The Teaching of the Three Days Mentioned in John i.
THE testimony of John the Baptist concerning the Lord Jesus is recorded here, a testimony connected with three days, which seem to me to indicate the way in which souls are led on by the Spirit in the knowledge of God. You get, in those three days, in the testimony of John concerning Christ, the history of a soul that receives blessing from God—a most important subject for us indeed.
There is a wonderful similarity between John i. and Genesis i. Both commence with the word "beginning," but John goes further back than Moses in Genesis. He takes us away back to eternity before the creation of the world and reveals to us the Person who never had a beginning. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John i. 1). Then, seven days are spoken of in Genesis, and John i. also speaks of seven days. On the first day, in Genesis, "God said, Let there be light, and there was light" (i. 3). So in John i., it is said that John the Baptist came to bear witness of the light (ver. 6, 7). In Genesis ii., we have recorded the marriage of Adam to Eve; so when you come to the seventh day in John ii., there is the marriage at Cana, foreshadowing the last marriage that Scripture speaks of, "the marriage of the Lamb." Just as the Lord turned the water into wine at the marriage in Cana, so the Lord will turn water into wine at the marriage supper of the Lamb. Then He will turn the water of earth's afflictions into the wine of heaven's joy. As beloved Mr. [Henry] Dyer said at one time, "The more water now, the more wine then." As the Lord manifested His glory in connection with the marriage in Cana, so surely He will manifest His glory in His coming marriage day in heaven; not only His own glory, but His bride will be associated with Him in His glory then. Let me point out the seven days mentioned in John i. and ii. In verse 29 we read: "The next day"—that is the second day. Then in verse 35 we read: "The next day after"—which is the third day. Then in verse 43, "the day following" is mentioned, which is the fourth, and in chap. ii. 1, the "third day," i.e., the third day after the previous one mentioned in verse 43, which makes up seven days in all.
I would call your attention to the remarkable difference between the testimony of John the Baptist, as recorded in the first three gospels, and that in John's gospel. His testimony, as given in the first three gospels, is dispensational. He said, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." In John's gospel, there is nothing said about the kingdom in connection with John's testimony. Dispensational truth has its place in Scripture. We cannot understand the Scriptures aright if we do not understand dispensational truth. But there are great moral principles running through all dispensations in the Scriptures, some of which are presented in John's gospel. The first thing you get is that Christ is the light. It is not so much that "God is light": that is told us in John's epistle. Christ is presented here in His divine character. His divine glory is constantly mentioned in this gospel, so you get in the first epistle of John that "God is light," and in his gospel that Christ is light.
John came bearing witness to the light. This is the first thing that a soul learns divinely. In our spiritual experience, this was the first truth impressed upon our conscience, that God is light, that Christ is light. The effect of the light is to disclose God and expose us. In the gospel of John, you get these two things running side by side—the effect of the light upon all those who come in contact with the light. It exposes and discloses—man exposed, God disclosed.
Let me mention a few instances of the many in this gospel. Nicodemus comes to the Lord to get instruction. He was no mean man—he was a ruler of the Jews. He says to the Lord: "We know Thou art a teacher come from God," &c. The Lord met him on his own ground. He comes to the Lord as a teacher to be taught. He could not teach that which was born of the flesh, for it is incapable of receiving divine teaching. The flesh cannot be instructed in spiritual things. It is nothing else than flesh. You may educate it as much as you please, but you cannot make spirit of it. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again." That was the light turned on a religious man. "You must know Me as a Saviour before you can know me as a divine instructor.''
There is not only here the exposure of man, but there is also the disclosure of the heart of God, as Christ takes this religious man to the type of the brazen serpent, the Son of Man lifted up on the Cross. There we see the love of God shining forth in all its saving power. Not only do we see the love of God shining forth from the Cross, but we learn there also that the Son of Man, the only begotten of the Father, gives everlasting life to all who believe in Him. Here we have not only light exposing man, but the love and grace of God revealed.
We have another instance of this in John iv. As the Lord of Glory sat on the well in Sychar, a woman of Samaria comes to draw water. He pours into that desolate heart the treasures of divine grace. But before He does that, He turns the light of the Scripture on her past life and present state. She was exposed to herself by that searching light. Next, the heart of God was disclosed to her, and then, in the joy of that revelation, she goes and says: "Come, see a Man [I love these words, 'a Man'] who told me all that ever I did." That Man was "God manifest in the flesh," the Christ of God, the Man who gave joy to the heart of God. There you get the exposure of man and the disclosure of God.
Then take John viii. Here you get, again, man exposed and God disclosed. These Scribes and Pharisees bring to the Lord a woman taken in adultery, and they say unto Him: "Now, the law of Moses commands us to stone such. What sayest Thou of her? And He stooped down and wrote on the ground." I have often pondered this act of the Lord. It seems to imply this: He stoops down just to rise up and turn the flashlight upon them. They could not stand it. They went out; they could not bear the blaze of divine light upon their conscience. That woman was left alone with the light. There she was exposed, but the grace of Christ was also disclosed there to her. He says: "Hath no man condemned thee? She said, ‘No man, Lord.’ “Neither do I condemn thee; go, and sin no more.'' Peace and power.
That is the story of the gospel of John. That is the beginning of a soul's history with God. If you have not commenced there, then I am afraid for you. The first real teaching is this: "God is light," and in that light I see myself a poor, vile, hell-deserving sinner. But in that light, I read what God is able to do for me, a poor, bankrupt, enslaved sinner.
"The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world." (verse 29). First it is the Light, then it is the Lamb. This is divine order. The Son of God has come down as the Lamb of God to put away by His death, everything that has been exposed by the light. Am I near to the light? Do I live in the light? In the Book of Revelation (xxi. 23), we read in connection with the great city, the holy Jerusalem, that the Lamb is the light thereof, and the nations of them that are saved shall walk in the light of it. The Lamb is also the light in the gospels. I am not afraid of that light. I see it shining in the face of Jesus Christ. Every ray of that light is an encouragement to me to draw near because it shines in the face of Him who has put away my sin by the sacrifice of Himself. All has been settled to the glory of God. The One who met the claims of that glory adorns that throne. There is nothing the light makes manifest which the blood of the Lamb has not already blotted out. There is no single revelation that the light gives that Christ has not met according to the claims of the throne of God. That gives perfect peace. There are many souls born again, and even in the companies of the Lord's people, who lack this peace. I don't doubt their conversion, but they don't enjoy peace. Peace is connected with apprehending the value and preciousness of the work of Christ on behalf of the sinner.
There is another thing connected with the second day—the communion of the Spirit. This One who is set before us as the Lamb of God is the Son of God who baptizeth with the Holy Spirit. Power is connected with the Spirit. The blood makes it possible for the Spirit to dwell in all who have known its cleansing power. I have that in me (the flesh) which is offensive to God. How then, can the Holy Spirit dwell in such? The children of Israel despised the bread from heaven. The flesh in me has no more desire for the divine manna, no more heart for Christ than it had in my unconverted days. But God takes my side against the flesh. All in me so offensive to God is already condemned. I don't look for the flesh to be sanctified; the flesh has been judged once for all in the Person of Christ on the Cross. The old man has been crucified. God has gone into the whole question of sin. He has condemned sin in the flesh, on that ground the Spirit dwells in every believer.
Verse 31: "Again the next day after [the third day] John stood, and two of his disciples, and looking upon Jesus as He walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God." He does not say here anything about sin taken away. That is not raised now. It is the Person of Christ we are here called upon to behold. "They followed Jesus." This implies discipleship. The Lamb who redeemed me is the Lord to guide me. The Lamb to cleanse my conscience is the Lord to command my heart's deepest love. The One who brings me in perfect peace into the light of the presence of God is the One who is to fill every crevice of my heart. The third day speaks of satisfaction. The blood for the conscience; but the Person for the heart.
Let your eye run over this wonderful verse. What a setting forth of the perfections of Christ! Here John is not preaching at all. God made use of him when he left off preaching. He was simply enjoying Christ. That rough man of the desert, as he stood there enjoying Christ, had such an influence on these two men that they were soon lost in that wonderful Person whom John was adoring and worshipping. John was not jealous although his congregation became smaller. First, he was "the voice of one crying in the wilderness." People come to our meetings; they hear the voice, but how few are attracted to Christ through our preaching. John said he was the friend of the Bridegroom, rejoicing greatly because of the Bridegroom's voice. You don't hear further of John after that. You don't miss the stars when the sun rises.
The two disciples followed Jesus—they became disciples. Discipleship costs a great deal; salvation costs nothing.
That is the third day. They followed Jesus, and He encouraged them. "What seek ye?" "Thou art the object of our search. Where dwellest Thou?" What you get in the gospel of John is the sight on earth of a lowly Man, and that blessed Man the only-begotten Son dwelling in the bosom of the Father. He was always there in the deepest joy of His soul. These men were encouraged to see where He dwelt. They were brought into intimacy with His wonderful Person. That is what we are called into even now. They disappear for the time, but afterwards one of them comes out as a missionary. Those mighty men who were honoured by David in his kingdom were the men who came to him at the first in the cave of Adullum. They were the most disreputable lot of men you ever saw. They were discontented men, disgusted with everything; but they gathered to David, and owned him as God's anointed king. David transformed them completely. They came out with the stamp of noblemen, the real aristocracy, and they gratified the heart of David, who longed for a drink from the well of Bethlehem. These three mighty men took their lives in their hands and broke through the host of the Philistines, and brought water to David, who poured it out to the Lord as a drink-offering.
How can such characters be produced to-day? Keep in the company of Christ. There is power in being with Him. Keep company with Christ and you will become assimilated to Him. Andrew comes out of that heavenly company and says: "I must bring my brother Peter into it.'' He begins at home. You read no more of Andrew, and you don't need. Having found Simon, he would surely find many others after.
O that we knew the secret of this third day's experience following Christ, our souls being attracted to Him in the power of the Spirit.
“The Witness” 1900