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Bible Commentaries
John 1

Carroll's Interpretation of the English BibleCarroll's Biblical Interpretation

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Verses 1-18



Broadus’ Harmony pages 1-2 and Luke 1:1-4; John 1:1-18.

The first question that confronts us on the threshold of the text of the several histories of our Lord, is, how the historians obtained the material of their histories, and did they all obtain it in the same way?

This is not altogether a question of inspiration. It is conceded that all were inspired. No matter how they obtained their material, inspiration was needed in every case in the make-up of the record of what they obtained. If Matthew obtained his genealogy from previous Jewish records (Matthew 1:1-17) and all the information concerning the infancy of our Lord from Joseph’s account of it (Matthew 1:18-2:23), however handed down – and if Luke received his information of our Lord’s infancy and childhood from Mary (Luke 1:26-2:52) – and if John received all the material of his apocalypse by direct revelation – still would inspiration be needed to direct them in reducing to writing this information, however required. That is to say, how much to record, what known facts to omit, how arrange this selected material according to a definite plan, looking to a distinct end, so far as the one book is concerned, and how this book should be so correlated as to fit in, with dovetail exactness, into a whole library of other sacred books, as the several bones are articulated into one skeleton, is our problem and our task.

Again, our question is not one of illumination. A prophet might receive a revelation and not understand it (1 Peter 1:10-11). He might, through inspiration, record it accurately without understanding it. But these historians, frequently, and whenever necessary, interpret their facts, showing that they possessed illumination, e.g., John 11:21; John 7:39, and Matthew’s application of Old Testament quotations.

Revelation is a divine disclosure of hidden things. Inspiration is that gift of the Holy Spirit which enables one to select and arrange material to a definite end and inerrantly record it. Illumination, another gift of the Spirit, enables one to understand a revelation or to interpret the facts of an inspired record.

The material of these several histories was obtained in three ways:

(1) By eyewitness, as the gospels of Matthew and John.

(2) By those who received it from eyewitnesses, as the gospels of Mark and Luke.

(3) By direct revelation, as Paul’s Gospel and John’s Apocalypse.

These observations lead up to the beginning of our interpretation of the histories. Our textbook is Dr. Broadus’ Harmony of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, with only two parallels from Paul’s Gospel. We will enlarge our textbook, as we proceed, by insertion of many other parallels from Paul. This chapter will be devoted to Luke’s dedication and John’s prologue, both supplemented from Paul.

On the left of Luke’s dedication put John 21:24, and on the right Galatians 1:11-12. Now compare them: John affirms that he wrote his gospel as an eyewitness, while according to the revision, Luke affirms that the matter of his gospel was delivered by them "who from the beginning were eye-witnesses" and traced out by him in careful research. But Paul affirms that his was received by revelation. It is commonly supposed that Mark wrote as Peter had taught him, but Paul says that his gospel was not after man for he did not receive it from man, nor was he taught it. He is careful to show that he preached it before he saw Peter, and when on three occasions he did meet Peter, not only was nothing imparted to him, but his full and independent authority and mission were recognized, and that it fell to his lot to correct an evil practice of Peter. So whether we consider the original twelve, with those whom they instructed, or Paul, in every case an oral gospel preceded a written gospel. This spoken gospel was authoritative before reduced to writing. It was that deposit of the faith delivered to the churches to be held inviolate and transmitted unimpaired (Luke 1:2; Acts 13:31; 1 Corinthians 11:2-23; 1 Corinthians 15:1-8; 1 Timothy 6:20; Judges 1:3; Hebrews 11:3). In it catechumens, like Theophilus, were instructed (Luke 1:4). But as the original and qualified witnesses were few, and these kept passing away and soon all would be gone, and as tradition at every remove from its original source becomes less trustworthy, you can easily understand Luke’s fact "that many would undertake to reduce to written narrative what they had heard orally from the eye-witnesses."

And just here Luke introduces his second thought that his own writings were from accurate knowledge in all things, in order that the reader might know the certainty of the things in which he had been orally instructed.

It was this necessity that called for inspiration. For if, as Peter says, referring to oral deliverance: "Men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:21), it was equally true, says Paul, after referring to the sacred writings collectively, that distributively "every one of these writings is God-inspired" (Greek, Pasa graphe theopneustos (2 Timothy 3:15-16). From Luke 1:1 and Acts 1:1, it is evident that Theophilus was not only a real person, but one of distinction, and from the word "instructed" in Luke 1:4, it is also evident that he was a catechumen, from which may be inferred that in apostolic times all new converts were diligently catechized in the elements of the faith delivered (compare Ephesians 4:11-15; Hebrews 5:12-14; 1 Pet. 11:2).

When Luke says, "Many have undertaken to draw up a narrative of the things fulfilled among us," it is evident that he does not refer to the gospels of Matthew and Mark. Nothing that he could write would add to the "accuracy" or "certainty" of what they wrote. Indeed, it cannot be proved that their writings were prior to his. Though the Synoptic Gospels were written about the same time, it is most probable that our present order, Matthew, Mark, Luke, is chronological. Certainly no one of the three is the norm of the others.

Before leaving this classic gem, Luke’s dedication, an important question must be answered: Does Luke himself, in this introduction, claim to have traced out carefully all of the facts of his history as any other painstaking historian, or does he here affirm distinctly a guiding inspiration throughout? Our English versions, particularly the revision, support the former contention. On the other hand, some distinguished scholars and Biblical interpreters, notably Lightfoot and Urquhart, support the latter contention. We find a full statement of Urquhart’s argument in his New Biblical Guide, Vol. VII, pp. 337-34.8. Lightfoot’s argument may be found in Pittman’s edition of his works, Vol. IV, pp. 114-115. Or, if Lightfoot and Urquhart be not accessible, there may be found a very clever and elaborate restatement of the argument of both in The Young Professor, whose author is the accomplished son of the late Dr. William E. Hatcher of Richmond, Va. Whenever one reads this argument carefully, whether in Lightfoot, Urquhart, or The Young Professor, it interests him, challenges his respect, and appears to be hard to answer. One need not be more than a sophomore in Greek to understand and feel the force of the argument.

The marked difference of the renderings of Luke 1:1-4 in the common and the revised versions arises from no difference in the Greek text they translate. The text is the same. Write, therefore, in three parallel columns, the Greek text, the common version, and the revised version of Luke 1:1-4. For the references keep open before you an interlinear Greek Testament, and on your table Bagster’s Analytical Greek Lexicon, or Thayer’s, and the Englishman’s Greek Concordance. Then follow, step by step, Urquhart’s argument. These directions will help a beginner in Greek, however puerile or unnecessary they may appear to expert scholars.

The contention, in substance, is this:

Many uninspired men, in apostolic times, undertook to write orderly narratives of the gospel history as they were orally delivered by the apostles, who were eyewitnesses.

Not one of these survives because they were displaced by inspired narratives, which conveyed assurance and certainty as to the facts and teachings.

This is exactly what Luke says as to the reason of his writing, expressly affirming his inspiration, with a view to this assured accuracy and certainty.

The argument for this contention is based altogether on translation and usage of the words. The common version preferred to the revision, needs only one change in it. Instead of "from the very first" in that version, they render "from above." The Greek word is anothen. They rely first on the etymology of the word, then its New Testament usage, then its perfect harmony with the context. They admit some usage for "from the first," a derived meaning, but never permissible as a substitute for the primary meaning, unless the context demands it.

The usage cited is:

"The veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top [from above] to the bottom" (Matthew 27:51; Mark 15:38).

Except a man be born "from above" (John 3:3) ; "Ye must be born from above" (John 3:7).

In both these cases, "born from above" is interpreted by our Lord as "born of the Spirit." "He that cometh from above is above all." John 3:31. Jesus says to Pilate. "Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above" (John 19:11). "Now the coat was without seam from the top [from above] throughout" (John 19:23).

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above" (James 1:17). "This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish" (James 3:15). "But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable" (James 3:17).

Then comes Luke’s only use of the word, except where once he quotes Paul: "Having had perfect understanding of all things from above . . . that thou mightest know the certainty, etc."

In all these instances of usage, the sum total of usage by Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and James, our Greek word anothen is rendered by the italicized words from the top, referring to veil or coat, and "from above" elsewhere.

They add the evident allusion of Irenaeus to Luke 1:3. "For after our Lord arose from the dead, and they were endued from above with the power of the Holy Ghost coming down upon them, they received a perfect knowledge of all things" ("Against Heresies," Luke 3:1). Luke says, "Having had perfect understanding of all things from above." Irenaeus says, "When they were endued from above, they received a perfect knowledge of all things." Compare with James: "Every perfect gift is from above."

It was this enduement which enabled Luke to write "accurately" (Greek, akribos). And all this fulfilled our Lord’s promise that when the Holy Spirit comes, "He shall teach you all things," "He shall guide you into all truth." Therefore the merely human histories of our Lord perished. Therefore only inspired histories could give "certainty" to the things in which we are instructed.

They add that in this very brief context, when Luke would express the idea of "from the first," or "from the beginning," he uses the unmistakable Greek words, ep’ arches (Luke 1:2). And that their whole rendering best agrees with the meaning of the Greek word plerophoria– "certainly believed," and not "fulfilled." And with the other Greek word, parakolo – the, which does not mean to obtain knowledge by "tracing" or investigating.

To Paul’s per contra usage of the word anothen they reply: he uses it only twice, (a) In his speech, reported by Luke at Acts 26:5, where the context demands the secondary meaning "from the first." (b) At Galatians 4:9 there is the modifying word palin, and the context forbids the primary meaning "again from above."

My colleague, Dr. Williams, says that the whole contention depends on whether the adverb anothen in Luke 1:3 is one of locality or of time, and that it cannot be certainly determined which it is in our passage. The author prefers throughout, the common version rendering of the passage to the revision, and believes that the preponderance of the argument is with Lightfoot and Urquhart.

We now take up the prologue of John (John 1:1-18), putting beside it Paul’s contribution to the same matter. Place these references in the harmony, opposite or under John’s introduction: Philippians 2:6-11; Colossians 1:15-20; Colossians 2:9; Hebrews 1:1-13; Hebrews 2:14-17; Hebrews 10:1-9; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Romans 8:3; 2 Timothy 3:16; Galatians 4:4-5.

It is not our purpose to put in parallel with John’s prologue any matter from Paul’s Gospel except what touches our Lord’s pre-existence, his nature and activities, his incarnation and its purpose.

Let us first consider John. The first eighteen verses of John constitute the norm and outline of his whole book. So many propositions cannot elsewhere be found in so few words. As all mists of speculative philosophy concerning the origin of the material universe flee and fade before the sunrise of the first chapter of Genesis, so all heresies concerning our Lord and the eternal redemption of him are dispelled by the Sun of righteousness rising with healing wings in these beginnings of their gospels by John and Paul. It is far from my purpose to engage your finite minds in the impossible task of comprehending the unfathomable mystery of the tri-personality in the unity of God. It will content me if you will believe what is revealed. If we might trust for explanation to human philosophy we could not improve on the comparison of Sabellius, "God the Father is the sun, Jesus Christ is the sun’s light, and the Holy Spirit is the sun’s heat." Or we might regard the Trinity as only a distinction in office or manifestation. This was my own boyish attempt to explain it. My illustration was that of a teacher who was also a father and a magistrate. His own son, while at school, was guilty of a penal offense. This teacher must, therefore, deal with the delinquent in the threefold capacity of father, teacher, and magistrate, i.e., from the standpoint of the family, the school, and society. But none of these illustrations coincides with the teachings of revelation – there is one God, there are three persons, not three attributes or offices, or manifestations.

Nor would I have you anticipate the more elaborate study of systematic theology. Let us barely touch it, and that only because it is here an essential part of our historic study. Therefore I compress into barest outline and simplest form this introduction of John.

1. The Logos

2. Creation by the Logos

3. In him all life

4. In him all light

5. This light is invincible by darkness

6. The Logos incarnated

7. Purpose of the incarnation

8. The supernatural birth of those receiving the incarnate Logos

9. The witness of John the Baptist to the incarnate Logos

1. The Logos. The first sentence announces a new name, "The Word" (Greek, O Logos). Whence this name? We will not waste our time in looking for its origin in the speculations of Philo, the Alexandrian Jew. His logos, mainly an energy or an attribute, and never an incarnate personality, is not the Logos of John. It serves us little better to wade through the muddy waters of Jewish traditions in any form. We have a surer word of prophecy to which we will do well to take heed.

The reader is referred to our discussion on the conversion of Abraham, "Interpretation," volume on Genesis. There, for the first time in any record, we find the phrase, "The Word of the Lord." This Word, not as a voice addressed to the ear, but as a person addressed to his sight, appeared in a vision to Abraham, and as the specific object of saving faith. Before this experience Abraham had believed divine statements, had believed in a promised country, and in a promised seed, but here he believed on Jehovah himself as his shield and exceeding great reward, and it was counted to him for righteousness. "The Word of the Lord," "shield," "believed," and "imputed righteousness," a salvation group, here make their first appearance in the Bible record. The "Word of the Lord," as a Person, appears elsewhere in the Old Testament, notably in the Psalms and prophets, and is doubtless the personified wisdom of Proverbs 8:23-30. So that the Logos is Christ’s pre-incarnate name and most aptly represents him as the revelator of the Father. In this light we understand better the abrupt and sublime formula of the first chapter of Genesis, repeated ten times, "And God said," "And God said," and following each utterance came a new creative act.

