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Bible Commentaries

The Church Pulpit Commentary

John 8

Verse 9

ALONE WITH JESUS

‘And they … went out … and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.’

John 8:9

The sinner and Jesus were left alone. They must always be so. None should come in there, specially where sin is the question to be settled. So long as the scribes and Pharisees remained there was not a word passed from the lips of the Saviour to her, nor from her lips to Him. When all had gone out, He spoke to her. Not till then. Till they are all gone out thou wilt never hear thy Saviour’s voice speaking to thy soul. He is thy Saviour, and only He. All must go out, and thou be alone with Him. Not till then wilt thou hear His voice saying to thy troubled soul, ‘Neither do I condemn thee.’

I. A glorious release.—What a glorious discharge for this poor trembling one! The law thundered, Satan charged, conscience accused, man pointed the finger of scorn. What of it? Above them all she heard the voice of God proclaiming, ‘Neither do I condemn thee.’ She could look them all in the face, for God had looked upon her. She could face every frown and tremble not, for heaven’s sunshine had fallen upon her stricken soul in the smile of Jesus. The storm that raged within had subsided, for He Who ruled the winds and the waves had uttered His voice, and now there was a great calm.

II. God’s order.—And mark the order—pardon first, then obedience. This is God’s order. Human religion exactly reverses it. It says, ‘Go, and sin no more, and then you may hope to be forgiven.’ It puts the sinner altogether off the work of Christ for pardon, and places him on his doings for it. God’s way is first to pardon, and then to enjoin obedience. And why? Because man can do nothing in this world without a motive. What is that motive? The love of God shed abroad in his own soul. Christ has forgiven him while yet a sinner; and this free, unmerited grace to one so unworthy is the great motive constraining him to holiness of life.

III. Alone with Jesus! What a sweet and holy spot! What a blessed refuge to which the soul may betake itself from the charges of Satan, the accusations of the world, aud the sorrows of life! There the self-condemned and the penitent may bathe His feet with tears. There the aching heart, stung with the scorn and reproaches of the world, may find sweet repose.

Rev. F. Whitfield.

Illustration

‘The solution of many difficult questions respecting the life of Christ, lies in the right understanding and recognition of the character of His first mission to our world. It was purely spiritual. He did not come as a magistrate, or as a judge, or as a king: that He will be when He comes again. But, when He came before, He was very jealous on this point; and scrupulously careful to show that He had nothing at all to do with the administration of justice, or the adjudication of any matter. Christ did not really either condemn the woman who was brought to Him, or acquit her. He treated it as outside His province. His duty, as Judge, was not yet begun. The Scribes and Pharisees “tempting Him,” but still treating Him as a high authority, said, “By the law, this woman should be stoned; but what sayest Thou?” They placed Him in a judicial position; but Jesus positively declined it. He declined it to the Pharisees, by first appearing not to notice what they said; then, by waiving the point, and leaving it to their own consciences. And He declined it to the woman, by throwing it back upon her accusers: “Woman, where are thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee?” And then by refusing all responsibility: “Neither do I condemn thee; go, and sin no more.” ’

Verse 11

MORAL OFFENCES

‘Go, and sin no more.’

John 8:11

Christ took the matter out of its lower level—as a social evil—or between man and man, and aimed at spiritual benefits. Let us look at the history from this point of view.

I. Christ’s method with the accusers.—Remember what they were, and in what spirit they came. They were hard, proud men. They were, each one, from the eldest to the youngest, as guilty, and more guilty than the woman, whom they so severely charged; and they lay, and prosecuted the charge without mercy. Their motive, too, was utterly bad: they wanted to place Christ in a dilemma, ‘that they might accuse Him.’ They knew His gentle and loving spirit; and they wished to push it to a conclusion which would make Him contradict the law of Moses—that is, the law of the land—and so bring Him in guilty of contumacy, or treason. That was the line of the Pharisees.

( a) Sinners are more severe to sinners than good men are. The holier a person grows, the more tender and the more sympathetic he is with sin.

( b) When a man’s own conscience is lashing him, he will assume a sterner aspect towards the same, or any other sin, in another person.

Christ’s desire all along was to bring both the Pharisees and the woman into a state of salvation. And, as a necessary step to salvation, He desired to convince them all of sin. But, though the object was the same—with the Pharisees and with the woman—the means He used were most different.

II. Christ’s method with the sinner.—To save her soul was evidently our Lord’s one thought. And He proceeded to do it in His own strange, loving way, as only He can do it. What that sin of hers was to Him, the Infinitely Pure, accustomed to the chastenesses of heaven, only the purest among us, can, in the smallest measure, see!

( a) Mark how sin affected Him. It did not alienate Him for a moment. It did not separate Him. She was never despised. She was not degraded. She was not even reproached.

( b) He would bring her to penitence, that He may bring her to peace. And how will He do it? By love; all love. The past is not mentioned. He raises her. He expels sin by virtue; an old feeling by a new affection. He makes Himself attractive and lovely to a heart lonely, as only sin can make us lonely. ‘Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?’

