The Pulpit Commentary

John 14:8-21 (John 14:8-21)

(5) The question of Philip , with the reply .

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John 14:16-21 (John 14:16-21)

(c) The greatest Gift—the other Advocate .

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John 14:16-17 (John 14:16-17)

Consequent on this obedient love, conditioned by it, is the Lord's assurance: And I will ask the Father ἐρωτᾷν is used of an asking which is based on close and intimate fellowship; it is the word which implies the presentation of wish or a desire from an equal to an equal, while αἰτεῖν represents the prayer or seeking which rises from an inferior to a superior (see note, John 16:26 , and other usage of the same words, John 17:9 , John 17:15 , John 17:20 )— and he will give —make a Divine and free manifestation of himself by his Spirit, give to you as your inalienable possession— another Paraclete, that he may be £ with you for evermore. Great deference is due to the Greek expositors, beginning with Chrysostom, who translate this word "Comforter," and who point back to the LXX . παρακαλεῖτε ( Isaiah 40:1 ), and because παρακλήσις very often, if not always, means "consolation;" but the word is passive in form, and denotes "one called in," or "called to the side of another," for the purpose of helping him in any way, but especially in legal proceedings and criminal charges, so that the word "Advocate," Pleader for us and in us, is the translation that most generally is accepted by almost all modern expositors. "Another" implies that Christ had already stood in this position while present with them, helping with tender care their first efforts to stand or serve. John ( 1 John 2:1 ) distinctly says, "We have now a Paraclete with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous," etc. And in this place (verse 17) the coming of the Paraclete was his own true return to his disciples. The following is the substance of Westcott's "additional note" on this word: "The two renderings of Paraclete as ' Comforter' in the Gospel, and 'Advocate' in the Epistle, are found in the English versions, with exception of Rhenish, from Wickliffe to Authorized version and Revised version. In the ancient versions, with the exception of Thebaic, the original word Paracletus is preserved. Its passive form by all analogous words will not justify here an active or transitive sense, but means 'one called to the side of another' with the secondary sense of helping, consoling, counseling, or aiding him. The classical use is 'advocate,' so used in Demosthenes, not found in LXX . Philo uses it in the same sense, and the rabbinic writers adopt the Greek word טילקרף , in opposition to 'accuser.' The apostolic Fathers use the word in this sense, but the patristic writers, Origen, Cyril, Gregory of Nyssa, Use it for ' Comforter.' In 1 John it. I no other word is satisfactory but 'Advocate,' and the suggestion is that the only meaning here that is adequate is that of one who pleads, convinces, convicts in a great controversy, who strengthens on the one hand, and defends on the other. Christ, as the Advocate, pleads the believer's cause with the Father against the accuser ( 1 John 2:1 ; Romans 8:26 ; Revelation 12:10 ). The Holy Spirit, as the Advocate, pleads the cause of the believer against the world ( John 16:8 ), and pleads Christ's cause with the believer ( John 14:26 ; John 15:26 ; John 16:14 )." Archdeacon Watkins has presented a large portion of the Talmudic evidence to the same effect. Thus from the 'Pirke Aboth,' 4.11, "He that keepeth one commandment obtains for himself one paraklit , but he who committeth one sin obtains for himself one kattegor ( κατήγορος )." The word was incorporated into the Syrian language, as seen in the Peshito Syriac translation, both of the Gospel and the First Epistle of John. The Advocate who is to be with the disciples forever, arguing down opposition and silencing cavil, is the Spirit of truth . The abundant proof of this great function of the Holy Spirit is not wanting. There is Christ's promise. Then in Acts 4:8 and Acts 4:13 , whatever Christ had been to the twelve, that would the other Advocate, Mediator of Divine grace, be to the whole Church when the Lord's earthly manifestation should terminate. The genitive after "Spirit" sometimes denotes its great characteristic (cf. Romans 1:4 , "the Spirit of holiness;" Romans 8:15 , "Spirit of bondage" and "of adoption;" but in the same context we have "Spirit of God," "the Spirit;" Ephesians 1:17 , "Spirit of wisdom and revelation; cf. also Romans 8:9 , "Spirit of Christ;" 1 Peter 4:14 , "the Spirit of glory"); and the idea is that this other Advocate, even the Spirit of truth, shall reveal truth to the disciples, convince them of truth, as Christ had done. Whom the world cannot receive. There are antipathies between "the world" (as conceived by St. John) and "truth," which will render the world strangely unsusceptible of Divine teaching. Still, since the whole process of conviction is the distinct effect of the Holy Spirit upon the world (see John 16:1-33 .), the λάβειν must not mean that the world cannot accept its convincing power, but cannot exert its power of convincing. Through apostles, who are his organs and representatives, the world will be convinced, and not apart from them. Because it seeth him not ( θεωρεῖ ) —does not behold him in his external revelations— and knoweth him not by personal experience, "is not learning to know him" as these disciples even hitherto have been able to do in Christ. The world has proved by its rejection of Christ that it cannot behold the Divine energy in him, nor perceive by any inward experience his nature or the real nature of God; but ye, said Christ, are now learning to know him; for he abideth with you. He has begun his abiding presence with you, and shall be in you ; and this state of things will continue to the end of time. "The future shows that the whole matter belongs to the domain of futurity" (Hengstenberg). The world cannot "receive," because it is dependent on visible things, and it cannot know because it cannot behold. You have no need to behold , and can and do know by another process. The passage is very difficult, because, if the world cannot receive the Spirit by reason of its own unspirituality and ignorance, how is the threefold conviction to be realized? May λάβειν be regarded in the sense of καταλάμβανειν , "to seize hold of"? Rost and Palm give the following instances of this use of λαμβανεῖν in Homer: ' Od.,' 6:81; 8:116; ' II .,' 5:273; Herod., 4:130, etc. (cf. John 19:1 ; Revelation 8:5 ). If so, the whole of this passage would read, "He will give you another Helper or Advocate, that he may be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth whom the world cannot seize (or take from you), because it beholdeth him not, neither knoweth him; but ye are learning to know him, because he, according to the eternal laws of his being, dwelleth with you, and will be in you, and be altogether beyond the malice of the world."