These were the first ten commandments, the ten words of creation. On Sinai came the ten words of the Law. On the Galilean mountain came the Beatitudes, or the ten words of happiness.

But always it is the Logos revealing the Father. Of this Logos, in one short sentence, John predicates three essential elements of divinity:

(1) Absolute eternity of being, "In the beginning was the Word."

(2) Distinct personality, "And the Word was with God" – two persons together.

(3) The nature or essence of Deity, "And the Word was God." The absence of the article in the Greek before "God" in the third predicate clearly shows the meaning. The phrase is not, "the Word was the God," but "the Word was God," i.e., in nature or essence. The second verse sums up and emphatically repeats: "The same," i.e., this very one so described as an eternal, divine Person was in the company and fellowship of God throughout eternity. It was always so; it was so in the beginning.

2. By the Logos came the creation. Not merely the universe as a whole, but every minute part. Not matter merely to be left to develop itself, but every change and form of development. So Genesis represents it. By him everything came to be. There was no chance development.

3. In him was all life – vegetable, animal, spiritual. Not only as the start of life, but its continuance: "Thou takest away their breath, they die and return to dust. Thou sendest forth thy Spirit, they are created. And thou renewest the face of the ground." The nonliving can never develop into the living. But particularly does our author speak of spiritual life. Not only in him do we live and move and have our being, but from the beginning the Son of God has been the source of eternal life.

4. He is the light of the world. The only real light. There is no knowledge of God and no revelation of God except through the Son. He alone declares the Father. Man by searching cannot find out God. Cannot see him except as the Son reveals him.

5. The light is invincible: "The light shineth in the darkness and the darkness apprehended it not." It is somewhat difficult to determine the meaning of the Greek word here rendered "apprehended." The sense is either the darkness did not take possession of the light by appropriating it and becoming light, or did not hem it in, repress it, so as to conquer it. In the latter sense we make it read: "The light shineth in the darkness, and the darkness overcame it not." The context, particularly John 1:10-11, favors the first meaning, and the inability to appropriate the light finds vivid illustration in a parallel from Paul’s Gospel: "And even if our gospel is veiled it is veiled in them that perish: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of the unbelieving that the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should not dawn upon them." We may find abundant and striking illustrations of the other possible meaning. Even on the cross, in the hour of the power of darkness, when for three mortal hours the thick darkness filled and enveloped the dying one – even then the darkness overcame it not. Once in the dawn of creation darkness was upon the face of the deep and the Word said, "Let there be light!" And there was light, and the darkness overcame it not. Once in our experience we were in darkness, but God, who commanded the light to shine out of the darkness, shone into our hearts, giving us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the Face of Jesus Christ. And the darkness has never been able to quench that light. Upon us also will come the darkness of death, but our Saviour Jesus Christ has abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, and will transfer us to a home and condition of which it is said, there is no night there. And so the light is indestructible and the darkness cannot overcome it.

6. This Word was manifested and became flesh. It was not a mere assumption of human nature like the putting on of a garment, but the Word came to be a real man. That is a vital doctrine as the author continues to insist elsewhere: "Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God." "For many deceivers have gone forth into the world, even they that confess not that Jesus Christ cometh in the flesh."

7. The purpose of the incarnation was to bring grace and truth to the fallen. He was full of grace and truth, that is, for mercy and revelation.

8. The recipients of this mercy and revelation obtained the right to become the sons of God by a supernatural birth, being born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

9. Prophecy, in its culmination in John the Baptist, recognized and identified and witnessed that this was the true light.

Such, in brief, is John’s prologue. Let us put beside it the beginnings of Paul’s Gospel: "For there be many that are called gods, whether in heaven or on earth; and there are gods many, and lords many; yet to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we unto him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and we through him" (1 Corinthians 8:5-6).

"At the end of these days God hath spoken to us in his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom also he made the worlds; who being the effulgence of his glory, and the very image of his substance, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he made purification of sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high. . . . Of the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever. . . . And thou, Lord, in the beginning didst lay the foundations of the earth . . . and when he again bringeth the first-born into the world, he saith, Let all angels of God worship him" (Hebrews 1:1-6).

"The Son of his love is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation, for in him were all things created, in the heavens and upon the earth, things visible and invisible, whether thrones, or dominions or principalities or powers; all things have been created through him, and unto him; and he is before all things and in him all things consist" (Colossians 1:15-17).

"Christ Jesus, existing in the form of God, counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being made in the likeness of man; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, yea, the death of the cross. Wherefore also God highly exalted him, and gave unto him the name which is above every name; that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of beings in heaven, on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:6-11).

"And without controversy great is the mystery of Godliness: He who was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen of angels, Preached among the nations, Believed on in the world, Received up into glory" (1 Timothy 3:16).

"For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending his own Son, in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh" (Romans 8:3).

"But when the fulness of time came, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, that he might redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons" (Galatians 4:4-5).

"Since then the children are sharers in flesh and blood, he also himself in like manner partook of the same, that through death he might bring to naught him that had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might deliver all of them whom, through fear of death, were all their lifetime subject to bondage" (Hebrews 2:14-15).

"Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offerings thou wouldest not. But a body didst thou prepare for me; . . . Then said I, Lo, I am come, (In the roll of the book it is written of me) To do thy will, O God" (Hebrews 10:5-7).

"For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily" (Colossians 2:9).

"For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might become rich" (2 Corinthians 8:9).

These excerpts from Paul are not exhaustive, but samples merely in his Gospel correlative with John’s Prologue. They establish the absolute eternity, personality, and deity of our Lord Jesus Christ and exhibit his relations to the Father in both eternity and time, his relations to the universe and to man, and make very clear not only the incarnation, but its objects. Paul uses the term, Son, in the place of John’s Logos, and "new creation" as the parallel of John’s new birth, and brings in the new term "adoption" to express the legal process of becoming sons. A critic affects to find this contradiction between John’s and Paul’s Gospels use of the incarnation, the former to take on glory, the latter to empty himself of it or to strip off glory. There is no merit whatever in the criticism. John, as well as Paul, shows that Jesus laid aside his heavenly glory to become a man (John 17:5), and Paul, as well as John, describes the outshining of Christ’s glory through the veil of the flesh and the acquiring of glory through his humiliation. Paul much more clearly and elaborately than John, expresses the various conditions, processes, purposes and beneficial effects of the incarnation.

In this connection should be read the author’s sermon on "The Nature, Person, Offices, and Relations of Our Lord," preached before the Southern Baptist Convention at Hot Springs, Arkansas, and published by order of that body in pamphlet form and recently reproduced in a volume of sermons published by the Fleming H. Revell Company.


1.What question confronts us at the threshold of the texts of the five histories of our Lord?

2. Show why this is not merely a question of inspiration.

3. Nor of illumination.

4. Define revelation, inspiration, illumination.

5. In what three ways did the historians obtain a knowledge of their facts? Illustrate by John 21:24; revised version of Luke 1:2; and Galatians 1:11-12.

6. What always preceded a written gospel?

7. What is the necessity for written gospels?

8. For inspired gospels, give, quoting from Peter the inspiration of the oral and from Paul the inspiration of the written.

9. What three facts do you learn from Luke 1:1-4 concerning Theophilus?

10. What custom of apostolic times may be inferred from the word "instructed," Luke 1:4?

11. When Luke refers to the many written narratives of our Lord, does he refer to Matthew or Mark?

12. In what respect does Luke consider his narrative superior to the "many narratives" to which he alludes?

13. What great question has arisen from this dedication of Luke?

14. Which of these contentions does the revision evidently support?

15. Name three authors supporting the other contention.

16. Give in substance the argument of Urquhart, and what do you think of it?

17. What one change in the common version of Luke 1:1-4 will pat it in harmony with the Urquhart view? John’s Prologue.

18. What must you place opposite John’s Prologue to parallel Paul’s Gospel on our Lord’s pro-existence, its nature and activities, his incarnation and its purposes?

19. Give in briefest form an analysis of the Prologue.

20. Show why John did not obtain tibia new name – O Logos, the Word – from Philo.

21. Where did he get it?

23. How does this enable us to understand Genesis 1?

23. Can you give the ten words of creation, the ten words of the law, the ten words of happiness?

24. What are the three essential elements of Deity predicated of the Logos in. John’s first sentence?

25. The relations of the Logos to the universe?

26. Meaning of "In him was life"?

27. How is he the light of men?

28. Two possible meanings of "The darkness apprehended it not.

29. Cite a parallel from Paul of the first possible meaning. Give illustrations of second possible meaning.

30. How was the Logos manifested and what is the relative importance of the doctrine?

31. According to the Prologue, what is the purpose of the incarnation?

32. What right was conferred on those who receive the incarnate Logos and how accomplished?

33. How does the witness of John the Baptist attest the pre-existence of the incarnate Logos?

34. What was Paul’s name for John’s Logos?

35. What is his description of the pre-existing Son?

36. What passages from his attest the activities of the Son before his incarnation?

37. What passages the purposes of his incarnation?

38. Instead of John’s "new birth," what is equivalent of Paul’s?

39. His legal name for this sonship?

40. Reply to the criticism that John uses the incarnation as a means of our Lord to take on glory, and Paul as a method of emptying himself of glory.

Verses 1-42



We have so far considered the beginnings of the gospel histories of John, Paul, Matthew, and Luke. Now we come to the public ministry of John the Baptist. Before we undertake a detailed examination of the record of John’s ministry, let us get clearly before us an orderly statement of …


Old Testament prophecy. There are three certainly, and probably four, as follows: Isaiah 40:1-11; Malachi 3:2; Malachi 4:5-6; the fourth is based on a Septuagint rendering of Isaiah 35:1.

There are several remarkable New Testament prophecies concerning John, all to be found in Luke I, as follows: Luke 1:5-25; Luke 1:36-37; Luke 1:39-44; Luke 1:57-80. This New Testament history, with its attendant prophecies concerning John, is to be found in the Harmony, pages 3-6.

The public ministry of John, Matthew 3:1-17; Mark 1:1-11; Luke 3:1-23. This account of John’s ministry is to be found on pages 12-16 of the Harmony.

John’s first testimony to Jesus, John 1:15-36; Harmony, Pages 2, 18.

The later ministry of John, concurrent with the ministry of Jesus, and John’s second testimony to our Lord. John 3:22-4:4; Harmony, pages 21-22.

The arrest and imprisonment of John the Baptist, and the cause: Luke 3:19-20; Matthew 4:12; Mark 1:14; Harmony, page 22, together with later references to the same event: Mark 6:17-18; Matthew 14:3-5; Harmony, page 75.

The events in the prison life of John. (a) The effect of his private preaching on Herod, Mark 6:20. (b) The question of fasting, propounded by John’s disciples to Christ, and Christ’s witness to John, Matthew 9:14-17; Mark 2:18-22; Luke 5:33-39; Harmony, pages 35, 38. (c) Christ’s second witness to John, John 5:33-35; Harmony, page 40. (d) The doubts of John while in prison concerning the messiahship of Jesus, and Christ’s third witness to John, Matthew 11:2-19; Luke 7:18-25; Harmony, pages 54-55.

The death of John, its occasion, and the report of it to Jesus, Matthew 14:6-12; Mark 6:21-29; Harmony, page 75.

The tortured conscience of Herod and John the Baptist, Matthew 14:1-2; Mark 6:16; Luke 9:9; Harmony, pages 74-75; also Matthew 16:14; Mark 8:28; Luke 9:19; Harmony, page 89.

John taught his disciples to pray, Luke 11:1; Harmony, page 112.

John did no miracle, but the people on account of his testimony accepted Christ, John 10:40-42; Harmony, page 120. John the Baptist fulfilled Malachi 4:5-6, and Christ’s fourth witness concerning John, Luke 1:17; Matthew 17:10-14; Mark 9:11-13.

Was John an Old Testament worker or a New Testament worker or the boundary line between the two covenants? Mark 1:1-2; Matthew 11:12-13; Luke 16:16; Acts 1:22; Luke 1:10, with which compare the prophecy at Isaiah 40:1-11, and answer the objection based on Matthew 3:11, explaining that scripture.

Was the baptism of John Christian baptism? Matthew 21:25-26; Matthew 21:32; Mark 11:30; Mark 11:32; Luke 20:4; Luke 20:6; Luke 7:29-30, connected with the following facts: Christ himself received this baptism; the Holy Trinity was present at his baptism; his baptism was the manifestation of Jesus as the Messiah; he baptized the twelve apostles to the Jews (Acts 1:22); on the other hand answer the objections based on the following facts: Apollos, knowing only the baptism of John, was instructed more perfectly in the way of the Lord by Aquila and Priscilla (Acts 18:25); the case of the rebaptism of the twelve disciples of John (Acts 19:1 f); his was only a "baptism of repentance"; the contrast he himself instituted between his baptizing and Christ’s baptizing, Matthew 3:11.

The doctrines taught by John: Repentance, reformation, faith in Christ, regeneration, confession of sins, remission of sins, the judgment.

John’s great titles.

The elements of John’s greatness.

