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Sunday, October 1st, 2023
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26
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John 1

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Verses 1-5

John 1:1-5

In the beginning was the Word



1. His name: the Word.

(1) He is the chief subject of Revelation--the Word of promise--the substance of all shadows, types, and prophecies.

(2) The medium of God’s communications with the world. To Him the Father communicates Himself in counsel; He, as the Wisdom of God, communicates the Father’s counsels to men.

2. His eternity. Not “from,” but “in,” the beginning.

3. His distinct personality and co-existence with the Father.


1. The worlds and the things in them are not eternal. Reason teaches us that there must have been a first cause.

2. All things were made by the Word (Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2).

3. He Himself was not made; therefore cannot be a creature, however exalted, such as Socinians, Mohammedans, and Arians represent Him.

4. Every form of life is in Him, of whatever rank, from inanimate matter up to rational and spiritual man.

5. All light proceeds from Him.

6. The restoration of the ruined is by Him. Souls in the darkness of death are illumined and revived by Him. (A. Beith, D. D.)

THE RELATION OF THE WORD TO GOD, as possessing the Divine nature and existing with God before creation.


THE RELATION OF THE WORD TO MEN, as being the source of life and light to them.

THE RELATION OF THE WORD TO FALLEN HUMANITY, as shining in the darkness, though the darkness comprehended it not. (W. Perkins.)

Practical reflections

WOULD WE KNOW THE EXCEEDING SINFULNESS OF SIN? Let us read these verses. If no one less than the Eternal God, the Creator and Preserver of all things, could take away the sin of the world, sin must be a far more abominable thing in the sight of God than most men suppose. If Christ is so great, then sin must indeed be sinful!

WOULD WE KNOW THE STRENGTH OF A TRUE CHRISTIAN’S FOUNDATION FOR HOPE? Let us often read these verses. Let us mark that the Saviour in whom the believer is bid to trust is nothing less than the Eternal God, One able to save to the uttermost all that come to the Father by Him. He that was “with God,” and “was God,” is also “Emmanuel, God with us.” (Bp. Ryle.)

Christ and God

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). As the translation ofthis passage cannot be improved, and the words are plain, no verbal exegesis is required. The subject is Christ and God, and we are here taught

THAT CHRIST IS THE ETERNAL REVEALER OF GOD. “In the beginning was the Word”--the Logos. He is not a word but the word. As the Revealer, this Word is distinguished

1. By its faithfulness. Christ is the exact exponent of the Divine intellect and heart.

2. By its fulness. Other words only speak part of God.

3. By its forcefulness. Human words are sometimes powerful, they are not always air; they are sometimes a force. God’s words in nature are mighty.

THAT CHRIST IS THE ETERNAL SELF OF GOD. “And the Word was with God.” The expression implies that He had a conscious existence distinct from the Absolute One. He was with Him. He that is with me is not me.

1. Christ was with Him in the sense of agreement. There was a perfect concurrence.

2. Christ was with him in the sense of contact. Never out of His presence, living in His light, breathing His inspirations.


1. “He was God” in form. Deep, it would seem, in the constitution of moral soul, is the craving for some form of God. As He appears in the universe, He transcends the limits of human vision. Christ is the form He has assumed; the form in which, in all probability, He appears to His intelligent universe as well as to man.

2. “He was God” in action. Through Him the eternal volitions are carried out and realized. He is the Actualizer of God’s eternal ideas. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

The Word made flesh

A fourfold contrast.

In respect of ESSENCE. Word and flesh. The first suggests pure spirituality, power, eternity; the second materiality, weakness, mortality.

In respect of EXISTENCE. In the beginning the Word was. In time the Word was made flesh. The eternal becomes an infant of days. He who was in the beginning, and had.no beginning, has also an existence numbered by every year that passes away.

In respect of ASSOCIATION. “With God”; “among us.” In perfect holiness and blessedness; acquainted with grief and beset by sin. In the bosom of the Eternal Father, receiving and returning infinite love; and in the arms of a human mother, soon to taste the hatred and cruelty of man.

In respect of NATURE. The supreme contrast. He who was God became man. In man are united spirit and matter, angel and brute, seraph and clay. But what extremes meet in Christ! Creator and creature, eternity and time; and these in unbroken union. (W. Perkins.)

The Word

The ETERNITY of the Word.

1. By the phrase “in the beginning” is to be understood eternity. Had St. John said “before” the beginning, he would have presented eternity under the laws of time, a mistake as grave as to describe the Infinite under the conditions of the finite. But mounting up higher than time and space, he leads us to the calm where God dwelleth.

2. Four times he repeats the word “was”; which

(1) Joined with “beginning,” makes the idea of eternity dawn upon the mind in all its awful grandeur.

(2) Joined to “with God,” involves a contrast with verse 3. The sun, moon, and stars in the beginning “were made”; the Word in the beginning “was.” His existence and theirs consequently differ radically.

(3) Joined to “God” contrasts with verse 14. “In the beginning was the Word”; in the fulness of time “the Word was made flesh.”

3. Christ always existed as the Word. It was not in the course of history that He became the Word. In His pre-existence Jesus Christ is God speaking to Himself; in His post-existence God speaking to us. The same word He speaks to Himself and to us; therefore it has the same meaning on the Divine as on the human side.

The PERSONALITY of the Word.

1. The Word was “with God” in respect of personality. Omnipotence is eternally in God; Jesus Christ is eternally with God--a mode of speech signifying distinct, but not separate, personal subsistence. God spent eternity in self-communion; but He so far transcends us in the power of thinking that His ideas become realities. His one thought becomes a Word consubstantial with Himself.

2. He was with God in respect of complacency. God took unspeakable delight in His Word, for in Him He beheld His own portraiture, without defect, fault, or flaw. God, as Father, infinitely, eternally, loves the Son. This intense love the Son cherishes towards the Father. He was not simply with, but “towards,” God. He had His face, so to speak, turned fully towards Him, returning all the wealth of thought and affection poured upon Him. With the perfect thinker the perfect Word reflects back the perfect thought. A further idea still lurks here. The Word was “at home” with God. Christ in His preexistent state never felt restrained or ill at ease as an inferior with a superior, but as a loving child with an indulgent father Proverbs 8:22-31); not as a subject in the presence of his monarch, or a creature in the presence of his Creator, but as an equal in the society of his friend.

3. He was with God in respect of counsel or purpose.

(1) In respect of creative counsel. All things were gathered together in the pre-existent Christ (Revelation 3:4; Colossians 1:15-16).

(2) In respect of redemptive purpose. In the centre of the earth all the mountains meet. In the centre all terrestrial objects stand together. Similarly Christ is the centre of the plan of our salvation (Ephesians 1:3-4).

The proper DIVINITY of the Word.

1. “Was God” implies co-equality. Two persons may be in amicable fellowship, whilst in nature and standing the one may be inferior to the other.

(1) As Mediator, indeed, in His state of humiliation, Christ was the Father’s subordinate and servant; wherefore He says, “My Father is greater than I.”

(2) But as He is the Second Person in the Trinity, St. John teaches His equality with the Father. The idea of perfect sonship excludes that of subordination. The man of forty is as much a son as a child of four; the fact of sonship is undiminished, but subordination is gone. But Jesus Christ is from the first a perfect Son, and therefore on a footing of equality with the perfect Father.

(3) The Son being thus equal with the Father, God will have no occasion to repeat His Word. The perfect revelation is summed up in one word--Jesus Christ.

2. “Was God” teaches consubstantiality. “The Word was with God”; there it is God with the article denoting the Father’s person; here without the article indicating substance, being. The Son can never be the Father; but is of the same essence as.the Father--of the same, not of like; homo-ousia, not homoiousia.

3. Let us therefore hold fast the doctrine once delivered to the saints. Beware of running away with the notion that all the intellects are opposed to orthodoxy. The acute intellects may be, but the profound intellects, which see far and deep, are not. (J. Cynddylan Jones, D. D.)

The Word

1. As the mental work in man is the thought of the mind by which the mind holds converse with itself insensibly--that is, without effort and without passion or emotion--and is the perfect image and similitude of the mind from which it proceeds, so does the Son derive a free and unseen origin from the Father, being His express image and similitude.

2. As the mind holds converse with itself by its own thought and cogitation, and sees and knows itself and all things by means of this thought, so does the Father see Himself as in a mirror in the person of His Son.

3. As the intellectual, immaterial word abides in man’s mind, so does the Divine Word abide and remain in the bosom of the Father. (W. Denton, M. A.)

1. Where the Word was--in the beginning.

2. Where the Word was--with God.

3. What the Word was--God. (Beaux Amis.)

The resemblance between the Written and the Personal Word


1. He assumed into union with His Godhead a human soul, a human body, and an animal nature. He hungered, thirsted, was fatigued, and had as real a need of meat, drink, and sleep as other men.

2. He grew, not only in stature, but in wisdom.

3. As regarded His human mind, He knew not the time of the consummation of all things.

4. He was as much mixed up with the manifold, humbling, petty details of daily life as any of us.

5. But every now and then there flashed rays of that glory which He had with the Father before the world was.


1. Its Divine element is twofold.

(1) Inspiration, which pervades the whole of it.

(2) Revelation, which characterizes the most important parts of it--the creation, the whole range of prophecy, the law, the gospel.

2. It is perfectly human--a fact attested by the variety of its style. It is coloured with the human mind, affections, experiences, reasonings.

3. This human element gives the Scriptures that geniality which wakens so many chords in our hearts, and which makes us find them such a sympathetic book. If they spoke only the tongues of angels they might reveal to us mysteries, impress and even scare us, but where would their comfort be?

4. Like the Personal Word, the Written Word, though both human and Divine, is but one book; inasmuch as all its treatises were given by inspiration of one Spirit, who did for them what the living soul does for the animal frame--gave them a regular organization and development which makes the Bible truly and really one body.


1. In censuring sin it speaks with a fidelity which our false delicacy does not relish, and which no uninspired preacher would dare to imitate.

2. Frequently the writers descend to matters of comparatively local, temporal, and mundane interest.

3. They were unacquainted with scientific truth.

4. In many points they give a handle to the misconstructions of enemies.


1. Prophecy is built up stone upon stone on the foundation of the original promise (Genesis 3:15). This promise is handed over to Abraham in an enlarged and expanded form (Genesis 12:3). When Abraham’s family branches out into twelve tribes, Judah is selected as the tribe in which the promise should run (Genesis 49:8; Genesis 49:10). As soon as an earthly kingdom is established, David is indicated as the king on whose throne Messiah should sit (2 Samuel 7:12-16).

2. The Written Word is ever developing itself from Genesis to Revelation. In Genesis you have the dawn of Divine knowledge and thought; in the New Testament you have its noontide blaze. God, Christ, morality, the Fall, justification, sanctification are not seen as clearly in the Old Testament as in the New, nor in the earlier books of the Old as in the later. Yet from first to last it is the very Word of God, as Jesus is; as much exalted above other books as He is by His Divinity above other men.

IT EXHIBITS ALL THE SYMPTOMS OF ITS EXALTED CHARACTER AND ORIGIN, It abounds in passages of supernatural sublimity, foresights, revelations of heaven, oracles which seem to vibrate with the voice of the archangel and the trump of God. Like the Personal Word, the Written Word rises up in meek majesty to make those who approach it with hostile intent go backward and fall to the ground; upon it descends the holy dove; over it hangs the bright cloud; it quickens human souls; it says to the stormy sea of the human heart, “Peace, be still”; before it the demons of lust, pride, covetousness, worldliness, quake and flee. As both in His generation and resurrection and ascension Jesus was declared to be Divine, so both at its commencement, when it stoops down to inaugurate the narrative of earth, and at its close ascends to heaven again and exhibits man purged from all stain, so the Written Word is declared to be the Word of God with power.

IF CHRIST WERE NOT HUMAN, WE SHOULD NOT HAVE THE CONSOLATION OF HIS SYMPATHY; IF THE SCRIPTURES WERE NOT HUMAN, THEY COULD NOT COME HOME AS THEY DO TO HUMAN HEARTS AND CONSCIENCES. Let us therefore regard them with but one whir the less affectionate veneration. There could be no trial of faith if they presented no difficulties. To what shall we go if we give them up? (Dean Goulburn.)

The heavenly analogy of the connection of speech with reason

Man’s reason was formed in the image of God, and our Lord is called the Word; these are the two Scriptural intimations which guide us into part of the truth respecting the Divine nature.

1. Reason involves a thing distinct from itself, namely, speech, or the power of communicating the processes of reason, so that whosoever has the faculty of reason has in that faculty the faculty of speech or the Word.

2. Though reason wraps up speech in itself, yet we can conceive of reason as energizing latently, and of the faculty of speech as having no exercise.

3. Neither reason nor speech can make any claim to priority of existence; they are twin faculties, born at the same instant. Now listen to what the Catholic Church has gathered from the Scripture respecting the nature of God.

There is a TRINITY IN UNITY, that is, more than one Person in the Divine nature. Man’s spirit, the Bible says, was made in the image of that nature. In man’s spirit there are two faculties, reason and speech. The second Person in the Divine nature goes by the name of the Word, that is, He stands to the first in the same relation as that in which utterance stands to understanding.

St. John intimates that THERE WAS A PERIOD WHEN, although both blessed Persons existed, yet THE SON WAS IN THE BOSOM OF THE FATHER; when, though the Word was, yet the Word came not forth. That is like reason, with the faculty of speech latent in it, not put forth.

THE MAJESTY OF THESE PERSONS IS CO-ETERNAL. The administration of this in the human spirit is the twin birth of reason and speech. Speech, then, in the nature of man, represents Christ in the nature of God. What a value and a dignity does this impress on human speech! When you reason and communicate to others the result you adumbrate in the limits of a finite nature, the nature of the Infinite One. Shall any child of man, then, degrade this faculty of speech to vain and profane and unclean communications? (Dean Goulburn.)

The relation of this revelation with that of Genesis 1:1-31.

which is an introduction to the story of the first man, as this is an introduction to the story of the second Man, the Lord from heaven. The great words are the same in both cases, though they have evidently deepened in their later use--the beginning, God, the Word (“God said”), all things, light, darkness,life, to be, to become. While the evangelist begins with creation, he goes very far beyond, and consequently uses many words that were not needed in Genesis, but are indispensable to his purpose, such as law, grace, truth, faith, sons of God and sin. As in Genesis, God is taken for granted. There is no attempt to prove that He is, and there is no notice taken of any denial that He is. With a grand daring of disregard, as if there could be no controversy on such a subject, the paragraph proceeds on the assumption that He is, as beyond question, like a postulate or axiom. (J. Culross, D. D.)

Controversy about Christ

This verse is an unanswerable argument against three classes of heretics. It confutes

1. The Arians, who regard Christ as a Being inferior to God.

2. The Sabellians, who deny any distinction of Persons in the Trinity, and say that God sometimes manifested Himself as Father, sometimes as Son, and sometimes as the Spirit, and that the Father and the Spirit suffered on the cross.

3. The Socinians and Unitarians, who say that Jesus Christ was not God, but man, a most holy and perfect man, but only a man. (Bp.Ryle.)

A notable conversion

A memorable hour arrived in the history of a youth belonging to an honourable French family in the second half of the sixteenth century. Though scarcely fifteen years of age, he had been led by blind guides to unbelief, and the dragon’s teeth, sown on an unguarded field, had already begun to produce their destructive harvest. His godly father, deeply concerned for his salvation, placed a New Testament in his room, and offered the silent prayer that he might take it and read it. The son did so. His eye rested accidentally upon a passage which, according to his own words, so affected him that he “suddenly felt the Divinity of the subject, and, together with the majesty, also the power of the words that so infinitely surpassed the flow of all human eloquence. My whole body was convulsed,” he continues, “my soul was confounded, and I have been so affected this whole day that I have scarcely been conscious of my own identity.” It was not quite twenty-five years after this remarkable event that he was preaching the Gospel of the Reformation at Antwerp, while the light from the blaze of the funeral pile which was consuming his companions in faith shone against the windows of the hall where he preached. And when the pestilence that raged in Leyden in 1602 numbered him among its victims, it was universally acknowledged and lamented that a shining light had set. This young man was the celebrated Professor Francis Junius, and the passage which was the power of God to his salvation was John 1:1. (J. J. Van Oosterzee, D. D.)

The nature of Christ perfectly similar and equal to that of the Eternal Father

1. This subject yields m importance to none. The views we take of it will influence those we take of all other doctrines, and must terminate in results which affect God’s glory.

2. Our state of mind should be one of perfect neutrality. The slightest prepossession is incompatible with the love of truth.

3. The language of the Scriptures must be taken in its obvious signification, just as the Jews took John 15:13; John 15:13.

4. Should this doctrine be clearly taught, no difficulty can affect its certainty or ought to affect our faith.

5. The lines of proof are five.

(1) Divine names are given to Christ.

(2) Divine attributes are ascribed to Him.

(3) Divine works are wrought by Him.

(4) Divine relations are sustained by Him.

(5) Divine worship is demanded by and paid to Him. The line suggested by our text is the first.

Christ is called JEHOVAH (John 12:37; cf. Isaiah 6:1-10).

GOD (Romans 9:5; Hebrews 1:8).

GREAT GOD (Titus 2:3).

TRUE GOD (1 John 5:20).

MIGHTY GOD (Isaiah 9:6).

GOD OF ISRAEL (Exodus 24:9-10; Psalms 68:17-18; Ephesians 4:8). In reference to these instances:

1. Has any other received such appellations.

2. Compare these appellations with the religious state of the Jews at the time of Christ. They were strict monotheists, as were Christ and the apostles. If, therefore, it was intended to convey the idea of Christ’s Divinity, no better terms could have been used; but if to convey the idea that He was a mere man, they are totally misleading.

3. Compare these appellations with the state of the Pagan world. They were idolaters, and Christ’s design and that of His apostles was to deliver them from idolatry. A strange method was employed if Christ were a mere creature.

4. Examine whether events have justified the notion which the prophets gave if Christ be not God. It was predicted that He should utterly abolish idols, and has He not done so?

5. The supposition that the Deity of Christ was taught by the Saviour and His apostles will alone enable us to account for His rejection.


1. Is the Deity of Christ a doctrine of Scripture? Then how is the accuracy of His precepts ratified? How entire the proof of their conformity to the will of God!

2. Is the Saviour possessed of a Divine nature? How absolutely, therefore, is He able to scrutinize our professions of His gospel!

3. The same truth also invites the utmost confidence in His declarations of mercy and offers of pardon. (J. F. Denham.)

On books

1. What is it which makes men different from all other living beings we know of? Is it not speech--the power of words? The beasts may make one another understand many things, but they have no speech.

2. But where did this power of uttering thoughts come from? The beasts have been on the earth as long as man, and yet they can no more speak than they could when they were created. But Adam could speak at once, and could understand what God said to him. Who gave him that power but Jesus, the Word who was in the beginning with God, and lighteth every man that cometh into the world?

3. By Christ the Word God has spoken to man in all ages. It was He whom Moses and the seventy elders saw, for “no man hath seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father He hath declared Him. He put rote David’s mouth those glorious Psalms. “The Lord … hath put a new song into my mouth.” He, as the Word of God, came unto the prophets. When He became incarnate, He spake as never man spake. And since then He has given to all wise and holy poets, philosophers, and preachers the power to speak and write the wonderful truths they have thought out.

4. Ought not the knowledge of all this

(1) make us better and wiser;

(2) make us reverence the Bible;

(3) reverence all good books?

Except a living man, there is nothing more wonderful than a book, a message from a human soul thousands of miles away which can amuse, terrify, comfort, teach us. Why is it that neither angels, nor saints, nor evil spirits appear now to speak to men as they once did? Because we have books by which Christ’s messengers and the devil’s can communicate with us. If they are good and true, they are the message of Christ, the Teacher of all truth. If they are false and wicked, we ought to fear them as evil spirits loosed among us. This is an age of books, a flood of writings of all sorts is spreading over the world. We ought not to stop that. It is God’s ordinance. It is of His grace and mercy that we have a free press. It was dearly bought. The men who died to buy us this liberty knew that it was better to let in a thousand bad books than to shut out one good one, for a grain of God’s truth will outweigh a ton of the devil’s lies. We cannot silence evil books, but we can take care what we read, and that what we let others read shall be good and wholesome. (Charles Kingsley, M. A.)

The Word of Scripture concerning the beginning





What is gained by defending the eternal pre-existence of Jesus Christ

Much every way. The Revealer of God being eternal, He is competent to give the world an eternal revelation--a re, elation of eternal truth, a revelation of the eternal God. Moses and others might serve as organs of the Old Testament revelation, for the religion they established was temporal, designed to last only “till the time of reformation.” In the nature of things a temporal revealer can only found a temporal religion; you must have an everlasting Revealer to make known the everlasting gospel. (J. Cynddylan Jones, D. D.)

The origin of the term “Logos,” or Word

The claims of Philo to be regarded as the source of St. John’s doctrine have been largely advocated. But


1. The relations which existed between Ephesus and Alexandria.

2. The assumption that Apollos carried over the Philonian doctrines.

3. The statement that Cerinthus drew the germs of his doctrine from an Alexandrian source. And

4. The circumstance that Neoplatonism had spread widely amongst the Hellenistic Jews only make it probable that John was acquainted with Philo, but cannot be regarded as establishing it.

WITH THE EXCEPTION OF THE TERM LOGOS, THE GOSPEL CONTAINS NOT A TRACE OF PHILONISM, which is remarkable if John began its composition under the influence of that celebrated master. The number of parallels between the philosopher and the evangelist are at the most four, and these are confined exclusively to the prologue.


1. It is impossible to determine whether the former is a person or an attribute, or a personification, whereas the latter is distinctly personal.

2. The former is not Divine in the sense that the latter is. Philo gives the name of δεύτερος θεὸς to the Loges only metaphorically, whereas John calls Him θεὸς in the strictest didactic sense.

3. The former is a metaphysical conception; the latter an object of religious contemplation.

4. The former has no real connection with human history and salvation such as the latter has.


1. In the Hebrew Scriptures we have the germs of the doctrine.

(1) In Genesis 1:1-31. creation is attributed to so many separate voices or spoken words of Elohim. What if John purposed to represent the uncreated Loges as the personal Being by whom these creative words were altered?

(2) The Maleach Jehovah who appeared as God’s messenger, who announced His will (Genesis 15:1), and who, if distinguished from Him Genesis 16:11), was identified with Him (Genesis 16:13; Genesis 19:16; Genesis 32:30), would unquestionably prepare the way for such a conception as John’s.

(3) The creative activity assigned to the Word of Jehovah (Psalms 33:6-9) would tend to foster the notion.

(4) The personification of wisdom (Proverbs 8:22-31) would further serve to develop the idea.

2. In the Chochmah writings of the Post-Exilian Period, which carried on and perfected the tendency already begun, John would find another contributory source to the doctrine. In these the transition from an impersonal to a personal Sophia is an accomplished fact (Wisdom of Sir 1:1; Sir 1:4; Sir 24:3; Sir 42:9; Wisdom of Solomon, 7:25, 26, 22); and the Chaldee Targumists substitute for Elohim and Jehovah Memra da Yeya, a personal being who served as the permanent agent or representative of God, and who was identified with the Shekinah and the Messiah.

3. While Christ never employed the term, an examination of His utterances concerning His person might easily suggest the propriety of using it. Without alluding to John 17:14; John 17:14, the aspect m which Christ’s person, character, and work are here contemplated is that of one who has come with the Divine words of truth and life, and the transition must have seemed natural and easy from Christ as the speaker of God’s words to Him as God’s spoken Word Himself. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)

Christ the Word of God

What is a word? It is a thought in the depths of the heart made audible to a second person. If Christ be the Word of God, He is God’s love sounding in the language of mankind, God’s truth reverberating among the centuries as amid the corridors of a grand temple, God’s justice revealed to our comprehension. Once this orb was a bright mirror which reflected God’s image, but sin darkened it, and it is dim. Once the rolling of its waves, the murmurings of its streams, the noise of its winds, was the word of God; but sin has laid its hand upon all its heartstrings and deadened and disordered its vibrations. Christ is now what the world once was, and more than the world was--God’s love, God’s truth, audible to men. So that in hearing Christ speak I hear God; in seeing Christ’s portrait I see God’s; in seeing the picture of Christ delivered in the gospel I see all that is comprehensible of the High and Holy One that inhabiteth eternity and the praises thereof. (J. Cumming, D. D.)

The Word was with God

The Divine Father and Son

Ask the sun if ever it were without its beams. Ask the fountain if ever it were without its streams. So God was never without His Son. (Arrowsmith.)

God not solitary

God did not spend the everlasting ages in sublime, solitary, masterly inactivity. He had a Word with Him, equal to Himself, the reflex image of His own person. That God from everlasting loved is an idea with which we are all familiar enough; it is the prominent idea in the correlates Father and Son. But in the text Jesus Christ is presented, not as the Son, but as the Word; accordingly the main idea is not God as love, but God as mind. Not only God loved from eternity, but He thought from eternity; He thought as intensely as He loved. (J. Cynddylan Jones, D. D.)

The Word was God

The Deity of Christ an impossible invention

Imagine yourselves in the position of St. John.. “Think of any one whom you have loved and revered in past years. He has gone; but you cling to him more earnestly in thought and affection than while he was here. His words, haunts, phrases, handwriting, likeness, are for you precious and sacred. Others may be forgotten, but one such memory cannot fade. But can we conceive it possible that after any lapse of time we should express our reverence and love by saying that our friend was superhuman? Can we imagine ourselves incorporating our recollection with some current theosophic doctrine elevating him to the rank of a Divine hypostasis? And if Jesus was merely human, St. John’s statements about Him are among the most preposterous fictions which have imposed on the world. They were advanced with a full knowledge of what they involved. St. John was convinced as profoundly as we are of the truth of the unity of God, and of the interval which separates the highest of creatures from the Creator. And if we are not naturally lured to deify our friends, neither was St. John. If Jesus had been merely human, He would have felt as we feel about a beloved lost friend. In proportion to our belief in our friend’s goodness, and to our reverence for his character, is the strength of our conviction that we could not do him a more cruel injury by entwining a blasphemous fable around the simple story of his life.
This deification of Jesus by St. John would have been consistent neither with his reverence for God nor his loyalty to his merely human teacher. St. John worshipped the jealous God of Israel; and he has recorded the warning he received against worshipping the angel of the Apocalypse. If Christ had not really been Divine, the real beauty of His human character would have been disfigured by any such exaggeration, and Christianity would assuredly have perished within the limits of the first century. (Canon Liddon.)

The Divinity of Christ revealed in the Gospel of John

I remember once talking with a lady who said she did not believe Jesus was the Son of God, although she believed He was a good man, and admired very much the teaching He had left. Strangely enough, I found her (with all the beautiful inconsistency of a woman’s mind, and that inconsistency is frequently very beautiful and much better than the logical consistency of man’s mind) particularly fond of the sayings of Jesus as recorded in the Gospel of St. John; such, for instance, as “In My Father’s house are many mansions; I go to prepare a place for you.” “Now,” I said, “will you go home and read again the Gospel of St. John, and cross out every word that intimates He is Divine, and say you don’t believe that and that?” She thought it would be a good idea, and I gave her little Testament and told her to mark and cut it as much as she liked. She came back in a week, as she had promised. “Well, how did you get along?” “I didn’t get along at all. The truth is, I found I had to cross out the whole of the first chapter, and I began to think, ‘If it’s like this, what’ll become of the beautiful promises and sayings?’ so I stopped and cried, ‘Lord, I see it is so. I accept Thee as Son of God, my Lord and my God.’” (Dr. Pentecost.)

The term Word applicable to Christ

A person officiating as a medium of correspondence between the throne and its functionaries or subjects might be styled the word; or the person who should carry the command of a general to those who should see them executed. Such an one might also be styled the word, as standing in a mid-position between the person holding supreme command and those set under authority. No transference of words from a general to a special signification could be more easy and even striking than this. If, then, we assume that the person invested with mediatorial attributes and relations is called in several passages of Scripture “the Word,” or “the Word of the Lord,” because His official position is analogous to the examples just given or to others which human experience suggests, is there not a manifest propriety in its being used in this instance? and could the whole compass of language supply us with a second term in all respects so suitable as this--the Word? (G. Steward.)

Christ the true God

Two gentlemen were once disputing on the Divinity of Christ. One of them, who argued against it, said, “If it were true, it certainly would have been expressed in more clear, unequivocal terms.” “Well,” said the other, “admitting that you believe it, were authorized to teach it, and allowed to use your own language, how would you express the doctrine to make it clear and indubitable?” “I would say,” replied the first, “that Jesus Christ is the true God.” “You are happy,” rejoined the other, “in the choice of your words, for you have happened to hit upon the very words of inspiration. John, speaking of Jesus, says, ‘This is the true God and eternal life.’”

Christ is God

The commencement of Christian work in Japan happened thus: An American lady, of the name of Prince, interested herself in the country, and four or five missionaries were sent out, but only occupied themselves in the translation of the Scriptures. After some time this lady offered to teach English to a young Japanese, and gave him the Gospel of St. John to translate. Shortly after, it was observed that he became very agitated and restless, walking up and down the room constantly. At last he could contain himself no longer, and burst out with the question, “Who is this Man about whom I am reading--this Jesus? You call Him a Man, but He must be a God.” Thus the simple word itself had forced on him the conviction that Jesus Christ was indeed God.

Verse 2

John 1:2

The same was in the beginning with God.

This repetition teaches

HOW LITTLE ABLE WE ARE TO COMPREHEND THIS GREAT MYSTERY, which we can but take in by little and little, and must put that together, as children do letters, syllables, and words, till we attain a more full understanding thereof, for our comfort and salvation.

HOW MUCH AND OFTEN IT IS TO BE INCULCATED UPON BELIEVERS to study again and again, as having more in it than will be seen at first view; and when they have found most in it, yet there is infinitely more to be found in that inexhaustible fountain.

That believers may read ALL THAT TENDER-HEARTEDNESS, compassion, mercifulness, and sympathy which is in Him, TO BE NOT A MAN’S ONLY, and in our kinsman, but in Him who is also the eternal God, whose thoughts and purposes are eternal and immutable, like Himself.

That believers may see THE WISDOM AND LOVE OF GOD, who has found a way of reconciliation of lost man BY THE SAME IN NATURE AND ESSENCE, WHO IS THE PARTY OFFENDED. (G. Hutcheson.)

The Word which was in the beginning a testimony

To the ETERNAL PERSONALITY, as the ground of all things.

To the ETERNAL SPIRIT--Light--as the law of all things.

To the ETERNAL LOVE, as the kernel of all things.

To the ETERNAL LIFE, as the life of all things. (Lange.)

The Word in His exaltation over time


IN THE BEGINNING founded all things.

IN THE MIDDLE executed all things; that He may,

IN THE END, judge all things. (Lange.)

The eternity of Christ an argument for His oneness with the Father

Does the radiance of the sun proceed from the substance itself of the sun or from some other source? Any one not deprived of his senses must needs confess that it proceeds from the substance itself. Yet, although the radiance proceeds from the sun itself, we cannot say that it is later in point of time than the subsistence of that body, since the sun has never appeared without its rays. It is for this reason that St. Paul calls Him “Brightness” Hebrews 1:3), setting forth thereby His being from God and His eternity. (Chrysostom.)

The value of Scripture repetitions

Repetitions have divers uses in Scripture. In prayer they argue affection. In prophecy they note celerity and certainty. In threatenings they note unavoidableness and suddenness. In precepts they note a necessity of performing them. In truths, like that before us, they serve to show the necessity of believing and knowing them. (Arrowsmith.)

“With God”

These words express the co-existence, but at the same time the distinction of person. They imply relation with, intercourse with. (Comp. the “in the bosom of the Father” of John 1:18, and “Let us make man” of Genesis 1:26 “Throned face to face with God,” “the gaze ever directed towards God,” have been given as paraphrases, and the full sense cannot be expressed in fewer words. The “with” represents “motion towards.” The Being whose existence is asserted in the “was” is regarded as distinct, but not alone, as ever going forth in communion with God. (Comp. the use of the same word “with” in Matthew 26:15; Matthew 26:15; Mark 6:3; Mar 9:19; 1 Corinthians 16:6-7; Galatians 4:18; Galatians 4:18.) (H. W.Watkins, D. D.)

Christ and the Creation

The old Gnostic Christians held that the world was not created by the Great God, “but by Demiurgus, a spirit descending from the AEons, which were themselves derived from the Deity.” John’s statement stands in direct antagonism to this. From this we infer

THAT CHRIST IS OLDER THAN THE UNIVERSE. The worker must be older than his productions.

THAT CHRIST IS GREATER THAN THE UNIVERSE. As the architect is greater than his building, the author than his work, the artist than his productions, Christ is greater than the universe.

1. Greater in extent. But Christ’s being extends beyond the limits of the universe.

2. Greater in force.

3. Greater in beauty.

THAT CHRIST IS OWNER OF THE UNIVERSE. Production gives the highest right to possession. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

Verse 3

John 1:3

All things were made by Him

The Christian doctrine of creation


THE PURIFICATION OF THE HEATHEN DOCTRINE: obviating the eternity of matter.

THE DEEPENING OF THE JEWISH DOCTRINE of the Shekinah: clearly pronouncing the personal life of love in God as it enters into the world.

THE GLORIFICATION OF THE SOUND DOCTRINE of scientific investigation: man the final cause of things; the God Man the final cause of man.

THE VERDICT OF THE SPIRIT respecting the derivation of the world from a non-spiritual source: materialism. (Lange.)

The Christian features in all things

The CREATURELY instinct of dependence, as an impulse towards the upholding Word.

The NATURAL, SELF-UNFOLDING instinct, as the impulse towards freedom (Romans 8:1-39.).

The COSMICAL, WORLD-FORMING instinct, as an impulse towards unity.

The SPIRITUAL instinct, as the impulse to rise in the service of the Spirit. (Lange.)

Christ the Creator

As He is the efficient cause of all.

As He is the pattern by which all were made.

As all things are created by the Godhead, and the Word was God. (Cornelius a Lapide.)

The universal creatorship of Christ


1. It furnishes the key to the dark problems of nature and providence.

2. It gives to science and Christianity a common foundation.

(1) Science reveals the eternal power and Godhead of the Word.

(2) Christianity the means of mercy to fallen man through the Word.

(3) Each a compartment of one great fabric reared to the glory of God. Science the outer court: admire and adore. Christianity the holy place: kneel, pray, praise (Hebrews 4:16).


INSPIRES THE HUMBLEST WITH CONFIDENCE. Christ cares for the humblest of His creatures (Psalms 104:27; Matthew 7:11).

IRRADIATES THE FUTURE WITH A GLORIOUS HOPE (Revelation 21:1; Revelation 21:5). (Van Doren.)

The relation of Christ to the created universe

All things are

IN Him. All archetypal forms and sources of creative life eternally reside in Him.

BY Him. He is the one Producer and Sustainer of all created existence.

FOR Him. He is the end of created things. Living for Him the explanation and law of every creature. (Van Doren.)

The creative power of the Word

See 1 Corinthians 8:6; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2. Observe

1. God revealed Himself through His Son before the Incarnation.

2. To be a Creator the Word had to be God.

3. Matter is not eternal: the universe has an intelligent personality back of it, as architect, builder, and sustainer.

4. The stars are a manifestation of Christ, as well as the Bible: we see Him in natural as in revealed religion.

5. The Being who made all things is worthy of being trusted with the absolute work of making and sustaining our characters. (A. H. Moment.)

The universe a revelation of Christ

The creation of a single atom would have been a revelation of Him: how much more is this great universe! A man is always greater than his work; no architect, for example, ever put his whole self into the noblest building he designed; even so the Word is greater than the universe which He has called into being. Still, so far as it goes, it reveals Him to us. To the eye of childhood this world into which we are born is beautiful and strange, and marvellous past expression. Not less so to the intelligent and thoughtful manhood. If the romance is gone, as the summer dew from the grass at noon, the real wonder only becomes more overwhelming. (J. Culross, D. D.)

God in nature

To the infidel, Nature’s voices are but a Babel din. Trees rustle, and brooks babble, and winds blow; but there is no meaning in their sound. To the Christian, all speak of God; and if it were not for the dimness of the natural eye, he might see His host of angels at their ministry. The tree stretches out its arm, laden with fruit, like the arm of God. The morning sprinkles him with dew, as with holy water; and he is sung to sleep at evening with songs like the lullaby of earthly parents to their children. (H. W. Beecher.)

Divine designs open to us in creation

When I was in the galleries of Oxford, I saw many of the designs of Raphael and Michael Angelo. I looked upon them with reverence, and took up such of them as I was permitted to touch as one would take up a love token. It seemed to me these sketches brought me nearer the great masters than their finished pictures could have done, because therein I saw the minds’ processes as they were first born. They were the first salient points of the inspiration. Could I have brought them home with me, how rich I should have been! how envied for their possession! Now, there are open and free to us, every day of our lives, the designs of a greater than Raphael or Michael Angelo. God, of whom the noblest master is but a feeble imitator, is sketching and painting every hour the most wondrous pictures--not hoarded in any gallery, but spread in light and shadow round the whole earth, and glowing for us in the overhanging skies. (H. W. Beecher.)

The Creator must be Divine

To create, to call something out of nothing--be it a dying spark or a blazing sun, a dewdrop cradled in a lily’s bosom, or the vast ocean in the hollow of God’s hand, mole-hill or mountain, the dancing motes of a sunbeam or the rolling planets of a system, a burning seraph or a feeble glow-worm, one of the ephemera that takes wing in the morning and is dead at night, or one of the angels that sang when our Lord was born; whatever be the thing created, the power to create is God’s, the act of creation His; and therefore, since Paul says that Jesus Christ created all things, he cannot mean to depose our Lord from the throne of Divinity, and lower God’s only begotten Son to the level of a created being. (T. Guthrie, D. D.)

Creation the work of God

Creation is the work of God: “without Him was not anything made that was made.” He only can create. The architect can rear a cathedral, the sculptor can cut forms of symmetry and grace from marble, the painter can depict life on his canvas, the machinist can construct engines that shall serve the nations; but not one of them can create. They work with materials already in existence. They bring existing things into new combinations; this is all. God alone can create. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

The greatness of the universe a testimony to the greatness of Christ

1. We look around us upon the infinite variety of productions which the earth brings forth--their use, their goodness, their beauty; we sweep the eye of imagination over ocean and continent, hill and plain, lake and stream, corn-land and forest, sahara and paradise; we mark the changes produced by day and night, and the succession of the seasons; we listen to the music of nature--the boom of ocean dashing on the shore, the wind in the forest, the tinkling of the hidden moorland rill; we think of the countless tribes of living and sentient beings that inhabit earth along with us; we think of man with his marvellous endowments; we think of the treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places; we listen to all that science can tell us of the subtle agencies that pervade creation and the laws which bind all beings together.

2. Then, standing on earth as on a promontory, we look upwards and outwards. Beneath the nether sky, with its cloud and scenery, and its sunrise and sunset hues of beauty, there are illimitable realms of space, studded with worlds moving harmoniously in close ravelled maze. These heavens were vast and glorious to the eye of the Chaldean gazer thousands of years ago; how have their vastness and glory grown to us since then! The globe which is our dwelling-place is one of the smallest planets wheeling round one of the lesser suns. It is conceivable that only our own little world might have hung solitary in immensity; but the space swept by the telescope teems with solar systems compared with which ours is insignificant. In the Milky Way alone are millions of suns, the nearest of which requires years to dart its light to us, though light travels two hundred thousand miles during the single vibration of a pendulum. In the presence of that immensity, our globe is but as a grain of sand on the seashore.

3. Leaving the realms of space, with the help of geology, let us look back on the realms of time. Since our world became the theatre of life, ages on ages have run their course, for the duration of which we have absolutely no measure. The universe in its vastness, wonder, and divine beauty, and in all the evolutions through which it has passed during countless ages, lay first of all in His mind--if one may say so--as the grand cathedral was in the brain of the architect ere its foundation-stone was laid; it took all that we see, and all that science discloses, and all that mystery still hides, to express

His creative idea. How great, then, must the Maker be! How wise, good, glorious! (J. Culross, D. D.)

Christ’s creative knowledge

A quaint countryman, telling of his thorough knowledge of the people of his vicinity, said boastfully, “I know all these people as well as if I’d made ‘em.” That statement of his covered a great deal of ground, whether it were true or were only a suggestion of a truth. No man can understand a complicated piece of mechanism like the man who made it. And there was never so complicated a piece of mechanism on earth as the average man or woman. At the best, every man or woman is a bundle of contradictions; and the closest human friend is puzzled at times over some new phase of those contradictions in his friend. Only He who made that puzzle can know its parts in all their relations and in all their workings. What a comfort in the thought that our Friend of friends knows us as well as if He made us; knows us because He did make us--for “all things were made by Him.” (H. C. Trumbull, D. D.)

Christ’s presence in His creation

He is not a Master who, like a carpenter or builder, when he has prepared a house or ship, leaves the house for its owner to dwell in, or commits the ship to the mariners that they may traverse the sea in it, and he himself goes whither he may. No; God the Father has begun and finished all things by His Word, and preserves it also continually by the same, and remains with His work until He wills that it shall no longer exist (John 5:13). As we were made by Him without our assistance, so also we cannot be preserved of ourselves. Thus here, were all to understand that all things created are preserved, in being otherwise they would not long remain created. (Luther.)

The confidence inspired by Christ’s creatorship

If without Christ nothing was made, then nothing made by Him can do any injury to His kingdom. Fear loves to make exceptions; it allows all else to be innocuous; only that one thing which is directly in view appears to threaten danger. This is met with the assurance that all things, without exception, were made by the Word; therefore every fear is unreasonable to Him who has the Word on His side. If to be made, and to be made by Him, are the same thing, there can be no enemy that is to be feared, either in heaven or in earth. (Hengstenberg.)

What was not, and what was made by Christ

Many, wrongly understanding “without Him was nothing made,” are wont to fancy that “nothing” is something. Sin, indeed, was not made by Him; and it is plain that sin is nothing, and men become nothing when they sin. An idol also was not made by the Word, and an idol is nothing. Therefore these things were not made by the Word; but whatever was made in a natural manner, whatever belongs to the creature, from an angel even unto a worm. What more excellent than an angel among created things? What lower than a worm? But an angel is fit for heaven, the worm for earth. He who created also arranged. If He had placed the worm in heaven, thou mightest have found fault; and if He had willed that angels should spring from decaying flesh, thou mightest have found fault. And yet God almost does this, and He is not to be found fault with. For all men born of the flesh, what are they but worms? And of these worms God makes angels. (Augustine.)

Verse 4

John 1:4

In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.

The life which Christ lived was so radiant that it fills our lives with light. It was God-life, without pause or interruption.


1. A life of the highest knowledge. “No man knoweth the Father but the Son.” “By His knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many.” Any life, to be strong and influential, must have a mighty grasp of the highest truths. The highest knowledge is that of the moral nature of God, the spiritual nature of man, and the true nature of the relations between God and man. This knowledge is threefold in its contents, and is the blended result of the perceptions of the intellect, heart, and conscience. Neither alone can reach it; for to obtain even glimpses of it we must be elevated above the uncertainties of the intellect, the selfishness of the heart, and the bewilderments of conscience. “This is life eternal”; and Christ possessed it in its fulness, because He had this knowledge in absolute fulness and certainty, and came to bear witness to it, and thus to bridge over the gulf which the greatest geniuses had failed to span.

2. A life of perfect love. Knowledge the most perfect is only one element. Love is the grandest form of life, because it includes all the other virtues, which without it are nothing. Consider the infinite difference between the sentiments we cherish towards Shakespeare and Christ. We admire and wonder in the one case; we admire and worship in the other. The one added immensely to our literature and our knowledge; the other created a new religion and discovered a God of greater goodness than the world had ever known, because the key-note of His life was sacrifice and its crown the cross.

3. A life of perfect doing. The greatest life is that in which the grandest ideas, emotions, and actions are perfectly blended. Such was His life. Human nature is ordinarily so poor, that often the men with large emotional natures have a difficulty in keeping themselves pure, and are not great in ideas, and vice versa. Consider the life that must have been in Christ. Not to insist on the wonderful quantity of work that Christ did! Look at its transcendant quality, the nature of His acts and their motive.


1. A glorious revelation. His life, composed of the highest knowledge, etc., was a revelation. It is not speculation that can teach us the highest religious truth, but that truth embodied in a life. We live in an age which denies or questions the truths which for nineteen centuries have constituted the hope of the Church. What is God, man, life, destiny? Some are able to answer these questions off-hand by turning to their systems of theology. But men will continue to ask them, unsatisfied with such ready-made, second-hand answers; and the only answers that will carry any sufficient weight of evidence are those obtained by men who understand the life and death of our Lord. He is the light of the world, the revelation of the Father, and of what man may become. But we cannot perceive the light or enter into the revelation if we stand out of personal relation to Him.

2. A great quickening power, like the sun. We know how one human life will act upon another. If we place ourselves in the light of Christ’s life, we shall soon begin to realize a change in our thoughts, hearts, conscience, and will. (C. Short, M. A.)

The life and the light

Where Christianity is not, there are darkness and death; where Christianity is, there are light and life. Myriads of men testify that some Divine power in Christianity has made them new creatures. These are facts of Christian history, present results of Christian experience. We are not the apologists of a discredited or doubtful cause; we press the arguments on those who oppose. Christianity is a fact that must be accounted for. One branch of the argument is the practical influence of Christ, His fitness and fulness as the life and light of men.


1. It is one of those profound and pregnant statements characteristic of the Christian writings, and especially of St. John. How is it that these simple chroniclers attained to ideas more spiritual, profound, and luminous than those of the greatest philosophers? Whence these conceptions of Christ, so unique, that no other was ever imagined like Him, and yet so congruous and vital that men confess and worship Him?

2. Not only profoundness, but peculiarity of meaning in this conception of Christ and His work. It might have been written yesterday, in the light of Christian history, so exact and adequate is the representation of the peculiar facts and influence of Christ’s work.

(1) It roots all the religious powers of Christianity in the person of Christ. The way of life not taught by, but life was in Him. Not that His words gave light, but His life.

(2) The life and light of all men are in Him. Not merely that He lived, but was the fountain whence every stream of life flows; and all the light that shines about our lives and illumines our souls, bringing the life and knowledge of God.

(3) The life was the source of the light. In the world’s darkness, He, the living Mediator, stands an incarnate, luminous manifestation of God; so that whoever looks on Him sees wondrous revelations. Just as all things upon the earth’s surface are physically enlightened when it turns towards the sun, so are all men spiritually enlightened as they turn towards Him.

WHAT LIGHT THE LIFE OF CHRIST THROWS ON THE GREAT PROBLEMS OF LIFE AND DESTINY. We speculate on these problems, and call ourselves theologians; we try to resolve them by practical experiments, and call ourselves moralists. But how perplexed the theology; how uncertain the morality! What human thought has thrown any light upon them? In Christ the only solution of them lies.

1. Has God given us a supernatural revelation of His character and will? It is sufficient to point to Christ. The life is its own light. It is the greatest miracle of history. The impression of perfect goodness is produced by every word and manifested feeling; perfect holiness blends with perfect tenderness into an excellency which has neither defect nor excess. Christ’s innocence, contrary to ours, was marked by no ignorance. Virtues almost incongruous blend in Him--greatness and gentleness, holiness and pity, strength and sympathy. He is nobler than the greatest man, tenderer than the gentlest woman. He commands not only the homage of the good, but of the wise. His intellectual character is as great as His moral. The very conception of His kingdom is a miracle--a spiritual, holy, catholic kingdom of God, the consummation of which should be the conversion and service of a whole world. Does not this marvellous life solve the problem of Divine manifestation? Who could have invented it? With it before us, to ask for proofs of the truth of Christianity is as reasonable as to ask at noonday for astronomical proofs of the sun.

2. Men are perplexed with the question of human sin. Wherever they are found they are conscious of wrong-doing. Philosophers and poets of all ages recognize it and lament over it; and the religious problem of every age in the face of it is, “How Shall a man be just with God?” What human philosophy has furnished a solution? What can appease my awakened conscience, the memory of a guilty life? Not a mere general assurance of God’s mercy. I recognize something beside mercy, even an inflexible righteousness. And just in proportion as I believe in that, my hope is disabled. It is only when Christ is offered as the Mediator between a holy God and sinful men that light is thrown on the problem. When He is recognized as having been offered as a propitiation for human guilt, then God is seen to be just, and the justifier of the ungodly. His salvation respects every requirement of the Divine government, and satisfies every demand of our moral nature. How can this salvation be a personal experience? In Christ is the answer. The same cross which honours the Divine law attracts human hearts, and through Him I receive the atonement.

3. Next comes the problem of human character; its degradation, unholiness, selfishness, and shame. What hope is there for man’s moral future? Apart from Christ, none. In Him is the only regenerating power to be found.

(1) Through Him we receive the great teaching and gift of the Holy Spirit. With the teaching of holiness, comes a Divine power to enable it. Man wanted moral light, but moral life also. Quickened from death in trespasses and sins, he has the power of spiritual vision given him; he sees the blessed light. But

(2) he has in Christ the ideal of holiness, and after what a perfect and noble life he has to strive. This model we may imitate, and be ever approaching that peerless example.

(3) Christ in His sympathetic brotherhood encourages us not to despair at failure and gives us grace which strengthens.

4. There is the problem of human sorrow. But suffering is relieved from its anathema, exalted into sacrifice, converted into a gospel, and made the minister of the noblest perfection in the human life of Christ.

5. There is the problem of death. But Christ has brought life and immortality to light. Even death becomes a gospel to immortal men; the transition from this darkness to that light, this sinfulness to that holiness, this sorrow to that blessedness. (H. Allen, D. D.)

The life and light of men

THE SUBLIME DECLARATION. In its ultimate origin all life is mysterious. It must rest on an eternal life. The Divine life the only true life. “In Him life was.” In us dependent, continually becoming. The text a contradiction if employed of a mere man. The life in Christ was the life of the Spirit. Reason leads us to the conception of a continually ascending life, vegetable, animal, rational. Revelation adds the spiritual--the life of inspired men, of fellowship with God, of angels of Christ who had the Spirit without measure. His was the life of God--perfect purity, ceaseless activity, infinite love.

THE PROCLAMATION. The life was the light of men.

1. In paradise. Man walked in it and saw God face to face.

2. Then followed a long period during which the light shone on chosen men, places, institutions. Light in the midst of gross darkness. The heathen world was full of evil. Some light shined here and there.

3. When the fulness of time came the life was the light of men. Power, gladness, graciousness, adaptation, acceptability of the gospel represented in the analogy of light in darkness. Light calls out energies, helps growth, reveals faces, turns bloom to fruit, and fruit to perfection. Life and light intimately blended.

4. What was wanted then is wanted now; light of men as well as of man; in communities, nations, individual heart and conscience. Light in the household--among dark anxieties, sorrows, desolation. Light in the prospects of mankind--a bright future the outcome of the light of Jesus. Light on the sepulchre--not now a mere sombre monument of fallen pride, but affection’s memorial written in the language of hope. The life will reappear, and we shall appear with Him and be like Him, and so be ourselves that life and light of men. (R. A. Redford, M. A.)

Christ the life and light of men

IN HIM WAS LIFE. God is self-existent. Every being but He had a beginning. Every other being, therefore, must have been created. All life which had a commencement must be derived and not inherent. Christ’s life was un-derived and inherent. Therefore He was Divine.

THE LIFE WAS THE LIGHT OF MEN. John does not declare it to be the life of men; which would be true. Every tribe of animated existence draws its life from God: But man placed above beasts and birds. The difference consists in deriving life from the Word and having the life which was in Him as our enlivening, illuminating principle in us. This light is that which enables man to walk in a wholly different region from the beasts which perish, penetrating the wonders and scanning the boundaries of the universe, while other creatures are limited to a single and insignificant province. This light is the soul: reason, judgment, conscience. If this soul be eclipsed man is morally and spiritually blind. It is a fine testimony to this light when we find it described as the life which was from all eternity in the Word. It gives a majesty to reason and a dignity to conscience when a man realizes that these are part of the life of his Creator. The man who debases them debases no earthborn or perishable thing. The Word endowed human nature with His own life; hanging up in its chambers a lamp, and continually feeding the flame with the flashings of His own eternity. Shall this lamp be substituted now that it has been fractured, its light dimmed, for the Word Himself? Or shall we boast ourselves free from all need of Him just because there glows in us a principle derived from Him? The strangest spectacle is that of a man taking reason and rejecting Christ as his guide, fancying that in directing himself by the shining of his own spirit he shows himself independent of Christ. Man shows his ignorance of creation in putting scorn on redemption. He draws from the Word those very energies by which he would prove himself independent of the Word. The intellectual capacities were Christ’s shinings into the uncorrupted, even as our pardon, and renewal, and acceptance into the depraved and ruined. What gave virtue to His sacrifice was that the Self-existent died, and that which gave this worth was emphatically our light. Reason still burns brightly, conscience is not quenched, and immortality is assured because the Word who never had a beginning consented to be born; the Word who never can end consented to die. (H. Melvill, B. D.)

Christ the life and light of men

He is ESSENTIALLY LIFE--the Living One, as opposed to dying men.

He is the EXEMPLARY LIFE; for all things exist in the Word, which is the idea of all things living.

He is the CAUSE AND SOURCE OF NATURAL LIFE to all; the Maker of all things, from whom life has been communicated to all things living; and He is also the sustainer of that life which at the first He imparted; both the giver and the preserver of life to all.

He is the CAUSE AND SOURCE OF SUPERNATURAL LIFE; the grace and the glory of all God’s faithful children; commencing this life by the communication of His grace, and so bestowing upon men faith, hope, and charity; perfecting this life by the communication of His glory, in which we shall enjoy the beatific vision of God. (W. Denton, M. A.)

Christ the life and light of individual men

I have seen one out of whom had gone all heavenly resemblance, and in whom all rudeness, coarseness, profanity, worldly lusts were incarnate. There was no pressure that inclined him downward, to which he did not yield. Had his soul been of stone, it could not have been less responsive to the Divine solicitations. There was not a function in him which was not petrified on its heavenward side; there was not a capacity in him that did not, so far as righteous action goes, lie dead. Well, mark now; one night, while he was lying on his bed, the Lord, in the shadow of the darkness--not violently, but still as the stillness around and above his bed, more dreadful, perhaps, because of the stillness; perhaps more gentle because of it--drew near to this dead soul; breathed on it once, gently took its hand and said, Soul, arise! And that dead soul felt strange currents run through all its frame; felt the thrill of Divine life charge through its veins, until the frozen current melted, ran, became warm, began to throb, and life came into it--life to stand, to move; and that dead soul arose and stood before the Lord, and then full of rapture bowed down and worshipped. And, ever after--for I knew him well--that man lived a life that took knowledge of all God’s mercies, a life as innocent as the bird’s is that has no beak nor talons, and cannot wound nor strike, but can only sing; yea, as innocent as the little stream that has no deep, dark places in it, into which children can fall, unawares, and be drowned, but which runs clear and cool, shallow and safe--content to minister to the roots of flowers that fringe it, and be drunk up of thirsty cattle and labouring men. So he lived his life, I say, and in him I saw what regeneration meant: what the life that Christ said He was, meant. (W. H. H. Murray.)

Christ the light and life of nature and of grace

If I walk the fields of science and nature gives up one secret after another, and if I then turn to the sublimer mysteries of grace, and study the amazing record of the winning back of this earth from the bondage of corruption, they are not different beings to whom the different investigations prove me debtor. Whilst led by reason across the spreadings of space, and enabled by intellect to take the span and the altitude of the architecture of God, I owe all to the Word just as truly as when I feel myself strengthened to east off evil. As a rational being I owe everything to the Word; as a redeemed being I owe everything to the Word. His the intelligence by which I may count the stars; His the atonement through which I may be furnished for life. His the memory in which I can treasure truth and the righteousness in which I may come before God. His the judgment by which I can weigh conflicting propositions as well as the intercession by which I can be sheltered from wrath. His the imagination by which I can wander through immensity; His the purchasing of the inheritance for outshining all I can conceive. If, then, because of redemption I adore the Word made flesh, shall I not, because endowed with reason, magnify the Word as the Self-existent? If as a redeemed creature I give thanks to the Word that He humbled Himself and became obedient unto the death of the Cross, shall not I as a rational creature pour forth this grateful tribute to the Word: “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men”? (H. Melvill, B. D.)

Christ’s influence as the light and life most productive to-day

Never was there a time when there was so much of Christ in the world as now, because the human race was never so largely in a condition to accept the Divine activity, and to be rendered productive by it. As the sun never had such harvests as now, so there never were such harvests of the Sun of Righteousness. As there is more raised in the State of Illinois in a year now than there was in ten thousand years before the prairies were brought into a state of cultivation, so the products of morality and spirituality are more abundant than they ever were before. In proportion as the minds of men are cleared and rendered susceptible to the activity of the Divine mind, human inspiration is increased individual by individual, family by family, nation by nation. (H. W. Beecher.)

The difference between life and light

In the SON OF GOD.



In the CHRISTIAN LIFE. (Lange.)

The life a light of men

In man: consciousness.

FOR man: the works of God as the signs and words of God.

RESPECTING man: Christ the light of the life. (Lange.)

Christ was the light and life of men

in that He delivered men from ignorance, unbelief, and vice, and from the ruin and misery which are their invariable attendants; and brought them to the knowledge of Divine things, to faith and holiness, and to that temporal and eternal happiness with which these are inseparably connected. This change He effected

BY HIS DOCTRINE, which is of Divine efficacy, not only for enlightening, but for purifying and transforming the soul, and imparting consolation and happiness.

BY HIS INCARNATION, LIFE AND DEATH. For these were the clearest revelation of God, the benevolence of His nature, and His paternal love to men, of the Saviour, and His great and glorious work, of the dignity of man, and the certainty of a state of immortal existence beyond death and the grave.

BY HIS EXAMPLE. The example

1. Of His holiness, which gave evidence and efficiency to His doctrine.

2. Of His “sufferings, and the glory that should follow,” in which He is our pattern (2 Timothy 2:11; Romans 8:17; Romans 8:29).

BY HIS INSTITUTIONS. Shedding down the Holy Ghost upon the apostles, instituting baptism, the Lord’s Supper, the Christian ministry, public worship, and other religious exercises, which are the most effectual means for banishing ignorance, and unbelief, impiety, and misery from the earth, and for the diffusion and establishment of knowledge and faith, virtue and genuine happiness among men. Thus extensive is the signification, whilst the primary idea is that of felicity, to which He leads men in many ways. (C. G. Tittman, D. D.)

Christ’s life she light of men

It was not the wisdom of Christ’s words, nor the splendour of His works that filled those three years and a half with great event; it was He, the life that was in Him; and with all that was stimulating in His discourses, startling in His works of wonder, and harrowing in His sufferings, the life that was in Him would be quite as likely to issue in effects that would be healing, when its creeping forth was a quiet and stealthy one, just as it is the light, not the lightning that best fills the earth with radiance; not the hurricane, but the gentle breath out of the south that stirs air and sea and standing corn into most healthful play, and not the deluge but the rain that drops upon the furrows with most of fertility. (C. H. Parkhurst, D. D.)

Life in Christ

To know the scope of the Word, we begin with life in its lowest and simplest forms, as it is seen in the Arctic moss or the ooze brought up from the sea-depths by the Challenger. Even in such lower forms the physiologist cannot tell us what life is, nor the microscopist, nor the chemist, nor the wisest philosopher. They can tell us the signs of it, and the laws according to which it is continued or extinguished; but that is about all. From the lowest and simplest we pass upwards, through one order of being after another, till we come to man, in whom life reveals itself so much more marvellously, in sense, intellect, emotion, conscience, will. We mark how different a thing it is in different cases: to the unlettered peasant and the man of profound and various culture; to the playful child and the grey-haired saint, ready to enter the perfect kingdom of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost. In this passage the term “life “ is not to be restricted to any single province, wide or narrow, “physical,” “moral,” “spiritual,” or “eternal,” but is to be taken in the whole breadth of its significance. Besides the marvel and mystery of life in its nature and infinitely various forms, there is also its immensity of volume--all that is, all that has been, in air, and earth, and sea. As an illustration of the impossibility of dealing with this aspect of the ease, a single fact may be selected from the microscopic researches of Ehrenberg: one cubic inch of the hardened clay called tripoli he found to contain between forty and fifty thousand millions of the silicious fossil shells of infusoria. In presence of such a fact our minds are utterly helpless to conceive the extent of life even in this little globe that we inhabit. All the life of creation, so vast in its sum, so wonderful and glorious, from the life that lasts only a summer evening to that of the archangel who bows before the eternal throne --all that life, the Evangelist tells us, “was in Him.” He is the Fount whence it has all proceeded. Being in Him, the outcome was a necessity. If there is life in the vine, it comes out in branch, and leaf, and grape cluster. So with the life that was in the Word: it has come out in the vast and varied life of creation. Because in Him was life, therefore this is a living world, and not a mere material and ponderable ball, or a world of automatons, destitute of understanding and volition. All the life of which we have any knowledge is the out-blossoming and fruiting of the life that was in Him. (J. Culross, D. D.)

Life in Christ

There is a project for turning the great desert of North-Western Africa into an inland sea by cutting through the bank which separates its vast depressed surface from the Atlantic; so that large existing populations may be reached, and new towns and fertile country may fringe the then obliterated wilderness of death with smiling contentment and prosperity. It may be but a scientific romance. But it points to the holy privilege and blessed service of the Christian Church. Our Master says: “Speak the words of this life. Cut through the bank of ignorance and prejudice and worldliness and sin, and admit upon the vast spiritual deadness of the world, the rolling tide of a pure and immortal life, that souls and churches and nations may spring up in the freshness of gospel life, and wear the everlasting beauty of Him who has redeemed them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God. And lo! I am with you alway, even unto the end.” (W. H. Jackson.)

God’s self-revelation through life

THIS SCRIPTURE OPENS UP TO US GOD’S LIVING WAY OF MAKING HIMSELF KNOWN TO US. The Bible is the record and interpretation of a way of creation and life, which leads from the promise of the beginning on and on, with a purpose never given up, and toward a goal never lost from sight, and against all human gravitation downward from its high intent until it completes its course in that one sinless life through which God shines--the true light. God has been present as a living power in man’s life, as the educating and redemptive power in Israel, as the grace and truth of life in Jesus Christ.

THIS SCRIPTURE DISCLOSES GOD’S WAY OF ILLUMINING OUR LIVES. Christ entering into human life is its light. He lights up all our history. Other lights of human kindling illumine but portions of our life, and all go out in death. But there is no phase of our nature, no need of our common humanity, no possibility of our love and hope which His life does not purify and irradiate. God with us in our life is alone adequate to human nature. Shall I not trust myself to the life which meets at every point my life? The real gospel thus is God’s life through Christ touching our life and making it new. It has Divine right in the midst of the business of the world. It cannot, without disloyalty, be divorced from common life, sundered from its vital relation to the trade, the politics, and the conduct of men. Jesus Christ brought the kingdom of heaven down to the streets of Capernaum, and what the Church wants is to bring His life through the relations of society around the whole circumference of human life.

ONLY THROUGH LIVES IN REAL SYMPATHY WITH GOD AND CHRIST ARE WE TO RECEIVE THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD. Not that the mystery of God in Christ is not to be the subject of theological inquiry, but that we are to learn Christian truth, first and best of all in the school where Jesus came to teach it--the school of real life. Our best light always is the kindling of the life into truth. Through life to knowledge is the Christian way. As God has come home to man through the life of Christ, so are we to draw near unto God through the Christian life. If we will live Christ-like lives doubt not that God will reveal His truth and His goodness through them. (Newman Smyth.)

The joy of living

All men desire to live. Life, if it be healthy, is joyful. All lives created of God are happy, for He is happy.

This instinct to live is EVIDENCE OF OUR DIVINE ORIGIN AND QUALITY. However stained and defiled, the image within us is not wholly forgetful of its origin. Within us lingers a sentiment which forbids life to despair of itself. Hence out of the fulness and joyfulness of life springs the conception of immortality.

We know that all life is of God, that of the bee, the bird, the dog, and other wonderful and fine expressions of life. But finer and more wonderful THE LIFE WHICH HE BREATHES INTO THE SPIRIT OF FALLEN MAN. The new birth is the waking up of dormant faculties, the resurrection of buried powers. Then power comes to the man, spiritual, soul power. The man’s life becomes Divine in its harmonies. He begins to grow.


ALL LIFE HATES DEATH. We sympathize with the falling leaf, weep over the dying friend, in spite of all the natural and spiritual knowledge which recognizes in death the gate of life. But what must God feel as He beholds the death of the soul.

THE JOY OF LIVING IS FOUND IN THE PURE AND PROPER GOVERNMENT OF THE LIFE. The life of Christ, therefore, or growth into a life like to the one He lived, is a growth into joy.

ALL HUMAN LIVES THAT ARE NOT SELF-DESTRUCTIVE ARE GROWING TOWARDS HAPPINESS. The old aches cannot always last, or the old pains for ever sting us. So there is a hand somewhere that shall take all weakness up, and wipe all tears away. (W. H. H. Murray.)

God’s living light

There are three words around which we may group our thoughts of Christ.

MAN. These words touch and lay bare the distinctive necessity of man’s nature. When that nature awakes to the true knowledge of itself it becomes conscious of needing the direction and sustenance of a higher life. We do not attain satisfaction when we seek it on a level with the animal creation, although we belong to it. Nothing is plainer than man’s need of God. He must have relation to the inexhaustible and changeless; and if he is to receive a light that can shine on the problems of his own being, that light must be a life.

REVELATION. The text reveals the distinctive provision of Christianity. God is the creator of this deep necessity, and He has made it not to mock it, but to satisfy it. “God hath given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.” Christ is exhibited not as some gorgeous pageant to be admired, nor as a carefully filled museum to be wondered at; He is a new communication from the Eternal Father. And the design of the Christian faith is not grasped by us, nor its provision enjoyed until we see all its avenues leading up to the disclosure that our Lord came to give life. The unique life has established itself as the light of men, wise to guide and safe to follow. The distinctive need of man is met by the distinctive power of Christ.

USEFULNESS. These words provide us with a Divine test of the value of all churches and Christian work. As the life is men’s light, so “holding forth the Word of Life” is the Christian’s duty. To this test we must bring our schools, societies, literature, methods, principles. None of them are good unless they serve His purpose, as lamp-stands from which the life of Christ can shine more widely and brightly upon the hearts of men. (W. H. Jackson.)

Life in Christ


1. This is true in the widest sense.

2. He is Creator, not by delegation, but as Principle.

3. This claim He vindicated in His miracles.


1. This is the one rational explanation of His death.

2. Redemption is by price.

3. Redemption is also by power.


1. There is no true human life apart from God.

2. This true human life we forfeited by sin.

3. But we recover it in Christ. (Homiletic Magazine.)

The light of life


1. For life is a resisting force.

(1) Inanimate things are submissive to the forces of nature. Thus a stone is obedient, without resistance, to the law of gravitation.

(2) But things of life resist the mechanical forces. Thus even a blade of grass pushes its way upwards through the resisting soil, in the direction opposite to that of gravitation. As we ascend in the scale of life, these resistances become more remarkable. The eagle darts sun-ward, in every stroke of its pinion resisting and triumphing over the force of gravitation.

(3) Men who are spiritually dead are like the stone or the feather, under the control of worldly fashion and sinful influences. They are “carried captive by the devil at his will.”

(4) Men who are spiritually alive resist and vanquish these influences. To do this the more effectually they avail themselves, by prayer, of the promised help of God. So, like the eagles, they mount sun-ward (cf. Isaiah 40:31)

. Thus spiritual life is its own evidence.

2. Life is an appropriating force.

(1) A living animal seizes the vegetables around it and appropriates them as food for its nourishment. A dead animal is a prey to the chemistry of nature.

(2) Life is an appropriation, even in the vegetable form. The root of the plant performs functions analagous to those of the animal stomach, absorbing from the soil, digesting, and elaborating the juice which nourish its stem and branches. The leaves perform functions analogous to the twigs.

(3) The Christian will avail himself of the means of grace, public, domestic, private. He is not in them, like the formalist, a mere observer of what is passing. He is in them as feeder.

3. Life is a propagating force.

(1) Let a stone be buried, and after thousands of years it will be found as it was. Witness the Nineveh marbles. Let an acorn be buried; it will germinate and develop into an oak.

(2) So the germ of religious life unfolds into the maturity of Christian manhood. It exerts a propagating influence upon the spirits of other men.

(3) The waste of life in nature is enormous. So is the waste of spiritual life in the Church. The failure of the propagating energies of spritual life is serious.


1. Life touches everything into beauty.

(1) During winter the face of nature is dreary.

(2) But what beauty is comparable to that of holiness which springs from spiritual life? The beauty of the saint is the reflection of the image of God. It is seen in the integrity that cannot be bribed. It is seen in the magnanimity of sacrifice. It is seen in the tenderness of kindly sympathy.

2. Life illuminates the chambers of the tomb.

(1) It prevents not the dissolution of the body. The saintliest die.

(2) But while spiritual life prevents not physical dissolution, it modifies death into sleep. The Christian “sleeps in Jesus.” The sleeper expects an awakening.

(3) The labourer sleeps expecting not only to awake, but to awake refreshed. So does the Christian worker. No more weariness.

3. Life is the germ of immortality.

(1) The spiritual life here is the power of an endless life hereafter. The principle is even more than the promise of immortality.

(2) Hence “the kingdom of heaven is within you.” “The heaven of heavens is love.”

(3) Christ is eternal life. Having Him, we have eternal life (cf. John 14:6; John 14:6; John 1:1-2; John 5:11-12; John 5:20).

(Homiletic Magazine.)

Christ the pre-eminent and illuminating Life

HIS LIFE WAS PRE-EMINENT. “In Him was life.”

1. “In Him was life” without beginning. Life in all other existences had a commencement.

2. “In Him was life” without dependence.

3. “In Him was life” without limitation. All other life has its limits, not so with His. His is without limit

(1) As to kind. In His life were the germs and archetypes of all other life, material and spiritual.

(2) As to amount. All other life is circumscribed.

(3) As to communicativeness.

(4). As to duration.

HIS LIFE WAS ILLUMINATING. “And the life was the light of men.” Christ’s life, whatever its variety and fulness, had all a moral character, for He was a moral Being. There are several things taught here concerning His life as light:

1. That His life was “the light of men.”

2. That this light was heralded by the Baptist.

3. That this light become available by faith.

4. That this light is the true light of “every man” (D. Thomas, D. D.)

Christians the reflectors of this light

There is a little church on a lonely hill-side where they had neither gas nor lamps, and yet on darkest nights they hold Divine service. Each worshipper, coming a great distance from village or moorland home, brings with him a taper and lights it from the one supplied and carried by the minister of the little church. The building is thronged, and the scene is said to be “most brilliant!” Let each one of our lives be but a little taper--lighted from the life of Christ, and carrying His flame--and we shall help to fill this great temple of human need and human sin with the light of the knowledge of the glory of God. The life of Christ will be the new sunshine of the world. “Men shall be blessed in Him; all nations shall call Him blessed”; universal man shall receive “God’s Living Light.” (D. Thomas, D. D.)

Christ living

A missionary in China stated that on one occasion a number of persons who were hearing him, mostly women, manifested the greatest astonishment when he told them that the God he worshipped and wished them to worship was a living God. Uttering an exclamation peculiar to themselves when much surprised, they said, “The foreigner’s God is better than ours--ours has no life.”

Christ the universal light

The sun does not shine for a few trees and flowers, but for the wide world’s joy. The lonely pine on the mountain top waves its sombre boughs and cries,” Thou art my sun.” And the little meadow violet lifts its cup of blue, and whispers with its perfumed breath, “ Thou art my sun.” And the grain in a thousand fields rustles in the wind, and makes answer, “Thou art my sun.” (H. W. Beecher.)

Christ a living Saviour

A Smyrna native agent came across a Turk from some town in the interior, who showed considerable acquaintance with the Christian Scriptures. He said he had long studied the gospel, and had once nearly got into trouble through it. He was called before the authorities for reading Christian books, but before judgment was passed upon him he begged to be allowed to ask a question. Permission having been granted, he said, “I am travelling; I come to a part where the road branches off in two ways; I look around for some direction and discover two men; one is dead, the other alive. Which of the two am I to ask for advice--the dead or the living?” “Oh, the living, of course! “ all cried out. “Well,” he added, “why require me to go to Mahomet, who is dead, instead of to Christ, who is alive?” “Go, go about your business!” were the words with which he was dismissed.

Christ’s influence in relation to human cooperation

You cannot tell how much is done by the pure shining of His light and the emission of this life, and how much by your own receptivity, bier is it necessary. Christ fructifies and stimulates the original and moral faculties and makes them productive. If I take a plant out of a cellar where it has grown etiolated, and without chlorophyl, and put it where the light will shine upon it, and when it turns green, will you tell me what part of the green is plant and what part sun? I would say that the sun developes this chlorophyl by injecting itself, so to speak, into the leaf. So that the light and the life cooperate with the faith, the love, the receptivity of the individual who receives them. (H. W. Beecher.)

Christ’s influence known by its fruits

What is the evidence that the sun is active? The fact that every root is sprouting. What is the evidence that the sun has brought summer? The fruits of summer. What is the evidence that the sun has been shedding down upon the earth its light and warmth and ripening power? The flavour of the fruit. Bring me an apple. If it is hard and acid I know that it is the product of a rainy sunless summer. Bring me another, and if it is mellow and full of sugar and aroma, I know that the sugar and aroma do not come out of the ground, but from where there was light and, heat. And I can judge of the influence, under which nations have been unfolded by the nature of the fruit they produce. Show me a nation developing coarse animation, and I will show you a nation that has not been true to the light. On the other hand, show me an individual, a family, a community that yields the products of a higher moral nature, and I will pronounce that higher moral nature to be the result of the life and light of men. (H. W. Beecher.)

Verse 5

John 1:5

The light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not

How different men receive the light


Some merely receive it to evidence their own darkness.

2. Some by outward profession merely.

3. Others receive and impart it as lights which are lighted by the true light. (W. Denton.)

Darkness and light


1. Of falsehood.

2. Of hatred.

3. Of death.

THE LIGHT IN CONTEST WITH THE DARKNESS; or, the progress of revelation in the sinful world.

1. The light shining in the darkness (the shaded, coloured light).

2. The light breaking through the darkness.

3. The meridian of gospel day. (Lange.)

Christ’s pre-incarnate activity

SHINING IN THE DARKNESS. Darkness points to the Fall. Had the union between man and the Loges continued, His life would have streamed in light around the souls of men, inspiring them with truth and arraying them in purity. But man severed the connection. Turning from the light, he chose a sphere of darkness. Nevertheless, the light continued to penetrate the dark atmosphere of ignorance and sin which thickened round man.

REJECTED BY THE DARKNESS. Though the light kept on shining through

(1) the teachings of nature;

(2) the intuitions of conscience;

(3) the Mosaic system and the prophets; yet men had not hold of the light, because

1. They did not fully understand it.

2. Because they did not see it.

3. Because they did not deserve it.

4. Because they hated it. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)

The manifestations of the light of the Word in darkness

The light shone in the CONSCIENCES of men. A man without a conscience has never been born: never amidst the dreariness of heathenism--a faculty to distinguish right from wrong, to know that the SupremeBeing is pleased with righteousness and angered at wrong-doing, and that sin will be punished. But this light shone in darkness. Conscience persuades resistance of evil passions, but inclination quenches the light. Conscience warns respecting the future, but is silenced by the gratification of the present. Conscience reminds of allegiance owing to a Creator, but the inducements of other masters drown its voice.

CREATION glows with radiations of its Maker. But its illumination has to enter that darkest of spots, the human heart, where it is opposed by mists of passion, clouds of ignorance, the night of unwillingness to know God. Hence, in spite of the light, men abandoned themselves to every kind of unrighteousness and fell into most degrading superstitions.

THE PATRIARCHAL RELIGION was derived from immediate revelation. The Eternal Word shone upon man, as soon as he had transgressed, in the promises of deliverance and institutions of worship. But when men multiplied they forgot their ancestral religion while retaining some of its features, disguised and debased, but recognizable. Hence the universal prevalence of sacrifice and the hope of salvation. In every age and district of heathenism the light has thus shone, so that men, in the midst of their idolatries, are witnesses that a revelation has been vouchsafed. This light, too, preserved in the legends of paganism o! the Fall, Deluge, etc. Yet the slaves of superstition comprehended not the light.

THE TYPES AND FIGURES OF THE LAW sent forth rays converging towards the Sun of Righteousness, which, in the fulness of time, was to cross man’s horizon. Yet the understanding of the Jews was so cloudy, and their hearts so gross, that they substituted the type for the antitype.

What can be declared of those who are privileged with the full shining of THE GOSPEL? The theology of conscience, creation, tradition, type, fade away from the revelation of these last days. The true light now shineth. How? Men are insensible to it. By placing men under a variety of dispensations God would prove that no amount of light will suffice to illuminate fallen creatures unless the Holy Spirit purge the sight. The sun may be in the heavens, but if the light in us be darkness, we shall not be illumined by his beams. The Holy Spirit alone can remove that darkness. (H. Melvill, B. D.)

Darkness and blindness

If persons who can see are shut up together with others who are blind, in a perfectly dark room, the seeing and the blind are in the same situation; no object is perceived by any, no colours discerned; but if light is introduced into the room, there is then a wonderful difference. To those who are endowed with sight, every object appears in its true form and just colouring; but to the blind all things remain as they were; they are in darkness still; and this because the darkness is in themselves. So it is with the outward revelation of Divine truth: while it is withheld, all are in darkness, but it may shine not only on those who live, and are awake, and can see, but also on the dead, and on the sleeping, and on the blind. (J. Fawcett, M. A.)

Men in darkness

There are some vines that never actually come to the surface; they can scarcely be called vines--they are roots, rather, whose home is in the earth. They feed on the loam, and not on the sunshine. Grow as much as they may, they are never anything but a prolongation of fibres. They are earth-eaters; they live in the soil and they die in the soil. They add nothing to the beauty of the landscape; and among the higher orders of life and growth their names are never mentioned. So it is with some men; they are only human roots, that might become men. They live underground. All the fibres of their lives suck in earthiness. Their growth is all lateral. They spread out on all sides. They are never lifted up into moral and spiritual expression. They are of the earth, earthy. They die where they lived, and God alone knows what becomes of them. We only know that the Divine life is not in them, and, therefore, the Divine destiny cannot be. For there is no destiny that does not germinate here. (W. H. H. Murray.)

The dense darkness of the period when the true light appeared

At no time was it so universal or so deep. All the powers and principles of the world had been tried to the uttermost, and found utterly wanting. The religion of heathenism had stretched to that extent that, according to Varro, there were three hundred different gods in Rome alone. The Romans had consummated their idolatry by deifying their emperors and great men, and so had degraded themselves to the basest form of man-worship. The Greeks had speculated in religion till they had brought themselves to a conviction and acknowledgment of their ignorance, as testified in their altar inscribed at Athens, the very seat of religion (Acts 17:22 διεσιδαμονεστερους) and learning, “to the Unknown God.” Their wisdom and philosophy had burnt itself out; and there was no longer any one of their successive schools of doctrine, however formerly dogmatic, which now had an ascendency even among themselves. The Eclectic school had selected something from each of them, and in so doing had condemned them all; and even thus it had not obtained a privilege for itself; for so each person was, of course, at liberty to make his own selection; and so every one in effect condemned every other, and no one gave to any other, or obtained for himself, any respect. The Powers of the world were also in their last stage, both of greatness and corruption. The Babylonian empire was represented by a golden head; the Persian by a breast of silver; the Grecian by thighs of brass: and now the Roman had swallowed up all other nations, and was become universal; but its substance was iron; it was the last of the worldly empires; it was tottering to its fall with its own weight and immensity; it was but feet and toes, base, divided, corrupted, and diseased, and was about to crumble into ruins. The religion of the Jews had also run its course, and had at this time fermented into a new separation. The general mass had corrupted itself. The law of ceremonies had lost its own small portion of life--vegetable life--and had become a more dead letter only, graven in stone, as obstinate and immovable--a withered and dry tree--yet still raising its barren and leafless branches with proud and pompous pride, and self-conceit, and defiance: but its barrenness had procured it disrespect and distrust, and men refused to shadow under its shadowless top, and even its own vitality was denied and disregarded by the Sadducees. At the same time a spiritual seed had been sown, not resting in the letter; not branching from the now spiritless trunk; but, though small, and lowly, and young, and tender, having yet the real principle of life within it, and meet for the digging, and pruning, and watering of the husbandman. At this time, in the fulness of preparation and unpreparedness, of superstition and infidelity, of ignorance and learning, of power and weakness, of evil and good, of hope and unbelief, Christ came in the flesh; the Sun of light and life was embodied, to convince and dispel the darkness, to lighten the ignorance, to overcome the power, to consume the dry tree, to vivify the green tree, to divide between day and night, between the good and evil, to rule over the one, to condemn and expel the other. (S. R. Bosanquet.)

God’s candles are and have been ever shining

This world has never been given over to the unchallenged reign of darkness: there have always been souls wherein the life has been kindled, and through whom it has shot its rays into the world’s gloom--God’s candles lighted and placed according to His own will. In this respect the Father of lights has never been left without witness. (J. Culross, D. D.)

The condition of receiving the light

It is a fact in physical nature that the sunlight passes through empty space, and neither warms nor lights it. Climb up to the top of the highest mountains at noonday, and the stars come out. The air is thin--it is therefore dark; we see only by as much light as is intercepted. So with your car. That alone is music which you hear. That is pleasure which you feel. That which your nerve does not report to you does not exist. It is precisely so in morals. There must be something to intercept the light, or that light itself is nothing. It was so with Christ. He was an infinite light. He sat there where there was no soul. They do not know He was God. It is so to-day. He sits among men. He is not God to those who only call Him God. You teach a man nothing if you only teach him to do that. The souls that intercept His rays, to them He is God. There is not one to whom all of God is revealed, because there is no soul that can intercept all there was in Jesus. The light still shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not. Have whatever soul we may, there is ever more soul to be gained. Even Paul said the one yearning of his soul was to apprehend that for which also he was apprehended. (Octavius Perinchief.)

The historical parallel to the truth of the text

This fact respecting Christ, that His light shone in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not, hath its parallel in history respecting all truth. All the substances of nature, and all their laws, have been in being, certainly, ever since man has existed. Why did man not see them? Steam has been a fact ever since heat was first applied to water. How was it that man knew it not? The electric current has passed round this earth ever since the earth was made. How is it man but yesterday discovered it? Facts as plain as the daylight have been staring man in the face, sporting with him, and he sat there in his blindness and knew them not. To-day, endless facts, things we sadly need, are across our path; we are stumbling over them, and yet see them not. Coal lay in the earth, how many years? oil, how many centuries? Men needed them both. Why are they but now found to be serviceable? We say that things come just as man wants them. That is true. God must look in very pity upon us. Our misfortune is, we want not yet the tithe of what He is rich enough to give: “The light shineth in the darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not.” Men are everywhere hunting fortunes. Where are they hunting them? With the old muck-rake. Why not open the eye? Why not introduce ourselves to some of the wonders that are yearning to make themselves known to us? We think a man is crazy when he begins to see. (Octavius Perinchief.)

The light needed

Pythagoras admitted the necessity of Divine interposition to teach man his duty. Zenophanes died at the age of nearly one hundred years, and is said to have thus expressed himself: “Oh, that mine were the deep mind, prudent and looking to both sides! Long, alas I have I strayed on the road of error, beguiled, and am now hoary of years, yet disposed to doubt and distraction of all kinds; for, wherever I turn to consider, I am lost in the One and All.” Heraclitus, after all his researches, asserted that “Vain man hath no accurate knowledge which is possessed alone by the God, but that man learns from the God as the boy does from the man.” Socrates saw and confessed his ignorance, and deplored the want of a superior direction. Aristotle’s last prayer was, “I entered the world corruptly, I have lived in it anxiously, I quit it in perturbation.” Cicero confessed that no excellence could exist without a celestial afflation. Hierocles and Seneca tell us that but by the help of God no man can become either good or prosperous; so that he who would repudiate the necessity of a Divine revelation to lead him by the Holy Spirit into all truth arrogates a power which the greatest reasoners of ancient times disclaimed.

Without Christ--darkness

Varro, a Roman writer of the first century, B.C., states that, in his day, he had been at the pains to collect the various opinions on the question, “What is the true object of human life?” in other words, “What is the supreme good? He had reckoned up as many as three hundred and twenty different answers. How needful is Divine revelation, and how essential to those who are starting in life, that a heavenly guide should teach them the true end and purpose of earthly existence!

The darkness of the natural mind

A good many years ago, in Washington, there were two Congressioners who met once every week to talk about the immortality of the soul; but they despised the Bible. They found no comfort. Their time expired, and they went home. Years passed along. They both visited Washington at the same time, and happened to meet at the president’s levee. They saw each other at a great distance across the room. They pressed their way through the crowd until they came to each other, and, after years of absence, the first thing that one said to the other was: “John, any light?” “No light.” Then this one accosted the other, and said: “Henry, any light?” “No light.” They said nothing more; they parted to meet at the judgment. Oh, are there any who have swung off from this grand old gospel of Jesus Christ, thinking to find rest for their soul? Have you found comfort, peace, joy, heaven? From a score of souls there comes up to me the cry to-night, “No light! no light!” (T. deWitt Talmage.)

Christ is full of light

Going into a village at night, with the lights gleaming on each side of the street, in some houses they will be in the basement and nowhere else, and in others in the attic and nowhere else, and in others in some middle chamber; but in no house will every window gleam from top to bottom. So is it with men’s faculties. Most of them are in darkness. One shines here, and another there; but there is no man whose soul is luminous throughout. But Christ presented a perfect character. Every room in His soul was filled with light. He is light. (H. W. Beecher.)

An alternative rendering

“The darkness overcame it not.” Sin did not succeed in extinguishing the inner light. “The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord”--a candle lit by God’s own breath. When man fell the candle was sadly bruised, but it did not blow out. The great fundamental truths God planted in man continue to shine despite sin and its grievous consequences. Accordingly the darkness of the Fall was not complete--complete, I mean, in the sense that it could not be blacker; a little light was still continuing to glimmer--candle-light, if you like, but light all the same. Much talk is indulged in concerning original sin, though not quite as much as in former years; but we ought also to speak of original light, a light deeper and more primitive even than our sin. Do I not believe in the total depravity of the race? Yes, in the sense that every power is more or less tangled, that every faculty is more or less corrupt. No, in the sense that the derangement could not be greater, that the putridity could not be more advanced. The confusion and depravity here are great, but in hell they are considerably greater. So far a little light doubtless glimmers in the soul of every man on his coming into this world; the golden beams of the Sun of Righteousness are to be seen playing in the mental faculties of childhood. “The light shineth in darkness”--the darkness of our fall--“and the darkness overcame it not”; the light still burns. But if the darkness did not overcome the light, on the other hand the light did not overcome the darkness. In the other world, the world prior to the Incarnation, the light and the darkness confronted each other without making much impression one on the other. The darkness did not conquer the light, neither did the light conquer the darkness; and if the light is to win the victory, it must receive an ample increase, and this increase we find in the gospel of Jesus Christ. (J. Cynddylan Jones, D. D.)

Verse 6

John 1:6

There was a man sent from God whose name was John

The forerunner



1. It was immediately connected with the appearance of the Word in the flesh.

2. It was of God. And as His mission so his name.

3. It had as its special end to testify of Christ.

4. Its aim was to bring sinners to believe in Christ. This was not merely God’s intention, but his own desire. All true ministers have the same object.

5. It contemplated “all” to whom he addressed himself.


1. A current error was corrected. Men thought John the Christ. He confessed himself only the friend of the Bridegroom, the witness-bearer of the Light.

2. This correction vindicated the proper glory of Christ. All honour to the witness, but the glory of the light cannot be given to another.

3. In the marked distinction between the forerunner and Him “who coming after him was preferred before him,” overweening thoughts of mere instruments, however valuable, are reproved.

4. John’s honour consisted in his proclamation of his Master’s glory. Nor was this honour denied him. Ministers are esteemed for their works’ sake.

5. The distinction in Christ’s case from John and all His ministers is that He is “the true Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” (A. Beith, D. D.)

The mission of John and of Christ


1. Ministers are not priests or mediators.

2. They are not agents into whose hands men may commit their souls, and carry on their religion by deputy.

3. They are witnesses (Act_1:8; Act_2:40; Act_20:21).


1. He is the centre and source of all spiritual illumination, warmth, life, health, growth, beauty, and fertility.

2. He shines for the common benefit of mankind--for high and low, rich and poor, Jew and Greek.

3. He is free to all.


1. Christ was in the world invisibly long before He was born Colossians 1:17). Yet He was neither known nor honoured.

2. But Christ came visibly into the world when He was born at Bethlehem and fared no better. His own rejected Him.


1. The privileges are those of children.

2. These privileges are to be possessed by faith (Galatians 3:26).

3. Are we sons of God? Have we the marks of Sonship.

4. Do we desire to be sons of God? Then we must receive Him as Saviour. (Bp. Ryle.)

The ministry of men

A special way whereby Christ shineth to the world, and helpeth the world to know Him, is the MINISTRY OF MEN; whereby

1. He condescendeth to our weakness, who could not endure more glorious instruments.

2. Trieth our obedience and acknowledgment of His authority in the weak messengers.

3. Maketh manifest that the excellency of the power whereby they do so great things is of Him.

MINISTERS OF CHRIST MUST NOT RUN UNSENT, but ought to have a calling from God, either extraordinary (in extraordinary times and cases) or ordinary; as being that which will afford them matter of courage in undertaking their work, of comfort under difficulties, and of hope of success; for so John was a man sent from God; to wit, in an extraordinary way, as Christ’s forerunner.

MINISTERS WILL IN A MOST LIVELY WAY PROCLAIM THAT GRACE OF GOD BRINGING SALVATION WHO HAVE THEMSELVES OBTAINED GRACE AND FAVOUR BY IT. And it is a sweet thing when men prove answerable to these names and titles which Scripture giveth them because of their Christian profession; for this forerunner’s name was John, a name given by the angel, which signifieth one to whom the Lord had been gracious that he might actively proclaim the same to others, and a name to which John’s carriage was answerable.

THE CHIEF AND SPECIAL END OF A MINISTRY, is to point out Christ in His excellences and usefulness to lost men, to declare Him in His person, offices, and benefits, how He should be believed in, served or suffered for; John came to bear witness of Christ in His glorious excellency, and as He is the light of dark man, in his comforts and directions.

MINISTERS ARE TO PREACH CHRIST WITH PLAINNESS AND FIDELITY in not adding or diminishing with boldness and constancy.

THE END AND SCOPE OF A MINISTER’S WITNESSING and preaching, is, and should be, to bring self-condemned sinners to believe in Christ; his preaching of the law and wrath is in order to that, and to bring men to see their need of Christ, and should be joined with the doctrine of the gospel; his preaching of the doctrine of sanctification and holiness should be joined with the doctrine of faith in Christ, from whom virtue floweth for that end. (G. Hutcheson.)

The witness of the Light

His APPEARANCE. “There came”--suggesting origination, commencement, dependence, mutability, decay, in opposition to the Word whose creature He was (verse: 3).

His NATURE. “A man.” Parted from the Word who was God: although honoured by the near relationship in which he stood to the Word as instrument, minister, herald, and forerunner.

His NAME. “Jehovah is gracious”--a fitting designation of one whose birth was a gift of grace (Luke 1:18), whose manhood was the flower and fruit of grace (Luke 1:80), and whose life work was to be a publisher of grace (Luke 1:76).


1. In its character, prophetic.

2. In its authority, Divine.

3. In its work, witness-bearing.

4. In its object, saving.


1. Negatively.

2. Positively (John 1:8). (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)

The personality of John

I image to myself a man of calm, saintly look, with eyes that seemed, to pierce the invisible, moving men not by his wild gesticulations, but by the deep solemnity of his spirit, the simple, fearless truth he spoke, and his appeal to the Messianic longings and hopes which then prevailed. Withdrawn from the luxurious world, with its enervating and selfish influences, he had lived to the age of thirty among the mountains west of the Dead Sea, preparing in solitude for the brief but great work of his life. He is, however, no hermit cut off from his fellowmen and taking no interest in their affairs, but a keen observer and discerner; and at the appointed hour he steps suddenly forward, crying to the nation, “Repent,” “Behold the Lamb of God!” (J. Culross, D. D.)

The character of John

The Baptist was characterized by

STRENGTH. If ever there was a man unlike the little reed that gives itself to be tossed by the wind (Matthew 11:7) it was John. Your strong man is self-conscious. He has presided over the slow and painful elaboration of his character. He has looked on with satisfaction at the stiffening of his moral fibre into steel, and knows what it is worth. Humility has never been a feature of strong Jewish natures. Yet this strong man says, “He that cometh after me is stronger (ισχυρότερος) than I.”

INDEPENDENCE. Yet like David in God’s presence declaring, “I will be base in my own sight,” so the Baptist exclaims, “Whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose.”

Above all, PURITY. An effective moral teacher must in purity of manhood stand upright. Never could he have brought men to repentance if he had not himself repented. The words “generation of vipers” would have been a mere scream of impotent rage if he had not crushed the serpent in his own heart. Yet, in the presence of Jesus, that pure soul seems black like the waters of a mountain lake in the neighbourhood of the newly fallen snow. The baptism of water he knew; of the baptism of fire, searching and sifting to the marrow, he recognized the need--“I have need to be baptized of Thee.” (Bp. Alexander.)

Verse 7

John 1:7

The same came for a witness.

A witness is wanted in the period of ignorance and darkness. Such a witness is the moon, which reflects a borrowed portion of light from the sun, and so assures us of him; but when the sun itself arises, himself becomes invisible, and as not existing. His borrowed light also is temporary and changeable. It waxes and wanes, and is sometimes full, and round, and perfect almost as the sun himself; at other times it diminishes and decays, and dies away till it is invisible. So the prophets had the Holy Spirit by time and by measure; and sometimes they were bright and luminous, and shone, as it were, with a celestial and perfect brightness; but then at other times, again, the Spirit in them declined and departed, and left them only the dark lump, waiting till its office should again return, of reflecting some greater or less portion of the sun’s own proper rays, and invisible till illuminated. But when the sun itself arose upon the world, this should be the sign of him. The light by which he shone should be his own; and should be in himself, and inherent in him. When the Spirit of God should descend upon him; when the hitherto unembodied light should find this rest, and take this place and station--the embodied Sun of Righteousness, and the light and life, the Divinity itself should be incarnate--then, this Spirit of God, the Godhead itself so united to man, should be the sign of the expected Messiah and the witness himself become extinct, in this the last triumphant exercise of his office and witness, (S. R. Bosanquet.)

The witness of the light

Does the light then need that witness should be borne to it? Is not light its own evidence? Yes, if men have eyes to see; but because they lay in the darkness and slumber of sin, it was necessary to arouse them, and to give testimony to the true light, distinguishing it from all false lights that could only lure to death. In an obvious sense, “the law and the prophets” formed a great system of “witness” to the coming One Acts 10:43; Romans 3:21-22); but it required completing, and John’s ministry was the completion of it--the grand close of the prophetic symphony. The morning star, day’s harbinger, bears witness of the sun, by shining in his light; and so also does the mountain top, kindled with the first rays of morning, to the dwellers in the deep valley beneath, or the far-stretching plain. But John’s testimony went beyond even this: he not merely preceded the Messiah, closing the prophetic line, but, having first aroused the nation by that cry, “Repent,” he actually introduced and named Him to Israel. (J. Culross, D. D.)

The force of testimony

Testimony is like an arrow shot from a longbow; the force of it depends on the strength of the hand that draws it. Argument is like an arrow from a cross-bow, which has equal force though shot by a child. (Lord Bacon.)

Verse 8

John 1:8

He was not that Light

The personality of the Baptist


John the Baptist was WELL BORN. The best Jewish blood flowed in his veins. Hereditary forces are the conservative forces of society. Voice, stature, longevity, mental and moral qualities descend from one generation to another. It is not true, however, that inherited tendencies necessarily make character. If this were so there could be no advance or retrogression. A child could be no better, no worse than his parent. Every mind is an original power for good or evil. Still, be thankful, Timothy, that Eunice was your mother; John, that Zacharias and Elizabeth were your parents.

He was WELL TRAINED. Jewish homes did not let go the training of children. Training tells more than birth in formation of character. Faith, reverence, obedience, courage, humility, are elements of a soldierly training. Let a child see love illustrated at home, and if he cannot be scolded into the Lord’s ranks he may be won.

He was A MAN OF COURAGE (Matthew 3:1-10). Witness his treatment of the dominant Jewish parties and Herod. This was a real quality, not an affectation. Ask for no trimmers in the pulpit. In the long run the brave man is popular.

He was A MAN OF HUMILITY (verses 29-36). How hard for one preacher to be overshadowed by another, not in some remote town, but round the corner! Let every man do his level best, and, if beaten honourably, rejoice in another’s success.

He was A MAN OF DOUBT. But he took his doubts to Jesus, and had them resolved. Doubter, let Jesus speak for Himself. (B. J. Hoadley.)

The danger of mistaking John for Christ

To mistake the forerunner for the Messiah, the Baptist for the Christ, the man for the Lord, was not the first characteristic blunder of the Church against her Divine Head. It repeated Eve’s mistake of her firstborn for the firstborn of God. If we had not seen the subsequent errors of the Church, we should have been almost tempted to count John’s statement unnecessary, perhaps gratuitous, that the Baptist was “not that Light.” The only true relation of any ordinance is that of testimony to Christ. At the point where an ordinance ceases to testify of Christ, there it begins to betray Him. Then the betrayal of a Judas is followed by the denial of a Peter. The agency of priestcraft is at the bottom in either case. A false apostle sells, false priests buy, and Christ is crucified between them. The symbol of the thirty pieces of silver is, the nominal Christian barters to the nominal Jew the Divine reality. And so it has been in all ages and with every heresy. You cannot reconcile priestcraft and Christ-craft: they are the antagonism of God and mammon. The process is in every case essentially the same, confounding the testifier with the thing testified. Men began first to mingle representative rites with spiritual realities, then inseparably to unite them, and lastly to identify forms with the spiritual facts which they symbolized. Hence arose the transubstantiation of one sacrament, and the transpiritualism of the other. Transubstantiation, which identifies the Lord’s body with the bread and wine which He appointed as its symbolic testifiers, and transpiritualism, which identifies the baptism of the Spirit with that of water, are cognate heresies. The ordinance, in either case, displacing the Ordainer, the form neutralizing the fact, and compelling us to protest against sacramentalism on behalf of the sacraments, as well as on the part of the Saviour, that sacramental elements are “not that Light, but sent to bear witness of that Light.” (J. B. Owen, M. A.)

The secondary light

The brightest light which the hand of man can enkindle is instantly paled when the sun shineth in his strength. Beautiful indeed is that secondary light when shining alone, and not beautiful only, but precious, exceedingly to men who without it would be in darkness; yet, could it speak, it would say, “I am but a spark of another fire; your admiration of my splendour will cease when you see the sun.” Such is the speech of the most luminous men. Our light is lunar, not solar, or solar only because Christ is in us; and according to the measure of our capacity He sheds His glory through our life. (J. Parker, D. D.)

A witness to the Light

He is content to claim for his master as for himself the noblest human work, “to bear witness of that Light.” No one may add to it; all may, in word and life, bear witness to it. Every discovery in science and advance in truth is a removal of some cloud which hides it from men; every noble character is bearing it about; every conquest of sin is extending it. It has been stored in mines of deepest thought in all ages. The heedless puss over the surface unconscious of it. The world’s benefactors are they who bring it forth to men as the light and warmth of the rays of the Sun of Righteousness. (H. W. Watkins, D. D.)

The exact position of John in relation to Christ

Just as when we see some object lit up by the sun’s beams, we are aware that the sun has risen, though we may not be able actually to see him ourselves; and just as a man, however weak may be his power of sight, at any rate is able to look at a mountain or tree shone upon by the sun, though he may not yet be able to look at the glorious luminary itself; so in like manner did John give light to those who as yet were not able to look at Christ, and through him, while he acknowledged that his light was that cast upon him by the rays of another, the shining and enlightening One Himself was perceived and recognized. (Augustine.)

Other witnesses to Christ besides St. John

Was the saying less true of Jeremiah preaching beside the temple that was to be desolate, of Ezekiel preaching by the river of Chebar? Was it less true of St. Peter on the day of Pentecost, of St. Paul at Antioch? Was it less true of Bernard, of Francis of Assisi, of Luther, of any man who in later days has awakened men out of the slumber of death? What can be said of each except this, “The same came for a witness”? What would each have said of himself but this, “I am not that Light, but am come to bear witness of that Light”? (F. D. Maurice.)

The true glory of John

John is something truly great, of vast merit, of exceeding grace, placed on a high eminence. Admire him we must, but how? as a mountain height, which, unless irradiated by the sun, abides in darkness. Therefore raise your thoughts to Him, who illumines this mountain top, elevated for the very purpose of first receiving the light, and so of imparting it to your eyes otherwise pained with so great a glare. John was a light lighted; Christ was a light-giving Light. (Augustine.)

Verse 9

John 1:9

That was the true Light

The true Light which lighteth every man


CHRIST IS THE TRUE LIGHT. This is seen when we reflect that

1. He is the source of all the knowledge we have of the Divine Being--His relation to us, His infinite love, and the wonderful plan of salvation He has devised.

2. He is the source of all the knowledge we have of the life beyond.

3. He is the source of all the consolation we experience under the pressure of trial.


1. The general direction which the beams of the true Light are here directed to take is a marvellous instance of His condescension. The noble chandelier which floods the throne-room of the palace with its dazzling light throws not a single ray into the murky gloom of the squalid courts not far away. That Christ, the true Light, should dart His beams downwards to this abiding-place of sin is part of the wonderfulness of the gospel which we preach.

2. To Him we owe the gift of reason, which is one of the two great foundation stones of natural religion.

3. He has placed within us the gift of conscience--God’s eye and voice, a witness against ourselves.

4. The proclamation of the gospel in every land.



Christ’s light is

The light of NATURAL REASON, which He has given us to cultivate and improve, for the benefit of ourselves and others, especially in the great concerns of religion. This light, which even the Gentiles had, was sufficient to have led them to the knowledge of the true God, and, by the visible works of the creation, to understand His “eternal power and Godhead” Romans 1:10).

The light of REVELATION. By this light His will has been made known to us in the Holy Scriptures; the religion of nature commenced revealed; and the lesser light of natural reason was not extinguished by, but absorbed in, revelation. This further light was typified to us by the Shechinah in the tabernacle, and by that bright cloud by day and pillar of fire by night which conducted the Israelites through the wilderness.

The light of the GOSPEL: and this is represented by that noblest and brightest of all the heavenly luminaries, the Sun; Christ Himself, who is therefore styled “the Sun of Righteousness,” having now arisen on His Church “with healing in His wings.” This is the light which constitutes our present day.

The last and most perfect light of all will be that of GLORY, which shall never set, nor ever change. But this light none shall ever behold who neglect the use of those lesser lights, who advance not gradually from reason to revelation, from revelation to faith, from faith to glory. (Wogan.)

The arrival of the Light

Its NATURE. “True,” not the genuine as opposed to the false, but the substantial, the essential, the original, the permanent, as opposed to the shadowy, phenomenal, derived, transitory.

Its INFLUENCE. Set forth

1. Intensively, it lighteth.

2. Extensively, as reaching to every man, i.e, to all mankind, in the sense that its light exists for all, and to some degree shines on all, and to all souls who inwardly admit its beams.

Its CONDITION, described as

1. Coming into the world, i.e, in process of passing from a Divine and Eternal into a human and temporal mode of existence, and

2. Coming into His own, i.e, as unfolding His glory before the theocratic people. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)

The true Light

He is UNDECEIVING light, the true light in opposition to all the false lights of the Gentiles.

He is REAL light, true in opposition to ceremonial types and shadows.

He is UNDERIVED light, true in opposition to all light that is borrowed, communicated, or participated from another.

He is SUPEREMINENT light, true in opposition to all that is ordinary and common. (Arrowsmith.)

Christ the Enlightener

Jesus Christ enlightening every man

FROM WITHIN, i.e, in the intuitive conceptions of the mind.

1. This light is internal, shining in the mental constitution of every man. What was life in the Word pre-incarnate was light or reason in men.

2. This light is innate in every man. “That was the true Light which lighteth every man as he cometh,” etc., is a translation of many scholars. God takes care to write His name on the soul of every man; human nature bears the sign-manual of its Maker in its deepest constitution (Romans 1:19, “in them”).

3. This light is Divine, the same in its nature as that which illuminates God Himself. The light proceeding from the sun is the same as that which resides in the sun.

4. This light is persistent. It continues to shine notwithstanding the Fall and its consequences “lighteth,” present tense.

FROM WITHOUT, in the revealed doctrines of Christianity.

1. It is a supernatural light: not unnatural, or contranatural, for the most perfect correspondence obtains between the natural and the supernatural. Railway companies often possess running powers on each other’s property, and the natural and the supernatural often run their trains on each other’s lines. The latter is only an extension of the former.

2. It is a perfect light: true, i.e, the complete as opposed to the imperfect, the full as opposed to the partial. Christ is this; not a ray wanting. You may see God through the creation, but you may see Him in Jesus Christ.

3. It is a universal light.

(1) It enlightens every man that cometh into the world. The perfect is always universal. “Go ye into all the world.” The Sun of Christianity is as all-pervasive as the sun of nature.

(2) It enlightens every man that goeth out of the world. It can penetrate the blackest recesses of the dark mountains along which you are descending, and dissipate the mist of the swelling flood, and illumine your way right into the unseen.

(3) It enlightens the world into which you are going. “ The Lamb is the light thereof.” (J. Cynddylan Jones, D. D.)

The Light of the world

There has been a threefold revelation of the Word.

THROUGH NATURE. “In the beginning,” before there was ear to hear or mind to understand--the mind of God was speaking with itself. There was a Word. Then

1. The Word is spoken of as bringing the world into being, i.e, God’s Word found utterance in creation. A word is an expression or a work. The most expressive of all are not those which the lips speak. The American sculptor gazed upon the sky upon a summer’s morning. He went about haunted with the memory of it. It was a necessity for him to express it. Had he been a poet he would have thrown it into words; a painter, on canvas; an architect, into a building; but being a sculptor his thoughts and syllables were expressed in stone. This world is God’s sculptured work whereby He speaks out Himself.

2. This creation is a pervading immanence. “ He was in the world.” Creation is not the work of a Divine watchmaker, who winds it up, leaves it to go by itself, interfering now and then in great emergences called miracles. He is in the world, the life of all that is. The world is the form of which Christ is the Personality. The beauty of the sea-shell and of the field-flower is the loveliness of God. The world is an everlasting anthem hymning God’s secrets.


1. Universally: “lighteth every man.” Just as the sunlight shines on all, more intensely in the tropics, more feebly at the poles, yet shines on all. Your reason and conscience are the God within you. Thus the Fathers spoke of the wisdom of Plato and others as the unconscious Christ within them. Thus, too, in the Old Testament rulers and judges are called “gods” John 10:35-36).

2. Specially: “He came to His own.” The distinction is between those who received the light common to every man and those who received the special illumination which entitled them to be His own--the Jewish people, the inspired people. Inspiration is God’s acting on man’s higher spirit--his worship and reverence. There is an inspiration of genius, but the inspiration of the prophet is another thing altogether. The Jews were not great statesmen, artists, scientists; but the thought of God, the sanctity of duty, moral and spiritual truth were in them as in no other nation on earth.

THROUGH THE INCARNATION. God manifested Himself not through what Jesus taught or spoke, hut through what Jesus was and did.

1. Christ was not a transient theophany like the burning bush, the Angel of the Covenant, or the Shechinah glory.

2. But God Himself in man and with man for ever. The application is

(1) That all that can be known of God is through a revelation. The light of revelation is not contrary to, but complementary of, the light of nature.

(2) That revelation is progressive. In the world; with the world; made flesh. In the world unconsciously in nature; nearer in man; nearest in Christ; the time is coming when He will be still nearer, “when we shall see Him as He is.” (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)

Christ the Light of all the living

EVERY MAN COMES INTO THE WORLD WITH A LIGHT IN HIM. Dim in infancy, but ready to be fanned by educational influences; dark in heathenism., but glimmering amongst fogs of superstition. This light reflects

1. On social obligation. Every man has the sense of right and wrong.

2. On religious worship: the sentiment of a God is universal.

3. On future retribution: reference to a future life of reward and punishment instinctive. That all men have their light is clear

(1) From history. Its rays may be seen in the best heathen, in their sacred books, and even amongst the most degraded tribes.

(2) From the Word of God (Romans 1:1-32.). It is absurd to deny its existence because it burns dimly under the glass of ignorance, and never throws a false hue on duty and destiny, etc. Any light is better than darkness. A manuscript may contain truth, although part may be torn away.


1. Exalts Christ as the Creator of souls (John 1:2). He puts this inextinguishable light in them.

2. Reveals the responsibility of heathens. They are not in utter darkness. It is amongst them in these elements of truth by living up to which they may be accepted of God. Thus heathen salvation is not independent of Christ.

3. Furnishes an argument for the congruity of Christianity with human nature. Both the natural and the gospel light come from one source in Christ and harmonize with each other.

4. Supplies a motive to extend the light of the gospel Although Christ gave men natural light, He saw their need of a higher light, and became flesh and died to give it. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

Christ our revealing Light

I once spent a night on Mount Righi, and there was nothing visible for a rod from my window. But when the morning broke, the icy crowns of the Jungfrau and the Schreckhorn began to glitter in the early beams. They had been there all the night, waiting for the unfoldings of the dawn. Even so have all God’s laws of the material universe and all His purposes of redeeming mercy through Jesus Christ been in existence from the beginning. They only waited for the dayspring of discovery. And one of the most delightful occupations of a devout mind is to watch the unfoldings of God, and to drink in new truths as He gradually reveals them. (Theodore L. Cuyler.)

Jesus our Light

A visitor went one cold day last spring to see a poor young girl, kept at home by a lame hip. The room was on the north side of a bleak house. It was not a pleasant prospect without, nor was there much that was pleasant or cheerful within. Poor girl I what a cheerless life she has of it, he thought, as he saw how she was situated; and he immediately said to himself, what a pity it was her room was on the north side of the house. “You never have any sun,” he said; “not a ray comes in at these windows. That I call a misfortune. Sunshine is everything; I love the sun.” “Oh,” she answered, with the sweetest smile, “my sun pours in at every window, and even through the cracks.” The visitor looked surprised. “The Sun of Righteousness,” she said, softly--“Jesus. He shines in here and makes everything bright to me.” Who could doubt her? She looked perfectly happy. Yes! Jesus shining in at the window can make any spot beautiful and any home happy.

Christ the interpreter of human life

HOW FAR IS THIS TRUE? Is it not rather sin which explains it? Its facts meet us everywhere, and sum up the life of the individual and the nation. We see them and feel their curse. But do they explain all? Are there not stirrings of the awakened conscience, longings of the soul for its lost innocence, better hopes, holier resolves, efforts to lay hold of God? Whence have these come? From the Light. Sin, so far from interpreting life, is its confusion. “The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” But sin has obscured it all; caused its power and promise to be wasted, changed its blessing into a curse, quenched its light in darkness. A saved soul--that is consistent; a lost soul--there is bewilderment in the very thought. We cannot understand our own being till Christ gives us light; then our darkness passes, and the true light shineth.

It is not only true that salvation in Christ is the end which alone makes human life intelligible--THE LAW OF LIFE IN CHRIST IS THE LAW ACCORDING TO WHICH WE WERE MADE. The self-devoted Saviour is “the Light which lighteth every man.” Men resolve every motive into selfishness. Men are always seeking, it is said, to please, themselves. But this only confuses. There is an impulse of self-denial which cannot thus be explained away. The father labouring for his little ones, the mother watching over her sick child’s couch, do this for love’s sake, and not to please themselves. The patriot denies himself for his country’s good; we are often ashamed of our comforts when we reflect on the wants of others. The impossibility of living a life wholly selfish, the inspirations of pity, the passion for self-devotedness find their explanation in Christ. In Him we see the self-devoted life, the only true and blessed life for man. As Christ was it would be well for us all to be; that is what God would have us all be. All falls into harmony now; this is the true light.

If we turn from the quenchless impulse of devotedness to the QUENCHLESS IMPULSE OF WORSHIP; if we ask how it was that amidst the degradations of heathenism and the corruption of the Jews, faith itself did not die out; if we ask how it was that though philosophers often seemed on the verge of proclaiming that all religion was only a fiction useful for civil government, men could not rid themselves of reverence; if we ask how it was that in even the worst superstitions of idolatry something may be often seen which strangely suggests to us the gospel revelation; again we are reminded that Christ, “the true Light which lighteth every man,” was in the world. He would not let them sink into utter godlessness. He preserved in them some little longing for the true, awoke in them some dissatisfaction with the false.

FROM THE CROSS COMES THE LIGHT WHICH INTERPRETS THE DEEPEST AND MOST MYSTERIOUS FACTS IN HUMAN LIFE. The selfishness of pride is crushed as we recognize ourselves saved not by our own righteousness, but by Him that bore our curse. We have murmured that we should bear a doom for Adam’s sin: Christ bore the doom for Adam and for us. We have murmured at our birth into a state of sin and suffering. But Christ was born into it for us. Our Christian life is interpreted here. If we are restless amid our pleasures, if we cannot be happy, if we are yearning to be better, it is because the Word is within us pleading with us to receive Him. If we have not been allowed to sink amidst temptations, to rest in a life of ungodliness, and if there be in us purer feelings and holier aspirations, these seek their fulfilment in Christ. (A. Mackennal, D. D.)

The natural light in man

God prints His own name, He stamps some great universal truths on the mind of every man as he cometh into the world. Men are like so many volumes, continually issuing from the Divine press; and if nothing else be written on them, the name of the Author and Printer is indisputably engraved on the title-page. I do not say that the name is very legible at first, especially since the soul has been soiled by sin, but that it is there is to me a demonstrated truth. Take a sheet of white paper; write on it your own thoughts--your good thoughts or your bad thoughts, just as you please--and underneath your own signature and address. Is that all that is to be read off the paper? Nay; hold it up to the light, and you will behold the name of the manufacturer in watermarks. You may write on it what you like and as you like; but you will never rub off the name of the maker. Your name is on it, but his name is in it. Thus God has written His name in watermarks on the raw material of the soul. You may write on it, the world may write on it, the devil may write on it; but God has written in it--He has deeply stamped His name into the soul in its first make. The idea of God is a lighted lamp hung up in the dome of every man’s soul as he cometh into the world, a lighted lamp flashing forth its penetrating and comforting beams in all directions. (J. Cynddylan Jones, D. D.)

Light before Christ came

We must not suppose that all light of faith, of hope, of justice, of purity, of truth, first dawned on the world when Christ came. God has been in the world ever since there was one, and whatever there is that is noble and good proceeded from the inspiration of the Divine mind working upon the human soul, on all nations, in every age, and under the ministrations of the truth as it is in Jesus. He that brought life and immortality to light was neither supine nor slumbering, but was working everywhere before His appearance, and whatever light of truth there has been at any time has come from Him. When, however, He came in bodily form, He came to interpret what only life and conduct can interpret. (H. F.Beecher.)

Christ the efficient Light

The earthly sunlight only illumines eyes that see, but Christ the true Light enlightens the eyes of the blind; He is at once the Eye and Light of the world. (Brenz.)

Light dawning upon man

Standing far down in the darkness of an icy valley, I once witnessed a sunrise in the Alps. The first beam struck the summit of Monte Rosa, and looked like a vivid crimsom spot amid a deep gloom; and then the rising dawn fired the summits of mountain after mountain, and floated in a river of broadening gold down through snowy slopes, until at last the hills and the valleys and the pine forests seemed to shout aloud, and clap their hands, as they were flooded irresistibly with the rejoicing light. Even so, He who is the Light which enlighteneth every man dawned with an infinitude of blessing upon a dark and guilty world. (Archdeacon Farrar.)


Christ the true Light

That only is “light” which lighteth another; and that, therefore, which should “light” everybody is the True, Original, Primal “Light.” Nature teaches it. You cannot conceive of “light” which does not emit. It must propagate itself. The moment that “light” does not shed itself, it is gone out. There is no propagation in darkness. Darkness is naked. A dark room does not darken a light room; but a light room will lighten a dark one. And the more “light,” the more it brightens--up to that Perfect “Light” which “lights” everything. The sun “lights” the whole world. Christ is the Sun of God’s moral system. When the world was four days old, God gathered all the “light”--which vibrated and was diffused in the atmosphere--into one great centre: or, more accurately, He made for all that “light” one great reflector to “rule the day”; then He made another reflector for the sun--the moon, “to govern the night.” When the world was four thousand years old He gathered all moral and spiritual “light”--of the law, of prophecy, of grace, of love, of hope--which was scattered and indistinct before, into one grand depository; or, more accurately, He gave a perfect mirror, to give back all His own lustre and glory, to be the ruler and arbiter of the Gospel Day (Hebrews 1:1). And then God made a reflector of that Divine luminary--the Church; the Church, to catch and disseminate its rays in a dark world; the Church, to rule and govern the world’s night. (Sermons by the Monday Club.)

The safety of the Light

The night is of the darkest; the moon has hid her face behind the swift-rolling clouds, and not a star ventures to peep out upon what is going on far below on earth. Her anchor weighed and sails broadly spread, a noble ship moves steadily on her way, her captain on the bridge, her trusty steersman at the helm, the watch at their posts. We hear the low, firm word of command, and feel the movement of the vessel responding slowly to her rudder as her course is changed in obedience to the indications of the chart, or in consequence of the observations of the look-out. Now she rounds a rocky headland, and, passing from its shelter, enters a narrow strait, on which, in striking contrast to the gloom behind, a flood of brilliant light is cast from the lighthouse which stands in the centre of that short but dangerous channel, whence it sends forth guiding rays to help mariners who pass through from one great sea to another beyond. The light makes the channel safe; let it be removed, and, striking against the rocky isles which stud the strait, the brave ship, in vain effort to escape, will beat out its life. Do you ask me on what map you will find this channel marked? what are the names of the two seas which it connects? I will tell you. The name of the ocean on the one hand is Eternity; the name of the ocean on the other hand is Eternity; the name of the channel is Life, and its Light is Jesus Christ. Without Him we perish; but with Him, overcoming the perils of the passage, we reach at last the great and wide sea of the Father’s infinite love. (H. W. Price.)

Christ the Light of the future world

Into the impenetrable darkness of the hereafter He alone has entered; only His sacred feet have trodden that awful path of gloom. We read, a little time ago, of some of our English officers exploring a subterranean cavern never yet visited by man--how they groped, and climbed, and crawled for hundreds of yards into the darkness that was but feebly lit up by the glimmer of their tapers. They pressed onward in spite of every difficulty, till an impassable obstacle prevented their further progress, and the gallant explorers had to return. They might have perished in their perilous enterprise, and left their bones to moulder in their unknown charnel-house till the resurrection morn; or they might have threaded their way through mazy intricacies until, at last, they came again within the welcome sight of daylight, and emerged from their underground wanderings on the other side of the mountain. The Great Explorer passed right through! The Founder of our Faith came out of death into a fuller and more glorious life than He laid down when He yielded up His spirit. It is from Christ--messenger from the land of light and love, victor over death and the grave, that we learn all we know of the home beyond, of the many mansions, of the place prepared, of the thrones, and of the crown. (H. W. Price.)

Christ the Light of every man

How can this be true when there are, and always have been, so many who live on still in darkness? First, it was God’s intention that “light” should be all-pervasive, and it does not make that intention untrue if, through the negligence of His people--to whom it was committed to carry it out--it has not yet taken place. The orb of day is not less the “light” to the universe, because you choose to eclipse it with your little hand. Neither is Christ less “the true Light, that lighteth every man that cometh into the world,” because they, to whom it was given, have not transmitted its beams. But, evil as things are now, it is impossible to calculate what may be the indirect rays of “light” which have reached, from the gospel, through the whole earth. There is a twilight of truth in almost every superstition and every error. Is that dim twinkle a refraction from the cross? (Sermons by the Monday Club.)

God the Light of life

When we grasp a truth, and the exquisite pleasure of knowing what is true abides with us like a noble guest; when we conquer a selfish or worldly desire and lie down to rest on the goodness we have won and feel at peace; when in the golden summer-time we pass through the happy woodland and hear the stream and the trees talk to one another, and the beauty that flows into the eyes and ears kindles its instructive fire in our hearts; when we give love or pity or kindness to those that need it, and the quick thrill of heavenly joy, such as the shepherd feels when he finds his lost sheep, swells the heart--what is it that we feel? We feel not only ourselves but God within us. His is the truth, the goodness, His the beauty and the tenderness, and His the joy. He is mingled with us then. His light and life make our light and our life. It is more or less in all men, it is of different kinds in different men, but it shines in all. One may hold it in a soul which is a palace for the crowned Truth to dwell in; another may keep it in a soul which is a ruined cabin where many an outlawed thought and many a felon feeling dwells: but its eternal fire burns in both--in one as brightly as the sun, in the other dimly as in the dying star. (Stopford A. Brooke, M. A.)

Verses 10-11

John 1:10-11

He was in the world

The treatment of Christ by men


By the WORLD.

1. They were in a condition in which they might have known much of Him. He made the world and preserved it and was in it. Yet there was no proper recognition of Him.

2. This ignorance of Christ was the sin of the world, and it is its sin now, a sin for which there is no excuse. In addition to creation and providence we have revelation.

By His own.

1. Who are His own. In a sense

(1) All mankind by the right of creation;

(2) The converted by the right of redemption and adoption;

(3) As distinguished from both these, the Visible Church. That its members are His own arises from their possession of advantages peculiarly distinctive--the oracles of God--the ordinances of the kingdom. They are in covenant. Christ is under engagement to grant to them eternal life: they are under engagement to seek that gift and accept it.

(a) Virtually such was the covenant at Sinai. Christ engaged to bring His own to Canaan, through their obedience to the law by which they were to live. They engaged to go up and possess their inheritance in reliance on Him. The covenant was typical as well as temporal, and typified a spiritual salvation.

(b) Israel violated this covenant, by the rebellion in the wilderness, and by slowness of heart to understand its moral meanings.

(c) This covenant has passed away, the substance of its shadows having come, but thousands like Israel are false and perfidious to the new and better covenant: they have the profession without the power of godliness.

2. He came to His own.

(1) This was unsolicited by them, the kindness and consideration were all His.

(2) He came to them in the wilderness and at various periods of their history, but they rejected Him.

3. He came as the Incarnate Word, and they received Him not. Is this also true of the Visible Church to-day? The unconverted hearers of the gospel are more guilty than the Jews, and will therefore he visited with a heavier condemnation. (A. Beith, D. D.)

The rejection of the Light


1. Inexcusable (Romans 1:20).

2. Unnatural, since those who lived and moved and had their being in Him should have known Him who made them (Psalms 103:22).

3. Heinous. The non-recognition less intellectual than moral, arising not from failure to discern, but from want of inward affinity to the light John 3:19; Ephesians 4:18; Job 24:13).

4. Prophetic, since it foreshadowed Christ’s reception by Israel with the outlook towards which it is here introduced.

PARTICULARLY AND DURING THE PERIOD OF HIS INCARNATION BY HIS OWN, i.e, by the Jews, whose rejection of Him, besides sharing the criminality incurred by the world, displayed

1. Monstrous ingratitude. He selected them for no peculiar excellence on their part, and vouchsafed centuries of gracious teaching and discipline to prepare them to recognize and embrace Him.

2. Shamefaced robbery. Christ presented Himself as the Heir claiming His inheritance (Matthew 21:38); as a Master (Matthew 25:14) only to find His possessions forcibly withheld from Him, and Himself cast forth and killed.

3. Incorrigible wickedness. They could not discern the signs of Messiahship in Him.

4. Dire infatuation, for in rejecting Him they thrust from themselves the kingdom of God, and missed the true vocation of their race. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)

Christ rejected by the world

His own world rejected Him, as a rebel country might reject a lawful and beneficent king. The very work of His hands, that which was indebted to Him for its very being, refused to recognize Him. (G. J. Brown, M. A.)

The world

Corrupted mankind are called the world, because they love the world more than their Creator. Through love, we make something our dwelling-place; and therefore what we have made by our love to be our dwelling-place, from that we have deserved to be called. (Augustine.)

The world knew Him not.

Let us give the largest scope to these words. If you apply them to the world of matter, I need not say that matter can never interpret spirit. God cannot be known in the charity and richness of His inward nature by anything that matter represents. Nor can men whose whole intercourse with matter either disprove or affirm the invisible and inward truth of Christ. Neither does the race know Him: for they are seeking to live by bread alone. Three-fifths of the world live as the sheep, the ox, and the swine do. The heavens to them contain little unless it be some terror that superstition interprets. They cross the plain of life, with heads down, as herds of cattle cross the prairie browsing as they go. They live for and by the senses. They know not the God who created them, and sustains and blesses them. (H. W. Beecher.)

The non-recognition of Christ

When Ulysses returned with fond anticipations to his home at Ithaca, his family did not recognize him. Even the wife of his bosom denied her husband--so changed was he by an absence of twenty years, and the hardships of a protracted war. In this painful condition of affairs he called for a bow which he had left at home. With characteristic sagacity he saw how a bow so stout and tough that none but himself could draw it, might be made to bear witness on his behalf. He seized it. To their surprise and joy, like a green wand lopped from a willow tree, it yields to his arms, it bends till the string touches his ear. His wife, now sure that he is her long lost and lamented husband, throws herself into his fond embraces, and his household confess him to be the true Ulysses. If I may compare small things with great, our Lord gave such proof of His Divinity when He, too, stood a stranger in His own house, despised and rejected of men. He bent the stubborn laws of nature to His will. He proved Himself Creator by His mastery over creation. (T. Guthrie, D. D.)

Genius unrecognized

When Verdi the celebrated musician first made application for admission as a student at the Conservatoire Musicale at Milan, he was rejected by the director, Francesco Basily, on the ground that “he could make nothing of the new comer, who showed no disposition for music!” How this early verdict was reversed is a matter of notorious history. (H. O. Mackey.)


Some literary reputations are like fairies, in that they cannot cross running water. Others, again, are like the mystic genii of the “Arabian Nights” which loom highest when seen afar. Poe, e.g., is more appreciated in England than at home; and Cooper is given a higher rank by French than by American critics. (Matthews.)

Judgment by contemporaries

Contemporary judgment is least of all judicial. The young forestall novelty itself. The old mistrust or look backward with a sense of loss. It is hard for either to apply tests that are above fashion; we adopt, as lightly as formerly we contemned, a fashion that at last we avow we rightly interpret. (E. C. Stedman.)

God present but unknown

“I have swept the heavens with my telescope and have found no God.” (E. C. Stedman.)

God unrecognized in His own world

Sir Isaac Newton had among his acquaintances a philosopher who was an atheist. It is well known that the illustrious man, who takes the first rank as a mathematician, natural philosopher, and astronomer, was at the same time a Christian. He had in his study a celestial globe, on which was an excellent representation of the constellations and the stars which compose them. His atheist friend, having come to visit him one day, was struck with the beauty of tiffs globe. He approached it, examined it, and, admiring the work, he turned to Newton and said to him, “Who made it?” “No one!” replied the celebrated philosopher. The atheist understood, and was silent. (Christian Age.)

Christ is often near but unknown

Every faculty of the soul, if it would but open its door, might see Christ standing over against it, and silently asking by His smile, “Shall I come in unto thee?” But men open the door and look down, not up, and thus see Him not. So it is that men sigh on, not knowing what the soul wants, but only that it needs something. Our yearnings are home-sicknesses for heaven; our sighings are for God, just as children that cry themselves asleep away from home, and sob in their slumber, know not that they sob for their parents. The soul’s inarticulate meanings are the affections yearning for the Infinite, and having no one to tell them what it is that ails them. (H. W. Beecher.)

He came to His own

Christ’s coming and rejection

IN WHAT SENSE HE CAME TO HIS OWN, AND HIS OWN RECEIVED HIM NOT. He came as the long-expected Messiah (Haggai 2:7; John 4:26), answering all the characters given Him as such in the Old Testament.

1. He came as Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 9:6; Isaiah 35:4; Isaiah 40:9-10). His testimony to this effect was confirmed by exercising the authority of God

(1) by forgiving sins (Matthew 9:2);

(2) by healing the sick (Matthew 8:3);

(3) by raising the dead (Mark 5:41; John 11:43),

(4) by calming the storm (Mark 4:39).

But so far were His own from receiving Him that they accounted Him a “sinner” (John 9:24), a “deceiver” (Matthew 27:63), “mad” and possessed of the “devil” (John 10:20).

2. He came as the Prophet like unto Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15), whom He resembled in many things. But they rejected Him because His doctrine contradicted their prejudices, censured their vices, and laid a restraint on their dominant lusts.

3. He came as High Priest and Mediator between God and man, typified by Aaron; but they, depending on being Abraham’s seed, on circumcision, the priesthood, and expiations of their law, received Him not.

4. He came as Redeemer and Saviour (Isaiah 59:20; Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 24:7), but not seeing their want of redemption (chap. 8:33), and having no desire for spiritual blessings, they received Him not.

5. He came as King (Psalms 2:6; Jeremiah 23:5-6; Zechariah 9:9), to rescue them from their enemies, and govern them with good laws. But as His kingdom was not of this world they rejected Him (John 18:40; John 18:40, Luke 19:14).

IN WHAT SENSE IT IS NECESSARY THAT WE SHOULD RECEIVE HIM We receive His name, and therefore receive Him by profession; the Scriptures, as declaring His will; His ordinances: but do we receive Him in all the offices and characters He sustains?

1. Acknowledging Him as a Divine Teacher, do we learn and practise His precepts?

2. Acknowledging that He is Mediator, do we rely on His atonement and intercession?

3. Confessing Him to be all-sufficient Redeemer, do we glorify Him in our body and spirit, which are His?

4. Do we in reality as well as in profession receive Him as our King? It is implied in these questions that we received

(1) His doctrine as the rule of our faith, experience, and practice;

(2) His merits as the ground of our confidence;

(3) His Spirit, without which we are none of His;

(4) His example as our pattern;

(5) His exaltation as the ultimate object of our desire.


1. They are unspeakably near to Him as made sons of God by regenerationJohn 5:1; John 5:1).

2. They are dear to Him above all others. They are favoured with access to Him, taken under His protection, and assured of a great reward. (J. Benson.)

Christ’s coming to His own

The Jewish nation was “His own,” by choice (Deuteronomy 7:6); by purchase (Exodus 19:4-5); by covenant (Deuteronomy 26:18); and by kindred (Hebrews 2:16). (F. H.Dunwell, B. A.)

Christ rejected by His own people

He came unto His own things, and His own people received Him not. He was as a householder coming to his own house and being kept out by his own servants. What is the earth but one great apartment in the house of God! Its furniture (its hills and valleys, and rivers, fruits and flowers, and harvest fields) is Jesus Christ’s, for, apart from Him, was not anything made that was made: yet when He came to His own house His ownership was denied by the servants who had been put into temporary possession by His own power and grace. (J. Parker, D. D.)

The Advent

The coming of Christ had


1. Men had lost sight of God. Some had lost it. Others had never had it. All were destitute of it except a small class of Hebrew believers. Three kinds of sin had blinded, corrupted, usurped the human soul.

(1) Self-admiration,which makes a rebel of the intellect;

(2) Self-will of the conscience;

(3) Self-indulgence of the passions.

Curiosity was all that was left as the highest aim in science; war, in enterprise; and a sensuous enthusiasm for the beautiful in art. Alexandria, Rome, and Athens represented these three ambitions.

2. In losing God, man had lost himself. Faith in God and the dignity of man went down together. With Divine worship fell human rights and liberties. Seneca stood for the world’s idea of learning; Caesar, for its idea of politics; Corinth, for its idea of pleasure.

3. The object of the Advent, therefore, was to restore to man his God and Father, and himself.

A METHOD. Not by creating a religious capacity, but by quickening men with trust and love.

1. Not first by a book: that would have reached not one in ten thousand, nor him in his heart.

2. Not chiefly by oral instructions, which have to be certified to the understanding before they can inspire faith.

3. Not by a mere creature-image of Deity, for that would have been only adding another to the old Pantheon of idolatries.

4. This infinite goodness, this One Spirit of God, must come in a life. Christ must be the Son of the Father; must touch humanity and enter into it; must wear its flesh; must lift its load; must partake its experience; must be tempted with it; must be seen, nay, felt, suffering for it. This will complete the manifestation. This will be, not an education, not an inspiration, not a human self-elevation, which neither history nor logic hints at; but a coming of Heaven to earth; a theophany, or manifesting of God. This is perfect compassion, and effectual relief. This gets the sundered souls together. Even stolid and blinded eyes will behold their Lord. This will move, and melt, and convince of sin, and arouse to holiness.

A MOTIVE. There could be but one (John 3:16). (Bp. Huntington.)

The Advent of Christ.


1. The illustrious personage described.

(1) The Word of God; implying personality, intelligence, eternity, divinity.

(2) The Creator of the universe.

(3) The life and light of men; the source of whatever mental, moral, or spiritual truth ever entered into the soul of man.

(4) The heir of Israel and humanity. He came into His own possessions.

(a) Into the world which by reason of His creatorship was His.

(b) Unto Israel, the special creation of His grace, and His peculiar treasure.

2. The manner of His coming pictured. He came

(1) Voluntarily. The Baptist was sent; Christ came.

(2) Opportunely. In the fulness of the times; the time pre-appointed by God; the time pre-eminently adapted for a new religion. The false faiths had been tried and found wanting. The Mosaic economy had served its purpose. The Roman power had provided a means of universal communication, and Greece a universal language.

(3) Graciously. To communicate the life and the light without which neither Israel nor humanity could be saved. It would not have been surprising had He come to condemn rather than to save.

(4) Unostentatiously. We might have anticipated an advent in great power and glory.: instead of that it was in the form of a servant.

THE MOURNFUL REJECTION; OR, THE REPUDIATION OF THE HEIR. Israel’s conduct representative of the world’s. This rejection was

1. Symbolized at His birth. “No room for Him in the inn.” Manger for His cradle.

2. Experienced throughout His life. “Despised and rejected of men.” Calumniated as a wine-bibber, a blasphemer, an impostor, a confederate of Beelzebub, and persecuted and scorned.

3. Confirmed by His death. “ Away with Him”! “Crucify Him”! Learn

(1) The amazing condescencion of Christ.

(2) The supreme claim of Christ.

(3) The wickedness and danger of the unbelief which rejects Christ. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)

Jesus of Nazareth the true promised Messiah

No Scripture has so directly and immoveably stood in the way of opposers of Christ’s divinity, from Socinius backwards, than this chapter. In the text we have


1. The person who came. The Second Person in the Trinity, whose infinity makes the act of His coming miraculous. But Christ, who delighted to mingle mercy with miracle, took a finite nature, so that what was impossible to a Divine nature was done by a Divine Person, and being made man could do all that a man could do except sin. The endeavour to account for this mystery has been the source of all heresy, both of hypothesis and denial.

2. The state and condition from which Christ came. From the bosom of the Father, a state of eternal glory, joy, and Divine communion. How great the humiliation from this to that of a crucified malefactor! And yet it was perfectly voluntary.

3. To whom He came. Everything was “His own” by creation, possession, and absolute dominion; but the Jews were His by

(1) The fraternal right of consanguinity; and

(2) Churchship, as selected by Him. That it was Palestine and not Rome He came to was of His sovereign mercy.

4. The time at which He came. When they were at their worst.

(1) Nationally. Only a remnant left, and that under a foreign yoke; when to be a Jew was a mark of infamy.

(2) Ecclesiastically. When most corrupt, hypocritical, sceptical. In this we may see

(a) the invariable strength of Christ’s love;

(b) the immoveable veracity of God’s promise.

CHRIST’S ENTERTAINMENT BEING COME. May we not expect for Him a magnificent reception, a welcome as extraordinary as His kindness, especially when we consider His purpose? But His own received Him not. This is not strange. The Jews only followed the common practice of men, whose.emulation usually preys on those superior to them.

1. The grounds of His rejection.

(1) Christ came not as a temporal prince, which frustrated their carnal hopes. They therefore derided “the carpenter’s son.”

(2) They supposed that He set Himself against the law of Moses by His spiritual interpretations, human exceptions, and exposures of rabbinical glosses.

2. The unreasonableness of these grounds.

(1) He came to be not a temporal prince, but

(a) a blessing to all nations, which is inconsistent with the idea of a warrior Messiah. This is the burden of prophecy

(b) of a low, despised estate (Psalms 22:1-31; Isaiah 53:1-12.)

(2) He came not to destroy the law but to fulfil it. The ceremonial law was fulfilled and passed away, therefore, of itself.

3. The reasons which should have induced them to receive Him.

(1) All the marks of the Messiah appeared in Him.

(2) His whole behaviour was a continued act of mercy and charity. Conclusion: The Jews are not the only persons concerned in this guilt, but also all vicious Christians. (R. South, D. D.)

The ingratitude of man


1. It was an act of distinguished favour our that He should be born among them; yet they rejected Him, which was a high-handed act of national ingratitude.

2. Special cases occurred involving still greater ingratitude.

(1) Among them were many whom our Lord healed. Strange ingratitude that a man should owe his eyes to Him and yet refuse to see in Him the Saviour; should owe to Christ his tongue and be silent in the great Physician’s praise.

(2) He fed thousands of hungry persons: yet they followed Him, not for Himself, but for what they could get out of Him.

(3) When He acted as a teacher they tried to murder Him.

3. The further our Lord went on in life the more ungratefully was He treated. He forgot Himself and gave Himself away that He might seek and save the lost; and yet men strove to take away His life which was more valuable to them than to Him.

4. At last that evil generation had its way with Him and crucified Him.

5. When He rose and tarried for forty days to minister blessing, they first doubted and then invented an idle tale to account for it.

6. In this ingratitude those who were nearest to Him had a share. One denied Him, and all forsook Him and fled.


1. Those who are most indebted to Christ’s love and grace--believers.

(1) Every sin is ingratitude since Christ suffered for it and came to destroy it.

(2) The setting up of any rival on His throne in the heart, when Christ is dethroned in favour of wife, child, friend, ambition, pleasure, wealth, is base ingratitude.

(3) The same is true when we lose large measures of grace; when the Holy Spirit admits us into peculiar nearness to God and we act inconsistently.

(4) And so the little service we render and our lukewarm love. Christ’s love is like the ancient furnace which was heated seven times hotter; ours like the solitary spark which wonders within itself that it is yet alive.

(5) The rare consecration of our substance is another case in point. Our gifts to His poor, His Church, missions, are an insult to Him.

(6) How base is our ingratitude when we neglect His commands and have to be driven to obedience.

2. There are those whose ingratitude is even greater.

(1) Those who refuse to trust Him, in spite of gospel announcements, loving invitations, the evident manifestation of Christ.

(2) Those who oppose Him, jest at His gospel, and treat His people with indignity. What evil has He ever done you? When has He given you an ill word or look? It is to His silence that you owe your life. There is no chivalry in such conduct as this.

3. Those from whom, above all others, such conduct ought not to have proceeded.

(1) Children of pious and sainted parents.

(2) The restored from sickness.

WHAT THEN? What comes out of all this?

1. Let us appreciate our Saviour’s sufferings.

2. Admire our Saviour’s love.

3. Apply the cleansing blood which can take away the scarlet sin of ingratitude.

4. Learn how to forgive. Christ loved men none the less for their ingratitude.

5. Judge how we ought to live in the light of this subject: devote ourselves entirely to Him. In conclusion, what will become of the finally ungrateful? (C. H.Spurgeon.)

His own

There are two ways of belonging to another: unwilling and inevitable, or willing and hearty. You may belong to a nation by birth, and dislike it; to a family, from dependence or self-interest, and care for no welfare in it; to a university, and be out of harmony and out of temper with its administration. But so you cannot belong to the brotherhood that is of the body of Christ. You must be in sympathy both with the brotherhood and its head. The legal ownership you cannot help; it brings no animation and no comfort. By your creation you are the Lord’s; His to be disposed of, to live or die, to be judged. The business of your new heart, “receiving Christ,” is to change this reluctant belonging for the closer and grateful loyalty of affection; the legal bond for the gracious one of faith. (Bp. Huntington, D. D.)

The coming and rejection of the light

The light came into men’s hearts as into its proper native dwelling-place. The Word from whom that light issued asserted His right over all the feelings, instincts, impulses, and determinations of these hearts, as over His own rightful domestics and subjects. But the light was repelled; the rightful Ruler was treated as an intruder by these domestics and subjects. There was anarchy and rebellion where there should have been subordination and harmony. A usurper had reduced those into slavery who would not have the service which is freedom. (F. D. Maurice, M. A.)

Christ rejected

His own were those who believed with Him in the Scriptures; the teachers of Israel, those who had been trained for His reception. The peasants of Galilee knew Him and received Him when He fed them; for the ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib. He was rejected by those who were the most rigorously orthodox; by the men who believed that their whole life should expend itself in maintaining the temple and its worship. The last days of Christ, the illustrious days of His controversy, were spent with the best, the highest, the most moral of all the people then upon the globe; and they knew Him not. The poor knew Him, and followed Him; the blind know Him, and cried out to Him; the dead knew Him, and came to life; but the armour-bearers of the then regnant faith--the priests, the teachers--looked upon Him with blank faces, and treated Him as a pretender, a traitor, and slew Him. Is the Christian spirit any more acceptable to-day? Is the policy of Christian nations saturated with blood, and bearing every insignia of the cross imbued with that spirit? Are all pompous churches, with all forms of superstition connected with their worship, and full of symbols of Him who came not to destroy but to save--are they truly Christian? Listen to the Te Deum when men knee deep in blood come back with victory on their banners. See the government of most Christian nations; how degraded have been the empires over which they have ruled. See how the Christian nations of Europe lie over against each other, like hungry lions waiting only for an opportunity to spring! What Christian nation, looking at its past history and present policy, can be said to have received Christ? (H. W. Beecher.)

Christ still rejected

As John writes, there was an advent and a rejection: a bodily advent, a bodily crucifixion: the image and outer form of the Word that was from the beginning, the ever-living Emmanuel, the Christ that comes to-day. If He is rejected to-day, it is by the pride and fashion and self-indulgence of to-day. It is our compromising consciences, it is our well-dressed sensuality, it is our commercial cunning, it is more literary conceit, it is our making merchandise of men and of men’s virtue, our covering up cruelty, and calling it patriotism; dishonesty, and calling it regular trade; hollowness and mutual flattery, and calling it good society; prayerless self-idolatry, and calling it a rational religion--it is these things that prepare and build His cross, and crucify Him afresh. (Bp. Huntington, D. D.)

Verses 12-14

John 1:12-14

As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God


John’s first view of Christ the key to his Gospel

These verses DESCRIBE THE SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE OF ST. JOHN. In this point of view the order of time is different from the order of the statements. The several steps are these

1. The apprehension of the glory of Jesus,

2. The receiving Him and believing on His name.

3. The effect of the power to become sons of God.

This agrees with the actual experience of the evangelist.

1. He sees Jesus as pointed out by the Baptist. But where was the glory?

(1) That of “the Lamb of God.”

(2) The revelation of grace and truth in him. God’s infinite love, holiness, justice: His own self-sacrifice.

2. He goes home with Jesus and gave himself up to His gracious influences, believed on His name.

3. What followed we know. He became a son of God.


1. It serves to account for the subordinate place which miracles and Christ’s external life generally hold in it. John’s grand purpose, as marked by his own experience, was to illustrate the self-commending glory of Christ as the Word and only-begotten of the Father, that those who had never seen Him with the eye of sense might come to the blessedness of those who had not seen and yet had believed.

2. It serves to account for the prominent place which the inner life of Christ and the manifestation of His Sonship-glory occupies here. The two grand pivots on which the Gospel turns are Christ the LIGHT, and Christ the LIFE. Christ the Light, revealing the Father and all that concerns the Father; Christ the Life, communicating by the Spirit a new life to men so as to make them God’s sons. Its twofold purpose is to set forth Christ as the Incarnate Word and Only Begotten, full of grace and truth; and also the reception of Christ, the believing on His name as the commencement of the new life of sonship. Thus it is that so much prominence is given to Christ’s relation to the Father on the one hand, and to the fellowship of Christ with His people on the other.

3. From these considerations we see the groundlessness of the objections against the Johannian authorship of the Gospel. Given John’s conversion, as here shadowed forth, and his warm, fervid nature, his life of Jesus could not well have been any other than it is.

THE MORE GENERAL RELATIONS OF THE SUBJECT, as setting forth the essential glory of Christ and the glory communicated to all who, by receiving Him, become sons of God.

1. What is the connection between the two? That there is a connection is seen in the difference between John and his companions and the mass of the Jews. The one perceived His glory, the other saw it not. To the one He appeared a miserable pretender, to the other the Eternal Son. Moreover they recognized in Him the Saviour that taketh away the sins of the world. They received Him, and then the standing and spirit of sonship became theirs.

2. How is it that this view of Christ’s glory is followed by such effects?

(1) By such means we see our emptiness, guilt, and misery.

(2) But He invites us to Him, tells us of His fulness, pardon, grace, asks us to receive Him and let Him put forth His power.

(3) Must we not welcome Him? The blessed change is wrought in the very act of seeking it. (W. G. Blaikie, D. D.)

Receiving Christ and becoming sons

CHRIST WHO HAS COME INTO THE WORLD SEEKS ADMISSION TO THE HEART as a lawful and everlasting tenant. The Christ in the book, in the creed, in the church, effects but little for us. Christ in the heart becomes all our salvation and desire.


1. There is a natural sonship pertaining to all men; for we are all His offspring.

2. There is a special, redemptive, restored sonship bestowed on those who receive Christ.

3. All that pertains to this sonship is supernatural. Adam was not a son by blood, nor by the will of the flesh, but by the will of God; and a restored son is as marvellous a creation as Adam.

THIS SONSHIP INVOLVES A NEW BIRTH AND ELEVATION TO THE HIGHEST POSSIBLE POSITION. There is nothing higher than being admitted to sonship with God. What we want is not some new spiritual dignity, but the recognition of this exalted condition.


1. Faith in receiving. Christ comes into the believer. Christ without does not save, but Christ within.

2. Faith is evidenced by the opening of the eyes to see the glory of Christ, and the affiliation to God which follows.


1. The power and the will are of God. Ascribe to Him the wisdom and the glory.

2. The Christ whom we receive is God’s “unspeakable gift.”

3. Faith and its attendant privileges are by power bestowed by God. (S. Martin.)

The connection between receiving Christ and becoming sons

These two things are connected IN RESPECT OF GOD; it is the will of God that all should believe in Christ, and He has appointed the mediation of Christ as the channel through which all should receive salvation, and all that is necessary for its attainment.

These things are connected IN RESPECT OF CHRIST: for, in consequence of what He has done, all may become the sons of God, and, may be enriched with all the blessings of His grace.

They are connected IN RESPECT OF MEN: all who would obtain salvation must receive Jesus Christ as the only Saviour. (C. C.Tittman, D. D.)

That act by which we do effectually apply Christ to our own souls


1. No man can do this in the darkness of natural ignorance. If we know not His nature and offices we do not take, we mistake Christ. The receiving act of faith, then, is guided by knowledge.

2. This receiving of Christ implies the assent of the understanding to the truths of Christ in the gospel--His Person, offices, incarnation, satisfaction--which assent, although it is not saving faith, is its groundwork. This is more than conjecture or opinion, it is belief.

3. This also implies hearty approbation, liking, and estimation; yea, the very acquiescence of our souls in Christ as the most excellent remedy for wants, sins, and dangers (1 Peter 2:7). There are two things in Christ which must gain the approbation of the soul.

(1) That it can find nothing unsuitable to it in Christ as it does find in the best creatures--no weakness, pride, inconstancy, or passion. He is the altogether lovely.

(2) That it can find nothing wanting in Christ necessary or desirable. In Him is the fulness of wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.

4. It consists in the consent and choice of the will; and this is the opening of the heart and stretching forth of the soul to receive Him (see Christ’s complaint, John 5:40, and Ephesians 1:19).

5. The respect that this act of acceptance has unto the terms upon which Christ is tendered to us in the Gospel. Faith answers the gospel offer, as the impress on the wax does the engraving on the seal (1 Corinthians 15:11). There is no receiving Christ but on His own terms.

(1) He is offered sincerely and really, and is received with a faith unfeigned 1 Timothy 1:5).

(2) He is offered entirely, and is received in all His offices as Christ Jesus the Lord (Acts 16:13).

(3) He is offered exclusively, and the soul singly relies on Him (Ac 1 Corinthians 3:11), and not partly on His righteousness and our own.

(4) He is offered freely as the gift, not the sale of God (John 4:10;Isaiah 55:1.; Revelation 22:17). So the believer comes to Him with an empty hand.

(5) He is offered orderly. First His Person, then His privileges (Romans 8:32), so the believer does not marry His portion first.


1. The faith which gives the soul right and title to spiritual adoption, with all the privileges and benefits thereof, is true saving faith.

2. That only is saving faith which is in all true believers, in none but true believers, and in all true believers at all times.

THE EXCELLENCY OF THIS ACT OF FAITH (2 Peter 1:7; JmsJohn 6:29).

