“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also.
– John 14:16-19, NAU
The Last Supper was just concluding, and Judas left to betray Jesus. At this point Jesus began His farewell discourse contained in John chapters14-17. His comments in chapter 14, at least, were made while Jesus and the disciples were at the table in the upper room. It may be that Jesus and the disciples left the upper room at the end of John 14. In John 14:31 Jesus said, “‘Arise, let us go from here.'” On the basis of this, some hold that Jesus spoke the next three chapters while walking. Others maintain that the disciples lingered in the upper room until He finished speaking. In any case, when Christ finished speaking (John 18:1), they crossed the Kidron Valley and entered the olive garden known as Gethsemane.
The Central Truths
The central truths of this passage include the main point concerning the coming Paraclete and a key corollary about the approaching dispensational transition. All this harmonizes with a third truth that has to do with the unfolding roles of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
First, as Hendriksen (p. 262) says, “The predominant note of chapter 14 is comfort.” Christ’s main point in John 14:16-17 is that they would have another Paraclete to help them. Jesus (John 14:1-3) is going away, but He will come again, and He is preparing a place for them. Jesus wanted to reassure the disciples that they would not be left alone. This Helper, who is the Spirit of truth, will abide with them forever.
Second, a corollary of this main truth is that there is a dispensational transition in the presence and work of the Spirit. It is primarily a transition that builds on and expands the previous work of the Spirit rather than an absolute divide with regard to the existence, presence, and work of the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is mentioned several times (14:16-17; 14:26; 15:26; and 16:5-15) in the farewell discourse. These passages are bracketed by John 7:37-39 and John 20:22. A transition with regard to the Spirit is described in John 7:37-39. John 14:16-17 builds on that passage and gives more information about the transition. In John 20:22 Jesus bestows the Spirit. To some degree this is a fulfillment of John 14:16-17.
In John 13:31-35 Jesus announced His departure and revealed that He is about to be glorified. As John 7:39 indicates, the glorification of Jesus is central to the transition. The word glorified covers the entire process of His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. He was glorified by each part of the process and by the entire process taken as a whole.
Third, the roles of the three Person in the Godhead unfold in time and history. We believe in the Triune God who is one God in three Persons–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. All three Persons are eternal, but the story of what each Person does with regard to the salvation of man unfolds throughout history.
The Bible tells the story of what God the Father does in great detail. With the incarnation, the eternal Son of God became the God-man. He embarked on his saving mission. Later, through His death, burial, resurrection and ascension, Jesus would be glorified. Now, Jesus is at the right hand of the Father.
The role of the Holy Spirit also unfolds. Jesus was conceived (Matthew 1:20) of the Holy Spirit. At Jordan, the Spirit descended (Luke 3:22) upon Jesus. The Spirit empowered Christ (Luke 4:14) for His ministry. Then, according to John 7:39, a new phase of the Holy Spirit’s ministry would begin when Jesus was glorified. Upon Jesus being glorified, the Holy Spirit would represent Christ and His completed work. Jesus would pour forth (Acts 2:33) the Spirit.
Jesus says, “‘I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever.'” With this comment Jesus introduces a very pivotal moment with regard to the Spirit.
Jesus says (verse 16), “‘I will ask (erotao) the Father.'” He is about to make a request on behalf of the disciples concerning the Holy Spirit. According to Arndt and Gingrich (pp. 311-312), erotao can mean ask as in “ask a question” or “ask as in request.” By way of contrast, Lenski indicates that in verse 14 the verb aitein is used and that it is the action of a suppliant or a beggar. He says (p. 994) that this verb is “never used by Jesus regarding himself toward the Father.”
The Father Will Give
Next Jesus says, “‘He will give'” you another Helper. As Lenski (p. 997) states, “The Spirit is a gift from the Father just as is the Son (3:16). We may even say that the Father, too, gives himself to us when he comes and dwells in us (v. 23).” Both the Father (John 14:26) and the Son (John 15:26) send the Spirit. Then, in John 20:22 Jesus breathes on the disciples and says, “‘Receive the Holy Spirit.'”
