The gospel of John presents Jesus as God in human flesh. As we mentioned in our last lesson, chapter 16 is a record of Christ's last night with His disciples. The crucifixion would change Christ's present relationship with His disciples. Physically, He will no longer walk beside them. So in a sense they would need to face the world alone. Understanding the difficulties that the disciples would face, Christ comforted them. They would face a world in rebellion against God. After Christ returned to the Father, the world would vent its hatred of Christ on His representatives. The hostility and hatred of the world is the focus of this lesson.
In chapter 15 we saw that the Spirit confronts the world with the testimony of Christ by indwelling God's children. In many ways the first eleven verses of chapter 16 parallel the last two verses of chapter 15. Jesus was again detailing the hatred of the world and presenting the work of the Holy Spirit in confronting the world. But here Christ specifies how the Spirit confronts the world--He convicts men of sin. Chapter 15 ends with the testifying ministry of the Spirit and chapter 16 opens with His convicting ministry. By bearing testimony to Christ and convicting of sin, the Spirit seeks to turn the hostile heart of man away from rebelling against God to receiving in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
I. THE KILLING OF THE DISCIPLES BY THE WORLD (vv. 1-4)
A. The Promise Given (v. 1)
"These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended. "
"These things" refers to what Christ spoke of in John 15:18-25-- the hatred of the world. Jesus told His disciples about the hatred of the world because He didn't want them to be surprised when it came. Christ wanted the disciples to be forearmed by being forewarned.
The Greek verb translated "offended" (skandaliz[ma]o) is transliterated into English as "scandalize. " The noun (Gk. , skandalon) was used to refer to a stick that held up a trap that an animal was lured into by bait. Once in the trap the animal would be captured by grabbing the bait, which was tied to the stick. The skandalon was the trigger that pulled the trap down. Jesus used the analogy of a trap to warn the disciples to be alert. He didn't want them to stumble unaware into a trap set by the world. Jesus taught them the full meaning of discipleship-- the pain as well as the joy of it.
1. The preparation
The disciples failed many times despite the warnings they received. However their failure would have probably been greater had they not been warned. What if they hadn't known about the hatred of the world? What if all they knew were the promises of love, joy, peace, answered prayer, the power to do greater works than Christ, and the promise of a Comforter who will energize and empower them? If that were all they knew, they would have been totally unprepared for persecution. They would have faltered when the world's hatred focused on them. Jesus wanted them to understand it was all part of God's plan. So Christ tenderly and compassionately prepared His disciples.
2. The principle
The disciples didn't have to fail. In fact Christ gave them everything they needed to prevent that. Nevertheless Christ knew they would all one day betray Him. From the divine side, they had been given all they needed to stand firm. But at the same time God did not violate their freedom of choice. The principle of human responsibility means that man can choose whether he applies the truth and the promises of God. Yet man has the freedom to reject God's help. When the hour of persecution came, the disciples rejected what they knew to be true and they ran away out of fear.
We aren't so different from the disciples. We have about the same knowledge and wisdom God gave to them. Colossians 2:10 says that we are complete in Christ. Yet often we are afraid and doubt our relationship with God when faced with a problem. We stumble and fall into sin. It's not that we don't have what we need from God; it's often that we reject the resources God has given us. Instead of calling on our supernatural resources, we fall back on our humanness. The power to overcome the world is not in ourselves but in Christ.
B. The Persecution Described (vv. 2-4a)
1. Its Certainty (vv. 2a, 4a)
Christ added detail to what He said in chapter 15 by telling them the kind of persecution they would face. Verse 2 says, "They shall put you out of the synagogues . . . whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. " The apostle Paul, before his conversion, was a partial fulfillment of that verse. In Acts 26:9-11 he says, " I verily thought within myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth, which thing I also did in Jerusalem; and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests. And when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. And I punished them often in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto foreign cities. " Paul chased and killed Christians, thinking he was doing service to God.
Persecution of Christians to the point of death still goes on in our world. Although you may not die for Christ in America, it's true that all who live godly shall suffer persecution. The world doesn't like Jesus any better now than it did in the first century. And a man who stands up and defends the name of Jesus Christ is going to attract the world's hatred. Verse 4 says, "These things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. " Christ told them that so that when it happened they would remember that He told them and their faith would be strengthened. That's because one of the greatest ways to strengthen faith is to see fulfilled prophecy, which I believe is the greatest proof of the divine authorship of the Bible. History verifies the Word of God.
Christ said essentially the same thing in John 14: "Now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe" (v. 29). Believe is another word for faith. He told them beforehand that He would go away then come again to build their faith when it happened.
2. Its nature (v. 2b)
Christ said that the disciples would be "put out of the synagogues" (Gk. , aposunag[ma]ogous, "unsynagogued"). To the Jewish people at the time being a member of the synagogue was essential. All social, economic, and religious life focused on the synagogue. An "unsynagogued" person was considered to be a moral outlaw--worse than a pagan Gentile.
In John 9 the parents of the healed blind man "feared the Jews [the religious leaders]; for the Jews had agreed already that, if any man did confess that he [Jesus] was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue" (v. 22). They didn't want to be ostracized from Jewish life. Christ knew His disciples would be cut off from their people. That's because certain Jewish leaders would focus their hatred for Christ on Christ's followers. Eventually all the disciples would be cast out from the synagogue and some would be killed.
3. Its motive (v. 2c)
The depth of the world's sin is seen in the colossal mistake of thinking they were serving God by killing Christ and His followers. Throughout history, the persecutors of Christians and others have been under the delusion that they were ministers of God. The early church's persecution by Rome, and the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, were all done in the name of God.
The Greek word translated "service" (latreu[ma]o) is used for the service of priests at the altar. It's the standard word for religious service given to God. They were actually carrying out worship in their own heads by slaughtering people who named the name of Christ.
4. Its cause (v. 3)
Why do men persecute Christians and think they're doing God favors? What kind of a God do they worship? I think it is a god of their own creation--a fictitious deity. Verse 3 says, "These things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me. " The problem is they don't know God. Jesus said to the religious leaders, "If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also" (John 8:19).
The problem has always been the same: people worship a god who doesn't exist. They slaughter people to offer as human sacrifices, including Christ and His disciples. What an abominable mistake! Jesus said they do that because they're ignorant. They don't know God. The sad part is that it's a willful ignorance (Rom. 1:18-21). Men willfully reject the God and construct a god of their own.
So Jesus promised there would be persecution in the name of God. The best way Satan can discredit God is to do things in the name of God that are obvious atrocities. That's why he focuses his efforts on religious activities.
C. The Pronouncement Delayed (v. 4b)
"These things I said not unto at the beginning, because I was with you. "
1. In degree
Christ knew it would be difficult for His disciples to bear the news of persecution, so rather than telling them at the beginning of His ministry, He waited until His death was near. It would not have been profitable for the disciples to know the depth of coming persecution early in Christ's ministry, but now they needed to understand it.
Nevertheless Christ broached the subject earlier in His ministry. In Matthew 5:10-12 and 10:16-39 He tells them to expect abuse from the world. In fact, He told them they would be reviled and persecuted. However He didn't tell them the depth of it--that the whole world would be set against them. He waited until the last night of His life to warn them fully about the world's hatred.
2. In direction
Christ said the reason He did not tell the disciples about the full fury of the world's persecution was that He was with them (John 16:47). Christ absorbed the brunt of the world's attack while He walked upon the earth. Throughout the gospels we find that the world didn't attack the disciples. Even when the disciples did something the religious leaders didn't like--they went to Jesus. So Christ was focus of the world's attacks but that would soon change. Christ would no longer be in the world, so the world would have to direct its attack on the ones closest to Him--the disciples. Similarly, Satan is set against Christ and if He can't get at Christ, he will attack His disciples.
Objects of Satan's Wrath During the Tribulation
A powerful illustration of Satan's attack against those who belong to Christ is the Tribulation, which will be the greatest outpouring of Satan's wrath. Revelation 12:9 identifies Satan as a dragon. Verse 4 says, "His tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven and did cast them to the earth; and the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to be delivered, to devour her child as soon as it was born. " The woman in this verse is Israel and the child is Christ. During the 33 years Christ lived on earth, Satan tried to devour Him by such means as Herod's decree, the temptation in the wilderness, and the cross. But He couldn't do it.
Yet Satan didn't let those failures stop him. Since Satan couldn't devour the child he tried to devour the woman (Israel) who brought forth the child: "When the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman who brought forth the child" (v. 13). Not content to merely persecute the nation of Israel, Satan "went to make war with the remnant of her seed, who keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ" (v. 17). Satan will attack everyone who had anything to do with Jesus Christ.
So Jesus told His men that the world was going to come after them. And I hope you realize that the world is out after you, if indeed you belong to Christ. Satan "like a roaring lion walketh about, seeking whom he may devour" (1 Pet. 5:8). Peter gave that warning to believers, not unbelievers. Paul said in Ephesians 6: "Put on the the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities,against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places" (Eph. 6:11-12). We're in a battle with Satan, who is using the world against us to propagate his deadly doctrines.
