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Bible Commentaries
John 16

The Expositor's Greek TestamentExpositor's Greek Testament

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Verse 1

John 16:1 . Ταῦτα λελάληκα ὑμῖν , I have warned you of persecution, and have told you of the encouragements you will have, ἵνα μὴ σκανδαλισθῆτε , “that ye be not staggered,” or stumbled, i.e. , that the troubles that fall upon you may not induce you to apostatise. See Thayer and Parkhurst, and Wetstein on Matthew 5:29 . Cf. also Matthew 11:6 .

Verses 1-11

John 15:26 to John 16:11 . The conquest of the world by the Spirit .

Verse 2

John 16:2 . ἀποσυναγώγους ποιήσουσιν ὑμᾶς . For the word ἀποσυν . see John 9:22 , John 12:42 ; “they will put you out of their synagogues,” they will make you outcasts from their synagogues. ἀλλʼ , “yea,” or “yea more”; used in this sense Romans 7:7 , 2 Corinthians 7:11 , where it occurs six times. Cf. Acts 19:2 . ἔρχεται … Θεῷ . ἔρχεται ὥρα ἵνα , cf. John 12:23 , ἐλήλυθεν ἡ ὥρα ἵνα … ἵνα … and Burton, Moods and Tenses , 216, on the complementary limitation by ἵνα of nouns signifying set time, etc. And for πᾶς ὁ ἀποκτείνας , the aorist indicating those “who once do the act the single doing of which is the mark of the class,” see Burton, 124, cf. 148. δόξῃ λατρείαν προσφέρειν , “may think that he offers sacrificial service”. λατρεία is used in Exodus 12:25 , etc., of the Passover; apparently used in a more general sense in 1Ma 2:19 ; 1Ma 2:22 ; and defined by Suicer “quicquid fit in honorem et cultum Dei,” and by Theophylact as θεάρεστον ἔργον , a work well pleasing to God. Cf. Romans 12:1 . Meyer and others quote the maxim of Jewish fanaticism, “Omnis effundens sanguinem improborum aequalis est illi qui sacrificium facit”.

Verse 3

John 16:3 . This fanatical blindness is traced to its source, as in John 15:21 , to their ignorance of God and of Christ: καὶ ταῦτα … ἐμέ . And He forewarns them that they might not be taken unawares.

Verse 4

John 16:4 . ἀλλὰ ταῦτα … ὑμῖν . This repeats John 16:1 , but He now adds an explanation of His silence up to this time regarding their future: ταῦτα δὲ ὑμῖν … ἤμην . ἐξ ἀρχῆς = ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς of John 15:27 , Holtzmann. If there is a difference, ἐξ ἀρχῆς indicates rather the point of time ( cf. its only other occurrence, John 6:64 ) while ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς indicates continuity. The fact of the silence has been disputed: but no definite and full intimations have hitherto been given of the future experience of the Apostles, as representing an absent Lord. The reason of His silence was ὅτι μεθʼ ὑμῶν ἤμην , “because I was with you”. While He was with them they leant upon Him and could not apprehend a time of weakness and of persecution. See Matthew 9:15 .

Verse 5

John 16:5 . νῦν δὲ , “but now,” in contrast to ἐξ ἀρχῆς , ὑπάγω , “I go away,” in contrast to μεθʼ ὑμῶν ἤμην , πρὸς … με , “to Him that sent me,” as one who has discharged the duty committed to Him. καὶ οὐδεὶς ἐξ ὑμῶν … ὑπάγεις , “and no one of you asks me, Where are you going?” They were so absorbed in the thought of His departure and its consequences of bereavement to themselves that they had failed to ascertain clearly where He was going. ἀλλʼ ὅτι … καρδίαν . The consequence of their absorption in one aspect of the crisis which He had been explaining to them was that grief had filled their heart to the exclusion of every other feeling. Cf John 14:28 .

