26.But when the Comforter is come. After having explained to the apostles that the Gospel ought not to be less highly valued by them, because it has many adversaries, even within the Church itself; Christ now, in opposition to the wicked fury of those men, produces the testimony of the Spirit, and if their consciences rest on this testimony, they will never be shaken; as if he had said, “True, the world will rage against you; some will mock, and others will curse your doctrine; but none of their attacks will be so violent as to shake the firmness of your faith, when the Holy Spirit shall have been given to you to establish you by his testimony.” And, indeed, when the world rages on all sides, our only protection is, that the truth of God, scaled by the Holy Spirit on our hearts, despises and defies all that is in the world; for, if it were subject to the opinions of men, our faith would be overwhelmed a hundred times in a day.
We ought, therefore, to observe carefully in what manner we ought to remain firm among so many storms. It is because we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God, that we may know the things which have been given to us by God, (1Co_2:12.)
This single witness powerfully drives away, scatters, and overturns, all that the world rears up to obscure or crush the truth of God. All who are endued with this Spirit are so far from being in danger of falling into despondency on account of the hatred or contempt of the world, that every one of them will obtain glorious victory over the whole world. Yet we must beware of relying on the good opinion of men; for so long as faith shall wonder in this manner, or rather, as soon as it shall have gone out of the sanctuary of God, it must become involved in miserable uncertainty. It must, therefore, be brought back to the inward and secret testimony of the Spirit, which, believers know, has been given to them from heaven.
The Spirit is said to testify of Christ, because he retains and fixes our faith on him alone, that we may not seek elsewhere any part of our salvation. He calls him also the Comforter, that, relying on his protection, we may never be alarmed; for by this title Christ intended to fortify our faith, that it may not yield to any temptations. When he calls him the Spirit of truth, we must apply the term to the matter in hand; for we must presuppose a contrast to this effect, that, when they have not this Witness, men are carried about in various ways, and have no firm resting-place, but, wherever he speaks, he delivers the minds of men from all doubt and fear of being deceived.
When he says that he will send him from the Father, and, again, that he proceedeth from the Father, he does so in order to increase the weight of his authority; for the testimony of the Spirit would not be sufficient against attacks so powerful, and against efforts so numerous and fierce, if we were not convinced that he proceedeth from God So then it is Christ who sends the Spirit, but it is from the heavenly glory, that we may know that it is not a gift of men, but a sure pledge of Divine grace. Hence it appears how idle was the subtlety of the Greeks, when they argued, on the ground of these words, that the Spirit does notproceed from the Son; for here Christ, according to his custom, mentions the Father in order to raise our eyes to the contemplation of his Divinity.
Cambridge Bible Plummer
26. the Comforter] Better, the Advocate (see on Joh_14:16).
whom I will send] ‘I’ is emphatic. Here it is the Son Who sends the Paraclete from the Father. In Joh_14:16 the Father sends in answer to the Son’s prayer. In Joh_14:26 the Father sends in the Son’s name. These are three ways of expressing that the mission of the Paraclete is the act both of the Father and of the Son, Who are one.
from the Father] See note on ‘from God’ Joh_1:6 : the preposition and case are here the same; παρά with the genitive.
the Spirit of truth] See on Joh_14:17.
which proceedeth from the Father] It seems best to take this much discussed clause as simply yet another way of expressing the fact of the mission of the Paraclete. If the Paraclete is sent by the Son from the Father, and by the Father in the Son’s name and at the Son’s request, then the Paraclete ‘proceedeth from the Father.’ If this be correct, then this statement refers to the office and not to the Person of the Holy Spirit, and has no bearing either way on the great question between the Eastern and Western Churches, the Filioque added in the West to the Nicene Creed. The word used here for ‘proceed’ is the same as that used in the Creed of Nicea, and the Easterns quote these words of Christ Himself as being against not merely the insertion of the clause ‘and the Son’ into the Creed (which all admit to have been made irregularly), but against the truth of the statement that the Spirit, not only in His temporal mission, but in His Person, from all eternity proceeds from both the Father and the Son. On the whole question see Pearson On the Creed, Art. viii.; Reunion Conference at Bonn, 1875, pp. 9–85, Rivingtons; Pusey On the Clause “and the Son,” a Letter to Dr Liddon, Parker, 1876. The word rendered ‘proceedeth’ occurs in this Gospel only here and Joh_5:29, but is frequent in the other Gospels and in Revelation (Mat_3:5; Mat_4:4; Mat_15:11; Mat_15:18; Mar_7:15; Mar_7:18; Mar_7:20-21; Mar_7:23; Luk_4:22; Luk_4:37; Rev_1:16; Rev_4:5, &c.), and there seems to be nothing in the word itself to limit it to the Eternal Procession. On the other hand the preposition used here (para = ‘from the side of’) is strongly in favour of the reference being to the mission. Comp. Joh_16:27, Joh_17:8.
he shall testify of me] Better, He shall bear witness. It is the same word as is used in the next verse and is one of the words characteristic of this Gospel (see on Joh_1:7). ‘He’ is emphatic, in opposition to the world which hates and rejects Christ. Christ has the witness of the Spirit of truth, which has the authority of the Father: it is impossible to have higher testimony than this.
27.And you also bear testimony. Christ means that the testimony of the Spirit will not be of such a nature that the apostles shall have it for their private advantage, or that they alone shall enjoy it, but that by them it will be widely diffused, because they will be organs of the Holy Spirit, as indeed, he spoke by their mouth. We now see in what way faith is by hearing, (Rom_10:17,) and yet it derives its certainty from the seal and earnest of the Spirit, (Eph_1:13.) Those who do not sufficiently know the darkness of the human mind imagine that faith is formed naturally by hearing and preaching alone; and there are many fanatics who disdain the outward preaching, and talk in lofty terms about secret revelations and inspirations, (ἐνθουσιασμοὺς) But we see how Christ joins these two things together; and, therefore, though there is no faith till the Spirit of God seal our minds and hearts, still we must not go to seek visions or oracles in the clouds; but the word, which is near us, in our mouth and heart,
(Rom_10:8,) must keep all our senses bound and fixed on itself, as Isaiah says beautifully: My Spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed saith the Lord, from henceforth and for ever, (Isa_59:21.)
Because you are with me from the beginning. This clause was added in order to inform us that so much the greater credit is due to the apostles on this ground, that they were eye-witnesses of what they relate; as John says,
what we have heard, what we have seen, what our hands have handled, we declare to you; (1Jo_1:1)
for thus the Lord intended to provide for our welfare in every possible way, that nothing might be wanting for a full confirmation of the Gospel.
A new source of consolation now appears. Already twice over he has spoken of the Paraclete (Joh_14:16 and Joh_14:26),
(1) as being sent by the Father in answer to his prayer, to be the compensation to his disciples for his personal departure, and also
(2) as the Instructor and Leader into all truth. Once more he promises great things and mighty aid in their conflict with the world’s hate by the mission of the Comforter. This great mission is said to be his own. Whensoever the Paraolete of whom I have spoken shall have come, whom I will send to you from (the side of, παρὰ) the Father, the Spirit of the truth, which proceedeth from (παρὰ) the Father, he (ἐκεῖνος) shall bear witness concerning me, and you also bear witness because ye are with me from the beginning of the Messianic work (ἀπ ἀρχη ͂ς, not ἐν ἀρχη ͂). This is the great text on which the Western Church and the Greeks have alike relied for their doctrine concerning the “procession of the Spirit,” the timeless, pre-mundane relations among the Personalities of the Godhead. The expression ἐκπορευ ́εται only occurs in this place, and from it ἐκπορευ ́σις became the ecclesiastical term for the relation which the Holy Spirit sustains to the Father, just as γεννήσις was the especial term to denote the peculiarity of the Son, and just as ἀγεννη ́σια, the condition of unbegottenness and paternity was that used to denote the Father’s own hypostatic distinction. The Holy Spirit is ever proceeding, issuing forth from, sent by the Father on his work of Divine self-manifestation and Divine activity in the universe. Of this there can be no question, and the Nicene symbol originally expressed it without amplification, and the Greeks founded upon it their conception of the Trinity. The relation of the Son and Spirit to the Father were believed to be co-ordinate; and, though both were of the same eternal substance, yet both were equal to the Father. But the Western Church in after-years—notwithstanding the tremendous anathemas against all alteration which guarded the Nicene and Chalcedonian formulae—felt that the whole truth concerning the Divinity of the Son was concealed, if the idea was not also conveyed which our Lord utters side by side with the ἐκπορευ ́εται παρὰ τοῦ Πατρός in this verse. Christ says, “I will send him παρὰ τοῦ Πατρός,” and this must be compared with (Joh_14:26), “whom the Father will send in my Name;” and the Latins, to express this thought, added filioque to the phrase, “proceeding from the Father,” and claimed our Lord as equally the Source of the Divine Spirit with the Father, so that it runs, “proceeding from the Father and the Son.” In the endless discussions that arose, the two Churches probably meant to effect the same thing, viz. to affirm the glory and perfect Deity of the Lord Christ. The Greeks, in ancient times, never limited their statement to proceeding from the Father only;” nor did they object to add, “through or by the Son;” but it is probable that Augustine and the Western Church, and the liturgical forms that arose in it, approach a little more closely to the reality and quality of him who said, “I and my Father are one” in this respect, that the Spirit proceedeth from the Father and Son, when he comes into human hearts and testifies of Christ. There are those (Beza, Luthardt, Alford, Meyer) who urge that these passages do not bear at all upon the internal relations of the Godhead, but simply refer to the temporal mission of the Holy Spirit. “The words,” says Luthardt, “must be understood historically, not metaphysically,” and much may be said in favor of this view. If this verse does not furnish the basis of an argument, there is no other which can be advanced to establish the view either of the Eastern or Western Church. The witness of the Paraclete is said here to cover the gravest difficulties and provide the richest consolations. If the Lord intended to teach the fundamental nature of the Holy Spirit, the literal statement would be a powerful defense of the Greek doctrine; but if the passage here speaks of the official work and temporal mission, the words have no direct bearing upon that doctrine. The denial of the filioque has the logical tendency to make the Spirit and Son co-ordinate and subordinate emanations of the Father, and so to go back to the monarchianism from which the Church escaped at Nicaea. (See Pearson on the Creed, art. 8.; ‘Dict. Christian Biography,’ art. “Holy Ghost;” Smeaten, ‘Doctrine of the Holy Spirit;’ Hagenbach, ‘History of Christian Doctrines.’) The supernatural power of the Holy Spirit will counteract the hatred in the world by regenerating individuals within it. More than that, said Christ, he (ἐκει ͂ νος) will bear witness to me, in the Divine strength and courage which he will give to you, in the new and corrective ideas which he will supply, in the great works seen to be mine, which you will have grace to initiate (see Act_1:8; Act_2:1-47.; Act_4:31; Act_5:32,—passages where the “Acts of the Apostles” are seen to be “Acts of the Risen Jesus”); and ye also bear witness, etc. Your own experience of me from the commencement of my ministry will give you a class of testimony which will leave an indelible impression on the heart of the world.
1.These things I have spoken to you. He again states that none of those things which he has spoken are superfluous; for, since wars and contests await them, it is necessary that they should be provided beforehand with the necessary arms. Yet he also means that, if they meditate deeply on this doctrine, they will be fully prepared for resistance. Let us remember that what he then said to the disciples is also spoken to us. And, first, we ought to understand that Christ does not send his followers into the field unarmed, and, therefore, that, if any man fail in this warfare, his own indolence alone is to blame. And yet we ought not to wait till the struggle be actually commenced, but ought rather to endeavor to become well acquainted with these discourses of Christ, and to render them familiar to our minds, so that we may march into the field of battle, as soon as it is necessary; for we must not doubt that the victory is in our hands, so long as those admonitions of Christ shall be deeply imprinted on our minds. For, when he says THAT YOU MAY NOT be offended, he means that there is no danger, lest anything turn us aside from the right course. But how few there are that learn this doctrine in a proper manner, is evident from this fact, that they who think that they know it by heart when they are beyond arrow-shot, are no sooner obliged to enter into actual combat than they give way, as if they were utterly ignorant, and had never received any instruction. Let us, therefore accustom ourselves to use this armor in such a manner that it may never drop out of our hands.
These things. What things? Primarily the explanation he had given of the opposition and hatred of the world, and the vast consolation which he had promised in the identification of the disciples with himself, and the witness which would be borne by the Paraclete; but not exclusively, for they include all the preparatory instructions based on his own Person, his going to the Father, his return in the power of the Spirit. Have I spoken to you, that ye should not be offended; that you should not be made to fall over the stumbling block of persecution, and the refusal of the people to hear your message concerning me. For the moment he passes over the terrible stumbling and falling of that very night, whose shadows were deepening as the hours moved on, and he anticipated their future temptations and the source of their ultimate heroism.
2.They will drive you out of the synagogues. This was no light offense to disturb their minds, that they were to be banished like wicked men from the assembly of the godly, or, at least, of those who boasted that they were the people of God, and gloried in the title of The Church; for believers are subject not only to persecutions, but to ignominy and reproaches, as Paul tells us, (1Co_4:12.) But Christ bids them stand firm against this attack; because, though they be banished from the synagogues, still they remain within the kingdom of God. His statement amounts to this, that we ought not to be dismayed by the perverse judgments of men, but ought to endure boldly the reproach of the cross of Christ, satisfied with this single consideration, that our cause which men unjustly and wickedly condemn, is approved by God.
Hence too we infer, that the ministers of the Gospel not only are ill treated by the avowed enemies of the faith, but sometimes also endure the greatest reproaches from those who appear to belong to the Church, and who are even regarded as its pillars. The scribes and priests, by whom the apostles were condemned, boasted that they were appointed by God to be judges of the Church; and, indeed, the ordinary government of the Church was in their hands, and the office of judging was from God, and not from men. But by their tyranny, they had corrupted the whole of that order which God had appointed. The consequence was, that the power which had been given to them for edification, was nothing else thorn a cruel oppression of the servants of God; and excommunication, which ought to have been a medicine for purifying the Church, was turned to an opposite purpose, for driving away from it the fear of God.
Since the apostles knew this by experience, in their own age, we have no reason to be greatly alarmed at the Pope’s excommunications, with which he thunders against us on account of the testimony of the Gospel; for we ought not to fear that they will do us any more injury than those ancient excommunications which were made against the apostles. Nay more, nothing is more desirable than to be driven out of that assembly from which Christ is banished. Yet let us observe that, though the abuse of excommunication was so gross, still it did not effect the destruction of that discipline which God had appointed in his Church from the beginning; for, though Satan devotes his utmost efforts to corrupt all the ordinances of God, we must not yield to him, so as to take away, on account of corruptions, what God has appointed to be perpetual. Excommunication, therefore, not less than Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, must be brought back, by the correction of abuses, to its pure and lawful use.
But the hour cometh. Christ dwells still more largely on this offense, that the enemies of the Gospel lay claim to so much authority, that they think they are offering sacrifices to God where they slay believers. It is sufficiently hard in itself, that innocent people should be cruelly tormented, but it is far more grievous and distressing that those outrages, which wicked men commit against the children of God, should be reckoned punishments justly due to them on account of their crimes. But we ought to be so fully assured of the protection of a good conscience, as to endure patiently to be oppressed for a time, till Christ appear from heaven, to defend his cause and ours.
It may be thought strange, however, that the enemies of the truth, though they are conscious of their own wickedness, not only impose on men, but even in the presence of God lay claim to praise for their unjust cruelty. I reply, hypocrites, though their conscience accuses them, always resort to flatteries to deceive themselves. They are ambitious, cruel, and proud, but they cover all these vices with the cloak of zeal, that they may indulge in them without restraint. To this is added what may be called a furious drunkenness, after having tasted the blood of martyrs.
3.And they will do these things. Not without good reason does Christ frequently remind the apostles of this consideration, that there is only one reason why unbelievers are so greatly enraged against them. It is, because they do not know God. And yet this is not said for the purpose of extenuating their guilt, but that the apostles may boldly despise their blind fury; for it often happens that the authority which wicked men possess, and the luster which shines in them, shake modest and pious minds. But Christ, on the other hand, enjoins his followers to rise with holy magnanimity, to despise their adversaries, who are impelled by nothing else than error and blindness; for this is our wall of brass, when we are fully persuaded that God is on our side, and that they who oppose us are destitute of reason. Again, these words remind us, what a serious evil it is not to know God, since it leads even those who have murdered their own parents to expect praise and approbation for their wickedness.
