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Bible Commentaries
John 16

Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New TestamentMahan's Commentary

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Verses 1-11

The Holy Spirit's ministry - 1

John 16:1-11

John 16:1 . As in many places the chapter division here is unfortunate, for the Lord continues to speak concerning the hatred and persecution which his true disciples will have to endure for his sake and for the gospel they preach. He is preparing them for these hardships and trials (especially from the hands of devout, religious people) that they might not be shocked nor surprised and to prevent such grievous disappointment which might tend to undermine their faith. While the natural man is religious, he is not a friend of grace, substitution, and redemption in Christ alone (1 Corinthians 1:18; 1 Corinthians 2:14).

John 16:2 . The Jews had already made a law that if any man did confess Jesus of Nazareth to be the Christ, he would be excommunicated (John 9:22; John 12:42). To them this meant to be cut off from the Jewish nation, from the promises, and from the hope of Israel. It also meant that they would be considered pagans, lose their jobs, be cut off from their families, and denied honorable burial. The time will even come when religious zealots will put you to death in the name of God, convinced that you are heretics and that they serve God in destroying you. The death of Stephen is an example (Acts 7:57-60). Saul of Tarsus felt this way at one time (Acts 26:9).

John 16:3 . The reason behind all this hatred and persecution of believers is a willful ignorance of the true and living God (John 17:3; 1 John 5:20). These Jews had created their own god (Psalms 50:21). They boasted of their knowledge of God, yet they knew him not, nor Christ as the true Messiah (Romans 10:1-4). They could have known, but they refused to hear (John 15:21-24).

John 16:4 . He told them all of these things concerning his going away, the coming of the Holy Spirit, the hatred and persecution of the world, and the ignorance and enmity of the Jewish leaders so that when these things did come to pass (and they certainly would), the disciples might remember that he told them of all this. This would serve to strengthen their faith in him and to anticipate the fulfillment of all his words. He did not tell them earlier of all this because he was with them personally at all times, and the wrath of the Jews was chiefly against him, not them. Now he is going away, and the enmity will fall upon them as well as the responsibility of the ministry of the word. God will reveal his purpose and his will as we are ready to receive it and as our needs require it (John 16:12: Mark 4:33).

John 16:5-6 . When Christ spoke earlier of going away, Peter asked why he could not go with him (John 13:36). Thomas told him that he not only did not know where he was going but he did not know the way there (John 14:5). But now the Lord had told them that he was not leaving for some place on earth, but that he would die, rise from the dead, and go to his Father's house to prepare a place for them, that his death and return to the Father should be cause for rejoicing. He told them that he would come to them by his Spirit. This was a moment for many questions about all these mysterious and great things! But there were no questions, only sorrow in their hearts over their Lord's leaving them and perhaps great disappointment that the great kingdom they had expected had not become a reality. With our earthbound flesh and our materialistic, selfish natures, how dull we are to the grand and great redemptive glory of our Lord! (1 Corinthians 7:29-31.)

John 16:7 . ‘Nevertheless, though you ask no questions, I tell you that it is absolutely necessary for you that I die, rise again, and go to the Father.’ His death atoned for our sins, removed the curse of the law, enables God to be just and the justifier of all believers, secures peace and reconciliation, opens the way for believers into the holiest, gives us a mediator with the Father, transacts all our business with the living God, and, as our forerunner, enters heaven and possesses and prepares a place for us. The Holy Spirit was certainly here before, but he had not come in so special and peculiar manner as he would come to believers after Christ was glorified. He would indwell them as the promise of the Father, as their comforter, teacher, guide, and the glorifier of Christ. Had Christ not died, arose, and ascended to the Father, there would have been nothing for the Holy Spirit to do no blood to sprinkle, no salvation to apply, no righteousness to reveal, and no comfort to give.

John 16:8-11 . The Spirit will indwell, teach, and preach through believers the testimony of God and the gospel of Christ. Conviction of sin (as to its guilt and curse), a revelation of Christ to the heart, and convincing men and women of sin, righteousness, and judgment are not by the might of men, the power of persuasion and logic, but by God's Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:9-14). Conviction of sin and convincing the sinner of his need of mercy and grace are always accomplished by the Holy Spirit's using the word of God and are related to Christ, his person and work. The essence of all sin is unbelief. The Holy Spirit will reveal Christ as he did at Pentecost and bring men to believe on him (Acts 2:36-38). The Holy Spirit will reveal to sinners the righteousness of God, which is Christ (Romans 10:4; Romans 5:19). The fact that the Father raised him from the dead and received him at his right hand is full proof that his obedience and work for us is sufficient. We have a complete sanctification and holiness in Christ. With respect to judgment, the believer is cleared (Romans 8:1; Romans 8:33-34). Satan, evil powers, and rulers of darkness have all met their conqueror in Christ. He has destroyed the power of sin and death. He has all power in heaven and earth to give eternal life to his own (John 17:2). We have nothing and no one to fear. Our Lord is telling his disciples that their ministry, by the power of the Holy Spirit, shall not fail. He will have a people from every nation.

