Persecution foretold. (1-6) The promise of the Holy Spirit, and his office. (7-15) Christ's departure and return. (16-22) Encouragement to prayer. (23-27) Christ's discoveries of himself. (28-33)
Verses 1-6 Our Lord Jesus, by giving his disciples notice of trouble, designed that the terror might not be a surprise to them. It is possible for those who are real enemies to God's service, to pretend zeal for it. This does not lessen the sin of the persecutors; villanies will never be changed by putting the name of God to them. As Jesus in his sufferings, so his followers in theirs, should look to the fulfilling of Scripture. He did not tell them sooner, because he was with them to teach, guide, and comfort them; they needed not then this promise of the Holy Spirit's presence. It will silence us to ask, Whence troubles come? It will satisfy us to ask, Whither go they? for we know they work for good. It is the common fault and folly of melancholy Christians to look only on the dark side of the cloud, and to turn a deaf ear to the voice of joy and gladness. That which filled the disciples' hearts with sorrow, was too great affection for this present life. Nothing more hinders our joy in God, than the love of the world, and the sorrow of the world which comes from it.
Verses 7-15 Christ's departure was necessary to the Comforter's coming. Sending the Spirit was to be the fruit of Christ's death, which was his going away. His bodily presence could be only in one place at one time, but his Spirit is every where, in all places, at all times, wherever two or three are gathered together in his name. See here the office of the Spirit, first to reprove, or to convince. Convincing work is the Spirit's work; he can do it effectually, and none but he. It is the method the Holy Spirit takes, first to convince, and then to comfort. The Spirit shall convince the world, of sin; not merely tell them of it. The Spirit convinces of the fact of sin; of the fault of sin; of the folly of sin; of the filth of sin, that by it we are become hateful to God; of the fountain of sin, the corrupt nature; and lastly, of the fruit of sin, that the end thereof is death. The Holy Spirit proves that all the world is guilty before God. He convinces the world of righteousness; that Jesus of Nazareth was Christ the righteous. Also, of Christ's righteousness, imparted to us for justification and salvation. He will show them where it is to be had, and how they may be accepted as righteous in God's sight. Christ's ascension proves the ransom was accepted, and the righteousness finished, through which believers were to be justified. Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. All will be well, when his power is broken, who made all the mischief. As Satan is subdued by Christ, this gives us confidence, for no other power can stand before him. And of the day of judgment. The coming of the Spirit would be of unspeakable advantage to the disciples. The Holy Spirit is our Guide, not only to show us the way, but to go with us by continued aids and influences. To be led into a truth is more than barely to know it; it is not only to have the notion of it in our heads, but the relish, and savour, and power of it in our hearts. He shall teach all truth, and keep back nothing profitable, for he will show things to come. All the gifts and graces of the Spirit, all the preaching, and all the writing of the apostles, under the influence of the Spirit, all the tongues, and miracles, were to glorify Christ. It behoves every one to ask, whether the Holy Spirit has begun a good work in his heart? Without clear discovery of our guilt and danger, we never shall understand the value of Christ's salvation; but when brought to know ourselves aright, we begin to see the value of the Redeemer. We should have fuller views of the Redeemer, and more lively affections to him, if we more prayed for, and depended on the Holy Spirit.
Verses 16-22 It is good to consider how near our seasons of grace are to an end, that we may be quickened to improve them. But the sorrows of the disciples would soon be turned into joy; as those of a mother, at the sight of her infant. The Holy Spirit would be their Comforter, and neither men nor devils, neither sufferings in life nor in death, would ever deprive them of their joy. Believers have joy or sorrow, according to their sight of Christ, and the tokens of his presence. Sorrow is coming on the ungodly, which nothing can lessen; the believer is an heir to joy which no one can take away. Where now is the joy of the murderers of our Lord, and the sorrow of his friends?
Verses 23-27 Asking of the Father shows a sense of spiritual wants, and a desire of spiritual blessings, with conviction that they are to be had from God only. Asking in Christ's name, is acknowledging our unworthiness to receive any favours from God, and shows full dependence upon Christ as the Lord our Righteousness. Our Lord had hitherto spoken in short and weighty sentences, or in parables, the import of which the disciples did not fully understand, but after his resurrection he intended plainly to teach them such things as related to the Father and the way to him, through his intercession. And the frequency with which our Lord enforces offering up petitions in his name, shows that the great end of the mediation of Christ is to impress us with a deep sense of our sinfulness, and of the merit and power of his death, whereby we have access to God. And let us ever remember, that to address the Father in the name of Christ, or to address the Son as God dwelling in human nature, and reconciling the world to himself, are the same, as the Father and Son are one.
Verses 28-33 Here is a plain declaration of Christ's coming from the Father, and his return to him. The Redeemer, in his entrance, was God manifest in the flesh, and in his departure was received up into glory. By this saying the disciples improved in knowledge. Also in faith; "Now are we sure." Alas! they knew not their own weakness. The Divine nature did not desert the human nature, but supported it, and put comfort and value into Christ's sufferings. And while we have God's favourable presence, we are happy, and ought to be easy, though all the world forsake us. Peace in Christ is the only true peace, in him alone believers have it. Through him we have peace with God, and so in him we have peace in our own minds. We ought to be encouraged, because Christ has overcome the world before us. But while we think we stand, let us take heed lest we fall. We know not how we should act if brought into temptation; let us watch and pray without ceasing, that we may not be left to ourselves.
John 16:1-33 . DISCOURSE AT THE SUPPER TABLE CONCLUDED.
1-5. These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended--both the warnings and the encouragements just given.
2. They shall put you out of the synagogue--( John 9:22 , 12:42 ).
the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service--The words mean religious service--"that he is offering a service to God." (So Saul of Tarsus, Galatians 1:13 Galatians 1:14 , Philippians 3:6 ).
4. these things I said not . . . at--from.
the beginning--He had said it pretty early ( Luke 6:22 ), but not quite as in John 16:2 .
because I was with you.
5. But now I go my way to him that sent me--While He was with them, the world's hatred was directed chiefly against Himself; but His departure would bring it down upon them as His representatives.
and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou?--They had done so in a sort ( John 13:36 , 14:5 ); but He wished more intelligent and eager inquiry on the subject.
6, 7. But because I have said these things . . . sorrow hath filled your heart--Sorrow had too much paralyzed them, and He would rouse their energies.
7. It is expedient for you that I go away--
| || My Saviour, can it ever be |
That I should gain by losing thee?
for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you, but if I depart, I will send him unto
8. And when he is come, he will, &c.--This is one of the passages most pregnant with thought in the profound discourses of Christ; with a few great strokes depicting all and every part of the ministry of the Holy Ghost in the world--His operation with reference to individuals as well as the mass, on believers and unbelievers alike [OLSHAUSEN].
he will reprove--This is too weak a word to express what is meant. Reproof is indeed implied in the term employed, and doubtless the word begins with it. But convict or convince is the thing intended; and as the one expresses the work of the Spirit on the unbelieving portion of mankind, and the other on the believing, it is better not to restrict it to either.
9. Of sin, because they believe not on me--As all sin has its root in unbelief, so the most aggravated form of unbelief is the rejection of Christ. The Spirit, however, in fastening this truth upon the conscience, does not extinguish, but, on the contrary, does consummate and intensify, the sense of all other sins.
10. Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more--Beyond doubt, it is Christ's personal righteousness which the Spirit was to bring home to the sinner's heart. The evidence of this was to lie in the great historical fact, that He had "gone to His Father and was no more visible to men":--for if His claim to be the Son of God, the Saviour of the world, had been a lie, how should the Father, who is "a jealous God," have raised such a blasphemer from the dead and exalted him to His right hand? But if He was the "Faithful and True Witness," the Father's "Righteous Servant," "His Elect, in whom His soul delighted," then was His departure to the Father, and consequent disappearance from the view of men, but the fitting consummation, the august reward, of all that He did here below, the seal of His mission, the glorification of the testimony which He bore on earth, by the reception of its Bearer to the Father's bosom. This triumphant vindication of Christ's rectitude is to us divine evidence, bright as heaven, that He is indeed the Saviour of the world, God's Righteous Servant to justify many, because He bare their iniquities ( Isaiah 53:11 ). Thus the Spirit, in this clause, is seen convincing men that there is in Christ perfect relief under the sense of sin of which He had before convinced them; and so far from mourning over His absence from us, as an irreparable loss, we learn to glory in it, as the evidence of His perfect acceptance on our behalf, exclaiming with one who understood this point, "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth: Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died; yea, rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God," &c. ( Romans 8:33 Romans 8:34 ).
11. Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged--By supposing that the final judgment is here meant, the point of this clause is, even by good interpreters, quite missed. The statement, "The prince of this world is judged," means, beyond all reasonable doubt, the same as that in John 12:31 , "Now shall the prince of this world be cast out"; and both mean that his dominion over men, or his power to enslave and so to ruin them, is destroyed. The death of Christ "judged" or judicially overthrew him, and he was thereupon "cast out" or expelled from his usurped dominion ( Hebrews 2:14 , 1 John 3:8 , Colossians 2:15 ). Thus, then, the Spirit shall bring home to men's conscience: (1) the sense of sin, consummated in the rejection of Him who came to "take away the sin of the world"; (2) the sense of perfect relief in the righteousness of the Father's Servant, now fetched from the earth that spurned Him to that bosom where from everlasting He had dwelt; and (3) the sense of emancipation from the fetters of Satan, whose judgment brings to men liberty to be holy, and transformation out of servants of the devil into sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty. To one class of men, however, all this will carry conviction only; they "will not come to Christ"--revealed though He be to them as the life-giving One--that they may have life. Such, abiding voluntarily under the dominion of the prince of this world, are judged in his judgment, the visible consummation of which will be at the great day. To another class, however, this blessed teaching will have another issue--translating them out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God's dear Son.
