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§72. John and the Gospel of Love.
(See the Lit. in § 40 p. 405.)
The unity of Jewish Christian and Gentile Christian theology meets us in the writings of John, who, in the closing decades of the first century, summed up the final results of the preceding struggles of the apostolic age and transmitted them to posterity. Paul had fought out the great conflict with Judaism and secured the recognition of the freedom and universality of the gospel for all time to come. John disposes of this question with one sentence: "The law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ."815815 John 1:17. His theology marks the culminating height of divine knowledge in the apostolic age. It is impossible to soar higher than the eagle, which is his proper symbol.816816 Herein Baur agrees with Neander and Schmid. He says of the Johannean type (l.c., p. 351): In ihm erreicht die neuteitamentliche Theologie ihre höchste Stufe und ihre vollendetste Form." This admission makes it all the more impossible to attribute the fourth Gospel to a literary forger of the second century. See also some excellent remarks of Weiss, pp. 605 sqq., and the concluding chapter of Reuss on Paul and John. His views are so much identified with the words of his Lord, to whom he stood more closely related than any other disciple, that it is difficult to separate them; but the prologue to his Gospel contains his leading ideas, and his first Epistle the practical application. The theology of the Apocalypse is also essentially the same, and this goes far to confirm the identity of authorship.817817 For the theology of the Apocalypse as compared with that of the Gospel and Epistles of John, see especially Gebhardt, The Doctrine of the Apoc., transl. by Jefferson, Edinb., 1878.
John was not a logician, but a seer; not a reasoner, but a mystic; he does not argue, but assert; he arrives at conclusions with one bound, as by direct intuition. He speaks from personal experience and testifies of that which his eyes have seen and his ears heard and his hands have handled, of the glory of the Only-begotten of the Father full of grace and truth.818818 John 1:14 (ἐθεασάμεθα τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ); 1 John 1:1-3.
John’s theology is marked by artless simplicity and spiritual depth. The highest art conceals art. As in poetry, so in religion, the most natural is the most perfect. He moves in a small circle of ideas as compared with Paul, but these ideas are fundamental and all-comprehensive. He goes back to first principles and sees the strong point without looking sideways or taking note of exceptions. Christ and Antichrist, believers and unbelievers, children of God and children of the devil, truth and falsehood, light and darkness, love and hatred, life and death: these are the great contrasts under which he views the religious world. These he sets forth again and again with majestic simplicity.
John and Paul.
John’s type of doctrine is less developed and fortified than Paul’s, but more ideal. His mind was neither so rich nor so strong, but it soared higher and anticipated the beatific vision. Although Paul was far superior to him as a scholar (and practical worker), yet the ancient Greek church saw in John the ideal theologian.819819 In the strictest sense of θεολόγος as the chief champion of the eternal deity of the Logos: John 1:1:θεός ἧν ὁ λόγος.So in the superscription of the Apocalypse in several cursive MSS. John’s spirit and style may be compared to a calm, clear mountain-lake which reflects the image of the sun) moon, and stars, while Paul resembles the mountain-torrent that rushes over precipices and carries everything before it; yet there are trumpets of war in John, and anthems of peace in Paul. The one begins from the summit, with God and the Logos, the other from the depths of man’s sin and misery; but both meet in the God-man who brings God down to man and lifts man up to God. John is contemplative and serene, Paul is aggressive and polemical; but both unite in the victory of faith and the never-ending dominion of love. John’s theology is Christological, Paul’s soteriological; John starts from the person of Christ, Paul from his work; but their christology and soteriology are essentially agreed. John’s ideal is life eternal, Paul’s ideal is righteousness; but both derive it from the same source, the union with Christ, and find in this the highest happiness of man. John represents the church triumphant, Paul the church militant of his day and of our day, but with the full assurance of final victory even over the last enemy.
The Central Idea.
John’s Christianity centres in the idea of love and life, which in their last root are identical. His dogmatics are summed up in the word: God first loved us; his ethics in the exhortation: Therefore let us love Him and the brethren. He is justly called the apostle of love. Only we must not understand this word in a sentimental, but in the highest and purest moral sense. God’s love is his self-communication to man; man’s love is a holy self-consecration to God. We may recognize—in rising stages of transformation—the same fiery spirit in the Son of Thunder who called vengeance from heaven; in the Apocalyptic seer who poured out the vials of wrath against the enemies of Christ; and in the beloved disciple who knew no middle ground, but demanded undivided loyalty and whole-souled devotion to his Master. In him the highest knowledge and the highest love coincide: knowledge is the eye of love, love the heart of knowledge; both constitute eternal life, and eternal life is the fulness of happiness.820820 John 17 3; 15:11; 16:24; 1 John 1:4.
