John Chapters 13 to 17, Part 3
by Karl Kemp
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We continue this verse-by-verse study of John chapters 13-17 here in Part 3, starting with John 14:5.
(5) Thomas [cf. Matt. 10:3; Mark 3:18; John 11:16; 20:24-28; and 21:2] said to Him, 'Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?' (6) Jesus said to him, 'I am the way [cf. John 10:9; Rom. 5:1, 2; Eph. 2:18; and Heb. 10:19, 20], and the truth [Compare John 1:14. The truth that man must know centers in the Lord Jesus Christ.], and the life [[Compare John 1:4, 12, 13; 5:21-29; 11:25; and 17:3. The life spoken of here includes the spiritual/eternal life that begins with the new birth and the fullness of eternal life that begins with the birth into the fullness of eternal life and glory at the end of this age. (The birth into the fullness of eternal life/glory is discussed in some detail in my eschatological writings. Start with Rev. 12:5 on pages 314-316 of my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture.")]]; no one comes to the Father but through Me [See under verse 4.]. (7) If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.' [[The plurals in the Greek show that Jesus was speaking to all the apostles (cf. John 14:5, 6), minus Judas Iscariot (cf. John 13:30). The apostles had already come to know Jesus and God the Father on one level, but they would come to know them on a much deeper level before long. (As verses 8-11 show, the disciples had already seen God the Father in the sense that they had seen the Lord Jesus Christ [who is totally like the Father], and they had heard the things that He had said and seen the things He had done from the Father.) They came to know Jesus and God the Father better through the things Jesus said to them that last evening (before the cross); they came to know Him and God the Father much better through seeing the resurrected Christ and having Him share with them on numerous occasions throughout the forty days that started with His resurrection and culminated with His being taken up in a glory cloud from the Mount of Olives to return to the Father and eternal glory while they were watching; and their knowledge of God the Son and God the Father was greatly enhanced through receiving the promised Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. The Spirit brought the new birth and enables Christians to participate in spiritual/eternal life; He sanctifies (makes holy); He reveals; He teaches; He convicts; He anoints to minister; He distributes the charismatic gifts; etc.
In verse 18 Jesus says He will come to the disciples, and in verse 23 He says the Father and the Son will make their abode with the disciples. Those glorious intimate relationships come to pass through the Holy Spirit, who dwells in new-covenant believers.]] (8) Philip [cf. Matt. 10:3; Mark 3:18; John 1:43-48; 6:5-7; and 12:21, 22] said to Him, 'Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.' (9) Jesus said to him, 'Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father [[Compare John 12:45; Col. 1:15, 19; 2:9; and Heb. 1:3. Oneness Christians (they deny the Trinity) appeal to this verse ((and John 10:30 [I had a footnote: In John 10:30 Jesus said, "I and the Father are one." Jesus was emphasizing His unity with God the Father; He wasn't saying that He and the Father are the same Person (cf., e.g., John 10:15, 17, 18, 25, 29, 32, 36, 37). In John 17:22 Jesus spoke of Christians being one, just as God the Father and God the Son are one. He was emphasizing the glorious relationship and unity that Christians are enabled to have with God (the triune God) and with one another; He certainly wasn't saying that Christians become the same person with God the Father, God the Son, or with the other Christians.])) as if it demonstrated (proved) that God the Father and God the Son are the same Person.
If you isolate these words, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father" from the overall context here and forget the multitudinous number of other verses in John and throughout the Bible that confirm that God the Father and God the Son are different Persons within the Godhead (one God, three Persons), you could argue that God the Father and God the Son are the same Person based on what John says here, but that would not be advisable. ((I had a footnote: In John 14:1 Jesus exhorts His disciples to believe/trust in the Father and in Him, two distinct Persons. In John 14:2 He speaks of His Father's house, the Father being a distinct Person from Himself. In John 14:6 He again distinguishes between the Person of the Father and Himself. In John 14:10, 11 He speaks of the relationship between the Father and the Son which permits the Son to be in the Father and the Father to be in the Son. (In a somewhat similar manner the New Testament can speak of Christians being in Christ and Christ being in Christians.) In John 14:10 Jesus says that the words that He speaks and the works that He does are of the Father in that the Father is in Him. (He always did the will of the Father in the words that He spoke and the works that He did, and He did them by the authority and power of the Father, and for the glory of the Father.) In John 14:12 Jesus speaks of His going to the Father, a Person distinct from Himself. And in John 14:13 He again differentiates between Himself and the Person of God the Father.
