am coming to you." It is not here by His future advent, but by the gift of the Spirit.278 Thus would He comfort them in His own absence. "Yet a little, and the world beholdeth Me no more, but ye behold Me: because I live, ye also shall live." Nothing could be more opposed to their thoughts of, and expectations from, the Messiah of Israel seen by every eye, though in special nearness to His own people on earth. Now they were by the Holy Ghost to see Him Whom the world had rejected and lost, and should see no more save in judgment. And the saints should not behold Him only, but live of the selfsame life, having Christ living in them, as says the Apostle Paul (Eph. 3:17), or, as the Lord here, "Because I live, ye also shall live." Christ is their life, and this in resurrection-power, to which the future tense may point.
But there is more than life, blessed as it is, living because Christ lives, Himself their life, not as Son simply, but as risen and gone to heaven. The Spirit is power to see and know, in contrast with flesh and world. And here He is supposed to be given, known, abiding with them and in them. A most solemn thing is His power, where Christ is not the life: unspeakably blessed, where we live of His life.
"In that day ye shall know that I (am) in My Father, and ye in Me, and I in you" (verse 20). It is not here simply the glory of His Person, as in verses 10, 11. This was true, and an object of faith then. "Believest thou not," said the Lord to Philip, "that I (am) in the Father and the Father is in Me?" Words and works both attested it. "Believe Me," He said to all, "that I (am) in the Father and the Father* in Me." His being man in no way hindered or lowered His dignity, nor His essential oneness with the Father; and it was and is of all moment to believers unwaveringly to hold it and adoringly. The Son is God, even as the Father. But now more was to be, and to be known; impossible without His personal glory, but dependent on His work and the gift of the Spirit. This we have now, for that day is come. It is not the future glory, but present grace putting us in the closest vital association with Him Who has gone into heavenly glory, and yet is one with us here, as we with Him there, by the Spirit given that we might know it all.
* In the Elz. of 1624 and 1633, ἐστὶν, with the slenderest support; Steph. rejects it in his edd. of 1546, 1549, and 1550, as Beza in all his.
In this knowledge saints-true saints of God-are painfully dull, not merely to their privation in countless ways of the utmost moment, but to His dishonour Who cannot be duly served or worshipped now but in Spirit and in truth. The day of forms and shadows is closed; the true light now shines in Christ only, of Whom His saints are the responsible light-bearers as they hold forth the word of life. But there is more here, though all is bound up with Him. It is not Christ present in the world, and reigning over the land, or even all the earth. He is here the despised and rejected of men, but glorified on high. "In that day ye shall know that I (am) in My Father"-a relationship and sphere incomparably more glorious than the throne of His father David. It is not only heavenly, but also expressive of infinite nearness to the Father; and this gives its character to Christianity. All its blessedness turns on Who and what and where Christ is. Unbelief in saints, walking with the world and numbed by tradition, treats all as lifeless fact, not as truth which by the Spirit forms and guides the soul; unbelief in men learns fast to deny and deride even the fact. So much the more urgent call is there on those who believe by grace to walk on in the heavenly light; and the more so, as we know not only that He is in the Father, but that we are in Him and He in us, as the Lord proceeded to say in the words already cited.
There can scarce be conceived a more striking contrast in position and relationship than of Christ and His own as here described with the Messiah and His people, which those then present had gathered, not from the tradition of the elders, but from the ancient oracles of God. But God is sovereign, though ever wise and never arbitrary. All His ways are good and glorious, as they all turn on Christ His image and their centre, the prime object before Him for heaven and earth. On earth government was and will be the aim; for heaven grace reigns, first, however, suffering to His glory, yet morally and infinitely superior to evil, by-and-by supreme when evil is dealt with and disappears by Divine judgment. Between the humiliation of the cross and the coming again is the place of the Son as now known in the Father, as of us in Him and of Him in us.
No Old Testament saint knew or could speak thus; nor did an expectation of it ever dawn on a single heart of old. No millennial saint will ever know such a relationship of Christ or of those then on earth. It is wholly and necessarily a part of what God is now intermediately working for the glory of the Lord; and as faith beholds Him in such a height of Divine intimacy, so it owns the incomparable grace which has put us in Christ, and gives us to feel the grave responsibility of Christ in us. What can tell out our nearness more than such an identification of new life and nature, and this in power by the Spirit? Truly, "he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit"; (1 Cor. 6:17.) and the union is just so much more real and permanent than natural oneness, as the Spirit is mightier and closer and more abiding than the flesh. But if thus one with Him and in Him by the Spirit, He is in us by the same Spirit. There is thus alike the highest privilege and the strongest obligation; and we must beware of sundering what the Lord here joins together. If we have life in the Son, we need to remind our souls that Christ lives in us, and that we are to show out Him, not ourselves. Doubtless this demands true and deep and constant self-judgment, and the faith that always bears about in the body the dying of Jesus; and God helps us by trials of all sorts, that the life also of Jesus may be manifest in our mortal flesh. Thus only does Christian practice flow from Christian principle and privilege; and all is of Christ by the Holy Ghost in us. How comforting that our duty as Christians supposes our blessedness! How humbling that the gift of the Spirit makes our failure inexcusable!278a
But there is meanwhile, and especially connected with Christ being in us, not yet government of the earth by Christ reigning righteously and in power, but moral government of our souls in obedience, which assumes a twofold shape. "He that hath My commandments end keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me; but he that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him and will manifest myself to him" (verse 21). To the superficial mind of man it may seem strange that our Lord should speak of having His commandments, not only keeping them, as a proof of loving Him; but it is profoundly true. The wicked, the disobedient, the careless, do not understand, but the wise, even those whose wisdom ends not, though it begins, with the fear of the Lord. The single eye is full of light. The desire to do His will finds and knows what it is. Thus the loving heart has and keeps His commandments; and, loving Him, draws down His Father's love, Who honours the Son and will not be exalted at His expense. Obedience springing from love is thus the condition of the disciples, which ensures the love of Jesus and the manifestation of Himself to us here below.
Such a manifestation took the disciples by surprise; and one of them, Judas, carefully distinguished from the betrayer, could not but ask for explanation. "Judas, not the Iscariot, saith to Him, Lord, (and)* how is it that Thou wilt manifest Thyself to us, and not to the world? Jesus answered and said to him, If anyone love Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and makes our abode with him. He that loveth Me not keepeth not My words; and the word which ye hear is not Mine, but the Father's that sent Me" (verses 22-24). When Messiah manifests Himself to the world as He will when the world-kingdom of our Lord and of His Anointed is come, there will be a feigned obedience rendered by many kept in check by the display of His power and glory. Obedience now that He is absent must be more put to the proof, and is precious to Him as being real; and it should grow as being of life in the Spirit, as the knowledge of His will becomes better known. Compare Colossians 1:9, 10. Hence it deepens from His commandments to His word. his commandments were not grievous; His word is treasured because He Himself is loved. So it is the Lord counts it; and fuller manifestation is enjoyed of the Father and the Son, and more abidingly.
* καὶ GHKMQSUΓΑΠ, and many cursives; but ABDELX, etc., with almost all the other versions, omit.
† ποιεσόμεθα BLXΠ2, some cursives, and many fathers [W. and H., Blass]; instead of the Text. Rec. ποιήσομεν (or -ωμεν), as in most uncials and cursives and many fathers [Weiss]. D. [Syrsin], etc., strangely read ποιήσομαι, "I will make." The middle voice gives the force of "our" in the strongest way, which the Text. Rec. loses.
It will be noticed that in verse 23 it is "My word," not, as in the Authorised Version, "My words." He that loves the Lord will keep His word as one whole, because it is His; as He adds in verse 24, that he who loves Him not does not keep His words or sayings. It is not his habit or way to keep any of them in detail. Disobedience betrays absence of love for Jesus; and this is the more serious, because it is not simply the Son Who is in question, but the Father that sent Him, Whose word is slighted. There is nothing so characteristic of a saint now as obedience. It was so perfectly with our Lord Himself. He came to do the will of God; He did and suffered it to the uttermost. Thus only is God known growingly by His children, and most intimately, as the Lord here declares. We must know Him to do His will, which can only be through knowing Jesus Christ Whom He sent; but keeping His word (as the expression, not of His authority alone, though this is dear to us from the first, but of His will), we grow by the knowledge of God, and this indefinitely while here below, though ever in unsparing judgment of ourselves and in confiding dependence on Him. And how cheering to the heart the abiding sense of the presence of the Father and the Son with us as thus walking! Would that we knew it better! A manifestation is much, an abode is more.278b
The value of what directs the life, of which it was also the revealing means, cannot be exaggerated; and this we have seen in the commands and words of our Lord Jesus, by which He exercises the life He has given to the believer, as, indeed, He is their life. But now He adds fresh consolation and blessing in the relation borne by the Advocate or Paraclete (for so now the Spirit is not only characterised but called). "These things I have spoken to you, while abiding with you; but the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things which I said to you" (verses 25, 26).279 How blessed that the same Holy Spirit Who anointed and abode in Him, while ministering here below, was to teach the disciples all things, and to give them back all the words of Jesus! And so it was fulfilled, and more, as became a Divine Person Who deigned to serve in love, sent by the Father in the name of the Son. It is not here the Son requesting the Father and the Father giving, as in verse 16, but the Father sending in the name of the Son the One Who could and would teach all things, besides recalling all that Jesus said to them. Room is thus left, not only for His reviving in their memory all the injunctions of Christ, but also for His own unlimited teaching.
But there is more than doctrine. "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you, not as the world giveth give I to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" (verse 27). Throughout the Lord supposes His death. This was necessary to peace; His own peace goes farther still. It was the peace He enjoyed while here-a peace unruffled by circumstances, and in unbroken communion with His Father; a peace as far as possible from man's heart, in such a world as this, ignorant of the Father, and on all points at issue with Him. But it characterised the second Man Who gives it to us. In the faith of Him Who loves us perfectly and to the end, Who has accomplished all to God's glory and for us, we are entitled to it; and the Holy Ghost would have us enjoy it according to His word. He Who gives it gave it not away, and had it not the less because we were to receive it. Like all else that He gives, it is enjoyed unimpaired in its own Divine fulness, every one that shares rather adding to it than taking from it. The question is not merely of reality, but of its course and character. "Not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." Why, indeed, with His peace, should the heart be confounded or fearful?
But the Lord looks now for hearts purified by faith to delight in His glory. "Ye heard that I said to you, I go away, and come unto you; if ye loved Me, ye would have rejoiced that* I go unto the Father, because the* Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it come to pass, that when it is come to pass ye may believe" (verses 28, 29). Thus, whatever His essential and personal glory, He never forgets that He is man on earth. As such He goes away, and comes back to the disciples. As such He calls upon them to rejoice in His proceeding to the Father.280 It was no small thing that man in His Person should thus enter into glory; and there is almost as much unbelief in Christendom's taking it as a matter of course, utterly indifferent to its value, as in Jewish rejection of it as incredible, if not impossible. The Jew, as such, looked for man-that is, for himself-to be blessed in the highest degree by God on the earth; and so, doubtless, beyond his thought, it will be in the kingdom by-and-by. But the Lord would have the Christian rejoice in the second Man, gone up even now into the paradise of God, the sure pledge of our own following Him there when He comes back again for us. And therefore does He the more impressively call attention not to the fact only, but to His mention of it then before it came to pass, that when it did, they should believe. Himself in glory is the living object of faith, full of weighty and fruitful consequence for us. It is well to give His death the deepest value. Never can we lose sight of His profound humiliation in self-sacrificing love to glorify God and to bear our burden of sins and judgment, without incalculable loss to our souls; but we do well to have our eye fixed on Him "received up in glory," and ever to wait for Him as about to come and have us there with Himself in the Father's house.
* Text. Rec., following the later uncials and most cursives, adds εἶπον, "I said"; but the best give the text preferred. There is rather better authority for adding μου to ὁ Π. (="My F.").
"No longer shall I talk much with you, for the prince of the* world cometh, and hath nothing in Me. But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father commanded† Me, so I do. Arise, let us go hence" (verses 30, 31). The Lord thus intimates that He has not much more to talk with them. He had another task on hand; for the enemy was coming, characterised now as the prince of the world which had rejected the Son of God, proving thereby its opposition to the Father and its subjection to Satan; but, come when he might, he had no more in Christ at the end than at the beginning.281 Then he would gladly have enticed the Saviour out of the path of obedience by offering gratification; now he strives to fill Him in that path with fear and horror of the death which was before Him. It was in vain: "The cup which My Father giveth Me, shall I not drink it?" In us, naturally, there is everything which can afford a handle to Satan; in Christ he had nothing. So it could not but be because of the glory and unsullied perfectness of His Person, true God and unblemished Man; and so it must be for us, if we were to have eternal life in Him, and He to take away our sins, and all this in obedience and to the glory of God His Father. Therefore does He add, "but that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father commanded me, even so I do." It was indeed the Son's love to the uttermost; it was also unqualified obedience.
* ABDgrLXΓ, and seven more uncials, 150 Cursives, the Syriac, etc. omit τούτου, which appears in the Text. Rec. supported by a few cursives and the versions in general, etc.
† ἐνετείλατό μοι ADG, with ten other uncials and most cursives and versions [Weiss]; Lachmann, Treg., with W. and H. [and Blass], edit ἐντολὴν ἔδ (or δέδ.) μοι. after BLX, etc., with the It. and Vulg.
Here the Lord ends this part of His communications, and marks it by the closing words, "Arise, let us go hence."282
JOHN — THE FIFTEENTH CHAPTER*
* [Cf. "Introductory Lectures," pp. 519-543.]
The change of subject having been made thus apparent, the Lord now proceeds to set forth His mind for the disciples in one of the allegories peculiar to our Gospel. "I am the true vine, and My Father is the husbandman. Every branch in Me not bearing fruit, He taketh it away; and every one that beareth fruit, He cleanseth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Already ye are clean, because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you: as the branch cannot bear fruit from itself, unless it abide in the vine; so neither (can) ye, unless ye abide in Me" (verses 1-4).
Thus the Lord sets aside Israel as any source of fruit-bearing for God. Long since had the prophets denounced the nation as bearing wild grapes, as an empty vine, or as only fit for the burning. But the Lord brings to light Himself as the true and only stock acceptable unto God. This was an immense truth for Jews to learn. In Israel was all that they trusted for religion. There was the temple, there the priesthood, there the sacrifices, there the feasts; there every ordinance, public or private, great or small, instituted of God. Outside Israel were the heathen who knew not God. Now the Lord does not merely strip the veil from the elect people's hollow state, but make known the secret. He is the Vine-the true Vine. He is not merely a fruitful branch, where all others were unfruitful; He is Himself the true Vine. Thus we have the positive object before us, the one source of fruit-bearing.
"And My Father," He adds, "is the husbandman." But there is another truth needed, the revelation of His Father (not yet fully revealed as theirs, though soon to be in His resurrection), no longer of Jehovah as once in the vineyard of the nation, nor as the Almighty known to their fathers. As Father, He deals with the branches of the Vine, which is Christ Himself on earth, object of all the active and watchful interest of His Father Who looks for fruit. But it is not Himself alone; there are branches in Him. It is here their responsibility enters: for they are the Lord's disciples, once but Jews in their natural condition, henceforth called to bear fruit unto God.283
And what, then, are the terms laid down? "Every branch in Me not bearing fruit, He taketh it away; and every one that beareth fruit, He cleanseth it, that it may bring forth more fruit." Clearly it is the Father's government of those who bear the name of the Lord. The fruitless professor he removes; the fruitful one He cleanses, that more fruit may be borne. It is the Father judging according to every man's work. The disciples were primarily in view; but the principle, of course, applies to us, now that Israel is still more manifestly set aside. As the Apostle teaches us in Hebrews 12, He chastens us for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness. Here, if not taken away, we are cleansed in order to bear more fruit. It is a wholly different state of things from a Messiah reigning in power, and His people in nothing but prosperity, Satan shut up, and the desert rejoicing and blossoming as the rose. Doubtless, it is not union with Christ in heaven, nor even the privileges of grace generally in Him, but the call to make Him everything on earth in daily ways, if we would indeed bear fruit. He, not the law, is the rule of life, and the source of fruitfulness; nor is there any other for the Christian, not even the Spirit Who uses the word to glorify Christ, but Himself.284
The disciples had already proved the purging power of the word. "Already ye are clean because of the word which I have spoken to you."285 They had received it, and knew that He came from God, though they knew the Father imperfectly, if at all. Yet Christ's word had wrought in their souls; it had cleansed their ways, it had judged their worldly thoughts, it had laid bare their carnal desires: the effect was real in their consciences. Judas was now gone, so that the Lord does not need to say, "Ye are clean, but not all"; but, on the contrary, "Ye are clean already," even before the Holy Ghost was given as power from on high. The cleansing efficacy of the word is a cardinal truth of Scripture apt to be forgotten, not merely by the Romanist who trusts in ordinances, but by the Protestant who speaks exclusively of the Saviour's blood "that cleanseth from all sin." God forbid that a word should be said to obscure that blood, or to turn a soul from its justifying value. But out of the Lord's side flowed water and blood; and we need both. The blood atones, the water purifies; and as the blood abides shed and efficacious once for all, in contrast with the ineffectual and many sacrifices of the Jews, the washing of water by the word is not only applied at the first, but is needed to purge all through. Where this is not seen, confusion follows, and the enfeebling, if not destruction, of fundamental truth.
