Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
Christ warns his disciples, and foretells the persecutions they should receive from the Jews, Joh 16:1-4. Foretells his death, and promises them the Comforter, Joh 16:5-7. Points out his operations among the Jews, and in the world, Joh 16:8-11. His peculiar influences on the souls of the disciples, Joh 16:12-15. Speaks figuratively of his death and resurrection, at which his disciples are puzzled, Joh 16:16-18. He explains and illustrates the whole by a similitude, Joh 16:19-22. Shows himself to be the Mediator between God and man, and that all prayers must be put up in his name, Joh 16:23-28. The disciples clearly comprehend his meaning and express their strong faith in him, Joh 16:29, Joh 16:30. He again foretells their persecution, and promises them his peace and support, Joh 16:31-33.
These things have I spoken - Particularly what is mentioned in the two last chapters.
Be offended - Ἱνα μη σκανδαλισθητε, That ye should not be stumbled. May not fall away from the faith, nor receive any injury to your souls, as that man does to his body who stumbles, or falls over a stone, or block, in the way which he has not discovered.
They shall put you out of the synagogues - They will excommunicate you, and consider you as execrable, and utterly unworthy to hold any commerce with God by religion; or with man by civil fellowship. See on Joh 9:22 (note). In these excommunications they were spoiled of all their substance, see Ezr 10:8, and see also Heb 10:34, and deprived of their character, their influence, and every necessary of life. Though the Jewish people had the most humane laws, yet they were a most vindictive and cruel people.
That whosoever killeth you, etc. - This Paul found; for more than forty Jews bound themselves under a curse that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed him, Act 23:12, Act 23:13; and agreeably to this, it is said, in that Tract of the Talmud which is entitled Bammidbar, R. xxi. ad. Num 25:13 : "He who sheds the blood of the ungodly, is equal to him who brings an offering to God." What the Zealots did is notorious in history. They butchered any person, in cold blood, who, they pretended to believe, was an enemy to God, to the law, or to Moses; and thought they were fulfilling the will of God by these human sacrifices. We had the same kind of sacrifices here in the time of our Popish Queen Mary. May God ever save our state from the Stuarts!
Because they have not known the Father - See on Joh 15:25 (note). Ignorance of the benevolence of God, and of the philanthropy of Christ, is the grand fountain whence all religious persecution and intolerance proceed.
At the beginning - I would not trouble you by speaking of these things pointedly at first, when I chose you to be my disciples, but have referred them to the present time, lest you should be discouraged; and now only declare them because it is absolutely necessary that you should be put upon your guard.
None of you asketh me, Whither goest thou? - In Joh 13:3, Peter had asked, Lord, thither goest thou? - and Thomas much the same in Joh 14:5, both of whom had received an answer. But now, at the time when Jesus was speaking this, none of them asked this question, because their hearts were filled with sorrow: Joh 16:6.
It is expedient - that I go away - In other places he had showed them the absolute necessity of his death for the salvation of men: see Mat 20:19; Mat 26:2; Mar 9:31; Mar 10:33, Luk 9:44; Luk 18:32. This he does not repeat here, but shows them that, by the order of God, the Holy Spirit cannot come to them, nor to the world, unless he first die; and consequently men cannot be saved but in this way.
He will reprove - Ελεγξει, He will demonstrate these matters so clearly as to leave no doubt on the minds of those who are simple of heart; and so fully as to confound and shut the mouths of those who are gainsayers. See Act 2:1, etc.
The world - The Jewish nation first, and afterwards the Gentile world; for his influences shall not be confined to one people, place, or time.
Of sin - Of the sin of the Jews in not receiving me as the Messiah, though my mission was accredited by the very miracles which the prophets foretold: see Isa 35:3-6. This was literally fulfilled on the day of pentecost, when the Spirit was given; for multitudes of Jews were then convinced of this sin, and converted to God. See Act 2:37.
