The Expediency of Christ's Departure.
5 But now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh
me, Whither goest thou? 6 But because I have said these things unto you,
sorrow hath filled your heart.
V. He expresses a very affectionate concern for the present sadness
of his disciples, upon occasion of what he had said to them (v. 5, 6):
"Now I am to be no longer with you, but go my way to him that sent me,
to repose there, after this fatigue; and none of you asketh me, with any
courage, Whither goest thou? But, instead of enquiring after that which
would comfort you, you pore upon that which looks melancholy, and sorrow
has filled your heart."
1. He had told them that he was about to leave them: Now I go my way.
He was not driven away by force, but voluntarily departed; his life was
not extorted from him, but deposited by him. He went to him that sent him,
to give an account of his negotiation. Thus, when we depart out of this
world, we go to him that sent us into it, which should make us all solicitous
to live to good purposes, remembering we have a commission to execute,
which must be returned at a certain day.
2. He had told them what hard times they must suffer when he was gone,
and that they must not expect such an easy quiet life as they had had.
Now, if these were the legacies he had to leave to them, who had left all
for him, they would be tempted to think they had made a sorry bargain of
it, and were, for the present, in a consternation about it, in which their
master sympathizes with them, yet blames them, (1.) That they were careless
of the means of comfort, and did not stir up themselves to seek it: None
of you asks me, Whither goest thou? Peter had started this question (ch.
xiii. 36), and Thomas had seconded it (ch. xiv. 5), but they did not pursue
it, they did not take the answer; they were in the dark concerning it,
and did not enquire further, nor seek for fuller satisfaction; they did
not continue seeking, continue knocking. See what a compassionate teacher
Christ is, and how condescending to the weak and ignorant. Many a teacher
will not endure that the learner should ask the same question twice; if
he cannot take a thing quickly, let him go without it; but our Lord Jesus
knows how to deal with babes, that must be taught with precept upon precept.
If the disciples here would have found that his going away was for his
advancement, and therefore his departure from them should not inordinately
trouble them (for why should they be against his preferment?) and for their
advantage, and therefore their sufferings for him should not inordinately
trouble them; for a sight of Jesus at the right hand of God would be an
effectual support to them, as it was to Stephen. Note, A humble believing
enquiry into the design and tendency of the darkest dispensations of Providence
would help to reconcile us to them, and to grieve the less, and fear the
less, because of them; it will silence us to ask, Whence came they? but
will abundantly satisfy us to ask, Whither go they? for we know they work
for good, Rom. viii. 28.
(2.) That they were too intent, and pored too much, upon the occasions
of their grief: Sorrow has filled their hearts. Christ had said enough
to fill them with joy (ch. xv. 11); but by looking at that only which made
against them, and overlooking that which made for them, they were so full
of sorrow that there was no room left for joy. Note, It is the common fault
and folly of melancholy Christians to dwell upon the dark side of the cloud,
to meditate nothing but terror, and turn a deaf ear to the voice of joy
and gladness. That which filled the disciples' hearts with sorrow, and
hindered the operation of the cordials Christ administered, was too great
an affection to this present life. They were big with hopes of their Master's
external kingdom and glory, and that they should shine and reign with him:
and now, instead of that, to hear of nothing but bonds and afflictions,
this filled them with sorrow. Nothing is a greater prejudice to our joy
in God than the love of the world; and the sorrow of the world, the consequence
The Expediency of Christ's Departure; The Promise of the Spirit.
7 Nevertheless 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. 8 And when he is come, he will
reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 Of sin,
because they believe not on me; 10 Of righteousness, because I go to my
Father, and ye see me no more; 11 Of judgment, because the prince of this
world is judged. 12 I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot
bear them now. 13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will
guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever
he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come.
14 He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it
unto you. 15 All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I,
that he shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you.
As it was usual with the Old Testament prophets to comfort the church
in its calamities with the promise of the Messiah (Isa. ix. 6; Mic. v.
6; Zech. iii. 8); so, the Messiah being come, the promise of the Spirit
was the great cordial, and is still.