( c) Observe in her answer a confidingness; a ray of good; an awe. She said, ‘No man. Lord.’ And then, so instant, so free, so generous, so good, so like Himself—‘Neither do I condemn thee; go, and sin no more.’ See what Jesus would be, at that moment, to that woman! How she would love Him! How she would be always trying to please Him! How she would draw close to Him!

( d) Throw refinement into your dealings with gross sin. Where sin is the greatest, be you the gentlest! And treat everybody hopefully.

—Rev. James Vaughan.

Illustration

‘When a man has been kept from all open and flagrant acts of sin by the Hand that held him up, he is apt to grow self-righteous and self-satisfied; he slowly enters into the family of the Pharisee. The sins we do speak speak for themselves, and the danger is light compared with that self-esteem, or at least that self-content, that prevented men from coming to the Baptist, and at last prevented them from coming to our Lord. There are truer measures for sin than those which the law has laid down. The use of sin is to convince us of our sinfulness, to bear witness with the Word of God that we cannot win heaven by our own goodness, nor deserve the good things which the Lord provides.’

Verse 12

‘THE LIGHT OF LIFE’

‘The light of life.’

John 8:12

‘Light’ and ‘life’ are words which have a strange connection everywhere. Even in the natural world, there must be ‘light’ if there would be ‘life.’ And if you take away ‘light’ out of ‘life,’ it is a poor thing to live. And so it is in a man’s inner and truer being. There is no ‘light’ without ‘life’; and there is no ‘life’ without ‘light.’ And the one fountain, from which both are eternally flowing on together, is the Lord Jesus Christ. We will look at them, then, in their distinctness, that we may understand them in their union.

I. Life.—As God calls ‘life,’ all ‘life’ is in Christ. Therefore Christ says, ‘I am the life’—‘I am come that they might have life.’ But how? In Christ as ‘the God’ in heaven, or in Christ as ‘the man’ born in the manger? Undoubtedly in ‘the man.’ Christ does not originate ‘life’—He receives it—He receives it as a Son. ‘For as the Father hath life in Himself, so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself.’ How does the ‘life’ which Christ took become the ‘life’ of any particular believer; or, which is the same thing, of all believers connectedly, i.e. of the Church?

( a) By an act of union; every man who loves his Lord and Saviour, undergoes a secret, mystic process, which cannot be told in language, nor followed in a thought; but by which he is actually joined to the Lord Jesus Christ.

( b) Do you ask, how that union is formed and increased? Read the sixth chapter of John. By an inward process, like eating food. The soul receives Christ into himself, feeds on Him by thoughts and affections, assimilates Him—makes Him one with all his parts and feelings, carries Him in his life-blood. The Holy Communion is the chief type and the greatest channel of that uniting process.

II. Passing from ‘life,’ let us look at ‘light.’—We are all endeavouring to throw ‘lights’ upon the surface around. With some, we are like meteors—sudden, rushing, short. With some, they play like the variegated hues that close a summer’s day—capricious, fanciful, superficial. With some we are vapour ‘lights,’ that lure with dangerous lustre, on and on, to ways of emptiness, to despair, to darkness, and to destruction! But ‘light’ indeed, is that which is ‘a light to lighten the Gentiles,’ that is our portion of the promise; but to the Jews something more, light resplendent, ‘a light to lighten the Gentiles, and to be the glory of Thy people Israel.’ Now take away the figure, and ‘light’ is two things.

( a) It is clearness of perception, and,

( b) It is joy of feeling.

Verse 12

‘THE LIGHT OF LIFE’

‘The light of life.’

John 8:12

‘Light’ and ‘life’ are words which have a strange connection everywhere. Even in the natural world, there must be ‘light’ if there would be ‘life.’ And if you take away ‘light’ out of ‘life,’ it is a poor thing to live. And so it is in a man’s inner and truer being. There is no ‘light’ without ‘life’; and there is no ‘life’ without ‘light.’ And the one fountain, from which both are eternally flowing on together, is the Lord Jesus Christ. We will look at them, then, in their distinctness, that we may understand them in their union.

I. Life.—As God calls ‘life,’ all ‘life’ is in Christ. Therefore Christ says, ‘I am the life’—‘I am come that they might have life.’ But how? In Christ as ‘the God’ in heaven, or in Christ as ‘the man’ born in the manger? Undoubtedly in ‘the man.’ Christ does not originate ‘life’—He receives it—He receives it as a Son. ‘For as the Father hath life in Himself, so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself.’ How does the ‘life’ which Christ took become the ‘life’ of any particular believer; or, which is the same thing, of all believers connectedly, i.e. of the Church?

( a) By an act of union; every man who loves his Lord and Saviour, undergoes a secret, mystic process, which cannot be told in language, nor followed in a thought; but by which he is actually joined to the Lord Jesus Christ.

( b) Do you ask, how that union is formed and increased? Read the sixth chapter of John. By an inward process, like eating food. The soul receives Christ into himself, feeds on Him by thoughts and affections, assimilates Him—makes Him one with all his parts and feelings, carries Him in his life-blood. The Holy Communion is the chief type and the greatest channel of that uniting process.

