« Prev John 16:8-15 Next »

John 16:8-15

8. And when he is come, he will convince the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment 9. Of sin, because they believe not in me 10. Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and you see me no more. 11. Of judgment, because the prince of this world hath been judged. 12. I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13. But when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will lead you into all truth; for he will not speak from himself, but will speak all that he has heard, and will declare to you the things that are to come. 14. He will glorify me, for he will take of what is mine, and will declare it to you. 15. All things that the Father hath are mine; therefore I said to you, He will take of what is mine, and will declare it to you.

 

8. And when he is come. Passing by the diversity of expositions, which we have received in consequence of the obscurity of the passage, I shall only state what appears to me to be in accordance with Christ’s true meaning. He had promised his Spirit to the disciples; and now he praises the excellence of the gift from its effect, because this Spirit will not only guide, support, and protect them in private, but will extend more widely his power and efficacy.

He will convince the world; that is, he will not remain shut up in you, but; his power will go forth from you to be displayed to the whole world. He therefore promises to them a Spirit, who will be the Judge of the world, and by whom their preaching will be so powerful and efficacious, that it will bring into subjection those who formerly indulged in unbounded licentiousness, and were restrained by no fear or reverence.

It ought to be observed, that in this passage Christ does not speak of secret revelations, but of the power of the Spirit, which appears in the outward doctrine of the Gospel, and in the voice of men. For how comes it that the voice proceeding from the mouth of a man 9494     “La voix sortant de la bouche d’un homme.” penetrates into the hearts, takes root there, and at length yields fruit, changing hearts of stone into hearts of flesh, and renewing men, but because the Spirit of Christ quickens it? Otherwise it would be a dead letter and a useless sound, as Paul says in that beautiful passage, in which he boasts of being a minister of the Spirit, (2 Corinthians 3:6,) because God wrought powerfully in his doctrine. The meaning therefore is, that, though the Spirit had been given to the apostles, they would be endued with a heavenly and Divine power, by which they would exercise jurisdiction over the whole world. Now, this is ascribed to the Spirit rather than to themselves, because they will have no power of their own, but will be only ministers and organs, and the Holy Spirit will be their director and governor. 9595     “Leur conducteur et gouverneur.”

Under the term world are, I think, included not only those who would be truly converted to Christ, but hypocrites and reprobates. For there are two ways in which the Spirit convinces men by the preaching of the Gospel. Some are moved in good earnest, so as to bow down willingly, and to assent willingly to the judgment by which they are condemned. Others, though they are convinced of guilt and cannot escape, yet do not sincerely yield, or submit themselves to the authority and jurisdiction of the Holy Spirit, but, on the contrary, being subdued they groan inwardly, and, being overwhelmed with confusion, still do not cease to cherish obstinacy within their hearts.

We now perceive in what manner the Spirit was to convince the world by the apostles. It was, because God revealed his judgment in the Gospel, by which their consciences were struck, and began to perceive their evils and the grace of God. for the verb ἐλέγχειν here signifies to convince or convict; and, for understanding this passage, not a little light will be obtained from the words of the Apostle Paul, when he says,

If all shall prophesy, and an unbeliever or unlearned man enter, he is convicted by all, he is judged by all, and thus shall the secrets of his heart be made manifest,
(1 Corinthians 14:23.)

In that passage Paul speaks particularly of one kind of conviction, that is; when the Lord brings his elect to repentance by the Gospel; but this plainly shows in what manner the Spirit of God, by the sound of the human voice, constrains men, who formerly were not accustomed to his yoke, to acknowledge and submit to his authority.

A question now arises, For what purpose did Christ say this? Some think that he points out the cause of the hatred which he had mentioned; as if he had said, that the reason why they will be hated by the world is, that the Spirit, on the other hand, will earnestly solicit the world by means of them. But I rather agree with those who tell us that the design of Christ was different, as I stated briefly at the commencement of the exposition of this verse; for it was of great importance that the apostles should know that the gift of the Spirit, which had been promised to them, was of no ordinary value. He therefore describes its uncommon excellence, by saying that God will, in this way, erect his tribunal for judging the whole world.

