The Fourfold Gospel
3:1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus1, a ruler of the Jews2:
JESUS ATTENDS THE FIRST PASSOVER OF HIS MINISTRY.
(Jerusalem, April 9, A.D. 27.)
B. JESUS TALKS WITH NICODEMUS.
- Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus. Nicodemus is mentioned only by John. His character is marked by prudence amounting
almost to timidity. At John 7:50-52 he defends Jesus, but without
committing himself as in any interested in him; at John 19:38,39 he
brought spices for the body of Jesus, but only after Joseph of
Arimathea had secured the body.
- A ruler of the Jews. A member of the Sanhedrin.
3:2 the same came unto him by night1, and said to him, Rabbi, we know2 that thou art a teacher come from God3; for no one can do these signs that thou doest, except God be with him5.
- The same came unto him by night. Thus avoiding the hostility of his colleagues, and also obtaining a more personal and uninterrupted
interview with Jesus. That his coming by night revealed his character
is shown by the fact that John repeats the expression when describing
him at John 19:39. But, in justice, it should be said that Nicodemus
was the only one of his order who came at all during our Lord's life.
- And said to him, Rabbi, we know. Nicodemus uses the plural, to avoid committing himself too much. Nicodemus would assert nothing but that
which was commonly admitted by many. We learn from John 12:42,43 that
late in the ministry of Christ, when hostility towards him was most
bitter, many of the rulers still believed in him. No doubt, when
Nicodemus said "we" he used the word advisedly and conscientiously.
- That thou art a teacher come from God. The rulers knew that Jesus was not the product of any of the rabbinical schools, and his miracles
marked him as a prophet and distinguished him from all who were guided
merely by reason, no matter how learned.
- For no man can do these signs that thou doest. See John 2:25.
- Except God be with him. These words show the effect of Christ's miracles. Miracles arrest attention and challenge investigation, and
prove that he who works them is from God (Acts 10:38).
3:3 Jesus answered1 and said unto him, Verily, verily2, I say unto thee, Except one be born anew3, he cannot see the kingdom of God4.
- Jesus answered. Not the words, but the thoughts of Nicodemus. The answers of Jesus often look rather to the thoughts of the questioner
than to the form of the question. Nicodemus came seeking to know
something about the kingdom of God, and Jesus opened at once upon the
- Verily, verily. See John 1:51.
- Except one be born anew. The Greek word "anothen," translated "anew," may also mean "from above", and some commentators seek to so
translate it here, but it is rightly translated "again", for Nicodemus
understood it to mean a "second" birth. As to the import of the
passage, Luther's words are pertinent:
"My doctrine is not of doing, and of leaving undone, but of
being and becoming; so that it is not a new work to be done,
but the being new created--not the living otherwise, but the
- He cannot see the kingdom of God. To "see" the kingdom means to possess or enjoy it (Psalms 16:10; Psalms 90:15; John 8:51; Luke 2:26).
3:4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old1? can he enter a second time into his mother's womb, and be born2?
- How can a man be born when he is old? Knowing that a man cannot be literally born a second time, Nicodemus states to Jesus the literal
import of his words, hoping thereby to draw from him an explanation of
this new, strange metaphor which he was using.
- Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb, and be born? So far as he did grasp the meaning of Jesus, Nicodemus saw himself barred
forever from the kingdom by an impossible requirement. Many, like him,
need to learn that God asks of us nothing that is impossible; that, on
the contrary, the yoke is easy and the burden is light (Matthew 11:30).
3:5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily1, I say unto thee, Except one be born of water2 and the Spirit3, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God!
- Verily, verily. See John 1:51.
- Except one be born of water. By far the vast majority of scholars consider the word "water" in this verse as a reference to Christian
baptism. The Cambridge Bible says
"the outward sign and inward grace of Christian baptism are
here clearly given, and an unbiased mind can scarcely avoid
seeing this plain fact. This becomes clearer when we
compare John 1:26,33, where the Baptist declares, "I
baptize in water," the Messiah "baptizeth in the Holy
Spirit." The fathers, both Greek and Latin, thus interpret
the passage with singular unanimity."
Men would have no difficulty in understanding this passage were it not
that its terms apparently exclude "the pious unimmersed" from Christ's
kingdom. But difficulties, however distressing, will justify no man in
wrestling the Scriptures of God (2 Peter 3:16; Romans 3:4).
