An Exposition of John Chapter 16
John 16: 1-3. ‘These things have I spoken unto you, in order that ye may not be stumbled. They shall put you out of the synagogue, yea, the hour cometh that every one that slayeth you will think that he is offering service to God. And these things will they do, because they have not recognised either the Father or Me.’
The Saviour, in wisdom and goodness made known the course of constant refusal which the disciples, specially as embodied in the church, would have continually to suffer. They and we take the place of witnesses to Christ. We in a certain sense take up the place of witness to the Father and Son, which Jesus Himself occupied while on earth, As He was rejected, so are the apostles and we. We are witnesses of a rejected Christ to a world of evil, which refuses the Holy Spirit and His testimony. We are witnesses of the Spirit of truth against Satan and His spirits of error, which rule the world. Hence the world dislikes, despises, hates, persecutes. Every one that will walk as Christ did, and in His Spirit, will suffer persecution.
Be not stumbled, then, believer! Do not argue, as if when you are hated the world must be right in its hatred, and you erroneous, or unfaithful in your testimony. So Peter warns us (1 Peter 1: 7; 4: 12).
The Saviour is unfolding the outlines of the new dispensation in which we now find ourselves - the economy of the Holy Ghost - the time of God’s testimony, and of the ill-treatment of His witnesses; making manifest the wickedness of the world, and of its Prince. It would be the witness of God upheld by the Spirit of God, yet refused and hated.
disciples’ expectation of
Danger of stumbling, then, was before the disciples. They fell in that night of the Saviour’s betrayal. They did not recover till after the resurrection. There was danger also in the period after that, when persecution for the truth should be upon them in all its fierceness, and a state of things around them unlike wholly to what they had anticipated out of the Law and the Prophets: Israel, their nation, utterly and with loathing refusing Christ; the great men and rulers scorning their ignorance, and opposing them with force even unto death. There was danger lest they should say, first in their hearts, then with their lips, ‘We have been deceived. The wand of a mighty enchanter has been upon us, and we were under a delusion, which now is scattered. We return back sorrowfully to our place under Moses again. We thought Jesus to be the Messiah: we think so no longer!’
A world of falsehood, led on by Satan, hates and persecutes God’s worshippers and witnesses of the truth. It was gracious, then, of our Lord to let them know that God’s professed people would refuse them, and seek their death. Israel, in putting out the truth and its witnesses, rather excommunicated themselves than the disciples of Jesus. They became ‘the Synagogue of Satan,’ and vainly professed they were Jews. Persecution of the truth now proves the persecutor to be one of the children of the Wicked One. Christ the Sufferer has consecrated the path of suffering for those that are His.
The words, ‘the hour,’ tell of a special season, which shall yet in its fulness come. Gentiles shall arrive at such an idea through false teaching yet to go forth. ‘Every one’ shall so think; not Jews alone. It is very remarkable that the slaying of ‘heretics’ was called at one time, ‘Auto da fe – ‘an act of faith!’ How great the blindness, to imagine God pleased by the murder of His beloved sons!
were to be prepared to be refused by their follow-countrymen, as no longer of
the religion of their fathers. Though
circumcised, keeping the Law, and abhorring idols, they would yet be put
outside the synagogue-worship of Jehovah by
Thus Jesus speaks, as the Prophet of the Church. And it was fulfilled. The first clap of this thunderstorm burst when the blind man was thrust out, because he pronounced Jesus to be a prophet; and when they agreed among themselves to put out any who owned Jesus to be the Christ. The real secret of this enmity was the humbling character of the Gospel. That told of Jews and Gentiles being on one and the same level before God, both alike condemned, and unable to deliver themselves from destruction. They were enraged at this announcement. ‘They, God’s ancient people, no better than ignorant idolatrous Gentiles! They who observed Moses so anxiously - they unjustified and condemned!’ Thus it is still. Those who stand by the powers of man, his goodness, and his improveableness by instruction, refuse Christ and grace. They refuse the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. The world listens to them, but God refuses them.
God would show to the world what fallen man under his best circumstances
is. And we may be thankful for
This enmity would proceed even to the infliction of death. They would fancy themselves justified in slaying those who were, as they said, leading them to serve another God. Vainly did apostles testify that they believed in, and taught the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They would not believe!
The same thing, too, would and did occur with the Gentiles. They could tolerate the worshippers of other gods than their own national ones. But these Christians were unlike all the world, in principles and life. They would own no God but their own; and pronounced all other men blind, unclean, and lost. The Romans denounced Christians as enemies of the gods; foes of the Caesars whom they refused to worship, rebels against the laws, and enemies of men. For they testified of a God of judgment, who had already condemned the world, and was about to destroy the guilty. To those who cling to the world, as man’s appropriate and only lawful sphere, the views which Christ gives of the state and destiny of the earth, its present rule by Satan, and its utter destruction by fire, are hateful.
Jews and Gentiles would think it a service done to God to cut off such enemies of God and man from the earth. The light of Christ being refused, blindness settles on the man; blindness greater than ever before. Thus was it with Saul. He, the man of Law, honest and able, persecuted to the death these dissenters from the nation’s faith. He scourged them in the synagogue, he condemned them to death. He was sincere. He thought he ought to put down by force these teachers of another God. He believed that Moses taught him to do so. Till he saw himself guilty, lost, unable to stand before the condemning Law, this was his attitude. It was the spirit and the conduct of one who refused the new name of God, and the testimony to man’s lost state.
3. ‘These things will they do unto you, because they have not known, the Father or Me.’
had now fully revealed Himself in the Son.
The Son made known the Father as His Sender, by words of grace, and by
deeds of power. But
None is a Christian, but he who owns Jesus as the Son of God. It is only under this new discovery of the Godhead, that grace and peace for the sinner are found.
None can own Jesus truly as the Christ, who confesses Him not as the Son; that He is a partaker in the new name and honours of the Godhead.
Do we suffer on behalf of Christ and God? How consoling the thought! Glory shall one day spring out of this to us! But how little do the persecuting ungodly see the woes coming on them, as the consequence of this wickedness! As the world knew not the Son of God when He came, so neither does it know the sons of God now. We are persecuted, because we belong to Christ. And those who with Christ suffer, with Him shall reign.
Saviour does not, through all
this farewell discourse, console the apostles with promises of the
world’s conversion. It is not – ‘You
may suffer at the first outburst of the good news, but your successors in the
ministry shall behold the world led to Christ’s feet. You may suffer, but you pave the way for
their triumph.’ No! All through the dispensation this evil heart of unbelief is to reign. All through Satan is
the Lord and God of the world. It is
only after resurrection, in the new day
Here Jesus sets Himself on a level with the Father. To know Him is to own the Father. To refuse Him is to refuse God. Under this trial Christians were not to be upheld by power without, as it was under the Law. Under the Law power was lodged on the side of truth. Jehovah would preserve the lives of the obedient. Whatever the force of the enemy, a greater force would be on their side, delivering them. We see some marvellous specimens of this in the deliverance of Daniel and his friends, when the nation was reduced to be subjects and slaves of a Gentile power. Patience, because of inward support by the Spirit of truth, is our position. Patience; because thus the Christ Himself, the Way, the Truth, and Life, lived. And faith; because we see the Saviour exalted by God, and the time of His victory and [Millennial*] Kingdom coming.
4. ‘But these things have I spoken unto you, that when the hour shall have come, ye may remember that I told you. But these things I told you not from the beginning, because I was with you.’
