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1. Let not your heart be troubled. Not without good reason does Christ confirm his disciples by so many words, since a contest so arduous and so terrible awaited them; for it was no ordinary temptation, that soon afterwards they would see him hanging on the cross; a spectacle in which nothing was to be seen but ground for the lowest despair. The season of so great distress being at hand, he points out the remedy, that they may not be vanquished and overwhelmed; for he does not simply exhort and encourage them to be steadfast, but likewise informs them where they must go to obtain courage; that is, by faith, when he is acknowledged to be the Son of God, who has in himself a sufficiency of strength for maintaining the safety of his followers.
We ought always to attend to the time when these words were spoken, that Christ wished his disciples to remain brave and courageous, when they might think that every thing was in the greatest confusion; and therefore we ought to employ the same shield for warding off such assaults. It is impossible for us, indeed, to avoid feeling various emotions, but though we are shaken, we must not fall down. Thus it is said of believers, that they are not troubled, because, relying on the word of God, though very great difficulties press hard upon them, still they remain steadfast and upright.
You believe in God. It might also be read in the imperative mood, Believe in God, and believe in me; but the former reading agrees better, and has been more generally received. Here he points out the method of remaining steadfast, as I have already said; that is, if our faith rest on Christ, and view him in no other light than as being present and stretching out his hand to assist us. But it is wonderful that faith in the Father is here placed first in order, for he ought rather to have told his disciples that they ought to believe in God, since they had believed in Christ; because, as Christ is the lively image of the Father, so we ought first to cast our eyes on him; and for this reason, too, he descends to us, that our faith, beginning with him, may rise to God. But Christ had a different object in view, for all acknowledge that we ought to believe in God, and this is an admitted principle to which all assent without contradiction; and yet there is scarce one in a hundred who actually believes it, not only because the naked majesty of God is at too great a distance from us, but also because Satan interposes clouds of every description to hinder us from contemplating God. The consequence is, that our faith, seeking God in his heavenly glory and inaccessible light, vanishes away; and even the flesh, of its own accord, suggests a thousand imaginations, to turn away our eyes from beholding God in a proper manner.
The Son of God, then, who is Jesus Christ, (61) holds out himself as the object to which our faith ought to be directed, and by means of which it will easily find that on which it can rest; for he is the true Immanuel, who answers us within, as soon as we seek him by faith. It is one of the leading articles of our faith, that our faith ought to be directed to Christ alone, that it may not wander through long windings; and that it ought to be fixed on him, that it may not waver in the midst of temptations. And this is the true proof of faith, when we never suffer ourselves to be torn away from Christ, and from the promises which have been made to us in him. When Popish divines dispute, or, I should rather say, chatter, about the object of faith, they mention God only, and pay no attention to Christ. They who derive their instruction from the notions of such men, must be shaken by the slightest gale of wind that blows. Proud men are ashamed of Christ’s humiliation, and, therefore, they fly to God’s incomprehensible Divinity. But faith will never reach heaven unless it submit to Christ, who appears to be a low and contemptible God, and will never be firm if it do not seek a foundation in the weakness of Christ.
(61) “ Le Fils de Dieu done, qui est Jesus Christ.”
2. In my Father’s house are many dwellings. As the absence of Christ was a cause of grief, he declares that he does not, go away in such a. manner as to remain separate from them, since there is room for them also in the heavenly kingdom. For it was proper that he should remove the suspicion from their minds, that, when Christ ascended to the Father, he left his disciples on earth without taking any farther notice of them. This passage has been erroneously interpreted in another sense, as if Christ taught that’ there are various degrees of honor in the heavenly kingdom; for he says, that the mansions are many, not that they are different or unlike, but that there are enough of them for a great number of persons; as if he had said, that there is room not only for himself, but also for all his disciples.
And if it were not so, I would have told you. Here commentators differ. Some read these words as closely connected with what goes before: “If the dwellings had not been already prepared, I would have said that I go before you to prepare them.” But I rather agree with those who render it thus: “If the heavenly glory had awaited me only, I would not have deceived you. I would have told you that there was no room for any one but myself in my Father’s house. But the case is widely different; for I go before, to prepare a place for you.” The context, in my opinion, demands that we read it in this manner; for it follows immediately afterwards, If I go to prepare a place for you. By these words Christ intimates that the design of his departure is, to prepare a place for his disciples. In a word, Christ did not ascend to heaven in a private capacity, to dwell there alone, but rather that it might be the common inheritance of all the godly, and that in this way the Head might be united to his members.
But a question arises, What was the condition of the fathers after death, before Christ ascended to heaven? For the conclusion usually drawn is, that believing souls were shut up in an intermediate state or prison, because Christ says that, by his ascension into heaven, the place will be prepared. But the answer is easy. This place is said to be prepared for the day of the resurrection; for by nature mankind are banished from the kingdom of God, but the Son, who is the only heir of heaven, took possession of it in their name, that through him we may be permitted to enter; for in his person we already possess heaven by hope, as Paul informs us, (Ephesians 1:3.) Still we will not enjoy this great blessing, until he come from heaven the second time. The condition of the fathers after death, therefore, is not here distinguished from ours; because Christ has prepared both for them and for us a place, into which he will receive us all at the last day. Before reconciliation had been made, believing souls were, as it were, placed on a watch-tower, looking for the promised redemption, and now they enjoy a blessed rest, until the redemption be finished.
