On the Gospel of John

J. N. Darby.

Chapter  1
Chapter  2
Chapter  3
Chapter  4
Chapter  5
Chapter  6
Chapter  7
Chapter  8
Chapter  9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21

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The Gospel of John has a special character, which has struck the minds of all those who have given it a little attention, even though they have not always clearly understood what it was that produced this effect: it not only strikes the mind, but attracts the heart in a way not to be found in the other parts of the holy book. The reason of this is, that the Gospel of John presents the Person of the Son of God - the Son of God come down so low, that He can say, "Give me to drink." This attracts the heart, if the heart be not altogether hardened. If Paul teaches us how a man can be presented before God, John presents God before man. His subject is God, and eternal life in a man, the apostle following out the subject in the Epistle, shewing us this life reproduced in those who possess it in possessing Christ. I speak only of the leading features which characterise these books; for many other truths besides those which I have just noticed are to be found in them, it is needless to say. Indeed it is John's Gospel which gives us the doctrine of the sending of the Spirit of God, that other Comforter, who is to abide with us for ever.

The Gospel of John is very clearly distinguished from the other three synoptical gospels, and we shall do well to pause for a moment to consider the character of these last, especially as this concerns the difference between them and the Gospel of John. The three synoptical gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, afford the most precious details of the life of the Saviour down here, of His patience and His grace: He was the perfect expression of good in the midst of evil; His miracles (with the exception of the cursing of the fig-tree, which expressed the truth as to the state of Israel, that is, of man in possession of all the privileges which man could enjoy from God) were not only a confirmation of His testimony, but were all miracles of goodness - the expression of divine power manifested in goodness. Here we find good; God Himself, who is love, acting, although, in a certain sense, still hidden, according to the grace which was soon to be plainly revealed. Thus was the blessed Saviour presented to man, to be recognized and received: He was unknown and rejected. It has often been noticed that each of the three evangelists presents the Saviour in a different aspect: Matthew brings before us Emmanuel in the midst of the Jews; Mark, the Servant Prophet; Luke (after the first two chapters, which present to us the most interesting picture of a remnant with whom God was, in the midst of a hypocritical and rebellious people) gives us the Son of man, more in relation with that which exists at present; that is, heavenly grace; but all three, in the main, present the Saviour in His patient ways of grace in this world, that man may receive Him; and man rejected Him! Mark's Gospel, relating the service of Jesus, has no genealogy. Matthew, in relation with the Jews and earthly dispensations, traces the Saviour from Abraham and David, and also shews the three things, which take the place of Judaism; that is, the kingdom as it exists in the present time (chap. 13), the church (chap. 16), and the kingdom in glory (chap. 17). Luke, which presents to us grace in the Son of man, follows His genealogy up to Adam. These three Gospels always speak of Christ as a Man down here, presented to men historically, and they follow up their account until He is positively rejected, announcing then His entering into the new position which He has taken by resurrection. The ascension, which is the foundation of our present place, is only given in Luke directly; allusion to it is made in the last supplementary verses in Mark.

127 The Gospel of John regards the Lord in quite another manner: it presents to us a divine Person come down here, God manifested in this world; a marvellous fact, upon which all in man's history depends. It is no longer a question here of genealogy; it is no longer the second Man responsible toward God (though that be ever true), and perfect before God, and all His delight, while we see upon every page that it is no longer Messiah according to prophecy; it is no longer Emmanuel, Jesus, who saves His people; it is no longer the messenger who goes before His face: in John it is God Himself, as God, who in a Man shews Himself to men,* to the Jews - for God had promised Him - but first of all to put them entirely aside (chap. 1:10-11), shewing at the same time that nothing in man could even comprehend who was there present with him. Then, at the end of the Gospel, we find the doctrine of the presence of the Holy Spirit, who should replace Jesus here below, in revealing His glory on high, and in giving us the consciousness of our relationships with the Father and with Him. It is also to be remarked that all John's writings, and amongst them his Gospel, look upon the Christian as an individual, and do not recognise the church, either as the body or as the house. Further, the Gospel of John treats of eternal life; he does not speak of forgiveness of sins, except as a present administration confided to the apostles; and, as far as Christ is concerned, he treats essentially the subject of the manifestation of God down here, and of the coming of eternal life in the Person of the Son of God; consequently he hardly speaks at all of our heavenly portion, three or four allusions excepted. But it is time to leave these general reflections, to consider what the Gospel itself teaches us.

{*Having come as a Man, Jesus never leaves the place of obedience, and receives everything from His Father's hand.}

128 First of all, then, let us look at its structure. The first three chapters are preliminary: John had not yet been put in prison, and Jesus, although He taught and performed miracles, had not yet begun His public ministry. The two first of these three chapters, up to chapter 2:22, form a whole. Chapter 3 gives us the basis of the divine work in us and for us - that is, the new birth and the cross, this latter introducing heavenly things as to us, and as to Jesus Himself. In chapter 4, Jesus passes from Judea into Galilee, leaving the Jews who did not receive Him, and takes the place of Saviour of the world in grace. In chapter 5 He gives life as Son of God; in chapter 6, He becomes, as Son of man, the sustenance of the life, in His incarnation and in His death. Chapter 7 shews us that the Holy Spirit should replace Him - the feast of tabernacles, the re-establishment of Israel, to take place later on. In chapter 8, His word is definitely rejected; in chapter 9, His works: but he who has received sight follows Him. Thus, in chapter 10, He will have His sheep, and keep them for better things to come. In chapters 11 and 12, God bears witness to Him, as Son of God, by the resurrection of Lazarus; as Son of David, by His entry into Jerusalem; as Son of man, by the coming of the Greeks; but this title of Son of man, brought in with it death, a subject which is then treated of. Bethany is a scene by itself; Mary seized in her heart the position of Jesus; He who gave life must Himself die. His title of Son of man closes the history of Jesus down here, introducing Him by death and by redemption into a far wider sphere of glory. But then (chap. 13) the question arose naturally, Was Jesus going to leave His disciples? No; being glorified on high, He would wash their feet. But whither He went the disciples could not follow Him now. In chapter 14 we find the resources of comfort during the time of the Lord's absence: the Father had been revealed in Him already during His life down here; when He should have gone back on high, He would send another Comforter; by His means, the disciples would know that He was in the Father, and they in Him, and He in them. Chapter 15 shews us the relationship of the disciples with Him upon earth, taking the place of the Jews; the place of the disciples before the world, that of the Jews in rejecting Him, and then the Comforter. Chapter 16 tells us what the Holy Spirit would do when come; what His presence would be the proof of in the world, and what He would teach the disciples, putting them at the same time into immediate relationship with the Father. In chapter 17 the Lord, taking His stand upon the accomplishment of His work, and the revelation of the Father's name, places His own in His own position before the Father and before the world; the world is judged, in that it has rejected the Lord, and His own are left here in His place. In chapters 18 and 19 we have the history of the Lord's condemnation and crucifixion; in chapter 20, His resurrection and manifestation of Himself to His disciples, as well as their mission. Chapter 21 gives us His interview with His own in Galilee, Peter's restoration, and the prophecy of Jesus as to the latter, and as to John.

129 After this short sketch of the Gospel as a whole, we will enter now upon the detail of the chapters.

John 1

The first chapter presents to us the Person of the Lord in all its positive aspects - what He is in Himself. Not in His relative characters; He is not here the Christ, nor Head of the church, nor High Priest - that is to say, what He was, or what He is, in relationship with men down here, whether Jews or Christians. But it is Christ personally who is presented to us as well as His work.

The chapter begins with the divine and eternal existence of the Person of Jesus, the Son of God, with that which He is in the essence of His nature, so to speak. Genesis begins with the creation, and the Old Testament gives us the history of responsible man upon the earth, the sphere of that responsibility; John begins with that which preceded creation; he begins all anew here, in the Person of Him who became the second Man, the last Adam.

130 It is not, "In the beginning God created"; but, "In the beginning was the Word." All is founded upon the uncreated existence of Him who created everything: at the beginning of all things He was there, without any beginning. "In the beginning was the Word," is the formal expression that the Word had no beginning. But there is more in this remarkable passage: the Word was personally distinct, "the Word was with God"; but He was not distinct in nature, "the Word was God." Thus we have the eternal existence, the distinct personality, the identity of nature, of the Word; and all this existed in eternity. The distinct personality of the Word was not, as people have wished to make it, a thing which had a beginning. "In the beginning the Word was with God," v. 2. His personality is eternal as His nature. This is the great and glorious basis of the doctrine of the gospel and of our eternal joy, what the Saviour is in Himself, His nature, and His Person.

Now comes what He is in His attributes, being such. First of all, He has created all things, and here we come to the beginning of Genesis. We have to do with Him in that which He is; the world is but that which He has made. All things were made by Him, and there is nothing created of which He was not the Creator. All that subsists, subsists by Him. He was (een); all that began to exist (egeneto) began "by him." He was the Creator of all beings. (Compare Heb. 1:2, 10.)

