The Gospel of John
(James J. Barker)

Lesson 20


(John 7:37-39)


1.     The Scofield Study Bible says this is “the greatest prophecy concerning the Holy Spirit for power.”

2.     David Brainerd was a missionary to the American Indians who died at the age of 29.  He was reared in a Puritan home in Connecticut, and was left an orphan at the age of fourteen.  When he was a young man of twenty-one, someone gave him a book entitled, Guide to Christ by Solomon Stoddart. 

3.     But David Brainerd was bothered by Stoddart’s book.  In fact he felt angry. For, although the book described accurately the terrible distress which he was himself experiencing, it did not satisfactorily explain to him the way of deliverance.

4.     It told him to come to Christ. “If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink” (John 7:37).  But what, precisely, does that mean?

5.     Brainerd wrote, “Whilst I was in this distressed, bewildered and tumultuous state of mind, I was irritated, through not being able to find out what faith was. What was it to believe? What was it to come to Christ?”

6.     These are important questions.  They remind us that though the Gospel is simple enough for a child to believe, sinners often miss it.

7.     So David Brainerd was irritated by our Lord’s words in John 7:37.   Words that speak of the blessings of salvation only irritated him.  But David Brainerd continued reading his Bible, and the next time the very same text captivated him.

8.     It was a Sunday evening, July 12, 1739.  “At this time,” he says, “the way of salvation opened to me with such infinite wisdom, suitableness and excellency that I wondered that I should ever have desired any other way of salvation. I was amazed that I had not dropped my own contrivances and complied with this lovely, blessed and excellent way before. If I could have been saved by my own duties, or any other way that I had formerly conceived, my whole soul would now have refused it. I wondered that all the world did not see and comply with this way of salvation.”

9.     If I were to preach a Gospel message tonight this would be the thrust of my sermon.  The Word of God often irritates, but through the convicting power of the Holy Spirit it also captivates.

10. But since there are many godly believers assembled here this evening, I will go further. For this text not only captivated David Brainerd, it also animated his whole being.

11. As soon as the burning thirst of his own soul had been quenched, it occurred to David Brainerd that there were many others who were thirsting for salvation and the blessings of God.  His soul was gripped by the words – “If any man thirst…”

12. David Brainerd looked out upon a thirsty world. But he lived in a era when there was very little missionary enterprise.  The great missionary societies had not yet been established.

13. Interestingly, it was through reading the biography of David Brainerd that William Carey caught his vision for missions and the Lord used Carey to open the doors for world-wide evangelization.

14. It was Brainerd's biography that made Henry Martyn a missionary to India.  David Brainerd also influenced John Wesley, undoubtedly one of the greatest preachers of all time.  It was Wesley who said, “Let every preacher read carefully the Life of David Brainerd.”

15. Here are a few extracts from his Journal:

Feb. 15, 1745. This evening I was much assisted in meditating on that precious text: Jesus stood and cried, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink! I longed to proclaim such grace to the whole world of sinners.

Feb. 17, 1745. On the sunny side of a hill in the wilderness, I preached all day, to people who had come twenty miles to hear me, on Jesus stood and cried, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink! I was scarce ever enabled to offer the free grace of God to perishing sinners with more plainness.

April 22, 1745. Preached, with freedom and life, from Jesus stood and cried, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink!

August 5, 1745. Preached to the Indians from Jesus stood and cried, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink! Some, who had never been affected before, were struck with deep concern; others had their concern greatly deepened.

16. David Brainerd died on October 9, 1747. He was not yet thirty years old, but he had no regrets. “Now that I am dying,” he exclaimed, “I declare that I would not for all the world have spent my life otherwise!”

17. David Brainerd was engaged to Jerusha Edwards, Jonathan Edwards’ daughter, whom Edwards called “the flower of the family.”  She died only four months after her fiancée.

18. Near the end Jerusha entered David Brainerd’s sickroom with a Bible in her hand.  “Oh, that dear book!” he cried, “that lovely book! I shall soon see it opened! The mysteries in it, and the mysteries of God's providence, will all be unfolded!'

19. I feel inadequate to preach this great text.  But like David Brainerd, I will preach it, believing the Holy Spirit will use it to speak to hearts.



1.     This promise can be looked at two different ways.  The unconverted can see in it their need for salvation.  This is how David Brainerd saw it before he was saved.

2.     This thirst can refer to a thirst for salvation, or in some cases it can refer to a yearning for closer fellowship with God.

3.     Many Christians are satisfied with an easy-going, carnal type of Christianity, but thank God there are others who desire something more.

4.     We have members who were members of other churches where prayer and holiness and soulwinning and separation from the world were not emphasized.  Instead of godliness, there was entertainment and worldliness. And spiritual Christians cannot be content with that sort of thing.