- And the Spirit. Water and Spirit are joined at Matthew 28:19 Acts 2:38; Acts 19:1-7; Titus 3:5.
3:6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit1.
- That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Jesus here draws the distinction between fleshly
birth and spiritual birth. He did this to prepare Nicodemus to
understand that it is the "spirit" and not the flesh which undergoes
the change called the new birth. Regeneration is no slight, superficial
change, but a radical one, and one which we cannot work for ourselves.
3:7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born anew1.
- Ye must be born anew. Jesus here plainly declares that none are exempt from this gospel requirement. Man must obtain more than his
fleshly nature if he would inherit eternal life.
3:8 The wind bloweth where it will, and thou hearest the voice thereof, but knowest not whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.
- The wind bloweth where it will . . . so is every one that is born of the Spirit. In this sentence we have the Greek word "pneuma" translated
by the two words "wind" and "spirit". There can be no justification in
rendering "pneuma" as "wind", when in the last clause of the same
sentence, and three times in the immediate context, it is rendered
"spirit". There can be no doubt that it means the same in both clauses
of this verse, and if we render it wind in the first clause, we must
say "born of the wind" in the last clause. Whatever is the meaning of
this verse, it must be extracted from the rendering which the Revisers
have strangely placed in the margin, viz.: "The Spirit breatheth where
it will", etc. It teaches that a man is born of the Spirit, breathing
as he wills through inspired men. It is equivalent to Paul's maxim that
faith comes by hearing the word of God* (Romans 10:17).
* From this (Bro. McGarvey's) construction of John 3:8 I dissent,
and hold that the Revisers have given us the true reading in the text.
The question has been fully discussed in Lard's Quarterly, Vol. III, p.
337; Benjamin Franklin's Sermons, Vol. I, p. 281; Alexander Campbell's
Millennial Harbinger, 1832, p. 604; 1833, p. 24; 1869, pp. 317, 478,
522, 688. I take this passage to mean that the process by which a man
is regenerated by the Spirit of God is no more mysterious than other
operations in the natural world, of which operations the blowing of the
wind is taken as an example.--Philip Y. Pendleton.
3:10 Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou the teacher of Israel, and understandest not these things1?
- Art thou the teacher of Israel, and understandest not these things? The Jewish teachers or doctors of the law made very arrogant claims to
knowledge, but it often happens that the professedly learned are
remarkably unacquainted with the first principles of their religion. It
was so with the Jewish teachers (Matthew 15:14). Nicodemus should have
understood that such a change as Jesus was speaking of would be
necessary, for (1) It was foreshadowed in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 10:16
1 Samuel 10:9; 1 Samuel 16:13; Psalms 51:10; Ezekiel 18:31; Jeremiah 4:4). (2) John the Baptist
suggested the need of some such change when he attacked the Jewish
trust in their descent from Abraham (Matthew 3:9; Luke 3:8).
3:11 Verily, verily1, I say unto thee, We2 speak that which we know, and bear witness of that which we have seen3; and ye receive not our witness4.
- Verily, verily. See John 1:51.
- I say unto thee, We. A rhetorical plural. See Mark 4:30.
- Speak that which we know, and bear witness of that which we have seen. His words were not founded upon reasonings, speculations, and
guesses, but were the plain testimony of an eyewitness, who was able to
see and had seen things which to us are invisible.
- And ye receive not our witness. Ye teachers of Israel, who, above all men, should receive our guidance, are the very last to follow us.
As the Jewish rulers would not receive Christ's testimony, let us not
be surprised if many of our day refuse to listen to the gospel which we
3:12 If I told you earthly things and ye believe not2, how shall ye believe3 if I tell you heavenly things4?
- If I have told you. Jesus here divides religious phenomena into two divisions--earthly and heavenly.
- Earthly things and ye believe not. The earthly phenomena are those which have their sphere in this world. In this sense regeneration is an
earthly thing; for though it has a heavenly origin, its manifestations
are among the daily sights and experiences of our earthly life.
- How shall ye believe. These things have their sphere far removed from earth, and transcended the comprehension of Nicodemus. Now, if
Nicodemus would not believe Jesus when he told him of things which he
himself partially knew, how would he believe when Jesus spoke of that
which was utterly unknown to him?
- If I tell you heavenly things? Religion has also its heavenly phenomena, such as the ordering of God's celestial household; the
experiences of those who pass into the divine presence; the
propitiation, or the changes wrought in the attitude of God toward man
by the sacrifice of Christ; the powers and limitations of Christ's
priestly intercession, etc.
3:13 And no one hath ascended into heaven, but he that descended out of heaven1, [even] the Son of man, who is in heaven2.
- And no one hath ascended into heaven, but he that descended out of heaven. Nicodemus is here informed that Christ alone can teach
concerning heavenly things. Jesus can so teach, for he did not begin on
earth and ascend to heaven, but he came from heaven to earth, and
returned thence (afterwards) to heaven.
- [Even] the Son of man, who is in heaven. Jesus speaks of himself as being present in heaven, because his divine nature was in constant
communication with the powers of heaven. If we conceive of heaven as a
locality (a proper conception), Jesus was upon the earth; but if we
conceive of it as a present communion with the presence of God (also a
proper conception), then Christ was in heaven as he talked with
Nicodemus (John 8:29).
3:14 And as Moses1 lifted up the serpent in the wilderness2, even so must the Son of man be lifted up;
- And as Moses. Jesus here indicates the prophetical character of the Old Testament. The extent of Christ's endorsement of the Old Testament
becomes apparent when we consider on how many occasions he revealed
himself under the same symbolism which the Old Testament used to reveal
him. At John 2:19 he revealed his resurrection under the symbolism
of the destroyed and restored temple. At Matthew 12:40 the same event is
revealed under the symbolism of Jonah and the whale. And here his
crucifixion is likewise partially veiled and partially disclosed under
a symbolic reference to the brazen serpent.
- Lifted up the serpent in the wilderness. The account of the brazen serpent will be found at Numbers 21:4-9. The lesson of the brazen serpent
will be found in its main points of the crucifixion of Christ. When the
people were bitten by fiery serpents, something made to resemble a
serpent was hung upon a pole, and the people who looked to it in faith
through it healing and life. Such is the epitome of Christ's gospel.
3:15 that whosoever believeth may in him have eternal life1.
- That whosoever believeth may in him have eternal life. When the world was perishing because of sin, Jesus, made to resemble sin
(Romans 8:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21) was hung upon the cross, that those who look unto
him in faith (Isaiah 45:22) may find life through him (1 John 5:11-13).
3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish1, but have eternal life2.
- For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish. Luther calls this verse
"the Bible in miniature". It is a lesson as to God's love: (1) Its
magnitude--he gave his only begotten Son. (2) Its reach--he gave it to
a sinful world (Romans 5:8). (3) Its impartiality--he gives it to whoever;
that is, to all alike (Matthew 5:45; Revelation 22:17). (4) Its beneficial richness
--it blesses with life eternal. (5) Its limitations--it is nowhere said
that God so loves that he will save unbelievers. Love is the mutual and
binding grace between God and man; it may also be said that in Christ
is made God human and man divine.
- But have eternal life. John uses the word "eternal" ("ainios" in Greek) seventeen times in his Gospel (John 3:15,16,36; John 4:14,36; John 5:24,39
John 6:27,40,47,54,68; John 10:28; John 12:25,50; John 17:2,3) and six times in his First
Epistle (1 John 1:2; 1 John 2:25; 1 John 3:15; 1 John 5:11,13,20). He always applies it to life.
The synoptists use it eight times (Matthew 18:8; Matthew 19:16,29; Matthew 25:41,46; Mark 3:29
Mark 10:17,30; Luke 10:25; Luke 16:9; Luke 18:18,30), applying it to life, and also to
fire, punishment, damnation, and habitation.
3:17 For God sent not the Son into the world to judge the world; but that the world should be saved through him1.
- For God sent not the Son into the world to judge the world; but that the world should be saved through him. Christ's first mission to the
world was for salvation rather than for judgment. His second mission
was for judgment, but a judgment-hour wherein he will be able to save
those who have accepted the means of grace which he established by his
first coming. But the first coming of Christ incidentally involved
judgment (John 9:39), and John the Baptist emphasized the judgment of
Christ. This judgment, however, was not the principal object of
Christ's coming, but was an inevitable result of it. Jesus here speaks
of it as a self-executed judgment. It was a necessary result of the
revealed presence of Christ (Luke 2:35). That Christ is at present a
Savior, and not a judge, is a truth which needs to be emphasized.
