by Roy Reynolds, N. Ireland
THE PRECIOUSNESS OF HIS PERSON
It is noteworthy that John’s account of the final week of the Lord’s life differs significantly from those of Matthew, Mark and Luke. Many important events and matters referred to by the ‘Synoptic’ writers are omitted by John, perhaps the most remarkable of which are the institution of the Lord’s Supper, Matt.26.26-29; Mk.14.22-25, Lk.22.19,20 and the prophetic pronouncements on the Mount of Olives, Matt.24.1-25.46; Mk.13.1-37; Lk.21.5-36.
As in the case of the patriarch Jacob in Genesis chapter 49, who blessed his sons on the very day of his death, so the ‘Upper Room Ministry’, which is peculiar to John’s Gospel, was delivered by the Lord Jesus early in the day that would culminate with His sacred body nailed to the tree of shame at Golgotha. This parting ministry of the Lord Jesus, as recorded in chapters 13 to 17 of John’s Gospel, was preparatory in view of the many challenges and changes His disciples would face after His ascension. It is effectively the start of the countdown to Calvary; He is but hours from that dread experience necessary for procuring our redemption. In chapter 13 He is departing out of the world but leaving His own in the world; in chapter 14 He is returning to where He came from and states the reason for His going back: “to prepare a place for you” v.2.
It is amazing that hours before He went to the cross to face the deepest crisis of His earthly sojourn, to endure the righteous indignation of a holy God against our sin, the blessed Saviour could say to His own disconsolate disciples, “Let not your heart be troubled.” He Himself, in but a few hours, in the garden of Gethsemane, would know sorrow such as He had not known before. “And saith unto them, ‘My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch’” Mk.14.34. He had often spoken to them regarding His death and departure in the days prior to this chapter and their hearts were heavy at the thought of Him leaving them. For three-and-a-half unforgettable years they had known His unfailing care and unvarying affection; He had met their every need but He was soon going back home to His Father’s house and their sorrow was palpable and understandable.
Being part of “the farewell ministry of the Lord Jesus” as T.E. Wilson1 described it, the Lord was preparing His own for the great changes that lay on the horizon. He focussed their minds on Himself and then on heaven, on a Person and then a place. His purpose was to encourage, establish and edify His own who would remain in this hostile world after His ascension. He had truly been “their help and their shield” Ps.115.11; He had borne the brunt of the hatred and hostility of an antagonistic world; now they were about to sail into the choppy waters of challenge and change, but they could still rely on an immutable Christ Who is “the same yesterday, and today, and for ever” Heb.13.8. Changes will come but He will never change; His immutability is a great comfort to us in the midst of incessant and often painful changes. He is “the great, unchangeable I AM, the King of glory and of grace”. Though there would be a change of location there would be no change in His love. H.C. Hewlett, in his own inimitable way, expressed it beautifully thus, “As in love He had toiled for them on earth, so in Heaven would He minister to their need in the same love.”2
- 1. Wilson, T. Ernest “The Farewell Ministry of Christ”. Loizeaux Brothers, 1981.
- 2. Hewlett, H. C. “The Companion of the Way”. John Ritchie Limited, 2014, p.127.
It has not been my intention to write an exegetical, verse-by-verse commentary on John chapter 14, but rather to highlight the comforting incentives wherewith the Saviour encourages His own just prior to His death and subsequent departure from them to glory. Just as His words were intended to console His disciples as He was about to leave them, so may they prove as encouraging to us on the eve of His imminent return.
THEMES OF THE CHAPTER
The words of Christ on the cross that would soon forecast forgiveness for penitent sinners, convey care and concern for His grieving mother, and pledge Paradise to the dying thief, now carry consolation for cheerless disciples who face their Lord’s imminent departure from earth.
They had leaned upon Him every day they were with Him; now He was about to leave them and in chapter 14 He gives them incentives and speaks to them of
- the Preciousness of His Person,
- the Preparation of the Place,
- the Prospect of The Parousia,
- the Privilege of Prayer,
- the Promise of the Paraclete and
- the Provision of His Peace,
He would bequeath to them before He departed. Much of this address contains truth not previously divulged to the disciples, for example the truth of the Rapture and the comprehensive details as to the promised Comforter and His unique ministry for their education and edification.
