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Bible Commentaries
John 5

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Verse 1

A feast - Probably the Passover, though it is not certain. There were two other feasts - the Pentecost and the Feast of Tabernacles - at which all the males were required to be present, and it might have been one of them. It is of no consequence, however, which of them is intended.

Verse 2

The sheep-market - This might have been rendered the “sheep-gate,” or the gate through which the sheep were taken into the city for sacrifice. The marginal rendering is “gate,” and the word “market” is not in the original, nor is a “sheep-market” mentioned in the Scriptures or in any of the Jewish writings. A “sheep-gate” is repeatedly mentioned by Nehemiah Nehemiah 3:1, Nehemiah 3:32; Nehemiah 12:39, being that by which sheep and oxen were brought into the city. As these were brought mainly for sacrifice, the gate was doubtless near the temple, and near the present place which is shown as the pool of Bethesda.

A pool - This word may either mean a small lake or pond in which one can swim, or a place for fish, or any waters collected for bathing or washing.

Hebrew tongue - Hebrew language. The language then spoken, which did not differ essentially from the ancient Hebrew.

Bethesda - The house of mercy. It was so called on account of its strong healing properties - the property of restoring health to the sick and infirm.

Five porches - The word “porch” commonly means a covered place surrounding a building, in which people can walk or sit in hot or wet weather. Here it probably means that there were five covered places, or apartments, in which the sick could remain, from each one of which they could have access to the water. This “pool” is thus described by Professor Hackett (“Illustrations of Scripture,” pp. 291, 292): “Just to the east of the Turkish garrison, and under the northern wall of the mosque, is a deep excavation, supposed by many to be the ancient pool of Bethesda, into which the sick descended after the troubling of the water, and were healed, John 5:1 ff. It is 360 feet long, 130 feet wide, and 75 deep. The evangelist says that this pool was near the sheep-gate, as the Greek probably signifies, rather than sheep-market, as rendered in the English version. That gate, according to Nehemiah 3:1 ff, was on the north side of the temple, and hence, the situation of this reservoir would agree with that of Bethesda. The present name, Birket Israil, Pool of Israil, indicates the opinion of the native inhabitants in regard to the object of the excavation. The general opinion of the most accurate travelers is that the so-called pool was originally part of a trench or fosse which protected the temple on the north.

Though it contains no water at present except a little which trickles through the stones at the west end, it has evidently been used at some period as a reservoir. It is lined with cement, and adapted in other respects to hold water.” Dr. Robinson established by personal inspection the fact of the subterranean connection of the pool of “Siloam” with the “Fountain of the Virgin,” and made it probable that the fountain under the mosque of Omar is connected with them. This spring is, as he himself witnessed, an “intermittent” one, and there “may” have been some artificially constructed basin in connection with this spring to which was given the name of “Bethesda.” He supposes, however, that there is not the slightest evidence that the place or reservoir now pointed out as “Bethesda” was the Bethesda of the New Testament (Bib. Res., i. 501, 506, 509). In the time of Sandys (1611) the spring was found running, but in small quantities; in the time of Maundrell (1697) the stream did not run. Probably in his time, as now, the water which had formerly filtered through the rocks was dammed up by the rubbish.

Verse 3

Impotent folk - Sick people; or people who were weak and feeble by long disease. The word means those who were “feeble” rather than those who were afflicted with “acute” disease.

Halt - Lame.

Withered - Those who were afflicted with one form of the palsy that withered or dried up the part affected. See the notes at Matthew 4:24.

Moving of the water - It appears that this pool had medicinal properties only when it was “agitated” or “stirred.” It is probable that at regular times or intervals the fountain put forth an unusual quantity of water, or water of special properties, and that “about” these times the people assembled in multitudes who were to be healed.

Verse 4

An angel - It is not affirmed that the angel did this “visibly,” or that they saw him do it. They judged by the “effect,” and when they saw the waters agitated, they concluded that they had healing properties, and descended to them. The Jews were in the habit of attributing all favors to the ministry of the angels of God, Genesis 19:15; Hebrews 1:14; Matthew 4:11; Matthew 18:10; Luke 16:22; Acts 7:53; Galatians 3:19; Acts 12:11. This fountain, it seems, had strong medicinal properties. Like many other waters, it had the property of healing certain diseases that were incurable by any other means. Thus the waters of Bath, of Saratoga, etc., are found to be highly medicinal, and to heal diseases that are otherwise incurable. In the case of the waters of Bethesda there does not appear to have been anything “miraculous,” but the waters seem to have been endued with strong medicinal properties, especially after a periodical agitation. All that is special about them in the record is that this was produced by the ministry of an angel. This was in accordance with the common sentiment of the Jews, the common doctrine of the Bible, and the belief of the sacred writers. Nor can it be shown to be absurd or improbable that such blessings should be imparted to man by the ministry of an angel. There is no more absurdity in the belief that a pure spirit or holy “angel” should aid man, than that a physician or a parent should; and no more absurdity in supposing that the healing properties of such a fountain should be produced by his aid, than that any other blessing should be, Hebrews 1:12. What man can prove that all his temporal blessings do not come to him through the medium of others - of parents, of teachers, of friends, of “angels?” And who can prove that it is unworthy the benevolence of angels to minister to the wants of the poor, the needy, and the afflicted, when “man” does it, and Jesus Christ did it, and God himself does it daily?

Went down - Descended to the pool.

At a certain season - At a certain time; periodically. The people knew “about” the time when this was done, and assembled in multitudes to partake of the benefits. Many medicinal springs are more strongly impregnated at some seasons of the year than others.

Troubled the water - Stirred or “agitated” the water. There was probably an increase, and a bubbling and agitation produced by he admission of a fresh quantity.

Whosoever then first - This does not mean that but one was healed, and that the first one, but that those who first descended into the pool were healed. The strong medicinal properties of the waters soon subsided, and those who could not at first enter into the pool were obliged to wait for the return of the agitation.

Stepped in - Went in.

Was made whole - Was healed. It is not implied that this was done instantaneously or by a miracle. The water had such properties that he was healed, though probably gradually. It is not less the gift of God to suppose that this fountain restored gradually, and in accordance with what commonly occurs, than to suppose, what is not affirmed, that it was done at once and in a miraculous manner.

