We must bear in mind, when approaching this fourteenth chapter of John, that it forms part of a most blessed, and, I may say, unique portion of divine truth. It, with the two following chapters, gives us the Lord's farewell address to His disciples before He left the world to go to the Father; and the seventeenth chapter gives us His commendatory prayer to the Father for them. The time it was uttered is very significant; for it was after the supper, and, as we know from Matthew's gospel, after He had formally taken His leave of Jerusalem and her children, when He said, "Behold, your house is left unto you desolate; and ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord." With the cross immediately before Him, the state of the Jewish nation settled by their rejection of Him, Judas having gone out, and the Lord alone with His eleven true ones, whom He was about to leave in the world without His personal care and ministry, He opens up His heart's deep love for them in sweetest, tenderest care. It was, too, the fitting opportunity for Him to announce some of the great principles of Christianity, and to mark out the path of true blessing for all His loved ones, who would have to pass through this present scene during His absence on high.
He is alone then with the eleven; they are objects at this moment of His intensest interest and care; and confining our thoughts for the present to the verses which we have just read, we may observe among other lines of precious instruction three leading points of the utmost importance. I refer, firstly, to the frequent and varied use of the word "believe" in the first twelve verses; secondly, to the gift of the Holy Ghost, the other Comforter; and, thirdly, to the blessed and cheering hope of our Lord's coming again.
Before, however, looking at these points, it may be well to notice that here only in Scripture have we the Father's house set forth. The reason no doubt for its introduction was the fact that Jesus had not long before declared, that the beautiful temple, which the disciples had so long been accustomed to venerate, would soon be reduced to a heap of ruins, a thorough scene of desolation. Jesus said, "There shall not be left one stone upon another which shall not be thrown down." Their hearts, therefore, being made sad with this humiliating announcement, they are comforted by being assured there is another house incorruptible and imperishable, the dwelling -place of perfect, changeless love — the Father's house. If He left them and went to the Father's house, it was large enough for them also, having many mansions or abodes, and He would go and prepare a place for them, and then come and receive them to Himself. For as they had always been with Him on earth, so they should be with Him in glory; "that where I am, ye may be also." Jesus said, "In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again," etc. Thus their hope being gone of enjoyment and blessing in connection with their beautiful temple on earth, another far more attractive and desirable house is presented to them for their eternal abode, where He was going to prepare a place for them.
Observe, too, here, that the blessed Lord spoke when on this side of the cross, saying, "I go to prepare a place for you." And, blessed be His name, He did go, though the only way to the Father's house was by the death of the cross. We are sure that love, divine, perfect love to us, led Him thus. And we know that by that one sacrifice He has prepared us for the Father's house; for "by one offering He has perfected for ever them that are sanctified;" and when He rose from the dead, and entered into heaven itself by His own blood, He prepared the place for us. Thus the Father's house is our assured destiny, made sure by Him who is our Forerunner, our Righteousness, and now seated on the Father's throne.
As I have said, among many deeply-precious lessons which this portion teaches us, there are three points which especially demand our attention. Firstly, our Lord's earnest desire, that during this period of His absence from us, we should be in the habit of looking to Him about everything, and to expect all we need from Him. He was going to the Father. Though away from us as to personal presence, there would be no change in His love or His care. Nor would His power be less; for He was going to the position of all power in heaven and in earth. He therefore first of all makes a particular request before leaving them; it was this, that they would exercise faith in Him, and not allow their hearts to be troubled. How exquisitely tender this is! What loving concern and interest it manifests! Did the precious Saviour say, You will not have trouble? No. Quite the contrary. He said, "In the world ye shall have tribulation;" but twice in this chapter He entreats us not to let our hearts be troubled. How is it possible that my heart should not be troubled, some may say? Jesus supplies the answer. As Jews they had known what it was to believe in God, to trust God; but now they were also to trust Him, exercise faith in Him. "Believe also in me." How simple and efficacious is this preventative of heart-trouble! Do we know its blessedness, beloved, in our own soul experiences? Do we so cast all our care upon Him, who careth for us, as to keep our troubles as it were at arms' length, so as not to get under them? How sweet and salutary is this counsel! This trust in Him is something more than believing on the Lord Jesus for salvation; for it is because we are His own, and objects of His everlasting love and care, that we are enjoined to roll every burden upon His Almighty arm, and leave it there. "Believe also in me." How blessed, then, the thought, that the Lord Jesus, though now in glory, far above all principality and power, desires that in this present trying scene our eyes may be looking to Him, and casting every trouble into His arms of love, so that our poor hearts may be free to love and serve Him, and not be oppressed by grief; but instead of this, as we afterwards read, that His peace in all its calm unruffled sweetness may be ours. I repeat, how loving is our Lord's counsel, and how marvellous His care for our present comfort and blessing in Himself!
