Andrew Abernethy – Het Evangelie near Johannes – translated from Dutch to English

The Gospel of John. In the first chapter the words of Jesus are “Follow Me;” in the 12th chapter, the words of Jesus are “Follow Me;” and in the last chapter, the words of Jesus are “Follow Me.” This is a grand part of the Bible. I do not know if it is right to be partial in the Bible, but I will have to confess to a certain partiality of the Bible. This is a statement of a man of God, the summing up of over 60 years of walking with God. What was so vivid to him in the beginning was more so 60 years later. He was setting forth foundation truths and that is a need that will be amongst us, in us collectively and individually. “If the foundation is destroyed, what can the righteous do?” There are foundation truths in this Book we dare not ever let get away from us. John the apostle is sometimes mentioned as the person the Lord had a special liking for, and He possibly did, but the impression is Jesus thought more of John then the other apostles, but have you noticed that John is the only one who mentions it? In Matthew, Mark and Luke they do not make mention of the fact that Jesus had a special inclination towards John. Peter makes no mention of it. That existed only in the thoughts, imagination and heart of John, very much the same as you and I probably would have the thought that the Lord has been a little more merciful, generous and forgiving, a little more kind to us than anyone else. You and I know it, that is sincere, that is not pretense; and I am telling you it is sincere because we know a little more about ourselves than anyone else, a little more about our struggles and how much the Lord has had to forgive us, the bountiful supply of mercy, and because of that it steals into us unconsciously occasionally. The Lord has favoured us a little more than anyone else because we have known more about our failures than anyone else. “Let each esteem others better than themselves.” This works both ways, it will if we are right, if we know ourselves living and walking before God it will work both ways, we feel the Lord has been a little more to us.
This part of the Gospel as I read…This part of the Gospel of John, as I read it over a number of times some time ago, I tried to think about this as an entire chapter to get a look at this picture as a unit, not narrative by narrative or chapter by chapter, but stand back and get a look, to see what this man of God set forth, and what he set forth is God’s way. What is God’s Way? From my earliest years I have had a lot of difficulty in explaining to people who would ask me about God’s Way. God’s Way, what is it? Maybe you feel you can explain this. Maybe you have in your thoughts that you can go to some stranger, a person who knows nothing about it or not as well, and you can explain it. If you think you can it is because you do not understand much about this Way, because this is so vast and so much about it. Not alone how men and women were sent out to preach the Gospel without a collection or salary and without a home. It is not mentioned in the gospel of John, no mention made about these things. Sometimes we overemphasize in trying to explain about God’s Way. Nothing mentioned about the church meeting in the home. Do not misunderstand what I am trying to get at. There never was another Way, and never will be another Way to be right, never another way to meet together acceptably before God but the Way taught in the covers of this Book, but these outward things do not make up or constitute God’s Way, they are minor. I do not mean to say they are not important, but something very much greater, and if this is not in order all the outward form does not mean very much. I know men going out preaching two by two, but not right. I know people meeting together in a home to worship God, but they are not right, that does not make it right. I do not know if you have any difficulty in your mind about the Way.
In this Gospel of John the word “true” or “truth” is mentioned so many times, true light, there never was another; true bread, there never was another; true worship, and there never could be another; true Vine, only the one fellowship. This is God’s eternal Truth. I have known of some who question and allow themselves to be filled up with this thought of endless genealogy, and wonder if any were living and preaching this way 2,000 or 4,000 years ago. God’s people ask, “How do you know, how are you sure you are in God’s True and Living Way, that someday this will not let you down, will not be disappointed in it?” I was very happy to hear the answer to those people preaching about that, “The reason I am sure is because I heard the Gospel, and when I listened to the message brought us by the servants of God it gave to me, in my heart, a revelation of Jesus Christ, there was given to me a conviction in my heart. No one argued with me, no one tried to persuade me. As I listened I knew this given me was the revelation God had given to me of Jesus Christ as God’s eternal Way.” A man spoke up without hesitation and said, “The reason I know, one of the reasons I am sure that I am in God’s true Way is because of the servants of God. I see in my brothers and sisters the marks of God’s work.” God could not be able otherwise; there is no place else in the world of the evidence of God among His people, no question about genealogy, whether someone was preaching this in 1492 or 1847. The evidence of God in His people today. An aged lady spoke up, was in her 80s and 50 years professing, and she said, “One of the reasons not mentioned yet is because, from the day I professed, 50 years ago, everything I have ever seen, and what has been brought to me, is according to the Book.”