Verse 7

John 16:7 . ἀλλʼ ἐγὼ … ἀπέλθω . “But,” or “nevertheless I tell you the truth,” I who see the whole e ent tell you “it is to your advantage” and not to your loss “that I go away”. This statement, incredible as it seemed to the disciples, He justifies: ἐὰν γὰρ μὴ ἀπέλθω … ὑμᾶς . The withdrawal of the bodily presence of Christ was the essential condition of His universal spiritual presence.

Verse 8

John 16:8 . καὶ ἐλθὼν ἐκεῖνος … “and when He” (with some emphasis, “that person”) “has come, He will reprove,” or as in R.V [89] , “convict the world” “Reprove,” reprobare, to rebut or refute, as in Henry VI., iii., l. 40, “Reprove no allegation if you can,” is no longer used in this sense. The verb ἐλέγξει expresses the idea of pressing home a conviction. The object of this work of the Spirit is “the world” as opposed to Christ; and the subjects regarding which ( περὶ ) the convictions are to be wrought are “sin, righteousness and judgment”. Regarding these three great spiritual facts, new ideas are to be borne in upon the human mind by the spirit.

[89] Revised Version.

Verse 9

John 16:9 . In detail, new convictions περὶ ἁμαρτίας are to be wrought, ὅτι οὐ πιστεύουσιν εἰς ἐμέ . Each of the three clauses introduced by ὅτι is in apposition with the foregoing substantive, and is explanatory of the ground of the conviction, “Concerning sin, because they do not believe on me”. Unbelief will be apprehended to be sin. The world sins “because” it does not believe in Christ, i.e. , the world sins inasmuch as it is unbelieving, cf. John 3:18-19 ; John 3:36 ; John 15:22 . περὶ δικαιοσύνης δὲ … “And concerning righteousness, because I go to my Father and ye see me no longer.” The world will see in the exaltation of Christ proof of His righteousness [ δικαίου γὰρ γνώρισμα τὸ πορεύεσθαι πρὸς τὸν θεὸν καὶ συνεῖναι αὐτῷ , Euthymius] and will accordingly cherish new convictions regarding righteousness. The clause καὶ οὐκ ἔτι θεωρεῖτέ με is added to exhibit more clearly that it was a spiritual and heavenly life He entered upon in going to the Father; and possibly to remind them that the invisibility which they lamented was the evidence of His victory.

Verse 11

John 16:11 . περὶ δὲ κρίσεως , “and concerning judgment (between sin and righteousness, and between Christ and the prince of this world, John 12:31 , John 14:30 ), because the ruler of this world has been judged,” or “is judged”. The distinction between sin and righteousness was, under the Spirit’s teaching, to become absolute. In the crucifixion of Christ the influences which move worldly men ὁ ἄρχων τοῦ κόσμου were finally condemned. The fact that worldliness, blindness to the spiritually excellent, led to that treatment of Christ, is its condemnation. The world, the prince of it, is “judged”. To adhere to it rather than to Christ is to cling to a doomed cause, a sinking ship.

Verse 12

John 16:12 . Ἔτι πολλὰ ἔχω λέγειν ὑμῖν , “I have yet many things to say to you”; after all I have said much remains unsaid. There is, then, much truth which it is desirable that Christians know and which yet was not uttered by Christ Himself. His words are not the sole embodiment of truth, though they may be its sole criterion. ἀλλʼ οὐ δύνασθε βαστάζειν ἄρτι , “but you cannot bear them now,” therefore they are deferred; truth can be received only by those who have already been prepared for its reception. “’Tis the taught already that profit by teaching” ( Sir 3:7 ; 1 Corinthians 3:1 ; Hebrews 5:11-14 ). The Resurrection and Pentecost gave them new strength and new perceptions. βαστάζειν , similarly used in 2 Kings 17:14 , ὃ ἐὰν ἐπιθῇς ἐπʼ ἐμὲ , βαστάσω . To those who wish to become philosophers Epictetus gives the advice, Ἄνθρωπε , σκέψαι τί δύνασαι βαστάσαι (Diss. iii. 15, Kypke).

