Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? you have the words of eternal life.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Then Simon Peter answered.—The look may have been directed to Peter, or here, as elsewhere, his natural character makes him spokesman for the Twelve. And striking is his speech. “Go away? To whom? They had left all to follow Him, and find all in Him. The Baptist is not living, and they know no other teacher. Go away? How could it be, when His words are spirit and eternal life?” (John 6:63.)
To whom shall we go - This implied their firm conviction that Jesus was the Messiah, and that he alone was able to save them. It is one of Peter's noble confessions - the instinctive promptings of a pious heart and of ardent love. There was no one else who could teach them. The Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the scribes were corrupt, and unable to guide them aright; and, though the doctrines of Jesus were mysterious, yet they were the only doctrines that could instruct and save them.
Thou hast ... - The meaning of this is, thou teachest the doctrines which lead to eternal life. And from this we may learn:
1. that we are to expect that some of the doctrines of the Bible will be mysterious.
2. that, though they are difficult to be understood, yet we should not therefore reject them.
3. that nothing would be gained by rejecting them. The atheist, the infidel - nay, the philosopher, believes, or professes to believe, propositions quite as mysterious as any in the Bible.
4. that poor, lost, sinful man has nowhere else to go but to Jesus. He is the way, the truth, and the life, and if the sinner betakes himself to any other way he will wander and die.
Lord, to whom, &c.—that is, "We cannot deny that we have been staggered as well as they, and seeing so many go away who, as we thought, might have been retained by teaching a little less hard to take in, our own endurance has been severely tried, nor have we been able to stop short of the question, Shall we follow the rest, and give it up? But when it came to this, our light returned, and our hearts were reassured. For as soon as we thought of going away, there arose upon us that awful question, 'To whom shall we go?' To the lifeless formalism and wretched traditions of the elders? to the gods many and lords many of the heathen around us? or to blank unbelief? Nay, Lord, we are shut up. They have none of that 'ETERNAL LIFE' to offer us whereof Thou hast been discoursing, in words rich and ravishing as well as in words staggering to human wisdom. That life we cannot want; that life we have learnt to crave as a necessity of the deeper nature which Thou hast awakened: 'the words of that eternal life' (the authority to reveal it and the power to confer it). Thou hast: Therefore will we stay with Thee—we must."Matthew 16:16, &c., replies,
Lord, to whom shall we go? &c., thereby teaching us under temptations to apostasy, first, to consider what we shall get by it, as the following words teach us, that an abiding with Christ in a steady adherence to the truths of his gospel, is the best choice that we can make.
Lord; or "my Lord"; as the Syriac version renders it; which was either a title of respect, and the same with "Sir" with us; or else, as acknowledging the dominion and authority of Christ, as Lord of all, and especially of the saints, and as claiming his interest in him; and which carries in it a reason, why he should abide by him:
to whom shall we go? as a teacher, whose ministry we can attend upon, to greater profit and advantage? not to the Scribes and Pharisees, whose leaven, or doctrine, Christ had bid them beware of; who taught for doctrines the commandments of men, and were blind leaders of the blind; nor to John the Baptist, who had declared he was not the Messiah; but had pointed him out to them in his person, as the son of God; and in his office as the Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of men; and perhaps, he might not be now living; and if he was, he would have encouraged them not to follow him, but abide with their master; so that there was no other, that was "better", as Nonnus expresses it, that they could go unto; and therefore it would be folly and madness in them to leave him: and as it was with Peter and the rest of the disciples, so it is with all sensible sinners, and true believers, who see there is no other to go to for life and salvation, but Christ; not to the law of Moses, which accuses, curses, and condemns, and by which there is neither life nor righteousness; nor to any creature, or creature performance, for there is a curse on him that trusts in man, and makes flesh his arm; nor to their own righteousness, which is impure and imperfect, and cannot justify before God, nor answer for them in a time to come; nor to their tears of repentance, which will not satisfy the law, atone for sins, or wash them away; nor to carnal descent, birth privileges, a religious education, sobriety, and civility, to trust to which, is to have confidence in the flesh, which will be of no avail; nor to ceremonial services, or moral duties, or even evangelical ordinances, neither of which can take away sin. There is no other Saviour, but Christ, to look to; no other Mediator between God and man, to make use of; no other physician of value, for diseased and sin sick souls to apply unto; no other fountain but his blood, for polluted souls to wash in, and be cleansed; no other city of refuge, or strong hold, for souls sensible of danger, to flee unto and be safe; no other to come to as the bread of life, where hungry souls may be fed; no other place of rest, for those that are weary and heavy laden; nor is there any other, where there is plenty of all grace, and security from every enemy, as in him: and therefore, to whom can they have recourse, but unto him? and that for the following reason,
thou hast the words of eternal life: meaning, either the promises of eternal life, which were made before the world began, and were put into Christ's hands, for his people, and are yea and amen in him; or the doctrines of eternal life; for so the Gospel, and the truths of it, are called, Acts 5:20; and that because the Gospel brings life and immortality to light, gives an account of eternal life; of the nature of it, that it is a glorious life, a life free from all the sorrows of the present one; a life of pleasure, and of perfect knowledge and holiness, and which will last for ever: and because it points out the way to it, that it is not by the works of the law, but by the grace of God; that it is his free gift, through Christ; and that Christ is the way, the truth, and the life, or the true way to eternal life: and because it is a means of quickening dead sinners, and of reviving true believers, and of nourishing them up unto everlasting life: or this phrase may design the power and authority which Christ has, to dispose of, and dispense eternal life; for he has the firing itself in his hands, and a power to give it to as many as the father has given him; and to them he does give it: and each of these senses carry in them a reason why souls should go to Christ, and to him only, for life and salvation.Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)John 6:68-69. Peter, according to the position, for which the foundation is already laid in John 1:43, makes the confession, and with a resolution how deep and conscious!
ἀπελευσόμεθα] Future, at any time. “Da nobis alterum Te,” Augustine.
ῥήματα ζωής, κ.τ.λ.] Twofold reason for stedfastness: (1) ῥήματα … ἔχεις, and (2) καὶ ἡμεῖς, κ.τ.λ. Thou hast the words of everlasting life (ζωὴν αἰώνιον προξενοῦντα, Euthymius Zigabenus; more literally: “whose specific power it is to secure eternal life”); an echo of John 6:63. The ῥήματα which proceed from the Teacher are represented as belonging to Him, a possession which He has at His disposal. Comp. 1 Corinthians 14:26.
καὶ ἡμεῖς] and we for our part, as contrasted with those who had fallen away.
πεπιστ. κ. ἐγνώκ.] “the faith and the knowledge to which we have attained, and which we possess, is that,” etc. (Perfect). Conversely, John 17:8; 1 John 4:16. Practical conviction may precede (Php 3:10) and follow (comp. John 8:32) the insight which is the product of reason. The former quite corresponds to the immediate and overpowering impressions by which the apostles had been won over to Jesus, chap. 1. Both, therefore, are conformable with experience, and mutually include, and do not exclude, each other.
ὁ ἅγιος τοῦ θεοῦ (see the critical notes): He who is consecrated of God to be the Messiah through the fulness of the Spirit and salvation vouchsafed Him. See on John 10:36; 1 John 2:20; comp. Mark 1:24; Luke 4:34; Acts 4:27; Revelation 3:7.
The similar confession, Matthew 16:16, is so different in its occasion, connection, and circumstances, that the assumption that our passage is only another version of the synoptical account (Weisse and others) is unwarrantable. Who can take exception to the repetition of a confession (of which the apostles’ hearts were so full) upon every occasion which presented itself? Certainly, according to John (see already John 1:42 ff., John 2:19), it is untenable to suppose that in our passage, according to the right reading (see the critical notes), we have not yet a complete and unhesitating confession of the Messiah (Ewald); or that the disciples had only now attained a full faith in Him (Weizsäcker). We would have to assume in the earlier passages of chap. 1 a very awkward ὕστερον πρότερον on the part of the evangelist,—a view in which even Holtzmann acquiesces (Judenth. u. Christenth. p. 376).John 6:68. Simon Peter answered in name of all, Κύριε … ζῶντος. He gives a threefold reason why they remained faithful while others left. (1) πρὸς τίνα ἀπελευσόμεθα; “To whom shall we go away?” implying that they must attach themselves to some one as a teacher and mediator in divine things. They cannot imagine that any one should be to them what already Jesus had been. (2) Especially are they bound to Him. because He has words of eternal life, ῥήματα ζωῆς αἰωνίου ἔχεις. They had experienced that His words were spirit and life, John 6:63. In themselves a new life had been quickened by His words, a life they recognised as the true, highest, eternal life. To have received eternal life from Christ makes it impossible to abandon Him. (3) καὶ ἡμεῖς (John 6:69), “we for our part,” whatever others think, πεπιστεύκαμεν καὶ ἐγνώκαμεν “have believed and know,” cf. 1 John 4:16, ἡμεῖς ἐγνώκαμεν καὶ πεπιστεύκαμεν, which shows we cannot press the order [cf. Augustine’s “credimus ut intelligamus”] but must accept the double expression as a strong asseveration of conviction: we have believed and we know by experience ὅτι σὺ εἶ … ὁ ἅγιος τοῦ Θεοῦ occurs in Mark 1:24, Luke 6:34; cf. Acts 3:14; Acts 4:27; Acts 4:30; Revelation 3:7. The expression is not Johannine; but the idea of the Messiah as consecrated or set apart is found in John 10:36, ὃν ὁ Πατὴρ ἡγίασε. Peter’s confession here is equivalent to his confession at Caesarea Philippi, recorded in the Synoptic Gospels.68. Then Simon Peter] Omit ‘Then.’ S. Peter, as leader, primus inter pares, answers here as elsewhere in the name of the Twelve (see note on Mark 3:17), and answers with characteristic impetuosity. The firmness of His conviction shews the appropriateness of the name given to him John 1:42. His answer contains three reasons in logical order why they cannot desert their Master: (1) there is no one else to whom they can go; the Baptist is dead. Even if there were (2) Jesus has all that they need; He has ‘sayings of eternal life.’ And if there be other teachers who have them also, yet (3) there is but one Messiah, and Jesus is He. See on John 6:47.John 6:68. Ῥήματα, the words) The disciples, even though as yet they do not comprehend the special principles of the discourses of Christ, yet hold the general foundation. A most noble instance of implicit faith, involved in the explicit faith [faith involved in the faith evolved]. The whole of the phraseology, the words of eternal life—we have believed—the Son of God, is repeated from John 6:63-65. So Martha, ch. John 11:27, upholds her faith in Jesus Christ, although she did not as yet perceive the grounds and bearings of the resurrection. [In answer to Jesus, “I am the resurrection and the life,” etc., she replies, “I believe that Thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.”]
 πρὸς τίνα, to whom) It is a blessed thing for that man, into whose mind, if even it should see the door open, nothing whatever else glides in.—V. g.
 i.e. Universal faith implied in the faith expressed by Peter.
 To which therefore Peter alludes, contrasting the Twelve with the unbelievers.—E. and T.Verses 68, 69. - Simon Peter - prominent here, and in John 13:6-11, 24, 36; John 18:10; John 20:2-10; John 21:7, etc.; just as he is in the synoptic Gospels (see portrait of St. Peter, Introduction VIII. 3 (4)) - [then ] answered him;Lord, to whom shall we go? Perhaps ἀπελευσόμεθα is even stronger than the ὑπάγειν; Hast thou not drawn us to thyself, and supplied a need and craving which thou hadst first of all excited? Is there any teacher to rival thee? Can we look for another while we have thee? "Da nobis alterum te" (Augustine). The second part of this immortal reply points clearly back to ver. 63, where the Lord had declared that the words he had spoken to them were spirit and life. Thou hast words of eternal life. Not "the words," which would savour too much of the dogmatic and technical, but words of life - words which minister the Spirit of life; words which convey the Divine power, even the Holy Spirit, to our minds; words which bring those thoughts before us which we can believe, and believing which, we have eternal life. "Thou hast such words" (cf. for use of ἔχειν, 1 Corinthians 14:26). The third item of this confession is twofold. We have believed, and have come to know; so that we now do believe and know that, etc. There is a knowledge which precedes belief, and there are some great facts and ideas about Christ which lead to a higher and to a different belief (see John 17:8; 1 John 4:8); but again the fullest knowledge follows belief, a notional and real assent leads to an invincible assent. Faith is the womb of assurance. This richer knowledge is mediated by love. "He that loveth not knoweth not," and the faith that evokes "love" also excites and confirms the "knowledge" that is life eternal (John 17:2). That thou art the Holy One of God The recognition of the nature of the Lord, which fell short of the great utterance of Peter in Matthew 16:16. This was an ascription which the daemoniacs, or the devils, by their lips were ready from the first to proclaim prematurely (Mark 1:24; Luke 4:34). (On the holiness of Christ, on his entire consecration, and on the fact that he was sealed and sent into the world to do the Father's will, see John 10:36; 1 John 2:20; Revelation 3:7.) "Thou art sent on the highest mission. Thou canst accomplish all that thou hast told us; we have come to believe it, and we do know it. We cannot leave thee. We are not looking for temporal honours or Messianic splendours, but for the food that endureth unto everlasting life."
Assailants of the authenticity of John's Gospel have asserted that it reveals an effort on the part of the writer to claim for the disciple whom Jesus loved a pre-eminence above Peter. The assertion is effectually contradicted by the narrative itself. See John 1:42; John 6:68; John 13:6; John 18:10, John 18:16; John 20:2, John 20:7; John 21:3, John 21:7, John 21:11, and notes on those passages. Peter's replying for the twelve, in this passage, is a case in point.
The words of eternal life (ῥήματα ζωῆς αἰωνίου)
There is no article. Thou hast words. Words of life are words which carry life with them. Compare the phrases bread of life, light of life, water of life, tree of life.
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