On the triune God see under John 1:1 and under Col. 1:15-17 and the references cited there in my paper on John 1:1-18 and Colossians 1:15-3:17 on my internet site (and probably will be on this Christian article site in the near future). And see my four more recent papers "Who Do We Worship?"; "Who Do We Pray To?"; "More on the Trinity"; and "The Name Yahweh and God the Father and God the Son" on this Christian article site.)) I don't want to offend oneness Christians ((I had a footnote: Some (many) evangelicals do not consider oneness Christians to be true Christians. I agree that oneness is a serious error, but I believe that many oneness Christians are true Christians (Christians in the eyes of God).)), but I believe it is desperately important for all of us to humble ourselves and seek God for the balanced truth of what the Bible teaches, and especially in these last days. Errors in foundational doctrines are a very serious matter indeed; the Bible makes it quite clear that errors in foundational doctrines can exclude "believers" from salvation. Furthermore, errors in doctrine keep Christians from being united and from loving one another in any full sense.]]; how can you say, "Show us the Father"? (10) Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me [cf. John 10:38; 14:11, 20]? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative [cf. John 3:34; 8:45-47; and 17:8], but the Father abiding in Me does His works [cf. John 5:19, 36]. (11) Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves. [It is significant, for one thing, that the Old Testament had prophesied that the Messiah/Christ would do these works (cf., e.g., Luke 4:17-21; 7:18-23; and John 10:24-26).] (12) Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also [[The New Testament (especially the book of Acts) confirms that the apostles did many miraculous works in the name of Jesus and by the anointing/gifts of the Holy Spirit, but these works were not at all limited to the apostles or to that first generation. Note that Jesus spoke here of those "who believe in [Him]." Each Christian of each generation must be faithful to God in every area and (be open to) do the works He would have them do. These miraculous works, which include the charismatic gifts, are very important in the outworking of God's new-covenant plan of salvation.]]; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. [[What are the "greater works"? I agree with the widespread viewpoint that the greater works speak (at least for the most part) of the new-covenant works that Jesus could not do when He ministered on the earth because the new covenant had not yet been ratified through His atoning death. New-covenant salvation could not be manifested until Jesus had been crucified, resurrected, and then exalted to the right hand of God the Father some forty days after His resurrection.
Jesus could not give (pour out) the promised Spirit - the all-important life-giving, sanctifying (making holy), gift-dispensing Spirit - to those who believed in Him until after He had gone back to the Father. (On new-covenant believers being baptized/immersed in the promised Holy Spirit, see under John 1:33 in Part 1 of my paper on John 1:19-4:54 on this Christian article site, including the references cited there.) Note that Jesus said here in verse 12, "BECAUSE I go to the Father." He went to the Father BY WAY OF THE CROSS, RESURRECTION, and ascension from the Mount of Olives. I'll quote Acts 2:33, which speaks of what started on the day of Pentecost (some ten days after Jesus ascended), "Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear." Jesus could not give (pour out) the promised new-covenant life-giving, sanctifying (making holy), gift-dispensing Spirit (the Holy Spirit) until He had received the Spirit from the Father. He received the Spirit from the Father in the sense that He was now authorized to give the Spirit to those who repented and submitted to Him and the gospel in faith.
The "greater works" refer (at least for the most part) to the fact that the apostles (and all believers) could now offer full new-covenant salvation, which starts with forgiveness, to those who would repent and submit in faith to Christ and the gospel of salvation. This full salvation centered in the fact that now (for the first time since the fall of man) people could become born-again, sanctified (sanctified in the full, new-covenant sense) children of God, united with God the Son and through Him with God the Father, by the indwelling Holy Spirit. And we are destined to inherit a much higher existence than what Adam had before the fall (cf. 1 Cor. 15:45-53), which includes having a glorified body (which Adam did not have) and reigning with God forever (e.g., Rev. 22:5). The apostles (and to some extent all Christians) were commissioned to take this offer of salvation to the world (cf., e.g., Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15, 16; Luke 24:44-49; John 20:19-23; and Acts 1:8).
This glorious work started on the day of Pentecost when the disciples first received the Spirit and some three thousand souls were added to the body of Christ (Acts 2:41). With our modern communication systems Christians can minister to hundreds of millions, even billions, of people at the same time. A prime example of a miracle-packed ministry with a worldwide impact will be the soon-coming ministry of the two end-time prophets/ministers of Rev. 11:3-12.
