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In the close of the foregoing chapter, our blessed Saviour had acquainted his disciples with the hatred and hard usage which they were likely to meet with in the world, and here he intimates to them the reason why he did so much insist upon the subject; namely, not to sadden their hearts, and grieve their spirits, before their sufferings came, but that they might not be offended, discouraged or scandalized, at them, when they came, but prepared for them, and armed against them.
Hence learn, 1. That all afflictions, but especially persecutions, are so searching and trying, that the best of Christians have need to be guarded against them, that they be not offended at them.
2. How our Saviour instances in two particular sorts and kinds of suffering, which the disciples were to expect in the world, and from the world: namely, excommunication and martyrdom, John 16:2 These things will they do, because they have not known the Father, nor me.
From whence we may learn that all the persecutions of the saints do speak in persecutors, an ignorance of God the Father, and of Jesus Christ his son. All persecutions spring from ignorance as well as from malice. And men, who continue ignorant of God and Christ, are in danger of turning persecutors, if they have a temptation to it.
Observe, 4. How our Lord again forewarns his disciples of their approaching sufferings, to the intent that they might remember that he had foretold them of them, and would not fail to support them under them.
He had often told them in general of persecutions and troubles which they must expect to meet with, but did not till now intimate the kinds and degrees of those sufferings, with respect to their weakness; and because, whilst he was with them, he himself bore the brunt of all, the world's rage falling upon him, letting them alone: but after his ascension, when the malice of Satan and wicked men could not reach him, then did the storm fall upon them.
Learn hence, 1. That Christ is so tender of his disciples' weakness, that he will not put them upon the hardship of sufferings, till they be trained up and prepared for them.
2. That it may encourage the saints in and under their sufferings, that Christ himself is the great object of the persecutor's malice, and they only so for his sake; for, could they reach him, they would not concern themselves with them.
Learn, 3. That the saints of God, after long exemption and freedom from sufferings, must expect that storms will arise, clouds gather thick, and trials come on apace; and their being under one trial will not hide or shelter them from another.
Observe here, how our Saviour again intimates to his disciples his speedy departure from them, and reproves them for being so saddened at it, and concerned for it, without considering the end and design of it, and the benefit and advantage they were to receive by it.
Here we see how the disciples' thoughts were wholly taken up about themselves, what they should do for want of Christ's bodily presence, without being instant with him, to know whither he was going, and what benefit he should reap, and they might expect, from his departure.
Learn hence, that Christ's disciples ought not so much to have lamented the loss of his bodily presence, and to have rejoiced in his glorious exaltation, and in their own advantages by his death, resurrection, and ascension; None of you asketh me, Whither goest thou? But sorrow hath filled your heart.
In these words our Saviour urges his disciples to submit to his departure, as that which would make way for his sending the Comforter to them; which he assures them, would be of more advantage to them than his own stay and continuance amongst them.
Thence learn, that the presence of the Holy Spirit with us is a greater comfort and advantage to us than the presence of Christ in the flesh amongst us.
The benefit of Christ's conversation was great; but the advantage of the Spirit's renovation and holy inspiration is much greater; the one encourages and incites us to be holy, but the other quickens and enables us to be holy.
Therefore well might Christ say, It is expedient, or highly necessary and advantageous, for you, that I go away. He subjoins a reason: If I go not away, the Comforter will not come; but if I depart, I will send him to you.
Whence we learn, that Christ's ascension was indispensibly necessary, in order to the Spirit's mission; the Spirit could not have descended, if Christ had not first ascended; the Spirit could not come, but by the gift and mission of the Mediator.
Now the sending of the Spirit being a part of Christ's royalty, as mediator, it was not convenient that the Spirit should be sent, till Christ was crowned, and sat down on his throne in his kingdom: then the Spirit was to make application to us, of the redemption purchased for us.
In these and the following verses our Saviour acquaints his disciples with the advantages that will redound by the coming of the Comforter.
First, the advantage to the world.
Secondly, to the apostles.
And, thirdly, to himself.
To the world, 1. He shall convince them of sin, righteousness, and judgment. Of sin: that is, of their sinful state and nature, of the large extent of sin, and particularly of the sin of unbelief.
Learn hence, 1. That the Spirit of God is the author of conviction of sin, and that all convictions of sin do either mediately or immediately flow from him.
2. That unbelief is a sin of the greatest malignity against Christ, and of the greatest danger to a Christian's soul: He shall convince the world of sin, because they believe not on me.
