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Bible Commentaries

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

John 16



Other Authors
Verses 1-33

FURTHER WORDS OF warning follow in the opening verses of this chapter, lest the disciples should be stumbled by being unprepared for persecution. Acts 8:3; Acts 9:1, Acts 9:2; 1 Timothy 1:13, furnish us with a commentary on verses John 16:2-3 of our chapter. Saul of Tarsus persecuted this way unto the death, and he did it ignorantly in his unbelief. At that time he certainly knew neither the Father nor the Son.

Jesus was going to Him that sent Him, and the disciples had sufficient sense of the loss they would suffer to be filled with sorrow, but if only they had enquired more as to where He was going, and what would be involved in His presence with the Father, they would have seen things in a different light. His departure was going to be profitable for them. Loss there was going to be, but also gain which would outweigh the loss. This was a startling statement, but the Lord proceeds to support it by giving further unfoldings of the benefits which would flow from the coming of the Comforter, which coming was contingent on His departure. He speaks first of what His coming would mean as regards themselves.

Being come, He will, by His very presence and activity, be a standing witness against the world. The word “reprove” does not mean that He will bring such conviction to the world as would result in its conversion, but that His coming will bring such a demonstration of these three great realities as shall leave the world without excuse. He comes as the direct consequence of the going on high of Jesus, the One cast out by the unbelieving world. Perfect goodness embodied in the Son of God had been before their eyes and had been totally rejected. Here was sin, an outrageous missing of the mark—and demonstrated by the presence of the Comforter, who came because He was gone.

But Jesus was going through death and resurrection and by ascension into the glory of the Father. Thus Divine righteousness would be vindicated and displayed. The point here is not remission of sins and justification for us, as it is in Romans 3:1-31, but of righteousness to be publicly established in every sphere that has been touched and marred by sin. Christ’s death was the supreme act of the world’s unrighteousness: His glorification was the supreme act of God’s righteousness, and the guarantee that ultimately righteousness shall everywhere prevail, in keeping with Paul’s words in Acts 17:31. Now the Spirit is come from the glorified Christ as the standing Witness to this. To have merely demonstrated sin would not have been enough: righteousness its antithesis, and that which will ultimately abolish it, must be demonstrated too.

The third thing, judgment, follows as the appropriate sequence. If human sin be dealt with in Divine righteousness, judgment cannot be avoided. Paul reasoned before Felix of “judgment to come” and the Roman governor trembled, but the point in our passage is that the prince of this world has been judged by his attitude to Christ, and in the power of His cross. In John 12:1-50, Jesus had spoken of the judgment of the world and the casting out of its prince. These solemn facts are demonstrated by the presence of the Spirit, for if the prince and leader of the world is judged, the world that he controls is judged too. Satan is also called “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4), as men ignorantly worship him in turning aside to all the things that they idolize: he is “the prince” as being the originator and leader in the world’s great schemes.

Now it is indeed expedient and profitable for us that the Comforter should have come with plain demonstration of these things. To see the devil in a true light, to see the world as it really is, to have things brought to an issue as between sin and righteousness, are matters of the deepest moment. The witness truly is against the world but it stands for our benefit and instruction. Had it been more fully heeded by ourselves, and by the church all through its history, we should have kept ourselves far more unspotted from the world than we have done. The strong words that we read in James 4:4 are more easily understood in the light of the Lord’s words here.

How profitable too is that ministry of the Spirit indicated in verses John 16:13-15. It seems to fall under three heads— “He will guide you... He will shew you... He shall glorify Me.”

He is to guide the disciples into all truth. In the previous verse the Lord indicated that there were many things yet to be revealed, but that they were not yet in the condition to receive them. When by the reception of the Spirit they should have that anointing, spoken of in 1 John 2:20; 1 John 2:27 they would have the capacity to understand. So, when the Spirit of Truth was come, the Lord said through Him the many things He had yet to say, and all truth was revealed, and into that the Spirit guided them. The Apostles doubtless are primarily in view here, but as the fruit of this guiding into all truth, the Epistles were written, and thus the saints of all ages down to our own have had all truth brought within the circle of their knowledge. With what diligence have we given ourselves to these things so as to be guided into them?

Then He was to show the disciples “things to come.” As the fruit of this particular ministry to the Apostles, we have the book of Revelation as well as certain passages in the Epistles, and thus this ministry has been made available to us. By these prophetic writings the drift of things both in the church and in the world is made known to us, and hence we are not in darkness, though the rejection and absence of Christ has introduced an epoch in the world’s history characterized as “the night.”

Then, thirdly, the mission of the Comforter is to glorify the Christ who has been dishonoured by the world. This He does by announcing to us the things that are Christ’s, so that we make the discovery that all the Father’s things are also His. Let us not miss the tremendous scope of this great declaration. We have already heard twice that the Father has given all things into His hand (John 3:35; John 13:3), but that might carry us no further than the fact that, like Joseph in Egypt with Pharaoh’s things, all administration is committed to Him. This does carry us further. All the Father’s things ARE HIS! And this was said by the Son whilst on earth in His pathway of humiliation. That “ARE” is timeless: it breathes the air of eternity. The Father’s things ever were His, they are, and ever will be. He who speaks thus lays claim to Deity, One in the unity of the Godhead. The acknowledgment of this by the ministry of the Comforter does indeed glorify Him.

The transition of thought from verse John 16:15-16 may not be apparent at first sight, but we believe the Lord is still pursuing the thought of how profitable for them would be His departure because it involved the advent of the Comforter. Soon they would no longer see Him, and then again a little while and they would see Him. But this second seeing was to be “because I go to the Father”; that is, because then the Spirit would be given. In this remarkable statement the Lord used two different words: the first meaning to behold or view as a spectator, the second to perceive or discern. A little while and they would no longer see Him, beholding His ways and works as spectators; then another little while and the Spirit being given, they would see Him in this new fashion, perceiving Him by faith with the inward eye of their Spirit-filled hearts, in a measure unknown before. Blessed be God that it is possible for us too to say, “But we see Jesus... crowned with glory and honour” (Hebrews 2:9).

This saying of His was dark at the moment to the disciples and therefore further explanation was given. The world was going to have its way with Him and His death was impending. It would rejoice in getting rid of Him, but for them the outlook was one of weeping and lamentation. Yet beyond death lay resurrection and His ascension to the Father. This would reverse everything. The travail of childbirth is used as an illustration, for not only does it set forth the idea of joy supervening on sorrow, but also that of new life springing up. Now their sorrow was just a reflex of His sorrow, and His was so deep and of such a nature as to be called “the travail of His soul” in Isaiah 53:11, whilst the previous verse predicts, “He shall see His seed,” evidently in resurrection and in glory. They could not share His atoning sufferings yet they were dimly sharing His sorrow, though largely, without a doubt, in a selfish way. They should soon very really share His joy.

The context of verse John 16:22 would indicate that the Lord was referring, not only to the gladness that would fill the disciples when they met Him in resurrection, but also to their joy when, by the Spirit given, they should have the knowledge of His glory. This is yet more plain when we consider verse John 16:23, for “In that day” does not indicate merely the forty days during which they saw Him before Pentecost, but rather the whole period characterized by His absence and the Spirit’s personal presence in the church. That day has not yet run its course, and it is still our privilege to pray in the Holy Ghost, and thus to ask of the Father in the name of the Son.

The word “ask” occurs twice in this verse, but actually the Lord used two different words, which might be distinguished by using “demand” or “enquire” for the first and “ask” or “petition” for the second. The Lord had been meeting all their demands, and they had run to Him with all their enquiries, but now that day was closing. But He had revealed the Father before them, and directly the Spirit should be given that revelation would become effective in them. They would be empowered to take their place as representatives of the Son, and so ask in His Name. Asking thus under the direction of the Spirit, their prayers would be sure of an affirmative answer, as being according to the Father’s mind. Striking instances of prayers of this kind are given us in the latter part of Acts 4:1-37, and again in Acts 12:1-25. Indeed the prayer of the dying Stephen, in the last verse of Acts 7:1-60, illustrates it; for the conversion of the man who presided, like an evil genius, over his martyrdom was an answer to the spirit of the request, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.”

The change that would be introduced by the coming of the Comforter is still the dominant thought in verse 25. It would affect the very way in which the truth as to the Father was to be presented. He had been making known the Father by doing the Father’s works. All the miracles, or “signs” recorded in this gospel, had been a setting forth of the grace and power and glory of the Father, in a parabolic or allegorical way. When we turn to the Epistles we read plain declarations of the Father, His purposes and glory and love, given by inspiration of the Holy Ghost. All this came to pass in the day of which the Lord was speaking, when they should be able to ask with all freedom in His Name as knowing the Father’s love.

The words in the latter part of verse John 16:26 are no contradiction of the fact that Jesus is our Intercessor on high. They only emphasize the fact of the Father’s love for the saints and the place of intimacy that they have in His presence. The attitude of the disciples to Jesus was, as verse John 16:27 shows, one of love and faith. Is that our attitude? Then we too come under the benediction of the Father’s love. Hence, though we deeply need Christ’s gracious intercession for us, in view of our weakness and constant failure, as those in this place of love and favour, yet we have no need for intercession that we may be in this place. Souls brought up in the darkness of Romanism may imagine they need just the kind of intercession that is precluded here, only so often they sink still lower by thinking that the Virgin Mary or some lesser “saint” must undertake it. Blessed be God, we need no intercessor of that kind at all!

The disciples believed that He had come forth from God, but as yet they had hardly risen to the thought of His coming forth from the Father, though, as their words show, they did not as yet realize their limitations. Until the Spirit was given they were limited in understanding, as verse John 16:31 shows, and also in power and courage, as verse John 16:32 shows. The very men who were groping in their minds here, and in a few hours’ time were scattered and running away, were gathered with minds of clear understanding, and with hearts as bold as lions, when the Day of Pentecost was fully come. Understanding and courage: these two things should characterize us today. But do they?

Though the Lord had no support from His disciples in the dark hour before Him, He could go forth in perfect dependence on the Father and in the assurance of His abiding presence. Hence He confronted the world’s hatred and opposition in perfect peace and wholly overcame it. Now all these communications the Lord had made that His disciples in their turn might have peace in Him, just as He had possessed peace in the Father. His overcoming the world, moreover, was the pledge that overcoming power was also at their disposal. He had just been speaking of the world’s hatred and persecution. To us perhaps its seductions and smiles are more dangerous. But, whichever it be, our safety lies in Christ. Only as begotten of God and as believing that Jesus is the Son of God do we overcome the world, as 1 John 5:4, 1 John 5:5, tells us.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Hole, Frank Binford. "Commentary on John 16:4". "F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary". 1947.

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