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John 14:8-21 (John 14:8-21)

Philip's questioning.

This disciple, one of the earliest, seizes upon the last word of our Lord and asks for a bodily sight of the Father.

I. PHILIP 'S DEMAND TO SEE THE FATHER . "Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us."

1. It is hard to decide how much of ignorance is compatible with saving grace .

2. Evidently Philip thought of such a revelation of God as was vouchsafed to Moses in answer to the request , " Lord , show me thy glory ."

3. He believed that such a revelation would solve all his difficulties and doubts .

4. How strange that Philip should not , in three years , have found what he aspired after! "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father."

5. Yet his request implies that it was in Christ ' s power to satisfy his demand . ( Matthew 11:29 .)

II. OUR LORD 'S ANSWER TO PHILIP 'S DEMAND . "I have been so long time with you, and yet thou hast not known me, Philip."

1. Philip was longer with Jesus than most of the disciples . The words have a touch of sadness and disappointment, as if Philip had failed to benefit by all the teaching and experience of three years.

2. The answer implies the impossibility of seeing the invisible Father with the eyes of the body .

3. But the Father is seen in him who is his express linage . "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." He sees the Father's love, faithfulness, and power. The life of Christ is the true manifestation of the Father.

4. Jesus points to two proofs of his union with the Father .

III. CHRIST 'S DEPARTURE WILL BE THE SIGNAL FOR THE REVELATION OF NEW POWER IN THE APOSTLES . "He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go to the Father."

1. Christ endowed his disciples with power to work miracles like his own .

2. He endowed them with power to do still " greater works " in Pentecostal conversions—which were of a far more exalted nature and with more enduring results than miracles of power. The prophecy began to be fulfilled on the day of Pentecost, and is still in process of fulfillment in the expanding growth of the kingdom of God.

3. This higher productiveness of the disciples is to depend upon Christ ' s higher position . "Because I go to the Father." The ascended Lord has received the "all power" of heaven and earth for the use of his Church.

4. Prayer will be the disciples ' part in these greater works . "And whatsoever ye shall ask in my Name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son."

(a) it implies that it is by the blood of Christ we draw near to God;

(b) that we pray in the strength of Christ;

(c) that we believe we shall obtain from Christ in heaven whatever we ask of him.


1. Mark the moral condition of this new blessing . "If ye love me, keep my commandments."

2. Mark the glorious provision that is made for Christ ' s absence . "And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever."

(a) This title implies his distinct Personality,

(b) his true Divinity.

(c) Mark his various relations to believers.

( α ) He is "with them" in fellowship.

( β ) He abideth by them in personal comfort.

( χ ) He is "in them" in indwelling power.

( δ ) His presence will be perpetual—"that he may abide with you for ever." Christ's historical presence was now to be measured by a few hours or days. The Holy Spirit will be with the Church till the end of the world.

( ε ) He cannot be received by an unreceptive , unsympathetic world. "Whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him." The world cannot see or know spiritual things, which demand the faculty of spiritual discernment ( 1 Corinthians 2:14 ).

( ζ ) The receptiveness of the disciples, so different from the moral blindness of the world, had its origin in the Spirit's indwelling, and would be still further strengthened by the fuller measures of his grace.


1. Our Lord thinks of them as "little children ," who needed

2. His departure was just at hand . "Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also."

(a) It is the fullness of life to see God as he is ( 1 John 3:1 , 1 John 3:2 ).

(b) Christ's life is the foundation and guarantee of the life of believers.

3. The day of the gift of the Comforter will be the signal of fresh arid enlarged blessings . "At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you."

(a) Mark the need of knowledge to obedience.

(b) The need of obedience to loving happiness.

(a) The Father loves all who love the Son, his own beloved Son.

(b) The Son loves' those who love the Father, and makes through that very love, a more perfect revelation of himself. Thus this higher manifestation more than supplies the place of his bodily presence.

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John 14:16 (John 14:16)

"Another Comforter."

This designation of the Holy Spirit brings forward into prominence his work on earth and his relation to men. And this is the aspect in which the Spirit of God has most interest for us. The theologian properly studies the Third Person of the Trinity in relation to the Father and the Son. But to the Christian desirous of appropriating the blessings revealed by religion, there is great encouragement in this designation, " another Comforter."

I. THE PROMISE IS SUGGESTIVE OF HUMAN NEEDS . Why should a "Comforter" be provided? There must be something in the condition of men which makes the promise of a Divine Friend so appropriate and welcome. Men suffer from ignorance and proneness to error and delusion. They are encompassed with temptations which act powerfully, sometimes fatally, upon their frail and feeble nature. And those who are bent upon attaining true knowledge and practicing true virtue are exposed to the bitter hostility and opposition of the world.

II. THE PROMISE IS SUGGESTIVE OF THE CHARACTER AND THE OFFICES OF CHRIST HIMSELF . In promising another Comforter to come upon his own departure, Jesus was really claiming to be a Comforter, whose loss must needs be sorely felt. And such he was. He had been very much in the society of his disciples, was always sympathetic, always wise in counsel, always faithful in admonition, always gracious in encouragement. Nor, indeed, did he cease to be the Paraclete, the Advocate, of his people, when he quitted the world which he visited in order to befriend and save its guilty and helpless inhabitants.

III. THE PROMISE IS SUGGESTIVE OF THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IN THE CHURCH . The Paraclete is One who is called to the side of him who is in need, an Advocate who undertakes the cause Of the defenseless, a Patron exercising a wise protection, a Strengthener or Comforter communicating his power to the feeble. It is implied in the designation that the Holy Spirit is a Person, and that he is Divine. He teaches, guides, assists; he is living, acting, gracious. As he came on the Day of Pentecost—the promise of the Father—so he has ever resided in his Church, to quicken, to purify, to bless.

