Show us the Father and it suffices us

Central Bible Hammond Trust 30, South Road, Wooler, Northumberland, England.
Copyright J S Blackburn 1978.
ISBN 0 901860 03 4
Printed in Great Britain by Econoprint Ltd., Edinburgh

1. The Father's Love
2. The Father's Bosom
3. The Father's Commandment
4. The Worship of the Father
5. The Father Working
6. The Father's House

Chapter 1
The Father's Love

"Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, the world has not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them". (John 17:24-26)

In heaven above there is nothing higher than the love of the Father to the Son. Few who read the title of this chapter will not, at least for a moment, entertain the thought that here is something far above me. Yet before turning the pages or putting down this booklet altogether, let us recall the addresses by the same apostle John, to the babes in the faith — especially for them! "I am writing to you, the little children in the faith, because ye have known the Father". I have a feeling that this means that the newest convert, the youngest saint, instinctively, that is without reflecting on the magnificent greatness of the fact that it is so, addresses God in prayer as "Father". In most families the following conversation is more or less often experienced. The five-year-old little son comes home after his first day at school, and since he, with all the indifference in the world, offers no information about what has happened that day, mother can wait no longer and asks what he has been doing at school today — his first day at school. To which question he replies, with superior nonchalance, "Oh, we've been doing maths and languages". There is probably no conscious intent to deceive. He knows from older brothers and sisters that what one does at school is maths and languages. Therefore, in his mind, what he has been doing at school is just that — maths and languages; and he has no consciousness of the immense vista which has opened up before him that day when he has first been occupied with maths and languages! The newest convert, if he reads the section of John's letter addressed specifically to himself (1 John 2:18-27), will dimly perceive that, though there are many dangers, if he continues in the knowledge of the Father and the Son, there will be growth into the fuller knowledge and deeper experience as he becomes a young man and then a father in the faith.

And so I repeat, in heaven above there is nothing higher than the love of the Father to the Son. This is manifested by the fact that the Lord Jesus in this chapter looks for nothing further than to be restored to that glorious home to which eternally belonged the Father's love for Him. In that eternity, where all that is truly abiding finds its home, the world in all its striving and tumult, always seeking and never finding, with all its massive achievements and frightful evil and suffering, that world is but an episode. That love existed before the foundation of the world (v. 24); in all its course the world has not known the Father (v. 25), and the home of the Father and Son with all the saints in visible and perfect unity is forever beyond the world. All glory and honour on this earth will soon adorn the head of Jesus, but more to Him than crowns and kingdoms, than all the glory of this earth, is His Father's love.

But here is something wonderful for us — something wonderful to begin with as babes, better to go on with as young men and fathers in the faith, but only the Christian can say "the best is yet to be". The wonderful thing is that the Lord Jesus, the ever blessed Son, shares that love — the Father's love — with us who are His own. We cannot in this life fully grasp it: we could not have believed it, unless the Son Himself had said it. But He did say to the Father "in order that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them" (v. 26). His prayer and this provision was and is, not only that the Father's love might be with them, but in them, known and enjoyed by them, to be their joy as it was His joy.

The Lord Jesus has done everything that was necessary to our entering into real possession of this priceless treasure, the Father's love. He has loved His own to the end: He has revealed the Father's Name. He has given the indwelling Spirit. In the prayer we have read, He, so to speak, puts in a claim with His Father that we should enter into such real possession. If we receive and keep His words, have them in our hearts by meditation, and dwell in them, then the Father will indeed become the real object of our affections also.

A very natural question can arise. Surely (we might think) this love must be something different in us than it was in the Son. The answer from this exchange of home-confidence between the Father and the Son is clear; the love which He asks for His own is the same love as the Father's love. Our capacity to contain it is, of course, restricted; it has limits. Jesus receives His Father's love in full measure, and responds to it in equal fulness. We are limited. Our measure is small but the love is the same. The wording employed by the Lord Jesus in v. 26 might well be thought of as specifically designed to correct such a question as that with which this paragraph begins. It is "the love wherewith thou hast loved me", no less.

It is a most fruitful meditation to trace this love in John's gospel. Indeed it is a central part of the content of the gospel to develop this most transcendent theme. We start at John 5:20, in which chapter we have the first great opening up of the revelation of the Father, "The Father loves the Son". This statement is an eternal present, and in it the Son speaks out for the first time the blessedness of the love of the Father to the Son from all eternity. To merely human thought, such love might be considered self-sufficient, with no need to reach outside. But such was that love that it had to seek the sons of men. This involved not only incarnation but death. And here is the second amazing statement (John 10:17) "therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life". How can our finite thought cope with the fact that a love perfectly satisfied with its object, yet finds, in Calvary, a new occasion for its outflow? The circle is completed (only to be amplified and confirmed in the prayer of John 17), with John 16:27 "For the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me".

Chapter 2
The Father's Bosom

"No man has seen God at any time: the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him." (John 1:18)

It is in introducing thoughts on this verse that J.G. Bellett warns his readers of the danger of the mind going before the heart, of the reason displacing the affections, when we enter on the privilege of reflecting on such a theme as this verse presents to us. "I dread reasonings where affections should animate us, and withdrawing from the place of living power into anything like a region of notions or theories. But the mysteries of God are all of the highest practical value, in either strengthening for service, comforting under trial, or enlarging the soul's communion". John himself, in his first Epistle, reminds us that "He that loves not knows not … " (1 John 4:8). A just working together of both mind and heart is thus the condition we should aim for and pray for, and this will be possible by the power of the indwelling Spirit. The themes we consider, and the ground under our feet are holy; yet the words of the Only Begotten Son, regarding His dwelling in the bosom of the Father are "Come and see".

