“30 I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.31 If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true. 32 There is another that beareth witness of me; and I know that the witness which he witnesseth of me is true.33 Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth. 34 But I receive not testimony from man: but these things I say, that ye might be saved. 35 He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light. 36 But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me. 37 And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape. 38 And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not. 39 Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. 40 And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life. “ (John 5:30-40)
The Second Sunday in Advent
BLESSED Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
The First Sunday in Advent
(to be said throughout Advent)
ALMIGHTY God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal, through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever. Amen.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be always acceptable in thy sight, O lord my Strength and my Redeemer. Amen.
Our Gospel text today directs our attention to more than a single truth.
First we learn that the only just judgment is that judgment that issues form the will of God. And how do we know that will? By reading the Word of God and making that Word the judge of all things in our purview. Christ Himself is that Word Incarnate. (John 1). He is the ensign and plumb line in our midst for it was Christ who came down and dwelt among us suffering every temptation as we, yet being pure and sinless throughout. If we judge with righteous judgment, our judgment will be based on the Word of God and proceeding from love. “I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.”
The Godhead, comprised of Three Persons in One, has no nature to operate independent of one another. By its very nature, these Three Persons are completely of One Mind and One Purpose. Every thought of God is mutually held and mutually advocated. Christ came not to establish His Church on His own behalf and apart from the oversight of His Father, but He came in the whole will of the Father and executes all that the Father wills. Christ was with the Father in the beginning – He was the Word, and He was God. (John 1:1)
Secondly, we learn that Christ bears not His witness and testimony in isolation. In fact, that would be impossible for there can be no division between the testimony of the Father, Son, or Holy Ghost. It would, as well, be impossible for either to hold a will that in any way is contrary to that of the whole. How is God, realized in Three Persons, One God? It is only possible because the Godhead is a union of One in purpose and will. If we are IN Christ, we, too, are one with Him the Father, and the Holy Ghost. The only means by which our Nation can be One Nation, under God, is that our national will is in subordination to the perfect Will of God. Then, though we be many citizens, we may also be One Nation, under God. But is this true of modern America? I think not. The moral decadence and spiritual depravity of our country does not issue from the influences of an alien enemy, but from within the hearts of our people, and ultimately the laxity of America’s churches in nurturing the love of God and His Holy Word. “If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true.” America today is by no means one in purpose. We do not have a perfect union. Our population is comprised of those few who fervently love the Lord and try by all means to obey Him. A larger group are those nominal Christians whose patchwork garments are mixed with the fabric of the law and also of grace. Grace cannot exist with the curse of the law. Others simply reject God outright and attempt to remove every vestige of His presence from their own, and our, daily conversation.
No single citizen, acting on his own behalf, can bear the full power and authority of the National government. We cannot be a one-man army of the United States. It is the collective will of the people that will reflect the legitimate boundaries of authority and purpose so that we are a Union of citizens, of counties, of states, and finally realized at the head as a federal government in one united nation. But governments can never fully reflect the Oneness of God for His Triune nature is a perfect One and bound without seam to one Will and Purpose. Human government may emulate, but can never achieve, such perfect union. Even as individuals, our Oneness with Christ, the Father, and the Holy Ghost is not a perfect one from the standpoint of deeds and works of the law, but made spiritually possible by that loving characteristic of God called unmerited Grace.
The witness of Christ is not His alone, for whatsoever the Son does or says is equivalent to the same action and Word of the father and Holy Ghost. Christ never speaks independently of the father, nor can He do so. “There is another that beareth witness of me; and I know that the witness which he witnesseth of me is true.” The Word of God stands immutable and without need of support. It stands alone, but is witnessed in every rose, every green leaf, every creature’s heart, and in the miracle of birth of a child. If you doubt miracles are ongoing for our day, look into the pure eyes of a little child whose spirit has so recently been imparted by God while yet in the mother’s womb! The tides are given limits of progress, and the seasons still hear and obey His beckon. How can you doubt?
We do need ministers and pastors who will teach us from a better knowledge of God’s Word, but God needs no teacher. If a priest, bishop, or deacon has been given responsibility in the Kingdom of Heaven, he must exercise that responsibility under the authority of the great Bishop of our Souls, the Lord Jesus Christ else his authority is of no force. “Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth.” Well did John know that it was only the truth that has force and not the imaginations and devices of any man! When we hear a biblical exposition, delivered with earnestness and faith, we recognize a strong authority in its delivery. From whence cometh this authority? Since it is God’s Word, it comes from God and not the source of delivery.
It is true that John inquired, in his moment of doubt, to know from Christ; but Christ never inquired of John. Christ, possessing all truth, needs no man’s testimony to support His claim. The Sun needs no lesser light to testify of its life-giving energy. As Confucius has said, “Does God exist? Does one light a candle to see the Sun?” Is the Sun itself blind to its own light. I doubt it! Does Christ need a man’s witness of His divine will and purpose? “But I receive not testimony from man: but these things I say, that ye might be saved.” We may live in such oppressive darkness that we need some man to come to us bearing the precious Word of God, but that man is only messenger. The Message belongs to God. Christ owns the Message. What a privilege if He allows us the opportunity to be a messenger for Him!
“He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light.” The Light John bore was not truly his own light, but it was the Light of Christ. John was a mirror only to reflect the Light and was not the generator of it. The moon is merely the reflector of that great light of the Sun and is not the generator thereof for it cannot be. You and I, too, may be those lower lights referred to in that old hymn, Brightly Beams our Father’s Mercy. God Himself is the great Searchlight sent out from the Lighthouse across the stormy waves and shoals. Men, at their wits end in fighting the sails and helm, look with salty eyes into the gloom and, “Look! A Lighthouse” beams its hope from secure harbor to their frightful and foundering vessel. They bear toward it for it is their only hope. Coming near to harbor, there remains to be navigated among the salient bars and hidden rocks of the harbor. But God has provided Lower Lights (His people) to guide the vessel to safe port and anchorage beneath that great Light that saved them. Have you lately been a Lower Light for Christ? If so, your light is not your own, but the reflected Light of the Light of the World. Like the Moon in eclipse, if the world gets between you and that great Light, your light will be darkness.
We know God because we have seen Christ! All that Christ did reflected a perfect likeness of the Father. And all that we do as Christians, though imperfect as we are reflects the will of our father in heaven. “But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me.” The Father is witness of His son and His Son is witness of the Father. The very works of Christ in restoring life to the dead and healing every diverse disease is witness of that nature only of God. God is Life! “And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape.” Christ, dwelling always from eternity past with the Father, beheld His face every day in Paradise. He has heard every Word ever uttered by the Father, and He is like Him in every respect just as the child is the image and likeness of the parent though Christ is perfectly like His Father. “And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not.” Christ is castigating the false professors and ministers of the Jews. They may know the Law of Moses but they do not have the Living Word of God abiding in their breasts else they would be able of salvation in Christ.
“Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” These words would seem to be directed toward the Pharisees who believed in the resurrection, but not the One by whom resurrection was made possible. They had a head-knowledge of the scriptures, but there was no evidence of it in their hearts. They were bent on murder of the very instrument by which they might have that hoped for resurrection. Christ, being the Word Incarnate, is the completeness of the whole Counsel of God. How can men accept apostate and ‘doctored bible versions that cast doubts on the divinity of Christ and omit whole passages of scripture? If they love Christ, how could they allow, or even be participants, in the wounding of His Holiness, and do so with assumed impunity?
“And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.” It is noteworthy that Christ already knew the hearts of these brigands. In His omniscient foreknowledge, He knew they would not now, nor ever, come to Him. He saw their snarled faces before the cross at Golgotha, there insults and treason against God Almighty, and He knew no amount of persuasion would move them. These so-called ministers of the Jews were more reprobate than the people whom they deceived. Let no man preach to you out of his own opinion or imagination, but Scripture truth only!
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen!