John 5:44
How can you believe, which receive honor one of another, and seek not the honor that comes from God only?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(44) How can ye believe . . .?—The emphasis is again on the pronoun. It is not possible that ye should believe in Me, as our whole position is entirely different. Ye receive glory from men. I do not (John 5:41). I am come in My Father’s name (John 5:43). Ye do not seek the glory which is from God. We are, then, in wholly distinct spheres of life, and action, and thought. To believe would be to give up your whole present life. While ye are what ye are, it cannot be.

The marginal reference compares the parallel thought of John 12:43. This is obscured in the English version by a difference of words for the same Greek word. Here, as in John 5:41, it would be more exact to read glory for “honour,” and in John 12:43, glory for “praise.”

From God only.—Better, from the only God. Comp. Romans 16:27; 1Timothy 1:17; 1Timothy 6:15-16; Jude 1:25. The article before “glory” should be noted. They received glory one of another. They sought not the glory, which was a divine attribute, (Comp. John 1:14.) Their charge against Him was that He made Himself equal with God. Thinking themselves monotheists, they were really idolaters. Each man, receiving glory from another, was in the place of a god to that other. Each man giving this glory to another, was rendering to a fellow man that which belonged to God only. They, not He, were robbing God of His glory.

John 5:44. How can ye believe which receive honour one of another — That is, while ye seek the praise of men, rather than the praise of God? In other words, “How can such persons as you believe in me, whose character and station are entirely different from what you have all along told the people the Scriptures teach concerning the Messiah? This confession of your own ignorance is not to be expected from you, who, in all your actions, seek the praise of men, (Matthew 23:5,) and not the praise of God, which is the only true praise, and is to be obtained by a steady regard to truth and virtue, in opposition to all earthly passions whatever.” Thus our Lord shows, that “their infidelity was owing, in a great measure, to their pride. They who had all along preached glorious things concerning the empire and grandeur of the Messiah, would not ascribe that august character to a mere teacher, who was destitute even of the ordinary advantages of birth, fortune, and erudition; because it would have been such a confession of ignorance and unskilfulness in the Scriptures, as must have exposed them to the contempt of those whom they had misled.” — Macknight.5:39-44 The Jews considered that eternal life was revealed to them in their Scriptures, and that they had it, because they had the word of God in their hands. Jesus urged them to search those Scriptures with more diligence and attention. Ye do search the Scriptures, and ye do well to do so. They did indeed search the Scriptures, but it was with a view to their own glory. It is possible for men to be very studious in the letter of the Scriptures, yet to be strangers to its power. Or, Search the Scriptures, and so it was spoken to them in the nature of an appeal. Ye profess to receive and believe the Scripture, let that be the judge. It is spoken to us as advising or commanding all Christians to search the Scriptures. Not only read them, and hear them, but search them; which denotes diligence in examining and studying them. We must search the Scriptures for heaven as our great end; For in them ye think ye have eternal life. We must search the Scriptures for Christ, as the new and living Way, that leads to this end. To this testimony Christ adds reproofs of their unbelief and wickedness; their neglect of him and his doctrine. Also he reproves their want of the love of God. But there is life with Jesus Christ for poor souls. Many who make a great profession of religion, yet show they want the love of God, by their neglect of Christ and contempt of his commandments. It is the love of God in us, the love that is a living, active principle in the heart, which God will accept. They slighted and undervalued Christ, because they admired and overvalued themselves. How can those believe, who make the praise and applause of men their idol! When Christ and his followers are men wondered at, how can those believe, the utmost of whose ambition is to make a fair show in the flesh!Which receive honour one of another - Who are studious of praise, and live for pride, ambition, and vainglory. This desire, Jesus says, was the great reason why they would not believe on him. They were unwilling to renounce their worldly honors, and become the followers of one so humble and unostentatious as he was. They expected a Messiah of pomp and splendor, and would not submit to one so despised and of so lowly a rank. Had the Messiah come, as they expected, with pomp and power, it would have been an honor, in their view, to follow him; as it was, they despised and rejected him. The great reason why multitudes do not believe is their attachment to human honors, or their pride, and vanity, and ambition. These are so strong, that while they continue they cannot and will not believe. They might, however, renounce these things, and then, the obstacles being removed, they would believe. Learn:

1. A man cannot believe the gospel while he is wholly under the influence of ambition. The two are not compatible. The religion of the gospel is humility, and a man who has not that "cannot" be a Christian.

