These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended. They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me. But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you. But now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou? But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart. Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they believe not on me; of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you. A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father.
In Joh_16:1-6 the Lord emphasizes what He has already been putting before His followers as recorded in the last part of the previous chapter, that is, the Christian as a stranger in the world and the unchanging state of this world during all the years since Christ went to be at the right hand of God. He says, “These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended [stumbled]” (Joh_16:1). If the disciples of the Lord Jesus felt that they had reason to expect that the attitude of the world as such was going to be changed through the preaching of the gospel, they might well be stumbled by what they see as they look back and about them at the present time.
For instance, take our own day. Suppose we really believed that the whole world was to be converted in this age and that all men everywhere were eventually to be changed in attitude toward the Lord Jesus Christ, how discouraged we might well become for we have seen in our day whole nations turned against the Lord Jesus Christ that once professed to honor Him. And we have seen other lands where the gospel was once permitted, banning everything of a Christian character. They have used methods worse than pagan or papal Rome ever tried, to rout Christianity out of their dominions. But the Lord Jesus Christ told us to expect these things. The attitude of the world as such has never changed. The world hates Christ, the world hates God, and the world hates the gospel of God.
And so Jesus warned His disciples about this, and even pointed out that men would be so dominated by a lying spirit that they would actually think that in opposing Christianity they would be glorifying God. He says here, “Yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service” (Joh_16:2). Saul of Tarsus is a sample of this. Saul said when he stood before the council, “I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth, which thing I also did in Jerusalem” (Act_26:9-10). Which thing he did until God, in His grace, stopped him on the Damascus Road, revealed Christ to him, and sent him out to preach the faith he had once destroyed.
Men of the world, religious men, have often assumed, that they were really honoring God in trying to destroy evangelical Christianity. “These things,” said Jesus, “will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me. But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you” (Joh_16:3-4). He was going away. He knew that the centuries would roll by during which He would be sitting on the Father’s throne in heaven interceding for His disciples here on earth. So He would have them understand just what they would be expected to go through in this world because they belonged to Him.
He says, “Now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest Thou? But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart” (Joh_16:5-6). They took it for granted that He was indeed the Messiah of Israel, and that the Messiah came to abide with them here on the earth, bringing in the blessing so long predicted by the prophets. And now He speaks of going away and is unfolding to them that another work of God is to be carried on in His absence-not now the deliverance of Israel, as such, not now the fulfillment of blessing for God’s earthly people, but a special message of grace going out to the Gentiles, calling upon all men everywhere to face their sins in the presence of God and find in the Lord Jesus Christ an all-sufficient Savior. His apostles are to be their missionaries.
He tells them of the power by which they will be endowed-the One who is to come upon them and dwell in them, who will enable them to speak for God and bear witness in such a way that many will believe and live. “Nevertheless,” He says, “I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you” (Joh_16:7). If you had said to one of them, “Do you think it will be well for your Master to leave you?” I am sure he would have replied, “Oh, no, the best thing for us would be that He should tarry with us.”
But you see, if that had been so, He would not be in a position to carry on His worldwide program. As Man, in grace, He must necessarily be localized where His body is. But He was going away, and another person of the Godhead was now to be sent to the earth who was not to become incarnate in one person, but who was to work through the whole church, empowering the servants of God as they proclaimed His message. “It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.” Notice, that during the Old Testament dispensation we have God the Father working. God the Son was working directly in the days of His flesh. Now, since Christ has returned to the right hand of God and has taken His place as Mediator, the Father and the Son have sent another person of the Godhead. He is here working in this world and will remain here carrying on this glorious work until the consummation of this age.
Notice, incidentally, how the Deity of our Lord Jesus Christ is implied in these words. Can you think of any man, no matter how good, no matter how godly, no matter how powerful, daring to say of the blessed Holy Spirit, “I will send him?” Why, we see the very opposite in Scripture. The Holy Spirit sends men out into the world, men do not send Him. But Jesus was more than man, He was God and Man in One adorable, wonderful person, and, therefore, He could say with confidence, “I will send the Comforter, the Paraclete, to bear witness, when I have gone back to the glory.”
Now, notice the mission of the Comforter: “When he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (Joh_16:8). That word reprove is sometimes translated “convince” and sometimes “convict.” The Spirit of God is in the world and working through the servants of God in this scene and His special mission is to convict, to convince, to prove to man three great facts- sin, righteousness, and judgment. Sometimes when you speak of the convicting work of the Holy Spirit, people have the idea that it simply means the stirring of the emotions of men and making them sorry because they sin. Undoubtedly when men recognize their lost condition, their emotions are stirred. But it is not a question of working upon the emotions of mankind. It is far more than that. The Holy Spirit has come to convince the mind, to exercise the conscience, and to cause the will to act in accordance with the desires of our blessed Lord Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit, in other words, has come to give such power to the Word that men will believe it and act upon it. You remember we read in Act_14:1 : “And it came to pass… that they… so spake, that a great multitude both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed.”
If it is possible to so speak that many believe, it is also possible to so speak that nobody will believe. And a great deal of the present-day preaching is of that character. Men are not filled with the Spirit of God and are not proclaiming the truth of God. But those early servants of the Lord went forth preaching the word in the power and energy of the Holy Spirit, and the result was that many believed on the Lord Jesus Christ. Oh, that the Spirit of God might so fill and control every minister today that as the message is proclaimed it would go home to the hearts and consciences of Christ-rejecting men and women, that they might be brought to face these things in the presence of the Lord-sin, righteousness, and judgment.