In regard to this passage, it should be remarked that the account of the angel in John 5:4 is wanting in many manuscripts, and has been by many supposed to be spurious, There is not conclusive evidence, however, that it is not a part of the genuine text, and the best critics suppose that it should not be rejected. One difficulty has been that no such place as this spring is mentioned by Josephus. But John is as good a historian, and as worthy to be believed as Josephus. Besides, it is known that many important places and events have not been mentioned by the Jewish historian, and it is no evidence that there was no such place as this because he did not mention it. When this fountain was discovered, or how long its healing properties continued to be known, it is impossible now to ascertain. All that we know of it is what is mentioned here, and conjecture would be useless. We may remark, however, that such a place anywhere is an evidence of the great goodness of God. Springs or fountains having healing properties abound on earth, and nowhere more than in our own country. Diseases are often healed in such places which no human skill could remove. The Jews regarded such a provision as proof of the mercy of God. They gave this healing spring the name of a “house of mercy.” They regarded it as under the care of an angel. And there is no place where man should be more sensible of the goodness of God, or be more disposed to render him praise as in a “house of mercy,” than when at such a healing fountain. And yet how lamentable is it that such places - watering places - should be mere places of gaiety and thoughtlessness, of balls, and gambling, and dissipation! How melancholy that amid the very places Where there is most evidence of the goodness of God, and of the misery of the poor, the sick, the afflicted, men should forget all the goodness of their Maker, and spend their time in scenes of dissipation, folly, and vice!

Verse 5

An infirmity - A weakness. We know not what his disease was. We know only that it disabled him from walking, and that it was of very long standing. It was doubtless regarded as incurable.

Verse 7

Sir, I have no man ... - The answer of the man implied that he did wish it, but, in addition to all his other trials, he had no “friend” to aid him. This is an additional circumstance that heightened his affliction.

Verse 8

Rise, take up ... - Jesus not only restored him to health, but he gave evidence to those around him that this was a real miracle. and that he was really healed. For almost 40 years he had been afflicted. He was not even able to walk. Jesus commanded him not only to “walk,” but to take up his “bed” also, and carry that as proof that he was truly made whole. In regard to this we may observe,

1. That it was a remarkable command. The poor man had been sick for a long time, and it does not appear that he expected to be healed except by being put into the waters. Yet Jesus, when he gives a commandment, can give strength to obey it.

2. It is our business to obey the commands of Jesus, however feeble we feel ourselves to be. His grace will be sufficient for us, and his burden will be light.

3. The weak and helpless sinner should put forth his efforts in obedience to the command of Jesus. Never was a sinner more helpless than was this man. If God gave him strength to do his will, so he can all others; and the plea that we can do nothing could have been urged with far more propriety by this man than it can be by any impenitent sinner.

4. This narrative should not be abused. It should not be supposed as intended to teach that a sinner should delay repentance, as if “waiting for God.” The narrative neither teaches nor implies “any such thing.” It is a simple record of a fact in regard to a man who had no power to heal himself, and who was under no obligation to heal himself. There is no reference in the narrative to the difficulties of a sinner - no intimation that it was intended to refer to his condition; and to make this example an excuse for delay, or an argument for waiting, is to abuse and pervert the Bible. Seldom is more mischief done than by attempting to draw from the Bible what it was not intended to teach, and by an effort to make that convey spiritual instruction which God has not declared designed for that purpose.

Thy bed - Thy couch; or the mattress or clothes on which he lay.

Verse 9

The Sabbath - To carry burdens on the Sabbath was forbidden in the Old Testament, Jeremiah 17:21; Nehemiah 13:15; Exodus 20:8-10. If it be asked, then, why Jesus commanded a man to do on the Sabbath what was understood to be a violation of the day, it may be answered,

  1. That the Son of man was Lord of the Sabbath, and had a right to declare what might be done, and even to dispense with a positive law of the Jews, Matthew 12:8; John 5:17.
  2. This was a poor man, and Jesus directed him to secure his property.
  3. The Jews extended the obligation of the Sabbath beyond what was intended by the appointment. They observed it superstitiously, and Jesus took every opportunity to convince them of their error, and to restore the day to its proper observance, Matthew 12:6-11; Luke 6:9; Luke 13:14; Luke 14:5. This method he took to show them what the law of God really “permitted” on that day, and that works of necessity and mercy were lawful.

Verse 10

Not lawful - It was forbidden, they supposed, in the Old Testament. The Jews were very strenuous in the observation of the external duties of religion.

Verse 11

He that made me whole - The man reasoned correctly. If Jesus had power to work so signal a miracle, he had a right to explain the law. If he had conferred so great a favor on him, he had a right to expect obedience; and we may learn that the mercy of God in pardoning our sins, or in bestowing any signal blessing, imposes the obligation to obey him. We should yield obedience to him according to what we Know to be his will, whatever may be the opinions of men, or whatever interpretation they may put on the law of God. our business is a simple, hearty, child-like obedience, let the men of the world say or think of us as they choose.

Verse 12

What man is he ... - In this verse there is a remarkable instance of the “perverseness” of men, of their want of candor, and of the manner in which they often look at a subject. Instead of looking at the miracle, and at the man’s statement of the manner in which he was healed, they look only at what they thought to be a violation of the law. They assumed it as certain that nothing could make his conduct, in carrying his bed on the Sabbath day, proper; and they meditated vengeance, not only on the man who was carrying his bed, but on him, also, who had told him to do it. Thus men often assume that a certain course or opinion is proper, and when anyone differs from them they look only at the difference, but not at the reasons for it. One great source of dispute among men is that they look only at the points in which they differ, but are unwilling to listen to the reasons why others do not believe as they do. It is always enough to condemn one in the eyes of a bigot that he differs from “him,” and he looks upon him who holds a different opinion, as the Jews did at this man, “as certainly wrong;” and such a bigot looks at the reasons why others differ from him just as the Jews did at the reason why this man bore his bed on the Sabbath - as not worth regarding or hearing, or as if they could not possibly be right.

Verse 13

Wist not - Knew not.

Had conveyed himself away - Was lost in the crowd. He had silently mingled with the multitude, or had passed on with the crowd unobserved, and the man had been so rejoiced at his cure that he had not even asked for the name of his benefactor.

Verse 14

Findeth him - Fell in with him, or saw him.

In the temple - The man seems to have gone at once to the temple - perhaps a privilege of which he had been long deprived. They who are healed from sickness should seek the sanctuary of God and give him thanks for his mercy. Compare the notes at Isaiah 38:20. There is nothing more improper, when we are raised up from a bed of pain, than to forget God our benefactor, and neglect to praise him for his mercies.

Thou art made whole - Jesus calls to his remembrance the fact that he was healed, in order that he might admonish him not to sin again.

Sin no more - By this expression it was implied that the infirmity of this man was caused by sin - perhaps by vice in his youth. His crime or dissipation had brought on him this long and distressing affliction. Jesus shows him that he knew the cause of his sickness, and takes occasion to warn him not to repeat it. No man who indulges in vice can tell what may be its consequences. It must always end in evil, and not unfrequently it results in loss of health, and in long and painful disease. This is always the case with intemperance and all gross pleasures. Sooner or later, sin will always result in misery.

