Verily, Verily, I Say Unto You

There word translated as “verily” in the KJV, is the word “AMEN”. It is also translated as “I tell you the truth” in the NIV, or “truly” in many other versions. The word is of Hebrew origin, and means fully trustworthy; surely, so be it, truly, truthfully, truth. (See Strong's Hebrew Dictionary, #539, #543)

Twenty-five times in the Gospel of John, Jesus used the double "verily." Matthew quotes the single "verily" thirty times, Mark fourteen times, and Luke seven times. The word is used to mark the importance of the truth about to be uttered. The word “Yes! So be it! Let this be done!” It is a pronouncement: a firm and authoritative declaration. Whenever it is said, it indicates that this is something sure and true, something we better pay close attention to. When it is repeated, the concept being relayed is of utmost importance; the truth that is spoken is of one we better not miss!

Jesus prefaced each one of these key concepts with the words “Amen, amen lego humin”, which means in the Greek,“Truthfully, truthfully, I say unto you”, indicating the both the veracity and the authority with which He spoke. He was speaking to his followers personally, from the depth of his heart, making sure they realized the importance of the concepts He was teaching them.

If these things were important for His followers to understand then, they are certainly still important to us today. We would be well advised to study those things that Jesus emphasized by the words “Verily, verily, I say unto you”.

1.) And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man. (1:51)

The heavens were opened to Christ, and the angels attended upon Him, first at His baptism, (Matt. 3:13-17) then at His ascension. (Acts 1:9) “You" is plural, and includes all present as well as Nathanael. Jacob, the old Israel, in his dream at Bethel, saw the ladder that reached to heaven with the angels upon it (Ge 28:12). Christ is now that ladder, the way from earth to heaven. He is the way heaven sends messages to the world (Heb. 1:1-2) and the way we must go to reach it (John 14:16) (PNTC)

2.) Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Unless a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. (3:3)

The Greek term translated "again" is better translated as "anew". It is a great fundamental doctrine in the Gospel, the doctrine of regeneration, being born again, and becoming a new creature. It is the same doctrine spoken of in John 1:12-13. Nicodemus, like all Jews, supposed that all who were born as children of Abraham would, as Abraham's seed, naturally be citizens of the kingdom. Jesus tells him, however, that no one can be a new creature unless he is born anew. We are all born naturally into the kingdom of nature, to live the natural life; if we hope to enter the kingdom of heaven, which is a spiritual kingdom, it must be by a new, spiritual birth. (PNTC)

3.) Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Unless a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. (3:5)

Jesus proceeds to give a more explicit statement concerning the new birth: No one is a member of the kingdom of God until he is born again of both water and of the Spirit. Being born of water probably refers to natural birth, although there are some scholars who believe it refers to baptism. Being born of the Spirit refers to the inward, spiritual change that takes place when one is “born again”, and the Holy Spirit dwells within him. (PNTC)

4.) Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak what we know, and testify of what we have seen; and you do not believe our witness. (3:11)

We speak what we know, and bear witness (or testify) of what we have seen: Christ's words were not merely logical reasoning, speculations, and guesses, but were the plain testimony of an eye-witness, who was able to see and had seen things which to us are invisible; i.e., heavenly things (John 5:19). (TFG)

His deliberate use of the plural "we" included his disciples, who had seen Him perform many miracles. The teachers of Israel, who, above all men, having themselves been witness to many of the miracles performed by Jesus, stubbornly refused to heed His words. They rejected Him completely, considering His words and deeds to be blasphemous (Matt. 26:65), when in reality their objections were because His teachings threatened their position and authority. And if the Jewish rulers would not receive Jesus Christ's words, we should not be surprised if many of our day refuse to listen to the gospel now.

5.) Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he sees the Father do: for whatever things the Father does, the Son also does likewise. (5:19)

The Jewish religious leaders regarded Christ's claims of equality with God as blasphemy; They had accused Him of acting contrary to the law of the Father. But He declares himself to be a divine being, so united to the Father as to have no will or action apart from that of the Father; doing His Father's work in His Father's manner was a sign of His own divinity, while in no way detracting from the glory of the Father. (TFG)

6.) Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that hears my word, and believes on Him that sent me, has everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. (5:24)

To "hear" is not merely not the outward act of hearing, but rather to heed it to the extent that it makes an impression on the mind and heart, and thus a difference in one's actions, with obedience to the God's teachings and commands. Faith in God, who sent his Son, is necessary for everlasting life; but there can be no faith in the One who sends, without faith also in the One who was sent. (Barnes) Eternal life is a present gift, just as condemnation is a present condition (John 3:18). Those who have learned of Jesus and have obeyed His words have already escaped or avoided the judgment to come. (Rom. 8:1) (TFG)

7.) Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. (5:25)

The dead here refers to both the spiritually dead and the naturally dead. Christ gave eternal life to the souls of those who were spiritually dead in their sin. He also restored natural, physical life to some, when He chose to do so: Jairus's daughter, the widow's son, and Lazarus were all raised to natural life by Jesus. (FBN)

