John 3:34
For he whom God has sent speaks the words of God: for God gives not the Spirit by measure to him.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(34) For he whom God hath sent.—Better, he whom God sent. The acceptance of the witness of things seen and heard is the attestation by the human spirit of the truthfulness of God, for Jesus is as one sent from God to declare Him. It is the divine image in man which recognises divinity. Every human faculty finds its true work, and true satisfaction, and the true object of its being, in Him; and therefore the whole man knows that His words are true, and recognises that He speaks the words of God. (Comp. 1John 5:10.)

For God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him.—The italics will show that the words “unto Him” are added in our version; and it is probable that the word “God,” which has been repeated from the first clause of the verse, should be also omitted here. We have then to read, “For He giveth not the Spirit by measure;” or, possibly, “For the Spirit giveth not by measure.” If, however, we remember that John the Baptist is the speaker, and that he had seen “the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and coming upon Him” (see Note on Matthew 3:16, and comp. such passages as Luke 11:13, and in this Gospel John 14:16; John 15:26), we shall still interpret the words in the sense which our version gives. The words “by measure,” in the sense of limitation, are frequent in the classical and rabbinical writings. The Rabbis seem to have applied the phrase to prophets and teachers, saying that the Spirit dwelt in the prophets only in a certain measure. Comp. 2Kings 2:9, where Elisha prays for “a double portion,” or, more exactly, a portion of two—the portion of the first-born son (Deuteronomy 21:17)—of the spirit of Elijah. The same thought meets us in St. Paul (himself a pupil of Gamaliel), who speaks of “the self-same Spirit dividing to every man severally as He will” (see 1Corinthians 12:4-12). The opposite of this thought, then, is before us here. God gives in this case not as in others. The Son who cometh from above is above all. There is no gift of prophet, or of teacher, which is not given to Him. He has the fulness of the spiritual gifts which in part are given to men, and He speaks the very words of God. It will be noted that John is still expounding to his disciples the meaning of his own declaration, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

3:22-36 John was fully satisfied with the place and work assigned him; but Jesus came on a more important work. He also knew that Jesus would increase in honour and influence, for of his government and peace there would be no end, while he himself would be less followed. John knew that Jesus came from heaven as the Son of God, while he was a sinful, mortal man, who could only speak about the more plain subjects of religion. The words of Jesus were the words of God; he had the Spirit, not by measure, as the prophets, but in all fulness. Everlasting life could only be had by faith in Him, and might be thus obtained; whereas all those, who believe not in the Son of God, cannot partake of salvation, but the wrath of God for ever rests upon them.Whom God hath sent - The Messiah.

Speaketh the words of God - The truth, or commands of God.

For God giveth not the Spirit - The Spirit of God. Though Jesus was God as well as man, yet, as Mediator, God anointed him, or endowed him with the influences of his Spirit, so as to be completely qualified for his great work.

By measure - Not in a small degree, but fully, completely. The prophets were inspired on particular occasions to deliver special messages. The Messiah was continually filled with the Spirit of God. "The Spirit dwelt in him, not as a vessel, but as in a fountain, as in a bottomless ocean (Henry).

34. for God giveth not the Spirit by measure—Here, again, the sharpest conceivable line of distinction is drawn between Christ and all human-inspired teachers: "They have the Spirit in a limited degree; but God giveth not [to Him] the Spirit by measure." It means the entire fulness of divine life and divine power. The present tense "giveth," very aptly points out the permanent communication of the Spirit by the Father to the Son, so that a constant flow and reflow of living power is to be understood (Compare Joh 1:15) [Olshausen]. He whom God hath sent out of heaven, out of his bosom, not merely authorizing him as a minister, as the prophets and as John were sent, speaketh nothing but the words of God. The prophets and the apostles were sent of God in a sense, but not as Christ was sent; they sometimes spake the words of God, when the Spirit of God came upon them; but they sometimes spake their own words, as Nathan did to David, when he encouraged his thoughts to build a house to the Lord; and Paul, when he said, To the rest speak I, not the Lord; but whatsoever Christ spake was the words of God: for God did not give out the Spirit to him sparingly, (as out of a measure), as he doth to his ministers or saints, who have but their proportion of revelations and graces, as was requisite for their offices to which they were called, and the several periods of time that were gradually illuminated. But in him the fulness of the Godhead dwelt bodily; he was anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows; he had the spring of all in himself, not the streams only. For he whom God hath sent,.... Still meaning Christ, who was sent in human nature, in the likeness of sinful flesh, in the fulness of time; to be the Saviour of the world, of that which was lost, of the chief of sinners; and to preach the glad tidings of the Gospel, which is more especially here designed; and for which he was abundantly qualified by the Spirit of God, with which he was anointed:

speaketh the words of God; the words which God gave unto him; the doctrines of grace; the word of truth; the word of faith; the word of righteousness; the word of reconciliation; the words of salvation and eternal life; the whole mind and will of God; and whatever he spoke were as true as the oracles of God, and were such.

For God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him, as he did to the prophets of the Old Testament, and to the apostles of the New; and to the ordinary ministers of the word, who have gifts differing one from another; to one is given one gift of the Spirit; and to another, another gift, as the Spirit pleaseth; and to everyone is given grace, or gifts of grace, according to the measure of the gift of Christ, Ephesians 4:7. To which agrees what the Jews say (a) of the Holy Spirit, and his gifts.

"Says R. Joden bar R. Simeon, even the waters which descend from above are not given, but, "in measure".--Says R. Acha, even the Holy Spirit, which dwells upon the prophets, does not dwell, but "in weight".''

But the Lord Jesus has every, gift of the Spirit, and the fulness of grace in him: he is anointed with the oil of gladness, with the Holy Ghost above his fellows; and has an immeasurable unction of the holy one; which, like the precious oil poured on Aaron, descends from him to the members of his body.

(a) Vajikra Rabba, sect. 15. fol. 157. 3.

For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
John 3:34. The first γάρ serves to state the reason for the ἐσφράγισεν, ὅτι, etc.; the second, for the τὰ ῥήματα τ. θεοῦ λαλεῖ, so far, that is, as it would be doubtful, if God gave the Spirit ἐκ μέτρου, whether what God’s ambassador spoke was a divine revelation or not; it might in this case be wholly or in part the word of man

ὃν γὰρ ἀπέστ. ὁ θεός] not a general statement merely, appropriate to every prophet, but, following John 3:31, to be taken more precisely as a definition of a heavenly (ἄνωθεν, ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ) mission, and referring strictly to Jesus. This the context demands. But the following οὐ γὰρ ἐκ μέτρου, κ.τ.λ., must be taken as a general statement, because there is no αὐτῷ. Commentators would quite arbitrarily supply αὐτῷ,[177] so as to render it, not by measure or limitation, but without measure and in complete fulness, God gives the Holy Spirit to Christ. This supplement, unsuitable in itself, should have been excluded by the present δίδωσιν, because we must regard Christ as possessing the Spirit long before. The meaning of this general statement is rather: “He does not give the Spirit according to measure” (as if it consequently were out of His power, or He were unwilling to give the Spirit beyond a certain quantitative degree, determined by a definite measure); He proceeds herein independently of any μέτρον, confined and limited by no restricting standard. The way in which this is to be applied to Jesus thus becomes plain, viz. that God must have endowed Him[178] when He sent Him from heaven (John 3:31), in keeping with His nature and destination, with the richest spiritual gifts, namely, with the entire fulness of the Spirit (πᾶν τὸ πλήρωμα, Colossians 1:19), more richly, therefore, than prophets or any others;—which He could not have done had He been fettered by a measure in the giving of the Spirit.[179]

ἐκ μέτρου] ἘΚ used of the rule. See Bernhardy, p. 230; comp. on 1 Corinthians 12:27. Finally, the οὐ γὰρ ἐκ μέτρου must not be regarded as presenting a different view to John 3:32 (comp. Weiss, p. 269); for the Spirit was in Christ the principle whereby He communicated (the λαλεῖν) to men that which He had beheld with God. See on John 6:63-64; Acts 1:2.

[177] The subterfuge of Hengstenberg is no better: “we must supply, in the case before us.” See also Lange.

[178] οὐ γὰρ μέτρα λόγοιο [or rather πνεύματος] φέρει λόγος.—Nonnus.

[179] Hitzig, in Hilgenfeld’s Zeitschr. 1859, p. 152 ff., taking the first half of the verse as a general statement, applicable to every prophet, would read the relative οὗ instead of οὐ, “according to the measure, that is, in which He gives the Spirit.” Considering the γάρ, this rendering is impossible.—Ewald and Brückner come nearest to our interpretation. B. Crusius and Ebrard (on Olshausen) erroneously make ὅν ἀπέστ. κ.τ.λ. the subject of δίδωσιν (ὁ θιός is spurious, see the critical notes); but this yields a thought neither true in itself, nor in keeping with the context. Godet puts an antithetical but purely imported emphasis upon δίδωσιν: to other messengers of God the Spirit is not given, but only lent by a “visite momentanée;” but when God gives the Spirit, He does so without measure, and this took place on the first occasion at the baptism of Jesus. This is exegetical poetizing.John 3:34. The reason assigned for the truth and trustworthiness of Christ’s words is scarcely the reason we expect: οὐ γὰρΠνεῦμα. John has told us that Christ is to be believed because He testifies of what He hath seen and heard: now, because the Spirit is given without measure to Him. The meaning of the clause is contested. The omission of ὁ θεός does not materially affect the sense, for ὁ θεός would naturally be supplied as the nominative to δίδωσι from τοῦ θεοῦ of the preceding clause. There are four interpretations. (1) Augustine, Calvin, Lücke, Alford, suppose the clause means that God, instead of giving occasional and limited supplies of the Spirit as had been given to the prophets, gives to Christ the fulness of the Spirit. (2) Meyer thinks that the primary reference is not to Christ but that the statement is general, that God gives the Spirit freely and abundantly, and does thus dispense it to Christ. (3) Westcott, following Cyril, makes Christ the subject and understands the clause as meaning that He proves His Messiahship by giving the Spirit without measure. (4) Godet makes τὸ πνεῦμα the subject, not the object, and supposes the meaning to be that the Spirit gives to Christ the words of God without measure. The words of John 3:35 seem to weigh in favour of the rendering of A.V[47]: “God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto Him”. The R.V[48] is ambiguous. ἐκ μέτρου, out of a measure, or, by measure, that is, sparingly. So ἐν μέτρῳ in Ezekiel 4:11. Wetstein quotes: “R. Achan dixit: etiam Spiritus S. non habitavit super Prophetas nisi mensura quadam: quidam enim librum unum, quidam duos vaticiniorum ediderunt”. The Spirit was given to Jesus not in the restricted and occasional manner in which it had been given to the O.T. prophets, but wholly, fully, constantly. It was by this Spirit His human nature was enlightened and guided to speak things divine; and this Spirit, interposed as it were between the Logos and the human nature of Christ, was as little cumbrous in its operation or perceptible in consciousness as our breath which is interposed between the thinking mind and the words which utter it.

[47] Authorised Version.

[48] Revised Version.34. whom God hath sent] Better, whom God sent, viz. Christ ‘who cometh from above,’ John 3:31.

