Knowing the Father - John 14 The Father's Gift - The Promise of the Comforter vs 15-26
In the previous messages on this chapter as we have sought to unfold its theme, we have considered over two messages the Father’s House vs 1-7 and then the Father’s Visibility vs 8-14. Now we come to consider what I’m calling the Father’s Gift vs 15-26. In the final section of the chapter the Lord speaks of the Father’s Primacy vs 27-31.
The Father’s Gift vs 15-26 – the Promise of the Comforter and Love for the Lord Jesus
Obviously, the Lord’s discourse flows together and just where to make the appropriate divisions is difficult to decide. Certainly Thomas’ question, Philip’s request and Judas’ enquiry help to ‘punctuate’ the discourse and highlight the significant truth the Lord is teaching about Himself and the Father in these first three sections: He is the Way to the Father (vs 5-6); He is the revelation of the Father (vs 8-9) and He will manifest Himself to the believer (vs 21-23). That said, from vs 15 to 26 two primary themes are now introduced by the Lord which, as already mentioned, are the Promise of the Comforter and love for the Lord Jesus. The verses can be divided as follows:
>The Lord’s Command for Obedience v 15 >The Lord’s First Promise of the Comforter vs 16-17 >The Lord’s Assurance of His Return after His Resurrection vs 18-20 >The Lord’s Manifestation to the True Believer vs 21-24 >The Lord’s Second Promise of the Comforter vs 25-26
What we want to see in this message is how all of these things relate and how they have been and are realized in our lives as believers. To do that I want to think with you about the truth contained in these verses under three simple headings and in the following order:
>The Obedience of Love and what it Brings vs 15, 21-24, (31) >The Promise of the Spirit and what it Means vs 16-17, 25-26 >The Resurrection of Christ and what it Assures vs 18-20
The Obedience of Love and what it Brings vs 15, 21-24, (31)
What the Lord says at v 15 is pivotal to what He has just said about asking in His name and then to what follows regarding His manifestation to the believer. The apostles and any believer asking in His name, must do so not for the benefit of self, but out of love for the Lord Jesus and for the honour of His name. His doing in response to the asking will be to glorify His Father. That is what His life and ministry was all about (John 17:4) and He did so by doing perfectly and always the Father’s will. It is important to note that this is what governs the response of the Lord Jesus to the prayers of His people. What is asked for must be according to the Father’s will and for His glory by those who like the Son live lives of obedience. The meaning of vs 13-14 is further explained in chapter 16 vs 23-24, 26-27; asking in His name is in the context of praying to the Father.
The Obedience of Love Up to now in the ministry of the upper room we have read of the Lord’s love for His disciples and then their love for each other (John 13:1, 34-35), now it’s about their love to Him. This becomes the focus in what follows.
This is searching truth. It was for the apostles at that very time. The biggest test of their love for the Lord was just ahead. Satan was about to attack and ‘sift them as wheat’ (Luke 22:31). Everything they believed in and hoped for was about to be shaken by the events soon to unfold. For them the issue was, would they keep His word and would His word keep them. This would depend upon their love for Him. Here is the central truth of what it means to belong to Jesus and submit to His Lordship. Obedience is not born out of fear, but love. Obedience because of fear or guilt is not the obedience of love, but of external conformity. But, it is one thing to say I love the Lord, it is another to show it and that is the challenge of His words.
In terms of what He has shared with these men to this point in the upper room three things stand out. First is the need to wash one another’s feet (13:14-15), then particularly the new commandment to love one another (13:24-35) and also His command to believe Him as to His relationship with His Father (v 11). But evidently v 15 embraces far more and that more being all that Christ has taught and revealed to them, His commandments and His word (vs 21, 23, 24) not only in the upper room, but throughout His ministry. Before His ascension the Lord gives to His disciples the ‘Great Commission’:
“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt 28:18-20 NKJV).
Their teaching was to be what the Lord had commanded them. The apostle’s doctrine is the unchanging ‘template’ for all followers of the risen Christ from throughout the nations over the centuries. Obedience to the teaching of the New Testament is obedience to Christ and according to His own word, the evidence of love to Him.
There are three things to particularly notice about the kind of obedient love the Lord asks for:
>Obedience is the test for love >Obedience is the proof of love >Obedience is the loyalty in love
Of course, the supreme example of obedient love is the Lord Jesus Himself. He says at v 31: “But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave Me commandment, even so I do”. He said elsewhere: “Therefore doth my Father love Me, because I lay down My life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of My Father” (John 10:17-18).
The Object of Love The Lord Jesus says “If you love Me” (v 15), “he it is that loveth Me” (v 21), “If a man love Me” (v 23) and “He that loveth Me not” (v 24). We love the scriptures and we love assembly truth, but the first and supreme object of our love is the Lord Himself. We can love the scriptures for the sake of the scriptures or the assembly even for its own sake, but our proper love for these flows out and extends from our love to Christ just as does our love for fellow believers. At the heart of all that we do for the Lord Jesus there should be, indeed must be, the motivation of love for His person. The apostle Paul reminds the Corinthians, ‘though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing’ (1 Cor 13:1-3 NKJV).
The seriousness of this issue is acutely highlighted by what the Lord said to the Ephesian assembly, the first of the seven assemblies in the Roman province of Asia addressed by Him – “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent” (Rev 2:5 NKJV). He had just commended the assembly for its orthodoxy regarding their labour, their endurance and their faithfulness and yet there was this serious deficiency. Even though they had laboured for His ‘name’s sake’, they had ‘left’ and ‘fallen’ from the primary thing – love to Himbefore and above all else. This, I don’t think, meant the absence of any love for the Lord, but it indicates that the primary motivating factor of devoted hearts for His person had diminished to a level that was unacceptable to Him.
The Lord challenged Peter three times that day on the sea shore of Galilee: “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?” (John 21:15, 16, 17). His question echoes in my own heart.
The Outcome of Love It certainly seems that the Lord is saying that love for Him is not optional, rather it is the mark of the true believer. True believers love the Lord Jesus. The contrast is with those whom the Lord identifies as “he that loveth me not” who He says “keepeth not my sayings” (v 24). It’s the difference between the believer and unbeliever.
John writes in his epistle that ‘we love Him because He first loved us’ (1 John 4:19). Here the focus or emphasis is on, if we love Him He will love us. It is the assurance of the Father’s and Son’s reciprocal love for the believer as they love the Son. This love will be realized by the Son’s manifestation which will be known by the Father’s and Son’s abiding presence (vs 21, 23). Based on how all this unfolds, v 23 seems to expand upon and further explain what the Lord meant by “manifest Myself to him” at v 21 and of course, where the Son is the Father is also. This relates to what the Lord has already been saying: “he that hath seen Me hath seen the Father” and “Believe Me that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me” (vs 9, 11). The idea in the verb, ‘manifest’ in this context is to ‘disclose’ (NASB), ‘reveal’ (NET) or ‘show’ (NIV). It is to make visible in a spiritual sense.
The Holy Spirit is the key to understanding how what the Lord says will be experienced. The Lord Jesus making Himself known to the believer by the reality of His and the Father’s presence is through the indwelling Holy Spirit. We have considered in a previous message the significance of the word ‘abode’ at v 23 it being the same as ‘mansion(s)’ at v 2 and having the idea of ‘remain, dwell’. The New King James Version translates v 23: “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him”. This is the assurance of the abiding presence of God.
Thus we see the connection of what the Lord unfolds in vs 21-24 with the promise of the Spirit in vs 16-17 and then repeated in vs 25-26, which we will consider more particularly in a moment.
