AN EXPOSITION OF THE GOSPEL OF JOHN 6: 37-39.
By R. Govett.
“In the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and shouted saying, ‘If any thirst, let him come to Me and drink! He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture said, ‘Rivers of living water shall flow out of His belly.’” Now this said He concerning the Spirit, which they who believed were about to receive; for as yet no Holy Spirit was, because Jesus was not yet glorified.’
The last day of Tabernacles - the eighth, was typically the great day. On that day they left their booths to go into their houses. So, after the millennium, the temporary glory shall be succeeded by the entry on the new heavens and earth; .and the eternal - the great, day - begins. Then, too, all servile labour ends. Work shall be done, but that of priests and kings.
The last day of Tabernacles was the
great day; it was the
eighth day, the day which tells of resurrection.
was a Sabbath of rest too.
there was no rest in
It is said that during the seven days of this feast, a priest, after the sacrifice, went to the well of Siloam, drew water thence in a golden pitcher, and with a joyous procession brought it to the temple; standing on the altar, and pouring it, mixed with wine, on the altar. This they said, represented Moses striking the rock; and some of the Rabbis said that it referred to the giving of the gifts of the Spirit in the days of Messiah. Isaiah 12: 3 was the passage whereby they sought to justify the ceremony.
This ceremony was not repeated on the eighth day. Jesus, then, fills up the gap Himself. He was the true Shiloh sent to them by God; and now He presents Himself as about to be, in resurrection, the fulfiller of that act of grace and power which Moses had of old shown to Israel.
The temple had no fount of its own. This marked the insufficiency of the legal services. And the introduction of the water from the fount of Siloam [‘sent’], showed that the defects of the old services must be met by the Spirit of Christ the Sent One. Then would be joy indeed!
On that occasion the multitude saw only water drawn and poured out. It was not drunk, and it was poured away. Jesus, then, discovers the superiority of the water of which He speaks. Drunk at first, it quenches thirst. Then it becomes, in the believer, an ever-flowing river to bless others. To these waters of Siloam Isaiah refers, and says that they would be refused; and, as a consequence, the water-floods of the Great River would overflow the land (Isaiah 7: 6-8). So the true Christ of God’s grace rejected, the false Christ, instrument of His vengeance, will come.
The ceremony was one of their own devising, and Jesus notes its emptiness. They refused the Lord of the feast, Who alone could give the true joy, and the powers of the age to come (Jeremiah 2: 11-13).
The Saviour tacitly points to the
[* See ‘The Danger of an Exasperated Spirit’]
Jesus, then, tacitly affirms that
‘I will stand upon the rock in Horeb.’ ‘Jesus stood* and shouted.’ He was the Rock of Israel - the Rock of Moses’ song, Jehovah; and Moses all through the song speaks of the Rock as Jehovah; contrasting Him with the faithless and perverse generation (Deuteronomy 32: 14, 15, 30, 31) which lightly esteemed ‘the Rock of Salvation.’ The Saviour, then, takes the place of Jehovah. Who but He could offer to quench the thirst of every one who came to Him? This was making Himself ‘the fount of living waters.’ He, in effect, took the stand of Isaiah 54: 17; 55: 1-6. For a mere man to take such a place were the highest presumption; and for any to accept His words were to put himself under the curse of the prophet – ‘Cursed is the man that putteth his trust in man and in his heart goeth from the Lord.’
[* Ordinarily, He sat as the Teacher. This made the matter more conspicuous.]
The Saviour is presenting Himself
on different occasions, as
the antitype of the various glories and boasts of
The water that was to come out of the smitten rock was, as John tells us, the Spirit. Until the glorification of Jesus as the bearer and putter away of sin in resurrection, the Spirit as promised could not come, as John says. Jesus then would call to Himself the few who would accept Him. He knew their thirst, and earth could not quench it; as we see by the attempts of Solomon, recorded in Ecclesiastes. Let them come to Him and drink of His fulness!
After the supply of water, and the
notice of how
But now it is not
But there is another picture, yea, two
other pictures, of the supply of
Numbers 20. there
is again another scene
of trial, because there is no water; and again the rebellious spirit of
Jesus alone had power over the spiritual and higher element of baptism. The Spirit came down to dwell on Himself fully, and without cause of disquiet. But not till Jesus had atoned, and been exalted over all, was the [Holy] Spirit at His intercession sent down to bestow gifts on men, and to dwell in them.
The thirsty are to come to Christ for a spiritual supply. This answers to the first coming to Christ of the soul that has in vain attempted to find satisfaction in the things of the world. Poor soul! You have hewn yourself cisterns and they have broken, and mocked your thirst. Now Christ invites you to Himself. Drink, and be at rest!
But after the first implied promise comes a second word to him who takes his stand with Christ as a believer. ‘Out of His belly shall flow rivers of living water.’ John expounds this for us. It was spoken of the Holy Spirit, which was about to be bestowed on believers after the Saviour’s resurrection and ascension.
But there are two difficulties attendant on this word.
