5 June 2021
John 13 to John 17 is noted as the farewell discourse and the final prayer of Jesus: here the Lord is preparing His disciples for His imminent departure at the cross and the consequent coming of the Holy Spirit. His prayer in John 17 clearly indicates His prayers not just for the apostles but also for all those who will believe in Him through the word of the apostles (and that includes all believers, including you and me).
“..when Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart out of the world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” (John 13:1)
Notice that this farewell discourse begins with this verse that underlines that which follows as the display and manifestation of His love for His disciples and followers. In one sense, we are entering into the “inner sanctuary” where the Lord reveals His heart and deep concerns to His own in the light of His love and the desire that they be not discouraged by events that would soon take place and that they would continue to trust Him and HIs Father and to rest in His love, peace and promises. Because He knew that the time has come for Him to leave the world and that His disciples would be left alone in it, He then manifested His love in His actions, His assurances, His affirmations of the steadfastness and unfailing faithfulness of this love under the most trying circumstances. As in life, so also in death, Jesus loves HIs own unto the end.
And this love is extended to all those who will believe in Him, all those who are His that are in the world, because of the peculiar difficulties and dangers to which they are exposed. Jesus loves HIs own that are in the world still; He sees and knows all the sin and imperfection that we have to contend against, and yet He loves His own notwithstanding. He recognises that we are still in a world of sorrow; He loves His own that were in the world, while He was here on earth, and He loves HIs own that are in the world still, though He is now in heaven.
If Jesus loved His disciples, even in the view of the agonies of Gethsemane and the death of Calvary, does He now forget them – now that He has passed within the veil? He whose love the many waters of His own suffering could not quench, nor the floods drown, shall never cease to love His own who cling to Him. When we think of our sins and shortcomings – of our own blackness, sinfulness, and vileness, what a wonder that His love is not exhausted! But no, the love of Christ to His own knows no change. Whom He has once set His heart upon, He will never cease to bless.
‘Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb?’ Can such a strange, unnatural thing as this happen? ‘Yes, she may forget’, this strange thing as this may happen – ‘yet I will not forget you.’ Ponder over these and be assured of His love that is never exhausted.
The Lord willing, we shall consider further on this farewell discourse.
7 June 2021
We have noted that the Lord knew that the time of His departure was near, and He wanted His disciples (including those who will believe in Him) not to be discouraged but to be assured of His love, His promises, and that they would not be left alone (with the coming of the Holy Spirit). He knew also that they would be left in this world – facing the onslaught of the evil one, the ‘troubles’ and the sorrow of a fallen world, with a world which does not love them but instead hates them, just as the Master Himself was hated.
Although the Lord Jesus was facing the cross and the agony ahead of Him, yet His love and concern are for those who are His. In John 13 -16, we are shown the ‘heart’ of the Master in the farewell discourse and in John 17, we are given the privilege to share what He communicated with HIs heavenly Father,
John 13 focused on a particular action taken by the Lord – the washing of the feet of the disciples. In this action, the Lord sought to communicate to His immediate apostles and also to us who believe the important message that needs to be adopted and assimilated as we remain in this world.
At this juncture, the way that the Lord Jesus displays His unflagging love for His own is in the cross immediately ahead and in the act of self-abasing love, the foot-washing that anticipates the cross. He knew that He had come from God and that the Father had put all things under His power. With such power and status at His disposal, one might have expected HIm to defeat the devil immediately and to devastate Judas Iscariot with an unstoppable display of wrath. Instead, Jesus washes His disciples’ feet, including the feet of the betrayer. We see here distinctly the loving character of Jesus. The washing of the feet of others was a task normally reserved for the lowliest of menial servants or slaves. Jesus’ act of humility is as unnecessary as it is stunning, and is simultaneously a display of love, a symbol of saving cleansing, and a model of Christian conduct. The footwashing symbolizes the cleansing that is the result of Christ’s impending sacrifice on the cross. Individuals who have been cleansed by Christ’s atoning work will doubtless need to have subsequent sins washed away, but the initial fundamental cleansing that Christ provides is a once-for-all act and can never be repeated. These were communicated particularly to Peter following his unusual response to the Master’s approach to wash his feet.