Secondly, Of righteousness; that is, of the insufficiency of all human righteousness, and of the necessity of the righteousness of a mediator; by which alone we are to expect acceptance with God; or of a complete and perfect righteousness in me, imputable to sinners for their perfect justification: and that it is so, appears because I go to the Father, and ye see me no more.
As if Christ had said, "Hereby you may be satisfied, that by my active and passive obedience I have fully satisfied my Father's justice for you, and you shall never be charged or condemned; because, when I go to heaven, I shall abide there in glory with my Father, and never be sent back again, ye shall see me no more, as I must have been, if anything had been omitted by me."
Note farther, that none are convinced of righteousness who are not first convinced of sin. None will come to Christ by faith, till convictions of sin have awakened and distressed them.
Thirdly, Of judgment: that is, the Spirit shall convince the world, that Jesus is both Lord and Christ, that he had power to judge Satan the prince of the world, and that he did by his death put down the kingdom of darkness.
Learn hence, 1. That Satan is a prince who by unjust usurpation, and sinners voluntary consent, has exercised a tyrannical power over the world.
2. That Christ by his death did judge, condemn, and overcome, this mighty prince, and hath made his conquest evident to the consciences of men, by the convictions of his Holy Spirit: The Spirit shall convince of judgment: that is, that Satan the prince of this world is judged.
The second benefit, which our Saviour declares was to be expected by the coming of the Holy Spirit, relates to the apostles themselves: He shall guide you into all truth; that is, into all truth necessary for you to know in order to salvation.
This is a principal text which the papists bring for their doctrine of infallibility, but groundlessly: for this promise was made to all the apostles, as well as Peter; nay, not only to the apostles, but to all their succesors: yea, not to the apostles only and their successors, but to all believers also: for they are led by the Spirit of God, and that into all truth too; not absolutely, but into all necessary truth: and so far as a private Christian follows the conduct and guidance of the divine Spirit, he is more infallible than either pope or council, who follow the dictates and directions of their own spirits only.
That is, he shall not teach you a private doctrine, or that which is contrary to what ye have learned of me, but whatsoever he shall hear of me, and receive from me, that shall he speak; and he will shew you things to come.
This affords an argument to prove the Holy Spirit to be God: he that can shew us things to come, he that clearly foreseeth and infallibly foretelleth what shall be, before it is, is certainly God.
But this the Holy Spirit doth: He will shew you things to come. Men and devils may guess at things to come, but none can shew things to come, but he that is truly and really God: and therefore the Spirit is so.
Here Christ shews the advantage which would redound to himself by the coming of the Comforter; he declares that the Spirit should glorify him by his testimony, gifts, and miracles, and shall in all things accord with him, and thereby evidence that he hath his mission from him: He shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. And, all things that the Father hath are mine.
Hence learn, that, although the union in essence amongst the persons in the Trinity is the same, yet the order of their subsistence and operation is distinct: the Son being from the Father, and the Holy Ghost from the Father and the Son; For all things that the Father hath are mine; And the Spirit shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.
Observe farther, that these words afford a strong argument to prove the divinity of Christ: All things which my Father hath are mine. Where Christ challenges to himself the incommunicable attributes of God, and consequently that essence which is inseparable from them.
Doth the Father know the secrets of all hearts? So doth Christ, All the churches shall know that I am he that searcheth the reins and hearts. Revelation 2:23
Is the Father eternal? So is Christ, I was set up from everlasting, &c. Proverbs 8:23
In these words our holy Lord proceeds to comfort his disciples with a promise, that, however he was now to be removed from them, yet they should shortly see him again, namely, after his resurrection; it being impossible that he should be held by death, but must arise and go to his Father. His disciples, not understanding what he meant, but labouring under the prejudices of their national errors, concerning the temporal kingdom of the Messias, knew not what to make of those words. A little while and ye shall not see me.
Our Saviour therefore explains himself to his disciples, telling them that they shall have a time of sad sorrow and grief of heart, during the time of his sufferings and absence from them, but their sadness shall soon be turned into joy, when they shall see him alive again after his resurrection.
This he illustrates by the similitude of a travailing woman, who soon forgets her sorrow after she hath brought forth a child. Thus will their revive upon the sight of him risen from the grave; and no man shall be able to take their joy away from them, because he shall die no more, but go to heaven, and there live for ever, to make intercession for them.
Learn hence, 1. From the apostles not understanding Christ's words concerning his departure, though so often inculcated upon them, A little while and ye shall not see me, because I go to the Father, hence note, how unreasonable it is to arrogate to man's understanding a power to comprehend spiritual mysteries, yea, to understand the plainest truth, till Christ enlightens the understanding; let the doctrine be delivered ever so plainly, and repeated ever so frequently, yet will men continue ignorant, without divine illumination.