3. And if I go away. The conditional term, if, ought to be interpreted as an adverb of time; as if it had been said, “After that I have gone away, I will return to you again. ” This return must not be understood as referring to the Holy Spirit, as if Christ had manifested to the disciples some new presence of himself by the Spirit. It is unquestionably true, that Christ dwells with us and in us by his Spirit; but here he speaks of the last day of judgment, when he will, at length, come to assemble his followers. And, indeed, if we consider the whole body of the Church, he every day prepares a place for us; whence it follows, that the proper time for our entrance into heaven is not yet come.
4. And whither I go you know. As we need no ordinary fortitude, that we may patiently endure to be so long separated from Christ, he adds another confirmation, that the disciples know that his death is not a destruction, but a passage to the Father; and next, that they know the way which they must follow, that they may arrive at the participation of the same glory. Both clauses ought to be carefully observed. First, we must see Christ, by the eyes of faith, in the heavenly glory and a blessed immortality; and, secondly, we ought to know that he is the first-fruits of our life, and that the way which was closed against us has been opened by him.
5. Thomas saith to him. Though, at first sight, the reply of Thomas appears to contradict what Christ had said, yet he did not intend to give the lie to his Master. But it may be asked, In what sense does he deny what Christ asserted? I reply, the knowledge possessed by the saints is sometimes confused, because they do not understand the manner or the reason of those things which are certain, and which have been explained to them. For example, the Prophets foretold the calling of the Gentiles with a true perception of faith, and yet Paul declares that it was a mystery hidden from them, (Ephesians 3:2.) In like manner, when the Apostles believed that Christ was departing to the Father, and yet did not know in what way he would obtain the kingdom, Thomas justly replies, that they do not know whither he is going. Hence he concludes that they know still less about the way; for before we enter into a road, we must know where we intend to go.
6. I am the way. Though Christ does not give a direct reply to the question put to him, yet he passes by nothing that is useful to be known. It was proper that Thomas’ curiosity should be checked; and, therefore, Christ does not explain what would be his condition when he should have departed out of this world to go to the Father, (62) but dwells on a subject far more necessary. Thomas would gladly have heard what Christ intended to do in heaven, as we never become weary of those intricate speculations; but it is of greater importance to us to employ our study and labor in another inquiry, how we may become partakers of the blessed resurrection. The statement amounts to this, that whoever obtains Christ is ill want of nothing; and, therefore, that whoever is not satisfied with Christ alone, strives after something beyond absolute perfection.
The way, the truth, and the life. He lays down three degrees, as if he had said, that he is the beginning, and the middle, and the end; and hence it follows that we ought to begin with him, to continue in him, and to end in him. We certainly ought not to seek for higher wisdom than that which leads us to eternal life, and he testifies that this life is to be found in him. Now the method of obtaining life is, to become new creatures. He declares, that we ought not to seek it anywhere else, and, at the same time, reminds us, that he is the way, by which alone we can arrive at it. That he may not fail us in any respect, he stretches out the hand to those who are going astray, and stoops so low as to guide sucking infants. Presenting himself as a leader, he does not leave his people in the middle of the course, but makes them partakers of the truth. At length he makes them enjoy the fruit of it, which is the most excellent and delightful thing that can be imagined.
As Christ is the way, the weak and ignorant have no reason to complain that they are forsaken by him; and as he is the truth and the life, he has in himself also what is fitted to satisfy the most perfect. In short, Christ now affirms, concerning happiness, what I have lately said concerning the object of faith. All believe and acknowledge that the happiness of man lies in God alone: but they afterwards go wrong in this respect, that, seeking God elsewhere than in Christ, they tear him — so to speak — from his true and solid Dignity.
The truth is supposed by some to denote here the saving light of heavenly wisdom, and by others to denote the substance of life and of all spiritual blessings, which is contrasted with shadows and figures; as it is said, grace and truth came by Jesus Christ, (John 1:17.) My opinion is, that the truth means here the perfection of faith as the way means its beginning and first elements. The whole may be summed up thus: “If any man turn aside from Christ, he will do nothing but go astray; if any man do not rest on him, he will feed elsewhere on nothing but wind and vanity; if any man, not satisfied with him alone, wishes to go farther, (63) he will find death instead of life.”
No man cometh to the Father. This is an explanation of the former statement’, for he is the way, because he leads us to the Father, and he is the truth and the life, because in him we perceive the Father. As to calling on God, it may indeed be said, with truth, that no prayers are heard but through the intercession of Christ; but as Christ does not now speak about prayer, we ought simply to understand the meaning to be, that men contrive for themselves true labyrinths, whenever, after having forsaken Christ, they attempt to come to God. For Christ proves that he is the life, because God, with whom is the fountain of life, (Psalms 36:9,) cannot be enjoyed in any other way than in Christ. Wherefore all theology, when separated from Christ, is not only vain and confused, but is also mad, deceitful, and spurious; for, though the philosophers sometimes utter excellent sayings, yet they have nothing but what is short-lived, and even mixed up with wicked and erroneous sentiments.
(62) “ Quand il seroit parti hors de ce monde pour aller a son Pere.”
(63) “ Si quel qu’un ne se contentant point de luy seul, vent passer outre.”
7. If you had known me. He confirms what we have just now said, that it is a foolish and pernicious curiosity, when men, not satisfied with him, attempt to go to God by indirect and crooked paths. (64) They admit that there is nothing better than the knowledge of God; but when he is near them, and speaks to them familiarly, they wander through their own speculations, and seek above the clouds him whom they do not deign to acknowledge as present. Christ, therefore, blames the disciples for not acknowledging that the fullness of the Godhead was manifested in him. “I see,” (says he,) “that hitherto you have not known me in a right and proper manner, because you do not yet acknowledge the lively image of the Father which is exhibited in me.”
