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Bible Commentaries

The Church Pulpit Commentary

John 14

Verse 1

HIS ONLY SON OUR LORD

‘Believe in God, believe also in Me.’

John 14:1

Manifestly, everybody must believe in God before he can believe in Jesus Christ in any deep sense; for to say that ‘Jesus is the Son of God’ already implies a belief in God. This was clearly true of the Christian converts from among the Jews, who were already worshippers of Jehovah; and it was true also, though to a less extent, of the Greeks, as St. Paul recognised in his famous speech at Athens; and it remains true of the converts from heathendom to-day.

Our Lord’s work, which the Catechism (following the Apostles) speaks of in one word as Redemption, is summed up in this Creed under three epithets, corresponding to the three epithets of God in the first clause. Jesus is described as (1) the Christ of God; (2) the Only Son of the Father; (3) our Lord—i.e. the Vicegerent of the All-sovereign Ruler. Let us take these three descriptions in order, so as to gain some clearness as to the view of our Lord’s office and Person, which the Christian Church puts before us as the ground of our faith in Him; always remembering that it is in Him that our faith is placed, and not in any propositions about Him.

I. We say, first, that Jesus is the Christ of God.—By Christ is meant ‘the anointed’—i.e. consecrated—servant of God for the work of redemption, Who was promised to the Fathers. And in so saying, we express our belief in the general providence of God throughout history; His good will to men from the creation of the world. We express our belief that the Redemption which Jesus effected, though it came at a definite epoch of the world’s history, was not an unexpected event, a sudden, isolated act of compassion on man’s misery, whether of the Creator Himself, or, as Marcion taught, of some higher and more beneficent deity; but was part of a process fore-ordained in the counsel of God from the beginning. We point back along the history of the Chosen People to a long series of kings and prophets, whose lives and writings are recorded in the Old Testament Scriptures, and show how they were always looking forward to a Divine redemption, always desiring to see the days of the promised Deliverer.

II. To come then to the second term: His only Son.—The history of the phrase ‘Son of God’ as applied to our Lord is of great interest. It began by being a synonym for the Christ, as is plain from its use by the demoniacs: ‘What have we to do with Thee, Jesus, Thou Son of God?’ and the High Priest, ‘Art Thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?’ a use which bases itself on Psalms 2, where it is said of the King established on the holy hill of Zion, ‘Thou art My Son.’ But our Lord seems to have avoided its use, just as He avoided the other Messianic title of ‘Son of David,’ because of its associations. It had become worn, like a coin rubbed by passing from hand to hand till it becomes, in fact, a mere counter. Was this unique Son son always, or only after His human birth? There can be no doubt as to the opinion held by the first Christians. No one can forget the argument about God’s love in Romans 8, which describes Him as not sparing His own Son, but ‘sending Him in the likeness of sinful flesh’; or the argument about Christ’s humility in Philippians 2, which describes how He Who was in the form of God emptied Himself and was made in the likeness of men. And, apart from such special testimonies, the mere recognition of Christ as Divine carried with it also the recognition of His eternity. ‘Before Abraham was, I am.’ This, of course, is not to say that there was always manhood in the Godhead, but that there was always sonship, the potentiality of manhood. If the aspect of redemption which we emphasise under the acknowledgment that Jesus is the Christ be the hallowing of our nature by the living in Christ and Christ in us, the aspect emphasised by this second acknowledgment that Jesus is the Son of God is one that directly follows from that—namely, that through this indwelling Presence we too have received the adoption of sons, and look up to God as our Father: ‘As many as received Him, to them He gave the privilege to become children of God.’ We are admitted through Him into the family of God, and enjoy that freedom which is the special attribute of sonship—‘the liberty of the glory of the children of God.’ ‘If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.’

III. We pass to the concluding phrase of this confession, ‘our Lord,’ which emphasises the truth that the Father is still known to us only through the Son, and that all authority has been committed unto Him. He is our Lord, the Vicegerent of the All-sovereign Ruler.

This acknowledgment is made emphatically by St. Peter in his speech at the first Pentecost, where, after quoting the 110th Psalm, ‘Jehovah said unto my Lord, Sit Thou on My right hand, till I make Thine enemies Thy footstool,’ he continues, ‘Let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God hath made this Jesus Whom ye crucified Lord as well as Christ.’ The sense of St. Peter’s assertion therefore, that ‘Jesus is Lord’ is evident from his quotation from the 110th Psalm; where the Psalmist is speaking of the king. ‘Jehovah said unto my king, Sit Thou on My right hand.’ That, then, is the sense of ‘our Lord’ in this confession of faith. It means ‘our King, at the right hand of God’—i.e., our Divine King.

IV. No one can miss the significance of this acknowledgment in its bearing on our redemption.—I will notice only two points.

( a) If Jesus is our Lord, then His Commandments must be the rule of our lives; there is nothing for it for us who accept His lordship but ‘to bring every thought into captivity to His obedience’ ( 2 Corinthians 10:5). ‘Why call ye Me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?’ To such an appeal there can be no reply.

( b) If Jesus is Lord—the one Lord through Whom are all things—we must call upon Him for what we need. Notice, as you read the New Testament, how constantly this act of ‘calling upon the Name of the Lord’ is referred to as what especially marks and stamps a Christian. ‘The same Lord is Lord of all, and is rich unto all that call upon Him’ ( Romans 10:12); ‘Paul, unto the Church of God at Corinth, with all that call upon the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, in every place, their Lord and ours.’ Faith, then, in Jesus of Nazareth, as the Christ, and as the only Son of God, comes to expression, and so to reality, as we bow our knees to call upon One Whom our hearts acknowledge to be in very truth our own Lord.

—Canon H. C. Beeching.

Illustration

‘Readers of Old Testament prophecy are often puzzled by the difficulty of determining whether the consecrated being spoken of is an individual or the whole people. The conception seems to have fluctuated, and with reason; for what the prophets had at heart was the realisation of the Divine promise to their whole nation—that the nation should be, in fact as in election, a holy people. They conceived it as a unit: Israel—God’s chosen servant, His beloved Son, His holy representative upon earth for the benefit of the world, the Christ to the nations; and the further idea of an individual Servant and Son consecrated to redeem the collective servant and son emerged only at times and indistinctly. And so it is of the utmost interest and significance that as soon as the confession of Jesus as the Christ had fallen from the lips of St. Peter, our Lord at once announced the founding of the redeemed kingdom, with its distinctive attribute of legislation after the will of God—“Upon this rock I will build My congregation, My Israel; and whatsoever thou shalt bind and loose on earth shall be bound and loosed in heaven.’ And by and by He gave this society a mission to the nations. So that we may express the truth about the Christ in this way: Jesus was the Christ to the Church; and the Church, by virtue of the presence in it of the spirit of Jesus, is the Christ to the world.’

Verse 1

HIS ONLY SON OUR LORD

‘Believe in God, believe also in Me.’

John 14:1

Manifestly, everybody must believe in God before he can believe in Jesus Christ in any deep sense; for to say that ‘Jesus is the Son of God’ already implies a belief in God. This was clearly true of the Christian converts from among the Jews, who were already worshippers of Jehovah; and it was true also, though to a less extent, of the Greeks, as St. Paul recognised in his famous speech at Athens; and it remains true of the converts from heathendom to-day.

Our Lord’s work, which the Catechism (following the Apostles) speaks of in one word as Redemption, is summed up in this Creed under three epithets, corresponding to the three epithets of God in the first clause. Jesus is described as (1) the Christ of God; (2) the Only Son of the Father; (3) our Lord—i.e. the Vicegerent of the All-sovereign Ruler. Let us take these three descriptions in order, so as to gain some clearness as to the view of our Lord’s office and Person, which the Christian Church puts before us as the ground of our faith in Him; always remembering that it is in Him that our faith is placed, and not in any propositions about Him.

I. We say, first, that Jesus is the Christ of God.—By Christ is meant ‘the anointed’—i.e. consecrated—servant of God for the work of redemption, Who was promised to the Fathers. And in so saying, we express our belief in the general providence of God throughout history; His good will to men from the creation of the world. We express our belief that the Redemption which Jesus effected, though it came at a definite epoch of the world’s history, was not an unexpected event, a sudden, isolated act of compassion on man’s misery, whether of the Creator Himself, or, as Marcion taught, of some higher and more beneficent deity; but was part of a process fore-ordained in the counsel of God from the beginning. We point back along the history of the Chosen People to a long series of kings and prophets, whose lives and writings are recorded in the Old Testament Scriptures, and show how they were always looking forward to a Divine redemption, always desiring to see the days of the promised Deliverer.

II. To come then to the second term: His only Son.—The history of the phrase ‘Son of God’ as applied to our Lord is of great interest. It began by being a synonym for the Christ, as is plain from its use by the demoniacs: ‘What have we to do with Thee, Jesus, Thou Son of God?’ and the High Priest, ‘Art Thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?’ a use which bases itself on Psalms 2, where it is said of the King established on the holy hill of Zion, ‘Thou art My Son.’ But our Lord seems to have avoided its use, just as He avoided the other Messianic title of ‘Son of David,’ because of its associations. It had become worn, like a coin rubbed by passing from hand to hand till it becomes, in fact, a mere counter. Was this unique Son son always, or only after His human birth? There can be no doubt as to the opinion held by the first Christians. No one can forget the argument about God’s love in Romans 8, which describes Him as not sparing His own Son, but ‘sending Him in the likeness of sinful flesh’; or the argument about Christ’s humility in Philippians 2, which describes how He Who was in the form of God emptied Himself and was made in the likeness of men. And, apart from such special testimonies, the mere recognition of Christ as Divine carried with it also the recognition of His eternity. ‘Before Abraham was, I am.’ This, of course, is not to say that there was always manhood in the Godhead, but that there was always sonship, the potentiality of manhood. If the aspect of redemption which we emphasise under the acknowledgment that Jesus is the Christ be the hallowing of our nature by the living in Christ and Christ in us, the aspect emphasised by this second acknowledgment that Jesus is the Son of God is one that directly follows from that—namely, that through this indwelling Presence we too have received the adoption of sons, and look up to God as our Father: ‘As many as received Him, to them He gave the privilege to become children of God.’ We are admitted through Him into the family of God, and enjoy that freedom which is the special attribute of sonship—‘the liberty of the glory of the children of God.’ ‘If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.’

III. We pass to the concluding phrase of this confession, ‘our Lord,’ which emphasises the truth that the Father is still known to us only through the Son, and that all authority has been committed unto Him. He is our Lord, the Vicegerent of the All-sovereign Ruler.

This acknowledgment is made emphatically by St. Peter in his speech at the first Pentecost, where, after quoting the 110th Psalm, ‘Jehovah said unto my Lord, Sit Thou on My right hand, till I make Thine enemies Thy footstool,’ he continues, ‘Let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God hath made this Jesus Whom ye crucified Lord as well as Christ.’ The sense of St. Peter’s assertion therefore, that ‘Jesus is Lord’ is evident from his quotation from the 110th Psalm; where the Psalmist is speaking of the king. ‘Jehovah said unto my king, Sit Thou on My right hand.’ That, then, is the sense of ‘our Lord’ in this confession of faith. It means ‘our King, at the right hand of God’—i.e., our Divine King.

IV. No one can miss the significance of this acknowledgment in its bearing on our redemption.—I will notice only two points.

( a) If Jesus is our Lord, then His Commandments must be the rule of our lives; there is nothing for it for us who accept His lordship but ‘to bring every thought into captivity to His obedience’ ( 2 Corinthians 10:5). ‘Why call ye Me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?’ To such an appeal there can be no reply.

( b) If Jesus is Lord—the one Lord through Whom are all things—we must call upon Him for what we need. Notice, as you read the New Testament, how constantly this act of ‘calling upon the Name of the Lord’ is referred to as what especially marks and stamps a Christian. ‘The same Lord is Lord of all, and is rich unto all that call upon Him’ ( Romans 10:12); ‘Paul, unto the Church of God at Corinth, with all that call upon the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, in every place, their Lord and ours.’ Faith, then, in Jesus of Nazareth, as the Christ, and as the only Son of God, comes to expression, and so to reality, as we bow our knees to call upon One Whom our hearts acknowledge to be in very truth our own Lord.

—Canon H. C. Beeching.

Illustration

‘Readers of Old Testament prophecy are often puzzled by the difficulty of determining whether the consecrated being spoken of is an individual or the whole people. The conception seems to have fluctuated, and with reason; for what the prophets had at heart was the realisation of the Divine promise to their whole nation—that the nation should be, in fact as in election, a holy people. They conceived it as a unit: Israel—God’s chosen servant, His beloved Son, His holy representative upon earth for the benefit of the world, the Christ to the nations; and the further idea of an individual Servant and Son consecrated to redeem the collective servant and son emerged only at times and indistinctly. And so it is of the utmost interest and significance that as soon as the confession of Jesus as the Christ had fallen from the lips of St. Peter, our Lord at once announced the founding of the redeemed kingdom, with its distinctive attribute of legislation after the will of God—“Upon this rock I will build My congregation, My Israel; and whatsoever thou shalt bind and loose on earth shall be bound and loosed in heaven.’ And by and by He gave this society a mission to the nations. So that we may express the truth about the Christ in this way: Jesus was the Christ to the Church; and the Church, by virtue of the presence in it of the spirit of Jesus, is the Christ to the world.’

Verse 2

HEAVEN

‘I go to prepare a place for you.’

John 14:2

Jesus Christ Himself is our home, our furniture, our resting-place all in one.

I. We live in Him.—‘Thou art a place to hide me in.’ It was the bitter gloom of separation from Him that cast this fluttering dismay upon the Apostles. His words were designed to reassure them. He was going before them to be ready to receive them on the other side, in the home which He had set apart for them, in the abode which He would get ready for them. The Jewish tradition had always made so much of God’s Presence here in their midst, that death seemed to them to be a going out from it into a region which had to them been only imperfectly explored, and of which they had no sure evidence. It was part of our Blessed Lord’s mission to bring life and immortality to light through the Gospel. And yet it is not for us contemptuously to despise the Jews for their scantier knowledge. At least they found God here, and that after all is the best beginning for finding Him hereafter. That ‘I may know Him and the power of His Resurrection.’ How much is contained in those words! There was a time when St. Paul had been constrained to say, ‘Who art Thou, Lord?’ It is the outpouring of a great longing when He says, ‘Then shall I know.’ We can read in the history of the martyrs how very much this meant to them as a support in their trials. ‘I see Jesus standing at the right hand of God,’ seems to have lifted St. Stephen up out of his pains and humiliation into a region where it had become true. ‘Thou shalt hide them privily by Thine own Presence from the provoking of all men: Thou shalt keep them secretly in Thy tabernacle from the strife of tongues.’ We know, perhaps, in our own experience, what it is suddenly to come across a friend in strange and difficult surroundings, where we know neither the language nor the manners of the people, and we say, ‘It seems quite like home to see you here.’

II. So we ought to live that life of personal union with Christ, that we may be able to understand without an effort that heaven is a state rather than a place. And that whatever may be the environment to which our risen life corresponds, whatever may be the analogous counterpart of our ministering senses, we may be able to find our fullness and completeness in Him. ‘And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, Whom Thou hast sent.’ ‘We are complete in Him.’ He gathers up all our affection, He purifies all our works. Where He is, there is heaven and happiness. Where He is not there is hell and misery. The Word was made flesh, and tabernacled among us, that He might raise us up to sit with Him in heavenly places, in the special home which He has prepared for us, in the mansion where He vouchsafes to meet us.

—Canon Newbolt.

Illustration

‘There is a story which comes to us from the days of the martyrs, that a Christian condemned to die a cruel death for his allegiance to Christ was sleeping peacefully the night before his martyrdom when he was disturbed by a dream. He dreamed that he was in heaven, where everything around him was of pure transparent glass. The ground he trod, the streets and gardens, all clear and transparent, and the blessed spirits of the righteous as they swept by, were of glass also; but to his dismay, each, as they passed him, pointed at him in amazement and pain, as if wondering at his presence in such a pure abode. And, looking down, he saw on his breast a black spot at which all were pointing. He clasped his hands over the place, but being himself of glass his hands were transparent, the defilement shone through. In his agony he awoke and remembered some breach of charity of which he had been guilty. He sought pardon of God and man, and passed away through martyrdom, to the realisation of the country of his dream.’

(SECOND OUTLINE)

THE LORD’S DEPARTURE

Thus the Lord announces the necessity and the object of His removal from the disciples.

I. The necessity for our Lord’s departure.—If He had remained here below various great ends of His mission must have remained unfulfilled. The glorification of His manhood, and of us in Him could not have been. Again, it was God’s purpose to build up again that image which in our first parents had been ruined, and this could not be accomplished without His being taken from them. It was to be the special work of the Holy Spirit dwelling in and operating on men’s hearts, and the Comforter would not come unless our Lord first went to the Father. The Ascension was necessary also for the manifestation of Christ’s sovereignty ( Romans 14:9), and for the work of His High Priesthood in heaven.

II. The manner of His departure was open and undoubted. The Ascension into heaven is an article of faith resting on irrefragable testimony of the whole apostolic body.

III. The results of His departure with a view to our own faith and practice.

( a) It is the token of our acceptance. He is preparing a place and He is coming again. Let us look on the world’s progress and our own as parts of great preparation to that end.

( b) Let His Ascension draw our thoughts upward.

( c) His merciful intercession should also be in our minds. He is the Way, and no man cometh to the Father but by Him.

Dean Alford.

Illustration

‘The foreigner in some countries still is the subject of severe criticism, contempt, and sometimes danger. His appearance is strange, his dress is foreign, his customs are incongruous, he does not fit in with his surroundings; his presence is an insult. God forbid that we should attribute such feelings to the courts of heaven, where we read “there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth”! But it may be true, for all that, that man as man would be a sorry occupant for the unsullied streets of the golden city. Man was created in the image and likeness of God, dowered with freewill and spiritual power, and so man was meant to be a kind of first-fruits of God’s creatures. But read the history of the Old Testament saints and their serious imperfections. Read the lives of the Christian saints and their manifold limitations. Look at the average man, and the almost grotesque incongruity between his life and the life of any heaven which our imagination can bring before us. Look at our conception of beatitude. If the end of man is to know God and enjoy Him for ever—if this indeed be life eternal to know God, and Jesus Christ Whom He has sent, how can it be, how can we wish it so to be—we who know so little of God in our daily lives, we before whose lives He spreads His beauty, on which we turn our backs in silent contempt?’