9. Of sin. It now remains that we see what it is to convince of sin Christ appears to make unbelief the only cause of sin, and this is tortured by commentators in various ways; but, as I have already said, I do not intend to detail the opinions which have been held and advanced. First, it ought to be observed, that the judgment of the Spirit commences with the demonstration of sin; for the commencement of spiritual instruction is, that men born in sin have nothing in them but what leads to sin Again, Christ mentioned unbelief, in order to show what is the nature of men in itself for, since faith is the bond by which he is united to us, until we believe in him, we are out of him and separated from him. The import of these words is as if he had said, “When the Spirit is come, he will produce full conviction that, apart from me, sin reigns in the world;” and, therefore, unbelief is here mentioned, because it separates us from Christ, in consequence of which nothing is left to us but sin In short, by these words he condemns the corruption and depravity of human nature, that we may not suppose that a single drop of integrity is in us without Christ.

10. Of righteousness. We must attend to the succession of steps which Christ lays down. He now says that the world must be convinced of righteousness; for men will never hunger and thirst for righteousness, but, on the contrary, will disdainfully reject all that is said concerning it, if they have not been moved by a conviction of sin As to believers particularly, we ought to understand that they cannot make progress in the Gospel till they have first been humbled; and this cannot take place, till they have acknowledged their sins. It is undoubtedly the peculiar office of the Law to summon consciences to the judgment-seat of God, and to strike them with terror; but the Gospel cannot be preached in a proper manner, till it lead men from sin to righteousness, and from death to life; and, therefore, it is necessary to borrow from the Law that first clause of which Christ spoke.

By righteousness must here be understood that which is imparted to us through the grace of Christ. Christ makes it to consist in his ascension to the Father, and not without good reason; for, as Paul declares that he rose for our justification, (Romans 4:25) so he now sits at the right hand of the Father in such a manner as to exercise all the authority that has been given to him, and thus to fill all things, (Ephesians 4:10.) In short, from the heavenly glory he fills the world with the sweet savor of his righteousness Now the Spirit declares, by the Gospel, that this is the only way in which we are accounted righteous Next to the conviction of sin, this is the second step, that the Spirit should convince the world what true righteousness is, namely, that Christ, by his ascension to heaven, has established the kingdom of life, and now sits at the right hand of the Father, to confirm true righteousness

11. Of judgment. Those who understand the word (κρίσεως) judgment as signifying condemnation, have some argument on their side; for Christ immediately adds, that the prince of this world hath been judged But I prefer a different opinion, namely, that, the light of the Gospel having been kindled, the Spirit manifests that the world has been brought into a state of good order by the victory of Christ, by which he overturned the authority of Satan; as if he had said, that this is a true restoration, by which all things are reformed, when Christ alone holds the kingdom, having subdued and triumphed over Satan. Judgment, therefore, is contrasted with what is confused and disordered, or, to express it briefly, it is the opposite (τὢς ἀταξίας) of confusion, or, we might call it righteousness, a sense which it often bears in Scripture. The meaning therefore is, that Satan, so long as he retains the government, perplexes and disturbs all things, so that there is an unseemly and disgraceful confusion in the works of God; but when he is stripped of his tyranny by Christ, then the world is restored, and good order is seen to reign. Thus the Spirit convinces the world of judgment; that is, having vanquished the prince of wickedness, Christ restores to order those things which formerly were torn and decayed.

12. I have still many things to say to you. Christ’s discourse could not have so much influence over his disciples, as to prevent their ignorance from still keeping them in perplexity about many things; and not only so, but they scarcely obtained a slight taste of those things which ought to have imparted to them full satisfaction, had it not been for the obstruction arising from the weakness of the flesh. It was, therefore, impossible but that the consciousness of their poverty should oppress them with fear and anxiety. But Christ meets it by this consolation, that, when they have received the Spirit, they will be new men, and altogether different from what they were before.

But you are not able to bear them now. When he says that, were he to tell them anything more, or what was loftier, they would not be able to bear it, his object is to encourage them by the hope of better progress, that they may not lose courage; for the grace which he was to bestow on them ought not to be estimated by their present feelings, since they were at so great a distance from heaven. In short, he bids them be cheerful and courageous, whatever may be their present weakness. But as there was nothing else than doctrine on which they could rely, Christ reminds them that he had accommodated it to their capacity, yet so as to lead them to expect that they would soon afterwards obtain loftier and more abundant instruction; as if he had said, “If what you have heard from me is not yet sufficient to confirm you, have patience for a little; for ere long, having enjoyed the teaching of the Spirit, you will need nothing more; he will remove all the ignorance that now remains in you.”

