John 16 – When the Helper Has Come
We will begin this study of John 16 with Jn. 15:26-27, which is a clear transition from Jesus’ previous words. He now pivots back to ministry to His disciples. These verses could easily been included as the first verses of John 16. Jesus now moves to expand on the ministry of the Holy Spirit, an emphasis which is a continuation of the “comfort” Jesus was providing the men in John 14:26-28. Recall that the Disciples were struggling with the realization that Jesus was serious about leaving. They were aware of the danger facing them in the aftermath of the Resurrection, and Jesus wanted to assure them that their work spreading the Gospel would proceed with protection and power. Tough times will come (see Jn. 15:18-21), but the message of the Holy Spirit, as the Comforter, includes great truths to be revealed to them and which they will preach and write about later.
We know the truths in these verses are for us because in Acts 2, the Holy Spirit indwelt the believers permanently. This is an important change in God’s relationship with His people, and this indwelling is true for every believer in Jesus Christ from that point up to today and until the Lord takes the Church home in the Rapture. When the Father sends the Holy Spirit to these men, the promise is that the Spirit will “teach you all things”. All that Jesus had taught outright, and truth He alluded to, as well as truth yet to be revealed (Paul’s “mysteries”).
We know that our human minds & hearts are are often challenged when hearing God’s Truth. The Disciples had been walking along with Jesus for three years while He opened up the Scriptures, and we know that they were slow coming to an understanding of the Truths they were hearing. Compare how even after the Resurrection the two travelers on the road to Emmaus were slow at first to grasp Who they were walking with. They wanted to hear the truth and the Holy Spirit enlightened them (Lu. 24:13-35) through the words spoken by the Lord. What a joy to hear God’s Truth, understand it and then live according to it! Jesus was promising to minister to the Disciples and all future Christians in the same way through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
John 16:1-4 – Difficulties Distract
Jesus’ words about the coming of the Comforter is delivered with further thoughts about the tough times to come who are truly Jesus’ followers. Jesus had started this line of thinking in Jn. 15:18, the world’s rejection will turn to hatred. As a result, they will feel threatened, things would likely get difficult! Jesus now returns to the important subject of the Holy Spirit’s ministry, doing a bit of review with new information provided. We are still in the Upper Room Discourse begun in John 13, and Jesus has introduced several important spiritual truths without a lot of detail to begin with but elaborating as the evening progressed. Now He returns to the comforting and empowering ministry of the Spirit. Note that this is a familiar and effective teaching method used by teachers through the ages. A similar method is more circular, expressed as “Tell them what you’re going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you told them.” I learned another approach to biblical teaching from Howard Hendricks he called “Hook, Book, Took” – an introduction that grabs attention, the content of the study, then life application. Jesus follows a great tradition since the patriarchs of passing information, expounding truth and guiding learners to life-changing application. John even seems to appreciate teaching method in his writing 1 John.
In Jn. 16:1, 3, 4, Jesus repeats the short phrase “these things”. John uses the phrase about 35 times in his Gospel, but in Jn. 13-16, it is used 11 times and only by Jesus. You can also compare Luke’s use of the phrase, and consider how the phrase often seems to be linked to
eschatological truth. It seems to be like a signal to the Disciples, as if to say “Heads up!” The Disciples needed to hear these crucial truths from the Lord because He would soon be gone, they needed to understand and live by what He says. The Holy Spirit, is the third person of the Godhead, truly God, and strategic to God’s ongoing plan for the ages, especially regarding the viability of the Church going forward. This very Spirit of the living and true God would indwell, guide, empower and protect them. This is how they would be prepared to stand against the attacks of the world. In Jn. 16:4, Jesus reminds them that this isn’t “book learning” – they will need to recall and apply these truths. Jesus is candid in saying that they are accustomed to Him being with them in person, walking along arm-in-arm. However, that’s going to end and they are going to be faced with living in the power of the Holy Spirit. Wiersbe puts it, the Holy Spirit indwells us for life and witness.
- The Disciples were protected while Jesus was alongside. But Jesus has warned them that the world’s attacks are going to continue and get worse when He is gone. They need to be prepared.
- Paul describes “how bad it will get” in 2 Tim. 3:1-13. “Perilous times will come”, all kinds of ugly behavior will be the “norm”, all kinds of ungodliness, creeping into our homes undetected. Note that Paul ends this passage with the reminder that we have God’s Word to “completely equip” us to be godly (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
- In Eph. 4:11-16, Paul explained that God gave us (the Church) ministers (us) empower and gifted by the Holy Spirit to equip us so that we are not “carried about by every (false) wind of doctrine and trickery of man that attacks us.”
John 16:5-11 – Now I go away…
- Jesus compassionately reviews and elaborates – He is leaving, but the Holy Spirit carry on the ministry of God in their lives.
- They hadn’t asked Him about where He was going… Well, they had (Jn. 13:36; 14:5), but Jesus had perceived those to be from selfish interests. Now He looked for them to have genuine interest in Jesus’ plan, what God was doing.
- Without using the word “hour” or “time”, Jesus returns to speaking from the perspective of God executing His plan for His people. The next step (after Jesus’ hour) was for His followers to have their “hour” of spreading the Gospel worldwide. The Holy Spirit will be central to that effort, executing conviction which will draw many to the Savior.
- Interestingly, the opposition, all the rebellious elements of the world, will have their “hour” as well. We know from the book of Revelation that there is an end to God’s patience (2 Pet. 3:9) and mankind will experience final judgment for turning away from God.
John 16:12 -15 – A new teacher
- Christ promised His followers that although they won’t have Him with them any longer to teach the great truths about God, they will have the Holy Spirit. He will guide us “into all truth”, He will reveal God’s truth, He will glorify Christ. His work in us will enable us to grow in Christlikeness.
- The litmus test is a very basic test to indicate acidity or alkalinity of a substance. The test of a believer’s faith can work in similar fashion. Eph. 1:13 tells us that the Holy Spirit is a “seal” of our salvation, a spiritual stamp of approval that we are the read deal. He permanently indwells us, that seal can’t be removed. Here are some items you can use for “testing’ your seal (we don’t “test” others, that’s up to them):
- Your response to the Bible – When you read a passage of Scripture and really are impressed by it, you stop and think it through, maybe look up a couple of related verses, write something down about what it means to you. That’s the Holy Spirit working in you.
- Your care for others – When you have a person in your life that causes you concern (or worse), is hard to love, does things to irritate you. But you think about that person’s need to know Christ as Savior, so you pray often for him or her. That’s the Holy Spirit working in you.
- You enjoy going to church and your Bible class teacher is really great. So your teacher comes to you one day and asks you to share with the class (standing up front) a some of your thoughts about that week’s Bible passage – oh my! But you do it, and realize you enjoying talking about the Bible out loud. That’s the Holy Spirit working in you.
The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit
- The Bible provides us much truth about the Holy Spirit which is worthy of our study. However note that these passages in John, 14:25-28, and 16:7-15, provide a major foundation for this doctrinal truth.
- The Holy Spirit’s work of conviction:
- To declare & convince – not judge, but to arouse awareness, expose error, emphasize Truth
- Arouse awareness of sin, the negative results of rebelling against God
- Arouse awareness of righteousness, how far away unbelieving mankind is, how essential it is for believers to aspire it
- Arouse awareness of judgment, the reality of accountability to a holy God
- From a different perspective, in Jn. 16:8-15, shows the three-fold ministry of the Holy Spirit:
- Verses 8-13, convict the world
- Verses 12-13, enlighten believers
- Verses 14-15, glorify, magnify Christ
John 16:16-30 – In Conclusion
- Note that this passage becomes the end of Jesus’ teachings on Earth. The next chapter is High Priestly Prayer, after which He is arrested in the Garden.
- “In a little while”, a somewhat different transition phrase, and “you will see me know more”. The Disciples were still struggling with this reality, stuck on that phrase “a little while”.
- Jesus says that phrase 7 times in this passage, a bit of emphasis is perceived by the careful Bible student. Repeated use gives the idea of time elapsing. Perhaps the first “while” is in just a few hours, as the arrest and court sessions lead to crucifixion. Then the second “while” could be when He appears outside the open tomb. Then, other appearances lead to the final “while” at the Ascension. Jesus comments in v.22 that the end of all this will bring rejoicing.
- Jn. 16:23, “in that day” is a phrase that jumps from the page because of its clear relationship to prophecy and God’s plans for the last days when His redemption programs will be brought to a close.
- Joel 3:18 looks to that day when a spring will go out from Jerusalem, a picture of restored Israel in the Millennial Kingdom when Christ will reign on the throne of David in Jerusalem for 1000 years. Compare Zephaniah 3:17; 14:4, 6, 9, 13, 20, 21.
- This Great Day is anchored in the Age of Grace which we live in today – Pentecost was the inauguration of the Last Days!
- Click here for a good summary of the Day of the Lord which is being referenced here. There is a lot of references in the Bible to this great theme and would be worth your time to study!
- The important message here is that great over-arching plan of God, reaching back over all the history of man all the way forward to the final judgment depicted in Revelation, has been to bring man back in to relationship with God. The first and second comings of the Messiah are the primary element of that plan’s execution. Jesus is in the process of moving that plan forward. While the Disciples feared the worst, they needed to understand that the events they were currently experiencing were part of God’s plan. Things were very much “in control”.
- Note that even while looking out to the end of God’s plan, we are also reminding of His current provision. While the ultimate reality of “that day” will be our standing in His presence, able to ask Him directly, yet still today, we can petition Him for our needs and He will hear and provide.
- Jn. 16:25 – Jesus had been teaching in a figurative manner but in the future would teach plainly. It is possible that Jesus is comparing His teaching for the past three years, as compared to the plain teaching we would receive from the Holy Spirit. The parables were often a mystery to his believing hearers, even though He would sometimes follow up with an explanation. But the Spirit’s purpose is to teach us clearly. Interesting that Jesus gave them a bit of foretaste of plain teaching while still with them (16:29-30).
Bible Study Journal
Take a look at the verse and make some notes about what each says about the Day of the Lord (“in that day” or the “last days” et.al.):
- Acts 2:17
- 2 Tim. 3:1
- Heb. 1:2
- James 5:3
- 2 Pet. 3:3
- 1 Jn. 2:18
John 16:31-33 – Stay on Point!
- Verse 31, “Do you believe?” Indeed we need to be examining ourselves. How literally does our faith impact our life? Are we prepared to stay faithful in the face of inconveniences and difficulties?
- Verse 32, “The hour is coming.” The Lord sees the end from the beginning, He knows the kinds of troubles that Christians will face. In fact, the “hour has come”, arrest is imminent, and the Disciples will face crisis.
- Verse 33, “in Me you will have peace”. In the face life’s trials, our confidence rests in the Risen Savior. He has overcome the world.