J. N. Darby.
(Notes and Comments Vol. 6.)
As the last chapter of the vivifying power of Christ according to His will was associated, or rather contrasted, with the imbecility of the law, of the ministration of angels, so here our Lord, as the substance or instrument of life as received by faith as broken, that is, the life given, the natural life given, and so the food of men, believers, the vital substance of the chapter, is associated with the type of the Paschal Feast. "The Passover, a feast of the Jews, was near."
Our Lord departed away beyond the Sea of Galilee, of Tiberias. A multitude followed Him. This was a sort of link between the Lord's service and the Jewish nation or body generally; but they were not necessarily, properly speaking, Jews, but there were Jews among them. They followed Him, we may observe, because of the signs done upon the sick, but without, as before, really receiving Jesus as come down from heaven, or the Sent One of God. Jesus therefore went up into the mountain, and sat there with His disciples. Upon this, Jesus, lifting up His eyes, and seeing that a great multitude was coming, at once entered on the subject with Philip, the fact of their necessity being developed by the enquiry to Philip, showing also the familiar exercise of the disciples' mind habitual to the Lord, and His entire interest in them, the case requiring it. For it was customary (and is) with the Lord to meet every need His people are in. It is His occasion of miracle. Another in the same confidence in Him tells Him of the five loaves and two small fishes. Minute circumstances are pleasant when connected with things of deep interest, and showing forth the occasion of the glory of One whose glory is ours.
74 The Lord then, acting upon the benevolent necessity of supplying their need, proceeds to minister food to all, to make them sit down, and with His disciples serve them, serve them royally indeed, as He says in that day, "Verily I say unto you, He shall make them sit down to meat, and shall gird himself, and come forth, and serve them." So Melchisedec; for His royalty is service also to His people, and so ever; for place is always service towards those who are in relationship toward us in it. Accordingly our Lord showed His royal power of feeding and sustaining His people unlimitedly (for this shall be His portion in gift in that day over the creature, as it is also in Colossians, but not thus). See also Psalms 132:15, 68:10. So see the time of Solomon's manifestation in the temple when the Feast of Tabernacles was kept; fully then. So of David before (partially); and it was now in power over the creature; for this is His personal inheritance as Son, Firstborn of every creature; but also exercised in unity of royalty, as not simply over the house of David (though so) but also as Melchisedec, the Priest upon His throne; for as over the house of Judah and Israel it is exercised actually in royalty: "They shall hear Jezreel." They assumed the royalty, though in ignorance, from the inheritance, the sonship over the creature. He was the Prophet like unto Moses. Their minds, however, were simply confined to it after the order and desire of their own will. They would eat of the loaves and fishes. They understood nothing of the redemption power. But it shall be of the blessings of that day: There shall be a heap of corn upon the earth, high upon the mountains; the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon, when men shall be blessed in Him, and all nations shall call Him blessed; even more than the blessing of Abraham; and all the earth be filled with His glory. Hence the force and character of this miracle.
75 However, though we have passed on into these associated subjects, the proposed main subject and point here proposed by the Spirit of truth is the sustaining power of Jesus, His sustaining, feeding, life, or sustaining it by feeding. Upon this they would make Him a King, which led us into the other parts of the subject. This proposal to make Him a King He rejects, and avoids their proposed force (indeed it was only of their carnal will, not indeed in the place or order in which He was in very deed a King). He would not be a King now; though He was indeed a King, and their King.
As the facts of the history (the miracle) are thus instructive, so I think the circumstances of the passage over the sea are so, and connectedly, describing the difficulty and labour and tossing of the disciples, left just at the closing in of troubles, and toiling in the dark a length of way, yet reached not the land. The sea then arose, trouble and storm on the face of the circumstances they were in; it was dark, and Jesus had not come to them. It appears to me that the state of trouble more peculiarly relates to the Jews, and the Remnant in it. He had left the multitude, and refused their royalty, before; and then departing into a mountain Himself alone; that is, not now blessing even the Remnant with His presence; they had to descend on to the sea of this world alone, when it was now late, when darkness was closing in upon all.
In this state simply they are allowed, without any distinct recognition of their intervening condition, to continue, and Jesus rejoins them in the midst of great confusion and trouble, yet right in purpose. He walks in the same evidence of royalty, as in another way before, over all the troubles, unaided by which they were tossed and perplexed, and came near the ship. And they were afraid. They see Him. Here He rejoins them; here they see Him again walking on the sea, and near the ship; they were amazed and afraid; but it was, on His address to them, a recognised Jesus. He saith to them, It is I; fear not: the same Jesus ye have known before, and now recognise. They were glad then to receive Him into the ship. And then the whole scene closed, and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went, but not till Jesus was in the ship rejoining it in the midst of, and walking over, the difficulties and trials they were in; the time of Jacob's trouble; but when they shall be delivered out of it, when a King shall indeed be among them, and the troubled and isolated Remnant, the yechidim, find themselves in the rest they could not attain, and that immediately, troubled as they may have been, even as his brethren before Joseph at his approach.
