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John 8:51-55

51. Verily, verily, I say to you, If any man keep my word, he shall never see death. 52. The Jews said therefore to him, Now we know that thou hast the devil, 245245     “Que tu as le diable.” Abraham is dead, and the Prophets, and thou sayest, If any man keep my word, he shall never taste of death. 53. Art thou greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? The Prophets also are dead. Whom makest thou thyself? 54. Jesus answered, If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing; it is my Father who glorifieth me, of whom you say that he is your God. 55. And you know him not, but I know him; and if I say that I do not know him, I shall be a liar like you; but I know him, and keep his word.

 

51. Verily, verily, I say to you. Christ unquestionably knew that some persons in that multitude were curable, and that others of them were not opposed to his doctrine. For this reason, he intended to terrify the wicked whose malice was desperate, but to do so in such a manner as to leave ground of consolation for the good, or to draw to him those who were not yet ruined. Whatever dislike of the word of God, therefore, may be entertained by the greatest part of men, yet the faithful teacher ought not to be wholly employed in reproving the wicked, but ought also to impart the doctrine of salvation to the children of God, and endeavor to bring them to sound views, if there be any of them who are not perfectly incurable. In this passage, therefore, Christ promises eternal life to his disciples, but demands disciples who shall not only prick up their ears, like asses, or profess with the mouth that they approve of his doctrine, but who shall keep his doctrine as a precious treasure. He says that they shall never see death; for, when faith quickens the soul of a man, death already has its sting extracted and its venom removed, and so cannot inflict a deadly wound.

52. Now we know. The reprobate persist in their stupidity, and are not moved by promises any more than by threatenings; so that they can neither be led nor drawn to Christ. Some think that they slanderously torture his words, by using the expression, taste of death, which Christ had not used; but this appears to me to be groundless. I rather think that both of the phrases, to taste of death and to see death, were used by the Hebrews in the same sense; namely, to die But they are false interpreters in this respect, that they apply the spiritual doctrine of Christ to the body. No believer shall see death, because believers, having been born again of incorruptible seed, (1 Peter 1:23,) live even when they die; because, united to Christ their Head, they cannot be extinguished by death; because death is to them a passage into the heavenly kingdom; because

the Spirit, dwelling in them, is life on account of righteousness,
(Romans 8:10,)

until he swallow up all that remains of death. But those men, being carnal, cannot perceive any deliverance from death, unless it appear manifestly in the body. And it is a disease too common in the world, that the greatest part of men care almost nothing about the grace of Christ, because they judge of it only by their carnal perception. That the same thing may not happen to us, we must arouse our minds, that they may discern spiritual life in the midst of death.

53. Art thou greater than our father Abraham? This is another offense, that they endeavor to obscure the glory of Christ by the splendor of Abraham and of the saints. But as all the stars are thrown into the shade by the brightness of the sun, so all the glory that is to be found in all the saints must fade away before the incomparable brightness of Christ. They act unjustly and absurdly, therefore, in contrasting the servants with the Lord; and they even act improperly towards Abraham and the Prophets, by abusing their name in opposition to Christ. But this wickedness has prevailed in almost every age, and prevails even in the present day, that wicked men, by mangling the works of God, make him appear to be contrary to himself. God glorified himself by the Apostles and Martyrs; the Papists frame idols for themselves out of the Apostles and Martyrs, that they may occupy the place of God; and do they not, in this manner, manufacture engines out of the very favors of God, to destroy his power? For how little remains for God or for Christ, if the saints have all that the Papists so lavishly bestow upon them! Wherefore, we ought to know that the whole order of the Kingdom of God is destroyed, unless Prophets, Apostles, and all that can be called Saints, be placed far below Christ, that he alone may hold the highest rank. And, indeed, we cannot speak of the Saints more respectfully than when we place them below Christ. But the Papists, though they may deceive the ignorant by boasting that they are faithful admirers of the Saints, offer an insult both to God and to them, because, by assigning to them a lofty station, they reduce Christ to a level with them. And, indeed, they are doubly in the wrong, because they prefer the Saints to Christ in doctrine; and because, by clothing themselves with the spoils of Christ, they deprive him of almost all his power.

54. If I glorify myself. Before replying to that unjust comparison, he begins by saying that he does not seek his own glory, and thus meets their slander. If it be objected, that Christ also glorified himself, the answer is easy, that he did so, not as man, but by the direction and authority of God. For here, as in many other passages, he distinguishes between himself and God, by way of concession. In short, he declares that he desires no glory whatever but what has been given him by the Father. We are taught by these words that, when God glorifies his Son, he will not permit the world to hate or despise him 246246     “En haine et mespris.” with impunity.

Meanwhile, those voices sounding from heaven, Kiss the Son, (Psalm 2:12,) Let all the angels worship him, (Hebrews 1:6,) Let every knee bow to him, (Philippians 2:10,) Hear ye him, (Matthew 17:5,) Let the Gentiles seek him, (Romans 15:11,) and Let all flesh be humbled, ought greatly to encourage believers to render honor and reverence to Christ. We are also reminded by these words, that all the honor which men procure for themselves is trivial and worthless. How blind then is ambition, when we labor so earnestly about nothing! Let, us continually keep before our eyes that saying of Paul,

Not he who commendeth himself is approved, but whom God commendeth,
(2 Corinthians 10:18.)

Besides, as we are destitute of the glory of God, let us learn to glory in Christ alone, so far as by his grace he makes us partakers of his glory.

Of whom you say that he is your God. He pulls off from them the false mask of the name of God which they were accustomed to employ. “I know,” he says, “how presumptuously you boast that you are the people of God; but it is a false title, for you know not God.” Hence also we learn what is the true and lawful 247247     “La vraye et legitimo profession.” profession of faith. It is that which proceeds from true knowledge. And whence comes that knowledge, but from the word? Consequently, all who boast of the name of God without the word of God are mere liars. Yet to their audacity Christ opposes the assurance of his conscience; and thus all the servants of God ought to be prepared in their hearts to be satisfied with this alone, that God is on their side, though the whole world should rise against him. Thus anciently the Prophets and Apostles had invincible courage and magnanimity, which stood firm against the dreadful attacks of the whole world, because they knew by whom they were sent. But when solid knowledge of God is wanting, there is nothing to support us.

And if I shall say that I know him. By this clause, Christ testifies that the necessity of his office constrains him to speak, because silence would be a treacherous denim of the truth. This is a remarkable statement, that God reveals himself to us for this purpose, that we may confess before men the faith which we have in our hearts, when it is needful. For it ought powerfully to strike terror into our minds, that they who act hypocritically to please men, and either deny the truth of God or disfigure it by wicked glosses, not only are gently reproved, but are sent back to the children of the devil.


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