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The New Testament Commentary Vol Iii John by B.W. Johnson

The Cause of Unbelief.

If that view is correct which assigns the last discourse to the temple on Monday it belongs to Christ's farewell words to Israel. From thenceforth he entered the temple no more. In the conflicts recorded in Matthew, chapters XXII and XXIII, he had been finally rejected by Israel, and henceforth only awaited for the |Son of Man to be lifted up| that he might draw all races, the races whom Israel despised, unto him. In the closing words to the people, not to |the Jews,| recorded by John, his last admonition was to seek the light and to walk in it. All the woes of Israel arose from the fact that they were averse to the light and preferred the darkness, rather than the true light. John, with this admonition in mind, next shows how they had turned away from the light. (Joh 12:37)

37. Though he had done so many miracles before them. John only records seven of these miracles as types but often refers to the great number of them. See 2:23; 4:45; 7:31; 20:30. Believed not. Many of them had a kind of intellectual faith in him as a man of God, or as the |prophet of Galilee,| but they did not have that faith which believes, trusts and devotes one's life. (Joh 12:38)

38. That the saying of Esaias the prophet. The saying here recorded is found in Isaiah 53:1. John means to say that God had by Isaiah predicted the very state of things in Israel and the Jews so acted that it might be fulfilled. (Joh 12:39)

39. Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said. Isaiah 6:10. The Revision is clearer, which reads: |For this cause they could not believe, for that Isaiah has said again.| The cause of their unbelief is not that Isaiah said thus and thus, but he points out the cause of their unbelief in what he said. The reason why they could not believe was not that God had decreed their unbelief and destroyed their free agency, but that, in the exercise of their free agency, they had made themselves, by the operation of God's moral laws, incapable of belief. (Joh 12:40) (Joh 12:41)

40. He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart. This explains why they could not believe. Whether they were morally responsible for their unbelief depends on how God blinded their eyes and hardened their heart. If he did it by a direct act, regardless of their moral condition, then they were not responsible. If, however, he did it by a law of the universe that whoever turns from the light shall become blind, and whoever steels his heart against the truth shall find his heart hardened, then they were morally responsible if they had turned from the light and hardened their hearts. It is a physical as well as a moral law that he who turns from the light and seeks to abide in darkness will become blinded until he will |believe a lie and be damned.| The men who are the champions of unbelief, such men as Voltaire, Paine and Ingersoll, are unbelievers because they did not wish to believe. Their moral condition was such that they could justify their course of life only by refusing to believe on Christ. They sought the darkness, and as a result, finally they became so blinded that they could not believe. They blinded their own eyes because they brought upon themselves the penalty. God blinded their eyes, because their blindness resulted from the action of his universal law. Thus it is said of Pharaoh that |God hardened his heart,| but it is also said that |Pharaoh hardened his heart.| He chose, in the exercise of his voluntary agency, to harden his heart, but it is God's law that those who harden their hearts shall be hardened, and hence God, by this law, hardened his heart. By reference to Matt.13:14 the reader will find this passage from Isaiah quoted and applied by the Savior to the Jews. In the application he shows how they were blinded: |Their eyes have they closed.| The Savior's words settle how God blinded their eyes. It was by the application of his invariable law to their own acts. Trench says: |The Lord, having constituted as the righteous law of moral government, that sin should produce darkness of heart and moral insensibility, declared that he would allow the law to take its course.| (Joh 12:42) (Joh 12:43)

42. Nevertheless among the chief rulers many believed on him. These were members of the Sanhedrim. They had an intellectual faith, but it was not a power over their hearts. |With the heart man believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation| (Romans 10:10). These rulers, not believing with the heart, did not make open confession, because they feared the Pharisees. The fact that they did not confess him from fear, only added to their sin. They declined openly to take his side when they believed him to be the Christ. They were dishonest. Nor does the New Testament anywhere give a shadow of a hope to anyone who refuses to confess Christ openly. Put out of the synagogue. See 9:22 for the determination of the Pharisees, and the consequences of being put out of the synagogue. The Pharisees were the leaders in inflicting the religious penalties. (Joh 12:44) (Joh 12:45)

44. Jesus cried a said. John does not say when, or where, but I think, gives a sort of summary of what he had said, now that his appeal to the Jewish nation was closed. In verses 44 and 46 he declares his oneness with him who sent him. (Joh 12:46)

46. I am come a light into the world. It was the office of Christ to make all things clear. His mission and person illuminate the mysteries of our being and destiny when they are seen in their fulness. In many respects he is a Sun. Those who abide in his light will have their doubts solved, mysteries cleared up, and the clouds rolled away from the future. It is interesting and instructive to compare the various titles and symbols that the Savior applies to himself in this Gospel. In addition to the Son of Man, the Christ, and the Son of God, which are common to all the Gospels, he used the following designations: I am the Bread of Life (6:35); I am the Light of the world (8:12 and in this passage); I am the Door of the sheep (10:7); I am the Good Shepherd (10:11); I am the Resurrection and the Life (11:25); I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life (14:6); I am the True Vine (15:1). Each of these symbols conveys a different and vital truth concerning his nature or mission. Besides these he describes himself seven times, five in his public discourses, and twice to his disciples, by the profound and lofty phrase |I am,| the significance of which I have discussed in another place. See note on 8:58. (Joh 12:47) (Joh 12:48)

47, 48. I judge him not. In declaring that he judges not those who hear his words and believe not, he is not inconsistent. In the day of judgment he shall sit upon the throne, not to condemn the world that he came to save. It will always be either saved or condemned. The words that he left in it as his will shall decide the destiny of every man. |He that rejecteth me . . the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.| (Joh 12:49)

49. I have not spoken of myself. Of my own mind and will, but it was the Father who had spoken in him. He gave a commandment what the Son should say. It will be seen that this summary repeats ideas that have been made prominent in discourses of the Savior that John has already reported. (Joh 12:50)

50. I know that his commandment is life everlasting. The commandment of the the Father is not only directed to the bestowment of life on men, but it is life. There is life in the truth of God when it is received into the heart and becomes the law of life. His commandment is truth. Christ says: |My words are spirit and they are life.| Thus closes John's record of the Revelation of Christ to the world. In the discourses of the next five chapters there is a fuller revelation of himself to his disciples.

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