John 12:25
He that loves his life shall lose it; and he that hates his life in this world shall keep it to life eternal.
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(25) He that loveth his life shall lose it.—The reading here is uncertain, and may be, perhaps with slightly more probability is, He that loveth his life loses iti.e., that the loss of life is not in the future only, but that in the present, in every moment when a man loves and seeks to save his own life, he is then, and by that very seeking, actually losing it.

The words of this verse are familiar to us from the earlier Gospels, and have been explained in Notes on Matthew 10:39; Matthew 16:25; Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24; Luke 17:33. The disciples had heard them laid down as the law of their own life and work. They now hear the mysterious words again, and they are asserted as the law to which even His life is submitted. There is even in His human nature a physical and emotional life which would shrink from sacrifice and death (John 12:27; comp. Note on Matthew 26:39), but in self-sacrifice and death is His own glory and the life of the world. There is in all human nature a principle which would seek as the highest good the life of the body and of the soul, as distinct from the higher life of the spirit, and would shrink from sacrifice and death; but the true principle of life is of the spirit, and only in the sacrifice of the desires of the lower physical and emotional life is that spiritual life realised.

12:20-26 In attendance upon holy ordinances, particularly the gospel passover, the great desire of our souls should be to see Jesus; to see him as ours, to keep up communion with him, and derive grace from him. The calling of the Gentiles magnified the Redeemer. A corn of wheat yields no increase unless it is cast into the ground. Thus Christ might have possessed his heavenly glory alone, without becoming man. Or, after he had taken man's nature, he might have entered heaven alone, by his own perfect righteousness, without suffering or death; but then no sinner of the human race could have been saved. The salvation of souls hitherto, and henceforward to the end of time, is owing to the dying of this Corn of wheat. Let us search whether Christ be in us the hope of glory; let us beg him to make us indifferent to the trifling concerns of this life, that we may serve the Lord Jesus with a willing mind, and follow his holy example.He that loveth his life ... - This was a favorite principle, a sort of "axiom" with the Lord Jesus, which he applied to himself as well as to his followers. See the Matthew 10:39 note; Luke 9:24 note. 25. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal—(See on [1840]Lu 9:24). Did our Lord mean to exclude Himself from the operation of the great principle here expressed—self-renunciation, the law of self-preservation; and its converse, self-preservation, the law of self-destruction? On the contrary, as He became Man to exemplify this fundamental law of the Kingdom of God in its most sublime form, so the very utterance of it on this occasion served to sustain His own Spirit in the double prospect to which He had just alluded. We had much the same in the other evangelists, Matthew 10:39 Luke 14:26. Some think that our Saviour repeateth it here, to show, that as Christ first suffered, and then entered into his glory; so his disciples must also lay the foundation of their glory in their sufferings and through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God, Acts 14:22. Or what if we should say, that our blessed Lord doth here prophesy what sufferings would attend the first preaching of the gospel, and encourage his disciples to what he knew they must meet with and undergo, by letting them know that the ready way to lose their share in life eternal, was to be so fond of this life, and the comforts of it, as not to be ready to lay them down for him; but if any person hated, that is, less loved his life, and all that in this world is dear to him, than Christ and his service, he should, if not be preserved from enemies’ rage, yet most certainly be recompensed with eternal life? He that loveth his life shall lose it,.... The sense is, that whoever is so in love with this present temporal life, as to be anxiously careful of it, and takes all precautions to secure it; and rather than to expose it to any danger, chooses to deny the faith of Christ, and desert his cause and interest; as such an one shall not long enjoy this life, so he shall come short of an eternal one:

and he that hateth his life in this world: on the other hand, whoever seems careless about it, and not to consult the safety of it, but is unconcerned about it; yea, as if he was throwing it away, as of no great moment and significancy, rather than do anything to preserve it, which would be scandalous to himself, and be dishonourable to his Lord and master; he

shall keep it unto life eternal: he shall be preserved in his temporal life, in a remarkable manner, until he has done the will and work of God, notwithstanding all attempts upon it; and he shall appear to have that spiritual life, which is the beginning and pledge of, and which springs up unto, and issues in eternal life; and that he shall enjoy in the world to come. This Christ said to let his disciples and followers know, that they must suffer and die, as well as he, though not on the same account, and for the self-same reasons; and that their sufferings and death in his cause, and for his Gospel, would turn to their advantage.