Three reasons why we know we are in God’s true and Living Way, why we have the evidence: there are some personal reasons in this Gospel of John mentioned by the Spirit of God. Something more. I would like to try if I may, I don’t know if thoughts will come back to me or not, but some thoughts mean an awful lot in the work of God and in the house of God, to take a look at the right picture or phases of what God gives to us in the Gospel, that we are in this Living Way of God. First of all you will read about life. To ask people to follow Jesus without obtaining life is asking the impossible. The most hopeless and pitiable thing is to have men in the world preaching about Jesus and asking people to follow Jesus, but never pointing men and women to the means bringing that about. Those men know nothing about the Living God. Perhaps John the apostle mentioned this more than any other writer. If you will go over this carefully with me – the first 10 chapters are taken up with the Gospel story and mention made of Life Eternal. The words of the hymn we sing, the words of the writer, “’Twas Life I got, not theory.” When there is life there can be growth, when there is life there is bound to be growth, when there is life there is bound to be progress. We talk amongst ourselves in this fellowship about being in the Way, knowing the Way, finding the Way – very nice to a certain extent, but a whole lot more vastly important that the Way is in us. It is one thing to be in the Way, but very much more for the Way to be in us. It is one thing to be in the Way, but very much more for the Way to be in us; for us to know the Truth, but it is the Truth in us. If the Way is not in us we are not going to walk in the Way, we are going to be out of the Way, even though in the fellowship. I have had more than one person come to me after professing among the Lord’s people, seemed to be right and sincere, and they meant it, and say, “If you see me out of the Way, doing something not wise, I want you to be kind enough to tell me about it.” Don’t be afraid, I won’t do it. One nice thing about it is you hardly ever have to tell them one thing, because God tells them – His people are taught of God, and try to learn more and more about what pleases their Father, looking for the things God teaches, and rarely any word has to be said to them, for the Lord tells them first. When you look at men and women, old or young, 50 years professing or 50 days, 14 years of age or 75 years of age, if the Way is in them, they are walking in the Way. If God has given them light, if regeneration has come they will walk in the Way because God has put it into their heart to do it. I think some of the words Workers most frequently write about people recently professing, that gladness of heart, it is the evidence that the Living God has given them Life, the surrender made, and God has given them life and quickened them, and now bound to grow. We do not need to tell people “you have life” to grow. Parents do not need to tell their children to grow. All the healthy, normal child needs is to be given care, they are bound to grow, and a healthy child of God is bound to grow, progress and learn, and if they are not, there is very grave danger there is no life there. John wrote of some going out who were not of us, nothing else for them to do because there was no life in any of them, none of the quickening of God in them, therefore it was the only possible outcome, never any evidence of life about them.