THE PRECIOUSNESS OF HIS PERSON
The greatness of this peerless Person is advertised in every chapter of this precious Gospel. John himself states that that was his intention in writing this detailed account of the love and labours of the Father’s Son: “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book: but these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through His name” Jn.20.30,31. Throughout his Gospel he refers very specifically to the eternal Deity of the Lord Jesus, 1.1-3; 5.23; 6.69; His exceptional down-stooping, 1.14; 6.38,51; 8.23; His exemplary devotion, 4.34; 6.38; 8.29; 17.4, and His efficacious death, 1.29; 10.11; chapter 19.
He is the unique, well-beloved and eternal Son of the Father, and His relationship with the Father, His revelation of the Father and His resemblance to the Father form much of the content of John’s writings, with over forty references to the Father and “My Father” in this Gospel alone. Perhaps nowhere is this more apparent than in chapter 14 where the Lord Jesus refers to “the Father” and “My Father” twenty-two times, a fact which makes this chapter unique in the Bible. That unoriginated and uninterrupted relationship is highlighted in this Gospel and the reciprocated love of the Son for the Father is continually before our minds, Jn.3.35; 5.20; 10.17; 15.10; 17.26. He did not have to trawl through layers of ancestors to find a distant and tenuous link with God; His was a distinctively intimate, frictionless and personal relationship with the Father, which knew no commencement and no hiatus. He alone could say, “Believe Me that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me …” Jn.14.11. In Jn.17.11 He said, “… that they may be one, as We are.” The intricacy and intimacy of the unity of the Trinity is beyond us to understand or adequately express, but we wonder and worship. J.C. Ryle has so ably stated: “We are continually handling matters which we cannot fully comprehend, and cannot therefore fully explain and must be content humbly to believe.”3
- 3. Ryle, J.C. “Expository Thoughts on John. Vol.3”. The Banner of Truth Trust, 1987, p.104.
He immediately urges those disciples to continue to trust Him, fully, completely, unhesitatingly: “… ye believe in God, believe also in Me”. Had He not proven to them on numerous occasions that He was infallible, invincible, totally reliable and therefore worthy of their implicit trust? Though He would no longer be visible to them, they could be assured that distance would pose no problem and His help, as previously, would be readily available. He would only be a prayer away.
In v.6 He presents Himself as the exclusive Saviour, the only way to heaven, lest anyone should be misdirected; the entire truth about heaven, lest anyone should be deceived; and the sole source of life for heaven, lest anyone should die and be lost eternally. The unity of the Father and the Son and yet the distinction and identity of the Son are emphasised in v.7. He is one with the Father but He is the Son and not the Father. For many of the Lord’s people these are facets of truth in relation to Christ which are well-known, sincerely believed and tenaciously guarded but they are being constantly assailed and in some places denied and refuted. In v.8 we have the first use in the New Testament of the term “Father” by a disciple, in this case Philip. Knowing the Son is knowing the Father, beholding the Son is to behold the Father; never was the Father more fully revealed than in the Person of His Son.
- True image of the Infinite,
- Whose essence is concealed;
- Brightness of uncreated light,
- The heart of God revealed.
- (Josiah Conder)
We assiduously assert the eternal Deity of the well-beloved and only begotten (monogenes, ‘unique’) Son and believe that He is consubstantial with the Father, very God of very God, possessed of every attribute Divine. It was to repudiate the erroneous heresy of Arianism4 that the emperor Constantine convened the First Council of Nicaea in A.D.325, where it was agreed, in accordance with Biblical theology, that the Son is homoousios to Patri, of the same substance as the Father and not, as Arius wrongly stated, homoiousios, of a similar substance to the Father. Foremost in his stout defence of the Deity of the Son was Athanasius, a then notable theologian of great repute. Those who love the Saviour and have trusted Him alone for eternal salvation stand shoulder to shoulder with such noble saints and are grateful for such unequivocal presentation of the truth of the sacred text of the Scriptures.
- 4. An evil heresy still promoted by modern cults such as Mormonism, J.W.s, Christadelphianism and Unitarianism.
- So guilty, so helpless am I,
- I durst not confide in His blood
- Nor on His protection rely,
- Unless I were sure He is God.
