With the phase of John's
revelation of spiritual truth that is marked, in our
arrangement, by the beginning of Chapter 16, we are
presented with an immense development. It is nothing less
than the grand turning point in the dispensations. There
is here coming into view another dispensation, with its
own particular and peculiar nature; an altogether new
economy is about to be inaugurated. It is
The Dispensation of the
many centuries the Law had reigned. Then came the brief
interlude of the Incarnation, in which as to the past -
for the first and only time, the Law had its perfect
fulfillment in a Man, and - as to the future - the new
reign of the Spirit also in a Man was exemplified.
the "going" of that One to the Father is shown
to be imminent. It is also shown to be essential in order
that all in Him through faith should move on to that new
are one or two things in this part of the Lord's
discourse which had a point and edge that startled those
who heard them, and which need to be recovered from the
blunting effect of familiarity and tradition where we are
concerned. That the invisible should be of value far
transcending the visible, that the intangible should
transcend the tangible, the inward the objective, the
inaudible the audible, was by no means a simple thing to
believe. That this chance was "expedient" was
far from easy to accept. To let go the personal,
physical, present embodiment of all hope and expectations
- all that He had come to mean to them - for One who
seemed so impersonal, incomprehensible, and mysterious,
was a change to be contemplated only with misgivings and
yet it was being categorically stated that the one was
incomparably more important than the other - the Spirit
than the Incarnate Christ as visibly present!
again, this was all being stated with such an air of
assumption. It seemed to be assumed that the coming of
the Spirit was a part of the course of things, and
essential as the complement of Christ's work. In what
ways would this be?
Christ's physical presence was outward and objective.
The Holy Spirit would be within and subjective.
Christ physically would be limited to one place at a
time, and by all the straitness of time and geography.
The Holy Spirit would be immanent, omnipresent; with all,
everywhere, at all times - or apart from time.
Christ physically must do His work and return to the
The Holy Spirit would "abide for ever"
("unto the age").
Christ came that in the body He might accomplish eternal
redemption through the Cross.
The Holy Spirit would make that work the basis and means
of world-wide and continuous conviction as to man's need
While the relationship of men to Jesus in the flesh
remained, it would remain a matter of following and
falteringly responding to commands and regulations
imposed, with all the contradictions which did actually
mark the three years with Him.
By the coming of the Holy Spirit to reside in them, they
would become actually spiritual men, with the Spirit of
proof and evidence that this was right - this great and
critical change-over from Christ in the flesh to the Holy
Spirit - is seen abundantly in the transformation which
took place in these same men with and from the Day of
Pentecost. It is a very profitable thing to tabulate the
points of difference in them before and after that event.
Not only was that immediately so, but the progress
spiritually was more in three months than it had been in
three years; and so it continued.
is the inclusive and fundamental difference between this
dispensation and the earlier, and it is a challenge to us
as to whether we have really entered into the distinctive
nature of the dispensation in which we live, according to
God's order. More on this later in another connection.
next primary thing in this section of the discourse is
The Holy Spirit's Work in
Relation to Christ
Lord said that the Holy Spirit would make it His active
business to work in relation to Himself Jesus Christ.
work would be in two directions.
(1) As to themselves.
(2) As to the world.
As to themselves, He would be to and in them the Spirit
is positively affirmed that, as they were before, and
without this definite gift and reception of the Spirit as
an event, they were without the capacity or ability to
receive and "bear" the much that Christ had to
say to them. Let us note - "I have many things to
say to you." Into that statement must be gathered
all that they came to know in after years, much of which
comprises our "New Testament." But even
Apostles had to confess to being unable to say all that
they wanted to because of the limited spirituality of
was true of the Disciples before Pentecost is true
comparatively of believers always, according to the life
in the Spirit.
knowledge is not only the result of study, reason,
deduction or information.