The Master and Messiah assumes the role of a despised servant for the good of others. This, plus the notion of cleansing, explains why the footwashing can point so effectively to the cross. But of course service for others cannot be restricted to this unique act – if the footwashing and the cross are prompted by Jesus’ wondrous love, the fellowship of those who are cleansed (all believers) that Jesus created is to be characterised by the same love and the same selflessness for the sake of serving others. This is seen in the Master’s statement: “You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, thay you also should do just as I have done to you” (JOhn 13:13-15).
Today, when footwashing is done in the churches, it is often done by a senior minister; it has become a sign of leadership. When Jesus did it, He was doing what normally a slave would do. But the truly Christlike leader should be known by the ease and spontaneity with which he does the little, annoying, messy things – the things which in the world of Jesus the slave would do, the things which in our world today we always secretly hope someone else will do them so that we need not demean ourselves in attending to them. Of course, we can easily use the doing of menial tasks as a way of avoiding the real and important vocations that we alone can fulfil. Or we can even use them as a way of showing how humble we are, so that we can be proud.
The church needs to learn this over and over again, because we are so ready to proclaim Jesus as Lord when what we really mean is that we, HIs servants, are rulers of this or that area in His kingdom. We easily create little spheres of influence, of power, and we enjoy exercising it. We talk about the kingdom of God in the hope that some of the glory that belongs to the Master will rub off onto us. We may draw attention to the promises about God’s people in Christ being ‘kings and priests’ in order that we can lord it over others – and we quietly forget about the true role of the servant, the things which Jesus would have done.
Like Jesus, we should be looking away from ourselves, and at the world we are supposed to be serving. Where the world’s needs and our vocation meet is where we ought to be, ready to take on insignificant roles that is what God wants, or be publicly visible if that is our calling. It also points to the challenge to follow Jesus all the way to the cross, to lay down life itself in the service of God and the world He came to save.
But more importantly, Jesus told His disciples that they ought to wash one another’ feet – implying that we are to serve fellow believers humbly and be prepared to demonstrate love even if it means taking the role of the servant and be ‘unknown’, misunderstood, and even not ‘acknowledged’ by those who matter to us. However, we find ourselves easily hurt, feeling sorry for ourselves when we are not given due recognition; we murmur at God for being ‘unfair’, we feel that life has been ‘cruel’ to us and we deserve better. We miss entirely what following the example of Jesus means. We fail to appreciate significantly what it costs God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit to embark on the quest to save us and mankind; we have become ungrateful, forgetful people who no longer live for Him who died for us and rose again.
Being in the world is to follow the example of our Lord Jesus, not seeking our own status and self interests but to demonstrate the life of Jesus in our words and in our lives. When all believers can serve one another in this manner humbly and lovingly, the world would know that we are His disciples and that we have been with Jesus.
As with the footwashing, believers are to look back at the life of Jesus, His whole way and manner of life, and to find in it a pattern, a shape, an example, a power.To wash someone else’s feet, you have to think of yourself as only a slave. That, as we noted, can feed all the wrong kinds of thinking: it can produce a sort of inverted pride, a pride at one’s own humility. But with love there is no danger of that. Love is about the other person. It overflows into service, not in order to show off how hard-working it is, but because that is the natural form and flow of love. This ought to be the characteristic the Christian community displays before the watching world.
8 June 2021
Jesus was heading for the agony of the cross; He was deeply troubled in heart (12:27) and spirit (13:21). Yet at this point of time, in John 14, when He should be receiving comfort and encouragement from His disciples, He is still the One who comforts and encourages them. The disciples were probably confused, troubled at the prospect of His imminent departure and uncertain of what the future would be.