IV. THE PROMISE IS SUGGESTIVE OF THE PECULIAR ADAPTATION OF THE SPIRIT TO THE WANTS OF THE RANSOMED HUMANITY . Our Lord's mission to earth, and in the body, was a local and temporary mission. In both respects the mission of the Comforter was more suited to the condition of the Church. Whilst the ministry of Jesus was confined to one land, the influences of the Holy Spirit are felt wherever the gospel is preached, wherever Christian society is established. Whilst the ministry of Jesus lasted but for a few years, the abiding mission of the Comforter endures forever. Wherever and whenever human spirits call, in necessity and under the prompting of faith, upon the unseen God for strength and help, the Spirit of might and wisdom and grace, ever near and ever compassionate, comes to their aid, and proves himself their Comforter indeed.—T.

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John 14:15-17 (John 14:15-17)

Love and obedience.


I. OBEDIENCE TO CHRIST AS THE NATURAL CONSEQUENCE OF LOVE TO HIM . "If ye love me," etc. Where there is love to Christ, there is scarcely any need of a command to obey him; but it will follow as the stream from the fountain, or light and heat from the sun. Where there is love to Christ:

1. There is a recognition of his Divine authority . Where there is no authority, there is neither right nor power to command. There may be commands, but they are weak and powerless. Love to Christ recognizes his personal and administrative authority—his authority over the heart, the will, the intellect, the conscience, and over all the physical and spiritual nature. His kingship is freely owned by love.

2. There is a recognition of a close and essential connection between him and his commandments . The king is in his laws. Christ is really in his commandments; they are expressions of his will; they are his will, spoken or written; they are parts of himself; they are, in fact, he himself acting upon and addressing man's moral nature.

3. This recognition is ever practical . "If ye love me, ye will keep," etc. Genuine love ever manifests itself in genuine and practical forms. It does not begin and end in mere sentiment, in good wishes, in sighs and tears, but is essentially practical, and practical in the most pleasing way to its object, in the way requested. "Ye will keep," etc. Filial love ever manifests itself in filial obedience.

4. This recognition is most thorough and comprehensive . "Ye will keep my commandments." Not some of them, but all. The obedience is commensurate with the Master's expressed will. Love is very careful to keep whatsoever is commanded, however apparently small and insignificant. It keeps a sharp look-out whether a command bears the Divine signature and the seal of Divine authority. It seeks not its own way of obedience, but is thoroughly satisfied with the one prescribed by the great Law giver. "What wilt thou have me to do?" is ever the question of love to the Master.

5. This recognition is devotional . "My commandments." They are kept from love to him, from respect for his authority, from sympathy with his nature and character—kept because they are the recognized expressions of his will. Some of them are positive, the reasons for which are not stated; but love will obey them simply because they are his, and obey them for his sake. Jesus is now physically absent, but is ever present in his commands. Love to him finds its manifestation in ready and willing obedience to these. Personally he is now above practical hatred or love, but in his expressed will he is still the Object of both. Love is loyal to him behind his back, and ever true to the absent Savior; to it his laws are "more to be desired than gold, and sweeter than honey."

II. LOVE TO CHRIST AS THE NECESSARY BASIS OF OBEDIENCE TO HIM . "If ye love me," etc. As obedience is the essential consequence of love, so love is the essential basis of obedience. It is essential:

1. To make obedience real . Obedience which does not proceed from genuine love to Christ has no reality in it; it is not the genuine offspring of the heart, the real act of the soul; it lacks the essential motive and inspiration of all Christian deeds. It is formal, mechanical, legal, and empty.

2. To make obedience easy and delightful . Obedience not arising from love is forced, burdensome, and even painful—painful to the man himself and to others. Obedience which springs from fear, selfishness, legality, self-praise, or from mere custom, is insipid and wearisome; while the obedience of love is easy, natural, and pleasant. To such the words of our Lord are full of truth and significance: "My yoke is easy, and my burden is light." The least duty, in the absence of love, is really heavy; while the heaviest, with it, is really light. Many have counted it joy to suffer, and even die, for Christ. They rejoiced in chains, and sang in flames. Theirs was the obedience of love, the offering of affection, and the tribute of a willing heart.