1. Considered qualitatively it has the same excellency that all other precious graces have. It is the fruit of the Spirit. It is singled out to receive Christ. As it is Christ’s glory to be the door of salvation, so it is faith’s glory to be the golden key that opens that door.

(1) It is the bond of our union with Christ (Ephesians 3:17).

(2) It is the instrument of our justification (Romans 5:1).

(3) It is the spring of our spiritual peace and joy (Romans 5:1; 1 Peter 1:8-9).

(4) It is the means of our spiritual livelihood and subsistence. Take away faith and all the others die (Galatians 2:20).

(5) It is the great scope and drift of the Gospel to get men to believe. The urgent commands aim at this (1 John 3:23; Mark 1:14-15; John 12:36). Hither, also, look the great promises and encouragements (John 6:35-37; Mark 16:16). The opposite sin of unbelief is everywhere threatened (John 16:8-9; John 3:18; John 3:35).


1. For information: If there be life in receiving Christ, there must be death in rejecting Him.

2. If faith be accepting Christ, then there are fewer believers among professors than were thought to be, and more believers than dare conclude themselves such.

3. Those who have the least degree of saving faith, have cause for ever to admire the bounty of the grace of God to them therein (Ephesians 1:3).

4. For examination:

(1) The antecedents of faith--illumination (Acts 26:18); conviction Mark 1:15); self-despair (Acts 2:37); vehement and earnest cries to God for faith.

(2) The concomitants of faith--seriousness (Acts 16:29); humiliation Ezekiel 16:63; Luke 8:38); a weary condition (Matthew 11:28); a longing condition.

(3) The consequents of faith--evangelical meltings (Zechariah 12:10); love to Christ, His ways, and His people (Galatians 5:6); heart purity Acts 15:9); obedience (Romans 16:26).

5. For exhortation:

(1) What is in Christ whom you are to receive?

(2) What is the offer of Christ by the gospel?

(3) What is in the rejecting of that offer? (J. Flavel.)

Reception of Christ our introduction into sonship

THE HONOUR. To become sons of God not merely by adoption, but by generation (Romans 8:16; 1 John 3:1). On our side is sonship, on God’s Fatherhood. Sonship is

1. Higher;

2. Nearer;

3. More blessed;

4. More glorious than--creaturehood. There is sonship in the angels, in unfallen man; but this is beyond these. As

(1) Introducing us into a more intimate intercourse;

(2) Making us partakers of the Divine nature.

THE GIVER OF IT. Christ Himself; elsewhere it is the Father. All gifts are in Christ’s hands--living water and bread of life, Himself, sonship. This right or power of sonship He purchased for us; for those who had no right, or power, or title.


1. Receiving Him--doing the reverse of what Israel had done; accepting and owning Him for all that God announced Him to be.

2. Believing on His name, i.e, Himself.


1. Not of natural descent.

2. Not by natural generation.

3. Not by human adoption.

4. But of God (James 1:18). (H. Bonar, D. D.)

The grace of Christ to those who received Him

The grace appears in


1. Christ offers Himself, and we welcome and receive Him. The first acting of true faith is to accept Himself; not merely the special benefit He brings.

2. We exercise implicit confidence in Him. We have a right knowledge of Him; rejoice in His character; accept and hide Him in our hearts.

3. In the form in which Jesus is proclaimed in the Gospel, His saved ones receive and believe in Him. “So we preach; so ye believed.” There is a correspondence between the Gospel and faith of the same kind as that between the seal and the wax.

(1) Christ is offered sincerely, and He must be accepted with a faith unfeigned.

(2) He is offered exclusively, and must be accepted as the sole basis of our hope.

(3) He is offered as a gift; we must not attempt to merit Him.

4. The actual committing of our all to Christ When we receive Him. What is the saving act of faith?

(1) Not assent, although that must be a part of it.

(2) Not assurance, although that will follow it.

(3) But acceptance of Him and confidence in Him.


1. The saved are by nature the children of wrath; but in His person God is reconciled towards them.

2. Having reconciled them, He makes them sons--co-heirs with Himself.

3. Of Him also is the comfort and dignities of sonship.

THE CHANGE WROUGHT IN THEM WHO RECEIVE HIM, to which their accepting Him is ascribed.

1. A new form of existence--a new birth; all things have become new.

2. This change is

(1) not by natural inheritance;

(2) nor by the operation of the natural will;

(3) nor the fruit of superior endowment or acquisition;

(4) but of God, by the office and operation of the Spirit. (A. Beith, D. D.)

Man’s part in the advent

THE RECEPTION. A true reception of Christ for every man alike is of three parts.

1. Belief that He is what He says He is. For any messenger the first condition of acceptance is that He be found to be what He claims to be--much more the Saviour of mankind.

2. Sympathy. A plenipotentiary, an agent, a purely mental operator does not need this. But the moment you include a moral purpose, spiritual influence, there must be common feeling and assimilation. Interests must be felt to be identical. Loyalty must bind the subject to his king. Enthusiasm must mount at the leader’s name. If Christ’s purpose was to fill human hearts with love, we cannot be His without loving Him.

3. Service: not compulsory, but that which love disdains to call service. In the hungry, sick, ignorant, etc., the Lord makes new advent to your heart every week; and Christ will not be received till everybody within our reach is made, somehow, better by our faith in Him.

THE BLESSING. Servants and creatures we were before, and, in a sense--but not the full and glorious sense--children of God. Now sons ofGod, a royal line, conquerors, sufferers rejoicing in the midst of temptation. Born now, their immortal seed remained in them.


1. By giving up the dearest preference that hurts the simplicity and humility of their faith.

2. In the New Testament, Christian instruction, prayer, doing God’s will; and counting faith, not doubt, the glory, and power, and joy of man.

3. In the communion of His body and blood. (Bishop Huntington.)

A new year’s guest

The text in connection with Matthew 25:35. Suggested by the motto on a new year’s card.

A STRANGER TAKEN IN. House-room is a larger gift than refreshment at the dour. We must not be satisfied with benefactions to His representatives. Notice three strange things.

1. That He was in the world and the Maker of it, and yet a stranger.

(1) When born in the Bethlehem of His father David, there was no room for Him in the inn.

(2) Soon there was no room in the village itself, whence He had to flee into Egypt, a stranger in a strange land.

(3) On His return, there was no room among the mass of the people. Jew and Gentile proved how truly He was a stranger. All this a sadly singular thing; and yet we need not wonder, for how should a wicked and selfish world know Jesus or receive Him.

2. That we should be able to receive the Lord Jesus as a stranger. He has gone to glory, but we can yet receive Him.

(1) By owning Him when and where believers are few and despised.

(2) By showing brotherly kindness to a poor saint.

(3) By holding fast His faithful Word when its doctrines are in ill-repute.

(4) By taking up our cross where Christ’s precepts are disregarded, His day forgotten, and His worship neglected.

(5) By receiving the gift of spiritual life. Profession is abundant, but the secret life is rare.

3. That Christ will deign to dwell in our hearts. This is a miracle of grace, yet the manner is simple enough.

(1) A humble, repenting faith opens the door, and Jesus enters.

(2) Love shuts to the door with the hand of penitence, and holy watchfulness keeps out intruders.

(3) Meditation, prayer, praise, and obedience, keep the house in order.

(4) And then follows the consecration of our whole life as His people.

THE STRANGER MAKING STRANGERS INTO SONS. The moment Christ enters the heart, we are no more strangers and foreigners, but of the household of God.

1. He adopts us and puts us among the children.

2. The designation of sons brings with it a birth, with the actual condition of sons.

3. Living, loving, lasting union seals our sonship.

4. This union creates in us a likeness to God. A small window will let in the great sun; much more will Jesus let in the life, light, and love of God into our souls, making us like God.

HAVING RECEIVED JESUS AS A STRANGER, WE FEEL A TENDERNESS HENCEFORTH TOWARDS ALL STRANGERS; for we see in their condition some resemblance to our own. When Christ is in us, we search out opportunities of bringing prodigals, strangers, and outcasts to the great Father’s house. (C. H.Spurgeon.)

Receivers and sons


1. Under what notion should we receive Christ? As our Mediator. Isaiah 61:3-4).

(1) Our Prophet, receiving His doctrine as delivered by Himself Hebrews 1:2; Hebrews 2:2-3); by His prophets and apostles (Hebrews 1:1; Matthew 10:40); by His ministers (2 Corinthians 5:19-20; Hebrews 4:11-12).

(2) Our Priest (Hebrews 7:23-26); and so we must believe

(a) His satisfaction for our sins (2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 9:28; 1 John 2:2), to the justice and law of God Galatians 3:13);

(b) His intercession for our souls (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 9:11-12; Hebrews 9:24).

(3) Our King (Psalms 110:1-2): so we must

(a) acknowledge His sovereignty (Matthew 28:18);

(b) obey His laws (Luke 6:46; John 14:15);

(c) submit to His penalties (Colossians 3:24-25).

2. How should we receive Him?

(1) Penitently (Acts 2:36).

(2) Willingly (Psalms 110:3).

(3) Affectionately (Luke 14:26).

(4) Constantly (Revelation 2:26).

(5) Only (Acts 4:12).


1. In what sense? Not by generation, but regeneration (John 3:31).

(1) Man lost the favour of God (Romans 5:19).

(2) The Son undertakes his redemption

(a) by becoming man;

(b) by dying, whereby He purchases all believers to Himself, to be members of His body (1 Corinthians 6:20; Titus 2:14);

(c) and so from Himself the dead conveys His own spirit unto themTitus 3:5-6; Titus 3:5-6).

(3) The Spirit regenerates and makes them new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17).

(4) Being new creatures, they are received into the favour of God Romans 8:15), and made His sons (Romans 8:14).

2. With what privileges?

(1) Privative. They are freed from the slavery of sin (Romans 6:14); from., slavish fears (Romans 8:15); from the curse of the law (Galatians In. 13).

(2) Positive.

(a) They have access to God (Galatians 4:6).

(b) They are interested in God’s providence (Romans 8:28; 2 Corinthians 6:18).

(c) They rejoice in God (Philippians 4:4).

(d) God rejoices over them (Zephaniah 3:17).

(e) Their glorious inheritance is assured (Colossians 1:12; Colossians 1:18).

(f) This inheritance is witnessed to them here (Romans 8:16-17), and sealed (Ephesians 4:30), whereof they now have the pledge (Ephesians 1:13-14).

3. How known?

(1) By prayer (Galatians 4:6).

(2) Obedience (1 Peter 1:14-15).

(3) Parity (2 John 1:3:9).

(4) Conformity to the Divine image (Romans 8:29).

(5) Faith (Son 3:26).


1. See the honour of believers.

2. Live like the sons of God.

(1) By despising the world.

(2) By patiently enduring all chastisements (Hebrews 12:6-9.

(3) By longing to come to your inheritance in heaven (Psalms 42:1-2). (Bishop Beveridge.)

Faith and its attendant privileges

FAITH MAKES THE GRANDEST OF DISTINCTIONS AMONG MEN. “He came to His own, and His own received Him not”--that is one company; “but as many as received Him”--that is another.

1. There are many distinctions among men--rich and poor, governors and governed, teachers and taught. But these will pass away. The grand distinction, which will out-last all time, is that of faith or the want of faith.

2. This distinguishing faith is

(1) A receptive faith; one which accepts Christ by confiding, trusting, and depending on Him.

(2) Faith in His name, as

(a) The Word: receiving His messages from the Father.

(b) The Life: receiving His vitality in spirit.

(c) The Light: seeing all things in the light of Christ..

3. This distinction is one which obliterates all others. If a chimney-sweep receives Christ, he is a child of God; so is an emperor--but not the one more than the other.


1. There is a distinction here between son and servant. The believer ceases to be a slave, and becomes a child; and yet he becomes a servant. Christ was first His Father’s Son, and then His servant; so we, being sons, have the joy of serving our Father.

2. We are also sons by likeness--miniatures, and sometimes caricatures, yet resemblances.

3. We are sons, in having the privilege of free access to our Father.

FAITH IS THE EVIDENCE OF THE GRANDEST EXPERIENCE. Every believer is a regenerate man. It is of no use to attempt to mend the old nature. A man brought his gun to be repaired. The gunsmith told him it wanted a new stock, lock, and barrel. That looked like making a new one. You must begin de novo. Baptism cannot regenerate; nor blood, the natural way of birth; nor man’s carnal will, nor his best will; but God, who, as the Creator, newcreates the soul.


1. Notice the inconceivable honour. All others pale before it.

2. The safety.

3. The happiness.

4. The duties. There is an old French proverb which says, “nobility obliges.” There is an obligation on nobles. If you are a son of God, you must act like one. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Faith is receiving

It is the empty cup placed under the flowing stream; the penniless hand held out for the heavenly alms. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Sonship more than adoption

The sonship is not effected in virtue of a mere act of adoption on the part of God. A child may be taken out of the family to which he originally belonged, and be planted in another; he may get a new name; he may be trained to forget that he had other birth; he may be made heir to great estates; he may be as dearly loved and as tenderly cared for as if he were own child to those who have adopted him: but the fact remains that he is really the child of another, and nature may prove too strong for the new bonds, and he may pine for his native home, and at length go back to it. The “sons of God,” however, are sons by birth, for such is the significance of the word here used, having not only a new name and position, but also a new life. It is not simply that they are called sons; they are sons, partakers of the Divine nature, with a filial relationship, and a filial resemblance to the eternal God. The sonship is already established in fact and in principle, though it awaits its full manifestation hereafter (1 John 3:1-2). (J. Calross, D. D.)

Comfort for the dying

When Philip Melanchthon was dying, he said aloud and distinctly to his surrounding friends, “I have those words of John concerning the Son of God, my Lord Jesus Christ, before me continually: ‘The world received Him not; but as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.’“ (R. Besser, D. D.)

Receiving the light

Suppose you were in a dark room in the morning, the shutters closed and fastened, and only as much light coming through the chinks as made you aware it was day outside. And suppose you could say to a companion with you, “Let us open the windows, and let in the light.” What would you think if he replied, “No, no; you must first put the darkness out, or the light will not enter”? You would laugh at his absurdity. Just so we cannot put sin out of our hearts to prepare for Christ’s entering; we must open and take Him in, and sin will flee; fling the window open at once, and let Christ shine in. (J. Edmond, D. D.)

The honour of adoption

I have heard of some fine gentleman in London, dressed in all his best, walking out in the park. He had a poor old father who lived in the country, add who came up dressed in his rustic raiment to see his son. As the son was not at home when the father reached the house, he went into the park to find him. Now the fine gentleman did not absolutely disown his father, but he went out of the park at a pretty sharp trot, for fear anybody should say, “Who is that country fellow you were talking with?” He did not like to own his father, because he was a labourer. We could not thus wonder if the glorious Lord refused to own us. There is such a come-down from the loftiness of His holiness to the depth of our faultiness. But yet He has such love, such a manner of love, that He bestows upon as this honour, that we should be openly called the sons of God. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The treasure unreceived

A nobleman once gave a celebrated actress a Bible, telling her at the same time that there was a treasure in it. She, thinking he meant religion, laid the Bible aside. She died, and all she had was sold. The person who bought the Bible, on turning over its leaves, found a £500 note in it. Poor creature! had she read the book, she might not only have found the note, but the “pearl of great price.” (Sunday School Chronicle.)

Christ must be received

There is dew in one flower and not in another, because one opens its cup and takes it in, while the other closes itself, and the drops run off. God rains His goodness and mercy as wide-spread as the dew, and if we lack them, it is because we will not open our hearts to receive them. (H. W. Beecher.)

Believing is receiving Christ

He comes to your door. He wants to get in. He knocks. He waits. Is not that wonderful? I was lately visiting that part of the country where our beloved Queen stays when she comes to Scotland. She visits among the poor. I saw some of the cottages to which she is in the habit of going. In the house of one of her servants I saw her own likeness, and the likenesses of several of her family--all gifts from themselves. You say, What kindness! what condescension! And so it is: But what would you think if I told you--what I am glad I cannot tell you, for it would not be true--that when they saw the Queen coming, they locked their doors and pretended to be out, and kept her standing knocking at the door, refusing to let her in, though she came to speak kindly to them and to do them good? You would say, Surely the people must not be in their right mind. And yet that is just what King Jesus does--Queen Vietoria’s King. He comes to your door to bless you, to save you. He says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.” Most people keep Him out, and will not have anything to do with Him. They say, “Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of Thy ways.” Opening the door to Him, saying, “Come in, Lord Jesus, come in”--taking Him to our heart, and only fearing lest He should ever go away again--is believing. The believing heart is the heart that has let in Jesus, and in which he dwells Ephesians 3:17). (J. H. Wilson.)

Privileges of adoption

By adoption, God gives us

1. A new name (Numbers 6:27; Revelation 3:12).

2. A new nature (2 Peter 1:4). Whom God adopts He anoints; whom He makes sons, He makes saints.

3. A new inheritance (Romans 8:17). When the Danish missionaries in India were translating a catechism, with some of the convetted natives by their side, and when they came to a part where it was said of Christians that they were the sons of God, one of the natives, startled at so bold a saying, as he thought it, said, “It is too much; let us rather translate it: ‘They shall be permitted to kiss His feet.’”

Adoption and justification

Justification is the act of God as a Judge, adoption as a Father. By the former we are discharged from condemnation, and accepted as righteous; by the latter, we are made the children of God and joint-heirs with Christ. By the one, we are taken into God’s favour; by the other, into His family. Adoption may be looked upon as an appendage to justification, for it is by our being justified that we come to a right to all the honours and privileges of adoption. (Dr. Guyse.)

Which were born

Three great negations

The children of God are born

NOT OF BLOOD. Grace does not run on the lines of nature. Many beautiful and graceful things do come by gentle and noble blood, but not this. It needs a very narrow field of observation to convince us that no parent, however pious, can command the conversion of his children. Else why should there be in this world that bitterest spectacle of a pious parent’s heart being broken by a wicked child!

NOT OF THE WILL OF THE FLESH. The expression relates to any desire which, ruling in a man’s mind, might be supposed to lead him to some act whereby he should become a child of God, and the idea is utterly repelled. Every one who is a subject of the grace of God is so first passively, that afterwards he may be so actively. He is first acted upon by a will and power without him, and then he acts out that will and manifests that power.

Not of the will of man. Observe the steps. Not of parents, not of self, nor of any creature whatsoever. One man, indeed, may will the conversion of another; and if he clothe that will with prayer, if he offer that will with faith, and if he does all in his power to forward that will, God may give him that man’s soul. But God never promises He will do this. A soul passes into the family of God and becomes an heir in the register of sons when he receives Christ, and only then. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

The three negations illustrated

When it pleased God to bring Abraham and his family into covenant with Him, that family consisted of three classes of persons; first of all, there were his own children; secondly, there were those who were born of his men-servants and maid-servants; thirdly, there were those slaves, whom he purchased and adopted. All these three classes were admitted into covenant with God, by reason of their relation to Abraham. “Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all that were born in his house, and all that were bought with his money, and circumcised them” Genesis 17:23). Of these classes, Ishmael was born of blood, as being his own flesh and blood, as we say; those born of the flesh were the other children born in his house, not his own; and those born of the will of man were those who, having no right to his protection, being yet bought of his free will, acquired a right by purchase and adoption. To these three classes were the benefits of the first covenant confined.… The truth, which St. John here announces, is that to all who received the message of the Lord Jesus, all who believed on His Name and submitted to His ordinances, to all those He gave the same power, even to become sons of God Genesis 3:16-17; Romans 5:13). (G. Cornish.)

The being born of blood and of God considered


In their essential DISTINCTION.

In their congenial CONNECTION.


The new, celestial, divine birth constitutes the true nobility of grace as contrasted with

The aristocracy of BIRTH.

The aristocracy of MONEY.

The aristocracy of MERIT.

The aristocracy of FAME. (P. Schaff, D. D.)

Not of blood

The blood through which the chyle is distributed to the different parts of the body is the seat of life, hence the connection between child and parents is called blood relationship; and in classic usage also we have the expression “to spring from the blood”--that is, from the seed of any one (Acts 17:26). (Tholuck.)

Not of the will of man

According to the teaching of some men, how is it? “I am a minister of God--I am a man--as a man I may will to take a child and baptize it, and I may will to baptize it by a certain hour of the clock; and just as I am going to baptize it, I may will to put it off till to.morrow; and when to-morrow comes, I may will that I will not baptize that child at all--for if baptized, the child may die. And so, according to the caprice of my will, the child is baptized at this hour, or at that, to-day, or to-morrow, or it is not baptized at all; and therefore, following the caprice of my will, and just according to my will, the child is inevit ably a child of God at this time of the clock, or at that time of the clock--today, or to-morrow, or the next day, or never at all.” What, I ask, is this but to be “born of the will of man”? (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

The simultaneity of faith and regeneration

We must be careful that we do not interpet the words “which were born” as if the new birth was a change which takes place in a man after he has believed in Christ, and is the next step after faith. Saving faith and regeneration are inseparable. The moment that a man really believes in Christ, however feebly, he is born of God. The weakness of his faith may make him unconscious of the change, just as a new-born infant knows little or nothing about itself. Bat where there is faith there is always new birth, and where there is no faith there is no regeneration. (Bishop Ryle.)

The spirituality of religion

This verse is most emphatically in the style of John. Never can he lose sight of the perfect spirituality of Jesus Christ’s work. John shows the very religiousness of religion. Christianity is to him more than a history, more than an argument, more than a theology--it is a spiritual revelation to the spiritual nature of man. On the part of man it is to be not an attitude, but a life--the very mystery of his spirit, too subtle for analysis, too strong for repression, too divine to be tolerant of corruption. (J. Parker, D. D.)

The higher generation

The result of receiving Him remains to be explained. How could they become “sons of God”? The word which has been used (John 1:12) excludes the idea of adoption, and asserts the natural relation of child to father. The nation claimed this through its descent from Abraham. But they are Abraham’s children who are of Abraham’s faith. There is a higher generation, which is spiritual, while they thought only of the lower, which is physical. The condition is the submissive receptivity of the human spirit. The origin of life is “not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (H. W. Watkins, D. D.)

Verse 14

John 1:14

The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us

The God-Man satisfying the desire of humanity


THE DESIRE. The desire of a Saviour had attained its maturity in the period of universal decline which preceded the Advent. This desire was a prophecy of its own satisfaction because inspired, nourished and developed by the God to whom the heart addresses itself. A child is born called Jesus whose name announces all that He came to do. What do men say about Him?

1. That He is a fabulous symbol of that union of man with God realized in the development of reason. But if this be the case why has man desired one outside of his own reason? What meaning is there in the history of religions.

2. That He was a great social reformer. But His gospel is profoundly spiritual and traces all external reform to inward moral renovation. But is man’s heart satisfied with the idea of a social reformer? Had Christ swept away every social abuse and satisfied every national need, the human heart would still have yearned for a Saviour.

3. That He was a philosopher, the Socrates of Jerusalem. But man does not need such. The ancient world had more than it required. It had the greatest and purest of sages, but found no rest in their schools. Man desires something higher, shall his Christ then be

4. A prophet? Prophets will not avail, for the greatest have most ardently desired a Saviour and were but men.

5. An angel? No, or Mary would have seen Him in Gabriel. Angels could celebrate His birth but not take His place. Turning now to the desire we shall see that man’s cry has been for a God-Man.

Two well-defined sentiments enter with it.

1. The hope of finding God. For this alone has man passed from one religion to another.

(1) This God not the inert and isolated God of philosophy, lost in the solitudes of heaven: but

(2) a living, present God.

2. The sorrow of condemnation. Man longs to appease a justly offended God. He therefore offers sacrifice, the produce of his fields, the first-born of his flocks, nay, his child, his brother. But it avails nothing. A sacrifice must be found that is both pure and human. For many ages man has sighed for an incarnation in order to redeeming sacrifice. This is what has been promised. Ancient prophecy recognized in the Messiah’s person the man and the God, the Victim and the King.

THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF THE DESIRE. “The Word was made flesh.”

1. What is this but that before He existed in God as a personal being. Had the Word been a Divine virtue or influence, it would had in it nothing special or distinctive, and therefore could have been no Saviour. Nor could it have communicated the knowledge of the true God. “God is love.” A God who did not love would be a God dead. But how should God be from all eternity, a God of love, if He had no object for His love? Where, then, will you find this object if not in that Word which is God, and yet is distinct from Him. The Son gives as the Father.

2. He shows us the living nature of God’s revelations. A perfect revelation of the living and eternal God is living and eternal as Himself: the express image of the Father. Each utterance has life like the Word Himself. God has spoken

(1) In Eternity, and His Word is His only Son,

(2) In Time, and Creation was the echo of the Word.

(3) In Revelation, and each of the syllables of the Word was a fact of mystery.

(4) In redemption and now the Word is made flesh.

While giving full weight to His Divinity, let us not attenuate His humanity. The one is as necessary to our salvation as the other. By being Man and yet one with the Father, He was able to consummate on the cross His redeeming sacrifice, drawing the heart of man to God and the heart of God to man.


1. The history of Jesus shows us Divinity and humanity united in His person. His personal humiliation from the manger to the cross side by side with the glory of His morals and perfect character.

2. Jesus was conscious of and professed His union. He speaks of Himself as the Son of Man and the Son of God; and insisted on His oneness with the Father.

3. The apostolic Church confirmed this doctrine, proclaiming His Divinity and worshipping Him.

THE IMPORTANCE OF THIS DOCTRINE. Christianity stands or falls with it.

1. For whose sake do the impugners of the doctrine deny it?

(1) For the sake of God? But the Deist gives us instead of the living, consummate God an abstract and distant Divinity. We don’t know where to find Him, and He has never dried a single tear nor gladdened a heart. Thus God is libelled and His cause compromised.

(2) For the sake of man? But man has desired this God-Man: He only has blessed the race.

2. If what the impugners say is true, Christianity is an imposture and Christ a deceiver. And yet He is admitted to be the noblest of Beings. Let these considerations be weighed.

CHRISTIANS ARE ENTRUSTED WITH THIS DOCTRINE. Let it not slumber in creeds, but be preserved in a living faith and communion. (E. dePressense, D. D.)

Bethlehem and its good news

1. There was nothing great about Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). It was but a shepherd village or small town, yet here the great purpose of God became a fact. It is in facts that God’s purposes come to us that we may take hold of them as realities. The city is poor, but its lowliness makes it more suitable as the birthplace of Him who though He was rich, yet for our sakes became poor. And all about it seems to suit Him. It is “the house of bread,” fit dwelling for Him who is the Bread of God: Ephratah “the fruitful,” as if pointing to the fruitful One.

2. It is not named in the text; but you cannot read the latter without being transported to it.

3. At Bethlehem our world’s history began, for His birth has influenced all history, sacred and secular, before and behind. As regards our text, let us see

WHAT IT IS. Christ, Immanuel, Jesus, are our Lord’s names in time; but “Word” and “Son” are expressive of His eternal standing. The inaccessable Godhead becomes approachable, the incomprehensible, comprehensible. All the nations of the earth God hath made of one blood, and of that one blood the Word was made partaker. Thus Bethlehem becomes a link between heaven and earth. God and man must meet here and look each other in the face.

WHAT IT TEACHES. God’s thoughts of peace. The message is a decided but not a finished one. You must associate Bethlehem with Calvary.

1. Would you learn the way to God? Go to Bethlehem: the Infant in the manger is the way.

2. Would you learn the vanity of earth? Go to yon manger where the Lord of Glory lies.

3. Would you hays a safeguard against worldliness and sin and error? Keep the child’s companionship.

4. Would you learn to be humble? Go to Bethlehem; there the Highest is lowest.

5. Would you learn self-denial? See the Word made flesh. (H. Bonar, D. D.)

Why God became Man

This Gospel contains no record of the Nativity like the others. They record the fact, this the underlying principle of the fact. Unless you take John’s point of view, you cannot understand Luke’s story.

THE FACT ITSELF. Three things:

1. The Word: personal, eternal, Divine, the active energy of the Divine Nature.

(1) The Author of creation.

(2) The Source of all life and light.

(3) The medium of all revelation.

2. With the audacity which is the true work of Divine revelation, the text draws together the two discordant ideas “Word” and “flesh”; not this tremulous, feeble, mortal body with its needs, weaknesses, pains, desires, corruption, not the whole humanity, body, soul, spirit, the entire sweep and range of what a man is.

3. How He “became” it; which involves the willing transformation, by the energy of the Person Himself. Became--not assumed. It was not a transcient manifestation such as the Buddhist incarnation or Hindoo avatar; not God coming down in the likeness of men for a moment or two; but so becoming us, He ceased to be the Word. So the living heart of Christianity is supernatural. That round which it turns is the biggest of all miracles, and if you take that all the rest is natural.


1. To show God. As the Shekinah glory abode in the Tabernacle, so God tabernacled in Christ’s flesh. Christ shows God as He was never seen before, full of grace and truth. The mightiest and brightest light that makes God known, is that of gentleness, tenderness, self-oblivlon, patience. If you want to know God, and not to guess Him, not to shrink from Him, and not merely to see the fringe of brightness about the Infinite heart, you must turn away from everything else to Christ.

2. To show what man ought to be. How perfect Christ’s example is we may gather from the admission of enemies, from our own hearts and consciences. Instead of being handed over to a mere law “Do this and live,” it means “Do as I do, because I love you and you love Me.”

3. That He might die. You cannot understand Christmas without Good Friday, the meaning of the cradle unless we see the shadow of the Cross. Christ came to bear our sins that we might be born again unto newness of life.

4. That He might have sympathy with us. He has trodden all the road before us, and is near us to help us on.

5. That manhood might be glorified. He has stooped down that thereby He might befit us to be like Him. Where He is, He will lead us. What He is, He will make us. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

The incarnation


1. THE PERSON ASSUMING. The Word, i.e, the second Person in the most glorious Godhead, called the Word, either because He is the Scope and principal Matter, both of prophetical and promissory Word; or because He expounds and reveals the mind and will of God to men (John 1:18).

2. THE NATURE ASSUMED flesh, i.e, the entire human nature, consisting of a true human soul and body (Romans 3:20; Genesis 6:12). The word flesh is rather used here than man, on purpose to enhance the admirable condescension and abasement of Christ; there being more of vileness, weakness, and opposition to Spirit in this word than in that, as is pertinently noted by some. Hence the whole nature is denominated by that part, and called flesh.

3. THE ASSUMPTION ITSELF. Not fuit, He was (as Socinus would render it, designing thereby to overthrow the existence of Christ’s glorified body now in heaven) but factus est, it was made, i.e, He took or assumed the true human nature into the unity of His Divine Person, with all its integral parts and essential properties, and so was made or became a true and real Man by that assumption. The Apostle, speaking of the same act Hebrews 2:16), uses another word, fitly rendered “He took on Him,” or He assumed: which assuming, though inchoative, it was the work of the whole Trinity, God the Father, in the Son, by the Spirit, forming or creating that nature; as if three sisters should make a garment betwixt them, which only one of them wears; yet terminative, it was the act of the

Son only; it was He only that was made flesh. And when it is said, He was made flesh, misconceive not, as if there was a mutation of the Godhead into flesh; for this was performed, not by changing what He was, but by assuming what He was not. As when the Scripture, in a like expression, saith, He was made sin (2 Corinthians 5:21), and made a curse Galatians 3:13), the meaning is not that He was turned into sin, or into a curse; no more may we think here the Godhead was turned into flesh, and lost its own Being and nature, because it is said He was made flesh.

THIS ASSERTION STRONGLY CONFIRMED. He dwelt among us, and we saw His glory. This was no phantasm, but a most real and dubitable thing. For He pitched His tent or tabernacled with us. And we are eye-witnesses 1 John 1:1-3). (J. Flavel.)


The Incarnation

CHRIST’S HUMILIATION. He took the whole nature of man.

1. That He might suffer.

2. That He might obey the law of God in the nature that had broken the Law.

3. That He might die. He could not have died without a body. He could not suffer death while in His Father’s bosom.

4. That He might sympathise with men (Hebrews 2:17).

CHRIST’S CONDESCENSION. “He tabernacled,” as in a tent. He lived on earth for a time, just as a man might live. The word is used particularly

1. As a reference to the tabernacle of old. This was a meeting place between God and His people. Such was Christ. Through Him a just God can meet the sinner.

2. It intimates His condition. A tent is an inferior dwelling to a house or a palace. Christ went about from place to place, and had not where to lay His head. He was dependent upon others for His rest and food.

3. It sanctifies affliction. No one need be ashamed of his poverty, since Christ was poor.

CHRIST’S GLORY. Amid all His humiliation, His glory burst forth and manifested itself--“We beheld,” etc. Clad as our Saviour was in the garments of a man, it was impossible entirely to veil His higher nature.

Neither was it advisable. It was necessary that the world should know that He was God. His Divine glory was constantly manifesting itself--when the star led the wise men--when He taught the doctors in the Temple--when He healed the sick and raised the dead. But the chief glory was only visible to spiritual eyes.

1. Divine wisdom. The world considered His wisdom to be folly. It was not His outward manifestation, not His miracles or acts, but the plan of salvation, and the scheme He accomplished when He said, “It is finished.”

2. Divine love. There is more glory in the love of God than in all the universe of material creation. This can only be discerned by the eye of faith. When a sinner is brought to find peace, he realises the glory of Christ. We have seen. Have you seen?

CHRIST’S FULNESS. “Full of grace and truth.” Hence His glory need not deter us from coming to Him.

1. Full of grace, i.e, He is easy to approach, merciful, loving, gracious, in aspect and nature.

2. Full of truth. Himself the truth. Hence we have a firm foundation for our faith. All Christ does is true. His pardon is a true pardon. His promises are true, etc. (Preacher’s Analyist.)


The necessity of the Incarnation

THAT MAN MAY POSSESS A FULL AND FAITHFUL REVELATION OF GOD’S CHARACTER. Jesus became a medium through whom the dazzling attributes of Deity were modified, and a focus in whom the infinite perfections of Diety were centred.

THAT THERE MAY BE A PERFECT EXAMPLE. Precept will often fail, when example will succeed. Christ was made like His brethren that they might be stimulated to be like God.


THAT MANY MAY HAVE A SYMPATHETIC AND POWERFUL MEDIATOR at the right hand of God. Conclusion: Jesus is a perfect Saviour--perfect in His power to save, being able to save to the uttermost; perfect in His willingness to save, declaring that whosoever cometh unto Him, He will in no wise cast out; perfect in His sympathy, knowing our frame, remembering that we are dust, and declaring that He will carry the lambs in His arm, and deal with peculiar kindness with those in special trials; perfect in His wisdom, knowing His sheep and knowing the way that they take; perfect in His faithfulness, being the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever, and promising never to leave nor forsake His own disciples. He is a perfect Saviour because in Him dwelt and dwells the fulness of the Godhead. (J. H.Hitchens, D. D.)

The purpose of the Incarnation

THE DIGNIFIED CHARACTER WHO WAS MADE FLESH. 1.The Word partakes of the same nature and perfections as the Father and Spirit.

(1) Eternity (Micah 5:2).

(2) Omniscience (John 21:17).

(3) Omnipresence (Matthew 28:20).

(4) Immutability (Hebrews 13:8).

2. This dignified Person was made flesh.

(1) He had a true body, not merely the appearance of one.

(2) He had a reasonable soul.

(3) All the Persons of the Trinity were concerned in His Incarnation. The Father prepared His body; the Spirit formed it; the Son assumed it.

3. He dwelt among us

(1) Performing the most astonishing miracles;

(2) Preaching the most interesting truths;

(3) Living the most holy life.


1. That ancient prophecy might be fulfilled (Genesis 3:15; Deuteronomy 18:15; Isaiah 9:6; etc.).

2. That the glorious perfections of Deity might be displayed--the glory of God’s infinite wisdom, almighty power, unspotted purity, inflexible justice, boundless compassion, inviolable truth. Hence angels and men combine in singing “Glory to God in the highest.”

3. That captive sinners might be redeemed.

(1) By nature man is a spiritual slave.

(2) Christ became incarnate to redeem him from

(a) Sin. “Sin shall have no more dominion, etc.”

(b) Satan. “The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet.”

(c) The world. “This is the victory, etc.”

(d) Wrath. “Who hath delivered us from the wrath to come.”

(3) Jesus redeems us by His blood (1 Peter 1:18-19).

(4) In the day of conversion, the believer experiences His redemption.

(5) Christ redeems us to His image, His grace, His heaven (Psalms 86:11).

4. That the righteous law of heaven might be honoured.

5. That the empire of Satan might be ruined.

6. That the gates of paradise might be opened. We learn the amazing condescension of the Saviour. Consider

(1) From whence He came;

(2) To whom;

(3) The circumstances in which;

(4) Why. (T. Lewis.)

The double Incarnation; or, the soul’s Christmas

(text in conjunction with Ephesians 3:17):--There are two births of Christ--one unto the world, the other into the soul. Men think more of the former than of the latter and celebrate it every year; but the latter is equally momentous. The soul has its births; the rising into conscious existence of every latent sentiment, filial, connubial, parental, Christian.

THE ANALOGY between those two Incarnations.

1. Both result from Divine interposition.

2. Both create great epochs; the temporal advent was the crisis of history. The B.C. meets in it, the A.D. starts from it. And from the Spiritual advent all after life takes its date and derives its impulse.

3. Both awaken antagonism, the former Herod’s hostility, etc., the latter that of the depraved nature.

4. Both are manifestations of God.


1. The one may become a curse to man, the other must be a blessing. Nothing so terrible to a lost soul as the former. It aggravates the world’s guilt and augments its responsibility. The latter brings sunshine to the soul and ever advancing blessedness.

2. The one occurred without man’s choice, the other requires his seeking. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

The great birthday

Christmas day is the greatest birthday of the year.

It is THE BIRTHDAY OF CHRIST. The greatest man, teacher, benefactor, but immeasurably more than this. Men have misconceived and misstated the Incarnation; that two persons were united in Christ instead of two natures in His single person; that the infinite Being was confined within the finate nature which He assumed; that God ceased to be really Himself; that human nature was annihilated by its union with Deity. It was inevitable that the possibility of the Incarnation should be questioned; but what is man but a sample, at an immeasurably lower level of a union of two totally different substances, one material, the other immaterial, under the control of a single human personality? As the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and man is one Christ. And He who could bring together matter and Spirit in man might surely raise both matter and spirit to union with His own Divinity under the control of His eternal Person. But what moved God to unite Himself with a creative form? Is not such an innovation on the association, if not on the conditions of His Eternal Being? Yes, but so was Creation, and Creation involved possibilities which led to much else beyond. It involved the possibility of the fall. And then as God must have created out of love, so out of love He must bring a remedy to the ruined creature. Of other remedies nothing has been told us, but we know that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.

THE BIRTHDAY OF HUMAN GREATNESS. Man has alternately depreciated and exaggerated His importance. Just now the deprivatory account is the popular one. It is no longer possible; we are reminded to think of this earth as the centre for whose benefit all else exists. It is only a small satellite of the sun while the sun is but one of thousands of stars which are moving round some undiscovered centre. The insignificance of man’s dwelling-place involves its own insignificance. And this impression is deepened by the vicissitudes to which men are exposed, and the cheapness of human life. But apart from Christianity nature also opens out another side to the matter. When we look at any one man, however feeble and worthless, we become conscious of his having some title to a profound and anxious interest. Here is a man who, before he became a criminal, threaded his way unnoticed through the crowd; but put upon his trial for his life he becomes a centre of universal interest. Why, if he is only an animal, should the question of his life be followed more anxiously than that of an ox or a sheep? Men are thus moved because a destiny is being weighed in the balance and at such moments the depreciatory theory of man’s nature and origin gives way. The poor prisoner in the dock represents the ineffaceable, indestructible greatness of man. Still men’s judgment about himself rises and falls with the varying circumstances of his life and modes of his mind. Left to himself he has no solid ground of confidence in any estimate he may form. To discover the greatness of his need and capacities, he requires some standard utterly independent of himself. Such he finds in the Incarnation which, uniting, his nature to that of the Being who made Him, restores to man his self-respect, and makes him feel his moral poverty without God and his utter dependence upon Him. Think of our Lord’s life from this point of view, of putting such high and exceptional honour on our nature. The moral beauty of which mankind is capable appeared in Jesus as it never appeared before or since. But we can only surrender ourselves to its power when we admit that it is the life of the Word made flesh. A man might have uttered the Beatitudes, but as mere man, being modest and truthful, could have said, “I and my Father are one.” All, however, fall into place if He is the God-Man. Embrace this truth and it is not hard to understand how His death on Calvary availed for the world’s redemption. Nor does it matter that His life was lived on a small planet. Since the heaven of heavens cannot contain Him, the vastest stars and suns have no more claim, on account of their size, to His regard. When He became man to elevate and redeem the human family He chose the scene where the Divine work would be best achieved.

THE BIRTHDAY OF HUMAN BROTHERHOOD. At the manger of Bethlehem we may dare to look forward to that union of human love, of human hearts, of which the noblest of our race have ever dreamed, a brotherhood sometimes recommended as abstract argument, sometimes dictated by revolutionary terrorism, but which, to be genuine, must be a perfectly free movement of human hearts and wills drawn towards each other by supreme attraction. That attraction we find in the Divine child of Bethlehem, born that He might regenerate the world, and all the courtesies and kindnesses of Christmas between families, households, rich and poor, old and young, are rightly done in His honour who came to unite us to each other in union with Himself. (Canon Liddon.)

The relation of the Incarnation to modern problems

THE DOCTRINE OF GOD. The soundest, shortest argument for the Being of God is Christ. God is in nature; but nature is dumb. “No speech, no language, their voice is not heard.” But in the Word God has spoken. The Incarnation teaches Theism by teaching us more than Theism. God is something more than the constructor of this curious clock. What comfort do we get from the conception of an infinite brain? Add the Incarnation to Theism and we have peace, “Ye believe in God, believe also in Me.” But does not my own nature teach me that God is good? Yes, but Christ corroborates the testimony of our moral nature. The avatars of India and the Apotheoses of Greece are only efforts of the mind to anticipate this great doctrine of Christianity. The sense of guilt and longing for reconciliation may have produced these myths. But that does not prove that the subjective state was a superstition. The ability to appeal to the historic facts concerning the life of our Lord is the strongest confirmation of the truth of our religious instincts. We can proceed by way of philosophy and prove our need of a Saviour, and by way of history prove the fact of a Saviour who reveals the nature and fatherhood of God.

TO THE IRRELIGIOUS THOUGHT OF THE AGE. That is marked by a tone of serious, disheartened scepticism. Yet the Positivist tries to keep his religion after he has denied his God. What he teaches as a substitute for the Gospel is taught by the Gospel itself, is the only form in which it is worthy of a moment’s consideration. If he would worship an ideal humanity, he must take Christ. If he would see an example of “altruism” he must take Christ’s atonement. But infidelity must go back to Christ or forward to despair. When a man has discarded the eternal hope in Christ it is not strange that he should ask “Is life worth living?” Christ or Pessimism, the gospel of hope or the gospel of despair, salvation or suicide are the sharp antitheses presented by modern thought.

TO APOLOGETICS. Applying to Scripture the argument of design, we conclude that it was constructed on a plan which must have existed in a single mind before it was executed in the progressive publication of the separate books. The Incarnation gives to the Bible its unity. The Old Testament is a congruous body of doctrine culminating in Christ; the New Testament is a coherent body of doctrine culminating around the Person of Christ. The doctrine is woven in the very texture of the sacred books. How did this happen? The advanced thinkers will not ask us to believe that organisms grow by chance. The intelligence that built the world, made the Bible.

TO THE DOCTRINE OF GRACE. The paradox of the Bible is the severity with which God looks on sin, and the tenderness with which He regards the sinner. Is there any way in which this dual relationship can be brought into conspicuous pre-eminence? Yes; the Incarnation is God’s testimony to His love for man and to His respect for law. He who knew no sin was made sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. The atonement is therefore based upon the Incarnation. Advanced thought a short time since founded the hope of the universal forgiveness on the fatherhood of God. Now it preaches that man is under law to an extent which makes it idle to speak of forgiveness. Sin and suffering are inseparable, they say, and thus those who preached a gospel of love without law, now preach a gospel of law without love. Liberalism does not know how to reconcile these ideas, and by rejecting the Incarnation has rejected the only method of reconciliation.

TO RELIGIOUS COMMUNION. A man may be a Christian who does not accept all the doctrines of the creeds. It is equally clear that a man who denies all cannot be invited to the Lord’s table. Where then shall we draw the line? Here. The acceptance of this doctrine draws towards Christ; its rejection separates from Him by an impassable gulf? The man who worships the Lord Jesus as God, and gives Him the homage of his heart is a Christian, although he may not accept the Athanasian statement. The same principle determines our relations with Romanism. It is not necessary to abate any of our antipathy to her errors, but a church must not be refused a place in Christendom which holds the Incarnation and related doctrines.

TO THE FUNDAMENTALS OF RELIGION. Any religion which is to take permanent hold upon the world must offer a theory of the universe and tell me whence I am and whither I am going; must prescribe a code and teach morality; must stir the emotions and take hold of the heart; Christianity unites these three ideas in the Incarnation.

TO PRACTICAL CHRISTIAN LIFE. The incarnate life of Christ stands in close relation to the development of Christian character. That development is gradual, and is concurrent with the study of Christ. And to study Him is to know that He is Divine. If we study the great principles which constitute His doctrine we hear the voice of one who spake as never man spake. So comprehensively, so minutely, so influentially. If we study His example there is that which proclaims His Divine perfections; and yet His human, helpful, imitable brotherhood.

TO CHRISTIAN WORK IN RELATION TO THE EVANGELIZATION OF THE WORLD. The book of Acts is the second volume of the life of Christ, the first being an account of all Jesus “began.” The Incarnation, then, was but the beginning of a great career which is still in progress. It is Christ who is still doing the evangelization of the world. This is the only true basis of missionary confidence, and the continuously fulfilling prophecy of the final victory.

TO MAN’S PLACE IS THE SCALE OF BEING: correcting the depreciation of man by science and the exaggerated dignity conferred upon him by Pantheism. He is neither an insignificant atom nor God. The Incarnation shows his reconciliation, not identity with God, and his glorious and elect creatureship.

TO THE PURPOSES OF GOD. We know not what we shall be, but we know that we shall be like Him. And He is the same to day, yesterday, and for ever. The perpetuity of Christ’s human nature is the guarantee of an immortalized personality° And our individual interest in Jesus will not prevent us sharing the enthusiasm we may rightly feel concerning the destiny of His Church. The marriage of God and man eighteen hundred years ago is but the prophecy of a day when the bells of heaven shall ring in the nuptials of a ransomed Church with her royal spouse. (Prof. Patton.)

An argument for the Incarnation

Millions throughout the world hail the annual return of Christmas not because of its festivities, but because it commemorates the birth of Jesus. Class Jesus, as some do, with Plato and Shakespeare, and He would receive no more honour than they. This exuberance of feeling is due to the belief that He is divine. Whence does this belief spring? From the Scriptures. But all people do not accept the Bible; we have therefore to move along other lines of argument. And Christians may find their faith strengthened by finding the conclusions reached by the Bible arrived at by other roads.

AN INCARNATION OF GOD IS NOT IMPOSSIBLE. No doubt it involves a miracle. The process by which the two natures were united in one person is wholly mysterious. But so is that by which spirit and matter, mind and body combine in man. But if the one is not impossible, why the ether? We are not now dealing with the limited powers of men but with the omnipotence of God; and what the Almighty chooses in His wisdom to do, even if it be to assume a human form, He can do.


1. It has always been expected and desired, and the expectation has been expressed in every possible way--in fable, philosophy, religion.

2. This instinct is natural. Man cannot be satisfied with the manifestations of God in nature. They leave the soul with vague, restless desires after a more perfect acquaintance. At best they give a God for philosophers, for the intellect, not one who has influence over life, moulding and fashioning the heart.

3. These two facts point to an incarnation. For who created the desire? God Himself. And shall He who creates the capacity leave it unsatisfied?

THE CHARACTER AND CONDUCT OF CHRIST CAN ONLY BE EXPLAINED ON THE GROUND THAT HE, THE WORD MADE FLESH, IS THE SATISFACTION FOR THIS DESIRE. You cannot understand the account of His life unless you recognize His Godhead and manhood.

1. He is the only perfect Man who has ever trod this earth. This is the confession of friends and foes of His own day and ours. How is this to be accounted for? Not by surrounding influences. There was nothing in His age, home, or contemporaries calculated to produce a perfect man.

2. All His actions and words are in harmony with the idea that He was the Word made flesh. His wonderful birth is succeeded by a wonderful life. (W. Braden.)

The relations of the Incarnation

The Incarnation in relation to MAN.

1. It shows the dignity of the human body. The material part of our nature has been maligned in every age; but ever since the incarnation it has been respected more and more. “Matter is essentially evil,” said the Greek philosopher. “Whoso layeth his hand on a human body toucheth heaven,” said Novalis and Carlyle. The incarnation took place between these utterances.

2. It shows the dignity of the human soul in the human body--of human nature in its totality.

3. Linking man to God it removed the antithesis between them. Something more was requisite to remove the antagonism, even the atonement. Prior to the Incarnation a wide gap divided the Creator from His creation, but the Incarnation filled it up, and did away with the antithesis. There is now not a single break in the chain of existence. From the tiniest atom to Absolute Being there is one continuous ascent.

The Incarnation in relation to GOD. It is a revelation of God.

1. It reveals the plurality of persons in the Divine essence. This truth is the exclusive property of the Church of the New Testament because the Incarnation is its exclusive property. The Holy Trinity existed previously, and dim prefigurations of the doctrine are noticeable in the Old Testament. But the doctrine would never have been fully apprehended but for the historic reality.

2. The Incarnation reveals the Fatherhood of God. “The glory as of the only Begotten.” Deny the Incarnation and you deny the deepest Divine Fatherhood. It reveals the intrinsic Fatherhood. It shows us a Son, not by creation in time, but by generation in eternity, and consequently shows us a Father, not in virtue of His creative, but of His generative energies. By the side of this all other fatherhoods are types and figures.

3. The Incarnation reveals the redeeming character of God. Deny the Incarnation, and you have no positive proof of the Divine love; believe it, and you can never desire a higher proof. He gave His only begotten son; what more could He do? (J. Cynddylan Jones, D. D.)

The significance of the Incarnation

There was an end sought; by what means should it be reached? There was a tremendous necessity; how should it be met? There was an infinitely gracious wonder to be wrought; in what wondrous way should it be accomplished? This was the problem. Conjectures as to its solution only serve to show that the way taken was the only way.

1. Almighty compulsion would have crushed human freedom, put human virtue aside, turned grace into magic.

2. Moral influence or persuasion would have left man’s past disobedience uncancelled, the sanctities of law despised, authority abolished by Him in whom it was established. At best there would have been an invertebrate manhood, a molluscous morality.

3. Voices of audible command or promise spoken perpetually from heaven to earth would have formed a revelation as grotesque as ineffectual.

4. Written communications must have been subject to manifold hindrances and limitations as an agency of salvation, as was shown when they were actually employed.

5. A redemption by sacrifice must depend on the value of the victim sacrificed; human sacrifices would contravene all the teachings of the Divine economy touching the sanctity of human life, and of the insufficiency of the sacrifice of brutes, apart from their typical sense, the religious history of the world affords abundant evidence. We look, then, as we are bidden to look, for the reuniting power between God and man, to the Word made flesh and dwelling among us.

This appears in THE TWOFOLD FORM OF A FACT AND A PERSON, both being far more conclusive than any course of abstract reasoning in theodicy, or any theological demonstration. The fact and the person both take their place in the public scenery of events, in inspired Scriptures, in general history, in a line of great transactions inexplicable without them; and they have become imbedded in the experience and enshrined in the reverent and loving faith of millions of men through fifty generations. What is this fact? The life of God appears on the earth not only harmonized, but perfectly blended with the life of man. Humanity begins again with a possibility and offer of a restoration which is salvation to all who will receive it. As the life of God is in Christ, we share in it by being united to Christ. He took our human nature. The Divine nature or life was not naturally ours--it was lost. We become “partakers” of it. Each individual believer in this covenant of grace, lives eternally. Abiding in the vine, the branch lives, grows, bears fruit. Here is the certainty of immortality.


1. It is the comprehensive truth of revelation. We may take any article of the Christian creed, except those which affirm or imply the unity of God and the natural depravity of men, and attempt to separate it from this supreme and central fact, and we fail.

2. As the doctrine is comprehensive, so it is distinctive. In the ancient ethnic religions, in the Gnostic theosophies and emanations of the East, as in modern Deism, Pantheism, and Positivism, there is nothing that can be mistaken for it.

THE DOCTRINE OR THE FACT HOLDS A LIKE CENTRAL AND INCLUSIVE POSITION IN HOLY SCRIPTURE. There is a unity in the sacred writings, and that unity is the person of the Incarnate Word. The development of the kingdom of God among mankind follows naturally a historical method; and so Genesis comes first, with much afterwards, in the preparatory dispensations, before the birth of the Saviour. But the real “beginning,” or genesis, is given in the first chapter of the Gospel of St. John. From that radiant dayspring the light is reflected back to Eden, and shines forward to the Apocalypse. By this reading, innumerable difficulties, which have given superfluous trouble, disappear. The parts take their due proportions.

LOOKING ONWARD, WITH THIS WARRANT, FROM OUR LORD’S ASCENSION, WE SEE THE INTERIOR PRINCIPLE OF HIS KINGDOM as it is set up among the nations and expands along the ages. Christ not only watches His family from above, He dwells and works within it. His family is His body, and His body is His bride, and His bride is His Church; and He lives in the members. What began in the past eternity proceeds in the eternity to come, and to “the Word” there is but one eternity. We see our calling. What an inheritance! What privilege! What responsibilities! (Bp. Huntington.)

Why was the Incarnation delayed

Inasmuch as God is unchangeable, and the love exhibited in Bethlehem was in Him from days of old, I make bold to affirm that He embraced the first opportunity to work out the redemption of the race. What would be the use of sending earlier when the world was not prepared to receive Him? Jesus Christ is the joint product of heaven and earth; He is God and Man; hence the necessity for both to be ready. God was ready, the Son was ready. The earth was not ready. He had to wait till humanity should be ready. The mind of man had to be prepared. Were it a mere question of love or power, He could have been sent earlier; but as it was also a question of wisdom, He must not be sent at a period likely to defeat the end in view. God could not travel faster than the conditions of humanity admitted. He must suit His pace to the tottering steps of man. It took God longer time, perhaps greater pains, to beget Christ in the human mind than to beget Him in the Virgin’s womb. Four thousand years were needed to accomplish the former; but the instant it was brought to pass, “God sent forth His Son into the world, made of a woman, made under the law.” (J. Cynddylan Jones, D. D.)

The difference between the Christian and the heathen incarnations

The Greek popular incarnations were, in the main, personifications of natural phenomena. When the court of Olympus was constituted, the conviction--universal among the Indo-European peoples--that the gods could not be strangers to men, made it natural to believe that they came down to earth from time to time. Aristotle’s and Plato’s triads, again were simply psychological. These philosophers resolved the unity of the human personality into a triad of principles. The Hindu Trimurtti is a classification for religious purposes of the great natural processes of creation, preservation, and destruction; and the thought of incarnation is easily linked to the idea of Vishnu, as the Preserver uses the agency of heroes or great men to deliver the race from evils by which it would otherwise be overwhelmed. The Scripture Trinity, on the other hand, is a special revelation concerning the constitution of the Divine nature. The Incarnation is based upon the ultimate fact that God is love. If we regard Christianity as a philosophy, the doctrine of the Incarnation is its essence. If we regard Christianity, practically, as salvation for fallen man, the Incarnation is the secret of its exhaustless Divine power. (Principal Grant.)

Voluntary sympathy

One of the secrets of Victor Hugo’s power over the French people was their memory of the following: When the disasters of the Franco-German war were falling thickly, and the iron band was closing round Paris, word came that Victor Hugo was coming to the city. He came at the very moment that the investment was complete, with the last train, the last breath of free air. On the way he had seen the Bavarians, seen villages burned with petroleum, and he came to imprison himself in Paris. A memorable ovation was given him by the people, and they never forgot his voluntary sharing of their sufferings. (H. O. Mackey.)

Christ clothed in human flesh

The pure Godhead is terrible to behold; we could not see it and live; but clothing Himself with our flesh, makes the Divine nature more amiable and delightful to us. Now we need not be afraid to look upon God, seeing Him through Christ’s human nature. It was a custom of old among the shepherds, they were wont to clothe themselves with sheep-skins, to be more pleasing to the sheep; so Christ clothed Himself with our flesh, that the Divine nature may be more pleasing to us. The human nature is a glass, through which we may see the love and wisdom and glory of God clearly represented to us. Through the lantern of Christ’s humanity, we may behold the light of the Deity shining.

God incarnate

“Christ did not gain one perfection more by becoming man, nor could He lose anything of what He possessed as God. The almightiness of God now moved in a human arm; the infinite love of God now beat in a human heart; the unbounded compassion of God to sinners now glistened in a human eye; God was love before; but Christ was now love, covered over with flesh.” (R. M’Cheyne.)

The grand purpose of the Incarnation

Christ came down to the tabernacle of our nature which had broken down and become a ruin, and to raise it up and repair it, making it fit for the habitation of God by His own indwelling. (W. Denton, M. A.)

The ideal fitness of the Incarnation

The Incarnation is not true, say the Unitarians. Then it is a great pity; certainly it deserves to be true. Deny it, and the universe loses its unity and integrity; it is despoiled of much of its grandeur and poetry. According to the orthodox view a continuous path stretches from the smallest particle of matter at the very bottom of creation right up and away to the sublimest heights of the Absolute and Unconditioned--all things gathered together in one in Christ, What a grand unity! The two hemispheres of being, the Infinite and finite, wedded in one glorious orb, which is now the “Light of the World!” In this sublime unity, effected in the Incarnation, is contained the fundamental truth of Pantheism without the grave and multiform errors thereof. Here the advocates of Pantheism will find all they want, the two factors, Infinite and finite, reduced into one. Instead of a God evolving the creation out of Himself, here is a God involving Himself in the creation. Instead of the doctrine of evolution, the one developing into the many, here is the doctrine of involution, the many gathered together in the one. The Unitarian doctrine, because ever confronted with a duality of being, belittles the creation, despoils it of its grandeur and divineness; and its meagreness and poverty are a testimony against its truth. What advantage, then, hath the orthodox faith? or what profit is there of the Incarnation? Much every way. It dignifies the human body, demonstrates the potentiality of human nature, and reduces the duality of being, finite and Infinite, into an adorable unity in the indivisible person of the blessed Saviour. (J. Cynddylan Jones, D. D.)

The beneficent inspirations of the Incarnation

It is often thrown in the face of believers in the Incarnation that we paint human nature in colours too black, that we recklessly and unduly disparage this creature of God. But surely they who fling this taunt in our face know not whereof they speak. True, we do cherish very humble views of it; but humble views are not low views. How can we, who believe the Godhead has found room enough in it to dwell in all His inexhaustible fulness, think low of it? The Incarnation shows us its grand potentialities, and throws upon it a thousandfold stronger light than Unitarlanism possibly can. Believers in the Incarnation, therefore, burn with a quenchless desire to go and rescue poor, down-trodden, despised human nature in lands afar off. Only faith in the Incarnation can create missionaries. You demand a proof: I appeal to the story of missionary enterprise. Where is the roll of the missionaries of Unitarianism? “By their fruit ye shall know them”--systems as well as men, faiths as well as trees. (J. Cynddylan Jones, D. D.)

Lessons of the Incarnation

The Incarnation of God in human form involves or foreshadows all the great truths of redemption. It teaches or implies

THAT THE CONDITION OF MAN IS A FEARFUL AND EVEN DESPERATE ONE. If sin were a trivial affair God would not have so humbled Himself.

THAT GOD IN HIS LOVE HAS SENT DELIVERANCE. Nature does not disclose this manifestation of love. Christ incarnate shows that God has a place in His heart for the guiltiest of men.

THAT THE GOD-MAN WAS WILLING TO SUFFER FOR OUR SALVATION. God’s beneficence has in it heart-sorrow and willingness to endure grief for love’s sake. God gave His Son, but that Son was one in heart and mind with Himself. The hand that Jesus reaches down to rescue man is the hand of the Almighty. The stormy ages will be calmed only because a Divine voice has said “ Peace be still.” The theology taught by the Incarnation is the world’s hope. (J. H. Barrows, D. D.)


The Hypostatic Union

ITS NATURE. There are three illustrious unions m Scripture.

1. That of three Persons in one God: essentially.

2. That of two distinct natures and persons by one spirit: mystically.

3. This of two distinct natures in one Person: hypostatically.

For the more distinct management of this latter I shall speak of it

1. Negatively. When Christ assumed our nature it was

(1) Not united consubstantially as the Three Persons in the Godhead are united. They have but one and the same nature and will; but in Christ there are two natures and wills.

(2) Nor physically as soul and body are united. Death dissolves that, but this is indissoluble.

(3) Nor mystically, as Christ is united to believers; for they are not one person with Him.

2. Positively. The human nature was united to the Divine.

(1) Miraculously (Luke 1:34-35); which was necessary to exempt the assumed human nature from Adam’s sin (Luke 1:15). For God can have no fellowship with sin, and had Christ been a sinner He could not have satisfied for the sins of others (Hebrews 7:26).

(2) Integrally. Christ took a complete and perfect soul and body that He might heal the whole nature of that sin which had infected every member and faculty.

(3) With all its sinless infirmities (Hebrews 2:17; Hebrews 4:15).

(4) So that each nature retains its own essential properties distinct, and the two understandings, wills, powers, etc., the human and the Divine are not confounded as Eutyches held.

(5) Inseparably. Although Christ’s soul and body were divided at death, yet neither of them from the Divine nature.


1. By virtue of this union the properties of each nature are attributed to and agree in the whole Person; so that the Lord of glory was crucified (1 Corinthians 2:8), the blood of God redeemed the Church (Acts 20:28), and Christ is both in heaven and on earth (John 3:13). Yet the properties of our nature are not imparted to the other, nor is it proper to say that the Divine nature suffered, or that the human was omniscient. But the properties of both natures are so ascribed to the one Person that it is |proper to affirm any of them of Him in the concrete, though not abstractedly.

2. The singular advancement of Christ’s human nature, it being hereby replenished with an unparalleled measure of Divine graces (Psalms 45:8), and so He becomes the object of worship (Acts 7:59).

3. The concourse and co-operation of each nature to His mediatory works, for in them He acts according to both natures. The human doing what is human, suffering, dying, etc.; the Divine stamping all with infinite value 2 Corinthians 5:19; Hebrews 9:14-15).


1. The Divine did not assume the human necessarily but voluntarily; not out of indigence, but bounty; not because it was to be perfected by it, but to perfect it.

2. And so consequently to qualify and prepare Him for a full discharge of His Mediatorship.

(1) As prophet; for as God He knows the mind and will of God (John 1:18; John 3:13); as man He is fitted to impart it to us (Deuteronomy 18:15 - Acts 3:22).

(2) As priest; had He not been man He could have shed no blood; and if not God it had been no value, for us (Hebrews 2:17; Acts 20:28).

(3) As king, had He not been man He had been heterogeneous, and so no fit head for us, and if not God He could not rule or defend His body the Church.

Its uses.

1. Let Christians inform themselves of this momentous trust, and hold it fast against subtle adversaries.

2. Adore the love of the Father and the Son who devised this method for your recovery (Philippians 2:7; John 3:16; Hebrews 2:16).

3. Infinite wisdom has here left an everlasting mark.

4. Infer the incomparable sweetness of Christianity that shows such a foundation for the sinner’s hope.

5. Union with our natures is utterly vain without union with our persons.

6. If Jesus Christ has assumed our nature, then He is touched with and has pity for our infirmities (Hebrews 2:17-18).

7. See to what a height God intends to build up the happiness of man in that He has laid the foundation so deep in the Incarnation of His Son.

8. How wonderful a comfort is it that He who dwells in our flesh is God. (J. Flavel.)

The Word made flesh


1. He was known by this name in the Jewish Church long before His advent.

2. He is so called because He comes forth from God like a word, a revealing medium from us.

THE WONDERFUL ORDER OF GOD’S PROVIDENCE TOWARDS US. This is the mighty Being by whom the world and man was made. After man had fallen He might have refused to repair the injury. But the new creation was to proceed from the same hand as the first.

1. The unsearchable love which showed itself at the beginning brought Him down again from His Father’s bosom.

2. With wonderful condescension He came not as before in power and majesty, but in weakness and shame, in the likeness of the fallen creature whom it was His purpose to restore.

THE INCARNATION as a mark of love and tenderness HAS SOMETHING STRIKING ABOUT IT and affecting to the heart. To have taken the nature of angels--to have appeared on earth in the pomp of majesty had been a humiliation.


1. It might be inconsistent with the good of the denizens of the unseen world if their disobedience had been left unpunished. And yet, on the other hand, there was the love of God to His creatures. How reconcile justice and mercy? Thus the perfect obedience of the Second Adam atoned for the offence of the first and of His descendants.

2. But how merit this? For all creatures owe this obedience, even unfallen angels. In the Son of God alone could the necessary merit be found.

3. Wherefore when mediator there was none God answered for us: “a body hast Thou prepared Me,” etc.

4. But men required something more, something to show them how to live and to make themselves ready for their pure inheritance. Therefore to furnish an example the Word was made flesh.


WE WANT SYMPATHY IN OUR WEAKNESS, INFIRMITIES, AND SORROWS; therefore that we may know that He can and does feel for us THE WORD WAS MADE FLESH.

THIS ASSUMPTION OF OUR BODY BY CHRIST IS A PLEDGE OF ITS RESURRECTION, and such being the case, how we ought to reverence it!


1. Then the Christian will be like Him, for he will see Him as He is.

2. Then those who have rejected Him will meet their doom. (J. Garbett, M. A.)

The Ward made flesh

I am thinking of a word. Do you know what it is? No, not until I have told you. But as soon as I say “John,” then you know the word I was thinking of. You know it now because the word was made sound, and you caught it. Were I to write it you would know it, because the word would be made ink, and you see it. Something like that is what our text means. We could not tell what God’s thoughts about us were until He showed us them in a way we could understand. And He let us know them by sending Jesus Christ into the world. He took a body like ours in order that we might know God’s thoughts about us; and the more we know Jesus the more we know of God’s mind. He is the Word; God’s thought made flesh. But then we might see and hear A word and yet not understand it. Did you ever see a Hebrew book? The letters are little, thick, squarish things, with dots all over them, as if the pen had been sputtering when it was writing I Now you could see these words, but you could not understand them by yourself. How then do we come to know Hebrew? We get some person who knows Hebrew, but who also knows English, and he teaches us. He knows the Hebrew word, and he tells us in English what it means, and so we come to learn. It is the same with the Word made flesh--with Jesus. We may see Him, may read about Him, but before we canknow Him we must get help from some one who knows Jesus Christ and also knows us. Who is that Teacher? He is the Holy Spirit. Till He teaches us we cannot know God’s thoughts about us; we might see the words in the Bible, might see the Word made flesh, but yet not be able to understand their true meaning, any more than we could understand a foreign book till some one had taught us the language. (T. R. Howat.)

The Nativity


1. There are some who say this name was given because so many excellent words of prophecy and promise, and all of Him, are spoken in this Book--the Word objective.

2. Because he disclosed all God’s counsel--the Word effective.

3. Because He cometh as the Word to teach us--the Word preceptive.

4. These are all true, but short. He is the only-begotten of the Father. As the Son is to the Father, so is the Word to the mind, They proceed both. The Son refers to a living nature, the Word to an intellectual nature. There is in Him not only the nature, but the wisdom of the Father. The Word showeth the manner, the Son the truth of His proceeding.

(1) With us the Son is begot by propagation; the Word therefore was requisite to show that His proceeding was not after a carnal manner.

(2) But lest we should think that God’s Word is no more to Him than ours is to us, we are told that He is “only-begotten,” and so of the substance of His Father.

FLESH and IN US is used

1. To express His union with human flesh fully. It is part for the whole. If He abhor not the flesh: of the spirit there will be no question.

2. From the flesh came the beginning of transgression: so of all others least likely to be taken. The Word not refusing it, the rest have good hope.

3. Not man, a person; but flesh, our nature.

4. Flesh in Hebrew is the same for good tidings, suggesting that some incarnation should be good news for the world. Why the Word, flesh?

(1) Surely, most kindly. The offended party was the Author of the reconciliation.

(2) Most fit “all things were made by Him.” He that built repaired.

(3) Most in the way of justice, that He might make full amends for the flesh’s fault.

The Word was MADE flesh.

1. Made, as against.

(1) Manicheus holding that he had no true body.

(2) Made, not converted into flesh, as Cerenthus, nor the flesh converted into the Word as Valentinus.

(3) Not made as friends are made, who continue two several persons still, and while the flesh suffered the Word stood by and looked on as Nestorius.

(4) Not made by compounding, and so a third thing produced of both, as Eutyches.

2. But by taking the seed of Abraham. His generation eternal as the Word of God is as the inditing of the Word within the heart. His generation in time, the Word made flesh, is as the uttering it forth with the voice. The inward motion of the mind taketh into it a natural body of air, and so becometh vocal; it is not changed into it, the Word remaineth still as it was, yet they two become one voice.


1. If we were so much beholden for the Word spoken, how much more for the performance; if for the Word that came to flesh, how, then, for the Word become flesh.

2. The Word, “by whom all things were made,” came to be made Himself. It is more for Him to be made than to make many worlds.

3. If made, then made the most complete thing of all that ever He had made. But what is man that He should be made him, or the Son of man that He should take His nature upon Him?

4. If man, yet the man hath part--the soul.

5. What flesh?

(1) The flesh of an infant--not able to speak a word.

(2) How born? In a palace, cradle of ivory, robes of estate! No! A stable His palace; a manger His cradle; poor clouts His array.

(3) What flesh afterward? In cold and heat, hungry and thirsty, faint and weary.

(4) Is His end any better? What flesh then? Rent and torn; crowned with thorns; crucified. To be made the Head of angels a humiliation, much more lower than the angels, much more “despised and rejected of men.” And why? Because He loved us.


1. A word of continuance. Not only made, but made stay.

2. Dwelt in a tent. Not a house to stand for ever, but a tent to be taken down again. He came but of an errand, to sojourn till He had done it, and being done He laid His tabernacle aside.

3. Soldiers dwell in tents. An enemy we had strong and mighty. He came as our champion; set up His pavilion among us; took the military oath with shedding of blood at His circumcision and passion. His engagement with the enemy cost Him His life, but saved ours.


1. He dwelt not invisibly or obscurely. The angels saw Him, and the wise men and the apostles, etc., etc.

2. We, not one but many.

3. We beheld: not at a blush, but at full sight, and at leisure and for long. The word is that from whence a theatre is derived; as men with good heed behold things there. So did we intentively all the acts and scenes of His life.

HIS GLORY FULL OF GRACE AND TRUTH. Two streams. Grace refers to the Son, truth to the Word; grace is to adopt us, truth to beget us anew. Fitly do these follow after glory. Glory terrifies. Grace invites; and His glory is such that it is full of grace; His mercy as great as His Majesty. Grace, too, as opposed to the rigour, threats, and curses of the law; and truth as set against the shadows and ceremonies of the law. Take grace from truth and it is a mere illusion; sever truth from grace and it is unpleasant.


1. Being made flesh He will be a benefactor to it. “No man hateth his own flesh.” He seeth us daily in himself. And if God the Father love the Word He must love, too, our flesh which he has taken from us.

2. Being made flesh, all flesh may come to him to present their request.

3. Being made flesh, He will not suffer this of ours, the same with His, to perish, but repair it again and raise it out of the dust. (Bp. Andrews.)

The Person and work of Christ


1. The origin of the expression.

(1) Some have traced it to the Jewish Targums, where the angel of the Lord of the Old Testament is designated the Word of God.

(2) Others to Philo, who spoke much of a semi-divine person called the Word of God.

(3) Others to the phrase, “the Word of the Lord came upon him,” in the prophets, understanding by that not an influence or a communication, but a person. But it is difficult to decide.

2. What is said about the Word.

(1) That He was God.

(2) And yet distinct from God.

(3) The Creator of the universe.

3. The appropriateness of the term. He is especially the revealer of God. Deity in the abstract is unrevealed; only through the Word has He made Himself known. Not that Divine manifestations began at the Advent.

(1) The external world reveals God’s power and Godhead through its Maker, the Word.

(2) Hence for all that men have learned from the universe they have been indebted to the Word.

(3) His are the intimations of God derived through conscience and intuition.

(4) All the truth that man has ever learned has been through Him who is the True Light that enlighteneth every man.

THE AFFIRMATION HERE MADE CONCERNING THE WORD “became flesh.” The other evangelists give us the facts, St. John the soul beneath the facts. Admit the assertion of John, and all that the others say becomes perfectly natural. Deny the truth of what John affirms, and everything that they tell becomes incomprehensible. What is meant is not that He ceased to be the Word, but that in addition to what He had been He took human nature upon Him. This union of Deity and humanity conditioned both.

1. It made it necessary that the humanity should be pure; hence the peculiar manner of Christ’s birth, wherein the entail of sin was broken, and His body made a holy thing.

2. It required that His Godhead should be manifested under certain limitations. The Incarnation was to man a revelation of God; to angels an inveiling of God.

THE PROOF WHICH IS FURNISHED OF THIS TRUTH. “We beheld.” This verse is the text of the whole gospel, and each succeeding chapter presents us with some new manifestation. In the first, Christ is introduced to us by John the Baptist as the Lamb of God; in the second, He is the Temple of God; in the third, He is the glorious anti-type of the brazen serpent; in the fourth, He says, in answer to the woman’s question, “I Am;” in the fifth, He is the Judge of all; in the sixth, He says: “I am the Bread of Life;” in the seventh, He is the Water of Life; in the eighth and ninth, He says twice: “I am the Light of the World; “ in the tenth, He says: “I am the good shepherd;” in the eleventh, He says: “I am the Resurrection and the Life; “ in the twelfth, He is the King of Zion riding in triumph to His capital; in the thirteenth, He is the perfect Exemplar; in the fourteenth, He says: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life;” in the fifteenth, He says: “I am the True Vine;” in the sixteenth, He is the Precursor of the Comforter; in the seventeenth, He is the great Intercessor; in the eighteenth, He is, by His own solem asseveration to Pilate, the King of a spiritual domain, whose fundamental principle is truth; in the nineteenth, He is the Willing Victim; and in the twentieth, He is again the Resurrection and the Life.

THE RESULTS that flow from the reality of the Incarnation.

