Jesus tell his disciples that persecution is coming. He teaches on the ministry of the Spirit. The disciples’ sorrow will turn to joy. In the world they will have trouble, but they can take courage, because he has overcome the world.
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Persecution Is Coming (John 16:1-4a)
1 I have spoken these things to you so that you may not fall away. 2 They will put you out of the synagogue, but the hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he is offering service to God. 3 And they will do these things because they have not known neither the Father nor me. 4a But I have spoken these things to you so that when their hour comes, you may remember them that I have told you.
Since the verb believe and the noun faith are so important in John’s Gospel, I would like to plant word studies at the beginning of each chapter. Then you can scroll back up here to read what the terms mean. I keep reposting this word study because this is online writing, so cost per printed page is not a concern.
The verb believe (verb is pisteuō, pronounced pih-stew-oh) and the noun faith have to penetrate one’s whole being. Now let’s study them more formally. The noun faith is pistis (pronounced peace-teace or pis-tiss), and it is used 243 times. Its basic meaning is the “belief, trust, confidence,” and it can also mean “faithfulness” and “trustworthy” (Mounce p. 232). It is directional, and the best direction is faith in God (Mark 11:22; 1 Thess. 1:8; 1 Pet. 1:21; Heb. 6:1) and faith in Jesus (Acts 3:16; 20:21; 24:24; Gal. 3:26; Eph. 1:15; Col. 1:4; 1 Tim. 3:13). Believing (verb) and faith (noun) is very important to God. It is the language of heaven. We live on earth and by faith see the invisible world where God is. We must believe he exists; then we must exercise our faith to believe he loves us and intends to save us.
A true acronym:
Forsaking All, I Trust Him
One has to surrender to the Lordship of Jesus. The bottom line is that for John’s Gospel believing and faith must not get stuck in an intellectual assent. “I believe that God exists and Jesus lived.” Instead, everyone who believes or has faith must put their complete trust in God’s Son.
Now let’s move on.
These verses continue on from the last chapter and Jesus’s prediction of troubles. If he tells them in advance that trouble is coming, then they have a better chance of not falling away.
“fall away”: It is the verb skandalizō (pronounced scan-dah-lee-zoh). And it means, depending on the context, (1) “cause to be caught … to fall, i.e. cause to sin” a. … Passive: “be led into sin … fall away”; b. “be led into sin or repelled by someone, take offense at someone”; (2) “give offense to, anger, shock.” In this context it means to fall away or turn a Christian away from the faith. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.
Verse 2 reminds me of this one: “Nevertheless, indeed, many even of the rulers believed in him but because of the Pharisees did not profess him so that they might not become desynagogued” (John 12:42). The Greek in 16:2 literally reads: “they will make you desynagogued.”
This long passage from Matthew’s Gospel is also relevant:
16 “Watch out! I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. Therefore, be prudent as serpents and pure as doves. 17 Be on your guard against people, for they shall betray you to their councils, and in their synagogues they shall flog you. 18 You shall be brought before governors and kings because of my name, for a testimony to them and the Gentiles. 19 When they betray you, do not be anxious how and what you might speak, for it shall be given you at that moment what should you should speak, 20 for you are not the ones speaking; instead the Spirit of your Father is the one speaking in you.
21 Brother shall betray brother to death and a father a son, and children shall rise in rebellion against parents and put them to death. 22 Moreover, you shall be hated by everyone because of my name, but the one who endures to the end—this one shall be saved. 23 When they persecute you in this town, flee to another. For I tell you the truth: you will not complete the towns of Israel until the son of Man comes. (Matt. 10:16-23)
And then this verse also implies death for converting to the Jesus Movement and preaching: “And do not fear those who kill the body, but who are unable to kill the soul” (Matt. 10:28).
Saul (later Paul) persecuted the church:
57 Shouting with a loud voice, they stopped their ears and rushed at him with one single purpose, 58 and they dragged him outside of the city and were in the process of stoning him; and the witnesses laid aside their clothes in front of a young man named Saul. 59 And they kept stoning Stephen who called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” 60 Taking to his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge this sin to them!” Saying this, he fell asleep. 81 And Saul gladly approved of his death.1 And on that day a severe persecution took place against the church in Jerusalem. Everyone was scattered to the region of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2 Devout men took Stephen up for burial and lamented for him emotionally. 3 Saul devastated the church, going from household to household, dragging both men and women and putting them in prison. 4 And so those who were dispersed spread out preaching the good news of the Word. (Acts 7:57-8:4)
Yet the disciples kept on preaching.
See also Paul’s own testimony in his letter to the Philippians:
If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless. (Phil. 3:4b-6, NIV)
Another way of translating this clause “when their hour comes”: “when the hour for these things comes.”
Related verses: John 14:7: “If you have known me, you will know the Father also. And from now on, you know him and you have known him.”
Jesus repeats the intimacy he has with his Father, and now it is shared with his disciples. We too can enter in to this shared union between the Father and Son.
As for his prediction of the future persecution, here are parallel verses:
John 13:19: “From now on I say to you before it happens, so that you may believe, when it happens, that I am.”
John 14:29-30: “And now I have spoken to you before it happens, so that when it happens, you may believe. 30 No longer do I talk much with you, for the ruler of the world comes, and he holds nothing in me.”
Jesus reinforces his disciples so that when they do get persecuted, they will not be taken by surprise. He told them in advance.
GrowApp for John 16:1-4a
A.. You have been forewarned about persecution. Have you suffered some level of persecution, like family rejection? Did it take you by surprise? How did you respond?
