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Bible Commentaries

William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament
John 3

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-21

CHAPTER 8

REGENERATION THE GREAT SINE QUA NON

John 3:1-21. “There was a man of the Pharisees, whose name was Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; the same came to Him by night, and said, Master, we know that Thou hast come a Teacher from God; for no one is able to do these miracles, which Thou art doing, unless God may be with him.” On the road from Jerusalem to Joppa, I passed through the city of Ramlah, now quite prosperous, with a population of eleven thousand, and a large element of Jews and Christians. It is on the Mediterranean plain, about fifteen miles from the coast. My dragoman told me that the current tradition points out that city as the home of Nicodemus. He was not only a learned Jewish rabbi, but, as we see here, he was a ruler — i.e., a member of the Sanhedrin. Now that Jesus has properly entered upon His official Messiahship, the purification of the temple being His initiatory administration, He is preaching incessantly, and doing many mighty works, of which only a small proportion have been put on record by the four inspired penmen. It has been the privilege of Nicodemus, at this early period of His ministry, to hear Him preach and witness His mighty works. That he is already under a powerful conviction is very clear from his admissions, and I have no doubt but he is this day a member of the blood- washed throng, though we have no direct record of his conversion. Learning, wealth, office, social position, ecclesiastical emolument, all conspired against him. However, when our Savior is on trial he ventures to speak in His vindication. Finally when He was cruelly murdered, Nicodemus gets bold, comes to the front, side by side with his rabbinical comrade, Joseph of Arimathea, and takes a most active part in the interment, furnishing a hundred pounds of valuable Oriental aromatics for the embalmment of the mutilated body of Jesus, thus boldly confessing Him in His death.

“Jesus responded and said to him, Truly, truly, I say unto thee, Unless any one may be born from above, he is not able to see the kingdom of God.” “Man” in E.V. is not a correct translation of the indefinite pronoun tis which means every human being that ever has had an existence or ever will. Thus it is a sweeping and unequivocal abnegation of every human soul from the kingdom of God without this new birth from heaven. The statement of our Savior is absolute and unexceptional. “Again” is not a good translation of another, which simply means from above, affirming the absolute necessity of receiving Divine life from God out of heaven, administered by the Holy Spirit. Without this great intervention of the Almighty, heavenly hope is but the ignis fatuus,

“Whose delusive ray Lights up unreal worlds, And glows but to betray.”

It is only this heavenly nature that can even discern the kingdom of God. Hence, unregenerate people are utterly ignorant of God’s kingdom, having all sorts of fantastical ideas about it, thinking it is the visible Church, or ecclesiastical rites and ceremonies, or something else, manipulated by Satan to augment the delusion and certify the damnation. “Again” in E.V. has led to the conclusion that the spiritual birth must always follow the natural, which is incorrect, and in that case would consign to perdition infants dying unborn; whereas the true reading, “from above,” is as clear in case of prenatal regeneration as the postnatal.

“In Adam all die, but in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22),

involves the conclusion that every human being died in Adam, and shall be made alive in Christ. When God created Adam, He created the whole human race, as there never was but one creation, Eve being no exception to the rule, but a transformation from Adam’s rib. The theology frequently preached from popular pulpits, that infants do not need regeneration, and may be so brought up that they will go to heaven without it, is not only flatly contradictory of the Savior, but it throws wide open the Church door, and invites the devil to come in and run it. All human generation is in Adam the First, and consequently locked fast in spiritual death. “Christ tasted death for every one.” (Hebrews 2:9.) The original, pantos, means every human being that ever has existed or ever will. You see in the Gospels of our Savior how He not only recognizes unsinning infants as members of His kingdom, but even holds them up for model members.