Catholics are taught to fear Christ and flee to the Virgin; and many
ignorant Protestants are disposed to look upon him as a prosecutor
rather than as an advocate.
3:18 He that believeth on him is not judged1: he that believeth not hath been judged already, because he hath not believed on the name of the only begotten Son of God2.
- He that believeth on him is not judged. The name Jesus means "Savior"; to disbelieve this name is to reject Christ as Savior. The
verses at John 3:14,15 require belief in Jesus as the Son of man.
This verse requires belief in him as the Son of God. Belief in this
dual nature of Jesus is essential to salvation.
- He that believeth not hath been judged already, because he hath not believed on the name of the only begotten Son of God. Unbelief is the
world's crowning sin; and belief is, humanly speaking, the source of
its justification. This verse teaches that God's judgments are in a
state of perpetually present enactment. The believer is saved now
(Acts 13:39), and the unbeliever rests already under that condemnation
which he fears the Son of God may some day pronounce against him.
3:19 And this is the judgment1, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their works were evil.
- And this is the judgment, etc. These verses show that when God judges a man by his faith, the judgment is not arbitrary and
irrational. Men "believe" according to the secret aspirations and
desires of their nature. Christ, as the example and model of life,
shines out as the light of the world; those who approve and love such a
life are drawn to him and constrained to believe in him. Spiritually,
they abide in his presence, that they may compare their lives with his,
and that they may be assured that their works are wrought under the
renewing and sanctifying influence of the Holy Spirit, who is sent of
Christ. But one whose desires are evil shrinks from Christ, and
struggles to disbelieve in him; he seeks to know as little of Christ as
possible, because such knowledge exposes the wickedness and depravity
of his own sinful nature.
3:22 After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judea; and there he tarried with them2, and baptized3.
FIRST MINISTRY IN JUDEA--JOHN'S SECOND TESTIMONY.
(Judea and Aenon.)
- After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea. That is, he left Jerusalem, the capital of Judea, and went
into the rural districts thereof. We find him there again in John 12
and Luke 13-18. He gained disciples there, but of them we know but few,
such as Mary, Martha, Lazarus, Simeon, and Judas Iscariot.
- And there he tarried with them. It is not stated how long he tarried, but it may have been from April to December, for the passover
was in April, and December was "yet four months" before the harvest
- And baptized. This baptism was not into the three names of God (John 7:39), into which the apostles were afterwards directed to
baptize (Matthew 28:19). It was a continuation of John's baptism,
preparatory to the organization of the church--a preparation for the
kingdom. Some think that Jesus, at this time, baptized in his own name,
and afterwards gave the full baptismal formula into the other two
names--Father and Spirit. But there is no evidence of this, and
Christian baptism is a baptism into the death of Christ (Romans 6:3).
Christ would hardly have ordered baptism into his death before his
crucifixion. Such a proceeding would have wrought confusion.
3:23 And John also was baptizing1 in Enon near to Salim, because there was much water there3: and they came, and were baptized4.
- And John also was baptizing. The fact that John also was baptizing is a further indication that the baptism administered by Jesus was
preparatory. There would hardly be two kinds of baptism administered by
divine consent at one time.
- In Aenon. This name means "springs".
- Near to Salim, because there was much water there. If one starts at Sychar, at the foot of Mount Ebal, and follows the Damascus road
northward for seven miles, he comes upon the valley called Wady Farah.
In this beautiful wady the stream flows eastward, having Salim three
miles to its south and 'Ainun four miles to its north. For the most
part the valley is narrow, and hemmed in by rocky cliffs. But if one
follows the course seven miles eastward from the Damascus road, he
comes upon a beautiful valley, about one mile wide and three miles
broad--a place every way suitable for the gathering of multitudes to
hear the preaching of John. A perennial stream, with copious springs
all along its course, furnishes, even in the longest, driest summers,
the "much water" required for baptism.
- They came, and were baptized. Says Lt. Conder,
"Here, then, in the wild, desert valley, beneath the red
precipices, where the hawk and kite find nests in "the
stairs of the rocks," or by the banks of the shingly
stream, with its beautiful oleander blossoms shining in the
dusky foliage of luxuriant shrubs, we may picture the dark
figure of the Baptist, in his robe of camel's hair, with
the broad leather Bedawi belt around his loins, preaching
to the Judean multitude of pale citizens--portly,
gray-bearded rabbis, Roman soldiers in leathern armor and
shining helmets, sharp-faced publicans, and, above all, to
the great mass of oppressed peasantry, the "beasts of the
people," uncared for, stricken with palsy, with blindness,
with fever, with leprosy, but eagerly looking forward to
the appearance of that Messiah who came to preach the
gospel to the poor."
3:24 For John was not yet cast into prison1.
- For John was not yet cast into prison. John's Gospel shows that the ministry of Christ was well under way before that of the Baptist
ceased: a fact which the synoptists do not reveal. See Matthew 4:12
Mark 6:17; Luke 3:20.
3:25 There arose therefore a questioning on the part of John's disciples with a Jew about purifying1.
- There arose therefore a questioning on the part of John's disciples with a Jew about purifying. What this questioning was we are not told.
The word "therefore" doubtless refers to the baptisms just mentioned,
so that the dispute probably related to the necessity or purifying
effects of that ordinance. But whatever the dispute was about, it
brought to notice the fact that Jesus was baptizing more than John, a
fact which some of the disciples of John quickly resented.
3:26 And they came unto John, and said to him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond the Jordan1, to whom thou hast borne witness, behold, the same baptizeth2, and all men come to him3.
- And they came unto John, and said to him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond the Jordan. This verse shows that John's disciples looked
upon Jesus as one who owed all his position and popularity to the
Baptist's testimony, and were, therefore, surprised to find that Jesus
was surpassing John. They looked upon this conduct as a species of
ingratitude on the part of Jesus.
- To whom thou hast borne witness, behold, the same baptizeth. This verse also shows us that the witness of John did not pass unheeded. His
witness was public and notorious, and men remembered it, though they
did not always profit by it.
- And all men come to him. That these friends of John felt unkindly toward Jesus is shown by their exaggerated statement that "all men come
3:27 John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it have been given him from heaven1.
- A man can receive nothing, except it have been given him from heaven. Some take this to mean that Jesus could not have had this
great success unless Heaven gave it to him; but it is more likely that
John used the words with entire reference to himself. A "man" can only
take what is given to him; the Son of God takes what he chooses. The
friend receives only what hospitality extends to him, but the heir
takes what he will, as the owner of the house.
3:28 Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ1, but, that I am sent before him.
- Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ,
- but, that I am sent before him. In stating that John had borne witness (John 3:26). John's disciple had already committed themselves to the
fact that John disclaimed to be the Messiah, and that Jesus was the
Messiah; for it was concerning these two things that John had given his
3:29 He that hath the bride is the bridegroom1: but the friend of the bridegroom, that standeth and heareth him2, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice3: this my joy therefore is made full4.
- He that hath the bride is the bridegroom. John looks upon the body of disciples as the Lord's bride, and prophetically anticipates the
very title which was subsequently applied to the church.
- But the friend of the bridegroom, that standeth and heareth him. It was the duty of "the friend of the bridegroom" to arrange the
preliminaries of the wedding, and to promote the mutual interests of
the bride and bridegroom. His duties and responsibilities greatly
exceeded those of our "best man", for it was his place to demand the
hand of the bride, and to prepare everything for the reception of the
bride and bridegroom.
- Rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice. Joy at the sound of the bridegroom's voice is part of the drapery of John's
figure. Voices of bride and bridegroom are a Biblical symbol of
festivity and joy (Jeremiah 7:34; Jeremiah 25:10; Jeremiah 33:11). The Song of Solomon is
the only book in the Bible which dwells upon the relationship of bride
and bridegroom, and in it the voice of the bridegroom is mentioned with
joy (Song of Solomon 2:8).
- This my joy therefore is made full. If John meant anything more by the phrase than mere drapery, he used it to express his pleasure that
the Messiah was directing his own affairs, and speaking his wishes with
his own voice, instead of using his friend as a mouthpiece.
3:30 He must increase, but I must decrease1.
- He must increase, but I must decrease. Noble words! "He must increase"--because the divine law has ordered it, and prophecy has
foretold it (Isaiah 52:13), and because the very divinity of his nature
absolutely requires it. "I must decrease"--in popularity, in power, in
following. The Christian minister finds the increase of his work the
same as the increase of Christ's kingdom; but with the Baptist the case
was different. He was a Jewish prophet, and as the power of the New
Dispensation, under Christ, gained headway, the Old Dispensation, of
which he was a part, waxed old, and was ready to vanish away.
3:31 He that cometh from above is above all1: he that is of the earth is of the earth, and of the earth he speaketh: he that cometh from heaven is above all.
- He that cometh from above is above all, etc. Some think that the testimony of the Baptist closes with John 3:30, and that the rest of
the chapter is the comment of the apostle John, but there is certainly
no sufficient ground for such a view.
3:32 What he hath seen and heard, of that he beareth witness1; and no man receiveth his witness2.
- What he hath seen and heard, of that he beareth witness. In John 3:21,32 the Baptist draws a contrast between his testimony and
that of the Messiah. The Baptist's testimony was largely of a negative
character. He testified that he was not the Christ (John 3:28), and
while he pointed Jesus out as the Christ, the worthy one, the spiritual
baptizer, he nowhere undertook to elaborate as to the character or
nature of Jesus. He looked upon Jesus as being so far above all earthly
prophets that no prophet could reveal him. The task of such revelation
devolved upon Jesus himself. God must be self-revealed.
- And no man receiveth his witness. It was no heavy disappointment to John that his disciples had failed to grasp his testimony concerning
himself, and yet so few were persuaded by the testimony of Jesus that
John hyperbolically says "no man receiveth his testimony".
3:33 He that hath received his witness hath set his seal to [this], that God is true1.
- He that hath received his witness hath set his seal to [this], that God is true. We have here a metaphor, taken from the sealing of a
document, as an expression of trust in or adherence to it. Compare
John 6:27; 1 Corinthians 9:2. To receive Christ's witness was to publicly confess
a conviction that God was true--true to his promise that he would send
a Messiah, a Savior (Romans 3:4). To believe Christ is to believe God;
to make Christ a liar is to make the Father one also, for he speaks
concerning Christ (1 John 5:10) and through Christ (John 7:16; John 16:24).
3:34 For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for he giveth not the Spirit by measure1.
- For he giveth not the Spirit by measure. To give anything by measure indicates a partial, scanty bestowal (Ezekiel 4:16). The Spirit of God,
even in inspired prophets, was but a partial and intermittent gift
(1 Corinthians 7:25; 1 Corinthians 13:9; 1 Peter 1:11; Hebrews 1:1), but in Jesus, the Son of God,
the Spirit of God dwelt fully and uninterruptedly (Colossians 1:19). The
present tense "giveth" points to a continuous communication of the
Spirit. If Christ had received the Spirit "by measure", then his gift
of the Spirit might be exhausted.
3:35 The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand1.
- The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand. This fact was afterwards asserted by Jesus (Matthew 28:18). Jesus is indeed
King of kings (Psalms 2:6-8; Matthew 11:27; Acts 2:33; Acts 10:36; Ephesians 1:22).
3:36 He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life1; but he that obeyeth not the Son shall not see life2, but the wrath of God abideth on him3.
- He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life. The New Testament represents everlasting life as a present possession obtained by belief.
- But he that obeyeth not the Son shall not see life. In the second clause of this verse "obeyeth" stands in contrast with "believeth" in
the first clause. No mental assent, however strong, is reckoned by the
Scriptures as faith unless it results in obedience (James 2:20; Romans 1:5).
- But the wrath of God abideth on him. "Wrath of God" is a strong phrase, and is not to be lightly explained away. The unconverted sinner
rests under this wrath. His study should be not only to avert a
sentence to be pronounced at some future day, but to be freed from one
already resting upon him. This verse shows conclusively that Christ's
atoning work had its divine as well as its human side; that God had to
be propitiated as truly as man had to be reconciled. The Baptist had
already repeatedly warned the Jewish people of the wrath to come if
they rejected the Messiah, and in this, his last recorded utterance, he
boldly reiterates that warning.