John 3:11
Truly, truly, I say to you, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and you receive not our witness.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(11) Once again the “Verily, verily” of deeper truth. “We speak that we do know” is in sharp contrast to their formal teaching of matters external to the truth. The plural is not usual in the language of Christ, and the immediate passage to the singular forbids us to accept the usual grammatical explanation that it is the plural of majesty. He apparently joins others with Himself,—those who have spoken and known and testified, and whose testimony has been rejected by the Jews. We have to think of him whose life-work was to bear witness of the Light (John 1:8), and of the band of disciples who form a little school round their Master, and who in Jerusalem, as in Galilee, testified of Him; and it may even be that in the house and presence of one of that band this conversation took place (comp. John 3:2). They knew the power of the new life, and had been baptised of water and of spirit. In their measure and degree, as He in fulness, they spake what they knew, and testified what they had seen. (Comp. John 15:27.)

And ye receive not our witnessi.e., “ye Jews,” the teachers, of whom Nicodemus was one, the representatives of His own who received Him not (John 1:11). This attitude of the mind which refused to accept the evidence of witnesses as to things they had known and seen was of the essence of unbelief, and made further revelation impossible. When the will closed the faculty of faith, it left open no access for fuller spiritual truth.

John 3:11. We speak that we do know — I, and all that truly believe in me. Or, he may refer to the testimony that was given to the truth of his doctrine by John the Baptist, and to the preaching also of his own disciples, who all concurred in testifying the same things, the certainty of which they were assured of by the illuminating influences of the Holy Spirit, and by their own experience, while it was known to Christ by his omniscience, and by the intimate acquaintance that he had with all the counsels of his Father. And testify that we have seen — Here our Lord alludes to what was required in the law to qualify a man to be a witness, namely, that he should be able to declare concerning what he testified, that he had seen, or known it, Leviticus 5:1. And as Christ, therefore, had a clear perception and certain knowledge of the truth of what he said, there was the highest reason to receive his testimony, and to regard him as a true and faithful witness. And ye — Jewish rulers, teachers, and people, are generally of such a disposition that ye receive not our witness — Either as true or important; but disbelieve and reject, or neglect it.3:1-8 Nicodemus was afraid, or ashamed to be seen with Christ, therefore came in the night. When religion is out of fashion, there are many Nicodemites. But though he came by night, Jesus bid him welcome, and hereby taught us to encourage good beginnings, although weak. And though now he came by night, yet afterward he owned Christ publicly. He did not talk with Christ about state affairs, though he was a ruler, but about the concerns of his own soul and its salvation, and went at once to them. Our Saviour spoke of the necessity and nature of regeneration or the new birth, and at once directed Nicodemus to the source of holiness of the heart. Birth is the beginning of life; to be born again, is to begin to live anew, as those who have lived much amiss, or to little purpose. We must have a new nature, new principles, new affections, new aims. By our first birth we were corrupt, shapen in sin; therefore we must be made new creatures. No stronger expression could have been chosen to signify a great and most remarkable change of state and character. We must be entirely different from what we were before, as that which begins to be at any time, is not, and cannot be the same with that which was before. This new birth is from heaven, ch. 1:13, and its tendency is to heaven. It is a great change made in the heart of a sinner, by the power of the Holy Spirit. It means that something is done in us, and for us, which we cannot do for ourselves. Something is wrong, whereby such a life begins as shall last for ever. We cannot otherwise expect any benefit by Christ; it is necessary to our happiness here and hereafter. What Christ speak, Nicodemus misunderstood, as if there had been no other way of regenerating and new-moulding an immortal soul, than by new-framing the body. But he acknowledged his ignorance, which shows a desire to be better informed. It is then further explained by the Lord Jesus. He shows the Author of this blessed change. It is not wrought by any wisdom or power of our own, but by the power of the blessed Spirit. We are shapen in iniquity, which makes it necessary that our nature be changed. We are not to marvel at this; for, when we consider the holiness of God, the depravity of our nature, and the happiness set before us, we shall not think it strange that so much stress is laid upon this. The regenerating work of the Holy Spirit is compared to water. It is also probable that Christ had reference to the ordinance of baptism. Not that all those, and those only, that are baptized, are saved; but without that new birth which is wrought by the Spirit, and signified by baptism, none shall be subjects of the kingdom of heaven. The same word signifies both the wind and the Spirit. The wind bloweth where it listeth for us; God directs it. The Spirit sends his influences where, and when, on whom, and in what measure and degree, he pleases. Though the causes are hidden, the effects are plain, when the soul is brought to mourn for sin, and to