The Lord knew that HIs disciples were under emotional pressure and He also knew that they would feel ‘alone’ and ‘abandoned’ in an unfriendly world characterised by ‘trouble’, persecution and sorrow. In some ways, we the believers today may also experience a somewhat similar ‘pressure’, when we encounter perplexing situations, opposition, misunderstanding and the sense that God is so far away and is not offering us a ‘helping hand’. Hence the need to pay close attention to what Jesus Himself said, not only to His immediate apostles but also to us who believe.
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also”. (John 14:1-3)
If Jesus speaks the words of God and performs the acts of God, should He not be trusted like God. If He tells His followers not to let their hearts be troubled, He has ample and powerful reasons to do so.
The key word here is ‘believe’ or ‘trust’, and the object of trust is God the Father and Christ the Son. And believing and trusting God and Jesus is the ‘key’ to having our hearts not troubled. The Lord also pointed to the hope and inheritance awaiting all HIs followers – a new heaven and a new earth, together with Him, His Father, with all the brethren, albeit to be realised when Jesus comes again. If we believe in the Lord Jesus, we invariably believe in His promise – and the promise is clearly declared – there is more than enough room for all who believe and the place is already prepared and ready for His ‘siblings’ and brethren.
In the meantime, there is much that would be going on that depicts ‘spiritual battles’, difficult and troubling circumstances, pain and suffering for the faithful disciples of the Lord, but in all these situations, Jesus tells us not to be troubled but to keep our spiritual eyes of faith on the definite hope and inheritance that await us.
“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” (14:6-7)..Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?(14:9)
“Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me”?(14:10)
Jesus is the way to God, because He is the truth of God and the life of God. Jesus is the truth of God because He embodies the supreme revelation of God. He is God’s gracious self-disclosure. Jesus has come as the culminating revelation of the Father. In other words, Jesus is God made known in the flesh; God is Spirit and we cannot ‘picture’ Him or appreciate Him as we appreciate other human beings. God, in His mercy, grace and love, sees it fit to reveal Himself, His attributes and His ways in the person of His Son, and the Holy Spirit (to be sent subsequently) would reveal the Father and the Son to all who are His in an accurate and intimate manner.
The call and appeal to trust God and Him, the promise of the future hope and inheritance, the assurance not to be troubled – all these are made by One who is God Himself (the second Person) – and all these are to be received in the midst of circumstances and situations which, humanly speaking, would cause doubt, fear, anxiety and a collapse of our faith. But for those who believe and trust, for those who keep the hope ‘burning’ in their hearts, for those who rest in His promise and faithfulness, there can be ‘rest’ in God and confidence in Him in the face of confrontation and trying situations. This is Jesus’ assurance to His disciples.
10 June 2021
Still on John 14, from verse 15, “If you love me” introduces the following subject addressed byJesus – the meaning of loving Him. Jesus has demonstrated His love for his disciples in the washing of their feet; He has declared His love for them and commanded them to love one another (13:1,34-35).
The first entailment of the disciples’ love for Jesus is their obedience – their obedience to His commands. The one who loves Jesus will observe not just an array of ethical injunctions, but the entire revelation from the Father given holistically. Jesus is in fact describing a set of essential relations, not a set of conditions – His true disciples will love Him; they will obey Him; and He on His part would secure for them from the Father another counsellor, the Holy Spirit. The disciples are to love and obey Jesus, and He loves them, in exactly the same way that He loves and obeys His Father, and the Father loves Him. We see the ‘oneness’ between Jesus and His disciples which mirrors the oneness between Jesus and His heavenly Father. As the disciples are one with Jesus, the Father also loves them as He loves the Son. While Jesus leaves His disciples to prepare a place for them, He also joins with the Father in making a dwelling place in the believers and this manifestation of the life of the Father and the Son in the life of the believers is through the Holy Spirit.
We must reiterate that mere duty does not generate obedience to Christ; only love for Him can do that; and the love-circle brings in the love among the three Persons in the Trinity as well as the bringing-in of the believers into this precious inner circle. When we obey Jesus, we obey the Father; and when we love Jesus, we love the Father. Similarly, the Father loves Jesus; Jesus loves the believers; the Father thus also loves those who belong to Jesus and are united with Him.