In this address, Jesus evidently contemplated this present time — the interval between His going to the Father and His coming again to receive us unto Himself. It is not the assembly, or the Church, as it is called, which He reveals; for the time was not come for the mystery of the assembly, which is His body, to be brought out. This was reserved, as we know, for a later period. (Eph. 3:5.) But in this address we do find great principles of truth enunciated, which we may call special doctrines of Christianity. And it is remarkable that the Lord seems to have anticipated the fact, that one of the prominent contentions during His absence would be concerning the glory and divinity of His person. He not only therefore expressed His desire, that, during His being at the right hand of God, we should look to Him in faith concerning trouble, but He teaches us also that the true divinity and glory of His person could be known only in the way of faith. This is extremely important to observe. When therefore Philip said, "Show us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and hast thou not known Me, Philip? He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father; how sayest thou then, Show us the Father?" Here the Lord expressly teaches His essential Godhead as one with the Father. No doubt distinct as to personality, as He elsewhere shows, when He says, "My Father is greater than I." (v. 28.) But the point insisted on is, that He is one in essence and eternal Godhead with the Father. The Father dwelling in Him, and doing the works, and He so manifesting the Father that He could say, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." Every one knows what a vital and frequent subject of controversy the personal glory of Jesus has been during His absence; and the striking point to my mind here is, that His person is a revelation, not to be proved by argumentative reasoning, but to be received in faith, according to God's own statement concerning Him. Hence Jesus says again on this point, "Believe! Believe!" "Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? . . . Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me." (vv. 10, 11.) The personal glory therefore of the Son as one in essential Godhead with the Father, and dwelling among men in flesh, a perfect man, speaking only the words the Father gave Him to speak, and doing works, in perfect obedience, by the Father dwelling in Him, is a matter only for faith, and not for human reasoning, much less for carnal speculation. How gracious then the tender pity and consideration of our loving Lord thus to arm us against the seductions of Satan, and cunning craftiness of men, and to furnish us effectually with the mighty weapon comprehended in that sweet word, "Believe!" "Believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in me." And truly the expression of our hearts in the contemplation of Him is —
"In Thee most perfectly expressed
The Father's self doth shine;
Fulness of Godhead too — the Blest —
The higher mysteries of Thy fame
The creature's grasp transcend:
The Father only Thy blest name
Of Son can comprehend.
Worthy, O Lamb of God, art Thou
That every knee to Thee should bow."