How often had this plain doctrine of Christ's departure to the Father been preached to the disciples by Christ's own mouth! Yet still they say, What is it that he saith? We cannot tell what he saith.
Learn, 2. The different effects which Christ's absence should have upon the world, and upon his disciples; the world will rejoice but ye shall weep and lament.
Note, 1. That it is the wretched disposition of the world to rejoice in the absence and want of Christ out of the world. When I am gone, the world will rejoice.
2. That nothing is the cause of so much sorrow and sadness to sincere disciples, as Christ's absence and removal from them: such is their estimation of the worth of him, so great is the apprehension of the want of him, that there is no loss comparable to his absence and removal from them: ye shall weep and lament at my departure, though the world will rejoice.
Learn, 3. That the believer's sorrow for Christ's absence, though it be very great, yet it shall not be perpetual: Ye have now sorrow; but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy shall no man take from you. The joy of the saints may be interrupted, it shall never be totally extinguished; it is a permanent joy, of which they shall never be totally deprived, till they enter into the ocean of eternal joy: Your joy no man taketh from you.
At the first reading of John 16:23 there seems to be a contradiction in the words.
Christ tells them in the former part of the verse, that they shall ask him nothing in that day; and yet promises that whatever they ask shall be given them, in the latter part of the verse.
To resolve this, know that there is a two-fold asking, one by way of question, the other by way of petition.
The former is asking that we may know, or be informed in, what we doubt; the latter is asking that we may receive, and be supplied with what we want.
Now when Christ saith, In that day ye shall ask me nothing; it is as much as if he had said, "At present you understand but little of the mysteries of religion, and therefore ye put questions about many things: but, in that day, when the Comforter comes, ye shall be so clearly enlightened by him, that ye shall not need to ask me any more questions." But when Christ saith, Whatever ye ask of the Father in my name, he will give it; the meaning is, "In that day when I have left the world, and ascended to my Father, you shall not need to address your prayers to me, but to my Father in my name."
But what is it to pray in the name of Christ?
Answer, it is more than to name Christ in prayer: it is easy to name Christ in prayer, buy no easy thing to pray in the name of Christ.
To pray in the name of Christ, is,
1. To look up to Christ, as having purchased for us this privilege, that we may pray: for it is by the blood of Christ that we draw near to God, and that a throne of grace is open to us.
2. To pray in the name of Christ, is to pray in the strength of Christ, by the assistance of his grace, and the help of his Holy Spirit.
3. To pray in the name of Christ is to pray by faith in the virtue of Christ's mediation and intercession, believing that what we ask on earth, he intercedes for and obtains in heaven. To pray thus is no easy matter: and unless we do pray thus, we do not pray at all.
Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name John 16:24; that is, explicitly and expressly in my name, or by me, as mediator betwixt God and man, and with respect to my merits. Do this after my death, resurrection, and intercession at the right hand of God, and you shall receive such answers as will fill you with joy; for the saints of God under the Old Testament, and the apostles themselves under the New, and hitherto put up all their petitions in the name of the Messiah, though not in the name of Jesus.
But now he exhorts them to eye his mediatory office in all their addresses to God, and promises them whatsoever he had purchased of the Father by his sufferings and satisfaction, they should obtain it for the sake of his prevailing intercession.
Learn hence, that it is a mighty encouragement to prayer, that now, under the gospel, the person of the Mediator is exhibited in our flesh, has satisfied divine Justice in our nature, and in that nature intercedes as mediator, for whatever he purchased as our surety.
Hence is the encouragemnt; Whatsoever ye ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.
Here our Saviour tells his disciples that although he had spoken many things to them in dark parables and figurative expressions, yet now the time was approaching, namely, the Comforter's coming, when he would, by the Holy Ghost, clearly enlighten their understandings in the knowledge of divine mysteries, and the things pertaining to the kingdom of God, and particularly in the knowledge of God as his Father, and their Father in him.
Hence learn, 1. That the clearest truths will be but parables, proverbs, and dark myteries, even to disciples themselves, till the Holy Spirit enlightens their understandings.
2. That the clear and full manifestation of divine truth was reserved till the coming of the comforter, who did communicate it to the apostles, and by them to the church, or body of Christians: I, by him, will shew you plainly of the Father.
At that day ye shall ask in my name; that is, after I have ascended into heaven, and have sent down the Holy Ghost upon you, you shall put up all your prayers and requests to God in my name; And I say not that I will pray the Father for you, for the Father himself loveth you; that is, I need not tell you (though I shall certainly do it) that I will intercede with the Father for you, for he of himself is kindly disposed and affected towards you for my sake.