Verse 2

HEAVEN

‘I go to prepare a place for you.’

John 14:2

Jesus Christ Himself is our home, our furniture, our resting-place all in one.

I. We live in Him.—‘Thou art a place to hide me in.’ It was the bitter gloom of separation from Him that cast this fluttering dismay upon the Apostles. His words were designed to reassure them. He was going before them to be ready to receive them on the other side, in the home which He had set apart for them, in the abode which He would get ready for them. The Jewish tradition had always made so much of God’s Presence here in their midst, that death seemed to them to be a going out from it into a region which had to them been only imperfectly explored, and of which they had no sure evidence. It was part of our Blessed Lord’s mission to bring life and immortality to light through the Gospel. And yet it is not for us contemptuously to despise the Jews for their scantier knowledge. At least they found God here, and that after all is the best beginning for finding Him hereafter. That ‘I may know Him and the power of His Resurrection.’ How much is contained in those words! There was a time when St. Paul had been constrained to say, ‘Who art Thou, Lord?’ It is the outpouring of a great longing when He says, ‘Then shall I know.’ We can read in the history of the martyrs how very much this meant to them as a support in their trials. ‘I see Jesus standing at the right hand of God,’ seems to have lifted St. Stephen up out of his pains and humiliation into a region where it had become true. ‘Thou shalt hide them privily by Thine own Presence from the provoking of all men: Thou shalt keep them secretly in Thy tabernacle from the strife of tongues.’ We know, perhaps, in our own experience, what it is suddenly to come across a friend in strange and difficult surroundings, where we know neither the language nor the manners of the people, and we say, ‘It seems quite like home to see you here.’

II. So we ought to live that life of personal union with Christ, that we may be able to understand without an effort that heaven is a state rather than a place. And that whatever may be the environment to which our risen life corresponds, whatever may be the analogous counterpart of our ministering senses, we may be able to find our fullness and completeness in Him. ‘And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, Whom Thou hast sent.’ ‘We are complete in Him.’ He gathers up all our affection, He purifies all our works. Where He is, there is heaven and happiness. Where He is not there is hell and misery. The Word was made flesh, and tabernacled among us, that He might raise us up to sit with Him in heavenly places, in the special home which He has prepared for us, in the mansion where He vouchsafes to meet us.

—Canon Newbolt.

Illustration

‘There is a story which comes to us from the days of the martyrs, that a Christian condemned to die a cruel death for his allegiance to Christ was sleeping peacefully the night before his martyrdom when he was disturbed by a dream. He dreamed that he was in heaven, where everything around him was of pure transparent glass. The ground he trod, the streets and gardens, all clear and transparent, and the blessed spirits of the righteous as they swept by, were of glass also; but to his dismay, each, as they passed him, pointed at him in amazement and pain, as if wondering at his presence in such a pure abode. And, looking down, he saw on his breast a black spot at which all were pointing. He clasped his hands over the place, but being himself of glass his hands were transparent, the defilement shone through. In his agony he awoke and remembered some breach of charity of which he had been guilty. He sought pardon of God and man, and passed away through martyrdom, to the realisation of the country of his dream.’

(SECOND OUTLINE)

THE LORD’S DEPARTURE

Thus the Lord announces the necessity and the object of His removal from the disciples.

I. The necessity for our Lord’s departure.—If He had remained here below various great ends of His mission must have remained unfulfilled. The glorification of His manhood, and of us in Him could not have been. Again, it was God’s purpose to build up again that image which in our first parents had been ruined, and this could not be accomplished without His being taken from them. It was to be the special work of the Holy Spirit dwelling in and operating on men’s hearts, and the Comforter would not come unless our Lord first went to the Father. The Ascension was necessary also for the manifestation of Christ’s sovereignty ( Romans 14:9), and for the work of His High Priesthood in heaven.

II. The manner of His departure was open and undoubted. The Ascension into heaven is an article of faith resting on irrefragable testimony of the whole apostolic body.

III. The results of His departure with a view to our own faith and practice.

( a) It is the token of our acceptance. He is preparing a place and He is coming again. Let us look on the world’s progress and our own as parts of great preparation to that end.

( b) Let His Ascension draw our thoughts upward.

( c) His merciful intercession should also be in our minds. He is the Way, and no man cometh to the Father but by Him.

Dean Alford.

Illustration

‘The foreigner in some countries still is the subject of severe criticism, contempt, and sometimes danger. His appearance is strange, his dress is foreign, his customs are incongruous, he does not fit in with his surroundings; his presence is an insult. God forbid that we should attribute such feelings to the courts of heaven, where we read “there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth”! But it may be true, for all that, that man as man would be a sorry occupant for the unsullied streets of the golden city. Man was created in the image and likeness of God, dowered with freewill and spiritual power, and so man was meant to be a kind of first-fruits of God’s creatures. But read the history of the Old Testament saints and their serious imperfections. Read the lives of the Christian saints and their manifold limitations. Look at the average man, and the almost grotesque incongruity between his life and the life of any heaven which our imagination can bring before us. Look at our conception of beatitude. If the end of man is to know God and enjoy Him for ever—if this indeed be life eternal to know God, and Jesus Christ Whom He has sent, how can it be, how can we wish it so to be—we who know so little of God in our daily lives, we before whose lives He spreads His beauty, on which we turn our backs in silent contempt?’

Verse 2

HEAVEN

‘I go to prepare a place for you.’

John 14:2

Jesus Christ Himself is our home, our furniture, our resting-place all in one.

I. We live in Him.—‘Thou art a place to hide me in.’ It was the bitter gloom of separation from Him that cast this fluttering dismay upon the Apostles. His words were designed to reassure them. He was going before them to be ready to receive them on the other side, in the home which He had set apart for them, in the abode which He would get ready for them. The Jewish tradition had always made so much of God’s Presence here in their midst, that death seemed to them to be a going out from it into a region which had to them been only imperfectly explored, and of which they had no sure evidence. It was part of our Blessed Lord’s mission to bring life and immortality to light through the Gospel. And yet it is not for us contemptuously to despise the Jews for their scantier knowledge. At least they found God here, and that after all is the best beginning for finding Him hereafter. That ‘I may know Him and the power of His Resurrection.’ How much is contained in those words! There was a time when St. Paul had been constrained to say, ‘Who art Thou, Lord?’ It is the outpouring of a great longing when He says, ‘Then shall I know.’ We can read in the history of the martyrs how very much this meant to them as a support in their trials. ‘I see Jesus standing at the right hand of God,’ seems to have lifted St. Stephen up out of his pains and humiliation into a region where it had become true. ‘Thou shalt hide them privily by Thine own Presence from the provoking of all men: Thou shalt keep them secretly in Thy tabernacle from the strife of tongues.’ We know, perhaps, in our own experience, what it is suddenly to come across a friend in strange and difficult surroundings, where we know neither the language nor the manners of the people, and we say, ‘It seems quite like home to see you here.’

II. So we ought to live that life of personal union with Christ, that we may be able to understand without an effort that heaven is a state rather than a place. And that whatever may be the environment to which our risen life corresponds, whatever may be the analogous counterpart of our ministering senses, we may be able to find our fullness and completeness in Him. ‘And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, Whom Thou hast sent.’ ‘We are complete in Him.’ He gathers up all our affection, He purifies all our works. Where He is, there is heaven and happiness. Where He is not there is hell and misery. The Word was made flesh, and tabernacled among us, that He might raise us up to sit with Him in heavenly places, in the special home which He has prepared for us, in the mansion where He vouchsafes to meet us.

—Canon Newbolt.

Illustration

‘There is a story which comes to us from the days of the martyrs, that a Christian condemned to die a cruel death for his allegiance to Christ was sleeping peacefully the night before his martyrdom when he was disturbed by a dream. He dreamed that he was in heaven, where everything around him was of pure transparent glass. The ground he trod, the streets and gardens, all clear and transparent, and the blessed spirits of the righteous as they swept by, were of glass also; but to his dismay, each, as they passed him, pointed at him in amazement and pain, as if wondering at his presence in such a pure abode. And, looking down, he saw on his breast a black spot at which all were pointing. He clasped his hands over the place, but being himself of glass his hands were transparent, the defilement shone through. In his agony he awoke and remembered some breach of charity of which he had been guilty. He sought pardon of God and man, and passed away through martyrdom, to the realisation of the country of his dream.’

(SECOND OUTLINE)

THE LORD’S DEPARTURE

Thus the Lord announces the necessity and the object of His removal from the disciples.