If we take this prediction of our Lord in a more general sense, then we may consider that it is one of the grand offices of the Holy Spirit to convince of sin, to show men what sin is, to demonstrate to them that they are sinners, and to show the necessity of an atonement for sin; and in this sense the phrase, περι ἁμαρτιας, may be understood, and in this sense it is used in multitudes of places in the Septuagint, but the words, because they believe not in me, restrict the meaning particularly to the sin of the Jews in rejecting Jesus as the Messiah.
Of righteousness - Of my innocence and holiness, because I go away to my Father; of which my resurrection from the dead, and my ascension to heaven, shall be complete proofs. Christ was treated by the Jews as an impostor; as a magician; as one possessed by the devil; as a wicked person, seducer, and destroyer of the law. His vindication from these charges he chiefly referred to the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, who, by his influences on the minds of the people, and by his eloquence and energy in the ministry of the apostles, convinced both the Jews and the Gentiles that the sentence of the Jewish rulers was unjust and infamous, and that the very person whom they had crucified was both Lord and Christ - Lord, the great governor of the universe; and Christ, the Lord's anointed, the promised Messiah. It was a matter of the utmost consequence to the Christian cause to have the innocence and holiness of its founder demonstrated, and the crime of the Jews in putting him to death made manifest to the world. This also has been literally fulfilled: the universe that has heard of him believes the righteousness and innocence of Jesus; and the Jews, his persecutors, are confounded and execrated throughout the habitable globe.
Of judgment - Of the false judgment of the Jews in condemning the Lord Jesus, who, as some think, is intended here by the ruler of this world: see Joh 14:30. Others think that Satan is meant whose usurped power over the world was now to be greatly restrained, and by and by totally destroyed: see Joh 12:31; Col 2:15; Rev 11:15; Rev 12:10, Rev 12:11. Perhaps our Lord's meaning is, that as a most astonishing judgement, or punishment, was now about to fall upon the Jews, in consequence of their obstinate infidelity, the Holy Ghost, by the ministry of the apostles, should demonstrate that this judgment, severe as it might seem, was amply merited by this worst of all people; and may we not say that their continuance in the same crime sufficiently vindicates the judgment of God, not only in its being poured out upon them at first, but in continuing to pursue them?
It is necessary to observe that it was one office of the Spirit to convince of a judgment to come; and this he did particularly by the apostles, in declaring that God had appointed a day in which he would judge the world by him whom he had appointed for that purpose: Act 17:31. And we find that while Peter was asserting this doctrine at Caesarea, Act 10:42, the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Jews and the Gentiles which were present, Act 10:44, etc., and many were converted unto the Lord.
One general exposition may be given of these three verses. The Holy Spirit will convince the world of sin committed, and guilt and condemnation thereby incurred. Of righteousness - of the necessity of being pardoned, and made righteous through the blood of the Lamb, who, after being offered up for sin, went to the Father, ever to appear in his presence as our intercessor: and of judgment - of the great day thereof, when none shall be able to stand but those whose sins are pardoned, and whose souls are made righteous. In all that our Lord says here, there seems to be an allusion to the office of an advocate in a cause, in a court of justice; who, by producing witnesses, and pleading upon the proof, convicts the opposite party of sin, demonstrates the righteousness of his client, and shows the necessity of passing judgment upon the accuser.
The faith of the Gospel discovers unto us three different states of man: it shows him:
1. Under sin, in which there is nothing but infidelity towards God, because there is no faith in Jesus Christ.
2. Under grace, in which sin is pardoned, and righteousness acquired by faith in Christ; who is gone to the Father to carry on, by his intercession, the great work of redemption.
3. In the peace and glory of heaven, where Christ will reign with his members; the devil, with his angels and servants, being banished into hell by the last judgment.
Thus, in the Christian revelation, we are made acquainted with three grand truths, which contain the sum and substance of all true religion.
The first is the general corruption of human nature, and the reign of sin till the coming of Christ.
The second is the reparation of our nature by the Lord Jesus, and the reign of righteousness by his grace: Rom 5:21.
The third is the condemnation of sinners, and the total destruction of the kingdom of sin, and of all the power of the devil, by the last judgment.
Ye cannot bear them now - In illustration of these three points, Christ had many things to say; but he found that his disciples could only bear general truths; yet, in saying what he did, he sowed the seeds of the whole system of theological knowledge, and heavenly wisdom, which the Holy Spirit of this truth afterwards watered and ripened into a glorious harvest of light and salvation, by the ministry of the apostles. Dr. Lightfoot supposes that the things which the apostles could not bear now were such as these:
1. The institution of the Christian Sabbath, and the abolition of the Jewish.
2. The rejection of the whole Jewish nation, at the very time in which they expected to be set up and established for ever.
3. The entire change of the whole Mosaic dispensation, and the bringing the Gentiles into the Church of God.
He will guide you - He will consider your feeble infant state; and, as a father leads his child by the hand, so will the Holy Spirit lead and guide you.
The Vulgate, and some copies of the Itala, read, He will Teach you all truth; but this and more is implied in the word ὁδηγησει, he will lead; besides, this reading is not acknowledged by any Greek MS.
He shall not speak of himself - He shall teach nothing contrary to what I have taught you:
But whatsoever he shall hear - Of the Father and me, that he shall speak, and thus show the intimate consent between himself, the Father, and Christ. It is one conjoint testimony, in which the honor and glory of the holy Trinity, and man's salvation are equally concerned.
And he will show you things to came - He will fully explain every thing that may now appear dark or difficult to you; will give you such a knowledge of futurity as shall, in all necessary cases, enable you to foretell future events; and shall supply every requisite truth, in order to make the new covenant revelation complete and perfect.
All things that the Father hath are mine - If Christ had not been equal to God, could he have said this without blasphemy?
And show it unto you - As Christ is represented the Ambassador of the Father, so the Holy Spirit is represented the ambassador of the Son, coming vested with his authority, as the interpreter and executor of his will.
A little while - He had but a few hours to live.
And ye shall not see me - I shall be hidden from your view in the grave.
Again a little while - In three days after my death:
Ye shall see me - I will rise again, and show myself to you. Or, As I am going by my ascension to the Father, in a short time, ye shall see me personally no more; but in a little while I shall pour out my Spirit upon you, and others through your ministry; and ye shall see me virtually in the great and wonderful work which shall then take place in the hearts and lives of men.
This may also refer to his coming again to destroy the Jewish state, and also to judge the world; but how can this latter be said to be in a little while? Because a thousand years are but as a day in the sight of God: Psa 90:4.
What is this that he saith - They knew from what he had said that he was to die, but knew not what he meant by their seeing him again in a little time.
Ye shall weep and lament - To see me crucified and laid in the grave.
But the world shall rejoice - The chief priests, scribes, Pharisees, and persecuting Jews in general, will triumph, hoping that their bad cause is crowned with success.
But your sorrow shall be turned into joy - When ye see me risen from the dead.
It is very evident that our Lord uses the word world, in several parts of this discourse of his, to signify the unbelieving and rebellious Jews.
For joy that a man is born - Ανθρωπος is put here for a human creature, whether male or female; as homo among the Romans denoted either man or woman.
Your joy no man taketh from you - Or, shall take away. Some excellent MSS. and versions read the verb in the future tense. Our Lord's meaning appears to have been this: that his resurrection should be so completely demonstrated to them, that they should never have a doubt concerning it; and consequently that their joy should be great and permanent, knowing that the atonement was made, the victory gained, and the kingdom of heaven opened to all believers. Therefore it is said, Act 4:33, that with great power did the apostles give witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.
Ye shall ask me nothing - Ye shall then be led, by that Spirit which guides into all truth, to consider me in the character of Mediator in the kingdom of God, and to address your prayers to the Father in my name - in the name of Jesus the Savior, because I have died to redeem you - in the name of Christ the Anointer, because I have ascended to send down the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name - Ye have not as yet considered me the great Mediator between God and man; but this is one of the truths which shall be more fully revealed to you by the Holy Spirit.
Ask - In my name; and ye shall receive - all the salvation ye thus request; the consequence of which shall be that your joy shall be full - ye shall be thoroughly happy in being made completely holy.
