GOD THE FATHER REVEALED BY THE SON IN THE GOSPEL OF JOHN.
"No man (rather, no one) knoweth the Son but the Father;
neither knoweth any man (or, any one) the Father save the Son, and he to
whomsoever the Son will reveal Him" (Matt. xi. 27). An announcement, this is,
of very great importance. For -
1st. It acquaints us with the blessed fact that there are intelligent creatures who can know the Father when revealed to them by the Son. Of His competence to reveal Him we are elsewhere fully assured. For He knows the Father (John viii. 55); He had seen Him (vi. 46); and He ever was and is in the Father's bosom (i. 18). Moreover, in seeing Him men saw the Father (xiv. 9) ; and those who knew Him knew the Father (viii. 19). Yet, though He only of all that ever walked on earth had seen Him, on three distinct occasions the Father's voice was heard by others ; viz., - at His baptism by John (Matt. iii. 17) ; at His transfiguration (Matt. xvii. 5); and in response to His request, "Father, glorify Thy name" (John xii. 28). On the first occasion, John the Baptist heard it; on the second, Peter, James, and John were privileged to listen to it; on the third, the crowd heard a sound, but evidently did not understand what was said.
2nd. The Lord's words in Matthew speak of the Father as distinct from the Son, thus telling us of plurality of Persons in the Godhead, a truth indicated in the Old Testament (Gen. xix. 24 ; Isaiah xlviii. 16), and fully revealed in the New, wherein we are taught of their number and relative position to each other; viz., the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost (Matt, xxviii. 19). The Son is, and must as Son be, distinct from the Father, as the Lord told the Jews (John viii. 16, 18), and subsequently stated to His disciples - "I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world; again I leave the world, and go to the Father" (xvi. 28). His departure to the Father ought to have been a cause of rejoicing to them, for "My Father," He said, "is greater than I" (xiv. 28). Yet it is also true that He and the Father are one (x. 30).
3rd. Those words reveal to us the Son acting according to His sovereign will, who is both God and man - the eternal Son, as well as the Son of God born in time. Hopeless, then, must it ever be for any to know the Father who refuse to hear Him. Hopeless, too, for any to be able to know the Father, unless the Son is pleased to reveal Him. All, therefore, are dependent on His sovereign will in grace, if ever they are to know the Father. But who thus spake, and when? The answer to the first question is, It was the only-begotten Son of God (John iii. 16, 18 ; i John iv. 9), who was the First-born of all creation as well (Col i. 15).*
* The former of these titles reminds us of what is called His eternal generation, " begotten of His Father before all worlds," or, as has been elsewhere expressed, "begotten from everlasting of the Father." The latter title reminds us of His relation to and pre-eminence over all creatures, as one born into this world.
The answer to the second question is, that He declared this after His rejection by the Jews had been openly manifested. What they must lose who refuse Him He thus plainly intimates, as what He would reveal to those who received Him He distinctly sets forth. To the gospels, then, must we turn to learn from His lips about the Father : not to get a description of His appearance, for no man hath seen the Father, save He who is of God ; but to apprehend what He is as there told out - His desires, His ways, His acts - set forth for our instruction, who, born of God, are capable of knowing Him who is our
Father, and of enjoying the relationship of children. In all the gospels have we teaching about this. Matthew and John are full of it; Luke more sparingly introduces it; Mark very seldom refers to it. This is to be accounted for by the different aspects of the Lord Jesus Christ which the four Evangelists were directed to set forth.
Matthew and John are full of it, yet there are marked differences between them in this. The latter speaks of Him as the Father, what He is and does who is the Father. Matthew very commonly speaks of Him as the Father of those who are truly disciples of Christ. Hence the Lord therein frequently refers to Him as "your Father;" whereas, not till the resurrection is an accomplished fact, does the Lord in the gospel of John call Him aught else but The Father, or His Father.
Let us turn first to the latter gospel, so full in its teaching on this truth, yet not more full, surely, than was His heart, who as the only-begotten Son delighted to reveal Him, and on each occasion in a manner suited to His audience. His audience, we say. Not that He waited for a crowd, or a company even, to be assembled ere He would reveal anything of it. For in the dark hours of night, or at the well-side, ere the shades of evening had begun to lengthen over the landscape, He was willing to reveal truth about His Father to a solitary listener, and in characters, too, none would have surmised. Who else, indeed, but the Son was competent to dwell on such a theme? And who save the only begotten Son of God, the eternal Son, could reveal God the Father? And to whom should such a revelation be made ? By whom could it be really entered into, and enjoyed, but by those who should come to know what it is to be God's children, and God's sons? Such want to know the Father. Nicodemus went to Jesus by night, as a Teacher, he owned, who had come from God. But that interview did not end till he had heard of God giving His only begotten Son, "that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to judge the world ; but that the world through Him might be saved." Here was a revelation of God the Father as One who desired the salvation of guilty creatures, and who provided the needful sacrifice in the person of His only begotten Son ; or, as this truth was afterwards expressed by the Evangelist in his first epistle, "The Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world" (i John iv. 14). The necessity of the new birth the Lord had dwelt upon at the outset of His interview with Nicodemus - a truth, and a blessing to which that teacher was personally a stranger. But He would not let that interview terminate without telling him of the mission on the part of God of His only begotten Son. The introduction here of the only begotten Son implied, of course, the truth and revelation of the Father, not as a new relationship into which He was pleased at the incarnation to enter, but of that in which He had always been to Him, whom Nicodemus only viewed as a Teacher sent from God.
A little later, on the Lord's journey from Jerusalem to Galilee, we read of Him at Jacob's well, there conversing with the woman of Sychar, with whose past and present history He shewed her He was fully acquainted. To her also He speaks of the Father. He had left Jerusalem, the centre of Judaism, and the city in which was His Father's house, and communicates to her, a Samaritan woman, and hitherto a staunch upholder of the Samaritan schism, thoughts about true worship, and of Him whom He set before her as the object of worship. "Woman believe Me, the hour cometh when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth ; for the Father seeketh such to worship Him" (iv. 21-23). The woman had spoken of the place for worship, but not of the Person to be worshipped. The Lord spake to her of the Father as the object of worship. She had not raised such a question ; and considering the Lord's reply, "Ye worship ye know not what," her silence on this point was befitting. But His heart (surely we may say it) was full of the revelation it was His joy to make known. So He tells her of the Father, and of Him as seeking worshippers.
We might have pictured the Almighty as needing to be propitiated, ere He would receive the homage due to Him as Creator from those who craved the permission to render it. But to learn that He is the Father, and as such is seeking worshippers ; that men and women like her, deserving only everlasting perdition, might worship Him in that relationship ; this was new indeed and wonderfully gracious. In some private abode at Jerusalem - the name and locality to us unknown - He had spoken to Nicodemus of the mission of the only begotten Son, and by consequence of something of the acting in grace of the Father. Now to this woman, when alone with Him, He unfolded the desire of the Father's heart to find amongst members of the ruined race of Adam, when become subjects of that grace revealed to Nicodemus, those who could, and should worship Him in the consciousness of filial relationship. Nicodemus had not asked Him about the mission of the only begotten Son of God ; this woman had not asked about the Father ; but the Lord would have the joy on each occasion of making known the truth, which could minister rich blessing to souls. He made God the Father known as One desirous to save the lost, and as the One who was seeking from such a company His true worshippers.
But the Evangelist passes on, introducing to his readers in the following chapter the narrative of the impotent man healed at the pool of Bethesda, with the instruction that flowed out of it. The Lord, persecuted by the Jews because of what He had done, answered them in language which only increased their opposition - "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work" (v. 17). God the Father had been working, and they were ignorant of it. For not only did He compassionate His guilty creatures, and in proof of it send His Son to save them who should believe on Him from the everlasting consequences of their guilt, but He had never rested whilst sin was rampant on earth, and man was suffering in his person or in his circumstances, because he had sinned. The Father had been working in grace all along. Of old, before the fall, God had rested from all His work, which He created and made (Gen. ii. 3). Of that rest in the past the Sabbath was a reminder; but man having fallen, that rest did not continue, for His creatures' condition, the consequence of sin, had called forth on the part of God activity in grace and in power, of which the healing of that impotent man was a sample. In their zeal for God, as they thought, they were clearly going contrary to His mind and practice in the past, as well as in the present. "My Father worketh hitherto," attests that as to the past; "and I work," proved it as to the present. Their opposition evidenced that the revelation about the Father vouchsafed on this occasion by His Son, was one quite new to them. "The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do." The Son by His acts, as well as by His words, was therefore revealing the Father; but God's professing people knew it not. Activity in goodness characterised the Father, as all might see.
Now, there is a danger lest the thought of divine mercy should weaken in the soul the sense of divine holiness. There was a danger too, unhappily illustrated in the Jews, of rejecting the Son on the plea of owning God. In view of all this the Lord revealed something more, viz., that "the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son; that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son, honoureth not the Father which hath sent Him" (v. 22, 23). So judgment must overtake the rejecters of the Son, who came from and was sent by the Father. On the other hand, life everlasting each one should have who heard the words of the Son, and believed the Father who had sent Him. It was a perilous thing to reject the Son who came in His Father's name.