2. Great numbers are deterred from being Christians by pride and ambition. Probably there is no single thing that prevents so really young men from becoming Christians as this passion. The proud and ambitious heart refuses to bow to the humiliating terms of the gospel.

3. Though while a man is under this governing principle he cannot believe the gospel, yet this proves nothing about his ability to lay that aside, and to yield to truth. that is another question. A child cannot open a trunk when he gets on the lid and attempts to raise his own weight and the cover of the trunk too; but that settles nothing about the inquiry whether he might not get off and then open it. The true question is whether a man can or cannot lay aside his ambition and pride, and about that there ought not to be any dispute. No one doubts that it may be done; and if that can be done, he can become a Christian.

Seek not the honour - The praise, the glory, the approbation of God. The honor which comes from men is their praise, flattery, commendation; the honor that comes from God is his approbation for doing his will. God alone can confer the honors of heaven - the reward of having done our duty here. That we should seek, and if we seek that, we shall come to Christ, who is the way and the life.

44. How can ye believe, &c.—(See on [1786]Joh 5:40,41). The "will not" of Joh 5:40, and "cannot" here are just different features of the same awful state of the human heart. It is evident that by receiving honour from one another, is here to be understood the seeking and pursuing of honour and applause from men, without regard to the praise of God: so also John 12:43. For otherwise it is lawful for parents to receive honour from children, masters from servants, princes and other magistrates from people. But for men to be ambitious of honour and applause from men, in neglect of the honour and praise of God, this is highly sinful; and it cannot be expected that any such persons should so far deny themselves, and renounce their own works of righteousness, as to accept of Christ and his righteousness, and rely upon him alone for life and salvation. It is said, John 12:42, that among the chief rulers many believed; yet it is added, John 12:43, For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. But those words, John 12:43, seem rather to refer to the Pharisees, mentioned in the latter part of John 12:42, where a reason is given why, though many great rulers believed, yet they did not confess Christ, because of the Pharisees. Or if those words, John 12:43, be to be applied to those of whom it is said, they believed, John 12:42, we must distinguish concerning believing, which in John 12:42 signifieth no more than an assent given to him as a great prophet, upon the miracles they saw wrought by him; in this place, a true and lively faith, receiving Christ as our Mediator and Saviour. How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another?.... As the Scribes and Pharisees did, who were ambitious of honour and respect from one another, as well as from the common people; doing all they did to be seen of men, and to gain applause among them: choosing the uppermost rooms at feasts, and chief places in the synagogues, and delighting in the pompous title of Rabbi, Rabbi; and were in expectation of the temporal kingdom of the Messiah, when they hoped to be advanced to places of great honour and profit; and all this was an hinderance to them from believing in Christ, who appeared in such an abject form, and made so mean a figure; whose doctrine was so unsuitable to their carnal minds, and whose followers were so poor and contemptible; and besides it was made a law among them, that those who professed him to be the Messiah, should be cast out of the synagogue: hence many who were convinced that he was the Messiah, durst not confess him, lest they should lose their honour and respect among men, which they preferred to the praise of God:

and seek not the honour that cometh from God only; or "from the only God", as the Vulgate Latin; or "from the one God", as the Syriac, Arabic, and Persic versions render it: the honour that comes from him is, that of being born of him; of being a son or daughter of his, having that new name, which is better than that of sons and daughters of the greatest princes on earth; of being made all glorious within, and clothed with gold of Ophir, with raiment of needlework, with the robe of righteousness, and garments of salvation; of being translated into the spiritual kingdom of Christ, and made kings and priests unto God by him; of being set on the same throne with Christ, having on a crown of life and righteousness, and enjoying a kingdom and glory; being heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ; which honour all the saints have, or shall have, and which these men cared not for.

