John 3:1-21 . NIGHT INTERVIEW OF NICODEMUS WITH JESUS.
18. is not condemned--Having, immediately on his believing, "passed from death unto life" ( John 5:24 ).
condemned already--Rejecting the one way of deliverance from that "condemnation" which God gave His Son to remove, and so wilfully remaining condemned.
19. this is the condemnation, &c.--emphatically so, revealing the condemnation already existing, and sealing up under it those who will not be delivered from it.
light is come into the world--in the Person of Him to whom Nicodemus was listening.
loved darkness, &c.--This can only be known by the deliberate rejection of Christ, but that does fearfully reveal it.
20. reproved--by detection.
21. doeth truth--whose only object in life is to be and do what will bear the light. Therefore he loves and "comes to the light," that all he is and does, being thus thoroughly tested, may be seen to have nothing in it but what is divinely wrought and divinely approved. This is the "Israelite, indeed, in whom is no guile."
John 3:22-36 . JESUS IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD OF THE BAPTIST--HIS NOBLE TESTIMONY TO HIS MASTER.
22-24. land of Judea--the rural parts of that province, the foregoing conversation being held in the capital.
baptized--in the sense explained in John 4:2 .
24. John not yet cast into prison--Hence it is plain that our Lord's ministry did not commence with the imprisonment of John, though, but for this, we should have drawn that inference from Matthew 4:12 and Mark's ( Mark 1:14 ) express statement.
25, 26. between some of--rather, "on the part of."
and the Jews--rather (according to the best manuscripts), "and a Jew,"
about purifying--that is, baptizing, the symbolical meaning of washing with water being put (as in John 2:6 ) for the act itself. As John and Jesus were the only teachers who baptized Jews, discussions might easily arise between the Baptist's disciples and such Jews as declined to submit to that rite.
26. Rabbi, &c.--"Master, this man tells us that He to whom thou barest such generous witness beyond Jordan is requiting thy generosity by drawing all the people away to Himself. At this rate, thou shalt soon have no disciples at all." The reply to this is one of the noblest and most affecting utterances that ever came from the lips of man.
27-30. A man, &c.--"I do my heaven-prescribed work, and that is enough for me. Would you have me mount into my Master's place? Said I not unto you, I am not the Christ? The Bride is not mine, why should the people stay with me?? Mine it is to point the burdened to the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world, to tell them there is Balm in Gilead, and a Physician there. And shall I grudge to see them, in obedience to the call, flying as a cloud, and as doves to their windows? Whose is the Bride but the Bridegroom's? Enough for me to be the Bridegroom's friend, sent by Him to negotiate the match, privileged to bring together the Saviour and those He is come to seek and to save, and rejoicing with joy unspeakable if I may but 'stand and hear the Bridegroom's voice,' witnessing the blessed espousals. Say ye, then, they go from me to Him? Ye bring me glad tidings of great joy. He must increase, but I must decrease; this, my joy, therefore is fulfilled."
A man can receive, &c.--assume nothing, that is, lawfully and with any success; that is, Every man has his work and sphere appointed him from above, Even Christ Himself came under this law ( Hebrews 5:4 ).
31-34. He that, &c.--Here is the reason why He must increase while all human teachers must decrease. The Master "cometh from above"--descending from His proper element, the region of those "heavenly things" which He came to reveal, and so, although mingling with men and things on the earth, is not "of the earth," either in Person or Word. The servants, on the contrary, springing of earth, are of the earth, and their testimony, even though divine in authority, partakes necessarily of their own earthiness. (So strongly did the Baptist feel this contrast that the last clause just repeats the first). It is impossible for a sharper line of distinction to be drawn between Christ and all human teachers, even when divinely commissioned and speaking by the power of the Holy Ghost. And who does not perceive it? The words of prophets and apostles are undeniable and most precious truth; but in the words of Christ we hear a voice as from the excellent Glory, the Eternal Word making Himself heard in our own flesh.
32. what he hath seen and
and no man receiveth, &c.--John's disciples had said, "All come to Him" ( John 3:26 ). The Baptist here virtually says, Would it were so, but alas! they are next to "none" [BENGEL]. They were far readier to receive himself, and obliged him to say, I am not the Christ, and he seems pained at this.
33. hath set to His seal, &c.--gives glory to God whose words Christ speaks, not as prophets and apostles by a partial communication of the Spirit to them.
34. for God giveth not the Spirit by measure--Here, again, the sharpest conceivable line of distinction is drawn between Christ and all human-inspired teachers: "They have the Spirit in a limited degree; but God giveth not [to Him] the Spirit by measure." It means the entire fulness of divine life and divine power. The present tense "giveth," very aptly points out the permanent communication of the Spirit by the Father to the Son, so that a constant flow and reflow of living power is to be understood (Compare John 1:15 ) [OLSHAUSEN].
35, 36. The Father loveth, have the "delivering over of all things into the hands of the Son," while here we have the deep spring of that august act in the Father's ineffable "love of the Son."
36. hath everlasting life--already has it.
shall not see life--The contrast here is striking: The one has already a life that will endure for ever--the other not only has it not now, but shall never have it--never see it.
abideth on him--It was on Him before, and not being removed in the only possible way, by "believing on the Son," it necessarily remaineth on him! Note.--How flatly does this contradict the teaching of many in our day, that there neither was, nor is, anything in God against sinners which needed to be removed by Christ, but only in men against God!