The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on John 3:31-36

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 2, 2016

31 He that cometh from above is above all. He that is of the earth, of the earth he is, and of the earth he speaketh. He that cometh from heaven is above all.

He that cometh from above,” from the bosom of the Eternal Father, having a Divine origin, as the only begotten Son of God, “is above all.” Therefore, above me, above all angels and men. Hence, it is fit He should increase, and be devoutly reverenced and received by all.

He that is of the earth, of the earth he is,” etc. In this, the Baptist shows the superiority of our Lord’s person and doctrine beyond himself and his doctrine. The Baptist and all other men are formed from the slime of the earth, mere earthly beings; and their teaching, earthly, derived from human knowledge and human principles. This is true of man, considered in himself, abstracting from revelation and the knowledge derived from God. If he speaks Divine things, it is owing to the illumination communicated from above. “He that cometh from Heaven,” essentially participating in the Divine nature, is heavenly, and above all.

32 And what he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth: and no man receiveth his testimony.

And what He hath seen,” etc., a form of expression accommodated to our conceptions, the senses of seeing and hearing being the means, through which men acquire knowledge. The words mean, in relation to our Lord, what He knows by Divine Omniscience and intuition, that He testifies to us on earth in His assumed nature, wherein He converses with us.

And no one,” but very few—In next verse, it is stated there were some exceptions—“receiveth His testimony.” In this the Baptist reproaches his own envious disciples. They tell the Baptist, that all men come to Christ. He says, but very few, comparatively, embrace His heavenly doctrines, not excepting John’s own disciples.

33 He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true.

Receiveth His testimony,” by giving the assent of faith to what He says, “hath set to His seal,” etc. By the very fact of believing the words of our Lord, such a person, like a man who puts his seal to a document, to a bond or deed, in testimony of his conviction regarding the truth of its contents, has shown his conviction, by his firm belief openly professed, “that God”—who has spoken—“is true,” the primary and infallible truth, who speaks through the mouth of His Son. Such a man honours God’s veracity.

34 For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God doth not give the Spirit by measure.

He sets his seal to the truth of God; because, He whom God sent into the world to teach mankind, speaks not from Himself, but the words of the Father who sent Him. He, therefore, who believes the Son, believes the Father, whose words the Son utters.

For God doth not give His Spirit by measure,” to His Son. This proves that the Son speaks the words of God; because, as He has the Spirit without measure, He, therefore, always acts and speaks under the influence of the Spirit, and so speaks the words of God; unlike the men who receiving it in measure, sometimes speak from themselves.

If there be question of our Lord, as God, then, by communicating the Divine substance in His first birth from eternity, the Father communicated His Spirit and the gifts of His Spirit in an infinite degree. If there be question of Him as man, at His second birth; then, the Spirit was given abundantly, most copiously. The whole plenitude of the Divinity dwelt in Him corporally (Col. 2:9), as man. In Him, as man, were concealed all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:3), and God poured forth on Him the whole plenitude of the gifts of His Spirit without stint or measure. So that none of them was wanting to Him in all perfection. He unceasingly possessed them all at once, to the greatest extent of which human nature is capable, unlike men, who possess them partially and successively, one having one gift; another, another. To give a thing “by measure,” implies, sparingly, as is done by those who give a thing by measuring or weighing it. Without measure, conveys, abundantly, copiously.

35 The Father loveth the Son: and he hath given all things into his hand.

Here is assigned a reason why the Spirit is not given by measure, because the love of the Father for His Son was infinite, without measure; and hence, He handed over to His control and without measure, “into His hand,” as man, “all things” in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, to distribute them at will. But He has especially granted to Him, as man, to bestow all the gifts of the Spirit necessary for the salvation of the human race. The words of this and the following verses are almost identical with the words of our Lord (v. 16). “God so loved the world … may have life everlasting.”

36 He that believeth in the Son hath life everlasting: but he that believeth not the Son shall not see life: but the wrath of God abideth on him.

As the Father hath handed over all things for dispensation and distribution into the hands of His Son, whoever, therefore, wishes to have eternal life, which God alone can give, must receive it from the hands of His Son. This can be only through faith, our only way for approaching Him—faith accompanied with good works.

Hath life everlasting,” in an inchoate state, at present, through justification, which gives a claim to it, and is an earnest of it; and in its full enjoyment and possession hereafter, provided he persevere in grace and in the performance of good works.

Believeth not … shall not see life.” The future is used to denote the privation of all present and future hope. He shall be excluded not only from the possession or enjoyment of eternal life; but, he shall not even taste it or get a glimpse of it.

But the wrath of God,” the vengeance of God in inflicting punishment, “abideth in him,” shall abide in him for all eternity in hell’s torments. Similar are the words (v. 18), “Qui non credit, jam judicatus est.” They were in a state of sin and damnation before our Lord came, “natura, filii irœ” (Eph. 2:3), and by refusing to adopt the means decreed by God to rescue them from this state of damnation, viz., faith, “that worketh by charity” (Gal. 5:6), they continue under it, and the wrath of God and judgment of damnation always abides with them.

The Baptist discloses all these mysteries of God to his disciples—the Trinity, Incarnation, necessity of faith, etc.—in order that they should become detached from himself, and attached to Christ, to whose Divinity he bore such unequivocal testimony, whose faith they must embrace—the end of John’s preaching and baptism—if they wish to secure eternal life; otherwise they shall be the victims of God’s everlasting wrath.

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