The Gospel of John

J. N. Darby.

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(Notes and Comments Vol. 6.)

John 5

There are two points in this chapter, besides the witness: the relationship and relative position of the Father and the Son, and their working, the working of both and either. This is introduced by the necessity of man, the poor man, and brought out the thesis as regarded the Sabbath (which should be in the day of blessing): "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work," this being put as a consequence. In fact, this verse embraces the whole chapter. It was amongst the Jews at Jerusalem, and bore upon their present system. The Lord owned their present obligation; He was at the feast; He went up to Jerusalem. It may not even have been a prescribed feast. It was not material to the argument; the fact was elsewhere. The specialty of it is associated with the argument.

62 As to the validity of the questioned paragraph it is not very material. If genuine, it brings the moral of the passage (which rests on what is undoubted) into more specified dispensatory result, the full life-giving and judicial power of the Son brought into juxtaposition with the weakness and unprofitableness comparatively of the administration of angels. The weakness of the means, as requiring the working of man, contrasted with the will-working of the Father and the Son, is the full moral truth of the passage; and the facts of the case, as noticed and reasoned on, are substantially supplied in what follows.

The angelical ministration of the Jews, and all that required the exertion of man, failed as a remedy for evil when there was real destitution and need, what required it most and called out most compassion. It came to "I have not," for he was "under his infirmity." The Lord knew this, He had compassion, He felt for such. The point only He puts is, "Wouldest thou become well?"

The answer on which the point of the whole case rests is, I am weak and incapable to use the remedy. It is a remedy (so was the whole system of the law, the angelic system) which supposes the strength, even if sick, which in real truth is needed. It was precisely the picture of the law (compare Romans 3:3, and indeed the end of chapter 7; and also chapter 5:6; as see also Acts 7:53), for while it proposed health it required the strength to obtain it which the sickness itself deprived it of. This case also implies as there a converted will under the law, without the power of life. This is the point which our Lord meets, and occasions the development of the life-giving power of the Son, and consequently His judgment as Son of Man. In Paul, that is, the Romans, it arises as the question of righteousness, the truth of resurrection, sonship rising up out of this, that is, out of the principles on which this is founded and evidenced, the presence of the Spirit dwelling in a man; the connection of which two subjects, as brought together in the Spirit, is not seen, I suppose, in their then given order by many, and which seems to me to solve many contradictory assertions of God's children (I mean on the subject of what they call holiness, etc.), who have these truths partially. And in truth it is a view in which the full order of the chapter has not presented itself to mind as now, so as to open it out.

But to return to our chapter, and the Lord's discourse here. Jesus met the whole case at once. His word commanded evil; His word was in power; when heard, life-giving; but it was according to His will in power He said, "Arise, take up thy bed, and walk. And immediately the man was made whole, and," therefore, "took up his bed, and walked."

63 The fact is then mentioned on which hangs the reasoning of our Lord and the Jews on the real position in which things were according to the mind of God. It was Sabbath on that day; could the law give rest? The Jews said to the healed man, It is Sabbath, it is not lawful for thee to take up thy bed. The reply at once brought the question to issue: He that made me whole bade me do it. It ought to have brought out the conviction of One present in power of health, acting in and from God. But the Jews preferred resting in their own ordinances (in which they had found no rest, and had not kept) to recognising the Son, the Heir of all the ordinances. I observe here that it was not faith in Jesus here, but the exercise of Jesus' power in will, as flowing from Himself. Therefore it is noted that he did not know Jesus, nor afterwards, till Jesus met him, and spoke to him in the temple. Therefore Jesus treats him as still under the discipline of the Law: "Behold," take notice of this, "thou art made whole" (it is not, - Thy faith hath saved thee, or the like); "sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon thee."

It was then the supreme exercise of Jesus' prerogative on which He founds His argument, as the Son having had compassion on one as it were dead, incapable of anything (or therefore of helping himself under law), and quickening whom He would. Accordingly the Jews persecuted Jesus. They set themselves up on the righteousness of that which they had not kept, in enmity against the Son, Jesus the Saviour. He did these things on Sabbath. Our Lord's answer embraced the two great points, and at once brought the whole question to an issue. He was the Son: "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work." God had not entered into His rest as a God of love, the Father, but being such must yet work, and in the manifestation and Person of the Son. The rest of the seventh day was the rest of the creation; and in the law the creation could not find its rest. God rested from His natural works then and this also the law took up, and witnessed, but it could not accomplish it in man, for sin had entered in the flesh, and weak through the flesh. If man were to have a share in this rest (and this was the purpose of ordained and dispensed rest), it must be by the working of God in a new will of His love and power. Sons were to be brought into glory, God's mind was to rest in the surpassing fulness of His own love, in and by the Son manifested in honour in it, for man was ruined, could have no part in God's rest, therefore God steps out of His place, "worketh," that we might enter into His rest, through the work of His own power and will anew on man ruined and dead, impotent even for rest, as the law showed him to be.

64 The end of this was that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father, knowing God in His new character, even as Father, born of God, begetting sons unto glory, and that in and by the Son, that He might be honoured even as the Father. Hence this most unboundedly important and comprehensive expression, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work." The rest of His love God had not yet entered, nor could not yet enter into. However far they might be from His mind, they might rest here. The Son of God's love could not. It was the time for a Saviour, for the Father and the Son, to work. It was then the new work of divine love, as contrasted with the imbecility of the law. But neither in this case was judgment therefore to flow upon the law; it was all to rest upon the honouring, the recognition, of the Son whom they could not see, though indeed they did indeed see. Accordingly they at once see it in this light; they would tell Him because He not only set aside the Sabbath but called God His Father, making Himself equal with God. Our Lord proceeds accordingly to open out this to our Spirit-taught instruction, for indeed it is a mystery, though full of blessing. There are two points: His Sonship as Man, as being Son of God. It is the Son of Man, observe, as He calls Himself, who is speaking, the Son of God in this world: Jesus makes Himself equal with God. So He says, "That ye may wonder."

But to follow this: I am assuming, says our Lord, no independent, distinct authority. I do nothing from Myself (so the Spirit speaketh not "from himself"), but I follow the Father in His works, and whatever He does I do; for there is no distance, difference. "The Father loveth the Son." The outgoing of God the Father's mind is in Jesus, in the Son. It cannot restrain itself. "This is my beloved Son, in whom," etc.; therefore shows Him all things Himself doeth; there is nothing that is not in common; this too of Jesus in the world (compare the beginning and close of Revelation: "I kill, and I make alive"; and Isaiah 50). So, "For what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise." The Son is the agent, as it were, of the Father's manifestation, "God manifest in the flesh." "He will shew him greater works than these, that ye may marvel." Here our Lord seems to allude to this judgment which He was conscious was upon them, as not seeing the Son. "Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish; for I work a work in your days, a work which ye will in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you." "If I had not come amongst them they had not had sin; but now they have no cloak for their sin." "If I had not done amongst 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." As He says, "Believe me, that I am in the Father, and the Father in me; or else believe me for the very works' sake." Our Lord therefore states the two great characters in which the Son is thus manifested to His honour, which is the hinge of all, one in community of work with the Father, who "sheweth," etc., the spiritual, life-giving power of the gospel, as I suppose, originating in the first coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Life is the object of this ministry, as observed elsewhere: "They that hear shall live." This "now is." It is in the power of our Lord's first coming, and by the power of the Spirit pre-eminent above dispensation; therefore perhaps before even the final dissolution of the Jewish economy (compare chap. 4:23). But "the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth", as having all committed to Him by the Father, that He might be honoured wherein He had been humbled.

65 It was a fellowship with the Father and with the Son which was proposed in this work, and through which the rest of God was to be obtained; and this in life-giving power to the dead, as 1 John 1; and this, observe, as there stated, in that (even the Son) seen, heard, looked upon, handled, of the Word of life. "As the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them, even so the Son quickeneth whom he will." In this the great power is manifested, also all the blessing; therefore the Son does it coincidently with the Father, according to His will. He quickens with intrinsic power, though with the same purpose. But the judgment was the exercise of authority, not of blessing, nor properly witness of divine power. It was not the communion of life with the Father, in which we also were to participate, that we might have rest. The Father therefore "judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son, that all men," even those who rejected Him, who refused the Son as Jesus in the flesh, should submit whether or no to the Son, Jesus in the flesh, that all men "should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father." For as power and blessing is the evidence of God to participators in conscious knowledge, so authority is the source of honour to them who have no community with the Person honoured. Herein then is the great development of that which is manifested in Jesus, as contrasted with the law, in which man, the sinner, could not in himself enter into His rest. The judgment is given to the Man dishonoured. Nevertheless, herein was the Father also dishonoured, for "he that honoureth not the Son, honoureth not the Father which hath sent him."