Ministry of the Holy Spirit (John 16:4b-15)
4b I have not told you these things from the beginning because I was with you. 5 But now I go to the one who sent me, yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 But because I have spoken these things to you, sorrow fills your heart.
7 Nevertheless, I speak the truth to you: it is to your advantage that I depart, for if I do not depart, the Paraclete will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And he will convict the world about sin and about righteousness and about judgment. 9 About sin because they will not believe in me. 10 About righteousness because I go to my Father and you will no longer see me. 11 About judgment because the ruler of this world has been condemned.
12 I still have many things to say to you, but you are unable to bear them now. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. For he will not speak on his own, but whatever things he will hear, he will speak and announce to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me because he will receive from what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All the things the Father has are mine. Because of this, I have said that he receives from what is mine and will declare it to you.
It is very difficult to know how to separate or attach vv. 1-4a and 4b-6. You can make your own arrangement if you like.
Jesus withheld this information about persecution from the beginning because he was with them and protected them. But now with his soon-departure, he again forewarns them that persecution is coming, so they must be ready for it. The fact that Jesus repeats this unhappy prediction in this pericope and the previous one indicates its importance.
They are not now asking him where he is going, though Peter had done this earlier (13:36), but soon they will ask this question among themselves (v. 17), so they have not absorbed the depths of his teaching, which is the cross, the resurrection and the ascension. Yet in vv. 29-30, below, they will understand that he came from God. So they understand half his mission—his origins. But when will they know his return to his Father, which can only be the way of crucifixion.
The seeming contradiction is not serious. “Peter’s question [in 13:36 and Thomas’ statement in 14:5] has less to do with Jesus’ destination than with its consequences for the disciples. The question they failed to ask points up their lack of concern with what was about to take place in the affairs of their Master. Self-interest was the controlling motivation in each case: first it prompted Peter to ask; then it kept them all from asking” (Mounce, comments on v. 5),
Sorrow filled their hearts because he would not be with them in person. Imagine your redeemed beloved family member laying in the hospital saying that it is time for him to depart (die), so you must not sorrowful. He is going to a better place. You would still be very sad.
This departure was hard for them to accept, but he tells them that he has to go away because only then can he send the Spirit to them.
“The disciples have been living with Christ; what they need instruction on now is how to live life ‘in Christ’ and how to live by the Spirit / Paraclete in the new covenant” (Klink, comment on 4b, emphasis original).
“Even the desire for the continuance of bodily companionship of Jesus during his earthly ministry is now a sinful desire, for it displays ignorance or disbelief in the purpose of the death of Jesus and the goal of his mission” (Klink, comment on v. 6).
“The disciples have been asking several questions of that sort; they have not really asked thoughtful questions about where Jesus is going and what it means for them. They have been self-absorbed in their own loss. Moreover, the drift of all four Gospels assures us the none of the inner ring of disciples entertained the idea, before the cross, that that the Messiah would simultaneously be a conquering king, suffering, dying servant and resurrected Lord” (Carson, comment on v. 5)
This is the fourth Paraclete saying:
All of those passages present a consistent unity, not only in the Fourth Gospel, but also in the Synoptic Gospels. Jesus will baptize with the Spirit (Matt. 3:11-12; Mark 1:7-8; Luke 3:16-17). The Spirit will aid the disciples as they testify about Jesus and make their defence in court (Matt. 10:20; Mark 13:11). (HT: Bruce, comments on 14:16-17).
Next, let’s define the term “Paraclete.” It is related to the verb parakaleō (pronounced pah-rah-kah-leh-oh), which literally means “called” (-kaleō) and “alongside” (para). The verbal adjective Paraclete is used in vv. 16 and 26 and 15:26; 16:7. It is pronounced pah-rah-kleet or less formally, pair-uh-kleet. BDAG, whom many regard as the authoritative lexicon of the Greek NT, says that originally the verbal adjective means “someone who is called to someone’s aid.” It rarely means a “lawyer” or “attorney.” In the few places outside the NT, whether pre-Christian or extra-Christin contexts, it means in a general sense: “one who appears in another’s behalf, mediator, intercessor, helper.” Then the editors of BDAG leave it at that.
Novakovic refers to the linguists and translators Louw and Nida who say that the translation “Comforter” is too limited and “Helper” is highly generic (apparently meaning too vague). And “legal advocate” is too restrictive. Along with Novakovic, I chose “Paraclete” (pp. 126-28), but following BDAG, you may certainly translate it as “Mediator,” “Intercessor,” or “Helper.”
Jesus says, “another Paraclete,” implying that he was the first Paraclete, though the Fourth Gospel does not say this. However, 1 John 2:1 says that Jesus is the Paraclete. And many translations say “advocate,” so let’s not give up on the “lawyer” image.
John had already introduced the Spirit. Jesus was about to baptize in the Spirit, said John (1:32). Nicodemus and we must be born again of the Spirit (3:5-8). We must worship in Spirit (or spirit) (4:23-24). The Spirit gives life (6:63) The Spirit, however, had not yet been given because Jesus had not yet been glorified (7:39).
Klink (p. 633), who argues for translating the term as Paraclete and not the restrictive terms “Helper” or “Advocate” or “counselor” and so on, points out three roles of the Spirit anticipated in this verse and the other four passages. First, the Paraclete is still to come. He has been active because looking at Paul’s words in 1 Cor. 12:34, anyone who says Jesus is Lord by the Spirit shows the Spirit has been at work. But the Paraclete comes when Jesus departs, and the Paraclete begins the era of the New Covenant and new life in Christ. Second, The Paraclete has an active place in the hearts of the disciples. They will know the Paraclete just as they know the Father and Son. He will remain with them forever. Third, the Paraclete convicts the world of sin, righteousness and judgment (v. 8).