Verses 12-15

John 16:12-15 . The Spirit will complete the teaching of Jesus .

Verse 13

John 16:13 . What was now withheld would afterwards be disclosed, ὅταν … ἀλήθειαν . The Spirit would complete the teaching of Christ and lead them “into all the truth”. ὁδηγήσει ὑμᾶς “shall lead you,” “as a guide leads in the way, by steady advance, rather than by sudden revelation”. Bernard. This function of the Spirit He still exercises. It is the Church at large He finally leads into all truth through centuries of error, οὐ γὰρ λαλήσει … ὑμῖν , “for He shall not speak from Himself, but whatever He shall have heard He will speak, and the things that are coming He will announce to you”. This is the guarantee of the truth of the Spirit’s teaching, as of Christ’s, John 7:17 , John 14:10 . What the Father tells Him, He will utter. Particularly, τὰ ἐρχόμενα ἀναγγελεῖ ὑμῖν , “the things that are coming He will declare to you”. τὰ ἐρχόμενα means “the things that are now coming,” not “the things which at any future stage of the Church’s history may come”. It might include the events of the succeeding day, but in this case ἀναγγελεῖ could not be used; for although these events might require to be explained, they did not need to be “announced”. The promise must therefore refer to the main features of the new Christian dispensation. The Spirit would guide them in that new economy in which they would no longer have the visible example and help and counsel of their Master. It is not a promise that they should be able to predict the future. [“Maxime huc spectat apocalypsis, scripta per Johannem.” Bengel.] In enabling them to adapt themselves to the new economy the centre and norm would be Christ.

Verse 14

John 16:14 . ἐκεῖνος ἐμὲ δόξασει , “He will glorify me”. The fulfilment of this promise is found in every action and word of the Apostles. Under the Spirit’s guidance they lived wholly for Christ: the dispensation of the Spirit was the Christian dispensation. This is further explained in ὅτι ἐκ τοῦ ἐμοῦ λήψεται … “because He shall take of that which is mine, and declare it unto you”. The Spirit draws from no other source of information or inspiration. It is always “out of that which is Christ’s” He furnishes the Church. So only could He glorify Christ. Not by taking the Church beyond Christ, but by more fully exhibiting the fulness of Christ, does He fulfil His mission.

Verse 15

John 16:15 . There is no need that the Spirit go beyond Christ and no possibility He should do so, because πάντα ὅσα ἔχει ὁ Πατὴρ ἐμά ἐστι , “all things whatsoever the Father has are mine,” cf. John 17:10 and John 13:3 ; 1 Corinthians 15:24-28 ; Hebrews 2:8 . The Messianic reign involved that Christ should be truly supreme and have all things at His disposal. So that when He said that the Spirit would take of what was His, that was equivalent to saying that the Spirit had the unlimited fulness of the Godhead to draw upon.

Verse 16

John 16:16 . Μικρὸν καὶ οὐ θεωρεῖτέ με καὶ πάλιν μικρὸν καὶ ὄψεσθέ με . The first “little while” is the time till the following day; the second “little while,” the time till the resurrection, when they would see Him again. The similar expression of John 14:19 has induced several interpreters to understand our Lord as meaning, “Ye shall see me spiritually”; thus Bernard says: “The discrimination in the verbs employed affords sufficient guidance, and leads us to interpret as follows. A little while (it was but a few hours), and then ‘ye behold me no longer’ ( οὐκέτι θεωρεῖτέ με ); I shall have passed from the visible scene, and from the observation of spectators (that is the kind of seeing which the verb intends). ‘Again, a little while’ (of but little longer duration), and ‘ye shall see me’ ( ὄψεσθέ με ), with another kind of seeing, one in which the natural sight becomes spiritual vision.” This distinction, however, is not maintained in John 14:19 .

Verses 16-22

John 16:16-22 . The sorrow occasioned by Christ’s departure turned into joy at His return .

Verse 17

John 16:17 . Εἶπον οὖν ἐκ τῶν μαθητῶν αὐτοῦ . A pause is implied; during which some of the disciples ( τινές understood, as in John 7:40 ; see Simcox, Gram. of N.T. , p. 84) expressed to one another their bewilderment. They were alarmed, but could not attach their alarm to any definite object of dread.

Verse 19

John 16:19 . Jesus, perceiving their embarrassment, and that they wished to interrogate Him ὅτι ἤθελον αὐτὸν ἐρωτᾷν said to them: Περὶ τούτου … “Are you inquiring among yourselves?” μετʼ ἀλλήλων , not as in John 16:17 , πρὸς ἀλλήλους , “about this that I said,” etc.?

Verse 20

John 16:20 . ἀμὴν … ὅτι κλαύσετε καὶ θρηνήσετε ὑμεῖς , “ye shall weep and lament”; θρηνέω is commonly used of lamentation for the dead, as in Jeremiah 21:10 , μὴ κλαίετε τὸν τεθνηκότα , μηδὲ θρηνεῖτε αὐτόν ; 2 Samuel 1:17 ; Matthew 11:17 ; Luke 7:32 . Here it is weeping and lamentation for the dead that is meant. ὁ δὲ κόσμος χαρήσεται , but while you mourn, the world shall rejoice, as achieving a triumph over a threatening enemy. ὑμεῖς δὲ λυπηθήσεσθε , “and ye shall be sorrow-stricken, but your sorrow shall become joy”. Cf. ἀπὸ πένθους εἰς χαράν , Esther 9:22 , and especially John 20:20 , ἐχάρησαν οἱ μαθηταὶ ἰδόντες τὸν Κύριον .

Verse 21

John 16:21 . He adds an illustration of the manner in which anxiety and dread pass into joy: ἡ γυνή “the woman,” the article is generic, cf. ὁ δοῦλος , John 15:15 , Meyer, ὅταν τίκτῃ , “when she brings forth,” λύπην … αὐτῆς , “hath sorrow because her hour” the critical or appointed time of her delivery “is come”. The woman in travail is the common figure for terror-stricken anguish in O.T.: Psalms 48:6 ; Jeremiah 4:31 ; Jeremiah 6:24 , etc. ὅταν δὲ γεννήσῃ τὸ παιδίον … “but when the child is born, she no longer remembers the distress, for the joy that a man is born into the world”. The comparison, so far as explicitly used by our Lord in John 16:22 , extends only to the sudden replacement of sorrow with joy in both cases. But a comparison of Isaiah 66:7-9 , Hosea 13:13 , and other O.T. passages, in which the resurrection of a new Israel is likened to a difficult and painful birth, warrants the extension of the metaphor to the actual birth of the N.T. church in the resurrection of Christ. Cf. Holtzmann.

Verse 22

John 16:22 . καὶ ὑμεῖς … ὑμῶν , “and you accordingly,” in keeping with this natural arrangement conspicuous in the woman’s case, “have at present sorrow”. This is the time when the results are hidden and only the pain felt: “but I will see you again and your heart shall rejoice and your joy no one takes from you”. This joy was felt in the renewed vision of their Lord at the Resurrection. “All turns on the Resurrection; and without the experiences of that time there would have been no beholding Christ in the Spirit.” Bernard.

Verse 23

John 16:23 . καὶ ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρα , “and in that day” of the Resurrection and the dispensation it introduces, see John 14:20 , in contrast to this present time when you wish to ask me questions, John 16:19 , “ye shall not put any questions to me”. Cf. John 21:12 . He was no longer the familiar friend and visible teacher to whom at any moment they might turn. But though this accustomed intercourse terminated, it was only that they might learn a more direct communion with the Father: ἀμὴν … δώσει ὑμῖν . The connection is somewhat obscure. The words may either be taken in connection with those immediately preceding, in which case they intimate that the information they can no longer get from a present Christ they will receive from Father: or they may begin a distinct paragraph and introduce a fresh subject, the certainly of prayer being heard.

