RPM, Volume 17, Number 47, November 15 to November 21, 2015

Barnes' New Testament Notes

Notes on the New Testament Explanatory and Practical
Part 29

By Albert Barnes

Grand Rapids, Mich.:
Baker Book House, 1949.


Verse 1. A man of the Pharisees. A Pharisee. See Barnes "Mt 3:3".

Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. One of the Sanhedrim, or great council of the nation. He is twice mentioned after this as being friendly to our Saviour; in the first instance as advocating his cause, and defending him against the unjust suspicion of the Jews Joh 7:50, and in the second instance as one who came to aid in embalming his body, Joh 19:39. It will be recollected that the design of John in writing this gospel was to show that Jesus was the Messiah. To do this he here adduces the testimony of one of the rulers of the Jews, who early became convinced of it, and who retained the belief of it until the death of Jesus.

{a} "Nicodemus" Joh 7:50,51; 19:39


Verse 2. The same came to Jesus. The design of his coming seems to have been to inquire more fully of Jesus what was the doctrine which he came to teach. He seems to have been convinced that he was the Messiah, and desired to be farther instructed in private respecting his doctrine. It was not usual for a man of rank, power, and riches to come to inquire of Jesus in this manner; yet we may learn that the most favourable opportunity for teaching such men the nature of personal religion is when they are alone. Scarcely any man, of any rank, will refuse to converse on this subject when addressed respectfully and tenderly in private. In the midst of their companions, or engaged in business, they may refuse to listen or may cavil. When alone, they will hear the voice of entreaty and persuasion, and be willing to converse on the great subjects of judgment and eternity. Thus Paul says (Ga 2:2), "privately to them which are of reputations;" evincing his consummate prudence, and his profound knowledge of human nature.

By night. It is not mentioned why he came by night. It might have been that, being a member of the Sanhedrim, he was engaged all the day; or it may have been because the Lord Jesus was occupied all the day in teaching publicly and in working miracles, and that there was no opportunity for conversing with him as freely as he desired; or it may have been that he was afraid of the ridicule and contempt of those in power, and fearful that it might involve him in danger if publicly known; or it may have been that he was afraid that if it were publicly known that he was disposed to favour the Lord Jesus, it might provoke more opposition against him and endanger his life. As no bad motive is imputed to him, it is most in accordance with Christian charity to suppose that his motives were such as God would approve, especially as the Saviour did not reprove him. We should not be disposed to blame men where Jesus did not, and we should desire to find goodness in every man rather than be ever on the search for evil motives. 1 Co 13:4-7. We may learn here,

1st. That our Saviour, though engaged during the day, did not refuse to converse with an inquiring sinner at night. Ministers of the gospel at all times should welcome those who are asking the way to life.

2nd. That it is proper for men, even those of elevated rank, to inquire on the subject of religion. Nothing is so important as religion, and no temper of mind is more lovely than a disposition to ask the way to heaven. At all times men should seek the way of salvation, and especially in times of great religious excitement they should make inquiry. At Jerusalem, at the time referred to here, there was great solicitude. Many believed on Jesus. He wrought miracles, and preached, and many were converted. There was what would now be called a revival off religion, having all the features of a work of grace. At such a season it was proper, as it is now, that not only the poor, but the rich and great, should inquire the path to life.

Rabbi. This was a title of respect conferred on distinguished Jewish teachers, somewhat in the way that the title doctor of divinity is now conferred. See Barnes "Joh 1:38".

Our Saviour forbade his disciples to wear that title (See Barnes "Joh 1:38") , though it was proper for him to do it, as being the great Teacher of mankind. It literally signifies great, and was given by Nicodemus, doubtless, because Jesus gave distinguished proofs that he came as a teacher from God.

We know. I know, and those with whom I am connected. Perhaps he was acquainted with some of the Pharisees who entertained the same opinion about Jesus that he did, and he came to be more fully confirmed in the belief.

Come from God. Sent by God. This implies his readiness to hear him, and his desire to be instructed. He acknowledges the divine mission of Jesus, and delicately asks him to instruct him in the truth of religion. When we read the words of Jesus in the Bible, it should be with a belief that he came from God, and was therefore qualified and authorized to teach us the way of life.

These miracles. The miracles which he wrought in the temple and at Jerusalem, Joh 2:23.

Except God be with him. Except God aid him, and except his instructions are approved by God. Miracles show that a prophet or religious teacher comes from God, because God would not work a miracle in attestation of a falsehood or to give countenance to a false teacher. If God gives a man power to work a miracle, it is proof that he approves the teaching of that man, and the miracle is the proof or the credential that he came from God.

{b} "for no man" Joh 9:16,33; Ac 2:22

{c} "God be with him" Ac 10:38


Verse 3. Verily, verily. An expression of strong affirmation, denoting the certainty and the importance of what he was about to say. Jesus proceeds to state one of the fundamental and indispensable doctrines of his religion. It may seem remarkable that he should introduce this subject in this manner; but it should be remembered that Nicodemus acknowledged that he was a teacher come from God; that he implied by that his readiness and desire to receive instruction; and that it is not wonderful, therefore, that Jesus should commence with one of the fundamental truths of his religion. It is no part of Christianity to conceal anything. Jesus declared to every man, high or low, rich or poor, the most humbling truths of the gospel. Nothing was kept back for fear of offending men of wealth or power; and for them, as well as the most poor and lowly, it was declared to be indispensable to experience, as the first thing in religion, a change of heart and of life.

Except a man. This is a universal form of expression designed to include all mankind. Of each and every man it is certain that unless he is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. It includes, therefore, men of every character and rank, and nation, moral and immoral, rich and poor, in office and out of office, old and young, bond and free, the slave and his master, Jew and Gentile. It is clear that our Saviour intended to convey to Nicodemus the idea, also, that he must be born again. It was not sufficient to be a Jew, or to acknowledge him to be a teacher sent by God—that is, the Messiah; it was necessary, in addition to this, to experience in his own soul that great change called the new birth or regeneration.

Be born again. The word translated here again means also from above, and is so rendered in the margin. It is evident, however, that Nicodemus understood it not as referring to a birth from above, for if he had he would not have asked the question in Joh 3:4. It is probable that in the language which he used there was not the same ambiguity that there is in the Greek. The ancient versions all understood it as meaning again, or the second time. Our natural birth introduces us to light, is the commencement of life, throws us amid the works of God, and is the beginning of our existence; but it also introduces us to a world of sin. We early go astray. All men transgress. The imagination of the thoughts of the heart is evil from the youth up. We are conceived in sin and brought forth in iniquity, and there is none that doeth good, no, not one. The carnal mind is enmity against God, and by nature we are dead in trespasses and sins, Ge 8:21; Ps 14:2,3; Ps 51:5; Ro 1:29-32; 3:10-20; 8:7.

All sin exposes men to misery here and hereafter. To escape from sin, to be happy in the world to come, it is necessary that man should be changed in his principles, his feelings, and his manner of life. This change, or the beginning of this new life, is called the new birth, or regeneration. It is so called because in many respects it has a striking analogy to the natural birth. It is the beginning of spiritual life. It introduces us to the light of the gospel. It is the moment when we really begin to live to any purpose. It is the moment when God reveals himself to us as our reconciled Father, and we are adopted into his family as his sons. And as every man is a sinner, it is necessary that each one should experience this change, or he cannot be happy or saved. This doctrine was not unknown to the Jews, and was particularly predicted as a doctrine that would be taught in the times of the Messiah. See De 10:16; Jer 4:4; 31:4,33; Eze 11:19; 36:25

Ps 51:12. The change in the New Testament is elsewhere called the new creation (2 Co 5:17; Ga 6:15), and life from the dead, or a resurrection, Eph 2:1; Joh 5:21,24.

He cannot see. To see, here, is put evidently for enjoying —-or he cannot be fitted for it and partake of it.

The kingdom of God. Either in this world or in that which is to come—that is, heaven. See Barnes "Mt 3:2".

The meaning is, that the kingdom which Jesus was about to set up was so pure and holy that it was indispensable that every man should experience this change, or he could not partake of its blessings. This is solemnly declared by the Son of God by an affirmation equivalent to an oath, and there can be no possibility, therefore, of entering heaven without experiencing the change which the Saviour contemplated by the new birth. And it becomes every man, as in the presence of a holy God before whom he must soon appear, to ask himself whether he has experienced this change, and if he has not, to give no rest to his eyes until he has sought the mercy of God, and implored the aid of his Spirit that his heart may be renewed.

{d} "Except" Joh 1:13; Ga 6:15; Eph 2:1; Tit 3:5; Jas 1:18; 1 Pe 1:23

1 Jo 2:29; 3:9


Verse 4. How can a man, &c. It may seem remarkable that Nicodemus understood the Saviour literally, when the expression to be born again was in common use among the Jews to denote a change from Gentilism to Judaism by becoming a proselyte by baptism. The word with them meant a change from the state of a heathen to that of a Jew. But they never used it as applicable to a Jew, because they supposed that by his birth every Jew was entitled to all the privileges of the people of God. When, therefore, our Saviour used it of a Jew, when he affirmed its necessity of every man, Nicodemus supposed that there was an absurdity in the doctrine, or something that surpassed his comprehension, and he therefore asked whether it was possible that Jesus could teach so absurd a doctrine—as he could conceive no other sense as applicable to a Jew—as that he should, when old, enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born. And we may learn from this—

1st. That prejudice leads men to misunderstand the plainest doctrines of religion.

2nd. That things which are at first incomprehensible or apparently absurd, may, when explained, become clear. The doctrine of regeneration, so difficult to Nicodemus, is plain to a child that is born of the Spirit.

3rd. Those in high rank in life, and who are learned, are often most ignorant about the plainest matters of religion. It is often wonderful that they exhibit so little acquaintance with the most simple subjects pertaining to the soul, and so much absurdity in their views.

4th. A doctrine is not to be rejected because the rich and the great do not believe or understand it. The doctrine of regeneration was not false because Nicodemus did not comprehend it.


Verse 5. Be born of water. By water, here, is evidently signified baptism. Thus the word is used in Eph 5:26; Tit 3:5. Baptism was practised by the Jews in receiving a Gentile as a proselyte. It was practised by John among the Jews; and Jesus here says that it is an ordinance of his religion, and the sign and seal of the renewing influences of his Spirit. So he said (Mr 16:16), "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." It is clear from these places, and from the example of the apostles (Ac 2:38,41; 8:12-13,36-38; 9:18

Ac 10:47,48; 16:15,33; 18:8; 22:16; Ga 3:27) , that they considered this ordinance as binding on all who professed to love the Lord Jesus. And though it cannot be said that none who are not baptized can be saved, yet Jesus meant, undoubtedly, to be understood as affirming that this was to be the regular and uniform way of entering into his church; that it was the appropriate mode of making a profession of religion; and that a man who neglected this, when the duty was made known to him, neglected a plain command of God. It is clear, also, that any other command of God might as well be neglected or violated as this, and that it is the duty of everyone not only to love the Saviour, but to make an acknowledgment of that love by being baptized, and by devoting himself thus to his service. But, lest Nicodemus should suppose that this was all that was meant, he added that it was necessary that he should be born of the Spirit also. This was predicted of the Saviour, that he should baptize with the Holy Ghost and with fire, Mt 3:11. By this is clearly intended that the heart must be changed by the agency of the Holy Spirit; that the love of sin must be abandoned; that man must repent of crime and turn to God; that he must renounce all his evil propensities, and give himself to a life of prayer and holiness, of meekness, purity, and benevolence. This great change is in the Scripture ascribed uniformly to the Holy Spirit, Tit 3:5; 1 Th 1:6 Ro 5:5; 1 Pe 1:22.

Cannot enter into. This is the way, the appropriate way, of entering into the kingdom of the Messiah here and hereafter. He cannot enter into the true church here, or into heaven in the world to come, except in connection with a change of heart, and by the proper expression of that change in the ordinances appointed by the Saviour.

{e} "water" Mr 16:16; Ac 2:38

{f} "of the Spirit" Ro 8:2; 1 Co 2:12


Verse 6. That which is born of the flesh. To show the necessity of this change, the Saviour directs the attention of Nicodemus to the natural condition of man. By that which is born of the flesh he evidently intends man as he is by nature, in the circumstances of his natural birth. Perhaps, also, he alludes to the question asked by Nicodemus, whether a man could be born when he was old? Jesus tells him that if this could be, it would not answer any valuable purpose; he would still have the same propensities and passions. Another change was therefore indispensable.

Is flesh. Partakes of the nature of the parent. Comp. Ge 5:3. As the parents are corrupt and sinful, so will be their descendants. See Job 14:4. And as the parents are wholly corrupt by nature, so their children will be the same. The word flesh here is used as meaning corrupt, defiled, sinful. The flesh in the Scriptures is often used to denote the sinful propensities and passions of our nature, as those propensities are supposed to have their seat in the animal nature.

#34Tne works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness," &c., Ga 5:19,20. See also Eph 2:3; 1 Pe 3:21; 2:18; 1 Jo 2:16; Re 8:5

Is born of the Spirit. Of the Spirit of God, or by the agency of the Holy Ghost.

Is spirit. Is spiritual, like the spirit, that is, holy, pure. Here we learn,

1st. That all men are by nature sinful.

2nd. That none are renewed but by the Spirit of God. If man did the work himself, it would be still carnal and impure.

3rd. That the effect of the new birth is to make men holy. And,

4th. That no man can have evidence that he is born again who is not holy, and just in proportion as he becomes pure in his life will be the evidence that he is born of the Spirit.

{g} "That which is born of the Spirit" 1 Co 15:47-49; 2 Co 5:17


Verse 7. Marvel not. Wonder not. It is possible that Nicodemus in some way still expressed a doubt of the doctrine, and Jesus took occasion in a very striking manner to illustrate it.

{2} "born again" or, "from above"


Verse 8. The wind bloweth, &c. Nicodemus had objected to the doctrine because he did not understand how it could be. Jesus shows him that he ought not to reject it on that account, for he constantly believed things quite as difficult. It might appear incomprehensible, but it was to be judged of by its effects. As in this case of the wind, the effects were seen, the sound was heard, important changes were produced by it, trees and clouds were moved, yet the wind is not seen, nor do we know whence it comes, nor by what laws it is governed; so it is with the operations of the Spirit. We see the changes produced, Men just now sinful become holy; the thoughtless become serious; the licentious become pure; the vicious, moral; the moral, religious; the prayerless, prayerful; the rebellious and obstinate, meek, and mild, and gentle. When we see such changes, we ought no more to doubt that they are produced by some cause—by some mighty agent, than when we see the trees moved, or the waters of the ocean piled on heaps, or feel the cooling effects of a summer's breeze. In those cases we attribute it to the wind, though we see it not, and though we do not understand its operations. We may learn, hence,

1st. That the proper evidence of conversion is the effect on the life.

2nd. That we are not too curiously to search for the cause or manner of the change.

3rd. That God has power over the most hardened sinner to change him, as he has power over the loftiest oak, to bring it down by a sweeping blast.

4th. That there may be great variety in the modes of the operation of the Spirit. As the wind sometimes sweeps with a tempest, and prostrates all before it, and sometimes breathes upon us in a mild evening zephyr, so it is with the operations of the Spirit. The sinner sometimes trembles and is prostrate before the truth, and sometimes is sweetly and gently drawn to the cross of Jesus.