It is very important to understand that the "greater works" that Christians do are the "works" of the resurrected, glorified Christ, who is our great High Priest at the right hand of God the Father. Note the two following verses (John 14:13, 14). (God the Father and God the Spirit are very much involved with these greater works too, even as they were involved with the ministry of Christ Jesus when He ministered on the earth.) John 5:19-30 are quite relevant here. I'll quote John 5:20, "For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing; and the Father will show Him GREATER WORKS [my emphasis] than these, so that you may marvel." Significantly, Jesus went on in the following verses (5:21-26) to speak of the fact that He would give spiritual life to those who were spiritually dead (all mankind has been spiritually dead since the fall of Adam and Eve).
Being born again and having spiritual life (which enables us to be righteous and holy with the very righteousness and holiness of God) is a big part of what Christianity is all about. Jesus also went on (in John 5:22, 27-29) to show that His greater works would include the ultimate resurrection and judgment of all mankind. For believers ("those who did the good deeds [works]" [John 5:29]) there will be a "resurrection of life" (a resurrection into the fullness of eternal life and glory); for unbelievers ("those who committed the evil deeds [works]" [John 5:29]) there will be a "resurrection of judgment [condemnation (see the NIV))]." (Revelation chapter 20 shows that the resurrection of the unbelievers will not take place until it is time for the great-white-throne judgment at the end of the millennium.)]] (13) [[The older (1977) edition of the NASB; the KJV; and NKJV better demonstrate the connection between verses 12 and 13 in the Greek by starting verse 13 with "And"; the Greek has "kai" here, a word often translated "and." This connection helps demonstrate that the greater works of Christians are the works of Christ.]] Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. [[Here the idea is that the Father will be glorified in the Son through the things that the Son does in answer to the prayers of the apostles (and our prayers too). The apostles (and, to some extent, all Christians) were commissioned to continue the mission that Jesus started. One obvious qualification to the words that Jesus said here is that the apostles (and all Christians) must ask for things that are in accordance with the will of God (cf., e.g., 1 John 5:14; John 15:7). ((I had a footnote: Furthermore, we cannot have an assurance that our prayers will be answered if we are violating our covenant with God through continuing in sin, fleshiness, and worldliness (cf., e.g., John 15:7; 1 John 3:21, 22), or if we are allowing doubt in our hearts regarding the things we are praying for (cf., e.g., Mark 11:22-24; James 1:5-8).))
For the apostles (and all Christians) to pray in Jesus' name included the idea that the answer to their prayers would come by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, with whom they were united and by whom they had been sent to take the gospel to the world. Jesus and the One who sent Him must receive all the glory for the answer to their prayers. Jesus is the "one mediator between God and men" (1 Tim. 2:5); cf. Acts 4:12. Sometimes (as in Acts 3:6, for example) the apostles didn't technically pray in Jesus name, but they used His name to produce healings, cast out demons, etc. In cases like that the works still were the works of the Lord Jesus Christ, the great High Priest who makes things work.
This verse and verse 14 are unusual, and especially if the translation of the NASB for verse 14 is correct, "If you ask ME [my emphasis] anything in My name I will do it" (see under verse 14). It is in line with the overall teaching of the Bible for the Son to speak of His answering the prayers of the apostles, but it would not be in line with the overall teaching of the Bible to say that the Son, not the Father, is the One who always, or normally, answers the prayers of Christians. And it would not be in line with the overall teaching of the Bible to say that Christians should typically address their requests to the Lord Jesus Christ. (See my paper titled "Who Do We Pray To?" on this Christian article site. That paper shows that most of our prayers should be addressed to God the Father [in the name of Jesus].) Jesus taught us to pray and make requests to the Father. See, for example, Matt. 6:5-15; John 15:16 ("...so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give it to you"); 16:23-28 ("... In that day you will ask [the Father] in My name, and I do not say to you that I will request of the Father on your behalf; (27) for the Father Himself loves you.... ..."). We must never ignore God the Father, whether in prayer or worship; God the Son, who is subordinate to the God the Father in His role (I didn't say inferior) would be the first One to exhort us to never ignore the Father. (See under John 1:1 in my paper on John 1:1-18 on my internet site.]] (14) If you ask Me [[The United Bible Societies' "Greek New Testament" includes the Greek pronoun "me" (which is translated "Me" here) with a B rating (which "indicates [from their point of view] that the text is almost certain"). The NIV has "Me," but the KJV; NKJV; and the Amplified Bible do not include this word. It is possible, but I doubt that Jesus included the word "Me" in what He said here. For one thing, it tends to clash with the following words about asking in His name. And note the verses I quoted from John chapters 15, 16 under John 14:13.