Our confidence increases in a guide who can predict to us all that we shall see, and all that will befall us in a country we have never travelled. In the days of strife and suffering which apostles had to endure speedily thereafter, this prophetic word of Christ sustained them. The Gospel shines out in all its fulness to sufferers for Christ. He Who has predicted the fight on the road has, however, promised also the victory at the close.
how could our Lord say that He had not told them of this before? Had He not forewarned them of sufferings? Had He not even spoken of the Spirit’s
inspiration, to be granted to those in
peril of their lives because of the truth? (Matt. 10.). He had.
But He had never placed
5. ‘But now am I going to Him that sent Me, and none of you is asking Me – “Whither goest Thou?” But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart.’
Here is Jesus’ formal leave-taking. The time of His abiding with them in the flesh ceased that night. Jesus, come forth from heaven to earth as sent by the Father, was now returning to Him. He sets before them, therefore, as the Prophet of the Church, the trials and the consolations attendant on this new arrangement of God.
But why were they not more eagerly pressing with enquiries concerning Jesus’ departure, its manner, and its object?
He was there to instruct them, had they but pressed Him with their intelligent enquiries.
But had not Peter asked, ‘Lord, whither goest Thou?’ (13: 36). Yes. But it was with so little of intelligence, that he thought he could go with the Saviour all through the path He was treading. And Thomas afterward could say, ‘We know not whither Thou goest.’
They were thinking only of their loss, not of Christ’s glory; of the point He was to leave, not of that at which He was to arrive. The Coming One is named ‘the Comforter’ in the view of this hour of sorrow.
But the Saviour now steps in with His gracious interpretation of their silence. It was the stunning felt by sorrow, which shuts the heart and lips. Jesus was their joy and defence. ‘The Bridegroom was with them.’ But the day was come, that the Bridegroom should be taken from them. Now is the time of sorrow.
7. ‘But I tell you the truth. It is good for you that I am going away; for if I go not away the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart I will send Him unto you.’
The ‘I’ is emphatic. As they were silent in their sorrow, Jesus would Himself, without their asking, inform them in the matter. He would disclose to them the arrangements of God’s grace, which would raise, even out of the Saviour’s departure, a blessing to them. The loss was great; but the supply of that loss in the coming of the Spirit, the Comforter, on the foundation supplied by the Saviour’s atonement, and its acceptance with God, would be an advance on any blessing enjoyed then in consequence of our Lord’s presence with them.
By the Saviour’s abiding with them in the flesh, no redemption would be gained. He must atone, and after atoning go up, and send the Spirit, as the result of His work completed. The curse of Law and of sin must be removed, and the Son of Man raised from the dead must pour His Spirit upon His members.
the disciples were but a little flock, and confined to
was better, therefore, for them that the Saviour should depart. He could not depart without the completion of
His work of grace, in His atoning death and resurrection. Not till then could they draw near to God as
their Father. It is most observable, that not till
after His resurrection does our Lord call His disciples ‘brethren.’ But
His sacrifice over, and Himself raised, this is the first word He puts into the
mouths of His messengers. ‘Then said Jesus unto them,
“Be not afraid, go tell My brethren that they go into
The Comforter could not descend till Jesus had gone up. Why not? Because the gulf between God and sinners was not, filled up, save by the atonement which Jesus made at His leaving the earth. The demands of God’s justice and Law must first be satisfied, ere the blessings of grace are free to visit the guilty; and the Holy Ghost is able to dwell with the sons of men. But now that God is glorified in the work of our Lord completed, the Holy Ghost could come to dwell with the Lord’s people. The Comforter-Spirit is come. He can and does work everywhere, and in the days of the Church’s youth when inspired men (‘prophets’) were found in every church, there was One who could be consulted in every case of difficulty on the spot - the Infallible [Holy] Spirit of God. ‘No holy spirit’ was given upon earth, till the glorification of Christ as the Righteous Son of the Father. But now that God is glorified in man as never by any other being, the [Holy] Spirit is able to be present, and to dwell in individuals, and in the Church as Christ’s body, as never before.
days after the Son’s ascent, the Spirit came down, and abides with the
8-11. ‘And when He is come, He shall convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment. Of sin, because they believe not on Me. Of righteousness, because I go to My Father, and ye see Me no more. Of judgment, because the Prince of this world is judged.’
effects of the [Holy] Spirit’s coming in two fields of action is
sketched out for us. His work is partly
on the world; partly on the church. His
work upon the world resembles that
which our Lord wrought as the Evangelist when He went from place to place,
testifying of the sins of
object is to gather men out of the world (or Satan’s Kingdom) into the Church
(or God’s assembly), which is waiting
1. His first great topic is ‘Sin.’ Many now think, and are saying, that the great thing for the preacher to insist on is the Love of God. ‘Let him dwell on the greatness of the goodness shown to men in sending Christ, the blessedness of the Christian now, and His glory hereafter.’ But that is not God’s wisdom. That is not the Spirit’s usual way. To tell most men of God’s goodness, and of the present blessings, and future ones of redemption, is like telling a man who feels in health of the benefits of a bitter medicine. He feels no need of it, and prefers the sweets of the world and the flesh to all the spiritual benefits of the Gospel.
witness was to be to
The world thinks that unbelief is a mere trifle; perhaps some even defend it as ‘honest and wise.’ They will find one day that ’tis enmity against God, and hatred of His truth.
But the Spirit’s plan is to begin with witnessing to man’s sinfulness, and acts of sin. He testifies of God’s demands, and of man’s disobedience, and of the consequences of God’s broken Law. Here is enough to awake the sinner from his dream of happiness in transgression. An eternity of fire lies before him. How will he escape it?
But the sinfulness of men to whom the Gospel news has come, and who have not accepted it, is far greater than the sin of those who have merely sinned against the light of nature, or the demands of Law. The condemnation of the hearers of the Gospel who have not accepted it, is the first theme of the Holy Spirit. He has come as the Witness to God’s mercy in sending the Son, by whose sacrifice of Himself in death are [has] put away those trespasses of man, which else must have stood against them to cast them into hell.
Now to hear of this great salvation and to slight it, is sin enough to condemn to hell. For a mail to have heard but once of Christ and pardon, and yet not to seize on it instantly, is condemnation. It is bad enough to transgress Law, and to stand out against the claims of God’s justice. But to despise mercy so great to one in such guilty and perilous circumstances, is the chief condemnation. The refusal of Christ to the end is a sin which will cover with heaviest wrath. Has not Jesus been slain for sin? Has He not risen, because sin is put away? Have not proofs amply sufficient been granted? And if it be the truth, why do you not believe it? Is there any greater offence than to treat God’s embassy of truth and grace as a lie?
2. But the [Holy] Spirit speaks also of righteousness, as the result of Christ’s finished work. This topic comes in graciously between the two others:‑‘SIN’ and ‘JUDGMENT.’ Here is the grace of God. The usual course of things is ‘sin’ and ‘judgment.’ Sin once entered, there is no righteousness; it is lost. And justice has only to step in to seize the offender, and to sentence him; when execution at once begins. Yon young man has embezzled money as a clerk at a bank. His theft is detected. The police are sent for, and he is imprisoned. He comes forth before the bar as arraigned of crime. His counsel will do his utmost to stave off the proofs of his sin. But if those be sufficient to convict, the penalty must follow. Here - in the Gospel of God’s grace - righteousness steps in between sin and judgment. It is because of this that justice and her steps of terror are bidden to pause awhile.
Righteousness has come after sin. After the transgression of Adam, and the unnumbered offences of his sons, one Son of Man has entered our world who never transgressed, who always obeyed; and up to His last hour, though tried by fire, His course was the love of righteousness, the hatred of iniquity. It is by this title, ‘THE RIGHTEOUS ONE,’ that our Lord stands distinguished from all other men. So the Holy Ghost witnesses (Acts 3: 14; 7: 52; 22: 14; 1 Pet. 3: 18; 1 John 2: 1). ‘Ye denied the Holy One, and the Righteous.’