We come now to verse 27:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”
The world is powerless to give peace – there is much hatred, selfishness, bitterness, malice, anxiety and fear that every attempt to achieve peace fails. But Jesus promises transcendent peace, His own peace. By His death at the cross,Jesus absorbs in Himself the malice of others, the sin of the world, and introduces the promised messianic peace in a way none of His contemporaries had understood.
Those who hold fast to Jesus, and refuse to compromise their discipleship, will find that His peace comes to them as a gift, a peace of a kind that ‘the world’ can never give. This peace will assure them of His presence and support, with the knowledge that the Jesus they know and love is indeed one with the Father.
This peace however comes through the sharp conflict that is about to come, both for the immediate apostles and also for the believers today. The disciples are to be sent out into the world where opposition is still powerful and deadly (even today). As they remember what Jesus had done and know that He did what He did because of His love for the Father, we, who are called to follow Him, are to act in such a way that the world will know that we love HIm, the Lord Jesus.
We need to know that the Lord Jesus not only imparts to His disciples His peace, but also His love and His joy (15:9,10,11) – we shall look at this subsequently. Our failure to trust Him is a failure of love and that takes away our peace and our joy in Him. This failure has been repeated in the history of the church, where Christians have been far more alert to their own griefs, and sorrows than to the things that bring their Master joy. The obedience and self-sacrificing love of the Son, even in the midst of pain and sufferings, displays what a proper relation to God consists in; it also leads to the redemption and victory for those the Father has given to Him (for the joy set before Him, He endures the cross).
12 June 2021
We now come to the familiar passage on ‘The vine and the branches’ in Chapter 15.
Verses 1-8 speak of ‘abiding’ or ‘remaining’ in the vine (Jesus); verses 9-16 of ‘abiding’ or ‘remaining’ in Jesus’ love.
Both sections focus on fruitfulness as the goal (vs 5,16) of the disciples of the Lord. Under the image of the vine, ‘Israel’ gives way to ‘Jesus’, and under the impact of fresh revelation from the Lord, ‘servants’ give way to ‘friends’ (vs19).
The imagery of the vine is associated with fruitfulness, dependence, vital union, pruning and the Old Testament associations that present Jesus as a replacement for, or better, the fulfilment of Israel. John is referring to the union of believers with Christ, apart from whom they can do nothing. This union, originating in His initiative and sealed by HIs death on their behalf, is completed by the believers’ responsive love and obedience.
In the Old Testament, the vine is a common symbol for Israel, the covenant people of God (Psalm 80; Isa. 5:1-7l; Jer. 2:21; Ezk. 15:1-8). However, whenever Israel is referred to under the figure of the vine, it often focuses on her failure to produce good fruit, along with the corresponding threat of God’s judgement on her. This principle continues to apply to God’s people today; God expects fruitfulness in His people instead of failure.
In contrast to such failure, Jesus claims, “I am the true vine”, the One to whom Israel pointed, the One that brings forth good fruit. Jesus has already, in principle, superseded the temple, the Jewish feasts, Moses, various holy sites; here He supersedes Israel as the very fccus of the people of God. The true vine is Jesus Himself, and those who are incorporated in Him. In the imagery, Jesus is the vine; His disciples are the branches.
As in Psalm 80, God plants and cultivates the vine; He is the gardener. The Father, the heavenly gardener prunes or trims everly branch that does bear fruit. No fruit-bearing branch is exempt. The Father’s purpose is loving – it is so that each branch will be even more fruitful – but the procedure may be painful (cf. Hebrews 12:4-11). The Lord disciplines HIs own the way a father disciplines his children. All this is ‘for our good’ that we may share in His holiness (Heb.12:10). So when we experience the ‘pruning’ of the Lord, which may be painful, agonising and perplexing, let us be reminded that God desires us to be more fruitful – it is for our own good such that we can be transformed more to be like Him in His holiness – it is also because He loves us as the heavenly Father.
