John 16:1-2. These things have I spoken, that you should not be offended — I have informed you beforehand concerning the opposition which you are to expect from the world, and the proportionable supports which you will receive from the Holy Spirit, that you may not be discouraged in, or turned aside from, the path of your duty; by my leaving you, or by the troubles which you will meet with from my enemies and yours, whose rage will excite them to use all manner of violence and cruelty against you. They shall put you out of the synagogues — The Jews will excommunicate you, as the most execrable of men: yea, whosoever killeth you, will think he doeth God service — That he doth the most acceptable thing possible; or that he offers sacrifice to God, as Dr. Campbell and others render λατρειαν προσφερειν τω θεω; observing, that as λατερεια properly signifies the public service of religion, when it is joined, as in this place, with προσφερειν, (to offer up,) can only mean sacrifice; and it is so rendered in the Syriac and Gothic versions. This gives a beautiful turn to our Lord’s sentiment, which is, “The time shall come when the killing you will be thought a part of the worship of God, and equally meritorious and acceptable with the offering of sacrifices.” Archbishop Leighton’s observation on the passage is, that “the servants of Christ should be considered not only as sheep for the slaughter, but as sheep for the altar too.” The rage of the persecuting enemies of God’s church, and, beyond all comparison, the murders committed by Papal cruelty in the name of the Lord, in the hecatombs of whole burnt-offerings, (if an expression may be allowed which falls far short of the dreadful truth,) too justly illustrate the remark. But how justly God has already resented, and will still resent, the murder of his children upon his altar, the day in which he makes inquisition for blood does and will declare.
John 16:3. And these things will they do — These cruelties will they exercise upon you, not because ye have done them any harm; but because they have not known the Father nor me — Which, if they had done, instead of injuring me, and exercising such inhumanities toward you, my apostles, they would have received us with the greatest affection and gratitude. Here we have the true root of persecution in all its forms; it is ignorance of God and of Christ, and of the real nature of Christianity: it is a spirit that is hostile to all true piety and virtue; and our Lord here says in effect, Let this comfort you, that none will be your enemies but the worst of men. Observe, reader, 1st, Many that pretend to know God are wretchedly ignorant of him, for he that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 1 John 2:4. Israel of old transgressed the covenant, and yet cried, My God, we know thee. 2d, They that are ignorant of Christ cannot have any right knowledge of God. In vain do men pretend to know God and religion while they slight Christ and Christianity. 3d, Those are wretchedly ignorant of God indeed, who think it an acceptable piece of religion to persecute good people. For they that know Christ, know that he came not into the world to destroy men’s lives, but to save them; that he rules by the power of truth and love, not by fire and sword. 4th, It is possible for those that are real enemies to God’s service to pretend a mighty zeal for it. Satan’s work has often been done in God’s livery, and one of the most mischievous enemies Christianity ever had, sits in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God, 2 Thessalonians 2:4. Nay, 5th, It is common to patronise enmity to religion, with the colour of duty to God and service to his church. God’s people have suffered the greatest hardships from conscientious persecutors: Paul verily thought he ought to do what he did against the name of Jesus, Acts 26:9. This, however, does not lessen the sin of persecutors, for villanies cannot be consecrated by their being acted in God’s name; but it greatly increases the sufferings of the persecuted to cause them to suffer under the character of being enemies to God; but there will be a resurrection of names, as well as of bodies, at the great day.
John 16:4-6. But these things have I told you — And forewarned you of them; that when the time shall come — In which they shall happen; ye may remember that I told you of them — And so may turn what has so discouraging an aspect into a further confirmation of your faith. And these things I said not at the beginning — Of my ministry; because I was with you — And could easily suggest proper instructions and consolations, as new circumstances of difficulty arose; and because, being with you, I could bear the chief shock of persecution in my own person, and so screen you from it. But now I go to him that sent me — But now, that my ministry is drawing toward a conclusion, and I am going to leave you, I could no longer defer speaking of these things to you; because it is of great importance you should know them, in order that when they come to pass you may not be surprised and stumbled. And none of you asketh me — Now when it is most seasonable; whither goest thou? — Though I mentioned to you my departure once before, (John 13:33,) none of you has inquired of me the reasons of my departure, nor the effects of it; nor is concerned to make those inquiries about that better world, which surely might well become you in such a circumstance. But because I have said these things — Have spoken of leaving you for a time, and have informed you of the persecutions you will meet with when I am gone; sorrow hath filled your heart — Hath engrossed your thoughts, and filled you with sadness.