II. Passing from ‘life,’ let us look at ‘light.’—We are all endeavouring to throw ‘lights’ upon the surface around. With some, we are like meteors—sudden, rushing, short. With some, they play like the variegated hues that close a summer’s day—capricious, fanciful, superficial. With some we are vapour ‘lights,’ that lure with dangerous lustre, on and on, to ways of emptiness, to despair, to darkness, and to destruction! But ‘light’ indeed, is that which is ‘a light to lighten the Gentiles,’ that is our portion of the promise; but to the Jews something more, light resplendent, ‘a light to lighten the Gentiles, and to be the glory of Thy people Israel.’ Now take away the figure, and ‘light’ is two things.

( a) It is clearness of perception, and,

( b) It is joy of feeling.

Verse 12

‘THE LIGHT OF LIFE’

‘The light of life.’

John 8:12

‘Light’ and ‘life’ are words which have a strange connection everywhere. Even in the natural world, there must be ‘light’ if there would be ‘life.’ And if you take away ‘light’ out of ‘life,’ it is a poor thing to live. And so it is in a man’s inner and truer being. There is no ‘light’ without ‘life’; and there is no ‘life’ without ‘light.’ And the one fountain, from which both are eternally flowing on together, is the Lord Jesus Christ. We will look at them, then, in their distinctness, that we may understand them in their union.

I. Life.—As God calls ‘life,’ all ‘life’ is in Christ. Therefore Christ says, ‘I am the life’—‘I am come that they might have life.’ But how? In Christ as ‘the God’ in heaven, or in Christ as ‘the man’ born in the manger? Undoubtedly in ‘the man.’ Christ does not originate ‘life’—He receives it—He receives it as a Son. ‘For as the Father hath life in Himself, so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself.’ How does the ‘life’ which Christ took become the ‘life’ of any particular believer; or, which is the same thing, of all believers connectedly, i.e. of the Church?

( a) By an act of union; every man who loves his Lord and Saviour, undergoes a secret, mystic process, which cannot be told in language, nor followed in a thought; but by which he is actually joined to the Lord Jesus Christ.

( b) Do you ask, how that union is formed and increased? Read the sixth chapter of John. By an inward process, like eating food. The soul receives Christ into himself, feeds on Him by thoughts and affections, assimilates Him—makes Him one with all his parts and feelings, carries Him in his life-blood. The Holy Communion is the chief type and the greatest channel of that uniting process.

II. Passing from ‘life,’ let us look at ‘light.’—We are all endeavouring to throw ‘lights’ upon the surface around. With some, we are like meteors—sudden, rushing, short. With some, they play like the variegated hues that close a summer’s day—capricious, fanciful, superficial. With some we are vapour ‘lights,’ that lure with dangerous lustre, on and on, to ways of emptiness, to despair, to darkness, and to destruction! But ‘light’ indeed, is that which is ‘a light to lighten the Gentiles,’ that is our portion of the promise; but to the Jews something more, light resplendent, ‘a light to lighten the Gentiles, and to be the glory of Thy people Israel.’ Now take away the figure, and ‘light’ is two things.

( a) It is clearness of perception, and,

( b) It is joy of feeling.

Verse 21

SEEKING IN VAIN

‘We shall seek Me, and shall die in your sins.’

John 8:21

This verse contains a thought so deep that we cannot fathom it. We learn that it is possible to seek Christ in vain. Our Lord says to the unbelieving Jews, ‘Ye shall seek Me, and shall die in your sins.’ He meant, by these words, that the Jews would one day seek Him in vain. The lesson is a very painful one. That such a Saviour as the Lord Jesus, so full of love, so willing to save, should ever be sought ‘in vain,’ is a sorrowful thought. Yet so it is!

I. A man may have many religious feelings about Christ, without any saving religion.—Sickness, sudden affliction, the fear of death, the failure of usual sources of comfort—all these causes may draw out of a man a good deal of ‘religiousness.’ Under the immediate pressure of these he may say his prayers fervently, exhibit strong spiritual feelings, and profess for a season to ‘seek Christ,’ and be a different man. And yet all this time his heart may never be touched at all! Take away the peculiar circumstances that affected him, and he may possibly return at once to his old ways. He sought Christ ‘in vain,’ because he sought Him from false motives, and not with his whole heart. Unhappily this is not all.

II. There is such a thing as a settled habit of resisting light and knowledge, until we seek Christ ‘in vain.’ Scripture and experience alike prove that men may reject God until God rejects them, and will not hear their prayer. They may go on stifling their convictions, quenching the light of conscience, fighting against their own better knowledge, until God is provoked to give them over, and let them alone. Such cases may not be common; but they are possible, and they are sometimes seen.

III. There is no safety but in seeking Christ while He may be found, and calling on Him while He is near—seeking Him with a true heart, and calling on Him with an honest spirit. Such seeking, we may be very sure, is never in vain. It will never be recorded of such seekers, that they ‘died in their sins.’ He that really comes to Christ shall never be ‘cast out.’

