John Chapters 13 to 17, Part 6
by Karl Kemp
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We continue this verse-by-verse study of John chapters 13-17 here in Part 6, starting with John 15:16.
(16) You did not choose Me but I chose you [[Jesus chose them, for one thing, to be apostles (cf., e.g., John 6:70; 13:18; 15:19; and Acts 1:2). ((I had a footnote: The Greek verb ("eklegomai") behind "I chose [you]" (and behind "You did [not] choose [Me]") here in verse 16 is also used in verse 19. In verse 19 the verb is used of their being chosen out of the world; all true Christians have been chosen out of the world (elected) to be His disciples/people.)) His sharing with them all things that He had heard from the Father (verse 15) and His choosing them, etc. (verse 16) were manifestations of His love for them.]], and appointed [cf. 1 Cor. 12:28] you that [The Greek behind "that" here is "hina." This will become relevant as we continue with this verse.] you would go and bear fruit [[On bearing fruit, compare John 15:2-5, 7, 8, 18-27. Under John 15:5 we discussed the fact that there are two different categories of fruit. Here in verse 16 it seems that Jesus was speaking (at least for the most part) of the fruit that His apostles (and all ministers, and to some extent all Christians) would bear through their appointed ministries.]], and that your fruit would remain [[The NIV has, "and appointed you to go and bear fruit - fruit that will last." Jesus chose them and appointed them to bear fruit, fruit that would remain, "fruit for eternal life" (cf. John 4:36). To the extent the apostles (including Paul) were faithful to their commission (and they were faithful, at least for the most part [I had a footnote: God made sure that the apostles would lay a solid foundation for the Christian church and leave us with the writings of the New Testament.]), they were laying the foundation for the Christian church and giving us the New Testament, and they were bearing much good spiritual/eternal fruit in the lives of those who were being converted and sanctified.
To the extent their converts went back into heresy, back into sin, etc. the fruit of their ministries would not remain (cf. Phil. 3:14-16), but it doesn't seem that Jesus included that idea here. If God's ministers are faithful and do the things required of them, they will not have to answer to God for the failure of others, but the more the fruit remains to the end the better.]], so that [I would translate "that" (or the equivalent) instead of "so that." The older (1977) edition of the NASB has "that"; so does the KJV; NKJV. We will discuss the meaning of these words as we continue.] whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. [[The Greek behind "so that" or "that" is "hina." It seems that those commentators (e.g., Carson, Lenski, Godet, Alford, Meyer, and Barrett) are right, who believe this second hina clause is coordinate with (parallel with), not subordinate to (not dependent on), the first hina clause in this verse. The translation "that" fits the "coordinate with (parallel with)" idea. The "so that" translation of the 1995 edition of the NASB (and other translations, including the Amplified Bible; NAB; and NIV [Instead of translating "so that" the NIV starts a new sentence, "Then the Father will give you....") takes the clause that starts with the second hina as subordinate to (dependent on) the first hina clause, which communicates the idea that the Father will only give the apostles what they ask for after they have gone forth and borne fruit, fruit that will remain. But the primary things they were to ask for related to their bearing fruit (abiding fruit) for the kingdom of God before they bore that fruit.
I'll quote a few sentences from what R. C. H. Lenski says here ("Interpretation of St. John's Gospel" (Augsburg Publishing House, 1943), page 1052). "To friends chosen entirely by Himself [Jesus was led by the Father in choosing the twelve apostles] Jesus commits his great work. But he speaks of it not as a task, a burden, or the like, but as an honor, a gift, a blessing. ... What a high and glorious position for these friends of Jesus: one graced with abiding fruit! ...." It is a great privilege, not a burden, to be called to work for God. He didn't create us to use us like slaves or robots, and He gives us grace more than sufficient to stay faithful and to fulfill our assignments.]] (17) This I command you, that you love one another. [[The requirement for Christians to love one another was especially important for the apostles who had the commission to lay the foundation for the Christian church, and it is all the more important in times when Christians are facing intense hatred and persecution from the world (like the apostles did; cf. verses 18-25). D. A. Carson points out that this verse "sets the stage for the contrasting hatred displayed by the world and discussed in the ensuing verses." And I'll quote what Everett F. Harrison says here ("Gospel According to John," page 524; "Wycliffe Bible Commentary" [Moody Press, 1962], page 1105). "This verse is transitional. The disciples had to share love among themselves, for they would not get it from the world. At this point the word 'love' all but disappears from the passage, being replaced by 'hate' or 'hatred' (eight times in as many verses)."