The central truth of John and the central fact in Christianity itself is the incarnation of the eternal Logos as the highest manifestation of God’s love to the world. The denial of this truth is the criterion of Antichrist.821821 Comp. John 1:14; 3:16; 1 John 4:1-3.
The Principal Doctrines.
I. The doctrine of God. He is spirit (πνεῦμα), he is light (φῶς) he is love (ἀγάπη).822822 John 4:24; 1 John 1:5; 4:8, 16. The first definition or oracle is from Christ’s dialogue with the woman of Samaria, who could, of course, not grasp the full meaning, but understood sufficiently its immediate practical application to the question of dispute between the Samaritans and the Jews concerning the worship on Gerizim or Jerusalem. These are the briefest and yet the profoundest definitions which can be given of the infinite Being of all beings. The first is put into the mouth of Christ, the second and third are from the pen of John. The first sets forth God’s metaphysical, the second his intellectual, the third his moral perfection; but they are blended in one.
God is spirit, all spirit, absolute spirit (in opposition to every materialistic conception and limitation); hence omnipresent, all-pervading, and should be worshipped, whether in Jerusalem or Gerizim or anywhere else, in spirit and in truth.
God is light, all light without a spot of darkness, and the fountain of all light, that is of truth, purity, and holiness.
God is love; this John repeats twice, looking upon love as the inmost moral essence of God, which animates, directs, and holds together all other attributes; it is the motive power of his revelations or self-communications, the beginning and the end of his ways and works, the core of his manifestation in Christ.
II. The doctrine of Christ’s Person. He is the eternal and the incarnate Logos or Revealer of God. No man has ever yet seen God (θεόν, without the article, God’s nature, or God as God); the only-begotten Son (or God only-begotten),823823 There is a remarkable variation of reading in John 1:18 between μονογενής θεός ,one who is God only-begotten, andὁ μονογενής υἱός ,the only-begotten Son. (A third reading: ὁ μονογενὴς θεός ,"the only-begotten God," found in א’ and 33, arose simply from a combination of the two readings, the article being improperly transferred from the second to the first.) The two readings are of equal antiquity; θεός is supported by the oldest Greek MSS., nearly all Alexandrian or Egyptian (א* BC*L, also the Peshitto Syr.);υἱός by the oldest versions (Itala Vulg., Curet. Syr., also by the secondary uncials and all known cursives except 33). The usual abbreviations in the uncial MS., Θο-for θεός and ΥΟ for υἱός ,may easily be confounded. The connection of μονογενής withθεόςis less natural than with υἱὸς although John undoubtedly could call the Son θεός (not ὁ θεός), and did so in 1:1. Μονογενής θεόςsimply combines the two attributes of the Logos, θεός 1:1, and μονογενής, 1:14. For a learned and ingenious defence of θεός see Hort’s Dissertations (Cambridge, 1877), Westcott on St. John (p. 71), and Westcott and Hort’s Gr. Test. Introd. and Append., p. 74. Tischendorf and nearly all the German commentators (except Weiss) adopt υἱός, and Dr. Abbot, of Cambridge, Mass., has written two very able papers in favor of this reading, one in the Bibliotheca Sacra for 1861, pp. 840-872, and another in the " Unitarian Review" for June, 1875. The Westminster Revision first adopted " God" in the text, but afterwards put it on the margin. Both readings are intrinsically unobjectionable, and the sense is essentially the same. Μονογενής does not necessarily convey the Nicene idea of eternal generation, but simply the unique character and superiority of the eternal and uncreated sonship of Christ over the sonship of believers which is a gift of grace. It shows his intimate relation to the Father, as the Pauline πρωτότοκος his sovereign relation to the world. who is in the bosom824824 Lit."towards the bosom" (εἰς τὸν κόλπον), i.e., leaning on, and moving to the bosom. It expresses the union of motion and rest and the closest and tenderest intimacy, as between mother and child, like the German term Schoosskind, bosom-child. Comp. πρός τὸν θεόν John 1:1 and Prov. 8:30, where Wisdom (the Logos) says: "I was near Him as one brought up with Him, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him." of the Father, he and he alone (εκεῖνος) declared him and brought to light, once and forever, the hidden mystery of his being.825825 With this sentence the Prologue returns to the beginning and suggests the best reason why Christ is called Logos. He is the Exegete, the Expounder, the Interpreter of the hidden being, of God. "The word ἐξηγήσατο used by classical writers of the interpretation of divine mysteries. The absence of the object in the original is remarkable. Thus the literal rendering is simply, he made declaration (Vulg. ipse enarravit). Comp. Acts 15: 4. Westcott, in loc. See the classical parallels in Wetstein.