We also have a saying amongst us: “when we found the Way” or “found the Lord” – but did we? Was it not the fact the Lord found us, we did not find Him. I do not mean it is wrong to use that statement, but in the first chapter it says, “Jesus findeth Philip.” Philip did not find Jesus; and then Philip went to another and said “We have found the Messiah,” but in reality it was Jesus who found him. We may say “we are looking for the Truth,” but we are not. We might have been looking for something better than we had, but we did not know there was any Truth, nothing in the world existing like this. But they also say, “I never knew there was anything like this people in the world,” this treasure hid in a field, and a man has found it because God guided him to it or made it available, the Lord made the circumstances required to find it. None of us knew anything about the Truth, only as God first of all found us. Nathaniel said, “When did you know us? Whence knowest Thou me?” The Lord saw us before we ever had hope the Lord was interested. It is not wrong if you give your testimony and tell when the Lord found you. If there is no Life there can be no progress. We do well to look in ourselves for the evidence of Life from God. Many times I find myself praying sincerely to God that He would give us the evidence He was with us, among us, individually with us. What is the Way? Maybe you say it is made up in thoughts, feelings, and our attitude. This Way is made of that going on in the heart, this way is honoured within the heart-nobility where none will ever know except God and ourselves, made up of an inner life. Jesus said to the woman of Samaria, “The hour is come when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in Truth and sincerity,” no hypocrisy, no pretense, and this is for eternity. This living God gives us and helps us, it is a compulsion, it is for eternity, there is no fooling in this, the true worshippers worship God in Spirit and in Truth.
What is the Way of God? How can we explain it? It is a mystery. What makes it different? Not the difference in doctrine. I have had arguments with clergymen, and we could go on for hours, no agreement, we had perfect disagreement, not because we differed in doctrine or the way we go to preach, or we have a church in the home and they put up a building. The difference is, one comes from God and the other is of the earth, one is sent by God. The difference is God is in it; the other, God is not in it. People will resent that, but there is no other way to tell them, no other explanation. In this Gospel I counted up to about 57 times that the word SENT is used, and I wondered why all this “sent forth.” Was it so that in the mind of this man of God, the differences between all false religions, whether so-called Christianity, Mohammedanism, Buddhism, Catholicism, and true Christianity, the difference is because one is sent of God and the other is not. That pool of Siloam did not originate in Jerusalem, and it was sent there, and because of that it was typical of the Living Waters God sends from Heaven to the world, a whole lot different from the stagnant pool of Siloam that men had been hanging around, some for many years, like the pool you were hanging around, did not originate from God, different, no power to help and save you. We have Nicodemus, the religious man, the woman of Samaria so low in the world, the lame man and the blind man, but Nicodemus was a blind man, and the woman of Samaria a lame woman, in that she had no power to walk. “Born not of the flesh, or the will of man.” Nicodemus did not become a child of God because some of his ancestors were Jews. “Nor born of blood.” He thought he was a child of God because he was of the Israelite nation. “Not of the flesh.” In chapter 4, the woman of Samaria said of her people, “Our fathers worshiped in this mountain.” That was their own will and effort, but it never brought life to her or them. The other is “not of the will of man.” The pool of Siloam was of the will of man, and it was a very powerless, lifeless thing for those hanging around, and Jesus told the man, “Get up and get out of here,” exactly the words the Lord told you when you were hanging around the old stagnant pool, when the Lord called you. Not hard to get out because you realized you were lame and blind, no hope for you. Jesus said, “I did not come of Myself, My Father sent Me.” I could not tell you how many times those words are used, “I came not to do My own will, but the will of My Father.” “I came not to please Myself but the One who sent Me.” Over and over again Jesus emphasizes this. He was telling men and women God was in it and among it, God is with it, and this only is God’s Way. It must be if God is in it, among it and with it. We may talk about being in God’s Way, but the day God leaves it, it is no longer His Way, no matter if we are out and preaching two by two. If God leaves us it is an empty House; it is only His work as long as He has control of it. God never gave His work, or the control of His work into the will of man. This is only God’s work as He is controlling and directing those who are the guides of His people. Joshua had succeeded Moses, and I do not know if he had any lofty thoughts about himself or not, but one day he looked up and saw an angel standing ahead of him with a drawn sword, and asked, “Are you for us or are you an adversary”; and the answer was, “As captain of the host of Israel came I,” and Joshua fell on his face prostrate, and his words were, “What sayest my lord to thy servant?” If there was any thought he was going to be the one giving the orders it was dispelled. “I am the Captain, the Lord” – retained control over His work and retained control over everything that was done. I could not put too much emphasis on the fact that it is only as He works, as long as the Lord is controlling this work, and controlling those engaged in this work. Jesus said, “I have been sent of my Father.”
