John Calvin Complete Commentary - John 5:24 - 5:24

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John Calvin Complete Commentary - John 5:24 - 5:24


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24.He that heareth my word. Here is described the way and manner of honoring God, that no one may think that it consists solely in any outward performance, or in frivolous ceremonies. For the doctrine of the Gospel seems as a scepter to Christ, by which he governs believers whom the Father has made his subjects. And this definition is eminently worthy of notice. Nothing is more common than a false profession of Christianity; for even the Papists, who are most inveterate enemies of Christ, do in the most presumptuous manner boast of his name. But here Christ demands from us no other honor than to obey his Gospel. Hence it follows, that all the honor which hypocrites bestow on Christ is but the kiss of Judas, by which he betrayed his Lord. Though they may a hundred times call him King, yet they deprive him of his kingdom and of all power, when they do not exercise faith in the Gospel.

Hath eternal life. By these words he likewise commends the fruit of obedience, that we may be more willing to render it. For who ought to be so hardened as not to submit willingly to Christ, when the reward of eternal life is held out to him? And yet we see how few there are whom Christ gains to himself by so great goodness. So great is our depravity that we choose rather to perish of our own accord than to surrender ourselves to obey the Son of God, that we may be saved by his grace. Both, therefore, are here included by Christ — the robe of devout and sincere worship which he requires from us, and the method by which he restores us to life. For it would not be sufficient to understand what he formerly taught, that he came to raise the dead, unless we also knew the manner in which he restores us to life. Now he affirms that life is obtained by hearing his word, and by the word hearing he means faith, as he immediately afterwards declares. But faith has its seat not in the ears, but in the heart. Whence faith derives so great power, we have formerly explained. We ought always to consider what it is that the Gospel offers to us; for we need not wonder that he who receives Christ with all his merits is reconciled to God, and acquitted of the condemnation of death; and that he who has received the gift of the Holy Spirit is clothed with a heavenly righteousness, that he may walk in newness of life, (Rom_6:6.) The clause which is added, believeth on him who sent him, serves to confirm the authority of the Gospel: when Christ testifies that it came from God, and was not invented by men, as he elsewhere says that what he speaks is not from himself, but was delivered to him by the Father, (Joh_7:16.)

And shall not come into condemnation. There is here an implied contrast between the guilt to which we are all naturally liable, and the unconditional acquittal which we obtain through Christ; for if all were not liable to condemnation, what purpose would it serve to free from it those who believe in Christ? The meaning therefore is, that we are beyond the danger of death, because we are acquitted through the grace of Christ; and, therefore, though Christ sanctifies and regenerates us, by his Spirit, to newness of life, yet here he specially mentions the unconditional forgiveness of sins, in which alone the happiness of men consists. For then does a man begin to live when he has God reconciled to him; and how would God love us, if he did not pardon our sins?

But hath passed. Some Latin copies have this verb in the future tense, will pass from death to life; but this has arisen from the ignorance and rashness of some person who, not understanding the meaning of the Evangelist, has taken more liberty than he ought to have taken; for the Greek word μεταβέβηκε (hath passed) has no ambiguity whatever. There is no impropriety in saying that we have already passed from death to life; for the incorruptible seed of life (1Pe_1:23) resides in the children of God, and they already sit in the heavenly glory with Christ by hope, (Col_3:3,) and they have the kingdom of God already established within them, (Luk_17:21.) For though their life be hidden, they do not on that account cease to possess it by faith; and though they are besieged on every side by faith, they do not cease to be calm on this account, that they know that they are in perfect safety through the protection of Christ. Yet let us remember that believers are now in life in such a manner that they always carry about with them the cause of death; but the Spirit, who dwells in us, is life, which will at length destroy the remains of death; for it is a true saying of Paul, that

death is the last enemy that shall be destroyed,

(1Co_15:26.)

And, indeed, this passage contains nothing that relates to the complete destruction of death, or the entire manifestation of life. But though life be only begun in us, Christ declares that believers are so certain of obtaining it, that they ought not to fear death; and we need not wonder at this, since they are united to him who is the inexhaustible fountain of life.