But there is another subject for faith during our Lord's absence especially pointed out by Him. It is concerning service; for He knew how our hearts would delight to serve Him here, after He had gone to the Father. He therefore counsels us to exercise faith in Himself as to service, and informs us that the secret of success is believing on Him. The deep importance of this instruction is seen in the double "verily" which introduces it; for it is like pledging Himself to the certainty of the fulfilment. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, 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 unto My Father." (v. 12.) Nothing can possibly express more strikingly the need of exercising faith in the Lord Jesus in regard to working for Him, or the true secret of success. As to the result, no doubt that Peter's service on the day of Pentecost was numerically greater than anything on record of the Lord's service; but when we think that since the Lord went away, and the Holy Ghost came, a soul brought to the Lord Jesus now is united to Him by the Holy Ghost, and made a "member of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones," the quality, in this sense, of the service now is greater than in the ministry of Christ Himself. How good then of the Lord, before He went away, thus to encourage our hearts in Himself! and how clearly His warm desire is expressed that during this little while of His being seated on the right hand of God, and of our being left in the world, we should be in constant, personal intercourse with Himself! So that whether we are in circumstances of trial, or thinking of His own blessed person, or engaged in His holy service, in each particular our souls may realize and enjoy the blessedness of exercising faith in Him, whom having not seen we love. It is not astonishing therefore to find prayer immediately coupled with these instructions concerning faith; for though faith and prayer are not the same things, yet it seems impossible that we can live and walk by faith long without being led to pour out our hearts in prayer; for faith is always dependent. We read also of "the prayer-of faith." But here the allusion to prayer seems peculiarly blessed, because it shows the all-prevalent value of the name of the Lord Jesus in prayer, and warrants our largest expectations in asking in His name. "Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it." (vv. 13, 14.) Further on in this discourse our Lord says, "Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, He will give it you." Prior to this, they had asked nothing in His name; now He was about to leave them He assures them of large answers to prayer in thus asking in His name. Oh the untold blessedness of those who thus take the Lord at His word, and, while deeply conscious of His absence, know the sweet reality of thus having to do with Him!
2. There was another precious consolation for them during the absence of their precious Lord, who had always sought to preserve and comfort them; He would send the Holy Ghost, another Comforter. "I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever: the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him: but ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you." (vv. 16, 17.) Here we have one of the most important truths of Christianity — the gift and indwelling of the Holy Ghost. Though private and personal in His operations on the soul, yet not the less real and effectual on that account. He was then dwelling with them, but He would be in them, and take up His abode with them for ever. The Holy Ghost had always been acting in divine operations. In creation the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters; and when things were to be made in connection with the tabernacle service according to the pattern of heavenly things, and pre-eminently typical of the personal glory and work of the Lord Jesus, it was by the Holy Ghost that Bezaleel was endued with wisdom to make them. It was by the Holy Ghost coming upon and moving prophets that they foretold according to God's mind, and gave needed instruction and testimony to the people. Even Jesus Himself was full of the Holy Ghost, and is spoken of as anointed with the Holy Ghost and with power. And now if Jesus went away, the Holy Ghost who had been with them should be in them. Elsewhere Jesus said to His disciples, "It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you." And, prior to this, we are told that the Holy Ghost was not yet given, because that "Jesus was not yet glorified." Thus we see plainly that the Holy Ghost, the other Comforter, would not come and indwell them unless Jesus went away and was glorified. Now, why was this? The answer is clear. Unless Jesus had gone to the cross, and accomplished redemption, we could not have been cleansed, and therefore suited for the abode of the Spirit; but when Jesus had by His one offering purged our sins, justified and perfected us for ever, and had risen triumphantly from the dead, as having conquered Satan, death, and the grave, and gone into heaven with His own blood — then, and not till then, could the Holy Ghost find cleansed vessels to take up His abode in. And this clearly explains why the Holy Ghost did not indwell His people as the Comforter before. And if a prophet was only moved now and then to speak by the Holy Ghost, no wonder that David prayed, "Take not thy Holy Spirit from me." And if as is most true, the Holy Ghost now dwells in us for ever, in virtue of our being cleansed and justified by the blood of Jesus, it is equally intelligible why an apostle said, "Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption." This distinctive truth of the Holy Ghost's indwelling cleansed ones has been carefully pointed to in the typical instruction of the anointing of Aaron and his sons. If you turn to the eighth chapter of Leviticus, you will see that Aaron (type of Christ) was anointed with oil (type of the Holy Ghost) without being previously sprinkled with blood (v. 12), thus blessedly showing us that the Holy Ghost would come down and abide on Jesus, because of His intrinsic personal holiness, for He had nothing to be cleansed. Being declared by the testimony of heaven to be the beloved Son in whom the Father was well pleased, "the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon Him." (Luke 3:22.) But Aaron's sons, the priests, typical of those now who are washed from their sins in His own blood, and made kings and priests unto God and His Father, were not anointed until after they had been sprinkled with blood. (See Lev. 8:23-30.) Aaron was afterwards sprinkled with blood, of course, because he was a man of like passions with us, and no one was fit to approach God, or to serve Him without it an important fact that has been most lamentably lost sight of. The point, however, for our present purpose to notice is, that the Holy Ghost came upon Jesus because of His perfect holiness, and that He indwells us because we are cleansed by His blood, and sons of God by the new birth. "Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, whereby we cry, Abba, Father."