5.     Listen to this quote from Charles Haddon Spurgeon. It is excerpted from “Restoration of Truth and Revival,” Sword and the Trowel, December 1887: “The Lord our God, is holy, and he cannot compromise his own glorious name by working with persons whose groveling tastes lead them to go to Egypt--we had almost said to Sodom--for their recreations. Is this walking with God? Is this the manner in which Enochs are produced? It is a heart-sorrow to have
to mention such things, but the work of the Lord must be done faithfully, and this evil must be laid bare. There can be no doubt that all sorts of entertainments, as nearly as possible approximating to stage-play, have been carried on in connection with places of worship, and are, at this present time, in high favor. Can these things promote holiness, or help in communion with God?”

6.     Interestingly, the name of that article is “Restoration of Truth and Revival.”  Spurgeon correctly saw worldliness and entertainment as a hindrance to revival. We need revival.  We are asking God to move.  We want to have an impact on our community.  All around us we see lost sinners and sleepy Christians (John 7:37-39).

7.     Our Lord said in John 7:38, “as the Scripture hath said.”  This promise then is according to the general tenor of the OT Scriptures – “as the Scripture hath said.” 

8.     Isaiah 44:3 says, “For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring.”

9.     The Psalmist said, “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.”

10. Why is worldliness such a problem in our churches?  It is because Christians are not “panting” after God.  They are panting after the things of this world.

11.  The hymnwriter put it this way,

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.”

12. There has to be a recognition of need.  I have heard preachers state that revival is normal NT Christianity.  But many Christians are uncomfortable with that statement because our Christianity today is anemic and shallow.

13. We need to study the Book of Acts and ask God to pour out His Holy Spirit upon us.  Our Lord’s promise was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost (John 7:39; Acts 2:1-4).

14. Many Baptists shy away from this because of the abuse of tongues by the Pentecostals and charismatics (Acts 2:4).  I just read about a tongues meeting out in Utah with Mormons and Pentecostals.

15. But if you go through the book of Acts and study this out you will see that tongues are not a sign of the filling of the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 4:31; 6:5).

16. What we need is power to proclaim the Gospel of Christ.



1.     We know that our Lord is referring to the Holy Spirit (John 7:39).  And we know that the Holy Spirit is only given to those who obey God (Acts 5:32).

2.     I like how Bro. Van Gelderen puts it – “Trust to Obey.” Once we acknowledge we are thirsty, we must come to Christ and drink (John 7:37).

3.     Let us consider our Lord’s words.  “Thirst” signifies need.  Sinners need salvation.  And saints need the filling of the Holy Spirit.

4.     Many Christians assume that just because they are saved, they must automatically be filled with the Holy Spirit, but that is not true. Ephesians 5:18 says, “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.”

5.     In John 10:10, our Lord said, “I am come that they might have life (SALVATION), and that they might have it more abundantly.”

6.     So if “thirst” signifies need, then “drink” speaks of supply.  And praise God, the supply is abundant – “that they might have it more abundantly.”

7.     But we must “come” (John 7:37).  Sinners must come for salvation, and believers must come for the fullness of the Holy Spirit (cf. John 6:37).


III.           YIELDING TO THE HOLY SPIRIT (7:37-39).

1.     “Out of his belly (innermost being) shall flow rivers of living water” (7:38) – this means an ever flowing, continual, bountiful supply.

2.     And if we do not drink, we not only deprive ourselves but others as well.  Many Christians are ineffective for God because they are so dry.

3.     Our Lord promises to all believers, who are conscious of their need for it, the gift of thirst-quenching water, which would then becomes a perpetual source of refreshment for others as well as themselves.

4.     Once we have been revived and refreshed we can be a channel of blessing to others.

5.     A. C. Gaebelein, in his commentary on the Gospel of John, gives this paraphrase from Martin Luther: “He that cometh to Me shall be so furnished with the Holy Spirit, that he shall not only be quickened and refreshed himself and delivered from thirst, but he shall also be a strong stone vessel, from which the Holy Spirit with all blessing shall flow to others, refreshing, comforting and strengthening them, even as he was refreshed by Me.” 



1. This Scripture proves Jesus Christ is God.  How could any mortal man ever say such a thing? – “let him come to me...”  How could even an angel say such a thing?   Only God manifest in the flesh could make a promise such as this!

2. Unsaved friend: only Christ can satisfy your soul (cf. John 4:13, 14).

3. Christian friend: let us ask God to use us like He never has before.  Let us make sure there is nothing (unconfessed sin, selfishness, bitterness, worldliness, carelessness) hindering the outflow of living waters.

4. A vessel will not overflow until it is full.  We must be filled with the Holy Spirit.

5. We must receive from Him before we can go out for Him.

          6. LUKE 11:9-13.

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