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Bible Commentaries

Wells of Living Water Commentary

John 7

Verses 28-39

The Living Water

John 7:28-39


1. Did the rulers know that Jesus was the Christ? They should have known it. They saw the works which He did, and His works showed that He was the Christ. He Himself said, "Believe Me * *: or else believe Me for the very works' sake." He also said that whatsoever the Father did, these things also the Son doeth. If the Father raised the dead, so also the Son quickened whomsoever He would. If the Father had life in Himself, so also had the Son. The miracles which He wrought declared Him as Son of God, for He wrought works that none other ever did.

The rulers should have known it. Christ was, in every detail, the fulfillment of the Prophets, which were read every Sabbath Day in the Temple. They themselves fulfilled the Prophets by their treatment of Him. How could they be so blind? The rulers knew what the Prophets said as to the city of His birth, for they told the Wise Men, and Herod that He was to be born in Bethlehem of Judea.

2. What Christ said of the knowledge of the rulers. John 7:28 tells the story: "Ye both know Me, and ye know whence I am: and I am not come of Myself, but He that sent Me is true, whom ye know not."

Yes, the rulers knew, but they refused to believe. The things concerning Christ were not done in a corner. His birth was in plain and definite fulfillment of prophecy, and it was accompanied by an open and avowed annunciation of angel hosts in the suburbs of Bethlehem, upon the fields of the shepherds. The Wise Men of the East knew, and came to worship Him; the rulers knew, and worshiped Him not.

Some can preach an orthodox sermon, and yet their own sermon is to them no more than sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal. Historically, they acknowledge the great facts of the Word and its Christ; yet doctrine to them is a mere creedal acknowledgment, without any vital power in its message.

The Lord said to the disciples, "Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not?" Without any hesitancy we can say as much of a great part of the church of today. They know the Scripture, "Ye must be born again," yet the new birth is experimentally foreign to them. They know the Scripture, "Who healeth all thy diseases," but they know nothing of His healing power. They know the Scripture, "Behold, I come quickly," but they do not accept His Coming.


The Lord Jesus said: "Yet a little while am I with you, and then I go unto Him that sent Me. Ye shall seek Me, and shall not find Me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come."

All this suggests that light rejected brings darkness. It has always been so. When anyone turns away from the truth as it is in Christ Jesus, he will soon find himself engulfed in error. In Second Thessalonians is the expression, "They received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie."

When we think of heathendom, in its present-hour world condition, and in its ignorance of God, we must remember that when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God.

Thus it is with this age. The people have known God. Our own country was established by the Puritans who feared the Lord; slowly, but surely, they have wandered away from the truth of God into a cold formalism, which is deepening rapidly into a stoic unbelief.

Let us mark the result of failure to believe. Christ said, "Ye shall seek Me, and shall not find Me." That is the first statement. When men know the truth but follow it not, they will soon become hardened against truth; and the Lord God will refuse to give them light. We read, in the Book of Amos, of certain ones who will seek the Word, but will find it not.

There is a second result: "Where I am, thither ye cannot come." Think of it. Shut out, and shut out eternally. Lost, and lost without one ray of hope. They refused Christ and now they are refused. They shut the door to Him, and now the door is shut to them. They seek, but they seek too late. They cannot find Him. They want to enter in, but the door is closed.

It is like the ark of Noah's day. The people would not go in, when the door was open, because of their unbelief. When the deluge, however, began to engulf them, they could not go in because God had shut the door.


1. What Christ saw. The last day of the Jewish feast had come. It was the great day of the feast. The Lord Jesus saw the people wearied and thirsty as the populace rushed hither and thither. It was then that His heart was stirred within Him. It is always so. Our Lord is a Lord of great compassion, and of unbounding pity. He saw and He sorrowed; He saw and He cried out.

2. What Christ said. We wish to divide the cry of our Lord into two statements:

(1) "If any man thirst." This seems to be, at first, a universal call, because the Lord said, "If any man." A little deeper look, however, circumscribes the "any man" to the one who thirsts.

This same truth is set forth in John 3:16 . The Gospel call is unto "whosoever." However, it is "whosoever" circumscribed by the word "believeth." God does not ever suggest that all will be saved. He does suggest that ail who believe will be saved. The "whosoever" and the if "any man" are all-inclusive, and yet, from among the "whosoever" and the "any man" it is only the one who drinks, or the one who believes, that may come.

In the last chapter of the Bible it is plainly written, "whosoever will, let him take the Water of Life freely." Of course, the "whosoever" is once more shut up to the willingness of the individual to come.

(2) "Let him come unto Me." Is it not written, "Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out"? That same truth is tucked away in this Scripture. Any thirsty soul may come unto Him if he will come.