12-15. when he, the Spirit of truth, is come . . . he shall not speak of himself--that is, from Himself, but, like Christ Himself, "what He hears," what is given Him to communicate.
he will show you things to come--referring specially to those revelations which, in the Epistles partially, but most fully in the Apocalypse, open up a vista into the Future of the Kingdom of God, whose horizon is the everlasting hills.
14. He shall glorify me; for he shall receive of mine and show it unto you--Thus the whole design of the Spirit's office is to glorify Christ--not in His own Person, for this was done by the Father when He exalted Him to His own right hand--but in the view and estimation of men. For this purpose He was to "receive of Christ"--all the truth relating to Christ--"and show it unto them," or make them to discern it in its own light. The subjective nature of the Spirit's teaching--the discovery to the souls of men of what is Christ outwardly--is here very clearly expressed; and, at the same time, the vanity of looking for revelations of the Spirit which shall do anything beyond throwing light in the soul upon what Christ Himself is, and taught, and did upon earth.
15. All things that the Father hath are mine--a plainer expression than this of absolute community with the Father in all things cannot be conceived, though the "all things" here have reference to the things of the Kingdom of Grace, which the Spirit was to receive that He might show it to us. We have here a wonderful glimpse into the inner relations of the Godhead.
16-22. A little while, and ye shall not see me; and again a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father--The joy of the world at their not seeing Him seems to show that His removal from them by death was what He meant; and in that case, their joy at again seeing Him points to their transport at His reappearance amongst them on His Resurrection, when they could no longer doubt His identity. At the same time the sorrow of the widowed Church in the absence of her Lord in the heavens, and her transport at His personal return, are certainly here expressed.
23-28. In that day--of the dispensation of the Spirit (as in John 14:20 ).
ye shall ask--inquire of
me nothing--by reason of the fulness of the Spirit's teaching ( John 14:26 , 16:13 ; and compare 1 John 2:27 ).
24. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name--for "prayer in the name of Christ, and prayer to Christ, presuppose His glorification" [OLSHAUSEN].
ask--when I am gone, "in My name."
25. in proverbs--in obscure language, opposed to "showing plainly"--that is, by the Spirit's teaching.
26. I say not . . . I will pray the Father for you--as if He were not of Himself disposed to aid you: Christ does pray the Father for His people, but not for the purpose of inclining an unwilling ear.
27. For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me--This love of theirs is that which is called forth by God's eternal love in the gift of His Son mirrored in the hearts of those who believe, and resting on His dear Son.
28. I came forth from the Father, &c.--that is, "And ye are right, for I have indeed so come forth,and shall soon return whence I came." This echo of the truth, alluded to in John 16:27 , seems like thinking aloud, as if it were grateful to His own spirit on such a subject and at such an hour.
29, 30. His disciples said, . . . now speakest thou plainly, and speakest no proverb--hardly more so than before; the time for perfect plainness was yet to come; but having caught a glimpse of His meaning (it was nothing more), they eagerly express their satisfaction, as if glad to make anything of His words. How touchingly does this show both the simplicity of their hearts and the infantile character of their faith!
31-33. Jesus answered . . . Do ye now believe?--that is, "It is well ye do, for it is soon to be tested, and in a way ye little expect."
the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone; and yet I am not alone--A deep and awful sense of wrong experienced is certainly expressed here, but how lovingly! That He was not to be utterly deserted, that there was One who would not forsake Him, was to Him matter of ineffable support and consolation; but that He should be without all human countenance and cheer, who as Man was exquisitely sensitive to the law of sympathy, would fill themselves with as much shame, when they afterwards recurred to it, as the Redeemer's heart in His hour of need with pungent sorrow. "I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none" ( Psalms 69:20 ).
because the Father is with me--how near, and with what sustaining power, who can express?
33. These things I have spoken unto you--not the immediately preceding words, but this whole discourse, of which these were the very last words, and which He thus winds up.
that in me ye might have peace--in the sublime sense before explained.
In the world ye shall have tribulation--specially arising from its deadly opposition to those who "are not of the world, but chosen out of the world." So that the "peace" promised was far from an unruffled one.
I have overcome the world--not only before you, but for you, that ye may be able to do the same ( 1 John 5:4 1 John 5:5 ).