It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. (John 6:63)
John chapter 6 is filled with revelation as to the means by which God sends His grace to us. In verse 63 we learn that the words that Christ speaks to us are spirit and they are life. They are 'quickened' words as opposed to words of the flesh. Now, it needs to be pointed out here that a great deal is said in academic circles about the necessity of good exegesis in bible study, and rightly so. What is almost never spoken of is what the LORD speaks of here in verse 63, the words that I speak unto you. This is God's word proceeding from the mouth of God in the present dealing with needs in real time.
The Flesh Profiteth Nothing
We know that our Lord states earlier, the flesh profiteth nothing, but what did He mean by that? The context of our passage is dealing with eating Christ, the true bread and drinking Christ's blood as a picture of the true Passover. Christ is the Lamb that is to be eaten; that is, His words are to be utterly consumed until they are written upon our hearts. From God's mouth to our hearts is the route. The blood is applied inwardly even as the ground drank in the blood of Abel. (Hebrews 12:24) The flesh has no power to effect any of these operations. This is the prerogative of God alone. In other words, man cannot be moving in the flesh making application of God's word to circumstances and expect that application to be profitable. Why? The words spoken from human ideas and energies (the flesh) are not spirit and they are not life. Hence, the shocking truth of our Lord, the flesh profiteth nothing.
The Words I Speak
In contrast to those moving and applying the word of God or the Sage wisdom to the needs of the people, Jesus said, the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. 'Speak' is in the present, active, indicative here. The words I continue speaking. That is to say, Christ is always bringing His Words to us and they are words that 'profit.' What good are my words or anyone else's words if they are not words that are proceeding in the present tense from the very mouth of God? Jesus said, the words that I speak unto you. Did you see that? The whole key to edification of the Body of Christ is found in that one pronoun, 'I'. The Words that 'I' speak unto you are spirit and they are life and if it is not 'I' that send them they will profit nothing. That is as simple as anything.
Ascertaining the Words of Christ in Present Reality
Our objective in biblical exegesis should be to ascertain the mind of God on a subject with a view to setting forth the Word of His grace in the meeting or class. The 'Word of His grace' are the words that Christ speaks unto us in the present, active, indicative. This is not merely an academic hermeneutic that disregards the pneumatological aspect of study as does often dominate ministry; but seeks to move in synergy with the Spirit of God to produce spiritual sustenance tailored for the present needs of edification for the hearers of that Word. These words are spirit, and they are life. This approach scoffs at brevity for brevity sake, but rather seeks to draw forth from the wells of salvation until the sheep have drank to the full. It is a leading of the sheep, with little regard to goats, upon the Table Lands of God's Word that they may declare with the Psalmist, "He maketh a table before me in the presence of mine enemies." This approach is sure to vex the carnal minds proportionally to the edification of the spiritual mind. Knowing that God cannot please sinners, it seeks to bring forth a message that carries all before it until the Holy Spirit may rightly be said to be over all.
A Sad, But Predictable Response
From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. (John 6:66)
Why did they leave? Because He said they had to eat His flesh and drink His blood? No. Jesus told us why; but there are some of you that believe not. (John 6:64) They did not believe His Words were the Eternal Live giving words that He said they were. This is terribly sad. They did not see their need for Him as the disciples did. They figured there was some other place they could find eternal life. Yet He had already warned them; search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life. (John 5:39, 40) The life that He desired to give them would be communicated by His words. This is the Holy Spirit quickening the word of God to a person's heart as opposed to a fleshly crafted sermon. If it does not come down from heaven it is of almost no use in the Kingdom of God. The ones that left off following Christ must have believed they could figure it all out by themselves. It's almost as if they said, "Just give me the bible and I'll diagnose my own condition and prescribe my own remedy!"
Who Hast the Words?
We may have words, but we do not have the words of eternal life unless we received them from above. We can sermonize and give all sorts of proverbial counsel, but that is not the Word that brings Life. Unless the Spirit quickens it to our minds and hearts unto edification, it is of the flesh and will profit nothing. The word of God in my hand will damage as a machete at best. It will not edify, it may actually hinder growth and health. We have to be careful.
Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. (John 6:67, 68)
The key to this whole entry is found in Simon's answer; thou hast the words of eternal life. When you pick up the bible for devotions, thou hast the words of eternal life. When you come to God for grace in the time of need, thou hast the words of eternal life. When you prepare a sermon or teaching it must begin with a settled notion, thou hast the words of eternal life. We must approach God with this truth fixed in our hearts. We must have a settled attitude that only thou hast the words of eternal life, and if I am to move in that reality I must go to Him to receive those words. Before the concordance, commentary or bible software... thou hast the words of eternal life.
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon