Remarks on 1 John: 4:15-21, 5:1-5

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John 4:15-5:515The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw. 16Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither. 17The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: 18For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly. 19The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. 20Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. 21Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. 23But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. 24God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. 25The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things. 26Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he. 27And upon this came his disciples, and marvelled that he talked with the woman: yet no man said, What seekest thou? or, Why talkest thou with her? 28The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, 29Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ? 30Then they went out of the city, and came unto him. 31In the mean while his disciples prayed him, saying, Master, eat. 32But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of. 33Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought him ought to eat? 34Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work. 35Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. 36And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. 37And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth. 38I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labor: other men labored, and ye are entered into their labors. 39And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did. 40So when the Samaritans were come unto him, they besought him that he would tarry with them: and he abode there two days. 41And many more believed because of his own word; 42And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world. 43Now after two days he departed thence, and went into Galilee. 44For Jesus himself testified, that a prophet hath no honor in his own country. 45Then when he was come into Galilee, the Galileans received him, having seen all the things that he did at Jerusalem at the feast: for they also went unto the feast. 46So Jesus came again into Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum. 47When he heard that Jesus was come out of Judea into Galilee, he went unto him, and besought him that he would come down, and heal his son: for he was at the point of death. 48Then said Jesus unto him, Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe. 49The nobleman saith unto him, Sir, come down ere my child die. 50Jesus saith unto him, Go thy way; thy son liveth. And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way. 51And as he was now going down, his servants met him, and told him, saying, Thy son liveth. 52Then inquired he of them the hour when he began to amend. And they said unto him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him. 53So the father knew that it was at the same hour, in the which Jesus said unto him, Thy son liveth: and himself believed, and his whole house. 54This is again the second miracle that Jesus did, when he was come out of Judea into Galilee. 1After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. 3In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. 4For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had. 5And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years. (John 4:15‑5:5)
We have then the truly blessed place of witnesses to the world of the love of the Father in the gift of His Son; would that we occupied it more faithfully. Ver. 15 follows with yet fuller light to guard us against being betrayed into any irreverent familiarity in preaching or speaking. The name of Jesus is not to be used lightly. Though, when sent of the Father into the world, He endured from men every indignity and hid not His face from shame and spitting, though He was reviled by the basest and foulest, He was then, and always, the Son of God. Hence the solemn question for the witness is — Am I confessing that Jesus is the Son of God? Meeting man's need is right and blessed, but we cannot be trusted, we cannot trust ourselves, save as we have in view the Person Whom we preach, and exalt Him. As Paul in Gal. 1:15, 1615But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, 16To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: (Galatians 1:15‑16) says, “When it pleased God... to reveal his Son in me that I might preach him among the Gentiles.” No professed love for souls can palliate failure here, for the power of God is present. “God dwelleth in him” who thus, and at all times, confesses Jesus, “and he in God.” This is to dwell in love knowing and believing (note the order) the love that God hath to (in) us (ver. 16). It is not eloquence we want, but the happy realization, like the returned prodigal, that all is love at home, and God Himself is our dwelling-place. It is this that makes good, if unpopular, witnesses (whether in private or public) of a “good confession “; nothing else will. Finally, the perfection and unchanging continuance of the love of God is declared (ver. 17 R.V.) so that, in view of the coming day of judgment we may have boldness, and not fear; utterly lost as we are by nature and conduct, if God should enter into judgment with us, no man living would be justified (Psa. 143:22And enter not into judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no man living be justified. (Psalm 143:2)). Therefore the perfect love of God has taken us off that ground altogether, and by redemption has put us before Him “in the Beloved, in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Eph. 1:6, 76To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. 7In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; (Ephesians 1:6‑7)). Not a fear is to torment our soul, not a timid or doubting thought to disturb our mind, “because as He is, even so are we in this world.” This is sure ground for confidence, the boldness of faith in God's word, faith in the blood of Christ, faith in accomplished salvation, in being before God as He is in glory, even while we are still here in this world in weakness and failure.
Faith, then, discovering this perfect unchanging love of God revealed in His Son, draws the affections to Him. “We love (him), because he first loved us” (ver. 19) and loving Him we love those who are dear to Him. The motive is both pure and powerful; indeed, it is His commandment (ver 21). It is not only happy fellowship with Him in His love, but obedience to His will, to love our brother. The ways of some may grieve us, but it is genuine love that feels the sorrow. Abraham loved Lot, and gave proof of it, but he could have no fellowship with him. The severity of ver. 20 is righteous; God would guard us against all hypocrites and all hypocrisy. It is a crushing rebuke where needed, and put in a form that challenges the conscience. “He that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” If that which is of God be seen in a brother and awakens no sympathy, no love, how can there be any for God?