I'll quote part of what F. F. Bruce says under verses 13, 14 ("Gospel of John" [Eerdmans, 1983], page 301). "If something is asked for in Jesus' name, the request is probably viewed as addressed to the Father. The Father denies nothing to the Son, and a request made in the Son's name is treated as if the Son made it. The textual evidence in verse 14 is fairly evenly divided between the omission and retention of 'me'; but the logic and the thought here favour its omission, which indeed seems to be demanded by the plain sense of 16:23a. ...."]] anything in My name, I will do it. (15) If you love Me, you will keep My commandments ["If you love Me, keep My commandments" NKJV; KJV]. [[Compare John 14:21, 23; 15:10; 17:6, 8; 1 John 5:3; 2 John 1:6; and Luke 6:46. The words of this verse and the verses just cited are extremely important. See under John 13:34 in this paper. I'll quote part of what C. K. Barrett says here ("Gospel According to St. John" [Westminster Press, 1978], page 461). "John never permits love to devolve into a sentiment or an emotion. Its expression is always moral and is revealed in obedience. This is true even of the love of the Son for the Father; cf. 15:10."
((I had a footnote that goes on for two paragraphs (On this topic also see under John 13:34 in this paper, including the references I cited there): It is probably even more important to point out that the Father's love that John (and the Bible in general) speaks of is not merely sentimental or emotional and that His love (or lack of love) for people is ultimately conditioned by their response to Him and His grace. His love (in the ultimate sense) is not unconditional. The widespread teaching of God's unconditional love (that He will always continue to love people just the same forever no matter what they have in their heart or what they do) in the Christian church of our day is doing tremendous damage. No wonder there is so little fear of God and so little motivation to even speak of repentance and the need for obedience (righteousness and holiness).
John 3:16 speaks of God's love for the world (which includes all people), but other verses in that chapter (and many other verses throughout the New Testament) show that those who reject, or who later turn their backs on, His saving grace in Christ (which is a grace that sanctifies/makes holy, for one thing) will ultimately experience His abiding wrath, not His abiding love (cf., e.g., John 3:18-20, 36). Any love that the Father has for those who willfully continue in sin and rebellion (whether they consider themselves to be Christians, or not) would be (at the most) a sentimental or emotional love that has nothing to do with how He judges and deals with them. God knows (and foreknows) the hearts of all people, including how they will respond to Him and His grace.))
The Bible puts a very strong emphasis on the fact that the Holy Spirit, when He comes to indwell new-covenant believers (e.g., John 14:16, 17), enables them to keep God's (moral) Law and makes them righteous and holy (cf., e.g., Ezek. 36:26, 27; Matt. 3:1-12; Acts 15:8, 9; Rom. 2:26-29; 7:4-6; 8:1-17; 15:16; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; 2 Cor. 3:1-18; Gal. 5:5, 16-25; 2 Thess. 2:13; Titus 3:5-8; and 1 John 5:3, 4, 18). ((I had a footnote: See my book, "Holiness and Victory Over Sin: Full Salvation Through the Atoning Death of the Lord Jesus Christ." For one thing, many of these verses are discussed there. It must be understood that born-again Christians are not automatically made holy or kept holy; they must continually cooperate with the Word of God and the grace/Spirit of God by faith. I'll quote what the apostle Paul said in Gal. 5:16, 24: "But I say, walk by [in/after] the Spirit [by grace through faith (faith in God and His word)], and you will not carry out the [sinful] desire of the flesh [in other words, you won't sin]. ... Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh [by grace/the Spirit through faith] with its passions and [sinful] desires.")) But it seems that Christ spoke here (and in verses 21, 23) of the apostles keeping His commandments before the life-giving, sanctifying Spirit was given (see John 14:16, 17).