Illustration

‘It is worthy of remark that our Lord’s words, “Ye shall seek Me,” and “Whither I go ye cannot come,” are used three times in this Gospel—twice to the unbelieving Jews, here and John 7:34, and once to the disciples, John 13:33. But the careful reader will observe that in the two first instances the expression is coupled with, “Ye shall not find Me,” and “Ye shall die in your sins.” In the last, it evidently means the temporary separation between Christ and His disciples which would be caused by His Ascension. Melancthon observes that nothing seems to bring on men such dreadful guilt and punishment as neglect of the Gospel. The Jews had Christ among them and would not believe, and so when afterwards they sought they could not find. Rollock observes that the “seeking” which our Lord here foretells was like that of Esau, when he sought too late for the lost birthright.’

Verse 31

DISCIPLESHIP

‘Then are ye My disciples indeed.’

John 8:31

It was in the early days of the Church that ‘the disciples were called Christians’ ( Acts 11:26); but in these later days there is much need that the Christians should come to be called disciples. For it seems to have passed out of the ordinary estimate of Christianity, that ‘Christian’ and ‘disciple’ are meant to be interchangeable terms; and that those who lay claim to the former title should naturally vindicate their claim by the witness of the latter title as stamped upon their lives. Note—

I. ‘Christian’ and ‘disciple’ ought to be manifestly combined titles for every believer.

II. Discipleship is in reality such an absorbing thing, that it demands personal consecration for its realisation.

III. Our Lord attaches to discipleship three great principles, without which it is not a working reality.

( a) Permanent continuance in the Master’s teaching.

( b) Obedience to the command that disciples love one another.

( c) Much fruitfulness to God’s glory, through prevailing prayer.

IV. To each principle particular rewards are attached, present results of blessing inseparable from discipleship.

Rev. Hubert Brooke.

Illustration

‘Face this principle of discipleship honestly. Here is obedience commanded, and the law to be obeyed is delivered. Then let each one ask himself, What is my position with regard to it? Is this reflection of the Master’s conduct apparent in my own life? Do I love fellow-disciples as He loved me? And if not, am I a disciple at all? We may not push it off as a lesson for far-advanced disciples. It comes at the outset; it is the B of the Gospel alphabet, as faith in Christ is the A.’

Verse 32

FREEDOM THROUGH THE TRUTH

‘Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’

John 8:32

This is the eternal answer to the protests of modern unbelief. Let us examine the words ( a) reverently, ( b) candidly, and ( c) charitably. The promise is as to those who continue in our Saviour’s words.

I. What is the truth as here set forth?

( a) A body of facts, not a statement of feelings.

( b) Not the assertion of a set of opinions, but the revelation of a Person.

II. Freedom.—‘The truth shall make you free.’

( a) The belief of a Christian is free.

( b) The conduct of a Christian is circumscribed by his baptismal vow.

If beliefs and conduct of Christians are free, they are so by reason of their completeness.

—Rev. Barton R. V. Mills.

Illustration

‘The mission of Christ to this earth made for liberty. Seven centuries before His Advent the Evangelical prophet predicted that He would proclaim liberty to the captives, and the great Liberator based His first recorded sermon upon this text. No struggle is so glorious as a fight for freedom, and with thrilled interest we read of the long conflict in the early days of the last century for the liberation of the slaves, and our hearts have been touched as we in spirit meet the Christian slaves in Sierra Leone spending their last moments of slavery and their first as freemen before the Throne of Grace. They entered the churches slaves; they left them free. Great and glorious as the struggle for social and political freedom is, the contest for spiritual freedom is nobler still.’

Verse 36

CHRIST THE LIBERATOR

‘If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.’

John 8:36 (R.V).

These kindly words breathe the very spirit of our Master. Christ here declares that His service is perfect freedom. ‘If the Son shall make you free ye shall be free indeed.’ For this assertion He gives two reasons. One is that He bestows a new and emancipating knowledge: ‘If ye abide in My word … ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’ The other is that He can permanently reconcile us with our environment: ‘The servant abideth not in the house for ever; but the Son abideth for ever. If therefore the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.’

I. Truth emancipates.—To some of us, and perhaps in certain moods to all, the reverse appears to be the fact. Does not every new revelation bring new claims, new duties, burdens, and responsibilities? It is the promulgation of a new law, and how can it profess to offer, of all things, liberty? But when you consider the matter you find that, instead of creating these obligations, a true revelation only makes us aware of realities already existing, facts which vitally concern us. Thus it appears that knowledge, in the act of telling us what restraints are necessary, is our deliverer from a thousand false and tyrannous coercions. Applying this argument to religion, what do we find? Religion, even in its lowest forms, is a theory of life, an answer to great practical questions. What is life—and death? What is sin? What am I? and where are those who have left me? and what is the meaning of my vast unspeakable desires and fears, of my unappeasable loneliness, and of the awful haunting consciousness that I am not alone? These are a part of human nature, as real as the processes of digestion: until I can answer these questions I am in bondage, like a mountain climber caught by mists among the precipices, unable to go back or forward, and freezing while he stands still. Only the light can release him: only the truth can make me free. And to-day there is only one reasonable faith amid the wrecks and ruins of a hundred creeds—amid the debris of our religious theories, almost as many as the scientific theories which have become outworn and cast away, while science lives—Jesus Christ stands alone, immortal, leading still the progress of the race, its keenest thought, its largest aspiration, its wisest benevolence. And thus, because knowledge emancipates, and He is the answer to our deepest problems, they whom He makes free are free indeed.