Sin no more - Do not repeat the vice. You have had dear-bought experience, and if repeated it will be worse. When a man has been restored from the effects of sin, he should learn to avoid the very appearance of evil. He should shun the place of temptation; he should not mingle again with his old companions; he should touch not, taste not, handle not. God visits with heavier judgment those who have been once restored from the ways of sin and who return again to it. The drunkard that has been reformed, and that returns to his habits of drinking, becomes more beastly; the man that professes to have experienced a change of heart, and who then indulges in sin, sinks deeper into pollution, and is seldom restored. The only way of safety in all such cases is to “sin no more;” not to be in the way of temptation; not to expose ourselves; not to touch or approach that which came near to working our ruin. The man who has been intemperate and is reformed, if he tastes the poison at all, may expect to sink deeper than ever into drunkenness and pollution.

A worse thing - A more grievous disease, or the pains of hell. “The doom of apostates is a worse thing than thirty-eight years’ lameness” (Henry).

Verse 16

Persecuted Jesus - They opposed him; attempted to ruin his character; to destroy his popularity; and probably held him up before the people as a violator of the law of God. Instead of making inquiry whether he had not given proof that he was the Messiah, they “assumed” that he must be wrong, and ought to be punished. Thus every bigot and persecutor does in regard to those who differ from them.

To slay him - To put him to death. This they attempted to do because it was directed in the law of Moses, Exodus 31:15; Exodus 35:2. See Luke 6:7, Luke 6:11; Luke 13:14. We see here,

1. How full of enmity and how bloody was the purpose of the Jews, All that Jesus had done was to restore an infirm man to health - a thing which they would have done for their cattle Luke 6:7, and yet they sought. his life because he had done it for a sick “man.”

2. Men are often extremely envious because good is done by others, especially if it is not done according to the way of their denomination or party.

3. Here was an instance of the common feelings of a hypocrite. He often covers his enmity against the power of religion by great zeal for the form of it. He hates and persecutes those who do good, who seek the conversion of sinners, who love revivals of religion and the spread of the gospel, because it is not according to some matter of form which has been established, and on which he supposes the whole safety of the church to hang. There was nothing that Jesus was more opposed to than hypocrisy, and nothing that he set himself more against than those who suppose all goodness to consist in “forms,” and all piety in the “shibboleths” of a party.

Verse 17

My Father - God.

Worketh hitherto - Worketh “until now,” or until this time. God has not ceased to work on the Sabbath. He makes the sun to rise; He rolls the stars; He causes the grass, the tree, the flower to grow. He has not suspended His operations on the Sabbath, and the obligation to “rest” on the Sabbath does not extend to Him. He created the world in six days, and ceased the work of creation; but He has not ceased to govern it, and to carry forward, by His providence, His great plans on the Sabbath.

And I work - “As God does good on that day; as he is not bound by the law which requires his creatures to rest on that day, so “I” do the same. The law on that subject may be dispensed with, also, in my case, for the Son of man is Lord of the Sabbath.” In this reply it is implied that he was equal with God from two circumstances:

  1. Because he called God his Father, John 5:18.
  2. Because he claimed the same exemption from law which God did, asserting that the law of the Sabbath did not bind him or his Father, thus showing that he had a right to impose and repeal laws in the same manner as God. He that has a right to do this must be God.

Verse 18

The more to kill him - The answer of Jesus was suited greatly to irritate them. He did not deny what he had done, but he “added” to that what he well knew would highly offend them. That he should claim the right of dispensing with the law, and affirm that, in regard to its observance, he was in the same condition with God, was eminently suited to enrage them, and he doubtless knew that it might endanger his life. We may learn from his answer:

1.That we are not to keep back truth because it may endanger us.

2.That we are not to keep back truth because it will irritate and enrage sinners. The fault is not in the “truth,” but in the “sinner.”

3.That when any one portion of truth enrages hypocrites, they will be enraged the more they hear.

Had broken the sabbath - They supposed he had broken it.

Making himself equal with God - This shows that, in the view of the Jews, the name Son of God, or that calling God his Father, implied equality with God. The Jews were the best interpreters of their own language, and as Jesus did not deny the correctness of their interpretations, it follows that he meant to be so understood. See John 10:29-38. The interpretation of the Jews was a very natural and just one. He not only said that God was his Father, but he said that he had the same right to work on the Sabbath that God had; that by the same authority, and in the same manner, he could dispense with the obligation of the day. They had now two pretences for seeking to kill him - one for making himself equal with God, which they considered blasphemy, and the other for violating the Sabbath. For each of these the law denounced death, Numbers 15:35; Leviticus 24:11-14.

Verse 19

The Son can do nothing of himself - Jesus, having stated the extent of his authority, proceeds here to show its “source and nature,” and to prove to them that what he had said was true. The first explanation which he gives is in these words: “The Son” - whom he had just impliedly affirmed to be equal with God - did nothing “of himself;” that is, nothing without the appointment of the Father; nothing contrary to the Father, as he immediately explains it. When it is said that he can “do nothing” of himself, it is meant that such is the union subsisting between the Father and the Son that he can do nothing “independently” or separate from the Father. Such is the nature of this union that he can do nothing which has not the concurrence of the Father, and which he does not command. In all things he must, from the necessity of his nature, act in accordance with the nature and will of God. Such is the intimacy of the union, that the fact that “he” does anything is proof that it is by the concurring agency of God. There is no separate action - no separate existence; but, alike in being and in action, there is the most perfect oneness between him and the Father. Compare John 10:30; John 17:21.

What he seeth the Father do - In the works of creation and providence, in making laws, and in the government of the universe. There is a special force in the word “seeth” here. No person can see God acting in his works; but the word here implies that the Son sees him act, as we see our fellow-men act, and that he has a knowledge of him, therefore, which no mere mortal could possess.

What things soever - In the works of creation and of providence, and in the government of the worlds. The word is without limit - all that the Father does the Son likewise does. This is as high an assertion as possible of his being “equal” with God. If one does “all” that another does or can do, then there must be equality. If the Son does all that the Father does, then, like him, he must be almighty, omniscient, omnipresent, and infinite in every perfection; or, in other words, he must be God. If he had “this” power, then he had authority, also, to do on the Sabbath day what God did.

Verse 20

The Father loveth the Son - This authority he traces to the love which the Father has for him - that special, ineffable, infinite love which God has for his only-begotten Son, feebly and dimly illustrated by the love which an earthly parent has for an only child.