Spirit would first convince the world of Christ’s own righteousness as the
Perfect One, in opposition to the charge of sin brought against Him in His
putting to death as an impostor. ‘Certainly this was a
righteousness of Christ is established by His resurrection and ascent to God’s
throne. But this personal righteousness
of Christ would not alone and in itself bring us any salvation. God needs a righteousness
for the unrighteous, else how can He pronounce any sinner justified? His wrath is revealed against all
unrighteousness. That this life of
obedience, and its merit are transferable to us, constitutes the Gospel. Paul was not ashamed of the Gospel, because
in it the righteousness of God is revealed (Rom. 1: 17). How can a sinner become righteous before
God? How can he pass out of the world of
the unpardoned and un-renewed, and be received as of the
righteousness is (1) from Jehovah (Is. 54: 17); (2) In Jehovah (45: 23). (3) Jehovah
23: 6). Law’s requirement of
righteousness from the men of
The Old Testament prophets were instructed to testify that of all the sons of men not one was righteous. But they told also of God’s providing a righteousness for the guilty, a righteousness which should be salvation, a righteousness which should be in the Lord Himself, who should be our Righteousness. The Justice of God is the destruction of the sinner. The righteousness of God is the salvation of the believer (Is. 45: 24, 25; 46: 13; 51: 5-8; 54: 17; Jer. 33: 6).
departure, then, out of the tomb, and visible ascent to heaven were the proofs
of His righteousness.
A day is appointed for judging and sentencing all the unrighteous. The Gospel speaks of the world’s prince as condemned. Then let us not love the world! How blind are they who serve a prince condemned of God to everlasting fire! His aider and abettors will in the coming day partake his doom.
sermon at Pentecost was a carrying out of these three points. (1) A discovery to
The Holy Ghost, the Spirit of truth, come down to dissipate the shades, and scatter the errors of Judaism, is to teach, as one of three prominent doctrines to be enforced on the world, the existence, wickedness, and doom of the devil. In our day, philosophic Christians are pooh-poohing this truth. From whose spirit, reader, must that teaching come, if the teaching about him and God’s judgment on him be from the Holy Spirit?
Mind, the Gospel to the world is not – ‘You are a very good sort of people, and only want a little instruction and improvement;’ but, ‘You are ever living in sin, as a continuous state, until you turn to Christ!’ Is it not, ‘Now go and do your best, and if something is wanting at the last, Christ will make it up.’ It is, ‘Guilty sinner, nothing will save you but a righteousness not your own; a perfect righteousness, which is found in Christ alone!’ It is not, ‘God is love, and you have only to look on His love to be drawn to it.’ It is, ‘You have to do with a God of judgment, with One who will render to each what he deserves, and to the devil and his servants torment in fire, day and night for ever and ever!’
The last subject of the Spirit’s testimony is JUDGMENT. This must follow, as the consequence of impenitence, and of righteousness refused. God is just, and He must one day carry out His laws, and execute their threats against the guilty. And justice will take effect upon the world, and upon him who rules it. An usurper has seized on God’s earth, and uses power against Him. He used it against Christ unrighteously to slay the Righteous One. This cannot be passed over by God. If just and true, He must cast down the usurper from his place of power and mischief. Iniquity shall not always triumph, as the consequence of God’s patience. The Most High has promised that His Son shall reign over all. It is fitting that He should. To the Son of Man Scripture has assigned empire over all. This was assured to Jesus as the consolation when He was on His way to His sufferings, as we have seen (12: 27-32). By justice, then, put forth in power, Satan as the Accuser shall be cast down out of heaven, and out of the earth into the pit (Rev. 12.). His iniquities are known, and increasing: he never will repent.
The sentence began in the Garden of Eden was Confirmed in the Serpent lifted up under the curse in the wilderness; and again confirmed by our Lord’s words, in view of Satan’s chief work of evil in pressing on the death of the Saviour. The Holy Ghost then testifies, not of the prevailing of mercy, to convert the whole world into the Church, but of the final blows of justice, judging the world and its lord. Christ must take the nations out of the hand of Satan. The kingdom must be His who has earned it. Up to the close of our dispensation, not Christ, but the devil is the Ruler of the world.
God’s testimony is, that while grace is active now, justice is going to take its terrible turn. Of this Jesus gave warning (Is. 61). The Sermon at Pentecost, which introduces the Gospel, bore witness, too, of the enemies of Christ being made His footstool.
Satan’s incurableness is brought out by Christ’s mission. Satan tempted the Son of God to worship him! and when that availed not, he roused men, Jew and Gentile, to persecute the Lord Jesus unto death. He has sinned evidently beyond forgiveness, and it will be to God’s glory to put him out of the world by force. Jesus anticipated that, as a necessary consequence of the voice from heaven (12: 28). While he is abroad on the earth, the world’s accepted usurper, Christ cannot reign, Reigning is the putting forth of power, rendering to each according to His deserts. Christ is not reigning now. His idea of reigning is not as it is generally put, ‘ruling in the hearts of His people,’ but putting His foes under His feet (Luke 19.). ‘My foes, slay them before Me!’
What the world [now] is, is known by the character of its favourite ruler. It hates the light; its deeds are evil. It persecutes the sons of God. It cannot accept the Spirit of God. Its feelings are opposed to the Christian’s. The world’s time of joy was the disciples’ time of grief. 0 then, Christian! chosen out of the world by Christ, come out of it!
We must ask the Holy Spirit to convince of these things. For they are sentiments not natural to man. Specially about judgment at hand. For the smooth flow of the world in England for so long, and the teachings of science falsely so called, have made men believe that God will not, or cannot, put forth judgment on His own world.
These topics, then, let us seek to enforce on the world. It is disbelieving them all, it is ignorant of all. Let us press them on its attention. Those who are God’s elect will thus be won. Following where the Spirit leads, we shall best prevail.
12. ‘I have still many things to say to you, but ye cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth is come, He will lead you into all the truth. For He shall not speak from Himself, but whatever ye shall hear, He shall speak, and He shall relate to you the things that are coming.’
They had not too high thoughts of Christ; they saw but little of the necessity and glory of His Person, and His work, and of the consequences it would introduce, in setting Moses and the old dispensation utterly aside. Jesus knew how much the disciples could bear, and taught them as they were able to bear it. The carrying out of this was to be the work of the Holy Ghost, after Jesus’ visible work on earth was past. On the footing of resurrection come in, and the Holy Spirit come down, they would be made Christians in understanding, and in practice.
The coming of the [Holy] Spirit is the great event to which Jesus bade His disciples look onward. They were not to begin their testimony till He who could inspire them with perfect knowledge and accuracy, and could carry on His invisible work with power, should have been sent down from on high. As the Spirit of truth He maintains and pushes on the truth of God, and holds in cheek the spirits of Antichrist and of error.
How opposite God and the world must be! The devil, the lord and god of this world; the Holy Spirit leading out of it! To seek the favour of the world is to be ‘the enemy of God.’ Unless we see this close union of the world and the devil, we shall not discern the beauty and force of God’s rite of immersion, appointed to those who believe in Christ. That tells of our leaving the world and its Prince by death and burial, to belong to Christ the risen. Those who would escape the woes coming, on the world must come out of the world.
Satan is already judged and condemned. But he is not yet arrested. It is the time of mercy, and therefore even he is at large. But execution is about to be done on him. He shall find the sceptre over the nations wrested from his hand, and given to Christ. Happy days! when the world shall serve the Lord! Do you, reader, belong to the world? The [Holy] Spirit would reprove you. Not, ‘Go on: it is all right!’ But, ‘turn or perish!’ All you pursue is dross. Leave the vessel you are on! It is about to sink. Step on board the life-boat!