Now arises a question, what were those things which the apostles were not yet able to learn? The Papists, for the purpose of putting forward their inventions as the oracles of God, wickedly abuse this passage. “Christ,” they tell us, “promised to the apostles new revelations; and, therefore, we must not abide solely by Scripture, for something beyond Scripture is here promised by him to his followers.” In the first place, if they choose to talk with Augustine, the solution will be easily obtained. His words are, “Since Christ is silent, which of us shall say that it was this or that? Or, if he shall venture to say so, how shall he prove it? Who is so rash and insolent, even though he say what is true, as to affirm, without any Divine testimony, that those are the things which the Lord at that time did not choose to say?” But we have a surer way of refuting them, taken from Christ’s own words, which follow.

13. But when he is come, the Spirit of truth. The Spirit, whom Christ promised to the apostles, is declared to be perfect Master or Teacher 9696     “Maistre ou Docteur.” of truth And why was he promised, but that they might deliver from hand to hand the wisdom which they had received from him? The Spirit was given to them, and under his guidance and direction they discharged the office to which they had been appointed.

He will lead you into all truth. That very Spirit had lead them into all truth, when they committed to writing the substance of their doctrine. Whoever imagines that anything must be added to their doctrine, as if it were imperfect and but half-finished, not only accuses the apostles of dishonesty, but blasphemes against the Spirit If the doctrine which they committed to writing had proceeded from mere learners or persons imperfectly taught, an addition to it would not have been superfluous; but now that their writings may be regarded as perpetual records of that revelation which was promised and given to them, nothing can be added to them without doing grievous injury to the Holy Spirit.

When they come to determine what those things actually were, the Papists act a highly ridiculous part, for they define those mysteries, which the apostles were unable to bear, to be certain childish fooleries, the most absurd and stupid things that can be imagined. Was it necessary that the Spirit should come down from heaven that the apostles might learn what ceremony must be used in consecrating cups with their altars, in baptizing church-bells, in blessing the holy water, and in celebrating Mass? Whence then do fools and children obtain their learning, who understand all those matters most thoroughly? Nothing is more evident than that the Papists mock God, when they pretend that those things came from heaven, which resemble as much the mysteries of Ceres or Proserpine as they are at variance with the pure wisdom of the Holy Spirit.

If we do not wish to be ungrateful to God, let us rest satisfied with that doctrine of which the writings of the apostles declare them to be the authors, since in it the highest perfection of heavenly wisdom is made known to us, fitted to make the man of God perfect (2 Timothy 3:17.) Beyond this let us not reckon ourselves at liberty to go; for our height, and breadth, and depth, consist in knowing the love of God, which is manifested to us in Christ. This knowledge, as Paul informs us, far exceeds all learning, (Ephesians 3:18;) and when he declares that

all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ,
(Colossians 2:3,)

he does not contrive some unknown Christ, but one whom by his preaching he painted to the life, so that, as he tells the Galatians,

we see him, as it were, crucified before our eyes,
(Galatians 3:1.)

But that no ambiguity may remain, Christ himself afterwards explains by his own words what those things are which the apostles were not yet able to bear.

He will tell you things which are to come Some indeed limit this to the Spirit of prophecy; but, in my opinion, it denotes rather the future condition of his spiritual kingdom, such as the apostles, soon after his resurrection, saw it to be, but were at that time utterly unable to comprehend. He does not therefore promise them prophecies of things that would happen after their death, but means only that the nature of his kingdom will be widely different, and its glory far greater than their minds are now able to conceive. The Apostle Paul, in the Epistle to the Ephesians, from the first chapter to the close of the fourth, explains the treasures of this hidden wisdom, which the heavenly angels learn with astonishment from the Church; and therefore we need not go to seek them from the archives or repositories of the Pope.

For he will not speak from himself This is a confirmation of the clause, He will lead you into all truth. We know that God is the fountain of truth, and that out of Him there is nothing that is firm or sure; and, therefore, that the apostles may safely place full confidence in the oracles of the Spirit, Christ declares that they will be divine oracles; as if he had said, that every thing which the Holy Spirit shall bring proceeds from God himself. And yet these words take nothing away from the majesty of the Spirit, as if he were not God, or as if he were inferior to the Father, but are accommodated to the capacity of our understanding; for the reason why his Divinity is expressly mentioned is, because, on account of the veil that is between us, we do not sufficiently understand with what reverence we ought to receive what the Spirit reveals to us. In like manner, he is elsewhere called the earnest, by which God ratifies to us our salvation, and the seal, by which he seals to us its certainty, (Ephesians 1:13, 14.) In short, Christ intended to teach that the doctrine of the Spirit would not be of this world, as if it were produced in the air, but that it would proceed from the secret places of the heavenly sanctuary.