The more we know (with full assurance and experiential knowledge) that God really loves us as individual Christians and that He has the same love for every other true Christian, the more we will love one another in the body of Christ (being enabled by His grace/Spirit). Furthermore, if we love God, we will keep His commandments (cf. John 14:15, 21, 23), very much including the commandment of the Lord Jesus to love one another as we are loved by Him.]] (18) If the world hates you, you know that ["Or (imperative) know that" (margin of NASB); "keep in mind" NIV] it has hated Me before it hated you. [[Compare Matt. 10:22; John 7:7; 15:19-27; and 17:14. I'll quote John 7:7b, "but [the world] hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil." ((I had a footnote: This helps explains the strong tendency among so many evangelical Christians to modify the message of the gospel in our day. (But God hasn't modified His gospel!) If the gospel is presented in a way that doesn't force people to see that they are sinners who need to repent and begin to live for God in His righteousness and holiness (by His saving grace in Christ) the world isn't that offended, but the heart of the gospel hasn't been presented either. In many "evangelical" churches today you won't hear the word repent, or about God's wrath against sin and the coming day of judgment, but you probably will hear how God loves you unconditionally and always will, and you probably will hear about forgiveness and about a watered-down version of the new birth.)) The apostles (and, to some extent, all true Christians) also testify to the world that its deeds are evil (cf. John 15:26, 27 with 16:8-11). Satan, the "god of this world" (2 Cor. 4:4; cf. John 12:31; 16:11), hates God and all who are loyal to Him, especially those who are the greatest threat to his kingdom, very much including the apostles. The following verses (see verses 22-25) make it clear that the "world" here in verses 18, 19 very much included the Israelites who rejected Christ.]] (19) If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world [See the footnote above under the first words of John 16:16.], because of this the world hates you. [[I'll quote a few sentences from what J. H. Bernard says here ("Gospel According to St. John," Vol. 2 [T&T Clark, 1999 reprint], page 491). "One of the characteristics of the writings of John [John was quoting Jesus here and he was inspired by the Holy Spirit] is that he always paints in black and white, without allowing for intermediate shades of colour. He will have no compromise with evil. For him the Church and world are set over against each other, and he does not contemplate their reconcilement." [Bernard has a footnote, "See for this contrast, Hobhouse, 'The Church and the World'; cf. Westcott, 'Epistles of St. John,' p. 250f., and Gore, 'Epistles of St. John,' p. 154f."] There can be no compromise with the god of this world or those loyal to him, but God has chosen to save a large number of individuals out of the world to become part of His kingdom.
I'll quote James 4:4, "You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whosoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God."]] (20) Remember the word that I said to you, "A slave ["servant" NIV] is not greater than his master [cf. John 13:16; Matt. 10:24]." If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you [cf., e.g., 1 Cor. 4:9-13; 2 Cor. 4:8-12; and 2 Tim. 3:12]; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. [[The last words of this verse are interpreted two different ways. I believe Jesus intended them in a negative sense (which fits this context very well, with Jesus consistently speaking of [the people of] the world in a negative sense throughout verses 18-25, very much including verse 21, which builds on, and helps interpret, verse 20); these words then communicate the idea that they will not keep your word (which is the word of Christ through the apostles) any more than they have kept My word. I'll quote what R. V. G. Tasker says here. ("Gospel According to St. John" [Eerdmans, 1960], page 178). "The force of the last clause in this verse is well brought out by Knox 'they will pay the same attention to your words as to mine; that is, none.' " Many commentators understand these words in a positive sense; that is, some will keep the apostles' word even as some had kept Christ's word. It is true, of course, that some did keep the apostles' word even as some kept Christ's word, but I don't believe Jesus included that idea here. Those who did submit to Christ and keep His word were no longer people of the world; they united with the people of God in the kingdom of God.]] (21) But all these things they will do to you for My name's sake [Compare Matt. 10:22; 24:9; Mark 13:13; Luke 21:12, 17; Acts 5:41; 9:14; 26:9; 1 Pet. 4:14; and Rev. 2:3. In other words, since they hate Me, they will hate you and persecute you, because of your relationship with Me. They will especially hate and persecute the apostles because of the foundational importance of their ministry.], because they do not know the One who sent Me. [[Compare John 8:19, 55; 16:3; 17:25; and 1 John 3:1. They did not know God the Father because they were following the devil in his rebellion against God, and, significantly, they were not going to repent. Those who reject God and are committed to persist in rebellion, without repentance, will naturally reject God the Son and God's offer of salvation.]] (22) If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse ["valid excuse" BAGD (under "prophasis, eos")] for their sin. [[The last words of this verse, starting with the words "but now" (and much other scripture) demonstrate that the words of this verse preceding "but now" must be substantially qualified. The Jews had sin (sin for which they were responsible before God) before Jesus came (cf., e.g., Matt. 3:1-10; Luke 13:1-5; John 8:24); they were living in sin and rebelling against God (even though many were not aware that they were rebelling against Him; men are typically slow to see their sin and to admit their sin). The Gentiles were living in sin too, and they, like the Jews, had no legitimate excuse for their sin. See, for example, Rom. 1:18-3:23.