Where it listeth. Where it wills or pleases. So is every one, &c. Every one that is born of the Spirit is, in some respects, like the effects of the wind. You see it not, you cannot discern its laws, but you see its effects, and you know therefore that it does exist and operate.

Nicodemus's objection was, that he could not see this change, or perceive how it could be. Jesus tells him that he should not reject a doctrine merely because he could not understand it. Neither could the wind be seen, but its effects were well known, and no one doubted the existence or the power of the agent. Comp. Ec 11:5.

{h} "so is every one" 1 Co 2:11


Verse 9. How can these things be? Nicodemus was still unwilling to admit the doctrine unless he understood it; and we have here an instance of a man of rank stumbling at one of the plainest doctrines of religion, and unwilling to admit a truth because he could not understand how it could be, when he daily admitted the truth of facts in other things which he could as little comprehend. And we may learn,

1st. That men will often admit facts on other subjects, and be greatly perplexed by similar facts in religion.

2nd. That no small part of men's difficulties are because they cannot understand how or why a thing is.

3rd. That men of rank and learning are as likely to be perplexed by these things as those in the obscurest and humblest walks of life.

4th. That this is one reason why such men, particularly, so often reject the truths of the gospel. And,

5th. That this is a very unwise treatment of truth, and a way which they do not apply to other things. If the wind cools and refreshes me in summer—if it prostrates the oak or lashes the sea into foam—if it destroys my house or my grain, it matters little how it does this; and so of the Spirit. If it renews my heart, humbles my pride, subdues my sin, and comforts my soul, it is a matter of little importance how it does all this. Sufficient for me is it to know that it is done, and to taste the blessings which flow from the renewing and sanctifying grace of God.


Verse 10. A master of Israel. A teacher of Israel; the same word that in the second verse is translated teacher. As such a teacher he ought to have understood this doctrine. It was not new, but was clearly taught in the Old Testament. See particularly Ps 51:10,16-17; Eze 11:19; 36:26.

It may seem surprising that a man whose business it was to teach the people should be a stranger to so plain and important a doctrine; but when worldly-minded men are placed in offices of religion—when they seek those offices for the sake of ease or reputation, it is no wonder that they are strangers to the plain truths of the Bible; and there have been many, and there are still, who are in the ministry itself, to whom the plainest doctrines of the gospel are obscure. No man can understand the Bible fully unless he is a humble Christian, and the easiest way to comprehend the truths of religion is to give the heart to God and live to his glory. A child thus may have more real knowledge of the way of salvation than many who are pretended masters and teachers of Israel, Joh 7:17; Mt 11:25; Ps 8:2, compared with Mt 21:16.

Of Israel. Of the Jews; of the Jewish nation.


Verse 11. We speak. Jesus here speaks in the plural number, including himself and those engaged with him in preaching the gospel. Nicodemus had said (Joh 3:2), "We know that thou art," &c., including himself and those with whom he acted. Jesus in reply said, We, who are engaged in spreading the new doctrines about which you have come to inquire, speak what we know. We do not deliver doctrines which we do not practically understand. This is a positive affirmation of Jesus, which he had a right to make about his new doctrine. He knew its truth, and those who came into his kingdom knew it also. We learn here,

1st. That the Pharisees taught doctrines which they did not practically understand. They taught much truth (Mt 23:2), but they were deplorably ignorant of the plainest matters in their practical application.

2nd. Every minister of the gospel ought to be able to appeal to his own experience, and to say that he knows the truth which he is communicating to others.

3rd. Every Sunday-school teacher should be able to say, "I know what I am communicating; I have experienced what is meant by the new birth, and the love of God, and the religion which I am teaching."

Testify. Bear witness to.

That we have seen. Jesus had seen by his omniscient eye all the operations of the Spirit on the hearts of men. His ministers have seen its effects as we see the effects of the wind, and, having seen men changed from sin to holiness, they are qualified to bear witness to the truth and reality of the change. Every successful minister of the gospel thus becomes a witness of the saving power of the gospel.

Ye receive not. Ye Pharisees. Though we give evidence of the truth of the new religion; though miracles are wrought, and proof is given that this doctrine came from heaven, yet you reject it.

Our witness. Our testimony. The evidence which is furnished by miracles and by the saving power of the gospel. Men reject revelation though it is attested by the strongest evidence, and though it is constantly producing the most desirable changes in the hearts and lives of men.

{i} "We speak that we do know" 1 Jo 1:1-8.


Verse 12. If I have told you earthly things. Things which occur on earth. Not sensual or worldly things, for Jesus had said nothing of these; but he had told him of operations of the Spirit which had occurred on earth, whose effects were visible, and which might be, therefore, believed. These were the plainest and most obvious of the doctrines of religion.

How shall ye believe. How will you believe. Is there any probability that you will understand them?

Heavenly things. Things pertaining to the government of God and his doings in the heavens; things which are removed from human view, and which cannot be subjected to human sight; the more profound and inscrutable things pertaining to the redemption of men. Learn hence,

1st. The height and depth of the doctrines of religion. There is much that we cannot yet understand.

2nd. The feebleness of our understandings and the corruptions of our hearts are the real causes why doctrines of religion are so little understood by us.

3rd. There is before us a vast eternity, and there are profound wonders of God's government, to be the study of the righteous, and to be seen and admired by them for ever and ever.


Verse 13. And no man hath ascended into heaven. No man, therefore, is qualified to speak of heavenly things, Joh 3:12. To speak of those things requires intimate acquaintance with them—demands that we have seen them; and as no one has ascended into heaven and returned, so no one is qualified to speak of them but He who came down from heaven. This does not mean that no one had gone to heaven or had been saved, for Enoch and Elijah had been borne there (Ge 5:24; comp. Heb 11:5; 2 Ki 2:11), and Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and others were there; but it means that no one had ascended and returned, so as to be qualified to speak of the things there.

But he that came down, &c. The Lord Jesus. He is represented as coming down, because, being equal with God, he took upon himself our nature, Joh 1:14; Php 2:6,7.

He is represented as sent by the Father, Joh 3:17,34; Ga 4:4; 1 Jo 4:9,10.

The Son of man. Called thus from his being a man; from his interest in man; and as expressive of his regard for man. It is a favourite title which the Lord Jesus gives to himself.

Which is in heaven. This is a very remarkable expression. Jesus, the Son of man, was then bodily on earth conversing with Nicodemus; yet he declares that he is at the same time in heaven. This can be understood only as referring to the fact that he had two natures—that his divine nature was in heaven, and his human nature on earth. Our Saviour is frequently spoken of in this manner. Comp. Joh 6:62; Joh 6:62; 17:5; 2 Co 8:9.

As Jesus was in heaven—as his proper abode was there—he was fitted to speak of heavenly things, and to declare the will of God to man. And we may learn,

1st. That the truth about the deep things of God is not to be learned of men. No one has ascended to heaven and returned to tell us what is there; and no infidel, no mere man, no prophet, is qualified of himself to speak of them.

2nd. That all the light which we are to expect on those subjects is to be sought in the Scriptures. It is only Jesus and his inspired apostles and evangelists that can speak of those things.

3rd. It is not wonderful that some things in the Scriptures are mysterious. They are about things which we have not seen, and we must receive them on the testimony of one who has seen them.

4th. The Lord Jesus is divine. He was in heaven while on earth. He had, therefore, a nature far above the human, and is equal with the Father, Joh 1:1.


Verse 14. And as Moses. Jesus proceeds in this and the following verses to state the reason why he came into the world; and, in order to this, he illustrates his design, and the efficacy of his coming, by a reference to the case of the brazen serpent, recorded in Nu 21:8,9. The people were bitten by flying fiery serpents. There was no cure for the bite. Moses was directed to make an image of the serpent, and place it in sight of the people, that they might look on it and be healed. There is no evidence that this was intended to be a type of the Messiah, but it is used by Jesus as strikingly illustrating his work. Men are sinners. There is no cure by human means for the maladies of the soul; and as the people who were bitten might look on the image of the serpent and be healed, so may sinners look to the Saviour and be cured of the moral maladies of our nature.

Lifted up. Erected on a pole. Placed on high, so that it might be seen by the people.

The serpent. The image of a serpent made of brass.

In the wilderness. Near the land of Edom. In the desert and desolate country to the south of Mount Hor, Nu 21:4.

Even so. In a similar manner and with a similar design. He here refers, doubtless, to his own death. Comp. Joh 12:32; 8:28. The points of resemblance between his being lifted up and that of the brazen serpent seem to be these:

1st. In each case those who are to/be benefited can be aided in no other way. The bite of the serpent was deadly, and could be healed only by looking on the brazen serpent; and sin is deadly in its nature, and can be removed only by looking on the cross.

2nd. The mode of their being lifted up. The brazen serpent was in the sight of the people, So Jesus was exalted from the earth—raised on a tree or cross.

3rd. The design was similar. The one was to save the life, the other the soul; the one to save from temporal, the other from eternal death.

4th. The manner of the cure was similar. The people of Israel were to look on the serpent and be healed, and so sinners are to look on the Lord Jesus that they may be saved.

Must. It is proper; necessary; indispensable, if men are saved. Comp. Lu 24:26; 22:42.

The Son of man. The Messiah.

{l} "as Moses" Nu 21:9


Verse 15. That whosoever. This shows the fulness and freeness of the gospel. All may come and be saved.

Believeth in him. Whosoever puts confidence in him as able and willing to save. All who feel that they are sinners, that they have no righteousness of their own, and are willing to look to him as their only Saviour.

Should not perish. They are in danger, by nature, of perishing—that is, of sinking down to the pains of hell; of "being punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power," 2 Th 1:9. All who believe on Jesus shall be saved from this condemnation and be raised up to eternal life. And from this we learn,

1st. That there is salvation in no other.

2nd. That salvation is here full and free for all who will come.

3rd. That it is easy. What was more easy for a poor, wounded, dying Israelite, bitten by a poisonous serpent, than to look up to a brazen serpent? So with the poor, lost, dying sinner. And what more foolish than for such a wounded, dying man to refuse to look on a remedy so easy and effectual? So nothing is more foolish than for a lost and dying sinner to refuse to look on God's only Son, exalted on a cross to die for the sins of men, and able to save to the uttermost all who come to God by him.

{m} "That whosoever" Joh 3:36; Heb 7:25


Verse 16. For God so loved. This does not mean that God approved the conduct of men, but that he had benevolent feelings toward them, or was earnestly desirous of their happiness. God hates wickedness, but he still desires the happiness of those who are sinful. He hates the sin, but loves the sinner. A parent may love his child and desire his welfare, and yet be strongly opposed to the conduct of that child. When we approve the conduct of another, this is the love of complacency; when we desire simply their happiness, this is the love of benevolence.

The world. All mankind. It does not mean any particular part of the world, but man as man—the race that had rebelled and that deserved to die. See Joh 6:33; 17:21. His love for the world, or for all mankind, in giving his Son, was shown by these circumstances:

1st. All the world was in ruin, and exposed to the wrath of God.

2nd. All men were in a hopeless condition.

3rd. God gave his Son. Man had no claim on him; it was a gift—an undeserved gift.

4th. He gave him up to extreme sufferings, even the bitter pains of death on the cross.

5th. It was for all the world. He tasted "death for every man," He 2:9. He "died for all," 2 Co 5:15. "He is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world," 1 Jo 2:2.

That he gave. It was a free and unmerited gift. Man had no claim; and when there was no eye to pity or arm to save, it pleased God to give his Son into the hands of men to die in their stead, Ga 1:4; Ro 8:32; Lu 22:19. It was the mere movement of love; the expression of eternal compassion, and of a desire that sinners should not perish forever.

His only-begotten Son. See Barnes "Joh 1:14".

This is the highest expression of love of which we can conceive. A parent who should give up his only son to die for others who are guilty—if this could or might be done—would show higher love than could be manifested in any other way. So it shows the depth of the love of God, that he was willing to give his only Son into the hands of sinful men that he might be slain, and thus redeem them from eternal sorrow.

{n} "For God" 1 Jo 4:9


Verse 17. To condemn the world. Not to judge, or pronounce sentence on mankind. God might justly have sent him for this. Man deserved condemnation, and it would have been right to have pronounced it; but God was willing that there should be an offer of pardon, and the sentence of condemnation was delayed. But, although Jesus did not come then to condemn mankind, yet the time is coming when he will return to judge the living and the dead, Ac 17:31; 2 Co 5:10; Mt 25:31-46.

{o} "For God" Lu 9:56


Verse 18. He that believeth. He that has confidence in him; that relies on him; that trusts to his merits and promises for salvation. To believe on him is to feel and act according to truth—that is, to go as lost sinners, and act toward him as a Saviour from sins; relying on him, and looking to him only for salvation. See Barnes "Mr 16:16".

Is not condemned. God pardons sin, and delivers us from deserved punishment, because we believe on him. Jesus died in our stead; he suffered for us, and by his sufferings our sins are expiated, and it is consistent for God to forgive. When a sinner, therefore, believes on Jesus, he trusts in him as having died in his place, and God having accepted the offering which Christ made in our stead, as being an equivalent for our sufferings in hell, there is now no farther condemnation, Ro 8:1.

He that believeth not. All who do not believe, whether the gospel has come to them or not. All men by nature.

Is condemned already. By conscience, by law, and in the judgment of God. God disapproves of their character, and this feeling of disapprobation, and the expression of it, is the condemnation. There is no condemnation so terrible as this—that God disapproves our conduct, and that he will express his disapprobation. He will judge according to truth, and woe to that man whose conduct God cannot approve.

Because. This word does not imply that the ground or reason of their condemnation is that they have not believed, or that they are condemned because they do not believe on him, for there are millions of sinners who have never heard of him; but the meaning is this: There is but one way by which men can be freed from condemnation. All men without the gospel are condemned. They who do not believe are still under this condemnation, not having embraced the only way by which they can be delivered from it. The verse may be thus paraphrased:

"All men are by nature condemned. There is but one way of being delivered from this state—by believing on the Son of God. They who do not believe or remain in that state are still condemned, FOR they have not embraced the only way in which they can be freed from it."

Nevertheless, those to whom the gospel comes greatly heighten their guilt and condemnation by rejecting the offers of mercy, and trampling under foot the blood of the Son of God, Lu 12:47; Mt 11:23; Heb 10:29

Pr 1:24-30. And there are thousands going to eternity under this double condemnation—

1st. For positive, open sin; and,

2nd. For rejecting God's mercy, and despising the gospel of his Son. This it is which will make the doom of sinners in Christian lands so terrible.

{p} "He that believeth" Joh 6:40,47


Verse 19. This is the condemnation. This is the cause of condemnation; or this is the reason why men are punished.

That light is come. Light often denotes instruction, teaching, doctrine, as that by which we see clearly the path of duty. All the instruction that God gives us by conscience, reason, or revelation may thus be called light; but this word is used peculiarly to denote the Messiah or the Christ, who is often spoken of as the light. See Isa 60:1; 9:2. Compare Mt 4:16; also See Barnes "Joh 1:4".

It was doubtless this light to which Jesus had particular reference here.

Men loved darkness. Darkness is the emblem of ignorance, iniquity, error, superstition—whatever is opposite to truth and piety. Men are said to love darkness more than they do light when they are better pleased with error than truth, with sin than holiness, with Belial than Christ.