Three things we have here concerning the Comforter's coming:--
I. That Christ's departure was absolutely necessary to the Comforter's
coming, v. 7. The disciples were so loth to believe this that Christ saw
cause to assert it with a more than ordinary solemnity: I tell you the
truth. We may be confident of the truth of everything that Christ told
us; he has no design to impose upon us. Now, to make them easy, he here
1. In general, It was expedient for them that he should go away. This
was strange doctrine, but if it was true it was comfortable enough, and
showed them how absurd their sorrow was. It is expedient, not only for
me, but for you also, that I go away; though they did not see it, and are
loth to believe it, so it is. Note, (1.) Those things often seem grievous
to us that are really expedient for us; and particularly our going away
when we have finished our course. (2.) Our Lord Jesus is always for that
which is most expedient for us, whether we think so or no. He deals not
with us according to the folly of our own choice, but graciously over-rules
it, and gives us the physic we are loth to take, because he knows it is
good for us.
2. It was therefore expedient because it was in order to the sending
of the Spirit. Now observe,
(1.) That Christ's going was in order to the Comforter's coming.
[1.] This is expressed negatively: If I go not away, the Comforter will
not come. And why not? First, So it was settled in the divine counsels
concerning this affair, and the measure must not be altered; shall the
earth be forsaken for them? He that gives freely may recall one gift before
he bestows another, while we would fondly hold all. Secondly, It is congruous
enough that the ambassador extraordinary should be recalled, before the
envoy come, that is constantly to reside. Thirdly, The sending of the Spirit
was to be the fruit of Christ's purchase, and that purchase was to be made
by his death, which was his going away. Fourthly, It was to be an answer
to his intercession within the veil. See ch. xiv. 16. Thus must this gift
be both paid for, and prayed for, by our Lord Jesus, that we might learn
to put the greater value upon it. Fifthly, The great argument the Spirit
was to use in convincing the world must be Christ's ascension into heaven,
and his welcome here. See v. 10, and ch. vii. 39. Lastly, The disciples
must be weaned from his bodily presence, which they were too apt to dote
upon, before they were duly prepared to receive the spiritual aids and
comforts of a new dispensation.
[2.] It is expressed positively: If I depart I will send him to you;
as though he had said, "Trust me to provide effectually that you shall
be no loser by my departure." The glorified Redeemer is not unmindful of
his church on earth, nor will ever leave it without its necessary supports.
Though he departs, he sends the Comforter, nay, he departs on purpose to
send him. Thus still, though one generation of ministers and Christians
depart, another is raised up in their room, for Christ will maintain his
(2.) That the presence of Christ's Spirit in his church is so much better,
and more desirable, than his bodily presence, that it was really expedient
for us that he should go away, to send the Comforter. His corporal presence
could be put in one place at one time, but his Spirit is every where, in
all places, at all times, wherever two or three are gathered in his name.
Christ's bodily presence draws men's eyes, his Spirit draws their hearts;
that was the letter which kills, his Spirit gives life.
II. That the coming of the Spirit was absolutely necessary to the carrying
on of Christ's interests on earth (v. 8): And when he is come, elthon ekeinos.
He that is sent is willing of himself to come, and at his first coming
he will do this, he will reprove, or, as the margin reads it, he will convince
the world, by your ministry, concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment.
1. See here what the office of the Spirit is, and on what errand he
is sent. (1.) To reprove. The Spirit, by the word and conscience, is a
reprover; ministers are reprovers by office, and by them the Spirit reproves.
(2.) To convince. It is a law-term, and speaks the office of the judge
in summing up the evidence, and setting a matter that has been long canvassed
in a clear and true light. He shall convince, that is, "He shall put to
silence the adversaries of Christ and his cause, by discovering and demonstrating
the falsehood and fallacy of that which they have maintained, and the truth
and certainty of that which they have opposed." Note, Convincing work is
the Spirit's work; he can do it effectually, and none but he; man may open
the cause, but it is the Spirit only that can open the heart. The Spirit
is called the Comforter (v. 7), and here it is said, He shall convince.
One would think this were cold comfort, but it is the method the Spirit
takes, first to convince, and then to comfort; first to lay open the wound,
and then to apply healing medicines. Or, taking conviction more generally,
for a demonstration of what is right, it intimates that the Spirit's comforts
are solid, and grounded upon truth.
