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Wednesday, May 22nd, 2024
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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Bible Commentaries
John 5

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Verses 1-47

Bethesda , the House of Mercy

John 5:2-3

I. I ask you to look, first, at that sad, sick crowd.

There was gathered a 'great multitude of impotent folk, blind, halt, withered'. That is a parable of humanity, looked at from the highest point of view, and considered in the deepest reality of their condition. The world is a sad world; but that is not the deepest thought about it. (1) Men are sinners, and therefore they are sorrowful. (2) The disease is universal. (3) This disease is unconscious. My notion of what I am is by no means infallible; and these consciences of ours the more need they have to speak, the less they do speak. They tell us that the electric light, brilliant as it is, is the worst possible thing to put into a lighthouse in a fog. And the light of conscience gets wonderfully obscured by the fogs that rise from the undrained swamps of our passions.

II. Notice where this sad crowd is housed. Do you know what Bethesda means? 'House of Mercy'; perhaps so named to commemorate some benefactor that had built the portico; more probably to suggest to the poor sick creatures a gleam of hope from the thought that God had love and care for them. (1) We are gathered, as they were, in the House of Mercy. Carlyle, in one of his bursts of melancholy, said, speaking about the Deity as he conceived Him, 'And He has done nothing!' He has done something. He has opened 'a fountain for sin and for uncleanness'. (2) The thought that we are there explains the sadness which is the ground-tone of human life, because righteous love cannot but punish where sin has disturbed the relation between Him and men.

III. Note the vain expectation of healing. It is no use telling me what to do unless you give me the power to do it. And I want to know where is the power; where, in all the teachings that fill the world? Nowhere, except in the one word of the Great Master.

IV. Note the Healer who comes to them that cannot come to the healing. (1) Jesus Christ drew near to this man. His attention was not attracted by any call from him. (2) Does not that teach us the spontaneous love of Jesus Christ to sinful men? (3) And does not the incident suggest to us, too, the individualising knowledge and appeal of Christ to each heart? He loves all because He loves each. (4) Does not this incident teach us, too, the one condition that He requires from us for His healing power to operate upon us? 'Wilt thou be made whole?' Christ cannot heal unless we will; He cannot but heal if we will.

And then comes the commandment. 'Arise! take up thy bed and walk.' He gave him the power to walk; and, in the effort, the limbs were restored to their vigour, and motion was possible once more. The world is gathered round the fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness. It is not intermittent, like its prototype in the miracle, but evermore His blood avails for us.

A, Maclaren, Triumphant Certainties, p. 263.

The Angel of the Pool

John 5:2-3

Learn to be as the Angel, who could descend among the miseries of Bethesda without losing his heavenly purity or his perfect happiness. Gain healing from troubled waters. Make up your mind to the prospect of sustaining a certain measure of pain and trouble in your passage through life; by the blessing of God this will prepare you for it it will make you thoughtful and resigned without interfering with your cheerfulness. It will connect you in your own thoughts with the Saints of Scripture, whose lot it was to be patterns of patient endurance; and this association brings to the mind a peculiar consolation. View yourselves and all Christians as humbly following the steps of Jacob, whose days were few and evil; of David, who in his best estate was as a shadow that declineth, and was withered like grass; of Elijah, who despised soft raiment and sumptuous fare; of forlorn Daniel, who led an angel's life; and be light-hearted and contented, because you are thus called to be a member of Christ's pilgrim Church. Realise the paradox of making merry and rejoicing in the world because it is not yours.

J. H. Newman, from the sermon on Scripture a Record of Human Sorrow.

References. V. 2-5. H. Bonner, Sermons and Lectures, p. 213. V. 2-9. C. F. Aked, The Courage of the Coward, p. 135. V. 4. J. T. O'Brien, The Nature and the Effects of Faith, pp. 153, 175, and 197. V. 5-8. S. Baring-Gould, Village Preaching for a Year, vol. ii. p. 174. V. 5-9. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxviii. No. 2269. V. 6. C. Bickersteth, The Gospel of Incarnate Love, p. 41. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xvi. No. 955. Expositor (4th Series), vol. ix. p. 215; ibid. (6th Series), vol. vi. p. 365. V. 8. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxi. No. 1211. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture St. John, p. 235. V. 11. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxv. No. 1479. V. 13. J. Martineau, Endeavours After the Christian Life, p. 89.