The testimony of Josephus, Antiquities, Book 18, Chapter 5:

Now some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod’s army came from God, and that very justly, as a punishment of what he did against John, that was called the Baptist; for Herod slew him, who was a good man, and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue both as to righteousness toward one another and piety toward God, and so to come to baptism; for that the washing would be acceptable to Him, if they made use of it, not in order to the putting away of some sins, but for the purification of the body; supposing still that the soul was thoroughly purified beforehand by righteousness. Now when others came in crowds about him, for they were very greatly muved (or pleased) by hearing his words, Herod, who feared lest the great influence John had over the people might put it into his power and inclination to raise a rebellion (for they seemed to do anything he should advise), thought it best by putting him to death, to prevent any mischief he might cause and not bring himself into difficulties by sparing a man who might make him repent of it when it should be too late. Accordingly he was sent a prisoner, out of Herod’s suspicious temper, to Macherus, the castle I before mentioned, and was there put to death. Now, the Jews had an opinion that the destruction of this army was sent as a punishment upon Herod, and a mark of God’s displeasure to him.

This reference of Josephus had this historic background; Herod Antipas divorced his wife, the daughter of Aretas, King of Arabia, in order to marry Herodias, the wife of his brother, Philip, with whom he had eloped. Aretas, to avenge the indignity put on his daughter, made war on Herod. Herod’s army was completely destroyed in a great battle of this war. It was this destruction of Herod’s army which the Jews attributed to the murder of John the Baptist.

Let us consider somewhat in detail this outline of the material for a life of John the Baptist, inasmuch as some of the most difficult problems of New Testament interpretation are therein involved. Not only the several denominations assume variant views of John and his work in order to serve a purpose of their own, or obstruct a purpose of some other, but even the most disinterested scholars are perplexed in determining the meaning of some passages of history bearing on John’s place in the gospel dispensation and the kingdom of God.

These questions arise: Does John belong to the Old Covenant or New? Did he preach the gospel in all its essential elements as we preach it now? Was his baptism Christian baptism? Was he himself in the kingdom of our Lord? May we argue from the act, subject, and design of his baptism to prove the act, subject and design of baptism now enjoined?

After examining repeatedly every biblical passage concerning John with a critical microscope, and after carefully studying for a half century all the controversies of the centuries touching him, I am profoundly impressed that ninety-nine one hundredths of the problems have been manufactured to serve denominational exigencies on the subject, act, and design of Christian baptism.

The following facts are so self-evident on the face of the record that life is too short to waste its time in arguing with those who deny them:

No matter if the word "baptism" has a thousand meanings, John’s only act of baptism was immersion.

He immersed Jesus himself in the river Jordan, which is the only water baptism Jesus ever received.

The immersion which John administered, and which Jesus received, they both concurrently administered later, John 3:22-23.

Both made disciples before they immersed them, John 4:1-2.

This making of disciples and then immersing them is precisely what Jesus, after his resurrection, commanded in his Great Commission (Matthew 28:19).

John immersed only adults who came to him and accepted the gospel he preached.

Those who accepted John’s gospel did experimentally receive the knowledge of salvation in the remission of their sins (Luke 1:77).

John "made ready a people prepared for the Lord," (Luke 1:15-17). Those so prepared for him Jesus received without a further process or ordinance whatever, (John 1:35-36; Acts 1:21-22).

John made his disciples by preaching repentance and faith, Acts 19:4 and Matthew 3:2. Jesus did the same thing (Mark 1:15).

It is true that John’s baptism was unto "repentance" (eis mentanoian), Matthew 3:11, but the repentance, with its fruits, preceded the baptism, therefore it was a baptism of repentance unto the remission of sins (Mark 1:4) Eis aphesin hamartion, as in Acts 2:38, and therefore identical with our Lord’s other great commission, recorded by Luke, "And that repentance and remission of sins" (aphesin hamartion) should be preached in his name among the nations, beginning at Jerusalem (Luke 24:47).

John, though of the priestly line, never ministered in the Temple, but under a special commission from heaven administered an ordinance so new in act, subject, and design, it gave him a specific distinguishing name, O Baptistes – The Baptizer --just as we say, "Washington, the General," or "Coiumbus, the Discoverer."


We save ourselves much confusion of mind by clear conceptions of the word "kingdom" as used in this connection. All the context shows that a visible King had come; he was to be accepted by visible subjects, who would submit to visible ordinances, and be united for work into a visible organization. For this visible organization officers would be appointed and laws established.

This kingdom, while not of the world, was yet in the world, and destined to become a world empire. If this be not foreshown in the prophets, then they foreshow nothing. If this be not the import of the gospel histories, then they have no meaning.

This kingdom was not only to be distinguished from secular world empires which preceded it, but also distinguished from the national, typical kingdom of Israel, which, under a different covenant, also preceded it.

When we allow our minds to float off into fancies of invisible kingdoms and invisible churches, and to rest only on pure spiritualities without external visible forms, we do violence to the plainest laws of language.

With so much premised, we now submit as bearing on John’s position the following testimonies:

The testimony of Mark. Mark says: "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Even as it is written in Isaiah the Prophet, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, Who shall prepare thy way; The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make ye ready the way of the Lord, Make his paths straight;

"John came, who baptized in the wilderness and preached the baptism of repentance unto remission of sins" (Mark 1:1-4).

This certainly makes John the first New Testament preacher of the gospel of Jesus.

The testimony of our Lord. "And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and men of violence take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John" (Matthew 11:11-13). "The law and the prophets were until John: from that time the gospel of the kingdom of God is preached and every man entereth violently into it" (Luke 16:16).

The testimony of Peter. He speaks on the occasion of selecting an apostle to the Jews to take the position vacated by the traitor, Judas Iscariot, using this language: "Of the men therefore which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and went out among us, beginning from the baptism of John, unto the day that he was received up from us, of these must one become a witness with us of his resurrection."

On these several testimonies, which might be multiplied, it is evident that John in his preaching and baptism is as much the beginning of the New Testament dispensation as any starting point designated by a surveyor in marking off the boundaries of a tract of land.

The testimony of our Lord, continued. When the Sanhedrin questioned our Lord as to his authority for doing the things which he did, he met them with this counter question: "The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven or from man? And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say from heaven; he will say unto us, Why, then, did ye not believe him? But if we shall say, From men; we fear the multitude; for all hold John as a prophet. And they answered Jesus and said, We know not. He also said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things" (Matthew 21:25-27). Both Mark and Luke give an account of the same question. The members of the Sanhedrin were not the only ecclesiastics who have been unable to answer the question propounded by our Lord. If John’s baptism had been a ritualistic ordinance of the Old Testament, or if it had been the latter Jewish proselyte immersion, any Jew could have answered the question. Upon the same matter our Lord says in another connection: "And all the people when they heard, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected for themselves the counsel of God, being not baptized on him" (Luke 7:29-30).

It has often been confidently asserted that John’s baptism was not Christian baptism. If not, then the baptism which Christ himself received was not Christian baptism.

The most remarkable position ever assigned to baptism was John’s baptism of our Lord. All the Trinity were present: the Son was baptized, the Father from heaven expressed his pleasure, the Holy Spirit rested like a dove upon his head. And it was at this baptism that Jesus was manifested as the Messiah.

It is also true that the only baptism received by the twelve apostles was John’s baptism (Acts 1:22).

Upon these several testimonies, giving evidence absolutely unanswerable, certain criticisms by way of objections have been offered:

First objection. The following words of Christ: "Verily I say unto you, among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: yet he that is but little in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he" (Matthew 11:11). Before attempting to reply to this criticism, let us note that the King James Version renders it: "He that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than John," and the revised version renders it: "He that is but little in the kingdom of heaven is greater than John." Dr. Broadus well criticizes the soundness of the rendering in the revised version. The Greek word is mikros, an adjective in the comparative degree. It is somewhat defensible to say with the common version, "He that is least," in the sense that "less," or the comparative degree, is used to mean less than all others, which would be equivalent to least. There is no defense for the rendering in the revised version. This language is interpreted to mean that Christ taught that John was not in the kingdom of heaven, but belonged to the Old Testament dispensation. We have no right to set aside the plain meaning of many passages, which have just been given, as to John’s relation to the kingdom and the New Testament covenant We have no right to interpret Christ in this one case as contradicting what he had so many times expressed in unequivocal language in other connections. Scripture must be interpreted by Scripture. Most commentators take it to mean substantially this: That as John merely introduced the New Covenant and passed away before the fulness of its light was manifested, therefore one who later was permitted to understand more and to enjoy the higher privilege and opportunity of more extended knowledge, was greater than John in this respect. This interpretation would not destroy the significance of Christ’s other testimonies to John. I

J. R. Graves, in his Seven Dispensations, gives a different interpretation. He says that the adjective mikros, in the comparative degree, is used in this instance adverbially, qualilying the verb "is," and not any person or class of persons, and translates thus: "Notwithstanding he that is later in the kingdom is greater than John." The one greater than John then, would be Christ Himself, and this would put the declaration squarely in harmony with the following words of John himself: "I indeed baptize you in water unto repentance: But he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit and in fire" (Matthew 3:11); "And he preached, saying, There cometh One after me that is mightier than I, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose" (Mark 1:7); "John beareth witness of him, and crieth, saying, This was he of whom I said, he that cometh after me is before me: for he was before me" (John 1:15); "Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but, that I am sent before him. He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, that standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is made full. He must increase, but I must decrease. He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is of the earth, and of the earth he speaketh: He that cometh from heaven is above all" (John 3:28-31).

Dr. Graves then continues: "This translation of mikros makes Christ speak the truth, and also makes all the statements of John coincide with that of Christ. If mikros were nowhere else in the whole range of Greek literature used adverbially, it evidently is here. The facts compel us to read it. Both John and Christ were, therefore, in the kingdom." I have never seen any reply absolutely conclusive against the contention of Dr. Graves. In any event, I am quite sure that our Lord did not mean to contradict in one of his statements quite a number of other unequivocal statements made by him.

Second objection. In Acts 18:24-26 it is said: "Now a certain Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by race, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the scriptures. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spake and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, knowing only the baptism of John: and he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more accurately."

Here the contention is that it was not sufficient for the preacher to know only the baptism of John. It is admitted that twenty years after the death of John, a Jew of Alexandria, knowing nothing further than John’s original preaching needed to be instructed in the additional light that followed the preaching of John. You will please notice, however, that Apollos was not rebaptized nor reordained. His knowledge of the events following John’s baptism was increased – that is all – and the case rather supports than condemns the position taken that John’s gospel was the boundary line between the two covenants.

Dr. Broadus uses this illustration, that John was like the middle platform of a stairway – above those on the steps below him, and below those on the steps above him. Others have used this illustration that John belonged to the new day, just as the twilight of dawn belongs to the new day. Third objection. "John’s baptism was only a baptism of repentance." It has been admitted in the first part of this discussion that John’s was a baptism unto repentance, but it was a baptism of repentance unto the remission of sins, and no way different from what Peter said at Acts 2:38, and no way different from the great commission given in Luke, that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations. We in our time, like Luke in his time, would baptize no impenitent candidate.

Fourth objection. It is contended that John himself instituted a striking comparison between his baptism and the baptism of our Lord: "I indeed baptize you in water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit and in fire" (Matthew 3:11). The answer is obvious. John instituted no manner of comparison between his baptism in water and Christ’s baptism in water, but he does contrast his baptism in water with Christ’s baptizing in the Holy Spirit and in fire, proving Christ’s superiority of power and position to John, but in no way discriminating between the water baptism of the two, as has already been shown.

Fifth objection. This objection is based upon the record at Acts 19:1-7: "And it came to pass that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul, having passed through the upper country, came to Ephesus and found certain disciples; and he said unto them, Did ye not receive the Holy Spirit when ye believed? And they said unto him, Nay, we did not so much as hear whether the Holy Spirit was given. And he said, Into what then were ye baptized? And they said, Into John’s baptism. And Paul said, John baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people that they should believe on him that should come after him, that is, on Jesus. And when they heard this they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spake with tongues and prophesied. And they were in all about twelve men."

Here, it is contended, is a clear case that certain disciples baptized by John were rebaptized by Paul, and therefore John’s baptism was not Christian baptism. The answer to this contention is, first, it is evident that John himself never baptized these twelve men. It is twenty years since John died. Evidently they had never heard John preach. They would not have been ignorant of the baptism in the Holy Spirit, for John spoke very particularly of the baptism in the Spirit to be administered by our Lord. John’s office was peculiar: he had no successor; no man had a right to perpetuate the work of John. He finished his own course. And whoever originally baptized these twelve men did it without authority. Their ignorance as to whether the Holy Spirit had been given was proof positive that the flaws in their baptism were an unauthorized administrator and an uninstructed subject.

I will not take time just now with showing the contention of some that there was in this case no rebaptism in water. The claim is that Paul spake concerning John in the fifth verse as well as in the fourth, and that the only baptism they received at Paul’s hands was the baptism in the Spirit. We will discuss that contention when we come to the passage in Acts. My judgment is that Paul not only baptized these twelve men in water on account of the flaws in their former baptism through lack of proper administrator and a proper intelligence on the part of the subjects, but that through him they were also baptized in the Holy Spirit. Dr. Broadus well says that this isolated case, susceptible of several explanations, cannot be used to discredit former clear statements concerning the baptisms administered by John. Indeed, if there had been a flaw, per se, in the baptisms administered by John himself, then would no baptism administered by him have been received by our Lord and his apostles. It has been shown, however, that the only water baptism they themselves received was John’s baptism, which was not repeated in any case.