Parts of the truth had been told the disciples previously, but the whole was now to be made known. They heard, but understood not much of what our Lord said. The full comprehension at that moment, of the truth, had been a burthen both to understanding and heart.
The spirit of the world speaks of man’s glory, the great things of what he has done, and will do. They who are of the world speak of it, and the worldly listen. But this is a token of a false spirit.
The 13th verse is a test of new teachers, and new doctrine. ‘What is their spirit? What doctrines do they teach? Do they agree with Scripture?’ The [Holy] Spirit is a guide - He leads and instructs - He is a Person therefore. He leads across a barren and dangerous land, full of pits and robbers. The Holy Spirit joyfully takes a subordinate place to the Son, as the Son also does to the Father. Jealousy and pride have no place there.
‘Into all the truth.’ Not truths about creation; but about Christ, His person, and work. The Holy Ghost calls off now the members of Christ from the study of creation to that of redemption. As our studies are, so will our hearts be. If earthly things engage us, our hearts will become earthly. The Holy Spirit therefore, is come down to lift up our hearts and studies heavenward. But in the fulness of the words – ‘all the truth’ - it was true of the apostles only: although in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament we have the entire wind of God in its great outlines.
‘For He shall not speak from Himself.’ The Holy Spirit has no special aims of His own. He would come to carry out the plans of the Father and the Son.
‘Whatsoever He shall hear.’ This may remind us of David’s life. He rescues Keilah from the Philistines. The news of David’s victory comes to Saul. David feared the plotting of Saul. He enquires of the Lord, ‘Will he come down?’ ‘Will the men of Kellah deliver me up?’ God answered, ‘He will come down, and the men of Kellah will deliver thee.’ Thus again David, in peril of life, having a friend at Saul’s court, led him to declare what transpired in his interview with his father, and was thus enabled to escape.
‘But whatever He shall hear, that shall He speak.’
supposes that there would be constant communications between earth and
heaven. The Holy Spirit searches all
things, yea, the deep things of God. He is aware of the counsels of the Father and
the Son, and would make them known to God’s beloved ones on earth. So David arranged that tidings of the
usurping son should be sent to him out of the city of
‘He shall speak.’ The
Holy Spirit does not speak now. We have His writings. But
He was not promised as a writing Spirit, but as a speaking one. This
shows how we are fallen. We are worse
Beforetime, the Holy Ghost spoke by the mouth of His inspired ones; and foretold the future by prophets (Acts 11: 28; 16: 6, 7; 20: 23; 21: 4).
The Holy Ghost should ‘relate to them the things that are to come to pass.’ It refers to word of mouth. And the prophets did stand up of old, and say, ‘Thus saith the Holy Ghost.’ ‘In every city (says Paul) the Holy Ghost warns me of troubles and bonds.’ While, then, some point to the Apocalypse as the fulfilment of this word, I, while thanking the Father for this His gift to Christ, and through Him to us, do not find that this writing at all absorbs the promise of the Holy Spirit’s speaking.
the Holy Spirit heard nothing since John’s day?
Are there not ten thousand points about which we would gladly ask of
God, and receive an inspired reply? ‘Is this brother to enter the ministry of the word? Ought the believers of
The Holy Spirit is a prophetic Spirit. Despise not prophecy. It is God’s lamp kindled to enable you to move in the dark, while in default of it many fall into Satan’s pits. The [Holy] Spirit is sent to warn us of the troublous times close at hand that we may escape them. For God’s witnesses to the word of prophecy will, in general, be preserved out of the dark days to come oven as Enoch, who foretold the Lord’s coming in wrath, was not left to the times of the Flood, but caught away before them.
14, 15. ‘He shall glorify Me, for He shall take of Mine, and relate it unto you. All that the Father hath are Mine; therefore said I unto you, that He taketh of what is Mine, and relateth it to you.’
The Son and the Holy Spirit do not seek to exalt themselves or to set up an independent line of acting. The devil, on the contrary, exalts himself; and dared to ask of the Saviour the worship due to God alone. The false prophets spoke lies to glorify themselves, and to please the people, out of their own heart; and not what they had heard from God (Jer. 23: 6; Is. 21: 10).
The [Holy] Spirit is a person. He hears, He leads, He teaches. He knows all, and so is omniscient.
‘Take of mine.’ Little did the Jews understand how the coming of the Son of God had made void the whole scheme of Moses to them who believe! It needed the [Holy] Spirit of God to tell us what the Law meant by its feasts, fasts, sacrifices, priests, and so on. ‘The body (or substance) is Christ.’
Jesus came not to glorify Himself, but the Father. The [Holy] Spirit came to glorify the Father and the Son. The fund whereon the Holy Spirit would draw, is the glory of Christ. So apostles preached Christ. This is the test of true ministry. Does it exalt Christ? That which does so exalt Him, is of the Holy Ghost. That is not of the Spirit that overlooks Christ. This is the [Holy] Spirit’s wide field – Jesus’ Person and Work. He presents to the believer what Christ is in Himself, and to us. Twice is the [Holy] Spirit’s speaking mentioned; thrice His relating or reporting things: what Christ has done, what He is doing, what He is about to do. Nay, the Father and the Son are so closely allied, the Father has so made His Son heir of all, that the Holy Ghost in taking up the glory of the Son, testifies, too, of the glory of the Father. Thus we have brought before our notice the entire unity there is of affection, counsel, and possession in the Father, Son, and [Holy] Spirit. How impious were these sayings, if spoken by any, save one possessed of Godhead!
We are admitted, then, in the prophetic word to the counsels of God. It is a great thing with the world to know the plans of a court. How great an honour would it be counted, were we to be admitted to the Cabinet-council of Her Majesty Queen Victoria! But we know, or may know, by the words of God’s prophecies, of events coming to pass so vast, so enduring, and so telling upon us and our interests, that the secrets of the British Government are as nothing in the balance.
And the more we know of the Father and the Son by the [Holy] Spirit, the more shall we be led to sever ourselves from the world; for prophecy teaches both the present wickedness, and the future awful doom that is coming on the world.
It seems that this 16th verse should be looked at in view of the previous promise of the Spirits descent. By virtue of that, after Jesus’ ascent, the disciples behold Christ by faith as on high. And so do we now. Of this mysterious and deep saying, there are several applications. Jesus is now the ascended High Priest, gone into the Holiest with His own blood, as the result of His death. The joy is not complete until He comes out again; although faith beholds Him accepted on High, as the consequence of His resurrection. This, as Jesus said, was to be one point of the [Holy] Spirit’s testification.
The omission of the last clause of this verse by some of the manuscripts seems to be due to its difficulty. ‘How could the departure of Christ to be with the Father be the cause of their seeing Him?’ But, rightly regarded, the meaning is good. ‘My going away to the Father, is, as I have told you, the reason of the Spirit’s being sent. And the coming of the Spirit will be to you the enlightening of faith’s eye, concerning the place and cause of My absence.’
During Jesus’ death, burial, and descent into Hades, faith and hope were gone, and the flesh saw not the Saviour. But with the resurrection, and the descent of the [Holy] Spirit, faith, hope, and love revived; and these graces created by the Holy Ghost, mount up to the Presence of Christ on high.
Here again, the doctrine of the Trinity is manifestly supposed. The Father glorifies the Son. He has made Him heir of all. The Son came at the Father’s desire to unfold the Father’s mind, and to execute His plan, revealing the Father as He alone can do. The Son of God is now speaking before Pentecost, and He tells us, that the [Holy] Spirit should descend to testify to His church respecting Himself. Accordingly it was so, and is so. The testimony of the world is to the goodness and greatness of fallen man, and the great things he is going to do. The Holy Ghost, on the other hand, mars by the prophetic word, the glory of all man’s present and future doings; and establishes the Lordship and coming glory of the Kingdom of the Son. Here are three Persons with their movements on behalf of God, and His redeemed of mankind.