breathe after Christ. Christ's stating of the doctrine and the necessity of regeneration, it should seem, made it not clearer to Nicodemus. Thus the things of the Spirit of God are foolishness to the natural man. Many think that cannot be proved, which they cannot believe. Christ's discourse of gospel truths, ver. 11-13, shows the folly of those who make these things strange unto them; and it recommends us to search them out. Jesus Christ is every way able to reveal the will of God to us; for he came down from heaven, and yet is in heaven. We have here a notice of Christ's two distinct natures in one person, so that while he is the Son of man, yet he is in heaven. God is the HE THAT IS, and heaven is the dwelling-place of his holiness. The knowledge of this must be from above, and can be received by faith alone. Jesus Christ came to save us by healing us, as the children of Israel, stung with fiery serpents, were cured and lived by looking up to the brazen serpent, Nu 21:6-9. In this observe the deadly and destructive nature of sin. Ask awakened consciences, ask damned sinners, they will tell you, that how charming soever the allurements of sin may be, at the last it bites like a serpent. See the powerful remedy against this fatal malady. Christ is plainly set forth to us in the gospel. He whom we offended is our Peace, and the way of applying for a cure is by believing. If any so far slight either their disease by sin, or the method of cure by Christ, as not to receive Christ upon his own terms, their ruin is upon their own heads. He has said, Look and be saved, look and live; lift up the eyes of your faith to Christ crucified. And until we have grace to do this, we shall not be cured, but still are wounded with the stings of Satan, and in a dying state. Jesus Christ came to save us by pardoning us, that we might not die by the sentence of the law. Here is gospel, good news indeed. Here is God's love in giving his Son for the world. God so loved the world; so really, so richly. Behold and wonder, that the great God should love such a worthless world! Here, also, is the great gospel duty, to believe in Jesus Christ. God having given him to be our Prophet, Priest, and King, we must give up ourselves to be ruled, and taught, and saved by him. And here is the great gospel benefit, that whoever believes in Christ, shall not perish, but shall have everlasting life. God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, and so saving it. It could not be saved, but through him; there is no salvation in any other. From all this is shown the happiness of true believers; he that believeth in Christ is not condemned. Though he has been a great sinner, yet he is not dealt with according to what his sins deserve. How great is the sin of unbelievers! God sent One to save us, that was dearest to himself; and shall he not be dearest to us? How great is the misery of unbelievers! they are condemned already; which speaks a certain condemnation; a present condemnation. The wrath of God now fastens upon them; and their own hearts condemn them. There is also a condemnation grounded on their former guilt; they are open to the law for all their sins; because they are not by faith interested in the gospel pardon. Unbelief is a sin against the remedy. It springs from the enmity of the heart of man to God, from love of sin in some form. Read also the doom of those that would not know Christ. Sinful works are works of darkness. The wicked world keep as far from this light as they can, lest their deeds should be reproved. Christ is hated, because sin is loved. If they had not hated saving knowledge, they would not sit down contentedly in condemning ignorance. On the other hand, renewed hearts bid this light welcome. A good man acts truly and sincerely in all he does. He desires to know what the will of God is, and to do it, though against his own worldly interest. A change in his whole character and conduct has taken place. The love of God is shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost, and is become the commanding principle of his actions. So long as he continues under a load of unforgiven guilt, there can be little else than slavish fear of God; but when his doubts are done away, when he sees the righteous ground whereon this forgiveness is built, he rests on it as his own, and is united to God by unfeigned love. Our works are good when the will of God is the rule of them, and the glory of God the end of them; when they are done in his strength, and for his sake; to him, and not to men. Regeneration, or the new birth, is a subject to which the world is very averse; it is, however, the grand concern, in comparison with which every thing else is but trifling. What does it signify though we have food to eat in plenty, and variety of raiment to put on, if we are not born again? if after a few mornings and evenings spent in unthinking mirth, carnal pleasure, and riot, we die in our sins, and lie down in sorrow? What does it signify though we are well able to act our parts in life, in every other respect, if at last we hear from the Supreme Judge, Depart from me, I know you not, ye workers of iniquity?We speak - Jesus here speaks in the plural number, including himself and those engaged with him in preaching the gospel. Nicodemus had said John 3:2, "we know that thou art," etc., including himself and those with whom he acted. Jesus in reply said, we, who are engaged in spreading the new doctrines about which you have come to inquire, speak what we know. We do not deliver doctrines which we do not practically understand. This is a positive affirmation of Jesus, which he had a right to make about his new doctrine. he knew its truth, and those who came into his kingdom knew it also. We learn here:

1. That the Pharisees taught doctrines which they did not practically understand. They taught much truth Matthew 23:2, but they were deplorably ignorant of the plainest matters in their practical application.

2. Every minister of the gospel ought to be able to appeal to his own experience, and to say that he knows the truth which he is communicating to others.

3. Every Sunday school teacher should be able to say, "I Know what I am communicating; I have experienced what is meant by the new birth, and the love of God, and the religion which I am teaching."

Testify - Bear witness to.

That we have seen - Jesus had seen by his omniscient eye all the operations of the Spirit on the hearts of men. His ministers have seen its effects as we see the effects of the wind, and, having seen men changed from sin to holiness, they are qualified to bear witness to the truth and reality of the change. Every successful minister of the gospel thus becomes a witness of the saving power of the gospel.

Ye receive not - Ye Pharisees. Though we give evidence of the truth of the new religion; though miracles are performed, and proof is given that this doctrine came from heaven, yet you reject it.

Our witness - Our testimony. The evidence which is furnished by miracles and by the saving power of the gospel. Men reject revelation though it is attested by the strongest evidence, and though it is constantly producing the most desirable changes in the hearts and lives of men.

11-13. We speak that we know, and … have seen—that is, by absolute knowledge and immediate vision of God, which "the only-begotten Son in the bosom of the Father" claims as exclusively His own (Joh 1:18). The "we" and "our" are here used, though Himself only is intended, in emphatic contrast, probably, with the opening words of Nicodemus, "Rabbi, we know.", &c.

ye receive not, &c.—referring to the class to which Nicodemus belonged, but from which he was beginning to be separated in spirit.

Christ speaketh only of himself, though he speaketh in the plural number, for in the next verse he saith only, If I have told you earthly things; he lets Nicodemus know that he spake nothing but he was certain of. This he expresses by two words, know and have seen, which are terms expressive of the greatest certainty of a thing imaginable; for the terms express a certainty of the mind, arising both from the rational deduction and sensible demonstration: and herein our Saviour lets his ministers know what is their duty to teach unto people, viz. what they know and have seen. Those that think that the doctrine of the gospel would have no certainty but for the authority of the church, stand highly concerned to reflect upon this text.

Ye receive not our witness; ye ought to believe what I tell you upon the authority of my revelation; but such is the hardness of your heart, such your stubbornness and unbelief, that you receive not my testimony. Verily, verily, I say unto thee, we speak that we do know,.... Meaning either himself, and John the Baptist his forerunner, who preached the same doctrine of regeneration, internal sanctification, and evangelical repentance, as well as outward reformation, as necessary to entrance into the kingdom of heaven, or the Gospel dispensation, he declared was just at hand; or his disciples with himself, who were now with him, and whom he had called to preach the same truths he himself did; or the prophets of the Old Testament, who agreed with him in these things; or the Father that was with him, and never left him alone, and the Holy Spirit that was upon him, by whom he was anointed to preach these things, and who spoke them in him; or else he may use the plural number of himself alone, as being one in authority, and speaking with it, as he sometimes did, Mark 4:30, and the rather this seems to be the sense, since he immediately, in the next verse, speaks in the singular number, "if I have told you earthly things", &c. Now Christ must needs thoroughly, and certainly know what he spoke, since he was not only the omniscient God, but, as Mediator, had all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge in him, and the spirit of wisdom and knowledge rested on him:

and testify that we have seen; and therefore ought to have been received as a credible witness, as he was a faithful one; since "seeing" and "knowing" are qualifications in a witness, Leviticus 5:1; and though these were eminently in Christ, the generality of the Jews gave no credit to his testimony:

and ye received not our witness; which was an aggravation of their sin and unbelief; see John 3:32.

Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our {i} witness.

(i) You handle doubtful things even though you have no solid basis for believing them, and yet men believe you: but I teach those things that are of a truth and well known, and you do not believe me.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
John 3:11. Jesus now discloses to the henceforth silent Nicodemus, in growing excitement of feeling, the source of his ignorance, namely, his unbelief in what He testifies, and which yet is derived from His own knowledge and intuition.

The plurals οἴδαμεν, etc., are, as is clear from the singulars immediately following in John 3:12, simply rhetorical (plurals of category; see Sauppe and Kühner ad Xen. Mem. 1. 2. 46), and refer only to Jesus Himself. Comp. John 4:38, and its frequent use by St. Paul when he speaks of himself in the plural. To include the disciples (Hengstenberg, Godet), or to explain them as refering to general Christian consciousness as contrasted with the Jewish (Hilgenfeld), would be quite inappropriate to what has been stated (see especially ὃ ἑωράκ. μαρτ.). To understand them as including John the Baptist (Knapp, Hofmann, Luthardt, Weizsäcker, Weiss, Steinfass), or him along with the prophets (Luther, Beza, Calvin, Tholuck), or even God (Chrysostom, Euthymius Zigabenus, Rupertus, Calovius, etc.), or the Holy Ghost (Bengel), is quite arbitrary, and without a trace of support in the text, nay, on account of the ἑωράκ., opposed to it, for the Baptist especially did not by John 1:34 occupy the same stage of ἑωρακέναι with Christ. It is, moreover, quite against the context when B. Crusius says: “men generally are the subject of the verbs οἴδαμεν and ἑωράκ.,” so that human things—what one sees and knows (τὰ ἐπίγεια, John 3:12)—are meant.

Observe the gradual ascent in the parallelism, in which ἑωράκαμεν does not refer to the knowledge attained in this earthly life (Weizsäcker), but to the vision of God enjoyed by Christ in His pre-existent state. Comp. John 3:32; John 1:18; John 6:46; John 8:38; John 17:5.

οὐ λαμβάνετε] ye Jews: comp. τοῦ Ἰσραήλ, John 3:10; and for the fact itself, John 1:11-12. The reproach, like the οὐ πιστεύετε of John 3:12, refers to the nation as a whole, with a reference also to Nicodemus himself. To render this as a question (Ewald) only weakens the tragic relation of the second half of the verse to the first.John 3:11. ἀμὴν, ἀμὴνοὐ λαμβάνετε. From this point dialogue ceases, and we have now an unbroken utterance of Jesus. It starts with a certification of the truth of what Nicodemus had professed himself unable to understand.—ὃ οἴδαμεν λαλοῦμεν. Why plural? Were the disciples present and are they included? Or does it mean Jesus and the prophets, or Jesus and the Baptist, or Jesus and the Father, or is it the rhetorical “we”? Possibly it is merely an unconscious transition to the plural, as in this same verse the σοι of the first clause becomes a plural in λαμβάνετε in the last clause. Or there may be an indefinite identification of Himself with all who had apprehended the nature of the new birth—the Baptist and the best of his disciples. Jesus does not wish to represent Himself as alone able to testify of such matters. Weiss’ view is peculiar. He thinks that the contents of the μαρτυροῦμεν consist of what John and Jesus saw at the Baptism, when the Spirit’s descent indicated Jesus as the Baptiser with the Spirit.11. We speak that we do know] The plural is no proof that any of the disciples were present, though S. John at least may have been; nor does it necessarily include more than Christ Himself. The plurals may be rhetorical, giving the saying the tone of a proverb; but the next verse seems to shew that they do include others. Christ and his disciples tell of earthly things, Christ alone of heavenly.

testify] Or, bear witness of (see on John 1:7).

we have seen] Of which we have immediate knowledge. Comp. John 1:18; John 14:7; John 14:9.

and ye receive not] The tragic tone once more; see on John 1:5. ‘Ye teachers of Israel,’ the very men who should receive it.John 3:11. Ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω σοι, verily, verily, I say unto thee) Three times this expression is used to Nicodemus.—οἴδαμεν, we know) Jesus does not associate with Himself John or any other man: ch. John 1:18, John 6:46, “No man hath seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son, etc., He hath declared Him:—not that any man hath seen the Father, save He which is of God, He hath seen the Father.” He speaks of Himself and of the Spirit. Comp. as to the Son, John 3:32, “What He hath seen and heard, that He testifieth:” as to the Holy Spirit, John 3:8; John 3:34, “He whom God hath sent, speaketh the words of God; for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto Him;” ch. John 16:13, “The Spirit of truth—shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak;” [also ch. John 5:30, I can of mine own self do nothing; as I hear, I judge.]—λαλοῦμεν) That only is what we speak.—οὐ λαμβάνετε, ye do not receive) [in faith, to wit.—V. g.] The plural, as in John 3:2, [Nicodemus said] we know.Verse 11. - Verily, verily, I say to thee, We speak that which we know, and testify that which we have seen. Lucke and Meyer think that our Lord here merely uses the pluralis majestaticus - uses it as St. Paul does, when clearly he was referring to himself alone. It is difficult to believe this in the curious and impressive change of person here adopted, and the return to the first person singular in ver. 12. There was some reason why Jesus, in making this particular saying, uses the plural.

(1) Luthardt says, "Christ and the Baptist."

(2) Luther and Tholuck, "Christ and the whole prophetic company."

(3) Stier, "The Three Persons of the blessed Trinity" (see Chrysostom, etc.).

(4) Hengstenberg, Godet, Westcott, Moulton, have in various ways recognized the fact that the company of the disciples already called into the spiritual kingdom, and alive to the mighty power of the Spirit in recreating humanity, were present at this interview. They stood there to affirm the reality of the truth of which their Lord was speaking. Nothing in this sentence is incongruous with the experience and practice of those who had appreciated and were already speaking of the necessity of radical change or spiritual regeneration and of genuine repentance. John in his First Epistle (1 John 1:1-4) uses some of the very phraseology of this solemn verse, ο{ ἑωράκαμεν... μαρτυροῦμεν. Our Lord, on this occasion, gave him permission to do so. The knowledge which he spake of, the vision to which he testified, was in its way and to a degree within the compass of any disciple who had been waked up by the Lord's words to crave an entirely new beginning of his life, a birth of the Spirit. And ye receive not our testimony. This melancholy assertion proves that from the very first (as John said in his "prologue" concerning all the ministry of the Logos, and all the testimony of the prophetic Spirit to the reality of the light) "the darkness reeeiveth it not." The first demand which the Divine Lord made was rejected, the first "testimony" was disbelieved. From the beginning the dark shadow of death fell on his path. Nicodemus, or those whom he represented, may have had their curiosity excited, but their entire attitude was non-admission of the fundamental principle, viz. the inward illumination and life he came to supply. We speak - we know - we have seen

After the use of the singular number in John 3:3, John 3:5, John 3:7, John 3:12, the plural here is noteworthy. It is not merely rhetorical - "a plural of majesty" - but is explained by John 3:8, "every one that is born of the Spirit." The new birth imparts a new vision. The man who is born of the Spirit hath eternal life (John 3:36); and life eternal is to know God and Jesus Christ whom He hath sent (John 17:3). "Ye have an anointing from the Holy One, and ye know (οἴδατε) all things" (1 John 2:20). He who is born of water and of the Spirit sees the kingdom of God. This we therefore includes, with Jesus, all who are truly born anew of the Spirit. Jesus meets the we know of Nicodemus (John 3:2), referring to the class to which he belonged, with another we know, referring to another class, of which He was the head and representative. We know (οἴδαμεν), absolutely. See on John 2:24.

Testify (μαρτυροῦμεν)

Rev., better, bear witness of. See on John 1:7.

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