2. See who they are whom he is to reprove and convince: The world, both
Jew and Gentile. (1.) He shall give the world the most powerful means of
conviction, for the apostles shall go into all the world, backed by the
Spirit, to preach the gospel, fully proved. (2.) He shall sufficiently
provide for the taking off and silencing of the objections and prejudices
of the world against the gospel. Many an infidel was convinced of all and
judged of all, 1 Cor. xiv. 24. (3.) He shall effectually and savingly convince
many in the world, some in every age, in every place, in order to their
conversion to the faith of Christ. Now this was an encouragement to the
disciples, in reference to the difficulties they were likely to meet with,
[1.] That they should see good done, Satan's kingdom fall like lightning,
which would be their joy, as it was his. Even this malignant world the
Spirit shall work upon; and the conviction of sinners is the comfort of
faithful ministers. [2.] That this would be the fruit of their services
and sufferings, these should contribute very much to this good work.
3. See what the Spirit shall convince the world of.
(1.) Of sin (v. 9), because they believe not on me. [1.] The Spirit
is sent to convince sinners of sin, not barely to tell them of it; in conviction
there is more than this; it is to prove it upon them, and force them to
own it, as they (ch. viii. 9) that were convicted of their own consciences.
Make them to know their abominations. The Spirit convinces of the fact
of sin, that we have done so and so; of the fault of sin, that we have
done ill in doing so; of the folly of sin, that we have acted against right
reason, and our true interest; of the filth of sin, that by it we are become
odious to God; of the fountain of sin, the corrupt nature; and lastly,
of the fruit of sin, that the end thereof is death. The Spirit demonstrates
the depravity and degeneracy of the whole world, that all the world is
guilty before God. [2.] The Spirit, in conviction, fastens especially upon
the sin of unbelief, their not believing in Christ, First, As the great
reigning sin. There was, and is, a world of people, that believe not in
Jesus Christ, and they are not sensible that it is their sin. Natural conscience
tells them that murder and theft are sin; but it is a supernatural work
of the spirit to convince them that it is a sin to suspend their belief
of the gospel, and to reject the salvation offered by it. Natural religion,
after it has given us its best discoveries and directions, lays and leaves
us under this further obligation, that whatever divine revelation shall
be made to us at any time, with sufficient evidence to prove it divine,
we accept it, and submit to it. This law those transgress who, when God
speaketh to us by his Son, refuse him that speaketh; and therefore it is
sin. Secondly, As the great ruining sin. Every sin is so in its own nature;
no sin is so to them that believe in Christ; so that it is unbelief that
damns sinners. It is because of this that they cannot enter into rest,
that they cannot escape the wrath of God; it is a sin against the remedy.
Thirdly, As that which is at the bottom of all sin; so Calvin takes it.
The Spirit shall convince the world that the true reason why sin reigns
among them is because they are not by faith united to Christ. Ne putimus
vel guttam unam rectitudinis sine Christo nobis inesse--Let us not suppose
that, apart from Christ, we have a drop of rectitude.--Calvin.
(2.) Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and you see me no
more, v. 10. We may understand this, [1.] Of Christ's personal righteousness.
He shall convince the world that Jesus of Nazareth was Christ the righteous
(1 John ii. 1), as the centurion owned (Luke xxiii. 47), Certainly this
was a righteous man. His enemies put him under the worst of characters,
and multitudes were not or would not be convinced but that he was a bad
man, which strengthened their prejudices against his doctrine; but he is
justified by the spirit (1 Tim. iii. 16), he is proved to be a righteous
man, and not, a deceiver; and then the point is in effect gained; for he
is either the great Redeemer or a great cheat; but a cheat we are sure
he is not. Now by what medium or argument will the Spirit convince men
of the sincerity of the Lord Jesus? Why, First, Their seeing him no more
will contribute something towards the removal of their prejudices; they
shall see him no more in the likeness of sinful flesh, in the form of a
servant, which made them slight him. Moses was more respected after his
removal than before. But, Secondly, His going to the Father would be a
full conviction of it. The coming of the Spirit, according to the promise,
was a proof of Christ's exaltation to God's right hand (Acts ii. 33), and
this was a demonstration of his righteousness; for the holy God would never
set a deceiver at his right hand. [2.] Of Christ's righteousness communicated
to us for our justification and salvation; that everlasting righteousness
which Messiah was to bring in, Dan. ix. 24. Now, First, The Spirit shall
convince men of this righteousness. Having by convictions of sin shown
them their need of a righteousness, lest this should drive them to despair
he will show them where it is to be had, and how they may, upon their believing,
be acquitted from guilt, and accepted as righteous in God's sight. It was
hard to convince those of this righteousness that went about to establish
their own (Rom. x. 3), but the Spirit will do it. Secondly, Christ's ascension
is the great argument proper to convince men of this righteousness: I go
to the Father, and, as an evidence of my welcome with him, you shall see
me no more. If Christ had left any part of his undertaking unfinished,
he had been sent back again; but now that we are sure he is at the right
hand of God, we are sure of being justified through him.