- (John Newton)
Verse 28 has been greatly abused by those who deny the eternal Sonship and Deity of the Lord Jesus. They argue that for Christ to claim equality with the Father is a contradiction, since now He is allegedly stating that the Father is superior to Him. This is a complete misunderstanding of the context in which the Saviour uttered these words. When on earth, He was the perfect Bondservant of Jehovah and He is referring to His voluntary submission and subjection to the Father in that lovely and lowly path of service He had embarked upon here for His Father’s glory and pleasure. With wonder and worship we reflect upon that stoop of condescending grace that brought the Son from scenes where His true worth was recognised, His greatness extolled, His person adored, His interests were paramount and His will was carried out with unquestioning and unhesitating readiness.
Following quickly upon His service and willing subjection, v.28, we have His sinlessness, “for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me” v.30. This facet of the Lord’s moral glories is referred to as His ‘impeccability’, His total inability to sin, the impossibility of failure ever being found in this glorious Person. He simply could not and cannot sin, and with John we acquiesce wholeheartedly: “… in Him is no sin” 1Jn.3.5. The old Latin adage summed it up thus: non posse peccare, it was impossible for Him to sin. In the most inhospitable surroundings, the devil used every weapon in his arsenal and exerted his wily guile to its limits, but He could elicit no unbecoming response from the pure and holy Saviour and so had to depart from Him, totally defeated and deflated. To dilute this precious truth in the slightest is to detract seriously from the absolute, intrinsic holiness of Deity, as witnessed in the sinless One Who trod the rough valley of earth with unstained feet and unfaltering steps.
- Thy stainless life, Thy lovely walk,
- In every aspect true,
- From the defilement all around
- No taint of evil drew.
- Morning by morning Thou didst wake
- Amidst this poisoned air;
- Yet no contagion touched Thy soul,
- No sin disturbed Thy prayer.
- (Macleod Wylie)
But God would not merely have us admire His Son, He would rather have us adore Him. “He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me: and he that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him and will manifest Myself to him” v.21. “If a man love Me, he will keep My words: and My Father will love him …” v.23. My love will not merely be expressed by my lips but by my life, a life of obedience. Such a life will be most pleasing to the Father and will result in a deeper enjoyment of His Fatherly love in my daily life. It will also bring pleasure to Christ and communion with Him will be sweeter and enjoyed more frequently. It betokens a life above and beyond the mediocre, life on a higher spiritual plane and certainly such as cannot be enjoyed by carnal and inconsistent Christians.
This is seeking to be like the Son, Who proved His love to the Father by His consistently delightful life of filial devotion, unquestioning obedience, full and glad surrender right to the point of death. The motto of His entire life was, “not My will, but Thine, be done” Lk.22.42. The chapter closes with beautiful words that sum up that life of unwavering obedience: “But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave Me commandment, even so I do” v.31a.
What a profound and practical effect that should have upon us presently! That precious One Who has won our hearts has left these barren scenes; He is not here and we increasingly feel the coldness and hostility of the world that cast Him out. Not only does He anticipate with joy the prospect of having us with Him eternally in heaven, but presently He wants to enjoy our company and companionship daily. “And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent” Jn.17.3; “… truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ” 1Jn.1.3.
It is John who so often reflects upon the believer’s attitude to this world and in 1Jn.2.15 he categorically states, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” “We know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in the evil one” 1Jn.5.19, R.V. From the commencement the people of this world made clear that Christ was unwelcome here; they could not tolerate Him in their midst and at length they expressed their innermost, deepest longing as with one voice, “Away with this man … Crucify Him, crucify Him” Lk.23.18,21. On that dark day there was no dissenting voice and the world unanimously declared its estimation of heaven’s beloved One. Should we then expect any more favourable treatment?
- O worldly pomp and glory,
- Your charms are spread in vain!
- I’ve heard a sweeter story,
- I’ve found a truer gain:
- Where Christ a place prepareth,
- There is my loved abode;
- There shall I gaze on Jesus,
- There shall I dwell with God!
- (Samuel C. G. Kuster)
We must not be deceived; Christians are no more wanted in this world than He was. The world’s loathing of anything or anyone associated with God and His rejected Son is being expressed with increasing volume and vehemence. This undeserving world is not, in any way, worthy of our love or loyalty and we should more and more long for that “home above, from sin and sorrow free”.