Because their deeds are evil. Men who commit crime commonly choose to do it in the night, so as to escape detection. So men who are wicked prefer false doctrine and error to the truth. Thus the Pharisees cloaked their crimes under the errors of their system; and, amid their false doctrines and superstitions, they attempted to convince others that they had great zeal for God.

Deeds. Works; actions.

{q} "light is come into the world" Joh 1:4,9-11


Verse 20. That doeth evil. Every wicked man.

Hateth the light. This is true of all wicked men. They choose to practise their deeds of wickedness in darkness. They are afraid of the light, because they could be easily detected. Hence most crimes are committed in the night. So with the sinner against God. He hates the gospel, for it condemns his conduct, and his conscience would trouble him if it were enlightened.

His deeds should be reproved. To reprove here means not only to detect or make manifest, but also includes the idea of condemnation when his deeds are detected. The gospel would make his wickedness manifest, and his conscience would condemn him. We learn from this verse,

1st. That one design of the gospel is to reprove men. It convicts them of sin in order that it may afford consolation.

2nd. That men by nature hate the gospel. No man who is a sinner loves it; and no man by nature is disposed to come to it, any more than an adulterer or thief is disposed to come to the daylight, and do his deeds of wickedness there.

3rd. The reason why the gospel is hated is that men are sinners. "Christ is hated because sin is loved."

4th. The sinner must be convicted or convinced of sin. If it be not in this world, it will be in the next. There is no escape for him; and the only way to avoid condemnation in the world to come is to come humbly and acknowledge sin here, and seek for pardon.

{r} "neither cometh to the light" Job 24:23,17; Pr 4:18,19

{3} "reproved" or, "discovered"


Verse 21. He that doeth truth. He who does right, or he that obeys the truth. Truth here is opposed to error and to evil. The sinner acts from falsehood and error. The good man acts according to truth. The sinner believes a lie that God will not punish, or that there is no God, or that there is no eternity and no hell. The Christian believes all these, and acts as if they were true. This is the difference between a Christian and a sinner.

Cometh to the light. Loves the truth, and seeks it more and more. By prayer and searching the Scriptures he endeavours to as certain the truth, and yield his mind to it.

May be made manifest. May be made clear or plain; or that it may be made plain that his deeds are wrought in God. He searches for truth and light that he may have evidence that his actions are right.

Wrought in God. That they are performed according to the will of God, or perhaps by the assistance of God, and are such as God will approve. The actions of good men are performed by the influence and aid of God, Php 2:12. Of course, if they are performed by his aid, they are such as he will approve. Here is presented the character of a good man and a sincere Christian. We learn respecting that character,

1st. He does truth. He loves it, seeks it, follows it.

2nd. He comes to the light. He does not attempt to deceive himself or others.

3rd. He is willing to know himself, and aims to do it. He desires to know the true state of his heart before God.

4th. An especial object of his efforts is that his deeds may be wrought in God. He desires to be a good man; to receive continual aid from God, and to perform such actions as he will approve. This is the close of our Lord's discourse with Nicodemus—a discourse condensing the gospel, giving the most striking exhibition and illustration of truth, and representing especially the fundamental doctrine of regeneration and the evidence of the change. It is clear that the Saviour regarded this as lying at the foundation of religion. Without it we cannot possibly be saved. And now it becomes every reader, as in the presence of God, and in view of the judgment-seat of Christ, solemnly to ask himself whether he has experienced this change? whether he knows by experience what it is to be born of that Spirit? If he does he will be saved. If not, he is in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity, and should give no sleep to his eyes till he has made his peace with God.

{s} "doeth truth" 1 Jo 1:6

{t} "they are wrought" 3 Jo 1:11


Verse 22. Land of Judea. The region round about Jerusalem.

And baptized. Jesus did not himself administer the ordinance of baptism, but his disciples did it by his direction and authority, Joh 4:2.

{u} "and baptized" Joh 4:2


Verse 23. In Enon. The word Enon, or Aenon, means a fountain, and was doubtless given to this place because of the fountains there. On the situation of the place nothing certain has been determined. Eusebius places it 8 Roman miles south of Scythopolis or Bethshen, and 53 north-east of Jerusalem.

Near to Salim. It would seem from this that Salim was better known then than Enon, but nothing can be determined now respecting its site. These places are believed to have been on the west side of the Jordan.

Because there was much water there. John's preaching attracted great multitudes. It appears that they remained with him probably many days. In many parts of that country, particularly in the hilly region near where John preached, it was difficult to find water to accommodate the necessities of the people, and perhaps, also, of the camels with which those from a distance would come. To meet their necessities, as well as for the purpose of baptizing, he selected a spot that was well watered, probably, with springs and rivulets. Whether the ordinance of baptism was performed by immersion or in any other mode, the selection of a place well watered was proper and necessary. The mention of the fact that there was much water there, and that John selected that as a convenient place to perform his office as a baptizer, proves nothing in regard to the mode in which the ordinance was administered, since he would naturally select such a place, whatever was the mode. Where numbers of people came together to remain any time, it is necessary to select such a place, whatever their employment. An encampment of soldiers is made on the same principles, and in every camp-meeting that I have ever seen, a place is selected where there is a good supply of water, though not one person should be immersed during the whole services. As all the facts in the case are fully met by the supposition that John might have baptized in some other way besides immersion, and as it is easy to conceive another reason that is sufficient to account for the fact that such a place was selected, this passage certainly should not be adduced to prove that he performed baptism only in that manner.

{v} "Salim" 1 Sa 9:4 {w} "and they came there" Mt 3:5,6


Verse 24. For John was not yet cast into prison. See Lu 3:20. The mention of this shows that John was not imprisoned till some time after our Lord entered on his ministry. The design of John was to call men to repentance, and to prepare them for the Messiah, and this he continued to do after our Saviour commenced his work. It shows that a minister of religion should be industrious to the day of his death. John still toiled in his work not the less because the Messiah had come. So ministers should not labour less when Christ appears by his Spirit, and takes the work into his own hands, and turns many to himself.

{x} "For John was" Mt 14:3


Verse 25. A question. Rather a controversy —a dispute.

John's disciples. Those who had been baptized by him, and who attached great efficacy and importance to the teaching of their master. Comp. See Barnes "Ac 19:1, also Ac 19:2-5.

And the Jews. Many manuscripts, some of the fathers, and the ancient Syriac version, read this in the singular number— "with a Jew," one who, it is commonly supposed, had been baptized by the disciples of Jesus.

About purifying. What the precise subject of this dispute was we do not know. From what follows, it would seem probable that it was about the comparative value and efficacy of the baptism performed by John and by the disciples of Jesus. The word purifying may be applied to baptism, as it was an emblem of repentance and purity, and was thus used by the Jews, by John, and by Jesus. About this subject it seems that a dispute arose, and was carried to such a length that complaint was made to John. From this we may learn,

1st. That even in the time of Jesus, when the gospel began to be preached, there was witnessed—what has been ever since —unhappy disputings on the subject of religion. Even young converts may, by overheated zeal and ignorance, fall into angry discussion.

2nd. That such discussions are commonly about some unimportant matter of religion—something which they may not yet be qualified to understand, and which does not materially affect them if they could.

3rd. That such disputes are often connected with a spirit of proselytism— with boasting of the superior excellence of the sect with which we are connected, or in connection with whom we have been converted, and often with a desire to persuade others to join with us.

4th. That such a spirit is eminently improper on such occasions. Love should characterize the feelings of young converts; a disposition to inquire and not to dispute; a willingness that all should follow the dictates of their own consciences, and not a desire to proselyte them to our way of thinking or to our church. It may be added that there is scarcely anything which so certainly and effectually arrests a revival of religion as such a disposition to dispute, and to make proselytes to particular modes of faith, and of administering the ordinances of the gospel.


Verse 26. Came unto John. Came to him with their complaint; envious and jealous at the success of Jesus, and evidently irritated from the discussion, as if their master was about to lose his popularity.

Rabbi. Master. See Barnes "Mt 23:7".

Acknowledging him as their master and teacher.

That was with thee. Who was baptized by thee.

Thou barest witness. See Joh 1:29-35.

All men come to him. This was the source of their difficulty. It was that Jesus was gaining popularity; that the people flocked to him; that they feared that John would be forsaken, and his followers be diminished in numbers and influence. Thus many love their sect more than they do Christ, and would be more rejoiced that a man became a Presbyterian, a Methodist, a Baptist, than that he became a sincere and humble Christian. This is not the spirit of the gospel. True piety teaches us to rejoice that sinners turn to Christ and become holy, whether they follow us or not. See Mr 9:38,39. Let Jesus be exalted, and let men turn to him, is the language of religion, whatever denomination they may feel it their duty to follow.

{y} "to whom thou barest witness" Joh 1:7,15

{z} "all men come to him" Ps 65:2; Isa 45:23


Verse 27. John answered, &c. John did not enter into their feelings or sympathize with their love of party. He came to honour Jesus, not to build up a sect. He rejoiced at the success of the Messiah, and began to teach them to rejoice in it also.

A man can receive nothing, &c. All success is from heaven. All my success was from God. All the success of Jesus is from God. As success comes from the same source, we ought not to be envious. It is designed to answer the same end, and, by whomsoever accomplished, the hand of God is in it, and we should rejoice. If Jesus and his disciples are successful, if all men flee to him, it is proof that God favours him, and you should rejoice.

{a} "A man" 1 Co 2:12-14; 4:7; Heb 5:4; Jas 1:17

{4} "receive nothing" or, "take unto himself"


Verse 28. Bear me witness. You remember that at first I told you I was not the Messiah. As he had been witness to Jesus—as he came for no other end but to point him out to the Jews, they ought not to suppose that he was his superior. It was but reasonable to expect that Christ himself would be more successful than his forerunner. "I came, not to form a separate party, a peculiar sect, but to prepare the way that he might be more successful, and that the people might be ready for his coming, and that he might have the success which he has actually met with. You should rejoice, therefore, at that success, and not enter it, for his success is the best proof of the greatness of my word, and of its success also."

{b} "I am not the Christ" Joh 1:20,27

{c} "I am sent before him" Lu 1:17


Verse 28. Bear me witness. You remember that at first I told you I was not the Messiah. As he had been witness to Jesus—as he came for no other end but to point him out to the Jews, they ought not to suppose that he was his superior. It was but reasonable to expect that Christ himself would be more successful than his forerunner. "I came, not to form a separate party, a peculiar sect, but to prepare the way that he might be more successful, and that the people might be ready for his coming, and that he might have the success which he has actually met with. You should rejoice, therefore, at that success, and not enter it, for his success is the best proof of the greatness of my word, and of its success also."

{b} "I am not the Christ" Joh 1:20,27

{c} "I am sent before him" Lu 1:17


Verse 30. He must increase. His authority and influence among the people must grow. His doctrine shall continue to spread till it extends through all the earth.

I must decrease


"The purpose of my ministry is to point men to him. When that is done my work is done. I came not to form a party of my own, nor to set up a religion of my own; and my teaching must cease when he is fully established, as the light of the morning star fades away and is lost in the beams of the rising sun."

This evinced John's humility and willingness to be esteemed as nothing if he could honour Christ. It shows us, also, that it is sufficient honour for man if he may be permitted to point sinners to the Lord Jesus Christ. No work is so honourable and joyful as the ministry of the gospel; none are so highly honoured as those who are permitted to stand near the Son of God, to hear his voice, and to lead perishing men to his cross. Comp. Da 12:3.


Verse 31. He that cometh from above. The Messiah, represented as coming down from heaven. See Joh 3:13; 6:33; 8:23.

It has been doubted whether the remainder of this chapter contains the words of John the Baptist or of the evangelist. The former is the more probable opinion, but it is difficult to decide it, and it is of very little consequence.

Is above all. In nature, rank, and authority. Is superior to all prophets (Heb 1:1,2); to all angels (Heb 1:4-14), and is over all the universe as its sovereign Lord, Re 9:5; Eph 1:21,22; Col 1:15-19; 1 Co 15:25.

He that is of the earth. He who has no higher nature than the human nature. The prophets, apostles, and John were men like others, born in the same way, and sinking, like others, to the dust. See Ac 14:15. Jesus had a nature superior to man, and ought, therefore, to be exalted above all.

Is earthly. Is human. Is inferior to him who comes from heaven. Partakes of his origin, which is inferior and corrupt.

Speaketh of the earth. His teaching is inferior to that of him who comes from heaven. It is comparatively obscure and imperfect, not full and clear, like the teaching of him who is from above. This was the case with all the prophets, and even with John the Baptist, as compared with the teaching of Christ.


Verse 32. And what he hath seen, &c. See Joh 3:11.

No man receiveth his testimony. The words no man are here to be under stood in the sense of few. Though his doctrine is pure, plain, sublime, yet few, comparatively, received it in faith. Though multitudes came to him, drawn by various motives (Joh 6:26), yet few became his real disciples, Mt 26:56; 7:22.

His testimony. His doctrine. The truth to which he bears witness as having seen and known it, Joh 3:11. Often many persons appear for a time to become the followers of Christ, who in the end are seen to have known nothing of religion, Mt 13:6; Lu 8:13.

{h} "no man" Joh 1:11


Verse 33. He that hath received his testimony. Hath received and fully believed his doctrine. Hath yielded his heart to its influence.

Hath set to his seal. To seal an instrument is to make it sure; to acknowledge it as ours; to pledge our veracity that it is true and binding, as when a man seals a bond, a deed, or a will. Believing a doctrine, therefore, in the heart, is expressed by sealing it, or by believing it we express our firm conviction that it is true, and that God who has spoken it is true. We vouch for the veracity of God, and assume as our own the proposition that it is the truth of God.

God is true. Is faithful; is the author of the system of doctrines, and will fulfil all that he has promised. We learn here,

1st. That to be a true believer is something more than to hold a mere speculative belief of the truth.

2nd. That to be a believer is to pledge ourselves for the truth, to seal it as our own, to adopt it, to choose it, and solemnly assent to it, as a man does in regard to an instrument of writing that is to convey his property, or that is to dispose of it when he dies.

3rd. Every Christian is a witness for God, and it is his business to show by his life that he believes that God is true to his threatenings and to his promises. Barnes "Is 43:10".

4th. It is a solemn act to become a Christian. It is a surrender of all to God, or giving away body, soul, and spirit to him, with a belief that he is true, and alone is able to save.

5th. The man that does not do this— that is not willing to pledge his belief that God is true, sets to his seal that God is a liar and unworthy of confidence, 1 Jo 5:10.

{i} "set to his seal" 1 Jo 5:10


Verse 34. Whom God hath sent. The Messiah.

Speaketh the words of God. The truth, or commands of God.

For God giveth not the Spirit. The Spirit of God. Though Jesus was God as well as man, yet, as Mediator, God anointed him, or endowed him with the influences of his Spirit, so as to be completely qualified for his great work.

By measure. Not in a small degree, but fully, completely. The prophets were inspired on particular occasions to deliver special messages. The Messiah was continually filled with the Spirit of God. "The Spirit dwelt in him, not as a vessel, but as in a fountain, as in a bottomless ocean" (Henry),

{k} "For he whom God" Joh 7:16

{l} "Fro God giveth" Ps 45:7; Isa 11:2; 59:21; 1:16; Col 1:19


Verse 35. Loveth the Son. Loves him eminently, above all the prophets and all the other messengers of God.

Hath given all things into his hand. See Barnes "Mt 28:18".

{m} "The Father" Mt 28:18


Verse 36. Hath everlasting life. Has or is in possession of that which is a recovery from spiritual death, and which will result in eternal life in heaven. Piety here is the same that it will be there, except that it will be expanded, matured, purified, made more glorious. It is here life begun—the first breathings and pantings of the soul for immortality; yet it is life, though at first feeble and faint, which is eternal in its nature, and which shall be matured in the full and perfect bliss of heaven. The Christian here has a foretaste of the world of glory, and enjoys the same kind of felicity, though not the same degree, that he will there.

Shall not see life. Shall neither enjoy true life or happiness here nor in the world to come. Shall never enter heaven.

The wrath of God. The anger of God for sin. His opposition to sin, and its terrible effects in this world and the next.

Abideth on him. This implies that he is now under the wrath of God, or under condemnation. It implies, also, that it will continue to remain on him. It will abide or dwell there as its appropriate habitation. As there is no way of escaping the wrath of God but by the Lord Jesus Christ, so those who will not believe must go to eternity as they are, and bear alone and unpitied all that God may choose to inflict as the expression of his sense of sin. Such is the miserable condition of the sinner! Yet thousands choose to remain in this state, and to encounter alone all that is terrible in the wrath of Almighty God, rather than come to Jesus, who has borne their sins in his own body on the tree, and who is willing to bless them with the peace, and purity, and joy of immortal life.

{n} "He that believeth" Heb 2:4; Joh 3:15,16

{o} "wrath of God" Ro 1:18


Verse 1. The Lord knew. When Jesus knew. How he knew this we are not informed; whether by that power of omniscience by which he knew all things, or whether some person had informed him of it.

How the Pharisees had heard. The Pharisees, here, seem to denote either the members of the Sanhedrim or those who were in authority. They claimed the authority to regulate the rites and ceremonies of religion, and hence they supposed they had a right to inquire into the conduct of both John and our Lord. They had on a former occasion sent to inquire of John to know by what authority he had introduced such a rite into the religion of the Jewish people. See Barnes "Joh 1:25".

More disciples than John. Though many of the Pharisees came to his baptism-(Matthew Chapter 3.), yet those who were in authority were displeased with the success of John, Joh 1:25. The reasons of this were, probably, the severity and justness of his reproofs Mt 3:7, and the fact that by drawing many after him he weakened their authority and influence. As they were displeased with John, so they were with Jesus, who was doing the same thing on a larger scale—not only making disciples, but baptizing also without their authority, and drawing away the people after him.

{a} "baptized" Joh 3:22,26


Verse 2. Though Jesus himself baptized not. The reason why Jesus did not baptize was probably because, if he had baptized, it might have made unhappy divisions among his followers: those might have considered themselves most worthy or honoured who had been baptized by him. Comp. 1 Co 1:17


Verse 3. He left Judea. The envy and malice of the Pharisees he might have known were growing so rapidly as to endanger his life. As his time to die had not yet come, he retired to Galilee, a country farther from Jerusalem, and much less under their control than Judea. See Mr 2:22; Lu 3:1. Though he feared not death and did not shrink from suffering, yet he did not needlessly throw himself into danger or provoke opposition. He could do as much good in Galilee, probably, as in Judea, and he therefore withdrew himself from immediate danger.


Verse 4. And he must needs go through Samaria. Samaria was between Judea and Galilee. The direct and usual way was to pass through Samaria. Sometimes, however, the Jews took a circuitous route on the east side of the Jordan, See Barnes "Mt 2:22".

{b} "must needs go" Lu 2:49


Verse 5. Sychar. This city stood about eight miles south-east of the city called Samaria, between Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim. It was one of the oldest cities of Palestine, and was formerly known by the name of Shechem, or Sichem, Ge 33:18; 12:6. The city was in the tribe of Ephraim, Jos 21:21. It was at this place that Joshua assembled the people before his death, and here they renewed their covenant with the Lord, Joshua chapter 24. After the death of Gideon it became a place of idolatrous worship, the people worshipping Baal-berith, Jud 9:46. It was destroyed by Abimelech, who beat down the city and sowed it with salt, Jud 9:45. It was afterward rebuilt, and became the residence of Jeroboam, the King of Israel, 1 Ki 12:25. It was called by the Romans Flavia Neapolis, and this has been corrupted by the Arabs into Nablus, its present name. It is still a considerable place, and its site is remarkably pleasant and productive.

The parcel of ground. The piece of ground; or the land, &c.

That Jacob gave, &c. Jacob bought one piece of ground near to Shalem, a city of Shechem, of the children of Hamor, the father of Shechem, for an hundred pieces of silver, Ge 33:19. In this place the bones of Joseph were buried when they were brought up from Egypt, Jos 24:32. He also gave to Joseph an additional piece of ground which he took from the hand of the Arnorite by his own valour, "with his sword and his bow," as a portion above that which was given to his brethren, Ge 48:22. Possibly these pieces of ground lay near together, and were a part of the homestead of Jacob. The well was "near" to this. There is now, the Rev. E. Smith mentioned to me in conversation, a place near this well called Shalem.

{c} "gave to his son Joseph" Ge 38:19; 48:22; Jos 24:32


Verse 6. Jacob's well. This is not mentioned in the Old Testament. It was called Jacob's well, probably, either because it was handed down by tradition that he dug it, or because it was near to the land which he gave to Joseph. There is still a well a few miles to the east of Nablus, which is said by the people there to be the same. The Rev. Eli Smith, missionary to Syria, stated to me that he had visited this well. It is about 100 feet deep. It is cut through solid rock of limestone. It is now dry, probably from having been partly filled with rubbish, or perhaps because the water has been diverted by earthquakes. The well is covered with a large stone, which has a hole in the centre large enough to admit a man. It is at the foot of Mount Gerizim, and has a plain on the east.

Sat thus. Jesus was weary, and, being thus weary, sat down on the well. The word translated on here may denote also by—he sat down by the well, or near it.

The sixth hour. About twelve o'clock. This was the common time of the Jewish meal, and this was the reason why his disciples were gone away to buy food.


Verse 7. Of Samaria. Not of the city of Samaria, for this was at a distance of 8 miles, but a woman who was a Samaritan, and doubtless from the city of Sychar.

Give me to drink. This was in the heat of the day, and when Jesus was weary with his journey. The request was also made that it might give him occasion to discourse with her on the subject of religion, and in this instance we have a specimen of the remarkably happy manner in which he could lead on a conversation so as to introduce the subject of religion.


Verse 8. Buy meat. Buy food.


Verse 9. No dealings with the Samaritans. For an account of the Samaritans, and of the differences between them and the Jews, See Barnes "Mt 10:5".

{d} "for the Jews" Ac 10:28


Verse 10. The gift of God. The word gift, here denotes favour. It may refer to Jesus himself, as the gift of God to the world, given to save men from death Joh 3:16; 2 Co 9:15 or it may refer to the opportunity then afforded her of seeking salvation. If thou knewest how favourable an opportunity God now gives thee to gain a knowledge of himself, &c. And who it is, &c. If thou knewest that the Messiah was speaking.

Living water. The Jews used the expression living water to denote springs, fountains, or running streams, in opposition to dead and stagnant water. Jesus here means to denote by it his doctrine, or his grace and religion, in opposition to the impure and dead notions of the Jews and the Samaritans. Joh 4:14. This was one of the many instances in which he took occasion from common topics of conversation to introduce religious discourse. None ever did it so happily as he did, but, by studying his example and manner, we may learn also to do it. One way to acquire the art is to have the mind full of the subject; to make religion our first and main thing; to carry it with us into all employments and into all society; to look upon everything in a religious light, and out of the abundance of the heart the mouth will speak, Mt 12:34.

{e} "the gift of God" Eph 2:8

{f} "living water" Isa 12:3; 41:17,18; Jer 2:13; Zec 13:1; 14:8; Re 22:17


Verse 11. Hast nothing to draw with. It seems that there were no means of drawing water affixed to the well, as with us. Probably each one took a pail or pitcher and a cord for the purpose. In travelling this was indispensable. The woman, seeing that Jesus had no means of drawing water, and not yet understanding his design, naturally inquired whence he could obtain the water.

The well is deep. If the same one that is there now, it was about 100 feet deep.


Verse 12. Art thou greater? Art thou wiser, or better able to find water, than Jacob was? It seems that she supposed that he meant that he could direct her to some living spring, or to some better well in that region, and that this implied more knowledge or skill than Jacob had. To find water and to furnish a good well was doubtless considered a matter of signal skill and success. It was a subject of great importance in that region. This shows how ready sinners are to misunderstand the words of Christ, and to pervert the doctrines of religion. If she had had any proper anxiety about her soul, she would at least have suspected that he meant to direct her thoughts to spiritual objects.

Our father Jacob. The Samaritans were composed partly of the remnant of the ten tribes, and partly of people sent from Chaldea; still, they considered themselves descendants of Jacob.

Which gave us. This was doubtless the tradition, though there is no evidence that it was true.

And drank thereof, &c. This was added in commendation of the water of the well. A well from which Jacob, and his sons, and cattle had drank must be pure, and wholesome, and honoured, and quite as valuable as any that Jesus could furnish. Men like to commend that which their ancestors used as superior to anything else. The world over, people love to speak of that which their ancestors have done, and boast of titles and honours that have been handed down from them, even if it is nothing better than existed here—because Jacob's cattle had drunk of the water.


Verse 13. Shall thirst again. Jesus did not directly answer her question, or say that he was greater than Jacob, but he gave her an answer by which she might infer that he was. He did not despise or undervalue Jacob or his gifts; but, however great might be the value of that well, the water could not altogether remove thirst.


Verse 14. The water that I shall give him. Jesus here refers, without doubt, to his own teaching, his grace, his spirit, and to the benefits which come into the soul that embraces his gospel. It is a striking image, and especially in Eastern countries, where there are vast deserts, and often a great want of water. The soul by nature is like such a desert, or like a traveller wandering through such a desert. It is thirsting for happiness, and seeking it everywhere, and finds it not. It looks in all directions and tries all objects, but in vain. Nothing meets its desires. Though a sinner seeks for joy in wealth and pleasures, yet he is not satisfied. He still thirsts for more, and seeks still for happiness in some new enjoyment. To such a weary and unsatisfied sinner the grace of Christ is as cold waters to a thirsty soul.

Shall never thirst. He shall be satisfied with this, and will not have a sense of want, a distressing feeling that it is not adapted to him. He who drinks this will not wish to seek for happiness in other objects. Satisfied with the grace of Christ, he will not desire the pleasures and amusements of this world. And this will be for ever—in this world and the world to come. Whosoever drinketh of this—all who partake of the gospel—shall be for ever satisfied with its pure and rich joys.

Shall be in him. The grace of Christ shall be in his heart; or the principles of religion shall abide with him.

A well of water. There shall be a constant supply, an unfailing fountain; or religion shall live constantly with him.

Springing up. This is a beautiful image. It shall bubble or spring up like a fountain. It is not like a stagnant pool—not like a deep well, but like an ever-living fountain, that flows at all seasons of the year, in heat and cold, and in all external circumstances of weather, whether foul or fair, wet or dry. So religion always lives; and, amid all changes of external circumstances—in heat and cold, hunger and thirst, prosperity and adversity, life, persecution, contempt, or death—it still lives on, and refreshes and cheers the soul.

Into everlasting life. It is not temporary, like the supply of our natural wants; it is not changing in its nature; it is not like a natural fountain or spring of water, to play a while and then die away, as all natural springs will at the end of the world. It is eternal in its nature and supply, and will continue to live on for ever. We may learn here—

1st. That the Christian has a never-failing source of consolation adapted to all times and circumstances.

2nd. That religion has its seat in the heart, and that it should constantly live there.

3rd. That it sheds its blessings on a world of sin, and is manifest by a continual life of piety, like a constant flowing spring.

4th. That its end is everlasting life. It will continue for ever; and whosoever drinks of this shall never thirst, but his piety shall be in his heart a pure fountain springing up to eternal joy


{g} "whosoever drinketh" Joh 6:35,58

{h} "I shall give him" Joh 17:2,3; Ro 6:23

{i} "in him a well" Joh 7:38


Verse 15. The woman said, &c. It may seem strange that the woman did not yet understand him, but it shows how slow sinners are to understand the doctrines of religion.


Verse 16. Go call thy husband. We may admire the manner which our Saviour took to lead her to perceive that he was the Christ. His instructions she did not understand. He therefore proceeded to show her that he was acquainted with her life and with her sins. His object, here, was to lead her to consider her own state and sinfulness—a delicate and yet pungent way of making her see that she was a sinner. By showing her, also, that he knew her life, though a stranger to her, he convinced her that he was qualified to teach her the way to heaven, and thus prepared her to admit that he was the Messiah, Joh Joh 4:29.


Verse 17. I have no husband. This was said, evidently, to evade the subject. Perhaps she feared that if she came there with the man that she lived with, the truth might be exposed. It is not improbable that by this time she began to suspect that Jesus was a prophet.

Hast well said. Hast said the truth



Verse 18. Hast had five husbands. Who have either died; or who, on account of your improper conduct, have divorced you; or whom you have left improperly, without legal divorce. Either of these might have been the case.

Is not thy husband. You are not lawfully married to him. Either she might have left a former husband without divorce, and thus her marriage with this man was unlawful, or she was living with him without the form of marriage, in open guilt.


Verse 19. A prophet. One sent from God, and who understood her life. The word here does not denote one who foretells future events, but one who knew her heart and life, and who must therefore have come from God. She did not yet suppose him to be the Messiah, Joh 4:25. Believing him now to be a man sent from God, she proposed to him a question respecting the proper place of worship. This point had been long a matter of dispute between the Samaritans and the Jews. She submitted it to him because she thought he could settle the question, and perhaps because she wished to divert the conversation from the unpleasant topic respecting her husbands. The conversation about her manner of life was a very unpleasant topic to her—as it is always unpleasant to sinners to talk about their lives and the necessity of religion—and she was glad to turn the conversation to something else. Nothing is more common than for sinners to change the conversation when it begins to bear too hard upon their consciences; and no way of doing it is more common than to direct it to some speculative inquiry having some sort of connection with religion, as if to show that they are willing to talk about religion, and do not wish to appear to be opposed to it. Sinners do not love direct religious conversation, but many are too well-bred to refuse altogether to talk to consider her own state and sinfulness—a delicate and yet pungent way of making her see that she was a sinner. By showing her, also, that he knew her life, though a stranger to her, he convinced her that he was qualified to teach her the way to heaven, and thus prepared her to admit that he was the Messiah, Joh 4:29.

{k} "perceive" Joh 1:48,49


Verse 20. Our fathers. The Samaritans; perhaps also meaning to intimate that the patriarchs had done it also. See Ge 12:6; 33:20.

Worshipped. Had a place of worship.

In this mountain. Mount Gerizim, but a little way from Sychar. On this mountain they had built a temple somewhat similar to the one in Jerusalem. This was one of the main subjects of controversy between them and the Jews. The old Samaritan Pentateuch, or five books of Moses, has the word Gerizim instead of Ebal in De 27:4. On this account, as well as because the patriarchs are mentioned as having worshipped in Shethem, they supposed that that was the proper place on which to erect the temple.