(3.) Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged, v. 11.
Observe here, [1.] The devil, the prince of this world, was judged, was
discovered to be a great deceiver and destroyer, and as such judgment was
entered against him, and execution in part done. He was cast out of the
Gentile world when his oracles were silenced and his altars deserted, cast
out of the bodies of many in Christ's name, which miraculous power continued
long in the church; he was cast out of the souls of people by the grace
of God working with the gospel of Christ; he fell as lightning from heaven.
[2.] This is a good argument wherewith the Spirit convinces the world of
judgment, that is, First, Of inherent holiness and sanctification, Matt.
xii. 18. By the judgment of the prince of this world, it appears that Christ
is stronger than Satan, and can disarm and dispossess him, and set up his
throne upon the ruin of his. Secondly, Of a new and better dispensation
of things. He shall show that Christ's errand into the world was to set
things to right in it, and to introduce times of reformation and regeneration;
and he proves it by this, that the prince of this world, the great master
of misrule, is judged and expelled. All will be well when his power is
broken who made the mischief. Thirdly, Of the power and dominion of the
Lord Jesus. He shall convince the world that all judgment is committed
to him, and that he is the Lord of all, which is evident by this, that
he has judged the prince of this world, has broken the serpent's head,
destroyed him that had the power of death, and spoiled principalities;
if Satan be thus subdued by Christ, we may be sure no other power can stand
before him. Fourthly, Of the final day of judgment: all the obstinate enemies
of Christ's gospel and kingdom shall certainly be reckoned with at last,
for the devil, their ringleader, is judged.
III. That the coming of the Spirit would be of unspeakable advantage
to the disciples themselves. The Spirit has work to do, not only on the
enemies of Christ, to convince and humble them, but upon his servants and
agents, to instruct and comfort them; and therefore it was expedient for
them that he should go away.
1. He intimates to them the tender sense he had of their present weakness
(v. 12): I have yet many things to say unto you (not which should have
been said, but which he could and would have said), but you cannot bear
them now. See what a teacher Christ is. (1.) None like him for copiousness;
when he has said much, he has still many things more to say; treasures
of wisdom and knowledge are hid in him, if we be not straitened in ourselves.
(2.) None like him for compassion; he would have told them more of the
things pertaining to the kingdom of God, particularly of the rejection
of the Jews and the calling of the Gentiles, but they could not bear it,
it would have confounded and stumbled them, rather than have given them
any satisfaction. When, after his resurrection, they spoke to him of restoring
the kingdom to Israel, he referred them to the coming of the Holy Ghost,
by which they should receive power to bear those discoveries which were
so contrary to the notions they had received that they could not bear them
2. He assures them of sufficient assistances, by the pouring out of
the Spirit. They were now conscious to themselves of great dulness, and
many mistakes; and what shall they do now their master is leaving them?
"But when he, the Spirit of Truth, is come, you will be easy, and all will
be well." Well indeed; for he shall undertake to guide the apostles, and
(1.) To guide the apostles. He will take care,
[1.] That they do not miss their way: He will guide you; as the camp
of Israel was guided through the wilderness by the pillar of cloud and
fire. The Spirit guided their tongues in speaking, and their pens in writing,
to secure them from mistakes. The Spirit is given us to be our guide (Rom.
viii. 14), not only to show us the way, but to go along with us, by his
continued aids and influences.
[2.] That they do not come short of their end: He will guide them into
all truth, as the skilful pilot guides the ship into the port it is bound
for. To be led into a truth is more than barely to know it; it is to be
intimately and experimentally acquainted with it; to be piously and strongly
affected with it; not only to have the notion of it in our heads, but the
relish and savour and power of it in our hearts; it denotes a gradual discovery
of truth shining more and more: "He shall lead you by those truths that
are plain and easy to those that are more difficult." But how into all
truth? The meaning is,
First, Into the whole truth relating to their embassy; whatever was
needful or useful for them to know, in order to the due discharge of their
office, they should be fully instructed in it; what truths they were to
teach others the Spirit would teach them, would give them the understanding
of, and enable them both to explain and to defend.
Secondly, Into nothing but the truth. All that he shall guide you into
shall be truth (1 John ii. 27); the anointing is truth. In the following
words he proves both these:-- 1. "The Spirit shall teach nothing but the
truth, for he shall not speak of himself any doctrine distinct from mine,
but whatsoever he shall hear, and knows to be the mind of the Father, that,
and that only, shall he speak." This intimates, (1.) That the testimony
of the Spirit, in the word and by the apostles, is what we may rely upon.
The Spirit knows and searches all things, even the deep things of God,
and the apostles received that Spirit (1 Cor. ii. 10, 11), so that we may
venture our souls upon the Spirit's word. (2.) That the testimony of the
Spirit always concurs with the word of Christ, for he does not speak of
himself, has no separate interest or intention of his own, but, as in essence
so in records, he is one with the Father and the Son, 1 John v. 7. Men's
word and spirit often disagree, but the eternal Word and the eternal Spirit
never do. 2. "He shall teach you all truth, and keep back nothing that
is profitable for you, for he will show you things to come." The Spirit
was in the apostles a Spirit of prophecy; it was foretold that he should
be so (Joel ii. 28), and he was so. The Spirit showed them things to come,
as Acts xi. 28; xx. 23; xxi. 11. The Spirit spoke of the apostasy of the
latter times, 1 Tim. iv. 1. John, when he was in the Spirit had things
to come shown him in vision. Now this was a great satisfaction to their
own minds, and of use to them in their conduct, and was also a great confirmation
of their mission. Jansenius has a pious note upon this: We should not grudge
that the Spirit does not show us things to come in this world, as he did
to the apostles; let it suffice that the Spirit in the word hath shown
us things to come in the other world, which are our chief concern.
(2.) The Spirit undertook to glorify Christ, v. 14, 15. [1.] Even the
sending of the Spirit was the glorifying of Christ. God the Father glorified
him in heaven, and the Spirit glorified him on earth. It was the honour
of the Redeemer that the Spirit was both sent in his name and sent on his
errand, to carry on and perfect his undertaking. All the gifts and graces
of the Spirit, all the preaching and all the writing of the apostles, under
the influence of the Spirit, the tongues, and miracles, were to glorify
Christ. [2.] The Spirit glorified Christ by leading his followers into
the truth as it is in Jesus, Eph. iv. 21. He assures them, First, that
the Spirit should communicate the things of Christ to them: He shall receive
of mine, and shall show it unto you. As in essence he proceeded from the
Son, so in influence and operation he derived from him. He shall take ek
tou emou--of that which is mine. All that the Spirit shows us, that is,
applies to us, for our instruction and comfort, all that he gives us for
our strength and quickening, and all that he secures and seals to us, did
all belong to Christ, and was had and received from him. All was his, for
he bought it, and paid dearly for it, and therefore he had reason to call
it his own; his, for he first received it; it was given him as the head
of the church, to be communicated by him to all his members. The Spirit
came not to erect a new kingdom, but to advance and establish the same
kingdom that Christ had erected, to maintain the same interest and pursue
the same design; those therefore that pretend to the Spirit, and vilify
Christ, give themselves the lie, for he came to glorify Christ. Secondly,
That herein the things of God should be communicated to us. Lest any should
think that the receiving of this would not make them much the richer, he
adds, All things that the Father hath are mine. As God, all that self-existent
light and self-sufficient happiness which the Father has, he has; as Mediator,
all things are delivered to him of the Father (Matt. xi. 27); all that
grace and truth which God designed to show us he lodged in the hands of
the Lord Jesus, Col. i. 19. Spiritual blessings in heavenly things are
given by the Father to the Son for us, and the Son entrusts the Spirit
to convey them to us. Some apply it to that which goes just before: He
shall show you things to come, and so it is explained by Rev. i. 1. God
gave it to Christ, and he signified it to John, who wrote what the Spirit
said, Rev. i. 1.