These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world. (16:33)
Understanding God’s love and placing one’s faith in Him—the things of which Christ had just spoken to the disciples—brings peace despite the hostility of the world and the relentless tribulation it brings. These words were spoken just one evening after our Lord had told the disciples how much tribulation there was to be in the world before His return:
And He said, “See to it that you are not misled; for many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not go after them. When you hear of wars and disturbances, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end does not follow immediately.” Then He continued by saying to them, “Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be great earthquakes, and in various places plagues and famines; and there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name’s sake. It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony. So make up your minds not to prepare beforehand to defend yourselves; for I will give you utterance and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute. But you will be betrayed even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death, and you will be hated by all because of My name. Yet not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives. But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near. Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those who are in the midst of the city must leave, and those who are in the country must not enter the city; because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled. Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days; for there will be great distress upon the land and wrath to this people; and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” (Luke 21:8–24)
Still, in the midst of all that, believers will enjoy divine peace. That is more than enough reason to take courage and have hope. The believer’s hope is in the Lord (Pss. 31:24; 38:15; 39:7; 42:5, 11; 43:5; 62:5; 71:5; 130:7; 146:5; Lam. 3:24; 1 Tim. 1:1), His Word (Pss. 119:49; 130:5; Rom. 15:4), the salvation He provides (Ps. 119:166; Eph. 1:18; 4:4; Titus 1:2), and the eternal glory that awaits in heaven (Col. 1:5, 27; 1 Thess. 5:8). That hope is made possible because Jesus Christ has overcome the world and conquered sin (John 1:29; Heb. 1:3; 9:26, 28; 1 Peter 2:24; 1 John 3:5; Rev. 1:5), death (John 14:19; 1 Cor. 15:26, 54–55; 2 Tim. 1:10), and Satan (Gen. 3:15; Col. 2:15; Heb. 2:14; 1 John 3:8). In Him, Christians too are overcomers (Rom. 8:37; 1 John 4:4; 5:4–5; Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21; 21:7), for whom the Lord will work all things to their good (Rom. 8:28).
After the resurrection and the coming of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost, the disciples would be radically transformed from men of fear to men of courage. Though they abandoned Jesus on the night of His arrest, they would boldly stand before the Jewish leaders less than two months later. In Acts 2, the Twelve (with Matthias replacing Judas Iscariot) “were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit was giving them utterance” (v. 4). None other than Peter, who had denied Christ on three occasions (Mark 14:66–72), publicly took “his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared” to the crowds in Jerusalem that they should repent (v. 14; cf. v. 42). A little while later, he and John healed a lame man in the temple (Acts 3:6) and boldly preached the gospel there (vv. 11–26). They were quickly arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin. But instead of cowering in fear, they bravely proclaimed the truth to the same Jewish leaders who had crucified Jesus. “There is salvation in no one else,” declared Peter of Christ. “For there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Noting his courage, the Jewish leaders were astonished. “Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed” (v. 13).
That same supernatural courage and boldness is reflected in the examples of Stephen (Acts 7:54–60), Philip (8:5, 26–30), Ananias (9:10–19), Barnabas (13:46), Silas (16:25), Apollos (18:25–26), and Paul (26:19–21). Filled with the Holy Spirit and marked by personal conviction, these men were not intimidated by the threats of the world. Instead, they bravely proclaimed the truth of the gospel and rejoiced when they were persecuted (cf. 5:41), being confident of the promise that “greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
The peace and hope that characterized them is the same that has characterized true believers in every age. Being assured of what they believed and hoped for, and convinced of what they did not see (cf. Heb. 11:1), the saints of old “were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground” (vv. 37–38). Believers today can find that same courage of conviction when their “faith and hope are in God” (1 Peter 1:21). They need not fear persecution or even death, because they know “the God of hope” (Rom. 15:13) and Jesus Christ, “the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27; cf. 1 Tim. 1:1). Having trusted in the death and resurrection of Christ, they are eternally secure in His love—knowing that “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate [believers] from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus [their] Lord” (Rom. 8:38–39).
Significantly, Jesus’ last words to His disciples in the upper room, before praying for them and departing for Gethsemane, were words of love, faith, and hope. In the face of their greatest trial in the next few days, the Lord reminded them of those three foundational truths—truths that would subsequently mark their ministries for the rest of their lives and also mark all the saints to follow them. Having done all He could to prepare them for what was about to take place, Jesus now turned in prayer to His Father, knowing that only He could truly protect the disciples in the following hours.
Christ’s Disciples Scattered
“You believe at last!” Jesus answered. “But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
There are two reasons why the Lord Jesus Christ was not as impressed by his disciples’ professions of faith as they themselves were. First, their faith had been a long time coming. Second, it was about to evaporate. In the verses that close the sixteenth chapter of John, Jesus had been answering the questions of the disciples without their having actually asked them, and this had led them to exclaim, “Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God” (v. 30). This claim was honest, but really quite pretentious. They claimed to believe. They said that they were sure in their belief, but they were actually weak in commitment. Thus, instead of being impressed with his disciples’ faith, Jesus goes on to foretell their confusion and scattering at the time of his crucifixion.
This whole exchange should be a lesson for Christian people, for we are often quite confident in our faith, and yet are not as strong as we imagine ourselves to be. We say, “Now I believe; now I am sure.” But in a short while we find ourselves doubting the very thing we affirmed.
A Realistic Appraisal
A number of years ago my first assistant at Tenth Presbyterian Church told me something that he had remembered from his early childhood. He had been helping his father put some things on the dining-room table, and he had asked to carry something that his father judged to be too heavy for him. He argued with his father, making many protestations. “Please, Father, I know I can carry it. I am sure I can.” At last his father let him try. He started out confidently and carefully, but suddenly he dropped the container and the liquid spilled. He told me that he learned one of the great lessons of his life that day as he stood staring down at the spilled mess and the broken container. He felt absolutely chagrined; he had been so sure of himself. But his father had been right after all, and he was wrong.
Everyone has had such experiences, and it is these that will help us understand the profession of the disciples and their feelings as Jesus gently revealed the future to them. They were so sure of their faith. But in a short while—in fact, within hours—their faith would be gone.
Notice three things that Jesus prophesied concerning them. First, he revealed that they would soon be scattered. Now they were together, and, as is often the case, there was encouragement in numbers. And, of course, there was Jesus. If they had known the song, they might well have sung, “Give me ten men who are stouthearted men, and I’ll soon give you ten thousand more.” But they did not really know themselves. So before long, much to their chagrin, they would be scattered. Most scampered back over the Mount of Olives toward Bethany at the time of Christ’s arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane. Peter followed the arresting party back into Jerusalem, but afar off. After the crucifixion Cleopas and Mary returned to Emmaus, and the others were undoubtedly making plans for their own departure.
Second, Jesus foretold their confusion. This is involved in his questions about their belief, for when he exclaims, “You believe at last!” it is as much as to say that the time was coming when they would no longer believe and all would be confusion. Now they were sure that he was the Messiah, come forth from God. But how could they be sure of that following the harsh reality of Christ’s crucifixion? Like the Emmaus disciples they would all be saying, “But we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21).
Third, Jesus revealed that they would soon be isolated, for each would be scattered “to his own.” When we read that phrase the first time we find ourselves asking, “Scattered to his own what? To his own house? City? Friends?” Jesus is saying that each would be scattered to his own little world and that each would be isolated in it. With the center gone, there would no longer be any cohesion to the little itinerant band. It is as if the devil, the disrupter, would have his way and that this heroic attempt to bind the sinful and scattered race of Adam into that glorious new unity of the church would come to ruin.
Well, what of it? Surely that is not our case, now that we have understood the meaning of the cross and stand on this side of Christ’s resurrection! Is that right? Are we never scattered? Never confused? Never isolated? Of course, we are! We are scattered—sometimes by persecution, sometimes by schism within the denominations, sometimes merely by our suspicion of other Christians. We are confused, for even believers do not always have a sure answer to give to those who ask them a reason of the hope within. Circumstances, sickness, and other troubles rattle us. We are isolated, for Christians are often terribly alone. I have had Christians write to me with problems because of having heard me over the Bible Study Hour, and they have said, “I have no one to turn to; there is no other person with whom I can share my problems.”
I want you to notice that in all of these respects—scattered, confused, isolated—Jesus is the exact opposite of the disciples. They scattered at the time of his arrest, but Jesus stood firm. He stood firm even to the point of death, as a result of which, after his resurrection, he became a magnetic point about which they regathered. They were confused, but he was strong in faith, as a result of which they recovered faith from him. They were isolated. But he, even though he was abandoned by them, could say, “But I am not alone, because the Father is with me.” They emerged from their isolation when he came to them again following the resurrection.
I am glad that the Lord accepts weak, stammering, even ignorant faith. If he did not, what would become of us? Who could be saved? But having said that, let us not imagine that our faith or perception is the crucial thing, for “weak, stammering and ignorant” is an accurate description of it. Our strength is not in our faith but in him who is the object of it. It is in Jesus.
The second lesson of these verses is Christ’s parting legacy to his disciples. He had gently exposed the weakness of their supposedly strong faith. But not wishing to leave them with the exposure, he immediately goes on to talk of that which really is strong and which will endure even in tribulations. He talks about peace, his peace. It is the same peace he had spoken of in the fourteenth chapter: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled” (14:27). It was announced of Christ at his birth that he had come to bring peace—“peace on earth, good will toward men.” This he did, and he left it behind at his departure.
In 1874 a French steamer called the Ville du Havre was on a homeward voyage from America when a collision with a sailing vessel took place. The damage to the steamer was considerable, and as a result it sank quickly with the loss of nearly all who had been on board. One passenger, Mrs. Horatio G. Spafford, the wife of a lawyer in Chicago, had been en route to Europe with her four children. On being informed that the ship was sinking she knelt with her children and prayed that they might be saved or, if not, that they might be willing to die, if that was God’s will. When the ship went down, the children were all lost. Mrs. Spafford was rescued by a sailor who had been rowing over the spot where the ship had sunk and found her floating in the water. Ten days later, when she reached Cardiff, she sent her husband the message: “Saved alone.” This was a great blow, a sadness hardly comprehensible to anyone who has not lost a child. But though a great shock, it did not destroy the peace that either of the parents, who were both Christians, had from Jesus. Spafford wrote as a testimony to the grace of God in his experience:
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea-billows roll—
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed his own blood for my soul.
This is the meaning of the Christian’s peace. It is not an absence of conflict or any other kind of trial or disappointment. Rather it is contentment and trust in God in spite of such circumstances.
But it is not automatic. That is, it is not ours regardless of whether or not we meet Christ’s conditions for entering into this inheritance. The conditions he lays down in this passage are two.
First, the peace Christ gives is for those who are “in him.” This could mean simply that peace is for Christians, for when we become Christians God places us in Christ so that we may properly be said to have died and risen with him and to be sitting now with him in heaven. But this is probably not what Christ is talking about here. We must remember in interpreting this verse that the discourses in which they occur have been full of admonitions to “believe on” Christ and, more importantly, to “remain in” him. This is not the kind of being “in” Christ that corresponds with being saved but rather a conscious dependence on him and staying close to him that is the prerequisite to joy and fruitfulness in the Christian life. It is this that Christ has in mind as he closes these discourses. Jesus gives peace. But the gift of peace is appropriated only by those who depend on him, trust him, and remain close to him in their living of the Christian life.
Moreover, this interpretation of being “in” Christ is reinforced by the second of the two conditions: that the words of Christ might be in his followers. Jesus indicates this when he says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace” (v. 33). What things are these? They are the doctrines of this section of John’s Gospel. We previewed these at the beginning of our study of this section.
First, there is the fact of Christ’s love for the disciples. Chapter 13 begins with this truth: “It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love” (v. 1). The chapter that is introduced by that verse contains a great demonstration of the love of Christ for his own, the foot washing, which is at the same time both a true demonstration of Christ’s condescending love and an illustration of his humbling of himself in order to be able to die on the cross. Throughout the discourses there is repeated evidence of Christ’s concern for his own. He is concerned to instruct them, warn them, and prepare them for his departure.
Second, Jesus spoke about heaven, saying that he was going to prepare a place for his own in heaven and that, if he was going, he would return and take them to himself so that where he was there they would be also (14:2–3). What was new in this teaching was not the mere fact of heaven, but rather that Jesus had an interest in it and would guarantee a personalized place in heaven for his followers.
Third, Jesus had spoken about the coming of the Holy Spirit. This was a tremendously new thing, for although the Old Testament had much to say about the Spirit of God, and although several of the Old Testament prophecies had spoken of a day when the Holy Spirit should be poured forth in power, no one had been associating that with Christ’s ministry or gifts. Now the disciples were told that Christ would himself send the Spirit and that he would come to be in them and work through them. According to Jesus, the Holy Spirit would comfort the disciples. He would also perform a ministry toward the world, for he would convict the world “of sin, righteousness and judgment” (16:8).
Fourth, Jesus spoke of a work that the disciples were to perform and for which he was leaving them in the world. He spoke of it in different ways. In the fourteenth chapter he spoke of it in comparison with his own work, saying that it would be even greater: “Anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father” (v. 12). In the fifteenth chapter he spoke of it in terms of his commissioning of them to fruitful service: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last” (v. 16). Having work to do in this world, their lives would be meaningful.
Fifth, the Lord spoke about prayer, giving us some of the most exciting promises in the Bible concerning it. “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name and I will do it” (14:13–14). “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you” (15:7). “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete” (16:24). The Lord also told them that he would pray for them. In the seventeenth chapter, we have a magnificent example of just such intercession.
Finally, even as Jesus reminds the disciples of what he has already taught, he adds another teaching: “But take heart! I have overcome the world” (16:33).
This is the point at which we should end—the point of Christ’s victory. He overcame the world in three areas: in his life, in his death, and in his resurrection. He overcame it in life because, in spite of abundant griefs and temptations, he pursued the course God had set before him without deviation, sin, or error. He said of Satan, “The prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me” (John 14:30). He overcame the world in death because his death was the price of sin and thus broke sin’s hold upon us. He overcame the world in his resurrection because by his resurrection he began his return to the throne of heaven from which he now rules the church and from which he will one day come again to put down all authority and power.
“I have overcome the world.” These words were spoken within the shadow of Golgotha, at the very foot of the cross. They were spoken on the verge of what surely seemed a defeat. But they were true then. And if they were true then, it is even more abundantly demonstrated that they are true now. Do you believe them? Is Christ the victor? If you do and if he is, then stand with him in his victory. Possess that peace that he dispenses, and in your turn also overcome the world. Does the world deride Christ’s gospel? So much the worse for the world. Do circumstances press us down? He has overcome circumstances. Stand with him then. He is the King. He is God over all, whose name is blessed forever.
Christ Overcoming the World
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
As Jesus concluded the teaching of John 16, he was perhaps drawing near to the garden of Gethsemane, where he would offer up his High Priestly Prayer, awaiting his betrayal and arrest. The time had therefore come for direct speaking. In the previous passage, he had taught of an hour to come when he would speak “plainly about the Father” (John 16:25). Now, poised at the brink of his own hour, Jesus spoke plainly about himself: “I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father” (16:28). Jesus pressed on the disciples the important realization that “in this world you will have tribulation.” His final words offered the antidote for their troubles: “But take heart; I have overcome the world” (16:33).
Easy to Believe
Jesus began these final verses with a statement “concerning his true nature, his heavenly origin, and his heavenly destiny, [that] is profound but, at the same time, so simple that the disciples listening to him were led to exclaim, ‘Now you are speaking clearly.’ ” As Jesus recounts the basic facts of his life and ministry, we are struck that he spoke not as one acting under compulsion, but One who came and went by his free will and sovereign choice: “I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father” (John 16:28). This statement sets forth Jesus’ first coming in four great movements. He came from the Father, came into the world, is now leaving, and will return to the Father. These are vital facts that structure the truth of Jesus’ person and redeeming work.
First, Jesus speaks of his eternal and divine origin, saying, “I came from the Father.” This was a truth that the disciples clearly grasped, saying, “We believe that you came from God” (John 16:30). William Hendriksen explains: “This refers to Christ’s perfect deity, his pre-existence, and his love-revealing departure from heaven in order to dwell on the sin-cursed earth.” Here is a direct claim to deity on the part of Jesus, presented as an essential element of saving faith.
Second, Jesus emphasizes his incarnation, the great miracle by which God the Son was born in the virgin womb and took up a human body and true human nature. It is noteworthy that Jesus spoke of his departure from heaven in the past tense, as a completed action. But he refers to his incarnation in the perfect tense, that is, as a past action with continued effects. “I … have come into the world,” Jesus says (John 16:28). This includes his virgin birth, his sinless life, and his ministry with its miracles and teaching. Most importantly, Jesus came into the world to lay down his life as an atoning Sacrifice for sin. “The Son of Man came,” Jesus stressed, “not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). Donald Grey Barnhouse illustrates Christ’s purpose in the incarnation with a judge who imposes strict justice on a convict, but then steps down from the bench to pay the fine himself. He does this because the guilty party is his own beloved child. Likewise, though very God, Jesus stepped down from heaven to pay in his blood the debt that his own divine justice demanded for our sins.
Moreover, Jesus came to reveal the glory and grace of the Father in his own person and work. We see why the perfect tense is rightly used for Jesus’ incarnation: though he has departed from our world, his coming produced effects that not only continue today but will endure forever.
Third, Jesus moves to the present—the action that he was about to initiate—saying, “Now I am leaving the world,” by way of the cross. Notice again that Jesus’ death and departure was not thrust on him by some outward compulsion. Earlier, he had told the disciples, “I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord” (John 10:17–18). According to the New Testament, Jesus left the world via the cross in order to remove completely the guilt of his people’s sins. Psalm 103:12 sings of him: “as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”
Fourth, and last, Jesus declares that after departing the world, he is “going to the Father” (John 16:28). Jesus’ resurrection from the grave reveals God’s acceptance of his atoning death, so that we may be certain that satisfaction has been made for our sins. Moreover, in returning to the Father, Jesus assumed the place from which he can dispense spiritual gifts and blessings to his people. Most important of these gifts is our new birth into saving faith by means of God’s Word (1 Peter 1:23). Finally, Jesus went to the Father that he might take up his ministry of intercessory prayer for all believers. Paul wrote that Christ “is at the right hand of God … interceding for us” (Rom. 8:34). There, Jesus displays in his body the marks of his atoning sacrifice, presenting our covenant claims through his blood. We sing:
Arise, my soul, arise, shake off thy guilty fears:
The bleeding Sacrifice in my behalf appears;
Before the Throne my Surety stands,
Before the Throne my Surety stands,
My name is written on his hands.
These are the plain facts of the Christian faith, articulated by Jesus himself. We should notice that there is nothing difficult to grasp here; the gospel is easy to understand and believe. Jesus came from heaven, came to earth, departed the world, and returned to the Father. This shows that objections to the Christian gospel stem not from the obscurity of our teaching but rather from a moral objection to the claims made by Jesus. People reject the idea that God’s Son came to this world from heaven because they refuse to surrender to him the reins of their lives. They object to Jesus’ departure via the cross because they refuse to acknowledge the righteousness of divine condemnation and admit their need to be forgiven of their sins.
The disciples responded to Jesus with belief, stating that his words struck a chord in their hearts: “Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech! Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God” (John 16:29–30). It seems that Jesus had answered a question that was lurking in their minds. If we will open the Bible and read with an open mind, we will likewise find that the Scriptures lay bare the thoughts and motives of our heart (cf. Heb. 4:12). True faith in Jesus does not consist merely in intellectual understanding, but comes to life as the flint of Christ’s words strikes the stone of our hearts and sets us inwardly ablaze.
The Hard Reality
It seems, however, that Jesus was not so impressed by their faith: “Jesus answered them, ‘Do you now believe?’ ” (John 16:31). Some commentators see Jesus’ reference to “now” as a complaint regarding their tardiness in believing, and others see a prediction that they would soon deny him. However Jesus meant “now,” it is clear that he was challenging the disciples to realize that believing would not be as easy as it then seemed. Once God gives us eyes to see, the gospel is easy to believe. But there is a hard reality about following Jesus that every Christian must realize. Speaking of the trial facing the disciples—one in which their faith would waver—Jesus told them: “Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone” (16:32).
This reminds us that we should not take lightly the challenge of believing in Jesus in this world, nor should we indulge in self-confidence as Christians. The disciples failed to anticipate the weakness of the flesh, the power of Satan’s afflictions, and their vulnerability in the hour of trial. J. C. Ryle comments: “Like young recruits, they had yet to learn that it is one thing to know the soldier’s drill and wear the uniform, and quite another thing to be steadfast in the day of battle.” If we have felt the challenge of Jesus’ words in our own lives—“Do you now believe?”—we will pray in earnest to be delivered from temptation, we will abide constantly in God’s Word, we will regularly attend to the means of grace in the worship of Christ’s church, and we will live in close communion with fellow believers who can encourage us to walk in the light through faith. Knowing that our faith will be tried by difficulties, the mature Christian is not one who has advanced beyond careful attention to God’s Word, prayer, and regular worship in the church. Instead, mature believers have learned not to neglect the God-given means of grace that preserve our faith.
For the first disciples, these lessons would be learned in the events of that very night. Jesus foretold their scattering after his arrest, and the Gospels speak unanimously about the flight of the disciples. Matthew 26:56 reports, “Then all the disciples left him and fled” (cf. Mark 14:50). The only exceptions were Peter and John. Luke mentions that Peter followed Jesus at a distance (Luke 22:54), only to deny him three times outside the high priest’s house. John, being acquainted with the ruling priests, entered into the courtyard to watch Jesus’ mock trial (John 18:15) and later appeared with Jesus’ mother at the cross. Still, Jesus’ summary was borne out in general by the disciples: “you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone” (16:32). This fulfilled the prophecy of Zechariah 13:7: “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.”
Jesus mentions two dangers when Christians are troubled in the world: God’s people, first, are scattered and, second, are tempted to renounce Jesus. Consider how Christians are scattered today, sometimes by persecution, sometimes by disagreements, and sometimes by false doctrines and practices. As the winds of heresy, worldliness, and fleshly pride blow across the church, we find ourselves scattered by argument, resentment, and suspicion. What is the way to reconciliation among scattered Christians? The answer is Jesus himself. To the extent that our doctrine and lives are centered on Jesus, we will avoid being scattered as believers, despite differing experiences and some differences in our teaching.
Second, since they would be scattered, Jesus said that the disciples would “leave me alone.” This in part reflected the reality that, as Herman Ridderbos explains, “Jesus must walk the road alone, and can do so as the good Shepherd who gives his life for his sheep so that not one of them is lost.” It remains true, however, that the disciples were torn away from Jesus by fear and self-concern, so that they abandoned him to face the cross alone.
How different was Jesus! Whereas the disciples were scattered, Jesus stood firm in his calling as our Savior. Whereas the disciples were confused, Jesus remained master of the situation. Whereas the Eleven departed, each to his own isolated refuge, Jesus said, “Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me” (John 16:32). This is our hope: that Jesus persevered in his saving work in communion with the Father. Even when crying out on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46), Jesus was still one with the purpose and will of the Father in making the sacrifice for our sins. Bearing God’s wrath by dying in his human nature, Jesus remained unified with the Father in his undying divine being.
Since Jesus died for sinners, there is hope for faltering but true disciples such as the original Eleven and us today. Thank God that we are not saved by our faith—as if our believing achieved our salvation—but we are saved by Christ through faith. Thus, a weak and failing faith is saved by a strong and faithful Savior. The disciples would fail Jesus and abandon their faith—how could they ever be restored? Paul answers: “If we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself” (2 Tim. 2:13).
Meanwhile, whenever a Christian is scattered by persecution, failure, or even our own sin, we can know that we, too, are never truly alone. Whenever our faith turns to the Lord and our prayer reaches up for deliverance, God is near us to save. James wrote, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you” (James 4:8).
Christ’s Promise of Peace
Because the Father would remain with him, and because he would be faithful in making his sacrifice for sins, Jesus followed his warning with words of comfort: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace” (John 16:33). Though the disciples faced trouble, Jesus would leave them a legacy of his own peace. He had spoken of this same gift earlier, saying: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (14:27).
Leon Morris describes a painting that matches Jesus’ meaning. It depicts a storm beating against a rocky shoreline with waves crashing and foam flying high. A ship has been driven up against the rock and is falling apart, bodies falling into the deep. But in the foreground is seen a mighty rock with a crack. In the crack is a dove nesting securely, the storm unable to reach within. This expresses Jesus’ gift of peace. Morris explains: “Believers are not immune to the storms of life. They must bear them.… But they are secure. The Rock of Ages is their sure refuge and there they have peace.”
Jesus qualifies his offer of peace in two ways. First, he says that we may have peace “in me.” Believers have peace only in Christ; he is the Rock in the cleft of which we are secure. In Christ we enjoy peace with God, knowing that our sins are all forgiven. Believers also experience the peace of God, as the Holy Spirit works assurance and hope in our hearts. We gain this peace through prayer. Paul told us: “with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6–7). If you have not turned to Christ in saving faith, this might explain the restlessness of your heart. Our hearts were made to be given to him, and “he himself is our peace” (Eph. 2:14). James Montgomery Boice notes that not only do we gain peace by first coming to Christ in faith, but we must also realize that “a conscious dependence on him and staying close to him … is the prerequisite to joy and fruitfulness in the Christian life.”
Second, Jesus says that believers gain his peace through the teaching of his Word: “I have said these things to you,” Jesus said, “that in me you may have peace” (John 16:33). “These things” that Christ has said refer to the whole of this Farewell Discourse, the purpose of which was to provide peace to the disciples in light of Jesus’ coming death and departure. All through the Farewell Discourse, Jesus expresses his care and concern, which apply not only to the original disciples but also to us. Knowing Christ’s loving care gives peace to our hearts. Jesus promised to secure a place for every believer in heaven: “In my Father’s house are many rooms.… And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (14:2–3). Believers know that whatever else happens to us as we follow Jesus in life, the destination will be our own prepared place in the glorious eternity of heaven. What a source of peace this should be to every Christian heart!
When it comes to following Christ in this world, Jesus also told about the provision of God’s Holy Spirit to comfort, encourage, empower, and lead us. Not only will the Spirit “take what is mine and declare it to you” (John 16:14), but he will grant divine conviction to empower our ministry to the world: “he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (16:8).
Finally, Jesus’ teaching has repeatedly stressed our great privilege in prayer by appeal to his name. What a source of peace it is to know that God in heaven hears my cry and attends to my plea! Jesus taught, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you” (John 16:23). This provides us with every incentive to try out our access to God in prayer, and to lay our anxieties into the Father’s hands, requesting his gift of peace. Peter learned this in future years, urging us to cast “all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
Are you living in the peace that Jesus has left to believers? If you are not a believer, you have every reason to turn to Jesus, seeking peace with the Father through the forgiveness of sin and the peace of the Father as he lives in you by his Spirit. If you are a believer living without peace, does this warn that you are not living in close communion with our Lord or that you are failing to derive the blessing of his teaching in God’s Word? Many Christians struggle for peace in their hearts, some because of their sinfulness and others because of their weakness. All Christians should turn to Christ, turn from our sin, and seek his blessing. Jesus gives his people peace, and we should make sure that we receive this peace in him, through his Word, and in answer to our prayers.
Two Great Truths
John 16:33 concludes Jesus’ farewell teaching with plain and direct words that emphasize two great truths that his disciples would need to know. Jesus began this final passage with plain teaching about his own mission, and he concludes with two direct statements that are to serve as watchwords for his church: “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (16:33).
Are we surprised by the trials of this present life? We should not be, given Jesus’ clear warning. Here is a promise that is certain to come true if only we live for a little while: “In the world you will have tribulation.” The English word tribulation derives from a Latin word for the flail that was used to separate the wheat from the chaff. The world is the place of testing where our faith is revealed and made strong through trial. A. W. Pink writes: “While the Christian is left down here he suffers from the weakness and weariness of the body, from temporal losses and disappointments, from the severing of cherished ties, as well as from the sneers and taunts, the hatred and persecution of the world.” “Men design to cut [believers] off from the earth,” notes Matthew Henry, “and God designs by affliction to make them [ready] for heaven; and so between both they shall have tribulation.”10 Though in Christ we have peace, in the world we have tribulation: we should therefore direct our hearts not to the things of the world but to the blessings of Christ, which alone convey peace.
The second great truth answers the need of the first. “Take heart,” he says; “I have overcome the world.” John’s Gospel was written to display the whole range of Jesus’ victory over sin, Satan, and death—all the powers of the world arrayed against Christians. It is probably best, however, to understand Jesus’ victory in the terms that he gave the disciples in this final passage.
Jesus said, “I came from the Father and have come into the world” (John 16:28). Jesus overcame the world as the incarnate God-man by obeying the will of the Father in his perfect and sinless life, and by overthrowing the powers of Satan and sin. Jesus added, “Now I am leaving the world and going to the Father” (16:28). Jesus overcame the world in his death, because he offered his sinless life to pay the sin debt of all who trust in him, thus breaking the power of sin over us. Jesus then conquered death through his resurrection, and ascending to heaven he assumed “the throne of heaven from which he now rules the church and from which he will one day come again to put down all authority and power.” Because Christ has overcome the world, we now must only hold fast to him to gain our own victory, dividing his spoils by faith. John wrote in his first epistle, “Everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (1 John 5:4).
Notice two final points. Jesus said, “I have overcome the world” in the very shadow of Golgotha, where he would suffer God’s wrath at the hands of evil men. Jesus spoke of victory as he stepped forward to embrace his apparent defeat, knowing that through his sacrifice God would grant salvation to his people. You may rely on his victory when you feel yourself at the end and on the brink of failure. Our victory is Christ crucified for our sins and Christ living with power at God’s right hand. Take heart! Christ has overcome the world!
Finally, be encouraged that Jesus knew that his disciples would falter in their faith and foretold it in advance, yet did not forsake them. Jesus knows that you will have tribulations; your trials do not suggest that you have fallen outside of Christ’s will or plan for your life. Jesus knows in detail every cross that you bear, especially when you bear it for him. The Eleven would return to faith because Jesus would return to them from the dead. You, too, through faith alone, are kept safe in his hand; even your faith is secured by Christ’s unfailing grace (John 10:28). Take heart! Christ has overcome the world!
33. These things I have spoken to you. He again repeats how necessary those consolations are which he had addressed to them; and he proves it by this argument, that numerous distresses and tribulations await them in the world. We ought to attend, first, to this admonition, that all believers ought to be convinced that their life is exposed to many afflictions, that they may be disposed to exercise patience. Since, therefore, the world is like a troubled sea, true peace will be found nowhere but in Christ. Next, we ought to attend to the manner of enjoying that peace, which he describes in this passage. He says that they will have peace, if they make progress in this doctrine. Do we wish then to have our minds calm and easy in the midst of afflictions? Let us be attentive to this discourse of Christ, which in itself will give us peace.
But be of good courage. As our sluggishness must be corrected by various afflictions, and as we must be awakened to seek a remedy for our distress, so the Lord does not intend that our minds shall be cast down, but rather that we shall fight keenly, which is impossible, if we are not certain of success; for if we must fight, while we are uncertain as to the result, all our zeal will quickly vanish. When, therefore, Christ calls us to the contest, he arms us with assured confidence of victory, though still we must toil hard.
I have overcome the world. As there is always in us much reason for trembling, he shows that we ought to be confident for this reason, that he has obtained a victory over the world, not for himself individually, but for our sake. Thus, though in ourselves almost overwhelmed, if we contemplate that magnificent glory to which our Head has been exalted, we may boldly despise all the evils which hang over us. If, therefore, we desire to be Christians, we must not seek exemption from the cross, but must be satisfied with this single consideration, that, fighting under the banner of Christ, we are beyond all danger, even in the midst of the combat. Under the term World, Christ here includes all that is opposed to the salvation of believers, and especially all the corruptions which Satan abuses for the purpose of laying snares for us.
33 Jesus concludes the discourse proper by encouraging his disciples with a reminder that he has told them “these things” (all the promises in the preceding chapters) so that in him they “may have peace.” Peace in the biblical sense is more than tranquility. It is the šalôm (GK 8934) of God, the sense of complete well-being that characterizes the life lived in accordance with the design of God. Peace comes from acting on the promises of God. The close relationship between prayer (vv. 23–24) and peace (v. 33) is reflected in Paul’s words to the Philippian church: “In everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Php 4:6–7).
In this world the followers of Jesus are destined to have trouble. (Thlipsis, GK 2568, is commonly used in the NT for the persecutions of the church; see, e.g., 2 Co 8:2; 1 Th 1:6.) But “take heart!” says Jesus, “I have overcome the world.” There is solid reason for joyful confidence. The world will do its worst to me, yet I will come through victoriously. The victory that I will win will be yours as well. The verb “to overcome” (used only here in John’s gospel) is a military term and denotes victory in warfare. The perfect tense (nenikēka, GK 3771) emphasizes the abiding nature of that victory. The strong adversative alla (“but”) suggests that something is to follow for which the circumstances have not prepared us (cf. Morris, 714 n. 80).
The chapter closes with a strong contrast. In this world the disciples will have trouble, but in Christ they will have peace. Believers were never intended to be exempt from sorrow or difficulty in this world. We are, however, expected to be at peace because by faith we have been brought into an inseparable union with Jesus Christ and share his victory over sin and Satan. “Cheer up,” is the Living Bible’s translation. The enemies of God are defeated, and before long that victory will be universally proclaimed (cf. Php 2:9–11).
33 For “I have told you these things” see on 14:25, and for “peace” on 14:27. Jesus’ words to the disciples conclude on the notes of peace and victory. There are three contrasts here: “in me” is set over against “in this world,” “you may have” over against “you will have,” and “peace” over against “trouble.” The second of these does not, of course, mean that there is any doubt that those who are “in” Christ have peace. Rather it points to the contrast between the life that all must lead, a life in this world, and a life that all do not lead, a life in Christ. All must live in the world and thus have trouble. But people may also live in Christ, and when they do they have peace. The speaking of these words just at this time has a significance rather like the reference to the trials that would befall them in verse 4. When they had all forsaken Jesus they might well feel so ashamed that they would remain uneasy whenever they thought of him. But he predicted their desertion in the very saying in which he assured them of the peace he would give them. He loved them for what they were and despite their shortcomings. When in the future they looked back on their desertion they could reflect that Jesus had predicted it. And, in the full knowledge that they would act in this way, he had promised them peace. The world will infallibly bring them “trouble.” That is its characteristic. But he can bid them “take heart!”83 He had overcome85 the world, the perfect tense denoting an abiding victory. This statement, spoken as it is in the shadow of the cross, is audacious. The cross would seem to the outsider to be Jesus’ total defeat. He sees it as his complete victory over all that the world is and can do to him. He goes to the cross not in fear or in gloom, but as a conqueror.
33 The expression, “These things I have spoken to you,” finally does what the reader expected it to do all along. It brings the discourse to a close. Here (as in 15:11; 16:1, 4) it is followed by a purpose clause: “These things I have spoken to you so that in me you might have peace. In the world you have distress, but take courage, I have overcome the world!” (v. 33). Earlier, he stated his purpose both positively (to bring joy, 15:11), and negatively (to warn against “stumbling,” 16:1, 4). This time he combines warning and assurance, with the good news that in the end assurance and hope have the last word. He visualizes the disciples after his departure living simultaneously “in me” (as in 14:20; 15:2, 4–7), where they will have “peace,” and “in the world,” where “distress” awaits them. His final word to them is “Take courage, I have overcome63 the world.” If chapters 15 and 16 are indeed a “second” farewell discourse, as many have proposed, then the second discourse ends on a note reminiscent of Jesus’ words near the close of the first, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let no one’s heart be shaken, nor let it be fearful!” (14:27). The dualism is evident in both places. Jesus and his disciples are at war with “the world,” and “the world” is already defeated in principle. His victory over the world is theirs as well, a victory confirmed and accomplished in the long prayer to follow (17:1–26), and explicitly claimed for Christian believers both in 1 John (see 2:13–14; 4:4; 5:4–5) and in the book of Revelation (see 3:21; 5:5; 12:11; 15:2; 17:14; 21:7). But as for the disciples on the scene, they are not heard from again.
33. These things I have spoken unto you—not the immediately preceding words, but this whole discourse, of which these were the very last words, and which He thus winds up.
that in me ye might have peace—in the sublime sense before explained. (See on Jn 14:27).
In the world ye shall have tribulation—specially arising from its deadly opposition to those who “are not of the world, but chosen out of the world.” So that the “peace” promised was far from an unruffled one.
I have overcome the world—not only before you, but for you, that ye may be able to do the same (1 Jn 5:4, 5).
Ver. 33.—These things have I spoken (ταῦτα; all the farewell discourses. The tone of these last triumphant words reminds them of the finest and noblest of his previous assurances, his promises of peace, courage, and victory over all the evil and power of this world) to you, that in me ye might have peace (see note, ch. 14:27†, 28†) The entire issue of the discourse is the conference oil his disciples of his own secret of peace—the adequate support amid the crushing force and vehement hostility of the world (cf. Ps. 46:2–4, “Though the earth be removed … there is a river,” etc.). Peace is the balance of equilibrating forces; and man needs a Divine force behind and within him to encounter the tremendous odds arrayed against him, in mysteries of life, temptation of the devil, infirmity of the flesh, and antagonism of the world, so that we need not be surprised to hear him say, In the world ye have tribulation. It is the fundamental condition of Divine life in this world. Christ’s disciples may take that for granted (see 1 Thess. 1:6; 3:4), but the most striking and unique note of the true faith is that this sorrow is blended with an inward rapture which transforms it into peace. The blending of fear and love, of law with promise, of righteousness with mercy, of the sense of sin with that of pardon, of a great peace with a crushing tribulation, is one of the most constant tokens, signs, or marks of the mind of Christ. But be of good courage. This is the practical uprising of the soul into the joy of the Lord (cf. also ch. 14:1, 28). (The word itself is an ἅπαξ λεγόμενον in John, though found in Matt. 9:2 and Mark 10:49.) Ἐγω, I—very emphatic—have overcome the world. “A vous encore le combat, à moi dès à présent la viotoire! Mais en moi la meme victoire à vous vous aussi” (Reuss). The royal sublimity of this last word, on the eve of the Passion, became one of the perpetually recurring thoughts of John (1 John 5:4 and Rev. 2, 3, where the ὁ νίκων is again and again referred to). Christ’s victory already assured to him becomes theirs. So “by similar anticipation we have ἐνίκησαν in Rev. 12:11, and a ἡ νικήσασα in 1 John 5:4.” The victory had been, however, already achieved over the world’s temptations, and over the bitterness of internal treachery, and the vast sum of human ingratitude; and this may in part explain the use of the perfect tense, “I have overcome.”
33 Jesus’ last word to his disciples is not of condemnation but encouragement, for he anticipates their speedy recovery. He has spoken “these things” (i.e., the discourse, not simply v 32) that in him they may have peace. He has already assured them of the possession of joy (vv 22, 24); peace and joy are two primary realities of the saving sovereignty that Jesus brings, and they are gifts of the present—even in tribulation! If the latter is the disciples’ lot in this world, tribulation (θλῖψις) is the precursor of the triumphant kingdom of God. And the victory that brings the kingdom has already been won! “I have conquered the world” is the word of the Victor who, by his enduring θλῖψις in obedience and unwavering love, conquered the evil in the world, as he overcame the “prince” of this world (12:32). And in him every disciple shares his victory (a conviction strongly emphasized in I John: the believer conquers the evil one, 2:13–14, the Antichrists of this world, 4:4, and the world itself, 5:4–5).
The relationion of the time of Jesus and his disciples with that of the risen Lord and his Church in the Gospel becomes acute in the Last Discourses of chaps. 15–16, particularly in view of their forward look, which is concerned with the future relations of the disciples to the “world,” especially as represented by the Jews, and the anticipated ministry of the Paraclete.