II. THE COMFORTING OF THE DISCIPLES BY THE LORD (vv. 5-7)
A. The Selfishness of the Disciples (vv. 5-6)
"Now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Where goest thou? But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart. "
Christ was grieved because He clearly saw the selfishness of His disciples. Apparently their only concern was how Christ's going away affected them. They don't seem concerned about how Christ will be affected by His return to the Father. Instead they were mumbling about their own problems. In John 14:28 Jesus says, "If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father. " Rather than rejoicing over Christ's return to the Father, the disciples appeared disinterested.
Nevertheless there is an apparent contradiction: In John 13:36 Peter asks, "Lord, where goest thou?" And in 14:5 Thomas says, "Lord, we know not where thou goest; and how can we know the way?" So why did Jesus say, "None of you asketh me, Where goest thou (John 16:5)?"
Apparently when the disciples asked, "Lord, where are you going?" they did so because they wanted to know if they were going with Him. Peter said, "Lord, why cannot I follow thee now?" (John 13:37). He wanted to go with Christ even if he had to die. But when Jesus told them in chapter 16 that they would be staying, no one bothered to ask where He would be going because it didn't involve them. When the disciples thought they were going with Christ, they were eager to find out where. But when Christ said that He was leaving and that they would have to face the hostility of the world, the disciples were concerned about themselves, not Christ.
So in chapter 13 they weren't asking to know what going away meant to Jesus. They were asking be cause they thought it involved them. They were selfish. They saw only their own sorrow. Yet we are not any different. We are most concerned about the things that affect our own lives. Some never learn to step outside their private world and praise Christ, endeavoring to look at things from His perspective.
However the disciples didn't remain self-centered. Luke 24:50- 53 says that the resurrected Christ "led them out as far as to Bethany; and he lifted up his hands and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. " Jesus was gone, yet His followers continued to praise Him. They were changed because their faith had been strengthened by Christ's death and resurrection.
B. The Selflessness of Christ (v. 7)
"I tell you the truth: It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. "
Rather than rebuking the disciples for their selfishness, Christ gave them comfort. He reassured them that His death would bring about good. Through His death there is forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God. Through His resurrection, Christ conquered death for all men. Also if Christ did not leave, the Holy Spirit would not come to indwell His disciples giving them the power to realize the promises of the Father. So it was better for Christ to go.
Going and Coming
Jesus said, "If I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you" (John 16:7). The Holy Spirit's comforting ministry would not begin before Christ returned to the Father. The reason is found in verse 14: "He [the Holy Spirit] shall glorify me; for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you. " The Holy Spirit could not display the redemptive work of Christ until it was accomplished. Thus the Spirit could not come until the Son accomplishes His task. Did Jesus finish His work? In John 17:4 He says, "I have finished the work thou gavest me to do. " In turn God responded by giving the Spirit to dwell within us.
Jesus Christ has long since returned to the Father, but the Holy Spirit continues to indwell us. It's true that the world hates Christians but in spite of all its hostility and hatred, Jesus said we have a Comforter who will strengthen, empower, and energize us to give testimony of Christ and convict men of sin. What a tremendous promise! In their own strength the disciples couldn't confront the world, but energized by the Holy Spirit they turned the world upside down. So can we!
Focusing of the Facts
1. What does "these things" of John 16:1 refer to ?
2. Explain the meaning of the Greek word translated "offended" in John 16:1.
3. Explain how the apostle Paul, before his conversion, partially fulfilled John 16:2 (Acts 26:9-11).
4. What is another word for faith (John 14:29)?
5. Why did the Jewish people fear being put out of the synagogue (John 16:2)?
6. What does the term translated "service" mean in John 16:2?
7. How does right knowledge affect worship (John 16:3)?
8. Why did Christ wait until the end of His ministry to tell His disciples about the depth of persecution they would face (John 16:4)?
9. Who is the dragon in Revelation 12:9?
10. Identify the child and woman in Revelation 12:13.
11. Explain why there is no contradiction between John 16:5 and John 13:36.
12. How did Christ's resurrection affect the disciples (Luke 24:50-53)?
Pondering the Principles
1. When we think of God's loving care for His children, we usually turn to passages such as Psalm 23 or Isaiah 40. Although we may not think of John 16:1-7 as such a passage, in many ways it tells us of God concern and involvement in our lives. Some claim that God is not personal in nature or that He doesn't care about mankind. In contrast, how is God's care for His children evident in this passage?
2. We tend to forget God's many provisions when we have experienced an extended period of ease (Deut. 8:11-18). That is one reason trials are to be counted as a blessing from God (James 1:2-5). Realizing that we tend to forget past divine provisions and that we need encouragement to confront a hostile world, God instructed His children to establish memorials. Those memorials were be simple reminders of God gracious dealing with His children in the past (eg. Josh. 4:9). They served to strengthen the faith of believers as they face new difficulties. Think of ways that you and your family could establish personal memorials so that you don't forget the good things God has done for you.