I. The necessity for our Lord’s departure.—If He had remained here below various great ends of His mission must have remained unfulfilled. The glorification of His manhood, and of us in Him could not have been. Again, it was God’s purpose to build up again that image which in our first parents had been ruined, and this could not be accomplished without His being taken from them. It was to be the special work of the Holy Spirit dwelling in and operating on men’s hearts, and the Comforter would not come unless our Lord first went to the Father. The Ascension was necessary also for the manifestation of Christ’s sovereignty ( Romans 14:9), and for the work of His High Priesthood in heaven.

II. The manner of His departure was open and undoubted. The Ascension into heaven is an article of faith resting on irrefragable testimony of the whole apostolic body.

III. The results of His departure with a view to our own faith and practice.

( a) It is the token of our acceptance. He is preparing a place and He is coming again. Let us look on the world’s progress and our own as parts of great preparation to that end.

( b) Let His Ascension draw our thoughts upward.

( c) His merciful intercession should also be in our minds. He is the Way, and no man cometh to the Father but by Him.

Dean Alford.

Illustration

‘The foreigner in some countries still is the subject of severe criticism, contempt, and sometimes danger. His appearance is strange, his dress is foreign, his customs are incongruous, he does not fit in with his surroundings; his presence is an insult. God forbid that we should attribute such feelings to the courts of heaven, where we read “there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth”! But it may be true, for all that, that man as man would be a sorry occupant for the unsullied streets of the golden city. Man was created in the image and likeness of God, dowered with freewill and spiritual power, and so man was meant to be a kind of first-fruits of God’s creatures. But read the history of the Old Testament saints and their serious imperfections. Read the lives of the Christian saints and their manifold limitations. Look at the average man, and the almost grotesque incongruity between his life and the life of any heaven which our imagination can bring before us. Look at our conception of beatitude. If the end of man is to know God and enjoy Him for ever—if this indeed be life eternal to know God, and Jesus Christ Whom He has sent, how can it be, how can we wish it so to be—we who know so little of God in our daily lives, we before whose lives He spreads His beauty, on which we turn our backs in silent contempt?’

Verse 6

THE CHRIST LIFE

‘I am the Life.’

John 14:6

‘I am the Life,’ Jesus said. How is this true of Him?

I. He is the Pattern Life.—Never was a life of man lived like His life. All are agreed about this. As in the days of His flesh foes as well as friends recognised the perfection of His life, so in all ages since, so in this critical age in which our lot is cast, believers and unbelievers alike are unanimous in the verdict they pass on the life of Jesus. ‘Truly this was a righteous Man.’

II. He is the Bringer of Life.—He asserts this of Himself: ‘I am come that ye might have life.’

III. He is Himself the Life.—‘Apart from Me ye can do nothing,’ any more than the branch can live and bear fruit when it is severed from the parent stem.

We cannot live on doctrines or feelings about Christ, nor depend for life on mere ordinances of religion however carefully observed. The only true life is that which centres round a living, personal Christ, and draws all its strength from Him.

Bishop C. J. Ridgeway.

Illustration

‘If you can receive it, your “life” is really, at this moment, up in heaven with Christ. He represents it; and He holds it. He is it. Our “life,” down here, is a part of that “life” which Christ “lives,” eternally and essentially, before the throne; and certain secret communications, always passing, make that “life” this “life.” This is a necessary result of that oneness which there is between the member and the Head. It is very unintelligible to a man of the world; he knows nothing about it; but it is a great reality to a Christian. And it is an unspeakable comfort. Every one feels a jealousy and a fear, “Will my ‘new’ feelings last? Will this ‘new’ existence, of which I am beginning to be conscious, will it go on?” The resting place for that doubt is: “Yes—for my ‘life’ is a part of ‘the life’ of a ‘living’ Saviour; Who, ‘in that He died, He died unto sin once; but in that He liveth, He liveth unto God.’ That is eternal. ‘My life is hid with Christ in God.’ ”

(SECOND OUTLINE)

LIVING IN CHRIST

You will find that your inner, your true, your only ‘life,’ will ever flow and prosper, or decline; be dull or bright—live or die—just according to the Christ that is in you.

You may try other ways, for a time, and you may think that you are succeeding; but, mark me, you will see at last that union and communion with Christ—nearness to Christ—dependence upon Christ—serving Christ—loving Christ—waiting for Christ, is the only security; the only strength; the beginning, middle, and end; the sum and substance of all spiritual ‘life,’ within a man’s heart.

This is why some fail, and some keep on to the end. It is that some understand, and some do not understand—some have always remembered, and some are always forgetting, what those words mean, ‘I am the life.’

To see this a little more plainly, let us break up the thought into four—

I. ‘Life’ in Christ.

II. ‘Life’ on Christ.

III. ‘Life’ to Christ.

IV. ‘Life’ with Christ.

—Rev. J. Vaughan.

(THIRD OUTLINE)

CHARACTERISTICS OF LIFE

True life is in God alone; it is given in Jesus Christ; it is given now. Have we this life? We can know the signs of this life, for Jesus is our exemplar, a pattern.

I. What characteristics of life do we find in the character, walk, and conduct of Jesus? Look at Him in His relationship to the Father.

Of Himself He could do nothing, teach nothing, speak nothing.

He did not come of Himself. He lived for His Father’s glory, not His own. He did not do His own will, but His Father’s.

His life was one of ( a) consecration to God; ( b) dependence on God; and ( c) harmony with God.

II. These will be characteristics of our life if the Divine life has been imparted to us.

The Divine life is the same, whether lived by Him or lived by us. God is the centre, not self.

—Canon J. G. Hoare.

Verse 6

THE CHRIST LIFE

‘I am the Life.’

John 14:6

‘I am the Life,’ Jesus said. How is this true of Him?

I. He is the Pattern Life.—Never was a life of man lived like His life. All are agreed about this. As in the days of His flesh foes as well as friends recognised the perfection of His life, so in all ages since, so in this critical age in which our lot is cast, believers and unbelievers alike are unanimous in the verdict they pass on the life of Jesus. ‘Truly this was a righteous Man.’

II. He is the Bringer of Life.—He asserts this of Himself: ‘I am come that ye might have life.’

III. He is Himself the Life.—‘Apart from Me ye can do nothing,’ any more than the branch can live and bear fruit when it is severed from the parent stem.

We cannot live on doctrines or feelings about Christ, nor depend for life on mere ordinances of religion however carefully observed. The only true life is that which centres round a living, personal Christ, and draws all its strength from Him.

Bishop C. J. Ridgeway.

Illustration

‘If you can receive it, your “life” is really, at this moment, up in heaven with Christ. He represents it; and He holds it. He is it. Our “life,” down here, is a part of that “life” which Christ “lives,” eternally and essentially, before the throne; and certain secret communications, always passing, make that “life” this “life.” This is a necessary result of that oneness which there is between the member and the Head. It is very unintelligible to a man of the world; he knows nothing about it; but it is a great reality to a Christian. And it is an unspeakable comfort. Every one feels a jealousy and a fear, “Will my ‘new’ feelings last? Will this ‘new’ existence, of which I am beginning to be conscious, will it go on?” The resting place for that doubt is: “Yes—for my ‘life’ is a part of ‘the life’ of a ‘living’ Saviour; Who, ‘in that He died, He died unto sin once; but in that He liveth, He liveth unto God.’ That is eternal. ‘My life is hid with Christ in God.’ ”

(SECOND OUTLINE)

LIVING IN CHRIST

You will find that your inner, your true, your only ‘life,’ will ever flow and prosper, or decline; be dull or bright—live or die—just according to the Christ that is in you.

You may try other ways, for a time, and you may think that you are succeeding; but, mark me, you will see at last that union and communion with Christ—nearness to Christ—dependence upon Christ—serving Christ—loving Christ—waiting for Christ, is the only security; the only strength; the beginning, middle, and end; the sum and substance of all spiritual ‘life,’ within a man’s heart.

This is why some fail, and some keep on to the end. It is that some understand, and some do not understand—some have always remembered, and some are always forgetting, what those words mean, ‘I am the life.’

To see this a little more plainly, let us break up the thought into four—

I. ‘Life’ in Christ.

II. ‘Life’ on Christ.

III. ‘Life’ to Christ.

IV. ‘Life’ with Christ.

—Rev. J. Vaughan.

(THIRD OUTLINE)

CHARACTERISTICS OF LIFE

True life is in God alone; it is given in Jesus Christ; it is given now. Have we this life? We can know the signs of this life, for Jesus is our exemplar, a pattern.

I. What characteristics of life do we find in the character, walk, and conduct of Jesus? Look at Him in His relationship to the Father.

Of Himself He could do nothing, teach nothing, speak nothing.

He did not come of Himself. He lived for His Father’s glory, not His own. He did not do His own will, but His Father’s.

His life was one of ( a) consecration to God; ( b) dependence on God; and ( c) harmony with God.

II. These will be characteristics of our life if the Divine life has been imparted to us.

The Divine life is the same, whether lived by Him or lived by us. God is the centre, not self.

—Canon J. G. Hoare.

Verse 6

THE CHRIST LIFE

‘I am the Life.’

John 14:6

‘I am the Life,’ Jesus said. How is this true of Him?

I. He is the Pattern Life.—Never was a life of man lived like His life. All are agreed about this. As in the days of His flesh foes as well as friends recognised the perfection of His life, so in all ages since, so in this critical age in which our lot is cast, believers and unbelievers alike are unanimous in the verdict they pass on the life of Jesus. ‘Truly this was a righteous Man.’

