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Wednesday, April 24th, 2024
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Bible Commentaries
John 16

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Verses 1-4

The Lord Predicts Persecutions

In the previous chapter the Lord Jesus spoke to His disciples about their testimony in the world and the hatred this will evoke. He did this to keep them from stumbling. To stumble means that the hate they will experience from the side of the world will go so far that they are in danger of giving up their confession and say farewell to faith in Him.

The Lord knows this danger and has beforehand warned His disciples to prepare themselves for it. The true disciple’s path shows the radical separation that exists between the world and those who belong to Christ. If then the hatred of the world will manifest itself, it will not surprise them.

He then points to a manifestation of hatred that is revealed particularly from the religious side. They will experience resistance and enmity from religious people with whom they, before believing in Christ, adhered to the same religion. By this the Lord does not just mean a false religion, some form of idolatry, but the religion originally given by Him Himself.

His people, however, turned away from the one, true God and became unfaithful to Him. What God had given for their good, they have appropriated for themselves. They have become proud of their religion. Therefore, God had to surrender His people to judgment. The dominion of the Romans is the result of this. The leaders are blind to this. Anything that calls them back to the one, true God, is met with great and bitter resistance, in which the leaders are at the forefront.

Therefore, the stumbling for which the Lord warns has to do with a falling back into that religion that is judged by God. We must realize that the believing heart of the pious Jew, like that of the disciples, does not count on grief and shame and bottomless hatred being part of those who follow the Messiah. Therefore, the Lord encourages them that persecution will serve to strengthen their faith and that the Holy Spirit will add His testimony to theirs.

The hatred will take terrifying proportions. The places where they used to profess and practice their religion will be closed to them. And it will not stop there. Every random Jew will see them as an enemy of God and will try to kill them, even thinking that they are pleasing God. Saulus of Tarsus is a clear example of this. He later speaks and writes about how diligent he was in persecuting the church (Acts 26:9; Galatians 1:13; Philippians 3:6).

The Lord tells His disciples what causes the hatred of the Jews against them. It has to do with the Jews’ view of God as a God Who is one (Deuteronomy 6:4). They held on to this as a tradition that lifted them up above the other nations. As a result, they remained unfamiliar with the Father and the Son. Thus, it was not just a theological matter, but their hatred towards the disciples also stemmed from the fact that their religion gave them a certain status. What God had given them, they had claimed for themselves. The law had made them important (Romans 2:17-Proverbs :). They believed to possess the truth, but the truth had not taken possession of them.

Through the coming of the Son, the revelation of God in the flesh, their arrogance and pride was manifested and judged. Their depravity and resistance were revealed at the highest level by the Son of God. But under no circumstances do they want to accept His judgment, for they do not want to lose their position. Likewise it is with the enmity of the roman catholic church. She claims to be the one church and denies the work of the one Spirit and the one body.

The words of the Lord will be an encouragement once suffering comes over them. He prepares them for that time to come, so that it does not come by surprise. In this way, everything He spoke before will be fulfilled, including His assistance and the promised blessings. He did not have to speak about this when He was still with them, because then He protected them. It was not necessary for Him to say this earlier, because he looked after them as long as He was with them. He had been their Shield and Helper, their Caretaker.

That is how He intervened for them every time the religious leaders wanted to argue with them. In the same way, He will shortly say: “If you seek Me, let these go their way” (John 18:8). But when He will be gone, His words will help them. This ends the subject of witnessing.

Verses 5-7

The Advantage of the Lord’s Going Away

The Lord will now resume speaking about His going to the Father. If their faith had been more simple, they would not only have relied on His loving care for them, but they would also have asked Him where He was going. Then they would have heard about the glory and the blessing that this would mean for them.

But there is still no understanding for Him, as to what it means for Him to go to the Father. The thought that He will leave them does not occur to them. They can only think of a reigning Messiah. Again and again they are surprised when they hear their Divine Teacher speak of Him leaving them. Nor can they deal with the suffering He has announced.

If the bad feeling aroused by His words were to come true, it would make them sad. What are they to think of His going away? Because their faith does not yet see beyond the earthly glory, His going away will leave them without any perspective. What will then be the consequences of His coming for the world or even for Israel? Have they left everything and followed Him for that?

The Lord knows their thoughts and feelings. For Him it is the opportunity to speak about the coming, the presence, and the work of the Holy Spirit. He tells them that it is even to their advantage that He is leaving. It may seem strange that the loss of His physical presence will bring them gain. However, we must remember that He will only leave after an eternal salvation is achieved after which the Spirit will come to earth to bear witness to a glorified Christ. Also, the Spirit will continue to dwell on earth and is, and will continue to be, their Caretaker, as long as they and all those who will form the church are on earth.

The Holy Spirit could only come to earth after Christ was glorified (John 7:39) because He would come as Witness of His glorification. He will testify of what He has seen of the glorified Christ in heaven. That is why the Lord Jesus had to go away first. The Spirit will reveal the meaning of this to the disciples. Christendom is the revelation of the Father, of a glorified Man in heaven, and of God the Holy Spirit on earth.

Verses 8-11

The Holy Spirit and the World

The coming of the Holy Spirit has consequences for the world and for the believers. The Lord first speaks about the consequences for the world. Through the coming of the Spirit on earth the world will be convinced concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.

By this the Lord does not mean that the Holy Spirit will cause the message of the gospel to be proclaimed to convince sinners. Of course, every sinner only comes to conviction of his sins through the working of the Holy Spirit. However, here it is not about a sinner, but about the world. Nor is it about the world coming to repentance through the work of the Holy Spirit.

What the Lord says is that the presence of the Spirit on earth is the convincing proof of the sin of the world. Regardless of whether the world sees it or not, believes it or not, the mere presence of the Holy Spirit means the rejection of Christ by the world and thereby establishes the sin of the world once and for all.

The Lord explains what He means by this convicting. The conviction by the Spirit of sin goes far beyond the law, the Divine measure of man’s duty, which also convicts of sin. The world does not merely fail in its duty, but rejects grace. The mere presence of the Holy Spirit on earth is proof of the sinfulness of the world.

Why did the Holy Spirit come to earth? Because the Lord Jesus went away out of the world. And why did He go? Because the world rejected Him, because it did not believe in Him. The Holy Spirit is here because Christ is no longer on earth. The rejection of Christ by the world is the absolute proof of its sinfulness. The world as a depraved system is written down for judgment.

The second testimony associated with the presence of the Holy Spirit on earth is that of righteousness. We could say that His presence on earth is proof of the unrighteousness of the world, shown in rejecting Christ. However, there is also, and the Lord speaks of this here, righteousness connected with the presence of the Spirit on earth.

God has acted righteously towards His Son, where the world has only proved unrighteousness to Him. God was righteous when He judged Him for our sins. When Christ had accomplished the work, it was equally righteous of God to raise Him from the dead and glorify Him in heaven. On this basis the Holy Spirit was able to come and with His coming proved convincingly the righteousness that the Father did towards the Son.

We no longer see the Lord Jesus, but the Father sees Him and the Holy Spirit bears witness to His righteousness. There is no greater testimony of righteousness than the Son’s going away to the Father. The world may deny or reject that testimony, but that cannot change the very testimony provided by the presence of the Holy Spirit on earth.

The third and final testimony given by the presence of the Holy Spirit on earth is that of the judgment of the ruler of the world, the devil. This judgment has actually still to be fulfilled, but it is definitely fixed by the presence of the Spirit here, for His presence means that the judgment rests on the world.

Led by the devil, the world has rejected Christ. It shows once again the utter and incorrigible depravity of the world which has made itself available to the devil to express its hatred towards Christ. The verdict has been passed on the ruler and will be carried out in God’s time. At the same time, the judgment of the world rendered by the Spirit Who came to earth indicates how we, as believers, have to see the world.

Verses 12-15

The Holy Spirit and the Believers

The Lord knows His disciples and their expectations. In His grace He takes them into account. Everything He has said is completely opposite their thoughts as Jews. This not only applies to their thoughts about the Messiah, but also to their expectations of the coming of the Holy Spirit.

They also know about the coming of the Spirit. Joel prophesied that He would come, but then as poured out on all flesh and to bring blessing to God’s people (Joel 2:28-:). But what the Lord tells here about the coming of the Spirit, they can only understand when the Spirit has come after He has gone to heaven.

The Lord therefore says that they will not remain in ignorance, but that the Spirit will make all known to them. The Spirit will lead them into all the truth, including all truths that are related to His glorification and about which He cannot yet speak.

That the Holy Spirit will not speak on His own initiative means that He will say nothing apart from the Son. Everything He will hear from and about the Son, He will speak. Just as the Son has come in dependence on the Father to glorify the Father, the Spirit will come in dependence on the Son to glorify the Son.

He will also be the Spirit of disclosure or of prophecy. This is how we see Him especially when we read the book of Revelation. Even if He serves as the Spirit of prophecy, it is with the purpose of drawing our attention to the revelation of the Lord Jesus in glory. His public glory is seen both in the exercise of judgment and in the establishment of the realm of peace and thereafter the new heaven and the new earth. By speaking about the things to come, the Holy Spirit loosens the saints from the world under judgment.

It does not say that the Spirit will not speak about Himself, but that He will not speak on His own initiative. The Lord Jesus is the object of His ministry. The Spirit did speak about Himself. It is therefore important to know Who He is, what He does and how He works. If it becomes clear to us that He does everything to glorify the Lord Jesus, it also becomes clear that praying to or worshiping the Holy Spirit is not His work. We don’t read about it anywhere in the Bible either. Whatever He brings forward, it always relates to the Lord Jesus. He also takes it from what is of the Lord Jesus. There is no other source for the Holy Spirit to take from than the Son Himself.

The Son is an inexhaustible source of glory. He is that as the eternal Son, and He is also that as Man on earth. Also as Man on earth, He could say that everything the Father has is His, for everything the Father has is given to Him by the Father (John 3:35; John 13:3; cf. Genesis 25:5). Here the humble Man speaks as the eternal Son. The Lord Jesus, as Man, received everything from the Father to share it with people. Out of everything the Son possesses – and that are really all things – the Holy Spirit takes to proclaim it to us. What a privilege the coming of the Holy Spirit is!

Verses 16-22

A Little While

After the unfolding about the coming of the Holy Spirit and the marvelous consequences for them, the Lord once again speaks about His own situation with respect to them. His rejection and death are near. He tells them that it will only be a little while, that they will not see Him again. Now they still see Him, i.e. they look at Him as spectators of His works and His path. Soon He will no longer be seen by them. However, He immediately lets it follow that this period of not seeing will also be short. After those two brief periods they will see Him again.

What He says raises questions with some of His disciples. As Jews who truly believe in Him as the Messiah, they are convinced that the Messiah will stay. But precisely because their thoughts are still so Jewish, they do not know what He is talking about. What does He mean by not seeing Him for a little while and yet seeing Him again after another little while? They also do not understand what He said in John 16:10 about His going to the Father. How will they be able to see Him if He will go to the Father?

We know that when the Lord Jesus speaks about going to the Father, He speaks about His ascension. The consequence will be that they will not see Him for a long time, i.e. until His return. Therefore, what He says here about ‘a little while’ cannot be related to this. The little while it will take before they will no longer see Him is the time that will elapse between the moment He says this and the tomb. The little while before they will see Him again is the time He is lying in the tomb. After that they will see Him when He has risen.

The disciples do not understand this and therefore the Lord responds to their questions. He expresses their problem once more to make it clear that He understands what they are struggling with. It is also good for us, if someone asks us something, to repeat the question in order to be sure that we understand the other person well. For us that may be necessary because our repetition may reveal that we have misunderstood the question. Of course, the Lord did not have to repeat the question that way. He repeats the question in order to comfort them and make His answer fit in with it.

The importance of the subject is again apparent from the double “truly” and the authoritative “I say to you” with which the Lord introduces His answer. By “a little while, and you will not see Me “, He means that He will be killed by the world. That will be the end of His presence with them as a living Messiah. That event will cause them to weep and lament.

The world, on the contrary, will rejoice over that event. They think they will have dealt with Him and that will make them happy (cf. Revelation 11:7-1 Kings :). But the world does not have the last word. He will rise up and while the disciples are sad, He will come to them and they will rejoice.

The Lord compares their sadness to that of a woman in labor. When the birth pains overtake her, she suffers and is sad. However, this sadness is short-lived. Once the child is there, she has forgotten the distress. The child she holds in her arms is the source of her joy.

The Lord applies what happens at the birth of a child to His death and resurrection. His death and what He said about it caused grief in His disciples. But He will meet them again as the Living One after He has passed through the birth pains of death. Then they will rejoice (John 20:20) and nothing and no one will be able to take that joy away, even if they were tortured (Acts 5:40-Mark :). The change from sadness to joy is also the experience of the disciples at Emmaus (Luke 24:17; Luke 24:32) and a little later, of all the disciples when the Lord Jesus goes away from them to heaven. Then they are full of joy (Luke 24:52).

Verses 23-24

Pray in the Name of the Son

The Lord connects even more joy to His resurrection and ascension. Once He has gone to heaven, “that day”, or period, will come when He is with the Father and the Holy Spirit on earth. In that day or period, the disciples will comprehend the new relationship in which they are placed. They will enter into the glorious relationship with the Father that until that moment was the unique part of the Son. Because of this they will have the opportunity to come to the Father in the Name of the Lord Jesus. When they come to the Father, He sees the Son coming, because the Son is their life.

Until now they went to the Lord with all their questions. They had confidence in Him and they dealt with Him in a confidential way. They asked Him all their questions and He had provided for all their needs. That is now over. But He has revealed the Father and they are now allowed to go to the Father themselves.

When they have received the Spirit, they will receive power to replace Christ on earth and also to pray in His Name. During His stay on earth, He taught His disciples to pray in a way that is consistent with their relationship as pious Jews to God. They were allowed to address God as the Father – in the sense of origin (Deuteronomy 32:6) – of His people. In this way they went to God as long as the Lord Jesus was with them.

That will change when He is in heaven and the Holy Spirit on earth. The Lord teaches His disciples to pray in a new way. Until now, they had prayed nothing in His Name, i.e. in accordance with His place in heaven and their place in the presence of the Father as His children. This can happen after Christ has accomplished the work of salvation and the Spirit has been given, because this brings them into a new relationship.

Until now they could not pray in the Name of the Lord Jesus. It is a specific Christian privilege. The life that the Christian possesses in Christ expresses itself in the same desires that the Lord Jesus has. The Holy Spirit gives strength and insight to such desires. The Father, for His part, wants nothing more than to hear such a prayer in which His Son is recognized. It will give complete joy to the disciple.

Verses 25-28

The Father Himself Loves You

The Lord Jesus has shown the Father in His works which He had received from the Father to do. His works and also all the signs mentioned in the Gospels have shown the grace and power of the Father.

After His resurrection He will no longer speak about the Father that way, but He will speak freely about Him. Mary is the first to whom He speaks in this way, without pictures, about the Father (John 20:17). He will do this especially when He will be glorified, as we may already hear in His prayer to the Father in the next chapter.

When that day has arrived – and it has been since the resurrection of Christ – we may ask the Father in His Name. Asking in the Name of the Lord Jesus is not in a formal pronunciation of words like ‘we ask this of You in Jesus’ Name’ or something like that. Asking in His Name is not a formula, but the realization that we go to the Father in the value of the Son Himself and His acceptance by the Father. The value of Who He is is attributed in its fullness to those who ask in this way.

Through His work the Son brings us into such an intimate and personal relationship with the Father that we ourselves may go directly to the Father. Through the power of the Spirit we have free and direct access to the Father (Ephesians 2:18), without intermediary, to speak freely. We say “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:5-Joshua :) to Him. The reason for this confidentiality and intimacy is that the believer is the object of the Father’s love. We may know that He Himself loves us.

As a reason for the Father’s love for the disciples of the Lord Jesus, the Lord mentions that the disciples loved Him and believed in His unity with God and His actions by order of God. However, He not only came forth from God, but He also came forth from the Father and as such He came into the world. Now He is about to leave the world again and go to the Father.

These few words encompass His whole life in connection with His stay on earth. He speaks about His coming forth from the Father, His coming into the world, His leaving the world and His going to the Father. After all, the purpose of this Gospel is to declare God as Father in the world, to reveal Him. He has come as the eternal Son of the Father and returns to His Father, now also as Man. What a joy it must be for Him to return to that glory where nothing is contrary to God.

Verses 29-33

Peace in the Son

The disciples believe that they now understand the Lord and they tell Him that. From their explanation it appears that they are still not able to realize the full scope of what He has said. They speak about their faith in Him as the One Who came from God, while the Lord spoke about the Father. It is still faith in Him as God’s anointed King. Despite their failure to truly understand that He tells all about His relationship with the Father, they know that He totally knows them.

The Lord says nothing about their failure to understand what He has told them about Himself and the Father. He takes their confession seriously. Then He speaks about the consequences of their confession. Their faith in Him will confront them with the opposition of the world. When they come to capture Him, they will be scattered, they will flee in all directions and they will leave Him all alone. In the belief that everything is over, they will return each to his own, each to his own activities and daily circumstances (John 21:3). The Lord speaks about this without a trace of reproach in their direction. For Him it is sufficient that the Father is with Him.

His disciples may all leave Him, He knows that He is not alone after all, but that the Father is with Him. This marks His peace and at the same time it is the peace He wishes for them. So instead of reproach, He has words of peace in His wonderful grace for His disciples. In spite of their failure that will soon be apparent from their flee, He has their peace in mind. That is why He has spoken to them. They will find that peace in Him if they keep His words in mind.

And as for the world, He gives them good courage. He has conquered the world for them. That means they don’t have to fear the world with all its threats and horrors. By believing in Him, they can be sure that the world has been overcome for them (1 John 5:4-Deuteronomy :).

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op John 16". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/john-16.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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