Showeth him - Makes him acquainted with. Conceals nothing from him. From apostles, prophets, and philosophers no small part of the doings of God are concealed. From the “Son” nothing is. And as God shows him “all” that he does, he must be possessed of omniscience, for to no finite mind could be imparted a knowledge of “all” the works of God.

Will show him - Will appoint and direct him to do greater works than these.

Greater works than these - Than healing the impotent man, and commanding him to carry his bed on the Sabbath day. The greater works to which he refers are those which he proceeds to specify - he will raise the dead and judge the world, etc.

May marvel - May wonder, or be amazed.

Verse 21

As the Father raiseth up the dead - God has power to raise the dead. By his power it had been done in at least two instances - by the prophet Elijah, in the case of the son of the widow of Sarepta 1 Kings 17:22, and by the prophet Elisha, in the case of the Shunamite’s son, 2 Kings 4:32-35. The Jews did not doubt that God had power to raise the dead. Jesus here expressly affirms it, and says he has the same power.

Quickeneth them - Gives them “life.” This is the sense of the word “quickeneth” throughout the Bible.

Even so - In the same manner. By the same authority and power. The power of raising the dead must be one of the highest attributes of the divinity. As Jesus affirms that he has the power to do this “in the same manner” as the Father, so it follows that he must be equal with God.

The Son quickeneth - Gives life to. This may either refer to his raising the dead from their graves, or to his giving spiritual life to those who are dead in trespasses and sins. The former he did in the case of Lazarus and the widow’s son at Nain, John 11:43-44; Luke 7:14-15. The latter he did in the case of all those who were converted by his power, and still does it in any instance of conversion.

Whom he will - It was in the power of Jesus to raise up any of the dead as well as Lazarus. It depended on his will whether Lazarus and the widow’s son should come to life. So it depends on his will whether sinners shall live. He has power to renew them, and the renewing of the heart is as much the result of his “will” as the raising of the dead.

Verse 22

Judgeth no man - Jesus in these verses is showing his “equality with God.” He affirmed John 5:17 that he had the same power over the Sabbath that his Father had; in John 5:19, that he did the same things as the Father; in John 5:21 particularly that he had the same power to raise the dead. He now adds that God has given him the authority to “judge” men. The Father pronounces judgment on no one. This office he has committed to the Son. The power of judging the world implies ability to search the heart, and omniscience to understand the motives of all actions. This is a work which none but a divine being can do, and it shows, therefore, that the Son is equal to the Father.

Hath committed ... - Hath appointed him to be the judge of the world. In the previous verse he had said that he had power “to raise the dead;” he here adds that it will be his, also, to “judge” them when they are raised. See Matthew 25:0; Acts 17:31.

Verse 23

That all men should honour ... - To honor is to esteem, reverence, praise, do homage to. We honor one when we ascribe to him in our hearts, and words, and actions the praise and obedience which are due to him. We honor God when we obey him and worship him aright. We honor the Son when we esteem him to be as he is; when we have right views and feelings toward him. As he is declared to be God John 1:1, as he here says he has power and authority equal with God, so we honor him when we regard him as such. The primitive Christians are described by Pliny, in a letter to the Emperor Trajan, as meeting together to sing hymns to Christ “as God.” So we honor him aright when we regard him as possessed of wisdom, goodness, power, eternity, omniscience - equal with God.

Even as - To the same extent; in the same manner. Since the Son is to be honored even as the Father, it follows that he must be equal with the Father. To “honor the Father” must denote “religious” homage, or the rendering of that honor which is due to God; so to honor the Son must also denote “religious” homage. If our Saviour here did not intend to teach that he ought to be “worshipped,” and to be esteemed as “equal” with God, it would be difficult to teach it by any language which we could use.

He that honoureth not the Son - He that does not believe on him, and render to him the homage which is his due as the equal of God.

Honoureth not the Father - Does not worship and obey the Father the First Person of the Trinity - that is does not worship God. He may imagine that he worships God, but there is no God but the God subsisting as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He that withholds proper homage from one, withholds it from all. He that should refuse to honor “the Father,” could not be said to honor “God;” and in the like manner, he that honoreth not “the Son,” honoreth not “the Father.” This appears further from the following considerations:

  1. The Father wills that the Son should be honored. He that refuses to do it disobeys the Father.
  2. They are equal. He that denies the one denies also the other.
  3. The same feeling that leads us to honor the “Father” will also lead us to honor the “Son,” for he is “the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person,” Hebrews 1:3.
  4. The evidence of the existence of the Son is the same as that of the Father. He has the same wisdom, goodness, omnipresence, truth, power.

And from these verses we may learn:

1. That those who do not render proper homage to Jesus Christ do not worship the true God.

2. There is no such God as the infidel professes to believe in. There can be but one God; and if the God of the Bible be the true God, then all other gods are false gods.

3. Those who withhold proper homage from Jesus Christ, who do not honor him even as they honor the Father, cannot be Christians.

4. One evidence of piety is when We are willing to render proper praise and homage to Jesus Christ - to love him, and serve and obey him, with all our hearts.

5. “As a matter of fact,” it may be added that they who do not honor the Son do not worship God at all. The infidel has no form of worship; he has no place of secret prayer, no temple of worship, no family altar. Who ever yet heard of an infidel that prayed? Where do such men build houses of worship? Where do they meet to praise God? Nowhere. As certainly as we hear the name “infidel,” we are certain at once that we hear the name of a man who has no form of religion in his family, who never prays in secret, and who will do nothing to maintain the public worship of God. Account for it as men may, it is a fact that no one can dispute, that it is only they who do honor to the Lord Jesus that have any form of the worship of God, or that honor him; “and their veneration for God is just in proportion to their love for the Redeemer - just as they honor him.”

Verse 24

He that heareth my word - To “hear,” in this place, evidently denotes not the outward act of hearing, but to receive in a proper manner; to suffer it to make its proper impression on the mind; to obey. The word “hear” is often used in this sense, Matthew 11:15; John 8:47; Acts 3:23. Many persons outwardly hear the gospel who neither understand nor obey it.

My word - My doctrine, my teaching. All that Jesus taught about Himself, as well as about the Father.

On him that sent me - On the Father, who, in the plan of redemption, is represented as “sending” his Son to save men. See John 3:17. Faith in God, who sent his Son, is here represented as being connected with everlasting life; but there can be no faith in him who “sent” his Son, without faith also in him who is “sent.” The belief of one of the true doctrines of religion is connected with, and will lead to, the belief of all.

