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.
Today we complete our focus on the first three chapters of the Gospel of John. That’s about 24 sermons, and so I compute we are on a trajectory to finish the Gospel in about five years.
The main reason I mention that is to emphasize for us all how much we value the Bible as the very word of God. Preaching through a book with attention to every sentence says loud and clear: We, the people and the preacher, submit ourselves to all of Scripture. We try not to skip parts that may be uncomfortable. We try not to ride hobbyhorses. We believe it is all inspired by God and profitable for us.
Worshiping Our Way Through This Gospel
John said at the end of his Gospel, “These are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31). That’s our great aim in worshiping our way through this Gospel—to see the glory of Christ and believe and have eternal life and joy.
Jesus said, “The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life” (John 6:63). And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). What sort of eternal life is it? It is a joyful eternal life. Jesus said in John 15:11, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”
Why would we not want to spend five years swimming in this ocean of life and joy?
Which John Is Speaking?
So here we are in the last six verses of John 3, starting at verse 31. John the Baptist has just said in verse 30, “He [Jesus] must increase, but I must decrease.” Notice that the ESV closes the quotation of John the Baptist at the end of verse 30 with quotation marks.
That means the ESV translators think that John the writer of the Gospel starts talking in verse 31. Some versions continue the quote from John the Baptist to the end of the chapter. There is simply no way to be sure. Quotation marks are not used in the original manuscripts.
In the end, it doesn’t seem to make much difference, because if John the Gospel writer is talking, he’s taking into account what John the Baptist just said. And if he is still quoting John the Baptist, he is quoting him to make the point he wants to make by what he chooses to record. Either way, we are getting the words of God’s inspired writer.
Lifting Up Jesus
In summary, here’s what John gives us (either John!). We get another expression of John 1:14 and 16. “The Word became flesh [that is, the Son of God, came into the world as the God-man Jesus the Messiah] and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. . . . And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”
That is what is happening in every text of this Gospel in one way or another. Jesus is being held up as glorious—magnificent, splendid, supreme—full of grace and truth. And as we are enabled to see him for who he really is, grace upon grace streams into our lives. And Jesus becomes for us the most precious reality in the world—forgiving all our sins, providing all our righteousness, and becoming an all-satisfying Treasure and Friend.
Jesus: From God, Full of God, As God
That is what is happening in John 3:31–36. Jesus is held up before us as coming from God, and full of God, and speaking and ruling as God, so that eternity divides between those who seal God as true in Jesus and those who seal God as a liar. The one has eternal life, and the other remains under the wrath of God. That’s the sum of what’s here.
So I pray now that as I point to Jesus as from God, and full of God, and speaking and ruling as God, you will have ears to hear. Take heed how you hear. In this moment, God is calling and confirming his sheep. John 10:27: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” Or John 8:47: “Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”
So I urge you with all the seriousness I can: Hear the word of God, and see in it the glory of God. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). That is what I am praying for us all.
1) Jesus Is from God
First, Jesus is held up before us as from above, from heaven, from God the Father.
Verse 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.” Verse 34: “For he whom God has sent utters the words of God.” So in three different ways, John tells us Jesus does not have his origin on earth but with God in heaven. Verse 31 at the beginning: “from above.” Verse 31 at the end: “from heaven.” Verse 34 at the beginning: “God has sent.” And in the context of chapter 3, this can only refer to Jesus.
The One from Heaven Above
To make clear what this distinction means, John contrasts everybody else in verse 31 with Jesus: “He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way.” That would include John the Baptist in distinction to Jesus, and everybody else.
The verse is literally, “He who is from the earth is from the earth.” The point here is the same as in John 3:6 where Jesus said to Nicodemus, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” In other words, everyone is born in a natural way through the flesh, and that is all we are, flesh—or as he says here “from the earth.” Natural. Earthly, not spiritual. With no supernatural life. Just human and fallen and in need of new birth. That’s the point. Every person is in this category, except one—Jesus.
Jesus and Adam
Listen to this amazing explanation from Paul of what Jesus is saying here. This is 1 Corinthians 15:47–49:
The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.
So Paul and Jesus see two categories of people: Adam and Jesus. One earthly. The other “from heaven”—just like John says. All of us bear the image of Adam and his sinful condition. Adam is the head of the earthly human race. And all who believe in Jesus bear his image and his righteous condition. Jesus is the head of a new human race—the family of God.
Paul puts it like this in Romans 5:17 and 19:
If, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. . . For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.
One Who Is Infinitely Different
Now back to John 3:31: “He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way.” That’s Jesus and the rest of us. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh” (John 3:6). If the Son of God had not been sent “from above,” “from heaven,” “from God,” we would all remain in our sin and under God’s wrath. So John is saying: There is one who is infinitely different. He does not share in Adam’s sin. He is not merely “from earth.”
“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:1, 14). He is from above, from heaven, from God. And he has come into the world, without sin, on a mission to rescue sinners (John 3:17).
2) Jesus Is Full of God
Second, not only is he from God, but he is also full of God.
There is something very profound and very mysterious and very wonderful at the end of verse 34 and the beginning of verse 35. Let’s read both those verses, and you make the connection between the end and the beginning of the verses.
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.
Remember to ignore verse divisions as much as you can. Take the last part of verse 34 and the first part of verse 35 without a break: “God gives the Spirit [to the one whom he sent] without measure. . . . The Father loves the Son.” (Two present tenses: The Father is always giving the Son the Spirit without measure and always loving the Son.)
The Tip of a Trinitarian Iceberg
I’m going to give you the tip of the iceberg of what I think is here and then challenge you to watch for it elsewhere in Scripture. God gives the one whom he sent the Spirit without measure. What does that mean?
It means that there is an infinite difference between the way the Son of God receives the Spirit of God and the way we receive the Spirit. The difference is that he receives it “without measure.” The way the Son of God receives the Spirit of God is measureless. It cannot be measured. Why not? Because it is infinite. God communicates, imparts, bestows his Spirit on the Son infinitely. As much as there is of the Spirit, the Son has. As many ways as he can have him, he has him in all those ways. As fully as the Spirit can be known and enjoyed, in all that fullness he knows and enjoys the Spirit of God.
What Is the Spirit of This Spirit?
Now here is a question. Jesus says in John 4:24, “God is spirit.” If God is spirit, what is his Spirit? What is the Spirit of this spirit being? What does it mean for a spirit to give his Spirit without measure to his Son?
My answer is that verse 35 points to the answer. “The Father loves the Son.” God, who is spirit, gives the Spirit to his Son without measure—the Father loves the Son. Why does John follow the giving of the Spirit to the Son with the loving of the Son by the Father?
The Love of God Personified
Could it be that the Spirit of God is the fully divine Third Person of the Trinity who personifies the love of God? That is, when God, who is spirit, fully, infinitely, communicates his love to his Son, is this not the giving of the Holy Spirit without measure? In other words, the Spirit of God (the God who is spirit) is love. And this love for the Son is so full, and carries so much of the fullness of the Father, that this love is himself God—the love of God embodied, as it were, in the Second Person of the Trinity.
The Father’s eternal love for the Son carries so much of himself in it that this love is the fullness of deity in the Second Person of the Trinity. As the Son is the eternal self-knowing of the Father, the Spirit is the eternal self-loving of the Father. And this knowing and loving are so full of the Father that they stand forth from all eternity, without beginning, as fully God—God the Son and God the Spirit. The Son is the fullness of the Father as his perfect image. And the Spirit is the fullness of the Father loving this image, the Son.
So the second thing John does in this text is point us to the fact that Jesus, the Son of God, is infinitely unlike us not only in that he is from God, and we are from the earth, but also that he is full of God. He has the Spirit without measure. The Father has given him the Spirit infinitely from all eternity—that is, he has loved him eternally with all that he is. And all that he is in this love is the person of the Holy Spirit.
3) Jesus Speaks and Rules As God
Third, Jesus is held up before us not only as coming from God, and full of God, but also as speaking and ruling as God.
First, he speaks as God. Verse 32: “He bears witness to what he has seen and heard.” Who is this? He is “the one who comes from above and is above all.” So what he has seen and heard is what he has seen and heard in heaven, in God. He is speaking the words of God.
Verse 34: “For he whom God has sent utters the words of God.” He is not speaking them the way I speak them. I am dependent on Jesus to know what God thinks in heaven. But Jesus is from heaven. He has the Spirit of God infinitely. He is from God, and full of God, and is God. So when he speaks, he speaks the words of God. When you hear Jesus, you hear God.
And not only does he speak as God, but he rules as God. Verse 31: “He who comes from above is above all.” Above all—meaning above them in power and authority and every other way, except sin.
All Things into His Hand
Verse 35: “The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand.” All things are given by God into the hand of Jesus. He’s got the whole world, and the itty-bitty baby, and you and me brother in his hand. To have something in your hand put there by God is to rule it.
So John is lifting up Jesus as the ruler of all things. Paul said, “And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17). Hebrews 1:3 says, “He upholds the universe by the word of his power.”
So what is John trying to do? Jesus is from God and is full of God and speaks and rules as God. And we are from the earth, and we speak from the earth (verse 31), and apart from him, we rule nothing. The point? As always: to reveal “his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” And to show that we need from his fullness exactly what he is full of—“grace upon grace” (John 1:14, 16).
Eternity Divides at Jesus
So John shows again, as he has more than once, that right here, in the presence of this magnificent Jesus, eternity divides. One person believes, and puts his seal on Jesus: “God as true.” Another person disobeys—that is, refuses to believe on Jesus—and makes God a liar.
Verse 32–33: “He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true.” “No one receives.” Then, “whoever receives.” What do you make of that?
You Must Be Born Again
It’s what Jesus said to Nicodemus when he was baffled by the new birth. John 3:11: “We speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony.” You must be born again. In other words, John means here in 3:32–33 that no one receives Jesus’ testimony in their natural condition “from the earth.” They must be born again. But those who are born again “receive his testimony and set their seal to this, that God is true.”
Since Jesus is full of God, to receive Jesus and believe Jesus is to say yes to God and all his word. There is such a union between Jesus and God that when we say yes to Jesus, we put our stamp, our seal, of approval on all that God is and says.
Sealing God As True or Not
The opposite is to make God a liar. 1 John 5:10: “Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar.”
And the final effect of sealing God as true in Jesus and making God as a liar in Jesus is the difference between eternal life and eternal wrath. Verse 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.”
See His Glory
So I lift him up before you one more time, with the prayer that you will see his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth, and from his glory will receive grace upon grace, and believe in him as from God, and full of God, and speaking and ruling as God and coming into the world to die for sinners, and believing in him have eternal life.