The Pardon of Sin

John 5:14

The pardon of sin is a part a very important part of the expulsion of sin. The power of sin is not gone because the sin is forgiven. On the contrary, it will continue to exist and trouble us long after we have had, and been quite conscious that we have had, forgiveness from the guilt of sin up to a certain period, when that sin shall be destroyed.

Pardon leads to conquest. The pardon of sin goes a great way to the conquest of sin; and we shall never do battle with sin very effectually until we have been, and feel that we have been, forgiven. Among other reasons for this I will mention three.

I. The Condemnation of Sin cannot go without Something of the Sin going too. We often speak of the power of the blood of Jesus Christ to pay the debt, and to cancel the consequences of sin. But this is not the way in which it is generally stated in the Bible. There it is, 'Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the' what? not the punishment, but the 'sin of the world'. 'The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.' Observe, it is the actual sin. If the actual punishment is removed, so also is the transgression itself; they stand or move together.

II. The Man who has Tasted the Peace of God's Forgiveness is in a much better condition to encounter and overcome the corruptions of his own heart The secret of all success is confidence; the secret of all confidence is composure; the secret of all real composure is a heart at rest with God. Therefore, if a forgiven man has found a resting-place, the energy is greater; nay more, in that man, by the character of his pardon, a union has taken place between his soul and Christ: there could not be pardon without it

III. A Spring of Action is Set at Work in the Heart with which nothing else can compare. He has a Saviour, and he knows it, a real, felt, personal Saviour; and that Saviour loves him, and he loves that Saviour. And from that moment self-denial, effort, achievements are possible, easy, pleasant, necesary, which before that, and without that, would have been, and were, perfectly impossible, and perfectly inconceivable to that man's mind. 'Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto the.

John 5:14

In his volume on Shakespearean Tragedy (p. 386), Professor Bradley observes that when Shakespeare wrote Macbeth he felt deeply the ' incalculability of evil that in meddling with it human beings do they know not what. The soul, he seems to feel, is a thing of such inconceivable depth, complexity, and delicacy, that when you introduce into it, or suffer to develop in it, any change, and particularly the change called evil, you can form only the vaguest idea of the reaction you will provoke. All you can be sure of is that it will not be what you expected, and that you cannot possibly escape it.'

References. V. 16. H. E. Manning', Sin and its Consequences, p. 67. Expositor (4th Series), vol. ii. p. 439. V. 16,17. H. E. Manning, Sin and its Consequences, p. 33.

The Sacredness of Work

John 5:17

Work is the law of God's universe: it has stamped upon it the seal of God's approval: nay, more, it is the principle of God's own life, for does not Christ Himself tell us: 'My Father worketh hitherto (or, better, as in the Revised Version, even until now), and I work'? We must work if we would live. And that being so, it is surely for us a question of a very direct and practical kind, In what spirit we should regard our work? And what I want is to try and see whether we cannot find in our text a principle and a spirit which may help us all as working men and women.

I. Work, let us clearly recognise, is in itself a blessing, and not a curse. We know that it is so for ourselves. What is it but work that calls forth a man's best faculties and trains and invigorates those powers which would otherwise lie dormant and useless? And the idle man is not only the useless, he is also the miserable man. It is a striking thought of an old Latin poet, when, in describing the punishments of the lower world, he makes one of the heaviest of these to consist in this that a man shall be condemned to do nothing.

II. But work is not only the original law of our being, in obedience to which we find true happiness, it is also, as the words of our text clearly indicate, a Divine law. Jesus taught that as Son of God He was only obeying the law of God's own life 'My Father worketh hitherto (or even until now), and I work'. It is a truth easy to illustrate. The first revelation regarding God which meets us in the Bible is God the Creator, God calling all things into being by the word of His power. And no sooner is the work of Creation finished than the work of Providence begins. And still more wonderfully is this continual working of God displayed in Redemption. It is a very significant fact, too often lost sight of, that of the short two-and-thirty or three-and-thirty years that comprised the whole of the Saviour's earthly life, only two or three were devoted to His public ministry, while thirty were passed in the quiet seclusion of the carpenter's home at Nazareth, where, as soon as He was able, the youthful Jesus worked with His own hands in Joseph's shop, and earned His daily bread in the sweat of His brow.

III. And so, when we pass to our own work, whatever that work may be, if we would only realise that it too has been given us by God to do, and that we can do it as to Him, what a difference it would make! Let us press forward in the Spirit which regards all work as noble and sacred in the sight of God.