But here the Lord insists on more-the necessity and the importance of dependence on Him, of intimacy with Himself. This is to abide in Christ; and His word is, "Abide in Me, and I in you." It is not sovereign grace to the sinner, but His call to the disciple; and hence His abiding in us, as a matter of daily communion, depends on our abiding in Him. "As the branch cannot bear fruit from itself unless it abide in the vine, so neither (can) ye, unless ye abide in Me." Nothing simpler than the fact outwardly, nothing surer in our experience than that so it is inwardly. He, and He only, is the dwelling-place for the soul in this world of snare and danger, in this desert where no water is. Make Him the resource, make Him the object; and the sap, as it were, flows without hindrance, and fruit is borne. Without Him no teaching avails, and all religious excitement fails; bring Him in, confide in Him, and, no matter what the difficulty or the pain or the shame, no matter what the opposition or the detraction, He sustains the heart, and fruit-bearing follows.286 Apart from Him we can do nothing; with Him, all things. So said one who had learnt it well, "I have strength for all things in Him that giveth me power" (Phil. 4:13).
It seems scarcely needful to remark that the relation of head and body serves quite another purpose in Scripture, and must be kept wholly distinct. Heavenly grace forms that one body by the one Spirit united to the glorified Head; and therein we do not hear of rending, maiming, or cutting off. It is the church viewed as the object of Christ's unfailing love, till He present it to Himself in glory. Responsibility on earth under Divine government is another thing; and this, not the unfailing heavenly relationship of the Church, is taught by the Vine and its branches. Hence Calvinistic devices are as uncalled for as the Arminian assaults they are meant to avert. No one doubts that profession may fail. Life is eternal for all that; and in Christ there is nothing short of eternal life; but this is not the teaching of the Vine, any more than the unity of the body. It is a pity that learned commentators do not read with faith and care the Scriptures they essay to comment on.
The opening words had laid down the principle of Christ as the source of fruit, in contrast with Israel, and under the living watchful care of the Father. It was wholly distinct from government of the flesh by the law before Jehovah, as in the chosen nation to which all the branches belonged. Christ here displaces the odd associations. He had shown fruit to be so indispensable in the Father's eyes that not to bear it involves the removal of the branch, whilst that which bears fruit is cleansed in order to bear more. He had pronounced the disciples already clean by reason of His word, and had urged them to abide in Him, as He in them; and this because they could not bear fruit except they abode in Christ, any more than the branch itself except it abide in the vine.
Next, He sums up and applies this weighty truth of communion with Him, in its great positive elements, and in strong contradistinction from abandonment of Him. "I am the vine, ye are the branches. He that abideth in and I in him, he beareth much fruit; because apart from Me ye can do nothing" (verse 5). Nothing more precise. The Lord leaves no uncertainty in a matter so nearly affecting both Himself and them. As surely as He was the Vine, they were the branches. There is, and could be, no failure on His part. It is easy for us to fail in dependence, and to lack confidence in Him. To abide in Him supposes, not merely distrust of ourselves, but cleaving to Him, and counting on Him. Every influence around us is adverse to this; every natural feeling not less so. Faith working by love alone secures it, for self and the world are then alike judged in the light of God. It is not only that we need and cannot do without Him for the least things as truly as the greatest, but He attracts us by His positive excellency. If He is the one source of fruit agreeable to the Father, He cannot be slighted with impunity, least of all by those who confess Him. It is not the grace which gives eternal life in Him of which the Lord speaks, but throughout these verses the responsibility of the disciples. Hence, as we shall see presently, there is danger of ruin, no less than fruitlessness, where one does not abide in Him.
This, then, is the secret of fruit-bearing. It is not in saints any more than in self, but by abiding in Christ and Christ in us. Then there is more than promising blossom; fruit follows. Where He is intercepted from our view, or we look elsewhere, there is no such power: we manifest our nature, not Christ. Nor does the character of the circumstances affect the result: He is superior to all, spite of our weakness. Abiding in Christ, we may safely face the most hostile; and if traps be laid and provocation given, what matters it, if according to His word we are found abiding in Christ, and Christ abides in us, as He then does? For that the two are correlative He guarantees, and we know. Again, does fruit follow because we are with dear children of God? Alas! how often the very reverse is proved, and the levity, if not the bitterness, in the heart comes out so much the more because we are saints not abiding in Christ. For gossip about saints to saints is even more painful than among the sons of this age, not a few of whom seem above it, though on grounds of nature-of course, not of Christ. Trials, again, cannot shake off spiritual fruit, nor blighting influences enter, if we abide in Christ and Christ in us; but the greater the pressure, the more fruit where we thus abide. And the heart feels that so it should be, as it is. For, as ordinances fail, and law is the strength of sin (not of holiness, flesh being what it is), Christ here, as everywhere, has the glory by faith and to faith; " because apart from Me ye can do nothing."
On the other hand, the peril is proportionately greater. "If one abide* not in Me, he is cast out287 as the branch, and is dried up: and they gather it,† and cast (it) into the fire, and it burneth" (verse 6). Christ being the sore' source of fruit, to abandon Him is fatal; and so much the worse, if so at the last, when He should be the more precious, as the worthlessness of all else is learnt practically, and His excellency better known to faith. So it was with Judas, so in general with those not born of God who essay to follow Jesus. Not only their lusts, but His words, may give the occasion, as we see in John 6. It is vain and mischievous to distinguish between the person and the work, as theologians and others do who reason on either side of the equation of truth. The Calvinist fears to compromise his doctrines of grace; the Arminian is anxious to push his advantage on the side of falling away. Hence the former is apt to evade the solemn warning of personal ruin and final judgment conveyed here, as the latter argues that the passage implies that a saved soul may be lost after all. They both confound the figure of the Vine with the body in Ephesians 2-4, and hence are alike wrong, and of course unable to expound these Scriptures satisfactorily, so as to hold all the truth without sacrificing one part to another.
* μένη pmABD [W. and H., Weiss], μείνῃ, the mass [Blass].
† αὐτὸ DLXΔΠ, many cursives, and some ancient versions [as Syrsin]; αὐτὰ ("them") the great majority, the Alex. and Vat. among them [Edd.].
The error comes out plainly in the Anglican Baptismal Service: "Seeing now that this child is regenerated, and grafted into the body of Christ's Church." To be grafted into the olive of Rom. 11 is equivalent, in this teaching, to being made a member of Christ's body; and the results of such confusion are ever favourable to the adversaries of the truth. The answer is that the Body is the expression of unity by the Holy Ghost; the Vine insists on communion as the condition of bearing fruit. In no case do such trees necessarily imply life, but the possession of privilege, as the olive, and the responsibility of bearing fruit, as the vine. To leave Christ, therefore, is utter ruin, not only to be fruitless, but to burn. It is not merely suffering loss as in 1 Cor. 3:15, but to be manifestly lost, as in 1 Cor. 9:27. Thus each Scripture renders its own testimony, and has its own value, while none can be broken, though men may stumble at the word, being disobedient, as another Apostle warns.288
But now, from the sad case of the man that quits Him, the Lord returns to the disciples, and with Divine simplicity and fulness gives the way of blessing and abundant fruit. "If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask (or ye shall ask)* what ye will, and it shall come to pass for you. In this is (lit. "was")† My Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit, and (ye shall) become‡ My disciples" (verses 7, 8). Thus is each thing put in its place. The first need for the Christian is to abide in Christ; the next, to have Christ's words abiding in Him; then he is emboldened to ask with the assurance that the resources of Divine power erect accordingly. For thus Christ Himself has the first place, and the saint is kept in dependence as well as confidence. Then His words direct as well as correct; and we need and have both, though doubtless in so abiding direction would here be the characteristic, rather than that holy correction which we deeply want in our walk through this unclean and slippery world. If so led, prayer is encouraged to expect the surest answer, for the heart is in fellowship with Him Who prompts the desire, in order to accomplish it in His love and faithfulness. Further, in this is the Father glorified, that we bear much fruit, and become disciples of His. What enlargement of heart that so it should be in the midst of what, apart from Him, would be but a grief and worry to the saint, if not worse! With Christ all is changed, and even the most distracting cares turn to fruit; so that to live in flesh, instead of being with Him in glory, becomes worth the while, but only when to live is Christ. Thus was His Father glorified even now, and we became Christ's disciples in deed and in truth.289
* αἰτήσασθε (-θαι ADΓ, etc.) ABDLMXΓ, many cursives, and the oldest versions; αἰτήσεσθε Text. Rec., with and most MSS.
† [See appended note on 13:31.]
‡ γένησθε BDLMX, etc. [Treg., W. and H., Blass]; and the rest support the future [Weiss, after Tisch.].
Another element of incalculable value in the disciple's path is the consciousness of the Saviour's love. This is next set before them. "As the Father loved Me, I also loved you: abide in My love. If ye keep My commandments, ye shall abide in My love; even as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. These things have I spoken to you, that My joy may be* in you, and your joy may be fulfilled" (verses 9-11).
* ἦ ABD, many cursives, It. Vulg. Goth., the Syrr. Arm. and Aeth. [Edd.]; μείνῃ Text. Rec., L and twelve uncials more, most cursives, but scarcely any ancient version, unless the Georgian.
We must bear in mind that the subject is fruit-bearing during the disciple's passage through this world. It is not eternal purpose, nor is it that love in relationship which secures unfailingly from first to last, but Christ's love toward each in His path of daily walk and trial. He knew what this was on His Father's part to Himself as man, though never ceasing to be Son here below. Such was His own love to the disciples; and now He calls on them to abide in it, not in Him only, but, what is more, in His love; an immense and unfailing spring of comfort in the necessarily painful and otherwise disappointing current of earthly circumstances so strongly opposed to them for His sake. "Give wine," says the Book of Proverbs, "unto those that be of heavy hearts." (Prov. 31:6.) But His love is better than wine, cheering and strengthening without fleshly excitement. There is thus not only dependence on Him, but that confidence in Him which His love is meant to inspire.290
But there is more that follows, even obedience. "If ye keep My commandments, ye shall abide in My love; even as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love." It is manifest that we have nothing here to do with the sovereign mercy of God which goes out to the lost and reconciles enemies by the death of His Son. For as by the disobedience of the one man (Adam) the many were constituted sinners, so also by the obedience of the one (Christ) shall the many be constituted righteous. Grace in Christ surmounts every hindrance, and reigns righteously above all evil, whether of the individual or of the race. Here not the sinner's ruin or deliverance, but the disciple's path, is in question; and his obedience is the condition of abiding in his Master's love. He Who in all things has and must have the pre-eminence trod the same path and accepted the same condition as man here below; though He counted it no robbery to be on equality with God, He became obedient, and this to the lowest point, for the glory of God the Father. He in unwavering perfection did the will of Him that sent Him, and enjoyed its fruit in a like perfection; we follow Him, though with unequal steps; and assuredly he that says he abides in Him ought himself also so to walk even as He walked. And obedience is the way. None other morally befits us; as this but verifies our love to Him and sense of relationship to God. Nothing is so lowly, nothing so firm, as obedience. It delivers from self-assertion on the one hand, and on the other from subjection to the opinions or traditions of men. It brings us face to face with God's word, and tests our desire to please Him in the midst of present ease, honour, lust, or passion. Here, too, it is a question of keeping Christ's commandments, as that which secures His love, as in John 14 we saw that it proved their love to Him.
The last motive the Lord brings to bear on the disciples as to this is contained in the next verse. "These things have I spoken to you that My joy may be in you, and your joy may be fulfilled." Nor is there a better criterion of our state, and, consequently, of our failure or success in entering into His mind. For if we take up the words of this chapter legally, scarce any words in the Bible are surer to plunge an upright soul into sorrow and depression; but if we understand them as He intended, they are expressly given to impart His joy to us and make our joy full. His joy when here was in pleasing His Father; to obey His commandments was not burdensome. This joy of His, unbroken in His path, He would now make ours.
What a contrast with the unfruitful groaning of a soul under law, even though quickened, as in the close of Rom. 7! What a mercy, if we have tasted such bitterness, now to know our joy in obedience fulfilled! The latter part of Rom. 7 is a wholesome process for us to pass through, but a miserable ground of standing: for this God never intended it. Romans 8 shows us the Christian delivered, holy, and abounding in good fruit. Can we be on both grounds at the same time? Only he would assert this who is not yet set free. Look to it, theologians; and you who believe them, and taste not Christ's joy.
This is clearly His desire concerning us. Those who ignore or deny it would deprive us of His joy, as no doubt they lack it themselves. Nor need we wonder; for as philosophy never can conceive Divine love, so theology, pandering as it does to human science, ever misses the Saviour's joy, seeking pleasure and applause in the schools of the world, which knows the Father no more now than of old. "O righteous Father," said He a little later, "the world knew Thee not; but I knew Thee, and these (the disciples) knew that Thou didst send Me; and I made known to them Thy name, and will make it known; that the love wherewith Thou didst love Me may be in them, and I in them."
What ineffable goodness! Does not every thought, feeling, word, prove itself Divine? Settled peace is a great thing as the soul's foundation, never to be moved, and God would have us know it simply and immutably; but we must not forget the joy of obedience and the favour of the Lord as a present thing in our daily ways. This has been too much overlooked by the children of God, and scarcely more through the slipshod laxity of evangelicalism than by the morose hardness of the legalists, ignorant alike of the full ground of grace, and of the true character of God's government which is bound up with it as a present thing.
The Lord now specifies one special character of fruit, ever precious, but here in the disciples' relation one to another, as before we had the relation of Christ and the Father to them.
"This is My commandment, That ye love one another, as I loved you. Greater love no one hath than this, that one* lay down his life for his friends. Ye are My friends if ye do what (ever)† I command you. No longer do I call you bondmen, for the bondman knoweth not what his lord doeth; but you I have called friends, because all things which I heard from My Father I made known to you. Not ye chose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you that ye should go and bear fruit, and your fruit abide; that whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My name, He may give you. These things I command you, that ye love one another" (verses 12-17).
* pmDpm, etc, omit τις, contrary to the rest.
† ἃ HDLX, some cursives, and versions, etc. ὅ B. etc. ὅσα the mass as also Text. Rec.
Love is emphatically the Lord's injunction on His disciples, the love of each other. It is not the general moral duty of loving one's neighbour, but the mutual love of Christians, of which His own love to them is the standard. The nature of the case excludes the love of God which went out to them in their guilt, enmity, and weakness, when objects of sovereign grace. They were now born of God and hence love; for love, as it is of God Who is love, is the energy of the new nature. Hence, whatever else the Lord may enjoin, this is His commandment: He loved them, and would have them love one another accordingly. So Paul tells the Thessalonians that he needed not to write about it to them, for, young as they were in Divine things, they were taught of God to love one another. (1 Thess. 4:9.) This, too, was the more excellent way he would show the Corinthian saints, preoccupied to their hurt with power rather than love, at best the display of the Lord's victory in His creation over Satan rather than the inward energy which enjoys His grace toward our own souls or others to God's glory. (1 Cor. 13.) On the Roman saints, again, love is repeatedly urged, as that which should be unfeigned, and also which, wherever it is, has fulfilled the law practically without thinking of it. (Rom. 12:9; Rom. 13:10.) It is needless to go over all the Epistles where the Holy Spirit unfolds its immense place and power.
But every believer acquainted with the New Testament will remember how large a part it fills in the First Epistle of our Evangelist. Not that love is God, but God is love as He is light; and he that loves is born of Him and knows Him. For men as then made knowledge all, as before some made power; but it is a question of life in the Son of God, and the Holy Ghost works in that life by virtue of redemption, and those who have life, as they walk in the light, so also walk in love. And even as to knowledge, there is none true save in Him that is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life: every object outside Him is an idol, from which we have to keep ourselves, be it knowledge, power, position, love, truth, or anything or anyone else. For whoever denies the Son has not the Father; he who confesses the Son has the Father also. And as the Father has bestowed on us love beyond all measure, giving us even now to be children of God, so loving the brethren marks those who have passed from death unto life. The old commandment is the word of Christ that we should love one another, but it is also a new commandment as being true in Him and in us. If Christ lives in me, I live by faith of the Son of God Who loved me and gave Himself for me: and this life is characterised not only by obedience, but by love according to its source.