The second quality found in Him is, that "in him was life," v. 4. This cannot be said of any creature; many have life, but they have it not in themselves. Christ becomes our life, but it is He who is it in us. "God hath given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son; he that hath the Son, hath life, and he that hath not the Son of God, hath not life." This is a very momentous truth, as regards Himself, as regards us, and as regards the life that we possess as Christians.

But more; this life is "the light of men," a word of immense value for us. God Himself is light, and it is the divine light as life which expresses itself to men in the Word. It is not the light of angels, though God be light for all, for He is it in Himself, but, as it is relative, adapted to other beings, it is not to angels; His delights were in the sons of men; Prov. 8. The proposition is one which is called reciprocal; that is, the two parts of the proposition have an equal value. I could say just as well, the light of men is the life which is in the Word. It is the perfect expression of the nature, counsels, and glory of God when all shall be consummated. It is in man that God will make Himself to be seen and known. "God was manifest in flesh … seen of angels." The angels are the highest expression of God's power in creation; but it is in man that God has shewn Himself, and that, morally, in holiness and love. We ought to walk as Christ walked, to be imitators of God as His dear children, and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us; and also, "we are light in the Lord," for He is our life. If we know love, it is in that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. If God chastises us, it is to make us participators of His holiness. We walk in the light, as He is in the light. He has chosen us in Christ, to be "holy and irreproachable before him in love," which is the character of God Himself, a character perfectly realised in Christ. We purify ourselves, even as He is pure, knowing that we shall be like Him - being transformed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord - being renewed in knowledge after the image of Him who hath created us. And this is not a rule, although there be in it a rule (for we ought to walk as He walked), but a life which is the perfect expression of it, the expression of the life of God in man. Ineffable privilege! Wonderful nearness to Jesus! "Both he who sanctifieth, and they that are sanctified, are all of one."

131 Redemption develops and manifests all the moral qualities of God Himself, and above His qualities, His nature - love and light, and that in man, and in connection with men. We are, as being in Christ, and Christ in us, the fruit and expression of all that God is in the fulness and revelation of Himself. He will shew, in the ages to come, the exceeding riches of His grace, in His kindness towards us in Christ Jesus. But then, in order that all this should be brought out, love and even light, an occasion must present itself; and that, not in an object amiable and intelligent in good (for then man could love), but there, where all the opposite of this nature shewed itself; it was necessary also that good should be proved superior to evil, in letting evil have its free course. "The light shone in the darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not." Not only was man not light, not only was he darkness, without any glimmering of the nature of God, but there was no power in him of receiving this light; there was opposition of nature. They saw no beauty in Him to desire Him. In that which was nothing else than the exhibition of the divine nature in itself, it was impossible to go further. In natural things, if there is light, there is no more darkness; but in the moral world it is not so; the light, that which is pure in itself, and manifests everything, is there, and it is not perceived who is there. "Is not this the carpenter's son?" "If thou knewest who it is that saith unto thee, Give me to drink." "If this man were a prophet" - it is a definite judgment, pronouncing Him not to be a prophet, when God is there, and shews Himself as such. For since that which God is in this world reveals that which is above, the mind that reigns there does not associate itself with a single principle which governs the heart and the habits of men. There is in that heart no knowledge of sin, no knowledge of God, no knowledge of the state into which sin has plunged us; sin itself is estimated according to the evil which it has done to ourselves, not according to its opposition to God's nature, although I admit that a conscience has been acquired by the fall; egotism has become the starting-point for everything. Then, when the light comes, which, on the contrary, shews what sin is, where this has placed man morally before God, everything is judged of according to egotism as a starting-point; and the manifestation of God finds no entry into the heart. This is an unknown field for man: it is the truth, and man is in a state of falsehood, as he is without God, and he understands nothing here. God is light; and when He is manifested such as He is, but adapted to man, man's state is such that nothing responds to this manifestation. If the conscience, which is from God, is reached, the hatred of the will is awakened. (See the end of Acts 7 and John 3:19.)

132 We have, then, in an abstract way, in these first five verses that which the Lord is, divinely, in Himself; and together with this, at the end, the effect of His manifestation in the midst of men, such as they were, still in an abstract way. Thus it is as light that He is here presented; it is not love which is revealed. Come down here as love, He has been active, both towards the world, and efficaciously towards His own, which implies the cross, that is to say, the light rejected. But here it is what the Lord is which is presented to us, not that which He does in divine activity. Verses 16-19 of chapter 3 give us the summary of what He is in these two particulars. God is love; but Christ was the activity of this love, according to the nature and settled purpose of God. (Compare verse 17 of the chapter we are examining.) The law demanded of man that which man ought to be; in Christ something "is come" from God - light and love; but this subject will occupy us more fully in a moment. I only repeat, that what is given us, up to the present, is what the Lord is in Himself, but in the character which puts man to the test, which shews what man is; and the passage terminates with the effect of the manifestation of what He is, without His being named. This Light can manifest itself there, where there is nothing that answers to it: it is not comprehended. It is moral incapacity, not hatred; the latter is opposed to love.

133 We may remark, that, in being made partakers of the divine nature, we become light; Eph. 5:8. It is never said that we are love. God is sovereign in His love; without doubt it is His nature, in communion, and in goodness, and in mercy, but free. We are made partakers of this nature, and we walk in love, as the love has been manifested in Jesus, because He is our life; but it is in obedience that we walk thus, it is a duty, a joyful duty - easy, if we walk with joy, and stronger than the evil, but not free, having its source in ourselves. We cannot say that we are supreme love, a source from which love springs; but the new man is holy in himself; it is that which he is, although this be, in our case, in relation with an object.

In the sixth and following verses we begin the history: Christ should appear. It is not now what He is abstractedly; now we find a forerunner - John the Baptist. God, in His goodness, was not satisfied with giving the light: He announces it - by another, so as to draw men's attention. John the Baptist bears; witness to the Light, but here it is that all may believe, and not for Israel only: John the Baptist was not the Light, but he came to bear witness to Him who was. Now the true Light is He who, coming into the world, is light for every man, Pharisee or sinner, Jew or Gentile. He is the Light, who, come from on high, is such for every one, whether He be rejected or received: for a Simon or a Herod, for Nathanael or for Caiaphas. He is the expression of God, and of the mind of God for every man, whatever state he may be in. The subject here is not that of receiving the light into the heart. In that case it is a question of the state of him who receives; here, of the fact of the appearing of the Light in this world. It was in the world in the Person of the Saviour; the world was made by Him; but when He was in the world, the world did not know Him; He came to His own, the Jews, He who was their Jehovah and their Messiah, and His own received Him not (v. 9 - 11).

134 This is the result of the manifestation of the Light in the midst of men, historically - incapacity to understand it, and rejection when it was directly addressed to those who had already been in relation to it by promises and prophecies, and who had received the law from it, the rule of human life - though always remaining Light. Some, however, received it; and to those He gave the right to take the place of children of God, not that there were some of a better quality, or of a will less perverse than the others; no, they were born again, born of God; "born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." The exterior revelation of the light in the Word was accompanied by a quickening power of God, which gave it a vital reality in the soul, in forming the incorruptible seed of God. As life, Christ was there. The man was born of God.

This terminates the exposition of the Word as light in itself, and as revealed in the world and in the midst of His own; presented abstractedly in verses 1-5, and in verses 7-13 historically, but still in its nature as light, and not as a man; then, after all, if it were received, in what the difference consisted.

At verse 14, historical Christianity begins. Up to that, it is what Christ was, as well as what was the state of the sphere in which He was manifested. Now we have that which He became - "The Word became flesh." It was not an appearance, as in the Old Testament, but He took a tabernacle to dwell amongst us, even though it were but for a time. It was a Man in the midst of men (He will keep the tabernacle for ever); but He has lived down here full of grace and truth, love and light, adapted to the state of man down here; then we, believers, have received of His fulness and grace upon grace; in short, as the only begotten Son in the bosom of the Father, He has revealed the Father. The Word made flesh has been among us, revealing the glory of an only-begotten Son with His Father, full of grace and truth: we have all received of His fulness: then He has revealed the Father. He was the Son in manifestation, Man in the midst of men, the Word, which was God, made flesh. In Him grace and truth came into the world; He is a full source of grace for us, from which we have all received abundance of grace, and He has also revealed the Father.* This is the second part of our chapter, the history of the Person of the Christ. To this also John bears witness: he was not the Christ, but His forerunner, the voice that cries in the wilderness, and who, in calling to repentance, prepares the way of the Lord.

{*Compare 1 John 4:12, where the difficulty, that "No one hath seen God at any time," is resolved in another way; this comparison furnishes the most profound instruction as to the Christian state.}

135 This introduces a third point. Whilst announcing His Person, he who presents Him hides himself; he is neither the Christ, nor the prophet promised by Moses, nor Elias, promised by Malachi, but only according to Isaiah's word, the voice to announce another, whom the Pharisees did not know, He who was coming after him, but who was preferred before him, the latchet of whose shoe he was not worthy to unloose. This is turned into personal testimony when Jesus appears before John the next day. (Verse 29, and following.) John designates Him here, not as the Messiah, but in connection with His work, of which there are two parts: He takes away sin, and He baptises with the Holy Ghost.

Jesus is "the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world." Sin must be taken away from before God. The time will come when there will be no more sin before the eyes of God, nor before ours, a time of eternal repose for God and for our hearts. What a true rest, and how blessed for the heart! There has been a paradise of innocence, which depended upon the creature's faithfulness, a state of innocence uncertain, and at once lost: there has been a world of sin, where nevertheless God has been acting in grace: there will be a world of new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness will dwell, a state of things which cannot be shaken, morally immutable, for the value of Christ's work remains always the same. This will not be a state of innocence where all depended upon obedience put to the test, and in which man failed, but a happiness where obedience was perfectly tested, and accomplished. Righteousness ensures the stability of this state of things, for God cannot slight the perfection of the work of Christ, for His glory. Also there will be nothing there but holiness. All there will glorify God in all that He is; nothing will be contrary to His nature. Sin will be taken away from before God in the new heavens and the new earth. Jesus is the One who takes it away: the work is done, the result is not yet produced. The passage does not say, "The Lamb of God who hath taken away," nor, "who will take away" - it presents the character of Him who was there before the eyes of John the Baptist, He who was doing the thing. The passage does not treat of the guilt in which we are (a most important subject in its place), that is evident, but of a state of things before God. John takes things habitually thus in their great principles. It is God who has appeared, and all is judged according to the light of His presence. His holiness demands - yea, His majesty, inasmuch as He is holy - that sin be taken away from before His eyes. He who accomplished the work, who was doing it, was now there. present upon the earth. He was "the Lamb of God," the Lamb who suited perfectly the glory of God, the Lamb that God alone could have provided for Himself, who was able to establish His glory, His highest glory, there where sin was found; the Lamb who could give Himself freely for this glory, and to accomplish thus a work which should be the moral foundation (its value being immutable, and subsisting without the possibility of change, for the work was always itself) of an eternal blessing, according to God, and before Him.

136 The cross is the basis of this blessing. All the moral elements of good and evil have been clearly brought to light, and have been shewn each in its proper place, and Christ is at God's right hand, as Man, in the divine glory, in virtue of having resolved every question that was thus raised. There could have been seen, man in his absolute hatred of good, of God Himself manifested in goodness, and that for him, "they have both seen and hated both me and my Father" - all Satan's power, "the prince of this world cometh"; "it is your hour, and the power of darkness" - man in his absolute perfection in Christ; "but that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father hath commanded me, so I do"; and that when both had been tested in the most absolute manner - then God, in His righteousness against sin, as nowhere else: sin in us, but God in His infinite love to the sinner. Thus man, in the Person of the Son of God, has entered into quite a new position, in the glory, beyond the reach of sin, death, the power of Satan, and the judgment of God after having passed through it - man, according to the counsels of God, putting the most positive seal upon the responsibility of man as a creature, meeting the consequences of this responsibility, and glorifying God in such a way as to obtain for man, from the love and the righteousness of God, a place which should be the eternal glorifying of God in His sovereign counsels and in His glory, the glorifying of Him who introduced man there to be the vessel of it, whilst, at the same time, the order of creation should subsist in result before God in a state where He would find the repose of His nature, and where Christ, the glorified Man, should be the centre of all God's ways in their blessed result.

137 The Saviour was to do yet another thing; that is, to baptise with the Holy Ghost. This is introduced by one of the most interesting and touching facts: Jesus receives the Holy Ghost as Man, and the scripture employs the same words as to Him as when it speaks of us: "Jesus of Nazareth … whom God anointed with the Holy Spirit, and with power"; and the Lord Himself said, "Him hath God the Father sealed." Jesus has been sealed as Son, Man down here, in virtue of His own perfection, and His own relationship with the Father as Son; we are sealed, being sons by faith in Him (Gal. 3:26; ch. 4:6), in virtue of the redemption that He has accomplished. We, consequently, could not be sealed before He had taken His place as Man on high - witnesses at the same time of the efficacy of redemption, and of that which redemption has acquired for us. "Except a grain of wheat fall into the ground, and die, it remaineth alone; but if it die, it beareth much fruit." Thus we read (John 7:39), "The Spirit was not yet [that is, not yet on earth in believers], because Jesus was not yet glorified." It was the witness that He was the Son personally. Now that redemption is accomplished, and that Jesus is glorified, after its accomplishment, the Holy Ghost is given to us who believe in Jesus.

Thus also, although the result of the sacrifice of Christ, taking away the sin of the world, be not yet brought out, we know that that which forms the basis of this blessed result is accomplished, and we enjoy its efficacy in the perfect purification of our conscience, and in the glorious hope of being with Christ, like Him in heaven, the Holy Ghost assuring us of one of these things, in being the earnest of the other. Christ baptises (or rather now we say has baptised) His own with the Holy Ghost, giving us the consciousness of being sons in full liberty before the Father, who hath sealed Him as being personally the Son of God, perfect in everything. It was this sign given to John the Baptist, that opened his mouth to bear witness that Jesus was the Son of God. John saw clearly that Jesus was a glorious Person, whose shoe-latchet he was not worthy to unloose, and he felt that it was not his place to baptise this Person. But the descent of the Spirit upon Jesus is the clear, heavenly testimony, shewing who Jesus was, as to His Person, as Son of God: John saw and bore witness that He was the Son of God Himself in this world. It is very precious for us (although in our case it is no question of our persons, but of sovereign grace) to think that, if ascended into glory He has baptised us with the Holy Ghost (the witness that we are sons and giving us the consciousness of it), He the eternal Son received Himself first of all as Man down here this same testimony. the seal and unction of the Spirit, which enables us to cry, "Abba, Father!" It is the foretaste of that truth, that He which sanctifieth, and they who are sanctified, are all of one; Heb. 2:11.

138 But if down here, a divine testimony has been given that Jesus was the Son of God, His title as Lamb of God is that which characterises Him. John the Baptist's heart recognised Him already as such, for the witness he bears here is not a testimony borne in his preaching. He saw Jesus walking before him, and his heart, full of the deep truth, exclaims, "Behold the Lamb of God!" He had already announced Him in that character, and no one had followed Jesus; but now that which came from his heart in grace attracted hearts; two of John's disciples hear him, and follow the Lord. Thus Jesus begins to gather His disciples. He accepts the position of the centre of gathering. The two disciples had received the word of God from the mouth of John the Baptist; but neither John, nor any one of the prophets, had ever taken the place of being a centre, around which those who received God's word assembled; now there was One in the world around whom they could thus gather; it was "the Lamb of God." Jesus, seeing the two disciples following Him, said to them, "Whom seek ye?" They said to Him, "Rabbi, where dwellest thou?" He answered, "Come and see."

139 This is an important principle and fact; there was not only upon earth a testimony but a Person who was a gathering-point for those who received God's word, and this from God Himself. This was the fruit of John the Baptist's testimony. Andrew, one of John's two disciples, finds Simon, his own brother, and announces to him that they had found, not the Lamb of God, but the Christ. The testimony which we receive, always attaches itself to that which is already in the heart; it does not go beyond that which adapts itself to what is there. If all God's love in Christ is preached, if work is done in the soul, this will produce a conviction of sin, perhaps even to make us nearly despair of salvation. "The Lamb of God" goes infinitely further than "the Messiah"; but these sincere souls that we see here, and who had received the word of God in their heart, had found "the Messiah," v. 42. Andrew brings Simon to Jesus, who calls him Cephas, otherwise Peter. The right of giving names is the expression of sovereignty, as we constantly find in the word; only Christ gives the names with a divine knowledge of the persons. He appropriated to Himself supreme authority, but with the competency of a divine Person. Never would John the Baptist have given names to his disciples in this way.

But although Jesus was the centre that gathered those who received the testimony of God, He was come to bear witness to the truth, and in carrying out this work He had nowhere to lay His head. He begins this active service in verse 43: He would go into Galilee, where His testimony was to be borne amongst the poor of the flock, and He finds Philip Himself. This is the second character of testimony. The first was John, and that which followed; here it is Christ, and it is a question of following Him, Him who was a pilgrim and stranger in this world. Christ thus appears also in another character; up to this time we have seen Him as centre, He received believers, and surrounded Himself with them there, where He dwelt; here they must follow Him, where He was a pilgrim - a second testimony of all-importance.

As the object of John the Baptist's testimony, Jesus was the centre, and He is always; but, in fact in His own testimony down here, He was a stranger, and had nowhere to lay His head; He began at the manger, and ended at the cross. All His life was the life of One who was a stranger down here, who walked in the world to bear witness in it to God in grace, but in following a path which no vulture's eye hath seen. The two characters of testimony bring out into bold relief, the state of the world, on the one hand; and on the other, that which Jesus was doing there. Why have in this world a centre of gathering, on the part of God, if it be not that the world, and even God's people according to the flesh, had entirely got away from God, and that it needed some one to draw souls out of this state by the revelation of God in the midst of this world? And now, again, the principle is the same, only the blessed Centre is in heaven: He gave Himself for our sins, to take us out of this present evil age. Then, why follow Jesus, to be a pilgrim as Jesus always was down here? Adam was not a pilgrim in paradise; we shall not be pilgrims in heaven: there was no need of a road in the one, and we shall find none in the other, as if we wished to get out of it. It was the sabbath of God below; it is the eternal rest of God on high; one will not go out of it; there was no need, and there will be no need, in the one, or in the other, of a path where some one is to be followed. Here it is not so; neither the rest of God, nor the rest of man, is to be found upon the earth, and what we want is a path across the desert. There is only one which is sure, and One alone could trace it; and faith alone discerns it; it is Jesus who says, "Follow me." We need a path, and the path is found. Philip also was of Galilee. God's work was not built upon Jerusalem, the old centre according to the flesh; but the basis, the path, and the centre, is the Son of God, the revelation of God Himself in the world, Himself the First of all, the despised and rejected of men, but the image of the invisible God.

140 Philip finds Nathanael, an Israelite, full of prejudices, but a guileless heart, for the Lord found under the fig-tree even, men of this stamp, attached to Judaism - a remnant whose heart was opened to the truth, faithful men, who waited for the redemption of Israel. Nathanael did not think that anything good could come out of Nazareth, that place which, far from being the Jerusalem of promise, was one of the most despised and disreputable places. But it was to Jesus that one must come, it was to His Person that souls were invited to come: "Come and see"! The Lord shews His perfect knowledge of what was passing in Nathanael, declaring him to be without guile, and shewing this knowledge in a way to penetrate his heart. Nathanael recognises Him, according to Psalm 2, as King of Israel and Son of God. In His answer, the Lord recognises Nathanael's faith, founded upon what He had told him of himself, and He announces to him His own glory, according to Psalm 8, the glory which belonged to a rejected Messiah; for in Psalm 2 the Messiah is rejected, in a passage quoted by Peter to this effect, the psalm announcing that God would establish His anointed King over Israel, notwithstanding His rejection. But after the prophetic recital of the sufferings of the remnant in Psalms 3-7, Psalm 8 announces God's counsels as to man in the Person of the Son of man. This guileless man, who is here presented to us under the fig-tree, becomes thus the occasion of the revelation of the Messiah in His connection with Israel, then of the revelation of His glory as the Son of man, whom all the highest creatures should serve, and who should be their object as the means of established relationship between the heavens and the earth.

141 We should notice that it is here, as we have observed, the second day of testimony; the first being found in verse 35, the second in verse 43. It is not the history of the Gospel, but the testimony borne to Jesus by John the Baptist first of all, and then the testimony borne by Himself. In the first case He takes John the Baptist's place; in the second, it is the manifestation of Himself, a testimony which goes on from His service on earth until the accomplishment of Psalm 8. Looked at already as rejected of the Jews, and unknown to the world (chap. 1:10-11), He takes, from this time, the title of Son of man, the title by which He constantly calls Himself, although He could not take the position itself until He had passed through death. These are the two days of testimony borne to Christ as having come into this world, which are developed in the supremacy which He possesses over all things, presented here in its nature only. For the rest, the heavenly position of the Lord is hardly the subject of the teaching of John's Gospel: allusion is made to it, indeed, but that is all.

John 2

That which follows, in chapter 2, reveals in principle what will happen when the Lord takes His place of authority over the Jews; the wine of gladness of the wedding will take the place of the water of purification, and Christ will purify His Father's house by judgment. But it will be a risen Christ who will accomplish these things. It is the resurrection that is presented to us, the fact of having left all His relationships with the world, and with His people down here according to the flesh, and of having placed man in quite a new position, the position which bears witness to His rights to execute the judgment of God. But notice, He was already the true temple. Jehovah was no longer really in the temple at Jerusalem, although that temple was owned as an outward thing by the Lord Himself until judgment was executed: only, at the time of His death, He no longer calls it His Father's house, but their house. God, in fact, was in Him; His body was the true temple.

142 These words of the Lord terminate this presentation of His Person, and of the position that He took in this world until the end, shewing us at the same time that it was in resurrection that His glory should be accomplished. He declares also here that He would raise Himself up; He had, therefore, perfect right to judge the corrupt and defiled temple.

What follows speaks of the relationship of the Lord with others; the subject begins from verse 22. It is a question of man's state, and of the work that God was doing in him, and for him. The great principle that all blessing belongs to the resurrection-state, or is based upon it, man in his natural state being left completely behind, recurs constantly in John, as one may see in chapters 5, 6, and indeed all through the Gospel. We have then, here, the two great foundations of Christianity, as far as our state is concerned; that is, the new birth and the cross, both being absolutely necessary for our salvation; but the second going further than that which was necessary, according to the nature even of God, and introducing us into heavenly things.

To have a part in the kingdom, one must have an entirely new life. Even faith in Jesus, as founded upon a demonstration which could be addressed to human intelligence, was worth nothing. Men might be truly convinced (there were such at that time, and there are still such), whether by education, or by the exercise of their mind, but in order to be in relationship with God, there must be a new nature - a nature which can know Him, and which answers to His own. Many believed in Jesus when they saw the miracles that He did (v. 23); they concluded, like Nicodemus, that a man could not do what Jesus was doing, if He were not what He pretended to be. The conclusion was perfectly right. Passions to be overcome, prejudices to be laid aside, or interests hard to sacrifice were not concerned in the question. Man's reason judged rightly enough of the proofs given, the rest of his nature was not aroused. But the Lord knew man; He knew, with divine intelligence, what was in him. There was no lack of sincerity, perhaps, but what there was with these men was but a conclusion, a human conviction, which had no power over man's will, nor against his passions, nor against the wiles of the prince of this world. "Jesus did not trust himself to them." There must be a divine work, and a divine nature, to enjoy divine communion, and to walk in the divine path across the world. That which follows is very distinct.

143 John 3

Nicodemus comes to Jesus with the declaration of the same principle which had produced the conviction of those in whom Jesus had no confidence - the miracles were to him a demonstration that Jesus was a teacher sent from God. I even think that the others went further than Nicodemus; it is said they believed in His name (chap. 2:23). As to Nicodemus, he was convinced that Christ's teaching must have God for its source, thus he was disposed to listen. The belief of the former did not produce any need in their souls; in this case conviction may go as far as you like, without the soul's being troubled, or any effect whatever being produced: it costs nothing - we often see this.

But in Nicodemus's case there was more, and it was a proof of the action of God; there was with him a need. The Holy Spirit of God always acts thus, even in the Christian. This feeling of need which He begets produces activity in the soul; this is what had happened to Nicodemus. More, when the Spirit of God acts in a soul, the word of God asserts its authority over it, and creates the desire to hear that word; this never fails. There are so many unsatisfied desires in the soul, that when it is awakened, the need to know what God has said is produced in it. The soul has the consciousness of having to do with Him, and the need of knowing what He has said becomes the spring of its activity, and characterises it. It is not the reception of a system of doctrine, or of dogmas about a divine Person; it is the soul that hungers and thirst for what God has said; ignorant of everything but its need, it wishes to receive. It is a good thing for the soul to trust in God's word, in the source of truth (this is already implicit faith), without the truth being, as yet, communicated in fact; for it listens with confidence. Nicodemus was in this state; the Samaritan woman also, but, in her case the conscience was more in question; so also with the twelve; when several of His disciples abandoned Jesus, they would not leave Him, for He had the words of eternal life. When God acts, the link between God and the conscience and soul is not broken; I am not speaking of union, but of a moral work in the heart. But notice, as soon as ever the need is produced in Nicodemus's heart, he feels instinctively that the world, and the religious authorities - the worst part of the world - will be against him. There is fear; Nicodemus comes to Jesus by night. Poor human nature! If a soul puts itself in relationship with God, in recognising His word, the world will not stand it. We know this. But Nicodemus's faith did not go farther than to recognise the authority of the Saviour's word as a word which came from God, grace having produced in his heart the need of these communications from God.

