John 16:12-15


Last Sunday's text spoke of the three-fold work of the Holy Spirit for all human beings. Today's text speaks of the relationship of the Spirit to the Father and Son and of His speaking, guiding, and announcing to the Apostles who recorded this in the New Testament. In this sense, in the written Word, we know that the Apostles knew.

It is suggested that on this day the Athanasian Creed be used rather than the Apostles' or Nicene Creed because the Athanasian Creed is so very clear on the doctrine of the Trinity.

John 16:12 "I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.

What is recorded in the books of the New Testament would have taken much time to tell. At the moment the disciples could take no more and Jesus does not push them beyond the point of endurance. He is compassionate with their sorrow and weakness.

John 16:13 But 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.

Only the time of the Spirit's coming is indefinite. All else is definite. Look at Matthew 25:31.

Note the verbs used of the Holy Spirit: He will come, guide, speak, hear, announce, glorify, receive. He is called  "the Spirit of Truth."

"Guide" is used only five times in the New Testament, only twice in the writings of John. And, only in John, here, and Revelation 7:7 is it used of God leading men. In Revelation 7:17 it is the Lamb shepherding and leading the redeemed in heaven. Here in John 16:13 the Spirit guides believers (Apostles and all Christians) into all Truth. Is it "into" or "in?" Our translations prefer the former. Lenski prefers the latter.

More important than that is to decide what is meant by "all Truth." In view of 14:26 and 15:15 it cannot mean new Truth.

Ylvisaker: The work of the Spirit, when He comes upon them from on high, shall be to shed a new light upon things and to guide them into the fullness of divine truth. And we have the fruit of this work of the Spirit in the apostolic writings, in which the Church possesses all that is required for the present and for the future. But if the apostolic witnesses have been guided by the Spirit 'into all truth' according to this express promise, then we are the possessors of God' infallible Word in the written instructions which they have left. Look at 1 Corinthians 2:9ff.

The phrase "all the Truth" occurs again in Matthew 5:33 where it means that a woman hid nothing. Likewise, here "all the Truth" means that God hides nothing from human beings. This does not contradict Romans 11:33-36. Through the Apostles we have received "all Truth." There are no personal revelations since the time Scripture has been recorded.

His guiding into all Truth will be a speaking, but not on His own authority. Note that "speak" is used twice in this verse. Speaking implies understanding by the hearer. But the Spirit will not speak until He hears from Father and Son. He proceeds from Father and Son and speaks to human beings what He hears from Father and Son.

These matters are not only eschatological, pertaining to the end, but also imminent things which will happen between the time of the Apostles and the very end. Jesus predicted almost nothing of future things except the destruction of Jerusalem and the last judgment. The Holy Spirit will announce such future things as in 1 Corinthians 15; 2 Thessalonians 2; Romans 11; 1 Thessalonians 4:13ff; 1 Timothy 4:1ff; 2 Peter 3:10ff; and the book of Revelation, beginning at chapter 4.

Ylvisaker summarizes this with "the development and perfection of the Kingdom of God."

Luther: He tells us how the kingdom of Christ will fare and about the conditions that are to prevail in this kingdom.

The Holy Spirit is not a "fortune teller" or astrologist. He foretells enough about the fierce struggle between the kingdom of Satan and the Kingdom of God in the New Testament so that the believer is forewarned and comforted midst his great sorrows.

Luther: Christ is speaking here only to those who suffer want and hardship, who are oppressed, harassed, persecuted, and tormented in the world. He says this for their comfort, as One who really knows and understands their sentiments and their disposition and who must guide and direct His words to suit their mood.

John 16:14 He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.

There is an emphatic emphasis on "me."  "He  ME  will glorify." 

Bengel: The Son glorifies the Father, John 17:4; the Holy Spirit glorifies the Son.

And it all centers in the person and work of Christ, His redemptive work. When Christians preach the Gospel, the Holy Spirit is clothing Jesus in splendor. Look at 1 Corinthians 2:2.

Lenski: The Spirit's work is to place Jesus before the eyes and into the hearts of men, to make His person and His work shine before them in all the excellencies of both. . . . 'Me' and 'of Mine' correspond. 'Of Mine' in this connection must mean 'the truth,' all the saving realities embodied in Jesus. By 'Mine' Jesus means all that is His. The entire New Testament is the pertinent commentary, the evidence of all that He has conveyed 'of Mine' to the disciples.

"Because He will receive of Mine and will announce it to you." This is a significant statement for several reasons:

Luther: Christ says here that the Holy Spirit takes 'that which is His,' namely, the eternal, divine essence, not only from the Father but also from Christ and thus remains one eternal being or Godhead consisting of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, yet in distinct Persons.

John 16:15 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.

Luther: Christ makes Himself equal with the Father in every respect and ascribes to Himself the majesty, the power, and the might that cannot be given to any creatures, neither to a human being nor to an angel. . . . These words, 'to take what is Mine' can have no other meaning than that the Holy Spirit Himself is also true God, without any distinction except that He has His essence from both the Father and Christ.

The Holy Spirit receives from the Son so that He might lead us to the Father. The previous verse, 14, does not mean that the Spirit will concentrate attention on Christ to the exclusion of the Father.

Note the repeated use of "to you." In whom is the saving, Triune God interested? YOU, Apostles, all believers. Never do the Scriptures address themselves only to a select group of religious enthusiasts or charismatics.

Meditate on the significance of this text. In the four Gospels the Spirit recalled for all time what Jesus had said and done. In Acts we can see how the Spirit guided Peter, Paul, John, James, Barnabas, etc., in all necessary Truth. Think how He guided them at the Jerusalem conference in Acts 15 when the Judaizers maintained that Gentiles would have to become Jews before they were worthy recipients of the Gospel. Think of how the Spirit guided Paul to teach the article of justification in Romans, of faith alone apart from the deeds of the Law in Galatians, of the Una Sancta in Ephesians, of the deadly heresy which attacked the church at Colosse which heresy could be combated only by the correct teaching about Christ, of the manifold problems presented by the congregation in Corinth and how Paul handled these problems. The Triune God revealed all this to the Apostles who recorded it for us in the New Testament.


Adapted from Exegetical Notes, Series C Gospel Texts, Sundays After Pentecost, by Harold H. Buls, Concordia Theological Seminary Press: Ft Wayne IN, 1979, pp. 1-5. Used with permission.

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