May 23

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In an earlier article under this heading, it was pointed out that even when something is said to one group, in the context, it may have application to a larger group of people. In this article we will look at this once more. Attention is called to Jesus’ words: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:34-35). That these words spoken by Jesus were personally directed to the twelve disciples is clear from the context.
However, it is necessary to spend a little time proving the point. The event, thus, the context, is “supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot” to betray Jesus (verse 2); Jesus washed the feet of the disciples. Afterwards, Jesus was troubled in spirit and said: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me” (verse 21). Judas is identified: “He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon” (verse 26). Judas then departed, leaving Jesus and the eleven. It is here that Jesus speaks a few words about his departing, his death and resurrection, but in unusual words. This brings us to those beautiful words: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” Yes, without question, these words were spoken directly to the eleven! The first application was to the eleven to whom Jesus spoke.
However, though the personal pronoun “you,” being the Greek “humin,” is plural and refers to the eleven; the commandment is far greater than those who would be the apostles of Christ. The revelation which is revealed in the action commanded, “that ye love one another,” and identifies them as his disciples is open ended and unlimited! It is in fact, a test, the test of discipleship! Taking into account that it was “disciples” who were first called “Christians,” (Acts 11:26) it is also a test of being a Christian!
Yet, the context is most clear that Jesus was personally speaking to the eleven! Notice what happens next: “Simon Peter said unto him, Lord, whither goest thou? Jesus answered him, Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterwards. Peter said unto him, Lord, why cannot I follow thee now? I will lay down my life for thy sake. Jesus answered him, Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice” (verses 36 – 38). Yes, it is obvious that in this context Jesus was addressing Peter! As a side note, have we not all been like Peter, in our words spoken so bravely, been so sure of our faithfulness; only see our failure in short order?
We do not rejoice in Peter’s failure, but we can identify with it. As we are writing on this subject, we must also note Peter’s great example of what to do upon seeing our sin. This results in one of the great scenes in the New Testament; Peter is charged with being one of Jesus’ disciples: “And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew. And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And Peter went out, and wept bitterly (Luke 22:60-62). If only we could see the eyes of the Lord when we sin and see the look on his face; we also might “wept bitterly!”
Yes pronouns have lessons to teach, if we are only willing to learn! So it is true, that words spoken or written to a certain person, or group of people, may have greater application as we have seen in the context of John chapter thirteen. Yet, this is not always the case and there is great danger in failing to identifying the antecedent of a pronoun(s), as we might conclude that the command, the promise, or what is being said, wrongly applies to us today when it does not!
At the same time, as in this article, we must not overlook the fact that we may find in some context which does not apply to us today directly, nevertheless may reveal truths that are greater than the context! However, this truth is no excuse for laziness on our part in studying the word of life!

— Frank R. Williams

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