In these verses, the Spirit’s ministry is a prosecutor—to “expose, refute, convince, or convict”—any of those verbs can work.
While this [convicting sinners and bringing them to faith in Jesus] has been a major activity of the Spirit throughout history, these verses point to a different work of the Spirit in which he convicts the world of how wrong it has been in rejecting Jesus. The heavenly prosecutor will prove that the world is guilty for its rejection of Jesus and its distorted ideas of righteousness and judgment. (Mounce, comments on vv. 8-11)
Carson reminds us that that the Spirit convicts and exposes the world of its sin, so that he can call the world to repentance (comments on vv. 8-11).
“sin”: it comes from the noun hamartia (pronounced hah-mar-tee-ah). A deep study reveals that it means a “departure from either human or divine standards of uprightness” (BDAG, p. 50). It can also mean a “destructive evil power” (ibid., p. 51). In other words, sin has a life of its own. Be careful! In the older Greek of the classical world, it originally meant to “miss the mark” or target. Sin destroys, and that’s why God hates it, and so should we. The good news: God promises us forgiveness when we repent.
Here in John, the Spirit—the Paraclete—convicts the world of sin because they do not believe in him. The way to clean oneself from the former way of living sinfully is to believe in Jesus. When this happens, the believer is born again by the Spirit (John 3:3, 5), and he—the Paraclete—cleanses him.
“righteousness”: BDAG defines it as follows: (1) “The quality, state, or practice of judicial responsibility with focus on fairness, justice, equitableness, fairness … practice justice and uprightness.” It can even be a system to deter crime. (2) “The quality or state of judicial correctness with focus on redemptive action, righteousness.” It is when God exercises his executive privilege to bestow a benefit. It is the opposite of condemnation. It is God’s pardoning action. (3) “The quality or characteristic of upright behavior, uprightness, righteousness … to do what is right … accomplish righteousness … of specific action of righteousness in the sense of fulfilling expectation not specifically in ordinances … uprightness as determined by divine / legal standards … that meets God’s standards.” The verb form can mean vindication.
These formal definitions can be complex—but also very rich. Here in this context, it means that when Jesus goes to the Father, the Son of God is vindicated. He has accomplished righteousness, both for himself and for us. This echoes Paul’s theology and Jesus accomplishing righteousness and then bestowing it on us. Or, if we translate the noun as “justice,” then the world’s idea of justice was wrong, when the world put Jesus to death. God’s idea was to raise him from the dead and “welcome him back to his preincarnate state of eternal glory (Acts 2:22-24)” (Mounce, comments on 9).
Carson says that no one can live up to Jesus’ righteousness before the Paraclete comes, but after he comes they can follow Jesus and “thus convict the world of its empty righteousness” (comment on vv. 8-11).
“judgment”: it is the Greek noun krisis (pronounced kree-sees or krih-sis). BDAG again: (1) legal process of judgment, judging, judgment.” It is the activity of God or the Messiah as judge, particularly on the last day. It can go against a person, such as condemnation. (2) It can refer to a “board of judges, court.” (3) It is the “administration of what is right and fair, right.” In this sense it means justice.
So what does it mean in this context?
Jesus already taught about Satan’s defeat: “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be thrown out” (John 12:31). Then Jesus taught that Satan has no stronghold in Jesus, no handle by which to accuse him. “No longer do I talk much with you, for the ruler of the world comes, and he holds nothing in me” (14:30). As I noted in 12:31, this decisive division between him and the world has a spiritual dimension. The ruler of the world order and a spiritual-demonic kingdom will be thrown out or dethroned; now universal authority and judgment will have been handed over to the Son on the cross and resurrection and ascension (3:35; 5:19-29). The ruler of this world has no accusation to bring against the Son (14:30). His followers will also be accused, but they will receive help from the Paraclete, who will be the evidence that the ruler of this world is judged (16:11). “The ruler of this world is judged.” Jesus will discredit the ruler of the world. Jesus said he saw Satan fall from heaven (Luke 10:18); and Jesus said he was binding the strong man (Satan) (Matt. 12:29 // Mark 3:27 // Luke 8:21-22). The cross, seemingly expressing defeat, was actually the victory and vindication of the Son and defeat of Satan. Satan has been condemned. He has condemned us all of our lives. Do we realize he is the one who is condemned?
In all three of these important words, let’s not forget that the Spirit is the one who exposes the heavenly Supreme Court and works his ministry. For the people, they can come to faith in Christ. For the world, they too can come to faith in him, but before then, he will be vindicated by his resurrection and ascension. The Spirit, through King Jesus, defeats the world-ruler, most clearly by the Spirit empowering the disciples to proclaim the gospel and set Satan’s captives free. Satan has been defeated (past tense), and now we must carry out the defeat in reality. It is like the D-Day Invasion. But it was clear to the “foresightful” and insightful that the amount of materiel favored the Allies (C. S. Lewis). After victory is promised, it still takes time to defeat the enemy, ultimately and in reality.
“Just as Jesus ‘takes away the sin of the world’ (1:29), so also does the Paraclete convict the world of its sin. The grace of God is that the work of the Spirit is to reveal the sinful condition of the world and the work of the Son is to remove it” (Klink, comment on v. 9)
Borchert summarizes this section very well:
The Paraclete’s forensic task here then is portrayed in the presence of the disciples and in the Johannine court of God like a counselor and judge in bringing to just judgment the world and its rebellious prince. This section then is not unrelated to the way Jesus had earlier been pictured as having been given the authority to render all judgment by the Father (cf. 5:22). In the midst of a hostile world, therefore, the disciples are clearly shown that to take the side of the world is hardly a viable option because of its dire consequences. The prince of the world and all who side with him stand condemned. (comment on v. 11).