Hath everlasting life - The state of man by nature is represented as death in sin, Ephesians 2:1. Religion is the opposite of this, or is “life.” The “dead” regard not anything. They are unaffected by the cares, pleasures, amusements of the world. They hear neither the voice of merriment nor the tread of the living over their graves. So with sinners. They are unmoved with the, things of religion. They hear not the voice of God; they see not his loveliness; they care not for his threatenings. But religion is “life.” The Christian lives with God, and feels and acts as if there was a God. Religion, and its blessings here and hereafter, are one and the same. The happiness of heaven is living for God - being sensible of his presence, and glory, and power - and rejoicing in that. There shall be no more “death” there, Revelation 21:4. This “life,” or this religion, whether on earth or in heaven, is the same - the same joys extended and expanded forever. Hence, when a man is converted, it is said that he “has” everlasting life; not merely shall have but is already in possession of that life or happiness which shall be everlasting. It is life begun, expanded, ripening for the skies. He has already entered on his inheritance - that inheritance which is everlasting.

Shall not come into condemnation - He was by nature under condemnation. See John 3:18. Here it is declared that he shall not return to that state, or he will not be again condemned. This promise is sure; it is made by the Son of God, and there is no one that can pluck them out of his hand, John 10:28. Compare the notes at Romans 8:1.

But is passed from death unto life - Has “passed over” from a state of spiritual death to the life of the Christian. The word translated “is passed” would be better expressed by “has passed.” It implies that he has done it voluntarily; that none compelled him; and that the passage is made unto “everlasting” life. Because Christ is the author of this life in the soul, he is called the “Life” John 1:4; and as he has “always” existed, and is the Source of “all life,” he is called the “eternal life,” 1 John 5:20.

Verse 25

The hour - The time.

Is coming - Under the preaching of the gospel, as well as in the resurrection of the dead.

Now is - It is now taking place. Sinners were converted under his ministry and brought to spiritual life.

The dead - Either the dead in sins, or those that are in their graves. The words of the Saviour will apply to either. Language, in the Scriptures, is often so used as to describe two similar events. Thus the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world are described by Jesus in the same language, Matt. 24–25. The return of the Jews from Babylon, and the coming of the Messiah, and the spread of his gospel, are described in the same language by Isaiah, Isa. 40–61. Compare the notes at Isaiah 7:14. The renewal of the heart, and the raising of the dead at the judgment, are here also described in similar language, because they so far resemble each other that the same language will apply to both.

The voice of the Son of God - The voice is that by which we give command. Jesus raised up the dead by his command, or by his authority. When he did it he spoke, or commanded it to be done. Mark 5:41; “he took the damsel by the hand, and said, Talitha cumi.” Luke 7:14; “and he came and touched the bier, and said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise.” John 11:43; “he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.” So it is by his command that those who are dead in sins are quickened or made alive, John 5:21. And so at the day of judgment the dead will be raised by his command or voice, though there is no reason to think that his voice will be audibly heard, John 5:28.

Shall live - Shall be restored to life.”

Verse 26

As the Father hath life - God is the source of all life. He is thence called the living God, in opposition to idols which have no life. Acts 14:15; “we preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities (idols) ‘unto the living God,’” Joshua 3:10; 1 Samuel 17:26; Jeremiah 10:10. See also Isaiah 40:18-31.

In himself - This means that life in God, or existence, is not derived from any other being. Our life is derived from God. Genesis 2:7; God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul” - that is, a living being. All other creatures derive their life from him. Psalms 104:30, Psalms 104:29; “thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created; thou takest away their breath, they die and return to their dust.” But God is underived. He always existed as he is. Psalms 90:2; “from everlasting to everlasting thou art God.” He is unchangeably the same, James 1:17. It cannot be said that he is “self-existent,” because that is an absurdity; no being can originate or create himself; but he is not dependent on any other for “life.” Of course, no being can take away his existence; and of course, also, no being can take away his happiness. He has “in himself” infinite sources of happiness, and no other being, no change in his universe can destroy that happiness.

So - In a manner like his. It corresponds to the first “as,” implying that one is the same as the other; life in the one is the “same,” and possessed in the same manner, as in the other.

Hath he given - This shows that the power or authority here spoken of was “given” or committed to the Lord Jesus. This evidently does not refer to the manner in which the second person of the Trinity exists, for the power and authority of which Christ here speaks is that which he exercises as “Mediator.” It is the power of raising the dead and judging the world. In regard to his divine nature, it is not affirmed here that it is in any manner derived; nor does the fact that God is said to have “given” him this power prove that he was inferior in his nature or that his existence was derived. For:

1. It has reference merely “to office.” As Mediator, he may be said to have been appointed by the Father.

2. Appointment to office does not prove that the one who is appointed is inferior in nature to him who appoints him. A son may be appointed to a particular work by a parent, and yet, in regard to talents and every other qualification, may be equal or superior to the father. He sustains the relation of a son, and in this relation there is an official inferiority. General Washington was not inferior in nature and talents to the men who commissioned him. He simply derived authority from them to do what he was otherwise fully “able” to do. So the Son, “as Mediator,” is subject to the Father; yet this proves nothing about his nature.

To have life - That is, the right or authority of imparting life to others, whether dead in their graves or in their sins.

In himself - There is much that is remarkable in this expression. It is in Him as it is in God. He has the control of it, and can exercise it as he will. The prophets and apostles are never represented as having such power in themselves. They were dependent; they performed miracles in the name of God and of Jesus Christ Acts 3:6; Acts 4:30; Acts 16:18; but Jesus did it by his own name, authority, and power. He had but to speak, and it was done, Mark 5:41; Luke 7:14; John 11:43. This wonderful commission he bore from God to raise up the dead as he pleased; to convert sinners when and where he chose; and finally to raise up all the dead, and pronounce on them an eternal doom according to the deeds done in the body. None could do this but he who had the power of creation - equal in omnipotence to the Father, and the power of searching all hearts - equal in omniscience to God.

Verse 27

Hath given him authority - Hath appointed him to do this. Has made him to be judge of all. This is represented as being the appointment of the Father, Acts 17:31. The word “authority” here (commonly rendered “power”) implies all that is necessary to execute judgment - all the physical power to raise the dead, and to investigate the actions and thoughts of the life; and all the “moral right” or authority to sit in judgment on the creatures of God, and to pronounce their doom.

To execute judgment - To do judgment - that is, to judge. He has appointment to “do justice;” to see that the universe suffers no wrong, either by the escape of the guilty or by the punishment of the innocent.

