“An Israelite Indeed, in Whom is No Guile”


“Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!”(John 1:47)


In his commentary on this verse John Trapp wrote, “Here Christ wondereth at his own work of renovation, as wonderful, doubtless, as that of creation.”


“An Israelite Indeed”


The Lord Jesus tells us that Nathanael was an Israelite indeed. He was not simply one who was a physical descendant of Abraham. — For all are not Israel which are of Israel” (Romans 9:6). Nathanael was an Israelite indeed, one of the “children of promise (Galatians 4:28), one of “the Israel of God,” of Abraham’s spiritual seed, one of God’s true Israel, an heir of covenant grace. He was circumcised inwardly by God the Holy Spirit (Colossians 2:11-12; Philippians 3:3), not just outwardly.


That part of the verse is easy. But the next thing our Lord Jesus says about Nathanael is not as easily understood. — “Behold an Israelite indeed in whom is no guile.” We are often urged to be without guile; but here our Lord declares of a man, “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” How are we to take those words? Guile is hypocrisy, deceit, cunning, craftiness, duplicity, dishonesty. Does our Savior mean for us to understand that Nathanael had no guile?


      Only four times in Holy Scripture do we read of people being free of guile, here, in Psalm 32:2, 1 Peter 2:22, and in Revelation 14:5. In Psalm 32 we are told that the forgiven sinner is one in whose spirit there is no guile. In 1 Peter 2:22 the Holy Spirit tells us that our Lord Jesus had no guile. And in Revelation 14:5 we are told that those who stand before God in heaven have no guile. We read in Revelation 21:27 that none can enter that blessed place called heaven who have any guile, but only those whose names were written as perfect and without guile in “the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”


Guileless Spirit


The forgiven sinner, the heaven-born soul is one in whose spirit there is no guile (Psalm 32:1-2). Certainly Nathanael was that. He was a true child of God, a true believer in difficult times. He was one of a very little flock. Like Simeon and Anna, he was living by faith and waiting prayerfully for the promised Redeemer when our Lord began his ministry. He had that which grace alone can give, an honest heart, a heart without guile.


      Without question, pardoned sinners are upright, righteous, and without guile in the course of their lives. They are not dishonest, hypocritical people. The Lord God declares of all his children that they are “children that will not lie” (Isaiah 5 63:8). But that cannot be our Lord’s meaning here. He here declares that Nathanael was a man in whom there was “no guile” and asserts that they and only they in whom is no guile are true Israelites. Yet, every heaven-born soul knows the plague of his own heart. All who are taught of God know that they are by nature full of guile.


No Exaggeration


When our Lord declares that Nathanael is without guile and asserts that all who are Israelites indeed have no guile, was he exaggerating, or was he stating the truth? He was stating the truth, pure, absolute truth. All who trust Christ are Israelites indeed (Philippians 3:3). And all God’s elect are a people in whom there is no guile, no duplicity, no hypocrisy, nothing false!


This is not a declaration of personal, or personally accomplished, holiness. Those who know the plague of their own hearts know better. Yet, when the Lord Jesus described Nathanael with these words, “an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile,” Nathanael realized that he was and is the Christ, the all-knowing God in human flesh. When he answered the Savior, saying, “Whence knowest thou me?” he as good as said, “Truly, I am a guileless man by the grace of God, and you could not know that if you were not the God who has made me a new creature by your grace. — ‘Thou art the Son of God. Thou art the King of Israel!’”


God’s people are a people with no guile. This is a plain statement of fact. It is not an exaggeration. All who are saved by the grace of God are without guile…

  • Representatively — We stand guileless before the holy Lord God because we are in Christ, one with Christ.
  • Eternally — We have been accepted in Christ, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, from eternity, “accepted in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:3-6).
  • Judicially — The Lord God declares that there is no sin, no iniquity, no guile recorded against us in the record books of heaven (Jeremiah 50:20).
  • In Spirit — In the new birth God the Holy Spirit creates in the chosen, redeemed sinner a new nature that is truly righteous and holy, a nature that cannot sin (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 4:24; 1 John 3:6-10). That new nature is “Christ in you” (Colossians 1:27; 2 Peter 1:4).


Because they are in Christ and Christ is in them, every saved sinner is, like Nathanael, an Israelite indeed in whom is no guile! That in them which is born of God, that new man created in righteousness and true holiness, that new nature that cannot sin because it is born of God is altogether without guile (1 John 3:6-10).


Are you an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile?





Don Fortner



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