This perfect knowledge of the Father, Christ claims himself in that remarkable passage in Matthew 11:27, which strikingly confirms the essential harmony of the Johannean and Synoptical representations of Christ.
John (and he alone) calls Christ the "Logos" of God, i.e., the embodiment of God and the organ of all his revelations.826826 John 1:1, 14:1 John 1:1; Rev. 19:13. The Logos theory of John is the fruitful germ of the speculations of the Greek church on the mysteries of the incarnation and the trinity. See my ed. of Lange’s Com. on John, pp. 51 and 55 sqq., where also the literature is given. On the latest discussions see Weiss in the sixth ed. of Meyer’s Com. on John (1880), pp. 49 sqq. Λόγος means both ratio andoratio reason and speech, which are inseparably connected. " Logos," being masculine in Greek, is better fitted as a designation of Christ than our neuter " Word." Hence Ewald, in defiance of German grammar, renders it "der Wort."On the apocalyptic designation ὁ λογος τοῦ θυοῦ and on the christology of the Apocalypse, see Gebhardt, l.c., 94 and 333 sqq. On Philo’s idea of the Logos I refer to Schürer, Neutestam. Zeitgeschichte, pp. 648 sqq., and the works of Gfrörer, Zeller, Frankel, etc., there quoted. As the human reason or thought is expressed in word, and as the word is the medium of making our thoughts known to others, so God is known to himself and to the world in and through Christ as the personal Word. While "Logos" designates the metaphysical and intellectual relation, the term "Son" designates the moral relation of Christ to God, as a relation of love, and the epithet "only-begotten" or "only-born" (μονογενής) raises his sonship as entirely unique above every other sonship, which is only a reflection of it. It is a blessed relation of infinite knowledge and infinite love. The Logos is eternal, he is personal, he is divine.827827 These three ideas are contained in the first verse of the Gospel, which has stimulated and puzzled the profoundest minds from Origen and Augustin to Schelling and Goethe. Mark the unique union of transparent simplicity and inexhaustible depth, and the symmetry of the three clauses. The subject (λόγος) and the verb (ἧν) are three times repeated. " The three clauses contain all that it is possible for man to realize as to the essential nature of the Word in relation to time and mode of being and character: He was (1) in the beginning: He was (2) with God: He was (3) God. At the same time these three clauses answer to the three great moments of the Incarnation of the Word declared in John 1:14. He who ’was God,’ became flesh: He who ’was with God,’ tabernacled among us (comp. 1 John 1:2): He who ’was in the beginning,’ became (in time)." Westcott (in Speaker’s Com.). A similar interpretation is given by Lange. The personality of the Logos is denied by Beyschlag. See Notes (in text at end of § 72). He was in the beginning before creation or from eternity. He is, on the one hand, distinct from God and in the closest communion with him (πρὸς τὸν θεόν); on the other hand he is himself essentially divine, and therefore called "God" (θεός, but not ὁ θεός).828828 Here we have the germ (but the germ only) of the orthodox distinction between unity of essence and trinity of persons or hypostases; also of the distinction between an immanent, eternal trinity, and an economical trinity, which is revealed in time (in the works of creation, redemption, and sanctification). A Hebrew monotheist could not conceive of an eternal and independent being of a different essence (ἑτεροούσις) existing besides the one God. This would be dualism.
This pre-existent Logos is the agent of the creation of all things visible and invisible.829829 John 1:3, with a probable allusion to Gen. 1:3, "God said," as ἐν αρχῇ refers to bereshith, Gen. 1:1. The negative repetition οὐδὲ ἔν, prorsus nihil, not even one thing (stronger than οὐδέν nihil), excludes every form of dualism (against the Gnostics), and makes the πάντα absolutely unlimited. The Socinian interpretation, which confines it to the moral creation, is grammatically impossible. He is the fulness and fountain of life (ἡ ζωή, the true, immortal life, as distinct from βίος, the natural, mortal life), and light (τὸ φῶς,which includes intellectual and moral truth, reason and conscience) to all men. Whatever elements of truth, goodness, and beauty may be found shining like stars and meteors in the darkness of heathendom, must be traced to the Logos, the universal Life-giver and Illuminator.
Here Paul and John meet again; both teach the agency of Christ in the creation, but John more clearly connects him with all the preparatory revelations before the incarnation. This extension of the Logos revelation explains the high estimate which some of the Greek fathers, (Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, Origen) put upon the Hellenic, especially the Platonic philosophy, as a training-school of the heathen mind for Christ.
The Logos revealed himself to every man, but in a special manner to his own chosen people; and this revelation culminated in John the Baptist, who summed up in himself the meaning of the law and the prophets, and pointed to Jesus of Nazareth as "the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world."
At last the Logos became flesh.830830 John 1:14: ὁ λόγος
ἐγένετο a sentence of immeasurable import, the leading idea not
only of the Prologue, but of the Christian religion and of the history
of mankind. It marks the close of the preparation for Christianity and
the beginning of its introduction into the human race. Bengel calls
attention to the threefold antithetic correspondence between 1:1 and
was (ἧν) in the beginning
and dwelt among us.
He completed his revelation by uniting himself with man once and forever in all things, except sin.831831 Paul expresses the same idea: God sent his Son "in the likeness of the flesh of sin," Rom. 8:3; comp. Heb. 2:17; 4:15. See the note at the close of the section. The Hebraizing term "flesh" best expresses his condescension to our fallen condition and the complete reality of his humanity as an object of sense, visible and tangible, in strong contrast with his immaterial divinity. It includes not only the body (σῶμα), but also a human soul (ψυχή) and a rational spirit (νοῦς, πνεῦμα); for John ascribes them all to Christ. To use a later terminology, the incarnation (ἐνσάρκωσις,incarnatio) is only a stronger term for the assumption of humanity (ἐνανθρώπησις,Menschwerdung). The Logos became man—not partially but totally, not apparently but really, not transiently but permanently, not by ceasing to be divine, nor by being changed into a man, but by an abiding, personal union with man. He is henceforth the Godman. He tabernacled on earth as the true Shekinah, and manifested to his disciples the glory of the only begotten which shone from the veil of his humanity.832832 John 1:14: ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν ἡμῖν, in allusion to the indwelling of Jehovah in the holy of holies of the tabernacle (σκηνή) and the temple. The humanity of Christ is now the tabernacle of God, and the believers are the spectators of that glory. Comp. Rev. 7:15; 21:3 This is the divine-human glory in the state of humiliation as distinct from the divine glory in his preexistent state, and from the final and perfect manifestation of his glory in the state of exaltation in which his disciples shall share.833833 John 17:5, 24; 1 John 3:2.
The fourth Gospel is a commentary on the ideas of the Prologue. It was written for the purpose that the readers may believe "that Jesus is the Christ (the promised Messiah), the Son of God (in the sense of the only begotten and eternal Son), and that believing they may have life in his name."834834 John 20:31.
III. The Work of Christ (Soteriology). This implies the conquest over sin and Satan, and the procurement of eternal life. Christ appeared without sin, to the end that he might destroy the works of the devil, who was a liar and murderer from the beginning of history, who first fell away from the truth and then brought sin and death into mankind.835835 1 John 3:5, 8; comp. the words of Christ, John 8:44. Christ laid down his life and shed his blood for his sheep. By this self-consecration in death he became the propitiation (ἱλασμός) for the sins of believers and for the sins of the whole world.836836 John 6:52-58; 10:11, 15; 1 John 2:2: αὐτὸς ἱλασμός ἐστιν περὶ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν, οὐ περὶ τῶν ἡμετέρων δὲ μόνον, αλλὰ καὶ περὶ ὂλου τοῦ κόσμου.. The universality of the atonement could not be more clearly expressed; but there is a difference between universal sufficiency and universal efficiency. His blood cleanses from all the guilt and contamination of sin. He is (in the language of the Baptist) the Lamb of God that bears and takes away the sin of the world; and (in the unconscious prophecy of Caiaphas) he died for the people.837837 1 John 1:10; John 1:29; 11:50; comp. 18:14. He was priest and sacrifice in one person. And he continues his priestly functions, being our Advocate in Heaven and ready to forgive us when we sin and come to him in true repentance.838838 1 John 2:1: ἐὰν τις ἁμάρτῃ, παράκλητον ἔχομεν πρὸς τὸν πατέρα Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν δίκαιον.
This is the negative part of Christ’s work, the removal of the obstruction which separated us from God. The positive part consists in the revelation of the Father, and in the communication of eternal life, which includes eternal happiness. He is himself the Life and the Light of the world.839839 1 John 1:2: ἡ ζωὴ ἐφανερώθη, καὶ ἑωράκαμεν καὶ μαρτυροῦμεν καὶ ἀπαγγέλλομεν ὑμῖντῆν ζωήν τὴν αἰώνιον ἥτις ἧν πρὸς τὸν πατέρα καὶ ἐφανερώθη ἡμῖν. Comp. John 1:4; 5; 26; 14:6. The passage 1 John 5:20: οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ ἀλιθινὸς θεὸς καὶ ζωὴ αἰώνιος , is of doubtful application. The natural connection of οὗτοςwith the immediately preceding Ἰησοῦ Χριστῷ, and the parallel passages where Christ is called " life," favor the reference to Christ; while the words ὁ ἀληθινὸς θεός suit better for the Father. See Braune, Huther, Ebrard, Haupt, Rothe, in loc. He calls himself the Way, the Truth, and the Life. In him the true, the eternal life, which was from the beginning with the Father, appeared personally in human form. He came to communicate it to men. He is the bread of life from heaven, and feeds the believers everywhere spiritually without diminishing, as He fed the five thousand physically with five loaves. That miracle is continued in the mystical self-communication of Christ to his people. Whosoever believes in him has eternal life, which begins here in the new birth and will be completed in the resurrection of the body.840840 John 6:47; and the whole mysterious discourse which explains the spiritual meaning of the preceding miracle.
Herein also the Apocalypse well agrees with the Gospel and Epistles of John. Christ is represented as the victor of the devil.841841 Apoc. 12:1-12; 20:2. Comp. with 1 John 3:8; John 8:44; 12:31, 13:2, 27; 14 30; 16:11. He is the conquering Lion of the tribe of Judah, but also the suffering Lamb slain for us. The figure of the lamb, whether it be referred to the paschal lamb, or to the lamb in the Messianic passage of Isaiah 53:7, expresses the idea of atoning sacrifice which is fully realized in the death of Christ. He "washed" (or, according to another reading, he "loosed") "us from our sins by his blood;" he redeemed men "of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation, and made them to be unto our God a kingdom and priests." The countless multitude of the redeemed "washed their robes and made them white (bright and shining) in the blood of the Lamb." This implies both purification and sanctification; white garments being the symbols of holiness.842842 Apoc. 1:6; 5:6, 9, 12, 13;7: 14, etc. Comp. John 1:29; 17:19; 19:36; 1 John 1:7; 2:2; 5:6. The apocalyptic diminutive ἀρνιον(agnellus, lambkin, pet-lamb) for ἀμνός is used to sharpen the contrast with the Lion. Paul Gerhardt has reproduced it in his beautiful passion hymn: "Ein Lämmlein geht und trägt die Schuld." Love was the motive which prompted him to give his life for his people.843843 Apoc. 1:5: "Unto him that loveth us," etc.; comp. John 15:13; 1 John 3:16. Great stress is laid on the resurrection, as in the Gospel, where he is called the Resurrection and the Life. The exalted Logos-Messiah has the keys of death and Hades.844844 Apoc. 1:5, 17, 18 2:8; comp. John 5:21, 25; 6:39, 40 –11:25. He is a sharer in the universal government of God; he is the mediatorial ruler of the world, "the Prince of the kings of the earth" "King of kings and Lord of lords."845845 Apoc. 1:5; 3:21; 17:14; 19:16. The apocalyptic seer likewise brings in the idea of life in its highest sense as a reward of faith in Christ to those who overcome and are faithful unto death, Christ will give "a crown of life," and a seat on his throne. He "shall guide them unto fountains of waters of life; and God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes."846846 Apoc. 2:10; 3:21; 7:17; 14:1-5; 21:6, 7; 22:1-5. Comp. Gebhardt, l.c., 106-128, 343-353.