How is this? Whereas the whole human race fell in Adam, the propagation of the species on earth has always been in Adam the First. Adam the Second is the antithesis of Adam the First, the two running as parallel lines throughout the Bible, both representing the whole human race — the latter in grace, and the former in sin. Now, remember this grace is Omnipotent, always taking effect when not resisted by human agency. Before the age of accountability, the will has no power to resist the saving grace of God. As this grace is for “every one,” so soon as soul and body united constitute personality, this redeeming grace normally prevails, administering life to the dead soul. Of course, this is prenatal. Consequently, by the grace of God in Christ, and not by original purity, every human being is born in the kingdom of God, and only gets out by sinning out, as we see in the case of the prodigal son; both being born in the Father’s house — i.e., the kingdom of God — the younger sinning out, and the elder staying in. This explains our Savior’s treatment of infants as model members of His kingdom. God’s time for people to be converted is before they are old enough to commit sin, as He has certainly made no provision for sin; and in that case, infantile justification would never be forfeited. Then in what would the conversion consist? Of just what it means — i.e., a turning — as regeneration does not take away depravity, that being the prerogative of sanctification. Consequently all infants are born with depravity in their hearts, which does not condemn them, as it was transmitted to them without their volition; but it turns their faces away from God and predisposes them to go into sin. So here is the infant, born in the kingdom, with his face away from God. If let alone, when it reaches responsibility and starts off in its own way, it will go directly off, out of the kingdom, like the prodigal son. We should tell it about God, and its need of a Savior, and preach Jesus to it; get it convicted and genuinely converted — i.e., get it turned round and introduced to the Savior, that it may get acquainted with Him, receive the brightness of His countenance and the redeeming benedictions of His grace, and showers of blessing falling upon its infantile heart, rivers of love springing up; it will then spontaneously start Out in the track of Jesus, heaven-born, and heaven-bound. Every adult sinner is a backslider, like the prodigal son at the hog-pen, and the thing for him to do is to come back to his Father’s house, where he was born.

“Nicodemus says to Him, How is a man able to be born when he is old? Is he able to enter the second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” While Nicodemus was a great, learned, and influential preacher in the true Church of God, he was utterly ignorant of first principles; not only unsanctified, but unconverted. Doubtless his succession in the present age ought to be named “Legion.” The great trouble with Nicodemus was his materialistic doctrine, thinking that the new birth had something to do with his body. His successors this day identify water baptism with the new birth, thus making it a physical rather than a spiritual transaction. They certainly ought to profit by the mistake of Nicodemus, which our Savior so faithfully and decisively corrected. “And Jesus responded, Truly, truly, I say unto you, Unless any one is born of water and the Spirit, he is not able to enter into the kingdom of God.” The Holy Spirit is emblematized frequently in the Bible by water, wind, fire, and oil. That water in this passage symbolizes the Spirit, and typically includes water baptism, we do not call in question; but exhort all of our readers to fully satisfy their conscience on that subject. (1 Peter 3:21.) But that our Savior here means literal water, unless it be in this mere symbolic sense, just read on into the next chapter, where there is so much more said about water; the woman at Jacob’s Well thinking He meant the water in the well, but Jesus Himself correcting her misapprehension by stating that it is the water of life about which He is speaking, — and you have the problem solved. Every one must be born of this living water and the Holy Spirit.

“That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” The word here translated flesh, in E.V., is sarx, which is antithetical, not to the human spirit, but to the Holy Spirit, soma being antithetical to the human spirit. Hence sarx in this verse is a spirituality homogeneous to Satan, and dominating the body of fallen humanity. Perhaps this verse would be better understood if it should read:

“That which is born of depravity is depravity, and that which is born of the flesh is flesh.” “To be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is not subject to the law of God: for it is not able to be. Those who are in the flesh are not able to please God.” (Romans 8:6-8)

In these forcible Pauline Scriptures, the word in each verse translated “carnally,” “carnal,” and “flesh,” is this word sarx in the text. Hence, you see it means carnality, the carnal mind, depravity, original sin. In the fall, the Holy Spirit evacuated the human spirit, Satan succeeding Him by his own nature — i.e., depravity. Hence the virus of the original sin is transmitted in all human generation, just like the poison of the rattlesnake; pursuant to which recognized fact, John the Baptist and Jesus call unregenerate humanity, “Generations of vipers.” It is impossible for the stream to rise above the fountain; therefore fallen humanity can never regain an inch of lost ground without a merciful Divine intervention.

