Today in our Sunday School class we walked through the first 15 verses in John’s 16th chapter. Even though I was battling strep throat and an ear infection at the time (unbeknownst to me), I thoroughly enjoyed the time in God’s word. Below are my notes from the day. Keep on the lookout for two key things about this section of Scripture:
1. How the Spirit magnifies the Gospel in our lives (the gospel not of works of of Christ’s finished work on our behalf)
2. How the Spirit glorifies the Son (note esp. vs. 14)
You will also see that the Spirit has a work beyond just comforting the believers and enduing us with the truth from Christ, and that consists of His work in this world: convicting the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment.
16:1-3 “I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. 2 They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. 3 And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me.
Verse one is really a sweet verse. Jesus is about to reiterate some things again to the disciples, and we’ll look at that in a minute. But here He interjects that He is saying these things “to keep you from falling away.” There is a genuine concern in the heart and mind of Christ for His disciples. He wants them to remain steadfast, and grounded in the faith. And as He called these disciples to remain and not fall away, so He calls us to do the same.
So we remind each other of His words, and we say to each other: remain steadfast! Remain in Me – abide in my words. I care for you and I don’t want you to fall away. I want you near Me – I want you to know Me! So extensively, so deep, so wide is the love of our Savior for you and for me that He wants us to remember over and over again that we need to remain in Him – again, this is the consequence of Union with Christ, as we had seen earlier.
Furthermore, we saw near the end of chapter 15 that people act as they do toward Christians because they don’t know the Father. More specifically this could be for a number of reasons. If the Jews are in view, which I think can be presumed because of the word “synagogues” here, then we ought to take this as Jesus warning against the fact that the Jews did not connect Him with the Father. They didn’t see Him as the Lord of all life and creation. They did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God. So what did they do? They killed Him. Therefore it only stands to reason that those who follow the teachings of Jesus – and exalt Jesus as the Christ – will certainly receive similar treatment.
Ryle says this of Christ’s prophecy that the Jews will toss the disciples out of the synagogues, “How true the prediction has turned out! Like every other prophecy of Scripture, it has been fulfilled to the very letter. The Acts of the Apostles show us how the unbelieving Jews persecuted the early Christians.”
Therefore, these are things that Jesus has said earlier and is reiterating them, but has added on to them the prediction that not only will the follower of Christ suffer persecution (as Paul also mentions in 2 Tim. 3:12), but He gives them a specific way in which this will happen.
Now, when Jesus says things like this over and over it is for the purpose of emphasizing their importance. In those days there was no “bolding” or “italicizing” of words. Rather it was repetition that served as the instrument of emphasis in the ancient world.
So Jesus, knowing that very soon He will go away and that terrible things are going to happen to His followers, wants them to be completely informed of the “why” – He wants them to be able to connect the dots to reassure their hearts, which leads us to verse four…
16:4-6 But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you. I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. 5 But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.
Here Jesus explains why it is that He is telling them all of these things. He’s shocking them, truth be told. He’s just told them that they are about to enter into a life of cross bearing, a life of unpopularity, a life of persecution. He is loading their minds up with truth – truth that will help them later even if they don’t fully understand it now.
This ought to remind us of the sovereignty of Jesus. Jesus, the Son of God, knew all that was to happen to Him and to those elect which He had chosen before the foundation of the world. And He is reassuring the hearts of His disciples of this fact. The predictions are horrible, to be sure. They must have worried the disciples. But the fact that He knew them, that He confidently told them all of these things once again signified His deity. And if He is divine, then He will certainly have the power to carry out His great plan. The disciples can rightfully say to themselves that ‘All of this therefore will eventually make sense because He is who He says He is, and therefore He controls all things and knows all things that He controls’ and so on.
And so we see Romans 8:28 screaming to us from passages like this. Jesus knows all, is in control of all, and therefore there is a reason and a purpose for our pain and our suffering. It is working an eternal weight of glory! It is driving us toward holiness, and it is testifying our identity as Christians, as Christ followers.
Note however, that this doesn’t stop the disciples from being sad. Their hearts are filled with sorrow. Jesus is so tender here. He has compassion for them, because He understands their weaknesses. That is the advantage – the very great advantage – of having a Lord who understands and can identify with our humanity.
16:7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.
We have to ask ourselves this: how in the world is it advantageous for the Lord to go away? If you put yourselves in the place of these 11 men, you have to wonder how this was helpful. In fact, we have to also wonder from our own perspective how its more helpful to have the Spirit than to have Christ.
The answer has a few layers. These men had with them the pre-glorified Christ. Jesus had not yet been glorified as He is now. The Jesus that comes back on that final day will appear to us much more glorious than the man who walked 2000 years ago.
This idea of appearance, and glory is more than just physical though. The reason that, during this age, it is advantageous to have the Spirit is because though they beheld Christ, they did not fully understand all that He said, nor did they truly see Him as glorious – and it is the Spirit of truth that opens the eyes of men to not simply hear the gospel but hear it as glorious; to not only behold the man Jesus in the pages of Scripture, but to behold Him as glorious. This is what Paul was getting at in 2 Corinthians 4:
And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:3-6)
Therefore it is extremely advantageous that we have the Spirit, for He is the Spirit of Truth who helps us see Christ as being glorious and gives us the power to overcome the world (which we’ll soon see), not by our own work, but because the “work” has already been accomplished on the cross. The plan has been set in motion; we are in a remarkable time in redemptive history. Let’s us praise God for the great and glorious gift us His Spirit without which we would have an impoverished view of the magnificence of the beauty of the Son.
16:8-11 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
The role of the Holy Spirit is here expanded to include not only His work within the church, but also His role outside the church in bringing souls to Christ, and shining the light of truth in the darkness of depraved minds under the influence of Satan (2 Cor. 4:4).
Specifically, we see three ways that the Spirit convicts the world: about sin, about righteousness, and about judgment.
Sin: John MacArthur says this, “It is the Spirit’s mission to present the truth about Jesus Christ to the world (15:26); those who reject the truth will be found guilty and judged by the Son and the Father (5:22, 27, 30)…(sin) refers not to sin in general but specifically to the ultimate sin of refusing to believe in Jesus Christ. It is that sin that finally damns people, since all others are forgiven when a person believes savingly in Him (Matt. 12:31-32).” I think that pretty well sums up the fact that it is the role the Spirit to convict the hearts and open the blind eyes of mankind. This is a sovereign work – no man can do it for himself, for man on his own is hostile to God, and does not seek to know the truth of God (Romans 1:18-32, 3:10-18).
Righteousness: To again quote MacArthur, “The righteousness here is that which belongs to Jesus Christ by nature as the holy Son of God…When their wickedness is compared to His sinless holiness, their sin is seen more truly for the detestable evil that it is.” In other words, Jesus Christ is the only righteous one, and it is by His merit alone that a man can be saved. I might term this “the goodness gap” which a sinner sees when convicted by the Spirit.
I imagine that the best example of this visually is that which we read in Isaiah 6. Isaiah, in the presence of the Lord, is convicted of his utter sinfulness. When righteousness is manifested so clearly, it is impossible to miss the dark blot of sin that mars our ways (be that words, actions etc.).
Judgment: The Spirit’s work of conviction reveals that the ruler of this world has been judged. That is to say that Jesus has overcome the power of the one enslaving all of mankind. Look at what is said elsewhere about this:
He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. (Colossians 2:15)
Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. (Hebrews 2:14-15)
Until the end of this age the Devil will continue to blind the eyes of men, but his fate is known and secured. The fate of the seed of the woman and the seed of the Serpent are not the same. For a second Adam (Rom. 5) has taken our judgment upon Himself – the judgment that we deserved (Is. 53), so that now our fate, our futures, our hopes and our souls are joined to His power and His resurrection (Rom. 6). And just as our fates are tied to the new life we have in Christ, so also are the futures of all those who reject the Lord’s offer of salvation. Satan’s future has been sealed and thus judgment has been set. The final consummation of this judgment will come in the last day:
And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. 9 And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, 10 and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. (Revelation 20:7-10)
We need to remember that when Jesus was anticipated by the prophets it was hard to imagine for the Israelites that their Savior would ever come, yet the word of the Lord is sure. He will definitely bring about all that He has ordained. The same is true of His church today. We sometimes wonder if He will ever come back. We long for that day, and we get discouraged to see the evil that has ensconced our world, yet we must maintain faith in the Lord that He will certainly bring to pass all that He has promised in His word (Is. 55:11).
16:12-15 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.  When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
John MacArthur points out that the contrast between the disciple’s selfishness and Jesus’ selflessness is exhibited in verses like 6 and perhaps here in 12. But while I agree there is definitely a contrast, I think the accent is not only on the selfishness of the disciples, but also on the weakness of their flesh. They need supernatural strength to bear the task ahead. Certainly they responsible for their actions – and for the knowledge that Christ Jesus is preparing them with in this farewell discourse – but I think that we are here seeing specifically the deficit between the ability of the flesh and that of the Spirit.
When the disciples had the opportunity to stand up for Christ they failed – why? Because they were sinners, and because they didn’t have the indwelling presence of the Spirit to lean on. The boldness of the disciples – especially in the example of Peter – is made manifest to us in the first few chapters of Luke’s account of the early church in Acts. In fact, many have commented that the book of Acts ought not be called ‘Acts of the Apostles’, but rather ‘Acts of the Holy Spirit’ due to the empowering work the Spirit did through God’s servants.
Supernatural Understanding and Knowledge
Up until this point Jesus has been their great prophet, declaring in their midst wisdom and future events, and the truth of God. Now the Helper is to come and do the exact same thing. What an awesome thing to contemplate!
This is what is predicted in Jeremiah:
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jeremiah 31:31-34)
I believe I’ve been guilty of harping on this in the past, but we too often do not praise God for the gift of the Spirit! We have been given the very presence of God living within us and that Spirit who empowered the Lord Jesus Christ during his life on earth has been given to us to guide us, convict us, and bring us into all knowledge.
Look also at the preeminence of Jesus here, as well as the fact that you and I have been drawn into a relationship with all three members of the Godhead. The Spirit indwells us, and declares to us the truth of God’s word, enlightening us to the meaning of Scripture, and all that He has given has come from Jesus at His behest – for He loves us. Not only that, but He has given us all that the Father has given to Him. So that all that the Father has for us is given by Christ and administered by the Holy Spirit. All three Members of the Godhead functioning in perfect accord within the framework of their own individual role, yet all of the same mind, all executing the same plan – that plan being to enlighten us unto the truths of God.
Surely we can see here that it is God’s deepest desire for us that we know Him!
All Glory Goes to Jesus
One of the things that is uniquely characteristic about the Holy Spirit is His desire to always point glory to the Son. He always wants to shine the focus on Jesus. And that is why Jesus can describe Him thus in verse 14.
We mentioned before how the Father is always pointing people to the Son because He loves the Son and wants to glorify the Son and wants us to love the Son. And the same is true with the Spirit. These two persons of the Godhead want us to see God personified. They want us to see the model for conformity, for righteousness and for love. They want us to see the incarnate Christ and wed our hearts to Him forever giving Him praise for His atoning sacrifice, and imputed righteousness. Jesus is worthy of our praise – He is worthy of our honor and all the glory we can give Him.
In our text on John 11 I mentioned that there are a few ways in which Jesus can be glorified. There is the reflection, the revelation, and the praises of His people. The Spirit here will reveal the character of Christ to us, thus glorifying Him, He will mold us to His image in order that we might reflect His character, thus glorifying Him, and He will create in us a love for Him and a clear understanding of all He has done for us thus making in us a well spring of praise to Him which also glorifies the Son. In these three ways the Spirit contributes to the Son’s glory.