IV. The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit (Pneumatology). This is most fully set forth in the farewell discourser, of our Lord, which are reported by John exclusively. The Spirit whom Christ promised to send after his return to the Father, is called the Paraclete, i.e., the Advocate or Counsellor, Helper, who pleads the cause of the believers, directs, supports, and comforts them.847847 John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7. Comp. also 1 John 2:1, where Christ is likewise called παράκλητος. He is our Advocate objectively at the throne of the Father, the Holy Spirit is our Advocate subjectively in our spiritual experience. The E. V. renders the word in all these passages, except the last, by " Comforter" (Consolator), which rests on a confusion of the passive παράκλητος with the active παρακλήτωρ. See my notes in Lange’s Com. on John, pp. 440 sqq., 468 sqq. He is "another Advocate" (ἄλλος παράκλητος), Christ himself being the first Advocate who intercedes for believers at the throne of the Father, as their eternal High priest. The Spirit proceeds (eternally) from the Father, and was sent by the Father and the Son on the day of Pentecost.848848 There is a distinction between the eternal procession (ἐκπόρευσις)of the Spirit from the Father (παρὰ τοῦ Πατρὸς ἐκπορεύεται, procedit, John 15:26), and the temporal mission (πέμψις) of the Spirit from the Father and the Son (15:26, where Christ says of the Spirit: ὃν ἐγὼ πέμψω, to, and 14:26, where he says: ὃ πέμψει ὁ πατὴρ ἐν τῷ ὀνόματί μου). The Greek church to this day strongly insists on this distinction, and teaches an eternal procession of the Spirit from the Father alone, and a temporal mission of the Spirit by the Father and the Son. The difference between the present ἐκπορεύεται and the future πέμψω seems to favor such a distinction, but the exclusive alone (μόνον) in regard to the procession is an addition of the Greek church as much as the Filioque is an addition of the Latin church to the original Nicene Creed. It is doubtful whether John meant to make a metaphysical distinction between procession and mission. But the distinction between the eternal trinity of the divine being and the temporal trinity of the divine revelation has an exegetical basis in the pre-existence of the Logos and the Spirit. The trinitarian revelation reflects the trinitarian essence; in other words, God reveals himself as he is, as Father, Son, and Spirit. We have a right to reason from the revelation of God to his nature, but with proper reverence and modesty; for who can exhaust the ocean of the Deity! He reveals Christ to the heart and glorifies him (ἐμὲ δοξάσει); he bears witness to him (μαρτυρήσει περὶ ἐμοῦ); he calls to remembrance and explains his teaching (ὑμᾶς διδάξει πάντα καὶ ὑπομνήσει ὑμᾶς πάντα ἅ εἷπον ὑμῖν ἐγώ); he leads the disciples into the whole truth (ὁδηγήσει ὑμᾶς εἰς τὴν ἀλήθειαν πᾶσαν); he takes out of the fulness of Christ and shows it to them (ἐκ τοῦ ἐμοῦ λαμβάνει καὶ ἀναγγελεῖ ὑμῖν). The Holy Spirit is the Mediator and Intercessor between Christ and the believer, as Christ is the Mediator between God and the world. He is the Spirit of truth and of holiness. He convicts (ἐλέγχει) the world, that is all men who come under his influnce, in respect of sin (περὶ ἁμαρτίας), of righteousness, (δικαιοσύνης), and of judgment (κρίσεως); and this conviction will result either in the conversion, or in the impenitence of the sinner. The operation of the Spirit accompanies the preaching of the word, and always internal in the sphere of the heart and conscience. He is one of the three witnesses and gives efficacy to the other two witnesses of Christ on earth, the baptism (τὸ ὓδωρ), and the atoning death (τὸ αἷμα) of Christ.849849 1 John 5:8. There are different interpretations of water and blood: 1st, reference to the miraculous flow of blood and water from the wounded side of Christ, John 19:34; 2d, Christ’s baptism, and Christ’s atoning death; 3d, the two sacraments which he instituted as perpetual memorials. I would adopt the last view, if it were not for τὸ αἶμα, which nowhere designates the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, and more naturally refers to the blood of Christ shed for the remission of sins. The passage on the three heavenly witnesses in 5:7, formerly quoted as a proof text for the doctrine of the trinity, is now generally given up as a mediaeval interpolation, and must be rejected on internal as well as external grounds; for John would never have written: "the Father, the Word, and the Spirit," but either "the Father, the Son, and the Spirit," or God, the Word (Logos), and the Spirit."
V. Christian Life. It begins with a new birth from above or from the Holy Spirit. Believers are children of God who are "born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."850850 2 John 1:13: τέκνα θεοῦ ... ἐκ θεοῦ ἐγεννήθησαν. The classical section on the new birth is Christ’s discourse with Nicodemus, 3:1-15. The terms γεννηθῆναι ἄνωθεν, to be born anew, afresh, or from above, i. e., from heaven, Comp. 3:31; 19:11 (the reference is not to a repetition, again, a second time, πάλιν, δεύτερον, but to an analogous process); 3: 6, 7; γένηθῆναι ἐξ ὒδατος –ϊκαὶ–ͅϊπνεύματος of water (baptism) and spirit, 3:5;ἐκ θεοῦ, of God, ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦfrom heaven, are equivalent. John himself most frequently uses ἐκ θεοῦ, 1:13; 1 John 2:29; 3:9; 4:7; 5:1, 4, 18. He does not use ἀναγεννάομαι , to be begotten or born again (but it occurs in Justin Martyr’s quotation, Apol. I. 61; also in 1 Pet. 1:23, ἄαγεννημένοι ... διὰ λόγου ζῶντος θεοῦ, and 1 Pet. 1:3, ἀναγεννήσας ἡμᾶς είς ἐλπίδα), and the noun ἀναγέννησις, regeneration, is not found at all in the Greek Test. (though often in the Greek fathers); but the analogous παλιγγενεσία occurs once in connection with baptism, Tit. 3:5 (ἔσωσεν ἡμᾶς δαὶ λουτροῦ παλιγγενεσίας καὶ ἀνακαινώσεως πνεύματος ἁγίου), and once in a more comprehensive sense of the final restitution and consummation of all things, Matt. 19:18. Paul speaks of the new creature in Christ (καινὴ κτίσις , 2 Cor. 5:17) and of the new (καινὸς ἄνθρωπος ,Eph. 4:24). In the Rabbinical theology regeneration meant simply the change of the external status of a proselyte to Judaism. It is a "new" birth compared with the old, a birth "from God," as compared with that from man, a birth from the Holy "Spirit," in distinction from carnal birth, a birth "from heaven," as opposed to earthly birth. The life of the believer does not descend through the channels of fallen nature, but requires a creative act of the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the gospel. The life of the regenerate is free from the principle and power of sin. "Whosoever is begotten of God doeth no sin, because his seed abideth in him; and he cannot sin because he is begotten of God."851851 1 John 3:9; comp. 5:18. But 5:16 implies that a "brother" may sin, though not "unto death," and 1:10 also excludes the idea of absolute freedom from sin in the present state. Over him the devil has no power.852852 1 John 5:18: ὁ πονηρὸς οὐχ ἃπτεται αὐτοῦ.
