You worship you know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.…
I. CHRIST SPEAKS OF GOD the Father, the God of salvation, God the Spirit, IN A TONE OF INTENSE AND UNFALTERING CONVICTION. "We know" — not guess, dream, desire. He knows Him not as an empty name, or a key to interpret creation, or as a central sun of the philosophy of Providence. At least, then, Jesus is not an agnostic, but knew God as God knew Him. Christ is our example as thinker and knower. Can we then climb to the height of His full assurance of understanding?
II. THIS QUESTION, ALWAYS INTERESTING, IS JUST NOW CHARGED WITH EXTRAORDINARY URGENCY. These are days of the revision and reconstruction of religious knowledge.
1. The word God is so overwhelming and vast that some thoughtful souls shrink from declaring their belief in Him. Atheism has done us this service: that it has forced on us what a great thing it is to maintain the existence of God.
2. Others occupying a different standpoint infer that we have not the faculties requisite for grasping this revelation.
3. It is essential to manhood, conduct and character that we do not trifle with this question. Either God can be known or He cannot, and we ought to settle what the facts really are and be sure that there is no chance of knowing God, or else search for Him with all the heart; for what a man knows and is sure of is the measure of His peace, power and growth. For the world's regeneration God must be more than an enigma, He must be known.
III. THE ANSWER TO THIS INQUIRY IS NOT SO DIFFICULT AS IT SEEMS. It is not dependent upon the range of our information, but upon the use of the right organs and methods of verification. Though we know little we need not be less positive and assured about it. We may rejoice in the boundless expanse and be sure of the patch of blue above us, and of the ray of truth that shines through it: though we cannot embrace its illimitable sketches of beauty and glory. A real agnosticism is for ever being married to a practical and life-enriching positivism. Though we cannot be sure of anything, it does not follow that we can be sure of nothing. "We cannot by searching find out God." Even Moses could only catch a glimpse of the glory of His goodness. Who of us knows his friend in his totality, much less God. Christ's knowledge was limited and yet He knew the Father so well that He took the plan of His life from Him as a boy of twelve, and never lost it till He said, "Father, into Thy hands I commend my Spirit." This is the secret of human progress. Men built in certitute have been creators of new epochs and saviours of men. Paul's "I know" was the inspiration of His "One thing I do."
IV. If God then cannot be fully known, WHAT IS THE KNOWLEDGE WE MAY HAVE, HOW MAY WE GET IT AND TEST ITS VALIDITY? Christ gives the answer, "for salvation is of the Jews." We Jews know God because we are the depositaries of salvation for ourselves and for all men. Salvation is life, character, ethical stability, enthusiasm for righteousness, God. We are gloriously and divinely saved, and therefore divinely and surely taught.
1. This tells us that nothing assures like life and fortifies like experience. Truth is set in the clear radiance of our deliverance from false thoughts, base passions, wrong aims, and mean deeds.
2. The case cited by Christ proves His principle. From the Jews salvation has gone forth. They were a people saved of the Lord and knew Him through their salvations.
(1) Where will you find a people so completely freed from mental perplexity about God?
(2) To what people will you go for evidence of a more persistent ethical stability?
(3) Nor is there a literature of hope so rich as the Old Testament.
3. It follows that our assurance of God does not depend upon our speculative faculties, but on our practical powers which every marl can and must use.
(1) Intuition, the direct gaze of the soul on creation and life, compelling the recognition of a presence and power as the clearest and most real of all facts. Life sees life, and in life sees law, order, mind and heart.
(2) Science shows that this idea of God is the deepest and most essential of all that get a place in human thought. The total results of human inquiry is to prove —
(a) The existence of an energy, infinite and omnipresent, underlying and comprehending all the phenomena of the universe.
(b) That it works for righteousness.
(c) That it is personal, a living and holy will.
(3) History is a revelation of God. "Salvation of the Jews" is only part of God's redeeming work. Redemption is the pivot on which the entire human story turns.
(4) Life. You will derive your largest aids from personal devotion to Christ, acceptance of His discipline, and effort to do all His will.
(J. Clifford, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.