“Marvel not that I said unto thee, It behooveth you to be born from above.” This sentence follows a logical sequence from the preceding. All the culture of the universities, all the genius of the ages, and the royal blood of a thousand dynasties, can never add an iota of spiritual amelioration to fallen humanity. You dress up the gorilla like a king, and still he is a groveling animal. The Divine nature must come down from heaven, by the intervention of the Holy Spirit, and enter the fallen human spirit, in order to elevation a solitary iota. “You must be born from above” carries with it an emphasis, veracity, and force which earth and hell combined can never gainsay. Theologians may dodge it, ignore it, and explain it away; but still it stands, like a Popocatepeti, between every soul and heaven.

“The Spirit breathes wheresoever He willeth; and you hear His voice, but you do not know whence He cometh, and whither He goeth; so is every one who has been born of the Spirit.” It is really astounding that the E.V. has “wind” in this passage. It is really inconsistent with itself, translating pneuma “wind” at the beginning of the verse, and “Spirit” at the conclusion. The English reader is doubtless surprised to learn that the very same word, pneuma, at the beginning of this verse, translated “wind,” also occurs at the end, where it is translated “Spirit.” Now, bear in mind that pneuma is the word constantly occurring for the Holy Spirit, and so translated; while anemos is the word for wind, but does not here occur. It is a significant fact that, while pneuma occurs so very frequently in the New Testament, being the word constantly used to reveal the Holy Spirit, this is the only passage in which the E.V. translates it “wind.” In connection with this exalted theme, so astounding and paradoxical to Nicodemus, with all his learning, our Savior in this verse beautifully alludes to the Divine sovereignty: The Spirit breathes where He willeth; i.e., this heavenly birth, which is indispensable to salvation, is wrought by the Holy Spirit in the human spirit pursuant to His own sovereign will, of course responsive to the human conditions of repentance and faith in case of adults, but indiscriminately to all human spirits the moment personality obtains, responsive to the universal redemption of Christ. The reason why the world goes headlong to hell, is because they do not hear the voice of God, whose solution is the fact that dead men do not hear anything, and all are spiritually dead till quickened into life by the breath of the Almighty, when the Holy Spirit breathes into the human spirit the Divine life. “And thou hearest His voice.” The moment the Divine life enters the human spirit, the senses of the soul — i.e., sight, hearing, smelling, taste, and feeling — spring into life, so that you actually hear the voice of God. “But thou dost not know whence He cometh nor whither He goeth;” i.e., no one can possibly know the mysterious movings of the Holy Spirit. Frequently we see many at an altar, seeking: here one uses, with shining face, and testifies to the life that comes down from God out of heaven; while others, here and there, remain dumb.

“Nicodemus answered and said to Him, How are these things able to be? Jesus responded and said to him, Art thou a teacher of Israel, and knowest not these things? Truly, truly, 1 say unto thee, We speak what we know, and testify what we have seen, and you receive not our witness.” Jesus here severely, though lovingly, reprimands Nicodemus for his gross ignorance of the most prominent truth in the Bible, especially considering the fact that he was a teacher in Israel. When I crossed the Atlantic Ocean the second time, I became well acquainted with a very learned, highly cultured, genteel Roman Catholic priest, who, having been liberally educated in America, had spent four years in the Vatican College at Rome, and much reminded me of Nicodemus, as we conversed freely on Scripture, religion, and Christian experience, and he expressed inutterable astonishment when I told him that there was something in regeneration besides water baptism. Doubtless Nicodemus has multitudes of gospel sons, in the ministry of the present day, as ignorant of regeneration as he was — to their shame and confusion, because they are teachers in Israel, standing in the pulpits to teach the people what they themselves know not.

