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The New Testament Commentary Vol Iii John by B.W. Johnson

The Holy Spirit and the World.

1. These things have I spoken unto you, that you should not be offended. |These things| may refer generally to all that the Lord has spoken in these discourses, as some have urged, but, in my judgment, refers more particularly to what he has stated in the last chapter about the hatred of the world, a subject that he now continues by pointing out how this hatred will manifest itself. The reader must keep in mind that there was no break in the Savior's discourse between the 15th and 16th chapters and the same subject is continued without change. |These things| the Lord spoke that they should be forewarned, expectant, and hence should not be made to stumble (offended). The word |offended,| or, more properly, |stumble,| points out the danger of falling during persecution. The weak in faith are likely to give way before the storm, to fancy that the odds are too great, that it is useless for a small minority to contend against mankind. Hence the Lord reveals to his disciples that there is an irrepressible conflict between the sinful world and himself, points out the issues and shows how it will involve his followers, in order that they may expect it, be prepared for it, and when it comes only see in it the fulfillment of his prediction. (Joh 16:2)

2. They shall put you out of the synagogues. The first persecutions shall come from the Jews, and hence the Lord speaks of these. The first punishment shall be excommunication. I have pointed out (chapter 9:22, note) the nature of this punishment. It was more than spiritual. It made its subject outcasts. Hence Paul, in speaking of the sufferings of the saints, declares they are made outcasts. But this is not all, for the time cometh that whosoever killeth you will think he doeth God service. No language could describe more forcibly the most intense fanaticism. Yet |the hour| was coming and close at hand when murder would be sanctified in the eyes of the murderer. Even Saul of Tarsus, as he afterwards confessed, thought he was doing God's service when he sought to kill the saints. In the Rabbinical books is found a proverb: |Whoever sheds the blood of the impious does the same as if he offered a sacrifice,| and the Jews held that those who accepted Christianity were traitors to God. The same spirit has been often manifested in religious persecutions. The cruel crusades of the French kings against the Albigenses were conducted in the name of religion; the Pope of Rome celebrated a Te Deum when the news of the barbarous massacre of St. Bartholomew reached him, the |Holy Inquisition| tortured men, broke them upon the rack or wheel in the name of religion, or burned them in Auto de Fes, as |Acts of Faith.| Madame Roland, about to die on the scaffold, exclaimed, |Oh, Liberty, what crimes are perpetrated in thy name!| So many a martyr might have exclaimed of Religion. (Joh 16:3)

3. These things they will do . . . because they have not known the Father or me. This ignorance of God and Christ lies at the root of all spirit of persecution. Could the tender love of God as revealed in the Son, his long suffering and compassion, be known, it would end all intolerance. The hard-hearted, cruel and exacting, whatever they may pretend, do not believe in the true God and the Son. They may believe in some being whom they call God, but it is not the God who |so loved the world that he sent his only begotten Son to save the world.| They may believe in a being they call Christ, but it is not the tender, loving and compassionate Savior who taught, |Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.| All intolerance is born of spiritual pride, selfishness and self-worship. The Pharisees, the most bigoted and self-righteous sect of the Jewish nation, were the bitterest opposers of Christ. The Papal church, which has held that salvation was only found within its fold, has always been a persecuting body wherever it was in power. (Joh 16:4)

4. These things have I told you . . . that ye may remember. When the hour of trial would come there would come also the remembrance that the Lord had foreseen it from the beginning, had promised to be with them, and even to give to them what they should say to their accusers. These things I said not in the beginning because I was with you. His instructions had been lesson by lesson as they were prepared to receive it. Only gradually had he unfolded to them the dark, rugged and bloody pathway that they should be called to tread. In the beginning of his ministry he did not teach of these things, in the second year of his ministry he began to present the lesson, but only in the hour of departure does he fully reveal the trials before his disciples. The greatest of all their trials, unless the promised Comforter came, would be the departure of the Lord. While he was upon the earth the bolts of hatred would strike him instead of his followers; but when he was gone and they represented him on the earth these bolts would strike them. (Joh 16:5) (Joh 16:6)

5, 6. Now I go my way to him that sent me. To the Father, by way of the Cross, the Sepulcher, the Resurrection and the Ascension. None of you asketh me, Whither goest thou? They had asked this question, but in the stupefaction of their sorrow they had ceased to ask. Their thoughts were fixed more upon their own disappointment and bereavement than upon what was before their departing Lord. He desires to turn their thoughts to the grand results that are to be accomplished |because he goes to the Father.| They had, however, failed to look into these matters because sorrow had filled their heart. (Joh 16:7)

7. It is expedient for you that I go away. What seemed then a crushing sorrow was a real blessing. His mission could never be accomplished unless he went away. These same apostles who were now so overwhelmed with sorrow, forty days later, saw the Lord depart, and a cloud receive him from their sight, and yet |they returned to Jerusalem with great joy| (Luke 24:52). How often the |dark clouds break in blessings on our heads!| For if I go not away, the Comforter will not come. By the Comforter is meant the Holy Spirit, which was first shed forth on the day of Pentecost. The Greek word (Paraclete) is also rendered Advocate, or Helper. The Holy Spirit fills all these offices. This Spirit, given only to a few inspired men, under the Jewish dispensation, was now to become the heritage of the church that Christ would soon establish on the earth. While Christ was present in person, in bodily form, the Holy Spirit, the representative of the Godhead, could not come. Christ, as King, must send it, and on the day of Pentecost Peter declared, |He hath shed forth the things ye do see and hear.| For a universal kingdom, in which the King should everywhere manifest his presence by abiding in his subjects, it was needful that be go away in person and send, instead of his personal presence, the |omnipresent Spirit.| Hence, ten days after his ascension, the saints, |waiting for the promise of the Father, that they should be endued with power from on high,| enjoyed the fulfillment in the outpouring of Pentecost. (Joh 16:8)

8. Will reprove the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. The Revision more correctly renders, |Will convict the world of sin.| There are three points concerning which the world would be convicted, concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment. The Holy Spirit would effect these important results through some means. If we would understand its methods we have only to turn over to the fulfillment of these predictions recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. In Acts 2:38, the Holy Spirit fell upon the eleven apostles and they spoke as |it gave them utterance.| The words that they spoke were the words of the Holy Spirit. In the record of what it said by the mouth of Peter we find that it convicted (1) of sin, in that those who heard had rejected the Lord of life and glory; (2) of righteousness, in that it was demonstrated by the manifestations of that hour that God had exalted the Lord whom they had condemned to his own right hand, of which they had the proof in that |he had shed forth| what they saw and heard; (3) of judgment, in that they were assured of the |wrath to come| and warned to |save themselves from this untoward generation.| Thus has the Holy Spirit, in every age, convicted; by the words of Holy Writ that it has spoken, or by the earnest stirring words of the saints, either spoken or written. It |convicts| by acting through those into whose hearts it is sent, |because they are the sons of God.| (Joh 16:9)

9. Of sin, because they believe not on me. In naming sin, the chief of all sins is singled out. All sin springs from unbelief. There was a lurking unbelief in the heart of Judas when he sold his Master; in Peter's when he denied him; in that of Ananias when he lied to the Holy Spirit. It was unbelief that rejected Christ and nailed him to the cross; unbelief that rejects him still; unbelief that fills the land with vice. To destroy sin, the heart of man must be pierced with the sword of the Spirit. Hence the aim of the Spirit on Pentecost, and always, is to destroy unbelief. When the three thousand, convicted before their consciences of unbelief, cried, |Men and brethren, what shall we do?| then the answer of the Holy Spirit was ready, |Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins.| (Joh 16:10)

10. Of righteousness, because I go to my Father. Human tribunals convicted him of blasphemy because he said he was the Son of God, and put him to death. God exalted him to a throne, thereby showing that the condemnation was wrong and that he was righteous. Of this the Holy Spirit bore witness in words and by miracles. Hence, when they |saw him no more,| the Holy Spirit |convicted of righteousness.| Now, all the world, Saint and sinner, believer and infidel, admit that he was the sinless One. (Joh 16:11)

11. Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. In chapter 14:30, he declared, |the prince of this world cometh.| It was the prince of this world, the spirit of the world, Satan as the ruler of the world, who slew him. When he rose from the dead and all power was given into his hands, this was a judgment in the court of the universe against the prince of the world, a decree that he should be shorn of his power, and that all the kingdoms of the earth should become the kingdoms of the Lord and his Christ. (Joh 16:12)

12. I have yet many things to say . . but ye cannot bear them now. All wise teachers give out truth as the minds of people are prepared for it. Jesus did not at once announce himself as the Christ, nor that he would be crucified. He added new lessons as the minds were prepared. Even yet there were lessons, after three and a half years teaching, that his apostles could not bear. (Joh 16:13)

13. When the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth. He is about to go away and his own personal teachings will be ended, but those things that he desires them to know will be taught them still. The Spirit of truth will guide them into all truth; the Holy Spirit will not be sent to testify of himself, but to represent Christ, as he represented the Father, and to continue his work. He will speak, not only what he has heard about Christ and his work, but of things to come. In the Acts, Epistles and Revelation we have recorded those things which the Spirit of truth taught the apostles, and to which Christ referred. Through John, especially, he showed |things to come| in Revelation. (Joh 16:14) (Joh 16:15)

14, 15. He shall glorify me. |All things that the Father hath are mine,| and the Spirit |shall receive of mine and shew it to you.| |These three are one;| a striking illustration of the unity of the Godhead. They are so united that what proceeds from one proceeds from all. (Joh 16:16) (Joh 16:17)

16, 17. A little while, and ye shall not see me: again, a little while, and ye shall see me. On the morrow he would die at the ninth hour; that evening he would be buried, and for |a little while,| three days and nights, they would not see him; then he would rise, and for another |little while,| a space of forty days before |he went to his Father,| they would see him, while he remained on the earth. When he ascended to his Father they, in a spiritual sense, would |see him coming in the kingdom of God.| This is all very plain to us, but the apostles, to whom it was yet future, could not understand it. (Joh 16:18) (Joh 16:19)

18, 19. What is this that he saith? They were so awed and amazed by the mysteries that were gathering around them that they hesitated to ask, but the Lord, observing their whispered words, took up their question. (Joh 16:20)

20. Ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice. This was, in a few hours, fulfilled. How sad were the broken-hearted disciples, as they wept at the tomb! |We trusted that he would restore the kingdom to Israel,| is the wail of buried hopes. At the same time their enemies were gloating over their triumph. Soon all was changed, for your sorrow, shall be turned into joy. The glad news came, |The Lord is risen.| Then they heard that |all power was his,| then they saw him ascend into heaven, then they |returned to Jerusalem in great joy.| Their sorrow was turned into joy. (Joh 16:21)

21. A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, . . . for joy that a man is born. The figure of a woman in travail is one of frequent occurrence in the Old Testament to illustrate sudden sorrow and great anguish (Isa.21:3; Hosea 13:13; Micah 4:9). The Lord gives the figure a new application by showing that joy is born out of the pangs of travail. Thus the bitter anguish that his disciples will experience on account of the crucifixion and burial of their Lord will be followed by the greatest joy when they behold him risen and triumphant. While this is the apparent, many interpreters, notably Olshausen, hold that it has a deeper meaning. According to this view there is a reference to that which caused the sorrow of the disciples, the sufferings of Christ, a painful act of travail on the part of humanity as represented in the second Adam, as the result of which the new man in Christ Jesus is born into the world, a source of eternal joy to all, even to the angels who rejoice more over one sinner that repenteth than over ninety and nine just persons who need no repentance. |Thus the death of Christ becomes a fact in the history of the world, which everything before it was intended to usher in, and from which the entire development of succeeding ages is matured. This state of perfect joy and complete satisfaction is indicated by the words, 'Ye shall ask me nothing.| -- Olshausen. |The death of Christ is the agonizing travail of humanity, from which labor the God-Man issues, glorified, to the eternal joy of the whole body of mankind.| -- Lange. |The words are applicable also to the travails of the church in bringing forth children to God. Yet we should not overlook the immediate reference. A touching and comforting proof of the Savior's tender sympathy with woman's deepest trial.| -- Schaff. (Joh 16:22)

22. Ye now therefore have sorrow. It was because the hour had come. The |therefore| shows that there was something in their position analogous to that of a suffering mother, something more than the mere change from sorrow to joy. The figure is that of suffering endured and comforted by the thought that it is the needful pathway to joy. The time of that transition state, of travail with their Master, was now come. This, therefore, was the hour of sorrow, but when new life for humanity was born into the world as Christ burst the bonds of death, then rejoicing would come. I will see you again. The Lord refers here to his own appearance to them after his sufferings, which would turn their sorrow into joy. That joy would be stable, permanent. Their enemies might assail them, but |no man could take it| away. This began to be realized as soon as they knew their Lord was not holden of the pangs of death, but was fully consummated only when they were |endued with power from on high| on the day of Pentecost. (Joh 16:23)

23. In that day ye shall ask me nothing. When the new revelation is fully realized and they enjoy the fulness of the Lord's glorified presence. |That day| refers directly to Pentecost when the new era of joy began. |Ye shall ask me nothing| does not refer to prayer, for the apostles always continued to pray, but means they shall ask him no questions because of their ignorance and misunderstanding. While attending his earthly instruction they were dull of comprehension and often ask questions because they did not understand him, but when the Comforter was come he would teach the apostles all things (14:26). Enigmas would be solved, mysteries would be clear. Or the passage may mean that they shall not ask directly of Jesus, as while he was on earth, but of the Father in his name. Either interpretation is in harmony with the context and the teachings of our Lord. All prayer now is to be offered in the name of Christ, and the answer is given in his name. I believe that both meanings are involved. In verse 17, the disciples ask a question in bewilderment, and the Savior in his reply declares that in |that day| you will have no need to ask for explanations, and then he adds, that dispensation will be one of great power in prayer; |whatsoever you ask in my name of the Father, he will give it you.| (Joh 16:24)

24. Hitherto ye have asked nothing in my name. When he taught his disciples what we are wont to style the Lord's Prayer, he did not direct that the petition should be in his name, for his relation to the Father was not yet unfolded. It was only as the end of his earthly sojourn approached that he directed prayer in his name. When he ascended on high he became our Divine Mediator, |our Advocate with the Father,| our |High Priest who maketh intercession for us.| His is not only the |only name whereby we must be saved,| but through which we have access to the Father. Hence, if our petitions would carry any recommendation they must ascend in the name of the Son. Indeed |whatever we do, all must be done in the name of the Lord Jesus.| See also Eph.1:21 and Phil.2:9, 10. God has determined that his name shall be exalted above every name. (Joh 16:25)

25. These things have I spoken to you in proverbs. All that he said from the beginning of chapter XV. The term translated |proverbs| would be more correctly rendered |figures.| The revelations had been partly veiled in figures, such as that of the True Vine, and the Woman in travail. A deeper meaning lay beneath his words than they could yet understand. All that he had spoken since the discourse began was in part enigmatical to his disciples, but the time would come when there would be no more enigmas, no more half understood sayings, but when he would |shew them plainly of the Father.| The reference is still to that Spirit which he would send who would guide them into all truth. There is a kind of summary in what follows to the end of the chapter of all he has before promised. (Joh 16:26)

26. At that day, the day when they were baptized with the Holy Spirit, Pentecost, and from that time on, ye shall ask in my name. This fulness of knowledge is connected with fulness of prayer. For days before the descent of the Holy Spirit |the apostles, disciples and brethren of the Lord, continued with one accord in prayer, with the women.| The apostolic church founded on Pentecost |continued steadfastly in the apostles' teaching, and the fellowship, and the breaking of bread and prayers.| Those filled with the Holy Spirit engage in bolder petitions in Christ's name. I say not . . that I will pray the Father for you. Their relation to the Father, who |has sent his Spirit into their hearts because they are sons,| making them temples of God in which the Father dwells, as well as the Son, is so intimate that they may approach him themselves, and he does not need to say that he will pray the Father for them. (Joh 16:27)

27. For the Father himself loveth you. This declares the reason why it is not needful for him to pray the Father for them, and should be read in immediate connection with the preceding verse. It must be borne in mind that Christ does not say that he will not pray the Father, but teaches that no intercession is needed to win the love of the Father. Christ elsewhere teaches that he is our Intercessor. Because ye have loved me and have believed, etc. This is the reason why the Father loves us. It is true that he loved the world even while in sin so well as to send his Son to save, but the fulness and sweetness of his love cannot be bestowed upon those who reject his love as manifested in his Son. Those can only enjoy its full fruition who by faith in, and love of, Christ enter into the adoption of the children of God. The love of the father to the prodigal in a far-off country, wasting his substance in riotous living, is very different from the love of the Father to the penitent, broken-hearted sinner who returns to confess his sins and ask forgiveness. (Joh 16:28)

28. I came from the Father, . . . into the world; . . go to the Father. Meyer says that this verse contains |a simple and grand summary of Christ's entire life, his incarnation, and his destiny.| The disciples now fully believed that he came from the Father. In order to awaken their hopes he declares that he returns to his abode on high from whence he came. His near departure is only a return home. (Joh 16:29)

29. His disciples . . . now speakest thou plainly. The last words uttered seemed to the disciples plain and simple. They thought that they gave the key to all the |proverbs| before spoken. He had come from God, into the world, now he would leave the world, and return to God. That seemed plain. Yet the disciples did not understand so well as they supposed. Their stumbling while the Lord was in the hands of his enemies, and their fear, and their despair while he lay in the tomb, shows that they did not understand. Augustine says: |They so little understood that they did not even understand that they did not understand. For they were babes.| (Joh 16:30)

30. Now are we sure that thou knowest all things. A little before he had read their thoughts and interpreted them (verse 18). The fact that he had discerned them and answered their questionings so plainly as in verse 28, confirmed their faith and they declare, |by this we believe that thou comest forth from God.| (Joh 16:31) (Joh 16:32)

31, 32. Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come. The answer of the Lord shows that he recognized the incompleteness of the faith of his disciples. The words, |Do ye now believe?| question the power of the faith they had just affirmed. In the very hour that was now at hand it would be tried. Instead of clinging to him they would be scattered, every one would look out for himself, and would leave him alone in the hands of his enemies. For the fulfillment, read all the accounts of the arrest, trial and crucifixion of the Savior. Yet I am not alone. Though men might desert him he would not be left alone, for be would have the Father's help. (Joh 16:33)

33. These things have I spoken. All the preceding discourse, especially from the beginning of chapter XIV., was spoken to the end that they might have peace. |In this world ye have tribulation: but be of good cheer.| Though the world may afflict them it will only be for a season, for the world in a conquered foe. Christ has overcome it. When he died in the conflict with the world on the cross he sapped the very foundations of its empire. Hence his disciples may carry on the warfare with hearts full of cheer and by faith they shall overcome the world. As Christ overcame the world by dying, so, too, the faith of the martyrs is often the faith that gains the victory.

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