By sending His Son (and then the gospel of the new covenant, which came in great power through the ministry of the outpoured Spirit; see, for example, John 16:8-11), God forced the issue. Those who continued in sin and darkness and rejected Christ (or God's offer of salvation in Christ) when they were solidly confronted with Him (or the gospel) demonstrated that their hearts were unrepentant, rebellious, and hostile to God. They demonstrated that they chose the darkness and the ruler of the darkness instead of God and the light (cf., e.g., John 3:18-20). In the next verse (John 15:23) Jesus goes on to say that those who hate (and reject) Him demonstrate that they hate the Father too (even those who were boasting of their love for the God of Israel).
In verse 24 Jesus adds the fact that their rejecting Him while knowing the works that He had done further demonstrates that they truly are in rebellion against, and even hate, God the Father, who sent His Son to save and to judge. Most of Christ's judging will take place after His second coming.
When people are solidly confronted with the Lord Jesus Christ (or the gospel) and make the decision to reject Him (or the gospel), they are in a very real sense having their final judgment and determining their eternal fate - condemnation. They are rejecting God's only plan of salvation. See, for example, John 3:18-20, 36; 8:21, 24. The only way they can get our from under that condemnation is to repent and submit to the Lord Jesus Christ and salvation through Him. The New Testament (cf. John 3:18; 5:24) also shows that those who have submitted to the Lord Jesus Christ (or the gospel) have, in a very real sense, already had their final judgment, and they have passed out of death into spiritual/eternal life. The only way they could undo that judgment (not the will of God! not a good idea!) would be for them to turn from God and salvation back into rebellion and darkness, resulting in condemnation.
It is true, of course, that no one would, or could, have been guilty of the great sin (the watershed event) of rejecting God the Son and God's plan of salvation if the Lord Jesus Christ had not come.
I'll quote part of what Craig S. Keener says here ("Gospel of John," Vol. 2 [Hendrickson, 2003], pages 1020). "Jesus' coming unveiled the 'world's' sin (15:22, 24); this claim fits both his earlier exposure of his enemies' sin (8:21, 34 [8:24?]) and the claim that those who try to conceal their sin are those who cannot be rid of it [John 3:19 shows that they love the darkness, which includes sin; they don't want to repent] (3:20; 9:41)." ((Keener has a footnote, "This text does not exonerate those who did not see or hear him, as if negating the Gospel's earlier statements that the world stands condemned before his coming (3:17-18 [3:16-21; 8:21-47; 12:25, 31; Rom. 2:2-13; 3:9-23; 5:12-21; 1 Cor. 11:32; Gal. 1:4; Col. 1:13, 14; 1 John 2:15-17; 5:19]) or that Jesus is the only way to the Father (14:6); "prophasis" [this Greek noun was translated "excuse" by the NASB] simply means 'pretext' ["cover-up"] (Whitaker, 'John,' 382-83, note)."))]] (23) He who hates Me hates My Father also. [See under verse 22. It is not possible for people to hate the Lord Jesus Christ, who was sent by the Father and perfectly manifested the Father, and to love the One who sent Him.] (24) If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin [The words of verse 24 must be qualified in a substantial sense, just like the words at the beginning of verse 22 (see there).]; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well. [[The fact that they saw Christ (which included hearing His words and knowing of His works, which words and works came from the Father [cf. John 5:36; 10:37]) and rejected and hated Him powerfully demonstrated that they were in rebellion against God in their hearts and hated Him. Multitudes (both those who lived back then and those who have lived in subsequent generations) have not seen the Lord Jesus with their physical eyes, but they have been confronted with Him through the gospel, through the enlightening, convicting work of the Spirit, and through the testimony (the words, works, lives) of Christians.]] (25) But they have done this to fulfill the word that is written in their Law, "THEY HATED ME WITHOUT A CAUSE [apparently quoted from Psalm 69:4; cf. Psalm 35:19]." [[The fact that Christ spoke here of "their Law" confirms that when He has been speaking of the world, He has been speaking (at least for the most part) of the Jews who rejected Him. "ME" here refers to Christ Jesus. They hated Him without a legitimate cause. He was perfect in every way (but He didn't follow all the Jewish traditions, and the Jews accused Him of blasphemy for claiming too much for Himself - actually He claimed far less than the reality), but His primary problem (from the world's point of view) was that He insisted that men were sinners who needed to repent and submit to God and the gospel in faith, which includes forsaking sin and loving and serving God from the heart. This was not, of course, a legitimate excuse for hating and rejecting Christ. Mankind owes the Creator (the triune God) their allegiance. The world's hatred of Christ demonstrates how deep the sin problem is, far deeper than most people realize.]] (26) When the Helper [Paraklete] comes [cf. John 14:16-26], whom I will send to you from the Father [cf., e.g., Acts 2:33], that is the Spirit of truth [cf. John 14:16, 17] who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me [cf. John 16:8-11; Acts 5:32; and 1 John 5:7, 8], (27) and you will testify also [cf. Luke 24:48; John 19:35; 21:24; Acts 1:8; 5:32; 1 John 1:2; 4:14; and Rev. 1:2], because you have been with Me from the beginning [cf., e.g., Luke 1:2; Acts 1:21-26].' "