If someone argues that John 7:36 says, "Ye shall seek Me, and shall not find Me," it must be remembered that these cannot find Him, because they refused to seek Him at the first. They cannot now come because they would not come when they might have come.

John 7:36 also carries with it the thought that they sought Him, not because they loved Him, but because they feared Him.

The people in Noah's day no doubt sought to enter into the ark after the flood came, but they sought in vain, because they refused to enter in before the flood forced them to seek to enter through fear.

Christ is giving an invitation, in John 7:37 , to the truly thirsty to come and drink.

III. SHUT UP TO FAITH (John 7:38 )

It seems to me that the expression, "He that believeth on Me" should be added to John 7:37 , thus: "If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink; he that believeth on Me." In John 1:12 we read: "As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His Name." This verse in John 7:1-53 may read the same way: "If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink, even he that believeth on Me."

In any event, the drinking is shut up to the one who believeth on Him. None other would come and none other would drink. With this before us, let us observe:

1. The blessings of the Gospel are for those alone who believe. We are shut up to faith. Unbelief never gets anything from God. It is written: "He that wavereth * * let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord."

It is according to our faith that it is to be unto us. He that believeth hath everlasting life, and he that believeth not shall be damned.

However, it is not in salvation alone we are shut up to faith. The blessings that ensue, and that belong to the believer, are for the most part, also shut up to faith. Take healing: it is written, "And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up."

It is written again, "By faith Abel"; "By faith Enoch"; "By faith Noah"; "By faith Abraham"; etc. He that believeth is he who enters into the blessings of God; but he that believeth not, cuts himself off from those blessings.

2. The specific blessing of our verse refers to the drinking of Living Waters. John 7:38 says, "As the Scripture hath said, out of His belly shall flow rivers of Living Water." We have capitalized the pronoun "His" because it is from Christ, primarily, that the Living Waters flow. He is the source of all blessing. Of course, the Waters likewise flow from us as we receive them from Him, and gave them to others. We are not the source of that Living Water, that carries blessings whithersoever it goes; we are merely the channels through which they flow.


John 7:39 reads: "(But this spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)"

1. The Holy Spirit is described as "Rivers of Living

Water," because it was of the Spirit that Christ spoke. We know, therefore, that the Spirit, the promise of the Father, was poured forth from Heaven above. We know, also, that the Spirit came to indwell our innermost beings, and that He came to bless us that we might be made a blessing.

The beautiful symbolism of John 7:38 is made clear in John 7:39 . The Rivers of Water which bless others, are the attributes of the Holy Spirit, which He sheds abroad in and through us. A similar statement is found in Galatians where we read that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, etc.

These are the virtues made real in us by the Holy Ghost which flows from us to a world darkened by sin.

2. Ezekiel gives a wonderful description of the flowing of these Waters. Chapter 47 says that the waters issued out from under the threshold of the house, eastward. They flowed with ever increasing depth and width. Then we find the statement "These waters * * go down into the desert, and go into the sea." Then comes the remarkable phrase, "Every thing that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live."

To us this is exceedingly suggestive. The Holy Spirit begins to flow rivers of blessing from us when He is exalted to the throne of our hearts. He goes forth into the deserts of the world with blessing. Everything that He touches lives. Every miry place and every marsh is healed. In Ezekiel, on either side of the river there were all trees for meat. Their leaves did not fade, and their fruit could not be consumed.

Would that God would give us such lives as these.

3. The Spirit-filled life is the dominant need of every believer. Unless we are filled with the Spirit we cannot get God's best, neither can we prove ourselves able to give forth God's best. No wonder the Bible says, "Be filled with the Spirit."

V. WHAT THINK YE OF CHRIST? (John 7:40-43 )

1. Many said, "He is a Prophet." In John 7:43 we read, "There was a division among the people because of Him." Some said that He was this, some said that He was that. Some acclaimed Him a man, some thought Him more than a man. Just now we have before us the statement of John 7:40 : "Many of the people therefore, * * said, Of a truth this is the Prophet."

You remember on one occasion how the Lord said, "Whom do men say that I the Son of Man am?" Peter immediately replied, "Some say that Thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the Prophets." Of course, this conception of Christ did by no means tell the truth. The Prophets were great men, but they were not worthy to unloose the latchet of the shoes of Christ. The Prophets were not Christ because they spoke of the coming of Christ.

We would not take from the Prophets the glory which is their due. They served their Lord through sufferings, deprivations, and misunderstandings. They never failed to declare the whole counsel of God. To them a rich reward awaits.

However, he who would make Christ a man, even the greatest or the best among men, is guilty of humanizing Deity. He is dragging the Lord Jesus down into the realm of sinnerhood, and accordingly he is robbing Him of His Saviourhood.

Every one of us must either acclaim Christ God, or else we are making Him a religious imposter, who set Himself up as having come forth from God, and as being God, filled with the attributes of God. To say that He is a Prophet is not enough.

2. Others said, "This is the Christ." These went far beyond those of John 7:40 , who classed Him with the Prophets. The word "Christ" means "the Anointed of God." Jesus was the Christ. The angels so announced Him to the shepherds, saying, "Unto you is born * * a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord."

The men of our verse made their statement of faith, only to have it denied. The verse continues: "But some said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee? Hath not the Scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was?"

It is passing strange that those who were quoting the Scriptures knew not that Christ fulfilled the Scriptures. He who was announced to be born in Bethlehem, had been born in Bethlehem. He whom they said should have been of the seed of David, was of the seed of David. They erred because they had not been properly instructed by the rabbis. The rulers of the Jews had never told the people the truth concerning Christ.


We have just seen how some of the people said Christ was a Prophet; some said He was the Christ; and now we read in John 7:44 , "And some of them would have taken Him; but no man laid hands on Him."

1. They hated Him without a cause. There was never, at any time, anyone who could find fault with Him, They did finally suborn witnesses and paid them to testify against Christ; however, none ever could say anything against Him, save that He said He was the Son of God. The truth is, they crucified Him because they were envious of Him. His holiness laid bare their lack of holiness; His purity condemned their impurity; His gentleness displayed their severity. It was because the common people heard Him gladly that the chief priests and the Pharisees and the rulers would have nothing to do with Him.

2. They sought to take Him, but His hour had not yet come. The officers were sent to arrest Christ. When they returned the chief priests and Pharisees said, "Why have ye not brought Him?" "The officers answered, Never man spake like this Man." Instead of finding fault with Him, they praised Him. When, finally, He was to be crucified, Pilate said, "I find in Him no fault at all." And, later, as He hung upon the Cross in death, the centurion said: "Truly this was the Son of God."

3. They could not deny the words of the officers. Let us look a little more closely into the statement, "Never man spake like this Man." This statement has remained unchallenged. We accept it in this the twentieth century at its full face value. No one ever did speak as He spoke. No one ever spoke the truth as He spoke it. No one ever spoke with the authority with which He spoke. No one ever spoke with the certainty with which He spoke. No one ever spoke looking into the future as He looked, and looking:, spoke of the things to come.

It is blessed to recognize that even those who were sent to take Christ by force, returned saying, "Never man spake like this Man."


1. The rebuff of the Pharisees. When the officers said, "Never man spake like this Man" the Pharisees said, "Are ye also deceived?" Then they added with scorn, "Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on Him?" In other words, the final test in Israel was whether the religious leaders believed or rejected the Son of God.

The people were supposed to do as they did, to accept what they accepted, and to reject what they rejected. They put themselves up as the final word on every issue. This same spirit of ecclesiasticism prevails at this present hour. The laity are expected to take as final every decision of the ecclesiastical headship.

2. The plea of Nicodemus. The man who came to Jesus by night said, "Doth our Law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth." Mark you, the Pharisees had said, "Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on Him?" And here was one of them who did believe. When he spoke up in behalf of his Lord, they answered and said unto him, "Art thou also of Galilee. Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no Prophet." After that every man went to his own house.

Nicodemus had broken up, for the time, the opposition. In doing so, however, he himself was maligned.

One of the things which mark every age is the fact that a few men want to set themselves up as lords over the populace. They want to keep in their power the very thoughts and actions of those whom they deem inferior to themselves.

The Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Herodians, were of this group. They could say, "Why do Thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders?" In other words, they placed the tradition of the elders in Israel above the Lord. They denied Christ's Headship, and acclaimed their own.

The Lord looked at them and said: "In vain they do worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." Even the disciples were troubled and said to the Lord, "Knowest Thou that the Pharisees were offended?" They seemed to feel that whatever the Pharisees demanded, should be granted. The Lord saith unto the disciples, "Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch." Thus it was that the Lord was finally rejected by men.


Water satisfies the thirsty soul: so does Christ satisfy the heart that trusts Him.

A certain man on the Malabar coast, had inquired of various devotees and priests, how he might make atonement for his sins. At last he was directed to the following means: He was to drive iron spikes, sufficiently blunted, through his sandals. On these spikes he was to place his naked feet, and to walk 480 miles. If, through loss of blood or weakness of body, he was obliged to halt, he might wait for healing and strength. He undertook the journey; and while he halted under a large shady tree, where the Gospel was sometimes preached, one of the missionaries came and preached in his hearing from the words: "The Blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin" (1 John 1:7 ). While he was preaching, the man rose up, threw off his torturing sandals, and cried aloud, "This is what I want"; and he became a lively witness that the Blood of Jesus Christ does cleanse from all sin indeed. Has it cleansed you?

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Bibliographical Information
Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on John 7". "Living Water".