1 John 5:6-13
DJB I thought that these Scriptures might help us, dear brethren, to enquire as to what Scripture means, and what the Lord means, when He speaks of life. I am aware that there is much good doctrine as to what life is, and we are not to set that aside, but rather to learn from it. But the experience of life according to God may be another matter, which we may not enjoy as fully as we would wish, or as God would have us to do.
I suggested these Scriptures to see something of what Scripture has to say about life. When Scripture speaks about life it is not, of course, speaking about the natural life which we all have and which much of creation has; Scripture is speaking of life according to God, which is imparted to us by God Himself. It is a gift of God.
I suggested, too, opening with these verses in the Epistle to Titus because some very remarkable things are said about life here. It is striking that the apostle so deliberately brings in the phrase “God, Who cannot lie” (v2) – as if there could be any suggestion that what God had promised He would not in His own time deliver and make good. So he speaks with full assurance about it. But then, also, “Before the ages of time” (v2), which serves as a reminder to us that the introduction of life, as the New Testament in particular speaks of it, is not an answer to any kind of emergency that has arisen through the incoming of sin and the need of relief and redemption from it; but rather it was always in God’s mind as something which man was to enjoy with Him.
I referred to John 4 at some length, because I felt that this gives something of the history of the Lord’s dealings with one who stood very obviously in need of life, and how He showed her how it could be imparted to her, and how quickly she came into the enjoyment of it. This might be an encouragement for us all, because we do not want to think that life is something which God promises to us at the end of a long period of training. Training may help us in the understanding and enjoyment of it, but John 4 makes it very plain that it is something that God would have us enjoy from the outset.
John’s first epistle serves to raise the question whether we consciously have the witness in ourselves that God has given to us eternal life. If we consciously enjoy life, eternal life, then we have a witness in ourselves which should be stabilising for our own souls.
Just before we speak further of “life” and “eternal life,” there are Scriptures which show that there is no very great difference between the two. But I think that when the word “eternal” is brought in in connection with life, there is emphasis on two things. One is that it bears on our relations with God; and the other is that it has a lasting quality, in contrast with the death that is all around us. I did not have in mind to make much of that distinction, but the Scripture does speak of both, and it does not speak without a purpose.
PKL If God’s purpose was to bring in life, when He created Adam, did Adam have access to the life that we are speaking of? Is that the tree of life that he could have eaten?
DJB The tree of life was there, but the great danger was that man, having fallen and sinned, would get access to it and would “live for ever” (Gen 3:22), as has sometimes been said, ‘as an immortal sinner’ – which would both be a disaster for man unredeemed, and infringe the rights and claims of God. I think for true access to the tree of life we have to look forward to the New Testament and, in particular, to the book of Revelation.
PKL Yes, I was thinking that. The way of the holy of holies has been made through Christ, and that is the only way we can get access to this eternal life.
DJB We find life in Christ, as is plain from John’s first epistle: “He is the true God and eternal life,” and “he that has the Son has life” (1 John 5:20, 12). At least, as Mr. Raven would say, he has the title to it (FER vol 19 p590). Whether we avail ourselves of it is the great question. But I think it is helpful to see that it is no accidental thing but rather, according to the Epistle to Titus, something that God always had in mind.
MJC I was particularly interested in that because, from the setting here, Paul is speaking of what was before time. So before human life was imparted God had eternal life in mind. Can you say some more about that?
DJB I hardly like to say more than Scripture says. It is one of the few places in which Scripture goes back before time. We have the Lord speaking of His links in eternity in John 17, and we have Peter speaking of a Lamb “foreknown … before the foundation of the world” (1 Peter 1:20). These are remarkable references back. But here we have Paul’s firm assurance that life was always in mind. We have to look to the third chapter of Titus to see how we get the gain of it. After speaking about where we all were, “We were once ourselves also without intelligence, disobedient” (Tit 3:3), then he speaks of “the kindness and love to man of our Saviour God” (v4); but “having been justified by His grace, we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (v7). That is how it actually reaches us, but the first chapter shows it was always in God’s mind.
GKB It was not only always in God’s mind, but He “promised” it. What do you make of the word “promised,” there?
