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In John 16 Jesus shifted His focus to warn His disciples about trouble that was coming to them as well as to Himself. This warning enlarged upon what He had said earlier (John 15:18-21) about the world’s hatred.
John 16:1, 2 begins,
1 These things I have spoken to you so that you may be kept from stumbling. 2 They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service [latreia] to God.
In the immediate context, Jesus was obviously talking about the Jews and their religious system, since only they could make them “outcasts from the synagogue.” The book of Acts shows how this prophecy was fulfilled. Not only would the believers be excommunicated but they would also be killed. Those doing this would believe that they were offering up a sacrifice to God.
The Greek word translated “service” is latreia, the technical word for an offering. It is used five times in the Septuagint as the equivalent of the Hebrew word aboda, “service, labor, work.” Examples are found in Exodus 12:25, 26 and in Exodus 13:5, where the NASB says, “you shall observe this rite.” Hence, Jesus was telling them that the Jews would justify their murder by thinking of it as a sacred rite, an offering to God. More literally, they would say they were doing God’s work in obedience to Him.
Such is the religious mindset of those who do not have the love of God indwelling their hearts. They think they do what is pleasing to God, not knowing that God is love and that love does not require human sacrifice. They point to the law of God without knowing its true meaning, so they interpret it according to their misunderstanding of God’s nature.
Jesus explained to His disciples the underlying reason for the coming persecution in John 16:3,
3 These things they will do because they have not known the Father or Me.
The same persecution was performed too by the church in later years. Churchmen fell into the same carnal trap of thinking they could execute and even torture those who were said to be “heretics.” This mindset was no different from the Jewish mindset in the first century. The reason for all of this persecution was because they did not know the Father or Jesus.
There are still heretic hunters today, whose ministries are based on the same carnal mindset. Though modern laws in the West prevent them from killing so-called “heretics,” their carnal mindset is evident to those who know their heavenly Father. Their misunderstanding of God’s nature drives them to do “God’s work” by destroying those who believe differently.
The nature of God tells us that those who misunderstand the Scriptures should be taught correctly and in a loving manner. Everyone misunderstands in some area, because almost no one has been given the whole truth. No one can afford to be so opinionated that they feel justified in hating those who do not see or agree with their pet “truth.” That is why the motto of my own ministry is “Truth in Love,” taken from Ephesians 4:15.
John 16:4 continues,
4 But these things I have spoken to you, so that when their hour comes, you may remember that I told you of them. These things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you.
When Jesus said, “when their hour comes,” He was speaking of the hour of sacrifice, when the religious leaders would persecute Jesus disciples. The implication is that just as there was an appointed “hour” for the morning and evening sacrifice in the temple, so also was there an appointed “hour” for persecution. It is essentially a statement of the sovereignty of God, showing that such persecution had been held back while Jesus was yet with them. The persecution was to begin with Jesus’ crucifixion and then extend to the believers.
Jesus withheld this revelation from the disciples until the time of the end, “because I was with you.” In other words, He did not want to worry them while they were still growing and learning. They did not need to know until the hour of “sacrifice” was close. It was also needful for them to know what to expect, because the time was drawing near when Jesus would be leaving them.
The Holy Spirit Promised
John 16:5, 6 says,
5 But now I am going to Him who sent Me; and none of you asks Me, “Where are You going?” 6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.
Apparently, the disciples had accepted the fact that He was soon to leave them, and this had saddened them. But they were afraid to ask the big question that was on their minds: “Where are You going?” We look back at this conversation with the knowledge of His ascension and return to the Father, but the disciples knew little or nothing about ascension. They were still unsure about where He was going.
John 16:7 continues,
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.
As long as Jesus was present in the world, the disciples did not need Christ’s Agent, the parakletos. Christ’s personal presence actually prevented the Holy Spirit from coming to them. The advantage of having the Holy Spirit, rather than Christ’s personal presence, was that Christ could then indwell all of them without geographical restrictions and physical limitations. Wherever they went, Christ was always with them, and imparting the Holy Spirit to others in no way diminished His presence in the apostle.
In other words, the spread of the Holy Spirit to more and more people did not spread Christ’s presence thinner and thinner but actually increased Christ’s presence in the earth. Ultimately, His glory was to fill the earth as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11:9; Habakkuk 2:14).
The Work of the Holy Spirit
John 16:8-12 says the Holy Spirit must deal with three main things:
8 And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; 11 and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged. 12 I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.
First, the Holy Spirit must deal with sin. Of course, we know that Jesus dealt with sin when He died on the cross. But as the Agent of Christ, the Holy Spirit continues that work and builds upon what Christ Himself did. The only clue given in verse 9 above is “because they do not believe in Me.” In other words, the Holy Spirit was sent to convict unbelieving hearts and turn them to repentance.
To put it in a positive way, the Holy Spirit is there to lead us and speak to us, because “faith comes by hearing” (Romans 10:17). As the Agent of Christ, the Holy Spirit speaks only what Jesus speaks, and so we hear the voice of Jesus in the Holy Spirit. When we hear, we also obey, for that is the meaning of the word shema. Our response is evidence of hearing and evidence of faith (James 2:18).
Secondly, the Holy Spirit was sent to convict the hearts of men “concerning righteousness,” that is, by establishing the perfect standard of righteousness. The reason given in verse 10 is “because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me.” Jesus’ life set forth the standard of righteousness for all. He was the Amen of God, reflecting the nature of His Father and doing only what He saw His Father do.
The Holy Spirit, as Christ’s Agent, built upon that perfect Example and extended it to all future generations. In other words, the Holy Spirit’s work is to be the voice of Christ, guiding us in all that we do, so that we too might become Amen People.
Thirdly, the Holy Spirit was sent to convict “the ruler of this world.” Even though Adam’s estate had been sold to him in the divine court on account of sin-debt, the ruler of this world is yet accountable to the laws of God. He has obviously abused his power, for the laws of God give slaves certain rights, and these rights were largely ignored.
Jesus, of course, defeated Satan at the cross and in His resurrection. Christ’s Agent, the Holy Spirit, continues this work in us, so that we too may defeat Him in our own lives. So Paul tells us in Romans 16:20, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” What Christ did on the cross, the Holy Spirit does in each of us.
Guiding us into All Truth
Another very important function of the Holy Spirit is then given in John 16:13,
13 But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He heard, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.
This is a clear statement of the Agency of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit does not speak “on His own initiative” any more than Jesus did. Both were Agents in their own right ultimately of “the only true God” (John 17:3). Jesus spoke only what He heard; and the Holy Spirit likewise speaks “whatever He heard.”
In following their Examples, we too are to become Amen People, speaking only what we hear and doing only what the Father does. The Holy Spirit’s job is to “guide you into all the truth.” This was expressed in Jeremiah 31:33 as “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it.” In other words, the Holy Spirit’s job is to guide us and change our nature to conform to the nature of Christ Himself.
This is the New Covenant promise. The Old Covenant put the responsibility upon ourselves, whereas the New Covenant put the responsibility upon the Holy Spirit.
John 16:14, 15 concludes,
14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. 15 All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.
An agent speaks for and glorifies another. Jesus glorified the Father; the Holy Spirit glorifies the Son and, by extension, the Father also. The Father has given all things to the Son, putting all things under His feet (1 Corinthians 15:27). The Holy Spirit “takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.” In this case the Holy Spirit reveals the truth to those who believe, but ultimately, we become fellow heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17). Everything that is His is also ours to enjoy.