And henceforth you know him, and have seen him. He adds this, not only to soften the severity of the reproof, but likewise to accuse them of ingratitude and slothfulness, if they do not consider and inquire what has been given to them; for he said this rather for the purpose of commending his doctrine than of extolling their faith. The meaning therefore is, that God is now plainly exhibited to them if they would but open their eyes. The word see expresses the certainty of faith.
(64) “ Par voyes obliques et tortues.”
8. Show us the Father. It appears to be very absurd that the Apostles should offer so many objections to the Lord; for why did he speak but to inform them on that point about which Philip puts the question? Yet there is not one of their faults that is here described that may not be charged on us as well as on them. We profess to be earnest in seeking God; and when he presents himself before our eyes, we are blind.
9. Have I been so long time with you? Christ justly reproves Philip for not having the eyes of his faith pure. He had God present in Christ, and yet he did not behold him. What prevented him but his own ingratitude? Thus, in the present day, they who, in consequence of not being satisfied with Christ alone, are hurried into foolish speculations, in order to seek God in them, make little progress in the Gospel. This foolish desire springs from the meanness of Christ’s low condition; and this is very unreasonable, for by that humiliation he exhibits the infinite goodness of God.
10. That I am in the Father, and the Father in me. I do not consider these words to refer to Christ’s Divine essence, but to the manner of the revelation; for Christ, so far as regards his hidden Divinity, is not better known to us than the Father. But he is said to be the lively Image, or Portrait, of God, (65) because in him God has fully revealed himself, so far as God’s infinite goodness, wisdom, and power, are clearly manifested in him. And yet the ancient writers do not take an erroneous view of this passage, when they quote it as a proof for defending Christ’s Divinity; but as Christ does not simply inquire what he is in himself, but what we ought to acknowledge him to be, this description applies to his power rather than to his essence. The Father, therefore, is said to be in Christ, because full Divinity dwells in him, and displays its power; and Christ, on the other hand, is said to be in the Father, because by his Divine power he shows that he is one with the Father
The words which I speak to you. He proves from the effect that we ought not to seek God anywhere else than in him; for he maintains that his doctrine, being heavenly and truly Divine, is a proof and bright mirror of the presence of God. If it be objected, that all the Prophets ought to be accounted sons of God, because they speak divinely from the inspiration of the Spirit, and because God was the Author of their doctrine, the answer is easy. We ought to consider what their doctrine contains; for the Prophets send their disciples to another person, but Christ attaches them to himself. Besides, we ought to remember what the apostle declares, that now God speaketh from heaven (Hebrews 12:25) by the mouth of his Son, and that, when he spoke by Moses, he spoke, as it were, from the earth.
I do not speak, from myself; that is, as a man only, or after the manner of men; because the Father, exhibiting the power of his Spirit in Christ’s doctrine, wishes his Divinity to be recognized in him.
This must not be confined to miracles; for it is rather a continuation of the former statement, that the majesty of God is clearly exhibited in Christ’s doctrine; as if he had said, that his doctrine is truly a work of God, from which it may be known with certainty that God dwelleth in him. By the works, therefore, I understand a proof of the power of God.
Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me. He first demands from the disciples to give credit to his testimony, when he asserts that he is the Son of God; but as they had hitherto been too lazy, he indirectly reproves their indolence. “If my assertion,” says he, “does not produce conviction, and if you have so mean an opinion of me, that you do not think that you ought to believe my words, consider, at least, that power which is a visible image of the presence of God.” It is very absurd in them, indeed, not to believe, entirely, the words which proceed from the mouth of the Lord Jesus, (66) since they ought to have embraced, without any hesitation, every thing that he expressed, even by a single word. But here Christ reproves his disciples for having made so little progress, though they had received so many admonitions on the same subject. He does not explain what is the nature of faith, but declares that he has what is even sufficient for convicting unbelievers.
The repetition of the words, I am in the Father, and the Father in me, is not superfluous; for we know too well, by experience, how our nature prompts us to foolish curiosity. As soon as we have gone out of Christ, we shall have nothing else than the idols which we have formed, but in Christ, there is nothing but what is divine, and what keeps us in God
(65) “ La vive Image, ou Pourtraict, de Dieu.”
(66) “ De ne croire point entierement aux paroles qui procedent de la bouche du Seigneur Jesus.”
12. Verily, verily, I, tell you. All that he had hitherto told his disciples about himself, so far as it regarded them, was temporal; and, therefore, if he had not added this clause, the consolation would not have been complete; particularly since our memory is so short, when we are called to consider the gifts of God. On this subject it is unnecessary to go to others for examples; for, when God has loaded us with every kind of blessings, if He pause for fourteen days, we fancy that he is no longer alive. This is the reason why Christ not only mentions his present power, which the Apostles, at that time, beheld with their eyes, but promises an uninterrupted conviction of it for the future. And, indeed, not only was his Divinity attested, so long as he dwelt on the earth, but after he had gone to the Father, striking proofs of it were enjoyed by believers. But either our stupidity or our malice hinders us from perceiving God in his works, and Christ in the works of God.