144 It is a great thing to have a real need, feeble though it be morally; for here, in Nicodemus's case, there was little need in the conscience, and no knowledge of himself. He was cleaving to religious hopes, to doctrines, and a revelation given from God; he was seeking instruction from Jesus, but he had his part in the general conviction that the miracles of Jesus produced - a conviction strengthened by uprightness, and by personal need; Jesus was a teacher sent from God. But Jesus stops Nicodemus short; the resurrection and kingdom were not come, but in order to receive the revelation which had been given of it, there must be a divine operation, a new nature; it was necessary to partake of an entirely new life. The kingdom was not coming in a way to attract attention, but the King, with all the perfection that belonged to Him, was there present, and consequently the kingdom itself, presented in His Person; only this kingdom, not being revealed in power, the rejection of the King caused by the very perfection of His Person, as well as the work accomplished in His rejection, introduced a heavenly inheritance. Further this work, and this rejection, brought those who should be identified with a rejected Christ into those courts above where God displayed His glory, and this is far higher than the glory of the Messiah, if it had been then accomplished. It was already the dawn of the accomplishment of the counsels of God not yet revealed.

145 Two things are presented to us in the first half of the chapter before us: first of all, the kingdom, and what is needed to have part in it, and, in measure, the earthly things, and what is necessary to enjoy them with God, but also the kingdom, as it was then presented in its moral character. Then, secondly, heaven, eternal life, that which is essential to our most real and intimate relationship with God, namely, the possession of eternal life before Him, in contrast with the thought of perishing. Here it is no question of the kingdom, it is eternal life, such as Jesus, come from heaven, could reveal it to us. But this supposes the cross: it is no question of Messiah, but of the Son of man, and of the love which God has had for the world, not of His intentions with regard to the kingdom, and the promises connected with this kingdom, but of plans far more vast and exalted, heavenly in their character, in which God reveals what He is; and Jesus, rejected as Messiah, dies, and enters into glory as the Son of man who has suffered. No doubt this new birth is in any case necessary, subjectively, even that we may see the kingdom, and enjoy it, much more, that we may enjoy heavenly things in the presence of God. But as the passage speaks of the new birth, it does not treat of the heavenly glory; for this the cross must be brought in also. However it is Well to remark that this whole passage, in its two parts, supposes the new order of things, where grace was acting, and that not limited to the Jews. It was an entirely new thing that was being brought in; the kingdom was not established in glory, but founded and received in the Person of the King, demanding a new nature to see it, and extending itself to every one whom grace could reach. It was morally and subjectively, the new thing; only in the first part, we have neither heavenly things, nor eternal life; in the second, we have not the kingdom.

The first thing the Lord does in stopping Nicodemus short - who only spoke of being instructed in the state in which he was, he, a child of the kingdom according to the flesh - is to tell him that it was not a question of that, but that he must be born entirely anew. We will look into the details in a moment; it is, however, important, first of all, to seize, that the Lord speaks of the two characters of blessing, that is, of the heavenly glory, and of the kingdom according to promise, but that He speaks of them according to the aspects they presented at that very time. We may say that He presents them, with regard to His Person in their spiritual character; on the one hand, the King despised, and that which was heavenly meeting with the cross in His Person; but, on the other hand, the new birth and life-giving power, the Son of man, the love of God, and consequently what concerned the world and man, not only dispensations and the Jews. For, faithful though God be to His promises, He cannot, when He reveals Himself, confine Himself to the Jews.

146 First of all then, the kingdom was being revealed in a way which did not attract attention, not by a power that should rule over the world, nor by its outward glory; a new nature was needed to perceive it. The King was there, and He gave proofs of a divine mission and of the presence of Him who was to come, but in humiliation; to the natural eye He was the carpenter's son. Nicodemus reasoned well in saying, in verse 2,"We know … for no one can do the miracles which thou doest, unless God be with him"; but God had His, "Except a man be born again" - born entirely anew. This life is a beginning again of life, of a new source, and of a new nature - a life that came from God. But Nicodemus still remained within the bounds and limits of the flesh, of the natural man. They are the limits of what man is, of his intelligence. Man cannot be more than he is; he cannot get beyond his nature. But the class of infidels who boast of having made this immense discovery, shew, on the one hand, the limit of the human understanding, so that they can discern nothing beyond what man is; and, on the other hand, the absence of solid reasoning in themselves; for, from what they have discovered, there is no proof that a more powerful Being cannot introduce something new. Their wisdom is a self-evident fact; man by himself cannot see beyond that which is in himself; their conclusion is absolutely without force. By their principle they can conclude nothing beyond the limits of humanity; but the limits of active power are not necessarily those of receptivity. Let us return to our chapter, and seek to listen to and understand the Saviour's words better than Nicodemus.

147 Nicodemus, as we have said, confines himself to the experience of what happens in man; Christ revealed that which was being accomplished on God's part - the key of all the Lord's history. He had spoken of that which was necessary to see, to discern the kingdom: one must be born of water and of the Spirit. It is the kingdom of God, in whatever state it may be, and one must be made meet for this kingdom, must have a nature fit to take part in it. Two things are found here, water and the Spirit - a nature thus characterised, morally and in its source. Water as a figure, is always the word applied by the Spirit; it brings the thoughts of God heavenly, divine, but adapted to man; it judges what is found in him, but it brings in these divine thoughts, and so purifies the heart. For water purifies what exists; but also it is the new man who drinks it, and this is not separated from that which is entirely new. "That which is born of the Spirit, is spirit," partakes of the nature of that of which it is born; this is, in truth, the new nature. The practical purification of our thoughts and hearts, of which we have spoken, is indeed the effect of that which this nature receives, of things for which the flesh has no desire. We could not say, "That which is born of water, is water." Water purifies that which exists; but we receive a new life, which is really Christ Himself in power of life in us, that which Adam innocent had not. We partake of the divine nature, as Peter expresses it; and where this expression is found, in the Second Epistle of Peter, it is connected with birth by water; we escape the corruption that is in the world by lust.

It is thus only that we enter the kingdom. The kingdom of God is more than a paradise for man, it is what is fitting for God, and it is necessary that we should have a nature that answers to it. Adam, in his state of innocence, had not this, his level was man, as God had created him. For the kingdom of God, he who finds himself there, must have that which - in man however - is suitable to God Himself. Notice, that the Lord goes outside all questions of dispensations, He has in view the moral nature, that which is born of the flesh, is flesh, has that nature; that which is born of the Spirit is spirit, that is to say, corresponds to the divine nature, which is its source. But then it could not be a question only of the Jews; if any one had this nature, he was fit for the kingdom. It was not a question of a people already chosen of God, but of a nature suitable to God.

148 Two things are brought to light when these principles have been laid down; first of all, the necessity of this new birth, in order to enjoy the promises made to the Jews for the earth; and secondly, that this work was of God, who communicated this new nature. God could communicate it by His Spirit to whom He would, and this opened the door to the Gentiles. Nicodemus, Jesus told him, ought not to have been astonished at the Saviour saying that the Jews must be born again; the prophets had announced this (see Ezek. 36:24-28), and Nicodemus, as a master or teacher in Israel, ought to have known it. The wind, too, blew where it listed (v. 8); so was the operation of the Spirit. It was a work of God, and thus could be accomplished in any one.

There were still the heavenly things. Now if Nicodemus did not understand these earthly things of Israel's blessing, how would he understand if the Lord spoke to him of heavenly things? Now no one had ascended to heaven, so as to be able to bring word of what was there, and of what was necessary to be able to enjoy it, save He who had descended thence, who spoke of what He knew, and bore witness to what He had seen; not the Messiah - that had to do with the earth - but the Son of man, who, as to His divine nature, was in heaven.

Thus we have a revelation of heavenly things brought directly from heaven by Christ, and in His Person. He revealed them in all their freshness, a freshness which was found in Him, and which He, who was ever in heaven, enjoyed; He revealed them in the perfection of the Person of Him, who made the glory of heaven, whose nature is the atmosphere which all those who are found there breathe, and by which they live; He, the object of the affections which animate this holy place from the Father Himself down to the last of the angels who fill heaven's courts with their praises, He the centre of all the glory. Such is the Son of man, He who came down to reveal the Father - truth and grace - but who divinely remained in heaven in the essence of His divine nature, in His Person inseparable from the humanity with which He was clothed! The deity which filled this humanity was inseparable in His Person from all the divine perfection, but He never ceased to be man, really and truly man before God.