76 It is the full picture, before the Lord shows the character in which He was to be intermediately received, of the historical dealing with the Remnant, who, as He refused to be King then for the madness of the people, were left alone by Him, to be rejoined when He would bring them to land. It embraces the two epochs when He had to say to the Jewish Remnant: His desertion, so to speak, and rejoining of them, and the consequence. Then comes, connected with the subject, in which the beams of His royalty, or estate as royal, actually shine forth, the development of His intermediate position as rejected, and the true reason and moral force of it. For His royalty was not to be exercised merely in abstract external power over the Jews, lifeless, according to the mere carnal notions of their own will, but to be the vivifying sustenance as broken [of those] who receive the blessings of that life-giving power with which His royalty was associated, in which, as Head of the creation, He had life to give; because the Son, who was the rightful Heir of all things, was given also to have life in Himself, of which they must be partakers to be associated with Him (and this could not be but by the vital union of grace), and that as broken for redemption, for an unbroken Saviour could be no sent source of grace: "He that eateth me, even he shall live by me." And in the power which He had thus could they alone have the sure mercies of David, which even rested on His resurrection, as we know. Thus is the full, large link of His royalty (actual over the Jews), connected with the Sonship of inheritance, and associated with the Second Adamship of quickening Spirit, by which the largeness of that character brings into redeeming union by His death, fully closed round and linked together; or rather, the effectual sustenance of redemption, unison in His death, by which any were brought into co-partnership with Him in that glory: "He that eateth me shall even live by me." This is a most important association.
In this chapter then is associated the prospective royalty of Christ, in which He would feed the people with plenty in His actual position of blessing, and that in which He becomes the actual spiritual food of His people, them that believe on Him unto life eternal, associated with Him in the same life, and this believed in as rejected, broken, and giving forth His life on their account.
77 Having given the general prospective doctrine previously, He here opens out that which is properly Christian, so called, belongs to the kingdom of heaven, in which He was humbled. This flows from His discourse with the people finding Him; they could not account how, or at least when, He came there, on the other side of the sea, from where He had fed them. Our Lord, on their asking it, knowing their real thoughts, at once presents it to them, opening out their practical unbelief, and the character in which He would be manifested, Himself the object of faith, and that as broken and given, and not seen, nor supplying them with the present sustenance of their carnal lives, the life of their hand, that they should not grieve; that they must receive Him in this character, and not from signs of His present power; for He was to be broken as the power of eternal life, having Himself come down from heaven for that purpose. They had seen a sign, but they did not believe, for they sought after the power of sense, and were looking for the fruit for themselves, not for the glory of God. It was presenting the principle of faith as the way of life, and this in the recognition of Jesus as broken and given, as contrasted with any present actual gift to them in their present state (for indeed they were dead), and so the power of life.
- 27. Therefore, "Labour not for the meat that perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto life eternal, which the Son of Man" (note the character) "shall give you: for," etc. Here it was only presented generally as the object aimed at, even that which endured unto eternal life, Himself the giver as Son of Man, sealed of God, even the Father; the substitution of this idea for their thoughts (after the old man) of Messiah, as the way of eternal life, while yet the prospective character of royalty actually blessing below has been held up before us; before that preserved, while this given, in the wisdom of God's counsels.
Son of Man is a most important expression in this mystery or doctrine, for while it affirms nothing as regards the Jew, for as Man He took upon Him the seed of Abraham, it does, on the rejection of the Jew, open the door by the nature, and finds its purpose in that.
78 They then enquire the works of God. Our Lord's mind then goes a step, and leads them a step further: "This is the work of God"; presents Himself as the object of faith as sent of the Father. They ask a sign, evidently showing where their hearts were. As our Lord had said, they looked to be fed, to have their present life sustained in ease. God was to be their Servant in this. Thus they were to be marked as His people; while their carnal man would be satisfied, and their pride fed as well. Such is the carnal notion of privilege, as it would specially appear too among them. Compare our Lord's conduct exactly with Satan.
Satisfaction, faith, in the privileges of another, is the form of the sloth of unbelief which the pride of an apostatised religious system assumes. They required (assuming present blessing, and looking for carnal ease in it now), a "sign, that we may see, and believe." Not only does our Lord present the nature and abstract work of this faith which He was proposing to them, but now in progressive contrast with the characters of their unbelief (for progressive revelation ever develops the deep moral character of unbelief in act) presents the positive, present object of required faith to them, as to which His Father was then dealing with them, the real object of a Jew's faith, and which he must have faith to believe or receive: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses did not give you the heavenly bread," or the bread from heaven; "but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven; for the bread of God is he who comes down … and gives." They look for it there as a present gift, for present gift begets the desire of conscious necessity, and willing to believe its truth, and is the handmaid of faith.
Upon this our Lord at once declares and reveals Himself as the bread of life present. Previously it had been inductive argument; that is, leading their minds on from the natural frame of selfish unbelief to the point of faith; then our Lord presents fully the object of faith present; the rest is simply God's work. Previously it was "said therefore." Now, they having said, "Lord, evermore give us," it was no more "said therefore," but "said"; that is, the Lord presents Himself as the full, present object of faith: "I am the bread of life"; "he that believeth." The "I am" includes His flesh; that is, Him come and then present, to be believed on as come in the flesh, as manifested, the life which was with the Father manifested (compare 1 John 1, though that is in another order). He is "the bread of life"; He saith not "life" simply, but the constant sustenance of life, life from God, life from the Father, actually manifested, seen, and tangible.