In Proverbs - That is, words which, besides their plain, literal meaning, have another, viz. a spiritual or figurative one. I have represented heavenly things to you through the medium of earthly.
The time cometh - viz. the interval from his resurrection to his ascension, which consisted of forty days, during which he instructed his disciples in the most sublime mysteries and truths of his kingdom. Act 1:3.
I say not unto you that I will pray the Father for you - I need not tell you that I will continue your intercessor: I have given you already so many proofs of my love that ye cannot possibly doubt this: besides, the Father himself needs no entreaty to do you good, for he loves you, and is graciously disposed to save you to the uttermost, because ye have loved me and believed in me as coming from God, for the salvation of the world.
I came forth from the Father - With whom I existed from eternity in glory.
Am come into the world - By my incarnation.
I leave the world - By my death.
And go to the Father - By my ascension. These four words contain the whole economy of the Gospel of man's salvation, and a consummate abridgment of the Christian faith. This gave the disciples a key to the whole of our Lord's discourse; and especially to that part, Joh 16:16, that had so exceedingly embarrassed them, as appears by Joh 16:17, Joh 16:18.
Lo, now speakest thou plainly - The disciples received more light now, on the nature of Christ's person and office, than they had ever done before.
Now are we sure that thou knowest all things - Is not the following the meaning of the disciples? We believe that thou art not only the Messiah who camest out from God, but that thou art that God who searchest the heart and triest the reins, and needest not to be asked in order to make thee acquainted with the necessities of thy creatures; for thou perfectly knowest their wants, and art infinitely disposed to relieve them.
Do ye now believe? - And will ye continue to believe? Ye are now fully convinced; and will ye in the hour of trial retain your conviction, and prove faithful and steady?
The hour cometh - Ye shall shortly have need of all the faith ye profess: ye now believe me to be the Omniscient; but ye will find difficulty to maintain this faith when ye see me seized, condemned, and crucified as a malefactor. Yea, your faith will be then so shaken that ye shall run away, each striving to save himself at his own home, or among his kindred.
That in me ye might have peace - I give you this warning as another proof that I know all things, and to the end that ye may look to me alone for peace and happiness. The peace of God is ever to be understood as including all possible blessedness - light, strength, comfort, support, a sense of the Divine favor, unction of the Holy Spirit, purification of heart, etc., etc., and all these to be enjoyed in Christ.
In the world ye shall have tribulation - Or, as most of the very best MSS. read, εχετε, ye have - the tribulation is at hand; ye are just about to be plunged into it.
But be of good cheer - Do not despond on account of what I have said: the world shall not be able to overcome you, how severely soever it may try you.
I have overcome the world - I am just now going by my death to put it and its god to the rout.
My apparent weakness shall be my victory; my ignominy shall be my glory; and the victory which the world, the devil, and my adversaries in general, shall appear to gain over me, shall be their own lasting defeat, and my eternal triumph. - Fear not!
Luther writing to Philip Melancthon, quotes this verse, and adds these remarkable words: "Such a saying as this is worthy to be carried from Rome to Jerusalem upon one's knees."
One of the grand subjects in this chapter, the mediation of Christ, is but little understood by most Christians. Christ having made an atonement for the sin of the world, has ascended to the right hand of the Father, and there he appears in the presence of God for us. In approaching the throne of grace, we keep Jesus as our sacrificial victim, continually in view: our prayers should be directed through him to the Father; and, under the conviction that his passion and death have purchased every possible blessing for us, we should, with humble confidence, ask the blessings we need; and, as in him the Father is ever well pleased, we should most confidently expect the blessings he has purchased. We may consider, also, that his appearance before the throne, in his sacrificial character, constitutes the great principle of mediation or intercession. He has taken our nature into heaven; in that he appears before the throne: this, without a voice, speaks loudly for the sinful race of Adam, for whom it was assumed, and on whose account it was sacrificed. On these grounds every penitent and every believing soul may ask and receive, and their joy be complete. By the sacrifice of Christ we approach God; through the mediation of Christ God comes down to man.