“If I told you things upon the earth, and you believed not, how will you believe if I tell you things in heaven?” Regeneration for sinners and sanctification for Christians are mighty and mysterious works of the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, but to be received in this life; i.e., they are performed, not in heaven, but upon the earth. This entire life — probationary is but a beginning of an immortal career, that shall sweep on, accumulating new beauty, luster, and glory through the flight of eternal ages. Now see the force of Our Savior’s castigatory response to Nicodemus, “If you, a prominent teacher in Israel, can not understand the works which the Holy Ghost performs in our hearts while in this life; if you thus stagger when I tell you the stupendous miracle of the new birth, — what would you do if I should relate to you the ineffable glories which await the saints in coming eternity?” While Nicodemus was sincere and honest, as well as learned and influential, you see plainly he was hardly an abecedarian in spiritual things. Lord, help us all to profit by his deficiencies and mistakes!

“No one hath ascended up into heaven, but He who came down from heaven, the Son of man who is in heaven.” While the humanity of Jesus was on earth and not in heaven, His Divinity was omnipresent, in heaven, on earth, and in all worlds. “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, even so does it behoove the Son of man to be lifted up, that whosoever believeth on Him may not perish, but have eternal life.” Jesus makes this allusion to the manner of His death here, in the beginning of His ministry, reiterating it ever and anon throughout. If the Jews had put Him to death, He would have been stoned, this being the penalty for blasphemy, of which they falsely accused Him, crucifixion being a Roman punishment, never used among the Jews. Here we have the illustrative portion of our Savior’s wonderful sermon to the Jewish rabbi; having first given him the truth directly and categorically, He now enforces it by a familiar item in Jewish history, utilizing it to pour on His learned auditor floods of light, of which he had never dreamed. Three things God never created — i.e., a devil, a sinner, and a snake. Originally, all created intelligences throughout the celestial universe were evidently on probation. In many of the heavenly worlds that probation has already expired, our earth rapidly hastening to the end. These angels, created in the different celestial worlds, “did not all keep their first estate” (Judges 1:6), Lucifer — i.e., lightbearer — one of the brightest and greatest of all the archangels, leading off the apostasy (Isaiah 14:12): “How thou art fallen, O Lucifer, the son of the morning” — i.e., the morning star, which is the meaning of Lucifer. John says “his tail” — i.e., his influence drew after him one-third of the heavenly host. (Revelation 12) God created man upright — i.e., perfect [Hebrew] — but unfortunately abduced by Satan, who is fallen Lucifer, he sinned, thus forfeiting his probation, and becoming a sinner. The popular idea that a big snake tempted Mother Eve is not only unscriptural, but revoltingly unreasonable. Conceive a huge old boa-constrictor climbing up one of the trees of Paradise, projecting his monstrous head down over a limb, Opening wide his horrific mouth, and entering into a social conversation with Mother Eye, pure, holy, innocent, and sinless! How many of you believe in the feasibility of such a transaction? I, for one, am satisfied she would have turned her back and run like a race-horse.

The Bible says the nahash beguiled her. Now what was this nahash? We are informed that he was the most subtle — i.e., the shrewdest, the most intelligent of all the animal creation, consequently ranking second only to man, who stood at the head of the zoological column. Many of the biped species at the present day, walking on two feet, using their hands, much resembling human beings; and even many of the quadrupeds (i.e., the horse, the dog, the elephant) exhibit a degree of intelligence decidedly superior to that of the serpent. I doubt not but the nahash which tempted humanity was a biped, and, as you see from the Bible, having the power of oral communication. Consequently it was no surprise to Mother Eve when he spoke to her. You see the result of his subordination by Satan, and utilization as his medium in the abduction and ruin of the human race, resulted in his own transformation, pursuant to the righteous anathema which God pronounced on him because of the mischief he had done:

“Because thou hast done this, on thy stomach thou shalt go, and dust shalt thou eat, all the days of thy life; and I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:14-15.)