It was Judas this time who asked Jesus: “Lord, how is it that Thou wilt manifest Thyself unto us, and not unto the world?” (v 22). Jerome (347-420 A.D.), who translated most of the Bible into Latin, referred to Judas as ‘Trinomious’—the man with three names (J. MacArthur, Twelve Ordinary Men). In Matthew’s list of the disciples he is called ‘Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus’ (Matt 10:3), in Mark’s ‘Thaddaeus’ (Mark 3:18) and in Luke’s accounts he is ‘Judas the brother of James’ or as other translations read, ‘the son of James’ (Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13). This is the only time we hear him speak. He made a relevant enquiry as he sought to know more of what the Lord Jesus was saying. While the gospel records have given to us what we need know about these men, wouldn’t it have been something to have been in the company of the Lord and His apostles over those years of His ministry to hear their many conversations? The Lord Jesus didn’t manifest Himself to the world for it had rejected Him as Messiah, but He would to the many who received Him (John 1:10-13). If then the ‘manifestation’ of Christ is known by the abiding presence of He and the Father, the practical question worth thinking about for a few moments is, just how much do I know in my Christian experience of the abiding presence of God? When I say God, I mean the presence of the divine persons as described by the Lord here.
While it is true that there are believers who show more love for the Lord than others and who know a closeness to Him and have a greater appreciation of His person, that is not what the Lord is talking about here if I’m understanding His teaching correctly. His manifestation is to all true believers just as all true believers are indwelt the Holy Spirit.
But a practical question for us is, how does the Lord’s teaching work out in our lives? How do I know beyond theory this truth and how am I aware of the abiding presence of God in the busyness of home life or when at work or when in school?
One thing I would say about this, is that every true child of God has a real and near sense of God. Our awareness of the divine presence certainly can vary, but in our times of devotion and prayer as well as other times, like as in trial or grief or other difficult situations we can particularly sense God’s nearness and the comfort of the divine presence.
Yet, you know when you pray to the Father in the name of the Lord Jesus whether on your knees or at your desk or preparing the family meal or sitting in the class room your sense or perception is not that God is multiple light years away; no you feel He’s right there beside you and with you listening and near. You don’t think, am I talking into the air? Not at all for you know He’s spiritually real; your mind has the assurance, your heart knows His peace. This is because, according to what the Lord Jesus says, the Father and Son dwell with the believer through the Spirit who is in us. The skeptic will argue that this is nothing more than wishful thinking and mind conditioning, but the believer knows the reality of which Paul wrote in Romans: For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God (Rom 8:14-16).
The hymn writer penned these beautiful words thinking of the Lord Jesus:
The love that Jesus had for me, To suffer on the cruel tree, That I a ransomed soul might be, Is more than tongue can tell.
His love is more than tongue can tell; His love is more than tongue can tell; The love that Jesus had for me, Is more than tongue can tell.
The peace I have in Him, my Lord, Who pleads before the throne of God, The merit of His precious blood, Is more than tongue can tell.
The joy that comes when He is near, The rest He gives, so free from fear, The hope in Him so bright and clear, Is more than tongue can tell. Jane E. Hall (1834-1896)
The Promise of the Spirit and what it Means vs 16-17, 25-26
So having considered a little of the Obedience of Love and what it Brings, let’s think then about the Promise of the Spirit and what it Means. There are three things to notice which the Lord says about the Holy Spirit.
>His Representative Role >His Abiding Presence >His Essential Ministry
His Representative Role The Lord calls the Spirit first of all the ‘Comforter’. This translates the noun ‘Paraclete’. He is ‘another Comforter’ that is in addition to the Lord Himself. Apart from one other occasion, the word is used only of the Holy Spirit and only by the Lord in the upper room – John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7. In the 1 John 2 v 1 it is used of Christ Himself: ‘We have an Advocate with the Father’. The meaning of the noun is ‘one who appears in another’s behalf’ as a ‘mediator, intercessor, helper’ (BDAG Lexicon). The Lord Jesus as our Advocate appears before the Father on our behalf as the one who has answered for our sins while the Spirit is the one who has come from the Father in the Son’s name to act on His behalf toward His own. That is why we read at v 26 “the Comforter which is the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in My name”. The Lord Jesus came in His Father’s name (John 5:43; 10:25; 17:6, 12) which means He came in all the authority of His Father to represent and reveal Him, now the Spirit after the same manner would come and has come in the Lord Jesus’ name to represent and reveal Him.
Comforter is one way of translating this noun, but since ‘no one English word has the exact range of meaning’ others can be used – Helper (NKJV), Advocate (NET), Counselor (RSV). However, there is no doubt in all that Spirit does for the believer brings comfort in the truest sense, the assurance of the divine presence.
His Abiding Presence The Spirit is the gift, given by and proceeding from the Father at the request of the Son who sent Him forth (v 16; 15:26). The Lord also referred to the coming of the Spirit as the ‘promise of the Father’ (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4). The permanence of the Spirit with, and in the believer is assured throughout this age – “that He may be with you forever even the Spirit of truth: whom the world cannot receive; for it beholdeth Him not, neither knoweth Him: ye know Him; for He abideth with you, and shall be in you” (vs 16-17). The world cannot receive Him for it didn’t receive Christ.
His Essential Ministry In terms of what the Lord says in the upper room concerning the Spirit, His first essential ministry is that of teaching the apostles – v 26; 15:26; 16:12-14 and by extension, all believers. This was the essential ministry of the Spirt needed by the apostles in the context of their unique role and particular times and is needed by the saints ever since as we seek to learn of Christ, understand divine truth and rightly interpret scripture. No matter how great human intelligence, useful as it is, the Holy Spirit’s illumination, guidance and power are essential to our understanding of scripture and in the application of its truth to our hearts.
As the teacher of truth we see the relevance of His title, ‘the Spirit of truth’. The Lord identified Him as such three times in the upper room (14:17; 15:26; 16:13). Says the Lord Jesus, “Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth”. To quote from another hymn:
More about Jesus would I know, More of His grace to others show; More of His saving fulness see, More of His love who died for me.
More, more about Jesus, More, more about Jesus; More of His saving fulness see, More of His love who died for me.
More about Jesus let me learn, More of His holy will discern; Spirit of God my teacher be, Showing the things of Christ to me. Eliza Edmunds Hewitt (1851-1920)
The second essential ministry of the Spirit is convicting the world according to the Lord Jesus. He told the apostles, “And He, when He is come, will convict the world in respect of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8 RV).
The Resurrection of Christ and what it Assures vs 18-20
The Other Side of the Cross v 18 Vs 18-20 have been interpreted in three different ways. As referring to the promise of vs 2-3, though this seems unlikely. In light of what follows in vs 21-23, referring to Christ’s coming by means of the Spirit, a possible meaning. Most probable though is that the Lord is talking about His post resurrection appearance when He would come to His own again and they would physically behold or see Him. The significance of the Lord’s assurance here is that He would not leave them ‘comfortless’ (v 18). The word is ‘orphan’ as in ‘one bereft of parents or of a father’ with the only other occurrence in the New Testament being James 1 v 27 where it is translated ‘fatherless’.
The Lord was to these men their ‘guide, teacher and protector’ (Vine). He parented them, so to speak, but He wasn’t about to abandon and leave them alone. They would see Him arrested, condemned, crucified, and dead and buried, but He assures them; “A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me” (v 19 NKJV). The world wouldn’t see Him after the Cross and His body was placed in the sepulchre, but on the other side of resurrection His disciples most certainly would.
Living because He Lives v 19 What a promise! “Because I live, ye shall live also” (v 19). All that was about to happen, the darkest night that was about to burst upon them, was not the end, it was the climax of Christ’s ministry and for them, the ‘gateway’ to a new beginning of life in Christ. Christ would stand living on the other side of the Cross. They would live in union with Him. They would live by the risen Christ living in them through the power of the Holy Spirit, but more than that, because He lives they would live with Him ultimately and forever.
This promise here is significant in this regard. The resurrection of the Lord Jesus was the assurance that the Spirit would come when He ascended and His resurrection life was the assurance of their life in Him.
The Union of Life in Christ v 20 The Lord Jesus had told them that “I am in the Father, and the Father in Me” now He says: “At that day ye shall know that I am in My Father, and ye in Me, and I in you”. That was in the day when they would see Him in His resurrection glory. In that day they would have the assurance of the ultimate work of the Father through the Son, His power in resurrection. Now they too would be brought into the fuller dimensions of that fellowship of light, life and love which all believers enjoy through the Lord’s death and resurrection and the coming of the Spirit. The Lord speaks more about this truth of union with the Father in Him when He addresses His Father in prayer in chapter 17.
Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are from the King James Version.