31 He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. 33 Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. 34 For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. 35 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
There are some scholars who think verse 31-36 are a continued quotation from John the Baptist. However, I lean towards agreeing with the way the ESV has the quotation, that the Baptist stops talking at v. 30, and verse 31-36 are the gospel writer’s commentary. Verse 31-36 seems to be a nice summary of at least all of Chapter 3 up to this point. Just from an observational level, the language doesn’t seem to be consistent with the way the Baptist talked, but it does seem to be the way the gospel writer, writes.
The superiority of Christ over John the Baptist, and all others of course, is clearly a theme of this section, as it flows perfectly from the Baptist’s statement in verse 30 that “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
Christ Comes from Above, v. 31
The first thing we see here is that Jesus Christ is from above, from heaven. He is not a mere human so as to be put on the same level as John the Baptist or any other person. He is divine. This is contrasted to he who is from the earth. He who is from the earth, belongs to the earth, and speaks in an earthly way. The intent here is to say that Christ does not speak in a merely human and earthly way, but in a divine and heavenly way. That is not to say that he spoke a different language than John the Baptist, but He spoke with an authority and a knowledge that was something other than earthly, something heavenly. He astoundingly condescended to speak divine things in actual human language, and that should give us great awe at His love and humility. So the point here in verse 31 is that His speech is of divine origin, as verse 32-34 talks about the witness and testimony that Christ gave. It was not just one man’s opinion over another’s. It was the very mouth of God, revealed in the person of Jesus Christ.
Christ is Above All, v. 31
Obviously, it is a natural thing to see that since Christ comes from above, He is above all. He was not simply sent from above, but He is above all. That is His status and position – above all. Because He comes from above and is above all, His testimony is superior, as we will see. Ephesians 1:19-23 tells us, “…and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”
Christ Gives Perfect Testimony, v. 32-33
As we’ve said, Christ comes from above, is above all, and as such He speaks in a way that is not merely earthly. There is a superior divinity to his speech – to His testimony and witness. He gives perfect testimony. What is it that He bears witness to that He has seen and heard? I like how J. C. Ryle answers, “As God, He declares with authority truths which He had seen and heard and known from all eternity with the Father.” The Word made flesh who was with God in the beginning and who is God from all eternity as the second person of the trinity, speaks and gives perfect testimony of that which He has seen and heard, from above, with authority above all. He came in His incarnation literally walking the earth and preaching the Kingdom of Heaven. Today He is seated at the right of God and He testifies to us even now, through His Word and ordinances. It is a testimony in which heavenly truth is revealed to earthly men and women. Despite this perfect testimony, no one receives it! This of course is not meant without exceptions as the next verse tells us, “Whoever received his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true.” Furthermore, when verse 32 tells us that no one receives His testimony, I believe the direct context intended is 1st century apostate Israel, as we’ve seen this theme come up several times now, such as John 1:11, “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.”
The testimony and witness of Christ is so perfect and heavenly that whoever does not receive Christ’s testimony calls God a liar, as 1 John 5:10 tells us, “Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son.” It is a grave accusation to make against God to disbelieve Christ. But for the one who does receive His testimony, he sets his seal to this, that God is true. In other words, he testifies that God is true, and is a witness to the truthfulness of God.
Christ Utters the Words of God, v. 34
Here we see that it is not even merely a perfect testimony that Christ gives of what He has seen and heard, but the reason that is perfect, is because Christ utters the very words of God…of course, because He is God. This is what God says, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased. Listen to Him. Do what He says.” Every word that Christ has spoken is the very word of God.
Christ Has the Spirit without Limit, v. 34
It continues, the reason for all this is because Christ has been given the Spirit without measure. It is Christ here, who is receiving the Spirit without measure.
The Old Testament prophets were given the Spirit in accordance to the measure of what they were called to do. But the Son has the Spirit without measure. To all other past prophets, God gave His Spirit “in measure.” Christ, being God, has the fullness of the Spirit, “without measure.”
If you remember in John 1:32-34, John the Baptist saw the Spirit descend on Christ.
I love what Calvin says here, “…it is proper that the Spirit should dwell without measure in him, that we may all draw out of his fullness…” Calvin is onto it here. We do not receive the Spirit separate from Christ. But from the fullness of the triune Godhead does Christ come to us as the only mediator between God and man, imparting His Spirit to us.
Christ is Loved by the Father, v. 35
So often we think about how we are loved by the Father as God’s children, and a wonderful thought it is. But do we ever think or talk about how the Father loves the Son?
J. C. Ryle says of verse 35, “The love of the Father toward the Son here spoken of is a subject far too deep for man to fathom.” Indeed, I find myself without words in how to describe the love of the Father toward the Son, except to say that the love of the Father for the Son makes me love our triune God more. It’s hard to fathom that though the Father loves the Son and puts all things into His hand, he still sent Him to the cross. He still gave His only beloved Son to suffer and die in unfathomable agony for wretched sinners like you and me. Though the Father has loved the Son, yet He poured out His wrath upon Him, without reserve, as the Son became sin on the cross. But He didn’t leave Him there, He raised Him up from the dead and is so well pleased with His Son that He has given all things into His hand.
Think about an implication of this: The Father loved the Son and yet ordained that He would undergo unfathomable suffering. Note this, the presence of pain and suffering is no indicator of the absence of God’s love. In fact, it just may be evidence that you are loved by God. We of course, do not have any penalty or punishment left to pay for our sins as Christ paid it all, yet we undergo trials of various kinds and discipline from the hand of the Lord. Sometimes it’s so painful, and it hurts, and we don’t know how we’ll ever make it, and we may foolishly question God’s wisdom or love in it. But the presence of pain and suffering is no indicator of the absence of God’s love for you. For the Lord disciplines those He loves, as a Father disciplines a son he loves. Proverbs 13:24, “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.”
So if you find yourself to be in a time of trial, or hardship, or discipline, do not despair. It just may be the overflowing love of God being manifested to you, and you can find reassurance that God is your Father, and you are His beloved son or daughter.
If the Father loves the Son in this way, how do you think He feels about sinners who either love or hate His Son? To despise and reject the Son is to poke your dirty pinkie into the eye of God. It’s not going to go over well for you. But oh to love that which God loves! To love the Son, and better yet, be loved by the Son, whom the Father loves.
The Father has loved the Son to such a degree that He has given all things into His hands.
Christ Has Been Given All Things in His Hands, v. 35
What is in the Son’s Hands?
I love what Matthew Henry says here, “Angels are his servants; devils are his captives. He has power over all flesh, the heathen given him for his inheritance.”
Authority, Matthew 28:18
18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
The Nations, Psalm 2:7-8
7 I will tell of the decree:
The Lord said to me, “You are my Son;
today I have begotten you.
8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
The Heart of Kings, Proverbs 21:1
The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord;
he turns it wherever he will.
His People, John 10:28-29
28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me,[a]is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.
Hear what Matthew Henry says, “They [the benefits of salvation] are given into his hands, by him to be given into ours.”
A Rod and Staff, Psalm 23:4
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,[c]
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
He’s got your life in His hands.
The Keys of Death and Hades, Rev. 1:17-18
17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.
He’s got your time and eternity in His hands.
Your death and eternity are in His hands. If we are thus in His hands we have nothing to fear. He has conquered death and hell in His death and resurrection, and it no longer has any sting, or hold, or victory over the Christian. When we die, we will depart from the body and be with Christ. But when Christ returns one day, our spirits will be united again with the body, and we will rise from the dead with new glorified bodies. Death and hell does not win. He’s got the keys in His hands that unlock the graves. He will not leave us in the grave.
Christ is the Hinge Upon Which Life or Wrath Turns, v. 36
By true belief we live forever. For disobedience, wrath remains. Obedience does not justify a sinner before God, but is proof of true belief, which receives justification through faith in Christ.
God is righteously angry at those who disobey the One whom the Father loves – the Son – Psalm 2, “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way…”
Do you believe Jesus Christ and His validated witness and testimony? Or do you call Him a liar and ignore the abundant testimony and witness to the truth? We will know by whether you obey Him or not. If you believe Him, you will obey Him. Not perfectly, but truly, in faith. If you don’t obey Him, we know that you don’t believe Him.
I pray that you would look in faith to the One whom the Father loves, and that your actions would be acted out in faith in God’s Son. Believing Him to be true. Believing your sins to be forgiven. Believing He bled and died for you. Believing He rose again. Believing He ascended to heaven where He sits now enthroned at the right hand of God. Believing He intercedes for you. Believing is your advocate. Believing He will come again. Believing He loves you. And believing obedience is worth it.