DJB We might ask whom He promised it to! He could not exactly promise it to men who were not there to receive the promise, but it must always have been in His mind as a firm commitment that God had before bringing in even the first creation. We connect life – rightly, I believe – with the new creation, but it was always in God’s mind, and I do think it helps us to see that the need of redemption, precious as it is, does not set aside God’s original thoughts. Redemption is the way in which, in the face of sin, He has worked those thoughts out. But with eternal life it is as if God Himself has been possessed of life from and to eternity, and would always have in mind that there should be others to enjoy it with Him. Is that going too far?
MJC No, I think that is right because John’s Gospel begins, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4). Life exists in Christ; it has to be imparted to us, does it not?
DJB Yes, it does. That is why John 4 is helpful to show how that comes about.
There are other things in the beginning of Titus which are worth noting as well. Paul’s commitment was “according to the faith of God’s elect” (v1). None of these things are going to mean much to us unless we have faith and “knowledge of the truth which is according to piety.” We are not going to know much about life according to God if we are not what Scripture calls “pious:” that is, bringing God into things, and being concerned for God’s interests.
PKL We get a definition of eternal life in John 17, do we not? “That they should know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom Thou hast sent” (John 17:3). Why do you think it is put that way round – we cannot know God unless we know Jesus, can we?
DJB No, but I think the Lord’s desire in John 17 is to point to the Father, the One Whom He loved. To “know Thee, the only true God” points to the Father, representing God in His supremacy. “Jesus Christ Whom Thou hast sent:” He, as ever in the Gospels, takes the lowly place of the One Who was sent of the Father to do His will. We also have the statement that “they were Thine, and Thou gavest them Me” (John 17:6), which again is a view of God’s thoughts from eternity. We have all come by way of redemption, but these dear disciples, and we ourselves, as believing on the Lord Jesus, are found among those who were always in God’s mind.
MJC So then it is the word of God used through the Spirit of God that brings us into the knowledge and enjoyment of these precious things.
DJB Yes. That is a striking fact in Scripture. We are always in danger of using words as a substitute for action or reality, but God does not. In John 6 there are some who begin to go away. The Lord asks those who are nearest to Him, ‘What are you going to do?’ Peter says, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast words of life eternal” (John 6:68). The Lord had said, “The words which I have spoken unto you are spirit and are life” (John 6:63). So, in the word of God, which is what the Lord always directs us to, and manifested in His own words, there is life, which is different from ordinary human speech.
MJC I think that really is important for us to understand, because here in v3 the “proclamation with which I have been entrusted” is the word of God that brings these things into being, is it not?
DJB So we may be attracted to Christ through the preaching of the gospel, with many underlying reasons why. It will always be the work of God, but we may be driven to the Lord through a deep sense of our own shortcomings or by the trials and burdens of life. These things are not words in themselves but they are experiences. However, the gospel comes to us through the word, and the mind of God comes to us through the word. The Lord Himself is the Word of God.
BED Do you have something in mind as to “the commandment of our Saviour God?” Paul’s being entrusted was according to the commandment (v3).
DJB I suppose, most directly, it bore upon Paul himself that it was laid upon him to preach. But it may go wider in principle, that there is an obligation to proclaim the word. I think the apostle says that elsewhere. What were you thinking?
BED I was thinking that it was very near to God’s heart, so that He gave a direct commandment in relation to it.
DJB God reaches us by way of appeal. If it were simply His will that all should repent and come to a knowledge of the truth, then everyone would do so. But not much would be achieved in the soul. God makes an appeal to us in the gospel, and looks for a response. The result of that response is love for Him.
BED It says, “God … now enjoins men that they shall all everywhere repent” (Acts 17:30). That is on the same line, is it?
DJB Yes, He lays it upon us all. But, as we know from experience, it does not just follow automatically.
TRP Is the life that we are speaking of the same as we get in John 5:26, “For even as the Father has life in Himself, so He has given to the Son also to have life in Himself?” Or is that something different?
DJB It is plain that the Father has life in Himself, as being God. The Lord, as having come here representing Him, has life in Himself according to the Father’s will. We only live (if we do) because He lives. It is not given to us to have life in ourselves independent of Christ. “I live on account of the Father, he also who eats Me shall live also on account of Me” (John 6:57). The hymn says:
Life is found alone in Jesus,
Only there ’tis offered thee
I think that is a faithful word. We do not have life of our own.