They (used impersonally, as the German man, or the French ou) shall make you excommunicate—ἀποσυναγώγους “put you out of the synagogue,” expel you from the fellowship of your country’s worship (cf. Joh_9:22 and Joh_12:42)—nay, further (the ἀλλὰ abruptly introduces a very much stronger assertion) an hour cometh, that—ἵνα is here, by Meyer and many others, said to involve a Divine order, purpose, or destiny, intended by the drawing on of the foreordained crisis; but it seems enough to convey by it the contemplated result—whosoever killeth you will deem that he is offering service—sacrificial homage—to God (προσφέρειν; both these words are persistently used with this meaning. See, for προσφέρειν, Mat_5:23; Mat_8:4; Act_7:42; Heb_5:1). The well-known quotation from ‘Bammidbar Rabba,’ fol. 329. 1, “Every one shedding the blood of the wicked is equal to him who offers sacrifice,” may throw light on the expression. The intensity of the fanaticism was well exhibited in the persecution in which Stephen fell, and which St. Paul deemed worthy service, and one which he ought to have rendered (Act_26:9; Gal_1:13, Gal_1:14). The curse was long and deep and tragic, and Christ explains it by the awful reiteration, These things will they do because they have not known the Father, nor me (see Joh_15:22, etc.). He reiterates the explanation already given of the manner and form as well as the fact of the world’s hatred.
4.That when the hour cometh, you may remember. He repeats what he had already said, that this is not a philosophy fitted only for a season of leisure, but that it is adapted to practice and use, and that he now discourses on these matters, that they may actually demonstrate that they have not been taught in vain. When he says, that you may remember, he enjoins them, first, to lay up in their minds what they have heard; secondly, to remember them, when they shall be required to put them in practice; and, lastly, he declares that no small importance attaches to the fact, that he utters predictions of future events.
And I told you not these things at the beginning. As the apostles were still weak and tender, so long as Christ conversed with them in the flesh, their singularly good and indulgent Master spared them, and did not suffer them to be urged beyond what they were able to bear. At that time, therefore, they had no great need of confirmation, while they enjoyed leisure and freedom from persecution; but now he tells them that they must change their mode of life, and as a new condition awaits them, he likewise exhorts them to prepare for a conflict.
But—the ἀλλα ̀ suggests a kind of pause, as if he had said, “I will go into no further details” (Meyer)—these things—these prophecies of approaching persecution—I have spoken to you, that (here ἵνα has its proper relic force) when [their] hour is come, ye may remember [them] how that I told you. This awkward form is that due to the perplexities of the position of αὐτῶν in the text. Frequently our Lord thus prepared his disciples for the future, called upon them to remember his predictions as pledges of his Divine mission, but still more as consolations and supply of strength when they would most of all need it. These things I told you not from the beginning; not “at the beginning,” ἐν ἀρχη ͂, nor ἀπ ἀρχη ͂ς, but ἐξ ἀρχη ͂ς (cf. Isa_40:21; Isa_41:26; Isa_43:9), from the beginning of my ministry, and continuously throughout it. If “these things” are restricted to the prediction of cruel persecution, they are certainly contradicted by the language of Mat_10:17, Mat_10:21, Mat_10:28; Luk_6:22; Mat_5:10, etc.; Mat_21:36; Mat_24:9; Luk_12:4, etc. The numerous explanations of the commentators, that Christ had now given a more detailed, particular, and tragic outlook, cannot be sustained. Nor does the supposition that John is here the corrector of the synoptic narrative satisfy (Meyer); nor that of Godet, that Matthew, in his tenth chapter, was gathering together all that Christ had said of this nature, antedating instructions that the Lord had given, at all explain the corresponding passages in Luke’s Gospel. The language of the last clause, because I was with you, throws more light upon it. This does not surely mean “because I was bearing for you the brunt of the opposition,”—it would be unnecessary altogether to say that. All along they must have bitterly felt the antagonism which their Lord encountered. The difficulty is removed by including in the ταῦτα of verse 4 what certainly is involved in the ταῦτα of verse 1; and the reference is to the whole of his instructions touching his departure and the coming of the other Paraclete, and the principle from which the hatred of the world would spring; the explanation of the anticipated hostility which he had now offered, and the way in which they might overcome it. So long as he was with them they could not be made to understand the Divine riches of the consolation which was now so near. From the beginning he had not given all this class of instruction, because he was with them. While at their side, it was premature to speak of the special help they would require in their bereaved condition.
5.And now I go to him who sent me. By a very excellent consolation he assuages the grief which they might feel on account of his departure, and this was highly necessary. They who had hitherto been allowed to remain at their ease, were called to severe and arduous battles for the future. What then, would have become of them, if they had not known that Christ was in heaven, as the guardian of their salvation? For to go to the Father is nothing else than to be received into the heavenly glory, in order to possess the highest authority. This is held out to them, therefore, as a solace and remedy of grief, that, though Christ be absent from them in body, yet he will sit at the right hand of the Father, to protect believers by his power.
Here Christ reproves the apostles for two faults; first, that they were too much attached to the visible presence of his flesh; and, secondly, that, when this had been taken away, they were seized with grief, and did not lift their eyes to a higher region. The same thing happens to us; for we always hold Christ bound by our senses, and then, if he do not appear to us according: to our desire, we contrive for ourselves a ground of despair.
And none of you asketh me, whither goest thou? It may appear to be an unfounded charge against the apostles, that they did not ask whether their Master was going; for they had formerly inquired at him on this subject with great earnestness. But the answer is easy. When they inquired, they did not raise their minds to confidence, and this was the chief duty which they were bound to perform. The meaning therefore is, as soon as you hear of my departure, you become alarmed, and do not consider whither I am going, or for what purpose I go away.”
Cambridge Bible Plummer
5. I go my way to] Or, I go away unto; the notion is that of withdrawal (see on Joh_16:7). Hitherto He has been with them to protect them and to be the main object of attack: soon they will have to bear the brunt without Him. This is all that they feel at present,—how His departure affects themselves, not how it affects Him. And yet this latter point is all important even as regards themselves, for He is going in order to send the Paraclete.
none of you asketh] As far as words go S. Peter had asked this very question (Joh_13:36) and S. Thomas had suggested it (Joh_14:5); but altogether in a different spirit from what is meant here. They were looking only at their own loss instead of at His gain.
Now—at this very moment—I go away to him that sent me. I have completed his work, and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou? This seems at variance with Peter’s inquiry, “Whither goest thou?” (Joh_13:36), and with Thomas’s question (Joh_14:5), “We know not whither thou goest,” etc.? yet they are only opposed in appearance. Peter’s question had obviously turned the whole matter back upon himself, and the way in which the Lord’s departure affected his own duties and position; and the same may be said of Thomas. They had both lost sight of the “whither” in the pain and anguish of the departure. Our Lord had great difficulty in inducing them to realize the blessedness that would befall themselves from his own exaltation, and even now, after all that he had said about this great power and glory which awaited him, he added, Because I have spoken these things to you—since all along you are taking the dark side, and looking on the anguish of my departure and desolateness of your own condition, instead of the grandeur of the new kingdom and dispensation of which you will be witnesses and organs—sorrow hath filled your heart; the one heart which I throughout have been seeking to comfort. You are not looking on the end of my departure, or on the fullness of my glory, or on the addition to your own blessedness, but on your own loss, disappointment, and chagrin.
7.Yet I tell you the truth. That they may no longer wish to have him present before their eyes, he testifies that his absence will be advantageous, and makes use of a sort of oath; for we are carnal, and consequently nothing is more difficult than to tear from our minds this foolish inclination, by which we attempt to draw down Christ from heaven to us. He explains where the advantage lies, by saying that the Holy Spirit could not be given to them, if he did not leave the world. But far more advantageous and far more desirable is that presence of Christ, by which he communicates himself to us through the grace and power of his Spirit, than if he were present before our eyes. And here we must not put the question, “Could not Christ have drawn down the Holy Spirit while he dwelt on earth?” For Christ takes for granted all that had been decreed by the Father and, indeed, when the Lord has once pointed out what he wishes to be done, to dispute about what is possible would be foolish and pernicious.