The action of the Father in giving another Helper is future. As in John 7:39, the point is not that the Holy Spirit did not exist, but that the Spirit in His full ministry as another Helper was still to be given. The Helper already existed, but His ministry subsequent to the glorification of Christ would be greater. This point becomes clearer in verse 17.
Jesus will request the Father to give them another Paraclete. Originally, according to Arndt and Gingrich (p. 623), Paraclete had a passive connotation. Thus, it meant “one who is called to someone’s aid.” However, they (p. 624) say that “In our literature the active sense helper, intercessor is suitable in all occurrences of the word.” Other active terms that are used to translate parakletos include advocate, legal friend, comforter, and convincer. If only one English word is selected, it seems to me that Helper is the best.
As I John 2:1 indicates, Jesus is a Paraclete. The term Helper (Paraclete) is used four times in John (14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7) concerning the Holy Spirit. In John 14:16 the Holy Spirit is another Helper. Jesus uses the term allon rather than heteron. As Morris (p. 648) points out, allon means “another of the same kind” whereas heteron means “another of a different kind.” Thus, the meaning is that the Father will give another Helper like Jesus.
Many have suggested that the title allon parakletos supports the personhood of the Spirit. The Paraclete is another like Jesus. In support of this view Burge (p. 142) points out that parakletos is a masculine noun. Wescott (p. 205) maintains that this title “appears to mark distinctly the Personality of the Paraclete, and His true Divinity. He is ‘another’ yet such that in His coming Christ too may be said to come (v. 18).”
With You Forever
In verse 16 we meet the first of three Greek prepositions in John 14:16-19. The preposition used here is meta. It is commonly translated with. The Paraclete will be with you forever. Because Jesus speaks of the future gift of the Paraclete, the meta relationship is coordinate in time with the en relationship mentioned in verse 17. According to verse 17, The Spirit of truth will be (en) in you.
Jesus draws a contrast between His going away after a brief ministry on earth and the abiding presence of the Spirit. The Spirit will remain with them. As Eerdman (p. 130) writes: “Here Jesus is not contrasting the action of the Spirit in former ages with that in the new age, but the abiding of the Spirit is contrasted with his own approaching departure by way of death and resurrection.”
Does this mean that Christ will be absent? His physical presence will be absent, but He will be present. The Triune God always will be with the believer. In John 14:20-23 Jesus says, “‘In that day you shall know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. . . .If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and make Our abode with him.'”
According to Gordon (p. 34), “If any one asks us whether we are not under the guidance of Christ, the answer is easy: Christ is a perpetual guardian, but not visibly. As long as he walked on the earth he appeared openly as their guardian: now he preserves us by His Spirit.” Similarly, Wescott (p. 205) says, “Christ’s historical Presence was only for a time. His spiritual Presence was ‘for all the days until the consummation of the age! (Matt. xxviii. 20). This presence was fulfilled through the Spirit.”
Jesus continues (verse 17) with this comment, “‘that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.'”
Spirit of Truth
Jesus has just said (verse 16) that the Father will give you “another Helper” (allon paraclete). Now, we learn that the Paraclete is the Spirit of truth. The terms Paraclete and Spirit of truth are not synonymous but they often occur together: compare 14:16; 14:26; 15:26; 16:8; 16:13. The term paraclete is broader than Spirit of truth, but Spirit of truth points to a very important aspect of the paraclete’s ministry. With regard to Spirit of truth, Morris (p. 650) writes: “The expression probably means ‘the Spirit who communicates truth.'”
The World Cannot Receive
Jesus says that “the world cannot receive” the Spirit of truth. Some interpret receive in the sense of welcome or accept rather than admit or indwell. The New International Version says “cannot accept.” The Amplified says “welcome, take it to its heart.” Hendriksen’s translation (p. 277) is “fails to acknowledge.” All this is true, but it also is true that the Spirit cannot indwell the unbeliever. The world will not admit the Spirit into their lives.
With regard to verse 17, Lenski observes that except for “will be in you” the verbs are in the present tense. He (p. 999) states, “The tenses are present, timeless, because the statements are doctrinal facts applying to any time.” With regard to the first clause, the world “is not able to receive” (ou dunatai labein) the Spirit. This was true of the world when Jesus was on the earth, and it is true today. This did not change with the glorification of Jesus. The world still is not able to receive the Spirit.
