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In veiw of His departure the Lord alone an object of faith.
The Lord now (John 14) begins to discourse with them in view of His departure. He was going where they could not come. To human sight they would be left alone upon the earth. It is to the sense of this apparently desolate condition that the Lord addresses Himself, showing them that He was an object for faith, even as God was. In doing this, He opens to them the whole truth with respect to their condition. His work is not the subject treated of, but their position by virtue of that work. His Person should have been for them the key to that position, and would be so now: the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, who should come, would be the power by which they should enjoy it, and indeed more yet.
The revelation of what is beyond death for faith
To Peter's question, "Whither goest thou?" the Lord replies. Only when the desire of the flesh seeks to enter into the path on which Jesus was then entering, the Lord could but say that the strength of the flesh was unavailing there; for, in fact, he proposed to follow Christ in death. Poor Peter!
But when the Lord has written the sentence of death upon the flesh for us, by revealing its impotency, He can then (John 14) reveal that which is beyond it for faith; and that which belongs to us through His death throws its light back, and teaches who He was, even when on earth, and always, before the world was. He did but return to the place from which He came. But He begins with His disciples where they were, and meets the need of their hearts by explaining to them in what manner — better, in a certain sense, than by following Him here below — they should be with Him when absent where He would be. They did not see God corporeally present with them: to enjoy His presence they believed in Him; It was to be the same thing with regard to Jesus. They were to believe in Him. He did not forsake them in going away, as though there were only room for Himself in His Father's house. (He alludes to the temple as a figure.) There was room for them all. The going thither, observe, was still His thought — He is not here as the Messiah. We see Him in the relationships in which He stood according to the eternal truths of God. He had always His departure in view: had there been no room for them, He would have told them so. Their place was with Him. But He was going to prepare a place for them. Without presenting redemption there, and presenting Himself as the new man according to the power of that redemption, there was no place prepared in heaven. He enters it in the power of that life which should bring them in also. But they should not go alone to rejoin Him, nor would He rejoin them down here. Heaven, not earth, was in question. Nor would He simply send others for them; but as those He dearly valued, He would come for them Himself, and receive them unto Himself, that where He was, there should they be also. He would come from the Father's throne: there, of course, they cannot sit; but He will receive them there, where He shall be in glory before the Father. They should be with Him — a far more excellent position than His remaining with them here below, even as Messiah in glory on the earth.
Going to the Father: Himself the way
Now, also, having said where He was going, that is, to His Father (and speaking according to the effect of His death for them), He tells them that they knew whither He was going, and the way. For He was going to the Father, and they had seen the Father in seeing Him; and thus, having seen the Father in Him, they knew the way; for in coming to Him, they came to the Father, who was in Him as He was in the Father. He was, then, Himself the way. Therefore He reproaches Philip with not having known Him. He had been long with them, as the revelation in His own Person of the Father; and they ought to have known Him, and to have seen that He was in the Father, and the Father in Him, and thus have known where He was going, for it was to the Father. He had declared the name of the Father; and if they were unable to see the Father in Him, or to be convinced of it by His words, they ought to have known it by His works; for the Father who dwelt in Him He it was who did the works. This depended on His own Person, being still in the world; but a striking proof was connected with His departure. After He was gone, they would do even greater works than He did, because they should act in connection with His greater nearness to the Father. This was requisite to His glory. It was even unlimited. He placed them in immediate connection with the Father by the power of His work and of His name; and whatsoever they should ask the Father in His name, Christ Himself would do it for them. Their request should be heard and granted by the Father — showing what nearness He had acquired for them; and He (Christ) would do all they should ask. For the power of the Son was not, and could not be, wanting to the Father's will: there was no limit to His power.
Discipleship characterized by obedience: the promise of the Holy Spirit, to abide forever
But this led to another subject. If they loved Him, it was to be shown, not in regrets, but in keeping His commandments. They were to walk in obedience. This characterises discipleship up to the present time. Love desires to be with Him, but shows itself by obeying His commands; for Christ also has a right to command. On the other hand He would seek their good on high, and another blessing should be granted them; namely, the Holy Ghost Himself, who should never leave them, as Christ was about to do. The world could not receive Him. Christ, the Son, had been shown to the eyes of the world, and ought to have been received by it. The Holy Ghost would act, being invisible; for by the rejection of Christ, it was all over with the world in its natural and creature relationships with God. But the Holy Ghost should be known by the disciples; for He should not only remain with them, as Christ could not, but be in them, not with them as He was. The Holy Ghost would not be seen then or known by the world.