1. Make out, in order, the scriptural material for a life of John the Baptist, giving an analysis.

2. What was the substance of the testimony of Josephus concerning John?

3. What questions arise concerning John, his preaching, his baptism and his place in the kingdom?

4. To what may be attributed ninety-nine one hundredths of the problems concerning John?

5. State in order the eleven facts concerning John and his ministry that cannot be disputed.

6. In determining John’s place in the kingdom, how may we save ourselves much confusion of mind?

7. Give the testimony of Mark bearing on this matter, and what does it prove?

8. Give two passages embodying the testimony of our Lord upon the same matter.

9. Give the testimony of Peter.

10. Cite two other prominent testimonies of our Lord touching John’s baptism. . . .

11. Now, upon all these several statements, cite the first objection based on the words of Christ.

12. What is the difference between the rendering in the common verrion and the revised version on this passage?

13. What is the Greek word, and what part of speech is it?

14. What does the objector interpret Christ to mean by this statement, and how do you meet the objection?

15. Give clearly the interpretation of J. R. Graves.

16. On what passage is the second objection to John’s place in the kingdom and his baptism based, and how do you meet the objection?

17. Give the illustration of Dr. Broadus, and one other, on John’s relative position to the two covenants.

18. What is the third objection to John’s baptism being Christian baptism, and how do you reply to it?

19. What is the fourth objection and your reply to it?

20. On what passage is the fifth objection based, what the contention of the objector, and your reply to it?

21. How do some contend that Paul did not rebaptize in water these twelve men?

22. On the author’s contention that Paul did rebaptize in water these twelve men, what were the grounds of the rebaptism?

Verse 14




Harmony, pages 92-94 and Matthew 17:1-13; Mark 9; Mark 2:13; Luke 9:28-36; John 1:14; 2 Peter 1:14-18.

The transfiguration of Jesus is one of the most notable events of his history. The occasion which called forth the event – the wonderful facts of the event itself – the manifest correlation of these facts with both the near and the remote past, and the near and distant future – the primary and multiform design of this event, and the secondary important lessons which may be deduced from it, all conspire to make it notable. The history of the whole case may be gathered from what are called the Synoptic Gospels, that is, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and from the references to the event by two out of the three witnesses, Peter and John. James, the other eyewitness, was prevented by an early martyrdom from leaving any record. We find an account of his death in Acts 12. He was put to death by Herod. So these are the five historians of the transfiguration. In discussing the subject of the transfiguration, let us consider:

1. The occasion. – From the context in Matthew, Mark, and Luke we group in order the following facts, which, taken as a whole, constitute the occasion of the transfiguration:

First fact: While the people generally had vague and conflicting views of the person and mission of Jesus, his immediate disciples had now reached a definite and fixed conclusion that he was the divine Messiah, and had publicly confessed that faith near Caesarea Philippi.

Second fact: On this confession of their faith in his messiahship, he began for the first time to openly and plainly show that the Messiah was to be a suffering Messiah; that he must die; that he must die an ignominious death; that he must die under the condemnation of the supreme court of their nation.

Third fact: At this plain revelation of his death their faith staggers. It is both an inexplicable and abhorrent thing to them. It so deeply stirred them that, through Peter, they present the strongest possible protest. Peter says, "Mercy on thee, Lord, it shall never be." They, while believing him to be the Messiah, wanted a living, conquering Messiah, with a visible, earthly, triumphant kingdom and jurisdiction.

Fourth fact: He sharply rebukes this protest, as satanic in its origin – as coming from the devil, and it had originally come from the devil. Now, one of his own apostles comes as a tempter. As if he had said, "You are a stumbling block to me. You quote the very sentiments of the devil, when you would beguile me from the cross to accept an earthly crown." He then adds that to take that view of it is to think men’s thoughts and not God’s thoughts. He says, "You are minding the things of men and not the things of God when you present such a view as that to me."

Fifth fact: Whereupon, after his turning sharply away from Peter, he calls up the whole multitude to hear with his disciples, the great spiritual and universal law of discipleship, and perhaps it will stagger some to hear it, if they take it in. What was it? Absolute self-renunciation – the taking up daily of the cross upon which one is appointed to die, and the following of Christ; carrying the cross even unto the death which is appointed. We have such low conceptions of self-denial. We count it self-denial if we want a little thing and do not get it. We count it cross-bearing if some little burden is put on us and we bear it. That is not the thought in this connection at all. "If any man, whether he be an apostle or anybody else – if any man would be my disciple, he must have absolute self-renunciation, and he must take up every day the cross upon which he is appointed to die, and he must follow me, bearing that cross even unto the appointed death." He assured them that a man must not be merely willing to suffer temporal death, if an occasion should arise – not at all such a mere contingency – but he must actually lose temporal life in order to find eternal life. He must do it. He must lose temporal life to find eternal life, and then puts it to them as a supreme business question of eternal profit and loss. In that very connection he says, "What will it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul, and what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" It is the universal law of discipleship, from which there is no exception. No Christian can escape crucifixion. The reference is to our sanctification. We not only die judicially on the cross in Christ our substitute (Colossians 3:2), but we must actually "put to death our members which are upon the earth" (Colossians 3:5). I say this is a universal law: "If ye through the Spirit do mortify [put to death] the deeds of the body ye shall live" (Romans 8:13). Our sanctification consists of both death and life. The old man must die. The new man must be developed. Paul died daily. In putting on the new man we put off the old man. Our baptism pledges us both to death and life. ’ In our progressive sanctification the Holy Spirit reproduces in every Christian the dying of our Lord, as well as his living. In every Christian "a death experience runs parallel with his life experience." Not only Paul must fill up "that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in his flesh, for his body’s sake, which is the church" (Colossians 1:24), but all of us must have fellowship with his sufferings. We must suffer with him if we would reign with him. The lamented Dr. Gordon quotes this remarkable passage: "The church is Christian no more than as it is the organ of the continuous passion of Christ." Yes, it is no possible contingency, but a universal fact – we must take up the cross. We must lose our life to find it.

Sixth fact: The solemnity of this occasion was deeply intensified by his announcement of his second coming in power and great glory for the final judgment of all mankind according to their decision of that question which he had presented. All this comes just before the transfiguration. After announcing to them his death; after rebuking other conceptions of the messiahship; after presenting the great universal law of discipleship; now he says, "For the Son of man shall come in his glory, with his angels, and shall reward every man according to his doings.”

Seventh, and last, fact: Mark it well. Then follows the startling announcement that some of them standing there should never taste of death until they saw this second coming.

These seven facts, taken as a whole, constitute the occasion of the transfiguration of Jesus Christ. Let us restate them: (1) That while the world had vague and conflicting ideas of his person and missions, his immediate disciples had reached the conclusion that he was the divine Messiah, and had publicly confessed that faith. (2) That upon that public confession he commences for the first time plainly and openly to show that this Messiah must be a sufferer and must die. (3) They indignantly and abhorrently repudiate that conception of the Messiah. (4) He rebukes their protest as coming from the devil. (5) He announces the great law of discipleship, that no man could be a disciple of Jesus Christ without absolute self-renunciation, and without taking up every day the cross upon which he was appointed to die, and following Jesus even unto the appointed death, and that it was simply a question of business – a supreme business question of profit and loss, and they had to decide one way or the other. "If you prefer to find your life, you will lose it; if you prefer to lose your life, you will find it; if you want to take this world, you will lose your own soul; if you want to save your soul, you must renounce the world." Just that, no less and no more. (6) He announces his second coming in power and glory, as a final judge to determine the destiny of men upon this solitary question: "Did you lose your life for my sake?" (7) The still more startling announcement that some people – some of those to whom he was speaking would never taste death until they saw his second coming. That these seven facts, considered as a whole, do in some way constitute the occasion of the transfiguration, is to my mind incontrovertible. Some of the most convincing reasons for the conclusion may be stated.

First: In all the histories the account of the transfiguration follows immediately after the record of these events without & break in the connection. No event of the intervening week is allowed to separate the two transactions. Now, that three historians should, without collusion, follow this method, seems to establish a designed connection between these facts and the transfiguration which followed.

Second: The disheartening protest of the disciples against his position and in favor of the common Jewish idea of an earthly kingdom, would naturally so depress the humanity of Jesus that he himself would need some marvelous encouragement from heaven and would seek it in prayer.

Third: From the same sad cause, it would be necessary that some compensating revelation of future glory must be shown to the disciples in order to make them bear up under the hard condition of present discipleship, and under the awful thought of separation from him by death.

Fourth: It cannot be a mere coincident that the transfiguration is calculated to so exactly supply these things – the encouragement to Jesus and compensation to the disciples, both for the death of Jesus and for the hard terms of present discipleship.

2. The event. – Such being the occasion, then, let us reverently approach the wonderful transaction itself. The scene cannot have been at Mount Tabor in Lower Galilee, as tradition would have us believe. While it is not now necessary to show how insuperable are the objections to Mount Tabor as the place, yet it is important to note, by the way, that little reliance can ever be placed on the exact localities of great events in the New Testament, as indicated by tradition, because the inspired record oftentimes designedly and wisely leaves them indeterminate. It is not small proof of inspiration by him who knew the superstitions of men, and would provide no food to feed it on. Christ left neither autograph nor portrait to be worshiped as relics. None of the historians even/ hint at a personal description of Jesus. We know absolutely nothing of the color of his eyes or hair. Absolutely nothing of his height or size. Worshipers of shrines, relics, and souvenirs derive no sort of help or encouragement from the New Testament. The scene of the transfiguration was evidently near Caesarea Philippi, and on some mountain spur of the Hermon range. It could not have been anywhere else from the circumstances going before and after the event. The time is night, somewhere about seven months before his crucifixion. The object is prayer in some lonely private place. His companions are Peter, James, and John. It must have been an all-night prayer meeting, for they did not come down from the mountain until the next day, and it is stated that the three disciples were heavy with sleep, as on a later and more solemn occasion, these very three men succumbed to the spirit of sleep, through the weakness of the flesh. The original here, however, would lead us to infer that they forced themselves to remain awake, notwithstanding their strong inclination to sleep, and now, late in the night, struggling against an almost irresistible desire to sleep, but yet their gaze fixed upon their Master, who is yet praying, they behold a sight that drives sleep utterly away. What do they see? A wonderful sight indeed; earth never saw a more wonderful one. Mark you, it is no vision or dream. With the use of their natural senses, sight and hearing, being fully awake, they became the wit- nesses of three distinct remarkable supernatural events. These three things are: first, the transfiguration of Jesus; second, the glorified forms of Moses and Elijah; third, the luminous cloud symbol and the voice of the eternal God. Now, let us consider separately each one of these things:

"Transfiguration: – what does the word mean? The word means to transform – to change the form or appearance. In what respect was the appearance or form of Jesus changed? It was this: It is in the night; it is on that lonely mountaintop; and while they look at him, he begins to shine as from a light within. The light seems to struggle through him. He seems to become translucent, and his whole body becomes luminous, as if it were a human electric jet, and the light is white – whiter than any fuller on earth could make it, and his face is brighter than the shining of the sun at midday. Let us carefully collate the several records: Matthew says, "And after six days Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John, his brother, and bringeth them up into a high mountain apart." Mark says, "They went up into that mountain to pray." There are the four separating themselves from all the others and going up into that high mountain to hold a prayer meeting. Luke then says, "And as Jesus was praying, the fashion of his countenance altered," or, as Matthew says, "His face did shine as the sun and his garments became as white as light," or, as Mark says, "And his garments became glistering, exceeding white, so as no fuller on earth could whiten," and, as Luke says, "His raiment became white and dazzling." We notice that two things are referred to, first, the fashion of his countenance, and second, the shining of his garments. Jesus becomes as a pillar of fire to them, as they look at him. That is the first thing they saw that night. Then suddenly there is an interview held with him. Those who come to hold the interview with him are not from hell; they are not from earth. He has gone up on that mountaintop and implored the Father for something. As a result of his prayer, an interview is held with him. Who comes to hold that interview with him? The two most remarkable men of the past: the representative of the law, and the representative of prophecy – Moses, the great law-giver, and Elijah, the greatest of the prophets. These three witnesses could instinctively, by spiritual intuition, recognize them. Of course, they had never personally known them, but it was given to them to recognize them. And what do they look like? They are also in glory; they are luminous. There are the three shining bodies together, and they enter into conversation – they are talking. What are they talking about? Now, mark the occasion. Jesus had said to his disciples, "I go up to Jerusalem to die. I must die. There is a’ necessity that I should die, and these disciples abhorred the thought that I should die. Oh, Father, show them by some way that I must die. Is there no one in the past whose evidence would avail?" Out from the past comes Moses and says, "Jesus, I came to talk to you about your death." Out from the land of the prophets comes Elijah and he says, "Jesus, I came to talk to you about your death." The law says the substitute of the sinner must die. Moses comes from the other world, representing the law, saying to the substitute of the sinner, "You must die." Elijah says, "You must die." Every voice from the prophets calls for the death of the Messiah. "And they come to talk to him about his death" – his death that should take place at Jerusalem. Suppose Moses had said this: "Jesus, I died on Mount Nebo. No man on earth knows where my bones are resting. Unless you die, that body will never be raised, never, never." Suppose Elijah had said: "Jesus, I escaped death as to my body. I was translated. I was carried up to heaven, and am now enjoying in both soul and body the blessed glories of the eternal world, upon your promise to die. That promise must be redeemed. I am in heaven on a credit – the credit is on your promise to pay. You must die." "They talked with him concerning his/ death at Jerusalem."

