Calvary Road Baptist Church

“THAT YOUR JOY MAY BE FULL”

John 16.23-27 

Those of you who have been in my office or my library know that I am not a neat person. I like to flatter myself that I am an individual who has a well-ordered and rational mind, but I am not a neat freak. I take consolation from my collection of the desk photos of many men I admire, from William F. Buckley to Albert Einstein, who had desks messier than mine.

I trace this to the discovery, many years ago, that what I could not see did not exist. If something is in a drawer or a closet, it is as if I do not own it and have never seen it. This is because, with me, out of sight is out of mind. But I like to think that the appearance of my workspace environment does not reflect my mental state. This has given rise to an interesting phenomenon.

When I visit the mission field, or take a week off, or otherwise vacate my office or library for a spell, it is most usual that upon my return, I will walk into my office or my library and immediately arrive at a conclusion, rising to the level of a conviction, that Mrs. Moyer has been in my office or my library. How do I know that? Because I see that things have come to be arranged, are orderly, and are rather neatly placed. This means that I will completely forget many books, papers, and folders that are not where they were when I left. However, more important to this message is that the effect of Mrs. Moyer’s activity in my office and my library is plain for me to see.

I say all that to point out to you that this morning I will bring a message from God’s Word that bears the unmistakable earmarks of the Holy Spirit of God, though He is nowhere directly referred to or hinted at in the text. How do we know about the Holy Spirit’s involvement in something when He is not mentioned at all? There are a variety of ways. Allow me to give you one way.

The Apostle Paul informed the Galatian congregations, in Galatians 5.22, that one aspect of the fruit of the Spirit, one characteristic of the indwelling Holy Spirit’s influence on a Christian’s personality, is joy: 

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith.” 

To be sure, the Holy Spirit of God uses various means to influence a Christian’s personality so that over time it more resembles His personality. However, just because the Holy Spirit of God makes use of different means to accomplish His ends does not in any way negate the reality that it is He who is making His presence known.

In much the same way as me returning to my office or library, you can walk into your home at the end of the day and, without seeing or hearing anyone, know from the smell coming from the kitchen that someone in your house is baking something. The aroma tells you all you need to know what is taking place, either good or bad. So it is with the Holy Spirit, though with Him, it is always good.

I direct your attention to John chapter 16, where we will read verses 23–27. As you are making your way to that passage, note that as we read, you will see no indication of the Spirit of God’s activity by the Lord Jesus Christ during this portion of His discourse to the eleven remaining apostles as they walked toward the Garden of Gethsemane.

Nevertheless, because the Lord Jesus speaks to them of joy as part of His process of preparing them for what they are about to face when He is crucified, and before He rises from the dead, we know of the Spirit’s involvement. How do we know? We know because, behind everything that produces joy in the life of a believer in Jesus Christ, there is the Holy Spirit of God producing, or should I say reproducing, His personality trait of joy in the personality of the Christian.

Before we read the text, however, I must caution you. We are not looking for the Spirit of God to produce happiness in the apostles, for that will not occur. Happiness depends upon what happens, and what is about to happen to the Savior and His men will be profoundly unpleasant. The Spirit of God does little to make anyone happy. His concern is the same as the Savior’s concern: to produce joy in the believer’s life. 

23 And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.

24 Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.

25 These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall shew you plainly of the Father.

26 At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you:

27 For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God. 

Keep in mind the Spirit’s relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ. John the Baptist said of Him, in John 3.34, “for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him.” Everything about our Lord’s earthly ministry was Spirit-empowered and Spirit-directed, including this portion of His final discourse. Meaning? Meaning the Spirit of God uses the Lord Jesus Christ’s words to produce joy in those men’s lives.

Journey with me through the Savior’s remarks then, one verse at a time: 

First, IN VERSE 23, THE SAVIOR SPEAKS OF THEIR PROSPECT 

“And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.” 

“In that day” is something of a technical term the way it is used in the Bible, frequently referring in some way to a subsequent era of history than the era the speaker or writer is presently in, with the Greek word translated “ask” being in the future tense.[1] In the Old Testament, this phrase frequently refers to an era in the distant future, sometimes thousands of years in the future. In this instance, however, the Savior refers to a near-future situation, after the resurrection and after His ascension to heaven.[2] In that near-future era, the Lord’s apostles shall ask Him nothing. For three and one-half years, they had asked Him many questions. But their questioning of Him would come to an end in a couple of hours when He is taken into custody in the Garden of Gethsemane and crucified. No more questions to Him after that. That might seem terrible but wait.

In the second sentence of verse 23, our Lord describes to them their prospect: 

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.” 

The phrase “Verily, verily, I say unto you” notified the Lord’s men that He was about to make an important pronouncement.[3] They need to pay close attention. “Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.” 