G. Milligan.

Some Features of Christ's Working

John 5:17

It is characteristic of the Christian Gospel that its Saviour should be a worker. In the old world it was a thing for slaves, and serfs, and strangers, not for freeborn men. Hence work and greatness rarely went together; and nothing could be more alien to the genius of paganism than a toiling God. Jesus has changed all that. It was a revolution when Jesus taught 'God loves'. But it was hardly less revolutionary when He taught 'God works'. And He not only taught it, He lived it too.

I. Looking back upon the work of Jesus, what strikes me first is the magnitude of His aim compared with the meanness of His methods. He claims a universal sovereignty. He runs that sovereignty out into every sphere. He is to be the text in moral questions. He is to shape our law and mould our literature. He is the Lord of Life. He is the king and conqueror of death. Will He not need stupendous methods if He is ever to achieve an aim like that? And it is then the apparent meanness of His methods strikes us. Had He a pen of fire? He never wrote a line, save in the sand. Had He a voice of overmastering eloquence? He would not strive, not cry, nor lift up His voice in the streets. It is a simple lesson for every man and woman who seeks to serve in the true Christian spirit. Meanly surrounded, he should be facing heavenwards.

II. Once more, as I look back upon the work of Jesus, I find there untiring labour joined with unruffled calm. With all its stir, no life is so restful as the life of Jesus. There are two dangers that, in these bustling times, beset the busy man. One is, that he be so immersed in multifarious business that all the lights of heaven are blotted out. That is the one extreme: it is the danger of the practical mind. But then there is the other: it is the mystic's danger. It is that, realising the utter need of fellowship with God, a man should neglect the tasks that his time brings him, and should do nothing because there is so much to do. But all that is noblest in the mystic's temper, and all that is worthiest in the man of deeds, mingled and met in the service of our Lord.

III. Again, I find in Christ's work a mission for all joined with a message for each. We cannot afford, in these days, when all the tendency is toward the statistics of the crowd we cannot afford to despise that great example. Pray over that sweet prayer of the Moravian liturgy: 'From the desire of being great, good Lord, deliver us'.

IV. Lastly, as I look back upon the life of Christ I see in it seeming failure joined with signal triumph. O heart so haunted by the sense of failure, remember that.

G. H. Morrison, Flood-Tide, p. 209.

References. V. 17. H. S. Holland, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlix. p. 389. W. Alexander, Primary Convictions, p. 187. John Thomas, Concerning the King, p. 19. V. 17-27. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture St. John, p. 245. Expositor (4th Series), vol. ii. p. 326; ibid. vol. iii. p. 134. V. 18. Ibid. (6th Series), vol. iv. p. 284. V. 19. Ibid. (4th Series), vol. ix. p. 213; ibid. (6th Series), vol. vii. p. 287. V. 20. Ibid. (5th Series), vol. vii. p. 64. V. 21-28. Ibid. vol. iv. p. 165.

Christ, the Judge

John 5:22

We are very familiar with many aspects of Christ as the Sufferer, the Saviour, the Sympathiser, the King on His throne, and so on; but perhaps this particular aspect of Christ, Christ the Judge, may not be very familiar to you. Let us take up three points.

I. Christ's position on the judgment-seat. I suppose the essential thing in the judgment is that our entire character and performances in this world will be subjected to a thorough revision, and our place in Eternity determined accordingly. And there is another element, perhaps, which is essential; it is that the proceedings are to be made public. But what I want to emphasise is, that on that occasion Jesus Christ is to be on the judgment-seat. We call it the judgment of God, and so it is; but the Divine wisdom and justice will embody themselves on that occasion in the Son.

II. And, now, secondly, the bearing of this on His Divinity. There is no feature of the religious thought of the present day more conspicuous than the attention given to the life of Christ, and never since He was on earth has the life of our Lord been studied as in the present century. But there is a danger of being so occupied with what is human in Him as to see nothing else. 'The Son of man shall come in the 'glory of His Father, with His angels, and then shall He reward every one according to his works.' Does that strike you as the description of a mere man? He is going to judge the world. Can you conceive of a mere man doing that? Why, do we not all make a hundred blunders in estimating the value of our own conduct? But that day there must be no blunders, because the issues are far too terrible, for one's station and degree in Eternity are to be determined; and I say that no one can or ought to decide who has not more knowledge and wisdom than any mere man.