While Jesus was on earth, he revealed the Father to his disciples and often to the crowds, but he could not reveal everything. They could not bear more truth because they were not yet filled with the Spirit. In John 20:23, he breathes on them and tells them to receive the Holy Spirit, so this begins their new journey, which will be completed in Acts 2 and the full outpouring of the Spirit
“the Spirit of truth”: the phrase “of truth” may be an objective genitive, so it may be translated as “the Spirit who communicates truth.” The phrase could be attributive (adjectival) and thus could be translated as “the true / truth-giving Spirit.” Or the phrase could be translated as the so-called “epexegetical (explanatory or clarifying) genitive, thus: “The Spirit, who is the truth.” I just went traditional and translated it was “the Spirit of truth,” and you can work out the other grammatical possibilities listed here on your own.
“into all truth” or “in all truth”? That depends on the Greek manuscripts. Professional grammarian Novakovic says we should not press the nuances too far; the prepositions “into” and “in” can mean the same thing in Greek in some contexts, as here. Bruce prefers not “into” all truth because they had already been introduced to the truth in Jesus, but the Spirit would guide them farther along the path of truth (comment on vv. 12-13). Jesus’s ministry of revelation would be carried on by the Spirit. Jesus embodies truth (John 14:6), so whatever the Spirit reveals will be about Jesus: “… when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus” (Eph. 4:21, NIV). The Spirit reveals the truth that is in Jesus.
Jesus said he did not act on his own but spoke the words that the Father directed him to speak (John 5:19, 30; 8:28; 12:49). His message does not rise above the Incarnate Word. Bruce wisely notes that we are to infer that the Gospel of John is the partial fulfillment of this promise. Excellent.
Now what about the things that are to come? The verb declare appears in John 4:25, where the Samaritan woman declared Jesus will “declare” or “announced” everything to us. The Messiah spelled out the fuller revelation of the Messiah’s coming, so the Spirit will reveal the Messiah in ways that are relevant to the future generations (Bruce again).
And here is the fifth and final time of the Paraclete sayings (see v. 7). In v. 14, John uses the emphatic pronoun “that one” (masculine singular, agreeing in case with masculine singular Paraclete). In v. 15, the word “he,” implied by the third-person, singular verb, is the Spirit.
The Spirit will teach the disciples everything (14:26), he will bear witness or testify about Christ (16:8), and he will guide the disciples in the way of all truth (16:13). The Son came to glorify the Father (7:18; 17:4), and soon the Spirit will glorify Jesus by unfolding and revealing the meaning of Jesus’s person and work while he was on earth.
I really like the close connection between the Father and Son. Everything—not a few things—which the Father has belongs also to the Son, and what the Son has the Spirit will receive or take and declare it to you. Simple logic: Everything A possesses belongs to B, and everything B possesses belongs to C. Therefore, everything A possesses belongs to C.
“Jesus, knowing that the Father gave him all things into his hands and that he came from God and was going to the Father …” (John 13:3). Then Jesus got up and washed their feet. The point in my quoting that verse is to show that the Father has given Jesus everything. “In making known the Son, the Spirit at the same time makes known the Father who is revealed in the Son.
However, it is also clear from Scripture that the Son is submissive to the Father, and the Spirit is also submissive to the Father and the Son. Phil. 2:6: Jesus did not regard equality with God as something to hold on to, but he surrendered the environment of heaven and took the form of a servant.
Function or role: the Father is over the Son while the Son was incarnated and carried out the plan of redemption
In their essence or essential nature: Father and Son are equal.
John 1:1-3 manage to say the Father and Son are equal in essence but different in persons.
See John 1 for some images of the Trinity:
Or go to the second link, above.
“glory” means, in many contexts, the light of God, shining to all the world. In the background is this passage about the Mount of Transfiguration:
1 Then after six days, Jesus took along Peter, James, and his brother John and brought them up into a high mountain privately. 2 He was changed before them, and his face shone as the sun, and his clothes became white like light. 3 Then look! Moses and Elijah appeared before them and were talking with him. 4 But in response, Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here! If you want, I’ll make here three tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah!” 5 While he was talking, look! A bright cloud covered them. And then listen! A voice from heaven from the cloud speaking: “This one is my beloved Son, in whom I have been well pleased. Listen to him.” (Matt. 17:1-5)
This brightness is the glory of God.
Moses experienced the glory of God:
18 Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”
19 And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” 21 Then the Lord said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. 22 When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.” (Exod. 33:18-22, NIV).
Commentator Bruce also saw this connection between the glory which Moses saw and the surpassing glory of Jesus. Further, he connects the glory of the old tabernacle with God pitching his tabernacle through his Son (comment on v. 14). “Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them” (Exod. 25:8, NIV). When the tabernacle was completed, we read: “34 Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. 35 Moses could not enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle” (Exod. 40:34-35, NIV).
But Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Spirit, says that the glory which Moses experienced, soon faded away.
7 Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? 9 If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! 10 For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. 11 And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts! (2 Cor. 3:7-11, NIV)
The glory of the New Covenant, initiated by Jesus, will last forever.
Carson says that Jesus’s glory was displayed in his signs (2:11; 11:4, 40); he was supremely glorified in his death and exaltation (7:39: 12:16, 23: 13:31-32), Yes, he also had glory before he began his public ministry, for in fact he enjoyed glory with his Father before his incarnation and returned to his Father to receive the fulness of glory (15:5, 24). While other men seek their own glory, Jesus’s relationship with his Father meant that he did not need to seek his own glory; he was secure in his relationship with his Father. He sought only God’s glory (5:41; 7:18; 8:50). (comment on v. 14).
