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Bible Commentaries

Sermon Bible Commentary

John 7

Verse 17

John 7:17

The general principle affirmed in the text is, that there is an unalterable connection between the perceptions of the mind and the moral state of the heart—between the understanding of truth and the practice of godliness. In other words, that spiritual intelligence grows as proficiency in spiritual practice grows; and that, other things being equal, nay, even under circumstances of the most unfavourable intellectual disparity, that man will have the clearest, fullest, richest, deepest insight into Divine things, whose will is most obediently and deeply fashioned after the will of God. The text holds good:—

I. Because a life of true obedience to the Divine precepts is most favourable to the operation of those thinking and feeling faculties, in and through which the knowledge of God reaches the soul. Religion, we must remember, addresses itself to the whole nature of man—that is, to all the parts of his intellectual, moral, and spiritual being. No man could know the doctrine, whose whole life was consciously opposed to the will of God, for he has determined not to know it; has raised as many obstacles as he can in the way of knowing it; used his reason, as far as he has used it, to sustain a false and foregone conclusion; putting out his own eyes, in order that he may be in a position to say, "I cannot see."

II. But the principle of our text goes much farther than this. Not only will a life opposed to the will of God raise up influences unfavourable to the reception of Divine truth, but a life which is according to that will, or which tries to be according to it, shall be blessed with a peculiar and special measure of religious knowledge—an understanding hid from the wise and prudent—of the deep things of God. Obedience strengthens love, and love induces likeness, and likeness is that which leads to the most perfect knowledge; nay, is the very means by which, in our glorified state, we are to have a true vision of God. The steps, or processes, of knowledge are unbroken; we pass from light to light, from glory to glory; from a comprehending with all saints what is the breadth and length and depth and height, to a state in which, with the strong eagle gaze of our resurrection faculties, we see God face to face.

D. Moore, Penny Pulpit, No. 3412.

References: John 7:17.—J. N. Norton, Every Sunday, p. 150; G. Brooks, Five Hundred Outlines of Sermons, p. 399; Church of England Pulpit, vol. viii., p. 187; A. W. Hare, The Alton Sermons, p. 42; W. Thomson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iv., p. 193; S. G. Matthews, Ibid., vol. xxiv., p. 37; G. Dawson, Sermons on Disputed Points, p. 249; F. W. Robertson, Sermons, 2nd series, p. 94; H. Melville, Penny Pulpit, No. 2992; J. Clifford, The Dawn of Manhood, p. 83. John 7:19-35.—H. W. Beecher, Plymouth Pulpit Sermons, 5th series, p. 417.

Verse 24

John 7:24

I. Are we to judge men according to the appearance of their life? There is a general social judgment which we must give. We look upon a man's outer life, and pass a sentence on it, either of praise or blame; and, so far as appearance goes, that sentence may be just, as long as the matters it judges are within the sphere of the broad lines of right and wrong. But in other matters it may be quite unjust. The human heart is hidden from us, and out of that alone can be drawn the materials for a righteous judgment of the lives of men.

II. Again, you are forbidden to judge the whole of a man's life from the results of his acts upon his own life. That is the way in which the world, while the man is alive, usually judges; and it is almost always wrong. We thank God that in the life of the Son of God, in the central life of history, a divine and eternal contradiction has been given to the world's lie—that obloquy and slander, and suffering and poverty, and shame and death, are any proof that a man's life is base or foolish or degraded. It is emblazoned on the walls of heaven and earth by the death of Christ, that the prosperous are not always right, and the sufferer not always wrong.

III. Again, you cannot judge a man's character according to the appearance of any single act. You must know the man before you can blame or praise him for the act. You must know the circumstances which preceded it, the many motives which entered into every act—the sum of which impelled it—before you can truly judge the man from the action.

On the whole, we have scarcely any right to judge at all, just because we know nothing but the appearance. When we know more, then we may with diffidence judge; but, for the most part, we have no business to make the judgment openly, unless it happen to be a judgment of love. Still, after long experience, a long labour towards certain qualities, we may attain some power of judging righteously. (1) The first of these qualities is to love men as Christ loved them, through utter loss of self; the other qualities are secured by love. With love comes (2) patience; (3) freedom from prejudice. These qualities are modes of love; and, in truth, love includes all we need for judging righteously of men.

S. A. Brooke, The Spirit of the Christian Life, p. 42.


References: John 7:24, Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iii., p. 18; Homilist, 3rd series, vol. viii., p. 223.

Verse 37

John 7:37

All human desire, all human need, is expressed in this one word thirst.