Other Scriptures show the personality, Godhead, and operations of the Holy Ghost thus indwelling us, which the limits of this address forbid our entering upon now. There is, however, a point or two that could not be passed over. We are told that the world which rejected Jesus will also reject the Holy Ghost, "whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him." We must not expect, therefore, the unconverted to know anything of the Holy Ghost; and certainly nothing can be more plainly demonstrated by the world's religiousness than the entire want of the real recognition of the Holy Ghost, even if He be mentioned by name. But this ignorance was not to characterize believers; on the contrary, it is said of them, "Ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you." And again in verse 20, referring to the day when the Spirit would be given, "At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you." So that when the Holy Ghost came, we should know, as a matter of spiritual intelligence, that Christ is in us, and that we are in Christ.
It is clearly stated here that believers know the Holy Ghost as dwelling in them. We know certainly that it was by the Holy Ghost working in us that we first had to do with Christ as our Saviour; for the natural man neither receives nor knows the things of the Spirit of God. We know Him also as indwelling us, not only because we would not dishonour Jesus, but because from our inmost soul we look up and own Him as our Lord; for "no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost." Again, we know Him as testifying of Christ to our souls, and often comforting us when cast down by taking of Christ's person, work, words, perfections, fulness, offices, or ways, and showing unto us. It is because of the Spirit of God dwelling in us, who is the Spirit of adoption, that we know God to be our Father — approach Him as such with filial feelings, and have access unto Him through the Lord Jesus Christ. The believer is to know then that the Holy Ghost dwells in him; and he realizes that the truth is not only intelligently known by him or written in his mind, but that he has a feeling sense of the truth on account of its being written on his heart. Is it not most blessed, then, to think of the Holy Ghost as given to be in us, and to abide with us during our Lord's absence?
3. I have already touched a little on the hope; that is, in this address the blessed Lord gave them nothing to look forward to in the way of progress on earth; but, on the contrary, He set His coming again for them, to take them out of the world to the Father's house, as the true expectation of their hearts. "I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." Himself coming again for them, that they might be with Him where He is, was the glorious prospect He gave them. And most glorious it is; for nothing short of this, and nothing but this, could satisfy their hearts. This was not, however, a characteristic of Judaism; for Israel being an earthly people, called with an earthly calling, they were encouraged with expectations of blessing on the earth; whereas Christianity, connected as it is with Christ as rejected by the world, and welcomed to the right hand of God in glory, the Holy Ghost is sent down, not to establish a religious system and people in the world, but to connect believers with Christ in heaven; and so rescuing them from this present evil world, that they are not of it, even as He was not of the world. We, therefore, serve, Christ in it, as those who expect Him to come from heaven at any time to take us bodily out of it, and so be for ever with the Lord. We are not then to marvel if the world hate us, or think it strange if our path be one of suffering and reproach for the precious name of the Lord Jesus. But having Him who is now in heaven, in His exercise of living ministry and constant care aver us, to look to and trust, the Holy Ghost down here in us to comfort us, and the hope of our Lord's coming for us, we are to show forth our love to Him by keeping His word.
"Though our pilgrimage be dreary,
This is not our resting-place;
Shall we of the way be weary
When we see our Master's face?
No; e'en now anticipating,
In this hope our souls rejoice;
And His promised advent waiting,
Soon shall hear His welcome voice."