1. Where did the Scripture make such a promise?
2. How is it true that there was ‘no Holy Spirit’ then, because Jesus was not glorified. ‘Given’ is inserted by the translators.
(1.) Where the Scripture makes such
a promise I cannot say,
and others seem as greatly puzzled.
Some point to Zechariah
14: 8. But
that speaks of living waters going
(2.) The second difficulty is easily explained; forcible as seems the passage when adduced as a proof against the Divinity of the Holy Ghost. By rendering the same Greek word ‘Spirit’ in the first part of the verse and ‘Holy Ghost’ in the second, the translators have imported this difficulty into the passage. For by ‘the Holy Ghost’ we mean always the third Person of the Godhead. But if they had rendered it ‘Spirit’ in the second occurrence, as in the first, they needed not to insert ‘given’ in italics in order to prevent so, grievous a misunderstanding.
John then is speaking of the
supernatural gifts, which are in
several places called ‘spirits.’ ‘The spirit of prophecy.’ ‘Inasmuch
as ye are desirous of spirits, seek that ye may abound (in
these gifts) to the edifying of
the church’ (1
Corinthians 14.). ‘The
spirits of prophets are subject to prophets.’ The Holy Ghost then in
person did not
descend till after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension.
The words before us mean then –
‘No abiding gift of the Spirit
was ever bestowed
till on and after Pentecost.’
The prophets of the Old Testament were visited at times by
the Spirit of
prophecy; but it was not a gift at their disposal.
Holy Ghost could not descend to dwell in the heart as now, till Jesus
and was accepted on high.
But beside and beyond that there
bestowal of miraculous gift, both of deed and of word, on those who
was announced with the extent to
which the promise of the Spirit should apply, at Pentecost (Acts 2: 38, 39). They
were gifts suited to the coming feast of glory;
designed first for
Acts 8. tells us, that the Holy Ghost fell on the believers there by means of apostles’ hands. This Paul declares to be the essential superiority of the Gospel over the Law (Galatians 3: 14).
The believer possessed of the Spirit’s gifts became himself in Christ, the Rock, a stone, from the midst of which the waters flowed, as of yore in the desert. This is, in an inferior sense, true still, wherever the Holy Spirit acts vividly. The abundant waters from within the Cliff should pour forth for the thirsty world. ‘There shall come forth water out of it, that the people may drink.’ That promise was now to be spiritually, and in a more blessed sense, carried out to staunch a sorer thirst.
These two promises of Christ are thus to be distinguished. (1) We come at first to drink of Christ. The Spirit quells, by His Holy, indwelling, thirst for worldly good.
(2) But is the second now fulfilled in every believer? Most notoriously not! The promise is of spontaneous, perpetual supply of refreshment to others, proceeding from each believer. This was true of the believers of old, for all were then gifted, unless by their own fault excluded. Then, without study, without the Scriptures, without education - believers, whether slaves or free-men, young or old - spoke by inspiration, and acted in miracle for blessing and edification to all around. Is it so now?
Some may indeed say- ‘But do not some believers, by the ministry of the word, refresh others; and cheer and strengthen them, just as cool waters supply strength and comfort in a thirsty wilderness?’
And I answer, ‘Blessed be God, yes!’ But observe: (1) The promise, here, is made universally to believers; and the fulfilment, supposed attaches to but few. (2) Moreover, this supply is not spontaneous and perpetual.
If any servant of Christ has been enabled to cheer and edify some as with cool waters, this has taken place as the result of study, prayer, and effort. It has not been the sudden up-springing and constant overflow of a supernatural power, the result of faith, and in a moment communicated. Those who now minister the Word, are, like the Samaritan woman with rope and bucket, going to the well, and with toil procuring a weekly supply. Now, Jesus promised there, and promises here, something welling up without effort of its own accord, and constantly. No need of preparation, of books and effort! It is quite false to pretend to any such power now. The gifts are ours in title still, for we are believers in Jesus; but where are the gifts of the Spirit? ‘The Brethren’ who originally laid claim to inspiration of the Spirit when they were met in the assembly, have now given it up. And it was only a delusion; grieving the Spirit while it was maintained, as I am a witness; having often been to their meetings, when they were as dry, and dead, and unedifying as well could be.
The varied thoughts of the people
concerning Jesus, are
There were those who were expecting the fulfilment of Deuteronomy 18: 15, and thought they saw in Jesus the
fulfilment of the same. ‘Was He
not a prophet? Was
He not one of
their brethren? Did
He not prove
His Mission by signs?’
Others thought Him the Christ.
But an objection arose. ‘Was
to come out of
Strange, is it not? But a true picture of multitudes now.
How many take up with the first theory in religion they find, and are stopped by the first objection, weak as it may be. Let us not marvel, if, in our day, opinions about the Christ differ as they did then! The Son of God, as Luke’s Gospel tells us, was set to draw out men’s thoughts, and so discover them.
We see where they failed. It is a very common failure indeed. (1) They made one truth to fight against another. Those truths really agree at bottom; but we, looking from the top, do not see it.
