We have here the honour Christ not assumed, but asserted, to himself, in the account he gave of his mission and his errand into the world. Probably this discourse was not at the same time with that before (for them he departed, John 12:36), but some time after, when he made another public appearance; and, as this evangelist records it, it was Christ’s farewell sermon to the Jews, and his last public discourse; all that follows was private with his disciples. Now observe how our Lord Jesus delivered this parting word: he cried and said. Doth not wisdom cry (Prov. 8:1), cry without? Prov. 1:20. The raising of his voice and crying intimate, 1. His boldness in speaking. Though they had not courage openly to profess faith in his doctrine, he had courage openly to publish it; if they were ashamed of it, he was not, but set his face as a flint, Isa. 50:7. 2. His earnestness in speaking. He cried as one that was serious and importunate, and in good earnest in what he said, and was willing to impart to them, not only the gospel of God, but even his own soul. 3. It denotes his desire that all might take notice of it. This being the last time of the publication of his gospel by himself in person, he makes proclamation, “Whoever will hear me, let them come now.” Now what is the conclusion of the whole matter, this closing summary of all Christ’s discourses? It is much like that of Moses (Deut. 30:15): See, I have set before you life and death. So Christ here takes leave of the temple, with a solemn declaration of three things:—
I. The privileges and dignities of those that believe; this gives great encouragement to us to believe in Christ and to profess that faith. It is a thing of such a nature that we need not be shy either of doing it or of owning it; for,
1. By believing in Christ we are brought into an honourable acquaintance with God (John 12:44, 45): He that believes on me, and so sees me, believes on him that sent me, and so sees him. He that believes on Christ, (1.) He does not believe in a mere man, such a one as he seemed to be, and was generally taken to be, but he believes in one that is the Son of God and equal in power and glory with the Father. Or rather, (2.) His faith does not terminate in Christ, but through him it is carried out to the Father, that sent him, to whom, as our end, we come by Christ as our way. The doctrine of Christ is believed and received as the truth of God. The rest of a believing soul is in God through Christ as Mediator; for its resignation to Christ is in order to being presented to God. Christianity is made up, not of philosophy nor politics, but pure divinity. This is illustrated, John 12:45. He that sees me (which is the same with believing in him, for faith is the eye of the soul) sees him that sent me; in getting an acquaintance with Christ, we come to the knowledge of God. For, [1.] God makes himself known in the face of Christ (2 Cor. 4:6), who is the express image of his person, Heb. 1:3. [2.] All that have a believing sight of Christ are led by him to the knowledge of God, whom Christ has revealed to us by his word and Spirit. Christ, as God, was the image of his Father’s person; but Christ, as Mediator, was his Father’s representative in his relation to man, the divine light, law, and love, being communicated to us in and through him; so that in seeing him (that is, in eying him as our Saviour, Prince, and Lord, in the right of redemption), we see and eye the Father as our owner, ruler, and benefactor, in the right of creation: for God is pleased to deal with fallen man by proxy.
2. We are hereby brought into a comfortable enjoyment of ourselves (John 12:46): I am come a light into the world, that whoever believes in me, Jew or Gentile, should not abide in darkness. Observe, (1.) The character of Christ: I am come a light into the world, to be a light to it. This implies that he had a being, and a being as light, before he came into the world, as the sun is before it rises; the prophets and apostles were made lights to the world, but it was Christ only that came a light into this world, having before been a glorious light in the upper world, John 3:19. (2.) The comfort of Christians: They do not abide in darkness. [1.] They do not continue in that dark condition in which they were by nature; they are light in the Lord. They are without any true comfort, or joy, or hope, but do not continue in that condition; light is sown for them. [2.] Whatever darkness of affliction, disquietment, or fear, they may afterwards be in, provision is made that they may not long abide in it. [3.] They are delivered from that darkness which is perpetual, and which abideth for ever, that utter darkness where there is not the least gleam of light nor hope of it.
II. The peril and danger of those that believe not, which gives fair warning to take heed of persisting in unbelief (John 12:47, 48): “If any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not, not I only, or not now, lest I should be looked upon as unfair in being judge in my own cause; yet let not infidelity think therefore to go unpunished, though I judge him not, there is one that judgeth him.” So that we have here the doom of unbelief. Observe,
1. Who they are whose unbelief is here condemned: those who hear Christ’s words and yet believe them not. Those shall not be condemned for their infidelity that never had, nor could have, the gospel; every man shall be judged according to the dispensation of light he was under: Those that have sinned without law shall be judged without law. But those that have heard, or might have heard, and would not, lie open to this doom.
2. What is the constructive malignity of their unbelief: not receiving Christ’s word; it is interpreted (John 12:48) a rejecting of Christ, ho atheton eme. It denotes a rejection with scorn and contempt. Where the banner of the gospel is displayed, no neutrality is admitted; every man is either a subject or an enemy.
3. The wonderful patience and forbearance of our Lord Jesus, exercised towards those who slighted him when he was come here upon earth: I judge him not, not now. Note, Christ was not quick or hasty to take advantage against those who refused the first offers of his grace, but continued waiting to be gracious. He did not strike those dumb or dead who contradicted him, never made intercession against Israel, as Elias did; though he had authority to judge, he suspended the execution of it, because he had work of another nature to do first, and that was to save the world. (1.) To save effectually those that were given him before he came to judge the degenerate body of mankind. (2.) To offer salvation to all the world, and thus far to save them that it is their own fault if they be not saved. He was to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. Now the executing of the power of a judge was not congruous with that undertaking, Acts 8:33. In his humiliation his judgment was taken away, it was suspended for a time.