In connection with this, those words Paul uses in 1st Corinthians 9, “Woe is unto me if I preach not the gospel…necessity is upon me. If I do this thing willingly, of my own will, I have a reward, but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me.” A little puzzle in that for some people. Paul was in the work of God, not of his own will; he did not go to preach because he willed it. “If I am in it of my own will I will get a reward, I will get paid for it.” These clergymen are in it of their own will, they get paid for it, they get a reward for it, but if I am in the work because God sent me, I am a steward, I must preach the Gospel, because it is the will of God for me. This work is the work of God, God is in it. We are not preaching the Gospel because some other person persuaded us to do this, or because we looked over the field – if we are in the work like this it will come to nothing. It is not men and women who are able to expound the Scriptures, not men and women who are fluent and can explain this to men and women. It is not preachers we need, it is labourers. When I say “preacher,” I imply the thought of giving. They are influenced by the need of this House, by those who will give themselves in all true humility and unselfishly in the world. This is the first requirement in this work of the Gospel.
Another mark of this glorious work of God. Chapter 3:27, “A man can receive nothing except it be given him from heaven.” The truest example of what it means to be in the work of God is given by John the Baptist. He was a burning and a shining light, he was the fore-runner, and his whole time and effort was taken up with pointing to Jesus who was coming. In chapter 10 there are the words, “all that ever came before Me are thieves and robbers.” John, though he baptized Jesus, he told Him, “Comest Thou to be baptized of me?” He put himself in the background, no projecting of himself in the foreground. John decreased and Jesus increased. We should earnestly seek this mark and never let it go. When the people told him, “Jesus is making more disciples than you,” they were trying to promote rivalry between them, but they did not know the man. Jesus said, “A man can receive nothing except it be given him from Heaven.” Nothing can be given to any one of us who is a part of this fellowship except by God. What we take will not long be ours, what is given us of the Lord will never be taken from us. It made John content to serve how and when he did, no rivalry, no climbing up, no pulling someone down in order for ourselves to climb up – a man receives nothing unless God grants it.
Chapter 6:57, this is again in connection with Life: He said, “The living Father hath sent Me.” He lived because of Him, He was bound up in His Father and the Father was bound up in Him. “He that eateth Me, even he shall live by Me.” He that partakes of the divine Spirit of Life because He is bound up with the Spirit of God, and also God is bound up with Him. This is part of abiding in the Vine in chapter 15, that great eternal truth, perhaps more for those who are His servants. If there was a severing of the connection with Jesus and the Father, there could be no possibility of any fruit coming from them. He told them either to be cut back or cut off. It is good to see men and women serving God for 40-50 years and satisfied in it – not cast away. Sometimes people have tools in their homes almost worn out, but they will not part with them. There are people of God not castaways, the Lord can take them out to do a certain work even after 40-50 years, after 50 years in the Way of God doing their best work. We do not need to be castaways in the House of God. You and I can do the best work at the end of life if we are still in the hands of the Master, and we have retained this that is so vital—life.
