Studies in John’s Gospel
I have spent a great part of my life working with Bible teachers both in Sunday School classes and departments and in independent Bible classes. I believe I can say without boasting that teachers will find practical help in this volume on John’s Gospel, to aid them in teaching this most important book in the Scriptures. But while it is prepared especially with the teacher in mind, it is none the less helpful for the preacher and for individual study.
Of course volumes could be written oh John’s gospel, but what I have tried to do is in the most simple way possible make clear in as few words as possible what, as I see it, the Holy Spirit has in mind in inspiring this Gospel, in which Jesus Christ is revealed as the Son of God.
It is the gospel of life, light and love. It was written as is emphasized in many places in this volume for the purpose of revealing Jesus Christ as the Son of God, that “believing on Him ye may have eternal life”. (John 20:30,31).
I have been studying for some years with a view to producing this volume and therefore have had access to the very best of the commentaries and expositions available. Among volumes from which I have secured valuable suggestions and help is: Volume 5 in Grant’s Numerical Bible, covering the four gospels, Dr. A. C. Gaebelein’s Gospel of John, the Gospel of John by Dr. Graham Scroggie and an old work now out of print, I am informed, from which I received many valuable suggestions – by Whitelaw. Also Dr. Norman Harrison’s little volume on John’s Gospel, the Gospel of John by Dr. G. Campbell Morgan and the Apostle John by Dr. W. H. Griffith Thomas, with Commentaries like Jamieson, Fausset and Brown’s one volume commentary on the whole Bible and many other special magazine articles which I have read from time to time.
I have also taught the gospel of John several times to groups of Bible teachers and pastors, as well as Sunday School classes of adults. Some of these expositions were published in the Berean Banner, carrying the whole Uniform Bible Lessons for the Whole Bible School (Price $1.50 per year, of which I am the editor). These have been somewhat revised and enlarged upon.
In addition to the regular expositions I have added special expositions on a number of important passages in the first seven or eight chapters as illustrative of how important truths throughout the Gospel of John can be enlarged upon by the teacher and preacher for special lessons and for sermons. I would like so much to have continued that method throughout the volume, but it would have made the volume entirely too large for the purpose for which I am producing it – that is to aid pastors and teachers in teaching the gospel of John and to help individual soul winners and Christians to a better understanding of the gospel written primarily to be used in winning souls to Christ, and at small cost.
I have had in mind all the way through its value from the standpoint of winning the lost to Christ.
As President of the Fundamental Baptist Bible Institute and one of its teachers I began teaching the Gospel of John and before I had covered the first two chapters the entire class of young preachers and Christian workers appealed to me for its publication and I am sure in answer to prayer I received sufficient funds to begin the work of publication and if the blessings of Him who is revealed in this book and the gracious Holy Spirit who inspired it is upon this work as I pray He may be, I shall soon publish other similar volumes on the different books of the Pentateuch and also other New Testament books, including the acts of the apostles and the Hebrew Epistles.
We have purposely avoided quoting the text only giving the references so the student will necessarily have to go direct to the book itself.
Let me call attention to the fact that there is hardly a book in the Bible containing more symbolism than does John’s gospel. He gives us the key to the truth it contains in chapter 20, verses 30, 31, “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of His disciples which are not written in this book; but these are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing ye might have life through His name.”
Here he says, “Many other signs,” calling the miracles of Christ recorded in this book “signs” or “symbols.” That is, everyone of them is a symbolic miracle. They are all pictures of the sinner’s condition and need, and how Christ alone meets that need.
Not only all the miracles Jesus performed as recorded in John, but most of His acts as well are symbolic. As set forth in the very first chapter He is the antitype of the tabernacle. In verse 14, “The Word was made flesh and ‘tabernacled’ among us.” His act in washing the disciples’ feet contains one of the most outstanding symbolic truths in all scripture. His act in writing on the ground in the presence of the woman taken in sin and her accusers contains one of the most profound symbolical lessons in scripture. Water and wine and wind are used symbolically in the gospel of John. Christ’s actions on almost every page have symbolical lessons. It is our purpose to study these and to set forth clearly the meaning of all His movements, actions, and signs recorded in the gospel of John.
If there are those who would be critical because we find so many symbolisms in the gospel of John, let us emphasize the great truth unrecognized by many that the Bible is a book of symbolisms, primarily and fundamentally. The Old Testament is filled with them. They are the vehicles of God to bear to our hearts prophetic truths as well as practical lessons for daily life.
To arouse our thought along this line while speaking of the symbolisms in the gospel of John, we call your attention to the fact that all symbolisms in the Bible are explained either where they are found or some other place in the Bible. The symbolisms used are as commonplace as could possibly be.
All kinds of animals are used symbolically. The lion; the leopard; the bear; the wolf; the feme; both the heifer and the oxen, and also the bullock; the goat, even the rough goat; sheep; the ram; the lamb; the swine; even the sow that turns to her wallow; and the dog which turns to its vomit; the horse, proudest of animals – all these are used symbolically, but everyone has meaning and God tells us what the meaning is.
Birds are used also. The dove; the hawk; the eagle, mighty conqueror of the air; also the sparrow; the bat; and the owl – all these are fraught with meaning in Scripture.
We have also insects and creeping and crawling things. The grasshopper; the worm; the locusts; the busy bee; the lice also; the ant that is no sluggard; the serpent; the frog; the asp and the cockatrice; the spider; the dragon; the snail; the mole – all these have their meaning in Scripture.
Every kind of mineral also is used symbolically. Gold and silver; brass; iron; clay; rocks; the stone cut out of the mountain without hands; precious stones: the diamond; the ruby; and the pearl; and all kinds of precious stones; even the sands of the seashore – all speak their message to our hearts if we but have spiritual eyes to see them.
In Scripture we have the winds. The four winds; the whirlwind; the breath; and the breeze; the storm; and the South wind; the sound of the goings in the tops of the mulberry trees – yea all these have their meaning. They are used in the scripture as symbols to bring us great lessons.
Moreover we have the ram, the early and the latter rain; the snow; the hail; the dew that distills. All are fraught with meaning in the Word of God. Then we have the river; the spring; the sea; and just water; yea and many waters; waters bitter and waters sweet. We have also the River of Life, thank God! All of these are used symbolically in the scriptures.
We have also crowns and diadems and horns. Yea, horns two; horns seven; horns ten. Then different parts of the human body. The eye; ear; hand; foot; loins; shoulder; breast; and even the hairs on man’s head are used symbolically.
We have also the heaven above us. The Pleiades; the stars; the “bright, and morning Star”; the rainbow; the moon; the sun; and thank God! the “sun of righteousness.” These all are symbolically used in the Word of God and have great meaning and practical lessons for our hearts.
But that isn’t all. We have the trees. The mustard tree; the trees of Lebanon; the cedar; and the fir tree; the tree cut down with its stump left; the tree by rivers of water; also the shade tree; and the myrtle tree. We have also trees that bear fruit; the pomegranate, the fig, the olive tree. We have also the vine: the grapevine; the lowly hissop that creepeth on the wall; also the tree that is cursed because of its barrenness, cursed and blighted. Of course we have the apple tree, and the tree that bears 12 manner of fruit, the leaves of which are for the healing of nations. We have also the almond tree, and sorry to say, we have the weeping willow and the heath in the desert. Then there is the tree in the midst of the garden; and praise God, there is the Tree of Life.
Then we have colors also used symbolically. White; black; purple; scarlet; and blue – all have their meaning in the Word of God. Then we have cloth. We have velvet; silk and satin; fine linen; all manner of wearing apparel; girdles and borders; garments of wool; and garments of mixed materials.
We have all kinds of implements: the plow; the plowshare; the sword; the bow; and the yoke; the staff; and the crook; and the chain and the compass; the ladder and the rod. But that isn’t all. Vehicles are symbolically used in scripture: the cart; the wagon; the chariot; and perhaps others.
Then we have all kinds of food: bread, which we know is called “the staff of life”; milk and meat; also wine; leeks and onions and garlic; oil, and much more besides of foods used daily. We have seed. The sower soweth good seed; corn; wheat; barley; while the devil sows tares.
Portions of the earth also have symbolical meaning. The mountains; Mount Sinai; Mount Zion; hills and vales; meadows and valleys; the plains and the green pasture; the barren desert; the wilderness; the garden and the vineyard. Again we have cities great and small: Babylon; Jericho; Sodom; Jerusalem; and the Holy City, and others – all having lessons for us.
Then mankind is also used by divine inspiration in symbolic form. There is a man of gold, silver, brass, iron, and iron and clay mixed. There is the giant, the mighty son of Anak. There is the prodigal son. There is the bridegroom, and the shepherd, and outstanding characters all the way from Adam to the Second Adam. Not only is the male sex used, but also the female. There is woman as such, sometimes a mother; again daughter; sometimes virgin, virgin one, and virgins five, and virgins ten; again the woman astride the beast; yet again the bride; then the wife; and the woman clothed with the sun.
We have also musical instruments: the trumpet, the harp, the flute, and many others, all having their meaning. There is the seal, the vial, the candle, the candlestick; also the lamp and the lampstand. There is the light to be held forth, and tragic to say there is the light under a bushel. May yours never find that place.
God has not failed to look around the home to find the curtains and the vail, the door, and other home furnishings to illustrate great spiritual truths. There are even numbers which have symbolical meaning in scripture, numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 12, 24, 40, and others.
There is also the ark: the ark which contained the covenant; Noah’s ark built on dry land miles from any water, taking 120 years in construction; the ark in which we see a baby floating on a river, a baby with a tear in his eye. The great God can make a baby cry at the right time to stir the heart of an Egyptian princess and cause her unconsciously to do a great and noble deed.
We have the divisions of the day: day and night; light and darkness; seasons, fall and winter with its chill; spring with its life; and summer – sometimes the summer that ends and we are not saved. How tragic!
And we would not forget to mention the blood: blood of bulls; blood of goats; blood of heifers and bullocks; blood of birds; blood of lambs; the blood poured; the blood sprinkled; the water turned to blood; yea and blood flowing. Thank God we also have the precious blood.
God in His infinite wisdom and unlimited variety has used all the most commonplace things in the universe to bring home simple truths to our hearts. It seems He would take us as little children in the kindergarten department and place before us all these commonplace things to illustrate great spiritual truths, using them to arouse the inquisitive in our nature by way of picture, parable, and contrast.
The Holy Spirit has used these symbolic pictures, many most beautiful; and on the other hand many most dreadful. Many are great and glorious and wonderful, while others are so small, so minute. He has used them all to arouse our imagination, to stir our hearts and minds, to take us as little children and create within us the desire to, “Search the scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life and they are they which testify of me.” (John 5:39).
We should not let the symbolisms of the Bible confuse us. They are used to make the truth simple to us and not difficult. Let us not let Satan confuse us, his primary work, but let us put into practice the exhortation of the apostle, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth.” Let us also remember the truth recorded in Deuteronomy, “Man doth not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”
It will be a joy to us in studying John’s gospel to give special expositions from time to time of many of these symbolisms set forth in this glorious gospel revealing to us as nowhere else the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ, that He is the Son of God and God the Son.
- Christ, the eternal Word. (Vs. 1-13).
Each book of the 66 in the Bible has its own distinctive message. John’s is the deity of the Saviour.
“In the beginning.” (v. 1). Here is the relation of Christ to time.
“In the beginning was the Word.” (v. 1). We articulate speech by words. We express ourselves with words. It is “In beginning.” There is no article in the original. We have a number of beginnings in New Testament scripture.
“In the beginning was the Word.” (v. 1),
- The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christy (Mark 1:1).
- The beginning of sorrows. (Mark 13:8), referring to the coming Tribulation.
- The beginning of miracles, or signs, (John 2:11). Verse 1 antedates all these. It precedes the making of all things (v. 3). It is then the beginning of creation, or time. Not “from the beginning”, but “in the beginning.” Not only so, but “All things were made by Him.” He was before all things, and if in the beginning, He was without beginning. (Col, 1:16,17; Heb. 1:2,3; Eph. 3:9),
“With God.” (v. 1). His relationship to the Godhead, with God. Therefore one of the Holy Trinity. Eternal. Did not come into being but “was with God.” His deity is unquestionable. “With God” also means a separate personality. The second person in the Godhead, (v. 2).
“Was God.” (v. 1). Why say, “The Word was God”? Why is Christ designated “The Word”? Heb. 1:1-3 says, “God spoke by His son.” Rev. 1:8 says, “Christ is God’s alphabet,” the one who spells out God, “the one who utters all God has to say.” John 1:18 says, “He hath declared Him.” To declare means “tell out.” It is the same word in Acts 15:14, and Acts 21:19. It is exactly the word translated “told” in Luke 24:35. So Christ is the spokesman of God, who spells out the deity, tells forth the eternal God.
- “Word.” By words we make objective unseen thoughts. This is precisely what Christ has done.
- “Word.” By words we transmit what we know to others. Impart information. So Christ is the divine transmitter conveying to us the life light and love of God.
- “Word,” By words we exhibit both character and intelligence. By our words we are justified or condemned. Christ reveals the attributes and perfections of God. He revealed God fully, God’s “power, wisdom, holiness, grace.” Nowhere else is God so completely told as in Christ. It is not then by a study of nature or by prayer that we find God. Nature is under the curse every way. Yet in many Bible schools precious time is spent in teaching “Nature.’’ Prayer is of course vital to the Christian life, character, and service as is the “vital breath” to our bodies; but the only way we get a deeper, fuller knowledge of God is by the study of the written Word, for in it we have a revelation of the person, character, and work of the incarnate Word, the Lord Jesus Christ.
“All things were made by him.” (v. 3). Here we have the relation of Christ to the universe. He was its Creator. He was the “Said” of God in Genesis 1:3, and clearly in the Godhead of Genesis 1:1, which implies plurality. He was the originator of all things, therefore omnipotent.
“The Light of men.” (v. 4). Here is His relationship to man. If He created all things, He is the fountain of life, the life-giver. “In Him we live and move and have our being.” Creature life is found in God. Life in its widest sense is what is meant. But of course, spiritual, eternal life, resurrection life, are also found in Him. The statement in verse 4 follows immediately after the declaration, “All things were made by Him.” So it is creatures, as such, which are in view. And when it says that the Life was the Light of men, it does not mean only believers but men as such. Life is one of the divine titles of Christ. Every rational man is morally enlightened. Rom. 2:15. Verse 9 confirms this statement. The original here in John 1:4 is the same as in Matt. 6:23, showing it is not limited to spiritual illumination. Let no one infer that we mean for one moment the false idea some have that “all have a divine spark in them that only needs to be fanned into a flame.” It is the devil’s lie. Man by nature is dead in trespasses and sins. He is alienated from the life of God. However, he is a morally responsible being before God. (See Rom. 2:15 again).
In verse 1 Christ is the Word.
In verse 3 He is the Maker of all things.
In verse 4 the Life.
In verse 5 the Light. (I John 1:1-5).
Here are four titles given Him in these first verses.
“The light shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehended it not,” tells us of the awful effects of the fall of man as set forth in Genesis 3. Every man that comes into the world is lightened by the Creator, but the natural man is spiritually blind. (II Cor. 4:3,4). He repels the light, disregards the light, loves darkness rather than light (John 3:19); He does not live up to the light he has. None ever has but the God-Man. All other darkness yields to, disappears before light, but the darkness here is impenetrable and hopeless, neither comprehends, or apprehends the Light. What an awful indictment of fallen man in his natural state! Nothing short of a miracle of God can bring one out of such darkness into the marvelous light of God.
John the Baptist witness of his deity. (Vs. 6-9).
- John the Baptist was a man. (v. 6). This is by way of contrast to the One to whom he bears witness.
- “Sent from God.” (v. 6). So is every true witness of Christ. The word “John” means “The Gift of God.”
- He came for a witness to bear witness that all through Him might believe, (v. 7). Only the blind need be told the sun is shining when its light fills all the earth about us. That Christ needed a witness is final proof of the “Condemnation” on fallen man. God would not allow His beloved Son to go unrecognized and unheralded, so John appears to witness to Him that Israel might prepare to receive Him. “Came for a witness” defines the preacher’s and teacher’s character and office, to bear witness of the Light, not of self. That all through Him might believe. That means “in order that.” “Witness” is the character of the preacher’s office. “Of the light” his theme. “That all through Him might believe” is the design of his ministry. “Faith cometh by hearing.” (Rom. 10:17). The business of the preacher and teacher is to bear witness to the Light.
“He was not that Light;” (v. 8).
“To bear witness of that Light.”
“That was the true Light.” (v. 9).
Someone suggests the word “true” has a fourfold reference. (Ryle). TRUE, as undeceiving. Satan as the deceiver transforms himself into an angel of light. (II Cor. 11:14). TRUE, as real, in contrast with the Old Testament types and shadows. TRUE, as underived. There are lesser lights, reflected lights, as the moon borrows its light from the sun; but Christ’s light is His own essential and underived glory. TRUE, in contrast with all that is common and ordinary.
His reception. (Vs. 10-13).
The world knew Him not. (v. 10) In the world. Incarnate. The life here for 33 years. “He was in the world.” The world was made by Him, magnifying His divine glory and emphasizing the tragic statement that “the world knew Him not.”
“His own received Him not.” (v. 11). The “seed” of Abraham revealed on every page of Old Testament scripture, the Messiah for Israel, for whom Israel longed and hoped. Walking in their midst is a rejected Messiah! The world was ignorant of Him, but what about Israel?
“But as many as received Him” tells us God’s purpose is not thwarted. Some receive Him.
“Received Him.” (v. 12). The gift of God, the Saviour of all who receive Him. Eternal life. John 4:10, “Knewest the GIFT of God.” (See also Eph. 2:8,9; Rom. 6.23; 1st John 5:11, 12; and John 3:16). This passage tells us believing in Christ and receiving Him is the same.
“Born of God.” (v. 13). Thus His sons, in the family of God. (John 3-3,5,7).
- The Word made flesh. (Vs. 14-18).
The Word was made (became) flesh, (v. 14). And dwelt among us.
The invisible became visible. The infinite drew near.
“He became vailed that He might be seen.”
But He did not cease to be God. Though He became man He was sinless. (Heb. 7:26).
This union of the two natures is admittedly a mystery. (I Tim. 3:16).
The necessity of two natures is evident. He had to be made flesh to die for sinners. In order to become our High-priest. (Heb. 4:15). To leave us an example that we should follow in His steps. We have the harmonizing of the two here.
Christ’s miracles illustrate this truth. “The Word made flesh,” turned water into wine. He did nothing except give command to the servants. See the healing of the nobleman’s son, John 4:50. Also the man at the pool of Bethesda. The raising of Lazarus. Et. el.
“And dwelt among us.” (v. 14). Literally “tabernacled among us.” He tabernacled among us, pitched His tent among us, for 33 years. Undoubtedly a reference to the tabernacle in the wilderness, with typical significance. The analogy between the two is striking. Trace this out for yourself.
Christ’s essential glory, (v. 14). “We beheld His glory,” His essential glory, His sinless virgin birth and excellences. The incarnate Word. (Vs. 15-18).
John bare witness of him. (v. 15). John declares though Christ came after him (born after John), yet He had His being before John, referring to His eternal existence. His fullness, (v, 16), His deity is established again. (Col. 1:19; Col. 2:9). Out of His fullness we believers have received life and peace and joy unspeakable. But more: God’s own word and the Holy Spirit. (John 10:28; 14:27; 15:11; 17:14; 20:22; Acts 2:33). Yet more, “And grace for grace.” Grace heaped upon grace. Grace added to grace. Grace multiplied by grace.
Moses versus Christ, (v. 17). The law given by Moses. Grace came by Jesus Christ. The law given. It was not his own. “By Moses.” Grace and truth CAME (not “was given”) by Jesus Christ, It was inherent in Him. Was not the law “truth”? Indeed, but not all the truth. It was the truth as to God’s holy and just demands. It revealed God’s holiness, His righteousness, His justice, and what man ought to do, what God righteously demanded. But it did not tell out the grace of God. It demanded death for disobedience. It remitted no part of the penalty. (Heb. 2:3; Heb. 10:28). No sinner could be justified by the law. It was not given for that. It ministered condemnation and death. (II Cor. 3:7,9) . The law was truth without grace. It revealed God’s justice, but did not make known mercy. “By the law is the knowledge of sin.” It left the sinner doomed. It exposed the guilt and corruption of the sinner and the penalty to be executed. (Rom. 8:3,4).
We cannot separate “grace and truth.” We cannot have grace without truth. “Grace reigns through righteousness.” (Rom. 5:21)To reject the truth is to reject grace. Grace does not ignore but establishes the law. (Rom. 3:31). Of course there was grace and truth before Jesus Christ came, as manifested in God dealing with Adam and Eve. Truth demanded righteousness, and grace provided the animals slain, the shed blood, the skins for a covering, and God did it all. The same was true of the Passover with Israel in Egypt. Grace and truth, however, were not fully revealed until Christ came. Grace and truth were personified in Christ. The law speaks to the old creation. Grace makes a new creation. The law demanded the righteousness. Grace provides it. (II Cor. 5:21). The law brings death to the guilty. Grace gives life to the dead. The law tells what men must do for God. Grace tells what Christ has done for men. The law reveals sin. Grace covers it.
Christ has declared the Father, (v. 18). This verse sums up all that has gone before in this first chapter. He who “is in the bosom of the Father” hath declared Him, unvailed, displayed Him. (vs. 1,18). The prayer of Moses is answered here. (Ex. 33:18). He desired to see the glory of God; but only saw His “back parts.’’ (Ex. 33:19-23). “Back parts” do not reveal character. That was the limit of the old dispensation. But the glory of God is fully revealed in the FACE of Jesus Christ. (II Cor. 4:6).
III. The record of John the Baptist. (Vs. 19-34).
The record of John. (v. 19).
John, meaning, “the gift of God.”
Several interesting things should be looked up about John: child of prophecy, (Isa. 40); of miraculous birth, (Luke 1:7, 15); filled with the Holy Ghost from birth, (Luke 1:15); sent from God, (John 1:16); to prepare the way of the Lord, (Matt. 3:3); “not risen a greater,” (Matt. 11:11); John’s positional greatness is what is referred to.
Priest and Levites sent to Inquire, “”Who art thou.” (v. 19). Israel’s leaders reveal their spiritual ignorance. John was not in Jerusalem, but in the wilderness. He had stirred up great interest by his ministry. (Luke 3:15)
“I am not the Christ.” (vs. 20-23). They did not frighten or intimidate him. He cared nothing about “authority,” which no doubt had caused the committee to be sent. Who are you? What right have you to be preaching thus? He was neither the Christ, nor Elias, nor that prophet, “I am (not the Word) the voice of one crying in the wilderness.” To be heard and not seen, pointing always and only to the Christ. Read the following passages in this connection: (Matt. 17: 9,10; Mai. 4:5,6; Luke 1:17; Deut. 18:15.18; Eph. 3:8); Paul’s humility; and also let us remember (Luke 17:10).
“Why baptizeth thou then?” (vs. 24,25). John seems not to have answered this question. They were questioning his authority; but he points to the pre-eminent One, (v. 27). Standing in their midst, yet they knew Him not. This was all done in the wilderness, away from Jerusalem, beyond Jordan, outside official Judaism. Israel is set aside.
“The lamb of God.” (v. 29). The pharisees, like many today, looked for a prophet, a teacher, a king, a great leader; but John, as does every true preacher and teacher, pointed them to their true need, a sacrifice for sin. Notice John does not announce Him to these sinners as “The Word of God” or “The Christ of God,” but “The Lamb of God.” Not the king on the throne, but the Lamb on the altar.
The world has not changed since John’s day. There are social reformers and pleaders for social justice, lauded by the crowds. There are preachers who preach Jesus as “the masterful man”, as “the great teacher,” and they are tolerated, often honored, and exalted. Their voices fill the printed page and the air; but what this world needs today is the Christ on the Cross, the Lamb for sinners slain. Notice the order concerning “the lamb” as set forth in scripture.
The firstling of the flock (not herd) offered by Abel. (Gen. 4).
The Lamb prophesied in Gen. 22:8.
The lamb slain and blood applied in Ex. 12.
The Lamb personified in Isa. 53:7. We learn here He is to be a man.
John identifies Him. (ch. 1:29). “The sin of the world” includes Jew and Gentile.
Magnified. (Rev. 5:6-14).
Glorified. (Rev. 22:1-3).
“The Lamb of God” speaks of His perfections. (I Pet. 1:19).
His gentleness, voluntary offering of Himself to God, “led”, not driven. (Acts 8:32).
“The Lamb of God” speaks primarily of sacrifice. The lamb was sacrificed for the individual in Gen. 4; the household in Ex. 12; the nation in Lev. 16; the world in John 1:29. The Son of God that TAKETH AWAY THE SIN OF THE WORLD. And that was the only way it could be done. Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin – final and conclusive.
Why John baptized. (vs. 30,31).
It was to make Christ ‘‘manifest” to Israel. He was preparing a people for Him by leading them to take their places as sinners, and this is why he baptized in Jordan, the river of death. Since the cross actually sets forth symbolically death already past, and resurrection, (Rom. 6:3,4).
The descending and remaining spirit, (vs. 32,33).
“Like a dove.” The character of the Saviour, as the dove, the bird of love arid sorrow; fittingly symbolizing the Christ whose great love led Him to go to the deepest depth of sorrow.
He shall baptize you with (literally “in”) the Holy Ghost, (v. 3). “Remaining” is “abiding”. (R. V.). Speaks of fellowship, of communion. Note John 14:10 and also John 15:13 (R.V.).
This is the Son of God. (v. 34). John has given a sevenfold witness to the Saviour in this chapter. Let us review his testimony.
He is the pre-existent one. (v. 15).
He is the Lord. (v. 23).
He is the pre-eminent one. (v. 27).
He is the one sacrifice, the lamb. (v. 29).
He is the perfect, sinless One; the Spirit “abode” on Him. (v. 32).
He is the One whose right it is to baptize in the Holy Spirit, (v. 33).
He is the Son of God. (v. 34).
- Winning the first disciples, (vs. 35-51).
The lesson in this passage is clearly HOW the first disciples were won to Christ, and we take it this is a pattern we have it in great detail as the Holy Spirit would have us learn this fundamental lesson. Recall these disciples were called to service in Mark 1:16-20. This call to service was preceded by what we have here in John 1:35-51. They were won to Christ here. In Mark 1 they were called to service.
Notice there was variety in method.
The first two were won by preaching alone. “Behold the Lamb of God” was the truth proclaimed, the person preached.
The next one was won by personal work, and the testimony of his brother who “brought him to Jesus.”
Philip. It seems no one was interested in him, and no preacher or personal worker found him; but Jesus Himself, “findeth” him. Like some, very few, find the Saviour alone through study of His Word or in prayer or meditation.
Nathaniel was won by Philip. Personal work. It is well for us to study this. Some say all evangelism is personal evangelism. Others seem to think all evangelism is the work of the preacher. But it is both, and success is assured when the scriptural method is followed. The preacher is to proclaim the message, and all preachers and believers are to engage in the work of soul winning.
Notice there is a variety of persons won. Practically every type. Study the characteristics of these first disciples.
And notice that with the exception of the preacher these were without special training or former experience.
Also notice that Christ dealt differently with each one and was just suited to each life. He met the common need of each. He is the “Son of Man,” does the same work, meets the same need in every human heart the world over.
It is Nathaniel who professes Him to be the Son of God. This reminds us that he is one of the seven who bear witness to the deity of Christ in this fourth gospel.
|1. John the Baptist. (1:34).||4. Jesus Himself. (10:36).|
|2. Nathaniel. (1:49).||5. Martha. (11:27).|
|3. Peter. (6:69).||6. Thomas. (20:28).|
|7. John himself. (20:31).|
This passage could well take our time for this study and would take a volume for, full treatment. We urge you to make a careful and prayerful study of it and a practical application in YOUR OWN life and service.
SPECIAL EXPOSITION CHRIST, THE WORD
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1). Each book of the 66 in the Bible has its own distinctive message. John’s message is the deity of Christ: “In the beginning was the word.” We articulate speech by words. We express ourselves with words. There is no article in the original in this statement. It is literally “In beginning.” Here we have stated the relationship of Christ to time. When time began, Christ was, before all things, without beginning: “Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me be with me where I am, that they may behold mv glory which thou hast given me, for thou lovedst me BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD.” (John 17:24).
The Son was the beloved of the Father before the foundation of the world. A similar statement is contained in the words of the apostle Paul in Colossians 1:16,17, “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him and for him; and he is before all things, and by him all things consist.” It is plainly stated He is before all things and that by Him all things consist, hold together.
There is another remarkable statement paralleling this, recorded in Hebrews 1:1-3, “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed HEIR OF ALL THINGS, BY WHOM ALSO HE MADE THE WORLDS; who being the BRIGHTNESS OF HIS GLORY AND THE EXPRESS IMAGE OF HIS PERSON, and UPHOLDING ALL THINGS BY THE WORD OF HIS POWER, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.”
The statement is “By whom also he made the worlds,” and “upholding all things by the Word of his power.” The universe is held together today by the Word of His power.” “Whom he hath appointed heir of all things,” means that all things from creation’s dawn to the new creation’s mom are His and are in His hands. He is the center and circumference, the originator, the owner, the heir, of all things.
“The express image of his person, the brightness of his glory,” the invisible God came in physical form that He might be seen. When we look at the sun, we do not see the sun itself. We see the brightness of it, the manifestation of it. Christ is the revelation, the manifestation, the effulgence of the eternal God. We have recorded in John the relationship of Christ to the eternal God, “with God.” He did not come into being. He was “with God.” His deity is unquestionable; but the statement “with God” also means He was a separate personality, the second person in the Godhead. Not only so, but “The Word was God.”
Why say ‘‘The Word was God”? Why is Christ here designated “The Word”? Hebrews 1:1-3 says, God spoke by His son. Revelation 1:8 says, Christ is God’s alphabet, the one who spells out God, the one who utters all God has to say. John 1:18 says, “He hath declared him.” “Declared” means to tell out. It is the same word “declared” in Acts 15:14 and Acts 21:19. It is exactly the word translated “told” in Luke 24:35.
So Christ is the One who is the spokesman of God, who spells out the deity, tells forth the eternal God. It is by words that we make objective unseen thoughts. This is precisely what Christ has done. By words we transmit what we know to others, impart information. So Christ is the divine transmitter, conveying to us the life, light, and love of God. By words we exhibit both character and intelligence. By our words we are justified or condemned. Christ reveals the attributes, the perfections, of God. He revealed God fully, God’s power, wisdom, holiness, grace, and love.
Nowhere else is God so completely told as in Christ. It is not then by a study of Nature, or by prayer, that we find God. Nature is under the curse every way. Yet in many Bible schools precious time is spent in teaching “Nature.” Prayer is of course as vital to the Christian life, character, and service, as the “vital breath” to our bodies; but the only way we get a deeper fuller knowledge of God is to study the WRITTEN WORD, for in it we have the revelation of the person, character, and work of the Incarnate Word, the Lord Jesus Christ.
But the Incarnate Word and the written Word are inseparable. Many places in the scripture it is almost impossible to distinguish or differentiate one from the other. Dr. Seroggie, the great Scotch preacher, well says, “Both are called the Word of God, (Rev. 19:13); Light (John 1:4; Prov. 6:23); Life (I John 5:20; Phil. 2:16); Precious (I Pet. 2:7; II Pet. 1:4); Wonderful (Isai. 9:6; Ps. 119:129); Tried (Isa. 28:16; Ps. 18: 30); and everlasting (Ps. 9:7; I Pet. 1:25). We are said by both to be born-again (I John 5:18; I Pet. 1:23); saved (Heb. 7:25; James 1:21), cleansed (I John 1:7; John 15:3), sanctified (Heb. 10:10; John 17:17), and healed (Matt. 4:24; Ps. 107:20).
“Hence it is as Joseph Hart puts it,
‘The scriptures and the Word
Bear one tremendous name,
The living and the written Word
In all things are the same.’
“It is the Incarnate Word whom we worship, but except for the written Word we could not know Him to worship Him.” (Christ the Key to Scripture).
There are more words fraught with great meaning used in this marvelous gospel of John than in any other book in all divine revelation. These key words unlock the meaning of John’s message. Take the word “BELIEVE”. It is used 98 times in this gospel, while in Matthew it is used only 11 times, in Mark 15, and in Luke 9. We have it first in John 1:12, and like a string of beads it is repeated over and over again until the climactic confession of the doubting Thomas is given in chapter 20, verse 29.
The next word much used in this gospel is “LOVE”. No less than 60 times we have it used. Often it fell from the lips of the Lord. How the beloved apostle whom Jesus loved, loved to lisp it. John’s gospel is indeed the gospel of love.
“WITNESS” is a word used 47 times in this gospel. From the witness of the forerunner, John the Baptist, to the witness of the resurrection of the Lord, it is used throughout the book. It is the primary work of every believer to witness unto Christ.
“LIFE” is used 36 times. Christ is the Life, the eternal Life, the creator of Life, the source of Life, the sustainer of Life, the resurrection and the Life, the fullness of Life, Life abundant to those who receive Him.
“LIGHT” is another word repeated over and over. No less than 25 times is it used. “The light shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehended it not” tells us of the awful effects of the fall of man as set forth in Genesis 3. Every man that comes into the world is lightened by the Creator, but the natural man is spiritually blind. “For if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost; in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” (II Cor. 4:3,4).
Every man repels the light, disregards the light, loves darkness rather than light, (John 3:19), and does not live up to the light he has. None ever has but the God-man. All other darkness yields to and disappears before light; but the darkness in man is impenetrable and hopeless, neither comprehending nor apprehending the light. What an awful indictment of fallen man in his natural state. Nothing short of a miracle of grace can bring one out of such darkness into the marvelous Light of God.
“VERILY, VERILY” is another word used 25 times in the gospel of John, giving especial emphasis to the things stated. It is of tremendous importance when the Lord used these words. Not only so, but He is the Truth. He is the Good Shepherd. He is the Door. He is the true Vine. Not only is He the Life, but He is that which sustains life, Bread and Water.
Seventeen times is the word “SIGN” used, and there are seven symbolic signs in the gospel of John. The one in the last chapter makes eight, but it is in the new beginning, its proper place. Take your pencil and run through the gospel of John and mark these words I have mentioned, and study them carefully, including “world,” “works,” “name,” “faith,” “glory,” “glorify,” and many others.
From another we quote a remarkable list: “Now the amazing thing about our Lord Jesus Christ is that He fits into everyone’s thinking. He is kin to every man in his day by day round of duty. He is so many-sided, each can find his Christ in the mould of his own occupational life and day by day experience. The following is an expansion of the I AM’s of John’s gospel, to include other similar designations of scripture:
“To the architect – the chief corner stone. (I Pet. 2:6).
“To the artist – the one altogether lovely. (S. of S. 5:16).
“To the astronomer – the bright and morning star. (Rev.22:16).
“To the baker – the living bread. (John 6:51).
“To the banker – the unsearchable riches. (Eph. 3:8).
“To the biologist – the life. (John 14:6).
“To the botanist – the lily of the valley. (S. of S. 2:1).
“To the bride – the bridegroom. (Matt. 25:1).
“To the builder – the sure foundation. (Isa. 28:16).
“To the carpenter – the door. (John 10:9).
“To the doctor – the great physician. (Matt. 8:17).
“To the educator – the great teacher. (John 3:2).
“To the engineer – the new and living way. (Heb. 10:20).
“To the farmer – the sower, (Matt. 13:37); the grain of wheat, (John 12:24); the Lord of the harvest, (Matt. 9:38).
“To the florist – the rose of Sharon. (S. of S. 2:1).
“To the geologist – the rock of ages. (Isa. 26:4, R. V.). (“It is more important to know the Rock of Ages than the age of rocks.’’ – Pryan).
“To the horticulturist – the true vine. (John 15:1).
“To the jeweler – the precious stone. (I Pet. 2:6).
“To the jurist – the righteous judge. (II Tim. 4:8).
“To the juror – the faithful and true witness. (Rev. 3:14).
“To the king – the King of kings. (Rev. 19:16).
“To the lawyer – the advocate. (I John 2:1).
“To the lover – the beloved. (S. of S. 2:16).
“To the metaphysician – the alpha and omega. (Rev. 22:13).
“To the news gatherer – the Good tidings of great joy. (Luke 2:10).
“To the philanthropists – the unspeakable gift. (II Cor. 9: 15).
“To the philosopher – the wisdom of God. (I Cor. 1:24).
“To the preacher – the Word of God. (Rev. 19:18).
“To the ruler – the Ruler of the kings of the earth. (Rev. 1,5, RV.).
“To the sailor – the anchor of the soul. (Heb. 6:13).
“To the sculptor – the living stone. (I Pet. 2:4).
“To the servant – the Good Master. (Eph. 6:19).
“To the shepherd – the Good Shepherd. (John 10:11).
“To the slave – the redeemer. (Gal. 3:13;.
“To the soldier – the captain of our salvation. (Heb. 2:10).
“To the statesman – the desire of all nations. (Hag.; 2:7.)
“To the student – the truth. (John 14:6).
“To the theologian – the author and finisher of our faith. (Heb. 12:2).
“To the traveler – the guide. (Ps. 48:14).
“To the toiler – the giver of rest. (Matt. 11:28).
“To the troubled – the comforter. (John 14:18).
“To the widow – the husband. (Isa. 54:5).
“To the sinner – the lamb of God. (John 1:29).
“To the Christian – the Lord, Jesus Christ. (I Thess. 1:1). “Many-sided indeed is our Christ, commanding the attention of all. Yet our gospel ever carries us from a mere knowledge about Him to the need of knowing HIM, teaching us that to know HIM, Jesus Christ, the sent of God, this is life eternal (John 17:3). Yea, this gospel was written of purpose ‘that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing ye might have life through His name.’ (John 20:31).” (HIS GOSPEL OF LIFE AND LOVE AND LIGHT – Norman B. Harrison).”
This is the gospel that transforms lives. Christ met, saved, and transformed every type of sinner that can be found under the canopy of heaven. Transforming indeed is the grace, and power, of the Saviour as set forth in John’s gospel. Notice:
PETER, the impetuous, self-confident denier of Christ, becomes the tender shepherd of little lambs.
JOHN, the son of thunder, is transformed from a thunderbolt into the disciple whom Jesus loved, and leaned like a child on the Lord’s bosom.
NICODEMUS, the upstanding, proud scholar, became a timid nightseeker and yet came at last – when all others sought cover – in the open daylight, even to the governor of the land, seeking the Lord’s body that he might enfold it in sweet perfume -and lay it tenderly in the garden in a new tomb.
THE WOMAN AT THE WELL, a self-confessed sinner of the lowest type is transformed into an angel of light and love, and with her transforming testimony brought a whole city to the Saviour’s feet,
THE MAN BORN BLIND, timid and fearful, is transformed into a veritable lighthouse and broke up the meeting of the Sanhedrin with his bold and courageous confession of Christ, and then fell at the Lord’s feet and worshipped Him openly in the temple.
THE LAME MAN AT THE POOL, lost his lameness of 38 years and leaped and shouted the Saviour’s praises as he left Bethesda’s Pool, transformed from a lame man lying helplessly for 38 years into a leaping witness to the Saviour’s love and power.
BETHANY’S HOUSE OF WEEPING AND WAILING was transformed into a place of fellowship and feasting and joy because Lazarus, dead four days, was brought to life and became a living testimony to the life-giving, transforming power and grace of Christ.
MARY MAGDALENE, whom He emptied of seven devils, became the first messenger of the empty tomb.
“DOUBTING THOMAS,” whose hands must feel the nail prints and be thrust into the wounded side of the Lord before he would believe Christ had risen, lifted his hands instead in adoration and exaltation as he cried, “My Lord, and my God!” No wonder, for that is the definite purpose, the primary design of this gospel as recorded in John 20:30,31, “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing ye might have life through His name.”
THE INCARNATE WORD TABERNACLING AMONG MEN
“And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us; and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14). In our former study we spoke of Christ the Word. This study is Christ the incarnate Word tabernacling among us. Here we have the Infinite becoming finite; the Invisible becoming tangible; that which was unseen becoming veiled that He might be seen. He became flesh; yet while God became man, He did not cease to be very God. He was the sinless One, and this great truth is admittedly a mystery. The apostle Paul calls it in I Tim. 3:1.6, “The mystery of godliness.” Sinless, yet His humanity was a reality. He was a real man. As the Word He is God’s “only begotten Son”; as flesh He is the “Son of Man.” The necessity of the incarnation is evident. It was the only way possible for Him to die for our sins. He is revealed, “Christ the wisdom of God and the power of God.” It was the only way He could be “touched with the feeling of our infirmities.
“And the Word Became Flesh.”
We can better understand John’s gospel as he sets forth in a special manner the deity of Christ, the Word made flesh. All the miracles Jesus performed as recorded in the gospel of John were performed simply BY HIS WORD.
- The water was turned into wine, but He did absolutely nothing but give instructions. HE SPOKE THE WORD, gave the command, and the transformation took place.
- The nobleman’s son was sick and the father came with a plea to Christ, beseeching him to come to his home to heal the lad; but Jesus “SAID unto him, Go thy way; thy son liveth,” (John 4:50), and the fever left the boy. We learn later that at this selfsame hour the boy was made whole.
- The man at Bethesda’s Pool who had been there 38 years had desired all those years to have someone put him in the pool when the water was troubled, only to have someone step in before him. To him Christ only SPOKE the word, “And Jesus SAID unto him, Rise,” and he immediately took up his bed and walked.
- The hungry multitude without food, worn and weary, appealed to the compassionate heart of Christ. He took the little loaves and fishes, blessed them, and a multitude of 5000 men, besides the women and children, was filled. Each apostle who had an empty basket to start with gathered up a basketfull each at the close. Jesus did nothing but GIVE INSTRUCTIONS. He did nothing human hands could do.
- The storm at sea raged and the small boat was filled with water. Destruction was imminent. He was aroused from sleep and SPOKE but a word and a great storm was transformed into a great calm, and they were at the shore! With all fears gone the disciples worshipped The Word made Flesh. By His Word alone the miracle was wrought.
- The only exception would seem to be the man born blind. In that case He took clay with spittle and anointed the man’s eyes and told him to go to the Pool of Siloam and wash, and according to Ephes. 5:26, “That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the WORD” – water being used symbolically of the Word. The man washed and came seeing; that which symbolized the Word had been applied.
- In raising the daughter of Jairus, Christ took the damsel by the hand and lifted her up. When He restored life to the son of the widow of Nain, He touched the casket. This is recorded by the other gospels. But in the case of Lazarus, recorded in John’s gospel, He SPOKE, “Lazarus, Come forth!” All through John’s gospel it is the INCARNATE WORD we see at work. He was the eternal, omnipotent God, the great God, even our Saviour Jesus Christ.
“And Dwelt Among Us.”
God’s desire has always been to be with His people. All through, the book of Genesis it is recorded that He appeared to the patriarchs in angelic form; but after the Passover, in Exodus, when the blood was sprinkled and the water of the Dead Sea rolled back and a people were redeemed, He immediately instructed Moses in the erection of the tabernacle in the wilderness; and when it was completed He overshadowed it with His glorious presence and took possession of the Holy of Holies where the Mercy Seat became His throne.
During the years that the tabernacle was in use, God tabernacled among His people. He was in their midst. The tabernacle was succeeded by the temple, into which His glory came. When the glory departed from the temple because of the backsliding of His people, ere long He came in a tabernacle and temple of flesh.
When He was nailed to a cross of shame by both Jews and Gentiles, God raised Him from the dead and He went back to the right hand of God the Father; but within ten days God came down at Pentecost and dwelt in each individual believer, taking up His residence, and began to tabernacle in His people, not only WITH them but IN every believer.
When this dispensation of grace closes, God will take these tabernacles and temples, His church, raise the dead, transform the living, and rapture them all up in the same cloud (not clouds) of glory, “and so shall they ever be with the Lord.” He will still be with His people. The statement of John, “I go to prepare a place for you; and if I go and prepare a place for you I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am there ye may be also,” will then be fulfilled. (John 14).
Then He shall come back to the earth with His people and for a thousand years reign and rule with them over the earth; and when the millennium closes and the last judgment takes place, He will “dwell” with His people throughout all eternity. God must be with his people.
“And Dwelt (Tabernacled) Among Us.”
The word “dwelt” here is exactly the word used, for the tabernacle in the wilderness. It was a type of Christ. The antitype is here in Christ tabernacling among His people, and this He did for 33 years. The analogy is almost perfect.
- The tabernacle was a temporary appointment, thus being differentiated from the temple of Solomon which was a permanent arrangement. The tabernacle was a temporary structure and was moved from place to place. Christ was constantly on the go from one place to another. He “went about” teaching, preaching, and doing good.
- The tabernacle was for use in the wilderness. After the conquest of Canaan it was succeeded by the temple. Surely the Word made flesh tabernacling among men at His first coming strikingly fulfilled that foreshadowing by the tabernacle in the wilderness. He was born in a manger. He was reared in an humble home. He played and worked in a carpenter’s shop. Not only did He not have a place to be bora, but He did not even have a place He could call His own to lay His head for 33 years; and strikingly, the tabernacle was in actual use less than 35 years.
- Notice how humble and unattractive in appearance was the- tabernacle. The last and outward covering was of badgers skins, and they made it look like anything else but the glory that filled it. How humble, indeed, in appearance was the Word made flesh, veiled in human form! We can somewhat sympathize with Israel with unanointed eyes seeing in Him no beauty that they should desire Him.
- The tabernacle was the dwelling place of God on earth. It was in the Holy of Holies He manifested His glory, tabernacled among men. The Holy One of God in the person of the Word made flesh dwelt in Palestine for 33 years. We see Him, as the glory dwelt between the two cherubim on the Mercy Seat of the tabernacle, transfigured with His glory shining forth between two men, Moses and Elijah. “We beheld His glory” is exactly the language of the tabernacle.
- The tabernacle was a place where God met man. It was the tent of meeting, where an Israelite could draw near unto Jehovah at the door of the tabernacle. “And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee.” (Exodus 25:21,22). Christ surely is the meeting place between God and man; “No man cometh unto the Father but by me.” “There is but one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.” (I Tim. 2:5); He spans the chasm between God and man, being Himself both God and man.
- The tabernacle was in the midst of the camp of Israel, around it being encamped all the 12 tribes, three on each side, “With the camp of the Levites in the midst of the camp.” (Num. 2:17). It was the center around which His people gathered. How perfectly Christ fulfills that type: “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. (Matt. 18:20).
- The tabernacle was the place where the law was preserved. The 2 tables of stone were put in the ark and thus it was called “the ark of the covenant” (Deut. 10:2-5). It was there only that the law was preserved. How wonderfully this speaks of Christ. “Lo, I come. In the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, Oh my God. Yea, thy law is within my heart.” (Ps. 40:7,8). He only of all men perfectly kept the law of God.
- The tabernacle was the place where the sacrifices were offered, where the brasen altar and every other piece of the furniture used in the tabernacle spoke of Christ. Thus on the altar of the cross His precious blood was shed to make complete atonement for sin.
- The tabernacle was the place where the priestly family was fed. “And the remainder thereof shall Aaron and his sons eat: with unleavened bread shall it be eaten in the holy place: in the court of the tabernacle of the congregation they shall eat it… The priest that offereth it for sin shall eat it. In the holy place shall it be eaten, in the court of the tabernacle of the congregation.” (Lev. 6:16,26). So Christ is the bread of life, which we will notice particularly in John 6. He is one upon whom His people delight to feast.
- Of course the tabernacle was the place of worship. It was there the devoted Israelite brought his offerings, and from its doors he heard the voice of God. In its holy precincts the priests ministered in their service. Fittingly the writer of Hebrews says, “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.” (Heb. 13:15). It is by and through Him alone that we can worship the Father and have access to the throne of grace.
“And We Beheld His Glory.”
Eternity alone will reveal the full meaning of these words, “For in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. This undoubtedly signifies His supreme excellencies, all His divine perfections. His essential glories as Son of God, His omnipotence; His moral glories which speak of His human perfections. His meekness, His perfect humanity; and possibly His official glories, His perfect work as the Saviour of sinners, His priesthood; His acquired glory, speaking of His reward for what He has done.
“The Glory as of the Only Begotten of the Father.”
Though He walked about tabernacling in human form, His deity was everywhere evident: His supernatural birth, His perfect poise and balance, His matchless words, and not only the words He spoke but the voice that uttered them – incomparable! His wonderful and amazing miracles. His death and resurrection and ascension to the right hand of God the Father.
Though here He tabernacled in human form, His glorious excellencies were manifested. Like the shekinah glory that overshadowed the tabernacle and filled the temple after it was dedicated, so the glory of God was seen at His birth when He began to tabernacle among men as described in Luke 2:8,9, and also at His ascension as described in Acts 1:9.
How wonderful that the mighty God should stoop to become a baby and tabernacle in a temple of clay with mankind, “And we beheld His glory!’’ Is it any wonder that John should add,
“Full of Grace and Truth”
Grace and Truth are twin sisters, inseparable. We see them together all through the scriptures.
- Truth sets forth the lost and ruined condition of Adam and Eve; but grace provided a covering for them in the shedding of blood. By the shedding of blood they were clothed by the hands of God with the skins of animals. Truth exposed them; Grace clothed them.
- It was Truth that convicted Abel of his need of a sacrifice: and Grace that licked up the offering by fire from God, assuring him that God accepted him.
- It was Truth that revealed the awful condition of the world in Noah’s day and condemned it to just judgment; but Grace provided safety and security for Noah, for “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.”
- It was Truth that revealed to the woman at the well the awful sin of her life; but it was Grace that planted within her soul a well of water springing up into everlasting life.
- It was Truth that pungently convicted Nicodemus of his need to be born again; but Grace manifested the life, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:14, 15,16).
Christ is the Truth personified, “The Way, The Truth, The Life.” Truth is the instrument of the Spirit in bringing about the new creation, “Of his own will begat he us with the WORD OF TRUTH,” (James 1:18) “Being born again not of corruptible seed but of incorruptible by the WORD OF GOD, which liveth and abideth forever.” (I Pet. 1:23). It is truth that sanctifies, “Sanctify them through thy truth; thy WORD is truth.” (John 17:17).
How helpless we are. Who can define it? Who can describe it? The grace of God that takes a poor, lost wretched, sinful, corrupt, unholy, defiled sinner, and cleanses, justifies, purifies, quickens, makes alive, sanctifies, and glorifies him even with the glory which the Son of God had from the foundation of the world! How the saints of old loved to sing of grace. One of the most marvelous of all is John Newton’s description of his experience as given in poetic phrase:
“In evil long I took delight, unawed by shame or fear,
Till a new object struck my sight, and stopped my wild career.
I saw One hanging on a tree, in agonies and blood;
He fixed His languid eyes on me, as near the cross I stood.
O never, till my latest breath, shall I forget that look!
It seemed to charge me with His death, though not a word He spoke.
The first look at the cross, where with spiritual eye he saw the Saviour hanging on a tree, showed those tender eyes gazing into His very soul, something like when God looked at Gideon and transformed his life; like the look of the Master that broke Peter’s heart and caused him to weep bitter tears of repentance – that was the look that transformed John Newton. He tells us in concluding verses of that second look:
“A second look He gave, which said, ‘I freely all forgive;
This blood is for thy ransom paid, I died that thou mayst live.”
Thus while His death my sin displays in all its blackest hue,
Such is the mystery of grace, it seals my pardon, too!”
How Philip Doddridge could sing of this same grace, “Grace, ’tis a charming sound!”
But John Newton never did get through singing of grace. He climaxed his great life with one of the most wonderful and well-known songs on grace that we have, “Amazing Grace! how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!”
THE LAMB OF GOD
John 1:29, “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.” John the Baptist had just said that he himself was the voice of one crying in the wilderness. He was not in Jerusalem. Why was he not in the city? Why was he not in the temple of the Jews? Because God had deserted the temple. He had already vacated it. It had become a den of thieves, a house of merchandise. Backslidden Israel had become so God-forsaken that John went into the wilderness to teach.
They were the children of Abraham, but were destitute of any of the virtues which characterized their great head. The wilderness symbolized the spiritual barrenness of the nation. The forerunner of our Saviour in this act was testifying to the failure evident in all Israel with rare exception. The Pharisees sent to him to ask him, “If thou be not the Christ, nor Elijah, why baptizeth thou?” They are questioning his right as a leader among the Jews.
He seems to have disregarded their question, and instead points their attention to the baptism in the Holy Ghost, “He it is who coming after me, is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose.” (verse 27). He is here bringing out the glory of Christ; and Jesus himself later testified that none greater than John had ever been born of a woman.
The record tells us, “These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing.” (verse 28). The word “Bethabara” means “house of passage.” It was then at a place whose name was so significant, beyond Jordan – symbol of death – that John was engaged in preaching and baptizing, separated from Judaism, proclaiming the way of the Lord.
Many came to hear him, we read, and confessed their sins. He had separated himself from apostate Israel, the Jewish system, and was one of the little remnant that was at that time prepared for the coming of the Lord, “And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:17). It was in Bethabara beyond Jordan that he proclaimed the words of our text, “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.” When we take into consideration the setting of this statement it is found to be very significant.
The Pharisees were looking for a PROPHET, one like unto their great deliverer, Moses. They had been taught to look for him. They desired a KING, who should deliver them from Roman bondage; but they had no yearnings or desires for a Saviour-priest. They were not concerned about a sacrifice for sin. They apparently had no sense of sin. But the Baptist, the great forerunner of Christ, hit at the very taproot of their trouble. He did not proclaim Christ as the WORD OF GOD, THE CHRIST OF GOD, THE PROPHET, THE KING. It was as the LAMB OF GOD, slain from before the foundation of the world, whose blood was poured out for sinners, that they needed Him.
They would gladly have welcomed Him on the throne, but they must first accept Him on the altar. As a prophet or social reformer, as a teacher of ethics, He would have been tolerated and received with certain respect, even as today; but what this old world needs, even as it did in the days of John the Baptist, is the Christ of the cross, the Lamb of God for sinners slain.
“Behold, the Lamb of God.” In the presence of John the Baptist and of the multitude that looked on, including scribes and Pharisees from Jerusalem, stood Him of whom all the Old Testament sacrifices spoke, the one they all foreshadowed. Yet John was the only one who had spiritual understanding and insight sufficient to recognize Him.
The Word made flesh dwelled among men, the Creator of the universe walked in their midst, and they recognized Him not. How densely ignorant! What awful darkness must have enshrouded this world that its Creator should need someone to testify as to who He is. So beclouded by sin, so dominated by Satan, so destitute of spiritual understanding were the creatures among whom He walked that they recognized Him not.
In the declaration, “Behold the Lamb of God,” the mind of John the Baptist no doubt was carried back through the Old Testament scriptures to the sacrificial lamb. The first place we read of the lamb is in the 4th chapter of Genesis in the statement, “Abel brought of the firstlings of the flock.” The second mention is in Genesis 22:8, where Abraham said to Isaac, “God will provide himself a lamb.” The next place is in Exodus 12 where the lamb is slain and its blood sprinkled on the doorpost. Here the Lamb is slain and its blood applied. In the next place we have the lamb personified in Isa. 53:7, reading here for the first time that the Lamb would be a man. In John 1:29 the Lamb is identified; we learn Who he is. In Revelation 5 we have pictured this same Lamb, magnified by all the heavenly hosts. In the last chapter in the Bible we see the Lamb glorified, seated upon the eternal throne of the eternal God, “And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.” (Rev. 22:1).
Let us go back and trace the Lamb again through the scriptures: In the 4th chapter of Genesis we see the first lamb sacrificed, “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain,” (Heb. 11:4). Abel no doubt had been taught, as had Cain, by his father and mother the lesson they learned when the animals had been-slain, the blood shed, in order that skins might be obtained with which to clothe them. Since “Faith cometh by hearing” (Rom. 10:17), and hearing only, and since Abel offered a sacrifice unto God by faith, he must have been instructed, realized his need as a sinner, and offered this lamb testifying of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, making atonement for his sins. We are told his sacrifice was acceptable to God. As in the case of all acceptance of Old Testament sacrifices, no doubt fire from heaven consumed it; and Cain thus saw Abel’s sacrifice accepted while his own was rejected. The lamb was slain for the INDIVIDUAL, Abel.
In the second place we have in Exodus 12 the lamb slain for the HOUSEHOLD. The lamb was slain, the blood sprinkled on the sides of the doorposts and on the top. Of the firstborn in every home where the blood of the Lamb was sprinkled God had said, “When I see the blood, I will pass over you.” In every such home the firstborn lived when the death angel passed by, while death entered every house where the blood was not sprinkled in Egypt, even into the home of the emperor, and the firstborn lay dead. Here the lamb was offered for each household, the family.
In Leviticus 16, on the great Day of Atonement, the greatest of all the annual days of the nation of Israel, the lamb was slain and the sacrifice was efficacious for the entire NATION of Israel. The Lamb was offered for the INDIVIDUAL, Abel; for the HOUSEHOLD, the FAMILY in Egypt; for the NATION on the Day of Atonement; and in John 1:29 we have the most marvelous of all, “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the WORLD.” This included both Jew and Gentile. This is universal.
First, the lamb was slain for the individual.
Second, for the family.
Third, for the nation.
Fourth, for the world.
“Behold the Lamb of God.” The text suggests the thought of His sinlessness, for He is the Lamb without blemish, without spot. His gentleness is exemplified in His voluntarily offering Himself to God on our behalf. He was led, not driven, as a lamb to the slaughter. But particularly does this speak of the Sacrifice, The Lamb of God which TAKETH AWAY THE SIN OF THE WORLD. There is no possibility of forgiveness for sin, or escape from sin, except through death. We read, “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin.” Sin signifies guilt, condemnation. The only thing in the world that can atone, that can take away the curse of a sin, is the blood of the Lamb of God.
“Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us,” (Gal. 3:13). Yes, we believe in the blood. We believe it is by the blood of the Lamb alone, by the shedding of the blood of the Lamb of God, that God can justify a guilty sinner.
But, thank God, “Being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom. 5:1), and we can say with the apostle, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 8:1).
Never was a greater truth penned that every redeemed sinner may join in singing than the song of Charlotte Elliott,
“Just as I am, without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me,
And that thou bidd’st me come to thee, O Lamb of God, I come.
Just as I am, and waiting not to rid my soul of one dark blot,
To thee whose blood can cleanse each spot, O Lamb of God, I come.
Just as I am, though tossed about with many a conflict, many a doubt.
Fightings within and fear without, O Lamb of God, I come!
Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind; sight, riches, healing of the mind,
Yea, all I need, in thee to find, O Lamb of God, I come!
Just as I am, thou wilt receive, wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
Because thy promise I believe, O Lamb of God, I come!
Just as I am, thy love unknown had broken every barrier down; Now to be thine, yea, thine alone, O Lamb of God, I come!”
“BEHOLD, THE LAMB OF GOD WHICH TAKETH AWAY THE SIN OF THE WORLD!”