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Bible Commentaries

F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary
John 14

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-31

THE WORD OF warning was at once followed by a word of exceeding grace. Jesus knew well that these disciples in spite of all their failures did really love Him, and the thought of His departure was a sore grief to them. Hence the words that open our chapter. It was beginning to dawn upon them that they were to lose His visible presence with them; that was the trouble that burdened their hearts. But then the invisible God had ever been to them real, as an Object of faith. Might not Christ from henceforward be the same? He would indeed be so. As an Object of faith He would be a living, bright reality to countless millions, whereas He could only be an Object of sight to a few in one locality at a time, did He remain as He was.

The first item of comfort troubled hearts then is this: Christ, as the risen Victor over death, the Object of simple faith.

And the second item is this: a place prepared and secured in the many abodes in the Father’s house on high. Now the disciples were men who had staked all on their belief that they found the Messiah present on earth in flesh and blood. They had given up such place as they had possessed on earth and, if He was going to leave them, for what? As they learn here, for a place of nearer relationship, of far greater elevation, abiding eternally beyond the reach of death. What a marvellous exchange! The earthly Temple had been “My Father’s house” (see John 2:16); this is now disowned, and the true “Father’s house” is found on high, into which He was about to enter, In it there are many abodes, as had been indicated by the many chambers in the earthly type. Their particular place and ours was to be prepared by His entering in. He holds it for us as our Forerunner, as is shown by Hebrews 6:20.

Of necessity therefore a time must come when the saints enter into their prepared place; so in verse John 14:3 we find a third item of comfort—His personal coming to receive us unto Himself, that we may be with Him in the Father’s house. The disciples must have known from the Old Testament that there was to be a personal coming of Jehovah: for instance, “His feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives... and the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with Thee” (Zechariah 14:4, Zechariah 14:5). But they had not realized that “Jehovah” was “Jesus,” and they knew nothing of this coming in order to receive saints unto Himself, for it had not been announced. It was as much a new revelation as that saints should have a place in heaven or that the Messiah should be there as an Object of faith, instead of being visibly present-on the earth.

We may say then that verse John 14:1 gives us in germ that life “by the faith of the Son of God,” of which Paul speaks in Galatians 2:20. Verse John 14:2 gives us in germinal form the truth of the heavenly calling, more fully expounded in Ephesians 1:3-6 and in Hebrews 2:9; Hebrews 3:1. Verse John 14:3 gives us the first intimation of the coming of the Lord for His saints, Their rapture into His presence above is more fully expounded in 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18. There also, as here, this truth was made known to bring comfort to troubled hearts.

Jesus credited His disciples with knowing both where He was going and the way. Thomas was the disciple of materialistic and therefore of doubtful mind. His objection served to bring forth one of the Lord’s greatest pronouncements. He is the way to the Father, the truth about the Father, the life, in the energy of which the Father can be really known. There exists no other avenue of approach than the Son. Moreover, being in the fallen life of Adam, we have no capacity to enter into the knowledge of the Father: such knowledge is only possible for those who are in the life of Christ. The more we meditate on these words the more we shall perceive the all-sufficiency of Christ; as also that they yield their tribute to the fact that the fulness of the Godhead dwelt in Him (see Colossians 1:19; Colossians 2:9).

Philip’s plaintive request in verse John 14:8 shows that he too desired to have the Father displayed before his eyes in a material way. He was not wrong in this, but only in failing to discern the display that had been made in Christ, who was the Word made flesh. As John says in the opening words of his first Epistle, the Word thereby became audible, visible and tangible. The Father therefore had been perfectly shown forth. The words of Jesus were the Father’s words, and His works were done by the Father who dwelt in Him. In verse John 14:17 of our chapter we have an allusion to the fact that the Spirit was with them dwelling in Christ; and here it is the Father who dwells in Him: thus our thoughts are again conducted to Colossians 1:19.

His words and works corroborated the great claim which the Lord twice makes here. As to essential being and life and nature, He was “in the Father,” as also the Father was in Him, in manifestation and display. The disciples should believe this just because His own lips stated it; but if not, they should receive the evidence of His works, which so plainly declared it. And more than this, the day was coming, as stated in verse John 14:12, when similar and even greater works should be done through the disciples, and that because He was going to the Father, which as we have learned in John 7:1-53, meant the coming of the Spirit. At that day the disciples would discover themselves to be in Christ and Christ would be in them (see verse John 14:20), and this doubtless explains the “greater works.” Before His death and resurrection the Lord was “straitened” (Luke 12:50); but once that was accomplished and the Spirit given, He could freely operate by the Spirit through His disciples. There was no day in the Lord’s ministry when 3,000 souls were converted as on the Day of Pentecost; nor did His labours cover the mighty circuit of “from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum,” as did those of Paul.

In verses John 14:13-14 the Lord comforted His disciples with the power of His name. He indicated thereby that He was going to leave them to serve as His representatives. Their requests, if really in His name, would be certain of fulfilment. He would Himself act on their behalf though absent from them. His object in so doing would be not only the maintenance of His own interests, but that the Father should be glorified. Thus the Father would be glorified in His activities in resurrection and glory, just as He was also in the dark hour of His death.

No doubt this acting and asking in His name had special reference to His apostles, yet it surely applies to us all. We have to remember that we can only rightly use our Master’s name in connection with His cause and interests. If we attempt to use it merely for the furtherance of our own personal desires, we are guilty of what our Law Courts call a misfeasance, to which serious penalty is attached. The promise here only applies, of course, where the prayer is genuinely in His name.

Thus far we have had five items of great comfort before us, calculated to assure the sorrowful hearts of His disciples that there was going to be great gain for them, in spite of the fact that they were to lose His presence amongst them. Let us recapitulate them: the fact that He would still be accessible to them as an Object of faith; that there was a place assured to them in the Father’s house; that He would come again that they might be with Him in that place; that meanwhile the Father had been fully made known to them in Him; that they were to remain in the world as His representatives, with the authority of His name to give potency to their prayers. We now pass to a sixth item of equal comfort.

The coming of the Holy Spirit is definitely promised. The Lord only presumed one thing—that they really loved Him, for genuine love always expresses itself in obedience; and love is itself the Divine nature. Just that is taken for granted. And taken for granted, He would pray the Father when He ascended on high, and in response to His request the other Comforter would come. Now “Comforter” means, “One who stands alongside to help.” Jesus Himself had been this amongst them on earth, and would yet be it, though absent from them in heaven; for “Advocate” (1 John 2:1) is the same word. The Spirit would be this with us here on earth, and once come, He abides with us for ever.

The Comforter is also the Spirit of truth. Truth, together with grace, “came by Jesus Christ” (John 1:17), and He is the truth, as we have just seen, presented to us in an objective way. The Spirit of truth is now to come, indwelling the saints, and thus bringing truth into them subjectively. Hence when we come to 2 John 1:2, we read the truth “dwelleth in us” by the Spirit as well as being “with us for ever” in Christ. The world does not share in this. It has not the Divine nature, nor does it walk in obedience; hence it cannot receive the Spirit. It neither sees nor knows Him, occupied as it is with material things.

All this was an assurance to the disciples that they were not to be left “comfortless,” or “orphans,” but that by the Comforter He would come to them, and thus His presence be a reality to their hearts.

The Comforter is given as the seal of love and obedience, and in keeping with this the full blessing of His indwelling is only enjoyed as obedience is perfected in us. Verse John 14:15 had indicated that, being the fruit of love, obedience is the proof that the love exists: now we find that the fruit of obedience is a special place in the love of both the Father and the Son, together with a special manifestation of the Son, which must carry with it a special manifestation of the Father, inasmuch as we only know the Father as revealed in the Son. The objective manifestation is perfect, complete and abiding, but the subjective manifestation to each of us individually, in the power of the Comforter, depends on the measure in which we are characterized by obedience and love.

The question of Judas (verse John 14:22) evidently was prompted by the fact that the thoughts of the disciples were wholly concentrated on the public manifestation of the Messiah, as announced in the Old Testament, and they did not as yet grasp the character of the dispensation about to dawn, in which the knowledge of Himself would be by faith in the power of the Spirit. The Lord answered by amplifying His previous words, speaking now of the keeping of His word—not “words,” but singular, “word,” the truth that He brought viewed as a whole—as the fruit of love. Such loving obedience incites the appreciation and love of the Father, so that both Father and Son make their abode; through the indwelling Spirit doubtless, for these great pronouncements come in the section of the discourse devoted to the Comforter. Thus His sayings, in which His word is conveyed to us, become the test of our love. They conduct us to the word of the Father who sent Him. If we disregard them our protestations of love toward Him are proved to be vain and insincere.

This leads us to another function of the Comforter: being “the Spirit of truth,” He is the Teacher of the disciples. We must not miss the contrast in verses John 14:25-26 between “these things” and “all things.” When, as the fruit of His work, Jesus should be glorified and the Spirit given, there should be a larger revelation of Divine truth. All things that come within the scope of revelation should be made known and effectually taught to the disciples by the Comforter. Much had been made known to them by Christ, present amongst them in flesh and blood: all should be made known to them in the coming day of the Spirit. Here we find promised as to revelation and teaching the same expansion by the coming of the Spirit as we found stated in verse John 14:12 as to works. In addition, the Spirit would bring to their remembrance all the things they had heard through Christ.

We are now in the happy position of seeing how literally and perfectly these things were fulfilled. The four Gospels were written as the fruit of things He said being brought to their remembrance; whilst as the fruit of the further and newer teachings of the Spirit we have the Epistles, ministering the full light of the Christian faith and of the counsels of God.

We had previously noted that the coming of the Comforter furnished the sixth item in the comfort which Jesus was ministering to His disciples. We now find the seventh and last in this chapter; namely, peace. In departing He left peace with them, bequeathed as the result of His atoning work. Further, He gave them that peace which He called peculiarly His own— the peace of perfect confidence in the Father, as the result of knowing Him, and of submission to His will. And all that He gives is out of His own fulness and linking them with Himself, and not according to the poor standards of this world.

Having thus unfolded to the disciples all these great items of encouragement the Lord ended on the same note as He began— “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” Exactly the same word comes to us as we face the great difficulties of our day.

But the disciples were to know not only peace, but joy. This indeed they did when the Spirit was given, and even before, as Luke 24:52 testifies.

They were grasping the fact that He was going away and they were to realize that nevertheless He was coming to them by the advent of the Comforter. Yet there was a further thing: He was going to the Father, and into all that would be involved thereby—infinite approbation and glory, in the Father’s love. That would be exceeding joy for Him, and loving Him it would be for their joy as well. Have we not known that joy also? Is not the thought of His joy among the deepest of our joys?

The last words of this verse, “My Father is greater than I,” have been made into an occasion of stumbling to some. But here we have speaking the Word made flesh, and He speaks in His estate as the lowly Man upon earth. Hence in position or station the Father was greater than He, whilst as to being and nature He and the Father were one.

The Lord’s words in verse John 14:29 shed great light upon all that is contained in this chapter. The things of which He had been speaking had not yet come to pass, for the first there must be accomplished His redemption work. That accomplished, they would come to pass, and He was telling them now so that in the coming days they might believe. In saying this the Lord again indicated that our day is one in which faith is all-important. Israel’s day had been characterized by things visible and tangible, but all the things of which He had just spoken to them are to be apprehended by faith and not sight. Both the peace and the joy reach our hearts by faith. So presently we find Paul speaking of “all joy and peace in believing... through the power of the Holy Ghost” (Romans 15:13), and Peter saying, “though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8).

The Lord now indicated that His talks with the disciples were coming to an end. What lay before Him was the full accomplishment of the work that the Father had commanded. But before that end was fully reached Satan, the prince of this world, was again coming, wielding the power of darkness but he would find no point of attack in Him. Satan had nothing in Christ because the Father had everything—all His love and obedience. He was meeting not man in a state of innocence, as was Adam in Eden, but Man in absolute holiness and righteousness, and withal the Word who was God. The great Antitype of the Hebrew servant, depicted in Exodus 21:2-6, was found here saying, “I love the Father,” the equivalent of “I love My Master... I will not go out free;” just as in John 13:1 we had the declaration of His love to those typified by the wife and children in Exodus.

It would seem that the words, “Arise, let us go hence,” mark their departure from the upper chamber, and that what we have in the following two chapters was spoken on the way to Gethsemane. The change in position was matched by a change in the themes and in John 15:1-27 Jesus contemplates His disciples as in the world with corresponding privilege and responsibility rather than as in their new place and state as before the Father, which was the theme in John 14:1-31. Just as there He gave them His place before the Father so now they are identified with Him in His place before the world. He is the true Vine and they the branches.

 


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Bibliography Information
Hole, Frank Binford. "Commentary on John 14:4". "F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/fbh/john-14.html. 1947.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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