4. The certain and unavoidable judgment of unbelievers at the great day, the day of the revelation of the righteous judgment of God: unbelief will certainly be a damning sin. Some think when Christ saith, I judge no man, he means that they are condemned already. There needs no process, they are self-judged; no execution, they are self-ruined; judgment goes against them of course, Heb. 2:3. Christ needs not appear against them as their accuser, they are miserable if he do not appear for them as their advocate; however, he tells them plainly when and where they will be reckoned with. (1.) There is one that judgeth them. Nothing is more dreadful than abused patience, and grace trampled on; though for awhile mercy rejoiceth against judgment, yet there will be judgment without mercy. (2.) Their final judgment is reserved to the last day; to that day of judgment Christ here binds over all unbelievers, to answer then for all the contempts they have put upon him. Divine justice has appointed a day, and adjourns the sentence to that day, as Matt. 26:64. (3.) The word of Christ will judge them then: The words that I have spoken, how light soever you have made of them, the same shall judge the unbeliever in the last day; as the apostles, the preachers of Christ’s word, are said to judge, Luke 22:30. Christ’s words will judge unbelievers two ways:—[1.] As the evidence of their crime, they will convict them. Every word Christ spoke, every sermon, every argument, every kind offer, will be produced as a testimony against those who slighted all he said. [2.] As the rule of their doom, they will condemn them; they shall be judged according to the tenour of that covenant which Christ procured and published. That word of Christ, He that believes not shall be damned, will judge all unbelievers to eternal ruin; and there are many such like words.
III. A solemn declaration of the authority Christ had to demand our faith, and require us to receive his doctrine upon pain of damnation, John 12:49, 50, where observe,
1. The commission which our Lord Jesus received from the Father to deliver his doctrine to the world (John 12:49): I have not spoken myself, as a mere man, much less as a common man; but the Father gave me a commandment what I should say. This is the same with what he said John 7:16. My doctrine is, (1.) Not mine, for I have not spoken of myself. Christ, as Son of man, did not speak that which was of human contrivance or composure; as Son of God, he did not act separately, or by himself alone, but what he said was the result of the counsels of peace; as Mediator, his coming into the world was voluntary, and with his full consent, but not arbitrary, and of his own head. But, (2.) It was his that sent him. God the Father gave him, [1.] His commission. God sent him as his agent and plenipotentiary, to concert matters between him and man, to set a treaty of peace on foot, and to settle the articles. [2.] His instructions, here called a commandment, for they were like those given to an ambassador, directing him not only what he may say, but what he must say. The messenger of the covenant was entrusted with an errand which he must deliver. Note, Our Lord Jesus learned obedience himself, before he taught it to us, though he was a Son. The Lord God commanded the first Adam, and he by his disobedience ruined us; he commanded the second Adam, and he by his obedience saved us. God commanded him what he should say and what he should speak, two words signifying the same thing, to denote that every word was divine. The Old-Testament prophets sometimes spoke of themselves; but Christ spoke by the Spirit at all times. Some make this distinction: He was directed what he should say in his set sermons, and what he should speak in his familiar discourses. Others this: He was directed what he should say in his preaching now, and what he should speak in his judging at the last day; for he had commission and instruction for both.
2. The scope, design, and tendency of this commission: I know that his commandment is life everlasting, John 12:50. The commission given to Christ had a reference to the everlasting state of the children of men, and was in order to their everlasting life and happiness in that state: the instructions given to Christ as a prophet were to reveal eternal life (1 John 5:11); the power, given to Christ as a king was to give eternal life, John 17:2. Thus the command given him was life everlasting. This Christ says he knew: “I know it is so,” which intimates how cheerfully and with what assurance Christ pursued his undertaking, knowing very well that he went upon a good errand, and that which would bring forth fruit unto life eternal. It intimates likewise how justly those will perish who reject Christ and his word. Those who disobey Christ despise everlasting life, and renounce it; so that not only Christ’s words will judge them, but even their own; so shall their doom be, themselves have decided it; and who can except against it?
3. Christ’s exact observance of the commission and instructions given him, and his steady acting in pursuance of them: Whatsoever I speak, it is as the Father said unto me. Christ was intimately acquainted with the counsels of God, and was faithful in discovering so much of them to the children of men as it was agreed should be discovered, and kept back nothing that was profitable. As the faithful witness delivers souls, so did he, and spoke the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Note, (1.) This is a great encouragement to faith; the sayings of Christ, rightly understood, are what we may venture our souls upon. (2.) It is a great example of obedience. Christ said as he was bidden, and so must we, communicated what the Father had said to him, and so must we. See Acts 4:20. In the midst of all the respect paid to him, this is the honour he values himself upon, that what the Father had said to him that he spoke, and in the manner as he was directed so he spoke. This was his glory, that, as a Son, he was faithful to him that appointed him; and, by an unfeigned belief of every word of Christ, and an entire subjection of soul to it, we must give him the glory due to his name.