John 9:31
Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(31) Now we know that God heareth not sinners.—What they should have known, but asserted that they did not, he proceeds to declare. The argument of this and the two following verses may be stated in syllogistic form, thus:—(1) God heareth not sinners, but only those who worship Him and do His will. (2) That God heareth this Man is certain, for such a miracle could be performed only by divine power. (3) This Man, therefore, is not a sinner, but is from God.

He assumes as a general truth, which all accepted, that God heareth not sinners. This is based upon numerous passages in the Old Testament Scriptures—e.g., Isaiah 1:11-15; Psalm 66:18; Psalm 109:7; Proverbs 15:8; Proverbs 15:29; Job 27:9; Job 35:13. We are, of course, to understand the word “sinner” in the sense in which they had used it in John 9:16; John 9:24. They had said that they knew this Man to be a sinner, and they meant one who was a sinner in a darker sense than that in which the word may be applied to all men. He asserts, as a truth which agrees with the whole teaching of the Old Testament, and with all the religious instincts of men, that there would be no communion between such a man and heaven. Such a one could not be commissioned as a prophet, or so heard in heaven as to have power to work miracles on earth. (Comp. Notes on John 11:41-42, and Acts 3:12.) Men have sometimes taken the words altogether apart from their context, and read into them a dark meaning which they cannot be rightly made to bear. Neither these words, nor any words of God, assign any limit to the divine grace, which extendeth to every penitent sinner; nor is there any voice of any child of man lifted to heaven, which is not heard by the Father who is in heaven.

It has often been noted here that the words are spoken by one whose authority does not make them binding upon us; but it is clear that they were accepted. as a general truth. We need no other explanation if we bear in mind the special sense which is here attached to the word “sinner.”

9:24-34 As Christ's mercies are most valued by those who have felt the want of them, that have been blind, and now see; so the most powerful and lasting affections to Christ, arise from actual knowledge of him. In the work of grace in the soul, though we cannot tell when, and how, and by what steps the blessed change was wrought, yet we may take the comfort, if we can say, through grace, Whereas I was blind, now I see. I did live a worldly, sensual life, but, thanks be to God, it is now otherwise with me, Eph 5:8. The unbelief of those who enjoy the means of knowledge and conviction, is indeed marvellous. All who have felt the power and grace of the Lord Jesus, wonder at the wilfulness of others who reject him. He argues strongly against them, not only that Jesus was not a sinner, but that he was of God. We may each of us know by this, whether we are of God or not. What do we? What do we for God? What do we for our souls? What do we more than others?Now we know - That is, it is an admitted or conceded point. No one calls it into question.

God heareth not - When a miracle was performed it was customary to invoke the aid of God. Jesus often did this himself, and it was by his power only that prophets and apostles could perform miracles. The word "heareth" in this place is to be understood as referring to such cases. God will not hear - that is, answer.

Sinners - Impostors. False prophets and pretenders to divine revelation. See John 9:24. The meaning of this verse is, therefore, "It is well understood that God will not give miraculous aid to impostors and false prophets." We may remark here:

1. That the passage has no reference to the prayers which sinners make for salvation.

2. If it had it would not be of course true. It was the mere opinion of this man, in accordance with the common sentiment of the Jews, and there is no evidence that he was inspired.

3. The only prayers which God will not hear are those which are offered in mockery, or when the man loves his sins and is unwilling to give them up. Such prayers God will not hear, Psalm 66:18; "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me;" Isaiah 1:14-15; Job 27:9; Jeremiah 11:11; Ezekiel 8:18; Micah 3:4; Zechariah 7:13,

A worshipper - A sincere worshipper; one who fears, loves, and adores him.

Doeth his will - Obeys his commandments. This is infallibly true. The Scripture abounds with promises to such that God will hear their prayer. See Psalm 34:15; Matthew 7:7-8.

31. they cast him out—judicially, no doubt, as well in fact. The allusion to his being "born in sins" seems a tacit admission of his being blind from birth—the very thing they had been so unwilling to own. But rage and enmity to truth are seldom consistent in their outbreaks. The friends of this excommunicated youth, crowding around him with their sympathy, would probably express surprise that One who could work such a cure should be unable to protect his patient from the persecution it had raised against him, or should possess the power without using it. Nor would it be strange if such thoughts should arise in the youth's own mind. But if they did, it is certain, from what follows, that they made no lodgment there, conscious as he was that "whereas he was blind, now he saw," and satisfied that if his Benefactor "were not of God, He could do nothing" (Joh 9:33). There was a word for him too, which, if whispered in his ear from the oracles of God, would seem expressly designed to describe his case, and prepare him for the coming interview with his gracious Friend. "Hear the word of the Lord, ye that tremble at His word. Your brethren that hated you, that cast you out for My name's sake, said, Let the Lord be glorified; BUT He shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed" (Isa 66:5). But how was He engaged to whom such noble testimony had been given, and for whom such persecution had been borne? Uttering, perhaps, in secret, "with strong crying and tears," the words of the prophetic psalm, "Let not them that wait on Thee, O Lord God of hosts, be ashamed for my sake; let none that seek Thee be confounded for my sake, O God of Israel; because for Thy sake I have borne reproach … and the reproaches of them that reproached Thee are fallen upon me" (Ps 69:6, 7, 9). This poor man proveth that Christ was from heaven, because he had opened his eyes; not as yet apprehending that Christ did it by putting out an immediate Divine power for his healing; but as a great prophet, obtaining such a power from God for the confirmation of the things which he delivered.

Now (saith he) we know that God heareth not sinners. But the question is, what truth there is in this axiom, or proposition. Doth not God hear sinners? Then he can hear none; for who liveth, and sinneth not against God? How did he hear Ahab, and others who were notorious sinners?

Answer.

1. By sinners here must be understood notorious and presumptuous sinners, that live and go on in courses of sin with hardened hearts: the word here used signifieth bold, presumptuous sinners; not such as sin merely through ignorance, weakness, or human infirmity.

2. God is under no covenant obligation to hear sinners; they can challenge no such favour upon the account of any promise: but God, out of the aboundings of his goodness, may hear them, as he heard Ahab and others; he may hear them as his creatures crying in their misery, though he hears them not as children, or upon the account of any covenant.

3. As to the sense of this maxim in this place, it seemeth to be particular and special; and the words seem to be restrained to that particular degree of favour here spoken of; God useth not to honour notorious and flagitious sinners, by giving them a power to work miracles, by which they should confirm any thing which they say.

This poor man bringeth this as an argument, why Christ should not be such a notorious sinner as they spake him, because it was not God’s way to honour such persons with his presence and assistance to the doing of those things which none could do but by a Divine power committed to him. Two things this man assumes, or taketh for granted:

1. That no man can work miracles, without a power obtained of by prayer, as we saw it was in the case of Elisha, 2 Kings 4:33.

2. That what Christ did, he did as a man.

The first is true, the second was false. He was not yet convinced of Christ’s Divine nature, nor looked upon him higher than as a prophet, one sent of God to reveal the will of God, and to work great works in the world by prayer; as to which he affirms, that if he were such a sinner as they clamoured, God would not hear him. So as the question, How far God may hear sinners, in giving them any thing they ask of him, seemeth not at all proper to this place; though it be enough clear from other scriptures, such as Psalm 66:18 Isaiah 1:5, that none that live in a course of sin can expect that God should hear or give answer to their prayers; and though God may give to such sinners such things as they ask him for, which are of a mere external concern, yet it is not with respect to any promise which he hath made to them, but out of the aboundings of his own goodness. But if a man feareth God, and worketh righteousness, him the Lord heareth, accepteth, and answereth. The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, Psalm 25:14 Proverbs 3:32.

Now we know that God heareth not sinners,.... All mankind are sinners, even God's elect; yea, such who are truly gracious and righteous persons; for there is no man without sin; and God hears such who cry unto him day and night; such Christ came to save; for such he died; and these he calls to repentance; and every penitent sinner God hears: but by "sinners" are meant notorious sinners, such in whom sin reigns, who live in sin, and particularly impostors. The man takes up the word the Jews had made use of, and applied to Christ, John 9:24, and suggests, that had Jesus been a sinner, that is, an impostor, God would not have heard him, or have assisted him in doing a miracle, to support an imposture, or cover and encourage a fraud; but that he was heard and assisted, was a plain case: whereas not only they, the learned doctors of the nation, but such an illiterate man as himself knew, that notoriously wicked men, cheats, and deceivers, were not heard of God; and this was known from the Scripture, and all experience; see Psalm 66:18. The Persic and Ethiopic versions read, "I know, that God", &c.

but if any man be a worshipper of God; fears the Lord, and worships him in spirit and in truth, both with internal and external worship:

and doth his will; for it is not everyone that Lord, or draws nigh to God with his mouth, and honours him with his lips, that is a true and sincere worshipper of him; but he that does his will in faith, from a principle of love, and with a view to his glory: and

him he heareth; for he is nigh to all that call upon him in truth; and such an one the man intimates Jesus must be, since it was out of all dispute that God had heard him, and had bore a testimony to him.

Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
John 9:31. This is elaborated in John 9:31 : οἴδαμενἀκούει. They themselves had owned it a work of God, John 9:24; but God is not persuaded or induced to give such power to sinners, but only to those who do His will. This man therefore, were He a sinner, would have been unable to do anything, not to speak of such a work as has never before been done. Watkins expresses it as a syllogism. (1) God heareth not sinners but only those who worship Him and do His will; (2) That God heareth this man is certain, for such a miracle could be performed only by divine power; (3) This man, therefore, is not a sinner but is from God.

31. God heareth not sinners] i.e. wilful, impenitent sinners. Of course it cannot mean ‘God heareth no one who hath sinned,’ which would imply that God never answers the prayers of men. But the man’s dictum, reasonably understood, is the plain teaching of the O.T., whence he no doubt derived it. ‘The Lord is far from the wicked; but He heareth the prayer of the righteous’ (Proverbs 15:29). Comp. Psalm 66:18-19; Job 27:8-9; Isaiah 1:11-15.

a worshipper of God] Or, God-fearing, religious. The word occurs nowhere else in N.T. The man supposes that miracles must be answers to prayer. Only good men can gain such answers to prayer. Only a very good man could gain such an unprecedented answer as this.

John 9:31. Ἁμαρτωλῶν, sinners) The faith of the man increases: comp. John 9:17; John 9:24-25, “He is a prophet; whether He be a sinner, I know not: one thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see.”—τὸ θέλημα, the will) Whoever doeth the will of God, God doeth His will for him, when he prays.

Verse 31. - We know - the new-born disputant takes up the language of these proud casuists, and adopts the technical phrase which they had used (vers. 24, 29) - we know, you and I, that God heareth not sinners in any special sense of miraculous approval (Job 27:9; Job 35:13; Psalm 109:7; and especially Psalm 66:18, 19; Proverbs 15:29; Isaiah 1:15). One aspect of Old Testament teaching shows that a man must delight himself in the Lord in order to receive the desires of his heart. If we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us; but the prayer of the sinner, the desire of the wicked, is contrary to the will of' God. When the sinner turns from his sins to the Lord, the cry for mercy is in harmony with the will of God. In one sense every prayer is the prayer of sinful men; but it is the Divine life working within them that offers acceptable prayer. The prayer of the sinner as such is not heard. We know God does not listen to the cry of sinners, when, as sinners, they ask from the ground of their sin, to secure their own sinful purpose; but if any man be a worshipper of God (the word Θεοσεβής is an ἅπαξ λεγόμενον, and occurs nowhere else in the New Testament), and doeth his (God's) will, this man he heareth. The blind beggar has learned the deepest truth of the Divine revelation about the conditions of acceptable prayer. The immediate application was the miraculous unwonted event as answer to the effectual fervent prayer of the righteous man (see James 5:16-18). So much for the general relation of this Healer to God. The rabbis were never tired of urging that the "answers to prayer depended on a man being devout and doing the will of God" (Edersheim, who quotes 'Ber.,' 6, b; 'Taanith,' 3:8; 'Succah,' 14, a; 'Yoma,' 28, a). So that the man was here fighting with drawn sword. John 9:31We know

Here the pronoun is not expressed, and the we is not emphatic, like the pronouns in John 9:24, John 9:29, but expresses the common information of all concerning a familiar fact.

A worshipper of God (θεοσεβὴς)

Only here in the New Testament. The kindred word, θεοσέβεια, godliness, occurs only at 1 Timothy 2:10. Compounded with Θεός, God, and σέβομαι, to worship, the same verb which appears in εὐσεβής, devout (Acts 10:2, Acts 10:7; Acts 22:12), and εὐσέβεια, godliness (Acts 3:12; 1 Timothy 2:2, etc.). See on 2 Peter 1:3. These two latter words, while they may mean reverence toward God, may also mean the due fulfillment of human relations; while θεοσεβὴς, worshipper of God, is limited to piety towards God.

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