I. Take, first, what may be called the lowest thirst of all—the thirst for happiness. If any man thirst, not for grace, but simply for happiness, let him come unto Jesus Christ and drink. If it is not a spiritual desire at first, coming to Christ will make it so; and if the man does not see how Jesus Christ can be of any service for his need, let him just look at the fact—made abundantly plain in this text, and in many a text besides—that Jesus Christ says He is able to meet that need exactly and completely, and then let him come and see.

II. Coming so, a man soon begins to be conscious of higher desires than this natural universal desire for happiness. Any one really coming to Jesus Christ, in that very act has grace, although he may not know it. He has the true beginnings of the gracious life; he has therefore—begins at least to have—thirsts of a higher and nobler kind, and these also he will have assuaged and satisfied. Thirst for righteousness arises, for a personal rectitude, for conformity of heart and habit and life to the holy will of God. Jesus, knowing on the feast day that He carried atonement and rectification and purity in Himself—in His blood and life, in His love and purpose—stood and cried, "If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink."

III. But, once more, the thirst for righteousness does not contain within itself all the desire of a renewed soul. The affections are not satisfied with truth and rectitude in their abstract forms; but they have a distinctive thirst of their own, which we may call the thirst for love. The love of Christ will sanctify, ennoble, fulfil, all other; it will be to your yearning and sorrowing affection what no love but His can be.

IV. There is yet another thirst—profounder, vaster, more awful—which Christ only can satisfy,—the thirst for very life. Back from the dark realm of eternal oblivion the living soul recoils, and cries for life; out towards the realm of life it stretches, wherever that realm may seem to be. Who gives us this stupendous faith in life—future, eternal, happy life? Who but He who is the Life, and who brings life and immortality to light through the Gospel. "If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink."

A. Raleigh, Penny Pulpit, No. 323.

Christ's Call to the Thirsty

I. Note, first, who are called. The invitation is to the thirsty. This thirst may be either general and unfixed, or it may be special and definite. It may be a thirst for something, many things, anything,—we scarcely know or care what; or it may be a thirst for some one precise thing, of which we have in part a distinct conception. To both kinds of thirst—but especially, as I think, to the latter—is our Lord's invitation in the text intended to be applicable. (1) It applies to the first sort of thirst. To the many who say, "Who will show us any good?" is the invitation addressed. Your conscious uneasiness indicates something wrong. Do not hastily conclude that the wrong is irremediable. You have been seeking more from the world than it was ever fitted or intended to yield. It is the tabernacle of your pilgrimage; it cannot be a home for your hearts. Seek ye then the Lord, and let your souls thirst for the living God. (2) The thirst referred to in the invitation of our Lord may be regarded as somewhat more definite and precise—as the thirst of a guilty conscience, a heart estranged from God, seeking and needing peace. Here is Christ, having all blessings in store for you—pardon, peace, reconciliation, renewal, hope, joy, the water of life; come unto Him without hesitation, without delay, without fear, without doubt. Come unto Him, and drink freely, copiously, continually.

II. The invitation is as simple as it is suitable. "Come unto Me and drink." It is faith viewed (1) as the faith of application—"let him come unto Me"; (2) as the faith of appropriation—"Drink." Whatever you need, seek not to attain to it directly, as if by an effort of your own; but go to Christ, seek it through Christ, seek it in Christ, seek Christ Himself, and the thing you need and want will be yours. You cannot directly, by any exertion of your own, compass any spiritual achievement. If you complain of weak faith, by no wishing and working can you make it strong. If of a cold heart, no working in or upon the heart itself will warm it. Come to Christ; be ever coming to Christ to drink.

R. S. Candlish, The Gospel of Forgiveness, p. 37.


Consider:—

I. Man as a thirsty creature. We thirst for life, pleasure, activity, society, knowledge, power, esteem, and love. And we thirst for God. (1) All men have natural thirsts. (2) Besides these, there are secondary—derived thirsts. (3) The entrance of sin has produced depraved thirsts. (4) The return of man to God, and his salvation by Jesus Christ, involve new thirsts. There is the thirst of the quickened spirit for particular religious knowledge, and the thirst of the penitent for pardon, the thirst of the new-born spirit for righteousness, the thirst of the godly for God, and the abiding thirst of the child of God for all that is godly, for being filled with the fulness of God.