The Way, the Truth, and the Life
Until now, in His discourse, He had led His disciples to follow Him (in spirit) on high, through the knowledge which acquaintance with His Person (in which the Father was revealed) gave them of whither He was going, and of the way. He was Himself the way, as we have seen. He was the truth itself, in the revelation (and the perfect revelation) of God and of the soul's relationship to Him; and, indeed, of the real condition and character of all things, by bringing out the perfect light of God in His own Person who revealed Him. He was the life, in which God and the truth could thus be known. Men came by Him; they found the Father revealed in Him; and they possessed in Him that which enabled them to enjoy, and in the reception of which they came in fact to, the Father.
The stream of blessing flowing for the disciples in this world: life in Christ
But, now, it is not what is objective which He presents; not the Father in Him (which they ought to have known) and He in the Father, when here below. He does not, therefore, raise their thoughts to the Father through Himself and in Himself, and He in the Father in heaven. He sets before them that which should be given them down here — the stream of blessing that should flow for them in this world, by virtue of that which Jesus was, and was for them, in heaven. The Holy Ghost once introduced as sent, the Lord says, "I will not leave you orphans, I will come to you." His presence, in spirit, here below, is the consolation of His people. They should see Him; and this is much more true than seeing Him with the eyes of flesh. Yes, more true; it is knowing Him in a much more real way, even though by grace they had believed in Him as the Christ, the Son of God. And, moreover, this spiritual sight of Christ by the heart, through the presence of the Holy Ghost, is connected with life. "Because I live, ye shall live also." We see Him, because we have life, and this life is in Him, and He in this life. "This life is in the Son." It is as sure as His duration. It is derived from Him. Because He lives, we shall live. Our life is, in everything, the manifestation of Himself who is our life. Even as the apostle expresses it, "That the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal bodies." Alas! the flesh resists; but this is our life in Christ.
The disciples in Christ in virtue of the Holy Spirit's presence
But this is not all. The Holy Ghost dwelling in us, we know that
we are in Christ.* "At that day ye shall know that I am in my
Father, and ye in me, and I in you." It is not "the Father in me
[which, however, was always true], and I in him" — words, the
first of which, here omitted, expressed the reality of His
manifestation of the Father here on earth. The Lord only expresses
that which belongs to His being really and divinely one with the
Father — "I am in my Father." It is this last part of the truth
(implied, doubtless, in the other when rightly understood) of which
the Lord here speaks. It could not really be so; but men might
imagine such a thing as a manifestation of God in a man, without
this man being really such — so truly God, that is to say, in
Himself — that it must also be said, He is in the Father. People
dream of such things; they speak of the manifestation of God in
flesh. We speak of God manifest in the flesh. But here all
ambiguity is obviated — He was in the Father, and it is this part
of the truth which is repeated here; adding to it, in virtue of the
presence of the Holy Ghost, that while the disciples should indeed
fully know the divine Person of Jesus, they should moreover know
that they were themselves in Him. He who is joined to the Lord is
one spirit. Jesus did not say that they ought to have known this
while He was with them on earth. They ought to have known that the
Father was in Him and He in the Father. But in that He was alone.
The disciples, however, having received the Holy Ghost, should know
their own being in Him — a union of which the Holy Ghost is the
strength and the bond. The life of Christ flows from Him in us. He
is in the Father, we in Him, and He also in us, according to the
power of the presence of the Holy Ghost.