" 'These things I have spoken to you so that you may be kept from stumbling ["so that you will not go astray" NIV]. [["These things" here refer to the things Jesus just said to them in 15:18-24, warning them that many would reject the gospel and hate those who had been commissioned to take the gospel to the world. He goes on to speak of these things in 16:2-4. Verse 2 makes it clear that Jesus was speaking here (at least for the most part) of their taking the gospel to Israel and being rejected there. If they had not been warned of the hatred and persecution they would often encounter, it could have led to their getting discouraged and falling away from Christ, or at least to their falling away from faithfully carrying out their all-important foundational ministries.]] (2) They will make you outcasts from the synagogue [cf. John 9:22; 12:42], but ["in fact" NIV; "indeed" NRSV] an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God. [[Most of the Jewish leaders (and many other Jews) had rejected the Lord Jesus Christ, calling Him a sinner and a blasphemer (cf., e.g., John 5:5-18; 8:48-59; 9:13-34; and 10:19-21, 31-39), and the very next day (after Jesus spoke these things to the apostles) they clamored for Him to be crucified for His extreme sinfulness (cf., e.g., John 18:28-32; 19:6-15; and Matt. 27:19-25). They thought (at least on one level of their thinking) that they were "offering service to God." The apostles (and other Christians) would be hated and persecuted by the same people (and others) because of their association with Jesus (cf. e.g., John 15:18-21; Acts 4:1-22; 5:17-42; 6:8-8:3; 9:1-5; and 12:1-4).]] (3) These things they will do because they have not known the Father [cf., e.g., John 15:21; 8:19, 55] or Me. [[The Jews thought they knew God the Father, but their rejection of God the Son/the Messiah proved that they didn't really know the Father. They should have known Him, but most of them, very much including most of the leaders, did not know Him. Jesus frequently spoke of the sinfulness of that generation and of their need to do some serious repenting (cf., e.g., Luke 13:1-5).]] (4) But these things I have spoken to you, so that when their hour comes, you may remember that I told you of them. These things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you. [Now that Jesus was about to leave His disciples and go back to the Father, it was necessary for Him to tell them these things.] (5) But now I am going to Him who sent Me [cf. John 7:33; 14:12, 28; 16:10, 17, 28; and 20:17]; and none of you asks Me, "Where are You going?" [[Peter had asked Jesus where He was going (John 13:36), and Jesus had already told them where He was going. He had also already informed them that His leaving would work for great good, including His great good and their great good (see John 14:1-3, 12-29), but the message hadn't really sunk in yet. As verse 6 shows, they were focused on the negative, and sorrow had filled their hearts. They hadn't asked Him about where He was going in any positive sense. As Jesus continues throughout the rest of this chapter, He further informs them of His need to go back to the Father, and how His leaving will work for great good, great good that will far overshadow the persecution, etc. they will have to endure. All things will work together for great good (cf. Rom. 8:28).]] (6) But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. (7) But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper [Greek "parakletos"; as in John 14:16, 26; 15:26] will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. [[The new birth wasn't available, for one thing, until Jesus had gone back to the Father and sent the Holy Spirit to them. Jesus had already told them that He/the Father would send the Holy Spirit earlier in this discourse (John 14:16, 17, 26; 15:26). As Jesus continues He speaks of the Spirit's ministry to the world in verses 8-11. Jesus then speaks further of the Spirit's ministry to the apostles in verses 12-15.]] (8) And He, when He comes [starting on the day of Pentecost], will convict the world [Israel is in the spotlight here.] concerning sin and righteousness and judgment [[or, "condemnation." The Spirit uses the apostles (and all Christians) in His work of convicting the world. There is no idea here, of course, that all will repent and be converted. Some will repent and become Christians; many will reject the Spirit's convicting work and go deeper into sin. When people become Christians they become part of the kingdom of God (in a preliminary, but very real, stage of the kingdom), and they (though they still live in the world) are no longer part of (the kingdom of) the world (cf., e.g., John 17:14-18).]]; (9) concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me [[Verses 8-11 deal (for the most part) with the Jews of that generation (the generation when Jesus and the apostles lived on the earth), but the message of these verses has a strong application for all the people of the world of that generation and all following generations. (I had a footnote: If the Jews, who had a covenant with God, were far from God and enslaved to sin and the god of this world, how much more were the peoples who did not have a covenant with God.)
