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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible
John 16

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1

This chapter concludes the discourse leading up to the great intercessory prayer. It has the whole world in view (John 16:1-11) with its relation to the Holy Spirit, emphasis upon the Spirit's relation to the apostles (John 16:12-15), and final remarks before the great prayer (John 16:25-33).

These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be caused to stumble. (John 16:1)

These things ... indicates no break between these two chapters. Gaebelein noted that:

The thought might have arisen in their minds that the coming of the Spirit would change things as far as the world is concerned; but he guards them against such a false hope and gives them a prophetic warning so that they might not be offended.[1]

The particular things referred to were Judas' treachery, Peter's denial, the fact of his approaching death, and the continuing hatred of the world.

Not be caused to stumble ... This rendition is preferable to that of the KJV; because, as Hovey wrote:

In the New Testament, (this word) never denotes causing one to stumble physically, but always morally, in other words, meaning ... "to cause one to fall into sin or apostasy."[2]

[1] Arno C. Gaebelein, The Gospel of John (Neptune, New Jersey: Loizeaux Brothers, 1965), p. 302.

[2] Alvah Hovey, Commentary on John (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1885), p. 310.


Verse 2

They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the hour cometh, that whosoever killeth you shall think that he offereth service unto God.

The apostles might have anticipated their expulsion from synagogues, for they had witnessed what was done to the blind man (John 9:34); but, at this stage of their development, they could not have been aware of the frenzied hatred that would fall upon them when they began their worldwide proclamation of the gospel.

Out of the synagogues ... This was a penalty dreaded by every Hebrew, meaning loss of social acceptability, employment, and all access to the religious life of the community. Excommunicated persons were held to be worse than pagans and were the object of total rejection and hatred.

Killeth you ... The world's hatred of the apostles would never be abated by the mere penalty of excommunication; they would be murdered. Christ also revealed here that their murder would be motivated by religious considerations. As Barnes put it:

The people of God have suffered most from people who were conscientious persecutors; and some of the most malignant foes Christians ever had have been in the church, professed ministers of the gospel, persecuting them under pretense of zeal for the cause of purity in religion.[3]

Dummelow tells us that "There is a Jewish saying, `Every one that sheddeth the blood of the wicked, is as he that offereth a sacrifice.'"[4] Paul himself, before his conversion, was a conspicuous example of this very type of persecutor.

[3] Alfred Barnes, Notes on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1954), p. 344.

[4] J. R. Dummelow, Commentary on the Holy Bible (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1937), p. 801.


Verse 3

And these things will they do, because they have not known the Father, nor me.

The world's hatred of truth derives primarily from ignorance; but it is not an excusable ignorance.

(The world's ignorance) is rather a part of their sin, but a part which accounts for the rest. That when light came into the world, they loved darkness rather than light (John 3:19), was in a high degree sinful.[5]

Lipscomb said of this:

It is but another way of saying that there is an eternal and uncompromising enmity on the part of those who know not God and his Son Jesus Christ against those who walk with God and believe on the Lord.[6]

[5] Alvah Hovey, op. cit., p. 311.

[6] David Lipscomb, A Commentary on the Gospel of John (Nashville: Gospel Advocate Company, 1960), p. 250.


Verse 4

But these things have I spoken unto you, that when the hour is come, ye may remember them, how that I told you. And these things I said not unto you from the beginning, because I was with you.

This does not mean that Christ had not previously taught them of the persecutions coming upon them; because there had been many strong words to the effect that they would have to "deny" themselves, take up the cross, and suffer will and hatred. All such previous words, however, were understood by the apostles in a frame of reference to themselves as part of a company led by Jesus. Here Christ revealed that they would be without his physical presence during the trials, sufferings, and death they would endure.

From the beginning ... This repeated (John 15:27) phrase is of the utmost consequence, limiting the application of this discourse to the apostles, and making it inapplicable to Christians of all ages, except in a secondary and limited sense. Many serious and devout students of God's word have missed this extremely important fact. See under John 16:13.


Verse 5

But now I go unto him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou?

The apostles, overwhelmed with the sorrowful implications of the Lord's departure for themselves, were not considering the implications of that departure for the Lord himself. Instead of rejoicing that Jesus would shortly resume his eternal glory with the Father, they thought only of their own loneliness and suffering. Understandable as their attitude was, the Saviour was sensitive to this preoccupation on their part with the implications for themselves alone.


Verse 6

But because I have spoken these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart.

These words seem to have been spoken more in wonderment and tenderness, rather than in censure. The Lord knew how difficult it was for them to grasp the full meaning and significance of the crisis events then unfolding.


Verse 7

Nevertheless I tell you the truth: It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I go, I will send him unto you.

Nevertheless ... shows that this reference to the Holy Spirit (John 16:7-15) follows naturally the situation of sorrow and depression of the apostles. The departure of the Lord would not be the total disaster they were thinking of, but was a necessary prelude to the sending of the Spirit. Allegations like that of Windisch that these references to the Spirit do not "fit" are erroneous and contrived, much like saying that the hump on a camel does not fit!

It is expedient for you ... These words suggest those of Caiaphas (John 11:50).

"The high lines of politics, said Caiaphas, is that we get rid of him. The high line of God's policy, said Jesus, is that I go. Thus all the folly and wickedness of man is at last resolved into harmony with the divine government. "It is expedient," said the politician; "It is expedient," said the King and Redeemer."[7]

I will send him unto you ... See under John 15:23,27. Jesus' sending of the Spirit was the same as the Father's sending him.

Note on the expedience of Jesus' departure out of this world: The establishment of a worldwide religion with benefits of salvation from sin and eternal life for all humanity would have been impossible if the head of it had remained on earth, limited by earthly conditions, physically present at only one place at a time, inaccessible unless approached through other men (as did the Greeks, John 12:21,22), dependent upon human systems of communication, and his every contact with humanity subjected to monitoring and interpretation by human aides with their inevitable taint of fallibility and bias. An earthly head of such a thing as the true church of Jesus Christ is an impossibility revealed by this verse. If the holy Head of our blessed faith had himself remained on earth, there would have been no Holy Spirit to guide and comfort. Jesus Christ is the one true head of the true church in heaven "and upon earth" (Matthew 28:18-20). Whatever any man, therefore, may be "head of," it is not the holy church of Christ.

ENDNOTE:

[7] G. Campbell Morgan, The Gospel according to John (Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Co.), p. 260.


Verse 8

And he, when he is come, will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.

Convict the world ... The means of the Spirit's convicting the world was explained thus by Lipscomb:

He will convict the world, not by direct work upon their hearts, but as the event shows (Acts 2:37), through the life of the apostles, declaring the wonderful works of God. The Holy Spirit came not "unto the world" but "unto the apostles." The world could not receive the Spirit directly (John 14:17), and never can, AS THE WORLD. The apostles received him, and through their testimony he reaches the world.[8]

And he ... Personal pronouns referring to the Holy Spirit throughout these pages emphasize the personal nature of the Spirit. The Trinitarian concept of three persons in the Godhead is in these verses. See under John 16:14-15.

Convict ... Regarding this word, Westcott noted that:

It involves the conceptions of authoritative examination, of unquestionable proof, of decisive judgment, and of punitive power. He who "convicts" another places the truth in a clear light before him, so that it must be seen and acknowledged as truth ... He who then rejects ... rejects it with his eyes open and at his peril.[9]

The issue of whether the world will or will not receive the truth is not treated here. The Spirit will "convict" the whole world by witnessing the truth to the whole creation; but every man, through the exercise of his own free will, will determine his own destiny by his reaction to the truth, either receiving it or rejecting it.

Sin ... righteousness ... judgment ... The comprehensiveness of these terms is boundless. Here are the two fundamentals of man's spiritual condition and the two options, or alternatives, open to him. The Spirit convicts of sin, revealing man's fallen estate and bondage to Satan, and showing his total helplessness to achieve through his own efforts any healing of his condition. The Spirit also convicts of righteousness by revealing the mystery of how a man may acquire a righteousness not his own, that being the righteousness of Christ, available to all who receive and obey the gospel, thus being inducted "into Christ," and identified with Christ as Christ.