Chapter 7:16-18, this means more to me than going on without a home or collection. To me the thought of ever preaching for money is foreign. I do not mind preaching for nothing, not enough money in the United States to pay me for preaching for money. Money is no temptation to me. As far as being willing for these conditions I find it easy, but there is one not so easy, “He that speaketh of himself speaketh of things not from God.” He that speaks to impress and make a following and given to display seeks his own glory – that is not God’s Way, that is not the True Way. “He that seeks the glory of Him that sent Him the same is true and no unrighteousness in him.” Speaking of ourselves or speaking of God, speaking of earth or speaking of Heaven. In chapter 10 you read of the two doors, the one for shepherds and the other for sheep. The door for shepherds is willingness to go, because God is sending them into His work, not going where we please, not making our own plans or our own decisions, not just for ourselves, “As My Father hath sent Me so send I you.” It means an awful lot to enter through this door; to be a true shepherd of the sheep, and more than going out into the world and taking no money. It means as Jesus said to Philip, “Follow Me.” As He said to the men in talking about the corn of wheat, “Follow Me.” To follow Him is exactly what Jesus said. He said, “You will go in and out and find pasture.” Because of this true and Living Way, there will be lots of pasture. It will certainly be to our credit as we gather together that there are full garners among us. We often talk about bread, but there will not be bread because we talk about it. There will be no bread unless there have been oxen drawn to labour. I hope this House will not be empty because of the lack of men and women who will not be willing to labour. “Where no oxen are, the crib is clean.” Where there is lack of labour among the servants of God there can be no full granary. What a grand condition whether you are on top or down in the doldrums, there is something in the granary to meet your needs, because someone laboured. If we could have meetings that are rich, there would be a zest for that meeting, for that hour to come because of what we know, what is going to come, because there are oxen strong to labour. In God’s Way there are rich pastures.
Jesus took that little family, Mary, Martha and their brother and showed what His Gospel could bring about in this Living Way. Chapter 12, Lazarus sat at the table – fellowship. A picture is given of Martha serving, and the last of Mary coming, and an outpouring of the highest adoration and overflowing love of God. She was pouring out that extra. It is that extra pouring out, it is that above and beyond what is our duty, that little bit of time that you think you are getting by with, even with God. This came about in the Way of Jesus, fellowship with Jesus. Lazarus was at the table, and the service we may perform, but do not get so much taken up with service that we forget that adoration or worship, and what Mary did meant more than all others, that which comes from the overflowing wealth of God in the heart. Mary let the precious ointment go, but won a good name for all eternity. She let the precious box go, and gave the little extra of worship and service to the Lord. It says the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. This was a climate, not just meeting, not just friendless and hopeless, not just visiting together. If this is the Way of God there is a clime the house is filled with, an odour of sacrifice over and beyond the call of duty. There is an atmosphere that thrills us, a fellowship that is quickening. No wonder others got the benefit of that sacrifice. Where today you find the person giving that extra cost, a little more costly than 20 years ago, you will find the man or woman putting the clime in the House, that odour that pleases God and also His people. God forbid you have a House without the fragrance, without the little extra. She encouraged Jesus to die. I thank God for every man or woman who encourages me to do that. Many would try to take an easier way even in the House of God. Jesus was encouraged by that sacrifice to die.
In the upper room where Jesus washed their feet this thought was in my mind – where did that water come from that Jesus used to wash their feet? If you remember reading of the two incidents in Luke 22 – two men sent to make ready for this Passover, and they were told, “There shall be a man meet you carrying a pitcher of water; ask him where is the guest chamber where we may make ready.” Do you know anybody who is identified by a pitcher of water? Do you know any children of God identified with the pitcher? That was the water Jesus used to wash the feet of the disciples. They did not have running water, that man brought it, and Jesus used it that day to wash the feet of another. It is a very great privilege to be able to be so in the hands of God, to be an instrument that we are able to be washed. The wonderful power of influence and example, those who would wash the feet of their brethren. I have been cleansed many times by those who have the pitcher of water. When David asked Abigail to be his wife, and she knew he was going to be the king she said, “Let thy handmaid be a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my lord.” Let me be a servant to serve those who serve you. I feel sure that is God’s Way. Do you get what I mean, of the tremendous high standard of what it means to be in this Way? I continue to read in this Gospel, and every time I read I see something more lofty, something more to be pursued.
I hope God will see in us the fullness of the purpose that we will walk truly in His Living Way.