To look now at John 4, first of all it was no accident that the Lord passed this way: “He must needs pass through Samaria” (v4). It is common knowledge that there were other routes from Jerusalem to Galilee, and many a Jew would prefer to use them. He comes at just the right time and He comes in the absence of His disciples, which may have been no credit to them, but gave Him this opportunity to labour with a solitary soul.
She came from a despised nation. She says, “For Jews have no intercourse with Samaritans” (v9). She was a person whose history would give many people good cause to despise her personally. Yet it was to such a person that the Lord actually opened up more than He had to Nicodemus, perhaps more than He did to many in the course of this Gospel. That gives us cause for reflection on the grace of God and on the material with which God is prepared to begin His work. He does not work with the bad material, but He works with the souls in whom that bad material is.
MJC Do you find it interesting that the scene is where a fountain of Jacob’s was? There was natural life, and they had to depend on that, but the Lord uses it to teach a very valuable lesson, does He not?
DJB He does, and He goes about it in a very skilful way: He asks for a drink, to which He was well entitled, being weary with the way He had come. The woman is surprised at His request, and I do not think we see in the Scripture that He ever got that drink; they became engaged in a much more important conversation. He takes this opportunity to begin: “If thou knewest the gift of God, and Who it is that says to thee, Give Me to drink, thou wouldest have asked of Him” (v10). Here is a reminder that life is a gift from God, to which we have no title, but which God freely gives. By the end of this section she had at least some knowledge of Who it was that spoke to her. But in those few words, “Who it is that says to thee, Give me to drink,” the Lord asserted His full authority to make the living water available.
SML I was just thinking of your earlier reference to John 6:68, “Lord, to whom shall we go?” – Peter’s real appreciation, and, no doubt, that of the rest of the twelve as well, of what they had found in the Lord – in a very varied way, I suppose, as meeting their need and so forth. This woman is going to find exactly the same, is she not? It seemed to me to be very encouraging that it is something that we can all come into in the same way, and leaves a real link between the Lord and ourselves that means that we love Him more. Can you say something about it?
DJB The disciples had had the advantage, and it was a very real one, of keeping company with the Lord for quite a while. Peter said, “Thou hast words of life eternal; and we have believed and known that Thou art the Holy One of God” (John 6:68-69). That was something he had come to through keeping company with the Lord over time. This woman starts from nothing, nothing at all. She set out, that day, to fill her water pot, as she must have filled it many a time, and she had the first great experience of her life: within the boundaries of this chapter she did not go back on it. She went forward from this point. She had proved the disappointments of life – she had no advantage in going on as she was. Many people seem, at least, to be quite satisfied with a way of life that leaves God right out. She had no cause to be satisfied; this was a complete gift to her, something that she would love to have if only she could believe it. She says, ‘You have nothing to draw with, how can this ever come about? Are you greater than the man who provided this well?’ The Lord says, “Every one who drinks of this water shall thirst again; but whosoever drinks of the water which I shall give him shall never thirst for ever” (vv13-14). It is a great challenge whether I have found a source of life and satisfaction in Christ which ensures that I will never go thirsty in my soul ever again. Brethren must say what their experience has been.
PKL Do you think the Lord here gets the woman to a point where she realises she has a need? “Give me this water” (v15). She wants the water. At this moment she still thinks it is natural water, but the Lord is going to tell her that it is much more than that.
DJB Yes – she does not yet quite understand what He is speaking of, but it sounds good and she wants it. So, just at that point, the Lord says to her, “Go, call thy husband, and come here.” He put His finger on the great obstacle to her enjoying life: her conscience was not clear. It has often been said that, although we happily use this Scripture in the preaching of the gospel, it is not a full account of the gospel. There is nothing here about the forgiveness of sins or atonement, nor is the way of salvation here. What is here is what God had in view through redemption.
MJC I think that is important to see, because there seem to me to be two stages set out here: there is the water that the Lord gives, and then what it becomes in us (v14). And neither of them is connected with the thought of remission of sins and repentance.
DJB We might almost say the Lord moves past that. It has already been taken up in chapter 3 – that the Son of Man had to be lifted up (v14). But that was for Nicodemus to hear. We hear it, and we hear chapter 4 as well. The woman, at this stage, did not hear it. So, for us, needing a fuller view of the gospel, we need both chapters. But the woman is taken rapidly forward with just this pause to resolve the question of her conscience.
