This is part 4 in the series on the ‘Farewell discourse of Jesus’ (this study series covers from John chapters 13 to 17). Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 covered John 13, John 14 and John 15 respectively. This article (part 4) covers John 16.
John 16 starts with the words of Jesus, “These things I have spoken to you so that …”
2. What Things was Jesus Saying
Jesus has been telling the disciples, the implications of his leaving. He will send the Advocate, the Holy Spirit who will really be Christ in them. He will be with them at all times, in the person of His Spirit. That makes the followers, the body of Christ. They will have fruit as Jesus did and will do greater works. They can act in his name, in his place, as his body and ask for anything as His agents. The Father will listen as if it were Jesus’. This seems to be the summary of what Jesus has been saying.
3. Why was Jesus Saying These Things
Jesus says in John 16:1, “These things I have spoken to you so that you may be kept from stumbling”. Later in John 16:4, he says, “These things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you”. As long as Jesus was with the disciples, he was the target of all attacks. When Jesus leaves, the attacks will be on the followers (His body). The people who hated Jesus would hate his followers likewise.
3.1. Cost of Following Jesus
Jesus was giving full disclosure of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. It is not just about escaping the penalty of sin. The goal is to glorify God as per the will of God – that may include persecution, suffering, fighting against temptation, enduring ostracism, etc as it happened to Jesus and His disciples.
In Luke 9:57-58, we see a man who says to Jesus, “I will follow You wherever You go”. Jesus replies “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head”.
Do we love Jesus enough to signup for something like that?
In Matthew 13, we see the parable of the Sower. Matthew 13:20-21 explains, “The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.”!
3.2. Predictive Prophecy as Evidence
In John 16:4, Jesus gives another reason for telling these things: “I have told you this, so that when their time comes you will remember that I warned you about them”.
Earlier too, in John 13:19, he says, “I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am who I am”. Again, in John 14:29 he says, “I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe.”
So Jesus was predicting things that they will see happen and that will build their faith. He was using predictive prophecy as evidence that he was really God’s spokesman – that He was indeed who He claimed to be, that His work is God’s work and that His words are what God wants us to hear.
3.3. His Joy, His Peace in the Followers
In John 16:33, Jesus gives one more reason why he was saying these things: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.”
Earlier in John 15:11, Jesus said, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”
So Jesus was saying these things so that we may have His joy, His peace, etc. It surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7)
4. Out of Touch with God’s Heart and Mind
Jesus warns in John 16:2 that His followers will be ostracized and persecuted (as happened to Jesus himself): “They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God.”
Already, we see in John 9:13-34 that a healed blind man was excommunicated as he testified in favor of Jesus. John 9:34 says, “They answered and said to him, ‘You were completely born in sins, and are you teaching us?’ And they cast him out.”
4.1. Religious Zeal but Out of Touch
How can people who pride themselves to have a zeal for God be so mistaken? Jesus explains the reason in John 16:3 “These things they will do because they have not known the Father or Me”.
Paul says in Romans 10:2 “For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge”.
It is a zeal without a loving relationship with God and without submitting to God’s righteousness.
4.2. Those Claiming to be ‘Christians’ not Exempt
We see later in history that those who claimed to be “Christians” are not exempt from being out of touch with God’s heart and mind – whether it be inquisition or having an air of religious arrogance/self-righteousness in condemning people. It is important that we compare our behavior to that of Jesus.
5. Going Away For Your Good
John 16:7: “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you”.
5.1. How is it Better that Jesus Goes Away?
Wouldn’t it be easier if Jesus were physically present? He would answer all the questions, teach us, etc? Jesus did not say it is easier but better. Here are some of the ways it is better if Jesus goes away physically:
- Needs us to spiritually grow up and face the hostility that Jesus faced
- Have to become teachers, and let the Holy Spirit teach from within
- Learn how to discern the voice of the spirit
- Jesus in his incarnate state as a man could be only at one place at a time, but now his body, with his spirit is everywhere
- Better for the Kingdom of God, because his followers (the body of Jesus) take the message everywhere. Jesus is with all the followers everywhere. They collectively do greater things
Is our walk with Jesus better than if Jesus were present physically, right next to us? If not, we know that we have to grow spiritually and cultivate the awareness of God’s presence.
6. The Helper will Convict the World
In John 16:8-11, Jesus says about the Helper: “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.”
To convict means to expose, refute, convince, convict. Basically, the Helper will expose the error of the world. The world has its own ideas about sin, righteousness, and judgment. The Holy Spirit exposes that error, corrects, reproves and refutes it.
6.1. Convict the World of Sin
Jesus said that the Helper will convict the world concerning sin “because they do not believe in Me”. Not believing in Jesus (whose is the embodiment of truth and righteousness) is sin. This is well explained in the parable of the landowner who planted a vineyard (Matthew 21:33-39). The landowner sends his servants to the tenants to collect the harvest. The tenants beat, kill and stone the servants. The landowner finally sends his son, but the tenants “took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.”.
The reason we should not want to sin is not just to escape the penalty of sin. It is a mistake to try to create “revivals” by scaring people of the penalties of sin. That’s not the main point. The point is to glorify God. We should not want to sin because of its failure to glorify God, and the damage/hurt it does to people. When David sinned, Nathan says to David in 2 Samuel 12:14 “by this deed you have given occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme”!