John 16:7-8. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth — I acquaint you with the case just as it is, and tell you the reasons of my going away, though you have not asked them. It is necessary even on your account that I should depart, because, if I go not away, and enter upon my mediatorial office, the Comforter — By whose assistance, as I told you, you are to convert the world, will not visit you: whereas, if I depart — And take possession of my kingdom; I will send him unto you — As the first-fruits of the exercise of my kingly power, to answer all the great and glorious purposes for which you and my church shall need him. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, &c. — Greek, ελεγξει τον κοσμον περι αμαρτιας, &c.; rather, he will convince the world concerning sin, and concerning righteousness, and concerning judgment. So Dr. Campbell, who interprets the passage as follows: “Concerning sin — That is, their sin in rejecting me, whereof the Spirit will give incontestable evidence, in the miracles which he will enable my apostles to perform in my name, and the success with which he will crown their teaching. Concerning righteousness — That is, my righteousness, or innocence, the justice of my cause; of which the same miraculous power, exerted for me by my disciples, will be an irrefragable proof, convincing all the impartial that I had the sanction of Heaven for what I did and taught, and that, in removing me hence, God hath taken me to himself. Concerning judgment — That is, divine judgment, soon to be manifested in the punishment of an incredulous nation, and in defence of the truth.” Dr. Whitby gives nearly the same interpretation of this important paragraph; remarking that the original word, παρακλητος, here used, signifies both an advocate and a comforter; he observes, in explanation of the terms, “He performed the part of an advocate in respect of Christ and his gospel, by convincing the world of sin in their not believing on him, and of the righteousness [the innocence and holiness] of Christ; and by confirming the apostles’ testimony of him, by signs and miracles, and various gifts imparted to them, Hebrews 2:4; 1 John 5:6-8; and by pleading their cause before kings and rulers, and against all their adversaries, Matthew 10:18-19; Luke 21:15; Acts 6:10. In respect of the apostles and the faithful he also did the part of a comforter, as being sent for their consolation and support in all their troubles, filling their hearts with joy and gladness, and giving them an inward testimony of God’s love to them, and an assurance of their future happiness, Romans 8:15-16.”
John 16:9-11. Of sin, because they believe not on me — He will convince the world of that aggravated sin of which they are guilty, in that they do not believe in me, to the truth of whose mission he will bear an unanswerable testimony, by his enlightening influences and miraculous operations. With regard to the latter, it may be observed, that they had been withdrawn from the Jews about four hundred years since, and their being restored, according to Christ’s promise, was sufficient to evince that Jesus, who had restored them by shedding the Holy Spirit upon his disciples, was the true Messiah, and so to convince them of sin, who believed not in him, as we see it did, Acts 2:37-41. Of righteousness — He will convince them of my innocence and holiness; because I go to, and am accepted of my Father — Which will evidently appear, when I send the Spirit from him in so glorious a manner; and ye see me no more — Appearing among you in the form of a servant; but are assured, that, having finished what I was to do on earth, I am taken up to heaven, and received into glory. Though Christ was condemned by the Jews as an impostor, yet his being received into heaven, and sending the Holy Spirit thence upon his disciples, was a sufficient evidence that the Father owned him as a righteous person, and his true prophet and messenger. Hence, from this effusion of the Holy Spirit, Peter argues, that this Jesus was by God made Lord and Christ; and that the Jews had crucified that holy and just One, whom the Father hath glorified, Acts 2:36; and Acts 3:13-14. Of judgment — He will convince them of my being invested with a power of executing judgment; because the prince of this world — The great head of the apostacy, is now, as it were, already judged and condemned, and shall be triumphed over in a very remarkable manner, when his oracles are silenced, and he is cast out from many persons and countries also, which he before possessed. Whence it may appear that all who belong to his kingdom and choose rather to serve him than Christ, their lawful Prince and Judge, shall be condemned with him.