Ye say. Ye Jews


In Jerusalem. The place where the temple was built. This was built in accordance with the promise and command of God, De 12:5,11. In building this, David and Solomon were under the divine direction, 2 Sa 7:2,3,13; 1 Ki 5:5,12; 8:15-22.

As it was contemplated in the law of Moses that there should be but one place to offer sacrifice and to hold the great feasts, so it followed that the Samaritans were in error in supposing that their temple was the place. Accordingly, our Saviour decided in favour of the Jews, yet in such a manner as to show the woman that the question was of much less consequence than they supposed it to be.

{l} "this mountain" Jud 9:7

{m} "in Jerusalem" De 12:5-11; Ki 9:3


Verse 21. Believe me. As she had professed to believe that he was a prophet, it was right to require her to put faith in what he was about to utter. It also shows the importance of what he was about to say.

The hour cometh. The time is coming, or is near.

When neither in this mountains, &c. Hitherto the public solemn worship of God has been confined to one place. It has been a matter of dispute whether that place should be Jerusalem or Mount Gerizim. That controversy is to be of much less importance than you have supposed. The old dispensation is about to pass away. The peculiar rites of the Jews are to cease. The worship of God, so long confined to a single place, is soon to be celebrated everywhere, and with as much acceptance in one place as in another. He does not say that there would be no worship of God in that place or in Jerusalem, but that the worship of God would not be confined there. He would be worshipped in other places as well as there.

{n} "when ye shall neither" Mal 1:11; Mt 18:20


Verse 22. Ye worship ye know not what. This probably refers to the comparative ignorance and corruption of the Samaritan worship. Though they received the five books of Moses, yet they rejected the prophets, and of course all that the prophets had said respecting the true God. Originally, also, they had joined the worship of idols to that of the true God. See 2 Ki 17:26-34. They had, moreover, no authority for building their temple and conducting public worship by sacrifices there. On all these accounts they were acting in an unauthorized manner. They were not obeying the true God, nor offering the worship which he had commanded or would approve. Jesus thus indirectly settled the question which she had proposed to him, yet in such a way as to show her that it was of much less importance than she had supposed.

We know. We Jews. This they knew because God had commanded it; because they worshipped in a place appointed by God, and because they did it in accordance with the direction and teaching of the prophets.

Salvation is of the Jews. They have the true religion and the true form of worship; and the Messiah, who will bring salvation, is to proceed from them. See Lu 2:30; 3:6. Jesus thus affirms that the Jews had the true form of the worship of God. At the same time he was sensible how much they had corrupted it, and on various occasions reproved them for it.

{o} "Ye worship" 2 Ki 17:29

{p} "for salvation" Isa 2:3; Ro 9:5


Verse 23. But the hour cometh, and now is. The old dispensation is about to pass away, and the new one to commence. Already there is so much light that God may be worshipped acceptably in any place.

The true worshippers. All who truly and sincerely worship God. They who do it with the heart, and not merely in form.

In spirit. The word spirit, here, stands opposed to rites and ceremonies, and to the pomp of external worship. It refers to the mind, the soul, the heart. They shall worship God with a sincere mind; with the simple offering of gratitude and prayer; with a desire to glorify him, and without external pomp and splendour. Spiritual worship is that where the heart is offered to God, and where we do not depend on external forms for acceptance.

In truth. Not through the medium of shadows and types, not by means of sacrifices and bloody offerings, but in the manner represented or typified by all these, Heb 9:9,24. In the true way of direct access to God through Jesus Christ.

For the Father seeketh, &c. Jesus gives two reasons why this kind of worship should take place. One is that God sought it, or desired it. He had appointed the old mode, but he did it because he sought to lead the mind to himself even by those forms, and to prepare the people for the purer system of the gospel, and now he sought or desired that those who worshipped him should worship him in that manner. He intimated his will by Jesus Christ.

{q} "in spirit" Php 3:3


Verse 24. God is a spirit. This is the second reason why men should worship him in spirit and in truth. By this is meant that God is without a body; that he is not material or composed of parts; that he is invisible, in every place, pure and holy. This is one of the first truths of religion, and one of the sublimest ever presented to the mind of man. Almost all nations have had some idea of God as gross or material, but the Bible declares that he is a pure spirit. As he is such a spirit, he dwells not in temples made with hands (Ac 7:48), neither is worshipped with men's hands as though he needed anything, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things, Ac 17:25. A pure, a holy, a spiritual worship, therefore, is such as he seeks—the offering of the soul rather than the formal offering of the body—the homage of the heart rather than that of the lips.

{r} "is a spirit" Php 3:3


Verse 25. I know that Messias cometh. As the Samaritans acknowledged the five books of Moses, so they expected, also, the coming of the Messiah.

Which is called Christ. These are probably the words of the evangelist, as it is not likely that the woman would explain the name on such an occasion.

Will tell us all things. Jesus had decided the question proposed to him (Joh 4:20) in favour of the Jews. The woman does not seem to have been satisfied with this answer, and said that the Messiah would tell them all about this question. Probably she was expecting that he would soon appear.


Verse 26. I that speak unto thee am he. I am the Messiah. This was the first time that he openly professed it. He did not do it yet to the Jews, for it would have excited envy and opposition. But nothing could be apprehended in Samaria; and as the woman seemed reluctant to listen to him as a prophet, and professed her willingness to listen to the Messiah, he openly declared that he was the Christ, that by some means he might save her soul. From this we may learn,

1st. The great wisdom of the Lord Jesus in leading the thoughts along to the subject of practical personal religion.

2nd. His knowledge of the heart and of the life. He must be therefore divine.

3rd. He gave evidence here that he was the Messiah. This was the design of John in writing this gospel. He has therefore recorded this narrative, which was omitted by the other evangelists.

4th. We see our duty. It is to seize on all occasions to lead sinners to the belief that Jesus is the Christ, and to make use of all topics of conversation to teach them the nature of religion. There never was a model of so much wisdom in this as the Saviour, and we shall be successful only as we diligently study his character.

5th. We see the nature of religion. It does not consist merely in external forms. It is pure, spiritual, active, an ever-bubbling fountain. It is the worship of a pure and holy God, where the heart is offered, and where the desires of an humble soul are breathed out for salvation.

{s} "I that speak" Joh 9:37


Verse 27. Upon this. At this time.

Marvelled. Wondered. They wondered because the Jews had no intercourse with the Samaritans, and they were surprised that Jesus was engaged with her in conversation.

Yet no man said. No one of the disciples. They had such respect and reverence for him that they did not dare to ask him the reason of his conduct, or even to appear to reprove him. We should be confident that Jesus is right, even if we cannot fully understand all that he does.


Verse 28. Left her water-pot. Her mind was greatly excited. She was disturbed, and hastened to the city in great agitation to make this known. She seems to have been convinced that he was the Messiah, and went immediately to make it known to others. Our first business, when we have found the Saviour, should be to make him known also to others.


Verse 29. Is not this the Christ? Though she probably believed it, yet she proposed it modestly, lest she should appear to dictate in a case which was so important, and which demanded so much attention. The evidence on which she was satisfied that he was the Messiah was that he had told her all things that she had done—perhaps much more than is here recorded. The question which she submitted to them was whether this was not satisfactory proof that he was the Messiah.


Verse 30. They went out of the city. The men of the city left it and went to Jesus, to hear and examine for themselves.


Verse 31. Prayed him. Asked him.


Verse 32. I have meat to eat. See Barnes "Joh 4:34". THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JOHN - Chapter 4 - Verse 33

Verse 33. Hath any man brought him, &c. This is one of the many instances in which the disciples were slow to understand the Saviour.


Verse 34. My meat, &c. Jesus here explains what he said in Joh 4:32. His great object—the great design of his life—was to do the will of God. He came to that place weary and thirsty, and at the usual time of meals, probably an hungered; yet an opportunity of doing good presented itself, and he forgot his fatigue and hunger, and found comfort and joy in doing good—in seeking to save a soul. This one great object absorbed all his powers, and made him forget his weariness and the wants of nature. The mind may be so absorbed in doing the will of God as to forget all other things. Intent on this, we may rise above fatigue, and hardship, and want, and bear all with pleasure in seeing the work of God advance. See Job 23:12: "I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food." We may learn, also, that the main business of life is not to avoid fatigue or to seek the supply of our temporal wants, but to do the will of God. The mere supply of our temporal necessities, though most men make it an object of their chief solicitude, is a small consideration in the sight of him who has just views of the great design of human life.

The will of him that sent me. The will of God in regard to the salvation of men. See Joh 6:38.

To finish his work. To complete or fully to do the work which he has commanded in regard to the salvation of men. It is his work to provide salvation, and his to redeem, and his to apply the salvation to the heart. Jesus came to do it by teaching, by his example, and by his death as an expiation for sin. And he shows us that we should be diligent. If he was so diligent for our welfare, if he bore fatigue and want to benefit us, then we should be diligent, also, in regard to our own salvation, and also in seeking the salvation of others.

{t} "My meat" Job 23:12; Joh 6:38

{u} "finish his work" Joh 17:4


Verse 35. Say not ye. This seems to have been a proverb. Ye say—that is, men say.

Four months and, &c. The common time from sowing the seed to the harvest, in Judea, was about four months. The meaning of this passage may be thus expressed:

The husband-man, when he sows his seed, is compelled to wait a considerable period before it produces a crop. He is encouraged in sowing it; he expects fruit; his labour is lightened by that expectation; but it is not immediate—it is remote. But it is not so with my preaching. The seed has already sprung up. Scarce was it sown before it produced an abundant harvest. The gospel was just preached to a woman, and see how many of the Samaritans come to hear it also. There is therefore more encouragement to labour in this field than the farmer has to sow his grain.

Lift your eyes. See the Samaritans coming to hear the gospel.

They are white. Grain, when ripe, turns from a green to a yellow or light colour, indicating that it is time to reap it. So here were indications that the gospel was effectual, and that the harvest was to be gathered in. Hence we may learn,

1st. That there is as much encouragement to attempt to save souls as the farmer has to raise a crop.

2nd. That the gospel is fitted to make an immediate impression on the minds of men. We are to expect that it will. We are not to wait to some future period, as if we could not expect immediate results. This wicked and ignorant people—little likely, apparently, to be affected—turned to God, heard the voice of the Saviour, and came in multitudes to him.

3rd. We are to expect revivals of religion. Here was one instance of it under the Saviour's own preaching. Multitudes were excited, moved, and came to learn the way of life.

4th. We know not how much good may be done by conversation with even a single individual. This conversation with a woman resulted in a deep interest felt throughout the city, and in the conversion of many of them to God. So a single individual may often be the means, in the hand of God, of leading many to the cross of Jesus.

5th. What evils may follow from neglecting to do our duty! How easily might Jesus have alleged, if he had been like many of his professed disciples, that he was weary, that he was hungry, that it was esteemed improper to converse with a woman alone, that she was an abandoned character, and there could be little hope of doing her good! How many consciences of ministers and Christians would have been satisfied with reasoning like this? Yet Jesus, in spite of his fatigue and thirst, and all the difficulties of the case, seriously set about seeking the conversion of this woman. And behold what a glorious result! The city was moved, and a great harvest was found ready to be gathered in! Let us not be weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap if we faint not.

{v} "white already" Mt 9:37


Verse 36. He that reapeth. He that gathers the harvest, or he who so preaches that souls are converted to Christ.

Receiveth wages. The labourer in the harvest receives his hire. Jesus says it shall be thus with those who labour in the ministry—he will not suffer them to go unrewarded. See Da 12:3; Mt 19:28.

Gathereth fruit unto life eternal. Converts souls, who shall inherit eternal life. The harvest is not temporary, like gathering grain, but shall result in eternal life.

That both he that soweth, &c. It is a united work. It matters little whether we sow the seed or whether we reap the harvest. It is part of the same work, and whatever part we may do, we should rejoice. God gives the increase, while Paul may plant and Apollos water. The teacher in the Sunday-school, who sows the seed in early life, shall rejoice with the minister of the gospel who may gather in the harvest, and both join in giving all the praise to God.

{w} "gathereth" Ro 6:22

{x} "both he that soweth" 1 Co 3:5-9


Verse 37. That saying. That proverb. This proverb is found in some of the Greek writers (Grotius). Similar proverbs were in use among the Jews. See Isa 65:21,22; Le 26:16; Mic 6:15.

One soweth, &c. One man may preach the gospel, and with little apparent effect; another, succeeding him, may be crowned with eminent success. The seed, long buried, may spring up in an abundant harvest.

{y} "one soweth" Mic 6:15


Verse 38. I sent you. In the commission given you to preach the gospel. You have not labored or toiled in preparing the way for the great harvest which is now to be gathered in.

Other men labored


(1.) The prophets, who long labored to prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah.

(2.) The teachers among the Jews, who have read and explained the law and taught the people.

(3.) John the Baptist, who came to prepare the way. And,

(4.) The Saviour himself, who by his personal ministry taught the people, and prepared them for the success which was to attend the preaching of the apostles. Especially did Jesus lay the foundation for the rapid and extensive spread of the gospel. He saw comparatively little fruit of his ministry. He confined his labours to Judea, and even there he was occupied in sowing seed which chiefly sprang up after his death. From this we may learn,

1st. That the man who is crowned with eminent success has no cause of boasting over others, any more than the man who reaps a field of grain should boast over the man who sowed it. The labour of both is equally necessary, and the labour of both would be useless if GOD did not give the increase. Comp. 1 Co 3:6.

2nd. We should not be discouraged if we do not meet with immediate success. The man that sows is not disheartened because he does not see the harvest immediately spring up. We are to sow our seed in the morning, and in the evening we are not to withhold our hand, for we know not whether shall prosper, this or that; and we are to go forth bearing precious seed, though weeping, knowing that we shall come again rejoicing, bearing our sheaves with us, Ec 11:4; Ps 126:6

3rd. Every part of the work of the ministry and of teaching men is needful, and we should rejoice that we are permitted to bear any part, however humble, in bringing sinners to the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, 1 Co 12:21-24.


Verses 39-42. And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him, &c. There is seldom an instance of so remarkable success as this. From a single conversation, in Circumstances, in a place, and with an individual little likely to be attended with such results, many sinners were converted; many believed on the testimony of the woman; many more came to hear, and believed because they heard him themselves. We should never despair of doing good in the most unpromising circumstances, and we should seize upon every opportunity to converse with sinners on the great subject of their souls' salvation.

{a} "for the testimony" Joh 4:29


Verses 39-42. And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him, &c. There is seldom an instance of so remarkable success as this. From a single conversation, in Circumstances, in a place, and with an individual little likely to be attended with such results, many sinners were converted; many believed on the testimony of the woman; many more came to hear, and believed because they heard him themselves. We should never despair of doing good in the most unpromising circumstances, and we should seize upon every opportunity to converse with sinners on the great subject of their souls' salvation.

{a} "for the testimony" Joh 4:29


Verse 41. No Barnes text on this verse.


Verse 42. No Barnes text on this verse.


Verse 43. Into Galilee Into some of the parts of Galilee, though evidently not into Nazareth, but probably direct to Cana, Joh 4:46


Verse 44. For Jesus himself testified, &c. See Barnes "Mt 13:57".

The connection of this verse with the preceding may be thus explained: "Jesus went to Galilee, but not to Nazareth, for he testified," &c. Or, "Jesus went to Galilee, although he had said that a prophet had no honour in his own country; yet, because he foreknew that the Galileans would many of them believe on him, he went at this time."

{c} "a prophet" Mt 13:57; Mr 6:4; Lu 4:24


Verse 45. Received him. Received him kindly, or as a messenger of God. They had seen his miracles, and believed on him.

{d} "having seen" Joh 2:23

{e} "for they also went" De 16:16


A certain nobleman. One who was of the royal family, connected by birth with Herod Antipas; or one of the officers of the court, whether by birth allied to him or not. It seems that his ordinary residence was at Capernaum. Capernaum was about a day's journey from Cana, where Jesus then was.

{f} "he made the water wine" Joh 2:1,11 {1} "nobleman" or, "courtier" or, "ruler"


Verse 47. He went unto him. Though high in office, yet he did not refuse to go personally to Jesus to ask his aid. He felt as a father; and believing, after all that Jesus had done, that he could cure his son, he travelled to meet him. If men receive benefits of Christ, they must come in the same manner. The rich and the poor, the high and the low, must come personally as humble suppliants, and must be willing to bear all the reproach that may be cast on them for thus coming to him. This man showed strong faith in being willing thus to go to Jesus, but he erred in supposing that Jesus could heal only by his being present with his son.

Would come down. It is probable that the miracles of Jesus heretofore had been performed only on those who were present with him, and this nobleman seems to have thought that this was necessary. One design of Jesus in working this miracle was to show him that this was not necessary. Hence he did not go down to Capernaum, but healed him where he was.


Verse 48. Except ye see signs, &c. This was spoken not to the nobleman only, but to the Galileans generally. The Samaritans had believed without any miracle. The Galileans, he said, were less disposed to believe him than even they were; and though he had wrought miracles enough to convince them, yet, unless they continually saw them, they would not believe.

{g} "signs and wonders" 1 Co 1:22


Verse 49. Come down, &c. The earnestness of the nobleman evinces the deep and tender anxiety of a father. So anxious was he for his son that he was not willing that Jesus should delay a moment —not even to address the people. He still seems to have supposed that Jesus had no power to heal his son except he was present with him.


Verse 50. Go thy way. This was a kind and tender address. It was designed to convince him that he could word a miracle though not personally present.

Thy son liveth. Thy son shall recover; or he shall be restored to health, according to thy request.

The man believed. The manner in which Jesus spoke it, and the assurance which he gave, convinced the man that he could heal him there as well as to go to Capernaum to do it. This is an instance of the power of Jesus to convince the mind, to soothe doubts, to confirm faith, and to meet our desires. He blesses not always in the manner in which we ask, but he grants us our main wish. The father wished his son healed by Jesus going down to Capernaum. Jesus healed him, but not in the way in which he asked it to be done. God will hear our prayers and grant our requests, but often not in the precise manner in which we ask it. It is his to judge of the best way of doing us good.

{h} "Go thy way" Mt 8:13; Mr 7:29,30; Lu 17:14


Verse 51. No Barnes text on this verse.


Verse 52. The seventh hour. About one o'clock in the afternoon.


Verse 53. The same hour. The very time when Jesus spoke.

The fever left him. It seems that it left him suddenly and entirely; so much so that his friends went to inform the father, and to comfort him, and also, doubtless, to apprise him that it was not necessary to ask aid from Jesus. From this miracle we may learn,

1st. That Jesus has an intimate knowledge of all things. He knew the case of this son-the extent of his disease—where he was—and thus had power to heal him.

2nd. That Jesus has almighty power. Nothing else could have healed this child. Nor could it be pretended that he did it by any natural means. He was far away from him, and the child knew not the source of the power that healed him. It could not be pretended that there was any collusion or jugglery. The father came in deep anxiety. The servants saw the cure. Jesus was at a distance. Everything in the case bears the mark of being the simple energy of God—put forth with equal ease to heal, whether far or near. Thus he can save the sinner.

3rd. We see the benevolence of Jesus. Ever ready to aid, to heal, or to save, he may be called on at all times, and will never be called on in vain.

Himself believed. This miracle removed all his doubts, and he became a real disciple and friend of Jesus.

His whole house. His whole family. We may learn from this,

1st. That sickness or any deep affliction is often the means of great good. Here the sickness of the son resulted in the faith of all the family. God often takes away earthly blessings that he may impart rich spiritual mercies.

2nd. The father of a family may be the means of the salvation of his children. Here the effort of a parent resulted in their conversion to Christ.

3rd. There is great beauty and propriety when sickness thus results in piety. For that it is sent. God does not willingly grieve or afflict the children of men; and when afflictions thus terminate, it will be cause of eternal joy, of ceaseless praise.

4th. There is a peculiar charm when piety thus comes into the families of the rich and the noble. It is so unusual; their example and influence go so far; it overcomes so many temptations, and affords opportunities of doing so much good, that there is no wonder that the evangelist selected this instance as one of the effects of the power and of the preaching of the Lord Jesus Christ.

{i} "the same hour" Ps 107:20 {k} "and himself believed" Ac 16:34; 18:8


Verse 54. No Barnes text on this verse.


Verse 1. A feast. Probably the Passover, though it is not certain. There were two other feasts—the Pentecost and the Feast of Tabernacles—at which all the males were required to be present, and it might have been one of them. It is of no consequence, however, which of them is intended.

{a} "A feast" Le 23:2; De 16:16; Joh 2:3


Verse 2. The sheep-market. This might have been rendered the sheep-gate, or the gate through which the sheep were taken into the city for sacrifice. The marginal rendering is gate, and the word "market" is not in the original, nor is a "sheep-market" mentioned in the Scriptures or in any of the Jewish writings. A sheep-gate is repeatedly mentioned by Nehemiah (Ne 3:1,32; 12:39) being that by which sheep and oxen were brought into the city. As these were brought mainly for sacrifice, the gate was doubtless near the temple, and near the present place which is shown as the pool of Bethesda.

A pool. This word may either mean a small lake or pond in which one can swim, or a place for fish, or any waters collected for bathing or washing.

Hebrew tongue. Hebrew language. The language then spoken, which did not differ essentially from the ancient Hebrew.

Bethesda. The house of mercy. It was so called on account of its strong healing properties—the property of restoring health to the sick and infirm.

Five porches. The word porch commonly means a covered place surrounding a building, in which people can walk or sit in hot or wet weather. Here it probably means that there were five covered places, or apartments, in which the sick could remain, from each one of which they could have access to the water. This "pool" is thus described by Professor Hackett (Illustrations of Scripture, p. 291, 292)

Just to the east of the Turkish garrison, and under the northern wall of the mosque, is a deep excavation, supposed by many to be the ancient pool of Bethesda, into which the sick descended `after the troubling of the water,' and were healed, Joh 5:1, sq. It is 360 feet long, 130 feet wide, and 75 deep. The evangelist says that this pool was near the sheep-gate, as the Greek probably signifies, rather than sheep-market, as rendered in the English version. That gate, according to Ne 3:1, sq., was on the north side of the temple, and hence the situation of this reservoir would agree with that of Bethesda. The present name, Birket Israil, Pool of Israil, indicates the opinion of the native inhabitants in regard to the object of the excavation. The general opinion of the most accurate travellers is that the so-called pool was originally part of a trench or fosse which protected the temple on the north. Though it contains no water at present except a little which trickles through the stones at the west end, it has evidently been used at some period as a reservoir. It is lined with cement, and adapted in other respects to hold water.

Dr. Robinson established by personal inspection the fact of the subterranean connection of the pool of Siloam with the Fountain of the Virgin, and made it probable that the fountain under the mosque of Omar is connected with them. This spring is, as he himself witnessed, an intermittent one, and there may have been some artificially constructed basin in connection with this spring to which was given the name of Bethesda. He supposes, however, that there is not the slightest evidence that the place or reservoir now pointed out as Bethesda was the Bethesda of the New Testament (Bib. Res., i. 501,506, 509). In the time of Sandys (1611) the spring was found running, but in small quantities; in the time of Maundrell (1697) the stream did not run. Probably in his time, as now, the water which had formerly filtered through the rocks was dammed up by the rubbish.

{1} "sheep-market", or "gate", Ne 3:1; 12:39


Verse 3. Impotent folk. Sick people; or people who were weak and feeble by long disease. The word means those who were feeble rather than those who were afflicted with acute disease.

Halt. Lame.

Withered. Those who were afflicted with one form of the palsy that withered or dried up the part affected. See Barnes "Mt 4:24".

Moving of the water. It appears that this pool had medicinal properties only when it was agitated or stirred. It is probable that at regular times or intervals the fountain put forth an unusual quantity of water, or water of peculiar properties, and that about these times the people assembled in multitudes who were to be healed.


Verse 4. An angel. It is not affirmed that the angel did this visibly, or that they saw him do it. They judged by the effect, and when they saw the waters agitated, they concluded that they had healing properties, and descended to them. The Jews were in the habit of attributing all favours to the minis try of the angels of God, Ge 19:15; Heb 1:14; Mt 4:11; 18:10; Lu 16:22; Ac 7:53; Ga 3:19; Ac 12:11. This fountain, it seems, had strong medicinal properties. Like many other waters, it had the property of healing certain diseases that were incurable by any other means. Thus the waters of Bath, of Saratoga, &c., are found to be highly medicinal, and to heal diseases that are otherwise incurable. In the case of the waters of Bethesda there does not appear to have been anything miraculous, but the waters seem to have been endued with strong medicinal properties, especially after a periodical agitation. All that is peculiar about them in the record is that this was produced by the ministry of an angel. This was m accordance with the common sentiment of the Jews, the common doctrine of the Bible, and the belief of the sacred writers. Nor can it be shown to be absurd or improbable that such blessings should be imparted to man by the ministry of an angel. There is no more absurdity in the belief that a pure spirit or holy angel should aid man, than that a physician or a parent should; and no more absurdity in supposing that the healing properties of such a fountain should be produced by his aid, than that any other blessing should be, Heb 1:12. What man can prove that all his temporal blessings do not come to him through the medium of others—of parents, of teachers, of friends, of angels? And who can prove that it is unworthy the benevolence of angels to minister to the wants of the poor, the needy, and the afflicted, when man does it, and Jesus Christ did it, and God himself does it daily?

Went down. Descended to the pool.

At a certain season. At a certain time; periodically. The people knew about the time when this was done, and assembled in multitudes to partake of the benefits. Many medicinal springs are more strongly impregnated at some seasons of the year than others.

Troubled the water. Stirred or agitated the water. There was probably an increase, and a bubbling and agitation produced by the admission of a fresh quantity.

Whosoever then first. This does not mean that but one was healed, and that the first one, but that those who first descended into the pool were healed. The strong medicinal properties of the waters soon subsided, and those who could not at first enter into the pool were obliged to wait for the return of the agitation.

Stepped in. Went in.

Was made whole. Was healed. It is not implied that this was done instantaneously or by a miracle. The water had such properties that he was healed, though probably gradually. It is not less the gift of God to suppose that this fountain restored gradually, and in accordance with what commonly occurs, than to suppose, what is not affirmed, that it was done at once and in a miraculous manner.

In regard to this passage, it should be remarked that the account of the angel in the 4th verse is wanting in many manuscripts, and has been by many supposed to be spurious. There is not conclusive evidence, however, that it is not a part of the genuine text, and the best critics suppose that it should not be rejected. One difficulty has been that no such place as this spring is mentioned by Josephus. But John is as good a historian, and as worthy to be believed as Josephus. Besides, it is known that many important places and events have not been mentioned by the Jewish historian, and it is no evidence that there was no such place as this because he did not mention it. When this fountain was discovered, or how long its healing properties continued to be known, it is impossible now to ascertain. All that we know of it is what is mentioned here, and conjecture would be useless. We may remark, however, that such a place anywhere is an evidence of the great goodness of God. Springs or fountains having healing properties abound on earth, and nowhere more than in our own country. Diseases are often healed in such places which no human skill could remove. The Jews regarded such a provision as proof of the mercy of God. They gave this healing spring the name of a "house of mercy." They regarded it as under the care of an angel. And there is no place where man should be more sensible of the goodness of God, or be more disposed to render him praise as in a "house of mercy," than when at such a healing fountain. And yet how lamentable is it that such places—watering places—should be mere places of gaiety and thoughtlessness, of balls, and gambling, and dissipation! How melancholy that amid the very places where there is most evidence of the goodness of God, and of the misery of the poor, the sick, the afflicted, men should forget all the goodness of their Maker, and spend their time in scenes of dissipation, folly, and vice!

{b} "first after" Pr 8:17; Ec 9:10; Mt 11:12

{c} "was made whole" Eze 47:8,9; Zec 13:1


Verse 5. An infirmity A weakness. We know not what his disease was. We know only that it disabled him from walking, and that it was of very long standing. It was doubtless regarded as incurable.

{d} "had an infirmity" Lu 8:43; 13:16


Verse 6. No Barnes text on this verse.


Verse 7. Sir, I have no man, &c. The answer of the man implied that he did wish it, but, in addition to all his other trials, he had no friend to aid him. This is an additional circumstance that heightened his affliction.

{f} "I have no man" De 32:36; Ps 72:12; 142:4; Ro 5:6; 2 Co 1:9,10/p>


Verse 8. Rise, take up, &c. Jesus not only restored him to health, but he gave evidence to those around him that this was a real miracle, and that he was really healed. For almost forty years he had been afflicted. He was not even able to walk. Jesus commanded him not only to walk, but to take up his bed also, and carry that as proof that he was truly made whole. In regard to this we may observe,

1st. That it was a remarkable command. The poor man had been long infirm, and it does not appear that he expected to be healed except by being put into the waters. Yet Jesus, when he gives a commandment, can give strength to obey it.

2nd. It is our business to obey the commands of Jesus, however feeble we feel ourselves to be. His grace will be sufficient for us, and his burden will be light.

3rd. The weak and helpless sinner should put forth his efforts in obedience to the command of Jesus. Never was a sinner more helpless than was this man. If God gave him strength to do his will, so he can all others; and the plea that we can do nothing could have been urged with far more propriety by this man than it can be by any impenitent sinner.

4th. This narrative should not be abused. It should not be supposed as intended to teach that a sinner should delay repentance, as if waiting for God. The narrative neither teaches nor implies any such thing. It is a simple record of a fact in regard to a man who had no power to heal himself, and who was under no obligation to heal himself. There is no reference in the narrative to the difficulties of a sinner— no intimation that it was intended to refer to his condition; and to make this example an excuse for delay, or an argument for waiting, is to abuse and pervert the Bible. Seldom is more mischief done than by attempting to draw from the Bible what it was not intended to teach, and by an effort to make that convey spiritual instruction which God has not declared designed for that purpose.

Thy bed. Thy couch; or the mattress or clothes on which he lay.

{g} "Rise" Mt 9:6; Mr 2:11; Lu 5:24


Verse 9. The Sabbath. To carry burdens on the Sabbath was forbidden in the Old Testament, Jer 17:21; Ne 13:15; Ex 20:8-10.

If it be asked, then, why Jesus commanded a man to do on the Sabbath what was understood to be a violation of the day, it may be answered,

1st. That the Son of man was Lord of the Sabbath, and had a right to declare what might be done, and even to dispense with a positive law of the Jews, Mt 12:8; Joh 5:17.

2nd. This was a poor man, and Jesus directed him to secure his property.

3rd. The Jews extended the obligation of the Sabbath beyond what was intended by the appointment. They observed it superstitiously, and Jesus took every opportunity to convince them of their error, and to restore the day to its proper observance, Mt 12:6-11; Lu 6:9; Lu 13:14; 14:5. This method he took to show them what the law of God really permitted on that day, and that works of necessity and mercy were lawful.

{h} "and on the same day" Joh 9:14


Verse 9. The Sabbath. To carry burdens on the Sabbath was forbidden in the Old Testament, Jer 17:21; Ne 13:15; Ex 20:8-10.

If it be asked, then, why Jesus commanded a man to do on the Sabbath what was understood to be a violation of the day, it may be answered,

1st. That the Son of man was Lord of the Sabbath, and had a right to declare what might be done, and even to dispense with a positive law of the Jews, Mt 12:8; Joh 5:17.

2nd. This was a poor man, and Jesus directed him to secure his property.

3rd. The Jews extended the obligation of the Sabbath beyond what was intended by the appointment. They observed it superstitiously, and Jesus took every opportunity to convince them of their error, and to restore the day to its proper observance, Mt 12:6-11; Lu 6:9; Lu 13:14; 14:5. This method he took to show them what the law of God really permitted on that day, and that works of necessity and mercy were lawful.

{h} "and on the same day" Joh 9:14


Verse 10. Not lawful. It was forbidden, they supposed, in the Old Testament. The Jews were very strenuous in the observation of the external duties of religion.

{i} "It is the sabbath day" Jer 17:21; Mt 12:2


Verse 11. He that made me whole. The man reasoned correctly. If Jesus had power to work so signal a miracle, he had a right to explain the law. If he had conferred so great a favour on him, he had a right to expect obedience; and we may learn that the mercy of God in pardoning our sins, or in bestowing any signal blessing, imposes the obligation to obey him. We should yield obedience to him according to what we know to be his will, whatever may be the opinions of men, or whatever interpretation they may put on the law of God. Our business is a simple, hearty, child-like obedience, let the men of the world say or think of us as they choose.


Verse 12. What man is he, &c. In this verse there is a remarkable instance of the perverseness of men, of their want of candour, and of the manner in which they often look at a subject. Instead of looking at the miracle, and at the man's statement of the manner in which he was healed, they look only at what they thought to be a violation of the law. They assumed it as certain that nothing could make his conduct, in carrying his bed on the Sabbath-day, proper; and they meditated vengeance, not only on the man who was carrying his bed, but on him, also, who had told him to do it. Thus men often assume that a certain course or opinion is proper, and when anyone differs from them they look only at the difference, but not at the reasons for it. One great source of dispute among men is that they look only at the points in which they differ, but are unwilling to listen to the reasons why others do not believe as they do. It is always enough to condemn one in the eyes of a bigot that he differs from him, and he looks upon him who holds a different opinion, as the Jews did at this man, as certainly wrong; and such a bigot looks at the reasons why others differ from him just as the Jews did at the reason why this man bore his bed on the Sabbath—as not worth regarding or hearing, or as if they could not possibly be right.


Verse 13. Wist not. Knew not.

Had conveyed himself away. Was lost in the crowd. He had silently mingled with the multitude, or had passed on with the crowd unobserved, and the man had been so rejoiced at his cure that he had not even inquired the name of his benefactor.

{l} "for Jesus" Lu 4:30 {2} "a multitude" or, "from the multitude that was"


Verse 14. Findeth him. Fell in with him, or saw him.

In the temple. The man seems to have gone at once to the temple—perhaps a privilege of which he had been long deprived. They who are healed from sickness should seek the sanctuary of God and give him thanks for his mercy. Comp. See Barnes "Is 38:20".

There is nothing more improper, when we are raised up from a bed of pain, than to forget God our benefactor, and neglect to praise him for his mercies.

Thou art made whole. Jesus calls to his remembrance the fact that he was healed, in order that he might admonish him not to sin again.

Sin no more. By this expression it was implied that the infirmity of this man was caused by sin—perhaps by vice in his youth. His crime or dissipation had brought on him this long and distressing affliction. Jesus shows him that he knew the cause of his sickness, and takes occasion to warn him not to repeat it. No man who indulges in vice can tell what may be its consequences. It must always end in evil, and not unfrequently it results in loss of health, and in long and painful disease. This is always the case with intemperance and all gross pleasures. Sooner or later, sin will always result in misery.

Sin no more. Do not repeat the vice. You have had dear-bought experience, and if repeated it will be worse. When a man has been restored from the effects of sin, he should learn to avoid the very appearance of evil. He should shun the place of temptation; he should not mingle again with his old companions; he should touch not, taste not, handle not. God visits with heavier judgment those who have been once restored from the ways of sin and who return again to it. The drunkard that has been reformed, and that returns to his habits of drinking, becomes more beastly; the man that professes to have experienced a change of heart, and who then indulges in sin, sinks deeper into pollution, and is seldom restored. The only way of safety in all such cases is to sin no more; not to be in the way of temptation; not to expose ourselves; not to touch or approach that which came near to working our ruin. The man who has been intemperate and is reformed, if he tastes the poison at all, may expect to sink deeper than ever into drunkenness and pollution.

A worse thing. A more grievous disease, or the pains of hell. "The doom of apostates is a worse thing than thirty-eight years' lameness" (Henry).

{m} "sin no more" Joh 8:11


Verse 15. No Barnes text on this verse.


Verse 16. Persecuted Jesus. They opposed him; attempted to ruin his character; to destroy his popularity; and probably held him up before the people as a violator of the law of God. Instead of making inquiry whether he had not given proof that he was the Messiah, they assumed that he must be wrong, and ought to be punished. Thus every bigot and persecutor does in regard to those who differ from them.

To slay him. To put him to death. This they attempted to do because it was directed in the law of Moses, Ex 31:15; 35:2; Lu 6:7,11; 13:14.

We see here,

1st. How full of enmity and how bloody was the purpose of the Jews. All that Jesus had done was to restore an infirm man to health—a thing which they would have done for their cattle (Lu 6:7; 13:14), and yet they sought his life because he had done it for a sick man.

2nd. Men are often extremely envious because good is done by others, especially if it is not done according to the way of their denomination or party.

3rd. Here was an instance of the common feelings of a hypocrite. He often covers his enmity against the power of religion by great zeal for the form of it. He hates and persecutes those who do good, who seek the conversion of sinners, who love revivals of religion and the spread of the gospel, because it is not according to some matter of form which has been established, and on which he supposes the whole safety of the church to hang. There was nothing that Jesus was more opposed to than hypocrisy, and nothing that he set himself more against than those who suppose all goodness to consist in forms, and all piety in the shibboleths of a party.


Verse 17. My Father. God.

Worketh hitherto. Worketh until now, or till this time. God has not ceased to work on the Sabbath. He makes the sun to rise; he rolls the stars; he causes the grass, the tree, the flower to grow. He has not suspended his operations on the Sabbath, and the obligation to rest on the Sabbath does not extend to him. He created the world in six days, and ceased the work of creations; but he has not ceased to govern it, and to carry forward, by his providence, his great plans on the Sabbath.

And I work. "As God does good on that day; as he is not bound by the law which requires his creatures to rest on that day, so I do the same. The law on that subject may be dispensed with, also, in my case, for the Son of man is Lord of the Sabbath." In this reply it is implied that he was equal with God from two circumstances:

1st. Because he called God his Father, Joh 5:18.

2nd. Because he claimed the same exemption from law which God did, asserting that the law of the Sabbath did not bind him or his Father, thus showing that he had a right to impose and repeal laws in the same manner as God. He that has a right to do this must be God.

{n} "My father" Joh 9:4; 14:10


Verse 18. The more to kill him. The answer of Jesus was fitted greatly to irritate them. He did not deny what he had done, but he added to that what he well knew would highly, offend them. That he should claim the right of dispensing with the law, and affirm that, in regard to its observance, he was in the same condition with God, was eminently fitted to enrage them, and he doubtless knew that it might endanger his life. We may learn from his answer, That we are not to keep back truth because it may endanger us.

2nd. That we are not to keep back truth because it will irritate and enrage sinners. The fault is not in the truth, but in the sinner.

3rd. That when any one portion of truth enrages hypocrites, they will be enraged the more they hear.

Had broken the sabbath. They supposed he had broken it.

Making himself equal with God. This shows that, in the view of the Jews, the name Son of God, or that calling God his Father, implied equality with God. The Jews were the best interpreters of their own language, and as Jesus did not deny the correctness of their interpretations, it follows that he meant to be so understood. See Joh 10:29-38. The interpretation of the Jews was a very natural and just one. He not only said that God was his Father, but he said that he had the same right to work on the Sabbath that God had; that by the same authority, and in the same manner, he could dispense with the obligation of the day. They had now two pretences for seeking to kill him—one for making himself equal with God, which they considered blasphemy, and the other for violating the Sabbath. For each of these the law denounced death, Nu 15:35; Le 24:11-14.

{p} "making himself equal with God" Zec 13:7; Joh 10:30,33; Php 2:6


Verse 19. The Son can do nothing of himself. Jesus, having stated the extent of his authority, proceeds here to show its source and nature, and to prove to them that what he had said was true. The first explanation which he gives is in these words: The Son—whom he had just impliedly affirmed to be equal with God— did nothing of himself; that is, nothing without the appointment of the Father; nothing contrary to the Father, as he immediately explains it. When it is said that he CAN do nothing OF HIMSELF, it is meant that such is the union subsisting between the Father and the Son that he can do nothing independently or separate from the Father. Such is the nature of this union that he can do nothing which has not the concurrence of the Father, and which he does not command. In all things he must, from the necessity of his nature, act in accordance with the nature and will of God. Such is the intimacy of the union, that the fact that he does anything is proof that it is by the concurring agency of God. There is no separate action—no separate existence; but, alike in being and in action, there is the most perfect oneness between him and the Father. Comp. Joh 10:30; Joh 17:21.

What he seeth the Father do. In the works of creation and providence, in making laws, and in the government of the universe. There is a peculiar force in the word seeth here. No man can see God acting in his works; but the word here implies that the Son sees him act, as we see our fellow-men act, and that he has a knowledge of him, therefore, which no mere mortal could possess.

What things soever. In the works of creation and of providence, and in the government of the worlds. The word is without limit—ALL that the Father does the Son likewise does. This is as high an assertion as possible of his being equal with God. If one does all that another does or can do, then there must be equality. If the Son does all that the Father does, then, like him, he must be almighty, omniscient, omnipresent, and infinite in every perfection; or, in other words, he must be God. If he had this power, then he had authority, also, to do on the Sabbath-day what God did.

{q} "The Son can do nothing of himself" Joh 5:30


Verse 20. The Father loveth the Son. This authority he traces to the love which the Father has for him—that peculiar, ineffable, infinite love which God has for his only-begotten Son, feebly and dimly illustrated by the love which an earthly parent has for an only child.

Showeth him. Makes him acquainted with. Conceals nothing from him. From apostles, prophets, and philosophers no small part of the doings of God are concealed. From the Son nothing is. And as God shows him all that he does, he must be possessed of omniscience, for to no finite mind could be imparted a knowledge of all the works of God.

Will show Him. Will appoint and direct him to do greater works than these.

Greater works than these. Than healing the impotent man, and commanding him to carry his bed on the Sabbath-day. The greater works to which he refers are those which he proceeds to specify—he will raise the dead and judge the world, &c.

May marvel. May wonder, or be amazed.


Verse 21. As the Father raiseth up the dead. God has power to raise the dead. By his power it had been done in at least two instances—by the prophet Elijah, in the case of the son of the widow of Sarepta (1 Ki 17:22), and by the prophet Elisha, in the case of the Shunamite's son, 2 Ki 4:32-35. The Jews did not doubt that God had power to raise the dead. Jesus here expressly affirms it, and says he has the same power.

Quickeneth them. Gives them life. This is the sense of the word quickeneth throughout the Bible.

Even so. In the same manner. By the same authority and power. The power of raising the dead must be one of the highest attributes of the divinity. As Jesus affirms that he has the power to do this in the same manner as the Father, so it follows that he must be equal with God.

The Son quickeneth. Gives life to. This may either refer to his raising the dead from their graves, or to his giving spiritual life to those who are dead in trespasses and sins. The former he did in the case of Lazarus and the widow's son at Nain, Joh 11:43,44; Lu 7:14,15. The latter he did in the case of all those who were converted by his power, and still does it in any instance of conversion. Whom he will. It was in the power of Jesus to raise up any of the dead as well as Lazarus. It depended on his will whether Lazarus and the widow's son should come to life. So it depends on his will whether sinners shall live. He has power to renew them, and the renewing of the heart is as much the result of his will as the raising of the dead.

{s} "the Son quickeneth" Lu 8:54; Joh 11:25; 17:2


Verse 22. Judgeth no man. Jesus in these verses is showing his equality with God. He affirmed (Joh 5:17) that he had the same power over the Sabbath that his Father had; in Joh 5:19 that he did the same things as the Father; in Joh 5:21 particularly that he had the same power to raise the dead. He now adds that God has given him the authority to judge men. The Father pronounces judgment on no one. This office he has committed to the Son. The power of judging the world implies ability to search the heart, and omniscience to understand the motives of all actions. This is a work which none but a divine being can do, and it shows, therefore, that the Son is equal to the Father.

Hath committed, Hath appointed him to be the judge of the world. In the previous verse he had said that he had power to raise the dead; he here adds that it will be his, also, to judge them when they are raised. See Mt 25:31-46; Ac 17:31.

{t} "hath committed" Mt 11:27; Ac 17:31; 2 Co 5:10


Verse 23. That all men should honour, &c. To honour is to esteem, reverence, praise, do homage to. We honour one when we ascribe to him in our hearts, and words, and actions the praise and obedience which are due to him. We honour God when we obey him and worship him aright. We honour the Son when we esteem him to be as he is; when we have right views and feelings toward him. As he is declared to be God (Joh 1:1), as he here says he has power and authority equal with God, so we honour him when we regard him as such. The primitive Christians are described by Pliny, in a letter to the Emperor Trajan, as meeting together to sing hymns to Christ as God. So we honour him aright when we regard him as possessed of wisdom, goodness, power, eternity, omniscience — equal with God.

Even as. To the same extent; in the same manner. Since the Son is to be honoured EVEN AS the Father, it follows that he must be equal with the Father. To honour the Father must denote religious homage, or the rendering of that honour which is due to God; so to honour the Son must also denote religious homage. If our Saviour here did not intend to teach that he ought to be worshipped, and to be esteemed as equal with God, it would be difficult to teach it by any language which we could use.

He that honoureth not the Son. He that does not believe on him, and render to him the homage which is his due as the equal of God.

Honoureth not the Father. Does not worship and obey the Father, the first person of the Trinity—that is, does not worship God. He may imagine that he worships God, but there is no God but the God subsisting as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. He that withholds proper homage from one, withholds it from all. He that should refuse to honour the Father, could not be said to honour God; and in the like manner, he that honoureth not the Son, honoureth not the Father. This appears farther from the following considerations:—

1st. The Father wills that the Son should be honoured. He that refuses to do it disobeys the Father.

