The Good Practitioner
John 13:1-19
Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world to the Father…

I. KNOWLEDGE ALONE IN THE MYSTERIES OF RELIGION WILL NOT MAKE A MAN HAPPY (Matthew 7:21; Luke 6:46). His knowledge might make a man admired, but not blessed. I would not disparage knowledge: knowledge is the pilot to guide us in our obedience; if zeal be not according to knowledge, it is will-worship, the setting up an altar to an unknown God. Knowledge is the elder sister, but here the elder must serve the younger: knowledge may put us into the way of happiness, but it is only practice brings us thither.

1. Knowledge alone doth not make a man better, therefore it cannot make him happy; it informs, not transforms: a man may receive the truth in the light of it, not in the love of it (2 Thessalonians 2:10: Romans 2:20). Knowledge alone makes men monsters in religion; they are all head but no feet (Colossians 2:6). A man may have knowledge and be neglective of his duty; and have a clear head, and a foul heart, as the sun may shine on a dirty way.

2. Knowledge alone will not save, therefore it will not make a man happy. Hell is full of learned heads.

3. Know. ledge alone makes a man's case worse, therefore it cannot make him happy.

(1) It takes away all excuse and apology (John 15:22).

(2) It adds to a man's torment (Luke 12:47). If a king cause his proclamation to be published, the subject knows it, but obeys not, this doth the more incense the king against him. Better be ignorant than knowingly disobedient.

4. Use. Get knowledge, but do not rest in it (Ecclesiastes 1:18). To know only to know is like one that knows certain countries by the map, and can discourse of them, but never travelled into them, nor tasted the sweet spices of those countries. So the gnostic in religion hath heard and read much of the beauty of holiness, but never travelled into religion, nor tasted how good the Lord is; what is it the better to have the Bible in our heads if not in our hearts? You do not call him an handicraftsman who doth not work in his trade: so it is improper to call him a Christian who hath knowledge, but no practice.


1. There must be practice, because it is only that which answers God's end in giving us His Word both written and preached (Leviticus 18:4; Deuteronomy 26:16). If you speak to your children, it is not only that they may know your mind, but do it. God gives us His Word not only as a picture to look upon, but as a copy to write after. The master gives his servant a candle, not to gaze on, but to work by; and so David calls the Word of God, not a lamp to his eyes, but a lantern to his feet.

2. It is only the practice of religion that makes a man happy. It appears by Scripture (James 1:25; Acts 7:22; Matthew 25:34, 35; Revelation 22:12). By reason, happiness is not attainable but in the use of means; and the use of means implies practice (Philippians 2:12). There can be no crown without running, no recompense without diligence.

(1) If it be only the doing part of religion makes men happy, then it sharply reproves them who know much, yet do nothing. It is better to practice one truth than to know all. But why do so few come up to the practical part of religion? Surely it is —

(a)  For want of humility.

(b)  Want of faith (Isaiah 53:1).

(c)  The difficulty of it. It is easy to hear a truth, to make a profession of it; but to digest it into practice, men are loath to put themselves to too much trouble (Proverbs 19:15). But it costs many a sinner more labour in toiling about his lusts than it costs a saint in serving his God.

(d)  The world comes between and hinders.

(2) It exhorts all to become practitioners in religion. Note the following:

(a)  Obedience is an evidence of sincerity (John 10:25).

(b)  Practice will both honour religion and propagate it.

(c)  Thus we show our love to Christ (John 14:21).

(d)  Without practice you will come short of them who have come short of heaven (Mark 6:20).

(e)  What unspeakable comfort will obedience yield both in life and death.

(f)  What is the end of all God's administrations, promises, threatenings, but obedience (Deuteronomy 11:28).

(g)  Consider what a sin disobedience is, against reason (1 Corinthians 10.22), against equity, against conscience (Malachi 1:6); against kindness, against nature, since every creature in its kind obeys God; against self-preservation (2 Thessalonians 1:7, 8).

(h)  The benefit of obedience (Psalm 19:11). So saith the text. If this argument will not prevail, what will?

(3) Some rules to help Christians in their obedience. Obedience must be —

(a)  Cordial (Deuteronomy 26:16; Romans 6:17). The heart is the seat of love, and it is love perfumes every duty. The heart makes service a free will offering, else it is but a tax.

(b)  Extensive — it must reach to all God's commandments (1 Kings 9:4; Luke 1:6).

(c)  Believing (Hebrews 11:6; Romans 16:26).

(d)  Constant (Revelation if. 26). Faith must lead the van, and perseverance must bring up the rear.

(T. Watson.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.

WEB: Now before the feast of the Passover, Jesus, knowing that his time had come that he would depart from this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

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