And so here. The Lord had laid it down as a new and distinguishing commandment He was giving them in John 13. Here He repeats love to one another according to the pattern of His love to them. How pure and unbounded it was! Do we believe this as His will about us? Do we love as if we believed Him and appreciated His love? Can anything be more hollow, or dangerous, or nauseous than the highest words with low and inconsistent ways? "Gnosticism" ate out the heart of early Christendom, where it fell not into superstition and formality, ever growing more dark and cold; and the same spirit is yet more destructive now, because it has more abundant materials, and hardens itself in unbelief even to "Agnosticism." Loving one another, not merely those who think alike, least of all those who think alike on some comparatively small and external point, but loving those who are Christ's, spite of ten thousand things trying to our nature, is of all moment along with the truth, and guarded as it is here, loving one another as He loved us. He delights in love up to death.
Greater love none has than to lay down his life for his friends. The love of God in Jesus went infinitely beyond this; but then necessarily it stands alone, and it is meet that it should. We ought to lay down our lives for the brethren, as we are taught elsewhere. But where is the worth of such a theory if we fail in everyday going out of heart to common wants and sufferings of God's children (1 John 3:17, 18)? The Lord at once binds love up with obedience, without which it is but self-pleasing, not having Him in it or before the soul. "Ye are My friends if ye do what (ever) I command you." It is not reconciling enemies He speaks of, but why He calls us His friends. Obedience is the character and condition. Nor does He here indicate how He stood as our friend when we were enemies, but He calls us His friends if we practise what He enjoins on His disciples.291
Is this all? Far from it. He treats us as friends according to His perfect love, for He lets us into His secrets, instead of merely pressing our duty. "No longer do I call you bondmen, for the bondman knoweth not what his Lord doeth; but you I have called friends, because all things whatsoever I heard from my Father I made known to you." He who of old was called "the friend of God" enjoyed this intimacy with his Almighty protector in the midst of the doomed races he lived amongst, a separated and circumcised pilgrim; and so it is with His own now that the Lord deals in still more lavish grace; for what did He keep back? In another sense it is our boast to be His bondmen, as one said who was pre-eminently separated to the Gospel of God. But none the less-indeed, very much more truly-do we enter in, and value and act on the free communication of His love if we are habitually obedient, as we may see in Joseph of old or in Daniel later. It ought to be, it is in principle, the cherished privilege of the Church thus to know His mind, and by it to interpret the tangled web of human life or even the world's changing fortunes; but practically we must be exercised and constant in obedience if the privilege is to be a living reality and not a bare title. Christendom has given it up, counting it nothing but presumption, and content to walk by sight, not by faith, in denial of its privilege.
But God is faithful, and there are those who, walking obedient to His word, enter into what He has made known, and find the blessing. Doubtless the responsibility is great no less than the privilege; and therefore do His own need to be cheered with the grace that underlies all. Hence it is that He adds, "Not ye chose Me, but I chose you, and appointed (or set) you that ye should go and bear fruit, and your fruit abide; that whatever ye may ask the Father in My name, He may give you. These things I command, that ye love one another."
Blessing ever comes from the Lord Jesus and the grace that is in Him. Obedience follows, and ought to follow, such unmerited favour, as in obedience there is surely fresh blessing. But the heart needs to turn from our obedience or its blessing to the Blesser, if it would escape fresh dangers and positive evil; the spring of power is never known save in Him, and the grace that sought and found, saves and blesses. Hence it was of the greatest moment, in pressing the Divine government of the saints, that they should ever remember Him and His sovereign will, as the source of all that distinguished them. Not they chose Christ, but He chose them. Nor was it only to know and follow their Master. He appointed,* or set, them that they should go and bear fruit, and their fruit should abide. Though Apostles, they were His friends to obey Him all the more.
* "Ordained" suggests another line of things foreign to the passage and connection. In Acts 1:22 the same word, as is commonly known, is foisted into the Authorised Version, for it has no counterpart implied in the Greek.
Thus, while responsibility is maintained intact, grace is shown to be the fountain of all that is looked for and made good; and, further, the connection of both with dependence on the Father, Who alone brings to a successful issue whatever they should have asked in the name of Jesus. The deeper and higher the blessing, the more need of prayer; but then the character and confidence of prayer should rise with the sense of grace in Christ, and the Father's unwavering purpose to put honour on His name in which they draw near with their petitions. His name by faith in it can make the weakest strong, and the Father is thus glorified in the Son Who glorifies Him. Distrust or negligence is equally precluded.
It is hardly necessary to say many words in disproof of Calvin's exposition, and of others, who make this a question of choosing and ordaining to the apostolate, and, consequently, who take the fruit abiding to mean that the Church will last to the very end of the world as the fruit of the Apostolic labour continued also in their successors. The love enjoined here is, accordingly, restricted to mutual affection among ministers. Undoubtedly a free and unsuspicious flow of loving confidence is essential to a good state, and among those who labour especially, as the lack of it here is most deplorable; but the Lord does not limit His words to the Apostles, or even to such as follow them in the public service of His name.
To love one another, then, is the new and repeated commandment of Christ to His own. To love is the positive and proper and constant exercise of the new nature, as acted on by the Spirit's ministration of Christ, not always brotherly kindness in exercise, but love never failing. But this very affection, strange here below, exposes those in whom it is found to the direct counterworking of Satan-a murderer and liar from the beginning. Conscious that unselfishness in affection according to God is an impossibility to Nature, men regard any evidence of it as mere hypocrisy, to be scorned and detested in the Christian. For how could he be different from others?
"If the world hateth you, know (or, ye know) that Me it hath hated before you. If ye were of the world, the world would love (ἐφ.) its own; but because ye are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, on this account doth the world hate you. Call to mind the word which I told you, A bondman is not greater than his lord. If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you also; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also; but all these things they will do unto you on account of My name, because they know not Him that sent Me" (verses 18-21).
To be Christ's is enough to rouse the world's rancour. Circumstances may be needed to call it forth, but there it is. The world hates those who, being His, are no longer of the world. But the Lord would have us know that, not more surely does it hate us, than it had hated Himself before us. Is it not sweet and consoling to us that so it is, however awful in itself, to have such a conviction of the world? For it hates us because of Him, not Him because of us. It is not our faults, therefore, which are the true cause, but His grace and moral excellence, His Divine nature and glory; it is the world's repugnance and enmity to what is of God, and to Him Who is God. The world hates the Father shown in the Son; hence it hates the children who were the Father's and then were given to the Son. Christ was hated first, they next, and for His sake.
Not that the world does not love in its own way those who are of it, in most pointed contrast with the grace that goes out to the stranger and the wretched and the lost, to such as have wronged and have despitefully treated us. But grace is of all things most offensive to the world, which can love Nature in its fallen state. Even righteousness, with its necessary condemnation of the sinner, is not so repugnant as the grace which can rise above the sins it condemns in compassion toward the sinner to save him by and in Christ; and this because it treats man as nothing, giving the entire glory to God: indignity intolerable to the flesh, the mind of which is enmity against God. Hence the world's hatred and rejection of Christ, Who had revealed God perfectly, and perfectly glorified Him in all His nature and ways. Hence, also, the world's hatred of us who confess Christ, not only because we are not of the world, but as chosen out of it by Christ, which implies its utter worthlessness and condemnation. Divine love is as odious as Divine light.
The Lord then recalls to their mind His word that no bondman is greater than his lord. They must rather expect His position, Who was despised and rejected of men. They themselves and their teaching would be equally odious for His sake. If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you also; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. His Person and His word brought God too near their souls, which drew back, unwilling either to own their sins or to be debtors to nothing but grace for pardon and deliverance. But this aversion assumes a stronger form where religion is honoured and men have a character to lose; and as these things were true in the highest measure among the Jews, they broke out to the last degree in resentment which claimed to persecute, as a duty to God, the Master first, and then the disciples. And here the Lord graciously forewarned them that no sorrow might befall them unawares.
But He does more. He gives His own the comfort of knowing in such hours, it might be of bitter woe, as beforehand also, that all the contempt and suffering they might endure from the world was for His sake, because of the world's ignorance of Him that sent Himself, ignorance of the Father. How profoundly true! Impossible that a professing religion could persecute if it really knew Him that sent Christ.
There might be discipline according to His word; and there must be in that which bears the name of the Lord: else the very grace it knows would tend to sink it below the world's level if there were not vigilant, constant, and holy discipline. But discipline is never holy, but worldly, when it takes the shape of persecution. What can one think, then, when that which arrogates the loftiest name invoked the civil arm to enforce the punishment of men's bodies for the pretended good of their souls? What, when it sought and found means to inaugurate ecclesiastical tribunals with torments up to the bitter end in congenial secrecy with an unrelenting cruelty which never had a match even in this dark world? Truly it was the self-same spirit of worldly hatred which first animated the Jews against the Lord and His disciples, and later wrought in the world-church, when it exchanged its pagan for its papal garb, and baptism was more easily adopted than circumcision "But all these things they will do unto you on account of My name, because they know not Him that sent me."
No! forms avail not: God will have reality, and never more plainly and stringently than since Christ and His cross, which proved the vanity of religious man and of a worldly sanctuary. Christianity came into being and manifestation when it was demonstrated that man in his best estate was not only worthless before God, but would not have God at any price, even in the Person and mission of His own Son come in grace. "O righteous Father, the world did not know Thee." Yet is there no life eternal for man save in the knowledge of the only true God, the Father, and of Jesus Christ Whom He sent. The world is lost, and nowhere more evidently and guiltily than when, in religious pride, it hates Christ and those who are His.
The presence and testimony of the Son of God had the gravest possible results. It was not only an infinite blessing in itself, and for God's glory, but it left men, and Israel especially, reprobate. Law had proved man's weakness and sin, as it put under curse all who took their stand on the legal principle. There was none righteous, none that sought after God, none that did good, no, not one. The heathen were manifestly wicked, the Jews proved so by the incontestable sentence of the law. Thus every mouth was stopped, and all the world obnoxious to God's judgment. But the presence of Christ brought out, not merely failure to meet obligation as under law, but hatred of Divine goodness come down to man in perfect grace. God was in Christ, as the Apostle says, reconciling the world to Himself, not reckoning to them their offences. How immense the change! How worthy of God when revealed in His Son, as Man amongst men! But they could not endure His words and His works, and this increasingly, till the cross demonstrated that it was absolute rejection of God's love without bounds. It is not here the place or time, as with the Apostle Paul, to show how Divine love rose in complete victory over man's evil and hatred as attested in the ministry of reconciliation which is founded on the cross. (2 Cor. 5:19.) Here the Lord is affirming the solemn position and state of the world in antagonism to the disciples, after preparing them for persecution: from its hating them as Him, and its ignorance of Him Who sent their Master.
"If I had not come and spoken to them, they had not had sin;292 but now they have no excuse for their sin. He that hateth Me hateth My Father also" (verses 22, 23). Sin before or otherwise was swallowed up in this surpassing sin of rejecting the Son come in love, and speaking not merely as man never spoke, but as God never spoke; for by whom should He speak as in a Son? It was meet that He Who is the image of the invisible God, the Only-begotten in the bosom of the Father, should speak above all, as He is above all, God blessed for ever. Servants had been sent, prophets had spoken; and their messages had Divine authority; but they were partial. The law had made nothing perfect. Now He Who had thus spoken of old πολυμερῶς καὶ πολυτρόπως (in many measures and in many manners) spoke to us ἐν υἱῶ (in a Son). (Heb. 1:16.) He was their Messiah, the Son of David, born where and when they expected, attested not only by the signs and vouchers of prophecy, but by the powers of the world to come; but He was more, infinitely more; He was the Son of God, unapproachable in His own glory, yet here on earth the most accessible of men, giving out the words of the Father, as none had ever spoken since the world began. There never had been an adequate object on earth to draw out such communications; now there was in both dignity of person, intimacy of relationship, and moral perfection as man. And the disciples were reaping the benefit; as the Jews, the world, which had Him before their eyes and ears, had the responsibility. Flaws, failure, there had been in all others who had spoken for and from God (though not in the inspired Scripture), so as to weaken the effect of their testimony where men thought of men and forgot the God Who sent them.
But now the Father had sent the Son, Who had come and spoken not in law, but in love, the true Light shining in a world of darkness which apprehended it not, and sin appeared as never before. What pretext could be pleaded now? It was no question of man or his weakness; no requirement of his duty as measured by the ten words, or any statutes or judgments whatsoever. There was the Son, the Word become flesh dwelling among men, full of grace and truth, in divine love that rose above every fault and all evil, to give what is of God for eternity, only met by increasing hatred till it could go no farther. Their ignorance of Him Who sent Christ was no doubt at the bottom of their hating Him, but it was inexcusable. For He was God as well as Son of the Father, and so perfectly able to present the truth and render man thoroughly and evidently guilty if he bowed not. What then did their not bowing prove but sin, without excuse for it, and hatred of the Father also in hating the Son?
And there was this further aggravation of their sin, the works that He had wrought. For some men are affected powerfully by suited words, others yet more deeply by works which express not power only, but goodness, holiness and love. Here they had in perfect harmony and mutual confirmation such words and works as never were save in Jesus the Son of God. But what was the effect? "If I did not among them the works which no other did, they had not had sin; but now have they both seen and hated both Me and My Father. But (it is) that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause" (verses 24, 25). (Ps. 69:4.)
Such was man's gratuitousness in presence of Divine grace. Full manifestation of grace can have no other issue. The mind of the flesh enmity against God. Not only is there insubjection to His law, but hatred of His love; and this was proved now. Anything short of Jesus thus present, speaking and working among men as He did, would have fallen short of the demonstration. The testimony was complete; the One Who is the sum and substance, the subject and object of all Divine testimony, was there; and they had seen Him, as well as the Father in Him; and they had hated both! They, the people of God once, had nothing but sin-they were lost. So they were then, and so they abide still, whatever grace may do another day to save the generation to come. But hatred of the Father and the Son is in itself irreparable, complete, and final.
Nor did the law in which they boasted to the rejection of their Messiah speak otherwise; on the contrary, it was fulfilled in the word there written of Him, long suspended over them, now applied by His own lips to His own Person, They hated Me for nothing-gratuitously. How true and how solemn! "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem!" O Israel, what have you not lost in the rejected Messiah, in the Father and the Son alike seen and hated? And what have not we gained, once poor sinners of the Gentiles? Life eternal in the knowledge of a God no longer dwelling in thick darkness, but fully revealed in Christ, and in the utmost nearness to the believer, His Father and our Father, His God and our God. Truly Israel's fall has proved the world's wealth, and their loss the true wealth of nations. But the nations so blessed boast and are high-minded, and will be spared no more than the Jews, who, no longer abiding in unbelief, shall be grafted in again, and so all Israel shall be saved. (Rom. 11:26.) Meanwhile they have lost their Messiah to their ruin, and their sin cannot be hid.
Thus had the Lord prepared His own for the world's hatred, not only because He had known it before them, but because it had fallen on Him with an intensity and groundlessness beyond all experience. As even their law had forewarned of it, they were the more inexcusable. But nothing is so blind as unbelief, nor so cruel as its will irritated by the light of God, which treats it as sin, and sin refusing God in sovereign grace, the Father and the Son. For they that dwell at Jerusalem and their rulers, as Paul could say elsewhere, because they knew Him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every Sabbath Day, they have fulfilled them in condemning Him. Therefore came the wrath on them to the utmost.
It might seem, then, all must be swept away by the murderous rancour of man, and especially religious man. But not so. It is not that the Lord was not to die as well as suffer; nor that His feeble followers should escape the lot of their Master, as far as God was pleased to let them taste it; but that He was about to leave the world for glory on high, and to send down the Holy Ghost thence, as a new, Divine, and heavenly witness here below.
"(But)* when the Paraclete shall have come, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of Truth who proceedeth out from (παρὰ) the Father,293 He shall testify concerning Me; and ye too testify, because ye are with me from (the) beginning" (verses 26, 27).
* BΔ and some other good authorities omit the copula, which the great mass support.
Here the Holy Spirit is viewed as sent by the ascended Christ from the Father, and consequently as witness of His heavenly glory. This is an advance on what we saw in the preceding chapter, where Christ asks and the Father gives the Paraclete to be with them for ever, sending Him in the Son's name. Here the Son Himself sends, though of course from the Father. The Spirit of Truth is thus the suited testifier of Christ as He is above; the disciples also testify, as His companions and so chosen from the beginning. For the first time it is said, "When the Paraclete is come," not merely given or sent. He is a Divine Person in the fullest sense, not only to abide, teach, and recall to remembrance, but to testify concerning Christ, and that which the chosen companions, the Apostles, of the Lord could not testify. For they as such could not go beyond what they had seen and heard-at any rate, what fell within the range of their being with Him from the beginning. The Spirit of Truth which proceeds out from the Father would not merely strengthen them to do perfectly that task, but add quite another testimony of hitherto unknown blessedness, as sent by Christ personally from the Father.
Thus is clearly defined the position of the disciples, henceforward in due time called Christians: not of the world, but chosen by Christ out of it, commanded to love one another as loved of Christ, and hated of the world, with the Paraclete the Spirit of Truth sent by Christ to testify of Him, of Whom they too were bearing witness as being with Him from the beginning. Who so competent to tell of Christ's glory with the Father as the Spirit proceeding forth from the Father, and sent by the exalted Christ? Thus was secured full testimony to His glory morally on earth by the disciples (though not without the Spirit's power already assured), and actually in heaven as the glorified Man by the One Who in every way could make it best known.
It is evident that those who personally followed the Lord had a special place in the testimony to His manifestation on earth; and this testimony we have in the Gospels as fully as God saw fit to preserve it permanently for all saints. So the Holy Ghost's testimony to His heavenly glory was pre-eminently presented in the inspired Epistles of Paul for like permanent use, though doubtless in no way limited to him or them.
And assuredly in principle the place of testimony abides for those who are Christ's, whatever the change of circumstances, and, alas! of state. As certainly as Christ abides on high and the Holy Ghost is come, never to leave us, it is not only that we know by faith the Son's relationship to the Father, and our blessedness by virtue of it, and in Him Who is in the Father as He is in us, but we have all the profit of His place as the True Vine on earth, as we know Him gone on high exalted as man, a quite new thing. And as we have the joy of His relationship to the Father and to us, we are called to bear witness to Him in every way. Wonderful comfort in our weakness! He, the Spirit of Truth, was to testify of Jesus, and especially of Jesus where none could be with Him, none but the Paraclete Himself competent. It was not necessary to repeat here or later that He abides: this had been said at first in relation to us (John 14), where His guaranteed presence with us was most graciously named, lest we might feel orphans indeed. But if we have the comfortable pledge of His being with us for ever, it is without doubt not less but more for testifying of Christ's glory than for our consolation. Of this, however, we shall hear more in what is to follow, where the Lord renews the subject most fully.
JOHN — THE SIXTEENTH CHAPTER*
* [Cf. "Introductory Lectures," pp. 543-556.]
The Lord proceeds to explain why He had now and not before spoken of the things which were then occupying His heart and being made known to the disciples.
"These things I have spoken to you that ye should not be stumbled. They will put you out of the synagogue; nay, an hour is coming that every one who hath killed you will think that he is offering service to God. And these things will they do to you* because they knew not the Father nor Me. But I have said these things to you, that when the (or, their)† hour shall have come, ye may remember them that I told you; but these things I told you not from (the) beginning, because I was with you. But now I go (ὑπάγω) unto Him that sent Me, and none of you asketh Me, Whither goest Thou? But because I have said these things to you, sorrow hath filled your heart" (verses 1-6).
* Text. Rec. ὑμῖν, "to you," with DL, etc., a few cursives [33 in the form προς ὑμᾶς (cf. John 15:21)] and versions, but the mass of manuscripts and oldest versions omit.
† αὐτῶν, "their," ABΠpm, etc., but the great majority [including DΓ] reject.
Many were to be stumbled among the Jews who looked for anything but sorrow, shame, and groundless hatred to be the portion of those who follow the Messiah. But the Lord graciously considers His own; and while He uses trial for the blessing of the strong, He would shield and strengthen the weak, both by warning them of the world's undying ill-will and of the Holy Ghost's coming to add His testimony to theirs in the face of the persecution of the servants as of their Master. How precious what He has thus spoken!
Two forms should be taken to get rid of Christians and their testimony: one in common when men affect the utmost zeal for Divine authority and holiness; the other open to individuals even to the extreme point of death to extinguish malefactors not fit to live. "They will put you out of the synagogue; nay, an hour cometh that every one that hath killed you will think that he is offering service to God." Impossible to conceive rancour more deadly, yet sanctioned by all, than that anyone who liked might take on himself (though not without the seal and law of authority) to kill a follower of Christ, not only with impunity, but claiming therein to do a religious service to God.294 Saul of Tarsus furnishes a notable example of this till sovereign grace chose him to bear the Lord's name before all and to suffer great things for His sake.
Doubtless there is a disposition in men generally to fight for their religion, whatever it be. But a special reason gives intensity to the world's, and in particular to the Jews', enmity to Christians. Any measure of truth possessed is to the flesh the most powerful motive for disliking and resenting that which claims fuller light; and Christianity cannot but confess the truth in all its fulness in Christ by the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. He who confesses the Son has the Father also; as he is the antichrist who denies both (1 John 2:23). And this is what the proud unbelief of Judaism ever tends to when confronted with the testimony of Christ. They set their partial and preparatory knowledge against that complete revelation which could not be till He came Who shows the Father, and accomplished everlasting redemption. How blessed for the babes of God's family that, if what they heard from the beginning abides in them, they too shall abide in the Son and in the Father!
And as it was with the Jew, so it is with every ecclesiastical system of Christendom itself, which in order to embrace the greatest possible number contents itself with the least and lowest confession, and hence is exposed to the snare of the devil in setting itself against all that go beyond the Christian alphabet. So even the Reformed bodies settled themselves on what their founders learnt on emerging from Popery, and oppose as innovation all that working of the Spirit which recalls to the fulness of Christ in the written word that was long before either the Reformation or Popery. They, too, persecuted when they had any confidence in their own confessions; till of late they have become so honeycombed with the indifference or the activity of scepticism that they care too little for anything to persecute anybody.294a But where there is a real holding fast of such a measure of traditional truth as arrogates the name of orthodoxy, there is always a jealousy of the action of the Spirit which insists on Christ more richly known with fresh power to men's hearts, and, consequently, claiming exercise of faith.
So the Jew set the unity of the Godhead to deny the Father and the Son and the Spirit; so men now resist the truth of the one body and one Spirit, devoted to the fleshly unity of Rome, or boasting of the active rivalry of Protestant societies. But the more they hold even truth itself in a measure as a form the less willing are they to allow the activity of the Spirit by God's word as a whole. "And these things will they do, because they knew not the Father nor Me." Yet to know both is eternal life, which every Christian characteristically has by the Gospel, though the most advanced is marked by deepening acquaintance with Him that is from the beginning. When and where idols reigned, it needed the energy of grace to turn to God, the living and true; where God was making Himself known in the Son, flesh might avail itself of old truth no longer contested nor costing any sacrifice, and have its tongue set on fire of hell to blaspheme the full revelation which tests actual faith and faithfulness, and seek to exterminate those who testified it. The principle holds good in small things as well as in the greatest, and now as ever.
But as the Lord thus prepared the disciples for harsher things from the professing people of God than from men wholly ignorant, so now He lets them know what they must suffer, that they might gather comfort even in that hour by remembering His words. As the trial that came to pass was known to Him and made known to them, now they could trust His assurance of love and blessing, of deliverance and glory. Besides, He explains why He had not told of these things before. He was with them, their shield and Paraclete; and what need was there to say a word ? But as He was about to leave them, it was well, and would help all to work for good.
"But now I go unto Him that sent Me, and none of you asketh Me, Whither goest Thou [back]? But because I have said these things to you, sorrow hath filled your heart." This sorrow was more of nature than of faith. No wonder it surprised them to hear of their Divine Master leaving them with such a prospect before them, with so little manifestation of the effects of His coming in the world or even in Israel. And they had forsaken their all and followed Him: what could it mean? He had already assured them that He would not leave them orphans, but was coming to them. Had faith been simpler, they would have not only counted on His loving care of them, but have asked whither He was going, and have learnt its bearing on His glory and their blessing. It is ignorance of His mind which fills the heart with sorrow at His words, for they are spirit and life, though we may need to wait on God in order to lay hold on them intelligently.295 But the Lord proceeds to bring out all clearly in what follows.
This leads the way to the main distinctive truth the Lord is intimating, the presence and action of the Holy Ghost when sent down from heaven. The Son would send Him.
"Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is profitable for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Paraclete will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you" (verse 7).
The Lord had told them before, that had they loved Him, they would have rejoiced because He said, I go unto the Father. What was it not for the humbled, holy, and suffering Son of man to quit the scene of His unequalled sorrows for His Father's presence on high? Now He shows the connection of His departure with their fresh and deeper blessing. It might seem, to them especially, strange to say, that the loss of His bodily presence should be their gain. But so it was to be. The truth is not what seems, but the manifestation of what really is; nor is it found in the first man, but in the Second; nor can we know it but by the Spirit. Now it was to be established and enjoyed more than ever. For Christ going to heaven on the ground of accomplished redemption, thence to send the Holy Spirit to the saints on earth. It was profitable for them, then, that Christ should go away. He Who alone effectuates any spiritual good would not otherwise come. God's will must first be done (Heb. 10:5-10).
And now that the Lord was going above, having obtained eternal redemption, the Holy Spirit was not only to work as He had never before wrought in the children of men or in the children of God, but was to come personally296 and undertake the entire charge and business of the disciples. For this is the meaning of παράκλητος, which our "Comforter"* imperfectly represents. He had come in person to abide in Jesus; He had sealed the Son of man; He had anointed Him with power. None else could have Him thus till God's judgment of sin had taken its course in the cross. Not that compassion or fidelity of goodness, or any other form or way of Divine love had been lacking in times past; but this presence of the Spirit could not be till then. Jesus at His baptism had the Spirit thus descending and abiding on Him, and this as the perfect Man without blood-shedding, for He knew no sin. But others were sinners, and those who believed had a sinful nature, notwithstanding their believing. The flesh still remained, and they are contrary to each other. Here comes in the efficacy of Christ's work. God was then and there glorified even as to sin in His cross. His blood cleanses from all sin. God "made Him to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." "What the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh." Not only were the bad fruits gone, but the evil root that bore them was judged and sentence executed. Hence could the Spirit come and dwell in us as never before, not as if we were better than the saints of past ages, but in virtue of Christ's death and its infinite value in God's eyes, and in pursuance of Divine counsel.
* It is striking to see how almost all the ancient translators felt compelled to adopt rather than to render the Greek word; for so it is in languages different as the Syriac, the Sahidic, and the Memphitic, the Latin (odd Itala as well as Vulgate), the Æthiopic, the Arabic, the Gothic, and the Persian. The Armenian gives "Comforter," followed by Georgian and the Sclavonic, and, it would seem, by the Anglo-Saxon in its own way, and certainly by Wiclif and his disciple-translator; but they have "Advocate," like the Vulgate, Syrr., etc., in 1 John 2:1.
This, then, is the distinctive character of Christianity. It is not the kingdom, Christ reigning in Jehovah, power and glory, and the Spirit poured out upon all flesh, but Christ departing to be in heaven, and the Spirit as Paraclete sent and abiding with the saints on earth.
"And when come, He will afford proof to the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they believe not on Me; of righteousness, because I go unto My (or the)* Father, and ye behold Me no more; of judgment, because the prince of this world is (or hath been) judged" (verses 8-11).
* BDL, some cursives and versions, omit μου, "my" which the rest add.
The world cannot receive the Spirit of truth, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him. He is the object of neither sense nor intellect. Whatever the effects or displays of His energy, He abides invisible in Himself and outside the ken of the world. But the saints know Him, and that their bodies are His temple; even as they by Him know all else that they really know. God has revealed to us by His Spirit what is beyond human intelligence as such; for the Spirit searches all things, yea, His depths; and just as the spirit of man knows the things of a man, even so the things of God none knows but the Spirit of God. (1 Cor. 2:11.) And Him we as Christians have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit of God, that we might know the things that are freely given us of God. And not only so, but they are communicated in words by Him, and received by His power in the believer, as truly as they are by Him revealed: all is by the Holy Spirit of God.
Here we have His present relation, not to the saints, but to that world which is outside. And the Lord tells us that, when come, He ἐλέγξει the world. It is difficult to convey justly the force of this. "Reprove," as in the Authorised Version, is too narrow a meaning, if not false. "Rebuke" is here out of the question. "Convict" hardly applies, even to the first, not at all to the second and third clauses; and supposes an effect produced which may not really be in any case. Nor is one satisfied with "convince," save in the sense of affording proof by His presence, rather than by His action. For by His coming and abiding in the saints, apart from the world, He gives it demonstrative proof of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment.
The law dealt with Israel as those under it. But now it is the Spirit Who demonstrates the "sin" of the world; and this not because they violate that Divine measure of a man's duty, but because they reject the Son of God: "of sin, because they believe not on Me." He had come in grace; to reject this was fatal. It is not merely failure in obligation, but despite of God's love. Such is the true and actual gauge of the world before God, Who tests and proves the guilt of the whole system which opposes Him by its unbelieving ignorance and refusal of His Son, spite of the fullest testimony. This is the sin demonstrated.297
Further, He affords demonstration of "righteousness." Where is this? In the race or first man? On the contrary, there is none righteous, no, not one. And as for the Righteous One, even Jesus, He, as we have seen, was despised and rejected of men, by none so keenly as by the Jews, but in fact and to the uttermost by the world. Where, then, is the Spirit's proof of righteousness? "Because I go to My (or the) Father, and ye behold Me no more." Righteousness is on God's part only. Man condemned and killed the Just One; God raised Him from the dead and set Him at His own right hand. The Son "going to the Father" is the standing witness of righteousness there, and not here. For man He Who came into the world in love is clean gone. They would not have Him, and "ye behold Me no more." He returns for the world as Judge; but this is a wholly different and most solemn affair. But He is lost to men according to His presence in grace as at His first Advent; all is closed with His mission to the world as He came. And the Spirit testifies and demonstrates only Divine righteousness in Him on high, and man lost in casting out Him no longer to be seen as before here below.298
But, again, the Spirit gives proof of "judgment"; and this, "because the prince of this world is (or hath been) judged." Here again it is not a question of the kingdom in power and glory when Jehovah shall punish the host of the high ones on high, as well as put down the kings of the earth upon the earth, and slay the dragon that is in the sea. (Isa. 24:21; Isa. 27:1.) The Christian knows what will be for the earthly people's deliverance and the joy of all nations, but he sees already by faith that Satan is judged in Christ's death and resurrection and ascension, The Holy Ghost sums up all in Christ's Person; and this is the grand demonstration for the world. Its ruler is already judged in rejecting Him Who made known the Father, glorified God, and is glorified of God. All is closed for the world in Him Who came in love, and is gone up in righteousness. The ruler of the world is judged in His cross.
Men are apt to err doubly in their estimate of the Holy Spirit's relation to us. They either overlook the immense effect of His presence and teaching, or they attribute to Him what may be the mere fruit of natural conscience and diffused information. Our Lord here puts in His own perfect way what the Spirit would do as sent down from heaven, not now in external demonstration to the world, but in the positive blessing and help of the disciples.
"I have yet many things to say to you, but ye cannot bear (them) now. Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, shall have come, He will guide you in* (or into) all the truth; for He will not speak from Himself, but whatever† He shall hear‡ He will speak; and He will announce to you the things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will receive of Mine, and will announce (it) to you. All things that the Father hath are Mine: on this account I said, that He receiveth§ of mine, and will announce (it) to you" (verses 12-15).
* ἐν (ομ. πάσῃ) DL , etc. [Tisch.], but ABY, etc., εἰς τ. ἀ. π., [Treg. and later Edd.], while the mass [ΓΔΛΠ, etc.] have, with Text. Rec., εἰς. π. τ. ἀ.
† Many add ἂν, some ἐάν.
‡ Text. Rec. ἀκούσῃ with most, ἀκούσει BDEpm HY [Treg.]; ἀκούει L, etc. [most Edd.].
§ λήφεται Text. Rec., but λαμβάνει the best and most numerous.
It has been repeatedly shown-and in this chapter most expressly-that the presence of the Spirit depended on the departure of Christ to heaven, consequent on accomplished redemption. This changed the entire groundwork, besides morally fitting the saints for the new truth, work, character, and hope of Christianity. The disciples were not ignorant of the promise that the Spirit should be given to inaugurate the reign of the Messiah. They knew the judgment under which the chosen people abide "until the Spirit be poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness be a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be counted for a forest"; (Isa. 32:15) so vast outwardly, no less than inwardly, the change when God puts forth His power for the kingdom of His Son. They knew that He will pour out His Spirit upon all flesh; not only the sons and daughters, the old and young of Israel, enjoying a blessing far beyond all temporal favours, but the servants and the handmaidens-in short, all flesh, and not the Jews alone, sharing it. (Joel 2:29.)
But here it is the sound heard when the great High Priest enters into the sanctuary before Jehovah, and not only when He comes out for the deliverance and joy of repentant Israel in the last days. It is the Spirit given when the Lord Jesus went on high, and by Him thus gone. For this they were wholly unprepared, as, indeed, it is one of the most essential characteristics of God's testimony between the rejection and the reception of the Jews; and the Spirit, when given, was to supply what the then state of the disciples could not bear. For the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God (and He is a spirit, not of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind), besides the incalculable facts of Christ's work in death, resurrection, and ascension, to which He testifies. Truly the Lord had many things to say reserved for the Holy Ghost, when the disciples had their consciences purged and could draw near boldly into the holies, and a Man glorified in heaven furnished the meet occasion for the display of all that is in God, even for the secret hid in God before all worlds, of which not John or any other than the Apostle Paul was to be the administrator.
But be the instrument who it might, when the Spirit of Truth is come, as the Lord intimates here, "He will guide you into all the truth," or "in" it all as the Sinaitic, Cambridge (D), and Parisian (L) uncials with other authorities have it. For this two main grounds are given, besides His necessary competency as a Divine Person. First, He does not act independently, but fulfilling the mission on which He is sent expressly. "For He will not speak from Himself, but whatever He shall hear, He will speak; and He will announce to you the things to come." Secondly, His prime object is to exalt the Lord Jesus, and therefore He will assuredly make this good in testimony to the disciples. "Me He will glorify, for He will receive of mine and announce (it) to you."
The reader must guard against the popular error, easily suggested by the Authorised Version of verse 13, as if the sense meant were that the Spirit shall not speak about Himself. For it is neither true as a fact, nor is it of course intended here. The Spirit largely speaks concerning Himself in this Gospel, and particularly in the section we are examining. So He does in Rom. 8; in 1 Cor. 2, 12; in 2 Cor. 3; in Eph. 1, 2, 3, 4, and many other parts of Scripture. This makes it the more strange that even the simplest have not learnt the meaning here to be, that He shall not speak from Himself, but, as the next clause explains, whatever He shall hear He will speak. As the Son came not to act independently, whatever might be His glory, but to serve His Father; so the Spirit is come to serve the Son, and whatever He shall hear, He will speak.299
But there is more. Not only can He speak of the Son in heaven as Himself sent down by Him, and thus bear the highest testimony to His intrinsic dignity and the new position Christ is in there, but He has not ceased to be the Spirit of prophecy. On the contrary, He would thus work abundantly in view of the world's total ruin and the blessing that waits on the Lord's return. "And He will announce to you the things to come." The prophetic word is found largely in the New Testament, not only in the Gospels, but also in the Epistles, but most of all in the wonderful book of Revelation. And the effect was immense in detaching the saints from the world as under judgment, however this might tarry. They knew these things before, and thus held fast their own steadfastness. Nevertheless prophecy as occupied with the earth, even though it go on to the kingdom of God there, is but a small and even inferior part of the Spirit's testimony, however astonishing in man's eyes and precious in itself.
Christ's own glory, now on high, is the direct object; and this in every way. "Me He will glorify, for He will receive of Mine and will announce (it) to you." And here also all is in contrast with Messianic light or earthly dominion, however just and great. "All things that the Father hath are mine: on this account I said that He receiveth of Mine and will announce (it) to you." He is sent down to glorify not the Church but Christ, and this by receiving and reporting what is Christ's (and all the Father has is His), not by exaggerating man's importance or allowing the will of man. Thus it was not only the universe which God had created, but the new creation also in relationship with the Father, and this even specifically.
But there is another intimation needful to press the "little while" with its issues of sorrow and joy.
"A little while and ye behold Me not:* and again a little while and ye shall see300 Me (because I go away unto the Father).* (Some) therefore of His disciples said one to another, What is this which He saith to us, A little while and ye behold Me not: and again a little while and ye shall see Me, and because I go away [back] to the Father They said therefore, What is this that He saith, the† little while? We know not what He speaketh. Jesus knew (therefore‡) that they wished to ask (ἐρωτᾶν) Him, and said to them, Do ye inquire of this one with another because I said, A little while, and ye behold Me not; and again a little while, and ye shall see Me? Verily, verily, I say to you, Ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice; §ye shall be grieved, but your grief shall be turned into joy. The woman, when she bringeth forth, hath grief because her hour is come; but when she shall give birth to the child, she no longer remembereth the affliction for the joy that a man was born into the world. And ye therefore now have grief, but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no one taketh from you" (verses 16-22).
* οὐκέτι, "no more," is read by BDgr, etc. [W. and H., Weiss, etc.] but οὐ Text. Rec., with most [as Blass], BDL, and other good authorities, omitting the last clause, although it is added by some fourteen uncials, most cursives, and many ancient versions [Syrsin pesch jer Cod Brix, and other old Latt.].300a
† BLY, etc. [Treg., W. and H.], omit the article, contrary to the mass [Weiss, Blass, after Tisch.].
‡ BDL, etc. [Edd.], omit οὖν, contrary to most.
§ Text. Rec., with most, adds δὲ, "and."
The "little while" in any and every sense was a strange sound to Jewish ears; so was His going away to the Father. It is no question here of their lost Messiah, the suffering Son of man. This of course is true and important in its place, and fully treated in the closing scenes of the Synoptic Gospels. But here we see and hear the conscious Son of God, a man, but a Divine Person Who had come from, and was now going back to, the Father. We need especially to be in the spirit of this to estimate the "little while," and indeed Christianity, in contradistinction to what was and what will be. The resurrection brought the disciples into the intelligence of this "little while," though it may not be all out till He comes again. The Jew thought nothing more certain than that the Christ when He came would abide for ever. The "little while" was therefore another enigma which His death and ascension cleared up, and the Spirit subsequently showed to be bound up with all that is characteristic of the present work of God for the glory of Christ. We anticipate by faith what will come, and manifestly at His appearing.300b
Nothing can be more marked than the Lord's avoidance here of introducing His death as such; and it is all the more striking because it is so prominent in chapters 1, 2, 3, 6, 8, 10, 12. Here no doubt it underlies all, and poor indeed had been the joy without His infinite sorrow on the cross. But that solemn hour is here passed over thus: "A little while, and ye behold Me not; and again, a little while, and ye shall see me. Verily, verily, I say to you, Ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice; ye shall be grieved, but your grief shall be turned into joy." This was surely true when He rose after His brief absence, as it will be fully verified when He comes for them never to part more.301 And this He illustrates by the most familiar of all figures of sorrow issuing in joy (verses 21, 22). The absence of the Lord is to the world getting rid of Him; but even now His resurrection is a joy which none takes away. What will it be when He comes to receive us to Himself?
The Lord proceeds to set forth yet more fully the blessing and privilege which should flow from His going to heaven, and so bringing out the Father's love to them.
"And in that day ye shall ask302 me nothing; verily, verily, I say to you,* Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father, He will give you in My name.† Hitherto ye asked nothing in My name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full" (verses 23, 24).
* ὅτι (Text. Rec. after very many) is not in some of the best, and for ὅσα ἂν, "whatsoever," Text. Rec., supported by most; ἂν, or ἐάν τι BCDLY, etc.; or ὃ ἂν ; ὃ ἑὰν XΠ, etc.
† ἐν τῶ ὀν. μου, after "the Father," ACcorr.D, etc., and Text. Rec.; but at the end a BCpmLXYΔ, etc. [Edd.].
It is well known that the Greek words we are well-nigh obliged to translate "ask" in verse 23 are not the same, the first (ἐρωτάω) being expressive rather of familiar entreaty, the second (αἰέω) of lowly petition. Hence, while our Lord often in this Gospel employs the former in His requesting the Father on behalf of the disciples, never does He use the latter. However low He may go down in grace, He is ever the conscious Son of God in flesh, but none the less a Divine Person; whilst Martha shows her slight appreciation of His glory by supposing that He might fitly and successfully appeal to God after a suppliant sort (John 11:22) 302a.
But it seems too strong to say that every competent judge admits that "ye shall ask" of the first half of the verse has nothing to do with "ye shall ask" of the second; or that in the first Christ is referring back to the desire of the disciples in verse 19 to question Him. So Euthymius Z., as well as the Vulgate and a crowd of moderns from Beza to Trench, including many German and British theologians. But though the word ἐρωτάω occurs often in the New Testament, and even in this chapter, with the ordinary classical sense of "question" (interrogo), it is used quite as often or more so for "requesting" or "beseeching," etc. (rogo), as in the LXX., and thus like our English "ask," which means "to request" no less than "to question" or "inquire." Inquiring of God in Old Testament phrase approaches, in fact, nearer to prayer for any one or thing than to a question. It seems, then, that varying the English word is not the true solution, though obvious enough on the surface, and that the earlier Greek commentators were nearer the truth, save Origen, who, like later errorists, perverted the passage to deny the propriety of praying to our Lord, thus flatly contradicting the early disciples (Acts 1:24), Stephen (Acts 7:59), and the Apostle Paul (2 Cor. 12:8). In matters which concern His service and His Church it is even more proper, according to Scripture, to pray to Him than to the Father, to Whom we instinctively turn for all that concerns the family of God in general.
The Lord is really signifying the great change from recourse to Him as their Messiah on earth for every difficulty, not for questions only, but for all they might want day by day, to that access unto the Father into which He would introduce them as the accepted Man and glorified Saviour on high. Till redemption is known, and the soul by grace is set in righteousness, even believers are afraid of God, and hide, as it were, behind Christ. They draw near in spirit, as the disciples did actually, to Him Who in love came down from heaven to bless and reconcile them to God. But they do not really know what it is to come boldly to the throne of grace to obtain mercy and find grace. They are not in the distinct consciousness of children before their Father, enjoying liberty in Christ by the Spirit of adoption.
This, then, appears to me what the Lord gives the disciples to know should follow His Resurrection and departure "in that day": a day already come, the day of grace, not of glory, save so far as we enter in by virtue of Him Who is gone above and sent the Spirit thence to be in us. He had already and fully told them what the Spirit of truth would do in guiding them into all the truth (verses 12-15). Here He substitutes access to the Father for everything in prayer, instead of personal requests to Himself as their Master, ever ready to help on earth. It is not a question, then, of a declaration of being so taught of the Spirit as to have nothing further to inquire, but of no longer having One at hand to Whom they had been in the habit of appealing for each difficulty as it rose. The departing Son of God would draw out confidence of heart in the Father.
Hence the solemnity of making known their new resource. "Verily, verily, I say to you, Whatsoever (or, If) ye shall ask the Father in My name, He will give you (in My name)." The text differs in the manuscripts and other authorities; but the best of them place "in My name" after the assurance that the Father will give, not after the saints asking the Father as in the common text, which, however, is best supported by the ancient versions.* There can be no doubt, as we shall see presently, that the saints are encouraged and entitled in the value of the revelation of Christ to prefer their requests to the Father; but, if the more ancient reading holds in verse 23,† we have the collateral truth that He gives in virtue of that name whatsoever they shall ask Him. How blessed and cheering to the saints! What pleasure to the Father and honour to the Son! The rejection of the Messiah only turns to His greater glory and better blessings for His own.
* [ BCpmLXYΔ, Orig., Cyr., place the words after "give," whilst Ccorr.D, Syrr., old Latt., have "them" after "Father." Blass follows other Edd. in reading, as in , etc.]
† [The words ἄν τι, instead of ὅτι ὅδα ἄν of Text. Rec.]
And this is followed up in verse 24: "Hitherto ye asked nothing in My name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be fulfilled." The importance of this can hardly be exaggerated: I do not mean as bearing merely on the use of the blessed prayer given long before to the disciples, but on the broader question of their approaching new relationship, and standing by redemption and the gift of the Spirit. On the face of the words, however, it is plain that to use that prayer is not to ask the Father in Christ's name. The disciples were, no doubt, in the habit of using it day by day; yet up to the present they had asked nothing in His name. Now, so to ask the Father in the Son's name is alone Christian prayer in the true and full sense. Those, therefore, who insist on going back to the prayer of the disciples fail to enter into the new place on which the Lord here sets all that are His. It may be reverently meant; but is it the faith which really enters into God's mind and honours the Master? I trow not. As a prayer to be used when the disciples knew not how to pray it was perfection; as a model, it abides ever full of depths of instruction. But the Lord, now at the end of His career here below, lets them know the shortcoming in ground and object of their previous petitions, and tells them what should be their appropriate character in future through their new blessing at hand, through redemption and ascension.
It would have been out of season and presumptuous for the disciples in the past to have drawn near to the Father as the Son did, Who, in His wisdom and goodness, gave them a prayer perfectly suited to their then state when the atoning work was not yet done, and the Holy Ghost accordingly not given. But now, as we have already seen so often in this context, consequent on Christ's glorifying God on earth by death and going up on high, the Holy Ghost would come to be in and with them. And this is the great result Godward, as we have already seen much saintward: they should ask in Christ's name; and they are called to ask and receive, that their joy might be full. Life in Christ would go forth in suited desires, to which the Holy Ghost would impart power as well as intelligence; and assuredly, with such a ground and motive before Him as the Son of man Who had devoted Himself at all cost to His glory, the Father would fail in nothing on His part. Their joy would indeed be at the full.
"These things have I spoken to you in proverbs (allegories): an hour303 cometh when I shall speak no longer to you in proverbs, but openly report* to you about the Father. In that day ye shall ask (αἰτήσεσθε) in My name, and I say not to you that I will request (ἐρωτήσω) the Father for you; for the Father Himself dearly loveth you because ye have dearly loved Me, and have believed that I came out from (παρὰ) God.† I came out from‡ the Father, and am come into the world; again I leave the world and proceed unto the Father" (verses 25-28).
* ABCpmDKL MNXYΠ [Edd.], ἀπαγγ, "report", others ἀναγγ. "announce," as in verses 13, 14, 15.
† θεοῦ pmA and most MSS. and versions [as Syrsin]; πατρὸς BCpmDLX, etc. How singularly biassed was Tregelles to edit the latter, being plainly inconsistent with the context! The edition of W. and H. follows Tregelles. [Weiss and Blass follow Tisch., θεοῦ.]
‡ ἐκ BCpmLX, etc., παρὰ ACcorr.EΓΔ, etc.
It is owing, I presume, to the large and various meaning of the Hebrew mashal that we have in Greek παροιμία as well as παραβολὴ used correspondingly not only in the LXX., but in the New Testament, the Synoptic Gospels always using the latter, John only the former, as in John 10 and here. Perhaps "allegory" might be more appropriate, or even a "dark saying" in our chapter where parable or allegory can scarcely apply. A close examination of the usage will prove that both Greek words are employed with considerable latitude in the four Gospels, as elsewhere.
Here the Lord was conscious that what He uttered fell like enigmas on the ears of the disciples. His plain declaration or report about the Father would clear up all in due time. What did not His Resurrection? and His appearances and converse from the first to the last of His forty days' intercourse, as well as His ascension? Take alone the message through Mary of Magdala on the first day of the week. Did He not plainly declare about the Father, His and theirs? Was not His God and their God a deep intimation of blessing? But, above all, when He testified by the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, did not the truth shine out more than ever? He made known to them His Father's name then; He was to make it known when gone above (John 17:26), and did so only more effectively from thence.
This also turned (as was intended) to their increasing sense of the value of Christ's own name. "In that day ye shall ask (αἰτ.) in My name." Asking in His name is not merely for Christ's sake as a motive, but in the value of Himself and His acceptance. His worth goes in its fulness to the account of those who thus plead; and how precious and all-prevailing it is in the Father's eyes! How glorifying to both the Father and the Son! How humbling and no less strengthening to the saints themselves! It is the title of every Christian now; none ever enjoyed it before. Never was there a soul blessed on earth apart from Him and His work foreseen; but this is known nearness and acceptance applied even to our petitions in virtue of Himself fully revealed when His work was done and accepted in infinite efficacy.
"And I say not that I will request (ἐρωτ.) Father for you, for the Father Himself loveth you dearly, because ye have loved Me dearly, and have believed that I came out from God." This is another of those sentences over which not men and scholars, but saints also, stumble, because many a believer even is not enjoying the truth of it; and what John's Gospel and Epistles treat of must be really entered into to be understood. This verse 26 not more denies Christ's intercession for us than verse 23 forbids the servant praying to His Lord about His work or His house. It is not an absolute statement, nor is there the smallest need to apply the technical device of "Præteritio," as it is called, so as to convey, not a negation, but a strong affirmation. Thus it would mean, "I need not assure you that I will request the Father for you." But it is simply an ellipse, which the words following explain: I do not say that I wild request the Father for you, as if He did not love you; for the Father Himself (προπριο μοτυ) does love you dearly, etc. This, too, accounts for the words of special affection, φιλεῖ and πεφιλ., which follow. It was grace, the Father's drawing, which brought them to hear the voice of the Son and believe on Him; yet does the Lord speak of the Father's dearly loving them and of their having dearly loved Him, to Whom they clung truly, however feebly.304 They had believed that He came out from God. They truly believed that He was the Christ of God, and was born of God. It was Divine teaching and grace as far as it went.305
But this was far short of the full truth which He proceeds to reveal: "I came out from the Father, and am come into the world; again I leave the world and proceed unto the Father." Here they were altogether short. They realised as yet little or nothing of His full, Divine, and eternal glory as the Son of the Father. God the Father was fully revealed, no doubt, in the Son; but the presence and power of the Spirit, personally sent down, was needed to give them communion with Him thus made known. It is this which, when the conscience is purged, brings into happy liberty. Here, then, is what so many saints are still ignorant of, in the state of their souls pretty much where the disciples then were; for though they may see rather better the glory of the Son, they fail to see in Him and His work their title to rest in the Father's love.
