On John 16:1-11
By Jonathan Mitchell
In John 16:1 Jesus tells His apprentices that He had been speaking the things in the previous chapters
"so that you men would (could; may; should) not at any point be caught in a snare by surprise, or be made to stumble. "
Then in the next two verses He explains to them what they can expect to experience:
"They will continue making you outcasts - ones turned away from the synagogues (= they will continue cutting you off from the rights and privileges of the Jewish society). But further, an hour is progressively coming with the result that everyone in the process of killing you folks off may imagine (suppose; hold the opinion of; think) [himself] to be proceeding in presenting (bearing forward) an offering of sacred service to God, and they will do (or: perform) these things because they do not personally (intimately or experientially) know or recognize the Father, nor even Me. "
The folks (They) that would make the disciples outcasts from the synagogues would be the leadership of the Jews. It would be these same folks (everyone... they), in cooperation with the authorities in the Roman Empire, that would be killing the followers of Christ, as we observe in the book of Acts. The reason that they will do these things is
"because they do not personally (intimately or experientially) know or recognize the Father, nor even Me. "
This was quite an indictment against the Jewish leadership who lived under the old covenant and had the Torah, the Law and the Prophets. They did not personally know God; they did not recognize the Father in Jesus; they did not recognize their Messiah.
In vs. 7 He begins explaining the reason for His leaving them:
"It progressively bears together for you people (It continues being expedient and advantageous in you; It is now for your benefit) to the end that I should go away. For if I should not go away, the One called alongside to aid, comfort, encourage and bring relief (the Helper; the Paraclete) will not come [other MSS: may by no means come] to you and be face to face with you folks. Yet if I should journey on (or: would travel on to another place) I will habitually send Him to you. "
This was the purpose of His death, and then His resurrection. It would inaugurate the new covenant that Paul will later call "a new creation. " It would cause the old things (the Law of Moses and the old covenant) to pass away, and cause all things to become new (2 Cor. 5:17).
With this new arrangement, His apprentices (and all followers of Jesus, on through the coming ages), "the One called alongside to aid, comfort, encourage and bring relief (the Helper; the Paraclete) " would be sent to them, and to us. We see that this happened in Acts chapter 2. In this new age of the Messiah, the Paraclete (God's Spirit; His Breath-effect), would then perform two specific functions which we see demonstrated in the book of Acts. In vss. 8-11 Jesus explains these functions:
8. "And upon coming, that One will be progressively testing and putting the System (the world of culture, society, religion, economy and politics) to the proof (or: exposing and presenting convincing arguments about the aggregate of humanity) concerning error (failure; deviation; missing the target; sin) and about fairness and equity in rightwised relationships which comprise the Way pointed out (or: concerning eschatological deliverance that produces covenant inclusion) - and about dividing and separating for evaluation and decision (or: judging). [comment: thus, the Paraclete replaces the Law]
9. "About error (failure; missing the mark; sin; deviation), on the one hand, because they are not constantly trusting or progressively believing into Me. [comment: this now defines sin and failure to hit the Target (Christ)]
10. "About fairness and equity in rightwised relationships (or: concerning eschatological deliverance that produces covenant participation) on the other hand, because I am progressively leading [everything] under control by withdrawing toward (or: to; [to be] face to face with) the Father, and so you folks are no longer continually gazing upon and contemplatively watching Me.
11. "And about dividing and separating for evaluation and decision, because the ruler (one in first place; chief) of this System (world of culture, economics, religion or politics) has been sifted, separated, evaluated and decided about, and now stands judged (or: Yet concerning judging, because the Prince and Leader of this universe and the aggregate of humanity has had a decision made about Him, and He now stands judged [by the System]).
In vs. 8, the first thing to ask is, What did He mean by "the System (kosmos)? The parenthetical expansion of this term gives more of the semantic range: the world of culture, society, religion, economy and politics. This is in reference to the Jewish community, their religion and their relation to the Romans. The coming Spirit of God would be progressively testing and putting to the proof the old covenant system (the Law) concerning its error (as the Jewish leadership of priests, scribes and the Jewish denominations lived it out) and it failure to hit the target that was pointed out and lived by Jesus. The Spirit would test that system concerning its deviation from the main message of the Law, and expose the sin of the entire culture. Following Christ's resurrection, with the inclusion of the Gentile world in the new covenant and new age, the Spirit would progressively test and put-to-the-proof the System of the entire Empire in all of its facets. With the expanding of God's kingdom throughout the earth, His work has continued and expanded.