TRP Experience starts with a simple conversation with the Lord. Is that where we all start?
DJB I think so. Sometimes we make it rather complicated: for a long time I think I did. I think that as we get older, simplicity becomes more attractive. It is a good way to begin.
TRP And to continue, is it not?
DJB Yes. After all, what the Lord is speaking of is very deep. The woman was right to say, “The well is deep” (v11). The well was deep that He was drawing upon. It is all very simply expressed, and it was expressed to a very simple person.
SGP I was wondering if you could say, for the sake of the younger ones, where this fountain of living water is to be found today.
DJB It is to be found, first of all, by coming to the Lord Jesus as Saviour and as Lord. John’s first epistle makes that very clear, that life is in Him (1 John 5:11). We come to Him as acknowledging, however simply we do it, that we need to be saved from our sins and saved from ourselves, and to come under His authority as Saviour and Lord. In response to that He makes us a promise that, as we submit to Him and acknowledge Him as Lord, He will provide a source of life and refreshment for our souls which will never run out. It does not have to do with any material things whatsoever. It consists in the knowledge of God and of the Lord Jesus. With it come happiness and piety and contentment. All of these things are said in Scripture to go with the life which is in Christ Jesus. Happy the man, woman or child that finds it and holds on to it! Many do, and we are thankful for them. But I am not sure that we are always quite as alive, in the way that the Scripture speaks of it, as God would have us to be.
GAB Is it important therefore to see that the drinking is “drinks,” not ‘has drunk’ but “drinks” (v14)? I was just thinking of Joseph, who was given the name Zaphnath-paaneah (Gen 41:45). He is a sustainer of life. Is it necessary for us to be on that line of drinking?
DJB That would be confirmed in the later chapter, “He that believes on Me shall never thirst at any time” (John 6:35). We need to keep believing on the Lord Jesus Christ. The fact that I once did so is a great blessing, but it has to be kept alive in my soul now.
BED The woman was on natural lines, as already remarked, but is there a change when she says, “Sir, I see that Thou art a Prophet” (v19)?
DJB She realised that she had been discerned through and through. And I think she will have recognised that it was not just at that moment: the Lord had always known her. He had known her history, as He does ours, right from the beginning through to the end. He is God. He knows. She realised that He knew all about her, and He did not actually tell her that she was a wicked woman. We are simply told that she did have a history, a very sad and a very shameful one. It spoke for itself. If she was, as she claimed, a descendant of Jacob, she should have known that her relationships were not of God and were wrong. Just at that point she realises that she is in the presence of Someone Who knows her better than she does herself.
MJC Is it important for us to see in this passage that the whole objective is to secure worshippers?
DJB Yes. And so these hindrances are to be dealt with, resolved and removed. In saving us from our sins God magnifies His own glory and He relieves our hearts. But that is not the end in itself. And so, the woman goes on speaking: she says, “Our fathers worshipped in this mountain, and ye say that in Jerusalem is the place where one must worship” (v20). I have sometimes felt she brought religion in as rather a diversion, which we are always liable to do. The Lord will have none of it: He takes this opportunity to put the truth to her, “The hour is coming when ye shall neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem worship the Father” (v21). He set aside Mount Gerizim, Mount Nebo, and Jerusalem as well. He is finished with all of that, right as it had been in its place. It is a sad comment, “Ye worship ye know not what.” But now He says, “But the hour is coming and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth” (v23). And then, very graciously, “For also the Father seeks such as His worshippers.” He was seeking this woman.
MJC It is wonderful because, touching back on Titus, if we think of God having this in mind before time was – that persons like you, me and this woman should be secured for the worship of the Father – how precious that makes it to us!
DJB “In spirit and truth;” those are two very simple but vital things. It is put with a small ‘s,’ so it is our spirit, but it must be by the Spirit. And “in … truth:” it must be from a real heart.
MJC Say some more about this, because it is a very great exercise to us that our worship should be maintained along this line.
DJB Well, I think only love for the Lord and love for God will sustain us in this line of true worship. The Lord is distinguishing from formal worship, divine service as it is called, even if some hearts are touched by it. Over against that is “in spirit,” that is, my spirit touched by the Spirit of God Himself, and “in … truth,” that is, that what I express to God is from my heart and that I seek to be consistent with it.