79 Observe, further, the fulness of character. He was not merely Messiah, but "out of heaven, and gives life to the world," the bread of God therefore; though "My Father giveth you"; yet having this power of life intrinsically. It is therefore (which note) "he that comes," and "he that believes." It appears to me that there is a difference between the hungering and thirsting, the coming and believing. It appears to me that the coming to Him is as in the flesh, the bread, the coming to Him in this character as come in the flesh; seeing Him, God manifest in flesh. Such shall in nowise hunger. He that believeth on Him receives of His Spirit, and shall never at any time thirst, as He saith. We "have all been made to drink into one Spirit," as we know now, after the Spirit is spoken of as water and drink. It is not that the two things are not associated. We have seen in chapter 4 that they are immediately so associated; but though associated they may be distinct; and the coming of Jesus in the flesh, and the drinking into the Spirit as from Him so come, are alike primary truths of dispensation; for the Spirit is received from Him as having come in the flesh and been humbled, and therefore now exalted; so He gives the Spirit.
There is another propriety in this, and that is, it is as believing in Jesus not present that we receive the Spirit, and thirst not, howsoever it be hence the force of that which He speaks in the end of the chapter; for it is not the flesh, but as dead, which is profitable for us, or its death rather: "For he that has died is justified from sin"; "but the Spirit is life because of righteousness"; and hence it was the Gentiles were let in to the full feeding on Christ; for the enmity was in His flesh (wrongly translated, I think, in the English), and neither so was there justification for the believer (sinner), though there have been blessing for the righteous; nor could therefore a Gentile be let in but in this, the way of life; He believed on as dead, and a receiving of the Spirit, he could, and a Jew so come to equal privileges; for the Spirit was, as we have seen, through and after death (therefore "believe"); though abstractedly, as we have seen, coming to Him in the flesh they would not hunger. But we have special knowledge of Him as in the flesh, very special; that is, as dead in it, dead unto sin once, and so believing on Him we receive of the Spirit, and never thirst.
80 It was, however, as we have said, matter of faith to come to Him, even as in the flesh, because He was God manifest in the flesh. Nor could He receive any who did not see the Son. Therefore He says, "But I have said to you, That ye have also seen me, and do not believe" (compare Thomas afterwards; as Peter, "In whom, though now," not eporôntes; so 1 John 1 on the other hand; but this applied to Jews). And then comes the full development of this important doctrine, applicable, as we have said, to Jews, but by the principle of faith, not actually eporôntes, for we walk by faith, and not by sight, letting him that believeth in, as our Lord's answer to Thomas above, Himself the point of access or approach; for His word would be such as might be directly and fully applied by the Jews on the spot, and yet declare the result in full blessing, into which we are admitted by faith, but presented as receivable then in Him come in the flesh; for as yet He has not spoken of its breaking, but what He will do for them coming to Him then sent of the Father.
Well, herein then was His consolation: He came to do His Father's will. All that the Father gave Him would come; but He was perfectly subject to His Father's will, came to do it, and therefore would never cast them out. Though the body should reject, all that came He would receive, and not cast out; for He came, not to please Himself, but even in saving to do His Father's will; and He was content to exercise His power within these limits, He doing that by which any were to be saved, He effecting the work, but content to be the Father's Servant in it. Whoever comes to Him He in no wise casts out. This is not only from His own saving office, but because He is content to be subject to His Father's will, and knows that His (given to Him) shall come to Him. Here it is the direct acquiescence in His personal rejection. Having seen Him being humbled in this, also in saving those who did come of the Father's gift (here above all showing His perfectness as a Servant, for the Son had life in Himself, and could quicken whom He would), He speaks of Himself, as come down, as the Person to come to. Here I first find, moreover, the election of the Father's love (for this gospel is most morally methodical) behind the rejection of Jesus by the body: "Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life"; that is, I find it first brought out into operation here as the satisfaction of Christ's soul; so in Matthew 11, end; and here, accordingly, the blessing of this is developed, that of those whom the Father had given Him He should lose none. It would not be left to that nature whose weakness had as such rejected Him, but to the effectual securing in the Son the will of the Father, now to be manifested in blessing of its own authority.
81 The subsequent passage seems to come in to avoid the preclusion of individuals under the unbelief of the body, or man's will exhibited in them. They might have all been rejected as a body. This saves the opportunity to every individual (to be formed, indeed, into a new body or fold in Him) who does see the Son, and believes on Him, of all the blessing that [is] in Christ; for this was the will of Him that sent Him; and he would get the blessing, the full blessing, in due time (in God's way; that is, the Father's way), in spite of the rejection of the body; he has everlasting life, and as a son he shall enjoy the blessings of the Father's kingdom; that is, as risen from the dead, for this was part of the Father's will.
Hitherto our Lord had only spoken of Himself as come down from heaven, come for blessing; but as the body had seen, and did not believe, blessing in spite of them (for their unbelief had been manifested) for every one who should not be included and precluded by their unbelief, who did believe in or came to Him. Not yet had He presented the apparent stumbling-block of His being broken; for, as we have said, unbelief is progressively manifested, and the progressive security to believers of blessing (in spite of the unbelief of those [with whom] they might seem associated), by the progressive development of the supremacy of God's ways, still more distances the apathy of unbelief. Here we may remark, in principle the letting in of Gentiles is provided for, but not as yet brought to might. But as yet, I say, the Lord has only manifested Himself the bread come down, and he that came to Him, and drank, say, of His doctrine (for His words were spirit and life) should have everlasting life.
This being done, He proceeds to the blessing of believers, not to save the credit of unbelief by not propounding full and blessed truth; nor does He hesitate, on the distinct rejection of one truth, to make the matter worse to them by propounding further. They had shown their unbelief: "Is not this the son of Joseph?" They were Socinians; they recognised the natural birth; that is, simply, they did not see that He was the Son of God, that He came down from heaven. He then puts the full principle of their rejection of Him before them: You need not murmur among yourselves; I will tell you the simple truth, says the Lord; ye are reprobate. "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him." Death indeed must be the consequence of all this state of things, but "I will raise him up in the last day"; for our Lord has been all through suggesting death as the consequence, and that which intervenes before blessing, in so repeating the raising up.
82 We may remark that our Lord, when the body as such has rejected Him (as He says, "I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not"), as in [the] former chapter, instead of confining Himself to those things which might not seem to hurt or drive them away, on the contrary boldly produces the things which would, while objects of faith to all, draw out of the body those who had ears to hear; because He came to do His Father's will, and boldly avows the principle that they cannot come to Him unless the Father which had sent Him draw them. And this is a leading moral point in this chapter, for it commenced to be developed, as we have said, in this chapter, and this is the only way of doing the Father's will, whatever may please men. The Remnant are preserved by the very character of the words themselves, and their believing necessity: "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life," etc.
Further, we may remark that this argument with unbelief draws out a new principle, not merely that those whom the Father gives shall come, but that they shall come by the Father's drawing, and that none can come but by the Father's drawing. Our Lord, though declaring what was true in general, and in a general way, has not here passed out of the Jews in address and application. "It is written in the prophets, And they," that is, Messiah's people, "shall be all taught of God. Whosoever therefore hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me"; for as yet He had not gone beyond this "cometh unto me." This was all receivable simply by a Jew, and upon the only (true) principles on which he could come to or receive Messiah. But it introduces our Lord to further thoughts; namely, an association with the Father, which, as it isolated Him in character, brought Him into a thought of His place with Him, which enlarged fully the scene of His power, but as ever in the way of entire humiliation and emptying in Him; for indeed thus this chapter is a development of Philippians 2:6-8 in its two parts; for "being found in fashion as a man he humbled himself." "Not," therefore our Lord says, "that any one hath seen the Father, save he that is with God, he hath seen the Father."
83 This gives Him a character solely of faith, and in which He is life-giving; and then is developed the full unfolding of faith, given "even unto death." The very title of the life, "that eternal life which was with the Father, and was," etc., being from God, reached hence out over and beyond the dispensation of the Jew; and this could only be by death, in which He therefore became the life-sustaining principle of power to all that believed, and by a principle of faith, therefore letting in all who did so, in point of fact, through His grace; though (as is the character of this gospel, as we have seen), this was dispensatorily administered amongst the Jews. The intelligence of this verse just shows out the character of this gospel.
You may remark that verse 36 is that which introduces the principle of election; but this opens the supremacy of God, and the fact of the Father's will; and this, though it may be first to the Jews as here, yet is a supremacy reaching forth to the Gentiles, even as says the apostle, etc.; and this is the point reasoned out in Romans 11; and this in life-giving supremacy; but it is through death, and that even to the elect Jew. The transition is very marked in verses 45-50, from that which is purely Jewish - in all its expressions to the power of eternal life in Christ; and we may observe the very language noticed before, "he that comes," "he that believes," with that very character in Him (v. 46) which introduced the principle of faith. They are just brought into contrast in verses 48-50: "Your fathers did eat," etc., "and died."? "This is the bread that descendeth from heaven, in order that any one may eat, and not die." It has life in itself; as indeed our Lord goes on to say: "I am the living bread."
Its coming down from heaven also gave it universality in its originative character and capacity; as in fact on Jewish rejection by death the life which was above all became, as returning to heaven, universal in its actual dispensation, for it resumed its position of universality, while the rejection of the Jews gave it dispensatory righteousness as regarded their claims, for they ceased in the new mercy; and sin being put away, enabled the communication of the indwelling life to all that believed in Him so risen, as the bread that came down from heaven; for Jesus in the millennial glory will not be an object of faith, though present on earth in some sort He was; so, "We believe, and are sure," because the life was revealed in humiliation.
84 As to the general point see chapter 3:31. It is, however, still in the vivifying power of life, as made flesh still, though in the power of an endless life; and the power of it consists in the association by faith of the power of the risen life with the death of which we are partakers, planted in the likeness, sin being therein put away, and we therefore receiving a life free from sin; for it is the same Jesus which is alive (we being quickened, and feeding on His life), which was crucified, broken, and His life given; "for he that has died is justified from sin"; so we, receiving life from Him who died, are "justified from sin," for in that life risen we recognise that He was dead, and we with Him, therefore "justified from sin." He also was justified in the Spirit. Hence our Lord also opens out into the full statement in this verse. Had He not been the living bread there could not have been this association, for there could not have been the identification of a life so passing through death. "I am the living bread which came down from heaven; he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever" (receives through the death of Christ communion with His resurrection); "and the bread which I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world" (v. 51).
Hereto our Lord has stated the full doctrine. He now goes farther, and, as we have seen Him, progressing continually; but the Spirit teaches us by it. The Jews had refused Him. He states now (having stated it given for the life of the world) that they, the Jews, must come in on this principle, or they had no life in themselves. How accurate is the language! Thus the Jews must come in. They, the Jews, now again, after the doctrine specifically introduced, unless they eat, etc., they had no life in themselves (it is not here question of gaining life by the Law, but they have no intrinsic life). "He hath given to the Son to have life in himself." But he that was joined into Christ's death should have everlasting life, and Christ would raise up even his mortal body, the vessel of death, at the last day, as quickened in person, by His Spirit, feeding on Him, having (derivatively, indeed, but actually) this everlasting life (in which the risen Christ lives). He by His power would bring the body in the same blessing, raise him up at the last day.
85 The Jew had no life in himself. "He that eats," as such had everlasting life, and Christ would raise him up; for the heavenly things would suit the vivified ones of Him made higher than the heavens. For His flesh was food, and His blood drink; for this feeding on Him thus broken, and His life given, was to dwell in Him, and He in one so living on Him; for indeed it is in this fleshliness of Christ that all our communion with the fulness of God rests. And it is all fulness; they are "all of one"; but it is of one dead, and life given from His, and raised up in the power of endless life, and we "members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones." Yet what is the fulness? It pleased (not the Father specifically) that in Him should all fulness dwell, and so in creation and redemption towards the Church, and this in intrinsic fulness: "In him dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily," and so communicable in actual (personally) and comprehensive fulness. "He that ascended is he also that first descended into the lower parts of the earth" (so here), "that he might fill all things," hence our glory; also in fulness of grace and truth giving us communion with the blessedness of God, in character, as what He is.
This also is in Christ; but we enter into it by death ("for all have sinned"). Therefore, "And you hath he reconciled," in the same place referred [to], "who were dead in trespasses and sins; in the body of his flesh through death, to present you unblamable and unreprovable in his sight"; the enmity, of course, of Judaism and heathenism being also gone, and "Christ in you, the hope of glory"; for death and sin and the power of Satan were all exercisable in respect of this body of death, and hence Christ, as Hebrews 2 and Peter: "Who his own self bare our sins," etc., that in union with Him we might be in a life absolutely freed; for our union with Him was through death, He dying for us, and in association with us. there cannot be a more blessed subject than this, nor one more important fully to understand.
86 He then that eats the flesh of the Son of Man, and drinks His blood, dwells in Him, and He in him. The Lord opens this out, however, further in its activity; and here I would remark that it is [not] dia tou, but dia ton, which seems, I think, to convey a further meaning. And you will observe that it is associated with His being sent: "The living Father hath sent me, and I live on account of the Father." It was not merely an inceptive act of communicated life, but a continual act of communion of life; as He argues, therefore, in another place, "Because I live, ye shall live also." The life is therefore practically also a life abstractedly on account of Him through whom we continually live. As sent, the Lord lived solely and wholly for Him by whom the constant sustenance of His spiritual life, not as from without, but as indwelling, was. So the apostle in Galatians 2:19-20. The life which lives from Him must live continually for Him; from Him, not simply as giving it apart from Himself, but by effectual union, it being the actings of that very life in us, as it is His life.
There is some difficulty in bringing out to light the identity of two separately considered things; but the force and importance of it is quite different from merely dia tou or emou, or a given life; it is morally a corporate or aggregate association in all which life is or constitutes life with the source of that life, so as that it all must be di' auton. It is the development and exhibition of it; it is just eme coming forth.
Our Lord, then, having now divulged the whole truth, reaffirms it in its full character and results. Before, He had said less definitely, "Your fathers," etc.; "eat thereof, and not die"; now, this universal bread, which I have declared is the bread that comes down from heaven; "not as your fathers eat, and died; he that eateth this bread shall live for ever," leading to the full statement of given or communicated eternal life, freed too from all charge; as the apostle: "Who shall lay?" etc. "It is Christ that died, yea rather," etc. "Who shall separate?" (Romans 8.) And this sums up the answer to their question in verse 31. This was said to Jews, teaching regularly in the synagogue. The absence of the article marks that the order of the testimony, not the fact of the place, was meant to be conveyed; as we should say, He said these things teaching in church. It was addressed to Jews as so assembled, which is important to the intelligence of the previous part, and confirmatory of what has been given here.
87 - 53, 54. It is not merely knowing Christ as God in which eternal life is obtained, but it is knowing Him as come in the flesh, including death (in a way which we cannot here develop), which constitutes eternal life, the bread come down from heaven, the basis of the great mystery of godliness: God manifest in the flesh, Christ come in the flesh. The third chapter exhibits the operation of the Spirit in renewing the mind, opening the eyes, leading it to see and enter the kingdom by a new birth, while it also then presents the lifting up upon the cross as the object of saving faith; here the great power of the work of Christ, become the life, having come in the flesh, and died, and so become the intimate source of life to His people, by their actual communion with Him as a quickening Spirit, by faith in His death, of which we may see the explication to us in the Hebrews, as particularly in chapter 2, as to the main truths. So afterwards His re-ascent, as here in verse 62.
And we would remark here that, though the Jews murmured, saying, "How can this Man give us his flesh to eat?" it was not at this the disciples said, "This is a hard saying; who can hear it?" but that He was "the bread that came down from heaven"; and accordingly our Lord's answer is, "What and if ye shall see the Son of Man ascend up where he was before?" and as to its connection with the flesh and blood He says, "It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing; the words that I speak," etc.
And, as in chapter 3, it is important to remark also here that it is the flesh and blood of the Son of Man, He as Son of Man: such the whole effect of the Fall, even death, resulting from the knowledge of good and evil; and that, by suffering those very results, He eat the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil; but only in the fruits of it knowing it, not subject to it, that is, the evil; but actually and absolutely eating the resulting evil. This is the meaning of His flesh and blood, His coming into and meeting the consequences of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and thus directly and comprehensively met in Him. It is not as a quickening Spirit He is here spoken of, but a suffering Man, a Man suffering the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil as the Son of Man. Except we know Him thus we have no life in us, as the resurrection is the seal of this, and His ascension into glory: "What and if ye shall see the Son of Man ascend up where he was before?" Note this part.
88 It is accordingly by faith in His word that we find the quickening (zoopoiousan) power of Christ, as come into the world, and dead, and alive again. And note the accordant thoughts of Paul by the same Spirit. "We have all," says he, "been made to drink into one Spirit." The Spirit is the whole portion that we have here; but it is the office of the Spirit to take of the things of Christ, and show them unto us. Of these things He speaks here; but it is by the Spirit alone revealing them in our hearts they have any quickening power; to wit, by the word, that is, of Christ; but the whole Scriptures testify that it is by this knowledge alone of Christ that there is justification and eternal life.
And we may here note that men are accustomed to speak as if Christ brought them to the Spirit; and it is true it is by faith in Christ that we are made partakers of the Holy Ghost; but Christ wrought the whole life-giving and perfecting work; and it is the office of the Spirit to do that instrumentally which Christ has wrought effectually, meritoriously; to wit, to separate us out of this world as His possession, as the Scripture speaks, to sanctify us; and, as it is indeed by the manifestation of Christ, so He does indeed by this bring us to Him, and we are made partakers of that which is in Christ; namely, justification, which is of person, not so much of time, for it was wrought in Christ relatively, not in us, unto eternal life.
I am not saying here but that there is a growing conformity to the image of Jesus Christ; but this the Scripture speaks as a command to us. The sanctification of the Spirit it ever speaks of as antecedent to justification, and by which we are brought into Christ, and made partakers of the redemption that is in Him; and it is the corporate name of those who in Christ Jesus, as grafted in, inherit the promises which are true in Him; they are separated out of the world to Christ. I am not saying that there is not an actual, conformable, spiritual assimilation; but I do say, Is this ever spoken of in Scripture as sanctification by the Spirit?
I believe the office of the Spirit has been degraded instead of heightened by this language, and Christ made of none effect. We have heard of being first justified by Christ, and then sanctified by the Spirit. I say, Such is in no instance the language of the Scriptures, and mars the whole plan of the divine counsels, bringing in inextricable confusion. I know Wesley boasted of discovering this doctrine. I know not was it earlier. Sure I am the Scriptures abhor it. I hear that "by one offering he hath perfected them that are sanctified," of "the sanctified in Christ Jesus." I say, The work is Christ's from beginning to end; and the Spirit applies it, fulfilling in its operations the purpose for which Christ came into the world. We have not quoted Scripture, for we affirm that the whole of it speaks thus.
89 Here we find the knowledge of His Person and His death set forth as the power of eternal life, for "every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in flesh is of God"; and He came, not by water only, but by water and blood; not by sanctification only, clearing, if it were possible, the purpose only by the knowledge of Him, but by blood cleansing the conscience, and making reconciliation also; the Spirit, ministering these things to us, glorifying Christ, not Himself, but glorified in fulfilling His Kingdom, being His Vicar and Substitute upon earth, speaking that which He hears.
We have spoken of these things but in part, seeing men are dull of hearing, when they ought to be teachers of these things, which are on their behalf; but we trust it will not be so, and indeed we can but speak of them but in part, as things that are known according to our need of them, not the wisdom of God, who sees them all unministered. But God will be all in all, and they are meant to be thus known; and it is our wisdom, when called on, to know how to minister them by the Spirit according to that need, which the perfect God had regard to in them; for we know nothing of ourselves, and have them but as ministers, that God may be all in all. The Lord perfect His people for that day, that they may be able to enjoy Him as they might through the knowledge of Him in Christ Jesus. The Lord our God hasten it in its day, even our God, that He may dwell amongst them who are able to delight in Him, that God may be all in all.
