Christ's Method of Christian Evidence
John 7:17
If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.

The error of the Jews is the error of many to-day. The humblest class falls into it. They say, "We cannot be expected to have much religion; we were not educated." The intellectually proud make the same mistake. Both classes forget that, as Jesus reminds us, the first condition of certainty in Divine things is formed by the conscience, not by the intellect; and lies not in book learning but in the disposition of the soul, its willingness to do God's will.

I. THE PRINCIPLE HERE ANNOUNCED. Lay emphasis on each word.

1. "Do His will." Doing is the way of knowing in things Divine. Lord Bacon discovered the instrument of the physical sciences — careful experiment and observation. Before his time men speculated and dreamed. Since his time men have learned to know. Jesus promises satisfaction in another region, and reveals a method adapted to the end. We are to know the teachings of God not by sensible experiment, "Eye hath not seen"; nor by mental toil, but by being true to God, conscience, life. There is nothing unreasonable in this. Pascal says, "In the things of men, by knowing we come to love; in the things of God, by loving we come to know." In things moral you cannot suspend action till you have learned. Some of you say that you have not settled, e.g., if God hears prayer, if there be a day sacred to God, if there be a judgment, if Christ be the supreme Lord; and yet you are acting in your prayerless, sinful life as if these questions were settled on the negative side, and thus are daily annihilating your only excuse, viz., that you had not made up your mind whether the doctrine was of God.

2. "If any man be willing." It would have filled men with despair if Christ had made knowledge contingent on perfect obedience. Then the way of salvation would have been barred for ever to every child of Adam. What He says is, " If any man have this disposition, if it be his supreme desire to be right with God, then he shall know now. Only observe He requires not a fit of obedience in a life of disobedience, not a mood of willingness when things go well with us, but a constant and cherished disposition.

3. "His will." What is that? Some say Christianity. But Jesus could not have meant, "first do what I tell you, and then you will know whether to believe what I say." They were in doubt about whether He was the Christ; but had they been willing to do the will of God as they knew it in their own Scriptures they would have had no doubt at all. "If ye had believed Moses ye would have believed Me." Now if any man presents himself in our day in this attitude, saying that he wants to be convinced of the truth of Christ and His gospel, the principle touches him exactly. Are you willing to do God's will as far as you know it? Are you living up to what is binding on conscience, then, fuller light will come and you will know of this doctrine.


1. To those who are anxious to escape the whirlpool of unbelief. Take some cases.

(1) A man takes religion speculatively, as a thing chiefly of proofs, and says, "I will accept revelation when I am satisfied as to its claims." Now when a man's disposition is to throw the burden of proof upon God, and treats his Maker as bound to render him a reason in everything, and remove all possibility of mistake, he is hopelessly distant from salvation. If a man refused to enter upon any enterprise till he was ensured against all failure he would be reckoned a fool. The doubter is never the discoverer. It is the truth seeker that finds the truth.

(2) There are others who are not so much sceptical as captious, and are apt to shift the real question. They think they have decided for "evolution," not knowing much about it. They have gathered from newspapers, etc., something of the controversies about some of the books of Scripture, and not having much furniture in their minds on the subject, they come more easily to a conclusion, and are inclined to decide against standard beliefs. Now, when such things are presented as serious difficulties we must instantly go deeper. The real question is not one concerning science or criticism, but how a man can be just with God. He has not lived so long in the world without sinning against the will of God as already known. Is his real anxiety to be at peace with God? If God has revealed His will at all it is to bring about this end; and if the end for which he desires to know God's will be not chiefly to this purpose, it matters very little what a man holds about the Bible or what he rejects. "Seek ye, then, first the kingdom of God," etc.

(3) Here is another, who seems to be in earnest. He is a truth-seeker who examines as one whose life depends on the issue. So you found him in youth and find him still, giving his whole life so that he may be able to outsoar every doubt; but till then — What? Wasted youth, duty neglected — a vain and sinful dream. "Awake thou that sleepest," etc. If the truth is to be of any use to me whose life is but a breath, and I am to live by it, I must find it speedily.

2. This method of Christian evidence is of manifold application to believers. There are religious difficulties that all must meet in some form, which arise from the mysterious ways of Providence, the slow progress of the gospel, the fate of the heathen, etc. The principle of our text points to the right solution. "Lord, what shall this man do? What is that to thee? Follow thou Me." "Lord, are there few that be saved?" Be saved, and then thou shalt know as much of salvation as can be understood on earth.

3. The action of this principle on those who have submitted to God is obvious. The longer I love my Friend, the closer I walk with Him, the better I get to know Him; because I learn to sympathize more thoroughly with Him as I grow more like Him.

(J. Laidlaw, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.

WEB: If anyone desires to do his will, he will know about the teaching, whether it is from God, or if I am speaking from myself.

Christ's Authority and the Way to Ascertain it
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