John 16

1.  “These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble.

The Lord continues His discourse to His disciples.  There was no break in the Lord’s words between the last chapter and this one.  This is merely a continuation of what He was saying before.

The Lord reveals to them that He has spoken these things to them so that they should not be made to stumble.  He does not want them to be trapped or scandalized by what is about to happen to Him.  These men were followers of the Lord, His Own disciples, and yet He was concerned that they know certain things so that they would not be trapped.  In the same way, we as believers need so very much to know the things that the Lord has for us to know in His Word, so that we too will not be trapped by false thinking or ideas that are so prevalent around us.  There are so many snares that our enemy has laid to try to trap the unwary.  Only by arming ourselves with a knowledge of the Scriptures will we be safe from the traps that he has so cunningly set to cause us to stumble.

2.  “They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service.

In that day, with the economy in Israel so poor and people so dependent on each other and the community, to be put out of the synagogue was a terrible thing indeed.  It meant being cut off from the community and all that it entailed.  And then He goes further to say that the time was coming when whoever killed one of them would think that he was offering service to God.  We see this sort of thing happening later on in the book of Acts.  Surely such a thing might have caused anyone to stumble!  And yet the Lord is arming these men by giving them His words so that when the time comes, they will stand firm.

3.  “And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me.

How can it be that people can do so many terrible things in the name of God?  Here we see that some of the Lord’s Own disciples will be killed in the name of serving God.  How could men who honestly think that they are serving God do something like this?  The truth is that these men do not know God, either the Father or the Son.  Men just tend to assume that religious leaders like the Pharisees were are men who know God.  Of course they know God, they might have said.  If the religious leaders don’t know God, then who does?  But the fact was that these men had never really established a relationship with the true God.  This is a warning to us today.  We too tend to assume that just because someone is a pastor, or just because a man is the pope, or just because some women are nuns, that these people must know God.  The truth is that many of our religious leaders today, even in the best of churches, may not have the relationship with God that we would like to think they have.  We need to be cautious, and try to establish that our religious leaders truly know the God they are claiming to serve.  Otherwise, we may end up following men just like these religious leaders of John’s day.

This is also a warning that we need to apply to our own lives.  Allow me to expand on what I said before about this.  When one has no relationship with the true God, he tends to make up God the way he wants Him to be in his own head.  We as men can be experts at deciding what exactly it is that God is thinking, or what it is that He wants, or what it is that He must be like.  Often, our picture of God that we thus develop is made more to serve our own, selfish desires than anything else.  Just because we call him by the name of the true God does not mean that our god actually is the true God.  If most of what we know of Him (or think we know of Him) are things we have created in our own minds, then our god is not truly the God of heaven, even if that is what we call him.  Even an imaginary god who is very demanding on his followers, like the god the Pharisees had created in their own minds, was ultimately to satisfy their own desire to look better than other men in following these strict rules they had created.  Their devotion to a god that they thought was the true God but which actually was just their imagination is a warning to us today.  Just because you call your god “Jesus Christ” or “the Lord” does not mean that your idea of God is right.  We need to always be in the Word learning more and more of the way God really is so that the picture we have in our minds of God is a true picture, and not just the way we would like Him to be.  If we are not careful, we too could end up with a god in our heads who is as unlike the true God as the one the Pharisees and religious leaders of John’s day thought they were serving.

4.  “But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them.  And these things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you.

There is a saying, “Forewarned is forearmed.”  That is pretty much what the Lord is saying here.  He has told His disciples that these hardships will come upon them in advance, so that when they come, they will remember that He had told them in advance about them.  They will not be a surprise to God.  They will not be something He did not plan for.  This is all in accordance with what He knew would come.

The Lord did not tell these disciples these things from the beginning of His ministry.  The reason was that He was with them, and could protect them from such danger.  Matthew was a tax collector, and a man who definitely was cast out of the Israelite community.  Once he became a follower of the Lord, however, he was suddenly back in good graces as the servant of a popular rabbi.  There was supposed to be no way back once one was cut off from the synagogue, and yet there Matthew was, and no one, not even the Pharisees, would have dared to refuse him his place in society as a disciple of the Lord Jesus.  So these men had nothing to fear regarding being cut off from the community as long as the Lord was with them.  Moreover, no one could harm these men as long as the Lord was there to watch out for them.  That was why the Lord had never warned them about these things before.

5.  “But now I go away to Him who sent Me, and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’

The Lord Jesus was going away to the One Who sent Him.  That was why He now had to warn the disciples about these things.  He would no longer be around to protect them from the wrath of the religious leaders whom He had rejected.

None of them asked Him, “Where are You going?” even though He had revealed to them that He was going away.  That is because they did not understand the reason for His going away, so all they saw was a calamity befalling them as disciples losing their Master.  They did not understand that the Lord was going back to the One Who sent Him, and what that would mean.

6.  “But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.

They felt like the Lord was abandoning them, and so they were filled with gloom and sorrow.

7.  “Nevertheless 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 depart, I will send Him to you.

“Nevertheless, I tell you the truth.”  Of course, the Lord always tells the truth.  It is unthinkable that He would not tell the truth.  Whenever the Lord prefaced a statement by these words, He did it to emphasize what He was about to say, and to underscore the importance of it.

Then, He tells them that it is to their advantage that He does go away.  Otis Q. Sellers references this to a passage in the Psalms, Psalm 7:7-8.

7.  So the congregation of the peoples shall surround You;

This is what men did to Him at the cross.  The word for “congregation” is not the word for an out-called, authoritative assembly, qahal, but rather a word that means a congregation or assemblage of people, the Hebrew word edah.  This assemblage of people surrounded Him.  His enemies gathered around Him to condemn Him.  We see them mocking Him and so forth in the accounts of the crucifixion in the various gospels.  His followers surrounded Him to mourn for what was happening to their Lord.  Others just gathered around because they were curious.

For their sakes, therefore, return on high.

It is for the advantage of the people, even of those who surrounded Him at the cross, that He return on high.

8.  The LORD shall judge the peoples;

This is what will happen because the Lord has returned on high.  He shall judge the peoples.

Judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness,
And according to my integrity within me.

Many people think that God’s judgments are only bad.  It is a terrible thing to fall under His judgment, they think.  Yet for those of us whose sins have been paid for by the Lord Jesus Christ, judgment is not a terrible thing.  Here, the psalmist even looks forward to being judged by the Lord.

Yet why is it for the people’s sakes that He must return on high?  How is it to the advantage of the disciples that He go away from them?  It is revealed here that the advantage is that the Helper will come unto them, for the Lord will send Him.  Remember, this is the Holy Spirit, the One we said earlier could be defined as the “Comforter” or the “Paraclete.”  We can understand this if we remember that, for all his divine power, the Lord Jesus, being fully God yet also fully man, was limited to being in only one place at one time.  We know that He became very close with twelve men, who were His special disciples.  Three of these had an even more special place than the others, and were with Him even more than the others.  Yet the Lord also had many more disciples besides these twelve, and these had a less privileged place.  They probably personally interacted with the Lord far less than the twelve did.  Now, imagine if Christ had been on earth during the Acts period.  We have three thousand who believe in one day in Acts 2.  How much could the Lord have interacted with and helped each one of these?  How about when the disciples scattered from Jerusalem and went to Galilee and Samaria, and then out into the rest of the Roman Empire?  The Lord could not have been everywhere and with everyone at once.  Yet the Holy Spirit could!  He could lead, guide, empower, and work in the lives of many thousands of different people in many hundreds of different places at once.  That is why it was advantageous for them that He go away.  The Spirit was much more suited to help them in the work they were to perform in the Acts period than the Lord Jesus would have been.

8.  “And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:

The Lord now reveals what the Spirit’s mission is going to be regarding the world once He has come.  Notice that this does not say that this is what He does when He comes, but when He has already come.  Though the Spirit came once in the past, I do not believe that He has done this work yet.  It will require a new act of the Spirit to do what is set forth here.

What He does is said to be conviction.  This is a form of the Greek verb elegcho.  Lewis Sperry Chafer, the famed theologian and dispensationalist, suggests that this word means “to make the facts known.”  Yet this word also carries with it the idea of forcing the facts upon someone, whether they wish to know them or not.  It also includes the idea of rebuke.  For example, if a child should say to me, “Yellow and red make blue,” I would correct the child and say, “No, yellow and red make orange.”  I would have corrected the child with a mild rebuke, at the same time making the facts known.  This is the idea of elegcho.

In John 14:26, the Lord had revealed what the Helper would do for the disciples.  That is not the same thing as what He is talking about here.  Here, He is saying what the Spirit will do for the world.  The Greek word here is kosmos, and indicates the system, order, or arrangement of men on the earth.  In this case, I believe this word expands to take in the entire world of men, including all who live upon the earth.  This is similar to what is spoken of in Psalm 22:27.

27.  All the ends of the world Shall remember and turn to the LORD, And all the families of the nations Shall worship before You.

This word for “remember,” in Hebrew has the same idea as we see here in the Greek.  It is not remembering something you had forgotten, but rather it has the idea of something being impressed upon your mind that wasn’t there before.  That is what will happen when the Spirit convicts the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.

I imagine if we got a group of believers together, even a faithful, dedicated group, we would find that they would not all agree on exactly what is sin and what is not sin in God’s sight in the day in which we live.  Needless to say, the world at large is at a loss when it comes to knowledge of sin.  The same is true of righteousness.  Even believers cannot agree on what exactly we are to do and what we are not to do as faithful followers of God today.  And concerning judgment, we certainly do not always agree on what should be done, how things should be ordered, and how things should be run in our day.  Too often we do not know what advice to give to those who ask us.  Often, even sincere believers will give different advice for the same situation.  If even believers cannot agree on these things, certainly the world at large cannot.  We as believers, and this world as a whole, certainly need knowledge when it comes to sin, righteousness, and judgment.  To have the Spirit impress the facts regarding these things upon our minds would be a blessing indeed.  And, praise God, this verse tells us that He will do this work someday in the future!  No longer will men have to wonder what exactly is sin.  No longer will we have to wonder what exactly constitutes righteousness.  And no longer will we have to wonder what really is proper judgment.  The Spirit will reveal these things to the world, and all men will understand them.  What a blessing this will be!

9.  “Of sin, because they do not believe in Me;

This conviction will be regarding sin, because they–that is, the world–do not believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Some would make out that this work that the Spirit is going to do is what He is going to do for believers…that He will show us what sin, righteousness, and judgment are.  But this verse proves that this is not so.  The Spirit will not be convicting men about sin because they believe in the Lord, but because they do not.  This work of the Spirit’s is to convict the world, not the believer.  And the greatest of all sins of the world is not believing in Jesus Christ.  This makes such a work of the Spirit necessary.  Indeed, He must do this if the world is ever going to follow Him.

10.  “Of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more;

When the Lord was on earth, He was a model of righteousness to men.  Surely, in seeing the Lord, we would get a better understanding of what true righteousness really is than any concept of it we have now!  And yet the Lord was returning to the Father, and both the disciples and the world at large would see Him no more.  Thus, since the Lord would not be around to show the world righteousness, Someone else would need to do it.  Now, this was to be the Spirit’s job.  He was to show the unbelieving world what righteousness really is.

11.  “Of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

This is the third time we come upon this phrase, “the ruler of this world.”  “Ruler” can also be “prince” or “chief.”  The Greek word is archon, and carries with it the idea of the first or the best.  Many apply this phrase to Satan, saying that he is the prince of this world.  Yet I do not believe this connection can rightfully be made.  I believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is the only true ruler of this world, and He is called the archon in Revelation 1:5a.

5.  and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth.

The Lord Jesus Christ is the true ruler of this world, and not Satan.  Moreover, this fits better with the Lord’s teaching so far, for the first two things the Spirit was going to convict the world about had to do with the Lord Jesus.  That this third one would also have to do with Him makes more sense than that the world would be convicted about something because of Satan.  But, if this is talking about the Lord as the ruler of this world, what does it mean that “the ruler of this world is judged?”

In Amos 7:8, we have a very interesting passage regarding God’s future judgment of the nation of Israel.  There, we read,

8.  And the LORD said to me, “Amos, what do you see?”
And I said, “A plumb line.”
Then the Lord said:
“Behold, I am setting a plumb line
In the midst of My people Israel;
I will not pass by them anymore.”

Here, Amos sees a plumb line.  We know what a plumb line is.  It is a line that you would use, for example, if you wanted to draw a perfectly straight line from the floor to the ceiling.  You would hang the line from the ceiling, and the force of gravity would act on the “plumb bob” that is on the end of the line to pull the line straight down and form a straight line perpendicular to the ground.  Then, from this line, you could draw your line and make any measurements you needed to make, based on the fact that you knew this line is straight.

So the Lord reveals here that He is going to set a plumb line in the midst of His people from which everything else can be measured.  That plumb line will ultimately be the standard by which everything is judged.  I believe that that plumb line will be the Lord Jesus.  He will be the standard by which the world is judged.  All the world will be judged by Him.  That is what the Lord is talking about here.  He is judged to be the prince of this world, and the standard by which all judgment will be made.

Ultimately, I believe that this work of the Holy Spirit to convict the world regarding these things will be one of the great works that brings in the Kingdom of God on earth.  The earth will never submit to God as it should as long as its people remain in the darkness of deception.  When the Holy Spirit does this work, however, and makes the facts known regarding sin, righteousness, and judgment, all deception will be done away with, and the world will be able to enter the kingdom fully enlightened as to the truth.  This is the work that the Lord is talking about here: the Holy Spirit’s work regarding the world at the coming in of His kingdom.