((I had a lengthy footnote that goes on for two paragraphs: Jesus speaks much in these chapters (John chapters 13-17) of the Spirit's coming to the apostles to enable them to fulfill their all-important ministry of laying the foundation for the new-covenant church. For example: "He [the Spirit] will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you" (14:26). "When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me, and you will testify also, because you have been with Me from the beginning" (John 15:26, 27). "But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. And He, when He has come, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.... I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth...and He will disclose to you what is to come. ..." (John 16:7-15).
Jesus didn't specifically mention in these chapters (John chapters 13-17) that the Spirit's coming would enable the disciples to be righteous and holy and to maintain that set-apart state, but He requested the Father that (after He left His disciples to go back to the Father) He would keep them from evil/the evil one and sanctify them (John 17:11-19), and He spoke of their loving one another as He had loved them and of their being one as He and the Father are one (John 13:34, 35; 15:12-17; 17:21-26). These things (which things go with being righteous and holy) come to pass (for the most part) through the work of the Spirit. And Jesus prayed (in John 17:2, 3) that the disciples would be given eternal life, which includes knowing God; that prayer was answered through the coming of the Spirit of life; and it is understood that new-covenant righteousness and holiness (the righteousness and holiness of God) come with knowing God and participating in His eternal life by the Spirit (cf., e.g., Rom. 8:2, 12-14; Gal. 5:16).))
Keeping God's commandments was, of course, required for those living under the old covenant, and Christ's disciples (before the new-covenant Spirit was given) had a special grace by virtue of their relationship with Christ (cf., e.g., John 17:12). If Christ required the apostles/disciples to keep His commandments before they received the life-giving, sanctifying (making holy) Spirit, we can be very sure that He requires them (and all Christians) to fully obey Him after they receive the Holy Spirit, and on a deeper level. We'll discuss this important topic further as we continue, always aiming for the balanced truth of what the Bible teaches. We desperately need the balanced truth. One problem we have in the body of Christ is that most Christians are not seeking God for the balanced truth because they assume that what they (and their group) happen to believe must be the balanced truth already - those who differ with them must be wrong.
The United Bible Societies' "Greek New Testament" (Fourth Revised Edition) has a semicolon instead of a period at the end of verse 15, and the first word of verse 16 ("kago"; from "kai ego") would typically be translated "and I," not "I," which the NASB has. The NIV; NIV; KJV; NKJV and the older (1977) edition of the NASB have a period at the end of verse 15, but they all start verse 16 with the word "And." This "and" helps demonstrate that verses 16, 17 are tied to verse 15.
Jesus was speaking here of the obedience to His commandments - obedience that goes with having faith in Him (faith in God includes obedience to God) and loving Him - that He required of His apostles even before they received the life-giving (cf. John 3:3-8; 4:10-14; 5:24-26; 6:63; and 7:37-39), sanctifying (see the fourth paragraph above under verse 15), gift-dispensing Spirit. (See, for example, John 13:10; 15:3; and 17:6.) The apostles had a special relationship with the Holy Spirit through their relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ in the days before Jesus was crucified; they had spent most of their time with Christ for a couple of years, and they had been working miracles, casting out demons, etc.; this relationship undoubtedly had a sanctifying effect on them, but it is also clear that they had much room for improvement and very much needed to receive the life-giving, sanctifying work of the Spirit of the new covenant.
It must be understood that our ability to love God always starts with Him. He takes the initiative, "We love because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19). Furthermore, it must be understood that the love Christians have for God and one another is a supernatural love that comes from God; it is His love in us (by His Spirit) that we walk in and manifest by grace through faith (cf., e.g., Gal. 5:22; 1 John 2:5; 4:12).
((I had a lengthy footnote that goes on for three paragraphs: There were quite a few sincere, relatively righteous Jewish believers living in Israel in the days that Jesus came to Israel, including, for example, the apostles (excluding Judas Iscariot); John the Baptist and his parents (cf. Luke 1:6); Mary, the mother of Jesus; Simeon (Luke 2:25); and Anna, the prophetess (Luke 2:36-38). But it is important to understand that such people were relatively righteous. Believers like them were typically quick to respond to God's call to repent (through John the Baptist and then through the Lord Jesus Christ) and to submit (in faith) to the Lord Jesus Christ and God's plan of salvation. They were humble, quick to repent, and receptive to God's grace.
We will continue this verse-by-verse study of John chapters 13-17 in Part 4, starting with the second paragraph of this three paragraph footnote under John 14:15.
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