The optional rendering of this clause, "exposing and presenting convincing arguments about the aggregate of humanity, " gives first another meaning of the verb, then another use of the term kosmos: the aggregate of humanity. This reading takes Jesus' words beyond His immediate culture to include all mankind, the ethnic multitudes (Gentiles; non-Jews). We find such arguments developed through Paul's writings, e.g., in Romans, which came to him via disclosures from the Spirit of the risen Christ. Paul and the other sent-forth representatives of Christ spoke and wrote to expose the human predicament and to convince people concerning their failure to be God's image-bearers as they had been created to be. He would carry the message, which is Christ, and bring God's glory to their understanding.
This brings us to the second aspect of the Paraclete's work: the putting-to-the-proof of fairness and equity in rightwised relationships which comprise the Way pointed out in the lives of the called-out, covenant communities (the body of Christ) as a demonstration to the Jews and the ethnic multitudes of the Way, the Truth and the Life (the Christ) that had come to humanity and was available to all through union with Christ. These followers of Jesus "presented convincing arguments about the aggregate of humanity " in relation to the "eschatological deliverance that produces covenant inclusion " that had been incarnated in Jesus, the Messiah, and was now extended to them, as well.
In vss. 9-10 Jesus expands the implications of these paired functions of the One called alongside to aid, comfort, encourage and bring relief (the Helper; the Paraclete). He will test, prove and convince "about error (etc.)... because they are not constantly trusting or progressively believing into Me. " Who are the "they " in this clause that give the reason for His focus on their error? I submit that it is the same "they " of this entire passage, which were first introduced into this teaching in vs. 2, above. It was the "they " who would "continue making you outcasts - ones turned away from the synagogues ": the Jewish leadership of the 1st century, and then later those throughout the Empire who at first rejected Jesus as the Messiah. The reason for the Spirit's convincing arguments "about sin and error " were BECAUSE "they " were "not trusting and believing " into Christ. It was not about personal morality or behavior, it was about the Jews' rejection of Jesus as the Christ. The Paraclete's work along this line of convincing would continue - to this present day - for the same reason. His work is not to condemn us for our failures or mistakes, but to convince humanity concerning placing their trust into Jesus.
The other side of the coin is the convincing folks concerning "fairness and equity in rightwised relationships " which comprise the Way (Christ) that has been pointed out to us. This would test and prove the reality of God's eschatological deliverance which He did in Christ, and the functioning of our participation in the new covenant. He has made us to be the Light of the world by grafting us into Himself so that we would then BE the Way, the Truth and the Life on earth - as the existential embodiment of God's righteousness, His just act of the deliverance of humanity from death and enslaved estrangement. The work of the Spirit is to show forth, through the covenant communities, the new reality of life in Christ.
Verse 11 can be read in two different ways - both of which were true. In the first rendering, the "ruler of this System " would have been the chief priest and Caesar, as heads of their respective systems. But I see the central meaning of Jesus' words in the parenthetical rendering. He was
"the Prince and Leader of this universe and the aggregate of humanity, "
and it was the chief priests and the Sanhedrin that had made a decision about Him, and had judged that He should die and be cast out. In Jn. 17:2, in His prayer to the Father, Jesus said,
"You give (or: gave) to Him right, privilege and authority from out of Being concerning all flesh (= people)... "
In Lu. 10:19 Jesus instructed His apprentices,
"So look, and realize - I have given to you folks the authority to habitually step on and trample snakes (serpents) and scorpions - as well as upon all the power and ability of the enemy (or: the hostile or adversarial person). "
He was already in the position to give this authority to them. In Lu. 4:14, following His testing in the wilderness,
"Then Jesus returned - within the midst of and in union with the power of the Spirit (or: the ability of the Breath-effect). "
In Mat. 28:18 we read,
"All authority (or: Every right and privilege from out of Being) is (or: was) given to Me within heaven and upon the earth (or: in sky and atmosphere, as well as on land)! "
He was King of kings and Lord of lords. God's kingdom has always ruled over the earth (Dan. 4:34).
This passage in Jn. 16 should be understood in terms of its 1st century context and the corporate subjects of His address. It first applied to His disciples in their immediate situations, and then by extrapolation to those who would follow Him thereafter. The plural subject, "they," was speaking first of all about the Jewish leadership and about their sin/error of unbelief concerning Jesus being their Messiah.
It was advantageous for, and of benefit to, them (and us) that He would go away so that He could return to us and
"be progressively making (constructing; forming; creating; producing) a home (an abode; a dwelling place; a place to stay) with [them/us] (or: at [their/our] side and in [their/our] presence) " (Jn. 14:23)
and so that the Spirit of "the Truth " would be within us (Jn. 14:17).
It is so,
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