DEM I was thinking of this breaking out as something fresh in the woman. It involves a lot more than just wanting it. There had to be the work in her which released it.
DJB Yes. And her life was going to have to change. It was a great mercy for her, of course, that it would change. But a change there must be: she could not go on as she had been. The rest of the chapter shows that she had a desire for a change, a more rapid one than perhaps there has been with me. It is very real, the change in this woman.
SML Would these things we have been speaking of – the satisfaction, the peace, worship, and so on – be what the Lord was referring to when He said, “The water which I shall give him shall become in him a fountain of water” (v14)? It seems to spring up of itself in that way.
DJB I think in fact there is a reference to the Holy Spirit of God coming to dwell in the believer. For confirmation of that I would point to chapter 7:38-39: “He that believes on Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. But this He said concerning the Spirit.” I believe we have good authority for relating the living water to the Spirit, even though the Lord does not directly speak of it here. But the Holy Spirit has come to satisfy our hearts from within; to give us the assurance of the love of God; and to unite our hearts to the Lord Jesus. As it says, “He that is joined to the Lord is one Spirit” (1 Cor 6:17) – one Spirit with Himself! So the direct reference is to the Holy Spirit, I think. And the other things that I just mentioned are among the fruits of the Spirit. These are listed in some detail in the Epistle to the Galatians (5:22-23), but they do mark a Christian as over against a man, woman or child of the world. Being a Christian is not something vaguely additional to being an ordinary person, it is being a different person with a different source of life and vitality. Would you say that?
SML Yes, this is something imparted both from and by God. As a result there must be a very real difference in the Christian from everybody else.
DJB And it is a gift: “If thou knewest the gift of God” (v10).
SGP It is a delight to be in the presence of One Who is dispensing blessing like this, giving this water. The Father gives eternal life. So we would seek the presence of the Lord continually, would we not? We would seek to be in the Lord’s presence and to be in the Spirit, where we are to receive life, eternal life.
DJB Well, I trust we would. The Lord graciously sets out to make it attractive to us. He made it as attractive as possible to this woman, and He got a response. It was what she so much needed. Whether, at the outset, she had any idea of being pointed to the one true God, and the recognition that God is a Spirit, and that any communion we have with Him is in our own spirits, I do not know. But the Lord told her. Now, at this point, she says she knows something. “I know that Messias is coming, Who is called Christ; when He comes He will tell us all things” (v25). She brought forth one little bit of certainty that she had. The Lord just says, “I Who speak to thee am He.” That was a wonderful revelation!
MJC What greater revelation could any one of us have? The Son of God was revealed “in me,” says Paul (Gal 1:16). It is a wonderful thing when we have a revelation of the Lord, Who He is. He could say, “Who art Thou, Lord?” (Acts 9:5). That was the beginning, really, of this experience of his.
DJB It was personal and it was direct. There were those who were able to see and talk with the Lord when He was here. That is something that John brings forth in his epistle (1 John 1:1‑2). But the Lord remains available to us as well. I think it is vital that we should realise and avail ourselves of that. The Lord is not far away. He is accessible to us by prayer and communion.
TRP She came to the Lord a self-centred person, but she left His company a Christ-filled person. She was really entering into life, was she not?
DJB Even now, at this point, she might not have been able to give an account of eternal life, but she enjoyed it and expressed it.
PKL Is this a unique admission by the Lord of Who He was? We find Him in John 9 revealing that He was Son of God (vv35‑37). Here it seems to be in a Jewish setting and the thought of the Messiah. The man in John 9 was given a greater revelation of the Lord as Son of God, which is what Paul preached, is it not (Acts 9:20)?
DJB Yes, I thought the Lord linked Himself with where the woman was in her soul. Samaritan religion must have been a rather impoverished thing, but she knew a few things and this was one of them. She says, ‘I do know that there is a Messiah to come and that He will have the answer to all our problems.’ The Lord says, ‘I am here!’
PKL No doubt, as a Samaritan, she would have expected the Jews to have been given prime place with the Messiah; He was coming to them. She was perhaps hoping for some crumbs, shall we say, falling from the table. It is amazing that He reveals Himself in this way to a Samaritan.
DJB So, “He must needs pass through Samaria” (v4). He did not just chance on someone and open up the truth to them. She was put in His way and He was put in her way according to the will of God.