"Sin ... righteousness ... judgment ..." Over against these three words stand three proper names: Adam, Christ, and Satan. Through Adam came sin; through Christ came righteousness; and upon Satan the penalty of ultimate judgment shall fall (John 16:11). As Westcott observed:

The "world" acting through its representatives, had charged Christ as a sinner (John 9:24). Its leaders trusted that they were "righteous" (Luke 18:9), and they were at the point of giving sentence against the "prince of Life" (Acts 3:15) as a malefactor (John 18:30). At this point the threefold error (Acts 3:17), which the Spirit was to reveal and reprove, had brought at last its fatal fruit.[10]

Any human intelligence capable of understanding the phenomenal connections of these three words (sin, righteousness, and judgment) with all that was previously written in John, and so dramatically presented in Westcott's words above, and as encompassing in their total significance the entire history of Adam's race from Eden to the Great White Throne - any mind which sees all that can only marvel at a critic's conclusion that such words "do not fit." The sun, moon, and stars do not fit any better than these words fit the context.

[8] David Lipscomb, op. cit., p. 253.

[9] B. F. Westcott, The Gospel according to St. John (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1971), p. 228.

[10] Ibid., p. 229.


Verse 9

Of sin, because they believe not on me; of righteousness, because I go to the Father, and ye behold me no more; of judgment, because the prince of this world hath been judged.

Of sin ... See under John 16:8. The soul that does not believe in Jesus Christ is convicted of sin.

Of righteousness ... The world is convicted of this by: (1) Christ's return to God, and (2) the absolute finality of Christ's work - "ye behold me no more." Jesus' resurrection and ascension to God were irrefutable proof that his total message was from God; and his remaining thus at God's right hand signaled the total completion of the righteousness which he wrought. As Westcott said:

This revelation once given was final, because nothing could be added to it (I go to the Father); because after Christ was withdrawn from human eyes (Ye see me no more), there was fixed for all time that by which men's estimate of righteousness might be tried.[11]

Of judgment, because the prince of this world ... Calvary was intended by Christ's enemies as their judgment of him; but God made it the judgment of his enemies, particularly of Satan, the prince of this world. The cross indeed bruised the heel of the seed of woman, but it bruised the head of Satan. Christ's death, burial, and resurrection condemned the value-judgments of men. Wicked men, living lives of conformity to the will of their prince (Satan) behold in Christ the rejection by Almighty God of their principles of judgment. The way of Christ was declared by his resurrection to be the right way. The Spirit of God would never cease from Pentecost and ever afterward to convict the world of what righteousness really is. The world's traditional values were set aside by God's judgment of the cross; and the prince of this world has been summarily judged and condemned, and all who follow him shall partake of his judgment and destiny.

Turning, now, from the work of the Spirit as it concerned the world, Christ spoke of the work of the Spirit within the apostles.

ENDNOTE:

[11] Ibid.


Verse 12

I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.

This verse is not a separation between the fourth and fifth Paraclete sayings, but a connective making them, in fact, one saying, the first part dealing with the Spirit's relation to the world, the latter with the Spirit's work in the apostles. The need of the apostles that something should be done for them is what this verse states. There were many things the apostles could not understand until afterward. As Barnes said:

There were many things which might be said. Jesus had given them the outline, but he had not gone into details. These were things which they could not then bear.[12]

The apostles were still full of Jewish traditions; and such ideas as the total replacement of Judaism by Christianity, the cessation of the sacrifices, and the elimination of circumcision and the office of the high priest these were some of the things they could not have understood at the moment, although Jesus had indeed told them all things. Their true enlightenment would come under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

ENDNOTE:

[12] Albert Barnes, op. cit., p. 347.


Verse 13

Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he shall guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak from himself; but what things soever he shall hear, these shall he speak: and he shall declare unto you the things that are to come.

This is a verse of nearly incredible importance in the proper understanding of Christianity. Here is the cornerstone of faith. The errors grounded here are colossal, and the general misunderstanding of it has perverted millions of disciples.

