If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.
1. The doctrine here taught is that if a man be sincere and accept the truth that God's will is to be supreme, he shall be able to determine God's doctrine. The sufficiency of sincerity in religion is loudly proclaimed. It is supposed to be the solvent of all religious difficulties. It is set up as the antagonist of doctrine, and as performing a function the exact opposite of that assigned to it here. With Christ it was the high road to truth; with some modern thinkers it is its substitute. Where there is such a contradiction of view as to the function of sincerity there must be some difference of judgment as to its meaning.
2. The sincerity which alternates the importance of truth cannot be the same as that meant to find truth. A languid, sentimental desire to be right is far from a purpose to do the will of God. We may desire to be learned and yet not study, and desire to be wealthy without self-denial and enterprize. Consider some of the tests of true sincerity.
I. IF A MAN BE WILLING TO DO GOD'S WILL HE WILL CONFORM HIS LIFE TO SUCH KNOWLEDGE AS HE POSSESSES OF THAT WILL. The text clearly supposes this.
1. No man is in complete ignorance of the Divine will; for no one is in complete ignorance of right and wrong, which have their roots in the Divine nature. Conscience is more or less a Divine witness within all men, and is supported by the facts of life, the consequences of actions; for we learn that that which is injurious cannot be His will, and that that which promotes the general happiness must. Our Saviour is con- templating the case of such as are in doubt whether His teaching on some matters be true, but who have some acquaintance with the will of God. The advice to the same class now-a-days is the same. Do the will of God as far as you know it, and you will know of the doctrine of which you are at present in doubt whether it be of God.
2. This is not exhorting a man to set about the work of saving himself instead of exhorting him to believe. The Saviour is dealing with doubters who think they have reasons for doubting. A man cannot drive out his doubts by a mere act of will. Besides, a man is morally bound to do God's will whatever the consequences. If he knows it to be the will of God that he should be truthful, sober, etc., it is his duty to eschew the opposite, whether he ever become a believer in Christ or not. If renunciation of evil will not help his salvation it will not hinder it; and it is obvious that no one can earnestly desire to know any doctrine whether it be of God unless he honours God by compliance with what he knows to be His will. For what can be a man's purpose in desiring to know any doctrine except that he may derive benefit from it? An inefficacious doctrine which impels no man to a Diviner life cannot be of any importance, and no one can sincerely desire to know a doctrine which constrains to a better life unless he is already yielding a loyal obedience to the laws he knows to be from God.
3. The difficulty of gaining admission for truth into the minds of men whose lives are in disconformity with it is proverbial. If a man's interests or pleasures are involved in his continuance of any course of action, you know what a mass of evidence is required to convince him that he is wrong. If a craft, however iniquitous, be in danger, how hard to convince those who are enriching themselves by its gains! Hence the opinions of men are as frequently the product of their practices as their cause. Thieves do not first excogitate evil maxims and then begin to steal. The worse the man the worse his principles, and the better the man the better his principles, as a rule.
4. If a man be willing to do the will of God he will be watchful against the prepossessions which would hinder him from knowing that will. We may inherit opinions from our fathers, as we inherit property, and there may gather around them a sort of halo. But hereditary beliefs, which are no more than notions, are of no value; and if any man be willing to do God's will he must be prepared to relinquish all traditions which are merely such. Christ contemplates the man to whom all light is welcome from any quarter. It may disturb old convictions, alter the proportions and relations of truths, but to know the will of God is worth it all.
II. HOW THIS EARNEST PURPOSE OPERATES AND LEADS TO THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE DOCTRINE WHETHER IT BE OF GOD.
1. Who can set himself to this higher life without a sense of the contrast between it and that which he has been leading. The birth of this heavenly resolution is not unmixed pleasure. The man feels that, however he may do the will of God in the future, the claims of the past are not cancelled by this altered life. What has infinite Justice to say to it? Is it not just here that the soul welcomes the cry "Behold the Lamb of God," etc., and the assurance that Christ has been set forth as a propitiation? Does he not feel that the doctrine is Of God, whatever its mysteries, because it addresses itself to the awakened conscience and does not sweep justice away that it may find room for mercy, but blends the claims of both.
2. And we can see how this purpose leads to the knowledge of another doctrine — the necessity for the influence of the Holy Spirit. No one knows how much he needs supernatural help until he sets himself to lead a holy life, for not until then is he adequately conscious of the difficulties. But is it not just at this point that we welcome the doctrine that the Spirit helpeth our infirmities, and that we can be strengthened with might by that Spirit in our inner man?
(E. Mellor, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.