III. And now, its connection with His humanity. The Son of man is to occupy the position of Judge on that day because the redeeming love of God revealed itself in His human form, and it is by that attitude and behaviour of thought that men are to be ultimately justified or condemned. The test by which it is to be decided who are the elect of the human race, fit to survive, and who are to be cast away, is their responsiveness or irresponsiveness to the redeeming love of God, revealed to man in Christ Jesus.

J. Stalker, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xliii. p. 310.

References. V. 22. H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 1637, p. 141. T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. i. p. 121. Expositor (4th Series), vol. vi. p. 76. V. 24. R. F. Horton, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lx. p. 289. J. Keble, Sermons for Easter to Ascension Day, p. 365. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxviii. No. 1642. Expositor (7th Series), vol. vi. p. 163. V. 24, 25. Ibid. (4th Series), vol. i. p. 203; ibid. vol. x. p. 287. V. 24-29. Ibid . (6th Series), vol. iii. p. 310. V. 25. Ibid. vol. ii. p. 62; ibid. vol. x. p. 295; ibid. (6th Series), vol. ix. p. 322. V. 25-29. Ibid. (5th Series), vol. x. p. 380. V. 27. G. A. Sowter, From Heart to Heart, p. 151. Expositor (5th Series), vol. ii. p. 173. V. 28, 29. Bishop Bethell, Sermons, vol. L p. 270. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xv. No. 896. Expositor (4th Series), vol. i. pp. 131, 132, 205; ibid. vol. ii. p. 62; ibid. (5th Series), vol. vi. p. 250. V. 30. C. Perren, Revival Sermons in Outline, p. 257. J. Martineau, Endeavours After the Christian Life (2nd Series), p. 41. Expositor (6th Series), vol i. p. 26. V. 30-47. Ibid. (4th Series), vol. v. p. 403. V. 31. Ibid. vol. iii. p. 56. V. 32-47. C. Perren, Revival Sermons in Outline, p. 207. V. 33. Expositor (5th Series), vol. i. p. 202.

The Burning and the Shining

John 5:35

That there must be burning before there can be shining, that we must suffer in order to serve, is a commonplace of Christianity. Our Lord, from the beginning to the end, was the great Exemplar of suffering. He did not heal the hurt of His poor people slightly. He was despised and rejected and betrayed and forsaken and scourged and mocked and crucified, and made a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. His name is our strong tower; and it is our strong tower because, as in the ancient parable, in the midst of it there is a wine-press. The name of Jesus, we repeat, is the tower of His people, because He trod the wine-press alone, and of the people there was none with Him. He ascended His throne by a rising stair of pain, and the final step was the hardest. Even so it must be with His people. When He had entered the last of His fields, He warned them, saying, 'Greater works than these shall ye do.... In the world ye shall have tribulation.' According to the quaint old illustration, flax is a scorching crop. It burns, according to the Latin phrase, the land from which it is taken, and even so the fine linen which is the righteousness of the saints involves the terrible expenditure of the soil from which the flax springs.

I. Are we then to say, as some have been tempted to say, that the Christian is permitted to join in the work of redeeming love, that the voluntary dedicated suffering of man or woman is accepted of God in addition to the oblation of the Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world? Some have thought that St. Paul pointed to this when he said, 'I fill up that which is lacking of the afflictions borne by Christ'. We know that this cannot be. Jesus is the one sacrifice offered for sins for ever. Else how was it that, when the last, roughest passage of His life came, He demeaned Himself so strangely? How was it that, when He who had been holy, harmless, and undefiled, who had followed God as a dear child without once swerving or once looking back, came to travel through the ravines and defiles of death, He could not say, as so many of His redeemed people have said, 'I will fear no evil'? How was it that, when He came to the last terrible hand-to-hand struggle with Satan, He almost asked the old question, 'Doth my Father yet live?' It was because He had taken upon Him the weight of our sins, because He stood as the substitute of His guilty people before God. He wore the crown of thorns as a fair mitre, when, as our Eternal High Priest, He offered up the evening sacrifice of the world.

II. But it is true, nevertheless, that the saints must and do fill up that which is lacking of the afflictions borne by Christ. It is true that there is a certain weight of weariness and woe which must be accumulated ere there is enough, ere sorrow and sighing flee away. It is true that Christ really participates in the sufferings of His people. What every member bears is borne by Him. In all our afflictions He is afflicted. If we burn with fire divinely kindled and upward pointing, we shall sooner or later shine. We shall in a true sense work together with Christ in the redemption of the world.