Here the apostles learned why they would no longer ask Him for anything.[4] And it is not only because He will no more be there for them to ask Him. It will also be because they will transition in response to their Savior’s new aspect of ministry from asking Him to praying to the Father in His name, with the assurance that their prayers will be answered.[5] 

It is true that the Lord Jesus Christ had taught them to pray.[6] But their relationship with the Savior was such that most of their pleadings and inquiries continued to be directed to Him. No more. Their prospect? The Lord granted them new authority to pray to the Father in His name, which is to say, by His authority, in His name. And with the guarantee that their prayers would be answered, they lose nothing by their Savior’s departure from them to be crucified, risen, and ascended. 

Next, IN THE FIRST HALF OF VERSE 24, THE LORD REFLECTS ON THEIR PAST 

“Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name.” 

The Lord here reminds them that they have not asked anything in their prayers in His name. That is, it has not been their habit to approach God the Father in prayer in Jesus’ name, approaching the throne of grace by authority granted to them by the Savior. But that changes.

Henceforth, with Christ’s crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension to God’s right hand in mind, their access to the throne of God because of God’s grace in Christ, will be assured. Ask, and you shall receive. The result of this privilege put into practice? That your joy may be full. 

Third, IT IS IN THE SECOND HALF OF VERSE 24 THAT THEIR PROVISION IS DECLARED 

What will it be like for them to pray in the future? What will be given to them with this access to the throne room in heaven? 

“ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.” 

Is it not a wonderful encouragement to those eleven men, and us as well, that as they were, we also are authorized to pray directly to God the Father, that our prayers can be offered up in Jesus’ name, and that our prayers will be answered? Does that not deserve praise to the Lord?

And the result of this previously unheard of access to God the Father, this previously unknown authorization to pray anytime, anywhere, under any circumstances to God? Fullness of joy!

Ponder this fullness of joy with me. It is the result of incredible unanticipated blessings. Taking in the totality of the Scriptural message, we know that the Spirit of God indwells believers in Jesus Christ,[7] that His goal is to conform us to the image of God’s Son[8] and to produce in us joy unspeakable and full of glory along the way.[9] To achieve His ends for us, He applies the saving sacrifice on our behalf to our benefit, with the shed blood of Jesus Christ cleansing us from all our sins,[10] births us into the family of God utilizing regeneration,[11] initiates our prayers to God the Father from His place as our indwelling[12] Sealer, Illuminator, and Guide, and imparts His personality to us a portion at a time throughout our Christian lives.[13] What is produced in the lives of those whose sins are forgiven, whose guilt is all gone, who are adopted into the family of God, who have a home awaiting them in heaven, who have been given the standing of a righteous person before God, and who are granted limitless access to the throne of grace to pray to God anytime they want? Joy. Lots of joy. Fulness of joy! We pray to God. He answers our prayers. How does it get any better than that? Who has access to the Creator and Sustainer of all things? We do! 

Fourth, IN VERSE 25, THEIR PROVERBS ARE EXPLAINED 

“These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall shew you plainly of the Father.” 

It is interesting to note that although we read the word “proverbs” twice in verse 25, it does not translate the usual word for parables, the Greek word parάbolh, which is not found in John’s Gospel.[14] John’s preference, seen here, is the Greek word paroimίa, referring to a veiled saying.[15]

The Lord Jesus Christ acknowledges that His answers to their questions were previously a bit oblique, somewhat veiled. But that was because they were not emotionally or spiritually capable of handling the blunt force of the truth that so challenged their accepted thinking. His approach to answering them was as efficient as they were capable of accepting. But not any longer.

In the middle of the verse, the Lord announces that the time has come that He will no longer speak to them as He had in the past. He would no more make use of veiled responses to their questions since they were now better able than before to receive the unvarnished truth, particularly about His impending crucifixion and resurrection.

They will still be shocked, horrified, stunned, and stupefied by the events of the next twelve hours. However, they are now far better prepared to deal with the truth, brutal though it may be, than they had been up to this time.

What happens from here on? “I shall shew you plainly of the Father.” The Lord Jesus Christ is and has always been the lόgoV, the Word, John 1.1. But to this point, they had only with the greatest difficulty grasped the truth of where He came from, what He came for, and what would be involved in His great mission of revealing the Father. That is changing, as we shall see in subsequent verses. 

Fifth, IN VERSE 26, THEIR PRAYERS ARE EXPLAINED 

“At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you.” 