The Father cuts off every branch that bears no fruit:; He gets rid of the dead wood so that the living, fruit-bearing branches may be sharply distinguished from them, and may have more room for growth. This indicates that there are no true Christians without some measure of fruit – fruitfulness is an infallible mark of true Christianity. The alternative is dead wood which have no life in them; they have never borne fruit, or else they would have been pruned,not cut off.
The imagery points to continuous dependence on the vine, constant reliance upon Him, persistent spiritual imbibing of His life – this leads to true fruitfulness. The Christian or Christian organisation that expands externally by merely copying Christian conducat and witness, but is not impelled by life within, brings forth dead wood, not fruit. God abides or remains among and in His people by renewing them with His life, with His Spirit, and making His presence known in them and among them; they abide or remain in HIm by obeying His commands and remaining in His love.
Since the fruit of believers is a consequence of the Son’s redemptive work, the result of the the vine’s life, and the Son’s response to the prayers of His follower, it follows that their fruitfulness brings glory to the Father, through the Son.The fruitfulness of the believers is part and parcel of the way the Son glorifies His father. We must remember that the fruit that issues out of our obedient faith-union with Christ lies at the heart of how Jesus brings glory to His Father. Failure to honour the Son is failure to honour God. Fruitlessness not only threatens fire but robs God of the glory that rightly belongs to Him. Our chief aim is to glorify God; that must mean fruitfulness in our lives – it also means that as God prunes us to make us more fruitful, let us not complain but be glad that He loves us and desires good out of our lives.
13 June 2021
Jesus has already spoken of His disciples being in Him as He is in the Father (14:20). In John 15, He is focusing on the intimate relationship with Him that His followers are to enjoy, and to cultivate in the imagery of the vine and the branches. Branches that try living without the life of the vine, soon wither and die, and are good for nothing but the fire (15:6). Branches that remain or abide in the vine (Jesus), and submit to the pruner’s (Father’s) knife when necessary, live and bear fruit. In practice, believersmust remain in the community that knows and loves Jesus as the Lord. There is no such thing as a solitary or individualistic Christian. We must remain together as a people of worship and prayer in our own private lives and corporately, making sure to be in touch and in tune with Jesus, knowing HIm and being known by HIm, continually depending, relying and leaning on Him, receiving spiritual life from Him constantly – only then can we bear fruit. To be more fruitful, we must be prepared and ready for the Father’s pruning knife – God is then glorified, and so will we be, by bearing good quality fruit, and lots of it. The vine-dresser is never closer to the vine, taking more thought over its long-term health and productivity, than when He has the knife in His hand.
In John 15:9-17, Jesus went on to focus on obeying Him and abiding in His love, and to command His disciples to love one another in the same way that He loved them – our love for Jesus is the wellspring of our obedience to Him, as our obedience is the demonstration of the reality of that love; moreover, the obedience to Jesus as a demonstration of our genuine love for Him is tested by obedience to the new commandment – love for God and Jesus is tied to and verified by love for other believers – this is the unbreakable chain.
Abiding in the vine and abiding in His love have the same objective – to bear fruit and to be more fruitful and hence glorifying the triune God!
The command to remain (abide) in His love and to love one another is given by One who has Himself done everything that love can do – Jesus has acted out, and will act out, the greatest thing that love can do; He has come to make us more human, not less. He has come to give us freedom and joy (vs 11), not slavery but friendship; He has come so that we can bear fruit that will last (vs16).
Following Jesus is a personal relationship of love and loyalty to the One who has loved us more than we can ever imagine. And the test of that love and loyalty is seen in remaining and abiding in obedience, loving one another and in bearing much fruit, to the glory of God.
