JOHN 16:4-15.MAY 10
Golden Text:"I will pray the Father, and he will send
you another comforter, that he may abide with you forever.
John 14:16 .
OUR Lord, on the way to Gethsemane on the night of his betrayal, gave the discourse of this lesson to his disciples. He had been telling them what they must expect as his followers; that they would be misunderstood, persecuted, reviled, because of their faithfulness to him and to the brethren whom he represented"But these things have I told you that when the time shall come ye may remember that I told you of them." (v. 4.) He had not told them of all that they might expect, intimating this when he said, "I have many things to tell you, but ye cannot bear them now." The same may be said to be true of all that ever become the Lord's disciples. They see a sufficiency of light for one step at a time, but the trials and difficulties future are graciously held from them that they may not be overwhelmed by them. "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." This was not deception, not the alluring of his disciples into doing something contrary to their wills. At the very outstart the Master assures us that unless we take up our cross and follow [R4164 : page 136] him we cannot be his disciples. If we take this step honestly and sincerely we see plenty of difficulty in connection therewith, without knowing particulars of the troubles to come. Indeed, if we knew of our future trials we should be unjustly overwhelmed thereby, since at first we could but imperfectly appreciate the meaning of our Lord's words, "My grace is sufficient for thee; my strength is made perfect in your weakness," and the assurance that he will not suffer us to be tempted above that which we are able, but will with every temptation provide a way of escape. (2 Cor. 12:9; I Cor. 10:13.) Hence, as the Lord's people take one step after another they find these promises quite true; they find themselves sustained, they find they have no more than they can bear, and that although their trials are indeed severer than at the beginning of the way, yet these can be overcome, because of growth in grace and knowledge.
The power by which the Lord would grant his aid to his persecuted followers during his personal absence was something difficult for them to understand. In our lesson the Master makes the matter as plain as possible, calling the power, the influence which he would exert on their behalf the holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of the truth. As the influence thus to be exerted upon them would be sustaining and comforting, the Lord denominated this Spirit or power a comforter, a sustainer, a helper. He did not say that he would send another person to deal with them; no other person could deal with them better than himself. It was a spirit, an influence, a power which he would send, and this would fully represent the Father and fully represent himself, so that in having the holy Spirit they would be having the fellowship of the Father and the fellowship of the Son. This holy Spirit is properly enough spoken of in the masculine, even as the Father and the Son are represented in the masculine. As it stands the propriety is obvious.
During the "dark ages" a great deal of confusion of thought prevailed and the clear teachings of the Scriptures were lost sight of. Indeed, the Bible for a time was little in use. The Bishops were credited with being the equals of the apostles in inspiration, under the doctrine of the Apostolic Succession. Hence, when these met in councils their vote or decision on a doctrine was accepted as apostolic, authoritative. Seemingly [R4165 : page 136] it was overlooked that the Lord chose but twelve apostles and said nothing about any successors to them, and that in Revelation he intimated there would be no successors when he pointed out the New Jerusalem with twelve foundations only, and in those twelve foundations the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.Rev. 21:14.
Quite early in the second century the influence of the Grecian philosophy upon the Church is quite noticeable, and various errors became prominent. One of these especially related to our Lord, practically putting him on a par with the Grecian philosophers, Socrates and Plato, and denying his special birth and his pre-human existence. In combating those errors some, loyal to the Lord, went to the other extreme and declared him, contrary to his own words, equal to the Father. (John 10:29; 14:28.) Next came disputation respecting the holy Spirit, and these same extremists took the ground that there are three gods, the Father, the Son and the holy Spirit, "equal in power and glory."
Peculiarly enough, after claiming that they were equal, which implies that they are not the same in person, but different persons, the claim was made that they are really one in person. Of course, such unscriptural, illogical reasoning cannot support itself, and hence those taking this position were driven to various expedients and subterfuges of argument. At times some of them claimed that there are really three Gods in one person, while others claimed that there are really three persons in one God, and not being able to explain either of the nonsensical statements, they have resorted to that word so useful to error and superstition, namely, "Mystery," "Mystery." They tell us that the matter of the Trinity is so mysterious that neither they nor anyone need to understand it. If they do not understand it they, indeed, should not discuss it; but this should not hinder others who can understand it, and who see most clearly that the entire mystery is of their own making; that the Bible teaching on the subject is most clear, simple, harmonious and satisfactory.