- The relation to Israel of Jesus and his disciples and of the Lord and his Church is ambivalent. It is remarkable that the allegory of the Vine contains no polemic. Its utilization of the imagery of vine and vineyard, so familiar from the OT, is compatible with the continuation of Israel-Church as the people of God. Even the epithet “true Vine” does not exclude that observation, since the prophets used the figure almost uniformly to denounce the false vine, Israel (Jer 2:21 is characteristic: “I planted you as a choice red vine, true stock all of you, yet now you are turned into a vine debased and worthless!” [neb]). If, as F. C. Burkitt once remarked, the Church in the teaching of Jesus is to be seen as “Israel made new in the Remnant,” the Vine imagery is thoroughly compatible with his consciousness of mission to Israel, in the Fourth Gospel as well as in the synoptics. The true Vine can emerge only through the redemptive ministry of him in whom Israel may be made new. It is the Redeemer with those united in him through faith and love. By definition this excludes from the true Vine those in Israel who rejected Jesus and his revelation, represented above all in the leaders who finally brought about his death. From the beginning the consciousness of this divorce between believing and unbelieving Israel could not be erased from the Church’s mind, not even from that of the wholly Jewish Church. In the time of the Fourth Evangelist’s ministry it will have been particularly vivid in view of the churches’ experience of opposition from the synagogue leadership, comparable to that which Jesus suffered. The difference between the later and earlier churches on this issue will have been the clearer understanding of the later community that the true Vine includes believers from all nations (as 10:16; 12:12–32 envisages), whereas unbelieving Jews numbered themselves with the Gentiles who oppose the gospel and the Church that preaches it.
So within the Fourth Gospel a clear recognition comes about that the “world” in its opposition to Jesus and his Church finds its prime representatives in Israel’s leaders. We have already observed that in our Gospel the concept “world” has a similar ambiguity to “Israel.” The world as created by God through the Logos is the scene of the incarnation of the Logos, and the object of the divine love and redemptive work of the Son of God (e.g., 3:16–21; 4:42; 12:47); hence the Redeemer is “lifted up” to heaven in order to draw all in the world to him (12:31–32). But the world is also the scene where its “prince” holds sway. The passages that mention him show that he is a defeated power (12:31; 14:30; 16:11), but he is still able to inspire hostility to the followers of Jesus, as he did to Jesus himself. In such passages as 15:18–19, 25 the “world” and unbelieving Israel are virtually identified, as in 16:1–4 the militant opposition to the disciples is attributed to the synagogue. When opposition of this order was experienced by the churches of the Evangelist’s time, the concept of “false” Israel as representatives of the world and its prince that right Jesus and his Church would have been intensified. The modification of the Twelfth of the Eighteen Benedictions to include a curse on the Christians, at whatever date that may have taken place, will have seemed to the Christians the topstone that crowned their convictions. That in the vastly changed situation of the twentieth century, when the boot has been on the other foot and the Church’s traditions have led to literally annihilating persecutions of Jews, this evaluation requires drastic modification goes without saying; but it needs to be said, loudly and clearly, as the Evangelist himself would undoubtedly have acknowledged.
- The function of the Spirit in the Church is placed firmly in the future in the Last Discourses, and his role is more extensively described in the discourses of chaps. 15–16 than anywhere else in the Gospel. The Paraclete sayings raise the question as to the relation of the Paraclete-Spirit to the revelation in Jesus in the continuing life of the Church.
In 16:25 the teaching of Jesus to his disciples is acknowledged to be obscure, and the full revelation of his teaching promised for the future. There is a certain tension here, inasmuch as in 18:20 Jesus declares to the chief priest Annas that he had “spoken openly (παρρησίᾳ) in the world,” had always taught in the synagogues and in the temple, and had said nothing in secret. Yet the elusiveness of his teaching and the exasperation of at least some of his hearers is illustrated in the occasion when “the Jews” surrounded Jesus in the temple and asked him, “How long are you going to provoke us? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly (παρρησίᾳ)” (10:24). Jesus replied that he had done so, and they had not believed. The necessity for faith to grasp the truth made known by Jesus is similarly asserted in 8:46–47. It is evident that if the teaching of Jesus is to be understood there must be a readiness to receive it, and equally a readiness to progress in understanding. The disciples were willing enough, but their grasp of the revelation in Jesus was fragmentary, and therefore they were apt to misunderstand it. They were in need of a translation of the message and a continual illumination of its meaning, in other words of being “led” in the entire truth. The Paraclete’s task is to disclose the truth of the gospel as he constantly draws on the fullness of the revelation made known in Jesus. The heart of his instruction is indicated in 16:14: “He will glorify me, inasmuch as he will receive what is from me and disclose it to you.” The revelation, then, is Jesus; not a system of doctrines, but him. That the teaching of Jesus, with his life, death, and exaltation, entail doctrine is evident, and dogmatic formulation that endeavors to do justice to what was said and done by him is immensely important. But dogmatic formulations and exposition can never take the place of the revelation in Christ; they can never exhaust that revelation; of necessity they are always relative to the times in which they are expressed and they have to be restated for different ages and cultures. More importantly, the knowledge of the revelation is intended to lead to the experience of it, for through it the living Christ confronts the believer with the demand for faith and obedience, and for life in union with him (cf. “Abide in me, and I in you …”). It is in this context that the “prophetic” ministry of the Spirit-Paraclete is to be understood. The Spirit enables not only an understanding of the revelation, but also the expression of it in such a manner that both believer and unbeliever may grasp it and respond to it. All are ready to acknowledge that the greatest monument to the presence of this prophetic inspiration of the Spirit in the Church is the Fourth Gospel itself. It was early perceived to be the “spiritual” Gospel, in that it enables the believer to penetrate beyond the exterior of the life and teaching of Jesus to its heart—one is inclined to say to his heart. And at the same time it constantly demands the response of reader and hearer to the Christ so presented. It was surely part of the Evangelist’s intention to make it plain that the Paraclete who illumined the minds of those about Jesus continues the same ministry in the church, that the revelation in Christ may constantly be freshly perceived and powerfully expressed. of this ministry Blank wrote,
Prophecy liberates the Christian message from the fetters and incrustations of a paralyzing traditionalism. Its primary function is to relate the Christian message to the present age with its experiences and problems and to interpret it for the people of every today. If the message is to remain alive or to become alive again, the Church of every age and especially of today needs authoritative, Spirit-filled prophecy. Part of the task is to bring to light the contradiction between the message and the wretched reality of Church and world (According to St. John, 150–51).
 Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 159). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.