16. ‘A little while, and ye behold Me not, and again a little while and ye shall see Me, because I am going to the Father.’
These words the disciples found to be difficult; and in spite of all the light thrown on them by the Saviour’s and the [Holy] Spirit’s words and works since, they are difficult still. They seem to have two especial fulfilments.
1. To the apostles in that day. Jesus was to be put to death unseen by most of them; He was to be buried [as a disembodied soul in the underworld of Hades] unseen by them all. But on the third day He rises, and presents Himself to them. The second ‘little while’ would then he the ten days intervening between Jesus’ ascent and the Holy Spirit’s descent, which was in one view of it (so close is the connection, so entire the resemblance of perfections between the Son and the Spirit), the return of Christ. This would be the spiritual beholding of Christ by His elect; not by the world. Hence we must not confound it with the Saviour’s return to take His people to Himself; and much less, with His coming visibly in person in the clouds to take the kingdom over heaven and earth.
Jesus’ ascent to the Father while yet the disciples see Him, is a proof of this. The view that apostles and we have of Christ while in heaven with the Father, can only be a spiritual sight produced by the Holy Spirit. And this work of the Holy Ghost is the result of Christ’s ascent to the Father. For had He not ascended, the [Holy] Spirit had not descended. But His descent is the result of the Saviour’s ascent, and thus the Holy Ghost becomes the Witness of the Saviour’s glory above; and moves upon our spirits to give us faith’s view of His Presence and Intercession there on our behalf.
2. We may regard these words as applying to the Church. Jesus is away; and, reckoned by God’s timepiece, His absence has been less than two days. For with Him a thousand years are but as one day. Soon we shall see our Lord in person, and, risen ourselves, behold the Risen One, our Head.
In verses 17 and 18 we have a statement of the apostles’ perplexity arising out of these mysterious words. For, as the Saviour said at the first to Nicodemus, the words of one born of the Spirit are mysterious, as the sounds and movements of the wind. Better to confess our ignorance than to pretend to knowledge. ‘For God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.’
19, 20. ‘Jesus knew that they were wishing to ask Him, and He said to them – “Are ye enquiring among yourselves because I said, ‘A little while and ye behold Me not, and again a little, and ye shall see Me?’ Verily, Verily, I say unto you that ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice; ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.”’
Jesus’ omniscience is discovered here. He was aware of their ignorance of His meaning, and of their desire to ask, kept back by their fears. He at once, then, answers thereto, and they perceive that He was aware of their desire; and they express their assurance (v. 30) that Jesus knew all, and needed not to be directly appealed to, as men in general do. This attributes to Him one of the perfections of God.
gives, then, somewhat of an explanation of the difficulty. 1.
This refers primarily to the twelve, and to the time of sorrow introduced by
the Saviour’s death and burial. It is
literally testified (Luke 23: 27)
that apostles did weep. The world
rejoiced also. The foes of Christ
exulted in His death. All but the
disciples were glad. This shows the
different, yea, opposite hearts of the world and the church. Our joys and our griefs show what we
are. The world, then, is the foe of
Christ, as truly as is the devil. His
joy and theirs are the same. They
rejoice over every trouble and defeat, real or imagined, of the
But a change would soon come. The third day the disciples beheld the Saviour delivered from the tomb. They rejoiced therefore. This is testified by the same Evangelist (Luke 24: 41, 52; John 20: 20). Their grief would turn to joy. Great as was the grief of death, great was the joy of the victory over it.
The words, then, take a wider sweep, as applying to the church at large. The time of the Saviour’s absence is the time of the world’s joy, of the Church’s sorrow. But those who sorrow for Christ’s absence, during which time the world rejoices that it is left alone to follow its own ways, will find that, in the coming day, joy shall take the place of grief. It is, however, more definite still. It is not merely that in the church that awaits Christ joy shall thrust out grief; but it is also true that the very subject of grief becomes at length the subject of joy. Death, specially as smiting Christ, had in it something lamentable and terrible. While death rules over the sons of men, what room can there be for true joy? But how far better for us that Christ should die, and by resurrection turn the disciples’ grief to gladness! How far more glorious to Christ Himself His coping with death! Out of His humiliation there has sprung His victory for us.
21, 22. ‘The woman when she is bringing forth hath grief, because her hour is come but when she hath borne the child she remembereth no more the trouble, because of the joy that a man is born into the world. And ye, therefore, now, indeed, have grief; but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy none taketh from you.’
death under Law and its curse, as the result of Adam’s and
[* Note. The words: “He led captivity captive” (Eph. 4: 8), does not teach that when Christ ascended from the underworld of Hades, He then took all the godly dead from there into Heaven with Him! If this was true, then Peter, at the time of Pentecost, must have been mistaken when he said – 10 days after our Lord’s ascension after His 40-day post Resurrection ministry upon this earth – that “David is NOT ascended to Heaven:” (Acts 2: 34, N. I. V.).
The powers which could not restrain the Lord in the underworld of the dead, where those of His enemies, and not those of His friends. See Judges 5: 12, where the first mention of the words are used - “Awake, awake, Debbora; awake, awake, utter a song: asise, Barac, and lead thy captivity captive…” (Judges 5: 12, LXX).
When our Lord’s ‘soul’ left ‘Hades’ - the place of the souls of the dead (Matt. 16: 18; Luke 16: 23, 26 31; Rev. 6: 9-11, etc.) – and was reunited to His ‘Body,’ lying motionless in Joseph’s tomb, no other disembodied soul was resurrected from that place at that time.]
In the figure before us - (1) the disciples are the mother, (2) Jesus is the child; then, the source of sorrow; presently after, the source of eternal joy. The pregnancy of the woman answers to the hopes of the kingdom of God, conceived by the disciples out of the promises of the Most High given in Moses and the Prophets. But, because of sin’s going before, those glories must be preceded by the atonement of Christ through death; or, in the words of the Garden, the bruising of the heel of the Woman’s seed must go before the bruising of the Serpent’s head. These hopes grew stronger and fuller as the hour of their fulfilling approached. But the hour of trouble was then come, and it would still increase in sorrow up to the resurrection. Jesus’ death and burial was to them the loss of the hopes of the kingdom, as well as the loss of His person (Luke xxiv.)
While the day of Jesus’ resurrection was in some sense the fulfilment of the Saviour’s words concerning the joy [yet] to come, it was not the completion of them, for which we have yet to look. This is proved by three considerations - (1) The child was snatched away from the mother’s eyes. There was the Saviour’s going to the Father. (2) The joy of the apostles was not full; the time of it not come. ’Twas to be the time of witness to Christ, and of conflict and trouble for Him. (3) In that day no questions are to be asked. But the apostles on meeting Christ after resurrection did ask (Acts 1.)
That day was the hour of the grief of Jesus, and of their grief. There was sorrow; but it was the grief over birth, not over death. Jesus’ death, followed so closely by resurrection, was rather a birth - a birth out of the tomb. This time of trouble was necessary. Without it the joy could not come. Until Christ by resurrection had put away sin and death, the joy of reconciliation with God, and eternal life could not come. Our joy is heavenly, over sin put away, and the sting of death drawn.