He, the Spirit of truth ... See under John 16:8.

Shall guide you into all truth ... The most poisonous errors have been widely held and devoutly believed by Christians of all generations, thus leaving an intolerable burden upon any view that would make these precious words a promise to all believers. Jesus was here speaking to "apostles only." (See under John 15:27 and John 16:4.) Again, the very manner of the Spirit's guidance of the apostles into all truth by bringing to their "remembrance" what Jesus had said (John 14:26) denies the application of this promise to Christians who have never "heard" the Lord say anything. Again, there is the limitation that the Spirit shall not speak "from himself," thus prohibiting the notion that the Holy Spirit would initiate new doctrine, formulate new truth, or announce new teachings in any manner beyond or in addition to the "all truth" Jesus had already delivered to the apostles (John 13:3; 16:15). The Father delivered all truth to Jesus (John 13:3); and Jesus delivered all truth to the apostles, promising that the Spirit would enable them to remember "all truth" (John 14:26); and, therefore, only the apostles of Jesus could have been guided into all truth. In the writings of the apostles of Jesus is found "all the truth" as far as Christians are concerned.

He shall guide ... indicates a progressive revelation from one level to higher levels; and thus Revelation with its prophecies of the future exceeds what the apostles at first knew. In fact, this Gospel, written so long after the synoptics, has deeper insight into the mysteries of the kingdom of God than appears in them; but even here, the Holy Spirit did not go beyond what Jesus said, the greater insight resulting from more extended study of Jesus' words. Only in the matter of prophesying future events would it appear that the Holy Spirit empowered the apostles apart from the exact words of Jesus, and even this may not have been done except in the same manner as that of Old Testament prophets. If this word "guide" indicates (from its suggestion of a journey) a progression, in some degree, beyond the actual words of Christ, it was strictly limited to the apostles. Such a proposition as the following is absolutely untenable:

A guide always means a pilgrimage, and a guide always means a process. The whole church of God today has a fuller apprehension of the truth than had those twelve men. The Spirit has been guiding us into all truth![13]

The Lord did not promise that the Spirit would guide "us" into all truth, but "them," the blessed apostles; and, as for the notion that arrogant, selfish, secular, materialistic Christendom, as now almost universally constituted, has a "fuller apprehension" of truth than the apostles of Jesus Christ that notion has all but destroyed Christianity from the earth.

For he shall not speak from himself ... indicates that the Spirit is not the originator, or primary source, of truth, but a "remembrancer" of the truth conveyed by the Lord to the apostles. Gaebelein's explicit words on this are helpful. He said:

He does not speak from himself, that is, independently of the Father and the Son ... Furthermore, he will show things to come. This was fulfilled in the inspired witness of the apostles ... Let no one therefore think that the Holy Spirit continues now to give prophecies through individuals. He has shown the things to come in the completed word of God, and we must turn there to know these future events.[14]

A little reflection will show that the Holy Spirit could never be the independent kind of "wind in the mulberry bush" guide of human conduct that some seem to believe. If any spirit, even the Holy Spirit, could have so dominated man's mind as to have guided him into all truth, apart from the objective demonstration of truth in the life and person of Jesus Christ, it would not have been necessary for the Lord to come in the flesh. The subjective "feelings" of spirituals in all ages have been erroneously received as gospel truth, and the ravages of this error have been phenomenal. Gibbon recorded a remarkable incident from one of the crusades in which:

Two hundred thousand people (had as their) genuine leaders a goose and a goat, carried at the front, and to whom these worthy Christians ascribed an infusion of the divine spirit.[15]

Pitiful? Certainly, but not any more pitiful than millions today who are following some goose who is allegedly endowed with the Holy Spirit.

And he shall declare unto you the things that are to come ... This also positively proves the limitation of this whole passage in its application to the apostles only. Can anyone believe that Spirit-filled Christians of the present age have the gift of prophecy? That the apostles had such a gift is devoutly believed, but it is here emphatically denied that any Christians now have such prophetic gifts. The glorious promises of this verse are the grounds of our hope in the sacred message of the apostolic company and our reason for receiving their word as true and infallible.