Because be is the Son of man - The phrase “Son of man” here seems to be used in the sense of “because he is a man,” or because he has human nature. The term is one which Jesus often gives to himself, to show his union with man and his interest in man. See the notes at Matthew 8:19-20. It is to be remarked here that the word “son” does not have the article before it in the original: Because he is A son of man - that is, because he is a man. It would seem from this that there is a propriety that one in our nature should judge us. What this propriety is we do not certainly know. It may be:

  1. Because one who has experienced our infirmities, and who possesses our nature, may be supposed by those “who are judged” to be better qualified than one in a different nature.
  2. Because he is to decide between “man” and “God,” and it is proper that our feelings, and nature, and views should be represented in the judge, as well as those of God.
  3. Because Jesus has all the feelings of compassion we could ask - all the benevolence we could desire in a judge; because he has ShowN his disposition to defend us by giving his life, and it can never be alleged by those who are condemned that their judge was a distant, cold, and unfriendly being.

Some have supposed that the expression “Son of man” here means the same as “Messiah” (see Daniel 7:13-14), and that the meaning is that God hath made him judge because he was the Messiah. Some of the ancient versions and fathers connected this with the following verse, thus: “Marvel not because I am a man, or because this great work is committed to a man apparently in humble life. You shall see greater things than these.” Thus, the Syriac version reads it, and Chrysostom, Theophylact, and some others among the fathers.

Verse 28

Marvel not - Do not wonder or be astonished at this.

The hour is coming - The “time” is approaching or will be.

All that are in the graves - All the dead, of every age and nation. They are described as “in the graves.” Though many have turned to their native dust and perished from human view, yet God sees them, and can regather their remains and raise them up to life. The phrase “all that are in the graves” does not prove that the same particles of matter will be raised up, but it is equivalent to saying “all the dead.” See the notes at 1 Corinthians 15:35-38.

Shall hear his voice - He will restore them to life, and command them to appear before him. This is a most sublime description, and this will be a wonderful display of almighty power. None but God can “see” all the dead, none but he could remould their frames, and none else could command them to return to life.

Verse 29

Shall come forth - Shall come out of their graves. This was the language which he used when he raised up Lazarus, John 11:43-44.

They that have done good - That is, they who are righteous, or they who have by their good works “shown” that they were the friends of Christ. See Matthew 25:34-36.

Resurrection of life - Religion is often called life, and everlasting life. See the notes at John 5:24. In the resurrection the righteous will be raised up to the full enjoyment and perpetual security of that life. It is also called the resurrection of life, because there shall be no more “death,” Revelation 21:4. The enjoyment of God himself and of his works; of the society of the angels and of the redeemed; freedom from sickness, and sin, and dying, will constitute the life of the just in the resurrection. The resurrection is also called the resurrection of the just Luke 14:14, and the first resurrection, Revelation 20:5-6.

The resurrection of damnation - The word “damnation” means the sentence passed on one by a judge - judgment or condemnation. The word, as we use it, applies only to the judgment pronounced by God on the wicked; but this is not its meaning always in the Bible. Here it has, however, that meaning. Those who have done evil will be raised up “to be condemned or damned.” This will be the object in raising them up - this the sole design. It is elsewhere said that they shall then be condemned to everlasting punishment Matthew 25:46, and that they shall be punished with everlasting destruction 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9; and it is said of the unjust that they are reserved unto the day of judgment to be punished, 2 Peter 2:9. That this refers to the future judgment - to the resurrection then, and not to anything that takes place in this life - is clear from the following considerations:

1. Jesus had just spoken of what would be done in this life - of the power of the gospel, John 5:25. He adds here that something still more wonderful - something beyond this - would take place. “All that are in the graves” shall hear his voice.

2. He speaks of those who are in their graves, evidently referring to the dead. Sinners are sometimes said to be dead in sin, but sinners are not said to be “in a grave.” This is applied in the Scriptures only to those who are deceased.

3. The language used here of the “righteous” cannot be applied to anything in this life. When God converts men, it is not because they “have been good.”

4. Nor is the language employed of the evil applicable to anything here. In what condition among men can it be said, with any appearance of sense, that they are brought forth from their graves to the resurrection of damnation? The doctrine of those Universalists who hold that all people will be saved immediately at death, therefore, cannot be true. This passage proves that at the day of judgment the wicked will be condemned. Let it be added that if “then” condemned they will be lost forever. Thus, in Matthew 25:46, it is said to be “everlasting” punishment; 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9, it is called “everlasting” destruction. There is no account of redemption in hell - no Saviour, no Holy Spirit, no offer of mercy there.

Verse 30

Of mine own self - See John 5:19. The Messiah, the Mediator, does nothing without the concurrence and the authority of God. Such is the nature of the union subsisting between them, that he does nothing independently of God. Whatever he does, he does according to the will of God.

As I hear I judge - To “hear” expresses the condition of one who is commissioned or instructed. Thus John 8:26, “I speak to the world those things which I have “heard” of him;” John 8:28, “As the Father hath taught me, I speak those things.” Jesus here represents himself as commissioned, taught, or sent of God. When he says, “as I ‘hear,’” he refers to those things which the Father had “showed” him John 5:20 - that is, he came to communicate the will of God; to show to man what God wished man to know.

I judge - I determine or decide. This was true respecting the institutions and doctrines of religion, and it will be true respecting the sentence which he will pass on mankind at the day of judgment. He will decide their destiny according to what the Father wills and wishes - that is, according to justice.

Because I seek ... - This does not imply that his own judgment would be wrong if he sought his own will, but that he had no “private” ends, no selfish views, no improper bias. He came not to aggrandize himself, or to promote his own views, but he came to do the will of God. Of course his decision would be impartial and unbiased, and there is every security that it will be according to truth. See Luke 22:42, where he gave a memorable instance, in the agony of the garden, of his submission to his Father’s will.

Verse 31

If I bear witness of myself - If I have no other evidence than my own testimony about myself.

My witness - My testimony; my evidence. The proof would not be decisive.

Is not true - The word “true,” here, means worthy of belief, or established by suitable evidence. See Matthew 22:16; “We Know that thou art true” - that is, worthy of confidence, or that thou hast been truly sent from God, Luke 20:21; John 8:13, John 8:17. The law did not admit a man to testify in his own case, but required two witnesses, Deuteronomy 17:6. Though what Jesus said was true John 8:13, John 8:17, yet he admitted it was not sufficient testimony alone to claim their belief. They had a right to expect that his statement that he came from God would be confirmed by other evidence. This evidence he gave in the miracles which he performed as proof that God had sent him.

Verse 32

There is another - That is, God. See John 5:36.

Verse 33

Ye sent unto John - See John 1:19.

He bare witness ... - See John 1:26, John 1:29, John 1:36. This testimony of John ought to have satisfied them. John was an eminent man; many of the Pharisees believed on him; he was candid, unambitious, sincere, and his evidence was impartial. On this Jesus might have rested the proof that he was the Messiah, but he was willing, also, to adduce evidence of a higher order.

Verse 34

I receive not testimony from men - I do not depend for proof of my Messiahship on the testimony of men, nor do I pride myself on the commendations or flattery of men.