And shall do greater works than these. Many are perplexed by the statement of Christ, that the Apostles would do greater works than he had done I pass by the other answers which have been usually given to it, and satisfy myself with this single answer. First, we must understand what Christ means; namely, that the power by which he proves himself to be the Son of God, is so far from being confined to his bodily presence, that it must be clearly demonstrated by many and striking proofs, when he is absent. Now the ascension of Christ was soon afterwards followed by a wonderful conversion of the world, in which the Divinity of Christ was more powerfully displayed than while he dwelt among men. Thus, we see that the proof of his Divinity was not confined to the person of Christ, but was diffused through the whole body of the Church.
Because I go to the Father. This is the reason why the disciples would do greater things than Christ himself. It is because, when he has entered into the possession of his kingdom, he will more fully demonstrate his power from heaven. Hence it is evident that his glory is in no degree diminished, because, after his departure, the Apostles, who were only his instruments, performed more excellent works. What is more, in this manner it became evident that he sitteth at the right hand of the Father, that every knee may bow before him, (Philippians 2:10.)
13. And whatever you ask in my name, that I will do. By these words He plainly declares that he will be the Author of all that shall be done by the hands of the Apostles. But it may be asked, was he not even then the Mediator in whose name men ought to pray to the Father? I reply, he plainly discharged the office of Mediator, ever since he entered into the heavenly sanctuary; as we shall afterwards repeat at the proper place.
That the Father may be glorified in the Son. This passage agrees with what Paul says,
That every tongue may confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father, (Philippians 2:11.)
The end of all things is the sanctification of the name of God; but here the true method of sanctifying it is declared; that is, in the Son, and by the Son. For, though the majesty of God be in itself hidden from us, it shines in Christ; though his hand be concealed, we have it visible in Christ. Consequently, in the benefits which the Father bestows upon us, we have no right to separate the Father from the Son, according to that saying,
He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father, (John 6:23.)
14. If you shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. This is not a useless repetition. All see and feel that they are unworthy to approach God; and yet the greater part of men burst forward, as if they were out of their senses, and rashly and haughtily address God; and afterwards, when that unworthiness, of which I have spoken, comes to their recollection, every man contrives for himself various expedients. On the other hand, when God invites us to himself, he holds out to us one Mediator only, by whom he is willing to be appeased and reconciled. But here again the wickedness of the human mind breaks out for the greater part do not cease to forsake the road, and to pass through many windings. The reason why they do so is, that they have but a poor and slender perception of the power and goodness of God in Christ. To this is added a second error, that we do not consider that we are justly excluded from approaching God, until he calls us, and that we are called only through the Son. And if one passage has not sufficient weight with us, let us know that, when Christ repeats, a second time, that we must pray to the Father in his name, he lays his hand on us, as it were, that we may not lose our pains by fruitlessly seeking other intercessors.
15. If you love me. The love with which the disciples loved Christ was true and sincere, and yet there was some superstition mixed with it, as is frequently the case with ourselves; for it was very foolish in them to wish to keep him in the world. To correct this fault, he bids them direct their love to another end; and that is, to employ themselves in keeping the commandments which he had given them. This is undoubtedly a useful doctrine, for of those who think that they love Christ, there are very few who honor him as they ought to do; but, on the contrary, after having performed small and trivial services, they give themselves no farther concern. The true love of Christ, on the other hand, is regulated by the observation of his doctrine as the only rule. But we are likewise reminded how sinful our affections are, since even the love which we bear to Christ is not without fault, if it be not directed to a pure obedience.
16. And I will pray to the Father. This was given as a remedy for soothing the grief which they might feel on account of Christ’s absence; but at the same time, Christ promises that he will give them strength to keep his commandments; For otherwise the exhortation would have had little effect. He therefore loses no time in informing them that, though he be absent from them in body, yet he will never allow them to remain destitute of assistance; for he will be present with them by his Spirit.
Here he calls the Spirit the gift of the Father, but a gift which he will obtain by his prayers; in another passage he promises that he will give the Spirit. If I depart, says he, I will send, Him to you, (John 16:7.) Both statements are true and correct; for in so far as Christ is our Mediator and Intercessor, he obtains from the Father the grace of the Spirit, but in so far as he is God, he bestows that grace from himself. The meaning of this passage therefore is: “I was given to you by the Father to be a Comforter, but only for a time; now, having discharged my office, I will pray to him to give another Comforter, who will not be for a short time, but will remain always with you.”
And he will, give you another Comforter. The word Comforter is here applied both to Christ and to the Spirit, and justly; for it is an office which belongs equally to both of them, to comfort and exhort us, and to guard us by their protection. Christ was the Protector of his disciples, so long as he dwelt in the world: and afterwards he committed them to the protection and guardianship of the Spirit. It may be asked, are we not still under the protection of Christ? The answer is easy. Christ is a continual Protector, but not in a visible way. So long as he dwelt in the world, he openly manifested himself as their Protector; but now he guards us by his Spirit.
He calls the Spirit another Comforter, on account of the difference between the blessings which we obtain from both. The peculiar office of Christ was, to appease the wrath of God by atoning for the sins of the world, to redeem men from death, to procure righteousness and life; and the peculiar office of the Spirit is, to make us partakers not only of Christ himself, but of all his blessings. And yet there would be no impropriety in inferring from this passage a distinction of Persons; for there must be some peculiarity in which the Spirit differs from the Son so as to be another than the Son.
17. The Spirit of truth. Christ bestows on the Spirit another title, namely, that he is the Master or Teacher of truth. (68) Hence it follows, that until we have been inwardly instructed by him, the understandings of all of us are seized with vanity and falsehood.
