Listening for God's Voice
Beginning the Journey (for new Christians).
1, 2, and 3 John
1 & 2 Thessalonians
1 & 2 Timothy
2 Peter, Jude
7 Last Words of Christ
Christ Powered Life (Rom 5-8)
David, Life of
Glorious Kingdom, The
Jesus and the Kingdom
Lamb of God
Names of God
Names of Jesus
Rebuild & Renew: Post-Exilic Books
Sermon on the Mount
Holy Trinity, stained glass, Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church, Wilton, Connecticut. The window shows the hand to represent the Father, the Chi-Rho symbol to represent Christ, and the Holy Spirit as a dove.
In Jesus' Farewell Discourses on the Holy Spirit, there's too much material to cover in one lesson, so we arbitrarily ended the previous lesson at 16:11, though there's no natural break there. We pick up Jesus' teaching on the Spirit's role of guiding us into all truth in 16:12.
By now, Jesus' disciples are on emotional overload. They are confused, frightened, and not in a state to comprehend the truths Jesus is teaching them. So Jesus promises that the Spirit will explain all to them in due time.
"12 I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth." (16:12-13a)
Before we examine that explanatory role of the Spirit in verses 13-15, let's look carefully at verse 13a. Observe that the "he" in Greek is a masculine pronoun referring to pnuema, "Spirit," which is a neuter gender noun. As I explained in the previous lesson, it is clear that Jesus is making a point that we should think of the Holy Spirit in personal terms.
In verse 13a, Jesus promises his disciples that the "Spirit of truth" will guide them into all truth. "Guide" is hodēgeō. Literally, it means, "to assist in reaching a desired destination, lead, guide." Here it is used figuratively, "to assist someone in acquiring information or knowledge, lead, guide, conduct."
I believe that in this verse Jesus is speaking to his (now) Eleven Apostles, who will lay the teaching foundation within the first-century church that will soon be formed. Though the Spirit can guide us into truth today, it is usually rather arrogant to presume that our interpretation is the only correct interpretation, that the whole Church over two thousand years since Pentecost is wrong. We must seek the Spirit's guidance with great humility and desire to learn. Spiritual truths must be spiritually discerned through the action of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:12-14).
The Spirit, Jesus explains to us, won't be teaching us new doctrines. Rather he will be reminding his disciples of what Jesus has already taught them (14:26). The Spirit will listen to Jesus and relay this to us, just as Jesus listened to the Father and relayed that to his disciples (5:30), and only spoke what the Father told him to say (12:49).
"13b He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you." (16:13b-15)
Both Jesus and the Spirit will speak the Father's Words to us. We don't have the task of the first apostles who helped lay the doctrinal foundation of the Church, but we still seek to understand the Word of God accurately. I encourage you to call on the Holy Spirit, the Reminder, the Explainer, the Guide into all truth, to assist you to understand accurately the Father's words to your heart. Bible study should not be merely an intellectual exegetical exercise, but at the same time a heart seeking for truth.
Q1. (John 16:12-15) In what sense does the Holy Spirit
guide us into all truth. Does this promise apply only to the apostolic age to
lay the foundations of the faith? In what sense does it apply to us today?
Now Jesus goes back to a theme we've seen before.
"In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me." (16:16)
Jesus had made these kinds of cryptic statements in 7:33; 12:35; 13:33; 14:19; 16:10. Jesus' disciples are understandably confused and begin to talk about it to each other.
"17 Some of his disciples said to one another,
'What does he mean by saying, "In a
little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see
me," and "Because I am going to the Father"?' 18
They kept asking, 'What does he mean by "a little while"? We don't
understand what he is saying.'
19 Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, 'Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, "In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me"'"? (16:17-19)
Now Jesus speaks a word of comfort, as he did in 14:1.
"20 I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. 21 A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. 22 So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy." (16:20-22)
Your grief will be deep. The "world," Jesus speaks of is all that is hostile to God in the kosmos, as well as the "prince of this world" (12:31; 16:11). But soon your grief will turn to joy that cannot be taken away.