There has been considerable dispute over what ‘fruit’ refers to. Among the items that ‘fruit’ has been attributed to is obedience, new converts, love, or Christian character.The union of love that joins believers with Jesus can never become a comfortable huddle that only they can share; an extension of the union of the Godhead by its very nature is a union, an intimacy which seeks to bring others into its circle. The ‘fruit’ must therefore refer to the fruit that emerges from mission and ministry that the disciples have been sent – the fruit must hence include new converts. But the branch must produce ‘fruit’ after its own kind; an apple tree would be expected to produce apples. We cannot produce godly disciples if we do not abide in His love and abide in His life – it must therefore imply that the fruit of quality must come forth from branches which imbibe the life and ‘character’ of the vine. ‘Fruit’ would then result from and also encompass godly Christian character and the ‘image’ of the vine. We can only reproduce what we are and what we have; if there is no life in the branch, there will be no fruit, or at best resulting in fruit of poor quality.
Following Christ costs something, and may cost life itself. Yet not following Christ means one is siding with a lost and hateful world. The Christian community of love stands over against the world that hates itl; the community of followers of the Lord Jesus must be prepared to face enmity from the world (which may include false believers, false teachers and false Christs). To warn perspective disciples of these realities serves to discourage spurious conversiongs and to foster ture ones – this serves to eliminate the surprise factor when persecution breaks out.
We must remember that fruitfulness comes about from abiding in Christ, abiding in His love and imbibing His life and succour. The branch cannot struggle to bear fruit on its own; it has to remain in the vine continually!
15 June 2021
“I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away.They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father nor me. But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you.” (John 16: 1-4)
In the closing of chapter 15, the Lord Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit’s help in the crisis of acute persecution as well as in the context of faithful witness. The witness of the disciples is to be empowered by the Holy Spirit (Paraclete) Himself and the witness would centre on the revelation of God in Jesus Christ – His word, His works, HIs death and resurrection and the potential for both blessing and judgement. In the light of this, a division would occur in the world – opposition is to be expected and the Lord wanted His followers to be prepared to face it.
Hence, in chapter 16, the Lord continued to focus on the subject of opposition and persecution. The greatest danger the disciples will confront from the opposition of the world (and the evil one) is not death but apostasy. Jesus was foreseeing the persecution His followers would face and He knew that the opposition would not just come from unbelievers but also from so-called believers and the latter might even believe that they were offering a service to God. In the history of the church, Christians have often discovered that the greatest and most dangerous opposition comes not from careless unbelievers but from zealous adherents to religious faith. A sermon was preached when Cranmer was burned at the stake. Chrisitains have faced severe persecution performed in the name of autocratic states, religions, and even in the name of Jesus.
Here is a reminder that even though the religious persecutors may have sincere religious motives, it does not make what they did or would do to be right, or the sufferings to be less painful and less agonising. So when persecution does break out, disciples will not be taken by surprise and thus be tempted toward apostasy. Christians must be assured that what is happening to them is not outside the knowledge of the triune God and certainly not outside His control.
Believers, who live in relatively ‘untouched’ countries as far as troubles and persecutions are concerned, may not realise, or may not face the reality that many of their brethren are facing severe persecution. The number of martyrs in this generation is thought to be far more than the number noted throughout the history of the church thus far. It seems odd and rather disappointing that believers in such ‘untouched’ contexts are often dismayed by setbacks like problems in their education, problems in their careers and problems in their relationships when brethren in other contexts are meeting sufferings and pain, not so much because of their personal failures or setbacks, but because they take the stand to be loyal to the Lord Jesus and the gospel.
We need to be mindful also to be gracious and loving towards fellow brethren who may hold beliefs contrary to ours as long as those areas of beliefs do not compromise the ‘essentials’ of the gospel; certainly, there is a place to uphold the truths and the correct doctrines of our faith, but the way we do it and the approach should not make us like Saul before he became Paul the apostle. If, in the Spirit, we have the freedom to address various ones as brethren in Christ, we should not be guilty of causing them grief because they have not seen or come around to accept our own understanding of the faith.