John 16:12-15. I have yet many things to say unto you — There are many other things concerning which I must give you information. But ye cannot bear them now — But the weakness of your understanding, your desire and expectation of my erecting a temporal kingdom, your prejudices in favour of your own nation and law, and your aversion to the Gentiles, are so great, that you cannot yet bear the discovery. For which reason I judge it more prudent to be silent for the present. The things which our Lord had in view probably concerned his passion, death, resurrection, and the consequences of it; the abrogation of the ceremonial law, the abolition of the whole Jewish economy, the doctrine of justification by faith without the deeds of the law, the rejection of the Jews, and the reception of believing Gentiles, without subjecting them to the law of Moses. Howbeit, when he, the Spirit of truth, (so called on account of his office,) is come — According to the promise I have given you; he will guide you into all truth — All necessary truth: so that you will sustain no loss by my not discovering these things to you now; for when the Comforter comes, he will inspire you with the knowledge of them, and of every other matter necessary for you to understand. For he shall not speak of himself, &c. — That you may have the greater confidence in, and satisfaction from, the revelations which he shall make to you, know that he shall speak to you by my direction, revealing to you nothing but what he is commissioned to discover. And he will show you things to come — His revelation shall be so full and complete, that he will discover unto you all such future events as you may be any way concerned to know. He shall glorify me — He shall do me great honour in this respect, that all his revelations to you shall be perfectly conformable to the doctrines which I have taught you in person; for he shall receive of mine — Or of those doctrines which relate to me, and those benefits which I procure and bestow; and will show it unto you — In the most clear and attractive light; will enable you clearly to understand the doctrines, and will assure you of your possession of the benefits, manifesting to you at the same time their unspeakable excellence. All things that the Father hath are mine — Be not surprised that I said, he shall receive of mine; for all the treasures of the Father’s wisdom, power, and goodness, truth, justice, mercy, and grace are mine; yea, in me dwells the fulness of the Godhead bodily. Could any mere creature say this?
John 16:16-22. A little while — When I am dead and buried; and ye shall not see me — I shall not converse with you on earth, as I have hitherto done; and again — For your encouragement and comfort, I assure you it will be but a little while longer, and ye shall see me — And that to your much greater comfort and advantage; because I go to the Father — When I shall be so mindful of your interest with him, as, ere long, to bring you to an eternal abode with him. Then said some, What is this that he saith — The terms in which Jesus had spoken of his death, resurrection, and ascension, being very obscure, the disciples were altogether at a loss to understand them. Wherefore, having revolved them a while in their own minds, they asked one another privately if they could comprehend what he meant. But each of them declared, with a kind of astonishment, that he could affix no idea to his words at all. Jesus, observing their perplexity, and knowing that they inclined to ask him about this matter, prevented them, by signifying that he knew what they had been saying. He therefore said, Do ye inquire among yourselves of that I said, A little while, &c. — I will explain myself upon this point: Verily, I say unto you, that ye shall weep and lament — When ye see me dead; but the world shall rejoice — Your not seeing me is an event which shall occasion great grief to you, and joy to my enemies. However, your sorrow shall be turned into joy — When ye see me risen. A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, &c. — “The state of mind you shall be in when the events happen of which I am speaking, I cannot better describe than by comparing it to the condition of a woman in travail. During her labour she hath exquisite pain, because the birth approaches; but as soon as she is delivered, she forgets the anguish she was in, being filled with joy that she has brought one of the human species into the world. Just so, you, my disciples, will be in the greatest distress during the time of my departure. But, as I am to rise again from the dead, and to ascend into heaven, you will forget your sorrow, and rejoice exceedingly; and from that time forth your joy shall be of such a kind, as that it shall not be in the power of men to rob you of it.” — Macknight.
John 16:23-24. In that day ye shall ask me nothing — εμε ουκ ερωτησετε ουδεν, you shall not inquire any thing of me, or, as Dr. Campbell renders it, you will put no questions to me. That is, when I have sent the Holy Spirit to lead you into all truth, you shall have no need to ask for information in any thing as now you do, or to inquire after the sense of any thing suggested to you by the Spirit. as you now sometimes ask the meaning of my words. Verily, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father, &c., in my name — And if ever you stand in need of instruction, or assistance, or any other blessing, whether for the propagation of the gospel or your own salvation, the Father will immediately supply you with it, upon your asking it in my name. The word αιτησητε, rendered, ye shall ask, in this latter clause, is different from that used in the former, and properly signifies, to present a request, as the other word does to make inquiry, or ask questions. Hitherto ye have asked nothing in my name — Not having been used to regard me under the character of a Mediator between God and man; but then, having received a fuller revelation of the doctrine of my intercession, you may come with a cheerful boldness to the throne of grace, and freely ask whatever shall be necessary, or conducive to the success of your great undertaking, or your support and comfort amidst your temporal discouragements; and, I assure you, you shall receive such gracious answers as will exceedingly increase your joy.
John 16:25-28. These things — Though very weighty and important; have I spoken unto you in proverbs — In the obscurity of parables, which have appeared dark and mysterious to you; but the time cometh, &c. — You may comfort yourselves with this thought, that the time is at hand when I shall speak unto you no more in proverbs — No more in that obscure manner; but I shall show you plainly of the Father — Shall, by the teaching of my Spirit, declare to you, in plain terms, the whole counsel of God relating to the erection of his church and the salvation of men. At that day ye shall ask in my name, &c. — I repeat it to you again, that after my ascension you shall offer up all your addresses unto the Father, through my mediation; I say not that I will pray the Father for you — I do not mean that I will solicit the Father in your behalf, as if he were unwilling to bestow on you the blessings you stand in need of; for the Father himself loveth you — In a peculiar manner; and therefore will be always ready to grant your requests, and to watch over you with paternal affection and care; because ye have loved me — With sincerity and fervency; and have believed that I came out from God — As the Messenger of his grace to men; and have accordingly relied on me with such steadfastness, that you have ventured your all upon that belief. And you have therein acted a very prudent and happy part; for indeed I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world — For purposes of infinite importance to the glory of God and the happiness of the human race; again — Having finished the work I came to do, I leave the world and go to the Father — From whom I came, with whom I shall continually abide, and into whose presence I will shortly conduct you, putting you in possession of a more glorious kingdom than you ever expected, or could expect on earth.
John 16:29-32. His disciples — Struck with the correspondence of what he said to what was secretly passing in their own minds; said, Lo, now speakest thou plainly — We acknowledge that now thou speakest in such a manner as we can easily understand; and speakest no proverb — Usest no obscure form of expression; now we are sure that thou knowest all things — Now, by this further token, even by discerning our inmost doubts on this subject, we are persuaded that nothing is hid from thee; and thou needest not that any man should ask thee — “By the things which thou hast now spoken to us we clearly perceive, that thou so perfectly knowest the hearts of men, that in conversing with them thou hast no need that they should tell thee their thoughts, by asking any question. For, although no question is asked thee, thou answerest the thoughts of every one. In short, thy knowledge of our hearts fully convinces us that thou art come from God.” It seems, through the whole of this discourse, Jesus had obviated the objections and answered the questions which his apostles were going to propose, or would gladly have proposed to him. Jesus answered, Do ye now believe — Are ye now at length fully persuaded that I am the promised Messiah? — Be on your guard. Your faith in me is not so firm but it may be shaken. Behold the hour cometh that ye shall be scattered, &c. — The time is coming, nay, is come already, when every one of you shall desert me, fleeing wherever you think to be in safety from approaching danger; so that I shall be left singly to encounter mine enemies. Nevertheless, I am not alone, because my Father is with me continually.
John 16:33. These things I have spoken, that ye might have peace — “I have said these things to you concerning my departure out of the world, the coming of the Holy Ghost, my resurrection from the dead, the Father’s hearing your prayers, and concerning the great trial you are to be exposed to, in order that you may have consolation in the prospect of the benefits you are to receive, and not be terrified when afflictions draw nigh which are to overtake you. The truth is, you shall have great tribulation in this present life, because the malice of men will everywhere pursue you; nevertheless, be not discouraged, rather take heart, by reflecting how, through constancy and patience, I have overcome the malice of the world, and that I am able to make you overcome it in like manner also.” — Macknight.
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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on John 16". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Epiphany