Jesus is referring to the joy they'll experience when they see him raised from the dead in his resurrection glory. And the lasting joy they will have in the risen Christ long after his ascension. Nearly all these disciples were martyred for their faith, but even through the pain of that, they clung to their joy in their resurrected Lord. Because of this they were unstoppable.
Jesus goes again to the theme of answered prayer that he has addressed several times in these Farewell Discourses (14:13-14; 15:7, 16).
"23 In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 24 Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete." (16:23-24)
We discussed prayer in Jesus' name in Lesson 24 on 14:13-14. Remember that in Hebrew thought, one's name stands for that person. To pray in Jesus' name means to pray with his commission, his authority -- and in his will. It has similarities to our "power of attorney." Notice the progression in these verses concerning whom we are to ask.
Ask Jesus. "And I will do whatever you ask in my name.... You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it." (14:13-14)
Ask? "If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you." (15:7)
Father. "Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name." (15:16b)
Father. "My Father will give you whatever you ask in my name." (16:23b)
Jesus' primary teaching seems to be that we are to ask the Father in his name. Jesus certainly addressed his prayers to the Father. But in 14:14, Jesus says his disciples can ask him for anything, though in 16:23, Jesus, looking forward to the period after his resurrection, says, "In that day you will no longer ask me anything," but rather speak directly to the Father in his name.
Francisco de Zurbaran (1598-1664), 'St. Francis in Meditation' (1635-39), oil on canvas, 162 x 137 cm., National Gallery, London.
Is it wrong to pray to Jesus? No. We see a number of examples of prayer to Jesus. People asked Jesus for healing during his ministry; that is prayer, of course. But after Jesus' resurrection, churches "call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 1:2). We see prayers to Jesus from Stephen (Acts 7:59), at Paul's conversion (Acts 9:6; 10-11), the last prayer in the Bible (Revelation 22:20; 1 Corinthians 16:22), and elsewhere (2 Corinthians 12:8; 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13; etc.). The normal pattern is prayer to the Father, but prayer to Jesus is all right also.
Can we pray to the Holy Spirit? Is it wrong to say, "Come, Holy Spirit" or "Holy Spirit, fall upon us"? I think we can. We are called into the fellowship of the Spirit (2 Corinthians 13:14). After all, we believe that the Holy Spirit is God, a divine person, one of the Trinity, as we discussed above in 14:16-17. Nevertheless, the normal pattern of prayer taught us by Jesus is to prayer to the Father in Jesus' name.
"Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete." (16:24)
Jesus is inviting his disciples to embark on the joyful adventure of prayer, of asking and receiving. We read something similar in the Sermon on the Mount:
"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened." (Matthew 7:7-8)
Jesus continues his teaching on prayer.
25 "Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father. 26 In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. 27 No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. 28 I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father." (16:25-28)
Jesus is saying in verse 26 that they don't have to pray to Jesus as a Mediator for them. Why? Because the Father himself knows them and loves them. So they can pray directly to the Father in Jesus' name.
Is Jesus still our Mediator? Yes, in the sense that he brought us to God through his redemption on the cross (1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 12:24). But now he is saying that once his atonement has been made, they can access the Father directly.
Yes, we need him, but no longer to bring us into the Father's presence -- that work has been completed on the cross; the veil of the temple separating the holy place from the holy of holies has been rent (Mark 15:38). The way is open to the Father (Hebrews 10:19-20; 4:16). Nevertheless, we read that both Jesus and the Spirit continue to intercede for us before God's throne (Romans 8:26-27, 34; Hebrews 7:25; 1 John 2:1).
Verse 26 is a significant teaching that concerns our Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox brothers and sisters who have a long-standing tradition of praying to various saints who will intercede for them before God. The reasoning sometimes is that, because of a saint's great piety, God will listen to the saints and answer their prayers for their sake, even when God might not listen to us and answer our prayers.