TJK I just noticed, in that connection, that it says she came “out of Samaria” (v7), not out of Sychar. Is John suggesting that she, in some way, left that wicked system?
DJB She came out as a sad and rather lonely person. She has come away, and when she went back she would go back different. I doubt very much whether the men of Samaria were used to listening much to what she had to say, but this time she had something absolutely vital for them: “Come, see a Man Who told me all things I had ever done: is not He the Christ? They went out of the city and came to Him” (vv29-30). The people here were much more ready than the Pharisees at the beginning of the chapter.
BED When she has this revelation, why does she quickly leave the Lord to tell others?
DJB I am always fearful of adding to Scripture. The disciples came at this point (v27). Maybe she felt the time had come to move on. But she had a message and it would not brook any delay, would it?
TJK Evidently she was ready to be filled with this living water and pass it on. And it was to Sychar, which is Shechem, is it not, where dreadful things happened in Jacob’s time and other dreadful things happened in Israel’s later history, but now there is a “living water” message coming to the men of the city, an answer to all those earlier problems?
DJB She was confident that what was sufficient for her could be sufficient for them as well, and in due time they said, yes, it was.
RM The testimony of this woman is very interesting; indeed, I find it remarkable. “Come, see a Man Who told me all things I had ever done.” The Holy Spirit has put this testimony into the Scripture.
DJB We do not know whether the Lord said any more than is recorded, but, however much He actually said, she realised that He saw right to the bottom of her being, and she accepted it and was thankful for it. We were reading recently about the word of God being sharper than any two-edged sword (Heb 4:12). We may not like it when the word of God penetrates us, but this woman was glad that it had reached right through her.
RM So there are two things. You referred at the beginning to the idea of life: life is worship to God and testimony to man.
DJB Yes, indeed. I think it is well worth remembering both sides. There is an inward and an outward side.
I would just note that verse 27 is not just put in by chance. John was, no doubt, among these disciples, and had shared in their surprise that He was having this conversation with a woman. “Yet no one said, What seekest Thou? or, Why speakest Thou with her?” I think they recognised that the Lord was exercising His rights as Saviour and Lord, and as the Apostle of God, to deal with a soul, so they kept a respectful silence.
MJC In many ways Ananias comes to the same thing over Saul of Tarsus. The Lord went directly to the matter, “Why dost thou persecute Me?” (Acts 9:4), but Ananias accepted that when the Lord speaks, you listen.
DJB We seek, and we should seek, to be available both to one another and to any soul that comes our way. But sometimes if we are conscious that the Lord Himself is dealing with a soul, we do well to do as the disciples did and stand back a little.
RM It says in Psalm 49:8, “The redemption of their soul is costly, and must be given up for ever.”
DJB Yes, indeed. The redemption of this woman’s soul was costly. The Lord did not dwell on that, but it was true.
MJC Before we pass on, could you say a word more about how we are to be maintained both in spiritual worship and right testimony?
DJB Well, affection for the Lord, and affection for God, has to be a great lever in our souls. And then there is what I can only call ‘soul experience:’ that, as we are at all conscious of God’s ways with us, we begin to ask ourselves, ‘What has He in mind and what is He working out with us?’ Another Scripture speaks about our becoming partakers of His holiness (Heb 12:10), as if it takes some working out along the way. We are called upon to use diligence to make our calling and election sure (2 Pet 1:10). It is not that it is uncertain from God’s side, but it may be so on our side: so we need diligence, we need to apply ourselves, read the word, and give heed to what the Lord says. If He has a word for us, accept it. It may be a rebuke and we may not like it, but be assured that the things of God are worth having and will build us up according to the pattern of His beloved Son. That is the great goal, surely, that I should be in any measure like Christ.
DEM So it would seem probable that this woman came back to the Lord, and that is what we need to do, is it not? She left her water pot behind, she would not need it.
DJB It may be so. We just hear of the Samaritans again from verse 39 onwards, she is still there. They spoke to her, “It is no longer on account of thy saying that we believe” – they did accept what she said, but first-hand experience was better – “We have heard Him ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Saviour of the world” (v42). I suppose there was something just set on there which provided the basis, in the Acts, for the work of God in Samaria.
GKB The Lord was two days there (v40).
DJB Two very profitable days, I would think. The Lord graciously spent time there with this apparently poor material. My history really has nothing to do with it, though the greater need of grace may lead to a greater depth. He to whom much is forgiven loves much, but he to whom little is forgiven may be in danger of loving little (see Luke 7:47).