When the Apostle discusses the question of God he says to us, There is one living and true God, not three! He proceeds to say that this one living and true God is the Father; then he adds that there is one Lord Jesus Christ. (I Cor. 8:6.) As we have already seen this same Apostle declares that the Father highly exalted the Lord Jesus and gave him a name which is above every name; that all men should honor the Son even as they honor the Father. (Phil. 2:9,10; John 5:23.) This means that there are two persons, for in no other way could one exalt and honor another; and if the Son is to be honored as is the Father it follows, as other Scriptures show, that he is now partaker of the divine nature and that he was exalted to this high honor and dignity"far above angels, principalities and powers"as a reward for his obedience to the Father's will, in having come into the world and redeemed mankind at the cost of his own life in pursuance of the divine purposes. This we have already seen from John 1:1that our Lord, before he came into the world, before the world was made by him as the Father's agent, was the Logos, the Word, the Messenger of the God, Jehovah, and that he was a God, a mighty one, superior to angels, the one "by whom all things were made that were made; and without him was not anything made that was made."
It will be noticed that the Apostle, in speaking of the Father and the Son, refers to them as separate persons, and that he does not refer to the holy Spirit as another God, nor as the third part of God. Not that the Apostle ignores the holy Spirit however, for throughout all of his epistles it is recognized as the Spirit of the Father and the Spirit of the Son, representing both Father and Son in the Church. Nor are we to understand that the holy Spirit is a spirit beingas when we read, "God is a spirit"but that the word used signifies the spirit of a being, the power, influence, will, purpose, strength or whatever proceeds from the person. The holy Spirit is said to proceed from the Father and from the Son as an influence or power, and this influence or power in the Church of consecrated believers operates in turn upon those with whom they mingle. It is always a good and holy spirit or influence, and is thus clearly distinct from the spirit of the world, [R4165 : page 137] the disposition of the world, the influence of the world, the spirit of sin, the spirit of anti-Christ, etc.
Our Lord gently broke to his sorrowing, bewildered disciples the news of his prospective departure to the Father who sent him. They did not ask where, for they believed his word, that he had come forth from the Father and that he would return to the Father who sent him. But sorrow had filled their hearts. What would they do without the Lord! How could the promise of the Kingdom ever be fulfilled if he went away! Had they been following a delusion for three years? They would not doubt the Lord, but they were perplexed. Our Lord, therefore, explained that if they understood matters properly, it would relieve them of much of their distress, as it really was to their advantage, in their interest, that he should go away. Had he not gone away it would have been impossible for the Father to beget them of the Spirit and recognize them as sons of God; hence it would not have been possible for them ever to be more than human beings, ever to become spirit beings or partakers of the divine nature, together with its glories and honors. Indeed, without the departure of our Lord it would have been impossible for them to attain even to human restitution, for the entire work of salvation, both as respects the Church and the world, was dependent upon our Lord's fulfilling the demands of justice. On the following day, as the Lamb of God, he died for the sin of Adam, which rested upon the entire race, and on the third day the Father raised him up by his own power. In this great transaction on our behalf a most important work was accomplished; but the benefits of that work, under the divine arrangement, could not come either to the Church or to the world, until first our Lord would ascend on high and appear in the presence of the Father and present the merit of his sacrifice as an oblation on behalf of his people. Had Jesus remained with his followers all through this age, even as a spirit being (as he was with them during the forty days), no one could have been begotten of the holy Spirit. It was necessary for Christ to ascend and present the merit of his sacrifice before we could be accepted and adopted, before we could receive the holy Spirit.
When the apostles received the holy Spirit at Pentecost, they said, "This is that which was spoken of by the Prophet Joel"not, This is he who was spoken of by the Prophet Joel. They called it a baptism with the holy Spirit! A baptism with a person is not a conceivable or proper thought; nor could it be a proper thought that the holy Spirit as a person is personally present in each believer's heart! Whenever we attach the thought of personality it implies place. Thus we see that God is a spirit, not that God is spirit; but we do not speak of the holy Spirit as being separate, as though it were a person separate and distinct from the Father and from the Son; it is referred to in the Scriptures as the Spirit of God, belonging to God, emanating from God; a Spirit of Christ, emanating from Christ; a Spirit or influence or power which is all pervasive, which can exercise itself in any place or in any number of places at any time and perform any kind of work or mission. How much more satisfactory is the true thought respecting the holy Spirit than the absurd and unscriptural ones! We might remark in this connection that the word "him" of verse 7 in the Greek could, with equal propriety, be translated "it""I will send it unto you"nevertheless, we have no objection whatever to urge against the use of the word Him, since this holy Spirit or influence is of or from him, the Father. Similarly the word "he" in verse 8 could, with equal propriety, according to the Greek, be translated "it."
Among the various false ideas of the operations of the holy Spirit is one which claims that the holy Spirit as a person has been busy going hither and thither all through this Gospel Age convincing people of sin and converting them to righteousness. Some go so far in the erroneous thought as to tell us that no one could be converted from sin unless God's holy Spirit miraculously operated upon him. If these thoughts approximated the truth in any degree they would imply that God alone is responsible for the fact that the world is not converted today, because the holy Spirit has failed to do its part in converting and reproving and convicting. But all this is a serious mistake.