6.2. Convict the World of Righteousness
Jesus says in John 16:10 that the Helper will convict the world “concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me”.
It could mean that Jesus’ resurrection and ascension will be God’s vindication of Jesus. It will be God’s way of showing the world that He did accept Jesus and that he is the standard of righteousness that God approves of. The Holy Spirit will thereby show the world what righteousness really means.
Another way of interpreting this could be that the Holy Spirit will come and take up the job that Jesus has been doing. He will convict the world of righteousness, the way Jesus has been doing until then. For example, Jesus was telling the Pharisees that their ideas of righteousness were wrong, like when he says in Matthew 23:23 “You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness.”. And now that Jesus was going away, the Holy Spirit will do the same job of convicting the world on their wrong ideas of righteousness.
6.3. Convict the World of Judgement
Jesus says in John 16:11 that the Holy Spirit will convict the world “concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged”.
To the world, it looked like Jesus was the one being judged, condemned, lost in the court and was being executed. But in reality, it was the prince of this world that was judged at the cross. Jesus says in John 16:33, “I have overcome the world”. To the world, it looks like the world has overcome Jesus. But in reality, He has overcome the world on the cross. The judgment of the world has turned upside down.
Jesus was on trial by Pilate, but actually Pilate was on trial by Jesus. The world does not remember Pilate as a righteous judge who condemned/convicted Jesus, rather as the unrighteous offender.
As John 12:31 says, “Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.”
7. He will Glorify Me
In John 16:14 Jesus says of the Holy Spirit “He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you”.
So the followers will continue to be taught by Jesus, through His spirit. Just as Jesus said several times in the gospel of John, the words He speaks are not His own, but what the Father gives Him. In the same way, the Holy Spirit will not speak on his own authority. He will speak what He hears from Jesus.
7.1. The Unique Dynamic of the Trinity
So the Holy Spirit will not speak of Himself (John 16:13). John 5:20-23 says that Father gives all authority to the Son: “Not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son”, but John 5:19 says “the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing;”
As L.T. Jeyachandran says in the book Beyond Opinion: Living the Faith We Defend:
“Three self-giving, self-effacing persons constitute the Amazing God whom we worship”
8. He will Guide You into All Truth
Jesus says in John 16:12-13 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth”
8.1. Things You Cannot Bear
What kind of things could Jesus be referring to when he says that there were things the disciples could not bear at that time? An example could be the fact that believing gentiles will be in one body with believing Jews and need not be circumcised. Such a thing would be shocking to the prejudices of the time.
8.2. Test All Things
1 Thessalonians 5:21 says, “Test all things; hold fast what is good”.
Some preachers may look perfect. They may be great orators, seem to know the bible so well, we get impressed by their scholarly knowledge and multiple PhDs. The person may be gifted, but not perfect, so the listener also has to judge. The Holy Spirit in us teaches us to discern things. We should never let someone else do all the thinking for us (that would be a cult). The Holy Spirit guides us in the process.
1 John 2:27 says it in as many words that we have no need for anyone to teach us: “As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you”.
8.3. Hidden from the Learned .. Revealed to Children
Jesus says in Luke 10:21: “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.”
Through the discernment through the Holy Spirit, we can have better moral insight than someone with multiple PhDs in theology. God can lead us using some teachers. He can use us independently of teachers, and some times, in spite of teachers!
9. A Little While and You Will See Me
Jesus says in John 16:16: “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.” Later in John 16:22 “I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.”
What did Jesus mean “after a little while you will see me”. Was he referring to the post-resurrection appearances? The disciples had mixed reactions about post-resurrection experiences. He could be referring to God residing in us as an inward revelation. As Jesus says in John 14:23 “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him”. We see later that after the Pentecost, they were filled with joy.
9.1. Analogy of Childbirth
The Kingdom of God was passing into a new phase. In John 16:21, Jesus compares the transition to how a woman’s pain turns to joy in childbirth. “A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you”
As in childbirth, the pain is worth it. With God residing in us, no one can take the joy from us.
10. Asking in Jesus’ Name
Once again in John 16:23-24, Jesus repeats the theme of asking in His name. “Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you .. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”
Jesus’ followers will be bearing His identity, and are authorized by Him to stand in His place and ask the Father. The Father would listen as if it were Jesus’ words. The followers will have the audience with the Father, as much as Jesus.
11. I Have Overcome the World
The circumstances in which Jesus was, looks very bleak – impending arrest, suffering, death, very few followers one of who already betrayed and the rest going to be scared and scattered. Yet, Jesus says in John 16:33, “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”! He also says in the same sentence, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble”.
11.1. How can Tribulation coexist with Peace?
How can tribulation coexist with peace, cheer and overcoming the world? Overcoming the world apparently does not mean avoiding tribulation in the world. We live in two worlds. Tribulation in one, peace/joy in the other. We overcome the world’s opposition to the kingdom of God and to the glory of God. We overcome the corruption of the world.
In Jesus, we will have peace, but in the world, there is tribulation. It is peace in spite of tribulation. It transcends all understanding, Philippians 4:7, “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”.
11.2. Who Overcomes the World?
1 John 5:4 says, “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith”.
Through our participation in His divine nature, we overcome the corruption of the world. 2 Peter 1:4 says “Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires”.
Our faith is not some religious loyalty but about the transformation by participation in God’s divine nature and overcoming the corruption that is in the world.
Lectures by Steve Gregg