II. But again, Christ claims to emancipate us, not only by this gift of knowledge, but by reconciling man with his environment.—This, He says, no other power can do, if only because all others pass away and perish: ‘the servant abideth not in the house for ever, but the Son abideth for ever; if therefore the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.’ How may we have peace and liberty amid the stress and pressure of doubtful circumstances? Your business, the more it expands the more is it the sport of events entirely uncontrollable by you: a foreign war, a commercial crisis, the dishonesty of one whom you have never seen. And your reputation, that is a plant sensitive enough to begin to shrivel in the breath of some slander whispered in the dark. And your health, and your family—how many of the contingencies that can wreck them are within your control? What answer has all art and science for the despairing cry, ‘Oh, wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from this body of death?’ Still, as in the first century, it is Christ only Who can respond; and to-day there are millions, as there have been millions in every century since the first, in whose experience He has done it. He introduces into the soul a new influence, all-pervading and all-harmonising; and as gravitation reconciles a thousand cosmic forces otherwise at war, so ‘the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus sets me free from the law of sin and death.’ God is no longer One from Whom we would fain escape into some far-off land. He is a loving Father, Who awaits us with pardon and the best robe and music and a festival of joy. And man is my brother, one of my family; rude possibly and needing to be restrained, but still one to whose claims I may willingly surrender my own. Christ Himself knew what it was to cry, ‘Let this cup pass from Me’; but because His appeal was not to a deaf and stony Fate, because He could say, ‘O my Father,’ therefore He could add with a true and free assent, ‘nevertheless … Thy will be done.’

Bishop G. A. Chadwick.

Illustration

‘Life is to each of us like the instrument which Hamlet offers to Guildenstern—“but this cannot I command to any utterance of harmony; I have not the skill”—aud nothing can be drawn from it but a shriek. It is by long and hard study, by perfect knowledge and obedience to the laws of harmony, that at last its capabilities are grasped, its music elicited, and the performer attains what every minstrel seeks, what he rightly calls freedom of execution, the freedom which only comes when every touch is regulated, every inflection is an obedience, yet all is easy and swift and true and glad.’

(SECOND OUTLINE)

‘FREE INDEED’

There are some of us, and not a few, who do not really ‘stand forth in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free.’ We are tied and bound. Perhaps to some besetting sin; perhaps to the world, and, if not, at least to our own little, narrow hearts, with all our doubts, and all our fears. And so we are living on in our poor little worldly circle with little of light and life. We want more holy and lofty confidences: and to this end we want closer communion and freer access to God and His promises.

I. How is this to be done?—How shall we reach out to the greater freedom? In one and only one way. Christ, the risen Christ, Christ the Son—the Son of God and the Son of Man—He is the great and only Liberator. ‘If, if the Son therefore shall make you free.’ All depends upon that word ‘if.’ It is the one condition, it is the positive and absolute prerequisite. He alone can do it. It is His prerogative. No human power can do it. All your efforts will never do it. ‘If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.’ The Son of God became the Son of man, and He might do this very thing; so that the word is doubly true and doubly emphatic, the Son, the Son of God, being the Son of Man. His life and death and resurrection have accomplished this perfect liberation.

II. A new power comes into the man’s mind who has acquired freedom.—The power of the Holy Ghost. His sin remains, but his sin is no longer the ruling power. Now that man has become ‘free,’ he is ‘free’ at the mercy seat, he has ‘free’ access to God, whenever and wherever he likes, by a new and living way; he is ‘free’ to go into the presence-chamber of the King of kings. And that sanctuary is his home. He carries burdens, but he leans so upon Another’s arm that he walks with a firm step and a light heart up the hill. And he sees his way straight before him to an open gate, and within that gate he sees peeps of heaven all along as he goes. And every night he casts his cares, and he washes away the day’s sin, so that every morning he rises ‘free’ and fresh for the day’s duties, or the day’s trials or the day’s mercies. And so that man goes on freer and freer. His heart is free to live or free to die. ‘To live is Christ, and to die is gain.’ But he will never die; he will never die. The Son of Man hath made him ‘free’ of all death. Presently, gently, and with his own willing mind, he will lie down and sleep, and he will awake in Paradise. The grave is no prison-house to him. ‘Free among the dead,’ he rests his appointed time till his Saviour comes.

—Rev. James Vaughan.

Verse 46

THE SINLESSNESS OF CHRIST

‘Jesus said, which of you convinceth Me of sin?’