Keener also brings focus to John’s definition of glory:
Jesus, in contrast to his opponents, accepts this only from the Father (5:41, 33; 7:18; 8:50, 54; 9:24; 12:41, 43; 16:14; 17:12). The Fourth Gospel applies Jesus’ “glory” to various acts of self-revelation (his signs–2:11; 11:4, 40), but the ultimate expression of glory is the complex including Jesus’ death (12:16, 23, 28; 13:31-32; cf. 21:9), resurrection and exaltation (cf. 7:39; 12:16; 17:1, 5). This glory thus becomes the ultimate revelation of “grace and truth”: where the world’s hatred for God comes to its ultimate expression, so also does God’s love for the world (3:16). If the Johannine [adjective for John] community’s opponents regarded the cross as proof that Jesus was not the Messiah, John regards Jesus’ humiliation as the very revelation of God; his whole enfleshment, and especially his mortality and death, continue the ultimate revelation of God’s grace and truth revealed to Moses (p. 411)
GrowApp for John 16:4b-15
A.. The devil stands judged and condemned. So why do you let him judge and condemn you?
B.. What is one truth about Jesus that the Spirit declares to you? Be personal.
Sorrow Will Turn to Joy (John 16:16-24)
16 In a little while and you will no longer see me; again in a little while and you will see me. 17 So some of his disciples said to each other, “What is this what he is saying to us? ‘In a little while you will not see me, and again in a little while you will see me’; and ‘because I go to the Father.’” 18 So they were saying, “What is this which he is saying ‘a little while’? We don’t know what he is talking about.”
19 Jesus knew that they wanted to inquire of him, and he said to them, “What are you asking each other? About this: Because I said, ‘In a little while you will not see me, and again in a little while and you will see me’? 20 I tell you the firm truth: You will weep and mourn, but the world will celebrate. You will grieve, but your grief will turn into joy. 21 A woman, when she gives birth, has pain, because her hour has come. But when she delivers, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a human being has been delivered into the world. 22 So also you have grief. But I will see you again, and your hearts will celebrate, and no one will take your joy from you.
23 And in that day, you will ask me nothing. I tell you the firm truth: if you ask the Father for anything in my name, he will give it to you. 24 Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be full.”
“little while” speaks of the “a short time” “a little while” (BDAG). Some translations say “in a little while.” I went with it.
Three possible interpretations: (1) Jesus is talking about his crucifixion and burial, when they will see him no longer, but only for a brief time. And in a little while, they will see him again, in his resurrection appearances. (2) However, other interpreters say that the second “again in a little while” requires a longer interval and so refers to the coming of the Spirit, which Jesus has already talked about in vv. 7 and 12. Or he may be alluding to 14:23, which talks about the Father and Son coming to the disciples. Since I don’t believe 14:23 is predicting the Second Coming, the Father and Son come to the disciples through the Spirit because in the doctrine of the Second Coming, the Father does not return to earth. (3) Or the second phrase refers to the Second Coming, and interpreters who take this option believe that 14:2-3 and 23 does refer to the Second Coming.
To be honest, when I first read v. 16, I thought John meant the first option. But I am open to the second one. So I prefer the first or second option. The third one is out of the question, because two thousand years later does not work with “little while,” and I don’t believe he was so badly mistaken in his belief about when he would return. But you can decide on your own. Carson and Morris prefer the first option, while Klink likes the second one. (The more I think about it, the more I believe the first option is best.)
Borchert favors the first option but reminds us that a “little while” appears in the prophets for judgment on Israel and its deliverance (Hos. 1:4; Is. 10:25; Jer. 51:33 (comment on v. 16).
The disciples are perplexed, so they kept asking each other the questions. If scholars today, with the benefit of the hindsight of two thousand years, offer three options for v. 16, then we can understand the original disciples’ bafflement when they heard his statements.
Let’s begin with the solemn announcement formula.
“I tell you the firm truth”: it literally read, “amen, amen, I tell you.” Truth” comes from the word amēn (pronounced ah-main and comes into English as amen). In the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) Jesus says amen only once, but in John he very often says the word twice, so I translate the double word as “firm truth.” It expresses the authority of the one who utters it. The Hebrew root ’mn means faithfulness, reliability and certainty. It could be translated as “Truly, truly I tell you” or I tell you with utmost certainty.” Jesus’s faith in his own words is remarkable and points to his unique calling. It means we must pay attention to it, for it is authoritative. He is about to declare an important and solemn message or statement. The clause appears only on the lips of Jesus in the NT.
Klink points out (comment on 1:51) that no Jewish sage or Rabbi around this time ever said these words about his own pronouncement to statement. Instead, he would use it to affirm someone else’s opinion. Jesus is the only one to use it of his own teaching. It is very solemn. We need to pay attention because what follows is very important.
When Jesus is crucified and buried, the world system—specifically the Jerusalem establishment—will celebrate because they will believe that they have finally and forever disposed of the troublemaker. In contrast, the disciples will grieve and have sorrow, but their grief or sorrow will become or turn to joy. Why? Because of the resurrection and his appearances and for sure when the Spirit is poured out. He will restore Peter, for example (John 21:15-19). This is one more reason why I prefer the first option for v. 16, above.