II. He is the Bringer of Life.—He asserts this of Himself: ‘I am come that ye might have life.’

III. He is Himself the Life.—‘Apart from Me ye can do nothing,’ any more than the branch can live and bear fruit when it is severed from the parent stem.

We cannot live on doctrines or feelings about Christ, nor depend for life on mere ordinances of religion however carefully observed. The only true life is that which centres round a living, personal Christ, and draws all its strength from Him.

Bishop C. J. Ridgeway.

Illustration

‘If you can receive it, your “life” is really, at this moment, up in heaven with Christ. He represents it; and He holds it. He is it. Our “life,” down here, is a part of that “life” which Christ “lives,” eternally and essentially, before the throne; and certain secret communications, always passing, make that “life” this “life.” This is a necessary result of that oneness which there is between the member and the Head. It is very unintelligible to a man of the world; he knows nothing about it; but it is a great reality to a Christian. And it is an unspeakable comfort. Every one feels a jealousy and a fear, “Will my ‘new’ feelings last? Will this ‘new’ existence, of which I am beginning to be conscious, will it go on?” The resting place for that doubt is: “Yes—for my ‘life’ is a part of ‘the life’ of a ‘living’ Saviour; Who, ‘in that He died, He died unto sin once; but in that He liveth, He liveth unto God.’ That is eternal. ‘My life is hid with Christ in God.’ ”

(SECOND OUTLINE)

LIVING IN CHRIST

You will find that your inner, your true, your only ‘life,’ will ever flow and prosper, or decline; be dull or bright—live or die—just according to the Christ that is in you.

You may try other ways, for a time, and you may think that you are succeeding; but, mark me, you will see at last that union and communion with Christ—nearness to Christ—dependence upon Christ—serving Christ—loving Christ—waiting for Christ, is the only security; the only strength; the beginning, middle, and end; the sum and substance of all spiritual ‘life,’ within a man’s heart.

This is why some fail, and some keep on to the end. It is that some understand, and some do not understand—some have always remembered, and some are always forgetting, what those words mean, ‘I am the life.’

To see this a little more plainly, let us break up the thought into four—

I. ‘Life’ in Christ.

II. ‘Life’ on Christ.

III. ‘Life’ to Christ.

IV. ‘Life’ with Christ.

—Rev. J. Vaughan.

(THIRD OUTLINE)

CHARACTERISTICS OF LIFE

True life is in God alone; it is given in Jesus Christ; it is given now. Have we this life? We can know the signs of this life, for Jesus is our exemplar, a pattern.

I. What characteristics of life do we find in the character, walk, and conduct of Jesus? Look at Him in His relationship to the Father.

Of Himself He could do nothing, teach nothing, speak nothing.

He did not come of Himself. He lived for His Father’s glory, not His own. He did not do His own will, but His Father’s.

His life was one of ( a) consecration to God; ( b) dependence on God; and ( c) harmony with God.

II. These will be characteristics of our life if the Divine life has been imparted to us.

The Divine life is the same, whether lived by Him or lived by us. God is the centre, not self.

—Canon J. G. Hoare.

Verse 8

ON KNOWING GOD

‘Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us.’

John 14:8

Was it well or ill spoken, this word of St. Philip? It evidently came from his heart. It was no captious objection. Shall we then commend or blame him for his inquiry? We must blame him for the sad ignorance betrayed. But we commend him for the splendid faith evinced. ‘And it sufficeth us,’ he says in the midst of his heaviness of heart.

I. Faith in God was the sheet-anchor of his soul.—But his knowledge of God was so limited and indistinct. To really see God this would solve all his difficulties, lighten his burdens, and sweeten every bitter sorrow. Then the world could no longer deceive and ensnare, sin would be powerless to conquer and corrupt, the old enemy self would vanish out of sight. This was his splendid faith. Surely for this splendid faith, and for this sublime ambition in his hour of disappointment and suspense, St. Philip deserves all praise. In spite of the ignorance it betrays, we are glad that he made the appeal in such a tone of enthusiastic and confident expectation.

II. How do we compare with St. Philip?—Nineteen centuries have passed since his day. We have had revealed to us the full meaning of all that was then troubling and perplexing those disciples. We know that their immediate loss was ultimate gain and the world’s salvation—that Christ went to the Father by the way of the Cross, that He might open the Kingdom of Heaven to all believers, and return in the power of the Spirit to dwell in our hearts. We have learned to believe in and to draw near to the living God. In what spirit do we draw near? Have we St. Philip’s strong desire to see the Father? Is it our one ambition to know God? Have we the same sublime assurance that complete and lasting satisfaction is found in knowing God? Are we entirely freed from his sad ignorance? Or has the Saviour to utter the same sad reproach to some of His professed disciples to-day? ‘Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known Me, Philip?’

III. To desire to know God should be the supreme longing in every Christian heart.—This is the end of our redemption. Christ died to bring us to God. This is the object of the gift of eternal life. This is the condition of all spiritual progress, of all increase in likeness to God. This is the remedy for all earth’s sorrows and disappointments, the secret of abiding satisfaction and delight. It should be the constant cry of every believing heart, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us.’

Rev. F. S. Webster.

Verse 9

POWER THROUGH CHRIST

‘Because I live, ye shall live also.’

John 14:9

This was the word of comfort in the ears of the disciples, and the new and added sense and joy in a certainty of personality beyond the grave strengthened their wills, purified their characters, and uplifted them with a sense of wonderful dignity.

I. The graciousness of the truth—that is, if we are in Christ, though death come and the dust fall upon our coffins, we shall be more powerfully alive to help our friends who remain on earth—is one that is as stimulating to Christ-likeness and Christ-livingness as it is of cheer to those we leave behind us.

II. The personality of the risen Christ is guarantee of the living power of men who are His friends, to help their brethren here on earth, even after they have passed to the world of spirit beyond. The joy of the Resurrection morning is for us the joy of knowing that whatever in us men and women is of Christ shall not cease as an operative principle here on earth when we cease to live and move and serve the present hour, but shall still run on to the making of our earth fit for the coming of the Kingdom. The sting of death is not only sin, but it is fear lest all we hoped and toiled for have an end. But in the light of Easter morning we know that whatever is of Christ in our hope and toil shall live on, and help the coming of the better time which Christ spoke of as the Kingdom of God.

III. The aim and end of the risen Christ is the communication of vitality, contagion of personality, transmission of character. And we who would help forward that social idea which Jesus had before His eyes, and which He always spoke of as the Kingdom of God, must in this matter put on the mind of Christ, must pray to be in such living union with the Christ Whom we strive to follow that we may become sensible that His will is being done in or through us, as individual members of His body, for the helping of our time—His will Who said, ‘Because I live, ye shall live also.’

—Canon Rawnsley.

Illustration

‘What is to save the great industrial revolution that is going forward from pure materialism and ignoble and irreligious selfishness but the bringing back into the Labour movement and into the Socialist programme the personal Christ as Saviour of all our national society? We have, as Maurice once put it, either to Christianise Socialism or Socialise Christianity. It can, I believe, only be done by bringing back, not only the ethics of Christ, but His personality and the power of it into the problems that are ahead of us. We must preach and teach that the spirit work of Jesus Christ, our risen Lord, is “to set forth the principle of personality, to awaken the higher life of persons, to make a man come to himself,” that so we may arise and go unto the Father and the Kingdom of that Father in the wealth and health of individual character.’

Verse 12

GREATER WORKS

‘Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto My Father.’

John 14:12

It is a mysterious saying; what did our Lord mean by it?

I. What were the ‘greater works’?—On the first reading this saying of our Lord’s seems to apply to His miracles and to the miracles which His followers should work in His Name, and I suppose it was inevitable that those who first heard the saying must have understood it in this way. On this account it must have constituted some sort of embarrassment to those who were advocating the claims of Christianity. For we may note at once that the saying will not bear this interpretation. We should come nearer to our Lord’s true meaning if we reflect that this saying does not stand alone in the Gospel, but is one of many sayings in which our Lord refers to a great future in which the work of His own ministry was to be in some sense surpassed and transcended. It is in John’s Gospel that we find all the references to the Comforter, Who was the Holy Ghost, Who was to teach the Apostles all things. The day of greater things was yet to come.

II. Christ as the Sower.—Putting the miracles aside, let us consider what was the work of Jesus in the three years of His ministry. Surely it was the sowing of the seed rather than the reaping of the harvest. He did not found a new Church; He did not enrol multitudes as adherents to a new faith. He was more careful to impart His revelation to a few chosen witnesses, more careful for that than for what we should call numerous conversions. His teaching was indeed a leaven in the hearts of the people, but it was a leaven that needed time to work. Not until the Holy Ghost was given on the day of Pentecost could the Kingdom of God come with power.