Verses 12-22

The Holy Spirit's ministry - 2

John 16:12-22

John 16:12 . Our Lord is not speaking here of any ‘brand-new’ doctrines or truths which he had not previously told them or made known to them concerning his person and work, redemption, and eternal life. In the years they had been with Him, he had made known to them all things which he had received of the Father (John 15:15; John 17:6-8). Rather he speaks of the same truth gloriously clarified and amplified, and of other things concerning their ministry, the church, the Mosaic laws, and things which require more spiritual maturity to receive and experience. One truth is laid upon another, and we are taught as we are enabled of the Spirit of God to receive. This is spiritual growth!

John 16:13 . When the Holy Spirit fills you and indwells you (John 14:17), he will guide you or lead you into all truth. The Holy Spirit as a guide and teacher goes before, leads the way, opens the understanding, removes obstacles such as tradition, prejudices, and forms, and makes the truth of Christ clear to believers. He will make known all the counsel of God, which is necessary, profitable, and useful to the church. What the Spirit teaches will not be of himself, as the Son did not speak from himself but of and from the Father (John 7:16; John 8:28; John 12:49). The Father, Son, and Spirit are one; and what the Father purposes, the Son purchases and the Spirit applies. The Holy Spirit does not stress one point at the expense of another but guides us into all truth. He will also reveal to you ‘things to come,’ concerning the Lord's return, the end of the world, and things, which shall be. John wrote of these in the Revelation. The Holy Spirit uses the word of God to teach believers, not dreams, visions, and special revelations. He always uses the written word and speaks according to the word (Isaiah 8:19-20; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; 2 Peter 1:19-21).

John 16:14 . The Holy Spirit does not glorify himself, nor magnify his gifts, nor inspire men to preach and talk of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Spirit does not lead men to believe that being baptized with the Spirit, endowed with gifts, and attaining the higher life experience is better than salvation and meeting Christ in faith. The Holy Spirit glorifies Christ, speaks of Christ, reveals Christ, and enables believers to grow in grace and in the knowledge of Christ (2 Peter 3:18). We are complete in Christ (Colossians 2:9-10). What Christ has done, is doing, and will do is the theme of the Holy Spirit's teaching. When the gospel is neglected, when Christ is not preached, when men seek gifts and healing rather than mercy, grace, and redemption in Christ, one can be certain that it is not the Holy Spirit of truth who is speaking (1 John 4:1-3).

John 16:15 . The Father has given all things into the hands of Christ (John 3:35; John 17:2; Colossians 1:16-19) all things in heaven, earth, and under the earth; all things in redemption; all things pertaining to believers, both here and eternally; all things in the new heaven and earth. Therefore, if the Holy Spirit reveals and teaches anything of God and from God, it will pertain to Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:9-11). If a man has the Spirit of God, he will be able to say with Paul, ‘We preach Christ’ (1 Corinthians 2:1-2).

John 16:16-20 . Our Lord said to them, ‘A little while and you shall not see me.’ He must die on the cross as our sacrifice and sin-offering, he must be buried and lie in the tomb, and for those few days the disciples would not see him. Then they would see him again, for he appeared to them many times in his glorified body. But even when he ascended to the Father, he did not leave them alone; for he came to them in his Holy Spirit and dwelt with them (John 14:16-18). One must not separate the Father, Son, and Spirit, nor the resurrection, ascension, and coming of the Spirit. When the disciples began to inquire concerning these words, ‘A little while and you shall not see me, and a little while and ye shall see me,’ the Saviour replied, ‘The world shall rejoice;’ for the world looked on the death of Christ as a cause for rejoicing. They were rid of Him, his influence, and his teachings. During the crucifixion and burial ‘you shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned to joy;’ for he arose victoriously over sin, death, and the grave. He lives to die no more.

John 16:21-22 . When a woman gives birth to a child, she experiences great pain, suffering, and sorrow during her labor. But when the child is born, the sorrow and pain are forgotten and she rejoices in her child. The death of Christ and the brief separation from his disciples caused them great sorrow and confusion; but he arose, appeared to them, and came in his Spirit to dwell with them, causing their hearts to rejoice with a joy that can never be taken from them (Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5-6).

Verses 23-33

Do you now believe?

John 16:23-33

John 16:23 . The disciples were so full of fear, disappointment, doubt and questions. They asked, 'Where are you going?' How can we know the way?' 'Show us the Father.' 'How shall we see you and the world not see you?' Now he says to them, 'In that day, ye shall ask me nothing.' In that day, when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you will not be at a loss to understand the crucifixion, the resurrection and the ascension of the Son of man. You will know, as you are taught by the Spirit and the scriptures, why Christ came to die (John 16:13-15; 1 Corinthians 15:1-2). All spiritual blessings, knowledge, grace, peace and rest which you ask of the Father in my name will be given you.' All spiritual blessings are in Christ, through Christ and because of Christ (John 3:35-36; Ephesians 1:3-6). There is nothing the law requires, justice demands, or the believer needs or wants that is not met and given in Christ and for the glory of Christ.

John 16:24 . The disciples had prayed to the Father, for they asked the Lord to teach them to pray. Yet up to this point they had not asked the Father for anything because of Christ's blood, righteousness, sacrifice and mediation, for up to this point they did not have a clear understanding of his redemptive work. 'Ask, and ye shall receive' (Matthew 7:7-11), that is, 'in my name, because you will receive of me all you need, and your joy, assurance and peace will be full and complete.'

John 16:25 . The expression 'these things' refers to all the teachings of Christ spoken to the disciples that night (John 13-16). 'These thing' were made clear to the disciples after they had come to pass and by the Holy Spirit who indwelt them, as they are plain to us who live on this side of the cross (1 Corinthians 2:8-12). But at this particular time 'these things' seemed like proverbs or veiled sayings which they did not comprehend. They are clear to the believing heart (John 7:16-17). The seed of the gospel has become an open flower revealing the glory and wisdom of God in Christ (Romans 3:19-26).

John 16:26-27 . The Lord is saying, 'After I am crucified, risen and ascended to the Father and the Holy Spirit comes to guide you in a clear understanding of me and my work, you will pray to the Father in my name and he will hear and bless you (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25), not only because I intercede for you and stand for you, but because the Father himself loves you.' Christ came because God loves his own (John 3:16). He loves us with an everlasting love because of Christ; we are in Christ, and we love Christ (Romans 8:35-39).

John 16:28 . This passage records three central facts in the purpose of redemption.

1. 'I came forth from the Father.' This refers to our Saviour's deity, his pre-existence and the Father's will to redeem (Hebrews 10:9-10).

2. 'I am come into the world.' This is his incarnation (John 1:14; Galatians 4:4-5) and his representative work as the second Adam (Romans 5:19).

3. 'I leave the world and go to the Father.' The Lord Jesus is ascended, exalted and seated at the right hand as our Mediator (1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 4:14-16).

John 16:29-30 . When the Saviour said, 'The Father loves you because you love me and believe that I came from the Father into the world, and I leave the world and go to my Father,' the disciples replied, 'Now we understand! This is clear to us and not a mystery any more. We are sure that you know all things. There is no reason for any man to doubt you or question you, for we believe that you came forth from God.' The matter is settled, they seem to indicate. But they had said this before (Matthew 16:16; John 6:67-69).

John 16:31-32 . 'Do ye now believe?' 'Do you really believe?' Though they professed to believe, a trying time was upon them when this faith would waver. Peter would deny him, and all would forsake him and return to their homes and friends, even to their old vocation as fishermen (John 21:3). For when Peter said, 'I go fishing,' he actually meant, 'I return to my old profession.' It was on that occasion that our Lord asked Peter if he loved him more than these the sea, boats and nets (John 21:15). Yet, though forsaken of them, Christ was never without the Father his love, his approval and his presence.

John 16:33 . 'All of these things have I spoken to you this night that in me ye might have peace.' It is true that we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus (Romans 5:1; Colossians 1:20-21); and in Christ we have peace of conscience and heart, knowing that our sins are forgiven. But in this case he refers to the trials, troubles and tribulations the disciples and all believers will have in a world which hates God and hates the gospel of grace (2 Timothy 3:12). 'I have conquered Satan and the world.’ His victory is our victory, and we have no cause to fear the men of this world nor the forces of evil in this world (Matthew 10:28; 2Co 2:14 ; 1 John 4:4; 1 John 5:4-5).

Bibliographical Information
Mahan, Henry. "Commentary on John 16". Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/hms/john-16.html. 2013.
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