MJC Do you think there was spiritual life in Acts 13 in the assembly in Antioch? I was thinking of what we have been enjoying about the two aspects of spiritual life: our worship, and our testimony. In Antioch in Acts 13:2 the first thing is that “they were ministering to the Lord and fasting,” and then the Spirit speaks and there is testimony.
DJB And the Spirit could speak in a very specific way: identifying two men that He had in mind to use. The others in the place, would they be disappointed or thankful that they were not called upon? They were to stay in Antioch. Two were separated and the testimony in Antioch continued. We do have some ‘model assemblies’ in Scripture, and we need to take heed as to how they got on and how they went about things. They have lessons for us.
GAB Does the Epistle to the Philippians bring that out?
DJB Yes, I think so; a very happy company from difficult beginnings, but a very real place. Ephesus, at its best, was another such place, but, sadly, a decline then followed.
TRP Entering into this life, and continuing it – is that not really John 6, what we are feeding on? “Unless ye shall have eaten the flesh of the Son of Man, and drunk His blood, ye have no life in yourselves. He that eats My flesh and drinks My blood has life eternal, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:53-54). Would you think this is the same thing?
DJB This is, in fact, how we come to it. We have no record that the Lord ministered that to the woman in John 4. We have the advantage of having the whole of Scripture. We have John 3, eternal life through the Son being lifted up; John 4, the blessing of the Spirit; John 6, taking the death of the Lord to myself. That is the way in.
I would just like a short word as to the First Epistle of John. John is concerned that the saints should enjoy life. He is also concerned that they should be saved from wrong doctrine, wrong practice, and false teaching as to the Lord and His person. We would do well to be concerned in the same way. So, in this chapter, he makes a firm commitment to what he knew and had proved, of the coming of Christ into this world, coming in flesh-and-blood conditions such that He could die and that as a result of His death there should be a firm witness to the work of God: “the Spirit, and the water, and the blood; and the three agree in one” (v8). John does not say directly what he means by “one.” But I think that if we think about the significance of the Spirit, the water and the blood, we would be pointed in the direction of the new creation, where things are according to God – all things of God, with all that is old and sinful gone, and only the work of God remaining. And now, he says, that is God’s witness which He confirms in the heart of the believer, “He that believes on the Son of God has the witness in himself” (v10). The antichrists (ch 2:18), those who were opposed to the Lord and His person, knew nothing of this. John says that anyone who truly believes on the Lord has it confirmed in his own spirit.
MJC And that cannot be shaken, can it?
DJB No. But then, sometimes we are shaken a bit, are we not? Have you ever been shaken?
MJC Yes. It is very often circumstances that occur that cause us to be shaken. Sometimes it is by what is said or taught, but very often, speaking for myself, it has been circumstantial.
DJB I do not think circumstances, distressing as they can be, are quite as distressing as disturbance among the people of God; or false teaching and false practice among those of whom we would hope for better things. These are very testing, but it is characteristic of John to drive us back onto what we have by way of our own knowledge of God.
MJC I was rather thinking, when I said ‘circumstances,’ of that – what you have just mentioned. The 1960s have been a decade of that kind of thing, which has shaken, and done untold harm to, many. But the Spirit of God is here and is able to help us forward into what is right.
DJB Yes. So while we do not dwell on history, we acknowledge it and recognise the days in which we are. And we feel particularly – I am sure we do – for younger brethren who have had no personal part in those sorrows but have to live with many of the consequences. And the best we can do, it seems to me, for ourselves first of all, is to cling to the witness that we have in ourselves; and then make it plain to others that that is where the witness is and that they can confirm it for themselves. The witness is that God has given to us eternal life. And we have got it if we avail ourselves of it.
PKL Could I just take you back to the opening of the paragraph that we are considering? “This is He that came by water and blood.” Not flesh and blood, but by water and blood. What do we understand by that? The Spirit is not mentioned at that point.