II. Jesus Christ as a fountain of supply. (1) We thirst for continued life. Jesus saith, "Come unto Me, and drink!" "As in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive." Instead of weakness there shall be power; instead of dishonour, glory; and instead of corruption, incorruption; instead of mortality, everlasting life. (2) Do we thirst for activity? Hear Jesus say, "He that believeth on Me, the works that I do shall he do also." (3) We thirst for enjoyment, and still Jesus saith, "Come unto Me, and drink." Christ gives joy in every gift, and promises it in every promise. There is joy in the eternal life He gives, joy in the rest He gives, and joy in the peace which He bequeaths. (4) We thirst for power, and Christ continues to say, "Come unto Me, and drink!" for He makes His disciples now the salt of the earth and the light of the world, and ultimately He makes them kings and priests to God. (5) We thirst for society, and still Jesus saith, "Come unto Me, and drink." Our Saviour makes those who are strangers and foreigners and aliens, fellow-citizens with the saints and of the household of God. (6) We thirst for the love of others, and Christ saith, "Come unto Me, and drink." For He directs streams of kindness to every one who comes to Him by means of His new commandment: "A new commandment give I unto you, that ye love one another." All the thirsts of the God-born spirit are recognised in our text. The thirst of the depressed in spiritual life for the renewing of the Holy Ghost, the thirst of the backslider for reunion with God and with His people, the thirst of the doubter for certain religious knowledge, the thirst of the weary and heavy-laden for rest, and the thirst of the exhausted for renewal of strength—all thirsts, whatever may be the thirst, Jesus can slake it with living water.

S. Martin, Rain upon the Mown Grass, p. 254.


References: John 7:37.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxi., No. 1875; Ibid., Morning by Morning, p. 367; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. i., p. 286; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. xvi., p. 302; A. Raleigh, Three Hundred Outlines on the New Testament, p. 78. John 7:37-39.—H. P. Liddon, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxx., p. 91; F. D. Maurice, The Gospel of St. John, p. 209; G. Clayton, Penny Pulpit, No. 1724. John 7:38-39.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxviii., No. 1662. Obbard, Plain Sermons, p. 143. John 7:45-53.—Homilist, new series, vol. i., p. 509.

Verse 46

John 7:46

The Epiphany of Wisdom

I. On the nature of wisdom, the teaching of Holy Scripture is singularly clear and striking. It says there is a wisdom of man, and this is the knowledge of the true end or purpose of life—call it happiness, call it perfection, or what you will—a knowledge which answers, to some extent, those ever-recurring questions, "Why was I made?" and "What am I now?" and "Whither am I going?" This is the wisdom which the author of Ecclesiastes sought for everywhere, and yet hardly found. It is this, over which, as discovered, the Book of Proverbs rejoices as more precious than gold and jewels, and from the rough ore of which it forges the current coin of its proverbial philosophy. But there is also a wisdom of God, and this is the idea or purpose of His dispensation to man, rolling alike in the stately march of Nature's law, or in the little world of the soul within. The fear of the Lord is declared to be the beginning of wisdom, and to the desponding author of Ecclesiastes, it seems to be the whole treasure of man.

II. The Epiphany of wisdom is, for us, unlike the Epiphany of power in this—that it is not removed far away in the past, so that its voice comes to us only like the reverberations of some distant thunder—grand, indeed, and solemn, but so vague and indistinct that they may be drowned by the more incisive sounds of ordinary life. No; the words of the Lord are as living now as on the very day they were uttered. They indicate their unequalled grandeur in this—that, uttered by a Galilean carpenter eighteen centuries ago, they are universal in their application to all time and place. "Never man spake as this Man." And if that be true, there are three short practical questions which we may well consider:—(1) What means the Epiphany of wisdom, if it does not mean that He who speaks, being true man, is yet more than man—is, in some supreme and unique sense, revealer of the very mind of God? (2) And then, if this be so, is it not, in the next place, reasonable for us, in reverence and faith, to try the effect of His guidance in all the perplexities and needs of this life? (3) And if here also we find that His wisdom is a sufficient guide in all these questions and needs that we can understand, is it not then natural that, with regard to all those deep mysteries of eternity, and of Godhead, and of salvation—which we cannot discover, but which yet are of infinite moment to our life—is it not reasonable that in these things we should yield also to His claim, and prepare, at least, to sit at His feet with something like inquiring and unhesitating faith?

Bishop Barry, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxi., p. 33.


References: John 7:46.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xvi., No. 951; Preacher's Monthly, vol. vii., p. 321; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. i., p. 35; G. W. McCree, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xii., p. 101; F. Trestrail, Ibid., vol. xxxvi., p. 141. John 7:53.,—Homiletic Magazine, vol. xiii., p. 137; W. Sanday, The Fourth Gospel, p. 144. John 8:1-12.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. xiii., p. 137. John 8:1-12.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iv., p. 126. John 8:3-11.—Parker, Hidden Springs, p. 243; Homilist, 3rd series, vol. xv., p. 166. John 8:6.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. xi., p. 206. John 8:9.—A. Ramsay, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vii., p. 100. John 8:11.—R. D. B. Rawnsley, Village Sermons, 2nd series, p. 100; J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 1874, p. 116.



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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on John 7". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/sbc/john-7.html.