When Christ says, I do not say that I will pray the Father for you, the meaning is not that he will lay aside his office as intercessor for believers, but that they had not only his intercession, but the Father's love, upon which to ground their hope of audience.
Learn hence, 1. That the Christian's prayers, put up in Christ's name, cannot fail of audience and acceptance for the sake of the Mediator's intercession and the Father's love.
2. That in our prayers we ought so to eye and look up to Christ's intercession, as not to overlook and forget the Father's love, but ground our hopes of audience upon both; I say not that I will pray the Father for you, though I shall assuredly do it, for the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me.
Here observe, 1st. A proof of our Saviour's godhead; he came forth from the Father into the world; He came out from the Father in his incarnation, and came into the world to accomplish the work of our redemption.
Learn hence, that Jesus Christ is true God, equal with the Father: for he was not only sent by him, but came forth from him; I came out from the Father.
Observe, 2. That it pleased Christ, out of love to his people, to leave the Father, and come into the world; not by being separated from the deity, but by obscuring the deity with the veil of our flesh, in order to the finishing the great and glorious work of redemption for us; I came from the Father, and am come into the world.
Observe, 3. That Christ having finished his suffering work here on earth, ascended into heaven, and sent down the Holy Spirit to apply unto his church, the redemption purchased by his blood: Again I leave the world, and go to the Father.
Observe lastly, how the apostles argue from the knowledge of Christ's omnipotency to a certainty of his divinity: Now are we sure that thou knowest all things; by this we believe thou camest forth from God. The knowledge and experience of Christ's omnisciency, may and ought fully to confirm us in the belief of his deity; for that attribute of the deity cannot be communicated to any person without the communication of the divine nature.
In the foregoing verse, the apostles made a full profession of their faith in Christ's divinity, and in Christ's omnipotency: Now are we sure that thou knowest all things, and that thou camest forth from God.
In this verse Christ intimates to them that their faith should be put to a great trial very shortly, namely, when his sufferings came on: and that then they should all forsake him, and take care of themselves: Ye shalt be scattered and leave me alone.
Learn hence, 1. That Christ was forsaken and left alone by his own disciples in the day of his greatest distress and danger.
2. That when the disciples left Christ, they were scattered every one to his own.
3. That when all forsook Christ, and left him alone, he was far from being simply alone, because God was with him: Ye shall leave me alone, and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.
God was with Christ, and will be with Christians, in a suffering hour, in his essential presence, in his gracious and supporting presence: He that sent me, says Christ, is with me: the Father hath not left me alone: for I do always those things that please my Father.
These words are the conclusion of our Saviour's farewell sermon to his disciples, in which he declares to them, the inevitable necessity of the world's trouble: In the world ye shall have tribulation; that is, while ye have to do with the men of the world, while ye have any thing to do with the things of the world, nay, while you have a being in the world, you must look for trouble, both from within and from without, from friends and foes, in body, soul, name, estate; heart-breaking troubles, soul-rending troubles, such troubles as will make the heart to break, and the back to bend; and you, my disciples, must expect it as well as others: In the world ye shall have tribulation.
Hence learn, that the disciples of Christ, in this world, may, yea, must expect and look for trouble.
Observe, 2. The remedy provided by Christ against this malady: In me ye shall have peace: when in the world ye have tribulation. Ye shall have peace: that is, serenity of mind, a quiet and calm temper of spirit within, when the world, like a tempestuous air, is full of storms without.
Learn thence, that though in the world Christ's own disciples must look for and expect troubles, yet he has taken effectual care, that, amidst all their troubles, in him they may have peace; Christ's blood has purchased peace for them, his word hath promised it to them, and his Holy Spirit seals it up to their souls.
Observe, 3. The cordial provided by Christ for the support of his disciple's spirits under the sinking burthen of the world's tribulations and troubles: But be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. I have taken the sting out of every cross, and the venom out of every arrow.
Learn hence, that it is a great comfort to a Christian, under all the troubles of this world, to consider that Christ has overcome the world, that is, all things in the world, which may hinder his people's comfort and consolation here, and their eternal happiness and salvation hereafter; namely, the princes of the world, the rulers of the world, the wicked men of the world, the troubles of the world, the temptations of the world, the corruptions that are in the world through lust.
Now Christ having overcome the world, all persons and things in it are at his disposal, and can do nothing but by his permission; and as he has overcome the world himself, so he will enable us through faith in him to overcome it also. This is the victory over the world, even our faith 1 John 5:4.
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Burkitt, William. "Commentary on John 16". Burkitt's Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the NT. https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Epiphany