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John 5:25-29

25. Verily, verily, I say to you, That the hour cometh, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live. 26. For as the Father hath life in himself, so also hath he given to the Son to have life in himself. 27. And he hath given him power to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. 102102     “Pource qu’il est (ou, entant quil est) le Fils de l’homme;” — “because he is (or, in so far as he is) the Son of man.” 28. Wonder not at this; for the hour cometh when all who are in the graves shall hear his voice, 29. And they who have done good shall go forth to the resurrection of life; and they who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.

 

25. Verily, verily When the Evangelist represents the Son of God as swearing so frequently in reference to our salvation, hence we perceive, first, how eagerly he desires our welfare, and next, of how great importance it is that the faith of the Gospel should be deeply fixed and thoroughly confirmed. The statement has indeed some appearance of being incredible, when we are told that this is the effect of the faith of which Christ speaks; and therefore he confirms by an oath that the voice of his Gospel has such power of giving life that it is powerful to raise the dead It is generally agreed that he speaks of spiritual death; for those who refer it to Lazarus, (John 11:44,) and to the widow’s son at Nain, (Luke 7:15,) and similar instances, are refuted by what follows. First, Christ shows that we are all dead before he quickens us; and hence it is evident what the whole nature of man can accomplish towards procuring salvation.

When the Papists wish to set up their free-will, they compare it to the Samaritan whom the robbers had left half-dead on the road, (Luke 10:30;) as if by the smoke of an allegory they could darken a clear statement, by which Christ declares that we are fully condemned to death. And indeed as we have been, since the revolt of the first man, alienated from God through sin, all who do not acknowledge that they are overwhelmed with everlasting destruction do nothing else than deceive themselves by empty flatteries. I readily acknowledge that in the soul of man there remains some remnant of life; for understanding, and judgment, and will, and all our senses, are so many parts of life; but as there is no part which rises to the desire of the heavenly life, we need not wonder if the whole man, so far as relates to the kingdom of God, is accounted dead. And this death Paul explains more fully when he says, that we are alienated from the pure and sound reason of the understanding, that we are enemies to God, and opposed to his righteousness, in every affection of our heart; that we wander in darkness like blind persons, and are given up to wicked lusts, (Ephesians 2:1; 4:17.) If a nature so corrupted has no power to desire righteousness, it follows that the life of God is extinguished in us.

Thus the grace of Christ is a true resurrection from the dead. Now this grace is conferred on us by the Gospel; not that so much energy is possessed by the external voice, which in many cases strikes the ears to no purpose, but because Christ speaks to our hearts within by his Spirit, that we may receive by faith the life which is offered to us. For he does not speak indiscriminately of all the dead, but means the elect only, whose ears God pierces and opens, that they may receive the voice of his Son, which restores them to life. This twofold grace, indeed, Christ expressly holds out to us by his words, when he says, The dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they who hear shall live; for it is not less contrary to nature that the dead should hear, than that they should be brought back to the life which they had lost; and therefore both proceed from the secret power of God.

The hour cometh, and now is. He thus speaks of it as a thing which had never before happened; and, indeed, the publication of the Gospel was a new and sudden resurrection of the world. But did not the word of God always give life to men? This question may be easily answered. The doctrine of the Law and the Prophets was addressed to the people of God, and consequently must have been rather intended to preserve in life those who were the children of God than to bring them back from death. But it was otherwise with the Gospel, by which nations formerly estranged from the kingdom of God, separated from God, and deprived of all hope of salvation, were invited to become partakers of life.

26. For as the Father hath life in himself. He shows whence his voice derives such efficacy; namely, that he is the fountain of life, and by his voice pours it out on men; for life would not flow to us from his mouth, if he had not in himself the cause and source of it. God is said to have life in himself, not only because he alone lives by his own inherent power, but because, containing in himself the fullness of life, he communicates life to all things. And this, indeed, belongs peculiarly to God, as it is said, With thee is the fountain of life, (Psalm 36:9.) But because the majesty of God, being far removed from us, would resemble an unknown and hidden source, for this reason it has been openly manifested in Christ. We have thus an open fountain placed before us, from which we may draw. The meaning of the words is this: “God did not choose to have life hidden, and, as it were, buried within himself, and therefore he poured it into his Son, that it might flow to us.” Hence we conclude, that this title is strictly applied to Christ, so far as he was manifested in the flesh.

27. And hath given him power. He again repeats that the Father hath given him dominion, that he may have full power over all things in heaven and in the earth. The word (ἐξουσία) here denotes authority Judgment is here put for rule and government, as if he had said, that the Father had appointed him to be King, to govern the world, and exercise the power of the Father himself.

Because he is the Son of man. This reason, which is immediately added, deserves particularly to be observed, for it means that he comes forth to men, adorned with such magnificence of power, that he may impart to them what he has received from the Father. Some think that this passage contains nothing else than what is said by Paul, that Christ,

having been in the form of God emptied himself by taking upon him the form of a servant, and humbled himself even to the death of the cross; and therefore God hath exalted him, and given him a name more illustrious than any name, that every knee may bow before him
(Philippians 2:7-10.)

But for my own part, I regard the meaning as more extensive: that Christ, so far as he is man, was appointed by the Father to be the Author of life, that it may not be necessary for us to go far to seek it; for Christ did not receive it for himself, as if he needed it, but in order to enrich us by his wealth. It may be summed up thus: “What had been hidden in God is revealed to us in Christ as man, and life, which was formerly inaccessible, is now placed before our eyes.” There are some who separate this argument from its immediate connection, and join it to the following clause; but this is a forced interpretation, and is at variance with Christ’s meaning.

28. Wonder not at this. We may be apt to think that he reasons inconclusively, in drawing from the last resurrection a confirmation of what he had said; for it is not an instance of greater power to raise up bodies than to raise up minds. I reply, it is not from the fact itself that he makes a comparison between the greater and the less, but from the opinion of men; for, being carnal, they admire nothing but what is outward and visible. Hence it arises that they pass by the resurrection of the soul with little concern, while the resurrection of the body excites in them greater admiration. Another effect produced by this gross stupidity of ours is, that those things which are perceived by the eyes have a more powerful influence in producing faith than those which can be received by faith alone. As he mentions the last day, that limitation — -and now is — is not again added, but he simply declares that the time will one day arrive.

But another objection springs up; for though believers expect the resurrection of bodies, yet they cannot rely on their knowledge of it, so as to conclude that souls are now rescued from death, because bodies will one day rise out of the graves. And among ungodly men, 103103     “Des contempteurs de Dieu et incredules;” “with despisers of God and unbelievers.” what would be reckoned more ridiculous than to prove a thing unknown (to use a common phrase) by a thing less known? I reply, Christ here boasts of his power over the reprobate, so as to testify that the Father has committed to him the full restoration of all things; as if he had said, “What I now tell you that I have commenced, I will one day finish before your eyes.” And, indeed, when Christ now, by the voice of his Gospel, quickens souls which had been sunk in perdition, it is a sort of preparation for the last resurrection. Again, as he includes the whole human race, he immediately makes a distinction between the elect and the reprobate. This division shows that the reprobate, as they are now summoned by the voice of Christ to come to judgment, will also, by the same voice, be dragged and brought to appear at his tribunal.

But why does he mention those only who are shut up in graves, as if others would not be partakers of the resurrection, whether they have been drowned, or devoured by wild beasts, or reduced to ashes? The answer is, that as the dead are commonly buried, by the figure of speech called synecdoche, he employs a part to denote all who are already dead. And this is more emphatic than if he had said simply, the dead; for those whom death already deprived of life and light the grave withdraws, as it were, from the world.

Shall hear his voice. The voice of the Son means the sound of the trumpet, which will sound at the command by the power of Christ, (Matthew 24:31; 1 Corinthians 15:52.) For though an angel will be a herald or forerunner, (1 Thessalonians 4:16,) this does not hinder what is done by the authority of the Judge, and as it were in his own person, from being ascribed to himself.

29. And they who have done good. He points out believers by good works, as he elsewhere teaches that a tree is known by its fruit, (Matthew 7:16; Luke 6:44.) He praises their good works, to which they have begun to devote themselves since they were called. For the robber, to whom Christ on the cross (Luke 23:42) promised life, and who had all his life been given up to crimes, expresses a desire to do good with his latest breath; but as he is born again a new man, and from being the slave of sin begins to be a servant of righteousness, the whole course of his past life is not taken into account before God. Besides, the sins themselves, on account of which believers every day subject themselves to condemnation, are not imputed to them. For without the pardon which God grants to those who believe in Him, 104104     “Sans le pardon que Dieu fait a ses fideles.” there never was a man in the world of whom we can say that he has lived well; nor is there even a single work that will be reckoned altogether good, unless God pardon the sins which belong to it, for all are imperfect and corrupted. Those persons, therefore, are here called doers of good works whom Paul calls earnestly desirous or zealous of them, (Titus 2:14.) But this estimate depends on the fatherly kindness of God, who by free grace approves what deserved to be rejected.

The inference which the Papists draw from those passages — that eternal life is suspended on the merits of works — may be refuted without any difficulty. For Christ does not now treat of the cause of salvation, but merely distinguishes the elect from the reprobate by their own mark; and he does so in order to invite and exhort his own people to a holy and blameless life. And indeed we do not deny that the faith which justifies us is accompanied by an earnest desire to live well and righteously; but we only maintain that our confidence cannot rest on any thing else than on the mercy of God alone.


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