Of what is He speaking? What does He mean when He says that the Holy Spirit has come to convince of sin? Some of us may think that the Spirit of God has come to make men feel terribly sorry because of their unrighteousness, because of their intemperance, because of their hatreds, lasciviousness, covetous-ness, malice, and other evil things that are rightly classed as sinful. But we are not told that it is the purpose of the Holy Spirit to convict men of sins, but of sin. Every man who thinks at all, knows that it is wrong to lie and steal and be intemperate and wicked. We all know these things, and if conscience becomes so numb by sinning against light, then God’s holy law given at Sinai convicts of the sinfulness of such things as these.
Of what sin does the Holy Spirit come to convict? Listen, “Of sin, because they believe not on me” (Joh_16:9). That is the great outstanding, damning sin which, if not repented of, is going to sink men to the depths of perdition for all eternity. Remember the Lord’s words, “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (Joh_3:18). Oh, hear me, my friend, if you stand, at last, condemned before the Almighty God and hear Christ say, “I never knew you: depart from me” (Mat_7:23), it will not be simply because of the sins of your daily life, many of which you declare you are overtaken in and are powerless to resist, but the outstanding sin which will separate you from God forever will be that you rejected the Savior whom He has provided. When He hung on the cross, God laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
It has often been said that the great question between God and man today is not so much the sin question as the Son question. It is not so much what we have done as sinners, but how we respond to the fact that Christ has died as a ransom for sinners. Now God says, “What will you do with My Son?” If you trust Him, then the value of His atoning work goes over against your sins and iniquity, but if you refuse Him and turn away, then you must face God at last about your own sins, and the crowning sin of all will be that you rejected the Savior who died to deliver you. “Of sin, because they believe not on me” (Joh_16:9).
So I press the question home for your consideration. Have you trusted the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior? If you have not trusted Him, turned to Him in faith, and yielded your heart to Him, remember you are guilty of the worst sin that any man can possibly commit. You are insulting the Father who gave Jesus to die for you. You are saying, “I count His blood an unholy thing. I want no Christ. I want no Savior.” And if you continue thus to reject the Lord Jesus Christ, some day you will stand naked and alone at the judgment bar to receive your due reward. But it need not be thus. You can trust Him today and know that the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses you from all sin.
But notice that the Comforter will also reprove the world of righteousness. “Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more” (Joh_16:10). After He had completed the work of atonement, God raised Him from the dead on the third day, and took Him up to His own right hand in heaven. Sin put Jesus on the cross; righteousness put Him on the throne. And now, you see, I need a righteousness that He only can provide in order that I might stand before God uncondemned. I must have a righteousness that I cannot provide myself. Paul says, “ [That I might] be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith” (Php_3:9). So Christ Himself exalted in heaven is the righteousness of all who put their trust in Him. The Spirit delights to point men who are destitute of any righteousness of their own to a Seated Christ in heaven, who is “made unto us… righteousness” (1Co_1:30).
“Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged” (Joh_16:11). I do not know how it is, but I find that men generally misquote Joh_16:8 and make it read like this, “Of judgment to come,” and so forth. But that is not what it says. You do not get those words “to come.” He is speaking of present judgment. The thought is this: when Satan stirred that crowd in Jerusalem to send the Lord Jesus Christ to the cross, he sealed his own condemnation. It was said of old that the serpent should bruise the woman’s Seed and her Seed should bruise its head. And at the cross Satan’s head was bruised and has been judged by God because of his attitude toward God’s blessed Son, and the world has been judged in its prince. But now through grace, all who trust in the Lord Jesus Christ have come out from under that judgment and are delivered from a world over which hangs the wrath of God. We are saved out of that world. That is what Peter meant when he said, “Save yourselves from this untoward generation” (Act_2:40).
Have you ever turned from this world and found your heart satisfaction in the Lord Jesus Christ? This is more than accepting a doctrinal statement. It is a practical experience of separation.
In the last four verses He speaks of the special ministry of the Holy Spirit to the people of God. When the Spirit of truth is come, He will guide us into all truth. When you sit down over your Bible and study this blessed Word, do you lift up your heart to Him and pray, “Blessed Comforter, interpret the Word to me and reveal Your mind as I read”? You know He delights to do it. It is His joy to open up the Word and lead us into all truth. He is not working independently of the Scriptures but He opens up the truth as we have it in the Book. “For He shall not speak of Himself” (Joh_16:13). He is not here to glorify Himself. “But whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come” (Joh_16:13). We have the marvelous privilege of knowing the things which are to come, when all the world is wondering what the future has in store.
The man of God who knows his Bible can look ahead and know just what is coming. He knows that all evil will be put down when Jesus returns to reign over this universe, and righteousness will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. And he knows what will take place in eternity. The special mission of the Spirit of God is to magnify the Lord Jesus. “He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you” (Joh_16:14). A Christ-centered ministry is a Spirit-given ministry. The Spirit of God delights to make much of Christ. Paul said he desired Christ to be magnified in him. Every true servant of God will say “Amen” to that.
“All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you” (Joh_16:15). He opens up the riches of grace and love, and gives us to know the wealth of the realm over which Christ is set and which we are to share with Him.
And so He says, “A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father” (Joh_16:16). And we live in the interval between His going to the Father and that “little while” when we shall see Him again.