A central theme of John's Gospel is the revelation by the Son of the Father's Name. "I have manifested thy name to the men which thou gavest me out of the world". A mere inspection of the contents of John's Gospel compared with the Synoptic Gospels confirms that the revelation of the Father occupies a unique position in John. How could it be otherwise concerning the distinctive New Testament part of the progressive self-revelation of God which occupies the whole of Scripture? In this verse 18, taken together with v. 14, we meet the opening note of this transcendent theme, the knowledge of the Father. Christendom appears largely to ignore the immensity of the step forward immediately apparent in John's opening page, when compared with the in themselves tremendous steps by which God made Himself known in the Old Testament. This opening note struck with such majestic sweetness presents to us, not God's power, as in the name El Shaddai, (Almighty God), not the foundation elements of God's character as in Jehovah, but His affection seen at first as embracing the everlasting object of His delight, the Only Begotten Son. Beloved, is your heart stirred by the unearthly sweetness of this opening note, the Father's Bosom? Those who come and see where He dwells, and abide with Him, will surely have spiritual sensibilities awakened to hear it, the celestial music.

"It was once asked me," says J.G.B. again, "Had the Father no bosom till the Babe was born in Bethlehem? Indeed, fully sure I am, as that inquiry suggests, He had from all eternity. The bosom of the Father was an eternal habitation, enjoyed by the Son, in the ineffable delight of the Father — 'the hiding-place of love,' as one has called it, of inexpressible love which is beyond glory; for glory can be revealed, this cannot."

This quality of eternity which belongs to the Father's bosom is indeed connected here with the Person who 'is' there. It is the Only Begotten Son. "Matthew and Mark first notice His Sonship … at His baptism. Luke goes further back, and notices it at His birth. But John goes farther back still, even to the immeasurable, unspeakable distance of eternity, and declares His Sonship "in" the bosom of the Father". The Lord Jesus is the Firstborn Son, and in this He has companions: He is the Firstborn among many brethren. But as the Only Begotten Son He is alone from eternity. The first is Sonship in manhood, the second is Sonship in deity. At this point the phrase "which is" must be taken account of. These two small words might with sufficient accuracy be translated "the One who is". In such a context only the most exalted meaning is to be considered, and there is no doubt what that meaning is. This is the Name used in the Greek Bible in Exodus 3:14, when the Presence is so solemn that Moses is commanded to "put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground" (v. 5). God commissions Moses to be His messenger to Pharaoh; Moses asks for God's Name. "And God said unto Moses, I am 'THE ONE WHO IS': and He said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, THE ONE WHO IS has sent me unto you". The phrase THE ONE WHO IS thus appears as the Name under which, (for the special purpose of God's meeting with Moses in Exodus 3, and for the frightening commission he received,) the eternal God declared Himself. Here is the divine mystery. The One who lay in the bosom of the Father was Himself the eternal God; the Person and the Place, the Only-Begotten Son and the bosom of the Father, are co-eternal.

The image suggested by the use of the word 'bosom' is that of the closest and tenderest of human relationships, as we may see from its occurrence in Scripture. "Carry them in thy bosom", Moses imagines the Lord saying to him, "as a nursing father bears the sucking child". Several times we have "the wife of thy bosom". In this Gospel, John is described at the Supper, "leaning on Jesus' bosom", the position fitting for the "disciple whom Jesus loved". In all these quotations there is suggested the most intimate pictures of the fellowship of love that human relations afford. It is thus, raised to the region of divine relations, the infinite capacity for the expression of a relationship of divine love, which is brought so movingly to our own hearts by this expression, the Father's bosom.

In the endeavour to seize the true import of John 1:18 it has been found helpful to enquire whether it is scriptural to speak of the Son 'coming forth from the bosom of the Father'. J.N. Darby, in a letter, deals with a questioner in these words: "I do not think coming forth from the bosom of the Father scriptural … because the words are used to express a present apprehension of His love and favour which depends on His being in that place. To come forth from it would convey at best the thought of memory, and "Who is in the bosom of the Father" is evidently much stronger: it is the present being in, and in the enjoyment of, what the phrase expresses. He came forth from the Father and into the world, and left the world and went to the Father, but never, I think, is it said from His bosom … some, in expressing the joy and love He left for us, may have said it harmlessly, that is, with right affections, though not quite accurately seizing the force of the expression in John 1:18. I may have done it myself, for aught I know … the force of the expression is lost if we speak of coming forth from — that is, leaving it … Christ's being in the bosom of the Father is of so much the more importance, that He declares the Father's character as He thus knows Him".

It is when this precious mystery has been assailed and denied, that the most delightful expression has been given to affirming it. From the same source as has been quoted earlier we have: "We must not, beloved, touch this precious mystery. We should fear to dim the light of that love in which our souls are invited to walk on the way to heaven. And — what is a deeper and tenderer thought, if I may be bold to utter it — we should fear to admit of any confession of faith (rather, indeed of unbelief) that would defraud the divine bosom of its eternal, ineffable delights, and which would tell our God that He knew not a Father's joy in that bosom, as He opened it: and which would tell our Lord that He knew not a Son's joy in that bosom as He lay there from all eternity … Deprive Him of the bosom of the Father from all eternity, and ask your soul if it has lost nothing in its apprehension and joy of this precious mystery, thus unfolded from everlasting to everlasting."

{Note. The English word 'bosom' is perhaps the element in this verse which puts off the modern reader. It is used by the versions which aim to be translations in the strict sense due to Holy Scripture. (AV, RV, RSV, New Trsln). In the popular modern speech versions the position is quite different. They first decide what they think a sentence means and then put that meaning into modern speech. This method was explicit in the case of the New English Bible. On p. vii. of the "Introduction to the New Testament" we find the method stated in these words. "We have conceived our tasks to be that of understanding the original as precisely as we could (using all available aids), and then saying again in our own native idiom what we believed the author to be saying in his". This method the NEB translators quite clearly understood to be a new and radical departure. On this basis the modern speech English versions produce our verse as follows. "He who is nearest to the Father's heart" (NEB). "Who lives in closest intimacy with the Father" (Phillips). "Who … is at the Father's side" (TEV). "He is the companion of the Father" (Living Bible). By contrast, AV and the other versions mentioned with it above, uniformly translate the original kolpos by `bosom', a word with a touch of mystery about it, of which the derivation is unknown, and above all, which does not limit the meaning in Scripture, and in particular of John 1:18 to the present understanding of the translator. All this is not to say that some of these versions may not possess usefulness in other ways.}

Chapter 3
The Father's Commandment

"Jesus cried and said, He that believes on me, believes not on me, but on him that sent me. And he that sees me sees him that sent me. I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believes on me should not abide in darkness … For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said to me, so I speak." (John 12:44-50)

These verses occupy a special place in the structure of the Gospel. They are found at the end, the very last words, of John's account of the public ministry of the Lord Jesus. What follows to chapter 17 records what was spoken by the Lord in the inner circle of His own disciples, the doors being shut, and what was addressed to the Father in their hearing.

The history of the public ministry evidently closes in John 12:37. What follows to the end at verse 50 is the Spirit's summary, explanation, commentary on the narrative and especially on the results of the ministry recorded. The two aspects to which this commentary draws attention are, first, the staggering fact that so few believed, but second, the real quality of the result in those who believed. In short, this immense blessing was that they had been brought into touch with the Father. They had believed in the Father, seen the Father, heard the Father, and this was eternal life.

To revert for a moment to the former sections (vv. 37-41) the explanation dwells on two quotations from Isaiah. These are Isaiah 53:1 and then Isaiah 6:10. The prophet, putting words into the mouth of the repenting remnant of the future, foretells very clearly that few would believe. This is clearly the meaning of the question "Who believed the report which reached us?" By the time this juncture in the narrative has been reached the answer has become manifest to all — very few indeed had believed. "To whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?" The prophet is here quoting his own words in Isaiah 51:9, "Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord: awake, as in the ancient days, in the generations of old. Art thou not it that has cut Rahab (Egypt), and wounded the dragon? Art thou not it which has dried the sea, the waters of the great deep: that has made the depths of the sea a way for the ransomed to pass over?" Who could think that under the lowly form of the Nazarene, was in truth He who had given the very greatest display in the ancient records of the might of the presence of Jehovah? This is just what a few had been doing from John's opening narratives, from John the Baptist, Andrew and Simon — and even the woman of Samaria and her hearers: "This is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world".

But the majority of the people had not believed and v. 39 introduces the second quotation from Isaiah, "This is the reason for which they did not believe". "He has blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart: that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them" (John 12:40 — See Isaiah 6:10). This is a "hard saying". Who can hear it? But its hardness arises from the slowness with which we see things from God's point of view. It was God who sent Jesus, foreshadowed by Jehovah's sending Isaiah. He was the initiating actor. If God sends light to those who are firmly set against receiving it, then the coming of that light is the occasion of hardening them, as in the case of Pharaoh (Exodus 4:21, 8:15 and 32, 9:34 so applied in Romans 9:18). The rulers in Jerusalem, against all miraculous signs, against all Scripture, against the full evidence outlined in John 5;32-47, had indeed manifested hearts incorrigibly set against believing; and thus the coming of the light hardened hearts set to refuse the Sent One. The process can be traced. Every fresh sign produced, not conviction and faith, but a hardening intention to silence in death the voice of the Sent One. In John 5:16 the Jews sought to slay Him because He had broken the Sabbath. The blinding flash of divine light in the miracle of healing, they saw not; they saw only the breaking of their tradition. Further light, in the Lord's showing that God was His Father and how He was one with God, simply hardened their line — v. 18 "they sought the more to kill Him". Thus the process of hardening can be traced, until His hour was come (John 12:23, 13:1, 17:1).

The word believe — 'believe' or 'believe not' — dominates the passage (vv. 36, 37, 38, 42, 44, 46, 47), and thus the whole of the narrative of the public ministry is brought to this clear point of separation. Those who 'believed not' manifested a previously set refusal of the Father's Sent One, the "waters of Shiloah that flowed softly", and were hardened in darkness and death. Those who 'believed' became 'children of light'; were converted and healed, but above all, in and through believing, they had been put in touch with the Father. This is so clearly the great result of believing, in this context. Believing on the Sent One, they were believing on the One who sent Him, the Father. Seeing the Sent One, they saw the Father who sent Him. The speaking of the Sent One was the speaking of the Father who sent Him, and His commandment is life eternal.

This small paragraph (vv. 44-50) therefore, above all, draws attention to the immense fact that, great as this would be, the Divine intention would not have reached its real fulfilment if those who believed thought themselves satisfied with the knowledge of the Lord Jesus, even as the Son. The Divine intention was that the oneness of the Son with the Father should come to this specific end, beyond which there is nothing, that those who believed should come to know the Father. In other words, they did not really know the Son, unless such knowledge brought them to know the Father. Such knowledge is eternal life.

If we try, with unshod feet, to gather up this truth, especially in John from the Divine side, then we can only start with John 17:3 —"thee (the Father) the only true God". And this accords with Paul in 1 Corinthians 8:6 "to us there is one God, the Father". In the same Divine thought, the Divine light, the Divine love, is ever that the Son is one with the Father (John 10:30). (The Spirit is also one with the Father and the Son, but we are at present meditating on John 12:44-50). Ever and eternally abiding in that oneness, the Father has sent the Son, and this is an absolutely dominant thought in John's gospel, from John 5:36 to its repetition six times in chapter 17. In this small paragraph — John 12:44-50, the phrase occurs three times, "Him (the Father) that sent me".

In John's gospel there are three statements of the action of the Son in making the Father known. John 1:18 "the only begotten Son … he has declared him". Here it is not quite explicit whether it is God or the Father who is declared. John 17:6 "I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me". v. 26 "I have declared … and will declare". It is interesting to add from Matthew 11:27, "neither knows any man the Father save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him". It is in speech commanded by the Father that the Son has made Him known and it is in this way that the Father's commandment is eternal life.

On the surface we can perceive that in the period of the public ministry, amid strife and opposition, the Lord Jesus made known that the Name under which He had been sent to speak of God was the Father. Nowhere here is the name Jehovah stated to be superseded. But its complete absence from the sacred record from the beginning of the gospel story can only be explained by the fact that the name Jehovah is superseded by the name "the Father". Many important facts regarding the worship of the Father in place of Jehovah, and the work of the Father, are dealt with during His public ministry. But the inner and most blessed realisation of what it means to know the Father, the Father's house, the Father's counsel, the Father's heart, the Father's love, these are the themes with which, in the upper room, the doors being shut, the Lord Jesus occupies the hearts of His own.

Chapter 4
The Worship of the Father

"Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour comes, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour comes, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeks such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." (John 4:20-24)

It is probable that these communications to the woman at the well of Sychar are the first recorded words of the Lord Jesus in John's Gospel bringing to light the Father's Name. The two shining phrases in chapter one, "an Only Begotten from the side of a Father", and "the Only Begotten Son, the One who is in the bosom of the Father", are clearly John's reflections by the Spirit long afterwards and used to preface his Gospel. In chapter three it appears to me sufficiently clear that in both narratives, concerning Nicodemus and the Baptist, there is a point where John's record of events and speech passes into John's comments with all the light he had received when he wrote the Gospel. If these suggestions be accepted, then they form the basis for the conclusion already noted, that the first recorded words of the Lord manifesting the Father are in chapter four, in the verses quoted.

The theme is worship, and the central sentence in this new and vast disclosure is, "the true worshippers shall worship the Father". One can easily overlook the immensity of the step forward thus taken in the great sweep and advance of God's revelation of Himself as the Object of His people's worship.

Overlooking for our present purpose the earlier names by means of which God revealed Himself to Abraham, let us allow the fact that Old Testament story and prophecy can be looked at as the rise and fall, wax and wane, of the maintenance of the worship of Jehovah in Israel. There is a mystery about Exodus 6:3: "By My Name Jehovah was I not known" unto "Abraham, Isaac and Jacob", in view of the whole story of the life of Abraham, and especially Genesis 12:7: "And Jehovah appeared unto Abraham, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto Jehovah, who (had) appeared unto him." It is evident, however, that in a special way the knowledge of the name Jehovah was reserved for the beginnings of the history of Israel as a people, and from that point the Name dominates the narrative.

"Our fathers worshipped in this mountain", the woman said, and the Lord's reply leaves us in no doubt that the Samaritan worship on Mount Gerizim is in no sense an example for the true worshippers. In contrast with this, the Lord Jesus Himself in our passage makes the distinction between this spurious worship of the Samaritans and the worship Jehovah had Himself instituted and which was finally centred at Jerusalem. It was indeed true that "in Jerusalem was the place where men ought to worship." Reflect on the great events and the names of true renown which mark the stages in the history of that worship. Take account of the fire of fervour, the depth of devotion, of the fragrance from the altar fires ascending to Jehovah. If the new worship now being introduced in our passage supersedes that worship, have we rightly esteemed the fervour, the devotion, the fragrance which will be engendered in the devotees of the worship of the Father? Like the Psalmists' joy in God, let us pray that as we consider some features of the worship ultimately placed at Jerusalem, it may be found infectious.

The first great landmark in this region begins with Moses' prayer in Exodus 33:18. "I beseech Thee, show me Thy glory." "And Jehovah descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the Name of Jehovah … And Moses made haste, and bowed his head towards the earth, and worshipped." Thus begins the long story of the worship of Jehovah, coming as a spontaneous response to the proclamation of His Name. This Name is immediately connected with making a covenant; Jehovah is the Name of the God of all the earth who stands henceforward in covenant relation with one chosen people, Israel.

A striking feature of later developments is the naming of altars with compounds of the name Jehovah. Study of the occasions of the building of each of these altars reveals that in each case the experience by Israel of some special facet of the content of the Name and its blessing for them is turned to worship. When through Moses' intercession they gained the victory over Amalek, they named the altar Jehovah Nissi (Jehovah my banner). Gideon records the strength which came to him from a visitation of Jehovah; he builds an altar and names it Jehovah Shalom (Jehovah is peace). This kind of response reaches back to Abraham. To mark the enunciation of the great truth, "God will provide Himself a lamb for a burnt offering", Abraham erected his altar to the Name "Jehovah Jireh", (Jehovah will provide). The great lesson of each of these altars is that learning by experience the fullness flowing from the God whose Name is Jehovah produces worship.

Gradually the time drew near when the question asked by Sychar's well acquired its meaning, that is, when the worship of Jehovah would be finally centred in that city in which His Name was placed — Jerusalem. Then an immense brilliance shines on the cleavage between those whose hearts were fully with Jehovah, and the worshippers of false gods in Israel. Let us notice the emergence of the special phrase, "Jehovah the God of Israel". It becomes prominent in times when, as a whole, Israel was turning away from its God, and special faithfulness was demanded.

This great thing is said of David, that he followed Jehovah with all his heart. There was power in Jehovah to engage utterly the hearts of his people. This became the standard by which later faithless kings were measured; "his heart was not perfect with Jehovah his God, as was the heart of David his father". Jehovah possessed the heart of David whole, and this had its immediate outcome in worship. It was because they worshipped Baalim that the later kings were compared so adversely with David.

It is in Elijah that we see the white heat of passion for the Name and glory of Jehovah most vividly portrayed. He describes himself at his first meteoric appearance before Ahab as the man who stands before Jehovah the God of Israel. Read his prayer over the corpse of the widow's son, "he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried unto Jehovah, and said, 0 Jehovah my God, I pray Thee, … And Jehovah heard the voice of Elijah". Listen to him imploring God on Mount Carmel. "0 Jehovah the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel … Hear me, 0 Jehovah, hear me, that this people may know that thou art Jehovah God … Then the fire of Jehovah fell". Nowhere in Scripture, outside Gethsemane, is prayer of such intensity recorded as the prayers of Elijah to Jehovah.

Through to the end of the Old Testament, beyond the utter destruction of the worship of Jehovah at Jerusalem under Nebuchadnezzar, and the restoration under Era, the worship of Jehovah is a principal thread on which narrative and prophecy, psalm and lament are developed.

In the New Testament there is a sudden gap, a complete absence of all reference to that great Name, Jehovah, save for the opening, and primarily Jewish, scenes in Matthew and Luke, and in some quotations in the early chapters of Acts. But in connection with the future restoration of Israel, once again the Name of the God of the New Covenant is Jehovah. The worship of Jehovah, the God of Israel, in the holy mount of Jerusalem, is re-established in victorious earthly blessedness. The harps are for the last time taken off the willows; and the song goes round the earth. "Praise ye Jehovah. Sing unto Jehovah a new song … Let the children of Zion be joyful in their King … Let the high praises of God be in their mouth … Praise ye Jehovah."

What is the reason for this dramatic disappearance of the Name Jehovah? Does such fervour as we have traced, such overflowing intensity of joy in God and honour to His Name disappear with it? The reason is that, as the stars disappear when the sun rises, in like manner the Name of Jehovah, so great in the region of earthly blessing, is outshone when a greater Name supersedes it as God's revelation of Himself, a Name unfolding the last secrets of the heart and nature of God, a Name declaring a relationship of love, the Father. The Name of such glory and majesty, Jehovah, points to an earth basking in the sunshine of the knowledge of Himself, and to the law going forth from Zion and the word of Jehovah from Jerusalem. The Father's Name points to the Father's house in heaven, to that home of peace and joy, of glory and love without end.

It is the voice of the Only Begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, who has declared God in this way. No other voice could declare it. Such a declaration needed infinitely more than a Moses, a David, an Elijah. It must await the coming and the sacrifice of the Son. "The Son who knows, He only, all the Father's love … dwells in His bosom, knows all that in that bosom lies … and came to earth to make it known".

It is, here and now in John four, His voice to which we are listening. "The hour comes, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father … the Father seeks such to worship Him". To a revelation of a Name so much beyond the earlier disclosures, we ought to expect in greater measure, not less, the fervour, the intensity of expression, the experience producing worship, the fragrance of incense ascending, than was formerly manifested in response to Jehovah, the God of Israel. We are not given the words for the expression of such worship in Scripture. We have not directed to the Father the example of an Elijah's fervour. But we have the Spirit of God indwelling. Such worship is the springing up of the Spirit's activity within us. "The water that I shall give Him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life". All that follows makes clear that such springing up is in worship to the Father. That the Son has declared His Name; that the Spirit is within us to be the power; this is all we are needing to be the true worshippers who worship the Father in spirit and in truth.

Chapter 5
The Father Working

"But Jesus answered them, My Father works hitherto, and I work. Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the Sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God. Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he sees the Father do: for what things soever he does, these also does the Son likewise. For the Father loves the Son, and shows him all things that himself does: and he will show him greater works than these, that ye may marvel … That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honours not the Son honours not the Father which has sent him." (John 5:17-23)

If in John's narrative the first extended disclosures declaring the Father were made in private conversation with the Samaritan woman, it is equally clear that the first public explanation was given as recorded in the passage quoted, to the Jews at Jerusalem. It is always necessary to distinguish the different classes of persons in John. The simple folk in town or country, the crowd or multitude, come into prominence in chapters six and seven, and one can clearly see the distinction in those chapters between these and the 'Jews', whose popular leaders were the Pharisees. The 'people' are confused and eagerly questioning among themselves. The 'Jews' were inveterate in their hatred of the Lord, broke with Him from the earliest pages, and began to plot His death in our quotation. The distinction is clearly seen in chapter seven, for example vv. 11-13; "Then the Jews sought him at the feast, and said, Where is he? And there was much murmuring among the people concerning him; for some said, He is a good man; others said, Nay; but he deceives the people. Howbeit no man spake openly of him for fear of the Jews". The Jews pretended to and indeed possessed a learned knowledge of Scripture, and were of all people those who were responsible for recognising the rightness of the claims of the Lord Jesus, and leading the people to do the same. It is to the Jews, then, that we have in this passage the Lord's declaration of the Father. We might almost call it a formal explanation, dealing always, after v. 17, with 'the Father' and 'the Son'. It is the more to be prayed, therefore, that as we write and read, the words may be imbued with the light and love by the Spirit which will make them words of life.

We are at once face to face with a statement most revealing as to the nature of the Father and the Son, and full of comfort and strength for us. It is nothing less than this, that the Father cannot rest in the face of the world's suffering and hopeless agony. The Lord Jesus was confronted by 'a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting'. His reaction was to 'make whole' a man whose infirmity had been with him thirty-eight years. This took place on the sabbath day. The Jews, with hearts utterly estranged from the love of God, and only concerned with the severity of the law, persecuted and sought to slay Jesus because He had performed this work of mercy on the sabbath. The answer of Jesus was, "My Father has been and is at work up to this moment, and so am I". When did that working begin? It began when first the world became a place where men were suffering the consequences of sin, immediately there in Eden. When and how will this working end? It will only end in the sabbath-keeping which remains to the people of God, when God shall have wiped away all tears from off all faces "and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold I make all things new". (Revelation 21:4-5) This is the Father's working, and shall we not rejoice and be glad in knowing it?

Let us linger over this incident so as to allow its immense meaning to seize us. Here lies the world of 'the things that are seen' as we know it: a world filled with the long agony of the plight of men away from God: a world of savage hatred and callous indifference. There impinges on that world, before our eyes, a deed majestic with immediate power over man's disease, and softly whispering the existence of a Heart and Will to intervene. This reply of the Lord Jesus simply, but firmly, locates the source of that intervention in the unseen world, inaccessible to man's highest powers, but which He the Son had come to reveal, the Father's world. And in that world where is abundance of love and light, of mercy and truth, the Father is, and will one day be seen by all to be, the Source of the works which will bring in the true sabbath rest.

"My Father … and I", the Lord said in reply to the Jews, but the immediate effect is something far removed from the mercy and hope we have glimpsed in the words. The words reveal that in God is a relationship of Father and Son. But the Jews only use this as an occasion for the intensification of the most murderous hatred against the Lord, but they did acknowledge a most important truth. Heretics from the earliest days have not seen this truth, which even these assassin Jews recognised, even as they knew where the Christ should be born. The superficially rationalistic argument of Arius and Arianism in the 4th century was put thus by the historian Socrates. "What is true of human fatherhood is true of the relation between the Father and the Son. A human father exists before his son, therefore the same is true in regard to the Father and the Son." This is the Arian error. It is mentioned now because our passage brings it to mind, in that even the Jews knew better than to fall into such an error. Also many a young believer is troubled by this same argument. More than one false religion of our times is Arian in its teaching. It is still something against which we have to strive for the faith once delivered. The Jews rightly understood that in saying that God was His Father the Lord Jesus was declaring Himself equal with God. We have to abandon our reasonings from human parenthood and understand that the Lord was declaring His complete oneness of nature and substance with the Father. Lying very near the surface in the next verse (19) we have a statement which we shall return to later, but clearly involves the equality the Jews recognised in the most profoundly meaningful verse 17. "What things soever (the Father) does, these also does the Son likewise". Only a Person equally God could make such a claim.

It is more than time we returned to the positive teaching of the passage. "The Son can do nothing from Himself" is the real statement with which v. 19 begins, with the usual formula of great emphasis. The Son is declaring in these verses that it is not the part of the Son to originate the works of God. It is for the Father to originate. If we take in v. 20, then the part of the Father to originate action is described by two verbs which I do not find easy to explain by the use of other words. In the 'doing' of God, the Father 'shows' and the Son 'sees'. Between what the Father originates and shows on the one hand, and what the Son sees and does on the other, there is not the smallest discrepancy, for "what things soever the Father does, these also does the Son likewise." It is evident that we are not to understand a duplication of works, that is that the divine actions are performed twice, but rather that for every act of God, the Father and the Son are working in perfect harmony, the Father originating as the Source and the Son carrying out the work.

There seems to be nothing to indicate that these works described are to be thought of as referring to the Lord's earthly life only. "My Father is working up to the present moment" seems to encourage us to understand that these are timeless statements relating to the Persons of the Godhead, and this is especially suggested by the reason given for this way of working, "the Father loves the Son". There is everything to encourage us to understand here a statement of eternal truth in all these present tenses. Oh! for words so Spirit-filled as to communicate such truths! Oh! for hearts moved to their deepest depths by such a disclosure! Not only is it the Father's part to be the Originating Source of the divine works, but we are brought exactly to the heart of the matter by this word which tells us that the source is the love of the Father for the Son. The Son is performing what He is seeing the Father showing. The Father is showing because He loves the Son. Although the original hearers were blinded and deafened by their unbelieving hatred, any who has ears to hear is led by these words to stand before the ultimate secret of the universe, on the threshold of a realm in which is laid open in the ears of the disciples in the seventeenth chapter: "for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world".

We ought to pause here, in order to note how closely all this is in accord with other Scripture, indicating in a still wider setting, how truly we have understood and worshipped the Father as the Source of all. Let us turn the pages to another passage of almost credal quality, 1 Corinthians 8:5-6. "For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) but to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him." In this v. 6, the first preposition is that used for a river flowing out of a source. The second preposition is that used to describe a river running into the sea. Thus, more exactly, we must understand v. 6 to mean: "to us there is one God, the Father, who is the source of the river of all existence, and we into him". We hardly need John 4:14 to help us to understand that it is by their worship that the saints return the flow to its Source in God the Father. In the second part of the verse we are taught that the one Lord, Jesus Christ is the Creator of all things, and perhaps also the Upholder. This is His work for "all things" in the first creation, and for the saints in the new creation.

Returning to John 5:20-22, we read of "greater works" shown by the Father to the Son, and these are raising the dead and judgement, greater works than the healing of the paralysed man. This leads us to v. 23 "That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honours not the Son, honours not the Father which has sent him". These words call for equal honour to the Father and the Son, but we can reverently notice that the standard by which such honour is measured is the honour due to the Father. This, the honour due to the Father has primacy in the Lord's words. When the cloud received the Risen Lord, and He passed out of the eyes of men, He is seen by John sharing the honours of the divine throne, and receiving, together with Him that sits upon the throne, the honour due to God alone. In the previous chapter we have listened to the Son who said, "the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father seeks such to worship him", and our hearts are moved to desire to render this worship the Father is seeking. Now in our verse 23, we are moved to desire to give the response here set before us, to give equal honour to the Father and the Son.

The door into this blessing, so to be able to respond to the Father and the Son, is by 'hearing his word'. This must surely follow on from honouring the Son. He that hears His word is the one who submits to Him, bows to Him, takes heed to Him. Such a person receives and possesses eternal life, for this is eternal life, to know the Father, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom He has sent.

{Note. A difficulty might arise in the mind of the reader in the form of the question, How can the Persons of the Godhead be spoken of by the Lord in such detail without so much as a mention of the Holy Spirit? Does not this lend support to those who do not believe in the deity of the Spirit? To the latter question a decided negative must be given. Scripture is abundantly clear about the deity of the Spirit. The three Persons are linked together so many times that the link becomes a dominant Scripture fact. (2 Corinthians 13:14; Matthew 28:19; Ephesians 2:18 and 4:4-6; 1 Peter 1:2; and others). It is very much to the point to draw attention to the close parallel between our passage in John 5 and the way the Lord speaks about the Spirit in John 16:13 and John 15:26. "He shall not speak from Himself, but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak". "The Spirit of truth which proceeds from the Father". In these quotations, the 'hear' and 'speak' relating to the Spirit are exactly equivalent to the 'show' and 'see' and 'do' considered in this chapter relative to the Son. Also, the 'proceeds' about the Spirit is exactly parallel to the 'begotten' concerning the Son.}

Chapter 6
The Father's House

"Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also … If a man love me, he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him". (John 14:1-3, 23)

We cannot too often be reminded that in these chapters which record the Upper Room Discourse, especially in the prayer of chapter seventeen, we have the heart and centre of the work which the Son came to perform, the revelation of the Father. This is one of the great essential, if not the great essential doctrine of Christianity. It is worth while to quote lines written at the time when these revelations were being re-discovered, after ages of darkness. "Thus it was not until the present age that the full name and glory of our God was published. The Father had been working, it is true, in all ages of the Jewish times; but still Israel were put nationally under God simply as "Jehovah". The revelation of "the Father" had to wait for the ministry of the Son, and certain dispensations had to finish their course ere the Son could come forth … the Holy Ghost came forth, with His gifts and powers, to wait on the ministry of the Son … the Holy Ghost was now to dwell in the saints, telling them plainly of the Father … And this would give the Church her full form and standing, having thus communion and knowledge, through the Holy Ghost, with the Father and the Son … Now to draw the disciples out from a mere Jewish place into this elevation of the Church of God, and by this to comfort them under the sense of His absence, is the Lord's great purpose in the discourse which He holds with them in these chapters — the like to which never passed between the sons of men — the heart and mind of God had never before so largely and blessedly communicated their treasures to the desires and thoughts of His people, as now the Lord was doing. Most sacred moments indeed of communion between heaven and earth were these … It is of the love of the Father as of the glory of the Son, that the Comforter tells us by the way homeward. He is our companion for all the journey, and this is the theme of His discourse with us. How did the servant, I doubt not, as he accompanied Rebecca across the desert, tell her further of his master … And, beloved, were we more consciously "on the way" with the Comforter, the way would be to us in like manner thus beguiled by His many tales of love and glory, whispering of the Father and the Son to our inmost souls. Be it so with us, Thy poor people, blessed Lord, more and more!" (J.G.B. 1838)

A person reading John's Gospel thus far, illuminated by the Holy Spirit, will now come again on this new Name, the Father, as upon a major recurrence of a theme whose sweetness and majesty, beauty and glory, call for a finality in which heart and mind can rest satisfied. On the opening page, the disciples have enquired "Master, where is your permanent home?" and the only begotten Son has replied, "Come and see". "They came and saw His permanent dwelling-place, and remained with Him". Through all that intervenes in the developing narrative, the Father loving the Son from everlasting to everlasting, the Father seeking worshippers, the Father working until tears are wiped from all faces, the Father who is the source of the river of all existence and has in His disposal the authority for the last judgment, there broods that simple incident in the prologue, "Master, where is your permanent dwelling-place?"

Here, in these opening verses of the Upper Room Discourse, is the answer, so deeply comforting, so permanently satisfying:
  This God whose Name is the Father possesses a home.
  In that home there are many permanent dwelling-places.
  In these permanent dwelling-places there is a place for you.
  Where I am, there you will be.

The Troubled Heart

Hearts were troubled amongst the disciples by the communications they received from the Lord immediately before. There was above all the warning of immediately impending separation. Only a little while longer He would be with them; and afterwards, "whither I go you cannot come", and, "whither I go, thou canst not follow me now". Then, as if to complete the shattering of any confidence they might have retained for the future, came the foretelling of Peter's lack of strength to be shown by his three-fold denial of the Lord. Only a little earlier, the Lord Jesus had Himself manifested a troubled spirit (John 13:21) at the unveiling of the traitor, Judas Iscariot.

Every part of what is recorded in John 14 was directed to bring peace to troubled hearts, but among these comforts, none was greater than that which stands first, the assurance of their place in the Father's house. When the light of all hope and peace for the future was quite extinguished, this most blessed hope is brought to them. We have every reason to believe that hearts more deeply troubled than ever lay immediately before them, but soon they began to see the fulfilment of the first of the promises here made by the Lord for their comfort, "a little while, and ye shall see me … I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man takes from you" (John 16:19-22).

No greater distress could befall the children of God than that which came upon the disciples within a few hours of these words, and it is altogether fitting, therefore, that the first three verses of chapter 14 should have become down the centuries since the words fell on the ears of the first disciples, the greatest possible comfort and strength to everyone whose faith is in Christ.

The Father's House

The contrast has often been pointed between the earliest recorded sayings of the Lord Jesus in the gospels and the latest. The progressive way in which He occupied His own with the Father is never more clearly seen than in this contrast. For the earlier teaching, let us look at Matthew 6:32-33 "Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? for your heavenly Father knows that ye have need of all these things". What an immense assurance, that God, so to speak, stoops down and concerns Himself with the needs and interests which belong to His people's homes! Could anything exceed such grace as this? Could our Father in heaven to a greater degree than this express His thoughts of good for His people? Our passage in John 14 is the unmistakable answer that there is something immeasurably greater than this: and this is that the Father has Himself a home. There is a centre of concerns and interests which are the Father's own, and are not originated for our relief. How clearly we can see the special need for such prominence as the Lord here gives to the gift of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, for without His indwelling we could never receive the knowledge of that home. And so is seen the whole concept of the Father's home, into which the Son loves to introduce His disciples, as the measure of the extent to which it is the Father's gracious purpose to bring His children in the end finally and completely over to His side of things.

F.B. Meyer has written, "Heaven is a home. What magic power lies in that word! It will draw the wanderer from the ends of the earth; it will nerve the sailor, the soldier, and the explorer with indomitable endurance; it will bring a mist of tears to the eyes of the hardened criminal, and soften the heart of stone. But what constitutes a home? Not the mere locality or building; but the dear ones who lived there once … It was father's house, though it was only a shepherd's shieling; he dwelt there, and mother, or brothers and sisters. And where they dwell, or wife or child dwell, there is home". And how many times have Christians confessed, "Where Jesus is, 'tis heaven there".

Divine glory is there, because the Son has said to the Father, "the glory which I had with thee before the world was". Divine love is there, and is at rest there, because the Son spoke of it: "for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world".

The unregenerate mind of man cannot conceive of a perfection which does not pall. All human experience confirms that it is so.

  The Worldly Hope men set their heart upon
  Turns Ashes — or it prospers; and anon like
  Snow upon the Desert's dusty Face
  Lighting a little Hour or two — is gone.

But our Saviour, the Son, here speaks of something outside and above human experience. We are here introduced to eternal life, the life of God. And the leaves of the Tree of Life in the new creation are never-endingly renewed; they are perennially fresh; there is nothing which can ever pall in the home of life, the Father's house.

There is at least a hint that this home forms the resting-place behind the service which belongs to the home of eternal life. "His servants shall serve him; and they shall see his face" (Revelation 22:3-4).

The Many Mansions

The A.V. word 'mansions', now used, as everyone knows, for a large and imposing house, represents here its earlier meaning, that is a permanent dwelling. But I think that the point that is to be stressed here is that the word describing our heavenly home brings to a focus, to a certain fulfilment, a glorious, holy consummation, the apostle's very frequent use of the verb which corresponds to the noun 'mansion' and represented in the English Bible by the four words, abide, remain, continue, and dwell. The disciples are invited again and again to abide, that is, to live uninterruptedly in Christ. (John 15:4-10). If they do this, there will result fruit, including joy, which remains. John is never tired, by the constant repetition of this one word, of insisting that only in Christ and the faith of Him, are available to us the things which never pass away. The "many mansions" are dwelling-places in which will come to everlasting fruition this quality of permanence. There, in a day which shall know no evening shade, the saints will enjoy, in fadeless light, in eternal love and glory, that eternal life which is the fellowship of the Father and the Son.

In John 2:16 the temple is called "my Father's house". And we are reminded that the temple as built to God's pattern given to David, contained all round its walls three stories of "chambers", partly, it would appear, for storage, but available for dwelling-places. The temple is probably the model for the Father's home of many mansions. Not only was His Father's house the eternal abode of glory and love, but part of its essential character was that it was a place of many abodes, a place of fellowship between those brought in from the distance, and made the children of God, and the Father and the Son whose home it is.

"A Place for You"

In Hebrews 6:20 we read, "within the veil; whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus". This passage indicates first, that it was necessary that Jesus should enter heaven before His people, but second, that His presence there is the guarantee that they will be there. This verse in Hebrews is perhaps the best comment on the words of the Lord Jesus which now lie before us: "I go to prepare a place for you". By His sacrifice on the cross, He made ready His people for heaven. By His entering the Father's house before them, He prepares a place there for them. "Without presenting redemption there, and presenting Himself the new man according to the power of that redemption, there is no place prepared in heaven". (Synopsis, J.N.D.)

For their heart-trouble the disciples needed something for the immediate future, and this is soon given them. But with finality to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, they needed before all assurance about the final outcome, their ultimate destiny. And there is nothing hazy or uncertain or ambiguous in this promise: "A place for you". The many mansions are only introduced to make clear beyond the possibility of doubt that the Father's house is not structured to be a place to which the Only Begotten Son would return to be alone there. It was structured to be a place where there was room for every single one of the new family of the children of God, and so that He could say, "a place for you". What a revelation are these facts about the Father! First and foremost the Lord Jesus said "My Father", but, "Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us that we should be called the children of God".

"Where I am"

These words are the final link in a chain which extends from chapter 7. In John 7:32-36 there commences a series of sayings which deeply perplexed the Jews, to whom they were first addressed, the multitudes, and also the disciples. The first of these sayings was, "Yet a little while am I with you, and then I go to Him that sent me. You shall seek me and shall not find me, and where I am, thither ye cannot come. Then said the Jews among themselves, Whither will He go … ?" Three phrases afterwards are seen to stand out in this saying:
  whither I go
  a little while
  where I am

The repetition of these phrases, and the perplexity they occasioned, are seen in: John 8:14-22; 12:26; 13:33-36; 14:3-5; 16:16-19; 17:24. For the moment our concern is with the phrase, 'where I am'. Since the Lord Jesus is the fulness of God, the fountain of living waters, the "deep sweet well of love", no more fearful night could possibly befall men, than this, "Where I am, ye cannot come". On the contrary, what prospect opening before the human heart could exceed the unmixed blessedness of the certain hope imparted in these words, "that where I am, there ye may be also"! Three times in the series detailed above, this blessed assurance is given in addition to 14:3 just quoted. "Where I am, there shall also my servant be; if any man serve me, him will my Father honour." (12:26) "Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me, for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world."

On the Way

Only once more do we meet the word 'mansion', or 'abode'. The Lord Jesus has set at peace the troubled hearts, first, with the certain bliss of their final and everlasting home in the Father's house. But there follows in these chapters a piled-up succession of provision for their hearts on the way there. A great deal centres round the promise of another Comforter from the Father.

But perhaps these provisions for the time of His absence and their absence from Him are most wonderfully summed up in verse 23. The bright and blessed hope in its fulness is that He Himself will come again, and receive us to Himself in the Father's house. We shall be taken to dwell for evermore in the Father's house: there our abode will be. The promise for the way there, certain to bring peace many a time to the troubled heart, is this, that if we love Him and keep His word, then the Father and the Son, doubtless by the Spirit, will come and make Their abode with us. "Jesus said to him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our abode with him". (John 14:23).