But the grief was only an ‘hour’ - the time of sorrow was brief, the joy unending. The world’s joy is brief, its end is sorrow and death. The brief sorrow of birth draws after it the abiding joy over the new and abiding acquisition. In this view, Jesus risen is the ‘man born into the world.’ On His resurrection all joy to His people turns. Great was the joy of the disciples at beholding Jesus restored to them out of the tomb, no more to enter it. But their joy was in some sort of brief duration, because of the Saviour’s departure again from them. That was not the birth ‘into the habitable earth the second time,’ of which Paul in Hebrews 1: 6 speaks. The basis of that is laid. But until the kingdom is come, the Father has not a second time introduced the Son (See marg.) For then the time of mercy to the world is over, and judgment takes its terrible course over the lost. Jesus is to be shown to the world, as its Heir and Head. The brief scenes of the forty days of resurrection were not our Lord’s manifestation. It was as if the babe had been only shown a moment to the mother, and then borne away!
Jesus was not presented to ‘the world.’ Then the sorrow of those who have grieved over Christ’s absence, will become joy. That of course, supposes, that they have not taken part with the world, or partaken of its joys. Else they are regarded as of the world, and so awaiting the judgments threatened thereto.
Saviour and the disciples answer to the travailing woman. It was then the Saviour’s ‘hour’ of trial, anticipated from the first, and gradually
drawing nearer, till at length it was clear, that His death at the hands of
foes drew on. This was sorrow to both
the Saviour and the disciples. Yet that
death was necessary, else there would be no victory over our chief foe. Christ’s death was to be followed by His
resurrection, which was His second birth.
To this Psalm
2. alludes, ‘Thou
art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee.’ To this second
birth out of death and the tomb, John 3: 5 alludes, as to a birth which may take
place at any time in a man’s life, and after a mother’s death, however tall and
old a man may be. To this also the
Saviour’s word concerning John Baptist refers.
of women there hath not
arisen a greater than John the Baptist; but the least in the kingdom of the
heavens is greater than he’ (Matt. 11: 11). John’s
ordinary birth introduced him to the
* Or, its equivalent, the change of the living believer from mortality to immortality.
this birth out of the tomb like our Lord’s, the immersion commanded to the
believer is the visible emblem (
The crisis of death ended, the Saviour’s resurrection come, great was the joy of the disciples. The death, then, was really the occasion of the joy. Without the death there would be no salvation, no rising into the life of eternity.
The new birth of the believer now in baptism admits him in spirit into a new world. But there must be a new birth of the body as well as of the spirit, to introduce him fully into the eternal world of glory, and of joy.
Jesus’ new birth out of the tomb introduced Him into a new world. But He was not shown to that world. He was behold, and only for awhile briefly, and at intervals by the disciples. His manifestation, as the result of that birth, to the world, has yet to come. The angels, at His first entry into the world, or ‘habitable earth,’ sang praises. But when He is the second time brought in by the Father, all the angels shall worship Him (Heb, 1: 6). Also - and that in connection with the [coming] kingdom - Jesus is to be anointed with the oil of joy beyond His companions. The [millennial] kingdom, then, is the time of this manifestation, wherein the sorrows of this little while will be swallowed up in the exceeding joy of the victory over death. When the mortal is swallowed up of immortality, and the corruptible by incorruption, then is brought to pass the saying, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ Then comes the chorus of triumph – ‘0 death, where is thy sting? 0 Hades, where is thy victory?’
passage in Hebrews just noticed puts together in one place Jesus and His
beloved ones as partaking of the joy of the kingdom, while the pre-eminent
place is given to Him. In John’s other
writing - the Apocalypse - we see the connection with the previous passages,
22, 24. ‘And ye now, therefore, have sorrow; but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy none taketh from you.’
This is the application of the figure. It has two aspects. (1) It may be said to refer to the sorrow then of Jesus’ disciples at His apprehended death. That was to be removed by His manifesting Himself to His apostles after His resurrection. The sorrow was necessary, a part of God’s counsel and prediction. Before the bruising of the serpent’s head must come the bruising of the heel of the Woman’s Seed.
(2) But Jesus would manifest Himself to them. That would be their time of joy. ‘Your heart shall rejoice.’ A manifest reference is here to Isaiah 66: 5, 6, 14.
They would then be in circumstances so far superior, as not to need to ask the Saviour questions. This refers back to the acknowledged ignorance of the disciples, in relation to the question which they wished to ask our Lord.
But the sorrow in its fulness applies now. ’Tis the time of Sorrow. Great are our hopes, and strong the assurance of the kingdom and glory to come! But the birth of the Great Ruler of the nations has not yet taken place. It is to be in resurrection. And it is to be the joint manifestation of Jesus and His companions to the world. Then the sorrows of the way thither will be forgotten - swallowed up in victory!
23, ‘And in that day ye shall ask Me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My name, He will give it you. Up till now ye have asked nothing in My name; ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be fulfilled.’
is ‘that day?’ (1) Not the forty days of
the Saviour’s resurrection and appearance among them. For in that day they did ask (Acts 1: 6) and receive no direct reply to their difficulty. (2) Not the time of the [Holy] Spirit’s
Pentecostal descent, the continuance of which makes the present dispensation of
grace. For in this day (and even in
apostolic times) questions arose, difficult to be solved even by apostles. Remark the great question discussed in Acts 15. (3) That day refers to the
future period, so well known to the
prophets of the Old Testament - the millennial day - the day of reward, of the Saviour’s
advent, of resurrection,
and glory - the Old Testament prophets giving its
Our understanding of prophetic Scripture turns much on our perception of the two great days - (1) ‘This day’ of grace and mercy, but of trial and suffering; because evil is abroad, and in power. (2) ‘That day,’ the coming one of justice and reward to be introduced by the Lord Jesus at His coming; for blessing to His obedient ones; for destruction to Satan and His agents. Thus it falls in naturally with the preceding context.
Christ is the Son of Jerusalem, born into the world anew in resurrection, through His suffering unto death. But His manifestation as the Risen One has been put off, because that would at once cut short mercy to the world, and end the gathering of the Church. We wait, therefore, patiently in this day of work and trouble, looking for ‘that day,’ a new one, of rest.*
* Take some passages illustrative of this. (1) In the Old Testament, Isa. 2: 11, 17; 24: 21; 25.,26: 1; Zech. 14.
(2) In the New Testament, Matt. 7: 21, 22; 26: 29; Luke 21: 34; 2 Tim. 1: 12, 18; 4: 8.
There will be no need then to ask ought. (1) For the difficulties of understanding God’s counsels, and doctrines, and providences, will then be cleared up.
(2) And the difficulties of the way, the perils, conflicts, discouragements, which require us to ask counsel and aid, will be over then.
Saviour solemnly inaugurates by His own authority the new manner and access to
God by prayer. (1) The address is to be made God, as the Father. This
could not be, while men were under Law.
And they were under Law, till the Son came. Those under Law have God as Master, and they are slaves; toiling to deliver themselves from
their just deserts. The two forms of
worship under Moses were - (1) At the presentation of first-fruits, which,
supposed Jehovah, the God of Sinai, to be addressed, and His people to be
settled in their earthly heritage; while the Lord was stationed on the earth,
and in the tabernacle: (Deut. 26: 1-10). (2) The second (found in the same chapter)
was a prayer to be uttered before the Lord at the third year’s tithing. It rested upon the assumption and the
assertion of the entire and perfect obedience of the offerer. It was a prayer for a
(1) But with our Lord's teaching as the Son, comes the new name of God as ‘Father’ - ‘Father in heaven;’ and the Saviour in His early ministry taught His disciples to address God as their Father, even as He Himself did. (2) But now is added the asking God on the merits, and as in the person of, the Son. ‘In My name.’ This is the great advance! We ourselves and our merits are out of sight. Here is the blessed contrast between the Law and the Gospel, as shown in the worship of Deuteronomy 26. Here (3) the sphere of prayer is enlarged. It includes all we need. ‘In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving.’ (4) There is also the assurance of the answer of blessing. The 24th verse notices that this was a novelty. It did not come to light till the death and resurrection of Christ; His merits being the ground of the new approach to God. Here is the warranty for applying the word.