In the following chapter the Evangelist conducts us to Galilee, the only narrative in this gospel of the Lord's ministry in that northern district subsequent to the Baptist's imprisonment by Herod. Now, to the crowd around the Lord who had crossed the lake to follow Him, after He had fed them in the wilderness, He presents His Father as the giver of the true bread from heaven (vi. 32), explaining that He was that Bread, which came down from heaven to give life unto the world. But in a double character of a giver is the Father here introduced : He gives the true bread, and He gives people to His Son. "All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me; and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me. .... For this is My Father's will, that every one that seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day " (vi. 37, 38,40). Yet more. He draws men to His Son. For we read: "No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard from the Father and hath learned, cometh unto Me" (vi. 44, 45). Thus far we have had a revelation of what the Father is, as made known in His ways in grace towards men. The Lord begins this teaching with the announcement of the way man's spiritual need can be met. From that He passed on to make known the present desire of the Father. He is seeking worshippers ; but such a class is only formed of those who are first made subjects of divine grace. Was it then a new thing for the Father to take an interest in, and care for, men on earth? No. He had been working in goodness and in grace ever since the fall. of man ; the works of power wrought by the Son attested this, and His presence amongst men was the proof of the earnest desire of the Father to minister life and salvation in all its completeness to those who were dead in trespasses and sins. The Son had come as the Bread from heaven to give life unto the world. Every one who shall believe on Him He will raise up at the last day; and all such are examples of the Father's power in grace, for none can come to the Son except the Father which hath sent Him draw them. There was a power then working, of which the unbelieving Jews were in ignorance, - a power put forth by the Father to gather souls to Christ, and thus to gather them out of the world to Him, who is not ashamed to call them brethren (Heb. ii. 2).
Hence the revelation of the Father in this gospel now changes somewhat in its character. It has set Him forth as seeking the best interests of fallen creatures; it will now present Him more in connection with those who have been drawn by Him to His Son, a company of people who are each and all really His children. For with the coming of Christ there was made plain, what indeed had been always true, the need of a divine operation on the soul by the word and the Holy Ghost. The individual must be born of God. The Jews declared God was their Father (viii. 41) Nationally that was, true ; but that could not secure to the individual everlasting blessing. This they had not understood, for they had not been subjects of divine grace, and they showed that in the enmity they manifested against the Lord, as He told them : "If God were your Father, ye would love Me : for I proceeded forth and came from God ; neither came I of Myself, but He sent Me " (viii. 42). Something more was wanted than subscription to a creed, or the resting in national privileges. If God was their Father, they would partake of a new, the divine, nature, and then become special subjects of divine paternal care.
In the tenth chapter this last is alluded to, as the Lord announces the perfect security of His sheep: "My Father, which gave them Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to pluck them out of My Father's hand. I and the Father are One" (x. 29, 30). We have heard in the sixth chapter of the Father's gift to His Son. Reminded of that here, we also learn how secure the sheep must be if kept by His hand ; but surely this also intimates how precious they must be to the Father. He will never drop them, nor allow even one of them to be plucked out of His hand ; nor can there ever be any divergence in counsel or will between the Father and the Son as to the present and ultimate security of the sheep, for He and the Father are One.
From the assurance of security we pass on in the twelfth chapter to the blessings of true discipleship, and the awful future for those who reject the Lord. If any man serve Christ, him will His Father honour (26). If any man reject Him, the word which He has spoken will judge him at the last day (48). A clear and most important announcement, which showed the earnest desire of both the Father and the Son that souls should be saved. With the echo of these words sounding in men's ears (ver. 44-50), and with the reminder that he was sent from the Father, and spake what the Father had said to Him, the Lord's public ministry as set forth in this gospel came to an end. Henceforth He is found only with His disciples, till apprehended by the officers on the night before His Cross. To the former He continues the revelation of the Father, telling them first of His own home on high - His Father's house, whither He was going to prepare a place for His disciples, for whom He will come to receive them to Himself, that where He is there they may be also (xiv. 2, 3). This tells us of His desire for His own, and of His Father's willingness to have them there ; for who could have a home in that house without the Father's sanction? But between the Lord's departure and return an interval was to elapse, so another Comforter would come to be with the disciples, sent by the Father at the Son's request, and in His name (xiv. 16, 26). Hence of His Father's ministry to His saints consequent on His departure the Lord here assures us, and tells us on what conditions we may count on the Father's love (verses 21, 23). Now, that ministry would not be fulfilled by sending merely the other Comforter. It would also be exercised by the Father in making the living branches of the true vine fruitful for Himself, and He would be glorified by the disciples bearing much fruit, and so should they be the disciples of the Son (xv. 2, 8).
After this, in the seventeenth chapter of the gospel, the Lord hands them over to the keeping and care of Him He has thus revealed, whilst He Himself should be absent on high, after first going to the Cross that the World might know that He loved the Father, and as the Father had given Him commandment, so He would do (xiv. 31), manifesting thus in His death, that which He had always displayed in life, the fruit of the divine nature, love and obedience.
He had come from the Father; He had revealed Him ; He would ascend to His Father. But ere He went on high, He sent that message by Mary Magdalene - a joy surely to Him to give, to her to convey, and to the disciples to receive - which, whilst marking the difference there must ever be between Him and them, told of grace in which they shared "I ascend unto My Father, and your Father; and to My God, and your God" (xx. 17). The same divine person is God and Father of Him and of us.
Go To Chapter Four
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