Note as to those who deprive men of the blood, they take away that which is alone the seal and pledge of the covenant, and that on which the life-giving power depends, the blood of sprinkling, to which, if they do anything, they should pledge themselves. "We have all been made to drink," says Paul, "into one Spirit," and by which the covenant of remission is typified, which they pledge themselves to, they tell us, that inasmuch as the body is really there they do receive the blood. But this only shows their total ignorance of the whole truth and mystery; for it is the body broken, to wit, by death, and the blood shed, and by being shed, which is available to eternal life; and if the blood be still in the body neither can be partaken of at all, for neither have been dealt with so as to fulfil the purpose for which He became flesh at all.
90 His life was given when He gave His blood, and till He gave it His Church was unredeemed, and the mystery of godliness unfulfilled, and it is the pledge of our being His Church, redeemed by His blood-shedding, in which we join. And yet they would give us His body and blood together, as not broken or shed; assuring us, if anything, that there is no redemption! Such is the deceit of Satan where he gets round by false pretences. What shall we say to this: "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone"? And yet we are all mocking our own souls as if we were redeemed, and yet partaking of the supposed unbroken and unemptied body, the unperfected person, not of Christ nor of any one else. Alas, alas for men! Satan mocks those whom he has under bondage of an old system. There is not a single substantive truth of the gospel which is not practically and in mockery denied in this changed order.
- 60. This had been addressed to the Jews. We have now its effect on His disciples, which opens out very fully, and confirms remarkably, the interpretation given of the previous part. It was the effect of the whole discourse. This view that the Lord gave of Himself as the bread come down from heaven was very hard to receive. Who could hear or receive it? Our Lord then, knowing their questionings, asks them, "What and if ye saw the Son of Man", He thus present in the flesh, the Son of Man, "ascending up" into the very position (of universality of grace) "where he was before?" the evidence as well as the object exclusively of faith, declaring thus the position and character in which He was a Saviour; saw Him, He says, going up; for this is the real, great doctrine with you disciples; you mistake the nature of the dispensation; it is not My bodily presence. "It is the Spirit that quickens"; men must be quickened for eternal life. It is the Spirit does this. My absence, ascended, is the very order of this. "The flesh profits nothing," but "the words that I speak unto you" now have their very power and value in this; it is not even now My bodily presence, but the reception of My words. My words speak life, for they are of the Spirit. "The words that I speak unto you," this is the point of present reception, "are spirit and life." It is in this character you must come to Me now; "but there are some of you who," though they seem to have come unto Me, "do not believe" (and here we see the importance of the distinction and observation, that it was in some sort by faith, previously made); for thus it is really you must come to Me even now. Any other coming to Me is quite futile. Real coming is on the same principle as when I shall be ascended up, the subject merely of faith by the Spirit.
91 For they must believe that He really was the Son of God, the living God, and in His character as Man from heaven, really to come to Him; and this was faith. "For Jesus" (nor was He willing, save in the special instance and case, that they should continue with Him) "knew" who believed [not]; and therefore our Lord said that none could come to Him except it were given him of His Father; because it included really coming to Him in this spiritual apprehension of what He was, which was the gift of the Father alone. They might, as here, come actually and carnally; but coming to Him even here, as manifested in the flesh, they must come to Him in reality, as containing within Himself the personal power of that glory which was to be manifested to faith when He was exalted, as see chapter 1:14, or they would come to Him only carnally and falsely, and in denial of Him (therefore our Lord thus far revealed it, that He might have none but real followers); that is, the principles in offence which were the food in glory; so that none (it being really spiritual) could come except the Father gave it to him; for it was His gift to show the Son's glory (as our Lord to Peter). This is an important comment on the whole thing (that is, verses 60-65). Accordingly, many of His disciples showed they had not received this or Him (as remarked), and departed on the statement of what He was, and walked no more with Him.
- 67. Equally important also is the confession thereupon of the twelve, which stands as the representation of the then real confession containing in embryo the living faith, being the gift of God. The Lord said therefore to the twelve, Do you also wish to go (or will - to go)? Simon Peter then showed that the principle of this very hope, which our Lord had been speaking of, was in them: Lord, to whom shall we depart (or go away)? There was a known object of quickened faith to which they had respect. The rest might be offended (He not meeting their fleshly apprehensions), and turn; for they had no necessity of eternal life by faith. The apostles from God had, given them of God; therefore drawn to Christ: "Thou hast the words of eternal life."
92 It was not merely Messiah in the flesh satisfying fleshly desires, but eternal life; for the emphasis is on the words of eternal life. Further, it was, as we have seen before, in His words. It was faith, and quickened moral desires. He spake of God; consequently they believed and were sure that He was the Christ, the Holy One of God. This was the approach of their faith to Him; it was in His eternal and missionary character: "Thou hast the words," etc. And observe, it was by the words, not the miracles; it was not asking a sign; and such is real faith, though the miracles may increase the condemnation; as, "If ye believe not me, believe the works"; "If I had not done amongst them," etc. We have seen the faith in the others rejected (close of chapter 2); this received and recognised, and the looking for a sign associated with the rejection of the words. Peter answered on the principle of common faith. Our Lord was able to distinguish in the profession.
