John 3:36 MEANING

John 3:36
(36) Here too we have, in the words of John, thoughts which we have found already (John 3:15-16), and shall find again (John 5:24), in the words of Christ Himself.

He that believeth not the Son.--Better, he that obeyeth not the Son. The word, which occurs only here in the Gospels, is not the same as that at the beginning of the verse, and shows that the faith there intended is the subjection of the will to the Son, to whom the Father hath given all things (John 3:35). (Comp. "obedience to the faith," Romans 1:5.)

Shall not see life is contrasted with the present possession of the believer. He has life; the man who disobeys has not, and while he disobeys shall not see life, for he cannot be a subject of a kingdom to whose laws he refuses allegiance. But there is also a fearful positive contrast. There is for him a present possession, which shall also remain.

The wrath of God abideth on him.--Once only in the four Gospels does this term, so full of tremendous meaning, meet us, and that in the Gospel of fullest love, and in a context which speaks of the Father's love to the Son, and of eternal life, which is the portion of all who believe on the Son. It must be so. This wrath (comp. Romans 2:8; Ephesians 4:31; Colossians 3:8; Revelation 19:15) is not the fierceness of passion, nor is it the expression of fixed hatred. It is the necessary aspect of love and holiness toward those who reject love, and wilfully sin. It is not here spoken of as coming upon them, or as passing from them. It abideth, ever has and ever must; for the wrath of love must abide on hatred, the wrath of holiness must abide on sin. But none need hate, and none need live in wilful sin. "He that believeth"--how vast the love and bright the hope of the all-including words--"hath eternal life"! (Comp. Note on John 6:56.)

Verse 36. - He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life (cf. here, vers. 16, 17; John 17:3; 1 John 5:10). These words, which above every other clause in this "swanlike song," are suffused with a glow that it is difficult to believe issued from the heart of the forerunner, unless we may make the supposition already referred to, that some of John's former disciples had carried to his earlier master the grand refrain of the discourse to Nicodemus. The entrusting of the soul in utter moral surrender to the Son of God, is life - eternal life. All cruel suspicions of God vanish when the veil is lifted which sin and the corruption of the human heart have hung over the holiest of all. John had passed into a new world when he discovered the true nature of the kingdom - the tempted, humbled, sacrificial, triumphant character of the Son of God. To believe on the Son is to have the life. But he that is disobedient to the Son. The words ὁ ἀπειθῶν are, in the English Version, translated "believeth not," and again so in Romans 11:30, where ἀπιστεῖν and ἀπειθεῖν are used interchangeably. The word means one who is (ἀπειθής distrustful, who refuses to be persuaded, is contumacious and expresses the opposite to faith in active exercise, who repudiates faith on its fiducial and practical side. Nothing is said of those who have had no opportunity of coming to a knowledge of the Son of God. Shall not see life; shall not even see so as to be able to conceive of, much less enjoy, life (Westcott; see ver. 3). There is a blinding power in disobedience, which prevents those who are actively hostile to the essential excellences and glories of Christ from even knowing what life is. Life is obviously here and elsewhere more than physical existence, or than its continuance, or than its resuscitation after death; it is the activity of the new spirit, the supernatural and eternal blessedness wrought by "birth of the Spirit." Nor is the calamity referred to a mere negation. John may be said here to have gone beyond the words of the Master in the previous discourse, and, moreover, it is in fiery earnestness that he speaks. The wrath of God, which has already been called down upon him by his disobedience, abideth on him. God's ὀργή had been spoken of by the Baptist (Matthew 3:7; Luke 3:7); and the term, wherever used, is far more than "the consuming fire of infinite love," into which many strive to resolve it. It represents active and terrible displeasure revealed from heaven (Romans 1:18; Romans 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:16). Much of the wrath of the Lord is said to be temporary in its character (Wisd. 16:5 Wisd. 18:20); but this is abiding, and, so far as is here revealed, permanent. The most terrible expression in the New Testament is the "wrath of the Lamb" (Revelation 6:16). The last word of the Baptist, even in the Fourth Gospel, is a word of thunder, and he disappears from view when he has delivered this terrible condemnation on those who are wilfully, actively resisting that Son whom "the Father loves," and to whose hands he has "entrusted all things." The ministry of John is, after all, that of the Elijah, not that of the Christ. To the last word, even if the phraseology has been moulded in the Greek of the fourth evangelist into a closer resemblance to his own vocabulary, and if by his attempt to epitomize what may have taken hours to say in varied phrase, the apostle has unconsciously adopted some of his own favourite terms, yet the message flashes with the fire of the prophet of the wilderness; and men are threatened with the peril of abiding under the wrath of Almighty God.

3:22-36 John was fully satisfied with the place and work assigned him; but Jesus came on a more important work. He also knew that Jesus would increase in honour and influence, for of his government and peace there would be no end, while he himself would be less followed. John knew that Jesus came from heaven as the Son of God, while he was a sinful, mortal man, who could only speak about the more plain subjects of religion. The words of Jesus were the words of God; he had the Spirit, not by measure, as the prophets, but in all fulness. Everlasting life could only be had by faith in Him, and might be thus obtained; whereas all those, who believe not in the Son of God, cannot partake of salvation, but the wrath of God for ever rests upon them.He that believeth on the Son,.... Who is a proper object of faith and trust; which, if he was not truly and properly God, he would not be: and this is to be understood not of any sort of faith, a temporary, or an historical one; but of that which is the faith of God's elect, the gift of God, and the operation of his Spirit; by which a man sees the Son, goes unto him, ventures and relies upon him, and commits himself to him, and expects life and salvation from him; and who shall not be ashamed and confounded; for such an one

hath everlasting life; he has it in Christ his head, in whom he believes; he has a right unto it through the justifying righteousness of Christ, and a meetness for it by his grace; he has it in faith and hope; he has the beginning of it in the knowledge of Christ, and communion with him; he has some foretastes of it in his present experience; and he has the earnest and pledge of it in his heart, even the blessed Spirit, who works him up for this selfsame thing:

and he that believeth not the Son; that does not believe Christ to be the Son of God, or Jesus to be the Messiah; or rejects him as the Saviour; who lives and dies in a state of impenitence and unbelief:

shall not see life; eternal life; he shall not enter into it, and enjoy it; he shall die the second death. Very remarkable are the following words of the Jews (b) concerning the Messiah, whom they call the latter Redeemer:

"whosoever believes in him "shall" live; but he that believes not in him shall go to the nations of the world, and they shall kill him.''

But the wrath of God abideth on him; as the sentence of wrath, of condemnation, and death, and the curse of the law were pronounced upon him in Adam, as on all mankind, it continues, and will continue, and will never be reversed, but will be executed on him, he not being redeemed from it, as his final unbelief shows; and as he was by nature a child of wrath, as others, he remains such; and as the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness and ungodliness of men, it comes upon the children of disobedience, and remains there; it hangs over their heads, and lights upon them, and they will be filled with a dreadful sense of it to all eternity. The Syriac and Arabic versions render it, "shall abide upon him"; so some copies.

(b) Midrash Ruth, fol. 33. 2.

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