The holy Spirit does not operate at all in the hearts of the world; but, as our Lord declares, It shall be in you, his disciples, the Spirit of the Father, the Spirit or disposition of the Son, the spirit of the truth, the spirit of a sane mind, the spirit of holiness to the Lord. None of these qualities of the holy Spirit is found in the sinful world; they belong to and are intended only for the "sanctified in Christ Jesus." The power of God operates upon the hearts that are fully consecrated to him, energizing them, cleansing them, separating them from the spirit of the world and using them in the divine service. The spirit of the world is the spirit of sin and selfishness; the Spirit of the Lord is the spirit of holiness and consecration to the divine will.
How, then, will the holy Spirit in you reprove them? We answer that all of the Church, begotten of the holy Spirit and thus enlightened, are to let their light so shine before men that it will reprove the world. That which reproves the world is the holiness [R4166 : page 137] of the Church. The Spirit of the Lord, the disposition of the Lord in his people, brings reproof to those who are living in sin. It was so in our Lord's case, as he declared. The Father's Spirit was imparted to him in this special sense at the time of his baptism; as John testified, "I beheld the holy Spirit descending and resting upon him and abiding." He received the Father's Spirit without measure, without limitation, for, as the perfect one, in the image and likeness of God, he could receive the Spirit of God in full measure. We, on the contrary, imperfect, defective through the fall, can receive the Spirit only in limited measure because of our defectssome more and some less; but, thank God, it is the privilege of each to be more and more filled with the holy Spirit and sanctified by it as the days go by. Our Lord's light, which he let shine before men, was a great one. Our lights are feeble in comparison; but we are to emulate our Lord's example, and be more and more filled with the spirit of the truth, the light of [R4166 : page 138] the truth, and let it shine forth with wisdom upon all those who are in range of our influence.
(1) "It will reprove the world of sin"that is to say, it will make the world conscious of its sinful condition; it will show to the world more and more the exceeding sinfulness of sin. Many of the world have so lost the image of God and are so devoid of conscience that they cannot with great distinctness discriminate between honesty and dishonesty, between truth and falsity, between righteousness and sin. The world has been in the habit of measuring itself with itself; but now in Christ and his Church the Lord has established a new standard for the world; and the Church, not only by its words, but also by its actions, is to uphold the glorious standards of the Lord's words along the lines of justice and love.
(2) It is not enough that the world be convicted of sin; it needs to understand something about righteousness, the opposite of sin; that a considerable measure of righteousness is possible and that the difficulty in attaining it is due to the fallen nature. The world is to be convinced that righteousness is the proper standard, the only one which God could recognize, and that in his wonderful plan he has arranged for eternal life to be granted only to the righteous. In this connection it is unavoidable that those who give the instruction, the spirit-enlightened ones, will find it necessary to make clear that no one can come into accord with the Father through any works of righteousness of his own, but that the forgiveness, the covering for sins provided through the merit of Christ's sacrifice is necessary.
(3) The Spirit of the Lord in his people will convince their neighbors, all who come within the range of their light and their message, that the present life is not all that there is, that there is a trial purposed in God's arrangement for the whole world of mankind, a judgment, a test. Whoever hears this message must concede its reasonableness, and it becomes a basis for joy and hope to all those who desire eternal life. Such as are rightly and deeply exercised by these convictions will seek the Lord and his various means of grace in the present life that they may also have their judgment and trial as part of the Church. But such as are not thus exercised or influenced are to be instructed through the Church; in proportion, however, as they have light or knowledge they have responsibility. In God's plan he has provided a day of judgment in the future for the world, in which all shall have full opportunity of being judged, of being tested along the lines of their loyalty to the Lord. Nevertheless their conduct in the present life has to do with that future judgment or trial. In proportion as they may disobey their conscience and fail to follow the leadings of the truth in the present time, they will have stripes, difficulties to overcome in the future, and to whatever extent they now seek to live in accord with righteousness they will lay up for themselves a blessing which shall assist them in that day of judgment.
The holy Spirit of truth in the Church will make known to the world that their continuance in the attitude of sinners, "children of wrath," is because they do not believe in and accept of Christ and his meritorious sacrifice for sin. The holy Spirit in the Church will make known to the world that there is such a thing as righteousness, an imputed righteousness which has been secured by our Lord Jesus through his sacrifice, which he presented before the Father. The holy Spirit in the Church will instruct the world that the present order of things cannot continue, that a new order of things will be ushered in at the second advent of our Lord, as he has already redeemed the world, thus securing the legal right to dispossess Satan, the prince of the present order of evil.