Continual guardianship and government
This is the subject of the common faith, true of all. But there is continual guardianship and government, and Jesus manifests Himself to us in connection with, and in a manner dependent on, our walk. He who is mindful of the Lord's will possesses it, and observes it. A good child not only obeys when he knows his father's will, but he acquires the knowledge of that will by giving heed to it. This is the spirit of obedience in love. If we act thus with regard to Jesus, the Father, who takes account of all that relates to His Son, will love us. Jesus will also love us, and will manifest Himself to us. Judas (not Iscariot) did not understand this, because he saw no farther than a bodily manifestation of Christ, such as the world also could perceive. Jesus therefore adds, that the truly obedient disciples (and here He speaks more spiritually and generally of His word, not merely of His commandments) should be loved of the Father, and that the Father and Himself would come and make their abode with him. So that, if there be obedience, while waiting for the time when we shall go and dwell with Jesus in the Father's presence, He and the Father dwell in us. The Father and the Son manifest themselves in us, in whom the Holy Ghost is dwelling, even as the Father and the Holy Ghost were present, when the Son was here below — doubtless in another way, for He was the Son, and we only live by Him — the Holy Ghost only dwelling in us. But with respect to those glorious Persons they are not disunited. The Father did the works in Christ, and Jesus cast out devils by the Holy Ghost; nevertheless, the Son wrought. If the Holy Ghost is in us, the Father and the Son come and make their abode in us. Only it will be observed here that there is government. We are, according to the new life, sanctified unto obedience. It is not here a question of the love of God in sovereign grace to a sinner, but of the Father's dealings with His children. Therefore it is in the path of obedience that the manifestations of the Father's love and the love of Christ are found. We love, but do not caress, our naughty children. If we grieve the Spirit, He will not be in us the power of the manifestation to our souls of the Father and the Son in communion, but will rather act on our consciences in conviction, though giving the sense of grace. God may restore us by His love, and by testifying when we have wandered; but communion is in obedience. Finally, Jesus was to be obeyed; but it was the Father's word to Jesus, observe, as He was here below. His words were the words of the Father.
Christ truly and ever man, but God manifest in the flesh
The Holy Ghost bears testimony to that which Christ was, as well as to His glory. It is the manifestation of the perfect life of man, of God in man, of the Father in the Son — the manifestation of the Father by the Son who is in the bosom of the Father. Such were the words of the Son here below; and when we speak of His commandments, it is not only the manifestation of His glory by the Holy Ghost, when He is on high, and its results; but His commandments when He spoke here below, and spoke the words of God; for He had not the Holy Ghost by measure, so that His words would have been mingled, and partly imperfect, or at least not divine. He was truly man, and ever man; but it was God manifest in the flesh. The old commandment from the beginning is new, inasmuch as this same life, which expressed itself in His commandments, now moves in and animates us — true in Him and in us (compare 1 John 2). The commandments are those of the man Christ, yet they are the commandments of God and the words of the Father, according to the life that has been manifested in this world in the Person of Christ. They express in Him, and form and direct in us, that eternal life which was with the Father, and which has been manifested to us in man — in Him whom the apostles could see, hear, and touch; and which life we possess in Him. Nevertheless the Holy Ghost has been given us to lead us into all truth, according to this same chapter of John's Epistle — "Ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things."
The difference between Christ's commandments and the law
To direct life is different from knowing all things. The two are connected, because, in walking according to that life, we do not grieve the Holy Spirit, and we are in the light. To direct life, where it exists, is not the same thing as to give a law imposed on man in the flesh (righteously, no doubt), promising him life if he keep these commandments. This is the difference between the commandments of Christ and the law: not as to authority — divine authority is always the same in itself — but that the law offers life, and is addressed to man responsible in flesh, offering him life as the result; while the commandments of Christ express and direct the life of one who lives through the Spirit, in connection with his being in Christ, and Christ in him. The Holy Ghost (who, besides this, teaches all things) brought to remembrance the commandments of Christ — all things that He had said to them. It is the same thing in detail, by His grace, with Christians individually now.
The Lord's gift of His own peace
Finally, the Lord, in the midst of this world, left peace to His
disciples, giving them His own peace. It is when going away, and in
the full revelation of God, that He could say this to them; so that
He possessed it in spite of the world. He had gone through death
and the drinking of the cup, put away sin for them, destroyed the
power of the enemy in death, made propitiation by fully glorifying
God. Peace was made, and made for them before God, and all that
they were brought into — the light as He was, so that this peace
was perfect in the light; and it was perfect in the world, because
it brought them so into connection with God that the world could
not even touch or reach their source of joy. Moreover Jesus had so
accomplished this for them, and He bestowed it on them in such a
way, that He gave them the peace which He Himself had with the
Father, and in which, consequently, He walked in this world. The
world gives a part of its goods while not relinquishing the mass;
but what it gives, it gives away and has no longer. Christ
introduces into the enjoyment of that which is His own — of His
own position before the Father.* The world does not and cannot give
in this manner. How perfect must that peace have been which He
enjoyed with the Father — that peace He gives to us — His own!