Whom the world cannot receive. This contrast shows the peculiar excellence of that grace which God bestows on none but his elect; for he means that it is no ordinary gift of which the world is deprived. In this sense, too, Isaiah says, “ For, the darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the people, but the Lord shall arise on thee, O Jerusalem!” (69) For the mercy of God towards the Church deserves so much the higher praise, when he exalts the Church, by a distinguished privilege, above the whole world. And yet Christ exhorts the disciples, that they must not be puffed up, as the world is wont to be, by carnal views, and thus drive away from themselves the grace of the Spirit. All that Scripture tells us about the Holy Spirit is regarded by earthly men as a dream; because, trusting to their own reason, they despise heavenly illumination. Now, though this pride abounds everywhere, which extinguishes, so far as lies in our power, the light of the Holy Spirit; yet, conscious of our own poverty, we ought to know, that whatever belongs to sound understanding proceeds from no other source. Yet Christ’s words show that nothing which relates to the Holy Spirit can be learned by human reason, but that He is known only by the experience of faith.
The world, he says, cannot receive the Spirit, because it knoweth him not; but you know him, because he dwelleth with you. It is the Spirit alone therefore, who, by dwelling in us, makes himself to be known by us, for otherwise, he is unknown and incomprehensible.
(68) “ A scavoir qu’il est Maistre ou Docteur de la verite.”
(69) “ Sur toy, O Jerusalem !”
18. I will not have you orphans. This passage shows what men are, and what they can do, when they have been deprived of the protection of the Spirit. They are orphans, exposed to every kind of fraud and injustice, incapable of governing themselves, and, in short, unable of themselves to do any thing. The only remedy for so great a defect is, if Christ govern us by his Spirit, which he promises that he will do. First then, the disciples are reminded of their weakness, that, distrusting themselves, they may rely on nothing else than the protection of Christ; and, secondly, having promised a remedy, he gives them good encouragement; for he declares that he will never leave them When he says, I will come to you, he shows in what manner he dwells in his people, and in what manner he fills all things. It is, by the power of his Spirit; and hence it is evident, that the grace of the Spirit is a striking proof of his Divinity.
19. Yet a little while. He continues the commendation of special grace, which ought to have been sufficient for alleviating, and even for removing the grief of the disciples. “When I shall have withdrawn,” says he, “from the view of the world: still I shall be present with you.” That we may enjoy this secret beholding of Christ, we must not judge of his presence or his absence according to carnal perception, but we must earnestly employ the eyes of faith for contemplating his power. Thus believers always have Christ present by his Spirit, and behold him, though they be distant from him in body.
Because I live. This statement may be explained in two ways. Either it may be viewed as a confirmation of the former clause, because I live, and you shall live; or, it may be read separately, because I live, you also shall live; and then the meaning will be, that believers will live, because Christ liveth I willingly embrace the former opinion, and yet we may draw from it the other doctrine, that the life of Christ is the cause of our life. He begins by pointing out the cause of the difference, why he shall be seen by his disciples, and not by the world It isn’t because Christ cannot be seen but according to the spiritual life, of which the world is deprived. The world seeth not Christ; this is not wonderful, for the death of blindness is the cause; but as soon as any man begins to live by the Spirit, he is immediately endued with eyes to see Christ. Now, the reason of this is, that our life is closely connected with the life of Christ, and proceeds from it as from its source; for we are dead in ourselves, and the life with which we flatter ourselves is a very bad death. Accordingly, when the question is, how we are to obtain life, our eyes must be directed to Christ, and his life must be conveyed to us by faith, that our consciences may be fully convinced, that, so long as Christ lives, we are free from all danger of destruction; for it is an undoubted truth, that his life would be nothing, when his members were dead.
20. At that day Some refer this to the day of Pentecost; but it rather denotes the uninterrupted course, as it were, of a single day, from the time when Christ exerted the power of his Spirit till the last resurrection. From that time they began to know, but it was a sort of feeble beginning, because the Spirit had not yet wrought so powerfully in them. For the object of these words is, to show that we cannot, by indolent speculation, know what is the sacred and mystical union between us and him, and again, between him and the Father; but that the only way of knowing it is, when he diffuses his life in us by the secret efficacy of the Spirit; and this is the trial of faith, which I lately mentioned.
As to the manner in which this passage was formerly abused by the Aryans, to prove that Christ is God only by participation and by grace, it is easy to refute their sophistry. For Christ does not speak merely of his eternal essence, but of that Divine power which was manifested in him. As the Father has laid up in the Son all fullness of blessings, so, on the other hand, the Son has conveyed himself entirely into us. He is said to be in us, because he plainly shows, by the efficacy of his Spirit, that he is the Author and the cause of our life.
21. He who hath my commandments. He again repeats the former statement, that the undoubted proof of our love to him lies in our keeping his commandments; and the reason why he so frequently reminds the disciples of this is, that they may not turn aside from this object; for there is nothing to which we are more prone than to slide into a carnal affection, so as to love something else than Christ under the name of Christ. Such is also the import of that saying of Paul,
Though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet henceforth we know him no longer in this manner. Let us therefore be a new creature, (2 Corinthians 5:16.)
To have his commandments means to be properly instructed in them; and to keep his commandments is to conform ourselves and our life to their rule.
And he that loveth me will be loved by my Father. Christ speaks as if men loved God before he loved them; which is absurd, for,
when we were enemies, he reconciled us to him, (Romans 5:10;)
and the words of John are well known,
Not that we first loved him, but he first loved us, (1 John 4:10.)
But there is no debate here about cause or effect; and therefore there is no ground for the inference, that the love with which we love Christ comes in order before the love which God has toward us; for Christ meant only, that all who love him will be happy, because they will also be loved by him and by the Father; not that God then begins to love them, but because they have a testimony of his love to them, as a Father, engraven on their hearts. To the same purpose is the clause which immediately follows: —
And I will manifest myself to him. Knowledge undoubtedly goes before love; but Christ’s meaning was, I will grant to those who purely observe my doctrine, that they shall make progress from day to day in faith; “that is, “I will cause them to approach more nearly and more familiarly to me. ” Hence infer, that the fruit of piety is progress in the knowledge of Christ; for he who promises that he will give himself to him who has it rejects hypocrites, and causes all to make progress in faith who, cordially embracing the doctrine of the Gospel, bring themselves entirely into obedience to it. And this is the reason why many fall back, and why we scarcely see one in ten proceed in the right course; for the greater part do not deserve that he should manifest himself to them It ought also to be observed, that a more abundant knowledge of Christ is here represented as an extraordinary reward of our love to Christ; and hence it follows that it is an invaluable treasure.
22. Judas ( not Iscariot) saith to him. It is not without reason that he asks why Christ does not cause his light to be imparted (71) to more than a few persons; since he is the Sun of Righteousness, (Malachi 4:2) by whom the whole world ought to be enlightened; and, therefore, it is unreasonable that he should enlighten but a few, and not shed his light everywhere without distinction. Christ’s reply does not solve the whole question; for it makes no mention of the first cause, why Christ ‘ manifested himself to a few,’ conceals himself from the greater part of men; for certainly he finds all men at first alike, that is, entirely alienated from him; and, therefore, he cannot choose any person who loves him, but he chooses from among his enemies those whose hearts he bends to the love of him. But he did not intend, at present, to take any notice of that distinction, which was far from the object he had in view. His design was, to exhort his disciples to the earnest study of godliness, that they might make greater progress in faith; and, therefore, he is satisfied with distinguishing them from the world by this mark, that they keep the doctrine of the Gospel.
Now, this mark comes after the commencement of faith, for it is the effect of their calling. In other passages, Christ had reminded the disciples of their being called by free grace, and he will afterwards bring it to their recollection. At present, he only enjoins them to observe his doctrine, and to maintain godliness. By these words, Christ shows in what manner the Gospel is properly obeyed. It is, when our services and outward actions proceed from the love of Christ; for in vain do the arms, and the feet, and the whole body toil, if the love of God does not reign in the heart, to govern the outward members. Now, since it is certain that we keep the commandments of Christ only in so far as we love him, it follows that a perfect love of him can nowhere be found in the world, because there is no man who keeps his commandments perfectly; yet God is pleased with the obedience of those who sincerely aim at this end.
(71) “ Pourquoy Christ fera que sa lumiere sera manifestee.”
23. And my Father will love him. We have already explained that the love of God to us is not placed in the second rank, as if it came after our piety as the cause of that love, but that believers may be fully convinced that the obedience which they render to the Gospel is pleasing to God, and that they may continually expect from him fresh additions of gifts.
And we will come to him who loveth me; that is, he will feel that the grace of God dwelleth in him, and will every day receive additions to the gifts of God. He therefore speaks, not of that eternal love with which he loved us, before we were born, and even before the world was created, but since the time when he seals it on our hearts by making us partakers of his adoption. Nor does he even mean the first illumination, but those degrees of faith by which believers must continually advance, according to that saying,
Whosoever hath it shall be given to him, (Matthew 13:12.)
The Papists; therefore are wrong in inferring from this passage that there are two kinds of love with which we love God. They falsely maintain that we naturally love God, before he regenerates us by his Spirit, and even that by this preparation we merit the grace of regeneration; as if Scripture did not everywhere teach, and as if experience also did not loudly proclaim, that we are altogether alienated from God, and that we are infected and filled with hatred of him, until he change our hearts. We must therefore keep in view the design of Christ, that he and the Father will come, to confirm believers, in uninterrupted confidence in his grace.
24. He who loveth, me but keepeth not my words. As believers are mixed with unbelievers in the world, and as they must be agitated by various storms, as in a troubled sea, Christ again confirms them by this admonition, that they may not be drawn away by bad examples. As if he had said, “Do not look upon the world so as to depend on it; for there will always be some who despise me and my doctrine; but as for you, preserve constantly to the end the grace which you have once received.” Yet he likewise intimates that the world is justly punished for its ingratitude, when it perishes in its blindness, since, by despising true righteousness, it manifests a wicked hatred towards Christ.
And the word which you hear. That the disciples may not be discouraged or waver on account of the obstinacy of the world, he again procures credit to his doctrine, by testifying that it is from God, and that it was not contrived by men on the earth. And, indeed, the strength of our faith consists in our knowing that God is our leader, and that we are founded on nothing else than his eternal truth. Whatever then may be the rage and madness of the world, let us follow the doctrine of Christ, which rises far above heaven and earth. When he says that the word is not his, he accommodates himself to the disciples; as if he had said that it is not human, because he teaches faithfully what has been enjoined on him by the Father. Yet we know that, in so far as he is the eternal Wisdom of God, he is the only fountain of all doctrine, and that all the prophets who have been from the beginning spoke by his Spirit.
25. These things I have spoken to you. He adds this, that they may not despair, though they may have profited less than they ought to have done; for at that time he scattered a seed of doctrine, which lay hidden, and, as it were, suffocated in the disciples. He therefore exhorts them to entertain good hopes, until fruit be yielded by the doctrine which might now appear to be useless. In short, he testifies that in the doctrine which they had heard they have abundant ground of consolation, and that they ought not to seek it anywhere else. And if they do not immediately see it, he bids them be of good courage, until the Holy Spirit, who is the inward Teacher, speak the same thing in their hearts. This admonition is highly useful to all; for, if we do not immediately understand what Christ teaches, we begin to grow weary, and grudge to bestow unprofitable labor on what is obscure. But we must bring an eager desire to receive instruction; we must lend our ears and give attention, if we desire to make due proficiency in the school of God; and especially we need patience, until the Holy Spirit enable us to understand what we thought that we had often read or heard to no purpose. That the desire of learning may not be weakened in us, or that we may not fall into despair, when we do not immediately perceive the meaning of Christ speaking to us, let us know that this is spoken to us all.
The Holy Spirit will bring to your remembrance all things that I have said to you. It is indeed a punishment threatened by Isaiah against unbelievers, that the Word of God shall be to them as a book that is sealed, (Isaiah 29:11) but in this manner, also, the Lord frequently humbles his people. We ought, therefore, to wait patiently and mildly for the time of revelation, and must not, on that account, reject the word. When Christ testifies that it is the peculiar office of the Holy Spirit to teach the apostles what they had already learned from his mouth, it follows that the outward preaching will be vain and useless, if it be not accompanied by the teaching of the Spirit. God has therefore two ways of teaching; for, first, he sounds in our ears by the mouth of men; and, secondly, he addresses us inwardly by his Spirit; and he does this either at the same moment, or at different times, as he thinks fit.
But observe what are all these things which he promises that the Spirit will teach. He will suggest, he says, or bring to your remembrance, all that I have said. Hence it follows, that he will not be a builder of new revelations. By this single word we may refute all the inventions which Satan has brought into the Church from the beginning, under the pretense of the Spirit. Mahomet and the Pope agree in holding this as a principle of their religion, that Scripture does not contain a perfection of doctrine, but that something loftier has been revealed by the Spirit. From the same point the Anabaptists and Libertines, in our own time, have drawn their absurd notions. But the spirit that introduces any doctrine or invention apart from the Gospel is a deceiving spirit, and not the Spirit of Christ. What is meant by the Spirit being sent by the Father in the name of Christ, I have already explained.
27. Peace I leave with you. By the word peace he means prosperity, which men are wont to wish for each other when they meet or part; for such is the import of the word peace in the Hebrew language. He therefore alludes to the ordinary custom of his nation; as if he had said, I give you my Farewell But he immediately adds, that this peace is of far greater value than that which is usually to be found among men, who generally have the word peace but coldly in their mouth, by way of ceremony, or, if they sincerely wish peace for any one, yet cannot actually bestow it. But Christ reminds them that his peace does not consist in an empty and unavailing wish, but is accompanied by the effect. In short, he says that he goes away from them in body, but that his peace remains with the disciples; that is, that they will be always happy through his blessing.
Let not your heart be troubled. He again corrects the alarm which the disciples had felt on account of his departure. It is no ground for alarm, he tells them; for they want only his bodily presence, but will enjoy his actual presence through the Spirit. Let us learn to be always satisfied with this kind of presence, and let us not give a loose reign to the flesh, which always binds God by its outward inventions.
28. If you loved me you would rejoice. The disciples unquestionably loved Christ, but not as they ought to have done; for some carnal affection was mixed with their love, so that they could not endure to be separated from him; but if they had loved him spiritually, there was nothing which they would have had more deeply at heart, than his return to the Father.
For the Father is greater than I. This passage has been tortured in various ways. The Aryans, in order to prove that Christ is some sort of inferior God, argued that he is less than the Father The orthodox Fathers, to remove all ground for such a calumny, said that this must have referred to his human nature; but as the Aryans wickedly abused this testimony, so the reply given by the Fathers to their objection was neither correct nor appropriate; for Christ does not now speak either of his human nature, or of his eternal Divinity, but, accommodating himself to our weakness, places himself between God and us; and, indeed, as it has not been granted to us to reach the height of God, Christ descended to us, that he might raise us to it. You ought to have rejoiced, he says, because I return to the Father; for this is the ultimate object at which you ought to aim. By these words he does not show in what respect he differs in himself from the Father, but why he descended to us; and that was that he might unite us to God; for until we have reached that point, we are, as it were, in the middle of the course. We too imagine to ourselves but a half-Christ, and a mutilated Christ, if he do not lead us to God.
There is a similar passage in the writings of Paul, where he says that Christ
will deliver up the Kingdom to God his Father, that God may be all in all, (1 Corinthians 15:24.)
Christ certainly reigns, not only in human nature, but as he is God manifested in the flesh. In what manner, therefore, will he lay aside the kingdom? It is, because the Divinity which is now beheld in Christ’s face alone, will then be openly visible in him. The only point of difference is, that Paul there describes the highest perfection of the Divine brightness, the rays of which began to shine from the time when Christ ascended to heaven. To make the matter more clear, we must use still greater plainness of speech. Christ does not here make a comparison between the Divinity of the Father and his own, nor between his own human nature and the Divine essence of the Father, but rather between his present state and the heavenly glory, to which he would soon afterwards be received; as if he had said, “You wish to detain me in the world, but it is better that I should ascend to heaven.” Let us therefore learn to behold Christ humbled in the flesh, so that he may conduct us to the fountain of a blessed immortality; for he was not appointed to be our guide, merely to raise us to the sphere of the moon or of the sun, but to make us one with God the Father.