14. He will glorify me Christ now reminds them that the Spirit will not come to erect any new kingdom, but rather to confirm the glory which has been given to him by the Father. For many foolishly imagine that Christ taught only so as to lay down the first lessons, and then to send the disciples to a higher school. In this way they make the Gospel to be of no greater value than the Law, of which it is said that it was a schoolmaster of the ancient people, (Galatians 3:24.)

This error is followed by another equally intolerable, that, having bid adieu to Christ, as if his reign were terminated, and he were now nothing at all, they substitute the Spirit in his place. From this source the sacrileges of Popery and Mahometanism have flowed; for, though those two Antichrists differ from each other in many respects, still they agree in holding a common principle; and that is, that in the Gospel we receive the earliest instructions to lead us into the right faith, 9797     “Les premieres instructions pour estre amenez a la droite foy.” but that we must seek elsewhere the perfection of doctrine, that it may complete the course of our education. If Scripture is quoted against the Pope, he maintains that we ought not to confine ourselves to it, because the Spirit is come, and has carried us above Scripture by many additions. Mahomet asserts that, without his Alcoran, men always re-main children. Thus, by a false pretense of the Spirit, the world was bewitched to depart from the simple purity of Christ; for, as soon as the Spirit is separated from the word of Christ, the door is open to all kinds of delusions and impostures. A similar method of deceiving has been attempted, in the present age, by many fanatics. The written doctrine appeared to them to be literal, and, therefore, they chose to contrive a new theology that would consist of revelations.

We now see that the information given by Christ, that he would be glorified by the Spirit whom he should send, is far from being superfluous; for it was intended to inform us, that the office of the Holy Spirit was nothing else than to establish the kingdom of Christ, and to maintain and confirm for ever all that was given him by the Father. Why then does he speak of the Spirit’s teaching? Not to withdraw us from the school of Christ, but rather to ratify that word by which we are commanded to listen to him, otherwise he would diminish the glory of Christ. The reason is added, Christ says,

For he will take of what is mine. By these words he means that we receive the Spirit in order that we may enjoy Christ’s blessings. For what does he bestow on us? That we may be washed by the blood of Christ, that sin may be blotted out in us by his death, that our old man may be crucified, (Romans 6:6,) that his resurrection may be efficacious in forming us again to newness of life, (Romans 6:4;) and, in short, that we may become partakers of his benefits. Nothing, therefore, is bestowed on us by the Spirit apart from Christ, but he takes it from Christ, that he may communicate it to us. We ought to take the same view of his doctrine; for he does not enlighten us, in order to draw us away in the smallest degree from Christ, but to fulfill what Paul says, that Christ is made to us wisdom, (1 Corinthians 1:30,) and likewise to display those treasures which are hidden in Christ, (Colossians 2:3.) In a word, the Spirit enriches us with no other than the riches of Christ, that he may display his glory in all things.

15. All things that the Father hath are mine. As it might be thought that Christ took away from the Father what he claimed for himself, he acknowledges that he has received from the Father all that he communicates to us by the Spirit. When he says that all things that the Father hath are his, he speaks in the person of the Mediator, for we must draw out of his fullness, (John 1:16.) He always keeps his eye on us, as we have said. We see, on the other hand, how the greater part of men deceive themselves; for they pass by Christ, and go out of the way to seek God by circuitous paths.

Other commentators explain these words to mean, that all that the Father hath belongs equally to the Son, because he is the same God. But here he does not speak of his hidden and intrinsic power, as it is called, but of that office which he has been appointed to exercise toward us. In short, he speaks of his riches, that he may invite us to enjoy them, and reckons the Spirit among the gifts which we receive from the rather by his hand.


« Prev John 16:8-15 Next »
Please login or register to save highlights and make annotations
Corrections disabled for this book
Proofing disabled for this book
Printer-friendly version





Advertisements



| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |