John 6:63
It is the spirit that vivifies; the flesh profits nothing: the words that I speak to you, they are spirit, and they are life.
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(63) It is the spirit that quickeneth.—The word “quickeneth,” though it has almost passed from everyday use, will probably hold its place in theological use, and convey for the most part the true meaning. If it is retained here, it must, however, be noted that it is a compound of the word rendered “life” at the close of the verse. “It is the spirit that giveth life . . . the words . . . are spirit and are life.” These words are immediately connected with the thought of the Ascension, which was to precede the gift of the Spirit. (Comp. John 7:39; John 16:7 et seq.). We are to find in them, therefore, a deeper meaning than the ordinary one that His teaching is to be, not carnally, but spiritually under-stood. They think of a physical eating of His flesh, and this offends them; but what if they, who have thought of bread descending from heaven, see His body ascending into heaven? They will know then that He cannot have meant this. And the Descent of the Spirit will follow the Ascension of the Son, and men full of the Holy Spirit will have brought to their remembrance all these words (John 14:26), and they will then know what the true feeding on Him is, and these very words which He has spoken will carry their lessons to the inmost being, and be realised, not simply in a spiritual sense, but as spirit and as life.

6:60-65 The human nature of Christ had not before been in heaven, but being God and man, that wondrous Person was truly said to have come down from heaven. The Messiah's kingdom was not of this world; and they were to understand by faith, what he had said of a spiritual living upon him, and his fulness. As without the soul of man the flesh is of no value, so without the quickening Spirit of God all forms of religion are dead and worthless. He who made this provision for our souls, alone can teach us these things, and draw us unto Christ, that we may live by faith in him. Let us apply to Christ, thankful that it is declared that every one who is willing to come unto him shall be made welcome.It is the Spirit that quickeneth - These words have been understood in different ways. The word "Spirit," here, evidently does not refer to the Holy Spirit, for he adds, "The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit." He refers here, probably, to the doctrine which he had been teaching in opposition to their notions and desires. "My doctrine is spiritual; it is fitted to quicken and nourish the soul. It is from heaven. Your doctrine or your views are earthly, and may be called flesh, or fleshly, as pertaining only to the support of the body. You place a great value on the doctrine that Moses fed the body; yet that did not permanently profit, for your fathers are dead. You seek also food from me, but your views and desires are gross and earthly."

Quickeneth - Gives life. See the notes at John 5:21.

The flesh - Your carnal views and desires, and the literal understanding of my doctrine. By this Jesus shows them that he did not intend that his words should be taken literally.

Profiteth nothing - Would not avail to the real needs of man. The bread that Moses gave, the food which you seek, would not be of real value to man's highest wants.

They are spirit - They are spiritual. They are not to be understood literally, as if you were really to eat my flesh, but they are to be understood as denoting the need of that provision for the soul which God has made by my coming into the world.

Are life - Are fitted to produce or give life to the soul dead in sins.

63. the flesh profiteth nothing—Much of His discourse was about "flesh"; but flesh as such, mere flesh, could profit nothing, much less impart that life which the Holy Spirit alone communicates to the soul.

the words that I speak … are spirit and … life—The whole burden of the discourse is "spirit," not mere flesh, and "life" in its highest, not its lowest sense, and the words I have employed are to be interpreted solely in that sense.

As it is not the bread or flesh that a man eateth for the sustenance of his animal or natural life, that doth the main work, but the soul of a man within him, which putteth forth its virtues and powers in causing the digestion, concoction, and alteration of it, without which it nourisheth not the body; so the flesh of Christ eaten carnally can be of no profit for the nourishment of the soul: nor can the flesh of Christ considered alone, or by any virtue in it, profit; it only profiteth by virtue of the Divine nature, which being personally united to the human nature, addeth all the virtue and merit to the sufferings and actions of the human nature; so as the human nature of Christ hath all its quickening virtue from the Divine nature. It is not therefore the carnal eating of my flesh that I intended, that is a very gross conception of yours; nor can any such thing as that do you good: but the words that I speak to you, they are spiritual, and such by the belief of which you may obtain a spiritual and eternal life; for by believing those words, and obeying them, you shall come to believe in me, which is that eating my flesh and drinking my blood which I intended, not any corporeal or carnal eating. It is the Spirit that quickeneth,.... It is the spirit of man that quickens him; or which being breathed into him, he becomes a living soul; for the body, without the spirit, is dead; it is a lifeless lump: and it is the Spirit of God that quickens dead sinners, by entering into them as the spirit of life, and causing them to live: and it is spiritual eating, or eating the flesh, and drinking the blood of Christ in a spiritual sense, which quickens, refreshes, and comforts the minds of believers; it is that by, and on which they live, and by which their spiritual strength is renewed: unless, by spirit, is meant the divine nature of Christ, by which he was quickened and raised from the dead, and ascended up into heaven, and was declared to be the Son of God with power:

the flesh profiteth nothing; the human nature of Christ, though profitable, as in union with the Son of God, to be given for the life of his people, and to be an offering, and a sacrifice for their sins, yet not as alone, or as abstracted from the divine nature; nor would his flesh and blood, corporeally eaten, could, or should it be done, be of any avail to eternal life; nor is any other flesh, literally understood, profitable of itself for life; for man lives not by bread, or meat, or flesh alone, but by the word and blessing of God upon it, and along with it; nor flesh, in a figurative sense, as creature acts and performances, self-righteousness, obedience to the ceremonial law, carnal descent, and birth privileges:

the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life; the doctrines which Christ had then been delivering concerning himself, his flesh and blood, being spiritually understood, are the means of quickening souls. The Gospel, and the truths of it, which are the wholesome words of our Lord Jesus Christ, are the means of conveying the Spirit of God, as a spirit of illumination and sanctification, into the hearts of men, and of quickening sinners dead in trespasses and sins: the Gospel is the Spirit that giveth life, and is the savour of life unto life, when it comes not in word only, or in the bare ministry of it, but with the energy of the Holy Ghost, and the power of divine grace.

{14} It is the {x} spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.

(14) The flesh of Christ therefore quickens us, because he that is man is God: and this mystery is only comprehended by faith, which is the gift of God, found only in the elect.

(x) Spirit, that is, that power which flows from the Godhead causes the flesh of Christ (which is otherwise nothing but flesh) both to live in itself and to give life to us.

John 6:63-64. Instead of appending to the foregoing protasis its mournful apodosis (see on John 6:62), Jesus at once discovers to His disciples with lively emotion (hence also the asyndeton) the groundlessness of the offence that was taken. It is not His bodily form, the approaching surrender of which for spiritual food (John 6:51) was so offensive[250] to them, but His spirit that gives life; His corporeal nature was of no use towards ζωοποιεῖν. But it was just His bodily nature to which they ascribed all the value, and on which they built all their hope, instead of His life-giving Divine Spirit, i.e. the Holy Spirit given Him in all fulness by the Father (John 3:34), who works in believers the birth from above (John 3:6), and with it eternal life (comp. Romans 8:2; 2 Corinthians 3:6). Hence His death, through which His σάρξ as such would disappear, was to them so offensive a ΣΚΆΝΔΑΛΟΝ. Observe further, that He does not say ΤῸ ΠΝΕῦΜΆ ΜΟΥ and Ἡ ΣΆΡΞ ΜΟΝ, but expresses the above thought in a general statement, the personal application of which is to be to Himself. Comp. Hofmann, II. 2, p. 252. Note once again that ἡ σάρξ οὐκ ὠφελεῖ οὐδέν does not contradict what was previously said of the life-giving participation in the flesh of Jesus; for this can take place only by the appropriating of the spirit of Christ by means of faith, and apart from this it cannot take place at all. Romans 8:2; Romans 8:6; Romans 8:9; Romans 8:11; 1 Corinthians 6:17. Comp. 1 John 3:24. The flesh, therefore, which “profiteth nothing,” is the flesh without the Spirit; the Spirit which “quickeneth” is the Spirit whose dwelling-place is the flesh, i.e. the corporeal manifestation of Christ, the corporeity which must be offered up in His atoning death (John 6:51), in order that believers might experience the full power of the quickening Spirit (John 7:39). When Harless, following Luther, understands by the flesh which profiteth nothing, the σάρξ of Christ in His humiliation, and by the quickening Spirit, “the spirit which perfectly controls the flesh of the glorified Son of man,” he imports the essential point in his interpretation, and this, too, in opposition to the N. T., according to which the conception of σάρξ is quite alien to the ΣῶΜΑ Τῆς ΔΌΞΗς of the Lord, Php 3:21; see 1 Corinthians 15:44-50; so that the ΣῶΜΑ ΠΝΕΥΜΑΤΙΚΌΝ cannot possibly be regarded as flesh pervaded by spirit (comp. 2 Corinthians 3:18). In no form is ΣΆΡΞ ever ascribed to the exalted Lord. The antithesis here is not between carnal flesh and glorified flesh, but simply between flesh and spirit. According to others, τὸ πνεῦμα is the human soul, which makes the body to have life (Beza, Fritzsche in his Nov. Opusc. p. 239). But ζωοποιοῦν must, according to the import of the preceding discourse, be taken in a Messianic sense. Others say: τὸ πνεῦμα is the spiritual participation, ἡ σάρξ the material (Tertullian, Augustine, Rupertius, Calvin, Grotius, and most others; also Olshausen, comp. Kling and Richter); but thus again the peculiar element in the exposition, viz. the partaking of the Lord’s Supper, is foisted in.[251] Others, interpolating in like manner, interpret τὸ πνεῦμα as the spiritual, and Ἡ ΣΆΡΞ as the unspiritual, sensuous understanding (Chrysostom, Theophylact, Euthymius Zigabenus, Mosheim, Lampe, Klee, Ammon, etc.[252]); comp. Tholuck. Others differently still.[253] “Quantopere sit hic locus variis expositionibus exagitatus, vix credibile est,” Beza.

τὰ ῥήματα ἃ ἐγὼ, κ.τ.λ.] This does not mean that we are to hold to His words instead of to His corporeal flesh (Rückert, Keim), His words which remain as a compensation to us after His death (Lücke, De Wette, B. Crusius). It stands (seeing that σάρξ has already its full antithesis in what precedes) in close connection with the following ἀλλʼ εἰσὶν ἐξ ὑμῶν τινες οἱ οὐ πιστ., and therefore a comma only is to be placed after ζωή ἐστιν. “The words which I have spoken unto you” (meaning the discourse in the synagogue just ended[254]), “so far from containing any real ground for σκάνδαλον, are rather spirit and life, i.e. containing and revealing the divine spirit in me, and the Messianic life brought about by me; but the real guilt of the offence lies with you, for among you are many who believe not.” He, namely, who does not believe in Him as the true Messiah, who secures by His death the life of the world, but expects Messianic salvation by His corporeal manifestation alone, which is not to die, but to triumph and reign—to him who is such a μαθητὴς of Jesus the discourse concerning feeding upon His flesh and blood can only be a stumbling-block and an offence. And of such τινές there were πολλοί, John 6:60.

ἐγώ and ἐξ ὑμῶν stand in emphatic antithesis.

πνεῦμα ἐστι καὶ ζωή ἐστιν] The two predicates are thus impressively kept apart, and the designation by the substantive is fuller and more exhaustive (comp. John 3:6; Romans 8:10) than would be that by the adjective (πνευματικὰ καὶ ζωηρά, Euthymius Zigabenus).

ᾔδει γάρ, κ.τ.λ.] an explanation added by John himself of the preceding words, ἀλλʼ εἰσὶν, κ.τ.λ., which imply a further knowledge; comp. John 2:24-25.

οἳ οὐ πιστεύουσιν] result of their wavering; for they are μαθηταί, who, from an imperfect and inconstant faith, have at last come to surrender faith altogether. They had been πρόσκαιροι (Matthew 13:21). Here we have οὐ with the relative, then μή with the participle accompanied by the article (John 3:18), both quite regular.

ἐξ ἀρχῆς] neither “from the first beginning” (Theophylact, Rupertius); nor “before this discourse, and not for the first time after the murmuring” (Chrysostom, Maldonatus, Jansenius, Bengel, etc.); nor even “from the beginning of the acquaintance then existing” (Grotius, De Wette, B. Crusius, Maier, Hengstenberg, etc.; comp. Tholuck, “from the very time of their call”); but, as the context shows (see especially καὶ τίς ἐστιν, κ.τ.λ.), from the beginning, when He began to gather disciples around Him (comp. John 1:43; John 1:48, John 2:24), consequently from the commencement of His Messianic ministry. Comp. John 16:4, John 15:27. From His first coming forth in public, and onwards, He knew which of those who attached themselves to Him as μαθηταί did not believe, and in particular who should be His future betrayer. On this last point, see the note following John 6:70. Were we, with Lange and Weiss, to render: “from the beginning of their unbelief,” this would apply only to disciples in constant intercourse with Him, whom He always could observe with heart-searching eye,—a limitation, however, not justified by the text, which rather by the very example of Judas, as the sole unbeliever in the immediate circle of His disciples, indicates a range beyond that inner circle.

[250] Godet, according to his rendering of ver. 62: “which you will see to vanish at my ascension.”

[251] Kahnis (Abendm. p. 122) has explained the passage in this sense seemingly in a manner most in keeping with the words: “What imparts the power of everlasting life to them who feed upon my flesh, is not the flesh as such, but the spirit which pervades it.” According to this view, the glorified flesh of Christ, which is eaten in the Supper, would be described as the vehicle of the Holy Spirit, and the latter, not the flesh itself, as that which gives life. Comp. also Luthardt. But it is self-evident that the thought of glorified flesh has to be imported from without.

[252] So also Luther: “Ye must indeed have the Spirit likewise, or obtain a spiritual understanding, because it is too high and inconceivable for the flesh.” See the striking remarks of Calovius against this interpretation.

[253] Wieseler, on Gal. p. 446, takes σάρξ in the sense of original sin; sinful human nature can do nothing for man’s salvation; the Spirit of God produces this. But σάρξ must take its stricter definition from the foregoing discourse; and if it were intended as in John 3:6, οὐκ ὠφελεῖ οὐδέν would be far too little to say of it. This also tells against the similar interpretation of Hengstenberg: “The πνεῦμα is the Spirit represented through Christ, and incarnate in Him, and the σάρξ humanity destitute of the Spirit.”

[254] The usual but arbitrarily general rendering brought with it the reading λαλῶ. Tholuck and Ebrard have the right reference. Comp. εἴρηκα, ver. 65.63. that quickeneth] Literally, that maketh alive or giveth life. The latter would perhaps be better to bring out the connexion with ‘they are life’ at the end of the verse.

the flesh] Not, ‘My Flesh,’ which would contradict John 6:51. The statement is a general one, but has reference to Himself. ‘My Flesh’ in John 6:51 means ‘My death’ to be spiritually appropriated by every Christian, and best appropriated in the Eucharist. ‘The flesh’ here means the flesh without the Spirit, that which can only be appropriated physically, like the manna. Even Christ’s flesh in this sense ‘profiteth nothing.’ (Comp. John 3:6.) Probably there is a general reference to their carnal ideas about the Messiah: it is “in our Lord’s refusal to assume the outward insignia of the Messianic dignity, and in His persistent spiritualisation of the Messianic idea” that we must seek “the ultimate cause” of the defection of so many disciples. S. pp. 141, 142.

the words] Or, the sayings: see on John 5:47.

that I speak] The true reading is; that I have spoken, in the discourse just concluded.John 6:63. Τὸ πνεῦμα, the spirit) It is not the Godhead alone of Christ, nor the Holy Spirit alone, which is meant, but universally the Spirit, in contradistinction to the flesh. That, which is spirit, is life-giving.—ἡ σάρξ, the flesh) His speech is not in this passage concerning the corrupt flesh, concerning which no one doubts, but that it profits nothing: nor yet does Jesus take away from His own flesh the power of giving life; otherwise He would set aside His whole discourse, just delivered, which for certain refers to His flesh, John 6:51; John 6:53-56, as also the whole mystery of the incarnation: but the sense is, mere flesh profiteth nothing, namely, such as the Jews were supposing that flesh to be, of which Jesus was speaking. Comp. 2 Corinthians 5:16, “Though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more.” He speaks supposing a condition, and that supposed condition an impossible one, if He were mere flesh; as also He speaks [supposing a contingency impossible to arise], John 6:38, as to His own will, “I came not to do Mine own will, but,” etc. Comp. note on ch. John 5:31; John 5:19; John 5:22. The flesh is the vehicle of all Divine life-giving virtue, in the case of Christ and of believers; and Christ, after He was put to death in the flesh, and quickened in the Spirit, especially put forth His efficacious power; 1 Peter 3:18, “Christ suffered for sins—that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit;” John 12:24, “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit;” John 16:7, “If I go not away, the Comforter will not come; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you.”—οὐκ ὠφελεῖ οὐδέν, profiteth nothing) for quickening. Where the life is not from God, there no real profit is derived.—τὰ ῥήματα) הדברים, the words, and the things comprehended in them. The correlatives are, the words and to believe: John 6:64, “Some of you—believe not.”—λελαληκα, I have spoken) He does not say, I speak, but I have spoken [Engl. Vers. loses this, “I speak”]. For already they were disaffected towards [turned away from] Him, John 6:60-61.—πνεῦμα, spirit) although they [the words] speak of the flesh.—καί, and) and so therefore.Verse 63. - It is the spirit that quickeneth (the τὸ, though omitted by אָ, is retained by all the principal editors); the flesh profiteth nothing; i.e. the "flesh" taken by itself, and apart from the life-giving Spirit which is its principium. The antithesis between "flesh" and "spirit" occurs frequently in the Gospel, and is one of the great points of Pauline doctrine. The Lord does not introduce the pronoun μου to τὸ πνεῦμα or σάρξ. The statement is generalized, though having special reference to himself, or to the spirit and flesh of the Son of man. "Flesh," in neither St. Paul nor St. John, means the sensuous nature as opposed to the intellectual nature; nor does it mean the "body" as antithetic to the "soul" - the organized material frame, to which the Jews were attributing so much and felt to be the guarantee and seal of his spiritual efficiency (Meyer) - but the "creaturely nature," the "humanity" per se in all its parts. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." Christ qua his humanity was fashioned by the Spirit, and the Spirit dwelt upon him with iron measurable potence. "The Logos became flesh," but that flesh itself was so ordered and prepared by the Holy Spirit as that it should sustain this lofty companionship. Christ's own flesh, his nature, his humanity per se, and apart from the fulness of the Spirit, profiteth nothing. The mere human life, however spotless and ideal, could not be "eaten," i.e. could not be assimilated, though to some extent it might be imitated; but imitation is not faith. The "glory" that the apostles saw "of the Only Begotten of the Father, the fulness of grace and truth," in and through that wondrous life of Christ, was the glory given to his humanity by the creative Spirit. Apart from this consideration, a manducation of his flesh, even were it physically possible, was useless. It was not possible to participate in his humanity save through the Holy Spirit which generated him and regenerates us. The sentence doubtless points back to the original constitution of man, the specialty of whose life is that it was inbreathed by the Lord God himself. The use of the saying here was to make it still more clear that he gave his flesh to eat, not through any physical process, not through any sacramental rite, but through the Spirit to our spirit. Mr. Sadler, who takes the strong sacramental view of the entire passage, says, however, wisely and forcibly here, "Even flesh cannot be given to a corpse." We receive the gift, we know the love of God, whether sacramentally or not, through the Spirit. Christ does not deny or retract the statement, "Except ye eat the flesh," etc. He simply shows in what sense he meant the whole mutual indwelling of himself and his people to be understood. The Spirit is the Quickener. The Spirit is the life-fashioning, life-pre-serving Energy. The flesh, the human manifestation, apart from the Spirit which makes that human life the centre of Divine effluence, the focus for its Divine energy, profiteth nothing. Some have taken these words (like Chrysostom) as a contrast between a spiritual and literal interpretation of Christ's words. Luther and many Lutherans have urged the contrast between a right celebration and a merely material use of the sacrament. So more or less Augustine and Olshausen. Canon Westcott seems to limit the original meaning of "flesh" and "spirit," the one to the visible, temporal, corporeal only, and the other to the unseen eternal order of things, and he does not give to "flesh" here the fulness of meaning which it bears in the New Testament; but he says that this utterance is not limited to either of the views just referred to, though it may include them. Archdeacon Watkins remarks, "They think of a physical eating of his flesh, and this offends them; but what if they, who have thought of bread descending from heaven, see his body ascending into heaven? They will know then he cannot have meant this. The descent of the Spirit will follow the ascent of the Son." The words that I have spoken unto you are spirit and are life. The words which I have now uttered, these teachings of mine concerning myself, are (not merely "spiritual" or "life-giving," but) spirit and life, i.e. the way and method in which the Spirit can convey to you the life eternal. The words which I have spoken at all times have been the effulgence of my glory, the effluence of my Spirit. The seed of the kingdom is the Word of God. The contact of the Divine Spirit with the human spirit is not through teeth and palate, but through mental and moral processes. "Thou hast the words of eternal life," said Peter (ver. 68). Christ thus works his way back again to the receptivity of the mind and heart of his disciples. Believing is not only "coming," but, as he has before implied, it is the identical process which he has called "eating his flesh and drinking his blood." Christ's words are the ministry of himself, because the chief method of communicating his life-giving Spirit. In John 15:4, 7 the Lord used both expressions, "I" and "my words," in identical relations: "Abide in me, and I in you;" "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you," etc.
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