29. And I have told you now. It was proper that the disciples should be frequently admonished on this point; for it was a secret far exceeding all human capacity. He testifies that he foretells what shall happen, that, when it has happened, they may believe; for it was a useful confirmation of their faith when they brought to recollection the predictions of Christ, and saw accomplished before their eyes what they had formerly heard from his mouth. Yet it appears to be a sort of concession, as if Christ had said, “Because you are not yet capable of comprehending so deep a mystery, I bear with you till the event has happened, which will serve as an interpreter to explain this doctrine.” Although for a time he seemed to speak to the deaf, yet it afterwards appeared that his words were not scattered in vain, or, as we may say, in the air, but that it was a seed thrown into the earth. Now, as Christ speaks here about his word and the accomplishment of events, so his death, and resurrection, and ascension to heaven, are combined with doctrine, that they may produce faith in us.
30. Henceforth I will not talk much with you. By this word he intended to fix the attention of the disciples on himself, and to impress his doctrine more deeply on their minds; for abundance generally takes away the appetite, and we desire more eagerly what we have not in our possession, and delight more in the enjoyment of that which is speedily to be taken from us. In order, therefore, to make them more desirous of hearing his doctrines, he threatens that he will very soon go away. Although Christ does not cease to teach us during the whole course of our life, yet this statement may be applied to our use; for, since the course of our life is short, we ought to embrace the present opportunity.
For the prince of this world cometh He might have said, in direct language, that he would soon die, and that the hour of his death was at hand; but he makes use of a circumlocution, to fortify their minds beforehand, lest, terrified by a kind of death so hideous and detestable, they should faint; for to believe in him crucified, what is it but to seek life in hell? First, he says that his power will be given to Satan; and next he adds, That he will go away, not because he is compelled to do so, but in order to obey the Father.
The devil is called the prince of this world, not because he has a kingdom separated from God, (as the Manicheans imagined,) but because, by God’s permission, he exercises his tyranny over the world. Whenever, therefore, we hear this designation applied to the devil, let us be ashamed of our miserable condition; for, whatever may be the pride of men, they are the slaves of the devil, till they are regenerated by the Spirit of Christ; for under the term world is here included the whole human race. There is but one Deliverer who frees and rescues us from this dreadful slavery. Now, since this punishment was inflicted on account of the sin of the first man, and since it daily grows worse on account of new sins, let us learn to hate both ourselves and our sins. While we are held captives under the dominion of Satan, still this slavery does not free us from blame, for it is voluntary. It ought also to be observed, that what is done by wicked men is here ascribed to the devil; for, since they are impelled by Satan, all that they do is justly reckoned his work.
And hath nothing in me. (74) It is in consequence of the sin of Adam that Satan holds the dominion of death, and, therefore, he could not touch Christ, who is pure from all the pollution of sin, if he had not voluntarily subjected himself. And yet I think that these words have a wider meaning than that in which they are usually explained; for the ordinary interpretation is, “Satan hath found nothing in Christ, for there is nothing in him that deserves death, because he is pure from every stain of sin.” But, in my opinion, Christ asserts here not only his own purity, but likewise his Divine power, which was not subject to death; for it was proper to assure the disciples that he did not yield through weakness, lest they should think less highly of his power. But in this general statement the former is also included, that, in enduring death, he was not compelled by Satan. Hence we infer, that he was substituted in our room, when he submitted to death.
(74) This is the literal rendering of καὶ ἐν ἐμοὶ οὐκ ἔχει οὐδὲν and corresponds to other modern versions; as, for example, the German, und hat nichts an mir; though Wolffus quotes a marginal reading of a German translation, an mir wird er nicht nichts unden, — he will find nothing in me. The latter agrees with a Greek reading καὶ ἐν ἐμοὶ οὐχ εὑρήσει οὐδὲν and will find nothing in me; and. with another reading καὶ ἐν ἐμοὶ οὐκ ἔχει οὐδὲν εὑρεῖν, and hath nothing to find in me. — Ed
31. But that the world may know. Some think that these words should be read as closely connected with the words, Arise, let us go hence, so as to make the sense complete. Others read the former part of the verse separately, and suppose that it breaks off abruptly. As it makes no great difference in regard to the meaning, I leave it to the reader to give a preference to either of these views. What chiefly deserves our attention is, that the decree of God is here placed in the highest rank; that we may not suppose that Christ was dragged to death by the violence of Satan, in such a manner that anything happened contrary to the purpose of God. It was God who appointed his Son to be the Propitiation, and who determined that the sins of the world should be expiated by his death. In order to accomplish this, he permitted Satan, for a short time, to treat him with scorn; as if he had gained a victory over him. Christ, therefore, does not resist Satan, in order that he may obey the decree of his Father, and may thus offer his obedience as the ransom of our righteousness.
Arise, let us go hence. Some think that Christ, after he said these things, changed his place, and that what follows was spoken by him on the road; but as John afterwards adds, that Christ went away with his disciples beyond the brook Kedron, (75) it appears more probable that Christ intended to exhort the disciples to render the same obedience to God, of which they beheld in him so illustrious an example, and not that he led them away at that moment.
(75) “ Que Christ s’en alla avec ses disciples outre le torrent de Cedron.”
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Calvin, John. "Commentary on John 14". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Epiphany