[13] G. Campbell Morgan, op. cit., p. 263,

[14] Arno C. Gaebelein, op. cit., p. 305.

[15] Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Philadelphia: Henry T. Coates and Company, 1845), Vol. 5, p. 27.


Verse 14

He shall glorify me: for he shall take of mine, and shall declare it unto you. All things whatsoever the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he taketh of mine, and shall declare it unto you.

Regarding the Trinitarian nature of this passage, Dummelow said:

This is one of the leading Trinitarian passages in the New Testament. In it (1) the three persons are clearly distinguished; (2) their relative subordination is clearly taught, the Father giving his all to the Son, and the Son communicating his all to the Spirit; and (3) their equality of nature is distinctly affirmed, for the Son receives from the Father "all things whatsoever the Father hath," his whole nature and attributes, and communicates them to the Spirit.[16]

Tenney also saw in this verse the concept of the Trinity, writing:

Each of the three persons is separate in personality and is distinguishable from the others ... The three interact and also act separately; they are three individuals, yet but one God ... Jesus offered no philosophical statement of the Trinity. His language was extremely simple, though the profundities of his words are still unplumbed.[17]

[16] J. R. Dummelow, Commentary on the Holy Bible (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1937), p. 802.

[17] Merrill C. Tenney, John: The Gospel of Belief (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1972), p. 239.


Verse 16

A little while, and ye behold me no more; and again a little while, and ye shall see me.

A little while ... The difference in the verbs "behold" and "see" as associated with the two "little while's" here has occasioned all kinds of exegesis as to what is meant by the second "see." Does it refer to his appearances after the resurrection, or to their "seeing" him in a spiritual sense at Pentecost and afterward, or is the Lord's coming in the second advent indicated? Gaebelein strongly argued for a reference to Pentecost.[18] Barnes declared flatly that "After three days, he would rise again and appear to their view."[19] Perhaps Westcott's device of making the meaning include all three is the best way to understand it. He said:

The fulfillment of this promise must not be limited to one event, as the Resurrection, Pentecost, or the Return. The beginning of the new vision was at the Resurrection; the potential fulfillment of it was at Pentecost, when the spiritual presence of the Lord was completed by the gift of the Holy Spirit. This Presence, slowly realized, will be crowned by the Return.[20]

[18] Arno C. Gaebelein, op. cit., p. 306.

[19] Albert Barnes, op. cit., p. 349.

[20] B. F. Westcott, op. cit., p. 232.


Verse 17

Some of his disciples said therefore one to another, What is this that he saith unto us, A little while, and ye behold me not; and again a little while, and ye shall see me: and, Because I go to the Farther?

In view of the various opinions men still have of the meaning, it is not surprising that the apostles wondered at it. The repetition of the same thought in John 16:18 indicates that they spent some considerable time and discussion on the problem of what the words meant.


Verse 18

They said, therefore, What is this that he saith, A little while? We know not what he saith.

Of deep significance is the fact of the apostles' timidity and trepidation as they hesitated to ask a question of the Saviour with whom they had been intimate companions such a long time. This deep reverence and reluctance on their part contrasts with the free and easy familiarity of some whose very prayers seem to be saying, "Look, Old Buddy, Buddy, we want you to bless us."

The question troubling the apostles was the apparently contradictory statements (1) that Jesus would go to the Father, and (2) the declaration that "in a little while" they should see him. It should be observed that the statement of Jesus, "Because I go to the Father," in the previous verse was actually quoted from his words in John 16:10. The proximity of those two seemingly irreconcilable statements added to their doubt as to what Jesus meant.


Verse 19

And Jesus perceived that they were desirous to ask him, and he said unto them, Do ye inquire among yourselves concerning this, that I said, A little while, and ye behold me not, and again a little while, and ye shall see me?

Of great significance is the revelation here that Jesus knew exactly what was in the minds and conversations of the apostles, whether or not they were physically in his presence. His repeating their exact words, not having heard them, was a marvelous demonstration of his divine power; and it made a profound impression on the apostles who responded by declaring, "Now we know that thou knowest all things" (John 16:30).