They are now about to leave. They have had their interview, and they are going back, and just as they are about to depart. Peter is terribly frightened, but they never could put Peter in a place where he would not say something. Peter sees that the guests are about to leave, although trembling with apprehension, and not knowing what he did – thinking, however, that he ought to say something, as if he had said, "Lord, they intend to go," and in the original it does not say, let us build three tabernacles; it says, "Lord, I will build three tabernacles, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." Now, while Peter said that, there came the third wonderful thing, and the only time that it ever was seen in the New Testament dispensation, though it had often been seen in the earlier days – the cloud symbol of God. How did the cloud symbol of God appear? If it was in the daytime, it appeared as a beautiful pillar of cloud; if it was the nighttime, it appeared as a pillar of fire. Now, the old-time drapery of God, the fire cloud, that had not been witnessed since far off Old Testament days – that fire cloud came down and wrapped Moses and Elijah and Jesus in its folds of light. As it wrapped them, there leaped from its bosom, as leaps the lightning from the clouds, a voice: "This is my beloved Son: hear ye him." And they fell as if lightning had struck them. Fear had taken possession of them from the beginning; their apprehensions had grown more and more demoralizing from the very beginning of the supernatural manifestation, but when this voice spoke – this voice of God, they fell on their faces; they could not bear to face that burning cloud and to hear that awful voice, and there they lie, as still as if dead, until Jesus comes and stoops over them, and touches them, each one, and says: "Do not be afraid," and they rise up and the cloud is gone, and Moses and Elijah are gone. Now, these are the things they witnessed – three entirely distinct things: The transfiguration of Jesus; the glorified appearance of Moses and Elijah; the fire cloud, which was the symbol of the divine presence, and the audible Voice. Such were the wonderful facts of the event. Now comes the next question:

3. The design – What was meant by the transfiguration? We go back and look at it to see if we can gather there the design. We take the testimony of the men who actually witnessed these transaction, in order to get the design. Let’s see what that is. First, he had said that there were some people there that should never taste death until they saw the coming of the Son of man – until they saw the second coming of the Son of man – until they saw the kingdom of God come with power. Unquestionably that is what he said: that there were some people there that should never taste death until they saw the second coming of Jesus Christ. Let’s see what one of the witnesses says about this. I cite the testimony of Peter: "For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father, honor and glory when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount." Now mark what Peter says, that in preaching to these people that Christ would come again the second time with power and great glory and as a final judge, he had not followed a cunningly devised fable, but he preached what he had witnessed; that he, on Mount of Transfiguration, had gazed upon the second coming of Christ in some sense, in whatever sense that might be. He had seen it. He was an eyewitness of the power and majesty of that second coming. Let’s see what J John said about it. He was the other witness. In John 1:14, and in the parenthesis of that verse, we have this: "And we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father." When did John see his glory, as of the only begotten of the Father? The glory of Christ always in the New Testament when spoken of in its fulness, is that glory which shall attend him when he comes the second time. The first time he came without glory; he came in his humiliation. The second time, he comes in glory, as we learn from Matthew 24: "The Son of man shall come in all of his glory, and all of his holy angels with him, and then shall he sit on the throne of his glory." John says that he, with others witnessed the glory of Jesus Christ, as of the only begotten of the Father. He saw it, and like Peter, he saw it on the Mount of Transfiguration. As a further proof of it, in John 12:24 we have an account of Jesus praying, and he says, "Father, glorify me," and instantly that same voice says, loud as thunder, "I have glorified thee, and will glorify thee." So that the glory that they witnessed was in some sense the glory of the second Coming of Jesus Christ. It was a miniature representation of the power and glory that would be displayed when he does come – an anticipatory scene – presenting to the ye on a small scale that great and awful event in the future.

When Jesus does come, every living Christian will instantly be transfigured. He will take on the resurrection body. He will take on a glorified body – just as Elijah and Enoch did. As Paul puts it: "Behold I show you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; for the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" Here was Elijah, the type and representation of that work. Here was Elijah, who without death, by the transfiguring power, had been carried up to heaven. Here he was talking to Jesus.

There is another thing that will take place when Jesus comes. The dead will be raised. The bodies that have been buried and turned to dust are to be reanimated and "are to be glorified in one moment of time. Corruption puts on incorruption; mortality puts on immortality; sleep changes to waking; and the dead rise up and are glorified in the twinkling of an eye. As Paul again puts it: "But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord, shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words." Here is Moses representing that thought. Moses died; he did not escape death like Enoch and Elijah. Moses died, and no man has ever been able to tell where he was buried. The devil tried to take possession of his body, but here in this transfiguration scene appears Moses glorified as Elijah is glorified. In type, these represent the two great displays of divine power at the second coming of Jesus Christ, and they are the very two that are needed to be brought to bear on the discouraged heart of the disciples who have been informed that Jesus will die.

They wanted a living Messiah. They wanted an earthly king. To say that he will die means the loss of everything to them. They have not yet looked over the border. Now, how can a revelation be given to them that will compensate them for the awfully disheartening effect of the announcement that their Messiah must die? Why, in order to compensate them, there must be some revelation of the future. They must have an insight into the things which shall be. The curtains must be drawn aside. They must look beyond death. They must see into the spirit world. They must see samples of heavenly glory that are to be brought about by the death of Christ, and as they gaze upon that transfiguration of Jesus, which pledges the resurrection of his body when he dies, they can understand that death; and when they see the forerunner of his death in Moses and Elijah, as types of classes, and can thereby look to the end of time and see all the sleeping bodies brought to life, and the living Christians changed – if anything on earth is calculated to remove their depression, that scene is certainly calculated to remove it.

I venture to say that every Christian has become at times disheartened and depressed when he looked at the sacrifices that have to be made in order to be a Christian; when he looked at the stern and unrelenting laws of discipleship – absolute self-renunciation – absolutely, a man must deny himself. When one denies Christ, what does that mean? "I will not have him to rule over me." Now, when we deny self, what does that mean? "I absolutely abjure thee, O self, as the ruler of my life. I repudiate thee, self. I have another King." When we take up these duties and requirements, that is the start only, but every day of our lives requires us to see to it that self is crucified; that the body shall be mortified; that the deeds of the flesh shall be crucified; that they shall be put to death. When we daily take up that cross, and know that this must go on as long as we live, even up to the very time that we die, where is the compensation? It is in this: If I do not renounce self, if I do not follow Christ to crucifixion, I will ultimately lose self. I will lose my soul. This supreme business question comes up before me for decision: Shall I gain the world and lose myself, or shall I save myself and lose the world? Now, to help a man on that; to help him to decide rightly; to take away from him any discouragement, and the disheartening depression, what can do it so forcibly as to bring him up on a mountain and cause him by night, in the loneliness of its solemn hours, to witness an interview with the glorified spirits that have passed out of earth’s sorrows and pains and disappointments, and now in the midst of the blessedness which is theirs forever. It is to bring him where he can see the ordinarily closed doors of the arching heavens open, and down through the opening the light of the eternal world transfigures everyone upon whom it shines, and looking at that he will say, "Oh, self, die; oh, world, you shall not be my master. Jesus, I am coming; I follow; I take up the cross. I carry it to the place where I must die the appointed death on the appointed cross. I accept it for Christ’s sake." So the transfiguration fits the occasion of it by meeting the needs of the disciples.

Let us now see if that design of the transfiguration met the need of Christ. Oh we must remember that he had humanity, that, he could not help feeling terribly discouraged when these, his chosen disciples, the witnesses of his power, at this late day in his ministry, while they had clearly recognized him as the divine Messiah, yet did not recognize him as a suffering Messiah, and still clung with old Jewish ideas to the thought of an earthly conquering king. How it must have disheartened him! Then, we remember that from the beginning he saw his death, but as he neared it, the shadows on his brow had deepened, and the depressing effect of it weighed him down more and more as he got closer to it, at every approach of it, feeling more and more the anguish of it, and now with these thoughts upon him, he had spent so much time and labor, his loneliness, his solitariness oppresses him, and he wants to pray. He wants to get alone and pray; and on that mountain top he prays: "Oh, Father, nobody down here understands me, nobody, not even my disciples; send me sympathy, send me some revelation that shall cheer and sustain me; let somebody from the upper world come and talk with me here on the edge of the battlefield, where I am breast- ing the tide by myself." And he prays until the glory of God in him bursts through the opaqueness of the flesh and makes translucent, and he is glorified by his importunate prayer. And the Father comes down from heaven, comes in a drapery of clouds, comes in his drapery of fire, and wraps around with its folds of light the dear Redeemer, and speaks to him. "My Son, my beloved Son, my chosen One on earth, hear him! Hear him! Hear him I Not Moses, not Elijah, hear the Son of God." That strengthened him, and he went back to his burden with lighter heart. That is what I understand to be the design of the transfiguration.

4. Its relations – See how the facts of that transfiguration correlate themselves with the near and the remote past and with the near and the remote future.

The facts of the transfiguration reached right over and took hold of the scene of that confession at Caesarea Philippi; they go on back until they touch the prophetic days and grasp the hand of Elijah; they go on back to the days of Israel in the wilderness and take the hand of Moses; they go on back until they touch the first promise of mercy in Eden. Then they go forward until they touch the death in Jerusalem. They touch the resurrection after that death; they reach through the silent centuries of the unborn future and take hold of the second coming; they speak of hovering angels and heavenly glory, and open graves, and the white throne of the judgment, correlating with all the past, and correlating with all the future, harmonizing law and prophecy and gospel; showing that in Jesus, they all meet in perfection, and also showing that in Jesus is the redemption of all the world.

Such is the relation of the transfiguration to the past and present and future.

"Say nothing about it; say nothing about ill" Well, why say nothing about it? "Do not tell it now; wait until I am dead; wait until I have risen from the dead; and when I have risen from the dead you may tell this story, and it will fit into the resurrection so that no man will disbelieve it. If you tell it now they cannot understand it, but wait until I have risen and then it will instantly appear to men to be a miniature resurrection scene."

I have thus presented to you what I conceive to be: (1) the occasion of the transfiguration; (2) the wonderful facts of the event itself; (3) the design of that event; (4) the correlation of that event with the past and with the future, and now what are its lessons for us?

5. Its lessons for us. – There is one thing about a pastor that a congregation never can understand – never can, and that is his concern that the congregation may get upon a higher plane of Christianity. Sometimes it is like a stroke of death. What kind of Christians are we? What kind of self-denial do we now exhibit? What kind of cross-bearing? What kind of discipleship? What kind of decision of the question of profit and loss? And after intense agony, I pray, "Oh, God, multiply the number that will make a full renunciation of self." We ourselves know that the majority of church members are walking on the edge only of practical Christianity; just on the edge of it. Oh, the value of the spiritual power that will come upon all who will utterly decide the question – who will truly say: "I am God’s all over. He is Lord of all my time, and all my money and all of my life." Now and then we find a few that will come up to that – just a few. In view of the low grade of present Christianity, the very few that attain the gift of the Spirit, what is it that keeps pastors from being discouraged? From being utterly disheartened? What is it that keeps despair from spreading her mantle of gloom over his pulpit and over his heart? What is it that keeps away the howling wolves, and the ill-boding owls and ravens, that creeping or swooping from the plutonian shores of night, croak and howl their prophecies of evil? What is it? It is that every now and then he gets on some mount of transfiguration, where after long prayer; where after reconsecration; where after offering up himself and his soul and his body to God Almighty, the heavens open and show him the glorious future, so beautiful, so shining, so near, so enchanting, so drawing, so thrilling, that he goes back, and says, "Well, I can stand anything now." And every now and then God comes so to a church. He did to us, once, while I was pastor in Waco. He did rend the heavens and come down. The fire cloud was on the church. Heaven was near to us. We saw it. We felt it. Its glory could be touched, and under the power of that revival, earth seemed little and insignificant, and all of its claims were DO more than thistledown on the breath of the storm.

O that our children some dark night, awfully dark night, should be up on a spiritual mountain and see a fire church, see a translucent church, a church in touch with angels, a church hearing heavenly voices, a church wrapped in the great fire symbol of God, then might they believe and receive in their trusting hearts an impression that would affect forever and forever their life.

Shall we not pray that God may cause us to take a solemn look at that universal and spiritual and absolute law of discipleship? "If any man would be my disciple, let him renounce himself, take up his cross and follow me. He that loses his life for my sake shall find it." "What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?" O Lord, we are in the valley just now. Its shadows are as the shadows of death. Lead us, we pray thee, for a little while up to the top of the Delectable Mountains, from whose unclouded summits we may catch again the inspiring, transfiguring view of the Heavenly City. Thus reassuring our desponding hearts, and refreshing our weary minds, we may resume our pilgrimage in hope of speedily arriving at our heavenly home.


1. What things conspire to make the transfiguration a notable event?

2. What are the sources of its history and import?

3. What facts constitute its occasion?

4. What reasons assigned for the conclusion?

5. What was the scene of this event and what left in doubt by the inspired record? Illustrate.

6. What was the time?

7. What was the object of the going on this mountain?

8. Who were Jesus’ companions?

9. What were the events while on the mountain leading up to the transfiguration?

10. Was what they saw a dream or vision?

11. What were the three distinct, supernatural events which they saw here?

12. What is the meaning of the word "transfiguration"?

13. Describe this transfiguration of Jesus.

14. What two Old Testament characters appear in interview here with Jesus, how were they recognized by Peter, James, and John and what was the bearing on the question of heavenly recognition?

15. What was the subject of their conversation, what were the circumstances which led up to it, what was the bearing of the work of Moses and Elijah on this subject, respectively, and how illustrated in each case?