The first and imperishable element of true abiding fellowship with one another is formed and found in the faith once for all delivered unto the saints, “faith in Jesus.” “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God; and every one that loveth him that begat, loveth him also that is begotten of him (v. 1).” When the woman of Samaria received this truth, her first action commends itself to all who have obtained like precious faith (John 4:21-2921Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. 23But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. 24God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. 25The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things. 26Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he. 27And upon this came his disciples, and marvelled that he talked with the woman: yet no man said, What seekest thou? or, Why talkest thou with her? 28The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, 29Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ? (John 4:21‑29)). She at once left her water-pitcher to testify of Him to others. We think no longer of her race, her rudeness, or her past immorality. Our hearts are drawn to her more than to the timid hesitating ruler of the Jews (John 7:50-5150Nicodemus saith unto them, (he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them,) 51Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth? (John 7:50‑51)). But now that Jesus is glorified, and the truth that He is “the Christ” is connected with heavenly glory and power, our faith in Him enlarges our understanding by the Spirit of truth, and fellowship with each other increases. The secret of lack of fellowship in modern times is the result of woeful decline of first faith, first love, and first works (Rev. 2:4, 54Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. 5Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. (Revelation 2:4‑5)). Thus all that believe are not together, and are not of one heart and of one soul, as at the beginning. Alas! this state of division finds apologists, and to go on with one or another of the religious systems, which have established themselves in Christendom, is defended. Solemn and forcible is the protest of the Spirit against this in vers. 2, 3. It is not the fruit of love to God, or to the children of God. “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God that we keep his commandments.” Plans and systems of man's devising are not the commandments of God, but the actings out of human will, and the giving up of the spirit of obedience. What a rebuke to this is the walk of Jesus!
“If we say that we abide in him, we ought ourselves so to walk, even as he walked” (2:6); and sanctification of the Spirit is “to obedience, and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:22Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied. (1 Peter 1:2)). Self-will is not obedience, and is not consistent with the blood of Jesus Christ. “He was obedient to death, even the death of the cross.” It is thus “the blood of his cross.”
The change in ver. 4 from “whosoever” to “whatsoever” is peculiar and to be observed. The life given of God, whoever may be the recipient of it, is looked at abstractedly, as in John 3:66That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (John 3:6). “That which is born of the Spirit is spirit,” in contrast with that which is born of the flesh. And each nature seeks its own things: the flesh, the things of the flesh; and the spirit, the things of the Spirit (Rom. 8:55For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. (Romans 8:5)). The desires of the two natures, being opposed, are never in agreement; and the power of the Spirit is on the side of the “spirit.” The world is a system ordered by “the prince of the world” to suit the flesh (11-16). “Whatsoever is born of God” —the life given of Him— “overcometh the world,” acting on His judgment of even its best; for “That which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God” (Luke 16:1515And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God. (Luke 16:15)). Practically and experimentally the victory is gained by faith, and here pointedly called “our faith,” not the faith of the most eminent saint before the cross. There the world was finally judged morally (John 12:31-3231Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. 32And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. (John 12:31‑32)), as it will be judicially on the appointed day, by Him Who was hanged on it (Acts 17:3131Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. (Acts 17:31)).
The mind of man is set on having the world without God. The apostle grasped this fact firmly, and continually impresses it on us. “Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God” (ver. 5)? For His confession of this before His judges, He was condemned to death; and the Jews, led by their rulers, insisted on His crucifixion; and Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they required (Mark 14:61-6261But he held his peace, and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked him, and said unto him, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? 62And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. (Mark 14:61‑62), Luke 22:70; 23:2470Then said they all, Art thou then the Son of God? And he said unto them, Ye say that I am. (Luke 22:70)
24And Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they required. (Luke 23:24)
, John 19:77The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God. (John 19:7)). John was an eye-witness of this, a competent and faithful witness, and (while seeking to maintain us in communion with the Son now risen and victorious, with the Father and on His throne) He would have us, while on earth, in spirit take our place with Him when standing by the cross (John 19:2626When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! (John 19:26)). Spiritually our history begins there. There God begins with us personally. It is there that we see the love that Christ has for us personally. There we, too, begin to see clearly that our very self, that which is expressed by “I” and “me” was before and on the heart of Christ when He delivered Himself up for us (Gal. 2:2020I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)). All vagueness, all uncertainty, all that is confused and mystical, vanishes. Gazing by faith— “our faith” —on the Son of God on the cross, the most sinful can truly say— “He loved ME, and gave Himself for ME.” To use the cross, as it is too often used in Christendom, as a symbol of the Divine sanction of worldly splendor, must be a dreadful outrage, in the sight of God, on the cross of Christ (see Phil. 3:18-1918(For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: 19Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.) (Philippians 3:18‑19)).
(To be continued, D.V.)