III. The Holy Ghost the instrument of the ‘greater works.’—Christ connects His own departure with the coming of the Holy Ghost. The greater works are to be accomplished not because Christ has gone, but because the Holy Ghost has come. Therefore are the works of Christ in His ministry on earth surpassed not by any mere activity of man, but by that office of God the Holy Ghost which it is the part of the believer to promote. When we speak of God in us, God enabling us, God convincing us, God suggesting that which is good to us, we mean God the Holy Ghost; and when we try to do any good work for God and for Christ, to fulfil the will of the Father and to further the cause of the Son in the saving of souls, that upon which we rely is the Presence of God the Holy Ghost, that power within us both inspiring the good purpose and enabling us to bring it to good effect.

IV. The greatest miracle in the world.—The greatest miracle in the world is that by which the sinner becomes the saint. But though every saint is made a saint by the Holy Ghost, no saint is made a saint without his own co-operation with the Holy Ghost.

Prebendary Whitworth.

Illustration

‘Men sometimes discuss the utility of Christian missions as if Christian missions meant human effort, and human influence, and human testimony, and no more. How different it all seems when we think of the human agent as being called and sent by the Holy Ghost, the same Holy Ghost continually working with him and in him to convince the believer of sin and of righteousness and of judgment. How melancholy would our position be, preaching Sunday after Sunday, if the only fruit of our labour were that which results from the wisdom or the foolishness of our own words. Rather we must rest upon the hope that we may be allowed to set in motion some of the operations of God the Holy Ghost. And how hopeless would our pastoral work be if we did not believe in the working of God the Holy Ghost! The work is not ours: it belongs to the Holy Ghost, and if it be taken out of our hands it is still in His hands. We must have faith to leave it to Him.’

Verses 15-17

THE MISSION OF THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH

‘If ye love Me, ye will keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth.’

John 14:15-17 (R.V.)

It is very important to consider what the Spirit of truth is said to do for us. He does much more than give us fresh knowledge. He gives us knowledge indeed, but it is knowledge which none else can give, knowledge which has a Divine power in it. If we look at the three passages where the name occurs, one in each of these three chapters ( John 14:17; John 15:26; John 16:13), and at the words which follow in close connection with them, we shall see that the office of the Paraclete stands out in three distinct and ascending degrees of energy.

I. He looks towards the past.—He reveals the truth by heightening the memory of what our Saviour has told us. He will bring Him back to us. ‘I will not leave you desolate (says our Lord, John 14:18): I come unto you’—and not alone. For He says further, ‘If a man love Me, he will keep My words: and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and make Our abode with him’ ( John 14:23), and then ‘The Comforter, even the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance (ὑ?πομνήσει ὑ?μᾶ?ς ) all that I said unto you’ ( John 14:26). The coming, then, of the Father and the Son, through the image of Christ formed in the soul, is thus described as the work of the Holy Spirit. It is not, of course, a mere memory, but it is a work of the Holy Spirit using human memory.

II. The work of the Spirit of truth is to help us to bear witness to Christ before the world in our present struggles. ‘When the Comforter is come, Whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall bear witness of Me; and ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with Me from the beginning” ( John 15:26-27). And this is expressed in more detail, ‘And He, when He is come, will convict the world in respect of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment’ ( John 16:8), a hard and sad and yet glorious task.

III. The same Spirit will be the leader and guide of the Church in all future changes ( John 16:12-13).—Thus the sphere of this Holy Spirit is that of a Divine and eternal being. Past, present, and future are one to Him. The mystical Christ-like life inside the soul, the courage that faces the world with an unwelcome message, the far-seeing wisdom that decides what is right in fresh emergencies—all three are equally His province and His gift. We do well to put all these attributes of the Spirit of truth together into one picture, that we may realise how glorious the vision is, how full the consolation.

Bishop John Wordsworth.

(SECOND OUTLINE)

ANOTHER COMFORTER

Refer to the personal character of the Holy Spirit’s work.

I. It is wrought by a Divine Person entering and dwelling within the human.—The word ‘enthusiasm’ is etymologically a ‘being possessed by God.’ Among the old Greeks it rose, and behind it was the notion that a Divine power may be expected to manifest itself in some strange transport or frenzy, in which the spirit of man becomes intensely self-assertive, and pushes its lordly sway over the lower parts of his being to the bounds of sobriety—a travesty of a true thing. The spirit of man is quickened by the advent of the Spirit of God. Before that advent, man has his blind side, his deaf side, his insentient side, his inarticulate side. The better half of the soul’s avenues are blocked. Its eye hath not seen, nor its ear heard, neither has entered into it to conceive the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him. But God hath revealed them to it by His Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.

II. Personal relation to a personal God.—Responsibilities based upon an intimate relationship, who does not recognise as more sacred, more importunate, than those which render amenable to the will of a stranger? Apart from relationship, all responsibility is, and must be, the ethical offspring of coercion: noble, worthy coercion it may be, involving the highest appeals to the reasoning faculty of the ruled; but still coercion. But what true father, husband, brother, son, thinks of coercion in connection with the recognition of the hallowed responsibilities bound up with these relationships? Love knows no coercion; and God the Holy Ghost is Love.

III. The paramount question of our personal standing with God is only too perilously obscured to-day by the facile patronage accorded by the world to Church life and work. That there is no matter for thankfulness that the religious topic is touched so widely in the press and in society, we are far from asserting. But in a day when religious questions of all sorts are in the air, and to take them up and discuss them involves nothing of the Cross and its stigmata, the overwhelmingly momentous question of one’s own hold upon the deep experimental verities of personal religion is only too apt to be met with the presumption that all is well. Much is heard now of the corporate life of the Church, of her historic continuity. But the body is not the soul; and it is, alas! only too possible to be ecclesiastically alive and spiritually dead.

—Bishop Alfred Pearson.

Illustration

‘What is the life which the Spirit gives, with which He works? I listen, and I hear another voice, which is yet as if also His, and it says, “I am the Life”—“the Life eternal is in the Son”—“He that hath the Son hath the Life.” I read these words, and I see in them a remembrance that what the Spirit does in His free and all-powerful work in the soul, which He quickens into second life, is, above all things, to bring it into contact with the Son. He grafts it, He embodies it into the Son. He deals so with it, that there is a continuity, wholly spiritual indeed, but none the less most real, unfigurative, and efficacious, between the Head and the limb, between the branch and the Root. He effects an influx into the regenerate man of the blessed virtues of the nature of the Second Adam, an infusion of the exalted life of Jesus Christ, through an open duct, living and Divine, into the man who is born again into Him, the incarnate and glorified Son of God.’

(THIRD OUTLINE)

GROUNDS OF COMFORT

‘I will pray the Father.’ Hence it is plain that the gift of the Holy Spirit is the fruit of the prayers of Jesus Christ. But whom does the Holy Ghost comfort? Not the world, but the children of God.

How does the Holy Ghost comfort?

I. By revealing Christ.—‘He shall glorify Me: for He shall receive of Mine, and shall show it unto you.’ ( John 16:14). The Blessed Spirit brings to remembrance the words of Jesus. He unveils the glory of the Redeemer, His atoning blood, His justifying righteousness, His all-sufficient grace, His perpetual intercession, and His glory in store.

II. By shedding the love of God abroad in our hearts ( Romans 5:5).—He makes us feel that the Father Himself loves us; and He humbles and melts us with a sense of that ‘love Divine, all love excelling,’ which spared not His own Son.

III. By helping us to pray ( Romans 8:26).—When we are cold and dead He leads us to the place where grace abounds, and out of weakness we are made strong.

IV. By witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God ( Romans 8:16). He bids us ‘Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God’ ( 1 John 3:1). Well, indeed, in the Te Deum, do we sing the praise of ‘the Holy Ghost, the Comforter’!

The great need for the whole Church of Christ is a fresh baptism of the Holy Spirit. If He comes to us with Pentecostal blessing, He will burn up all selfishness and meanness, He will take away all malice and uncharitableness, He will nerve the weak and timid with strength and grace, and He will bless us with the sweetest peace of the risen Saviour.

—Rev. F. Harper.

Illustration

‘We are accustomed to live by sight and sense so much that we find it hard to bring to us that which we do not see, and that which we cannot comprehend. We are afraid of it, afraid of confounding it with unreality. The Incarnate Son we can in a measure comprehend; He meant us to do so, that we might receive Him with our hearts and affections. But the Blessed Comforter we only know by what our Blessed Master has told us. He opens His hand, and fills all the world with plenty. We are only too apt to forget what He does, because we are unable to comprehend what He is. Think how, from first to last, in all we read of the New Dispensation, the Presence of the Holy Ghost is associated with the Incarnation, Nativity, Death, and Resurrection. He is the subject of the last great closing discourse of our Blessed Lord. Think how St. Paul startles us, in what he takes for granted as an argument, “Know ye not that your bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost?” If we forget Him we do not think as men thought who wrote the New Testament.’

(FOURTH OUTLINE)

COMFORTER, ADVOCATE, GUIDE

The Holy Ghost is a Comforter. As I look round the world I say that if He did not comfort He would have left undone a much-needed work. If there were not a Comforter sent from heaven, where should we be? And it was because our Saviour knew this that before He left He made us this beautiful promise.

I. The Comforter.—I do not believe it is meant by God for a single soul to leave this church uncomforted. It is not a question of merely coming here to hear a sermon. That is not at all the idea. Religion is absolutely hopeless if that is all it is; but I believe that God has brought you here that not a single soul may go away uncomforted. I speak therefore

( a) To those who are bearing some heavy trouble. There is only one Person in the world Who can comfort you, and that is the Comforter. Have you asked the Comforter to comfort you? Perhaps you are trying to kill your grief by distracting yourself with amusement or, as some have tried, to drown it in drink, or as others have tried, to hide it under an unreal merriment. All these are bad ways. There is One sent from heaven Who has never gone back, Who, indeed, as a matter of fact, dwells within you on purpose to comfort you.

( b) To those who are feeling the far more bitter sorrow of sin. There is a sting about sorrow for sin which there is not about sorrow for loss. The sting of death is sin. How does the Holy Ghost comfort the sinner? There is only one Atonement ever made which avails for the sin of the world, and that is the Atonement made by Jesus Christ Himself.

( c) To those who are possessed by an awful sense of loneliness. What they want is a Comforter; they want Someone Who will cry ‘Abba, Father’ in their hearts; Someone Who will give them a perpetual sense of the protecting care of God, and surround them with an atmosphere of God’s Presence. The Holy Ghost cries ‘Abba, Father,’ in thine ears. He gives them a glorious sense of being protected in the everlasting arms, and in that sense He comforts them, and nerves them, and embraces them to stand firm and hold out.

II. The Paraclete.—With a world that wanted comfort it was an inspiration that the word should be translated ‘Comforter’ first. But yet when we look into it and compare the passages togther, there is another translation which is more correct even than Comforter, and that is Paraclete or Advocate: ‘called to our side to help’; that is what the word means.

( a) Difficulties. I may be speaking to some who are very much troubled how to get across that difficulty which faces them—who cannot see their way through difficulties at the office, or who have home cares or difficulties in making both ends meet, or how to bring up their children. Now what I want you to do—because this is a different kind of trouble—is, I want you to call the Comforter, the Paraclete, to your side to help you. He loves to do it. He loves to come, and see you through—not only to-day, but every day.

( b) Tangles. What tangles there are in people’s lives! The life, as it were, is tied up into knots; and no one can see where the mistakes are. That poor girl or boy cannot see where it is wrong. It is what the Paraclete, what the Comforter loves to do. And He sometimes uses men and women to do it. When St. Paul was in a tangle the Holy Spirit sent Ananias to help him, and he was to receive what he was to do through Ananias. And so it may be through some man, some woman, or some friend you trust; it is wonderful how He uses people.

III. The Guide.—The Comforter, the Paraclete, undertakes for us the whole journey of life. Those who need comfort in the journey of life need not have the slightest worry or trouble if they really leave it to Him. He guides them through this change, through that difficulty; and when it comes to death, He sees us through that too. There are some who are worrying about the journey of life and are anxious about it, but I do believe it is because you have not put your lives entirely into the keeping of the Comforter. Call Him to your side to help. Do not worry whether you are to be poor or rich, to live a long or a short time on earth; but leave it to the Comforter, and you will have peace for the first time in your life, an absolute freedom from anxiety and worry, because you are in the shelter of a greater power than your own.

Bishop A. F. Winnington-Ingram.

Illustrations

‘In Gordon’s Quiet Talks on Power there are two illustrations which illustrate well these points. They are illustrations of what it means by a Paraclete or Advocate. He first pictures a very familiar scene. A little child is trying to cross one of our crowded London crossings, and there, as the poor little thing tries to get across, the great omnibuses, cabs, and motor-cars pass; the poor little child begins to think she will never get across. The tears begin to come in her eyes, when the great—or what seems to her great—policeman in charge of the crossing calls to her, “Do you want to go across, dear?” “Yes,” she says; and when she looks up to the great strong man who puts his hand up to stop the traffic and draws her safely across in his protecting care, he is her Paraclete; he is her Advocate. She called him to her side to help because he was strong enough and had authority enough to help her through the trouble that was too great for her. Then he takes the illustration of a boy at school worried over his sum, who cannot make it come right. He wrinkles his brow, and the poor little brain gets hot. But the kind schoolmistress sees his difficulty; she sits down by his side and looks through his sum, and kindly tells him “This is where you went wrong.” The little brow becomes smooth, and then he goes on and gets the answer right. She does not do the sum for him; she shows him where he has gone wrong. She is his Paraclete.’

Verse 17

THE INDWELLING CHRIST

‘The Spirit of … truth shall be in you.’

John 14:17

How is it that so many well-meaning people are content to live according to a low standard of religion—to live on year after year as though, like the disciples at Ephesus, they had ‘never so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost’?

I. It is often from want of thought, that fruitful source of so much evil in this life. From the mere force of habit regular attendants at church come to repeat their belief in the Holy Ghost without seriously thinking what they mean, and without allowing their professed belief to have the slightest influence on their daily lives.

II. The world’s religion is regarded by many as more comfortable and as giving less trouble, whereas the indwelling of the Spirit of Truth always interferes with the indulgences of sin, entails self-sacrifice, and brings those who follow His guidance along a toilsome road. Thus the Holy Spirit is not followed by those who think the world’s standard of religion sufficient for their spiritual needs.

III. Some of you may wish for this indwelling of the Holy Spirit when you are in God’s House, and find when you return to your homes that the devout feeling has passed away. But remember this: He Who is the Light of the World will not always knock at the door of your hearts. As the inspired writings of the old prophet Micah teach us, the work of the Holy Spirit is to make us obedient to the will of God, however much it may be opposed to our worldly desires. The indwelling of Christ leads the Christian to say from the heart—

‘Many years ago it was the custom in this country for people to rise early on the morning of Whitsun-day that they might go out and pray at the moment the sun appeared above the horizon. There was a superstition that God would grant any prayer offered at sunrise on this particular day—the birthday of the Church. It is to be feared, however, that there was more of superstition than devotion in this old custom, for we know that the rest of the day was observed in anything but a fitting manner by those who professed to keep it as a festival of the Church. The Whitsun ales and merry-makings were formerly kept on this day, and in the midst of feastings and amusements there was great danger of the origin of the festival being entirely forgotten.’

Verse 19

LIFE THROUGH CHRIST

‘Because I live, ye shall live also.’

John 14:19

There is only one law of life, and that law uniform, whatever the manifestation. Let us note three of the essentials of life.

I. Life has never been seen.—Living matter we have; but the minutest examination failed to give a glimpse of life itself. We detect life by its operations. ‘Because I live, ye shall live also’ meant a new localisation for new ends, an extension of powers through the existing power of a life triumphant over death.

II. Life is the cause, never the effect of organisation.—By baptism the living soul is lifted into higher life, made part of an organism. Matter is lifeless until taken up into union with quickened forms. We who conform to the law of the higher life are in Christ by a unifying process. In the organic life of His Body we find fullness of expression.

III. Life must be reproductive.—Non-productive life is practically non-existent. The question of the risen Christ is not ‘Are you saved?’ but ‘Are you saving?’ The man who is not saving others has not yet entered into the fullness of Christ’s life.

Illustration

‘O soul of man, called to this wonderful existence, so gifted, yet so rigidly bounded; made for such great things, yet turned aside by such poor ones; so promising, yet so transient; the breath of a day between the two eternities, yet rich with power, and thought, and beauty, rich in capacities of grace and goodness, ever unfolding, ever growing; conscious of such needs and such evils, longing for such firm reality and truth, responding to such calls, and then going hence as if never having been—where is to be thy part? What wilt thou do with what is given thee, with that great and fearful thing which we call life? Wilt thou rest in the portion of the first Adam, great, lovely as it often is, merely to live, to see, to be glad in the sky above and God’s blessing on the earth, in our home, in our work? It is enough if we had no more. It is enough to be thankful for if our view closed here. But the first man is of the earth earthy, and there is the Second Man, the Lord from Heaven.… He only

“Holds for us the keys of either home,

Earth and the world to come.”

O soul of man, inheritor of the first Adam, new born to the Second, which wilt thou choose?’

Verses 21-23

COMING AND ABIDING

‘He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me: and he that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father … and We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him.’

John 14:21-23

Our Blessed Lord had been speaking of His own impending departure and of the coming of the Holy Spirit, and He had pointed out that the Holy Spirit would really be a further manifestation of Himself to His Church. But the disciples noted that this further manifestation which should bring Him nearer to them would be a hiding of Himself from the world. Up to this time our Lord’s ministry had been marked by a note of frank publicity. But now all this was to come to an end.

I. The question asked.—And here comes St. Jude’s question. What does it mean? Why this change? ‘Lord, how is it that Thou wilt manifest Thyself to us, and not unto the world?’ is the question of a man who is honestly perplexed, and is at the same time zealous for his Master’s honour. This difficulty has been by no means confined to the holy Apostles. It is a difficulty felt by devout believers in every age. The things of God, the things of the spiritual life, are to us so tremendously real, yet to the world they mean nothing. They are but as empty words, less important than the result of a cricket match or the event of a horse-race. Strange, most strange. And sometimes the question takes a sharper and more pathetic ring. It is no longer the children of God asking about the children of this world. The trouble has come nearer home. It is the husband asking about the wife, it is the wife asking about the husband. The husband asks, ‘What does it mean? These spiritual verities to me mean so much—death and judgment, and God, and immortality; they are with me when I rise up and when I lie down, when I go forth and when I come in. But to her, my wife, they seem to be less than nothing—they do not touch her, they do not interest her; and yet she is not a bad woman, that is the strangest part of it—in so many respects far better than myself, I know it well: a little light, perhaps, a little pleasure-loving, but not a bad woman; faithful, loyal, pure, affectionate. What does it mean?’ Or it is the wife who cries in the bitterness of her spirit, ‘Oh, my God, give me my husband’s soul! In all other respects we are true husband and wife, but with regard to the things of the spiritual life, I know it well, there is a barrier, invisible, impalpable, but real, hard as adamant. I could trust him among ten thousand; yet here, in the deepest things of life, where above all I desire to be one with him, we are in different worlds, we are so far apart we can hardly hear one another speak. What does it mean?’

II. Christ’s answer.—And then there comes Christ’s answer, an answer strange, enigmatical. ‘If any man love Me he will keep My sayings, and I will come to him and make My abode with him.’ It is not the answer we should have expected, not perhaps the answer we should have desired, and yet they are words of truth, and we may well dwell upon them and search out their meaning. Our Lord lays down the principle that the revelation of God always demands moral co-operation on our part. God never leaves Himself without witness, let us be sure of that. He appeals to every heart and conscience. He is that inner voice which calls us to strive upwards and onwards, and if we respond to that voice, if heart and conscience are willing to attend, He will manifest Himself to us more fully. The manifestation of God requires moral co-operation on our part. Christ, when He comes, comes with a searching power. He demands that we should cast out of our lives all that is inconsistent with the friendship of the Holy God. He demands, first of all, repentance. Take, for instance, the story of Samuel and Eli. The little Temple servant could hear the voice of God, the wise old priest could not. He had neglected a duty, he had not restrained his sons. John the Baptist came to prepare the way for Christ. How did he prepare it? By calling them to repentance. The Holy Spirit comes that He may convince us. How does He begin? By convincing the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment.

III. Our Lord’s words come to us

( a) With wonder. If we feel that our own religion is mere outward formality, that we do not really possess Christ and are not possessed by Him, then let us look to it lest sin lie at the door. Before we answer that we are not as other men, let us look to it and see if our first need is not the need of repentance.

( b) With encouragement.—We may well bear the encouragement in mind in dealing with other men. It may be that your husband, your wife, your dear friend, does not seem to be in the ordinary sense of the term religious. You have often sorrowed and interceded with God for them. But if there be in them the genuine love of goodness, if they are striving upwards and onwards for purity and truth and morality, and all that is noble, then our Blessed Lord seems to say to us that they really love Him though they know it not, that there is in their case the necessary condition for the further manifestation of Himself to them. Those of us who know Christ as a personal Saviour would never admit for one moment that the love of goodness means the same thing as the personal possession of Jesus Christ. It cannot mean the same thing, yet in the case of those who are not outwardly religious, but love purity and truth and goodness, we can afford to be patient, we can afford to wait. Christ will come to that soul, and He will possess it, and once having possessed it He will keep it in His safe and holy care.

—Rev. W. S. Swayne.

Illustration

Show me Thy face! one transient gleam

Of loveliness divine,

And I shall never think or dream

Of other love save Thine!

All lesser light will darken quite,

All lower glories wane,

The beautiful of earth will scarce

Seem beautiful again.’

Verse 26

THE DIVINE TEACHER

‘The Holy Ghost … He shall teach you all things.’

John 14:26

I. Merely human teaching will never make a Christian.—The great difficulty of all teaching is to rouse attention. The scholar must co-operate with the teacher,

( a) This is one reason why sermons are so often in vain. They fall on dull ears, and never enter at all.

( b) The same thing makes preaching bad. A preacher longs to rouse attention; so he tries to say something new, or in a new way. But truth is old, and the best way was found out long ago. So sermons are dull, for who can help being dull when he knows it matters nothing what he says?

( c) And even supposing that the mind takes in what it hears, and assents to what is proved, there is another struggle yet. For we have to act and live by our rules. Some think the fall of man consisted in the loss of his power to govern himself; and certainly it is very weak. Memory, judgment, will all fail us at times. A crying need for something beyond ourselves.

II. The remedy for it all is the power of the Holy Ghost.

( a) The outward Teacher is not so great as the inner Helper.

( b) We have not lost Christ when the Holy Ghost brings to our remembrance all He was, and did, and said.

III. The Holy Ghost is everywhere the pervading influence of God.—By the one Spirit come all gifts, inward and outward.

( a) The Sacraments are His.

( b) The renewed heart is His dwelling-place.

( c) Christian graces are His work.

( d) Whatsoever we see in the world, of good, is His.

( e) He is the finger of God, by which great works are done.

IV. Hence the absolute necessity of prayer and submission, and the inevitable humility of a Christian. For, we can consent, we can co-operate, but alone we can do nothing. The work may all be ascribed to God, because without His strength it is nothing; and yet it is our work, because it is by our will that God acts. A Christian, then, need fear nothing if the Holy Spirit be his Comforter. And for this must come—

( a) A willing mind.

( b) A longing prayer.

( c) A ready consent and obedience.

We know how, by the use of natural force, men can do work beyond all unaided human strength. When men’s strength fails, they call on God’s creatures to help them. There is a greater power than all natural forces. May we have grace to ask for and use well this power, which is God’s Holy Spirit.

—Bishop Steere.

Illustration

‘The Spirit of God is eternal, not only in time, but also in sympathy and power. And there is no nation and no race, however abject, however far, that the Spirit does not reach, and draw into the bonds of Christian fellowship. And what holds true of the Church is also true of the individual. He who has the Spirit of God may fall, yes, does fall, yet will, and can rise up again because of the all-powerful presence and indwelling of the Spirit. No true Christian, true in will and purpose, however feeble in effort or in accomplishment, need despair. It is not the individual’s strength, but the Spirit’s strength which will enable him to recover his ground, and overcome the temptation, or triumph over the habit, or purify the life.’

Verse 27

THE PEACE OF CHRIST

‘My peace I give unto you.’

John 14:27

The word peace in the Hebrew seems to have the idea of completeness—something which if a man has, he wants no more; it is a word in which all good is summed up; we should call it happiness.

‘My peace I give unto you.’ These are the Words of the Prince of Peace, the King of Peace, the Lord of Peace, and therefore the peace He gives to His people is princely, kingly, lordly peace. It is the ‘peace of God.’ God’s peace is Christ’s gift. For, indeed, the world cannot give it. How can the world give what it does not possess? The way of peace it has not known.

I. Peace is in a Person.—That Person is Christ. All peace is treasured up in Him. ‘He is our peace’ ( Ephesians 2:14).

II. He made peace by the Blood of His Cross ( Colossians 1:20). Round the Cross mercy and truth met together, righteousness and peace kissed each other. He is the great Arbitrator, for He made peace between God and every believing man, and He lays His pierced Hands on both.

III. He speaks peace.—He stilled the tempest by saying, ‘Peace, be still.’ That was what we call a miracle, but it was a parable too. We must believe that Christ meant us to gather that what He did once under certain circumstances—that, or something akin to it—He would do always under similar and analogous conditions. So all down the ages He has been walking on ‘the waves of this troublesome world,’ and whispering ‘peace.’ And ‘when He giveth quietness, who then can make trouble?’ ( Job 34:29).

IV. He gives the peace He made.—He applies it by His own Spirit. And the Spirit of Peace sheds peace on the heart like the morning spread on the mountains. Every night the believing man lies down in peace. ‘The pilgrim they laid in a chamber whose window opened towards the sunrising. The name of the chamber was Peace, where he slept till break of day, and then he awoke and sang.’ And when the last night comes, ‘after life’s fitful fever he sleeps well,’ for he sleeps in peace. ‘The souls of the righteous are in the hands of God, and there shall no torment touch them. In the sight of the unwise they seemed to die; and their departure is taken for misery: but they are in peace.’

I ‘publish peace,’ and ‘how beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!’ ( Romans 10:15). I ‘publish peace,’—I can tell you where it may be found, I can point you to the Fountain-Head of peace; but only Christ gives it. May the Lamb of God grant us His peace, till we come to the ‘everlasting peace there where all the spirits of all the redeemed turn to Him, as all plants turn to the light, and drink in the sunbeams of His Presence softly and silently for ever.’

Rev. F. Harper.

Illustration

‘ “Peace” is an empire with three provinces, and the provinces cannot really be divided, for there is one King of all; all belong to Him, and He is “Peace”; He is “the God of peace.” First, there is the “peace” which a man has with God as soon as he is reconciled to God by an act of faith in the blood of Jesus Christ, and his sins are all forgiven. Then there is the “peace” which every forgiven man carries in his own bosom; “peace” with his conscience. And then there is the “peace” with man. Why are some persons so irritable, and so uncomfortable with everybody? They are uncomfortable in their own breast; they are not at peace with God, therefore they are not at peace with themselves; and therefore they cannot be at peace with any one.’

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Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on John 14". The Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cpc/john-14.html. 1876.