Our Lord prepared his followers for a still larger amount of instruction after his ascension than they had received from him during his presence. He explains that the necessity for this was their unpreparedness until they should be endued with power from on high. Until this they would be natural men, and, as the Apostle points out, "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." This is the explanation, then, of why our Lord Jesus did not present as deep teachings along spiritual lines as did some of the apostles. It was not inability on his part to present them, but those truths would have been meat out of season to his disciples, which might have choked them, injured them. Hence the deeper things of our Lord's teachings were stated considerably in parabolic form, which would not hurt them at the time and which later they would come to appreciate and understand. Thus he said again, "I have told you earthly things and ye believed not [are unable to receive them], how would you believe if I told you of heavenly things?"John 3:12.
But the spirit of truth, when it shall come, will guide you into all truth, yet it will be only a channel and not an authority, for it will make known to you various features of the divine plan and these will include things not yet made manifest to you, but which in due time will be brought to your attention through the Word and through the influence of the holy Spirit. I shall be glorified by this holy Spirit, for it will be my things that will be shown unto you, for all things that the Father hath are mine; therefore, said I, that he [it] shall take of mine and shall show them unto you. Note in this statement the prominence of the Father. All things are of the Father, but the Father hath made the Son joint-heir with him, his associate, and nothing is said to belong to the holy Spirit, because it is merely the divine channel or agency through which communications, blessings, instructions, etc., will be communicated. The holy Spirit is not a person, but the spirit or influence or power of the Almighty God and his everlasting Son, our Lord. For a full discussion of this subject see SCRIPTURE STUDIES, Vol. V., Chap. VIII.
Our Golden Text is beautiful, helpful. Indeed, our Lord explains that the holy Spirit as a comforting influence, as a guide, as an instructor and helper to the Lord's people in the narrow way would be a gift from the Father. This agrees with the Apostle's statement in the record of the Pentecostal blessing. Explaining [R4166 : page 139] the matter, the Apostle Peter said that our Lord, having been exalted to the right hand of divine power, received this holy Spirit, power, from the Father and shed it forth or sprayed it forth upon his followers at Pentecost. These descriptions fit well to the right view of the holy Spirit, but are very much out of line with the wrong view, that the holy Spirit is a person. How could a person be sprayed or shed forth! How could one equal in authority pray to another that a third one equal to either of them should be shed forth as a gift! The inconsistency of the error is very manifest as soon as our eyes open to its falsity. But how beautiful is the true thought; that as soon as our Lord Jesus had appeared before the Father as our Advocate and had presented at the Mercy Seat the merit of his sacrifice on our behalf, the Father was well pleased to grant his holy Spirit, his holy influence and power upon us, and adopt us into his family and treat us as sons!
How precious is the thought that the Pentecostal blessing was not merely for those who received it, but for the entire Church, as shown in the type! The kings, as well as the priests, in the olden times were anointed, set apart to special service, and Christ and his Church are the true kings and the true priests of the Melchizedec order, through whose ministries as kings and priests all the families of the earth will be blessed. Our Lord is the Head, we are his members in particular. The coming of the holy Spirit upon him to fit and prepare him to be the King, to fit and prepare him to be the Priest of the Melchizedec order, was symbolized in the type by the anointing of oil. Thus the Prophet speaks of this anointing as being poured upon Aaron's head and running down his beard even unto the skirts of his garments. This, as we see, represents the adoption of the holy Spirit, which came upon our Lord Jesus the Head at his baptism, and which was shed forth at Pentecost upon all those who were ready and waiting to be accepted as his members, and we who since have believed on him through their word have come into membership in the same Body and have received of the same anointing; and "this anointing which ye received of him abideth in you," and shall be in you. This anointing did not represent a person, but an influence and blessing.
What a satisfaction, what a comfort has come to the Lord's people through their privilege of being used by him and adopted into his family by the begetting of the holy Spirit, the adoption of the holy Spirit, the anointing of the holy Spirit, the holy influence, the [R4167 : page 139] blessing of the Father and of the Son, guiding our judgments, guiding our hearts, opening to us the Scriptures, causing our hearts to burn within us as we are brought to a still greater appreciation of the lengths and breadths and heights and depths of our Father's glorious plan of salvation for ourselves and all the families of the earth!
This abiding was not to be a temporary matter, for a day, a month, a year, but to the end of the age, age-lasting, for the entire period. How glad we are that this is so, and how blessed are the instructions and guidance which we have enjoyed! Truly, as our Lord said, the holy Spirit shows us things to come, and explains to us things that are past. How many of our blessings are along the line of appreciation of coming thingsthe Millennial Kingdom, the times of restitution, the uplifting and strengthening of all the families of the earth!