2nd. They are equal. He that denies the one denies also the other.

3rd. The same feeling that leads us to honour the Father will also lead us to honour the Son, for he is "the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person," Heb 1:3.

4th. The evidence of the existence of the Son is the same as that of the Father. He has the same wisdom, goodness, omnipresence, truth, power.

And from these verses we may learn —

1st. That those who do not render proper homage to Jesus Christ do not worship the true God.

2nd. There is no such God as the infidel professes to believe in. There can be but one God; and if the God of the Bible be the true God, then all other gods are false gods.

3rd. Those who withhold proper homage from Jesus Christ, who do not honour him EVEN AS they honour the Father, cannot be Christians.

4th. One evidence of piety is when we are willing to render proper praise and homage to Jesus Christ —to love him, and serve and obey him, with all our hearts.

5th. As a matter of fact, it may be added that they who do not honour the Son do not worship God at all. The infidel has no form of worship; he has no place of secret prayer, no temple of worship, no family altar. Who ever yet heard of an infidel that prayed? Where do such men build houses of worship? Where do they meet to praise God? Nowhere. As certainly as we hear the name infidel, we are certain at once that we hear the name of a man who has no form of religion in his family, who never prays in secret, and who will do nothing to maintain the public worship of God. Account for it as men may, it is a fact that no one can dispute, that it is only they who do honour to the Lord Jesus that have any form of the worship of God, or that honour him; and their veneration for God is just in proportion to their love for the Redeemer—just as they honour him.


Verse 24. He that heareth my word. To hear, in this place, evidently denotes not the outward act of hearing, but to receive in a proper manner; to suffer it to make its proper impression on the mind; to obey. The word hear is often used in this sense, Mt 11:15; Joh 8:47; Ac 3:23.

Many persons outwardly hear the gospel who neither understand nor obey it.

My word. My doctrine, my teaching. All that Jesus taught about himself, as well as about the Father.

On him that sent me. On the Father, who, in the plan of redemption, is represented as sending his Son to save men. See Joh 3:17. Faith in God, who sent his Son, is here represented as being connected with everlasting life; but there can be no faith in him who sent his Son, without faith also in him who is sent. The belief of one of the true doctrines of religion is connected with, and will lead to, the belief of all.

Hath everlasting life. The state of man by nature is represented as death in sin, Eph 2:1. Religion is the opposite of this, or is life. The dead regard not anything. They are unaffected by the cares, pleasures, amusements of the world. They hear neither the voice of merriment nor the tread of the living over their graves. So with sinners. They are unmoved with the things of religion. They hear not the voice of God; they see not his loveliness; they care not for his threatenings. But religion is life. The Christian lives with God, and feels and acts as if there was a God. Religion, and its blessings here and hereafter, are one and the same. The happiness of heaven is living unto God—being sensible of his presence, and glory, and power—and rejoicing in that. There shall be no more death there, Re 21:4. This life, or this religion, whether on earth or in heaven, is the same—the same joys extended and expanded for ever. Hence, when a man is converted, it is said that he has everlasting life; not merely shall have, but is already in possession of that life or happiness which shall be everlasting. It is life begun, expanded, ripening for the skies. He has already entered on his inheritance—that inheritance which is everlasting.

Shall not come into condemnation. He was by nature under condemnation. See Joh 3:18. Here it is declared that he shall not return to that state, or he will not be again condemned. This promise is sure; it is made by the Son of God, and there is no one that can pluck them out of his hand, Joh 10:28. Comp. See Barnes "Re 8:1".

But is passed from death unto life. Has passed over from a state of spiritual death to the life of the Christian. The word translated is passed would be better expressed by has passed. It implies that he has done it voluntarily; that none compelled him; and that the passage is made unto everlasting life. Because Christ is the author of this life in the soul, he is called the life (Joh 1:4); and as he has always existed, and is the source of all life, he is called the eternal life, 1 Jo 5:20.

{v} "passed from death" 1 Jo 3:14


Verse 25. The hour. The time.

Is coming. Under the preaching of the gospel, as well as in the resurrection of the dead.

Now is. It is now taking place. Sinners were converted under his ministry and brought to spiritual life.

The dead. Either the dead in sins, or those that are in their graves. The words of the Saviour will apply to either. Language, in the Scriptures, is often so used as to describe two similar events. Thus the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world are described by Jesus in the same language, Matthew 24 and 25. The return of the Jews from Babylon, and the coming of the Messiah, and the spread of his gospel, are described in the same language by Isaiah, Isaiah 40-41. Comp. See Barnes "Is 7:14".

The renewal of the heart, and the raising of the dead at the judgment, are here also described in similar language, because they so far resemble each other that the same language will apply to both.

The voice of the Son of God. The voice is that by which we give command. Jesus raised up the dead by his command, or by his authority. When he did it he spoke, or, commanded it to be done. Mr 5:41, "He took the damsel by the hand, and said, `Talitha cumi.'" Lu 7:14: "And he came and touched the bier, and said, `Young man, I say unto thee, Arise.'" Joh 11:43: "He cried with a loud voice, `Lazarus, come forth.'" So it is by his command that those who are dead in sins are quickened or made alive, Joh 5:21. And so at the day of judgment the dead will be raised by his command or voice, though there is no reason to think that his voice will be audibly heard, Joh 5:28.

Shall live. Shall be restored to life.

{w} "the dead shall hear" Joh 5:28; Eph 2:1.


Verse 26. As the Father hath life. God is the source of all life. He is thence called the living God, in opposition to idols which have no life. Ac 14:15: "We preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities (idols) unto the living God," Jos 3:10; 1 Sa 17:26; Jer 10:10. See also Isa 40:18-31.

In himself. This means that life in God, or existence, is not derived from any other being. Our life is derived from God. Ge 2:7: God "breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul"—that is, a living being. All other creatures derive their life from him. Ps 104:29,30: "Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created; thou takest away their breath, they die and return to their dust." But God is underived. He always existed as he is. Ps 90:2 "From everlasting to everlasting thou art God." He is unchangeably the same, Jas 1:17. It cannot be said that he is self-existent, because that is an absurdity; no being can originate or create himself; but he is not dependent on any other for life. Of course, no being can take away his existence; and of course, also, no being can take away his happiness. He has in himself infinite sources of happiness, and no other being, no change in his universe can destroy that happiness.

So. In a manner like his. It corresponds to the first "as," implying that one is the same as the other; life in the one is the same, and possessed in the same manner, as in the other.

Hath he given. This shows that the power or authority here spoken of was given or committed to the Lord Jesus. This evidently does not refer to the manner in which the second person of the Trinity exists, for the power and authority of which Christ here speaks is that which he exercises as Mediator. It is the power of raising the dead and judging the world. In regard to his divine nature, it is not affirmed here that it is in any manner derived; nor does the fact that God is said to have given him this power prove that he was inferior in his nature or that his existence was derived. For,

1st. It has reference merely to office. As Mediator, he may be said to have been appointed by the Father.

2nd. Appointment to office does not prove that the one who is appointed is inferior in nature to him who appoints him. A son may be appointed to a particular work by a parent, and yet, in regard to talents and every other qualification, may be equal or superior to the father. He sustains the relation of a son, and in this relation there is an official inferiority. General Washington was not inferior in nature and talents to the men who commissioned him. He simply derived authority from them to do what he was otherwise fully able to do. So the Son, as Mediator, is subject to the Father; yet this proves nothing about his nature.

To have life. That is, the right or authority of imparting life to others, whether dead in their graves or in their sins.

In himself. There is much that is remarkable in this expression. It is IN him as it is IN God. He has the control of it, and can exercise it as he will. The prophets and apostles are never represented as having such power in themselves. They were dependent; they performed miracles in the name of God and of Jesus Christ (Ac 3:6; 4:30; 16:18); but Jesus did it by his own name, authority, and power. He had but to speak, and it was done, Mr 5:41; Lu 7:14; Joh 11:43.

This wonderful commission he bore from God to raise up the dead as he pleased; to convert sinners when and where he chose; and finally to raise up all the dead, and pronounce on them an eternal doom according to the deeds done in the body. None could do this but he who had the power of creation—equal in omnipotence to the Father, and the power of searching all hearts—equal in omniscience to God.

{x} "life in himself" 1 Co 15:45


Verse 27. Hath given him authority. Hath appointed him to do this. Has made him to be judge of all. This is represented as being the appointment of the Father, Ac 17:31. The word authority here (commonly rendered power) implies all that is necessary to execute judgment—all the physical power to raise the dead, and to investigate the actions and thoughts of the life; and all the moral right or authority to sit in judgment on the creatures of God, and to pronounce their doom.

To execute judgment. To do judgment—that is, to judge. He has appointment to do justice; to see that the universe suffers no wrong, either by the escape of the guilty or by the punishment of the innocent.

Because he is the Son of man. The phrase Son of man here seems to be used in the sense of "because he is a man," or because he has human nature. The term is one which Jesus often gives to himself, to show his union with man and his interest in man. See Barnes "Mt 8:19,20".

It is to be remarked here that the word son has not the article before it in the original: "Because he is a Son of man"—that is, because he is a man. It would seem from this that there is a propriety that one in our nature should judge us. What this propriety is we do not certainly know. It may be,

1st. Because one who has experienced our infirmities, and who possesses our nature, may be supposed by those who are judged to be better qualified than one in a different nature.

2nd. Because he is to decide between man and God, and it is proper that our feelings, and nature, and views should be represented in the judge, as well as those of God.

3rd. Because Jesus has all the feelings of compassion we could ask—all the benevolence we could desire in a judge; because he has shown his disposition to defend us by giving his life, and it can never be alleged by those who are condemned that their judge was a distant, cold, and unfriendly being. Some have supposed that the expression Son of man here means the same as Messiah Da 7:13,14, and that the meaning is that God hath made him judge because he was the Messiah. Some of the ancient versions and fathers connected this with the following verse, thus: "Marvel not because I am a man, or because this great work is committed to a man apparently in humble life. You shall see greater things than these." Thus the Syriac version reads it, and Chrysostom, Theophylact, and some others among the fathers.

{y} "authority" Joh 5:22


Verse 28. Marvel not. Do not wonder or be astonished at this.

The hour is coming. The time is approaching or will be.

All that are in the graves. All the dead, of every age and nation. They are described as in the graves. Though many have turned to their native dust and perished from human view, yet God sees them, and can regather their remains and raise them up to life. The phrase all that are in the graves does not prove that the same particles of matter will be raised up, but it is equivalent to saying all the dead. See Barnes "1 Co 15:35-38".

Shall hear his voice. He will restore them to life, and command them to appear before him. This is a most sublime description, and this will be a wonderful display of almighty power. None but God can see all the dead, none but he could remould their frames, and none else could command them to return to life.


Verse 29. Shall come forth. Shall come out of their graves. This was the language which he used when he raised up Lazarus, Joh 11:43,4.

They that have done good. That is, they who are righteous, or they who have by their good works shown that they were the friends of Christ. See Mt 25:34-36.

Resurrection of life. Religion is often called life, and everlasting life. See Barnes "Joh 5:24".

In the resurrection the righteous will be raised up to the full enjoyment and perpetual security of that life. It is also called the resurrection of life, because there shall be no more death, Re 21:4. The enjoyment of God himself and of his works; of the society of the angels and of the redeemed; freedom from sickness, and sin, and dying, will constitute the life of the just in the resurrection. The resurrection is also called the resurrection of the just (Lu 14:14), and the first resurrection, Re 20:5,6.

The resurrection of damnation,. The word damnation means the sentence passed on one by a judge—judgment or condemnation. The word, as we use it, applies only to the judgment pronounced by God on the wicked; but this is not its meaning always in the Bible. Here it has, however, that meaning. Those who have done evil will be raised up to be condemned or damned. This will be the object in raising them up—this the sole design. It is elsewhere said that they shall then be condemned to everlasting punishment (Mt 25:46), and that they shall be punished with everlasting destruction (2 Th 1:8,9); and it is said of the unjust that they are reserved unto the day of judgment to be punished, 2 Pe 2:9. That this refers to the future judgment—to the resurrection then, and not to anything that takes place in this life— is clear from the following considerations:

1st. Jesus had just spoken of what would be done in this life—of the power of the gospel, Joh 5:25. He adds here that something still more wonderful—something beyond this—would take place. All that are in the graves shall hear his voice.

2nd. He speaks of those who are in their graves, evidently referring to the dead. Sinners are sometimes said to be dead in sin. This is applied in the Scriptures only to those who are deceased.

3rd. The language used here of the righteous cannot be applied to anything in this life. When God converts men, it is not because they have been good


4th. Nor is the language employed of the evil applicable to anything here. In what condition among men can it be said, with any appearance of sense, that they are brought forth from their graves to the resurrection of damnation? The doctrine of those Universalists who hold that all men will be saved immediately at death, therefore, cannot be true. This passage proves that at the day of judgment the wicked will be condemned. Let it be added that if then condemned they will be lost for ever. Thus (Mt 25:46) it is said to be everlasting punishment; 2 Th 1:8,9, it is called everlasting destruction. There is no account of redemption in hell—no Saviour, no Holy Spirit, no offer of mercy there.


Verse 30. Of mine own self. See Joh 5:19. The Messiah, the Mediator, does nothing without the concurrence and the authority of God. Whatever he does, he does according to the will of God.

As I hear I judge. To hear expresses the condition of one who is commissioned or instructed. Thus (Joh 8:26), "I speak to the world those things which I have heard of him;" Joh 8:18, "As the father hath taught me, I speak those things." Jesus here represents himself as commissioned, taught, or sent of God. When he says, "as I hear," he refers to those things which the Father had showed him Joh 5:20—that is, he came to communicate the will of God; to show to man what God wished man to know.

I judge. I determine or decide. This was true respecting the institutions and doctrines of religion, and it will be true respecting the sentence which he will pass on mankind at the day of judgment. He will decide their destiny according to what the Father will and wishes—that is, according to justice.

Because I seek, &c. This does not imply that his own judgment would be wrong if he sought his own will, but that he had no private ends, no selfish views, no improper bias. He came not to aggrandize himself, or to promote his own views, but he came to do the will of God. Of course his decision would be impartial and unbiased, and there is every security that it will be according to truth. See Lu 22:42 where he gave a memorable instance, in the agony of the garden, of his submission to his Father's will.

{c} "the will of the Father" Ps 40:7,8; Mt 26:39; Joh 4:34; 6:38


Verse 31. If I bear witness of myself. If I have no other evidence than my own testimony about myself.

My witness. My testimony; my evidence, The proof would not be decisive.

Is not true. The word true. here, means worthy of belief, or established by suitable evidence. See Mt 22:16: "We know that thou art true"—that is, worthy of confidence, or that thou hast been truly sent from God, Lu 20:21; Joh 8:13,17.

The law did not admit a man to testify in his own case, but required two witnesses, De 17:6. Though what Jesus said true Joh 8:13,17, yet he admitted it was not sufficient testimony alone to claim their belief. They had a right to expect that his statement that he came from God would be confirmed by other evidence. This evidence he gave in the miracles which he wrought as proof that God had sent him.

{d} "If I bear witness" Ps 27:2; Joh 8:14; Re 3:14


Verse 32. There is another. That is, God. See Joh 5:36.

{e} "another" Joh 8:18; Ac 10:43; 1 Jo

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