"Jesus saw Nathaniel coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile. Nathaniel said unto him, Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee. Nathaniel answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel." (John 1:47-49)
THIS chapter begins with setting forth the Godhead and Divinity of Jesus Christ. Here we must take a view of the person of Christ. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God," (John 1:1) and still is God. We must hold this doctrine fast.
"That Christ is God I can avouch,
And for his people cares,
Since I have pray'd to him as such,
And he has heard my pray'rs."
When you are overwhelmed with trouble go to him as God, and you will prove him to be God indeed. Those who deny the divinity of Jesus Christ deny God himself. I can avouch that Christ is God since he has heard my prayers, and brought me up out of an horrible pit. "Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given....and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father." (Isa. 9:6) Then he is also "bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh." If you find a rising thought in your heart against the divinity of Jesus Christ, pray earnestly against it. If you belong to Christ the enemy may push hard at you to make you disbelieve his divinity. He has done so with me. If you take Christ's divinity away you remove the foundation. "Behold, I lay in Zion a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation." (Isa. 28:16) I have lived long enough in the world to be sick of it, sick of self, and sick of sin, and therefore I desire to depart and to be with Christ. The apostle Paul so desired. "Nevertheless (he says) to abide in the flesh is more needful for you." Poor Brooke said to his church, "You hang about me or I should desire to depart." I pray that my will may be brought into God's will. "Teach me to do thy will, for thou art my God; thy Spirit is good: lead me into the land of uprightness." (Ps. 143:10) "He came unto his own, and his own received him not." (John 1:11) Paul says "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief." (1 Tim. 1:15) But was he received by all that he came to? No. There was, however, a remnant among his own people that receive him cordially. The greater part of the nation said, We will not have this man to reign over us. (Luke 19:14) This is the spirit of rebellion that is now abroad in the world. You find it is against the rulers of the land, and therefore it is against Christ. "But as many as received him, to them gave he power (or the right or privilege) to become the sons of God." (John 1:12) If you receive Christ in your affections, that is the highest seat. Every sovereign should have that seat in his subjects, and Christ, who is King of kings, must certainly have it. "Jesus would go forth into Galilee." What for? After one of his dear children; and he "findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me." He generally spoke these words to such as he called, and you find obedience yielded, because he is a king, and his people are willing in the day of his power. (Ps. 110:3) This call made me turn my back on the world, and all my worldly companions. First, you must follow Christ in the regeneration. If you are not regenerated, you have no evidence for heaven. "Philip findeth Nathaniel, and saith unto him, We have found him of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazereth." He testified of Christ. Can you do the same? Have you really found Jesus Christ? This is a most important question. Has God convinced you of your sin, and of your need of Christ, and have you ever felt him precious to you? Nathaniel starts a difficulty, "Can there any good thing come out of Nazereth? Philip answers, "Come and see." This was attended with divine power, though Nathaniel still had his doubts. We must not measure God's love by our feelings. It is his love towards us that kindles our love to him. "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." (1 John 4:10) Nathaniel was beloved of his God. When Philip said "Come and see," I think there was faith and desire communicated by the word. Jesus saw Nathaniel coming. Poor soul, if you are coming with a holy longing desire after him, he sees you. Jesus saith of him, "Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile."
Now we must consider a few particulars from the text. And first, of this character, "An Israelite indeed;" secondly, What we may understand by the words "in whom is no guile;" thirdly, "Whence knowest thou me?" fourthly, The Lord's reply; and fifthly, The confession of Nathaniel's faith. I hope not a few of you, as well as I, can make this confession, "Thou art the Son of God." First, we may trace this character in the fullest and highest sense up to Jesus Christ, an Israelite indeed, who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth. Do not the words imply that there are Israelites, who are so in appearance only, and not Israelites indeed? An Israelite in reality and in truth is an Israelite indeed. Paul says "They are not all Israel which are of Israel; (Rom. 9:6) and in Romans 2:28, "He is not a Jew which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew which is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter." He is an Israelite that is one inwardly, and without this internal work all our religion is vain. What constitutes a true Israelite, and what is the evidence of our being Israelites? Nothing short of regeneration. Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, came to Jesus by night, and the Lord told him about this work, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." (John 3:3) Nicodemus was puzzled, and put a carnal construction on the words. Jesus said unto him, "Ye must be born again." This is a personal application of the word. Nicodemus was a good man; he came forth at the close and was abiding still by the stuff. He and Joseph of Arimathea--who were both little ones--abided with Christ when the strong ones had forsaken him. A poor trembling soul, who is afraid of sinking at every step, will endure unto the end. The Lord said "Fear not, little flock, it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." (Luke 12:32) There must be regeneration, which the Lord describes thus, "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh nor whither it goeth, so is every one that is born of the Spirit." (John 3:8) "That which is born of the Spirit is spirit." The new creature is the new man of grace formed in the heart by the power of the Holy Ghost; that is the infusion of the grace of Jesus Christ. It is not water, as the Puseyites say it is. "If any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his." (Rom. 8:9) Therefore, the indwelling of the spirit and grace of Christ is regeneration. "We are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh." (Phil. 3:3) Such are Israelites indeed. They have the blessing of the pardon of sin, "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile." (Ps. 32:1,2) And they have also the love of God shed abroad in their hearts, "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casteth out fear; because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love." This is a sense of pardoning love, and they have the anointing of the Holy Ghost. "Ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things." (1 John 2:20) "In whom also after that ye believed ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise." (Eph. 1:13) Get these evidences, and they will prove that you are an Israelite indeed. These things comfort my poor soul under all my tribulations. An Israelite indeed signifies sincerity and uprightness, in opposition to hypocrisy and deceit. "For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward." (2 Cor. 1:12) The Lord said to Abraham, "I am the Almighty God, walk before me and be thou perfect," or upright or sincere, as it is in the margin. "The upright love God;" "The prayer of the upright is God's delight." The Lord said of Nathaniel, in effect, Behold one that is regenerated and born again. That will make a man sincere in his profession, and willing to be searched by the Lord. This test will search the profession of the present day through and through. I can testify that God has made me honest and upright in my ministry, and sincere in my devotion. Has God made you willing to come to the light, that you may not be deceived. Are you ever afraid of yourself, knowing that you have a nature that is corrupt, earthly, sensual, and devilish? Paul says, "I delight in the law of God after the inward man." Here is the new man which, after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness. The child of God has certainly two natures.
"To good and evil equal bent,
I'm both a devil and a saint."
"I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members." (Rom. 7:23) "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not." (Rom. 7:18) "Put off, concerning the former conversation, the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and put on the new man, which, after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness." (Eph. 4:22-24) If you are regenerated, you will find the struggle between these two natures. "Return, return, O Shulamite; return, return, that we may look upon thee. What will ye see in the Shulamite? As it were the company of two armies." (Songs 6:13) And Rebecca said when the children struggled together within her, "If it be so, why am I thus? And she went to enquire of the Lord. And the Lord said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels, and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger." (Gen. 25:23)
Just so the two natures struggle and oppose one another. If you are in this state you are born again. Don't you find that when you would do good evil is present with you? All these things prove you to be an Israelite indeed. There is no guile in the new man of grace. "Nathaniel saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig-tree, I saw thee." I believe that Nathaniel being regenerated was led to creep away under the fig-tree to pour out his heart to God. Do you not know what this is? I have often done so. Not that we are ashamed of our profession, but I would rather see a person act thus than be forward in prayer before others. "When thou prayest enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly." Religion begins in this way. Israelites indeed don't want to make a show before men, but they want to ascertain for a certainty that they have the approbation of God. Such say, Let me have Christ and I shall be satisfied. God looks on the heart. Are you willing to lay all your matters simply before him in his fear? Then behold an Israelite indeed. "Behold the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy." (Ps. 33:18) And, "The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever." (Ps. 19:9) Nathaniel answered, "Rabbi," my master, my precious Jesus, if you like, for so I think he felt it in his heart. "With the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." (Rom. 10:10) This honest upright Israelite confesses Jesus Christ, and the Lord says, "Whosoever shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my father which is in heaven." (Matt. 10:32) Nathaniel makes an open confession of him. "Thou art the Son of God, thou art the king of Israel." I think he might have said, if he had expressed his inward feelings, Thou art my king, my Jesus. I hope you can bring your case to these few particulars, and that the Spirit may witness with your spirits that you are Israelites indeed.