Though you are crushed with a sense of your approaching bereavement, and so imperfectly apprehend the conditions of your future power and the method which it is incumbent upon me to adopt for your consolation and the completion of my earthly work, nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is wonderful that he who is the Truth itself should have needed, in such various forms, to have reiterated and affirmed the supreme right he possessed to claim their acceptance of his veracity. The truth, then, thus solemnly asserted, because in their then frame of mind it was so utterly unpalatable and incredible notwithstanding all that he had said—the truth is, It is expedient for you that I go away. The ἵνα ἀπέλθω clause simply defines that which is expedient, profitable to the disciples. Many commentators, holding everywhere the relic force of ἵνα, say, with Meyer and Lange, that “ἵνα marks fact considered with regard to the purposes destined to be accomplished by it.” Here, however, the profitableness to the disciples is the chief and solitary thought. “For you:” here lies the gist of the mystery. They might have accepted his own assurance that, bitter as the mode of his departure must be, yet they ought, to and would rejoice because he was going to the Father. How was it possible for them to rejoice so far as they were personally concerned? He answers the question, For if I go not away—and surely this solemn departure meant, as he had recently told them, by the way of death and glorification—the Paraclete, of whom I have spoken, the Spirit of truth (see Joh_15:26, Joh_15:27), will not come to you; but if I go (πορευθῶ, to my Father; observe the form of the two conditional sentences, the degree of uncertainty as to the issue, to be determined by the result), I will send him to you (see notes on Joh_7:39. “The Holy Spirit,” as the Divine dispensation of grace to men bringing a renewed humanity into living incorporation with its great Head, was not yet, because Jesus was not yet glorified). Jesus could not become the Divine Life-center of the human family, radiating from himself the full glory of a universal harmony, until he had been taken up, until he had been glorified in God. Unspeakably precious as many of our earthly gifts and friendships are, we do not apprehend them, nor profit by them to the full, until they are taken from us. The youth, submitted to the condition of perfect dependence on a parent’s care and guidance, can scarcely ever reach the fullness of his manhood until he is thrown back upon the spirit of his father’s counsel, apart from that father’s presence, and brings into daily practice from a new standpoint the principles he has learned. So, without any hyperbole, nothing had ever been so wonderful and blessed to the human spirit as the fellowship which had prevailed between the Son of man and his disciples. They were with him, they sat at his feet, they watched his countenance, they experienced a continuous series of Divine surprises at his judgments and his mercies. They were walking by sight, as the children of Israel did, following the pillar of fire and cloud, and drinking of the living water; but they were nevertheless living by sight. Nevertheless, there was something more wonderful and gracious still, when, in his physical absence, they would have the sense of his spiritual presence. They would lose him as an earthly Friend, but they would regain him as a Divine Reality; they would discover more than his humanity in his God-Manhood. They would wield his Divine Word as their weapon, and would become the channels of his healing and convincing and judging powers. The promise, “I will send him,” is the guarantee of something more than a “Christ after the flesh” could ever be.
8.And when he is come. Passing by the diversity of expositions, which we have received in consequence of the obscurity of the passage, I shall only state what appears to me to be in accordance with Christ’s true meaning. He had promised his Spirit to the disciples; and now he praises the excellence of the gift from its effect, because this Spirit will not only guide, support, and protect them in private, but will extend more widely his power and efficacy.
He will convince the world; that is, he will not remain shut up in you, but; his power will go forth from you to be displayed to the whole world. He therefore promises to them aSpirit, who will be the Judge of the world, and by whom their preaching will be so powerful and efficacious, that it will bring into subjection those who formerly indulged in unbounded licentiousness, and were restrained by no fear or reverence.
It ought to be observed, that in this passage Christ does not speak of secret revelations, but of the power of the Spirit, which appears in the outward doctrine of the Gospel, and in the voice of men. For how comes it that the voice proceeding from the mouth of a man penetrates into the hearts, takes root there, and at length yields fruit, changing hearts of stone into hearts of flesh, and renewing men, but because the Spirit of Christ quickens it? Otherwise it would be a dead letter and a useless sound, as Paul says in that beautiful passage, in which he boasts of being a minister of the Spirit, (2Co_3:6,) because God wrought powerfully in his doctrine. The meaning therefore is, that, though the Spirit had been given to the apostles, they would be endued with a heavenly and Divine power, by which they would exercise jurisdiction over the whole world. Now, this is ascribed to the Spirit rather than to themselves, because they will have no power of their own, but will be only ministers and organs, and the Holy Spirit will be their director and governor.
Under the term world are, I think, included not only those who would be truly converted to Christ, but hypocrites and reprobates. For there are two ways in which the Spirit convinces men by the preaching of the Gospel. Some are moved in good earnest, so as to bow down willingly, and to assent willingly to the judgment by which they are condemned. Others, though they are convinced of guilt and cannot escape, yet do not sincerely yield, or submit themselves to the authority and jurisdiction of the Holy Spirit, but, on the contrary, being subdued they groan inwardly, and, being overwhelmed with confusion, still do not cease to cherish obstinacy within their hearts.
We now perceive in what manner the Spirit was to convince the world by the apostles. It was, because God revealed his judgment in the Gospel, by which their consciences were struck, and began to perceive their evils and the grace of God. for the verb ἐλέγχειν here signifies to convince or convict; and, for understanding this passage, not a little light will be obtained from the words of the Apostle Paul, when he says,
If all shall prophesy, and an unbeliever or unlearned man enter, he is convicted by all, he is judged by all, and thus shall the secrets of his heart be made manifest, (1Co_14:23.)
In that passage Paul speaks particularly of one kind of conviction, that is; when the Lord brings his elect to repentance by the Gospel; but this plainly shows in what manner the Spirit of God, by the sound of the human voice, constrains men, who formerly were not accustomed to his yoke, to acknowledge and submit to his authority.
A question now arises, For what purpose did Christ say this? Some think that he points out the cause of the hatred which he had mentioned; as if he had said, that the reason why they will be hated by the world is, that the Spirit, on the other hand, will earnestly solicit the world by means of them. But I rather agree with those who tell us that the design of Christ was different, as I stated briefly at the commencement of the exposition of this verse; for it was of great importance that the apostles should know that the gift of the Spirit, which had been promised to them, was of no ordinary value. He therefore describes its uncommon excellence, by saying that God will, in this way, erect his tribunal forjudging the whole world.
And he, when he is come (ἐλθω ́ν). A right royal assurance. The Holy Spirit will come, as my grace and the result of my sending. He will convict the world. Little doubt is now entertained that this ἔλεγχος implies the refutation of error, the discovery of wrong-doing, the bringing it home to the person convinced, and thus convicted (Joh_3:20; Joh_8:9, Joh_8:46; 1Co_14:24; Tit_1:9; Jas_2:9); making such a one see that he is open to the condemnation of conscience, or of men, or of the Law of God. This conviction may in some cases lead to conversion and deliverance, but is distinct from it, and sometimes also may issue after such a manifestation in hardness and impenitence. The patristic interpretation (Authorized version and Hengstenberg), “He will reprove,” might pass as a fair translation of the word, in its reference to sin, but would have small meaning as applied to righteousness or judgment. Meyer, Godet, Luthardt, Lange, Westcott, Stier, and Moulton agree that ἔλεγξει means more than “reprove,” less than “convince.” The world is spoken of, not Jews merely, or their leaders. Humanity itself, with its false standards of judgment, and its self-complacency, is to be convicted of being in the wrong; all kings, princes, potentates, priests, and publicans, who are out of harmony with God, wilt be convicted by the Paraclete. The conviction of the world is threefold—in respect of sin, in respect of righteousness, and in respect of judgment. The three great categories of thought, custom, and conduct; the three themes where the world is in infinite need of being compelled to see that it is altogether in the wrong. The disciples are to overcome the whole world by the intensity with which they will be instrumentally the occasion of this conviction. The world under the depressing and distracting influence of its own principles, as well as its passions, has misconceived the whole nature of “sin,” the entire mystery of “righteousness,” the certainty of retribution, and the things and principles on which condign “judgment” must fall. The Advocate, the Divine, indwelling Spirit of the truth, whom Christ will send into his disciples as compensation for his own absence, will through them do this strange and tremendous work. Our Lord does not hero promise the conversion of mankind, but such a conviction that the blessed consequence may follow. The first great step will be taken.