DJB The apostle has already established in the previous chapter the need to confess Jesus Christ come in flesh (vv2‑3) – that is, the reality of His manhood here, I think. Now he needs to deal with the purpose for which the Lord came, and what He gave up in His death so that we might be redeemed to God, saved and given the Holy Spirit. He says, “Not by water only, but by water and blood.” That is the first emphasis. Mr Darby, in commenting on this passage, points out that in the Greek, the two references to “by water and blood” are expressed differently [the first, he says, pointing to the character in which the Lord came here, and the second to the power He displayed according to that character] (CW vol 28 p326). So there is quite an emphasis in the Scripture on the fact that the Lord was in such a condition that “blood and water” could come from His side (John 19:34).
PKL John is the only one who records that. So John knows about the blood and the water. We would not have it apart from John’s writings. We understand what the blood means. Is the water what we speak of as the purification side?
DJB I think so. I cannot improve on the words of the hymn:
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy riven side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Cleansing from its guilt [the blood] and power [the water].
And the water is what we need now, is it not? The word of God has a purifying effect.
SGP The Scripture says, “The wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23), but is it implied in the water and the blood that there is a cleansing and that there is a redemption so that we should have life?
DJB Yes, but in the ways of God we are not generally exempt from the article of physical death. There will be those, and we may well be among them, who will be taken up and who will not see death. But death has passed upon all because all have sinned (Rom 5:12). And the greatest men, Paul, or John, have all passed by the way of death. But they did not feel its sting, and they have passed into life that lies beyond the grave. That is actually where life for us lies – it lies beyond the grave of Christ and our accepting Christ’s death as for ourselves.
MJC That is important: life for us is beyond death. It is on the other side of death. It is new creation, is it not?
DJB Yes, it is, and that may seem rather difficult to understand, but we can begin by baptism. What is it that we are committed to in baptism? We are committed to the death of the Lord and our being identified with Him in death. “As many as have been baptised unto Christ Jesus, have been baptised unto His death. We have been buried therefore with Him by baptism unto death, in order that, even as Christ has been raised up … so we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom 6:3-4). Anyone who is baptised, or who comes to it that their parents were right to baptise them in their infancy, is actually committing themselves to the death of the Lord and our death with Him. Would you say that?
MJC Very much so, because unless I come to the end of myself, my baptism is not of great value. I do not mean to despise baptism.
DJB We know from other Scriptures that it can be a lifetime’s work to really come to an end of ourselves. The principle of what you are saying must be that God said, at the Flood, “The end of all flesh is come before Me” (Gen 6:13). And in baptism we recognise that God was right to say that, in not going on with the old man.
WRT We were reading in Hebrews that some missed the blessings because of a lack of faith (Heb 3:19; 4:2). It is through faith that we can enter into life now, is it not?
DJB That is how Titus begins: “the faith of God’s elect” (Tit 1:1). It would not mean much to those who were not among the elect. Once we realise that that is where we belong, it begins to mean a great deal. We begin to see that, yes, God is right to have finished with the first man, and that there is life and hope in the second Man, Who is out of heaven.
GAB Could you say something as to Romans 5:10, “We have been reconciled to God through the death of His Son?” It goes on to say, “We shall be saved in the power of His life.” Is it the life of Christ as risen?
DJB I take it, there, that we are saved through the Lord dying and rising again, so that we have been justified in the power of His blood (v9), and now there is life to be had in the One Who is risen from the dead. Is that how you see it?
GAB Yes, I was just thinking of the expression “in the power of His life.”
DJB John would amply confirm that, would he not? Life is in Him (1 John 5:11). Without in any way detracting from the presence and power of the Spirit in the believer, God has placed life in Christ, the One Who has come into manhood, and has never given it up, and it is in a Man that we find life.
PKL “Marked out Son of God in power … by resurrection of the dead” (Rom 1:4).
DJB The Lord has a special claim upon us. Of course, God has a claim in His supremacy. But the Lord is the One Who came here and died for us, and He is the One Who lives for us. He has a special claim upon us personally and, thank God, we have a claim upon Him: He has allowed us to do so.
SGP Because He lives, we can live.
DJB Yes. That is what the Lord said (John 14:19). It is because He passed through death that we can as well.
TRP Life can only be fully realised as I am in communion with the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, can it? And the result of that is witness.
DJB Communion with the Lord and with God is something which, in a sense, should continue all the time, but we do have our daily obligations to meet, and the measure of our communion may show itself from the spirit in which we meet those commitments. We are still left here on the earth. The Lord has not taken us out of the world but He does say, “They are not of the world” (John 17:14).
7 November 2009