John 8:46

It is well for us that we should once more assure ourselves of the supernatural claim of Christ. And the words of the text bring home to us part of the stupendous peculiarity of this claim. ‘Which of you convinceth Me of sin?’ He claims to be sinless. Humble penitence grows in the life of a saint. How is it, then, that with our Lord the very reverse is the case? How is it that He is absolutely unconscious of any shortcoming or sin? There is practically no answer to these questions but the answer implied in the Catholic creeds. He is Himself the ideal that man is reaching after. He is Himself the image of God which man has defaced by sin. He is Himself one with the Father, Whose will is that which man rebels against when he sins. There is no penitence because there is no sin. ‘Christ,’ as the Article says, ‘in the truth of our nature was made like unto us in all things, sin only except, from which He was clearly void, both in His flesh and in His spirit. He came to be the Lamb without spot, Who, by the sacrifice of Himself once made, should take away the sins of the world, and sin, as John saith, was not in Him’ (Art. xv).

Whether it is the forgiveness of sins that we seek, or the possibility of following our Lord’s example in a new life, to each and every case it is the Divine Saviour that we need.

Let us consecrate our thoughts on the Divinity of the Lord, Who offers up Himself in Sacrifice.

I. There is a tendency to minimise the importance of this doctrine of the Godhead of Christ.—We shall best combat this tendency not so much by argument as by the evidence of the power of Christ in us. If we could show men that what Christ has done for us, and in us, is something that could only have been done by God, we shall have done more than a hundred books of Christian apologetics could ever do. We must not, then, be content to rely on the cogency of intellectual arguments. We must ourselves feel the force of them in ourselves, in our personal experience.

Let us examine our lives in the light of what Christ has done for all human beings, and what He offers to all who believe on Him.

( a) Let us examine ourselves in the matter of sin. It is the sin of the world which the Lamb of God is ready to take away. What about my sin? Have I finally broken with that bad habit that has so long been marring my life, and making it so unlike the sinless life of Christ? Can I dare look around and say, ‘Which of you convinceth me of sin?’ And if my neighbours could not convince me of sin, could God the Holy Ghost do so? How blessed, indeed, to be able humbly to believe that God was even pleased with us, to be able to trust that there really was nothing between us and acceptance by the Heavenly Father. And if there is still the darkness of sin in me, if there is still something that is holding me back, why not cast it away once for all?

( b) Again, even if I can humbly trust that I am forgiven, is there not some weakness that still needs the strength of Christ to overcome it in me. Is there not some temptation that still assails me, even though I know my will is against sin? Do we not all need the power of Jesus to transform and renew and quicken us? Well, then, this, too, is inherent in the sacrifice of Calvary. Christ died for us, but He is also ready to be in us. By His spirit and by His Sacraments He dwells in us; He breaks down the old evil nature in us, and fills us with the invigorating influence of His own perfection.

II. How glorious for us to be able to take our stand by the side of Jesus as He faces His enemies, and trusting in Him to be able to associate ourselves with His calm assertion of innocence, ‘Which of you convinceth Me of sin?’ By His grace we can do this if we will. We, too, can confront the world. They may deny the Lord Who bought them. They may insult His Name. They may scoff at His Church, His Bible, His Sacraments. But if by our simple lives of innocence, trusting in Him and the power of His Cross and Passion, we go on our way, we shall in the end come out victorious. Let us, then, follow the Lamb, whithersoever He goeth.

Rev. the Hon. J. Adderley.

Illustration

‘The sinlessness of our Lord has been supposed to be compromised by the conditions of the development of His life as man—sometimes by particular acts and sayings which are recorded of Him. When, for instance, we are told in the Epistle to the Hebrews that our Lord “learned obedience by the things that He suffered,” this, it is argued, clearly means progress from moral deficiency to moral sufficiency, and as a consequence it implies in Him a time when He was morally imperfect; but, although the growth of our Lord’s moral nature as man implies that as a truly human nature He was finite, it does not by any means follow that such a growth involved sin as its starting-point. A moral development may be perfect and pure, and yet be a development. A progress from a more or less expanded degree of perfection is not to be confounded with a progress from sin to holiness. In the latter case there is an element of antagonism in the will which is wholly wanting in the former. Christ’s life is a revelation of the moral life of God, completing God’s previous revelations.’

(SECOND OUTLINE)

THE MYSTERY OF EVIL

Evil is a mystery that has burdened humanity all through the ages. It is not a modern problem. And the fact of evil ever present does not solve the mystery.

I. What is evil?—The answer is, Evil is essentially lawlessness.

II. What is the source of evil?—Evil finds its source, i.e. its possibility, not in necessity, but freedom. Were we obliged to sin, i.e. were there a law compelling us to sin, we could not be called lawless if we obeyed it, hence we could not sin; but sin, or evil, is found in moral freedom or liberty, in the ability we have to break as well as to keep law.

( a) The origin and source of evil is found in personality, in that living, thinking, free being, who, with a choice before him of two courses, chooses one and rejects the other.

( b) There is a secondary source of evil which we may call the evil of entail or heredity, whereby a lawless sire begets an offspring with lawless tendencies. These may never express themselves in actual lawlessness, but that tendency will be there.

( c) Also, apart from the evil of entail, we find sources of evil resident in consequences of former evil—the accumulation in life of past generations of wrong-doing and lawlessness.

III. Still, in consideration of the mystery of evil we rarely distinguish clearly enough between evil and its consequences.—As a rule when we think of evil we think mostly of its effects. We see, for instance, a home ruined by dissipation, we are impressed with the consequences of starving wife, naked children, we read or hear of brutal treatment of wife and children, and we shudder—at what? Evil? No, but at the consequences of evil.

( a) The pessimists. Some who look at the consequences of sin are led to despair. They take a pessimistic view of life.

( b) The epicureans. Then, again, others are led by consequences of evil into a reckless, self-indulgent epicureanism, who say, ‘Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die,’ who plunge into wrong living, wrong thinking, and wrong doing, who would cast off all responsibility.

Yet pessimism and epicureanism are wrong. They have looked at only the consequences of evil.

IV. We ask, then, what is the cure?—What is to bring consolation to the pathetic pessimism? what is to correct the reckless epicureanism of man? what is to end the consequences of evil? The cure of the evil of this world, which so often perplexes and saddens us, is not to aim simply at repressing consequences, this is only to treat symptoms; but the cure is to reach the wills, the hearts, the affections of man—the springs of action which impel man to do what he does, to think what he thinks, to say what he says.

Illustration

‘Can we do nothing for the evil of this world, the consequences of which are manifest on all sides? Yes. One way, little though it be, is open to each of us. Let each man and each woman, each boy and each girl, save, or attempt to save, some other man or woman, boy or girl—the one next to him—and the world would soon be saved. If we only realised this, if only we were willing to do just this little—save one, inspire just one with the spirit of lawful freedom and choice, and soon the consequences of evil would be materially reduced. This we can all attempt; will we not, brethren? We who have been admitted into the fellowship of Christ’s religion, who have experienced the goodness of God, who have realised the Divine altruism in our lives.’

Verse 48

A BLASPHEMOUS CHARGE

‘Thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil.’

John 8:48

Here we see Christ our Lord accused of ‘having a devil’:—i.e. people accused Him of being Himself possessed by the Devil, and of saying and doing things at the Devil’s bidding.

Now this is a very horrible thing: so horrible that one hardly likes to speak about it. It is not written down once only, but over and over again. It is written first in one Gospel and then in another. It looks as if God had taken particular care that we should be forced to read about this most terrible sin, and be forced to think about it.

What do you suppose God intended us to read this for?

I. That we might learn to see what unbelief comes to.—This seems to me to be perhaps the main lesson we are to learn. God wants us to see what dreadful lengths of sin we may go to if we will not believe in Christ as our Saviour from sin. These Jews would not believe that Christ came to be their Saviour. They would not believe that He was good, they would not believe that He was God. So Christ said to them, ‘See what I do. Surely I must be good, for I make war upon the evil spirits. Surely I must be more than man, for the evil spirits obey Me.’ One would have thought that they were driven into a corner, and would be obliged to see their mistake, and confess that He was what He said He was. So any one would think, yet they did nothing of the kind. They did feel driven into a corner: but for all that they would not come the right way out of it. They hated Christ; and so they said:—‘Oh, it is quite true that He casts out devils, but that does not show that He is good.

‘It only shows that the Devil has some object in letting Him cast out devils. Thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil.’ All the mischief lay in their hating our Lord. They did not like Him. So they were determined not to believe in Him; and sooner than believe in Him they actually went the length of saying that He was in league with the Devil.

II. That if men do not like goodness, there is no length of wickedness they will not run to.—It shows us what unbelief may come to, and what dreadful lengths men can go if they hate what is good and are determined not to believe. And it shows us also one more thing. Christ calls the sin which these people committed ‘the unpardonable sin.’ Why did He call it so? Was it because Christ was unwilling to pardon it? Not at all. It was unpardonable because it could not be pardoned. So long as people were in this form of mind they could not repent, and therefore they could not be pardoned. Nothing could make them come to Christ as their Saviour when they said He was in league with the Devil. So, then, it shows us that though Christ can save us from the Devil, yet that if we choose to go all lengths we can. It shows us that if we choose to do so, we can get outside even of Christ’s help, and that though the Devil cannot ruin us, yet we may ruin ourselves. Christ could do nothing more for these people. What could He do more than show them that the Devil and all evil fled away at His word? Nothing more could be done. And so they were outside of His help and His pardon. They flung away His pardon, and His help, both. But it was their own doing. The Devil could not have made them do it. They did it of themselves. And so you see that if we choose we may even be worse enemies to ourselves than the Devil can be, for we can reject Him Who alone can save us from the Devil.

