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John 8:25-29

25. Then they said to him. Who art thou? Jesus said to them, From the beginning, 225225     “Ou, ce dont je vous parle des le commencement;” — “or, what I tell you from the beginning.” because I also speak to you. 226226     “Ou, comme aussi je vous en parle;” — “or, as also I speak of it to you.” 26. I have many things to speak and judge of you; but he who hath sent me is true, and I speak to the world those things which I have heard from him. 27. They knew not that he spoke to them of the Father. Jesus therefore said to them, 28. When you shall have exalted the Son of man, then shall you know that I am, and that I do nothing of myself; but as the Father hath taught me, I speak. 29. And he who hath sent me is with me. The Father hath not left me alone, because I always do the things which please him.

 

25. From the beginning. They who translate the words τὴν ἀρχὴν, as if they had been in the nominative case, I am the beginning, 227227     Ceux qui traduisent, “Je suis le commencement.” and as if Christ were here asserting his eternal Divinity, are greatly mistaken. There is no ambiguity of this sort in the Greek, but still the Greek commentators also differ as to the meaning. All of them, indeed, are agreed that a preposition must be understood; but many give to it the force of an adverb, as if Christ had said, “This ought first (τὴν ἀρχὴν) to be observed.” Some too — among whom is Chrysostom — render it continuously thus: The beginning, who also speak to you, I have many things to say and judge of you This meaning has been put into verse by Nonnus. 228228     He refers to Nonnus, a Greek writer, who rendered into hexameter verse the Gospel by John. The passage stands thus:
   Ti>v su< pe>leiv kai< Cristo<v ajni>acen, o{tti par uJmi~n
Ex ajrch~v ajo>rizon e]cwn nh>riqma dika>zein
Kai< lale>ein

   Who art thou? and Christ cried aloud, What (I say) to you from the beginning, having an innumerable multitude of things to say and judge So far as relates to τὴν ἀρχὴν, Nonnus appears to agree with Calvin; for he renders it ἐξ ἀρχη̈ς, from the beginning. — Ed
But a different reading is more generally adopted, and appears to be the true one. I interpret τὴν ἀρχὴν, from the beginning; so that the meaning, in my opinion, is this: “I did not arise suddenly, but as I was formerly promised, so now I come forth publicly.” He adds,

Because I also speak to you; by which he means that he testifies plainly enough who he is, provided that they had ears. This word, ὄτι because, is not employed merely to assign a reason, as if Christ intended to prove that he was from the beginning, because he now speaks; but he asserts that there is such an agreement between his doctrine and the eternity which he has spoken of, that it ought to be reckoned an undoubted confirmation of it. It may be explained thus: “According to the beginning, that is, what I have formerly said, I now, as it were, confirm anew;” or, “And truly what I now also speak, is in accordance with the conditions made in all ages, so as to be a strong confirmation of it.”

In short, this reply consists of two clauses; for, under the word beginning, he includes an uninterrupted succession of ages, during which God had made a covenant with their fathers. When he says that he also speaks, he joins his doctrine with the ancient predictions, and shows that it depends on them. Hence it follows that the Jews had no other reason for their ignorance, than that they did not believe either the Prophets or the Gospel; for it is the same Christ that is exhibited in all of them. They pretended to be disciples of the Prophets, and to look to the eternal covenant of God; but still they rejected Christ, who had been promised from the beginning, and presented himself before them.

26. I have many things to say and judge of you. Perceiving that he is in the position of one who sings to the deaf, he pursues his discourse no farther, but only declares that God will defend that doctrine, which they despise, because he is the Author of it. “If I wished to accuse you,” says he, “your malice and wickedness supply me with ample materials; but I leave you for the present. But my Father, who committed to me the office of a teacher, will not fail to fulfill his promise; for he will always vindicate his word against the wicked and sacrilegious contempt of men.” This saying of Christ is of the same import with that of Paul,

If we deny him, he remaineth faithful, he cannot deny himself,
(2 Timothy 2:13.)

In short, he threatens the judgment of God against unbelievers, who refuse to give credit to his word; and he does so on this ground, that God must inevitably defend his truth. Now this is the true firmness of faith, when we believe that God is alone sufficient to establish the authority of his doctrine, though the world should reject it. All who, relying on this doctrine, serve Christ faithfully, may fearlessly accuse the whole world of falsehood.

And I speak to the world those things which I have heard from him. He says that he utters nothing which he has not received from the Father; and this is the only confirmation of a doctrine, when the minister shows that what he speaks has proceeded from the Father. Now we know that Christ sustained, at that time, the office of a minister; and, therefore, we need not wonder, if he demands that men listen to him, because he brings to them the commandments of God. Besides, by his example he lays down a general law for the whole Church, that no man ought to be heard, unless he speak from the mouth of God. But while he lays low the wicked arrogance of those men who take upon themselves to speak without the word of God, faithful teachers, who know well the nature of their calling, are fortified and armed by him with unshaken firmness, that, under the guidance of God, they may boldly bid defiance to all mortals.

27. They did not know that he spoke to them about the Father. Hence we see how stupid those men are whose understandings are possessed by Satan. Nothing could be more plain than that they were summoned to the judgment-seat of God. But what then? They are altogether blind. This happens daily to other enemies of the Gospel; and such blindness ought to instruct us to walk with fear. 229229     “A cheminer en crainte.”

28. When you shall have exalted the Son of man. Offended at that stupidity which the Evangelist has described, Christ again declares that they do not deserve that he should open his mouth to speak to them any more. 230230     “Qu’il ouvre plus sa bouche pour leur dire rein.” “You now,” says he, “have all your senses — as it were — fascinated, and, therefore, you understand nothing of all that I say; but the time will yet come, when you shall know that a Prophet of God has lived among you, and has spoken to you.” This is the manner in which we ought to deal with wicked men; we ought expressly to summon them to the judgment-seat of God. But this knowledge, which Christ speaks of, comes too late, when the reprobate and unbelievers, 231231     “Les reprouvez et infideles.” dragged to punishment, reluctantly acknowledge that God, to whom they ought mildly to have given honor and reverence, is their Judge. For he does not promise them repentance, but declares that, after they have been struck with new and unexpressed horror at the wrath of God, they will be aroused from that sleep in which they now repose. Thus Adam’s eyes were opened, so that, overwhelmed with shame, he sought in vain for places of concealment, and ultimately was convinced that he was ruined. Yet that knowledge of Adam, which was in itself useless, turned to his advantage through the grace of God; but the reprobate, being overwhelmed with despair, have their eyes opened only for this purpose, that they may perceive their destruction. To this kind of knowledge God conducts them in a variety of ways. Sometimes it happens that, constrained by heavy afflictions, they learn that God is angry with them; sometimes, without any outward punishment, he inwardly torments them; and, at other times, he permits them to sleep until he call them out of the world.

By the term exalt Christ points out his own death. He mentions his death, in order to warn them that, though they destroy him according to the flesh, they will gain nothing by it; as if he had said, “Now you treat me with haughty scorn, while I speak to you; but ere long your wickedness will proceed farther, even so far as to put me to death. Then will you triumph, as if you had gained your wish, but within a short time you shall feel, to your utter ruin, how widely my death differs from destruction.” He employs the word exalt, in order to vex them the more. Their intention was to plunge Christ into the lowest hell. He tells them that they will be completely disappointed, and that the event will be altogether contrary to what they thus expect. He may, indeed, have intended to allude to the outward form of his death, that he was to be lifted up on the cross; but he looked chiefly to the glorious result of it, which soon afterwards followed, contrary to the expectation of all. True, indeed, in the cross itself he gained a splendid triumph over Satan, before God and the angels, by blotting out the hand-writing of sin, and cancelling the condemnation of death, (Colossians 2:14;) but it was only after that the Gospel had been preached, that this triumph began to be made known to men. The same thing which happened shortly afterwards — that Christ rose out of the grave, and ascended to heaven — is what we ought daily to expect; for, notwithstanding all the contrivances of wicked men to oppress Christ in his Church, not only will he rise in spite of them, but he will turn their wicked efforts into the means of promoting the progress of his kingdom.

That I am. I have already stated that this does not refer to Christ’s Divine essence, but to his office; which appears still more clearly from what follows, when he affirms that he does nothing but by the command of the Father; for this means, that he was sent by God, and that he performs his office faithfully.

And that I do nothing of myself. That is, I do not put myself forward, to attempt anything rashly. Again, the word speak, refers to the same thing, that is, to the office of teaching; for when Christ wishes to prove that he does nothing but by the commandment of the Father, he says that he speaks as he has been taught by Him. The meaning of the words, therefore, may be summed up thus: In the whole of these proceedings, which you condemn, no part is my own, but I only execute what God has enjoined upon me; the words which you hear from my mouth are his words, and my calling, of which He is the Author, is directed by him alone. Let us remember, however, what I have sometimes mentioned already, that these words are accommodated to the capacity of the hearers. For, since they thought that Christ was only one of the ordinary rank of men, he asserts that whatever in him is Divine is not his own; meaning that it is not of man or by man; because the Father teaches us by him, and appoints him to be the only Teacher of the Church; and for this reason he affirms that he has been taught by the Father

29. And he who hath sent me is with me. He again boasts that God, under whose guidance and authority he does every thing, will assist him, so that he shall not labor in vain and to no purpose, as if he had said, that the power of the Spirit of God accompanies his ministry. All faithful teachers ought to be endued with the same confidence, so as to entertain no doubt that the hand of God will be near them, when, with a pure conscience, they discharge such a ministry as he demands. For God does not furnish them with his word, in order that they may strike the air with an idle and useless sound, but makes his word successful by the secret efficacy of his Spirit, and at the same time guards them by his protection, that, when their enemies shall have been subdued, they may remain invincible against the whole world. And, indeed, if they judge of themselves and their own powers, they must give way every hour; so that the only method of pursuing is, to be convinced that they are supported by the hand of God.

Because I do always the things which please him. We must observe the reason why Christ declares that God is on his side, and that he will never be deprived of his assistance. It is, because he is regulated entirely by his will, and serves him in sincerity. For this is what he means by the word always, that he does not obey God only in part, but is entirely and unreservedly devoted to his service. Wherefore, if we desire to enjoy the same presence of God, our whole reason must be subjected to his authority; for if our senses hold the government in any degree, all our exertions will be fruitless, because the blessing of God will not be on them. And though for a time we may be delighted with the joyful prospect of success, yet the final result will be dismal.

The Father hath not left me alone By these words, he indirectly complains of the treachery of his nation, in which he found scarcely any that gave him their support. Yet he shows that he reckons this alone to be abundantly sufficient, that he has God to protect him. Such is the courage with which we ought to be animated in the present day, that we may not give way on account of the small number of believers; for, though the whole world be opposed to his doctrine, still we are not alone Hence, too, it is evident how foolish is the boasting of the Papists, who, while they neglect God, proudly boast of their vast numbers.


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