- O, the soul-thrilling rapture when I view His blessèd face
- And the lustre of His kindly beaming eye;
- How my full heart will praise Him for the mercy, love and grace,
- That prepared for me a mansion in the sky.
- (Fanny J. Crosby)
THE PREPARATION OF THE PLACE
In chapter 13 we wondered at the humility of the One Who stooped low to wash His disciples’ feet, but in chapter 14 He points them to the heights of the Father’s house and expresses His desire to have them there with Him forever. The reference in Jn.2.16 to “My Father’s house” is clearly referring to the Temple but in this chapter the Saviour is referring to heaven. The One Whose will was always completely subsumed in the will of His Father did express His will in Jn.17.24: “Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory …” It is John who alone uses this precious description of heaven. It is the Saviour’s eternal home and oftentimes when He was here He must have thought of that familiar, celestial abode and no doubt, frequently He must have yearned to be back in that holy, heavenly sphere where He was “adored by all the sons of flame”. There His person was truly appreciated and His name honoured and praised. Here He daily faced the burning hatred of His undeserving creatures; the expression on their faces told Him constantly of their desire to be rid of Him; they simply could not tolerate Him and made no effort to disguise their intense opposition to Him and venomous hatred of Him.
Heaven is no fanciful, fictitious ‘Valhalla’ or ‘Nirvana’, designed to motivate deluded, brainwashed Christians and to enliven and enlighten an otherwise dull and boring existence; it is a real place with a definite location, always described as above the earth. Christ said He came down from heaven: “For the bread of God is He which cometh down from heaven” Jn.6.33. “For I came down from heaven, not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me” Jn.6.38. Paul said that he was caught up to heaven: “How that he was caught up into Paradise, and heard unspeakable words …” 2Cor.12.4. The Saviour told the dying thief on the adjacent cross, “To day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise” Lk.23.43. There are the aerial heavens where the swallow flies and the eagle soars; the astral heavens where the stars shine and the third heaven where the Sovereign sits, the dwelling place of God.
It is a place of undisturbed tranquillity and unshadowed bliss. Sin will never enter there and crime statistics will never have to be recorded. No one will ever have to call the doctor and death will be unknown in the Paradise of God. Jesus said He was going to prepare a place there: “I go to prepare a place for you” Jn.14.2. He was going to Calvary to make provision for sinners (every sinner everywhere), but He was going to heaven to prepare for saints. Alas, many sinners for whom Christ died will miss heaven forever, because of their intransigence and reluctance. Should there be a dear unsaved friend reading this now, please think about your need of Christ and trust Him before it is eternally too late. Imagine missing heaven forever because of a paltry excuse or trifling pleasure.
It is the place of “many mansions”5, spacious, welcoming and a fit place for His bride to share with Him eternally. To those scenes of tearless and uninterrupted joy Christ will welcome us and His deep desire to have us there with Him forever was expressed to His Father in the prayer with which this section of John’s Gospel concludes, “Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me: for Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world” Jn.17.24.
- 5. Gk. mone (Strong 3438) – the same word is translated as “abode” in v.23 of this chapter.
- O scenes of heavenly joy!
- The Father’s house above;
- Where cloudless peace without alloy
- Fills all that home of love.
- There glory bright and fair
- Shines with celestial beam;
- For He who suffered once is there,
- Its centre and its theme.
- (T. Porter)
How amazing that we, once rebellious sinners who deserved nothing but eternal banishment from a holy God, will be welcomed righteously to those “everlasting habitations” Lk.16.9! How blessed that many “of whom the world was not worthy” Heb.11.38, many who faced fiery persecution every day, will find sanctuary, rest and refuge in that celestial home where sin will never gain a foothold! How comforting to consider that those who never enjoyed radiant health on earth, who required lifelong medication and frequent stays in hospital, will serve the Lord forever with the vigour and vibrancy of eternal youth in the deathless scenes of the Father’s house!
There we will never again be distracted by a sinful thought or distressed by a sinful deed. We will never again be depressed by propensity to grieve the God we love, but will know complete deliverance from the power and presence of sin forever. The Saviour’s home will be our home, none daring to question our access to those mansions of eternal rest. We shall instantly feel at home there and we will require no introductions for “not one will seem a stranger though never seen before”.