In the Lord's glory and happiness we find our own
There remains yet one precious thought — a proof of unspeakable grace in Jesus. He so reckons upon our affection, and this as personal to Himself, that He says to them, "If ye loved me ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father." He gives us to be interested in His own glory, in His happiness, and, in it, to find our own.
The desire of the Christian's heart
Good and precious Saviour, we do indeed rejoice that Thou, who hast suffered so much for us, hast now fulfilled all things, and art at rest with Thy Father, whatever may be Thine active love for us. Oh that we knew and loved Thee better! But still we can say in fulness of heart, Come quickly, Lord! Leave once more the throne of Thy rest and of Thy personal glory, to come and take us to Thyself, that all may be fulfilled for us also, and that we may be with Thee and in the light of Thy Father's countenance and in His house. Thy grace is infinite, but Thy presence and the joy of the Father shall be the rest of our hearts, and our eternal joy.
The fulness of grace and perfection shown in the person of Christ
Here the Lord closes this part of His discourse.* He had shown
them as a whole all that flowed from His departure and from His
death. The glory of His Person, observe, is always here the
subject; for, even with regard to His death, it is said, "Now is
the Son of man glorified." Nevertheless He had forewarned them of
it, that it might strengthen and not weaken their faith, for He
would not talk much more with them. The world was under the power
of the enemy, and he was coming: not because he had anything in
Christ — he had nothing — therefore he had not even the power of
death over Him. His death was not the effect of the power of Satan
over Him, but thereby He showed the world that He loved the Father;
and He was obedient to the Father, cost what it would. And this was
absolute perfection in man. If Satan was the prince of this world,
Jesus did not seek to maintain His Messiah glory in it. But He
showed to the world, there where Satan's power was, the fulness of
grace and of perfection in His own Person; in order that the world
might come from itself (if I may use such an expression) — those
at least, who had ears to hear. The Lord then
ceases to speak, and goes forth. He is no longer seated with His
own, as of this world. He arises and quits it.
Summary of the Lord's discourse in chapters 14-16
That which we have said of the Lord's commandments, given during His sojourn here below (a thought to which the succeeding chapters will give interesting development) helps us much in understanding the Lord's whole discourse here to the end of chapter 16. The subject is divided into two principal parts: The action of the Holy Ghost when the Lord should be away; and the relationship of the disciples to Him during His stay upon the earth. On the one hand, that which flowed from His exaltation to the right hand of God (which raised Him above the question of Jew and Gentile); and, on the other, that which depended on His presence upon earth, as necessarily centering all the promises in His own Person, and the relations of His own with Himself, viewed as in connection with the earth and themselves in it, even when He should be absent. There were, in consequence, two kinds of testimony: that of the Holy Ghost, strictly speaking (that is, what He revealed in reference to Jesus ascended on high); and that of the disciples themselves, as eye-witnesses to all that they had seen of Jesus on the earth (John 15:26, 27). Not that for this purpose they were without the help of the Holy Ghost; but the latter was not the new testimony of the heavenly glory by the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. He brought to their remembrance that which Jesus had been, and that which He had spoken, while on earth. Therefore, in the passage we have been reading, His work is thus described (John 14:26): "He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance whatsoever I have said unto you" (compare v. 25). The two works of the Holy Ghost are here presented. Jesus had spoken many things unto them. The Holy Ghost would teach them all things; moreover, He would bring to their remembrance all that Jesus had said. In John 16:12, 13, Jesus tells them that He had many things to say, but that they could not bear them then. Afterwards, the Spirit of truth should lead them into all truth. He should not speak from Himself; but whatsoever He should hear, that should He speak. He was not like an individual spirit, who speaks on his own account. One with the Father and the Son, and come down to reveal the glory and the counsels of God, all His communications would be in connection with them, revealing the glory of Christ ascended on high — of Christ, to whom belonged all that the Father had. Here it is no question of recalling all that Jesus had said upon earth: all is heavenly in connection with that which is on high, and with the full glory of Jesus, or else relates to the future purposes of God. We shall return to this subject by-and-by. I have said these few words to mark the distinctions which I have pointed out.
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