Jesus uses the illustration of a very pregnant woman whose time for delivery has come. She feels the contractions, and they are painful (or so I have been told and have observed). Then when the child is delivered, she no longer remembers the anguish and pain—or she has joy which replaces the pain because she has brought a human into the world. So it is right now for the disciples. They feel pain and (it seems) some confusion, because Jesus is about to go through the crucifixion, and they won’t understand. But the earth will have to yield the body when God resurrects it. The body will have to come out of the womb / tomb (this rhyme works in English, but not in Greek). But let’s not press the illustration too far. The bottom line is that the disciples will soon feel sorrowful because of the ordeal Jesus is about to go through and will be taken from them, as a woman feels pain who is about to give birth. But then their sorrow will turn to joy at his resurrection, like a woman feels joy when she holds her baby. No one can take her joy away as she holds him, and so no one can take their joy when they see him again after his resurrection. In Jewish writings, birth pangs refer to the period of troubles that will precede the final consummation (Mounce, comment on v. 21). Bruce says this allusion is not likely in this context (comment on vv. 19-22).
Yet Borchert reminds us of the OT and Dead Sea Scrolls background:
This figurative image of birth pangs followed by joy in the arrival of a child was not a new image in the Bible. It was used in the Old Testament to refer to the painful experiences of Israel in awaiting the coming of their deliverance in the messianic era. Isaiah particularly employs this image in the suffering of Israel and the promise of hope when the dead will live (Isa 26:17–19; cf. 66:7–9; cf. also 21:3 in his prophecy of the defeat of Babylon). But Micah (Mic 4:9–10), Hosea (Hos 13:13), and Jeremiah (Jer 13:21) also use the image as both an indication of Israel’s suffering for disobedience and as a window of hope. Similarly the image was apparently used by the Dead Sea Convenanters (cf. 1 QH 2:8–10) and was important in the vision of the woman and the dragon in the Apocalypse, but there after the birth the dragon seeks to devour the child (Rev 12:1–4). (comment on v. 21)
“I tell you the firm truth”: see vv. 19-22 for more comments.
“on that day”: it refers to the resurrection and his presence through the Spirit. I like Carson on this one: “he is referring to the period after his resurrection as the end of history (cf. 1 John 2:18, ‘Dear children, this is the last hour’). Cf. 14:20” (comment on v. 24, emphasis original). It takes a long time for the end to come, in a gradual process.
So in v. 23, (1) does “ask” mean the disciples will have no need to pose questions because everything will be clear to them after the ascension and the arrival of the Spirit? Or (2) does “ask” mean they will ask him for nothing (in prayer)? The first option is strong because in v. 30 the same verb for ask (erōtaō, pronounced eh-roh-tah-oh) is in v. 23, and no will need to ask or pose a question to him. However, some interpreters go with the second option because the other verb in v. 24 for ask (aiteō, pronounced eye-teh-oh) is a synonym with erōtaō in John’s Gospel. Verse 23 verse parallels the ones in John 14:13-14: “Whatever you may ask in my name, I will do this, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” So I prefer the first option: the disciples will have no need to pose any questions to Jesus in that day.
But if you choose the second option, then in putting these verses together, they show the intimate connection between the Father and Jesus. You must now ask the Father in Jesus’s name, so a shift has taken place. Jews prayed daily and regularly to God. And Jesus even taught them to pray to the Father. “Our Father ….” Now, at the end of his life, Jesus is pressing home the point that he is the fullest revelation of God. Jesus is saying that they have not prayed to the Father in Jesus’s name, but they must do so now.
I keep thinking of this verse about the major shift. The context is evangelism, and Peter is speaking to the Jerusalem Sanhedrin, the highest Jewish court and council: “And salvation is not by anyone else, for neither is there another name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). This is certainly bold. In the past, genuine faith in God could save an Israelite (think of Abraham, Moses, and David), but what about now? A salvation shift has happened with the coming and resurrection and ascension of his Son, the fullest revelation of the Father. A refusal to surrender to God’s Messiah is displeasing to God and insults his Messiah, who suffered and died, in God’s magnificent plan.
Back to prayer: asking in Jesus’s name is a privilege that belongs to the new order. “ask” in v. 24 is in the present tense, and remember this wonderful promise? “Ask, and it shall be given to you. Seek, and you shall find. Knock, and it shall be open to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks shall find, to the one knocking it shall be opened” (Matt. 7:7-8). Those verbs are also in the present tense. So keep on asking.
Prayer is perhaps the most highly regarded but least employed of all the spiritual disciplines. Yet its demands on faith are not great. All it requires is a willingness to open ourselves before God and allow him to respond to our needs. (Mounce, comments on v. 24)
As I have done in other chapters, let’s explore the noun “name” more generally and apply it to our lives. This noun stands in for the person—a living, real person. You carry your earthly father’s name. If he is dysfunctional, his name is a disadvantage. If he is functional and impacting society for the better, then his name is an advantage. The Father has the highest status in the universe, before and above the entire universe, which he created. His character is perfection itself. Now down here on earth you walk and live as an ambassador in his name, in his stead, for he is no longer living on earth through his Son, so you have to represent him down here. We are his ambassadors who stand in for his name (2 Cor. 5:20). The good news is that he did not leave you without power and authority. He gave you the power and authority of his Son Jesus. Now you represent him in his name—his person, power and authority. Therefore under his authority we have his full authority to preach the gospel and set people free from bondages and satanic spirits and heal them of diseases.
Here in this context, we have the authority and the privilege to stand before God in prayer, but only in Jesus’s name. Yes, any unlearned sinner can call out to God in repentance, and God will hear him because the repenting sinner does not know any better, but after he surrenders to the Messiah, God’s fullest revelation and the only way of salvation, he must learn to pray in Jesus’s name. Then his joy will be full. The surest sign that he is connecting to God in Jesus’s name is when he experiences joy. He may—he will—go through trials, but deep joy will reside deep within him and will eventually bubble up.