9.Of sin. It now remains that we see what it is to convince of sin Christ appears to make unbelief the only cause of sin, and this is tortured by commentators in various ways; but, as I have already said, I do not intend to detail the opinions which have been held and advanced. First, it ought to be observed, that the judgment of the Spirit commences with the demonstration of sin; for the commencement of spiritual instruction is, that men born in sin have nothing in them but what leads to sin Again, Christ mentioned unbelief, in order to show what is the nature of men in itself for, since faith is the bond by which he is united to us, until we believe in him, we are out of him and separated from him. The import of these words is as if he had said, “When the Spirit is come, he will produce full conviction that, apart from me, sin reigns in the world; ” and, therefore, unbelief is here mentioned, because it separates us from Christ, in consequence of which nothing is left to us but sin In short, by these words he condemns the corruption and depravity of human nature, that we may not suppose that a single drop of integrity is in us without Christ.
The three elements of this conviction of the world are separately treated. In respect of sin, because they believe not on me. The ὅτι, has been restricted by Meyer to “so far as,” as though the conviction with respect to sin was limited to a charge of specific unbelief; and Hengstenberg would render it “consisting in this, that,” etc. But surely the full causal force of the particle is to be pressed, “because they believe not on me.” The essence of all sin is unbelief, a refusal to surrender heart and will to the Divine will and authority, though the world generally had taken different views of it: supposing “sin” to be disobedience to some particular class of duties, or the neglect of certain specific ceremonial. Christ declares that the Spirit which has always been striving with men to bring them into reconciliation with God, will now convict the world that its sinful tendencies and principles have reached their highest and most willful expression in unbelief εἰς ἐμέ, towards me. The most complete manifestation of God has received from the world the most utter and insensate repudiation. The very nature of sin thus stands revealed, the leprosy of sin will come out on the smiling self-complacency of the world. It will no longer be able to charge upon Adam, nor the devil, nor upon natures nor upon temptations of the flesh, the blame of sin; but will take the guilt home, and see that, in this crowning act of human folly, unbelievers have rendered themselves personally liable to condemnation, and, by rejecting infinite love as well as eternal law, have left themselves without excuse.
10.Of righteousness. We must attend to the succession of steps which Christ lays down. He now says that the world must be convinced of righteousness; for men will never hunger and thirst for righteousness, but, on the contrary, will disdainfully reject all that is said concerning it, if they have not been moved by a conviction of sin As to believers particularly, we ought to understand that they cannot make progress in the Gospel till they have first been humbled; and this cannot take place, till they have acknowledged their sins. It is undoubtedly the peculiar office of the Law to summon consciences to the judgment-seat of God, and to strike them with terror; but the Gospel cannot be preached in a proper manner, till it lead men from sin to righteousness, and from death to life; and, therefore, it is necessary to borrow from the Law that first clause of which Christ spoke.
By righteousness must here be understood that which is imparted to us through the grace of Christ. Christ makes it to consist in his ascension to the Father, and not without good reason; for, as Paul declares that he rose for our justification, (Rom_4:25) so he now sits at the right hand of the Father in such a manner as to exercise all the authority that has been given to him, and thus to fill all things, (Eph_4:10.) In short, from the heavenly glory he fills the world with the sweet savor of his righteousness Now the Spirit declares, by the Gospel, that this is the only way in which we are accounted righteous Next to the conviction of sin, this is the second step, that the Spirit should convince the world what true righteousness is, namely, that Christ, by his ascension to heaven, has established the kingdom of life, and now sits at the right hand of the Father, to confirm true righteousness
Cambridge Bible Plummer
10. righteousness] The word occurs here only in this Gospel; but comp. 1Jn_2:29; 1Jn_3:7; 1Jn_3:10; Rev_19:11. Righteousness is the keeping of the law, and is the natural result of faith; so much so that faith is reckoned as if it were righteousness (Rom_4:3-9), so certain is this result regarded. Here ‘righteousness’ is used not in the lower sense of keeping prescribed ordinances (Mat_3:15), but in the highest and widest sense of keeping the law of God; internal as well as external obedience. The lower sense was almost the only sense both to Jew and Gentile (Mat_5:20). The Spirit, having convinced man that sin is much more than a breaking of certain ordinances, viz. a rejection of God and His Christ, goes on to convince him that righteousness is much more than a keeping of certain ordinances.
I go to my Father] Better, I go away (see on Joh_16:7) to the Father; ‘My’ is wanting in the best texts. Once more ‘because’ explains ‘will convict,’ not ‘righteousness.’ The life of Christ on earth as the pattern for all mankind being completed, and the reconciliation of man to God being completed also, the Spirit makes known to man the nature of that life, and thus shews what the nature of righteousness is. Sin being resistance to God’s will, righteousness is perfect harmony with it.
ye see me no more] ‘Contemplate’ or behold would be better than ‘see’ comp. Joh_16:16, Joh_6:40; Joh_6:62, Joh_7:3, Joh_14:19, &c.). He shews His disciples that He has sympathy for them; in speaking of His return to glory He does not forget the sorrow which they feel and expect (erroneously, as Act_2:46 shews) always to feel.
In respect of righteousness, because I go to the Father, and ye behold me no more. Not merely that the world will be led to form a new conception of righteousness, seeing that God has exalted him whom they have condemned as a malefactor,—that would really, with Lucke and Meyer, limit this “righteousness” to a judgment concerning the guiltlessness of Christ; nor can we, with Luther, etc., regard it as equivalent to the δικαιοσύνη of Rom_1:17, the righteous attribute and righteous process by which God is able to treat as righteous those who believe. This is the only place in the Gospel where the word occurs, and it can scarcely bear the technical significance of the great theological discussions with which it was afterwards associated. Schaff has called attention to the vulgate translation justitia, which is represented in the Rheims English version by “justice,” and reminds us how Archdeacon Hare urges that “righteousness” and “justice” correspond to the entire theology of the Protestant and Romanist Churches. The Protestant sees in “righteousness” an ideal never reached by the human will in its own strength; the Romanist, by the term “justice,” embodies itself in outward acts. The idea of righteousness involves the demand for purity; the idea of justice, one for cleanness. But seeing that Christ had all along called urgent attention to the fact that that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God, and that the righteousness of his kingdom must exceed “the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees,” it becomes clear that his exaltation to the right hand of the Father would exhibit God’s ideal of righteousness; and by the aid of the Holy Spirit working through the word of the apostles, the world’s view of these things would be utterly subverted, the world would be silenced, convicted of being utterly in the wrong in its idea of righteousness as well as in its judgment upon the nature of sin. The idea of righteousness will be expanded and transfigured; the idea of sin will be deepened and intensified and brought home. Stier has, with great eloquence and power, pressed the other view, which makes the ἐλέγχος of the Holy Ghost nothing short of this—that there is no other righteousness for men than the righteousness of God in Christ and the righteousness of Christ before God. Notice, nevertheless, the occasions on which the world was brought to recognize the triumph of Christ’s righteousness and confusion of its own prejudices (Act_2:27, Act_2:31; Act_3:14; Act_7:52).
11.Of judgment. Those who understand the word (κρίσεως) judgment as signifying condemnation, have some argument on their side; for Christ immediately adds, that the prince of this world hath been judged But I prefer a different opinion, namely, that, the light of the Gospel having been kindled, the Spirit manifests that the world has been brought into a state of good order by the victory of Christ, by which he overturned the authority of Satan; as if he had said, that this is a true restoration, by which all things are reformed, when Christ alone holds the kingdom, having subdued and triumphed over Satan. Judgment, therefore, is contrasted with what is confused and disordered, or, to express it briefly, it is the opposite (τὢς ἀταξίας) of confusion, or, we might call it righteousness, a sense which it often bears in Scripture. The meaning therefore is, that Satan, so long as he retains the government, perplexes and disturbs all things, so that there is an unseemly and disgraceful confusion in the works of God; but when he is stripped of his tyranny by Christ, then the world is restored, and good order is seen to reign. Thus the Spirit convinces the world of judgment; that is, having vanquished the prince of wickedness, Christ restores to order those things which formerly were torn and decayed.