II. There must then be the burning and the shining, for the shining can never be unless there is first the burning. It is good to know this, for it gives a purpose to pain. 'I cried to Thee, O Lord, and unto Thee I made supplication. " What profit is there in my blood?"' What profit? If we only knew that, the pain might be borne proudly and lightly. If we knew that sooner or later we might shine, we might burn patiently. We might put sacrifice into our work willingly, and without sacrifice it will come to nought. A great saint has said that the sentence, ' That will do,' has done more harm than any other in the English language. Work done without pain will not last, will not shine. After we have done the will of God we shall receive the promise. Let us not think that necessarily the burning and the shining go together, but let us be sure that the shining will come at the last. Blessed are they who know it while they are burning, who can not only rejoice as they look back, but can be glad in the very moment of the intensest pressure of the pain, who can understand that when they seem to be weakest they are strongest, and who can put away from them the temptations of the Adversary.

However this may be, we know that they shall shine at last. They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament and as the stars for ever and ever. We know the symbols of love, of peace, of satisfaction, of rest in the keeping of that time and everlasting Feast of Tabernacles whereof it is written, 'The tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them'. We know the assurance that sorrow and suffering are not to be found in that country, neither weariness nor tears nor shame. But all our imaginings, even when helped by the promises, fail us; and it is well that we should go bound in the spirit to the heavenly Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall us there. What we do know is that the Source of Grace is the same there and here. The Tree of Life stretcheth its branches over the Sea of Glass, and its boughs to the River of Death.

W. Robertson Nicoll, Sunday Evening, p. 257.

References. V. 35. H. Varley, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lv. p. 228. J. M. Neale, Sermons for Some Feast Days in the Christian Year, p. 123. V. 36. Expositor (6th Series), vol. vii. p. 74. V. 39. H. H. Henson, Godly Union and Concord, p. 224. W. H. Evans, Sermons for the Church's Year, p. 267. H. H. Henson, The Value of the Bible, p. 22. J. R. Bennie, The Eternal Life, p. 13. W. M. Sinclair, Words from St. Paul's, p. 1. J. Smith, The Integrity of Scripture, p. 72. W. H. Brookfield, Sermons, p. 205. G. Trevor, Types and the Antitype, p. 1. Expositor (7th Series), vol. vi. p. 53. V. 39, 40. H. H. Henson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lx. p. 385. Expositor (4th Series), vol. i. p. 16. V. 39, 45. Ibid. p. 83.

The Authority of the Will

John 5:40

Our Lord in making His appeal to the Jews points to the evidence that should be enough to convince them. He first refers to the evidence of John the Baptist, whom they profess to believe to have been a man of God and a prophet. And further, our Lord appeals to their own Scriptures which they reverenced and made an idol. And yet they rejected their Saviour wilfully, almost malignantly. That this should be so, that man should have such terrible power seems the great mystery of our life; and yet it cannot be otherwise if we are to remain men. This place and power of human will we must recognise.

I. In practical ethics there is nothing beneath or beyond the will. We may do an act against our judgment, and against what we admit should be our will, against the better part of our nature; but all the same the will is the responsible agent of the act. When Romeo went to the old apothecary to purchase poison, without disguising that the poison was for an illegal object, Shakespeare makes the apothecary give the poison for the sake of the reward, using this very temptation we are discussing as a salve to his conscience, 'My poverty and not my will consents'. Nay, it was against his conscience, against his better judgment, but not against his will. The temptation was too strong for his will; and the selling of the poison to be used for suicide was his will.

II. So all-important is the will in the moral judgment of a man that we can say as an unerring test that according to the character of the will is the character of the life. The philosopher Kant implied this when he declared that there is nothing good in the world but a good will, and nothing evil in the world but an evil will.

III. What is it makes a will good or evil? And how is this good will to be acquired? A good will is, in Bible language, a will 'conformed to the will of God'. This is the psychology of the Christian life. 'It is a God who worketh in you to will.' The will that is so given to God, and kept by God, and filled by God, is safe, and grows into strength and beauty.

Hugh Black, Edinburgh Sermons, p. 55.

References. V. 40. A. G. Mortimer, The Church's Lesson for the Christian Year, pt. ii. p. 291. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. i. No. 52, and vol. xxii. No. 1324. Expositor (7th Series), vol. v. p. 100.