1. The reality of Christ’s Deity gave sacrificial efficacy to His death on our behalf.

2. The reality of Christ’s manhood assures us of perfect sympathy at His hands.

3. The union of the two makes the resources of Deity available for us. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

Christ, the word

1. It will be quite unnecessary for us on the present occasion to entangle ourselves in any philosophical discussion of the name employed by St. John--“The Word.” He who became flesh is the Word, the Revealer of God, at once Power and Wisdom, Light and Life. Creation is part of His handiwork, as the Revealer of God. In order to reveal the Father, the Word must live a man’s life amongst men. This, then, is St. John’s contention. By sight, and by touch, and by voice, says he, I became acquainted with a certain human life; a life, which had a peculiar charm, a special glory about it; and that glory I can only describe as the glory of a well-beloved and only son from a father. Utterance, action, suffering, all were one continuous and incessant testimony to an unseen Father in heaven.

2. Thus, then, it appears, on St. John’s showing, that that which became human was truly Divine; and that which became subject to the conditions and limitations of space and time was truly Eternal. Let us endeavour to draw out one or two of the thoughts that are involved in these two statements.

(1) The Divine became human. That is to say, the Divine laid hold of the human in such a way as to make the human, so far as it could be made, a true image and reflection of itself. All, then, that our faith in the Incarnation warrants us in asserting is, that in Jesus Christ we have “authentic tidings of invisible things,” that in Him the Divine and human are so united and blent, that we can draw certain and reliable conclusions as to the nature of God, so far as that nature can and need be known by us. And oh! think what this means! Think what the difference is between saying, “Jesus is only a man seeking God, adding one more to the many guesses as to the nature of God:” and saying, “In Jesus we see God seeking man, and seeking him out of pure love in order to save him”: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” When we “have told its isles of light, and fancied all beyond,” there must yet be heights and depths in that High and Lofty One who inhabiteth eternity which no fancy, however soaring, can penetrate. In this sense, and under such limitations as these, did the Divine become human, or the Word become flesh. If I make the Incarnation the measure not only of that in God which it is necessary for our eternal life to know, but also the measure of God Himself, I am exposing your faith and my own in the truth of the Incarnation to a very perilous strain. For my own sake, and for yours, I dare not do this.

(2) As we may say, in this guarded manner, that in the Incarnation the Divine became human; so we may say also, somewhat paradoxically, that in the Incarnation the Eternal became temporal, clothed itself in forms of time and space, in order to reveal that which was before the foundation of the world, which is from everlasting to everlasting. We all know, I should suppose, how easy it is to drift into a notion about the work of Christ, which amounts really to this: that He came not to do the will of God, but to alter it. The Divine did not become human, the Word was not made flesh, if the will of the Son on earth was not at all times and in all things at one with the will of the Father in heaven; and if we may not accept the words, “Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God,” as a full and adequate statement of the mission of Jesus Christ. The work of Christ is, in fact, the invisible becoming visible, the Eternal becoming temporal, the Infinite, finite. The Incarnation is, in short, the sacrament of the eternal grace of God; an outward and visible sign, an effectual sign, of a grace, of which time is no measure.

3. “Rejoice in the Lord alway.” We can see now what the real ground of all such rejoicing is, and how solid it is. The Incarnation unlocks for us the secret of the Divine, Eternal Will, the Will which is at the root of all things, and which rules all things, and shows us that its first and last word is love. (D. J.Vaughan, M. A.)

Christ, the life and the light

“The Word became flesh”: such is St. John’s statement. In order to understand the statement thoroughly, we must ask: First, what does St. John mean by “The Word?” And, secondly, what does he mean when he says, that “The Word was made,” or “became,” “flesh?” In the previous verses of the chapter St. John has been speaking of the Word, though only in the fourteenth verse does he begin to speak of the Word Incarnate. But St. John has much more to say than this. He refers all creation to the instrumentality of One whom he calls the “Word;” whom, afterwards, he calls the “Light”; and presently as Incarnate, the “Son.” Moving on, step by step, St. John at this point introduces another thought. All creation is expressive; but one part of Creation is more expressive than another. Creation is not a dead level, but an ascending series. First the inorganic and inanimate world; then the living being; then the self-conscious life of man. “Things” first; then, “life”: then, “light”; that is, persons, existence, self-conscious, rational and moral. “All things were made by Him.” “In Him was life; and the life was the light of men.” All is by the Word, expressive: but into the life which is the light of men--that is to say, which in men becomes self-conscious, intelligent, capable of reflecting the Maker’s image, He, the Word, can pat more meaning, more expression, than he could into the inorganic creation; and so can render it more significant, more declaratory of the Divine thoughts, mind, and will. From the creative Word St. John passes to the indwelling Light, that “true Light, which (as he says) lighteth every man.” He who is the creative Word is also the indwelling Light. He who is the fount of all being, is also the light of man’s being, the illumination of reason and conscience, the son of his soul. So it has been since the Incarnation. And so it was before the Incarnation. Whatever the physical basis of life may be, the metaphysical basis of life is ever one and the same, even the Divine eternal Word. The Word, who was in the beginning, and was in the beginning with God, did not make man, as man makes a thing--a piece of furniture, or a house, or what not--turning it out of hand, and so leaving it to shift for itself. In the moment of creation He became to man the mysterious basis of that strong mysterious thing which we call life; the indwelling light, through whose guidance and illumination man might know God, and become like God. So wondrous, so subtle, so passing thought, are the ties which bind man to Him who made him! In this way, all those long ages before the Incarnation, He was in the world--a world made by Him, yet a world which knew Him not

And now we can safely address ourselves to the second part of our subject, and inquire what St. John means, when he says that “The Word became flesh.” That the Word--being what He has been from the first, and still is, to man, the metaphysical basis of life, the indwelling light--should Himself become a man, and dwell for some thirty-three years amongst men, full of grace and truth, need not surprise us; ought to be no stumbling-block to us; has nothing incredible or unnatural about it. Certainly it would be in the highest degree unnatural and incredible and monstrous, that the Word should become man, if that Word were not, by original constitution, so intimately related to man, But once see the spiritual constitution of man in this living and life-giving Word of God, as John and Paul saw it, and the Incarnation becomes not only unnatural, but, in the highest sense of the word, natural; not merely not incredible, but eminently credible, because so entirely in accordance with man’s needs, and with God’s original constitution of human nature. The Light that was only inward; and, being only inward, was dimmed and almost quenched by man’s darkness; must needs become outward also, in order that it may shine in all its native purity and strength, and shining thus may reveal God to man, and man to himself. And how could it thus become outward, save in a human life; that sweet and lovely and altogether exquisite human life which the Gospel pages mirror to us? There, in those pages, the inward voice of conscience becomes an outward voice also; the latter attested by the former, the former cleared and deepened and intensified by the latter. The voice of Jesus, be sure, has its echo within every one of us. On this same Rock of the Incarnation of the Eternal Word, Life, and Light, we can securely build all the other truths of our most holy faith; the Fatherliness of God, the brotherhood of men, and all else that most concerns us to know and believe for our souls’ health. Wherever, in human nature, there is a trace or vestige of light, there we have a manifestation of the presence of the indwelling Word, the same Eternal Word, who dwells in our souls as Light. (D. J. Vaughan, M. A.)

And dwelt among us and we beheld His glory. Three sorts of men are described in the Bible as living in tents: shepherds, sojourners, and soldiers. The phrase here used has reference to the calling of all these three, and that it points to Christ’s life on earth being that of a shepherd, a traveller, and a soldier. (Arrowsmith.)

Christ the tabernacle of God

The Jews in the wilderness had a tabernacle or tent, wherein they worshipped God, and there the glory of God was seen. Over the mercy seat hovered the Shechinah. A glorious light, the symbol of the Divine presence, shone ever in the sanctuary. In like manner Christ, who is “the brightness of the Father’s glory,” the true Shechinah, tabernacled among us. His flesh, that is, His body of human nature, was as a tabernacle, in which resided that Divine nature of which the glory in the Jewish tabernacle was the symbol. Thus the Tabernacle of God was with men, and He dwelt among us. (G. J. Brown, M. A.)

God dwelling with men

Here is an answer to Solomon’s wondering exclamation: “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? “Here is fulfilment, higher than had yet been known, of the ancient word, I will set My tabernacle among you, and My soul shall not abhor you, and anticipation of what shall yet be when the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them; and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them--their God.” (J. Culross, D. D.)

Christ’s glory in the flesh

His OUTWARD GLORY. When a Jew heard this he must have denied it, inasmuch, as there was little in Christ which answered to his conception of Messianic glory. Yet lowly as was our Lord’s life in general, there were occasional gleams of it.

1. At the Incarnation.

2. At His Baptism.

3. At His Transfiguration.

4. When the Greeks had an interview with Him.

5. At His Resurrection.

6. At His Ascension.

But His INTERNAL GLORY far surpassed this. Love, compassion, justice, truth. Add to these an existence which has neither beginning nor ending, and a power which nothing can resist, and this is God. And such as is the Father, such was the Son.

1. This glory is that to which man, in his fallen condition, is most blind. Offer man a Saviour crowned with visible power, or who shall secure wealth or pleasure, who would not acknowledge Him? Christ did indeed offer these. They who should come to Him should conquer sin and reign in heaven; should have spiritual riches and celestial pleasures--but who would purchase these at the price demanded?

2. Pray to God that He may open your eyes to see the glory of Christ and your glorious privilege. (J. Garbett, M. A.)

The glory of Christ

What was it?

Not A NIMBUS or halo as seen in pictures, or it would never have been denied. But that of

His CHARACTER and life, and therefore open moral and spiritual eyes were needed to see it.

His PERFECT WISDOM, which spake as never man spake.

His ALMIGHTY POWER, able to minister to every need and relieve every suffering.

His WONDROUS LOVE, which prompted Him to go about doing good.

A glory, therefore, which could only have come down from THE FATHER, and which led the disciples afterwards from the earthly Master to the heavenly Father. (A. J. Joscelyne, M. A.)

The True Tabernacle and its glory

LET US BEHOLD THIS TABERNACLING OF GOD WITH US. Two Divine things are more clearly seen in Christ than aught else.

1. Consider them together.

(1) Grace and truth are spoken of in the concrete; not full of the news of grace and truth. Others were that. There is grace in other men; but they have it as water flowing through a pipe: He as water in its fountain. There is truth in others; but in Him dwell the depth, the essence of the fact. And both evermore abide in Him.

(2) Grace and truth are blended. “And” is no common conjunction. The two rivers unite in one fulness. The grace is truthful grace; not in fiction, fancy, to be hoped for or dreamed of; but grace, every atom of which is fact, redemption which does redeem, pardon which does blot out sin, renewal which actually regenerates. The truth is gracious truth, steeped in love, saturated with mercy.

(3) Grace and truth balanced. He is full of grace, but He has not neglected the sterner quality. There are many who are loving but not faithful; many sternly honest, but not kind. In Christ there is no defect either way. He does not hide the truth, however terrible; but He utters it with infinite compassion. He does not save unjustly, nor proclaim truth unlovingly.

(4) These qualities in Him are at the full. In Him the immeasurable grace of God is treasured, up; and all truth about God and Divine things hath been declared by Him.

2. Take each by itself.

(1) Full of grace. In Exodus 34:1-35, the glory of God lay in His grace. So in Christ. This is seen in His Incarnation; in His being made perfect through sufferings, so that He might be a sympathetic High Priest; in His life, words, and actions; in His death, as our substitute and representative; and in His union with His people.

(2) Full of truth; not merely in what He said and promised, but in Himself He is the fulfilment of all the promises; the substance of all the types.

(3) Full of grace and truth as dealing truthfully in matters of grace concerning our salvation; encouraging many gracious hopes which are all truthfully realized; working both in His people.


1. Let us pitch our tents around this central tabernacle, as the Israelites did round theirs.

2. Let us resort to it to obtain grace to help in time of need.

3. Let us abide in joyful, peaceful confidence in Him who is grace and truth to us.

4. Let us tell everybody about it.

5. What manner of people ought we to be among whom Jehovah dwells. (C. H.Spurgeon.)

The glory of Christ beheld!

The greatest glory of the Jewish Church was thai God tabernacled in its midst. The greatest glory of the Tabernacle was the most holy place. The glory of the holy place was the Shekinah. Jesus Christ was God’s Tabernacle, and the surpassing excellence of this Tabernacle is fulness of grace and truth.

A FAVOURED PEOPLE. Who are the we?

1. An elect company.

2. A called company. Special in the case of the apostles. General in the case of all believers.

3. An illuminated company. Christ’s glory not manifest to the rest of mankind.

THEIR EXALTED PRIVILEGE. “Beheld His glory”: not heard or read of. Many were the privileges of the disciples, but this excelled them all. How can we behold?

1. By faith.

2. Experience.

3. Communion.


1. Of Christ’s complex person as God and man.

2. Of the motive for which He undertook His redeeming work.

3. Of His self-sacrifice.

4. Of His endurance and perseverance.

5. Of His triumph.


1. The only-begotten of the Father.

2. Full of grace.

3. Full of truth. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Beholding Christ’s glory

The noblest objects never disclose their best meaning at first sight. Sir Joshua Reynolds says that when he visited Italy to make the acquaintance of the celebrated masterpieces, he was much cast down. The renowned masters maintained towards him a quiet and dignified silence; they refused to confide to him their thoughts. He gazed steadfastly and could not behold their glory. Persevering, however, the pictures gradually began to raise their veils, and permit him to have an occasional peep at their rare beauty: they softly whispered to him a few of their secrets; and as he continued unwavering in his devotion, they at last flung away their reserve, showed themselves with an open face, and revealed to him the wealth of beautiful ideas that was lodged in them. As with pictures, so with characters. The diviner the life, the closer the inspection requisite to understand it. If we begin in the remote past, with Samson and Hercules, we shall not experience any very formidable difficulties in grasping the principle which fashioned their characters. The story of their lives is comparatively simple, having strength for a foundation. But as we wend our way down to later times, we come across more complex characters; new factors come into operation; and the process of analysis is harder of a successful accomplishment. But of all characters, ancient or modern, none demand so much intent gazing as that of Jesus Christ. Potences perfectly novel in the history of the world exert their subtle influence; the human and the Divine, the grace and the truth, are so closely associated, that not at once do we grasp the radical idea, and perceive its subdued, tempered beauty. The depth and manifoldness of Christ’s character form the reason for the well-nigh two hundred lives and harmonies which have been launched upon the world. A difficult character to understand fully, for its beauty only grows upon us by degrees. Every age discovers a new trait; every fresh generation perceives a fresh excellence; and thus from age to age He increases in loveliness in the estimation of men. He continues to reveal to the loving earnest gaze His glory, “the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father.” (J. C. Jones, D. D.)

Beholding the glory of Christ

Though the Israelites were not able to look on the face of Moses, we saw the glory of the only-begotten. No one indeed could see His glory who was not healed by His humiliation; for there had flown into man’s eyes, as it were, dust from the earth; the eye itself had become diseased, and earth was sent to heal it again; the flesh had blinded man, the flesh restores him; the soul, by consenting to carnal affection, had become carnal; hence the eye of the mind had been blinded: then the Physician made for us ointment; He came in such wise, as that by the flesh He destroyed the corruption of the flesh. Thus “the Word was made flesh,” that we might be able to say, “we saw His glory.” (Augustine.)

Full of grace and truth

The fulness of Christ

It was fulness in presence of the world’s immeasurable need; fulness that stood in contrast with the emptiness of men. The scribe and the Pharisee, the philosopher and the guide into the paths of pleasure, the bringer forth of things new and the bringer forth of things old, whatever their pretensions, alike failed to satisfy the cravings of human hearts, so manifold and deep, and left them sighing, “Who will show us any good?” Even the sacred ordinances of the Old Covenant, out of which it was designed that with joy men should draw water as from the wells of salvation, had been turned very largely into mere outward ceremonies, and the sacred services into mere “bodily exercise “--reminding one of the process of dropping buckets into empty wells, and drawing nothing up. The Word is made flesh, and sojourns among men; and they find in Him the very fulness of the Godhead bodily. (J. Culross, D. D.)

The character of Jesus

In the life of Jesus we see


1. His character is such as to forbid undue familiarity. Avowed infidels, as well as Christians, feel almost reverent in its hallowed presence.

2. But He was as remarkable for His firmness. Strength is necessary to greatness. Christ possessed tenacity of purpose in an extraordinary degree. His spirit did not faint because of the magnitude of the task He undertook. He successfully stood the test of adversity and of prosperity.

The FEMININE AND MASCULINE VIRTUES in sweetest harmony. He was made of a woman, which explains partly those fine feminine traits discoverable in His character. Every great man, especially every poetic genius, is strongly marked by womanly softness and delicacy in countenance, feelings, life. Christ had them pre-eminently.

FEELINGS AND KNOWLEDGE, heart and intellect, in perfect accord. No one can read the gospels without being deeply impressed by the exquisite sensibility of Christ. There is more heart in the gospels than in all other books put together. The heart was systematically crushed under ancient forms of civilization. Sensibility was deemed a sign of weakness. Hence men were carefully trained to repress, and, if possible, eradicate all feeling. Witness stoicism. How different with Christ! In Him we witness a dignity, a loftiness, a nobility which never show to better advantage than when compared with the highest ideals of Greek culture. But at the same time He evinces a depth of emotion and delicacy of feeling quite foreign to them. The Greek impresses us with his cleverness: Christ with His greatness and goodness. The Greek sought mind in all things; taught by Christ, the Christian seeks a heart.

THE ACTIVE AND PASSIVE VIRTUES in beautiful proportion. The hardest of tasks is to suffer in a right spirit. Christ taught it and practised it. No one was ever more energetic in opposition to wickedness; but what strikes us more forcibly is His unprecedented meekness under wrong; and thus He originated a new type of goodness.

THE REAL KISSING THE IDEAL. He realized in daily life the highest ideal humanity has ever been able to conceive, the divinest poetry and the sternest reality. Man’s ideas were always far in advance of his noblest achievements; in Christ both go hand in hand.


He moves before our vision in the form of a man; we look inquiringly and affectionately, and then we penetrate the outward guise and behold the inner splendour. He was a man, no doubt; but no man ever looked more like God. The character of Christ can be transferred in its integrity to the Lord of Hosts without degrading the loftiest ideal of Him. (J. Cynddylan Jones, D. D.)

The influence of Christ’s grace and truth upon art

In classical times the prevailing form of art was sculpture. The hard stone was fetched from the rock, and carefully chiselled and elaborately polished to represent the “human form divine.” Their sculpture exhibited a simplicity, a severity, a chaste grandeur which far outstrips all efforts of modern ages. Indeed, a vast change has imperceptibly stolen over the minds of men, which is seen in the fact that whereas sculpture was the prevailing form of art among the Greeks, painting is the prevailing form among Christians. We have not been able to cope with the ancients in marble, but it is generally admitted, I believe, that we have greatly surpassed them on canvas. But why has painting superseded sculpture? Because painting is more feminine, and therefore more capable of expressing the softer, gentler virtues. It is the female face of art. One may say with tolerable accuracy that fine art is the creation of Christianity. Art there unmistakably was in the world before--splendid, severe, pure, strong; but we can hardly pronounce it fine. Christianity has softened men, it has softened manners, it has softened art. The heathen ideal was truth; the Christian ideal is grace and truth. (J. Cynddylan Jones, D. D.)

Jesus Christ the fountain of Grace

The glory of the Mediator consisted, not in His wisdom, by which He knew what was in man--nor in His power, to which a material universe rendered homage--but in His grace, in the kindness of His heart, in the complete and perfect benevolence of His character. In this respect He was the “brightness of His Father’s glory.” His heart was an overflowing fountain of love, a plenary spring of goodness, which perpetually sent forth streams of grace, to bless a barren and desert world. He is exhibited to us in this character, as the Head of the gospel dispensation, as the Founder of a new order of things, as the Author and Finisher of our faith.


1. The gracious character of the Saviour appears from the great design of His dispensation. His benevolent mind contemplated a world lost and ruined by sin; a whole race of creatures who were in rebellion against God, and exposed to the penalties of a just and righteous law. His own happiness was unaffected by the apostacy of creatures. He was in the bosom of His father. He was with God, and was God. There was nothing in His immaculate purity, nothing in His essential rectitude, or in His inviolable adherence to justice, that dictated a dispensation of mercy. The world might have perished, its inhabitants might have been lost, and His glory would have been without a stain, His felicity unimpaired. It was only the plenitude of His grace, only the promptings of infinite kindness, that induced Him to undertake our salvation. Believers are destined to a heavenly inheritance, to live with Christ, to enter into His joys, to share in His dominion, to be for ever with the Lord. He effects a great deliverance, and bestows an infinite wisdom. He is “full of grace.”

2. From the means adopted to secure the design of His mission. The intensity of kindness may always be measured by the sacrifices to which it leads. What think you would be the testimony of the widow of Nain to the gracious character of our Lord? But these miracles of mercy were but the appropriate appendages to His mission; they were not its objects; they were but blessings which He scattered in His way to suffering and to death. In order that suffering on behalf of others should indicate kindness it must be voluntary. It testifies to benevolence of disposition, only in as much as it is a free-will offering. So strong was His kindness, so intense His love, so determined His compassion, that He submitted to the agonizing, the ignominious death of the cross, to accomplish the salvation of sinners. “This was compassion like a God.”

3. From the characters of those whose salvation He sought. They were all sinners, but many of them were the worst of sinners. But the grace of His heart was not expended by its earthly efforts; after He ascended to glory, He manifested in an equal degree the forbearing kindness of His heart, the distinguishing sovereignty of His grace. Who would have thought that the kindness and grace of our Lord would have rested upon such a man as Saul?

4. From those supplies of grace which are afforded to the believer, from his conversion to his reception into a world of glory. The work of grace would not have been complete had it terminated with the renewal of our hearts. The life of the Saviour imparts must be sustained by the same energy.

5. From the benignant character of His religion.


1. The gracious character of the Saviour is an encouragement to sinners to come to Him.

2. The gracious character of the Saviour will aggravate the punishment of the finally impenitent.

3. The gracious character of the Saviour is a reason why His people should continually apply to Him.

4. Finally, it is the duty of Christians to imitate the example of Christ. It should ever be their aim to be “full of grace,” to cherish a kind and generous disposition to others. It is not for the Christian, who has had so much done for him, and who constantly needs more, to be a selfish man. (S. Summers, M. A.)

Verses 15-18

John 1:15-18

John bare witness of Him

The pre-eminence of Christ



1. John refers to and repeats previous testimonies, applying them to Him whom the congregation had just seen depart. The testimony was pointed, warm, confident, bold.

2. The substance and form of the testimony that, though Jesus was after John as to His birth and ministry, He was before him as to the dignity of His person, His mediatorial office, and above all His Deity.


1. All the fulness demanded for their wants, the entire supply for their need, is treasured up in Him.

(1) This might be asserted of the Word.

(2) But it is here asserted of Him as made flesh.

2. What has the believer that he has not received from Christ? By nature he is empty.

3. How exalting to Christ the truth that all are and always have been, and always will be, dependent on Him.

4. We derive from Christ, not through merit, grace after grace, and grace corresponding in nature to that poured on Christ.


1. Moses held a high place--the Law was given by him.

2. Nevertheless, no comparison could be made of Moses with Christ. He fulfilled his ministry and passed away, but Christ abides as the eternal administrator of grace and truth.

(1) The Law gives knowledge of sin and leaves us: grace and truth come with salvation from sin.

(2) The Law was the shadow of good things to come: the grace and truth of Christ were those good things.


1. God is invisible and incomprehensible to all except His Son Jesus Christ.

2. Many are sons of God, Christ alone is the only-begotten of the Father.

3. Christ has declared the Father as no creature has done, revealing His nature, perfections, counsels, by His teaching, example, and secret influence on the minds of His people.

4. The eternal life of the best of His creatures consist in the knowledge of Him. (A. Beith, D. D.)

Christ pre-eminent


1. The Spirit of Life is His special gift to the Church, and conveys from Him, as from a great root, sap and vigour to all the believing branches.

2. He is rich in mercy, wisdom, righteousness, holiness.

3. Out of His fulness believers in every age have been supplied.

4. Every saint in glory will acknowledge that he is Christ’s debtor for all he is.


1. Moses was employed as a servant to convey the moral and ceremonial law which could not justify.

2. Christ as a Son came with the keys of God’s treasury of grace and truth Hebrews 3:6).

(1) Grace bringing salvation through faith.

(2) Truth fulfilling in His own Person the types of the Old



1. No man could see God and live.

2. Yet all that man is capable of knowing of God the Father is revealed to us by God the Son. In His words, deeds, life, and death we see the wisdom, love, and holiness of God.


Face to face with Jesus Christ

How far ahead John was of the apostles in his conception and reception of the Saviour. Throughout the Baptist was not only a seer of the light but was drenched by the light.

JOHN’S EXPERIENCE AND TESTIMONY. Verse 15 is information that the Apostle evidently thought very valuable. Having affirmed the Incarnation he recalls the testimony of the Baptist to that Incarnation. In this testimony lay the power and grace of the Forerunner. His was no outside knowledge or second-hand information, but experience, direct and personal. So now the man of permanent power is the man who speaks, or teaches, or works out of personal and spiritual experience. Learning, culture, travel, profoundest and most masterly thinking are well in their several places, because sanctifiable; but sanctity based on experience of the witness of the Spirit in us and to us individually is the grand thing.

JOHN’S FULL-VOICED, ARTICULATE UTTERANCE OF THAT EXPERIENCE. Combine the two, “beareth” and “crieth,” and you have the perfection of Christ-like witness. Sometimes in law-courts witnesses have again and again to be instructed to speak “out” or “up.” There is self-evident reserve, hesitancy, a wish to say as little as possible. But John had no reserves, concealments, trickeries, and so “cried” out. Fitting it should have been so. Your private letter or personal explanation may be quiet and unobtrusive; but if your stand is in the public market, and the proclamation is a royal one, security must be taken that all around hear and know. If our heart be in our utterance the voice will answer to the heart. The testimony must not be chirped or whined, or spoken in falsetto. An unnatural twang will spoil the best speaking, albeit roaring, violence, physical sensationalism must not be confounded with “crying.”

THE WELL-BASED AND SELF-ABNEGATING CHARACTER OF JOHN’S TESTIMONY. It was the experience of no mere mood or frame, but the granitic conviction and enunciation that he was only the runner before another.

1. His aim was to keep men from leaning on himself.

2. He disclaimed any intention of founding a sect or organizing a Church. He called himself a “Voice,” not a foundation.

3. His great purpose was to lead men to Christ. From this he never swerved. John’s conduct in drawing attention away from self to Christ should be imitated by every worker for Christ. Explanation, system-making, to say nothing of self-proclamation, is often sheer waste of that strength which can only be profitably utilized in sending men straight to Christ.

JOHN’S UNEXAGGERATED, almost charily worded, RECOGNITION OF CHRIST’S DIVINITY. There was no gospel for him as there is none for us if Christ were not human. He was “a Man,” but a Man who was co-eternal with the Father. But the Baptist’s economy of words in proclaiming that fact is noticeable. “He was before me.” Simple, ordinary-looking, superficially unremarkable, but they hold in them an absolute statement of the pre-existence and Divinity of the Man Christ Jesus.

THE SIMPLICITY AND DIRECTNESS OF JOHN’S WITNESS TO THE PERSON AND WORK OF CHRIST. “This is He.” To-day the message of the servant of Christ in relation to every problem of life and destiny must be, “this is He.” There lies the spell, the mission, the divinest success. Not His gospel even, but Himself. Not about Him, but to Him. Not the Bible or the Church, but Himself. (A. B. Grosart, D. D.)

The effectiveness of the Baptist’s ministry

“He who follows me preceded me.” Here, then, is an apparent contradiction, intended to excite attention and stimulate mental activity. The enigmatical form must have also contributed to impress this important declaration on the memory of the hearers. (F. Godet, D. D.)

Public attention drawn to Christ

The coming forth of the Incarnate Word among men was not in secrecy and silence, as a king might go forth incognito among his subjects; but public attention was directed to Him. This was done most efficiently by John. (J. Culross, D. D.)

John’s self-effacement

Not only is the moon changeable, waving and waning, and its shape and light declining as it grows older, and itself approaches nearer and nearer to the sun; but so soon as the sun arises, though the moon should be yet in its full size and roundness, its light immediately fades from view, and itself becomes as if it no longer existed, for the superior glory of that incomprehensible luminary. And so both John the Baptist and the Jewish form of worship faded and shrunk, and became as non-existent, after they had performed their parts and offices as witnesses and schoolmasters to the great and glorious appearing of the Son of God Himself, the Sun of righteousness, the Word made flesh, the Godhead incarnate, the light and life of men and all creation, embodied in shape, and planted in place, and made visible: though too bright and dazzling to be comprehended, except by those who had opened and exercised their eyes to see His witnesses in the hours of darkness, when others were immersed in sleep, and so were not forced to shut them close in the daytime, in the blindness of unbelief. (S. A. Bosanquet.)

Verse 16

John 1:16

Of His fulness have all we received

The fulness of Christ

The word “fulness” is given to vessels that are brimful of liquor, and so is metaphorically applied to Christ, who is brimful of grace.

Take grace for LOVE, so there is a fulness of love in Christ.

1. Of pardoning love (Luke 23:24). When on earth He did not pardon once, but again and again, and that without upbraiding.

2. Of compassionating love (Matthew 5:3-4). When poor souls could not come to Him He went to them.

3. Of special love to His disciples (Matthew 12:47-50).

Take grace for HOLINESS, and there is a fulness of holiness in Him. Holy things, the law, priests, temple, were only types of Him. If there were not a fulness of holiness in Him

1. How is it possible that God and man could be brought so near who were so far apart?

2. How should He be anointed with the oil of gladness above His fellows Ephesians 1:23). The saint’s fulness is only particular, His is universal Colossians 1:19). Their’s ebbs and flows and is often empty.

Take grace for GIFTS, and there is a fulness of excellency in Christ.

1. Kingly (Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 1:8).

2. Prophetical (verse 17).

3. Priestly (John 16:7; John 16:10).

4. In general (Haggai 2:7; Colossians 1:11).

WHAT IS OUR DUTY FLOWING FROM HENCE? If there be such a fulness then

1. Let all men come to Him. All have wants.

2. Let us trust to Him.

3. Leg us draw forth from Him.

(1) By a serious, frequent consideration of His fulness (2 Corinthians 3:18).

(2) By resting upon it in time of temptation.

(3) By giving forth of it, as the conduit receives more water by letting out.

4. Let us labour to be like Him, full of grace.

5. Let us take heed how we do anything that may rob Christ of the glory of His fulness. (W. Bridge, M. A.)

The communication of Christ’s fulness

There is a dealing out of His fulness.

BY THE UNION THERE IS BETWEEN CHRIST AND A BELIEVER. Union is the cause of communion or communication. Bread is united to a man by his eating of it.


1. To succour and supply those who are tempted (Hebrews 2:18).

2. Whatever grace Christ hath received He hath received not for Himself but for others (Ephesians 4:8; John 17:19; Isaiah 61:1-2).

3. There is an infinite willingness in Him to communicate this grace Hebrews 3:2; Psalms 16:2; Job 4:24).

4. As He is willing nothing can hinder Him (Isaiah 43:13; Titus 2:14).


1. The fulness of grace in a believer is many times hid from the world and from Himself.

2. Sometimes the avenues of grace in a believer are choked or broken.

3. This grace is communicated in proportion. What is your want? go to Christ and get that supplied.


1. See the transcendent excellency of the saints.

2. What an encouragement there is here to come to Christ and partake of His fulness.

3. Acting upon this believers are firm against all temptations, discouragements, afflictions.

4. Then believers should labour to strengthen their assurance of union with Christ. (W. Bridge, M. A.)

The reception of Christ’s fulness

Whatever grace the saints have they have it all in the way of receiving.

1. The grace and mercy of justification and remission of sins (Romans 5:11).

2. Of adoption (Galatians 4:5).

3. Of sanctification (Galatians 3:2).

4. Of the gifts of the Spirit (Acts 10:46-47).

5. In general all is by way of receiving (Colossians 2:6; 1 Corinthians 4:7). This will appear


1. To overcome sin, be it never so small (1 Corinthians 15:57).

2. To rise again after falling. Peter must have a look from Christ before he could repent.

3. To stand and continue.

4. To prepare himself unto what is good (Ephesians 2:5; Ephesians 2:5; John 6:44).


FROM THE SHORTNESS OF THE MEANS OF GRACE. The means as it is in itself, without God’s appointment, is utterly inefficient.

FROM THE WORK AND NATURE OF FAITH There is no grace that the Scripture puts more upon than faith--in the Old Testament all victories, in the New all cures. Yea, the same works thai are given to Christ are given to faith: sanctification, justification, salvation. Why? Because faith is a receiving grace (John 1:12). So believing is nothing but receiving the grace of God.

FROM THE POSTURE AND TRUE BEHAVIOUR OF PRAYER. Prayer is the soul’s begging. A beggar holds forth his hand noting his willingness to receive (Job 11:13). In conclusion

1. You say that this cuts off all endeavour. Not so (see Philippians 2:12).

2. Why is all this?

(1) That all boasting and self-confidence may be taken away Romans 4:1-25 : 1 Corinthians 4:7).

(2) That Christ may be fully honoured.

(3) That the children of God may live by faith.

3. This doctrine is full of spiritual use.

(1) Behold what infinite care God hath of believers. If a mother would not let her child eat bread but of her own cutting, or drink water but of her own drawing, what carefulness of her child that would argue.

(2) What comfortable lives believers live--even their troubles are from God who makes them minister to their good and helps them in them. (W. Bridge, M. A.)

The abundance of grace the saints receive from Christ

AN ABUNDANCE OF GRACE. “Grace for grace “ like “skin for skin” Job 2:4). All his skins. This suits

(1) the word “and” or “even;”

(2) the attribute of Christ, “fulness;”

(3) the scope of the place where Christ is set above Moses.

(4) Other Scriptures (Romans 5:17; Romans 5:17, etc.)

1. Abundance of grace discovered.

(1) It will appear if you consider the several advances grace hath made from the beginning till now (Genesis 3:15), the Abrahamic covenantGenesis 12:3; Genesis 12:3), the Mosaic, the prophecies, Christ, the preaching of the gospel.

(2) The manifestations of grace under the Old Testament were under a veil; that veil is now removed (2 Corinthians 3:18).

(3) There were many doctrines of grace communicated to the Jews, yet they were so tempered by the law that the very gospel seemed law unto them. Now the law is so tempered by the gospel as to seem gospel.

(4) Grace was manifested under the old dispensation by drops and at intervals (Hebrews 1:1), under the New Wholesale.

2. Abundance of grace exhibited and communicated.

Is it not a great matter

1. For an ungodly man to be justified For a man to be a child of God.

2. To have the image of Christ drawn on a filthy soul.

3. For a man to be in heaven before he comes there (John 17:3).

4. But we do not see this abundance, objectors say. But

(1) Though little in quantity it may be great in quality.

(2) Though it be small as a possession it is great as an earnest Colossians 1:12).


1. Why should any of God’s people vilify and degrade the gift of God whereby they are enriched?

2. Behold what great sinners inconsistent professors are!

3. What a mighty encouragement there is here to come to Jesus Christ and be filled! (W. Bridge, M. A.)

Whatsoever grace the saints have they have it from Jesus Christ

Grace is sometimes taken for

1. The favour of God;

2. God’s assistance;

3. Holiness;

4. Gifts;

5. An office in the Church.

But whichever it is it comes from Christ. This will appear if you consider

THE INSUFFICIENCY OF NATURE (1 Corinthians 3:5; verse 13).

THE ALL-SUFFICIENCY OF CHRIST (Revelation 1:17; Ro John 14:6).

1. There are three great doors which must ordinarily be opened before converting grace can get into the soul of man.

(1) A powerful ministry (1 Corinthians 16:9);

(2) The door of the heart (Acts 16:14);

(3) The door of the ear (Job 33:16).

2. Christ has the opening of these doors (Revelation 1:18; Revelation 3:7).

3. The names which Christ bears witness to, His all-sufficiency, Sun of Righteousness, Morning Star, Raiment, Bread of Life, Door, Good Shepherd, etc., are given to Christ to show that He is all they signify to the soul. And they are not barely given to Him; He is “Good” Shepherd, Bread “of Life,” etc. Therefore, as the apostle says, “He is all in all.” (W. Bridge, M. A.)


The answerableness of grace in every Christian to the grace of Christ

We have received grace in abundance from Christ, but whatever grace there is in Him there is somewhat in the saints answerable thereunto, as the impression answers to the stamp.

1. Take grace as the favour of God: Both Christ and believers are God’s beloved (Matthew 3:17; 2 Samuel 12:25).

2. For privilege: Both are called Sons of God (Hebrews 12:6); Heirs Hebrews 1:2; Romans 8:17); Elect and precious (1 Peter 2:6; 1 Peter 1:2); Light (John 8:12; Ephesians 5:8).

3. For assistance (Psalms 22:1-31 : 1 Corinthians 12:9).

4. For sanctification (John 17:19). The reason of this



THE LOVE BETWEEN CHRIST AND THE CHRISTIAN. Love loves to make a thing loved like itself.


The fulness of Christ

This fulness is shown


1. His perfect humanity.

2. His supreme divinity.

IN THE POETRY AND METAPHORS WHICH DESCRIBE HIM. “Ancient of Days, Alpha and Omega, Lion of Judah,” “Sure Foundation Stone,” “Sun,” “Desire of all Nations.”


1. Truth represents

(1) Intelligence. In Christ there is a fountain of knowledge inexhaustible. The keen Sadducee, the exact Pharisee, the learned scribe, the eager Mary, all wonder at the gracious words which proceed out of His mouth. The words of Jesus are a study for one’s life, and those who have studied them most are as far as ever from exhausting their meaning.

(2) Reality. This was complete in Christ. He was the shadow of no substance, the image only of the invisible God.

2. The grace of Christ was love in fulness.

THE EXPERIENCE OF ALL HIS DISCIPLES CONFIRMS THE OBSERVATION OF HIS FIRST FOLLOWERS. They could say, “We beheld”; we “Whom having not seen we love.” What is this grace but grace superseding grace, grace supplanting grace--as the blossom supplants the bud, and as the fruit supplants the blossom--as the noon supersedes the morning, and as summer supplants spring--grace superseding and surpassing grace. What have you received? Is Christ to you a cistern which you have emptied? A vine stripped of fruit? Bread eaten and gone? Or is Jesus Christ living bread? A fountain of living water? A tree of life bearing all manner of fruit? In plain language, does grace supersede and supplant grace? Are you rising higher and yet higher through the uplifting of the hand of this Saviour? Is sanctification supplanting conversion, and is glorying in tribulation being built upon patience in sorrow? If so, beware of pride, and of vanity, and of vain-glorying, and of boasting. God forbid that we should glory save in the fulness of this Jesus Christ. At the same time quiet your fears and call forth your hopes. All that you have received is from fulness. Come again. Come every hour--for everything. Friends may depart, but friendship in fulness abides in Jesus. Helpers may become helpless, but might exists in fulness in Jesus. Riches may leave you, but in Christ there are riches unsearchable. Health may sink, but strength undecaying is in Jesus. (S. Martin.)

Fulness of grace

I have heard our Lord likened to a man carrying a water-pot, and as he carried it upon his shoulder, the water fell dropping, dropping, dropping, so that every one could track the water-bearer. So should all His people be, carrying such a fulness of grace that every one should know where they have been by that which they have left behind. He who hath lain in the beds of spices will perfume the air through which he walks. One who, like Asher, has dipped his foot in oil, will leave his footprints behind him. When the living and incorruptible seed remains within, the Divine instincts of the new nature will guide you to the wisest methods of activity. You will do the right thing under the inward impulse rather than the written law, and your personal salvation will be your prime qualification for seeking out others of your Master’s flock. (C. H.Spurgeon.)

All fulness in Christ

God cannot give you anything more than He gave you 1,800 years ago. It was all in Christ. Take a very vulgar illustration, which is altogether inadequate for a great many purposes, but which may serve. Suppose some man tells you that there was a thousand pounds paid into your credit into a London bank, and that you were to get the use of it, as you drew cheques against it. The money is there, is not it; the gift is given, and yet for all that you may be half dead, a pauper. In the very last of the Arctic expeditions, last year or the year before, they found an ammunition chest that Commander Parry had left there fifty years ago, safe under a pile of stones, the provisions inside being perfectly sweet and good and eatable. There it had lain all those years, and men had died of starvation within arm’s length of it. It was there all the same. And so, if I may venture to vulgarise the great theme that I am trying to speak about, God has given us His Son, and in Him all that pertains to life and all that pertains to godliness. My brothers, take the things that are freely given to men of God. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

How grace is received

Here on the one hand is the boundless ocean of the Divine strength, unfathomable in its depth, full after all draughts, tideless and calm, in all its movements never troubled, in all its repose never stagnating; and on the other side is the empty avidity of our poor, weak natures. Faith opens these to the impulse of that great sea, and “according to our faith,” in the exact measure of our receptivity, does it enter our hearts. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

The fulness of Christ

I have found it an interesting thing to stand on the edge of a noble rolling river, and to think, that although it has been flowing on for six thousand years, watering the fields, and slaking the thirst of a hundred generations, it shows no signs of waste or want; and when I have watched the rise of the sun, as he shot above the crest of the mountain, or in a sky draped with golden curtains sprang up from his ocean bed, I have wondered to think that he has melted the snows of so many winters, and renewed the verdure of so many springs, and painted the flowers of so many summers, and ripened the golden harvests of so many autumns, and yet shines as brilliant as ever, his eye not dim, nor his natural strength abated, nor his floods of light less full for centuries of boundless profusion. Yet what are these but images of the fulness that is in Christ? (J. Bates.)

Grace to receive grace

The Duchess of Gordon and a companion were visiting at a cottage in Scotland when a pedlar came in, threw down his pack, and asked for a drink of water. The woman of the house handed the water to him, and said, “Do you know anything of the water of life?” “By the grace of God I do.” He drank the water, and then said, “Let us pray.” And this was his prayer: “Oh, Lord, give us grace to feel our need of grace.
Oh, Lord, give us grace to receive grace. Oh, Lord, give us grace to ask for grace. Oh, Lord, give us grace to use grace when grace is given.” He then took up his pack and went away, having preached a powerful sermon in those few words.

The fulness of Christ

On a tradesman’s table I noticed a book labelled “Want Book.” What a practical suggestion for a man of prayer! He should put down all his needs on the tablets of his heart, and then present his want book to his God. If we knew all our need, what a large want book we should require! How comforting to know that Jesus has a supply book, which exactly meets our want book! Promises, providences, and Divine visitations, combine to meet the necessities of all the faithful.

The riches of Christ’s grace

There is a story of Rowland Hill, which I have no doubt is true, because it is so characteristic of the man’s eccentricity and generosity. Some one or other had given him a hundred pounds to send to an extremely poor minister, but, thinking it was too much to send him all at once, he sent him five pounds in a letter with simply these words inside the envelope, “More to follow.” In a few days’ time, the good man had another letter by the post, and letters by.the post were rarities in those days; when he opened it there was five pounds again, with just these words, “And more to follow.” A day or two after there came another, and still the same words, “And more to follow.” And so it continued twenty times, the good man being more and more astounded at these letters coming thus by post with always the sentence, “And more to follow.” Now, every blessing that comes from God is sent in just such an envelope, with the selfsame message, “And more to follow.” “I forgive you your sins, but there is more to follow. I justify you in the righteousness of Christ, but there’s more to follow.” “I adopt you into my family, but there’s more to follow.” “I educate you for heaven, but there’s more to follow.” “I have helped you even to old age, but there’s still more to follow.” “I will bring you to the brink of Jordan, and bid you sit down and sing on its black banks, on the banks of the black stream, but there’s more to follow. In the midst of that river, as you are passing into the world of spirits, My mercy shall still continue with you, and when you land in the world to come there shall still be more to follow.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Grace obstructed

When our spiritual supplies fail, the channel is sometimes at fault, and not the stream; the hindrance to their coming lies with us and not with our heavenly Father. The supply of fuel to our city in midwinter sometimes fails, not because the coal-fields are exhausted, but because the weather has frozen our rivers, detained our colliers in the Channel, and blocked up our railways. The supply of water or of gas to our houses is sometimes insufficient, not because the reservoirs are low, but because the pipes which connect our dwellings with the main service are choked up or broken. News fail to reach us, not because our correspondent has neglected to write, but because the means of transmission have been imperfect. (Samuel Martin.)

Grace preferred to earthly honour

Having rendered some service to Lord North, the Prime Minister, during the American war, he received a polite communication from that nobleman, desiring to know if he stood in need of anything which it was in his power to bestow. Mr. Fletcher modestly replied:--“ He was sensible of the Minister’s kindness, but he only wanted one thing, which he could not grant him, and that was more grace.” It is a high attainment to prefer the grace of God to earthly honours and emoluments. None but God, the author of grace, can incline the heart to this. (J. Cope.)

A precious plentitude


1. The fulness belongs to Christ personally. In His complex nature He possesses fulness.

(1) In Him dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. The fulness of omnipotence, omnipresence, wisdom, justice, mercy. The attributes of God make up a perfect total. The unity, with all its uniqueness is His. The fractional parts are ours.

(2) There was also a fulness of Christ in respect to His manhood. Nothing was lacking in Him to constitute human perfection--sinlessness, sympathy, the virtues of both sexes, human nature in its completeness.

2. In Christ is an acquired fulness. His perfect obedience secured an everlasting wellspring of merit; and now risen from the dead there is a fulness of prevalence in His intercession, of cleansing power, and of peace, when the Spirit applies the blood to the guilty conscience.

3. A fulness of dignity, prerogative, and qualification. He is a perfect prophet, priest, and king. Join all the qualities involved in name or fame and you shall find that He comprises them all in liberal, lavish fulness.

4. A fulness of every kind of perfection. All that is virtuous, amiable, noble or illustrious.

5. A fulness of the Spirit. The Lord gives not the Spirit by measure unto Him.

6. An abiding fulness. All the saints of every age have drawn their supplies from Him, but He is just as full as ever. He is never less, He can never be more than full.


1. Surely, then, the saints were empty before. All alike are empty of merit and satisfaction.

2. The filling is universal. All the saints partake of it.

3. There must be a personal reception in every case. Grace cannot be derived or transmitted from one individual to another.

4. It is gratuitous “Grace for grace”; not purchased or earned but received. All the doing to receive it is an undoing: the soul empties itself to be filled. (C. H.Spurgeon.)

We are shown that we ARE ALL UTTERLY DESTITUTE AND EMPTY of spiritual blessings. The abundance in Jesus Christ is intended

1. To supply our deficiency.

2. To relieve our poverty.

3. To satisfy our hunger and thirst.

We are warned THAT AS SOON AS WE HAVE DEPARTED FROM CHRIST IT IS VAIN TO SEEK FOR HAPPINESS, because God hath determined that whatever is God’s shall reside in Him alone. Accordingly we shall find angels and men to be dry, heaven to be empty, the earth to be unproductive, and, in short, all things to be of no value, if we wish to be partakers of the gifts of God in any other way than through Christ.

We are assured that WE HAVE NO REASON TO FEAR THE WANT OF ANYTHING, provided that we draw from the fulness of Christ, which is in every respect so complete as to be inexhaustable. (J. Calvin.)

Christ’s fulness

There is a fulness of atoning efficacy in His blood, for “the blood of Jesus Christ His son cleanseth us from all sin”; of justifying righteousness in His life, for “there is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus”; of Divine prevalence in His plea, for “He is able to save to the uttermost them that come unto God by Him; seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them”; of victory in His death, for through death He destroyed him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; of efficacy in His resurrection from the dead, for by it “We are begotten again to a lively hope”; of triumph in His ascension, for “when He ascended up on high He led captivity captive, and received gifts for men”; of blessings unspeakable, unknown; grace to pardon, regenerate, sanctify, preserve, and perfect. There is a fulness at all times; a fulness by day and by night; of comfort in affliction, of guidance in prosperity, of every Divine attribute, of wisdom, of power, of love; a fulness which it were impossible to survey, much less to explore. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The fulness of Christ received

AN APPEAL TO OUR GRATITUDE. Glory be unto Christ for His fulness, for of it have all the saints received--Old Testament saints and New, martyrs, reformers, saints on earth, saints in glory, etc., etc. And they all received all that they had.

A DISCRIMINATION OF CHARACTER. Thus may we know the people of God, for of His fulness all have received.

1. There are some who receive their religion from their fathers and mothers; but religion is not to be inherited; it is a personal matter.

2. There are those who have got their religion from good works. They do not belong to John’s company.

3. Others get their religion partly from self and partly from Christ; but to John’s company Christ is all in all. The true Christian gets all from Christ. Even Paul was the chief of sinners, less than the least of all saints, and confessed that he was nothing.


1. Most humble. Pride, and indebtedness to Christ for all, is a contradiction.

2. Most grateful. When our friends love us we love them in return. So Christ deserves that we should spend the spirit for Him.

A WORD OF SWEET ENCOURAGEMENT TO THE SINNER. You need a new heart, repentance, a sense of sinfulness, pardon. He can give you all, no matter how guilty you are. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Christ’s inexhaustible fulness

THERE IS IN CHRIST A FULNESS, the greatest abundance of blessings of every description. It is such a fulness as is in God, for John tells us that Christ is

1. The Creator and Preserver of all things.

2. The Author of human redemption.

3. The fountain of life and light.

4. The Author and Dispenser of salvation.


1. Many blessings, such as spiritual illumination, faith, pardon, acceptance, the aids of the Spirit, sanctification, hope, and the happiness begun in this world, and perfected in the world to come.

2. These many blessings in great abundance, “and in everything have been enriched by Him.”


1. All men if they were willing; and what is there to hinder all men from receiving them? Even now, and at all times, may not all receive them? All may receive to the utmost extent of their desires.

2. All men, of every class and condition; for different men, according to the variety of their situation and circumstances, stand in need of different blessings; and all may have those blessings which their necessities require.

3. All men, in every age, and in every part of the world.

4. There is a “fulness” of blessings in Christ sufficient for the present and eternal salvation of the whole human race.

5. In Christ there is

(1) An open fountain, to which all have access, from which all may draw, the righteous and the wicked, the joyful and the sorrowful, the living and the dying.

(2) A copious fountain, from which all may draw in abundance.

(3) An inexhaustible fountain which never can be drained, however great be the number of those who draw from it.

4. A perpetual fountain, flowing to all eternity, from which all who are willing may continually draw. (C. C. Tittman, D. D.)

The fulness of Christ the treasury of the saints

(cf. Colossians 1:19)

THERE IS A GLORIOUS FULNESS IN JESUS. Why, then, are we so weak, unfurnished, and unhappy? There is that in Jesus which

1. Can enable us to rise to the highest degree of grace.

(1) If sin is to be overcome the conquering power dwells in Him in its fulness.

(2) If virtue is to be attained, sanctifying energy resides in Him to perfection.

(3) Without Him we can do nothing, but we can do all things through Him. There are many barely Christians who have scarcely enough grace to float them into heaven, their keel grating all the way; and yet their privilege is to reach the deep waterer and have so much grace that they may sail like a gallant bark on the broad ocean, with a glorious cargo and all colours flying, so that there may be administered an abundant entrance.

2. Sufficient for the conquest of the world.

(1) All the might for the conquest of heathenism.

(2) All the strength for victory over vice and infidelity at home.

(3) Every weapon required for the fight, Fulness for teaching, convincing, converting, sanctifying.


1. The glory of the past depresses many Christians. Scarcely any Church realizes that it can do what its forefathers did. A people are in an evil ease when all their heroism is historical. But the fulness upon which Paul, Luther, Whitefield drew is unexhausted.

2. The mass of professors have their eyes on the future. Yet, if the texts are true, all that is to be done can be done now. Want of faith in Christ’s fulness makes them dote on the Millennium.

3. Our Churches believe that there is fulness in Christ, and that sometimes they ought to enjoy it. But it is not the Lord’s purpose that a fulness should reside in Jesus during revivals. He is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever, and that being the case, the highest state of revival should be the normal condition of the Church.


1. Where we can receive it now.

2. In Him who loves to give it.

3. With Him who is Himself ours. If God, had put it in an angel we should not feel greatly drawn to Him; but He has placed it where we love to have it, where we feel at home, where we are glad to go often, where we would abide.


1. This should encourage us to further exercises of faith,

2. What restrains us from receiving.

(1) I cannot be a Christian of the highest type. Why not? If you have received life you can receive it more abundantly.

(2) I cannot hope to be as useful as some. Why not? According to your faith it shall be done unto you. What you have received is a pledge of what you may receive.

THE RECEIPTS WE HAVE ALREADY HAD ARE NOT TRIFLES. “He that spared not His own Son,” etc. He has given to all such grace as they have capacity to receive. SO on to perfection.

1. Believe in great thing’;.

2. Expect great things.

3. Attempt great things.

4. Don’t talk about this but set about it. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The ONE GLORIOUS PERSON concerning whom this verse is written.

1. The Word or speech and revelation of God. “Wouldst thou have me see thee,” said Socrates “then speak.” Wouldst thou see God? Listen to Christ.

2. Lest Christ should be regarded as a mere utterance, John is careful to show that He is a Divine Person.

3. Christ was also man.

4. Lest others should come into comparison with Him they are all barred out. Angels, John, Moses.


1. That all grace is treasured up in Christ Jesus. His is an immeasurable fulness of grace and truth.

(1) Of grace--pardoning, justifying, and sanctifying. Of this He is always full.

(2) Of truth.

2. All the saints have received all of grace out of the fulness of Christ.

(1) All of them.

(2) Very abundantly.


1. Our own emptiness.

2. A personal reception of Christ Jesus.

3. The discovery that all we receive comes to us by grace.

FOUR DUTIES. If we have received Christ then

1. Let us praise Him.

2. Let us repair to Him again.

3. Try and obtain more.

4. Encourage others to receive Him. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Grace for grace


1. Some take the phrase to have reference to the Law and the Gospel; but St. John is speaking of what takes place after Christ comes and the Law is abandoned.

2. Others to faith in Old Testament saints and light in New Testament saints. That does not hold, because both had faith and light.

3. Others, grace in the believer resembling grace in the Saviour; but that would only give us the moral qualities of Christ, and leave us destitute of those evangelical blessings which He came especially to bestow.

4. The real sense is that of exchange; “for”--instead of a new grace coming in the place of the old, and, when that is done with, another fresh from the fulness, and so on until grace becomes glory.


1. Grace in the believer dies, wastes away, as all living things do, and the faster they live, the faster they die. Granite rocks might last for ever, their life and motion are so slow; but the most exquisite flowers stand in their prime rich-blossomed state only for a short time. “You must come to-day,” we say, “or you will not see the best of it.” So with that most living thing called grace. Indestructible in its fountain and principle, it yet comes and goes, flowing in, flowing out, blossoming, fading. In the human soul, if there were not replenishment, grace for grace, it would soon be empty and dead.

2. This does not mean simply a steady continuance of the same class of gracious ministration. You stand by a river and watch the flow, the drops of water coming and going to the ocean. But then other drops succeed them, and others them, so evenly and incessantly that we hardly realize that the waters are passing away. So with the supply of grace. Suppose the colour of the river should change with the day, now black from muddy hills, now yellow as the Tiber, now blue as the Rhone, now crystal as the Tweed, it would be a singular phenomenon; but grace for grace means a change like that. There is an element of sameness in all graces, just as water is water, but in many respects one kind of grace is not like another.

3. There is no invariable order, but in general

(1) The grace of forgiveness is the first bestowed. This may come after much anxiety, or quite gently; but, come as it will, peace is a special grace.

(2) But the believer dots not rest long in his peace. Next comes a totally different kind of grace--active strength and the spirit of boldness. Not that he is deprived of his peace, but that becomes secondary. This is very necessary, as uniform tranquillity would be injurious. To root the tree firmly rough winds are necessary.

(3) The grace of patience for the grace of active strength. Working time comes to an end, or work goes on, patience comes to prevent discouragement.

(4) The grace of victory for the grace of preservation in battle. As thy day so shall thy strength be. Not dying grace till death.


1. Do not try to live in or by the past. Live in it by a grateful memory that will help you; but not so as to get a present living nourishment out of states, and frames, and feelings that are dead and gone. You would not get on in June seeking the withered leaves of last autumn. Let them sink into the soil. Trust nature to get all the good that is in them, and send that good up again.

2. We ought to be afraid of stagnation, but never of new experiences or enterprises.

3. Christ offers grace for--not grace, you have none, brother sinner; you would never take it--but for sin and its condemnation. (A. Raleigh, D. D.)

Grace for grace

GRACE BY DEGREES; grace upon grace; a little grace to begin with, but more grace afterwards. “He giveth more grace,” grace following in grace, and further in superabounding grace, when grace turns into glory.

GRACE TO PREPARE FOR FURTHER GRACE--the grace of a broken heart--to make room for repentance; the grace of hatred of sin to make wayfor the grace of holy and careful walking; the grace of careful walking to make room for the grace of close communion with Christ; the grace of close communion with the Lord Jesus Christ to make room for the grace of full conformity to His image; perhaps the grace of confortuity to His image to make room for the higher grace of brighter views of Himself, and still closer incomings into the very heart of the Lord Jesus. It is grace that helps us on in grace. When a begger asks you for a penny, and you give him one, he does not ask you for a sixpence; or if you give him a shilling, he would not consider that an argument why you should give him a sovereign. But you may deal thus with God. The grace you have expands your heart, and gives you capacity for receiving yet more grace. You send your child to school to learn A B C, the grace of learning his alphabet. But it is preparatory to the spelling book, a preparation for further acquisition of knowledge.

GRACE ANSWERABLE TO GRACE. Let God give me grace to be a preacher, and He will give me grace to discharge the office. If you have the grace of resignation you may need the grace of patience. Or grace received by us answerable to the grace that is in Christ. A young heir to a large estate, though not of full age, generally gets an allowance suitable to the position he is to occupy. If he has £100,000 a year in prospect, he would hardly be limited to a penny a week. When I see one child of God always mourning, another always doubting, and yet another always scheming, I see they are living below their privileges. They do not seem to have grace in possession answerable to the grace they have in reversion. We always inculcate the propriety, on the part of all our people, of living within their incomes; but the child of God cannot live beyond his income in a spiritual sense.

GRACE IN ABUNDANCE. Like the waves of the sea, where one comes there is another close behind it.

GRACE FROM HIM TO PRODUCE GRACE IN US. The grace of gratitude should be produced in us by the grace of generosity from God. (C. H.Spurgeon.)

Christ’s fulness

As the sea is not diminished by the treasures of rain which it yields, and which are dispensed to the earth to fertilise and refresh it, or as the sun is not wasted, that he has imparted light to all past generations of men; so Christ has not been affected in His fulness, though from Him has proceeded all the good that has ever been bestowed on every creature. That in the beginning He laid the foundations of the earth, and that He then spread forth the heavens like a curtain, has not diminished His strength. That He brought into being all the families of life, in their innumerable and varied forms, has not exhausted His resources. (A. Beith, D. D.)

Christ’s fulness and our reception of it

We all receive of His fulness grace for grace, as all the stars in heaven are said to light their candles at the sun’s flame. For though His Body be withdrawn from us, yet by the lively and virtual contact of His Spirit He is always kindling, cheering, quickening, warming, enlivening, hearts: nay, this Divine life, begun and kindled in any heart, wheresoever it be, is something of God in the flesh, and in a sober and qualified sense, Divinity Incarnate, and all particular Christians, that are possessed of it, so many mystical Christs. (R. Cudworth.)

If any one is to obtain grace, His fulness must do it: our crumbs and morsels, our tiny drops and bits, they verily will not do it. All, whether Jews or Gentiles, if indeed they would obtain grace and be really found before God, are required (and indeed they can do no other) to fill their little flasks from this well--a well which flows and overflows for ever and ever; they must drink their fill from this fountain-head of living water, springing up into eternal life. In short, His fulness is without measure or end; therefore draw manfully and without fear, and drink with pleasure and joy! For here is overflowingly enough, even into eternal Life; in this you will have enough to praise and thank God for to all eternity. (Luther.)

The plenteousness of grace

The philosophic Hamerton tells us the story of a woman who worked in a cotton factory in one of the great manufacturing towns in Lancashire, and who, in an excursion, went for the first time to the coast. When she caught the earliest glimpse of the Irish Sea, the expanse lying out before her eyes, looking like the limitlessness of the ocean in its rush and roll of billows, she exclaimed, as she drew one boundless breath of freshness and glory: “At last, here comes something there is enough of!” (Dr. C. Robinson.)

Verse 17

John 1:17

The Law was given by Moses

Points, of contrast between Judaism and Christianity



1. Moses was the servant, Christ the master.

2. Moses was a subject, dependent, Christ was King of kings.

3. Moses was only a man, but Christ was the God-man.

4. Moses was the agent smiting the rock, Christ was the rock smitten.

5. Moses was but the channel of communication between God and His people; Christ is the source of all our mercy.

6. Moses was only the student; in Christ dwelt all the fulness of wisdom.

7. Moses was delegated; Christ spoke in His own name and on His own authority.


1. The ten plagues were wrought for punishment. The thirty-two miracles of Christ were performed in mercy.

2. The miracles of Moses were a national calamity; those of Christ a national blessing.

3. The miracles of Moses were destructive; those of Christ remedial.

4. Those of Moses were wrought on matter; many of those of Christ on mind or spirit.

5. Those of Moses were wrought by power derived from God; those of Christ by Himself.


1. The former refer to temporal deliverances and to carnal things; the latter commemorate spiritual deliverances, and refer to the heavenly and the Divine. The Passover, e.g., sets forth the emancipation from Egypt; the Lord’s Supper of redemption from sin.

2. The Jewish Sabbath, the last day of the week, commemorated the creation of the world; the Christian Sabbath, the first of the week, is the sign of the new creation.

3. The Jewish Pentecost commemorated the giving of the Law on Sinai; our Pentecost, the baptism of the Spirit.


1. The virtue in the Jewish sacrifices was outwardly derived; the virtue in the Atonement is the inward.

2. Their laws were given amidst the external thundering and lightning of Sinai; ours amid the calmness and quietness peculiar to Christ.

3. The Jews were separated from the world more by outward signs; we are separated by the circumcision of the heart.


The Law by Moses

God’s education of the world, class by class--the Law one of the most important lessons ever taught it. Advisable to review these old lessons.

THE LAW. Wider and narrower meanings of the word.

1. Political, representing the theocratic idea.

2. The ceremonial, representing the sacrificial.

3. Moral, representing the inculcation of holiness. A remarkable foreshadowing of the Holy Trinity.

BY WHOM GIVEN: Moses. Fulness of accounts concerning him. Scenes and dates of his life easily traceable.

1. His outer life.

(1) Education.

(2) Energy.

(3) Patriotism.

2. His inner life.

(1) Meekness, disinterestedness (Exodus 32:20-32).

(2) Prayerfulness.


1. Not to the world, but to a peculiar people; this contrary to human practice, and a proof of heavenly origin.

2. To a people specially prepared from the time of Abraham in all the circumstances of their national life and location.

3. To a people who nevertheless failed to keep it in its entirety for a single generation. Hence we see that, while God has always a law, and that law has always been in its great characteristics the same, man has always failed to keep it. (W. L.)

Grace and truth by Jesus Christ


1. The Divine message.

2. The heavenly gift.

3. The supernatural help.

TRUTH. This grace, embodied in the life, working outwards from the heart


1. They could come by no other.

2. From Him they were inseparable. The twofold nature of the

Divine Man.

FOR WHOM. Not like the law for a people, but for the world Matthew 11:28; John 3:16; 1 Timothy 2:4; Titus 2:11). (W. L.)

Moses and Christ


1. Both men.

2. Both messengers from God.

3. Both bearers of a revelation.


1. Moses only man; Christ the Son of God.

2. Moses raised up by God; Christ sent forth from God.

3. Moses the bearer of a revelation outside of himself; Christ the bringer of a revelation in Himself.

4. Moses a lawgiver; Christ a declarer of grace and truth. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)

The three dispensations in history and in the soul

(cf. Galatians 3:6)


1. The race was in childhood. It acted from impulse. It obeyed no written code of moral regulations. The man chosen as the representative of this period was Abraham. The record of it is the book of Genesis. That writing is the first grand chapter in the biography of man; and its very literary structure--so dramatic in contents, so careless of the rules of art, so like a child’s story in its sublime simplicity--answers to the spontaneous period it pictures. “The patriarchal age” we call it. Throughout the whole of this era, reaching from Adam to Joseph, there were beautiful virtues, flowering into the light by the spontaneous energy of nature, but poisoned in many spots by the slime of sensuality. The human stock threw out its forms of life with a certain negligence, as the prodigal force of nature does her forests--as a boy swings his limbs in the open air. Character needed a staunch vertebral column to secure its uprightness.

2. Corresponding to this impulsive religious age of the race, is the natural state of the individual. It is the condition we are born into, and the multitudes never pass beyond it, because they are never renewed or made Christian. Morally, they are children all their lives. Bad dispositions mix with good. Conduct is not brought to the bar of a governmental examination, and judged by an unbending principle. Nature, true enough, is always interesting; and spontaneous products may be beautiful. But man, with his free agency, beset before and behind by evil, is not like a lily growing under God’s sun and dew, with no sin to deform its grace or stain its colouring. He has to contend, struggle, resist. He is tried, enticed, besieged. Natural religion might possibly answer in the woods or in some solitary cell. But let the young man travel to the city, and the young woman lend her ears to the flatteries of that silver-tongued sorceress, society; and all this natural piety is like a silken thread held over a blazing furnace.

3. And as the first dispensation ended in a slavery in Egypt, or broods darkly over Pagan nations still, so the lawless motions of every self-guided will end in a servitude to some Pharaoh in the members that cries aloud for emancipation--a settled alienation from the household of the good.

Next comes the LEGAL OR JUDICIAL stage.

1. The world’s religious experience is concentrated in Judaea, human progress running on through Hebrew channels. Others have wandered off into hopeless idolatries. Now God calls Moses and appoints him the head of the second epoch. A period of law begins. Instinct must be curbed, for it has done mischief enough. Impulse must be controlled by principle, for it has proved itself insufficient. There must be positive commands, ceremonies, and ordinances, coercive restraints, and penalties.

2. So with all of us; there comes a time when we feel that we cannot act by inclination, but must follow law. The principle of duty is that law. Babyhood is passed, and its instincts suffice us no longer. To do as we like would still be pleasant, but it is dangerous and false. We become stewards, and must give account of our stewardship. Life has put its harness upon us, and we must work in it. The beneficence as well as the rectitude of this is apparent. By obeying a law, we acquire superiority to it. Voluntarily submitting to certain rules for a time, our virtue is strengthened and finally becomes independent of them, so that it can go alone. The inebriate binds himself by a pledge, and thus regains his freedom. Let us not despise law, for every day practical proofs are scattered before us that it is a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ.

But there is a THIRD DISPENSATION, and at the head of it one greater than Moses. These outgrew the period of literal commandment. It became a dead profession, a school of foolish questions, a shelter of hypocrisies. The enlarging soul of the race asks a freer, more sincere, more vital nurture, and it comes. If the simple religious instincts of Abraham had been accepted for righteousness; if the law had been given by Moses, grace and truth enter in by Jesus Christ--grace for the heart, truth for the understanding.

1. Christ does not abrogate law, but by His own life and sacrifice first satisfies its conditions. “Think not that I came to destroy, but to fulfil.” The Cross does not unbind the cords of accountability, but tightens and strengthens them. Divine laws never looked so sacred as when they took sanctity from the redemption of the Crucified. We must still be under discipline; but the Lawgiver is lost in the Redeemer. The drudgery of obedience is beautified into the privilege of reconciliation. Love has cast out fear. The soul is released from the bondage.

2. Neither of these three stages, whether of the general or the personal progress, denies or cuts off its predecessor. Nature prepares the way for law, making the heart restless by an unsatisfying experiment without it. The

Law disciplined wayward, uncultured man, making him ready for Christ. Judaism and Moses looked forward to the Messiah. So, in the heart of childhood, there are expectations of the responsible second stage of manhood; it is too thoughtless yet to look beyond, to the age of mature Christian holiness. But see, again, when that second age of stern command and strict obedience comes, it grows sober and reflective. It feels heavily that it is not sufficient to itself. It must look forward for the consolations of the Cross.

3. Each stage requires fidelity in the preceding. You must have been true to the better impulses of youth, that you may be, to the best advantage, a servant of the law of maturity. You must be faithfully obedient to duty before you are fit to be a subject of grace. Do not imagine you can glide over into the favour of heaven, without first keeping the commandment. Abraham, Moses, Christ; impulse, discipline, faith; nature, law, gospel; instinct, obedience, grace; Mature, Sinai, Calvary; this is that Divine order--not bound by rigid rules of chronological succession, but having the freeplay and various intershadings of a moral growth--to which we are to conform our lives. (Bp. Huntington.)

Use of the law

“You never saw a woman sewing without a needle! She would come but poor speed, if she only sewed wi’ the thread. So, I think, when we’re dealing wi’ sinners, we maun aye put in the needle o’ the law first; for the fact is, they’re sleepin’ sound, and they need to be awakened up wi’ something sharp. But when we’ve got the needle of the law fairly in, we may draw as lang a thread as you like o’ gospel consolation after it.” (F. Lockhart.)

The law shows us our need of Christ

One of the persecutors, in Queen Mary’s days, pursuing a poor Protestant, and searching the house for him, charged an old woman to show him the heretic. She points to a great chest of linen, on the top whereof lay a fair looking-glass. He opens the chest, and asks where the heretic was. She suddenly replied, “Do you not see one? meaning that he was the heretic, and that he might easily see himself in the glass. And thus God’s law is the glass that shows us all our spots. Let us hold it right to our intellectual eye; not behind us, as the wicked do, they cast God’s word behind them; not beside us, like the rich worldling that called to Christ--not to turn the back of the glass towards us, which is the very trick of all hypocrites; nor, lastly, to look upon ourselves in this glass when we are muffled, masked, or cased, for under those veils we cannot discern our own complexions. But let us see the clear glass before our face, and our open face to the glass, and then we shall soon perceive that the sight of our filthiness is the first step towards cleanliness. (J. Spencer.)

Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ


1. Let us begin with truth. Truth came by Jesus Christ.

(1) The truth of performance in distinction from engagement. You read of the promise made unto the fathers. It was first announced in Paradise, and was renewed from time to time. That promise has been fulfilled by Jesus Christ.

(2) The truth of reality in distinction from prefiguration. The Law was a shadow of good things to come. We are in possession of the truth, of Which the paschal lamb, the manna, the rock, the altar, the mercy-seat, etc., were the shadows.

(3) The truth of certainty in distinction to error and falsehood. What is heathenism? An assemblage of false gods, temples, sacrifices, hopes, fears: “turned the truth of God into a lie.” What is Mohammedanism? A vast improvement on heathenism. Mohammed was a man of great talent; but that his communications from God, that his puerile and depraved notions were Divinely inspired, is a lie. What is Popery? Take her traditions, rites of saints, miracles, infallibility--what are these but lying wonders? What is justification by works? What is antinomianism, but a lie? But the gospel is the truth, and we can point to its incontestible evidences.

(4) The truth of importance in distinction from all other truth. Things may be equally true, and yet not equally valuable. There is physical, historical, and moral truth; but I lay my hand on the Bible and say, “This is life eternal.”

(5) This is truth the most honourable to God, suited to man, most influential, most beneficent; and we do not wonder at Paul saying, “I count all things but loss,” for the excellency of it.

2. Grace came by Jesus Christ.

(1) Because He revealed it (John 1:18). “Never man spoke as this man.” “Grace was poured into His lips,” therefore “the common people heard Him gladly.”

(2) Because He is the effect of it. “God so loved,” etc.

(3) Because He is the medium of it. Everything worthy of the name flows from His mediation--“promises which are yea and amen through Him”; redemption, which is through His blood.

(4) Because He is the exemplifier of it. Look at His Old Testament emblems, and those in the New: a lamb is the image of His Person, a dove of His Spirit. Righteousness and joy and peace is the character of His kingdom.

WHAT ARE WE TO DO WITH THEM NOW THEY ARE COME. We must have something to do with them, or they will have something to do with us. Having come in contact with the gospel you cannot shake it off. It will either be a savour of life or a savour of death.

1. We are to receive them. Not grace without truth or truth without grace. The gospel is truth, and therefore to be received with the firmness of conviction and assent; grace, therefore to be received with cordiality, gratitude, and joy.

2. To exemplify them. Under the agency of the Spirit we are softened from our natural hardness to receive Divine impression, and fashioned into the very character of the gospel so that we realize it, embody it, and render it visible, so that we adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour by showing what it is. Whatever the gospel is we are required to copy it--if light, we are to be illuminated; if salt, we are to be seasoned; if love, we are to be lovely; if holiness, we are to be holy. There are some who are all truth who are not all that grace requires. The perfection of the Christian arises from the harmony and proportion of these excellencies. In your zeal for orthodoxy you must not renounce charity and candour.

3. To extend and diffuse them. Though grace and truth came by Jesus Christ, there are millions who have never heard of the Saviour. But are they to remain ignorant always? (W. Jay.)

The purpose of the law

The law threatened, not helped; commanded, not healed; showed, not took away, our feebleness. But it made ready for the Physician, who was to come with grace and truth. (Augustine.)

Law and grace

The Law was given, but grace came, because the one was sent by a servant, the other was brought by the Son. (Bp. Wordsworth.)

Grace and truth one with Christ

The words “was given” imply the external and positive institution of the Law; “came” denotes grace and truth appearing historically in the very person of Him who is their essential source (John 1:4), and becoming realized in His life and communicated through Him. Moses may disappear, the Law remains nevertheless; it is only given by him. But take Jesus Christ away, and grace and truth are gone; for these gifts have come by Him, and are closely united to His Person. (F. Godet, D. D.)

Claim and gift

There was first, in the Law, God’s claim of right, which man could not meet, and now, in Jesus Christ, God’s gift of salvation. (J. Culross, D. D.)

The one could only give the command, but the other supplies motives and strength to keep it. The one could only show in figure, what the other exhibits in fact, the means whereby we may obtain pardon where the command has unhappily been broken. (G. J. Brown, M. A.)

Grace and truth

Grace in opposition to the curse of the moral law; truth in opposition to the figures of the ceremonial law. (Bp. Reynolds.)

Grace comprehends all the perfections of the will; truth all the virtues of the understanding. (Dr. Preston.)


It is plain that the antithesis cannot be between the false and the true, but only between the imperfect and the perfect, the shadowy and the substantial. So, too, the eternal word is declared to be τὸ φῶς τὸ ἀληθινόν (John 1:9), not denying thereby that the Baptist was also “a burning and a shining light” (John 5:35), or that the faithful are “lights in the world” (Philippians 2:15; Matthew 5:14); but only claiming for a greater than all to be “the Light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” Christ declares Himself ὀ ἄρτος ὀ ἀληθὶνος (John 6:32), not that the bread which Moses gave was not also “bread of heaven” Psalms 105:40), but it was such only in a secondary inferior degree; it was not food in the highest sense, inasmuch as it did not nourish up into eternal life those that ate it (John 6:49). He is ἠ ἀμπελος ἠ ἀληθινὴ John 15:1), not thereby denying that Israel also was God’s vine, which we know it was (Psalms 80:8; Jeremiah 2:21), but affirming that none except Himself realized this name, and all which this name implied, to the full (Hosea 10:1; Deuteronomy 32:32). The fact that in John’s writings the word ἀληθὶνος is used two and twenty times as against five times in all the rest of the New Testament, is one which we can scarcely dismiss as accidental. (Archbishop Trench.)

Jesus Christ

It is at this point that the Apostle for the first-time announces the great name so long expected. In proportion as the history of the mercies of the Word towards humanity unfolds before his view, the spectacle inspires him with terms even more concrete and more human. The Loges of John 1:1 appeared as Light in John 1:5; as Son, John 1:14; and in John 1:17 He is at length called Jesus Christ. (F. Godet, D. D.)

Law and grace

These great words have stood here in John’s Gospel for eighteen hundred years, but I am afraid there are millions of Christian people who have not discovered their glorious meaning. They are still under law, and are still surrounded by the unreal shadows of darkness. About the grace and the truth which have come through Jesus Christ, they know almost nothing. I will begin with what is most obvious. We find ourselves living in a world in which the forces of nature are constant, in which what we describe as natural laws are uniform and invariable. There is an iron rigidity in the constitution of things. We have to discover that constitution. We cannot change it. We have to take account of it in the conduct of life. What we call Nature seems to show no mercy to those who disregard her method. She will give us harvests, but we must pay her price, and her full price. We can have health and strength, but only upon her conditions. Now this relentlessness of nature forms men to think of God sometimes as relentless; for nature, they say, is the revelation of God. We are under law--this is the inference--under law throughout every province of life, and we can never escape the natural consequences of our sins. We must exhaust the penalty in this world or other worlds, we must pay the debt to the uttermost farthing. Christ meets us in nature and contradicts that inference. Nature is only the partial and incomplete revelation of God. Christ reveals the actual truth. You believe that there is no release from the natural consequences of ignorance, of folly, of recklessness, of vice, and that in the full and unqualified sense of the words “What a man soweth that shall he also reap.” But the whole story of Christ’s life contradicts that belief. If natural laws were supreme, men born blind would remain blind to the end of their days. Christ gave them sight. That is not merely part of the evidence of the gospel. It is a very substantial part of the gospel itself, and a part of the gospel exceptionally necessary in our times. If natural laws were supreme, deaf would remain deaf, the dumb would remain dumb. Christ gave them hearing, speech. The laws of nature are not supreme. In Christ, the gracious power of the Eternal revealed, not to one age only but to all ages, that nature is not supreme, but that God is supreme. Nature may be relentless; God is not. And it was in the natural order itself that Christ by His miracles gave us this great discovery. The universe is a great school for the discipline of the intellect and the virtue of mankind, and it could not be an effective discipline if the natural order were not constant. But to infer that the methods of God are bound by the methods of nature is a false inference. Let me take another illustration of how Christ contradicts what may be called our natural belief in law. We are conscious of fault, perhaps of something that ought to be described by a darker name. It lies upon our conscience, and we cannot escape from it. We say, “No, it is impossible that I should ever escape. The guilt is mine, and if I live for a thousand years it will be mine still.” Grace came by Jesus Christ. You think that by an eternal law you must suffer for your sins. The Christian gospel declares that Christ suffered for them. His relations to us--you will discover this, I hope, some day if you have not discovered ityet--are of a kind which made it possible for Him, as it was possible for no one else. But does He deliver from the external and natural consequences of wrong-doing? Not obviously. Perhaps not frequently. If He delivered men from these obviously and frequently, the moral discipline which we are to derive from the constancy of the order of nature would be imperilled. Sometimes, indeed--and far more often than we even suppose--I am inclined to believe that Christ does really deliver us even from thenatural consequences of wrong-doing. But even when these remain their whole character is changed. As sins they are forgiven. Then they become simply the natural consequences of what we have done, not the penal consequences. We do not see behind them a God that is punishing us for having done wrong, but a God who has pardoned us, and who is standing by us to discipline us by certain hard conditions of life to a higher perfection. Consequences which were penal as long as we were unforgiven, become simply natural and disciplinary as soon as sin has been remitted. Do you say that if the consequences remain it makes no difference whether they are penal or whether they are natural and disciplinary? You would hardly say that if you knew the difference from experience. But even apart from experience you may get some glimpse of the truth. Here is a man who, as the result of his recklessness and his gross vices, is suffering disease for which there is no cure. He is miserably weak, sometimes he is in great pain. His condition is the natural result of his evil life, and since he brought it on himself by his vices, he feels that it is the penal result of his evil life. Here is another man, suffering from weakness equally prostrating, from pain equally severe, but his weakness and pain came upon him from no fault of his own. They are the result of exposure to damp air acting on some original defect of the constitution, or the result of overwork for the sake of his wife and children, or of accident, or they came upon him on the battlefield when fighting for his country. They are natural consequences of certain past events in the man’s history; they are not the penal results of the man’s vices. Would not the first man give a great deal to exchange the weakness and the suffering which are penal for the weakness and the suffering which are merely natural? That is what Christ reveals. Law came by Moses, grace came by Jesus Christ. Let me take another illustration. Law, moral law, law as we know it--and I am using the word in its popular sense--begins by imposing duty. The law of consequence begins by imposing duty. The law given to the Jewish people so far forth as it was law begins by imposing duty, and it makes the fulfilment of duty the condition of peace with God and of larger power to do well and of eternal blessedness. All this is of the very essence of what we call law. Grace came by Jesus Christ. He begins in altogether a different way. He does not say “Live righteously, and God will be at peace with you,”, but “God is at peace with you, therefore bye righteously.” He finds us in our sin. Whenever He really finds us we are conscious of our sin, and so we are ready in our strong belief in that form of law which is familiar to us to say, “God can be no friend of mine as yet; I must amend my ways, I must break off my evil habits, I must master my evil passions, I must become pure, devout, earnest about religion, and then God will be at peace with me.” That is law. What Christ says is, “God is already at peace with you, is already your Friend. He will not wait till you have amended your ways before He dismisses the remembrance of your sin. He dismisses it at once, and will help you to mend your ways, will help you to break off evil habits, will help you to master evil passions, will help you to become pure, devout, and earnest about religion.” That is grace. People do not see the glory of it, do not see what it means. They think that Christ only came to make some things plainer to the world than they were before. It never occurred to them that it would not have been worth while for the eternal Word of God to become flesh in order to do that. Truth--there is an infinite suggestiveness in the way John puts the contrast between what Moses did and what Christ has done. He does not merely say, “The law was given by Moses, grace came by Jesus Christ.” What he says is, “The law was given by Moses, grace came--grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” Judaism was evidently wanting in grace; it was wanting in reality too. All its institutions were elementary, visible, material illustrations of the spiritual realities, the very truth of things, which are ours in Christ. Not only grace and truth, reality came by Jesus Christ. And wherever the grace is obscured, the truth, the very reality and substance of the Christian revelation loses its place, and the mere shadows of heavenly things remain. It was so among the Judaising opponents of Paul. You remember how they insisted on the necessity of circumcision if men were to be saved. But, said Paul, circumcision is nothing. It is a shadow, it produces no real change in a man. We Christians have the true thing, of which circumcision is but the shadow, the circumcision of the heart, in the spirit, not in the letter, whose praise is not of man but of God. I entreat you to dismiss shadows, all shadows. Recognize the truth, the reality that has come by Jesus Christ, and in the truth you will find grace. There is a real sacrifice for sin, the eternal Son of God. There is a real Priest. While we deal with the shadows of sin, the shadows of sacrifices and the shadows of priests may avail for us; but when the sin comes home to us in its reality, be sure of this, that only the sacrifice that is real and the Priest that is real will give us courage and peace. And the glory of what Christ has achieved, and the revelation of grace which has come by Christ, is this, that while Christ has cancelled the old and infirm form of law, Christ creates a righteousness transcending all that law had demanded. Grace comes, grants us to begin with more than man had ever hoped for by perfect obedience, and grace tells man that, by an obedience he would never have been capable of before, he is to retain this great wealth and constantly to augment it. And so in a higher region grace and law blend. The law is not made void--it is established; the righteousness that law demands grace renders possible; and so man is glorified for ever in the eternal glory of God. (B. W. Dale, M. A.)

Verse 18

John 1:18

No man hath seen God

The limitations of human vision

Some men have seen much, for all have not the same power of vision.

Some have seen much more than others with

THE NATURAL EYE. They have travelled far and near; seen wonders upon the deep and on the mountains, and the marvels of creation living and lifeless--but no man hath seen God.


1. The eye of science. They can invade worlds of truth which are veiled and shut to souls of lesser power; ascend into the heavens and see the harmony which rules all the movements of those gleaming worlds, descend into the deeps of the earth and of the ages which have measured out its history, and read the records which are there inscribed. They can see something of the unity which pervades the whole universe; that all sciences are but chapters in one great illuminated book, or are but notes in one sublime and never-ceasing song--but they have not seen God.

2. Some men have the poet’s eye which can glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven, and detect behind what is natural and changeful the truths which are typified, and which abide for ever--but even they have not seen God.

THE MORAL EYE. Patriarchs, prophets, apostles beheld wonderful visions. Some of them were favoured with glimpses and manifestations and tokens of His presence, and so impressive and overpowering were these that they felt as if they had seen God, but even they were no exception to the rule that “no man hath seen God at any time.” (E. Mellor, D. D.)

The invisible and revealed God


1. We are invisible to each another; nay, to ourselves. There is a veil between our spirit and another that, while our words and looks may serve to indicate what is passing within, they cannot unveil the indwelling soul. And so utterly can the soul tyrannize over the house in which it dwells, that it can compel it to illuminate its windows with festive joy when all is woe within, or compel it to darken them when all within is mirth and revelry. And if we cannot see man, much less can we see God.

2. There is no law that God has impressed on nature that we can see. Form and colour we can see, and that things move, but not the pervading life nor the gravitation which holds them together in their orbits.

3. The material universe is but a faint indication of God’s greatness, nor does it seem possible for even omnipotence to embody itself in matter. We might imagine the sun robbed of its beams, and heaven, earth, and sea combining to surrender whatever of beauty or grandeur they contain, still the result would be miserably insufficient to portray the glory of the invisible God.

4. The mind is baffled in its attempt to grasp the fundamental mystery. The loftiest conception we have is that of infinity. And yet this is a mere negation, and must be affirmed of each separate attribute as well as the totality of God’s being.

5. Without the guidance of revelation no one has ever reached any fair conception of the unity, spirituality, and moral character of God. Though day unto day has been uttering speech, and night unto night showing knowledge, the mass of the rude and unlearned have everywhere, divided the empire of the universe among gods many and lords many. And as to the philosophers, such of them as have been able to emancipate themselves from gross polytheism, have either guessed at the truth that there is one God, and have contented themselves with a cold deduction of reason, or they have merged God and nature in one, thus destroying His personality in Pantheism. The world never by wisdom knew God. And were we to close the Book of Revelation in a few generations we should relapse into a heathenism as absolute as that of Greece and Rome.

6. And as for the supposed teachings of natural religion, they are but flashes from the revealed Word. We are astonished that any eye can miss the Divine monogram written large in the heavens, small in the flower. But we do not search nature for the invisible, we take the idea with us.

THE DECLARED GOD. Christ has revealed the Father in three ways which meet and satisfy these corresponding necessities in man.

1. The incarnation, e.g., of the spiritual in the bodily meets that necessity which feels how impossible it is to grasp the purely spiritual. We do not feel happy at the thought of what is both infinite and invisible. Who has not felt at times the all but intolerable oppression that comes upon the spirit when one has stood in the shadow of Alpine mountains! We are bewildered by the unmanageable vastness of the conception of an all-prevailing God. We long for something that we can more effectually compass. We wish to pray; are heavy laden and sad; but infinitude is too grand for us in such hours, and we long for a friend who can take our hand and say, “Fear not I am with thee.” But God, the great and glorious mystery, has been manifest in the flesh. As He had to reveal Himself to man, He found no better medium than man, the form with which we were most familiar, and of which we should be least afraid.

2. By His character and life Christ declares to us the moral character of God. There is much in God which humanity, even in its highest and purest type, is inadequate to represent. The medium is tarnished and dimmed so that the heavenly light cannot shine through it, or only brokenly. Once only has humanity formed a medium through which, in its unmingled brightness and beauty, the moral character of God might pour its beams. To learn the mural character of God we must learn it in Christ; its holiness, its tenderness, its mercy for the sinful.

3. Christ has declared to us the Fatherly character of God. God we are told is love. This He is in Himself, and this He has been pre-eminently to us. We need more than words, and then, when we receive but words from those who might give us more real help, we learn bitterly that all friends are not true. Now there is no better test of love than the test of endurance and suffering, but Divine love has made for us the highest sacrifice, “for God so loved the world,” etc. (E. Mellor, D. D.)

Invisible things

There are even material agents in existence around us so subtle as to elude the cognisance of the senses. There are powers in nature whose ever-present influence we perceive, yet which themselves are never directly discerned. The varied forms and colours of material objects around us the eye can detect, but not the latent electricity that pervades them. The masses and motions of the planetary bodies are appreciable by the sight; but the keenest organs of sense cannot see gravitation, cannot detect that mysterious power, as it flies through space, binding orb to orb. And if thus on the confines, so to speak, of the material and spiritual worlds, there are agents impalpable to sense, much more, when we pass those limits, do we enter into a region where bodily organs fail us, and a vision and faculty far more divine is needed, Who has seen thought What eye has ever rested on that mysterious essence which we designate mind, soul, spirit? If it be that spiritual intelligences surround us, if millions of spiritual beings walk the earth both when we wake and sleep, yet, as they pass hither and thither on their heavenly ministries, does the faintest sign of the presence of these glorious beings ever flash on the dull sense of man? Nay, are we not dwellers in a world of embodied spirits, holding continual intercourse with them, witnessing constantly the proofs of their existence and the effects of their activity: yet has one human spirit ever become visible to another? No l it is but the forms of spirit that are visible to sense. We see in the busy world around us the mere houses of souls. In this sense, then, God is now and ever must be invisible. If even a finite spirit cannot be seen by the bodily eye, how much less the infinite spirit? (J. Caird, D. D.)

The invisibility of God

We are much in the condition of children for whom their father has built a magnificent house, and stored it with all needful provisions, and ornamented it with the most exquisite decorations, a house which the more it is examined the more it reveals forethought and arrangement, startling its inmates constantly with unexpected anticipation for their comfort and happiness. But their father, for some reason or other, is concealed from their view. “Now every house is builded by some man, but He that built all things is God.” We dwell in His house. Its roof declares His handiwork. Its chambers are garnished with a wondrous glory. Its table is supplied day by day with food convenient for us. The house is renewed year by year. But the Hand which accomplishes it all is unseen. We sometimes long to get behind the intercepting veil. We would fain see the Great Worker at His work, see the arm of power, gaze on the fountain of fight, rise above and through all phenomena, leave the fleeting behind us, and stand in the presence of the changeless. But no man hath seen God at any time, and what is more, “no man can see God and five.” (E. Mellor, D. D.)

God invisible to sense

Could we entertain for a moment the supposition of God condescending to contrive some resplendent form, some radiant shape of superhuman majesty and loveliness, by which to convey to man a conception of His spiritual glory, we might conceive the universe to be searched in vain for the materials of such a production. We might give the rein to fancy, and imagine the sun robbed of its glory and the stars of their splendours, and heaven, earth, sea, skies, all the myriad worlds in space, combining to surrender whatever of beauty or grandeur they contain; still would the result be miserably insufficient to portray the unapproachable glory of the invisible Being of God. “These are but parts of His ways; how little a portion is heard of Him! but the thunder of His power who can understand?” (J. Caird, D. D.)

The incomprehensibility of God

In the Greek legend she who desired to see the deity in his splendour is instantly reduced to ashes. In the Hindoo mythology when Brahma, the supreme, shoots down a pillar of light between the two contending deities, Siva and Vishnu, one deity wings his way upwards for a thousand years with the speed of lightning, but cannot reach its summit; the other wings his way downwards with the speed of lightning for a thousand years yet cannot find its base. Christian theology has felt this no less clearly that God in His own Being is incomprehensible. There is a picture of the vision of St. Augustine, who, when he was writing a treatise on the Trinity, saw a child trying to empty the ocean with a shell into a little hole in the sand. “What art thou doing?” asked the saint. “I am trying to empty the sea with this shell into this hole,” answered the child. “But that is impossible,” said Augustine. “Not more impossible, O Augustine, than for thee in thy treatise to explain the mystery of the Trinity.” (Archdeacon Farrar.)

As regards God, our soundest knowledge is to know that we know Him, and our safest eloquence concerning Him is silence, when we confess without confession that His glory is inexplicable, His greatness above our capacity or reach. (Hooker.)

The only-begotten Son

The only-begotten Son

This “only-begotten Son” is the same Person who, in the previous portion of the chapter, is designated the Word, and of whom it is said in language of which it is impossible for us to mistake the reference, “He was made flesh and dwelt among us,” and so dwelling among men there was beheld in Him “the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” The Person, then, who is thus named is none other than He who was more familiarly known as the Lord Jesus Christ.

Briefly, then, let me try to unfold to you THE IMPORT OF THIS GREAT NAME--the Son, the only-begotten Son of God. There is a previous inquiry to which I may, in a very few words, refer. What is the reference of the text--it being ascertained that it refers to the Lord Jesus Christ? Does it refer to Him as Divine, or simply as Mediator between God and man? It is evident to my own mind that the Scriptures give the name Son to the second Person of the Godhead, as a Person of the Godhead, and that it belongs to Him as Divine, and that, apart altogether from His becoming incarnate and doing work for the salvation of sinners, He is the only-begotten Son in the bosom of the Father. Further, there is nothing in the name itself that makes it inapplicable to the Divine Person. It is quite true that, as applied to man, it does include those ideas of derivation of beings, which are totally inconsistent with the notion of eternal existence; but when we find figures of any sort applied to God, we must strain them no further than is consistent with a notion of His Divinity. Yet farther: if this name be not descriptive of a Divine relation, then the name “Father” also is not descriptive of a Divine relation. And if you take it away, then have we no manifestation of the first Person of the Godhead by any personally distinctive name whatever. As, therefore, you say the “Father” is a name belonging to the first Person of the Godhead as Divine, so is the “Son.” We must take notice, in an introductory way, of the expression “only.” This name, whatever be its import, belongs to Christ as it belongs to no one else. There is but one Son of God in the sense of my text. You do not need to go far back into the previous context to find that there are others who in a certain sense are the sons of God.


1. I think that instead of suggesting to us, when wisely interpreted, something inconsistent with Divinity, this title in its sole and incommunicable preeminence suggests the very idea of Divinity. Indeed that is the very first thought I find in it--sameness of nature with the Father. The Son of man is not angelic; the Son of man is man. And so when you speak of Him in the full and true and proper sense, the Son of God is God. Nay, so far may you carry this principle that you cannot describe a creature as the son or child of God without his being, as far as a creature may be, partaker of the Divine nature. It was because there was something of it in him that Adam was called the son of God. But in the full sense, in which it belongs to no other, it is true only of Jesus Christ that He is God.

2. Then there is second thought. There is resemblance in character. The Son of God resembles the Father, and the resemblance in this Divine nature is so perfect as to come to identity. “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father.”

3. Then, thirdly, these words Father and Son suggest intimacy of fellowship. “The Father showeth the Son all things that He Himself doeth!”

4. But perhaps the most prominent of all ideas connected with the title is intensity of mutual Divine affection. The Father loveth the Son.

5. There is another idea which is brought out also in Scripture, namely, community of interests. All that belongs to the Father belongs to the Son.

6. But I should be omitting one thought of great importance if I did not say that the title “Son,” as applied to the second Person in the Trinity, does, after all, indicate a certain distinction. The Father is not personally the Son, nor the Son the Father. And now for one or two particular inferences from what I have been unfolding in this somewhat dry and formal manner. And first--if these things be so--oh, what love is that of the Father towards sinful men? The second inference is this--I wish I could bring it out as it presents itself, in its attractive phase, to my own mind. If the Saviour be God’s beloved Son--His only Son--the object of infinite, unfathomable, everlasting delight--what an argument the sinner has when he goes to God for pardon, love, and all spiritual blessings! What a plea does God put in the sinner’s mouth, when He says to the sinner, “Ask of Me for My Son’s sake.” But there is another side to this argument. If the Saviour be

God’s only Son, what becomes of those that will not know Him--of those who dishonour and reject Him? (J. Edmund, D. D.)

He hath declared Him

Christ; the revelation of the invisible God

The obvious import of these words is, not that Jesus Christ has told or taught us verbally who and what God is, but that in His own person and life He is the silent inarticulate manifestation of God to the world. A child may declare or describe to you the appearance and character of his father; a pupil may tell you of his teacher; an author may give an account of himself in his book; but there may be in each of these cases an involuntary and indirect description, much more clear and emphatic than the direct one. For in his writings, the author, especially if he be an earnest writer, unconsciously portrays himself, so that we may know as much of the heart and soul of a favourite author by familiarity with his books as if we had lived for years in personal intercourse with him. So the pupil has caught the revered master’s manner; or the child bears, not only in his person, but in his temper, habits, sentiments, prevailing tone of thought and feeling, a strong family-likeness to the parent; and though there may be much in the father which, from inferiority of talents or attainments, the character of the child may be inadequate to represent, yet, according to his measure, he may convey to us a better idea of what the father is than by any express and formal description of him we could attain. Now, so it is in the case before us. Jesus manifests the Father by His person, by His life and character, and especially by His sufferings and death. (J. Caird, D. D.)

The unseen God made visible in Christ

In looking at the sun through a telescope, if we use unstained glass the eye will be burned to the socket, and we shall see nothing; but if we employ a coloured medium, we can examine it with safety. So no man can see God and live. But if we contemplate Him through Christ, that is, if we come to Him through the medium of humanity, we behold Him without being destroyed, nay, the sight of Him thus imparts salvation to us; for we behold His glory as that of the only begotten, and lo! it is full of grace and truth. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

Christ’s relation to the Great Father

He is the NEAREST RELATION to the Great Father. The phrase “onlybegotten” which occurs only here and Joh_1:14; Joh_3:16; Joh_3:18; 1 John 4:9, implies an essential relation perfectly unique as appears

1. From the interpretation which the Jews put upon it (chap. 5:18).

2. From the extraordinary manifestation of Divine love which the sacred writers saw in His mission.

3. From several events of His history

(1) His miraculous conception;

(2) His persistent self-assertion;

(3) His wondrous miracles;

(4) His atoning death;

(5) His resurrection and ascension.

He is TENDEREST IN AFFECTION to the Great Father.

1. In His preincarnate life (Proverbs 8:30).

2. In prophecy (Isaiah 42:1).

3. At His baptism.

4. At His transfiguration (2 Peter 1:17-18).

5. In the Epistles (Colossians 1:13). From this we learn

(1) That God loves; He is not mere infinite Intellectuality; He is infinite Sensibility too;

(2) Christ is the highest object of His love. That love is not the love of pity, of gratitude, but of infinite complacency.

He is the MOST ACCURATE IN THE KNOWLEDGE of the Great Father.

1. He alone is intellectually qualified to know God. The highest created being only knows God in some of His aspects; Christ knows Him in all, in His being.

2. He alone is morally qualified to know God. He alone is

(1) Sufficiently pure: only the pure in heart can see God;

(2) Sufficiently powerful: Moses, Isaiah, John could not stand a slight manifestation.

He is THE MOST COMPLETE REVELATION of the Great Father Matthew 11:27). He is the Logos, the only word which can express the Divine heart. He has revealed

1. God’s Being: a Spirit, etc.

2. His relation: a Father. If Christ is the correct revelation of God

(1) All other revelations must be tested by His.

(2) Much that is prevalent in religious society must be repudiated as un-Christ-like.

(3) Christ alone must be held as the Master of seals. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

A Blessed Evangel



1. Not an abstraction, but a Person.

2. Not a Supreme Intelligence merely, but an infinite Heart.

3. Not a Divinity enthroned in the serene altitudes of His measureless perfections, but a Father interested in the affairs and providing help for the necessities of His children, yea, coming near them in the person of His Son.


1. By establishing the inherent dignity of human nature, since it was capable of union with Divine.

2. By revealing its lofty possibilities when so allied.

3. And so discovering that man must have a future not bounded by time. The first prediction of this was man’s creation (Lev 1:27), the second the Incarnator (Hebrews 2:14).

THE SUBSTANCE OF THE GOSPEL which is announced to be grace and truth, without which the nature of God could not be revealed nor the destiny of man attained. Lessons:

1. Do we believe in the Incarnation? Our answer discloses the inner quality of our souls (1 John 4:2-3).

2. Have we accepted the gospel it brings? This also is heart searching, character revealing, destiny fixing inquiry (John 3:33; John 3:36; 1 John 5:10).

3. Can we confirm from personal experience these truths? If so our faith will be invincible against modern doubt. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)

The Revealer of God

Jesus Christ declared

THE UNITY OF GOD. By this we do not understand that this truth was absolutely unknown before His advent, but that it received new importance and fresh vitality in the religion He established.

1. There is but one God--a very vital truth. Whence came it? From nature? Let us ask the pupils of nature, the numerous nations of antiquity. How many gods are there? “There are gods many,” not that nature taught polytheism, but her pupils learnt it in her school. The mildest departure from the monotheistic faith was that of Persia and the adjoining countries. Their populations looked around, and beheld, as we behold, the presence of light and darkness, of good and evil. These two powers were in perpetual antagonism. How did they account for them? By the adoption of a creed in which there were two gods, Ormuzd and Ahriman, a god of good and a god of evil.

2. Turn from nature to philosophy. Philosophy and idolatry were attached twins. The capital of the one was the centre of the other (Acts 17:16). There were a few there who dared to ridicule the graven images; but what had they to offer instead? Nothing. The alternative lay between polytheism and atheism. One here and there gave utterance to lofty truths about God. But to their thinking the existence of inferior deities was not inconsistent with that of the Lord of all. Socrates on his deathbed ordered a fowl to be sacrificed on his behalf to the god AEsculapius. Besides, the idea of one God, supreme among the many, was counteracted in its influence by the absurd notion that in proportion to His greatness was He removed from the ordinary affairs of mankind.

3. This truth, absent from every other, is prominent in the literature of the Hebrews. The Jewish creed teaches it, but its Author is God.

4. This Old Testament truth Christ appropriated, and made it the cardinal doctrine of the new religion. He amplified it and gave it a vitality it never had before. Its novelty on Christ’s lips consist in its representation that God is near man and interested in his concerns. Judaism showed men a great God, but he was distant. Paganism showed them a near god, but he was small. In Christianity, however, we see the great God of the Jews without being far, and the near god of the Greek without being small.

THE SPIRITUALITY OF GOD. Not that this was totally unknown to the ancient leaders of thought, but that it received from Christ a new impulse, power, and application.

1. That God is a Spirit is a thought than which there is none more familiar to the modern mind. Whence came it? From nature? Decidedly not. Matter does not give the idea of spirit; it cannot give an idea which is not in it.

2. Whence then came it? We are conscious of mind, a substance essentially different from matter; but the most influential modern school denies that mind is different from matter, being only the natural result of the happy organisation of matter. And this was practically the doctrine of ancient stoicism, whose God was refined matter.

3. Let us turn to the Hebrew Scriptures, where we find very Spiritual views of God; but the ideas in the Jewish mind were low and carnal. Hence the proneness of the nation to idolatry, which is materialism of the grossest kind.

4. At this crisis Jesus Christ makes His appearance on the arena of history, and proclaims, with an emphasis and a fulness of meaning before unknown, “God is a Spirit,” etc. This declaration overwhelms us with its simplicity, purity, and grandeur.


1. The prominent idea of the god of nature is power. But the idea of bare power would create dismay rather than trust. God is mighty, but I have offended Him. Will He forgive? Nature cannot say?

2. The main excellence of the god of philosophy is wisdom; but such a god can make no appeal to the heart of humanity.

3. Christ declares that “God is love:” His love and His essence are so interwoven that the cessation of the one would be the destruction of the other. Being always in His bosom, the Lord Jesus knows perfectly the contents of God’s heart; and in His life, death, and ministry that heart is unfolded to the world. (J. Cynddylan Jones, D. D.)

God unfolding Himself to man

(Children’s Sermon):--The ancients tell a story of one who tried to storm the heavens, but was defeated, and had to bear the heavens as a punishment on his shoulders. He was called Atlas, from which we get the name for a collection of maps. Our religion rests upon the one great doctrine of God. How are we to know Him? We can’t see Him. But seeing the Queen would not make her known to us; but

1. If the Queen were to send us a picture painted by herself we should know her knowledge, skill, and love of beauty.

2. If she were to send a kind letter we should know her better.

3. If she sent a daughter exactly like herself we should know her best. In these three ways God has revealed Himself to us.

1. The world is a great picture painted by God. Visit a factory and you see order everywhere, which shows that the man who built and arranged such a place had an orderly mind. So there is order; and wisdom, power, beauty and goodness as well, which tells us something of God.

2. The Bible is God’s letter which tells us of God’s heart, which nature does not; and what He thinks of us and would have us be and do.

3. Jesus Christ is God’s Son, and if we want to know exactly what God is like we must study Jesus. If we want to know how He treats sinners and little children, we must find out how Jesus treated them. (Joseph Dawson.)

Christ the declarer of the Father


1. Its contents

(1) God’s nature, perfections, authority, and government;

(2) The eternal councils of His will for the salvation of lost sinners;

(3) The wonders of His love in sending His only-begotten Son into the world.

2. Its manner

(1) Unique and authoritative;

(2) Gentle and tender;

(3) Complete;

(4) Zealous;

(5) Courageous;

(6) Unanswerable;

(7) Commanding.

3. Its credentials

(1) The fulfilment of types and prophecies;

(2) His life;

(3) The purity of His doctrine;

(4) His miracles.

His PROPHETIC OFFICE more extensively considered

1. Before the Incarnation.

2. During His earthly life.

3. After His ascension

(1) By the ministry of inspired man;

(2) By the ministry of uninspired men, pastors, teachers, officers of the Church; calling them, inclining their hearts to the work, giving them opportunities for engaging in it;

(3) By internal illumination, removing the veil from men’s heart, and quickening their apprehensions by His Spirit.


1. To show the excellence and necessity of Christ’s teachings.

2. To warn against the danger of refusing to hear the Divine Teacher.

3. To encourage us to attend to His teachings. (Dr. Guyse.)

Christ the perfect revelation of God

Perfections that are set before us in mere epithets have no significance but that which we give them by thinking them out. But perfections lived, embodied physically, and acted before the senses, under social conditions, have quite another grade of meaning. How much, then, does it signify when God comes out from nature, out of all abstraction and abstractive epithets, to be acted personally in just those glorious and Divine passivities that we have least discerned in Him and scarcely dare impute to Him. By what other method can He meet us, then, so entirely new and superior to all past revelations, as to come into our world history in the human form; that organ most eloquent in its passivity, because it is at once most expressive and closest to our feeling? (H. Bushnell, D. D.)

God only to be seen in Christ Jesus

A man cannot behold the sun in the eclipse, it so dazzleth his eyes. What doth he then? He sets down a basin of water, and seeth the image of the sun shadowed in the water. So, seeing we cannot behold the infinite God, nor comprehend Him, we must, then, cast the eyes of our faith upon His image, Christ Jesus. When we look into a clear glass, it casteth no shadow to us; but put steel upon the back, then it casteth a reflex, and showeth the face in the glass. So, when we cannot see God Himself, we must put the manhood of our Lord Jesus Christ as it were a back to His Godhead, and then we shall have a comfortable reflex of His glory. (J. Spencer.)

God revealed in Christ

We use many words to declare our minds, thereby showing the incoherency of our thoughts and the faultiness of the vehicle in which we convey them. The more powerful the mind, the fewer and clearer the words it uses to disclose itself; and the higher and more inspirational the mood, the more condensed and significant the language. Every extraordinary genius reveals itself, not by the multiplicity of its sentences, but by one or two words struck off the anvil at the moment of white heat. Every illustrious man is characterised by one or two sentences. “Know thyself! “ therein you see the whole mind and philosophy of Socrates. God revealed Himself once in Christ the Word. (J. Cynddylan Jones, D. D.)

Christianity says with simplicity, “No man hath seen God, except God.Ó That is a saying of profound meaning. (Napoleon Buonaparte.)

Verses 19-28

John 1:19-28

The record of John



1. John was an eminent saint of God (Matthew 11:11; John 5:35),yet we see him lowly and self-abased.

(1) He refuses the honour which the Jews were ready to pay him;

(2) He declines all flattering titles;

(3) He asserts that he is only a voice and a baptizer with water;

(4) He exalts Christ alone.

2. The greatest saints in every age have been men of the Baptist’s spirit.

(1) They have differed widely in gifts;

(2) They have been all alike in humility; seeking not their own honour, thinking little of themselves, giving Christ the preeminence. This is the secret of the honour Christ has put upon them Luke 14:11).

3. Let us cultivate this spirit;

(1) This is the initial saving grace;

(2) We have no religion without it;

(3) All saints may have it;

(4) It will appear most beautiful in death and at the Judgment.


1. The Jews professed to be waiting for the Messiah, and yet at the moment of the manifestation of Christ they were utterly dark (verse 26). And, worse than this, the vast majority would never know Him.

2. John’s words apply to thousands now. Christ stands among those who know Him not. Money and pleasure they know. They are asleep with salvation within reach. Application:

1. Do we know the extent of our religious privileges?

2. Do we know that Christ rejected will be soon Christ withdrawn. (Bp. Ryle.)

The confession of John


1. He confessed I am not the Christ. This is a hard saying for human nature. Though death is working in every part, it will be its own saviour if it can. Man may be willing to take the reform of John wherewith to gild his own pretensions, but he is offended with the idea that he needs salvation at the hands of another. But there is no hope for him until he confesses it.

2. He confessed that he was not Elias nor any of the prophets. He came, indeed, in the spirit and power of Elias (Matthew 11:14), and was “more than a prophet”: but not in their sense. Ah! the deceitfulness of the human heart! To have such popular preachers, to be united to such a mighty Church--this pleases the natural man. But John’s example teaches us to renounce all prophets, save only as they set Christ forth.

3. He confessed he was not worthy to perform the most menial cruces for Christ. The greatest of men sink into nothing before the glory of Christ. And if such was John’s unworthiness, considering who he was, what is ours, considering who we are?


1. He bore witness to Christ’s preexistence, and therefore to His divinity.

2. To His coming after him, and therefore to His humanity.

3. To His real presence, and any one searching for Him can find Him now in His Word and sacraments; and He is present now as then, as the Messiah, with all His Messianic blessings.

4. To his atonement (John 1:29).


1. We are to give heed to the testimony of Christ’s heralds.

(1) Those who speak to us in the Scriptures;

(2) Those who minister in sacred things;

2. We must set ourselves to work in Christ’s way;

(1) By repentance (John 1:23);

(2) By faith (John 1:29). (J. A. Seiss, D. D.)

The Forerunner’s confession

BY WHOM MADE. John: on the testimony of the Evangelist (John 1:19) and his own (John 1:23).

1. The Evangelist’s estimate of John was high (John 1:6-7). The dignity of his person, the nobility of his character, the elevation of his calling (comp. Pro 32:2).

2. His estimate of himself was low (John 1:23); an obscure desert preacher, an echo sounding through moral wastes, an insignificant forerunner, a water baptizer who could not touch the impure heart. This language revealed the essential humility of his nature (John 3:20; cf. Philippians 2:3), the felt loneliness of his position (John 3:26; cf. Kings 19:10), his feebleness (John 3:27; cf. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10), the fruitlessness of his mission (John 1:25).

WHEN DELIVERED. On the occasion of the Embassy and after the Baptism. It was

1. Timely: given at the moment required (1 Peter 3:15).

2. Prompt: without hesitation or reluctance, knowing that he had nothing to conceal or to be ashamed of (2 Timothy 1:8.)

3. Consistent: the same to the legates and to the populace (Matthew 5:37; Corinthians 1:8.)

4. Final (Hebrews 10:2; John 3:6).

TO WHOM ADDRESSED. The deputation from Jerusalem (verse 19).

1. Composed of Priests and Levites, who would keep each other in countenance, and perhaps overawe the desert prophet by their combined importance.

2. Prompted by growing excitement in the Temple authorities at John’s popularity. Perhaps hastened by report of Christ’s baptism. Those who enter on evil courses are easily alarmed (Job 18:7-11.) Rulers governing by force or fraud are afraid of democratic commotions.

3. Instructed to ask who the Baptist was. Public men must expect to be criticized and questioned out of jealousy, fear, and even hate.

OF WHAT COMPOSED. Of his testimony concerning himself.

1. Negatively:

(1) Not the Christ concerning whom he volunteers no information Proverbs 29:11; Ecclesiastes 3:7);

(2) Not Elias, i.e, in the sense they meant; although he was Elias in the sense of Malachi (verse 5), and Christ (Matthew 11:14);

(3) Not the prophet: neither Moses nor Jeremiah (Job 10:21;Zechariah 1:5.)

2. Positively:

(1) A voice in the wilderness;

(2) A herald of Jehovah.

(3) A baptizer;

(4) A servant of Christ.


1. The best qualifications for a witness of Christ--humility and courage.

2. The secret of success in life--to know who oneself is not as well as who oneself is.

3. The inferiority of all Christ’s servants to himself. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)

The Forerunner and his Lord


1. there was something in the man that called it forth. Speaking generally, every man is an enigma. Many men, however, go through life without being challenged. Men of the regulation type, whose individuality never strikes you--such men have an easy time of it and give others no trouble. There are others whose strong and striking individuality is an intolerable nuisance to a slumbering, self-complacent society--heroes, reformers, martyrs. Such was John. No one could mistake him for any one else. Hence he was put on his defence and cross-examined.

2. There was something in the times that called forth this question. The world was throbbing with expectation. Heathen religion and philosophy ended in a query. The lost deity of Athens was a note of interrogation. The Jews had grown weary of the stereotyped platitudes of the Rabbis. Men could not help contrasting these days with those of the prophet. And now John came with words of living fire, and thousands exclaimed, “this is the Prophet.” The phylactured class looked profound and shook their heads. Others responded, “No amount of head shaking will account for this miracle of a man: While you shake your head he is shaking multitudes.” It was natural that the spirit of inquiry awakened by him should be first exercised upon him.

A GREAT ANSWER. It is not difficult to give our estimate of other men, but very difficult for a man of delicate feeling to estimate himself, and most difficult to a man of John’s popularity. If there be any littleness in him it will show itself now. John had summed up other people; what about his estimate of himself! An exaggerated estimate had been formed of him. Will he have genius and modesty enough to correct it? Yes.

1. He answers negatively, and brushes away all exaggerations.

2. He answers in the affirmative

(1) concerning himself. Isaiah had only noticed the voice and message. John would not do otherwise

(2) concerning Him for whom he had been mistaken. Every true preacher finds his way from every question to Christ.

(a) He is near;

(b) He stands. Not one who hurries through like a passing stranger;

(c) He is unrecognized;

(d) He is the Lamb of God. (David Davies.)

The mission of John the Baptist

It was no affair of his to determine his own latitude and longitude in the chart of the world’s history. That was for his cotemporaries to do, not for him. That was their responsibility, not his. It was for him not to be thinking about himself and what he might possibly be, but to do his work, to fulfil his mission, to bear his testimony.

1. You cannot have forgotten how our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, being tempted in the wilderness, took up, in opposition to the tempter, not any special or exceptional ground such as He might claim as Messiah and Son of God, but common human ground, such as any poor tempted, suffering mortal may stand on and be safe. The language of the evangelist reveals his profound sense of the difficulty of the situation and of the nobleness of the Baptist’s demeanour in it: “He confessed, and denied not: but confessed, I am not the Christ.” It was so easy to equivocate, to give an ambiguous answer; so hard to return a decisive, resolute, unhesitating “no.” The false prophet would have returned a very different answer. The true prophet must take up common human ground, and so be help and strength to his sinful, suffering, tempted fellow-men. “Is the way of the Lord straight, or not? Is every obstacle removed out of his path, every offence out of His kingdom? If not, then it is my duty, and yours, to help to make it straight. This is all that I profess or claim to do. Necessity is laid upon me, and do it I must.”

2. But again--there is a shadow of loneliness and isolation in the reply, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness.” And so it must always be when the circumstances are at all similar. John the Baptist was far in advance of his cotemporaries; was at a far higher spiritual level than they. There was only One who could thoroughly under stand, appreciate, and sympathize with him--his Master and ours, Jesus Christ. If your work is the fruit of real conviction, if it is inspired by true ideas, the work will live, the ideas will triumph, will spread and propagate themselves and mould other minds--on a small scale it may be, and in a very humble way--until it shall be a surprise even to yourself to witness it. John’s work lives even to this day. His thoughts still mould us.

3. And, once more, there is a feeling of hope and joy in the reply, as well as a shadow of loneliness and isolation. John the Baptist could not forget, any more than we can, that the words which he selected to describe his work are imbedded in a passage of which this is the opening strain: “Comfort ye, comfort ye, My people, saith your God.” True prophet and earnest worker for God that he was, he could not but find joy in his work, for the work’s own sake, as well as sorrow. For it is the very nature of such work to bring both joy and sorrow. It is so still. Whatever be the work which is given us to do, whatever be the path of duty for us, if we will but throw ourselves heartily into the one, and tread the other firmly and diligently, hope and interest and joy are sure to spring up around us. In some way or other the work is sure to bring a multitude of wholesome human interests along with it. (D. J. Vaughan, M. A.)

The mission from Jerusalem

The work of John and its results would seem to have come up formally before the Sanhedrim, and this mission was born of their professional dealing with the matter. They had suffered him to go on for some time without taking any public notice of him, Gamaliel-like thinking. If this be of man, it will come to nought; if of God, it will prove itself. And so the resolution probably was: Wait and take the winning side. I suppose they looked upon the Forerunner as one who was going up like a rocket and would come down as a stick. They do not send a deputation till they must. They did not like this interloper, but comforted themselves with the thought that the worst would soon blow over, and that the enthusiasm, too fierce to last, would soon cool down. At length, when they found that it was not to be pooh-poohed, they said, “We must see to the bottom of this.” But it would not have been dignified to come to examine into matters themselves, so they sent a deputation to obtain an account of who John was and what he was about. (A. B. Grosart, D. D.)

The Sanhedrim,

though of considerable antiquity, was not of Mosaic origin, nor was it called by that name until the days of Antipater and Herod. In the time of Christ it was composed of seventy-one members, chosen from

1. The chief priests and their families, the officiating high priest being president;

2. The elders, including both priests and laymen, and

3. The scribes, professional jurists, or experts in law. The court resembled that of Jehoshaphat’s time (2 Chronicles 19:8-11), and possessed the power of judging a tribe, a false prophet, and a chief priest. It was not so much a theological court, to whose jurisdiction belonged all offences against the theocratical principles of the State, as the supreme native tribunal of Judea, to which all matters were referred that could not be dealt with in inferior courts, or that were not reserved by the Procurator. In the exercise of its judicial capacity, therefore (Deuteronomy 18:12), these emissaries were sent to inquire into John’s credentials as a prophet. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)

The Baptist’s temptation

This may be regarded as a temptation of John corresponding to the simultaneous temptation of Christ. John refused the titles in which the hierarchical party expressed their false views, even as Christ refused to satisfy their expectations by the assumption of external power. (Canon Westcott.)

Is it a little thing to have a deputation waiting upon you from the capital, in whose heart there is evidently a very special expectation, and to hear them say, “Who art thou?” in a tone which seems to imply “We shall not be surprised if thou dost reveal thyself as the very light we have been expecting.” This temptation often seizes a man, and, extending himself beyond his proper function and calling by flattering persuasions, the result is self-mortification and ignominy; and he who might have done something really good goes out of the world having mis-spent his little day. When a man says, “I claim infallibility,” and, whether at Rome or in London, he commits the most grievous sins, though he wear the holiest of names. Look at John, see how the great men crowd round him. It never occurred to him that he was some great one. Hence the subtlety of these tempting flatteries. But he baffled them, and kept them at arm’s length. He would have no compliments, and declined the illustrious titles that were offered him one by one. But this was not enough. John did not stop at the half truth. A man may resist a temptation to lie, and yet conceal the whole of the truth he has been commissioned to tell. If John was not the Christ, but knew who the Christ was, it was not enough for him to decline the Messiahship. He must declare the Christ. This he did with a promptness, clearness, and fulness that puts many a so-called evangelical ministry to the blush. Hence John came out unscathed, and was rewarded by one of the greatest eulogies ever pronounced by Christ on man. (J. Parker, D. D.)


It was by no accident that these were mentioned. John was of the national priesthood, and thus descended from the Levites. It is just possible therefore that relatives or family friends being turned for the nonce into deputies, he might be more easily persuaded to fall in harmony with that foregone conclusion to which they would guide him. Thus a disturbing element of personal relationship would enter into the temptation to assert himself, and to surcease his lowly subordination of himself to that “other” Christ who could by no possibility be accepted by these temporal Messiah-expecting Jews. (A. B. Grosart, D. D.)

Who art thou?--The botanist, in his rambles along the lanes and among the hedgerows, passes by hundreds of flowers without pausing to look at them. A momentary glance is enough. He has seen so many of the same kind before. But now and then he sees a flower which invites his curiosity. He takes his pocket lens, and, with many a keen, scrutinizing, gaze he asks, “What art thou? What sayest thou of thyself.” This was the principle in which these religious scientists came to John. He did not belong to their schools, and had not been classified in their catalogue of men and professions. In what niche could he be placed? Such a man is an awkward one for classification. He is a class in himself. He cannot be bracketed with others. (David Davies.)

I am not the Christ.--A gentleman heard two distinguished ministers one Sunday. Recording his experience, he said: “In the morning I could not see the Master for the man; in the evening I could not see the man for the Master.” (David Davies.)

Ministers must send men to Christ

A member of Ebenezer Erskine’s congregation recorded that having gone once to that godly man to express his admiration and gratitude for a particular sermon, Mr. Erskine accepted gratefully the latter but dismissed the former peremptorily, and asked with kindling eye, “Did the sermon lead you to Christ? If never before did you then and there give yourself to Jesus Christ?” The preacher’s fidelity was painful at the moment, and was resented; but after reflection led the visitor to acknowledge that, but for the preacher’s turning away the conversation from praise of the sermon to Jesus Christ, he would have been little or nothing the better for it. As it was he was sent to Christ. The pointed question set him thinking and praying, and he never rested until he had given himself to the Lord Jesus. (A. B. Grosart, D. D.)

Verse 20

John 1:20

He confessed and denied not

John and Jesus



1. It seems easy for John to have confessed and denied not. But here is a people ripe for Christ. They had been expecting Him for four hundred years. Moreover, no sooner did John appear than there was a tendency in the whole nation to recognize him as the Christ. They ask expecting an affirmative. For in John they recognize a born leader, a man which met the traditional conception of what the Messiah was to be. The ball was at his feet; the sceptre within his grasp; the hermit of the desert may to-morrow be a king. One word decides the future, but the hardest temptation--that to power--is resisted.

2. It was not easy for John to resist; is it easy for us? How many are content to appear just as and what they are? There are very few who are not ready to appear more learned, clever, innocent, and better off than we really are, if our fellows will only give us credit for it. How much need there is for absolute truth telling in social life! When a man hates another he generally says what he means; but to speak truth at all times, in the ordinary dealings of life, even though admiring deputations leave us and in spite of neglect and pain, this is difficult.

3. This reality was the secret of John’s power.

(1) He was trained for it in the desert. He had been face to face with God and had learned to pray, think, act for himself without “consulting any but his conscience and his God.” He had accustomed himself, too, to self-denial and to do without enervating luxuries and dissipating companionships. The desert enters too little into the curriculum of our education.

(2) The evidence of John’s reality was his popularity. This position may seem doubtful, because we often find that a man’s popularity is in inverse proportion to his sincerity. Yet men love reality. John’s preaching was direct, personal, frank, hard hitting; and yet the crowd was always there: the homely citizen, the publican, the warrior, the Pharisee, all swept into the vortex of this man’s influence, and the reason was John’s reality. At heart the world hates humbug; and it is this religious manliness that we want to-day. The Church has grown afraid of plain speaking, and her apologetic “hope I don’t intrude” the world listens to with disguised contempt and dismisses with easy scorn.


1. This a rare gift in the great scramble of life, where every man sets his heart upon a common prize. Here is a great, powerful, popular man swaying a nation, and yet at the very crisis of victory obliterates himself in favour of another.

2. Thus early in history we are taught that Christ must be all in all. They called John “the Baptist”; but John dismissed the title. He said, “No, there is another baptism in comparison with which mine is nothing.” We are not Wesleyans, Baptists, Churchmen--these are ephemeral distinctions which men set up. When the Master comes, all such distinctions die. We are Christians only. And when we begin to decrease into nothingness, when our poor getting on, our thirst for power, is swept out of us and there is left nothing but the desire that Christ shall shine--then there is increase for the Church.

3. Christ and John--how near they stand together; yet how far apart! Christ like John could be stern. It was to John’s murderer that Christ uttered the one purely contemptuous expression that ever passed His lips. John like Christ could be gentle. The most beautiful thing ever said of Christ was said by this stern ascetic. But John was not Jesus; and he confessed it. (W. J. Dawson.)

Verses 22-23

John 1:22-23

What sayest thou of thyself?

THE CIRCUMSTANCES WHICH MADE THE MAN. John was the transition point between the old and the new. The old religion was breaking up as was evident in the multiplication of sects, like the multiplication of the sects before the Reformation showed that it was near. Four divisions of society:

1. The Pharisees. The formalists of their day they endeavoured to keep religion alive by retaining the past. It is an evidence of something gone when antiquarians collect and prize relics. Pharisaism is the religion of habit.

2. The Sadducees: Rationalists, cold of heart and clear in intellect. Sadduceeism is a reaction against Phariseeism in every age. Rationalism is a dry, critical, negative spirit which protests against all that cannot be proved. The religion of the intellect merely.

3. The Essenes: They could bear neither formalism nor scepticism. Mystics who went out into the wilderness to find God in contemplation. Their creed “God must be felt,” their religion one of feeling.

4. The Herodians: A political party who turned aside from religious questions to those which concerned man’s social and political existence.


1. It was impossible for John to join the Pharisees. How, with his impatience of all that was unreal and his iron earnestness, could he belong to those whose life was droned away in litanies and genuflexions?

2. Nor can we conceive him resting in mere Sadducaic negations; satisfied with their cold intellectualisms and protests against superstition?

3. Nor could that iron man dream life away with the Essenes.

4. As for the Herodians--surely for one whose life was so real, a patriot’s life offered what was wanted. But John yearned not for civil liberty, but a kingdom of God. He loved humanity more than men, and could find no career in mere politics. It is only in the consideration of such circumstances that John’s peculiar life becomes intelligible.


1. The preparation. Thirty years’ preparation for one year’s work.

(1) Consider the testimony of such a life to the existence of another world;

(2) In the wilderness he measured the worth of society, with its conventionalities and parties, as one sees how the battle goes while he is in it; no one ever understood the world except by getting out of it;

(3) The Spirit of God passed into life and action in Him, and made Him intensely real. Only real men can deal witch real questions, and the real questions of to-day are not the frivolous ones discussed in religious journals, but what is God and where. What is human life? Whither are we tending?

2. The mode in which John prepared the way for Christ.

(1) He calls himself a voice: an articulate expression. Four centuries had passed and no one could speak the word “Repent,” if the kingdom of God is to come. Regenerated society comes not from regenerated institutions; but regenerated hearts produce both. But none till John had found the tongue to express this. He spoke out what the world wanted. Distinguish between eloquence and fluency. Fluency John had not: short, sharp, decisive words were his. No ornament or trick of oratory there. Let us not covet fluency but eloquence, the gift of speaking the right thing, at the right time, in the right way.

2. He was a voice crying “Prepare,” etc. He was s leveller.

(1) The mountain of caste stood in the King’s way. John said, “I tell you God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham,” and the mountain fell.

(2) The mountain of religious sectarianism, “O generation of Vipers,” levelled that.

(3) The mountain which gave impunity to wrong doing. John’s rebuke of Herod brought that down. Notice the wondrous way in which all fell together at that mighty voice. (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)

The answer of the Baptist

He had come


1. This was Isaiah’s belief, and when John accentuated it he knew that the Divine visitation was near. Had the prophet suspected the delay he would have wondered, and knowing it, doubtless John wondered. Do we? Let us then remember that God always takes His time. If He wants to make a weed, that does not take Him long: if He wants to make an oak, that is more tedious business; if He wants to save a world it takes Him longer still.

2. The Baptist did not imply that God was absent, but that He was about to be manifested. Hitherto it had been winter; the Sun of righteousness had been comparatively hidden. Now He was to arise with healing in His wings.

3. Christ came for

(1) The world’s enlightenment;

(2) The subjugation of men;

(3) The saving of the world.

TO BID MEN GET READY FOR HIM. “Make straight the way.” That was man’s work. If God had compelled men to prepare that would have ensured the frustration of His purposes. God’s will is that men should do His will willingly. Three great barriers.

1. Thoughtlessness: It was troublesome to think about Christ sufficiently to see the validity of His claims; so now.

2. Pride: The Jews could not bring themselves to confess their need of a Saviour.

3. Worldliness. (H. W. Burgoyne, M. A.)

The voice crying in the wilderness

WHERE THE VOICE CRIED. In the wilderness.

1. Locally:

(1) Generally, the wilderness of Judaea (Matthew 3:1);

(2) Particularly, Bethany beyond Jordan.

2. Metaphorically: in the moral desert of Judaea Israel was a wilderness, and Zion a desolation. The Hope of Israel survived only in the breasts of a Luke 1:25). The deepest corruption and the basest hypocrisy reigned among the priesthood (Matthew 23:13; Matthew 23:39). The people were sunk in social and moral degradation (Matthew 3:8; Luke 7:7-14). The intellectual classes were ostentatiously sceptical (Matthew 22:23; Acts 23:8).

THE PROPHETIC VOICE IS SUITABLE FOR AND DEMANDED BY THE SPIRITUAL WASTES OF SOCIETY. There the prophet should cry aloud and spare not (Isaiah 58:1).


1. Lonely.

2. Authoritative.

3. Directive.

4. Arrestive. (T. Whitelaw, M. A.)

Only a voice

Christ was a surprise to the world. God prepared the world for this by the ministry of the Baptist. The world has now become accustomed to the story of redemption. But the proclamation of the coming of the King in His glory is still a surprise. It runs counter to all human plans of development, is contradictory to the pride and self-confidence of men, and stands in the same relation to our ministry as did the coming of Christ as a Redeemer to that of the Baptist. That we may rightly fulfil this most responsible office, let us look at the outline of his work. These parallel and coincident offices are

AN ORDINANCE, NOT AN OUTGROWTH. Its origin is traced to mystery. It is not in harmony with the other voices of the world, but introduces a discord with other utterance, as students of history criticise the record. Heaven, not earth, is its source. It came by Divine ordinance, not through human development. The law of its appointment was such in John the Baptist, and is to be such in our living.

1. The motive of its fulfilment is of God.

2. The reward of fidelity is equally of Divine ordinance--does not come by natural outgrowth. The herald’s work will have little accumulation of visible results. The reward is beyond. Soon shall we forget the ingratitude of earth.

IT IS THE INSTRUMENTALITY OF ANOTHER’S INDIVIDUALITY. As if he had said, “I am the mouthpiece of one proclaiming.”

1. The breath of God is the power by which our work is accomplished. Said Paul, “I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.”

2. The words are of God, though ours be the voice. And may I add to this thought, the very tone of such a voice is of God.

Finally, ALL THIS IS COMBINED IN TESTIMONY. There was the simplicity of sincerity in this man. Christian workers, make it true in your own experience that ye are for Christ without qualification; and let man be helped by the testimony that springs from this deep sincerity.

1. Self-forgetful living is the first element in such testimony.

2. In such testimony there must be detaching influence. John the Baptist did not attach disciples to himself. He pointed to the Lamb of God, and his disciples left him and followed Jesus.

3. There must be plainest teaching. John the Baptist preached a single sermon, twice the same day; but while he had that sermon he needed no new one. “Behold the Lamb of God,” etc. It was blessed to his hearers because it was emphasized by sincerity and consecration. Peter and Andrew knew his meaning, and comprehended that there was more in his utterance than even the words had phrased. Let us enter into this harmony of service, so that our speech shall be sustained by our silence; our conscious influence be in harmony with that which is unconscious and undesigned among our fellow-men.

Conclusion: I speak to

1. Christians that they may bear their testimony to the manifested and coming King.

2. Those who are not Christians. The voice of Christ speaks to you to-day. What answer will you give? (S. H. Tyng, D. D.)

Self out of sight in the preacher

Rev. Dr. Andrew A. Bonar in “Christian Growth,” an address to Christians at Glasgow, said: “Some years ago, a zealous and devoted eider, now gone to glory, was pushing his way one evening to be in time for a workers meeting. Taking his place in the meeting, he noticed how the conversation was going on, and rose to give a word. He said, ‘In coming along I saw a crowd at a shop door in Argyle Street. I pressed in among the crowd to see what was attracting the attention. There was a large picture in the hands of the auctioneer; and he, with great skill, was holding it up to view; and, standing behind his picture so as to be completely hid, was inviting the attention of the company to every remarkable point in the painting. All the while I never got a glimpse of the man himself. That is the way to preach Christ. Self, out of sight--Christ held forth.’”

An uncouth messenger, but a glorious message

A lady, who was in Richmond at the time of the siege, tells of the delight with which she received a note torn from a soldier’s pocketbook, and grimed all over with gunpowder; but which assured of the safety of the town. The medium was nothing; the message was everything. (H. O. MacKey.)

A minister’s work

My barque is but a little fishing boat, whose business it is to fish for the souls of men; my gifts fit me only to be such a coasting vessel as may carry corn from port to port to feed those who hunger for satisfying bread. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The Baptist and the Bible

JOHN HAD LEARNED TO READ HIS BIBLE. It is a good thing to be able to quote from Scripture. To buy a Bible and treasure it as an ornament is good as far as it goes; but the book must be read so as to be remembered if it is to be of service. It is just possible that had we been in the Baptist’s place we should have had some difficulty in making our memory of Scripture serve us. The Bible is crowded out by the multiplication of books, the very best of which is not to be named beside it.

JOHN BELIEVED IN PROPHECY. The question arose, doubtless, as to whether the New Teacher was orthodox. His testimony, however otherwise disagreeable, showed that he was loyal to the traditions of his religion and country. It is a great trouble to some people to believe in the Jewish prophets.

John believing in prophecy REGARDED HIMSELF AS THE FULFILMENT OF IT. It is not every man who, being asked who and what he is, can turn to the Scripture and find the answer there. The remembrance that God was working according to a great plan, and that he was part of that plan, must have given him a noble self-consciousness. In this the Baptist was not wholly singular. Although our names may not be in the Bible, we are as much a part of God’s plan as John was. Believe, then, that as truly as God sent the Baptist He sent you. (H. W. Burgoyne, B. A.)

John in the wilderness

Losing the solaces of an earthly home, he found in God an everlasting portion. Like a single trunk of an Alpine tree rising solitary from between the interstices of some lonely rock and throwing its branches over the cataract. You look for soil, there is scarcely any to be seen; and yet that gnarled root has fastened its tenacious grasp on the bare stone, and tossed its green branches in the air, as if it needed nothing but the breath of heaven for its support. So this soul flourished where less hardy spirits would have starved, and breathed freely the atmosphere of heaven while yet upon earth. (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)

Make the paths straight

This is what the sun says. He comes to us every morning, and stays with us all day long, but if it were not for the preparation and reception in the way of opening shutters and raising blinds, we should lose very much of his blessing. All the world over, before a blessing can be enjoyed there must be a fitness to receive it. If you take a blind man into a picture-gallery, what good do you do? The beauty of the pictures is there, but the man is unaffected by it; its way into the man’s soul has not been made straight. You may play all manner of beautiful music, but if your audience is deaf, you play only for yourself; the way of the music is not made straight except into your heart. And the result will be just the same if the blindness and deafness are not natural but assumed. If the man in the picture-gallery is only covering his eyes with his hands, he is as good as blind; and if the people in the concert-room are only putting their fingers into their ears, they are as good as deaf. So it was, alas! so it is, with the people and Jesus. (H.W. Burgoyne.)

Verses 24-27

John 1:24-27

They which were sent were of the Pharisees

The question of the Pharisees


It is an evidence of a sick and corrupt Church when corrupt men are entrusted with most grave and weighty employments in it; for so was it with the Church of the Jews when “they which were sent were of the Pharisees.”

2. Corrupt men are more ready to jangle and lie at wait for advantages than to embrace the truth of God delivered by His servants; for these Pharisees take no notice of what He had said from Isaiah, nor seek to be further cleared in it, but think they have an advantage of him, that he should presume to baptize. “Why baptizest thou, then, if thou be not that Christ?” etc.

3. It was an uncontroverted truth, both among friends and foes, in the Jewish Church, that at the coming of the Messiah there should be some changes in the way of religion and an institution of new ordinances; for the Pharisees have nothing to say against his baptism if he were Christ, or Elias, or the prophet: their only objection is, “Why baptizest thou, then, if thou he not?” And John’s answer, “I baptize, but there standeth One among you,” etc., importeth that he being Christ’s forerunner, who was now come into the world, it was lawful for him to administer this sacrament.

4. Ministers ought to arrogate no more unto themselves than to be ministers and dispensers of the external means of word and sacraments, leaving the glory and efficacy thereof unto Christ entirely; and people ought so to be affected in coming to these ordinances. Therefore saith John, “I baptize with water,” not denying that Christ also baptized with water, nor yet denying that baptism administered by him was accompanied with grace and the Spirit of God; but he only compareth his person and office with Christ’s, and showeth that whatever grace came by the sacrament administered by him, yet he was not the giver of it, but Christ only, who had appointed him to dispense the outward seal.

5. Christ may be among a people, and yet they who reckon themselves very high in the Church neither see Him nor know Him; for saith John, “there standeth One whom ye know not.”

6. It is the duty of ministers, and will be the care of such as are faithful and zealous, to exalt and commend Christ at all occasions, that men may fall in love with Him. Therefore doth John again repeat his doctrine, “He it is,” etc.

7. The more high employment and the eminent gifts men have, and the more ready men are to esteem of them, the more will they abase themselves, if they be truly gracious, and be affected with the excellency of Christ; for it is John, the greatest among them that are born of women, and so much esteemed among the Jews, and the forerunner of Christ, who thus abaseth himself. “He is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose.”

8. Albeit Christ, of free grace, do honour men with eminent employments under Him, and particularly ministers of the gospel. Yet such as know Christ and themselves well will not only see that they are unworthy of the high employments they have, but even to do the basest service to Him; for John saith not, I am unworthy to be His forerunner, though employed in that service, but “whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose,” which was a mean and base office. (G. Hutcheson.)

The Pharisees

represented the Judaism of the Post-Exilian era. Originally purists as well as legalists, they strove to carry out in practice the ideal of legal life set up by the scribes. Hence they were denominated Perushim, Pharisees or Separatists. First mentioned by Josephus under Jonathan and Hyrcanus, high priests about B.C. 145-150. In the time of Christ they had so far degenerated from their primitive piety as to make the essence of religion consist in ceremonial observance--an apostacy which drew down upon them the exposures, rebukes, and denunciations of Jesus. They were ultra-conservatives in Israel, the champions of orthodox literalism, and who accordingly watched everywhere with inquisitorial severity to see that the theocratic order was preserved intact, not merely as to ritual, but also with respect to the competence of office and doctrine (Joh_9:13; Joh_7:47-48; Joh_12:42). (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)

Verse 26

John 1:26

I baptize with water

The baptism of John

If the rite, which the Forerunner of our Lord administered, is not to be considered as a Christian institute, to what dispensation are we to assign it, since it is manifestly no part of the economy of Moses?

The reply is that it was the symbol of a peculiar dispensation, which was neither entirely legal nor Evangelical, but occupied an intermediate station, possessing something of the character and attributes of both; a kind of twilight, equally removed from the obscurity of the first, and the splendour of the last and perfect economy of religion. The light which he emitted, though it greatly surpassed every preceding illumination, was of short duration, being soon eclipsed and extinguished by that ineffable effulgence, before which nothing can retain its splendour. (Robert Hall.)


One among you

Christ among us

1. As to His human nature, as one of yourselves, as He took upon Him the form of man and became the servant of men, and is among you as once He sat in the midst of the doctors in the Temple.

2. As to the Divine nature He is amongst you, for He filleth all in all, and is very nigh to every one.

3. He is among you as the Light which lighteth every man, and as the Word of Wisdom in the heart of all His people.

4. Among you as the Mediator between man and God, and seeking to draw all men to God.

5. Not as the Baptist in the desert, but in the midst of the cities of men.

6. Among you all, for the benefit of all, as the true tree of life in the midst of the garden of this world for the life and for the healing of all. (W. Denton, M. A.)

The unknown presence

We can imagine the Master visiting various spheres in the modern world with the same result.




AFFLICTION. (H. J. W. Buxton, M. A.)

Christ near yet unperceived


1. In part arising from the intentional obscurity that veiled His appearance among man for purposes of their own earthly sovereigns often travel in disguise; but the world has never witnessed so strange an incognito as this. The King of Glory laid aside His robes of light, and in the simple garb of a suffering man, “hid” Himself from the wise and prudent that He might reveal Himself to the lowly and the meek. From His own disciples at times He purposely veiled His identity (John 21:4; John 21:4; Luke 24:16; Luke 24:31).

2. Too largely owing to the blinding effect of sin. The other and gentler John affirms the same mysterious but humbling fact, and enumerates the accumulating evidence of its truth. For ages the true Light shined in promise, prophecy, holy law and inward conscience, yet the darkness discovered it not (verse 5). In the fulness of time the Creator came to visit this province of His empire, and was unrecognized upon His own estate (verse 10). More humbling still, when He came to His own possessions His own people received Him not (verse 11). Even those to whom He made Himself known were but imperfectly acquainted with Him.

THE IGNORANCE OF MAN CONCERNING THAT WHICH THEY MOST NEED TO KNOW. Ignorance baneful, knowledge beneficial; yet vast numbers are strangers to the source, centre and sum of all wisdom.

1. With some the knowledge of Christ is only indirect; the evidence of vague rumours or the acceptance of testimony; a secondhand knowledge.

2. Personal knowledge exists in varying degrees. Some are only on terms of distant acquaintance; others have occasional communications; others have intimate friendship; with the most loyal and loving Christ sustains confidential relations.

3. To be ignorant of Him is the worst privation man can suffer (2 Corinthians 4:8; 2 Corinthians 4:4).

4. When He is known He is admired, loved, trusted and obeyed (chap. 4:10).


1. He has no wish to be unrecognized. He stands, waits, knocks Revelation 3:20).

2. He awaits our entreaty to remove His disguise (Jeremiah 14:5).

3. Once admitted to His friendship we shall grow in intimacy with Him.

4. In His own home hereafter He will show us more and more of His hidden glory. (R. Lewis.)

Christ unrecognized

A STARTLING WONDER. Christ unknown.

1. Not from want of evidence then or previously.

(1) The world manifested its Maker;

(2) Conscience reflected His light;

(3) Prophecy and type shadowed His person and ministry. Abraham saw His day. Moses spoke of Him. To Him gave all the prophets witness.

(4) John proclaimed Him.

2. Not from want of evidence now. In addition to all the above,

(1) The Holy Spirit testifies of Him.

(2) The Christian consciousness of eighteen centuries fulfils the promise of His perpetual presence.

(3) His ambassadors declare Him.

(4) His sacraments embody Him. How strange that He should be amongst the children of His people, the hearers of His gospel, and yet not be known!

A STERN NECESSITY. In the knowledge of Him, and in that alone standeth our eternal life. That knowledge is the beginning, the middle and the end of Christianity.

1. The beginning. Christ’s first invitation echoed by His first convert was “Come and see.” Isaiah saw His glory, and was cleansed for service. When Paul saw Christ he became a new man.

2. The continuance. The development of Christian life depends on growing knowledge of Him (2 Peter 3:18; Philippians 3:10; Hebrews 12:2; cf. Hebrews 3:1).

3. Its consummation is in heaven, where we shall see His face, and be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is.

A BLESSED OPPORTUNITY. “There standeth.”

1. How?

(1) Stationary--not shifting, coming and going.

(2) Patient--not wearied by procrastination, but waiting to be gracious.

(3) Accessible. “Lo, I am with you alway.” “Now is the accepted time.”

2. What as?

(1) A sympathizer.

(2) A Saviour.

(3) A personal friend.


1. To know Christ is to be known of Him. Christ knows His sheep. He recognizes us when our friends have ceased to do so; when it is difficult to do so; in poverty and obloquy; at the last day.

2. Not to know Christ is to be disowned by Him. “I never knew you.” (J. W. Burn.)

He it is, who, coming after me, is preferred before me

The magnanimity of the Baptist

The world recognizes jealousy as the chief weakness of popular leaders and preachers. Such men are spiritual athletes, who cannot bear a rival. The greatest of popular preachers, the darling of Antioch and Constantinople, admits that he who can overcome this is almost like the disembodied spirits, whose lives, pure as the crystal stream, can never be darkened by any shadow of envy or vainglory. But the leader of a great party in a nation; the founder of a sect, which has vitality enough to live on for years; who was regarded by some as probably the Messiah--that he should have bowed down in prostrate humiliation before a younger successor, this is original indeed. (Bp. Alexander.)

The best servant the most humble

As the lark that soars the highest, builds her nest the lowest; the nightingale that sings the sweetest, sings in the shade when all things rest; the branches that are most laden with ripe fruit, bend lowest; the valleys are fruitful in their lowliness; and the ship most laden sinks deepest in the water, so the holiest Christians are the humblest. (J. Mason.)

Humility not contemptible

Humility did not make John the Baptist contemptible; but when he refused the name of a prophet, Christ said that he was more than a prophet. Humility did not make Moses contemptible; but as he was the mildest man upon earth, so he was the greatest upon earth. Humility did not make David contemptible; but when he humbled himself, he said unto Michal, “I will be more humble yet, and lowly in mine own sight, yet thou and thy maids shall honour me.” As Christ ceased not to be a king because He was like a servant, nor to be a lion because He was a lamb, nor to be a judge because He was judged; so man doth not lose his honour by humility; but he shall be honoured for his humility, as the son was honoured when he was humbled (Luke 15:18-25). Thus humility hath found that which pride sought; like little David, which was least accounted of, and yet got the victory, yea, when no man durst encounter with the giant (1 Samuel 17:28). (Henry Smith.)

Verse 29

John 1:29

Behold the Lamb of God!

The work of Christ, and of His disciples


1. He taketh away the sin of the world. The father says, “Save the family”; the citizen, “Save the town”; the patriot, “Save the country”; Christ, “Save the world “--and not merely says, but accomplishes.

2. His qualification for the work; the “Lamb of God,” innocent, pure, spotless; the “Son of Man”; the “Son of God.” The head of humanity and the heart of God were in the great sacrifice.

3. His constant watching. Christ asks men to follow what they seek. Not one follower is unnoticed.

4. His ready welcome. The noble gathering up of the Gospel is in the golden word “Come.” It is not the mere sentimental emotion roused by a Sunday service that He seeks, but the coming and believing in Him.

5. His intimate knowledge of the character of any that may come. Christ reveals to men their ideals. Peter. Nathaniel.


1. Manifestation of humility in the presence of Christ. “I am not worthy.”

2. Manifest perseverance. Men scarcely listen; but John repeats his direction. The humble man is not changeful, not persistent.

3. Exquisite naturalness. Andrew thought of his brother: a rather obscure man brings Peter to Christ. (U. R. Thomas.)

The Baptist’s message


1. One who sees Jesus for himself (John 1:33), The true herald of Jesus is like John.

(1) He is on the look-out for is Lord s appearing.

(2) He rejoices to preach Jesus, as One whom he has seen and known, and still hopes to see.

(3) He preaches Him as come, and as coming.

2. He calls upon men to see Jesus.

(1) Plainly and confidently.

(2) Continually and solely (John 1:35).

(3) Earnestly and emphatically.

3. He leads his own followers to Jesus (John 1:37).

(1) He had enough force to induce men to be his followers.

(2) Enough humility to induce his followers to leave him for Jesus.

(3) Enough grace to make him rejoice that it was so (2 Corinthians 4:5).

4. He loses himself in Jesus.

(1) He sees the necessity of this (Joh 3:43).

(2) The propriety of this (John 3:29).

THE TRUE MESSAGE. John’s word was brief, but emphatic. He declared Jesus to be

1. Sent and ordained “of God.”

2. The one real, Divinely appointed sacrifice for sin--“the Lamb of God.”

3. The only remover of human guilt--“ which taketh away the sin of the world.”

4. Set forth as the object of faiths” Behold the Lamb.” He exhorted his hearers to look at him with that look which saves. The end of all ministries and ordinances is to bring men to look to Jesus. Both John, who ran before, and we, who run after, must point in the same direction.

THE TRUE RECEPTION OF THAT MESSAGE. The conduct of John’s disciples shows that our true wisdom concerning gospel testimony is

1. To believe it, and so to acknowledge Jesus as our sin-removing sacrifice.

2. To follow Jesus (John 1:37).

3. To follow Jesus, even if we be alone. These were the vanguard of the vast hosts who have since followed Jesus. They knew not what suffering it might involve, but went first and foremost.

4. To abide with Jesus (John 1:39).

5. To go forth and tell others of Jesus (John 1:40-41).

Conclusion: Here is

1. A lesson for those who preach. John’s sermon was short, but full of Jesus, and effectual for soul-winning. Imitate him.

2. An example for those who have believed.

3. A gospel for those who hitherto have not known the Saviour. (C. H.Spurgeon.)

The great message

John’s prior life was Divinely ordered for this evangelical apprehension of Jesus. Born of the lineage of Levi, he renounced all priestly heritage and claim, and even attendance at the Temple; and thus was lifted above the class interests and sordid motives which might have swayed him toward the worldly and temporal expectations of the Messiah, and disentangled himself from the meshes of rabbinical tradition. By his seclusion, the direct reading of the Old Testament, and his communion with God, his perception would be farther cleared to discern the spiritual nature of the kingdom of Christ and the innermost case and necessity of that kingdom--redemption by sacrifice. Notice

The TENDERNESS of the message.

1. A Lamb--symbol of sweetness, innocence, harmlessness, patience; an idea peculiarly grateful to hearts pierced with sin and worn weak by the anguish of self-accusation.

2. An idea the opposite of the “wolf” element in man--oppres-sion, injustice, self-seeking, revenge.

3. The first death was a murder. Lamb-like virtues have never been admired.

The PREPARATION of the message. The all but universal hope of the Jews was of a warring, conquering King. How fitting that the disappointment should be broken by the proclamation of a Lamb! By His very peacefulness and harmlessness many would be prepared to surrender their misconceptions.

The SIGNIFICANCE Of the message.

1. The Divine appointment of the Lamb.

2. His atoning character, as foreshadowed by the prophets.

3. The redemption through His blood.

The DEFINITENESS of the message. The “sin” of the world taken away from every one who will accept Him for a Saviour.

The PECULIARITY of the message. What an antithesis to other kings, whose path has been reddened with blood, and who have come and gone without the slightest benefit to the race. Christ comes to deliver and bless.

The BREADTH of the message. “The world.” not Jews merely. (A. B.Groshart, D. D.)

THE PECULIAR NAME WHICH THE BAPTIST GIVES TO CHRIST. The Lamb of God. Let us serve Him faithfully as our Master. Let us obey Him loyally as our King. Let us study His teaching as our Prophet. Let us walk diligently after Him as our Example. Let us look anxiously for Him as our coming Redeemer of body as well as soul. But above all, let us prize Him as our Sacrifice, and rest our whole weight on His death as an atonement for sin. Let His blood be more precious in our eyes every year we live.


1. Christ is a Saviour; not a conqueror, a philosopher, a moralist.

2. A complete Saviour; not merely makes vague proclamations of pardon and mercy, but takes away sin.

3. An almighty and universal Saviour. He died not for Jews only, or a few persons, but all mankind.

(1) His work on the cross was more than enough to make satisfaction for the sins of all.

(2) His blood was precious enough to wash away all guilt.

(3) But the efficiency of Christ’s atonement is for those only who believe.

4. A perpetual and unwearied Saviour “taketh.” He is daily doing this.


1. This baptism is not the baptism of water.

(1) It does not consist either of dipping or sprinkling.

(2) It does not belong exclusively to infants or adults.

(3) It cannot be given to any minister or layman of whatever church.

(4) It is a baptism which the Head of the Church keeps wholly in His own hands.

It consists of the implanting of grace into the inward man. It is the same thing with the new birth. It is a baptism, not of the body, but of the heart. It is a baptism which the penitent thief received, though neither dipped nor sprinkled by the hand of man. It is a baptism which Ananias and Sapphira did not receive, though admitted into church-communion by apostolic men. (Bishop Ryle.)

Israel’s Messiah


1. His person identified (John 1:30).

2. His calling declared (John 1:20).

(1) Divine in its appointment. The Lamb chosen, provided, sent by, and consecrated and belonging to God.

(2) Saving in its character: to realize and fulfil all that had been foreshadowed by the paschal lamb, the lamb for burnt-offering, and the suffering Servant of Jehovah.

(3) World-wide in its destination: not for Israel alone, or believers simply, but for humanity at large (John 3:16; John 12:32; 1 John 2:2; 1 Timothy 2:6; 1 Timothy 4:10). Upon the ground of Christ’s expiation, a bona fide offer of forgiveness is made to the world (Ephesians 1:7).

3. His dignity announced.

(1) His higher being (John 1:15).

(2) His loftier calling.

(3) His nobler name.


1. When it originated. At the Baptism (John 1:33). Prior to this John may have had surmises, hopes, expectations, but not certain knowledge; neither have we without the Father’s testimony, to which also Christ (John 5:37), John (1 John 5:9; 1 John 5:11), and Peter (2Jn 1:16) appeal.

2. Whence it proceeded. From the Spirit. It was no deduction or conclusion of His own. From the same source proceeds all spiritual understanding of Christ or His truth (John 16:13-15; John 16:13-15; 1 John 2:20; 1 John 2:27; 1 John 5:20; cf. 1 Corinthians 2:14).

3. On what it rested.

(1) An open heaven. As in ancient times, to Jacob (Genesis 28:12), Isaiah (Isaiah 6:1), Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:1), Daniel (Daniel 10:5-6), and afterwards to Stephen (Acts 7:5-6), Paul (2 Corinthians 12:4), Revelation 4:1). This a symbolic representation. The heavens had opened, that God’s Son might come forth, and that Christ’s brethren might enter in: for the outflow of grace to men, and for the entrance of men to glory.

(2) A descended Spirit. Of this the dove an emblem. The permanent endowment of Jesus with the fulness of the Spirit convinced the Baptist.


1. The twofold character of Christ’s salvation.

(1) The removal of sin.

(2) The implantation of a new life by the Spirit.

2. The twofold condition of receiving Christ’s salvation.

(1) Repentance, symbolized by baptism.

(2) Faith upheld in beholding the Lamb of God.

3. The twofold qualification for preaching Christ’s salvation.

(1) A knowledge of Christ.

(2) An acquaintance with self.

4. The twofold evidence that Christ is the Son of God.

(1) He can open heaven by removing sin.

(2) He can qualify for heaven by imparting the Spirit. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)

The Lamb of God

THE OBJECT OF SAVING FAITH. The Lamb of God was the original and universal sacrifice. The early worshippers were instructed to offer a lamb. A lamb was the morning and evening sacrifice. Isaiah lift has reference to it. John pointed to the substance, of which these were shadows: Jesus in all His humiliation, down to the moment of His expiring cry. To this believers of previous dispensations looked forward. John would hays the faith of his hearers to coincide with that of Abel, Abraham, and the Old Testament saints. The way of life has never varied. Never has a soul been saved, never will a soul be saved, but by the Lamb of God.


1. To receive the tidings he conveyed to them. No event had ever occurred like this. Man’s attention in every age is imperatively called to this. It is the great central truth on which all history hangs. If rightly received, the message must tell on the entire character.

2. To banish from them whatever might oppose the reception of the message. The Jews had much to do in this way. The natural operation of the heart is to establish a righteousness of its own. Men depend on good character, station in the Church, the use of means. But we must be made to lose confidence in any such hope.

3. To rest positively on Christ.


1. Generally all men, in every condition, of every character.

2. Those who thirst, and are conscious that they need a resting place, an object on which to bestow their affections, to satisfy their hearts.

3. Those who are pierced by God’s arrows of conviction. (J. Beith, D. D.)

The Lamb of God

THE ATTRIBUTES OF THE VICTIM. Gentleness and innocence are suggested by lambs generally. Besides this, the lamb selected for sacrifice was to be without blemish. And Jesus was gentle. “He did not cry,” etc. This was not the gentleness of weakness, for He calmed the storm and raised the dead. He was “without spot”--“holy, harmless, undefiled.”

THE DEATH OF THE VICTIM. The lamb was slain in sacrifice. So the death of Christ was the chief feature of His life--predicted, prominent in His own mind, the chief feature of the gospels and epistles.

SALVATION IS CONNECTED WITH THE DEATH OF THE VICTIM. Ancient prophecy spoke of Him as “wounded for our transgressions.” He Himself said, “As Moses lifted up,” etc. The apostles proclaimed salvation through His death.


1. He takes away the guilt and penalty of sin. It was not the guilt of separate sins that the Lamb of God expiated. It was sin itself.

2. He takes away the power of sin. He destroys sin itself.

THIS HE DOES FOR ALL MANKIND. The whole world needed salvation, and we may infer that the supply is co-extensive with the want. As He commands the gospel to be preached to every creature, there must be a gospel for every creature; and those who do not actually obtain salvation fail only “because of unbelief.” (Newman Hall, LL. B.)

The Lamb of God


HIS WORK DESCRIBED, “Taketh away the sin of the world.”

FAITH ENJOINED. “Behold the Lamb of God.”


1. Let the careless and impenitent behold Him.

2. Let those who are trusting in their own merits behold Him.

3. Let penitent sinners behold Him.

4. Let Christians, for their habitual comfort and strength, behold Him. (Newman Hall, LL. B.)

The Lamb of God

We must admit two postulates.

1. That the world and all its inhabitants are sinners.

2. That there is a Saviour who takes away the sin of the world. Let me direct your attention to

THE BEING HERE MENTIONED. The Israelites found that the forgiveness of their sins was connected in some way with the sacrificial offerings, and therefore came too generally to suppose that there was some inherent virtue in the victims. They were pleased with the shadow instead of looking to the substance. The Baptist broke in upon this lifeless form of things, and, pointing to Christ, said, “Behold,” etc. All types are now to merge in the Antitype. The communion bears something of the same relation as the morning and evening and passover lambs bore to Christ. Beware, then, of the mistake of the Jews.

1. In pointing to the Lamb of God, John conveys an important lesson to us. Men expect forgiveness either from the goodness of God or their own good works. Look not on these refuges of lies. Behold the only Being who taketh away sins.

2. Christ is called the Lamb.of God, because appointed by God and accepted by God.


1. He endured the Cross, not to raise the Jewish nation to a temporal sovereignty, nor to enrich mankind with wealth and pleasure, nor to acquaint the minds of the inquisitive with philosophy and science. Had that been so, He had been acceptable to Jews, politicians, and philosophers. But by taking away sin, the very ends sought for are most thoroughly achieved. Take away that, and you take away the world’s darkness and the world’s misery.

2. There are two great evils which sin has entailed.

(1) It has brought us under condemnation, taken away our title to heaven, and left us outcasts.

(2) It has subjected us so to its ascendency and power, that every affection and appetite is the minister of sin, and we are disqualified for the joys of heaven. To save us, therefore, Christ takes away the guilt and condemnation, and also the power and pollution of sin.

3. The salvation is universally offered, on the condition of faith.

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE WORDS “BEHOLD,” etc. We may suppose the Baptist addressing himself to

1. Angels. As ye wing your flight on errands of mercy, ye do behold Him; for into these things the angels desire to look.

2. Fallen angels. Beheld the issue of your evil efforts, the promised bruiser of the serpent’s head!

3. Sinners. Turn from trusting in your useless efforts. Why will ye die!

4. Ye people of God, behold the author of that joy and peace with which your hearts are filled. (J. Cumming, D. D.)

The Lamb of God

A POINTING TO CHRIST. We can imagine these words spoken in heaven, and angels desiring to look into them. We can imagine them spoken in hell and devils “beholding Him, but not nigh.” But, alas! on earth how few point or look. The rich man points to his wealth, the young man to his pleasures, the Pharisee to himself; but those who belong to Christ point to Him.


1. Open your Bibles, and you will see this name above every other. View Him

(1) In the patriarchal days; in the sacrifice of Abel.

(2) Under the law, as the Paschal Lamb.

(3) In Psalms 23:1-6.

(4) In Isaiah 53:1-12.

(5) In the gospels.

(6) In the epistles (1 Peter 1:19).

(7) In the Apocalypse.

2. He was God’s Lamb because

(1) God’s property was in Him. He was God’s Son, Servant,

Angel, Prophet, Messenger.

(2) God’s Name was in Him.

(3) God’s love was in Him.

(4) God’s power was in Him.

A WORK OF CHRIST. He takes our sins away.

1. From the sinner’s heart.

2. From God’s Book.

3. From God’s bar.

4. From God’s sight.

5. To His cross.

6. To His grave. (R. S. Brooke, M. A.)

The Lamb of God

1. John had urged the duty of repentance. Now when Jesus made His appearance, John discloses the great object to be accomplished by Him--viz., the pardon of sin. For this mere repentance is insufficient, for it can never remove the penalty of a broken law. It only prepares the penitent to avoid transgression in the future by inspiring a sorrow for and a hatred of sin; so John did not tell the Jews that they would be forgiven because of their repentance; but urged it as an indispensable condition of securing Christ’s blessing. When he had done this, he bade them behold the Saviour.

2. The term “Lamb”

(1) Has respect to disposition and character, and is significant of innocence, meekness, and unresisting submission (Isaiah 53:7). But there were, doubtless, many others to whom the term could be applied besides Christ. But this did not make them saviours from sin. Had Jesus been only a lamb in this sense, He might have been thus qualified for a teacher. But would not John have added something indicative of his Teacher’s office? To choose a lamb for illustration, and to mean by “taking away the sin of the world” the influence of sagacious instruction, is utterly confusing and unintelligible; and then, if Christ saves by His instruction, why was not Paul called a saviour of men?

(2) But the term has respect to an atoning sacrifice, by which pardon of sin is secured. And it would be very natural for John, as a Jew, familiar with the Mosaic offerings, and with their application in Isaiah lift., to use the term in this sense. The same idea was familiar to Paul (1Co

5:7), Peter (1 Peter 1:18-19; cf. Exodus 12:5), and John Revelation 5:8-14).

3. Jesus is the Lamb of God. This cannot be a mere term of excellence, like “mountains of God,” but either the Lamb who belongs to, or is provided by, God. The former would make an inept and frigid meaning; for John is showing the relation in which Christ stands to man. The latter, therefore, is the meaning. Every Jew had to provide and present as a sin-offering a lamb without spot or blemish. What each had done for himself, God now does for all men.

(1) Christ takes away sin. The Hebrews employed the phrase as meaning to bear the punishment or consequences of sin, or to expiate sin, or to forgive it. Either of the first two meanings will answer well here (1 Peter 2:24; Galatians 3:13; 2Co 5:29). So Christ takes away sin by removing its condemning and soul-destroying power. The Greek verb means first to lift up and then to raise up and remove, as one lifts a burden and conveys it away. And so Christ took the burden of our sins, and this load He carried away.

(2) He takes away the sin of the world. Other conditions are required besides His expiatory death. The sinner must be penitent, and behold the Lamb with the eye of faith. This done, salvation is as wide as the world of men; and so the proffer is universal. (Moses Stuart.)

The Lamb of God

THE OBJECT WHICH WAS TO BE ACCOMPLISHED. The abolition of the world’s sin: a most desirable object. Were any one to offer to take away the world’s sorrow, or its toil and trouble, or its care, what a benefactor he would be. But how much more when the Son of God comes from heaven and suffers to take away its sin. Because the sting and bitterness is nothing but that. But we are led aside from the truth by the consideration of second causes and immediate results, and so forget the nature of sin and disregard the Baptist’s invitation. And yet sin is the universal curse, and those who are unacquainted with sorrow are sinful; and sin unrepented of will bring the bitterest sorrow. The need, then, of the abolition of sin is

1. Universal.

2. The greatest of our needs. Other needs man can remedy; but no man can help his brother here.

3. The most pressing.

4. In proportion we do not feel this, our sin is the greater.

THE MEANS ORDAINED FOR ITS ACCOMPLISHMENT. Such a need in God’s universe could not be without a remedy. This was provided in the Lamb of God, which expression looks back to Isaiah 53:1-12. and Genesis 22:1-24. Christ was the Lamb of God in being God’s appointed sacrifice, and the sacrifice offered by God. He was the federal head of our race, the one Being in whom our race was gathered up, who took upon Himself the penalty of sin. His great qualification for this was his sinlessness. Two conclusions

1. That if Christ was the Lamb of God He must have been an adequate provision for dealing with the world’s sin.

2. That He must have been the exclusive sacrifice for sin. There was no other means appointed by God; there can be no other means devised by man.


1. Christ takes away the punishment of sift--sin with all its accidents and qualities.

2. Christ destroys the power of sin in the heart.

3. You cannot get rid of sin by resolutions or efforts, but only by faith in Him. There is in us a sinful will which prompts to sin. We cannot get rid of that by thwarting or discipling our sinful will. We can only do it by taking cognizance of a higher will in Christ. And as we believe in Him we submit to His will, and become inspired with a fresh will which prompts to good and not to evil. (Stanley Leathes, B. D.)

The Lamb of God

1. How long our first parents remained innocent is not revealed; but we scarcely read of their fall before we read also of their restoration. The gates of Paradise are hardly closed before the altar of atonement is erected at the entrance. The flame of the Cherubic sword is blended with the flame of the consuming sacrifice. The promise of salvation was sealed by blood, not of bears and lions, but of oxen, sheep, and lambs. Blood being put for life, the lesson taught was

(1) that man was a sinner, and that sin must be punished;

(2) that sin might be forgiven and the sinner saved. The offerer placed his hands upon the victim and confessed his sin, thereby symbolically transferring his guilt.

2. But how can sin be transferred to a dumb animal (Hebrews 10:4)? And yet the voice of the whole dispensation cries “Without shedding of blood there is no remission.” How shall these discordant sounds be tempered into unison? Only by looking beyond the sacrifice to another which it represents. In Christ these seeming contradictions are reconciled. That which was pleasing in the sight of God for His sake, was abhorrent when considered apart from Him. The faith of old believers, therefore, was the same as ours, only darkened by the symbols which the Antitype has now abolished.

3. We cannot tell how far the doctrine of atonement was maintained without corruption in the age immediately preceding the Advent. The great mass of the people had undoubtedly lost sight of it; but others certainly felt their lost and wretched state, and looked with a prospective faith to the coming and dying of the Lamb of God. Their hopes were naturally stimulated by the Baptist. But he did satisfy them being a preacher of righteousness--not a sacrifice for sin. But having strengthened their sense of guilt and need of expiation by the preaching of the law, John led them to the altar and pointed to the Lamb of God.

4. Two to whom these words were addressed followed Jesus--a sufficient proof that they were waiting for Him, and prepared for His reception. But in what did their preparation consist? Not in personal merit; they were sinners. Not in superior wisdom; they were fishermen. In one point, it is true, they were peculiarly enlightened, and in that consisted their peculiar preparation to receive the Saviour. They knew that they were lost, and that He alone could save them; so that when their former master said, Ò Behold the Lamb of God,” they followed Him at once. And so it has been ever since. In all cases the same preparation is necessary, a sense of need and a conviction of the Saviour’s being able to supply it.

5. This doctrine lies at the basis of all efforts for the reformation

(1) of the individual,

(2) of the community. (J. A. Alexander, D. D.)

Forgiveness of sins through the atoning sacrifice of Christ is a blessing which it is the glory of God to reveal, and the privilege of Christians to experience

SIN, WHICH IS THE TRANSGRESSION OF THE LAW, JUSTLY EXPOSES THE OFFENDER TO THE PUNISHMENT OF DEATH. God created man upright; made him subject to law; encouraged his obedience by promises, and threatened disobedience with the penalty of death. Man transgressed: all men have transgressed; so the condemnation rests upon all.

THE GRACIOUS GOD, THOUGH JUSTLY OFFENDED BY THE SINS OF MEN, HAS IN MERCY MADE PROVISION FOR THE RESTORATION OF ALL WHO REPENT AND BELIEVE. That death may be abolished, sin must be removed. Sin has been atoned for, and therefore can he removed by the sacrifice of Christ. It is removed by a penitent trust in that sacrifice.

TO THE FAITH OF BELIEVERS THE DIVINE PROVISION WAS EXHIBITED IN THE TYPE AND PROPHECIES OF THE OLD TESTAMENT (Leviticus 16:1-34.; Isaiah 53:1-12.). In the former one victim was slain to represent the death of Christ; the other went away alive to represent Christ as living again after having borne our sins.



1. The influence of these truths upon the mind (Romans 5:1-5).

2. The encouragement hereby given to the returning sinner.

3. The madness of expecting salvation in any other way. (T. Slatterie.)

The Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world

WHO IS THIS LAMB OF GOD. Christ Jesus typified by the paschal lamb; which was

1. Without spot (Hebrews 9:14).

2. Separated the tenth day.

3. Killed.

4. The blood sprinkled on the post so that the destroying angel might pass 1 Peter 1:2; Hebrews 10:22).

5. Boasted with fire.

6. It expiated sin typically, Christ really (1 John 2:2).

7. It was meek and patient in all its sufferings: so Christ (Isaiah 53:7).


1. Original (Romans 5:19).

2. Actual (Ephesians 1:7).

3. Habitual (Acts 3:26).


1. He became man (John 1:14).

2. In the human nature He assumed He suffered death (Philippians 2:8).

3. The human nature in Him dying, by that death He expiated the sins of human persons (Isaiah 53:5-6).

4. By this means He took our sins away from us, Himself becoming our sin-offering (2 Corinthians 5:21).

5. And so He takes away whatever in sin is prejudicial to us; as

(1) The guilt.

(2) The curse (Galatians 3:13).

(3) The strength of sin. USE. Behold this Lamb of God.

1. In the manger.

2. In the temple.

3. In the garden.

4. In the judgment-hall.

5. Upon the cross.

6. Ascending.

7. Now at the right hand of God. (Bp. Beveridge.)

The great work of Christ, and the great work of the preacher

THE GREAT WORK OF CHRIST. Sin always implies the existence of taw, knowledge of law, capability of obeying law, and actual departure from law. Christ came to take sin away.

1. This work is of all works most difficult. In some respects it is impossible. Its fact cannot be taken away, nor its memory, nor its influence; but its painful consciousness, its controlling power, its polluting influences, and its dawning consequences can. But this transcends all human power. Senators, sages, poets, priests have tried and failed. Christ alone can do it, and has done it.

2. This work is of all works the most indispensable, Sin is the foundation of all man’s suffering, physical, political, social, religious. The work required is to dry up this fountain. Sin must be taken away from our literature, governments, institutions, hearts, before the world can be saved. This is the great work of Christ.

THE GREAT WORK OF THE PREACHER. To point to the Lamb of God. This designation suggests

1. Sinlessness.

2. Sacrifice. Christ’s was voluntary, all-sufficient, exemplary.

3. Divinity. Christ was God’s messenger and atoner. The preacher’s work, therefore, is not to deal in controversies or speculations. The world wants a Saviour, not a system or a creed. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

The excellency of the Christian, Atonement

Christ excels in the NATURE OF THE VICTIM.

1. The faultlessness of the Saviour. According to Judaism the lamb of sacrifice must be a year old, and without a blemish. Thus Jesus went through the four seasons--the spring, summer, autumn, winter of existence, without receiving or inflicting injury. Without blemish in the inward life, without spot in the outward character. Many are without spot to men, but are conscious of being full of spots unto God. Jesus was without spot to God.

2. His Divine appointment. According to Judaism, the lamb of sacrifice was separated from the flock days before it was slain. And Jesus was marked out from the foundation of the world.

(1) This verse teaches us that a Lamb slain is the central idea of creation and that in this light the universe was planned. The idea of sacrifice is the scarlet thread that stretches from eternity to eternity. God sprinkled the door posts of creation with blood when He framed them.

(2) The Lamb slain is also the centre of the Divine nature. Sacrifice is the deepest principle of God Himself. Christ was fore-ordained before the foundation of the world. In eternity the Father anointed the Son to be a priest and a sacrifice with the consecrating oil of the Holy Ghost. The Gospel does not create this principle, it only reveals it. God purchased His Church with His own blood.

3. His Divine nature. The Lamb of God is partaker of the nature of God. According to Judaism, the sacrificial lamb was to be brought up on the farm of the offerer: for this reason that it must cost some thought and pains, and consequently be something united to him by a tie of affection. And Jesus was a Lamb which God reared upon His own farm. “I was by Him as one brought up with Him”; according to the Chaldee paraphrase. “I was nursed at His side.” But He was not only “of God.” He was God. This it was that imparted efficacy to His sufferings.

It excels in THE EFFICACY OF THE WORK. The Jewish sacrifices brought sin to remembrance; Christ’s sacrifice took it away.

1. Look at Christ as bearing the sin of the world. But to bear it He must go under it. In the Old Testament to forgive means literally to carry. “Who is a God like unto Thee that pardoneth (lit. beareth) iniquity?” Other Gods pardoned. Jehovah carried sin; under the Old Testament in respect of covenant, under the New through Incarnation and imputation.

2. Christ bore sin away. “Christ hath wholly purchased us from the curse of the law” (Welsh translation). How? By fully paying.

3. Christ bore it away once for ever. The Jewish sacrifices had to be repeated; but Christ cancelled it once for all.

It excels in the AREA OF ITS INFLUENCE. The Jewish sacrifices availed for one nation only. Christ’s sacrifice is intended for the benefit of the world.

1. Sin, not sins; sin in its root, its deepest, bitterest nature.

2. The sin of the world. When the Great Western Railway was first made in South Wales, it was constructed on the broad-gauge principle; but the directors years afterwards judged it expedient to convert it from the broad gauge into the narrow gauge. In the history of the way of salvation, however, the contrary process was observed,--the narrow gauge under the Old Testament, and the broad gauge under the New.

3. All the sin of all the world. According to Judaism, a sacrifice was not left for all sins, such as adultery, murder, Sabbath desecration--sins committed with a high hand. Whoever was found guilty of these was to be “cut off from among his people.” But the sacrifice of Christ covers all, not a single sin excepted. (J. Cynddylan Jones, D. D.)

Objections met

It has been said that the view of Christ’s work here put into the Baptist’s mouth could not have been entertained by him because

The pre-Christian times were not acquainted with the idea of a suffering Saviour. But this idea is not foreign to the Old Testament, with which the Baptist may be presumed to have had some acquaintance.

The disciples of Jesus were incapable of understanding this idea Matthew 16:22). But though not understood by, the idea cannot be shown to have been strange to them; while, even if it was, that would not prove it to have been strange to John, who was reared as a prophet.

The idea which was only at a later period in the Christian Church fully developed could hardly have been anticipated by individual reflection. But the Baptist refers to Divine inspiration as the source of his knowledge (verse 23).

The Baptist expected a theocratic and not a suffering Messiah Matthew 11:3). But John’s doubts were occasioned, not by Christ’s sufferings, but by His delay in asserting His Messianic dignity. Besides, it is not safe to argue from the thoughts of a prisoner to the views of the same individual at liberty. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)

John’s call for attention

In that simple “Behold,” we have the highest and crowning direction for the right reception of the Christ. It was a look that betrayed the whole world into sin and condemnation, and it is a look that again unites men with their proper Lord, and recovers them from their guilt and misery. But it must be an earnest look--a look of faith,--a look of appreciative confidence--a look which transfers the whole trust and affection of the heart to the object on which it rests,--a look which draws after it the entire wish and desire of the soul. Such a look Andrew had, when he rushed in search of his brother Simon, saying, “We have found the Messias!” Such a look Philip had, when he went to Nathanael exclaiming, “We have found Him, of whom Moses in the Law, and the prophets, did write!” (verses 41-45). And such a look, my brethren, is in the power of every one of us this day. Oh the blessedness of our privileges! (J. A.Seiss, D. D.)

Christ the Passover Lamb

The Passover was close at hand (2:13). We know its significance, and what a fundamental importance the deliverance from Egypt had for the history of Israel as well as for its knowledge of salvation. This fact stands so alone that only the day of the new salvation is to be compared with it, and the latter again has such a fitting type in no fact of the Old Testament history as it has in the former. Now the Baptist knew that the time of the final closing salvation had dawned, and that Jesus was the one bringing it. Why should he not, above all, compare this salvation and Him who brought it with that first typical redemption of Israel? Then, however, that Lamb was the means of sparing the nation. For its sake destruction passed over the people. Thus now will Jesus be the means of sparing. (C. E. Luthardt, D. D.)

Christ the Lamb and the Lion

Doth not St. John call Christ “a Lion”? Revelation 5:5). Why then doth the Baptist call Him a Lamb? The lion and the lamb, the prophet Isaiah tells us, shall both “dwell together in the days of Christ”: but may they both be together in the Person of Christ? not only in one place together, but also in one case together? Different respects may tie discordant titles unto one subject. His courage against Satan, whom He conquered, His patience among men, whom He suffered, declared there was met in one Messias the stoutness of a lion, and the meekness of a lamb. St. Bernard’s distinction so determines it; He rose like a lion, but he suffered like a lamb. (R. Clerke, D. D.)

Christ bearing the sins of the world

The other day I saw a contrivance to judge a man’s strength by the power of his breath--you breathe into the machine, and by the weight you lift will be accurately estimated the power of your lungs. And Jesus Christ keeps the stars floating by the power of His breath just as children keep bubbles on a summer eve; He breathes and the planets swim as feathers in a breeze; but He who upholds the stars with His word, who bears with ease the burden of ten thousand worlds, bends and staggers under the weight of your sins. “ The Lord hath made the iniquity of us all to meet on Him.” Sin came from all directions; a multitude of sins from our own neighbourhood went that day on a pilgrimage to Mount Calvary; iniquity poured in from all quarters, and fell in terrible cataracts on the devoted head of the patient victim. “He was wounded for our transgressions,” etc. (J. Cynddylan Jones, D. D.)

Praise of Christ the Lamb of God

A gentleman travelling in Norway went to see the church in a certain town. Looking up at its tower he was surprised to see the carved figure of a lamb near the top. He inquired why it was placed in that position, and was told that when the church was being built a workman fell from the high scaffold. His fellows saw him fall, and horror-stricken rushed down expecting to find him dashed to pieces. But to their surprise and joy he was almost unhurt. How had he escaped? & flock of sheep was passing by the church at the moment of his fall, and he fell amongst them and right on the top of a lamb. The lamb was crushed to death, but the man was saved. And the lamb was carved on the tower at the height from which he fell to commemorate his escape. Shall we then not give the highest place of honour to the Lamb of God who was crushed beneath our load. (F. E. Turner.)

The value of Christ’s sacrifice

How can one atone for thousands? asked the North American Indians of the missionary Brainerd. The missionary solved their difficulty by showing that one sovereign is worth two hundred and forty pence--one gold coin being equal in value to many copper ones, the difference in the metal making a difference in the value. Similarly the sufferings of one God-man are a sufficient propitiation for the sins of millions of mere men, the difference in the rank constituting a difference in the worth. (J. C. Jones, D. D.)

How weighty must be the blood of the Lamb, by whom the world was made, to turn the scale when weighed against the world! (Augustine.)

Christ’s work not frustrated by His rejection

I am aware the objection is often made, that “if Christ taketh away the sin of the world, and yet the vast majority of men die in their sins and are lost, Christ’s work for many was wrought in vain.” I see no force in this. I think we might as well argue, that because sin came into the world and marred creation, creation was in vain. We are not talking of the works of men, but of the eternal Word, and we must be content to see much in His works that we do not entirely understand. Though multitudes are lost, I have no doubt the last day will prove that nothing that Christ did for them was in vain. (Bp. Ryle.)

The sacrificial lamb of the Mohammedans

It is noticeable that although modern Islam rejects the idea of the sacrifice of Christ, the custom of sacrifice is still commanded; as, for instance, for certain offences during the Pilgrimage. Something approaching to the Jewish Day of Atonement is thus described by an American missionary in India: “On a great day with the Mohammedans of Calcutta they offered their yearly sacrifice, the atonement for sin. A lamb or a kid without spot or blemish is taken to the priest or moulvie; the person who presents the offering lays his hands on the animal’s head, saying: ‘For my head I give thine.’ Then he touches the ears, the mouth, the eyes, etc., of the sacrifice, still repeating: ‘ For my ears, thy ears; for my mouth, thy mouth; for my eyes, thy eyes; ‘ and so on till he has mentioned all that he has to say. Then he exclaims: ‘For my life, thy life;’ and as he pronounces these words the priest plunges a knife into the kid’s heart, and pronounces an absolution for the sinner. Is not this a strange custom, showing that the Mohammedan also acknowledges the necessity of an atonement, and without the shedding of blood there is no remission for sin?” (S. S. Times.)

The death of Christ the preacher’s theme

In one of the old-fashioned mansions in the United States there is still to be seen a brass-bound clock upon the staircase landing with the hands fixed at the minute and hour when Washington died. The grandfather of the present owner was a pall-bearer at the funeral of the great republican, and set the hands where they have ever since remained. Even so the preacher’s finger must ever point the multitude to Jesus Christ and Him crucified. (H. O. Mackey.)

Christ the preacher’s theme

Among those who visited Dr. Carey, the great Baptist missionary, in his last illness was Alexander Duff, the Scotch missionary. On one occasion he spent some time talking chiefly about Carey’s missionary life, until the dying man whispered “Pray.” Duff knelt down and prayed, and then said “good.bye.” As he passed from the room, he thought he heard a feeble voice pronouncing his name, and turning, found that he was recalled. He stepped back accordingly, and this is what he heard, spoken with a gracious solemnity: “Mr. Duff, you have been speaking about Dr. Carey, Dr. Carey: when I am gone say nothing about Dr. Carey--speak about Dr. Carey’s Saviour.” Duff went away rebuked and awed, with a lesson in his heart that he never forgot. (H. O. Mackey.)

We must look to Christ

When I was in Belfast I knew a doctor who had a friend, a leading surgeon there, and he told me that the surgeon’s custom was, before performing any operation, to say to the patient, “Take a good look at the wound, and then fix your eyes on me, and don’t take them off till I get through.” I thought at the time that was a good illustration. Sinner, take a good look at the wound tonight, and then fix your eyes on Christ, and do not take them off. It is better to look at the remedy than at the wound. See what a poor wretched sinner you are, and then look at the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world. He died for the ungodly and the sinner. Say “I’ll take Him,” and may God help you to lift your eye to the Man on Calvary. And as the Israelites looked upon the serpent and were healed, so may you look and live to-night. (D. L. Moody.)


Jesus the propitiation for sin

When our Lord was thus set forth by John, it is well to note the special character under which He was declared. John knew much of the Lord Jesus, and could have pictured Him in many lights and characters. He might especially have pointed Him out as the great moral example, the founder of a higher form of life, the great teacher of holiness and love; yet this did not strike the Baptist as the head and front of our Lord’s character, but he proclaimed Him as one who had come into the world to be the great sacrifice for sin. Lifting up his hand and pointing to Jesus, he cried, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” He did not say, “Behold the great Exemplar;” no doubt he would have said that in due season. He did not even say, “Behold the king and leader of a new dispensation; “ that fact he would by no means have denied, but would have gloried in it. Still, the first point that he dwells upon, and that which wins his enthusiasm is, “Behold the Lamb of God.” John the Baptist views Him as the propitiation for sin, and so he cries, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!” (C. H.Spurgeon.)

A saving message

It is told of the Rev. C. H. Spurgeon, that when about to preach in the Crystal Palace, Sydenham, in 1857, he went down a short time before the service to arrange where the platform should be placed, and whilst trying the various positions he cried aloud, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world! “A man was at that time at work in the Palace, who heard the text spoken under such unusual circumstances. It went with power to his heart, convinced him of sin, and led him to the sin-atoning Lamb, in whom he found forgiveness, peace, and joy.

The atonement and the Scriptures

A Socinian preacher once said to Mr. Newton, “Sir, I have collated every word in the Hebrew Scriptures seventeen times; and it is very strange if the doctrine of atonement which you hold should not have been found by me.” Mr. Newton replied, “I am not surprised at this; I once went to light my candle with the extinguisher on it. Prejudices from education, learning, etc., often form an extinguisher. It is not enough that you bring the candle; you must remove the extinguisher.”

The great remedy

Hannah More relates that Dr. Johnson, on his deathbed, was in great distress of mind. Not being comforted by ordinary conversation, he desired to see a minister. Mr. Winstanley was named, and the doctor requested him to be sent for. Mr. Winstanley did not come, but wrote to the doctor as follows:--“Sir,--I beg to acknowledge the honour of your note, and am very sorry that the state of my health prevents my compliance with your request. I can easily conceive what would be the subject of your inquiry. I can conceive that on the near approach of death what you once considered mere peccadilloes have risen into mountains of guilt, on whichsoever side you look you see only positive transgression, defective obedience; and hence in self-despair are eagerly inquiring, ‘What must I do to be saved?’ I say to you in the language of the Baptist, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world!’“ When this was read to the doctor he anxiously asked, “Does he say so?” The consequence was that he was brought to the renunciation of himself and a simple reliance on Jesus as his Saviour.

Free trade with heaven established by Christ

Under the Old Testament no free trade was carried on between heaven and earth, no unrestricted commerce, for the duty was so high--a lamb being taken from one farm, a bullock from another, a heifer from the third, a goat from the fourth, and fowls from the poor, to pay the imposed duty; but the sacrifice once offered on Calvary for the sin of the world has, I am glad to tell you, established Free Trade for ever. (J. C. Jones, D. D.)

The message for sinners

John Wesley, preaching to an audience of scholars and noblemen, used the “generation of vipers” text, and flung denunciation right and left. “That sermon should have been preached at Newgate,” said a displeased courtier. “No,” said the fearless apostle, my text there would have been, “Behold the Lamb of God,” etc. (C. H.Spurgeon.)

A young telegraph operator was anxious about his soul. After a sleepless night he went to his duties; while restless and absorbed in the thought of being a sinner he heard the click of his instrument, and with great astonishment and emotion spelt out this message:--“From H--, Windermere, to J-- B-- , Warkworth. ‘Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world’; in whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins.” This was sent as an answer to a letter from a young man who also was seeking peace. It acted as a double blessing, showing to both operator and receiver the way of salvation. (C. H.Spurgeon.)

The sin of the world

I think John the Baptist in this text speaks about sin as we think of a terrible epidemic from which individual men suffer, and which we are accustomed to speak of as that by which we are all affected. The symptoms may vary in individual cases; the course of the disease may sometimes be more or less rapid; and there may be great differences in the pain which it inflicts on different men. When we speak of the cholera or some malignant fever, we regard those who suffer from it as smitten down by some terrible power which travels from house to house, and involves all its victims in one common peril; that some poison is in the blood of those who suffer; that they are all wrestling with the same ghastly enemy; and that they are all in danger of the same doom. Now it is thus that John the Baptist thougtht of sin. What we describe as the accidental lapses of individual men were to him the symptoms and the result of something vaster and more dreadful; the sins of individual men were to him only the revelations of an evil energy which had taken possession of the race. There was a great confederacy into which all men had entered, consciously or unconsciously--a confederacy against the authority of God, and against the eternal law of righteousness. Different men break different commandments; their individual transgressions vary according to their circumstances, their training, or their temper. But no man stands apart--no man refuses to share in the great revolt against the majesty of heaven. Where there is not a profligate, reckless disobedience, there is indifference to the Divine authority--an indifference which is just as fatal, and involves a separation from God as positive as it he had been an active antagonist to it. This is a common sin. This is a sin in which we are all sharers, and in which we still share if we are not redeemed, and constitutes an essential moral element and characteristic spirit of the world, but it finds expression in infinitely various ways. Now, I can imagine some of you saying--Did He take away the sin of the world? What signs are there that He has done it? Sin is here still. There is no solitary country the world over that is redeemed from it. It stains this century, as it has stained every century that has gone by. Will you consider it as guilt--guilt which one does recognize, and which fills the heart with terror, with dark and gloomy anticipations of the lust penalty with which it must be visited. Well, millions upon millions who have appealed to Christ will tell you that its guilt has been taken away. Or will you consider sin as involving the terrible necessity of the separation of the soul from God. This is one of its worst and most malignant effects. We see, as the result of our sin, that we are driven away from that Divine presence--that our sin comes between us and the favour of Heaven--and we find that we cannot break through it, and speak to God face to face. God is holy, and by the necessity of His nature shrinks from contact with sin. Well, Christ has taken sin away even in that sense. If sin is no longer a dominant power in this world, there is something here that is stronger than it; there is the liberty into which we can enter through Christ Jesus our Lord. He has taken it away as the authority by which we were controlled, and through Him we are able to enter into the fullest freedom, and to keep God’s commandments. I admit that sin has not disappeared from the world, but God has done His part towards causing it to disappear. He can give eternal life, but He cannot receive it for us; we must receive it. All He could do to take away our sin He has actually done; and we ought to rejoice with great exulting joy in the redemption that is wrought for us through Christ Jesus our Lord. Now there are two or three considerations I wish to impress upon you before I close, suggested by this subject.

1. In the first place, in this work of the Lord we are all deeply concerned.

2. Again, that which He has done excludes altogether the plea that you are helplessly under the power of sin.

3. Again this takes away the excuse for persisting in sin.

4. If you remain under the power of sin, it is by your own choice. All sin is, no doubt, the result of choice.

5. Finally, the truth that we have been considering excludes all hope that if we fail to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as our Saviour that we shall ever obtain God’s mercy and eternal life. (R. W. Dale, M. A.)

Verses 30-34

John 1:30-34

This is He.

The Redeemer’s identification

IN HIS WORK as the Lamb of God.

1. ‘The object offered in sacrifice. The Lamb of God applies to Christ

(1) in His personal character.

(2) In His sacrificial character.

2. The object or effect of the sacrifice “taketh away,” etc.!

3. The burden removed by the sacrifice: the world’s sin.

IN HIS PERSON (John 1:30). These words meet us for the third time. The human and Divine natures are exhibited in one sentence. How profoundly the Baptist believed in the pre-existence of Christ.


1. I knew Him not. He did indeed know Him, and hence hesitated about baptizing Him (Matthew 3:14). The son of Elizabeth must have known the Son of Mary. The Baptist means that he did not know Him as Messiah.

2. Jesus was revealed to John by the descent of the Holy Ghost.

(1) The sign. The Dove emblematized the consecration of the Redeemer to His Divine work.

(2) The two baptisms--the one in water, the other in the Holy Ghost--the one that Christ might be made manifest unto Israel, and unto repentance for the remission of sins; the other not a sacrament that Christ was to institute for the Church, nor which any priest or minister could give; it was a baptism of regenerating grace--such a baptism as Simon Magus never had although baptized with water; such a baptism as the dying thief enjoyed although not baptized with water. (Prof. Croskery.)


1. The evidences of Christ’s excellency and Godhead when He came into the world are not cunningly devised fables, but most certain and infallible truths, for John bare record, saying, “I saw,” etc.

2. Christ in His solemn entry to His offices was sealed from heaven, that so the Church may learn to embrace Him with all respect. Therefore doth the Spirit descend upon Him in this visible way, and the Father bear witness to Him (Matthew 3:1-17), all the persons of the Trinity manifesting themselves on Jordan’s bank.

3. Christ is endowed with the Spirit from on high for executing of His offices, and it is made manifest that the Spirit is to be found on Him and sought from Him; for “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven upon Him,” where the Spirit, who filleth heaven and earth, is said to descend in respect of that visible manifestation and sign of His presence.

4. The Spirit’s descending like a dove, a meek, harmless and affectionate creature, pointed out what Christ is in His own nature to them that come to Him, even meek, harmless, loving, and not dreadful; what He is in the execution of His office, even He in whom the Father is well pleased and pacified, and He who bringeth the good news of assuaging the deluge of wrath, as Noah’s dove of the drying up of the flood; and what He is in the operations of His Spirit upon His people, that they are made meek, harmless, and lowly as doves, not like birds of prey.

5. Albeit all Christ’s members do receive of the Spirit in their measure, yet it is Christ’s prerogative to have the Spirit resting on Him; not only as God is the Spirit of one essence with Him, proceeding from the Father and Him, and so is ever present with Him. But even as man by virtue of the personal union, the Spirit floweth and resteth on Christ, and efficaciously worketh in Him all Divine graces and virtues without measure, and immutably, so that none can come wrong to Him at any time for receiving of His Spirit: Therefore, it is said, “it abode upon Him” (Isaiah 11:2-3).

6. Christ, in taking on our nature, did so cover His glory with the veil of our flesh and common infirmities that He could not be known by bodily sight from another man without Divine revelation and evidences from God; for, without this, John saith, I knew Him not (Matthew 16:17).

7. The Lord is very tender and careful of His servants, to encourage and confirm them in their calling and message; and will not fail to perform what He hath promised for that effect when He sendeth them out; for, John saith, he saw this sign in a peculiar way, as being to him an accomplishment of that promise given to him; for God had said to him, “upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending,” etc., and now it was accomplished.

8. The Spirit resteth upon Christ, and was manifested to be on Him by a visible sign, not only for Himself and to point out His excellency, but for the Church’s good, and to certify them that He received the Spirit to communicate unto His people. (G. Hutcheson.)

The Dove of God

We have here


1. The actual descent of the Spirit. It is unnecessary to ask what was the objective material reality here. It is enough that this was no fancy, born in a man’s brain, but an actual manifestation, whether through sense or apart from sense, to consciousness of a Divine outpouring and communication.

2. The purpose of this descent. The anointing of the Monarch. But a man is king before he is crowned. Coronation is the consequence and not the cause of royalty. And so the first purpose of this great fact is distinctly stated as having been the solemn pointing out of Messiah for the Baptist first, but in order that he might bear witness of Him to others. But this was not the beginning of His Messianic consciousness, nor of His Sonship. Before His baptism, and ere the heavens opened, or the dove fluttered down, He from everlasting was Son in the bosom of the Father. Christ’s baptism was an epoch in His human development inasmuch as it was His first public assumption of His Messianic office, and inasmuch as an advance was made in the communication to his manhood of the sustaining Spirit as fully equipped Him for new calls. His manhood needed the continual communication of the Spirit, and because it was sinless it was capable of a complete reception of that Spirit. So we see in Christ the realized ideal of manhood.

3. The meaning of this symbol. To John the coming of the King was first and chiefly a coming to judgment. John sees two wonders: the Messiah in his Carpenter Cousin and the Spirit, which he thought of as searching and consuming, like a dove. The same as in Genesis 1:2, where the word employed describes accurately the action of the mother bird with her soft breast and outstretched wings quickening the life that lies beneath. What then does it proclaim as to the character of the King.

(1) Purity, as the very foundation of His royalty.

(2) Meekness and gentleness, as the weapons of His conquest and the sceptre of His rule. The dove will outfly all Rome’s eagles, and all rapacious unclean feeders with their strong wings, talons and beaks.


1. Christ has nothing that He keeps to Himself. He received the Spirit that He might diffuse Him through the whole world. Salvation is more than escape from wrath, more than pardon. We must rise higher and feel if we would understand the “unspeakable gift” which is the totality of the gifts of His indwelling Spirit.

2. Therefore Christian met, are spoken of in the same language which is used in reference to their Master. “Sons of God,” “Priests,” “Lights of the World,” “Anointed.”

3. How full of rebuke and instruction is the symbol in reference to ourselves. The dove-like Spirit is offered to us.

(1) Our hearts are like the wild chaos; but He will come, if we will let Him, and brood over our nature and recreate the whole.

(2) The dove again was pure and fit for sacrifice: the heavenly dove comes as the Spirit of holiness, and then there is purity in the receiver and self-sacrifice.

(3) The Dove that crowned the King dwells in the subjects and makes them, too, meek and gentle, and imparts the true force of Christian character.

(4) Noah’s dove came back with one leaf in his beak--the prophecy of a whole world of beauty and verdure. The Dove that comes to us, bearing some leaf plucked from the tree of life, is the earnest of our inheritance until the day of redemption. All the gifts of that Divine Spirit--gifts of holiness, gentleness, wisdom, truth--are forecasts of heavenly perfectness. To us sailing over a dismal sea, He comes bearing with Him a message that tells of the far-off land and the fair garden of God in which the blessed shall walk. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

As a dove did at that time bring tidings of the abating of the water, so doth it now of the abating of the wrath of God upon the preaching of the gospel. (Augustine.)

The Holy Spirit manifested Himself here as a Dove; and at the day of Pentecost in tongues of fire; in order that we may learn to unite fervour with simplicity, and to seek for them both from Him. (Augustine.)

The dove, the symbol of innocence and purity (Matthew 10:16), the abiding and the tranquil hovering over Christ, expressed the tranquil and equable movement of the power of the Spirit in Him, in contrast with the detached impulses given to the prophets (Isaiah 11:2). (Tholuck.)

The Great A toner the Great Baptizer

The work of Christ, according to the Baptist,was to take away the sin of the world and to baptize with the Holy Ghost. It is not possible for believers to think too much of the first part; but it is quite possible for them to think too little of the second. These are the two pillars of our faith. The atoning sacrifice was offered and completed on Calvary once for all; but the baptism of the Holy Ghost is ever going on. Our Saviour died to be the Atoner; He lives to be the Baptizer. And our Saviour lives and reigns to baptize us not occasionally, but permanently; not fitfully and uncertainly, but surely. Were this baptism fully realized, there would be a vast increase of holiness, power, and success in ministers and churches: of Christian unity and charity. What encouragement have we for expecting this baptism? The announcement that Christ is as much Baptizer as Atoner, not the one without the other, or He would have laid the foundation and built nothing upon it. The atonement is the rock: the baptism builds the Church. So the gospels run up to the atonement, but the Acts start from the baptism. And so as the sinner seeks the one for salvation, so should the saint seek the other for service and testimony. (C. Clemance, D. D.)

The four baptisms

There are four baptisms mentioned in the Bible. The baptism of water, of repentance, of the Holy Ghost, and of fire. The baptism of water is the emblem of all, but that would be nothing without the baptism of repentance which it was intended to express; and the baptism of repentance will be unavailing for peace, holiness, heaven, unless it is accompanied by the baptism of the Holy Ghost, and that is never far separated from the baptism of fire. The four make one complete whole, and are the basis of the Christian life. (J. Vaughan.)

Verses 35-51

John 1:35-51

The next day

The first utterances of the Word


A searching question.

2. A gracious invitation.

3. An encouraging promise.

4. A Divine command.

5. A heart revelation.

6. An assurance of a present and an everlasting heaven. (J. W. Burn.)

Three ways to the Lord

There is only one way to heaven, “I am the way;” but there are many ways to Christ. One soul is led earlier, another later; one gradually, another by storm; one by sorrow, another through joy; one by inner impulse, another by external influence. Here we learn

1. To adore the wisdom of God. Like a prudent gardener He deals with each of His plants according to its kind. One needs the sun, another the shade; one must be kept moist, another dry; one requires rich soil, another poor; one must be pruned, another supported; one needs tender handling, another will grow in any wind or weather.

2. To regard God’s world with such big-hearted, patient love, that we no longer measure our neighbour by our own standard.

3. To learn to know ourselves. The lives of other children of God ought to be a mirror to us, and from them we can choose to suit our own particular aspiration, some favourite character by whose example we may be strengthened and edified. Here we have three ways to God.


1. “Behold the Lamb,” etc., is the heart of the Christian sermon. That is the aim of the whole Bible: Moses, the prophets, John, and the apostles. No matter the particular subject, this is the true end.

(1) If we preach on the holiness and love of God, behold them here.

(2) If about your duty, behold here meekness, gentleness, innocence, and obedience.

(3) If reproof for sin, behold here the effect of sin and what is necessary for its removal.

(4) If consolation, behold here its source.

(5) If heaven, behold here its central glory.

2. The two disciples heard.

(1) We often come short in the listening--work, and pleasure are preferred.

(2) Those who listen, do they really hear?

(3) Those who hear, do they “follow?” Following Jesus is the true end of hearing. For this purpose the Baptist willingly let them depart. You are to become converts, not to any human preacher, but to Christ.

THE WAY THROUGH EXAMPLE which Peter took. Andrew cannot keep the blessed discovery to himself, and he could not have performed for his brother a nobler service, nor presented to Christ a nobler tribute of his love. What a lesson for

1. Preachers.

2. Parents.

3. Brothers.

THE WAY OF EXPERIENCE. They all took this way, but it was in a special sense the way Nathanael took.

1. It is necessary that you come to the Lord personally and become acquainted with Him through your own experience to put to the proof what you have heard or read. Practice makes perfect; experience makes the Christian.

2. Whom will you find? A soul friend rich in love, who looks on your soul as a thing of value; one who has a profound insight into your heart; one who can supply all your need.

3. Receive Him

(1) for His own sake.

(2) For the sake of the revelations He makes and for the rewards He bestows. (K. Gerok, D. D.)

The soul sought by Christ, and seeking Him

JOHN STOOD, AND TWO OF HIS DISCIPLES LOOKED ON JESUS AS HE WALKED. Was it by accident that Christ was walking there? No; He was walking to find them. They had not brought Him, persuaded Him, or arranged for His arrival. No needy heart has to furnish its Christ. Before it begins to seek He is near and waiting. Immanuel may be unseen, as our best possessions always are, but heaven has brought Him near.

HOW DO MEN TREAT HIM? “They followed Jesus.” Now begins man’s part in the great reconciliation. Not every one, like Andrew, is called to be an apostle, but all are called to be disciples, But both must “follow.” Will you look on a little while from curiosity, or momentary impulse, or will you thankfully and steadily take up His cross and go after Him?

IT IS NOT CERTAIN WHETHER THE FIRST IMPULSE TO FOLLOW WILL PROVE A CONSTANT RELIGIOUS PRINCIPLE. “What seek ye?” Rather a chilling question as it stands. He saw that the motives of these ardent disciples must be laid bare to themselves. What do you really seek? Is it for His sake or your own? God applies many touchstones. Time, spiritual disappointment, etc. Christ wants loyal, disinterested love, and there is therefore no lack of tenderness in His question.

NOW, THEN, COMES THE PLACE FOR A DEEPER EXERCISE OF FAITH, AND THE RISING BY IT INTO A HIGHER LIFE. Will the disciple bear the proof? Will he evade the question and simply follow along on the level of the old decency, saying all the old prayers, etc.? Notice the spiritual beauty of the answer. “Master (with a new and tenderer meaning), where dwellest Thou?” This is the least ostentatious, yet directest confession of a desire for closer communion. It is a confession of ignorance, a prayer for a hiding place.

WOULD IT BE GRANTED ONLY FOR THE ASKING? “He saith unto them, come and see.” Let that stand for the dispelling of all your doubt. There is no description of the house beforehand to excite wrong anticipation. Find out what the Christian life is by living it. “Eye hath not seen,” etc.

“THEY CAME AND ABODE WITH HIM.” If they had been like some they would have stumbled at their own unworthiness, as if God’s favours were ever granted to merit. Faith takes God at His word.

AND NOW SEE PLAYING OUTWARD THE POWER WHICH HAS BEEN WORKING INWARDLY. It begins to testify for Christ. No sooner is the heart in actual fellowship with Christ than it begins to ask what it can do for Him. There are two sorts of people: those that go and do the thing, and those that stand and wonder why it was not done after some other fashion. Andrew begins at the nearest point. “His own brother.” There is no postponement for a complete plan, for times, for becoming “good enough.” His heart is full, and he does what he can. How soon this spirit in the followers of Christ would bring the world to His feet. Conclusion:

1. What the one brother says to the other is a joyful recognition of the fulfilment of prophecy.

2. The message relating to “the Lamb of God” is the message that brings sinners to the Saviour. (Bp. Huntington.)

The first disciple

WE HAVE HERE THE FIRST BEGINNINGS OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH. The beginning of anything great and good always wins for us a special regard. The tree grown from an acorn; the Amazon from the spring in the Andes. The interest is heightened in the case of moral movements. The Mayflower; the lonely monk who afterwards wrought the Reformation. Still deeper is our interest in the beginning of the kingdom of Christ. And it begins here with the Divine quietness which is characteristic of God’s mightiest works.

THE BEGINNING AND FIRST MOVEMENTS OF PERSONAL RELIGION. That begins when a person comes to Christ.

1. This does not imply that there is no value in what precedes. These men had heard the Baptist, were penitent, prepared, expectant. But as soon as opportunity was given they came, and so showed the sincerity of their repentance.

2. The first coming may be real and true, and yet not at once entire and decisive. They went back to Bethsaida, but; an invisible Presence went back with them, and in a little while it became visible, and said, “Follow Me.” So some time may elapse before the full surrender. But a faith in Jesus held long in secrecy is a perilous thing.

THE DIVINE METHOD OF EXTENDING RELIGION AND OF MULTIPLYING THE NUMBER OF DISCIPLES, There is a beautiful exemplification here of the law of personal influence. The great preacher points to Jesus, and it takes effect. But how small that effect would be if it reached the hearers only. It led to Jesus first, and then the power of personal influence makes itself felt. In this way, in little more than a day, Jesus has five disciples. Surely this shows us what a sphere opens at once to every believer. He has found the pearl of great price, and without losing it himself he can offer it to his friend. This privilege is neglected or timorously used. There never was so much preaching, and for this reason we abate quieter and more personal efforts. But whatever one attains in spiritual things he is bound by the very law of the life he has received to try to communicate it to others. Because unwise speaking is worse than silence it does not follow that we are to keep silent always. There are some whom plain dealing suits; or you may have to watch, use gentle suggestion, etc. Conclusion:

1. If you have borne witness conscientiously, but without success, try silence, watch, pray, put books in the way.

2. If you have been long silent, afraid of wounding susceptibilities, of making religion repellant, and trying to reach in quiet ways without success, break silence for once. (A. Raleigh, D. D.)

The first five disciples

Order is heaven’s first law, but variety is the second. We see this

1. In creation.

2. In providence.

3. In the work of grace. The operation is ever the same in kind, but different in manner. Here are four different methods of conversion.


1. The preacher

(1) Was divinely illuminated, as all gospel preachers must be.

(2) Was unsuccessful at first, but tried the same message again and succeeded.

(3) His subject was the only effective one--Christ the sin-bearer.

2. The process of conversion.

(1) A spirit of inquiry was stirred up. They followed Christ as searchers, at His back. Christ turns round and faces them. He looks upon them, and then puts the modest question, the first words He spoke. It was a comprehensive question, too: “What seek ye?” Pardon, peace, purity, truth? “Come and see,” and you shall have them all. The best way to be convinced of the power of the gospel is to try it.


1. The agent, Andrew.

(1) As soon as a man is found by Christ, he begins to find others.

(2) “First” implies that he did not give it up afterwards.

(3) Relationship has a stern demand on our individual effort. Our first business is at home.

(4) Simon was worth ten Andrews. We may be very deficient in talent, and yet be the means of bringing a great man to Christ.

(5) Andrew’s testimony was modest. “We.” He gives the other disciple his share of the discovery. But it was positive also. Not “I think,” or “trust,” but “we have.”

2. The process.

(1) Christ describes Simon’s present state--“the son of the timid dove”--explaining what he was.

(2) He gave him a new name, indicative of the nature His grace would give. This is the general plan of conversion. Nature is discovered and grace imparted; the old name supplanted by the new.

THE FOURTH DISCIPLE WAS CALLED DIRECTLY BY THE VOICE OF JESUS. So are all men, for the voice of John or the voice of Andrew is the voice of Christ speaking through them; but in some cases there is no apparent instrumentality. Colonel Gardner was about to perpetrate a crime but was stopped on the brink of it by sovereign grace without any apparent instrumentality.

1. Christ spoke but two words.

2. To follow Christ is the picture of Christian discipleship in every form. Follow Christ

(1) In doctrine.

(2) In faith.

(3) In action.

(4) In ordinances.


1. Preparation of heart “under the fig tree.”

2. Philip’s instrumentality.

3. Christ’s Divine word which convinced Nathanael and led him to put his trust in the Messiah. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The first five disciples

A LITTLE REAL KNOWLEDGE OF CHRIST PRODUCES THE DESIRE FOR MORE. They had heard the testimony of John. They prized his ministry, for it had done them good, but they now felt that Jesus could do more for them than John.

THE TRUE WAY OF INCREASING OUR KNOWLEDGE OF CHRIST IS TO FOLLOW HIMSELF. They might have stayed with John and asked for further information. How much there is to be known of Christ which human teachers cannot impart. What is it to follow Christ?

1. Attraction from Christ.

2. Faith in Christ.

3. Submission to Christ.


1. He awakens consciousness. He does not teach in the first instance.

2. He invites confidence. “What can I do for you?”

3. He offers a welcome.

IN FOLLOWING CHRIST THE BELIEVER FINDS MORE THAN HE EXPECTED OR IMAGINED. They remained with Christ and had fellowship with Him. The world often disappoints, but Christ gives more than we can ask or think. (J. Spence, D. D.)

The first disciples, or sons of the light

ANDREW AND JOHN, attracted towards the Light.

SIMON AND JAMES, conducted to the Light.

PHILIP AND NATHANAEL, invited by the Light. Lessons:

1. The greatest discovery a soul can make--the Christ

2. The purest felicity a soul can enjoy--fellowship with Christ.

3. The noblest life a soul can lead--following Christ.

4. The loftiest calling a soul can pursue--commending Christ.

5. The grandest philanthropy a soul can practice--bringing men to Christ.

6. The sweetest commendation a soul can receive--to be an

Israelite indeed.

7. The sublimest spectacle a soul can see--the Son of Man enthroned in an open heaven. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)

The early disciples

THE HERALDING OF CHRIST. The Baptist’s ministry was

1. Brief. Only six months.

2. Popular.

3. Misunderstood.

4. Expectant.

5. Self-abnegating.


1. John says, Behold

(1) Not the great teacher.

(2) Not the spotless example.

(3) Not the triumphant king.

(4) But the Lamb of God.

2. Jesus says

(1) “What seek ye?” An affectionate inquiry opening the way to conversation.

(2) Come and see--an encouraging invitation.


1. By friendly service.

2. Brotherly affection.

3. Neighbourly zeal.

4. Conquest of prejudice.

THE RESULT OF PERSONAL EFFORT. Andrew helped to make the Pentecostal preacher. How little we know what hangs on our individual endeavours. The preacher may not be known beyond his flock, but one soul through his appeals may be the means of converting thousands. The Sabbath school teacher may toil on with half a dozen children, but amongst the number may be a Wilberforce. Let none then be discouraged. (Sermons by the Monday Club.)

The Redeemer choosing disciples

The leading characteristics of the gospel were to be exhibited in the disciples; their selection, therefore, was a matter of vast importance.

THE REDEEMER CHOOSES DISCIPLES OF MEN OF ENTIRELY OPPOSITE CULTURE AND DISPOSITION. In John dwells paramount the meek, the restful, and the happy. The indicating words of the Baptist were appropriate to this disciple--“Behold the Lamb!” Simon is quite another man, rock-like, rough, pressing through all hindrances, and recoiling from nothing.

1. If diverse temperaments were necessary at the beginning, they are necessary now.

2. Each is good when it is animated by the Spirit of God. Excess and onesidedness, however, are to be deplored.

3. There are many gifts but one Spirit. Sternness and gentleness, fiery strength and patient meekness, can, and ought, in like measure to glorify Christ. Let them not be polished down into similarity. Let each be content with his gift and do what he can without envying another’s. Common love and zeal should bind all together and beget mutual toleration.


1. These silent and unknown workers are not to be despised.

2. Then among Christians such distinctions as famous and non-famous should have no place. The brilliancy of the one and the obscurity of the other does not lie in the difference of inner work, but in

(1) Outward circumstances.

(2) Inclination.

One mind is called to appear in the front; the other would rather conceal itself. The one works with quick and firm decision; the other is slow, silent, and sure. The one must have a wide field; the other keeps at home. Both are needful.

THE REDEEMER’S CHOICE SHOWS US THAT THE MOST IMPORTANT EVENTS OFTEN BEGIN IN AN UNLIKELY WAY. It is a mistake to desire the important to proclaim itself so at first, and when this is not the case to yield to disappointment and discontent. Present effectiveness depends on the unbiassed prospect of the future. Out of the most modest part in Christ’s work something glorious will unfold itself. (Schleiermacher.)

The beginnings of the Christian Church

Vast as the Church is now, there was a time when it consisted of only two members.


1. The first time the Baptist cried “Behold the Lamb of God,” no result seems to have followed.

2. When John repeated these words two followed Jesus.

3. This simple story is a pattern of the way in which good has been done to souls in every age.

(1) By testimony.

(2) By exalting Christ and not the Church, sacraments, or ministry.

(3) By patient continuance in preaching the truth.


1. Andrew spoke promptly to Peter. Who can tell what would have happened had he been silent and reserved, like many Christians now!

2. Of the first three converts, one at least was brought to Jesus by the quiet word of a relative.

3. The work of testimony must not be left to ministers alone.

4. Those who follow Christ must abide with him. (Bishop Ryle.)

The Apostle Andrew

A native of Bethsaida and brother of Peter. Very little known of him. Left the ministry of John for that of Christ. No sooner attached himself to Christ, than he sought a close intimacy with Him. He next brought his brother to Christ. Was formally called, together with Peter, to the apostleship (Mark 1:16-17). Was present, and took a prominent part in, the feeding of the five thousand (John 6:5; John 6:9). Introduced the Greeks to Jesus (John 12:21-22). Inquired with the three about the destruction of the Temple (Mark 13:4).


1. His old master effected it. Religious teachers who have little souls are anxious to keep their disciples entirely under their own influence, and are jealous of greater teachers.

2. His old master effected it through the proclamation of a great truth. The cross is the converting power.


1. Expressed in the question addressed to Christ. “We want to know more of Thee.” A desire which is ever the effect and evidence of true conversion.

2. Heightened by the reply Christ makes to them. “Come and see.” Christ has nothing to conceal. He wishes the world to know all about Him. Do not judge from hearsay, but search for yourselves.

HIS SERVICE FOR CHRIST. This and John 12:23 indicates his desireto bring his fellow-men to Christ.

1. This can only be done by those who are themselves true disciples. They only have the spirit necessary to give emphasis to the invitation and the character which reflects Christ.

2. The true disciple will do it not as a dry duty, but as a delightful privilege. This is the highest Christian gratification.

3. This work is not bringing men to our systems and sects, but to Christ.

4. Unless men are brought to Christ, we do them no lasting service. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

Andrew and John

DISCERNING THE LIGHT. Galilean fishermen, of deep religious susceptibilities, perhaps belonging to those who were waiting for the consolation of Israel. Leaving their boats, they repaired to the national rendezvous, where they received the rite of baptism at John’s hands. When Christ was pointed out, they felt themselves, by personal consistency, intellectual conviction, and spiritual aspiration, shut up to seek his further acquaintance. So will the light still be discerned by all who prepare for it by penitence and faith (Isaiah 66:2; Zechariah 1:3; Malachi 3:7; Matthew 4:17; Acts 20:21; 1 John 5:9-12). Faith is the organ by which Christ’s glory is discerned; Repentance the tear-drop that keeps the soul’s eye pure and clean.

FOLLOWING THE LIGHT. Many discern the Light who neither rejoice in it John 3:19) nor walk after it (1 Thessalonians 5:5). Not so these, who no sooner beheld than they followed.

1. Promptly, as men who

(1) Realized their need (2 Kings 7:3).

(2) Knew the value of their discovery (Matthew 13:44-46).

(3) Recognized the danger of delay (2 Corinthians 6:2; Hebrews 4:7).

2. Humbly: walking respectfully at a distance behind (Psalms 31:1).

3. Sincerely: their reply to Christ’s question teaching that openness and frankness which is indispensable in true religion.

4. Earnestly: embracing Christ’s invitation at once, since the King’s business requires haste, and Christ’s kingdom brooks no delay, and becoming so absorbed that they heeded not the lapse of time.

FINDING THE LIGHT. Their judgments were convinced that Christ was the Messiah, and so will all those who turn towards the Light (John 8:12; of. Hosea 6:3). In the order of nature, seeing goes before believing; in the realm of grace, a soul believes to see (John 11:40; Psalms 27:13). (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)

The law of Christian increase

The most elementary mathematics treats of two laws of progression, which are distinguished by the terms “arithmetical” and “geometrical.” The one grows by the successive addition of a fixed quantity; in the other, each successive term is increased by a fixed proportion of itself. Now, let the quantity added in a progression of the first sort be never so large, and the proportion in a progression of the second kind never so small, the last will eventually outstrip the first. But what is more important to notice is, that the arithmetical progression is the law of mechanical growth, while the other is the law of the growth of lifo. A tree does not grow by the addition of a certain number of twigs and leaves every year; but where a leaf was one year, there we find a twig with several leaves the next year. The human race itself follows the law of a living organism, and grows not by the addition of a certain number each year, but by a certain proportion of the population of the previous year. If, then, the Church is ever to overtake the world, it must grow, not by the arithmetical, but by the geometrical law; and as the world had the start, its rate of growth must be greater. The Church must be a living organism, and an organism of greater vitality than the human race. Its growth must be something out of itself, something proportionate to itself. The work of the individual is the true law of the Church’s growth, stamped upon it from the very beginning. How easy it was for the three disciples to become six l Each man brings in one; that is all. And these men are not now apostles or ministers; they are private Christians--mere babes in Christ. What they did all can do. (P. H. Hoge.)

Small beginnings

Jesus gained one follower at His baptism--His baptizer; but this one was soon multiplied. John bears further witness to Jesus. Two of John’s disciples hear his testimony, and at once leave their old master and follow the new. So now Jesus has three disciples. One of them, Andrew, was so glad that he had found the Messiah, that he started off and found Peter, his brother, and brought him to Jesus. So another follower was secured, making four in all. The next day Jesus calls Philip, and he obeys the call; so now there are five. Five are not very many; but still five are five times as many as one. Philip felt just as Andrew had done before him, and sought his friend Nathanael. Nathanael was rather hard to convince; so Philip said, Come and see for yourself. Nathanael came, and was convinced. So now there were six. This was only a small beginning, it is true; but most large things begin small. The locomotive that rushes along sixty miles an hour began its motion by inches. The giant tree of California was once only half an inch high. The Amazon at its source is narrow enough to allow a child to jump over it. The question is not so much, Was the beginning small? as, Is the growth rapid and enduring? How many disciples Jesus has to-day. Millions on millions. How have these millions of disciples been won? Mohammed won millions by the power of the sword. But Jesus never authorized the use of physical power to subdue men to His rule. Jesus’ true disciples have all been won, just as those first six were won, by gentle means. One has persuaded one more, or eventually, as Peter, thousands. (A. F. Schauffler.)

John and Jesus

Christ, the Heavenly Bridegroom, came to join to Himself the Church. He said nothing, but merely came. It was His friend, the Baptist, who put into His the bride’s right hand. (Chrysostom.)

Verse 36

John 1:36

Behold the Lamb of God!--This is the main business of the preacher.

Had John been an eloquent declaimer of repentance merely, he would have missed his life-work. As the stars called “the Pointers” always point to the Pole Star, so must ministers point to the Redeemer. The Baptist’s eye was fastened on the Master, while he pointed to the Master. They preach Christ best who see Him best.


1. He is the chief of all sacrifices, the term of “God often signifying” greatest, noblest.

(1) Because it contains all others.

(2) Because it does really and for ever what the others only typified.

2. He is the Lamb of God’s appointing;

3. Of God’s providing;

4. Of God’s offering;

5. Of God’s setting forth to the sons of men (Romans 3:25).


1. Christ, as the atoning sacrifice, ought to be the principal object of every believer’s thoughts

2. This is the grandest subject of thought in the universe. What are the sciences, the classics, poetry, in comparison?

3. No subject so well balances the soul as this. Other themes disturb the mental equilibrium, and overload one faculty at the expense of others.

4. This is the most needful subject of contemplation. Other things may be forgotten without serious damage.


1. Doctrinal.

(1) The evil of sin.

(2) The magnitude of God’s love.

2. Experimental. Sin vanishes when Christ appears, and grief and fear.

Behold the Lamb of God WITH REVERENCE, as do angels and glorified spirits. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Beholding the Lamb of God

WHAT ARE WE TO SEE WHEN WE LOOK ON JESUS? With what eyes? Time was when men saw Him with their natural eyes, and He was an offence. Time will be when every eye shall see Him, and He will be to many a terror. In heaven He is seen with glorified eyes. To us now He may be seen with the eye of faith. Using this, not having seen Him, we love Him and receive life from Him. What is the sight?

1. The great Creator (John 1:1).

2. The great Creator manifested in the flesh.

3. The Divine fulness for the salvation of men.

(1) The full expiation of sin.

(2) All the grace to be communicated to His saints.

(3) Grace for grace.

(4) All supplies necessary for living and dying, obeying and suffering, endurance and triumph, progress and perfection.


1. That we may have tenderness of heart under sin. Here is a sight to soften stony hearts.

2. That we may have relief under conviction of sin. If He can take away the sin of the world, He can take away a world of sin in you.

3. That we may have courage and patience under all suffering. As He was in the world, so must we be.

4. That we may not stagger at the promises through unbelief. The Messianic prophecies were fulfilled in Him. Shall we, then, disbelieve that those which concern us will bebroken. (A. Beith, D. D.)

The Lamb of God


1. By whom? By the Forerunner, who had been preparing His way; as all will--first here in spirit, afterwards in body; first by faith, and afterwards by sight; who by humility, faith, and desire, make themselves ready for His coming (Matthew 5:8; John 16:16; 1 John 3:2).

2. When? On the day after the preceding vision. Christ seldom puts His followers off with one sight of Himself: view follows upon view, according to growth in seeing and desiring.

3. Where? On the river’s bank, as He was separating Himself from the Baptist to commence His own work. Christ is best seen at a distance from His servants.

4. Why? To be pointed out. For this same reason Christ appears to His servants now.


1. In what character? As the Lamb of God. Suggestive of

(1) Personal innocence or sinlessness.

(2) The meek and unresisting patience with which he should carry on His work.

(3) The propitiatory character of His mission:--the three main themes of the gospel ministry.

2. In what manner? With a Behold: to indicate

(1) The importance of the announcement.

(2) The earnestness of the herald.

(3) The liveliness of mind with which the announcement should be welcomed.

3. With what intention? To send men to Christ.

4. With what result? Two of his disciples follow Christ (Isaiah Iv. 11).


1. Promptly. Delay imprudent and dangerous. If Christ be what the Baptist says, there is no time to be lost.

2. Inquiringly. This is all that Christ desires at first. The chief complaint is that men reject Him without examining His credentials.

3. Finally. So will all who seek Him with the whole heart.

4. Exemplarily. They led the way to a larger movement.


1. The proper business of the Christian ministry: to point out Christ to the world, and to point the world to Christ.

2. The necessary qualification of the ministry: to behold Christ, and have a personal insight into the character and work of the Saviour.

3. The encouraging reward of the ministry: to behold disciples going over to and following the Saviour. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)

The Lamb of God


1. It had respect to the personal character of Christ. He was a perfect pattern of

(1) innocence, and

(2) patience. It was thus that He illustrated, in His own example, the nature and genius of the gospel dispensation, as superior to every other.

2. It had a distinct reference to the great design of His appearance and death. It marks out His sacrificial character, prefigured by the legal offerings, more particularly the paschal lamb, the most ancient and important.

(1) The passover commemorated a great deliverance, and prefigured a greater.

(2) The passover averted an inevitable destruction; so did the sacrifice of Christ.

(3) In both cases there is no natural connection between the means and the end; the benefit is moral, not physical. The sprinkling blood was simply of Divine appointment, as a sign to arrest the progress of the destroying angel. So between the sacrifice of Christ and the expiation of guilt the relation is moral, resulting from the will of God.

(4) The personal qualities in the two victims are similar. The lamb was to be without spot or blemish; so was Christ.

(5) The blood of the one had to be sprinkled, so that of the Other must be applied.

(6) While many of the legal sacrifices were offered by individuals, the paschal lamb was required to be slain and offered by the whole congregation of Israel, it being understood that he who neglected this important sacrifice, would lose its benefit--would be cut off from the congregation. “Behold” [here] “the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world!”

(7) The time of slaying in both eases was the evening.

(8) Not a bone was broken in either.

(9) The paschal lamb was prepared by fire, signifying the agonies of the Lamb of God. How strangely mistaken, therefore, those who represent Christ’s death as an example or a martyrdom for truth.

THE SPIRIT AND DESIGN OF THE EXCLAMATION. It expresses the claim of Christ to attention from beings of every order.

1. Those who remain, as sinners, in their original character and state. There are three qualities which entitle an object to our regard:

(1) Intrinsic greatness--e.g., the wonders of the material world; those of the intellectual and moral universe; but here is something incomparably greater--Incarnate Deity.