The new life is the life of Christ in the soul. It is eternal intrinsically and as to duration. Eternal life in man consists in the knowledge of the only true God and of Jesus Christ—a knowledge which implies full sympathy and communion of love.853853 John 17:3, words of our Lord in the sacerdotal prayer. It begins here in faith; hence the oft-repeated declaration that he who believes in Christ has (ἔχει) eternal life.854854 1 John 5:12, 13: ὁ ἔχων τὸν υἱὸν ἔχει τὴν ζωὴν ... ζωὴν ἔχετε αἰώνιον. Comp. the words of Christ, John 3:36; 5:24; 6:47, 54; and of the Evangelist, 20:31. But it will not appear in its full development till the time of his glorious manifestation, when we shall be like him and see him even as he is.855855 1 John 3:2: οἷδαμεν ὅτι ἐὰν φανέρωθῇ (he, or it), ὅμοιοι αὐτῷ ἐσόμεθα, ὅτι οψόμεθα αὐτὸν καθώς ἐστιν. Faith is the medium of communication, the bond of union with Christ. Faith is the victory over the world, already here in principle.856856 1 John 5:4: αὕτη ἐστὶν ἡ νικήσασα τὸν κόσμον, ἡ πίστις ἡμῶν.
John’s idea of life eternal takes the place of Paul’s idea of righteousness, but both agree in the high conception of faith as the one indispensable condition of securing it by uniting us to Christ, who is both righteousness and life eternal.857857 John uses the term δικαιοσύνη, but never δικαίωσις orδικαιόω. A striking example of religious agreement and theological difference.
The life of the Christian, moreover, is a communion with Christ and with the Father in the Holy Spirit. Our Lord prayed before his passion that the believers of that and all future ages might be one with him, even as he is one with the Father, and that they may enjoy his glory. John writes his first Epistle for the purpose that his readers may have "fellowship with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ, and that thus their joy may be made full."858858 John 17:22-24; 1 John 1:3, 4. This fellowship is only another word for love, and love to God is inseparable from love to the brethren. "If God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." "God is love; and he that abideth in love abideth in God and God abideth in him." Love to the brethren is the true test of practical Christianity.859859 1 John 3:11, 23; 4:7, 11; comp. John 13:34, 35; 15:12, 17. This brotherly fellowship is the true essence of the Church, which is nowhere even mentioned in John’s Gospel and First Epistle.860860 The word ἐκκλησία occurs in the third Epistle, but in the sense of a local congregation. Of the external organization of the church John is silent; he does not even report the institution of the sacraments, though he speaks of the spiritual meaning of baptism (John 3:5), and indirectly of the spiritual meaning of the Lord’s Supper (6:53-56).
Love to God and to the brethren is no mere sentiment, but an active power, and manifests itself in the keeping of God’s commandments.861861 1 John 2:3, 4; 3:22, 24; 4:7, 11; 5:2, 3; 2 John 6; comp. the Gospel, John 14:15, 21: "If ye love me, ye will keep my commandments," etc.
Here again John and Paul meet in the idea of love, as the highest of the Christian graces which abides forever when faith shall have passed into sight, and hope into fruition.862862 Rom. 13:7-10; 1 Cor. 13:1-13.
The incarnation is expressed by John briefly and tersely in the phrase "The Word became flesh" (John 1:14).