III. Is not this very much like what we see with people now whenever in any parish any one is bent upon leading Christian people to more holiness and to a more thorough way of religion? People have got, we will say, into a way of thinking that if they are decent sort of people and come to church when it suits them, and now and then perhaps come to Holy Communion, then they are very good Christians, and that it is all right with them in this world and in the world to come. Then comes some warning preacher, or active clergyman, and tells them plainly that this kind of easy-going religion is no good, that there is no love of goodness in it, no hatred of evil, no self-denial for their fellow-Christian’s sake—nothing in it, in short, at all like the pattern of Christ. He tells them that repentance and self-examination are very sharp, real things, that regular Communion is a necessity of the Christian life, and so on. There is scarcely any very good man, be he layman or clergyman, who has drawn people to real religion who has not had bad things said of him by persons who looked upon themselves as quite religious enough. And these are just the people who are in danger of the very sin the Jews committed.

Illustration

‘The true Christian in the present day must never be surprised to find that he has constant trials to endure. Human nature never changes. So long as he serves the world, and walks in the broad way, little perhaps will be said against him. Once let him take up the Cross and follow Christ, and there is no lie too monstrous, and no story too absurd for some to tell against him, and for others to believe. But let him take comfort in the thought that he is only drinking the cup which his Blessed Master drank before him. The lies of his enemies do him no injury in heaven, whatever they may on earth. Let him bear them patiently, and not fret, or lose his temper. When Christ was reviled “He reviled not again.” ( 1 Peter 2:23). Let the Christian do likewise.’

Verse 51

HOW TO ESCAPE DEATH

‘Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep My saying, he shall never see death.’

John 8:51

I. Christ’s antipathy to death.—What a startling statement it is! There is nothing, I think, in all our Lord’s utterances more striking than the persistent aversion to death which breathes through them; so that it has been said with truth that death is the one natural fact, the one human experience, to which Christ showed antipathy. And why, we may ask, did He take up this attitude towards death, which is an incident as unfailing and as natural as the return of old age? If He declined to speak of death as death, it was because He saw through it, because He knew its true nature, and ever looked on beyond it to that higher and fuller life of which it is intended to be the portal. He is told that the daughter of Jairus is dead, but He declares that she is only asleep. And so again, when the news was brought to Him of the death of His friend at Bethany, He put the hated word from Him and declared that Lazarus was only sleeping; and He would not change the phrase till the dullness of the disciples compelled Him. It is clear enough that He aims at teaching a new mode of thought and speech in regard to the close of man’s earthly life. The early believers, taught by the Resurrection of the Lord, treasured this new term with deepest gratitude and devotion. They always spoke of physical death as sleep. Now were this the only service which Jesus Christ had rendered, had He done no more for us than to give us the right to substitute this word ‘sleep’ for ‘death,’ would he not have been among the greatest benefactors of mankind?

II. He is the Life.—But now let us go on to see what is it that ensures our right thus to think of death. In the words of the text, just as at the grave of Lazarus, our Lord sets Himself forth as the guarantee that death is not what it seems. How is it that union with Christ and obedience to Christ put us beyond the reach and power of death? Through Christ life has become a ruling power. He stands in the midst of humanity for an eternal reality, and He came that man might know it and embrace it. If they believe in Him, if they are grafted into Him and assimilated to Him, then they acquire His right to overlook death, to face it as an unreal experience, a transition not a state, a gain not a loss, an expansion not an extinction of power.

III. Life in Christ a present thing.—And we need to be perpetually reminded that this life in and through Christ is a present thing. Men relegate it to the future. They talk about going to heaven or to hell as if the whole issue lay outside present experience. But Christ has set forth salvation as a life, an eternal thing which begins now and here. And does not this thought light up our Lord’s words? Already, through obedience to Him, the outer life may be quickened which will pass unscathed through the change of death day by day. If we are living unto Him, the seed of eternity and truth and love and purity may be sown within us, and bear fruits which will suffer no blight in the chill passage of the grave. Our Lord reminds us that the one thing that differentiates men both here and hereafter is obedience to His law. He knows who are His, who are keeping His sayings, who are living in His spirit, and who therefore have in them the charm of that life which shall endure, and over which the grave shall have no power. But some, perhaps, will say, Is this all real? Are you not making too light of that great fact of death? Did not Christ die, and do not we die even if we have believed in Him ever so truly, and served Him ever so faithfully? Yes. In one sense Christ did die. But He carried with Him that which lighted up the darkness. He bore into the other world a Divine principle of being which could not undergo dissolution, and He tells us that we shall do the same. On one condition He offers to make death as harmless a thing to you and me as it was to Him. He says, Come to Me, believe in Me, follow Me, feed upon Me, live by Me, and you shall be scatheless, you too shall have the secret of immortality, you shall see through the terrors of death and decay as I have done and shall defy them. In you, as in Him, spiritual life shall triumph gloriously over physical death.

—Canon Duckworth.

Illustration

‘Is not this the characteristic of Christianity, that all that it implants and fosters of faith and obedience is summed up for us in the one great term of “life”? It is the keynote of that Gospel which has preserved for us our Lord’s deepest thought. He says of Himself, “I am the Life.” He says also of us, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” All that He taught, and all that He did here was for one end, that we might have life. This is the final all-embracing purpose of His Incarnation, to be the life of men.’

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Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on John 8". The Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cpc/john-8.html. 1876.