The One Above All
John 3:31-36 reads - "He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all. And what He has seen and heard, that He testifies; and no one receives His testimony. He who has received His testimony has certified that God is true. For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure. The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand. He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."

When we closed yesterday's lesson, John the baptizer was speaking (cf. 3:27-30). However, I don't believe he is speaking in this passage. It appears that 3:31-36 is best understood as John the apostle writing about the Christ. Clearly, "He who comes from above" is a reference to Jesus. "He who is of the earth" is a reference to John the baptizer (and all mankind in general). Jesus' superiority is not only over John the baptizer but also over all mankind!

Jesus, having come from heaven, possessed full knowledge of heavenly things and could speak with assurance and authority on such matters. However, in spite of this fact, His testimony was largely rejected. Although tens of thousands of people embraced the gospel message, the vast multitudes rejected it in the first century.

Those few who did receive Jesus' testimony, in so doing, "certified that God is true" (3:33). This simply means that those who accepted Jesus' testimony demonstrated their faith and trust that the Father did send the Messiah, true to His promise. To believe Christ is to believe the Father of whom Christ testified.

The Bible teaches that the Father sent Jesus into the world and that Jesus speaks the words of the Father. The reason why He is able to speak fully, accurately, and authoritatively on behalf of the Father is because God did not give the Spirit by measure to Him (cf. Col. 1:19). I believe this means that God did not restrict the amount of miraculous power that Jesus was able to exercise through the Spirit. God did give the Spirit "by measure" to others; they did have limits in what they could do miraculously. For example, the apostles and the house of Cornelius (Acts 2 & 10) received the baptismal measure of the Spirit. The apostles, through the laying on of hands, could impart to others a lesser, though miraculous, gift (e.g., Acts 8:16ff). However, the power to impart the Spirit by the laying on of hands ended with the apostles. The guidance of the Spirit is today enjoyed by means of the teaching that the Spirit communicated through inspired men and caused to be recorded as Scripture. By it we are made complete and properly equipped for every good work (II Tim. 3:16,17).

In 3:35, the love of the Father for the Son, Jesus, is stated as a fact and also serves as a motive in explaining why the Father gave the Spirit to the Son without measure and why He has "given all things into His hand" (cf. Matt. 28:18; Eph. 1:19-23).

Unfortunately, the New King James Version does not give the best translation in verse 36. The Greek word pisteuo is correctly rendered "believes." However, apeitheo should not be translated as "does not believe," but as "does not obey." A better rendering is seen in Marshall's Greek & English Interlinear - "The [one] believing in the Son has life eternal; but the [one] disobeying the Son will not see life, but the wrath - of God remains on him." Clearly, these two words are put in contrast and stand as opposites. Thus, to disobey is the opposite of believing. Hence, to believe on the Son is to obey the Son! Mental assent is not true Biblical faith and is nowhere reckoned as such. Belief blesses only when it leads its possessor to obedience. One who truly believes (and continues to do so) will not scoff at the duties that are before him, nor will he seek to avoid them; on the contrary, he will find pleasure in doing them, knowing that he is thereby pleasing the Lord and that he has eternal life. The one who disobeys, however, will not enjoy the blessings of eternal life but the force of God's wrath!