(2) Novelty. What so original as the Invisible Creator clothed in mortal flesh; the Ancient of Days cradled as an Infant; He who upholdeth all things sinking under a weight of suffering; the Lord of Glory expiring on the cross; the Light of the world sustaining an awful eclipse; the Sun of Righteousness immerged in the shadow of death?

(3) Usefulness. The Lamb of God is the only Saviour.

2. Those who have repented and believed. The efficacy of this sacrifice covers all the needs of the spiritual life.

3. The redeemed in the world of glory. They owe their position and their continuance in it to the Lamb of God.

4. The holy angels, who may probably be secured in that felicity to which saints are promoted, by the mediation of Jesus Christ.

5. God Himself. To Him the Redeemer is an object of complacency and satisfaction. (Robert Hall.)

Christ’s whole character must be studied

If you wish to look at a portrait of Raphael’s, what would you think to see only the forehead uncovered, and then only the eyes, and so on, until all the features had been separately seen? Could you gain a true idea of the picture as a whole? Yet this is the way men look at the picture of Christ in the gospels, reading a few verses and mottoes here and there, and never considering the life in its wholeness and harmony. (H. W. Beecher.)

A two-fold use of the eyes

It is a beautiful remark of an old divine, that eyes are made for two things at least; first, to look with, and next, to weep with. The eye which looks to the pierced One is the eye which weeps for Him. Oh soul, when thou comest to look where all eyes should look, even to Him who was pierced, then thine eye begins to weep for that for which all eyes should weep, even the sin which slew thy Saviour! There is no saving repentance except within sight of the cross.

Verses 37-39

John 1:37-39

And the two disciples heard Him speak

The first two disciples



1. They followed Jesus. When a man has become a doer of the Word, he ever seeks increased knowledge.

2. They acknowledged His high character as a Master on whose instruction they desired to wait. It is a blessed progress when the issue of outward preaching is to make men desire that inward teaching which is by the waving power of Christ.

3. They sought intimate acquaintance with Him. No short interview was sufficient.


1. He took notice that they followed Him. Why did He not speak? Because He would honour His own word, as spoken by the Baptist, and give time for its proper effect. Christ knows those who are following Him, however hidden, silent, and feeble.

2. He set them on examining their purpose in following Him.

3. He gave them most welcome invitation and grateful entertainment. (A. Beith, D. D.)

John and Andrew

It was not an accident that the first words which the Master spoke in His Messianic office were THE PROFOUNDLY SIGNIFICANT QUESTION, “What seek ye?” which suggests

1. The need of having a clear consciousness of what is our object in life.

(1) Most men have never answered that question, but are driven by circumstances, and whose incoherent, unreflective lives are a shame to their manhood.

(2) Others are full of low, unworthy aims.

(3) If we would ask this question and answer it thoroughly we should not make so many mistakes. If we knew what we were really seeking we should know where to go and look for it.

2. These words are also a veiled promise.

(1) Christ asks all such questions, not for His information, but for our strengthening.

(2) The condition of the fulfilment of the promise is that a suppliant is conscious of His own wants, and turns to Christ for their supply.

(3) Christ has done what He has promised. No man can ask from Christ what He cannot or will not bestow.

The second words which Christ speaks are a MERCIFUL INVITATION TO THE WORLD. The disciples’ answer was simple and timid. They did not venture to say, “May we talk to you?” “Will you take us to be your disciples?” All they can muster courage to ask now is, “Where dwellest Thou?” At another time, perhaps, we will go to this Rabbi and speak with Him. His answer is “Come now!”

1. Christ is always glad when people resort to Him. When He was here in the world, no hour was inconvenient or inopportune. He was never impatient or wearied.

2. This invitation is a distinct call to first hand knowledge of Christ.

3. This is a call to the personal act of faith. “Come” and “see” are standing emblems of faith.


1. “Dwelt” and “abode” are the same words in the original, and express the close, still communion which the soul may have with Jesus Christ.

2. John had nothing to say to the world about what the Master said to him and his brother in that long day of communion. A lesson for a great deal of blatant talk about conversion and the details thereof.

3. The impression of Christ’s own personality is the strongest force to make disciples.

4. The experience of the grace and sweetness of the Saviour binds men to Him as nothing else will. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

The character of a leader shown by the character of his following

One gets an idea of the greatness of a chief of men from the greatness of those whom he gathers around him, and who carry out his plans. Thus, for example, one infers that Cromwell must have been a great-natured man, from the fact that he had Howe for his chaplain, Milton and Marvell for his secretaries, Blake for his admiral, and so on. Noscitur a sociis, and we might add, a servia. So we reason, perhaps unconsciously, in the ease of other historic names. Speaking reverently, I would say, that in a parallel manner, we recognize the “sovran” greatness of our Lord in the fact that He gathered into His service and commanded men of such varied and magnificent natures as a Peter, a John, and a Paul; not to speak of men in other times. His heroes are no less wonderful than the most wonderful in the ancient days of Israel. (J. Culross, D. D.)

The difference between the conversion of John and the conversion of Paul

In the case of Paul, we find a man of powerful nature committed out and out against the cause of Jesus, thoroughly conscientious in his hostility, not merely standing out against the Gospel as a fraud or delusion, blasphemous in its every essence, but resolved to pat it down. This man is suddenly arrested in the mid-career of his opposition. There is a mighty shock to his nature; and for three days he can neither eat nor drink. With John it seems to have been otherwise. We cannot indeed tell what the Baptist’s ministry may have been to him; how the sorrows of death may have compassed him and the pains of hell gut hold upon him. But in coming to Jesus, he is “drawn,” as with the cords of love and the bands of a man. There are those who think that all is not right with a man unless there is something approaching convulsion in the bringing of him to God.
For myself, I entertain no manner of doubt that the great change is often accomplished thus. But the convulsion is not of the essence of the change. Often it is the sign of resistance and struggle against God, and has more to do with unbelief than with faith. Let us not limit God, or prescribe to Him, but accept His grace in whatever way it comes. (J. Culross, D. D.)

Jesus saw them following.

There are different causes of following one who is worthy of attention. A good man may be followed by an enemy from a desire to injure him; he may be followed in suspicion and doubt; he may be followed from mere curiosity; he may be followed in the hope of purely personal gain; he may be followed in loving devotedness. The following may be a good sign, or it may be an evil sign, on the part of those who follow. (H. C. Trumbull, D. D.)

Rabbi--The Jewish terms of honour for their religious teachers were three. These were, in ascending honour, Rabh, Rabbi, Rabban, the last term being given in cases only of the extremest rarity. As regards the relation of the rabbi to the people, the Sages advised every man: “Chose for thee a Master, and withdraw from doubt;” that is, Chose for yourself a rabbi who can solve the legal and casuistical questions which perplex you. Jesus was not a rabbi in the strict sense; but the title was given to Him in point of courtesy by those who would learn from Him. (A. F. Schaefer.)

What seek ye?--It is a blank cheque that He puts into their hands to fill up. It is the key of His treasure-house which He offers to us all, with the assured confidence that if we open it we shall find all that we need. Christ stands before us like some of those fountains erected at some great national festival, out of which pour for all the multitude every variety of draught which they desire, and each man that goes with his empty cup gets it filled with that which he wishes. “What seek ye?” Wisdom? You students, you thinkers, you young men that are fighting with intellectual difficulties, “What seek ye?” Truth? He gives us that. You others, “What seek ye?” Love, peace, victory, self-control, hope, anodyne for sorrow? Whatever you desire, you will find in Jesus Christ. The first words with which He broke the silence, when He spake to man as the Messias, were at once a searching question, probing their aims and purposes, and a gracious promise pledging Him to a task not beyond His power, however far beyond that of all others--even the task of giving to each man His heart’s desire. “What seek ye? “ “Seek, and ye shall fled.” (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Where dwellest thou?--By this example we are taught from the first rudiment of the Church

1. That we ought to draw such a relish for Christ as will excite our desire for profit.

2. That we ought not to be satisfied with a mere passing look, but that we ought to seek Christ’s dwelling that He may receive us as guests. For there are many who smell the gospel at a distance only, and thus allow Christ suddenly to disappear, and all that they have learned concerning Him to pass away. (Calvin.)

Come and see

Investigation the way to Faith

THE INVESTIGATION BY WHICH CHRIST’S EARTHLY FOLLOWERS GAINED FAITH IN HIS MISSION. Invited by Christ, they spend many hours with Him, and come away convinced of His Messiahship; He had nothing to conceal. The more they know the clearer His glory. In this He is a contrast to most of the world’s heroes and an example to all teachers.


1. Original.

2. Beautiful.

3. Perfect.


1. Might.

2. Beneficence.

THE INVESTIGATION BY WHICH INQUIRERS FOR PERSONAL SALVATION GAIN FAITH IN CHRIST HIMSELF. This faith can only be possessed by those who hold intelligent, devout, constant communion with Him. (Urijah R. Thomas.)

A loving invitation

At the beginning of the gospel Christ says, “Come and see;” at the close, “Come and dine.” The first is for babes in Christ, the second for strong men. The first is the beginning of spiritual life, the second a high after privilege, and the result of it. The first is the Gospel’s cry to those outside its pale, the second to those who have embraced it. Christ has nothing to conceal. Romanism may conceal its worship under the Latin tongue, difficult phraseology and polished periods may hide the teaching of professed protestants. We have here

AN ENCOURAGEMENT TO SINNERS. There are four ways by which persons are to “Come and see.”

1. By observation. Many persons are careless; they will consider the last new novel, but concerning Christ they have no curiosity.

2. By diligent study of Holy Scripture. The worst read book is the Bible. People read a verse or half a chapter and think they understand it. But they do not read Shakespeare in that way.

3. By hearing the Gospel. What do you come to God’s house for? To admire the eloquence of man? Go to the theatre or senate if that be your errand. To God’s house we should resort to learn to see for ourselves the Lord Jesus.

4. By believing. The best way of knowing about Christ is to try Him. The only way of knowing His power to forgive sins is to trust Him to forgive yours.

AN ADDRESS TO BEGINNERS IN THE SCHOOL OF CHRIST. We ought not to be satisfied with merely being saved. Our next business is to learn more of Christ.

1. For the understanding of doctrine.

2. For the fulfilment of promises.

3. For the ripening of experience.

THE CRY OF THE GOSPEL TO EVERY SINNER. It is more pleasing to use the eye than the ear. You can keep children as happy as birds in the air with a picture-book, when they would probably go to sleep if you were to talk to them. Christ bids us use the eye. What is there to see? Christ

1. Incarnate.

2. Crucified,

3. Risen. Come and see. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Man inviting Christ to his dwelling

As He invited the disciples of John to see where He dwelt, so we should be able to invite Him to see where we dwell, and to look if there be in our habitations anything which betrays a spirit contrary to His. (J. Fawcett, M. A.)

The dwelling-place of Jesus

1. So humble and obscure that tradition, so industrious in marking every spot trodden by His blessed feet, fails to point it out.

2. In this lowly dwelling Christ first preached His gospel.

3. It was, the first sanctuary of the Christian faith. Where does Christ dwell now?

IN HEAVEN (Luke 24:51; Hebrews 10:12).

1. Then He is visible only to faith?

2. There He ever lives to make intercession.

IN HIS CHURCH (Exodus 20:24; Matthew 18:20).

1. There He is worshipped.

2. There we commune with Him.

IN THE HEARTS OF HIS FAITHFUL PEOPLE (Proverbs 23:26; Ephesians 3:17).

1. In spite of their unworthiness.

2. In response to faith and love.

3. To animate hope. (John N. Norton.)

A memorable day

FOR JESUS. The first fruits of His redeeming work.

FOR JOHN. The beginning of a new life.

FOR THE CHURCH. The day of its foundation.

FOR THE WORLD. A promise of its regeneration. Lesson; the importance of little things. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)

Experience of Christ better than description of Him

An affecting scene occurred in the streets of Baltimore. Two little sisters were looking through a large store window at the toys within, and trying to describe what they saw to a little blind sister who was with them. They were exhausting their feeble powers of description to bring home to the mind of their blind companion what they saw, although she listened greedily. But, after all, they failed to present anything more than an imperfect representation. The gentleman who saw the circumstance said that it was extremely touching, that they tried hard to describe the collection in the store, but they could not do it. That is just like trying to tell you of Christ. We may exhaust our powers of description, but the effect will be very moderate. You must come and see His beauties with your own eyes.

Verses 40-41

John 1:40-41

One of the two which heard John speak




1. His mind had been prepared

(1) By the preaching of the Baptist

(2) By independent reflection and Bible study.

2. He came to Jesus with an openheartedness worthy of imitation. He had his own notions, doubtless, about the grandeur of Israel’s Messiah; but was not offended when the solitary, unattended man was pointed out to him. Some, in the hasty revulsion of feeling, would have turned away in disdain. But Andrew’s faith mastered his prejudice.

3. His search was marked by indomitable earnestness. He followed Jesus, and by addressing Him as Rabbi, puts himself under His teaching, and follows Him home.


1. The openheartedness of Christianity. “Behold the Lamb!” “Come and see.” There is no disguise, for none is needed. Christianity requires intelligence, reliance, not blind credulity. Ancient mythology and modern superstitions at Delphos, or Mecca, or Rome, had and have their reserve and mystery; but Christianity has light in herself, and studies no concealment.

2. The satisfactoriness of Christianity. When you come and see, there is always something to be seen. The search for Christ yields an intellectual and emotional satisfaction. The charge is warmly felt as well as intelligently realized. “We have found the Messiah.”


1. He proclaims the truth to his brother.

2. He resumes his secular duties. It was a great soul that could bear to be with Jesus at night, and to be fishing in the morning.

3. What a contrast between the first two brothers in the New Testament and the first two brothers of the Old. (W. M. Punshon, LL. D.)

The conduct of Andrew


The general duty of ENDEAVOURING TO IMPART TO OTHERS THE SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS ENJOYED BY OURSELVES. There is all the difference here between natural and Spiritual things. The discovery of a hidden treasure would beget no anxiety that others should know of it. The discovery of a remedy for a direful disease would inspire eagerness in most men to give it a wide notoriety; but not necessarily in all cases, inasmuch as the discovery involves no change in the character. But the man who has lighted on heavenly treasure has found that, the direct tendency of which is to the overcoming of selfishness. A man renewed by God’s Spirit, who does not desire and seek the renewal of others, is a contradiction in terms. The wealth acquired by the believer is kept through being dispersed; the cure accomplished through the blood of the Redeemer is a cure which is radical only in proportion as it seeks its own extension. Let, then, men take it as a test by which to try their own spiritual condition. Andrew findeth his brother Simon. He felt at once the communicative and diffusive nature of religion.


1. Our own household and relatives have the first claim upon us; parents and masters are bound, if they would imitate Andrew, to provide first for their own children and servants; or parishioners or citizens are bound to provide for their own poor, before they attempt the relief of other parishes and other cities. To Englishmen, their necessitous countrymen especially come first, before they turn their attention to the African or New Zealander. There is nothing of selfishness in this. We must enlarge our operations with the enlargement of our ability. But God may be said to have parcelled out mankind into concentric circles, and he hath made it incumbent upon us that we go carefully round the inner circle before we pass on to the outer; so that, while benevolence is not to be churlishly limited, she is not to leave waste ground here, in her eagerness to spread culture over some remote and savage section of the earth.

2. But as Andrew did not stop short at his brother, so home missions must expand into foreign.

3. The great lesson, however, is that we should care for the conversion of those with whom we were associated when unconverted. The merchant, who nearly lost his soul in hunting after gain, but who is now seeking treasure above--is he doing his best to cause those who were one with him in the struggle after perishable wealth to be one with him in labouring for the incorruptible? The young man who was the slave of vice, driven headlong by his passions, and who has now forsaken the haunts of licentiousness--is he striving to withdraw from those pleasures his former associates, and to lead them to take delight in heavenly things? The young woman whose whole mind was engaged in frivolous amusements, but who now seems awake to the solemnities of eternity--is it her endeavour to teach the thoughtless With whom she squandered away life that there is something more to be cared for than dress, and something more communicative of happiness than the dance? All such cases may be gathered under the “first” of our text. The converted man’s first care will be for those with whom he has been intimately associated, either in relationship, or friendship, or business. (H. Melvill, B. D.)

Andrew’s ministry

WHATEVER THERE IS IN FAMILY RELATIONSHIP THAT CAN BRING MEN TO JESUS SHOULD HAVE ITS FULL AND FAIR PLACE. Many people who ought not only be more useful, but more happy and healthy, by sharing as far as possible their new found light and joy with those who are near and dear to them, have become the merest religious recluses. Sometimes it is difficult to bring any direct influence to bear. How important, therefore, that every indirect influence should be wisely employed. And all have this.

THE VALUE OF THIS UNCONSCIOUS INFLUENCE. Let the fountain of our inner life be pure, and its manifold streams entering the most arid wastes will promote verdure and blessing in a hundred unforeseen forms.

THE DIRECT INFLUENCE OF A PERSONAL TESTIMONY. Men need to be told of the source of blessing, and the burden of the testimony rests with those who have heard. There are some things, the knowledge of which would brighten men’s lives, and these things you know. Tell them. God takes hold of the natural love of communicating, and uses it for the good of humanity. You are ready enough with your advice on most matters, be ready with these good news of God.

THE QUESTION OF PERSONAL CONVICTION AND EXPERIENCE. An inward intelligent experience will ever be the first demand of the Church. If we felt the power of the indwelling Christ, He would speak in us and work by us. If we have no light we cannot let it shine; but if we have we must not put it under a bushel, or it will go out.

A WONDERFUL ENCOURAGEMENT TO MEN OF RETIRING DISPOSITION OR LIMITED CAPABILITIES. We never read much of Andrew; and since we cannot tell the possible result of any act or influence, however insignificant, it becomes us not to disparage anyone. And who shall call an action insignificant? Like a winged seed carried by the wind to some barren islet, bearing in its bosom the germs of all future loveliness and verdure; so blessed oft is the deed of a good man. (G. J. Procter.)

Coming to Jesus, a motive for bringing others to Him

TRUE RELIGION IS THE RESULT OF PERSONAL CONVICTION RESPECTING THE CLAIMS OF JESUS CHRIST. You must possess that religion or you can never impart it. “I will bless thee and thou shalt be a blessing.” “He that believeth on Me shall never thirst, and from within him shall flow rivers of living water.” The truth of Christ must first be known, and the knowledge of Christ is essentially connected with the love of Christ as the medium and material of that knowledge. We have in the narrative an illustration of the way in which personal religion commences. When directed to Christ, the first disciples were not satisfied with a passing glance, but they looked to Jesus and followed Him. Then commenced their friendship with Christ. There is an immense diversity in the operations of the Spirit. Some are brought at once outer darkness into light. Others by a gradual method: but the results are the same. They are brought to Jesus as the result of inquiry marked by prayer and solicitude. And there is everything in the character and religion of Christ to deserve and challenge inquiry. These things were not done in a corner; everything will bear the light.


1. Our object in all our Church operations is not sectarian, but to bring men to Christ. Keep this object before you in your families, neighbourhood, communities. If you aim at anything short of this you will fail to reach even your subordinate object. While, on the other hand, in enlarging our minds to the amplitude and sublimity of this higher object, we shall lay the most enduring basis for the accomplishment of even the minor object.

2. Contemplate your responsibility. You have the great remedy for the world’s moral diseases; you dare not keep it to yourselves.

3. Your opportunities. No man was ever disposed to do good who did not find ample opportunities as the member of a family, as a master or a servant, as a Church member.

4. Your encouragement: The command of Christ, the assurance of His presence, the success already secured, and the certainty of final success. (J. Fletcher, D. D.)

The magnet and the turning-point

No literature is more interesting or instructive than biography. Sacred biography has peculiar demands upon us. There is no part of the life of an individual which possesses more interest than its turning-point in the case of a statesman, soldier, merchant, but above all a Christian. Our text describes the turning-point of a man who stands conspicuous in sacred biography, the spiritual first moment of Peter. Notice


1. His name: Jesus, Saviour, who was perfect God and perfect man.

2. His title, Messias: inclusive of all His offices, Prophet, Priest, King, Lamb of God, Baptizer with the Spirit.

THE WORK WROUGHT. “He brought him to Jesus.”

1. Andrew was the instrument, and the means he used was the proclamation of Christ. Have you a brother? Bring him to Jesus.

2. God was the efficient agent (1 Corinthians 2:14; John 6:44-45).

THE CONSEQUENCES RESULTING FROM THIS WORK. The Christian Church. (J. T. Whitestone, A. B.)

The Sunday-school teacher


1. Introduction to Jesus.

2. Interest in Jesus.

3. Instruction from Jesus.

4. Intimacy with Jesus.


1. Sincere and ardent piety.

2. An enlightened knowledge of Christ and the method of salvation by Him.

3. An adaptation in the mode of instruction to the disposition of the child.

4. An exhibition of the practical effects of the knowledge of Christ in your conduct.


1. Christ will be glorified.

2. The Church will be enlarged.

3. The world will be benefited.

4. Your labours will be rewarded.

Conclusion: Notice

1. The importance of looking out for souls to bring them to Jesus.

2. The value of union. (J. Sherman.)

Simon Peter brought by his brother to Jesus


1. What is it for men to come? Andrew and his brother came corporeally. The corporeal was the sign of a mental state which is equivalent to believing.

2. Why men should come to Christ for salvation.


1. The argument by which this duty is confirmed. Christ has committed His cause into their hands. They are His property. He appeals to their love to Him and their tender concern for souls, to bring the world to Him.

2. The manner in which that duty must be performed.

(1) By the exhibition of the truth in the exercise of the ministry, the circulation of the Bible, the spread of good literature, education, visitation, and the ordinary intercourse of domestic and social life.

(2) By supplicating the influence of the Divine Spirit to sanction and bless the means employed.


1. In justification of this principle, notice that

(1) The relationships of kindred or affection are formed under the physical or moral providence of God.

(2) God has implanted or inspired in connection with these relationships certain affections which grow out of them and are appropriate to them.

(3) The due culture of these affections issue in important results, and neglect and failure are fraught with great evils.

(4) The solicitude ought to operate in matters which affect the interest and happiness of the soul.

2. The order of exertion will not disqualify or prevent from the larger and more expanded sphere of operation as regards the general welfare of mankind.

3. Inquire how you who have been brought to Jesus have fulfilled your obligations.


1. Success does frequently attend such endeavours, as is seen in the cases of Andrew and the Samaritan woman. And many a preacher, Sunday-school teacher, tract distributer, etc., could tell a similar tale; and so could parents and brothers.

2. Success in these endeavours is eminently and surpassingly delightful, because

(1) Of the value of the soul.

(2) Of the opening up of channels of usefulness in connection with the cross of Christ. Who can tell where a single conversion will terminate? Think of Doddridge, Whitefield, Morison.

(3) Of the connection of success with our everlasting reward. (J. Parsons.)

Simon Peter


1. How instinctive and natural the impulse is when a man has found Jesus Christ to tell someone else about Him. Nobody said to Andrew, “Go and look for your brother!” If a man has a real conviction, he cannot rest until he has shared it with some one else. Even a dog that has had its leg mended will bring other limping dogs to the mender. How is it in the world? And are Christians to be dumb when worldlings are in earnest? This man before he was four and twenty hours a disciple had made another. Have you made one in the same number of years?

2. He first findeth his own brother. There was a second, then, that found somebody. Andrew found Peter before John found James. Each of the original pair of disciples brought the nearest to him in blood and affection to Christ.

(1) Home, then, presents the natural channel for Christian work. It is a poor affair if all your philanthropy and Christian energy go off noisily in Sunday-schools and mission stations, and if the people at your own fireside never hear anything of Him whom you say you love.

(2) But the principle has a wider application. Why has God placed you where you are? For business and personal ends? Yes, partly. But where a man who knows and loves Christ is brought into neighbourly contact with thousands who do not, he is thereby constituted his brother’s keeper. If you live in luxury in your own ventilated and well-drained villa, and take no heed to the typhoid fever or cholera in the slums at the back, the chances are that the disease will find its way to your wife and children. And Christians who, living among godless people, do not try to heal them will be infected by them.

3. The simple Word, which is the most powerful means of influencing most men. Andrew did not argue. Some of us cannot do that, and some of us are not influenced by argument. The mightiest argument is, “We have found the Messias”; and if you have you can say so. Never mind how; anyhow.

4. Remember the beginnings of the Christian Church; two men, each of whom found his brother. Two snowflakes on the top of the mountain are an avalanche by the time they reach the valley.


1. He shows Himself possessed of supernatural and thorough knowledge.

(1) The look described by an unusual word was a penetrating gaze which regarded Peter with fixed attention. It must have been remarkable to have lived in John’s memory for all those years.

(2) The saying was meant to imply more than natural knowledge. “Thou art Simon.” “Thou God seest me,” an unwelcome thought to many and to us unless, through Christ.

2. He changes Simon’s name, and so

(1) reveals His absolute possession of him. Jehovah changed the names of Abraham and Jacob. Babylonian kings changed the names of their vassal princes; masters those of their slaves; husbands those of their wives. We belong to Him altogether because He has given Himself altogether for us.

(2) Reveals His power and promise to bestow a new character, new functions, new honours. Peter was by no means Peter then. Like the granite, all fluid and hot, he needed to cool in order to solidify into rock. But he eventually became all that Christ here meant him to be. No man’s character is so obstinately rooted in evil but Christ can change its set and direction. He will not make Peter into a John, but He will deliver Peter from the defects of his qualities, and lead them up into a nobler region. The process may be long and painful, but it will be sure. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

“Introductor to Christ”

This is the appropriate name given by Bede to Andrew, who brought his brother and the Greeks (John 12:20) to Christ.

SPIRITUAL USEFULNESS BEGINS IN PERSONAL EXPERIENCE. Before we can introduce any one to the Saviour we must have found Him ourselves.

SPIRITUAL USEFULNESS OFTEN WORKS BY PERSONAL TESTIMONY. The prevalence of a blatant religionism should not hinder the Christian man or woman giving the witness not only of life, but also of lip, on all right occasions.

SPIRITUAL USEFULNESS MAY BEGIN WITH THE MEMBERS OF OUR OWN HOUSEHOLDS. Sometimes the influence to be exerted must be indirect and quiet, rather than by appeal and word; but even then the time comes to speak, in order to lead others nearer to the truth who are of our own kith and kin.

SPIRITUAL USEFULNESS DOES NOT DEMAND OUTSHINING ABILITIES. St. Andrew, of whom we read little, led St. Peter, of whom we read much. (Family Churchman.)

Finding and following

(cf. Matthew 4:19)

FOLLOWING TO FIND. Christ was found

1. By association with the godly.

2. By listening attentively.

3. By unhesitating action.

4. By reverential inquiry.


1. The first to become a disciple is the first to be selected as an apostle.

2. After the definite summons he followed to serve. (Tertius.)

Christian service

Andrew FINDING Peter.

1. Andrew sought his brother at once.

(1) John and Andrew set out to find their brothers. Andrew was the first to find his.

(2) Andrew found his brother first and others subsequently.

2. Andrew was not specially gifted; but what gift he had he used for Christ.

3. Andrew was not specially commissioned to go and convert others. The authorization was given later on.

Andrew SPEAKING TO Simon.

1. Andrew did not preach or argue; he simply talked to him.

2. He talked earnestly. You have no fine language, or polished phrases, or balanced periods, but a few brief words coming hot from the heart. Intense earnestness has no leisure to indulge in the luxury of elocutionary flourishes.

3. His conversation was inspired by brotherly love. “His own brother,” indicative of close, warm friendship.

4. His announcement was marked by incompleteness. Had he been asked to explain he would have been embarrassed. But imperfect teaching is often blessed. If you cannot speak the whole truth, speak half of it. Potato planters are never afraid of splitting the seed if they can only secure an eye in each half. See that your fragment of truth has an eye in it.

5. His talk was characterized by much assurance. “We have found,” not, I think, or I hope. Religious dogmatism is much deprecated in certain quarters. You may dogmatize as much as you like against theology, but you are warned under heavy penalties not to dogmatize in its favour. But the dogmatists are the successful evangelists after all.

Andrew BRINGING Simon to Christ.

1. Our chief aim should be to lead men to Christ, not to any particular sect. Proselytization is not conversion.

2. Creeds and theologies should be subordinated to Christ. Men should be brought to Christ, not to our own system of divinity. If creeds stand in the way of Christ, then away with creeds. They are for edification, not conversion.

3. Christ should be placed above the Bible itself. It is possible for men to read it diligently and yet stop with it, instead of making their way to the interior court to contemplate the inner radiance. There is not a town or house in Great Britain but there is a way from it to London; so there is not a subject named in the Bible but it is directly or indirectly connected with Jesus.

Christ RECEIVING Simon.

1. Jesus beheld him, took stock of him, formed a correct estimate of him; looked, as the word implies, with the eyes of the mind as much as with the eyes of the body.

2. Christ saw that possibilities of good lay in Simon; doubtless the possibilities of evil also. But the Saviour estimates character not by the evil but by the good. God singles out every grain of virtue that may be hid in our deepest nature. (J. Cynddylan Jones, D. D.)

The first home mission

We cannot tell certainly who was the first foreign missionary. But we know who was the first home missionary--Andrew.

THE SPRING of all true home mission work. Andrew had himself made acquaintance with the Lord Jesus Christ. We must come into personal contact with Christ, be in the house with Him, learn to know Him as the Lamb of God. In the degree in which men have been in the house with Christ, and have learned to know Him, will they be ready to go out with the message to others.

THE OBJECT of the first home mission. It was not enough for Andrew to speak to his brother about Christ, his aim is to bring him as close to Christ as he himself had been. We should be satisfied with nothing less. Here is a lesson for parents with their children, for a teacher with his scholars, for a minister with his hearers. We must neither begin nor end with ourselves. In this object of Andrew, notice

1. He was perfectly sure that Christ was willing to receive his brother. It does not appear that Christ had said anything about this. And Andrew does not seem to have thought it needful to ask Christ. He knew it from the way in which He had welcomed him.

2. Andrew is sure that he himself can have his own share in no way diminished. There would not be less of truth and love falling to his lot when Peter came to have his part. If a man covets land or wealth or power, the more he gives away the less he possesses. But let a man bring others to the treasures of the Lord Jesus Christ, and his own share will be increased.

THE PLACE of this mission.

1. There are some who say we should have no foreign missions till our own country is redeemed. But these people forget that when Christ said, “Preach the Gospel among all nations,” etc. He did not say stopping at Jerusalem. They forget that if the apostles had acted on this principle we should have been heathen still. They forget, moreover, that it was only when the Church of Christ began to think seriously of the foreign heathen that she had her thoughts turned to the home heathen. We generally find that those who are always talking of confining our attention to the home heathen are those who do least for them.

2. But this surely we may say, that in our zeal for the foreign heathen we are not to forget our own kinsfolk; and here are some reasons

(1) They have not the only claim upon us, but they have the first claim. “Go home to thy friends,” etc.

(2) And even for our own sakes we must think of home. We cannot let masses of ignorance and sin and wretchedness fester and grow, without bringing a blight on our own Christianity. It is like having an unwholesome marsh beside our house; it spreads malaria and fever and ague. Think of your children living in this atmosphere, and of the danger to them in the sights and sounds and associations around them.

(3) In the home mission field there is opportunity for every one of us to do something personally, Few of us can go to the foreign field. But there is always a sphere not far from our own door.

(4) It seems to be part of the Divine plan that this opportunity should be given to Christians for the benefit it brings to themselves. It is thus we are to be like our Master, “going about doing good,” and to grow always more like Him in the work of doing it. As the Church labours for the world around her, she would feel the duty of arising and shaking herself from the dust and putting on her beautiful garments.

THE TIME. Andrew did not wait till he had been made an apostle, or even a regular disciple. He began at once. If we never think about doing good to the souls of men till we are licensed, we should think seriously if we ought to be licensed at all; and if, when we are licensed or ordained, we look upon our work as a task, and measure carefully what we have to do and what we have not to do, we should ask ourselves, “Is this not the place of a hireling.” And the same lesson comes home to all. A man may never think of being a minister or missionary; but he is not thereby freed from the duty of beginning at once to speak a word to his brother about the Gospel of Christ. And it is not necessary to wait for a great deal of knowledge; let us use the knowledge we have, not pretending to more. All cannot speak in public, teach in the Sabbath-school, go from house to house and influence strangers, but what one is there who has not some neighbour, by whom his word will be regarded? Like that of Andrew, it may be simply “We have found the Christ.” But it will serve the purpose if it leads the man to where he will learn more. This is, indeed, all that any of us, if we are true speakers, need to say, “We have found the Christ; He has met our need, answered our desire. He will meet yours; will you not come and see?”

THE SPIRIT of the first home mission. Andrew went to his brother from his interest in him. Ha did this naturally, not from calculation, but because he had it in his heart. It is in this spirit we must go to our fellow-men, whether they be closely related or not. They are our brethren, with the same nature, needs, sins, sorrows, destinies. It is love to Christ and love to men that are the secret of power in Christian persuasion. We shall never have great success otherwise. Andrew did not say to his brother, “Go;” he took him by the hand and led him.

ITS SUCCESS. Andrew gained his brother--a great encouragement. Perhaps we may see much fruit, even here. In any case, if our work be sincere and loving and prayerful, if we go out from Christ to men that we may bring men to Christ, the work will not be in vain. We may touch one who will touch many more. A humble soldier may draw in some young recruit who may become a leader among thousands and subdue kingdoms. Conclusion: If the work is to be well and perseveringly done, there should be common counsel and co-operation. Many are afraid to commit themselves. Andrew, indeed, went alone--he could do nothing else; but our Lord sent them out two and two, and brought them together again to speak and hear about their work. (J. Ker, D. D.)

Christian missions

We have here the first step in the history of the Gospel, and an indication that it was to survive the ministry of its founder.


1. In the wilderness was the first missionary college.

2. John was the teacher.

3. His lesson was the atonement of Christ.


1. The seed sown in the wilderness bore fruit, when Christ by His invitation quickened it into life.

2. They obeyed the call and followed Jesus.

3. They attached themselves to the higher Master and became pupils in the higher school.


1. The fruit now become seed to develop in other hearts and lives.

2. Andrew brought his brother to Christ: only one man, but had the Church gone on at that rate the world would long since have been converted.

3. We have no right to expect that Christ should spread His Church. That is our work in co-operation with Himself.

Conclusion: Pleas on behalf of the missionary effort here exemplified.

1. Christ’s commission: “Go ye into all the world,” etc.

2. Christ’s example. Christ never asked us to do what He has not done.

3. The purpose of the Christian Church as set forth in the parables and prophecies. It is a living growing body to spread by its inherent Divine vitality.

4. The nature of our call to the work.

(1) The call of Christ, “Come follow me,” “Go ye into all the world.” This call reaches modern counting-houses and workshops as well as ancient custom houses and fishing stations, to spread the gospel at home, in the town, in the country, in the world.

(2) The call from within--the call of conscience impelling us to rescue others from the danger from which we have been saved--the call of Divinely-kindled love.

(3) The call of the heathen unconscious of their darkness and sin.

5. The extent of the investments already made. An investment makes a man a partner in the concern, and the greater the investment the more difficult or dishonourable is it to try to get out of it. During the past 1,800 years the Church has been investing her men, her energy, her money. We must not, we dare not draw back. By the blood that has been shed and successes attained we are pledged to go on with this work. (R. Maguire, D. D.)

Gospel propagation


1. Not to swell denominational ranks, although that may be a consequence.

2. But to

(1) “Find,”

(2) “Tell,”

(3) “Bring.”


1. Not unbelievers

2. Not worldly professors.

3. But those who love and are in union with Christ.


1. Literally.

2. Socially.

3. Nationally.

4. Universally, for “God hath made of one blood all the nations of men.”

THE ULTIMATE AIM. To bring our brother to Jesus.

THE SPECIFIC MEANS--individual personal effort.

1. Subscription to a missionary society does not relieve us from this. If you were to see a man drowning it would be a poor excuse for not helping that you gave a sum to the Royal Humane Society.

2. Andrew himself brought his brother to Christ.

3. Andrew brought his brother to Christ before he was commissioned to do so. The grand weakness of our Church membership is the failure to realize that every man who is made a Christian is made a missionary. (J. Culross, D. D.)

The aim and methods of Christian work

The ambition of every Christian is to leave the world better than he found it. The instincts of Christian life, the example of the Master, the needs of the world, and the blessedness of doing good strengthen its ambition. Various methods are open to us--education, philanthropy, hospitals, civil and religious liberty, civilization: all of which are sanctioned by Christ, but were subordinate with Him to the great work of preaching the gospel. And what He did Himself is set forth in the earliest labours of His disciples.

THE AIM OF ALL CHRISTIAN WORK IS TO BRING MEN TO CHRIST. Other methods of usefulness are to be honoured, but they fail to reach man’s deeper needs, and at best only secure present happiness, and leave moral character unrenewed and eternity unprovided for. But even here the highest happiness is not to be secured by temporal means. This is only to be had by union with Christ. Therefore, God Himself sets us the example of evangelism (Titus 3:4), and now sends the Holy Spirit to reveal the things of Christ.


1. We must try it with the members of our own families. The charity of the gospel begins, but does not end, at home. The healed man was commissioned to tell his friends what great things had been done for him. The apostles were commissioned to begin at Jerusalem.

(1) What more fitting than this.

(2) What more profitable.

(3) Yet what more neglected.

2. We must make the office and work and teaching of Christ our chief theme. “Messias”

(1) Prophet;

(2) Priest;

(3) King.

3. The quiet talk of private men may effect our purpose as well as the preaching of public teachers. Andrew was not in office.

(1) We must not undervalue the ministry, only it is not substitutionary but supplemental. It does not set aside individual effort: it trains, guides, and completes it.

(2) Public preaching has disadvantages of its own: it is necessarily general and indiscriminate; its hearers pass on the message to the next pew. Preaching scatters the seed, but talk afterwards presses it into the soil; and in this talk the private Christian has the advantage over the public minister.

4. It will be more easily done by simple announcement than by discussion. There are exceptions, but as a rule arguments only raise objections to shield the conscience and to gain time. What we want is fewer appeals to the reason and more to the heart.

5. We must rest largely on our own experience. “We have found” this does not require genius or learning. If we have been to Christ ourselves we can tell others the way.

6. We must make it our chief business to bring men to Christ

(1) Directly. Not to this teacher or that Church;

(2) Promptly. There is no time to lose. (J. Angus, D. D.)

Finding the Messiah

HOW GREAT MAY BE THE EFFECTS WHICH FOLLOW IN THE SPIRITUAL WORLD FROM WHAT WOULD APPEAR TO BE A VERY TRIVIAL CAUSE. It was a passing remark of the Baptist, to all appearance, which was the means of Andrew’s conversion.

1. But we must remember that that remark fell on prepared minds. The severe life of the Baptist, and his lofty teaching--recalling the great Elijah--must have made a profound impression on them. They were presentwhen John denied before the agents of the Sanhedrim that he was the Messiah, and declared that he was only the forerunner of One who was of a higher order of Being than himself. On the following day Jesus presents Himself; and then John solemnly refers to Him, and explains that this was the Person of whom he had spoken on the day before--the Son of God. Then, on the third day, John said much less, but his short sentence crowned the preparatory work.

2. All this seems to show that outward circumstances, persons, language are only a part of a complex providential agency. The deepest causes are unseen, and wait like the tinder for the spark, the passing word or influence which shall set them in motion.


1. He had heard of the Messiah all his life; but there was, and there continued, up to the hour of the Ascension an earthly and mistaken element in his idea of Him. A meaning had been read into Jewish prophecy for generations which did not belong to it. The Messiah was to be a rival to

Caesar on a more splendid scale. He also failed to grasp the vast consequences to the world of Christ’s coming.

2. But the one simple truth that he did grasp sufficed to kind!e every affection and power of his Spirit; to concentrate in its analysis every ray of his understanding. He had seen enough of Jesus in a few hours to know that John was right; that Christ was one whom he could perfectly love and trust; and that the best thing he could do for his brother was to bring him to Jesus.

3. Here St. Andrew reads an important lesson. There is no doubt a great deal of forward ignorance in religious questions which is willing to set the Church and the world to rights on subjects the first elements of which have not been mastered. But there is also a great deal of false modesty which declines plain and practical duties on the ground of insuifficient knowledge. But the great truths which moved Andrew and move us are the simple truths about which, amongst Christians, there is no controversy, and which are learned by experience. No Christian need delay to testify to Christ because he is not a theologian. He may at least do as well as Andrew.

RELIGIOUS TRUTH CANNOT BE HOARDED LIKE MONEY, like a discovery for which a man wishes to take out a patent. It belongs to the race, and in the first instance to those who stand by the appointment of providence nearest to its possessors. Andrew found his own brother. Go thou and do likewise. Conclusion:

1. Consider the untold capacities which lie buried in men who as yet know nothing of grace and truth. Peter takes precedence of Andrew.

2. The reflex blessing of every sincere effort for Christ and His kingdom. Every teacher knows more of his subject after he has taught it. He that watereth is watered himself. (Canon Liddon.)

Christian fraternity

Andrew was before all else a good brother. In the great church at Rome, which is dedicated to him, no other inscription could be found suitable, except “Andrew, the brother of Peter.” Before casting his nets on Jew or Gentile, he first bethought him of the one fellow-creature who was near to him by the ties of home and family. “Blood is thicker than water” in sacred as well as in social life. “If a man loves not his brother,” etc. This is a principle which needs to be asserted as a corrective of the excesses of the missionary or proselytis-ing spirit; but it also contains within itself some of the best methods of the true conversion of the world.

It exemplifies the undoubted truth that THE BEST MODE OF DIFFUSING CHRISTIANITY IN THE WORLD is by converting our own brethren who have settled abroad. The chiefest missionary, who was especially the Apostle of the Gentiles, in every case made his own Jewish countrymen the nucleus round which the heathen converts were to be gathered. This is a practical lesson for all of us in respect of foreign missions. Every English settler in a distant land is already, by his good or evil conduct, a missionary for God or for the devil; nay, every country in Europe, according as it holds up Christianity in a repulsive or an attractive form, repels or attracts the outside world from the light of the Gospel. It is said that some of the Japanese envoys who lately visited the nations of Europe and America had come with the predisposition to establish Christianity on their return, but that after witnessing its actual fruits they in disappointment relinquished the project. Let us first find and convert our own brethren, and we shall then go with clean hands to convert the Jew, the Turk, the heretic, and the infidel. This is a missionary enterprise in which every man, woman, and child can bear a part. In this way the Home Mission becomes the mother of all missions.

But the same principle also points out to us THE BEST ACCESS TO THE HEARTS AND MINDS OF THE UNKNOWN STRANGERS OF HEATHEN LANDS. In every heathen country there are those whom we may call our own brothers, for the nobler qualities which raise them above their fellows, and bring them nearer to the civilized and the Christian type. Often, indeed, this fraternal sympathy has been rendered impossible on the one hand by the impurities, the cruelties, the follies of heathen nations, on the other hand by the pitying scorn, or the iniquitous dealing, with which the European has looked down on what are called the inferior races of mankind. But happy are those Englishmen and missionaries who have made it a point first to find their own brothers in those strange faces. Livingstone was never tired of repeating that he found amongst the native races of Africa the same feelings of right and wrong that he found in his own conscience, and that needed only to be enlightened and developed to make the perfect Christian. Bishop Patteson won the hearts of his simple converts by treating them as his brothers, detecting the Christian beneath the heathen.

There is one further application of the principle, viz., THE DUTY, obvious, though often neglected, OF SEEKING FOR OUR CO-OPERATORS IN THIS, as in all good works, NOT THOSE WHO ARE FAR AWAY, BUT THOSE WHO ARE CLOSE AT HAND. Let us cultivate by all means a friendly intercourse with all Christian people throughout the world. But an intimate, organic union can only be with those who are near at hand, or of the same race and nation and culture as ourselves. It is because the work of evangelizing the heathen has a direct tendency to bring all English Chris tians together that this (St. Andrew’s) day is doubly blessed; blessed alike in what it gives and in what it receives. Let us first find those of our own communion. But next to our own Church, and before any combinations with foreign Christians, however estimable, let us find out our own brethren in the British Islands, who, however parted from us, are yet heirs of the same national traditions and of the same inspiring future. Such are our brethren amongst the Nonconforming communions of England, whose praise for their missionary zeal is in all the Churches. (Dean Stanley.)

Our brother

You are wealthy, and that poor man who lives near you is your brother. Or you are poor, and your brother is that wealthy neighbour of whom you think with envy and anger. Our brethren are not confined to those who can enter into our thoughts and sympathies; they are also those whose narrowness and ignorance make mutual sympathy and intelligence impossible. They are not only those who are honest and respectable, but they are those who are under the ban of society, outside the frontiers of decent and civilized life. Our brethren, they are not only our near relatives by blood; nor our fellow-townsmen or countrymen; they are not confined to the races which are now in the van of civilization, or have played a great part in the world’s affairs. They are also the races on whose rights civilization is apt to trample with heartless selfishness. They are the natives of Australia and America; they are the Maories of New Zealand; they are the islanders of the Pacific. Our brethren are everywhere. (Canon Liddon.)

The difficulty of bringing a brother to Christ

It would seem the most natural thing in the world to urge one’s own brother to share in one’s faith before looking elsewhere for a new believer. Yet, as a matter of fact, one is more likely to shrink from speaking on the subject of personal religion to a brother who is out of Christ than to one who is a comparative stranger. A reason for this is that one’s own shortcomings and failures are so well known to a brother, that one often hesitates to urge the importance of a truth he is supposed to illustrate, but which he feels he represents unworthily. Andrew seems to have avoided this difficulty by saying nothing about himself to Peter. If Jesus were more prominent in the thoughts and words of believers, there would be less thought of self, and less embarrassment on that score, in pleading His cause with those who are yet aloof from Him. (H. C. Trumbull, D. D.)

Christ the inspiration of Christian effort

The Egyptian Memnon is represented as keeping silence all the dark hours of the night, but bursting forth into mystic strains of weird like music every morning just as the first rays of the sun kiss his lips. Like that idol, John and Andrew and Philip lived mute and inactive; but when the first beams of the Sun of Righteousness began to play around their hearts they began immediately to speak. The flowers require not to be sternly told to grow and blossom and make themselves beautiful; let the sun but shine and they will do it out of the gladness of their own hearts. Birds need not an almanack to apprize them that the month of May, the season for open-air concerts, has arrived. And once men have been in the presence of Christ they require he elaborate certificate to empower them to go and tell others of His beauties--the fire burns, and speak they must. Commission or no commission, be not ashamed to tell others that you have found the Saviour. (J. C. Jones, D. D.)

Personal testimony

I was reading the other day about a minister who preached an elaborate course of lectures in refutation of infidelity for the special benefit of a man who attended his church. Soon after the man came and declared himself a Christian. The minister said to him, “Which of my discourses was it that removed your doubts?” The reply was, “Oh, it was not any of your sermons that influenced me. The thing that set me thinking was that a poor woman came out of the chapel beside me and stumbled on the steps, and I stretched out my hand to help her, and she said, ‘Thank you.’ Then she looked at me and said, ‘Do you love Jesus Christ, my blessed Saviour? And I did not; and I went home arid thought about it; and now I can say I love Jesus.” The poor woman’s word, and her frank confession of her experience, was all the transforming power. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

The value of private Christian effort

The Niagara excites our wonder, fills us with amazement, perhaps with awe; but one Niagara is enough for a continent. That continent, however, requires tens of thousands of silver fountains and lucid brooks; and let me tell you--those clear springs and busy streams, whose names have never been registered in any geography, prove an inestimably greater blessing to America than the mighty Falls, whose fame fills the world. And God, now and again, once or twice in a century, raises a man great and gifted, a Niagara of a man, in whose presence the world trembles and admires. Yet the Church depends more for its prosperity upon the ten thousand happy souls who quietly and unobtrusively scatter blessings broadcast in every neighbourhood and throughout the length and breadth of our beloved country. Though you be but slender rills, yet let not the slender rills think they may as well cease flowing. God fructifies the world by small rivers; He saves the world by private Christians. (J. C. Jones, D. D.)

What is a missionary

The term comes from the associations of olden times, when tyrants ruled and made sport of human life. In those days when the world was not gladdened by the “glad tidings of great joy,” and upon the occasion of the gladiatorial combats, when one of the antagonists had smitten his opponent to the dust, he then had the right of life or death over that man. But the conquered man had one source of appeal, and by the lifting up of his finger he could appeal to the prince, and that prince had the power, if he chose, to send a courtier from his side down to the dust of the arena to separate the combatants and deliver from death the man who was appointed to death. The sending of that message was called in the Latin a mission, and the person sent a missionary. So down in the dust of the arena of this world are Satan and man. It is a deadly conflict. Man is smitten and undermost. He appeals to the King of all; yea, before he appeal the King of all anticipates. His only Son comes on a mission, and rescues man’s prostrate soul from Satan’s power. (R. Maguire, D. D.)

The joy of finding the Messiah

There was joy in the breast of the geometrician of Syracuse when he uttered his glad “Eureka” in the hearing of people who deemed him mad; there was joy in the soul of Newton when the first thought of gravitation burst upon his wondering view; there was joy in the spirit of Columbus in that moment of serene triumph over doubt and mutiny, when the tiny land birds settled upon the shrouds of his vessel, bearing upon their timid wings the welcomes of a new world; there is joy for the gold-finder when the rich ore glistens in his cradle; joy for the emigrant when after years of absence and hardship he first glimpses his boyhood’s home again; joy for the child when he is let into another and yet another of the marvels of the world, and claps his hands for very joy and wonder; joy for the poet when he sends a glad thought careering through the world and stirring the pulses of mankind; but oh I of all the joys that human hearts can be thrilled by, commend me to that when the glad disciple clasps a brother’s hand and says, “We have found the Messiah.” Then all doubt ceases, and fear is banished from the mind, and condemnation lifts its shadow from the spirit, and sweet peace nestles in the breast, and holy love throws itself upon the believing heart, and a newfound sense of reconciliation pulsing through the veins makes all creation more beautiful and brings a rarer melody than the music of the spheres, and throws a brighter azure upon the opening heavens. Is this joy yours? (W. M.Punshon, LL. D.)

What would happen if the example of Andrew were followed

If every disciple to-day were to call only one other person to Christ in each year, and that one were to call one other, how swiftly the world would be wholly converted! There are to-day millions of true believers in the world. But if there were only one hundred, see how quickly the work would grow. In less than twenty-five years the world would be converted, for this would double the number of disciples each year. First year, 100; second year, 200; third year, 400; fourth year, 800; fifth year, 1,600; sixth year, 3,200; seventh year, 6,400; eighth year, 12,800; ninth year, 25,600; tenth year, 51,200 (“Well,” says some one, just here, “that is rather slow progress, only 51,200 in ten whole years.” Go on, however, ten years more, and see how your numbers will look then); eleventh year, 102,400; twelfth year, 204,800; thirteenth year, 409,600; fourteenth year, 817,200; fifteenth year, 1,634,400; sixteenth year, 3,268,800; seventeenth year, 6,537,600 (it’s growing now); eighteenth year, 13,075,200; nineteenth year, 26,150,400; twentieth year, 52,300,800; twenty-first year, 104,601,600; twenty-second year, over 209,000,000; twenty-third year, over 418,000,000; twenty-fourth year, over 836,000,000; and in the twenty-fifth year, over 1,600,000,000, or more than the population of the whole earth. This shows the power of “ones” multiplied. (A. F. Schauffler.)

One convert wins another

Some time ago one of our people, who had herself been a drunkard, was standing at one of the open-air services on the waste, when she observed a woman who had formerly been one of her bad companions suddenly leave the crowd and walk quickly away. Hurrying after her, she found this poor drunkard in great distress about her soul. “Oh!” she said, “I listened to the speakers; but when I saw you standing there so wonderfully changed from what you used to be, I could stand it no longer.” She was induced, however, to return to the meeting, and then to attend the service in the hall, where she found salvation. She is now another living witness of the power of Christ to save the drunkard. May God preserve her faithful unto death! (General Booth.)

Dealing with individuals

Richard Baxter adopted the method of individual dealing with the parishioners of Kidderminster, bringing them to his house, and taking them apart one by one. He tells us that, because of it, he had reason to believe that more than a third of the grown-up inhabitants of the place were converted to God. The late Mr. Grant of Arndilly was so intent upon this habit of individual intercourse that in three months he had dealt with fifteen hundred souls, while the refrain of all his letters was “Speak a word for Jesus.”

Those who have found Christ must speak of Him to others

“I was visiting at my brother’s one time,” says a lady, “when Richard, his little boy, stopped suddenly in his play, and looked steadily at me for a minute. ‘What are you thinking about?’ I asked. ‘Are you a Christian, auntie?’ ‘I hope so, dear.’ ‘But you never speak of Jesus; if you loved Him very much, would you not talk about Him sometimes?’ ‘We may love a person without speaking of him,’ I replied. ‘May we! I did not know that. You love to talk of your brothers and sisters, and your papa and mamma, don’t you, auntie?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘And then you speak of other people and things you like; but you speak no word for Jesus. Don’t you love Him, auntie?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Then I should think you could not help speaking of Him sometimes.’” (Sunday School Union.)

Mission work must begin at home

You will never make a missionary of the person who does no good at home. If you do not seek souls in your own street, you will not do so in Hindostan. If you are of no use in Whitechapel, you will be of no use on the Congo. He that will not serve the Lord in the Sunday-school at home, will not win children to Christ in China. Distance lends no real enchantment to Christian service. You who do nothing now are not fit for the war, for you are in sad health. The Lord give you spiritual health and vigour, and then you will want no pressing, but you will cry at once, “Here am I; send me!” Oh, my friends, go at once to your families, to your workshops, and declare the name of Jesus I Oh, for more spiritual life! This is the root of the matter. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

A word in season

On Thursday last I picked up some “bread” which I had “scattered on the waters” more than ten years ago. I was preaching in Essex, and at the close of the service a gentleman came up and said, “Do you remember preaching a sermon on the 14th February, 1869, on the text, ‘Blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed’“? “Oh, yes,” I said, “I do remember the subject and the occasion.” “That was the sermon that changed this heart, Mine has been another life from that night.” Ten and a half years that bread was floating on the waters!” Thou shalt find it after many days.” (J. Thain Davidson, D. D.)

Speak earnestly

There was a dying man upon his death-bed, and he was visited by his Christian brother. The dying man said, “I am dying. I know that I am lost, but I cannot help putting some of my ruin at your door. I believe you to be a Christian, I know you to be a Christian, but I do not recollect that you ever solemnly addressed me about my soul. You believed I was perishing, and yet you did not speak to me; therefore, as I cannot conceive you to be inhuman--for you were always a kind brother--I suspect you do not believe, as you say you do.” His brother said--“Iwas afraid of offending you. I did speak to you once or twice.” The brother replied, “You ought to have taken me by the shoulders. You ought not to have let me be lost. I cannot acquit you.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Verse 42

John 1:42

And he brought him to Jesus

Everyday usefulness

We are intensely desirous of a revival of religion, and we look for it through some extraordinary agency.

God works in this way sometimes; but while waiting for it we miss actual opportunities, Our proper course is to do what we can and God will be sure to bless it.


1. His character.

(1) He was a sincere follower of Jesus. Men who have not made Christ’s acquaintance experimentally are not fit to work for Him. An unconverted man in the pulpit is an impostor and exposes himself to extraordinary peril.

(2) He was a young convert. He beheld the Lamb of God one day and found out his brother the next. Those who have learned but their A B C let them tell that.

(3) He was a commonplace disciple, yet he became a useful minister. So servants of Christ must not excuse themselves because they are not greatly gifted.

2. His manner was

(1) Prompt,

(2) Persevering.


1. To bring Peter to Jesus. This should be our aim

(1) Not to a party. To recruit one regiment from another is no real strengthening of the army.

(2) Not to bring men to outward religiousness merely. To make the Sabbath breaker a Sabbath keeper and a Pharisee, to make the prayerless the heartless user of a form of prayer, you but take one poison from him to expose him to another.

(3) Many, alas I are satisfied if they get to the priest, church, sacraments.

2. We may bring men to Jesus

(1) By prayer.

(2) By putting them in the way of being informed about the Gospel.

(3) By our example.

(4) By occasionally, and as opportunity serves, giving a word of importunate entreaty.


1. Being zealous he was wise.

(1) He used what ability he had.

(2) He set great store by a single soul.

(3) He did not go far afield to do good. Many Christians do all the good they can five miles away, when the time taken up by going there and back might be well spent in their vineyard at home. Andrew goes to Cappadocia in his after life, but he begins with his brother.

2. How did Andrew persuade Peter?

(1) By narrating his own experience. What you have experienced tell to others.

(2) He put the good news before him in an earnest fashion.

THE SWEET REWARD ANDREW HAD. He won his brother’s soul. In your Sunday-school class or in your home there may be an unconverted Wesley or Whitefield. (C.H. Spurgeon.)

This highest voluntary influence

It was BENEFICENT. What a universe of good was involved in the simple act of bringing this man to Jesus!

1. What a service was rendered to Peter! His soul translated into a new world.

2. What a service to the disciples of Christ! The introduction of a frank, generous, bold, inspired nature.

3. What a service to the whole world! God alone knows the good Peter did from Pentecost onwards. All this service must be referred to the simple act of Andrew. From one little act may issue an influence for good that may go on widening and deepening for ages.

It was NATURAL. Andrew went to Peter, not as an official, but as a man, a brother. What is wanted to bring men to Christ is

1. Common sense, not learning, genius, culture.

2. Love to Christ. Andrew’s heart was touched and inspired with loving sympathies for Christ. What is wanted in this work is not the influence of the scholar, philosopher, or priest, but of the man. It is the man, not the preacher, who converts. When the man is lost in the preacher his power is gone.

It was HONOURABLE. To introduce a man to Christ is to introduce him to one who in philosophy is infinitely greater than Socrates, in wealth infinitely richer than Croesus, in royalty infinitely greater than a Caesar. The work of authors, sages, statesmen, warriors contemptible compared with that of bringing men to Christ.


1. Andrew’s is an example that all can imitate.

2. An example that all should imitate: an universal duty, not binding on any particular class, but pressing on all relations, all social grades, all intellectual types. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

Thou art Simon,… thou shalt be called Cephas

Simon and Peter

Christ changed Simon’s name.

1. As a sign of His authority and of taking entire possession of him, as a king might alter the name of some man whom he had captured.

2. As a promise of transforming power.

3. As a prophecy of his future office and importance in the Church. The Aramaic Cephas is the equivalent of the Greek Peter, “a stone.” The alternation of these names afterwards is indicative of the following lessons.

THE DANGER OF THE NEW AND BETTER NATURE FALLING BACK TO THE OLD. Where “Simon” is employed in the Gospels it is suggestive of the apostle’s uninspired and unregenerate humanity.

1. “Simon, Simon, Satan hath desired to have thee.” There we see the exquisite delicacy with which Christ points the too presumptuous man away from his own fancied strength to the weakness of his humanity.

2. “Simon, sleepest thou?” Where is Peter? He would have kept awake.

3. “The Lord hath appeared unto Simon.” This was from the apostles--all the rest are from Christ--all knew about his fall, that he had ceased to be the rock, and that his precedence and influence were gone.

4. “Simon, son of Jona (same as text), lovest thou Me?” Christ puts the fallen apostle in his place, makes him go back to the very beginning. He must go through the wicket-gate again.


1. “Simon, Simon, Satan hath desired … I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow,” etc. Here is Christ’s clear recognition of the better nature subsisting even whilst it appears to be smothered beneath the worse. Condemning the sinner, Christ would not break the bruised reed.

2. “Go, tell the disciples and Peter”--an incident recorded only by Mark, Peter’s mouthpiece. “Tell Simon” would have been a rebuke; “tell Peter” is a smile of forgiveness, and an outstretched hand to grasp the sad hand of the denier.

THE GRAND POSSIBILITY THAT THE NEW MAN MAY TRIUMPH. “No more is heard of Simon, with two exceptions.”

1. Cornelius is directed to send for Simon, who is called Peter, because outsiders would know him best by the one name, Christians by the other.

2. James, at the council of Jerusalem, calls him Simon, out of old and familiar friendship. Elsewhere it is always Peter. The transformation had now become complete. Effusive, impulsive daring is changed into steadfast, bridled courage. If once he “was to be blamed,” that showed that he was still a man, and not a faultless, impossible monster. The sand has been put into a hydraulic press and comes out sandstone, strong and tenacious. This transformation is inexplicable without the Resurrection, the Ascension, and Pentecost.

THE WHOLESOME REMEMBRANCE BY THE MAN HIMSELF OF WHAT HE WAS, JOINED WITH THE THANKFUL RECOGNITION OF WHAT HE IS. In his Second Epistle he introduces himself as “Simon Peter.” Probably the long disused name had vanished from the memory of that generation;. but the old man reverts to it. Through the mist of long years he remembers what he was, and recalls his old un-sanctified self; but he is not afraid to call himself Peter. He is conscious of the higher life not his own which was promised him on the never-to-be-forgotten occasion mentioned in the text. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Personal influences

Whitfield made it his wont wherever he stayed to talk to the members of the household about their souls--with each one personally; but stopping at a certain house with a colonel, who was all that could be wished except a Christian, he was so pleased with the hospitality he received, and so charmed with the general character of the good colonel and his wife and daughters, that he did not like to speak to them about decision as he would have done if they had been less amiable characters. He had stopped with them a week, and during the last night the Spirit of God visited him so that he could not sleep. “These people,” said he, “have been very kind to me, and I have not been faithful to them; I must do it before I go; I must tell them that whatever good thing they have, if they do not believe in Jesus they are lost.” He arose and prayed. After praying he still felt contention in his spirit. His old nature said, “I cannot do it,” but the Holy Spirit seemed to say, “Leave them not without warning.” At last he thought of a device, and prayed God to accept it. He wrote upon a diamond-shaped pane of glass in the window with his ring these words, “One thing thou lackest.” He could not bring himself to speak to them, but went his way with many a prayer for their conversion. He had no sooner gone than the woman of the house, who was a great admirer of him, said, “I will go up to his room; I like to look at the very place where the man of God has been:” She went up and noticed on the window-pane those words, “One thing thou lackest.” It struck her with conviction in a moment. “Ah!” said she, “I thought he did not care much about us, for I knew he always pleaded with those with whom he stopped, and when I found that he did not do so with us, I thought we had vexed him, but I see how it was; he was too tender in mind to speak to us.” She called her daughters up. “Look there, girls,” said she, “see what Mr. Whitfield has written on the window, ‘One thing thou lackest.’ Call up your father.” And the father came up and read that too. “One thing thou lackest!” and around the bed whereon the man of God had slept they all knelt down and sought that God would give them the one thing they lacked, and ere they left that chamber they had found that one thing, and the whole household rejoiced in Jesus. (C. H.Spurgeon.)

Personal effort

I recollect several persons joining the Church who traced their conversion to the ministry in the Surrey Music Hall, but who said it was not that alone, but another agency co-operating therewith. They were fresh from the country, and some good man, I knew him well, I think he is in heaven now, met two of them at the gate, spoke to them, said he hoped they had enjoyed what they had heard; heard their answer; asked them if they were coming in the evening; said he would be glad if they would drop into his house to tea; they did, and he had a word with them about the Master. The next Sunday it was the same, and at last, those whom the sermons had not much impressed were brought to hear with other ears, till by-and-by, through the good old man’s persuasive words, and the good Lord’s gracious work, they were converted to God. (C. H.Spurgeon.)

One soul precious

“Oh,” says one, “I have had so little success; I have had only one soul saved!” That is more than you deserve. If I were to fish for a week, and only catch one fish, I should be sorry; but if that happened to be a sturgeon, a royal fish, I should feel that the quality made up for lack of quantity. When you win a soul it is a great prize. One soul brought to Christ--can you estimate its value? If one be saved, you should be grateful to your Lord, and persevere. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The searching question

I shall now put a question which I daresay has passed through your minds before, but which I would like to tarry there. How many, my dear friend, were you ever the means of bringing to Jesus? You believe that they must perish everlastingly, unless they have faith in Christ. How many have you personally prayed for? How many did you ever break your heart about? How many have you ever talked to concerning Him who is the only Saviour? To how many have you borne your testimony of His kindness and His grace? Upon how many have you laid the tender hand to press them to follow after the Saviour? Ah! well, the questions sound so trite as I put them, and perhaps as they come to your ears you are weary with them as being so commonplace; but by the great day of the appearing of our Lord, when He shall require of you an account of your stewardship, I implore you answer those enquiries, even if they humble you in the very dust. If the answer be painful, seek for the future that your course be mended, and as servants of Christ yearn over souls. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Rareness of personal effort for souls

In hundreds of cases I have vat the question pointedly, “Do you know that you have been instrumental in leading one soul to Christ?” only to hear the sad confession that there has been no effort made in that direction. (A. G. Pearson, D. D.)

Individual effort

Do not forget individual souls. There is a great rage nowadays for large congregations and for prominent work; but do not forget individual souls. I think it was Rowland Hill who used to say that if he had a number of bottles before him, and he were to dash water over them, a drop might go into this one and a drop into that; but he said, “If I take one bottle and pour water in I fill it up to the brim.” And so it is with individual souls. There is a personality in the application which cannot be estimated if we are speaking face to face in an honest, manly way. Is not this the best way to do Christian work? (W. P. Lockhart.)

How to win souls

I come from a house from which there is a considerable contingent attending this service this morning, and the question last night was how we should be awakened in time. They resolved to do it by detachments. One young fellow woke up the servant, and some others woke the young ladies, and they each had some one under their care, and knocked at the door until they were answered. It was best done by dividing it, and by giving to each one a special department in the work. And so we do cur work best by dealing with individual men. (W. P.Lockhart.)

The great secret of the success of Harlan Page was that he always aimed at the conversion of some individual; wrestling in prayer with God, and in affectionate entreaty with the sinner, till he saw his wishes realized. By following this plan, although he was in humble life, active work, and often in deep poverty, he lived to see more than a hundred brought to God as the fruit of his zeal and intercession.

Example brings men to Jesus

The Rev. J. A. James, the well-known minister of Birmingham, says, in one of his lectures: “If the present lecturer has a right to consider himself a real Christian, if he has been of any service to his fellow-creatures, and has attained to any usefulness in the Church of Christ, he owes it, in the way of means and instrumentality, to the sight of a companion, who slept in the same room with him, bending his knees in prayer on retiring to rest. That scene so unostentatious, and yet so unconcealed, roused my slumbering conscience, and sent an arrow to my heart; for, though I had been religiously educated, I had restrained prayer, and cast off the fear of God. My conversion to God followed, and soon afterwards my entrance upon college studies for the work of the ministry. Nearly half a century has rolled away since then, with all its multitudinous events; but that little chamber, that humble couch, that praying youth, are still present to my imagination, and will never be forgotten, even amidst the splendour of heaven and through the ages of eternity.”

Verses 43-44

John 1:43-44

Jesus … findeth Phillip


THE SEEKING CHRIST. This is a chapter of seeking and finding. Christ asks Andrew and John, “Whom seek ye?” Andrew “findeth his own brother and saith unto him, We have found.” Then, again, Jesus finds Philip, and Philip Nathaniel, and both the Messias. There are two kinds of finding: a casual stumbling on the thing we were not looking for, and that which is the result of seeking. Thus Jesus found Philip, who was un-expectant and undesirous. That is what Christ often does. There are men, like the merchantman seeking goodly pearls, seeking what they want in a hundred different places, and then, when expectancy has died down into despair and apathy, the veil is withdrawn and Jesus seen there beside them. But there are others, like Paul and like Matthew, on whom Christ lays a sudden hand and blesses without their seeking. And so in this story He will welcome Andrew and John when they come seeking. But when these are won, there remains that other way by which He drew Philip to His heart by the sudden revelation of His love.

1. Whether we seek Him or no, Christ is seeking every man. “The Son of Man is come to seek,” etc.

2. He seeks us each in a thousand ways--by the motion of His spirit-stirring conviction; by our restlessness and dissatisfaction; by disappointment and losses; by the brightness and goodness of earthly providences.

THE WORD OF AUTHORITY. Sheep follow a shepherd, travellers a guide, soldiers their captains. This is a call to accept Him as a teacher, but the whole context shows that they recognized Him as the Messiah. So it is more: it is a call to

1. Faith.

2. Obedience.

3. Imitation.

4. Communion.

THE SILENTLY AND SWIFTLY OBEDIENT DISCIPLE. Philip says nothing, but he yields.

1. How quickly a soul may be won or lost. Philip’s decision was trembling in the balance. It might have gone the other way. A moment settled it. Objections to instantaneous conversions are unphilosophical. Hesitations may be long, but decisions are matters of an instant.

2. Why people are kept back from yielding to Christ’s invitation.

(1) Other duties which seem more important.

(2) The non-conviction of the need of a guide.

These are excuses, not reasons, manufactured to cover a decision which has been taken before on grounds which it is not convenient to bring up to the service. Follow Christ.
This is

1. Safe.

2. Right.

3. Blessed. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Moral imitation

MAN’S MORAL CHARACTER DETERMINES HIS DESTINY. “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he” in his

1. Experience, whether happy or miserable.

2. Prospects, whether terrific or inviting.

3. Influence, whether useful or pernicious.

4. Relations.

(1) To God, whether approved or condemned.

(2) To the universe, whether a blessing or a curse.

MAN’S MORAL CHARACTER IS FORMED ON THE PRINCIPLE OF IMITATION. This is seen in children, and the Romans, recognizing this, placed in their vestibules the busts of great men, so that the young might be reminded of their virtues. The seed of a child’s action is not teaching, but deeds.

THE FORMATION OF A GOOD CHARACTER REQUIRES A PERFECT MODEL. Sir Joshua Reynolds found after years of study that he had been imitating, not Titian, whom he desired to make his model, but a forger. After this he resolved to make nature his model, and thus became a great master of his art. According to his model, so will a man be. One reason why human character is so depraved is because the perfect model is little known and less appreciated.

THE ONLY PERFECT MODEL IS JESUS CHRIST. Who is the most imitable character?

1. He who has the strongest power to command admiration.

2. He who is most transparent in character.

3. He who is most unchangeable in the spirit which animates him.

Conclusion: Follow Me.

1. This is an epitome of the moral laws of God.

2. Herein is man’s life and perfection.

3. Imitate Christ by inbreathing His moral spirit. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

The call of St. Philip

No trumpet summoned the soldiers of the Cross to the battle-field; no hand like that at Belshazzar’s feast came forth to beckon him; no miracle made them take up a distinctive post. And, yet, what a call this was! how noble, singular, useful, profitable I Such a call came to Judas, and he sold it.

THE ORIGIN OF THIS CALL WAS THE WILL OF CHRIST. Jesus “goes forth” in search of every sinner. But the mere “going forth” of Christ is not enough. There must be an exercise of His secret power. This power is pervasive, leavening, and so works upon man’s free-will that it comes into union with the heavenly will. Without this there can be no discipleship.


1. He abridges his right over himself, his property, time, etc.

2. He sets aside his own wisdom, and accepts that of His Master.

3. He follows always, even unto the end.


1. Exclusiveness, jealous refusal to admit of any division of the heart.

2. Mystery.

(1) It separates us from the nothingness and delusions of the world.

(2) It joins us to the invisible and heavenly.

(3) It opens up new hopes, scenes, and sources of immeasurable wealth. (P. B. Power, M. A.)

Delaying Christian profession

The command is for instant obedience. A common objection is, “I have no confidence in my future strength. I must wait until I am stronger before I profess to have devoted my whole life to Christ.” Reply

YOU ARE LIVING ONLY IN THE PRESENT. The future is not. For you there may be no earthly future, for you may die to-night. Your responsibility is for the now.

DUTIES WILL COME NOT IN THE MASS, BUT ONE BY ONE. Strength for each is all you will need.

YOU WILL GROW STRONG FOR COMING DUTIES ONLY AS YOU PERFORM PRESENT ONES. No one can step to the top of the pyramids; but he can climb one block; and from that he can reach another. Says Robert Browning: “I see a duty and do it not, and therefore see no higher.”

GOD’S GRACE IS PROMISED ONLY FOR TIME OF NEED. No man to-day can be prepared for tomorrow’s duties.

GOD’S STRENGTH IS OUR ONLY STRENGTH, AND THAT IS PLEDGED. “I will be with you even to the end of the world.” He “will not suffer you to be tempted beyond that you are able, but with the temptation will provide a way of escape.” (Homiletic Monthly.)

The motive for following Christ

It is related in the annals Of the Ottoman Empire that when Amurath

died, which was very suddenly, his son and destined successor, Mohammed, was about a day’s journey distant in Asia Minor. Every day of interregnum in that fierce and turbulent monarchy is attended with peril. The death of the deceased Sultan was therefore concealed, and a secret message despatched to the prince to hasten at once to the capital. On receiving the message he leaped on a powerful Arab charger, and turning to his attendants, said, “Let him who loves me, follow!” This prince afterwards became one of the most powerful sovereigns of the Ottoman line. Those who approved their courage and loyalty by following him in this critical moment of his fortunes, were magnificently rewarded. There is another Prince--the Prince of peace--who says to those around Him, “Let him who loves Me, follow.”

The method of following Christ

Faith includes works; loyalty involves service; love carries devotedness. It is not merely that, if we have trust in another, we ought to conform our conduct to the directions or suggestions or wishes or example of the trusted one; but it is that, if our trust is a reality, it will show itself in our conduct. It is folly for a child to tell of his love for his mother if he has no regard to her wishes; it is folly for a patient to say that he believes in his physician if he pays no attention to that physician’s prescription; it is folly for a soldier to say that he is devoted to a commander whom he will not obey in the heat of a campaign; it is folly for a man to say he has faith in Jesus if he does not seek to follow Jesus. Jesus says, “If ye love Me, keep My commandments.” (H. G.Trumbull, D. D.)

Verses 44-51

John 1:44-51

Philip findeth Nathanael.

The equivalent of Theodore. He is probably to be identified with Bartholomew, for

1. The mention of him here and in John 21:2, shows that he occupied a prominent position among the disciples. Those with whom he is classed in each case are apostles.

2. No mention is made of Nathanael in the Synoptists or of Bartholomew in St. John; while the latter name is a patronymic (son of Tolmai), like Barjona (Matthew 16:17), and Barjesus (Acts 13:6).

3. In the list of apostles Bartholomew is coupled with Philip by St. Matthew (Matthew 10:3), St. Luke (Luke 6:14), St. Mark Mark 3:18). So that the six first are the six first called. In John 21:2, Thomas is added as in Acts 1:13. (Bp. Westcott.)

Nathanael and Bartholomew

It is a melancholy fact that the festival of this gentle and guileless apostle should be for ever associated with the treachery and malice of the cold.blooded massacre in France in 1572. (John N. Norton.)