149 But we have another truth here: the Son of man was to re-enter heaven as Man, to be Head over all things. As Son of God He has been appointed Heir (Heb. 1); He is such as Creator (Col. 1), but also as Man and Son of man, according to God's counsels. (Psalm 8, quoted in Ephesians 1, in 1 Corinthians 15, in Hebrews 2 - passages which develop clearly His place in this respect.) Proverbs 8 teaches us that He who was Jehovah's delight before the foundation of the world, rejoiced then in the habitable parts of the earth, and His delights were in the sons of men. The angels (Luke 2) recall this truth, or rather the proofs which His incarnation gave of the thoughts of God in this respect; they speak of this incarnation as the manifestation of God's good pleasure in men. As then He has been the manifestation of God upon earth, He enters as Man into the glory of God on high. He will reign over the earth as Head of the creation, gathering together all things under His authority* (Col. 1); but here we speak of heavenly things. The Son of man takes His place on high to be Head over all things (1 Peter 3:22; John 13:3; ch. 16:15). Man, in His Person, has entered heaven, into the presence of God Himself, without a veil, and all things are to be subjected under His feet. But will they be so, such as they are, and men who are to be His joint-heirs, will they be so, such as they are in sin, enemies of God by their wicked works? It is impossible. Another fundamental thing is necessary, redemption. Man, with a thousand times more sin than that which caused him to be driven irrevocably from the earthly paradise - man, who had gone so far as to have accumulated upon his head, the rejection of God, of grace, and of the Son of God - could not, such as he was, enter the heavenly paradise: it was impossible. If, then, Christ should as Man possess the glory which in the counsels of God was the portion of man, and if He was to have joint-heirs, and introduce them into His Father's house, He must redeem them and purify them according to the glory of God. He must also redeem creation from the yoke under which sin had placed it, and from Satan's dominion. Here it is a question only of the state of the heirs, and of their deliverance from death and condemnation. Now, when the Son of man is presented to us, His sufferings and death are constantly introduced. As Messiah He was rejected upon earth by His people; but the only result of this was His passing into the wider sphere of Son of man, Head of the entire creation, and Head, in a special way, of those whom He is not ashamed to call His brethren. But for this, redemption was needed; we learn this in Matthew 16:20-21, and more definitely in Mark 8:29-31, and Luke 9:20-22, with the consequences which result from it for us. In John's Gospel too, before He leaves the world, the Father would have a testimony borne to the titles of glory of Jesus. As Son of God, He was glorified by the resurrection of Lazarus; as Son of David, by His entry into Jerusalem on the ass's colt; finally, the Greeks, who had come up to worship at Jerusalem, having sought the disciples in their desire to see Jesus, and the disciples having communicated this to Him, the Lord says, "The hour is come that the Son of man should be glorified. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit," John 12:23-24.

{*As to the earth, see Psalm 80:17, where it is in relation with Israel.}

150 Thus, in all the Gospels, we find the Messiah giving place to the Son of man, but in each case the Son of man passing through death, in order to enter into His new and universal position of glory. He might have had twelve legions of angels, but then God's counsels, as revealed in the Scriptures, would not have been accomplished; Christ would have been without joint-heirs.

We have already remarked, and we recall the reader's attention to it, that in this chapter, the presentation whether it be of life, or of the work which procures it for us, is given in connection with its present and personal application; it is a presentation of what these two things are in their nature, not as to the extent of their result, but in their application to us as a means of having part whether in the kingdom, or in heavenly things. The lifting-up of the Son of man on the cross corresponds down here, both on the side of our need, and that of God, to the revelation of the heavenly things which the Son brought down - to that which is found in heaven. It is a question of being before God when He is fully revealed, not only when the Messiah promised to the Jews had been rejected (so that the right to the accomplishment of the promises was lost for those who possessed this right, after that the law had been broken), but when man's hatred against God - against a God revealed in goodness - had been clearly manifested. It was no longer merely sins, and the violation of the law, it was the rejection of grace, when sins and the violation of the law were already there. Man would not have God at any price (see John 15:22-24); how could he have part with Christ in God's presence, a part in heavenly glory? Still, the sin of man has not brought the grace of God to nought. But if, as Son of man, Christ had undertaken man's cause, He must undergo the consequences of this, since He had become responsible for it before God; Heb. 2:10. In order that we might have part in the heavenly things, it was necessary that the Son of man should be lifted up,* and that according to God's glory, in connection with that which had so much dishonoured Him; now it is, as made sin, Christ accomplished this, Himself also bearing our sins. Far from God, we must have perished in our sins; He came forward for us, receiving all, as Man, from the hand of His Father, and obeying Him ever; He took the form of a servant in a nature which He will never leave, and in this nature He has become, by right, according to the righteousness and according to the counsels of God, Lord of all things; He whom no one knows but the Father only, but who reveals the Father to us, He who came down close to us - who has touched us, so to speak - who took our nature, though He could say, "Before Abraham was, I am." He of whom our tongues and intelligence can speak but imperfectly is the Creator of everything; but His place as Man is at the head of the creation. He it is who came to reveal heavenly things to us, and to shew their effect in His Person as Man, while living in the midst of heavenly things all the time; so that, being Man down here, He should reveal them in all their freshness, adapted at the same time to man, so that he should live by them, and enter in spirit with Him there, where that was which He revealed, and later on should enter there glorified and like Him.

{*The final result is, that sin will be taken away from heaven and earth, as we have already remarked. Three other motives are given in Hebrews 2 for the sufferings of Christ. (See verse 9.) The destruction of Satan's power; the expiation of sins; the ability to sympathise with us.}

151 The Son of man is then the One who, as Man, is to be Head over all things in heaven and earth, according to God's counsels. Already Messiah and Son of God when He was upon earth, and rejected as such (see Psalm 2), He must take the more extended position of Son of man, set over the works of God, all things being put under His feet; Psalm 8. We find Him also in Daniel 7, brought to the Ancient of days to receive the kingdom. The fact that He had created all things is given us in the Colossians as the motive for (in taking His place in the result of the counsels of God in His creation) being there as Firstborn, first, to bear the sorrow of it before God, to be the propitiation for our sins, and to blot them out for ever, so that we should not perish. There it was that, in an absolute manner, He who had not known sin was made sin before God, it was there that absolute obedience was perfect; "That the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father hath commanded me, even so I do." He must be lifted up, the necessity for it was weighing upon us; righteousness - the very nature of God - demanded that our sin should be put away. But the sinner could not put away his own sin; burdened as he was already with this sin, what could he do to put it away? But the Son of man, rejected by men, has been lifted up before God, to be sin, without any other thing or person - alone before God. It was no longer any question here of Jew or of promise, but of satisfying God's glory in this place; it was the last Adam, not disobedient, when he was enjoying all the blessings of God, but obedient, there, even where He was enduring - He who had dwelt eternally in the Father's love, and in holiness itself - not only the suffering of death, but that of the curse and the forsaking of God. No one could fathom such a thing; nevertheless, we can even by this recognise that the suffering was infinite, but necessary on account of what we were, if God's glory was to be guarded, and if we were to be saved. The more we see who He was, the more we feel the depth of the abyss into which He descended; but in that very thing He could say, "Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again," John 10:17. The glory of God has been manifested as it never was, and never could have been known.

152 The Son of man had to be lifted up. In taking this place (which He took for us also in grace), He was free. "Then said I, Lo, I come." His sufferings were necessary for us. Oh, solemn word! But God having been there perfectly glorified, the work in all its value being perfectly accomplished, whosoever believes shall not perish, but has everlasting life. Our lot was to perish; to have eternal life, to be with Christ, and like Christ in glory, is the effect of the sufferings, of the work of the Saviour for all who believe. This is one side of the truth: as Son of man Jesus went to meet the judgment which was about to fall upon us. The Son of man must be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. He that believes does not perish; but, much more, he possesses eternal life, now as life, soon as heavenly glory with Christ. Lifted up from the earth, Jesus draws all men unto Him. A living Messiah was for the lost sheep of the house of Israel; in the Son of man lifted up upon the cross, it is no longer a question of the promises, but of an accomplished work, available in God's sight for all those that believe. For God so loved the world, that He gave His Son; this is the source of all. Here the end is the same; "that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life." These are two aspects of the same Person; Son of man down here, but at the same time Son of God. God hath not spared His own Son. But it is a principle, a fact of all importance. The must of verses 14, 15, although it flows from God's very nature, and from man's state, bears the character of a requirement on God's part: it clothes God in our mind with the character of a judge. There is, doubtless, much more: God's holiness, His glory, that which becomes Him (Heb. 2:10), are to be found here too; but the thought of a judge is in effect connected with culpability. Now all this gives still a very imperfect idea of the truth. The work bears this character; it is a propitiation; without it we should perish, shut out from God's presence; one would perish necessarily, if this work were not accomplished, on man's side, by man. But where could be found one who could accomplish it? It must: Jesus could say this, for He came from heaven. God is not named in the passage, for Jesus speaks of the necessity in which man was, if he would enter into heaven. But God is sovereign, and God is love. Divine love is sovereign; it is above evil, although it rejects it by the necessity of its nature, and judges it with the authority of its righteousness. God is love; this is the sovereign liberty of His nature. This is why, according to Ephesians 5, we ought to walk in love; but we are not love, we are light. God is love and light. Well, then, it is in this sovereign liberty that God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son (He who, in consequence, became the Son of man), so that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life (v. 16).

