Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Superiority of the Divine Life

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Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.
Verse 24. - The oracle is introduced with a solemn Ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν: Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except the corn (or, grain) of wheat, having fallen to the ground, die, it abideth by itself alone: but if it die, it beareth much fruit. The simple illustration of life through death, life triumphing over death. "Even nature protests against the Hellenic fear of death" (Lange). As long as the corn of wheat is scrupulously kept from decomposition and death in the granary, the hidden germ is dormant; let it be sown as "bare grain" (1 Corinthians 15:36, etc.), then the strange force within it puts forth its hidden faculty, the outer covering of this point of energy falls away, and the new thing appears. God gives it a body, and much fruit is brought forth. Thoma suggests that the Johannist here is putting into the lips of Jesus the thoughts of Paul. How much more probable is it that Paul grasped the thought of Jesus, and applied a part of it to the grand argument for the resurrection, both of Christ and Christians! Compare with this the teaching of John 6, where the Bread of life is given for the food of men. Even the "bread-making" for man involves, in another way, the temporary destruction of the living germ in the grain of which it is composed, that it may become the life of men. Christ is himself the "Son of God," the "Logos incarnate," the "Son of man." By becoming, in his death, the food of man's soul, he created thus a new life in the hearts of men. Over and over again our Lord has declared himself to be "the Life," and "the Source of life," for men; but he here lays down the principle that this life-giving power of his is conditioned by his death. The great harvest will be reaped only when he shall have sacrificed his life and put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. It is, too, only as every believing man dies to himself, is crucified with Christ, is dead with him to the world, that he rises again in the newness of life.
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He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.
Verses 25, 26. - The Lord here introduces a solemn, almost oracular utterance, which proves how close and intimate is the relationship between the synoptics and the Fourth Gospel. On several great occasions our Lord has impressed this law of the Spirit of life upon his disciples. Thus in Matthew 10:37-39, in the lengthened commission given to the twelve, after calling on his followers to place his own claim on their affection as greater than that of father, mother, friend, and calling for self-sacrifice, and self-crucifixion, he said, "He that findeth his life (ψυχὴ) shall lose it: he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it." Again (Matthew 16:25, etc.), after rebuking Peter for his unwillingness to recognize the necessity and significance of the killing of "the Son of the living God," he laid down the same law once more, calling for self-denial and daily cross-bearing, and adds, "Whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it." So also Luke 9:23, etc. Luke (Luke 15:26) also introduces the same solemn aphorism in our Lord's discourse concerning the close of the Jewish national life. Surely here he is applying to his own case the law of the Divine life which he had shown to be universal, and of which he was on the point of giving the crowning and climacteric expression. He does it with amplifications and a supply of motives. If life be regarded as an end in itself; if it be treated as complete when rounded with its own individuality; if life shrink from sacrifice, if it "love itself," and will at all hazards preserve itself; if the natural and instinctive fear of death, and instinct of self-preservation, become a self-idolatry; - that life will "abide alone." If it sacrifice itself for higher ends than self; if it regard the higher end as more valuable than itself; if it lose itself in the object to which it is consecrated; if it be content to "die;" - it abideth no longer "alone," but "bringeth forth much fruit."  

Verse 25. - He that loves his own life (ψυχή); life used as equivalent to "self," in that totality of being which, like the life of the seed-corn, survives the accident of death - he that loves his own life (self) is losing it; or, perhaps, destroying it, ipso facto. There are ends and objects of love so much greater than" the self," that to keep it by some act of will and recreant fear is to make it utterly valueless, is really to destroy its true vitality. And he that hateth his (ψυχή) life (self) in this world, wherever the greater claim of Christ and of the Father would be compromised by loving it, shall veritably preserve it, viz. the self, unto eternal (ζωή) life; i.e. to the blessedness of eternal being. The ψυχή is a great possession; and "what advantageth a man if he should gain the whole world, and lose it?" But if a man persists in gaining the world, and forgets that this earthly existence is not capable of satisfying the demands or finding a sphere for the true self, and so makes the earthly reign or enjoyment of the ψυχή the end of all striving, - then he miserably fails. So far it is clear that our Lord is applying a great principle of the true life to the case of his own Messianic work and ministry. He draws, from a law of the superiority of the Divine life to the fear of death and to the fact of death, a justification of his own approaching doom. He can only by dying live his perfect life, win his greatest triumph; reap his world-wide harvest.
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If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.

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