It is striking to remark the contrast throughout this series of discourses with the Synoptic Gospels. In these Christ's death is made most prominent; here it is going away to the Father. How true to the design the Holy Spirit impressed on the narrative of John!
It would be difficult to find a verse of John which presents more tersely and completely, too, the character of his Gospel than the one we have just had before us; nor one less really apprehended now, as then, by the disciples. His Divine relationship and mission from the Father stand clearly revealed on earth before they join Him on high. His presence as man in the world, no less than His quitting the world, and going to the Father, none the less the Son now become man, with the immense results of all this for God, and more especially for the saints. These great truths wholly transcend all Messianic glory which as yet filled the minds of His followers, who proved how little they knew by the very fact that they thought they knew all clearly.
"His disciples say (to Him),* Behold, now Thou talkest with openness and speakest no parable. Now we know that Thou knowest all things, and hast no need that one ask thee: herein we believe that Thou didst come out from God" (verses 29, 30). Their own language betrayed them. Simple as His words were, they had not taken in their depth. They had no conception of the mighty change from all they had gathered of the kingdom as revealed in the Old Testament to the new state of things that would follow His absence with the Father on high and the presence of the Spirit here below. It sounded plain to their ears; but even up to the Ascension they feebly, if at all, caught a glimpse of it. They to the last clung to the hopes of Israel, and these, surely, remain to be fulfilled another day. But they understood not this day, during which, if the Jews are treated as reprobate, even as He was rejected of them, those born of God should in virtue of Christ and His work be placed in immediate relationship with the Father. His return to the Father was a parable still, though the Lord does not correct their error, as, indeed, it was useless: they would soon enough learn how little they knew. But at least even then they had the inward consciousness that He knew all, and, as He penetrated their thoughts, had no need that any should ask Him. "Herein we believe that Thou camest out from God." Undoubtedly: yet how far below the truth He had uttered is that which they were thus confessing! The Spirit of His Son sent into their hearts would give them in due time to know the Father; as redemption accomplished and accepted could alone lay the needful ground for it.306
* αὐτῶ Text. Rec. [Blass], with most MSS. [pm, etc.], vv., etc.; but not the most ancient [corr.B, etc.], some of which add ἐν before παρρησία [W. and H., Weiss].
"Jesus answered them, Just now do ye believe? (or ye believe).307 Behold, an hour cometh, and* is come, that ye should be scattered, each unto his own,308 and leave Me alone; and I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. These things have I spoken to you that in Me ye may have peace. In the world ye have† tribulation; but be of good courage: I have overcome the world" (verses 31-33).
* Text. Rec. adds, νῦν "now," with some old MSS. and versions; but ABCpmDpmLX, etc., have it not.
† ἕξετε, "ye shall have," is the error of D and many cursives [67, etc.], with most of the Latin copies, etc., followed by Elzevir, but not Stephens, for though it appears in the text of his edition of 1550, it is corrected at the end according to his editions of 1546, 1549; ἔχετε "ye have," ABCL and a dozen more uncials, etc. [Tisch., W. and H., Weiss]. Here many of the ancient versions are wrong, but not the Syrr., Memph., some old Latin, etc. It is strange that Lachmann edited ἕξετε, not only in his small edition of 1831, but in his larger and more mature one of 1842, actually giving B with D abc as authority. [Blass follows Lachm.]
Their faith was real, but they were shortly to show how small it would be proved to be in the hour of trial already come. If doubt is never justifiable, it is good in our weakness to live in constant dependence. When strong in our own eyes, we are weak indeed; when weak, we are strong in the grace of our Lord Jesus. But oh, what a Saviour! and what disciples! They scattered to their own, and He left alone in the hour of His deepest need! Would any heart but His own have hastened to add, after such desertion on their part, "and I am not alone, because the Father is with Me"? Could any but Himself have added, especially to such saints and under such circumstances, "These things have I spoken to you, that in Me ye may have peace"? or have given such solid ground for it, at the very moment of contemplating their present portion of trouble in the world? "Be of good courage: I have overcome the world." As Christ alone could so feel and bless, so are these words worthy of Him; and one knows not whether to admire most their Divine authority or their matchless grace and suitability to our need here below. As He is absolutely what He also speaks, so He speaks what He is to the unfailing comfort of the believer.
Strikingly characteristic of our Gospel is the omission of the sorrows of Gethsemane,308a and yet more of God's abandoning Him on the cross. Neither fell in with that account of Him which sets forth the glory of His Person, Whose it was to do the will of Him Who sent Him, and to finish His work. Others bring out His complete rejection and humiliation, the service He rendered, and the depth of His sympathy as the perfect Man. John sees, hears, and records the Son above all circumstances, the object and the revealer of the Father, even when that sorrow came which scattered them, and that forsaking of God which was unfathomable save to Himself.
With all before Him He spoke what He did here, that in Him they might have peace; and so He walked Himself. In the world tribulation was to be their portion, not as for the Jew retributively at a specified and measured hour (Jer. 30:7; Dan. 12:1; Matt. 24:21; Mark 13:19) at the time of the end, or even preparatorily meanwhile (Luke 21:22-24), but habitually for those not of the world, and hence a prey in it. Yet are they called to courage, as knowing Him Whom they have believed, His glory and His grace Who has overcome the world. What a spring and cheer, that we have to overcome a foe already overcome! He indeed alone; we looking to Him Who gives power for all things. And this is the victory that overcometh the world, our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:5.)309
JOHN — THE SEVENTEENTH CHAPTER*
* [Cf. " Introductory Lectures," pp. 556-558.]
Next follows a chapter which one may perhaps characterise truly as unequalled for depth and scope in all the Scriptures. Holiness, devotedness, truth, love, glory reign throughout. Who can wonder, seeing that it is unique in this respect, as it is the Son opening His heart to the Father when just about to die and leave His own for heaven? Yet, profoundly interesting and momentous as the case was, it is the Son addressing Him thus which is so wondrous a privilege for us to hear. But all this may well fill our hearts with the sense of utter insufficiency to speak of such communications suitably. Nevertheless, as the Saviour uttered all within the hearing of the disciples, so the Holy Spirit has been pleased to reproduce His words with Divine precision.310 They are therefore for us now, as then for His favoured followers. Encouraged by this grace, we would count on the Lord's real and living interest in us, and on His faithfulness Who still abides with us to glorify Him by taking of His things and showing them to us.
"These things 310a spake Jesus, and lifting up His eyes unto heaven, said, Father, the hour is come: glorify Thy Son, that Thy* (or, the) Son* may glorify Thee,311 according as Thou gavest Him authority over all flesh, that, everything which Thou hast given Him, He should give them life eternal. And this is the eternal life,312 that they know312a Thee, the only true312b God, and Him Whom Thou didst send, Jesus Christ.312c I glorified Thee on the earth, having‡ finished the work which Thou hast given Me to do; and now do Thou, Father, glorify Me along with (παρὰ) Thyself with the glory which I had along with Thee before the world was " (verses 1- 5).
* Treg. and Tisch., with W. and H. [and others], omit σοῦ, "thy," following BCpm, etc. T. R. has καὶ "also," but the best do not accredit it. So a ABCLΠ, etc.; but the finite verb in DEXYΔΛ, etc.
The Lord had closed His parting instructions to the disciples, who had now to testify of and for Him; and so much the more because He was just about to leave them, His own personal testimony being already complete. To them not only had He spoken with fulness, but promised the Holy Spirit from Heaven on His departure that there might be power as well as truth. Unto heaven, therefore, did the Saviour lift up His eyes in addressing His Father. He Who even as Son of man is in heaven as a Divine Person was going there in bodily presence, when the work of redemption was effected. In virtue of this work accomplished in death, proved in resurrection, He would take His seat there, the Witness of its infinite acceptance. His proper ministry on earth, not merely to men but to the disciples, had been fully rendered. To the Father He turns as ever, but now in the hearing of His own, as indeed He would open His heart, if about Himself and His work, about them yet more, always the Sent One and Servant in Divine love, though Lord of all. He looked to heaven when He blessed and brake the five loaves to feed the five thousand. He looked there and groaned as He made the deaf stammerer to hear and speak. Upward He lifted His eyes when at the grave of Lazarus He said, Father, I thank Thee that Thou hast heard Me. To heaven He, raising them once more, said, "Father, the hour is come: glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son may glorify Thee." He is ever a Divine Person, the Son, but in flesh; not here as in the other Gospels the rejected and agonized sufferer, but the perfect executor of God's purposes, heavenly and everlasting, and the manifestation as Son of the Father.
Hence, whatever the necessary and all-important intervention of His death, without which all else had been in vain for God's glory in presence of sin and ruin, He nowhere speaks of it here, nor does He ask for resurrection, but glorification. Further, the Father's name, so prominent in this Gospel, and particularly in these closing discourses to the disciples, is manifestly and more than in this chapter It is indeed the characteristic of the Christian; even in the simplest form of His blessedness, the youngest, the babe, is described by our Apostle as having the Father known (1 John 2:13): a wondrous privilege, only possible through the Son of God come and redemption wrought, only enjoyable by the Holy Spirit given, the Spirit of adoption. But as at the beginning zeal for His Father's house devoured Him, so here His heart is set on glorifying His Father in that heaven to which His eyes were lifted. "Father, the hour is come: glorify Thy Son;" but, even so, it is "that Thy Son may glorify Thee." Become man, He asks the Father to glorify Him; He is Son, and when there glorified, it is still to glorify the Father. "According as Thou gavest Him authority over all flesh, that, everything which Thou hast given Him, He should give them eternal life." Though God, He exerts no power in His own right; He is true to the place into which He was pleased to come, and as man receives authority from the Father, but authority inconceivable either in its universality of sphere or in its speciality of object, were He not God. For the authority given is over "all flesh"; and the special aim now, as to whatsoever the Father had given Him, is to give them eternal life. Thus the right of our Lord extends without limit, the Gentile being no more outside His title than the Jew; whilst eternal life is the portion of none beyond what is given of the Father to the Son, as elsewhere it is said to belong to the believer only.
This leads to the explanation of "the eternal life" in question. Life for evermore, life to eternity, is the blessing commanded by Jehovah on the mountains of Zion (Ps. 133); and of the many Jews that sleep in the dust of the earth, some shall wake to everlasting life, as others to shame and everlasting contempt (Daniel 12). But both these Scriptures contemplate that great turning-point for the earth, the kingdom when it comes in manifest power and glory. The Lord speaks of life as given in Himself to faith now. "And this is the eternal life, that they know Thee, the only true God, and Him Whom Thou didst send, Jesus Christ." If it be distinguished from that which is to be enjoyed in the displayed kingdom by-and-by, it stands as to its character in the knowledge not of the Most High Possessor of heaven and earth, with the true Melchisedec a Priest on His throne, but of the Father and of His sent One, the only true God now plainly revealed in the Son, the one Mediator between God and man. If distinguished from the past, it is no longer the Creator-God giving promises to the fathers protected and lodging as under the shadow of the Almighty; nor yet the sons of Israel in relationship with the name of Jehovah, the moral governor of that chosen nation. But the children of God now possess the revelation of the Father and of Jesus Christ Whom He sent; and this knowledge is identified, not with promises nor government, but with "eternal life," as a present thing in Christ, the portion of every believer. A deeper blessing it is impossible for God to bestow or for man to receive; for it is exactly what characterised the Lord Himself, Who is the eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested unto us. Only Christ could be said to be that life; we as believers are not, but we have it in Him; and as by faith alone it is received, so in faith it is exercised, sustained, and strengthened.
It may be noticed further that, as eternal life is bound up with the knowledge of the Father, the only true God, in contrast with the gods many and false of the Gentiles,313 so it can only be where Christ is known Whom the Father sent, in contrast with His rejection by the Jews to their own deeper guilt and ruin. Neither the Son nor the Holy Ghost is excluded from the deity, which is elsewhere predicated or assumed of both equally with the Father. The object in hand is to assert it of the Father and to state the place taken here below by Him Who did not regard it as a prize (act or object of plunder) to be on equality with God, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bondman. (Phil. 2:7.) He was here to obey, to do the Will of the Father that sent Him. But that He took such a place in lowly love is the strongest if indirect proof of His proper and eternal Godhead; for even the archangel is a servant, and can never rise out of the position or relation of a servant. Whereas the Son was pleased to take it in order to make good the full blessing of redemption unto the glory of God the Father. So life was in Him, and He was eternal life before all ages; but here He is viewed as coming down to impart it in a scene departed from God, and to a creature, which otherwise must know death in its most terrible shape of judgment as now of guilt.
Next, the Lord presents His work: we have seen His Person as already pleaded. But now He urges what He had done here below. "I glorified Thee on the earth, having finished the work which Thou hast given Me to do. And now, Father, glorify Thou Me along with Thyself with the glory which I had along with Thee before the world was." The language here is more of sustained relationship than in chapter 13:31, 32, where it is a question of glorifying God, before Whom sin comes into unsparing judgment. Here it is glorifying His Father, and so there is no special contemplation of that final dealing where all that God is and feels came out against evil imputatively laid on the head of the Son of man.313a Here the entire path of Christ on earth in giving Himself up to obey and please His Father is summed up. Therefore it was the more needful to specify its completion, "having finished the work which Thou hast given Me to do." He speaks not more as the faithful servant than as the conscious Son of God Who sees all completed to the Father's glory, Who had given Him the work that He should do it Who alone could. And thereon does He ask the Father to glorify Him, not because of His personal glory and relationship only, but in virtue of the work completed to His glory here below, that He might thus lay a valid and sure title for us to join Him in the same heavenly blessedness.
It is not that He ever did or could cease to be God, any more than after becoming incarnate He will ever cease to be man; but, having in Divine love come down to be a servant and a man to glorify God the Father and make a righteous channel for all the purposes of Divine grace, He asks to be glorified by the Father along with Himself with the glory which He had along with Him before the world was. There He had been from everlasting as the Son; there He asks to be as the Son but now also man, the Word made flesh risen, to everlasting. It was His perfection as man to ask for this glorification. Not even as risen does He glorify Himself. He had emptied and humbled Himself for the Father's glory; He asks the Father to glorify Him, though He states His eternal and Divine competency by asking to be glorified with the glory He had with the Father before the world was.313b Never so weighty a plea, never so solid a ground of righteousness, never such exquisite and infinite grace.
The Lord then explains how souls were brought into such nearness of relationship to Him before the Father; as He had already laid the basis in His Person and work.
"I manifested Thy Name to the men Whom Thou gavest Me out of the world. Thine they were, and to Me Thou gavest them, and they have kept Thy Word. Now have they known that all things as many as Thou hast given Me are of (παρὰ) Thee; because the words which Thou gavest Me I have given to them, and they received (them), and knew truly that I came out from Thee, and believed that Thou didst send Me" (verses 6- 8).
Thus the manifestation of the Father's Name is first laid down. It was a characteristic and most influential truth, the Son being the only one competent, though none of course could enter in even so but by the Spirit, as we know and as is taught elsewhere. But as the Son could manifest His Father's name, so this He did in unjealous love, that the disciples, the men whom the Father gave Him out of the world, might know what He is as the Son knew Him; not, it need hardly be said, infinitely as was proper to the Only-begotten, but after that manner, as children of God, to whom the Son would impart that which was wholly outside and above man, and intrinsically of God for the family of God.314
For though the Lord had come to the Jews as their promised Messiah on earth, Him they would not have but even rejected, as they were just about to do even to the death of the cross. Hence, whatever may be the Divine retribution another day when God makes inquisition for blood, and above all for His blood which they had blindly imprecated on themselves and their children, it became wholly a question of sovereign and heavenly grace, which, coming in the Person of the Son, manifested His Father's name as no saint had ever enjoyed, no prophet so much as predicted, save, perhaps, in such a sort as to fall in with and confirm this most precious privilege when communicated. But even Hosea 1:10 is comparatively vague. Here all is as full as it is precise. It was the positive side of what the Lord undertook with His own here below, and its highest character: not the meeting sin and misery in grace, nor even the display of excellency as the righteous One, the Servant and Man, and as such Son of God; but the manifestation of what His Father was and is as He knew Him, and as they were learning who were given to the Son by the Father out of the world. For the world is now defined and judged as alien and opposed to the Father. How blessed for the disciples to hear themselves thus singled out and designated as His by the Son to the Father!
Nor is this all. "Thine they were, and to Me Thou gavest them, and they have kept Thy word" (λόγον). It appears to me that they err who refer the Lord's description to His followers as formerly of Israel merely, and as walking in all the commandments and ordinances of Jehovah blameless. These were His elect out of the elect nation, His enemies now yet to be restored another day. The Father had a purpose about these, and thus they belonged to Him Who gave them to the Son, the object of His love and effectuator of His counsels, as He is also the accomplisher of redemption, to His own glory. And as the men given out of the world are thus viewed on a Divine ground outside Jewish ties, so that which formed their souls and their ways was quite distinct; they had kept, says the Son, His Father's word, made known by Himself when with them on earth hitherto. This we have, speaking generally, in the Gospels, with not a little they could not then bear in the Epistles. Everything refers to the Father: the Son, a man on earth, is always exalting Him, and in view of His own departure would endear them to Him and give them the assurance of it.
This is developed yet more in what follows. "Now have they known that all things as many as Thou hast given Me are of Thee." They had entered into the secret of which the world knew nothing: the Father was the source of all that was given to the Son. Some wondered at His works and His words; others in their enmity blasphemously attributed what was beyond man to Satan. The disciples had learnt that they were all of the Father, as the Son desired that they should. It was not only that He came out from the Father, nor that He had finished the work the Father had given Him to do, as their title to blessing with the Son before Him; but the means for bringing them into the blessing were also of the Father; "because the words which Thou gavest Me I have given them, and they received (them), and knew truly that I came out from Thee, and believed that Thou didst send Me.''314a Thus the Lord handed over to His disciples those intimate communications of grace which the Father gave to Himself. It was no longer a question of the ten words given by Moses, the measure of man's responsibility to prove his sin and ruin which he neither owned nor felt.
The words (ῥήματα) which the Father gave the Son were the expression of Divine grace and love according to that blessed relationship in which the Son stood, though man; and the disciples, once mere men, but now born of God, have life eternal in Him, and are given these words by the Son, that they might know and enjoy the new relationship which grace had conferred on them. Nor was it in vain, however slow of heart they might be in believing all. For if He had given to them the words the Father gave to Him, the disciples received the truth really, though no doubt imperfectly. The result was that they came to know truly that Christ the Son came out from the Father, and believed also that the Father sent Him. This is all the reckoning of grace here, not measuring degrees, but making much of reality, as He can well do Whose love gives, deepens, and secures from first to last. Even for them to know assuredly that the Son came out from the Father does not suffice His heart, for this would not necessarily prove more than His own love in so coming; but the disciples believed the further truth that the Father sent Him, the proof of His own love to them. How rich, how needful, is every word of His grace!
"I request for315 them: not for the world do I request, but for those whom Thou hast given Me, for they are Thine (and all My things are Thine, and Thy things Mine), and I am glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, and these* (or they) are in the world, and I come to Thee" (verses 9-11).
It is concerning the disciples He makes request, not for Israel nor the nations, not for the land nor the earth at large, but concerning those whom the Father had given Him. It is no question of taking up the world for government or blessing now: He is occupied with the joint-heirs, not with the inheritance as yet. By-and-by, as Psalm 2 lets us know, Jehovah will say, "Ask of Me, and I will give (Thee) nations for an inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Thy possession."315 But then the Son will reign on His holy hill of Zion, instead of being rejected on earth and received up on high. Then, instead of sustaining the suffering family of God who bear His reproach here below and wait for heavenly glory with Him, He will break the nations "with a sceptre of iron, and dash them in pieces as a potter's vessel." It will be, not the interval of the Gospel, as now, but the day of the kingdom in power and glory. Here the Lord is praying for His own as the precious gift of the Father to Himself, while cut off and having nothing that was promised Him here below; and He asks the more, because they were the Father's.
* B, two cursives, DF (not the other Ita. nor Vulg.) Memph., Æth., Arm., Goth. read αὐτοὶ, "they," in which they are followed by Tisch. in his last ed. and by W. and H. [and Blass, but Weiss adheres to οὗτοι].
But it may be well to say that this gives occasion for a parenthetic statement which lets out much of the light of His personal glory: "And all My things are Thine, and Thy things Mine."* As the Son of David, the Messiah, could this reciprocity have been so expressed? Is it not evidently and only in virtue of His being the Eternal Son, one with the Father, that they have rights and interests no less boundless than common? After this, however, He returns to the saints as those in whom He was glorified as a fact, not past, but abiding, urging their care on the Father, because He sees both Himself no longer with them in the world and themselves so much the more exposed in it, as He was going back to the Father. Hence arises a fresh appeal.
* It is surprising that the editors and commentators have not noticed the natural if not necessary parenthesis of all but the last clause of verse 10. As to the universe, it would not be true to say yet δεδόξασμαι ἐν αὐτοῖς. It is precisely true of the saints.
"Holy Father, keep them in Thy name which* Thou hast given Me, that they may be one even as (also)† we316 (are). When I was with them,* I was keeping them in Thy name which Thou hast given Me, and I guarded (them), and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. And now unto Thee I come, and these things I speak in the world that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves" (verses 11-13)
* The Text. Rec. has οὓς, "whom," but the better authorities support ὧ, "which " (verse 11); and so in 12, though not so many.-The best also omit "in the world" (12), as some of them καὶ, "also" (11).
The Lord asks His Father, as the Holy Father, to keep the disciples in His name that they might be one, even as also the Father and the Son are. And this was accomplished by the power of the Holy Ghost in those very men who then stood around Him. Never before or since was such unity produced in human beings on earth. Yet the Gospels are the plainest proof that they were far from it whilst our Lord was here below with them. It was to be the fruit of His grace through redemption after He went on high and sent down the Holy Ghost to effect it. And it was essential as a practical basis for Christianity. For doctrine is not enough without reality in life, and this most of all in those who were raised up of God to lay down the foundation. Their work and their written words were all during one generation in striking contrast with those of the Old Testament.
Granted that they were men of like passions with ourselves or any; granted that they displayed varied and not slight infirmities even under their Master's eyes and ministry on earth; granted that they then from first to last betrayed petty prejudices and narrow hearts and no small jealousy of each other, even in presence of the deepest love and lowliness, and of words and ways which made their contrasted jars (and the selfishness which gave rise to all) most humbling and painful: all this, with more, only adds to the blessedness of what God wrought in these very men by His Spirit in answer to the Lord's demand. The power of the Father's name, which the Lord here below knew so well, was manifest in them; and the twelve were one even as the Father and the Son. None would have ventured so to describe but Christ; but if He did, He is the truth; and, in fact, with whom or what else could their unity as witnessed in the Acts and Epistles of the Apostles be compared? Never elsewhere was seen such rising above egotism in the aims, measures, objects, in the life and service, of men on earth; never such common devotedness to, and absorption in, the will of God for the magnifying of the risen and glorified Jesus.
The Lord, then, in committing to the Father His own whom in that name He was keeping whilst here, speaks of having kept them safe, save that one who was doomed to destruction. Awful lesson! that even the constant presence of Jesus fails to win where the Spirit brings not the truth home to the conscience. Does this enfeeble Scripture? On the contrary, the Scripture was thereby fulfilled. John 13 referred to Judas that none should be stumbled by such an end of His ministry. Here it is rather that none should therefore doubt the Lord's care or the Scripture. He was not one of those given to Christ by the Father,317 though called to be an Apostle: of those so given He had lost none. Judas was an apparent, not a real, exception, as he was not a child of God, but the son of perdition. To see the awful end of so heartless a course would only give more force to His works of grace Who, if He left the world for the Father, was bringing them into His own associations before the Father. Judas may never have meant the worst, as Satan did who entered him; but he did mean at all cost to gratify his love of money, trusting that He who had heretofore baffled His enemies would be able to extricate Himself. But he trusted his own thoughts to the death of His Master, and to his own eternal ruin; as Jesus carrying out His love in obedience to His Father would bring His own by His death to glory on high and His own place there, and expressed it here that even now they might have His joy fulfilled in themselves. For now that the Lord was going to the Father He speaks these things in the world to that end. The Father would prove the value of His name when the Son was not here in person to watch over them; and the very ruin of Judas rightly read should make the Scripture still more solemn and sure to their souls.
From verse 14 the Lord pleads for another object on behalf of the disciples. He had entreated for them to be set in His love in presence of the Father; He now asks that they may have His place in presence of the world. As He had sought their association with Himself in the one case, so in the other He would have no less an association. There it was for His joy to be fulfilled in them; here it is for the Father's testimony in and by them. It was His own place on earth, as in heaven.
"I have given them Thy word; and the world hated them because they are not of the world, as I am not of the world. I do not ask that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them out of317a the evil. Of the world they are not, as I am not of the world" (verses 14-16).
It is not here, as in verse 8, "the words" (ῥήματα) given of the Father to the Son which the Son had given to the disciples, the communications of love, whence they knew truly that He came from the Father, and believed to their joy that the Father sent Him. It is here (as in verse 6) the Father's "word" (λόγος), the expression of His mind. This, it was said already, they had kept. But the Lord resumes the notice of it in connection with testimony in the world which for Him was closed. In the world they were to be witnesses of Him, and the Father's word He has given them, and the world hated them, not for that word only, offensive as it is to the world, but because they, the disciples who had it, were not of the world, even as their Master is not. This is the true measure of unworldliness, and it is intolerable in the world's eyes, and nowhere so much as in the religious world. For men on earth to know themselves possessors of life eternal sounds presumptuous to such as know not Christ and His work. But to add that they are not of the world, the world will have to be the worst intolerance.
Yet nothing is so lowly as faith, and faith works by love, the very reverse of despising others or trusting in themselves that they are righteous. Christ is all to the believer, as He is to the Father; and as He is not of the world, so they are not. That they are not of the world depends on the former truth, that they are the Father's and given to the Son, Who manifested the Father's name to them and kept them in that name; as He besought that the Father would keep them still during His absence from the world. Christ in John is from the outset unknown to the world and rejected; they know not the Father and the Son. So it is with the children of God. "Therefore the world knoweth us not because it knew Him not." (1 John 3:1.) The breach is complete. "The world hated* them," as it hated both the Father and the Son.
* The verb ἐμίσησεν is to be explained as meaning, neither the future as Kuinöl, nor the present as Bloomfield. It is the most emphatic preterite possible, the whole being summed up in its conclusion, though no doubt it was the fact then, and was about to be yet more and more manifest by-and-by.
Never had there been such a breach before. It was not so during God's dealings with Israel of old; nor yet in their ruin during the ensuing times of the Gentiles. Man was still under trial; and even while the Lord was here below, the character of His ministry was God in Him reconciling the world to Himself. But the world would none of Him, and is judged in its prince. And as man is now in the light of the cross pronounced lost, so is the saint crucified to the world and the world to him. They are not of the world, as Christ is not of the world. It is a fact, and not merely an obligation, though the firmest ground of obligation. They are not of the world, not merely they ought not to be; whilst if they are not, it is grievous inconsistency even to seem to be of the world. It is to be false to our relationship, for we are the Father's and given to the rejected Son, Who has done with the world. But if it be said that this is to bring in everlasting and heavenly relationships now, be it so; this is exactly what Christianity means in principle and practice. It is faith possessing Christ, Who gives the believer His own place of relationship and acceptance on high as well as of apart from and rejected by the world below; which he has to make good in words and ways, in spirit and conversation, whilst waiting for the Lord.
Hence, if going back to law or flesh, as in Galatia, was to fall from grace, no less thorough is the departure of the Christian when he seeks the world of which he is not. That the world improves for Christ or His own is as false as that the flesh can ameliorate. It is the light become darkness, and how great is that darkness! There may not be the reflex of the latter part of Rom. 1, but it answers to the beginning of 2 Tim. 3. It is the natural man knowing enough to forego what is shameless, and to invest all with a religious veil; it is the world essentially occupying itself with the things of God in profession but in reality of the world, where common sense suffices for its service and its worship, and the mind of Christ would be altogether inapplicable. What a triumph to the enemy! It is just what we see in Christendom; and nothing irritates so much as the refusal so to walk, worship, or serve. It does not matter how loudly you denounce or protest; if you join the world, they will not mind your words, and you are faithless to Christ. Nor does it matter how much grace and patience you show; if you keep apart as not of the world, you incur enmity and hatred and contempt. A disciple is not above his Master; but every one that is perfected shall be as his Master. To act as not of the world is felt to be its strongest condemnation; and no meekness or love can make it palatable. Nor does God intend that it should, for He means it as part of the testimony to His Son. And as the world neither receives nor understands the Father's word, so it hates those who have that word and act on it.
Doubtless there is a moment when the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we the living who remain shall be caught up together with them in clouds to meet the Lord in the air, when He shall Himself with a shout, with archangel's voice, and with trump of God, descend from heaven; and thus we shall ever be with Him. But the Lord did not ask yet that the Father should thus take His own out of the world, but that He should keep them out of the evil. This He does by His grace through His word, as we shall see presently. Only the Lord, before He explains how the Father keeps the saints, reiterates in a new form so as to give greater emphasis, "Of the world they are not, even as I am not of the world." Nor is anything more speedily forgotten, unless the eye be fixed on Christ above with continual vigilance as to our motives, ways, and ends, as well as unsparing self-judgment. It was of all moment to have it firm and clear that the world and the Christian have no common ground, and that Christ Himself, according to Whose grace and for Whose glory in communion with the Father we are here, is the pattern of our unworldliness. What separateness so absolute? or dependent on relationship to the Father so near, save only His Who is in the highest way its pattern? For the world in the sense here conveyed is that vast system which man has built up away from God in independence and self-reliance, and to the exclusion, not of His nominal honour, but of any real submission to His righteousness, His will, word, or glory. This fully came out in the rejection and cross of His Son, Who thereon reveals as wholly distinct in source, nature, character, and aim, those that the Father owns as His in the world, whose fellowship is indeed with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. Of the world they are not, as He is not. They are Christ's.
Now comes the formative power, as wholly new as above man, and not of God merely, but of the Father. "Sanctify them by (or, in) the truth; Thy word is truth. As Thou didst send Me into the world, I also sent318 them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth" (verses 17-19).
It is impossible to overrate the importance of the Saviour's words for His disciples; it is easy for men to misapprehend them, as those do who lower and narrow the word to separation for ministerial service.* But He had at heart a more personal and intimate want, that the disciples should themselves be imbued with, formed and fashioned by, the truth. The law now sufficed not; not even in the most comprehensive sense, as embracing the Prophets and the Psalms. For Christ was come, the Only-begotten Who declared God otherwise unseen of anyone. He revealed the Father, Who would make a fresh and full yet permanent revelation, as we have it not only in Him but in the Scriptures as a whole. The sanctification or setting apart was therefore as new as complete. It was to the Father that the Son spread His request for men who were none of them heathen, but of the holy seed.319 Yet for such does He say, "Sanctify them by the truth." The truth was revealed as it never was before. "Thy word," the Father's word, "is truth." Truths had been made known, never the truth till Jesus Who is it. For He first, He only as an objective display, showed out every one, God, man, Satan even, and every thing; heaven, earth, hell, and all things in them, as they really are; for His Person (the Word made flesh) alone was competent to do it. His advent and redemption gave the suited occasion and needed object for the full revelation, as being Son of man and withal true God and eternal life. By the truth, then, the Father's word, were the disciples to be sanctified. The Father revealed, not only in the Son personally, but in His word detailedly, changed all for the soul. None but the Son, and the Son a man on earth, glorifying the Father perfectly in His life, glorifying God as such in His death, could furnish the adequate motive for the Father's love, object for His ways, centre of His counsels, and manifestation of His glory. Hence all is out and in perfection: testimony higher, deeper, fuller is looked for in vain; as those know who, acknowledging the Son, have the Father also, and are not of the world.
* Hence Jos. Mede regarded ἐν τῃ ἀλ. as meaning εἰς τὴν ἀλ., and Bishop Pearce followed, as did Tittmann and Kuinöl, in the same wake. So Dr. Bloomfield (Rec. Syn., iii. 634). "From this verse He speaks of the evangelical office to be committed to their charge, and expresses His wish that they should be 'wholly dedicated and given up to it.'" He consequently would take ἐν τῃ ἀλ. as for ὑπὲρ τῆς ἀλ. How little these commentators believe that every word of Scripture is from God!
Then comes their mission, which is drawn from the same unworldly source and is characterised by it. "As thou didst send Me into the world, I also sent them into the world." Moses disappears even as a pattern; so do the prophets. Even John the Baptist (and among those born of women was no prophet greater) was but man in mission from God; but he that is least in the kingdom is greater than John. He that cometh from above-from heaven-is above all. Such was Jesus; and as the Father sent forth Him, so He too sent those who then surrounded Him, their mission as new as the Word which formed and furnished their souls. It flowed from One apart from the world and above it, Who had been sent into it on an errand of infinite love to the Father's glory, and was in spirit no more here but in heaven, whither He was actually going soon. It was thus the Son sent the disciples associated with Himself in heaven and charged with the Father's testimony to the world. Not of the world as He was not, they could be and were sent into it. Had they been of the world, they could not be sent into it; but, as taken out of it by grace in Christ, they were not of it, and could be sent.
This is fitly followed by another and crowning means of sanctification of which the Lord speaks. "And for their sakes I sanctify myself that they also may be sanctified in truth." It is not the Father's word now as given to them here and revealing Him in every detail as the disciples needed, though inseparable from Christ's Person as come into the world, where they too were sent. This was essential both for themselves and their work. But grace does more; and the Lord goes on to show how He is setting Himself apart on high, the Son as ever but model Man before the Father in heaven, so as to complete their sanctification in seeing Him thus in glory.
Thus it is not only the truth brought out here in all its application, but the truth also in the glorified Christ as the suited object to animate and strengthen as well as transform, while we behold Him with unveiled face: God revealed in man, the Son of man; the Son of man now glorified by God in Himself, and this straightway, that the disciples might be sanctified "in truth," both bearing on their nature and walk. For, without such an object above, the fullest demonstration of God's righteousness and power were lacking, and so too, one might add, of the Father's love and glory, as well as what was due to His own Person, not only as Divine but as man, and man glorified according to the counsels of God. And the disciples also needed His blessed Person thus before them at God's right hand in order to fix and fill their affections, beside the Word which perfectly reveals all the mind of God in grace. For it is not simply as incarnate that the Lord sanctifies Himself on their behalf; nor yet as dying sacrificially, according to Chrysostom and Cyril of Alexandria, with a crowd of followers since their day. For on the cross for us God made Him sin Who knew no sin. It is as glorified, consequent on death and resurrection, that He becomes the pattern of His own. Beholding Him they are transformed into His image from glory to glory even as by the Lord the Spirit; and, when He shall be manifested, they are to be like Him, seeing Him as He is, and conformed to the image of the Sun in resurrection glory. God Himself could give no other portion so blessed, when Christ shall be the Firstborn among many brethren.
The Lord now proceeds to plead for those to be brought into faith in Him by Apostolic testimony that they too might form a unity according to God and bear witness before the world to His mission of the Son. Verse 11 had contemplated only those disciples who were then surrounding Him in view of special grace and the consequent responsibility which attached to them. Those to follow have their new vested interest.
"And not for these only do I request, but also for those that believe* on Me through their word, that they may all be one,319a even as Thou, Father, in Me and I in Thee, that they also may be one† in us, that the world may believe that Thou didst send Me" (verses 20, 21).
* Text. Rec. reads the future with some cursives, but against the great authorities.
† ἔν ACcorrELXYΓΔΠ, etc., and good versions; but BCpmD, some old Latin and other versions, omit, followed strangely by Treg., Tisch., Alford, W. and H., and the Revisers [Weiss and Blass]. The homoeoteleuton plainly accounts for this.
There was to be, as we have seen, an astonishing exhibition of unity in the Apostles. But there is another and larger unity here. Those believing on Him through their word are now presented to the Father, "that they may all be one." Room is thus left for multitudes of believers, for confessors of His Name, Jew or Greek, barbarian, Scythian, bond or free; for those that had hitherto clung tenaciously to legal forms, the substance of which they refused through their unbelief of Him; for those that had been well-nigh as obstinate in cleaving to the dreams of heathenism and its debasing immorality, in utter ignorance of the only true God truly known through Him Whom He sent. The Gospel was about to go forth to every land and in every tongue, as the Holy Ghost bore witness on the day of Pentecost; and the most strikingly on that day, because they as yet were Jews only from Gentile countries as well as Palestine. For the miracle was not the senseless and comparatively easy one of enabling all, home or foreign sons of Israel, to understand the wonderful works of God in the Hebrew tongue, but conversely that they, every man in his own dialect in which he had been born, should hear the disciples speak. God had of old smitten men's pride and divided them into ever so many differing tongues. Grace now rose above judgment, not reducing them all to one lip and the same words, but meeting each where thus confounded and scattered.
Nor was this by any means all; but the power of the Spirit baptized all the believers into one body, the Church. The unity here, however, though produced of course by the same Spirit in those who compose that body, is not that which fell to the Apostle Paul to set out. Of a spiritual nature it nevertheless displays itself in that which the world can see and appreciate in measure. It is not precisely "one as we," that is, as the Father and the Son, which verse 11 had predicated of the disciples. As the Father and the Son had but one mind and affection, purpose and way, so was this oneness desired for the Apostles in their work and life; and wondrously was it realised in them, as we have already noticed. Here the saints at large, those who believe through their word, are in view; and the thing sought is that they should "all be one," "even as Thou, Father, in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us"-not "as we," but "in us," in the Father and the Son. It is communion in virtue of the Father made known in the Son, and of the Son the object of the Father's love and delight, into which we are brought by the Holy Ghost. With the Father we share the Son; with the Son we share the Father. Into this blessedness the saints were now for the first time to be introduced, and in such sort that they should all be one, even as the Father in the Son, and the Son in the Father, so they also one in the Father and the Son.
This was to be a testimony to the world, not preaching only, but this oneness so unearthly, so unprecedented among men, oneness in the joy of Divine grace which drew together souls so diverse and by the power of Divine objects, motives, and affections, those who had been once utterly indifferent or bitterly opposed, hating and hated. What a call for the world to believe that the Father sent the Son! For this, and this only, but this adequately accounted for it, when the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven gave the truth energy in hearts purified by faith. For as flesh tends to scatter by the assertion of its own will, so the Spirit operates to unite in the Father and the Son; and when the world sees the fruits of such gracious and holy power in the oneness of men otherwise alienated, and by nothing so keenly and permanently as by their varying religions, what a demonstration that the Father sent the Son! For here at least was no power of the sword, here no pandering to lust, here no inducement of wealth or worldly honour, here no allowance any more of sin than of human righteousness, no pride of philosophy any more than religious show or ritualism. None can deny that as built upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets there was constant and unresisting exposure to the world's scorn and violence. Self-sacrificing love reigned, grace we may say through righteousness in devotedness to the name of Jesus; and a heavenly separateness to Him for Whom they avowedly waited from heaven. What then accounted for so astonishing a change from all that had previously characterised mankind, not merely among the Gentiles but in Israel even in its most flourishing estate? What did it attest but that the Father sent the Son? What of grace and truth, of perfect and eternal redemption, of near and heavenly relationship, does not this involve?
For if the Father sent the Son, it could not but be for ends impossible otherwise and worthy of the true God revealing Himself in sovereign grace, yea, in intimate love as well as in the light which makes everything manifest. Nor was the Son only to make the truth known and to impart the Divine nature, the eternal life capable of receiving and enjoying light, and walking in it by the Spirit of God. There was an incomparably solemn yet blessed work to be wrought to God's glory as well as for man's deep need and everlasting salvation: sin had to be borne in judgment, a propitiation made for our sins so complete that God should be righteous in justifying the believer, and that believers should become God's righteousness in Christ. Thus washed, sanctified, justified, children of God consciously, the Holy Ghost given, they find others in the communion of the same blessing. They are all one, as the Father in the Son and the Son in the Father, and brought out as they were of the strongest prejudices into a mutuality of enjoyed blessedness, into oneness in the Father and the Son. What could more powerfully bear witness to the world that the Father sent the Son?
There is yet another unity of the deepest interest which our Lord next spreads before the Father: not discipular or Apostolic, which was so marvellously sustained; nor of testimony in the grace that would embrace all Christians which after a bright display at first has long painfully broken down; but unity in glory where all is to be stable and according to God perfectly.
"And the glory which Thou hast given Me I have given them, that they may be one as We (are) one, I in them and Thou in Me, that they may be perfected into one (and)* that the world may know that Thou didst send Me and lovedst them as Thou lovedst Me" (verses 22, 23).
* BCDLX, some cursives, etc., omit καὶ, "and" [Edd.], which is read by A and a dozen more uncials, most cursives, and good ancient versions.
This is wholly distinct from what we have seen, though all be to the praise of Christ. It is an exclusively future unity, though the glory be given to our faith now, and grace would have us apprehend it and feel and walk accordingly.320 For all is revealed to act now on our souls. But this unity will be in glory when we shall be one as the Father and the Son are. Hence failure here is impossible. The weakness of man, the power of Satan, can damage no more.
The manner of this unity is to be noted also. It is not the mutuality which we had described in verse 21, that we should be one in the Father and the Son, as the Father in the Son and the Son in the Father. Such is the admirable way in which the Saviour set out what we are called to now by the Spirit, that the world may believe the Father sent the Son. But by-and-by, when the glory is revealed, there will be this new character, that, while the saints are to be one even as the Father and the Son are one, it will be Christ the Son in them and the Father in Him. And this as exactly agrees with Rev. 21 as the former answers to 1 John 1:3.
For as the holy city-new Jerusalem-is the bride, the Lamb's wife, the symbol of ourselves glorified in that day, so we are shown that the city had "the glory of God," and the Lamb its lamp, while the nations walk in its light (Rev. 21:11, 23, 24). Thus are the blessed on earth to enjoy the heavenly glory, not directly like the glorified on high who have the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb as their temple, and need none other; whereas those on earth have it but mediately. Yet how constant and impressive the proof before them that the Father sent the Son! For how else could there have grown up such a holy temple in the Lord? And what adequately could account for men thus called out of the earth and glorified on high? Sovereign grace had given them that heavenly portion as the fruit of His mission Who at all cost to Himself had glorified God on the earth. And now they share His glory above, and are so displayed before the wondering world.
The salvation-bearing grace, which had appeared to all and had done its suited and appointed work in redeeming and purifying these to God as a people of possession, will then have given place to the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ; but this through the church reigning over the earth, at any rate as the ordinary or normal method of its manifestation during the kingdom. As we by faith saw the Father in the Son to eternal life, they in that day will behold and learn them in the Church, the glorious vessel of the light of Christ in Whom God's glory shines. For then the false glory of man is for ever judged, never more to mislead the heart; and Satan will never regain his bad eminence in the heavenlies whereby he found means most effectively to misrepresent God, oppose Christ, accuse the saints, and deceive the world. It is thenceforward the glory of God that is established before all eyes, so that men " know " it in and by the glorified saints, instead of being objects of testimony that they might "believe." For the earth shall be full of the glory of Jehovah (Num. 14:21), and of the knowledge of Jehovah (Isa. 11:9), and of the knowledge of the glory of Jehovah (Hab. 2:14), as the waters cover the sea. Then Christ shall have come to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all them that believed, in that day.
Therefore do we hear for the first time of being "perfected into one." The Apostolic unity first spoken of, unity in counsel and action as the Father and the Son gave pattern, was as blessed as it was all-important for the place they had to fill and the work to be done in the testimony of Christ. Still it was comparatively partial, at least necessarily on a small scale. Far wider was the second unity of fellowship in the Father and the Son exhibited in the Pentecostal assembly at large, when thousands of souls walked together superior to selfish influence, and great grace was upon them all, and of the rest durst no man join himself to them, but the people magnified them, and believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women. (Acts 5:14.) But this was only transient. The third will be perfect in glory, and thus permanent as well as complete.
And the effect will be immense and immediate, as indeed one could not conceive it otherwise. The world will contemplate with amazement the Church in the glory and the glory of God in the Church, or (as the Lord says) the Father in Him, and He in them glorified. It is unity perfect both in connection with its source and in manifestation of the Divine glory. And what a demonstration that the Father sent the Son and loved the saints as He loved Him! For how should the Son be there as the glorified Man unless previously sent here in love? and how should we be manifested together with Him in glory, unless loved with the same love? It is no question of "believing" then, but of undeniable fact. The world will "know" it. We may know now what is only revealed in the Word to our faith; but in that day will be a display of Divine glory.
The closing section of our Lord's words is quite distinct in its character, and yet more intimate, as is marked by His use of Θέλω, "I will" (or "desire"), for the first and only time throughout His prayer.
"Father, that what* Thou hast given Me, I desire that, where I am, they also may be with Me, that they may behold My glory which Thou hast given Me, because Thou lovedst Me before (the) world's foundation. Righteous Father, though† the world knew Thee not, but I knew Thee, and these knew that Thou didst send Me. And I made Thy name known to them, and will make (it) known, that the love wherewith Thou lovedst Me may be in them and I in them" (verses 24-26).
* ὃ, "what," BD, etc. [most Edd.], instead of οὓς, "whom" [Lachmann], as in the mass of authorities [ACL, Syrsin, etc.].
† It has been suggested, in order to make it smoother English, "though the world knew Thee not, yet," etc., to translate thus, "Righteous Father! and the world knew Thee not! But," etc. I prefer simply to follow the words faithfully, "but I knew Thee," in a sort of parenthesis, contrasted with the world, and introductory of His own, who at least knew Him as the sent One.
First, the Lord desires of the Father that those whom He had given Him should be with Him where He is. He is in spirit on high before the Father, and would have His own with Himself there. It is no question of display in glory before the world, even though in the closest association with Him; it is to be with Himself where no stranger can (I do not say merely intermeddle with the joy, but) look on Him or them, in the hidden scene which Divine love forms for its deepest satisfaction. There the Father has the Son after glorifying Himself perfectly in the face of all possible difficulty, and the suffering entailed not only by creature opposition and malice, but by Divine judgment of God on that evil, the consequences of which must be borne unsparingly by Him, Who would vindicate God on the one hand, and on the other deliver to the uttermost the guilty, so far as suited the gracious purpose of God. And this Jesus did in absolute obedience, as became Himself a man in grace beyond measure and at all cost; this He did in infinite suffering to His Father's praise, Who acquired fresh and everlasting glory and could thenceforward act as freely as righteously according to His nature and His love.
And now, as we have seen at the beginning of the chapter, going to heaven on the ground not of His personal title only, but of His work, He expresses His desire that His own also, the disciples whom the Father had given Him, should be with Him above, "that they may behold My glory." It is not, on the one hand, that which is personal from everlasting to everlasting, beyond creature ken, that in the Son which I presume none really knows nor can, save the Father Who is not said to reveal Him (Matt. 11:27). Neither is it, on the other hand, the glory given to the blessed Lord which is to be manifested even to the world in that day, in which glory we are to be manifested along with Him (Col. 3:4). Here it is proper to Himself on high, yet given Him by the Father as we are in His perfect favour to behold it: a far higher thing than any glory shared along with us, and which the Lord, reckoning on unselfish affections Divinely formed in us, looks for our valuing accordingly, as more blessed in beholding Him thus than in ought conferred on ourselves. It is a joy for us alone, wholly outside and above the world, and given because the Father loved Him before its foundation. None but the Eternal could be thus glorified, but it is the secret glory which none but His own are permitted to contemplate, "blest answer to reproach and shame," not the public glory in which every eye shall see Him. Nothing less than that meets His desire for us. How truly even now our hearts can say that He is worthy!322
Next, the Lord draws the line definitely between the world and His own, and makes it turn not on rejecting Himself, but on ignoring His Father. Here, therefore, it is a question of judgment in result, however grace may tarry and entreat; and therefore He says, "Righteous Father," not "Holy Father" as in verse 11, where He asks Him to keep them in His Name, as He Himself had done whilst with them. Now He sets forth not the lawlessness of the world, not its murderous hatred of Himself or of His disciples, nor yet of the grace and truth revealed in the Gospel, nor of the corruptions of Christianity and the Church (which we are sure lay naked and opened before His all-seeing eyes), but that on the one side the world knew not the Father, and on the other that the Son did, as the disciples that the Father sent the Son: words simple and briefly said, but how solemn in character and issues!
Never was so competent a witness of anyone or anything, as Christ of the Father. Yet the world knew Him not, nor received His testimony for a moment, but rose up more and more against it till all closed in the cross. Thenceforward He is hid in heaven, and those who believe on Him are heavenly. False pretension to it is salt that has lost its savour. And all those who are true are the first to own that all turns for them on the Son's knowledge of the Father, as they themselves knew the Father sent Him. It is no question of themselves at all, but of the Father; and He is only known in the Son Whom He sent; and this is eternal life, whether now had in Christ or enjoyed without alloy when we behold His glory on high; as ignorance of the Father implies the guilty rejection of the Son, to the everlasting loss, and not merely passing judgment, of the world.
But lastly, where Christ is known as the Father's sent One, the deepest blessing and the highest privileges are even now given, and not merely what awaits the saints at Christ's coming. "And I made known to them Thy Name, and will make known, that the love wherewith Thou lovedst Me may be in them, and I in them." If ever there was one capable of estimating another, it was the Son in respect of the Father; and His name, the expression of what He was, with equal competency He made known to us. He had done it on earth to the disciples; He would do so from heaven whither He was going; and this that He might give them, and give us, the consciousness of the same love of the Father which rested ever on Himself here below. As if to cut off the not unnatural hesitation of the disciples, He adds the blessed guarantee of His own being in them, their life. For they could understand that, if they lived of His life, and could be somehow as He before the Father, the Father might love them as Him. This is just what He does give and secure by identification with them, or, rather, as He puts it, "and I in them." Christ is all and in all.