He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.
John 12:25. As it is my vocation, so also is it that of those who are mine, to surrender the temporal, in order to gain the eternal life. Comp. Matthew 10:39; Luke 9:24; Luke 17:33.

The ψυχή is in each instance the soul, as αὐτήν also is to be taken in like manner in each instance. This is clear from its being distinguished from ζωή. He who loves his soul, will not let it go (ὁ φιλοψυχῶν ἐν καιρῷ μαρτυρίου, Euth. Zigabenus), loses it (see critical notes)—i.e. he thereby brings about that it falls into the death of everlasting condemnation; and he who hates his soul in this world (gives it up with joy, as something which, moreover, is a hindrance to eternal salvation, and in so far must be hated) will preserve it for everlasting life, keep it to himself as a possession in the everlasting Messianic life. Note the correlatives: φιλῶν and μισῶν ἀπολέσει, and φυλάξει (comp. John 17:12), ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ τούτῳ (in the pre-Messianic world), and εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον.

On μισεῖν, whose meaning is not to be altered, but to be understood relatively, in opposition to φιλοψυχία, comp. Luke 14:26. “Amor, ut pereat; odium ne pereat; si male amaveris, tunc odisti; si bene oderis, tunc amasti,” Augustine.John 12:25. ὁ φιλῶναὐτήν, he that so prizes his life [φιλοψυχεῖν is used in the classics of excessive love of life. See Kypke] that he cannot let it out of his own hand or give it up to good ends checks its growth and it withers and dies: whereas he who treats his life as if he hated it, giving i up freely to the needs of other men, shall keep it to life eternal. φυλάξει, “shall guard,” suggested by the apparent lack of guarding and preserving in the μισῶν. He has not guarded it from the claims made upon it in this world, but thus has guarded it to life eternal.25. loveth his life … hateth his life … life eternal] ‘Life’ is here used in two senses, and in the Greek two different words are used. In the first two cases ‘life’ means the life of the individual, in the last, life in the abstract. By sacrificing life in the one sense, we may win life in the other. See notes on Matthew 10:39; Matthew 16:25; Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24; Luke 17:33. A comparison of the texts will shew that most of them refer to different occasions, so that this solemn warning must have been often on His lips. The present utterance is distinct from all the rest.

shall lose it] Better, loseth it; the Greek may mean destroyeth it.

hateth his life] i.e. is ready to act towards it as if he hated it, if need so require. Neither here nor in Luke 14:26 must ‘hate’ be watered down to mean ‘be not too fond of;’ it means that and a great deal more. The word rendered ‘life’ in ‘loveth his life’ and ‘hateth his life’ might also mean ‘soul,’ and some would translate it so: but would Christ have spoken of hating one’s soul as the way to eternal life?John 12:25. Τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ, his life) that is, himself.—ἀπολέσει, shall lose it) unto eternity.—ὁ μισῶν, he who hateth) The soul attains to this hatred, when it is imbued with a feeling of the words of Christ, which occur at John 12:24.[317]—ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ τούτῳ) in this world, which is the object of mere sight, and is vain, perishing, and evil. This is not expressed in the preceding sentence [He that loveth his life]; for this world of itself draws us to the love of life; but to hate life in this world, is the great thing[318] [a great attainment].

[317] Implying, as in Christ, so in the believer also, the need that the corn of wheat must first die, if it is afterwards to bring forth much fruit.—E. and T.

[318] Φνλάξει, shall keep it) This is prudence, in the true sense of the word. V. g.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. Life (ψυχὴν)

See on Mark 12:30; see on Luke 1:46.

Shall lose (ἄπολέσει)

The best texts read ἀπολλύει, loseth. See on Luke 9:25.

In this world

This earthly economy, regarded as alien and hostile to God. The words are added in order to explain the strong phrase, hateth his life or soul.

Shall keep (φυλάξει)

See on 1 Peter 1:4.

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