Because It Does not Know Him
We are told why the world cannot receive Him. The world cannot receive Him “because it does not behold Him or know Him.” As in the first clause, the verbs are in the present tense and are timeless. The world cannot see the Spirit because He has to be spiritually perceived. Those who have refused Christ do not have the spiritual eyes to see or behold the Spirit of truth. This was true when Jesus was physically present, and it is true now.
Later, in this same discourse (John 16:8-11), Jesus speaks of the persuasive work of the Spirit in drawing men to Christ. All of the issues of predestination and free will arise at this point. Here, these issues go beyond our scope. However, we note that Jesus said in John 6:37, “‘All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.'” Both divine and human actions are included in this verse.
But You know Him Because He Abides with You
Now, Jesus says, “but you know Him because He abides with you.” Even before the glorification of Jesus, it was possible for the disciples to see and know the Spirit of truth. The world could not see Him, but the disciples could. With regard to this clause, several points stand out.
First, the Spirit of truth abides in those who believe in Jesus; therefore they know Him. There is a contrast between the clause concerning the world and the clause about the disciples. As Wescott (p. 205) points out:
Second, according to Morris (p.650) there is a slight uncertainty as to whether menei (abides) should be a present tense or future tense. It depends on how the Greek verb is accented. However, along with most interpreters, he favors the present tense. The NIV and NASB, as well as Robertson (p. 253), support the present tense. In my view the present tense is intended.
Third, Spirit of truth was (para) with them. Here, we find the second Greek preposition used about the Spirit in John 14:16-19. Although often translated “with,” the preposition para can mean by your side. The Spirit of truth was with the disciples in the following ways:
One, the Spirit of truth was present in the person and words of Jesus. He was present in that sense that Jesus, who was physically among them, was empowered by the Spirit and was the Great Teacher. Moreover, the Spirit of truth was present in the words of Jesus. According to John 6:63, Jesus said (John 6:63), “‘the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.'” What Jesus said brought Spirit and life to the disciples. As yet, of course, Jesus had not been glorified. Thus, the Spirit of truth could not represent the glorified Christ. The Spirit of truth would have a greater ministry.
Two, the Spirit of truth was present in their experience. The preposition para does not limit the presence of the Spirit to the physical presence and words of Jesus. The same preposition is used in John 14:23 which tells about of the post-glorification indwelling of the Father and the Son. It seems obvious that in some way the disciples already experienced the new birth of John 3:5-6 and the life given by the Spirit in John 6:63. They knew the presence of the Spirit in their lives. We even could say that the disciples received the Spirit of truth.
Concerning the experience of the disciples, Lenski (p. 1000) writes, “‘You know him’ with the inner knowledge of experience. For them this one verb suffices, and there is no need to speak of their also beholding or of their also receiving the Spirit.” The term “receive” is not used anywhere in the Bible concerning the believer’s experience of the Spirit before the glorification of Jesus. However, this clause stands in contrast to “cannot receive.” The implication is that believers could receive.
Fourth, even though the Paraclete and Spirit of truth were present while Jesus was physically present, these titles especially apply to the post-glorification presence and work of the Spirit. Jesus would not be physically present. The Holy Spirit would be another Helper and He would represent the glorified Christ. The transition would bring about the greater ministry of the Holy Spirit.
And Will Be in You
The Greek verb that Jesus uses is commonly held to be estai which means “will be.” It is a future tense. Some ancient manuscripts have esti, which is a present tense and means “is.” Several points are important.
First, scholars divide over the tense. Wescott (p. 206) favors the present tense, while Morris (p. 650) prefers the future tense. According to Rea (p. 140), “Bruce Metzger, one of American’s foremost Greek textual scholars, stated that a majority of the United Bible Societies committee in the third edition of its Greek New Testament interpreted the sense of the passage as requiring the future tense.” If the present tense be correct, then both para and en applied when Jesus spoke as well as in the post-glorification era. If the future tense be correct, then “will be in you” refers to post-glorification experience.
Second, the future tense does not preclude the possibility of the Spirit being “in” the disciples when Jesus spoke. It simply means that the Spirit representing the glorified Christ will be in them. After the glorification of Jesus, the disciples would receive the Spirit with His new ministry. Eerdman (p. 129) writes:
Third, the clauses “you know Him” and “He abides with (para) you” apply both to the disciples who were with Jesus and to disciples now. As we have said, the preposition para applies now (John 14:23) to the Father and Son. This would suggest that it applies now to the Holy Spirit as well. Thus, we cannot say that the prepositions para and en represent a sharp divide in experience. Moreover, even before the glorification of Christ, the Spirit was “in” the disciples. With regard to the prepositions meta, para, and en Morris says (p. 650), “the three forms may result simply from John’s love of variety of expression.”
Fourth, the glorification of Jesus brought about a dispensational transition with regard to the Spirit. The basis for this, however, does not depend on distinctions between prepositions. The transition, as John 7:39 indicates, depends on the glorification of Jesus. After the glorification of Jesus, the abiding Spirit would be armed with the truth about glorification and would be able to apply the completed work of Christ.
Now, Jesus says (verses 18-19), “‘I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also.'”
Jesus says “I will come to you.” When does He come? among the answers to this question are the following views: One, Morris (p. 651) syas, “It is true, as many commentators point out, that He comes in the coming of the Holy Spirit. But here Jesus is surely referring to the post-resurrection appearances.” Two, Keener holds (p. 973) that Jesus refers especially to the time when He would come and impart (John 20:20-23) the Spirit to them. Three, as Lange indicates (p. 442) Augustine and others hold that Jesus refers to His second coming, the Parousia. Four, Wescott (p. 206) cites Barrett who “thinks that John may have deliberately used language ‘applicable to both the resurrection and the parousia.'” Fifth, according to Westcott (206) himself, “No one specific application of the phrase exhausts its meaning.” I concur with this view.
The main point of John 14:16-19 is that Jesus will send the Paraclete, the Spirit of truth, to help the disciples when He is physically gone. The Holy Spirit existed already, yet Jesus would send the Paraclete to them. Jesus is a Paraclete, and the Spirit is another Paraclete like Him. The disciples could take great comfort in this.
Jesus was present with the disciples as a Paraclete. The Spirit of truth was present in Him and in them, but Jesus had the primary teaching role. Jesus was going away; He assured them that another Paraclete was coming, the Spirit of truth. The Spirit of truth was coming with new teaching duties. Thus, the disciples would not be without a teacher.
Further, the Spirit of truth would be in them to represent the glorified Christ. He would come armed with post-glorification truth. This new ministry was made possible by the death, resurrection and glorification of Christ. Thus, this passage represents a transition in the ministry of Jesus.
For Further Study
Arndt, William F. and Gingrich, F. Wilbur. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. Cambridge: The University of Chicago Press, 1957.
Barnes, Albert. Barnes’s Notes. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983.
Burge, Gary M. The Anointed Community: The Holy Spirit in the Johannine Tradition. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987.
Chafer, Lewis Sperry. Systematic Theology, Vol. VI. Dallas: Dallas Seminary Press, 1948.
Erdman, Charles R. The Gospel of John. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1944.
Gordon, A. J. The Ministry of the Spirit. Minneapolis: Bethany Fellowship, 1964.
Hendriksen, William. New Testament Commentry: Exposition of The Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1961.
Hull, William E. The Broadman Bible Commentary: Commentary on John. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1970.
Keener, Craig. S. The Gospel of John, Vol. 2. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 2003.
Lenski, R. C. H. St. John’s Gospel. Columbus: The Wartburg Press, 1942.
Morris, Leon. The Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids: Wm B. Eerdmans, 1971.
Rea, John. Bible Handbook on the Holy Spirit. Orlando: Creation House, 1998.
Robertson, A. T. Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vols. 1-6. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1930.
Schep, John A. Baptism in the Spirit. Plainfield: Logos International, 1972.
Wescott, B. F. The Gospel According to St. John. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1971.
Williams, J. Rodman. The Pentecostal Reality. Plainfield: Logos International, 1972.
Copyright © 2004 By George M. Flattery