1. He hearkens to information concerning the truth.

2. He renounces a prejudice against the truth.

3. He prosecutes an inquiry in search of truth. In this he is infiuenced

(1) By the words of Philip.

(2) He is greeted by Christ.

(3) He is struck by conviction.


1. A Divine Teacher.

2. A Divine King.


1. He saw great things.

2. He would see greater.

(1) A new universe.

(2) A new class of intelligences.

(3) A new order of ministry.

(4) A new centre of attraction. (D. Thomas, D. D.)



1. Philip went to him in the fulness of his heart, expecting that he would be as glad to hear as he was to tell.

2. But Nathanael receives the announcement with coldness. He had formed an ill opinion of the place, and therefore of all connected with it.

3. Prejudice is very common, and in religious matters is very pernicious, and men should be on their guard against it. It may prevent them receiving salvation.

4. How should we treat it? As Philip did--“Come and see.” Apply this to Bible doctrines, experimental religion, foreign missions. This only will dispel prejudice.

AN ISRAELITE INDEED IN WHOM IS NO GUILE. Nathanael dropped his prejudice and acted as a man of candour. He was sincere, not sinless. How common is insincerity in word and act! How beautiful is fair transparency of character, after the image of Christ, in whom was no guile! Nathanael was also sincere towards God. Not that this must stand alone; it must qualify other graces: sincere repentance, faith, love, etc. This sincerity is uncommon. Witness the easy way in which men confess themselves miserable sinners.


1. Making his confession, which was

(1) Well grounded.

(2) Ample.

2. Encouraged by Christ. Christ would encourage all young converts by showing them good things to come. (J. Hambleton, M. A.)

The character of Nathanael

It was necessary that our Lord should have a certain number constantly associated with Him. He might have had many; He chose few. He might have had those of the highest classes; He chose from the humblest. As when iron is touched by the loadstone it draws other iron after it, so when Philip was touched by Christ, he seeks to draw his friend. Nathanael was a cautious, incredulous man, but he was sincere. Notice

SINCERITY IN A PROFESSION OF RELIGION IS ESSENTIAL TO HAPPINESS AND SAFETY. Christ distinguished Nathanael from other nations and from his own. He had the real thing as well as the appearance. Our Lord, therefore, takes his sincerity under His own discipline, and by thus commending, it shows that it is the grand fundamental thing in religion.

You are called Christians, but have you that which the name imports? In Nathanael there was no deceit, no wish to impose upon himself and others. This was evidenced by his secret devotion under the fig-tree. Examine what you are in secret, for then you are before God. Be a real Christian, not one in show.

TRUE SAVING GRACE IS CONSISTENT WITH GREAT IMPERFECTION IN KNOWLEDGE. Nathanael needed information. It was requisite that he should go and see, which, faithful to the light he had, he did.

1. The first effect of knowledge is the discovery of our ignorance. So Nathanael was tractable and teachable. We are not to conclude against the possession of true saving knowledge because it is small, if it possesses the soul.

2. Proficient Christians should learn from this how to regulate their conduct towards the immature. We must remember that grace works gradually. Do not force the great doctrines of Christianity on young converts.


1. Our secret sins.

2. Our secret penitence.

3. Our secret prayers.

4. Our secret charities.




1. That we disengage ourselves from the world.

2. That we obtain a knowledge of ourselves.

3. That we can be familiar with God.


1. To know all persons and things infallibly is the prerogative of

God only.

2. “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.”

3. Let the righteous rejoice, and the brokenhearted penitent be encouraged.


1. Because of its rarity.

2. Because of its excellence.


1. Let us not, then, conclude that a man is a stranger to grace because he is unable to go all our lengths in sentiment.

2. Nor let us be anxious to force upon him doctrines he is not prepared to receive.


Nathanael’s prejudice and confirmation


1. Nathanael looking for the Messiah, but had the prophecy of Bethlehem in his mind. Hence his difficulty, and his unreasonable imputation of the character of Nazareth to Christ. The objection of the Samaritan woman was that He was a Jew, others that He was a carpenter, etc. But these not more unreasonable than modern objections.

2. Philip’s reply was such as became a disciple. Let Nathanael know Christ as he knew Him, and all objections would be removed.

THE TESTIMONY OF JESUS TO NATHANAEL’S CHARACTER. Nathanael’s prejudice did not prevent his taking Philip’s advice. He approaches, and before he or Philip open their lips, Christ’s testimony is given.

1. An Israelite indeed is genuine, in the spirit, not in the letter.

2. In whom is no guile, because an Israelite indeed; no Judas, no dissembler.

NATHANAEL’S INQUIRY INTO THE SOURCE OF CHRIST’S KNOWLEDGE OF HIM, AND THE ANSWER. The inquiry evidenced Nathanael’s sincerity. Christ’s reply met Nathanael’s state of mind. No minister is ever first with those who are called: Jesus has been working in them previously. As the trees of Eden could not hide Adam, neither could the fig-tree hide Nathanael from his Lord.


1. Rabbi, the promised prophet.

2. The Son of God.

3. The King of Israel. Notice the satisfactoriness of this testimony.

CHRIST’S EXPRESSED SATISFACTION, AND HIS PROMISE OF FUTURE CONFIRMATION TO BE GIVEN TO HIS DISCIPLES. Christ had already given Nathaniel an evidence of His glory in His omnipotence, but there were greater things in store: the things which were to prove Christ to be the Son of God with power. (A. Beith, D. D.)

The preaching of Philip

INFINITELY DIFFICULT. The connection of the name of the Messiah, of whom Moses and the prophets did write, with Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.

PERFECTLY DECIDED. We have found Him.

IRRESISTIBLY CONFIRMED. Come and see. (Lange.)

Finding Christ the great treasure

In Golconda, if a slave find a diamond of extraordinary value, he takes it up to the Government, and the Government gives him his liberty. If some of those who are this morning the slaves of sin, while they are seeking for God, would find this Pearl of great price, the hour of their emancipation would come, and the King would make proclamation from the throne, saying, “Go free! You have found the Pearl! Be one of My jewels!” (T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)

Bringing companions to Christ

The bee-hunter in America puts a piece of honeycomb into a box, and catches a bee. He then covers the box, and very soon the bee fills himself with the honey. Being let loose, it finds its way home, and in a little time returns, but not alone. He brings his companions with him, and in turn they bring their companions, till the box is filled with a full swarm of bees. Let every Sunday scholar, and every attendant at a Christian church, do likewise. If they have tasted that Word which is sweeter than honey, let them bring their companions and neighbours with them, till the school and the church be filled with devout and thoughtful hearers.

Philip and Nathanael

THE PREPARATION. A soul brought to Christ by a brother. Two men, friends before, had their friendship riveted and made more close by this sacredest of all bonds, that the one had been to the other the means of bringing him to Jesus Christ. Note

1. The hesitation of Nathanael, His prejudice was

(1) Harmless, and soon melted when Christ beamed upon him.

(2) Natural. We all know the jealousies of neighbouring villages. But this prejudice brings into relief what a real obstacle to His Messianic recognition our Lord’s lowly origin was. We have got over it. But Judaea was then ruled by the most heartless of aristocracies, that of cultured pedants.

Why did Christ come from “the men of the earth” as the rabbis called outsiders?

(1) In accordance with the general law that reformers always come from outside these classes; and in politics, literature, science, as well as religion, not many wise and mighty are called.

(2) Because He was the poor man’s Christ, and because His word was not for any class.

2. Philip’s invitation.

(1) He did not argue.

(2) “Come and see” carries in it the essence of Christian apologetics. The wisest thing is to push Christ forward and let people look at Him and let Him make His own impression. And, on the other side, you have not done fairly by Christianity until you have complied with this invitation.

The second stage: THE CONVERSATION BETWEEN CHRIST AND NATHANAEL, when we see a soul fastened to Christ by Himself. Christ manifests His Messiahship by a supernatural knowledge of him.

1. Before he had come, before Christ could read him, or learn anything about him--while he was coming, Jesus said, “Behold an Israelite,” etc. The reference here and in John 1:51 is to Jacob. At Jabbok the crafty Jacob became Israel. So Nathanael was One of God’s princes who had wrestled with Him in prayer. How was the guile drawn out of him? See Ps

32:2. Nathanael’s astonishment. Under the fig-tree he must have wrestled in prayer, confessed his sins, longing and looking for the deliverer. Yet so solitary was it, that Christ’s knowledge of it led to the glad confession, “Thou art the Son of God.” Nathanael was right. So was the woman of Samaria when she drew the same conclusion from the same premises.

3. This was the first miracle that Christ wrought. His supernatural knowledge is as much a mark of His Divinity as any other of His earthly manifestations.

(1) This omniscience shows us how glad Christ is when He sees anything good in us. Not a word about Nathanael’s prejudice, but cordial praise that he was an honest, a sincere man, following after God and truth.

(2) This omniscience is cognizant of all our inward crises and struggles. We can all look back to some place or other, under some hawthorn hedge, or boulder by the seashore, or back parlour, or crowded street where some never-to-be-forgotten epoch in our soul’s history passed unseen by all. Let us rejoice to feel that Christ sees all these moments.

THE RAPTUROUS CONFESSION which crowns the whole.

1. Where did Nathanael learn these great names? Prom the Baptist’s proclamation of the Son of God and the kingdom of heaven.

2. The enthusiasm of this confession. It is no mere intellectual acknowledgment, but warm loyalty and absolute submission. So the great question for us is not, Do I believe, as a piece of my intellectual creed that Christ is the Messiah? etc. That will save no man. What we want is the element of rapturous.acknowledgment, loyal submission, absolute obedience, unfaltering trust. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Philip and Nathanael

Nathanael himself. He was

1. A guileless man, childlike, simple-hearted, transparent, neither credulous nor mistrustful, honestly ready to receive testimony and to be swayed by the force of truth.

2. An earnest seeker. “We have found the Messiah” would be no gladsome news to any one not looking for the Messiah. This is the universal condition of finding.

3. Ignorant up to a certain point. He knew not Christ although so near his home, like so many now so near His gospel. He knew not Christ although he knew his Bible. Again the parallel holds good.

4. Prejudiced. Yet his prejudice was excusable, for it was due to the faulty testimony of Philip. Jesus was neither of Nazareth nor the son of Joseph, which shows us how a blundering and prejudice-raising testimony may notwithstanding be owned of God.

5. A godly man up to the measure of his light--a man of secret prayer.


1. Though prejudiced he was candid enough to investigate Christ’s claims. If you are prejudiced give the Gospel a fair hearing.

2. He came to Christ with great activity of heart. As soon as he was told to “Come and see,” he came and saw, without waiting, as many do, for Christ to come to him. Indifference and lethargy the crying curse of the present day.

3. He saw Jesus

(1) Not merely with his bodily eyes, but

(2) With his mental eyes he formed a just judgment of Christ. He saw one who could read his thoughts and knew his secret actions. So we must see the Divine in Christ to be saved.

CHRIST’S SIGHT OF NATHANAEL was not that of an acquaintance or a physiognomist, but of a searcher of hearts. He saw

1. His guilelessness.

2. What he was doing under the fig-tree known to no one but themselves. What this was we can only surmise. As devout Easterns are accustomed to have a special place of prayer, Nathanael may have been engaged under the fig-tree

(1) In confession of sin, and Christ brought it to his recollection, which convinced him that He knew the secret burden and the resultant peace.

(2) In heart investigation.

(3) In earnest prayer like Jacob at Peniel.

(4) In making some solemn vow.

(5) In sweet communion with God.

3. And so Christ sees all sincere seekers, their tears, their prayers.


1. Note its grounds. Christ’s omniscience, as in the case of the Samaritan woman and Zacchaeus. So some sermons seem made for certain people, although the preacher is ignorant of them. It is Christ’s word piercing the hidden depths and revealing secrets.

2. Its clear and comprehensive character. The Son of God to be adored; the King of Israel to be served.

3. Its positiveness. “Thou art.”


1. He had owned Jesus as the Son of God; he was to see Jesus in His glory as the Son of Man; Christ in His mediatorial capacity as the great link between earth and heaven.

2. The providence of God as ruled by Jesus Christ, who ordereth all things for the good of Hie Church.

3. The second coming of Christ in His glory. These greater things were afterwards. Christians should not clamour to know all about Christianity at first. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Philip and Nathanael


1. Philip does not seem to have been moved by the preaching of the Baptist.

2. He was not drawn by the outspoken declarations of a brother like Peter.

3. He was called directly by Christ Himself.

4. Though the earliest disciples entered by different roads, they reached the same way, served the same Master, and at length reached the same home.

From which facts we may deduce

1. That there are diversities of operations answering to diversities of needs. All cannot be converted in precisely the same manner.

2. That we must beware of making the experience of other believers the measure of our own.

HOW MUCH OF CHRIST THERE IS IN THE OLD YESTAMENT. Christ is its sum and substance.

1. The promises pointed to Him.

2. The types prefigured Him (John 5:39).


1. Wiser counsel it would be impossible to conceive. If he had rebuked Nathanael’s unbelief he might have driven him back for many a day. Had he reasoned with Nathanael he might have confirmed his doubt. By inviting him to see for himself he showed his entire confidence in his own assertion and his willingness to have it proved.

2. Let us never be afraid to deal with people about their souls. Christianity courts inquiry.


1. He was a true child of God. He had that which grace alone can give.

2. He was a genuine son of Abraham. A Jew inwardly. (Bp. Ryle.)

Philip and Nathanael


1. Christ “findeth him.” It was not by chance, although the circumstances may have seemed so to Philip. It was without any concurrence of his. Christ is found of them who sought Him not. The arrangements were Christ’s. And whatever the agency now, Christ is the seeker and finder.

2. Christ said “Follow Me” for the first time.

(1) An invitation.

(2) A command, as all sovereign invitations are, requiring obedience.

(3) Implying grace to accept. The followers of Christ

(a) Look to Him as sheep to a shepherd; as the Israelites to the pillar of cloud; as soldiers to their captain.

(b) And, obeying, separate themselves from sin, from the world, from self, from every connection inconsistent with following Him fully.

(c) Abide with Him.


1. Philip findeth him, being qualified by being found himself. On the same day he was made a disciple he conferred not with flesh and blood, but as Christ’s instrument finds his friend.

(1) Philip’s faith, “We have found Him of whom Moses,” etc. All Scripture treats of Christ and faith in that leads to faith in Him.

(2) Philip’s partial ignorance. “Son of Joseph.” “Nazareth.” This ignorance at once placed him at a disadvantage, and was the occasion of prejudice as is the ignorance of many Christians now. Observe the faithfulness of Scripture in not concealing the infirmities of the saints. But his intention was upright, and Christ honoured it by leading Nathanael through Philip to Himself. (A. Beith, D. D.)

Philip and Nathanael

THE POWER OF THE GOSPEL WHEN RECEIVED INTO THE HEART, IN URGING MEN TO ITS PROPAGATION. Discoverers of hidden treasures have no motive for making them known. Discoverers of a remedy for a direful disease have a powerful motive for making it known, but not necessarily the disposition. But you cannot have a man who, renewed by the Spirit of God, does not seek the renewal of others. The wealth received from Christ is kept by disbursement; the cure accomplished by His blood is radical only as it seeks its extension. And gratitude to the Redeemer impels to a proclamation of redemption. So Philip felt the communicative and diffusive nature of true religion.

THE RECEPTION WHICH THE GOSPEL MEETS WITH EVEN FROM MEN OF OPENNESS AND SINCERITY. Men have their prejudices, like Nathanael, founded on some mistake or misapprehension, and these in process of time take the form of incontrovertible principles, just as proverbs are often quoted till they almost pass for Bible texts.

1. “Can deliverance be obtained from one who died as a malefactor?” Yes. “Out of Nazareth,” out of shame and death we procure deliverance: for the substitute must take the place of the guilty and bear his doom. Examine and you will See you are putting Nazareth for Bethlehem, falsehood for truth, disgrace for glory. The very circumstances which cause the gospel to appear so humiliating are those which give to it its majesty and power.

2. “Can any virtue come out of a system which bases everything on faith?” Yes. Of all systems for the encouragement of personal holiness there is none like the Christian. For the man who looks to be freely justified by Christ knows that his justification cannot be evidenced but by sanctification.

3. Let, then, all who have taken up a taunt against the gospel, till they have virtually made the taunt itself gospel, learn that though they may be candid, like Nathanael, they may, like him, risk an immeasurable loss out of adherence to a surmise or saying which they have only to investigate to prove erroneous.

THE TREATMENT WHICH A PREJUDICED MAN SHOULD RECEIVE FROM A BELIEVER. Philip declined all controversy, though a fairer opening could hardly have been offered. His anxiety was to bring his friend into personal communication with Jesus. This was the method that had succeeded with himself, and he felt that it could not possibly fail with another. There was great wisdom in this; for it does not often happen that men are convinced by argument. So, to persuade a man to read the Bible is better than to draw him into a debate on its evidences. There is no evidence of Christianity like that which a man knocks out for himself with the simple apparatus of a Bible and a conscience. (H. Melvill, B. D.)

The communicativeness of the gospel

Seed hath a natural warmth and life in it, by which it increaseth and produceth more seeds like itself; so God’s Word, cast into the good ground of a believing heart, hath a supernatural heat, it being as fire, and lively power to frame and dispose men like itself, to make them of fleshly, spiritual; of blind, quicksighted; of dead in sin, alive in grace. And as one grain quickened produces several ears, and many grains in each, so one Christian converted and receiving this power in himself, gaineth many to God, wishing that every one were, as he is, except the bonds of his sins. Philip, being called, finds Nathanael, and brings him to Christ; and the woman at the well calls all the town. (Dr. Lake.)

“We have found”

The whole world may be divided into three classes and orders of men: those who, having found God, resign themselves up to His service; those who, having not yet found Him, do indefatigably seek after Him; those who have neither found Him, nor are inclined to seek Him: the first are happy and wise; the third are unhappy and fools; the second must be owned to be wise, as they own themselves to be unhappy. (Pascal.)

Testimony bearing

Discoverers in the natural world frequently, for prudential reasons, keep silence as to their discoveries. When Galileo first turned his glass on the planet Saturn he saw, as he thought, that it consisted of three spheres close together, the middle one being the largest. Being not quite sure of his fact, he was in a dilemma between his desire to wait longer for further observation and his fear that some other observer might forestall him. To combine these Galileo wrote a sentence, “I have observed the highest planet to be triple.” He then jumbled the letters together and made the sentence into one monstrous word, and published this, which contained his discovery, but under lock and key. He had reason to congratulate himself on his prudence, for within two years two of the supposed bodies disappeared, leaving only one; and for nearly fifty years Saturn continued to all astronomers the enigma it was to Galileo, until in 1656 it was finally made clear that it was surrounded by a thin flat ring, which, when fully seen, gave rise to the first appearance in Galileo’s small telescope, and when seen edgeways disappeared from view altogether. With an instinct that makes the newly saved Christian long that others may share his icy, he, however, goes everywhere, saying, “We have found the Messiah; this is the Christ.” (H. O. Mackey.)

Can any good come out of Nazareth

Judge not a man by his surroundings

In the INTELLECTUAL world. Can a man become a scholar without a university training? Hugh Miller, etc.

In the POLITICAL world. Can a man who was a rail-splitter in his youth make a good President? Lincoln.

In the SOCIAL world. Frequently a man whom society learns to respect is of humble parentage, and vice versa.

In the ECCLESIASTICAL world. Examples of pure Christianity in Roman Churches--Anselm, Bernard, Newman. Noble pagans, Socrates, Epictetus, etc.

In the MORAL world. Some of the most distinguished saints in obscure conditions. The purest diamond--where is that? Precious metals too. (G. F. Green.)

Come and see

How to learn the excellence of Christ

Prejudices often find expression in spite of one’s consciousness of them, and of the protest of reason. All that is needed to betray them is simply an occasion. Such an occasion was given Nathanael by Philip’s mention of “Nazareth.” The best response to a sneer, as a rule, is silence. Christ’s manner, for the most of us, is the wisest and most dignified “answering not a word.” Nevertheless, it is allowable to transfix a prejudice, or turn aside a sneer, if we can do it as effectually as Philip. He neither admits nor denies the force of Nathanael’s objection. His answer is a challenge whose reasonableness Nathanael himself could not deny--“Come and see!” The excellence of Christ may be learned in part:

FROM REPORT; OR, THE TESTIMONY OF WITNESSES. “We have found Him,” etc., is substantially the testimony of every honest inquirer. Also the Samaritan woman (John 4:29), whose testimony brought many of her people to Him. The whole New Testament is but a report of witnesses of the person, character, teachings, etc., of the Son of God.

BY INTERCOURSE WITH HIS DISCIPLES. Nathanael heeded Philip’s terse advice; he went with him to see Christ. True Christian example is an illustration of Christ Himself. Christ’s excellence, reproduced in His disciples, may be learned even by His bitterest enemies. Said a fierce Papist to Bishop Jewel: “I should love thee, Jewel, if thou wast not a Lutheran--in thy faith thou art a heretic, but, surely, in thy life thou art an angel. Lord Peterborough, when visiting Archbishop Fenelon, heard no argument from him on the claims of Christianity. The venerable prelate let logic alone, and simply lived such a life as he was wont to do when there were no infidels about to witness. The exclamation of the deist was, “If I stay here much longer, I shall become a Christian in spite of myself.” “Come and see,” thou unbelieving friend! Mingle with Christians--not to mark their inconsistencies and expose their faults. A better motive is his who is ever looking for excellencee: and these will be found even in the humblest of Christ’s disciples.

BY PERSONAL REALIZATION. You cannot know the excellence of a thing without personally testing it. What do you know of a fruit you have never tasted? The sight of food relieves no one’s hunger. “If any man will do His will,” etc. Christianity is a grand temple, the interior of which you have never seen. It is famous the world over. Crowds of all ages and nationalities have entered it, and, gazing upon its grandeur, have been lost in wonder, exclaiming, “The half was not told me!” But you are without, looking listlessly at a single rose-window, and asking, “What is there here to admire?” But “come and see.” Let me take you, as Philip took Nathanael, into the temple. Then shall its glory burst upon you overwhelmingly! This personal test, or experience, is the only proof of gospel blessings which thousands of Christians can urge without fear of successful contradiction. Conclusion

1. Christ would be more appreciated if He were more thoroughly known.

2. Once Scripturally known, Christ needs no longer to beg for men’s regard. Come and see


1. Deep conviction and penitence on the part or gross sinners.

2. Guileless sincerity on the part of those who, like Nathaniel, have not gone so far morally astray.


1. Argument about an absent person most inefficient.

2. Personal contemplation alone efficient.


1. Earnest unprejudiced study of the facts of Christ’s history and of His words. Come out of the world and compare it with the Christ depicted in the Gospels.

2. Clear patient meditation on Christ’s commentary on His character and mission to the Church.

(1) Not as Rome would have us do, behold Christ in her ecclesiastics, rites, councils, and visible head. Often have these things created a Nathanael-like prejudice. But

(2) In the blended lives of Christ’s saintly followers who constitute the true Church.

(3) In the regenerating effects which the Church, through Him, has produced in the world.

3. Actual intercourse with Christ Himself.

(1) We have often wished for bodily contact, a knowledge of Christ after the flesh. This would be very precious, but, as St. Paul shows, might bring no real knowledge.

4. The vision of faith the highest and best means of enjoying the manifestation of Christ. This vision

(1) Is progressive.

(2) Becomes a power of vision in every other direction. The believer sees Christ everywhere. (T. Islip.)

The proverbial disrepute of Nazareth

The whole of Galilee was a despised region in the eyes of the more polished Palestinians of the South. The Galileans were accused of being rude, illiterate, and devoid of culture. Their pronunciation was said to be so thick that it led constantly to mortifying blunders, as when one could not tell from the word used whether a Galilean peasant had come to the market for an ass (khamor), wine (khemer), sheepskin (immer), or wool (?immar?. A Galilean woman, inviting her guest to table, said: “I am going to give you milk to eat.” In her thick Galilean pronunciation it actually sounded: “May a lion eat you!” Other such ambiguities are mentioned as occurring in the rude speech of the Galileans. Worse than all, the Galileans were said to be loose on points of doe-trine, so that a bad odour of heterodoxy hung over the province. It was not to Galilee that the Judaean would naturally have looked for a great theological teacher. Nazareth shared, of course, in the reproach of the province to which it belonged. The town was simply a typical Galilean village, filled with a warm-hearted, and perhaps (as the Talmud suggests) a warm-tempered people, who had little sympathy with the learned casuistry of the Judaean rabbis, and were therefore looked down upon as ignorant rabble. There is little reason for charging special moral turpitude against the people of Nazareth. The Judaean simply looked down upon Nazareth as the urbane inhabitant of a great city is supposed to look down upon a backwoods settlement. The inhabitants of a college town in the East would hardly turn to the new settlement of Nosuchplace, in Blank Territory, for a teacher of culture. That was the way the Judsaean felt with regard to Nazareth. (S. S. Times.)

Nathanael’s prejudice

Suppose you were told that a peasant out of Ross-shire was a man on whom the whole history of the nation hung. Would you believe it without first saying, “That is a strange place for such a person to be born in”? Galilee was a despised part of Palestine, and Nazareth was a proverbially despised part of Galilee; and this Jesus was a carpenter’s son that nobody had ever heard of. It seemed to be a strange head on which the Divine Dove should flutter down, passing by all the Pharisees and Scribes, all the great and wise. Nathanael’s prejudice was but the giving voice to a fault that is as wide as humanity, and which we have every day of our lives to fight with--the habit of estimating people and their work, wisdom, and power to teach us by the class to which they are supposed to belong, or even by the place from which they come. “Can a German teach an Englishman anything he does not know?” “Is a Protestant to owe anything of spiritual illumination to a Roman Catholic?” “Are we Dissenters to receive any wisdom or example from Churchmen?” “Will a Conservative be able to give any lessons in politics to a Liberal?” “Is there any other bit of England that can teach Lancashire?” Take care that whilst you are holding up your hands in horror against the prejudices of our Lord’s contemporaries who stumbled at His origin you are not doing the same thing in regard to all manner of subjects twenty times a day. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

The power of prejudice

A man was stoutly asserting that there were no goldfields except in Mexico and Peru. A nugget dug up in California was shown him as convincing evidence against his positive statement to the contrary. So far from being disconcerted, he quietly answered: “This metal, I confess, is extremely like gold; and you tell me that it passes as such in the market. All this I do not dispute. Nevertheless, the metal is not gold, but auruminium; it cannot be gold, because gold comes only from Mexico and Peru.” In vain was he told that the geological formation of California was similar to that of Peru, and that the metals were similar. He had made up his mind that gold existed only in Mexico and Peru; this was a law of nature; he had no reason to give why it should be so; but such had been the admitted fact for years, and from this opinion he would not swerve. (John N. Norton.)

The power of prejudice

It is a great pity that this way of estimating the value of suggested truth is so common in our day. “Can a minister know anything about science?” is the sneering question on one side. Yes; and on the other side the equally scornful question often comes, “Can a scientist who is not a Christian believer bring out facts that a Bible student ought to ponder?” “Is there any truth worth considering in the outside religions of the world?” asks some “ orthodox” believer, who answers his question in the negative before he asks it. And some “liberal thinker” puts his question, in a like spirit of confident denial, “Is any ‘orthodox’ truth worth believing in these days of religious progress?” It is the old spirit, and much the old question, of the provincial bigot of Judaea, “Can any good come out of Nazareth?” (H. G. Trumbull, D. D.)

Verse 47

John 1:47

Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile.

This is a chapter of “beholds.” We are first to “Behold the Lamb of God,” and then to behold a man of God. Nathanael was simple, straightforward, honest, “an Israelite indeed.” In this he was not like his great progenitor, Jacob, who was a supplanter, and not a prince with God till that memorable night when the angel wrestled with him, and withered his carnal strength. Then, in the weakness of that simplicity which laid hold upon the mighty One, Jacob became Israel (Gen_27:36; Gen_32:28). A sincere and simple character was not common in our Lord’s day. It is despised by many at this day. It was greatly appreciated by our Lord, who has the same character in perfection, and is truly called “the holy child Jesus.” This characteristic of guilelessness is

A HAPPY SIGN IN A SEEKER. We will illustrate this by Nathanael’s procedure.

1. He is the sort of man to whom disciples like to speak (John 1:45).

2. He is outspoken with his difficulties, and therefore his friends see how to meet them (John 1:46).

3. He is ready to apply the proper tests (John 1:46).

4. He is honest in his use of those tests. Our Lord saw that Nathanael was no captious critic nor idly-curious observer (John 1:47).

5. He is open to conviction if fair evidence be supplied. As soon as our Lord proved His omniscience Nathanael believed (John 1:48).

6. He is ready to make confession (John 1:49).

7. He is prepared to proceed far in the school of Christ. The Lord promised him the sight of greater things because he was prepared to see them (verses

50, 51). An Israelite is the man to know “the King of Israel” (John 1:49). An Israelite is the man to understand the famous dream of the father of all Israelites (John 1:51; Genesis 28:12).

A VITAL POINT IN A BELIEVER. The truly upright man, and he only, can be a Christian.

1. A sense of pardon removes the temptation to guile: we cease to excuse ourselves when pardon is received (Psalms 51:1-19.).

2. A reception of Christ as “the truth” causes guile to be hated.

3. A truthful assurance of the gospel prevents a hypocritical faith.

4. A complete consecration to the Lord puts an end to a double-minded life, and to all false aims and maxims.

5. A sense of the presence of God makes guile appear absurd.

6. A brave faith in God causes it to appear mean and cowardly.


1. It makes a man love his Bible. Nathanael was familiar with the law and the prophets.

2. It makes him pray. He is an Israelite (Genesis 32:28).

3. It leads him to be much alone. “Under the fig tree” (John 1:48).

4. It makes him wear his heart in his countenance. “Behold an Israelite indeed.”

6. It prepares him to behold the pure and true glories of heaven. Who among us is renowned for cleverness, craft, shrewdness, and the critical faculty in general? Let him he afraid of the much-admired quality of cleverness. The absence of simplicity is by no means a healthy sign. Let us be true in any case, and may the Lord teach us His truth! (C. H. Spurgeon.)

A high eulogium

A professor of religion who is what he appears to be, and appears to be what he is.


1. Regeneracy; newness of heart. This its foundation.

2. An earnest desire and endeavour to know the truth: at first-hand; not through a priest.

3. A deliberate purpose and steady intention to please God in everything. The Pharisee prays to get popular applause; Nathanael retires under a fig-tree.

4. Uniformity and consistency. The heart answers to the life, the life to the heart.


1. It is estimable, and is held in esteem. Without it a man is a worthless character, however otherwise distinguished.

2. It is pleasing to God.

3. It brings peace to its possessor.

4. It secures hereafter its great and everlasting reward. (John Brown, D. D.)

One of the rare commendatory words of Christ spoken on a most rare occasion.

1. Bestowed upon a man who spoke contemptuously of his birthplace; was prepossessed against himself; had, immediately after an hour of earnest devotion, fallen again under a prejudice.

2. Was bestowed for the very reason that He was without guile. (Lange.)

The Israelite indeed is


1. When we seek our happiness in Him, and not in the gratification of the “desire of the flesh,” etc.

2. When we find our happiness in Him, i.e, when the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts.

3. When this love is persistent and permanent.

A MAN WHOSE WORDS ARE SUITABLE THERETO. When there is no guile in the heart there is none on the lips. In this is implied--1. Veracity--speaking the truth from the heart; the putting away of all wilful lying in every kind and degree. Roman casuists distinguish lies into

(1) Malicious--such as are told with a desire to hurt. These no one defends.

(2) Harmless--such as are supposed to do neither good nor harm. Men excuse these; but no Nathanael can speak them, and Paul condemns them Ephesians 4:25).

(3) Officious--those spoken with a design to do good. About these there has been much controversy. Some maintain them to be innocent, and even meritorious. But Paul teaches (Romans 3:7-8)

(a) That the good effect of a lie is no excuse for it.

(b) That it is a mere slander upon Christians to say they teach men to do evil that good may come.

(c) That if any teach this or do it their damnation is just: which is all applicable to this kind of lies.

2. Sincerity. As veracity is opposite to lying, so is sincerity to cunning. Cunning is confounded with wisdom. But wisdom is the faculty of discerning the best ends and the fittest means of attaining them. The two great means of cunning are

(1) Simulation--the seeming to be what we are not;

(2) dissimulatlon--the seeming not to be what we are. It we are engaged with artful men, we may use silence and reserve without cunning; but we may not speak the truth in order to deceive. This is perhaps not inconsistent with veracity, but it is with sincerity. When we speak at all, we should speak the naked truth from the heart.

3. This is properly termed simplicity, which implies

(1) Not only the speaking no known falsehood;

(2) not on!y designedly deceiving no one; but

(3) speaking plainly and artlessly to every one m a childlike though not in a childish manner. This excludes the using of empty compliments.

4. This sincerity and simplicity has an influence on the whole behaviour which, though it be far enough remote from clownishness, ill-breeding, roughness, and surliness, is plain and free from disguise. Conclusion: This, then, is real solid virtue. Not truth alone, nor conformity with truth; not love alone, but truth and love united. (John Wesly.)

Christian simplicity

Several bishops once asked Bishop Atterbury: “Why will you not suffer your servants to deny you when you do not care to see company? It is not a lie for them to say your lordship is not at home; for it deceives no one: every one knows it means only, your lordship is busy.” He replied: “My lords, if it is (which I doubt) consistent with sincerity, yet I am sure it is not consistent with that simplicity which becomes a Christian bishop. (John Wesly.)

An Israelite indeed


1. He is a converted character.

2. His profession and his conduct agree.

3. His words and his heart harmonize.

4. He is known by his zeal for God’s glory.

5. He is distinguished by his compassion for souls.


1. To his family.

2. To the sphere in which he moves, whether high or low.

3. To the Church of Christ.

4. To himself.


1. “Behold an Israelite indeed.” “Mark the perfect man,” etc.

2. Admire him--admire Christ in him.

3. Be thankful for him.

4. Imitate him in life.

5. Rejoice in his blessedness in heaven. (A. Fletcher, D. D.)

The true Israelite is

A TRUE SON OF ABRAHAM. Nathanael was so called not because he was a descendant of Abraham, but because he resembled the patriarch in his faith and piety. “If ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed.” “They who are of faith are the children of Abraham.” Faith, then, is the characteristic of the true Israelite. Nathanael was ready to believe. Faith is the primary virtue of the Christian life.

IN COVENANT WITH GOD. The Jews were ever ready to boast of this, but the Baptist and our Lord corrected them. Whoever cordially and unreservedly takes God for his God, Christ for his Redeemer, the Holy Spirit for his Sanctifier, is in covenant with God.

A WORSHIPPER OF THE TRUE GOD. All other nations worshipped idols. Every true Israelite is a temple of God. From the altar of his heart he offers the incense of sincerity and affection. To God he gives the best of his services. The worship of God is not formal and burdensome, but delightful. He shows his sincerity also by his secret worship.


HAS THE PROMISE OF AN INHERITANCE, only not an earthly, but a heavenly. Conclusion:

1. The conduct of Philip must be highly approved, and should be imitated.

2. Although good men are subject to be prejudiced, when they have the opportunity of being better instructed the prejudices give way to cordial attachment.

3. Our Lord is the witness of every action of our lives, and especially of every exercise of devotion.

4. Sincerity in religion is essential. (J. A. Alexander, D. D.)

Of sincerity toward God and man

TOWARD GOD. Our piety is, then, sincere

1. When the chief reasons and predominant motives are religious. A religious or rational motive is that which regards God and another world in opposition to men and present temporal advantages.

2. When it is rooted in the heart, and is a living principle within us.

3. When men are religious in secret as well as in public.

4. When there is a constant tenor of goodness in the general course of fife.

5. When our obedience to God is uniform and universal.

6. When it holds out against persecution and the fiery trial.

TOWARDS MAN; and so it signifies a simplicity of mind and manners in our conversation and carriage towards each other; singleness of heart discovering itself in honest openness; speaking as we think, performing what we promise, and being what we seem to be.

Conclusion. Let us be sincere in our religion, never making use of it to serve any base or unworthy ends; and be straightforward in speech and conduct in our intercourse with men. To this end the following considerations are offered

1. That sincerity is the highest commendation and the very best character that can be given of any man (Joshua 24:14; 1 Chronicles 19:17; Psalms 15:1; Psalms 51:2; Psalms 32:2).

2. That this virtue is rare.

3. That the want of it will quite spoil the virtue and acceptance of our piety and deprive us of its reward.

4. Insincerity is a vain and foolish thing. It is designed to cheat others; it really deceives ourselves.

5. Truth and reality have all the advantages of appearance, and many more. It is hard to act a part long. A dissembler must be always on his guard. Insincerity is very troublesome to manage.

6. That it is not worth while to dissemble, considering the shortness and uncertainty of our lives. (Abp. Tillotson.)


Finest paintings or portraits are those which fill the eye and fix it by their natural unadorned simplicity; in which there is nothing superfluous, nothing to call the attention away from the distinctly defined character marked in the features. Inferior courtly artists, such as Lawrence, spend much time in haberdashery, in dress, in attitude, in the studious introduction of the scenery in the background. Vandyke, Velasquez, Reynolds, care usually only for feature, form, character. We have such a portrait here. It arrests us. “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” one of the first and foremost of the little group in which the human manifestation of the Church had its origin.

I would make some preliminary remarks on the first impressions given to us by this story and character of Nathanael.

1. In spite of the high eulogy of our Lord, I cannot but say what a bad impression in fact he makes upon us at first. He seems to come before us as a narrow mind, a mind influenced by prejudices. Qualities are mixed in all, even as a beech has beautiful qualities and grave defects--it is very graceful, but it is more subject to the worm, it has little strength, and it shrinks. Let us do justice, even often, to the narrow mind. If it cannot receive us, let us receive it; if it will not contain us, let us retain it. Let us, whenever we can, form affectionate sentiments of nations, of communities, of men; if they are true, you only do them justice; and, if they are false, though your opinion does not alter and make them lovely, at least you are the more lovely for holding such sentiments. Being with Jesus ought to enlarge the most narrow mind: it enlarged Nathanael’s, he was certainly narrow.

2. Preliminary remark. It is obvious that Christ knows some who do not know Him. “Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig-tree I saw thee.”

But it is time we turn from these merely negative, from what some may regard as, at best, these doubtful aspects of the character of Nathanael, to the positive encomium of our Lord, I may even say the splendid designation of our Lord. That designation, I need not say, comprehends two developments of the man. An Israelite indeed--his Church character. That narrow suspiciousness which proclaimed the Jew, does not prevent his right here--an Israelite indeed; “for he is not a Jew which is one outwardly.”

1. In the first place he was one, as we have in some measure already seen, who was not merely by birth a Jew; his heart was interested in the destiny of Israel; he had entered into the mystery of the Divine separation. Israel led a separated life, and that is the idea of consecrated life; “Lo, the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned amongst the nations”; that is the first idea of Israel--sequestration, separation.

2. The life beneath the fig-tree, whatever it might be, justifies the idea that he was an earnestly holy man. Our Lord’s designation implies that he had some divinely secluded life, in which he realized the origin of the term Israel. That term is indeed somewhat dark, but it no doubt speaks of one who had seen God face to face--it had its origin when the name of Jacob was changed, and he was called Israel, in the night of Penieh Nathanael itself was a fine name; like so many of the Hebrew names it spoke of God. The affix, El--the hallowing, consecrating name of God--how often we find it in the Hebrew names! Eliab, God of my Father; Elizur, God my Rock; Shelumiel, God my Peace; Eliasaph, God will increase; Elishama, God will hear; Gamaliel, God will recompense; Pagiel, Son of God my Interceder; Nathanael, God hath given. So the Israelites, we may believe in no light spirit, honoured God in conferring names; and Peniel, or the Face of God, was the place where the old patriarch believed he had seen God face to face; and Nathanael had his Peniel.

3. Once more, this Israelite indeed was such, not only by his isolation, his sacred sequestration, his earnest wrestling, his Divine communions, but by his hopes. As I have said, promises can only avail to those who can use them. No Israelite indeed can rest in his heart without the fulfilment of the Divine promise that the Son shall have the “uttermost parts of the earth for His possession.” Let us turn to the foundation of all this in his personal individual character. He was pure in heart, he was a guileless man, “in whom is no guile.” He solved his prejudices against Christ by immediately going to Him. Oh that all hearts prejudiced against Christ would do so! This is magnanimity, this is conduct of which only a great and pure and guileless mind is capable. I think it was also to this temper of mind the splendid designation of our Lord was addressed. Behold he comes--the man incapable of doubting, and turning, and duplicity, and sophistry; incapable of attempting to make the white appear black, or the black white, or the worst best, or the best worst. Here is a man who can dare to be true. We are to believe that it was beneath the fig-tree’s shade that such Divine purity and guilelessness were attained and studied. (E. Paxton Hood.)

Verse 48

John 1:48

When thou wast under the fig-tree, I saw thee.

What was he doing there? Something good evidently. The following suggestions have been made:

THAT HE WAS THERE FOR GRATEFUL CONTEMPLATION. A tradition says that at the massacre of the innocents he was hidden by his mother beneath the fig-tree in her garden at Bethlehem. This is too remote a reference, having occurred thirty years before.

THAT HE FIRST HEARD OF CHRIST BENEATH THE FIG-TREE. When Philip found him he was seated beneath his own fig-tree. But this was known to Philip and perhaps to others. Our Lord’s allusion was obviously to some circumstance understood only by Nathanael.

THAT IT WAS FOR PRAYER WITH RESPECT TO SOME SPECIAL DIFFICULTY. No doubt Nathanael’s devotions were the reverse of those of the Pharisees. But this suggestion is too vague.

THAT IT WAS FOR THE SPECIAL STUDY OF GOD’S WORD. No doubt Nathanael was waiting for the consolation of Israel. On one memorable occasion, as he sat there with the sacred roll spread out on his knee, light suddenly dawned. The scripture was Genesis, the life was that of Jacob, the passage the vision of the ladder (verse 51), and above all a voice speaking of a seed in which all the families of the earth should be blessed. On that day perhaps Philip summoned him to the presence of the Master. Conclusion:

1. How do you spend your hours of privacy? Some in sinful thoughts, shameful deeds. Let the sinner know that God sees him.

2. Experience proves the worth of meditative prayer (Matthew 6:6).

3. Resort to your fig-tree frequently. (S. Buss, LL. B.)

Christ’s knowledge of His people

Their CHARACTERS He understands.

Their CONDUCT He observes.

Their THOUGHTS He discerns. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)

Christ the Witness of our secret hours

WHAT THIS INCIDENT TEACHES US OF CHRIST. His Divinity. Let us leave the trite and well-trodden method of proving this, and try a simpler way. Jesus demands our adoration as more than man, and on the ground that He alone of all the minds that have lifted up the world with intelligence has the power of reading all men’s thoughts and hearts and experiences through and through. The leaders of thought have never been equal to this. Had they even pretended to it ,hey would have been set down as miserable jugglers. A general knowledge of human nature is all that the acutest have attained. The limit of this is soon attained and is not always accurate. But here is a man who all through life knew what is in man. He wanted no information about the diseases He cured. He saw the lack of selfsacrifice in the young man. He judged faultlessly the Pharisees, Judas, Pilate, the faithless wife, the woman that was a sinner. How could He be a Saviour without knowing our real state? the Light of the world without its lying open to His inspection? the Judge without comprehending every secret motive, error, sin?


1. He was not a faultless character, but genuine, lowly, teachable, having a soul open to receive spiritual light.

2. The blessing imports

(1) That which falls on all genuine unconscious goodness that hides itself from men, and therefore is more precious to God. This is one of those new gracious ideas which the gospel brings into the world. Not only is righteousness independent of station or publicity, but it is acceptable to God and a sign of spiritual purity in the degree that it turns to God alone for its Approver.

(2) Attainments are of slow growth. It needs time to form habits. But sincerity in the religious life is indispensable at the very outset. This was Nathanael’s one promising, solid grace. Hence the encouragement held out to genuine repentance and the unsparing condemnation of hypocrisy.

(3) The modest and faithful performance of a lower duty prepares the soul for the higher services and privileges. The man that was true under the fig tree afterwards sees angels of God, etc. (Bp. Huntington.)

Nathanael under the fig tree; or, religion in secret

IT IS IN SECRET THAT TRUE RELIGION HAS ITS ORIGIN. Thus we perceive that the rise of religion in the soul must necessarily be out of sight. The new creation is accomplished by the secret agency of the Holy Spirit. The origin of great rivers is sometimes wrapped mystery; they rise in Borne inaccessible regions on which human eye has never gazed. For centuries the sources of the Mile were unknown; to discover them was the highest ambition of many an adventurous explorer; but till very recently every attempt had been of no avail. Indeed, the fountain-heads of some of our own rivers lie far away from the haunts of men. If you would trace the Severn to its source, you must ascend the height of Plinlimmon, and there, in a dreary, wild, secluded region, you will find the obscure fountain, where the noble river rises. Truly, this is not an unapt representation of the beginning of the Divine life in the soul.

IT IS IN SECRET THAT TRUE RELIGION IS MOST IMPORTANT. This is manifest when we consider that

1. Man is a lonely being. It may be a startling statement, but it is profoundly true. Between man and man there lies a wide distance; beyond a certain point they cannot approach each other; thus every one stands emphatically by himself. A casual visitor to a large town is frequently overwhelmed with a painful sense of loneliness. Man is alone in most of those circumstances which make up the sum of his existence. His thoughts and reflections, his hopes and fears, are for the most part unknown to his bosom friends. The stage of a theatre is generally so decorated as to present a very gorgeous appearance. You might imagine that those who move and talk upon it live in a kind of fairy land. Beautiful forms chatter and dance, amidst sunny groves and laughing streams. All this, however, gives you but a very erroneous idea of what those men and women are in real life. Still, were you allowed to go behind the scenes, where they retire after having played their parts, you might form a sounder estimate of their actual character; but the proceedings there are never beheld by the crowd of spectators who fill the house. But a man’s religion follows him into the most retired places; it leaves its impress upon his most private actions; it forms and fashions his most secret meditations.

2. Religious declension invariably begins in secret. This shows how jealous we should always be of the integrity of our inner life. Think of a stream, which, as it winds its way along the meadow, supplies man and beast with its crystal waters. But one day it becomes suddenly thick and troubled. What can be the cause? Somebody has been tampering with the fountainhead. It is in secret that the foundation of our religion is laid. And if the foundation be not firm, the superstructure must be in danger.

3. We can form a more accurate judgment of our religion from our secret life than from anything else. There are two distinct spheres wherein a man’s religion may be tested; namely, in public and in secret. Some profess religion from the love of praise--some from a baser motive still, the love of gain. But such motives as these can have no possible influence upon us in secret.

TRUE RELIGION IN SECRET IS ACCOMPANIED BY TRUE RELIGION IN PUBLIC. We have a remarkable instance of this in the case of Nathanael. When called upon to act in public, he practised the principles which he cherished in secret.

1. He who has God’s love in his heart cannot altogether hide the fact from others. Religion is not a latent principle, buried up in the depths of the soul; for it displays itself in works of righteousness before the world.

2. The secret life of man cannot but tell on his public life. If a man commune much with God in secret, he cannot be otherwise than God-like in public. Unconsciously to himself, he sheds abroad a powerful influence wherever he goes. (A. Rowlands, B. A.)

The secret side of religion

RELIGION HAS A SECRET SIDE TOWARDS GOD, AS WELL AS AN OPEN SIGN TOWARDS MAN. There is a part of religion that is strictly private and personal. From the secret good in Nathanael we may draw the conclusion that there is more good in the world than we know, more good in men than we can see.

THE SECRET SIDE OF RELIGION IS THE SURE TEST AND SIGN OF ITS REALITY. From Christ’s words to Nathanael we may gather

1. Christ bases His estimate of men upon what is inward rather than what is outward, upon what is secret and private rather than upon what is public and open.

2. Christ pursues a method of judgment with men far different from that taken by the world.

3. The secret side of religion is the surest sign of its reality, because free from many evils which often are associated with the public and open.

THE SECRET SIGN OF RELIGION HERE SHALL BECOME THE OPEN SIDE HEREAFTER. Christ honoured it in Nathanael, and, to the amazement of the man, made it known. He will recognize and honour and make known the secret goodness of all His servants by and by. Sometimes the secret life of religion becomes openly known here. Hereafter comes the grand and complete revelation. “Your Father, that seeth in secret, shall reward you openly.” In religion, and in the service of Christ, let every man be true to his own nature. Let no man despise his brother because his brother is not as himself. Let Nathanael be Nathanael, and let Peter be Peter. Behind our open life and public duties let there be a secret life with God, of thought and prayer. (Homiletic Magazine.)

The Old Testament and the New

There is an analogy between what is here said at the opening of the Gospel and what is written at the opening of the Old Testament of the law in the Book of Genesis.


1. There, at the garden of Eden, man a transgressor, conscious of his guilt, hides himself under the leaves of a tree to escape the punishment he deserves and dreads, and there the eye of the Almighty searches him out with a summons to judgment.

2. Here, at the introduction of the Gospel, just when the Lamb of God appears to take away the world’s sin, man seeks the same covering, not to hide himself, from God, but to draw near to Him for communion; and here the same searching eye discovers him, not for rebuke, but for encouragement and blessing. Adam was ashamed and hid himself; in Nathanael there was no shame needing to be hid.

THE TWO CHARACTERISTIC MOTIVE POWERS OF THE TWO PARTS OF REVELATION, both necessary, the terror of the law, alarming and rousing the conscience, and the attraction of grace moving and melting the heart. Not a jot or a tittle passes from the law till all is fulfilled, because conscience burns in us with its perpetual fire, and in his weakness and self-love every man needs to know that “the soul that sinneth, it shall die,” yet none the less are we Christians to be mindful that we live under the new dominion of mercy, when no faintest movement of faith is forgotten, and no retiring act of holy obedience is unnoticed and unrewarded. (Homiletic Magazine.)

The fig tree

The advantages of the fig tree as a shade are shown in the following: “As we approached, one of the camel-drivers, pointing to a cluster of six large fig trees, cried out, ‘Tacht etteen,’--under the fig tree? And soon we felt the pleasantness of this shade; for there is something peculiarly delightful in the shade of the fig tree. It is far superior to the shade of a tent, and perhaps even to the shadow of a rock, since not only does the mass of heavy foliage completely exclude the rays of the sun, but the traveller finds under it a peculiar coolness arising from the air gently creeping through the branches. Hence the force of the Scripture expression, ‘When thou wast under the fig tree.’“ (Mission to the Jews from Scotland.)

Verse 49

John 1:49

Rabbi, Thou art the Son of God; Thou art the King of Israel

The earliest creed

Remarkable as not being formulated by an ecumenical council, a ]earned rabbi, a matured and educated Christian, but by a simple guileless Jew who had only his Old Testament to learn from, and at his first interview with Christ.

Acquaintance with the Bible and communion with Christ the best qualifications for a creed maker. Would that all had learned this--would that all would learn it. Concerning this creed, notice

Its BREVITY. Compare it with its successors: the Apostles, the Nicene, the Athanasian, and the more modern Confessions of particular Churches: each adding something to its predecessor, until the mind is burdened and confused by the multiplicity of propositions.

1. This growth is accounted for by the rise of successive heresies against whose denials or affirmations the Church has protected itself by successive negative or positive articles.

2. This growth is only an expansion of and deduction from the primitive statement: an evolution of what has been involved in germ.

3. This growth has not always been a safeguard against the errors condemned. Churches with the most elaborate creeds have widely departed from the truth.

4. This growth adds nothing to the saving power of the simple confession of the text. All who with guileless heart profess Christ in the words of Nathanael will without doubt be saved everlastingly.


1. Rabbi. Christ is the Supreme Teacher.

(1) Inspiring prophets and apostles.

(2) Imparting instruction personally. His teaching is simple, profound, beautiful, vivifying.

(3) Giving the Spirit of Truth to guide into all truth.

2. Son of God who became the Son of man to redeem.

(1) His Divinity.

(2) His Atonement.

(3) His brotherly sympathy.

3. King of Israel.

(1) To reign.

(2) To rule.

(3) To conquer.

(4) To reward His servants and punish His enemies.


1. Most creeds are made up of a number of abstract propositions, and are a general testimony of the confessor’s theological soundness to the world. Hence their feeble moral effect on the confessor. His mind may be sound, but his heart maybe heretical.

2. This creed was a brief statement of faith in Christ made to Christ Himself. The Te Deum is a better confession than the Athanasian or Nicene symbols. It touches and inspires while it gives expression to the feelings of the heart.


1. Prompt, without study or reluctance.

2. Positive, without misgiving about it or speculation beyond it.

3. Final; Nathanael never outgrew it, although he doubtless filled up the outline.


1. Discipleship:

(1) Docility.

(2) Study.

(3) Continuous proficiency.

2. Saintship:

(1) Trust.

(2) Affection.

(3) Reverence.

(4) Holiness.

3. Loyalty:

(1) Obedience.

(2) Active service.

(3) Fidelity unto death.


1. Instruction from the Rabbi.

2. Salvation from the Son of God.

3. Everlasting blessedness from the King of Israel. (J. W. Burn.)

Verses 50-51

John 1:50-51

Greater things than these



1. He was a man who honestly made inquiries which fairly suggested themselves. He did not invent doubts and raise questions. When Philip said Nazareth his mind went to the prophecy about Bethlehem; hence his question. When Christ read him he naturally asked for the sources of Christ’s knowledge.

2. A man who honestly yielded to the force of truth. Christ’s omniscient knowledge he felt to be an irresistible proof of His Messiahship.

3. A man who in simple honesty believes much upon the evidence of one assured fact. Prom Christ’s knowledge he infers His teachership; His Divine Sonship; His sovereignty. Such is the man who obtains the blessing of the text.

THE GRACIOUS REWARD. The words imply

1. That his perceptions would be more vivid. “Believest thou” “thou shalt see.” Faith develops into experience, experience into actual vision.

2. That other truths should be discovered.

(1) More of Christ’s Godhead. From omniscience to omnipotence; from knowledge of the heart to power to change the heart.

(2) Christ’s human sonship. Godhead not half so wonderful as when it comes to be united to humanity.

(3) An opened heaven. He who knew the secrets of his heart would establish relations between his heart and heaven. These blessings are for guileless believers only. Christ cannot do mighty works because of unbelief.

THE SPECIAL SIGHT. Intercourse between earth and heaven by way of the Mediator.

1. The angels ascend first to carry Christ’s upward messages and our prayers and praises.

2. Angels descend with blessings to man through Christ. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The first promise

Notice this incident


1. The Lord who receives His disciples. He first appears as “walking alone,” waiting for the Father’s first gift. The preparations for the kingdom are complete, but as yet He is without an avowed disciple. How will He win them?

(1) The first announcement which sent men to Christ was “Behold the Lamb of God.” This is the sovereign secret of our Lord’s attraction all through time.

(2) But He who takes away our sins also seeks. Two disciples follow Him, but find Him not till He turns with the searching question: then He finds Philip.

2. Those who come to Him.

(1) They are representatives of the devout in Israel waiting for His coming.

(2) They represent those who are prepared by repentance and faith.

(3) They illustrate the manner in which His disciples come to Him. Two by the preaching of another. Two seek their fellows and communicate the glad tidings. One is directly sought by Himself.

3. The communion between Christ and His disciples that day begun. It was reserved for the last to declare on behalf of all what Jesus was to their devotion: Divine Son, Supreme Lord. This, however, to them was but the beginning of joys, and the Redeemer promises greater things.

THIS FIRST PROMISE is an encouragement to the faith of these humble disciples, and a prologue to all the wonders of redemption.

1. Our Lord here utters in figurative language the mystery of His mediation between heaven and earth. Christ here gives us in His first exposition of those Scriptures which testify of Him the meaning of Jacob’s vision. The disciples were to see the Son of Man opening heaven and earth.

2. But though the Son of Man is the great word here, the angels have their specific meaning, viz., that heaven is always open to earth, that abundant blessing answers to abundant prayer, and that Christ’s servants have all heaven ministering to their good. Both worlds are thus made one, and earth to us, as to Jacob, becomes the gate of heaven. What an encouragement to expect larger communications! We need not make the angels the bearers of our prayer: that office Christ appropriates We need not make them bearers of the Divine response that office the Holy Spirit appropriates. They are nevertheless the symbols and instruments of the providence of God. Their ministry to Christ he has transferred to us.

3. This glorious introductory saying which passed from prophecy to promise now returns to pure prophecy again, and our Lord fore-announces the day when heaven and earth shall in the fullest sense be made one. (W. B. Pope, D. D.)

Believing and seeing

OUR LORD’S PROMISE TO HIS NEW DISCIPLES. The words may be translated either as a question or an affirmation. In either case they are a solemn and glad recognition of Nathanael’s belief. Here is the first time that Christ uses the word. It was the epoch in history when Christ first claimed and then accepted a man’s faith. The “greater things” have a proper fuifilment in the gradual manifestation of Christ’s person and character which lay all unrevealed yet. “If you continue to trust in Me,” you shall see unrolled before your eyes the great facts which will make the manifestation of God to the world. Light is here thrown upon

1. The relation between faith and discipleship.

(1) The two terms are synonymous.

(2) Our Lord uses the word without any definition of what they were to believe: He Himself, and not thoughts about Him, is the true object of faith.

(3) Nathanael’s creed was widely different from ours, and yet his faith and ours are identical.

2. The connection between faith and sight. There is a great deal about seeing in the context. A double antithesis:

(1) “I saw thee”--“thou shalt see Me.”

(2) “Thou believest”--“thou shalt see;” i.e, in the loftiest region of spiritual experience you must believe first in order that you may see.

(a) Unless we trust Christ and take our illumination from Him, we shall never behold a whole set of truths which when once we trust Him are all plain to us: God, man, yourselves, duty, destiny.

(b) If we trust Him we get light on things which are mist and darkness except to faith. The world says,”Seeing is believing,”--which is true in regard to outward things. Believing is seeing in regard to God and spiritual truth.

3. The connection between faith and progress. Christ like a wise Teacher stimulates His disciples with the promise of “greater things.” Here is something which will give you ever new powers and acquirements, and ensure you against stagnation. Everything else gets worn out sooner or later.

OUR LORD’S WITNESS TO HIMSELF. Mark how with superbly autocratic lips He bases this great utterance upon nothing else but His own word. “From henceforth,” i.e, from the first hour of His official work. The promise is that in no vision of the night like Jacob, hut in practical, working reality ye shall see that ladder again, and the angels moving upon it in their errands of mercy. The ladder is Christ; He is the sole medium of communication between earth and heaven, the ladder with its foot on the earth, in His humanity, and its top in the heavens.

(1) Christ is the medium of all revelation. (.2) In Him the sense and reality of separation between heaven and earth through sin are swept away.

(3) By Him all Divine blessings angel-like descend.

(4) By Him prayers and desires rise to God.

(5) If we ever enter heaven at all we shall enter it through Him alone. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

The glory of the Mediator



1. The heavenly world.

2. This world in connection with angelic agency.

3. This angelic agency is rendered through His mediation.


1. Time develops prophetic truth concerning Him.

2. Time affords opportunity to execute the mighty plan on which every victory is sketched.

3. It is future time that must and will unfold the results of His great undertaking. (J. H. Hill.)

The dawn of faith and its consummation

Christianity is not a mere set of doctrines, but a life of faith in and through Christ. This is well illustrated in this chapter. These early disciples differed in temperament and in their methods of reaching Christ, but they had one faith in common. Men have been ever asking, How does this faith begin? To what does it lead? These questions are answered here.

THE DAWN OF FAITH. Christ’s words imply the great fact of experience from which faith rises.

1. What was that fact?

(1) Not the proof of Christ’s miraculous power contained in the fact that Christ saw him although unseen. This might prove Christ to be a teacher sent from God, but no such miracle could prove Him to be the Redeemer and object of saving trust. Christ rejected belief founded exclusively on miracles. Miracles were imperative in the case of the Jews.

(2) But the fact that Christ saw into him and penetrated the deep necessities of his heart. Nathanael had probably been praying under the fig-tree. Prayer unveiling the soul before the heartsearching glance of God reveals the real man. Nathanael knew therefore at once that Christ was acquainted with his doubts, sorrows, aspirations. He therefore who thus knew him could deliver him. The same heart-searching glance rests upon us. Here, then, faith begins. “Lord, Thou knowest all things,” “Thou art the Son of God.”

2. That fact is the dawning of a faith that must continually grow. Two things necessary to the strengthening of belief.

(1) Its evidence must be certain. Faith in Christ rests upon the deepest of all kinds of certainty--experimental evidence. The evidence of testimony may fail, the certainty of reasoning may be destroyed. But when we know whom we have believed nothing can overturn our conviction. Here is the only cure for doubt.

(2) Its power must advance with advancing life. When faith in Christ as the only satisfier of the soul’s need is reached, every new experience in life brings new proofs of its power.

THE CONSUMMATION OF FAITH. Christ declares Jacob’s dream to be fulfilled in Him. The greater things are those which Jacob dimly realized.

1. The felt presence of God.

2. The sacredness of life. “How dreadful is this place!” etc.

3. Union with the angelic world. (E. L. Hull, B. A.)

Israel and the Israelite


1. We may learn how hard it is for a life to get rid of moral stain. Jacob’s life was purified by hard afflictions ere it was changed to Israel, the prince that prevailed with God.

2. A character may be so cleansed from moral stain that opposite virtues may be associated with the life. Jacob the supplanter was recovered from his guile.

3. The reflection cast upon the old patriarchal life is full of grace when one is welcomed to the love of Christ by the words, “Behold an Israelite indeed.”


1. His requirements. We are apt to have no great thoughts of a simple guileless life. We associate it with a kind of weakness, and think of it as likely to be imposed upon and led astray. No doubt there is danger. This, like every other grace, wants cultivating; pruning as well as developing. And Christ expects cultivating in this disciple just as in the zealous Peter, the ambitious James, the thoughtful Andrew and Philip.

2. The promise that met that requirement. How helpful the vision was to Jacob! The reality was still more helpful to Nathanael.

(1) Literally it was fulfilled at the baptism, after the temptation, in the agony, and at the resurrection and ascension.

(2) Morally it was fulfilled in the establishment of relations with heaven through the Lamb of God.

3. Circumstantially it was fulfilled in the fruits of Nathanael’s missionary life. (T. Gasquoine, B. A.)

Verse 51

John 1:51

Hereafter ye shall see the heaven open

The verilies of Christ


Nothing is more characteristic of our age than its questioning and doubt.

(1) Science has opened many fields in all of which much is yet unsolved.

(2) Philosophy has unsettled much that was once believed.

(3) The growing complications of society force upon us questions to every one of which jarring answers are returned.

(4) The Church is so divided that she is unable to guide herself, much less the world. Hence thousands are asking whether there can be any certainty for man.

2. There was another age which resembled ours--the age when the old-world civilizations broke up: when Greece and Rome were bankrupt, and when Israel’s sun turned into darkness. In that dark age He came who could meet doubt with certain truth.

3. The Truth still lives who had and still has a message for a doubting age, and for those who received Him there was and is now certainty and rest.

4. This amen has altered some memorable amens--amens which He has marked with reiterated affirmations; the unusual form showing us

(1) That we need light; and

(2) That He will not withhold the light we need.

5. The “Verily, verily” is only employed by John because he sets forth Christ in His higher relations, and therefore conveys transcendent truth that requires emphasis.

6. Not one of the verilies refers to the Church, but all refer to the peculiar forms of eternal life which are only outwardly manifested in the Church; and will survive its failure.

7. This revelation of eternal life is distinctive of St. John. The other apostles have each their special truth suited to some stage of the Church and individual.

(1) Paul’s comes first, meeting us with words relative to our ruin and the righteousness which is by faith.

(2) James meets our advancing needs touching the moralities which belong to Christian doctrine.

(3) Peter comes next with words of our present suffering and future glory.

(4) Once mere we advance and come to John’s witness to the new life which the sons of God are called to manifest.

8. It is this teaching of John’s which the reiterated amens sum up, showing us the course and stages of eternal life in Christ. Twelve of these are distinguished.

(1) The home of the new man: heaven, long shut, is reopened (John 1:51).

(2) We enter this home by a new birth (John 3:3; John 3:5).

(3) The law of the life of the new man (John 5:19-22).

(4) His meat (John 6:26-58).

(5) His liberty (John 8:31-35).

(6) His divinity (John 8:48-58).

(7) His service (John 10:1-18).

(8) His sacrifice and its results (John 12:24-26).

(9) His lowliness (13:1-32).

(10) His glory (John 14:8-31.

(11) His sorrow and joy (John 16:16-25).

(12) His perfecting (John 21:15-23). (A. Jukes, M. A.)

The verilies of Christ teach us three lessons

AS TO THE AUTHORITY OF THE TEACHER. The Jews were astonished at His doctrine, for He taught as one having authority, and not as the scribes, “which suggests a contrast with other teachers.”

1. Put side by side with the autocratic ring of this “Verily, verily I say unto you,” the formula of the prophets--“Thus saith the Lord.”

2. Contrast again the bare utterance of His own word as a reason for our acceptance of His sayings with the teaching that was busy around Him. One rabbi says this and another that, and so on through all the wearisome Talmud. They drew their authority from their faithfulness to tradition. Christ steps forward as a fresh fountain of certitude.

3. Contrast His teaching with the tone of modesty suitable to mere thinkers who have learned their truths. The philosopher may argue, Christ asserts. Now, what business has Christ to talk in this fashion and demand that I should take from His lips anything He chooses to say? The only answer is, that He is the Word, the Truth of God.

AS TO THE CERTITUDE AND IMPORTANCE OF THE LESSON. Other teachers have to say, “Peradventure,” “This I deem to be true.” Jesus says, “Most assuredly.”

1. In our day of uncertainties and unsolved problems the world wants more than ever to listen to that voice. Much is dark and doubtful, but here at least is a central core of hard rock that no pressure can grind nor any force shift.

2. Think of the difference between the freshness and adaptation of Christ’s words and the film of old-fashioned untimeliness which has crept over all other ancient utterances, and say what is the secret of this immortal youth. It is because they are free from all admixture of human limitation and transitoriness, and so fit every generation, and are to every generation the source of certitude.

3. Classify the utterances to which this formula is attached, First, those which refer to Himself. He asserts

(1) His Divine nature (John 8:58).

(2) His absolute unity of being and identity of action with the

Father (John 5:19).

(3) His place as the medium of all communication between earth and heaven (John 1:51).

(4) That He is the way by which all men enter the fold of God John 10:7).

(5) That He is the infallible Teacher (John 3:11).

(6) That He is the God-given source of life (John 6:32).

(7) The certain granting of all prayers offered in His name (John 16:23).

(8) The necessity for His death, that His mission may be accomplished (John 12:24).

Secondly, those which refer to us,

(1) Union by faith with Him is the condition of our life (John 6:58; John 8:51; John 5:24).

(2) The necessity of a new nature ere we can see or enter the kingdom (John 3:3; John 3:6).

(3) The promise of our complete assimilation and conformity with Him on condition of our faith (John 13:16; John 13:20; John 14:12).

Thirdly, those which contain predictions of a near or remote future which could only be made from supernatural knowledge (John 13:21; John 16:20; John 13:38; John 21:18).

Fourthly, those which lay bare to men the hidden foulness of their nature John 6:26; John 8:34).


1. Verily implies that they to whom it was addressed had dull ears, whose languid attention needed to be stimulated, or that the words which He was going to utter were too great to be easily believed, or too unwelcome to be swiftly accepted.

2. It is a warning against prejudice and sluggish apathy.

3. It is a solemn appeal to us to permit no indifference to come between us and His Word. Two things are required of us as His scholars.

1. That which it is degradation to give to man, but which is blasphemy to withhold from Christ. “Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth.”

2. The absolute certitude of His messsge has for its correlative our unwavering steadfastness. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

The first “Verily, verily,”--the home of the new man

1. The first question of the Old Testament is, “Where art thou?”--God’s question to fallen man. The first of the New is, “Where is He?”--asked by men who have just been awakened to feel their need of a Saviour. God’s question reveals man’s state that he is not where God placed him; man’s question draws forth the purpose of God’s heart, that, fallen as we are, He is with us, our Tabernacle.

2. This first verily teaches both these truths. Heaven, man’s proper home, long shut, is now opened, and that all man has lost shall be restored through the Heir, “the Son of man.” The old man by disobedience lost his home; the New Man comes back again to the opened heavens as His dwelling-place.

3. These words were spoken by one who had just had heaven open to Him, and He comes forth to tell men how they are to enter.

4. Heaven is not far off; it is the spirit-world which is lost or shut only to the natural man. What will be manifested at death may be anticipated here.

5. Take some examples of this “opened heaven.”

(1) That which took place at Christ’s baptism. This is fulfilled to Christ’s members. The Spirit like a dove abides on them; for the mark of the beast is gone, and the voice from heaven proclaims their sonship.

(2) Christ’s transfiguration is recorded to teach a communion with saints who are not far from us. But this blessing is not without its peril, inasmuch as it awakens in imperfect disciples thoughts which if followed out would give to creatures a place and honour which belongs to God alone. Hence Peter wanted three tabernacles; but is called back to “Jesus only” by the voice, “This is My beloved Son,” etc.

(3) Peter’s vision (Acts 10:9-16), which taught him that we should call no man common or unclean.

(4) John’s visions in the Apocalypse, revealing the glory of the Son of man and the endless bliss of His brethren.

6. Whenever man’s true home is opened the servants (angels) also are seen, ever near.

(1).Ministering to man’s wants (1 Kings 19:5-6).

(2) Directing his steps (Genesis 16:9).

(3) Barring his way if he turns aside from God (Numbers 22:24-26).

(4) Present in the assemblies of believers (1 Corinthians 11:10).

(5) Specially related to little children (Matthew 18:10).

(6) Rejoicing over repenting sinners (Luke 15:10).

(7) Ministering: to the heirs of salvation (Hebrews 1:14). (A. Jukes, M. A.)

The positiveness of Jesus

This expression is one of the signs and evidences of the originality of Jesus Christ. It occurs more than seventy times, and was a characteristic which separated His conversation from that of other men. There were and are examples enough of mere dogmatism.

1. The scribes, whether of theology or science, will open their books and say, “It is written,” and that is the end of all controversy.

2. The bigot will hold fast to the letter of his creed and anathematize all who do not hold it.

3. Ignorance will stand firm upon tradition and swear to all passers by, “I know.” Everywhere there has lived the man who could not be mistaken.

But the assurance of Jesus Christ was wholly different.

1. Nor was it like the positiveness of the prophets of old who proclaimed, “Thus saith the Lord.”

2. Nor like the confidence of the philosopher in his reasonings, the naturalist in his verifications. Christ’s verilies precede rather than conclude His teachings. He gave no demonstrations.

3. Nor with the religious faiths of His disciples. Faith is for us an achievement, and after the struggle Jesus comes and says”believe.” But no Christ came to Jesus, nor is there in His positiveness any trace of conflict. He believed spontaneously and directly out of His own consciousness of God. This positiveness marked Christ’s teaching from the beginning when He spoke to His mother in the Temple; and never afterwards was there a hesitating note. This peculiar quality appears when we reflect on the subjects on which He was absolutely sure. They are those on which other men are not sure.

(1) His verilies have nothing to do with natural truths which we can discover or demonstrate.

(2) Nor with matters of history which scholars may search out.

(3) Nor with such things as Sanhedrims wrangle over.

(4) But with vital, spiritual, eternal truths not otherwise discoverable by man.

Learn, then:

1. That over against all our human ignorance, sinfulness, and need, the gospel is one grand affirmation of God; an assertion of those things of which we most need to be made sure.

2. If we want true hearts and strength to do and dare; if we would learn the secret of cheerful, patient lives; if we wish to live with all our souls for noble purpose, and with great faiths and immortal hope, there is a verily waiting to impart to us its power and its peace.

3. Christian unity is only to be realized upon the high plane of this positiveness, and along the lines of those great spiritual affirmations.

4. There is some verily speaking to each at all times and everywhere. (Newman Smyth, D. D.)

Heaven opened

A CERTAIN FACT: Christ has come forth.

A BLESSED GOSPEL: Christ’s appearing a manifestation of Divine grace.

A JOYOUS HOPE: Christ’s coming forth suggests the possibility of man’s going in.

A GLORIOUS PREDICTION: the reinstitution of fellowship between earth and heaven predicts the assimilation of the former to the latter. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)


is simply the familiar “amen!” which properly is an adjective meaning firm or steadfast, and is used in two connections. Sometimes it precedes an assertion which it confirms, in which case it may be paraphrased by “Thus it certainly is.” Sometimes it follows a prayer which it sums up and reiterates, and in that case it may be paraphrased by “So may it be.” Doubled it has the force of a superlative, “Most assuredly.” It is heard only from the lips of Christ. It becomes no other lips. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Angels ascending and descending

Some of these angelic appearances had already taken place. An angel announced the conception of Christ to His mother. An angel, accompanied by a multitude of the heavenly host, proclaimed His birth to the shepherds, and after His temptation angels came and ministered to Him. These instances of angels descending on the Son of man had taken place before this period, and Nathanael knew them not; but there remained other manifestations of the same kind, which were yet to be afforded. An angel appeared to Him, and strengthened Him in His agony. At His resurrection an angel rolled away the stone from His sepulchre, and two angels sat, the one at the head, the other at the feet where the Lord had lain. And, lastly, angels attended His ascension, and as an angel had announced His first coming, so angels foretold to the witnesses of this great event that the same Jesus who had been parted from them should come again in like manner as they had seen Him go up into heaven. (J. Fawcett, M. A.)

Jesus a ladder to heaven

To the north of Scotland lies an island called Bressay. It is one of the Shetland Islands, and its shores are very rocky. On the south coast of Bressay is a slate-quarry. The workmen had to descend the cliff to it by means of a ladder. One evening, a violent and sudden storm drove the quarrymen from their work. The ladder was left fastened to the cliff. The night was very dark and stormy. A ship which was struggling with the waves was driven close to the island. Her crew beheld with terror the white foam of the breakers as they dashed against the rocks. They knew that, if their ship were stranded, they must be wrecked. Still the howling winds drove her forward. The waves dashed over her, filled the cabin with water, and drowned the wife of the captain. The sailors now climbed into the rigging. They were at the mercy of the furious wind and of the raging sea. They gave themselves up for lost. Many prayers and cries for deliverance were uttered. On came the ship, and struck against the shore. The poor seamen felt that death was almost certain. On the summit of the cliff was safety; but how could they reach it, who were helplessly dashed at its foot? But just as the ship struck near the rock, their terror was changed to joy. Close beside them, on the steep face of the cliff, was a ladder. It seemed as if placed there on purpose for them. In haste they sprang from the rigging, mounted the ladder, and reached the top of the cliff in safety. The vessel went to pieces so quickly that, by the next morning, hardly a trace of her was left.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "John 1". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tbi/john-1.html. 1905-1909. New York.
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