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John 12:47-50

47. And if any man hear my words, and do not believe them, 3535     “Et ne les croit point.” I do not judge him; for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. 48. He who rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one who judgeth him. The word which I have spoken shall judge him at the last day. 49. For I have not spoken from myself; but the Father who hath sent me hath given me a commandment what to say and what to speak. 50. And I know that his commandment is eternal life: those things, therefore, which I speak, I speak as my Father hath told me.

 

47. If any man hear my words. After having spoken concerning his grace, and exhorted his disciples to steady faith, he now begins to strike the rebellious, though even here he mitigates the severity due to the wickedness of those who deliberately — as it were — reject God; for he delays to pronounce judgment on them, because, on the contrary, he has come for the salvation of all. In the first place, we ought to understand that he does not speak here of all unbelievers without distinction, but of those who, knowingly and willingly, reject the doctrine of the Gospel which has been exhibited to them. Why then does Christ not choose to condemn them? It is because he lays aside for a time the office of a judge, and offers salvation to all without reserve, and stretches out his arms to embrace all, that all may be the more encouraged to repent. And yet there is a circumstance of no small moment, by which he points out the aggravation of the crime, if they reject an invitation so kind and gracious, for it is as if he had said, “Lo, I am here to invite all, and, forgetting the character of a judge, I have this as my single object, to persuade all, and to rescue from destruction those who are already twice ruined.” No man, therefore, is condemned on account of having despised the Gospel, except he who, disdaining the lovely message of salvation, has chosen of his own accord to draw down destruction on himself.

The word judge, as is evident from the word save, which is contrasted with it, here signifies to condemn. Now this ought to be understood as referring to the office which properly and naturally belongs to Christ; for that unbelievers are not more severely condemned on account of the Gospel is accidental, and does not arise from its nature, as we have said on former occasions.

48. He who rejecteth me. That wicked men may not flatter themselves as if their unbounded disobedience to Christ would pass unpunished, he, adds here a dreadful threatening, that though he were to do nothing in this matter, yet his doctrine alone would be sufficient to condemn them, as he says elsewhere, that there would be no need of any other judge than Moses, in whom they boasted, (John 5:45.) The meaning, therefore, is: “Burning with ardent desire to promote your salvation, I do indeed abstain from exercising my right to condemn you, and am entirely employed in saving what is lost; but do not think that you have escaped out of the hands of God; for though I should altogether hold my peace, the word alone, which you have despised, is sufficient to judge you.”

And receiveth not my words. This latter clause is an explanation of the former; for since hypocrisy is natural to men, nothing is easier for them than to boast in words that they are ready to receive Christ; and we see how common this boasting is even amongst the most wicked men. We must therefore attend to this definition, that Christ is rejected when we do not embrace the pure doctrine of the Gospel.

Loudly do the Papists, indeed, proclaim this word which Christ uttered; but as soon as his pure truth is brought forward, nothing is more hateful to them. Such persons kiss Christ in the same manner as Judas kissed him, (Matthew 26:49.) Let us therefore learn to receive him along with his word, and to render to him that homage and obedience which he demands as his sole right.

The word which I speak shall judge you at the last day. It is impossible to give a nobler or more magnificent title to the Gospel than to, ascribe to it the power of judging; for, according to these words, the last judgment shall be nothing else than an approbation or ratification 3636     “Une approbation ou ratification.” of the doctrine of the Gospel. Christ himself will indeed ascend the tribunal, but he declares that he will pronounce the sentence according to the word which is now preached. This threatening ought to strike deep? terror into the ungodly, since they cannot escape the judgment of that doctrine which they now so haughtily disdain.

But when Christ mentions the last judgment, he means that they are now destitute of understanding; for he reminds them that the punishment which they now treat with mockery will then be openly displayed. On the other hand, it yields to the godly an invaluable consolation, that to whatever extent. they may be now condemned by the world, still they do not doubt that they are already acquitted in heaven; for, wherever the faith of the Gospel has its seat, the tribunal of God is erected to save. Relying on this right, we need not trouble ourselves about Papists or their absurd decisions; for our faith rises even above angels.

49. For I do not speak from myself. That the outward appearance of man may not lessen the majesty of God, Christ frequently sends us to the Father. This is the reason why he so often mentions the Father; and, indeed, since it would be unlawful to transfer to another a single spark of the Divine glory, the word, to which judgment is ascribed, must have proceeded from God. Now Christ here distinguishes himself from the Father, not simply as to his Divine Person, but rather as to his flesh; lest the doctrine should be judged after the manner of men, and, therefore, should have less weight. But if consciences were subject to the laws and doctrine of men, this argument of Christ would not apply, “My word (he says) will judge, because it has not proceeded from man;” according to that saying,

There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy,
(James 4:12.)

We may likewise infer from it, how monstrous, is the sacrilege of the Pope in daring to bind souls by his inventions; for in this way he claims more for himself than the Son of God does, who declares that he does not speak but by the commandment of his Father.

50. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. He again applauds the fruit of his doctrine, that all may more willingly yield to it; and it is reasonable that wicked men should feel the vengeance of God, whom they now refuse to have as the Author of life.


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