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Bible: What Does John 16 Teach Us About the Holy Spirit?

Updated on September 9, 2016

Future Persecution and Martyrdom

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Persecution is Coming

Through His revelation regarding the Comforter’s future ministry among them, Christ purposes to protect His apostles from falling away from the faith when the Jews begin to persecute them more intensely (v. 1).

He foretells their excommunication and subsequent murder at the hands of enemies—opponents who think their actions please God, but who actually show by their deeds that they know neither the Father nor the Son (vv. 2-3; cf. Acts 7:57-60; 12:2).

[Jesus’ prophecy may encompass the persecution of the early Church and not just that of the apostles.]

The Lord informs them of this future distress in order to buttress their trust in Him, especially in light of His “departure” (v. 4).

Given Peter’s question (“Where are you going?”) in 13:36 and Thomas’s statement (“Lord, we do not know where you are going . . .”) in 14:5, it seems strange that Jesus should wonder why “none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’” (v. 5).

[If they had asked Him where He was going, what would He tell them now that He did not tell them before?]

The “these things” statements concerning His going away grieve the apostles’ hearts (v. 6).

[Note how frequently in chapters 15-16 (15:11, 17, 21; 16: 1, 3, 4 (twice), 6) Jesus uses this expression.]

The Cross, the Resurrection, and Pentecost

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Guidance Into All Truth


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Sin, Righteousness, and Judgment

Their sorrow does not deter the Lord from telling them the fact that it is a better arrangement for the Holy Spirit (the One Whom He will send to them in His place) to abide with them than for Him to stay.

As Spirit, the Paraclete can go with them wherever they travel; Jesus’ humanity limits their accessibility to Him (v. 7).

This Coming One will perform His ministry of convincing the world of three truths:

(1) its sin;

(2) God’s standard of righteousness; and

(3) its judgment (v. 8).

That is to say, He will use the Church’s evangelistic efforts to accomplish the following objectives:

(1) Persuade the world (unregenerate sinners) of its sin of unbelief (v. 9);

(2) Teach it about the righteousness of Christ (which His resurrection and return to heaven will show to be genuine) [v. 10]; and

(3) Warn it about future judgment—a judgment that Satan’s defeat at the Cross exemplifies (v. 11).

The “many things” that Jesus desires to tell the apostles will have to wait until a more appropriate future time when the Spirit will come to the apostles as Jesus’ divine mouthpiece.

[This time may also refer to the post-resurrection period when He will again personally teach them.]

When the Spirit of truth comes at Pentecost, He will be available to guide the apostles into “all truth.”

[No definitive evidence exists why one should limit this comprehensive teaching to spiritual matters alone.

The context, however, zeroes in on eschatology (v. 13)].

The Spirit will take all of Jesus’ “things”—spiritual truths that also belong to the Father—, and tell the apostles about them; by so doing, He will honor Christ (vv. 14-15).

The following chart summarizes the Spirit’s Person and work as Jesus presents them in this discourse:

The Holy Spirit and His Ministries

John 14
John 15
John 16
Another Helper, will abide with the apostles forever.
The Helper, whom Jesus will send to the apostles from the Father
The Helper, Jesus will send Him to the apostles; will convince the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment
The Spirit of truth
The Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father
The Spirit of truth will guide the apostles into all truth, will not speak on His own authority, will reveal things to come to the apostles
The Helper, the Holy Spirit, sent by the Father in Jesus’ name, will teach apostles all things, bring to their remembrance all of Jesus’ words
He will testify of Jesus
He will glorify Jesus; He will take what belongs to the Father and Jesus, and tell it all to the apostles.

Jesus' Ascension: "I Go to the Father"

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After completing His short pneumatological lesson, Jesus appears to pause before informing the apostles again of His departure.

However, He also mentions that they will “see” Him; all of these events will occur “because I go to the Father” (v. 16).

This statement puzzles them so much that they talk among themselves, trying unsuccessfully to determine His possible meaning (especially with regard to the words “A little while”) [vv. 17-18].

Aware of their quandary, Christ assures them that they will experience an “emotional roller coaster” in the coming days; He prophesies that they will mourn one day and rejoice the next (vv. 19-20).

To illustrate for them what they will feel, Jesus likens their sorrow to that of a woman in labor and their joy to her giving birth (v. 21).

He acknowledges that His present statements have saddened them, but He comforts them with the news that His appearances later—post-resurrection and Ascension—will bring them a lasting joy (v. 22).

After Jesus’ ascension, the apostles will ask Him nothing (v. 23a); instead, they will ask the Father for “things” in Jesus’ name—a form of prayer they have yet to practice.

When they do ask, Christ promises them that they will receive what they ask for—along with fullness of joy (vv. 23-24).

Prayer to the Father in Jesus' Name

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This last section of the discourse before Jesus’ so-called high priestly prayer (chapter 17) John encases between two “these things I have spoken to you” statements (vv. 25, 33).

In Christ’s first “these things” statement, He refers to His current method of speaking figuratively about the Father to His men, and mentions His promise to reveal His future plan to speak plainly to His apostles about Him (v. 25).

[What figures of speech refer to the Father?]

Jesus prophesies about “that day” when they will pray to the Father in His [Christ’s] name.

At that time, they will have no need for Christ personally to intercede for them, for their loving Father will answer the requests of those who love His Son and believe that Jesus proceeded from Him (vv. 26-27).

[What “day” is this?]

In verse twenty-eight, He unambiguously states that He is about to complete His round trip between the Father (heaven) and the world (Earth) [v. 28].

In response, the apostles remark that Jesus was now speaking plainly to them (v. 29).

[Does that mean that they believe “that day” has come?]

Something in what Christ has just said convinces them that

(1) He knows all things;

(2) He does not need to field questions about His being the Messiah anymore; and

(3) He came forth from God (vv. 29-30).

[After living with Him for three years, have they only now understood what Jesus meant when He said that He has come forth from God?

What did He say that convinced them of these facts?]

Jesus' Knowledge of the Future

Did Jesus know that the Father would abandon Him at the Cross?

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Divine Abandonment

Jesus’ question in verse 31 expresses skepticism about the strength of their faith, and He proceeds to identify the present as the very time prophesied that they would abandon Him to His predestined isolation (see Zech. 13:7).

Despite this coming desolation, He knows that He can draw consolation from the truth that the Father would never desert Him (vv. 31-32).

[Christ does not know until the moment He is hanging on the cross that even the Father would forsake Him.

Jesus becomes a curse, being made sin for sinners; the Father necessarily turns away from Him, for He cannot embrace sin (cf. Is. 53:6, 9; 2 Cor. 5:21).]

With the Lord’s second “these things I have spoken to you” statement, He aims to encourage the apostles to “be of good cheer.”

The peace that their relationship to Him affords will enable them to overcome the trials the world will send their way, because Christ Himself will soon have victory over the world (v. 33).

© 2014 glynch1

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