John Calvin Complete Commentary - John 3:11 - 3:11

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John Calvin Complete Commentary - John 3:11 - 3:11


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11.We speak what we know. Some refer this to Christ and John the Baptist; others say that the plural number is used instead of the singular. For my own part, I have no doubt that Christ mentions himself in connection with all the prophets of God, and speaks generally in the person of all. Philosophers and other vain-glorious teachers frequently bring forward trifles which they have themselves invented; but Christ claims it as peculiar to himself and all the servants of God, that they deliver no doctrine but what is certain. For God does not send ministers to prattle about things that are unknown or doubtful, but trains them in his school, that what they have learned from himself they may afterwards deliver to others. Again, as Christ, by this testimony, recommends to us the certainty of his doctrine, so he enjoins on all his ministers a law of modesty, not to put forward their own dreams or conjectures — not to preach human inventions, which have no solidity in theme but to render a faithful and pure testimony to God. Let every man, therefore, see what the Lord has revealed to him, that no man may go beyond the bounds of his faith; and, lastly, that no man may allow himself to speak any thing but what he has heard from the Lord. It ought to be observed, likewise, that Christ here confirms his doctrine by an oath, that it may have full authority over us.

You receive not our testimony. This is added, that the Gospel may lose nothing on account of the ingratitude of men. For since few persons are to be found who exercise faith in the truth of God, and since the truth is everywhere rejected by the world, we ought to defend it against contempt, that its majesty may not be held in less estimation, because the whole world despises it, and obscures it by impiety. Now though the meaning of the words be simple and one, still we must draw from this passage a twofold doctrine. The first is, that our faith in the Gospel may not be weakened, if it have few disciples on the earth; as if Christ had said, Though you do not receive my doctrine, it remains nevertheless certain and durable; for the unbelief of men will never prevent God from remaining always true. The other is, that they who, in the present day, disbelieve the Gospel, will not escape with impunity, since the truth of God is holy and sacred. We ought to be fortified with this shield, that we may persevere in obedience to the Gospel in opposition to the obstinacy of men. True indeed, we must hold by this principle, that our faith be founded on God. But when we have God as our security, we ought, like persons elevated above the heavens, boldly to tread the whole world under our feet, or regard it with lofty disdain, rather than allow the unbelief of any persons whatever to fill us with alarm. As to the complaint which Christ makes, that his testimony is not received, we learn from it, that the word of God has, in all ages, been distinguished by this peculiar feature, that they who believed it were few; for the expression — you receive not — belongs to the greater number, and almost to the whole body of the people. There is no reason, therefore, that we should now be discouraged, if the number of those who believe be small.