Verse 20

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 had often predicted his Passion, as recorded three times in Matthew; and here is another plain reference to the impending death and the rejoicing with which it would be hailed by his enemies. The apostles fully understood what Jesus meant here.


Verse 21

A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but when she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for the joy that a man is born into the world.

The analogy here strongly resembles some of the parables found in the synoptics. Fittingly, Jesus the Seed of Woman here referred to himself as a woman in the pangs of childbirth, his apostles also being identified with him as sharing in his sufferings.

Her hour is come ... strongly reminds the student of Jesus' frequent references to his own "hour." The child is the church or kingdom of God, which was in fact delivered by the agonies of death through which the Lord passed. The woman's remembering no more the anguish and rejoicing over the child correspond to the rejoicing that followed the Lord's resurrection. Most remarkably, Jesus never lost sight of the joy of saving sinners, the same being the motivation that sustained him upon the cross itself (Hebrews 12:2). These applications of the metaphor appear in the Lord's own explanation in the next verse.


Verse 22

And ye therefore now have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no one taketh away from you.

This is a plain reference to the resurrection and the rejoicing with which the apostles would hail the victory over death.

Your joy no one taketh away from you ... is a prophecy of the unflagging enthusiasm with which the apostles would joyfully proclaim the good news of redemption for all men throughout their lives. They were hated, persecuted, scourged, and murdered; but the last one of them went down to death shouting the joyful message, "He is risen!" Satan exhausted the total resources of hell in a vain effort to counteract the testimony of that little band of men to whom Jesus gave these words, but their joy was never taken away from them; and Satan's purpose was totally frustrated.


Verse 23

And in that day ye shall ask me no question. Verily, verily, I say unto you, if ye shall ask anything of the Father, he will give it you in my name.

This means that in the totally changed situation after the resurrection, the apostles would not need the Lord's physical presence as an ever-available teacher to answer their questions and allay their doubts and fears. All that would be changed. They would ask Jesus nothing, that is, in the ordinary sense of inquiring of a human teacher. On the other hand, they would pray to the Father in Jesus' name.

This also indicates that the apostles would soon understand the great spiritual verities and would not need to ask, "Where art thou going?" (John 13:36), or "How can we know the way?" (John 14:5), or "Show us the Father" (John 14:8), or "Lord, what has happened that thou art about to manifest thyself to us and not to the world?" (John 14:22), or "What is this that he saith, A little while?" (John 16:18). All such uncertainties would disappear in the light of the events which would, in a matter of hours, be unfolded.

He will give it you in my name ... These words show that Jesus intended that his followers should pray, not to himself, but to the Father IN JESUS' NAME. It surfaces here also that the giving, as well as the asking, shall be in Jesus' name. In all petitions to the Father, the name of Jesus Christ should be mentioned as the ground of the petitioner's right to be heard. High-sounding prayers offered in no other name, and upon no other grounds, than those of the petitioner, or even ambiguously, "in thy name," can be nothing other than an affront to Almighty God. Ignoring or bypassing the name of the One Mediator between God and man is presumptuously sinful. Particularly reprehensible is the custom of closing prayers with a mere "Amen," for fear that some unbeliever might be offended by the name of Christ. Loving the praise of men more than the praise of God was fatal to believers in Jesus' day (John 12:42); and it is beyond question fatal to fall into the same error today.


Verse 24

Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be made full.

There are two ways of understanding this: (1) as a reprimand of the apostles because of their prior failure to pray in Jesus' name, or (2) a mere statement of their habit up to that time, and mentioned only with a view to changing it. Surely the latter is correct, because when Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he did not at that time command them to pray in Jesus' name (Matthew 6:9-13). There is also here the mention of their joy being made full, and that hardly fits in with the idea of a reprimand.

Hendriksen observed that:

When a believer concludes his prayer by saying, "All this we ask in Jesus' name," he is not using a magic formula. What he means is, "We ask all this on the basis of Christ's merit and in harmony with his redemptive revelation."[21]

Now, of course, it is true that "in the name of Christ" is not a magic formula, but a prayer thus concluded is properly concluded. It might be stated in other ways, to be sure; but, however it might be stated, the point here is that there can never be any substitute for stating it. The sinful and fatal shortcoming of many prayers is that they are offered in no name at all, pleading no connection whatever with Christ who died for us, and having the effect of: "God, we want all this. Amen!" The holy Scriptures deny the efficacy of all such prayers. The great fact underlying the absolute necessity of praying in Jesus' name is that, apart from the soul's connection with Christ, no man has any right whatever to ask forgiveness of sins or any other blessing. No man has access except "in the beloved" (Ephesians 1:6).

ENDNOTE:

[21] William Hendriksen, Exposition of the Gospel according to John (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1961), II, p. 335.


Verse 25

These things have I spoken unto you in dark sayings: the hour cometh, when I shall no more speak to you in dark sayings, but shall tell you plainly, of the Father.

In dark sayings ... These would appear plain enough after Pentecost; but, meanwhile, the heart of all of Jesus' teachings might have been called "dark sayings." The reason for this was complex: (1) It was a fulfillment of prophecy. (2) It was necessary to use a medium that could not be distorted by the Pharisees. (3) Finally, the dark sayings proved in the long run to be more memorable and effective than any other method could have been.

Here are some of the subjects of Jesus' dark sayings:

After the temple was destroyed, he would raise it in three days.

Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit he cannot see the kingdom of God.

He would give living water ... if a man drink he shall never thirst.

Rivers of living water would spring up within the believer.

Except one eat the flesh and drink the blood, etc.

He that believeth shall never die.

Before Abraham was Jesus is.

Ye are clean, but not all.

A little while, and ye shall see me no more; again a little while, and ye shall see me. Etc., etc.SIZE>

These "dark sayings" should not be alleged as an excuse for unbelief, because there was far more than enough to make the true meaning clear for all who would apply themselves to find it.

Speak no more in dark sayings ... This would be fulfilled before the night was over. For practically all of his ministry, Jesus had presented himself as God come in the flesh, but he had categorically avoided (except in specific instances) saying plainly that he was the Christ, preferring to speak of the "True Vine," "the Good Shepherd," "The Son of man," etc.; but, before the night was over, Jesus would declare flatly that he was the Christ, the Son of the Blessed, and that his enemies would behold him sitting on the right hand of Power and coming with the clouds of heaven (Mark 14:62).


Verse 26

In that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you; for the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came forth from the Father.

This is a further exhortation for the apostles to pray directly to God in Jesus' name, on the grounds that the love of God for Christ is extended to Jesus' disciples. This love of God was the result not merely of their belief in Christ (last clause) but was also based upon their love of Christ; the importance of this requirement being seen in the order of its statement here (being first), and also because, as used elsewhere in John, such love means keeping Jesus' words and obeying his commands (John 14:15).


Verse 28

I came out from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world and go unto the Father.

These words, as Jesus promised, are not dark sayings at all but the plainest possible statements of the profoundest facts in Christianity. The incarnation, the Godhead of Jesus, the passion, death, resurrection, and ascension are all included in this.

I leave the world ... The prophetic use of the present tense for the future here refers to his death, resurrection, and ascension.

And I go to the Father ... This also prophetically referred to the ascension and resumption by Christ of that glory he had with the Father before the world was.

I came forth from the Father ... This first clause marks Jesus' entry into our earth life as an act of his own volition. He decided to come, chose the time and place of entry, elected the particular race that would provide him a mortal body, and timed the entire sequence of events to fulfill the 333 prophecies of the Old Testament bearing upon the first advent of the Messiah. Likewise, his departure to be with the Father was revealed here as an act of his own volition.


Verse 29

His disciples say, Lo, now speakest thou plainly, and speakest no dark saying. Now we know that thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask thee: by this we believe that thou camest forth from God.

Strangely, the supernatural understanding of what was in the apostles' hearts seems from these words to have been more convincing to them than even the raising of Lazarus.

Needest not that any man should ask thee ... refers to the omniscience of Christ. This vision of his Godhead was clear to the apostles at this point. They had seen his deity shining through the veil of his humanity and cried out, "Now we know ... by this we believe."

However, as Hendriksen noted, there were still some dark waters to be crossed. He said:

The light is shining brightly now, more brightly than ever before; but within a few hours it will be obscured once more. Yet, the confession made here will linger on in their subconscious minds, until, by and by, when the Lord rises from the dead and (a little later) pours out his Spirit, it will bear the fruit of calm and steadfast assurance, and this fruit will abide for ever.[22]

Jesus was not deceived by the apostles' glowing words. He knew their weakness and promptly moved to strengthen them and warn them against the awesome events that were rushing upon them.

ENDNOTE:

[22] Ibid., II, p. 340.


Verse 31

Jesus answered them, Do ye now believe? Behold the hour cometh, yea, is come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.

Do ye now believe? ... is not a questioning of their faith, which was genuine enough; but it was a warning against overconfidence. The Old Testament prophet had written, "Smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered" (Zechariah 13:7), and Mark (Mark 14:27) identified the scattering of the apostles during the Passion as the fulfillment of that prophecy. There is infinite pathos in these words. The scattering of the apostles, the smiting of the Shepherd, the Saviour's being left alone, and his comment that he would not be really alone, for God was with him - the thoughts that tug at the heart as one contemplates such events on the night of our Saviour's Gethsemane with the cross looming on the morrow are wholly tragic. Utterly no human consolation would be available for the Son of God when he would "tread the winepress alone" (Isaiah 63:3) to redeem men from sin.


Verse 33

These things have I spoken unto you, that in me, ye may have peace. In the world ye have tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

Jesus had unfolded for his apostles a full account of all that was about to happen. The betrayal by Judas, the denial by Peter, the scattering of all of them to their own homes, the hatred and rejoicing of the world at his death; and the exact fulfillment of all those prophecies would strengthen their faith AFTER IT WAS ALL OVER.

That ye may have peace ... Hendriksen is right in seeing this peace as a dual blessing: "It is both objective (reconciliation with God) and subjective (the quiet, and comforting assurance of justification and adoption)."[23]

In the world ... in me ... Not even the apostles could receive the peace of God apart from being "in Christ." In him are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. All spiritual blessings in the heavenly places are in Christ (Ephesians 1:3). "In the world ..." is the opposite state of being unsaved, without hope and without God in the world.

Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world ... The serene confidence and assurance of the Lord as he calmly awaited his agony and death are reflected in these words. How could he speak of "good cheer" in the face of all that he knew was about to happen? Only God could have exhibited such behavior upon such an occasion and in such a circumstance.

I have overcome the world ... How? He had overcome the world by overcoming the world's prince, Satan; he had overcome by rejecting the world's value-judgments; he had overcome by a perfect willingness to endure the worst the world could bring upon him without retreating from one word of his holy teachings; he had overcome by steadfast refusal to yield to the world's temptations of lust and pride; he had overcome the world by living a life of total innocence and perfection and, at the same time, a life of total power, authority, and effectiveness. He had indeed overcome the world!

According to Dummelow, "overcome" actually means "conquered." He said:

See the sublime vision in the Revelation, where Christ goes forth conquering and to conquer (Revelation 6:2). The victory of Christ over the world, and the victory of believers through that victory, are favorite themes of the Fourth Evangelist.[24]

The marvelous words of this extensive discourse of Jesus are matched by the marvelous recall of the words, at such a long time afterward, by the apostle John.[25] The Holy Spirit did indeed, as Jesus promised, bring to his remembrance "all" that Jesus said unto them. What a wealth of spiritual truth is found in these precious words of the Lord.

[23] Ibid., II, p. 343.

[24] J. R. Dummelow, op. cit., p. 803.

[25] Many years of further study have convinced this author that John wrote these words soon after they were spoken, perhaps as early as 30 A.D. See the introduction to Revelation. - James Burton Coffman

 


Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on John 16:4". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/john-16.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, October 23rd, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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