John 5:40

One of Richard Cameron's most fervid sermons was preached from this text. It includes the following appeal: 'Now for you that are saying this "It is true, it is not easy to bring folk to Christ. I have had a profession for many years," ye say, "and yet, I fear, I have never yet come to Christ". But I say our Lord is here this day saying, "Will ye take Me, ye that have a lie so long in your right hand?" There may be some saying, "If I get or take Him, I shall get a cross also". Well, that is true. But ye will get a sweet cross. Thus we offer Him unto you, in the parishes of Auchinlech, Douglas, Crawfordjohn, and all ye that live thereabout And what say ye? Will ye take Him? Tell us what ye say, for we take instruments before these hills and mountains around us that we have offered Him to you this day. Angels are wondering at this offer: they stand beholding with admiration that our Lord is giving you such an offer this day.'

References. V. 41. Expositor (7th Series), vol. v. p. 85. V. 42. T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. iv. p. 109. V. 43-45. Expositor (5th Series), vol. vii. p. 151. V. 44. C. S. Home, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlv. p. 229. C. G. Finney, Penny Pulpit, No. 1635, p. 125. Bishop Creighton, The Heritage of the Spirit, p. 73. Bishop Gore, Christian World Pulpit, vol. 1. p. 65. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxi. No. 1245. Expositor (6th Series), vol. viii. p. 274. V. 46. Ibid. vol. xi. p. 345. V. 45, 47. E. T. J. Merrimer, Sermons Preached at Lyme Regis, p. 209.

Faith Self-enlarging

John 5:46

A man does not believe his own creed until he is prepared to add to it. The creed must be of the quality of the man. Man is always adding to himself. Man changes, creed changes, but changes by enlargement, evolution, ever-increasing light and adequacy and tenderness; it does not change eccentrically or capriciously, but it moves in a great sequence of expansion, a movement towards the throne. Be progressive, therefore, and do not you imagine or represent that the creed or the statement of the creed is final. Men might have rested in Moses; there was a point of rest even in that great legislator; you could not add a tomorrow to his today, the tomorrow must come along the track of the gloom of the night, and must set itself in the eastern sky according to the decree of an unchangeable progress: but the change does come.

I. Had ye believed in Sin you would have believed in the Atonement. A man's heterodoxy does not begin at the Atonement, the heterodoxy began with a false conception of the sin. No man can be a theologian who has not been burned with a sense of guilt, reddened with blushes of inexpressible shame, torn to pieces in his very soul by self-accusation and self-torment. If we suppose that the Atonement is a mere idea, or theory, or suggestion to which a man may come along an intellectual line and say that he has thought about it and considered it, and upon the whole he has come to certain conclusions upon it away! That man cannot speak the word Atonement, much less explain it or form an opinion about it; it is not along such lines that men reach the agony of the cross.

The point to be kept steadily in mind is this, that one belief necessitates another, that faith grows towards more faith in the degree in which it is originally true, intelligent, and sincerely held. We are not holding a cold white cinder out of which all the fire has gone, but we are entrusted with a living coal from the living altar, a great self-evidencing fact and movement in experience and in history.

II. Had ye believed in agnosticism ye would have believed in God, and had ye believed in God ye would have believed in agnosticism. Is not that paradoxical? Far from it; it is by keeping close company with Jesus Christ that we begin to know that God is unknowable, that He has kept some things wholly to Himself, that there is no searching of His understanding, and that He can only be knowable by condescension and by revelation. God is unknowable, but God has the power to make Himself known in the degree in which our capacity can receive Him.

III. Keep steadily in mind what the purpose of this meditation is, namely, to show that a right belief at the beginning compels a man to add to that belief everything that is kindred and cognate to its own quality and its own purpose. Thus the great religion of the Bible takes into itself by an absorption vindicated by fact and by spiritual righteousness all that is true, beautiful, musical, benevolent, philanthropic; it will not allow one daisy to fall out of its lap, and it has accommodation enough for the planets. Know that your first faith is right, because you are growing in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

IV. Have we faith? The spirit of faith longs for more worlds for faith to conquer. Lord, increase our faith; give us vision after vision of Thy loveliness and Thy majesty, and give these visions to us, not in response to our vanity, intellectual or moral, but in response to an earnest desire to know somewhat more of the vastness of Thy kingdom, and the beneficence of Thine empire.

Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. i. p. 122.

References. VI. Expositor (4th Series), vol. iii. p. 417; ibid. vol. vi. pp. 36, 77; ibid. vol. ix. p. 132. VI. 3. Ibid. p. 302. VI. 4. Ibid. vol. v. p. 118; ibid. (7th Series), vol. v. p. 10.

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on John 5". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/edt/john-5.html. 1910.
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