Here we are, coming to the end of the Chinese Virus pandemic, and we are dealing with a verse uttered by the Lord Jesus Christ that has such profound implications for us. Let me read what I lifted from Arthur Pink’s commentary on the Gospel of John: 

“In the day of the Spirit believers would ask the Father in the name of Christ, not only plead His name as a motive, but come to God in the value of His person. What an incentive is this for each Christian reader to engage in this holy exercise! “The benefit of prayer is so great that it cannot be expressed. Prayer is the dove which, when sent out, returns again, bringing with it the olive-leaf, namely, peace of heart. Prayer is the golden chain which God holds fast, and lets not go until He blesses. Prayer is the Moses’ rod which brings forth the water of consolation out of the Rock of Salvation. Prayer is Samson’s jawbone, which smites down our enemies. Prayer is David’s harp, before which the evil spirit flies. Prayer is the key to heaven’s treasures.” (John Gerhard.) 

Consider three aspects of this verse, remembering that the Savior is speaking to His eleven remaining apostles shortly before He prayed His high priestly intercessory prayer, shortly before their time in the Garden of Gethsemane and His arrest, and hours before His unjust and illegal trials and cruel crucifixion. 

“At that day ye shall ask in my name” 

Focus your attention, if you will, on the phrase “At that day.” The literal Greek translated to this phrase is ἐn ἐkeίnῃ tῇ hἡmέrᾳ. The Greek word ἐn is a preposition meaning “in.” Ἐkeίnῃ is a demonstrative pronoun, meaning “that” instead of “this,” referring to something not immediately at hand. Then there is tῇ hἡmέrᾳ, which is translated by the single word “day” without including the definite article. The Lord Jesus Christ refers to the dawning of something of a new day, a different situation, an alteration of the order of things. His death and resurrection will change everything. 

“At that day ye shall ask in my name” 

What about that new day, that different situation, that altered era the opening of the phrase refers to? Then they shall ask in His name. From the time He called them to be His disciples on the Jordan River bank after His baptism and temptation for forty days in the wilderness, they came to Him with their issues, their problems, and their requests. To be sure, they sought instruction on praying to God. But Christ was there in front of them, so they mostly continued to come to Him with their requests. When things change, when the new order arrives, they will ask the Father in His name rather than mostly asking Him.

Look to the end of the verse, 

“and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you.” 

This phrase is sometimes misunderstood as suggesting the Lord Jesus Christ will no longer pray to the Father on their behalf. However, He doesn’t quite mean that. Throughout His earthly ministry, the Lord Jesus Christ has interceded on their behalf to the Father by listening to their requests and then taking those requests on their behalf to the Father. No longer. The Lord will continue to intercede but in a somewhat different way. From now on the Lord’s disciples will pray directly to the Father, with the Lord Jesus Christ enthroned at His right hand, where He advocates for our prayers to be answered.[16]

The question for their consideration is when that day will come? From our perspective, 2000 years later, we know the new arrangement for praying took effect suddenly, as the Lord Jesus Christ was removed from them by crucifixion and death, and then by resurrection and ascension. The Savior no longer being physically present; the prayers of His own are now offered up somewhat differently. We pray directly to the Father, for the most part, initiated by the indwelling Spirit, with advocacy on high by our Savior, as the Father hears our pleas.

And are we not now in great need of that arrangement for praying that our Lord spoke to His apostles about in verse 26? We all need to pray, and we need to pray all at once, in His name. That is, we are now authorized to approach the throne of grace to present our pleadings to our heavenly Father, and He hears our prayers as if His own Son offered them. What a privilege to bring everything to God in prayer. That is the basis for the writer of Hebrews 4.16 exhorting his readers, 

“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” 

Finally, IN VERSE 27, HIS PROCLAMATION IS MADE 

“For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God.” 

Some misunderstand what the Lord said in verse 26 as meaning, “I am not going to pray for you anymore.” Verse 27 helps us avoid that mistake of erroneously thinking the Savior’s comment left His apostles in a lousy situation now that He would be leaving them. What He meant was, “I am not going to pray for you anymore because in the future, you can pray to the Father for yourself!”

Different isn’t always worse, and though the mechanism (for want of a better term) for getting the apostle’s prayers answered might be a bit different, the result would be the same, or better! Recall that the Lord Jesus Christ relatively early on taught His disciples to pray in answer to their request that He teach them to pray. Typically misnamed the Lord’s Prayer, Matthew 6.9-13 shows it to be a prayer template that established the preferred pattern of one’s prayers to God rather than being words to be vainly repeated again and again in mindless fashion: 

9  After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

11 Give us this day our daily bread.

12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. 

Human nature is what it is. One must understand that despite being given a prayer template, it is unlikely the apostles deviated from their established pattern of asking their questions and presenting their requests directly to the Savior. After all, He was there with them. However, once the Lord was separated from His men to be crucified, and then left them again following His resurrection and several appearances to ascend to heavenly glory, the apostles would have no choice but to implement the prayer template the Lord had previously given to them, and they would thereafter pray directly to God the Father. John 16.26, then, is something of a reminder to the remaining eleven that they will begin to pray in this fashion, asking the Father in Christ’s name.

Verse 27 contains our Lord’s statement of three crucial truths, two of them being a declaration of the apostle’s faith: 

“For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God.” 