The problem arises when prayer to the saints becomes our normal prayer life, rather than an occasional exception. When devotion focuses on one of the worthy saints, it can sometimes take away from the devotion that we offer to God. The one to whom we pray is the one with whom we build a relationship, an attachment. So it is important that we follow Jesus' teaching here as our normal pattern of prayer -- prayer to the Father in Jesus' name. Remember, "the Father himself loves you."
Dear friend. The Father loves you yourself, and you have the marvelous privilege to appear before him in Jesus' name and by Jesus' death for you and his cleansing of you to make you holy in God's sight. You don't need others to use their influence to persuade him to act on your behalf. Pray boldly as best as you can discern his will, then leave it in his hands. He will answer you. That's what Jesus is saying.
"Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (Hebrews 4:16)
Q2. (John 16:23-28) What does it mean to pray to the
Father "in Jesus' name"? Is it okay to pray to Jesus and to the Holy Spirit? Why
or why not? Is it scriptural to pray to a saint to intercede for us? Why are we
allowed to pray to the Father directly?
Jesus' disciples are relieved that he is now speaking to them in words that can understand.
"29 Then Jesus' disciples said, 'Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech. 30 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.'
31 'You believe at last!' Jesus answered. 32 '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.'" (16:29-32)
As I consider these verses, it seems that Jesus' statement in verse 31 is tinged with irony: "You believe at last!" -- yet Jesus continues to explain how they will be scattered at his crucifixion. The disciples' belief is still weak.
I like verse 32 especially:
"You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me." (16:32b)
In life's circumstances, we are sometimes afflicted with loneliness. But Jesus gives us a pattern to follow. "I am not alone, for my Father is with me." He values the fellowship of his disciples (Matthew 26:38), but his relationship with his Father is strong and deep, so that he is not dependent upon others. This challenges me to deepen my relationship with my Father. I am not alone; my Father is with me. As David observed:
"If I say, 'Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,'
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you." (Psalm 139:11-12)
Q3. (John 16:32) Jesus said that he is not alone, that
the Father is always with him. What does this mean to us when we are lonely?
What should we do to deepen our fellowship with the ever-present Father so that
we aren't as lonely?
Jesus has spoken to his disciples to prepare them for what is to come -- his violent death, separation, the Holy Spirit's coming, and strong hope for the future.
"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." (16:33)
Our primary peace is in Jesus, not in gentle circumstances. In the world we have "trouble" (NIV), "persecution" (NRSV), "tribulation" (ESV, KJV). The word is thlipsis, literally, "pressing, pressure." Here it is used metaphorically in the sense of "trouble that inflicts distress, oppression, affliction, tribulation." Jesus acknowledges and understands the trouble we face, even though others might not. As the Negro spiritual puts it,
"Nobody knows the trouble I see,
Nobody knows but Jesus...."
But Jesus says that in the midst of this trouble that we should "take heart" (NIV, ESV), "take courage" (NRSV), "be of good cheer" (KJV). The word is tharseō, "to be firm or resolute in the face of danger or adverse circumstances, be enheartened, be courageous," from tharos, "courage" in the face of fear. And what is the basis of our courage? The knowledge that Jesus has "overcome" (NIV, ESV, KJV), "conquered" (NRSV) the world. The verb nikaō is often used in the context of a court battle, military campaign, or athletic competition: "to win in the face of obstacles, be victor, conquer, overcome, prevail." Here it means, "to overcome, vanquish someone."
In the wilderness, Jesus stood against all of Satan's temptations. On the cross, Jesus bore all of the sin and degradation of mankind, and was raised from the dead in spite of it all. He now reigns at the right hand of the Father and intercedes for us. He has sent his Holy Spirit to be with us. We are not alone! We can have courage in our troubles because we know this.
"See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed." (Revelation 5:5)
Because Jesus overcomes, we too can overcome. Many times in the Book of Revelation we read promises addressed to the "Overcomers" (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 26, etc.).
"To him who overcomes, I will give the right
to sit with me on my throne,
just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne." (Revelation 3:21)
"They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death." (Revelation 12:11)
"You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world." (1 John 4:4)
"Everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God." (1 John 5:4-5)
Yes, to overcome the world we will need courage. Jesus has won the decisive battle. But we are involved, after all, with mop-up battles in a spiritual war. So, my dear friends, take courage and put away your fear.
"Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes." (Ephesians 6:11)
Stand in His strength, by the power of His Spirit, and you shall overcome!
Q4. (John 16:33) In what sense has Jesus "overcome" the
world? In what sense can we "overcome" the world? Can we overcome Satan even
though we are martyred in the process? (see Revelation 12:11)
Entire study is available in paperback, Kindle, and PDF formats.
Here are lessons that we disciples need to internalize and apply in our lives.
- As we listen, the Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth (16:13).
- Just like Jesus accurately told the disciples what the Father was saying, so the Holy Spirit will take Jesus' words and accurately communicate them to us as his present-day disciples (16:15).
- Jesus teaches us that we can pray directly to the Father in Jesus' name. While it is not wrong to pray to Jesus or to the Holy Spirit, the normal pattern is to pray to the Father directly, for he cares for us and knows us intimately (16:23-24).
- The implications of this are that we don't need to go to the Father through an intermediary, such as a saint or even Jesus. We can go to the Father directly in Jesus' name (16:23-24).
- Just like Jesus was not alone because of the Father's presence, so we can develop such a fellowship with God that we don't have to be tormented by loneliness (16:23).
- Just as Jesus has overcome the world, so he strengthens us to overcome as well (16:33).
Father, I ask you to guide me and my brothers and sisters into all your truth. Open up our hearts. Remove our prejudices and shallow interpretations. And speak to our hearts so that we might possess and embody your Holy Words. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.
"When he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth." (John 16:13a, NIV)
"The Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you." (John 16:15b, NIV)
"In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete." (John 16:23-24, NIV)
"In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father himself loves you...." (John 16:26-27a, NIV)
"You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me." (John 16:32b, NIV)
"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." (John 16:33, NIV)
 "Bear" is bastazō, literally, "to sustain a burden, carry, bear." Figuratively, "be able to bear up under especially trying or oppressive circumstances bear, endure" (BDAG 171, 2bβ).
 "He" (NIV) is the masculine, nominative of ekeinos, "that person, that thing, that," especially in John, referring back to and resuming a word immediately preceding, oft. weakened to "he, she, it" (BDAG 302, aβ).
 Hodēgeō, BDAG 690, 2. It is an old verb, from the noun hodos, "way" and hēgeomai, "to lead."
 "Tell" (NIV) in verse 13b and "make known" (NIV) in verse 14 and 15, "declare" (NRSV, ESV), "shew" (KJV), is anangellō, literally, "to carry back information, report," then, generally, "to provide information, disclose, announce, proclaim, teach" (BDAG 59, 2), from ana-, "back, again" + angellō, "announce," angelia, "message." Our word "evangel" and "evangelism," tell good news, come from the same root.
 Thlipsis, BDAG 457, 1.
 Tharseō, BDAG 444. Also in Matthew 9:2, 22; Mark 10:9.
 Nikaō, BDAG 673, 2a.
In-depth Bible study books
You can purchase one of Dr. Wilson's complete Bible studies in PDF, Kindle, or paperback format.
- Listening for God's Voice
- 1, 2, and 3 John
- 1 Peter
- 2 Peter & Jude
- 1 & 2 Thessalonians
- 1 & 2 Timothy
- 1 Corinthians
- 2 Corinthians
- Abraham, Faith of
- Christ Powered Life (Romans 5-8)
- Christmas Incarnation
- Colossians and Philemon
- David, Life of
- Glorious Kingdom, The
- Great Prayers of the Bible
- Jacob, Life of
- Jesus and the Kingdom of God
- JesusWalk: Beginning the Journey
- John's Gospel
- Lamb of God
- Lord's Supper
- Luke's Gospel
- Moses the Reluctant Leader
- Names and Titles of God
- Names and Titles of Jesus
- Rebuild & Renew: Post-Exilic Books
- Resurrection and Easter Faith
- Sermon on the Mount
- Seven Last Words of Christ