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Bible Commentaries
John 16

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

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Verses 1-33

John 16:1 . These things have I spoken, that ye should not be offended, so as to stumble and shrink back from the cause in which you are engaged. Expulsion from the synagogue was to a jew next to death, being accounted an expulsion from the covenant of mercy, and from the paradise of God.

John 16:6 . Because I have said these things, sorrow hath filled your heart. The disciples were so astounded at the extended view of their persecutions, and at the departure of their Lord, that they had not presence of mind to ask whither he was going. The discourse, for the moment, almost deprived them of recollection.

John 16:7 . Nevertheless, it is expedient for you that I go away. Such is the order of the heavenly kingdom, and one dispensation must not interfere with another. I must go to the Father: otherwise the long-promised פרקלט parakolit, παρακλητος , the advocate, the Comforter will not come. And if he do not, you will be destitute of those divine endowments and powers from on high by which the world is to be converted. Dr. James Cappell, who has given us Lexicons to the Polyglot Bible, quotes here the ancient rabbi Osaias, on Genesis 1:2, where he says that the Spirit of God which moved on the face of the waters, was the Spirit of the Messiah. Hic est Spiritus Messiæ.

John 16:8-9 . When he is come he will reprove the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment because they believe not on me. The sin of unbelief has already been noticed as the cause of the rejection of the whole jewish nation. The Lord the Spirit will remonstrate with them on the glaring crime of their incredulity in the rejection of Christ, whose mission was clothed with so much glory of wisdom, of signs and wonders, and mighty deeds. In rejecting Christ, they rejected their own prophets, and the testimony of God himself.

John 16:10 . Of righteousness, because I go to my Father. How would the apostles understand these words? Answer. That he was the Son of God, the Messiah, and that he had fulfilled all righteousness in his grand mission for the redemption of the world. They would associate the words with the ideas of the prophets, that the Messiah should bring in “everlasting righteousness,” and so copiously as to rain it down upon the earth. They exulted in the hope of righteousness by faith. Behold my salvation is near, and my righteousness to be revealed. Isaiah 45:8; Isaiah 66:1.

This is the righteousness of God, the gift of righteousness by faith, which is upon all them that believe. This is what the fathers mostly call the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which our guilt is removed, and righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost are opened in the heart. Surely then shall one say, in the Lord have I righteousness and strength. Let us ever hunger and thirst after this.

John 16:11 . Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. The Vulgate reads, is “already” judged. The Mons testament is the same: est deja juge. The death and resurrection of Christ gave a grand defeat to the devices of Satan and the malice of the jews. “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself took part of the same, that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.” Hebrews 2:14. He provided the glorious gospel to chase away the darkness of this world; he prepared the reign of righteousness to supersede the reign of crime, and the grandeur of the Mediatorial scheme to draw all men from idolatry to worship him who is Lord both of the living and the dead. The wicked and rebellious he awed by the terrors of a future judgment, seeing their prince is already judged.

John 16:13 . He will guide you into all truth. That is, into all truth that can be necessary for your apostolical office, and to direct the christian church to the end of the world in all saving truth. For, as Irenæus notes, the doctrine which they taught, they afterwards delivered in the scriptures to be the pillar and foundation of our faith. And, as St. Austin adds, Christ having committed to them the writing of these things which he would have us read, they chose out those things to write which they judged sufficient to be written for the salvation of the faithful. It is therefore certain that the apostles, in compiling the canon of scripture, were so assisted by the Holy Spirit as to write all truths necessary to salvation; all things necessary to be believed or done by christians are contained in the holy scriptures.

This is a principal text which the papists bring for their doctrine of infallibility, but without any foundation. For this promise was made to all the apostles, as well as to Peter; and not only to the apostles, but to all their successors, and to all believers to the end of the world.

In order to discern and distinguish this Spirit of truth, and when it is He that speaketh in any one, the best way seems to be to search out the nature and office of this Spirit, from the several expressions in our Lord’s last discourse to his disciples; and from this it will appear that those doctrines have a good sign of the spirit of truth which are contrary to worldly, carnal, sensual respects, and not conceivable by the natural and carnal man: John 14:17. Those which stick by us when worldly comforts leave us: John 14:18. Those which are according to Christ’s word and example, accompanied with meekness and obedience: John 14:26. Those which teach us charity and love to one another: John 15:16. Those which inform us rightly in the prime articles of the faith: John 15:26. Those which witness Christ a universal Saviour, as Adam was the universal sinner: John 15:26-27. Those which reprove the sins and infidelities of the world, and teach us how to be acquitted from them: John 16:28. Those which are in harmony with all other truths, under whatever term or name, though ever so odious or contrary to worldly interest and honour. Those which are not advanced to raise a man’s ownself, to get him a name, or set up a faction; but are consonant to the ancient fathers and primitive antiquity. Those which lift up all our thoughts to heaven: John 16:13. Those which by all means possible can give God the glory, and deny nothing to them that is theirs, under a foolish pretense only to abate and vilify man beyond the truth: John 16:14. These doctrines are truth; such of them at least as agree with these rules are from the Spirit of truth, and manifestations that the Spirit of truth is come to that soul that embraces them.

John 16:20-21 . Ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. The cloud of the crucifixion was impervious; but joy followed on his resurrection, and on the descent of the Holy Ghost, with powers which gave them joys surpassing those of a woman who after parturition embraces a son.

John 16:23-24 . Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. The importance of prayer for ministers in all their sufferings and labours may be inferred from the duty and the promise being five times repeated: John 14:13-14; John 15:7.

First, we have here the nature of prayer described, by asking grace of our heavenly Father, which may be done in silence by lifting up the soul to heaven. Psalms 25:1. By pleadings in secret, when the voice utters the heart; and by social prayer in all the forms of worship.

Secondly, we have the order of prayer; it must be in the name of Christ. This is a new argument of devotion: “Hitherto ye have asked nothing in my name.” If God, when angry with Israel, yielded to Elijah’s prayers on mount Carmel, which were presented in the name of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, patriarchs in covenant with God, how much more will he yield to the name of his beloved Son, who ever lives and intersedes for us at his right hand. Let us therefore ask in faith, and plead with importunity.

Thirdly, we may here notice the enlargements of prayer. “Whatsoever” ye shall ask the Father in my name. Here all the blessings of the new covenant in all their classifications are comprised, whether they regard the body or the mind, the church or the nation. The great and precious promises are given us in Christ, to make us partakers of the divine nature.

Fourthly, we have the assurance of prayer. “He will give it you.” From the great love of God in not sparing his own Son, St. Paul infers that he will freely give us all things; and from the tender and exuberant language of the promises, we may be assured of answers of peace. Isaiah 55:5; Isaiah 55:10. And if we appeal to facts and circumstances, in which the church has cried in trouble, the propitious character of the Deity is fully established. “Oh thou that hearest prayer, unto thee shall all flesh come.”


The valedictory discourse of our Redeemer is unique in character, the circumstance being without example. It discloses his divinity without reserve, for the sorrows of the heart required divine support, and the presence of Him who caused his ancient cloud to brighten in the time of trouble. He confirmed the faith of the apostles to bear the tragedy of the cross, a word he then concealed, for so the case required, lest it should rouse them, as when Peter drew his sword, to interfere with the work of our redemption.

But the Saviour having acted the high part of a comforter in a series of the most consolatory arguments, next promised them another comforter, who indeed is called the promise of the Father, being so often described as refreshing rain on the parched lands. But the offices and operations of the Holy Spirit have a double object. The one regards the world, whom he should reprove, vanquish with argument, and convince of sin; to whom also he should disclose his righteousness in the gospel from faith to faith, and whose consciences he should alarm by the terrors of a future judgment.

The second mission of the Paraclete is to console and adorn the church with glory and grace. When we have a friend in trouble, we go and draw from him the sad tale of all his woes; for grief, like a river, is diminished when the stream is divided. The Comforter brings promises to our remembrance, and sweetly sheds abroad the love of God in our hearts. He pours a flood of light on the preacher’s mind, and opens a fountain of eloquence in his heart; and heaven once opened there, becomes a key to all the latent treasures in the bible. We then read that book with new eyes and warm affections. He inspires us in all our studies with the word of knowledge of the sacred text, and with the word of wisdom in evangelical eloquence. He gradually draws aside the curtain, and shows us the things of the Father, otherwise called the things of the Saviour. Being thus a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of God, he also becomes a spirit of grace and supplication in the heart. Endowed with this unction, the man of prayer pours out his soul in pleadings full of energy, which leave him inspired with the earnests of heaven, and with seals of salvation to the day of redemption.

In fine, the Saviour uplifts a little of the curtain which veils the most holy place, into which he has entered, and discovers the eternal Mind, ever one in essence, under the idea, to use the Greek of Hebrews 1:3, of three hypostases, Father, Son, and Paraclete. What other ideas can we attach to the words sending reproving guiding and revealing future things, than that of Person, subsistence, or hypostasis? Thus the revelation enlarges our apprehensions of the deity in all the glorious economy of grace. Oh that our love might correspond with his love, by whom we are thus divinely taught.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on John 16". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/john-16.html. 1835.
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