God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him] ‘God’ is of doubtful authority; ‘unto Him’ is not in the Greek. We must translate He giveth not the Spirit by measure; or, the Spirit giveth not by measure. The former is better, and ‘He’ probably means God; so that the only question is whether ‘unto Him’ is rightly supplied or not. In translation it is best to omit the words, although there is a direct reference to Jesus. ‘Not by measure giveth He the Spirit,’ least of all to Jesus, ‘for it pleased (the Father) that in Him the whole plenitude (of Divinity) should have its permanent abode,’ Colossians 1:19. Some take ‘He’ as meaning Christ, who gives the Spirit fully to His disciples.John 3:34. Ἀπέστειλεν) hath sent from Himself.—οὐ γὰρ ἐκ μέτρου, for not by measure) The giving of the Spirit is one, and that, made to Christ; under which we are contained, to whomsoever a measure is imparted, Ephesians 4:7, “Unto every one of us is given grace, according to the measure of the gift of Christ;” John 1:16, “Of His fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.” In order that we might be able to receive a measure, it was befitting that there should be some one, who would take, and in the first instance receive [the fulness of grace] without measure, being about [being thereby qualified] to baptize all the others with the same Spirit: nay, even we shall hereafter have it without measure: 1 Corinthians 13:10; 1 Corinthians 13:12, “When that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away;—Now I know in part, but then shall I know even as also I am known.” Christopher Cartwright: The Hebrews observe, the Spirit was given to the prophets in measure; Even the Holy Spirit, say they, which rests on the prophets, does not rest save in measure. Even the words of the law, which was given from above, were not given, save in measure. Mellif. Hebr. on this passage. Further, since Christ received the Spirit without measure, he expresses the words of God most perfectly.Verse 34. - The γὰρ shows that the former utterance is sustained. For he whom God sent uttereth the words of God. The full, many-sided, abundant expression of the thought of God. He has been sent for this purpose. Some take this clause to refer to all the ambassadors of God, and pre-eminently to the "man (John 1:6) sent from God, whose name was John." But, on the ether hand, observe that throughout the Gospel, ἀπόστελλω and πέμπω are used of the "Lord from heaven" (ver. 17). Christ certainly is ἀπεσταλμένος as well as ἐρχομένος, and this great statement, viz. that Christ speaks the words of God, is a justification of the fact that, in accepting the witness of Christ to invisible and eternal things, and in the admission that he has been sent from heaven charged with the words of God, every separate believer becomes a seal, a ratification, of the veracity of God. The clause that follows (seeing that "to him" is unquestionably a gloss of translators, and is not found in any manuscripts) may be translated in three different ways.

(1) For God giveth not the Spirit by measure; for if ὁ Θεός is omitted, still the same subject, "God," might be and is generally supplied, and the object, supposed to be either Christ or any of his servants to whom in these days of the baptism of the Spirit, the Holy Ghost is poured forth from an inexhaustible treasure. Augustine and Calvin urged that it was said concerning Christ; for we read in ver. 35 that "the Father hath given all things into his hand;" but exclusively to limit the object of δίδωσι to Christ is more than the passage will justify.

(2) For he (the Messiah, sc.) giveth not the Spirit by measure; i.e. He is exalted to pour forth from the heart of the Deity the Spirit of the Father and Son. This is preferred by Westcott, and by those who see in the entire passage the reflections of the author of the Gospel (cf. John 15:26).

(3) For the Spirit giveth not by measure; the object (sc.) being "the words of God," which he who is sent and is coming from heaven, and is above all, is now lavishing upon the world. This translation (Godet) is in harmony with the vision of John at the baptism, when the Holy Spirit after the manner of a dove descended and abode upon him. With an unmeasurable supply of spiritual energy was the humanity of him who came (qua his Divine nature and personality) from heaven enriched for his prophetic and Messianic functions as the beloved Son of God on earth. I see no difficulty in this last interpretation.

(a) The present tense is justified by the statement of the abiding of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus, and the continuous operation of the gift in the "words of God," which were flowing from his lips.

(b) The αὐτῷ is easily supplied in thought.

(c) The connection is thus instituted with the thirty-fifth verse. Meyer and Lange prefer a wider significance being given to the words, seeing in them a broad reference to the affluence and measureless capacity of the gift of the Spirit. Luthardt: "This is true of all God's messengers, but especially of him of whom the Baptist speaks" (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:4-12). The Lord from heaven receives all the gifts of the Spirit. The words (τὰ ῥήματα)

Not words, nor individual words, but the words - the complete message of God. See on Luke 1:37.

God giveth

The best texts omit God. Rev., He giveth. Rev., also, rightly, omits the italicized to Him. The personal object of the verb giveth is indefinite. Render, He giveth not the Spirit by measure.

In order to convey the full force of the terms giveth and by measure, it will be necessary to attempt an explanation of the general scope and meaning of this very difficult and much disputed passage. The starting point of the exposition must be John 3:30, the Baptist's noble resignation of his own position, and claims to Jesus: He must increase, but I must decrease. At this point the Evangelist, as we have seen, takes up the discourse. The Baptist's declaration that Jesus "must increase" - that He is a messenger of a transcendently higher character, and with a far larger and more significant message than his own - furnishes the Evangelist with a text. He will show why Jesus "must increase." He must increase because He comes from above, and is therefore supreme over all (John 3:31). This statement he repeats; defining from above (ἄνωθεν) by out of heaven (ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ), and emphasizing it by contrast with mere earthly witness (ὁ ἐκ τῆς γῆς) whose words bear the stamp of his earthly origin (ἐκ τῆς γῆς λαλεῖ). Being from heaven, He testifies of heavenly things, as an eye-and ear-witness. "What He hath seen and heard, of that he beareth witness." It is indeed true that men reject this testimony. "No man receiveth His witness" (John 3:32). None the less it is worthy of implicit credence as the testimony of God himself. He that has received that testimony has solemnly attested it as God's own witness; "hath set his seal to this, that God is true." To declare Jesus' testimony untrue is to declare God untrue (John 3:33). For He whom God hath sent utters the whole divine message (the words of God, John 3:34).

Thus far the reasoning is directed to the conclusion that Jesus ought to increase, and that His message ought to be received. He is God's own messenger out of heaven, and speaks God's own words.

The common explanation of the succeeding clause is that God bestows the Spirit upon Jesus in His fullness, "not by measure."

But this is to repeat what has already been more than implied. It would seem to be superfluous to say of one who comes out of heaven, who is supreme over all things, who bears witness of heavenly things which He has seen and heard, and who reveals the whole message of God to men - that God bestows upon Him the Spirit without measure.

Take up, then, the chain of thought from the first clause of John 3:34, and follow it on another line. The Messenger of God speaks the words of God, and thus shows himself worthy of credence, and shows this further, by dispensing the gift of the Spirit in full measure to His disciples. "He giveth not the Spirit by measure." This interpretation adds a new link to the chain of thought; a new reason why Jesus should increase, and His testimony be received; the reason, namely, that not only is He himself divinely endowed with the Spirit, but that He proves it by dispensing the Spirit in full measure.

Thus John 3:35 follows in natural sequence. This dispensing power which attests His claims, is His through the gift of the divine Father's love. "The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand." This latter phrase, into His hand, signifies not only possession, but the power of disposal. See Mark 9:31; Mark 14:41; Luke 23:46; Hebrews 10:31. God has given the Son all things to administer according to His own pleasure and rule. These two ideas of Christ's reception and bestowment of divine gifts are combined in Matthew 11:27. "All things are delivered unto me of my Father; and no man knoweth the Son but the Father, neither knoweth any man the Father save the Son, and He to whomsoever the Son may determine (βούληται) to reveal Him."

Therefore John the Baptist must decrease, and Jesus must increase. A measure of the Spirit was given to the Baptist, sufficient for his preparatory work, but the Baptist himself saw the Spirit descending in a bodily form upon the Son of God, and heard the voice from heaven, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." The Spirit is thus Christ's own. He dispenses, gives it (δίδωσιν), in its fullness. Hence Jesus said, later, of the Spirit of truth, "He shall glorify Me, for He shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine; therefore said I that He shall take of mine and shall show it unto you" (John 16:14, John 16:15).

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