But these things ... - “This testimony of John I adduce that you might be convinced. It was evidence of your own seeking. It was clear, full, explicited You ‘sent’ to make inquiry, and he gave you a candid and satisfactory answer. Had you believed that, you would have believed in the Messiah and been saved.” Men are often dissatisfied with the very evidence of the truth of religion which they sought, and on which they professed themselves willing to rely.

Verse 35

He was - It is probable that John had been cast into prison before this. Hence, his public ministry had ceased, and our Saviour says he was such a light.

Light - The word in the original properly means a “lamp,” and is not the same which in John 1:4-5 is translated “light.” That is a word commonly applied to the sun, the fountain of light; this means a lamp, or a light that is lit up or kindled artificially from oil or tallow. A teacher is often called a “light,” because he guides or illuminates the minds of others. Romans 2:19; “thou art confident that thou art a guide of the blind, a light of them that sit in darkness;” John 8:12; John 12:46; Matthew 5:14.

A burning - A lamp lit up that burns with a steady luster.

Shining - Not dim, not indistinct. The expression means that he was an eminent teacher; that his doctrines were clear, distinct, consistent.

Ye were willing - You willed, or you chose; you went out voluntarily. This shows that some of those whom Jesus was now addressing were among the great multitudes of Pharisees that came unto John in the wilderness, Matthew 3:7. As they had at one time admitted John to be a prophet, so Jesus might with great propriety adduce his testimony in his favor.

For a season - In the original, for an “hour” - denoting only a short time. They did it, as many others do, while he was popular, and it was the “fashion” to follow him.

To rejoice in his light - To rejoice in his doctrines, and in admitting that he was a distinguished prophet; perhaps, also, to rejoice that he professed to be sent to introduce the Messiah, until they found that he bore testimony to Jesus of Nazareth.

Verse 36

Greater witness - Stronger, more decisive evidence.

The works - The miracles - healing the sick and raising the dead.

Hath given me - Hath committed to me, or appointed me to do. Certain things he intrusted in his hands to accomplish.

To finish - To do or to perform until the task is completed. The word is applied to the “termination” of anything, as we say a task is “ended” or a work is completed. So Jesus said, when he expired, It is “finished” John 19:30. From this it appears that Jesus came to “accomplish” a certain work; and hence we see the reason why he so often guarded his life and sought his safety until the task was fully completed. These works or miracles bore witness of him; that is, they showed that he was sent from God, because none but God could perform them, and because God would not give such power to any whose life and doctrines he did not approve. They were more decisive proof than the testimony of John, because:

  1. John worked no miracles, John 10:41.
  2. It was possible that a man might be deceived or be an impostor. It was not possible for God to deceive.
  3. The miracles which Jesus performed were such as no human being could work, and no angel. He that could raise the dead must have all power, and he who commissioned Jesus, therefore, must be God.

Verse 37

The Father himself ...hath borne witness of me - This God had done,

  1. By the miracles which Jesus had performed, and of which he was conversing.
  2. At the baptism of Jesus, where he said, “This is my beloved Son,” Matthew 3:17.
  3. In the prophecies of the Old Testament. It is not easy to say here to which of these he refers. Perhaps he has reference to all.

Ye have neither heard his voice - This difficult passage has been interpreted in various ways. The main design of it seems to be clear - to reprove the Jews for not believing the evidence that he was the Messiah. In doing this he says that they were indisposed to listen to the testimony of God. He affirmed that God had given sufficient evidence of his divine mission, but they had disregarded it. The first thing that he notices is that they had not heard his voice. The word “hear,” in this place, is to be understood in the sense of “obey” or listen to. See the notes at John 5:25. The voice of God means his commands or his declarations, however made; and the Saviour said that it had been the “characteristic” of the Jews that they had not listened to the voice or command of God. As this had been their general characteristic, it was not wonderful that they disregarded now his testimony in regard to the Messiah. The voice of God had been literally heard on the mount. See Deuteronomy 4:12; “Ye heard the voice of the words.”

At any time - This has been the uniform characteristic of the nation that they have disregarded and perverted the testimony of God, and it was as true of that generation as of their fathers.

Nor seen his shape - No man hath seen God at any time, John 1:18. But the word “shape,” here, does not mean “God himself.” It refers to the visible “manifestation” of himself; to the “appearance” which he assumed. It is applied in the Septuagint to his manifesting himself to Moses, Numbers 12:8; “With him will I speak mouth to mouth, ‘even apparently;’” in Greek, “in a form” or “shape” the word used here. It is applied to the visible symbol of God that appeared in the cloud and that rested on the tabernacle, Numbers 9:15-16. It is the same word that is applied to the Holy Spirit appearing in bodily shape like a dove, Luke 3:22. Jesus does not here deny that God had “appeared” in this manner, but he says they had not seen - that is, had not “paid attention to,” or “regarded,” the appearance of God. He had manifested himself, but they disregarded it, and, in particular, they had disregarded his manifestations in attestation of the Messiah. As the word “hear” means to obey, to listen to, so the word “see” means “to pay attention to, to regard” 2Jo 1:8; 1 John 3:6, and thus throws light on John 14:9; “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” “I am a ‘manifestation’ of God - God appearing in human flesh, as he appeared formerly in the symbol of the cloud; and he that ‘regards me,’ or attends to me, regards the Father.”

Verse 38

His word abiding in you - His law does not abide in you - that is, you do not regard or obey it. This was the “third” thing that he charged them with.

  1. They had not obeyed the command of God.
  2. They had not regarded his manifestations, either in the times of the old dispensation, or now through the Messiah.
  3. They did not yield to what he had said in the revelation of the Old Testament.

For whom he hath sent - God had foretold that the Messiah would come. He had now given evidence that Jesus was he; but now they rejected him, and this was proof that they did not regard the word of God.

Verse 39

Search the scriptures - The word translated “search” here means to “search diligently” or “search anxiously.” It was applied to miners, who search for precious metals - who look anxiously for the “bed” of the ore with an intensity or anxiety proportionate to “their sense” of the value of the metal. Compare the notes at Job 28:3. It is applied by Homer to a lioness robbed of her whelps, and who “searches” the plain to “trace out” the footsteps of the man who has robbed her. It is also applied by him to dogs tracing their game by searching them out by the scent of the foot. It means a diligent, faithful, anxious investigation The word may be either in the indicative or imperative mood. In our translation it is in the imperative, as if Jesus commanded them to search the Scriptures. Cyril, Erasmus, Beza, Bengel, Kuinoel, Tholuck, DeWette, and others, give it as in the indicative: Chrysostom, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Wetstein, Stier, Alford, and others, regard it as in the imperative, or as a command. It is impossible to determine which is the true interpretation. Either of them makes good sense, and it is proper to use the passage in either signification. There is abundant evidence that the Jews did search the books of the Old Testament. It is equally clear that all people ought to do it.