66 Having stated the great broad principles as it related to the Persons of the Father and the Son, our Lord proceeds to develop its application to men as the objects and subjects of it. It is as receiving the word of Jesus we are quickened. "Of his own will begat he us by the word of truth," etc. Thus we believe Jesus as sent of the Father. "He that receiveth his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true," etc. But there is a perception of the Person also herein, as well as the mission. At least, it is involved in it, though not expressly. But - there is a reception of the mission as by the word, and Jesus herein: "He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me," that is, the Father. However, He here speaks of Himself as the word or speaking, for so He speaks, and thus we hereby know the Father, by the revelation of the Son, and that He is indeed the Son hereby; but I say He here speaks of Himself as speaking the words of God, and this by the anointing of the Holy Ghost, wherefore also as doing it now by the Holy Ghost it is equivalent, which is important to observe; for He does not say, Whosoever believes on Me, the Son, but, "Whosoever hears my word, and believes on him that sent me, hath"; for it is the manner of its operation (as revealing also the Father, the Sender in love and power in Jesus) that the Lord here speaks of, not the Persons acting, for He spoke as Man, though the words were to be believed as God's (and led to believe on Him that sent Him, and therefore Him). So also He judges as Man, but the judgment is God's; for this is just the mystery, His manifestation in humiliation in the flesh. He therefore that receives Him in this character has seen indeed the power of God in Him, and recognised Him as sent of God, believing on Him that sent Him in such. This is the manner of it. The work has been wrought; he "hath everlasting life."

67 The other manner in which the Son's honour is developed has therefore no place or opportunity in him (or indeed it would be, as it were, denying the real power in the former manner); he "does not come into judgment." The power has been manifested in another manner in him; he "is passed from death unto life," a life therefore having (being by this faith) fellowship with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ, with Jesus the Man and the Father that sent Him, but the Man Christ, the Son; as He says, "With his Son Jesus Christ." The "judgment" is one thing given to Jesus, and into which those quickened by the Word believed, and believing on Him that sent Him, cannot come; for then He would be judging the Father's children, and, we may add, His own redeemed.

This is the broad distinction, then, between the persons, subjects of this power; those believing the word, hearing the word, and believing the Sender, thus quickened, have passed into life, and do not come into judgment.

The state of the subjects, and the full manifestation and manner of the power are then stated; for these words (vv. 24, 25) are the practical address to men as the objects of it. "Verily, verily," said our blessed Lord, "the hour is coming"; that is, in the dispensation of the Spirit, when He should be "declared (diorismenos) to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead"; "and now is"; for He had indeed life in Himself, though now not manifested by the Spirit in power to the world; "when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God" for indeed the Jews were as dead thus towards God, as men, as were the Gentiles; "and they that hear shall live." They shall all hear. "I say, Have they not heard?" So, "My sheep hear my voice." (Compare all chap. 10.) They that hear receive life in the hearing. So, in chapter 6, they saw the Son, and did not see Him; they heard the Son, and did not hear Him. Awful word! "For the heart of that people was waxed gross." "For as the Father hath life in himself, so hath he given to the Son," even Jesus, "to have life in himself"; and the words have the quickening power of life. It is the communicating vehicle ("the just live by his faith," in this sense also, as it is "the law of the Spirit of life"). "The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life." In this, observe, in acting He acts as Jesus speaking, to whom as Son it is given to have life in Himself. But it is the voice of Son, even of God, that is heard, and heard gives life. "And he hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is Son of Man."

68 It was in this He purchased the glory, it was in this, as humbled, the glory became due. "Wherefore also," that at the name of the dishonoured Jesus, "every knee should bow," etc. It is as Man He is entitled, as Man He was the great Redeemer of all, and purchased also all as Master, though they may deny and dishonour Him (for this term Master [Despotees] is used of the purchased), dishonourers therein dishonouring God also, yet in the Person of the Son (for "he that honoureth not the Son"); therefore as a Man He was dishonoured, as a Man alone occasion could be found to dishonour Him, as Man He shall be honoured in judgment on those who herein dishonoured Him, His servants who denied Him.

But not only so, for there is a double ground. He has it as Son of Man in title over all, as the Man set by God over all, the Man that was the Redeemer, as such, of all; that is, as obtaining the title in virtue of His death; the Man that was dishonoured of all even in death, "whom none of the princes of this world knew, for if they had," etc.; for indeed in rejecting Jesus in the flesh, the Jews to this extent made themselves even rejecting their distinctive Messiah, losing their King, and having no king but Caesar. But King they shall have, even as many as the Lord their God shall call. Woe, woe the day they rejected Him! woe, woe the day! But it shall be brighter through the riches of His grace than ever; that indeed shall be life from the dead, through Him that wept over them rejecting Him. Hasten it, Lord, in its day, and make us taste, oh, how ought we to taste, who have dishonoured Thee manifested in Spirit, that is, in glory, Thy long-suffering, Thy long-suffering! Alas, for Jesus rejected! Surely may we say, "He was despised and rejected of men." Strange, strange infatuation! Was it indeed in that He got the tongue of the learned?

It is as Son of Man, then, that He exercises judgment, the exalted Man; for He was despised even as the Son of God manifested in the flesh. "Marvel not at this," that is, the quickening of the dead at the hearing of His voice, or that the Son hath, even as the Son of Man, life in Himself, for this is the substantive point previously stated; for it is the rejection of Him as Man, as having life in Himself as the Son, from which therefore flows that authority is given to Him as Son of Man to execute judgment. Also as Man He has the communicable life in Himself which as Son of God He can give, and has to give, to others. As thus manifested in His manhood He is rejected; and therefore in His manhood, in this very character, He judges. Here therefore the committal of judgment to Him is but illustrative of the character in which He is the lifegiver, and in which, as rejected, to complete the evidence of its truth, He becomes Judge for its rejection on those rejecting it, thereby illustrating its truth.

69 In this then, I say, the life-giving work only is stated; that is, substantively; the judgment merely corroborative of this, as given to Him, because He is the Son of Man, in which character He was rejected, and in which character He is revealed to us. Judgment is the evidence to unbelief as the service of faith. Marvel not, then, at this life-giving power of His word to them that hear, "for all that are in their graves shall hear his voice, and shall go forth; they that have done good, into the resurrection of life," the full accomplishment of the power of His life-giving word. "What is the exceeding greatness of his power to usward who believe, which he wrought," etc.; making us "the fulness of," etc.; as so Philippians 3, according to the power, etc. "They that have done evil" (have not walked in the power of the resurrection life in the world by faith), "they that have done evil unto the resurrection of judgment." The very power they despised shall be exercised mere power upon them, and shall bring them into the judgment, which He, the same raiser, has authority to exercise, because He is that which they have despised; Him because He was. The recognition of Jesus as from the Father, the Son of Man to have life in Himself as Son of God, is that into which we are quickened by the power of His life-giving word, heard in faith. The distinction of the resurrection of life and of judgment is as complete here as the rejection of Jesus as the life-giving power in unbelief is the occasion why we are not in the one but are subject to the other. They cannot be associated, for the rejection of Jesus is the cause of the other, and that by which its validity is demonstrated as to those who have rejected it. When there is life there cannot be in this sense judgment, or it would be the denial, not the proof, of that power which is the point to be demonstrated; for the judgment is committed to Him as Man. The point to be demonstrated is that He had life in Himself as Son of God; while the fitness of the corroboration is wonderful, because it is in that character in which He was rejectable, because He assumed it vivifyingly to others. Blessed be His name! at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow.

70  - 30. He here, therefore (as that in which He is manifested and judges), returns again entirely to His human character: "I can from myself do nothing" (as Son of God He quickened whom He would, yet coincidently with the Father) as Man, in which however He had that life. He was the Servant of the Father; came, not to do His own will, but His that sent Him (see also John 17:3.) And this was in righteousness. It was a judgment not flowing from Himself, nor vindicating Himself. That He left to the Father. His will had no part in the judgment. Simply as it was presented in truth to Him He judged, without the slightest bias, His will having no part in it, for He sought this in nothing. His judgment was simply the judgment (the now abstract judgment) of God on what presented itself, on what He heard, as the evidence meets the law in the judge's mind. He did this too as a Servant, as a hearer, which is His scriptural character as a Servant ("He hath digged ears for me"). It was as Man He judged, and this even when it was judgment on Himself (see Isaiah 50). Neither thus could He bear witness of Himself (though the Son of God being manifested) as Man; for indeed it would essentially deny the very truth of His character as seeking solely the Father's glory, in which He was faithful as a Servant in the flesh; and therefore we may simply say it would not be true, for He would therein have broken in upon the truth of His character. Yet He was in another sense competent, for He was the Son of God, and though Man (and as such would not), yet knew whence He came, and whither He went, which showed His inherent competency (for as such God alone can give witness of God).

- 32. "There is another." Here I believe our Lord secretly refers to God's witness to Him, known to Himself, not that of which He testifies to others (as see chapter 8) of which reflectively He speaks when He says, "O righteous Father," etc., "but I have known thee." And again, "If I said, I knew him not"; and as the apostle speaks, "Knowing God, or rather known of him"; only of Him in perfectness of unity; and hence indeed we may learn the unity and divinity of our Lord; for as the Father bore witness so He was able to know its truth (as compare on this very subject 1 John 5). The Lord then turns to that which was applicable responsibly to them: "Ye sent unto John." Not that He received testimony from man, but indeed as elsewhere bore it to John. But these things He said for their sakes, that they might be saved. Nevertheless, though he was the burning and shining light they would not in its season all rejoice in it. So with some doubt I interpret; but see above, and enquire as to this.

