John 16:5-15, The Spirit’s Convicting and Revealing

[June 19, 2011] Today is Trinity Sunday, which, following Pentecost, when the Spirit was given for the work of bearing witness to Christ in the world, directs us to the name into which we baptize, and thus the beginning of the Christian life. The passage under our view today is especially apropos for this purpose, particularly 16:13-15. The Trinity, of course, is not simply a belief that Christians have about God but is the framework, structure and content of how Christians understand Scripture and therefore of all thinking that is Christian.


Chapters 14—16, of the Gospel according to John, framed by chapters 13 and 17, is the interpretation of the cross and resurrection that follows. In chapter 14 we saw that by our Lord passing through death and resurrection, He would be able to release the Holy Spirit into His believers so that we can become the abodes of the Triune God. Chapter 15 showed us that as such abodes, we are organically related to each other in Christ and need to actively abide in Him. Jesus then spoke of how this organism is set apart from the world and incites the world’s hatred, the world being that collective soulical gestalt that is out of touch with, blind to and in denial of all reality because it opposes and attempts to shut out the reality of God.

Christ Must Die for the Holy Spirit to Come (John 16:5-7)

In 16:5 Jesus repeats that He is going to the Father, which He will say yet again in verses 10, 17, and 28. He disclosed this in 14:12 and 28 and I have discussed it recently. In His Person Jesus is the Son, always having the divine nature. As such He is always with the Father. The human nature which He has assumed in His incarnation has to be brought to the Father. In the holocaust of the cross, His humanity is completed by His obedience to the Father and is divinized in resurrection—the human nature remaining intact but now sharing in all the perfections of His divine nature. Also, His divine nature, shared by the Father and the Holy Spirit, participates in everything about His human nature, including its physicality and its history of obedience and death. This is what Jesus means by “now I am going to Him who sent Me.”

A common misunderstanding is that Jesus is referring to the ascension into heaven forty days after the resurrection, described by Luke, that the coming of the Holy Spirit refers to Pentecost, and that His coming again refers to His Second Advent. By confusing Luke’s perspective with John’s, we make nonsense of John’s gospel. Clearly John’s gospel is talking about the cross and resurrection itself. Jesus ascends to the Father on the very day of His resurrection and sends the Holy Spirit to the disciples on that same day. When the Holy Spirit comes and dwells in them, He Himself comes to them and dwells in them. With this is John’s entire gospel concerned.

“If I do not go away, the Comforter will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.” Jesus goes away when He is lifted up on the cross. Unless He in His human nature accomplishes atonement; unless He vicariously fulfills the repentance required of human beings for them to be made right with God; the Holy Spirit cannot be available to sinful people. The repentance required of us is to lovingly and obediently submit to the judgment of God as right. This is what Jesus does on our behalf, because we cannot. Once He does this and it (what He has done) becomes divinized in the divine nature, the Holy Spirit can communicate it to us. Otherwise, the divine nature attempting to dwell in us would bring us under the divine judgment and destroy us. But the divine nature that comes to dwell in us carries its own antidote, for Christ’s human history—that is, the atoning work of the cross—comes with it. Unless the crucified Christ dwells in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit cannot come to dwell in us. “But if I go, I will send Him to you.”

The Holy Spirit’s Testifying Bringing Conviction (16:8-11)

In 15:26-27 Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit coming to the believers to testify to the world concerning Jesus. The word translated “Comforter” (Paraklētos) means a patron, someone at your side to help or who stands in for you to support your cause, thus a “comforter” but also an “advocate.” When the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us, He will testify to the world concerning Jesus (as His Advocate), and will do so through the proclamation of the Gospel (“you testify also, because from the beginning you have been with Me”).

This thought continues in 16:8. “When He comes, He will convict the world concerning sin and concerning righteousness and concerning judgment.” The word “convict” means to convince by bringing to the light and exposing, and thus reprove, correct and even condemn. The world is that system of belief (a shared construct of the collective soul) that sets itself up as a substitute for reality, the gestalt that enslaves all human beings.

The Holy Spirit will convict the world of sin “because they do not believe into Me.” Jesus said in 15:22-24, “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates Me hates My Father also. If I did not do among them the works which no one else has done, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated both Me and My Father.” In other words, though the individual may be blind to who Jesus is, the world on a higher level does recognize Him and perceives His revelation as an absolute threat to its existence. This resistance to Jesus exposes the world’s true nature. Individuals sin when they refuse to believe in the face of that revelation because they are in submission to the world. Apart from the revelation of Christ in the Gospel, the world’s sin would not be exposed.

The Holy Spirit will convict the world concerning righteousness “because I am going to the Father and you no longer behold Me.” This seems to contradict 14:19, “Yet a little while and the world beholds Me no longer, but you behold Me; because I live, you also shall live.” After His resurrection the world will behold Jesus no longer. He will manifest Himself in resurrection but only to His believers. They will behold Him, but not forever. After these brief manifestations, only the eye of spirit (the eye of faith) sees Him—even though He is with us and in us physically—because even physically He is only here (though really here) in the Holy Spirit. The eye of flesh, even the believer’s flesh, can no longer see Him.

Why is this? His humanity becomes divinized when He goes to the Father. The disciples can behold Him because of His atoning death, which is the antidote to the judgment which they would immediately experience in the presence of God. They are “justified” by His death, purified and made right. The presence of the Holy Spirit in them thus “exposes” the righteousness of Jesus, for in resurrection His human nature is justified and divinized by the Father, and can be communicated to His believers because of His atoning death as the Lamb of God. The world’s unrighteousness, by not participating in this, is thus also exposed.

The Holy Spirit also convicts the world concerning judgment “because the ruler of this world has been judged.” The Gospel, because it testifies concerning Jesus, His death and resurrection, through the Holy Spirit, exposes the world as coming under the judgment of God. When the judgment of God falls on Jesus, the world is brought into focus on a single point and condemned; a decision is made with respect to it, a sentence is passed. The world is condemned in toto, as a single gestalt, not partially, in pieces (as if god by god) or by degrees, for its rejection of Jesus brings out its true nature. As a gestalt, the world acts as a single entity as if it had a single mind, a ruler. This ruler the Scripture calls the devil and Satan.

The death of Jesus exposes this mind, the one mind that brings the entire world together as a gestalt and drives it forward. In the light of God, this exposure completely condemns it and reveals it as coming under God’s wrath. “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven”—on the cross of Jesus!—“upon all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who hold down the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18).

The Holy Spirit Glorifying the Father and Son (16:12-15)

This is in relation to the world, and is essentially negative. Jesus now turns to His believers. The world is a “matrix” of unreality into which the people of the world are captured and under which they are enslaved. When the Holy Spirit testifies concerning Jesus through the Gospel, this unreality is exposed.

For the believer, however, the Holy Spirit guides us “into all the reality.” This reality is inseparable from the revelation of Jesus Christ. If we know the divine and human reality of Jesus through the revelation of the Holy Spirit, we know the reality of the creation, its “mystery,” and we know the reality of God. When the Holy Spirit “declares” (an-angellō) it means reveals. When the Holy Spirit comes to us and dwells in us, the Holy Spirit reveals Jesus and thus “He will glorify Me, for He will receive of Mine and will declare it to you.” What is Christ’s is “all that the Father has.” By revealing Christ, all that the Father has is revealed, both His Personhood as Father of the Son and the divine nature which the Father, Son and Holy Spirit share. The Three share the divine nature and they mutually dwell in each other. When Christ is revealed by the Holy Spirit, the divine nature is revealed and so is the Trinity of Persons.

For the Christian the Holy Spirit’s revelatory role is to reveal Christ, not to initiate us into any other extraneous “mysteries.” All that God has to reveal to us, He reveals in Christ; all that the Father has is in Christ; and therefore the revelation of the Holy Spirit is always the revelation of Christ.

To reveal that which is to come refers to more than just coming events. It refers to God’s purpose in Christ—God’s purpose for the whole creation, at least as it pertains to us, as it can be worked out through us.

I am grateful for the Holy Spirit who reveals reality through the revelation of Christ. The Holy Spirit stirs up our love for Christ, as if through us the Holy Spirit was seeking union with Her Bridegroom, and that through Christ’s love for us, He was seeking through our divinization union with His Bride. The Father out of love begets the loving Son and sends the loving Spirit. By the Holy Spirit we fall in love with Christ and find ourselves where Christ is in relation to the Father, loving Him and being loved, and in that communion the mystery of creation is revealed—the divinization of Christ’s human nature is the destiny of nature, of the whole creation. It is no wonder that the world hates creation; it does because it hates Christ. Yet apart from Christ, the world has no real life, no real peace, no real meaning, and no real future. May we wake up out of the empty future toward which we are racing and turn to Christ who alone can redeem us.

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