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The Counselor

John 16:1-16

It may strike you as a curious point, but I can find no reference in the Scriptures where Jesus is portrayed as comforting his disciples. The point is parallel to Moody’s comment about trying to find Jesus discoursing at a funeral. He never delivered a funeral sermon or eulogy – because all his funerals turned into resurrections. Here, the night before the Crucifixion, Jesus gives them comfort for what they are about to bear.

1“All this I have told you so that you will not go astray. 2They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. 3They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. 4I have told you this, so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you. I did not tell you this at first because I was with you.

John 16:1 through John 16:4 (NIV)


Christ has just come off his statement about the church and the world (last week’s lesson). To further strengthen his disciples, He continues that now with a warning which tells us just how the world will attack the church: with the weapons of Satan.

  • It begins with social pressure. In terms the disciples would understand, they would be thrown out of the synagogue – for all practical purposes, they would be ostracized in Jewish society of the time. We feel that same pressure today. It is a subtle, delicate thing. Christians are denied employment or promotion because “that religious thing might cause trouble.” In every organization there are “ins” and “outs” – and the Christian will be with the “outs.” You have been warned.
  • Next we see the application of legal authority – where it does not belong. In our time we see the forced acceptance of homosexuality by law. Even the homosexuals admit that they are a very small minority, but by our courts they have found the way to have themselves portrayed as noble sufferers at the hands of the evil right-wing fundamentalists. To protect the world from Christ we send forth “justice.”
  • Finally, when these fail, we see the use of force, violence and intimidation. The world is not reluctant to use such things – when the easier methods fail.

It occasionally occurs to the Christian to as, “Why? Why on earth would anyone want to do such a thing?” The answer is rather simple: these are the people who don’t know God (but think they do). They have created their own version of God – and since they believe it, it must be true, right? The problem starts there. Once convinced of their own righteousness, the rest flows automatically. This is one good reason why Christians should remember that they are sinners.

How will you know who these people are? Simple enough: just look for the ones applying social pressure, law and force to exalt what you plainly know to be evil.


5“Now I am going to him who sent me, yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief. 7But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt£ in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: 9in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; 10in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.

John 16:5 through John 16:11 (NIV)

Good for me to go

Christ is announcing his departure. Tomorrow will bring the Crucifixion; on the third day the Resurrection. The obvious reason that it is “good” for him to leave is just that: without the Crucifixion, there is no redemption. Man cannot be reconciled to God without it.

That view, however, is seen much more clearly after the Resurrection than before it. So Jesus gives them another reason – their own benefit. He tells them that the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, will come to them.

The obvious question – unasked, of course – is why the Counselor couldn’t show up now. For the next three days the disciples are going to need some comfort. They’re not going to get it. Why, then, didn’t the Holy Spirit come when so needed?

The answer is both simple and deep. Until the curse of sin is atoned for, the Spirit cannot come – for He will not stay where sin continues. His arrival in the Old Testament was for specific purposes of God, and the Spirit came only to certain, selected individuals. Now the Spirit is in the Church. Our Counselor, our Comforter, is with us.

The purpose of the Spirit

One of the enduring puzzles to Christians is the concept of “the unforgivable sin.” We are taught that such a thing exists; but if you ask the average Christian to tell you what it is, he has no idea. Let’s begin with this: what is the purpose, the task of the Holy Spirit?

  • He is to convict the world of sin. We are taught that the work of men is to believe in the Christ. If you will not believe, how can you be forgiven? How will you believe that you need a Savior if you do not know your peril? And how will you know your peril if you have no sense of sin?
  • He is to convict the world of righteousness. Of righteousness? Yes indeed. The horrible nature of sin is best seen at the Cross; for the Cross is the penalty paid for our sin. The innocent Son of God was crucified to make atonement. If there is sin, there must also be righteousness, and the measure of righteousness is the Cross. Until we see our sin and his righteousness, how can we be saved?
  • He is to convict the world of judgment. The prince of this world (Satan) now stands condemned. He has put to death an innocent man. For all others Satan may defend himself in that they were sinners, but not this one. The Prince of Evil is condemned. But God is not finished – yet. The conviction is recorded, but the merciful God has held off execution so that for some time the sons of Adam might be redeemed.

More to come

12“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. 15All 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“In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.”

Too much to swallow

It is a great comfort to the teacher to know that even the disciples, in close personal contact with Jesus for three years, neither received all that he would teach nor did they comprehend it right away. Perhaps I am not the only thick head who has ever puzzled over such things. Why is this?

  • God, in his mercy, teaches us as we are able to learn. His revelation to Israel was progressive; his revelation to us is likewise progressive.
  • As we learn, we grow in Christ. By this we should know that God is not finished with us, as we are always growing.
  • Indeed, in this life none of us reaches the point where God has nothing more to teach us. His mercies are ever new.
Spirit of Truth

This growth is largely the function of the Holy Spirit. He, by the gifts he gives the church and its members, is to bring us to maturity in Christ. We should know that that these gifts and our use of them are in accord with the purposes of the Father. For the Holy Spirit, like Jesus, is one with the Father. This one-ness is our guarantee that we are following correctly. If not, He will convict us of our faults.

  • He speaks only what He hears – as Christ did on this earth. God is three yet one, and He is one of the three.
  • We are explicitly told that the Spirit will reveal the future to us. This was accomplished in John’s Revelation. It also applies to us; we are warned by the Spirit of what comes.
  • The Spirit brings glory to Christ. Have you noticed that the persons of God bring glory to each other, not themselves? It is a lesson for us.

Christ never comforted his disciples; he had no need. But the need has now arrived. The provision of God’s supply for God’s work does not fail; at precisely the right time, the Holy Spirit comes. It was true then, it is true today.

Lessons to take home

  • Persecution? In ways mild, in ways strong, we should expect it.
  • When it happens we should seek comfort in the Holy Spirit, who is given as Comforter and Counselor.
  • We are not to pass judgment on others; rather, we are to proclaim Christ and his truth, then let the Spirit do his work of conviction.
  • Recognize that you are not fully grown yet – the Spirit has more work to do in your heart as you grow in grace.

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