In respect of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. The conviction of sin will have a peculiarly and specially subjective cause; that of judgment will, like that of righteousness, be preceded by two stupendous objective facts—the exaltation of Christ and the judgment of Satan. The glorification of the Son of man, to the extent of his being declared to be the Son of God with power, will be the grand event which human nature will be powerless to counteract or ultimately to resist. “Know assuredly that this same Jesus whom you have crucified is both Lord and Christ.” The judgment of the prince of this world is also a fact lying outside the politics of the world, which may fume and rage as it will; it is beyond the reach of the philosophy or literature, the courts or armies, the fashions or the force, of this world. The central prince and spirit of the world is judged by the Lord Jesus, and condemned; and the time is coming when the old standard of judgment will be cast out, and the world will be compelled to admit that it has been vanquished (Joh_12:31). The conviction concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment, by the aid of the Advocate whom Christ will send, will become the great work of the apostles and of the Church, until he comes again in his glory. While commenting upon this sublime assurance the awful process must not be forgotten, nor the fact that the prince of the world dies hard. The atrocious wickedness which burst out after the exaltation of Christ among the people who had rejected their Lord, and the consummation of the mystery of iniquity in the Roman empire, was a part of the providential conviction of the world. Archdeacon Hare, in his ‘ Mission of the Comforter,’ insists that the entire conviction of judgment, righteousness, and sin must be the work of “the Comforter;” that all the objective facts, all the teaching of example, all the thunder of prophecy, nay, all the outward demonstration of sin, righteousness, and judgment, made in and by the incarnation and sacrifice of Christ, must be complemented by the grace of the Holy Spirit on individuals, nations, and humanity at large; and that it is in the capacity of human “Comforter,” or “Advocate,” that this conviction is wrought.
Pop Comm BIble Schaff
Joh_16:9-11. Concerning sin, because they believe not in me: and concerning righteousness, because I go away to the Father, and ye no longer behold me: and concerning judgment, because the prince of this world hath been judged. The general work of conviction to be effected by the Spirit having been stated in Joh_16:8, the several particulars are next explained more fully. The point of view from which all are to be looked at is that of the controversy with the world in which Jesus had Himself been engaged. So long as He was on the earth this controversy was left unsettled; but after His departure, His disciples, in the power of the promised Advocate, shall bring it to a triumphant issue. The first part of that controversy had reference to sin. The world had cast on Jesus the imputation of sin (chaps. Joh_5:18, Joh_7:20, etc.); and, on the other hand, His whole work and life had been first directed to bring the charge of sin home to the world. But the world had no just idea of what sin was. It thought of gross violations of the Divine law, or of violations of positive religious ceremonial: of sin in its true sense, not only as a departure from truth and love, but as even a failing to recognise and welcome these with all the affection of the heart and devotion of the life, it had no idea. Hence the work here spoken of—the work of Him who was at once the Advocate of Jesus and of His disciples. He shall convict the world of wrong in its estimate of Jesus, and thus also in its estimate of itself. He shall bring home to the world the fact that it believed not in Jesus, did not trust itself to Him as the impersonation of Divine truth and love, and that in this lay sin. Nay, not only so, the world shall learn that in this lies the very essence and root of all sin, for it is really a rejection of the Father manifested in Jesus—it is hating the light and choosing darkness (chap. Joh_3:21, etc.). Thus it was unnecessary to speak of other sins: this was the crowning sin, inclusive of them all.
The second part of the controversy of Jesus with the world had reference to righteousness;—in what righteousness really lay, what the true nature of righteousness was. The world boasted of its righteousness; in its form as the Jewish world it was proud of its fathers, of its outward inheritance from them, and of itself. Jesus had pronounced that righteousness to be worthless (Mat_5:20, etc.). Again, which of them is right? The Advocate, working in the disciples, shall decide the controversy in such a manner that the world shall be silenced. He will bring home to it the truth that, notwithstanding its rejection of Jesus, the Father has received Him, and has set His seal upon Him as His Righteous One. Hence the last words of Joh_16:10, ‘because I go away unto the Father, and ye no longer behold me,’—words which do not seem to mean that the realm of faith shall henceforth be the abiding state of the kingdom of God on earth, and the home of the righteousness which is of faith, but which appear simply to give expression to that removal from the bodily sight of the disciples which is the essential concomitant of the glorifying. They gently explain that what brought such grief to those who were now to be separated from their Lord was the very means of accomplishing the great purpose that the Father had in view—the settlement of the controversy as to His Son, and the manifestation of what the Son really was. It is interesting to notice how the disciples, at a time when the work of conviction here spoken of had begun, dwell upon that characteristic of Jesus which is thus referred to (Act_3:14; Act_7:52; Act_22:14; Rom_1:1, etc.).
The third part of the work of conviction is that of judgment; and it has reference to the same controversy to which, as we have seen, the two previous parts of the work of the Spirit are related. The world had judged Jesus; but He, on the other hand, had judged the world; and His judgment would be proved to be just when the Advocate should enable the disciples to bring home to the world that it was founded upon eternal reality and truth. ‘The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life’ were now the objects of the world’s ambition and pursuit; but a day was coming when it should be compelled to acknowledge a different standard of judgment; when it should discover, with terror and dismay, that its past standard had been altogether false; that what it had approved was passing away; that what it had despised was abiding for ever. Then should it see that its very prince had been judged in a manner against which there was no appeal, and that, instead of being the conqueror, he had throughout been the conquered. Then should the world be constrained to confess that it had been madly attempting to reverse the position of the everlasting scales, and had been foiled in the attempt.
Such, then, is the great work of the Holy Spirit upon the world during the whole period that was to pass between the departure of Jesus to His Father and His coming again in glory. It will be observed that it is the same work which Jesus had Himself carried on, that is now completed by the ‘other’ Advocate. The difference does not lie so much in the nature as in the effect of the work: to the one period belongs the beginning of the controversy; to the other, the final decision. It is also clear that the conviction spoken of is to be understood in the same sense throughout. It is not primarily a work of conversion (although it may lead to conversion) that is referred to: it is a work that confounds and overwhelms the world when, as God gives His judgments unto the King and His righteousness unto the King’s Son, ‘they that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before Him, and His enemies shall lick the dust’ (Psa_72:9). That work is the glory of the Church of Christ as she takes her Master’s place in the world; and, when she remembers that it could not be done, did not the exalted Redeemer send down to her His all-powerful Spirit, she may well feel that it was ‘expedient for her that He should go away.’
12.I have still many things to say to you. Christ’s discourse could not have so much influence over his disciples, as to prevent their ignorance from still keeping them in perplexity about many things; and not only so, but they scarcely obtained a slight taste of those things which ought to have imparted to them full satisfaction, had it not been for the obstruction arising from the weakness of the flesh. It was, therefore, impossible but that the consciousness of their poverty should oppress them with fear and anxiety. But Christ meets it by this consolation, that, when they have received the Spirit, they will be new men, and altogether different from what they were before.
But you are not able to bear them now. When he says that, were he to tell them anything more, or what was loftier, they would not be able to bear it, his object is to encourage them by the hope of better progress, that they may not lose courage; for the grace which he was to bestow on them ought not to be estimated by their present feelings, since they were at so great a distance from heaven. In short, he bids them be cheerful and courageous, whatever may be their present weakness. But as there was nothing else than doctrine on which they could rely, Christ reminds them that he had accommodated it to their capacity, yet so as to lead them to expect that they would soon afterwards obtain loftier and more abundant instruction; as if he had said, “If what you have heard from me is not yet sufficient to confirm you, have patience for a little; for ere long, having enjoyed the teaching of the Spirit, you will need nothing more; he will remove all the ignorance that now remains in you.”
Now arises a question, what were those things which the apostles were not yet able to learn? The Papists, for the purpose of putting forward their inventions as the oracles of God, wickedly abuse this passage. “Christ,” they tell us, “promised to the apostles new revelations; and, therefore, we must not abide solely by Scripture, for something beyond Scripture is here promised by him to his followers.” In the first place, if they choose to talk with Augustine, the solution will be easily obtained. His words are, “Since Christ is silent, which of us shall say that it was this or that? Or, if he shall venture to say so, how shall he prove it? Who is so rash and insolent, even though he say what is true, as to affirm, without any Divine testimony, that those are the things which the Lord at that time did not choose to say?” But we have a surer way of refuting them, taken from Christ’s own words, which follow.
Notwithstanding the abundance of the revelations which Christ had given, still, said he, I have many things yet to tell you, but ye cannot bear them now (ἄρτι); i.e. at this epoch of your training. Christ (Joh_14:18, etc., in a passage which he proceeds to enlarge and deepen) has already said that the coming to them of the Paraclete would be one method of his own Divine approach to them for purposes of consolation and instruction; consequently he does not now allow them to suppose that, though separated from them by death, he would ever cease to instruct them. They could not in their present condition, and before the great events should have happened—events on which so much revealing fact would turn—bear the revelation of these “many things.” Pentecost will enable them to appreciate the full mystery of love. The word used for “bear” is that which is used (Joh_19:17) to describe the bearing of the cross by Christ himself. Some have found in these “many things” new articles of doctrine which have been preserved by tradition; and others, a development of truths already presented in germ; and others, again, much of the future order of the world and the Church, such as gradually evolved itself to the vision and insight and spiritual wisdom of apostolic men. But they could not, on the eve of the Passion, have borne the full mystery of the atonement, or sufficiently have comprehended the glory of the enthroned King.
Joh_16:12. I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Jesus is about to draw His instructions and consolations to a close. He does so by returning to the great promise of the Spirit already given in chap. Joh_14:26. Yet there is a difference between the promise there and here; and the difference, as usual, is one of climax. Teaching of a higher kind is now to be referred to, for the element of experience comes in. It is not enough to have been taught by Jesus Himself. The disciples were to take their Master’s place, and to carry on His work. The Spirit, then, who had been His strength, must be also theirs. Thus it is not so much new teaching that they need as the old teaching in a new way, brought home to their hearts with a new power. It is, indeed, often supposed that the ‘many things’ here spoken of refer to new truths. This seems improbable. We can hardly suppose that Jesus had left any large part of His revelation not given, especially when He had so often spoken of the revelation of ‘the Father,’ as if it contained the sum and substance of religious truth. Besides this, we have already seen that in the words of Jesus ‘all things’ are implicitly contained (comp. on chap. Joh_14:26). And, further, the word ‘bear’ does not mean to apprehend; it is to bear as a burden, and the most glorious and encouraging truths may become a burden to one too immature to bear them.
Not, therefore, because the disciples could not in a certain sense even now understand further revelation, but because they had not yet the Christian experience to give that revelation power, does Jesus say that they cannot bear the many things that He has yet to say unto them. When shall they, or when shall the Church, be able to understand them? The answer is, When at any stage of their or her future history the ‘many things’ are needed, and so may have their power felt. But just because of this they need not be, as the whole context teaches us they are not to be, new truths. They are old truths made new, expanded, unfolded (as we see especially in the Epistles of Paul), illumined by receiving light from the lessons of history, when these are read in the spirit of Christian trust and confidence and hope, but not wholly new. There will not be in them one revelation, strictly so called, that was not in the words of Jesus Himself: but their ever greater depths shall be seen as the relations of the Church and of the world respectively become more complex. It has been so in the past: it will be so in the future. There is no reason to think that the treasure in the words of Jesus will ever be exhausted: it contains, according to the seeming paradox of the apostle, what we are ‘to know,’ although it ‘passeth knowledge’ (Eph_3:19). This is the true development of Christian insight and experience, not the false development of Rome.
13.But when he is come, the Spirit of truth. The Spirit, whom Christ promised to the apostles, is declared to be perfect Master or Teacher of truth And why was he promised, but that they might deliver from hand to hand the wisdom which they had received from him? The Spirit was given to them, and under his guidance and direction they discharged the office to which they had been appointed.
He will lead you into all truth. That very Spirit had lead them into all truth, when they committed to writing the substance of their doctrine. Whoever imagines that anything must be added to their doctrine, as if it were imperfect and but half-finished, not only accuses the apostles of dishonesty, but blasphemes against the Spirit If the doctrine which they committed to writing had proceeded from mere learners or persons imperfectly taught, an addition to it would not have been superfluous; but now that their writings may be regarded as perpetual records of that revelation which was promised and given to them, nothing can be added to them without doing grievous injury to the Holy Spirit.
When they come to determine what those things actually were, the Papists act a highly ridiculous part, for they define those mysteries, which the apostles were unable to bear, to be certain childish fooleries, the most absurd and stupid things that can be imagined. Was it necessary that the Spirit should come down from heaven that the apostles might learn what ceremony must be used in consecrating cups with their altars, in baptizing church-bells, in blessing the holy water, and in celebrating Mass? Whence then do fools and children obtain their learning, who understand all those matters most thoroughly? Nothing is more evident than that the Papists mock God, when they pretend that those things came from heaven, which resemble as much the mysteries of Ceres or Proserpine as they are at variance with the pure wisdom of the Holy Spirit.
If we do not wish to be ungrateful to God, let us rest satisfied with that doctrine of which the writings of the apostles declare them to be the authors, since in it the highest perfection of heavenly wisdom is made known to us, fitted to make the man of God perfect (2Ti_3:17.) Beyond this let us not reckon ourselves at liberty to go; for our height, and breadth, and depth, consist in knowing the love of God, which is manifested to us in Christ. This knowledge, as Paul informs us, far exceeds all learning, (Eph_3:18;) and when he declares that all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ, (Col_2:3,) he does not contrive some unknown Christ, but one whom by his preaching he painted to the life, so that, as he tells the Galatians, we see him, as it were, crucified before our eyes, (Gal_3:1.)
But that no ambiguity may remain, Christ himself afterwards explains by his own words what those things are which the apostles were not yet able to bear.
He will tell you things which are to come Some indeed limit this to the Spirit of prophecy; but, in my opinion, it denotes rather the future condition of his spiritual kingdom, such as the apostles, soon after his resurrection, saw it to be, but were at that time utterly unable to comprehend. He does not therefore promise them prophecies of things that would happen after their death, but means only that the nature of his kingdom will be widely different, and its glory far greater than their minds are now able to conceive. The Apostle Paul, in the Epistle to the Ephesians, from the first chapter to the close of the fourth, explains the treasures of this hidden wisdom, which the heavenly angels learn with astonishment from the Church; and therefore we need not go to seek them from the archives or repositories of the Pope.
For he will not speak from himself This is a confirmation of the clause, He will lead you into all truth. We know that God is the fountain of truth, and that out of Him there is nothing that is firm or sure; and, therefore, that the apostles may safely place full confidence in the oracles of the Spirit, Christ declares that they will be divine oracles; as if he had said, that every thing which the Holy Spirit shall bring proceeds from God himself. And yet these words take nothing away from the majesty of the Spirit, as if he were not God, or as if he were inferior to the Father, but are accommodated to the capacity of our understanding; for the reason why his Divinity is expressly mentioned is, because, on account of the veil that is between us, we do not sufficiently understand with what reverence we ought to receive what the Spirit reveals to us. In like manner, he is elsewhere called the earnest, by which God ratifies to us our salvation, and the seal, by which he seals to us its certainty, (Eph_1:13.) In short, Christ intended to teach that the doctrine of the Spirit would not be of this world, as if it were produced in the air, but that it would proceed from the secret places of the heavenly sanctuary.
Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come. This points to the definite promise already made (conditioned by his own departure, and so rendering that departure “expedient”) when the Spirit of truth is come, having been sent by me from the Father. He will be your Guide into the truth in all its parts. As Godet says, “The reading εἰς suits ὁδηγη ́σει better than ἐν.” A most glorious promise this, for as days of darkness and perplexity draw on, fresh needs will arise. The “many things” which would thus be said must be presumed to have been said on highest authority; and hence the unapproachable dignity of the apostles themselves; hence the secret of all their binding and loosing power; hence the revelations they have been able to supply with reference to Christ and salvation, glory, duty, and eternal life, and all the laws of the kingdom. From this vast promise we see the sufficiency of the apostolic teaching, and by implication the portion of it which is committed to writing. Our Lord had delivered to his disciples “nothing but the truth;” but from the nature of the case they must wait for the truth in its completeness, the whole truth of salvation and deliverance. But our Lord proceeds to show that the infallibility of the Holy Spirit is not that he will be a secondary, or tertiary, or independent Divinity. Like Christ, the Son of God, who was in the bosom of the Father (see Joh_7:17, Joh_7:18; Joh_8:28), so he who proceedeth from the Father will not speak from himself, as from any spontaneous, independent source. He is, in his gracious operations, no rival Deity, but the Spirit of the Father and the Son (comp. Joh_8:44, where the essence of the lie is that the devil speaketh of his own), and whatsoever things he shall hear (or, heareth, or, shall have heard), that shall he speak. The verb “hear” is used absolutely, and has been variously completed with the words, “of me” or “of the Father,” whether verbally supplemented or not. We learn that the Holy Spirit is limited by the revelation already involved in the great fact of the Incarnation. “He will speak” of that which he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are coming. The revelation will concern Christ and the future. The whole New Testament, so far as it is apostolic, is here declared to be the work inspired by the Spirit’s guidance of the apostles’ mind into the truth in all its completeness and in all its parts. Some, like Westcott, refer the ἐρχο ́μενα to “the constitution of the Christian Church;” but the most satisfactory view is that the Spirit would himself be the Source of the prophetic hope and wondrous vision of the future which pervades the apostolic writings. Hengstenberg runs here into great detail. His remark is of deep interest—that such a promise should be found in the Fourth Gospel, preluding those sublime premonitions which the beloved disciple, when “in the Spirit,” received and recorded concerning the things which are and are to come (Rev_1:19). Not only in the writings of John, but of Peter, and in the prophetic spirit given to Paul, we see how the Lord the Spirit fulfilled the promise.
14.He will glorify me Christ now reminds them that the Spirit will not come to erect any new kingdom, but rather to confirm the glory which has been given to him by the Father. For many foolishly imagine that Christ taught only so as to lay down the first lessons, and then to send the disciples to a higher school. In this way they make the Gospel to be of no greater value than the Law, of which it is said that it was a schoolmaster of the ancient people, (Gal_3:24.)
This error is followed by another equally intolerable, that, having bid adieu to Christ, as if his reign were terminated, and he were now nothing at all, they substitute the Spirit in his place. From this source the sacrileges of Popery and Mahometanism have flowed; for, though those two Antichrists differ from each other in many respects, still they agree in holding a common principle; and that is, that in the Gospel we receive the earliest instructions to lead us into the right faith, but that we must seek elsewhere the perfection of doctrine, that it may complete the course of our education. If Scripture is quoted against the Pope, he maintains that we ought not to confine ourselves to it, because the Spirit is come, and has carried us above Scripture by many additions. Mahomet asserts that, without his Alcoran, men always re-main children. Thus, by a false pretense of the Spirit, the world was bewitched to depart from the simple purity of Christ; for, as soon as the Spirit is separated from the word of Christ, the door is open to all kinds of delusions and impostures. A similar method of deceiving has been attempted, in the present age, by many fanatics. The written doctrine appeared to them to be literal, and, therefore, they chose to contrive a new theology that would consist of revelations.
We now see that the information given by Christ, that he would be glorified by the Spirit whom he should send, is far from being superfluous; for it was intended to inform us, that the office of the Holy Spirit was nothing else than to establish the kingdom of Christ, and to maintain and confirm for ever all that was given him by the Father. Why then does he speak of the Spirit’s teaching? Not to withdraw us from the school of Christ, but rather to ratify that word by which we are commanded to listen to him, otherwise he would diminish the glory of Christ. The reason is added, Christ says,
For he will take of what is mine. By these words he means that we receive the Spirit in order that we may enjoy Christ’s blessings. For what does he bestow on us? That we may be washed by the blood of Christ, that sin may be blotted out in us by his death, that our old man may be crucified, (Rom_6:6,) that his resurrection may be efficacious in forming us again to newness of life, (Rom_6:4;) and, in short, that we may become partakers of his benefits. Nothing, therefore, is bestowed on us by the Spirit apart from Christ, but he takes it from Christ, that he may communicate it to us. We ought to take the same view of his doctrine; for he does not enlighten us, in order to draw us away in the smallest degree from Christ, but to fulfill what Paul says, that Christ is made to us wisdom, (1Co_1:30,) and likewise to display those treasures which are hidden in Christ, (Col_2:3.) In a word, the Spirit enriches us with no other than the riches of Christ, that he may display his glory in all things.
He shall glorify me. Christ has spoken of being straightway glorified, lifted into the fullness of the Godhead, glorified in God himself (Joh_13:32). This statement is partly explanatory of that, but is also an addition to the previous assurance. The Spirit will glorify the God-Man, will augment the luster of his blessed Name, will crown him with honor, and multiply the mirrors of his majesty and the subjects of his power; and the reason is given: For he shall take of mine, and (for the second time, ἀναγγελει ͂ ὑμῖν) declare it to you. Christ is here profoundly conscious of the abundance of truth and reality involved in himself and in his functions, in the work he is doing and will continue to do. He is mournfully alive to the fact that the disciples were not able to perceive what there was in him without supernatural aid. The Spirit of God will augment Christ’s glory in the Church, seeing that he will reveal to men the Person and glory of the Christ, by inward processes, by vivid spiritual intuitions, by mental exercises which we are quite ready to confess are far beyond the compass of logic, and break through all laws of induction or evolution. This is the high function of the Spirit in inspiration—to take of that which belongs to the Son of God, and so to quicken the spiritual faculty of men that they can and do understand it. “The Spirit searcheth all things, even the depths of Deity,” and reveals them to those who receive the Holy Ghost. Our Lord declares that all truth is implicitly contained in himself. In Joh_14:1-31. he said, “I am the Truth” about God and about man, and about the relation of man to God. The Spirit will draw aside the veils which hide this truth, will draw forth the hidden harmonies contained in this wondrous Personality. Such continuous revelation is from glory to glory (2Co_3:17, 2Co_3:18). St. Paul at the close of his ministry was aware of unfathomed treasures still hidden in the Christ, and he put before himself, as the goal of his highest ambition, “that I may know him” (Php_3:10).
15.All things that the Father hath are mine. As it might be thought that Christ took away from the Father what he claimed for himself, he acknowledges that he has received from the Father all that he communicates to us by the Spirit. When he says that all things that the Father hath are his, he speaks in the person of the Mediator, for we must draw out of his fullness, (Joh_1:16.) He always keeps his eye on us, as we have said. We see, on the other hand, how the greater part of men deceive themselves; for they pass by Christ, and go out of the way to seek God by circuitous paths.
Other commentators explain these words to mean, that all that the Father hath belongs equally to the Son, because he is the same God. But here he does not speak of his hidden and intrinsic power, as it is called, but of that office which he has been appointed to exercise toward us. In short, he speaks of his riches, that he may invite us to enjoy them, and reckons the Spirit among the gifts which we receive from the rather by his hand.
In this verse our Lord makes a still more superlative claim. All things which the Father hath (ὅσα ἔχει) are mine. Perhaps no sentence recorded by St. John is more difficult to reconcile with the mere humanity of our Lord, even of the loftiest kind. The “mine” of the previous verse is declared to embrace something more than the mystery of his Person and sacrifice. “All that the Father hath,” all his fullness of being, all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, all the power, all the effulgence of the glory of the Father, of the human race, and of all things, “are mine.” This makes a spiritual apprehension of Christ include a perfect revelation of all the Father’s character and work. Therefore said I, that he (the Spirit of truth, in being your Guide into all the truth) taketh of mine, and will declare (it) unto you. Because “mine is the Father’s, and the Father’s is mine;” because, i.e., he is the Center, and Agent, and Motive, and Force in all the Divine self-revelation, and because he possessed as his own this vast range, this infinite fullness of Divine operations, he promised them this spiritual teaching, and assured them that his highest glory was simply to be made known as he is. Calvin, “We see how the greater part of men deceive themselves; for they pass by Christ, and go out of the way to seek God by circuitous paths.”
In these verses we have a very abundant exhibition of the unity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, coupled with a very remarkable setting forth of the tri-personality. The Father “hath” (ἔχει) that which is in very. essence the Son’s (ἐμα); and the Spirit, whose purpose is to glorify the Son by making him known to men (λαμβάνει), takes of “mine” and will declare it (see Stier, Schaff, note to Lange). Luthardt once thought with Stier, but now limits the reference, without giving any reason for it, to what he calls “the deposit of Divine truth in the humanity of Jesus.” The sum of this astonishing assurance is that the Holy Spirit of truth, an essential element if not Personality in the Godhead, will lead these apostles into the fullness of truth, and of knowledge of the future, by taking up the essential realities of the Christ in the fullness of his being and work, and disclosing them by spiritual insight and supernatural quickening. These realities of the Christ will prove to be the fullness of the Father’s heart—all that the Father hath. Again we ask—Does St. John even here travel beyond his prologue?