Jesus still gives spiritual life to those dead in their sin, when they receive Him by faith. "That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life." (John 3:15) "Whosoever" expresses the wide extent of Chrsit's invitation. Anyone, anytime, anywhere. Anyone who realizes their sinful state and puts their faith and confidence in Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, believing that He, and He alone, paid the price for their sin, and is able and willing to save them. (Barnes)

8.) Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, you seek me, not because you saw the miracles, but because you ate of the loaves, and were filled. (6:26)

The miracles they had seen Jesus work were proofs that He came from God. Had they sought Jesus because they had been convinced by those miracles that he was indeed the Messiah, would have been proper; but to follow him simply because of what He could do for them was extremely self-centered, rather than God centered. (Barnes)

Unfortunately, one of the prevailing heresies of our time is the “prosperity gospel:, which preaches that God will grant each one earthly happiness, health and wealth, and far too many seek religion for this reason alone. They want Jesus to increase their earthly happiness, and improve their lives, but they aren't much concerned with furthering the kingdom of God. Sometimes they seek only to escape the consequences of their sin, without being willing to give up the sin itself. Or, they seek heaven only as “fire insurance”, so they do not go to hell for their sin. All this is mere selfishness, and demonstrates the self-serving motives of the heart. When this is the only or the prevailing motive, it is evident that they have never yet sought God as they should; they do not love the Lord with all their heart, all their soul, and all their mind. (Matt. 22:37)

9.) Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses did not give you that bread from heaven; but my Father gave you the true bread from heaven. (6:32)

Manna was food for the body only, and was not given by Moses but by God, in response to the prayer of Moses. Christ is real and spiritual bread, which gives life to lost and dead men; which manna did not, could not do. Manna was for only the Israelites, but Christ gives life to all, Gentiles as well as Jews. The true bread from heaven was not the manna of Moses, which was only temporary, but the spiritual food bestowed upon the believer through Christ, which is eternal. Jesus referred to Himself as “the bread of life” in 6:35, the true bread of God that gives life to the world. (Burkitt)

10.) Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believes on me hath everlasting life. (6:47)

No other explanation needed: Belief in Jesus Christ is the necessary requirement to receiving the gift of eternal life. “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on them” (John 3:36). Because of sin, every single person is under condemnation, (John 3:18) until they are born again and God's wrath is removed from them.

11.) Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you have no life in you. (6:53)

Jesus had told them that He was the bread of life, and in John 6:51, He told them: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world”. They took His words literally, asking how it was possible to eat His flesh, but Jesus never meant to be taken literally, but figuratively. He used the figure of eating and drinking because that was the subject of the discourse; the Jews took pride in the fact that their fathers had eaten manna. Jesus was telling them that manna was not the source of eternal life, only He was. The plain and simple meaning of the passage is that by his death--His body and His blood offered in sacrifice for sin--he would provide forgiveness of sin and life for man; that those who partook of Him by eating and drinking (i.e., by taking His sacrifice for themselves) would obtain eternal life.

The Roman Catholic religion teaches a doctrine of "transubstantiation", that the wafer and wine served at Holy Communion are "changed into the body, blood, and divinity of our Lord." However, this passage was never intended to be taken literally . If the bread and wine used in the Lord's Supper were not changed into his literal body and blood when it was first instituted, which of course they were not, as He was standing right there in front of them, then they never have been since, either. The Lord Jesus instituted it just as He meant it should be observed, as a remembrance, and there is nothing now in that ordinance which there was not when the Savior first appointed it. (Barnes) We partake of the bread and the wine in remebrance of Jesus, His death and His resurrection, just as He commanded His followers to do. (Luke 22:19-20)

12.) Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever commits sin is the servant of sin. (8:34)

The pride and self-conceit of the religious leaders blinded them to their political as well as to their moral condition; they refused to admit their bondage, either physical or spiritual. The believed that their bloodline, their position as children of Abraham, was all they needed. Their proud words were blatantly false, as the nation of Israel had been enslaved for over six hundred years. Their fathers had been slaves in Egypt; their nation had been enslaved in Babylon; it had repeatedly been subject to the Assyrians; it was enslaved by Herod the Great, and even now they were under the bondage of Rome. (PNTC) The problem was, they had become comfortable in their bondage, both physical and spiritual. Even during their slavery in Egypt, they had prospered and grown, despite the harshness of their captors. They had also largely assimilated into the Babylonian culture when they were slaves there, so much so that many did not want to return when they were offered the opportunity to do so.

They were also in bondage to sin. The apostle Paul reiterated this teaching: “Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey – whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?” (Rom. 6:16) Paul was telling them that their lineage could not set them free from the bondage and the curse of sin, only Jesus could set them free. “If the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.” (John 8:36)

This is part 1 of a 2 part study. Click here for part 2:
Verily, Verily, Part 2


References used for this study include:

Barnes = Albert Barnes Notes on the New Testament
Burkitt = Burkitt's Expository Notes
PNTC = People's New Testament Commentary
TFG = The Fourfold Gospel and Commentary on Acts
FNB = Family Bible Notes
JFB = Jamieson Fausset-Brown Commentary

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