Methinks I see the nahash, a biped, the intermediate link between man and the animal creation, standing up in the presence of Jehovah, receiving the awful, withering woe, justly following his unfortunate instrumentality in human ruin as a righteous retribution. Meanwhile his awful doom is ringing out on the balmy breezes of Eden; the transformation supervenes, his neck and head assuming a fearful elongation and a hideous deformity, his arms absorbed and disappearing, his posterior members consolidated; the long, hideous body, followed by the obnoxious, wriggling tail, tumbling prostrate on the ground, and running away amid the roses and lilies with horrific hissing and hideous coils, now and henceforth the detestable, venomous serpent, having inherited the narcotic poison from the devil, which he transmits through his cruel teeth, slaying his victims, and vividly emblematizing the awful power and effect of sin.

When Israel refused to pass into Canaan from Kadesh-barnea, the nigh way, and, following the advice of the cowardly spies, turned back into the dreary desert of Arabia, God put them under an awful discipline, sending among them destroying angels, wasting pestilences, and fiery serpents. They have pitched their tents on the desert sands. The whole earth seems to be full of snakes, which did not appear on the surface; but having their dens in the sands, and caverns, which everywhere abound, they issue from the earth, come into the tents, wound the people, and they are dying on all sides. The word “fiery” means the awful narcotic poison which these horrific reptiles imparted to their victims. The ordeal is terrible. They die too fast to bury them. The camp is heaped with mountains of the dead. Moses, who carries the millions of Israel on his breast, falling on his knees, intercedes with Jehovah in importunate pleading in behalf of the dying.

The Divine response orders him to manufacture a brazen serpent, after the most perfect similitude to these awful, poisonous reptiles; suspending it high on a pole, elevated high on the pinnacle of the tabernacle, in the center of the encampment; simultaneously sending swift couriers throughout all the tribes of Israel, with trumpet voices, calling aloud to all, to notify the wounded and the dying to behold the brazen serpent, shining in the splendid air of that cloudless, Oriental sky, where the brand new brazen serpent so radiated the splendors of an Arabian sun as to literally shine with an effulgence dazzling the eye. To the unutterable joy of the hosts, every one that looks is instantaneously healed. The result is, a wave of joyous enthusiasm rolls over the vast encampment, as a thousand people in a minute, from different directions, are gloriously healed by a look at the bright brazen serpent, suspended high in the air. These all run precipitately every way, shouting the good tidings. A few minutes have flown; ten thousand witnesses are running at race-horse speed through the encampment, shouting uproariously the glad tidings. O, what a happy exchange of the mournful wails which a few minutes ago rang in lugubrious howls throughout the vast encampment! Now they‘re exchanged for shouts of joy, everywhere roaring and reverberating in the air. O, how beautiful, how grand the similitude we here find, and how gloriously illustrating the mighty work of our Christ! You see, the brazen serpent was made in the form of the fiery serpents. Do you not know that we all became a race of snakes in the fall? Jesus and John the Baptist called us generations of vipers. You have heard the old maxim, “It takes a rogue to catch a rogue.” Our Savior took the form of us snakes, so He could run into all the snake holes and dens in all this wicked world, and save them. In order to reach us poor, lost sinners, it was necessary that He be a Man, looking like one of us, and actually mistaken by the preachers in His day and killed for a bad man.

You see in that notable wilderness transaction a wonderful exemplification of the primary truth appertaining to the plan of salvation:

(a) That brazen serpent was perfectly clean and pure.

Though having the very form and looking like the poisonous serpents which infested the camp, it had not a single atom of poison in it. Hence it follows, as a legitimate sequence, that though Jesus had the form and looked just like the people of this world, who are all full of sin — i.e., totally depraved — He had not a particle of sin nor infirmity of any kind, but was perfectly pure and sinless.

(b) As those bitten Israelites were poisoned throughout (which you know to be true, as poison is a blood trouble, and by the circulation carried into all parts of the Organism; the blood being the constituent element, every tissue of the constitution is contaminated); hence it follows that the virus of inbred sin — i.e., the poison of the serpent has reached every fiber of the spiritual organism.

See those Israelites had nothing to do but look on the brazen serpent, and they were all healed. Therefore you see that all the sinners of this world have to do is to believe on Jesus; as here you see that our Savior makes faith, on our part, synonymous with the looking in the case of those dying Hebrews.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him may not perish, but have eternal life.” You see in this beautiful passage, enunciated by our Savior, that the love of the Father is the great, fundamental fact underlying the plan of salvation. “He that believeth on Him is not condemned; but he that believeth not, has already been condemned, because he hath not believed on the name of the only begotten Son of God.” O how grandly, indubitably, and irrefutably does Jesus preach salvation through faith alone! Of course, this is the same gospel which John the Baptist preached from the standpoint of repentance, which must, in every case, precede justifying faith, as it is the only believing ground John the Baptist preached repentance, thus establishing the people on believing ground, and thus preparing them to receive the gospel of Jesus by faith. Here our Savior certifies that He did not come to condemn the world, but to save it. Where there is sin, condemnation is an inevitable concomitant. Now what is the attitude of the Churches at the present day, both Papal and Protestant? We are sad to say that, with few exceptions, they preach a sinning religion, which must keep their members under perpetual condemnation. The consequence is, they preach a Christ of condemnation, inculcating the dogma that He saves them in their sins. Do you not know that this is untrue, and that a Christ of condemnation it not the Christ of the Bible, but an idolatrous Christ?

Because the Christ of the Bible, as He here says, did not come to condemn, but to save, and actually does save, all who come unto God through Him. Hence, in order to worship the Christ of the Bible, you must receive Him in the capacity of Savior from all your sins, as any other acceptation would not apply to the true Christ of the New Testament at all, but simply implicates you in idolatry, as the worshiper of a false Christ.

19. “This is the condemnation, that light has come into the world, and men love darkness rather than light; for their deeds are evil, and every one doing evil hateth the light, and cometh not to the light, in order that his works may be convicted; he that doeth the truth cometh to the light, in order that his works may be made manifest that they have been wrought in God.” Right here, Satan so adroitly manipulates to deceive the multiplied millions of candid worshipers in all sexes and nationalities, a person has to have a deep conviction, like David, who said, “The sorrows of death encompassed me, and the pains of hell got hold of me,” before he will make up his mind to come to the light, have all his evil deeds exposed, and embark in what is to him a forlorn enterprise of getting rid of them altogether. Entire sanctification is the only religion that faces the music of heaven, and says: “Give me all the light, and reveal all of my meanness; let me see the very worst; and help me, O God, to be true to the heavenly calling unto an uttermost salvation.” It is the only religion that withholds nothing, makes no compromise under any circumstances; but walks in the clear and cloudless light of God’s Word, Spirit, and providence, realizing that “the blood cleanses from all sin.” O the millions of souls now in hell because they never did make a clean breast, and seek the clear and cloudless light! When we courageously walk in all the light which God gives us, our wrongdoing all being convicted and brought into the full blaze of heaven’s cloudless day, faithfully put under the blood, confidingly committed to the consuming fires of the Holy Ghost, doubtlessly relying upon Omnipotent Grace for their utter extermination — soon will come the happy crisis in our experience, when the Holy Spirit will witness to our spirit “that our deeds are wrought in God.”


Verses 22-26

CHAPTER 9

JESUS PREACHING IN THE COUNTRY

John 3:22-26. “After these things, Jesus and His disciples came into the Judean country, and He there tarried with them, and baptized.” Our Lord, having begun His ministry in Jerusalem in the purification of the temple, avails Himself of the vast multitudes attending the Passover to preach His glorious gospel, and corroborate it by working miracles; after the Passover, He goes out into the country, there continuing His preaching, meanwhile His disciples baptizing His converts; as it was the prerogative of Jesus to baptize with the Holy Ghost.