154 It is of all importance to understand this well, otherwise God must always bear for the heart the character of judge - a satisfied judge, it may be - and He who is love is not known; God is not known. As to that which relates to us, we have made Him a Judge in falling into sin; but in His supreme nature, God has risen above everything, and the result for us is a blessing answering to this supreme nature, a blessing infinitely higher than the blessing which we should enjoy as perfect creatures, a blessing given to us in His Son Jesus, as only-begotten Son of the Father. It is not, the Father so loved the world; it is, God as God, and we know Him as Father as a consequence of this grace. But He has revealed Himself, in this grace towards us.

What immense grace to be able to say, I know God; and again, I am known of Him: I know Him, Himself; not only, I am saved, however precious it may be to be able to say that, but, I know the One who has saved me! The thought of this salvation comes from Him; it is the revelation of what He is, even for the angels. His love is the source of it; His nature, the depth of His heart, is revealed in it; His glory and His own nature are revealed in it. Son of God, Son of man, Jesus meets man's need, and reveals what God is. He who hath seen Him, hath seen the Father. Blessed be God! we know Him.

The purpose and consequences of His coming are then established. God has not sent His Son into the world to judge the world - He will come back in glory to do this - but that the world might be saved through Him (v. 17). The world has rejected the Son of God, but such a manifestation of God in the Word made flesh, and such an accomplishment of the work which glorifies God, bear their consequences, and bear them necessarily. He who believeth in Him is not judged. All that concerned God's glory as to man's sin has been accomplished; the righteousness of God, His love, His holiness, His majesty - all that He is, has been clearly brought out, and that in the judgment which fell upon Christ, made sin for us, and bearing our sins in His body upon the tree. Thus the whole question of responsibility and the glory of God as to the believer is resolved and settled; there can be now no judgment for him, otherwise all would not be settled; it would be a denial of the efficacy of Christ's work. The soul would be placed upon another ground; a ground necessarily false if that of Christ be true, for nothing and no one can be what He has been.

155 He, then, that believes in Him shall not be judged, as it is said also in chapter 5 of this same Gospel. He who believes has everlasting life, and he shall not come into judgment. But he that believes not in Him is judged already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God. The presentation of the Son of God, of the Word of God, made flesh, had already put man to the test; the question of his state had been resolved, he rejected God in the Person of His only-begotten Son, the full Light; and God is light, as He is love. It is not here sovereign love, but conscience and responsibility. The light has been in the world, and has shone clearly; the light of men, adapted to men. They loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. Conscience feels the light, but that does not change the will; and if the will remains perverse, conscience makes divine light insupportable. The state of the will, as to God manifested down here, when conscience recognises the light, is that which forms the basis of an existing judgment, present, but final, there where Christ has been thus presented.

The end of the chapter determines the relative position of John the Baptist and of Christ. John's proper mission was an earthly one; he spoke of the Messiah to Israel, of the kingdom in connection with this people; as the immediate precursor of the Christ, the nearest of all those who, vessels of the testimony of God, had preceded him, he was, by this fact, greater than all the prophets: but he did not come up to the manifestation of that which is heavenly. Those who have believed since Christ's ascension enjoy this; the least even in the kingdom of God is greater than John. In the Person of the Christ, the Baptist glimpsed the glory which belonged to Him, and which, by grace, belongs to His own also; but the veil was not rent, and there was not a man in heaven. Personally, Jesus had brought that which was heavenly; He revealed the Father, He spoke the words of God; but the grain of wheat remained alone, redemption was not accomplished, although He who came from above was there, and spoke that which He had seen and heard in words which were the words of God. No one received His testimony.

Verse 29 is rather a figure, and the bride he speaks of is not a particular bride. If one wished to apply it, it would indicate the earthly bride.

156 This difference between the prophetic testimony, which, although divine, is an earthly testimony, and the revelation of heavenly things, of God Himself, and the portion we have in the glory, is of all importance; it corresponds to the essential difference between Christianity and all that preceded it. Man glorified in heaven, the veil rent, the Holy Ghost come down here, and dwelling in us, to put us in living and actual relationship with heavenly things - all this differs entirely from the promises, and even from the prophecies of the coming of Messiah upon earth. That which relates to the personal history of the Christ, up to His session at the right hand of God, is found as prophecy in the Old Testament; but all that the accomplishment of these things reveals to us morally of man and of God, all that is the consequence of the Holy Ghost's presence in believers down here, could not exist before Christ, as Mediator, had accomplished His work and had gone up on high. John the Baptist was evidently, of all the prophets, the nearest to these things, having seen the Saviour; still, the work was not yet accomplished, and John could not enter into the heavenly things, although he knew, as an inspired witness, that Christ had come down from heaven, and as such was above all.

Let us see how John presents the difference of which I speak. He could not do it as possessing these things, for they were not yet; but his testimony as to the rights of the Person of Christ, goes a long way in this passage, where he is speaking to his disciples. His joy was to have seen the Bridegroom, and that in the character of a friend: this is the first difference. He to whom all belonged by right was there: He had the bride, perhaps here the earthly bride, I have already spoken of it, but He was the Bridegroom. John's joy was to see Him. It was a great thing even to compare himself to Him who was come from heaven, although he accepted the disappearing of his own importance with unfeigned piety and joy, because He who eclipsed the brightness of John's testimony, by the presence of the object itself of that testimony was there. John's piety shines out in its clearest light as he thus goes into the shade, in order to exalt the One who, although unknown, was the true divine light, and who made His forerunner disappear by His divine brightness. Truth in the inner man manifested itself by the effect which the truth he announced should produce; his soul was at the height of the testimony he bore. This is much to say of a man; but this was the fair fruit of grace in this honoured witness of the Saviour.

157 The divine, heavenly Person of the Saviour is then put in contrast with the testimony of John, inspired as he was, his testimony was only a testimony, and a prophetic and earthly testimony: Christ came from heaven, and spoke of what He Himself had seen and heard, not as a prophet, whether, of future things, recalling the law of Moses, the servant of God, or of a Messiah to come, and even upon the earth; no, Jesus spoke of the actual things which existed there whence He had come. No one received His testimony, for these were heavenly things, things which existed in God's presence, of which He spoke: man did not understand them, and did not want them. But the nature of the testimony was nevertheless divine; it was no longer the Spirit "by measure," a "Thus saith the Lord," where the prophet, having finished, all was said - perfect truth, but truth limited to that which was expressed - and again, it was of earthly things, the veil not being rent. The truth itself was there, the Spirit without measure (up to that time upon Him alone), filling Him with the things that were found there whence He was. He whom God had sent always spoke the words of God Himself in all that He said, and that in a man, and by a man, but who was the Son of God, and by the Spirit without measure.

It is very possible that the last two verses of the chapter are by the evangelist, and not by John the Baptist, as it has been thought; but I see no peremptory reason why they should not be by the latter. Up to the end of verse 34, it seems clear to me that they are the words of John the Baptist; and John mingles his testimony with the things he relates, the whole being of God. The last verse might make one think that the words are those of the evangelist, as they contain a testimony so often repeated in his writings. There is also in the testimony a change analogous to what we have seen in verses 16-18 of chapter 1, as to the use of the name of God, and of that of Father. We must here notice carefully this fact, that the thing in question is not to know whether the testimony of the two verses is of God, but that it is only for our instruction, and as an interesting subject for our hearts, that we may take into account the person who was the vessel of this testimony. The Spirit of God committed the word to John the Baptist; the same Spirit directed the evangelist, whether in bringing to our memory that which John the Baptist said, or in the words which he himself pronounces. The last two verses, however, seem rather the expression of a reality that the evangelist knew and possessed by the Holy Ghost, as a present and actual thing, than a prophetic testimony, however high it might be.