Verses 23-28

John 16:23-28 . Future accessibility of the Father .

Verse 24

John 16:24 . ἕως ἄρτι οὐκ ᾐτήσατε οὐδὲν ἐν τ .… “Until now ye have asked nothing in my name.” They had not yet realised that it was through Christ and on the lines of His work all God’s activity towards man and all man’s prayer to God were to proceed. αἰτεῖτε … πεπληρωμένη , “ask and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full,” or “fulfilled,” or “completed”. The joy they were to experience on seeing their Lord again, John 16:22 , was to be completed by their continued experience of the efficacy of His name in prayer. Prayer must have been rather hindered by the visible presence of a sufficient helper, but henceforth it was to be the medium of communication between the disciples and the source of spiritual power.

Verse 25

John 16:25 . Another great change would characterize the economy into which they were passing. Instead of dark figurative utterances which only dimly revealed things spiritual, direct and intelligible disclosures regarding the Father would be made to the disciples: ταῦτα ἐν παροιμίαις … ὑμῖν . παροιμία . See John 10:6 ; “dark sayings” or “riddles” expresses what is here meant. It is opposed to παρρησίᾳ , open, plain, easily intelligible, meant to be understood. He does not refer to particular utterances, such as John 15:1 , John 16:21 , etc. but to the reserved character of the whole evening’s conversation, and of all His previous teaching. “The promise is that the reserve imposed by a yet unfinished history, by a manifestation in the flesh, by the incapacity of the hearers, and by their gradual education, will then be succeeded by clear, full, unrestricted information, fitted to create in those who receive it that ‘full assurance of understanding’ which contributes so largely to the ‘full assurance of faith’.” Bernard. περὶ τοῦ πατρός , the Father is the central theme of Christ’s teaching, both while on earth and above.

Verse 26

John 16:26 . ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ . “In that day,” in which I shall tell you plainly of the Father (John 16:25 , ἔρχεται ὥρα ), “ye shall ask in my name”; this is the natural consequence of their increased knowledge of the Father. καὶ οὐ λέγω … ἐξῆλθον “And I do no say to you that I will ask the Father concerning you” περί , almost equivalent to ὑπέρ , here and in Matthew 26:28 ; 1 John 4:10 , “in relation to,” almost “in behalf of” (John 16:27 ) “for the Father Himself loves you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came forth from God”. The intention of the statement is to convey fuller assurance that their prayers will be answered. The Father’s love needs no prompting. Yet the intercession of Christ, so emphatically presented in the Epistle to the Hebrews and in Romans 8:34 , is not ignored. Jesus says: “I do not base the expectation of answer solely on my intercession, but on the Father’s love, a love which itself is quickened and evoked by your love for me”. “I do not say that I will ask” means “I do not press this,” “I do not bring this forward as the sole reason why you may expect to be heard”. The mediation of Christ has here its incidence at an earlier stage than in the Apostolic statements. The love of God is represented as intensified towards those who have accepted Christ as the revealer of the Father.

Verse 28

John 16:28 . ἐξῆλθον … πατέρα . “I came forth from the Father and am come into the world; again (reversing the process) I leave the world and go to the Father.” There is a sense in which any man can use these words, but it is a loose not an exact sense. The latter member of the sentence “I leave the world and go to the Father” gives us the interpretation of the former “I came forth,” etc. For to say “I leave the world” is not the same as to say “I go to the Father”; this second expression describes a state of existence which is entered upon when existence in this world is done. And to say “I came forth from the Father” is not the same as to say “I am come into the world”: it describes a state of existence antecedent to that which began by coming into the world.