71 Again, the works, and the Father Himself, bear witness of Me; the works of His mission, the Father of Himself; that is, they bear witness of the Man, Him who was Jesus, that He is the Son of God. Not that they had seen the Father, indeed; but the word which He fully met it was evident they did not receive, for they did not believe on Him who fully answered all that was in it; herein the rejection of that to which the word bears witness is the rejection of the word itself, which note.

This leads the Lord to another reference as to that which they received as witnessing to Him, the Man in whom was life to give. The Scriptures, they were all of Him; but they would not come to Him. Not that He desired glory from them thus coming to Him, or seeing Him witnessed of in the Scriptures; but He knew them (though they would not receive Him), that they had not the love of God in them. He had come in His Father's name (trying their love to God), and they would not receive Him, His Son. If another came in his own name, associated with human glory, and therefore willing to receive their praises, and make them of value, him they would receive; thus condemning themselves as lovers of themselves, not God. "How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another?" "Think not," says our Lord, "that I will accuse you to the Father"; for indeed with the Jews was the great question with God, even the Father, as to the reception of His Son, as it is written, afterwards: "Unto us a Son is born," etc., and, "I have yet one Son; it may be they will reverence my Son." "Think not," therefore says our Lord, in the consciousness of His Sonship, "that I will accuse you to the Father. Moses, in whom ye trust, will be your accuser; for he wrote of me." But we may observe the perfect humility of our Lord (compare Hebrews 2:1): "How shall ye believe my words?" We may also remark our Lord's testimony to the value of the written testimony over oral as the object of belief in certainty and power.

72 This then, while addressed to the Jew, took the broad ground of man in principle, as we have seen elsewhere in this gospel, and took the present testimony as addressed to those amongst whom He was manifested, taking on Him in this even their seed; also, as the object and subject of the testimony, was the life-giving Son, made the Son of Man, and as Man Judge of men; and all that all men should honour the Son, in the largeness of the revelation of the Father, even as they honour the Father. Nothing can be more distinct than the position of the whole matter. Moreover, it was the rejection of Jesus as from the Father that was the ground of accusation. But they received not honour from God only, and therefore He that was from Him, and had His honour, they could not receive. If one came in his own name, having therefore man's honour, which they recognised and loved, him they would receive. This is a deep, important principle morally, and grows into the corruption of the Church; for God's gifts are the occasion of man's honour; and if this be at all recognised, the spirit, motive, and therefore, necessarily, character of service is lost.

Whenever this came upon our Lord He got out of the way of it. He did not receive testimony from men. It was with the Father He had to do, whose honour He bore. However, He would not accuse them to Him. That would have been seeking His own honour (at their expense). But it was the reception of Him as bearing His Father's honour that tried their moral character. But that in which they trusted and boasted (being of God) would be their ruin or their accusation; even Moses, for it was his business to bear witness of Jesus; the perpetuation of his testimony was on account of Jesus. But theirs was a hopeless case.

- 35. So long as it did not interfere with self-importance, till opposition of heart was drawn out, they were willing to rejoice, and rather please themselves in the light of John. They were willing to rejoice in it, but they were not baptised of him.

Our Lord states testimony of John, of His own works, directly from the Father, from the whole counsels of God in the Scriptures, which they received, and which were witnesses of Him.

73  - 37. Note the means of knowing and coming to God, of the Jews here (if all elsewhere, "No man hath seen," but the only begotten Son, He hath revealed Him). He states they had not seen nor heard God; no direct intercourse with Him of nearer or more distant kind. It was by some means that they should know Him, His word abiding in them, and that word testifying Christ manifested in accordance with the counsels revealed in it, therefore all to make wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

- 39. Then observe, they received them, nay, esteemed them as the words of eternal life. Humeis (ye) I conceive to be emphatical (yourselves therefore), and this very nearly concludes me to the imperative, which I had long doubted, but verse 40 tends the other way, so as still to hold me in doubt. However, they did not receive their testimony.

Note, the translation is all very well, but the force of hai marturousai (which bear witness). It was a question what witnesses Christ had of His Person and mission. John indeed was; though He needed not man's testimony. But not to speak of what was afforded Him, there was witness which they admitted: They are My witnesses.