This is a most important chapter. It is remarkable how these chapters of John contain progressive phenomena, so to speak, of the Lord. It is also most blessed, for as it brings down into the utmost intimacy of communion, so it leads us up (being by faith, in spirit, which is what is opened out here) into the full association with the glory and place into which He has passed through death. And, moreover, it associates us (while in the fellowship of His sufferings) so in the life which has passed through death, death for us, and emerged, as free from sin, into the glory of that life which was with the Father, and taking us up in this sin-free and glorified life into union with Himself; yet not simply, but as having passed through death, and even His life given in the perfectness of His and the Father's love, into which, therefore, as well as the sin-free life, we are associated. But I rather seek to find the sense to interpret than draw conclusions from, or speak upon here. The power of the chapter is very remarkable.
93 Verses 30 and 36 seem contrasted. We have noted the development of the electing principle upon the assertion of general unbelief previously. He had spoken of Himself as the bread of life, that in which He was presented as a present object of reception, although, as He afterwards shows, this required the drawing of the Father and faith, and therefore none but the elect would so really come; but therefore (for which I now further note this) after saying that all that the Father gave Him, etc., and that this was the will of Him that sent Him, that of all that He had given Him He should lose nothing, but should raise it up in the last day (for the gift was eternal life, and the body was vivified), and this, etc., that whosoever seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life; which is just, as we have seen, the discerning point, confirming the view given of the chapter. So accordingly in Matthew 16:16-17, to Peter. It is the kingdom of His dear Son.
It is evident, from a comparison of the Old Testament with John 6, what an amazing position of communion we are placed in. The fat and the blood were God's bread (food, see Lev. 3:11); lechem (bread) Leviticus 21:6, 22; Numbers 28:2; Ezekiel 44:7; Malachi 1:7, 12. Ezekiel shows the fat and the blood to have been God's bread. Now, this true bread comes down from heaven; but, while a living Christ was God's delight, and ours, still we could not really feed upon it until it was offered in respect of sin, and not merely its own savour to God. Hence it was flesh and blood; and this (which was death) so that God could feed upon it as most perfectly and blessedly glorifying Him (the Son's love accomplishing it). So we now feed upon that, eat forbidden food, even blood; and life, or rather death, is ours, and our life. God had been perfectly honoured in these wages of sin. Life in Man has been voluntarily given, and death thus been salvation and the power of life; and we feed upon it; before, impossible and forbidden; now, as impossible to have life or be saved without; so it is our blessed food of God; we eat the true bread of God. We have no life in us; we live by the given life of Christ; but this is the bread of God, the food of His offering made by fire unto Him.
94 Though through death it is brought forth to the world, verses 53, 54 yet historically refer specially to the Jewish nation.
Note, in John 5, where the Son of God is spoken of, we have, "He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life." In chapter 6, where the Son of Man is spoken of, it is, "Every one that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me"; "He that believeth on me hath everlasting life." Christ's voice as Son makes us know the Father for eternal life. The Father's teaching makes us believe on the Son of Man, come to Jesus, to have eternal life. It is clear the general truth of chapter 5 is the operation of Christ in power as Son of God, though the effect is to believe on the Father; whereas in chapter 6 Christ is the object as Son of Man. Yet, in all cases in John, Christ is looked at as down here, a Person known in the world in flesh. But in chapter 6 the Father draws to Christ in His humiliation.
In the fifth and sixth chapters of John it is to be remarked that chapter 5, giving the sovereign action of Christ in giving life, we get man's responsibility in the last part of the chapter: "The Son quickeneth whom he will"; "Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life." In chapter 6 it is man's part (though by grace): "He that eateth me shall live by me." Here, hence, the necessity and sovereignty of grace is brought out: "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him."
Note, as we have seen in Numbers, the connection of the shewbread and table with the display of glory in the world, and then the twelve loaves (as the twelve will be on thrones, and thus Jewish). In John 6 the bread is the heavenly Man; it is the one bread (not the Church, though, note that, but Christ alone), and brings out the spiritual, divine character in which we know Him as associated with the Father, living by Him, God's bread; and then dying, so as to judge all nature, and be life by death; so for the world; therefore to give life, and raise (whoever believes) at the last day. It is not royal glory (He refused it then), but divine, spiritual excellency (which is glory); and this as come down into the world. But then man could not eat unless he came in (Jew and all), as a lost sinner by death, and fed in grace on His flesh, and drank His blood. And this is indeed the heavenly Man, but the Man come down from heaven, the seal on whose perfect excellency is set in His going up to the place suited to it, and where He was before; only as Son of Man. He had a suited title to it in that which He had proved Himself here. All this gives us, not kingdom glory, but what He is with the Father, yet as Son of Man, so as to take us up in grace by the way. The one loaf is better than twelve.