GrowApp for John 16:16-24
A.. How has the Father answered one of your prayers in Jesus’s name? Tell your story.
B.. How has this answer brought you joy, if only later?
Jesus Has Overcome the World (John 16:25-33)
25 “I have spoken these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming that I will no longer speak to you in illustrations, but instead I will plainly declare the Father to you. 26 In that day, you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father for you, 27 for he himself loves you because you love me and have believed that I have come from God. 28 I came from the Father and have come into the world. Again I leave the world and go to the Father.” 29 His disciples said, “See, now you speak plainly, and you speak in no figure of speech. 30 Now we know that you know all things and have no need that anyone should question you. By this we believe that you came from God.” 31 Jesus replied to them, “Now do you believe? 32 See! The hour comes—and has come—that each one will scatter to his own home and abandon me on my own. Yet I am not alone because my Father is with me. 33 I have spoken these things to you so that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation. But cheer up! I have conquered the world.”
This verse parallels the truth in Mark’s Gospel:
33 He was speaking the word to them in many such parables, as they were able to understand. 34 Without the parable form he did not speak to them, but privately he explained everything to his own disciples. (Mark 4:33-34)
In the synoptic Gospels, Jesus used the Greek noun parable, here he says “figure of speech” or “figurative language.” Here in the upper room discourse, Jesus had used the vine metaphor (15:1-8) and the analogy of a woman in childbirth (v. 21), and of course he spoke in all sorts of other figures of speech, like the bread of life, the light of life, the good shepherd, the door or gate, and so on. From now own he will speak plainly about the Father. There is not much time, but in his great High Priestly prayer in John 17, he will teach them while he is praying. When he says, in addition, that he will speak plainly, he also means through the Spirit. Recall v. 7 and the Paraclete, and notably John 15:26-27:
26 When the Paraclete comes, whom I will send to you from my Father, the Spirit of truth who goes from the Father—he will testify about me. 27 You also will testify because you have been with me from the beginning. (John 15:26-27)
The Spirit will reveal more revelation about Jesus in plain language. As a matter of fact, the wonderful truths in the next three verses are very clear.
I like how we ask the Father in Jesus’s name, and he does not have to whisper in the Father’s ear, as he sits next to the Father on his throne. The Father himself will hear their request, particularly when they ask in Jesus’s name. God has a new path to the throne, and it goes through the Son, his fullest revelation of who he is. In the OT, the Son of God was hinted at, but now the plan has come to earth and is being implemented. The disciples now have an intimate relationship with the disciples because they have come to love Jesus, his Son, and to love his Son is to cause God to sit up and take notice. The Father loves the disciples, therefore. Now they can approach him without fear because the Father loves them. They can pray directly to the Father, in his Son’s name. Jesus not needing to take our prayers to the Father does not contradict the truth that he is our intercessor (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25). The two verses in the epistles have to do with our standing, while here it has to do with his role in intercessory prayer (Mounce, comments on v. 26-27). When v. 27 says that the Father loves us because we love his Son, this does not mean our love initiates the very beginning of the process. It just means the relationship involves our active involvement (Mounce, ibid.).
For more comments on the name, please scroll back up to v. 23.
Jesus again plainly proclaims that he came from the Father and entered the world. He is returning to the Father because he has fulfilled his mission.
“Jesus then clarifies and explains that this process is not a bureaucracy that distances the disciples from God, but rather this process magnifies his presence. That is, the mediation of Christ has so restored fellowship between the Father and the children that the Christian may access the Father directly ‘in Jesus’ name’ (Klink, comment v. 26).
On the Father loving the disciples, Klink writes, “This remarkable statement personalizes the love of God for the world (3:16) and shows the fruit of its expression. The love of God is not abstract or theoretical but relational and inviting. This life in God—eternal life—is the result of God’s originating love, a love that propelled him to send his Son to the cross” (Klink, comment on v. 27).
Recall the meaning of “world” in the Fourth Gospel:
“world”: The Greek noun is kosmos (pronounced koss-moss). It could refer to the physical universe (17:5; 21:25). Or it could refer to humanity as a group. What we call humanity or humankind is, in John, the world. This is why God invades the kosmos. “The ‘world’ is the place or realm where God is at work, the place that is the main focus of God’s attention. God’s saving light invades the dark world. Jesus came to the dark world to save as many as those who believe in him and in his name. In sum, “it appears that the personification of the ‘world’ in John is the portrait of a class of people.” It is the dimension of a relational encounter between God and people (Klink, comment on 1:10, pp. 100-01).
Borchert summarizes v. 28 perfectly:
This verse draws the incarnational picture into a unified whole and summarizes in a brief span the mission of Jesus. Thus (1) it encapsulates his coming as the incarnate representative of the Father (1:1, 9, 14) and (2) his entering the world to serve as the unique agent of God in communicating God’s message to humans (5:19–30). In addition, (3) it highlights the traumatic departure of Jesus in the arrival of that fateful but purposeful hour of the crucifixion/death of Jesus (12:23–24, 27; 19:30), and (4) it culminates in his victorious going back to the Father and preparing a place for his followers (14:2).
Here are posts about the Incarnation:
The seventh part has an easy-to-read, helpful list.
It seems that they accused Jesus of not speaking plainly before, but now he is. However, he has been telling them for a long time that he has come from the Father and is returning to him. Now it dawns on them. They have no need to pose questions to him. In v. 23, the verb probably means the same thing: pose questions. “The belief in him as revealer whom God has sent has been confirmed because he not only answers their questions with convincing authority; he even anticipates their questions. There may be an allusion to the unvoiced uncertainties which could only with difficulty be framed as articulate questions: Jesus shows the ability to read them and answer them without their having first to be put into words” (Bruce, comments on vv. 29-30).