3. To make it spiritually and personally valuable . There is no spiritual value in unloving obedience. It may be acceptable with men, and pass as a genuine coin in human markets, but it is a counterfeit in the spiritual and Divine. It may benefit society, but will not spiritually benefit the man himself; and however extensive, minute, and ostentatious its performance may be, it will not score in heaven. It is found wanting in the balance of God, and even in that of the enlightened conscience. "Though I speak with the tongues of men," etc. Love alone can impart spiritual value into obedience, and fill it with life and Divinity.

III. LOVING OBEDIENCE TO CHRIST ENSURING THE DIVINEST BLESSINGS . "If ye love me," etc.; "And I will pray the Father," etc. It brings into the soul the richest blessings, and in its interest the mightiest spiritual agencies.

1. The Holy Spirit .

2. The Holy Spirit in some of his special characteristics .

3. The Spirit as known to them , but not so to the world . On the part of the world there was a terrible inability to receive him—inability arising from spiritual blindness and agnosticism. The world only receives what it can see and handle. It walks by sight and sense, therefore cannot receive the "Spirit of truth." But it was not so with the disciples. The Spirit is promised to them:


1. Love is the great law of Christ ' s kingdom . It is established on this. There is no compulsion, no carnal weapons; but he reigns through love, and he is the only King whose subjects, without an exception, love passionately.

2. Loving obedience to him is most spiritually enriching . It insures the richest blessings and the most powerful spiritual agencies; for the prayers of Christ and the gifts of the Father are not made at random, but made to loving and obedient souls.

3. The supreme importance of possessing love to Christ . Where this is present all besides will naturally and inevitably follow. "If ye love me," etc.—B.T.

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John 14:16-18 (John 14:16-18)

"Another Comforter."

I. AS ANSWER TO A REQUEST OF JESUS . The manifestation of the Holy Spirit is a conditional thing. Jesus must ask the Father for it; and he can only ask the Father when he perceives the disciples to be going in the way of his directions. If only the disciples will do what Jesus wants them to do, ha will secure for them the indispensable help. They must not be under the delusion that the might of the Holy Spirit will be given to aid them in their own plans and schemes. They must be servants to the plans and schemes of Jesus. The Father waits for the Son to ask, and the Son waits till he sees his people ready to receive.

II. THE GIFT BESTOWED . Here it is plain we must try to look at things rather than words—at the whole actual work of the Holy Spirit rather than at special words by which he is described. And inasmuch as he is called "another Paraclete," we must consider the incarnate Jesus himself as the first and introductory Paraclete. Well did the disciples know how utterly helpless they would have been without the assistance of Jesus. Truly he was an earthly Providence to them. They never needed to be at a loss. And all the time they were made to feel more and more their natural insufficiency. And doubtless Jesus saw in their hearts the question rising as to what they should do when he was gone. If Jesus had not come into their lives, they would not have known what life can be. But having had a Paraclete, it would be like sinking from light into darkness to go on without one. Better never to have known Jesus at all, than to know him and then lose him, and have to go on with no mere than they had at the beginning. More than that, the gift of the second Comforter includes all that was essential in the first one. Nay, we may say even more. The first Comforter was only truly operative when he blossomed out, so to speak, into the second one. Jesus was the Truth, and the second Comforter was the Spirit of the Truth. Jesus gave the seed, and then the Spirit came like the breath of spring to stir up the seed into life. There is much about all this process that we cannot understand; but that is all the more reason why we should mark what we can mark—even the sequence of processes and results. If the second Comforter had never come, the mission of the first one would have been the greatest enigma in the history of humanity.

III. THE RECIPIENTS OF THE GIFT . It has been well said that Jesus is spoken of as having come into the world. The world could receive him after a fashion, because it could gaze upon him and recognize him by the senses, as it could any incarnated human being. But the Holy Spirit comes to the Church, to prepared and humbled hearts. He comes to complete repentance. Men see that the past has been wrong and foolish, full of wasted days and powers. Then they begin to study the communications of Jesus, and so they are led on into a reception of the Holy Spirit. There must surely be much listening to Jesus, much pondering over all the elements of his incarnate career, before it can be comprehended what the Holy Spirit really is and does.—Y.

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