“And John was baptizing in Enon, near unto Salim, because there were many waters there; and they continued to come and be baptized; for John had not yet been cast into prison.” Jesus, accompanied by His disciples, went out into the country north of Jerusalem, there prosecuting His ministry, and John, having left Bethany, east of the Jordan, had come back to the west side, and is now preaching in Enon near Salim, this being a valley running down into the Jordan from the west. Enon is a Chaldaic word, in the plural number, which means “springs,” “because there were many waters there” — i.e., a land abounding in springs; to this our dragoman testified when he pointed it out to us. The multitudes attending John’s ministry needed abundant supply of water for their animals and culinary operations, while John wanted an ample quantity for his baptismal administrations. The destitution of water in so many localities in that semi-tropical country Occasions frequent allusions to it, such as we do not have in a land like ours, everywhere abounding in an ample supply of this indispensable providence.

“Then there was a dispute from the disciples of John with the Jews concerning purifying.” Here we have a clear definition of baptism, as in a number of other passages, which we will meet in the gospel of our Savior. The context here shows most unequivocally that this dispute involved the relative importance of the baptisms administered by John and the disciples of Jesus, while we see that purifying is the clear, salient, and unequivocal definition of this word baptism, in reference to which there has been much controversy. You will find the same definition in Mark 7 and Luke 11. The Old Testament economy exhibits two grand symbolic hemispheres — the bloody sacrifices typifying the work of Christ, and the watery ablutions that of the Holy Ghost. We are now in a grand transition period, and a time celebrated for purifications, the Johannic dispensation constituting the intermediate link between the law and the gospel, John being the last of the prophets, and thus preaching the valedictory of the Old Dispensation, and the honored harbinger of the New, introducing to the world the Savior, for whom they had looked four thousand years; baptizes all of his converts, thus symbolizing the purification necessary to enter his own dispensation, which is the initiatory of the kingdom. Now, our Savior, having been inaugurated into His ministry by John the Baptist, proceeds to unfurl the blood-stained banner of the kingdom which John had assured them was at hand, and have His converts baptized by His disciples, thus symbolizing a higher promotion and a deeper and richer grace than the initiatory gospel which John preached. As the ministry of John and Jesus brought to Israel the greatest revivals they had ever seen, these grand and glorious benedictions, which were falling in copious showers from God out of heaven, are abundantly and beautifully symbolized by water baptism, here (verse 25) denominated purifying. This definition was very familiar, and well understood by all the Jews, who, from the days of Moses, had been accustomed to these aquatic ablutions for the removal of ceremonial defilement, which they were liable to contract in many ways; e.g., coming in contact with Gentiles, dead bodies, lepers, and unclean animals. Hence, to the Jewish mind, there was a deep and obvious significance in these baptisms with water.


Verses 22-36

TESTIMONY OF JOHN THE BAPTIST

John 3:22-36. “And they came to John, and said to him, Master, He who is with thee beyond Jordan, and to whom thou hast borne witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all are coming unto Him.” For more than six months, John had been, not only the sensation of Israel, but of the world. But a few days ago, Jesus, having been baptized by John, has begun to preach. Whereas John wrought no miracles, Jesus, from the beginning electrified the people with his stupendous miracles. Now they are so close together that intercommunication is going on between their disciples. Some of these honest, well-disposed disciples of John wait on him, with the news that the multitudes are all pouring now to Jesus, who is preaching and baptizing (through his disciples) as well as John.

“John responded and said, A man is not able to receive anything unless it may be given unto him from heaven. You testify to me that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before Him.” Here John corrects the idea of his informants that Jesus was a rival of his, and about to supersede him in his office and ministry. “The one having the bride is the Bridegroom, but the friend of the Bridegroom, standing and hearing Him, rejoiceth with joy on account of the voice of the Bridegroom; therefore this my joy is complete.” John being an Old Testament prophet, classifies himself with the saints of the former dispensation, here, as you see, abnegating their identity with the bridehood of Christ, and only claiming to be the friends of the Bridegroom. O, how fortunate we are to live in the gospel dispensation, having access to the richest blessing this side of heaven — i.e., the bridehood of Christ — as here you see that Christ wooes, wins, and weds His loving bride after His incarnation, the Old Testament saints, even including John the Baptist, being friends of the Bridegroom!

“It behooves Him to increase, and me to decrease. He that cometh from above is above all; the one being from the earth is of the earth, and speaketh of the earth.” All John means here is, that he is simply a man, a member of the human race, like all others, while he is impressing the people that Jesus is Divine, having come down from heaven; thus he is illustrating the infinite difference between them. “The one coming from heaven is above all; and whatsoever He has seen and heard, this He testifies, and no one receives His testimony.” This sounds rather strange, that no one receives His testimony. It is a simple statement of a fact. Among the multitudes who are crowding in His track and thronging His ministry at this early day, we do not know that any one, except John the Baptist, entertained a correct conception of His Messiahship. They believed on Him on account of His miracles; but Elijah and Elisha had both wrought great miracles, even raised the dead. They believed on Him as a mighty prophet sent of God; but it was late in His ministry before even His apostles came out in an unequivocal confession of His Christhood.

“He that receiveth His testimony hath set to his seal that God is true.” All the revelation Which God had ever given to Israel in the Old Testament culminated in Christ. When you write a letter, last of all you seal it. So the advent of Christ sealed — i.e., indubitably confirmed — all the Scriptures that had ever been written. Hence, the one receiving Him has a perfect faith, sealed against all further doubt and uncertainty. Experimentally, we. receive this seal from God in entire sanctification.

“For whom God sent, speaketh the words of God; for God does not give His Spirit by measure.” Jesus, having no depravity nor infirmity to impede the fullness of the Spirit, was literally filled and flooded, soul, mind, and body, all the time. It is our privilege to be like Him. “Every one who has been made perfect shall be as his Master” (Luke 6:40) Entire sanctification removes every impediment to the incoming of the Holy Ghost. O, what a glorious privilege to receive Him without measure as an incoming flood, overmastering Niagara, and an inundating sea!

“He that believeth on the Son bath eternal life; but he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.” O how clear and explicit John the Baptist here corroborates the preaching of Jesus, in this same chapter certifying most unequivocally that the one who believes on the Son already has eternal life! God help us all to believe Thy Word as here so clearly preached by Thy servant, John the Baptist! How awful the doom of the unbeliever, as he shall not so much as see life, much less enjoy it, through all eternity, while the wrath of God, which is poured out on all sinners, “abideth on him!” This verb “abideth” is the perpetual present, setting forth the fact that it will never cease through all the ages of eternity. The wrath of God is already on the sinner. Jesus came to take it off. He can not do it unless the sinner believes on Him. So here, in this verse, we have a clear and unequivocal affirmation of the endless punishment which awaits the wicked. The rapid increase of infidelity in the world is an exceedingly distressing phenomenon, ominous, with other signs, of our Lord’s near coming. Thus this wicked world is fast ripening for destruction. Not only is this phenomenon fearful in heathen lands, where infidel preachers are now zealously proclaiming their soul-destroying lies, the multitudes dropping their heathen religions and espousing infidelity; but especially in gospel lands do we see, to our sorrow, a wonderfully rapid spread of infidelity within the last ten years. As I travel from ocean to ocean, I meet this sad phenomenon, to the grief of my spirit. In some of our large cities, nearly every other man I interview about his soul, avows down right infidelity; while church members and even their pastors, by millions are fearfully diluted with it, so that they openly proclaim, from pulpit and pew, their skepticism in reference to portions of God’s revealed truth.

 


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Bibliography Information
Godbey, William. "Commentary on John 3:4". "William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ges/john-3.html.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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