The scriptures - The writings or books of the Old Testament, for those were all the books of revelation that they then possessed.

In them ye think ye have eternal life - The meaning of this is: “Ye think that by studying the Scriptures you will obtain eternal life. You suppose that they teach the way to future blessedness, and that by diligently studying them you will attain it.” We see by this:

  1. That the Jews in the time of Jesus were expecting a future state.
  2. The Scriptures teach the way of life, and it is our duty to study them.

The Bereans are commended for searching the Scriptures Acts 17:11; and Timothy is said from a child to have “known the holy scriptures, which are able to make us wise unto salvation,” 2 Timothy 3:15. Early life is the proper time to search the Bible, for they who seek the Lord early shall find him.

They are they ... - They bear witness to the Messiah. They predict his coming, and the manner of his life and death, Isaiah 53:1-12; Daniel 9:26-27, etc. See the notes at Luke 24:27.

Verse 40

And ye will not come ... - Though the Old Testament bears evidence that I am the Messiah; though you professedly search it to learn the way to life, and though my works prove it, yet you will not come to me to obtain life. From this we may learn:

1.That life is to be obtained in Christ. He is the way, the truth, and the life, and he only can save us.

2.That, in order to do that, we must “come to him” - that is, must come in the way appointed, as lost sinners, and be willing to be saved by him alone.

3.That the reason why sinners are not saved lies in the will. “The only reason why sinners die is because ‘they will not come’ to Christ for life and happiness: it is not because they ‘cannot,’ but because they ‘will not’” (Henry).

  1. Sinners have a particular opposition to going to “Jesus Christ” for eternal life. They would prefer any other way, and it is commonly not until all other means are tried that they are willing to submit to him.

Verses 41-42

I receive not honour ... - “I do not say these things because I am desirous of human applause, but to account for the fact that you do not believe on me. The reason is, that you have not the love of God in you.” In this passage we see:

  1. That we should not seek for human applause. It is of very little value, and it often keeps men from the approbation of God, John 5:44.
  2. They who will not believe on Jesus Christ give evidence that they have no love for God.
  3. The reason why they do not believe on him is because they have no regard for his character, wishes, or law.

Love of God - Love to God.

In you - In your hearts. You do not love God.

Verse 43

I am come in my Father’s name - By the authority of God; or giving proof that I am sent by him.

If another shall come in his own name - A false teacher setting up himself, and not even pretending to have a divine commission. The Jews were much accustomed to receive and follow particular teachers. In the time of Christ they were greatly divided between the schools of Hillel and Shammai, two famous teachers.

Ye will receive - You will follow, or obey him as a teacher.

Verse 44

Which receive honour one of another - Who are studious of praise, and live for pride, ambition, and vainglory. This desire, Jesus says, was the great reason why they would not believe on him. They were unwilling to renounce their worldly honors, and become the followers of one so humble and unostentatious as he was. They expected a Messiah of pomp and splendor, and would not submit to one so despised and of so lowly a rank. Had the Messiah come, as they expected, with pomp and power, it would have been an honor, in their view, to follow him; as it was, they despised and rejected him. The great reason why multitudes do not believe is their attachment to human honors, or their pride, and vanity, and ambition. These are so strong, that while they continue they cannot and will not believe. They might, however, renounce these things, and then, the obstacles being removed, they would believe. Learn:

1. A man cannot believe the gospel while he is wholly under the influence of ambition. The two are not compatible. The religion of the gospel is humility, and a man who has not that “cannot” be a Christian.

2. Great numbers are deterred from being Christians by pride and ambition. Probably there is no single thing that prevents so really young men from becoming Christians as this passion. The proud and ambitious heart refuses to bow to the humiliating terms of the gospel.

3. Though while a man is under this governing principle he cannot believe the gospel, yet this proves nothing about his ability to lay that aside, and to yield to truth. that is another question. A child cannot open a trunk when he gets on the lid and attempts to raise his own weight and the cover of the trunk too; but that settles nothing about the inquiry whether he might not get off and then open it. The true question is whether a man can or cannot lay aside his ambition and pride, and about that there ought not to be any dispute. No one doubts that it may be done; and if that can be done, he can become a Christian.

Seek not the honour - The praise, the glory, the approbation of God. The honor which comes from men is their praise, flattery, commendation; the honor that comes from God is his approbation for doing his will. God alone can confer the honors of heaven - the reward of having done our duty here. That we should seek, and if we seek that, we shall come to Christ, who is the way and the life.

Verses 45-46

Do not think that I will accuse you - Do not suppose that I intend to follow your example. They had accused Jesus of breaking the law of God, John 5:16. He says that he will not imitate their example, though he implies that he might accuse them.

To the Father - To God.

There is one that accuseth you - Moses might be said to accuse or reprove them. He wrote of the Messiah, clearly foretold his coming, and commanded them to hear him. As they did not do it, it might be said that they had disregarded his command; and as Moses was divinely commissioned and had a right to be obeyed, so his command reproved them: they were disobedient and rebellious.

He wrote of me - He wrote of the Messiah, and I am the Messiah, Genesis 3:15; Genesis 12:3; compare John 8:56; Genesis 49:10; Deuteronomy 18:15.

Verse 47

If ye believe not his writings - If you do not credit what he has written which you profess to believe, it is not to be expected that you will believe my declarations. And from this we may learn:

  1. That many men who profess to believe the Bible have really no regard for it when it crosses their own views and inclinations.
  2. It is our duty to study the Bible, that we may be established in the belief that Jesus is the Messiah.
  3. The prophecies of the Old Testament are conclusive proofs of the truth of the Christian religion.
  4. He that rejects one part of the Bible, will, for the same reason, reject all.
  5. The Saviour acknowledged the truth of the writings of Moses, built his religion upon them, appealed to them to prove that he was the Messiah, and commanded men to search them. We have the testimony of Jesus, therefore, that the Old Testament is a revelation from God. He that rejects his testimony on This subject must reject his authority altogether; and it is vain for any man to profess to believe in the New Testament, or in the Lord Jesus, without also acknowledging the authority of the Old Testament and of Moses.

We have in this chapter an instance of the profound and masterly manner in which Jesus could meet and silence his enemies. There is not anywhere a more conclusive argument, or a more triumphant meeting of the charges which they had brought against him. No one can read this without being struck with his profound wisdom; and it is scarcely possible to conceive that there could be a more distinct declaration and proof that he was equal with God.

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on John 5". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/john-5.html. 1870.
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