How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
John 5:44. The Jewish inability to believe arose from their earthly ambition: πῶς δύνασθεοὐ ζητεῖτε. The root of their unbelief was their earthly idea of glory, what they could win or bestow. This incapacitated them from seeing the glory of Christ, which was divine and heavenly, which men could not give or remove. The glory παρὰ ἀλλήλων is contrasted with that παρὰ τοῦ μόνου Θεοῦ from the only God, the only source, arbiter, and dispenser of praise. Seeking credit as religious men from one another, they necessarily habituated themselves to current ideas, and blotted out Divine glory from their mind.44. How can ye believe] The emphasis is on ‘ye.’ How is it possible, for you, who care only for the glory that man bestows, to believe on One who rejects such glory. This is the climax of Christ’s accusation. They have reduced themselves to such a condition that they cannot believe. They must change their whole view and manner of life before they can do so, comp. John 5:47.

from God only] Rather, from the only God, from Him who alone is God; whereas by receiving glory from one another they were making gods of one another; so that it is they who really ‘make themselves equal with God’ (John 5:18). The Greek is not similar to Matthew 17:8 or Luke 5:21, but to John 17:3; 1 Timothy 6:16. Comp. Romans 16:27; 1 Timothy 1:17; Jude 25. Note the absence of the article before the first ‘honour’ and its presence before the second: they receive glory, such as it is, from one another, and are indifferent to the glory, which alone deserves the name.

The whole verse should run thus, How can ye believe, seeing that ye receive glory one of another; and the glory which cometh from the only God ye seek not.John 5:44. Δόξαν παρὰ ἀλλήλων, glory from one another) Each one of you thinks that he is righteous, in accordance with what you mutually think of yourselves: and ye do not labour, that you may be approved of in the sight of God alone. Comp. Romans 2:29, “Circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.”—καὶ τὴν δόξαν, and the glory) that which is the portion of the sons of God, ch. John 1:12, “As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.”—παρὰ τοῦ μόνου Θεοῦ, from Him who is God alone [but Engl. Vers. “from God only”]) ch. John 17:3, “Thee, the only true God.”—οὐ ζητεῖτε) This is connected with the article οἱ, which is implied in λαμβάνοντες, i.e. οἳ λαμβάνετε.Verse 44. - How can ye believe, seeing that ye receive glory one from another, and ye seek not the glory that cometh from the only God? The difficulties of faith in himself multiply as he proceeds. First, he insisted that he had searched their hearts, and found there none of that elementary "love of God" which is the prime condition of knowledge or faith. Then he showed that an appreciation on their part of the type of character antithetic to his own, i.e. of the man who comes in his own name and seeks his glory from men, must blind them to that which is most characteristic of himself. They will receive the prophet, the pseudo-Christ, for the very reason that makes his own mission so unpalatable. He strikes right across their taste, their passion, their prejudice. He now lays down a new or modified statement of one of the prime conditions of spiritual faith. There is a universal desire for δόξα, glory, of some sort. The original meaning of δόξα here almost forces itself into the text. Δόξα "opinion," thought, and the good opinion which one person may entertain with reference to another. The glory of a Greek citizen was the good opinion of his fellow citizens or fellow countrymen. God's "glory" is the universal judgment of all intelligences, including his own concerning himself. The highest "glory" of man is the approval of Almighty God; the "opinion" which is absolutely true and is not mingled or contaminated with any flattering fictions. The minds which deliberately ignore this highest and only true source of glory, and substitute for it the glory of the ignorant plaudits and unreal approval, and unhesitating homage of the clique to which they belong, are m a moral condition incapacitating them to believe in the Christ. How should they? How can they? It is not possible for that man to believe Christ at all whose mind is so befogged, whose moral judgments are so dislocated. "The only God (παρὰ τοῦ μόνου Θεου), (see John 17:3; Romans 16:26; 1 Timothy 6:15). The use of this epithet in the Fourth Gospel is of singular value. Moreover, in this very connection the Son is so exalted above the world, and the Father comes so close to man in Christ, that we cannot wonder that Gnosticism and Arianism rapidly evolved a Ditheism of great peril to the conscience. The Lord, notwithstanding the lifting of his humanity to the throne of universal judgment, and the lifting of his Sonship into the bosom of God, on more than one occasion reminds his hearers of the unity, the solity, of Almighty God. Ye believe

Again the emphatic ye, the reason for the emphasis being given in the succeeding clause.

Which receive (λαμβάνοντες)

Literally, receiving (as ye do): seeing that ye receive.

Seek not the honor that cometh from God only (καὶ τὴν δόξαν τὴν μόνου Θεοῦ οὐ ζητεῖτε)

The Rev. gives it capitally, following the Greek order: and the glory that cometh from the only God ye seek not. Not God only, which entirely overlooks the force of the definite article; but the only God. Compare 1 Timothy 6:15, 1 Timothy 6:16; John 17:3; Romans 16:27.

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