18.I speak not of you all. He again declares that there is one among the disciples who, in reality, is the very reverse of a disciple; and he does so, partly for the sake of Judas, in order to render him the more inexcusable, and partly for the sake of the others, ‘ they may not be overpowered by the ruin of Judas. Not only does he encourage them still to persevere in their calling when Judas falls away; but as the happiness which he speaks of is not common to all, he exhorts them to desire it with so much the greater eagerness, and to adhere to it the more firmly.
I know whom I have chosen. This very circumstance — that they will persevere — he ascribes to their election; for the virtue of men, being frail, would tremble at every breeze, and would be laid down by the feeblest stroke, if the Lord did not uphold it by his hand. But as he governs those whom he has elected, all the engines which Satan can employ will not prevent them from persevering to the end with unshaken firmness. And not only does he ascribe to election their perseverance, but likewise the commencement of their piety. Whence does it arise that one man, rather than another, devotes himself to the word of God? It is, because he was elected. Again, whence does it arise that this man makes progress, and continues to lead a good and holy life, but because the purpose of God is unchangeable, to complete the work which was begun by his hand? In short, this is the source of the distinction between the children of God and unbelievers, that the former are drown to salvation by the Spirit of adoption, while the latter are hurried to destruction by their flesh, which is under no restraint. Otherwise Christ might have said, “ what kind of person each of you will be;” but that they may not claim anything for themselves, but, on the contrary, may acknowledge that, by the grace of God alone, and not by their own virtue, they differ from Judas, he places before them that election by free grace on which they are founded. Let us, therefore, learn that every part of our salvation depends on election.
In another passage he includes Judas in the number of the elect.
Have not I chosen (or, elected) you twelve,
and one of you is a devil? (Joh_6:70.) (53)
But in that passage the mode of expression, though different, is not opposite’ for there the word denotes a temporal election, by which God appoints us to any particular work; in the same manner as Saul, who was elected to be a king, and yet was a reprobate. But here Christ speaks of the eternal election, by which we become the children of God, and by which God predestinated us to life before the creation of the world. And, indeed, the reprobate are sometime, endued by God with the gifts of the Spirit, to execute the office with which he invests them. Thus, in Saul, we perceive, for a time, the splendor of royal virtues, and thus Judas also was distinguished by eminent gifts, and such as were adapted to an apostle of Christ. But this is widely different from the sanctification of the Holy Spirit, which the Lord bestows on none but his own children; for he renews them in understanding and heart, that they may be holy and unblameable in his sight. Besides, that sanctification has a deep root in them, which cannot be removed; because the adoption of God is without repentance. Meanwhile, let us regard it as a settled point, that it results from the election of God, when, having embraced by faith the doctrine of Christ, we also follow it during our life; and that this is the only cause of our happiness, by which we are distinguished from the reprobate; for they, being destitute of the grace of the Spirit, miserably perish, while we have Christ for our guardian, who guides us by his hand, and upholds us by his power.
Besides, Christ gives here a clear proof of his Divinity; first, when he declares that he does not judge after the manner of men; and, secondly, when he pronounces himself to be the Author of election. For when he says, I know, the knowledge, of which he speaks, belongs peculiarly to God; but the second proof — contained in the words, whom I have chosen — is far more powerful, for he testifies that they who were elected before the creation of the world were elected by himself. So remarkable a demonstration of his Divine power ought to affect us more deeply, than if the Scripture had called him God a hundred times.
That the Scripture may be fulfilled. It might have been thought improper that one should have been elected to so honorable a rank, who yet did not possess true piety; for it might readily have been objected, Why did not Christ elect one whom he intended to admit into the number of the Apostles? or rather Why did he appoint a man to be an Apostle, who, he well knew, would become so wicked? He explains that this must have happened, because it was foretold; of at least, that it was no new occurrence, for David had experienced the same thing. For some think that it is a prediction quoted, which properly applies to Christ; while others think that it is merely a comparison, that, as David was basely betrayed by a private enemy, so a similar condition awaits the children of God. According to the latter, the meaning would be: That one of my disciples wickedly betrays his Master, is not the first instance of treachery that has taken place in the world; but, on the contrary, we now experience what Scripture declares to have happened in ancient times.” But, as in David there was shadowed out what was afterwards to be seen more fully in Christ, I readily agree with the former expositors, who think that this was strictly the fulfillment of that which David, by the Spirit of prophecy, had foretold, (Psa_41:9.) Besides, some are of opinion that the clause under consideration does not contain a complete sense, and needs to have the principal verb supplied. But if we read it continuously, That the Scripture may be fulfilled, he who eateth bread with me lifteth up his heel against me, there will be nothing wanting.
To lift up the heel is a metaphorical expression, and means, to attack a person in an unperceived manner, under the pretense of friendship, so as to gain an advantage over him, when he is not on his guard. Now what Christ suffered, who is our Head and our Pattern, we, who are his members, ought to endure patiently. And, indeed, it has usually happened in the Church in almost every age, that it has had no enemies more inveterate than the members of the Church; and, therefore, that believers may not have their minds disturbed by such atrocious wickedness, let them accustom themselves early to endure the attacks of traitors.
(53) “Avec l’ qui se presente aujourdhui derant nos yeux;” — “ the experience which is exhibited before our eyes at the present day.”