God designs that His people should rejoice, and that their joy should be complete. Their peace is complete, for it is in Christ. So should their joy be.
25. ‘These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs; but the hour cometh when I shall no longer speak to you in proverbs, but shall openly relate to you concerning the Father.’
The expression ‘these things’ probably refers to the Saviour’s last discourse. And this was made up of figures and dark sayings, as the washing of feet, the parable of the vine, and of the child’s birth.
The descent of the Holy Spirit introduced a day of new intelligence for the disciples. And then the mystery of the Trinity was clearly unfolded to the disciples, even as the Lord Jesus Himself discovered it to them on the eve of His departure on high (Matt. 28: 19). Hence the period is called, ‘the hour.’ It is but a brief one. The discovery of the Father was not made till after the sacrifice of the Son, as the Father’s gift; and till His resurrection; wherein He was declared the Son of God with power. Out of this resurrection, and ascent of the Son, the Holy Ghost came down, and He is to believers the witness of the Father and the Son. The chief subject of the Son’s revelation is the Father. This is the root of all the peculiarities of our dispensation.
The Saviour was aware how imperfectly the disciples understood His words. They were too deep to be understood, till the [Holy] Spirit should have communicated the necessary light. But another day was coming, in which these measured and guarded utterances would be removed. All, indeed, which has been granted hitherto to either apostle or disciple has not perfectly fulfilled this word. The Father will fully be known only in the Father’s home with Christ in glory. But there was a great discovery of the Father and the Son at the [Holy] Spirit’s descent, as John’s Epistle shows.
26. ‘In that day ye shall ask in My name, and I say not unto you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father Himself loveth you, because ye have loved Me, and believed that I came out from God.’
This day here spoken of must be found now, for it is the hour of trial, and of prayer in the Saviour’s name, while He is away. The ‘day’ of trial of verse 26 takes up and expounds the ‘hour’ of verse 25.
It introduces a new view. The Saviour’s intercession was good. But towards those who believe in and love the Son, the Father feels a father’s affection. We have need to keep close to Scripture here. In our day there is a strong and increasing current setting in, which teaches that God is the Father of all men, and that Christ has by His Incarnation united Himself with all men. There is (1) a studious keeping in the background of the Justice of God as the Judge of all; and of the impossibility of any coming to God with acceptance, save through the atoning blood of Christ. There (2) is a hiding, or denial of the need of entire change of nature by the Holy Spirit, without which man is only under condemnation and wrath; the child of the Wicked One, and not of God. There is also (3) a marked refusal of God’s electing love, which proves how deeply rooted is the enmity of man against God; so profoundly ingrained, that unless regenerated, never does man turn to God.
‘The Father Himself loveth you, because ye have loved Me, and believed.’ This is spoken of as the aspect of God, not towards all men, but towards believers. It will be instructive to compare this with what our Lord says about God’s love to the world (John 3: 14-17). Here we have the Son of Man lifted up, because God (not it is said ‘the Father’) so loved the world that He gave His Son. ‘God sent not His Son into the world to condemn it, but to save.’ ‘If God were your Father,’ said Jesus, to the unbelieving Jews, ‘Ye would love Me’ (8: 42). But, indeed, as the seed of the Serpent, they had both seen and hated both Him and His Father (15: 24, 25; 7: 7-19). The devil, as the prince of the world, is a being after the world’s heart.
These words, then, are true of God’s elect, and believing ones only. Faith in the Son of God, and love to Him are the grounds of this love of the Father, produced by Himself in the first instance, as the resulting of His electing love. Herein these loved ones are the contrast to the world, which refuses to believe the [Holy] Spirit, and the testimony borne by the Holy Ghost to the Son. The world loves darkness, and prefers it to the light of the Son of God, whom it hates. Here is the secret of the refusal of the Gospel by so many. To very many Christians it seems as if the world’s refusal of Christ were accidental; due to this or that mistake on the world’s part, and capable of being removed, by the removal of this or that defect found in the preachers of the Gospel. Now here this is seen to be not so. Were men perfect as angels to preach the Gospel, and with renewed evidence of miracle, the world would but take up anew its attitude of fierce hatred, and would persecute unto death.
‘The Father Himself loveth you.’ Blessed words! He so loves His Son, that He loves all who accept Ifini, and who credit His testimony about His Son. Nay, He has deigned to make us members of His Son, and loves us as He loves Christ. His love towards the world is a love of compassion felt in despite of its known hatefulness and ungodliness. But this love of believers is a love of delight, felt toward them, in so far as their ways and sentiments are lovely in God’s eyes. The heart of the Father is toward believers in His Son. He chose them before the world began, while they were yet in their sins, and still members of Adam. But the Son’s atonement being now accepted, the Father’s heart of love is open toward them. He and we are of one sentiment concerning the Son. Contrast the world’s feeling (Luke 19: 14), ‘We will not have this man to reign over us.’
‘The Father Himself loveth you.’ It is an abiding love; for we are sons in Christ the Son. And such as are God’s constant love and favour toward Christ, such are His love and favour toward them. ‘But how if they sin wilfully?’ What happens, when children of earth sin against the parents of their flesh? There are two effects. (1). First on the disobedient child. While he does not cease to be a child because of his disobedience, yet he loses all confidence, and communion, in coming to his father. He rather stays away, for his soul is ill at ease before his offended parent. (2). There is an effect on the father. He loves his son still, but he is displeased. He must show his love now in another way, by the rod.
intercedes with God for transgressors (Is.
53: 12). But for sons He intercedes as the ‘Advocate with the Father’ (1 John 2). God is
perfectly reconciled to them, as believers in His Son. The work of Christ has brought in everlasting
peace for them. They do not now need
We have next the ground of this love. ‘Because ye have loved Me.’
The Father loves the Son beyond all measure. He loves also those who love Christ His Son The world disbelieves and hates. It is a relief and joy to look on those who believe in and love His Son. The Lord increase our love to His Son !
‘And believed that I came out from God.’ It was of Himself alone, that this was and is true. Of John Baptist it is said, that He was a man sent by God; but not that he ‘came out from God.’ John came to bear witness to Him that was in the beginning with God. But Jesus bore witness to Himself, as the Son who was from eternity with the Father. And the Father bore witness to Him as His Beloved Son; while the [Holy] Spirit was sent down to bear additional testimony. None, then, is loved by the Father, who refuses the witness to the Trinity of the Godhead. He who denies the reality and eternity of the relation of the Father and the Son is of the world, an unbeliever; blinded by the spirit of the Antichrist, which denies the Father and the Son.
No love of Christ is true or accepted by the Father, which does not rest on His oneness of nature with the Father, and His mission by Him.
‘I came out from God.’ Thus Jesus testifies to His prior existence in the Godhead. He left His original place of joy, glory, and power, to appear on the earth. ‘Life was manifested, and we saw it, and bear witness, and declare to you the Eternal Life which was with the Father [here His Eternal Sonship and glory are testified], and was manifested unto us.’ Here we have the Saviour’s incarnation and life on earth.
28. ‘I came out from the Father, and came into the world; again, I am leaving the world and am going to the Father.’
Jesus traces very briefly His history as a descent from the Father on high to earth; and then to return, therefore, to heaven. ‘Again.’ This marks the contrary, or return-action to the former one. Jesus returns to God, as the counterpart of His coming forth from God.
29, 30. ‘His disciples said unto Him, “Lo, now speakest Thou plainly and speakest no proverb. Now we know that Thou knowest all things, and needest not that any should ask Thee; herein we believe that Thou camest out from God.’
The few words of the 28th verse threw such light on the whole course of the Saviour, that the disciples thought that all was now explained. He was the Son before He took flesh. After death He went back to the Father. The descent from the Father to the earth was met in its due time by an ascent from earth, which took Him back to the Father. Thus His pre-existence, His original place of abode, His point of departure before His incarnation, were made known. And now He was about to depart from earth, and His journey would take Him back to the place of His original and eternal sojourn.
Twice we have emphasis laid on ‘now,’ and for the third time we have ‘hereby.’ This later discovery of the Saviour’s knowledge is a new ground for their faith and confession. They see a glimpse of the reason for the Saviour’s departure and ascent to the Father, in the testimony of His descent from the Father.
The apostles then understood hereby that Jesus was giving a reply to the difficulty which they had experienced in regard to His words concerning the ‘little whiles.’ They could not understand them. How could He be the Messiah of the prophets, the Son of David, the Hope of Israel, reigning over earth at Jerusalem, if He were going away, and they knew not whither?
they learned that Jesus was also ‘Son of God,’ and that before He became ‘Son of David.’ He was going
back to His Father in heaven to sit with Him on His throne before He appears on earth as the Son of David, the Ruler of God’s
They saw that Jesus read their thoughts, and knew their desire (v. 17-19) to ask Him, without any one of their number expressing this desire. Hence they gather His knowledge of all things. He who can read the thoughts is One who can know all things. They see in this a power greater than man’s; a proof of His original abode with God, and partaking of His nature and attributes.
31-33. ‘Jesus answered them, “Do ye now believe? Behold, the hour cometh, yea is now come, that ye shall be scattered each to his own, and shall leave Me alone; yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. These things I have spoken to you that in Me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have persecution, but be of good courage, I have overcome the world.’
There is considerable difference of opinion as to whether we should read the Saviour’s words in ver. 31 affirmatively or as a question.
1. Some regard the words as being primarily those of joy on our Lord’s part, that at length they had understood, and now openly confessed their faith in His nature and mission, which so long and earnestly He had been labouring to impress on them. ‘On them He insists,’ say these expositors, ‘with much feeling in His prayer to His Father in the next chapter.’ ‘Now they have known that all things whatsoever Thou hast given Me are of Thee. For I have given them the words which Thou gavest Me, and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from Thee, and have believed that Thou didst send Me.’
2. Or should we read them as a question? as given by our translators. It would seem most likely that the words are so to be taken. They do not deny the apostles’ faith; they show only the shallowness of intelligence and power of faith, which would require the [Holy] Spirit’s descent and abiding, as the Saviour had declared. For the words of the apostles read somewhat like a denial of Jesus’ testimony about their ignorance, and their inability to comprehend then the depth of His proverbs.
The difference introduced by the two modes of viewing the matter is not great. The truth lies in accepting both sides - the reality of the apostles’ faith on the one hand; and the apparent destruction of it, in the severe test to be applied to it during the devil’s hour and power of darkness, on the other hand.
apostles did now believe, and openly
testify their acceptance of the essential points so oft enforced on
A period, a brief one, of scattering, was at hand; as foretold by Zechariah. ‘I will smite the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad.’ The centre to which the disciples were accustomed to gather was to be taken away. Hence they would be broken into parts, and turn again to the homes of earth to which they looked at first.
‘They would leave the Son alone.’ This is described for us in chapter 18. But the Father would still be with Him.
The stress of the storm falling on Christ, they would all leave Him, in order to get shelter for themselves - in spite of their faith in His Divine nature just testified.
It is part of God’s counsel that the superiority of the Son of God above the sons of men should appear. He can stand, where they are swept away as dry leaves.
The Saviour’s strength came not from men, or from the firmness of friends in His cause; but from His Father. He would be with Him, depart who might!
So Paul could say, ‘At my first answer none stood by me, but all forsook me.’ Let us not reckon on friends as assured helps, lest they fail us.
This word is said in designed contrast to the Gnostic idea - that ‘Jesus’ was only the man born in time; indebted for His knowledge and power to ‘the Christ,’ the great Spirit that descended on Him after baptism (the water), who left Him before the cross; or, as John elsewhere expresses it, before “the blood.’” Thus, the Holy Ghost gives us a different side of the truth to that displayed in the three first Gospels. There we have the awful results of the sin of the world, as affecting Christ when made sin for the world. Here we have the Son of God still steadfast, in the sublime faith which carried Him victorious through the storm. It is far from ‘the man Jesus’ left by ‘the Christ.’ The Son of God understood and was in sympathy with His Father’s will, all through the hurricane of woo, which arose as the consequence of sin laid on Him.
‘But how, then, could Jesus describe Himself as deserted? “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”’
Of the fulness of the explanation we shall not here below, perhaps, be satisfied but a word or two may be dropped, which shall help faith in both sides of the truth.
Most people suppose that there can only be one style of feeling; and such refuse, often with scorn, the testimony to opposite states of feeling in the same mind: while yet occurrences often produce them. A companion of Prince Henry (afterwards Henry V.) was brought up before an English judge for some misdemeanour, which made him liable to penalty of the law. The Prince was so displeased at the judge, who determined to punish the law-breaker, that he struck the official in open court. The judge ordered the Prince to be carried away to prison; and he was imprisoned. Now what would be the feelings of the King his father? Partly of sorrow; partly of joy. He would grieve at the misconduct of his son in striking the judge; he would be pleased in some measure, at his fondness for his friends; he would be pleased also, with his submission to the judge’s decision.
So, while God as the Righteous Judge must officially turn away His face from Jesus as made sin, and enduring its penalty, He could only personally love His Son for the love He showed, in enduring the woe deserved by others.
‘Peace’ belongs to the Christian always, considered as in Christ, and thus assured of present support and final redemption. ‘Peace,’ as opposed to the grief, dismay, and tumult of feeling which awoke in the breasts of the disciples, when they found the Saviour condemned and slain; and when they forgot His words concerning His going to the Father.
The Saviour’s last words were designed to lift the disciples above the stormy waves about to assail them. As He was Son of God, these waves would swallow up neither Him nor them. Let us hold fast this amidst our minor trials! Whatever the storm outside, there is ever shelter in Christ. If He be all-knowing and possessed of all power, then, in spite of threatening foes, we shall prevail; for we are in Him.
are, therefore, two aspects of the Christian. (1) As in the world, and (2)
as in Christ. (1) As a sojourner
in a world opposed to God and His Christ, trouble is his lot. The world is the assembly of the seed of the
serpent; and the devil rules them. Hence,
out of this abiding opposition of nature and temper springs persecution. It is an abiding state, lasting as long as the
disciples of the Son of God abide here below. It ceases only when this dispensation does;
when at length the multitude, which none can number, are assembled before the
throne, and ‘the
Great Tribulation’ belonging to the
men of faith is over. But this trouble
is to each believer a thing outside, and in the flesh. It is but brief. Our peace within need not be destroyed by the
tumult without. Let us take courage! The filial victory is ours. Our Leader has conquered the world, and overcome
the desire for its prizes; overcome the fear of its terrors. How mighty the
faith, which on its way to the scenes of the judgment-hall and
It is not promised, that a day will come, when ‘the world’ having become swallowed up in ‘the Church,’ there shall be no more persecution. That time comes only with Christ’s return and the first resurrection (Isa. 25). . ‘The world’ and ‘the Church’ will ever be two, while this dispensation lasts.
How much better is it to have trouble in the world, but peace with God than peace with the world, and war with God! Love of the brethren, and hatred from the world, are two characteristics of a Christian. None can overcome the world in its two great forces, but he who believes that Jesus is the Christ.