Verse 31 is translated as a question “Now do you believe?” but it could be translated as a statement: “At last you believe!”
Their love for Jesus was real and sincere and genuine. But their love was about to be tested beyond what they could imagine. They are about to abandon them, so they must know that they love Jesus and therefore the Farther loves them. Starting with the love of the Father, just before a great trial fortified their belief. No doubt they remembered his words. Peter had already been forewarned that his resolute mind would collapse (John 13:38), but all of them would soon collapse.
These verses allude to Zech. 13:7:
7 “Awake, sword, against my shepherd,
against the man who is close to me!”
declares the Lord Almighty.
“Strike the shepherd,
and the sheep will be scattered,
and I will turn my hand against the little ones. (Zech. 13:7, NIV)
Recall v. 1, above: “I have spoken these things to you so that you may not fall away” (John 16:1). In that context, he was talking about the near future when Jews would put the disciples out of the synagogue. These eleven disciples would remain firm then. Right now, before he breathed the Spirit on them (20:22), they were about to scatter, when their lives and reputation were on the line. However, he would not really be alone or by himself, because the Father would be with him. Great promise for us too, when we feel abandoned.
“these things” refer to all the promises in the preceding chapters (Mounce, comment on v. 33). Perfect.
We can have peace only in him. Yes, the world offers a certain kind of peace, but it fluctuates from one circumstance to the next, form one geo-political event to the next. But when we are in connection to the vine, then our peace will remain. In the world the disciples (and now us) have tribulation and hardship; but in him we have peace.
“world”: see vv. 26-26 for more comments. Jesus has conquered the world. It tried to slow him down and even stop him from accomplishing his mission. The world enticed him to not go to the cross. The world told him he was crazy and demonized. But he conquered the world because he is about to go through the death of the cross, which seems like defeat, but then he will be resurrected and go back to his Father.
We too will go through tribulation. But we too should take courage or cheer up because we are in right relationship to him and in his conquest of the dark world, he too gives us his peace. Recall what peace means in the comment on 14:27, as I wrote then:
Let’s explore more generally the peace that God brings.
It speaks of more than just the absence of war. It can mean prosperity and wellbeing. It can mean peace in your heart and peace with your neighbor. Best of all, it means peace with God, because he reconciled us to him.
This word in Hebrew is shalom and means wellbeing, both in the soul and in circumstances, and it means, yes, prosperity, because the farm in an agricultural society would experience wellbeing and harmony and growth. The crops would not fail and the livestock would reproduce. Society and the individual would live in peace and contentment and harmony. Deut. 28:1-14 describes the blessings for obedience, a man and his family and business enjoying divine goodness and benefits and material benefits. Peace is a major reality of the messianic kingdom anticipated in the OT (Num. 6:26; Ps. 29:11; Is. 9:6-7; 52:7; 54:13; 57:19; Ezek. 37:26; Hg. 2:9) and partly fulfilled or alluded to in the NT (Acts 10:36; Rom. 1:7; 5:1; 14:17).
With that background, let’s explore the Greek word, which overlaps with shalom. It is the noun eirēnē (pronounced ay-ray-nay, used 92 times, and we get the name Irene from it). One specialist defines it: “Peace is a state of being that lacks nothing and has no fear of being troubled in its tranquility; it is euphoria coupled with security. … This peace is God’s favor bestowed on his people.” (Mounce, p. 503).
BDAG has this definition for the noun: (2) It is “a state of well-being, peace.” Through salvation we have peace with God (Rom. 5:1). We have peace that has been brought through Christ (Col. 3:15). We are to run towards the goal of peace (2 Pet. 3:14; Rom. 8:6). It is the essential characteristic of the Messianic Age (Acts 10:36; Rom. 10:15). An angel greeted and promised the shepherds peace on earth for those in whom God is well pleased, at the birth of the Messiah (Luke 2:29).
Don’t let our hearts be troubled or frightened or fearful or even cowardly—that’s the range of the Greek verb. During your time of worst distress, you can have deep peace.
This verse reminds me of these two verses in the Epistle to the Philippians.
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:6-7)
So how do we get and maintain peace? We pray.
And we allow the Spirit to grow it in us.
GrowApp for John 16:25-33
A.. When you remain in the vine—in him—you have peace. How has he brought you peace?
B.. Has the world ever tried to take you down and out but you gathered up your courage and in Christ conquered the world’s attack?
Beasley-Murray George R. John. Word Biblical Commentary. Rev. ed. Zondervan, 1999.
Borchert, Gerald L. John 12-21. New American Commentary. Vol. 25b. Broadman and Holman, 1996.
Bruce, F. F. The Gospel of John: Introduction, Exposition, and Notes. Eerdmans, 1983.
Carson, D. A. The Gospel according to John. The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Eerdmans, 1991.
The Greek New Testament. Fifth Revised Edition by Barbara Aland, Kurt Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce M. Metzger (United Bible Society, 2014).
Keener, Craig S. The Gospel of John: A Commentary. Vol. 1. Baker Academic, 2003.
Novakovic, Lidija. John 11-21: A Handbook on the Greek Text. A Handbook on the Greek Text. Baylor UP, 2020.
Klink, Edward W. John. Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Zondervan, 2016.
Morris, Leon. The Gospel according to John. Rev. ed. Eerdmans, 1995.
Mounce, Robert H. John. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Rev. ed. Zondervan, 2007.