I. The meaning of σάρξ. Apollinaris confined "flesh" to the body, including the animal soul, and taught that the Logos occupied the place of the rational soul or spirit (νοῦς, πνεῦμα) in Christ; that consequently he was not a full man, but a sort of middle being between God and man, half divine and haIf human, not wholly divine and wholly human. This view was condemned as heretical by the Nicene church, but renewed substantially by the Tübingen school, as being the doctrine of John. According to Baur (l.c., p. 363) σάρξ ἐγενετοis not equivalent to (ἄνθρωπος ἐγένετο, but means that the Logos assumed a human body and continued otherwise the same. The incarnation was only an incidental phenomenon in the unchanging personality of the Logos. Moreover the flesh of Christ was not like that of other men, but almost immaterial, so at; to be able to walk on the lake (John 6:16; Comp. 7:10, 15; 8:59 10:39). To this exegesis we object:
1. John expressly ascribes to Christ a soul, John 10:11, 15, 17; 12:27 (ἡ ψυχῇ μου τετάρακται), and a spirit, 11:33 (ἐνεβριμήσατο τῷ πνεύματι); 13:21 (ἐταραχθη τῷ πνεύματι); 19:30 (παρέδωκεν τὸ πνεῦμα). It may be said that pneu’ma is here nothing more than the animal soul, because the same affection is attributed to both, and because it was surrendered in death. But Christ calls himself in John frequently "the Son of man" 1:51, etc.), and once "a man" (ἄνθρωπος,8:40), which certainly must include the more important intellectual and spiritual part as well as the body.
2. "Flesh" is often used in the Old and New Testament for the whole man, as in the phrase "all flesh" (πᾶσα σάρξ, every mortal man), or μία σαρ́ξ(John 17:2; Rom. 3:20; 1 Cor. 1:29; Gal. 2:16). In this passage it suited John’s idea better than ἄνθρωπος,because it more strongly expresses the condescension of the Logos to the human nature in its present condition, with its weakness, trials, temptations, and sufferings. He completely identified himself with our earthly lot, and became homogeneous with us, even to the likeness, though not the essence, of sin (Rom. 8:3; comp. Heb. 2:14; 5:8, 9). "Flesh" then, when ascribed to Christ, has the same comprehensive meaning in John as it has in Paul (comp. also 1 Tim. 3:16). It is animated flesh, and the soul of that flesh contains the spiritual as well as the physical life.
II. Another difficulty is presented by the verb ἐγένετο. The champions of the modern Kenosis theory (Thomasius, Gess, Ebrard, Godet, etc.), while differing from the Apollinarian substitution of the Logos for a rational human soul in Christ, assert that the Logos himself because a human soul by voluntary transformation; and so they explain ejgevneto and the famous Pauline phrase ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσεν, μορφὴν δούλου λαβών(Phil. 2:7). As the water was changed into wine at Cana (John 2:9: Τὸ ὕδωρ οἷνον γεγενημένον), so the Logos in infinite self-denial changed his divine being into a human being during the state of his humiliation, and thus led a single life, not a double life (as the Chalcedonian theory of two complete natures simultaneously coexisting in the same person from the manger to the cross seems to imply). But
1. The verb ἐγένετοmust be understood in agreement with the parallel passages:, "he came in the flesh," 1 John 4:2 (ἐν σαρκὶ ἐληλυθότα); 2 John 7 (ἐρχόμενον ἐν σαρκί), with this difference, that "became" indicates the realness of Christ’s manhood, "came" the continuance of his godhood. Compare also Paul’s expression, ἐφανερώθη ἐν σαρκί, 1 Tim. 3:16.
2. Whatever may be the objections to the Chalcedonian dyophysitism, they cannot be removed by running the Kenosis to the extent of a self-suspension of the Logos or an actual surrender of his essential attributes; for this is a metaphysical impossibility, and inconsistent with the unchangeableness of God and the intertrinitarian process. The Logos did not cease to be God when he entered into the human state of existence, nor did he cease to be man when he returned to the state of divine glory which he had with the Father before the foundation of the world.
III. Beyschlag (Die Christologie des N. T, p. 168) denies the identity of the Logos with Christ, and resolves the Logos into a divine principle, instead of a person. "Der Logos ist nicht die Person Christi ... sondern er ist das gottheitliche Princip dieser menschlichen Persönlichkeit." He assumes a gradual unfolding of the Logos principle in the human person of Christ. But the personality of the Logos is taught in John 1:1–3, and ἐγένετοdenotes a completed act. We must remember, however, that personality in the trinity and personality of the Logos are different from personality of man. Human speech is inadequate to express the distinction.
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