158 The difference between the names of God and of Father is always distinctly maintained in John's Gospel. When it is a question of the nature, and of the acting of God according to that nature, as the origin of redemption, and of the responsibility of man, the word God is employed; when it is a question of the grace which acts in Christianity, and by Christ in us, it is the name of Father. Thus "God so loved the world"; and in chapter 4, "God is a Spirit, and they that worship him, must worship him in spirit and in truth"; but, in grace, "the Father seeketh such to worship him"; and here, "the Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hands." (Compare chapter 13:3.) The Father has been revealed in the Son, and we have received the Spirit of adoption; the little children in Christ have known the Father. "The only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath revealed him"; and on the other side, "No one hath seen God at any time." Thus the Person of the Son come into the world, and for us, the exaltation of Jesus, after He had accomplished the work which the Father had given Him to do, then the descent of the Holy Ghost, in a word, the grace which operates in the Person, and for us, by means of the work of Jesus - there is where we find the Father revealed. Jesus revealed this name to His disciples, although they had understood nothing of it (John 17:26); and now that the work which purifies us and justifies us has been accomplished, we have received the Spirit, by whom we cry, "Abba, Father." The name of Father is a name of relationship, revealed by the presence of Christ, and which one knows and enjoys individually by the Holy Ghost. This is what characterises Christianity, and we may say, Christ Himself. God is what God is in His nature and His authority, the name of a Being, not of a relationship, except in the rights of absolute authority that belong to Him; but of a Being who, being supreme, enters into relationship with us, in grace. We see the importance of this distinction in the words of Christ Himself. During the whole of His life He does not say, "my God," but, "my Father," even in Gethsemane; and the enjoyment of this relationship is perfect. "I am not alone, for the Father is with me." He says again, "Father," when He explains what it is for Him to drink the cup. On the cross He said, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Made sin for us, He felt what it was to be it before God, God being what He is. After His resurrection He employs the two names of God and of Father, when He introduces His disciples into the position into which He entered, from that time forth, as Man, according to the righteousness of God. "I ascend unto my Father, and your Father, unto my God, and your God." His own were, by grace, as Himself, in their relationship with God as Father; they were, by His work, before God such as He is in His nature, and that in righteousness, according to the value of the work that He had accomplished, and according to their acceptance in His Person, well pleasing in the Beloved. But what a wonderful privilege to know what the Father's affections are set upon and to know Him who is the object of them, and who is worthy of them - who suffices for these affections! What happiness to know the Lord, for the Father wills that there where He finds His delight we should find ours. What perfect, infinite happiness!

159 Finally, all things are given to Him, and set under His feet; it is to Him they will be subjected, although they are not yet, as far as the accomplishment of God's ways are concerned (Heb. 2); but He has all power in heaven and on earth.

It is well to remark here, that it is always the Word made flesh,* He who emptied Himself, and took the form of a servant, as a man down here, who is before the eyes of John. Consequently, although the divinity, or rather the deity, of the Saviour appears on every page of the Gospel, Christ is presented to us in it as receiving everything from His Father. He is God, He is one with the Father; men should honour Him as they honour the Father; He can say, "Before Abraham was, I am"; but He never goes out of the place He has taken, and while speaking to the Father as to an equal, everything, glory, and all things, are given to Him. No one knows the Son, but it is very beautiful to see the perfect faithfulness of Jesus, in that He does not glorify Himself, but remains, without effort, in the place He has taken. Blessed be God, it is always a Man!

{*We may except the first four verses of the first chapter. Compare for what is said in the text, 1 John 1; there, too, we find again the difference between the names of God and of Father.}

160 We have already said that this third chapter lays the foundations, and does not develop the results. We find there the possession of that which enables us to enjoy these results, that is, the new birth and the cross. This is the subjective side of the thing for us. And so we find again here at the end, whosoever believes in the Son, whom the Father loves, has eternal life. (Compare 1 John 5:11-12.) He who does not believe on Him, who does not receive the witness He bears (compare chap. 5:21), shall never see life, but the wrath of God abides upon him (v. 36). The Son of God, Jesus, in His Person, is the touchstone of every soul, precious to those who believe; He is it as the manifestation of God Himself, adapting Himself to man in grace. We can see here also how the change of the name of Father to that of God is found again, when the Holy Ghost passes from grace to responsibility. When the Father is brought in, it is always grace acting by the Son, and in the Son who reveals Him.

Let us notice here, that in these first three chapters we have a preface to the Gospel, before the public ministry of the Saviour. The fact is established in chapter 3:24, compared with Matthew 4:12, 17, and Mark 1:14-15. John 4 confirms this appreciation of the facts. No doubt Jesus had already taught and performed miracles, but He had not yet publicly presented Himself, so as to say, "The time is fulfilled." He announces Himself thus in Luke 4:18 and following verses, although His preaching then in the synagogue at Nazareth was not His first, as verses 15 and 23 testify. But this preface of the first three chapters is really an introduction to the whole of Christianity, at least in its great and divine roots. It begins with what Christ was in His essential nature, and what man, alas! was also. It is not yet a question of God's acting in grace. It was the light; man was darkness; it was necessary to be born of God in order to receive Him who was it. Then we find that which He became; the Word was made flesh, and the only-begotten Son revealed God, being Himself in the bosom of the Father; it is grace in His Person. Then we have His work in all the extent of its effect, and the gift of the Holy Ghost, so that we may enjoy it now. And then the work of gathering, but this latter carried on on the side of the ways of God more upon earth, but in general according to the rights of the Person of Christ, the Jews, except the remnant, being set aside. Christ, recognised by this remnant according to Psalm 2, passes on, and presents His place, according to Psalm 8, as far as that regards His Person; after which the espousals and their joy, as well as the judgment, are brought in. But it is by resurrection, in raising Himself from the dead, in raising His own body, God's true temple, that the demonstration of His title and power will be given. That which is subjective in us, and the work for us, follows; His reception, according to human conviction, founded upon miracles, was worth nothing; it was what was in man; whilst, to see the kingdom, and to enter into it in its earthly and Jewish form, one must be born entirely anew. But there were also the heavenly things which Jesus revealed. He came from heaven, He was there - He alone could announce the heavenly things. And the natural man, too, was not fit to enter in; it needed that He who had undertaken his cause, whether for the glory of God, or for man's guilt (for the new birth does not purify the conscience), it needed that the Son of man, unless He should remain alone, should be lifted up. But then it was not merely entrance into the kingdom, and the enjoyment of the promises, which were thus found, but eternal life, that which is in Christ Himself. The blessed source of all is given to us after that; God so loved the world, that He gave His Son, that we might live eternally. Thus we find, first of all, the righteous necessity, that which the nature and rights of God over man demanded, accomplished by the Son of man, then God's infinite love revealed. The Son of God had become Son of man, but the Son of man could take this place, because He was Son of God. At the end of chapter 3 we find the testimony of John the Baptist carried to its highest point, a witness of the deep and perfect personal piety of him who bore it. Still, he was of the earth - more than a prophet, yet always earthly; of dust, and speaking as being of the earth, belonging to that which was outside the veil, not yet rent. Christ came from within the veil, and His flesh was this veil. He spoke of that which He knew thus, and no one received His testimony. John had the joy of hearing the voice of the Bridegroom; he was not that; that which he said was given of God as testimony, but the testimony being borne, all on his part was accomplished. Christ was Himself the subject of the testimony, and, more than this, the words He spoke were God's words, for God did not give the Spirit by measure. All His words were God's words; He was above all. Finally, we find still one thing remaining to complete this revelation of Christ, and of God Himself, in the great elements which were in connection with Christ's Person and our state: the Father and the Son are presented to us. This is the crowning point of all in grace; He was the satisfying object of all the Father's divine affections, He in whom the infinite and perfect love of the Father found its delight: also to Him He had given all. As Son, come down here, Jesus receives all from the Father. But the Father and the Son do not remain alone in the plenitude of their perfection; we are brought into it to enjoy it, although, in a certain sense, they remain necessarily alone in their perfection. But he who believes in the Son has eternal life already, although down here in weakness; he possesses subjectively that which, later on, will be his glory with Christ. (Compare the first verses of chapter 1.) Now this revelation of the Father in the Son became the definitive test of man: he who did not receive this testimony, who did not submit to Him by faith, should never see life, but the wrath of God abode upon him. That which refers to the Holy Ghost, whom those only who had believed in Jesus should receive, is already found in verses 32-34 of chapter 1. The development of the subject is found in the Saviour's last discourses; the history of His presence is to be found in the Acts and the Epistles, and in the consciousness of His presence which believers possess.

162 Having completed the review of the three introductory chapters, it may be well perhaps to give a kind of index of the chapters of the whole Gospel; for there is much order and system in John's writings.

The rejection of the Messiah by the Jews is already stated in chapter 1; the judgment of the people, which results from this, shews itself clearly in the course of the Gospel, and in many of the chapters. The doctrine of each chapter is often in contrast with Jewish things, this contrast furnishing the occasion and basis of the doctrine. Another characteristic feature flows from it; the judgment bears on all the world (chap. 1) that had not known Him, and upon His own, the Jews, who had not received Him; it opens the way for the establishing and development of sovereign grace which alone produces the divine life in us. This implies the admission of the Gentiles into the enjoyment of the blessings of grace, and then the important fact that these blessings would be found in a world, and also in a state, altogether new, into which one enters by the resurrection. In the synoptical Gospels Christ is presented in His three characters of Jesus Emmanuel, the Messiah; of Prophet; and of Son of man; His history being traced in these three points of view, with the account of His rejection and death. In John, who shews us God manifest in flesh, His rejection is established at the beginning; for, being light, the darkness did not receive Him. The result is, that, unlike the three other Gospels, where Christ is presented historically to be received, and where His rejection is recounted to us, but in connection with man's responsibility, John though he affirms this responsibility as doctrine, presents to us the sovereign grace which, we have already seen, sought His sheep among Jews and among Gentiles, for life eternal. Finally, we must not let pass without notice, the feature, that in John all is individual; he never speaks of the church.