Jesus then spoke about the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, and that when He comes, He would convict the world of its sin, its righteousness and its judgement. He convicts the world of its sin because the people who constitute the world do not believe in Jesus. The unbelief brings not only condemnation but wilful ignorance of their need. The world’s unbelief not only ensures that it will not receive life, it ensures that it cannot perceive that it walks in death and needs life. The Holy Spirit presses home the world’s sin despite the world’s unbelief and in that sense He convicts the world of sin.
He convicts the world of its righteousness because Jesus is going to the Father. When Jesus was in the world, He pointed out the emptiness of its pretensions and He exposed by His light the darkness of the world for what it is. When Jesus goes away, the Holy Spirit continues the conviction work of Jesus through the disciples who are empowered by Him to live their lives in conformity to Christ and the same impact on the world is observed as when Jesus HImself lived out His life before the world.
The Holy Spirit convicts the world of its judgement, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. The judgement of which the Spirit convicts the world is its multifaceted spiritual blindness, supremely displayed by its treatment of Jesus (recall the accusations, the blasphemies and the murderous attitudes of the Pharisees, the Sanhedrin towards Him). The world’s judgement is profoundly wrong and morally perverse. If the devil stands condemned by the triumph of the cross, the false judgement of those who follow in his train is doubly exposed. The world is condemned already and in desperate need to learn of its plight – and this is the commission given to us His followers by the Lord to preach and share the gospel whilst it is day before night comes when no work can be done.
Just as the Son by His ministry on earth brought glory to His Father, so the Paraclete by His ministry brings glory to Jesus. All that Jesus said and did is nothing more and nothing else than what the Father gave Him to say and do. That finally includes all that the Father does. For the Father loves the Son and shows Him all He does. Therefore if the Holy Spirit takes what is Jesus’ and makes it known to the disciples, the content of what is Jesus’ is nothing less than the revelation of the Father Himself. We see the oneness and unity of the three Persons of the Godhead in their roles and ministry.
What is clear in the farewell message of the Lord Jesus is that HIs disciples will not be alone; the Holy Spirit would be sent by the Father and Him to indwell the disciples, to reveal and enhance what Jesus has communicated in HIs life and ministry on earth. In the meantime, there would be opposition and tribulations, but His followers, through the enabling of the Spirit, would be conformed to the image of their Master, would continue to convict the world of its sin, its righteousness and judgement in the proclamation of the gospel through their words and their lives.
Hence the final words of the Lord in 16:33
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world”.
Jesus’ declaration is that He has conquered the world, in the same way that He has defeated the prince of this world. By His death He has made the world’s opposition pointless and useless ultimately. The decisive war has been waged and won.The world may continue its wretched attacks, but those who are in
Christ share the victory He has won.They cannot be harmed by the world’s evil, and they know who triumphs in the end. From this they take heart, and begin to share HIs peace.
In the meantime, we are to demonstrate plainly and visibly by our new life in Christ the reality of what God has done: first by the unity and diversity of our common life, secondly by the purity and love of our everyday behaviour, next by the mutual submissiveness and care of our relationships, and by our stability in our fight against the principalities and powers of evil. In the fullness of time, God’s purpose of unification will be brought to completion under the headship of Christ and God would be all in all.
One day God’s new society and humanity will be consummated when Christ presents His bride the church to HImself in splendour, without spot or wrinkle..holy and without blemish (Eph. 5:27).
Let us not, in the writings of C.S. Lewis, be satisfied with just playing with sand castles when God has His mansions awaiting us; let us not squabble like little children with ‘what belongs to me and what is mine is not yours’ when there are significant issues that God has entrusted to us His children. Let us not cry unceasingly like little kids when they are hurt by superficial abrasion and injury when God calls us to stand our ground and ‘to conquer the enemy by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of our testimony, not loving our lives even unto death” (Revelation 12:11). Arise you soldiers of the cross, for the war has been won but the battles and skirmishes still abound. Our captain, the Lord Jesus, goes before us and fights the battles on our behalf. Let us not break up the rank and file; let us not abandon the battles in cowardice and compromise; let us ‘not be sluggish, but be imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises’ (Hebrews 6:12).