16. What was Peter’s proposition and why?

17. What Old Testament symbol reappeared here and what was its special significance?

18. What voice did they hear and what was its import?

19. What was the design of this incident?

20. What was Peter’s testimony? What was John’s?

21. What was the significance of the appearance of Elijah here and how does this correlate with the New Testament teaching on this thought?

22. What was the significance of the appearance of Moses here and how does this thought correlate with New Testament teaching?

23. What was their conception of the Messiah and what was the bearing of this incident on that conception?

24. What was the requirement of discipleship and what was the bearing of this incident on it?

25. Show that the design of the transfiguration met the need of Christ just at this time.

26. What was probably Christ’s prayer here on this occasion and how does this fit the idea of his need at this time?

27. How do the facts of the transfiguration correlate themselves with the past and the future?

28. What charge did our Lord give his disciples relative to this incident & why?

29. What are the lessons of the transfiguration for us?

30. What illustration of this transfiguration power from the life of the author?

Verses 15-51



In the preceding chapter we have considered the first part of the culmination of John’s ministry, to wit: his baptism of the Messiah, in which, by a divine sign, and the Father’s attestation, he was able to identify Jesus of Nazareth as the person of the Messiah. There remains for consideration in this chapter his testimony to the person so identified, and his presentation of him to Israel in all his messianic offices as the supreme object of faith. Thus as he was the first to preach evangelical repentance, so now must he be the first to preach evangelical faith. His continuation of his ministry after the baptism of the Messiah, was to afford opportunity of this completion of his testimony.

All of this testimony of John the Baptist, after the baptism of Jesus, comes to us through one historian, the apostle John, himself a disciple of John the Baptist. There are four distinct occasions and one general reference, doubtless identical with one of the four. Three of these occasions come in three successive days, certainly full forty days after the baptism, for the forty days of the temptation of Jesus intervene.

The first (and doubtless the second) is John’s reply to a deputation from Jerusalem (John 1:19-28). The second is the following day when he sees Jesus the first time since the baptism (John 1:29-34). The third is the morrow after when he identifies him to two of his own disciples (John 1:35-36). The fourth occurred in the early Judean ministry of Jesus after his first Passover in Jerusalem since his baptism (John 3:22-30). The general reference of John 1:15 applies to the second of these four.

It was impossible for the ecclesiastical authority at Jerusalem to ignore the ministry of John. The whole nation was stirred. The people generally accepted him as a reformer and prophet. And yet his ministry was entirely independent of the Sanhedrin, and of Jerusalem, and of the Temple ritual. Questions were arising in men’s minds, Is this the Messiah, or is it Elijah who precedes the Messiah (Malachi 4:5), or is it the great prophet whose coming was predicted by Moses, (Deuteronomy 18:15-18), what signs accredit him, who sent him, what is the source of his authority, and what is his mission?

Finally, at the instance of the Pharisees, whom he had denounced as the offspring of vipers, a deputation from the Sanhedrin, consisting of priests and Levites, were sent to press him for a definite answer on these points. They found him at the fords of the Jordan (Bethany or Bethabara), but sharp and curt in replying to their inquisition. He disclaimed promptly being either the Messiah, or Elijah, or the Moses prophet. For himself he was only the voice of one crying in the wilderness as predicted by Isaiah. To their questions, "why baptizeth thou, then, and what sign showest thou," and by whose authority he acted, he returned no definite reply the first day, but bore this testimony: "In the midst of you standeth one whom ye know not, even he that cometh after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose."

The next day, however, the deputation doubtless yet with him, he seeth Jesus returning from the temptation, and answers more particularly, pointing to him: "Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man who is before me; for he was before me. And I knew him not; but that he should be made manifest to Israel, for this cause I came baptizing in water. And John bare witness saying, I have beheld the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven; and it abode upon him, and I knew him not; but he that sent me to baptize in water, he said unto me, Upon whomsoever thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and abiding upon him, the same is he that baptizeth in the Holy Spirit. And I have seen, and have borne witness that this is the Son of God."

This is his great testimony: "Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah. I saw him anointed by the Holy Spirit. I heard the Father’s attestation. This is the Lamb of God that penally bears the sin of the world – the great expiatory sacrifice – this is the Son of God – this is he that baptizeth in the Holy Spirit." Prophets, priests, and kings are anointed with the holy anointing oil whose recipe was prescribed by Moses (Exodus 30:22-23). With this was Aaron anointed (Psalms 103:2); and David (Psalms 89:20); and Elisha (1 Kings 19:16). Messiah means the Anointed One. In the case of Jesus he was anointed with the Spirit, which the holy oil symbolized. To two of his disciples he repeats on the morrow: "Behold the Lamb of God!"

The account of John’s last testimony to Jesus is a singular bit of history: "After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized. And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there; and they came and were baptized. For John was not yet cast into prison. There arose therefore a questioning on the part of John’s disciples with a Jew about purifying. And they came unto John and said to him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond the Jordan, to whom thou hast borne witness, behold, the same baptizeth and all men come to him. John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it have been given him from heaven. Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. He that hath the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, that standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is made full. He must increase, but I must decrease." "He that cometh from above is above all; he that is of the earth is of the earth, and of the earth he speaketh; he that cometh from heaven is above all. What he hath seen and heard, of that he beareth witness; and no man receiveth his witness. He that hath received his witness hath set his seal to this, that God is true. For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God; for he giveth not the Spirit by measure. The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand. He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life; but he that obeyeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him." "When therefore the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples), he left Judea and departed again into Galilee" (John 3:22; John 4:3).

The first thought suggested by this narrative is the concurrent ministry of Jesus and John brought near together. The time was when Jesus was closing his early Judean ministry, having just left Jerusalem, where he attended the first Passover after his baptism, where he purified the Temple according to Malachi 3:1-2, wrought many signs and was visited by Nicodemus.

Jesus was on the northern line of Judea, for the record says that when he left for Galilee "He must needs go through Samaria." John was close at hand at a place called Aenon, near to Salim, where was much water or many waters. The site has not been thoroughly settled. Dr. Barclay locates it in a valley five miles northeast of Jerusalem (City of the Great King, pp. 558-570). Robertson (Biblical Researches, Vol. Ill, p. 333) conjectures "Salim over against Nabulus." C. R. Conder (TEnt Work in Palestine, Vol. I, p. 91f) locates it: "Salim near the Shechem." Professor McGarvey, one of the best writers on the Holy Land, thinks he found the identical site in a beautiful valley of the Wady Farra, about one mile wide and three miles long, where were abundant places for baptism in which he saw "swarms of brown-skin boys, both large and small, bathing at different places." (Cited in "Hovey on John’s Gospel," from Journal and Messenger, September 10, 1879.) My own mind is impressed that Professor McGarvey found the Aenon of our text.

Some suggest this rendering of John 3:23: "And John was holding a camp meeting at Aenon, near to Salim, because there was much water there for the campers, their camels and other beasts, and they came and were baptized."

A significant fact about the work of both appears from John 4:1, viz.: Both made disciples before baptizing them and they both made disciples in the same way, by leading them to repentance and faith. Proof for John, Matthew 3:2; Acts 19:4. Proof for Jesus, Mark 1:15. Another fact is disclosed by John 4:1, viz.: By this time Jesus was increasing and John was decreasing, since Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John. But the Pharisees discovered and made use of this fact to make a breach between John and Jesus. When Jesus heard of this meanness, he prudently left Judea, where his work was close enough to John for enemies to make invidious comparison, and passed on into Samaria.

The insidious trouble was brought to John’s disciples at Aenon by a Jew, doubtless a Pharisee, who taunted John’s disciples with the increase of Jesus and the decrease of John. The matter arose this way: "Therefore [referring to the increase of one and the decrease of the other] there arose a questioning about purifying between John’s disciples and a Jew." The following may be inferred from its being made a question of purifying:

(1) That the law and its traditions already, and by real authority, provided for purifying ablutions of the body (See "divers washings" (Greek, baptize) at Hebrews 9:10, and "bathe themselves" and "washings" at Mark 7:4 (Greek, baptize).

(2) That, therefore, a Pharisee would contend, denying that John or Jesus had authority to institute an ordinance, particularly in John’s case, since Jesus by his baptizing more was supplanting him.

John’s disciples, jealous for their leader against Jesus, felt it keenly, hence they say to John, in bitterness, "Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond the Jordan, to whom thou hast borne witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him" (John 3:26).

The greatness of John’s reply in the last testimony to Jesus is seen from the following items:

(1) He was entitled to nothing more than had been given him.

(2) He reminded them that he had already borne witness that he was not the Messiah, but only his forerunner.

(3) That Jesus was the Messiah and hence, as he had already borne witness, must increase while he decreased.

(4) That Jesus was the bridegroom, entitled to the bride, while he was only the friend of the bridegroom.

(5) That what depressed them was John’s fullness of joy.

(6) That Jesus, being sent from heaven, and having the Spirit given him without measure, must be above any earthly man, and would speak the words of God.

(7) That Jesus, as the Son of the Father, was beloved of the Father and had rightly all things given to him.

(8) Therefore "He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life; but he that obeyeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him" (John 3:36). This is his last and sublimest testimony.

John should have gone on with his work after he baptized Jesus, as has already been said, to have opportunity to complete his testimony and to present Jesus in all his messianic offices as the supreme object of faith.

A singular book of the baptismal controversy arose from this passage, setting forth two points:

(1) Dr. Edward Beecher, son of Dr. Lyman Beecher and brother of Henry Ward Beecher, followed the Jew-Pharisee in contending that baptism was only a question of purifying.

(2) And as purifying among the Jews was a general term, some purifying done by sprinkling, some by pouring, and some by dipping, it was immaterial which of the three ways should be employed in baptizing.

The great fallacy of his book is that only purifying by immersion was involved in this question. But regarding this last testimony of John we cannot be sure that John 3:31-36 are the words of John the Baptist and therefore we cannot be dogmatic about it. The historian John does not always make it clear where his quotation stops and where he resumes his narrative. In this case, if the words be the evangelist’s, he is only filling out the conclusions of John’s testimony. He leaves us in the same doubt at John 1:15-18.


1. From which historian cornea all John’s testimony concerning Jesus after his baptism?

2. What four occasions?

3. To which of the four belongs the general reference in John 1:15?

4. What makes the first occasion very important, and how did it naturally arise?

5. What was the sum of John’s testimony the first day?

6. Was the deputation present the next day, and why do you think so?

7. What of the sum of the testimony this time?

8. What part of this testimony repeated to two of his disciples the third day?

9. What does "Messiah" mean?

10. Where do you find Moses’ recipe for the holy anointing oil?

11. What high officers were anointed with it, and what one case each?

12. In the case of Jesus, how anointed?

13. What is the account of John’s last testimony to Jesus?

14. What is the first thought suggested by this narrative?

15. What is the time?

16. Explain their proximity.

17. What is the matter with the rendering of John 3:23 as suggested by some?

18. What fact about the work of both appears from John 4:1?

19. What scriptures show that both made disciples in the same way?

20. What other fact disclosed by John 4:1?

21. Who discovered and made use of this fact to make a breach between John and Jesus?

22. When Jesus heard of this meanness what did he do?

23. How was the insidious trouble brought to John’s disciples at Aenon?

24. In what form did the matter arise?

25. What may be inferred from its being made a question of purifying?

26. How did this affect John’s disciples?

27. What of the greatness of John’s reply in the last testimony to Jesus?

28. Why should John have gone on with his work after he baptized Jesus?

29. What singular book of the baptismal controversy arose from this passage, what its points and what its great fallacy?

30. May we be sure that John 3:31-36 is the testimony of John the Baptist?



Harmony pages 18-19 and John 1:19-2:11.

The subject matter of this chapter is in John’s Gospel alone, John 1:19-2:11. There are two places only, Bethany beyond Jordan and Cana of Galilee. The whole period of time is one week. Four consecutive days are specified and the seventh day. The very hour of one day is also given. The time of year is near the Passover, therefore in the spring (John 2:13), the first Passover in the ministry of Jesus. The important divisions of this chapter are (1) John’s testimony to Jesus, (2) the first disciples, and (3) the first miracle of Jesus.

This chapter commences a series of first things. The whole series comprises (a) John’s first testimony, (b) first disciples of Jesus, (c) first miracle, (d) first introduction of his mother in his public ministry, (e) first (and perhaps last) marriage attended by Jesus, (f) first residence in Capernaum, (g) first Passover, (h) first purgation of the Temple, etc.

The first scene is on the left or east bank of the Jordan. This we know from the word "beyond" as spoken from Aenon on the west bank, John 3:26. There is a difference in text as to this first place. The common version, following later authorities, locates it at Bethabara. All the older manuscripts followed by the Canterbury revision, say that it was Bethany. If Bethany be the true text, it cannot be the Bethany near Jerusalem, mentioned in John 11:1 as the home of Lazarus, Mary, and Martha, but some now unknown locality in either Perea or Iturea. Bethany certainly suits the context and has the testimony of tradition. Such also is the testimony of Origen.


One of the most important functions of John’s office was to bear witness to Jesus as the Christ. His whole mission was to prepare the way for him, to make ready a people for him and then to bear witness to him. The witness-bearing feature of John’s mission is particularly brought out and emphasized in the Fourth Gospel alone.

I will now give the outline of John’s work as a witness for Christ, from which any preacher may preach a sermon.

Text: John 1:6-7.

Theme: John the Baptist a witness to Jesus as the Messiah.

Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:7; Luke 3:16 give the testimony before he knew Jesus as the Messiah, as to the office, dignity, and work of the Messiah.

Office: "The Lord," "The One coming after me," "The Christ."

Dignity: "One whose shoe latchet I am unworthy to unloose."

Work: "Who baptizeth in the Holy Spirit and in fire," separating the wheat from the chaff, determining and fixing the destiny of both.

Testimony as to purity and sinlessness (Matthew 3:14): "I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?" Testimony to the deputation from Jerusalem, John 1:15; John 1:19-28; John 5:32-33; as to his office and dignity.

Testimony to Jesus as the vicarious Lamb, bearing or taking away the sin of the world, as to his pre-existence, anointing by the Holy Spirit, as the baptizer in the Holy Ghost and as the Son of God (John 1:29-34).

Testimony to his own disciples that Jesus was the Lamb of God (John 1:35-37).

Testimony to a Jew (a) that Jesus was the bridegroom, (b) that he must increase, (c) that he was divine – “come down from heaven," (d) that he was sent of the Father, (e) that he speaketh the Father’s words, (f) that the Spirit was given without measure to him, (g) as to the filial object of the Father’s love, (h) that all things were given into his hands, (i) that he is the object of faith, (]) the source of eternal life, (k) that unbelief in him and disobedience to him bring instant, persistent and eternal wrath (John 3:22-36).

Resuming the discussion, let us look at John’s Bethany testimony.

The occasion of this testimony was the visit to John of a formal deputation from the Jerusalem authorities, the Pharisees, sent to ascertain from John himself Just who he was, what his mission and what his authority.

The fact that the authorities of Jerusalem deemed it important and necessary to take this step is remarkable evidence to the great impression which John’s early ministry had made on the public mind, and the direction of this impression shows how widespread was the expectation of a Messiah and how earnestly the restless and burdened Jews longed for deliverance from Roman oppression.

In a previous chapter has been shown the out-cropping and direction of this impression concerning John (Luke 3:15). Subsequent testimony shows how the public mind was similarly agitated about Jesus and his work (Luke 9:7-9; Matthew 16:13). And still later, at the trial of Jesus, we find the Jerusalem authorities endeavoring to secure from Jesus by judicial oath his testimony concerning himself (Matthew 26:63; Mark 14:60 f).

The earnestness of the inquirers is manifested by their many, rapid and searching questions: "Art thou the Christ? Who then? Elijah? That prophet? Why baptizeth thou then? What sayest thou of thyself?"

In John’s replies two things are most striking: first, he minifies himself; second he magnifies Jesus.

This suggests an important lesson to all preachers and indeed to all Christians: get behind, and not before the cross.

It also teaches that between the purest and greatest men on the one hand and Jesus Christ on the other, there is infinite distance, which establishes his divinity.

It is also quite important to note how clean and manifold is John’s testimony: (a) as to dignity of person ("shoelatchet,") (b) his divinity and pre-existence ("from heaven," "Son of God,") (c) His vicarious mission, the object of faith, (d) his anointing (Messiah) and its fulness, "without measure."

Testimony to his own disciples: (a) "Lamb of God," (b) "Leave me . . . go to him." Compare John 3:26; Matthew 2:2-3; Matthew 14:12.

These were John’s disciples. It proves that John had made ready a people for the Lord, thus fulfilling that part of his mission and also preparing the way. Cf. Acts 1:21 f, which gives the successor to Judas. The names of first two are John and Andrew. The important lessons are: (a) If we know Jesus let us follow him, and (b) bring others to him. Then follows the case of Andrew and Peter. Here we have the change of Peter’s name from Simon to Cephas. (See the author’s sermon "From Simon to Cephas," first book of sermons, p. 279). The case of Philip and Nathanael follows, showing the evidence on which Nathanael believed. This section closes with the angels ascending and descending upon the Son of man which is the antitype of Jacob’s ladder.

Now let us consider this passage more in detail. The first thought of the passage is a shepherd finding a sheep; Jesus is the shepherd and Philip the sheep. Jesus finds Philip. It is a wonderful thing when Jesus finds any of us. He came to seek us out; to find the lost. It is his great office, as the shepherd, to find that which was driven away, to find that which was lame; to seek it until he does find it, and then to bring it home again healed and saved. Such finding is an event. It is an event of a lifetime. But when he does find us it seems to us as if we had found him; and when we tell about it we don’t say, "Jesus found me;" we say, "I found Jesus." That is as it appears to our consciousness. Speaking from our experience, we state it as if Jesus had been lost and we had found him. While history says, "Jesus found Philip," Philip says, "We found him." And we can understand how that is. If a child should lose himself in the woods, trying to find his father who had gone out hunting, and the father, returning home, should ascertain that the child was lost and go out to seek the child and search until he struck the trail of the little wanderer, and follow it until he at last discovered him, the true account would be that the father found the child. But the child would say, "I have found my papa at last." Both have been seeking. They have been seeking each other. But in the experience of the child it will be as if he had found his father. So, whenever Jesus finds a lost soul, that lost soul which has also been searching in an aimless kind of way, searching and desiring – that soul will look at its own experience and say, "I have found the pearl of great price. I have come upon it at last." This paradox of experience runs all through our religious life – human consciousness appearing to contradict both doctrine and fact. There are two parties, God and man; God working, man working; God seeking, man seeking; God finding, man finding. And if we should stand on the God side of it and shut ourselves up entirely to that, we can preach some very hard, but true, though one-sided doctrine; and if we stand on the man side of it and shut ourselves up to that, we can preach some very unsound doctrine.

Now, when Jesus finds anyone, and that one realizes that he is found of Jesus, then what? If Jesus has found us, and if we, looking at it from our own consciousness and experience, have found Jesus, then what? Oh, Christian, what? Here is the answer; Every one who has been found of Jesus must become a finder for Jesus; that is, just as soon as Jesus finds Andrew, Andrew finds Peter for Jesus. As soon as Jesus finds Philip, Philip finds Nathanael for Jesus. Whoever is found of Jesus becomes a finder for Jesus. What then must a Christian do? Find people for Jesus. Surely any little child can understand that. Every one whom Jesus finds becomes a finder for Jesus.

Having settled it that our mission as "found-ones" is also to find others for Jesus, now let us see if we can also learn, not only that we are to do this, but how we are to do it. And not only how we are to do it, but when we may know that we get to the end of our duty; that is, let us seek to find the limit of human endeavor and stop when we get there and not try to go beyond that. We have done much when we can ascertain the limit of human effort, and then don’t try to do what we cannot do and what we never were required to do. Therefore to find out the salient points of Christian duty, and the limit of human endeavor, is to settle a great many things. What is it then? As soon as Jesus found Philip, Philip determined somebody else should know about Jesus, so he exercised his mind. He reasoned within himself: "To whom shall I go and tell this? I must make a selection of somebody. I must begin somewhere. Well, there is one man that I think about Just now, a man named Nathanael. I will go and tell Nathanael about it." So he proceeds to Nathanael and commences with the following clearly stated and comprehensively stated proposition: "We have found him of whom Moses in the law and the prophets did write. We have found him to be Jesus. We have found him to be Jesus of Nazareth. We have found him to be Jesus of Nazareth, reputed to be the son of Joseph. He is in Galilee. He is in Nazareth of Galilee. His name is Jesus. We have found that this man Jesus lives in Nazareth, is the one of whom Moses in the law and the prophets did write."

Now that leads to the next point. When we go to find people for Jesus what kind of an argument had we best employ in endeavoring to get them to come to Jesus? This argument: "We have found him." What is the import of that argument? That argument is our Christian experience. "Nathanael, we have found him." It is a very simple argument, but it is very convincing. Now suppose Philip had said, "Nathanael, you ought to seek him of whom Moses in the law and the prophets did write." "Where is he?" Nathanael would very properly reply, "Do you know?" "No." "Do you know his name?" "No." "How, then, are you going to guide me, since you are Just as ignorant as I am?"

Please notice this point, that whenever we go to find anyone for Jesus, whatever power we may have will be based upon the fact that we ourselves have found Jesus. "We speak that we do know, we testify that which we have seen." We come to men, not with speculations, however fine spun; not with theories, however plausible; not with reasonings, however cogent, but as witnesses of a fact, saying, "Here is what I have experienced. I have felt this myself. I have tasted of this myself. I know whereof I affirm. I have found Jesus."

The mightiest argument that the apostle Paul ever employed in his preaching was his own Christian experience. Whether he stood before Felix, Festus, Agrippa, or the Sanhedrin, his answer was one: "I will tell you what happened to me: I was on my way to Damascus on a certain occasion," and then details how he found Jesus and how Jesus found him. Suppose there had been a tradition that in a certain section of a state, in the mountains somewhere, was a wonderful cave; the opening of it hard to find, but inside of it marvelous things to see; and many people had been for a long time trying to find it, and many very wise people had set up very plausible theories as to its locality, and each confident theorist should dogmatically insist that it ought to be and must be where his argument placed it. But in the midst of their disputations an ignorant Negro should appear and say, "I know it is not at any of those places, because I have found it and been in it." And suppose that each learned disputant should demand that he should answer his argument locating it elsewhere. Would not the Negro say, "Master, I know nothing of argument, but I do know where the cave is. If you don’t believe me, come and see." I venture to say that crowd would follow the Negro. If I had heard of a wonderful cave, or a gold mine, or any strange thing and desired to see it and a man should come to me, bearing honesty and frankness in his face, and say, "I have found it; I have seen it; I have been in it myself," that would make an impression upon me. But if he were to say, "I want to present to you a line of argument to show you about where it must be," that would not make much impression upon my mind. He is theorizing. He is doing no more than I might do; than ten thousand others have done. But whether he is a rustic or city man; whether he is a scholar or a boor, if he comes with an honest front and says, "I have found it," that makes an impression.

What is our chief business? Finding people for Jesus. What is our chief argument in inducing people to come to Jesus? Testify that we have found him ourselves – the power of our own Christian experience. Speak to them of a fact within our personal knowledge; speak of the precious thing within our own heart. There is our power in dealing with the world.

Now, as soon as we begin to tell about finding Jesus we will strike a difficulty. What is it? Some preconceived opinion in the mind of men is an obstacle in the way, and it does not make an atom of difference what it is) for if it is not in one thing it will be in another. Take, for example, this particular case: "We have found him of whom Moses wrote." Nothing wrong there. "We have found him of whom the prophets wrote." Nothing wrong there. "We have found him to be Jesus." Nothing wrong there. "Of Nazareth," ah, of Nazareth! "Now, I have a preconceived opinion about that." What is that preconceived opinion? "No good thing can come out of Nazareth." What an awful thing that preconceived opinion is! If we can establish the main point, first, the character of the person, "such as Moses wrote of, such as the prophets wrote of," and if we can find the person himself – Jesus – why will one allow a preconceived opinion about locality to keep him from accepting him? But there stands that preconceived opinion: "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" Now the most ingenious device of the devil is his use of proverbs, either lying proverbs, or proverbs so misapplied that they are made to be lying proverbs, and that was one of them, that no good thing could come out of Nazareth.

The Old Testament does not mention Nazareth, nor does Josephus. Its bad reputation is to be gathered from the New Testament. There are two instances in the New Testament history that tell about its bad character, the incorrigible unbelief of its inhabitants and their cruelty when, first, they not only refused to hear Jesus, but sought to slay him by casting him over the face of the precipice, and then their later rejection of him caused him to change his place of residence. So he left Nazareth forever, and moved to Capernaum. They were a hard lot of people; that much was true. And now Nathanael asks: "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?"

The place where a man has lived has a great deal to do with his opportunities of usefulness in after life, and the reputation of the place clings to him; but if he be in himself strong and true, and there be real power in him, he will be a man and make his mark, no matter where he hails from. But there was that preconceived opinion now. If it had been rightly considered, that objection was one of the demonstrations of the messiahship of Jesus Christ; that objection was one of the arguments in favor of him. The prophets had declared that he should be called a Nazarene. I do not mean to say that any prophet had specified Nazareth as his home, but more than one of the prophets had described him as "one who is despised," and the word "Nazarene" was a term of contempt and reproach and is so used in the New Testament repeatedly. Yet that name which was a term of reproach became a name of glory. It was inscribed upon his cross: "Jesus of Nazareth," and he himself avowed his connection with Nazareth after his resurrection, and "the sect of the Nazarenes" took the world. The Apostate Julian when dying is reported to have said, "Thou Nazarene, hath conquered."

We meet some preconceived opinions in every man that we approach who is outside of Christ. He will spring some little point of objection. The ground in his mind is occupied, the preconceived opinion stands in his way. In other words, he has accepted a certain premise as established, and that premise being established in his mind, it keeps him from accepting any conclusion not deducible from it. Now what are we going to do when we strike a difficulty of that kind? Do not argue with that man; he will argue until doomsday. We need not scold; that won’t do any good. But we may propose to him this practical and experimental test: "Come and see."

So as our business is to be a finder for Jesus, our argument must be that we have found him ourselves. When any sort of a preconceived opinion is given as an objection, our remedy for that preconceived opinion is the simple invitation to put the matter to a personal, practical test: "Come and see." I don’t know any shorter or more efficient way to settle all doubt. It should not make any difference to us what is the character of any man’s objection to the Bible, what is the character of his objection to Jesus Christ as the Son of God, what is the mental difficulty or moral difficulty in his way, if he will only put it to a personal, practical test, we may have hope of him, and none under heaven unless he will. What is the next point? When we bring a man to Jesus that is the end of our work. We cannot convert a man not to save our life. That does not rest with us; that is not a part of our duty; we have reached our limit when we have brought him to Jesus. He will attend to his part of it. And yet how many of the human family have been devoted to doing God’s work – men trying to make Christians out of other men, and giving formulas for it, and prescribing rites by which it is to be accomplished – a certain form of words to be pronounced! I say our limit is reached when we have brought that man to Jesus; and the sooner we find that out the better. God alone can forgive sins. It is blasphemy for any man to claim that power. When they took a bed up, on which a man with the palsy was lying, and when they had exhausted their efforts to get in through the door and could not, and then climbed up on the house and took up the tiles of the roof and let him down before Jesus, their work was done. They could not cure the palsy. They brought him to Jesus and stopped. That is the limit of our work.

Let us restate: The points are very simple. If we have been found of Jesus, then our chief mission is to be finders for Jesus, and our chief argument in bringing people to Jesus is the fact that we have found Jesus ourselves; that is, our Christian experience; and as a remedy against any objection in the way of a preconceived opinion on the part of the one that we are trying to lead to Jesus, we are to use no argument, no scolding, but simply "Come and see." "Let him that heareth say, some." Oh, that power of such witnessing cannot be attained by any sort of argument in which we might be pleased to indulge!

The reader may recall a touching poem in McGuffey’s old Fourth Reader. It tells a sad and tragic story of a bride who, in all the loveliness of youth and beauty, just after the marriage ceremony, turns for a moment from the happy bridegroom and, looking back with eyes full of love’s sweet light, disappears through the doorway, never to be seen again. And the reader may recall the poet’s description of her father, representing him as one always looking for, and never finding his missing child. Looking in every room, over all the grounds, the suddenly demented mind always searching, never finding. So is the sinner. There is an unrest, an anxious void, a felt need of obtaining something he knows not what, for which he is ever seeking but which he has never found, something that will give even peace to his soul.

Let us look for a moment at that fig tree incident. It is not clearly stated why he went out to that tree; but it is very clearly implied that this was a private place. A man sitting under his own vine and fig tree, secluded from the world. Perhaps in his garden, where, sheltered from every eye, he could be alone; and out there alone, he kneels down to pray, and express his wants, and gives voice to his desires, and manifests his unrest and longing of his soul. No human eye is on him. He is alone. But the eye of Jesus is on him. That is the very thing that made Nathanael believe that he was the Messiah; because, hidden from human observation, in the secrecy of his most private devotion, here is one who reads every thought of his heart, and registers every index of his character. "Whence knowest thou me? How knowest thou that my heart is sincere, without any guile?" "I read your heart, Nathanael, when you were praying alone." So he sees us in the privacy of our closet when the door is shut. He knows whether we are in earnest, or merely affecting an interest we do not feel. He knows when we come from curiosity. How readily he discovers to Ezekiel the character of his hearers: "Also, thou son of man, the children of thy people still are talking against thee by the walls and in the doors of the houses and speak one to another, every one to his brother, saying, Come, I pray you, and hear what is the word that cometh forth from the Lord. And they that come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness. And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument; for they hear thy words, but they do them not." Such discernment of the heart is within the power of God alone. It convinced the woman of Samaria at the well that Jesus was the Messiah. So it satisfied Nathanael, evoking his ready response: "Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel." Whoever comes without guile, comes with a true and worthy purpose; coming to find – that man will believe on the very first clear proof. And after all, whenever any man is convinced, it is but one proof that convinces; and, indeed, we never need but one good reason for anything. One good proof is sufficient.

And now here is my last point: While it is true that one who comes without guile, not to argue, not to satisfy curiosity, not to be entertained, but conscious of need, desiring to find a Saviour, finds it easy to believe, and while one proof satisfies the soul, yet he does not suffer that faith to rest always on that one proof, but ever confirms it by new and greater proof. So reads the passage: "Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under a fig tree) believest thou? Thou shalt see greater things than these. And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man." This is not "you shall see heaven opened;" it has long been open; but "you shall see an open heaven." It is not that it is now to open, but that it has been open, and you did not heretofore see it. "You accepted as a proof of my divinity that I could read the heart. Here is proof mightier than that proof that reaches from high heaven down to earth; proof that reaches from the very throne and heart of God. Proof which says, Angels coming down en me; therefore, I am divine. There is a way from me to heaven, therefore, I am divine. I am the Messiah, the one who brings heaven and earth together. My right hand is on the throne, my left hand is on the sinner." We shall see it, if, without guile, honestly coming, we accept the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God. Yes, heaven was already open over sleeping Jacob in the beginning of his religious life and over dying Stephen before he fell asleep in Jesus. Here I am a witness and not a theorist. To me, by faith) has that open heaven long been visible. By faith I have seen the angels ascending and descending upon the Son of God. It is no distempered fancy, no freak of the imagination, but a sweet and substantial reality. As, like Jacob, I have seen that gate of heaven and found in lonely places the house of God, and in my travels have met the "hosts of heaven," so when, like Stephen, I come to die, whenever and wherever and however that may be, I, too, shall be able to "look up stedfastly into heaven and see the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God" to receive and welcome my spirit. Yes, God will confirm our faith by even greater proofs. Angela will come down to us in our sorrows. They will minister to us as heirs of salvation. And when, like Lazarus at the rich man’s gate, our bodies die, they will catch away our parting souls and convey them to our heavenly home.

On page 19, Section 19 (John 2:1-11), of the Harmony we have an account of the first miracle of Jesus. At this point in our studies it is fitting that we should take a general view, somewhat, of the miracles which occupy an important place in the Bible. The names used to describe miracles, according to their effect on the beholder, their design, their source, or the thing accomplished, are wonders, signs, powers and mighty works, respectively. See Acts 2:22; 2 Corinthians 12:12; 2 Thessalonians 2:9, e. g., the incarnation of Christ, the healing of the paralytic (Mark 2:12), the raising of Lazarus, and the resurrection of Christ. The following are some definitions of a miracle:

"A miracle is an effect in nature not attributable to the ordinary operations of nature, nor to the act of man, but indicative of superhuman power, and serving as a sign or witness thereof; a wonderful work, manifesting a power superior to the ordinary forces of nature." – Century Dictionary.

"A miracle is a transgression of a law of nature by a particular volition of the Deity, or by the interposition of some invisible agent." – Hume.

"A miracle is an event or effect contrary to the established constitution and course of things, or a deviation from the known laws of nature; a supernatural event, or one transcending the ordinary laws by which the universe is governed." – Webster.

"A miracle is an extraordinary event, discernible by the senses, apparently violating natural laws and probabilities, inexplainable by natural laws alone, produced by the agency of a supernatural power, for religious purposes, usually to accredit a messenger or to attest God’s revelation to him." – The Author.

It needs to be emphasized in this connection (1) that a miracle is not a violation of natural law, (2) not a greater power, but a different and particular method and (3) not a disregard of natural law, but it is superhuman and may come from God or the devil (2 Thessalonians 2:9-10). If it comes from God it corroborates that which is good; if from the devil, that which is evil. True religion rests on divine revelation. ID the beginning man dealt directly with God and God sufficiently revealed his divinity and the vital principles of religion. But the devil approached man through an accredited intermediary. The miracle should not have been accepted as proof, because the alleged message was contrary to what had been revealed by God directly. (See Deuteronomy 13:3; Galatians 1:8; Matthew 24:24; 2 Thessalonians 2:9; Revelation 13:13.) After man’s fall God could reveal himself only through an intermediary, hence the necessity of miracles. So man has neither warrant nor power to invent or impose a religion. Whatever claims to be a religion (a) must harmonize with previous revelation and nature, and (b) the messenger must be accredited and the message must be attested, as in the case of Jonah.

There are certain tests which must be applied to every miracle before we can know whether it is from God or from the devil. If from God, it must (1) not be immoral, (2) not a mere freak in nature, but it must (3) aim at that which is good, (4) result in good, and (5) establish right doctrine. So John says, "Try the spirits." Therefore Moses, the elders and Pharaoh had a right to test the miracles they witnessed. (See Interpretation, volume, Exodus-Leviticus.)

There are three great groups of miracles in the Bible, each showing the intervention of God in a great crisis in the history of the true religion: (1) In the time of Moses; (2) In the time of Elijah and Elisha; (3) In the time of Christ and his apostles. The third group, which we are now to study, may be classed as follows: those wrought on Christ, such as (a) his incarnation, (b) the descent of the Spirit upon him, (c) the transfiguration, (d) the voice of John 12:28, (e) the events of Gethsemane, (f) the events of the crucifixion, (g) his resurrection. Those wrought by him, beginning at Cana of Galilee and ending with the inspiration of the apostles (these we will study in order). Those wrought by his apostles which we find mainly in the book of Acts and will be considered in the interpretation of that book. If we admit the incarnation, all the others follow. The test miracle is the resurrection of Christ. He made it the test, his disciples accepted it as the test, and they ever afterward rested everything on it. (See 1 Corinthians 15.)

Now we will take up this first miracle and discuss it briefly. The time was the third day after our Lord’s interview with Nathanael. The place was Cana of Galilee. The occasion was a marriage to which our Lord and his disciples were invited. The incident leading to it was the failure of the wine, upon which the mother of Jesus intervenes and states the case. The Romanists set great store by this incident as teaching the mediatorial position of Mary, but there is not a hint at such teaching in this miracle. The story of the miracle is simple and impressive. The water turned to wine. As Milton says, "The unconscious water saw its God and blushed." The whiskey men try to find in this incident a justification for their nefarious business, but the ground of their justification in this passage is the sinking sand of delusion, and their claim is as utterly false as is the claim of the Romanists for the mediatorial work of Mary based upon the same incident. This miracle manifested the glory of Christ and strengthened the faith of his disciples. The purpose of this miracle as viewed by John was to attest the divinity of Jesus Christ. Thus he uses the word "sign" for this great event, which word is most common with him, and indicates the purpose of his gospel, viz: to prove that Jesus is the Christ.


1. In what Gospel is the subject matter of this chapter?

2. What two places are named?

3. What was the period of time, what points of time mentioned, and what the time of the year?

4. What are the important divisions of this chapter?

5. What are the "first-things" in the whole series introduced by this chapter?

6. What is the first scene, where and what the proof?

7. What was one of the most important functions of John the Baptist and what was his whole mission?

8. Where is the witness-bearing feature of his mission brought out?

9. What was the testimony of John to Jesus before he knew him as the Messiah?

10. What was his testimony to the purity and sinlessness of Jesus?

11. What was his testimony as to his office and dignity?

12. What was his testimony as to his vicarious work, his pre-existence, his anointing, etc.?

13. What was his testimony to him as the Lamb of God?

14. What was the bundle of testimony to Jesus in John 3:22-36?

15. What was the occasion of the Bethany testimony?

16. What was the significance of this event?

17. Show the progress of the concern of the authorities relative to the ministry of John and Jesus,

18. How is their earnestness manifested here?

19. What two striking things in John’s replies?

20. What lesson suggested to all preachers and Christiana by this attitude of John?

21. What additional lesson does this testimony of John teach?

22. How is the clearness of his testimony marked?

23. What was John’s testimony to his own disciples?

24. How were John and Jesus related in their work, and what things in general, to be noted in John 1:35-51?

25. Taking this passage more in detail, what was the first thought and what its application?

26. What is the duty of every one who has been found by Jesus and how is it illustrated here?

27. How then are we to do this and what important fact to be learned here?

28. What is the argument to be used, how illustrated here and how illustrated by Paul?

29. Give the author’s illustration.

30. What difficulty is often found in this work and how is it illustrated here?

31. What of the character and reputation of the people of Nazareth and what reference to it here?

32. What are we to do with the man with preconceived opinions?

33. Where does our work in the salvation of people end, and how is it illustrated in the Bible?

34. What is the lesson from the fig tree incident here?

35. What is the meaning of "in whom is no guile"?

36. How does Jesus confirm the faith of them that receive him?

37. Explain the "Jacob’s Ladder" antitype here.

38. What were the names used to describe miracles and what their meaning, respectively?

39. Give the definition of miracle according to the Century Dictionary.

40. Give Hume’s definition.

41. Give Webster’s definition.

42. Give the author’s definition verbatim.

43. What things need to be emphasized in this connection?

44. What are the two sources of miracles and what is the distinguishing characteristics in general?

45. On what does true religion rest, and what is its bearing on the question of miracles?

46. What was the first miracle, what was its purpose, what was the proof that it should not have been received as proof?

47. What of the necessity of miracles after the fall of man and what was its bearing on the question of man-made religions?

48. What are the tests of true religion?

49. What are the tests of a God-given miracle?

50. What are the three great groups of miracles in the Bible and why did they come as they did?

51. What is the classification of the third group and what is included in each class?

52. What miracle admitted and all others follow?

53. What was the time, place, and occasion of and the incident lead ing to the first miracle of Jesus?

55. What was the Romanist teaching based on this incident and how do you meet it? . 56 Tell the story of the miracle, giving quotation from Milton.

57. What use do the whiskey men make of this incident and how do you offset their contention?

58. What was the effect of this miracle?

59. What was its purpose?

60. What word did John moat frequently use for miracle and what the significance of his use of it?

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on John 1". "Carroll's Interpretation of the English Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bhc/john-1.html.
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