Tuesday, May 30th, 2023
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
Ironside's Notes on Selected Books Ironside's Notes
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on John 16". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ isn/ john-16.html. 1914.
Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on John 16". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/
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These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended. They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me. But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you. But now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou? But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart. 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 depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they believe not on me; of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you. A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father.
In verses 1-6 the Lord emphasizes what He has already been putting before His followers as recorded in the last part of the previous chapter, that is, the Christian as a stranger in the world and the unchanging state of this world during all the years since Christ went to be at the right hand of God. He says, “These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended [stumbled]” (v. 1). If the disciples of the Lord Jesus felt that they had reason to expect that the attitude of the world as such was going to be changed through the preaching of the gospel, they might well be stumbled by what they see as they look back and about them at the present time.
For instance, take our own day. Suppose we really believed that the whole world was to be converted in this age and that all men everywhere were eventually to be changed in attitude toward the Lord Jesus Christ, how discouraged we might well become for we have seen in our day whole nations turned against the Lord Jesus Christ that once professed to honor Him. And we have seen other lands where the gospel was once permitted, banning everything of a Christian character. They have used methods worse than pagan or papal Rome ever tried, to rout Christianity out of their dominions. But the Lord Jesus Christ told us to expect these things. The attitude of the world as such has never changed. The world hates Christ, the world hates God, and the world hates the gospel of God.
And so Jesus warned His disciples about this, and even pointed out that men would be so dominated by a lying spirit that they would actually think that in opposing Christianity they would be glorifying God. He says here, “Yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service” (v. 2). Saul of Tarsus is a sample of this. Saul said when he stood before the council, “I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth, which thing I also did in Jerusalem” (Acts 26:9-10). Which thing he did until God, in His grace, stopped him on the Damascus Road, revealed Christ to him, and sent him out to preach the faith he had once destroyed.
Men of the world, religious men, have often assumed, that they were really honoring God in trying to destroy evangelical Christianity. “These things,” said Jesus, “will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me. But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you” (John 16:3-4). He was going away. He knew that the centuries would roll by during which He would be sitting on the Father’s throne in heaven interceding for His disciples here on earth. So He would have them understand just what they would be expected to go through in this world because they belonged to Him.
He says, “Now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest Thou? But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart” (vv. 5-6). They took it for granted that He was indeed the Messiah of Israel, and that the Messiah came to abide with them here on the earth, bringing in the blessing so long predicted by the prophets. And now He speaks of going away and is unfolding to them that another work of God is to be carried on in His absence-not now the deliverance of Israel, as such, not now the fulfillment of blessing for God’s earthly people, but a special message of grace going out to the Gentiles, calling upon all men everywhere to face their sins in the presence of God and find in the Lord Jesus Christ an all-sufficient Savior. His apostles are to be their missionaries.
He tells them of the power by which they will be endowed-the One who is to come upon them and dwell in them, who will enable them to speak for God and bear witness in such a way that many will believe and live. “Nevertheless,” He says, “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 depart, I will send him unto you” (v. 7). If you had said to one of them, “Do you think it will be well for your Master to leave you?” I am sure he would have replied, “Oh, no, the best thing for us would be that He should tarry with us.”
But you see, if that had been so, He would not be in a position to carry on His worldwide program. As Man, in grace, He must necessarily be localized where His body is. But He was going away, and another person of the Godhead was now to be sent to the earth who was not to become incarnate in one person, but who was to work through the whole church, empowering the servants of God as they proclaimed His message. “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 depart, I will send him unto you.” Notice, that during the Old Testament dispensation we have God the Father working. God the Son was working directly in the days of His flesh. Now, since Christ has returned to the right hand of God and has taken His place as Mediator, the Father and the Son have sent another person of the Godhead. He is here working in this world and will remain here carrying on this glorious work until the consummation of this age.
Notice, incidentally, how the Deity of our Lord Jesus Christ is implied in these words. Can you think of any man, no matter how good, no matter how godly, no matter how powerful, daring to say of the blessed Holy Spirit, “I will send him?” Why, we see the very opposite in Scripture. The Holy Spirit sends men out into the world, men do not send Him. But Jesus was more than man, He was God and Man in One adorable, wonderful person, and, therefore, He could say with confidence, “I will send the Comforter, the Paraclete, to bear witness, when I have gone back to the glory.”
Now, notice the mission of the Comforter: “When he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (v. 8). That word reprove is sometimes translated “convince” and sometimes “convict.” The Spirit of God is in the world and working through the servants of God in this scene and His special mission is to convict, to convince, to prove to man three great facts- sin, righteousness, and judgment. Sometimes when you speak of the convicting work of the Holy Spirit, people have the idea that it simply means the stirring of the emotions of men and making them sorry because they sin. Undoubtedly when men recognize their lost condition, their emotions are stirred. But it is not a question of working upon the emotions of mankind. It is far more than that. The Holy Spirit has come to convince the mind, to exercise the conscience, and to cause the will to act in accordance with the desires of our blessed Lord Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit, in other words, has come to give such power to the Word that men will believe it and act upon it. You remember we read in Acts 14:1: “And it came to pass… that they… so spake, that a great multitude both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed.”
If it is possible to so speak that many believe, it is also possible to so speak that nobody will believe. And a great deal of the present-day preaching is of that character. Men are not filled with the Spirit of God and are not proclaiming the truth of God. But those early servants of the Lord went forth preaching the word in the power and energy of the Holy Spirit, and the result was that many believed on the Lord Jesus Christ. Oh, that the Spirit of God might so fill and control every minister today that as the message is proclaimed it would go home to the hearts and consciences of Christ-rejecting men and women, that they might be brought to face these things in the presence of the Lord-sin, righteousness, and judgment.
Of what is He speaking? What does He mean when He says that the Holy Spirit has come to convince of sin? Some of us may think that the Spirit of God has come to make men feel terribly sorry because of their unrighteousness, because of their intemperance, because of their hatreds, lasciviousness, covetous-ness, malice, and other evil things that are rightly classed as sinful. But we are not told that it is the purpose of the Holy Spirit to convict men of sins, but of sin. Every man who thinks at all, knows that it is wrong to lie and steal and be intemperate and wicked. We all know these things, and if conscience becomes so numb by sinning against light, then God’s holy law given at Sinai convicts of the sinfulness of such things as these.
Of what sin does the Holy Spirit come to convict? Listen, “Of sin, because they believe not on me” (John 16:9). That is the great outstanding, damning sin which, if not repented of, is going to sink men to the depths of perdition for all eternity. Remember the Lord’s words, “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (3:18). Oh, hear me, my friend, if you stand, at last, condemned before the Almighty God and hear Christ say, “I never knew you: depart from me” (Matthew 7:23), it will not be simply because of the sins of your daily life, many of which you declare you are overtaken in and are powerless to resist, but the outstanding sin which will separate you from God forever will be that you rejected the Savior whom He has provided. When He hung on the cross, God laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
It has often been said that the great question between God and man today is not so much the sin question as the Son question. It is not so much what we have done as sinners, but how we respond to the fact that Christ has died as a ransom for sinners. Now God says, “What will you do with My Son?” If you trust Him, then the value of His atoning work goes over against your sins and iniquity, but if you refuse Him and turn away, then you must face God at last about your own sins, and the crowning sin of all will be that you rejected the Savior who died to deliver you. “Of sin, because they believe not on me” (John 16:9).
So I press the question home for your consideration. Have you trusted the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior? If you have not trusted Him, turned to Him in faith, and yielded your heart to Him, remember you are guilty of the worst sin that any man can possibly commit. You are insulting the Father who gave Jesus to die for you. You are saying, “I count His blood an unholy thing. I want no Christ. I want no Savior.” And if you continue thus to reject the Lord Jesus Christ, some day you will stand naked and alone at the judgment bar to receive your due reward. But it need not be thus. You can trust Him today and know that the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses you from all sin.
But notice that the Comforter will also reprove the world of righteousness. “Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more” (v. 10). After He had completed the work of atonement, God raised Him from the dead on the third day, and took Him up to His own right hand in heaven. Sin put Jesus on the cross; righteousness put Him on the throne. And now, you see, I need a righteousness that He only can provide in order that I might stand before God uncondemned. I must have a righteousness that I cannot provide myself. Paul says, “ [That I might] be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith” (Philippians 3:9). So Christ Himself exalted in heaven is the righteousness of all who put their trust in Him. The Spirit delights to point men who are destitute of any righteousness of their own to a Seated Christ in heaven, who is “made unto us… righteousness” (1 Corinthians 1:30).
“Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged” (John 16:11). I do not know how it is, but I find that men generally misquote verse 8 and make it read like this, “Of judgment to come,” and so forth. But that is not what it says. You do not get those words “to come.” He is speaking of present judgment. The thought is this: when Satan stirred that crowd in Jerusalem to send the Lord Jesus Christ to the cross, he sealed his own condemnation. It was said of old that the serpent should bruise the woman’s Seed and her Seed should bruise its head. And at the cross Satan’s head was bruised and has been judged by God because of his attitude toward God’s blessed Son, and the world has been judged in its prince. But now through grace, all who trust in the Lord Jesus Christ have come out from under that judgment and are delivered from a world over which hangs the wrath of God. We are saved out of that world. That is what Peter meant when he said, “Save yourselves from this untoward generation” (Acts 2:40).
Have you ever turned from this world and found your heart satisfaction in the Lord Jesus Christ? This is more than accepting a doctrinal statement. It is a practical experience of separation.
In the last four verses He speaks of the special ministry of the Holy Spirit to the people of God. When the Spirit of truth is come, He will guide us into all truth. When you sit down over your Bible and study this blessed Word, do you lift up your heart to Him and pray, “Blessed Comforter, interpret the Word to me and reveal Your mind as I read”? You know He delights to do it. It is His joy to open up the Word and lead us into all truth. He is not working independently of the Scriptures but He opens up the truth as we have it in the Book. “For He shall not speak of Himself” (John 16:13). He is not here to glorify Himself. “But whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come” (v. 13). We have the marvelous privilege of knowing the things which are to come, when all the world is wondering what the future has in store.
The man of God who knows his Bible can look ahead and know just what is coming. He knows that all evil will be put down when Jesus returns to reign over this universe, and righteousness will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. And he knows what will take place in eternity. The special mission of the Spirit of God is to magnify the Lord Jesus. “He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you” (v. 14). A Christ-centered ministry is a Spirit-given ministry. The Spirit of God delights to make much of Christ. Paul said he desired Christ to be magnified in him. Every true servant of God will say “Amen” to that.
“All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you” (v. 15). He opens up the riches of grace and love, and gives us to know the wealth of the realm over which Christ is set and which we are to share with Him.
And so He says, “A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father” (v. 16). And we live in the interval between His going to the Father and that “little while” when we shall see Him again.
Jesus, Thou joy of loving hearts,
Thou Fount of life, Thou Light of men!
From the best bliss that earth imparts,
We turn unfilled to Thee again.
Thy truth unchanged hath ever stood;
Thou savest those that on Thee call:
To them that seek Thee, oh, how good,
To them that find Thee, All in All!
We taste Thee, O Thou living Bread,
And long to feast upon Thee still:
We drink of Thee, the Fountain Head,
And thirst our souls from Thee to fill!
O Jesus, ever with us stay;
Make all our moments calm and bright;
Chase the dark night of sin away,
Shed o’er the world Thy holy light.
Then said some of his disciples among themselves, What is this that he saith unto us, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me: and, Because I go to the Father? They said therefore, What is this that he saith, A litde while? we cannot tell what he saith. Now Jesus knew that they were desirous to ask him, and said unto them, Do ye inquire among yourselves of that I said, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me? Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.
Already in this closing address of our Lord Jesus Christ to His disciples He had spoken to them of His coming again. He said, “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:2-3). But they seemed to have been as blind as a great many of our modern aposdes and preachers. They could not understand that He meant that He was going away literally and was coming back literally. He was going away in the body and He was coming back in a glorified body.
One would suppose that the Scripture teaching as to the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ is so plainly expressed that it would be impossible for any ordinary mind to misunderstand. And yet, what weird things people have made out of our Lord’s promise that He will come again! Some people think that He had in mind that great event that took place very shortly after He spoke these words- the coming of the Holy Spirit to build the church and carry on the work of God in this scene. But that is not a reasonable explanation of His words, because it was after the Holy Spirit came that all the New Testament was written, and all through its books the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ is set forth as an event still in the future, a blessed hope for which believers are to wait and toward which they are to look.
And then again many people imagine that when the Lord spoke of His second coming that He meant when a believer comes to die, at the end of life, that in the hour of death the Lord will come for him in the guise of death. But that will not stand because as we turn page after page in the New Testament dealing with this subject, we find that death is going to be swallowed up in victory at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. In another passage of Scripture we are told that “the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). It is impossible that death and the second coming of Christ should be synonymous expressions, for death for the believer will be ended when the Lord comes again.
Then there are a great many other foolish ideas. I picked up a Sunday school quarterly the other day, and the writer of the lessons ridiculed the old-fashioned idea of the second coming of Christ. The writer undertook to show that the only second coming that the Bible teaches is His coming in the providential affairs of life, in the political and economic clouds, and by the Spirit to comfort and help in the hour of trial. “But as to His personal coming, it is a vain hope,” said this writer.
I am thankful we do not have to depend on those who edit the Sunday school lesson for our enlightenment. Jesus said, “I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” And here He speaks very definitely, of both His going away and His coming back. Verse 16 reads, “A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father.” That was all a settled thing so far as He was concerned. He was speaking of leaving this world by way of the cross and the ascension, and going back to the Father, and the interval was but “a little while.” So just as in a few days He would go to the Father, so in a few days more He would be back again!
“But,” you say, “countless years have come and gone since He went away.” Yes, but “the Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). And we are told that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. So, really, according to the Lord’s reckoning, He has not been away two days yet, so shortly when that “little while” closes, He will come again.
Notice how frequently He speaks of the “little while.” In 7:33 Jesus said, “Yet a little while am I with you, and then I go unto him that sent me.” He was speaking here to His enemies, those who were seeking His destruction. He was going to the cross to die, but going voluntarily, and then someday He was going to the throne. “Ye shall seek me, but ye shall not find me” (v. 34). He explains what He means by that. He says, “[If ye] die in your sins: whither I go, you cannot come” (8:21). He was going back to the Father, and only those can join Him who know Him as Savior and Lord here on earth.
Then in the twelfth chapter of this same gospel once more He speaks of the “little while.” The people said, “We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever: and how sayest thou, The Son of man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of man? Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth. While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light. These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide himself from them” (12:34-36). That is, as long as He was in the world, He was the light of the world, and God was speaking directly through Him. “A little while is the light with you,” and then He was to go to the Father.
And in 13:33 He says, “Little children, yet a little while I am with you.” He was speaking to His own beloved disciples who had trusted Him and accepted Him as their promised Redeemer. “Yet a little while I am with you… And as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you.” Oh, but He means something different when He speaks thus to them. The Jews who rejected Him will be unable to find Him. But He says to His own, “I am going back to the glory. You will not find Me here on earth, but I will come and get you, and take you to be with Me. “Yet a little while I am with you.”
The fourteenth chapter and nineteenth verse reads, “Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also.” What does He mean by this? Well in the time of His absence He has gone unto the far country where He is seated on the Father’s throne waiting to receive for Himself the kingdom. The world knows nothing of Him, but His own have the eyes of faith. They are able to look into the heavens and say with Paul, “We see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor” (Hebrews 2:9).
We love to look up and behold Him there,
The Lamb for His chosen slain;
And soon shall His saints all His glories share,
With their King and their Lord shall reign.
He is absent actually as to the body, but we behold Him by faith. We know He sits exalted at God’s right hand, and we are waiting for Him to come back again in person as He went away.
And so this sixteenth chapter connects with all that has gone before. “A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father.”
It has been suggested by some that it might be rendered, “I go back to my Father,” implying that He was the One who came from the Father. He left His Father’s bosom and came down in order to be our Savior, and then, having finished our redemption, returned to His Father. Even His disciples did not understand and did not like to ask. It suggests something of the reverent awe in which they held Him. There was something about Him that stirred their hearts to the deepest depths. They knew that His heart was saddened as He said it, and they hesitated to ask, but they might as well have done so, for He knew their very thoughts.
But as they walked along, they turned one to the other, and said, “What does it mean?” “What is this that he saith, A little while?… and, [what does he mean by saying], Because I go to my Father?” (v. 17). They were still looking for Him to raise up a standard here on earth, to call all who were faithful to God to follow Him and lead a revolt against the Roman power and set up the kingdom of Israel, long predicted by the prophets here in this world. “When Messiah comes He is going to abide forever. What does He mean?”
And He heard them just as though they had asked Him, and said to them, “Do ye enquire among yourselves of that I said… Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy” (vv. 19-20).
He knew that they loved Him. He knew that with all their infirmity, their hearts were really true to Him. And He realized that His leaving them was going to disturb them greatly. The entire program they supposed would be thrown out of joint. They did not understand that God was working everything according to His own will.
So He knew that they would weep. This has been true ever since, for He told them, “In the world ye shall have tribulation” (v. 33). And while He is absent we cannot expect fullness of joy down here. Think how God’s people are suffering in Europe, Great Britain, and China-real Christians who, if they had their way, would not have seen the nations plunged into war, for they love the Prince of Peace. They love His gospel of peace and would have been willing to do anything to keep the nations from bloody conflict. But they have to suffer with the rest. Oh, how many Christian homes have been broken up! How many Christian wives and children as well as men in arms have had to suffer, and many to die, because of the terrible conditions prevailing. And all of this just because those to whom He came did not know the time of their visitation. When He came, who alone could have brought in peace and blessing, they rejected Him and said, “We will not have this man to reign over us” (Luke 19:14). So they have had to suffer and endure pain and agony and the horrors of warfare, and bitter persecution. No one has suffered more than His own people.
There is one sense in which His absence gladdens the heart of the world. The world does not want Him. Suppose He came back today. He would interfere with all the plans of the world. “Ye shall sorrow,” He says, “but the world shall rejoice.” The world rejoices now in the day of His absence. The world’s sorrow in fullness will be when He returns again, taking vengeance on them that know not God. But in the meantime, God’s plans are working out.
He uses the picture of an expectant mother in the twenty-first verse: “A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world.” And so the church is going through its travail pains now. But oh, the joy when at last the new age comes in with the return of our Lord Jesus Christ, when sin and righteousness and malice will be forever put down, and when Jesus will have all authority in this scene, and shall reign in righteousness, speaking peace to all people.
In the meantime, while He is away, this blessed hope is put before us in many different aspects in order that He may reveal to us His grace. We read in the epistle to the Hebrews, “For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry” (10:37). The hope of His coming is put before us as an incentive to purity of life. We are told in 1 John, “And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (3:3). Are you waiting for the coming of the Lord? You are a Christian. You are trusting Him as your Savior. Well, then, are you allowing anything in your life that is unclean, anything that is impure, anything that is unholy? Oh, if so, then the hope of the coming of the Lord has never yet really gripped your soul. “Every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” If I am living day by day in expectation of His return, I will see to it that I put out of my life everything that is contrary to His will. Just imagine if I am allowing myself in something impure and Jesus should come at that very moment, how ashamed I would be at His coming. No, if the coming of the Lord is to be truly a blessed hope, I will not want to tolerate anything that would be offensive to Him.
Then you notice the coming of the Lord is put before us as an incentive to service, because at His coming the rewards will be given out. In 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20 we read, “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? For ye are our glory and joy.” What does he mean? He says (and Paul is writing to some of his own converts), “I have given up everything on earth to preach Christ, and I have the privilege of winning souls to Him. Now at last, when He returns I am looking forward to meeting Him with all that great company that I have led to His feet.” Think what it will be for Paul! Think of the thousands who were saved through him when he was here. Think of the millions since then who have read the messages he left behind. Finally, think of him coming before the Lord Jesus Christ when He returns with these great throngs surrounding Him and saying to His Father, “Behold, I and the children whom the LORD hath given me” (Isaiah 8:18). It will be then that Paul will get his reward.
And so the hope of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ should stir us up to devoted service. He says, “Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give to every man according as his work shall be” (Revelation 22:12). Everything that is really done for Him will bring a reward in that day. Everything that is a result of that old corrupt nature will go for nothing in that day, and will cause us to suffer loss rather than to obtain a reward. I listened to a Christian berating another believer some little time ago, and oh, the unkind things he said. I inquired, “Would you like the Lord Jesus to come and find you talking so of your brother?” “Oh,” he answered, “it is all true.” “Well,” I said, “love covers a multitude of sins. Now tell me, which nature is it that is working now? We have the divine nature if we are born again. Is that what leads you to speak unkindly of your brother?” Oh, the coming of the Lord should be that which tests all our behavior. Is it such that He would approve of when He returns for us?
In this same epistle to the Thessalonians you will find that the apostle is urging upon the Christians the importance of holiness. He links it with the coming of the Lord. In verses 12 and 13 we read, “And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: to the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.” I don’t wonder that Satan likes to becloud this truth of the second coming, because it means so much to God’s people from a practical standpoint. If it really grips my soul, I will want to increase and abound in love to the brethren. I will want to walk in holiness of life. And, oh, what a comfort in the hour of bereavement, is the coming of the Lord. When our dear ones in Christ are taken away from us,
When their words of love and cheer,
Fall no longer on our ear,
Hush, be every murmur dumb,
It is only till He come!
Then will come the glad reunion when we all meet in His presence.
And so the fourth chapter of 1 Thessalonians connects intimately with the sixteenth chapter of John. “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Note, he does not say we are not to sorrow. He does not call upon us to be hard and cold and stoical. He doesn’t forbid our tears. Tears often ease the heart. He has bidden His people to weep with those who weep. WTien He was here, He Himself wept at the grave of His friend Lazarus. He does not tell us we are not to grieve for loved ones taken from us, but He does say we are not to sorrow as others who have no hope. Oh, we have a blessed and wonderful hope! We know we shall meet them again. So He tells us there will be the voice, the shout, the trump, and we shall be caught up together to meet the Lord in the air. I love that word, “together,” in that connection. You see, there will be wonderful recognition. We were heirs together of the grace of life. We had fellowship together here on earth. We were laborers together in the things of God. We shall be caught up together when Jesus comes.
Down Life’s dark vale we wander,
Till Jesus comes.
We watch and wait and wonder
Till Jesus comes.
All joy! His loved ones bringing,
When Jesus comes.
All praise through heaven ringing,
When Jesus comes.
All beauty bright and vernal,
When Jesus comes.
All glory grand, eternal,
When Jesus comes!
He’ll know the way was dreary,
When Jesus comes.
He’ll know the feet grew weary,
When Jesus comes.
He’ll know what griefs oppressed us,
When Jesus comes.
Oh, how His arms will rest us,
When Jesus comes.
Oh, let my lamp be burning,
When Jesus comes.
For Him, my soul be yearning,
When Jesus comes.
And so we turn now to the last verse of the section we are considering. “And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you” (John 16:22). It must be so long as we are in a world filled with pain and suffering, that we must suffer with the groaning creation. But soon we shall behold Him when He returns to take us home. Then our joy will be complete.
So the “little while” will soon be past, and we shall see Him face to face. Meantime, be it ours to work and labor for Him until He comes.
And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full. These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall shew you plainly of the Father. At 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 out from God. I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father. His disciples said unto him, Lo, now speakest thou plainly, and speakest no proverb. Now are we sure that thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask thee: by this we believe that thou earnest forth from God. Jesus answered them, Do ye now believe? Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now 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. These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
In the first part of this section our Lord brings before us in a truly illuminating way the privilege now extended to us, as believers, to go directly to the Father in prayer in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. I do not think that there is any subject on which there seems to be more confusion than that of prayer. So many people have an idea that prayer is the effort to overcome God’s unwillingness, to make Him willing to do something for us which He does not desire to do. That is not the case.
We are not told to pray in order to overcome God’s unwillingness. Our God delights to bless, but He chooses to bless in answer to prayer, and that for a number of reasons. You see, when I go to God directly, when various things are pressing upon heart and mind, and they drive me to Him, I find that just speaking to Him of the things that burden me has a sanctifying effect upon my own soul. The psalmist said, “It is good for me to draw near to God” (Psalms 73:28). If some of us did not have some special exercises to make us go to God, we would probably move on from day to day forgetting the privilege of speaking to the Father. Our needs send us to Him, and if we talk things over with Him, oh what blessing it gives, what a change a little time in His presence will make!
Perhaps pressure has been brought to bear. You have been worried and anxious about many things, concerned about loved ones going astray perhaps, and the more you have thought about these things the more distressed you have become. And then you have said, “How foolish I am to be worried. Why not act upon the verses that reads, ‘Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus’“ (Philippians 4:6-7)? And so you have pressed into His presence and poured out your heart to Him. You have told Him about the financial worries, family affairs, the loved one whose salvation you long for, and as you unburdened your heart, He drew near. Then you went out to take up the affairs of life again with a lightened heart and mind, and more than that, such a spiritual sense of blessing, for as you were pouring out your heart, you felt constrained to talk about yourself and confessed your own failure and your own sin. And after you had confessed, you had the joy of knowing that He forgave.
So prayer was meant to be a means of sanctification, but more than that, God chooses to give in answer to prayer what He may not give apart from prayer, in order that we may have constant proof that we have to do with a living God. You see, when I go to God in secret, tell Him my story, then go forth to meet the world and see Him working in His wonderful way, I know by practical experience that I have to do with a living God.
I read a remarkable testimony that I think will be a blessing to all who hear it. It had to do with a money matter. Down in Columbia, South Carolina, is located the Columbia Bible College of which Dr. Robert McQuilken is the president. Some time ago they started to buy a large building to be used as a men’s dormitory. They put the amount of money needed before the Lord, and it came in. Then the next year they were to pay ten thousand dollars on October 1. This letter came telling us that on the last day of September, singularly enough, the balance needed was exactly $2,121.21. They took it to the Lord in prayer, and then went out and opened a little box into which donations had been dropped. When they counted the money put in that morning, it was $21.21. That left $2,100 to be made up. They had a day of prayer, and as they waited before the Lord that day, gifts began to come in from different sources. The largest gift that morning was one hundred dollars. Later a gift of five hundred was received. By evening they had received in all, exactly $2,121.22, just one cent more than they needed.
What a wonderful bookkeeper God is. He gave all they needed and one cent more toward the next ten thousand dollars! How could anyone doubt but that they had to do with a living God. It was as they were gathered together waiting upon God that the money came from different places, from people who did not know they were praying for it at that time. Prayer then is a God-ordained method of demonstrating the reality of God and His definite interest in the affairs of His people.
Now see how our blessed Lord puts it in this passage in verse 23, “And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you [he will give it you in my name].” Notice, I have changed the position of “in my name,” and I will explain why. It says in our Authorized Version, “Whatever you shall ask the Father in my name.” Another verse shows us we are to pray in the name of Jesus Christ, but the best manuscript read this way, “Whatever you ask the Father, He will give you in my name.” Notice then what the Lord is saying: “In that day,” that is, after His death, when the Comforter has come, when the present day of grace is brought in-the day in which we are living-“ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, He will give it you.”
Now it is very interesting to note that there are two different Greek words here that are translated “ask,” and they have quite different meanings. In the first place where He says, “In that day ye shall ask me nothing,” the word means literally “familiar entreaty,” as you might go to a very loved friend and put a case before him definitely. Whereas, in the other sentence, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you,” the word there means literally, “petition,” “taking the place of a suppliant,” “begging for the help you need.” And you notice the difference. The Lord says, “In that day ye shall ask me nothing.” You see, when here on earth, they went to Him, and He answered their questions and made things clear. Now He says, I am going away, and I won’t be here for you to come to Me in that free, familiar way. I won’t be here for you to ask for My personal help in the way you could then.
For nineteen hundred years our Lord has been absent in heaven. You take some of the questions that have troubled the church. Would it not be delightful if we could go to Him and ask, saying, “Master, there has been a great deal of difference in the church concerning baptism. Would you tell us plainly whether you mean we are to sprinkle or baptize by immersion, or whether we should immerse only once or three times? Should we put them in forward or backward?” Now wouldn’t it be delightful if we could just go to Him and ask Him? Why, He could tell us in a moment. But He isn’t here, and so we have to study His Word and act in accordance with what we gather from our meditations upon it.
Though we cannot go directly to Him, He says there is something even better than that. “In that day ye shall [make no ‘familiar entreaty’ of me]. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask [and here the word means to plead for something you need] the Father in my name, he will give it you.” So we are invited there to go directly to God, the Father, with our petitions. Are you in need of financial help, comfort, and health, and so forth? What is there that is pressing upon your heart? He says, “You cannot come to Me personally, but you can go to the Father and bring your request to Him, and He will give you what you ask for in My name. He will do it for Me.” The Father loves the Son and has committed all things into His hand, and He delights to do things for us because it pleases His blessed Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. He does it in His name.
You may have heard the story of that poor boy who was dying on the battlefield after one of the great conflicts in the war between the States. Another soldier nearby crawled to him and found this poor boy in a dreadful condition and did everything he could to help him. They talked together, and then the other said, “Now, if I get out alive, is there anything I could do for you?” “Well,” he said, “maybe I can do something for you. My father is wealthy. If you get through this conflict alive and are ever in need, take this little card (and he wrote a few words upon it) and go to see my father. I know he will be ready to help you out.” The soldier did not think he would ever use the card, but the time came when he was in dire need, and he remembered the conversation. He went and found this wealthy man. Through the underlings and secretaries, he sent in his own card and got no response. And then he thought of the other card and got it out, and on it was written these words, “Father, if you can ever do anything for my friend who helped me when I was dying, please do so.” And it was signed “Charlie.” In a moment, out came the big business man and he said, “Oh, why didn’t you send that in before? I will do anything that I can for you for Charlie’s sake!”
That is the way God feels about His Son. He wants us to come with our questions, our sorrows, our heartbreak, and our need. He will do anything for us for Jesus’ sake, anything, of course, which is consistent with His righteousness and holiness. So how encouraged we ought to be to draw near to God in prayer.
Then, notice, the Lord continues to open up this subject. Now He uses that word which means to beg for something: “Ask, and ye shall receive” (v. 24). While He was here on earth they could come directly to Him, and He did not urge them to go to the Father in His name. Even the Lord’s Prayer (really the Disciples’ Prayer) does not conclude in the name of the Lord Jesus. He did not ask them to do that when here on earth, but now He was going away, and He says, “Ask, [and ask in my name], and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full” (v. 24). It means to ask by His authority. He has authorized me to come to the Father and present His name and say, “Father, Thy Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, told me to come, and so I am coming in His name to present my petition.”
That was difficult for them to understand. “These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall show you plainly of the Father” (v. 25), because God the Father and the Son are One. He does not mean that they are not to address Him in prayer. The disciples called on the name of the Lord Jesus. Stephen cried, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” (Acts 7:59). Paul, when he had the thorn in the flesh, said, “I besought the Lord [three times], that it might depart from me” (2 Corinthians 12:8). It was perfectly right and proper for him to go to Jesus. The last prayer in the Bible is addressing Him: “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).
But that our finite minds might grasp it, He uses this allegory of going to the one person of the Godhead in the name of the other. “These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall show you plainly of the Father.” That was the time of resurrection when He said, “I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; to my God, and your God” (John 20:17). He would have us understand that we can go to God the Father, just as you go to your own father.
“At 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 out from God” (16:26-27). Do you get the implication of it? Do you know, if we could just see this, it would do away with all intermediaries, and we would go directly to God for whatever we want? It is a strange thing that very early in the history of the church people began to feel that God was so great and far removed from us, and that we are such sinful people that we dare not call on the Father directly. So men thought of our Lord Jesus Christ as an intermediary who seeks to persuade the Father to help us. We hear people pray in this way, “We ask, Lord Jesus, that You will entreat for us.” Or, “we pray that You will plead with the Father for us.” WJiy, you need not do that! You don’t need to go to the Lord Jesus and say, “Won’t you please ask the Father to do something for me?” No, because the Son and the Father are really One, not in person, but in essence.
And if we should not even go to Jesus as an intermediary in this sense, then what shall be said of those who have put a whole lot of mere creatures in between the soul and God? Did you ever hear this? “Holy Mary, pray for us. St. Jude, pray for us. St. Mark, pray for us. St. Paul, pray for us.” Did you ever hear people pray like that? Wliat does that imply? That they do not realize that the veil has been rent. We do not need any intermediaries.
“Well,” you say, “isn’t the Lord Jesus Christ our Mediator?” Oh, yes, that is what we are told. “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). But that does not mean that we have to go to Him about our ordinary affairs of life and ask Him to persuade the Father to do something for us. He is there ever bearing us up before God, but we are invited to bring our petitions as to the details of life directly to God Himself in the name of the Son.
Look at the verse again and get the good of it. “I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: for the Father himself loveth you.” Are you afraid of God then? Afraid to go to Him directly? Why, the Father Himself loveth you.
Suppose here is a family with a loving father, a wayward son, and a sweet daughter. This son comes to his sister and says, “Mary, I wish you would go to Dad and ask for money for a new suit of clothes for me.” WTiat would that imply? Why, that the son did not have confidence in his father’s love, and so he says, “Mary, won’t you please go in and plead with father to give me the money.”
If he had confidence in his father’s love he would go to him direct, confess his sin, and say, “But, Dad, look at my suit of clothes. I need new ones.” And then father would say, “Come, my boy, we will go down and get a suit.” He would not need anybody to go to his father for him. You and I should understand that we need not go to the Son to pray to the Father for us. “The Father himself loveth you.” And notice why, “Because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God.” That is what the world does not believe. “I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father” (v. 28).
And they were quite sure now that they understood, but they did not really see what He meant. “His disciples said unto him, Lo, now speakest thou plainly, and speakest no proverb. Now are we sure that thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask thee: by this we believe that thou earnest forth from God” (vv. 29-30). Well, they did understand later on, but actually at that time, they were overconfident, as their future behavior shows. “Jesus answered them, Do ye now believe? Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now 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” (vv. 31-32). Who would have thought that such a thing would be true? And yet, within a very few hours’ time His words were fulfilled.
He says, “And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.” The time soon came when they all forsook Jesus, but even in that dark hour He was conscious of the Father’s will and His presence with Him.
And now He closes His valedictory discourse that has covered chapters 14-16, and says, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (16:33).
It took some of us a long time to find that peace. We tried to find it ourselves and could not. But at last we turned to Him, confessing our sin, and we found peace with God. We came to Him about our care and found the peace of God filling our hearts. Have you learned that? God is light and love. Trust in Him and you will have peace, a peace that the world knows nothing of. In the world you will have tribulation. You will have your share of it. And yet, think of it, you can go through every trial triumphantly. He says, “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”
Just trust Him, and everything will come out right at last. Does the present war condition trouble you? Do you ask, “Why doesn’t God stop it all?” Listen, God is taking everything into consideration. These conditions are the direct result of sin. God did not bring them about. They were brought about by the Devil. God is letting them go on and on until they come to their fullness. Soon He is going to send His Son back again who will reign for a thousand glorious years. Be of good cheer, Christ has overcome the world! And we can take everything to God in prayer.
Its hours all have fled, dear Lord,
I bring the day to Thee.
Wilt Thou in love cleanse of its sin
And give new strength to me.
Forgive its failures, its defeats,
Its sorrow, and its loss,
When I would prideful be, dear Lord,
Show me Thy shameful cross.
May I in gentleness and love
Walk patiently my way,
And live Thy glory from this hour
To everlasting day.
-Lucille Anderson Trimmier