Scriptures, or what the Lord has said and which is
recorded for us, are essentially the Holy Spirit's basis
and means of operation, but revelation as to what the
Lord meant, and of the
inexhaustible content of any Divine utterance, is a plus,
an extra, whilst at the same time consistency with Divine
principles is preserved.
proof that the "eyes of the heart have been
enlightened" is that the truth has become a power, a
life, a revolution, not just a system of doctrine. Christ
never violated any Scripture or Divine principle, and yet
the mass of those who believed that they were the
custodians of the truth firmly and fiercely believed that
He did so. This stands to emphasize the fact that in the
realm of Scripture there can be two positively opposed
positions that of the men of the letter, and that of the
men of the Word plus the Spirit.
everyone will agree that the phrase "Spirit-taught
men" expresses the need of all times, and that this
is no contradiction to the teaching of Scripture, yet
strangely enough, this marks a distinction which issues
in the conflict referred to in John 15:18-26; 16:1-3.
is here made unquestionably clear that persecution has
its chief force in those who hold firmly to a traditional
position as to their apprehension of Scripture, as
against those who, having the same Bible, have had a
mighty work of the Spirit of God done in them by which
they have been introduced into a realm which, while not
contradictory to the Word, yet holds the all-inclusive
and overwhelming significance of Christ in God's
universe. "These things will they do unto you
because they have not known the Father, nor me."
knowledge of the Father and the Son is a revelation of
the Holy Spirit, without which we may be the fiercest
protagonists of Biblical tradition and yet like Saul of
Tarsus be all wrong. So, when it comes to summing up the
meaning of the new dispensation where believers are
concerned, it amounts to this: "Have we really, by a
definite work of the Holy Spirit within us, seen the
significance and meaning of Christ in God's creational,
redemptive, and consummate scheme of things?" If
not, then there is an open door to every one of the
unhappy conditions in Christendom. If so, we are on
higher ground than all that is petty, personal, earthly,
As to the world (verse 8).
words of this statement are often quoted, but their
inclusive meaning is often overlooked or missed.
- The focal point of the world-convicting work of the
Spirit is Christ and His work.
The Sin question.
that it is not in the plural - sins.
Holy Spirit may convict believers of
sins, but He does not do this with the world.
judgment of the world will not be on the basis of sins,
greater or less, these or those. If that were so, it
would be unjust. Some are - as General Booth put it -
"damned into the world." That is from birth or
before the most terrible forms of sin are their heritage.
Others inherit and come into much more helpful and
propitious conditions, which conduce to a more moral
conduct. To condemn the one and be generous to the other
would be totally unrighteous. God has His basis of
judgment for both, and on it all are brought to a common
level. The basis is:
God sent His Son into the world to redeem the world (John
3:17; Gal. 4:4,5).
have you done with Him?
"Because they believe not on me."
whole sin question is focused in acceptance or
non-acceptance of Christ.
The Righteousness question.
I go to the Father."
Jesus was - while truly God - truly man, taking man's
Place before God, representative and substitutionary, and
eventually - as man - goes to the Father, then, seeing
that no unrighteous man will ever be in the presence of
the Father, the whole question of righteousness must have
been settled in Him as Man for man. This is the vast
subject of "Righteousness by faith in Jesus
Christ"; but in our passage it is concisely stated
that the Holy Spirit's convicting work will be on the
basis of Jesus Christ the Righteous, and on no other
ground of righteousness, more or less, whether
ceremonial, claimed, professed, worked up, or striven
The Judgment question.
wonderful are these simple though comprehensive formulae.
the tremendous field of judgment is covered in one
concise phrase: "Because the prince of this world
has been judged." What does that mean?
in God's thought and intention there is only one prince
for this world. But another, a false prince, a usurper, a
rival, has gained a position of lordship, and this by
man's assent or acceptance.
whole world lieth in the wicked one."
in the Cross of Christ this other has been judged,
condemned, and "cast out." By that Cross his
casting out of Heaven has been followed by his casting
out of the earth - in the thought and rights of God for
the day of the Spirit, when Jesus began to be preached as
"Lord," "prince and Saviour" (the
great Apostolic theme), judgment is gathered into the
matter of a deliberate choice of sides. In Christ
judgment has been finished. "Out of Christ"
means "in Satan": therefore in the realm of
double judgment - exclusion both from God's kingdom here
and from Heaven.
judgment is solely a matter of taking sides, but it is
Christ again who is the deciding Factor.
the Spirit has as His ground the Person and work of
Christ, in their respective meanings for the believer and
may be an added factor in that hostility to which the
Lord so much referred at that time, and which was so
satanically manifested after the Spirit had come.
there is much comfort for believers in this chapter. The
Spirit who was in the Lord Jesus is promised and given to
all who will receive Him. All the possibilities and
potentialities of His indwelling, for progressive and
never-ending knowledge of Christ's fullness, and for
service, are for those who will take the ground of the
new dispensation - the ground of Christ's absolute
Lordship, His perfected work and who live abidingly in
and by the Spirit.