Verse 29

John 16:29 . The Lord’s last utterance, John 16:25-28 , the disciples find much more explicit than His previous words: Ἴδε νῦν παρρησίᾳ λαλεῖς , “Behold, now (at length) Thou speakest plainly,” explicitly, καὶ παροιμίαν οὐδεμίαν λέγεις , “and utterest no obscure saying,” John 16:25 . Almost universally νῦν , in John 16:29-30 , is understood to denote the present time in contrast to the future promised in John 16:25 . As if the disciples meant: “Already Thou speakest plainly; we do not need to wait for that future time”. It seems simpler to take it as signifying a contrast to the past time in which He had spoken in dark sayings.

Verses 29-33

John 16:29-33 . Last words .

Verse 30

John 16:30 . νῦν οἴδαμεν … ἐρωτᾷ . The reference is to John 16:19 , where they manifested dissatisfaction with the obscurity of His utterances. Here in John 16:30 two things are stated, that Jesus has perfect knowledge, οἶδὰς πάντα , and that He knows how to communicate it, οὐ χρείαν ἔχεις ἵνα τίς σε ἐρωτᾷ . Convinced that He possessed these qualifications, they felt constrained to accept Him as a teacher come from God, ἐν τούτῳ (“herein,” or “by this,” ἐκ τούτου in modern Greek version) πιστεύομεν ὅτι ἀπὸ Θεοῦ ἐξῆλθες , cf. John 3:2 .

Verse 31

John 16:31 . To this enthusiastic confession Jesus makes the sobering and pathetic reply: Ἄρτι πιστεύετε ; Do ye now believe that I am God’s Representative? Is this your present attitude? ἰδοὺ , ἔρχεται ὥρα καὶ νῦν ἐλήλυθεν , “Behold, the hour is coming and is come,” so imminent is it that the perfect may be used. ἵνα σκορπισθῆτε … ἀφῆτε . Cf. 1Ma 6:54 . ἐσκορπίσθησαν ἔκαστος εἰς τὸν τόπον αὐτοῦ . In John 10:12 the wolf σκορπίζει τὰ πρόβατα . Cf. especially Mark 14:27 . εἰς τὰ ἴδια frequently of one’s own house, cf. John 19:27 ; Acts 21:6 ; Esther 5:10 ; Esther 6:12 . Here perhaps it is somewhat less definite, “to his own” is better than “to his own house”. It includes “to his own interests,” or “pursuits,” or “familiar surroundings,” or “private affairs,” or all these together. Those whom He had gathered round Him and who believed in Him were yet destined to fail Him in the critical hour, and were to scatter each to his own, for the time abandoning the cause and Person who had held them together, leaving their loved Master (John 16:27 ) alone. καὶ οὐκ εἰμὶ μόνος … ἐστι , “and (yet) I am not alone, because the Father is with me”. This presence supplies the lack of all other company. He was destined to lose for a time the consciousness even of this presence, Matthew 27:46 .

Verse 33

John 16:33 . ταῦτα … κόσμον . ταῦτα embraces the whole of the consolatory utterances from John 14:1 onwards. His aim in uttering them was “that in me” ( cf. Paul’s use of “in Christ”) “ye may have peace”. ἐν ἐμοί ανδ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ are the two spheres in which at one and the same time the disciples live, John 17:15 , Colossians 3:1 ; Colossians 3:5 . So long as they “abode in Christ” and His words abode in them, John 15:7 , they would have peace, John 14:27 . So long as they were in the world they would have tribulation, θλίψιν ἔχετε , “in the world ye have tribulation”. ἀλλὰ θαρσεῖτε , “but be of good courage”. Cf. θάρσει τέκνον , Matthew 9:2 ; Matthew 14:27 . ἐγὼ νενίκηκα τὸν κόσμον . νικᾷν occurs only here in the Gospel, but twenty-two times in the Johannine Epistles and Apocalypse; only four times in the other N.T. writings; cf. especially 1 John 5:4-5 . “I (emphatic) have overcome the world,” have proved that its most dangerous assaults can be successfully resisted; and in me you are sharers in my victory; in me you also overcome.

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on John 16". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/egt/john-16.html. 1897-1910.
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