It was true that Messiah was to be
born in Bethlehem of
Judea. The prophets
so. But it was
true, also, that in
Zebulon and Nepthali, in the country of
Whether they distinguished between ‘the Prophet’ of Moses, and ‘the Christ’ of other Scriptures, we are not told. We know, indeed, that both terms belong to the same person. But they knew not, as we see by their question to the Baptist at the beginning of this Gospel. But if so, Jesus while not ‘the Christ,’ might have been ‘the prophet’ foretold. Let us not be content with the current opinions of our day, but rest all our religious views on the Scripture!
But if Jesus were born at
By this diversity of opinion God tied the hands of the Saviour’s foes. His enemies and His friends were so at variance, that unity of action was stopped. ‘There arose a schism in the multitude because of Him.’ This shows us then what a ‘schism’ is. Here was a schism in the multitude. There was a division of opinions concerning Jesus, and founded thereon there was a separation of feelings and heart. It is commonly supposed, that by ‘schism’ is meant ‘the setting up of another (church or table of the Lord), in consequence of displeasure wrongly entertained against a former communion.’ But schism begins to the Lord’s eye long ere that overt act takes place.
The apostle Paul speaks of schism ‘in the
church’; in the same body.
The church is the body of Christ.
As in the natural body of man there is an entire sympathy
of the parts,
and free motion, while the body is in health, each member contributing
united action of the whole, so ought there to be unity
of feeling, heart, judgment, and co-operation in the body of
Christ. But the
flesh, with its
evil and selfish feelings, comes in to mar this oneness of spirit. Diversities
of plan, of doctrine, and
consequently of harmony and love,
come in, unless kept out by the Spirit of God, and
these divide in
spirit and in feeling the members of Christ.
comes party, and out of party comes the last act of schism - the
setting up of
another communion, not recognizing the former one. Of course, the first
enquiry must be,
whether the body from which the separatists secede was a church (or
Christ) or not. If
the Great System
which calls itself ‘the Church
But what concerning other ecclesiastical bodies? The Church of Rome is the mother of bodies like the Church of England, and is as little a church as she is.
They are not a church who do not assemble as [regenerate] believers. The Wesleyans assemble - it is the boast of their founder – ‘as those desirous to flee from the wrath to come.’ But believers have already fled for refuge, and are met in safety beneath the blood-sprinkled house (Heb. 6: 18).
Independents, and Baptists, and ‘Brethren’ assemble as believers; and so are Churches of Christ. Would to God that we could all meet together, as one in Him! But we are divided, not in doctrine alone, but in feelings also; and these divisions have risen so high as that separate tables proclaim the division. Let us who believe cultivate an un-sectarian spirit; owning all whom we can; going as far with them as conscience and Scripture will allow us! There may be union of forms, with intense opposition of feeling, and a different Gospel taught by each party. On the other hand, there may be oneness of spirit and affection between those who sit down at different tables, and are of diverse judgments about many things. To return.
There were those who wished to carry out the design of their masters. ‘Why not seize on Jesus at once, and still all this controversy?’ But God would not let them. The officers themselves who had gone out to seize our Lord were not agreed. An awe of God was upon their souls. Till the time of the Most High is come, the thing cannot be done. Persecutors must have leave of God, whether they ask it, or no.
It is so in our day.
and those of like sentiments would gladly put down dissent by force. There are canons and laws
The servants then of the Sanhedrim return without the intended prisoner, to the assembly of His foes. These enquire in displeasure, ‘Why have ye not brought Him?’ They say, ‘Him.’ All knew who was meant, without further description. The officers could not reply, as ordinarily in such cases, that He had hid Himself or fled. Yet they brought Him not. Why not?
Remarkable was the reply, ‘Never spake man so as this man!’ They saw He was aware of their plots. He spake with authority. There was a majesty and force attending His words which they had never encountered elsewhere. They had met many specimens of men. But one so unlike others had never before crossed their path. This was the witness of those disposed to be His foes. As Jesus’ words are unlike the words of men, so to them we are to yield an attention and an obedience beyond those of men. He is Lord; all others then are servants. He is from heaven, and His words are devoid of all stain of earth, and of the flesh.
But this reply does not stay the
This might have taught these learned Rabbis to pause, and reconsider their ideas of Christ. The check came from God, but they see in it man alone. The exhibition of evidence in favour of the accused oft goes for nothing. It does not turn the proud and perverse. They will go on. But it does greatly increase their sin
See again. How many are partially wrought upon by the truth; whom, nevertheless, it does not save! These officers are staggered by the words of this most extraordinary Man; but they are not led to join the ranks of His disciples. They know enough to condemn; but accept no more, and perish in their ignorance.
GRACE TO DO
We know the path wherein our feet should pass,
Across our hearts are written Thy decrees;
Yet now, O Lord, be merciful to bless with steel, to stroke the blow
Grant us the will to fashion as we feel,
Grand us the strength to labour as we know,
Grant us the purpose, ribb’d and edged with steel, to strike the blow.
Knowledge we ask not – knowledge Thou hast lent,
But, Lord, the will – there lies our bitter need;
Give us to build, above the deep intent,
The deed, the deed!