“For the Father himself loveth you.” 

This declares the Father’s motive for rearranging the dynamics of their prayer life. They already know this, but it needed to be stated anyway. God’s motive through all of His dealings with His children, and even those not His children, is love. But especially toward His children, He acts in love. 

“because ye have loved me.” 

First John 4.19 reveals to us, “We love him, because he first loved us.” Yet the fact remains, those men did love the Savior, and He acknowledged their love for Him. It would be important to them later, after their disappointing behavior in the Garden of Gethsemane and until His crucifixion the next morning, that He acknowledged to them His certainty of their love for Him. They would need that reassurance over the next few days, just as believers down through the centuries have needed the same assurance in our times of weakness and inconsistency. 

“and have believed that I came out from God.” 

This is combined with the previous phrase to form an important confession of faith for the apostles. Though the words come from the Savior, the statement is true of the eleven. They believed the Lord Jesus Christ came out from God, that He is preexistent, that He is the eternal Son of the living God, and that His existence not only did not begin at His conception in the womb of the Virgin Mary, His existence has no beginning. 

Is it not a wonder of God’s Providence that He has brought us here, to this passage of Scripture two weeks before Easter Sunday? This past year many people have experienced isolation and loneliness, and I have missed many of our Church people terribly.

I recall an episode early on in my Christian life when a coworker at Hughes Aircraft Company in El Segundo lashed out at me and said, “Your Christianity is just a crutch!” I immediately agreed with him and took no offense. I would clarify to that same coworker now, that my Christianity is not a crutch. Rather, my Savior is admittedly my crutch. But even more, I am like a lamb with a broken leg who cannot survive alone. My Lord Jesus is my Great Shepherd Who carries me to where I need to go, and who has provided for my salvation and also for my prayer life.

Unlike the apostles for a time during their time of the Lord’s earthly ministry, we are able to pray as they were brought by the Lord to pray, directly to the Father, with the indwelling Spirit of God interceding for us at the instigation of our prayers and the Lord Jesus advocating for us at the termination of our prayers to our heavenly Father.

If you know Christ as your Savior, you can pray to God in this fashion, in the name of your Lord Jesus Christ, authorized by Him to approach God’s throne directly in prayer.

In conclusion, do you not see the handiwork of the Spirit of God behind all of this? He is the Executor of God’s will, filling and empowering the Savior in all His glorious saving work. And what thing did the Spirit of God accomplish for those eleven men (and for us) by Christ’s crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension in addition to Christ’s saving work? The Spirit of God created the framework for believers to pray directly to our heavenly Father, interceding for us in our prayers, with the Lord Jesus Christ functioning as our Advocate.

What did the Holy Spirit lead the Savior to establish as the underlying reason for doing this? What did He say to His men? The consequence of our prayer privileges was said to be “that your joy may be full.” If you know Christ as your Savior, enjoy the glories of the Christian faith, and the awesome privilege of approaching God directly to pray, how can you not be filled with joy?

__________

[1] See ἀitέoo in 11:22 in Lidija Novakovic, John 11-21: A Handbook On The Greek Text - BHGNT, (Waco, Texas: Baylor University Press, 2020), page 17.

[2] Psalm 16.11; 110.1; Matthew 26.64; Mark 12.36; 14.62; 16.19; Luke 20.42; 22.69; John 3.13; 13.1; 14.2-4; Acts 1.9-11; 2.33, 34-35; 7.56; Romans 8.34; Ephesians 1.20; 6.9; Colossians 3.1; Second Thessalonians 1.7; Hebrews 1.3, 13; 8.1; 9.24; 10.12-13; 12.2; 1 Peter 3.22; Revelation 19.11

[3] See ἀmen ἀmen lέgoo hὑmῖn in 1:51 in Lidija Novakovic, John 1-10: A Handbook On The Greek Text - BHGNT, (Waco, Texas: Baylor University Press, 2020), pages 50-51.

[4] Novakovic, 11-21, page 182.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Matthew 6.9-15

[7] Romans 8.9

[8] Romans 8.29

[9] 1 Peter 1.8

[10] 1 John 1.7

[11] 1 Peter 3.18

[12] Romans 8.26

[13] Galatians 5.22-23

[14] Ibid., page 184.

[15] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), pages 779-780.

[16] Psalm 16.11; 110.1; Matthew 26.64; Mark 12.36; 14.62; 16.19; Luke 20.42; 22.69; John 3.13; 13.1; 14.2-4; Acts 1.9-11; 2.33, 34-35; 7.56; Romans 8.34; Ephesians 1.20; 6.9; Colossians 3.1; Second Thessalonians 1.7; Hebrews 1.3, 13; 8.1; 9.24; 10.12-13; 12.2; 1 Peter 3.22; Revelation 19.11

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