The Spirit of God, when He comes (starting on the day of Pentecost), will use the fact that the Jews did not submit (in faith) to Christ to prove that they (though they thought of themselves as being the people of God) were far from God and quite sinful. He will convict many of the people of the world (all who have ears to hear) of the fact that they are sinful and need to repent and submit in faith to God's new-covenant salvation in Christ Jesus. People aren't interested in the gospel (the good news) of salvation until they see their need (their very serious need) for the only Savior from sin, spiritual death, and from their being part of the world system whose god is the devil.
You often hear Christians say that the only really important sin, the sin that condemns people, is the sin of (rejecting and) not submitting to the gospel in faith. That viewpoint is faulty. For one thing, it minimizes the seriousness of the other sins that men have committed back to Adam. There can be no doubting the fact that the sin of rejecting Christ and the gospel is a unique, super-serious sin, but it isn't the only sin that condemns people. One reason that it is such a serious matter to reject Christ and the gospel is because rejecting Him means rejecting God's only plan of salvation and dying in your sins. I'll quote what Jesus said in John 8:24, "Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins." In John 8:21 He said, "you will die in your sin." The Bible frequently speaks of people being judged according to their works/what they have done (cf., e.g., Matt. 16:24-27; Rom. 2:5-16; and Rev. 21:7, 8; 22:10-12, 14, 15). (I had a footnote: Romans 2:1-16 are discussed verse-by-verse in my paper, "The Christian, the Law, and Legalism." Revelation chapters 21, 22 are discussed verse-by-verse in my paper on Revelation chapters 20-22. Both papers are available on this Christian article site.) Our works must demonstrate that our faith was/is real.
Words like those of John 3:18 ("he who does not believe [in Christ] is judged [condemned] already") demonstrate the seriousness of the sin of rejecting Christ and the gospel. John 3:19, 20 go on to tell why many Jews rejected Christ, the Light: "men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. [Their works showed where their hearts were; their hearts were far from God; such people typically did not repent.] For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed." These words about being condemned already speak of the fact that these people have their final judgment (in a very real sense) at the time they reject God's only plan of salvation. ((I had a footnote: The New Testament also speaks of the glorious fact that when people submit (in faith) to the Lord Jesus Christ and God's plan of salvation, they too (in a very real sense) have had their final judgment. The first words of John 3:18 speak of that judgment, "He who believes is not condemned." In John 5:24 Jesus speaks of that glorious judgment, "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment [I would translate "into condemnation"; the NIV has "will not be condemned"], but has passed out of death into life."
Born-again Christians have already had their final judgment and inherited eternal life (eternal life in a preliminary form; cf., e.g., Titus 3:7). It must be understood, of course, that if born-again Christians later rebel against Christ and become unbelievers, they pass to a state of condemnation. The believing in Christ spoken of in John 3:18 and 5:24 (and in general) is not a one-shot deal (we need more than a good beginning); those verses speak of those who continue to believe in (to have faith in) Christ. Faith in Christ and the gospel of the new covenant includes a commitment from the heart to Christ and the gospel. We must remain faithful to Christ and the gospel by God's enabling grace.))]];
We will continue this verse-by-verse study of John chapters 13-17 in Part 7, starting with John 16:10.
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