- There no stranger God shall meet thee;
- Stranger thou in courts above!
- He who to His rest shall greet thee
- Greets thee with a well-known love.
- (J.N. Darby)
Christians feel increasingly isolated and marginalised in this hostile world, and as a boy I remember frequently hearing the words of a song which then were somewhat enigmatic to me, “This world is not my home, I’m just a-passing through, etc.” However, we can now appreciate in a deeper way the sentiment of Darby’s hymn:
- This world is a wilderness wide;
- I have nothing to seek or to choose,
- I’ve no thought in the waste to abide,
- I’ve nought to regret or to lose.
- (J.N. Darby)
Precious, pleasant and peaceful though that blest abode may be, it can never eclipse the Person Who will make heaven, HEAVEN.
- The bride eyes not her garment,
- But her dear bridegroom’s face;
- I will not gaze at glory,
- But on the King of grace –
- Not at the crown He giveth,
- But on His piercèd hand;
- The Lamb is all the glory
- Of Immanuel’s land.
- (Anne R. Cousin)
THE PROSPECT OF THE PAROUSIA
“And if I go [the proof] … I will come again [the promise], and receive you unto Myself [the purpose]; that where I am [the Person], there ye may be also [the prospect]” Jn.14.3.
Although, admittedly, the word parousia does not occur in John chapter 14, there can be no doubt whatsoever that the Saviour is anticipating that glorious event, commonly referred to as the Rapture. Parousia is “the word most frequently used in the Scriptures to describe the return of Christ … it occurs twenty-four times in the New Testament in a variety of connections. As its etymology indicates, the word means to be near or alongside … It involves all that the English word presence connotes … It has come to mean not simply presence but the act by which the presence is brought about, i.e. by the coming of the individual.”6
- 6. Pentecost, J. Dwight. “Things to Come”. Zondervan, p.156.
In this chapter the focus is on the Saviour’s expectation of the Rapture and the personal joy He will receive, when at His Father’s behest He will return to claim His Bride, purchased by Him at such cost. He has waited patiently for that blessed moment:
- He comes, for O, His yearning heart
- No more can bear delay;
- To scenes of full, unmingled joy
- To call His Bride away.
- (Edward Denny)
The Imminence of His Coming
He assures them that the period of His absence will be brief; what He literally says is, “I am going and I am coming” as if there is no discernible time lapse between His ascension and His return for them. The imminence (at any moment) of His return is frequently taught in the New Testament, as in 1Cor.1.7; Phil.3.20,21; 1Thess.1.9,10; 4.16,17; 5.5-9; Titus 2.13; Jms.5.8; Rev.3.10; 22.17-21 and here. In view of His imminent return the believer is never encouraged to look for signs, although many signs as to His manifestation (for example, earthquakes, pestilences, and increasing hostility between nations) are already becoming apparent, even prior to the Rapture.
The Personality of His Coming
The believer’s focus must ever be on the Person, never on the portents. He will not delegate that joyous task to another; no angel will be commanded to meet the Bride and escort her home. No chariots of fire will be provided for her triumphant entrance into the Father’s house; as in 1Thess.4.16 it is “the Lord Himself” Who will come; “I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” Jn.14.3.
- We wait to see the Morning Star appearing,
- In glory bright;
- This blessèd hope illumes, with beams most cheering,
- The hours of night.
- (Margaret L. Carson)
The Certainty of His Coming
Not only is His coming imminent but it is certain: He says, “I will come again” v.3. What a cheering, consoling truth for those bewildered disciples! He promised to return and as on every other occasion, He will fulfil His promise; His Word cannot be altered. He has not left any room for misunderstanding or misconstruing of His words; they permit no ambiguity; their meaning is clear. The Lord Jesus will come, literally, actually and physically and “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” 1Cor.15.52, will remove from this world every believer who has trusted Him for eternal salvation; not one will be left behind, regardless of how carnal, materialistic and disappointing we proved to be.
THE PRIVILEGE OF PRAYER
Initially the thought of the Saviour’s imminent departure from them proved almost overwhelming; they looked forward to meeting Him at the commencement of each day and being close by Him throughout each day. He was always there for them and He was always aware of their problems and needs and could immediately intervene when difficulties arose but now it was going to be different, or would it?
The Saviour would now impress upon them that though He would no longer be actually and physically with them, He would be just as accessible as previously, in fact, more so. They would never have to search for Him or find it difficult to gain His attention as when He was thronged by the needy multitudes; He would be just a prayer away, available at all times, regardless of the place, the period or the problems. His love and care would not change and His deep interest in them personally and individually would never diminish. The very fact that He was going away was with their interests in view, “to prepare a place for you”. He would, in His absence, be continually and unceasingly occupied with them and on their behalf.
While He was away they would continue to communicate with Him through prayer; in His name they would address the Father: “Whatsoever ye shall ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” v.13. “If ye shall ask Me anything in My name, that will I do” v.14, R.V. To ask in His name is to invoke His undisputed authority, His unlimited resources and engage the excelling greatness of His Person, availing of His unparalleled influence and merits, imparting assurance and affording acceptance. Praying in His name suggests making requests that are consistent with His holy character and in unity with His will. It also presupposes the absence of Christ; He is no longer here; the contaminated soil of earth no longer bears His holy and unfaltering footprints but He is there, in heaven, at the Father’s right hand, making unceasing intercession for us, untiringly engaged on our behalf. Prayer focusses on Christ’s present ministry as Mediator.
- To all our prayers and praises
- Christ adds His sweet perfume,
- And love the censer raises
- Their odours to consume.
- (Mary Peters)
Immediate access was guaranteed with no limit to the petitions they would make of Him. How comforting this must have been, to hear it from His own lips!
Many of us are impoverished for the very simple reason that we ask not; for some strange reason we limit God and are reluctant to make request of Him Whose “love is as great as His power” and Whose benevolence is unlimited. God is omniscient and knows our every need but it is incumbent on us to ask. How many of us have discovered by bitter experience:
- O! what peace we often forfeit,
- O! what needless pain we bear,
- All because we do not carry
- Everything to God in prayer.
- (Joseph M. Scriven)
THE PROMISE OF THE PARACLETE
In addition to all the promises already made to confirm and comfort them, He promises them another Comforter (parakletos7: ‘helper’, one who draws alongside to help), Who will perpetuate the work which the Saviour had already undertaken on their behalf. “And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another [allos, of the same kind] Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever” v.16. He would certainly not be a mere influence but One of the Godhead Three with His distinct Personality, here on earth, to patiently, persistently, and powerfully display His deep interest in their welfare and progress. Another Divine Person has come into the world, arriving subsequently to the ascension of Christ, as attested to in Acts chapter 2. Note the clear reference to the Trinity in v.16: “I”, “the Father” and the “Comforter”.
- “another Comforter” (the Paraclete)
- “that He” (His Personality)
- “may abide8 with you” (His presence)
- “for ever” (His permanence) vv.16,17.
- 7. Not only does the word parakletos indicate comfort but conveys the ideas of help and strength. It is also used of the Lord’s present ministry before the Father, as our Advocate, 1Jn.2.1.
- 8. The word “with” (para) in v.17 suggests that the Comforter was right beside them. The preposition in v.16 is meta.
It was necessary that the Saviour should be glorified before the Holy Spirit could be sent down. “But this spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified” Jn.7.39. Now however, the Saviour knows that Calvary is near, the work His Father gave Him to do would soon be completed and His sojourn on earth would come to an end, Jn.17.4. His gracious mission here would be accomplished and He would ascend back to those blessed scenes from where in wondrous grace He came to procure our salvation. When He was received up in glory, 1Tim.3.16, to sit where no angel has ever been invited to sit, Heb.1.13, the Holy Spirit came down on the Day of Pentecost, Acts 2.1-4.
The Spirit now indwells every believer at the moment of conversion: “… in whom also after that ye believed [‘having believed’ J.N.D.], ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise” Eph.1.13. That is irreversible; His indwelling is permanent; this is a New Testament concept in contrast with examples and experiences in the Old Testament when, for a limited period and for a specific purpose, the Holy Spirit came upon men and enabled them to do exploits for God which otherwise could never have been achieved. The one distinguishing feature that identifies one who is born again is that he or she is indwelt by the Holy Spirit: “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His” Rom.8.9.
These are the functions of the Spirit: He
- enlightens, Jn.14.26; 16.13-15; 1Cor.2.10,11
- encourages, as suggested by the word “comfort”
- engages in intercession on our behalf, Rom.8.26
- extols Christ, Jn.16.14.
- 9. Originally “comfort”, Latin con – ‘together’ and fortis – ‘to make strong’, contained the idea of strengthening as well as sympathising.
In connection with the fourth point above, F.E. Stallan writes, “It is the Spirit who helps believers to cry to God. It is He who will intercede in perfect harmony with the mind and will of God. The Holy Spirit therefore makes intercession. The word huperentunchano (“intercession”) is found only here in the New Testament. It is, therefore, reserved for the Holy Spirit. It is a great comfort to know that it is He who will go to God to present the petitions of the saints.”10
- 10. Stallan, F.E. “What The Bible Teaches – Romans”. John Ritchie Ltd., Kilmarnock, 1998, p.194.
“The Spirit of truth” v.17
The Holy Spirit is thus designated in Jn.14.17; 15.26; 16.13 and 1Jn.4.6. As One of the Godhead, He is the fullest and perfect embodiment of the truth. Moses wrote, “He is the Rock, His work is perfect: For all His ways are judgment: A God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is He” Deut.32.4. The Son of God said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life …” Jn.14.6, and the Spirit of God is “the Spirit of truth”. John states emphatically, “And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth” 1Jn.5.6.
“He shall guide you into all the truth …” Jn.16.13, R.V., J.N.D., that is, He will facilitate our apprehension of the truth so that we will readily accept and appreciate truths relative to God and the Lord Jesus Christ (His eternal existence; His incarnation; His virgin birth; His impeccable life; His efficacious, sacrificial atoning death; His literal, actual bodily resurrection out from among the dead and His ascension to the Father’s right hand). We will unquestioningly accept the record of God as to creation, the Fall, the Flood, etc. We will understand the gist of prophetic Scriptures and the broad panorama of God’s programme and purpose for this world and we will imbibe truth as expounded in the epistles, the apostles’ doctrine. He will never deceive, misinform or misdirect because He Himself is truth.
Homer Kent wrote, “The Spirit would be the helper who would implant the truth in human hearts and illuminate its meaning for believers.”11
- 11. Kent, Homer A., Jr. “Light in the Darkness – Studies in the Gospel by John”. BMH Books, Winona Lake, Indiana, 1974, p.175.
“Whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him” v.17
When Christ was here He was visible, audible and tangible; He was a real Man but incapable of sinning. Men gazed upon Him with wonder, beholding the miracles which He did. They listened betimes with bated breath to the words of truth which came from His lips, acknowledging that He spoke “as one having authority, and not as the scribes” Matt.7.29. With unprecedented power He commanded the unclean spirits and they had to obey. The disciples said with amazement, “What manner of man is this! For He commandeth even the winds and water, and they obey Him” Lk.8.25. In contrast, however, the Spirit is not visible: He will never be seen thronged by the needy multitudes, touching the diseased and blind; He will never be seen walking upon the waters or stilling the storm. Christ was unknown by the world; they failed to recognise His greatness, in their unbelief they disputed, doubted and denied His claims; they refused to accept that He was the eternal Son of God, possessed of every attribute Divine. The Holy Spirit too will be unknown by the world; they will not admit to His Deity or accept that He is a Person and not merely an influence.
In sending the Comforter, Christ was not going to forget about His own and cease to care for them. He says, “I will not leave you comfortless [‘orphans’, bereft of care, comfort and company]: I will come to you” v.18. The idea is not that of substitution: that they were losing one Divine Person but gaining another, but rather that through the indwelling Spirit they would have an even greater appreciation of Christ, a more reassuring apprehension of His care, and ready access to His succour, strength, support and sympathy at all times. He probably had His return at the Rapture in mind as well, as the climax of His promise to come unto them. As He did with the two cheerless disciples on the road to Emmaus in Luke chapter 24, so, to borrow the words of the hymn-writer John East, He still “tends with sweet, unwearied care” and graciously draws near when there is special need, allowing us to feel the warmth of His nearness and the reassurance of His love and interest.
THE PROVISION OF HIS PEACE
The Lord assures His disciples of His abiding peace in a troublesome and pressurised world: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you” v.27. The opening words of the chapter are repeated here, with this addition, “neither let it be afraid [Gk. deiliao12]”, so that there need be no terror in the present and no trepidation of the future. “Peace [eirene], meaning health, welfare, prosperity, every kind of good … Characteristic of the N.T. is the view of peace as the present possession of the believer … the state of the Christian in this present life. In the O.T. the equivalent word shalom meant wholeness, soundness, hence health, well-being, prosperity …”13. It is linked with the thought of reconciliation to God and relationship with God, and is, therefore, a superlative blessing that only Christians can enjoy.
- 12. This is the only reference to the Greek word for “afraid” as used here, in the New Testament. It suggests cowardice, timidity; this is an understandable sentiment in an increasingly hostile, aggressive and menacing world. It occurs in the Septuagint version of Deut.1.21; Josh.10.25 and Isa.13.7.
- 13. Zhodiates, Spiros. “The Complete Word Study Dictionary”. AMG Publishers, Chattanooga, USA.
“Peace I leave …”
He bequeaths peace in a perplexed world, tranquillity in a troubled world, and certainty in a confused world. In view of His imminent death and departure, the Saviour leaves this precious legacy. He is of course “the Prince of Peace” Isa.9.6, and His Father “the God of peace” Rom.15.33; 16.20; Phil.4.9; 1Thess.5.23; Heb.13.20. Peace having been bequeathed by the Lord Jesus, it cannot be disannulled and is irrevocable; there is no celestial, terrestrial or infernal being who can revoke this blessing or change the Saviour’s will, for there is a clear allusion to the making of a will or testament by one preparing for his death. The Saviour is not only the Testator but also the Executor of His own will.
“My peace I give …”
As the great Benefactor, the source of “every good gift and every perfect gift” Jms.1.17, He alone is the Giver of this peace; it cannot be acquired by anything we can do; it cannot be bought and is unmerited. Christ is the Author and Agent of this peace: “For He is our peace …” Eph.2.14. “These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” Jn.16.33. “On every hand He had to meet the contradiction of sinners, but walking in communion with the Father, and in subjection to the Father’s will, He ever enjoyed peace of heart. This same peace would be the portion of the believer … Surrounded by a world of unrest the believer’s heart would be garrisoned by the peace of Christ.”14
- 14. Smith, H. “The Last Words – An Exposition of John Chapters 13 to 17”. Believers Bookshelf, Inc.
“Not as the world giveth, give I unto you …”
The world can but wish for peace but Christ gives peace. The world’s peace is unstable, shaky, insubstantial and cannot inspire confidence. “They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of My people slightly, Saying, ‘Peace, peace;’ when there is no peace” Jer.6.14. “This is different from peace which the world offers, for that is dependent upon circumstances which are constantly changing. Christ’s peace is based upon His own unchanging person and work.”15 Christ gives presently and permanently; He will never take back what He has so generously and gratuitously given.
- 15. Kent, Homer A., Jr., ibid.
Throughout this precious chapter, as indeed throughout the Gospel by John and throughout the Scriptures, it is Christ Who is preeminent. It has rightly been said that the Bible is a ‘Him Book’ and His greatness is advertised in every book. While the greatest of characters in the Bible merit a few chapters at the most, Christ is “in all the scriptures” Lk.24.27; take Him out of the Bible and you are left with nothing but the covers. He is the Person Who is central in every reference to the hope of the Church; our destiny is linked with this same glorious Person. His name we love, His voice we hear and His last words were most cheering to those few disciples who heard them on the eve of His crucifixion. They were not empty, meaningless words but charged with all the power of the One Who spoke and Who is able also to perform. “For all the promises of God in Him are yea, and in Him Amen, unto the glory of God by us” 2Cor.1.20. Soon we shall hear His word, “Arise” and in a moment we shall ascend to meet Him in the skies, gaze with silent wonder upon His lovely face, return with Him to the Father’s house and spend a glad eternity with the matchless Lover of our souls. In contemplation of all this, “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” Jn.14.27.
- Listening for Thy shout, Lord Jesus,
- In the air;
- When Thy saints shall rise with joy
- To meet Thee there, O what gladness!
- No more sadness, no more sadness,
- Sin nor care.
- (Henry Bennett)